Denial, Selective Perception and Military Atrocities.
by Felicity Arbuthnot
"Wrong from the start." (Ezra Pound, 1885-1972.)
When the horrors of the sadistic, near necrophile behaviour of U.S., personnel at Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, first showed the tip-of-the-iceberg-lie of "liberation": cruelty, depravity and bestiality on a scale which apparently dwarfed all that Saddam Hussein's regime had been accused of, President George W. Bush said: " This does not represent the America I know."
He should have. It was under the watch of his father, George Bush, Snr., that in 1991, thousands of Iraqi conscripts were buried alive in southern Iraq, by US army tanks and bulldozers. "What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches, with peoples arms and things sticking out of them", said Colonel Anthony Moreno who participated.(1)
Sixteen years earlier, in 1975, Bush Snr., with Henry Kissinger and Vernon Walters, set up "Plan Condor", under which CIA-enlisted exiles, orchestrated : ".. the torture and assassination of leftist leaders (under which) Latin American military rulers, also 'disappeared' thousands of their opponents." (2)
This followed in the bloody footsteps of the CIA 1966 Phoenix Project, designed to "cleanse" South Viet Nam of Communists (Viet Cong.) "Specially designed torture chambers were constructed in all forty four provinces. Rape of women suspects, electric shock, water torture, and hanging from ceilings were standard methods during interrogations." (3) Further: "The U.S.'s Phoenix Program killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese.
Vietnamese prisoners were thrown into 'tiger cages' - built by Texas military conractor RMK-BRJ, the forerunner of Halliburton subsidiary KBR .. and routinely tortured." (See 2.) Halliburton has, of course, hit financial bonanzas in Iraq and Afghanistan, along the occasional slightly bumpy legal path.
Fast forward to the revelations this month that twelve soldiers from (U.S.,) 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division have been charged with seventy six crimes, ranging from murder, to taking or appropriating pictures of the dead, keeping body parts, including fingers, a skull, a leg bone and a tooth. Allegations also include: "..hitting, kicking, strangling, dragging and spitting on .." a colleague with one, the highest ranking accused, a Staff Sergeant, also allegedly showing him fingers from a corpse to dissuade him from going to the army authorities.(4) Bodies were "cut up and photographed", states the (UK) Telegraph.
An army spokeswoman said the, as yet, unproven charges were: " .. an aberration in terms of the behavior of our forces, if true ... I don't believe the allegations here, against those few individuals, are representative of the behavior or the attitudes of the entire force."
Sadly, history, recent and earlier, hardly supports this sanguine view. A few quickly collected reminders, from the uncountable include:
In Vietnam :
The "elite" Tiger Force : U.S. troops tortured and executed prisoners and cut off their ears as souvenirs and to make into necklaces. "There was a period when just about everyone had a necklace of ears," one soldier remembered.
"When women and children in one village crawled into a bunker to try to hide, GIs threw grenades into the bunker and ignored the pleas and screams of the wounded until all were dead. Such actions were not limited to this one unit--they were typical of U.S. forces in Vietnam.
The widespread murder and torture had a strategic purpose--to terrorize the people, drive them away from the revolutionary fighters, and to force them to follow U.S. orders." (5)
"Of the tens of thousands of South Vietnamese detained, at least twenty thousand were summarily executed ... the severed heads of those executed were frequently displayed in the villages. Even more common was collecting the ears of dead Communist troops." (6)
In a terrifying overview: "Torture is an American Value", S. Brian Willson gives some salutary background to U.S., policy: "I became aware of torture as a U.S. policy in 1969 when I was serving as a USAF combat security officer working near Can Tho City in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. I was informed about the CIA's Phong Dinh Province Interrogation Center (PIC) at the Can Tho Army airfield where supposedly 'significant members' (of Viet Cong) were taken for torture as part of the Phoenix Pacification Program. A huge French-built prison nearby was also apparently utilized for torture of suspects from the Delta region. Many were routinely murdered.
"Naive, I was shocked! The Agency for International Development (AID) working with Southern Illinois University, for example, trained Vietnamese police and prison officials in the art of torture ("interrogations") under cover of 'public safety.' American officials believed they were teaching 'better methods', often making suggestions during torture sessions conducted by Vietnamese police."
A chilling sleight of hand, Willson points out, was that: "Instead of the recent euphemism 'illegal combatants', the United States, in Vietnam, claimed prisoners were 'criminal', and therefore exempt from Geneva Convention protections." Think Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca, think "renditions" and the uncounted, unknown secret prisons and secreted away human beings.
Far from being an "aberration", Willson states: "The use of torture as a function of terror, or its equivalent in sadistic behavior, has been historic de facto U.S. policy." (7)
And, lest forgotten: "From 1981 to 1985, John Negroponte was President Reagan's ambassador to the bloody U.S.-backed regime in Honduras. Negroponte oversaw the training of the Honduran army. According to the Baltimore Sun,a secret CIA-trained Honduran army unit, Battalion 316, used "shock and suffocation devices in interrogations.... Prisoners often were kept naked and, when no longer useful, killed and buried in unmarked graves."
"Negroponte also oversaw the brutal Contra war against Nicaragua. The CIA supplied the Contras with a manual titled 'Psychological Operations In Guerilla Warfare.' It called for the use of assassinations, kidnappings, extortions, and other violence for propagandistic effect. " (8)
Willson scales the decades in tracing the parallels in behaviour, the linguistics are depressingly familiar : "When indigenous Nicaraguan resistance fought against the occupying U.S. forces in the late 1920s, the Marines launched counterinsurgency war. U.S. policymakers insisted on "stabilizing" the country to enforce loan repayments to U.S. banks. They defined the resistance forces as "bandits," an earlier equivalent to the "criminal prisoners" in Vietnam and "illegal combatants" in Iraq. Since the United States claimed not to be fighting a legitimate military force, any Nicaraguan perceived as interfering with the occupiers was commonly subjected to beatings, tortures, and beheadings."
In Nick Gier's "Beheading, Hooding and Waterboarding: Torture in Viet Nam, Latin America and Iraq", the America unrecognised by Bush Jnr., walks tall. An Abu Ghraib Military Intelligence e-mail, dated 17th August 2003, reads of the prisons inmates: "The gloves are coming off . . . Col. Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken."(9)
In fact the 6th March 2003, Defense Department "Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism" requested by Donald Rumsfeld, read: "In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, (prohibition of torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority." On 20th March Iraq was illegally invaded and in April: "Rumsfeld issues a final policy approving twenty four special interrogation techniques, some of which need his permission to be used."(10) With yet again, so little regard for international law or the U.S., Constitution, at the top, it is little wonder there is often either scant or none for either, leading to a culture of depravity down the chain of command..
In a supreme irony, John Negroponte was named U.S., Ambassador to Iraq in April 2004, just as the enormity of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was becoming known.
It is widely reported that the aspect most concerning Commanders regarding the latest alleged depravities by troops, is that it might cause widespread anger, further turning the Afghans against the U.S., presence. It is hard to find shame, surprise, humility or regret expressed up the chain of Command.
A recent report in to standards in the U.S., army cites an increase in drug abuse and bad behavior, seemingly coming at the same time that the Army enlisted thousands of recruits who, in previous years, would have been ruled ineligible because of drug abuse or other criminal convictions. According to the report, nearly twenty percent of the soldiers who've enlisted in the Army since 2004 — perhaps as many as ten thousand — would "not have been eligible for entry into the Army before."
"I think we've got to understand that the force we have today is different from the force we had ten years ago," said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice Chief of Staff of the Army, who oversaw the study. "We've got kids that are going to have some behavioral health issues." He pondered on whether he had " .. a force capable of doing whatever the nation asks it to do? "
Cheer up General, the good news is that it is hard to spot the difference.
1. War Crimes, Ramsey Clark and Others, Maisonneuve Press, 1992.
3. http://www.newwest.net/index.php/main/article/9930/ )
5. See 2
6. See 3
8. See 2
9. See 2.
The Stench of American Hypocrisy: Crimes of Torture and "The American Dream"
by Paul Craig Roberts
In a recent column, "The Stench of American Hypocrisy," I noted that US public officials and media are on their high horse about the rule of law in Burma while the rule of law collapses unremarked in the US. Americans enjoy beating up other peoples for American sins. Indeed, hypocrisy has become the defining characteristic of the United States.
Hypocrisy in America is now so commonplace it is no longer noticed. Consider the pro-football star Michael Vick. In a recent game Vick scored 6 touchdowns, totally dominating the playing field. His performance brought new heights of adulation, causing National Public Radio to wonder if the sports public shouldn't retain a tougher attitude toward a dog torturer who spent 1.5 years in prison for holding dog fights.
I certainly do not approve of mistreating animals. But where is the outrage over the US government's torture of people? How can the government put a person in jail for torturing dogs but turn a blind eye to members of the government who tortured people?
Under both US and international law, torture of humans is a crime, but the federal judiciary turns a blind eye and even allows false confessions extracted by torture to be used in courts or military tribunals to send tortured people to more years in prison based on nothing but their coerced self-incrimination.
Compare Vick's treatment of dogs with, for example, the US government's treatment of Canadian "child soldier" Omar Khadr. Khadr was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, the only survivor of a firefight and an air strike on a Taliban position. He was near death, with wounds to his eyes and shoulder and shot twice in the back. The Americans accused the boy of having thrown a hand grenade during the military encounter that resulted in the death of a US soldier.
As there was no witness to support the accusation, Khadr was tortured into submission. He was beaten, deprived of sleep, left hanging with his arms chained above his head, hooded and threatened by dogs. The National Post of Canada (Nov. 6, 2010) reports: "His chief interrogator at Bagram admitted to telling the teenage boy that unless he co-operated, he would be sent to a U.S. prison, where a group of black men would gang rape him to death."
Despite this and other evidence that Khadr was coerced by torture into agreeing that he killed a U.S. soldier during a military firefight that left Khadr all but dead, U.S. military judge Col. Patrick Parrish ruled that Khadr's "confession" had been freely given and could be used to convict him in court.
The charge against Khadr is an invention. We don't know whether Khadr was a combatant or just happened to be in the place where the American attack took place.
Khadr is accused of "murder in violation of the laws of war." Such a crime does not exist. Soldiers who are enemy combatants are not tried for killing one another. As the Americans had pulled Khadr's "crime" out of a hat, they definitely needed a guilty plea. Shortly before the "trial," the Americans told Khadr that if he did not plead guilty and escaped conviction, they would hold him indefinitely in a torture prison as an enemy combatant.
This is the behavior of Nazi Germany. When German courts freed Nazi victims from false charges, the Gestapo simply picked up the cleared defendants when they left the court house and sent them to camps or prisons.
At the last minute new charges appeared out of thin air in order to beef up the nonexistent case against Khadr. He was forced to admit to killing two Afghan soldiers and to sign away his right to sue his jailers for torturing him. In court, Col. Parrish repeatedly emphasized that Khadr admitted his guilt freely of his own accord. In other words, Parrish lied in court by presenting a coerced confession as"willingly given." This is typical of US prosecutors.
In a powerful editorial, "Stalin Would Have Been Proud," the National Post of Canada said: "what it really was, was a show trial. . . . They could have told him to confess that he had simultaneously piloted all four hijacked planes on 9/11, and he would have done it."
The National Post goes on to say that Stalin's torture techniques, which "inspired the standard operating procedures at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and the secret black sites, were not designed to elicit truth. They were designed to produce false confessions."
The Americans need false confessions in order to maintain fear of terrorists among the deceived population and in order to cover up the US government's crimes of torture.
If a case can be worse, it is the case of the young American educated neuroscientist, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Read Yvonne Ridley's account in Cage Prisoners, February 12, 2010.
Siddiqui and her three young children were kidnapped. Siddiqui was tortured and abused by the Americans and their Pakistani puppets simply because Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to Wikipedia her second husband's uncle, mentioned her name during one of the 180 times that he was waterboarded. Reminds me of reports by Soviet dissidents that when they were being tortured by the KGB, they tried to remember names on gravestones to give to the authorities, and when they couldn't they gave whatever names popped into their memories.
Siddiqui's young children apparently are still missing. While she was in detention, Siddiqui herself was shot in the stomach by an American soldier, allegedly after she managed to seize his rifle and point it at him. This absurd story was enough for federal judge Richard Berman to sentence her to prison for 86 years for assault with a deadly weapon and attempting to kill U.S.personnel. Obviously, Berman knows where his bread is buttered, and it is not by justice.
We imprisoned Michael Vick, because he tortured dogs. But Department of Justice (DOJ) officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, in close collaboration with the George W. Bush White House and VP Dick Cheney's office, fabricated the argument that US and international laws against torture do not apply to the US president. Yoo and Bybee were found by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility to have violated professional standards. However, DOJ official David Margolis reduced the charges to "exercised poor judgment." This despite the fact that Yoo actually asserted to an Office of Professional Responsibility investigator than Bush's powers as commander-in-chief provided Bush with the authority to unilaterally order, without recourse to law, the mass murder of civilians.
Vick didn't get off with "exercised poor judgment." In US "justice," torturing dogs is a worse crime than torturing people.
In the US, if you torture a dog you go to prison, but if you are a member of the government you can give a green light to torture, and your reward will be to be appointed professor of law at the "liberal" University of California, Berkeley (Yoo) and to the federal bench (Bybee).
With so many executive branch known criminals running around at large, what did the lobbyists' representatives, aka the US Congress, do? They excoriated Charles Rangel, the black US Representative from Harlem.
What had Rangel done? Had he indulged in even more heinous acts of torture, rape, and murder than the executive branch officials? No. Rangel helped a school raise money, and as the school was going to name itself after him, Rangel "benefitted personally" from using the power of his office to help the school to raise money. Rangel also committed another grave crime. He used a New York apartment, which was designated for residential use only, as a campaign office. Rangel also failed to pay income tax on rent from a condo in the Dominican Republic, most likely an insignificant sum of which an 80-year old man run off his feet by his demanding job might not have been aware.
Because of these "serious crimes," the House Rules Committee concluded that Rangel brought discredit upon the House of Representatives.
I mean, really, how many things can you think of that are of less consequence than Rangel's transgressions? We have a Congress that is bought and paid for by lobbyists, whose every vote is lobbyist determined by campaign contributions that financially benefit the Representatives and Senators. But Rangel is guilty because he helped a school raise money?
We have a Congress that has forfeited its power to declare war and sits complicit while the president not only usurps its power but uses illegitimate power to commit war crimes by launching naked aggressions on the basis of lies and deception.
We have a Congress that turns a blind eye to criminal actions by the president, vice president, and executive branch, including violations of US statutory law against torture, violations of US statutory law against spying on Americans without warrants, and violations of every legal protection in the Bill of Rights, from the right of privacy to habeas corpus.
The hallmarks of the remade US legal system, thanks to the "war on terror," are coerced self-incrimination and indefinite detention or murder without charges or evidence. "Freedom and democracy" America has resurrected the legal system of the Dark Ages.
But Rangel who helped a school is stripped of his Ways and Means chairmanship and censored by the bought-and-paid-for-Congress. One has the impression that Rangel must have done something far more serious, such as criticize the illegal wars or the banksters' rip-off of American taxpayers. Or do we simply have a case of white people ganging up on a black?
With the criminal mega-rich banksters, thanks to their agents ensconced in the US Treasury, regulatory agencies, and the Federal Reserve, free of regulatory oversight, on whose head does regulation fall? It falls on 13-year olds who sell cupcakes in public parks.
In Westchester County, New York, New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called the police on 13-year olds Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff for selling cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats in a Chappaqua park. The kids were guilty of being vendors on town property without a license.
The kids were making about $100 a day and had capitalist dreams of starting a business. But regulation stopped them cold. A license cost between $150 and $350 for a scant two hours, and a $1 million insurance certificate is also required.
So banksters, who were able to purchase with campaign contributions, and who knows how much in under-the-table-payoffs, the repeal of the depression era banking regulations and then some, are scot free after having robbed taxpayers of bailout funds and their pension retirements. But the cupcake business of two 13-year olds is closed down.
What does it say about a population of 300 million that fails to see the hypocrisy in this?
Has a more insouciant population ever existed?