Is the US Really Against Torture?

by MANUEL GARCÍA, Jr.

It is true the overwhelming majority of Americans are aghast at the use of torture by agents of the US government, and favor an immediate, permanent and absolute abolition on its use.

It is true that prominent US law-makers, policy-makers and military leaders — including members of the President’s own Republican Party, like Senator John McCain and former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell — have made vigorous and repeated public statements to the effect that torture should be banned from the operations of the US military.

It is true that on 6 October 2005 the US Senate adopted a bill championed by Senator McCain, which would prohibit the "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment of prisoners held by US combat forces. McCain’s legislation is an amendment attached to the $440 billion defense-spending bill. A joint congressional committee is now reconciling House of Representatives and Senate versions of the defense-spending legislation, to send a final version to the President for his signature into law — or his veto of the entire spending bill. McCain is confident his measure will survive the joint committee, it passed 90 to 9 in the Senate.

And, it is also true that the Bush Administration, still in the thrall of "Saruman" Cheney and his "Uruk-hai" Neo-Cons (1), announced on 7 October its intent to veto any bill including restrictions on the Administration’s use of torture in dealing with captives. If so, this would be Bush’s first veto.

If the US Congress overturns such a veto — requiring a super-majority of 2/3 in both houses of Congress — then we will know the country really disavows torture. And, that might be a signal that the Establishment had reconciled itself to a change of CEO.

It is not enough for the public to be against torture, as obviously as they are against the Iraq War, favor impeachment for having started it deceptively, as well as favoring so much else not allowed them like universal health insurance and education. Unless the US ruling class also favors a ban on torture of captured "natives" (today called "terrorists"), we will not see such a ban enacted by the US Congress.

Very simply, if torture is bad for business it will go, regardless of what Bush does. If torture is deemed necessary for business, then to hell with the public and both torture and Bush will stay. For Bush, "staying" would mean both an impeachment immunization and a continuation of his policy style in successor Republican leadership.

Is it too cynical to think that some of the outspoken critics of torture as policy might be showboating to curry favor with the public, having an eye on political campaigns in 2006 and 2008? After all, many of the congressional representatives who express a distaste for torture now could have acted earlier by voting to withhold funds from the military after the revelations of Abu Ghraib. Abraham Lincoln resorted to this ploy in 1846 to oppose the Mexican War, and similar measures were adopted in opposition to the Vietnam War and the Nicaraguan War (the Contra proxy war of –1979-1990).

A defense-spending bill with the McCain rider could be the beginning of such an Establishment revolt against the Iraq War (that is to say, how it is managed), because any presidential veto would necessarily cut funds to the military in Iraq and Afghanistan within weeks.

It is most probable, from personal, emotional and pragmatic points of view, that high-ranking torture critics like McCain and Powell see that the American capitalist enterprise can be managed with greater efficiency by dropping torture in favor a bit more diplomatic sophistication. So, given the increasing difficulties of the Bush Administration in the fall of 2005, it is most likely that torture will drop away as official policy, if not immediately, then with the change of administrations after 2008.

As ever, the criterion dictating the timing of any such policy refinement is one of efficacy, it will not be an alteration of goals.

The calls by pro-war politicians to end torture now may be a fortuitous melding of their actual "personal feelings" with current popular sentiment, all during the ebb tide in the political fortunes of the Bush Administration, and thus in anticipation of the next flood tide in American politics.

Waves all pass through the same water. American political careers today seem to be like water waves. While their rise and fall give an illusion of tides in national policy, in fact they are more often the rise and collapse of personal ambitions rippling through a constancy of political and economic control.

Notes

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saruman . The "One Ring" is oil. Also, one hopes for a Fitzgerald Contraction to purely "cons."


Manuel Garcia, Jr. can be reached at mango@idiom.com


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by Police
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya