Lost History


Torture’s Fallacies — and Criminality

Actor Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in the Fox TV show "24" using torture to extract information.

In America’s fascination with fictional entertainment, torture has been a popular plot device as some tough-guy “hero” extracts a clue from a hardened “bad guy,” most famously with Jack Bauer in “24.” But real-world torture elicits false information – and is a grave crime of state, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

Addressing the Cuban Five Injustice

Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 2003. (Photo credit: Antonio Milena - ABr)

America’s hypocrisy on terrorism included the U.S. government prosecuting and imprisoning five Cuban agents who were actually trying to thwart terrorist operations in Miami. President Obama’s prisoner swap with Cuba finally addressed that upside-down justice, as Marjorie Cohn reports.

Letting a Cuban Terrorist Go Free

Luis Posada Carriles

From the Archive: As much as U.S. officials have decried “terrorism” – even equating harboring a terrorist with the actual deed – they have applied a completely different standard to “our” terrorists who are protected from extradition and treated with kid gloves, as Robert Parry reported in 2011.

Giving the Torturers a Pass

President George W. Bush pauses for applause during his State of the Union Address on Jan. 28, 2003, when he made a fraudulent case for invading Iraq. Seated behind him are Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert. (White House photo)

During Watergate, senior U.S. officials went to jail for lying and obstructing justice. Many politicians have gone to prison for taking bribes and for corruption. But it’s somehow unthinkable to prosecute Bush administration officials implicated in torture and murder, an attitude that Marjorie Cohn rejects.

America’s Earlier Embrace of Torture

Dan Mitrione, Director of the U.S. AID Office of Public Safety in Uruguay, accused of teaching torture techniques.

Many well-meaning Americans are shocked by the torture disclosures in a Senate report and can’t believe U.S. officials would sanction acts such as waterboarding and “rectal feeding.” But the uglier truth is that the CIA has long taught and encouraged torture in U.S. client states, as Jonathan Marshall notes.

Pinochet’s Mad Scientist

Chile's Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who seized power in a U.S.-backed coup in 1973 and helped create Operation Condor, a campaign of assassinations across Latin America and even into the United States. Pinochet died in 2006.

From the Archive: Much like the 9/11 attacks, the Cold War plunged the U.S. government into the “dark side,” especially in Latin America where the CIA colluded with torturers and assassins, leading to grisly murders and enduring mysteries, as Samuel Blixen described in 1999.

How Reagan Promoted Genocide

Vernon Walters, a former deputy director of the CIA who served as President Ronald Reagan's ambassador-at-large in the early 1980s. Walters also was the U.S. military attaché in Brazil at the time of the 1964 coup.

From the Archive: The Senate’s torture report is provoking some rare self-reflection among Americans even as TV talk shows are dominated by torture apologists. But there is a larger context to America’s modern embrace of the “dark side” including support for genocide, as Robert Parry reported in 2013.

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (left) argues with ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the Senate torture report on CCTV's "The Heat" on Dec. 11, 2014. (Screenshot from program)

Exclusive: It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture, as McGovern recounts.

The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga

Journalist Gary Webb holding a copy of his Contra-cocaine article in the San Jose Mercury-News.

From the Archive: It’s been a decade since the big U.S. newspapers hounded journalist Gary Webb to suicide because he exposed their failure to stop one of Ronald Reagan’s worst crimes: drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan Contras. The sordid saga finally was told by a Hollywood movie, Robert Parry noted in October.

How Reagan Enforced US Hypocrisy

President Ronald Reagan.

From the Archive: To understand why many right-wingers are so defensive about offensive U.S. acts, even waterboarding and anal rape, you must look back to the Reagan years when “moral equivalence” became an accusation against applying universal standards to the U.S., as Robert Parry wrote last March about Ukraine.