The US government is outraged, just outraged, that the Myanmar military government has engaged in torture and is demanding that those responsible be prosecuted.
The U.S. State Department expressed outrage and demanded an investigation on Friday after The Associated Press reported that Myanmar’s military has been torturing detainees in a systemic way across the country.
The United Nations’ top expert on human rights in Myanmar also called for strong international pressure on the military. And lawmakers in Washington urged Congress to act in the wake of AP’s investigation, which was based on interviews with 28 people, including women and children, imprisoned and released since the military took control of the government in February.
“We are outraged and disturbed by ongoing reports of the Burmese military regime’s use of ‘systematic torture’ across the country,” the State Department said, using Myanmar’s other name, Burma. “Reports of torture in Burma must be credibly investigated and those responsible for such abuses must be held accountable.”
AP’s report, which included photographic evidence, sketches and letters from prisoners, along with testimony from three recently defected military officials, provides the most comprehensive look since the takeover into a highly secretive detention system that has held more than 9,000 people. The AP identified a dozen interrogation centers in use across Myanmar, in addition to prisons and police lockups, based on interviews and satellite imagery.
Is it asking for too much for one, just one, reporter, from any of the mainstream media outlets in the US to ask the US government what it has done about prosecuting those in the highest levels of the US government who created a system that was torturing detainees all over the world in secret detention sites and why those responsible for such abuses are never held accountable, as is being demanded of the Myanmar military? The US government goes to great lengths to try to keep the details of its torture practices secret.
This willful blindness is all the more blatant when on the very same day as the US expresses outrage at the Myanmar government’s torture practices, a Guantanamo detainee detailed his own torture at the hands of the US government in a US military tribunal, though we have had many such testimonies before including the scandalous behavior at Abu Ghraib.
It was the first time any of the so-called high-value detainees held at the US base in Cuba have been able to testify about what the US has euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation” but has been widely condemned as torture. “I thought I was going to die,” he said.
Khan spoke of being suspended naked from a ceiling beam for long periods, doused repeatedly with ice water to keep him awake for days. He described having his head held under water to the point of near drowning, only to have water poured into his nose and mouth when the interrogators let him up. He was beaten, given forced enemas, sexually assaulted and starved in overseas prisons whose locations were not disclosed.
A jury of eight military officers sentenced him to 26 years in prison.
The US media is well trained. It knows that there are some taboos and one of those is pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the US government condemning other countries for actions when it has been doing far worse for far longer and on a far greater scale. The illusion that the US sets the standard for moral behavior must never be questioned and the way to do that is to never refer to its past actions.
As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” By quickly sweeping its past abuses into the memory hole, the media enables the US to keep getting reborn as a moral exemplar, however atrocious its behavior.