Torture Inc.

Torture Inc.
The US Senate’s recent report into CIA practices has not exposed anything new. Nor should it be forgotten that these methods did not arise after 9/11, but over a century of colonial wars around the world.
3 min read
11 Dec, 2014
CIA torture did not start with 9/11. It won't stop now (artist's interpretation, Getty)

In 1995, a leading Egyptian Islamist militant, Talaat Fouad Qassem, was kidnapped near the Bosnian-Croatian borders, taken to a US Navy ship in the Adriatic Sea, handed over to the Egyptian Mukhabarrat, who took him to Egypt where he disappeared forever.

His lawyer Montasser el-Zayat told me later in 2004 he believed his client (and former comrade) was executed in secret shortly after his arrival in Cairo. Qassem had already been tried and convicted in absentia by an Egyptian military court in 1992.

While this was the first known CIA-orchestrated

     The US torture machine will continue to operate. Those dirty war manuals have become a cornerstone of US military culture.

“extraordinary rendition” to Egypt, it was not to be the last.

Over the following two decades, the CIA ran a global gulag of secret prisons, where “terror suspects” were snatched by US agents and/or local security services, flown around the world in “ghost planes”, kept in “black sites” where no legal access was given to the detainees, who were subjected to the worst forms of torture.

The “torture report” finally released this week by the US Senate contains horrific details of the physical and mental abuse the suspects in custody faced, producing information of no intelligence value whatsoever in the end, radicalizing those among the detainees who were not militant in the first place, and exposing the hypocrisy of the US “democratization” efforts.

But why the shock? Why the surprise? Already details of the renditions, secret prisons and medieval-style torture conducted by CIA agents and their allies have been trickling slowly into the public consciousness over the past decade. Veteran investigative journalists like Stephen Grey, international rights watchdogs and others have been exposing the picture bit by bit over the years, that any close follower of those investigations, reports and studies should not be shocked. Hollywood even made a movie.

The “enhanced interrogation techniques” – i.e. torture – are not a product of 9/11. The “extraordinary renditions” program had started in the previous decade under the Clinton administration. The techniques employed and perfected by the CIA are also the product of more than a century when the US, France and Britain tested those techniques in their colonial wars, specifically in Vietnam, Kenya and Algeria. The “dirty war” strategy and tactics evolved from here, and were employed globally by the US and its allies (as well as its enemies who were more than happy to learn).

And what’s intriguing is the dialectical process of learning and teaching among them. The knowledge and expertise of the US were transferred to the Latin American military juntas in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, via the notorious School of the Americas. Latin America was treated as a guinea pig for such “counterinsurgency” policies.

It couldn’t be more ironic, when John Negroponte, the US diplomat who oversaw the work of the death squads in Honduras and El Salvador, under Reagan, was appointed as US ambassador to Iraq in 2004, where the dirty war tactics were applied with added steroids.

The release of the “torture report” is only significant when it comes to the US government finally being willing to admit responsibility for (part of) their crimes, and could open the door for lawsuits by their victims. Some officials might also be held accountable. This is only because of the mounting pressures created by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists and the victims.

But rest assured, the US torture machine will continue to operate. Those dirty war manuals have become a cornerstone of the military culture of the US and its proxies. And in a world of instability – revolutions, wars, imperial interventions, economic crisis – this leviathan can neither be tamed nor reshaped into something that adheres to the principles of human rights. This leviathan has to be resisted and destroyed. Only then will a torture-free world be possible.