by Dave Lindorff
I don’t believe in torture, but right now, I’d like to see a few people subjected to some of the torture techniques that they approved for use against US captives in the so-called War on Terror.
I’d be satisfied if they just stuck to the ones used against 15-year-old Omar Khadr—techniques that a US federal judge established constituted torture under the Geneva Conventions.
I have a 15-year old son, so I’m particularly aware of what an atrocity it has been the way the US has treated Khadr, and some 2500 other young boys and teenagers that it admits to having captured and labeled as “enemy combatants” in its so-called “war on terror.”
Khadr, recall, was sent at the age of 14 to Pakistan by his allegedly terrorist-linked Canadian father to attend a madrassa—one of those fundamentalist Muslim schools. Like a number of students of those schools, he was indoctrinated in jihad and ended up fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan against the warlords that opposed them. When the US attacked Afghanistan, in 2001, Khadr got caught up in a war against America. According to the charge against him, he was arrested in 2002 after US Special Forces found him and some adult fighters hiding out in a remote compound in the mountains. The Americans called in an air strike, and then moved into the rubble to find out who was left—quite probably, according to some testimony in the case—to finish them off. Someone, still alive after the attack, tossed a grenade which killed one of the Americans and blinded another. The others sprayed the wounded fighters, gravely injuring Khadr and killing one of his older companions.
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Khadr was accused of being the grenade tosser, and was reportedly tortured in Afghanistan, before being shipped off to Guantanamo, where he remains six years later, facing a military tribunal. He was interrogated there, not just by Americans, but by Canadians too.
A citizen of Canada, and clearly someone who was captured and held in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which hold that children are “protected persons,” not to be held as POWs if captured in wartime, but rather to be treated as victims of war, Khadr has thus far been abandoned to his fate by his own government. The Conservative prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, anxious to have Canada serve as a willing servant of US military power and foreign policy, has not lifted a finger to help him.
Now a court in Canada has ordered the Canadian government to release videotapes it was keeping secret of Khadr’s interrogations, and they make for ugly viewing. Khadr is shown weeping, holding up his wounded arms, pleading to be given treatment, pleading to be returned to Canada. It’s a disgusting scene, especially when we learn that he had already been “softened up” for his Canadian interrogators by American torture specialists at Guantanamo who subjected this boy to three weeks of sleep deprivation and god knows what other creative techniques which we recently learned were copied from the methods developed by the North Koreans and applied to American captives in the Korean War.
It all makes you disgusted to be an American—especially with so many Americans still justifying this kind of grotesque behavior.
But back to my desire to see some torture inflicted. I am not a violent person, and I do not believe that violence, or certainly torture, serve any good purpose, but when I saw that young boy being interrogated, after already having endured nearly a year of hell at the hands of his captors, and I pictured my son in his position, I admit something snapped. I am so angry at those who have deliberately organized this systematic descent into national barbarity that I want them to pay for it in the way that is most likely to bring home to them the horror that they have unleashed. My profound wish is that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, former Department of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Canadian Prime Minister Harper all be subjected to no less than a month of unrelenting torture, to include water boarding, at least 2-3 weeks of sleep deprivation, a variety of 24-stints of being forced into stress positions (Rumsfeld’s should be standing), some violent slapping around, and a bit of creative sexual humiliation. Since we don’t know at this point whether anal sodomizing was officially sanctioned, or was just something that the torturers on the ground came up with that was then ignored by superiors, I’m willing to let that one be left up to those performing the torture, but I sure won’t object if it happens.
At this point, I can’t think of anything less than such a punishment that would be fitting for these monsters who are currently still running our, and Canada’s, governments.
When I think of what kind of twisted minds these people must have in order to actually have met in the White House and approved such methods for use against human beings—human beings who under our Constitution are to be afforded the presumption of innocence, and who are promised to be protected against “cruel and unusual” punishments (or in Harper’s case to have known about it and then not protested, even to protect a child born in his own country)—and even against children, it makes me sick to my stomach.
If there is a hell, I am sure there is in it some special circle reserved for such monsters, but I think, having seen what was done at their direction and with their approval to young Khadr (who after all, if he really ever did toss that grenade, was only doing what any US soldier would hope to have the courage to do in wartime if his unit were attacked), that hell is too good for these leaders. They all need and deserve the special punishment of having done to them what they ordered or allowed to be done to others.
Sadly, my wish to see them suffer such a fate is unlikely to be granted. One can at least hope, though, that they will have their names etched somewhere for posterity on some memorial to the victims of war crimes and to the eternal condemnation of the perpetrators of such bestiality.
This column produced some impassioned correspondence, some supporting in-kind punishment for the leaders who have made the US the world's leading advocate of state-sponsored torture, others saying that even for such heinous criminals as Bush and Cheney, torture is not permissible.
I am publishing one such note from the latter pile, sent by a long-time journalistic comrade, an expatriot now living in Denmark who has seen much and who has demonstrated his commitment to progressive change for decades of struggle.
While I believe that all the torturers and other government and military leaders and combatants who premptively invade any people are legitimate targets of being killed for these war crimes by the legimate resisters, defenders of their sovereignty, I can not approve of ever torturing any person or animal. To do so debases our own humanity and it flies in the face of what we revolutionaries (and other progressive-minded people) stand for.
I empathsize with your anger Dave; it is the same as my own. Nevertheless, we who wish to build a world of equality-justice-peace, we who wish to create the new man and woman (á la Che...) must act according to our goals and not subcumb to the methods of the filthy-minded war criminals. When we fight with arms, as we must often do historically and in the current wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the imperialist monsters invade or subvert, we do so as righteous combatants in or out of uniform. We must not stoop to brutalizations. Not all means justify our goals.
My essay was really written in a moment of anger, as I watched a frightened young boy, the victim of American torture, pleading for help, and saw my own son, the same age, in that same position. I would not expect such a thing to ever happen, and should the happy day ever arrive that Bush is impeached or leaves office and ends up being indicted and convicted for war crimes, I'll be satisfied just to see him convicted and jailed.
I will say, however, that if it were my own son who suffered a fate like young Khadr's, nothing would stop me from wreaking a terrible vengeance upon whoever put him in such a situation. Reading and watching news of the massive campaign of torture that Bush and Cheney--with the knowing connivance of Democratic Party leaders--have inflicted in our names on tens of thousands of captives in this bogus "war" on terror, at least 2500 of them children, I have, until now, simply been calling for their impeachment and trial on war crimes charges. I have not until now thought about punishments or vengeance.
The reality is that, under international law, if these guys were prosecuted, the most that they'd get would be jail sentences. I suppose that under US law they might get worse. I believe that some war crimes, notably the Crime Against Peace of which Bush is clearly guilty, carry the death penalty. Some other war crimes also carry that sentence. And though I don't support the death penalty, I find it hard to argue against its imposition on a man who has single-handedly authorized a war that has slaughtered over a million innocent men, women and children, destroyed a country, and who himself has the blood of over 130 capital punishment victims on his hands.
The execution of George W. Bush for war crimes would be a most fitting punishment, and I for one would not lift a finger to prevent it.
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