Torture as US state policy

Empowering Weak & Oppressed


Ramadan 11, 1430 2009-09-01


by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 7, Ramadan, 1430)

Americans often express surprise at why people hate their country with such intensity when their government is doing so much to help others. Does the US not give more aid than anyone else to help desperately poor countries, they ask. The image of a benevolent superpower busy dispensing goodness is a myth peddled by the corporate media to keep their people ignorant. Other people do not view the US through its carefully crafted image but through the brutal reality of life — and death — to which they are subjected as a result of US policies. This has come into much sharper focus since 9/11 when then US President George Bush declared: “You are either with us or against us.” Given such stark choice, most rulers in the Muslim world immediately fell in line and agreed to the destruction not only of dirt-poor Afghanistan but also allowed the extension of America’s war into Pakistan.

Most Americans were traumatized by the attacks of 9/11 but US brutality and aggression predate these events. For the rest, especially the Muslim world, 9/11 is a daily occurrence, often at the hands of US operatives and their allies. Assassination of foreign leaders has been a standard feature of US policy for 60 years as has been the overthrow of governments that refuse to toe the US line. But 9/11 provided Washington the pretext to embark on a policy of world domination. This was the event the neoconservatives had prayed for as early as 1997 in their now infamous Project for the New American Century. Because less than 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 in circumstances that still remain murky, the Americans have already murdered more than two million Muslims worldwide and are continuing to kill more on a daily basis. The war on terror has become a war of terror.

Since the election of Barack Obama as President, US rhetoric about war on terror has been toned down but the policies instituted by his discredited predecessor continue. These include the policy of “extraordinary rendition” — a euphemism for kidnapping and handing people over to other regimes — that Obama said would be abandoned when he assumed office last January, to be torture or executed. Nor is Obama going to prosecute CIA and other officials involved in torture. Recently released documents show that CIA interrogators threatened detainees with rape of family members or murder of children if they refused to talk. Mock executions and threatening with drills were other methods used to torture detainees. The US developed a new set of vocabulary to describe such crimes. Torture became “enhanced interrogation” techniques, sleep deprivation was referred to as “frequent flyer program” and kidnapping became “extraordinary rendition”. Waterboarding was not torture, the US insisted. The pliant corporate media simply accepted these labels.

The US and its allies — Britain, Zionist Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Pakistan, et al — are guilty of multiple crimes. On the one hand people, including children, accused of terrorism were picked from the streets and shipped to “ghost prisons” to be tortured. The US has still not revealed the complete list of “ghost prisons” it maintains worldwide despite promising to do so or shut them down. Bagram, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib gained notoriety because what went on there came to light as a result of some detainees’ release. Beating, sleep deprivation, being held in stressful positions for prolonged periods or setting dogs upon them were some of the methods used to torture detainees. Waterboarding that simulates drowning was also a favorite technique. There is no news about the ghost prisons and what goes on there.

The other dimension of the so-called war on terror is the mistreatment of Muslim citizens in such countries as the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and much of the rest of Europe. Innocent people are picked up from the streets and amid the glare of media publicity, branded as “terror suspects”. This broad brush has been applied to anyone these regimes deem undesirable. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, more than 1,200 Muslims were rounded up in the US and thrown in jail. Many were mercilessly beaten and tortured. Some died in detention. The most serious allegation against them was that some had overstayed their visas or were in the US illegally. There are at least 12 million illegal aliens in the US; most of them are from Mexico or Latin America but only Muslims were/are targeted.

Britain has behaved no better. Hundreds of Muslim youth have been routinely picked up from the streets or in highly publicized raids on their homes and accused of terror involvement. Weeks later, they are released without charge but with their reputations trashed. Watch lists and no-fly lists of tens of thousands, and in the case of the US, millions of people have been compiled to subject them to intrusive questioning at airports. In some cases they are denied the right to board a flight. Racial profiling is rampant, as this issue of Crescent International shows.

Racial profiling predates 9/11 by at least five years. It was instituted in the aftermath of the TWA plane crash off Long Island, New York in July 1996. Initially it was thought to have been caused by a terrorist act. There were even allegations that a missile fired during a naval exercise may have brought down the plane. Investigation revealed that faulty wiring in a fuel tank had caused an explosion that caused the plane crash. Regardless, then US President Bill Clinton passed the Anti-Terrorism and Death Penalty Act instituting intrusive searches at US airports. Naturally, Muslim passengers were targeted. Ill-mannered airport officials routinely pulled Muslim passengers — women in hijab and Middle Eastern looking men sporting beards — and subjected them to humiliating public searches. In the aftermath of 9/11 such profiling has intensified.

When Americans complain why their country is unfairly criticized, perhaps they should reflect on some of the policies their “elected” government pursues worldwide. They should walk in the shoes of Mohammad Jawad, the Afghan youth picked up from the streets of Kabul when he was 12 and tortured at Bagram and Guantanamo, or speak to the mother of Dilawar Khan, the Afghan taxi driver mercilessly beaten to death by US sergeant Joshua Claus in April 2002 at Bagram. When Americans begin to empathize with the victims of US policies, then they might appreciate why their government is so hated globally.

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