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"Up the Chain of Command"

"Americans don't torture," says the commander-in-chief. But the pictures, and old reports from respected generals, as well as others from Amnesty International and the Red Cross, prove that Americans do torture. Many Americans knew it already. The black cartoonist who draws "Boondocks" has young Huey wondering how the Baghdad prison behavior differs from what goes on in every county jail in this country. We here in Albuquerque saw two guards indicted the same week the pictures came from Iraq. Americans do torture.

So, the first court martial of those guards caught torturing by the camera in Iraq resulted in a sentence of one year in the brig for that individual. Then the politicians announced that they wanted to know who gave the orders. "We'll trace this thing up the chain of command, as far as it goes!" they promised. But the extremely short attention span of the American media and the American people appears to be letting the chain of command off the hook. No officers have suffered anything except transfers. The highest ranking one in any sort of trouble seems to be a General Sanchez.

For my part, I can start at the top of the chain of command. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose prison contained the exposed torture, stated very openly right on TV that the Geneva Convention did not apply to his prison at Guantanamo. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ["due process"] and the Magna Carta ["habeas corpus"] did not apply, because the prison is located on rented land in Cuba. Abu Graib Prison is not on U.S. soil either, but on occupied territory in Iraq. Rumsfeld announced that he could hold enemy combatants, not as prisoners of war regulated by the Geneva Convention, but as mere animals, without even names, let alone charges filed against them. Torture was the result; torture was the intent from the beginning. "Soften them up, to make them talk." No one should be surprised to learn of torture. It was built into the prison system itself.

Almost all and sundry were outraged when the pictures came out, but a Senator from Indiana said he was more outraged by the outrage than he was by the torture. He was expressing the same attitude as that of the commander-in-chief -- and now we're at the tippy-top of the chain of command. The Senator, and the President, believe that the people being tortured are "evil." The President is going to rid the world of "evil-doers." He has said so in State of the Union speeches. His so-called "war on terror" is utterly without end, because he will never succeed in ridding the world of evil. The evil is in his heart, and everybody's. His rhetoric will keep the nation on a war budget, as long as we allow it. But as to torture, it is part of the picture, part of the plan, because those being tortured have no rights, as citizens or as human beings. He lied when he said that Americans don't torture. Americans do torture.

One dare wonder about the practicality of torture. What kind of information, what kind of "intelligence" can be gained as a result of torture? Victims of torture tell the torturers what they want to hear, but that is not exactly information, and it is certainly not truth. Torture seems to be hardly worth the trouble.

If the person being tortured was already a "terrorist," one ready to oppose seriously the Americans and all their policy, the torture will only confirm that person in his anti-American stance. But 90% of the detainees in that prison were there by mistake, shouldn't have been there at all -- American soldiers were arresting all male Iraqis, and they've been letting them out by the busload since the scandal broke. If you arrest someone by mistake, and proceed to torture, you're going to have to proceed to murder to avoid creating a new terrorist where you didn't have one before.

Some of the details of the torture from Baghdad constitute a mockery of Islam itself -- forcing the detainees to curse Allah and Mohammed, forcing them to eat pork out of the toilet, forcing them to drink alcohol. That will create ill will, which will quickly turn into revenge in that culture, all over that region, from Morocco to Indonesia. Hearts and minds? Forget that. Americans do torture.

The following need to be fired immediately: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Ashcroft. And the President should be impeached.

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Copyright © 2004 Harry Willson

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