Posts Tagged ‘Bush and torture’

Canada should bar or prosecute Bush: lawyer

March 13, 2009
Foreign Affairs stays silent on upcoming Calgary visit

As George W. Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Calgary draws near, the federal government is facing pressure from activists and human rights lawyers to bar the former U.S. president from the country or prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity once he steps on Canadian soil.

Bush is scheduled to speak at the Telus Convention Centre March 17, but Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson says that because Bush has been “credibly accused” of supporting torture in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Canada has a legal obligation to deny him entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The law says foreign nationals who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, including torture, are “inadmissible” to Canada.

”The test isn’t whether the person’s been convicted, but whether there’s reasonable grounds to think that they have been involved,” says Davidson, who’s with Lawyers Against the War (LAW). “…It’s now a matter of public record that Bush was in charge of setting up a regime of torture that spanned several parts of the globe and resulted in horrendous injuries and even death. Canada has a duty.”

In February, Davidson sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other cabinet ministers asking the Canadian government to either bar Bush from Canada, prosecute him once he arrives, or have the federal attorney general consent to a private prosecution by LAW against the Texan. She hasn’t received a response, and concedes she’s fighting “an uphill battle” with “terrific challenges.” Davidson laid torture charges against Bush during his visit to Vancouver in 2004, but a judge quashed them within days.

The federal government is keeping silent on the upcoming visit. “We have no comments to offer on the visit of Mr. George W. Bush to Calgary,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alain Cacchione in an e-mail to Fast Forward. When told about Davidson’s letter, a spokesperson with the Canadian Border Services Agency said “we wouldn’t comment on something like that.”

Davidson is one of many voices around the world calling for Bush’s prosecution. Earlier this year, Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, said the U.S. has a “clear obligation” to prosecute Bush and former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing torture — a violation of the UN Convention on Torture. “Obviously the highest authorities in the United States were aware of this,” Nowak told a German TV station in January.

Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director for Human Rights Watch, says that while there’s legally “all the reason in the world” to prosecute decision-makers in the Bush administration, “it’s a different story” politically. “The Obama administration certainly has not given much in the way of encouraging signals for such a prosecution,” says Mariner, who’s based in New York. “Obama has consistently said that he wants to look forward.” Mariner says that while a U.S. justice department investigation is unlikely, a congressional investigation is more probable — and “that could lead to recommendations for prosecution.”

Mariner’s not expecting a Canadian prosecution against Bush. “Obviously the Canadian government would have to be in favour of it, and that seems rather unlikely,” she says.

Calgary activists, meanwhile, are organizing a number of events for the week of Bush’s visit, culminating in a noontime rally outside the Telus Convention Centre during Bush’s speech. “We want to give him the welcome that he deserves — which is we want him to go back to the States, or we want him arrested,” says organizer Collette Lemieux. Activist Julie Hrdlicka, who visited Iraq twice during the American occupation, agrees. “We need to send a clear message to him that he’s not welcome,” she says.

Lemieux is hopeful that Bush will eventually be prosecuted. “Do I think that it’s going to happen very soon? No,” she says. “But I think that it’s very important that we keep the pressure up…. We have to make it clear that there’s accountability.”

The Plaza Theatre, meanwhile, is screening three Bush-themed documentaries for a “Bush Bash Film Fest” the night of the visit. Half the box office proceeds will go to the United Way.

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Bush’s Legacy of Torture

July 31, 2008

Truthdig, posted July 28, 2008

By Eugene Robinson

I still find it hard to believe that George W. Bush, to his eternal shame and our nation’s great discredit, made torture a matter of hair-splitting, legalistic debate at the highest levels of the United States government. But that’s precisely what he did.

Three previously classified administration memos obtained last week by the American Civil Liberties Union add to our understanding of this disgraceful episode. The documents are attempts to justify the unjustifiable—the use of brutal interrogation methods that international agreements define as torture—and keep those who ordered and carried out this dirty business from being prosecuted and jailed.

The memos don’t call it torture, of course. Heavily redacted before being surrendered to the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the documents refer euphemistically to “enhanced techniques” of interrogation. Changing the name doesn’t change the act, however. One memo, written in 2004, specifically makes clear the administration’s view that “the waterboard” is an acceptable way to extract information.

Waterboarding, a technique of simulated drowning, is considered torture virtually everywhere on earth except in the Bush administration’s archive of self-exculpatory memos, directives and opinions.

The most stunning of the memos—written in August 2002 by Jay Bybee, who was head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—makes the incredible claim that unless a torturer has the “specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering,” no violation of U.S. laws against torture has occurred. Bybee, since appointed to the federal bench, wrote that the torturer needed only the “honest belief” that he was not actually committing torture in order to avoid legal jeopardy. Oh, and Bybee added that it wasn’t even necessary for that belief to be “reasonable.”

The memo notes that U.S. torture statutes outlaw the infliction of severe mental pain, as well as physical pain. It acknowledges that “the threat of imminent death” is one of the specific acts that can constitute torture. Somehow, though, the administration pretends not to understand that strapping a prisoner down and pouring water into his nose until he can’t breathe constitutes a death threat—regardless of whether the interrogator intended to stop before the prisoner actually drowned.

Perhaps that question was dealt with in the nine-tenths of the memo that was redacted before the administration handed it over to the ACLU. The memo never would have been released at all if the government hadn’t been ordered to do so by a federal judge.

The whole thing would be laughable if it were not such a rank abomination. No government obeying the law needs a paper trail to absolve its interrogators of committing torture. Conversely, a government that produces such a paper trail has something monstrous to hide.

It is not difficult to avoid violating federal laws and international agreements that prohibit torture. Just don’t torture people, period. The idea that there exists some acceptable middle ground—a kind of “torture lite”—is a hideous affront to this nation’s honor and values. This, perhaps above all, is how George Bush should be remembered: as the president who embraced torture.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, as he left office, Bush issued some sort of pardon clearing those who authorized or carried out “enhanced techniques” of interrogations from any jeopardy under U.S. law. International law is something else entirely, however, and I imagine that some of those involved in this sordid interlude might want to be careful in choosing their vacation spots. I’d avoid The Hague, for example.

Barack Obama has stood consistently against torture. John McCain, who was tortured himself as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has denounced torture as well—and, although he voted against restraining the CIA with the same no-exceptions policy that now applies to military interrogators, he has been forthright in saying that waterboarding is torture, and thus illegal. On Inauguration Day, whoever wins, this awful interlude will end.

The clear and urgent duty of the next president will be to investigate the Bush administration’s torture policy and give Americans a full accounting of what was done in our name. It’s astounding that we need some kind of truth commission in the United States of America, but we do. Only when we learn the full story of what happened will we be able to confidently promise, to ourselves and to a world that looks to this country for moral leadership: Never again.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.

© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Want to know if waterboarding is torture? Ask Christopher Hitchens

July 15, 2008
By Jon Henley and You Tube Video

Axis of Logic, July 7, 2008, 23:35

Editor’s Note: If this was the “water-boarding” experience of Christopher Hitchens after a minute or two, we can only imagine the torture to which prisoners are subjected to when “water-boarding” is conducted by US military thugs who are trained to hate Muslims and whose handiwork is not being video-taped. – Les Blough, Editor


Late last year, the writer, polemicist and fierce proponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq Christopher Hitchens attempted, in a piece for the online magazine Slate, to draw a distinction between what he called techniques of “extreme interrogation” and “outright torture”.

From this, his foes inferred that since it was Hitchens’ belief that America did not stoop to the latter, the practice of waterboarding – known to be perpetrated by US forces against certain “high-value clients” in Iraq and elsewhere – must fall under the former heading.

Enraged by what they saw as an exercise in elegant but offensive sophistry, some of the writer’s critics suggested that Hitchens give waterboarding (which may sound like some kind of fun aquatic pastime, but is probably best summarised as enforced partial drowning) a whirl, just to see what it was like. Did the experience feel like torture?

And amazingly, he has done just that. In August’s edition of Vanity Fair, you can read all about it, and see more photographs of the “wheezing, paunchy, 59-year-old scribbler”, his head hooded, being subjected to this most terrifying of ordeals by veterans of the US Special Forces.

So what did it feel like? Hitchens recounts how he was lashed tightly to a sloping board, then, “on top of the hood, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose … I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and – as you might expect – inhale in turn.”

That, he says, “brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, flooded more with sheer panic than with water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal” and felt the “unbelievable relief” of being pulled upright.

The “official lie” about waterboarding, Hitchens says, is that it “simulates the feeling of drowning”. In fact, “you are drowning – or rather, being drowned”.

He rehearses the intellectual arguments, both for (“It’s nothing compared to what they do to us”) and against (“It opens a door that can’t be closed”). But the Hitch’s thoroughly empirical conclusion is simple. As Vanity Fair’s title puts it: “Believe me, it’s torture.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/02/humanrights.usa

Mukasey: Bush’s New ‘Mr. Cover-up’

July 14, 2008

Robert Parry | Consortiumnews.com, July 10, 2008

Even Sen. Charles Schumer, whose vote last year ensured Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General, was left sputtering as Mukasey returned the favor by rebuffing Schumer’s concerns about the Bush administration’s political prosecutions.

At the end of his round of Senate Judiciary Committee questions, Schumer referred to allegations that White House political adviser Karl Rove had pressed for the selective prosecution of Alabama’s Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, who was viewed as a threat to Republican dominance of the South.

“Do you think that someone in the Justice Department should ask Karl Rove whether he was involved, whether he did the things that are alleged – someone somewhere – or is there a possibility that no one should ever ask him?” the New York Democrat said, his voice rising.

Mukasey responded coolly that he would not endorse the questioning of Rove. In disgust, Schumer said, “I find these answers very disappointing.”

But Schumer was not alone. At the oversight hearings on July 9, the committee’s Democrats and the ranking Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, voiced varying levels of disappointment at Mukasey’s refusal to look back at the misconduct – including criminal acts – that had occurred earlier in the Bush administration.

Indeed, Mukasey’s evasive answers recalled the stonewalling of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey’s vague and meandering responses made two things clear, however: George W. Bush’s hubris about what he sees as his unlimited presidential powers continues and Mukasey will serve as Bush’s rearguard protector during his final six months in office.

In a separate confrontation with two House committees, Mukasey has promulgated a novel legal theory justifying his refusal to release FBI reports on interviews with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney about their roles in exposing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Even though Bush has not asserted executive privilege regarding the FBI reports, Mukasey has refused to honor subpoenas from the House committees on the grounds that to do so would threaten “core Executive Branch confidentiality interests and fundamental separation of powers principles.”

Mukasey’s theory ignores a variety of precedents, including the public release of criminal-case testimony by Bush’s three predecessors (Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky case, George H.W. Bush on the Passportgate affair and the Iran-Contra scandal, and Ronald Reagan on Iran-Contra.)

Nuremberg Defense

In his Senate testimony, Mukasey also left no doubt that the Justice Department would take no action against anyone in the administration who violated criminal statutes in the “war on terror” if they were following legal advice from superiors, a modern version of the so-called Nuremberg defense.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, urged Mukasey to “follow what I think is the clear standard of the law within your own department and initiate those investigations” into the Bush administration’s abuse of detainees, including the use of “waterboarding,” a form of simulated drowning.

Durbin noted that retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse probe, stated recently that “the Commander in Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture” and that “there is no longer any doubt about whether the current administration committed war crimes, the only question that remains is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held accountable.”

Mukasey, however, responded that anyone who acted in “good faith” and relied on the Justice Department’s legal advice “cannot and should not be prosecuted.” The same protection should cover government lawyers who gave the advice, he said.

Continued . . .

Red Cross finds Bush administration guilty of war crimes

July 14, 2008

RINF.COM, July 13, 2008

By Andrew McLemore

In a secret report last year, the Red Cross found evidence of the CIA using torture on prisoners that would make the Bush administration guilty of war crimes, The New York Times reported Friday.

The Red Cross determined the culpability of the Bush administration after interviewing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, according to the article.

Prisoner Abu Zubaydahwho said he had been waterboarded, “slammed against the walls” and confined in boxes “so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the fetal position.”

The information comes from a new book written by Jane Meyer, who has frequently published articles concerning counter-terrorism in The New Yorker.

The book is titled “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals,” and will be released next week.

Mayer cited “sources familiar with the report” to explain the confidential document as a warning “that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted.”

The report was submitted to CIA last year and concluded that American interrogation methods are “categorically” torture that violates both domestic and international law, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported Friday.

Although the CIA had already admitted to the use of waterboarding, Meyer says in the book that several CIA officers confirm the findings of the Red Cross, including the other forms of torture mentioned.

Maddow called George W. Bush a “torture-approver-in-chief who has yet to be held to account for anything” and said that congressman Dennis Kucinich had reintroduced his articles of impeachment against the president.

Maddow questioned constitutional law expert Johnathan Turley about the development.

“The problem for the bush admin is that they perfected plausible deniability techniques,” Turley said. “They bring out one or two people that are willing to debate on cable shows whether waterboarding is torture and it leaves the impression that its a closed question.

“It’s not. It’s just like the domestic surveillance program that the federal court said just a week ago was also not just a closed question.”

When asked by Maddow if the chances are now greater that Bush will be prosecuted now or after leaving office by the international community, Turley compared the situation to Serbia in the early 90s.

“I’d never thought I would say this, but I think it might in fact be time for the United States to be held internationally to a tribunal. I never thought in my lifetime I would say that.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3PvIFx-WDE


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