May 10, 2004
George W. Bush was forced to go on Arabic-language TV to apologize for the horrendous acts of torture and abuse that U.S. soldiers have committed in Iraq.
Said Bush: This "does not represent the America that I know."
But it does represent the behavior that the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence operatives, and their proxies have engaged in since the end of World War II.
The CIA trained the Iranian SAVAK secret police in torture after the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953, and the SAVAK systematically tortured anyone suspected of being a subversive.
In Guatemala in 1954, the United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Arbenz, and proceeded to train the Guatemalan army in torture techniques. In the ensuing four decades, tens of thousands of Guatemalans were tortured. And in 1989, Dianna Ortiz, an American nun, was tortured in Guatemala while someone with an American accent stood by in a supervisory position, she has written in her memoir, The Blindfold's Eye.
During the Vietnam War, especially in the Phoenix Program, the CIA engaged in widespread torture and killing.
"Phoenix was a coordinated effort of the United States and South Vietnam," William Blum writes in his authoritative book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II. "Under the program, Vietnamese citizens were rounded up and jailed, often in tiger cages, often tortured, often killed, either in the process of being arrested or subsequently. By [Former CIA Director William] Colby's records, during the period between early 1968 and May 1971, 20,587 alleged Vietcong cadres met their death as a result of the Phoenix Program."
During the Vietnam War, according to Blum's book, U.S. soldiers were trained in torture techniques. Blum cites the case of Green Beret Donald Duncan, who wrote about his own training in a book called The New Legions. Duncan relates how he and fellow classmates were instructed in torture methods with translations of an alleged Soviet torture manual.
"Are you suggesting that we use these methods?" a student asked his instructor, Sergeant Lacey.
"The class laughs, and Lacey looks down at the floor creating a dramatic pause. When he raises his head, his face is solemn but his deep-set eyes are dancing. 'We can't tell you that. . . . The mothers of America wouldn't approve.' The class bursts into laughter at the sarcastic cynicism. 'Furthermore,' a conspiratorial wink, 'we will deny that any such thing is taught or intended.' " (Quote from Duncan's book, as reproduced in Blum's.)
Blum also reports that the Navy ran courses in how to survive torture. In one such course, students were forced to endure treatment that, in at least one respect, was eerily similar to the treatment meted out to prisoners in Abu Ghraib: forced masturbation.
"A former student, Navy pilot Lt. Wendell Richard Young, claimed that his back was broken during the course and that students were tortured into spitting, urinating and defecating on the American flag, masturbating before guards, and, on one occasion, engaging in sex with an instructor," Blum writes, citing a March 22, 1976, Newsweek article.
After Suharto overthrew Sukarno in Indonesia in 1965 with the help of the United States, the CIA furnished the junta with the names of thousands of suspected Communists, who were tortured and killed.
When Pinochet overthrew Allende in Chile in 1973, the United States knew about the widespread torture that their ally was committing, even against Charles Horman, a U.S. citizen.
In El Salvador from the 1960s through the 1980s, death squad operators that were organized, trained, and financed by the United States tortured and killed tens of thousands. (See Allan Nairn's "Behind the Death Squads," which The Progressive published in May 1984.)
In Honduras in the early to mid-1980s, the CIA financed and trained the notorious Battalion 316 that tortured and murdered hundreds of Hondurans.
From 1982 to 1991, the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, gave classes in torture to Latin American military officials and even distributed a manual for torture that was kindly translated into Spanish.
In Haiti in the 1990s, another CIA death squad, the FRAPH, ended up torturing or killing 3,000 people.
So this idea that Bush is shocked, shocked to find out about torture at the hands of Americans is just ignorance or amnesia or propaganda.