Tom Gjelten weighed in Thursday morning to explain how US-supported torture states are one of the greatest assets to the United States in its "war on terror." Gjelten - in yet another NPR report [see Wednesday's ME piece] warning of the grave terrorism & security threats produced by a free, open Internet - used the uprising in Egypt as a chance to once again champion the benefits of torture and authoritarian rule:
Gjelten: "Egyptian democracy activists, nevertheless, complained the Obama Administration moved too slowly. If so, that could be because pushing too hard in Egypt on one goal could set back progress somewhere else. Promoting Internet freedom, for example, might have been seen as competing with the goal of fighting terrorism. And that's an area where the U.S. relies on Egypt, according to Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism adviser to Presidents Clinton and Bush.Clarke: "The Egyptian role in counterterrorism has been essential to us for the last 15 to 20 years. They've been one of the best allies we've had in the fight against al-Qaida and other radical groups.
On its face this all sounds rather bureaucratic, bland, and acceptable. Gjelten uses positive terms like "progress" "fighting terrorism" and "relies on Egypt," and former US official Clarke speaks in likewise euphemistic and glowing terms: "role in counterterrorism" "essential to us" and "one of the best allies..." But consider for a moment what these empty words and phrases actually refer to.
Among the Egyptian security services techniques that have been so "essential" to "progress" are documented cases of severe beatings, electroshocks to all parts of the body, suspensions resulting in dislocations, whippings, sexual assaults, rape, threats of rape, torture of children, torture of victims in front of family members, drownings, and of course murder and disappearance. What Tom Gjelten (and NPR) are praising is Egypt's role as an "international centre for interrogation and torture on behalf of other states as part of the 'war on terror'."
Back in the summer of 2009, when Alicia Shepard was pushing her defense of NPR's refusal to call torture torture, she wrote on her blog, "To me, it makes more sense to describe the techniques and skip the characterization." Putting aside the fact that Shepard was well aware that NPR never did or would describe in detail what the US was doing to its detainees, can you imagine how different Gjelten's (and ALL NPR's slanted Egypt coverage) would be if the actual practices and their effects on real human beings were described and the US foreign policy "characterizations"/euphemisms were dropped? Imagine if Gjelten said,
"Having an Egyptian state where detainees know they will be sodomized with sticks, raped, cut with razors, beaten and hung from hooks so that their bones are broken and joints dislocated really helps the US fight terrorism and keep its Middle East agenda in place. It is essential that Egyptians are so terrified of being held by state security forces in Egypt that they dare not organize against US wars on Muslim countries or US/Egyptian support for Israel no matter how unpopular these policies are."That would be eye-opening! Obviously, such honesty would require a universal standard of decency and morality - instead of one that assumes US government/military goals carry the greatest moral weight with everything else being secondary [not to mention the inherent anti-Arab racism that assumes Arab people deserve nothing but poverty, torture, corruption and dictatorship as long as such conditions support US foreign policy goals.]
Finally, Gjelten's stance is not even internally consistent within the limits of its own sick reasoning. Looked at in a detached and cold-blooded light, one can easily demonstrate that instead of aiding counterterrorism, the US support for torture states (and its own torture practices) serve to swell the ranks of extremists and potential terrorists. In 2005 Naomi Klein wrote how torture is an essential ingredient in the radicalization of extremists. Chris Zambelis brings the issue up to date in 2008 and Glenn Greenwald makes a similar case in 2009. A detached observer might also note that torture produces radically false information, such as the torture confessions in Egypt of al-Libi used to buttress the launch of the Iraq War. Any rational person would have to at least consider that one of the main reasons for supporting torture regimes is to produce more violence and terrorism, thereby sustaining the endless "war on terror" and justifying the grotesque injustices (and spending) involved in this cynical enterprise.
Gjelten concludes his homage to the Iron Fist with this gem:
"The Obama administration may learn whether a new government there, one that more vigorously supports Internet freedom and other democratic values, could be as strong a counterterrorism ally as the Mubarak regime has been."
Gjelten is one scary character...