RECENT NOAM CHOMSKY INTERVIEW
(Intercepted with Jermy Scahill)
E X C E R P T:
"JS: Well just parenthetically and I don’t want to get into this but I do think it’s worth just mentioning it: that when victims of the U.S. torture program — the so-called extraordinary rendition program, or people that were taken to Guantanamo or to black sites — filed lawsuits in the United States against Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or other officials for the torture that they endured, or the kidnapping that they endured, the justice department intervened in those cases using something called the Westfall Act, which actually has to do with U.S. labor law, and even Attorney General Eric Holder under Obama filed briefs in these lawsuits against Bush-era accused war criminals saying that even if they had committed genocide, that it was within the official scope of their duties. And therefore, they were removed as defendants in those cases and replaced by the U.S. government which has sovereign immunity and, therefore they were dismissed.
So, it’s not just on a level of international war or conflict. It’s also on an individual level with U.S. officials, the position of the justice department, including under Obama was that even if Donald Rumsfeld was involved with genocide, it would have been within the official scope of his duties and therefore he cannot be held individually responsible for it.
NC: Yeah, that’s a kind of a counterpart to the fact that the U.S. did add a reservation to the genocide convention when it signed it, finally, saying we’re immune. Incidentally, on the torture program, there’s more to be said. There’s good studies of this by Alfred McCoy — outstanding historian who did some of the major work, among other things, on the history of torture —
JS: He’s a great friend of this show, and has been on several times. He also was my professor when I was briefly an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin.
NC: OK, so I don’t have to laud him to you. Done excellent work.
But, on torture, he pointed out that when the United States signed the international torture convention, I think it was 1984 or so, the Senate rewrote the convention to exclude the modes of torture that were carried out by the CIA, and that was then instituted into law under Clinton. So you could argue that much of the torture carried out under the Bush Administration was actually not in violation of U.S. law as McCoy also points out, the significant difference between the Guantanamo/Bagram/Abu Ghraib torture and earlier periods, was that in earlier periods, the U.S. supervised the torture and trained the torturers in Latin America, Southeast Asia, but for this time, the U.S. personnel were actually involved, directly, in the torture instead of supervising it, and training the torturers. So that’s a slight change but from a moral point of view, not a very significant one."