The Dark Side Of The "Free World"
By Rob Gowland
27/08/08 "The Guardian" -- - The book, The Dark Side: The
Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on
American Ideals, published in mid-July, is written by US
journalist Jane Mayer, whose specialty is writing about
counter-terrorism for The New Yorker.
The book has particularly peeved the CIA and its boss in the
White House for, apparently, Ms Mayer has had access to a secret
report by the International Committee of the Red Cross issued
last year labelling the CIA’s interrogation methods for
"high-level Qaeda prisoners" as "categorically" torture. In
consequence, the Bush administration officials who approved
these methods would be guilty of war crimes.
The book says the Red Cross report was shared with the CIA,
President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
It would not be the first time of course that US authorities
(civil, intelligence or military) have indulged in or turned a
blind eye to torture or other forms of horrifying brutality.
One thinks of their blood-soaked activities to thwart the former
Communist Resistance leaders from gaining political power in
Western Europe after WW2, or their even more bloody destruction
of democracy in Guatemala or Chile, El Salvador and pre-Castro
The many atrocities by US forces in Korea and Vietnam were far
too numerous to be the work of "rotten apples"; they were
clearly the result of US government and military policy, just
like the actions of the US military in charge of the Abu Graib
prison in Iraq.
A society that bases itself on force and brutality, on state
terrorism, while simultaneously indulging in the most
hypocritical lip-service to the ideals of humaneness and
justice, cannot but find excuses for torture.
Only last year or the year before, Amnesty International — an
organisation not noted for being hostile to the USA — stated
that the procedures in many US civilian jails amounted to
torture. Military prisons operated by the US in other countries
must surely be hell on earth.
Red Cross representatives were only permitted to interview
high-level "terrorist" detainees in late 2006, after they were
moved to the military detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Until then, while the prisoners were being "interrogated" in the
CIA’s secret prisons, the Red Cross was not given access to
It is now well known that these secret prisons are located in US
client states, some in Eastern Europe where anti-Communist
regimes are all too willing to co-operate with their US backers,
and some in states like Egypt that are equally dependent on US
support. Significantly, they all practice torture.
We have all seen the images from Guantánamo Bay of prisoners,
shackled and manacled, stumbling along with a guard on either
side. But all the time, the particularly frightening threat
hangs over them of being taken from there and returned to one of
the secret prisons away from any prying eyes.
In testimony to the Red Cross, Abu Zubaydah, the first major Al
Qaeda figure the United States captured, told how he was
confined in a box "so small he said he had to double up his
limbs in the foetal position" and was one of several prisoners
to be "slammed against the walls".
The CIA has admitted that Abu Zubaydah and two other prisoners
were water-boarded, a form of torture in which water is poured
in the nose and mouth of the victim to simulate the sensation of
suffocation and drowning.
The Pentagon and the CIA have both defended water-boarding on
the same grounds: "because it works", the torturer’s classic
justification. Jane Mayer’s book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red
Cross that he had been water-boarded at least ten times in a
single week and as many as three times in a day.
The Red Cross report says that another high level prisoner,
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the attacks
of September 11, 2001, told them that he had been kept naked for
more than a month and claimed that he had been "kept alternately
in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room".
A New York Times article on the report says the prisoners
considered the "most excruciating" of the methods was being
shackled to the ceiling and being forced to stand for as long as
eight hours. This is a well-known torture technique that has
severe physical effects on the victim’s body.
According to The New York Times article, eleven of the 14
prisoners reported to the Red Cross that they had suffered
prolonged sleep deprivation, including "bright lights and
eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day".
The New York Times reported that a CIA spokesman had confirmed
that Red Cross workers had been "granted access to the detained
terrorists at Guantánamo and heard their claims".
The same CIA spokesman said the agency’s interrogations were
based on "detailed legal guidance from the Department of
Justice" and had "produced solid information that has
contributed directly to the disruption of terrorist activities".
There’s that justification of torture again.
Bernard Barrett of the International Committee of the Red Cross
declined to comment on the book when asked by The New York
Times. He did not deny any of the book’s claims, but regretted
"that any information has been attributed to us" because, it
seems, the International Committee of the Red Cross "believes
its work is more effective when confidential"!
He went on to say: "We have an ongoing confidential dialogue
with members of the US intelligence community, and we would
share any observations or recommendations with them."
So that’s OK then.
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