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January 17-23, 2007

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The Byrne Report

In Ford We Trust

By Peter Byrne


On Jan. 3, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat devoted its front page to praising the "character" and "courage" of the late Gerald Ford. Above the headline "Ford's Final Journey," the editors pasted eulogist Tom Brokow's comment, "Thank you, Citizen Ford." Brokow, a retired corporate news anchor, spent his career sound-biting reality for consumer consumption. And Ford, as you may remember, preventatively pardoned President Richard Nixon, thereby saving him from criminal prosecution for a docket of crimes.

The Chamber of Commerce-approved Ford green-lighted Operation Condor, a political assassination program run by Latin American dictators with the connivance of Henry Kissinger, his Machiavellian secretary of state. It is no accident that the ranking pallbearers at the golfer-in-chief's funeral were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. The careers of these two murderous officials were seriously advanced by Ford, who was himself a thoroughly bad egg, but you wouldn't know that from the mainstream media's hagiography.

In 1928, Upton Sinclair wrote his classic analysis of American journalism, The Brass Check. The title refers to the brass token that Roaring Twenties whorehouse managers gave clients as proof of purchase of sexual labor. Sinclair, who would not have been shocked by the posthumous tail-kissing of Ford, wrote, "The moral for you is just this: that when you pick up your morning newspaper, and think you are reading the news of the world, what you are really reading is propaganda which has been selected, revised and doctored by some power which has a financial interest in you."

Eclipsed by the front-page Ford tribute was a page five story, picked up from the Washington Post and headlined, "Report Details New Gitmo Abuses." The story was based on a 2004 FBI report made public by the American Civil Liberties Union pursuant to a lawsuit. A comparison of the PD's truncated version of the Post article with the original reveals that the PD chopped out the really nasty parts. According to the PD's version, the worst type of abuse suffered by our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was one soldier who "inadvertently spray[ed] urine" on a Koran. And one unlucky Muslim was "baptized" by an interrogator dressed as a Catholic priest, while being forced to listen to "Satanic black metal music."

"Ho-hum," you probably thought. But, according to the Post article, female interrogators engaged in "sexually suggestive tactics"; prisoners were routinely subjected to extreme heat and cold; some were wrapped in the Israeli flag while guards laughed; and many were deprived of sleep, food, clothing and other basic human rights.

For its part, the Post article fell short of the BBC's wire report on the same topic which detailed interrogators breaking the fingers of detainees and chaining them to the floor for days at a time in fetal positions without food or water while they urinated and defecated on themselves. But even the BBC did not report the ACLU's assertion that it has "uncovered more than 100,000 pages of government documents detailing the torture and abuse of detainees" by military personnel and civilian contractors. In fact, none of the above press outlets once used the word "torture," choosing instead to label it "mistreatment." Nor did any of these news machines mention that the FBI decided not to bring criminal charges, because "the techniques reported were expressly authorized by Defense Department policies."

For their banality and bureaucratic detachment, the FBI documents rival any memos Adolf Eichmann ever wrote about "mistreating" Jews in German concentration camps. They contain reams of important information that the mainstream media decided not to mention. (They are available at www.aclu.org/torturefoiasearch.)

It is clear from the original FBI reports that most if not all of the Gitmo detainees had no relevant information to divulge. And in a classic case of cognitive dissonance, the American torturers called what they were doing "games." A female inquisitor did a lap dance on a detainee. One guard told the FBI that after the air conditioning in an unventilated cell was turned off the temperature rose "probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night." Ha, ha. What fun!

A detainee said, "While the guards held him, [a female interrogator] removed her blouse, embraced the detainee from behind and put her hand on his genitals. The interrogator was on her menstrual period and she wiped blood from her body on his face and head. He said he asked one guard, 'Why do you hate me?' The guard responded, 'If I could, I would kill you.'"

But his sad account of being tortured by our government did not make it into the Press Democrat on the day Citizen Ford was shrink-wrapped in lies and sold like soap.


Contact Peter Byrne or send a letter to the editor about this story.