Torture, Terrorism, Death Squads when we stopped being the good guys

(one need not agree with everything in it to recognize that this is an important essay – promoted by Turkana)

A few days ago this essay was posted on docudharma it concerns state sponsored terrorism and torture enabled by the DoJ, CIA and of course our President. My response to the essay has evolved into a diary about the roots of our violent, regime changing, torturing, death squad, secret prisons and extraordinary rendition school of foreign relations.  Follow me below the fold for a glimpse of our shameful past, present and future and when we stopped being the good guys to the rest of the world.

. We were a terrorist state long before the DoJ wrong doing, Gonzales, Abu Ghraib or Blackwater. For nearly 50 years it has been our modus operandi dealing with the rest of the world. It is silent, deadly and ingrained not just in our own military and the CIA, but in the militaries and security forces we have trained for at least 22 other nations. . . Terrorism? How do we, our own government define terrorism? How about the UN, or The Geneva Convention. What everyone agrees on is terrorism is any act directed at noncombatants, be it direct violence, kidnapping, assassination or life threatening activities politically motivated to effect regime change, or the persecution of a particular group. Some countries like our own exempt themselves from any responsibility for their own terrorist activities. 

. . But other global bodies disagree with the exemption and hold all countries to at least a minimum standard of human behavior. Crimes against peace, A crime against peace, in international law, refers to the act of military invasion as a war crime, specifically referring to starting or waging war against the integrity, independence, or sovereignty of a territory or state, or else a military violation of relevant international treaties, agreements or legally binding assurances. Crimes against humanity, In international law a crime against humanity is an act of persecution or any large scale atrocities against a body of people, and is the highest level of criminal offense. Included but not limited to, murder, enslavement, torture, rape, disappearing people and any act causing great suffering. There is no statute of limitations on these crimes and we will revisit international law along the way. . . Remember the definitions? The Cuban Embargo is an act of terrorism, the embargo was codified into law in 1992 with ironically the Cuban Democracy Act. In 1990 Cuba was the model for heath care, one to be envied. Now with the embargo Cuba's health care system and the Cuban people suffer from malnutrition, water quality, a severe shortage medicine and medical equipment, and medical information. Their cancer wards are hell on earth. This embargo has gone on for 45 year, the Pope, the European Union and UN have asked for the embargo to be lifted for humanitarian reasons.  . . So was the UN sanctioned (at our urging) 12 year embargo on Iraq, an embargo we were happy to follow. The embargo cost nearly 2 million innocent lives and set the stage for the misery that is Iraq today. The illegal war, oil grab, terrorist act has only served to finish what was left of the rotting infrastructure. In 2000 the UN Human Rights body called for the lifting of the embargo because it was against the Geneva Conventions the US objected and it went on for another 2 years. . . Where did all this bad behavior come from? Easy, the School of the Americas was run by the US military, 1946 to 2001. SOA was first located in the Panama Canal Zone, where they trained mostly Spanish speaking military and security forces. Because of treaty obligations SOA left in 1984  . . They are responsible for planting the seeds of the current torture scandal. Their Spanish speaking graduates are also responsible for the greatest war  crimes of the last 50 years in South and Central America. Six Salvadoran Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter were murdered at the University of Central America (UCA). Of the 27 soldiers cited for that massacre by a 1993 United Nations Truth Commission, 19 were SOA graduates. SOA is all about torture and death squads, executions and extortion. Former graduates, Manuel Noriega, Hugo Banzer the dictator of Boliva, Col. Cid Diaz associated with the 1983 Las Hojas massacre, Leopoldo Galtieri, President of Argentina and responsible for the death squads, Roberto Eduardo Viola also of Argentina and responsible for the Dirty War, El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. This is by no means the end of a very scary list of bad bad men. At least 60,000 individuals from 22 Central and South American nations were trained at SOA.  . . Project X refers to a group of training manuals wrtten by the Army for SOA. Under Project X operatives from Indonesian countries were also trained and were made available to other “friendly” nations. Project X was commissioned by the US intelligence community and based at the US Army Intelligence Center and School. In the mid 70's the training information was disseminated to other branches of the US military. Of the 7 manuals in question, 2 were prepared by the CIA. 

The two manuals declassified in January 1997 deal exclusively with interrogation. These CIA materials are even more obviously unprincipled than the army manuals, in that they each have an entire chapter devoted to “coercive techniques.” These manuals recommend arresting suspects early in the morning by surprise, blindfolding them, and stripping them naked. Suspects should be held incommunicado and should be deprived of any kind of normal routine in eating and sleeping. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, soundproof, dark and without toilets. The manuals do advise that torture techniques can backfire and that the threat of pain is often more effective than pain itself. However, they then go on to describe coercive techniques to be used “to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist.” (“Human Resource Exploitation,” p. K-1) These techniques include prolonged constraint, prolonged exertion, extremes of heat, cold, or moisture, deprivation of food or sleep, disrupting routines, solitary confinement, threats of pain, deprivation of sensory stimuli, hypnosis, and use of drugs or placebos.  SNIP  The second manual, entitled “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation–July 1963,” is clearly the source of much of the 1983 manual; some passages are lifted verbatim. The KUBARK manual was written for use by U.S. agents against communist, notably Soviet, subversion, not for use in training foreign military services. KUBARK has a similar section on coercive techniques, and includes some even more abhorrent references than the 1983 manual, such as two references to the use of electric shock.  The KUBARK manual may or may not have been used directly by U.S. agents operating in Latin America; it apparently was intended for U.S. agents operating worldwide. The KUBARK manual is included here not because in its precise form it was used in Latin America in recent years. Rather, it is included because it shows the provenance of the 1983 CIA manual which was, like many of the seven army manuals, based on sixties era material.

  The subsequent investigation in 1991-1992 determined there were a total of 2 dozen passages short passages contained material that either was not or could be interpreted not to be consistent with U.S. policy. CIA and US Military, both authors and beneficiaries of these manuals. Altho SOA was disbanded and replaced by Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, it is business as usual. . .  For 45 years this has been part of the America seen by the rest of the world. I would like to think JFK didn't know about it, or Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. In 1963, under President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, the training center was renamed the School of the Americas. Along with the name change, the School changed to a Cold War focus primarily to fight Communism and the use of anti-insurgency tactics. SOA's Special Warfare school is named for JFK.  . . Jimmy Carter knew at least some of it. He tried to base our policies toward Central America on human rights, forbid Project X manuals to be used to train. The Carter Center continues to fight against torture every where. It simply didn't matter because, all the millions Carter poured into El Salvador paid to butcher El Salvadorian poor. Then there is the assertion the CIA was involved in Operation Condor in South America that cost thousands of lives.The Taliban and bin Laden were the creation of the CIA who in 1979 recruited the most vicious and radical fundamentalist fanatics from Saudi Arabia and other Arab and Muslim countries and utilized the enormous budget allocated by the US Administration to train, arm and finance them. Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor during that time, admitted that the intention was to unleash the mojahedin on the Russians who were supporting the government in Afghanistan. This furthered the Americans' Cold War agenda but resulted in the destruction of Afghanistan.  . . LBJ knew and used SOA. Perhaps the only innocent President was Truman. Opened as Latin American Training Center-Ground Division in 1946, (renamed US Army Caribbean School in 1950) it was envisioned as a mechanism to teach nation building skills, improve infrastructure and provide way for people to be fed. He used the Rio Treaty to extend the Monroe Doctrine. It was the Rio Treaty that brought us, along with NATO in to the Falklands War. As Harry said “The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world.” Within a few years that vision had changed. . . Clinton knew, The Arch Bishops of the US and Guatemala, begged him to close SOA. He didn't,  however he did sign the treaty for the World Court, to leave participants open to war crimes prosecution. Unfortunately it needed Senate approval which never happened. Remember the International Laws I mentioned earlier? The World Court got the 60 nation approval in 2002 and the International Criminal Court became a reality. And he did authorize an investigation in 1993, into the troubling details of what SOA was teaching. . . Every Republican President knew too, in fact it was Reagan who lifted the ban on Project X training material. Immediately after his election Reagan renounced Carter's  strong emphasis on human rights and the new manuals (the 7 in question) were written. Shortly after the beginning of Reagan's first term the Salvadorian death squads went on a rampage, butchering thousands. There was no criticism from Reagan because the was drawing the line against Communism. . .

The Reagan administration also warmed up to the Guatemalan army as it launched extermination campaigns against suspected leftist strongholds among that country's Indian population. Most controversial of all, the CIA began organizing the Nicaraguan contra rebel army to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government. The contras, too, gained a quick reputation for human rights atrocities during raids into northern Nicaragua. . . Simultaneously, to improve the professionalism of the Central American armies and to appease congressional concerns about human rights, the Reagan administration began to send more and more of the region's soldiers through the School of the Americas at the Panama Canal Zone and later at Fort Benning, Ga. It was during this period in the early 1980s that the manuals containing “objectionable material” — in the Pentagon phrase — were published. 

. . Then we have Iran Contra. Arms deals, drug trafficking. Perhaps the first really public splash of government double dealing and out of control covert operations, the first time a Bush needed to be impeached along with the President he rode in on. It was also a reality check on how destructive and stupid our foreign policy is. . . Reagan was SOA's wet dream and President George HW Bush didn't disappoint either. He was after all the former head of the CIA. Bush Sr. was the Vice President and the funding for the Contras originated from his office. Not that he remembered, or Reagan either for that matter. But once elected Bush quickly pardoned his buddies, so he could use them again. . .

Even a brief look at the CIA’s history demonstrates the agency consistently behaves in ways many of us might consider un-American and anti-democratic. For example, the agency routinely lies to the public, supports injustice, disregards fairness, and suppresses equality and civil liberties. And we’re not talking about minor transgressions. The CIA supports terrorism around the world while claiming to denounce it. The CIA was spawned from the National Security Act of 1947. Since its inception, the agency,has: • Smuggled narcotics from the U. S. to Cuba (via members of Operation Mongoose). • Directed the overthrow of democratically elected Chilean socialist President Salvadore Allende and the military overthrow of that democratically elected government in 1973. • Through the Phoenix Project, directed the assassination of various bureaucrats in Vietnam and supported the random arrest and torture of “suspected” leftists. • Supported dictator Augusto Pinochet and his mass bloodbaths in Chile. • Supported and trained Shah of Iran’s secret police, notorious for torture and murder. • Supported human rights atrocities in East Timor. • Violated U. S. law and its own charter by spying on and harassing Americans. • Slipped drugs to unsuspecting American citizens. • Bolstered and funded human rights violating dictator Anatasio Somoza in Nicaragua and supported and trained the torturing and murderous Contras; and much more

. .

The Bush administration appealed to Senate Democrats July 27 to move ahead with the confirmation of two top-level diplomatic nominees whose appointments have been delayed because of their role in defending right-wing dictatorships and death squads in Central America. . . Negroponte and Reich are two of the three Bush administration appointees with direct operational roles in the Central American counterinsurgency campaigns of the 1980s. The third is Elliott Abrams, named as director of the office for democracy, human rights and international operations at the National Security Council, a White House position which is not subject to Senate confirmation. Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, but was later pardoned by Bush’s father in 1992. . . Bush’s pick for U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85 when a U.S.-trained death squad known as Battalion 316 tortured and murdered scores of activists and possibly a U.S. priest. Negroponte helped arm the Nicaraguan contras, former Somoza National Guardsmen who operated out of Honduras while attempting to overthrow the Sandinistas.  . . Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras during the years when the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra forces were based in southern Honduras, just across the border from Nicaragua, supplied and armed illegally by the Reagan administration. Abrams was assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs during that period and worked closely with Oliver North in organizing the illegal arms supplies to the Contras. Reich headed the Office of Public Diplomacy, a State Department agency which illegally funded pro-Contra propaganda both in the US and internationally.

. . SOA had been investigated in 1991 and little came of it. The Bush administration ordered the retrieval and destruction of the manuals, and the U.S. Army Southern Command advised Latin American governments that the handbooks did not represent official U.S. policy. However, the whole episode was treated as an isolated incident and Bush was more interested in damage control. The individuals responsible for writing and teaching the lesson plans and manuals were not disciplined. SOA and other U.S. military instructors were not retrained. And military training programs were not rethought.  A new investigation by the Inspector General began in September 1996 after the Pentagon admitted that torture, execution, false imprisonment, extortion and other techniques were included in training manuals used at the SOA and by mobile training units in Latin America until 1991.  On June 20th, 2007 Congress voted to cut funding for SOA/WHINSEC, it failed in the House by 12 votes. 42 Democrats voted to keep the school open.  The National Security Archive released declassified information about SOA and the training manuals after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004. Then Sec of Defense Dick Cheney read the results of the original investigation and the manuals in 1992, he knew it was illegal and President Bush new it was illegal.  The CIA knew it was illegal, virtually every one in the Senate in 2005 knows too. In fact the CIA was already doing interrogations at Abu Ghraib and the human rights violations were text book CIA from the two manuals used at SOA. The CIA also runs Guantánamo Bay. Rumsfeld and Ashcroft stripped Abu Ghraib prisoners of their rights under the Geneva Convention. It's interesting how laws can be overridden by simply ignoring them. They had already decided Gitmo prisoners weren't protected under the Geneva Convention. The “interrogation” techniques, torture worked so well in Gitmo, Rumsfeld couldn't wait to use them in Iraq. Of course they didn't explicitly approve torture, they didn't have to, with the barriers down and the CIA running Abu Ghraib.This was not an abberation or the work of a few bad apples, it was systematic abuse, torture. . .  The Schlesinger Report stops short of asserting the White House, Justice Department or CIA (which interrogated detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq) shared this responsibility with the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership. It is now in the  hands of the Senate to further investigate and finally find responsibility. . . From an interview with Col. Janis Karpenski on Democracy Now October of 2005. 

Karpinski, the highest-ranking officer demoted in connection with the torture scandal, speaks out about what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison. She discusses: How the military hid “ghost detainees” from the International Red Cross in violation of international law; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller calling for the Gitmoization of Abu Ghraib and for prisoners to be “treated like dogs”;  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's secret memos on interrogation policies that hung on the prison’s walls;  The military’s use of private (and possibly Israeli) interrogators; Her dealings with the International Red Cross; Why she feels, as a female general, she has been scapegoated for a scandal that has left the military and political leadership unscathed; and Calls for Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Alberto Gonzalez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to be held accountable for what happened. 

. . Interestingly, in November of 2006 human rights advocate Wolfgang Kaleck brought charges at the German Federal Attorney General against Ricardo Sanchez and a number of other high officials for their involvement in human rights violations in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Kaleck acts as an advocate for more than 30 human rights organizations as well as 11 former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Additionally charged Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib. The Bush Administration has rejected adherence to the International Criminal Court on the grounds it could be used to unjustly prosecute U.S. officials. Unfortunately Bush has exposed hundreds of Americans to possible prosecution for War Crimes. The War Crimes Act of 1996 passed in Congress without a dessenting vote, makes it a Federal Crime to commit a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, specifically torture. Bush now wants Congress to pass new laws to protect them from possible War Crimes charges. Congress passing laws doesn't affect the ICC and with the founding of the International Criminal Court they can all be prosecuted, not radifying the ICC and all the laws passed in this country will not save them. Germany has rejected Kaleck’s suit and he is moving it to Spain This isn't going away. As Kaleck points out, if the ICC isn't used for the intended purpose why have it? The list of possible litigants with charges against this administration is not insignificant and include the UN and the people of Iraq.  . . I can understand why Bush doesn't get it, he has been doing the very same things every President since Truman has done to one extent or another. If past Presidents didn't push the envelope far enough, he simply uses signing statements and coercion of Congress to get what he wants. I haven't even touched on arms deals used to play both ends against the middle and foment unrest. This madness has been part of our real foreign policy for nearly 50 years. Can you imagine after that length of time the deep well of hatred harbored against us and everything this country stands for by much of the world? 


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  1. on  “>KOS

    And I am shamelessly asking for your support, thanking you.

    • Turkana on October 7, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    might question whether we were ever the good guys…

  2. we have trained for at least 22 other nations. . .

    You might want to take note of this website which says:

    The U.S. government is training soldiers in upwards of 70 countries at any given time. The most transparent, and consequently well known of these training programs is the Pentagon’s International Military Education and Training Program (IMET). Recent graduates as well as soldiers soon to be trained by this program come from countries at war or with horrific human rights records, including Indonesia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire.

    The wiki article came up with a higher number at the time I copied it:

    In fiscal year 2002, $70 million USD was spent on International Military Education and Training IMET for 113 countries. During this same year, $46 million worth of drawdowns were provided to Nigeria ($4 million), Afghanistan ($2 million), Georgia ($25 million), the Philippines ($10 million) and Tunisia ($5 million).

    No telling what they’re teaching them.  Civics, right?  /snark

  3. was talking about “terrorism” and reminded the audience that state-sponsored racism was indeed terrorism against Blacks and it lasted for hundreds of years right here in the good old USA.

    He also mentioned that he does not consider the war in Iraq to be a “we” topic.  In other words we did not agree to this war, we did not sponsor this war so let’s leave “we” out of it. 

    So this Republican war in Iraq, it’s not going all that well eh?  Anyway, Mos went on to say how America is still acting as a terrorist against it’s own via police killing blacks and the belated crackdown on older members of the Black Panthers.

    It was eye opening to say the least.  I love fresh perspectives.

  4. people don’t want to think were the bad guys. In the myths of our violent culture we always wear the white hat. It’s hard to get them to take a hard cold look at what we do in the name of freedom. The perpetrators call it America hating.

  5. …speaking, certain American governments have acted with the best interests of people in mind. But not often. It’s when our best intersts and the greater good intersect…that’s when we can be proud of our actions.

  6. I’m appreciating all the work that went into it. Thanks.

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