Justifying Torture after 911
A report on American torture was released this week (December 2014). I was quite disappointed to see and hear people finding ways to justify that atrocious behavior. One person claimed because Khalid Shiek Mohammed (KSM) admitted guilt to both the 9-11 attacks and the killing of Daniel Pearl there was nothing wrong with whatever our interrogators did to him.
"Apparently Khalid S. Mohammed -- the mastermind, if you can call what he has in the upstairs apartment a mind -- behind the plot that murdered some 3,000 innocent people was treated rather harshly by CIA interrogators. AND apparently we're supposed to feel guilty about this. The <?#!?#!> with that. Bottom line: If you don't want U.S. interrogators to waterboard you, slap you around, slam you into walls, etc., don't kill our pilots, hijack our planes and fly them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and (perhaps) the White House."
This response ignored all the others tortured who were not involved in 9-11, but instead focused on just one individual; the torture report was about more than just KSM. Fox News person Andrea Tantros even ranted 'we are awesome' in an asinine display of emotion.
I strongly recommend the book The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Among the other topics he shows how when confronted with an attack on a strong belief we respond with an emotional response and then we attempt to justify that response with reasons, reasons that can be strange or unconvincing to others. The response is emotion before reason. That response (an appeal to emotion rather than reason) can be observed after the release of the torture report.
I suspect these people strongly cling to the belief of American exceptionalism, that America is special. This belief can be accompanied by the justification that our behaviors are not held to the same standards as for other countries, that no matter what we do it must be good, because America (both the country and its people) is always good, or as Andrea Tantros put it: 'we are awesome.' The hypocrisy of the media personnel was humorously profiled by Stephen Colbert.
That belief in such a myth really must go away. Its belief hinders holding the perpetrators accountable (those who torture and those who approved that torture). Behaviors by Americans must be held to the same moral principles as for everyone else. Torture is wrong - always!
American exceptionalism became more prevalent after World War II because, from the perspective of many Americans, we stopped the Nazis (even though the Russians were actually the critical army because most of Germany's military effort was in Russia and that is where the European theater was decided) and the Japanese. The Nazis were evil due to the holocaust; the Japanese were evil due to Pearl Harbor. We were the strongest country in the world because our competitors were severely damaged during the world. With our help, those countries were able to rebuild.
Unfortunately, World War II also demonstrated inhumane behaviors by American political and military leaders. America remains the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons on another country, with our destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just before the end of the war. These acts have been justified as bringing the war to a quick end, which is a lie because the Japanese had already offered to surrender in January 1945 (this was published in a number of American newspapers in 1945) but supposedly America would not accept its terms. After the bombs were dropped, the final terms of surrender were the same as those Japan would accept 7 months earlier.
Our leaders were determined to vaporize thousands of Japanese civilians because the act demonstrated to the Russians our intent to be the dominant world power. Such sociopathic behavior was repeated many times during the war, including the fire bombing of Dresden (a civilian target) and the fire bombing of Tokyo (targeting civilian areas for the maximum death toll).
American sociopathic leaders continued their trail of destruction in Korea after World War II. More atrocities followed in Vietnam, where our armed forces tried to suppress the Vietnamese who were seeking to become an independent country, evicting the French colonial rule. Our military tactic became one of 'kill anything that moves' with body counts of dead Vietnamese becoming the metric of our supposed success of the military occupation. My Lai was the most notable atrocity but such events were repeated many times. The military was obviously reluctant to let any of these massacres make the news; My Lai was revealed only by the determination of a few individuals.
The CIA torture report revealed atrocities only during the last few years. Americans tortured Japanese and Vietnamese as well. Torture has been part of America's foreign policy ever since the end of World War II. We created the School of the Americas to train torture methods to the leaders and soldiers from our military dictatorships in Latin America, with the obvious intent to suppress any internal political dissent of those regimes friendly to our empire.
Torture of KSM has been justified by his evil behavior. I find that rather ironic because Americans trained those in the original Al Qaeda. In the late 1970's American leaders (specifically Zbigniew Brzezinski) sought to bring Russia into their own Vietnam by causing unrest in the Russian friendly country of Afghanistan. Americans built the madrassas to teach this form of radical Islam (to provide more recruits for this effort), Americans provided the textbooks, Americans trained the recruits on the terrorist tactics, Americans paid for the weapons. During an interview of Brzezinski, he justified this activity by saying: "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, America has continued to support this group of terrorists. The affront taken by the behavior of KSM should really be focused on the Americans who have fostered this development of terrorists following a radical form of Islam. America's support of our own militant Islam terrorists is just a continuation of what had been done in post-war Europe during our program called Gladio, publicly recognized by the Italian Prime Minister in 1990, that was responsible for terrorist acts to be blamed on left-wing political movements. This time of unrest in Europe was been called the Years of Lead.
This tactic has been called a 'strategy of tension' where the numerous acts of terror require government suppression of many civil rights (including dissent) as it attempts to stop those acts (which are being executed by those aided by American special forces - which are now present in more than 130 countries). This was our policy in Europe after World War II and it is our current policy in the Middle East using Al Qaeda to cause unrest, as demonstrated in Libya, Chechnya, and in Syria.
The other appalling act of KSM, beyond the killing of Daniel Pearl, was the admitted plotting of the 9-11 acts. The belief in KSM's confession is rather gullible given the events before and on 9-11. Some of our American leaders were aware of the plot before it happened. There is in the infamous PDB given President Bush on August 6 with the warning about hijacked planes. Just before the attack, there was significant trading activity on Wall Street involving the airlines involved, basically betting those stock values were about to fall thereby implying some knew what was about to happen, but the SEC destroyed (!!!) all the documents in that investigation. The plane that hit the South Tower almost flew into the office of Paul Bremer who just happened to be out of the office but that afternoon he was interviewed on NBC when he assigned the blame for the attacks on Osama bin Laden.
The events on 9-11 are certainly suspicious in many ways. NORAD was planning exercises on 9-11 involving a scenario with hijacking - so certainly the events on that day had been conceived as possible earlier. The flight path of the plane striking the Pentagon was an extremely difficult maneuver, a perfect downward spiral of about 330 degrees descending from 7000' to hit the Pentagon exactly at ground level without even touching the lawn. This was supposedly executed by a hijacker who was unable to fly a single engine Cessna; it would be a severe challenge for any experienced pilot.
The catastrophic collapse of the 3 buildings in New York City by only two airplanes has been investigated. NIST performed an official investigation of WTC7 but never checked for explosives in steel samples. No office buildings in the world have ever been brought down by a fire like happened 3 times on 9-11. Architects have the critical responsibility for designing safe buildings so many took a personal interest in the collapse of these buildings. Their conclusion was these collapses were controlled demolitions. The observed fires (oxygen starved as shown by the black smoke; offices commonly use fire retardant materials) could not bring these modern buildings to the ground within their footprint at the rate of a free fall.
With an online search there are certainly skeptics about both sides in this controversy, those who believe the 911 commission report and the NIST report and those who don't believe these reports. Both reports were conducted by government agencies, with definite suspicions neither attempted a full investigation into all possible scenarios. The 911 commission relied on testimony from those tortured and avoided testimony from many who could have provided details about relevant events leading up to the day. The NIST report explicitly avoided the explosive scenario. Reports of explosions were ignored in these reports.
One of the sad parts of 911 is the occupants of the World Trade Towers were told the buildings were safe so they should remain in their offices, and the firemen were busy inside trying put out the fires (which should not have caused the collapses). Any pretext to keep the buildings evacuated would have lessened the fatalities.
Perhaps a reduction in fatalities would have been counter productive for some. In September 2000, the Project for the New American Century published its report titled Rebuilding America's Defenses. It aimed to transform US military forces to exploit the revolution in military affairs, to fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars, to shape the security environment in critical regions. It also contained this statement:
"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor".
Many have noted the events of 9-11-2001, exactly one year later, provided the catalyzing event to expedite the militarization of America. I heard an interesting analogy for the PNAC - Pearl Harbor connection. Suppose someone instigated a change in a rich relative's life insurance policy to their individual benefit and then a short time later that relative dies under dubious circumstances thereby enriching that individual. Whether or not the individual was responsible for the death, that individual must be considered a person of interest in that investigation. Because many of the PNAC members were actually part of the Bush administration in 2001, there was never a real investigation into who might have been involved. The 911 report was a cover up, to be sure administration officials were never assigned any blame. Anyone believing KSM was behind the 911 plot probably believes the official 911 report.
After 9-11, our military invaded Afghanistan even though its people had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. Osama bin Laden was reported to be living there so that was given as the justification. The Taliban had offered to hand over bin Laden if the US provided the evidence against him - but the invasion was part of our foreign policy goals and 911 was just used as its justification. Later Iraq was also invaded. Initially there were claims by the administration that Saddam Hussein was linked to 911 but all those claims were disproved so then a claim of weapons of mass destruction was used as justification, even though none were ever found.
I find it quite appalling to read anyone justifying torture by Americans because we have to fight the evil terrorists with our own brand of evil, like torture. On September 16, 2001 right after the 9-11 events, Vice President Cheney said:
"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion. It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."
The Obama administration continues its use of drones to bomb civilians, at a ratio of perhaps 50 to 1, where only 1 out of 50 casualties is a possible terrorist with the rest being innocent civilians.
With the release of the CIA report, everyone should know torture does not work. Also, most of those tortured were innocent of any wrong doing. Those apologizing for our torture program never point out that fact. Most of those at Guantanamo were sent there by our bounty program - we paid to get a body count to torture. Most of those tortured at Abu Graib were just gathered by American troops abducting all the adult males in various neighborhood sweeps. If they were guilty of anything (certainly not 9-11) they were resentful of the unjust military occupation. I recommend the book The Dark Side, an expose about our torture program.
Whenever looking for the origins of terror in the world at this time, it is very important for Americans to remember the search should start right at home, with our political and military leaders. They have demonstrated sociopathic behaviors for many decades and, as any reform is rather unlikely in our current divisive political climate, there is no reason to expect they will stop soon. We have had our 'Pearl Harbor' event on 911 and now the administration will do anything and everything to 'keep us safe' no matter the cost to our civil liberties or the misery of innocent people around the world. The claim our torture program at several facilities can be justified is an abomination.
created - December 2014
last change - 12/14/2014
Here is the list of topics in this Foreign Policy Topic Group.
All Topic Groups are available by selecting More TG.
All topics in the site are in the Site Map, where each Topic Group has its topics indented below it.
Ctrl + for zoom in; Ctrl - for zoom out ; Ctrl 0 for no zoom;
triple-tap for zoom to fit; pinch for zoom change; pinched for no zoom