Imperialism and the Politics of Torture

The Senate Report’s revelations of CIA torture of suspects following the 9/11 bombing is only the tip of the iceberg. The Report omits the history and wider scope of violent activity in which the CIA has been and continues to be involved. CIA organized large scale death squad activities and extreme torture in Vietnam (Phoenix Project); multiple assassinations of political leaders in the Congo, Chile, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere; the kidnapping and disappearance of suspected activists in Iraq and Afghanistan; massive drug-running and narco-trafficking in the “Golden Triangle” in Southeast Asia and Central America (the Iran-Contra war).

The Senate Report fails to locate the current acts of CIA terror and torture in a broader historical context – one which would reveal the systematic use of torture and violence as a ‘normal’ instrument of policy. Contrary to White House and Senate claims that torture was a “policy error” committed by “incompetent” (or deranged) operatives, the historical record demonstrates that the long term extensive and intensive use by the CIA of torture, assassinations, kidnappings are planned and deliberate policies made by highly qualified, and experienced policymakers acting according to a global strategy approved by both Executive and Congressional leaders.

The Report treats torture as a “localized” set of events, divorced from the politics of empire building. In point of fact, torture is and always has been an integral part of imperial wars, colonial military occupations and counter-insurgency warfare.

Imperial wars and occupations provoke widespread opposition and nearly unanimous hostility. ‘Policing’ the occupied country cannot rely on community-wide support, least of all providing voluntary ‘intelligence’ to the imperial officials. The imperial armed forces operate out of fortresses surrounded by a sea of hostile faces. Bribes and persuasion of local collaborators provides limited information, especially regarding the operations of underground resistance movements and clandestine activists. Family, neighborhood, religious, ethnic and class ties provide protective support networks. To break this web of voluntary support network, the colonial powers resort to torture of suspects, family members and others. Torture becomes “routinized” as part and parcel of policies sustaining the imperial occupation. Extended occupation and intensive destruction of habitation and employment, cannot be compensated by imperial “aid” – much of which is stolen by the local collaborators. The latter, in turn, are ostracized by the local population, and, therefore, useless as a source of information. The “carrot” for a few collaborators is matched by torture and the threat of torture for the many in opposition.

Torture is not publicized domestically even as it is ‘understood’ by ‘knowing’ Congressional committees. But among the colonized, occupied people, through word and experience, CIA and military torture and violence against suspects, seized in neighborhood round-ups, is a weapon to intimidate a hostile population. The torture of a family member spreads fear (and loathing) among relatives, acquaintances, neighbors and colleagues. Torture is an integral element in spreading mass intimidation – an attempt to minimize co-operation between an active minority of resistance fighters and a majority of passive sympathizers.

By James Petras – Global Research –

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Author: David McElroy

David Allen McElroy has served as a journalist and a chaplain to hospitals and nursing homes. He continues writing on the world-wide web and has much archived in the forum at BreakingAllTheRules.com. He has a B.A. in Bible from Fresno Pacific College. David stands for Truth, Justice, & Liberty in Christ's Love!