Mar 062005

The U.S. media is filled with heartwarming stories about the alleged global spread of Western-style democracy, but in much of the rest of the world?including particularly the Arab world the image of America is that of a torturer.

At Abu Ghaib, it was Americans themselves who proudly carried out the dirty work. Most of the time, however, such unpleasant tasks are subcontracted out to third parties for purposes of legal deniability, though this fools no one. Today, as a follow-up to Jane Mayer?s incredibly disturbing report in The New Yorker, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest offers us further incontrovertible evidence that the United States?as represented in this case by the CIA is deep into the torture business. Just read the story’s opening paragraphs, here.

In November 2002, a newly minted CIA case officer in charge of a secret prison just north of Kabul allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young Afghan detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets, according to four U.S. government officials aware of the case.

The Afghan guards — paid by the CIA and working under CIA supervision in an abandoned warehouse code-named the Salt Pit — dragged their captive around on the concrete floor, bruising and scraping his skin, before putting him in his cell, two of the officials said.

As night fell, so, predictably, did the temperature.

By morning, the Afghan man had frozen to death.

After a quick autopsy by a CIA medic — “hypothermia” was listed as the cause of death — the guards buried the Afghan, who was in his twenties, in an unmarked, unacknowledged cemetery used by Afghan forces, officials said. The captive’s family has never been notified; his remains have never been returned for burial. He is on no one’s registry of captives, not even as a “ghost detainee,” the term for CIA captives held in military prisons but not registered on the books, they said.

“He just disappeared from the face of the earth,” said one U.S. government official with knowledge of the case.

The CIA case officer, meanwhile, has been promoted. What’s more, Senate Republicans are determined to insure that no honest investigation of US torture practices ever takes place, here.

Now take a look at this story buried, weeks ago, deep in the back pages of the New York Daily News but only recently brought to my attention. It documents the abuse tantamount to torture of 79 Muslims and five Israeli Jewish terrorist suspects; not in Guantanamo or Iraq, but in a federal prison in Brooklyn, a stone’s throw from the D train and within sight of the Statue of Liberty. This one brings the issue of torture home, here in America, for the first time.

The mistreatment included sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, exposure to freezing temperatures for extended periods, and frequent unprovoked beatings.

Many of the abuses were recorded on video tape. None of the suspects were ultimately found to have any relation to terrorism. Yet, despite the video tapes, the Justice Department has decided no one will be prosecuted. A separate administrative investigation by the Bureau of Prisons appears to be a sham. Of 12 prisoners I interviewed, none had been interviewed by Justice Department prosecutors or Bureau of Prison investigators.

So ponder this, whatever your cable buddies tell you, so long a tortured Afghan freezing to death remain a true face of US foreign policy and no investigations are ordered and no one is made to pay no one is going to believe any American official who speaks of our desire to spread democracy, and no one should.

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