FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Legal Responsibility Goes to the Top

by JENNIFER K. HARBURY

As the United Nations intensifies its scrutiny of torture practices in Iraq, many Americans feel outrage and confusion.

How could this have happened?

The truth lies in the realities that led to the Katrina disaster. The horrors are not new, but long-term and deep-rooted.

The photographs of Abu Ghraib torture practices left many of us with a chilling sense of deja vu. Anyone who survived torture in Latin America or lost a loved one to death squads there, remembers these techniques.

We also remember the U.S. participants. Although our government leaders insist that the recent abuses were acts of a few “bad apples”–young MPs out of control–we can only shake our heads. We have heard it all before. While our young soldiers face prison time for following orders, those who authorized and ordered the torture continue to violate our laws with full impunity. Why?

Given the extraordinary flow of disclosures, confirming the use of identical U.S. torture practices throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, the “bad apple” defense is coy at best. It is impossible for so many soldiers to dream up identical techniques by coincidence. We are dealing with official policy, not individual excess. Legal responsibility goes all the way to the top.

We must also remember that these horrific practices were not invented during the war against terror. Throughout Latin America, secretly held prisoners were subjected to raging dogs, excruciating positions, simulated drownings, long-term sleep and food deprivation, blasting noises and terrifying threats.

U.S. responsibility was hardly limited to funding and training military death squads. In many cases, U.S. intelligence agents visited cells, observed battered prisoners and gave advice or asked questions. Instead of insisting on humane treatment, these agents simply left the detainees to their fates.

Worse yet, many notorious torturers were on the CIA payroll as informants. I ought to know. My husband, a Mayan resistance leader, was brutally tortured for two years by Guatemalan officials serving as such “assets.” The “water-pit” technique referred to in Afghanistan appears in his files, too. Eventually, he was either thrown from a helicopter or dismembered. Within six days of his capture, the CIA knew he was in the hands of its hirelings, yet continued payments and kept the matter secret even from our Congress. My husband’s life could have been saved.
These practices have been developed through the decades. The iconic photograph of the Abu Ghraib detainee, hooded and wired and standing on a small box, depicts a position known to intelligence officials as “The Vietnam.”

Since these torture techniques constitute obvious policy, and many were specifically authorized, why are our top-level officials not under indictment? The Fourth Geneva Convention protects non-POWs, including saboteurs and insurgents. Such people may be tried and imprisoned, but not tortured. Our criminal laws make it a felony to conspire to torture a detainee abroad.

We are repeatedly told that we must permit torture to maintain our national security. True? Experts agree that torture does not yield reliable intelligence because the victims will say anything to stop the pain. Tried-and-true police methods yield far better results. Worse yet, as military people like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell have said, we greatly endanger our own servicemen and women by discarding anti-torture protections.

By creating rage and hatred against Americans, our troops face bombs instead of tossed bouquets. As that rage increases, the risk of another attack here at home escalates dramatically. This is our country and our responsibility. The time has come to roll up our sleeves and clean house.

JENNIFER K. HARBURY, author of “Truth, Torture and the American Way,” and “Searching for Everardo“, heads the Stop Torture Permanently campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail