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Why Torture Is Necessary


Secrecy, torture and the murder of those who resist are necessary parts of this perfect storm of unimaginable violence in the service of unimaginable theft.

Of our unambiguously evil actions, torturing humans or other animals must be among the most egregious. The UN Geneva Convention on Human Rights (1975 expanded version) defines torture as:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind….

The fight over torture is a battle between two very different world views that are, helpfully, also portrayed in the movie “Avatar.” Col. Miles Quaritch commands a Blackwater-like private army, employed by the RDA Corporation to remove the Na’vi people so the corporation can mine their home for a rare metal. Quaritch is the embodiment of a god of war, for whom only the efficacy of behavior matters, not the morality. Violence, torture, slaughter are equally acceptable means to serve the master corporation’s greed. The Na’vi represent the more empathic, compassionate and holistic perspective.

Without getting too rhapsodic, this movie asks us how we see others. Do we see them as means to our ends, stepping stones whose heads we push under to create the illusion that we can walk on water? Or do we see even the people who have something we want – perhaps oil – as our brothers and sisters, children of God, the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself?

Back on our own planet, Naomi Klein’s 2007 book “The Shock Doctrine” took 466 pages to flesh out the worldview that can even be proud of torture, as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove have confessed to be. Though her book is a hard read, we need a better understanding of the marriage of greed and violence that has become our world’s greatest enemy. Klein would side with the Na’vi, though her research shows the Quaritches and their corporate masters almost always win.

Human history confirms Klein’s research: the combined forces of greed and violence usually win. History also offers the testimony of General Smedley Butler (1881-1940), who wrote “War Is a Racket“. One of only two Americans to win the Medal of Honor on two separate occasions, his words were as courageous as his actions, especially when he spoke about the real purpose of war:

“The flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag…. I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

In the United States of 2010, the greediest corporations have won, and are consolidating their strength for a long reign. We need to understand how they can employ a degree of violence, torture and murder that simply paralyzes most of us.

The Prototype of Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein calls it “disaster capitalism”; she says the French call it “savage capitalism.” Both names reflect the (so far) unstoppable power of violence and greed. The economist associated with the golden age of this supercharged greed was Milton Friedman who, along with others from “the Chicago School” of economics, showed many leaders from South America to first-world countries how to become wealthy by selling out their countries, offering national properties and resources at a fraction of their worth to corporate bidders – mostly from the United States. The Chicago School developed the wrecking ball that has been used in nearly all the episodes of disaster capitalism. However, the prototypical model was the CIA-backed coup of 1965 in Indonesia. Sukarno, Indonesia’s first elected president, saw the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as agents of American greed and dreams of empire. He threw them out of the country. Naomi Klein describes what happened when Suharto came to power as dictator:

His use of terror was so merciless, so far beyond even the worst expectations, that a people who only weeks earlier had been collectively striving to assert their country’s independence were now sufficiently terrified that they ceded total control to Suharto and his henchmen. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations manager during the years of the coup, said Indonesia was a “model operation…. You can trace back all major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power. The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.

While citizens were distracted by the terror, a group of US economists from the University of California at Berkeley handed out “tax holidays,” and within two years, Indonesia’s natural wealth – copper, nickel, hardwood, rubber and oil – was being divided up among the largest mining and energy companies in the world.[1]

After Indonesia, this bloody pattern of shock, awe and robbery continued in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina – as well as in larger first-world countries – including Britain, Russia and the United States.

The Three 9/11’s

The rise of disaster capitalism from 1973 to today can be framed by three coincidental 9/11’s marking its beginning, naming and application in the USA.

The Beginning: 9/11/1973

On September 11, 1973, the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet killed Chile’s President Salvador Allende and, with the backing of our CIA, established his fascist regime, killed tens of thousands of Chileans in a display of power so brutal that four decades of Chilean democracy ended immediately. [2] Pinochet’s brutal tactics served as both model and inspiration for successive looting of countries from South America to The Soviet Union, to the aftermath of our own 9/11. The violent robbery of Chile and sale of government assets bought with citizens’ taxes worked too well not to repeat: in Uruguay and Brazil in 1973, and in Argentina in 1976.

The four key parts to this wildly effective scheme were solidified in Chile:

First, there needs to be what Friedman called a crisis: a traumatic shock to paralyze or distract the citizens, to get them off-balance for awhile.

Then a plan to sell off government assets to private buyers is quickly put into effect. The code word for this is “privatization.”

The third part of the plan is to remove all laws that could get in the way of this easy looting and allow foreign companies – especially US companies – free access to all their markets, without tariffs or taxes meant to protect the local economy. The code word for this is “deregulation.”

The fourth part is to disempower and begin to dismantle the middle and lower classes by eliminating labor unions and cutting most social support services – and transferring the money saved this way to the wealthy. The code words for this are “cuts to social spending.”

The feature that enabled these rapes and robberies was always a shocking, violent act that terrorized – and paralyzed – citizens. While military coups provided the shock in the four South American countries known as The Southern Cone, disaster capitalists later learned to take advantage of natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina to loot on whatever scale the disaster allowed.

Nor were third world countries the only victims. Margaret Thatcher used the 1982 Falklands War to bring the radical capitalist transformation to a Western liberal democracy for the first time. Between 1984 and 1988, the British government “privatized” British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, British Airport Authority and British Steel, while it sold its shares in British Petroleum. All these properties had previously been the property of all British citizens. Thatcher also broke the back of the mineworkers’ union – firing 966 people from Britain’s most powerful union. She later became close friends with Chile’s General Pinochet.

The Naming: 9/11/1990

This marriage of unrestrained looting and unrestrained violence was publicly named on the second 9/11, when President George H. W. Bush introduced it to a joint session of Congress on September 11, 1990: it would be known, and is still known, as “The New World Order.”

David Rockefeller, a key driving force behind this New World Order, was quite candid about it:

“We are on the verge of global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order.[3]

“Some even believe we (the Rockefeller family) are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.” [4]

Secrecy, torture and the murder of those who resist are necessary parts of this perfect storm of unimaginable violence in the service of unimaginable theft. People will not willingly let others rob, disempower and enslave them. Pinochet demonstrated that an immediate campaign of shock and awe can paralyze an entire nation long enough to change their laws, and render them impotent – or dead – under the new regime.

The arrest, torture and murder of those who resist the rape of their country must be done both quickly and brutally, in order to terrorize the citizens and let them know they may be only a careless word away from being arrested, tortured and “disappeared” by their own government. The “usual suspects” are workers’ unions, intellectuals who defend them, other critics and anyone else who is seen as a threat to the unregulated robbery of their country. It’s estimated that there were more than 30,000 “disappeared” people in Argentina alone. If the arrest, torture, imprisonment and murder of those who oppose this New World Order cannot be done outright, the fear that they might be arrested, tortured or killed can be enough to frighten a people into submission. The people must understand that their government has enough might to loot their taxes – to bail out the bankers whose greed took their homes, their jobs and their dignity, for example.

In this context, consider the Senate bill introduced on March 4, 2010, by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman entitled “The Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010.” If passed, the bill will allow the US government to classify any US citizen as an “enemy belligerent,” strip them of customary legal rights, take them into custody for interrogation and whatever unmentionable acts may follow.

Bringing It Home: 9/11/2001

The third 9/11 came in 2001, when we experienced firsthand the pattern of paralyzing shock, rewriting our laws to sell our government assets to well-connected bidders, and to begin curtailing our rights. Some leaders (Dick Cheney, John McCain, for example) are complacent about never-ending war abroad. Meanwhile, we experience a growing police state at home, with security cameras establishing a ratio of one camera for every 25-30 citizens (less than Britain’s ratio of one camera for every 14 citizens). Police and security personnel are costumed in mini-Darth Vader black with their eyes hidden. Increasingly invasive searches occur at every airport. Our leaders insist that illegally invading Iraq and Afghanistan means that we are “at war,” and this “war” necessitates draconian measures, both abroad and at home. We are terrorized daily by the incessant trumpeting of a “war on terror.”

These developments bear a family resemblance to the varied coups and/or looting that have occurred in Indonesia, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as in Britain, Canada, Asian countries and Russia. The details differ, but the outcomes look alike: terrorizing the citizens as laws are changed restricting their rights, as public assets are sold out from under citizens to well-connected corporations.

Naomi Klein describes our government giveaways in three main areas: security, warfare and reconstruction. With warfare and reconstruction shifting to corporations, our stock market is demonstrating for the first time that stock prices increase with the news of both reconstruction and new wars. War is terrific business, and both Israel and the US have hundreds of billions of dollars riding on the homeland security cash cow, permanent war and a growing police state at home – all dependent on maintaining a high level of fear.

From one perspective, this is global terrorism done in the name of anti-terrorism – or even a war on terror. The terror is necessary to keep the troublesome masses from revolting and taking back their money, their rights and their countries.

What Would “We” Do in “Their” Shoes?

Try to imagine that getting money or power comes naturally to you, either through your talent, inheritance or connections. Your peers are equally gifted parts of your self-selected community. You see them at your country club, political meetings, concerts, at the gym and in professional organizations. Many have degrees from elite universities where tuition levels put them beyond the reach of ordinary citizens who will never – thank God – be your neighbors.

Everything about you shows your higher class. You run in better circles, in the fraternities and sororities of your country’s elite. You have a bigger share of the pie: you own the bakeries. You earned your entitlement through superior focus, effort, achievement and character. You’re in the class of people who get streets, sports arenas and college buildings named after them. How much clearer can it be that you are exactly where you belong: at the top of the heap? You are among the best and brightest of your time. However, you are always being threatened by those whining bastards who feel entitled to what you – but not they – have earned. Your class, pedigree, wealth and collective power identify you as among the leaders necessary to keep America strong and faithful: God loves winners.

You secretly cheer at the news about Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld paying himself half a billion dollars over the last decade, as you cheer the bill currently before the US Senate to remove legal protection for whistleblowers.

Luckily, the times are encouraging. Soon the world will be set right, by those who have earned the right and who have the vision and power to remake it. You have seen your Supreme Court give corporations unlimited power to buy elections. If ever awakened, the slumbering Sheeple could topple you and set American progress back decades. Luckily, they’re easily controlled through endless wars abroad and the growing police state at home.

Those of you wielding or buying power are the real heroes of our great nation. You are trying to set America right, after decades of liberal pansies have favored the weak over the strong, welfare mothers over well-off investors, unearned health care for the unmotivated people, free public education using liberal texts, and an effeminate “progressive” vision of peace through talk rather than action. This is a battle for America’s soul, and you have nearly won – the golden ring is just inches away. At this critical juncture, it is crucial that the masses know at all times that they can be arrested for a wayward word, imprisoned as an enemy of the state, exported to a prison far away, tortured and “disappeared.” These things must be done so the right kind of people can build an America of which history will be proud.

You might make it.

[1] Naomi Klein, “The Shock Doctrine,” p. 69.

[2] Everything about Allende, from his election to the presidency in 1970 to his death on September 11, 1973 is still wrapped in controversy. Workers’ groups claim he was killed by Gen. Pinochet’s firing on his residence; more conservative sources say he probably committed suicide.

[3] David Rockefeller in a statement to the United Nations Business Council in September 1994.

[4] David Rockefeller, Memoirs (Reed Business Information, Inc., 2002), p. 405.

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