by Jacob G. Hornberger
When Republicans talk about the exceptional nature of the U.S. government, they might well be referring to both its brutality and its hypocrisy.
Such characteristics are on full display in a just-released report by Human Rights Watch, which details how the CIA during the Bush administration renditioned people to Libya for the purpose of torture.
Libya? Yes, I know what you’re thinking, if you’re a statist. You’re thinking that it’s just not possible that the CIA would rendition people to Libya because Libya was headed by the brutal dictator Muammar Qaddafi. You’ll recall that he’s the brutal tyrant that the U.S. military and CIA under the Obama administration helped oust from power on the ground that he was a brutal tyrant who was oppressing his own people.
Given that the U.S. government professes to be anti-dictator and pro-democracy, then how is it possible that the CIA, which is, of course, a principal agency within the U.S. government, would rendition people to a brutal tyrant so that he could be tortured there?
Well, that’s the point of the exceptionalism — brutality and hypocrisy. While the State Department is out there preaching the U.S. government’s devotion to freedom and democracy, the CIA is operating under the table and partnering with brutal dictators who are amenable to torturing people on behalf of the U.S. government.
Unfortunately, this harsh reality regarding the federal government’s exceptionalism is just something that all too many Americans don’t wish to confront. From the first grade in the public schools their parents are forced to send them to, people are inculcated with the notion that the federal government is devoted to freedom and democracy. And so people simply refuse to consider that another part of the government is devoted to the exact opposite.
What did the CIA and Qaddafi do to people pursuant to their rendition-torture partnership? The Human Rights Watch report, as summarized by the New York Times, details the account of Mohammed Shoreiya. He said that when he was taken captive in Afghanistan, “his American captors had put a hood on his head and strapped him to a wooden board, then poured water over his face until he felt like he was asphyxiating. An American man who appeared to be a doctor was present during the sessions, he said.”
One interesting aspect of Shoreiya’s account is that the CIA has long maintained that it waterboarded no more than three prisoners. Shoreiya’s account, of course, indicates that the CIA has been lying the entire time.
A particularly horrific aspect to this is that Shoreiya was a Libyan. He, along with other Libyans whom the CIA renditioned to Libya for torture, were opponents of the Qaddafi regime. Yes, you read that right. They were committed to ending Gaddafi’s brutal tyranny in Libya long before Obama’s military and CIA decided to end it with a military intervention. So, the CIA knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally sent Libyan citizens to Qaddafi who were committed to ousting him from power, which, of course, meant that Qaddafi had even more incentive to subject them to extreme forms of torture.
How’s that for brutality and hypocrisy? How’s that for the exceptional nature of the U.S. national-security state?
Unfortunately, it’s not the only instance of the federal government’s exceptionalism. Recall that the CIA also renditioned a Canadian citizen named Mahar Arar to Syria during the Bush years. You recall Syria, right? It’s the regime, headed by dictator Bashar al-Assad, that the U.S. military and the CIA under Obama are now trying to oust from power. But during the Bush years, the military and the CIA were singing a different tune. During that time, the CIA renditioned Arar to Syria precisely to take advantage of its brutality and expertise when it came to torture.
How did the rendition-torture partnership between Syria and the CIA get negotiated? What were its terms? Who were the negotiators? Did Bush himself approve the deal? Was the contract put into writing?
Alas, we don’t know the answers to any of these questions because the mainstream press has never cared enough to even ask the questions, maintaining the traditional deferential role it assumes when it comes to the military and the CIA. The same hold true for Congress. And of course, when Arar sued the U.S. government for damages, the federal courts continued their long-established position of deference and subservience to the CIA and the military.
And let’s not forget the CIA’s rendition-torture partnership with the brutal military dictatorship in Egypt. Why Egypt? Since the Egyptian military dictatorship has long been the recipient of billions of dollars in cash and armaments from the U.S. government, which has enabled it to maintain its dictatorial oppression of the Egyptian people, it has also long been willing to do whatever the U.S. government asks of it. Since the Egyptian military and intelligence forces are renowned for their expertise in torture and their willingness to utilize such expertise, it was logical for the CIA and the U.S. military to make Egypt one of its principal torture partners.
Long ago, the United States rejected the statism that characterized the rest of the world: no welfare state, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, drug war, economic regulations, foreign aid, public schooling, torture, war on terrorism, foreign empire, standing army, foreign wars, CIA, national security state, national police (FBI), or warfare state.
Now that truly was an exceptional country, in a positive sense!
Unfortunately, today exceptionalism has come to mean the federal government’s extreme brutality and hypocrisy, as manifested by its torture partnerships with brutal foreign dictators. It’s just one more sign of the wrong road that our country is on.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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