Saturday, July 29, 2006

The US is Practicing Torture by Proxy Around the World

I think Bush was largely on the right track when he stated, "If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist". Of course, just as with most other aspects of US foreign policy, this was completely hypocritical - the United States harbours many terrorists (and I don't just mean in the White House). For example, we have the four Cuban exiles who fled from Panama and were allowed to enter US soil - Pedro Remon, Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo and Louis Posada Carriles. Their crimes included firing a bazooka at the UN, particpiating in a car bombing in Washington D.C. and bombing Cuba's mission to the UN. Of course, the reason for the US giving them sanctuary was that they were all trained by the C.I.A. But anyway, the point is that the principle was, in general, a good one.

So why isn't the same with torture? Why not the maxim, 'if you collaborate with torturers, you are a torturer'. Well...I guess then Bush would have the same problem as before - he could not escape the conclusion that he and the rest of the administration are torturers. Why? Let's start with Israel. There's been a lot in the news lately about Israeli prisoners, after Hamas and Hizbullah together kidnapped three soldiers to try and negotiate a release of some of their prisoners currently rotting in Israeli jails. Well, I say its been in the news - in fact, there has been virtually no analysis of the legitimacy of Hizbullah's and Hamas' demand for the release of prisoners. It's sad that it takes an act of terrorism to force newspapers to recognise even the existence of the Israeli prisoner problem.

Currently, Israel holds around 9,000 Palestinian prisoners. 750 of these are held in 'administrative detention'. This means they are being held without charge or trial. Under international law, administrative detention is legal, but with certain restrictions. For example, administrative detention is not to be used as a form of punishment, but only to prevent acts of violence and other specific dangers to security. Israel is flagrantly violating this restriction, as B'Tselem reports:

"[Administrative detention is often used as a] quick and efficient alternative to criminal trial, primarily when they do not have sufficient evidence to charge the individual, or when they do not want to reveal their evidence. This use of administrative detention is absolutely prohibited and totally blurs the distinction between preventive and punitive detention."

Israeli abuse of the right of administrative detention means that for the hundreds of Palestinians trapped in Israeli jails, there is no way out. There is no ending on the horizon. It is this sort of endless, meaningless incarceration that has led to so many suicide attempts in Guantanamo Bay.
So what of the other 8,000 prisoners? Well, they have been charged, tried and convicted, but almost always on the basis of evidence extracted by torture. The US has been supporting Israel, both militarily, financially and diplomatically, for decades. Israel has also been torturing its prisoners for decades. B'Tselem reports:

"For years, torture was commonly used in General Security Service interrogations. After the Landau Commission made its recommendations, in 1987, the GSS interrogated at least 850 Palestinians a year by means of torture. The methods included violent shaking, binding the detainees in painful positions, and covering their head with a foul-smelling sack. All governmental authorities, from the IDF to the Supreme Court, took part in approving torture, in developing new methods, and in supervising them."

And it is still going on, as this report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) shows:

"Based on official data, GSS agents interrogated thousands of Palestinians per year during the Intifada, and over 200 at any given moment. In July 2002, the GSS related to the press that 90 Palestinians were defined as 'ticking bombs' and were tortured (that is, were exposed to 'physical pressure'). Research by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel shows that the number tortured is actually much greater; and that GSS agents who interrogate Palestinian detainees torture them, degrade them, and otherwise ill-treat them routinely, in blatant violation of the provisions of international law, mainly in the following manners:
Violence: Beating, slapping, kicking, stepping on shackles; Bending the interrogee and placing him in other painful positions; Intentionally tightening the shackles by which he is bound; Violent shaking.
Sleep Deprivation.
Additional 'Interrogation Methods': Prolonged shackling behind the back; Cursing, threats, humiliations; Depriving the detainee of essential needs; Exposure to extreme heat or cold.
Secondary Methods: Isolation and secrecy; Imprisonment under inhuman conditions.

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel estimates that a considerable portion of all interrogees, if not most, had been exposed to interrogation methods which include "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental." In other words these methods, as applied, cause, at least in their combination and accumulation over time, the level of gravity and cruelty that constitute torture as defined in international law." [my emphasis added]

The United States and Britain therefore, by supporting Israel, are supporting the brutal and illegal torture of defenceless Palestinian prisoners.

That is not an isolated case. Let's take Saudi Arabia. The US has long had close military ties with the oil rich Islamic state - between 1990 and 2000, the Pentagon arranged the delivery of over $39.6 billion in foreign military sales to S. Arabia, as well as $394 million worths of arms to the regime directly through the State Department. Just recently, the Pentagon approved a $6 billion arms sale to the Saudi regime.

Torture in Saudi Arabia is well documented, and the perpetrators are protected by the government and high level officials, as this Human Rights Watch report from 2002 details:

"Blanket denials of torture from senior Saudi officials only compound the problem and perpetuate a culture of impunity among security forces...The practice of torture in Saudi Arabia is well-documented, and the government is legally obligated to investigate these recent allegations".

In fact, it seems Saudi practices have gone so low as to be on par with US behaviour in Guantanamo. HRW reports concerns that 15 Saudi detainees released from Guantanamo into Saudi custody will not get a free trial, and are at risk of torture: "The detainees certainly can't rely on the Saudi justice system to give them a fair day in court."

"Saudi Arabia has a long and recent record of torture and its trials remain patently unfair", it adds.

Then we've got Turkey. Throughout the 1990s, the US sold arms to Turkey - arms which were then used to oppress the Kurds. In 1999, the US State Department claimed that "Turkish armed forces are roughly 80 percent dependent on U.S.-origin equipment." The Clinton administration sold, in total, $4,927,223 worth of arms to Turkey over the period 1993-98.
This is what the Federation of American Scientists had to say:

"International human rights organizations, as well as the U.S. State Department, have for many years reported that the Turkish military and police are committing egregious violations of human rights against Turkey's citizens, sometime using U.S. weapons to do so. Among the documented violations are the widespread use of torture, police abuse, assassinations, and "disappearances." Terrible conditions, torture and beatings in Turkish prisons were brought to light by a large hunger strike staged in the fall of 2000."

Turkey is, in fact, the third largest recipient of US military aid, after Israel and Egypt (which sums it up quite nicely) received $37 million total US military aid last year - this year, the Bush administration has requested $28 million in total be earmarked for Turkey.

Washington sees Turkey as "a major coalition partner in the global war on terrorism, an active ally and partner in the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a pro-Western democracy in a troubled region."

Compare this with Amnesty International's description of Turkey in their 2006 annual report:

"Torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials continued to be reported, with detainees allegedly being beaten; stripped naked and threatened with death; deprived of food, water and sleep during detention; and beaten during arrest or in places of unofficial detention. Reports of torture or ill-treatment of individuals detained for political offences decreased. However, people detained on suspicion of committing ordinary crimes such as theft or for public disorder offences were particularly at risk of ill-treatment. Reports suggested that there were still many cases of law enforcement officials completely failing to follow lawful detention and investigative procedures and of prosecutors failing to ascertain that law enforcement officials had complied with procedures. Police also regularly used disproportionate force against demonstrators, particularly targeting leftists, supporters of the pro-Kurdish party DEHAP, students and trade unionists (see Killings in disputed circumstances below). Often those alleging ill-treatment, particularly during demonstrations, were charged with resisting arrest while their injuries were explained away as having occurred as police attempted to restrain them."

Not only is torture common in Turkey, but torturers are rarely punished, as there is a culture of impunity created by officials and the government.

Hopefully it should now be crystal clear that the US has no qualms whatsoever about funding torture worldwide. To know this is useful, for several reaons. Firstly, for all you US citizens out there: what is actually happening is that you are funding torture worldwide. It is your taxes that are used to arm and sustain some of the most brutal regimes on the planet. This infers upon you a direct moral responsibility to force your government to cease funding torturers. Secondly, it should help dispel the fundamental idea that many of us have, drilled into us from a very young age, that we are the good guys. That sure, we may make mistakes occasionally, but we'd never deliberately do anyone any harm. Once this myth is dispelled, it should come as much less of a surprise to learn that the Bush administration, aswell as funding and facilitating torture by others, also authorises torture by Americans around the world, thanks to the practice of "extraordinary rendition" - a disgraceful euphemism for abduction and kidnapping.

In short, we have a direct moral responsibility to stop the US government committing barbaric, cruel atrocities in the name of the US people, whether using American soldiers or by proxy.

The Heathlander


Blogger El Mas Chingón said...

Nice posts, all of you! I just caught up with my reading and you're all doing a great job.

Do you still need someone to post at 14:00 PST?

1:24 PM  
Blogger The Heathlander said...

Hello, welcome back! Yes please, I'll pencil you in.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dr. Strangelove said...

Heathlander, the post times seem to be a little messed up.

1:30 PM  
Blogger The Heathlander said...

Yeh, I know - I think it displays the time it was saved as a draft, as opposed to the time it was actually published. I'll change 'em to what they should've been now.

1:34 PM  
Blogger El Mas Chingón said...

Heathlander, you can also pencil me in for 14:30 if you like. I dug up a very interesting article I'd like to share with you on that post.

1:45 PM  
Blogger The Heathlander said...

OK great. You're quite the researcher :)

1:47 PM  
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12:35 AM  

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