Ferguson and CIA torture painful for Canadians


Ferguson and CIA torture painful for Canadians


Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan



Canadians know, by following their own and the US media, that race relations remain ugly in the United States despite gratifying progress and that the CIA tries to topple foreign governments, kill foreign leaders and tortures people to achieve its policy goals, for example in Guantanamo Bay.

Even so, recent developments in these two areas have disappointed Canadians, who see their country as a gentler version of their mighty superpower neighbor. As the Globe and Mail reported in part: “The horror is in the details. Like the way his CIA torturers subjected Majid Khan to ‘rectal feeding.’ He was tied face down, with his head lower than his feet. And then, says a CIA cable, his ‘lunch tray, consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused.’…

“Or consider the conditions at a Central Intelligence Agency secret prison in Afghanistan, known as COBALT. The CIA’s chief of interrogations described it as a ‘dungeon.’ The cells were pitch black, detainees were kept in complete darkness, shackled, loud music constantly playing, with a bucket to relieve themselves.

“Or the way Gul Rahman died at COBALT, in 2002. He was subjected to ‘48 hours of sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation, a cold shower and rough treatment.’ Then, naked from the waist down, he was chained to a concrete floor. He apparently froze to death.

“Or the way that, not long after this incident, the manager of COBALT was recommended for a bonus of $2,500 for ‘consistently superior work’.”

Said the Globe: “The Senate investigators looked at only one small part of what went wrong during the War on Terror, namely the CIA’s role in detaining and torturing. The horror is not only in what they found – all of which is apparently in the past. (As of 2008, the CIA no longer holds anyone). They also documented how often and how extensively the CIA lied to elected officials. Even more disturbing are the ongoing efforts by the CIA, the White House and large parts of the Republican Party to block the Senate investigation and prevent it from seeing the light of day.”

Wrote Heather Mallick in the Toronto Star: “The use of waterboarding has been discussed extensively in the media and elsewhere. It was a Khmer Rouge technique, for one thing, an awkward reminder for the US, which abandoned Southeast Asian nations to their fate after Vietnam. Immersion in freezing water was used by the Japanese in the Second World War.”

And so it went.

Along with the CIA’s use of torture Canadians have been disturbed by reports from Ferguson, Missouri, and other places in the US of the horrors that innocent black people still are subjected to in the United States even though a black man was elected two times to be the US leader. That Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot to death the unarmed, 18-year-old black youth Michael Brown five months ago is shocking enough. Worse, on Nov. 4, 2014, a grand jury failed to indict Wilson. There are recurring reports of persistent police brutality against innocent persons, usually black.

That Ferguson erupted in violence is understandable: two-thirds of its people are black, but they are ruled by white political masters and police. Only three police officers are black while 53 are white. In 2013, according to reports, 67.4 percent of Ferguson’s residents were black. But 86 percent of the 5,384 police traffic stops involved blacks. The police searched 562 blacks and 47 whites.

Ferguson is not alone with such a record. In New York, according to the New York City Civil Liberties Union, 56 percent of the people frisked in the city were black, though blacks constitute only 25.1 percent of the population.

Life for blacks has of course been improving steadily in the United States. The Ferguson tragedy will likely accelerate this process. At the very least the trigger-happy and bullying police will have their actions monitored to bring their actions to light.

Canada is burdened by its own historical albatross. It has its own racism against blacks, its own dismal failure to bring the Aboriginal people to the level of the main Canadian population, and the ongoing violence against women. Canada is trying to do a better job, though not with results that most Canadians would feel comfortable with. Canadians love their country but they have a long way to go to get their house in order for all Canadians. As to their neighbor, Canadians shrug their heads and wonder how a democratic country can act in such a disgusting manner.


— Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.