Commentary Magazine


Contentions

It Was a Caterpillar

Bug-Gate is bad, folks, really bad. But I remain convinced that the only way we’ll ever bring this “dark and painful chapter in our history” to a close is to face the horror of it full on. Only then can we heal as a nation. So steel yourself for what comes next:

The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002, described the CIA’s plans for using insects this way:

“You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him.”

Does the sadism of Dick Cheney know no bounds!

I think we know the answer to that. As these memos are pored over in the hours and days ahead, we must be prepared to hear details about Operation Harmless Squishy Thing that may rock the very moral foundations of our country. The caterpillar is likely just the beginning. Slugs, inchworms, centipedes, millipedes — a whole backyard of horror could be unearthed.

But take solace in the knowledge that we’re no longer faced with the false choice between our security and the deployment of our garden pests. Remember the thoughtful words of President Obama: “This is a time for reflection, not retribution.” And some day, after much national soul searching, we will look at the caterpillar not as an instrument of torture, but as a future butterfly once again.