Posts Tagged ‘Bush and Cheney’

Torture and the American Conscience

May 29, 2009

By Paul Craig Roberts | Counterpunch, May 28, 2009

Torture is a violation of US and international law. Yet, president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, on the basis of legally incompetent memos prepared by Justice Department officials, gave the OK to interrogators to violate US and international law.

The new Obama administration shows no inclination to uphold the rule of law by prosecuting those who abused their offices and broke the law.

Cheney claims, absurdly, that torture was necessary in order to save American cities from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. Many Americans have bought the argument that torture is morally justified in order to make terrorists reveal where ticking nuclear bombs are before they explode.

However, there were no hidden ticking nuclear bombs. Hypothetical scenarios were used to justify torture for other purposes.

We now know that the reason the Bush regime tortured its captives was to coerce false testimony that linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and September 11. Without this “evidence,” the US invasion of Iraq remains a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.

Torture, then, was a second Bush regime crime used to produce an alibi for the illegal and unprovoked US invasion of Iraq.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R,Tx) understands the danger to Americans of permitting government to violate the law. In “Torturing the Rule of Law”, he said that the US government’s use of torture to produce excuses for illegal actions is the most radicalizing force at work today. “The fact that our government engages in evil behavior under the auspices of the American people is what poses the greatest threat to the American people, and it must not be allowed to stand.”

One might think that the American public’s toleration of torture reflects the breakdown of the country’s Christian faith. Alas, a recent poll released by the Pew Forum reveals that most white Christian evangelicals and white Catholics condone torture. In contrast, only a minority of those who seldom or never attend church services condone torture.

It is a known fact that torture produces unreliable information. The only purpose of torture is to produce false confessions. The fact that a majority of American Christians condone torture enabled the Bush regime’s efforts to legalize torture.

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, has stepped into the Christian void with a powerful book, Torture is a Moral Issue. A collection of essays by thoughtful and moral people, including an American admiral and general, the book demonstrates the danger of torture to the human soul, to civil liberty, and to the morale and safety of soldiers.

Condoning torture, Hunsinger writes, “marks a milestone in the disintegration of American democracy.” In his contribution, Hunsinger destroys the constructed hypothetical scenarios used to create a moral case for torture. He points out that no such real world cases ever exist. Once torture is normalized, it is used despite the absence of the hypothetical scenario.

Hunsinger notes that “evidence” obtained by torture can have catastrophic consequences. In making the case against Iraq at the UN, former Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the countries of the world that his evidence rested on “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Today Powell and his chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, are ashamed that the “evidence” for Powell’s UN speech
turned out to be nothing but the coerced false confession of Al-Libi, who was relentlessly tortured in Egypt in order to produce a justification for Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

Some Americans, unable to face the criminality and inhumanity of their own government, maintain that the government hasn’t tortured anyone, because water boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” are not torture. This is really grasping at straws. As Ron Paul points out, according to US precedent alone, water boarding has been considered to be torture since 1945, when the United States hanged Japanese military officers for water boarding captured Americans.

If the Obama regime does not hold the Bush regime accountable for violating US and international law, then the Obama regime is complicit in the Bush regime’s crimes. If the American people permit Obama to look the other way in order “to move on,” the American people are also complicit in the crimes.

Hunsinger, Paul and others are trying to save our souls, our humanity, our civil liberty and the rule of law. Obama can say that he forbids torture, but if those responsible are not held accountable, he has no way of enforcing his order. As perpetrators are discharged from the military and re-enter society, some will find employment as police officers and prison officials and guards, and the practice will spread. The dark side will take over America.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Violations of Sovereignty

September 27, 2008

U.S. Raids on Pakistan

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | Counterpunch, Sep 26, 2008

Henry Kissinger was no amateur when it came to illegally bombing and invading countries that he and the evil President Nixon considered did not meet American requirements of unconditional servility, but even he must be intrigued about the latest antics of Washington’s finest. The vice president of the United States, a charmless and despotic bully, and his president, he of the close-set eyeballs and pretensions to dignity, recently excelled themselves in self-delusion concerning their unlawful invasion of Iraq and their fury with nations whose governments fail to toe the Washington line.

In their latest spasm of bizarre fantasy both Bush and Cheney condemned Russia for its military reply to Georgia’s merciless rocketing of South Ossetia and the killing of scores of its citizens. There is no doubt that Russia had been waiting for an opportunity to teach Georgia a lesson for its treatment of Russian-origin inhabitants of the enclave, and when the US-educated, US-supported Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, was so stupid as to send in troops following his slaughter of civilians, the Russians gave them a hiding. In spite of all the training they received over the past five years from US instructors, and the generous amounts of equipment they acquired, they fled the Russian advance. But Washington intends to have Georgia continue as a US-supporting military base area along Russia’s border, and in order to emphasize its anti-Russian stance Washington arranged for NATO to hold a high level meeting in Georgia last week (which, it was claimed, was planned “a long time ago.”).

As usual, rather than trying to engage Russia through diplomacy, Washington chose confrontation. And this is where the funny bit is, because Cheney declared that “We believe in the right of men and women to live without the threat of tyranny, economic blackmail or military invasion or intimidation.”

It is difficult to believe that the man was being serious, but there was no shade of irony in his delivery. He believed what he was saying, while ignoring the fact that the US has manipulated the UN to impose savage sanctions (economic blackmail) on countries that don’t toe the US line. Of even more importance he ignored the fact that only a few days before his pronouncement there had been gross violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US when its troop s crossed Pakistan’s border and killed civilians. The people of North West Frontier Province – the people of Pakistan – suffered “military invasion and intimidation.”

Last month Bush declared that “We insist that Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected” which might have been a fairly good point to make were it not for the fact that he has no respect for the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any country when criminal violation suits his purpose. The illegal cowboy foray into Pakistan was not denied by Washington; it was merely ignored with that degree of would-be-majestic superiority that is the hallmark of colossal colonial arrogance. Associated Press reported that “a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan said it had “no information to give” about the alleged operation, while a spokesman for NATO troops denied any involvement. The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.” No surprises there.

It doesn’t seem to matter to Americans that the blitz conducted by their troops resulted in the deaths of six women and two children, citizens of Pakistan. There has been no indication of regret or sympathy ; not a shred of remorse for killing children. For how long can the non-American world tolerate this sort of barbaric malevolence? In America it doesn’t matter, because ‘Support Our Troops!’ is the American mantra, especially in election year, and if a US citizen doesn’t wave the flag and say that American troops are wonderful, even when killing kids in Pakistan, then they are regarded as unpatriotic, which is a dreadful crime.

To justify the slaughter the usual highly-placed anonymous US official told the New York Times that “The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable. We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

You can hear the Hitlerian resonance in this, straight from Cheney and Bush. It has hideous echoes of “My patience is exhausted,” before Fascist Germany invaded its neighbors – and of the justification that “Befehl ist Befehl” : “an order is an order,” as the Gestapo herded terrified women and children into concentration camps and then to gas chambers. (In fact some of the victims in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp would welcome death by gassing, it being preferable to the vicious torture they are undergoing.) The American attitude, under Bush, is one of intolerance and macho contempt for any who dare to display independence. “We have to be more assertive” is a chilling declaration of what motivates the Washington administration. It is unlikely to change, irrespective of who is the next president.

President Zardari of Pakistan showed considerable courage last week when he said that “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism,” if only because we have learned what happens to presidents and countries who offend the mighty empire. Pakistan has been dumped before by America. It appears that it is important for the moment, but neither sovereignty not diplomacy are of concern to Washington. Pakistan’s government had better be very careful.

Brian Cloughley lives in France. His website is www.briancloughley.com

A version of the above appeared in The Daily Times (Pakistan).

Russia Georgia War – Washington Risks Nuclear War by Miscalculation

August 12, 2008

By F William Engdahl | The Market Oracle, August 11, 2008

The dramatic military attack by the military of the Republic of Georgia on South Ossetia in the last days has brought the world one major step closer to the ultimate horror of the Cold War era—a thermonuclear war between Russia and the United States—by miscalculation. What is playing out in the Caucasus is being reported in US media in an alarmingly misleading light, making Moscow appear the lone aggressor. The question is whether George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are encouraging the unstable Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili in order to force the next US President to back the NATO military agenda of the Bush Doctrine. This time Washington may have badly misjudged the possibilities, as it did in Iraq , but this time with possible nuclear consequences.

The underlying issue, as I stressed in my July 11 piece in this space, Georgien, Washington, Moskau: Atomarer geopolitischer Machtpoker , is the fact that since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 one after another former member as well as former states of the USSR have been coaxed and in many cases bribed with false promises by Washington into joining the counter organization, NATO.

Rather than initiate discussions after the 1991 dissolution of the Warsaw Pact about a systematic dissolution of NATO, Washington has systematically converted NATO into what can only be called the military vehicle of an American global imperial rule, linked by a network of military bases from Kosovo to Poland to Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan . In 1999, former Warsaw Pact members Hungary , Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO. Bulgaria , Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Romania , and Slovakia followed suit in March 2004. Now Washington is putting immense pressure on the EU members of NATO, especially Germany and France , that they vote in December to admit Georgia and Ukraine .

The roots of the conflict

The specific conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia has its roots in the following. First, the Southern Ossetes , who until 1990 formed an autonomous region of the Georgian Soviet republic, seek to unite in one state with their co-ethnics in North Ossetia , an autonomous republic of the Russian Soviet republic and now the Russian Federation . There is an historically grounded Ossete fear of violent Georgian nationalism and the experience of Georgian hatred of ethnic minorities under then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which the Ossetes see again under Georgian President, Mikhel Saakashvili. Saakashvili was brought to power with US financing and US covert regime change activities in December 2003 in what was called the Rose Revolution. Now the thorns of that rose are causing blood to spill.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia—the first a traditional Black Sea resort area, the second an impoverished, sparsely populated region that borders Russia to the north—each has its own language, culture, history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, both regions sought to separate themselves from Georgia in bloody conflicts – South Ossetia in 1990-1, Abkhazia in 1992-4.

In December 1990 Georgia under Gamsakhurdia sent troops into South Ossetia after the region declared its own sovereignty. This Georgian move was defeated by Soviet Interior Ministry troops. Then Georgia declared abolition of the South Ossete autonomous region and its incorporation into Georgia proper. Both wars ended with cease-fires that were negotiated by Russia and policed by peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the recently established Commonwealth of Independent States. The situation hardened into “frozen conflicts,” like that over Cyprus . By late 2005, Georgia signed an agreement that it would not use force, and the Abkhaz would allow the gradual return of 200,000-plus ethnic Georgians who had fled the violence. But the agreement collapsed in early 2006, when Saakashvili sent troops to retake the Kodori Valley in Abkhazia. Since then Saakashvili has been escalating preparations for military action.

Critical is Russia ‘s support for the Southern Ossetes . Russia is unwilling to see Georgia join NATO. In addition, the Ossetes are the oldest Russian allies in the Caucasus who have provided troops to the Russian army in many wars. Russia does not wish to abandon them and the Abkhaz, and fuel yet more ethnic unrest among their compatriots in the Russian North Caucasus . In a November 2006 referendum, 99 percent of South Ossetians voted for independence from Georgia , at a time when most of them had long held Russian passports. This enabled Russian President Medvedev to justify his military’s counter-attack of Georgia on Friday as an effort to “protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be.”

For Russia , Ossetia has been an important strategic base near the Turkish and Iranian frontiers since the days of the czars. Georgia is also an important transit country for oil being pumped from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and a potential base for Washington efforts to encircle Tehran .

As far as the Georgians are concerned, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are simply part of their national territory, to be recovered at all costs. Promises by NATO leaders to bring Georgia into the alliance, and ostentatious declarations of support from Washington , have emboldened Saakashvili to launch his military offensive against the two provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Saakashvili and likely, Dick Cheney’s office in Washington appear to have miscalculated very badly. Russia has made it clear that it has no intention of ceding its support for South Ossetia or Abkhazia.

Continued . . .

Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power

July 25, 2008

Salon has uncovered new evidence of post-9/11 spying on Americans. Obtained documents point to a potential investigation of the White House that could rival Watergate.

By Tim Shorrock | Salon.com, July 23, 2008

The last several years have brought a parade of dark revelations about the George W. Bush administration, from the manipulation of intelligence to torture to extrajudicial spying inside the United States. But there are growing indications that these known abuses of power may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now, in the twilight of the Bush presidency, a movement is stirring in Washington for a sweeping new inquiry into White House malfeasance that would be modeled after the famous Church Committee congressional investigation of the 1970s.

While reporting on domestic surveillance under Bush, Salon obtained a detailed memo proposing such an inquiry, and spoke with several sources involved in recent discussions around it on Capitol Hill. The memo was written by a former senior member of the original Church Committee; the discussions have included aides to top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers, and until now have not been disclosed publicly.

Salon has also uncovered further indications of far-reaching and possibly illegal surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency inside the United States under President Bush. That includes the alleged use of a top-secret, sophisticated database system for monitoring people considered to be a threat to national security. It also includes signs of the NSA’s working closely with other U.S. government agencies to track financial transactions domestically as well as globally.

The proposal for a Church Committee-style investigation emerged from talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress, according to sources involved. (Pelosi’s and Conyers’ offices both declined to comment.) Looking forward to 2009, when both Congress and the White House may well be controlled by Democrats, the idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror to undermine the Constitution and U.S. and international laws. The goal would be to implement government reforms aimed at preventing future abuses — and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials.

Continued . . .

The US will not prosecute Bush

July 21, 2008

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will never be tried for war crimes in the US because the country lacks a consensus on torture

The evidence is mounting that top US officials – including President George Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney and former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld – committed war crimes by authorising the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – ie torture. The war crimes drumbeat has accelerated with the recent release of two books: New Yorker writer Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side and Philippe Sands’s Torture Team, which document the executive decision-making that led the US to set aside not just the Geneva Conventions, but a tradition of respect for the human rights of enemy prisoners that dates to back to George Washington’s prohibition on harming POWs.

Current and former Bush officials are now scrambling to avoid the opprobrium – not to mention the risk of prison time – that would result from criminal prosecution. This week, Capitol Hill was treated to the spectacle of Sands and Douglas Feith, a former Rumsfeld protege who was an architect of the Iraq invasion, testifying side by side before a House subcommittee. In an earlier interview with Sands, Feith claimed to be “really a player” in the engineering of legal workarounds to the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo. Before the committee, Feith declared his unerring support for Geneva.

The stream of commentary on this topic is waxing as we near the end of the Bush presidency. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof went his fellow pundits one better, suggesting that what the US needs is a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission to sort through not just the legal transgressions of the past eight years, but the political manipulations as well.

Hang on a moment. There is no way that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or the second- and third-tier enablers of torture – the Feiths and John Yoos – will be prosecuted for war crimes in the United States.

The obstacle to prosecutions is the absence of a national consensus on the specific issue of torture, or, more generally, the Bush administration’s actions on terror. Certainly there is a consensus that the Bush administration has been a disaster and that the Iraq war was a mistake. But this doesn’t apply to specific terrorism policies, on which the White House still has more or less a political blank check to do as it pleases. (Whether a majority of the public supports those policies is debatable, but Republicans still back Bush, and Democrats are still cowed by the risk of appearing soft on the issue.) See Kevin Drum on why this is not Watergate: a well of political support remains for Bush’s terror policies, “enhanced interrogation” among them.

The matter of criminal culpability lies several steps further on. Even if they concede that torture is a war crime and buy the practical arguments against it – that it generates false information, endangers US soldiers should they be taken prisoner and is disastrous for America’s image and diplomatic efforts – many Americans would still resist prosecuting officials whose motive was averting terror attacks.

This also goes deeper than politics. I hate to sound cynical, but Americans don’t have much interest in accountability, truth or reconciliation. Our national motto is “move on”. The buzzword of the decade is Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness”. Trials or commissions on war crimes would force a reckoning that many Americans don’t think is necessary and/or would simply rather not have.

However, those still hoping to see Bush and his associates in the dock might see promise in another feature of American culture: its disposability. What seems set in stone today, an immutable law of politics, almost certainly won’t be tomorrow. What once seemed an issue of high principle to many conservatives – embracing torture and defending Bush & Co – may quickly become passé once Bush leaves office and other issues come to dominate. The ideal condition for a successful prosecution is not a rising tide of outrage at Bush that would stoke the divisions in US society, but indifference.

Still, the most likely scenario for a torture prosecution is something like what happened to ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. His own country wouldn’t touch him, but an industrious Spanish prosecutor – aided by the work of human rights activists and backed by international opinion – indicted him for torture and war crimes and nearly snared him. If Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld faced a similar indictment from abroad, Americans would be outraged – but not really. The US government would try to head it off, but wouldn’t be able to do much. No one would actually go on trial, but the indictees would see their travel options humiliatingly curtailed and go to their graves knowing the phrase “charged with war crimes” will be next to their names in the history books.


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