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Snipping Myself from 2010 on Torture

I am presently traveling and visiting family out West and was intending to take a December moratorium from blogging. But the issue of the US torture program and the continuing "official" obscene rationalizations and minimizations of it pulled me back to at least post some excerpts from a blog I originally posted on correntewire 7/5/10 and re-posted on correntewire and open salon on 9/2/11 entitled “War Criminal Named Obama Smells Sweeter than One Named Bush?”

[Torture] This isn’t national self defense. It is sadism. It is anti-humanism. It is patriarchal psychopathology.

It is against moral law. It is against international law.

It is against or, rather, should be against U.S. law! And if such crimes are not accounted for, they will continue and escalate in number and nature.


... Andy Worthington reports on the deaths of three prisoners at Guantanamo on June 9, 2006.

According to the military Salah Ahmed al-Salami (also identified as Ali Abdullah Ahmed), a 37-year old Yemeni, Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a 30-year old Saudi, and Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan, died by hanging themselves, in what Guantánamo’s then-Commander, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, described as an act of “asymmetric warfare.” Another military officer referred to it as a kind of p.r. stunt.

It clearly was homicide or depraved indifference at the very least not suicide but using this as their cover-up was ... depraved and disgusting ...

The three Gitmo prisoners had purportedly endured “painful months of force-feeding as three of the prison’s most persistent hunger strikers, and by raising their fellow prisoners’ spirits as accomplished singers of nasheeds (Islamic songs).”

There is incredible evidence that these men could not possibly have committed suicide due to ridiculously obvious circumstances (like how did they bind their own hands and feet?) as well as one brave whistleblower’s (Sgt. Hickman's) eventual testimony (who came forward when Obama was elected, ironically trusting that the Obama administration would seek out justice more than the Bush administration) proving that these prisoners were either deliberately killed or excessively tortured that night, having had rags stuffed down their throats from which they most likely suffocated.


Another man, Shaker Aamer, was brutally tortured that same evening but survived. He is still being held despite being cleared for release by a military review board in 2007.

A statement by his lawyer about Shaker's torture that night:

On June 9th, 2006, [Shaker Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs.

The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break.

They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.


The report Worthington cites levels heavy accusations against two psychologists who devised the horrifying experimental torture program first used on Abu Zubaydah in 2002.

Worthington discloses that Zubaydah is still in Gitmo and writes: “the Obama administration has no idea what to do with Abu Zubaydah, the 'guinea pig' for the torture program, who, after his horrendous treatment, was revealed not as a significant al-Qaeda leader, but as a mentally-damaged training camp facilitator, whose relationship with al-Qaeda was, at most, minimal.”

[Mitchell] ordered that Zubaydah be chained to a chair for weeks on end; that he be whipped by the neck into concrete walls; that he be stuffed into a small, black box and left for hours; that he be hung naked from the ceiling; that he be kept awake for 11 consecutive days, and sprayed with cold water if he dozed. But the torture designed by Dr. Mitchell was about to pass to another level. It was time to implement the final stage of Dr. Mitchell’s program.

Abu Zubaydah lay strapped to a gurney specially designed to maximize his suffering. His feet were above his head, just as Dr. Mitchell had ordered. His hands, arms, legs, chest, and head were restrained by heavy leather straps. As Zubaydah lay helpless, Mitchell and his subordinates placed a black cloth over his face and began to pour water onto the cloth. Rivers of water ran up Zubaydah’s nose and down his throat. He could not breathe. Panic gripped him as he began to drown.

And when Mitchell sensed that Zubaydah dangled on the precipice between life and death, he ordered that the board be raised. Zubaydah expelled the water in a violent, racking spasm of coughing, gurgling and gasping. But before Zubaydah could catch his breath, Dr. Mitchell repeated the experiment. Then he did it again. And again.

According to the United States Government, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002 alone.


...  Andy Worthington who reveals that in January 2010 a final report of a four year internal investigation into the Justice Department lawyers who wrote the “torture memos” in 2002 and 2003 to redefine torture so that it could be practiced by the CIA and US military.

A senior Justice Department official over-rode the report’s damning conclusions, declaring that there be no disciplinary measures for “professional misconduct” but that John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee had only “exercised poor judgment.” Cronyism of, from and for criminals clearly. Yoo enjoys his professorship at Berkeley and Bybee his judgeship on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Andy Worthington quotes some of Senator Obama's high-flying pre-election rhetoric in 2007,

“In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power.”

Obama dared to champion the cause of human rights then. Where is evidence of those values within him now? ...


Obama proved robust corporatist and militarist. He proved anti-humanist. He offered no acknowledgements of, took no responsibility for, his breathtaking, 180 degree reversals to golden promises of anti-Bush reform pre-election.

These reversals are no small issues added to his colossally arrogant and illegal new ones such as excessive use of drone warfare in spite of horrifying numbers of civilian casualties (and within countries we are not even at war with), assuming the right of assassination of US citizens without those citizens being granted due process of law, limitless detention of prisoners without granting them due process....

This is bigger than hypocrisy. This is heart-of-darkness territory.

Obama does not rule from his rhetorical talking point, “pragmatic center" stance at all. Where is the center on a slippery slope of amorality? He can talk geometry all he wants to reframe a dangerous, anti-constitutional reality. There is decency. There is the law. There is illegality. There is depravity.

He has chosen to become an enabler of violators of human rights and a violator of them himself. The horror of it all is, he is being enabled by the media, the vast majority of Congress, and the vast majority of citizens.

We learn more and more of the corruption of a lobbied Congress, especially watching a Democratic majority in Congress squeezing, also, into Obama’s faux-centrist amoral bubble.

But as for the citizenry? Are we so malleable by the corporate media to defy a basic moral sensibility? Is the cult of celebrity, the amiable and intelligent-seeming persona of Obama, so strong it eclipses true character or the lack thereof? Is it Dem-team or progressive- (using the word loosely) team loyalty? Moral relativism? “Things could be worse” with the OTHER team or “ends justifies the means” rationalizations?

... is it that a leader only needs to repeat the word "terror" a bunch of times in a row and most of America falls into a "do with us, our money, or anyone else whatever you want" kind of swoon?


As I said earlier this is truly heart of darkness territory. Admittedly it is hard to wrap one's mind and heart around the above issues as well as countless others, to be willing to hear what evil human beings are capable of. Particularly human beings that belong to our own nation, that we want to assume behave with honor and integrity.

Confronting massive evil is daunting, sickening, spiritually exhausting and even enervates something called the thymus gland (under the breast bone). But if this country wants to save its collective soul we must wake up morally. We must acknowledge the war criminality of Obama and the rest of our leadership and then all the way down the chains of their command. We must detach from our own seduced “cronyism” with the amiable persona of this leader and face down reality. We must listen, hear and explore the details of what is going on in our name and with our tax dollars.

The devil is definitely in the details. The corporate media will never deliver the details of the truth about such evil. We must nevertheless seek them out and respond to them.

Over a year ago I put on a black arm band. It was an emotional tipping point for me, when I realized Obama had no capacity for moral outrage even over the torture program of the Bush administration. He had little respect for the Geneva Conventions as well as our own constitution.

I vowed I would wear the arm band until Obama and the majority of citizens saw sense. It was a symbol of protest and mourning and offered some consolation for a tremendous sense of helplessness. My shock and awe.


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told a story on his ... radio show ... about Ralph Waldo Emerson visiting Henry David Thoreau in jail. Emerson called out to Thoreau, "Henry, what are you doing in there?" Whereupon, the civil disobedient Thoreau called back, "Ralph, what are YOU doing out there?"

Point taken, Mr. Thoreau!

[cross-posted on open salon]

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