Empire Burlesque
Modern-Day Mengeles: America's Terror War Torture Shrinks
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 13:54

One of the "revelations" of the Senate report on CIA torture has been the role played by two psychologists in devising the regimen of torture used by the Agency.

[A quick but necessary digression: please note that this torture regimen has been lauded as "effective" and "life-saving" by the Obama Administration -- even after the release of the report; indeed, the Administration says that the fruits of these crimes still "inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day." Just bear that in mind as you read the reams of justified denunciations of the Bush Administration for the commission of these particular crimes by this particular agency. The Bush thugs should be excoriated -- and prosecuted -- for their crimes. But a multitude of crimes in many forms (including torture) are still being committed by the Terror War machine under Obama -- the man who has stoutly shielded his predecessors from prosecution and now even praises some of their worst crimes.]

But of course there is nothing new in report's uncovering of the psychologists' role. (Except for one element: the fact that these two sinister quacks were paid a whopping $81 million for helping the United States government torture defenseless captives and produce garbage intelligence.) Anyone who wanted to know about their Mengele-style perversion of medical ethics could have read about it in reputable mainstream publications years ago. (Actually, this is also true of almost all the incidents and practices detailed in the report. Anyone who didn't know of these things before now -- especially in the political-media world -- simply didn't want to know of these things.) There were also other psychologists and medical personnel involved in the program after it got started, as Mark Benjamin detailed at Salon.com back in 2007.

In that same year, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer produced an extensive report on the wide-ranging Terror War torture regimen. The article should have produced a firestorm of outrage and aggressive, in-depth, high-profile investigations from, say, the U.S. Senate, which was then in the control of the Democrats.  But as we know, her revelations sank like a stone. And it is very, very likely that the same thing will happen with the newly released (and, it must always be noted, heavily truncated, censored and incomplete) Senate report. Indeed, McClatchy is already reporting that the incoming Republican-controlled Senate will gladly let the report "gather dust," taking no follow-up action. This stance will doubtless please their Terror War partners in the White House, who fought against the release of the report -- and who certainly aren't going to do anything about it.

I wrote about the Mayer and Benjamin articles when they first came out in 2007. Below are a few excerpts, dealing with their reportage on the torture shrinks:

For those who have been following and chronicling the rise of the gulag since its inception (back in the days when its instigators and practitioners were still happy to brag to cheerleading newspapers about "taking the gloves off" and going to "the dark side"), there is not a lot that is new in Mayer's piece. But she has brought it all together with devastating thoroughness and clarity.

Mayer mentions tellingly -- but briefly -- one key aspect of Bush's torture chambers that has been largely overlooked: the key role played by a couple of psychologists in drawing up the sinister regimen (which was also based in part on KGB practices): CIA contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Mark Benjamin of Salon has much more on this pair, who devoted their clinical skills to devising ways to destroy a captive's mind -- in the somewhat bizarre conviction that a destroyed mind can somehow produce useful intelligence. (Benjamin in turn drew on a 2005 piece by Mayer about Mitchell and the Bush Regime's Mengelean use of medical personnel in interrogations.)

Mitchell and Jessen helped run the military's SERE program, originally designed to teach American forces how to resist and survive torture inflicted on them by evil regimes or terrorists. But it turns out that the Rumsfeld Pentagon and its mad scientists were using U.S. soldiers as guinea pigs to help devise their own torture program. For years, the Pentagon flatly denied using SERE tactics on the captives in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This was, of course, a lie. As Benjamin reports:

Until last month, the Army had denied any use of SERE training for prisoner interrogations. "We do not teach interrogation techniques," Carol Darby, chief spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, said last June when Salon asked about a document that appeared to indicate that instructors from the SERE school taught their methods to interrogators at Guantánamo.

But the declassified DoD inspector general's report described initiatives by high-level military officials to incorporate SERE concepts into interrogations. And it said that psychologists affiliated with SERE training -- people like Mitchell and Jessen -- played a critical role. According to the inspector general, the Army Special Operations Command's Psychological Directorate at Fort Bragg first drafted a plan to have the military reverse-engineer SERE training in the summer of 2002. At the same time, the commander of Guantánamo determined that SERE tactics might be used on detainees at the military prison. Then in September 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and other SERE officials hosted a "SERE psychologist conference" at Fort Bragg to brief staff from the military's prison at Guantánamo on the use of SERE tactics.

And Mayer notes:

The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’”

… Mitchell and Jessen were not experts sought for their dispassionate advice in determining the best policy options for government officials. All the "experts" employed by the Bush Regime are just dupes … or, as with the psychologists, willing stooges, brought in to act as window dressing for policies already decided upon. Bush and Cheney and their minions wanted to torture people -- not only for the psychosexual kick these genuine perverts get from it but also because it was a central element in their drive to establish an authoritarian executive unfettered by any law. They could not, as a matter of "principle," submit to the authority of the Geneva Conventions, American law or Constitutional precepts. They had plenty of scientists and practiced interrogators on hand to tell them that the KGB-SERE system was useless -- indeed, counterproductive -- in producing actionable intelligence. But they chose to listen only to those who told them what they wanted to hear, whose pseudo-science buttressed decisions they had already taken.

I finished that 2007 piece with a paragraph that still holds true today, as a description of the kind of people who hold power in our blood-soaked bipartisan imperial system:

They don't want to govern; they want to rule. They simply cannot be treated -- on any issue whatsoever -- as an ordinary government engaged in ordinary tussles over politics and policy. They are not a government in any traditional sense of the word. They are the criminal vanguard of a radical movement that is now holding the nation hostage. And any political "opposition" that does not recognize this fact is worse than useless; it is, as we've said before, complicit in the gang's crimes.

 
Crossing the Line: Everything Forbidden Will Come to Light
Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 23:39

From that place where the inner eye is sharp, and truth's grip is tight -- around your throat.

 
Obama's Reaction to the Senate Report: Torture is Good
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 17:17

A truncated version of the Senate investigation into the CIA's Terror War torture regime has finally been released. Even in its limited form, it details an operation of vile depravity, one which would plunge a civilized nation into a profound crisis of conscience and spark a deep and anguished debate on how best to transform a system of government -- and a national ethos -- that could lead to such putrid crimes. It would also occasion a wide-ranging effort to subject the originators, perpetrators and accomplices of the torture program to the full measure of legal punishment they deserve.

Needless to say, nothing like that is going to happen in America. Indeed, even before the report was released, the New York Times -- the standard-bearer and shaper of "decent" liberal thought for the nation -- was splashing an opinion piece on the front page of its website, demanding that we "Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured." This was the very first "think piece" pushed by the Times on the morning of the report's release.

I'm sure that by the end of the day, the dust will have already settled into the usual ruts. The Hard Right -- and its pork-laden publicists -- will denounce the investigation and continue to champion torture, as they have done in the weeks running up to the release. The somewhat Softer Right that constitutes the "liberal" wing of the ruling Imperial Party (and its outriders in the "progressive" media) will wring their hands for a bit -- as they did during the multitude of previous revelations about systematic torture, White House death squads, Stasi-surpassing surveillance programs, war profiteering, military aggression and so on. Then they will return to what is always their main business at hand: making sure that someone from their faction of the Imperial Party is in the driver's seat of the murderous War-and-Fear Machine that has now entirely engulfed American society.

Speaking of the Machine, what has been the reaction of the current driver, the belaurelled prince of progressivism, Barack Obama? He sent out the present head of the CIA, John Brennan, an "Obama confidant," as the Guardian notes, to … defend the use of torture.

You see, one of the main points of the report was that the abominable practices ordered at the highest levels of the American government and used far more widely than previously admitted were not even effective. This, of course, is the most damning criticism one can make of the soul-drained technocrats who staff the Empire. Morality and humanity be damned; the real problem was that torture didn't work. It produced reams of garbage and falsehood from hapless victims who, like torture victims the world over, from time immemorial, simply regurgitated what they thought their tormentors wanted to hear.

So in the end, the torture regime was not only ineffective, it was counterproductive: this is the report's conclusion. But it is this that the Technocrat-in-Chief cannot bear. And so he sent his confidant Brennan out to refute this heinous charge. Brennan actually got up in public and said, openly, that torture did work and that it's a good thing:

“Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives. The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qaida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” Brennan said.

"EIT" is, of course, the technocratic euphemism for the systematic brutalization of helpless, captive human beings by wretched cowards armed with the power of the state. Brennan -- Obama's confidant -- says, in the name of the president, that torture "saved lives." What's more, he admits that Obama is still using the fruits of the torture program to "inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day."

Let's say this again: the conclusion of the Barack Obama administration is that the use of torture is a good thing, and that it is still "informing" its Terror War operations "to this day."

One of the chief objections mouthed by the torture champions opposed to the release of the report was that public exposure of these crimes would rouse anger and anti-American feeling around the world. This was always a specious argument, of course; the people targeted by Washington's Terror War have always known full well what is being done to them and theirs. This latest report will merely be another confirmation, another tranche of evidence to add to the mountain of war crime and atrocity they have experienced.

No, it is not the report itself, but the reaction of the American establishment -- particularly the Obama Administration itself -- that will be the true scandal, a new outrageous slap in the face. A door opens up on a sickening chamber of horrors …. and all that Obama can say is that torture is good; yea, it is even salvific, it saves lives, it is good and effective and necessary and we need it.

Torture is good. That is Barack Obama's takeaway from the Senate report. It is astounding -- or would be astounding, if we were not living in an age given over to state terror and elite rapine.

 
Air America: Under the Eye of the Imperial Panopticon
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 30 January 2012 17:10

 

One unanticipated benefit of the relentless drive to turn every nook and cranny of the American war machine into a cash cow for private profit is the fact that so much of the nitty-gritty operational work is now put out for bids. And this can give us an occasional glimpse -- through the weeds of contract arcana -- of what our poobahs and satraps are really up to on the far-flung fields of empire.

For example, in olden times -- when war pork was confined more to vittles and blankets and bullets and such -- we might never have known of the latest development in the not-at-all-ended American occupation of Iraq. As the New York Times reports, Iraqis were outraged this week to find they are being spied upon by a fleet of American drones hovering constantly in their supposedly sovereign skies, long after the supposed withdrawal of American forces. Once, such an operation might have flown below radar (so to speak), rigged up on a secret base somewhere and operated by actual soldiers or government agents: no public acknowledgement -- and certainly no advertising -- necessary. But in our era of the ever-accelerating revolving door -- where policymakers and profiteers blend into a single, dizzying, shit-brown blur of corruption -- the call to the trough often trumps other concerns.

And so the existence of the drone operation in Iraq was revealed in an obscure government report containing a "two-page online prospectus for companies that might bid on a contract to manage" the robotic voyeurism. (The supposedly sovereign Iraqis were not even told of program -- much less asked for their permission. What's it to them, anyway?)

Of course, the drone op is run by the State Department not the Pentagon -- but this is a distinction without a difference. Just as the military now carries out endless "nation-building" programs in the nations it destroys, the "diplomatic corps" has become a bristling militarized beast, commanding thousands of mercenaries and various covert operators -- such as Raymond Davis in Pakistan -- who use State's diplomatic cover to spy, subvert and kill the occasional local yokel in countries all over the world. Foggy Bottom and Hell's Bottom (the original name for the Virginia swampland where the Pentagon was built) are simply two heads of the same hydra, with the same mission: enforcing American domination of the world.

(To see this mission stripped down to its stark, hideous, undeniable essence, read the remarkable new post by Arthur Silber here.)

In its usual demure fashion, the Times sketches the real nature of the State Department's operations in Iraq:

The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.

When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters.

Let's see: if you had thousands of armed foreigners prowling your streets in heavily armoured -- and heavily armed -- military vehicles, and your skies were filled with foreign helicopters sporting machine-gunners and all-seeing foreign robot drones watching your every move, would you say you had a "sovereign" country? Would you say were no longer under the heel of an armed occupying power?

The ever-circumspect Times calls this heavy-handed aggression "yet another tricky issue for the two countries." It seems that "many Iraqis" remain "deeply skeptical of the United States" -- though Lord knows why. A million innocent dead, millions more displaced, millions more ruined, sectarian violence and government torture set loose on the land -- why would you be "skeptical" of the folks who brought you that?

But of course, those little brown silly-billies are worrying themselves over nothing. Why, these diplomatic drones aren't even armed! How do we know this? Because the State Department says so:

The State Department drones, by contrast, carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground, American officials said. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators.

The State Department has about two dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said.

All very comforting -- but try reading that passage using our patented Newspeak Detangler Technique; i.e., at the end of every quoted assertion by a government official, in any story, on any subject, always add this little phrase: "but they could be lying."

 
The Comeback Trail: A Post-Hacking Note for Readers
Written by Chris Floyd   
Friday, 10 July 2009 11:34

It will not have escaped your notice that we have had some technical difficulties of late. This was due to a rather nasty hack that has occasioned major revamping, overhauling, reconfiguring and all manner of other labor-intensive, time-consuming operations, now being undertaken by our indefatigable webmaster, Richard Kastelein. Rich has gotten the core of the website up and running again, but it will still take some time before full functionality is restored.

Meanwhile, Rich asks if all registered readers would mind re-registering. Because of the nature and extent of the damage, it is uncertain whether we can recover all of the previous registration data, so it's best just to re-register to be on the safe side. We apologize for this inconvenience, but what can you do? When people keep throwing bombs through your windows and destroying the premises, you've got to clean up the debris and start again.

And so we go on. Thanks again for your patience.

 
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