February 2006: "Soft" Fascism is Getting Harder

U.S. use of torture and chemical weapons are war crimes
February 1, 2006

Given the now indisputable U.S. practice of torturing prisoners of war, the “soft” fascism term I applied to the Bush administration a few months ago has become harder. The widespread American use of torture, both in physically and mentally abusing captives, has now been extensively documented. An unimpeachable source has confirmed the validity of these charges. Admiral Stansfield Turner, former CIA director, accused Vice-President Cheney of overseeing policies of torturing terror suspects and, in so doing, damaging the U.S.’s reputation.

“We have crossed the line into dangerous territory,” he warned, and, referring again to Cheney, added, “I am embarrassed that the U.S. now has a vice-president for torture” (www.itv.com., 18 November, 2005).

Dexter Filkins of the New York Times provided further evidence in his profile of Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, an aggressive army captain of the Fourth Infantry Division’s 1-8 Battalion. The Colonel declared that the unit’s “new priority would be killing people who support insurgents, even people who didn’t.” His First Sergeant, Galeb Mikel, called this destructive action the “leave-no-refuge policy,” according to Anthony Arnove, Nov. 16, 2005 (zmag.org).

A recent Human Rights Watch investigation found that U.S. military personnel routinely torture Iraqis for “sport.” Their investigative report documented the routine use of torture, “often under orders or with the approval of superior officers,” and, even worse, to “amuse themselves.” A sergeant from the 82nd Airborne Division told Human Rights Watch that they would routinely “fuck a PUC” (a PUC is a person under control, a term used to describe Iraqi detainees). The sergeant explained that to “fuck a PUC” means to beat him up, i.e., “We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them.” This happened every day. To “smoke a PUC” was to put prisoners under stressful conditions until they got muscle fatigue and passed out. “We did that for amusement”. This is not soft fascism. It is real fascism (zmag.org).

On November 19, 2005, the United Nations issued a withering condemnation of the U.S. policy of “rendition” or the out-sourcing of torture. This accusation followed a UN 15-page report, “Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” which was presented to the General Assembly detailing the CIA’s policy of establishing global gulags where prisoners are frequently tortured. This is in direct violation of international law, as well as the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, which clearly states: “No State party shall expel, return, or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

Thus the policy of out-sourcing torture is clearly illegal. Yet “the reprehensible policy known euphemistically as ‘extraordinary rendition’ that involves both the ‘enforced disappearance of persons’ and torture continues to be widespread and systemic,” according to Prof. Francis A. Boyle, International Law Program, University of Illinois, and constitutes “a crime against humanity.” (See C.L. Cook, PEJ News, November 11, 2005.)

There is no question that the unholy triumvirate of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld should be brought to trial as war criminals. Nothing less than impeachment should be Bush’s fate. He has slaughtered some 100,000 Iraqi civilians in his war for oil. He, Cheney and Rumsfeld should be considered hardly less guilty of war crimes than Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels, and made to pay the price for their inhuman deeds.

Still another sign of “soft fascism” becoming harder is the revelation of the U.S. use of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. The use of depleted uranium munitions which expose people to deadly radiation has been relatively widespread and undoubtedly has had a serious health impact on those exposed [including some American and British troops.] The U.S. Army is also using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in Iraq. On contact with human flesh, it eats right through to the bone, causing excruciating pain and finally death. Such bombs were widely used in an all-out attack on Fallujah. The U.S. continues to deny that white phosphorus is a chemical weapon, but an organization called Think Progress has uncovered a 1995 Pentagon document, now unclassified, which identifies white phosphorus bombs as “chemical weapons.”

To illustrate the degree to which the U.S. will lie, an instruction manual published by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, admits that the use of incendiary weapons against human targets violates the “laws of war.” The assault on Fallujah killed thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including children. Even hospitals were bombed, again all crimes under the established “rules of war” (Dave Lindorf, counterpunch.org, Nov. 26/27, 2005).

Considering that some 100,000 Iraqis have already been killed, most of them civilians and including thousands of women and children, in a war based on lies and deception, the horribly twisted U.S. political system is beginning to rival the experience of Hitler’s Germany. The big difference is that there are no death camps in Iraq. But then, they are hardly needed in a country that has been turned into one big death camp.

(Fred Knelman is a long-time peace activist and writer on international affairs.)