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One Place to Cut Spending: Kidnapping and Torture

By David Swanson

I know it seems like more of a noble sacrifice to cut spending on things people less fortunate than ourselves need, but can somebody explain to me why it wouldn't be at least that noble to eliminate the budget of the CIA, which serves no one?

The Washington Post and the Obama administration have been busy telling us that it's legal to kidnap people and send them to countries that torture. They may call it "renditioning" to nations that use "enhanced interrogation techniques," but a new book details what this means in English.

A man was walking near his home in Milano, Italy, and was stopped and questioned by a policeman. When they had been engaged in conversation for some minutes, the side door of a van parked behind the man crashed open with a thunderous sound, two extremely large and strong men grabbed the civilian and hauled him inside, and the door slammed shut three seconds after it had opened, as the van accelerated and the two men hit and kicked their victim repeatedly in the dark of the van's interior, pounding his head, chest, stomach, and legs. They stopped. They stuffed a gag in his mouth and put a hood over his head, as they cinched cords tight around his wrists and ankles. Hours later they threw him into another vehicle. An hour later they took him out, stood him up, cut his clothes off, shoved something hard up his anus, stuck a diaper and pajamas on him, wrapped his head almost entirely with duct tape, and tossed him in an airplane.

The torture he received when he got where he was going left him nearly dead, prematurely aged, and barely able to walk. It was US-sponsored and Egyptian administered. And it is described in all of its almost unbearable detail in Steve Hendricks' "A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial."

Believe it or not, most of this book is enjoyable. Hendricks knows the United States and Italy and how to write about one for readers in the other. His remarks on Italian culture are outdone only by his background on Muslim terrorism, his account of who this kidnapping victim was, and the inclusion of dialogue picked up by Italian wiretaps of terrorism suspects' private conversations. But just as terrific reading are Hendricks' histories of the practice of rendition, of the use of torture, of U.S.-Italian relations, of domestic Italian terrorism, and of modern Egypt.

Not to ruin the punch line -- and this has long been public knowledge -- the kidnapping, transporting, imprisoning, and torturing of this man and many others is paid for with U.S. tax dollars. I'm sure it all sounds very important and rational given how demonically evil Muslims are supposed to be. But how do you justify the dozens of CIA agents living it up in Italy's most luxurious hotels while plotting this operation? And how do you rationalize the damage done to U.S. relations with Italy? Of course, Italians quickly discovered that the CIA was behind this crime. It would have been harder to track them if they'd worn neon signs on their chests. They used cell phones and frequent flyer accounts that were easily identified, not to mention names and addresses similar to their real ones. Hendricks describes their methods as Keystone Kommandoism.

No doubt some of these CIA bunglers and butchers were outsourced and untrained, but they also believed they were above the law. They thought they had immunity. Italian law enforcement thought otherwise. For decades during the Cold War, the CIA kept an army and caches of weapons in Italy to be used if communists were ever able to gain significant political power. A long list of abuses has come to light and no one ever been held accountable. Magistrate Armando Spataro, like many Italians, adored the United States. When reporters asked him why he had indicted two dozen CIA agents, Spataro said he was opposing lawlessness, not his beloved United States. He warned of following the path of Mussolini. He pointed out that Italy had defeated domestic terrorists with the rule of law. He showed that the new U.S. lawlessness was just encouraging terror. His record of prosecuting leftist terrorists and his indictment for terrorism of the victim himself of the U.S. kidnapping made claims of bias difficult to pin on Spataro. The approach resorted to by the U.S. media was -- to the extent possible -- to ignore the whole thing, especially when Spataro won convictions of the agents tried in absentia.

The Italian legal system is one thing, its government in Rome quite another. The latter will never ask the United States to extradite the convicts unless the U.S. president requests it first, just as the United States would never kidnap a man in Italy without telling the Italian president and the Italian spy service first. So, none of the culprits are behind bars, but they are unable to live in or travel to Europe. And a strong signal has been sent about the likelihood of Italy tolerating more such crimes. This is the sort of message Nancy Pelosi would have sent by impeaching Bush even if the Senate had not convicted him.

Hendricks tracked down most of the scofflaws. They're spread around the United States engaged in a variety of work, most of them completely unknown to the public. The man chiefly responsible, on the other hand, is undergoing a public rehabilitation and it about to open a presidential library, while the man responsible for the continued practice and for the freedom of his predecessor has two more years in the White House.

DAVID SWANSON is the author of the forthcoming book "War Is A Lie,"


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It's welcome to learn that these goons who were working for the CIA have been made unable to live and travel anywhere in Europe. Their treatment of the Muslem man clearly is extremely criminal and rather horrific. I knew about the abduction of him, but believe this to be the first time that I've read about how badly he was brutalized. All I recall having read about this event before today was that he was criminally abducted and "renditioned".

It's state terrorism and gangsterism.

Re. the book, "War is a Lie":

Chapter 5 is entitled, "Warriors Are Not Heroes". What about the American soldier who landed an American military helicopter to go to the rescue of Vietnamese citizens US ground forces were going to likely kill many of? When getting off the helicopter he told the other soldier in the heli. to aim the gun at the US troops and to fire on them if they fired at him and/or the Vietnamese citizens he was acting to protect. I forget the person's name, but this certainly seems to qualify as great heroic action.

Maybe it doesn't quite fit for or with the definition of heroism, but if it does, then he and other soldiers who act against crimes of the forces they're members of, so US forces when the stories are of US troops acting to prevent and/or to expose US crimes against humanity, might all be considered as having acted with heroism.

It's definitely action to publicly praise and promote or encourage, anyway. And promotion could include military rank.

Re. ch. 13, "Wars Cannot Be Both Planned and Avoided":

The war on Afghanistan is an evidently clear example. It was planned prior to 9/11 and was not avoided, hellishly. And the same is true of the wars on Iraq, Kosovo/Yugoslavia, others, as well as covertly conducted/commanded wars. They're all planned and none of them were/are avoided. And the covert one in the DR Congo, which Keith Harmon Snow,, says was previously and (I guess) should still be known as Zaire, does not look like war to many westerners; but, it's war, covert, and has been going on since around 1996, with the genocide toll now having reached around 10 million. It was planned and is longer than the "theater war" in Afghanistan, but people of the West usually don't use the word "war" for this covertly commanded war for which criminal proxy governments and military forces of Uganada and Rwanda, as well as US, NATO, and phony UN "peacekeeping" forces are used.

For some reason or reasons that I'm either not aware of or am unsure of being the reason(s), most westerners don't call these covert wars what they are, wars; the word "covert" only saying that these wars aren't "overt" or "theater" in kind. The criminal proxies of Rwanda and Uganda wouldn't be committing this war against the population of the DR Congo/Zaire if it wasn't for the US and its European allies, as well as Israel. Another war for robbing people of their natural resources.

We see the same thing happened and happening; planning and non-avoidance, non-prevention. The war makers do everything they can to not avoid committing or commanding their wars, theater and covert, both. Since they plan for unjustifiable and criminal wars, they clearly don't have any intention of avoiding their manufactured wars.

We got an extremely clear example when the Bush Jr-Cheney administration criminally forced the end to the UN weapons inspections in order to launch the war on Iraq. The Administration and military command of the US clearly had no intention of trying to avoid this war. The plan was definite. Otherwise, they would not have forced those inspections to end.

And Bush or some other high government official of the US had evidently said in July 2001 to (I believe) a Pakistani official as well as an Indian one that the US was definitely going to lead war on Afghanistan no later than October 2001. It was also reported that the plans were on his presidential desk days prior to 9/11. I don't recall how the latter was learned, but guess that the reason was either a White House official leaked this information, or maybe a reporter who had met with Bush had seen the plans on his desk and then reported this.

Pre-planned, and clearly with no intention of avoidance! The war on Iraq could've been non-executed, but only if Saddam Hussein had agreed to allow the privatization of Iraq's rich oil reserves, which he clearly and correctly was not of any mind to do, so the war became non-avoidable for the leading war makers.

Or maybe they would've come to command the war on Iraq anyway, since the MIC sickeningly depends on wars for driving up profits and it's been reported that very many members of the Congress also are MIC shareholders. The Congress did not declare war on Iraq, but did authorize recourse to war on Iraq when there was no credible justification for this authorization even if it was based on two conditions that actually nullified the authorization by the time the war was fully launched. Saddam Hussein had met or satisfied the two conditions and no WMD were found after the UN inspectors searched over 700 sites they were sent to by the White House administration. And while that basically or essentially made the congressional authorization null and void, the Congress did not try to stop this war.

Perhaps they would've acted to stop the war if Saddam Hussein had agreed to privatize Iraq's oil industry and reserves; but maybe the war would've been commanded to profit the MIC, as well as for geostrategically establishing large US military bases.

Maybe it'd make some real difference, but I don't see what real one there'd be if the Congress had declared war on Iraq. Perhaps they thought it was politically better for them to not do this; maybe to try to appease Americans opposed to the war, a little. Or maybe the reason is related to the UNSC having refused to authorize this war, and/or because war supporters in Congress didn't think they'd get enough supporting votes from members of Congress. I don't think it'd make any real difference to Iraqis, whose country has been destroyed, and so on, anyway.

With all of their constant support for continuing and funding the war on and criminal occupation of Iraq, what difference would it have made if the Congress declared war on Iraq? I wonder.

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