Whipping with cables. Prolonged solitary confinement. Other unspeakable acts, committed against citizens with official blessing. Use of “information” gathered by torture considered legitimate.
No, no, I don’t mean the Torture Report. I’m talking about Canada.
Let the other sordid drama play itself out in America. We’ve now learned more about “rectal feeding” (read: medically unjustified anal rape) than we ever wanted to know, and that’s just for starters. Did the authorities raid every prison for the criminally insane to swell CIA ranks? Far worse, we’re watching a desperate attempt to frame this whole series of vile acts as a period in (recent) history now thankfully ended. Don’t you go believing that fairytale, now.
Torture and other state-sanctioned violence against civilians continues. Gitmo persists, despite Obama’s promises. His drones are still killing and maiming civilians in far-off lands. American citizens can now be extra-judicially executed by Presidential decree. Due process, Obama’s Attorney General explains, doesn’t necessarily mean judicial process — just a convo in the Oval Office will satisfy Constitutional requirements. Recall also that Obama gave immunity to the creatures who enabled and committed state torture under his predecessor. They aren’t hurting any. The monstrous John Yoo, for one, who advocated for the legality of crushing the testicles of children, is now a well-paid professor in California. Dick Cheney is still making a fortune on the speaking circuit.
Well, as I said, let the U.S. be the U.S., that godawful prison-house, continuing on its downward spiral. But no one should imagine for one moment that it is alone in using torture as a routine implement of policy.
While the current Canadian government — particularly its former Paraguayan wing — is known for its open support of torture as a supposed information-gathering tool, the rot really set in under the previous Liberal administrations of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. Just ask a victim of “extraordinary rendition” like Maher Arar. Talk to others tortured and imprisoned thanks to the collegial complicity of CSIS with the secret police in Syria, Egypt and Sudan — Canadian citizens Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou El-Maati, and Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Or ask (if any remain alive) the Afghan detainees turned over by Canadian Forces to Afghan government torturers. Stephen Harper was willing to risk all the marbles there, and he successfully maintained his cover-up after all was said and done. CSIS was up to its neck in that one, too. Most of the documents will likely never be made public, despite an historic ruling by the then-Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken.
Then there is child soldier Omar Khadr, tortured (once again with CSIS complicity, this time after the fact) in Guantanamo. His only way out of that hellhole was to cop a plea. He’s sitting in a Canadian jail at the moment, while the Harper government continues to make his life miserable.
Is this torture thing just about national security? Not at all. Take the use of solitary confinement within Canada’s prison system. Prolonged solitary confinement is well-recognized as a form of torture. But Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has now confirmed that it will continue to be imposed on mentally ill inmates, rejecting out of hand the key recommendation from the coroner’s inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
Let us not be too smug, then, about the horrific revelations south of the border. Because, to put it bluntly, we torture too — and under Stephen Harper, torture has been officially and publicly sanctioned. Compliments of the season, everyone.