President Trump is ready to waterboard members of ISIS. Is he bringing torture back or just continuing the tradition?
“As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire,” President Donald Trump said on Wednesday night in an interview with ABC News. In his first televised interview since being sworn in on January 20, Trump covered a wide range of topics. The comments regarding fighting fire with fire were in relation to the president’s view on how to combat the terror group Daesh (also known as ISIS).
Trump was questioned about his previous statements in support of the use of torture, specifically the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. Trump said he believes waterboarding works and is considering reinstating the technique. However, Trump did admit that he will yield to the recommendations made by Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“I will rely on Pompeo and Mattis and my group. And if they don’t want to do, that’s fine. If they do wanna do, then I will work toward that end. I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally,” Trump told World News Tonight anchor David Muir. “But do I feel it works? Absolutely, I feel it works.”
Pompeo was asked during his confirmation hearing if he would follow orders from Trump that called for torture. “Absolutely not. Moreover, I can’t imagine I would be asked that by the president-elect,” Pompeo said. “There is no doubt in my mind about the limitations placed not only on the DOD but on the intelligence agency, and I’ll always comply with the law.”
The president attempted to justify the use of torture as a response to violence from Daesh, specifically chopping off the heads of victims. “When they’re chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be a Christian in the Middle East, when ISIS is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times, would I feel strongly about waterboarding? As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire,” he said. Trump also said he had spoken with intelligence officials “at the highest level” and they had confirmed that torture works.
Following Trump’s interview with ABC, a report of an alleged draft executive order began circulating. The White House claimed that the paper was not an official document. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he had no idea where the document came from. CIA director Pompeo told CNN he was “surprised” by the document’s instructions to reexamine the possibility of bringing back certain torture methods.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis also confirmed his apparent opposition to torture. “Secretary Mattis said in his confirmation process that he will abide by and is committed to upholding international law, the Law of Armed Conflict, Geneva Conventions and U.S. law, and that has not changed,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
This means that at least two of Trump’s policy advisers are maintaining a public anti-torture stance. We must wait to see what this actually means in the long run, but we should take a moment to note that torture is not being reimplemented by Trump. The corporate media and suddenly awake Democrats are feigning outrage at the supposed return of torture. However, torture did not end under the Obama administration.
The truth is that if Trump does continue to waterboard, he will be continuing a trend that began under George W. Bush and continued under Obama. Officially, the media claims that Obama ended torture and waterboarding in 2009. The reality is much darker. When running for president, Senator Obama promised to hold Bush officials accountable for the crimes perpetuated under that regime. However, in 2009, after a Department of Justice investigation was announced, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated it was “time for reflection, not retribution.” The DOJ would eventually close all investigations into alleged abuse and conclude that no charges should be brought.
Investigations by The Nation have found the use of CIA “black sites,” or secret locations for interrogation and torture, has increased under President Obama. One investigation found secret prisons in Somalia and another facility known as “Obama’s Guantanamo.” The Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan is reportedly home to regular beatings, loud blaring music, sleep prevention, and forced “stress positions.” Former detainees allege that there is a second, secret prison on Bagram Air Base that organizations like the Red Cross are denied access.
The most blatant example of continued torture under the Obama administration is the use of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. Many of the remaining detainees at the prison have been cleared of wrongdoing for years yet they cannot leave because most nations are not willing to harbor formerly suspected terrorists. One of these men is Syrian citizen Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
Dhiab has been at the military prison since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009. He is represented by attorneys with the international human rights organization Reprieve. Dhiab and others began a hunger-strike to protest their conditions and the military responded by force-feeding detainees. Dhiab recently asked the federal courts to stop the forced-feedings, as well as the process known as Forced Cell Extractions (FCE), where detainees are violently removed from their cells.
During the hearing attorney Cori Crider presented three expert witnesses. One of the witnesses was Boston University medical professor Sondra Crosby. Crosby examined Dhiab and stated that he complained of bleeding and pain from the tubes forced up his nose. He also stated that he had been forcibly removed 1,300 times since 2002. When Crosby saw footage of the forced-feedings she called it “disturbing.” There have also been reports of a disturbing forced-feeding process known as rectal feeding.
It has become increasingly obvious that both parties during the Bush and Obama administrations were aware that torture was happening. Late in 2014, the NY Post reported that Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the interrogations program from 2002 to 2004, stated that all members of Congress were briefed on the programs. Rodriguez went as far as saying that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “all of the techniques … she never objected to the techniques at all.” Rodriguez said Pelosi was specifically briefed on waterboarding and sleep deprivation.
Activist Post also reported on the release of a previously classified CIA inspector general report regarding the death of detainee Gul Rahman. While in detention Rahman was shackled using the “short chain” method. His hands were chained together. His feet were chained together. Then, a short chain was used to shackle his hands to his feet.
“This position forced Rahman, who was naked below the waist to sit on a cold concrete floor and prevented him from standing up,” according to the CIA inspector general’s report.
Trump wants to use torture to fight an enemy that was created in part by the actions and funds of the U.S. government and Western allies. This will completely destroy any remaining notion that America is a beacon of light, hope, and freedom. The continued and expanded use of torture will only hurt the people of this country. It has never been shown to be effective and will only create more enemies of the United States. It’s more important than ever to remind the free hearts and mind of this world the harsh truth about torture, especially in light of a president who is willing to waterboard.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2