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Saturday, November 20, 2004

The real face of war and their criminals.

Pelayo Mella

The images of torture perpetrated by United States soldiers on Iraqi prisoners of war will not go away.

These were real events and, as such, people should never forget them. This is a subject that is personal to me, and I will not let it go, because since I suffered the same treatment in Chile under Pinochet. However, these images have not unveiled anything new in the conduct of the invading soldiers. The practice of what the United States does and in the past has done, is once again remarkably obvious and normal. Anyone who had the misfortune of experiencing torture is always reluctant to talk about it as a kind of elemental modesty. But not one of them will ever be silent if they have to denounce it when they see it happening to someone or somewhere else.

Torture, wherever it is taking place, is always done with the total knowledge – therefore tacit approval – of those in command. There are no innocent people involved, nor are there ambiguities that would allow commanders to assume ignorance of what the troops do. And if we are talking about United States soldiers, then those responsible for the torture become even more repugnantly evident. Yanks, when they do not want to talk directly about things, call it by a different name: thus, they talk of ‘a culture of war’, and unfortunately for some of us, we learnt what that that meant torture as another branch of US foreign policy.

Let’s elaborate. The imbecile Reagan had as one of his American heroes Oliver North, who was in charge of the ‘Freedom Fighters’, the infamous “Contras” in Nicaragua, responsible for some of the most atrocious crimes committed in the American continent. So, can we really be surprised when we see a smiling Lynndie England torturing Iraqis?

When the British – that extension of the United States in Europe – defeated some hungry, cold, frightened and poorly armed children in the Malvinas/Falkland war, they lavished good treatment on the Argentinean officers who surrendered like cowards, but they did not lift a finger and, on the contrary, enjoyed it when their Gurkas mass-sodomised, and tortured those defenceless conscripts. So, can we really be amazed that the British also use torture in Iraq? Henry Kissinger, a criminal who was given the Nobel Peace Prize, once said that torture is an inherent part of a dirty war. Are there any clean wars? Can there be a more dirty war than the one in Iraq when it has been proved to the hilt that it was based only on shameful lies?

The new “ambassador” in Iraq is another well-known and sinister criminal. He was elected by a majority by the United States Senate and, Republican as well as Democrats (this ‘Lesser Evil is Also Evil’) greeted this brave “diplomat.” He, hiding in the shadows and working as an expert in ‘dirty wars’ organised, financed and trained the “136 Battalion” in Honduras, responsible for thousands of murders. Between 1981 and 1985, John Negroponte did not carry out his ambassadorial duties from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, but from a place called ‘El Aguacate’, a military base and torture centre where many Latin American torturers did their training. Three years ago an excavation demonstrated how efficient and brave Negroponte had been: in a common grave 185 ruined corpses were found, including a US citizen who had been badly tortured and destroyed with full knowledge of his Excellency, the United States Ambassador in Honduras. In May 1982, Leticia Bordes, a nun, approached the United States Embassy in Tegucigalpa to enquire about the whereabouts of 32 Salvadorian nuns who had taken refuge in Honduras after the murder of Bishop Oscar Romero. She saw Negroponte and he claimed to have no knowledge about this. However, years later, Jack Binns - another US diplomat - stated that these nuns had been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and then thrown alive from a helicopter with full knowledge of Negroponte. Can anyone now doubt what Iraqis can expect from a criminal such as this? What is he going to do in Iraq with the plenipotentiary powers invested in him by the Empire?

This invasion has also revealed its colonial character aiming at domination of the whole region. The torture of Iraqi prisoners in their own country by a foreign power has made people realise that these acts are neither new, nor an error, nor a case of someone exceeding his or her duties. The use of torture by United States soldiers is an integral part of their training. In 1996 a decades-old open secret was finally confirmed: That in the School of Americas (which had already moved from Panama to Georgia), soldiers learnt from a torture manual how to extract information from prisoners - this included “intimidation, executions, beatings, kidnapping”, among many more treatments. Thousands of Chileans, Argentineans, and many more Latin Americans can testify to this. And when we hear about the inhuman treatment suffered by Iraqis such as sexual humiliation, isolation, the use of dogs to terrorise defenceless prisoners, bags over their heads, etc., one could be describing Chile under the dictatorship.

I believe it is one’s duty with a minimum of human decency to publicly denounce this barbarism. The events at Abu Ghraib and other detention centres in Iraq, Afghanistan, occupied Palestine, Guantanamo, are not isolated incidents, they are the normal practice with a stamped official policy and procedure by the US army.

And please, Mark Kimmit, allow me to express my surprise when you express your ‘horror’ for such abuses since your country, through several decades and under the banner of ‘Doctrine of National Security’, trained over 60 thousands Latin American military personnel, of which nearly three thousand came from Chile. We all know what these people did. The similarities between Iraq and Chile are not coincidental. I remember the clown Bush euphorically spitting out that ‘the men and women of Iraq no longer will be taken to rooms to be tortured or raped because now we are here, and there won’t be any more rapes or torture in Iraq’. The first violation of Iraq is the US being there in the first place. And like Chile before it, there is massive repression, fear, a permanent sense of uncertainty about everyday activities, and, of course rape and torture.

My whole-hearted solidarity goes to the Iraqi people because I know perfectly well what they are going through. What unites us now is the fear, the blindfold, the hands tied behind the back, the dry mouth, the electricity through the body, the suffocation. We are united by the torture, by the brutal violation to one’s human integrity, but also by our dignity.

Moreover, there is another link between Chile and Iraq because the partial privatisation of this war is also part of the United States policy towards Latin America: Blackwater, a United States “security” company has recruited over a hundred Chilean mercenaries to work as ‘security’ guards. We do not need to think too hard to realise that most of these mercenaries are ex military staff, and many of them members of the repressive apparatus of the dictatorship. They received their training in Moyock, North Carolina as well as in Chile, specifically in an isolated region of El Arrayan, near Santiago. We should point out that under Chilean law, any activity of a paramilitary kind is criminal. Nevertheless, the “Red Tactica Consulting Group”, a subsidiary of Blackwater, managed to do their dirty work in that country without any problems. In fact, Chilean mercenaries have been in Iraq for several months now and another 800 hundred are ready to depart.

The School of the Americas changed its name into “Western Hemisphere Institute for Cooperation and Security”. I think this is exactly what Blackwater does: cooperate with the Pentagon and the invaders of Iraq by recruiting ex members of the Chilean repressive forces and transforming Iraq into a massive Abu Ghraib. Blackwater needs the ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’ of Chilean mercenaries.

As a nation, Chile has a special responsibility, because of what we have been through, to speak up against torture and repression, and to curb the vicious, globalised activities of this cadre of corrupt and wicked Chilean citizens. The last battle against Pinochet’s horrors is to prevent their export.

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