The missing link in the debate on disappearances and torture

Tyranny usually arises in an interplay between brutality and power. The tyrannical tendencies in the Bush and Mush regimes, on the other hand, stem from cowardice invested in secrecy.

Since neither General Musharraf, nor his master George Bush have the courage of true leaders, they have always been ineffectual advocates, unwilling to honestly face critics and unwilling to be held accountable for the implementation of their own policies and crimes against humanity.

In this context, public debate about the illegal detentions and the use of torture has always been hamstrung by the fact that those who carry the ultimate responsibility for the use of these practices persistently deny that illegal detentions and the so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques they endorse, do in fact constitute abuse of human rights and widely recognized forms of torture.

Unfortunately, in the Pakistani press, we do not even see a debate about the disappearance of individuals. All we have are either news reports or a sentence or two reference in a few far and far between articles. Unlike Bush who detains foreigners away from the US mainland, General Musharraf is detaining his own people in hundreds on his own land. CIA and other US forces are torturing and killing foreigners. ISI and Pakistan armed forces are detaining, torturing and killing their own people. They are invading and carrying out occupation forces like operation in their land.

This is because Musharraf stands shoulder to shoulder with Bush in the “noble” war of terrorism. ISI and the ministry of Interior is fully involved in the disappearance of individuals, tortures and deaths. Even the Supreme Court could not move the ministry to get basic information about the disappeared persons. Saud Memon, a merchant from Karachi, for example died on May 18, 2007 after his long disappearance in the hands of Pakistani and US agencies. Let us agree that he was a terrorist.

However, where did we see due process of law taking place during his long absence in the hands of ISI and CIA? Was this the right way to kill him as a result of excessive torture? Remember, this is just one example.

The debate has been mired in discussion about whether or not the techniques the Pak-US regimes sanction actually fit the definition of torture even though there is already a mountain of evidence that they do. For this reason, a more basic question — what is the purpose of the US and Pakistani agencies’ use of torture? — is not clearly addressed. Indeed, the US administration’s insistence on the use of the word "interrogation" has generally left unquestioned the assumption that the purpose of these practices is the coercive discovery of information.

Alfred W. McCoy, in A Question of Torture, says that "the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis, not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment." This form of empowerment in which a sense of control is restored to those who have experienced a profound loss of control, no doubt played a part in the psychological processes that shaped the war of terrorism. Even so, we see George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their General in Islamabad as eminently practical men. It is doubtful that they chose to institute a regimen of torture simply to reinvigorate their bruised sense of potency, but guided as they are by their own innate confidence in gut "rationales," we also doubt that they involved themselves in complex analysis fraught as this always is with the risk of being inconclusive.

It is very obvious (and FBI admits) that the CIA, FBI and the Bush regime has no evidence of Osama’s involvement in 9/11 incidents. There is no concrete evidence that an "enemy" from outside managed to turn three skyscrapers to dust with two passenger planes. The central function of the pre-planned war of terrorism was only to restore America’s image as an indomitable power and to crush those who might cherish an ambition to challenge that power.

Given that those who stand to the US, Israel and their allies have already demonstrated that they have little fear of death, it would seem apparent that the only way they could be intimidated would be by the threat of a fate worse than death. It thus seems possible that the ISI detention centres and Guantanamo Bay (and its "dark side" to which Vice President Cheney alluded), were intended to function not so much as a means for extracting intelligence vital to the United States’ national security, as much as a means to terrorize existing and would-be individuals who struggle for their right to self-determination and dare to call a spade a spade with regard to the United States abuse of power, support of the puppet regimes and pure injustice. It would be the epitome of fighting fire with fire. It would send out the message that the “guardians of civilization” have no fear in venturing outside its perimeters for the sake of consolidating de-facto colonization and establishing total control of the Muslim world in particular.

We now know that many of the so-called interrogation techniques used in Guantanamo and many detention centres used across Pakistan and Afghanistan were developed during the Cold War. Their inapplicability to combating the so-called terrorism would thus be multi-fold. Intelligence during the Cold War involved the lumbering giants of the Soviet Union and the United States. Valuable information thus related to government policies, military strategies and operations run by employed officials. The fact that neither side could turn its operations on a dime, that all those involved might be hesitant to die for their cause, meant that in theory "actionable intelligence" would be ripe for the picking. The only question would be how this information could most effectively be extracted.

On the other hand, when it comes to the men currently held captive in Guantanamo and ISI gulag, it is doubtful that even Dick Cheney seriously entertains the notion that among these "enemy combatants" there is a single individual with a single piece of valuable information that would amount to a priceless piece of intelligence, and which justifies illegal detentions and tortures.

On the contrary, these are men (and boys) who now abide in some other land, where every form of certainty has been stripped away. Worse than being deprived of life, they have been denied their humanity. But even while their detention has profoundly damaged America’s reputation and has put survival of its puppets at stake, the present administration in Washington has succeeded in constructing a regime of imprisonment that by most standards constitutes a condition worse than death.

Very early on in the war of terrorism a piece of military jargon entered the popular lexicon because, highfalutin as it might sound, everyone had a sense of what it meant: asymmetric warfare. David and Goliath, stripped of moral underpinnings and the political insight that concentrated power rarely if ever serves collective interests, is all about the functional advantage that a weak power can have in relation to overbearing might: flexibility.

We’ve witnessed it again and again over the last six years. The giant is slow to turn and so his small opponent is always quick to find a new angle of attack.

Capture a person resisting illegal war and occupation; call him a terrorist and what is the vital intelligence he might be forced to cough up? Most often, nothing. His comrades in the struggle for self-determination already know he’s out of commission and no “terrorist” plan, however advanced, is burdened by anything comparable to the inflexibility of the affairs of terrorist states. A decision to switch to resistance plan B (or C, D, or E) can be made in a matter of moments.

So what do you do with your "high value" captives? Treat them in such a way that those who might follow in their footsteps will pause in terror.

The goal of the war of terrorism was to terrorize “terrorists” — the occupied nations — and force them into submission? Would you agree Mr. Cheney and Mr. Mush?

May be their lips will remain well-sealed until the unlikely day both of them face indictment along with their colleagues for their crimes against humanity. Until then, most of us seem to have submitted to the argument that the debate of disappearance and torture should be limited to questioning the technique alone, whereas the question of illegal detentions and torture is not a question of technique alone.