The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Torture Page 1 of 2

Gina Haspel, Torture Supervisor, Confirmed Head of the CIA

The US is what the US is. And what the US is is a nation whose leaders commit mass murder and assassination with impunity, and which rewards those who do either, or both.

This bit from the Intercept on one of Haspel’s victims speaks loudly.

“I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured as part of the CIA’s RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, wrote to Warner’s legislative director on Monday. “He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.”

Warner, of course, supported Haspel, because Warner is scum. Competent scum, according to people I trust who know him, but scum.

The US and those it elects have been very clear to the rest of the world. They support the Iraq War and torture and always have. In 2004, when George W. Bush was re-elected, everyone knew about the torture, and by then the fact that Bush had lied about WMD was becoming clear as well.

The New York Times, which helped lie the US into Iraq, kindly did not release a story showing that the Bush administration was spying on Americans until after the election. They explicitly said they were worried he might lose if they ran it. Despite all their caviling over the years, when it mattered the NYT was for illegal war and torture. That’s who the NYT is when the chips are down, and it’s only when the chips are down that it matters.

The bottom line is that Americans and their leaders are really, truly, okay with illegal wars and torture whenever the decision has to actually be made–and today, American leaders showed that they do not even feel any actual remorse, or even think that torturing was a mistake that matters.

This is just who the US is.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

In Which Mandos Is Unsympathetic Towards Australia’s PM


(This is a quick hit from MANDOS. Just so you know.)

Australia’s PM just had a little pity party about Donald Trump allegedly yelling at him about the refugee deal. Well, Trump’s tweet on the matter is, taken literally, true, except the part about them being illegal immigrants.

The truth is that Australia bought a country in order to use it as a torture camp for people who have mostly been declared real refugees. These are people who are fully the responsibility of Australia, and Australia is only using extra-territoriality as a fig leaf to use them in its political drama. That Trump is very likely to be unsympathetic to the refugees doesn’t mean that the Australian PM didn’t deserve it.

For the sake of the victims of Australia’s policy, I hope the deal eventually survives, and they can get to the US, although some of them will be very damaged by their treatment and may not get the psychological support that Australia morally owes them, along with enormous compensation. They don’t deserve to be used as a prop in the invasion paranoia drama of developed polities. Let me put it like this: If “preserving your civilization” requires the erection of a torture camp, your civilization deserves to have died yesterday. And no, holding refugees prisoner on an island from which they can’t escape to a normal life in a destination country of their own choosing is neither safety nor honouring of the refugee obligation.

Torture creates enemies and radicalizes people

This article is a must read:

And we’ve documented that torture creates more terrorists.   Indeed, Salon notes:

Among the most notable victims of torture was Sayeed Qutb, the founding father of modern political jihadism. His 1964 book, “Milestones,” describes a journey towards radicalization that included rape and torture, sometimes with dogs, in an Egyptian prison. He left jail burning with the determination to wage transnational jihad to destroy these regimes and their backers, calling for war against all those who used these methods against Muslims


“Milestones” remains one of the Arab world’s most influential books. Indeed, it was the lodestar of Al Qaeda leaders like Ayman Al-Zawahiri (who was also tortured in Egyptian jails) and the late Osama Bin Laden.

In other words, it was torture which drove the founder of modern jihad to terrorism in the first place.

The article goes on to list a variety of other, very important people, radicalized by torture.

I mean, if I were thrown in prison, tortured and raped, and got out, you can damn well bet when I got out I’d want the order that did that to me destroyed.

I will note also that drone warfare/assassination warfare does the same thing.  It is very rare that assassination programs do anything but bring more radical leaders to the fore. The only prominent exception I can think of is the probable assassination of Arafat.

America’s Depraved Leadership Has Created a Depraved Population

A majority of Americans thing torture is justified.  They are split on whether the Torture report should have been released.  And they think Torture prevented attacks.

According to the American people, torture is justified, and it works.

Every demographic has at least a plurality for torture: men and women, young and old, white and non-white.

The only good finding is that a plurality of Democrats believe torture was not justified, though, within the margin of error, they do believe it was helpful.

Before Bush, most Americans were against torture.  The endless drumbeat of propaganda and the need to justify what America does (America is good, therefore America does not do evil), has had its effect.

I will make an ethical judgment: people think torture is justified are bad people. Depraved people.  A society where a majority thinks it is justified is a depraved culture.  (And remember, 51% think it was justified, but 20% don’t have an opinion.  Only about a third of Americans are opposed.)

The Ethics of Torture 101

There are two arguments against torture.

The first is ethical: torture is evil and should not be engaged in.  (This is, for the record, my personal view.)

The second is pragmatic: torture doesn’t work, or does more harm than good.

These are separate arguments: you may believe that torture works, but is too evil to use.  You may believe that it’s not evil, but ineffective.

Contrariwise, you may believe that torture is bad, but that the potential good outweighs the potential bad.  You may even, as many people do, believe that torture is something some people deserve (just as rape, according to Clarence Thomas, is part of the punishment of prison.)

Ethical arguments are rarely conclusive: they must start from unprovable axioms.  If someone disagrees with the axioms, it does not matter how tight the logic is, you cannot come to agreement.  It is for this reason that some argue the need for a God—an ultimate authority who lays down axioms.

I am of the school which believes that there are certain things we should never do to other people.  Death, to me, is not the worst thing that can happen to someone—go into a burn ward and ask the people with large body burns if they want to live or die, and understand that odds are you’d be no different.

Torture does horrible things not just to those who are tortured, but to those who torture.  There is often a pleasure in hurting or humiliating other people. Those who pretend otherwise are deluding themselves, most likely because they don’t want to admit that such evil lurks in their psyche.

If you torture, you become a torturer.  This is also why I do not laugh at rapists being raped: whoever did it is now a rapist too.

The counter-argument is simple enough: we do bad things all the time if we think the good outweighs the bad. If a few people’s suffering creates more good (for other people) than their suffering, we should allow it.

This is the dark side of utilitarianism: the greater good can lead to horrible actions.  Yet our entire society is based around such compromises: from industrial agriculture, the use of plastic, widespread automobile adoption; CO2 emissions and pollution caused by activities we value more highly than the widespread harm they cause.

So why make torture different?

If you don’t make torture different: if you don’t red line it, then you are reduced to the pragmatic arguments: does it work, what is the ratio of good to harm, and so on.

The world is a better place if we simply red-line some behaviour.  Thou shall not torture, thou shall not rape, thou shall not use nukes, thou shall use jacketed bullets instead of soft bullets, thou shall treat prisoners of war with decency, thou shall not shit in thy neighbours air so they get sick and their kids have asthma.

Red-lining certain types of behavior creates a better world.

The pragmatic ethical problem is “but if I don’t do it, others will.”

If I don’t torture, those who torture have an advantage.  If I don’t rape, those who rape have advantage (what?)  If I don’t pollute, those who do, have an advantage.

The pragmatic ethical response is “if I do do bad things there are more bad things in the world.”

If America doesn’t have prison rape and doesn’t torture, there is less torture (and a huge amount) less rape.

This is a unilateral action that the US (or any other country which tortures) can take to make the world and their country a better place.

At some point the world only becomes better when we say “no, I’m not going to do evil whether or not I perceive an advantage to it.”

Now a strong argument can be made that treating people better is an advantage, and there are many ways in which you can deny an advantage to those who are evil (generally by refusing to compete with them on their terms.)  That’s another article, so I won’t go into it here.

But I will say the following: personally, I hold torture apologists in the same sort of contempt I hold rape apologists and those who make rape threats.  Such people are worse than animals, and are a large part of why the world has so much suffering.  Their arguments from pragmatics are vile and self-serving.  The line must be drawn somewhere, but no matter where you draw the line, torture is over it. If you torture, or support torture, you’re evil.

That we have to have this discussion is amazing to me.  Torture should be the sort of action which people are ashamed of.  If they support it, if they’ve done it, they should be trying to conceal it, knowing all decent men and women will have nothing to do with them if their vileness is discovered.

That this is not the case is the saddest thing about American torture.

The CIA Torture Report

Just a few quick points:

  • It seems HQ wanted more torture than those in the field did, and would insist;
  • Torture,  Stirling Newberry once told me, is about sending information “we torture”, not getting it;
  • But really, torture can provide any info you want, like that Saddam has WMD;
  • It is interesting that the report is so negative.  Maybe the CIA screwed up by spying on Congress and getting caught?

We knew it was happening over 10 years ago. We knew then that it didn’t work in the sense of providing reliable information, and we knew then that the cost of torture in terms of damage to America’s reputation would be huge (and reputation does matter.)

As Bmaz points out at Empty Wheel, a great number of crimes were committed, and not just by the CIA, but by government officials, and they knew at the time torture was illegal.  There’s no chance of them being prosecuted now, but we can hope that some of them will face a court in the future.  Times do change, and those who must protect them to protect themselves will not always be in power.

One day it would be nice to see Bush in the dock.   Cheney, unfortunately, will probably die before then.


Paul Craig Roberts Speaks For Me

When he notes the US is a police state:

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier’s rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier’s excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach, resulting in her near death.

On Feb. 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation.

Wikipedia has this to say about the trial: “The trial took an unusual turn when an FBI official asserted that the fingerprints taken from the rifle, which was purportedly used by Aafia to shoot at the U.S. interrogators, did not match hers.”

An ignorant and bigoted American jury convicted her for being a Muslim. This is the kind of “justice” that always results when the state hypes fear and demonizes a group.

Siddiqui was an American citizen, by the way.  Seized and held in a secret prison, tortured and raped.  This is your America.

Your America.

Anyone can be next. Indeed, on Feb. 3 Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence told the House Intelligence Committee that it was now “defined policy” that the U.S. government can murder its own citizens on the sole basis of someone in the government’s judgment that an American is a threat. No arrest, no trial, no conviction, just execution on suspicion of being a threat.

This shows how far the police state has advanced. A presidential appointee in the Obama administration tells an important committee of Congress that the executive branch has decided that it can murder American citizens abroad if it thinks they are a threat….

In no previous death of a U.S. citizen by the hands of the U.S. government has the government claimed the right to kill Americans without arrest, trial, and conviction of a capital crime.

Go read the whole thing.

And, if there is a God, may Barack Obama and Dennis Blair face him along with George Bush, because no, the difference isn’t enough to matter.

Certainly not to Siddiqui.

As Jesus said “as you do to these, the least of my children, you do to me”. I wonder how Jesus is taking being raped, bombed and tortured so regularly by Obama and Bush.

As for me, I won’t pretend that I don’t despise Obama almost as much as I despised Bush.  Maybe more, since there’s evidence that George Bush is a brain damaged psyhcopath (he is known to have tortured animals as a child, one of the cardinal signs and recordings of him speaking in the early 90s show fluent speech without “Bushisms”).

Obama should know better, but if he does, he doesn’t care enough to do anything about it, to the contrary, he keeps making it worse.

Meet the “Good Americans” Who Made America Synonymous With Torture

When I read the details which have come out of the Hamdan and Padilla trials about how these two men were treated when in US custody, I don’t think “America did this”. America did this is far too bloodless. Specific men and a few women did this. Although the stain spreads over everyone who calls themselves American and those of your allies who often cooperated, everything that was done was done by specific people. They were not done by George Bush, they were not done by Cheney, they were done by American men and women.

So, when I read that, for example:

Hamdan’s defense team later revealed that Banks testified that Hamdan, apparently under such threat, had begged interrogators not to rape his wife or kill his family

I don’t think that America did it, though America did. I think that specific men did that. I read of, say Special Forces psychologist Col. Morgan Banks, and how he went to Afghanistan to use his SERE training, meant to help special forces resist terror, instead to set up interrogation. Instead to break men. I wonder how that happened, how a man who probably became a psychologist because he wanted to help people, became a monster. Oh, please, don’t argue otherwise. I’m sure he’s nice to his family. I’m sure he doesn’t kick dogs. I’m sure he loves America. I’m sure he wanted to avenge 9/11. Nonetheless if he did what we have every reason to believe he did (of course, his testimony is secret), he’s a monster.

Same thing with all the other interrogators, with the lone exception of the FBI interrogators, who were forbidden by John Ashcroft from engaging in torture. Ashcroft disgraced himself with Padilla, but even so, Ashcroft showed there were lines he wouldn’t cross. And so, until he was replaced, one organization in the US didn’t torture.

For 3 years, in other words, Ashcroft stopped the FBI from torturing. Think on that for a moment.

And then we’re back at the trial. And there is a judge who agreed to work under these military tribunal rules. I am sure, at night, he tells himself that he had to, because if it was not done by him it would be done by someone worse than him. Maybe he’s right, certainly the human rights observers have had little but good things to say about him. Still, he is a judge presiding at a trial where evidence obtained through torture is used; at a trial where the accused cannot face his accusers; the judge at a trial where hearsay evidence is allowed—the judge at a trial where even if Hamdan had been acquitted he would not be released. He’s a show trial judge, in other words, presiding over what everyone knows is a travesty of justice. He has loaned his name, Keith Allred, to this. He treated it seriously, as if it was worthy of his respect. He did not refuse to participate. And perhaps he’s right. Perhaps good men must participate in evil that it might be slightly less evil, and perhaps he is that good man, that good American, who makes a mockery of justice less harsh than it might be by participating.

This is the argument that some of the generals leading Vietnam made, that many will make about Iraq. “I knew it was wrong, a mistake, and immoral to boot. But if evil be done, better it be done by me that I might try and limit the damage, then that it be done by those foolish or fallen enough to believe it was actually the right thing to do.” Perhaps they are right, perhaps damning themselves is what they had to do. But I do not think that they can be other than damned, that their sacrifice is anything but their honor. They have not just looked into the Abyss, they have walked into it. And the price is, can only be, a piece of their soul. For us to respect their decision, indeed, requires that we see the evil they have done.

The same is true of the prosecutors. The same is true of “square jawed, calm and with a dry sense of humor” Robert McFadden, a special investigator with the Navy.

I find myself with some sympathy for these men. Still I find that I cannot but think that they have failed their first duty, which is not to their superiors, not to the President, but to the US constitution and what it stands for. I find that they have failed their basic duty to humanity.

I find that they are complicit in torture, in indefinite detention. I find that they have deliberately aided the destruction of justice, have aided the Bush administration in rolling back legal rights a full millenium, or more.

The “I was just following orders” was not acceptable to us in Nuremburg. It cannot be acceptable now. Yes, there are consequences to not following orders. But it’s the choices we make that define us. If following orders is more important to you than not being involved in torture, indefinite detention, the right of the accused to see the evidence against them—then you have made a statement about who you are.

And cooperation is needed by men like George Bush. It can be active cooperation, like that of the torturers, judge and prosecutors. It can be passive cooperation, as when “impeachment is off the table”, but cooperation is needed.

Still, one person can sometimes make a difference. John Ashcroft, immensely flawed as he is, made a difference. Comey made a difference. Fitzgerald made a difference.

Many men, there in Guantanamo, make Cheney and Bush’s policies possible through their cooperation. They do not resign, do not protest, do not refuse, at least, to actively cooperate. They are the men who made Bush’s America possible. Without men like them, he could have done nothing.

And so I really do wonder what the price of honor, integrity and morality is?

And I hope they were paid that price. A man who sells his soul should get his reward.

One and all, whether they were those who broke Hamdan by threatening to rape his wife and kill his family, they are complicit in that. One and all, whether they tortured anyone, they are complicit in torture.

They are the men who made George Bush’s America.

(Yet another reprint.  I am, in fits and spurts, moving articles which I feel have some lasting value, over to this site).

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén