In the famous movie from the 1960's directed by Costa Gavras, State of Siege, about the Tupamaros of South America, there is a scene that takes place in a police academy in the U.S. where torture is taught to extract information from political prisoners, especially Marxist led guerillas fighting U.S. backed dictatorships in Latin America. That is a scene from the past, but it shows a man is sitting, bound and naked, his genitals connected to wires — where he would receive electric shock. Look familiar?
The US government and its agencies, especially the CIA, have long been involved in teaching other countries how to use torture in the interrogation of prisoners. The CIA and Mossad were involved in creating the Shah's notorious secret police, SAVAK that was instrumental in the crackdown and torture of its opponents. Savak used the methods that are now widespread in Evin prison. In fact, the infamous Evin prison was built during the reign of the last Pahlavi King.
Tortures such as using hot beds, electrical shocks, rape, flogging, putting prisoners in an upside down position, and various forms of psychological abuse were only a few of the techniques that have become widespread in the prisons of the Islamic regime. According to many former political prisoners, the prison guards and torturers were from the Shah's time.
In Latin America, where torture was widespread in the former juntas supported by the US government, all the same or similar methods were used to extract confessions from the prisoners. Families were brought in and tortured in front of the prisoners in order to demoralize them. The use of torture in Latin America by different secret police agencies is still a scar on a foreign policy that condoned its usage.
Therefore, when the story of Abu Ghraib prison and the use of torture came out and it was reported first by “60 Minutes II” and then by the famous and brave New Yorker reporter, Seymour Hirsch, it was not a surprise. For most people, the surprise lay in the fact that America invaded Iraq to save the Iraqis from the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein's regime, and then some of those same invaders used many of Saddam's methods.
The naked exhibition of Iraqi civilians, who by various accounts were rounded up as “suspects” without being formerly charged, was an inhuman form of torture totally unacceptable by all international laws and especially humiliating in the Islamic world. The horrible photos spoke louder than words. They were scenes right out of a horror movie, etched forever in our minds.
The US government maintains that only a few people were involved in these atrocities and that they acted alone. It is hard to believe that in the most advanced military apparatus in the world, the higher ranks of the US military were not aware of what was going on, and that just a few of its young men and women in the uniform had acted solo.
But the fact remains that nothing is done without the knowledge of a “few not so Good men” and all that takes place is done according to the rules and regulations set by the army. In any military unit or army in the world, no one in the lower positions can act alone without having the blessing of the higher ranks or on specific orders.
Torture has been used throughout the world, mainly by repressive regimes. But when the greatest democracy in the world uses torture as a means to find Al Qaida members or other individuals linked to this terrorist organization, and when it subsequently revealed that most prisoners were innocent civilians with no link whatsoever to any terrorist organization, torture becomes even more shocking.
To go to war under the pretext of nonexistent WMD's, to drag the nation into an unwanted and bloody war, to spend billions of dollars of tax dollars an undesired cause, is bad enough. The torture and rape of Iraqis at the hands of American and British soldiers is unconscionable. Similarly, the brutal killing of Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl at the hands of their captors, have only made this war and its aftermath, more chilling and disgusting. Their lives were cut so short when in fact they had no say or desire to be part of this unholy war.
The world today is upside down; Saddam is in a prison guarded by his captors, overseen by the Red Cross. Yet Iraq is in flames, the Iraqis who were supposed to be saved are being killed daily in bomb blasts, even at their wedding ceremonies. Torture is not attributed any longer to repressive regimes. It is used in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Let's just pray that we have not given Osama bin Laden another excuse to create many more 9/11s! Let's hope, for the sake of humanity and the Iraqi people who have been victimized for decades, that June 30th is a calendar date that will bring about final peace and no more torture.
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