[News] First the Torture of Truth ...

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 10 12:06:19 EDT 2009


June 10, 2009

Haunted By The "Suspected Terrorists"

First the Torture of Truth ...


The Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & 
Public Life’s recent survey of the correlation 
between religious belief and support for the 
torture of “suspected terrorists” is itself an 
example of the pervasiveness of the torture of 
truth in America.  Representatives of four major 
religious groups were asked, “Do you think the 
use of torture against suspected terrorists in 
order to gain important information can often be 
justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be 
justified, or never be justified?”  (“The 
Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate,” 
PewForum, Apr. 29, 2009).  The deeper issue is 
not the finding that people who attend church 
regularly (54 per cent) are more supportive of 
torturing “suspected terrorists” than people who 
never or rarely attend services (42 per 
cent).  Nor is the finding that “more than six in 
10” white evangelical Protestants support 
torture, whereas “only four in 10” persons 
unaffiliated with a religious group support it. 
(“Survey: Support for terror suspect torture 
differs among the faithful,” CNN.com/US, Apr. 30, 
2009)  The deeper issue is the extent to which 
human beings have been demonized as “terrorists” 
by our political leaders and mainstream media for 
opposing America’s exploitive and violent foreign 
policy.  The fact that people who resist US 
imperialism can be so stereotyped as to show up 
as “suspected terrorists” in a reputable research 
center’s survey on religion and torture is an 
alarming revelation of the cancer dehumanizing 
the soul of America.  “Suspected terrorists” have 
replaced “the Communist scare” as the needed 
bogeyman to justify America’s global domination.

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or, as reported, people 
like the Afghanistan “villagers, crazed with 
grief [italics added] . . . collecting mangled 
bodies in blankets and shawls and piling them on 
three tractors . . . 113 bodies being buried, 
including those of many women and children” after 
“American airstrikes . . . had killed dozens and 
perhaps more than 100 civilians in western 
Afghanistan,” and “threaten to stiffen Afghan 
opposition to the war just as the Obama 
administration is sending 20,000 more troops to 
the country?”  (The New York Times, May 7, 2009)

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or human beings like the 
Afghan villagers who, the governor of Farah 
Province was quoted as saying, “brought two 
tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies 
to his office to prove the casualties that had 
occurred,” with “everyone at the governor’s 
office . . . crying watching that shocking scene?” (Ibid)

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or, as reported, fathers 
and brothers like “villagers reached by telephone 
[who] said many [civilians] were killed by aerial 
bombing?” (Ibid)  “Terrorists?”  Or people like 
the “villagers and Afghan lawmakers [who] 
disputed the initial American claims that Taliban 
grenades had caused the casualties?”  Villagers 
like Muhammad Jan, who said, “Later, planes came 
and bombs fell, but by then no Taliban fighters 
were in the village?”  He continued, “The bomb 
damage was so extensive that it could not have 
been caused by grenades. . . . Taliban have no 
strong weapon to bring these kind of casualties,” 
and added, “The Taliban did not throw grenades in 
to civilian homes.”  (“The New York Times, May 8, 
2009)  This account was supported by a later, 
front-page, New York Times story captioned, 
“Afghans Recall Airstrike Horror, and Fault U.S.: 
Death Toll High­Taliban Had Left, Villagers Say.” May 15, 2009)

A few days later the New York Times published a 
story, headlined ”U.S. Counts Civilian Toll At 
Far Below Afghan Tally,” which reported, “The 
American military on Wednesday rejected a claim 
by the Afghan government that a recent aerial 
bombing had killed 140 civilians, but 
acknowledged that 20 to 30 civilians may have 
been killed.” (May 21, 2009)  Two weeks later a 
front-page New York Times story, entitled “U.S. 
different story: “A military investigation has 
concluded that American personnel made 
significant errors in carrying out some of the 
airstrikes in western Afghanistan on May 4 that 
killed dozens of Afghan civilians, according to a 
senior American military official. . . . The 
report represents the clearest American 
acknowledgment of fault in connection with the 
attacks.” (June 3, 2009).  Perceived American 
lies, about the killing of loved ones and other 
Afghan civilians, is believed to motivate and 
outrage civilians, “crazed with grief,” to join 
the mostly indigenous Afghan Taliban

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or people like the 
“protestors,” for whom “Secretary [of Defense 
Robert M.] Gates’ remarks did little to relieve 
the anger?”  Gates “accused the Taliban of using 
civilians as shields and of causing civilian 
casualties by hiding among noncombatants during 
attacks in a tactic to divide the population from 
the government and its American supporters.”  (The New York Times, May 8, 2009)

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or outraged citizens 
like those among the Afghan population?  As 
reported, “The [United States Special Operations] 
forces have often been blamed for nighttime raids 
on villages, detentions and airstrikes that have 
brought the population in southern Afghanistan to 
the point of revolt.” (The New York Times, May 7, 2009).

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or fathers and mothers 
like those reported by the Associated 
Press?  “Civilians cowered in hospital beds and 
trapped residents struggled to feed their 
children yesterday as Pakistani war planes . . . 
encouraged by Washington [italics added] . . . 
pounded a Taliban-held valley . . . The 
offensive,” the story continued, “has prompted 
the flight of hundreds of thousands of terrified 
residents . . . “ (The Boston Globe, Mat 10, 
2009)  The number of displaced residents is now 
reported to be some three million.  (The New York Times, June 5, 2009)

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or people like 
poverty-and grief-stricken villagers who, as 
reported, “trekked to the provincial capital to 
receive condolence payments from the Afghan 
government?”  How much is an Afghan person’s life 
worth in American dollars these days?  “Relatives 
received a payment of about $2,000 for family 
members killed and $1,000 for those injured.” 
(The Boston Globe, May 13, 2009)  The 
American-financed puppet Afghan government.  The 
capitalistic underwriting of American tyranny, 
with its immoral mentality that money can fix 
anything, including the murder of innocent human 
beings.  To devalue life and attempt to buy off 
grief is to create anti-American outrage.

“Suspected terrorists?”  Or human beings like 
those “crazed with grief,” whose terrible pain is 
made even more unbearable by the reported 
predictable apology of Secretary of State Hillary 
Rodham Clinton?  “Washington,” she said “‘deeply, 
deeply’ regrets the loss of life, apparently 
[italics added] as a result of a bombing there on 
Monday.  ‘Any loss of innocent life is 
particularly painful.’”  (“Clinton Apologizes for 
Afghan Civilian Deaths,” Associated Press, 
Military.com, May 6, 2009)  Words that comfort 
the aggrieved or cover the aggressor?.

“Apparently as a result of the bombing there on 
Monday.”  A few days later Reuters reported, “The 
US military acknowledged yesterday that air 
strikes in western Afghanistan this week had 
killed civilians, and President Hamid Karzai of 
Afghanistan put the death toll at up to 
130.”  The report continued: “If that toll was 
confirmed, it would be the deadliest incident 
affecting Afghan civilians since US-led forces 
started battling the Taliban in 2001.” (The Boston Globe, May 10, 2009)

“Suspected terrorists?”  US House Speaker Nancy 
Pelosi made a “surprise visit to Iraq” on 
Mother’s Day.  The “important thing” Pelosi 
wanted to tell the Iraqi people?  Evidently not 
that they were the tragic victims of a criminal 
war based on lies.  Nor apparently not the 
resulting deaths of over one million Iraqi 
civilians.  Nor the deadly civil war between the 
Shiites and Sunnis triggered by the unnecessary 
war.  Nor the uprooting of over four million 
Iraqi citizens.  Nor the devastation of the 
country’s infrastructure.   Protected from 
“suspected terrorists” in Baghdad’s 
American-fortified Green Zone, US House Speaker 
Pelosi was quoted as saying, “ ‘The important 
thing is that the people of Iraq know that their 
democracy is very important to the United States 
and to the world. . . . All of this struggle will 
be worth it in the end,’ she promised.”  (“Pelosi 
makes surprise visit to Baghdad,” by Jack Dolan, 
McClatchy Newspapers, Kansas City Star, May 10, 2009)

“Worth it?”  To Whom?  The Iraqi dead?  Their 
widows?  The orphans?  The dying?  Their loved 
ones?  The injured? Their loved ones?  The 
thousands of US troops dying for a needless war 
based on lies, and the tens of thousands more 
wounded in body and mind?  Their loved ones?  Or 
the US military industrial complex?  The big oil 
companies?  Those now in power in Washington and 
in Baghdad?  The US control of the Middle East?

President Obama engaged in the same torture of 
the truth during his recent “unannounced trip” to 
Iraq to visit US troops.  A New York Times story 
reported that his arrival coincided with “a car 
bomb [that] exploded in Kadhimiya, a 
predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad,” 
killing eight people and wounding two dozen 
more.  The story continued, “That attack was 
carried out a day after a series of six car 
bombings killed at least 33 people and wounded 
scores in an around Baghdad, one of the bloodiest 
days in Iraq this year.”  Obama was then reported 
to have referred to the attack as “this senseless 
violence.”  (Apr. 8, 2009)  “This senseless 
violence?”  President Obama’s very “unannounced” 
presence in Iraq personifies the horrible 
“senseless violence” America unleashed against the whole country of Iraq.

In Cairo, President Obama remained in denial of 
the “senseless violence” perpetrated by the U.S. 
government in our name.  Like former President 
Bush, Obama, predictably, made it “clear that 
America is not­and never will be­at war with 
Islam.  “We will, however, confront violent 
extremists who pose a grave threat to our 
security,”  [Bush called them 
“terrorists.”  “Change” you can believe 
in.]  Then came Obama’s denial wrapped in 
religion [the repeated ploy of the former 
prayerful president]: “Because we reject the same 
thing that people of all faiths reject: the 
killing of innocent men, women, and 
children.  And it is my first duty as President 
to protect the American people.” (“President 
Obama Addresses Muslim World in Cairo,” CQ 
Transcriptwire, The  Washington Post, June 4, 2009)

For President Obama, it is apparently about 
saying it right to cover not doing right.  His 
moral blindspot: The killing-- and maiming--  of 
all those “innocent men, women, and children” in 
Iraq by our government in our name.  And now, 
under his administration, the bombing and 
“killing of innocent men, women, and children” in 
Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And the turning of 
over three million “innocent” Pakistani “men, 
women, and children” into refugees.

“Suspected terrorists?”  What about President 
Obama?  US House Speaker Pelosi?  Secretary of 
State Clinton?  Defense Secretary 
Gates?  Washington?  The United States Special 
Operation Forces?  Former President George W. 
Bush?  Former Vice President Dick Cheney?  The 
mostly accommodating mainstream media?  The 54 
percent of regular Sunday churchgoers who support 
the torture of “suspected terrorists?”  The “more 
than six in 10” white evangelical Protestants who 
also believe in torture rather than the Golden Rule?

Many professing Christians are oblivious to 
Jesus’ teaching, “Love your enemies. . . . that 
you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He 
causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, 
and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” 
(Matthew 5: 44,45)  For these Christians, 
religion is about having the right belief, not 
doing right by loving their neighbor as 
themselves, as Jesus also taught.  In fact, 
belief in torture goes to the theological heart 
of “right”-believing Christians, who 
profess:  all who do not believe that Jesus died 
on the cross for their sins, and thus is their 
saviour, will suffer horrible torment in hell­forever.

“Taliban.” “Insurgents.” “Militants.” “al-Qaeda.” 
Violent Islamic forces.” “Islamic militants.” 
“Extremists.” “Miscreants.” “Antistate 
elements.”  “Suspected terrorists.”  Or, as 
Professor C. G. Estebrook has written, “It should 
be clear by now that-- whether we call them 
al-Qaeda, Taliban, insurgents, terrorists, or 
militants­the people whom we are trying to kill 
in the Middle East are those who want us out of 
their countries and off their 
resources.”  (“Minion of the Long War,” Counterpunch, May 1-3, 2009).

Our children and grandchildren will remain 
threatened by “suspected terrorists” until we 
Americans allow ourselves to see all people as 
human beings, who laugh and cry and love and hate 
and grieve and hope as we do.  To see each 
other’s tears and to hear   each other’s laughter 
is to experience each other’s humanness.  Therein 
lies everyone’s security and fulfillment.

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D. is a hospital 
chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of 
Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy.  Both a 
Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist 
minister, he has written research reports, essays 
and articles on racism, war, politics and 
religion.  He can be reached at 
<mailto:william.alberts at bmc.org>william.alberts at bmc.org.

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