Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Torture, Impeachment and a Vietnam Vet’s Tears

 

The true horror of what President Bush–and the Republican-led 109th Congress–have done to all of us American citizens by authorizing torture in our names came clear during a talk I was giving on impeachment to a group organized by the New Jersey chapter of Progressive Democrats of America.

I had been reciting the growing list of Bush crimes against the Constitution and the laws of the land and had gotten to the issue of torture. At that point Bruce Tornari, a large guy sitting in the back of the room proudly wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the words “Third Marine Division” and “Vietnam Veterans Against the War,” offered up the comment that he had witnessed torture in Vietnam.

Tornari, who had been a Marine rifleman began to tell us how his four-man unit had captured a North Vietnamese soldier who had been heading towards his unit. They had turned him over to a unit of South Vietnamese troops that was attached to them, and were stationed that night in a foxhole position about 100 yards away from the South Vietnamese (ARVN) troops holding the prisoner. He said that night the ARVN soldiers began torturing the captive. As he spoke, his voice cracked and he began sobbing. It was hard for him to get out the rest of his story, but he managed to say, word by painful word, that he had heard the screaming all through that night, and that he still “cannot get those screams” out of his head, some 35 years later.

At that point he got up and, using two canes, hobbled out of the room to hide his embarrassment at his tears. He needn’t have bothered; everyone else in the room had wet cheeks at that point anyway.

It was a powerful lesson, for those of us who have not been there, of the horror of torture.

I can’t count how many times I have read comments, or even heard them in person, from jingoistic Americans who have said they aren’t bothered at all by the idea of American troops or CIA agents torturing “terrorists” or other captives. They typically will say that the victims of the torture are evil people intent on killing Americans, and so who cares?

In fact, however, aside from the fact that torture is illegal under international law, and that it is illegal in the U.S. as a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, since the torture is being conducted upon captives who have never had their cases examined to determine if they are indeed terrorists or legitimate combatants or just innocents picked up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is inevitable that many of those who are being tortured with the president’s approval and in our names are simply innocents. Some of those innocents have died at the hands of their tormentors. Others have been driven insane.

What this still haunted veteran demonstrated, by opening a window into his experiences and the demons of war that still plague him, is a dose of reality–an honest look at what torture really is.

Some advocates of impeachment argue that the case against George Bush should focus on those crimes and abuses of power–like his use of signing statements to render inoperative over 850 acts of Congress or his illegal, warrantless spying on thousands of American citizens–which are likely to win Republican and independent as well as Democratic support. I agree that this is a good strategy, but I think we simply cannot allow crimes like the authorization and encouragement of torture to go unchallenged.

Some Democrats, like Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) have been active supporters of many of Bush’s crimes, including the advocacy of torture. Others have cowered, afraid of being branded “soft on terrorism,” and have been unwilling to challenge the president. Such timidity and such complicity are no longer possible.

With Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress after January 3, a failure to put an immediate halt to torture, and a failure to impeach the president for his ongoing crime of promoting and approving a policy of torture, would make Democrats as a party fully guilty of the crime along with the president. It would also make us, the voters who put those Democrats into office, accomplices to the crime.

Furthermore, with most Americans now recognizing the war in Iraq to have been a disaster based upon lies and political expediency, and with many recognizing that the so-called “war” on terror itself has been a fraud, no member of Congress need fear such reckless accusations as “supporter of terrorists” or “lack of patriotism,” or whatever. The majority of Americans now recognize these charges as the garbage that they are, and as acts of desperation by those whose time has passed.

Torture has no place in American military policy. As the Vietnam vet at my impeachment event Sunday told us, torture hurts not just those who are tortured, but those who are the torturers, it makes the enemy fight more desperately, and in the end it can be turned on our own captured soldiers in a horrible tit-for-tat.

It must be ended immediately, and those who promoted it must be called to account.

A German prosecutor is currently drawing up an indictment for torture against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his role in promoting torture, because U.S. prosecutors have refused to do so. The ACLU has filed a civil suit in federal court accusing Rumsfeld of torture, on behalf of some of Rumsfeld’s victims. Indictments and civil suits for torture should also be filed against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.

But more importantly, now it is Congress’s turn, for the ringleader of this monstrous crime–the President–is protected from indictment as long as he remains in office.

It is, after all, Rumsfeld’s boss, Commander in Chief George W. Bush, who is ultimately responsible for the torture policy that has blackened America’s name.

He must be impeached for this crime, whether or not Republicans will join in doing so.

As Tornari put it to me later, after he had recovered his compusure, “Bush has made torture his policy in his war on terrorism. But no one, not even our war criminal president, deserves to be tortured. By sanctioning torture, the United States has lost any moral authority that we might have had at one time. We are now a country of thugs.”

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s new book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

May 24, 2018
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abys, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail