Guest Writings
 
5/11/05 The United States of Torture by Mike Whitney
    

How did we stoop so low?

As if Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo weren’t bad enough, the Bush administration has added another layer of shame to our national disgrace.

Dana Priest’s article “The CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons” paints a sobering picture of an administration that has abandoned any trace of integrity and completely run amok. The United States has become the number 1 exporter of torture in the world today with Bush serving as its foremost champion.

The article provides a window into the constellation of CIA prison camps that dot the globe like the myriad islands in the Pacific. Thousands of Muslim’s have been swept up in a global dragnet and dumped in secret gulags where they are subjected to the grueling regimen of beatings and torture. The camps were authorized by President Bush in an executive “finding” 6 days after Sept 11, that’s when, as one high-ranking official said, “The gloves came off”. It “gave the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world.”

The result of Bush’s action was the development of “black sites” where the “disappeared” victims of American foreign policy could be held and treated with impunity. These prisoners have been abducted from sovereign nations, in clear violation of international law, tortured and, perhaps, killed, without any legal process in place to shield them from the arbitrary authority of US agents. How can any US citizen or American ally defend this capricious and lethal conduct?

“The top 30 al Qaeda prisoners exist in complete isolation from the outside world. Kept in dark, sometimes underground cells, they have no recognized legal rights, and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or even see them, or to otherwise verify their well-being, said current and former and U.S. and foreign government and intelligence officials,” Priest states.

“Complete isolation”? “No legal rights”? “Underground cells”?

Again, we see the familiar pattern of an administration which refuses to be bound by either international law or common decency.

Ironically, Bush and co. have resurrected a number of the Soviet-era prisons in the Eastern block for their vile activities. How strange that the spawn of Ronald Reagan, arch-rival of the “evil empire”, would breathe new life into these relics of communist rule; throwing open the iron gates and putting them back to work.

“Welcome to Riga Gulag: Under New Management.”

Certainly, Dick Cheney would match up quite nicely with his antecedent, Joe Stalin. Cheney has become the administration’s foremost “advocate of torture” (Washington Post). He has made a straightforward appeal to members of Congress to continue to allow the “cruel, degrading and inhuman” treatment of prisoners even though it is in clear violation of US treaties banning torture and the Geneva Conventions. Many people now believe that Cheney’s impassioned plea to Congress has less to do with his heartfelt convictions and more to do with the fact that the bloody footprints for the abusive behavior leads straight to the VP’s front door. As Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, stated on NPR, “The Secretary of Defense, under cover of the Vice President’s office, began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we’ve seen. There was a visible audit trail from the Vice President’s office through the Secretary of Defense, down to commanders in the field.”

Clearly, Cheney’s present machinations in the Senate are just a way of concealing his role in creating the policy. There’s little doubt now of his culpability.

The political fallout from the abuse-scandal will linger for decades to come, tarnishing the image of the United States and undermining its claim of being a staunch defender of human rights. What began in metal containers in Afghanistan where Taliban suspects were asphyxiated in the broiling summer sun, led to the open-air cages in Guantanamo Bay where prisoners were callously exposed to the elements for nearly 4 months. The devolution of policy has produced a daisy-chain of rat-infested dungeons manned by CIA goons and bearing the imprimatur of the President of the United States. The war on terror has metastasized into a war OF terror producing its own toxic ethos that has infected every area of the body politic.

The Red Cross, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all provided documented evidence that the Bush administration is engaged in widespread prisoner abuse. The allegations are further corroborated by the eyewitness accounts of military personnel, former inmates, and even Abu Ghraib’s former-Commanding Officer, Gen. Janice Karpinski. There’s no doubt that cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners is administration policy or that the chain of command follows a straight path to the Oval Office.

The long catalogue of abominations and abuses begins and ends with George W. Bush. He’s the man in charge and that’s where the buck stops.

 
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