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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Purification by Pain

So the United States tortures.

I guess what I’m trying to understand is why that’s even news. The United States tortures? Fuck yeah we torture! We’re the world’s lone super-power with the most expansive espionage apparatus the world has ever seen. If you’re genuinely surprised or otherwise shocked that we torture (or assassinate, or fix elections, or fund terrorists, or arm police states, or trade with governments that sanction sex trafficking, or subsidize businesses that engage in slave labor, or provide intelligence to dictators that use chemical weapons, and on down the line), then Jim Cramer has a recovery he’d like you to invest in.

Look, we wrote the book on torture. Several, actually. Who could forget the 1963 classicKUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation,or theHuman Resource Exploitation Training Manual, 1983s most moving masterpiece? The books were even translated into Spanish so that the Latin American hit-men, generals, dictators and otherwise corporate friendly guns for hire we trained at what was formerly the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) could take all that warm, fuzzy goodness home with them.

And what did those interrogation manuals have to say? Rather than quote from them, picture the scene: You’re in your home country of Chile, and it’s 7:30 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11, 1973. You’re sleeping peacefully in your bed, when suddenly your door is bashed in, a blind-fold wrapped around your head, your arms and legs bound, and all your clothing removed. You’re then dragged outside, wedged into the trunk of a car and driven about and jostled violently so as to disorient you. Eventually you’re wrestled from the trunk, slapped around, yelled at in a language you don’t understand and then, still blind-folded and naked, thrown into an unlit, windowless, sound-proof cell not quite tall enough for you to stand but not quite long enough for you to lie down.

Then you wait. You’re kept awake for days in near complete sensory deprivation and fed and given water minimally with no apparent pattern. The temperature is changed rapidly and randomly from one extreme to the next; sometimes it’s as low as 40, other times as high as 100. Then you are interrogated, again at random, wherein your genitals are electrocuted, you’re given mild doses of LSD or some other mind altering drug, you’re twisted and contorted and slammed against walls. In time, you find yourself naming everyone you know, and even people you’ve never met, as subversive leftists with ties to mother Russia, because apparently that’s what this is all about.

This goes on for months, perhaps even years, and at the end of it all you suffer one of three fates; execution, death by exhaustion and disease, or an indefinite confinement spent lost swimming the soup of your own mind.

Your crime? You voted for and supported the democratically elected Salvador Allende. Your sentence? Torture and eventual expiration at the hands of the CIA trained henchmen of General Augusto Pinochet, America’s newest puppet dictator.

What I just described is pretty much how the aforementioned manuals suggest that interrogators, American or otherwise, treat a subject. It’s also what we’re doing to current detainees, except we’ve gotten even more creative. Yet no matter the actual techniques, in all cases the point is toinduce psychological regression so that the subject becomes nothing more than a body with a brain reduced to malleable, suggestible silly putty.

Silly putty that will tell you whatever you want to hear. Which is why torture doesn’t work anyway.

But none of this is new. In 1996 the Intelligence Oversight Board appointed by President Clinton found that our torture manuals supported[the] execution of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion and false imprisonment. And we’ve known about our most recent tryst with torture since at least 2005 when Abu Ghraib broke. These memos are just another day at the ballpark, and that they were released with such proximity to the bank stress-tests is no coincidence.

So I’m somewhat confused about people’s surprise and outrage about such a blatant political distraction; it betrays a huge amount of naiveté and blind faith in the goodness of Americanvaluesandideals, when really this country was founded on just one value (the dollar) and one ideal (more dollars).

I can forgive the naiveté of some, but those whom I cannot forgive are the sitting Congress and current administration, let alone the previous one, for pleading ignorance and feigning outrage. They know their history. Shit, they are their history; practically half of them were in government at the same time Reagan was peddling Israeli-made missiles to Iranian arms dealers so he could barter hostages from Lebanon and funnel the money to reactionary Nicaraguan hit squads.

They know that America itself tortures and that we’ve supported, funded, armed and outright trained other countries and juntas and paramilitary groups to do the shit we don’t want to be seen doing; shit that makes Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo look like fucking Disneyland. And let’s be clear; all the real torture, the pulling out of fingernails, crushing of feet with hammers, laceration of genitals with rusty razors, etc. is still happening right now at some black site in Eastern Europe or Saudi Arabia or something. We just don’t know the truth, because frankly we can’t handle the truth.

But when we do find out the truth, whether by accident (see: Watergate) or on purpose (see: Pentagon Papers), we need to hold those who authorized the malfeasance accountable and we need to do so as high up as we possibly can. Dick Cheney for one is scared out of his gourd; why else would he be running around the country, more visible than ever before, trying to drum up public support for torture if he didn’t think he was going to have to justify to a committee, court or joint session of Congress why he authorized it?

Oh, random note about public support for torture in the U.S.: according to the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Americans who attend religious services at least once per week (and 62 percent of white evangelicals) say that torture canoftenorsometimes be justified, compared to just 40 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated with a religion. I guess this is founded on the part of the Bible referred to as The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said,If you strike someone on one cheek, turn to you the other also, so that he may utter false witness and provide you with actionable intelligence with which to justify a war of imperialist zealotry and material avarice. Or something along those lines.

Anyway, I personally just want to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. all go down hard for a whole bunch of other reasons; mostly economic and environmental. But since our laws protect abstract political rights (habeas corpus and the like) more than concrete human rights (health care and clean water), I guess a public hanging shaming for torture will have to do.


K.C. CODY isn’t a fool; he knows no such investigation will ever occur because everyone who’s anyone in Washington is implicated. Discuss this and other similarities with the financial crisis with him at kccody@ucdavis.edu.


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