Why Torture is Evil

By William Van Wagenen

This piece was first published on Anti-War.Com here.

Most defenders of torture rely on the argument that torture saves (American) lives, and that torture is therefore justified and moral. Such defenders often cite fantastic scenarios similar to the following: Imagine a terrorist group is planning to detonate a nuclear bomb in the middle of a major US city. Now imagine that one of the terrorists is captured by the CIA. The terrorist won’t reveal the information needed to stop the attack so he must be tortured until he gives up the information, allowing the CIA to stop the attack and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Such defenders then pose the question, “How could it be wrong to torture one evil person in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives?”

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A Brief History of US Support for Jihadists in Libya and Syria

By William Van Wagenen

In this essay I will provide a brief overview of US support for Jihadists in both Libya and Syria since 2011. As I have written about here, the US and Saudi Arabia provided billions in funding and weapons to Jihadists in Afghanistan throughout the 1980’s in an effort to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union. Some of these Jihadists famously went on to found al-Qaeda, and turn their guns against their former US and Saudi sponsors, most famously on 9/11. Despite the terrible consequences of this policy in Afghanistan, US planners have once again chosen to provide weapons and funding to Jihadists, this time in Libya and Syria starting in 2011, in an effort to fight a proxy war against Syria’s two main allies, Russia and Iran.

These US efforts sought to exploit the legitimate protests against both the Syrian and Libyan governments which arose out the Arab Spring, transforming peaceful protest movements into armed insurgencies dominated by groups advocating the ideology of al-Qaeda, with predictably terrible consequences for both Syrian and Libyan civilians as a whole. US action in Syria and Libya conforms to a longstanding pattern of US efforts to de-stabilize Middle Eastern nations, which further allows terrorist groups and organized crime to flourish, while creating waves of desperate refugees seeking to flee the resulting war and violence.

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Did Saddam Create the Islamic State? A Review of Kyle Orton’s Claim that Saddam Hussein Promoted “Ba’athi-Salafism”

By William Van Wagenen

In late 2015, the New York Times published a curious opinion piece by Middle East blogger and graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Kyle Orton, arguing that the US invasion of Iraq was not to blame for the rise of the radical terror group known as the Islamic State (IS), but rather that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein laid the groundwork for the rise of IS by promoting what Orton refers to as “Ba’athi-Salafism” in Iraq as part of an Islamization campaign meant to shore up support for his rule.

There is absolutely no basis for Orton’s claims however. Iraq scholar Samuel Helfont from the University of Pennsylvania quickly rebutted Orton’s claims in an article in Foreign Affairs, noting that, “These depictions are inaccurate and dangerously misleading, as documents in the Iraqi archives and at Hoover Institution’s Baath Party records make clear. Our rigorous study of those records has found no evidence that Saddam or his Baathist regime in Iraq displayed any sympathy for Islamism, Salafism, or Wahhabism.”

Not only are Orton’s claims not factually true, they are in fact completely fabricated. Orton’s claim that Saddam promoted anything that can be called “Ba’athi-Salafism” is pure propaganda. In this essay, I will give evidence as to why.

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