The United States of America: The Real International Terrorists


On the 9th of December, the US Senate released a report into the interrogation techniques practiced by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11 and through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Particular attention in the $40 million investigation was lavished on the secretive COBALT detention centre. The ‘techniques’ employed here range from unnecessary rectal feeding of detainees, leading to one sustaining ‘anal fissures’, to being forced to sit naked in cold concrete cells, with at least one confirmed death from hypothermia.

Image by Charlotte Scarrow
Image by Charlotte Scarrow

I will spare you any further details of the physical and mental torture that detainees of the COBALT prison – and others – were put through.  It makes for grim reading. Bear in mind, of course, that these people were suspects. Not one had been convicted of any crime, and many (the CIA puts a ‘conservative estimate’ at 22%) weren’t even supposed to have been there according to the CIA’s own guidelines. Yes – the guidelines of an organisation which sees waterboarding, enforced sleep deprivation and threats to kill detainees’ wives and children as legitimate interrogation tactics. When even this lot think imprisoning someone is a step too far, but it happens anyway, we need to be very, very worried.

Discussion about the futility and the dangers of Bush and Blair’s ‘War on Terror’ abounds – I’ve written on the subject myself. But these new revelations go beyond anything else we’ve seen. This report is set against the backdrop of the continued Western military presence in Middle Eastern and North African countries, the leviathan surveillance state and the still-extant Guantanamo Bay detention centre. We must open our eyes to the true lengths that the US and UK governments are willing to go to in their zealous crusade against the ‘terror’ they themselves created.

And yes, I say US and UK governments. The Senate report also shows quite clearly that – along with a number of other supposedly ‘liberal‘ democracies – the UK has been fully co-operating with and assisting in the mass torture and systematic human rights abuses perpetrated by the CIA. Other culprits include Germany, Italy, Poland, Australia, Denmark… the list goes on. The CIA have now come clean – when will MI6 follow? 

Returning to the Americans, the CIA misled US government officials, lied to the White House and fed misinformation to the press. To date, not one CIA employee has been prosecuted or even reprimanded so far as we can tell.

The brutal irony of the situation is this: if another country were perpetrating human rights abuses on this scale, the USA would probably use them as grounds to justify an invasion.

The thing is, they’d have a better case against themselves than they ever did against Iraq.

This article is cross-posted with the author’s blog, Cynical Optimist


Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    This is one of many articles today that, intentionally, or not, feeds into the much more important discourse that faces our generation: what are we really willing to do to defend the freedom that has cost humanity time and time again?

    In my relatively stress-free existence, living in a liberal western society, I cannot think of anyone who agrees with the sort of inhumane techniques practiced at Guantanamo Bay, as you have so vividly described. However, this article isn’t just about showing the grotesque actions of a few, it seems to suggest that national security in a modern liberal democracy has mutated into a form unacceptable to free-thinking people. This is where I disagree.

    This is about accepting that freedom and democracy come at a cost. In times gone past, this tragic cost would have been felt in some far away land, against actual nations seeking to impose their nefarious ideas on the vulnerable. For our generation the solution lays in prevention through intelligence. Articles like this seek to give the impression that, because certain people have abused their responsibility, that we must reconsider how we are governed and defended. This is not the case. There are ‘correct’ ways of gathering intelligence which you have completely disregarded here. We should be more worried about this parochial view of intelligence work, that it should be judged solely on its excesses.

    There is certainly a need for even greater inquiry into abuses of power by intelligence services, such as at Guantanamo Bay – after all the West’s real strength is in its democratic principles. But, like it or not, we are able to have this sort of free debate due to the hard-work of intelligence services around the world.

    And finally:

    ‘The brutal irony of the situation is this: if another country were perpetrating human rights abuses on this scale, the USA would probably use them as grounds to justify an invasion.’

    Have you heard of ISIS? The barbarity they have displayed over the past months have certainly demonstrated an even greater abuse of human rights than you have alluded to in this article. While I don’t doubt that there are secret American elements on the ground in Iraq, this hardly constitutes an American invasion.

  2. avatar

    “The thing is, they’d have a better case against themselves than they ever did against Iraq.”

    There are a few good tests to see if someone knows that they’re talking about when it pertains to Saddam’s Iraq, or if they don’t. For example, anyone who honestly believes this statement to be true falls into the latter camp, and will stay there until they learn to develop a sense of perspective.

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