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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

The Torture Gang

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Defying the hopes of many of his progressive backers, President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has in many ways been remarkable for its continuity with Bush-era initiatives. However, in one important area—the treatment of “war on terror” detainees—Obama has clearly distanced himself from the approach of his predecessor. As a presidential candidate, Obama steadfastly repudiated the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding and other methods considered torture under international law, whether at U.S. facilities or at so-called “black site” CIA prisons. In one of his first acts as president, Obama followed through with this campaign promise, issuing an executive order barring the CIA from employing any interrogation techniques not approved by the U.S. military, whose methods generally hew to Geneva Convention standards.

 

Perhaps this one salient area of difference explains the reaction of many former Bush officials and some prominent neoconservatives to the death of Osama bin Laden. Among others, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Mukasey, Michael Hayden, John Yoo, and a slew of “scholars” at the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have spoken out publicly in support of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, attributing no small share of the credit for bin Laden’s killing to the “hard decisions” taken by the Bush administration. (For a detailed account of the recent efforts of various torture apologists, see Peter Certo, "Enhanced Embellishment Techniques," Right Web, June 8, 2011.)

 

These claims have been roundly questioned, and it seems generous to claim that torture played even a marginal role in producing the intelligence that led to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound—to say nothing of the costs such methods extacted in faulty intelligence and the United States’ diminished moral standing, as well as the attractiveness they held for terrorist recruiters. But whether out of partisan loyalty, distaste for internationally imposed constraints on U.S. behavior, or a genuine commitment to controversial and ill-advised interrogation techniques, such claims have persisted unretracted.

 

In this edition of Right Web’s Militarist Monitor, we feature profiles of many of the architects of the Bush interrogation policy as well as post-bin-Laden torture apologists. We also present several additional readings that examine the purported uses and effectiveness of torture.

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Featured Profiles

Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


A military historian, Kimberly Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War, where she has promoted the continuation of U.S. war in Afghanistan.


A “non-partisan” policy institute that purports to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.


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From the Wires

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Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


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An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


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The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


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Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


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As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


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We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


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