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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Brief History of Torture

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on CIA torture today. As expected, the report has become a political football. "Republicans," of course lined up in favor of torture. They don't say they are in favor of torture, but as CIA defenders have been saying for years, the "enhanced interrogation techniques" were necessary, were not torture, were legal, were authorized by the president (Bush), and they worked, leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden and numerous others.

In other words, torture was done for the best of reasons, the torturees were only moderately uncomfortable (though sometimes they died), and it was justified by its great success.

It's all lies. The torture was done for pathological reasons by psychopaths. The purpose of torture is to torture. All credible evidence indicates that intelligence gained from torture is practically worthless. Torturees will say anything, confess to anything, and make up stories that they think the torturers want to hear, just to get the torture to stop. Various sanctimonious grandstanders over the decades have condemned other countries for torturing prisoners, but when it comes to our own torture they euphemize, distort, lie and attempt to change the subject. The CIA even has its own torture propaganda movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which won an Oscar and four Golden Globe awards. It was a fabrication.

A quick look back at how the torture regime began would help. After the all-too-easy attacks of  September 11, 2001, the Bush criminal regime needed to quickly divert public attention from its active negligence in advance of the attacks. An intense public relations campaign began, then an invasion of "Afghanistan," then the "Shock and Awe" invasion of "Iraq." Attention diverted.

In concert with the two invasions was the building of the "detention facility" in Guantanamo Bay, "Cuba," and the kidnapping and torture of people around the planet, who were "rendered" to cooperating countries, most notably the now condemned Assad regime in "Syria." You can't make this stuff up. CIA employees and "contractors" conducted their own torture in "Afghanistan," "Iraq," and Guantanamo, as well as who knows where else - "friendly" countries like "Saudi Arabia," "Jordan," "Yemen," "Bahrain" "Qatar" ("Cutter"), and "Kuwait."

This really is nothing new. I remember during the "Vietnam" war that national publications like Time and Newsweek gushed over how Vietcong prisoners were taken up in helicopters and successively tossed out until one of them started talking. This also was justified by bragging that it worked. Prisoners were also held in "tiger cages." When we were aiding various dictatorships in Central America, mainly in "El Salvador in the late 1970s throughout the Reagan years, death squads were funded, and in a quote that I still remember from that time, prisoners were "decapitated after hideous torture." On our dime. So much for the brutality of "ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State."

Then of course is the "School of the Americas" established in 1946 at Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. It is now known as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." Among other things, it is a torture school for dictators and their armies. The only problem for the SOA these days is we don't have so many client dictators anymore. They have mostly been overthrown. We still have clients in "Honduras" and "Guatemala," friends in "El Salvador," and you can bet there are plans for other countries, such as "Cuba," "Venezuela," "Brazil," "Bolivia, "Argentina," "Chile," "Nicaragua," and even "Mexico," if we aren't there already.

How can this be? It's easy. If politics and intelligence work are attractive occupations for psychopaths,  the melding of interests between these fields can result in a quick abandonment of moral and ethical standards. If a politician is desperate to gain intelligence information - true or false - that will give him cover for what he has really been up to, torture is one of the easiest ways of generating that information. The machine trudges on with impunity and hubris.

The only remaining question is what this means for us, the "American" people. That also is easy. It was pretty obvious that Bush was lying about Saddam Hussain having weapons of mass destruction, but his phony invasion had 90% support among the public. There won't be much outcry over torture either. We're no better than anyone else who has existed throughout history. Indeed, the historical record is replete with countries that have condoned heinous behavior, and zealously participated in it. All it takes is the generation of a perceived threat, a few demagogues, an excuse, and authorization. Lying about it and euphemizing it are even easier.

Just to broaden the perspective a bit, we have an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in an overall context of resource depletion and increasingly catastrophic climate change. Our ruling elite responds to fake threats with military incursions, invasions, occupations and "surgical" strikes. What will it do when the economy collapses for good and the Polar ice caps melt?

Jose Padilla being escorted to a dental appointmentDe nada. A system that collapses is through. One way or another our system is going to collapse. They can torture until the proverbial cows come home, but that will not change the overall result one whit. We still have time to establish civilization in this country, one that is equitable for all citizens and free of oppression, including torture. Our current establishment will torture "Americans" as well as "foreigners." They already have: José Padilla and Chelsea Manning. In any plan for changing the way we inhabit this planet there must be no place for torture or torturers.
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Naomi Klein had this great insight about torture in 2005.

Here's some history of the School of the Americas. Here's more.

Glenn Greenwald offers some insights about torture.

Here's an update about how the torture program worked to provide false justification for war and other crimes.

Here's another great insight about torture.

The "U.S." has been at the torture game for a long time. Read here.  Sadism is a large part of our national character, according to this Salon article.

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