If you think the fact that Feingold has to call out Obama is depressing, or that the failure to actually enact transparency over what happened with respect to torture under the Bush administration is depressing… well, you should probably stay away from Noam.
Here’s a snippet from Chomsky’s recent article on the Torture Memos, which looks at the history of the US’s relationship with torture in an attempt to burst the “Bush/Cheney were unlike, and radically worse than anything that came before” bubble:
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld et al. did introduce important innovations. Ordinarily, torture is farmed out to subsidiaries, not carried out by Americans directly in their government-established torture chambers. Alain Nairn, who has carried out some of the most revealing and courageous investigations of torture, points out that “What the Obama [ban on torture] ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system’s torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage. Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.” Obama did not shut down the practice of torture, Nairn observes, but “merely repositioned it,” restoring it to the norm, a matter of indifference to the victims. Since Vietnam, “the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy — paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed.” Obama’s ban “doesn’t even prohibit direct torture by Americans outside environments of ‘armed conflict,’ which is where much torture happens anyway since many repressive regimes aren’t in armed conflict … his is a return to the status quo ante, the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more US-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years.”
And, even more depressing, and yet even more important to read and think about, is this bit from near the conclusion of the article:
The My Lai massacre was a mere footnote to the vastly greater atrocities of the post-Tet pacification programs, ignored while indignation focused on this single crime. Watergate was doubtless criminal, but the furor over it displaced incomparably worse crimes at home and abroad — the FBI-organized assassination of black organizer Fred Hampton as part of the infamous COINTELPRO repression, or the bombing of Cambodia, to mention two egregious examples. Torture is hideous enough; the invasion of Iraq is a far worse crime. Quite commonly, selective atrocities have this function.
Do read the whole piece. Chomsky knows his stuff–and he’s not afraid to deploy footnotes.
I kind of wish I had a “ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam”-type phrase that I could stick on the end of any post about government policy, or institutional effects, or similar topics, that meant “And I recommend you see what Chomsky has to say about it as well.” I could have been using it since he first (indirectly) utterly, utterly changed the way I look at the world back in the early 90s.