Torturers Are Not Patriots

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Torturers Are Not Patriots

(Photo: Justin Norman/cc/flickr)

Torture is a crime under both American and international law. The Bush administration repeatedly broke the law from 2002 to 2006 by unleashing a wave of torture, kidnapping, and murder, all under the banner of its faux “war on terror.”

“Terror” is a wonderfully useful propaganda term developed by the Israelis and adopted by the Bush administration to dehumanize and delegitimize America’s violent enemies who were opposing US presence in much of the Muslim world.

The US Central Intelligence Agency, created to gather and assess information, was turned into a ruthless paramilitary hunter of America’s real or imagined enemies. Of course, America had to be protected from another 9/11-type attack. But, just as much, the Bush administration was seeking revenge for the 9/11 attacks that caught the tough-talking president asleep on guard duty. CIA was given the dirty job and then chivvied without relent by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Muslims had to be taught a dire lesson. The Guantanamo gulag, the freezing rooms, beatings, contorted positions, waterboarding – all tortures favored by the old Soviet secret police – were to serve as a stark warning to disobedient miscreants in America’s Mideast Empire, which I call, the “American Raj.” Humiliation and degradation techniques developed by Israel to turn Arab prisoners into informers were applied full force by US military jailers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

Amazingly, some idiots at CIA actually paid two quack psychologists $81 million to develop tortures. Any self-respecting Moroccan or Serb policeman would have happily done job for $100 cash.

As a journalist, I’ve been writing about the American Inquisition since 2003. America’s tame media and weak-willed Congress ignored this systemic criminal behavior. Official Washington and the court media simply accepted the absurd euphemism, “Enhanced Interrogation,” with childlike naiveté.

President Barack Obama quite rightly banned any more torture but then emasculated his orders by protecting America’s Inquisitors from justice. Obama’s “we tortured some folks” was not enough to explain away America’s descent into police state behaviour under the Bush administration.

Now, on the 11th hour, Sen. Diane Feinstein has done her duty, at least to a degree, by forcing a heavily edited version of her Intelligence Committee’s report into the open over fierce objections by Republicans and the “transparency” president. Kudos for the senator.

That’s how government checks and balances are supposed to work. The reason Bush and his neoconservative advisors were allowed to plunge to US into its biggest foreign policy disaster in Iraq was precisely because a tame Congress rubber-stamped his war of aggression and the media cheered it on. Almost all criticism was silenced by the lingering horror of 9/11.

Those in the national media, like this writer, who dared challenge the lies that led the US into the Iraq War or false claims that Saddam Hussein was somehow behind 9/11, lost their jobs and were blacklisted and accused of being “unpatriotic.”

Republicans are now insisting the Senate report is wrong and that President Bush didn’t know about the torture or secret prisons. The CIA’s torturers were “patriots,” insists chief John Brennan.

Die-hard Communists in Russia still insist, “Comrade Stalin didn’t know about the gulag or KGB crimes.” But even Vice President Dick Cheney, the Grand High Inquisitor, says Bush knew from Day 1 and signed off on the torture. Cheney is just as culpable. So are the former CIA chiefs Tenet and Hayden. Only the FBI stood up and warned that so-called enhanced interrogation amounted to torture, a crime.

Republicans want George W. Bush cleared because Gov. Jeb Bush is planning a run for the presidency. So the Bush name and the Republican legacy of two lost wars must be whitewashed. Karl Rove has been assigned this task. Fox TV and the Wall Street Journal have been leading the Pravda-style campaign to rewrite history.

Back in the 1960’s, President John Kennedy tried to lay all blame on CIA for bumbling US plots against Cuba and attempts to murder Fidel Castro. Official Washington may again dump this whole ugly mess on senior CIA officials and demand they fall on their swords. I’ve been through all this before when asked to serve on the Church Commission, which investigated CIA’s last era of crime.

Most CIA senior officers are bureaucrats, not 007’s. In my long experience with intelligence, they were following orders from the White House, not running amok. As a former military man, I was taught command responsibility. If a ship hits a rock, its captain is responsible, even if he was asleep. When the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison were revealed, only a few small fry got their wrists slapped. Like defeat, crime is an orphan. The buck does not stop in the White House.

If America does not taken action to bring to justice those senior politicians and officials who egregiously broke the law, it has no longer any right to boast of being a “city on hill” or preach similar claptrap to other nations. Alas, this is unlikely to happen. America’s Justice Department is protecting the guilty, courts won’t take action, and the Republicans are coming. Democrats who rubber-stamped the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly muted. Obama urges we not rehash the past – unless it has to do with Nazi crimes.

It may be up to other nations with a higher regard for human rights and law to pursue the matter. That’s clearly why prime malefactors George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Tenet and Hayden of CIA, and Condoleeza Rice are so nervous about traveling abroad. They and Britain’s mendacious Tony Blair have much to answer for.

The reason ISIS – which was formed in Abu Ghraib prison – dressed its beheading victims in orange prison suits was to make the obvious link to Guantanamo. Our sins are coming to haunt us.

The whole world expects a higher standard of law, government, and behavior from the United States. That’s why I was always proud to be an American and to wear my nation’s uniform. That was before Bush & Co. brought so low our nation, fouled its honor, and made it into a world-class hypocrite. Time to clean out our Augean Stables.

Torturers are never patriots. They are criminals.

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

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