Zero Dark Thirty helps spread the fallacy that torture produces good intelligence. Even if it did, that would not justify its use. (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.)
This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
The title, “Globalizing Torture,” says it all. This meticulous accounting of the network of torture chambers that the United States has authorized in more than 54 nations is a damning indictment that should make all of us in this country cringe with shame.
The report is a product of the Open Society Foundations, funded by international financier and philanthropist George Soros, who, as a young Jew, suffered through the Nazi occupation of Hungary and emerged from that experience an uncompromising fighter for human rights. That his lifelong goal to “foster accountability for international crimes,” reflected in his organization’s mission statement, now includes our government is a condemnation as awful as it is deserved.
When it comes to torture in the post 9/11 era, the record of the United States is so appalling that one must question our claimed abhorrence of the barbarism of other nations. In fact, the essence of our rendition program has been to outsource torture to those countries most sadistic in their use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That is flattery of a most twisted sort.
For example, Syria, now universally condemned for its contempt for human life, was chosen as the site to torture Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen detained by US authorities at John F. Kennedy Airport. The apology and financial compensation he received from Canadian officials is only one of three instances of governments apologizing, and that list does not include the United States.
Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, known for its horrid interrogation tactics condemned in the Arab Spring uprising, was selected by the U.S. to interrogate Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who “under threat of torture at the hands of Egyptian officials, fabricated information relating to Iraq’s provision of chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaida,” the report states. That is the very misinformation that Colin Powell relied on in his UN speech justifying the Iraq invasion. So much for the evil rationalization for torture as a source of reliable information, offered in the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty.
But the efficacy of torture is not the issue; for example, even if waterboarding, when used by the Japanese against captured American soldiers, provided reliable information, it would not have weakened the US case that such interrogation constituted the commission of war crimes. The point is that in response to what was hardly the most terrifying attack ever experienced by a nation, we launched the most far-reaching torture campaign. No country was impervious to our reach, and all international codes of restraint were summarily breached.
The unalienable human rights endowed to all by their creator—declared as a universal right in our Declaration of Independence—were replaced by the “dark side” declaration of Dick Cheney, quoted in the opening to the torture report: “We also have to work, through, sort of the dark side, if you will. … We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. … It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”