The alleged torture of British Navy personnel by Iraqi Revolutionary Guards was page one news in the New York Times and other US publications on Saturday, and the outrage in America and Britain was almost universal.According to the just released 15 captives, they were blindfolded, then forced to listen to guns being cocked, which led them to believe they might be executed. They were placed in isolation from one another, yelled at, and forced to confess to having trespassed in Iranian territorial waters.
These abusive treatments are all awful, and no one would want to have to endure them, but let's be honest here: they pale in comparison to what American captives have been put through in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, and at various secret "black sites" around the world from Poland to Ethiopia.
People held in captivity by American forces--military and CIA--are known to have faced mock executions, to have been beaten to the point of death, and to have endured repeated water-boarding sessions. They have been forced to stay in stress positions for so long that they have suffered permanent muscular and neurological damage. They have been subjected to total sensory deprivation, such as we saw was applied to American captive Jose Padilla, to the point that they went insane. They've suffered extended sleep deprivation, have been left staked to the ground in desert sun, or left wet and naked for days in front of blasting air-conditioners. They've been attacked by dogs, sexually humiliated, raped, and forced to watch the desecration of their Korans.
There are also forms of torture applied which we don't even know about--the reason provided by federal authorities for blacking out the testimony of captives at military tribunals in Guantanamo, and the reason two convicted "terrorists," David Hicks and John Walker Lindh, had to sign gag agreements barring them from talking about the conditions of their captivity in public in return for reduced sentences.
If anyone wanted to know why President Bush's authorization of torture by American forces was a criminal act, they should go talk to the freed British detainees. So far, no one has asked them what they think about countries that torture captives.
My guess is that they'll say it's a horrible idea, whoever does it.
So far, from what I've seen, none of the reports on the abusive treatment of British captives has made the connection to how American forces are torturing captives in their custody.
This is shoddy journalism at its worst.
So far, nobody in Congress, including Sen. John McCain, who once tried to pass a torture ban only to have it gutted by presidential signing statement, has said anything about this case-book example of blow-back of America's use of officially sanctioned torture of captives.
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net and www.counterpunch.org His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).