U.S. government support for 'democratic transition' in Egypt, elsewhere in Middle East, masks behind-the-scenes betrayal, CIA duplicity, and decades of torture and deception...
By Ernest A. Canning on 2/21/2011, 8:09am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

"The United States, so far, is essentially following the usual playbook...[for] when some favored dictator...is in danger of losing control. There’s a kind of a standard routine --- Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu...Suharto: keep supporting them as long as possible; then, when it becomes unsustainable --- typically, say, if the army shifts sides --- switch 180 degrees, claim to have been on the side of the people all along, erase the past, and then make whatever moves are possible to restore the old system under new names."-Noam Chomsky, 2/2/11

If we have learned anything from WikiLeaks, it's that we must consider the words emerging from the mouths of our political elites as the equivalent to a magician's sleight-of-hand.

During the transition between the Bush and Obama administrations, an astute observer could gain far greater insight on the direction of the new administration by ignoring the then President-elect's lofty rhetoric and focusing instead upon the fact that he chose the Wall Street-connected Larwrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, as opposed to Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, to serve as his chief financial advisers.

Today, Egypt remains in the midst of a genuine, yet to be completed, democratic revolution. So far, it has produced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and a dissolution of Egypt's parliament. However, it has not, as yet, led to real "regime change". Mubarak's hand-picked cabinet remains. So does Vice President Omar Suleiman, whom a May 14, 2007 U.S. Diplomatic cable referred to as "Mubarak's consigliere," and whom Middle East expert Lisa Hajjar refers to as "Egypt's Torturer-in-Chief".

[Listen to Brad Friedman's interview with Hajjar in the first hour of the 2/10/11 Mike Malloy Show right here.]

Egypt and the world --- and, indeed, the several other Middle Eastern nation's now seeing similar popular uprisings --- would do well to ignore public remarks by the U.S. President and Secretary of State to the effect that they supported the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian demonstrators and an end to the Mubarak presidency. While their public condemnations of violence against the press and the Egyptian people were appropriate, their reported behind-the-scene effort to have Suleiman lead a "so-called" transitional government speaks volumes.

To understand not only the why of Egypt's democratic revolution --- and many other similar popular revolts now under way in that part of the world --- but also the U.S. response to it, one must understand both the history of an ostensibly benevolent but quietly brutal U.S.-led corporate Empire and the role played by the covert dimension of Empire, particularly as described in Part IV of The BRAD BLOG's five-part 2009 special series on "The History of CIA Torture."* Suleiman, it must be remembered, long served as the chief of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, where he served as the key point man for the U.S., in what what we've described as "surrogate torture" as well as extraordinary rendition...

Torture as 'indicator species' of an 'anti-democratic project'

In her groundbreaking book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein offered an astute observation:

The widespread abuse of prisoners is a virtually foolproof indication that politicians are trying to impose a system --- whether political, religious or economic --- that is rejected by large numbers of people they are ruling. Just as ecologists define ecosystems by the presence of certain 'indicator species'..., torture is an indicator species of a regime that is engaged in a deeply anti-democratic project, even if that regime happens to have come to power through elections.

Klein's initial focus was on the "deeply anti-democratic project" embodied in the privatization schemes of a radical neoliberal capitalist agenda that had been imposed on the people of Chile by way of the U.S.-backed Sept. 11, 1973 overthrow and assassination of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende and his replacement by the brutal dictator, Agosto Pinochet.

Whether control is obtained by economic deception and corruption, as described by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, as one of a long series of covert coups, beginning with the 1953 overthrow of the democratically-elected Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran, or by a direct U.S. invasion in Iraq, the common thread is the imposition of what is dubbed a "free market" system that translates, in reality, to a form of economic slavery that, as we recently noted, has left more than half the human race subsisting on $2/day, as wealth beyond the wildest imaginations of most is accumulated by the privileged few.

Large segments of the U.S. population are unaware of that harsh reality or even of the very existence of a more than 60-year old, U.S.-led, global corporate Empire.

As aptly observed by Z. Sadar & M.W. Davies in American Terminator, the myths perpetuated by politicians, mass corporate media and popular culture have produced a "cultural psychosis" which obscures the reality that, for most of the world, what we perceive as "the American dream" has become a "global nightmare."

Wrath of the Empire

It is the failure to convert to a so-called "free market economy", rather than authoritarian brutality by any particular regime, which gives rise to the U.S. corporate Empire's wrath.

The U.S. did not go after Saddam Hussein because of the brutality of his rule. In fact, the year before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom (which had been dubbed Operation Iraqi Liberation until some smart guy in the Pentagon realized the acronym was "O.I.L." --- most recently changed yet again by the Pentagon Orwellians to "Operation New Dawn"), George W. Bush can be seen sidling up to Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov, whose regime's torture methods included rape with bottles and boiling prisoners alive. (See the video of former UK Ambassador Craig Murray at end of this article.)

In the eyes of the corporate Empire, Saddam's sin was not his regime's brutality but its adherence to Iraq's then constitutionally mandated, centralized socialist economy. As Antonia Juhasz explained in The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time, "while Iraq was a nation ravaged by a brutal dictator...it was also a country of law, public services, education and health care…[Iraq] succeeded in spite of its ruler because of a government and economic structure made functional by a knowledgeable and dedicated citizenry."

Even before the invasion, Juhasz reports, plans were drawn up by corporate consultant and Dept. of Defense contractor Bearing Point, Inc. that entailed "changes in every sector of the Iraqi economy --- from trade rules to banking to financial services, to public services, agriculture, housing, media, elections, and the structure of government itself. It even specifies propaganda tools to sell these policies to the Iraqi people." Those changes were forced on Iraq following our invasion, courtesy of the Paul Bremer edicts --- edicts imposed in violation of Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Regulations which mandate that an occupying power respect "the laws in force" of the occupied country.

This vicious replacement of Iraq's egalitarian economy with the forced imposition of a neo-feudal, corporate security state under the guise of "liberation", "freedom" and now "new dawn" calls to mind the second of the three major slogans in George Orwell's 1984 --- "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY."

Suleiman as a U.S.-trained torture surrogate

Against the backdrop of publicly expressed concerns for Egyptian civilians, the reality, as explained in Part III of the History of CIA Torture, is that torture techniques, developed as part of the CIA's maniacal quest to crack the code of human consciousness, have been taught to, and then applied over the years by, US-trained foreign surrogates. Torture was, and is, an integral component of the covert and on-going dimension of the U.S.-led corporate Empire.

During the peak of the Egyptian uprising, Democracy Now! reported , "Suleiman has close ties to the U.S. military and the CIA. He was trained at the U.S. Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg and has been described as the CIA’s point man in Egypt for the secret extraordinary rendition program."

"Newly-released classified U.S. diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks", reveal that Suleiman was, by no means, the only member the Egyptian torture regime trained in the U.S. "The cables show," according to DN!, "Egyptian secret police received training at the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia...A cable from October 2009 cites allegations from 'credible' sources that some prisoners were tortured 'with electric shocks and sleep deprivation to reduce them to a 'zombie state.'" In a November 2007 cable, "then-FBI deputy director John Pistole praised the head of Egypt’s secret police for 'excellent and strong' cooperation between the two agencies."

That training demonstrates yet another link between the Egyptian and Latin American brutal forms of dictatorship --- training at U.S. facilities, such as the infamous School of the Americas (SOA).

As explained by Wikipedia:

Between 1946 and 2001, the SOA trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Some of them became notorious for human rights violations, including dictators Leopoldo Galtieri, Efraín Ríos Montt, Manuel Noriega, Bolivia's Hugo Banzer, some of Augusto Pinochet's officers, members of the Atlacatl Battalion of El Salvador who carried out the El Mozote massacre of 1981, and the founders of Los Zetas, a drug cartel formerly affiliated with the Gulf Cartel.

In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer reveals that in 1995, it was Suleiman whom the Clinton administration turned to in order to initiate a rendition program that became "extraordinary rendition" under George W. Bush. Mayer quotes former U.S. Ambassador Edward S. Walker as stating that while Suleiman understood that there was a "downside" to torture, he was "not squeamish."

San Francisco University Professor Stephen Zunes, author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism, told Brad Friedman during a Feb. 4 airing of the Mike Malloy Show that both Suleiman and U.S. personnel were present in the room while torture was being carried out on a "suspected" terrorist.

Per the memoir of Mamdough Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian citizen, recounted by al Jazeera, Suleiman did much more than simply attend torture sessions. Habib claims "he was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils and beaten. His fingers were broken and he was hung by metal hooks." When Habib failed to provide useful information "Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a shackled prisoner in front of Habib, which [the guard] did with a vicious karate kick."

During the same Feb. 4 broadcast, Friedman played a clip from an earlier KPFK/Pacifica Radio broadcast in which a representative of Cairo's El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence says the Egyptian torture was "systemic" --- a point underscored by a Christian Science Monitor article which cited the Center's "torture diary" containing hundreds of allegations, including a reference to an 18 year-old minivan driver, Mohammed Salah, who "reportedly was assaulted and tortured July 4 by two plainclothes police agents in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura. [Salah] was eventually thrown off the third floor balcony. He is currently in a coma."

The "extraordinary rendition" arrangement was perhaps best described by former CIA officer Robert Baer [PDF] [emphasis added]:

We pick up a suspect or we arrange for one of our partner countries to do it. Then the suspect is placed on a civilian transport to a third country where, let’s make no bones about it, they use torture. If you want a good interrogation, you send someone to Jordan. If you want them to be killed, you send them to Egypt or Syria. Either way, the US cannot be blamed as it is not doing the work.

But, of course, we were told by George W. Bush that "they hate us for our freedom."

Breaking the economic shackles of corporate Empire

As they move forward it is vital that ordinary Egyptian citizens understand that their revolution is in danger of being betrayed even before it succeeds. They must hold the Egyptian military to its Feb. 11 promise to "guarantee the peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free, democratic system which allows an elected, civilian power to govern the country to build a democratic, free state".

They, and we, must come to understand Empire's playbook, for in the end, the corporate Empire stands as a threat to democracy not just in Egypt but throughout the world, especially here in the U.S. near the belly of the beast.

As our Egyptian brothers and sisters brave the wrath of a brutal regime, we must not merely stand with them --- and with the citizens of other oppressed nations now fighting for the promise of democracy. We must find ways to apply their democratic revolution to our own increasingly privatized, corrupt and authoritarian, corporate security state.

In the end, it is our common humanity and the principles enunciated so long ago in our Declaration of Independence of the self-evident, inalienable rights of all human beings which are at stake. We are now all Egyptians striving for an open and just democratic arrangement in which the needs of humanity and of a sustainable planet far outweigh the destructive greed of the privileged few.

* (The BRAD BLOG's 5-part series on "The History of CIA Torture": Part I is here. Part II is here. Part III is here. Part IV is here., and Part V is here)

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Video of former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, explaining our use of "intelligence" obtained by that nation's barbaric torture methodology follows...