Behind the Senate's 'Torture Report': Washington's 'Global Assassination Campaign'
December 24, 2014
Debra Sweet / The World Can't Wait & Alan Goodman / Revolution Newspaper
Last week Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, and Pardiss Kebriaei, from The Center for Constitutional Rights, spoke about the Senate's Torture Report. Scahill grounded the discussion in the developments since Bush, saying that "some parts of the CIA and military are getting away with a global assassination campaign led by Obama." Pardiss pointed out that the US has killed at least 4,000 people in targeted drone strikes, yet we know the names of only five.
Special to Environmentalists Against War
Behind the Senate's 'Torture Report':
Washington's 'Global Assassination Campaign'
Debra Sweet / The World Can't Wait
(December 23, 2014) -- This week, members of the World Can't Wait Steering Committee and other volunteers have been calling our supporters. Maybe you got a call? Your responses have been good to hear!
You say you are very deeply outraged by the Senate torture report. You want indictments and prosecution of those at the top of the government who pushed for -- and are still defending -- torture, like "Dick" Cheney. You want to know more, and mostly, you want this government to stop the dirty secret wars and torture.
You say you support World Can't Wait, and want us to continue exposing reality of what this government does to millions of people living in this country.
The very worst thing to happen will be if the truth gets out . . . but the crimes continue because those who know act as if everything is normal.
Last week Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, and Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney at The Center for Constitutional Rights, spoke about what has become known as the Senate's Torture Report. I was fortunate to be there, along with others who have protested torture with World Can't Wait.
In a nearly full theater, before they spoke, we watched Jeremy's film, Dirty Wars, a film that traces the continuation of US occupation and intervention through the Bush era by the Obama administration. The companion book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield focuses on the Joint Special Operations Command, a highly secretive vehicle accountable directly to the president -- and notoriously not to the rest of the military -- which did hundreds of night raids in Afghanistan, ran with and funded the warlords in Somalia, and was hands-on doing torture of Iraqis.
The book's chapter on Camp NAMA exposes a real life "Zero Dark Thirty." The Camp (NAMA = "Nasty Ass Military Area") was run by officers who did not use their real names, even with each other. They froze, injured, tied up, starved, and killed Iraqis during General Petraeus' surge, and beyond. The whole enterprise was based on deniability.
Glenn pointed out that the Senate torture report covers up and distorts so much, driving to the conclusion that "enhanced interrogation" was:
1) carried out by "rogue" CIA agents;
2) primarily a CIA invention;
3) was unknown to Congress;
4) ditto, the Bush administration was "kept in the dark."
Nevertheless, he said we have to dig into the contents of what is in that report and further expose what really happened.
Scahill grounded the discussion in the developments since Bush, saying that "some parts of the CIA and military are getting away with a global assassination campaign led by Obama."
Pardiss, who defended Guantanamo prisoners, and represented Nasser Al-Aulaqi, father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a US citizen who was killed by a 2011 US drone attack in Yemen, pointed out that the US has killed at least 4,000 people in targeted drone strikes, yet we know the names of only five. She also spoke about CCR's client Majid Khan, who suffered the torture of "rectal feeding" when he was held at a secret CIA black site. Pardiss argued strongly for criminal prosecution of those who ordered torture.
Knowing that the torture report was so redacted, watered-down and a deliberate attempt to keep the light from shining on systematic torture has perhaps made us not foresee how it would hit people so hard, and be so damaging to the status quo.
But let's go out there and make the most of this opening! A shout-out to Glenn, Jeremy, and Pardiss for leading in exposing the torture. And thanks to Jeremy for recognizing me, in the audience, for "leading many, many protests" against torture.
Torture to Enforce a World of Horrors:
What the Senate Report Reveals . . . and Covers Up
Alan Goodman / Revolution Newspaper
(December 15, 2014) -- On December 9, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a "Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program." This is a report on the orgy of officially approved torture carried out by the CIA in the aftermath of the attacks launched by Islamic fundamentalists on the US on September 11, 2001, and of CIA moves to lie about the scope, nature, and results of this torture.
The Senate report is highly censored. It is a product of years of infighting within different government agencies and factions over how much (or little) torture to reveal, how to package that torture, and who to blame. It covers up or glosses over the fact that -- even if all the details were not known -- top leaders of both parties knew the basic picture of this torture and signed off on it.
Most essentially, from beginning to end, the Senate report frames the torture carried out by the CIA in terms of whether or not that torture "saved American lives," produced "useful intelligence" about Al Qaeda, and whether, in the end, this torture was in the "national interest of the United States."
That's an IMMORAL framework. The interests of rulers of the United States are the interests of a global empire of exploitation and oppression. American lives are not more important than other people's lives. And nothing justifies torture.
In 2009, in the midst of earlier revelations of the torture that took place under the Bush regime, I wrote at revcom.us: "Let's make it plain: torture is, literally and in essence, a crime against humanity. Like rape, it is a systematic attempt to violently degrade people and rob them of their very humanity."
The scale of torture, the randomness with which victims were grabbed up, and the official endorsement of all this points to the real and essential motivation behind it: to instill terror across a wide swathe of the Middle East and Central Asia, and to send a mob-style message that nobody fucks with the US empire . . . or else.
The Most Depraved Crimes
The report describes extensive waterboarding -- previously portrayed as a less sadistic and deadly form of torture -- as a "series of near drownings." One detainee, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was subjected to this horrific torture 183 times. In addition, he was deprived of sleep for seven and a half days, mostly forced into a standing position.
The CIA torturers took sadistic and ghoulish delight in inflicting sexually degrading torture on captives. Detainees were frequently stripped naked and forced to urinate and defecate on themselves. The report describes "rectal feeding" -- forcing material up the rectums of detainees, a form of rape.
Detainees were subjected to constant and viciously realistic death threats. They were placed in tubs of ice for extended times. One detainee was chained partially nude to a concrete floor and died of hypothermia. Prisoners were subjected to sleep deprivation for up to a week, driven to "hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation."
Other People's Lives Matter!
In the wake of the Senate report, the airwaves have been filled with "debate." Not over what kind of a system would produce such obscenities. Or what it will take to bring about a world where such things never happen. Instead, people are being trained to think that if torture saved American lives, then it was OK, and if it didn't, then maybe it is not OK. As if any crime, no matter how barbaric, is fine if it protects American lives. And that other lives don't matter.
Do you hear a familiar, ugly message here? You should. The same oppressive, genocidal, murdering system that enforces a reign of terror in Black communities from Ferguson to Staten Island, from Cleveland to Albuquerque, carries out even more naked oppression around the world. And just as Black lives do NOT matter to those who rule this system, the lives of the people of the world do not matter to them either.
The people who rule this empire of plunder they call the USA look down at the slums and barrios of this country and the world, at the workers who pick their crops and sew their clothes, at the angry, alienated youth. They see slaves to be kept in line. They see threats and potential threats to their whole setup. And they see vast sections of humanity as "extraneous" -- unnecessary and unwanted -- to be locked up and kept down through violence, terror, and TORTURE.
That is why when their police murder Black people, even if this or that politician wrings their hands in angst, over and over again police walk away with a pat on the back. And that is why, even if senators argue over just how the CIA should terrorize the people of the world, they will never stop doing what they do as long as this system stays in power.
The fact that the events of September 11, 2001 were carried out by reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces doesn't justify anything the CIA did. Nothing justifies torture. And as a matter of fact, those forces -- including Osama Bin Laden who took credit for the 9/11 attacks -- were originally put in business by the CIA to wage a war in Afghanistan in the 1980s against the Soviet Union, which at the time headed up a rival imperialist bloc that confronted the US around the world.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these forces had a "falling out" with their former US sponsors. And after 9/11, like a big-time mob cartel -- when the US thinks anyone might get the idea that it is vulnerable -- the US lashed out. With invasions. And with torture. To send a message to anyone who might think about getting in its way.
Not "Saving Lives" But
Enforcing a World of Horrors
It has to be repeated: Even if it was the case that torture "produced useful intelligence" or "saved American lives," the objectives of the rulers of the US empire are not in the interests of people anywhere. And torture is immoral in any instance.
But in that light, it is revealing that the Senate report basically exposes that the stream of news reports aimed at the US audience to justify torture was all lies. A slavishly compliant US mainstream media channeled CIA "leaks" into articles and stories aimed at convincing Americans that whatever the CIA was doing was producing "successes" in the so-called "War on Terror."
The report documents that of "the CIA's eight most frequently cited examples of ‘thwarted' plots," those "CIA representations were inaccurate and unsupported by CIA records." (See pages 223-225 of the report.)
The conclusion this leads to -- but which the report does not touch with a ten-foot pole -- is that torture was carried out not to "gather information," much less "save lives," but to instill terror.
Ghoulish Criminals Must Be Held Accountable
President George W. Bush, cabinet officials, and congressional leaders of both parties were in the loop from the beginning, and in various ways gave the OK for all these crimes, and took the exceptional step of formally authorizing them.
In February 2002, Bush signed a presidential edict stating that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (an international agreement to which the US supposedly subscribes), which prohibits "mutilation, cruel treatment and torture," did not apply to anyone suspected of being associated with Al Qaeda or the Taliban -- the reactionary Islamic fundamentalist force that ruled Afghanistan.
Mutilation? Torture? If you were a CIA operative, how would you "interpret" that as anything but a blatant green light to carry out "mutilation" and "torture"? The White House office of legal council was assigned to, and repeatedly issued concocted legal excuses for torture during and after the fact. Anyone in the office who objected, even mildly, was pushed out of the way.
Bush's open embrace of illegal assassination and torture outraged many people in this country and became an international scandal. Obama ran for president with promises to end torture. But Obama insisted early on that he would not prosecute anyone who committed these crimes.
A New York Times piece summarized how Obama has handled torture: "Court cases continued to be shut down before a word could be argued; officials who spoke to the press about this and other issues like wiretapping have been prosecuted, along with reporters themselves, with a disturbing enthusiasm."
Any government which not only tolerates such things but which, from its highest offices, justifies and insists on them . . . any government which does not, once this has been exposed, prosecute the perpetrators but instead provides them in advance with immunity . . . reveals itself as a government of a system that requires such crimes, and such criminals, for its functioning.
And any people who do not resist such crimes, and demand prosecution of the torturers and, even more so, those who formulated the policy at the highest levels, reveal themselves to be complicit in those crimes. And in passively allowing the humanity of others to be degraded and attacked, they lose their own.
Nobody should accept a world like this. The perpetrators of torture and those who gave the orders must be confronted, exposed, and people must demand they be prosecuted for their crimes. Doing that has a thousand links to, and will strengthen, the movement being built for an actual revolution that will put an end to this criminal system.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
More Resources & Articles on Torture and Detention
ACLU Resource Page on Indefinite Detention: The World Is Not A Battlefield
ACLU Report National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration - An 18-Month Review (Released July 22, 2010):
Establishing a New Normal
(PDF Download of the 22 page report)