[News] Imperialism and the Politics of Torture

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 17 18:05:01 EST 2014

  Imperialism and the Politics of Torture

12.15.2014 *::* United States <http://petras.lahaine.org/?cat=1>

*Introduction*: The US Senate Report documenting CIA torture of alleged 
terrorist suspects raises a number of fundamental questions about the 
nature and operations of the State, the relationship and the 
responsibility of the Executive Branch and Congress to the vast secret 
police networks which span the globe – including the United States.

*CIA: The Politics of a Global Secret Police Force*

The Senate Report’s revelations of CIA torture of suspects following the 
9/11 bombing is only the tip of the iceberg. The Report omits the 
history and wider scope of violent activity in which the CIA has been 
and continues to be involved. CIA organized large scale deathsquad 
activities and extreme torture in Vietnam (Phoenix Project); multiple 
assassinations of political leaders in the Congo, Chile, Dominican 
Republic, Vietnam, the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere; the 
kidnapping and disappearance of suspected activists in Iraq and 
Afghanistan; massive drug-running and narco-trafficking in the “Golden 
Triangle” in Southeast Asia and Central America (the Iran-Contra war).

The Senate Report fails to locate the current acts of CIA terror and 
torture in a broader historical context – one which would reveal the 
systematic use of torture and violence as a ‘normal’instrument of 
policy. Contrary to White House and Senate claims that torture was a 
“policy error” committed by “incompetent” (or deranged) operatives, the 
historical record demonstrates that the long term extensive and 
intensive use by the CIA of torture, assassinations, kidnappings are 
planned and deliberate policies made by highly qualified, and 
experienced policymakers acting according to a global strategy approved 
by both Executive and Congressional leaders.

The Report treats torture as a “localized” set of events, divorced from 
the politics of empire building. In point of fact, torture is and always 
has been an integral part of imperial wars, colonial military 
occupations and counter-insurgency warfare.

Imperial wars and occupations provoke widespread opposition and nearly 
unanimous hostility. ‘Policing’ the occupied country cannot rely on 
community-wide support, least of all providing voluntary ‘intelligence’ 
to the imperial officials. The imperial armed forces operate out of 
fortresses surrounded by a sea of hostile faces. Bribes and persuasion 
of local collaborators provides limited information, especially 
regarding the operations of underground resistance movements and 
clandestine activists. Family, neighborhood, religious, ethnic and class 
ties provide protective support networks. To break this web of voluntary 
support network, the colonial powers resort to torture of suspects, 
family members and others. Torture becomes “routinized” as part and 
parcel of policies sustaining the imperial occupation. Extended 
occupation and intensive destruction of habitation and employment, 
cannot be compensated by imperial “aid” - much of which is stolen by the 
local collaborators. The latter, in turn, are ostracized by the local 
population, and, therefore, useless as a source of information. The 
“carrot” for a few collaborators is matched by torture and the threat of 
torture for the many in opposition.

Torture is not publicized domestically even as it is ‘understood’ by 
‘knowing’ Congressional committees. But among the colonized, occupied 
people, through word and experience, CIA and military torture and 
violence against suspects, seized in neighborhood round-ups, is a weapon 
to intimidate a hostile population. The torture of a family member 
spreads fear (and loathing) among relatives, acquaintances, neighbors 
and colleagues. Torture is an integral element in spreading mass 
intimidation – an attempt to minimize co-operation between an active 
minority of resistance fighters and a majority of passive sympathizers.

The Senate Report claims that torture was “useless” in providing 
intelligence. It argues that victims were not privy to information that 
was useful to imperial policymakers.

The current head of the CIA, John Brennan rejects the Senate claim, 
while blithely admitting “some errors” (underwater submergence lasted a 
minute too long, the electric currents to the genitals were pitched to 
high?), he argues that “torture worked”. Brennan argues that his 
torturer colleagues did obtain “intelligence” that led to arrests of 
militants, activists and “terrorists”.

If torture “works” as Brennan claims, then presumably the Senate and the 
President would approve of its use. The brutalization of human life, of 
family members and neighbors is not seen as, in principle, evil and 
morally and politically repugnant.

According to the explicit rules of conduct of Brennan and the implicit 
beliefs of the Senate, only “useless” torture is subject to censure – if 
an address is obtained or a torture victim names a colleague a 
‘terrorist’ to avoid further pain, then by the criteria of the Senate 
Report torture is justified.

According to the operational code of the CIA, international law and the 
Geneva Conventions have to be modified: torture should not be 
universally condemned and its practioners prosecuted. According to the 
Senate only torture that “doesn’t work” is reprehensible and the best 
judge of that is the head of the torturers, the CIA director.

Echoing Brennan, President Obama, leaped to the defense of the CIA, 
conceding that only some ‘errors’ were committed. Even that mealy mouth 
admission was forcibly extracted after the President spent several years 
blocking the investigation and months obstructing its publication and 
then insisting on heavily editing out some of the most egregious and 
perverse passages implicating NATO allies

The Senate Report fails to discuss the complicity and common torture 
techniques shared between Israel’s Mossad and the CIA and Pentagon. In 
defense of torture, the CIA and White House lawyers frequently cited 
Israel’s Supreme Court ruling of 1999 which provided the “justification 
“for torture. According to Israel’s Jewish judges, torturers could 
operate with impunity against non-Jews (Arabs) if they claimed it was 
out of “necessity to prevent loss of or harm to human life”. The CIA and 
Harvard law professor and uber-Zionist zealot, Alan Dershowitz echoed 
the Israeli Mossad “ticking time bomb” justification for torture, 
according to which “interrogators can employ torture to extract 
information if it prevents a bombing”. Dershowitz cited the efficiency 
of Israel’s torturing a suspect’s children.

The CIA officials frequently cited the Israeli ‘ticking bomb’ 
justification for torture in 2007, at Congressional hearings in 2005, 
and earlier in 2001 and 2002. The CIA knows that the US Congress, under 
the control of the Zionist power configuration, would be favorably 
disposed to any official behavior, no matter how perverse and contrary 
to international law, if it carried an Israeli mark of approval or ‘logo’.

The US CIA and Israeli’s Mossad share, exchange and copy each other’s’ 
torture methods. The US torturers studied and applied Israel’s routine 
use of sexual torture and humiliation of Muslim prisoners. Racist 
colonial Israeli tracts about techniques on destroying the ‘Arab Mind’ 
were used by US intelligence. Israeli officials borrowed US techniques 
of forced feeding hunger strikers. Mossad’s technique of ‘Palestinian 
hanging’ was adopted by the US. Above all, the US copied and amplified 
Israel’s extra-judicial ‘targeted’ killings – the center piece of 
Obama’s counter-terrorism policy. These killings included scores of 
innocent bystanders for every ‘successful target’.

The Senate Report fails to identify the intellectual authors, the 
leading officials who presided over and who ultimately bear political 
responsibility for torture.

Top leaders, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Senate 
Intelligence Committee chairperson, Diane Feinstein, resort to the Nazi 
war criminals plea “we didn’t know”, “we were misled” and “the CIA 
didn’t tell us”.

No judge at the Nuremberg Trials believed them. Nor will any 
international court of law believe US political leaders’ pleas of 
ignorance of the CIA’s decade-long practice of torture – especially 
after former Vice President Cheney lauded the practice on US television 
and boasted he would implement the same policies again. (One has to 
wonder about the ‘source’ of Cheney’s transplanted heart…)

During the administration of President Bush, Jr., CIA leaders submitted 
detailed reports on intelligence, including the sources and the methods 
of obtaining the information, on a routine basis – with videos and ‘live 
feeds’ for the politicians to view. Nothing was ‘held back’ then and 
now, as current CIA head John Brennan testifies. From 2001 onward 
torture was the method of choice, as testimony from top military 
officials revealed during the Abu Ghraib investigation.

National Security Agency (NSA) meetings, attended by the President, 
received detailed reports extracted from CIA “interrogations”. There is 
every reason to believe that every NSA attendee ‘knew’ how the 
‘intelligence’ was obtained. And if they failed to ask it was because 
torture was a ‘normal, routine operating procedure’.

When the Senate decided to investigate the “methods of the CIA”, half a 
decade ago, it was not because of the stench of burning genitals. It was 
because the CIA exceeded the boundaries of Senate prerogatives –it had 
engaged in pervasive and hostile spying against US Senators, including 
the Uber-Senator Feinstein herself; CIA crimes were compromising client 
regimes around the world; and most of all because their orgy of torture 
and dehumanization had failed to defeat the armed resistance in 
Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

The Senate Report is an exercise in institutional power – a means for 
the Senate to regain political turf, to rein in CIA encroachment. The 
Report goes no further than to chastise “inappropriate” techniques: it 
does not proceed from crimes of state to prosecute officials responsible 
for crimes against international and domestic laws.

We know, and they know, and as every legal authority in the world would 
know, that without the punishment of political leaders, torture will 
continue to be an integral part of US imperial policy: Impunity leads to 

Richard Cheney, Vice-President under President George W. Bush, notorious 
war criminal on many counts, and prime advocate of torture, publically 
declared on December 10, 2014 that President Bush specifically 
authorized torture. He bragged that they were informed in detail and 
kept up to date.

In the political world of torture, practiced by Islamic extremists and 
US imperialists, how does the decapitation of non-combatant prisoners, 
match up with the CIA’s refrigeration of naked political suspects? As 
for “transparency”, the virtue claimed by the Senate Report publicists 
in publishing the CIA’s crimes, as “refurbishing the US image”, the 
Islamists went one step further in “transparency”: they produced a video 
that went global, revealing their torture by beheading captives.

The Senate Report on CIA torture will not result in any resignations, 
let alone prosecutions or trials, because over the past two decades, war 
crimes, police crimes, spy crimes, and financial swindles have not been 
prosecuted. Nor have any of the guilty officials spent a day in court. 
They are protected by the majority of political leaders who are 
unconditional defenders of the CIA, its power, techniques and especially 
its torture of captives. The vast majority of Congress and the US 
President repeatedly approve over $100 billion annual budgets for the 
CIA and its domestic counterpart, Department Homeland Security. They 
approved the annual budget voted on December 10, 2014, even as the 
“revelations” rolled in. Moreover, as the tempest over CIA torture 
proceeds, Obama continues to order the assassination by drone of US 
citizens “without ever crossing the door of a judge”.

Despite over 6,000 pages of documents and testimony, recording crimes 
against humanity, the Senate Report is unlikely to trigger any reforms 
or resignations. This is not because of the actions of some mysterious 
“deep state” or because a ballooning national security apparatus has 
taken power. The real problem is that the elected officials, Presidents 
and Congress people, Democrats and Republicans, neo-liberals and 
neo-conservatives, are deeply embedded in the security apparatus and 
they share the common quest for world supremacy. If Empire requires 
wars, drones, invasions, occupations and torture, so be it!

Torture will truly disappear and the politicians will be put on trial 
for these crimes, only when the empire is transformed back to a 
republic: where impunity ends justice begins.


James Petras latest book, The Politics of Imperialism: The US, Israel 
and the Middle East (Atlanta: Clarity Press 2014)

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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