“We tortured some folks.” – Barack Obama
“We tortured some folks.” – Barack Obama
Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently accused the CIA of intimidating Senate staff over investigations of CIA involvement in torture.
Her outrage about the alleged violations of privacy and unconstitutional spying on Senate staff is nonetheless a bit surprising. Mind you, throughout the revelations of the Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, not to speak of everybody else on the planet, Feinstein has been one of the chief defenders of the NSA, never seeing anything wrong with the apparent blanket surveillance, or “full take,” as the spooks like to call it.
Here is a clip from progressive news show The Young Turks with a montage of Feinstein’s pro-NSA statements:
But now that the spying hits closer to home, this time by the CIA against the Senate Intelligence Committee, surveillance is all of a sudden an outrage.
Here is a clip from DemocracyNow!:
I smell hypocrisy.
“Dianne Feinstein’s CIA charge scrambles Senate.” (Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, POLITICO.com, 2014/03/11) http://ow.ly/uwOlD
Based on declassified memos from the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, which is the agency’s propaganda operation, the major revelation is that the CIA directly pressured director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal to take out scenes that would portray the CIA in a bad light.
And so Bigelow and Boal did.
What are the contents/scenes taken out that the CIA objected to?
Apart from the CIA’s influence revealed through the memo, the movie falsely suggests in its opening scene that it was torture that ultimately led to the revelation of Bin Laden’s location. This powerful image created by a product of popular culture retroactively works to legitimize the practice of torture in the public mind.
“CIA requested Zero Dark Thirty rewrites, memo reveals.” (Ben Child, Guardian, 2013/05/07)
“Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped “Zero Dark Thirty”‘s Narrative.” (Adrian Chen, Gawker, 2013/05/06)
[Video] “Zero Dark Irresponsible – Killing Bin Laden With Blinders On.” (TheLipTV, 2013/11/26) – FIlm critic Peter Rainer criticizes Zero Dark Thirty for not contextualizing the torture scenes of the movie in the ‘Global War on Terrorism.’ In particular, he notes the absence of any mention of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as responsible for America’s torture policies.
“Torture May Have Slowed Hunt For Bin Laden, Not Hastened It.” (Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, 2011/05/06) – A study by the National Defense Intelligence College found that “rapport-based” interrogation works best, even with hard-boiled detainees.
The abyss of US military involvement in torture in Iraq widens. According to a report by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, top US military brass was well-informed about Iraqi torture centers.
The Pentagon brought Colonel James Steele to Iraq. “Who is this man?” you ask. Steele is a special forces veteran who spent his time in the US military, among other things, setting up right-wing death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.
In Iraq, according to the report, Steele organized setting up Iraqi torture centers for detainees of the insurgency.
Another top military advisor, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked together with Steele in the detention centers and—this is where it gets interesting—reported directly to General Petraeus.
It follows that Petraeus knew exactly what kind of abuse was going on, and let it happen.
The Guardian’s report is in part based on material that was leaked to WikiLeaks. It is not hard to see why the Justice Department is currently attempting to make an example of Bradley Manning and get their hands on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
As the dirtiest secrets of the Iraq war are revealed, the liberation narrative begins to unravel. Top military officials stand embarrassed, for they have been caught red-handed as ruthless condoners of torture. But as the maintenance of the facade of democratic values is elementary in order to win the home front, whistleblowers are quickly declared enemies of the state.
Reading the details on the practices in the Iraqi torture centers is frankly disturbing. It is all the more disgusting to learn that ‘we,’ i.e. the ‘West,’ and US military officials at the highest levels in particular, were completely fine with this.
It does not take much to realize the unbearable hypocrisy of it all. Not only is torture morally wrong, it is also ineffective, because victims will say anything to make their suffering stop.
Here in Europe, we have the best historic example of this: witch hunts in early modern times. Tortured victims would accuse neighbors or others they did not like of being witches just to save themselves. But that is besides the point.
If in this century’s ‘war on terrorism’ realpolitik prevails über alles, then the line between ‘them,’ the maligned autocratic rogue states, and ‘us,’ the liberal democratic West, becomes thinner and blurry to the point of being barely distinguishable.
And if we are not watchful, there might come a day when the next Mubarak or al-Assad has a more familiar-sounding name and speaks our own language. But then it will be too late.
Here is where I disagree with the neoconservative world view behind the Iraq war: I do not think that the end always justifies the means. And I doubt that the end of fighting terrorism can be achieved by becoming torturers, or having detainees tortured by proxy.
As for building a democracy, I am skeptical about how torture prisons constitute a solid foundation in this regard. But then again, the attachment of the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war to democratic values is questionable.
I do not know at which point the George W. Bushes, the Dick Cheneys, the John Yoos, the Donald Rumsfelds, or the David Petraeuses of the world became attached to this kind of amoral thinking, but when you read what is now publicly accessible, these men were not at all troubled by deploying torture and constructing a legal framework to make it seem legit. To the contrary. But torture is still wrong.
And to the big disgrace of the Obama administration and the Holder Justice Department, which I put high hopes in, none of these crimes had any consequences for the perpetrators.
In an ideal world, all of those who enabled the torture regime, including European government officials, would spend the rest of their days in prison for crimes against humanity. Call me naive, but not to speak up against this evil would make me an accomplice.
“Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres.” (Mona Mahmood, Maggie O’Kane, Chavala Madlena and Teresa Smith, Guardian, 2013/03/06)