25 August 2009

Torture and Capitalism

With all the revelations about U.S. government-sanctioned torture, of how Cheney claims torture brought important information to light, and of how those claims are refuted by actual facts, it is easy for us to fall into some common traps.

For one, Cheney’s claims might lead us to believe that there is merit in talking about whether or not torture is useful. This canard plays into the fiction spun by the torturers. We can argue and prove that torture does not produce good intelligence, but what if it did? Would that excuse it? The entire subject is moot since torture has but one purpose: to force prisoners to say what torturers want them to say. It does not extend beyond that and never has throughout history.

In the Medieval period, the Church or the secular state could confiscate land of all who were hanged/burned/drowned after confession under torture. This was quite profitable for the powerful. To increase profits, they not only obtained a confession of guilt for witchcraft or heresy, but a list of “accomplices.” Names of friends and family extracted under the duress of torture gave the torturers an excuse to torture more people before absconding with their property in an ever-widening circle. This went on until the public would no longer tolerate it in that area, and the inquisition would move to the next town. The torturers of that time no more believed their own cover story than Cheney et al. believes our torture of prisoners made us safer after 9/11. Torturers didn’t believe in witches and heretics; that was simply their lie so they could extract capital from their victims, mining the resources of the populace. 

Little has changed. Torture is one means to a capitalistic end. It creates a fiction that spreads to the masses to allow the powerful to exploit the people. Today, to get common folk to accept war and torture and to continue to extract money from taxpayers for corporate welfare, many techniques are utilized, including: nationalism, corporate funded PR, false stories put out by corporate-owned media, and claims based on “science” co-opted and paid for by industry. Falling for any of these traps allows the powerful to escape responsibility for their deceptions and crimes as they reap tremendous profits from the people around the world.

Where does that leave us in our present discussion of U.S. torture policy? We might dig directly into the onion rather than be diverted by its outer layers. When torture is used, we should discern what fabrications the torturers wanted their victims to confess to and why, rather than get mired in pointless corollaries.

By their own admission (and membership), the Cheney regime endeavored to strengthen the “Project for a New American Century” agenda. This is a global corporate agenda; pointing out their corporate ties confirms this. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton; Halliburton gained noncompetitive contracts in Iraq. Bush has ties to big oil; our troops invaded, then guarded oil fields while ignoring the plight of the people and their culture as Baghdad was looted, and on an on.

With torture, any story can gain credence if someone is forced to confess to its validity, since anyone will say anything under torture. In short, it is a way to gain a competitive edge in the capitalistic market place. Want an excuse to go into Iraq to secure oil for your friends and family? Get someone to confess to a lie (weapons of mass destruction, say) that supports your military position so you can invade an oil-rich nation. You can make someone say “I am a fish!” if you like; it doesn’t matter how outrageous the story. They would even confess to being sexual partners with Satan and confirm that their family performed similar perverted acts under the light of the moon. It’s a powerful tool, but it is never used to actually extract unknown information. It is meant to create fictions written by torturers for a purpose. 

So given that any torture policy throughout history is simply a means to create false evidence for economic gain, what should we be talking about? Should we say that we are a good people who do not torture? That would be replacing one fiction with another. America, like any power, has always tortured, killed, and abused people for its own ends. Vigorously waving a flag won’t change that. Should we say that it is ineffective for gathering information? That concedes that torture should be used under some circumstances, which is fallacious.

Given that the “Bush” regime had an agenda to enhance corporate power around the globe, the real concern should be: What lies were put into existence and for what specific purpose? To do so strips the onion to its core, exposing the agenda of the torturers. Only by doing this can we decide what steps to take regarding criminal prosecution and future actions to remove torture from our national toolbox.

However, this discussion is off the table, and it will remain so. A few scapegoats might be thrown into the fire as they were with the Abu Ghraib affair. Obama, being a good right of center corporate Democrat, has unequivocally stated that he wishes to “look forward, not back” so all this torture nonsense can be swept under the rug. Eric Holder will investigate torture, but only cases in which the torturers tortured outside the letter of the torture policy. To do any more, to penetrate the onion, would be to condemn Obama’s corporate paymasters and our whole way of life.

For we are capitalists and consumers, cheering on behemoths like big oil, big pharma, big agriculture, and of course our huge military machine, which consumes at least half of our federal budget every year once you add up all its conveniently separated parts. Our global military domination that Americans support is our brutal arm sweeping aside everything non-corporate in the world. Regurgitated fictions about keeping our children safe, a war on terror, liberating the bombed-out masses in “Iraq/Af/Pak," and, yes, fictions obtained through torture, pave the way. 

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