[News] No Amnesty for Torturers

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 17 11:59:06 EDT 2009


April 17-20, 2009

Darkness, Darkness

No Amnesty for Torturers


Back in 1965, as a 15-year-old kid, I had a 
chance to spend half a year as a student at a 
boy’s gymnasium (high school) in Darmstadt, the 
cultural capital of the German state of Hesse, 
which had the distinction of having been one of a 
handful of cities in Germany (Dresden was 
another) that were selected by the Allies to test 
out the terror tactic of firebombing. The town 
was chosen for incendiary bombardment precisely 
because it had no military value and thus, no air 
defenses (and because it consisted mostly of 
wooden structures). With Germany still wreaking 
horrific damage on the Allied bomber fleet, this made it an inviting target.

Friends and teachers recounted to me the terrors 
of that night, when the entire city of several 
hundred thousand, built mostly of wood, went up 
in a giant bonfire so hot and powerful that it 
sucked people into it with a 200 mph vortex of 
inward rushing air. People who hid in shelters 
were asphyxiated by the lack of oxygen, while 
those who tried to flee sank knee deep into 
asphalt streets. Two mountains outside town were 
man-made piles of rubble left over from the 
city’s ruins, which were for the most part just 
carted away. There was little left to rebuild.

While I was stunned by the horror of it, I at the 
time still felt that after all, Germans had 
brought this disaster on themselves. After all, 
they had allowed the Nazi monsters to gain 
control of the nation and then proceeded with a 
genocidal campaign of extermination of Jews­even 
German Jews who were their own neighbors--of 
Gypsies, of gays, and of course, of Communists, 
and had launched a war that ultimately killed 10s 
of millions of people around the world.

I mention all this because one thing I noticed 
back then, not among young people in Germany, but 
among adults my parents’ age and older, was a 
widespread denial about what Germany had 
done.  And I remember feeling, as many Americans 
and Europeans still do, and as many Chinese and 
other Asians still feel about Japan, that these 
two countries have never been willing to face up 
to the crimes that they, as a nation, permitted to happen in their names.

Older and wiser now, I am well aware that our own 
country has committed many crimes, some on a 
scale approaching those of Germany and Japan: the 
near extermination of Native Americans, the mass, 
centuries-long enslavement and cultural and 
physical destruction of millions of African 
slaves, the use of nuclear bombs on civilian 
targets, the decade-long saturation bombing and 
herbicidal poisoning of most of Indochina

It’s a long and terrible list, and for the most 
part, in our schools, in our politics, in our 
histories, we don’t talk about, and even justify and deny our own atrocities.

Now we have a president who is perhaps doing 
something worse. Admitting that the last 
administration of President George Bush and Vice 
President Dick Cheney ordered up a program of 
illegal and inhuman torture of captives in the 
Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and in the so-called 
War on Terror that was launched by them in the 
wake of the 9-11 attacks in 2001, and offering up 
documentary evidence of the chain of command that 
set the country on this criminal course, 
President Obama now says that to move beyond this 
“dark and painful chapter in our history,” he 
will not seek or permit any prosecution of those 
who committed torture of captives.

“Nothing will be gained,” Obama said,  “by 
spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

I’m not that concerned about whether individual 
torturers in the CIA or the military get 
prosecuted. If the president had said he would 
not prosecute people who “thought” they were 
acting under proper authority and behaving 
legally, but then added that he would pursue 
those who authorized and ordered them to torture, 
I would not have fussed. But that is not what he 
said. The implication of his statement, and the 
fact that he has not, this far into his term, 
ordered his Attorney General to appoint a 
prosecutor to investigate those who were 
responsible for the crime, given what he clearly 
knows about its authors, is the worst possible of 
travesties, and rises to the level of a war crime itself.

Now I don’t want to equate America’s torture of a 
few hundred or a few thousand captives by making 
them endure waterboarding or by placing plastic 
neckbands and leashes on them and slamming their 
heads into walls, with what the victims of 
Buchenwald or Auschwitz endured, but that is 
really not the issue. The issue is, do we as a 
nation now subscribe to the idea that the way to 
deal with evil perpetrated by ourselves is to bury it?

Isn’t that precisely what we have been for 
decades accusing the Germans and the Japanese of 
doing: burying in the mists of time their 
criminal behavior as a people and as a nation?

And now our president­whose own wife and 
daughters are descendants of slave victims of 
another era of American atrocities­is telling us 
we should do the same thing as Germany and Japan: forget and move on.

But the president is wrong. Darkness does not go 
away when the fog comes. It just gets darker.

Let’s shine a light. Sign the petition: 
<http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/41777>No Amnesty for Torturers!

Dave Lindorff  is a Philadelphia-based journalist 
and columnist. His latest book is 
Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 
and now available in paperback). He can be 
reached at <mailto:dlindorff at mindspring.com>dlindorff at mindspring.com

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