Demanding No Torture + Demanding An End to Occupations = An End to the U.S. War of Terror
March 20th 2010 will mark the 7th Anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Anti-war movement will mark this day with protests demanding an end to both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars/Occupations launched under the so called “War On Terror”.
There is one thing the anti-war movement must do because too few in the movement have stepped forward to do it. That is to demand an end to the U.S. torture state and call for prosecutions of Bush era officials who put it into place.
The popular narrative among those in the movement is “The U.S. has always tortured”. While this is true that the U.S. has a long history of employing torture it did so under the cover of darkness. Under the Bush Regime torture and indefinite detention was codified by Bush’s legal team who came up with nifty rhetoric to say that torture wasn’t torture in order to cover for crimes it had already committed and crimes it would commit. Obama and his administration have legitimized the use of torture and indefinite detention by refusing to prosecute Bush era officials for the war crime of torture. The Obama adminstration also came up with it’s own version of the Military Commissions Act, which while it states that detainees have the right to speak to the charges against them, it also allows for evidence coerced through torture to be used because Obama and his administration never rebuked the many torture techniques used under the Bush Regime. And then of course there is the expansion of Bagram detention center in Afghanistan and the moves to relocate Guantanamo to a new kind of hell in Illinois where most will be held indefinitely. See a former post for further analysis on this
Given these circumstances it is important for the anti-war movement as a whole and people whose conscience is shocked by these crimes come to grips with the fact that torture and the wars/occupations are not two separate events but in fact are linked. They work hand in hand. Each allows the U.S. War of Terror to continue. Many among the movement like to say that “war is terror”. Well, it can just as easily be said that “torture is terror”.
There are two articles here that I would like to point to that give emphasis to the fact that these wars/occupations and torture are linked.
In his Op-ed piece Torture and the Imperial Presidency, which appeared in Truthout, Cary Fraser makes the point that to abandon torture would mean also to give up these wars/occupations.
The Obama administration’s embrace of military escalation in Afghanistan – with the support of the Republican Party and Cheney – has signaled, as in the case of the Nixon administration’s adoption of Johnson’s war in Vietnam after 1968, that war remains a bipartisan enterprise in American politics. It is also an indication of the continued appeal of the imperial presidency and its expansive vision of institutional power across both parties. In this context, it is completely logical that Barack Obama has been willing to focus upon the future and relegate the issue of torture in the war on terror to the past. Coming to grips with the American record on torture would require abandoning the culture of war that has defined American life in the latter half of the 20th century. That culture of war has done much to foster the growth of the imperial presidency and it is not evident that either American leaders or the wider American public have recognized that the Johnson-Nixon failures in Vietnam should have triggered fundamental constitutional reform to limit the possibility of presidential chicanery.
In the May 17th 2009 issue of Revolution Newspaper, Alan Goodman pointed out in his article The Torture Memos…And the Need for Justice, that torture is not about gathering information. It is about intimidation. It is about striking fear in the heart of a people being immorally and illegitimately invaded and occupied. The following is an excerpt from that article
The terms of debate over the torture memos in the mainstream media revolve around whether or not information extracted by torture is “reliable.” Those terms are both deceptive, and morally wrong.
The systematic, widespread, and openly sanctioned use of torture by the U.S. in the so-called “war on terror” is not mainly about information. The images of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, of degrading sexual humiliation and grotesque physical and psychological torture, were meant to strike terror in the minds and hearts of the people very broadly, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but around the world.
Let’s make it plain: torture is, literally and in essence, a crime against humanity. Like rape, it is a systematic attempt to violently degrade people and rob them of their very humanity. Any government which not only tolerates such things but which, from its highest offices, justifies and insists on them as “instruments of policy”…any government which does not, once this has been exposed, prosecute the perpetrators but instead provides them in advance with immunity…reveals itself as a system that requires such crimes, and such criminals, for its functioning. Any people that does not resist such crimes, and demand prosecution of the torturers and, even more so, those who formulated the policy at the highest levels, reveals themselves to be complicit in those crimes. And in passively allowing the humanity of others to be degraded and attacked, they lose their own.
It is instructive to examine a column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times in support of Obama’s decision to release the Memos but to not prosecute the torturers. While claiming to oppose torture now, Friedman argues that “Al Qaeda truly was a unique enemy, and the post-9/11 era a deeply confounding war in a variety of ways.” Later in his column, he elaborates: “We could deter the Russians because they loved their children more than they hated us; they did not want to die. The Al Qaeda operatives hated us more than they loved their own children. They glorified martyrdom and left families behind.” (“A Torturous Compromise,” April 28, 2009).
Friedman’s argument here is that threatening to kill their children was sufficient for the U.S. to contend with their former rivals, the Russians, but since, according to Friedman, that won’t work with Islamic fundamentalists, even more brutal, sadistic, extreme thuggish methods are needed.
This is Thomas Friedman speaking, not Barack Obama. But Friedman is not just some columnist—he is an influential voice of ruling class forces represented by the Democratic Party. And the logic of his argument is really just a franker, cruder version of Obama’s own argument that prosecution would hurt the “confidence” of “the men and women of our intelligence community who serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world.”
The high-level, legal approval of torture was a statement that the people who run the U.S. are ruthless and crazy and will stop at nothing in the defense of their “right” to run the world; that not only will they kill you and your family, but they will hold you and torture you and fiendishly fuck with your mind, not just torture your body but torture your very psyche in ways that will make you wish you were dead. All in service of their empire.
If the torture state were to be dismantled as it exists and functions in this so called “war on terror” and Bush era officials held to account for the war crime of torture this would seriously put a chink in the legitimacy of these wars and occupations. It is morally necessary that while we demand an end to the wars/occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that we demand an end to torture and that Bush era officials be prosecuted. It is essential to once and for all ending the horrifying farce known as the “war on terror”.
On March 20th World Can’t Wait will be in Washington D.C., San Francisco, L.A. and Seattle along with many other organizations to demand an end to these wars/occupations, but we will also be loudly and righteously demanding “No Torture!” and “Prosecute Torturers!” Please join World Can’t Wait in making these righteous demands.