Torture, Truth, and Tyrants

Sherwood Ross

Like it or not, there is ample historical precedent for the Bush Administration policies that have upset so many Americans.

Unfortunately, these precedents were employed largely by modern dictators.

They include rationalizing the launch of a war of aggression, torturing captives, and concealment of urgent truths from the public.

Example: Defense Secy. Rumsfeld apparently doesn’t consider sleep deprivation(SD)torture. Stalin likely would have denied it, too, and he knew because he used it all the time. Russians called SD “the conveyor belt.” Prisoners kept awake for days by a succession of thugs would admit to any crime. One NKVD torturer boasted to the father of an imprisoned 14-year-old boy, “Your son just confessed to writing (the Russian epic) Eugene Onegin.” Red China’s tyrants also use SD today.

The Administration denies it is torture to imprison captives for years without charging them with a crime. Hitler might have agreed on that score. According to historian Piers Brendon, author of The Dark Valley, Hitler used this technique at Dachau “to break the spirit of inmates.”

Until the Washington Post exposed secret U.S. prisons in Europe, the Red Cross couldn’t inspect them. And when the Red Cross wanted access to the CIA compound in Kabul, the CIA turned it down. Hitler, too, opposed outside scrutiny. As Brendon noted, “Only a few foreign observers were admitted to Hitler’s concentration camps and then only under the strictest conditions.”

Hitler once said, “Thank God I’ve always avoided persecuting my enemies.” When President Bush looks in his mirror, he also sees a kindly individual. He says flatly, “We don’t torture.” Both regarded themselves as benevolent.

One Bush technique is to keep the public in the dark about the consequences of his disastrous war. He forbids the photographs of GI coffins shipped home from the war zone. Japan’s World War II despots followed a like policy. They warned families whose sons were killed in China not to tell even their closest friends of their loss. And when defeated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, Radio Tokyo called it a “victory” and played “The Battleship March.”

There’s also ample precedent for the White House policy of bribing Iraqi journalists to color the truth. In the Thirties, Hitler paid off alcoholic British journalists to write flattering columns about his regime. One Japanese reporter got paid for glorifying a beheading competition between two Army lieutenants who raced to see which could kill 100 Chinese men first during the Rape of Nanking. Democracies, too, concealed their war crimes. In the Forties, a BBC broadcaster named George Orwell got paid for mocking Nazi reports British Bomber Command was targeting German civilians --- when it was doing precisely that.

There’s also precedent for President Bush lying to justify his invasion of Iraq. Stalin claimed he invaded Finland because it posed a military threat to Leningrad. In 1939, Hitler claimed the Polish army attacked a German radio station, forcing him to invade Poland. The “Polish attackers” actually were Nazi concentration camp inmates dressed in Polish uniforms.

All things considered, America’s Founders overthrew the British rule of King George III for lesser reasons than Americans today have for removing President George Bush from office.

What’s a Stamp Act tax compared to draining a trillion dollars from the public every April 17th, the better part of it to be spent on an imperial war? King George III was practically a saint compared with King George Bush II who has turned an innocent Iraq into a charnel house and is sucking the blood of America’s sons and daughters. It’s past time to be rid of him.

© 2006 by Sherwood Ross

Sherwood Ross contributes to national magazines and publicizes worthy causes.
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