That Old Torture Routine

The torture memorandums that were recently made known have generated amazement, indignation and surprise. The indignation and amazement are understandable, particularly as related to the memorandums released in the recently published report of the Senate Committee on the Military Treatment of Detainees.

In the summer of 2002, according to the report, interrogators at Guantanamo were under increasing pressure from higher levels in the chain of command to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The implementation of water boarding, among other forms of torture, finally obtained “evidence” from a detainee, which was used to help justify the invasion of Iraq by Bush and Cheney the following year.

But why the surprise about the torture memos? Even without an investigation, it is reasonable to assume that Guantanamo was a torture chamber. What other reason would there be to send prisoners to a place where they would be beyond the reach of the law; a place, moreover, that Washington is using in violation of a treaty that Cuba was forced into signing under threat of force? The reasoning of a security issue is difficult to take seriously.

A more extensive reason of why there should be little surprise over these memos is that torture has been a routine practice since the early days of the conquest of the national territory of the United States, and even later still, when the imperial incursions of the “infant empire,” as George Washington called the New Republic, was extended to Haiti, the Philippines and to other places.

Unfortunately, torture is the smallest of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion and economic strangulation that have darkened the history of the United States, a good part of which happened with other large powers. The current revelations of torture point once more to the eternal conflict between “what we represent” and “who we are.”

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