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Outsourcing Torture

If you are the least bit squeamish, don’t read “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” an Open Society Justice Initiative report published by the Open Society Foundations. The OSF was established by philanthropist George Soros, one of the handful of the super rich still guided by a moral compass. Soros was a Hungarian Jewish teenager when Nazi Germany occupied his homeland and is therefore aware of the depravity which can emanate from a society that lays claim to being a high point of human civilization.

After all, the Germans who voted Hitler into power in 1933 were among the world’s most well-educated people, as well as largely being followers of Christian scripture. That so many of them came to equate barbarism with patriotism is a warning sign to those Americans who find assurance in our “values” cloaking our nation’s collective descent into the darker realms. It is an arrogance starkly challenged by the systematic savagery practiced by a widespread network of agents of our government, ostensibly in response to the attacks of 9/11.

But the purpose of the OSF report is not to shock with examples of the most extreme cases from the sinister world of torture into which America sank. It methodically defines the norm in a vast terror operation that the United States has sponsored around the globe.

In this detailed report documenting the U.S. policy of outsourcing interrogation to 54 nations, chosen for their unfettered embrace of torture techniques, you will discover the depths of evil to which the most extreme totalitarian societies might aspire. Indeed, that was the point of the CIA’s “extraordinary-rendition” program initiated after 9/11, capturing suspected terrorists and turning them over to the world’s most brutal torturers without any presumption of innocence and regard for due process.

The techniques go far beyond the beatings and waterboarding celebrated in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Apparently, America’s homegrown torturers didn’t have the proper skill-set to slit penises and dismember body parts. Or perhaps the CIA agents whom Bigelow honors did engage in such sadistic practices, and her script advisers at CIA headquarters objected to revealing the grisly details. In any case, as the Open Society Foundations report proves, CIA officials were often present and certainly had ultimate supervisory power over the torture chambers financed by the world’s most overly hyped democracy.

For our government, condoning barbarism is easily rationalized: We were attacked and have the right to utilize the most heinous of means to attain the end of ensuring our safety. Of course, we know from the testimony of key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Bigelow’s film mistakenly implies that torture was pivotal in hunting down Osama bin Laden.

As the OSF report makes clear, information obtained by torture is most often unreliable. Words are spewed in a desperate effort to stop the infliction of pain. One glaring example cited is the tortured detainee who indicated that al-Qaeda operatives had been trained in biological and chemical weapons by the government of Saddam Hussein. The George W. Bush regime used that fabrication to justify the invasion of Iraq even though it was well known that Hussein was a sworn enemy of Bin Laden’s organization.

But what if barbaric techniques occasionally provide accurate information, as torturers have claimed in their defense down through history? It was routine for Europe’s royal despots to justify employing brutal methods at the time our great experiment in republican governance was taking shape. Unlike King George III and other unscrupulous monarchs, our Founding Fathers held basic human rights to be inalienable and accordingly enshrined the right of due process into our Constitution.

Moreover, it is a right that must also be extended to our presumed adversaries. Yet— and this high crime is even more vicious than the assault on the bodies and minds of so many prisoners—the right of the accused to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a fair court of law has been obliterated by the leaders of our nation on an unprecedented international scale. Check the OSF report for the details of our depravity and then demand of our leaders that such horrid acts never again be conducted in our name.
Before serving almost 30 years as a Los Angeles Times columnist and editor, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. He is now editor of His latest book is The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.


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