FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

U.S. Torture Predates 9/11

by

The sordid history of U.S. torture in the Middle East laid bare by the release of the Senate report is explained by some as “9-11 changed everything.” The truth, however, is that U.S. support for torture long pre-dates 2001.

The Vietnam War lasted more than 10 years and involved more than a half-million U.S. troops, and torture was a routine part of U.S. actions. Vietcong prisoners were thrown from helicopters to get others to talk, they were tortured with electric shocks, six-inch pegs were driven into their ears, and female prisoners were threatened with the death of their children.

In the Middle East, the most notorious torture regime was that of the Shah of Iran, installed by a CIA-coup in 1953. Operatives of his secret police, the SAVAK, were trained by the hundreds by the CIA at its headquarters in Langley, Va. In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter, now seen by many as a champion of human rights, personally approved continued CIA-SAVAK cooperation, on the grounds that the “intelligence” gained outweighed the “human rights abuses” that were occurring, an explanation that should sound familiar today.

The SAVAK is gone, but systematic torture continues in at least one more country in the region that receives massive U.S. support—Israel, which routinely tortures Palestinian political prisoners.

CIA support for torture in Latin America was equally extensive. In Chile, the CIA-supported coup which brought Augusto Pinochet to power brought with it the torture and murder of thousands of left-wing activists. The head of Chile’s secret police, the DINA, was a CIA asset. In 1975, DINA agents assassinated the former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 25-year-old American associate, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in Washington, D.C., itself, but even that didn’t put a damper on U.S. support for the regime.

Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. provided training and support for the government in El Salvador, whose death squads routinely used torture as a means of suppressing opposition. The opposite happened in Nicaragua, where the U.S.-supported Contras routinely tortured Nicaraguans who resisted its attempts to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

In Venezuela, the secret police was called DISIP, and its head and chief torturer in the 1970s was CIA agent and notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. Here the story of U.S. involvement with torture takes a different turn—the U.S. supported torture while it was happening but later used the false claim of potential torture to shield Posada from prosecution.

Posada and Orlando Bosch were the masterminds of the 1976 mid-air bombing of Cubana Flight 455, killing all on board. Both escaped justice in Venezuela, and in 2005 Posada entered the U.S. illegally. Venezuela, where Posada is still wanted on 73 counts of murder for the airplane bombing, filed an extradition request.

Nine years later, that request has neither been honored or even answered, but eventually, since Posada was a known terrorist and had entered the U.S. illegally, the U.S. government was forced to move to deport him. During those hearings, a man named Joaquin Chaffardet testified in Posada’s defense that if he were extradited to Venezuela, led at the time by Hugo Chávez, he would be tortured. Chaffardet offered no proof for this baseless allegation, and the U.S. government offered no witnesses to rebut him. Of course, Venezuela WAS known to torture prisoners—when Posada ran the DISIP and it was supported by the U.S.!

And who was Chaffardet? He was Posada’s associate at DISIP, a fellow torturer! Later, both left DISIP to form a private investigation firm, a firm that worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, and the same firm that employed the two people who actually put the bomb on the plane in 1976. Chaffardet was also indicted of having organized the prison break that sprung Posada from jail in Venezuela after the bombing. And on the basis of his testimony alone, the U.S. refused to extradite Posada to Venezuela, and allows him to live freely in Miami to this day.

The U.S. government’s attitude toward torture hasn’t changed in decades, nor has its willingness to see torturers pay for their crimes. In President Obama’s statement on the torture report, he asserted that torture is “against our values,” but pointedly failed to point out that it is also against the law. Just like police brutality serves a role internally at keeping people under control, so too torture serves a role internationally. Neither will end until the brutal system that employs them, capitalism and imperialism, are ended.

Colten Stokes, originally from Guatemala, is now a U.S. citizen working as a public employee active in his union.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Dmitry Kolesnik
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus, as, Fear and Loathing Grip Europe.
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
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
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail