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U.S. Imperialism’s Torture, Inc.

There will be no justice served until all the war criminals and commanders, from Bush and the Pentagon chiefs to their underlings as well as their Democratic Party counterparts, are swept from power through a proletarian socialist revolution.
Introduction by Steve Argue

The following article is from Workers' Vanguard, the newspaper of the Spartacist League (SL). While Liberation News and the Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg Club of the Peace and Freedom Party (RRLC-PFP) do not agree with important parts of the Spartacist League's program, we do agree with them on many points and find many of their articles useful.

We agree with the Spartacist League in their upholding of Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution as well as Trotsky's concept of Political Revolution in socialist countries led by Stalinist bureaucracies.

A key lesson of The Theory of Permanent Revolution is that anti-imperialist revolutions must be sweeping and socialist in order to survive the sabotage of the indigenous bourgeoisie. When the property of the wealthy is taken from them in the socialist revolution, the capitalists as a class no longer have the economic power to carry out internal sabotage. The Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions are examples in the positive of this fact. Nicaragua, Haiti, and Chili are negative examples. Venezuela will also be a negative example if there are no changes to the Chavez leadership.

Trotsky's concept of Political Revolution in socialist countries led by Stalinist bureaucracies is one that recognizes that a privileged caste came to power with Joseph Stalin. This was an important change from the Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. Every socialist revolution since has been built to a large degree on this Stalinist model. Yet Trotsky recognized that many advantages existed with socialism, even under the yoke of Stalinism, so while calling for political revolution for the working class to take control of the state from the Stalinists, he also advocated the defense of the deformed worker's states from imperialism and internal capitalist counter-revolution. The correctness of this political line can be seen in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe where capitalist counter-revolution has brought a dramatic decrease in life expectancy along with unemployment, a lack of health care, and wars between ethnic groups.

Another important likeness between the SL and the RRLC-PFP is our rejection of Stalin's political line for the United States. This was a position where Stalin called on the Communist Party of the United States to support the Democrat Party as the "lesser of two evils". While there may be small differences between the Democrats and Republicans, they are both capitalist parties of war representing the interests of their millionaire supporters. Instead of supporting our enemies we call for the independent political action of the working class led by a socialist program and vanguard.

A key difference between our two groups is that the RRLC-PFP sees that Lenin's form of "democratic" centralism was not democratic, not in the party, nor in the way the party ruled after it took power. The RRLC-PFP agrees with Rosa Luxemburg on this question and we argue that socialism must be democratic for the working class to truly rule and for the socialist party (or parties) to be held accountable.

The adoption of "democratic" centralism by the SL has led to strange aberrations in their political line that probably could not occur in an organization that was more open to internal and external criticism. The most striking of these insanities is SL's support for NAMBL (the National Association of Man Boy Love). This is nothing but a pro-pedophilia group. The adoption of this political line so discredits the group as to make it obvious that the position, while probably first put forward by a pedophile in the group's leadership, would be backed by any FBI COINTELPRO infiltrators.

The inability of the SL to correct this position is tied to the group’s adherence to a form of centralism that does not allow people with even slightly different political positions to join and advocate what they think. As such their party is built very much on the Leninist model.

In opposition to this model Rosa Luxemburg advocated, and put into practice, the building of a revolutionary socialist party with internal democracy that would build a new socialist and democratic society. In this spirit the RRLC-PFP is part of the broader Peace and Freedom Party that encompasses many socialist views, while we at the same time recognize the value of smaller groups such as the SL who's clarity on many issues is surpassed by no one.

The SL, despite its problems, is not our enemy. We are all human; we all make mistakes, this why the new society must be democratic. I send the following article in this democratic spirit. It’s a damn good article.

U.S. Out of Iraq Now!

U.S. Imperialism’s Torture, Inc.

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 826, 14 May 2004.

The grotesque photos flashed around the world from Abu Ghraib prison in U.S.-occupied Iraq have totally demolished the official Bush line that the U.S. went in to “liberate? Iraq and institute “democracy.? This “liberation? is now identified with a young American woman soldier holding a groveling, naked Iraqi prisoner tethered to a leash like an animal. The photos only partially expose a small part of the terror and atrocities which in fact are meted out daily to U.S. imperialism’s victims worldwide, as well as inside the U.S. itself. From the prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to the death rows of Texas; from systematic mass murder and torture of Vietnamese liberation fighters in the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix? program in Vietnam to the death squads in Latin America; from Britain’s Long Kesh prison to the basements of French colonial Algiers; from Chile’s Santiago Stadium to Israel’s Ashkelon: an awful network of torture and death, going back in time, spans the world. These are not “aberrations.? They are the conscious policies of imperialist and neocolonialist ruling regimes, who routinely and necessarily use terror and degradation as tools to maintain their power.

The Democratic Party is trying to exploit widespread revulsion at the newly exposed sexual abuse and torture by American troops and mercenaries in Iraq to fuel their campaign to take over the White House from Bush. In reality, the crimes and destruction for which U.S. imperialism is known worldwide were chiefly carried out under Democratic Party administrations: the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the reduction of North Korea to rubble in a war carried out under United Nations aegis in the early 1950s; the napalming and systematic devastation of Vietnam; the terror bombing of Serbia under Clinton in 1999.

In the Iraq war, the International Communist League forthrightly took a side for the military defense of Iraq, without giving any political support to Saddam Hussein, against U.S. imperialism. Under the brutal U.S. military occupation today, every blow against the U.S. and its dwindling “coalition of the willing? is objectively in the interests of workers worldwide. At the same time, we steadfastly oppose the communalist violence carried out by clerical reactionaries and remnants of the Ba’athist regime. The crucial force that must be mobilized politically to strike a blow against the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the multiracial proletariat at home. U.S. out of Iraq!

No people ever subjugated by an imperialist army, and certainly no black person in America, could have been surprised by the widespread debasement of prisoners by American forces in Iraq. It’s no accident the killers and sadists of Abu Ghraib include former U.S. cops and prison guards, domestic enforcers of U.S. state terror against poor, black and working people and immigrants. Reports from Abu Ghraib specify that one prisoner was raped and sodomized with a broomstick—exactly like Haitian immigrant Abner Louima was in a New York City police station in 1997. One of the torturers at Abu Ghraib, Specialist Charles Graner Jr., is a guard at Pennsylvania’s notorious SCI Greene prison where America’s foremost black political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, is held on death row. That prison was the scene of a 1998 abuse scandal over guards beating and sadistically humiliating prisoners. In a 3 May column, Mumia writes: “The horrific treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib has its dark precedents in the prisons and police stations across America.?

The American imperialist state, already a prison house for blacks, in the name of its “war on terror? has exported and vastly expanded its own arsenal of terror, now employed on a world scale without even the hypocritical pretense of “legality.? Anthony Lewis, a liberal who believes that the U.S. should act in accordance with its purported commitment to the rule of law, wrote: “President Bush has made clear his view that law must bend to what he regards as necessity. National security trumps our commitments to international law. The Constitution must yield to novel infringements on American freedom.? On the other end of the spectrum is the rabid apologist for Zionist terror, Alan Dershowitz: “[We could use] a torture warrant.... I would talk about a nonlethal torture, say, a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva Accords, but you know, countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords? (CNN, 4 March 2003). Warrant or not, Maj. Gen. Miller, chief of detention first in Guantánamo and now in Iraq, testified that “special interrogation techniques...must be approved,? i.e., torture is permissible.

As the scandal exploded, Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell, overseer of the 1991 mass slaughter of fleeing Iraqi troops on the “highway of death? in the first Gulf War, compared the prison abuse to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam in an interview on CNN, as just one of those deplorable things that happen in war. It’s obscene that this mass murderer is allowed to weep public crocodile tears for the hundreds of Vietnamese men, women and children slaughtered—after mass rape, sodomy, torture and maiming—by U.S. troops in the village of My Lai. In My Lai, the American ruling class pinned the blame on low-level “rogue? soldiers and amnestied the most senior officers involved. General Koster, the division commander in overall charge of the troops in My Lai, watched the entire massacre from the air and radioed orders to Lieutenant Calley in the village. Calley was merely as high up the chain of command as the American government was willing to go.

A major goal of the Bush administration in invading and occupying Iraq was to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome,? i.e., popular opposition to foreign military adventures as a result of the humiliating defeat of the U.S. in Southeast Asia three decades ago. But Iraq is not Vietnam and the Vietnam War was not merely horror inflicted by U.S. imperialism. The U.S. was defeated in a social revolution by the heroic Vietnamese, whose struggle freed their country from the yoke of imperialist subjugation and capitalist exploitation.

Now a welter of politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, howl about who is “losing Iraq,? as the dread words “swamp? and “quagmire? are resurrected in New York Times editorials. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who previously acknowledged that atrocities were committed by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, now hopes to backpedal his way to the White House, whitewashing U.S. war crimes in Southeast Asia and pledging to up the number of American troops in active service.

Especially in the U.S., the pictures of sexual abuse have done real damage to the Bush administration because its core constituency is the Christian right. These are the same people who pushed the Meese Commission in 1986 against pornography during the Reagan/Bush Sr. administration and tried to bring down Clinton with a “sex scandal.? Now they’re shocked that they’re confronted with photos on the nightly news and in every tabloid of a young white woman soldier from West Virginia behaving like an actress in an S&M porno film.

While the sexual psychosis and breathtaking hypocrisy of this lot tempts one to dismiss the religious fundamentalists as kooks, they are deadly serious and their views have impact on the world. An estimated 15-18 percent of U.S. voters belong to Christian fundamentalist churches, as does Attorney General John Ashcroft and other powerful political figures. The intersection of religion and policy is driven not least by the fundamentalists’ desire to hasten the second coming of Christ. There is a convergence between the Christian right and the pro-Zionist neocons on U.S. policy in the Near East, for different purposes.

Influential sections of the American ruling class—e.g., the New York Times—are now calling for the firing of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld for bearing ultimate responsibility for the crimes in Abu Ghraib. Bush dressed down Rumsfeld, not because of torture in the Iraqi prison, which there had been reports of for a full year, but only because he didn’t know there was photographic evidence. In his testimony before the House and Senate, Rumsfeld stated that the worst is yet to come. The axing of Rumsfeld, despite Bush’s pledge to “stand by his man,? could happen but would in no way change the U.S. policy of mass murder and torture in Iraq. There will be no justice served until all the war criminals and commanders, from Bush and the Pentagon chiefs to their underlings as well as their Democratic Party counterparts, are swept from power through a proletarian socialist revolution.

U.S. “War on Terror? Targets Everyone

By now the whole world has seen the photographs of naked, hooded, sexually abused detainees, subjected to practices that purposefully violate the deepest taboos of Muslim society. With great bravery, former prisoners are now speaking out, despite the great shame they experienced. “Then the interpreter told us to strip,? one man told the New York Times (5 May) about his ordeal. “We told him: ‘You are Egyptian, and you are a Muslim. You know that as Muslims we can’t do that.’ When we refused to take off our clothes, they beat us and tore our clothes off with a blade.?

After Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker (10 May) and CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes II blew the lid off the atrocities in late April (though CBS suppressed the news for two weeks at the direct request of the Pentagon), an early March 53-page “secret? report on a military investigation of Abu Ghraib by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, “Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade,? finally hit the Internet on May 5 (available on National Public Radio’s Web site, among others). It offers chillingly matter-of-fact details on the general’s findings: “That between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.? The report also stated that prisoners were brought to Abu Ghraib by “Other Government Agencies (OGAs) without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention.? They were called “ghost detainees,? who at one point “were moved around the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team.?

While the scandal has now become a major political issue internationally and domestically, in reality the torture and other crimes committed by U.S. and allied forces, first in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, have long been public knowledge and we have consistently reported on it in Workers Vanguard. As we go to press, more stories and reports of abuse and killings by U.S. forces around the globe, including possible CIA killings, from Afghanistan and Guantánamo and Iraq to detention centers here in the U.S., are beginning to pour out, from former prisoners and their families, from the Red Cross, from “human rights? agencies. It’s clear what is so far known is only the surface of a cesspool of consciously inflicted human misery. The U.S. has a policy of deporting prisoners to death, presumably preceded by torture, to countries such as Syria, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt and Yemen. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush made a chilling joke of it all. “Let’s put it this way: They are no longer a problem for the United States.?

The new “privatized? army of mercenaries comprises experienced CIA and Army thugs. CACI International is a CIA-connected “contractor? for prisoner interrogation and counterintelligence implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Vance International, which provides security and guards for the U.S. in Iraq, has often been unleashed against striking labor on the home front. They terrorized and beat strikers and their families in the Pittston miners strike in 1993, the Caterpillar strike in 1994, and fractured a striker’s skull in the 1995 Detroit newspaper strike. The New Yorker (3 May) reported that Paul Bremer’s “Counselor for Iraqi Security Forces,? James Steele, who trained Iraqi cops last summer to “deal with terrorists,? is a veteran Reagan-era military adviser to the El Salvador regime’s anti-FMLN death squads, who was involved with Oliver North’s arms-to-the-Contras operation in Nicaragua, and was in Panama training cops when the U.S. invaded in 1989. The new military overseer of U.S. prisons in Iraq is the sinister former commander of the extralegal, Guantánamo Bay concentration camp, Major General Geoffrey Miller.

The hideous consequences of the Bush administration’s unprecedented assault on civil rights at home and murderous slaughter abroad are now becoming clear for all to see. A recent lawsuit against John Ashcroft’s Justice Department by two tortured Muslim men, picked up after September 11, asserts they were repeatedly strip-searched, shackled and slammed against walls and sexually assaulted in the Brooklyn detention center. We have fought to mobilize labor and its allies against the war in Iraq and against domestic terror against immigrants, in protests and rallies across the country. We have opposed the extralegal detention measures from the beginning of the massive post-September 11, 2001 “war on terror? assault. In an amicus brief filed by the SL and Partisan Defense Committee on behalf of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen imprisoned in a military brig, we stated that the president’s power to declare a citizen an “enemy combatant? is consonant with the rationale of a police state. “Stripped of legalese, what the President asserts is nothing less than the right to disappear citizens.?

Capitalism and the Atrocities of War

Capitalist society was born in blood; modern imperialism continues the brutal practices of mass murder, torture and humiliation that accompany exploitation of labor and the ceaseless struggle between competing imperialist forces to dominate the world. From the Belgian Congo killing fields of King Leopold and the massacres in the Philippines by U.S. troops in the early days of its imperialist expansion to the first concentration camps, created by the Spanish in Cuba and a little later used by the British in South Africa in the Boer War, to Japanese imperialist atrocities in China and Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, imperialism has created a world in constant, cruel convulsions.

After World War II, the U.S. inherited the tattered British and French imperial mantle in the Near East, to lord over what the poet laureate of British imperialism, Rudyard Kipling, had earlier demeaned as “lesser breeds.? Britain today, its forces in Iraq accused of brutality and killing scandals, keeps up in a reduced way its own torture arsenal, honed mainly in Northern Ireland, where the infamous Long Kesh wire cages and torture chambers were employed against Irish Republican militants. As for France, Le Monde (4 May) snottily front-paged a cartoon of an American boot crushing a man’s face in the dirt, with the caption “Repeat after me: DE-MO-CRA-CY!? Yet the French ruling class, former colonial occupiers of Vietnam (whose defeat at Dien Bien Phu occurred 50 years ago on May 7), has its own horrible history, not only in Vietnam but in Algeria, where revelations of mass torture and murder still haunt. And the French state metes out police terror daily to the large North African population in France itself.

Some apologists for the U.S. may use this history to claim, “Well, everyone does it, it’s just human nature.? No, it is not human nature, it is imperialist and neocolonialist policy. It’s true that Abu Ghraib itself was the dictator Saddam Hussein’s own prison where opponents of Hussein were brutalized. Uganda’s Idi Amin, Haiti’s “Papa Doc? Duvalier, El Salvador’s “Blowtorch Bob? D’Aubuisson (so named for his favorite interrogation device)—these names still have the power to shock, and they all were taught by their imperialist masters. For decades the CIA and U.S. military have trained right-wing regimes, especially in Latin America, in the techniques of torture to be used mainly against working-class militants and leftist organizers. Atrocities by capitalist and neocolonial regimes around the world abound; one example we highlighted is the arrest, imprisonment and torture of homosexuals in Egypt’s prisons—see “Protest Anti-Gay Persecution in Egypt!? (WV No. 801, 11 April 2003).

But in fact “everyone? does not employ such barbaric methods. We communists denounce imperialist torture and murder as barbaric weapons of exploitation. Our goal is the liberation of the working class and all the oppressed from enforced inequality and exploitation, and we repudiate such methods. Communist military policy seeks to unite working-class and oppressed people across national boundaries, while crushing the ruling classes who drive their populations into war against each other. Marxism, a working-class, international and revolutionary political force, had its highest expression in practice so far in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The historical experience of Trotsky’s Red Army under conditions of civil war and imperialist invasion is a stunning refutation that torture and other atrocities are endemic to all armies.

In 1920 the army of capitalist Poland under the nationalist strongman Jozef Pilsudski, backed by Western imperialism, invaded the Soviet Ukraine. Captured Red Army men were routinely tortured before being killed. As the Red Army launched a successful counteroffensive, Leon Trotsky, head of the Red Army, issued an order on 10 May 1920:

“From all sectors of the Western and South-Western fronts come reports of unheard-of atrocities committed by Polish White Guard forces upon captured and wounded Red Army men. They are tortured, beaten, shot and hanged.... These facts arouse justified fury and desire for vengeance in the heart of every warrior. Such vengeance is just. But it must be aimed at those who are really responsible for the dishonourable attack and the brutal atrocities—at Pilsudski’s Government, at the Polish gentry and the Polish bourgeoisie. It would, however, be wrong and unworthy of revolutionary fighters to take vengeance on Polish prisoners. No, the Red Army will show magnanimity towards a captured and wounded enemy.

“To a captured Polish Legionary, be he peasant or worker, we shall explain the criminality of his ruling classes. We shall enlighten his mind and make of him our best friend and cothinker, just as we did with our German, Austrian, Hungarian, Kolchakite, Denikinite [Russian White Army] and other prisoners-of-war.?

— The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 3 (New Park Publications, 1981)

Of course, some atrocities did occur on the Red Army side, as the writer Isaac Babel who rode with the “Red Cavalry? in the 1920 Poland campaign exposed. In his story, Argamak, Babel recounts: “The Cossack Tikhomolov had killed two captured officers without authorization.... Squadron Commander Baulin came up with a punishment much harsher than anything the tribunal could have inflicted—he took Tikhomolov’s stallion Argamak away from him, and sent Tikhomolov off to the transport carts.?

To do away with imperialist war, it is necessary to put an end to the capitalist system that breeds war. While all eyes are turned to the crimes committed by U.S. imperialism in Iraq, it is also necessary to bring sharply into focus the developing crime at home: anger and revulsion with the Iraq war is channeled by the trade-union officialdom and even ostensible socialists into the “anybody but Bush? campaign to put the Democrats back in power. This is a recipe to keep the system running as it does—a system based on exploitation of labor, a system propped up by racial oppression, a system which breeds wars of conquest for the capitalist market irrespective of which bourgeois party rules. Our purpose is to forge the multiracial revolutionary workers party that will sweep the bloody capitalist class from power and put the wealth of this country into the hands of the workers who create it and to the service of humanity.

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