Friday, December 23, 2005

A History of Torture

Naomi Klein's much needed article [Naomi Klein, "'Never Before!' Our Amnesiac Torture Debate," The Nation, December 8, 2005] on the continuities of the use of torture by our government through at least the last half century is well worth reading. One might only add that, as Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman document in their 1979 book, "The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism," there is strong evidence that during the 1970s the U.S. was in fact the leading source of torture in the world.

Herman commented last year that [Edward S. Herman, "The United States As Torture Central: U.S. sponsors regimes using torture extensively,"” Z magazine, May 2004]:
Amnesty International's 1974 Report on Torture pointed out that torture, which had been at a low ebb for centuries, "has suddenly developed a life of its own and become a social cancer." AI located this cancer in the West and most particularly in the Third World client states of the West, given that torture in the Soviet Union had declined following the death of Stalin in 1953. In its 1978 Annual Report, AI noted that some "80 percent" of the "urgent cases" of torture were coming out of the National Security States of Latin America and in The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (South End Press), Noam Chomsky and I showed that 26 of the 35 states that were using torture on an administrative basis in the 1970s were U.S. clients, who had received military aid and police training from this country.
So the United States was truly torture central at that time, not by virtue of its own use of torture, but by its sponsorship of regimes that used it extensively.

To say that this flies in the face of popular awareness is an understatement. As Klein points out, even many left writers fail to mention the crucial context in discussing the currant torture scandals.


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