American Samizdat

Sunday, November 01, 2009. *
This quote is drawn from Henry A. Giroux's forthcoming book, "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror" (Paradigm Publishers, 2010).

...The war abroad entered a new phase with the release of photos of detainees being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison. War as organized violence was stripped of its noble aims and delusional goal of promoting democracy and revealed state violence at its most degrading and dehumanizing moment. State power had become an instrument of torture, ripping into the flesh of human beings, raping women and most abominably torturing children. Democracy had become a shell that not only defended the unthinkable, but inflicted the most horrible mutilations on both adults and children deemed to be the enemies of democracy. But the mutilations were also inflicted against the body politic as politicians such as former Vice President Dick Cheney defended torture while the media addressed the question of torture not as a violation of democratic principles or human rights but as a strategy that may or may not produce concrete information. The utilitarian arguments used to defend a market-driven economy that only recognizes cost-benefit analyses had now reached their logical end point as similar arguments were now used to defend torture, even when it involved children. The pretense of democracy was stripped bare as it was revealed over and over again that the United States had become a torture state, aligning itself with infamous dictatorships such as those in Argentina and Chile during the 1970's. The United States government under the Bush administration had finally arrived at a point where the metaphysics of war, organized violence and state terrorism prevented them from recognizing how much they were emulating the very acts of terrorism they claimed to be fighting. The circle had now been completed as the warfare state had been transformed into a torture state. Everything became permissible both at home and abroad just as the legal system along with the market system legitimated a punishing and ruthless mode of economic Darwinism that viewed morality if not democracy itself as a weakness to be either scorned or ignored. Self-regulation now drove the market and narrowly defined individual interests set the parameters of what was possible. The public collapsed into the private and social responsibility was reduced to the arbitrary desires of the hermetic, asocial self. Not surprisingly, the inhuman and degrading not only entered public discourse and shaped the debate about war, state violence and human rights abuses, but served to legitimate such practices. Torture was normalized and the promise of an aspiring democracy was irreparably damaged.

The United States under the Bush administration embarked on a war on terror that not only defended torture as a matter of official policy, but furthered conditions for the emergence of a culture of cruelty that profoundly altered the political and moral landscape of the country. As torture became normalized under the Bush administration, it not only corrupted American ideals and political culture, it also passed over to the dark side in sanctioning the unimaginable and unspeakable - the torture of children. While the rise of the torture state has been a subject of intense controversy, too little has been said by intellectuals, academics, artists, writers, parents and politicians about how state violence under the Bush administration set in motion a public pedagogy and political culture that not only legitimated the systemic torture of children, but did so with the complicity of a dominant media that either denied such practices or simply ignored them. The focus on children here is deliberate because young people provide a powerful referent for not only the long-term consequences of social policies, if not the future itself, but also because they offer a crucial index to measure the moral and democratic values of a nation. Children are the heartbeat of politics because they speak to the best of its possibilities and promises and yet they have in the last few years become the vanishing point of moral debate, either irrelevant because of their age, discounted because they are largely viewed as commodities, or scorned because they are considered a threat to adult society...

Yes, Children...

9yr-old boy tortured, says former Guantanamo detainee...

Sam Vaknin on Torture\

The Business of Torture

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

Written January 17, 2003
Updated March 9, 2005

On January 16, 2003, the European Court of Human Rights agreed - more than two years after the applications have been filed - to hear six cases filed by Chechens against Russia. The claimants accuse the Russian military of torture and indiscriminate killings. The Court has ruled in the past against the Russian Federation and awarded assorted plaintiffs thousands of euros per case in compensation.

As awareness of human rights increased, as their definition expanded and as new, often authoritarian polities, resorted to torture and repression - human rights advocates and non-governmental organizations proliferated. It has become a business in its own right: lawyers, consultants, psychologists, therapists, law enforcement agencies, scholars and pundits tirelessly peddle books, seminars, conferences, therapy sessions for victims, court appearances and other services.

Human rights activists target mainly countries and multinationals.

In June 2001, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 villagers against the American oil behemoth, ExxonMobile, for "abetting" abuses in Aceh, Indonesia. They alleged that the company provided the army with equipment for digging mass graves and helped in the construction of interrogation and torture centers.

In November 2002, the law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll joined other American and South African law firms in filing a complaint that "seeks to hold businesses responsible for aiding and abetting the apartheid regime in South Africa ... forced labor, genocide, extrajudicial killing, torture, sexual assault, and unlawful detention".

Among the accused: "IBM and ICL which provided the computers that enabled South Africa to ... control the black South African population. Car manufacturers provided the armored vehicles that were used to patrol the townships. Arms manufacturers violated the embargoes on sales to South Africa, as did the oil companies. The banks provided the funding that enabled South Africa to expand its police and security apparatus."

Charges were leveled against Unocal in Myanmar and dozens of other multinationals. In September 2002, Berger & Montague filed a class action complaint against Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport. The oil giants are charged with "purchasing ammunition and using ... helicopters and boats and providing logistical support for 'Operation Restore Order in Ogoniland'" which was designed, according to the law firm, to "terrorize the civilian population into ending peaceful protests against Shell's environmentally unsound oil exploration and extraction activities".

The defendants in all these court cases strongly deny any wrongdoing.

But this is merely one facet of the torture business.
More at the link...

The Psychology of Torture
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:03 PM
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