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Mar 08 2006

The case against torture

It seems bizarre that we have reached a stage where we actually have to make a case against the use of torture. One would have thought that it would be self-evident that torturing people is wrong and should not be condoned. But sadly, that is not the situation anymore. We are now in a place where the formerly unthinkable is now not only thought but also done and actively encouraged.

Clearly, Vice-President Cheney has emerged as someone who has no scruples in this regard.

A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a stinging attack on US Vice-President Dick Cheney over abuse of prisoners by US troops.

Col Lawrence Wilkerson accused Mr Cheney of ignoring a decision by President Bush on the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror.

Asked by the BBC’s Today if Mr Cheney could be accused of war crimes, he said: “It’s an interesting question.”

“Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror,” he added.

“And I would suspect, for whatever it’s worth, it’s an international crime as well.”

Even former CIA Director Stansfield Turner refers to Cheney as the “vice president for torture.”

The former spymaster claims President Bush is not telling the truth when he says that torture is not a method used by the US.

Speaking of Bush’s claims that the US does not use torture, Admiral Turner, who ran the CIA from 1977 to 1981, said: “I do not believe him”.

On Dick Cheney he said “I’m embarrassed the United States has a vice president for torture.

“He condones torture, what else is he?”

The relentless fear-mongering generated by the so-called “war on terror” has produced a siege mentality where people are willing to trade humane values for a spurious sense of security. And what is worse, it seems as if people do not even want to know the truth. Reports that document outrages against civilized behavior are either unreported, under-reported, or can be seen only in the foreign press.

Project Censored documents that the ACLU and other organizations have unearthed military autopsy reports that “provide indisputable proof that detainees are being tortured to death while in US military custody. Yet the US corporate media are covering it with the seriousness of a garage sale for the local Baptist Church.”

The details of each military autopsy report of the deaths of prisoners in US custody can be seen here. They are sickening. Here is a sample:

Final Autopsy Report: DOD 003164, (Detainee) Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominately recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. Whitehorse Detainment Facility, Nasiriyah, Iraq.”

The Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff points out how the posturing of people like Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham (who try to speak as if they oppose torture) actually provide cover for the Bush administration to strip the people being held in its custody of their basic rights and remove all oversight of the treatment of prisoners, in effect allowing the military authorities to do all the things that are symptomatic of brutal dictatorships, acts that are routinely condemned when done by countries that are not allies the US.

How has it come to this? How can it be that in the 21st century, centuries after the age of enlightenment, we are consciously allowing, if not actively encouraging, governments to commit acts that can only be described as barbaric? Is there anything at all that would arouse public anger? Or is it only a matter of time before we reach the stage where we place the decapitated heads of so-called “enemy combatants” on spikes in public spaces as a warning, as was the practice of kings and queens in England against their perceived enemies?

To be continued…

POST SCRIPT: Ali and Frazier

Just after writing about the bad way that Ali treated Frazier, I read that today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of their “Fight of the Century” where Frazier won on points. It provides information about how Ali turned on Frazier despite Frazier helping him during his time of exile from boxing because of his political and religious convictions.

It was Frazier who helped support Ali – the self-proclaimed “People’s Champion” – during his three-year-plus year exile from boxing, loaning the former champ money and speaking to athletic commissions about reinstating Ali’s boxing license. It was also Frazier who felt betrayed by Ali for the biting “Uncle Tom” and “White Man’s champion” barbs leading into the fight.

I agree with the comments after yesterday’s post that Ali was the victim of a lot of prejudice and hate for his speaking out, and nothing can take away from his courage and principled stands, and his willingness to sacrifice his career at its peak. But I do think that his treatment of Frazier is something that he should regret.

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