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30 May

Torturing Democracy

Why the Pentagon Is Probably Lying About its Suppressed Sodomy and Rape Photos

By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet, May 30, 2009

Article

The Telegraph of London broke the news — because the U.S. press is in a drugged stupor – — that the photos President Barack Obama is refusing to release of detainee abuse depict, among other sexual tortures, an American soldier raping a female detainee and a male translator raping a male prisoner.

The paper claims the photos also show anal rape of prisoners with foreign objects such as wires and lightsticks. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba calls the images “horrific” and “indecent” (but absurdly agrees that Obama should not release them — proving once again that the definition of hypocrisy is the assertion that the truth is in poor taste).

Predictably, a few hours later, the Pentagon issues a formal denial.

It is very likely that the Pentagon is lying. This is probably exactly what the photos show, because it happened. Precisely these exact sex crimes — these exact images and these very objects – — are familiar and well-documented to those of us who follow closely rights organizations reports of what has already been confirmed.

As I wrote last year in my piece on sex crimes against detainees, “Sex Crimes in the White House,” highly perverse, systematic sexual torture and sexual humiliation was, original documents reveal, directed from the top:

* President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were present in meetings where sexual humiliation was discussed as policy.
* The Defense Authorization Act of 2007 was written specifically to allow certain kinds of sexual abuse, such as forced nakedness, which is illegal and understood by domestic and international law to be a form of sexual assault.
* Rumsfeld is in print and on the record consulting with subordinates about the policy and practice of sexual humiliation, in a collection of documents obtained by the ACLU by a Freedom of Information Act filing compiled in Jameel Jaffer’s important book The Torture Administration.

The image of the female prisoner, probably Iraqi, being sexually assaulted? That image, or a similar one, has been widely seen in the Muslim world. Reports of the rape scenes described have also appeared in rights organizations summaries since 2004.

And scores of detainees who have told their stories to rights organizations have told independently confirming accounts of a highly consistent practice of sexual torture at U.S.-held prisons, including having their genitals slashed with razors, electrodes placed on genitals, and being told the U.S. military would find and rape their mothers………………………….

But what is far scarier about these images Obama refuses to release and that the Pentagon is likely to be lying about now, is that it is not the evidence of lower-level soldiers being corrupted by power — it is proof of the fact that the most senior leadership — Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, with Rice’s collusion — were running a global sex-crime trafficking ring with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram Air Base as the holding sites.

The sexual nature of the torture also gives the lie to Cheney’s and others’ defense of torture as somehow functional: The sexual perversity mandated from the top reveals that it was just plain old sick sadism gratified by a very sick form of pleasure. I also pointed out in “Sex Crimes in the White House” that the escalation of the sexual abuse showed the same classic pattern shown by sex criminals everywhere — you start with stripping the victim, keeping him or her completely in your power, and then you engage in greater and more violent excesses with more and more self-justification.

The lightsticks, for instance? We in the human rights world know about the lightsticks. Probably dozens of prisoners were sodomized with lightsticks. In the highly credible and very fully documented Physicians for Human Rights report, “Broken Bodies, Broken Lives,” doctors investigated the wounds and scars of former prisoners, did analysis of the injuries, assessed the independent verification of their stories, and reported that indeed many detainees had in fact been savagely raped with lightsticks and by other objects inserted into their rectums, many sustaining internal injuries.

This same report confirms that female military or other unidentified U.S.-affiliated personnel were used to sexually abuse detainees by smearing menstrual blood on their faces, seizing their genitals violently, or rubbing them in a sexual manner against their will. In other credible accounts collected by human rights organizations, many former prisoners in U.S.-held prisons report that they had been tortured or humiliated by female agents who appeared to be dressed like prostitutes.

Indeed, early on, intelligence spokespeople boasted in the New York Times of the use of female agents to sexually abuse and humiliate prisoners: it was called in their own material “invasion of space by a female.”…………………………………

Whom are we protecting by not releasing the photos? The victims? Hardly. It’s, as feminists have been saying for decades, not their shame. The perpetrators? Their crimes are archived; if not this administration, another may well obey the law and release the images, which are evidentiary (again: that rape and sodomy were directed form the top; prosecute those at the top).

These photos go to exactly why Obama is burning what is left of the shreds of the Constitution by calling for pre-emptive detention for about 100 detainees. It ain’t because they are “too dangerous,” his pathetic justification. It is because their bodies are crime scenes. It is because the torture, including possibly the sexual assault, they experienced is likely to be so horrific that if they were ever to have their day in court it is others whom Obama needs who would be incriminated.

In the 19th century, when a woman had been raped, or had experienced sexual abuse in the family, the paterfamilias would say she was crazy, get her declared “too dangerous” to be free, and lock her up forever so her story would be interred with her.

That is what Obama is trying to do with pre-emptive detention for these detainees.

Well, America? Do you want to live with this?

Remember: History shows categorically that once the state can lock “them” up without a fair trial, torture, rape them or sodomize them — well; sooner or later it will be able to do the same to your children or mine; or to you and me.

Naomi Wolf is the author of Give Me Liberty (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the sequel to the New York Times best-seller The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green, 2007).

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“Torturing Democracy”

by: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Saturday 30 May 2009,t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Article

In all the recent debate over torture, many of our Beltway pundits and politicians have twisted themselves into verbal contortions to avoid using the word at all.

During his speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute last week – immediately on the heels of President Obama’s address at the National Archives – former Vice President Dick Cheney used the euphemism “enhanced interrogation” a full dozen times.

Smothering the reality of torture in euphemism, of course, has a political value, enabling its defenders to diminish the horror and possible illegality. It also gives partisans the opening they need to divert our attention by turning the future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay into a “wedge issue,” as noted on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times………..

No political party would dare make torture a cornerstone of its rejuvenation if people really understood what it is. And lest we forget, we’re not just talking about waterboarding, itself a trivializing euphemism for drowning.

If we want to know what torture is, and what it does to human beings, we have to look at it squarely, without flinching. That’s just what a powerful and important film, seen by far too few Americans, does. “Torturing Democracy” was written and produced by one of America’s outstanding documentary reporters, Sherry Jones. (Excerpts from the film are being shown on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS – check local listings, or go to the program’s web site at www.pbs.org/moyers, where you can be linked to the entire 90-minute documentary.)……..

Unfortunately, as events demonstrate, the story is not yet history; the early chapters aren’t even closed. Torture still is being defended as a matter of national security, although by law it is a war crime, with those who authorized and executed it liable for prosecution as war criminals. The war on terror sparked impatience with the rule of law – and fostered the belief within our government that the commander-in-chief had the right to ignore it.

“Torturing Democracy” begins at 9/11 and recounts how the Bush White House and the Pentagon decided to make coercive detention and abusive interrogation the official US policy in the war on terror. In sometimes graphic detail, the documentary describes the experiences of several men who were held in custody, including Shafiq Rasul, Moazzam Begg and Bisher al-Rawi, all of whom eventually were released. Charges never were filed against them and no reason was ever given for their years in custody.

The documentary traces how tactics meant to train American troops to survive enemy interrogations – the famous SERE program (“Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape”) – became the basis for many of the methods employed by the CIA and by interrogators at Guantanamo and in Iraq, including waterboarding (which inflicts on its victims the terror of imminent death), sleep and sensory deprivation, shackling, caging, painful stress positions and sexual humiliation.

“We have re-created our enemy’s methodologies in Guantanamo,” Malcolm Nance, former head of the Navy’s SERE training program, says in “Torturing Democracy.” He adds, “It will hurt us for decades to come. Decades. Our people will all be subjected to these tactics, because we have authorized them for the world now. How it got to Guantanamo is a crime and somebody needs to figure out who did it, how they did it, who authorized them to do it … Because our servicemen will suffer for years.”

In addition to its depiction of brutality, “Torturing Democracy” also credits the brave few who stood up to those in power and said, “No.” In Washington, there were officials of conviction horrified by unfolding events, including Alberto Mora, the Navy’s top civilian lawyer, Maj. Gen. Thomas Romig, who served as judge advocate general of the US Army from 2001 to 2005 and Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a former senior prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions………

In another revealing and disturbing development, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, has suggested what is possibly as scandalous a deception as the false case Bush and Cheney made for invading Iraq. Colonel Wilkerson writes that in their zeal to prove a link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during the months leading up to the Iraq war, one suspect held in Egypt, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was water tortured until he falsely told the interrogators what they wanted to hear.

That phony confession, which Wilkerson says was wrung from a broken man who simply wanted the torture to stop, was then used as evidence in Colin Powell’s infamous address to the United Nations shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Powell says that everything in his speech was vetted by the CIA and that Wilkerson’s allegation is only speculation. We’ll never know the full story – al-Libi died three weeks ago in a Libyan prison. A suicide.

Or so they say.

No wonder so many Americans clamor for a truth commission that will get the facts and put them on the record, just as “Torturing Democracy” has done. Then we can judge for ourselves.

As the editors of The Christian Century magazine wrote this week, “Convening a truth commission on torture would be embarrassing to the US in the short term, but in the long run it would demonstrate the strength of American democracy and confirm the nation’s adherence to the rule of law…. Understandably, [the president] wants to turn the page on torture. But Americans should not turn the page until they know what is written on it.”

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday nights on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.

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