The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The “greatest democracy in the world” and torture

Dec 17, 2007

In 2005 the CIA destroyed two videotapes of forced interrogations of supposed Al-Qaida members carried out in 2002. For two years no one who knew said anything about it – now suddenly, it’s come to light. And the politicians rushed to appear shocked.

“I think we have to draw a bright line and say,‘No torture – abide by the Geneva Conventions, abide by the laws we have passed,’ and then try to make sure we implement that,” said Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate. John McCain, a Republican presidential candidate, said, “There will be skepticism and cynicism all over the world about how we treat prisoners and whether we practice torture or not.”

What B.S.! If this affair puts new light on the brutal methods used by the state apparatus, these methods have been known for a long time, including by those who claim to be naive and pretend to be indignant today.

In fact, the terrorist attacks of September 11 gave the U.S. government a favorable climate to impose wholesale attacks on civil liberties. These attacks were incorporated into the PATRIOT Act, voted for by Democrats as well as Republicans. The reinforcement of the rule of arbitrary power and the free rein given to the intelligence services only encouraged the practice of torture in the shadows.

The Washington Post reported that in 2002 and 2003 the CIA organized 30 meetings with Democrats and Republicans of the Congressional Intelligence Committees to explain the strong-arm methods used against so-called “enemy combatants.” Current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did not denounce the practices. With only some formal objections, no one else did either.

The strong-arm methods in question consist of depriving prisoners of sleep, submitting them to near-drowning, leaving them for a long time in painful positions, humiliating them and submitting them to extreme temperatures. These methods were given a tacit OK by the silence of the members of Congress who knew about them. It’s obvious such methods are torture – and just as obvious, as any authority on intelligence has always explained, information obtained in this way is almost always false.

Last July, undoubtedly to cover itself, the Bush Administration issued an order prohibiting the CIA from torturing suspects and the use of, “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.” But it also authorized secret detention – where the CIA was sure to use whatever methods it wanted.

The Administration didn’t get Congress to approve outright legalization for these methods, but that didn’t prevent Congress from officially encouraging them. And shutting up.

All this is surprising only to those who believe that the leaders of this so-called democracy are more respectful of civil liberties and human dignity than are brutal dictators. This clearly isn’t the case.