When Torturers Walk

Negative Culpability

By Jeffrey St. Clair
March 21, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Here’s what we learned from the release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s use of torture: the Agency tortured some people, in the President’s flippant phrase. More than a few people it turns out, though we probably will never know exactly how many. The techniques of torture were brutal, even sadistic. Though, again, the most barbarous measures have been redacted from public disclosure. The CIA learned almost nothing of value from these heinous crimes. More strikingly, the Agency didn’t expect to pry out any fresh intelligence. Instead, what the torturers wanted most desperately was to extract false confessions, writhing accounts of fantastical ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, that could be used retroactively to justify a phony war. Thus does one crime feast on another.

But here’s the rub. We still know much less than we know about the government’s torture program. And that’s not just because two-thirds of the CIA report remains sequestered at Langley. Why? To protect sources and methods? Hardly. You can find those easily enough in any book on the Spanish Inquisition. The techniques haven’t changed that much in five centuries. Just add a few jolts of electricity.

While the CIA wants to keep the details of its torture methods cloaked in mystery, the agency was very happy to let the fact that it was torturing prisoners of its covert operations slip out. Partly this was intended to send a message to the agency’s enemies, that terrible torments were going to be inflicted on the bodies and minds of anyone would stood in its way: from Jihadis to Edward Snowden, if they could just lay their hands on him.

But, and here’s where the psychology gets a little tricky, the Agency also wanted the existence of its torture program to leak out to the American public, to whet the growing appetite for vengeance and, perhaps, to distract attention from the agency’s record of massive blunders. And, by all accounts, the ploy worked. In the befouled moral consciousness of post-911, a stout majority of Americans, 59 percent in a recent poll, support the CIA’s torture program. Many of those back the use of torture even though they know it is totally ineffective as a means of intelligence gathering. In other words, they crave blood, and virtually any Muslim’s blood will do, regardless of culpability.

The declassified sections of the CIA report provide a grisly glimpse at the torture of 119 prisoners, many of them kidnapped. The agency now admits that at least 27 of those torture victims were absolutely innocent—though it is important to note that none of the others were proved to have committed crimes more serious than the ones committed against them. One of those guiltless men was tortured to death, KillingTrayvons1that is: murdered by his American captors. In another case, the CIA nabbed the wrong guy off of a busy street, then tortured him until his mind snapped. A bystander was killed during this botched operation.

Aside from a few editorial boards and human rights groups, no one seems too distraught by the ghastly revelations, veiled as they are. Perhaps this is a kind of twisted sign of imperial maturity, the country finally coming to terms with its own true character. Only the most gullible seem to cling to the naïve notion that torture is “un-American.” This is, after all, the nation that has happily funded the School of the Americas for decades, where graduate seminars are offered in the finer points of torture and assassination for the butchers of Latin
America.

Still it’s possible to briefly mourn the loss of American innocence. In his 1987 film Full-Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick devoted the first half of his film to a harrowing depiction of basic training for Marine recruits at Parris Island. Here the young soldiers are forced to endure a sadistic regime of ridicule, humiliation and abuse, aimed at de-humanizing them, stripping them of basic notions of morality and their capacity for human empathy. This kind of official debasement is what it took to compel young Americans in the late 1960s to torch peasant huts, machine-gun farmers in rice paddies or drop napalm on women and children.

These days that dehumanization process takes place in the lecture halls of Yale, Georgetown and the University of Chicago, where the architects of torture and rendition learn the bureaucratic tools and legalisms of their trade. These are the same species of managerial elites who consult the novels of Charles Dickens in order to learn new ways to punish the poor. Austerity, of course, is a kind of system-wide torture by other means.

We now know no one will be held to account for these egregious acts. There will be no naming of names. No disciplinary actions. No terminations. No prosecutions. Indeed, one of the CIA’s most notorious torturers, an officer who fetishized the waterboard, was promoted to lead the Agency’s “global jihad unit.” This is what John Keats might have described as Negative Culpability, where the perpetrators of some of the most vile crimes in American history simply dissolve into the mist of the system.

The logic of impunity for the torturers doesn’t just let government criminals off the hook; it sanctifies the crimes they committed and enshrines torture as a legitimate mechanism to enforce the American imperial enterprise. There can be no regrets when you aspire to dictate your terms to the rest of the world.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

 

14 thoughts on “When Torturers Walk

  1. sojourner

    Beyond the fact that this government is torturing human beings, here is the really troubling part for me:

    “And, by all accounts, the ploy worked. In the befouled moral consciousness of post-911, a stout majority of Americans, 59 percent in a recent poll, support the CIA’s torture program. Many of those back the use of torture even though they know it is totally ineffective as a means of intelligence gathering. In other words, they crave blood, and virtually any Muslim’s blood will do, regardless of culpability.”

    Most Mericans are ignorant, bloodthirsty sheep! And they have no idea that by condoning and encouraging torture by their government, they may be bringing torture down on themselves and families some day soon!

    I just used this quote by Paul Craig Roberts on another comment:

    “People as uninformed and as gullible as Americans have no future. Americans are a dead people that history is about to run over.”

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. newsfortherevolution Post author

      One of the things about the “war on terror” that bothers me the most, is the vilification of Islam to the point that brain dead zombies in the West now feel that all Muslims deserve to die.
      This leads to a question raised by point Paul Craig Roberts makes, how can such a people have any future? The fact is, people who can only create hatred, suffering and death do not deserve one.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. sojourner

        Yes! Yes! Yes! The majority of Mericans have vilified people who are not their enemies, but who have been used by their enemies, their own government & associates, as ‘scapegoats’ and excuses for waging war on the world!

        I have sensed what Roberts stated for a long time now. I am beginning to believe there is no hope for the Merican people as a whole. Yes, there is a minority of people in Merica who are awake and aware, and who condemn what we are here. But the vast majority have been so indoctrinated/brainwashed, and kept in such an ignorant state, that I now doubt they can ever be awakened to the truth.

        In all honesty, I don’t see the world continuing as long as the west is in power. As one of your posts states, power is starting to move away from the west and back to the east. And I believe this is the only hope for the entire world right now.

        But I also believe, sooner or later, the east will become what the west has been, and then the world will be right back where it always seems to be, with humanity destroying everything it touches.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. newsfortherevolution Post author

        It would seem that it’s inevitable that as power shifts, those who wield their new found power will exploit it for their own selfish gain. This is why I believe we will never break this vicious cycle until we evolve beyond money as the driving force in society. If human development could somehow replace this and become our motivating force, the possibilities for humanity would be endless. At that point we would truly begin to evolve as a species

        Liked by 2 people

  2. ShelbyCourtland

    “Americans are a dead people that history is about to run over.”

    Well, I certainly hope that history gets to running Americans over soon because the world needs it done already!

    Newsfortherevolution, this is why I continuously rain down hell fire and brimstone on this American shit because if 59 percent of Americans are in support of torture, then this hole is truly filled with sick, stupid, twisted shits and I will call them out on it every single time I get a chance!

    America is not just an abomination, it’s an a’bomb’ination! I wish other countries had the kahunas and the might to destroy this hole!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. newsfortherevolution Post author

      What drives me crazy is that those supporting torture are the same ones who would be shocked and outraged if Iraqis were to say the same thing about supporting the torture of Americans. These same people are indifferent to the news that cities and towns are being carpet bombed overseas, but if one person from the West is beheaded they lose their minds and demand the entire Middle east be “nuked”. There really is something sick about Western soceity

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. sojourner

        America is the ultimate example of the “I, Me and Mine” mindset and lifestyle. Just as a spoiled child cares for no one but himself, Mericans are unaffected by the suffering their own government bring down on the other peoples of this world.

        And then they have the asinine nerve to ask, “Why do they hate us?” They hate us because we are deserving of their hatred and much more!

        I am disgusted that I happened to be born in this country. It isn’t mine, I just landed here by chance. This is how I keep my sanity these days!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. newsfortherevolution Post author

        “Why do they hate us?” The only thing more infuriating than this question, is the other often repeated statement, “They hate us for our freedoms!”

        It shows the level of mentality we’re dealing with. It can only be described as infantile or primitive. There is no rational thought involved, no self-reflection, or even a sense of humanity, empathy or basic morality. It is only an pre-programed, conditioned response that is repeated and never questioned.

        What’s most incredible, however, is that the majority of our victims do not hate us as much as we hate them. They only want us to leave them alone. I think this says a lot about us and our depraved society, and our delusional belief that we are the superior culture when we can’t even raise our children to be decent human beings who respect the value of life

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: When Torturers Walk | renematosruiz6663

  4. sojourner

    Reblogged this on An Outsider's Sojourn II and commented:
    “And, by all accounts, the ploy worked. In the befouled moral consciousness of post-911, a stout majority of Americans, 59 percent in a recent poll, support the CIA’s torture program. Many of those back the use of torture even though they know it is totally ineffective as a means of intelligence gathering. In other words, they crave blood, and virtually any Muslim’s blood will do, regardless of culpability.”

    Like

    Reply
  5. sojourner

    “What’s most incredible, however, is that the majority of our victims do not hate us as much as we hate them. They only want us to leave them alone. I think this says a lot about us and our depraved society, and our delusional belief that we are the superior culture when we can’t even raise our children to be decent human beings who respect the value of life”

    You, my friend, need to do more writing of your own! I wish I had written this!

    I saw one of the PBS travel shows, a few months back, and the host was in Iran, interviewing college students. And there was one young lady who spoke English, and she was surrounded by several other male and female students. And this young lady, who was very pleasant and succinct, stated that she and her friends do not hate Mericans, but they don’t trust the Merican government. And she wanted Mericans to know she and her friends didn’t hate them.

    There was no animosity or hatred directed at the host of the show. These were fine young, individual human beings who were truly interested in speaking with this Merican host. I wanted to hug everyone of them, and beg them to forgive me for this government I am stuck with, we are stuck with.

    You are so right, with all this government has done to people in the middle east in particular, and yet these people still refuse to hate the Merican people. And yet so many Mericans are willing to applaud as these beautiful people are tortured and murdered. Yes, many or most Mericans have lost all sense of their humanity. They have become animals, beasts of burden, and willingly and gladly so!

    We are a sick people that history is about to forget.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. newsfortherevolution Post author

      It’s a very perverse situation.

      And thanks for the encouragement. I’m trying to restructure my day and spend a little less time reposting articles so I can spend more time researching and writing. With the way my schedule has been, I was getting burnt out and was in no condition to do any writing.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s