I had some good laughs watching Condi's confirmaton hearing today. I loved watching all those snarling Democrats on the Senate committee who barked and growled at her about "selling" Iraq to the American people, about her claiming not to know how to define "torture," and about how the next Secretary of State claimed to know nothing about U.S-global economic policy.
And then, after the hearing, these same Democratic attack dogs rolled over on their backs and gleefully whimpered as they had their tummies patted, nodding their heads in affirming Ms. Rice's certain confirmation.
What an utterly revolting charade! No wonder most people hate politics and politicians.
After that thoroughly discouraging little kabuki, I cheered myself by reading my friend Peter Korbluh's Letter From Chile in the current edition of The Nation. Nice to read about a country where at least some people know what the word "torture" means-- and where you might actually be punished for employing it.
Peter serves as a senior analyst at the National Security Archives and is author of The Pinochet File, a link to which can be found on the right hand side of this blog.
He recently returned from a trip to Chile -- he was there last month when former General Pinochet was indicted on murder charges. In his Letter, Peter reports that Chile nowadays is abuzz with trying to square its own national past:
The decision to prosecute Pinochet comes amid a flurry of activity around the cause of human rights. Since November, almost every day has brought a groundbreaking legal ruling, new indictment, dramatic announcement or event that has maintained the focus of the nation on the horrors of the past. The debate on whether and how to redress the human rights crimes of the Pinochet era--a debate long repressed by the Chilean military, right wing and post-Pinochet civilian governments--has escalated exponentially. "This is a Pandora's box," says Elizabeth Lira, one of Chile's leading psychologists and a member of the national commission that recently compiled a massive report on torture by Pinochet's forces. "I don't know where it stops."
The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture on which Lira served, known as the Valech Commission for its chairman, Monsignor Sergio Valech, submitted its findings to the government in November. The 1,200-page report catalogued more than 27,000 confirmed cases of imprisonment and the most grotesque forms of torture, which, it noted:
"...was used as a tool for political control through suffering. Irrespective of any possible direct or indirect participation in acts that could be construed as illegal, the State resorted to torture during the entire period of the military regime. Torture sought to instill fear, to force people to submit, to obtain information, to destroy an individual's capacity for moral, physical, psychological, and political resistance and opposition to the military regime. In order to "soften people up"--according to the torturers' slang--they used different forms of torture.... The victims were humiliated, threatened, and beaten; exposed to extreme cold, to heat and the sun until they became dehydrated; to thirst, hunger, sleep deprivation; they were submerged in water mixed with sewage to the point of asphyxiation; electric shocks were applied to the most sensitive parts of their bodies; they were sexually humiliated, if not raped by men and animals, or forced to witness the rape and torture of their loved ones..."
Of course, these are some (if not all) of the same sort of torture practices justified and employed by the Bush administration in Iraq and possibly Gitmo. Just like here, just like we saw during today's hearings on Condi, there are still some in Chile who live in a permanent state of denial. Says Kornbluh:
But other pro-Pinochet sectors of Chilean society still refuse to acknowledge complicity. As The Report of the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture pointedly noted, the horrors of the Pinochet regime "had the support, explicit at times, and almost always implicit, of the only branch of the State that was not a formal part of that regime: the judiciary." With their hallowed institution accused of ignoring or rejecting all legal entreaties from human rights victims and their families during the dictatorship, the eighteen members of the Chilean Supreme Court met to study the Valech Commission report on December 8. In a statement released the next day, the president of the Court, Marcos Libedinsky, defensively rejected all charges. There was "no credible evidence," he claimed, "that distinguished magistrates could have conspired with third parties to allow for unlawful detentions, torture, kidnappings, and murders."
The Supreme Court position so strained credulity that even the Christian Democratic Party--itself a collaborator with the Pinochet regime after the coup--denounced it as "sad, disheartening, lamentable, and almost shameful"; and President Lagos openly criticized the judges for failing to admit that they had acquiesced in the atrocities of the military dictatorship. But when the government party newspaper, La Nación, published a cover story titled "La Cara Civil de la Tortura"--The Civil Face of Torture--along with photographs of what the paper called "los Top Ten" Chilean civilian elites who had facilitated Pinochet's repression, the editor was publicly berated by Lagos administration officials for practicing inflammatory journalism.
Sounds quite familiar. Too familiar.