Abu Ghraib:
imperialism requires torture

by Tim Hall

(CV #34, August 25, 2004)

. The torture is nothing new. The CIA has done it for decades. Your local cops, too. What's new is hundreds - thousands -- of photos of American guards reveling in brutalizing and degrading those considered by the Bush machine as the enemy -- ordinary Iraqis, poor, working-class people like you and me.

. The Bush machine is very upset. Not at the torture, but at the photos, which gave the whole world a glimpse of the way U.S. imperialism treats its captives. It's like the Rodney King video, which gave the world a glimpse of the everyday brutality of the U.S. ruling class against the Black masses here at home.

. The Bush machine is also upset because the exposure of its torture at Abu Ghraib prison starkly reveals the moral and political bankruptcy of U.S. imperialism's occupation of Iraq. All the claims, by Republicans and Democrats alike, that the U.S. occupation presents a positive alternative to Saddam Hussein for the Iraqi people are out the window. The U.S. crusaders tortured Iraqis in the same prison that Hussein did ­ and sometimes even tortured the same people! In fact, one of these men said that the U.S. torture was worse! If you survived Saddam's prison you were a hero. But an Iraqi male survivor of U.S. torture is disgraced by the photos and may not be able to live in Iraq any more, while a woman survivor is considered so disgraced that she may be killed by her relatives.

. The torture pictures revealed, in personal terms, the horrifying brutality of the drive of the U.S. ruling capitalists for world domination. As Lt. Colonel Nathan Sassman told The New York Times in December 2003, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence .  .  . I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them. " Abu Ghraib graphically illustrates the nature of this "help."

. An oil war is imperialism. And imperialism requires torture to impose its will on its rebellious subjects.

Torture ­ pure and simple

. The lying capitalist news media has re-named the torture "abuse" to downplay its severity. Rush Limbaugh called it "a fraternity hazing. " But this is torture, pure and simple.

. The admissions of torturers themselves -- the U. S. military -- prove it. The military is investigating 127 deaths of its detainees. A report by Major General Antonio Taguba has revealed hundreds of beatings, rapes of both men and women, suffocations, extreme sleep deprivations, shacklings in excruciatingly painful positions, etc. , that accompanied the sexual humiliation shown in the photos. The Iraqi man shown held on a leash by U.S. soldier Lynndie England has obviously been physically traumatized. And the Bush regime is withholding from the public over a thousand other photos and videos described by congressmen who saw them as even more shocking. In response to a storm of criticism, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has simultaneously "banned" further torture (in words) -- and actually banned further use of cameras by American soldiers (so that his interrogators can operate unrecorded).

. Additionally, it has emerged that the Abu Ghraib torture techniques, which combine brutality and humiliation, are a state-of-the-art method developed by the intelligence services of imperialist Israel, Britain and the U.S. This method of torture is called "R2I" ("Resistance to Interrogation") and is an updating of combinations of physical and psychological torture developed by the CIA since WWII. Manuals have been written on it.

. We're not talking about a "hazing," or a couple of stray episodes of "abuse" ­ we're talking about sustained, systematic torture.

Torture approved from the top

. The Bush administration is blaming the torture on a small handful of prison guards. But in fact the torture was approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Open discussion of the use of torture began in the wake of September 11. According to the administration spokesmen, after 9-11 "all gloves were off. " September 11 was a crime against humanity committed by Islamic fundamentalist imperialists; the Bush administration used this crime against humanity to justify its own imperialist crimes against humanity.

. The media christened the new torture plans "torture lite. " The planned torture had bipartisan support; no prominent Democrat or Republican then opposed it. At first prisoners captured in the "terror war" were handed over to such countries as Morocco, Egypt or Jordan, where the most brutal methods were employed in collaboration with the CIA. Meanwhile a high-powered group of lawyers commissioned by Bush gave him the "legal" go-ahead to violate the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners. Once Iraq was invaded and large numbers of captives were taken, prison commanders known for their heavy hand were brought to Iraq from Guantanamo and the Utah state prison system. The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, even sat in on some torture sessions at Abu Ghraib. The CIA, military intelligence and private contractors (hired mercenaries) governed the torture; the Army general in charge of Abu Ghraib prison was pushed out of control of the interrogation section of her own prison by them.

. The conduct of the guards, who are being sacrificed for crimes that go to the top, was also inexcusable. The guards claim that they committed torture because of "orders" and "lack of training. " But how much training does it take to know that an order to suffocate an Iraqi to the point where he thinks he is dying is inhumane? The pictures show that these guards reveled in the mistreatment. U.S. imperialism has corrupted a section of the soldiers into seeing torture as justified and Iraqis as less than human.

. The criminals at the top have turned a few of their slaves into criminals. Now they are using them as fall guys.

The torture condemned by working masses

. The Iraqi and Arab working masses reacted with utter disgust to the torture revelations. They correctly recognized that the torture methods were consciously selected to offend their deepest moral sensibilities. Even before the revelations commentators were saying that the U.S. had lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and would sooner or later lose the military war as well. The torture scandal was another nail in the coffin of U.S. imperialism's campaign to conquer Iraq. At the same time, many capitalists in the Iraqi elite continued to collaborate with the U.S. occupiers

. Many working people in the U.S. were also revolted at the pictures. Fear that this revulsion would grow caused the U.S. authorities to suppress the release of all but the handful of photos that first came out.

Ruling class policy: hide torture

. The extreme right in the U.S., utter flunkeys of the ruling class, began a shameless campaign of "rage against the rage," that is, of anger against those who were angered by the photos. Their master, Bush himself, pretended horror at the photos and declared that they did not represent "the America I know. "

. So the U.S. military is investigating itself. It may sacrifice a few higher figures than the guards already charged. The CIA has dropped its director and has ordered a stop to torture at its facilities (though who will oversee the cessation without cameras?). And Bush is attempting to distance himself from the lawyers' memo justifying torture. But it has emerged that this memo was studied before its release by Attorney-General Ashcroft's office, Vice-President Cheney's office and by the deputy counsel for Bush himself. Now Bush claims to have ordered the torture stopped. But why ban cameras, then? No, Mr. Cowboy, the blood won't wash off your hands!

American soldiers ordered not to prevent torture

. The falsity of the Bush administration's claims to oppose torture was revealed again in a recent incident. On June 29 a group of American National Guardsmen from Oregon discovered some Iraqi officials torturing ordinary Iraqis. The torturers were using electricity, acid and were beating the prisoners. One Oregon guardsman threatened to shoot the torturers if they did not stop. Meanwhile, other Guardsmen contacted their commander, but the commander ordered them to withdraw, allowing the torture to continue. The Guardsmen, who apparently have not adopted the imperialist view of Iraqis as less than human, were very upset and gave statements and photos to The Oregonian, the Portland daily newspaper (see

Bipartisan torture, bipartisan imperialism

. Bush has presided over torture but if Kerry is elected, the occupation and the torture will continue. Torture was carried out secretly by the CIA under the liberal Democrats Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton as well as under all the Republican presidents. Under liberals and conservatives alike the CIA trained and collaborated with torturers in Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Philippines, Indonesia, apartheid South Africa, Haiti, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua and in many other countries, not least of which was Vietnam, scene of unbridled brutality.

. Imperialism requires torture. Basic humanity requires that we fight imperialism. <>

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Last modified: Sept. 12, 2004.
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