The final report from a commission set up in Brazil to examine the human rights abuses of the brutal dictatorship that ruled that country, with American help, for a quarter century provides a great deal of evidence that the U.S. government trained the junta in how to use torture, blackmail and violence to keep power.
This week Brazil published its very own torture report as part of an investigation into the crimes perpetrated during the country’s 21 year-long U.S. backed military dictatorship. It confirms what historians have been writing about for years: that torture and other human rights abuses were systemic within the regime, and that the military receivedextensive training by the U.S. and the U.K. on torture and other repressive techniques.
Two and a half years ago, the Brazilian government established the National Truth Commission (CNV) to conduct the first formal investigation into the military dictatorship, a brutal regime that began in 1964 and ended in 1985. The final report confirms that the U.S. played a direct role in encouraging state sponsored torture in Brazil. According to the 2,000 page document — and backed by extensive historiography –, over 300 members of the Brazilian military spent time at the School of the Americas, run out of Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, where they had “theoretical and practical lessons on torture, which would later be replicated in Brazil,” the report notes.The school was one of the main tools used by the U.S. government to deter perceived communist threats in Latin America, and gave instruction to dictatorial militaries across the continent. A Pentagon manual released in 1996 details the curriculum, which encourages the use of torture, blackmail, and arresting the families of those being questioned. The commission’s report also details how Brazilian officers received further torture training by the Secret Service in London during the 1970s.
The commission has reaffirmed the work of historians, and shown that the Brazilian military took what they learned to heart. Over the course of 21 years of military rule, torture became a defining characteristic of the regime, used as a “bureaucratic tool” to extract information and discourage any form of opposition. Brazil’s current president, Dilma Rousseff, was herself brutally tortured over the course of the three years she spent in military custody. Some of the techniques, such as waterboarding, as well as accounts of death under torture, should be familiar to anyone who has read the Senate’s own report on torture that came out this week.
This is why it’s quite safe to presume that the CIA, and the U.S. government as a whole, is always lying when it tries to downplay torture and other human rights abuses. The CIA and the Pentagon have a long and sordid history of installing brutal dictators around the world, propping them up on a mountain of American money and weaponry, and teaching them how to use torture to destroy their opponents and hold on to power. But to quote Andrea Tantaros, “America is awesome! We are awesome!” Tell that to the millions and millions of victims of our routine brutality.