THE US PARADOX: A SELF-STYLED WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS PREACHER IS ALSO ‘A SAVAGE TORTURE GURU’
by Syarif Hidayat*
America has long been the self-appointed global leader on human rights and democracy pointing out the shortcomings of others and publishing yearly reports on the violations of human rights by all countries in the world except Israel and the USA. But now the tables have turned upside down! This self-proclaimed World Preacher of Human Rights and Democracy now violates human rights and democracy domestically and internationally.
“Anywhere that human rights are under threat, the United States will proudly stand up, unabashedly, and continue to promote greater freedom, greater openness, and greater opportunity for all people. And that means speaking up when those rights are imperiled. It means providing support and training to those who are risking their lives every day so that their children can enjoy more freedom. It means engaging governments at the highest levels and pushing them to live up to their obligations to do right by their people.” – Secretary of State John Kerry, April 2013.
“The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach — condemnation without discussion — can carry forward only a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.” – BARACK OBAMA, Nobel Lecture, Dec. 10, 2009.
“The big threat to America is the way we react to terrorism by throwing away what everybody values about our country–a commitment to human rights. America is a great nation because we are a good nation. When we stop being a good nation, we stop being great.” – BOBBY KENNEDY, O Magazine, Feb. 2007.
“To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.” – BARACK OBAMA, Address to Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 24, 2009.
Under the guise of hypocritical declarations of “War of Liberation” to liberate Iraq from the West so-called Dictator Saddam Hussein that turned out to be the killing of millions of Iraqi people indiscriminately, “War to hunt for Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and Talibans” in Afghanistan that turned out to be the killing of hundreds of thousands of Afghan people indiscriminately and the “Humanitarian” War to “save” the Libyan people from the West so-called Dictator Gaddafi that turned out to be the killing of hundreds of Libyan people indiscriminately and now the Zionist and US-led imperialists covert operation in Syria, the U.S-led western civilization regimes were in fact aiming to occupy Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and gain control of the world oil reserves and international oil trade as well as dominate the whole Middle East and Africa (and ultimately the whole world) by their military powers. Syria and Iran could be the next targets.
… and now it has been more than four years after Obama’s Feb. 24, 2009 statement [I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay], the Guantanamo Prison and Torture Camp is still fully operational. This Chicago lawyer seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth and it seems to be a deadly joke of American justice system!
The Guantanamo Bay prison complex in Cuba sends a message to the world that the US has hegemony and can violate any laws and get away with it, a political commentator tells Press TV. “It [Guantanamo prison] serves two purposes: one sending a sort of public relations message to the world that the United States can do whatever it wants to do as it’s the global hegemony since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. And [another] part of [that message is to show the world that] it is just a ‘show’ prison regardless of human rights abuses, [and] human rights violations…,” said Professor Mark Mason.
Is this AMERICA, the Americans are dreaming of?
“A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it.” — William Penn
Dave Pruett, a Former NASA researcher, in his article titled “What Have We Become?” writes The iconic images of recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri — after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen — have left Americans of all ilks wondering: Is this America? Military Humvees, still in camouflage and mounted with machine guns, in the hands of municipal police. SWAT teams of police in full riot gear, bristling with automatic weapons, pointed at a lone protestor with hands up. Have we become a police state?
Americans now have yet another “What have we become?” question to ponder. In 2012, after a four-year study, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSIC) completed a classified, 6700-page report on the CIA’s detention and “enhanced” interrogation techniques of enemy combatants post 9/11. In April of this year, the bipartisan SSIC voted 11-3 to release the report’s executive summary. After months of delays to allow time for CIA redactions, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s chair, released the report’s 528-page summary to the public on December 9, 2014.
Even after redactions, the details — of renditions to secret detention sites in foreign countries and widespread use of torture during brutal interrogations — are horrifying. Interrogation techniques included both psychological and physical torture: facial and abdominal slaps, beatings, “walling” (being slammed into a wall), ice-water baths, forced rectal rehydration and/or rectal “feeding,” sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, shackling for extended periods while in stress positions, isolation, sensory deprivation, loud music, enforced nudity, hooding, mock executions, and for some detainees, “water boarding,” i.e, near-drowning to the point that some detainees turned blue and required resuscitation.
In addition, some detainees were told that family members would be murdered or sexually assaulted. Others, given no waste buckets, were placed in diapers. One detainee, Gul Rahman, died from hyperthermia, after having been short-shackled to a wall, nude from the waste down, forcing him to sit on bare concrete for extended periods.
Thirty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly completed its Convention Against Torture (CAT). The CAT became the world’s moral standard on June 26, 1987, following ratification by the 20th nation. By 2014, the CAT had 155 signatories, including the U.S., which ratified the Convention in 1994.
The CAT defines torture in Article 1 Part I as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession …” Article 4 makes torture a criminal offense, and Article 8 establishes torture as an extraditable offense. Plain and simple, torturers are war criminals under international convention.
The U.S. has grossly violated international norms of civilized behavior. We have also broken our word. Why should American’s care? William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, once offered sage advice for many situations in the quote at the beginning of this article. The end never justifies inhuman means. There are many reasons — legal, moral, practical, and spiritual — why torture is both reprehensible and indefensible.
First, torture is illegal, as established by international consensus. Civilized societies do not torture. Period.
Second, it is immoral. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” states the Golden Rule, which is found in all major religions and specifically as Christianity’s second great commandment. The commandment has no asterisks indicating which categories of “others” permit exceptions.
Third, from purely practical considerations, torture is ineffective. According to Item No. 1 of the summary’s conclusions: “The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation of detainees.” Specifically, it did not conclusively produce evidence that led to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, nor has it been shown to produce information that could not be obtained by other means.
Fourth, setting the precedent of torture puts our own soldiers and intelligence officers at risk of torture should they be apprehended for interrogation.
Fifth, by stooping to torture, the U.S. undermines its own credibility and moral authority in the world. Specifically, Item No. 20 of the conclusions states: “The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States’ standing in the world, and resulted in other significant monetary and non-monetary costs.”
Lastly but foremost, torture not only dehumanizes the one tortured, it also dehumanizes those enacting the torture. Put bluntly, torture degrades us as a species. For a first-hand account of a world in which such inhumanity is a daily norm, read Laura Hillenbrand’s blockbuster Unbroken. This meticulously researched biography chronicles the hellacious experiences of Louis Zamperini, an American aviator held for two years in Japanese POW camps during World War II. (The film version of Unbroken will be released Christmas Day.)
No one understands what’s at stake better than Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, who was severely tortured by the North Vietnamese during his nearly six years as a Vietnam-War POW, some of it at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.
McCain continues, “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”
If Americans continue to permit — by design, acquiescence, or inattention — a perpetual state of warfare, the militarization of our police forces, and illegal and immoral uses of torture, we will soon become a nation of individuals who can no longer look into the mirror without averting our gaze.
Is this the America we want?
If not, then it is the duty of each of us to contact our legislators, demanding an end to all uses of and excuses for torture, and prosecution for all those who violate the consensus norms of civilized societies and nations.
Ironically, the only current or former CIA operative in prison regarding torture is John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on waterboarding, concludes Dave Pruett, an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, James Madison University. (T/P3/P2)