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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail