OBAMA: EASING-UP ON THE BRUTALITY
OF THE AMERICAN NEW WORLD
The United States As Torture Central;
U.S. sponsors Regimes Using
By Edward S. Herman
The recent release of five British citizens from the Camp X-Ray prison
at Guantanamo Bay and their disclosures of serious abuse and torture at the
hands of U.S. personnel, raises once again the question of the U.S. position
vis-a-vis torture and its role in the global system in which the United
States is the dominant power.
I say "again" because the question arose in the 1970s,
when Amnesty International's 1974 Report on Torture pointed out that torture,
which had been at a low ebb for centuries, "has suddenly developed a
life of its own and become a social cancer." AI (Amnesty International)
located this cancer in the West and most particularly in the Third World client
states of the West, given that torture in the Soviet Union had declined following
the death of Stalin in 1953. In its 1978 Annual Report, AI noted that some
"80 percent" of the "urgent cases" of torture were coming
out of the National Security States of Latin America and in The Washington
Connection and Third World Fascism (South End Press), Noam Chomsky
and I showed that 26 of the 35 states that were using torture on an administrative
basis in the 1970s were U.S. clients, who had received military aid and police
training from this country.
So the United States was truly torture central at that time, not
by virtue of its own use of torture, but by its sponsorship of regimes that
used it extensively. Add to this the fact that this country is always in the
forefront of technological advance in the tools of repression, as well as
war, and in those earlier years carried out major operations in the supply
of torture technology and training in its use. Electronic methods of torture
were used extensively by U.S. and mercenary army forces in Vietnam and, in
the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. experts advised client-state torturers from Vietnam
to Brazil and Uruguay on the permissible limits of electronic torture to prevent
premature death under "interrogation," among other advanced techniques
(see A. J. Langguth's Hidden Terrors for details on the U.S. technological
and advisory role in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s; and see Michael
Klare and Cynthia Arnson, Supplying Repression, on the character and
scope of the weapons of repression supplied to its clients in earlier years).
Torture within U.S. police stations, jails, and prisons was "astonishingly
commonplace" in those years, including electroshock treatment, notoriously
so in Chicago where internal city investigations documented "more than
fifty incidents of torture committed by police officers" (Paige Bierma,
"Torture behind bars, right here in the United States of America,"
the Progressive, July 1994). This was undoubtedly to some degree "blowback"
from external operations and training, but both the domestic police and the
U.S. police and military advisers helping their counterparts in Uruguay were
drawing from a common pool of advancing know-how, technology, and understanding
of acceptable and efficient practice.
Relevant to the U.S. role in torture today are two questions: (1)
Why did the United States support and underwrite torture in earlier years;
(2) how did it get away with doing this in a supposedly free and democratic
society in which torture was considered by the public as a barbaric practice
identified with totalitarian rule? The answer to the first is simple: the
ruling U.S. elite was preoccupied with preventing "radical nationalism"
or even social democracy in the Third World, which would serve the poor local
majority and interfere with transnational corporate access, privileges, and
rights. It therefore gravitated to alliances and joint venture arrangements
with local military and comprador elements to fend off those democratic tendencies,
frequently by coups that established military and terror regimes.
The extensive training programs at the School of the Americas, and
elsewhere, and arms supply were designed to ensure the trainees "understanding
of, and orientation toward, U.S. objectives" and to eliminate "the
menace of internal Communist, or other anti-U.S. subversion" (NSC, 1954).
In other words, they were designed to make the trainees into subversives working
in the U.S. interest, and they succeeded, with 18 Latin American governments,
11 under constitutional rule, overthrown by the military in the 1960s alone.
These new regimes did well for the Godfather [i.e., the United States], crushing
unions, opening the door to transnational corporate sales and investment,
and proving reliable members of any "coalitions of the willing"
the Godfather sponsored. Only the majority and the victims of torture suffered.
More interesting is the question of how Washington could get away
with large-scale sponsorship of regimes of torture in a supposedly democratic
society. The answer here rests on the superb quality and service of the U.S.
media as a propaganda system, as well as the ease with which the public is
managed by patriotic symbols and the demonization of official targets. If
the corporate community and the military and foreign policy establishment
support regimes of torture, the corporate media will do the same. First, they
will underplay the torture, suppress information on it, and focus their attention
and indignation on abuses of enemy states. For example, during that earlier
period the press often focused intensively on Cuban abuses, but never Guatemala's,
although Cuba's human rights record was glowing in comparison with that of
Guatemala. The New York Times never once mentioned AI's incredible
report of 1980, "Guatemala: Government by Political Murder," or
its volume, "Disappearances: A Workbook," and it never reviewed
Penny Lernoux's great book Cry of the People (among many other similar
volumes). No U.S. mass circulation medium ever mentioned the first Latin American
Congress of Relatives of the Disappeared held in Costa Rica in January 1981,
at which it was estimated that 90,000 had already been "disappeared"
right in the U.S. backyard.
The second method of evasion is playing down or altogether ignoring
the U.S. role in originating, underwriting, and supporting regimes of terror.
The media played dumb, and largely suppressed information tying the coups
to U.S. training, encouragement, support, and policy interest. They could
easily see and report with indignation that the behavior of the Soviet satellites
of Eastern Europe conformed to Soviet interests and reflected Soviet power,
but the spread of the National Security State and torture in the U.S. backyard
was never admitted to be based on U.S. policy choices, despite the evidence
of extensive and purposeful linkages. (Allan Nairn had a series of powerful
articles on the close linkages: e.g., "Behind the [El Salvador] Death
Squads," the Progressive, May 1984; "The Guatemala Connection,"
the Progressive, May 1986).
The third and most interesting method of evasion and apologetics
was by allowing U.S. officials to define their relation to human rights abuses
through statements and actions regretting, opposing, and threatening to penalize
state terror in client regimes. After some terrible slaughter of civilians
by U.S. clients that could not be entirely ignored, U.S. officials would express
dismay and promise improvement by "quiet diplomacy," and the media
would swallow this and never ask the obvious questions: Aren't these killer
regimes in place because of U.S. support, so aren't these murders part of
the overall acceptable package and even a major feature of that package, given
U.S. police and military aid and training and explicit anti-populist (and
anti-democratic) political objectives? Could these official pronouncements
of concern be phony and designed to placate public opinion and clear the ground
for more state terrorism, following the media's dropping the subject after
a short burst of interest?
The media have also never challenged the regular claims over many
decades that the U.S. training of Third World military and police is designed
to instill democratic values and alleviate human rights problems, despite
massive evidence that the trainees have been taught that unions and dissidents
in general are part of a "communist" threat; and in the face of
evidence that the trainees have been exceptionally inclined to kill, torture,
and overthrow constitutional governments-in Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Indonesia,
and elsewhere. This gambit was even used in defense of loans to our ally Saddam
Hussein, prior to his 1990 invasion of Kuwait and transformation into "another
Hitler," the State Department explained that helping him out would "put
us in a better position to deal with Iraq regarding its human rights record.
The Pentagon-CIA Archipelago Today
The United States is once again supporting regimes of terror in the
alleged interest of a "war on terrorism," just as it did in the
1960s and 1970s and again in the Reagan years. If they are "with us,"
these regimes-from Algeria and Morocco to Pakistan and Uzbekistan to Indonesia
and the Philippines-can not only go after dissidents with U.S. protection,
but they also will receive U.S. aid in weapons and training. The United States
will also send them prisoners in what amounts to a torture farming-out or
outsourcing system, now openly referred to as "rendering," allowing
some or all of the dirty work in extracting information to be shared with
allies. Such renderings have been made, among others, to Yemen, Thailand,
Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, and even Syria, to which the United States sent the
Canadian citizen Maher Arar for "interrogation" in 2002. This system
helps institutionalize torture as an acceptable practice.
The United States is also big in the business of supplying instruments
of torture and AI, in its report, "The Pain Merchants" (December
2003), notes that U.S. companies are exporting such instruments to 12 countries,
which the State Department says engage in the "persistent" application
of torture (including a number to whom prisoners are "rendered").
These companies had 2002 sales abroad of $14.7 million of electroshock equipment
and $4.4 million of restraints (steel shackles, among other instruments, including
12,000 leg irons sold to Saudi Arabia). This has been part of a broader global
expansion of the trade in weapons of torture.
AI also points out that the United States is developing new technologies
such as radio-frequency weapons to induce an artificial fever, "stench
chemicals," UV lasers, and other devices to deliver electric shocks,
and still others. The United States has also pioneered, and been criticized
by a UN Committee Against Torture, for the development and use of, electric-shock
stun belts and restraint chairs as methods of restraining those in custody.
That same UN committee also criticized the excessively harsh regimes imposed
in "supermaximum" prisons and the frequent ill-treatment of prisoners
by police and prison guards, which "seemed to be based upon discrimination.
An international convention on torture was passed by the UN in 1989
and has been ratified by about 130 states, including the United States. However,
a UN plan to enforce that convention by a protocol allowing inspectors to
visit prisons, worked on for a decade and passed by the UN Economic and Social
Council in July 2002, was strenuously opposed by the United States (Dafna
Linzer, "U.S. Loses Torture Treaty Fight," AP Online, July 25, 2002).
The Bush administration wants to keep that convention nominal to avoid any
threat of publicity to prison abuses. This strong opposition by the leader
of the Free World represents both a symbolic and substantive weakening of
opposition to torture.
What is more, the United States clearly uses torture as a standard
instrument of policy in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and almost certainly in Iraq.
In Afghanistan, officials admitted that two captives had died while under
interrogation, helped along by "blunt instrument" injuries added
to others, which might have included sleep deprivation, denial of medication
for battle injuries, dousings with cold water or exposure to freezing temperatures,
forcing them to stand or kneel for hours on end with hoods on, and subjecting
them to loud noises and sudden flashes of light, among other tactics. These
were all discussed as "routine" practices in a Human Rights Watch
Report, "'Enduring Freedom': Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan"
(March 2004), which also claims that U.S. forces arbitrarily detain and regularly
mistreat large numbers of civilians.
The practices described by HRW [Human Rights Watch] as employed in
Afghanistan were spelled out in detail by the British prisoners recently released
from Guantanamo, in the British, but not U.S. media. The contrast between
the treatment in the two medias is enlightening. David Rose's long article
in the Observer (London) was based on interviews with the Tipton Three;
it was entitled "How we survived jail hell" (March 14, 2004). A
long article in London's the Mirror, based on the testimony of one
of the Tipton Three, Jamal al-Harith, also uses the word "hell"
in its title (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-Ray").
Both articles give extensive and convincing detail on what Rose calls "the
horror of their story," which involves systematically brutal treatment,
including a great deal of petty and gratuitous violence while under U.S. control
in Afghanistan and then on their flight to Guantanamo and in Guantanamo.
On the flight to Guantanamo, in tight chains, they were not released
from the chains for use of the toilet, so "Basically people wet their
pants. You were pissing all over your legs." The hand shackles, linked
to leg-irons, were so tight, that Shafik Rasul was in "serious pain"
and claims to have lost feeling in his hands for the next six months. Asking
a guard to relieve the tightness, he was told, "You'll live." At
Guantanamo, there were beatings and isolation for trivial violations of arbitrary
rules, endless interrogations under harsh physical conditions, with detainees
shackled to the floor, and contemptuous disrespect for prisoner religious
beliefs (use of "vice girls" to torment the most religious, shutting
off water before prayers so inmates couldn't wash). They were also put in
isolation, in tiny cells with bright lights left on to impede sleeping, the
cells freezing at night and very hot during the day.
The Tipton Three were soon accused of terrorist connections by other
inmates, who were also under intense interrogation, and the three were eventually
told that the U.S. had a video of a 2000 meeting with Bin Laden and Mohammed
Atta, which showed three bearded men present that someone alleged to be the
Tipton Three. This pushed them into solitary confinement for three months.
All denied that they had ever worn beards and claimed that they had jobs at
the time that the authorities could check. This proving temporarily unavailing,
in due course all three gave up and 'confessed." But the British did
eventually check and sustained their alibis, which led to relieved conditions
and eventually their release to Britain.
The New York Times' treatment of the Guantanamo victims' releases
was markedly different from that of the London papers and is a throwback to
their protective news coverage of U.S.-sponsored torture in the 1960s and
1970s. We may note the following differences and features in the Times'
four substantial articles on the releases (Alan Cowell, "Five Britons
Released From Guantanamo Arrive Home" (March 10); Patrick Tyler, "Ex-Guantanamo
Detainee Charges Beating" (March 12); Amy Waldman et al., "Guantanamo
and Jailers: Mixed Review by Detainees" (March 17); Neil Lewis, "U.S.
Military Describes Findings at Guantanamo" (March 21):
in Waldman's article was any Guantanamo prisoner quoted firsthand and she
"evenhandedly" quotes prisoners well-treated and happy and, in a
few lines, those who offered "decidedly darker views." An attached
photo shows four happy Afghans waving goodbye. Nowhere in these articles are
words like "horror" or "hell," used by the victims and
quoted in the British press, offered, even in quotes by the victims. Although
reporter Patrick Tyler was in London, he never interviewed any of the returnees
there (or gave no evidence of having done so). The result is that the massive
details of systematic brutality and intense suffering that would humanize
the victims and connect readers to them is entirely absent.
four articles together gave almost twice as much space to official denials
of mistreatment in Guantanamo to claims or evidence of abuse. In quoting the
U. S. official denials, the Times reporters never cited the numerous
instances where officials lied about mistreatment or other matters. They never
mentioned Donald Rumsfeld's statement, cited by David Rose in the Observer,
about the early arrivals at Guantanamo, who included the Tipton Three, that
they are "the hardest of the hard core." Some space was also given
to the possible impact of the disclosures on U.S. and British policy, Patrick
Tyler mentioning, "Graphic portrayals of alleged deprivations and abuses
at Guantanamo Bay could further inflame antiwar sentiment and complicate Mr.
Blair's relations with the Bush administration...." Tyler and his Times'
associates carefully avoided such "graphic portrayals. "
Times reporters' skepticism is confined to the
"allegations" of the victims. Tyler, commenting on one of the victims
claims, that prostitutes had been paraded before the young religious Muslims
to embarrass and degrade them, says: "He did not explain how he knew
that the women were prostitutes." But when Tyler quotes at some length
a Pentagon spokesperson on the complete falsity of a victim's claims and firm
U.S. adherence to the Third Geneva Convention, he doesn't use any words like
"alleged" or say that this claim has not been confirmed or that
it is inconsistent with the findings of Human Rights Watch that U.S. violations
of rules of humane treatment in Afghanistan are systematic.
Rose in the Observer (March 14) says that the claims of the Tipton
Three "cannot be corroborated," but he quickly goes on to say that
these claims "have been related in identical terms by other freed detainees.
Last October I spent four days at Guantanamo. Much of what the three men say
about the regime and the camp's physical conditions I either saw or heard
3 from U.S. officials." But the Times reporters fail to do this
kind of checking for consistency. Neil Lewis gives the Pentagon view (March
21), with a few reservations, but declares that there is "no way to verify
independently the situation as described by American officials" or to
confirm victims' claims. This is not true: with enough victims evidence, and
with a careful and critical examination of Guantanamo operations and talks
with a variety of U.S. officials and cadres and other relatively independent
sources, such as NGO workers and concerned lawyers, a fair approximation to
the truth would seem to be quite possible. That is something the New York
Times evaded in the National Security State years and continues to do
Times reporters never mention that the Tipton Three were falsely accused
by other prisoners, apparently under the pressure of harsh and incessant interrogations,
and that the Three eventually gave up and "confessed," before an
MI-5 inquiry in Britain showed them to be innocent.
Tipton Three had initially been captured in Afghanistan in 2001 by the Taliban,
but they were shortly thereafter swept into custody by the victorious U. S.
-backed Northern Alliance. Among the many thousands of prisoners taken, a
large number were herded into containers at Sheberghan and shipped by truck
to a death destination in the Dasht Leili desert, a great many of them dying
enroute. The Tipton Three estimated that only a fraction of the many thousands
of prisoners in custody survived horrendous prison conditions, outright slaughter,
and the container-herding massacre. Physicians for Human Rights identified
dozens of mass graves in Northern Afghanistan in 2001, and, just recently,
forensic anthropologist William Haglund reported that he had once again dug
up 15 bodies in the area and found that they were young men who had died of
suffocation, corroborating the charges of the Tipton Three (David Rose, "U.S.
Afghan allies committed massacre," the Observer, March 21, 2004).
was apparently a massacre that, at a minimum, rivaled a Western massacre symbol
like Srebrenica, not to mention Racak (Jamie Doran estimated some 3,000-5,000
slaughtered by the Northern Alliance; the Tipton Three go much higher). But
none of the New York Times articles mentioned the Tipton Three's experience
in Northern Afghanistan and their claims about Northern Alliance brutalities
and killings. In 2002, when Jamie Doran had put up a strong documentary on
the container massacre, widely viewed in Western Europe, the mainstream media
in the United States, including the New York Times, never mentioned
it. Racak and Srebrenica got endless attention and great indignation. A comparable
or greater massacre, but by a U.S. ally and with U.S. personnel in attendance,
stays in the black hole. As with the Times' treatment of the U.S. torture
center in Guantanamo, this is the way a well-oiled propaganda machine works.
The brutality of the American New World
Order System is something that most American Christians refuse to come to
grips with; but they had better do so – and quickly. The evidence is there
for anyone to see; if one ignores the evidence, then one is as guilty as those
German Christians who – upon hearing the death trains rumbling through their
cities carrying Jews to the death camps at Treblinka and Auschwitz – would
turn away and plug up their ears so they couldn’t see what was happening.
The Bible says: “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, TO HIM
IT IS SIN.” (James 4:17)] God help you, dear Christian, if that is your
case when the Lord returns to set up His kingdom. We URGE you, while
there is yet time, to avail yourself of the Antipas Training – see below at
the end of this article. You need to know what the Scriptures have to see
with regard to all this.
Those of you who continue to reside WITHIN the borders
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Brothers and sisters - all those who live OUTSIDE
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