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In Torture We Trust

The U.S. Congress sent President Bush a bill that would have banned the CIA from using ‘harsh interrogation methods,’ which most of the world sees as torture and which even the military is forbidden to use. Said Mr. Bush: “The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror.”

It is not surprising that the irony of that statement is lost on Mr. Bush. Terrorist tools that he allows the Central Intelligence Agency to use are a ‘valuable tool’ in the war against terror.

The spineless Democratic Congressional leadership duly weighed in with meaningless rhetoric, proving once again that talk is cheap, and it can’t get much cheaper than the pronouncements of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In vowing to override the presidential veto, a near impossibility considering the numbers and therefore an easy target for taking the moral high ground, Ms. Pelosi said: “In the final analysis, our ability to lead the world will depend not only on our military might, but on our moral authority.”

This is the same House Speaker who chose to demonstrate ‘moral authority,’ by taking impeachment proceedings ‘off the table,’ thus allowing and enabling Mr. Bush to have complete immunity from his many crimes. This is the same House Speaker who has allowed the Iraq war to continue, and who has no excuse for so doing since she came to power in January of 2007.

Mr. Reid, not to be outdone by Ms. Pelosi’s sputters, added his two cents to the discussion: “Democrats will continue working to reverse the damage President Bush has caused to our standing in the world.”

Might not an admission of the ‘mistake’ the U.S. made in invading Iraq, followed by quick retreat from that tortured and occupied nation, help reverse the damage Mr. Bush has caused to the American reputation world-wide? For Mr. Bush, of course, it was no mistake: the Iraqi people are most presumptuous to believe that they, and not Mr. Bush and his cronies, have a right to the oil that their nation holds. Convincing the U.S. citizenry, not known for their careful examination of facts when patriotic-sounding platitudes are flying about, that Iraq somehow posed a threat to Grandma and apple pie was not difficult. It has been somewhat more challenging for Mr. Bush to convince the populace that remaining in Iraq is a good idea, but as has been proven before, most recently in Vietnam, when it comes to war the will of the people is not what Congress or the president feels any need to pay attention to; when the rich are getting richer, why question the methods? So while polls, including the 2006 elections, indicate that most Americans favor a quick departure from Iraq, Mr. Bush can continue to assure that the riches of that nation flow to wealthy Americans by raising the specter of terrorists invading and occupying the U.S. the way the U.S. has invaded and occupied Iraq. As everyone knows, it’s not wrong when the U.S. does it.

And this, apparently, applies to torture as well.

Mr. Bush had this to say: “The procedures in this manual (the military manual that the bill stated were to be followed by the CIA) were designed for use by soldiers questioning lawful combatants captured on the battlefield. They were not intended for intelligence professionals trained to question hardened terrorists.”

So Mr. Bush makes the judgment on who is a ‘hardened’ terrorist and who is a ‘lawful combatant.’ What he uses to make such decisions is anybody’s guess. It must be remembered that, in Mr. Bush’s view, a 15-year-old youth fighting in Afghanistan is a ‘hardened terrorist.’ Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is now 21-years old and has been rotting in the U.S. sponsored hell of Guantanamo for six years.

Is it at all possible that the Iraqi people might see U.S. soldiers as ‘hardened terrorists?’ It is U.S. soldiers who break into homes at all hours of the day or night, ransack those homes and drag out any males over the age of 12 as their mothers, wives and sister scream. Prior to the invasion and occupation by U.S. soldiers, Iraqi citizens could rely on the things most U.S. citizens take for granted: electricity, running water, etc. Now these are available in short supply, for limited times during the day, if at all.

Mr. Bush’s nonsensical statements appear to be endless. When explaining his veto of this bill, he also said this: “This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”

Might not the Iraqi people see how much torture has done to keep America safe (after all, they have Mr. Bush’s word for it), and decide to use the same methods to keep their own nation safe? Is it inconceivable that they will begin using the same methods on U.S. soldiers? And what would Mr. Bush’s response be to that, one wonders.

But once these practices are sanitized by some expert wordsmithing, they apparently become effective without being wrong. Mr. Bush has assured the nation and the world that the U.S. does not torture; of course not! And the U.S. didn’t escalate its participation in the war in early 2007; it simply ‘augmented’ it. And such an augmentation was certainly what the U.S. voters indicated they wanted when they went to the polls in 2006: more of the same became a ‘new way forward.’

An article from the Associated Press concerning the veto of this bill further fosters this whitewashing: “The military specifically prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The CIA also prohibited the practice in 2006 and says it has not been used since three prisoners encountered it in 2003.”

So now we are told that prisoners ‘encounter’ torture. They are arrested for who knows what reason, and then, perhaps walking from their cell to their one hour of exercise a week, happen upon torture. It is not planned, it is not ‘administered,’ it is simply encountered, and isn’t that their bad luck.

Although the words of Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid have nothing behind them, what they say is true: while the U.S. has never been a moral leader it has been perceived as such, at least by Americans, and that illusion is now shattered forever. A nation that not only condones torture, but actually practices it, cannot possibly be seen as anything but renegade, to be shunned by all civilized societies except in the context of what kind of danger it might present to the world. With the U.S.’s floundering economic might, it must now rely more than ever on its military strength. This combination, no moral compass, diminished stature in the world, a strong military and a deteriorating financial base, all add up to a very dangerous mix. Mr. Bush’s insistence of the continued use of U.S.-sponsored torture is simply another symptom of this deadly disease.

ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.‘ He can be reached at bfantina@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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