The American people voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in the hopes that he would stop torture, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, renegotiate NAFTA and punish the Wall Streeters who brought the world into crisis. What happened? None of the gods of Wall Street saw a jail from the inside, Clinton and Kerry zoomed around the world to drum up more free trade agreements, the Iraq madness continued for years (and now the wound threatens to re-open), the pointless American venture in Afghanistan lingers...
...and then there's torture.
Most people think that Obama put an end to the practice. He may have let us down on every other front, but by God, he did that
Sorry. Torture continues. Obama just found a way to be sneaky about it. From today's Salon
The president’s executive order directed the CIA to close its detention centers “as expeditiously as possible” and not to open any new ones. No such orders were given, however, to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a clandestine force composed of elite fighters from several branches of the U.S. armed forces. JSOC had run its own secret detention centers in Iraq. At Camp Nama, interrogations took place in the ominously named “Black Room.” According to the New York Times, the camp’s chilling motto was “no blood, no foul.” JSOC is presently deployed on several continents, including Africa, where gathering “intelligence” forms an important part of its duties.
To be fair, the New York Times piece cited above was published in 2006, so it tells us nothing about what JSOC is up to nowadays. (For an updated version of that story, with more grisly details, see here
.) The principle, however, is sound: Obama restrained the Agency, but he did not restrain the special forces. But the distinction is absurd, especially when we consider how many Agency guys have worn military uniforms over the past five or six decades. (The CIA largely oversaw
what Task Force 6-26 did at Camp Nama.)
Obama's executive order against torture contains a clause which was not widely understood -- a clause which says that no prisoner shall be subjected to techniques not "authorized" by Army Field Manual 2 22.3. True, the Manual does not allow waterboarding, but it does permit other methods which many would categorize as torture. For more, see here
In Afghanistan, the dirtiest of the dirty work is often done by a unit called Task Force 373, which has been called a "death squad." (I suspect that members of the team might cheerily agree with that assessment, but only when speaking in private.) Here's
their resume. In 2010, Wikileaks released a trove of documents, supposedly supplied by Bradley/Chelsea Manning, regarding their activities, including the wretched treatment of prisoners at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (now called the Parwan Detention Facility).
So what happened? The Obama administration imprisoned Manning and subjected him (now her) to treatment that many consider torturous.
Meanwhile, the Bush-era abuses at BTIF/Parwan continue under Obama
. The Red Cross confirms the existence of a separate facility some call "the Black Jail" (or to use the local term, "the Tor Jail.")
In recent weeks the BBC has logged the testimonies of nine prisoners who say they had been held in the so-called "Tor Jail".
They told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night.
The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there.
In response to these allegations, Vice Adm Robert Harward, in charge of US detentions in Afghanistan, denied the existence of such a facility or abuses.
Harward's denial is grimly amusing. There is, in fact, no doubt of the Black Jail's existence
Although U.S. President Barack Obama signed an order to eliminate black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January 2009, that order did not apply to the black jail. However, in August, the Obama administration restricted the time that detainees could be held at the secret jail, and another like it at Balad Air Base in Iraq, to two weeks. Human rights organisations are concerned that the jail remains inaccessible both to the Red Cross and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
I'd like to ask Vice Admiral Harward one simple question: If there are no abuses, then why not allow the Red Cross in?
Gitmo prisoner Imad Abdullah Hassan
began a hunger strike during the Bush years. He was subjected to torture, which did not cease under Obama. Hassan was force-fed through his nostrils, a process he has described as unbearably painful:
At Gitmo, they began to use tubes that were too big for Hassan's nostrils.
* Rather than leaving them in place, they would insert and remove them twice a day.
* Prisoners were force-fed in what Hassan called "the Torture Chair." Hands, legs, waist, shoulders and head were strapped down tightly. The men were also force-fed constipation drugs, causing them to defecate on themselves as they sat in the chair being fed. "People with hemorrhoids would leave blood on the chair and the linens would not always be changed before the next feeding." They'd be strapped down amid the shit and blood for up to two hours at a time.
* But quicker wasn't always better. That's because Gitmo staff started force-feeding much more liquid into the prisoners. Sometimes they sped up the process, leaving the amount of liquid constant. "If Mr. Hassan vomited on himself at any time during the procedure, what he terms 'the atrocity' would start all over again." Severe gastric pain was common.
* "Early on in this new and more abusive phase ... authorities took Mr. Hassan and two others to another block so that others would see what was being done to them. This was obviously done as a deterrent to scare others into not hunger striking."
Finally, there is the continuing scandal of rendition flights. During Obama's first year in office, the New York Times reported rendition would go on -- albeit with "better oversight":
The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday.
The lie here is transparent. If the prisoners are not to be tortured, then why fly them to other countries in the first place?
(This question seems very obvious, yet few bothered to ask it back in 2009. This fact tells us much about our capacity for self-deception at the time.)
By the way: Just who
is going to double-check the administration's efforts at "monitoring" treatment of prisoners at these rendition facilities? By this point, are you inclined to take this administration's word -- on anything
Unfortunately, we don't have an opposition party in this country willing to investigate this president's real
wrongdoings. Instead, the Republican party remains fixated on hallucinations, such as their bizarre Benghazi narrative. They can't score Obama on torture because everyone knows that, if the GOP wins in 2016, America's policies will revert to "Bush normal."