Posts Tagged ‘Donald Rumsfeld’

Walkout on Ahmadinejad at UN: The Craven Whores Doth Protest Too Much

September 29, 2010
Dr K R Bolton, Foreign Policy Journal,  Sep 28, 2010

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

While it is all very easy for the news media, sundry interest groups, and government functionaries throughout the world to dismiss Dr Ahmadinejad as a Mad Mullah beyond the ken of rational debate, perhaps that is because Iran’s president poses questions that are too near the mark to allow a sensible hearing.

As if it weren’t enough being the leader of a large Islamic nation that does not kowtow to the USA and to Israel, Dr Ahmadinejad put himself beyond redemption for eternity by suggesting that “holocaust revisionism” should be subjected to the same standards of scholarly scrutiny as any other historical matter,[1] and like the Left-wing Jewish academic Prof. Norman G Finkelstein, suggested that the holocaust was being exploited for political and economic motives.[2] Being Jewish, Left-wing and the son of parents who had survived both the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps,[3] didn’t save Finkelstein from the Zionist smear-brigade, so Dr Ahmadinejad is not about to be cut any slack.

When Dr Ahmadinejad reached the UN podium on September 24, it is certain that Israel, the USA and sundry lackeys to both states, waited with baited breath to see what the president would do this time to try and expose their corrupt system before what remains of states that have any sense of national sovereignty and dignity. The reaction of the delegates from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, all 27 delegates from the EU states, Canada, and Costa Rica was to walk out en mass — the response of those who have nothing thoughtful or honest to offer. In New Zealand’s case, our state relies of moral posturing at world forums to compensate for national impotence.

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Neo-Cons Get Warm and Fuzzy Over “War President”

December 5, 2009

Eli Clifton, Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (IPS) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for a 30,000-troop surge and a troop withdrawal timeline beginning in 18 months has caught criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

But a small group of hawkish foreign policy experts – who have lobbied the White House since August to escalate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan – are christening Obama the new “War President”.

The response to Obama’s Tuesday night speech at the West Point Military Academy has largely been less than enthusiastic, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle finding plenty in the administration’s Afghanistan plan that fails to live up to their expectations. Republicans have hammered the White House on Obama’s decision to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces in 18 months, while Democrats largely expressed ambivalence or dismay over the administration’s willingness to commit 30,000 more soldiers to a war seen by many as unwinnable and costly at a time when the U.S. economy is barely in recovery from the global financial crisis.

The White House’s rollout of the 30,000 troop surge did little to convince an already sceptical Congress, but foreign policy hawks who have accused the president of “dithering” in making a decision on Afghanistan are praising the administration’s willingness to make the “tough” commitment to escalate the U.S. commitment in the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, their approval of the White House’s decision to commit 30,000 troops is the culmination of a campaign led by the newly formed Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

FPI held its first event in March, titled “Afghanistan: Planning for Success”, and a second event in September – “Advancing and Defending Democracy” – which focused on counterinsurgency in combating the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The newly formed group is headed up by the Weekly Standard’s editor Bill Kristol; foreign policy adviser to the McCain presidential campaign Robert Kagan; and former policy adviser in the George W. Bush administration Dan Senor.

Kagan and Kristol were also co-founders and directors of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a number of whose 1997 charter members, including the elder Cheney, former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, and their two top aides I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Paul Wolfowitz, respectively, played key roles in promoting the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Bush’s other first-term policies when the hawks exercised their greatest influence.

The core leadership of FPI has waged their campaign in countless editorials and columns published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard.

These articles have often been highly critical, at times suggesting that Obama’s unwillingness to give General Stanley McChrystal the 20,000 to 40,000 troops requested in his September report to Defence Secretary Robert Gates amounted to “dithering” and projected U.S. weakness to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and U.S. allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Senor described himself as, “pleasantly surprised” and “quite encouraged by the president’s decision” in a Republican National Committee sponsored conference call.

“It seems to me that Obama deserves even more credit for courage than Bush did, for he has risked much more. By the time Bush decided to support the surge in Iraq in early 2007, his presidency was over and discredited, brought down in large part by his own disastrous decision not to send the right number of troops in 2003, 2004, 2005 or 2006,” wrote Kagan in The Washington Post on Wednesday.

“Obama has had to make this decision with most of his presidency still ahead of him. Bush had nothing to lose. Obama could lose everything,” Kagan concluded.

The theme of heralding Obama as a stoic decision-maker in the face of an administration and Congress that seek to “manage American decline” – as Kagan wrote – was also echoed by Bill Kristol in The Washington Post on Wednesday.

“By mid-2010, Obama will have more than doubled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since he became president; he will have empowered his general, Stanley McChrystal, to fight the war pretty much as he thinks necessary to in order to win; and he will have retroactively, as it were, acknowledged that he and his party were wrong about the Iraq surge in 2007 – after all, the rationale for this surge is identical to Bush’s, and the hope is for a similar success. He will also have embraced the use of military force as a key instrument of national power,” wrote Kristol.

The heralding of Obama as “A War President” – which was the title of Kristol’s article in The Washington Post – is a striking change of tone from some of the same pundits who were vociferously attacking the administration for every major policy initiative as recently as last week.

“Just what is Barack Obama as president making of our American destiny? The answer, increasingly obvious, is…a hash. It’s worse than most of us expected. His dithering on Afghanistan is deplorable, his appeasing of Iran disgraceful, his trying to heap new burdens on a struggling economy destructive. Add to this his sending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for a circus-like court trial,” wrote Kristol in the Nov. 23 edition of the Weekly Standard.

“The next three years are going to be long and difficult ones for our economy, our military and our country,” he wrote.

The hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial board – which on Sep. 10 suggested that Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize because he sees the U.S. “as weaker than it was and the rest of the planet as stronger”, and on Sep. 18 described the administration’s decision to scrap a missile defence agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic as following “Mr. Obama’s trend of courting adversaries while smacking allies” – also exhibited a noticeable change in tone in praising the White House’s decision to surge troop levels.

“We support Mr. Obama’s decision, and this national effort, notwithstanding our concerns about the determination of the president and his party to see it through. Now that he’s committed, so is the country, and one of our abiding principles is that nations should never start (much less escalate) wars they don’t intend to win,” said the Journal’s editorial board on Wednesday.

The board’s qualified endorsement of the White House’s war plan seems to reflect both the Republican concerns that Obama may use the 18-month deadline as an excuse to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban and al Qaeda are defeated and foreign policy hawks – such as those at FPI – who are pleased with the administration’s decision to commit more fully to the war in Afghanistan.

Hawks, such as Kagan and Kristol, may have to argue in 18 months for an extension of the withdrawal deadline but in similarly worded statements they both expressed confidence that this would not be a problem.

“If we and our Afghan allied partners are succeeding [by July 2011], the timing [of the withdrawal] may make sense. If we aren’t it won’t. It will not be any easier for Obama to embrace defeat in 18 months than it is today,” wrote Kagan in the Washington Post in response to concerns about the timeline for withdrawal.

“[T]he July 2011 date also buys Obama time. It enables him to push off pressure to begin withdrawing, or to rethink the basic strategy, for 18 months. We’ve come pretty far from all the talk about off ramps at three or six-month intervals in 2010 that we were hearing just a little while ago,” Kristol wrote on the Weekly Standard’s blog on Tuesday.

For hawks like Kristol, Kagan and Senor who have been calling for a surge in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan since August, Obama’s announcement on Tuesday night was a high-point in their campaign of op-ed’s, column’s and conference’s to push the Obama White House in the direction of an escalation in Afghanistan.

Kristol concluded his blog post on a confident note.

“In a way, Obama is now saying: We’re surging and fighting for the next 18 months; see you in July 2011. That’s about as good as we’re going to get.”

President Carter: Many Children Were Tortured Under Bush

July 18, 2009

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Ralph Lopez, Uruknet.info, July 17, 2009

“You have the power to hold your leaders accountable.” – President Obama, Ghana, July 14, 2009

While congress says it is gearing up to investigate what is old news, that CIA and Special Ops forces are killing Al Qaeda leaders, a decision of far different gravity is being contemplated by Attorney General Eric Holder.  The new insistence of Congress on its oversight role, conspicuously absent throughout 8 years of Bush, is suddenly rearing its head in the form of questioning a policy which has been in place with no controversy for years.  The U.S. has been hunting and killing Al Qaeda leaders outside of official war zones since 2004, when the New York Times reported that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had signed an order authorizing Special Forces to kill Al Qaeda where they found them.

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U.S. Lawmakers Try to Block New Abuse Photos

May 11, 2009

By William Fisher | Inter Press Service

NEW YORK, May 11 (IPS) – Civil libertarians are condemning a call by two influential U.S. senators for the White House to block the impending release of photographs showing detainees being abused by U.S. military personnel at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at other U.S. detention facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The plea to intervene to stop the expected May 28 release of the photos came in a letter to President Barack Obama from Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham.

“The release of these old photographs of past behavior that has now been clearly prohibited will serve no public good, but will empower al Qaeda propaganda operations, hurt our country’s image, and endanger our men and women in uniform,” the Senators wrote.

Release of the photos is expected in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We urge you in the strongest possible terms to fight the release of these old pictures of detainees in the war on terror, including appealing the decision of the Second Circuit in the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] lawsuit to the Supreme Court and pursuing all legal options to prevent the public disclosure of these pictures,” the senators wrote.

Their letter said, “We know that many terrorists captured in Iraq have told American interrogators that one of the reasons they decided to join the violent jihadist war against America was what they saw on al Qaeda videos of abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib.”

As a result of the ensuing actions by Congress, “America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have made great progress in improving detention and interrogation procedures,” they wrote.

Senator Graham is a conservative Republican from South Carolina, a member of the Armed Services Committee, and a military lawyer in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Lieberman was a lifelong Democrat until he lost his party’s primary contest in 2006, after which he ran and won as an Independent from Connecticut. He is chairman of the powerful Senate Homeland Security Committee. The two senators were among the most ardent supporters of the recent unsuccessful presidential campaign of Senator John McCain.

Civil libertarians were virtually unanimous in their opposition to withholding the photographs.

Gabor Rona, international legal director of Human Rights First, told IPS, “Sen. Lieberman and Graham’s claims might carry more weight had the U.S. government been consistently honest about the mistreatment it authorised.”

“But as long as the American people are kept in the dark about what crimes were committed in their name, they cannot intelligently exercise their democratic right and obligation to call for corrective measures,” he said.

Rona added, “To elevate fear of al Qaeda’s reactions over faith in our democratic ideals and structures is unfortunate and counterproductive.”

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, told IPS, “The more evidence that emerges to document the Bush policy of torture and abuse, the more likely that investigations and prosecutions will take place.”

Professor Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School told IPS, “The release of these photos will further document torture, abuse and other war crimes inflicted by U.S. military personnel in Iraq, the orders for which go all the way up the military chain of command to the Commander in Chief President Bush, the Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, none of whom has yet been held accountable.”

He said, “Senators Lieberman and Graham are simply running interference for all three of them. Yet under the terms of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Convention against Torture, the Obama administration has an obligation to open an investigation and to prosecute them. Failure to do so is a war crime in its own right.”

“These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib,” said attorney Amrit Singh of the ACLU, the organisation that originally brought the lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorising or permitting such abuse,” she said.

Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, now retired, served as the V Corps commander of coalition forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004. When he retired in November 2006, he called his career a casualty of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The disagreement over release of the photos reflects conflicting assessments of which is more dangerous and objectionable – the release of the photographs or the abusive behaviour that they depict.

It also turns on unresolved questions concerning the scale of prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel, and the nature of the public accounting that can or should be required.

The original Abu Ghraib photos were first exposed to the public in a 2006 segment of the television program, “Sixty Minutes,” and shortly thereafter in an extensive article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine.

The images showed Iraqi prisoners hooded, with electrodes attached to their bodies, being menaced by dogs, forced to walk with dog collars around their necks, and made to form pyramids of naked bodies. Existence of the images was first reported by a low-level U.S. Army soldier.

The military conducted more than a dozen investigations of the abusive practices, which then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attributed to the aberrations of “a few bad apples.” A number of low-level soldiers were convicted and sentenced to terms in military prisons, a few others were given official reprimands, and the brigadier general who was in charge of the prison was demoted to colonel.

The Defence Department investigations concluded that no one higher up in the military or civilian leadership of the Pentagon bore any responsibility for the abuses.

While the contents of the new photos have not been made public, it is known that members of Congress viewed them in a classified setting when the original Abu Ghraib images were released. Some have said publicly that the new photos paint an even grimmer picture of prisoner abuse, not only at Abu Ghraib but also at other U.S.-controlled prisons in the Middle East.

It is unclear whether the new crop of photos includes those taken by psychologist Philip Zimbardo. As an expert witness in the defense of an Abu Ghraib guard who was court-martialed, he had access to many of the images of abuse that were taken by the guards themselves.

Zimbardo assembled some of these pictures into a short video. Many of the images are explicit and gruesome, depicting nudity, degradation, simulated sex acts, and guards posing with decaying corpses.

The original Abu Ghraib photos were broadcast around the world long before it became known that U.S. authorities, including the Central Intelligence Agency, were using waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” at the Navy detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan, and at secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Human Rights Activists Call to Try Bush

February 2, 2009

By Julio Godoy | Inter Press Service

BERLIN, Feb 2 (IPS) – Now that former U.S. president George W. Bush is an ordinary citizen again, many legal and human rights activists in Europe are demanding that he and high-ranking members of his government be brought before justice for crimes against humanity committed in the so-called war on terror.

“Judicial clarification of the crimes against international law the former U.S. government committed is one of the most delicate issues that the new U.S. president Barack Obama will have to deal with,” Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of the European Centre for Human and Constitutional Rights told IPS.

U.S. justice will have to “deal with the turpitudes committed by the Bush government,” says Kaleck, who has already tried unsuccessfully to sue the former U.S. authorities in European courts. “And, furthermore, the U.S. government will have to pay compensation to the innocent people who were victims of these crimes.”

Kaleck and other legal experts consider Bush and his highest-ranking officials responsible for crimes against humanity, such as torture.

Many agree that the evidence against the U.S. government is overwhelming. U.S. officials have admitted some crimes such as waterboarding, where a victim is tied up and water is poured into the air passages. Also, human rights activists have gathered testimonies by innocent victims of torture, especially some prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

In an interview with the German public television network ZDF, Austrian human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak, UN special rapporteur on torture, said that numerous cases of torture ordered by U.S. officials and perpetrated by U.S. authorities are well documented.

“We possess all the evidence which proves that the torture methods used in interrogation by the U.S. government were explicitly ordered by former U.S. defence minister Donald Rumsfeld,” Nowak told ZDF. “Obviously, these orders were given with the highest U.S. authorities’ knowledge.”

“George W. Bush is without doubt responsible for crimes such as torture,” says Dietmar Herz, professor of political science at the university of Erfurt, 235 km southwest of Berlin.

“According to the U.S. constitution, the U.S. president is responsible for all actions carried out by the executive,” Herz told IPS. “Therefore, George W. Bush is responsible for the torture methods used by U.S. authorities, such as waterboarding.”

International justice against crimes against humanity began in 1945, with the Nuremberg trials against Nazi criminals, says Kaleck. Leading prosecutor Robert Jackson said at the opening of the trials in October 1945 that “we are able to do away with…tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of (the) people…only when we make all men answerable to the law.”

But since then this promise has been fulfilled only in exceptional cases, Kaleck said.

“Crimes against humanity have been repeatedly committed ever since, but very few people have been brought before international courts for these crimes,” he said, adding that this impunity is particularly obvious for leaders of the Allied countries (such as the U.S., France and Britain), who had organised the Nuremberg trials.

Nobody was ever judged for crimes against humanity committed in Algeria by France, in Vietnam and Latin America by the U.S., in Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and in Chechnya by Russia.

Only in the 1990s, after the Yugoslav wars of secession, the Rwanda genocide, and civil wars in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone were state criminals captured, judged and convicted.

“The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 in The Hague in the Netherlands marks a turning point in the prosecution of state officials accused of crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity or of war,” Kaleck added.

But prosecution for crimes of war or for crimes against humanity continues to be highly selective. So far, only perpetrators from weak or failed states from south-eastern Europe, or from the south, especially Africa, have been brought to court. In a case such as that of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Britain acted as an accomplice to protect him.

Over the last couple of years, human rights activists and some national courts in Europe have been fighting these arbitrary ways. They are appealing for, and in some cases even applying, a universal jurisdiction of national courts.

The Spanish judiciary has opened cases against Latin American dictators such as Guatemalan general Efraín Ríos Montt, who ruled the Central American country between 1982 and 1983, and Argentinean military officers involved in kidnapping and killing civilians.

Seasonal forgiveness has a limit. Bush and his cronies must face a reckoning

December 26, 2008

Heinous crimes are now synonymous with this US administration. If it isn’t held to account, what does that say about us?

‘Tis the night before Christmas and the season of goodwill. The mood is forgiving. Our faces warm with mulled wine, our tummies full, we’re meant to slump in the armchair, look back on the year just gone and count our blessings – woozily agreeing to put our troubles behind us.

As in families, so in the realm of public and international affairs. And this December that feels especially true. The “war on terror” that dominated much of the decade seems to be heading towards a kind of conclusion. George Bush will leave office in a matter of weeks and British troops will leave Iraq a few months later. The first, defining phase of the conflict that began on 9/11 – the war of Bush, Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden – is about to slip from the present to the past tense. Bush and Blair will be gone, with only Bin Laden still in post. The urge to move on is palpable.

You can sense it in the valedictory interviews Bush and Dick Cheney are conducting on their way out. They’re looking to the verdict of history now, Cheney telling the Washington Times last week: “I myself am personally persuaded that this president and this administration will look very good 20 or 30 years down the road.” The once raging arguments of the current era are about to fade, the lead US protagonists heading off to their respective ranches in the west, the rights and wrongs of their decisions in office to be weighed not in the hot arena of politics, but in the cool seminar rooms of the academy.

Not so fast.

Yes, the new year would get off to a more soothing start if we could all agree to draw a line and move on. But it would be wrong. First, because we cannot hope to avoid repeating the errors of the last eight years unless they are subject to a full accounting. (It is for that reason Britain needs its own full, unconstrained inquiry into the Iraq war.) Second, because a crucial principle, one that goes to the very heart of the American creed, is at stake. And third, because this is not solely about the judgment of history. It may be about the judgment of the courts – specifically those charged with punishing war crimes.

Less than a fortnight ago, in the news graveyard of a Friday afternoon, the armed services committee of the US Senate released a bipartisan report – with none other than John McCain as its co-author – into the American use of torture against those held in the war on terror. It dismissed entirely the notion that the horrors of Abu Ghraib could be put down to “a few bad apples”. Instead it laid bare, in forensic detail, the trail of memos and instructions that led directly to the then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

The report was the fruit of 18 months of work, involving some 70 interviews. Most of it is classified, but even the 29-page published summary makes horrifying reading. It shows how the most senior figures in the Bush administration discussed, and sought legal fig leaves for, practices that plainly amounted to torture. They were techniques devised in a training programme known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape or SERE, that aimed to teach elite American soldiers how to endure torture should they fall into the hands of pitiless enemies. The SERE techniques were partly modelled on the brutal methods used by the Chinese against US prisoners during the Korean war. Yet Rumsfeld ruled that these same techniques should be “reverse engineered”, so that Americans would learn not how to endure them – but how to inflict them. Which they then did, at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and beyond.

The Senate report cites the memorandums requesting permission to use “stress positions, exploitation of detainee fears (such as fear of dogs), removal of clothing, hooding, deprivation of light and sound, and the so-called wet towel treatment or the waterboard”. We read of Mohamed al Kahtani – against whom all charges were dropped earlier this year – who was “deprived of adequate sleep for weeks on end, stripped naked, subjected to loud music, and made to wear a leash and perform dog tricks”. Approval for this kind of torture, hidden under the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation”, was sought from and granted at the highest level.

And that doesn’t mean Rumsfeld. The report’s first conclusion is that, on “7 February 2002, President George W Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees”. The result, it says, is that Bush “opened the door” to the use of a raft of techniques that the US had once branded barbaric and beyond the realm of human decency.

For this Bush should surely be held to account. And yet there is no sign that he will, and precious little agitation that he should. A still smiling Cheney denies the Bush administration did anything wrong. Note this breathtaking exchange with Fox News at the weekend. He was asked: “If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer: “General proposition, I’d say yes.”

It takes a few seconds for the full horror of that remark to sink in. And then you remember where you last heard something like it. It was the now immortalised interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. The disgraced ex-president was asked whether there were certain situations where the president can do something illegal, if he deems it in the national interest. Nixon’s reply: “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

It is no coincidence that Cheney began his career in the Nixon White House. He has the same Nixonian disregard for the US constitution, the same belief that executive power is absolute and unlimited – that those who wield it are above the law, domestic and international. It is the logic of dictatorship.

But Nixon was forced from office, his vision of an unrestrained presidency rejected. If Bush and Cheney are allowed to retire quietly, America will have failed to reassert that bedrock principle of the republic: the rule of law.

This is why there must be a reckoning. Bush will do all he can to avoid it: and it is wholly possible that one of his last acts as president will be to cover himself, his vice-president and all his henchmen with a blanket pardon. Even if that does not happen, Barack Obama is unlikely to want to spend precious capital pursuing his predecessor for war crimes.

But other prosecutors elsewhere in the world should weigh their responsibilities. In the end, it was a lone Spanish magistrate, not a Chilean court, who ensured the arrest of Augusto Pinochet. A pleasing, if uncharitable, thought this Christmas, is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush will hesitate before making plans to travel abroad in 2009. Or indeed at any time – ever again.

freedland@guardian.co.uk

The Torture Presidency

December 15, 2008

By Scott Horton | Harper’s Magazine, Dec 13, 2008

President George W. Bush has launched “Operation Legacy,” which he placed in the hands of his ultimate advisor, indeed his “brain,” Karl Rove. Remember Rove? He’s the man who refused to testify under oath when summoned by Congress to do so and was recently identified in a Congressional report as the plotter behind the U.S. Attorneys scandal, among other trainwrecks. The Rove effort features a 2-page set of talking points which have been circulated to members of the administration’s team highlighting the supposedly major Bush accomplishments which have begun to fill the American media. They start with the contention that “Bush kept us safe” by preventing any further attack on American soil after 9/11. Really?

Let’s just take a look at some of that “deranged” criticism. Indeed, let’s start with the criticism from the man tapped by Bush’s fellow Republicans to succeed him, John McCain. This week the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a powerful report, released jointly by chair Carl Levin and ranking member John McCain, that received the unanimous support of its Democratic and Republican members. The report concluded that Donald Rumsfeld and other high-level officials of the administration consciously adopted a policy for the torture and abuse of prisoners held in the war on terror. It also found that they attempted to cover up their conduct by waging a P.R. campaign to put the blame on a group of young soldiers they called “rotten apples.” Lawyers figure prominently among the miscreants identified. Evidently the torture policy’s authors then enlisted ethics-challenged lawyers to craft memoranda designed to give torture “the appearance of legality” as part of a scheme to create the torture program despite internal opposition. A declassified summary of the report can be read here; the full report is filled with classified information and therefore has been submitted to the Department of Defense with a request that the materials be declassified for release. (Don’t expect that to happen before January 20, however).

This report sums up all you need to know about George W. Bush’s eight years of leadership. Karl Rove stresses that Bush has been a perfect moral example for young people in the country. The report tells us that when photos and other evidence of abuse first surfaced, the Bush Administration firmly denied any connection between their policies and the abuse, then attempted to scapegoat a group of more than a dozen young recruits (but not, of course, any of their supervising officers, who knew the details of the administration’s involvement and would have made things messy if disciplined). The report puts these actions in an unforgiving light:

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.

But of course, Bush only turned to torture to keep America safe, right? Wrong. With the unanimous support of its 12 Republican members, the Committee concludes:

The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

The report has some more bombshells in it waiting to emerge on declassification. It studies with some care the introduction of specific torture techniques, showing how they were reverse engineered from the SERE program—used to prepare American pilots to resist interrogation techniques used by the Soviets, North Koreans, Chinese and North Vietnamese. By “reverse engineering,” we mean it was adopting the techniques used by the nation’s Communist adversaries in prior generations. We have met the enemy, and he looks remarkably like George W. Bush.

And deep in its classified hold, the report looks into the use of psychotropic drugs which were, with Donald Rumsfeld’s approval, routinely administered to prisoners in order to facilitate their interrogation—in violation of international agreements and American criminal law.

The report, even in its still-classified form, does not tell the whole story of what happened. It does not address the program administered by the CIA. And even with respect to the Department of Defense, the Committee and its investigators were effectively stonewalled by the United States Special Operations Command and its overlords in the Pentagon who failed to provide information about special rules of engagement introduced with the authority of Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone that authorized the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held for intelligence interrogation in operations dating back to the earliest weeks of the “war on terror.”

The Levin-McCain Report, when fully declassified and circulated, will tell Americans a good deal about our history. It will help define what will become known as the “torture presidency” of George W. Bush. But it is also a remarkably incomplete document, testimony to the Bush Administration’s conscious policy of obfuscation, misdirection and deceit—its mockery of Congressional oversight, and its corruption of our Constitution and system of government. It gives us a clear lesson. As John McCain stated: “This must never be repeated. Never.”

Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush

December 14, 2008

Jason Leopold | Consortiumnews.com, December 12, 2008

A bipartisan congressional report traces the U.S. abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to President George W. Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, action memorandum that excluded “war on terror” suspects from Geneva Convention protections.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report said Bush’s memo opened the door to “considering aggressive techniques,” which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials.

Three months ago, Rice admitted that she led high-level discussions beginning in 2002 with other senior Bush administration officials about subjecting suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, according to documents released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, committee chairman.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the committee report said. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

The Dec. 11 report also disputed the Bush administration’s rationale that the harsh interrogation methods were effective in extracting valuable intelligence and protecting the country from terrorist attacks.

Instead, the report said, “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

The findings, which were released by Sens. Levin and John McCain of Arizona, this year’s Republican presidential nominee, drew no dissent from the 12 Republicans on the 25-member committee.

The 19-page report is the final installment in the Armed Services Committee’s 18-month investigation, which generated 38,000 pages of documents and relied upon the testimony of 70 people.

The White House declined comment, but Keith Urbahn, an aide to Rumsfeld, told the Washington Post that the allegations were “unfounded” and called the committee report a “false narrative.”

The Narrative

The report’s narrative of the prisoner abuse begins in early 2002 when Rumsfeld’s Defense Department inquired about what limits should be placed on interrogations of terror suspects detained during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Those questions sparked an internal administration debate and led to Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo stating that the Third Geneva Convention, which sets standards for treatment of prisoners from armed conflicts, “did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention,” the report said.

“The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees.

“While the President’s order stated that, as ‘a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,’ the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.”

What followed were senior-level meetings deciding which interrogation techniques could be used and which couldn’t.

“In the spring of 2002, CIA sought policy approval from the National Security Council (NSC) to begin an interrogation program for high-level al-Qaeda terrorists,” Rice said, according to the report. Rice is now Bush’s Secretary of State.

“Secretary Rice said that she asked Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to brief NSC Principals on the program and asked the Attorney General John Ashcroft ‘personally to review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel.’ She also said that Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA’s program,” according to the report.

In July 2002, Rumsfeld and his legal counsel, William Haynes, solicited input from military psychologists about developing harsh methods that interrogators could use against detainees who were being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Mr. Haynes was not the only senior official considering new interrogation techniques for use against detainees,” the report said. “Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials attended meetings in the White House where specific interrogation techniques were discussed.”

John B. Bellinger, Rice’s legal adviser at the State Department, said they recalled participating in meetings with Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2002 about an Army and Air Force survival training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.

“SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist,” Levin said Thursday. “The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”

Last April, President Bush told an ABC News reporter during an interview that he approved meetings of the NSC’s Principals Committee to discuss specific interrogation techniques the CIA could use against detainees. The Principals Committee included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft as well as Rumsfeld and Rice.

Spreading Abuse

On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the committee report said.

“What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.”

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and amid the rising Iraqi insurgency against the American occupation in 2004, the harsh interrogation tactics, which had been used at Guantanamo, spread to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo prompted Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who became the top commander in Iraq, to institute a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the convention, according to a report by a panel headed by James Schlesinger on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in 2004.

Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President’s Memorandum,” which he said had justified “additional, tougher measures” against detainees, the Schlesigner report said.

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib exploded into an international scandal in 2004 when photos were leaked showing American prison guards parading detainees around naked and forcing them into mock sexual positions.

Bush, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials expressed outrage over the Abu Ghraib photos and blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers acting on their own.

Eleven enlisted soldiers, who were guards at Abu Ghraib, subsequently were convicted in courts martial.

Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. received the harshest sentence – 10 years in prison – while Lynndie England, a 22-year-old single mother who was photographed holding an Iraqi on a leash and pointing at a detainee’s penis, was sentenced to three years in prison. Their superior officers either were cleared of wrongdoing or received mild reprimands.

The Bush administration’s handling of the Abu Ghraib scandal drew especially sharp criticism from the Armed Services Committee chairman.

“Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low-ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable,” Levin said. “The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees.”

Regarding the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, the committee’s report concluded that it “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.” The report added: “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.”

Continued . . .

Senators accuse Rumsfeld over abuse of detainees

December 12, 2008

A US Senate committee has accused the former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, of being directly responsible for the abusive interrogations of detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

After an 18-month investigation, the Senate’s armed services committee concluded that Rumsfeld’s approval of aggressive interrogation methods in December 2002 was a direct cause of abuses that began in Guantánamo and spread to Afghanistan and Iraq. They culminated in the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2003, where Iraqi detainees were found to have been forced into naked pyramids, sexually humiliated and threatened by dogs.

The Bush administration insisted the abuses had been the result of a few “bad apples” and that those responsible would be held accountable. The committee found neither those statements to be true.

“The abuses at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo [Guantánamo] and elsewhere cannot be chalked up to the actions of a few bad apples,” said the Democratic chair of the committee, Carl Levin. “Attempts by senior officials to portray that to be the case while shrugging off any responsibility are both unconscionable and false.”

No other congressional report has pointed the finger of blame so squarely at Bush and his senior advisers.

In hearings in June and September, the committee heard testimony that allowed it to piece together the chronology of events leading up to the Abu Ghraib abuses. It focused its attentions on Sere, a training system used to prepare US soldiers for aggressive interrogations so that they might endure if captured overseas.

The techniques were never intended to be used by US interrogators against their detainees. But in February 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Bush determined that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to terror suspects.

Following that ruling, techniques used in Sere training were applied against US detainees, and Rumsfeld gave his approval that December.

No Amnesty for Cheney, et al, Say Torture Opponents

November 27, 2008


Ali Gharib | Inter Press Service


WASHINGTON, 25 Nov (IPS) – Judging by the rare leaks from President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, investigations and prosecutions of high-level George W. Bush administration officials for torture and war crimes are a distant prospect. But likely or not, that won’t stop pundits from debating the question of whether those officials responsible should be held accountable.

Irrespective of whether Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld or others are dragged before juries, one glaring change seems absolutely certain: Obama stands unequivocally against torture, and the practice is likely to come to an end under his administration.

‘Even though I’ve been disappointed in other presidents in the past, I do listen and I do believe Obama when he says we won’t torture. I think that’s crucial,’ said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

But foreswearing controversial and harsh interrogation methods may not be enough to permanently reestablish the moral high ground that the Obama administration has promised to bring back to the U.S.’s interactions with the rest of the world.

If Obama doesn’t take on torture that occurred, as opposed to simply discontinuing the practice, the door may be left open for future administrations to resurrect the harshest of interrogation techniques, said Ratner at a recent forum at Georgetown University Law School.

‘If Obama really wants to make sure we don’t torture, he has to launch a criminal investigation,’ said Ratner, the author of ‘The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld: A Prosecution in Book.’

He said that the targets of such an investigation would be the easily identifiable ‘key players’ and ‘principals’ in the Bush administration who hatched plans to allow and legally justify harsh interrogation methods that critics allege are torture, including the controversial ‘waterboarding’ simulated drowning technique.

Those pursued, said Ratner, would include high-ranking administration officials such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and former Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet, as well as the legal team that drummed up what is now regarded as a sloppy legal justification for torture.

Key Bush administration lawyers involved in providing legal cover to harsh practices, including the roundly criticised ‘torture memo’ from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), include former attorney general and earlier White House counsel Alberto Gonzales; Cheney’s chief of staff and former legal counsel to the vice president’s office David Addington; and the University of California, Berkeley law professor and former OLC lawyer John Yoo.

If the characters behind the questionable techniques are not held accountable for violating U.S. and international laws, said Ratner, presidents after Obama may simply say, ‘well, in the name of national security I can just redo what Obama just put in place. I can go torture again.’

Ratner also spoke to the concern that, from the view of the rest of the world, ‘to not do an investigation and prosecution gives the impression of impunity.’

But opposing Ratner on the dais, Stewart Taylor, Jr. argued that an investigation and prosecution were not appropriate.

‘The people who are called ‘war criminals by [Ratner] and others do not think they acted with impunity,’ said Taylor, a Brookings Institution fellow and frequent contributor to Newsweek and the National Journal.

In the Jul. 21 edition of Newsweek, Taylor called for Bush to preemptively pardon any administration official who could be held to account for torture or war crimes. Taylor’s rationale was that without fear of prosecution, a full and true account of what he called ‘dark deeds’ could never come to light.

Furthermore, at the Georgetown Law event Taylor said investigation and eventual prosecution would ‘tear the country apart’.

That may be the thinking of Obama, who, in addition to hints he wouldn’t investigate Bush administration malfeasance, declared his intention to govern as a political reconciliation president in his election victory speech.

In Grant Park in Chicago on Nov. 4, Obama rehashed a quote from slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., but instead of rhetorically bending the ‘arc of history’ towards ‘justice’, as King did, Obama called for it to be bent ‘toward the hope of a better day.’

But Ratner said that the country was already divided, and that divide is exactly what a future administration could politically exploit to reinstate torture. He said that Obama must close the divide and doing so is not rehashing the past.

‘You’re making sure that in the future, we don’t torture again,’ Ratner said. ‘This is not looking backwards.’

Another potential problem with investigation and prosecution, says Taylor, is that the Bush administration officials ostensibly had sought to find out whether the methods they were about to approve were justified, and, indeed, they were told they were in the legal clear.

‘There is no that high ranking officials acted with criminal intent,’ he said. ‘They were relying in good faith on the advice of legal counsel.’

Taylor said that since the legal advice originated from the Department of Justice, it would be wrong for the same Justice Department to ‘turn around’ and prosecute people for actions that its previous incarnation had explicitly told were legal.

But Taylor’s point misses two issues: that the crimes were allegedly given a legal green light because of collusion with the White House, and that Ratner proposes to investigate those selfsame Justice officials who were involved in giving approval.

Despite referring to John Yoo as a ‘gonzo executive imperialist’, Taylor said that ‘those officials, like them or not, were honourably motivated’ because they were ‘desperately afraid’ of another terrorist attack.

Ratner insists that the officials, part of a ‘group, cabal or conspiracy’, may be culpable because they were ‘aiders and abetters’.

‘[OLC] was not giving independent counsel,’ insisted Ratner. ‘They were shaping memos to fit a policy that had already been determined.’

And while Taylor was quick to point out that many U.S. administrations had been accused of war crimes by various sources, Ratner replied that it was the first time that any administration had actually ‘assaulted the prohibition on torture’.

That could be one reason why, if the U.S. does not take care of its own house, Bush administration officials will likely be pursued on charges in Europe and elsewhere.

In international courts, said Ratner, those officials will not be able to hide behind the legal shields of internal government memos or executive decrees.

‘They have no defence in international law,’ he said. ‘They’re finished.’


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