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On Moving Backwards not Forwards – Agee, Manning and Zero Dark Thirty


"Millions of people all over the world had been killed or had their lives destroyed by the CIA and the institutions it supports"—Philip Agee (1975)
 
Responses to the film Zero Dark Thirty have focused on the question of whether or not the torture of detainees allowed the CIA to track down Osama Bin Laden. Glenn Greenwald, among others, have presented compelling evidence that it did not – and that torture in general most likely impedes effective and legitimate police work. However, if the objective is to crush democracy and dissent by instilling fear then torture is, unfortunately, a very effective tool. It is beyond obvious that the Obama administration's torture of Bradley Manning has little, if anything, to do with "extracting information". "Commander in Chief" Obama is sending a clear message to all potential whistle-blowers within the US military:
 
"Expose us and you will be tortured. Don't expect the 'free press' or any of the rights you have on paper to do much for you." 
 
The 9/11 bombings have allowed to the US political class to become openly enthusiastic about torture, but decades before Bradley Manning, former CIA officer Philip Agee blew the lid off the US government's love affair with torture and torturers. 
  
In 1975, Agee published "Inside the Company: CIA Dairy" which detailed his work with the CIA in Latin America from 1957 to 1968.
 
To get the thrust of Agee's book, imagine James Bond as a malignant Peeping Tom – snooping, snitching and lying to keep a disgusting social order in tact. His most deadly weapons are bags full of US government money. He buys off people within loyal governments and media as well as moral stragglers within revolutionary movements. He has ample dirt on everyone, but eventually comes to see himself as a creep. Agee was not simply repulsed by torture. He was repulsed by the poverty it was used to maintain and, eventually, by Capitalism itself. Agee complained that publishers wanted James Bond type adventure anecdotes and less discussion of poverty, less analysis of why a rich capitalist country like the USA must stand so solidly behind the most backward despots, and so savagely against the most basic reforms in poor countries.
 
Anticipating Julian Assange's case, various European governments, at the behest of the USA, ensured that Agee would remain on the run from his own government.
 
Shortly after Agee's death in 2008, a New York Times article stated that "Philip Agee was never part of any solution, just another facet of the shadow world’s ever proliferating strangeness."
 
That's high praise coming from a major part of the problem. 
 
While corporate pundits "move backwards not forwards" on torture, we should all remember Philip Agee, who moved so far ahead of them all so many years ago.

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