by RON JACOBS
Author Douglas Valentine has spent a good part of his adult life researching, investigating and writing about the US Central Intelligence Agency and its crimes. From his examination and detailing of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam to his most recent work titled The CIA as Organized Crime, Valentine has made it quite clear that torture is an oft-used tool in the Agency’s toolbox. From the crude “wire to the testicles” approach in Vietnam to more sophisticated methods now called “enhanced interrogation,” the CIA has led the way in American style torture of those it deems the enemy.
As most readers will recall, the years of George W. Bush’s presidency saw an apparent increase in the use of torture by US forces—by both military and intelligence agencies. This increase was not only legitimised to the public and the press by some rather flimsy legal arguments, it was also defended by a number of elected representatives of the public in the US Congress. Among those elected representatives of the people was a certain Michael Pompeo, who hailed from Kansas. This man, who is on record defending US torturers as patriots while a congressman, is now the director of the CIA in Donald Trump’s new regime. His appointment was supported by all but one member of the committee in charge of approving Pompeo’s selection. The lone dissenter was the libertarian Rand Paul. In other words, members of the so-called opposition party (the Democrats) sitting on the committee agreed to the appointment, most likely accepting Pompeo’s assurances that he would only use torture in specific cases.
I mention this appointment not because Trump’s choice was out of character. One need only look at the rest of his choices for high ranking appointments to understand that the Trump government will be one of the most right-wing, self-serving, militaristic and potentially fascist regimes to ever rule the United States. No, the reason I mention this appointment is because of the vote by the Democrats to approve a man who not only supports torture, but champions it. Now, I am not so naïve to believe that most of the rulers in Washington have any morals beyond that which makes them money or gives them more power, but to ignore torture (and thereby tacitly support it) is unconscionable. The fact that there is so little outcry around this appointment is one more element of proof as to the moral vacuum that is the US establishment. When combined with the other elements of what the regime calls the global war on terror—drone murders, Special Forces missions to kill and destroy, surveillance of everyone, etc.—it becomes clear that Washington has no right to claim any moral leadership of any sort. This truth is certain to become even greater as the Trump regime rolls out more and more of its executive orders without challenge from the legislative wing of that regime.
As I was writing this, a news item came across my desktop stating that Trump is going to issue an executive order lifting the ban on the use of “black site” prisons overseas in client states and nations occupied by US forces. This order overturns the order Obama invoked when he took power; an order that ended the use of such prisons by US military and intelligence forces. Black site prisons are utilised specifically for interrogation that involves torture because they provide a legal deniability on the part of Washington. One of the reasons given for reviving these torture chambers is that some of the people held and tortured by the US and its allies have returned to the battlefield. Let me remark (and yes I believe there is an element of equivalency here) that thousands of US troops returned to the battlefields of the “Global War on Terror” numerous times to fight and kill. Yet, they are not being tortured and detained for their actions.
Donald Trump is on record stating that he believes “torture works.” I wonder exactly what this concept means. Does torture work for the torturer? Do they get the information they need or does it merely fulfill a need for revenge? In other words, are Trump and other who insist that torture works merely revealing that it is there psychological need to inflict pain on a perceived enemy? Is this what they mean when they say torture “works?” After all, most military experts disagree with those who say torture provides valuable information.
Author Valentine quotes Ed Murphy, a former operative in the Phoenix program, in his book on the operation. According to Murphy, “Phoenix was far worse than the things attributed to it.” One can assume this is also the case in regards to the torture of detainees carried out since the events of 9-11. Indeed, the refusal by the Obama administration to release thousands of photographs taken in the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib suggest that the photos that were released are tame compared to those censored by the regime. The apparent acceptance of this censorship and the human rights abuses it is covering up is one more reason to call out the torturers and remove them from their chambers. It is also a prime reason to remove those who approve of these methods from their comfortable offices and positions. Failing to do so reflects on us all.
Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont, United States