War Criminals and Torturers Claim the Moral High Ground

by Alan Goodman | December 15, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


How does an empire consistently inflict the most barbaric torture and terror on the people of the world, and at one and the same time brand itself as the global champion of human rights?

It’s not easy.

The point of the wave of openly authorized CIA torture, revealed—in small measure—by the Senate report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, was to terrorize the people of the world. Word-of-mouth news of the atrocities carried out by the CIA torturers reached every household in the Middle East. That was the intent: to send a message that nobody—even reactionary forces who were originally put in business by the U.S.—had better mess with the U.S. empire and its interests.1

And yet, the rulers of the U.S. also find it invaluable to exploit an image as the champion of human rights, to divert opposition to other oppressive regimes into channels that serve their interests.

You can get some sense of what is going on here from the fact that the person often described as the most passionate advocate for publicizing this Senate report (within the ruling class) is Senator John McCain. McCain insists that the release of the report enhances America’s “stature in the world.” And he has the gall to claim, “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”

This self-same John McCain is a certified mass murdering war criminal.

He was a pilot in the genocidal U.S. war on the people of Indochina that resulted in the deaths of millions. U.S. military pilots chemically poisoned the earth and water of Indochina. They bombed dikes to destroy irrigation in order to starve the civilian population. They littered Vietnam with fake toys that exploded when children picked them up.

McCain’s plane was shot down by the Vietnamese and he was detained by them. His claims that he was tortured by the Vietnamese have been his calling card for decades, and used to try to reverse verdicts on the U.S. war on Vietnam. McCain, not so by the way, was a principal representative of the U.S. ruling class in orchestrating the events in Ukraine this past year that deposed a government more favorable to Russia, replacing it with a pro-West regime (which McCain christened a force respecting human rights despite the major role of overt Nazis within it). And he is a “hawk” in demanding the U.S. more quickly escalate military attacks in Iraq and Syria.

The fact that McCain is the point man for this Senate report is a metaphor for the actual aims of the powers-that-be in producing it.

After years of political infighting among different forces in the ruling class to figure out what could be considered acceptable forms of interrogation, and even before the agency interrogated anyone, the CIA’s lawyers wrote in a November 2001 memo that it would be easier to defend against torture allegations if the tactics saved lives. There are eight cases cited in the Senate report where the CIA made the argument that its tactics thwarted plots and led to the capture of terrorists, and how the report undercuts those accounts.

It is not that torture is new to the rulers of the U.S. empire. They inherited and adopted waterboarding from dark ages torturers of the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500s (who used it among other things to force Jews to adopt Christianity), and they used it against anti-colonial rebels in the Philippines fighting U.S. occupation at the end of the 1800s. And U.S. “proxies”—regimes installed and in service of the U.S. empire—have almost universally employed torture, from the “tiger cages” in which political prisoners and rebels were tortured in Vietnam to the Shah of Iran’s hated torturers, the SAVAK.

But the United States, as a democratic-style imperialist oppressor, has attempted to have its cake and eat it too—to portray itself as the world’s greatest champion of human rights even as, in reality, it is the world’s greatest perpetrator of mass murder and genocide, going back to its roots in the genocide of the Native Americans. This façade of human rights, tattered as it is, has served the rulers of this country in contention with other oppressive regimes.

This sick deception has served to confound and confuse people rising up against oppression in places like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and to channel their uprisings in many cases into demands and agendas that serve not liberation, but the overall aims and objectives of the U.S. empire.

Have no illusions—the essence of the “human rights” perpetrated on the world by the rulers of the United States is revealed by the obscene, sadistic torture carried out by the CIA, and the refusal of Obama to prosecute those who ordered and carried out these crimes.

1. The fact that the events of September 11, 2001 were carried out by reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces doesn’t justify anything the CIA did. Nothing justifies torture. And as a matter of fact, those forces—including Osama bin Laden, who took credit for the 9/11 attacks—were originally put in business by the CIA in the 1980s to wage a war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union, which at the time headed up a rival imperialist bloc that confronted the U.S. around the world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these forces had a “falling out” with their former U.S. sponsors. And after 9/11, like a big-time mob cartel—when the U.S. thinks anyone might get the idea that it is vulnerable—the U.S. lashed out. With invasions. And with torture. To send a message to anyone who might think about getting in its way. [back]


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