“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“No conditions justify torture.”
– Norman Finkelstein
Publisher’s Note: Most of the monsters involved in the torture regime at the beginning of this new century have skirted justice and remain at large prospering and grasping at the levers of power as we speak. -BB
America has formally endorsed torture since August 2002 and has practiced it as an extension of warfare at home and abroad for most of its history. Waterboarding originated in the Spanish=American War in the Philippines at the close of the 19th century when America was stretching its legs in its brutal colonization pogroms planet-wide after 1983.
What is torture? Per the universally accepted definition of torture:
“For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
This “tortured” definition is typical of what a bureaucrat would come up with to describe the impossible philosophical calculus of the state that immoral means will yield moral ends. One will notice that the last sentence gives the official torture regime pardon planet-wide much like the state excuses its actions for terrorism. Terrorism is the employment of politically motivated violence against innocents and non-combatants. A reflective person would instantly apprehend that this is the cornerstone of the state’s power and that torture is merely a subset in the toolset that is the government maintenance effort for power and expansion thereof.
The existence of private torture is certainly a reality. I in no way suggest that private malcontents and twisted psychopaths don’t ply their trade globally. There are ample lurid testimonials to this in the literature and the news splashed across the screens humans habitually stare at in the absence of reflection and cognition. But they hold no candle to the government’s ability to break human beings and stack up corpses like cordwood.
Like the advocacy of abolitionism, the moral and consequential efficacy of torture is undisputed among those who have a virtuous compass. It doesn’t work but it does always transform the torturer and tortured into one twisted artifact of inhumanity. Per the efficacy of torture in divining accurate intelligence, Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose makes a succinct and powerful case:
“Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him … These things I know, Ubertino; I also have belonged to those groups of men who believe they can produce the truth with white-hot iron. Well, let me tell you, the white heat of truth comes from another flame.”
Like so many things the state does, it cannot help but be the warp and woof of everything it does everywhere. Everything the empire does abroad, it will do at home. The emerging evidence of a police state in all its ugliness in America is no accident. It’s simply a natural outgrowth of a barbarous and formerly sub rosa bundle of characteristics that have grown in the orchid hothouse of government expansion that is most American history.
Politicians are merely violence brokers; nothing more and nothing less. The coin of the realm for the state is the threat and actual employment of violence. Either the lingering forms that would include torture or the sudden extinguishing of lives through minor and major pogroms outside of warfare. The US has a long and sordid history of employing official torture in the pursuit of its interests especially when on military expeditions as hundreds of thousands of corpses can attest to if they could speak of the unspeakable things done to them in the name of US dominion.
The sallow-cheeked and rotund dandies posing at being men who people the corridors of power and the thousands of bureaucratic rat’s nests that pepper the plains of America from one ocean to the other rationalize the business of torture by simply assuming it’s the cost of doing business and someone else will do it. In 2002, we had the likes of John Yoo at the forefront of rationalizing and quite literally legalizing the kidnapping and rending of men’s lives in all kinds of horrific ways by suggesting a repatterning of the language for “enhanced interrogation techniques” and other such legerdemain to conceal their cowardice t a doing the dirty deeds themselves. From the comforts of the taxpayer funded aeries right next to the Offal Office, Yoo devised a plan to keep the Busheviks content in doing their worst to perceived enemies and providing the necessary legal top cover to get the ball rolling on all the “black sites” and other portions of secret America that would do the King’s bidding for revitalizing the Inquisition program so popularized by an historical torture regime. John Yoo rhapsodized: “Congress’s definition of torture in those laws – the infliction of severe mental or physical pain – leaves room for interrogation methods that go beyond polite conversation.” Yoo, another well-schooled and comfortable sadist able to use his luxurious surroundings to provide political top cover for the torture enterprise. To institutionalize a torture regime that had been an active but casual residual of American power since the 19th century.
You’ll note I mentioned the thousands of bureaucratic hives littering the fruited plain and included those in the torture regime. That is because American policing employs it on a daily basis in the conduct of sweeping campaigns to find new candidates to kidnap and toss into the maw of the American gulag system at every opportunity. These armed functionaries use non-lethal means on a daily basis directly to include apprehension techniques that involve pain from tasing to beatings to murder if that is the end state justified by the cops once they’ve investigated themselves. Indirectly, for those who can still stomach watching the government media complex fawning and fellating the thin black and blue line if the latest victim happens to be caught on private video one will see the wink and the nod of the police as they infer what will happen at the station or smile at the prospect of male rape in the prison system. Police use threat of torture for compliance; in concert with the increasing militarization, yet another unpleasant analog to American imperialism overseas. One can even watch the endless police procedurals on television always hinting at the hell on Earth which will accompany any prisoner once remanded inside the penal system.
The torture in the American gulag system is largely undocumented in real-time but plenty of witnesses eventually emerge who attest to the sadistic culture of “corrections” officers as they ply their bloodthirsty trade in the system and get a taxpayer subsidized paycheck in return for their services.
The measure of a civilization is how it treats its most vulnerable and innocent humans and creatures within its power. America fails, absolutely. These nods to torture and even worse, the emergence in 2002 of the official imprimatur to its use as national policy rot the soul of a nation just as quickly as the scourge of the death penalty and unlimited abortion; like those two issues, it embraces and incentivizes a cult of degradation and cheapening of life. A recognition that other human beings no matter how innocent can be rendered and destroyed for the sake of bureaucratic impetus and satisfying the lust of national security mandates to bludgeon human liberty and freedom at every turn.
The French would provide a grisly example and demonstration project of just how bad this would be during the Algerian conflict when France used torture as an instrument of war.
The French would dehumanize the “dirty Arabs” much like the Americans would later do in 2001.
One suspects that the architects of the torture policy in America could not have not known of the French efforts in Algeria under Paul Aussaresses especially when considers the French influence on operations in Vietnam.
“Like other ugly chapters of the country’s history, the torture regime in which Aussaresses played a central role is a focus of repressed guilt in French society, one that still has power to release waves of political controversy. The most famous revelations came early, in a 1958 book by French-Algerian journalist Henri Alleg called La question (“Interrogation”) that graphically detailed the methods being used in the conflict. Alleg had to smuggle pages of the book to his publisher, and after two weeks on shelves, French authorities banned it and seized the remaining copies. Similarly, the celebrated 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, which depicts Massu’s and Aussaresses’s torture, was banned for five years and only shown uncensored after decades had passed. Even now, French officials are watched for apologies for war’s brutality; current president François Hollande last year called the colonial rule in Algeria “brutal and unjust,” but did not apologize.”
His work would inspire American torture programs in the ill-advised Vietnam conflict:
In 1960, he went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he taught on the Battle of Algiers and his use of torture. As he revealed in the 2003 documentary “Death Squads, the French School”, his students at Fort Bragg began to read the works of Roger Trinquier, another French commander in Algeria who wrote about tactics used there. Inspired, they sent Trinquier’s book, “Modern Warfare”, to CIA agent Robert “Blowtorch Bob” Komer. Komer’s controversial Phoenix Program recreated the French methods of what Aussaresses and Trinquier called “neutralization”—interrogation, torture, and summary execution—against the Viet Cong in Vietnam, and by some estimates killed as many as 20,000 people. American Army brigadier general John Johns said that Aussaresses’s ideas had “a considerable impact on all the green berets who left for Vietnam.”
A devilish marriage that morally impoverishes both the torturer and tortured enjoins the macabre dance. Government approved, of course.
“[B]y labeling one’s enemies as ‘‘rebels’’, ‘‘subversive’’ or ‘‘terrorists’’ they are placed beyond the pale, as ‘‘outlaws’’ who permit a high level of violence. This kind of categorization serves to blame them, as the initial troublemakers, for any violence they may suffer. In the end, it denies their actions any legitimacy – particularly by treating them as the actions of a minority. Above all, it is a refusal to consider that they are acting for political motives and with a political plan in mind. Yet that is precisely what those who use torture as a key weapon in a war waged by a repressive system are doing: they are performing a political act. They are making a political response to a political threat. In such a context, the practice of torture is intended to secure total control over the population and subject it to a specific, non-negotiated plan for the future. However, by denying one’s adversaries the status of political negotiating partners and reducing them to the rank of ‘‘terrorists’’, one is liable to preclude a political solution for ending the war, thereby rendering any situation secured by means of such force particularly unstable.”
The French would use torture and it would be one of the major reasons for losing the war much as the use of torture by the US in the campaigns in the Middle East has been a strategic blunder that would engulf the Middle East in flames and fan the emergence of the IS and others creating new fault-lines and devastating unintended consequences throughout the Southwest Asia.
“The French military believed that in order to win the war in Algeria, torture was an indispensable tool. Some French military authorities, including Gen. Massu of the French 10th paratrooper division and Gen. Aussaresses of the French Action Service, claimed that the Battle of Algiers could not have been won without the use of torture. The Battle of Algiers (1956-57) was a major battle between occupying French forces and members of the Algerian nationalist movement (specifically the FLN). The outcome of the Battle of Algiers was very damaging to the nationalist movement, especially the FLN and its leadership. Torture may have aided the French victory in the Battle of Algiers, but its use contributed to the loss of the Algerian War. Paul Teitgen, prefect of Algiers during the conflict, commented on the paratroopers’ use of torture during the Battle of Algiers, “All right, Massu won the Battle of Algiers; but that meant losing the war.” The use of torture created enemies against the French military and led to their ultimate defeat.”
The CIA report was eventually released, much redacted and a Congressional whitewash resulted. “The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.” And “The use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
The torturer becomes just as defiled in humanity as the tortured. Once that bridge is crossed and worse yet, like in America, national policy; nothing will stop the rot except the rooting out and elimination of all involved in the process. To include everyone who stood idly by.
Can the US or any state exist absent torture? Could DC wield its power? I suspect that once the genie is un-bottled, the only way to eliminate it is to raze the ground from which it grew and excommunicate every functionary involved.
France never recovered.
Neither will the United Sates.
The US government will use this at home. Guaranteed.
“Yeah, all right, but everyone knows they torture people,” mumbled Sam.
“Do they?” said Vimes. “Then why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?”
“‘ …’cos they torture people.”
― Terry Pratchett, Night Watch