Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Torture Services, Inc. (War Crime 4 Hire) (5.16.09)

In the quest to expand "private enterprise"
and dismantle government
 being waged by some,
 we have allowed a business to develop
 providing torture services.

[Gregor Zap]

I always think it's my last post.  Over and over I've felt that I had nothing more to say.  Then I come across a comment like the one above.  And the totality of the brutality of the former administration hits me - once again - like a ton of bricks.  And I have to write.

There's this weird debate going on in our country.  And many of our fellow citizens apparently are willing to let human beings be summarily captured and provided with the greatest possible degradation, ill treatment, and shocking abuse that the human mind can devise - without leaving too many visible marks.

We all knew about torture as soon as we saw those Abu Ghraib photos.  And I had my own suspicions as soon as I saw hooded detainees on TV over and over, from the time of the invasion of Afghanistan, carrying over into the invasion of Iraq.  Right away, to me, as a psychologist, aware of the Stanford prison study, those hoods were a tip-off.  They were widespread.  They seemed to be something that had been requisitioned and handed out to soldiers as another piece of equipment, like plastic handcuffs and so on.  I was concerned that detained individuals had been herded into metal containers in Afghanistan.  I was concerned that there were bounties being paid for handing over people to US custody.   And I was concerned when they moved the prisoners to Guantanamo, when I saw them shackled, when I read about 200 of them going on hunger strike there.  I knew something very suspicious was likely going on.  Especially when those Abu Ghraib photos surfaced.  And when we knew the Red Cross was being hampered in assessing the welfare of persons in US custody.  And when we read about those secret renditions to black sites or being turned over to foreign governments - where, despite bushco denials, we had to suspect torture.

But do these same folks, our fellow citizens, who willingly endorse torture, realize how much they are actually paying for this?  Do they realize whole industries have been created, just to service the torture?  Would the polls change if we asked:  Do you want your taxes going to pay for torture services? 

Let's think about the Torture Business for a bit:

It starts with hoods.  Do we manufacture them here at home?  Or get them cheaper from Mexico?  Do we order "torture hoods" or just call them "sacks" on the requisition list?  Is this a no-bid contract?  Or can anybody get in on it?  Do you provide health care for the workers making torture hoods?  Retirement?  I wonder what the business plan looks like.  Maybe there's a lobbying group specific to the torture industry, trying to make sure there's a continual stream of victims, so they don't go out of business any time soon.

Let's move on to plastic handcuffs.  I'm sure that stock has gone up lately!  How about shackles?  The ones that are designed for the floor or the wall or the ceiling.  There's a nice investment opportunity.  Apply the same questions from the paragraph above (health care, retirement).  And consider the taxes you pay.  All for torture.

Moving right along here - in our tour of the torture business.  Let us not forget that some manufacturers are already in it.  Even if they didn't know that till recently.  I mean, of course, the manufacturers of Ensure and Depends.  I wonder if they put out bids for those products or not. Your taxes at work!  How about orange jumpsuits?  There's a business opportunity!   Or maybe not.  Since the forced nudity.   Well, at least that saves the taxpayer money, doesn't it?   Along with money saved in showers.  And toilet facilities.  And beds. 

And we haven't even gotten to much of the torture yet.

Guards:  Surely we can farm that out.  Picture the ads:  "Thugs wanted!"  As InterrogatorsTranslators.  Even Psychologists, willing to sacrifice ethics, morality, their good name, and maybe years of prison down the road.  All for the purpose of designing, teaching, and supervising torture and doing experiments to find more ways of torturing.   "War Criminals urgently needed!"  They actually formed businesses to sell torture.

Your tax dollars at work!

Let's not forget Halliburton here.  Through a no-bid contract with the Vice President's former company,  you paid for high tech facilities at Guantanamo BayCellsInterrogation Rooms.  Living quarters for those who do the dirty work.  Halliburton had to purchase shackles and all the other accoutrements of torture.  Built in shackles.  Built in torture chambers.  Complete with refrigerationSpeakers to blast deafening noises.  Harsh lights.  Video cameras for off-site viewing.  All of the fixtures of modern torture.  All paid for by you.

In addition to the homegrown companies in the torture business, this TAX PAYER FUNDED torture program included a Foreign Aid component:  Black Sites in foreign lands and Rendition to foreign prisons, where I'm pretty sure we're paying Tax Dollars to subsidize torture by means we do not even want to contemplate.  And a whole fleet of airplanes, along with pilots, mechanics, and guards to accompany the soon-to-be-disappeared.

All of this supposedly "legalized" by attorneys, working in our own Department of Justice, in the Office of Legal Counsel, where the lawyers are supposed to make sure nothing the executive branch does betrays the Constitution.   And we paid for it.  We paid for time lawyers spent twisting the "law" - perverting our values, betraying oaths to the Constitution in a misbegotten conspiracy to subvert the very Rule of Law, which is supposed to guarantee that no one endures cruel and unusual punishment, that everyone has the right to Habeas CorpusAnd we paid for it!  We paid for Justice Department lawyers to do this.  In our name.

I'm sure I've forgotten some things.  But honestly I can't bear to go on here.  This whole torture business is horrifying.  From A to Z.  It's horrifying that it's being farmed out.  That businesses are profiting.  From torture.  It's horrifying to remember that we are paying for this.  Our taxes are subsidizing torture.

This has been a hard post to write.  Go back and read the links.  Many are blogs of my own.  And I'm going to close with one quote, from the beginning of one of those blogs: 
Torture is against the law.

  It is always wrong.

  It shocks the conscience.

  It shames the nation. 
Do you really want to be in the Torture Business?

TortureA TAX PAYER FUNDED war crimes business.....



In the comments section, I have provided some links and quotes to articles related to how neocons planned to invade Iraq long before 9/11 and how they manufactured "intelligence" and ultimately resorted to torture in an effort to sell and justify that premeditated war.   It is a trail of lies to war.  And a trail of tears to torture.  [to access original TPM comments, use permalink below]



TheraP --
Another entrepreneurial opportunity courtesy of BushCo:
When preparations for the Iraq invasion began, a textile mill owner in South Carolina was "elated" when he was awarded the Pentagon's casket flag contract.

Body bags. They ordered thousands of body bags.
Makes you sick, doesn't it?
There also seem to be direct links to our profit-oriented, privatized, domestic prison industry.
God forbid the torture camps get reverse-engineered into our prison system!
Another fine exposition TheraP!!!
Money to be made. Perhaps Chinese workers making pennies an hour, Haliburton making their money transporting the tools.
And the contractors overseeing the torture.
Yet, Americans are paying for this. Paying in money and in shame.
If Eric Holder would simply appoint a Special Prosecutor, he could get me off his back.
What is he waiting for?
I think the recent release of the torture memos has helped move things along. Now there are connections being made between torture and the rush to war in Iraq. These connections weren't being discussed on the evening news until this week. Cheney is helping a lot by blathering about his belief that it was all necessery, thus providing more idicting comments we can attach to him, and especially his central role. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but we must keep pushing to turn them.
One. Big. Conspiracy.
Why commit one crime when you can commit a slew of them all together?
Yet again you have penned another perspective here TherP, well done.
I am beginning to wonder if part of the problem now is who? and how? My understanding is that the special prosecutor law expired. Can he just reengage it? Does he need it? And as for who? Well, I have no idea, do you? and should there be any parameters? How would funding apply? How would it work?
I am sure someone has already written about this. I just haven't really read anything about it, yet...
It was the Independent Counsel law that expired. But a Special Prosecutor could be appointed.
Maybe dd can look up what the differences are. And report back - via a comment or a blog.
Let me see what I can find.
An Independent Counsel issues a report on the entirety of their findings. Special Prosecutor does their work under seal and only the information used to bring criminal charges is made public (I think they also reveal the indictment).
Apparently Iran/Contra and BJGate have soured the major political parties (respectively) on the Independent Counsel - so nobody expects lawmakers to consider reimplementing it.
My question is to what extent is a Special Prosecutor/Independent Council empowered to penetrate the military aspects of the issue? Are they able to investigate into the heart of the military where thus far even ranking Generals haven't been unable to get disclosure?
You get at some of the stickiness of investigating all of this. So much relates to Clandestine activity. So much to the Military. Dept of Justice. In other words, the criminal activity cuts at the heart of what is normally secret or "off limits" to begin with. That brings up the whole question of Grand Juries and to what extent they can be empowered to hear reams of classified information.
There are so many ways that an 'independent counsel' can be appointed that mere reference to the Independent Counsel Act, which has lapsed is meaningless to me:
Besides, does anyone think that Congress would not pass an act in a minute if asked to?
We all think of that Nazi, Ken Starr when we think of an independent counsel--hell there was nothing independent in that sob
Remember that there are Federal D.A.s all over the country who are supposed to be 'independent' and one of them is investigating rove right now.

Three words to put your mind at ease; President Barack Obama.
Thank you, Steve. I needed that. But I must admit. I need two more words. Likely from Eric Holder: Special Prosecutor.
I can't help but wonder at the total cost of all the torture. Not just in money of course. I wonder if such an expensive program has ever been undertaken by our government without any public discussion whatsoever.
Isn't it shocking that our congresspeople themselves were gagged and couldn't talk about it? How is that possible? What kind of democracy do we have when what our government is doing is so secret even our elected representatives aren't allowed to know what's happening or, if they are allowed, can't speak of it to anyone, not even to other elected representatives.
This can't possibly be the system imagined by Jefferson and Madison.
And why is it that so many Americans seem to accept this idea? Why, especially, did (and do) people like Nancy Pelosi accept it? Why did Pelosi and Rockefeller and others who say they oppossed torture allow themselves to be gagged?
There's something strange here. If Pelosi wasn't allowed to speak, why didn't she fight for the right to speak? Why was she content to accept being silenced? Why didn't she speak up anyway? When one learns that war crimes are being authorized is it moral to remain silent? Even if Pelosi wasn't brave enough to practice civil disobedience and speak in spite of the "law," why didn't this lawmaker--the leader of her party in the House of Representatives--try to change the law?
This is all a great mystery to me.

There's something strange here. ... This is all a great mystery to me.
I'm working on a post. Researching it and so on, that may throw some light on that mystery. Because I think it goes back to the long-planned "takeover" of govt by the neocons.
They conned everyone, including the Dems, I believe. They were prepared to smack down all opposition, all dissent.(Plus, who knows to what degree they may have blackmailed or used other methods of "persuasion" via spying on the country, including leaders of the opposition. Just speculation - questions. We have no evidence at this point, other than the spying.)
Woops! Forgot to close the quotes. My own words begin with: "I'm working on a post..."
This is a key article. I highly recommend it. Essential reading:
It gives an insider account, by Karen Kwiatkowski, of the insidious and premeditated changes, beginning in 2002, which she observed at the National Security Agency prior to the Iraq War.
A compelling and disturbing read.
Neoconservatives - Best Buds Forever:
Neoconservatives are fairly easy to study, mainly because they are few in number, and they show up at all the same parties. Examining them as individuals, it became clear that almost all have worked together, in and out of government, on national security issues for several decades. The Project for the New American Century and its now famous 1998 manifesto to President Clinton on Iraq is a recent example. But this statement was preceded by one written for Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud Party campaign in Israel in 1996 by neoconservatives Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith titled "A Clean Break: Strategy for Securing the Realm."
Neocon Mind-Meld Behavior:
Neoconservatives march as one phalanx in parallel opposition to those they hate. In the early winter of 2002, a co-worker U.S. Navy captain and I were discussing the service being rendered by Colin Powell at the time, and we were told by the neoconservative political appointee David Schenker that "the best service Powell could offer would be to quit right now." I was present at a staff meeting when Bill Luti called Marine Gen. and former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni a "traitor," because Zinni had publicly expressed reservations about the rush to war.
A policy group, Office of Special Plans (OSP) turned into a propaganda machine:
Instead of developing defense policy alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture propaganda for internal and external use, and pseudo war planning.
The war. Sold on Lies:
War is generally crafted and pursued for political reasons, but the reasons given to the Congress and to the American people for this one were inaccurate and so misleading as to be false. Moreover, they were false by design.
And the Torture. A deliberate effort to extract those lies from captured detainees!
Neocons in a Nutshell:
Neoconservatives are Straussians to the extent that the fear the masses and democracy, believe in a government by an elite which should enjoy special dignity, accept the notion that the wise lead by telling noble lies, and insist that the worst thing that could befall the United States would be if its people no longer believed in their own superiority.
Leo Strauss, Machiavellian-loving mentor to neocons:
believed that perpetual deception was necessary to give the people the leadership they needed, and feared the disorder that could flow from excessive dissent. He noted that the best way to insure a stable political order is to bring about unity through fear of an external threat and said such a threat should be manufactured if it did not actually exist.
Sound familiar?
Neocon Cons you will recognize:
The Neo Conservatives found that by exploiting questions of promiscuity, drug use, rising crime, homosexuality, pornography, and assaults on traditional culture, they could activate fundamentalist and evangelical Christians.
Neocons set the stage for invading Iraq prior to the bush regime's ascent:
Many neoconservatives were members of "the Vulcans," the team Condoleezza Rice assembled to tutor George W. Bush in foreign affairs. Rice was not a neoconservative, but neocon hardliners managed to make a convert of George W. Bush. Many of their views could be found in an influential policy paper which would become an outline for Bush foreign policy. In September, 2000, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) released "Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, forces, and Resources for a New Century." It called for a regime change in Iraq, which would make that country a key American base for effecting other changes in the Middle East, where there was to be a permanent US military presence in several countries.
The plan was laid long before bush ever ran for office. But once installed, the bush cabal needed an excuse to invade Iraq.
Seeking a connection to 9/11 proved elusive, even when the VP's office tortured men mercilessly.
Kwiatkowski observed a take-over of intelligance from "gathering" to "manufacturing" - as a result of a long-planned ascent by radical right-wing zealots, who'd been plotting for decades to gain control of the levers of power in the US. More on that from this long article here:
Almost thirty years ago, a prominent group of neoconservative hawks found an effective vehicle for advocating their views via the Committee on the Present Danger, a group that fervently believed the United States was a hair away from being militarily surpassed by the Soviet Union, and whose raison d'être was strident advocacy of bigger military budgets, near-fanatical opposition to any form of arms control and zealous championing of a Likudnik Israel. Considered a marginal group in its nascent days during the Carter Administration, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 CPD went from the margins to the center of power.
Nice outline for a screenplay or a novel. Maybe Moore will run it for you.
It's true that the MIC has a business component. That applies far beyond torture. And all emprisonment can be considered torture if you work at it a bit.
It is true that the CIA hired "contractors" to run enhanced interrogations. That probably got out of hand. Whether "get out of hand" was secretly desired by higher up, I don't know. Whether it was directed from the WH, I suspect so.
--Torture is against the law.
Maybe. There are surely laws against torture.
--It is always wrong.
Not necessarily. I won't torture you here with the argument.
--It shocks the conscience.
Not necessarily. Some conduct might be torture without shocking all consciences.
--It shames the nation.
Maybe. Whether it saved the nation or not, possibly criminal conduct should be reviewed justly. The superficial shame of bad appearance is minor compared to the deeper shame of failure to do justice to what may only be a paradox.

I don't think you can have it both ways, eds. Either torture is always wrong, or it's not. But in that case, terrorism is not always wrong, either.
If torture can be tolerated because it is sometimes effective, then terrorism has to be tolerated because it can be effective, too. At which point, the reasoning behind throwing out the Geneva Conventions (because they are terrorists and not uniformed war participants), won't hold and Geneva has to be upheld.
Like I said, the reasoning does not work both ways.
Right. What you call terrorism is not always wrong. Did you miss the now old line, "one woman's terrorist is another woman's freedom fighter"? Or are you a pacifist who says that any physical or mental violence is necessarily wrong?
"If torture can be tolerated because it is sometimes effective"
I respectfully do not accept your premise. Torture can be tolerated or not regardless of whether it is sometimes effective, whatever you mean by "effective" (I'm guess you mean that it sometimes produces useful confessions which are true enough, not just false confessions which are mere utterances designed to stop the pain).
Why does Geneva HAVE to be upheld? How is Geneva, which is a *convention*, suddenly a not only a universal *principle* but an absolute too?
"Like I said, the reasoning does not work both ways."
People say strange things, but so what? Your biased dictate is not my command in this instance.

That nailed it for sure! ;)
Right on TheraP! Keep it comin!
Eds, I really think it is the law: 2340-2340A. w's OLC admitted it, straight out in its August 2002 memo. It is the law.
Now laws must be interpreted. But its real clear to me. Torture is against the law outside the US and conducted under 'color of laws'
The only argument left has to do with the definition of 'torture'.
Either we maintain we righteously killed the Japanese soldiers for waterboarding Americans after WWII, or we pay reparations to their families.
Howzabout that?
Makes perfect sense to me! :)
Dick, "There are surely laws against torture." from my comment. Yes, you have mentioned one. Did you intend to agree with that minor point, or contest something I wrote?

oleeb, I'm just following the "spirit" here - as I'm sure you totally understand. It has a life of it's own. I'm doing my best to keep up. Thanks for the encouragement!
There you go again, Thera, piping sunlight, reason and sanity into the unlit corners of the U.S. government.
"Must we put our blunt instruments down and use our brains? We've made so much progress killing and torturing each other, you just want to throw all that away?"
Luz. Lucidity.
Sunlight. Reason. Sanity.
They all seem to have similar derivatives. Never thought about that before. You really stimulate the little gray cells, tpmgary....
Thanks Thera for aggregating your informative links into this post. I love being able to link to you whenever I get into a discussion about this topic.
There was another aspect that, while maybe a bit out there, might be worth contemplating. I was watching the Daily Show the other day where they had mentioned that bushco fired a whole bunch of military personnel (seemingly under the "don't ask don't tell rule) when it was revealed they were gay.
Now here is the odd part..something like 25 of them were Arabic Interpreters.
I could just be putting on my tinfoil hat here, but do you think that just maybe bushco really didn't want to know what the subjects were saying? Or maybe the WH just wanted to get an incompetent loyal bushie interpreter in there who will "translate" whatever bushco wants them to?
Ahhhh...or maybe I've just had too much sugar this evening. LOL
Hmmmm.... I don't know what to make of the 25 Arabic interpreters. But I think they were military people trained as interpreters. On the other hand, who can knock down your theory? It's an intriguing one! I find it compelling in a way. ;)
Well, I'm glad all those links helped. I sometimes need them all in one place too!
TheraP, I am honored to know you found from my last post the power to present another comprehensive article about this heinous history we need to expunge from our psyche. Maybe since Josh has put the Cafe posts on the front page we will get more coverage. Maybe Jon, Steven and MSNBC will coopt our ideas into their own work.
I've always wondered if Rahm Emanuel took my lead after I posted that Rush was the Leader of the GOP until someone could state otherwise without apologizing. I'm okay with being a butterfly if that's the effect. ;-{)>
You well deserve the honor, my dear GregorZ! Truly, that one sentence did it for me!
You just never know which of your words or my words will stick in someone's mind or conjure up the image that leads them to write to take other action.
I think the Cafe is a powerful force BECAUSE we play off of each other. That makes it more fun of course. But it definitely is like a catalyst for each of us. It spurs us on. It gives us that one more boost that can drive a post or make it worthwhile to write again.
What amazes me is how many "angles" there can be to one story.
So thanks again! I'm sure you were thrilled to see your sentence and YOU showcased at the top of the post! Well deserved, I might add! :)
There is worse my friends. According to Jeremy Scahill this has not stopped Torture Continues at Guantánamo Bay
Which explains Obama's changing language regarding torture as "techniques" and a "shortcut."
I just tried to read all of this article you linked to. It sickens me.

Those fraaking psychos are still doing it.
Go read the Zinn.
This has to stop or we are all doomed.

How can we let them get away with this? WE CAN"T!
Please, please folks.
Hey Rowan,
Thanks for the link. I just wrote to the president about it. I think it would be worthwhile to write a blog on this so that more people have a chance to read your link. :)
Wonderful link, strato! Yes, we are dreamers!!!
Good for you Synchronicity, and in response to your and TheraP's suggestion here it is.
And a masterful post it is!!!
Maybe you want to do a specific blog on that?
I believe I have a link in the post that makes it clear that "contractors" are the ones in that goon squad you've linked about.
I think it's good to keep this topic going strong!
Great post TheraP. I wonder how those "few bad apples" managed to buy all those supplies? You think Lyndie England and Charles Grainer had checkwriting privileges?
Excellent, Purple State!
How right you are. Yes, in a little known footnote to history, Grainer and his paramour were able to funnel the hoods and the plastic handcuffs to all troops prior to the Iraq war. Via a secret credit card they arranged for renditions and detentions and the building of Gitmo. And so on.
You've stumbled upon a comedy here! SNL edition of the torture business "exposed".
My deepest appreciation to you and to Gregor for focusing on the creation of a torture industry. While on one hand it is an extension of the "privatize everything" movement, it is so much sicker than that.
It is one thing that we engage in these abuses. It is another to make it a profit oriented industry. As we see with the influence of prison privatization and the growth of the incarcerated population, creating a growth industry of torture and abuse only incentivizes atrocity.
It also turns over to corporations the right to engage in behavior (that while illegal in any context) that was within the hands of government. While governments should not have this particular power, we have a voice with government and controlling its abuses. We do not have that power with corporations.
Thank you for your hard work on this.
Rowan, I think we are closing in on the heart of this conspiracy. I really do. As I wrote to Purple State above, I am preparing a post that I think will give us the "key" to understanding all of this. It's a key easily available - but we (on the left) don't usually bother to read the "playbook" the neocons are working from. Once I have that post up, maybe as soon as tomorrow, I hope you may be able to comment or do a blog yourself on social psychology principles that lie behind what I'll lay out or that operate along with it. I honestly think, were it not for the web, and being able to combine resources right now, that we might be living under a fascist dictatorship - with martial law declared. I just hope we have not merely postponed such a dreadful outcome.
Back to your comment. This morning I put this on emptywheel (in response to a commenter there):
Your mention of Nazi Germany holds more weight than you might imagine. For therapists who have worked with survivors of the worst sort of sadistic, ritualistic, sexual abuse of children have long suspected that Nazis, trained in such sadism, who came to the US, both utilized and taught these methods as a means of exploiting children. Thus, to my mind, we not only must stamp out the use of torture against political opponents, but we must do so in such a way that these methods do not percolate within society, leading to further harm - of US adults and children - and the lifetime of horror that accompanies such abuse.
For that reason it worries me that those who designed or implemented or supervised torture are running free. I’m concerned about the past. But even more - about the future!
I might add here that the industry that's closest to the torture business is sadistic pornography of the worst sort. This is my greatest concern beyond the harm to individuals taken captive for political reasons.
I look forward to your post.
I must say that I keep being haunted by Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. At the beginning of the book, she goes into devastating detail of the psychiatric experimentation on "shock therapy" and how that was later employed for interrogation, and then later applied to states. Like the "mental health" professionals who legitimated and promoted the seemingly institutionalized torture that has happened, "shock" therapy had a similar enthusiast.
I think it is easier and more palatable to focus on a specific policy or action or "a few bad apples" than to look at the paths that brought us to this place. I am very glad that you (and many others here at TPM Cafe) are engaging in MUCH more comprehensive lines of analysis.
Your contributions are significant also. We could not be doing this without this sustained group effort.
But sometimes I procrastinate. I have half of it written, but meat of it... well, that takes time, as it requires a synopsis of "principles". Then nailing them, one by one.
One other horrific thing, sparked in my mind by mention of the hunger strike, was the brutal way the hunger strike was ended. I don't know why that popped out at me on the second read, but that whole force-feeding tube thing was/is difficult to even process for me.
And on a "lighter" note, don't forget the $1000/day consultants who tweak the "experiment" and try to figure out how to get it just right.
Thanks for keeping after the topic.

You nailed it all, kgb! You're doing a great job here yourself! Thanks for commenting.
Posted by TheraP in reply to a comment from kgb999

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