Tag Archives: senate intelligence committee

SYNDICATED COLUMN: If Obama Won’t Bring Torturers to Justice, Why Give Cash to Torture Victims?

President Obama has made it clear since taking office that no one will be punished for torture. As I have repeatedly written before, that’s reprehensible. But what about compensating torture victims?

According to the recent report issued by the Senate intelligence committee, torture under the Bush Administration was more brutal and widespread than previously understood. According to CIA torturers themselves, many of the victims were as innocent as innocence gets. Mistranslations of Arabic names, for example, led to the torture of people wrongly identified as anti-American militants.

Former State Department official under Bush Lawrence Wilkerson, admitted that Gitmo was never filled with evil America-haters: “It became apparent to me as early as August 2002, and probably earlier to other State Department personnel who were focused on these issues, that many of the prisoners detained at Guantánamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all. We relied upon Afghans…and upon Pakistanis, to hand over prisoners whom they had apprehended or who had been turned over to them for bounties, sometimes as much as $5,000 per head. Such practices meant that the likelihood was high that some of the Guantánamo detainees had been turned in to U.S. forces to settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just as a method of making money.”

Wilkerson says 50%-60% of those held at Abu Ghraib prison in U.S.-occupied Iraq were innocent of wrongdoing.

Dick Cheney says he has no problem with torture of innocents “as long as we achieve our objective” (whatever that is), but in a quiet moment away from a Fox News microphone, even he has to have his doubts about freezing and beating an Afghan taxi driver to death – a man who had no ties whatsoever to terrorist or militant groups.

It’s too late to save the murdered cabbie, but not Mohamed Bashmilah, a 46-year-old Yemeni whom CIA documents certified to have been “wrongfully detained.” After receiving the news that his ordeal had been officially validated by the torture report, he asked his lawyer: “Would there be an apology? Would there be some kind of compensation?” She was “not able to answer,” reported The New York Times. “No apology was forthcoming from the CIA.”

Well, why not?

Reparations would fall far short of justice. But remuneration would be better than nothing.

Torture victims should be compensated for lost wages, medical expenses, counseling, and other direct costs of their detention and physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the United States. In addition, they are entitled to receive substantial punitive damages for the physical and emotional distress that they, as well as their families, endured in American custody. Punitive damages should be sufficient not only to guarantee that they should never have to work again, but to impose a financial burden on the responsible government agencies (CIA, DOD, etc.) harsh enough to prompt future leaders to hesitate before resorting to similar violations of fundamental human rights.

“You break it, you own it,” General Colin Powell supposedly told George W. Bush before invading Iraq. He called it the Pottery Barn Rule.

We broke hundreds, probably thousands of men under torture.

We are morally responsible for them. We can’t erase what we did to them, but we can do our best to make it right, or at least as less wrong, as possible. If you have been tortured by the US government, you have earned a US passport and a free place to stay in the United States for the rest of your life. Job counseling? College degree? Anything you want or need, you receive.

American law allows victims of torture to seek redress in US courts regardless of where the torture took place – even in a foreign country, and even if both the victims and their assailants are foreign nationals. As usual, the US pompously requires others to uphold high legal standards while it wallows in moral sludge.

Thirteen years after becoming a torture nation, the US government still hasn’t issued apologies or compensation to victims by the United States, including those it admits should never have even been detained in the first place.

Because the US Supreme Court has denied the right of detainees to sue the government, no torture victim has had his day in court. To the contrary, the privatized goon squad/defense contractor CACI International has sued torture victims.

The Obama Administration has assured the United Nations that it complies with Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty obligation to which the US is a signatory. Article 14 requires governments to issue financial redress to torture victims. In practice, however, there is no evidence that any victim of torture by the United States after 9/11 has received one red cent.

Other countries do better. In late November, a Chilean court ordered that country’s government to pay $7.5 million to 31 political dissidents subjected to hard labor after the 1973 coup by General Augusto Pinochet. In June 2013 the British government agreed to pay £19.9 million to over 5,000 Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau insurgency of the 1950s.

American exceptionalism apparently applies even to local municipalities. It has been well established that Chicago police tortured countless innocent men into confessing to crimes that they didn’t commit, yet the city still refuses to establish a compensation fund for its victims.

Money for torture victims? It’s much much much less than the very least we can do — yet we won’t even do that.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

SYNDICATED COLUMN: People Who Think Torture is OK Need to Die and Go Away

 

I am tolerant.

I have Republican friends.

When racists speak in my presence, I don’t smash them in the jaw. I try to change their minds.

Many of my close friends and relatives believe in God, which is wrong and therefore stupid, yet I don’t consider them stupid — just mistaken. America, I believe, must create and maintain the space where a multitude of points of view can thrive.

But there are limits. Not every opinion should be tolerated.

If you think torture is OK — under any circumstance, for any reason — you are dangerous.

Pro-torture? You should not be tolerated.

If you believe that “they” had torture coming because “they” attacked “us” on 9/11, or because “they” chop off “our” heads, you are psychotic and sociopathic and should not be free to walk the streets, much less sit on juries or vote or drive a car or hold a job that a perfectly sane unemployed person needs.

If you diminish the exquisite horror of torture — if you think sleep deprivation and blasting loud music into victims’ ears and solitary confinement and stress positions and mock executions and beatings are not “really” torture — I want you locked up, the key thrown away, never to be heard from again. You are not fit to be near children or animals.

If you saw the Abu Ghraib torture photos and then voted for George W. Bush in 2004 anyway, you are Charles Manson crazy and there is no place in society, in America, on this planet, where you ought to be allowed.

If you’re a politician, a reporter or a pundit, and you’ve ever said anything in favor of torture, you should be fired and never heard from in public again.

I did not feel this way before the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on torture under the Bush Administration.

Over the last week, however, I have read thousands of pro-torture, right-wing loons post their monstrous ravings on Internet content boards. I have watched a parade of torture advocates go on television to defend CIA torturers, some with impressive-sounding titles, all treated respectfully by so-called journalists. I have seen Dick Cheney, Grand Inquisitor of the War Against Muslims, lie through his crooked teeth while scoffing at the most basic values of Western civ.

Now, already, I am watching torture fade from the headlines.

We have been too tolerant.

Anti-torture Americans ­— which is to say, sane, normal people — have been wayyyyyyy too polite over the past 12 years. We ought to have been rude. We should have shouted down the torturers and their supporters and apologists, ridiculed them, locked them away, fired them from their jobs, taken away their kids.

We debated torture; we didn’t reject it. Now torture is normalized — and so is the stupid meanness that goes with it.

A senior Supreme Court Justice not only thinks torture is OK, but gives credit to the thoroughly debunked “ticking time bomb” scenario.

In the mainstream media, the debate is not over whether torture is immoral or illegal, but whether it is effective.

We tolerate scum like ex-CIA director Michael Hayden, who justifies so-called “rectal feeding” — grinding a prisoner’s food into mush and shoving it up his ass — with rhetoric that is not only vile on its face, but insults our intelligence to the point that he ought to be banned from public life: “It’s a medical procedure is what it is,” Hayden told CNN. “I have learned that in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous things.”

Hayden is a liar. Victims of “rectal feeding” had not refused to eat normally.

Torture memo author John Yoo called them “aggressive interrogation methods that did not cause any long-term or permanent injury.”

Isn’t death permanent?

John Yoo ought to be in prison. Instead, he draws a six-figure salary teaching law (!) at UC Berkeley.

Jonah Goldberg is trying to pass himself off as a “reasonable conservative” by arguing for ambiguity: “One of the great problems with the word ‘torture’ is that it tolerates no ambiguity. It is a taboo word, like racism or incest. Once you call something torture, the conversation is supposed to end.”

Enough!

In the West, civilized countries banned torture in the 18th century. In 1798, for example, Napoleon wrote that the “barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe.”

“Before the 9/11 attacks, torture was almost always depicted in television and movies as something that bad guys did. That’s not true anymore. The Bush administration may be over, but Bush-era terrorist torture and assassination policies are growing more popular,” Amy Zegart wrote in a 2012 Foreign Policy piece titled “Torture Creep.”

You need only look at the trend line to see how Americans are becoming increasingly morally depraved: At the height of the war on terror in 2004, when Bush was reelected despite everything, 32% of Americans said torture was never justifiable. By 2011, two years after Obama claimed to have banned torture, only 24% said the same thing.

Here’s some American exceptionalism for you: 59% of people in other countries have zero tolerance for torture. Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, says: “The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture.”

This is not a discussion Americans should have any more.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM