There are various reports of a vast torture regime in Libya under Muammar Gadhafi, including this graphic CNN report on some in Gadhafi’s immediate family throwing boiling hot water on their nanny. It is always useful to maintain a skeptical eye when the US media reveals some widespread horror committed by an official US enemy, especially one we’ve just gone to war with. Initial claims about Gadhafi handing out viagra for his loyalists to better rape their victims turned out to be false, recalling earlier propaganda regarding incubators and meat grinders meant to demonize Saddam Hussein.
True or not, these reports should never be used to justify the US-NATO intervention, because they very obviously had nothing to do with it, just as protecting civilians had nothing to do with the motivation to intervene.
The US currently gives around $3 billion a year to the corrupt government of Pakistan, where, as described in a recent Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan,” torture is widespread. Many captives are merely executed.
“Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear,’ and in many cases are executed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The national government has done little to end the carnage in Balochistan, calling into question its willingness or ability to control the military and intelligence agencies.”
…“Pakistani security services are brazenly disappearing, torturing, and often killing people because of suspected ties to the Baloch nationalist movement,” Adams said. “This is not counterinsurgency – it is barbarism and it needs to end now.”
…They beat me all over my body and on the soles of my feet with their fists and feet. They hit me for around one to two hours continuously in the morning, then again in the evening. At night they would not let me sleep or lie down, I was forced to stand. If I started to fall asleep they would hit me on the back and shoulders to keep me awake.
So that’s Pakistan. Our friend and ally.
What about Bahrain, another of Obama’s favorites? US support for the Bahraini dictatorship has been steadfast throughout the recent uprisings which were met with horrible government violence, including opening fire on crowds of peaceful protesters. These are worse than torture, but just to keep this as analogous as possible, there have also been reports of widespread torture in Bahrain as well. Another report from Human Rights Watch went into detail about the torture and physical abuse the government unleashes, mostly on Shiites. This was actually acknowledged by the US State Department, as revealed in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. The cable displays the utter passivity US officials exhibit in the face of these reports of torture.
We can go on like this. Egypt’s Mubarak was our closest ally, supported enthusiastically by Obama until the very last second, and had elaborate and professionalized programs for torture. The government under Saleh’s Yemen has a disgusting record of torture, complete with acid, electricity, and starvation.This only scratches the surface of US support for crimes and torture at least comparable to those now being reported on about Gadhafi. Yet, we don’t see graphic CNN reports about all this, do we?
But of course that is not the end. The US doesn’t just support others who engage in torture. They engage in it themselves. Despite vowing to end the practice, reports continued to come out of serious detainee abuse under the Obama administration, including “sleep deprivation, holding detainees in cold cells, forced nudity, physical abuse, detaining individuals in isolation cells for longer than 30 days, and restricting the access of the International Committee of the Red Cross.” Two teenagers, Issa Mohammad, then 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he was younger than 16, told the Washington Post that they were subjected to all of these abuses, including being punched and slapped in the face. One prisoner at a black cite adjacent to Abu Ghraib, which the US military denied even existed, lost an entire row of teeth from being hit in the face with the butt of gun by an American soldier while in custody.
In addition, Obama has veiled all of the torture and abuse of the Bush administration, which was more widespread by most accounts, in a protective barrier of immunity. He also continues to indefinitely hold prisoners without charge or trial, violating one of the most fundamental pillars of a just society ever concocted.
There are some irresponsible choices for the media, given all this, when it comes to Gadhafi’s alleged torture (which I don’t really doubt, but have been trained to be skeptical about given past instances of opportunistic propaganda campaigns mentioned above). Much of what I’ve seen has been going that irresponsible route: exposing torture of a stated US enemy, while white-washing the comparable crimes perpetrated by the US and its clients. Context is everything sometimes.