Centre for Research on Globalisation
Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation


The "Spanish Inquisition" Made in America

by Michel Chossudovsky

 10 December 2004
www.globalresearch.ca 14 December 2004

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO412B.html

America is at a important crossroads in its history. The orders to torture POWs in Iraq and Guantanamo emanated from the highest levels of the Bush Administration.

Torture is an official US government policy.

An Executive Order confirmed in a secret FBI email, suggests that the President directly authorized the use of torture including "sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc."  (See ACLU at http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ACL412A.html ).

The incriminating FBI email dated 22 May 2004, indicates that president Bush personally signed off on certain interrogation techniques in an executive order. (See original at http://globalresearch.ca/articles/FBI.121504.4940_4941.pdf ).

In other words, war criminals in high office have ordered the holding of show trials which have essentially served to camouflage a systematic policy of torturing POWs in violation of the Geneva convention, while also exempting officials in high office from prosecution.

Moreover, another FBI email dated December 2003, suggests that military interrogators at Guantanamo had impersonated FBI agents, "to avoid possible blame in subsequent inquiries", and that this interrogation method had been approved by Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"[ The email] describes an incident in which Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo Bay impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" against a detainee. The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the ‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."

The document also says that no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by the "FBI" interrogation, and that the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) believes that the Defense Department’s actions have destroyed any chance of prosecuting the detainee. The e-mail’s author writes that he or she is documenting the incident "in order to protect the FBI." (ACLU at  http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ACL412A.html )

A third email dated June 25 2003 entitled "Urgent Report"

"showed that the Sacramento field office warned the FBI director that it had received testimony of 'numerous physical abuse incidents of Iraqi civilian detainees,' including 'strangulation, beatings, and placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees' ear openings.' Other documents reported incidents such as detainees being dropped onto barbed wire, having Israeli flags wrapped around them, spat on and knocked unconscious, and shackled until they defecated on themselves." (Boston Globe, 23 Dec 2004)

The US Military was also involved in "mock executions" and the application of burning and electric shocks to detainees (WP, 23 Dec 2004). While several dozen detainees died in US custody, the records of these deaths were tampered with and the autopsy reports in many cases were not conducted, with a view to concealing the acts of torture. (Ibid)

War Criminals in High Office

The Abu Ghraib Taguba investigation (as well as two other reports) commissioned by the Military into "inhumane interrogation techniques" had exempted Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and of course President Bush of any wrong doing or involvement.

Despite significant evidence to the contrary, the reports emphasized that there was no official US policy on torture. Their conclusion should come as no surprise, since the conduct of these investigations had been approved by Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. 

Following the investigation, Brigadier General Janice Karpinksi in command of the military police unit at Abu Ghraib was suspended, whereas several lower rank servicemen and women were subjected to court martial procedures.

Court martial procedures were initiated on the orders of Donald Rumsfeld, when in fact it was Donald Rumsfeld and the President who had issued the Executive Order to torture POWs.

Will the court martial judgments involving these lower rank servicemen and women be reviewed and/or reversed?

If the judgments are in any way questioned, will those who issued the Executive Order be prosecuted for ordering torture?

In a judicial procedure, new evidence on a crime which has been committed, can be used to initiate a new trial. Although in the case of military courts, this process is by no means straightforward.

If indeed the judgments of lower rank servicemen are reviewed or reversed, (i.e. they were following orders from higher up), one would expect --based on this new evidence from the FBI-- that criminal procedures be initiated directed against the "suspects", in this case the President and the Secretary of Defense. In fact the FBI should be acting upon the evidence which is in its possession.

Both Rumsfeld and Bush made statements following the release of the Abu Ghraib photos. Rumsfeld made a statement to the US Congress on the matter. Bush made several statements.  Rumsfeld said at the time that the US had the obligation to treat prisoners in its custody right.

 "We didn't, and that was wrong," ... So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the US armed forces, I offer my deepest apology."

(Transcript: Senate Armed Services Committee, 6 May 2004 http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A8098-2004May7&notFound=true )


The FBI memos suggest that the President and the Secretary of Defense were lying. They ordered the torture of POWS.

In other words, will justice prevail or are we also dealing with the criminalization of the US Judiciary?

In this regard, coinciding with the release of the incriminating FBI memos in mid December, the Justice Department ordered the drafting of a new legal opinion on so-called "permissible U.S. military interrogation techniques".

"Such a document would replace an August 2002 memorandum later disavowed by the Bush administration when it was leaked. That memo had offered legal arguments justifying torture." ( World News Digest,16 December 2004)

Meanwhile, America's puppet regime in Baghdad has initiated the trial against Saddam Hussein, who  "used torture and things like this as a policy, and he killed hundreds of thousands of people". 

In a twisted logic, what this new definition suggests is that the President can quite legitimately authorize the use torture, because the victims of torture in this case are "terrorists", who routinely apply torture against Americans.

The new legal opinion will in all likelihood go much further in upholding torture as a bona fide humanitarian instrument than the previous August 2002 Justice Department opinion. The  latter stipulated that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the war on terrorism.

Criminalization of the State

War criminals legitimately occupy positions of authority, which enable them to redefine the contours of the judicial system and the process of law enforcement.

It provides them with a mandate to decide "who are the criminals", when in fact they are the criminals.

In other words, what we are dealing with is the criminalization of the State and its various institutions including the criminalization of Justice.

The truth is twisted and turned upside down. State propaganda builds a consensus within the military and the State system.

Media disinformation instills within the consciousness of Americans that somehow the use of torture, the existence of concentration camps, extra judicial assassinations of "rogue enemies", all of which are already happening, are under the circumstances "acceptable" and perfectly "legal" because the Justice department, controlled war criminals says "it's legit". 

The existence of an illusive outside enemy who is threatening the Homeland is the cornerstone of the propaganda campaign. The latter consists in galvanizing US citizens not only in favor of the war on terrorism, but in support of a social order which upholds the legitimate use of torture, directed against "terrorists", as a legitimate means to preserving human rights, democracy, freedom, etc.

The Spanish Inquisition

In other words, we have reached a new threshold.

War criminals within the State and the Military are no longer trying to camouflage their crimes:

 "We're sorry for the torture, we didn't do it. We're against torture. Those responsible will be punished."

The logic is now entirely different, reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.

Under the Inquisition, no need to conceal the acts of torture.

In fact, torture is a public policy with a humanitarian mandate.

"yes we did order torture, but it isn't really torture, its not really war, because these people are terrorists and "we must fight evil". And the way to uphold democracy and freedom is to "go after the bad guys", wage war on the terrorists.

Moreover, anybody who questions our definition of "fighting evil" (which of course includes torture, political assassination and concentration camps directed against "the bad guys") is by our definition also "evil" and can be arrested, tortured and sent to concentration camps.

The great inquisitor was similar to the Security for Homeland Security. As in today's world torture was the order of the day, today people are tortured as part of the "war on terrorism".

The Inquisition which started in the 12th century and lasted for more four hundred years was built precisely on this logic. It was a consensus imposed by the ruling feudal order, its purpose was to maintain and sustain those in authority.

(Monty Python)

It had a network of religious courts, which eventually evolved into a system of political control.

The underlying principles governing the courts were straightforward and apart from the rhetoric, similar to today's procedures:  "You find them and take 'em out":

"heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed and . . . . their defenders and [supporters] are destroyed, and this is effected in two ways: . . . they are converted to the true catholic faith, or . . . burned [alive]." (See http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria9_1.htm )

Needless to say, those who refused to recant, which means give up their heresy, were burned alive. Moreover, no lawyers were allowed, because it was considered heresy to defend a heretic.

"A bishop came out and shouted out the names of the condemned. then the heretics were led out, wearing black robes decorated with red demons and flames. officials of the government tied them to the stake.

"do you give up your heresy against the holy church?" a priest would challenge.

Anyone who repented would be strangled to death before the fires were lit. most, however, stood silent or defiant. the fires were lit, and the square echoed with the screams of the heretics and cheers from the crowd." (Ibid)

In other words, under the Inquisition, anybody who dared to question the validity of the "war on terrorism" was himself branded a terrorist and subjected to the anti-terrorist laws, which at the time was death. 

Can it happen again? Is it happening?

Today's World is far more sophisticated. The CIA torture manuals developed under successive US administrations are more advanced.

Today's anti-terrorist legislation (Patriot Acts I and II) and bureaucratic apparatus although built on a similar logic, are better equipped to deal with large population groups. The contemporary inquisitorial system has almost unlimited capabilities of spying on and categorizing individuals.

People are tagged and labeled, detailed personal data is entered into giant Big Brother data banks. Once this cataloging has been completed, people are locked into watertight compartments. Their profiles are established and entered into a computerized system. Needless to say, converting or recanting by antiwar heretics is not permitted.   

Law enforcement is systematic. The witch hunt is not only directed against presumed "terrorists" through ethnic profiling, etc., the various human rights, affirmative action, antiwar cohorts are themselves the object of the anti-terrorist legislation and so on. 

Meanwhile war criminals occupy positions of authority. The citizenry is galvanized into supporting rulers, "committed to their safety and well-being", "who are going after the bad guys."

Historically, the Inquisition was carried out at the neighborhood level in communities across the land. Today in America, the mission of Citizens Corps operating at the local level is to  "make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism". 

The Citizens Corps in liaison with Homeland Security establish "Neighborhood Watch Teams" as well as a "Volunteer Police Service" in partnership with local law enforcement. (see http://www.citizencorps.gov/pdf/council.pdf ):

"When the inquisition came to a suspected area, the local bishop assembled the people to hear the inquisitor preach against heresy. He would announce a grace period of up to a month for heretics to confess their guilt, recant, and inform on others.

if two witnesses under oath accused someone of heresy, the accused person would be summoned to appear. opinions, prejudices, rumors, and gossip were all accepted as evidence. the accused was never told the names of the accusers, nor even the exact charges.

The inquisition would collect accusations, where neighbors can be denounced." ( http://www.crf-usa.org/bria/bria9_1.htm )

Towards a Police State

Under the Inquisition, 99.9 % of the population firmly believed that torture and burning was a good thing and that torture served to purify society.

Under an inquisitorial system, The Executive Order personally signed by the president to torture becomes a public statement endorsed by the citizenry. It is no longer a secret FBI memo. No need to conceal acts of torture. The practice of torture against terrorists gains public acceptance, it becomes part of a broad political bipartisan consensus.

We have not quite reached that point. But we are nearly there. Since the 1999  NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the 2001 war on Afghanistan, the US led-war has a been given a humanitarian mandate under UN auspices supported by the international community: the so-called "Just War", which was, at the time, firmly supported by Western public opinion.

With regard to the Executive order to torture, several media in the US including the Washington Post, have condemned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, calling for his resignation.

They have not, however, pointed to the fact that torture is a routine practice by the Military and Intelligence apparatus, since "Operation Condor" and the US sponsored Central American Death Squadrons. 

What comes next?

When the Justice department says that the Executive order to torture is "legit", that means that a legal and political consensus is being built. In which case, the war criminals in high office, have the right to commit atrocities in the name of democracy and freedom, etc. and that it is no longer necessary for them lie, to hide their actions or to "say sorry" if and when these actions are brought to public attention.

In other words, under an inquisitorial system, the public does not question the wisdom of the rulers. Citizens are compelled into accepting the political consensus. They must endorse the acts of torture ordered by those who rule in their name: political assassinations are no longer conducted as covert operations, the intent to assassinate is announced, debated in the US Congress, the terrorists are sent to concentration camps and this information is public.

Why is Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo, Cuba, public knowledge? Precisely, to gradually develop, over several years, a broad public consensus that not only the camps but the entire repressive apparatus is ultimately "acceptable" and in the public interest.

When we reach that point of "acceptance", of broad consensus. there is no going back. The lie becomes the truth. Democracy and freedom are sustained through State terror. The police state and its ideological underpinnings become fully operational. 

Unseat the Inquisitors

And that is why at this juncture, it is crucial to take an articulate stance on President Bush's Executive order to torture POWs, across the land, in the US, Canada, Europe and around the world.

But you do not reverse the tide by firing Rumsfeld and putting in a new Defense Secretary or by asking president Bush: "please abide by the Geneva convention". 

How do you break the inquisition? Essentially by breaking the consensus which sustains the inquisitorial social order.

To shunt the American Inquisition and disable its propaganda machine, we must necessarily "unseat the Inquisitors" and prosecute the war criminals in high office.

It is not sufficient, however, to remove the Inquisition's high priests: George W. Bush or Tony Blair, who are mere puppets.

Increasingly, the military-intelligence establishment (rather than the State Department, the White House and the US Congress) is calling the shots on US foreign policy. Meanwhile, the Anglo-American oil giants, Wall Street and the powerful media giants, not to mention the Washington think tanks, operating discreetly behind the scenes, are setting the next stage in this ongoing militarization of civilian institutions.

To break the inquisition, we must break its propaganda, its fear and intimidation campaign, which whips up the citizenry into accepting the "war on terrorism". We must break the big lie.  

"Fear and Surprise"

"Orange Code Alerts. The terrorists are preparing to attack America. Osama bin Laden.. Zarqawi.." .

 "If we go to Red [code alert]... it basically shuts down the country," (Former Secretary for Homeland Security, Tom Ridge)

"You ask, 'Is it serious?' Yes, you bet your life. People don't do that unless it's a serious situation." (Dick Cheney)

A terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event [will occur] somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event." (former CENTCOM Commander Tommy Franks)

Wake up America...  Break the Spanish Inquisition

 "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope...."

I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

... Nobody expects the...um...the Spanish...um... Inquisition.

I know, I know! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Our chief weapons are... ...um...er... Surprise...

Okay, stop. Stop. Stop there - stop there. Stop. Phew! Ah! ...

Our chief weapons are surprise...blah blah blah. Cardinal, read the charges.

You are hereby charged that you did on diverse dates commit heresy against the Holy Church.

Now, how do you plead? We're innocent.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!


(Monty Python.  See complete transcript and images at  http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/paulfitz/spanish/script.html )

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