An Empire Without Virtue
The Defenders of Torture
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
The spectacle of an American Secretary of State being sent to Europe to reassure
America's allies that the US does not torture prisoners has brought an end to
America's moral grandeur. America stands revealed before the world as just another
unaccountable police state.
Condi Rice's declaration that the Bush administration is too morally pure to engage
in torture was just another transparent Bush administration deception. What is the
point of Bush's rendition policy that Rice was sent to Europe to defend if the
purpose is not torture? Why else do CIA agents kidnap foreign nationals in foreign
countries and fly them to secret prisons in other foreign countries?
The Bush administration defends its policy of "extraordinary rendition." Everyone
who has survived the policy has testified to experiencing brutal torture. Just read
the account in the December 11 Sunday Observer (UK) of the Ethiopian student that
the CIA kidnapped and tortured in Morocco.
The student, who speaks no Arabic, was brutally tortured for 18 months until he was
forced to confess to conspiring with top al Qaeda chiefs and plotting with Padilla.
While one American hand was forcing the tortured student to incriminate himself in
the "Padilla plot," the other American hand was dropping plot charges against
The "Padilla plot" was nothing but a fantasy made up by American officials to
justify their police state policies. Unlike the hapless Ethiopian student, Padilla
is an American citizen. After suffering three years of illegal detention by the Bush
administration, the law finally gave Padilla some protection, and the false charges
that he intended to set off a radioactive bomb in an American city and blow up
apartment houses were dropped.
Some Americans, horrified at what the Bush administration has done to their country,
took hope in Europe's uproar over Bush's rendition/torture policy. Alas, European
governments were shedding crocodile tears for show purposes only.
On December 11 the Telegraph (UK) reported on a European Union document in its
possession that summarizes an EU-US meeting in Athens Greece on January 22, 2003 in
which the EU agreed to "co-operation in removals." The Telegraph reports that "EU
officials confirmed that a full account was circulated to all member governments."
So we have the entire Western world complicit in kidnapping and torture. The entire
non-Western world surely notices the unbridgeable gap between the Bush
administration's immoral practices and Bush's moral posturing about "freedom and
democracy." The prestige of the Western world is gone forever.
People will say anything under torture, which is why the practice and the "evidence"
it provides were ruled inadmissible centuries ago. The great English jurist, William
Blackstone, declared that torture determined guilt by the hardness of a man's
constitution and the sensibility of his nerves. Blackstone proudly declared that
there was no place for the rack among the laws of England.
Everyone knows that confessions obtained under torture are worthless. By having them
tortured, Stalin was able to get the heros of the Bolshevik Revolution to declare
that they were guilty of striving to overthrow the communist revolution!
Why then do we have the disgusting spectacle of the president and vice president of
the US and their neoconservative apologists, such as Charles Krauthammer, defending
In his defense of torture as a "moral duty," Krauthammer assumes that the person
being tortured is guilty and will reveal the truth under torture. There is no basis
whatsoever for Krauthammer's assumptions.
The reason that the Bush administration and the neocons defend torture is that,
having launched an illegal invasion and created an American police state, they are
desperate for "evidence" of the terrorist threat in order to justify their illegal
and unconstitutional policies.
The only way to obtain this "evidence" is to torture people until they confess to
the plots that are invented for them. A steady stream of confessed "terrorists"
serves to justify the police state that has been created. Bush revealed the ploy
when he asserted on December 10 that terrorist violence will be the result if
Congress does not renew the Orwellian-named "Patriot Act" by December 31: "In the
war on terror, we cannot afford to be without that vital law for a single moment."
What Bush declares to be a "vital law" is, in fact, the greatest assault on civil
liberties in the history of our country.
Do Americans really want to give up the civil liberties granted to them by the US
Constitution merely in order that the Bush administration can lord it over the
Middle East, establish puppet governments over Muslim peoples, protect Israel from
retribution for its crimes against Palestinians, and steal oil from Arabs and
If Americans do, what remains of their virtue?
Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to
numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in
the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of
Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is
coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:
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