President George W. Bush has drawn a great deal
of flak from Democrats and some human rights groups for having
vetoed a bill aimed at banning the CIA from using ‘coercive
interrogation’ methods to elicit information from suspected
terrorists, according to an AP dispatch in this newspaper today.
Of these ‘coercive methods’ (euphemism for torture), only
‘waterboarding’ (or simulated drowning) has been highlighted in
the western media. But, waterboarding pales into insignificance
like bungee jumping in comparison to the dastardly methods that
the US military has been using at places like Abu Ghraib.
Some US lawmakers are tearing their hair and
beating their liberal chests claiming that President Bush has
missed an opportunity to put the kibosh on the so-called torture
debate and repair America’s badly dented human rights
credentials. President Bush’s detractors point out that the bill
he shot down had the blessings of 43 retired generals,
secretaries of state and national security advisors. They say
Bush’s veto has sullied America’s reputation around the world.
Torture is savage and must be condemned in all
its manifestations. Anyone who endorses that bestial way of
interrogating suspects has no moral right to oppose terrorism.
But, we believe, President Bush is being less hypocritical than
others of the US establishment on this score. His critics are
making a song and dance about his decision, having done precious
little to prevent the CIA from using torture earlier. What
President Bush has sanctioned is not a process to begin but
something that has been happening since the establishment of the
CIA. And it is not only torture that the CIA must be stopped
from committing. Mum’s the word on the part of President Bush’s
rivals as to the powers that the outfit was given in the
aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to carry out assassinations
overseas to protect the US interests. The CIA has also had heads
of state of other countries assassinated, especially in the
Latin America and replaced their regimes with criminal juntas.
What befell Salvador Allende is a case in point. Among the other
illegal operations that the CIA is responsible for is the use of
BCCI to fund terrorists including Osma bin Laden (when he was
America’s blue-eyed terrorist). Worse, some member of the US
Senate went all out to derail the Kerry probe into the BCCI
scandal, didn’t they?
The reason President Bush has given for his veto
is that ‘it is important for the CIA to have a separate and
classified interrogation programme for suspected terrorists who
possess critical information about possible plots against the
United States’. He is of the view that the programme has ‘helped
stop plots against a Marine camp in Djibouti and the US
consulate in Karachi and plans to fly passenger planes into the
Los Angeles Tower or London’s Heathrow Airport and city
While torture and other bestial methods that the
CIA and the US military are using purportedly to defend America
must be condemned, there can be no argument about America’s
right to protect herself against terror attacks.
But, is it only the US and its closest allies
like the UK that have a right to self-defence and preemptive
strikes? What about other nations? Shouldn’t poor Sri Lanka’s
own version of the World Trade Centre—a humble looking building
visible from the US Embassy in Colombo—her citizens, property,
territorial integrity etc., be protected in a similar manner? An
attempt to bring down Colombo’s twin towers had been made years
before the 9/11 terror attacks in New York!
It is mind-boggling why the US, whose President
doesn’t mind even torture being used to protect her interests,
has stopped military assistance to Sri Lanka? Allegations of
torture have been levelled against Sri Lanka and some of them
are not baseless but torture hasn’t ever been sanctioned by the
Executive in this country, has it?
Interestingly, the US bill to ban torture lacked
overwhelming support in both chambers, the vote being 222-199
and 51-45 in the House and the Senate respectively. And if the
US lawmakers are really opposed to torture, they will have to
muster the required two-thirds majority to turn back President
Bush’s veto. It is rather unlikely that they will be able to do
so! Therefore, the CIA will continue to enjoy the freedom it has
so far had to use torture to make suspects ‘squeal’.
It will be interesting to know the reaction of
the champions of human rights in this country, in whose
campaigns the US has evinced a keen interest, to President
Bush’s veto at issue. They deserve support of one and all to
protect human rights but they, we hope, will have the courage to
be critical of the human rights records of their sponsors as
well, especially at a time when they are hauling the government
of Sri Lanka over the coals—quite rightly so—for the premature
departure of the International Independent Group of Eminent
Persons (IIGEP). Those eminent persons, who have left Sri Lanka
in an apparent huff over some human rights issues, too, ought to
tell the world what they think of America’s ill-fated
anti-torture bill and the presidential veto which is tantamount
to the advocacy of R2T or Right to Torture! All human rights
gods have feet of clay, eh?
What all this boils down to is that the West
still believes might is right, whatever their envoys may say for
the consumption of the gullible in the developing world and
however hard they may pretend to be promoting human rights on
this planet. According to the global north, human rights must
stop where its national security or economic interests begin.
President Bush’s message is loud and clear: The
world ought to know better than to ruffle the Eagle’s feathers!
Stacy Smith’s poetic gem, From an Eagle’s View,
comes to one’s mind:
If you were an eagle you would wonder no more,
For it can see things you have never seen
Next time you look into the sky of blue,
Think of what it’s like from an eagle’s view.
So, as for every issue, the world must learn to
think of what it’s like from the Eagle’s view.
(That’s what globalisation is all about!)