Archive | Human Rights

How I faced the Armenian genocide


Human rights activists light candles to mourn Armenian victims in central Istanbul, April 24, 2010. (photo by REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

Another April 24 is coming around. A landmark in Middle Eastern history, the date this year will mark the 99th anniversary of the catastrophe of 1915. Ninety-nine years ago, one of the region’s Christian peoples, the Armenians, fell victim to a great tragedy they call Metz Yeghern, or genocide. A deep, insurmountable enmity has haunted Turks and Armenians ever since, with tensions bound to reach a crescendo next year, the centenary of the genocide. This year, like those that went before, the spokespeople of various countries will repeat their cliches. The annoying nonsense will go on.

Summary A Turkish writer tells how he faced up to the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Turks and how learning the truth scarred his inner world.
Author Rasim Ozan Kutahyali Posted April 22, 2014

Today, I tell of my own mental journey and the transformation of conscience I experienced on this issue as a Turk. I speak of how I faced up to the massacres of Armenians and Christians and how the truth scarred my inner being. The road to acceptance was definitely hard, but I eventually came to terms with the truth. The Armenians were uprooted from the lands where I lived. Hundreds of thousands of them were slain brutally on the orders of Talaat Pasha’s Young Turk government. In the ensuing Kemalist era, Turkey’s Christians and Jews were again expelled from their homeland. It was an unmistakable act of ethnic cleansing, which the state I belonged to denied. Such denial, on top of everything else, is shameful.

I was in high school when I first became curious about the events of 1915. Our Kemalist teachers spoke of “Armenian allegations” and “Armenian lies.” The Kemalist education we had received in earlier grades had already instilled in me and my classmates an anti-Armenian sentiment. Then, we were shown a government-sponsored documentary according to which Turks, in fact, were the victims of genocide at the hands of the Armenians.

The documentary was a ridiculous production, devoid of quality and intellectual insight. I wasn’t convinced. On the other hand, being the child of a Turkish family, I did not want to believe that “we” slaughtered the Armenians. Turkey’s current official position — It was not a massacre, but mutual killings — was in its fledgling stages in the 1990s. To allay my own conscience, I endorsed this thesis as the most credible one.

I began to read studies that supported the government’s version of the events. Whenever the issue popped up, I insisted that there had been no massacre, only mutual killing. During my university years, I continued to read up on the issue, as it occasionally became a topic of discussion and whetted my appetite to read more. Frankly, however, I didn’t bother to read material from both sides, try to be objective or fully seek the truth. To me, the truth was already in my mind: An Armenian genocide never took place. The two peoples slaughtered each other. Thus, my only purpose in reading was to reinforce the “truth” I had already come to accept.

As the late Armenian luminary Hrant Dink used to point out, as a Turk I was simply incapable of coming to terms with anything like genocide. I could not bring myself to say, “Yes, we Turks slaughtered the Armenians.” Dink argued that the urge toward denial was in fact a natural human reaction. While on other political issues my thinking matured into libertarian and democratic outlooks, on the Armenian question I remained conditioned to insist that “It was mutual,” that “Apologies should be extended on both sides,” that “It was a time of war and there was no massacre, but mutual killings.”

Although I never read a study affirming the genocide, I gradually began to sense that something was wrong with the pro-Turkish arguments. The Turkish literature on the subject varied from “Nothing happened” to “The killings were mutual” and ultimately to “Yes, it did happen, but it was necessary.” At this point, I had a change of heart. As a Turk, I might have felt the urge to delude myself, but to endorse an argument that was more or less saying, “Yes, we did it, and we were right to do so” seemed to me cruel and simply immoral.

The American scholar Justin McCarthy, whose work I read extensively at the time, was a leading foreign supporter of the Turkish version. He had the strong backing of the Turkish state and often visited Turkey at Ankara’s invitation to make speeches here and there.

McCarthy did not deny the huge number of atrocities that resulted from deportations, but concluded that if the deportations had not taken place, the Turks would have lost eastern Anatolia. Therefore, their actions were justified. This argument offered easy vindication for Turks, most of whom might have been relieved to think it was the right thing to do, after all.

As Dink also said, denying what happened or not believing in it was, in a sense, a noble reaction. Most Turks probably harbor this sentiment today. Yet, a large number of people tend to embrace the theory that the Turks were in the right. This is terrible and truly shameful, because it points to a cruel and immoral mindset that legitimizes murder and mass killings.

In my case, even the pro-Turkish writings I read to delude myself and relieve my conscience led me to eventually conclude that what happened was a crime against humanity. Yet, at the same time, I came to realize that labeling an entire nation as the butcher of another is no less intellectual nonsense than the perspective of seeing an enemy in each and every member of another nation. This holds true not only in the Turkish-Armenian context, but also in the German-Jewish and Serbian-Bosnian cases.

The real murderer is the mindset, not a nation, that justifies the extermination of ethnic or religious groups from an allegedly lofty purpose. It is such a revolting, results-oriented mindset that has made possible all massacres and genocides, deeming all means legitimate in achieving a purported sacred end. In regard to the events of 1915, this morality- and conscience-deprived mindset emerged in the avatar of the Young Turks ideology, embodied in Talaat, a man who saw people as mere objects in his population-engineering designs.

So, that’s my personal story. I no longer deceive myself. What happened in these lands in 1915 was a great tragedy, a genocide against Armenians, a crime against humanity. Every “but …” argument about this crime makes me nauseous.

Posted in Human Rights, Turkey0 Comments

Turkey’s Armenian syndrome


A woman holds a candle during a religious service marking the anniversary of mass killings of Armenians in 1915, April 24, 2012.  (photo by REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

On April 20, a solemn couple lit candles and prayed in a church in Derik, a town near Turkey’s ancient city of Mardin, that has come to symbolize religious peace. They were there all alone, for the Surp Kevork Armenian Church has neither a bishop nor any parishioners but them. Muslim neighbors, however, visited the Demircis — Yursalin, 58, and Naif, 66 — to convey their good wishes for Easter, and were treated with sweets and candy by their hosts.

Summary Turkey wants to reconcile with the Armenians without taking any real step to appease them, marking the 99th anniversary of 1915 as that of the “Armenian atrocities” — signaling its denial policy is growing even tougher ahead of the centenary of the massacres.
Author Fehim Taştekin Posted April 22, 2014

TranslatorSibel Utku Bila

On the same day, in the village of Gedikli in Igdir province, the Igdir Azerbaijan House Association and the Igdir Cyprus Peace Operation Veterans Association commemorated villagers killed by Armenians in 1919 at the spot where the mass grave of 96 people was dug up in 2003. Speaking at the ceremony, Igdir Gov. Davut Haner said, “We struggled a lot to survive as a state in these lands. We sacrificed a lot. The Turkish people, however, have not nourished hatred.” The head of the veterans association, Ismet Tagal, said, “Armenian gangs brutally killed our grandfathers and grandmothers and buried them here. The Gedikli people will never forget the atrocities of the Armenians.”

In Istanbul, meanwhile, a series of events kicked off April 21 to remember the Armenian genocide, backed by the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement and prominent figures such as French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and Turkish academic Ahmet Insel.

The three simultaneous events above illustrate Turkey’s “Armenian syndrome,” which recurs on each anniversary of April 24, 1915. The Armenian couple in the first story represents the legacy of a historical tragedy and a numerical proof of what happened. The empathy accorded to the couple shows that facing up to history is possible in places of cohabitation. The second story reflects the popular sentiment that matches the state’s narrative of the “Armenian atrocities.” It’s symbolic of the large social base in which the official policy of denial of the events of 1915 is readily embraced. The third story is quite new for Turkey. It represents the urge to face its own history, a trend that currently lacks popular support.

It took ages for a small group of Turkish intellectuals and politicians to utter the wordsArmenian genocide in a country where the 1915 chapter of history books was headed the “Armenians’ atrocities.” A newly published book — “1965: 50 years before 2015, 50 years after 1915″ by Aris Nalci and Serdar Korucu — provides a striking account of Turkey’s attitude on the “genocide” throughout the years.

According to the book, the first serious international accusation of genocide against Turkey came on the 50th anniversary of the 1915 events. A rally held in Beirut remained the focus of media attention for weeks. To counter the global Armenian campaign, the Turkish press carried articles about the “Armenians’ atrocities” and the loyalty of remaining Armenians, arguing that those people were considered “Christian Turks,” that the commemoration events were the work of a small Armenian group incited by Greek Cypriots seeking to revive the Sevres Treaty, that Turkish Armenians were equally supportive of the Cyprus cause and that the Armenians of the diaspora did not actually hate the Turks.

In the meantime, shipments of an issue of Le Monde that featured a story about the “genocide” were confiscated before they could enter Turkey.

The first trauma of 1965 is now decades past. Yet, the narrative of deportations necessitated by the “Armenians’ atrocities” came to use the word “massacre” only in conjunction with so-called.” Today the use of the word “genocide” remains equivalent to treason in social and political terms. Hence, organizing a commemoration at Taksim Square means taking risk.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s drive to normalize ties with Armenia had raised hope that certain fears could be laid to rest. But soon it became clear that what Ankara meant by facing its history had nothing to do with recognizing the genocide, as the Armenians expected. Rather, the Turkish government envisages a reconciliation process in which the Turkish thesis is also given a voice, and then the story is left to history without any chance for accountability.

Hence, with one year to go to the centenary of 1915, Ankara sticks to sustaining the denial policy. That is, Ankara pursues the goal of rapprochement with Armenians on the one hand, while waging a propaganda war with its counter thesis on the other. This approach meshes with the AKP government’s recent policy to backpedal from the goal of peaceful resolutions to chronic problems besieging Turkey and turn inward to cater to its conservative-nationalist roots. Yet, it stands no chance of success.

The government dropped hints of its intentions back in November, during a parliamentary debate on the 2014 budget of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK). A budget of 8.2 million lira ($3.8 million) was allocated to the TTK, which planned to hold 14 meetings to refute the genocide claims. One of those gatherings is now scheduled for April 24-25 in Van, not far from the Armenian border. The event is being promoted as a “scientific” symposium by TTK Chairman Metin Hulagu, who argues that the deportations of Armenians became necessary after they torched Van and started a revolt.

“There was no Armenian genocide, for our culture would not sanction anything like that,” Hulagu told Al-Monitor, adding that a series of panels titled “Historians Discuss 1915” will be held this year in Sakarya, Kayseri, Erzurum, Ankara and Karabuk.

In the meantime, the Foreign Ministry draws attention to itself with moves that seem to signal tough diplomatic lobbying, including Hakki Akil’s appointment as Turkish ambassador to France, which is home to a large Armenian diaspora. Akil is known for being on especially good terms with the Armenian community in Marseille.

In a recent interview with Hurriyet, Akil revealed his great-grandfather’s second wife was Armenian, while arguing that the genocide issue was up to international courts rather than parliament, and calling for an end to policies of hate speech that fuel enmity between Turks and Armenians.

“It breaks my heart to see hate speech antagonize two peoples that have lived side by side and still listen to the same music, eat the same food, laugh at the same jokes and resemble each other so much,” he said. “I grew up in Anatolia. I saw how close Turks and Armenians are.”

But while posting a sensible diplomat to Paris, the Turkish Foreign Ministry left the ambassador’s office in Washington vacant, just when a genocide resolution came up on Congress’ agenda. The new ambassador, Serdar Kilic, hit the road to Washington in haste only after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution April 3. The tenure of the former envoy, Namik Tan, ended March 31.

“Our ambassador there was asked to leave in April. What kind of a foreign minister we have? To make such a move in the most critical month of the year is either ill intention or poor planning,” said Faruk Logoglu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party and a former ambassador to Washington.

The Foreign Ministry said the delay in dispatching Kilic to Washington resulted from purely logistical reasons. Yet, one should remember that Tan was recalled to Turkey in March 2010 in protest of a vote at the House Foreign Relations Committee that approved a genocide resolution.

Judging by the countermeasures the government is drawing up over 1915, it seems that Turkey facing up to its past is still far away.


Posted in Human Rights, Turkey0 Comments

Did World’s Largest Group of Psychologists Enable U.S. Torture Abuse? ”VIDEO”


A US flag at Guantanamo Bay.

CIA’s torture program
As a psychologist identified as the “architect” of the CIA’s torture program admits he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, DN! looks at allegations that the American Psychological Association — the largest association of psychologists in the world — secretly colluded with U.S. abuses. Speaking to Vice News, retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell confirmed for the first time he personally waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Mitchell was hired to help create the interrogation program along with his partner, Dr. Bruce Jessen. The Senate report says Mitchell and Jessen were paid $81 million to help design the CIA’s torture methods, including some of the most abusive tactics.The Senate’s findings come as the American Psychological Association has launched a review to determine whether its leadership also played a role in CIA torture. The APA’s probe was prompted by revelations from Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter James Risen. In his new book, “Pay Any Price,” Risen reveals how after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the APA formed a task force that enabled the continued role of psychologists in the torture program.

There has been a deep division within the APA’s policy on interrogations for years. Unlike the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, the APA never prohibited its members from being involved in interrogations.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Brazil torture report and the battle for memory

By Toya Mileno
Brazil torture graphic

Recently the U.S. Senate published their report on CIA torture. In Brazil, a Truth Commission was established to investigate the crimes committed by the state from 1948-88, including the period of the military dictatorship of 1964- 85. This commission ublished a report almost three decades later exposing the horror that many lived through during two decades of torture, censorship, assassinations, and terror. Now we know that babies were tortured in front of their mothers, we know about the indigenous populations who were completely assassinated with napalm bombs.

This process, which has happened in Argentina, Chile and elsewhere, is referred to as the battle for recovering the country’s memory. It is the right to have the real memory and the truth. People want to know the truth of what happened. People want justice.

And now we know part of the truth. The report of 4,400 pages recognizes the killing and disappearance of 434 people during the period of 1964 – 1988. Of this number 191 were identified as dead without remains being found, and the bones of 33 were found and returned to their families. In the other 210 cases the families won’t even have the right to bury the loved ones because they are still “disappeared.”

The document also shows 377 agents of the state who were responsible for these crimes, of whom 179 are still alive. Among the 29 recommendations listed by the commission, is a recommendation for the punishment of those guilty of these crimes, who until today have been protected by the Amnesty Law of 1979, created by the dictators themselves, and which was recently reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Court decided to keep the law as it is and allow them to remain free.

Torture is still very alive in Brazil society. The lack of punishment of the earlier torturers helped establish it, and anyone who has ever been under police custody has been terrorized in one sense or another. These practices were taught to Brazilians by the United States, through the School of the Americas program or other direct training from the CIA. They would come and conduct “trainings” on homeless people and random prisoners – to later use on political prisoners, their families, until it reached the point where they really use it on anyone .

Later on the Brazilians taught the other South American militaries and police how to conduct these types of interrogations. The shared techniques and intelligence were part of Operation Condor.

The United States needs to “recover its memory.” The people of the United States should be demanding to know what the country’s actual history of torture is. Because it didn’t start after 9/11 as the Senate report claimed. It has actually been part of the United States’ foreign policy for many decades, and it has been part of its domestic policies as well — prisoners being kept in solitary confinement for decades, the murders of killing of Black and brown people and the continued abuse of their communities.

These reports are just a start but it is truth we need to learn, at the very least in respect for those who lived through this terror. Unfortunately much more needs to happen for real justice to exist. In Brazil, the police need to be demilitarized, those responsible for torture at all levels should be put in jail, including the doctors who would check the prisoners and let the guard know how “much longer he could take it,”  so the prisoner would endure the maximum suffering but not die.

In the United States the same should happen, all those responsible for the post 9/11 torture program should be arrested. A Truth Commission should be established to investigate torture programs the U.S. conducted or supported around the world before 9/11, and the United States government should be brought to justice for its crimes against humanity.


Posted in Human Rights, South America0 Comments

U.S. didn’t start torturing people only after 9-11

U.S. didn’t start torturing people only after 9-11

SAVAK torture center during the reign of the Shah, Tehran. The Shah was installed by CIA coup and SAVAK agents were trained by the CIA.

The sordid history of U.S. torture in the Middle East laid bare by the release of the Senate report is explained by some (including President Barack Obama, in his statement on the report) as “9-11 changed everything.” The truth, however, is that U.S. support for torture long pre-dates 2001 (and continues into the present despite claims to the contrary).

The Vietnam War lasted more than 10 years and involved more than a half-million U.S. troops, and torture (and other atrocities) was a routine part of U.S. actions. Vietcong prisoners were thrown from helicopters to get others to talk, they were tortured with electric shocks, six-inch pegs were driven into their ears, and female prisoners were threatened with the death of their children.

In the Middle East, the most notorious torture regime was that of the Shah of Iran, installed by a CIA-coup in 1953. Operatives of his secret police, the SAVAK, were trained by the hundreds by the CIA at its headquarters in Langley, Va. In the 1970s, Jimmy Carter, now seen by many as a champion of human rights, personally approved continued CIA-SAVAK cooperation, on the grounds that the “intelligence” gained outweighed the “human rights abuses” that were occurring, an explanation that should sound familiar today.

The SAVAK is gone, but systematic torture continues in at least one more country in the region that receives massive U.S. support—Israel, which routinely tortures Palestinian political prisoners.

CIA support for torture in Latin America was equally extensive. In Chile, the CIA-supported coup which brought Augusto Pinochet to power brought with it the torture and murder of thousands of left-wing activists. The head of Chile’s secret police, the DINA, was a CIA asset. In 1975, DINA agents assassinated the former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his 25-year-old American associate, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, in Washington, D.C., itself, but even that didn’t put a damper on U.S. support for the regime.

Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. provided training and support for the government in El Salvador, whose death squads routinely used torture as a means of suppressing opposition. The opposite happened in Nicaragua, where the U.S.-supported Contras routinely tortured Nicaraguans who resisted its attempts to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government.

In Venezuela, the secret police was called DISIP, and its head and chief torturer in the 1970s was CIA agent and notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. Here the story of U.S. involvement with torture takes a different turn—the U.S. supported torture while it was happening but later used the false claim of potential torture to shield Posada from prosecution.

Posada and Orlando Bosch were the masterminds of the 1976 mid-air bombing of Cubana Flight 455, killing all on board. Both escaped justice in Venezuela, and in 2005 Posada entered the U.S. illegally. Venezuela, where Posada is still wanted on 73 counts of murder for the airplane bombing, filed an extradition request.

Nine years later, that request has neither been honored or even answered, but eventually, since Posada was a known terrorist and had entered the U.S. illegally, the U.S. government was forced to move to deport him. During those hearings, a man named Joaquin Chaffardet testified in Posada’s defense that if he were extradited to Venezuela, led at the time by Hugo Chávez, he would be tortured. Chaffardet offered no proof for this baseless allegation, and the U.S. government offered no witnesses to rebut him. Of course, Venezuela WAS known to torture prisoners—when Posada ran the DISIP and it was supported by the U.S.!

And who was Chaffardet? He was Posada’s associate at DISIP, a fellow torturer! Later, both left DISIP to form a private investigation firm, a firm that worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, and the same firm that employed the two people who actually put the bomb on the plane in 1976. Chaffardet was also indicted (but not convicted) of having organized the prison break that sprung Posada from jail in Venezuela after the bombing. And on the basis of his testimony alone, the U.S. refused to extradite Posada to Venezuela, and allows him to live freely in Miami to this day.

The U.S. government’s attitude toward torture hasn’t changed in decades, nor has its (un)willingness to see torturers pay for their crimes. In President Obama’s statement on the torture report, he asserted (falsely) that torture is “against our values,” but pointedly failed to point out that it is also against the law (both national and international). Just like police brutality serves a role internally at keeping people under control, so too torture serves a role internationally. Neither will end until the brutal systems that employ them, capitalism and imperialism, are ended.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

I$raHell – America’s torture consultant

Dick Cheney

By Jamal Kanj

I watched painfully former Vice-President Dick Cheney on NBC television’s “Meet the Press” programme trying to defend and redefine his role in the “authorised” CIA torture. Whenever he was asked about a specific torture case, Cheney always referred back to the “tortured” Americans who lost their lives in 9/11.

While the jury is still out on the real operatives behind 9/11, there is no doubt that more than 3,000 citizens lost their lives in one of the most heinous crimes of the 21st century. And Cheney is hiding behind those Americans to justify one of the most disgraceful and sadistic abuses and complete disregard for human dignity in US history. America was duped into believing that torture saved life, when in fact America lost its humanity.

… Cheney is hiding behind those Americans [the victims of 9/11] to justify one of the most disgraceful and sadistic abuses and complete disregard for human dignity in US history.

When asked how he could explain the report’s findings that “25 per cent of the [tortured] detainees turned out to be innocent”, the former vice-president retorted: ‘I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective… It worked now for 13 years.’”

Not surprisingly, this is coming from an ungrateful person who is living on someone else’s borrowed heart. Larry King once asked him what he thought of his heart donor. He callously responded: “I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”

How could such a person be capable of caring or wondering about the life of other Americans – he exploits their suffering to advance his partners’ business in the oil and military-industrial complex?

While he gabbled for half an hour, Cheney failed to cite one single case where torture had saved American lives or thwarted a terrorist strike. Indeed, according to the US Senate report, “At no time did the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence, such as the hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ information that many believe was the justification for the use of these techniques.”

… the reported CIA torture techniques had striking resemblance to what I personally heard from many Palestinian prisoners who were once held in Israeli dungeons.

Regarding possible violations of international human rights treaties signed by the US, Cheney argued: “We got the authorisation from the president and authorisation from the Justice Department to go forward with the programme.” Other than providing broad statements, he never ventured into the legal precedents that made waterboarding, for instance, lawful under international law.

The Senate report, however, pointed to a legal memorandum drafted by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel on 26 November 2001 in which it suggested that the “CIA could argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm”.

The footnote for that legal memo referenced an Israeli law which warrants that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm”.

The CIA did not just emulate Israel’s legal system to sanction torture, but it copied the same Israeli torture methods. For the reported CIA torture techniques had striking resemblance to what I personally heard from many Palestinian prisoners who were once held in Israeli dungeons. These included torture methods that left behind no physical marks but intended to break the captives by inducing extreme mental distress like painful “stress positions”, exposure to extreme cold, “Russian roulette”, sleep and sensory deprivation.

The report did not mention any official Israeli role in devising the “enhanced technique”. Although, I dare to conjecture that Israeli consultants were on board to gobble some of the USD 81 million paid since 2006 to companies providing services to CIA torturers.

Responding to the torture report, President Barack Obama declared “this isn’t who we are”. Well, this is certainly not respecting the human dignity of America’s founding fathers. It is, however, “who we are” when the tail is wagging the dog, for Israel is turning Americans into become torturers and drone killers.


Posted in Human Rights, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Rape dogs used by US in Afghanistan

An edited abridgment presented with pictures, captions and comments by Lasha Darkmoon


Did you know that attack dogs can be trained to rape everyone—literally?

After the release of the CIA torture report by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) the world is reeling in shock at the level of brutality revealed in the documents.

In fact, the whole report is nothing more than a confession of sadistic procedures that could have been lifted from the diaries of Torquemada, from “rectal feeding” to nude beatings and humiliation—horrors that were well-known but not officially confirmed.

But the report remains incomplete. Indeed, some 9000 documents have been withheld. What new horrors could be discovered with the publication of these records?

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching story to emerge from Bagram has been buried in the German media and remains unknown to much of the world. Published by German author and former politician Juergen Todenhoefer in his latest book, Thou Shalt Not Kill, the account stems from a visit to Kabul.



At a local hotel, a former Canadian soldier and private security contractor named Jack told Jurgen Todenhoefer(pictured) why he could not longer stand working in Bagram. “It’s not my thing when Afghans get raped by dogs,” Jack remarked.

Todenhoefer’s son, who was present with him in Kabul and was transcribing Jack’s words, was so startled by the comment he nearly dropped his pad and pen.

The war veteran, who loathed manipulating Western politicians even as he defended tactics of collective punishment, continued his account:

“Afghan prisoners were tied face down on small chairs,” Jack said. Then fighting dogs entered the torture chamber. “If the prisoners did not say anything useful, each dog got to take a turn on them,” Jack told Todenhoefer. “After procedure like these, they confessed everything. They would have even said that they killed Kennedy without even knowing who he was.”

A former member of parliament representing the right-of-center Christian Democratic Union from 1972 to 1990, Todenhoefer transformed into a fervent anti-war activist after witnessing the Soviet destruction of Afghanistan during the 1980’s.

His journalism has taken him to Iraq and back to Afghanistan, where he has presented accounts of Western military interventions from the perspective of indigenous guerrilla forces. Unsurprisingly, his books have invited enormous controversy for presenting a sharp counterpoint to the war on terror’s narrative. In Germany, Todenhofer is roundly maligned by pro-Israel and US-friendly figures as a “vulgar pacifist” and an apologist for Islamic extremism. But those who have been on the other side of Western guns tend to recognize his journalism as an accurate portrayal of their harsh reality.

LASHA DARKMOON COMMENTS:  It is no surprise that Todenhofer should be “roundly maligned by pro-Israel and US-friendly figures.” This is because any exposé of America’s torture regime, whether at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib or Bagram base, invariably leads to the subject of Israeli torture advisors standing by to offer hot tips to the Americans on the best torture techniques. “The CIA did not just emulate Israel’s legal system to sanction torture,” we read in a recent report, “but it copied the same Israeli torture methods.” (See Israel — America’s Torture Consultant“)

Though Todenhofer’s  account of dogs being used to rape prisoners at Bagram is unconfirmed, the practice is not without precedent. Female political prisoners of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s jails have described their torturers using dogs to rape them.

More recently, Lawrence Wright, the author of the acclaimed history of Al Qaeda, “The Looming Tower,” told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross, “One of my FBI sources said that he had talked to an Egyptian intelligence officer who said that they used the dogs to rape the prisoners. And it would be hard to tell you how humiliating it would be to any person, but especially in Islamic culture where dogs are such a lowly form of life. It’s, you know, that imprint will never leave anybody’s mind.”

I spoke to an Afghan named Mohammad who worked as an interpreter in Bagram and insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals. He told me Todenhoefer’s account of dogs being used to rape prisoners in the jail was “absolutely realistic.”

Mohammad worked primarily with US forces in Bagram, taking the job out of financial desperation. He soon learned what a mistake he had made. “When I translated for them, I often knew that the detainee was anything but a terrorist,” he recalled. “Most of them were poor farmers or average guys.”

However, Mohammad was compelled to keep silent while his fellow countrymen were brutally tortured before his eyes. “I often felt like a traitor, but I needed the money,” he told me. “I was forced to feed my family. Many Afghan interpreters are in the very same situation.”

A “traitor” is also what the Taliban think about guys like Mohammad. It is well-known that they make short-shrift of interpreters they catch. Mohammad has since left Afghanistan for security reasons and is reluctant to offer explicit details of the interrogations sessions he participated in. However, he insisted that Todenhoefer’s account accurately captured the horrors that unfolded behind the walls of Bagram.

“Guantanamo is a paradise if you compare it with Bagram,” Muhammad said.

Waheed Mozhdah, a well-known political analyst and author based in Kabul, echoed Muhammad’s account. “Bagram is worse than Guantanamo,” Mozdah told me, “and all the crimes, even the most cruel ones like the dog story, are well known here but most people prefer to not talk about it.”

Hometown for soldiers, hellhole for inmates

It is hard to imagine what more hideous acts of torment remain submerged in the chronicles of America’s international gulag archipelago. Atrocities alleged to a German journalist by a former detainee at the US military’s Bagram Airbase in Kabul, Afghanistan, suggest that the worst horrors may be too much for the public to stomach.

BAGRAM  PRISON "The worst horrors committed here  may be too much for the public to stomach."

“The worst horrors committed here
may be too much for the public to stomach.”

Bagram Airbase is the largest base the US constructed in Afghanistan and also one of the main theaters of its torture regime.

You have to drive about one and a half hour from Kabul to reach the prison where hundreds of supposedly high-value detainees were held. The foundations of the base are much older, laid by the Soviets in the 1950s, when the last king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zahir, maintained friendly connections with Moscow. Later, during the Soviet occupation, Bagram as the main control center for the Red Army.

Known as the “second Guantanamo,” even though conditions at Bagram are inarguably worse, you will find the dark dungeons, which were mentioned in the latest CIA report, next to American fast food restaurants. During the US occupation, the military complex in Bagram became like a small town for soldiers, spooks and contractors. In this hermetically sealed hellhole, the wanton abuse of human rights existed comfortably alongside the “American Way of Life.”


Where torture is secretly practiced in Bagram’s underground dungeons, you can be certain that daily life at the American airbase, though “deceptively normal” on the surface, is in fact a simmering cesspool of sleazy sexuality.

Though officially illicit sex is frowned upon and pornography forbidden, an alarming number of rapes and unwanted pregnancies are known to occur among female personnel. Massage parlors, discreetly pretending to be barbershops and beauty salons,  offer masturbatory sex to American soldiers—”with buckets filled with free condoms for anyone to pick up.”

“Bagram is deceptively normal,” an eyewitness account reports.”The barbershops are called beauty salons, where haircuts cost twice as much as in Iraq. In these beauty shops, manicures and facials are on the menu of services, as are massages by the Russian-speaking Uzbek and Tajik women.

It’s all legit—a supervisor makes sure no cubicle or table is too private—but the lights are turned low and the clients lay on massage tables, in their shorts or boxer underwear. The base hospital also has a bucket filled with free condoms for anyone to pick up.”

(See here)

What cannot be said is best left to the imagination.

One of the persons sucked into the parallel world of Bagram was Raymond Azar, a manager of a construction company. Azar, a citizen of Lebanon, was on his way to the US military base near the Afghan Presidential Palace known as Camp Eggers when 10 armed FBI agents suddenly surrounded him. The agents handcuffed him, tied him up and shoved him into an SUV.

Some hours later Azar found himself in the bowels of Bagram.

According to Azar’s testimony, he was forced to sit for seven hours while his hands and feet were tied to a chair. He spent the whole night in a cold metal container. His tormentors denied him food for 30 hours. Azar also claimed that the military officers showed him photos of his wife and four children, warning him that unless he cooperated he would never see his family again. Today we know that officers and agents have threatened prisoners with the rape and murder of their relatives.

Azar had nothing to do with Al Qaida or the Taliban.

In fact, he was caught up in the middle of a classic web of corruption. The businessman’s company had signed phony contracts with the Pentagon for reconstruction work in Afghanistan. Later, Azar was accused of having attempted to bribe the US Army contact to secure the military contracts for his company. This was not the sort of crime for which a suspect is normally sent to a military prison. To date, no one has explained why the businessman was sent to Bagram.

Most prisoners from Bagram are not rich business men or foreign workers from abroad, but average Afghan men who had a simple life before they had been kidnapped. One of these men was Dilawar Yaqubi, a taxi driver and farmer from Khost, Eastern Afghanistan.

After five days of brutal torture in Bagram, Yaqubi was declared as dead on December 10, 2002. His legs had been “pulpified” by his interrogators, who maintained that they were simply acting according to guidelines handed down to them by the Pentagon and approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The case of the Afghan taxi driver’s killing was highlighted in the Oscar-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side.” The film established that Yaqubi had simply been at the the wrong place at the wrong time. His family, his daughter and his wife, are now awaiting justice. (Watch the full version of Taxi To The Dark Side here).

The latest CIA torture report is focused entirely on the crimes of the Bush administration. But it should not be forgotten that the horrors that have plagued Afghanistan continued under Barack Obama’s watch.

When Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, entered power two months ago, the first thing he did was sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the US. According to the terms of this bogus deal, negotiated without the consent or agreement of the Afghan public, the Afghan judiciary is forbidden from prosecuting criminal US soldiers in Afghanistan.

This means that any American, whether a torturer or a drone operator who destroys an entire  family with the push of a button, is above the law. He is free to kill or torture anyone with impunity.

During the last days of his presidency, Hamid Karzai railed against the bilateral agreement. On his way out, Karzai condemned the US occupation and remarked that Bagram had become “a terrorism factory.”

Now that Karzai is gone, Ghani is doing all he can to prove his absolute obedience towards the US.

On December 10th 2014, just one day after the CIA torture report’s release, the US Defense Department announced it had closed the Bagram detention center once and for all.

Yet it is not known how many secret prisons still exist in Afghanistan.

In an Afghanistan still dominated by Western interests and American power, the torture never stops.



“Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.”

—  William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Torture Did Work — to Produce War


(See Footnote 857)

Nothing solidifies the establishment more than a seemingly raging debate between two wings of it in which they are both wrong. Not only wrong, but in their wrongness, helping to cover their joint iniquities, all the while engaging in simultaneous embrace and finger-pointing to convey the illusion of debate and choice.

Such is the case with the “debate” on whether torture “worked” following the release of the Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program.”

On the one side, we have among others Dianne Feinstein: “The big finding is that torture doesn’t work and shouldn’t be employed by our country” she told PBS. Similarly, a headline in the Hill tells us: McCain: ‘I know from personal experience’ torture doesn’t work.”

Then, we have six former directors and deputy directors of the CIA claiming the “interrogation program” “saved thousands of lives” by helping to capture al-Qaeda members. On this score, the Intelligence Committee report seems to have the goods, quoting CIA emails. While the former CIA directors claim a string successes based on torture: “KSM [Khalid Sheik Muhammed] then led us to Riduan Isamuddin, aka Hambali, East Asia’s chief al Qaeda ally and the perpetrator of the 2002 Bali bombing in Indonesia — in which more than 200 people perished.” But the report quotes CIA officials internal emails: “Frankly, we stumbled onto Hambali.”

But that doesn’t mean Feinstein and McCain are right and that’s the end of story. The truth is that torture did work, but not the way its defenders claim. It worked to produce justifications for policies the establishment wanted, like the Iraq war. This is actually tacitly acknowledged in the report — or one should say, it’s buried in it. Footnote 857 of the report is about Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and was interrogated by the FBI. He told them all he knew, but then the CIA rendered him to the brutal Mubarak regime in Egypt, in effect outsourcing their torture. From the footnote:

“Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [censored: ‘Egyptian’] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa’ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely ‘Egyptians’], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more more details, see Volume III.” Of course, Volume III has not been made public.

So, while CIA head John Brennan now says it’s “unknowable” if torture lead to information that actually saved lives, it’s provable that torture lead to information that helped lead to war and destroyed lives.

Nor was al-Libi the only one tortured to try to make the case for war. Many have reported that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaeda detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times — but few give the exact timing and context: They were so tortured in August 2002 and March 2003 respectively — the beginning and end of the Bush administrations push for the invasion of Iraq.

This was somewhat acknowledged in the other Senate report on torture, released by the Armed Services Committee in 2008. It quoted Maj. Paul Burney, who worked as a psychiatrist at Guantanamo Bay prison: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.” The GTMO Interrogation Control Element Chief, David Becker told the Armed Services Committee he was urged to use more aggressive techniques, being told at one point “the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense [Paul] Wolfowitz had called to express concerns about the insufficient intelligence production at GTMO.”

McClatchy reported Sen. Carl Levin, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, said at that time: “I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq) … They made out links where they didn’t exist.” But now, Levin seems more muted, saying, in response to the release of the recent report, that false information leads to “time-consuming wild goose chases” — which is quite an understatement given the human horrors that have resulted from the invasion of Iraq.

So, contrary to the claim that torture helped save lives, torture helped build the case of lies for war that took thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, helping to plunge the region into astounding violence, bringing al-Qaeda into Iraq, leading to the rise of ISIS and further bloody wars. As Arianna Huffington noted: “A perfect circle: Torture helps start Iraq War, which in turn gives us more people to torture. #happyhumanrightsday

This oversight perhaps shouldn’t come as too big a shock given who’s calling the shots in Washington: Feinstein and McCain both voted for the Iraq war authorization in 2002, as did virtually everyone running foreign policy atop the Obama administration: VP Joe Biden, Pentagon heads Bill Gates and Chuck Hagel and Secs. of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Some have made an issue of videos of torture being destroyed — but it’s been widely assumed that they were destroyed simply because of the potentially graphic nature of the abuse. But there’s another distinct possibility: They were destroyed because of the questions they document being asked. Do the torturers ask: “Is there another terrorist attack?” Or do they compel: “Tell us that Iraq and Al-Qaeda are working together.”? The video evidence to answer that question has apparently been destroyed — with barely anyone raising the possibility of that being the reason.

Exploiting false information has been well understood within the government. Here’s a 2002 memo from the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency to the Pentagon’s top lawyer — it debunks the “ticking time bomb” scenario and acknowledged how false information derived from torture can be useful:

“The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible — in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life — has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. … The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption.” The document concludes: “The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject’s environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation of the subject’s environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns.” [PDF]

So torture can result in the subject being “exploited” for various propaganda and strategic concerns. This memo should be well known but isn’t, largely because the two reporters for the Washington Post, Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, who wrote about in 2009 it managed to avoid the most crucial part of it in their story, as Jeff Kaye, a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement, has noted.

One reporter who has highlighted critical issues along these lines is Marcy Wheeler — noting as the recent report was being released: The Debate about Torture We’re Not Having: Exploitation,” where she writes: “Some other things exploitation is used for — indeed the very things the torture we reverse-engineered for our own torture program was used for — are to help recruit double agents and to produce propaganda.” Her reporting also raises questions about how torture was used to push a whole host of policies, which would make us a virtual tortureocracy: CIA director “John Brennan has admitted to using information from the torture program in declarations he wrote for the FISA Court. This means that information derived from torture was used to scare [FISA judge] Colleen Kollar-Kotelly into approving the Internet dragnet in 2004.” (Disclosure: Wheeler writes a column for, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work.)

Many presumed critics of torture have been either intentionally or not obscured its connection to war making and other agendas. Teju Cole notes in an interview with the New York Times on Dec. 10 about that outlet: “The paper’s fabrications and support for the Iraq war is a generational shame that shouldn’t be too quickly forgotten. It should haunt us for a long time.” But his comments on the torture report betray a total lack of understanding of the connection between torture and the invasion of Iraq, ascribing to it the very human emotions of revenge rather than the more Machiavellian realities of policy making: “Let’s acknowledge torture for what it is: It is punishment, vengeance. It’s the kind of havoc you wreak on an enemy or bystander merely because your rage needs an outlet. It has vanishingly little to do with intelligence-gathering. It spreads grief, and though it intends to do so, it spreads even m

Posted in Human Rights, USAComments Off

US Television Provides Ample Platform for American Torturers, But None to Their Victims


In 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, held incommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/AP)

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that - despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

That’s the process by which the reliably repellent Tom Friedman seized on the torture report to celebrate America’s unique greatness. “We are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also [] these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history,” the beloved-by-DC columnist wrote after reading about forced rectal feeding and freezing detainees to death. For the opinion-making class, even America’s savage torture is proof of its superiority and inherent Goodness: “this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to.” Friedman, who himself unleashed one of the most (literally) psychotic defenses of the Iraq War, ended his torture discussion by approvingly quoting John McCain on America’s enduring moral superiority: “Even in the worst of times, ‘we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.’”

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

Senate CIA Torture Report Details ‘Ruthless’ Brutality of Bush Era


Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

Senate Intelligence Committee’s report says CIA abuse violated ‘U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.’ Journalists, experts and human rights advocates say that torture program under the Bush administration was systematically orchestrated by top officials.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released the 525-page executive summary of the six thousand page investigative report which looked at the CIA’s “Detention and interrogation Program.” (Image: Common Dreams)

The executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture was released on Tuesday morning. As the document itself (pdf) was posted online, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairperson of the committee, took to the Senate floor and to lay out the case made within the 500+ page report. Watch video of Feinstein’s  remarks here.

What the report shows, according to its introduction, is that the abuse performed by the CIA and documented by the investigation was found to be in direct “violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

According to Feinstein, the four key findings of the report include:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

Common Dreams posted updates following the release of the report, focusing on reactions and critical analysis from informed voices

On Twitter:

3:38 PM: Maher Arar, a Canadian victim of rendition and torture by the U.S. government, responded to the Senate report on his Twitter account with several salient points:

3:11 PM: Amnesty International: Release of Torture Report Must Not Be End of Story

Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director for Amnesty International, said in a statement:

“This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorized by the highest authorities in the USA after 9/11. Despite much evidence having been in the public realm for years, no one has been brought to justice for authorizing or carrying out the acts in these CIA programmes.

“The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, is a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorized and used torture and other ill-treatment. This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”

3:03 PM: Statement by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon):Report Shows CIA Torture Did Not Work and America Should Never Torture Again

Senator Wyden said:

“While I understand this is a dangerous world and am grateful to the rank-and-file intelligence professionals that keep our country safe, the facts show that torture did nothing to protect America from foreign threats.

“The current CIA leadership has been alarmingly resistant to acknowledging the full scope of the mistakes and misrepresentations that surrounded this program for so many years. I hope this report is the catalyst CIA leaders need to acknowledge that torture did not work and close this disgraceful chapter in our country’s history.”

2:59 PM: The Guardian: Rectal rehydration and waterboarding: how the CIA tortured its detainees

Reporter Oliver Laughland documents some of the most brutal torture tactics contained the report. Read his reporting here.

2:54 PM: ProPublica: The Tortured History of the Senate’s Torture Report‘ 

The Senate began investigating the CIA’s detainee program nearly six years ago. It completed a draft of its report two years ago. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the report’s blistering executive summary. (The full report remains classified.) What took so long? It’s a tale of White House indecisiveness, Republican opposition, and CIA snooping. Check out the timeline here.

2:47 PM: As journalists and analysts pour over contents of report, examples of some of the shocking details of CIA torture were being shared via Twitter:

2:38 PM: Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights: Those who sanctioned torture must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes

UN-appointed expert and investigator Ben Emmerson issued a statement today, which reads, in part:

“The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

2:25 PM: Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch: Torture ‘Can Never Be Justified’

Roth said:

“The Senate report summary should forever put to rest CIA denials that it engaged in torture, which is criminal and can never be justified. The report shows the repeated claims that harsh measures were needed to protect Americans are utter fiction.”

2:19 PM: Trevor Timm at The Guardian: “Stop believing the lies: America tortured more than ‘some folks’ – and covered it up”

The executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation writes:

The torture defenders from the CIA and the Bush administration probably won’t even make a serious attempt to say they didn’t torture anyone – just that it was effective, that there were “serious mistakes, but that “countless lives have been saved and our Homeland is more secure” – with a capital H.

This highlights the mistake of the Senate committee, in a way. Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?

2:11 PM: Glenn Greenwald: The Establishment Media’s role in torture

The U.S. media [...] played a central role in first obscuring, then justifying, the Bush torture regime to the public. One of the most extreme examples was this Joe Klein column in The Guardian viciously mocking those who claimed the U.S. was torturing detainees (“total rubbish, of course”), and he even wrote this about detainees:

They wear orange jump suits, which are probably an improvement over their Afghan cave-wear (I would actually prefer they be dressed in pink tutus, to give them an appreciation of the freedoms accorded western ballerinas).

Liberal journalist Jonathan Alter wrote a Newsweek column expressly demanding that the U.S. Government use torture, headlined “Time to Think About Torture.” It began: “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.”

Now we have new examples. Today’s Senate Committee report describes how Douglas Jehl, then a New York Times reporter, now The Washington Post‘s Foreign Editor, promised the CIA positive coverage of its torture program (a common practice among some DC national security reporters).

2:03 PM: Moyers & Company editors have highlighted the twenty key findings of the report on their website:

“Moyers & Company is preparing a detailed analysis of the report for later publication. A quick overview of what the report contains can be found in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 20 findings, reprinted here.”

1:28 PM: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s official statement (pdf) highlights four key findings of CIA torture report

The study’s 20 findings and conclusions, according to Feinstein’s statement, can be grouped into four central themes, each of which is supported extensively in the Executive Summary:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.
3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.
4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

1:13 PM: Sen. Bernie Sanders: Report Details “Ugly Chapter in American History”

Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders said:

“A great nation must be prepared to acknowledge its errors. This report details an ugly chapter in American history during which our leaders and the intelligence community dishonored our nation’s proud traditions. Of course we must aggressively pursue international terrorists who would do us harm, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with the basic respect for human rights which makes us proud to be Americans.

“The United States must not engage in torture. If we do, in an increasingly brutal world we lose our moral standing to condemn other nations or groups that engage in uncivilized behavior.”

1:08 PM: Glenn Greenwald: Destruction of “Zero Dark Thirty” Scenario

The report utterly decimated the central claim of “Zero Dark Thirty” that torture played a key role in finding Osama bin Laden (h/t: Farhad Manjoo)

12:59 PM: Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) statement suggests he will not push for further, un-redacted disclosures

The statement released by Sen. Mark Udall following the Intelligence Committee’s report suggests he is satisfied with the report and will likely not follow through with threats, which followed urging from anti-torture and transparency activists, that he would read the full un-redacted report into the congressional record. In his official statement, Udall said:

“The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity.My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it.

“We can protect our national security without compromising who we are as Americans. This landmark study — and the millions of pages of agency documents and testimony it is based upon — shows that torture is not effective and does not make us safer.”

12:54 PM: Legal Director of Center for Constitutional Rights: “Criminal Prosecutions Must Follow Senate CIA Torture Report Findings”

CCR attorney Baher Azmy issued this statement:

The long-delayed Senate report proves what we have been saying since 2006: that the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of state-sanctioned torture, notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application. We have witnessed firsthand the devastating human consequences in meetings with our clients at Guantanamo. The report also exposes the CIA’s lies about how the program operated and the utility of the information obtained: False claims about the usefulness of that information were used to justify and cover up monstrous crimes. We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program. They should be prosecuted in U.S. courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.

12:49 PM: The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin says Report’s Footnotes “Will Make You Weep”

12:45 PM: Former CIA analyst and Common Dreams contributor Ray McGovern responds:

“It is bizarre; the Executive and Congress both live in fear of the thugs of the CIA, who have now been joined by Secretary of State John Kerry (probably after checking with the White House) issuing spurious warnings regarding the dangers of releasing the report — as if the ‘bad guys’ have not yet heard of CIA torture! No one — Democrat or Republican — wants the truth to get out about torture techniques authorized by the Bush/Cheney administration, techniques actually demonstrated multiple times in the White House itself to the administration’s most senior national security and justice officials, and then implemented by CIA thugs.

“Far too many ‘notables’ approved the torture or, at least, had guilty knowledge — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, for example. Likely, an eviscerated (‘redacted’ is the euphemism) Senate report on CIA torture is all we will be permitted to read. At that point, the ball will be squarely in lame-duck Sen. Mark Udall’s court. Will he feel bound by the Omerta-style oath of silence typical of Establishment Washington, or will he have the courage to get the truth out, using his Constitutionally protected right to do so without legal jeopardy?”

12:27 PM: The Guardian reports: CIA’s brutal and ineffective use of torture revealed in landmark report

Spencer Ackerman reports:

After examining 20 case studies, the report found that torture “regularly resulted in fabricated information,” said committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarizing the findings.

“During the brutal interrogations the CIA was often unaware the information was fabricated.”

The torture that the CIA carried out was even more extreme than what it portrayed to congressional overseers and the George W Bush administration, the committee found. It went beyond techniques already made public through a decade of leaks and lawsuits, which had revealed that agency interrogators subjected detainees to quasi-drowning, staged mock executions, and revved power drills near their heads.

At least 39 detainees, the committee found, experienced techniques like “cold water dousing” – different from the quasi-drowning known as waterboarding – which the Justice Department never approved. The committee found at least five cases of “rectal rehydration”, and cases of death threats made to detainees. CIA interrogators, the committee charged, told detainees they would hurt their children and “sexually assault” or kill their wives.

12:14 PM: ACLU responds: Senate Torture Report Shows Need for Accountability

Responding to the report, the American Civil Liberties Union released a detailed plan for full accountability, and ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero had this reaction:

This is a shocking report, and it is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes. This report definitively drags into the light the horrific details of illegal torture, details that both the Bush and Obama administrations have worked hard to sweep under the rug. The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable. The administration’s current position – doing absolutely nothing – is tantamount to issuing tacit pardons. Tacit pardons are worse than formal ones because they undermine the rule of law. The CIA’s wrongful acts violated basic human rights, served as a huge recruiting tool for our enemies, and alienated allies world-wide. Our response to the damning evidence in this report will define us as a nation.

This should be the beginning of a process, not the end. The report should shock President Obama and Congress into action, to make sure that torture and cruelty are never used again. The Department of Justice needs to appoint a special prosecutor to hold the architects and perpetrators of the torture program accountable for its design, implementation, and cover-ups. Congress must assert its constitutional role in the system of checks and balances, and oversee the CIA, which in this report sounds more like a rogue paramilitary group than the intelligence gathering agency that it’s supposed to be. The president needs to use the moral authority of his office to formally recognize both the torture program’s victims and those in government who resisted this shameful and illegal policy.

11:47 AM: Senate Intelligence Committee Releases unclassified, redacted version of executive summary

The official unclassified version of the executive summary of the report is here (pdf).

9:17 AM: America can’t handle the truth – about Guantánamo, torture or a man now free from both

In an op-ed in the Guardian, Cori Crider, a lawyer with the UK-based human rights legal group Reprieve, describes why her client Abu Wa’el Dhiab, released from Guantanamo just days ago after more than 12 years without trial, is a prime example of how deep the U.S. government’s “indifference to human suffering” and obsession with keeping evidence of its abuses out of the public domain has run since 2001.

…if you think you’re going to get the truth about torture out of the so-called War on Terror’s wall of silence when the long-anticipated CIA torture report finally gets released on Tuesday, consider that we can’t even see that photo of my shackled client getting on a plane – that I am not even allowed to tell you about 10 hours of video of him getting force-fed by military service members.

Perhaps the American government can’t handle the truth about itself, from torture in secret CIA prisons to my client’s torture at the world’s most notorious prison, even after he is finally free. But I believe the American people can.

9:00 AM: Two must-read backgrounders on CIA torture program

On Monday, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, aka @Emptywheel, released this 13-part timeline via Twitter which explains the rise of the torture program under the Bush administration.

Also on Monday, Marcelene Hearn, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s national security project published this piece, titled Required Reading: Prequels to the Torture Report on the Blog of Rights.

7:59 AM: Ahead of Senate panel’s report, torture opponents challenge coordinated misinformation campaign

Ahead of the report’s release, opponents of the brutal practices authorized by the Bush administration are preparing to pour over the report to see just how far the six-year long probe goes in identifying the real perpetrators of the programs which saw individuals in the custody of the U.S. government beaten and mistreated in ways that other investigators of the program have identified as “war crimes” and members of the committee have said will make Americans “disgusted.”

In recent days, as previously reported, current and former CIA officials, lawmakers, and members of the Bush administration have come out in defense of the CIA’s brutal tactics while also attempting to discredit the Senate report.

In an interview with the German newspaper Deutsche Welle published Tuesday morning, (Ret.) Col. Morris Davis, who once led the government’s prosecution team at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, said the Senate report may not reveal things not already documented elsewhere, but that’s its publication is vital nonetheless. “I don’t anticipate that the report will reveal some additional practices that have not been discussed in some way already,” Morris said in the interview. “What it will do though is officially confirm what’s been talked about in the media for years. Having that official record is important.”

Staking out his position on the report prior to its release, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has covered the CIA torture program that took place under former President George W. Bush extensively, said that the American people should not succumb to the “worst myths official Washington and its establishment media have told” the public over the course of recent years. The program was not isolated to just a few cases, as if often suggested, writes Greenwald, but rather “was an officially sanctioned, worldwide regime of torture that had the acquiescence, if not explicit approval, of the top members of both political parties in Congress.”

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments


Shoah’s pages

Join our mailing list

* = required field
February 2015
« Jan