The Torture Report and the End of U.S. Exceptionalism

It could be fortuitous or just another example of the utter contempt for international sensibilities that just a day before International Human Rights Day, the U.S. Senate released, its long suppressed report on the systematic violations of the human rights of hundreds of people it captured and tortured as part of its ‘war on terror’. However, in light of the behavior of the U.S. government since 9/11, I suspect that government officials did not consider the timing of the report. Especially since the limited summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the torture methods employed by the Bush Administration did not suggest an end to the impunity of government officials involved in the illegal program, but a continuation of it.

The fact that top officials in the Obama Administration and the leadership of the democratically-controlled Senate were aware of the criminal acts being perpetrated yet chose to prevent the release of the report and not prosecute officials responsible for those acts, demonstrates a bi-partisan cover-up and contempt for the law.

It is important to note that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not a rogue operation. The actions it took were in response to directives from Bush officials to produce “actionable” intelligence, like the “intelligence” it was under pressure to produce to justify attacking Iraq. That is the role the CIA plays in service of the Executive Branch, the branch of the U.S. Government most responsible for advancing the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

With that mandate, the Obama Administration was an active collaborator in a bi-partisan effort to cover up these crimes. We know this for this simple reason: although members of Congress and the Justice Department were in possession of evidence that human rights violations and transgressions of U.S. law had taken place, the only government officials who were prosecuted were those who brought information about governmental criminality to the attention of the public.

The bi-partisan claim that national security trumps U.S. and international law and all standards of human decency was the rationale that drove the decision by the Obama Administration to close out investigations into criminal activity during the Bush period.

Waterboarding, anal rape with a feeding tube, beatings, sleep deprivation, mock executions – these acts were all carried out on people who were ‘disappeared’ from their communities, families and nations with no regard for rights and humanity. Yet attempts by victims and their families to secure accountability and reparations for their abuse were systematically blocked by officials in the Obama Administration on the grounds of ”national security.”

That is why the sanctimonious posturing by Democrat members of the Senate Committee who are pretending to be outraged by the findings of the report is particularly galling in light of the fact that the conspiracy to cover up these crimes involved both parties. And the crimes continue. The Obama Administration continues to contract out torture through the program of “extraordinary rendition” that is buttressed with state murder in the form of its drone kill program. The criteria for who lives and dies on Pres. Obama’s ‘Tuesday morning kill list’ remain a mystery – though Attorney General Eric Holder ‘assures’ us that U.S. citizens are given their “due process” before the U.S. Government murders them.

U.S. officials don’t operate from the same set of standards as other states. As Pres. Obama repeats, over and over again, the U.S. is “exceptional.” And indeed it appears so. Successive administrations have engaged in the most egregious human rights abuses imaginable – illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands, torture, arming of terrorists, overthrowing of governments, incarcerating more of its citizens than any other state on earth – yet still claims to be the world’s leader of human rights.

Today, the entire country – and the world – is being confronted with the glaring evidence of the systematic violation of the human rights of working class and poor black, Latinos and whites by a brutal and militarized police apparatus in the U.S. and the extent of torture perpetrated by agents of the U.S. government, with the approval of its elected ‘leaders’. I hope that on this Human Rights Day, the people of the world finally reject once and for all the lie that is U.S. exceptionalism.

Black Lives Don’t matter in Racist, Capitalist “America” ( Blog)

ferguson-palestine-girlThe moment that the prosecutor read the unexpected statement that the killer-cop in Ferguson would not be charged, the instantaneous connection to the world through social media provided a real-time view on how people understood and reacted to the decision across lines of race, class, gender and national identity. The same is true today with the non-indictment of the cop that murdered Eric Garner.

Facebook in particular provides a snapshot on how the fissures of race color how people saw the decision and the interpretation of the reactions from the community in Ferguson and the non-indictment in New York. So while many legitimately criticize the sometimes endless, and what they would claim are irrelevant “Facebook battles,” I fine the medium a valuable instrument for assessing shifting opinions and perceptions of the public on various topics. And judging by the amount of time that many “special interests” groups spend on social media to shape public perception and opinion, I don’t think paying attention to this medium is a waste of time.

Therefore, for this week’s blog, I wanted to share just a few of the comments I made related to Ferguson and Eric Garner on Facebook that generated some intense discussion.

In response to the militarized preparations and response in Ferguson:

The Israeli trained St. Louis county police department is making the link for us between the colonial situation in Palestine and colonial function of policing the colonized black and brown communities of the U.S. Are you folks ready to accept that it is only through the defeat of this system that we can fully realize our human rights and dignity?

And in response to Obama’s statement on Ferguson:

Your uncle tom president says that there is no excuse for violence – when it comes to the oppressed. For the empire, violence is the first weapon of choice from Libya to Syria and the police forces in Ferguson. After Trayvon and now this, the 60% unemployment among our youth, mass incarceration, school closings in our communities, Detroit, who among you still don’t see that we are at war? The challenge is preparing ourselves through systematic organization and political education to meet our historic responsibility to advance our struggle for self-determination and the defeat of this racist, capitalist/colonialist system for ourselves and the people of the world.

The Eric Garner non-indictment demonstrates that this was never just about Mike Brown

Folks I am tired of this liberal framing. This is not about Mike Brown or something called justice. There is no justice to be achieved in a racist, capitalist system organized to control and contain us. Even when through our efforts we force a response from the system to sacrifice one of its agents of repression, it is not justice but a tactical victory achieved by the people. The goal has to remain defeating this backward system that is destroying us and millions of people around the world. There is a reason why Israel trains police forces in the U.S. and the U.S. trains police forces throughout the world. It is time we understood the terms of the struggle and put to rest any notion that the U.S. state is capable of justice when it is the enemy of the world’s people.


And again on Eric Garner:

Do we need more evidence that the racist, settler-colonialist capitalist state is waging war against black, brown and poor people in this country?

Check Malcolm:

For Malcolm, resistance is not a crime. In fact, the fight for human dignity and human rights is what makes us human. But he argued that there is a price that people must be prepared to pay. According to Malcolm:
“…you shouldn’t even be allowed around us other humans if you don’t want to pay the price. You should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being. You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse or a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.”
And what was the price? “The price is death really. The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die…” “This is all we want—to be a human being.”

A discussion on the role of anti-racist white activists:

This is what I tell white anti-racist activists – being an ally and anti-racist activist means also doing the work in the white communities on race and class. Because while we (black and brown folks) are being targeted now, white folks, in particular poor whites and certainly students who might align themselves with the oppressed are not beyond repression. ..Folks have got to develop an understanding of white supremacy that goes beyond the silliness of a Donald Sterling controversy while missing the moves being made by Europe and the U.S. to maintain the structures of global white supremacy in places like Libya, Syria and Palestine.

To those folks who think Ferguson was an anomaly and its only about a few bad cops:

Isn’t it a primitive form of anti-racism when folks, black and white, will condemn what happened in Ferguson but not see and actually cheer on the white supremacist attack by the U.S./NATO/EU on Libya and the arming of right-wing terrorists in Syria. Where was the condemnation of the U.S. congress when it gave unanimous support to the racist Israeli government’s attack on Palestinians in Gaza? Why is the anti-white supremacist lens only focused domestically to relative easy targets like Ferguson and Donald Sterling, while the global balance of forces that still uphold the power of European/US imperialism escape a critical race analysis? If you supported the attack on Libya, have been silent on Syria and fell for the BS in the Ukraine and think that Israel has a right of defense, guess what? You have no idea what white supremacy is and how to fight it because you are part of the problem.”

Why connections must be made and the resistance systematized:

I hope that the focus of national mobilizations becomes more narrowly targeted at the national government. I understand that the hands up coalition is calling for demonstrations at the Justice department. But along with these mobilizations, I would urge folks to re-read the analysis of what is needed that is at the beginning of MXGM’s report Operation Ghetto Storm that reveals that a Black person is murdered every 28 hours. Brother Kali Akuno lays out how we need to frame the Mike Brown murder and the police forces in the U.S.

The propaganda response from Empire:

As we process the slick public relations move by the Obama administration yesterday meeting with the resisters in the White Peoples house let’s remember this:

“African Americans who are supporting the latest war plans in Iraq and Syria but calling for something called justice in Ferguson from those same authorities have forgotten, or never completely understood, that the war being waged by the U.S. to maintain global Western hegemony includes them as a target also. If the U.S. Congress can give unanimous consent to the murder of over 2000 people in Gaza, with the majority being women and children, why would you think that those same people would really care about a few hundred African Americans who are being murdered annually by police forces charged with containing a population that has now been rendered as economically superfluous?

A different angle on the oppositional character of the movement?

“I have a dissertation topic for some young researcher: Provide an analysis of the black movement that explains how we went from a fist raised for black power and self-determination to Hands up don’t shoot while on our knees!”

What must be done and the African American approach to human rights:

“Take your hands down and prepare yourself through discipline, systematic organization and political education to resist and shoot back when needed. That is how you struggle for human rights.”


The Darren Wilson Non-indictment: Resistance to oppression is a human right!

Barack Obama, the obsequious errand boy for the financial and corporate plutocrats who own the U.S. government, made a pathetic appearance on national television to try to persuade the “natives” to remain peaceful in response to the non-indictment of the Ferguson killer-cop. His inane comments extolling the value of non-violence and the rule of law seemed strangely incongruent with the militaristic rhetoric and policies of his administration over the last few years.

Yet, Obama’s positions on law and violence are not as contradictory as they might appear when these positions are resituated within the context of imperial logic and the framework of power. Legitimate violence is always determined by history’s dominant powers and employed as a weapon to maintain and extend that dominance. Over the last five hundred years Europe emerged from the backwaters of history and cultural backwardness to predominance as a result of genocide and land theft in the Americas, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and colonial/capitalist development. The violent establishment of capitalism, racism, and heteropatriarchy enabled the West to impose its definitions of legitimacy, including “legitimate” violence.

Thus when Palestinians resist the theft of the their land and the killing of their people by Israeli colonists, their response is defined as illegitimate violence that sparks support for Israel’s “right to defend itself.” When Africans waged national liberation struggles to free themselves from European colonial domination in places like Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the West condemned their efforts as illegitimate. Furthermore, because those struggles were determined to be illegitimate colonial powers felt justified to viciously attack those efforts with the support of the U.S. government. And when African Americans organized against police violence and for self-determination and our own definitions of liberation in the 60s, our efforts were deemed illegitimate. We were brutally suppressed with the full range of state terror tactics including beatings, deaths, infiltration, surveillance, and the jailing of activists for decades.

Therefore, we should understand the State’s response to our discontent in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown in this context. The heavy-handed use of violence to deny the people the human rights to peacefully assemble and freedom of association is consistent with the historical uses of violence to control and suppress opposition. And the state’s determination that more militant forms of popular resistance are illegitimate helped to shift the attention of the capitalist media to black resistance and away from the issue of impunity for yet another law enforcement official who literally gets away with murder.

The focus on the forms of resistance taking place in Ferguson is reflective of a shared, cross-class and racialized world-view that accepts the carefully constructed elite view concerning what constitutes illegitimate resistance. This hegemonic view creates a moral myopia that makes it impossible for many in white America to understand the point of view of the resisters to this non-indictment. This ideological and even cognitive disconnect makes the call for more national conversations on race such a dangerous diversion from the more immediate historic task at hand.

The task of the African American resistance movement is not to worry about sitting down with white people infected with the disease of white supremacy, but to build the capacity of black poor and working class folks to resist the intensifying expressions of repressive state power directed at our people. From that base, we can and should talk about building coalitions with other oppressed communities and people who are ready to take on the task of opposing the settler capitalist state at every level.

So while the corporate media has been somewhat successful in shifting the focus from the injustice of the non-indictment to the reaction of protestors, the insights provided by brother Malcolm X offer a framework for understanding what must be done.

For Malcolm, resistance is not a crime. In fact, the fight for human dignity and human rights is what makes us human. But he argued that there is a price that people must be prepared to pay. According to Malcolm:

“…you shouldn’t even be allowed around us other humans if you don’t want to pay the price. You should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being. You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse or a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.”

And what was the price? “The price is death really. The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die…” “This is all we want—to be a human being.”

In our quest for authentic freedom for ourselves and our children who are being spiritually and literally murdered, Malcolm is reminding us that we have to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. This willingness to sacrifice, as inchoate and thinly grounded as the mass resistance was in Ferguson, demonstrated, nevertheless, that many of our young people are still prepared to pay the price for freedom.

We should be proud that the spirit of struggle, resistance, and sacrifice is still alive. The experience of Ferguson demonstrated to people around the world that despite the opiate of credit-based false prosperity, illusions of system inclusion and Barack Obama – African Americans are finally awakening from an almost two decade long sleep and in the process reawakening the spirit of resistance for everyone.