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World Without Torture: The Responsibilities of the West

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The era of jobs offshoring began. US corporations, pressed by Wall Street for higher profits, by large retailers such as WalMart, and by the cap that Congress placed on executive pay that is not performance based, moved the production of goods for US markets offshore where labor costs were a small fraction of US wages. This development caused profits to rise, but separated American consumers from the incomes associated with the goods and services that they consume. The same happened to professional service jobs, such as software engineering, Information Technology, and research and design. The ladders for upward mobility for Americans were dismantled. Wages and employment fell, medical benefits were lost, and careers disappeared.

The system by which First World corporations offshore the production of goods and services that they market in their home countries is called "globalism." Globalism is turning the US into a third world country. For the past two decades, the only jobs the US economy has been able to create are in lowly paid domestic services, such as waitresses, bartenders, and hospital orderlies. There has been no increase in real income for the bulk of the population. The gains in income and wealth are concentrated at the very top, and the distribution of income is now the worst in the developed world and worse than many Third World countries. The economy of the Reagan years is simply gone, disappeared.

NI: In more recent years, especially after 9/11, you became a critical analyst of US foreign policy. When did things start going wrong in the US and how did it happen?

PCR: Things began going wrong in the US when the US became "the sole superpower." American neoconservatives had a triumphal attitude and spread their attitude to the public and Congress with their propaganda. They argued that American capitalism had to be spread to the rest of the world, even if it had to be imposed by force of arms. Americans, neoconservatives proclaimed, were "the indispensable people," who had the right and the responsibility to impose their way on the world. Neoconservatives used the US Endowment for Democracy to foment "color revolutions" in former Soviet republics. The event of 9/11 provided neoconservatives with the opportunity to initiate US military invasions and "regime change" in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and North Africa.

NI: Let's start talking about our main subject -- torture. I recall from our very first communication that you said you didn't have much of an idea about torture except in the context of the US and Israel. What analysis can you share, regarding torture involving the United States?

PCR: In the US torture is prohibited by the US Constitution and by US statutory law. It is also prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and international law. I do not know why the George W. Bush regime violated US and international law and tortured "detainees," most of whom were hapless individuals kidnapped by war lords and sold to the Americans for the bounty. It is well known among intelligence services that torture does not produce reliable information. Generally, a tortured person invents a story to tell his tormentors in order to stop the torture. Soviet dissidents accused of fantastic plots and tortured to elicit the names of their coconspirators, would give the names of dead people.

One dissident wrote that, expecting to be arrested, he memorized the names on gravestones.

In my opinion, the Bush regime, a neoconservative regime, used the hyped fear about the threat of "Muslim terrorism" to get the acquiescence of the American public, Congress and the federal courts to torture, arguing that torture was necessary in order to protect Americans from events such as 9/11.

The neoconservatives reasoned that if the executive branch could violate, with impunity, both constitutional and legal prohibitions against torture, the precedent could be expanded to habeas corpus, due process, and to free speech, free assembly, (protests) and to criticism of the government's policies, which is being redefined as "aiding and abetting terrorism."

Once law and the Constitution could be side-lined, the regime could escape war criminal accountability for its wars of naked aggression. President Obama won the presidential election, because voters expected him to stop the wars, stop the torture, and to hold the Bush regime criminals accountable.

However, Obama found the new powers convenient and held on to them and expanded them. He refused to hold the Bush regime criminals accountable. He had the illegal and unconstitutional powers asserted by the Bush regime codified in US law. And Obama asserted new powers -- the right to murder American citizens of whom he was suspicious, without due process of law. What the Bush and Obama regimes have done is to turn the United States into a Gestapo-like police state. Prior to Bush/Obama it was illegal for the government to spy on Americans without cause presented to a court, which, if convinced, would provide a warrant. Now every aspect of Americans' lives are routinely watched, their movements, their emails, their internet usage, and even their purchases. Not only are air travelers subjected to intimate searches, but train and bus travelers too, and car and truck traffic on interstate highways is stopped and searched. There have been no terrorist attacks on trains, buses, or highway travel. Yet, the freedom of mobility in the US has been compromised even more than it was in the Soviet Union with the system of internal passports.

NI: What is your suggested solution to this critique? In other words how can the responsible governments correct things and lead their people towards freedom?

PCR: In the US, government is no longer accountable to law or to the people. Whoever is elected to the presidency or to Congress is accountable to the powerful private interest groups that provide the funds for the political campaign. Having purchased the government, the special interests expect government to serve them. The military/security complex makes billions of dollars in profits from wars, whether hot or cold. Peace is not in the interest of the military/security complex. Peace reduces the profits of the armaments industry and it reduces the power of the CIA, Homeland Security, Pentagon, FBI, and National Security Agency. In America today, peace is for sissies.

NI: Just hours after the release of the State Department's annual human rights report, you wrote an opinion saying that the US government was the second worst human rights abuser on the planet and the sole enabler of the worst abuser -- Israel. If this is true, US pressure for human rights reforms in other countries seems hypocritical. Do you want the US government to stop talking to these other countries? If the US doesn't have the right to criticize human rights violence in other countries, who does?

PCR: To use biblical language, the US government focuses attention on the mote in Syria's or Iran's or China's eye in order to direct attention away from the beam in its own eye. It is Washington that conducted war for eight years in Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of people on false pretenses.

It is Washington that is conducting war for eleven years in Afghanistan on false pretenses, killing an unknown, but large, number of Afghans. It is Washington that is violating the sovereignty of Pakistan and Yemen, murdering people in these countries daily on false pretenses. It was Washington that organized the overthrow of the Libyan government, leaving the country in total chaos, with untold deaths. It is Washington that is responsible for endless violence in Somalia. It is Washington that has sent US troops to four African countries as part of the new imperialist venture known as the US Africa Command. How can a government that commits massive violations of human rights in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, and at home lecture, or speak to, any other country about human rights? The world accepts this unbelievable hypocrisy because of the success of US propaganda during the Cold War. The propaganda placed the white hat firmly on the head of the US government.

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http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente's Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here. His latest book,  How America Was Lost, has just been released and can be ordered here.

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