Eric Margolis – President’s way Bush league

I read this in the Toronto Sun this morning. Eric Margolis has an interesting and sometime controversial view of international issues. I find this column an excellent discusion about the US use of torture. The link to the original column is right here. However, given the malleable state of the Internet, I copied it below for posterity.


Nations that use torture disgrace themselves. Armed forces and police that torture inevitably become brutalized and corrupted. “Limited” use of torture quickly becomes generalized. Information obtained by torture is mostly unreliable.

I learned these maxims observing or covering dirty “pacification” wars, from Algeria to Indochina, Central and South America, southern Africa, the Mideast, Afghanistan, and Kashmir.

All this historical evidence notwithstanding, the Bush administration encouraged torture of anti-American militants (a.k.a. terrorists) after the 9/11 attacks. The full story has not been revealed, but what we know so far is revolting and shameful.

Many Americans want the Bush administration officials who employed and sanctioned torture to face justice. President Barack Obama hinted the attorney general might investigate this whole ugly business.

Republicans, who have become America’s champions of war and torture, are fiercely resisting any investigation and lauding torture’s benefits. So too are some senior intelligence officials.

Torture is a crime under U.S. law. It is a crime under the Third Geneva Convention, and the UN’s anti-torture convention, both of which the U.S. signed. Kidnapping and moving suspects to be tortured in third countries is a crime. Torture violates core American values.

In 1945, the U.S. hanged Japanese officers for war crimes for inflicting “water-boarding” (near drowning) on U.S. prisoners — exactly what the CIA inflicted on its Muslim captives.

FBI agents rightly refused to participate in the torture of al-Qaida suspects, warning it violated U.S. law and could make them subject to future prosecution.

Republicans and even Obama’s intelligence chief, Admiral Dennis Blair, claim some useful information was obtained by torture. That depends on what you call useful. al-Qaida is still in business. Osama bin Laden remains at large. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became monstrous fiascos costing $1 trillion. Torture did not protect America from a second major attack. The 9/11 tragedy was a one-off event, and al-Qaida has only a handful of extremists. Administration claims about dirty bombs and germs were lies.


The CIA’s “useful” torture information came from two suspects: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was tortured by near drowning 183 times — six times daily for a month; and Abu Zubaydah, 83 times in August 2003.

Give me Dick Cheney, a power drill (a favourite “investigative” tool of America’s Iraqi Shia allies) and 30 minutes and I’ll have him admit he’s Osama bin Laden.

A U.S. Senate report just revealed that after the Bush administration could not find the links it claimed between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, it tried, in best Soviet style, to torture an admission of these non-existent links from its captives.

The Senate reported CIA and Pentagon torture techniques were adopted from torture methods North Korea used in the 1950s to compel American prisoners to admit to lies about germ warfare.

In fact, North Korea learned its torture techniques from Soviet KGB instructors. KGB’s favourite tortures in the 1930s and ’40s were merciless beatings, confinement in refrigerated cells, week-long sleep deprivation and endless interrogations. The CIA and U.S. military copied these but added contorted positions and nakedness and humiliation, techniques reportedly copied from Israeli interrogators who used them to blackmail Palestinian prisoners into becoming informers. Hence all the naked photos from Abu Ghraib prison.


Torture was authorized by President George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney, secretaries Don Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. Four lickspittle lawyers and two bootlicking attorneys general provided sophistic legal briefs sanctioning torture. All should face an independent judicial commission.

Now, Obama claims he won’t prosecute the torturers because they were following proper legal advice and orders. So did Nazi officials who killed millions. Nazi lawyers legally dismembered Germany’s Weimar democracy and imposed Nazi dictatorship in only two months after the “terrorist attack” on the Reichstag in Feb. 1933.

When I served in the U.S. Army I was taught that any illegal order, even from the president, must be refused.

Have we learned nothing from the 1940s? Show the world America upholds the law and rejects these foul violations of human rights and decency.

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