TORTURE? - You Bet

by James Glaser
December 31, 2002

America does torture people, also America's troops rape, pillage, and plunder. With our recent attacks on the very poor countries of this world the pillage and plunder aspect of warfare has been pretty meager.

In a letter to President Bush this week, Human Rights Watch, a New York advocate group wrote that it "is deeply concerned by allegations of torture and other mistreatment of suspected al-Qaeda detainees described in the Washington Post ("U.S. Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogations") on December 26. The allegations, if true would place the United States in violation of some of the most fundamental prohibitions of international human rights law. Any U.S. Government official who is directly involved or complicit in torture or mistreatment of detainees, including any official who knowingly acquiesces in the commission of such acts, would be subject to prosecution worldwide."

In this report by an American news paper, it is written that persons held by the CIA at Bagram air base in Afghanistan are subject to "stress and duress" techniques. These include "standing or kneeling for hours" and being "held in awkward, painful positions"

Now I will admit this doesn't sound like the torture of old, but when you read on in the article that this is all done "while Hooded" or you learn that these detainees are deprived of sleep with 24 hour bombardment of lights you start to get the picture. Awkward positions could be anything and you can't tell me you wouldn't go nuts with a hood over your head, people yelling and screaming at you hours on end, some bumping and threats to you and your family. Yes that would be torture.

In the Post article written by Dana Priest and Barton Gellman, they start out with "Deep inside the forbidden zone at the U.S.-occupied Bagram air base in Afghanistan, around the corner from the detention center and beyond the segregated clandestine military units, sits a cluster of metal shipping containers protected by a triple layer of concertina wire. The containers hold the most valuable prizes in the war on terrorism-- captured al Qaeda operatives and Taliban commanders."

While serving in Vietnam, I saw the same exact thing. The containers were called "conex boxes" and they held prisoners in them. The boxes were metal and there was a razor wire yard attached, eight foot by eight foot by six foot, that the prisoner could walk in. I saw a woman, who I have seen in my mind almost every day of my life since, in one of those boxes with a young child. She begged me for water and as I was about to give her some a Major came out and stopped me. It had to be a hundred degrees out and the child was just laying there listless. The next morning they were both dead. Yes, America does torture people to death.

I have no reason not to believe this Washington Post report, but do find it pretty sterilized. Torture is a dirty business and war is not a nice neat game that has rules. I don't like torture because it takes all moral high ground away from us. When we torture, which I have no doubt what so ever that we do, we become terrorists plain and simple. Once you torture a person either you have to drive them mad or kill them, other wise they will spend the rest of their lives as a testament to your vile ways.

Just think of the hundreds of men that we have chained up, covered their heads with hoods, sat them in a airplane, flew them half way around the world, and then put them in a eight foot square wire cage. No way to tell their families where they are, no legal recourse, and then the Secretary of Defense tells these scared men that were fighting for their country in a civil war, that even if someday we found them to be innocent of any crime against the United States we would not let them go. Yes we, the United States of America, torture human beings.

If we can torture those we think are terrorists in Afghanistan then we are one step from torturing American Citizens we think might be terrorists. In fact we are torturing American citizens right now. The President of the United States, George Bush has decided that two of our American born citizens are terrorists and he has had them put in a military prison. They never get to see a judge, have charges filed against them, never get to see a lawyer, and they have no Hope. They will sit in that prison till George Bush says they can go or they can Die. That is torture and evil.

George Bush, our President is taking America down a bad path, but I don't want you to think this is something new. America has used torture in every war when ever we thought it would help. Every country uses torture. American citizens are shocked by this because we have been insulated from any war on our shores. Americans really have no Idea of what our armed forces do in other countries during a war. No, we are not as bad as the Hollywood movies of WW 2 that portray those Nazis, nor do we hold life as cheap as third world dictators do, but America can be just as cruel and ruthless as any concentration camp commander when we feel that we have to.

Americans should know that is what we are asking our troops to do when we go to war. War is horror and torture is part of war. When we decide to send our troops off to start a war, we should at least know what we are asking them to do. Let us not kid ourselves about this.

BACK to the Politics Columns.