[Marxism] Underpinning the Generals' Revolt are Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Tue Apr 25 09:01:04 MDT 2006

Below are repostings from Marxmail from a year ago. I post them again  
here because Follman's essay links the Generals' Revolt against  
Rumsfeld to a deeper criticism within the imperialist war camp. It  
goes beyond the failures of a particular operation, even a giant one  
like Iraq.

The generals can accept failure, but they don't want to accept a  
method of failure that in the long run puts imperialism itself at  
risk. That is what the embrace of torture by the Bush Administration  
has done. It is no accident that it is civilians with little or  
usually no experience in the armed forces who are blind to the  
implications of the endorsement of torture. But this lack of empathy  
or affect reveals a void that is endemic among politicians. It is the  
DNA of the breed.

I can no longer replicate the full Internet research that I did on  
his issue when the Abu Ghraib story broke. The thousands of documents  
available then have become millions. However, here is one sample.  
http://www.geocities.com/~virtualtruth/manuals.htm Confirming common  
sense, this article and others show that state torture is not used to  
extract information, but to intimidate a population. However, it is  
clear that the governments involved work to create at least a minimal  
distance from its actions. They want the populace to know that they  
are behind it, but they also want to hide the proof.

But the new torture was openly exposed and even embraced, not only by  
the CIA, but by the U.S. government, including Cheney, Bush, Bush's  
legal office including Yoo and Gonzalez (now the U.S. attorney  
general who is the highest legal officer of the land).

Yet the result from torture it is completely worthless. This is one  
of the things that they learn and in turn teach in all those schools  
that the generals attend.

In fact, the aggressive torture in the homes and on the way to Abu  
Ghraib, along with the prisons themselves, may have been a factor in  
the resistance. Thousands of U.S. soldiers at least initially  
believed that they were genuinely searching for Weapons of Mass  
Destruction. That was, after all, what they were searching for,  
wasn't it? Here, from the military's view, we have the twin evils of  
the occupation. There were no WMD and we tortured and the two are  
connected. The third leg of the Generals' Revolt is that had there  
been more troops at the beginning, the opposition would have been  
initially smothered and the U.S. troops, soon in fear themselves, may  
have been less aggressive.

But even more important than being worthless, openly advocating every  
violation of one's body and soul up to and including death,  leaves  
you not only open to the same treatment, but to a full political  
justification--up to the point of being "material"--for open  
rebellion against your presence. Renaming the School of Americas was  
transparent. This will require a complete repudiation. However, it is  
clear that the two U.S. political parties are incapable of doing it.  
Senator McCain made a stab at it--undoubtedly under pressure from  
these same generals and possessing credibility as a famous Vietnam  
prisoner of war, but he also caved in to better follow his political  

So the job is up to the generals. We now begin to understand why  
generals are so important in Latin America and elsewhere. Their  
patriotism is unquestioned. They are pure, not seeking public favor,  
but only advancement. Better yet, as retired generals (sometimes in  
Latin America too), they don't even seek that.

Mark Follman's article is at these two sites. The Der Spiegel one is  
direct; the Salon one merely requires you to first click on an  
advertiser's button. Below these is an earlier more developed article  
by Follman on the opposition to torture within the military.

Brian Shannon





Completely from a capitalist point of view, important issues are  
coming to the fore.

The main issue, of course, is practicality and visibility. None of  
these guys would care if the world didn't know. There has, for  
example, never been a discussion of the smothering of hundreds,  
perhaps thousands, in the container trucks in Afghanistan, an  
operation approved or overseen by U.S. forces.

There has never been a call for an investigation of the slaughter in  
Afghanistan's Mazar-e Sharif, where all the prisoners were  
surrounded, yet were slaughtered to the last man. Except that John  
Walker Lindh and few others survived in dungeons only to be tortured  
into confessions.
(1) It was a prison.
(2) It was surrounded.
(3) Like Waco, they could have waited them out.
(4) Lindh survived by chance. He and his comrades were in flooded pit  
at the bottom; many died; he and some others stayed awake and lived.
(5) The U.S. was in charge. No ambiguity whether "we" knew.

Nonetheless, the issue of the right of habeas corpus, a right going  
back to the earliest form of the British Constitution as well as our  
own, remains. It was so important to America's first revolutionists  
that it was an integral part of our Constitution even before the  
agreement over the Bill of Rights. (U.S. Constitution, Article 1,  
Section 9; Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No. 84)

The issue of how long are they to be imprisoned remains. Are these to  
be "men without a country" forever? Until "terrorism" (by others than  
the U.S., of course) is defeated?

Are we to allow torture up to pain that is the equivalent of the pain  
of the failure of vital organs?

Are we to allow absolution for the infliction of this pain if it is  
self-declared to be given for the purpose of obtaining information?  
In other words, so long as the torturers declare that they are not  
torturing for its own sake or just to be cruel? (This is what the  
Gonzalez and Yoo memos are about.)

Are we to allow confessions extracted by torture even though we know  
that much lower degrees of intimidation and torture have led to false  
imprisonment, even execution, in the United States?

The capitalists and their running dogs want to know the answers to  
these questions. Actually, they don't really care, but they are being  
forced to pretend to.

The real question is: Is it worth keeping Guantanamo and its  
equivalents open for all the shit we are getting from the world?



Joan Dayan's wide ranging essay reviews the U.S. practice of torture  
at present and in the past. It discusses "cruel and unusual" as  
interpreted under slavery, as punishment, and as used against  
prisoners. Her scholarship ranges through both federal and state law  
and reaches out to discuss the present U.S. program in Haiti.

"After the revelation of abuses at Abu Ghraib, Secretary of Defense  
Donald Rumsfeld found time to draw comparably subtle distinctions:  
'I’m not a lawyer, but I know it’s not torture—probably abuse.'  
Rumsfeld’s own blurring of the distinction between obvious torture  
and possible abuse has a real legal history. The now-famous documents  
written by lawyers for the White House and the Departments of Defense  
and Justice—an August 1, 2002, memorandum prepared by Judge Jay S.  
Bybee and a March 6, 2003, memorandum entitled 'Working Group Report  
on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on  
Terrorism' (authorized by the Pentagon’s general counsel, William J.  
Haynes II)—redefined the meaning of torture and extended the limits  
of permissible pain."

She brings a special focus to the use of language and how by  
categorizing and distinguishing one group from another, the enablers  
of torture circumvent and rationalize the clear meaning of rules  
against torture and "cruel and unusual" punishment. Invidious  
distinctions are used or created to justify punishment. Slaves,  
prisoners, administrative actions, etc.:

"The ominous leeway of American legal rules—from slave codes, to  
prison cases, to the Bush administration’s torture memos—redefines  
these persons in law. That redefinition—the creation of a new class  
of condemned—sustains a metaphysics that goes beyond the mere logic  
of punishment. Once you create the category of the stigmatized,  
whether they are called “terrorists,” “security threat groups” (gangs  
in our prisons), or “security detainees” (prisoners in Iraq), the use  
of torture can be calibrated to the necessities of continuously  
evolving and aggressive security measures."
. . .
"In my work on the Arizona prison system and the courts’  
rationalization of custody and control, . . .  I demonstrate how the  
legal manipulation of terms, by both lawyers and wardens, can evade  
an obvious Eighth Amendment violation. For example, if you can claim  
that classification is not punitive, not disciplinary, but merely  
administrative, then something called “administrative segregation”— 
even if it means indefinite isolation in solitary—is not subject to  
judicial review. By engaging language in legality within the courts  
and inside the prisons, the function of labeling the criminal “type”— 
the manipulation of “status”—has kept correctional actions and legal  
opinions in dialogue"


Joan Dayan is Professor of English and Robert Penn Warren Professor  
in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University and is completing a book  
on slavery, incarceration, and the law of persons.

More information about the Marxism mailing list