US torture schools in Latin America

The world quietly celebrated Human Rights Day (December 10) earlier this month. That week, two big, interrelated human rights events occurred.

The first was the well-publicised revelations that America’s CIA ran and participated in a global torture program which, more than anything, produced vast ambivalence – especially from the top.

The US Senate report recounted, in at times excruciating detail, the CIA’s program after September 11. The program detained – often incorrectly – and tortured those suspected of terrorism. This report not so much provided a watershed moment in America’s self-understanding, but rather revealed how much further it has to go. The report did not lay to rest the public debate on torture: former vice president Dick Cheney said he had “no problem” with detaining innocents.

The second was not so well-publicised, but equally as significant.  In Brazil, the National Truth Commission submitted its final report. It was the first time that the Brazilian state began to account for its human rights violations and atrocities during the military regime of 1964-85. This forced a public discussion on a regime that Brazil had previously buried in the past.

As history can strangely often do, these serendipitous events provide a snapshot of where countries are in their national reckoning.

US torture schools

For many, the reports’ revelations do not come as a surprise. Many in Latin America and human rights groups have known for years that the US has been practising, and teaching the world, torture. These techniques and shared intelligence with the US were widespread through Latin America as part of what was known as Operation Condor.

Operation Condor was a secret intelligence system in the 1970s through which South American military states shared intelligence and seized, tortured and executed political opponents in one another’s territory, under the United States’ watch and instruction.

In J. Patrice McSherry’s book Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America, she concluded that “US forces laid the groundwork for Operation Condor” by working:

… behind the scenes with the Latin American military and intelligence forces that comprised the Condor Group, providing resources, administrative assistance, intelligence, and financing.

The result was state run-terror across nearly the entire continent. Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was the most well-known head of state responsible for torture. In this time, hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans were tortured, killed, disappeared or imprisoned without trial, with the help of Washington.

The training of Latin American security forces for Operation Condor, as well as other human rights violations, occurred at the now-infamous School of the Americas, now known as the Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation.

At this “school”, they explicitly taught unlawful and brutal interrogations and the targeting of civilians to instil fear. However, no-one has been prosecuted for the creation of this school, nor for the “torture manuals” which were distributed to governments all over the continent.

Brazil’s search for truth

The National Truth Commission report not only revealed what the Brazilian dictatorship did, but how US military officials spent years teaching torture techniques to Brazilian forces.

Importantly, the Brazilian report had much more scope and power than that of the United States. It named officials and recommended a revision to the 1979 Amnesty Law so that perpetrators can be prosecuted. It called on the military to take responsibility for its “grave violations” and noted that problems still exist within the armed forces.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, herself a victim of torture, said through tears that:

“Brazil deserves the truth, the truth means above everything the opportunity to reconcile ourselves and our history.”

Compare this to US President Barack Obama’s reaction:

“These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners.” …

War Always Comes Home

…  “To practice torture is to self-identify as a repressive police state, even if the practice is reserved only for conduct outside one’s own borders. But it’s just a matter of time before it spills back into domestic territory. Historically, it always has.”

It always has … for thousands of years.

Indeed, all of the facets of militarization abroad are coming home.

Postscript:  Torture is already arguably occurring occurring in U.S. prisons.

This is why it’s so very important that everyone reflexively believe washington’s fairy tale on 9/11.   For god’s sake don’t actually check the evidence for yourself.   You might be tortured sooner rather than later.

At least the germans under hitler could say they had no way of knowing the truth about the reichstag fire.  Americans have no such excuse.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”.  –Voltaire

Puppets Get Strings Crossed, Abduct U.S. Nun

The abduction and torture of U.S. nun Diana Ortiz in Guatemala last fall generated little press interest here. Yet the reactions of the Bush administration, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala — especially towards a recent religious delegation visiting Guatemala on behalf of Sister Diana — suggest that the case is political dynamite.

These developments have thrown into sharp relief once again the role of the U.S. in Central America — particularly the relationship between the Embassy and mysterious foreigners who work with Guatemalan “death squads.” Sister Diana’s torturers were interrupted by a man who burst into the room and halted them. The nun swore under oath that he was an American.

Sister Diana was forced away from a retreat house last November by two armed men. They took her to a deserted place where a member of the National Police was parked. The three then took her, blindfolded, to a warehouse where Sister Diana could hear screams and moans of men and women in pain. There they taunted her, sexually molested her, and burned her 111 times with cigarettes. When Sister Diana said she was a U.S. citizen, the men just laughed. In her affidavit, Sister Diana said, “The men who had stopped me in Guatemala City [previously] knew I was a North American nun, so I knew their laugh was from their sense of power, not disbelief.”

The terror abruptly stopped when the fourth man entered, uttered a common U.S. expletive in English, and then said in Spanish, “Idiots, she is a North American. Let her alone. It’s already on the news on television.” The foreigner took the nun out of the place and put her in a car, saying he would take her to “A friend from the U.S. Embassy” who would help get out of the country. However, Sister Diana escaped from the car in heavy traffic.

The case was immediately met with hostile responses from the Guatemalan government. on November 10, _Prensa Libre_ reported that Guatemala’s President Cerezo expressed doubt as to whether the attack had occurred at all. Defense Minister Hector Gramajo — the de facto head of state — stated the case was a self-kidnapping, staged in order to conceal a lesbian tryst. Interior Minister Morales (also a General) repeated the same accusations and officially closed the case.

Not only did the U.S.Embassy fail to defend Sister Diana — at least one official was reported to be making jokes to journalists about “the lesbian nuns” — but the State Department and President Bush have maintained a deafening silence about the case. The State Department told me November 20 that no protest had been filed, as the case fell under Guatemalan jurisdiction, and the Guatemalan police were investigating. This despite the fact that one of Sister Diana’s kidnappers _was_ a policeman. Moreover, according to human rights organizations like the International Human Rights Law Group and Amnesty International, the Guatemala National Police function as a virtual arm of the Guatemalan army’s counterinsurgency apparatus. Members of the police often comprise the “deaths squads,” usually under direct orders from their superiors. Further, the U.S. remained silent after the Guatemalan investigation was terminated.

When the U.S. Ambassador Stroock complained about the level of human rights violations the Guatemalan government last February, Sister Dianas’ case was conspicuously absent from his list of abuses. Despite complaints from Father Joseph Nangle and Paul Soreff, Sister Diana’s lawyer, this “omission” was never corrected in the official record, despite their complaints to the State Department.

In April, the Ursuline community in Kentucky, Sister Diana’s order, sent a delegation to Guatemala expressly to protest the false statement by Guatemalan officials and the U.S. Embassy’s indifference. Soreff reported that the delegation was immediately summoned to the Embassy where, “evidenced by the array of stone cold faces and the tone with which the encounter began, the Embassy people were most upset with the Ursulines.” The Embassy aggressively defended its conduct in the case and protested allegations of collusion, arising from the foreigners’ comment to Sister Diana about his “friend from the Embassy.”

Father Nangle, another member of the delegation, expressed dismay at the conduct of the Embassy. He reported that the Embassy was silent in the face of public accusations by top Guatemalan officials that Sister Diana was lying, and the Embassy inexplicably failed to publish medical finding of cigarette burns on sister Diana’s body — clear evidence of torture.

Father Nangle continued, “It must be said that once Sister Diana left Guatemala, the U.S. official presence there was inimical to her good name and interests. The Embassy did seem to show concern for her safety while she was in captivity and again before she took lease of Guatemala. But it is my distinct impression that afterward the chief concern of U.S. representatives in that country was `damage control’… Further, I am left with the strong impression that the identity of the mysterious American, named by Sister Diana under oath as the one with sufficient authority to take her away from her torturers, has the Embassy so upset that their chief concern is to sweep this case as far away from them as possible.”

The total impunity with which Sister Diana’s captors operate gives direct evidence of several of the shady structures of Guatemala’s national security state. The Guatemalan government has long denied the existence of secret places of detention and torture — places beyond the reach of the law. Yet the nuns’ testimony is proof of such clandestine centers, and the involvement of the national police. Inevitably, questions about the precise U.S. and CIA role in Guatemala’s national security structures again arise.

Patti McSherry is a human rights activists and a doctoral student in political science. She writes frequently on Guatemala and counterinsurgency

From: Heartland Journal, July-August 1990!original/

New York Times, 1/7/79; Page 2

Ex-analyst says CIA rejected warning on Shah

by Seymour Hersh

A former Iran analyst for the central intelligence agency said yesterday that his reports characterizing Shah Pahlevi as thirsty for power and a megalomaniac were repeatedly rejected by the agency as being contrary to official US policy.

Jesse Leaf said in an interview that for five years had had been the chief CIA analyst on Iran before resigning from the agency in 1973…. A spokesman for the CIA confirmed that Mr. Leaf had been an employee there but said, “We will not discuss former employees.”

Mr. Leaf also said in the interview that he and his colleagues knew of the torture of Iranian dissenters by Savak, the Iranian secret police set up during the late 1950’s by the Shah with help from the CIA. [1] Furthermore, Mr. Leaf said, a senior CIA official was involved in instructing officials in the Savak on torture techniques, although Mr. Leaf said that to his knowledge no americans did any of the torturing. The CIA’s torture seminars, Mr. Leaf said, “were based on German torture techniques from World War II.”

The Shah himself was “one of our sources” of information, Mr. Leaf said. “He was a regular contact for a case officer.”

Mr. Leaf said that because of the CIA’s complacency about the Shah, no one considered protesting about the Savak’s use of torture. “Why should we protest? We were on their side, remember?” [2]

Although the Iranian use of torture was widely known inside the agency, Mr. Leaf said, he knew of no americans who admitted that they witnessed such treatment. “I do remember seeing and being told of people who were there seeing the rooms and being told of torture. And I know that the torture rooms were toured and it was all paid for by the USA.”

Mr. Leaf said he decided to resign from the CIA after receiving an adverse fitness report in 1973. His basic complaint, he said, was that “policy pretty much determines reporting rather than the other way around.”

Border Crisis: The Crocodile Tears of the Empire

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