Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
July 21, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary

The Life of Caliph Washington

Truthdig Bazaar
The Oxford Shakespeare

The Oxford Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare

more items

Email this item Print this item

Outsourcing Torture

Posted on Oct 15, 2007
Egyptian protest
AP photo

An Egyptian activist flashes an Arabic banner condemning torture in front of riot troops during a protest in Cairo.

The Bush administration has called for the respect of human rights in Burma, a pretty safe piece of posturing, but it remains silent as Egypt’s dictator, Gen. Hosni Mubarak , unleashes the largest crackdown on public opposition in over a decade.  Our moral indignation over the shooting of monks masks the incestuous and growing alliance we have built in the so-called war on terror with some of the world’s most venal dictatorships.

Square, Story page, 2nd paragraph, mobile
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 26 years and is grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him, can torture and “disappear” dissidents—such as the Egyptian journalist Reda Hilal, who vanished four years ago—without American censure because he does the dirty work for us on those we “disappear.”  The extraordinary-rendition program, which sees the United States kidnap and detain terrorist suspects in secret prisons around the world, fits neatly with the Egyptian regime’s contempt for due process.  Those rounded up by American or Egyptian security agents are never granted legal rights.  The abductors are often hooded or masked.  If the captors are American the suspects are spirited onto a Gulfstream V jet registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing of Portland, Ore., and whisked to Egypt or perhaps Morocco or Jordan.  When these suspects arrive in Cairo they vanish into black holes as swiftly as dissident Egyptians.  It is the same dirty and seamless process. 

We have nothing to say to Mubarak.  He is us.  The general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison in Cairo allegedly holds many of our own detained and “disappeared.”  The more savage the torture techniques of the Mubarak regime the faster the prisoners we smuggle into Egypt from Afghanistan and Iraq are broken down.  The screams of Egyptians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans mingle in these prison cells to condemn us all.

We know little about what goes on in the black holes the CIA has set up in Egypt.  But snapshots leak out.  Ibn-al Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured by U.S. forces in late 2001, was an al-Qaida camp commander.  He was taken to a prison in Cairo where he was repeatedly tortured by Egyptian officials.  The Egyptian interrogators told the CIA that he had confirmed a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.  The tidbit, used by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in his United Nations speech, turned out to be false.  Victims usually will say anything to make severe torture stop.  Al-Libi was eventually returned to Afghanistan, although he has again disappeared. 
Mamduh Habib, an Egyptian-born citizen of Australia, was apprehended in October 2001 in Pakistan, where, his family says, he was touring religious schools.  A Pentagon spokesman claimed that Habib spent most of his time in Afghanistan and was “either supporting hostile forces or on the battlefield fighting illegally against the U.S.”

Habib was released a few days after The Washington Post published an article on his case.  He said he was first interrogated and brutalized for three weeks in Islamabad.  His interrogators spoke English with American accents.  He was then bustled into a jumpsuit, his eyes were covered with opaque goggles and he was flown on a small jet to Egypt. There he was held and interrogated for six months, according to Joseph Margulies, a lawyer affiliated with the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, which is representing Habib,.


Square, Site wide, Desktop


Square, Site wide, Mobile
Habib claims he was beaten frequently with blunt instruments, including an object that he likened to an “electric prod.”  He was told that if he did not confess to belonging to al-Qaida he would be anally raped by specially trained dogs.  Habib said he was returned to U.S. custody after his stint in an Egyptian prison and flown to Bagram air base, in Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo Bay, where he was kept until his release.

Al-Libi and Habib are but two cases.  There are hundreds, perhaps thousands more.  These accounts of American-sponsored torture in Egyptian prisons are not new.  They hardly make news.  But the close cooperation between Egyptian and American security officials represents a frightening melding of despotisms, an international cabal of state-sponsored brutality and abuse.  It does away with the concept of law and human rights.  It mocks international protocols and treaties.  It permits the despotic states we support, such as Egypt, to veer away from democratic structures and propagate, with our assistance, a more ruthless tyranny and brutality.  It enrages and finally empowers those who oppose us to engage in the same behavior.  It is dividing the world into competing spheres of intolerance.  In this new world order there is nothing left to appeal to other than the mercy of someone standing over you with an electric prod. 

Mubarak has in the past few weeks decided to shut down the last remnants of opposition.  He has sent in riot police to arrest dozens of striking labor leaders, rounded up more than a thousand members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, and tossed seven journalists into prison.  The charges against the journalists range from misquoting Egypt’s justice minister to spreading rumors about the health of Mubarak to defaming his designated heir, Gamal.  The detainees, as usual, complain of torture and beatings.  And persistent rumors of death squads, bolstered by the “disappearance” of some of the regime’s most outspoken critics, have turned Egypt into a state that has mastered the art of internal and external extraordinary rendition.

The few lonely Egyptian voices and institutions that dared to speak out against the mounting repression have been silenced, including the Association for Human Rights and Legal Aid, which was shut down by the government last month.  The government also recently arrested two political activists—Mohammed al-Dereini and Ahmed Mohammed Sobh, both members of Egypt’s tiny Shiite minority—after the men publicized testimonies from prisoners detailing torture in the Egyptian prison system.  Egypt’s most prominent dissident, the sociologist Saad Edin Ibrahim, is in exile, too frightened to go home and repeat his own brutal experience in an Egyptian prison.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has confirmed more than 500 cases of police abuse since 1993, including 167 deaths—three of which took place this year—that the group “strongly suspects were the result of torture and mistreatment.”  There are now 80,000 political prisoners held in Egyptian prisons.  The annual budget for internal security was $1.5 billion in 2006, more than the entire national budget for health care, and the security police forces comprise 1.4 million members, nearly four times the number of the Egyptian army.  

The United States has subsidized Egypt’s armed forces with over $38 billion in aid.  Egypt receives about $2 billion annually—$1.3 billion in foreign military financing and about $815 million in economic and support fund assistance—making it the second largest regular recipient of conventional U.S. military and economic aid, after Israel.

We have nothing left to say to the Mubarak regime.  The torture practiced in Egypt is the torture we employ for our own ends.  The cries that rise up from these fetid cells in Egypt condemn not only the Mubarak dictatorship but the moral rot that has beset the American state. 

We are losing the war in Iraq.  We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves.  We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens’ expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home.  The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself.  If we do not confront our hubris and the lies we tell to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, the despotism we empower abroad will become the despotism we soon experience at home.

Banner, End of Story, Desktop
Banner, End of Story, Mobile
Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, By Chris Hedges, Truthdig Columnist and Winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today Also Available! Truthdig Exclusive DVD of Chris Hedges' Wages of Rebellion Lecture The World As It Is: 
Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress: A collection of Truthdig Columns, by Chris Hedges -- Get Your Autographed Copy Today

Keep up with Chris Hedges’ latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

Watch a selection of Wibbitz videos based on Truthdig stories:

Get a book from one of our contributors in the Truthdig Bazaar.

Related Entries

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every day.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By QUEENCLARK22, October 23, 2011 at 10:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

According to my analysis, millions of people on our planet get the loan from well known creditors. So, there’s a good possibility to find a small business loan in every country.

Report this

By Chuckwagonchuckie, October 18, 2007 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey guys, don’t you know OUTSOURCING is the new “In” Thing.Go to Wal-Mart and see where all the stuff was manufactured.IT AIN"t a gonna be Made In The U.S.A.
Why shouldn’t President Bush outsource TORTURE. His ELITE friends in Islamic territory know how to get the truth out of terrorists without having to listening to the Democrats whine.
If you were Mubarak wouldn’t you want to protect your turf from competition? Saddum Hussin kept his turf protected and no one really cared until he ran afoul of the Bush Empire. Which should be a lesson in itself to those who accept the “OUTSOURCING” work.

Report this

By purplewolf, October 16, 2007 at 10:09 pm Link to this comment

So I guess you could say Bush is telling the truth,in an underhanded sort of way(as he always does),that America does not torture. He just outsources it to Egypt like he does everything else.

Report this

By rowdy, October 16, 2007 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

voice of truth. do you not know this;? in 1953, most likely well before you were born, tne U.S. and england overthrew the democratically elected government of iran and reinstalled the “shah”. this country built the playing field for all that followed,right up to 9/11. isreal is every bit as evil as iran,yet your tax dollars prop up a gov. that has marginal claims on it’s existence. the jews were given property that already belonged to someone else as a consolation prize for hitler’s antics. the rest of the islamic world views your homeland as their enemy. do you blame them? isreal is a “bona fide” terrorist state. they suppress millions of people that lived there before isreal stole their land. if the “hebe’s are “god’s” chosen people why didn’t he part the fucking clouds and announce this himself? why did he depend on the united fucking states to do his dirty work?

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, October 16, 2007 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

#107562 by Goyim-American Libertarian Atheist on 10/16 at 3:32 pm: “...the amount of harm done to society and world peace, it`s obviously the latter for which people should be imprisoned….”

Perhaps the real point to it all is the “imprisonment” mentality of societies around the world and especially the USA. Why do we need this if spending the money on fixing social problems is more productive? Oh, I forgot, they can’t handle the effort, duh…..

European societies particularly favored building large stone fortresses millenia ago. They incarcerated many people in their underground dungeons but it is modern society which specifically builds prisons. This sickness is in the minds of those who want to lock up other human beings.

Report this

By cann4ing, October 16, 2007 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

911truthdotorg, your post is a bit off topic.  I don’t see the NIST (National Standards & Technology) letter you linked to as stating that the collapse of the twin towers is unexplainable.  But what I did notice was a chiseling evasion.  NIST stated that its analysis ended with the “initiation of the collapse.”  It also states that it conducted no tests for explosive residue, yet goes on to state that there is no evidence that explosives were used to bring WTC 1 & 2 down.  What type of science is that?  You don’t test, then you say, well there’s no evidence?  Sort of a see no evil methodology.

Report this

By 911truthdotorg, October 16, 2007 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment

And hot off the presses:

NIST Admits Total Collapse Of Twin Towers Unexplainable

Implicitly acknowledges controlled demolition only means by which towers could have fallen at free fall speed.

Report this

By Goyim-American Libertarian Atheist, October 16, 2007 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Legalize drugs, outlaw religion. Based on which of these two psychotropic substances kills more people,
and the amount of harm done to society and world peace, it`s obviously the latter for which people should be imprisoned.

Report this

By voice of truth, October 16, 2007 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

I will never understand the hatred for Isreal that reigns supreme on this website.  You can’t complain that we are “propping up evil regimes” all across the globe, then bitch that we support Isreal.  Remember, regardless of your blind hatred, Isreal is the only country in the middle east that actually has free citizens, that has truly elected leaders, and that has been assailed since its birth by neighbors who will not be happy until it is exterminated.  If that is not the kind of government we want to support, then please tell me who we should be supporting??

Report this

By SilentLotus, October 16, 2007 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To paraphrase Jacob Bronowski: “even if you are absolutely certain that you are right, allow the prospect in the deepest depths of your heart that you are wrong. When you do not, then there is nothing to stop you.” That’s when dictators like Hitler and this Mubarak fellow are born. As I recall, Hedges made a similar remark in “American Fascists” but failed to credit to Bronowski, so “either he didn’t remember who to attribute it to (hint: if you don’t know, either look it up or don’t use it, no matter how good it is) or he was reinventing the wheel” (the quote—minus the parentheses—is from my father).
If the United States continues on the path it’s on, it will become a tyranny, and later on it will become a no man’s land. “Nothing is constant” (the Buddha), and everything will come to an end. The world will eventually reach the state of being beyond carrying capacity, and something will happen that will lower the population drastically. Historically, and anthropologically, it always has happened. And if we haven’t reached world peace after three thousand years of civilization, I doubt we ever will. But it’s nice that some people try.

Report this

By Howard, October 16, 2007 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

Let me get this straight.  Egypt’s dismal and utterly terrible record on rights of its citizens is Israel’s fault?
  If that’s the case then Israel is to be blamed for sickness, tyranny, pestilence, tidal waves and oh, yes, Katrina, and most important, the warming trend of the earth !

Report this

By Verne Arnold, October 16, 2007 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

#107231 by thomas billis on 10/15 at 10:11 am
(Unregistered commenter)

You want to know torture?Torture is being an American and seeing the Constititution used as toilet paper.

Thomas; right on!!!  You got it exactly right.


Report this

By anambrose, October 16, 2007 at 2:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Naomi Klein’s book is great and Naomi Wolf’s book is both great and really depressing as We Are All the Whose Next? When it comes Bush will declare us as unlawful enemy combatants and we’ll disappear using Blackwater as his private personal army if the NG, Reserves and Regulars won’t obey.

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, October 16, 2007 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

#107386 by bdogmania on 10/15 at 9:27 pm: “...i guess there must be lots al quida’s in Egypt…?”

Even Cartoon Qaida, ha ha (try the flash demo)

Report this

By DPOR, October 15, 2007 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment

Please read “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, especially if you think the problems with neo-con capitalism are caused by “bad apples” in a “good system”. It details a history of terror unlike anything you’ve likely read before, in which, as one African asserts, all our chains “moved from our necks to our ankles”.

Report this

By davidg, October 15, 2007 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In order to make these contradictions table talk, we have to talk about them constantly. And we don’t CNN is not going to do it for us.

Report this

By Russell Woodward, October 15, 2007 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What Mr. Hedges says is correct and important to realize, up to the conditional, “If we do not…”—but this condition has been surpassed; the training and the authorized procedures of our military and our national security establishment have already made thousands, at least, directly complicit in these conditions of torture. Certainly, the secrets of our CIA and of our military intelligence organizations include the continual study and application, in discrete climes, of the means of torture.
But with this adminstration and its soulless pursuit of victory over “evil,” our fate has been cast. The practices are widely known and authorized. There is no protection from this despoilation of citizens.
“Your silence will not protect you.” Audre Lord
Absolutely not.
But your screams should now be to reveal the travesty—or they will not be heard “outside.”

Report this

By Douglas Chalmers, October 15, 2007 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Quote: “Our moral indignation over the shooting of monks masks the incestuous and growing alliance we have built in the so-called war on terror with some of the world’s most venal dictatorships….”

Outsourcing as in “globalization”? Cheaper to have it done in Burma soon? More out of the limelight, perhaps?

Bush = OIL; Burma = oil companies!!! But “incestuous alliance” = ASEAN nations in the region, too, uhh.

Report this

By thomas billis, October 15, 2007 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You want to know torture?Torture is being an American and seeing the Constititution used as toilet paper.Torture is seeing the country I love being despised world wide.Torture is having my fellow citizens elect a man who cannot speak his native tongue.Torture is seeing our kids die for a war that should never allowed to happen.I could go on and on.Yes my heart goes out to those we are physically torturing.But the torture we are suffering as a nation cannot be understated.It is the worst kind of torture.The drip drip drip.Like continuous drops of water on your forehead.We here at Truth dig sometimes explode into irrational bursts of emotion because and I speak for myself it alleviates the pain momentarily.The pain is back the President is speaking on television.

Report this

By particle61, October 15, 2007 at 10:43 am Link to this comment covers spook agency renditions and the system of secret prisons that our thuggish friends manage for us worldwide, whether in eastern Europe or north Africa-whether they are underground or on “prison ships” at sea-American agents have shown that they really “know how to take the gloves off” when it comes to aggressive interrogation techniques (read torture)
see stories-
UN Torture Investigator Accuses US of Hiding Detainees
Detention Liners and Subterranean Gulags
CIA Agents Render Themselves into the Lap of Luxury
Europeans Follow Secret Flights into Stone Wall
and many more in the ‘spread of the red’ archive, and a new gwbush comic every week- watching the watchers and following the followers since 2005-

Report this

By rowdy, October 15, 2007 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

thermonuclear holocaust.blow up the whole fucking planet. it would stop global warming by giving us nuclear winter. it would be an end to all those pesky dictators. it would be the end of religions of all brands. it would be glorious.

Report this

By adamjohn12, October 15, 2007 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

Why is the most recent truthdig podcast with Ralph Nader censored off the main page?

There is some really old content on the main page but the above debate has mysteriously disappeared…

I suspect because it reveals Robert Scheer, the editor of this site, as the bourgeois socialist he is…

“I like to go to Hawaii and swim”

Report this

By P. T., October 15, 2007 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

Good articles on working class organizing and labor strikes in Egypt at this Web site—click

Report this

By Verne Arnold, October 15, 2007 at 7:02 am Link to this comment

We are losing the war in Iraq.  We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves.  We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens’ expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home.  The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself.  If we do not confront our hubris and the lies we tell to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, the despotism we empower abroad will become the despotism we soon experience at home.

This piece is maudlin and smacks of filler.  Hedges can certainly do better than this.  It is so obvious that the U.S. has committed so many war crimes and human rights abuses (sounds redundant), that this article hardly suffices. 
Number 1; it is obvious “we” don’t want to engage this contradiction in our values (are these our values?)…Egypt, Burma (Myanmar), America, and all of the other “rendition” countries working with us…..why? 
Number 2; as long as the citizens of America go along with this, nothing will change, except the size of our cell.
Number 3; they are coming for you next, where will you go?

Report this

By Akira_Maritias, October 15, 2007 at 6:05 am Link to this comment

At this point, nothing surprises me. I wouldn’t be surprised if we discovered that Bush was selling nuclear information to North Korea-just for the hell of it.

Now, watch for all of the Hedges bashers that will flood in here to call Hedges a moron, or whatever other trivial name they can think of.

Another good article, as always, Hedges. Looking forward to more from you. Never stop writing; not even when all of our freedoms are being choked out by an increasingly repressive, and ever so increasingly Christian, country.

Report this

By KISS, October 15, 2007 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

Don’tcha feel grand being a citizen of such a christian nation and governed by christians? In the name of jesus christ they maim and torture innocents along with the guilty. The hypocrisy of our leaders is alarming, where are the religious leaders? They can spout their words of hate and love of money but with atrocities as this, they hide. Even the generals, who know that this can backfire on our captured are ever so silent. The bible is right: ” people are nothing more than sheep”.
This shame, like the Holocaust, will live on for infamy.

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook