Posts Tagged ‘President George W. Bush’

Tony Blair stands accused of crimes against humanity

April 22, 2010
Malaysia must not allow this mass murderer to be immune from justice.


By Prof SHAD SALEEM FARUDI,  Information Clearing House, April 22, 2010

Source: The Star


IT IS distressing to note that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been invited to Malaysia as an honoured guest of an NGO when he stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by many learned and independent scholars of international law.

The case against him looks rock solid, especially after his confession to the BBC and the Chilcot Inquiry that he would have gone to war to topple Saddam Hussein regardless of the issue of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Indictments around the world:

The international criminal court to which Britain is a signatory has received a record number of petitions against Blair.

The World Tribunal on Iraq held in Istanbul in 2005 heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, former US president George W Bush and others.

The Brussels War Crimes Tribunal, the Blair War Crimes Foundation and the American international law jurist Richard Falk have amassed impressive evidence of Blair’s complicity in international war crimes.

Spain’s celebrated judge Baltasar Garzon (who indicted former Chilean dictator and president Augusto Pinochet) has called for Bush, Blair and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the illegal invasion of Iraq, which Garzon has condemned as “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history”.

Many UK jurists have described the invasion as a devastating attack on the rule of law that left the United Nations in tatters.

Here at home, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, after two years of meticulous investigation, received first-hand evidence from Iraqi victims of war that there have been grave violations of the international law of war in Iraq.

Last year, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, consisting of several international jurists – including Richard Falk from the US, Alfred Webre from Canada, and Niloufer Bhagat from India – unanimously adjudicated that Bush and Blair do not enjoy any immunity in international humanitarian law.

The main charges against Blair relate to his collusion with Bush in an illegal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.

Crimes against peace:

Blair repeatedly and deliberately deceived the UN, his allies and his own people that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that could be rained on anyone within 45 minutes. In deceit and conspiracy, he incited passions for an illegal war.

The resulting amassing of an American, British and Australian invasion force outside Iraq and the invasion of March 20, 2003, were flagrant acts of lawlessness and an international crime.

The Charter of the UN contains a general prohibition against force as a means of resolving disputes. The unleashing of the horrors of war on innocent populations is permitted in only two circumstances by the Charter. First, legitimate self defence, under Article 51 in the event of an actual armed attack. Iraq had not attacked the US, the UK, Spain or Australia, and the argument about self-defence had no credibility.

Second, specific Security Council authorisation of force as a last resort to maintain peace and security under Articles 39 to 42 of the Charter. There never was such a resolution. The US and UK had tried to bulldoze one through but the Security Council was divided and the attempt failed, rendering the subsequent invasion a crime against peace.

Genocide and crimes against humanity: The Anglo-American alliance is also guilty of the heinous crimes of war, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The misadventure in Iraq has up to now caused 1.4 million deaths, four million refugees and countless maimings and traumas. Two to three million Iraqis are mentally and physically disabled. Iraq today is a land of five million orphans and one to two million widows.

There is near-total devastation of basic infrastructure, health, cultural and educational systems. Water systems have been contaminated. Iraq’s assets have been looted by the Allies.

In the prosecution of the illegal and racist war, indiscriminate rocket attacks were, and still are, being rained on civilian centres, killing thousands of innocent women and children.

In 2004, the entire population of Fallujah was expelled, save for young men of military age. Banned radioactive ammunition like depleted uranium, white phosphorous and cluster bombs have been used. Torturing of prisoners of war has been practised on a large scale.

These crimes of complicity by Blair are punishable under the United Nations Charter, the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Nuremberg Principles, Article 146 of the 1949 Geneva Convention and Article 3 of the 1907 Hague Convention.

What is also notable is that Blair has expressed no remorse whatsoever. Instead, he struts around the world as an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel. He recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth US$1mil (RM3.2mil).

Malaysia must stand up and be counted among the community of civilised nations. It must not allow this perpetrator of epic crimes, who fakes faith in democracy and in “God’s work and God’s will”, to touch our soil ever again.

(Blair, who gave a talk at a local university in 2008, has been invited to head a line-up of speakers at the 2010 National Achiever Congress in Subang Jaya this weekend.)

If he does enter this country again we should arrest him. Regrettably, Malaysia has not yet ratified the Rome Charter, but we do have a Penal Code. Murder is a crime.

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission has countless reports from Iraqi survivors against Blair for complicity in mass slaughters, tortures, looting and other war crimes. The police must act on these reports and arrest this mass murderer.

In addition, citizens’ groups must file complaints against Blair with the United Nations General Assembly and with the Attorney-Generals of countries like Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK which have “universal jurisdiction” statutes to pursue and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A tribunal like the one that tried Nazis at Nuremberg and several Yugoslav and African warlords since then needs to be constituted.

The world needs to be reassured that international humanitarian law is not applied and enforced in a racist and selective way against Asian and African tyrants only. Imperial politicians from the West who destroy millions of lives should not, any more, be immune from justice.

Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM and Visiting Professor at USM.

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The Story of My Shoe: My Flower to Bush, the Occupier

September 15, 2009

By Mutadhar al-Zaidi, Counterpunch, Sep 15, 2009

Mutadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoe at George Bush gave this speech on his recent release.

In the name of God, the most gracious and most merciful.

Here I am, free. But my country is still a prisoner of war.

Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act.

But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland’s) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.

Continued >>

Black Site in Lithuania? CIA Accused of Third Torture Prison in Europe

August 21, 2009

By Britta Sandberg |  Spiegel Online International, Aug 21, 2009

Former US President George W. Bush with his Lithuanian counterpart, Prime Minister Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius in 2002: "They were happy to have our ear."

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AP

Former US President George W. Bush with his Lithuanian counterpart, Prime Minister Valdas Adamkus in Vilnius in 2002: “They were happy to have our ear.”

As Americans continue to debate the torture era of the Bush administration, a new report has emerged about the alleged existence of a third secret prison used by the CIA in Europe. According to ABC News, the CIA operated a “black site” prison in Lithuania until the end of 2005.

Following reports on “black site” prisons in Poland, ABC News is now reporting that a third jail existed in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. According to the report, as many as eight prisoners were held there for at least one year.

The United States is believed to have used the third black site prison in Europe to hold high-value al-Qaida suspects after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to question them using “special interrogation techniques.” These included the simulated drowning of prisoners through the practice known as waterboarding. With the development, the debate in America over government interrogation techniques and torture appears to be taking on a greater European dimension.

Continues >>

Marking When Bush Poodle Wagged UK Tail for War

July 27, 2009

by Ray McGovern | CommonDreams.org, July 27, 2009

Seven years ago this week, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair (widely referred to in Europe as “Bush’s poodle”) gathered his top national security advisers at 10 Downing St. to hear a report from U.K. intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove.

Dearlove had had just returned to London from face-to-face talks with then-CIA Director George Tenet at CIA headquarters in Washington.  It was eight months before the U.S./U.K.-led “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq on pretenses known to be false.

Continued >>

Bush’s Hit Teams

July 17, 2009

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, July 15, 2009

Despite the new controversy over whether a global CIA “hit team” ever went operational, there has been public evidence for years that the Bush administration approved “rules of engagement” that permitted executions and targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In effect, President George W. Bush transformed elite units of the U.S. military – including Special Forces and highly trained sniper teams – into “death squads” with a license to kill unarmed targets on suspicion that they might be a threat to American occupying forces.

In the recent public debate over whether Bush also authorized the CIA to assemble teams of assassins to roam the world hunting al-Qaeda suspects, the U.S. news media has cited the distinction between such face-to-face executions and the CIA’s use of remote-controlled Predator drones firing missiles to kill groups of suspected insurgents in or near the war zones.

However, the evidence is that the Bush administration also permitted U.S. military units to engage in close-quarter executions when encountering alleged insurgents, even if they were unarmed and presented no immediate threat to American or allied troops.

This reality surfaced in 2007 with the attempted prosecutions of several U.S. soldiers whose defense attorneys cited “rules of engagement” that permitted killing suspected insurgents.

One case involved Army sniper Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., who was acquitted by a U.S. military court in Baghdad on Sept. 28, 2007, in the murders of two unarmed Iraqi men – one on April 27, 2007, and the other on May 11, 2007 – because the jury accepted defense arguments that the killings were within the approved rules. (Sandoval was convicted of lesser charges relating to planting evidence on a victim to obscure the facts of the homicide.)

The Sandoval case also revealed a classified program in which the Pentagon’s Asymmetric Warfare Group encouraged U.S. military snipers in Iraq to drop “bait” – such as electrical cords and ammunition – and then shoot Iraqis who picked up the items, according to evidence in the Sandoval case. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007]

Afghan Execution

Another case of authorized murder of an insurgent suspect surfaced at a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in mid-September 2007. Two U.S. Special Forces soldiers took part in the execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group.

Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.

According to evidence at the Fort Bragg proceedings, an earlier Army investigation had cleared the two soldiers because they had been operating under “rules of engagement” that empowered them to kill individuals who had been designated “enemy combatants,” even if the targets were unarmed and presented no visible threat.

The troubling picture was that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, authorized loose “rules of engagement” that allowed targeted killings – as well as other objectionable tactics including arbitrary arrests and indefinite detentions, “enhanced interrogations” otherwise known as torture, kidnappings in third countries with “extraordinary renditions” to countries that torture, secret CIA prisons, and “reeducation camps” for younger detainees.

Typical of Washington politics, however, the loudest arguments have been over whether the Bush administration adequately notified Congress of covert aspects of these operations, including the reported CIA-assassination plan which allegedly was ordered kept hidden from the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Some Republicans have said Democrats proved that they don’t have the toughness to defend U.S. national security by raising questions about the hit team, while pro-Democratic pundits note that the Bush administration apparently demonstrated its incompetence by failing to get the assassination program off the ground. In other words, the debate is centered on peripheral issues, not on the substance of extrajudicial murders.

Similarly, Attorney General Eric Holder is said to be leaning toward appointing a special prosecutor to investigate some CIA personnel for torturing detainees, but only if they went beyond the parameters of torture that had been spelled out by Bush administration lawyers. In other words, senior government officials who sanctioned limited waterboarding and other torture techniques would not be held to account, only overzealous interrogators who went even further.

A Sordid History

Like torture, assassinations and the use of other lethal force against unarmed suspects and civilians violates a variety of laws and has a notorious history in irregular warfare, both regarding cross-border murders and violent repression of an indigenous resistance in which guerrillas and their political supporters blend in with the local population.

And, at least inside and near the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s “global war on terror” appears to have recreated what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist backers.

Through a classified Pentagon training program known as “Project X,” the lessons of Operation Phoenix from the 1960s were passed on to Third World armies, especially in Latin America, giving a green light to some of the “dirty wars” that swept the region, causing tens of thousands of political murders, widespread use of torture, and secret detentions.

Bush’s alleged plan for global hit teams also has similarities to “Operation Condor” in which South American right-wing military regimes in the 1970s sent assassins on cross-border operations to eliminate “subversives.”

Despite quiet support and encouragement for Latin American “death squads” through much of the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. government presented itself as the standard-bearer for human rights and criticized American adversaries that engaged in extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions.

That gap between American rhetoric and reality widened after 9/11 as Bush announced his “global war on terror,” while continuing to impress the American news media with pretty words about his commitment to human rights – as occurred in his address to the United Nations on Sept. 25, 2007.

Under Bush’s double standards, he took the position that he could override both international law and the U.S. Constitution in deciding who would get basic human rights and who wouldn’t. He saw himself as the final judge of whether people he deemed “bad guys” should live or die, or possibly face indefinite imprisonment and torture.

Yet, whatever Bush and other higher-ups approved as “rules of engagement,” the practice of murdering unarmed suspects – especially after they’ve been detained – violated the law of war and could have opened up the offending country’s chain of command to war-crimes charges.

However, while such actions by leaders of, say, Serbia or Sudan would provoke demands for war-crimes tribunals, other rules apply when the offending nation is the United States. Given its “superpower” status, the United States and its senior leadership appear to be effectively beyond the reach of international law – and in the case of Bush, beyond domestic accountability.

Downplaying a Slaughter

By and large, the U.S. military also has failed to impose serious punishments on American troops implicated in extrajudicial killings and massacres, even high-profile ones like the killing of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, after one Marine died from an improvised explosive device.

According to published accounts of U.S. military investigations, the dead Marine’s comrades retaliated by pulling five men from a cab and shooting them, and clearing two homes where civilians, including women and children, were slaughtered.

The Marines then tried to cover up the killings by claiming that the civilian deaths were caused by the original explosion or a subsequent firefight, according to investigations by the U.S. military and human rights groups.

One of the accused Marines, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, gave his account of the Haditha killings in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” including an admission that his squad tossed a grenade into one of the residences without knowing who was inside.

“Frank, help me understand,” asked interviewer Scott Pelley. “You’re in a residence, how do you crack a door open and roll a grenade into a room?”

“At that point, you can’t hesitate to make a decision,” Wuterich answered. “Hesitation equals being killed, either yourself or your men.”

“But when you roll a grenade in a room through the crack in the door, that’s not positive identification, that’s taking a chance on anything that could be behind that door,” Pelley said.

“Well, that’s what we do. That’s how our training goes,” Wuterich said.

Eight Marines were initially charged in the Haditha case, but six cases were dropped, one Marine was acquitted, and Wuterich’s case has been delayed by legal skirmishing. As in earlier cases, such as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, courts martial have mostly focused on rank-and-file soldiers.

The lack of high-level accountability appears to stem from the fact that the key instigators of both the illegal invasion of Iraq and the harsh tactics employed in the “global war on terror” were former President Bush, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior officials. President Barack Obama has made clear he doesn’t want Bush and his top aides punished.

Yet, not only did Bush order an aggressive war – what World War II’s Nuremberg Tribunal called “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” – but Bush pumped U.S. troops full of false propaganda by linking Iraq with the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s subliminal connections between the Iraq War and 9/11 continued years after U.S. intelligence dismissed any linkage. For instance, on June 18, 2005, more than two years into the Iraq War, Bush justified the invasion by telling the American people that “we went to war because we were attacked” on 9/11.

Little wonder that a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq – taken in January and February 2006 – found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks.” Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was “to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Bush’s rhetorical excesses had the predictable effect of turning loose a revenge-seeking and heavily armed U.S. military force on the Iraqi population.

‘Salvador Option’

By early 2005, with the Iraqi insurgency growing, an increasingly frustrated Bush administration also debated a “Salvador option” for Iraq, an apparent reference to the “death squad” operations that decimated the ranks of perceived leftists who were opposed to El Salvador’s right-wing military junta in the early 1980s.

According to Newsweek magazine, President Bush was contemplating the adoption of that brutal “still-secret strategy” of the Reagan administration as a way to get a handle on the spiraling violence in Iraq.

“Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy [in El Salvador] to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

The magazine also noted that many of Bush’s advisers were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as Elliott Abrams, who became an architect of Middle East policy on the National Security Council.

In the Iraqi-sniper case, Army sniper Sandoval admitted killing an Iraqi man near the town of Iskandariya on April 27, 2007, after a skirmish with insurgents. Sandoval testified that his team leader, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, ordered him to kill a man cutting grass with a rusty scythe because he was suspected of being an insurgent posing as a farmer.

The second killing occurred on May 11, 2007, when a man walked into a concealed location where Sandoval, Hensley and other snipers were hiding. After the Iraqi was detained, another sniper, Sgt. Evan Vela, was ordered to shoot the man in the head by Hensley and did so, according to Vela’s testimony at Sandoval’s court martial.

Sandoval and Hensley were acquitted of murder charges because a military jury concluded that their actions were within the rules of engagement. (Like Sandoval, Hensley was convicted of lesser charges relating to planting evidence.) But Vela was convicted of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence on the body, leading to a 10-year prison sentence.

Regarding the Afghanistan case, Special Forces Capt. Staffel and Sgt. Anderson were leading a team of Afghan soldiers when an informant told them where a suspected insurgent leader was hiding. The U.S.-led contingent found a man believed to be Nawab Buntangyar walking outside his compound near the village of Hasan Kheyl.

While the Americans kept their distance out of fear the suspect might be wearing a suicide vest, the Afghanis questioned the man about his name and the Americans checked his description against a list from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, known as “the kill-or-capture list.”

Concluding that the man was insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar, Staffel gave the order to shoot, and Anderson – from a distance of about 100 yards away – fired a bullet through the man’s head, killing him instantly.

The soldiers viewed the killing as “a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement,” the International Herald Tribune reported. “The men said such rules allowed them to kill Buntangyar, whom the American military had designated a terrorist cell leader, once they positively identified him.”

Staffel’s civilian lawyer Mark Waple said the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded that the shooting was “justifiable homicide,” but a two-star general in Afghanistan instigated a murder charge against the two men. That case, however, floundered over accusations that the charge was improperly filed. [IHT, Sept. 17, 2007]

The U.S. news media has given the Fort Bragg case only minor coverage concentrating mostly on the legal sparring. The New York Times’ inside-the-paper, below-the-fold headline on Sept. 19, 2007, was “Green Beret Hearing Focuses on How Charges Came About.”

The Washington Post did publish a front-page story on the “bait” aspect of the Sandoval case – when family members of U.S. soldiers implicated in the killings came forward with evidence of high-level encouragement of the snipers – but the U.S. news media treated the story mostly as a minor event and drew no larger implications.

The greater significance of the cases is that they confirm the long-whispered allegations that the U.S. chain of command had approved standing orders giving the U.S. military broad discretion to kill suspected militants on sight.

Whatever the full story about President Bush’s CIA hit team, the facts are already clear that his “global war on terror” had morphed into an international “dirty war” with Bush now having passed off command to President Obama.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

Obama and the Torturers

June 25, 2009

Celebrate Torture Day by Punishing the Torturers

By James Bovard | Counterpunch, June 25, 2009

Since 1997, every June 26 has been formally recognized as the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture. Political leaders around the globe take the occasion to proclaim their opposition to barbarism.

On June 26, 2003, President George W. Bush proudly declared“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture, and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.”

Continued >>


Nuremberg Set a Valid Precedent for Trials of War-crime Suspects in Iraq’s Destruction

May 28, 2009

By Cesar Chelala | The Japan  Times, May 27, 2009

New York – The Nuremberg Principles, a set of guidelines established after World War II to try Nazi Party members, were developed to determine what constitutes a war crime. The principles can also be applied today when considering the conditions that led to the Iraq war and, in the process, to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, many of them children, and to the devastation of a country’s infrastructure.

In January 2003, a group of American law professors warned President George W. Bush that he and senior officials of his government could be prosecuted for war crimes if their military tactics violated international humanitarian law. The group, led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, sent similar warnings to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Although Washington is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC), U.S. officials could be prosecuted in other countries under the Geneva Convention, says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner likened the situation to the attempt by Spanish magistrate Baltazar Garzon to prosecute former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet when Pinochet was under house arrest in London.

Both former President George W. Bush and senior officials in his government could be tried for their responsibility for torture and other war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.

In addition, should Nuremberg principles be followed by an investigating tribunal, former President Bush and other senior officials in his administration could be tried for violation of fundamental Nuremberg principles.

In 2007, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, told The Sunday Telegraph that he could envisage a scenario in which both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and then President Bush faced charges at The Hague.

Perhaps one of the most serious breaches of international law by the Bush administration was the doctrine of “preventive war.” In the case of the Iraq war, it was carried out without authorization from the U.N. Security Council in violation of the U.N. Charter, which forbids armed aggression and violations of any state’s sovereignty except for immediate self-defense.

As stated in the U.S. Constitution, international treaties agreed to by the United States are part of the “supreme law of the land.” “Launching a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify,” said Justice Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor for the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Benjamin Ferencz, also a former chief prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials, declared that “a prima facie case can be made that the United States is guilty of the supreme crime against humanity — that being an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation.”

The conduct and the consequences of the Iraq war are subsumed under “Crimes against Peace and War” of Nuremberg Principle VI, which defines as crimes against peace “(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).” In the section on war crimes, Nuremberg Principle VI includes “murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property.”

The criminal abuse of prisoners in U.S. military prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo are clear evidence of ill- treatment and even murder.

According to the organization Human Rights First, at least 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror,” eight of whom were tortured to death.

As for the plunder of public or private property, there is evidence that even before the war started, members of the Bush administration had already drawn up plans to privatize and sell Iraqi property, particularly that related to oil.

Although there are obvious hindrances to trying a former U.S. president and his associates, such a trial is fully justified by legal precedents such as the Nuremberg Principles and by the extent of the toll in human lives that the breach of international law has exacted.

Cesar Chelala, a cowinner of the Overseas Press Club of America award, writes extensively on human rights issues.

Dozens of CIA “Ghost Prisoners” Missing

April 26, 2009

By William Fisher | Inter Press Service News

NEW YORK, Apr 24 (IPS) – At least three dozen detainees who were held in the CIA’s secret prisons overseas appear to be missing – and efforts by human rights organisations to track their whereabouts have been unsuccessful.

The story of these “ghost prisoners” was comprehensively documented last week by Pro Publica, an online investigative journalism group.

In September 2007, Michael V. Hayden, then director of the CIA, said, “fewer than 100 people had been detained at CIA’s facilities.” One memo released last week confirmed that the CIA had custody of at least 94 people as of May 2005 and “employed enhanced techniques to varying degrees in the interrogations of 28 of these.”

Former President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the CIA programme in September 2006, and transferred 14 prisoners from the secret jails to Guantanamo. Many other prisoners, who had “little or no additional intelligence value,” Bush said, “have been returned to their home countries for prosecution or detention by their governments.”

But Bush did not reveal their identities or whereabouts – information that would have allowed the International Committee for the Red Cross to find them – or the terms under which the prisoners were handed over to foreign jailers.

The U.S. government has never released information describing the threat any of them posed. Some of the prisoners have since been released by third countries holding them, but it is still unclear what has happened to dozens of others, and no foreign governments have acknowledged holding them.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney with the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents Majid Khan, a former ghost detainee at Guantánamo, told IPS, “The Obama administration must change course from its ‘forward-looking’ path because it leaves too many critical questions unanswered, including those about the fate of ghost prisoners held by the United States.”

“The United States is strong enough to examine the CIA and other agencies’ activities, to punish individuals who violated our laws, and to ensure that our nation does not slip to the dark side again,” she said.

Pro Publica reported that former officials in the Bush administration said that the CIA spent weeks during the summer of 2006 – shortly before Bush acknowledged the CIA prisons and suspended the programme – transferring prisoners to Pakistani, Egyptian and Jordanian custody.

The organisation said the population inside the programme had been shrinking since the existence of the prisons was detailed in a Washington Post article in November 2005. Renewed diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Libya in May 2006 made it possible for the CIA to turn over Libyan prisoners to Moammar Gadhafi’s control.

Joanne Mariner, director of the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Programme at Human Rights Watch, said, “If these men are now rotting in some Egyptian dungeon, the administration can’t pretend that it’s closed the door on the CIA programme.”

“Making the Justice Department memos on the CIA’s secret prison programme public was an important first step, but the Obama administration needs to reveal the fate and whereabouts of every person who was held in CIA custody,” she said.

The Red Cross has had access to and documented the experiences of only the 14 so-called “high value detainees” who were publicly moved out of the CIA programme and into the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

In June 2007, human rights groups released the names of three dozen people whose fates remained unknown.

“Until the U.S. government clarifies the fate and whereabouts of these individuals, these people are still disappeared, and disappearance is one of the most grave international human rights violations,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, a law professor at New York University. “We clearly don’t know the story of everyone who has been through the programme. We need to find out where they are and what happened.”

In a related development, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked the Obama administration to make public records pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram and their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention. The ACLU is also seeking records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

“The U.S. government’s detention of hundreds of prisoners at Bagram has been shrouded in complete secrecy. Bagram houses far more prisoners than Guantánamo, in reportedly worse conditions and with an even less meaningful process for challenging their detention, yet very little information about the Bagram facility or the prisoners held there has been made public,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

She told IPS, “Without transparency, we can’t be sure that we’re doing the right thing – or even holding the right people – at Bagram.”

Recent news reports suggest that the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram.

Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.

“When prisoners are in American custody and under American control, no matter the location, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake,” said Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “Now that President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut down, it is critical that we don’t permit ‘other Gitmos’ to continue elsewhere.”

The ACLU’s request is addressed to the Departments of Defence, Justice and State, as well as the CIA.

A federal judge recently ruled that three prisoners being held by the U.S. at Bagram can challenge their detention in U.S. courts, in habeas corpus suits brought by a group of human rights legal advocates.

The prisoners, who were captured outside of Afghanistan and are not Afghan citizens, have been held there for more than six years without charge or access to counsel. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling.

Mr. President, War Crimes Must Be Investigated

April 19, 2009

by Ruth Rosen | CommonDreams.org, April 18, 2009

The memos about torture released by the Obama administration are horrifying to read. Nothing new, here, but they are like a punch in the stomach all over again. This is my country? This is the nation that stands for freedom and decency?

I understand why President Obama doesn’t want to prosecute those who believed they were acting under laws written by the Justice Department. But that is not the only policy he and other Democrats can pursue.

First, the men who wrote those memos should be investigated for disbarment. They acted in ways that are unconscionable and unprofessional, to put it mildly.

Second, neither the President nor Congress should investigate these crimes. They must be pursued by a special independent investigator who has no political ax to grind. Now you may well ask, who approves of torture? Well, hardly anyone, except those in the Bush administration who justified or directed these war crimes.

Third, how can we allow a sitting federal judge to remain on the bench–for life– when he provided legal justification for torture? I speak here, of course, of Stephen L. Bybee, who should resign or be impeached.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because the country I care so much about has breached some of the most important international conventions in modern history and yet no major leaders have been held accountable. If the investigation goes straight to Vice-President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, then so be it.

Remember the date over whether President Ford should have pardoned President Nixon for his violations of the constitution? The best argument for that pardon was that Nixon HAD been held accountable and had to resign his office. He had, in short, received a serious punishment.

President Obama’s instincts are right to avoid a drawn-out partisan conflict over the past. But if we are truly a nation of laws, committed to the decency and morality we embrace, we cannot let people who justify or commit torture and other war crimes to escape prosecution. Those who agree should make their voices loud, joining Amnesty International, the ACLU and many thousands of other Americans who will allow war crimes to be committee in their name.

Ruth Rosen, a journalist and historian, is professor emerita of history at the University of California, Davis and a visiting professor of public policy and history at UC Berkeley. For 11 years, she wrote op-ed columns for the Los Angeles Times, and from 2000-2004 she worked full-time as a political columnist and editorial page writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.

How Bush’s Tortured Legal Logic Won

April 17, 2009

Robert Parry | Consortiumnews.com, April 17, 2009

Almost as disturbing as reading the Bush administration’s approved menu of brutal interrogation techniques is recognizing how President George W. Bush successfully shopped for government attorneys willing to render American laws meaningless by turning words inside out.

The four “torture” memos, released Thursday, revealed not just that the stomach-turning reports about CIA interrogators abusing “war on terror” suspects were true, but that the United States had gone from a “nation of laws” to a “nation of legal sophistry” – where conclusions on law are politically preordained and the legal analysis is made to fit.

You have passages like this in the May 10, 2005, memo by Steven Bradbury, then acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel:

“Another question is whether the requirement of ‘prolonged mental harm’ caused by or resulting from one of the enumerated predicate acts is a separate requirement, or whether such ‘prolonged mental harm’ is to be presumed any time one of the predicate acts occurs.”

As each phrase in the Convention Against Torture was held up to such narrow examination, the forest of criminal torture was lost in the trees of arcane legal jargon. Collectively, the memos leave a disorienting sense that any ambiguity in words can be twisted to justify almost anything.

So, a “war on terror” prisoner could not only be locked up in solitary confinement indefinitely based on the sole authority of President Bush but could be subjected to a battery of abusive and humiliating tactics, all in the name of extracting some information that purportedly would help keep the United States safe – and it would not be called “torture.”

Some tactics were bizarre, like feeding detainees a liquid diet of Ensure to make “other techniques, such as sleep deprivation, more effective.” The memo’s sleep deprivation clause, in turn, allowed interrogators to shackle prisoners to an overhead pipe (or in some other uncomfortable position) for up to 180 hours (or seven-and-a-half days).

While shackled, the prisoner would be dressed in a diaper that “is checked regularly and changed as necessary.” The memo asserted that “the use of the diaper is for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee, and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique.”

Beyond the painful disorientation from depriving a person of sleep while chained in a standing position for days, the Justice Department memos called for prisoners to be forced into other “stress positions” for varying periods of time to cause “the physical discomfort associated with muscle fatigue.”

Tiny Boxes

The detainees also could be put into small, dark boxes where they could barely move (and in the case of one detainee, Abu Zubaydah, could have an insect slipped into his box as a way of playing on his fear of bugs), according to the Aug. 1, 2002, memo.

“The duration of confinement varies based upon the size of the container,” the May 10, 2005, memo added, with the smaller space (sitting only) restricted to two hours at a time and a somewhat larger box (permitting standing) limited to eight hours at a time and 18 hours a day.

Then, there were various slaps, grabs and slamming a prisoner against a “flexible” wall while his neck was in a sling “to help prevent whiplash.”

Prisoners also were subjected to forced nudity, sometimes in the presence of women, according to the May 10 memo.

“We understand that interrogators are trained to avoid sexual innuendo or any acts of implicit or explicit sexual degradation,” the memo said. “Nevertheless, interrogators can exploit the detainee’s fear of being seen naked.

“In addition, female officers involved in the interrogation process may see the detainees naked; and for purposes of our analysis, we will assume that detainees subjected to nudity as an interrogation technique are aware that they may be seen naked by females.”

Another approved technique was “water dousing” in which a detainee is sprayed with water that can be as cold as 41 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 20 minutes. Slightly warmer water could be used to douse a prisoner for longer periods of time.

Both the 2002 and 2005 memos permitted the “waterboard,” a technique that involves covering a prisoner’s face with a cloth and pouring water on it to create the panicked sensation of drowning. The interrogators also were authorized to prevent a detainee from trying to “defeat the technique” by thrashing about or trying to breathe from the corner of his mouth.

“The interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee’s nose and mouth to dam the runoff, in which case it would not be possible for the detainee to breathe during the application of the water,” the May 10 memo reads. “In addition, you have informed us that the technique may be applied in a manner to defeat efforts by the detainee to hold his breath by, for example, beginning an application of water as the detainee is exhaling.”

At least since the days of the Spanish Inquisition, waterboarding has been regarded as torture. The U.S. government prosecuted Japanese soldiers who used it against American troops in World War II. But the legal reasoning of the Bush administration’s memos transformed waterboarding into an acceptable method of interrogation.

Lawyer-Shopping

Although the four released memos included the most famous one – from Aug. 1, 2002, which provided the initial legal cover for abusive interrogations – the three others from May 2005 may be more significant in destroying the legal cover that President Bush and his senior aides have hidden behind.

Their claim has been that they were simply operating within legal parameters set by lawyers at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is responsible for advising Presidents on the limits of their authority. In other words, professional lawyers provided objective legal advice and the administration simply followed it.

But that claim now collides with the reality that other Justice Department lawyers – from 2003 to 2005 – overturned the initial memo and resisted its reimplementation until they were ousted. In effect, the Bush administration appears to have gone lawyer-shopping for attorneys who would craft opinions that the White House wanted.

Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee signed the original Aug. 1, 2002, “torture” memo and other opinions granting expansive presidential powers (drafted by his deputy John Yoo).

However, Bybee quit in 2003 to accept President Bush’s appointment of him as a federal appeals court judge in San Francisco, and his successor as head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, withdrew many Bybee-Yoo memos as legally flawed.

Goldsmith’s actions angered the White House, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal counsel David Addington. In a 2007 book, The Terror Presidency, Goldsmith described one White House meeting at which Addington pulled out a 3-by-5-inch card listing the OLC opinions that Goldsmith had withdrawn.

“Since you’ve withdrawn so many legal opinions that the President and others have been relying on,” Addington said sarcastically, “we need you to go through all of OLC’s opinions and let us know which ones you will stand by.”

Though supported by Deputy Attorney General James Comey, Goldsmith succumbed to the White House pressure and quit in 2004. Still, despite Goldsmith’s departure, Comey and the new acting head of the OLC, Daniel Levin, resisted restoring the administration’s right to use the harsh interrogation techniques.

That didn’t occur until White House counsel Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General in 2005 and made Bradbury the acting chief of the OLC. After signing the three “torture” memos in May, Bradbury was rewarded with Bush’s formal nomination in June to be Assistant Attorney General for the OLC (although he never gained Senate confirmation).

Comey Departs

With the OLC reaffirming the administration’s interrogation techniques, Comey’s days were numbered.

Though having been a successful prosecutor on past terrorism cases, such as the Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 U.S. servicemen in 1996, Comey had earned the derisive nickname from Bush as “Cuomey” or just “Cuomo,” a strong insult from Republicans who deemed former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to be excessively liberal and famously indecisive.

On Aug. 15, 2005, in his farewell speech, Comey urged his colleagues to defend the integrity and honesty of the Justice Department.

“I expect that you will appreciate and protect an amazing gift you have received as an employee of the Department of Justice,” Comey said. “It is a gift you may not notice until the first time you stand up and identify yourself as an employee of the Department of Justice and say something – whether in a courtroom, a conference room or a cocktail party – and find that total strangers believe what you say next.

“That gift – the gift that makes possible so much of the good we accomplish – is a reservoir of trust and credibility, a reservoir built for us, and filled for us, by those who went before – most of whom we never knew. They were people who made sacrifices and kept promises to build that reservoir of trust.

“Our obligation – as the recipients of that great gift – is to protect that reservoir, to pass it to those who follow, those who may never know us, as full as we got it. The problem with reservoirs is that it takes tremendous time and effort to fill them, but one hole in a dam can drain them.

“The protection of that reservoir requires vigilance, an unerring commitment to truth, and a recognition that the actions of one may affect the priceless gift that benefits all. I have tried my absolute best – in matters big and small – to protect that reservoir and inspire others to protect it.”

Though the full import of Comey’s comments was not apparent at the time, it now appears that he was referring to the legal gamesmanship that Bradbury and others had used to circumvent American laws and traditions to enable the Bush administration to engage in torture.

In releasing the four memos on Thursday, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder repeated their rejection of the Bybee-Yoo-Bradbury legal theories, but also stipulated that they would oppose any legal action against the CIA interrogators who abused detainees under the Bush administration’s legal guidance.

Neither Obama nor Holder spoke specifically about possible legal accountability for Bush’s compliant lawyers — or for Bush and his top aides who oversaw the torture policies and picked the lawyers. However, Obama recommended a focus on the future, not the past.

Calling the period covered by the four memos a “dark and painful chapter in our history,” Obama added that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

The lack of accountability for Bush and his lawyers, however, may mean that future Presidents will follow Bush’s lead and assign some clever legal wordsmiths the job of finding ways around criminal statutes, international treaties and the U.S. Constitution.

If legal language can be interpreted any way that a President wishes – and if the U.S. Supreme Court is stocked with like-minded judges – then laws will no longer protect anyone, whether a suspected Middle Eastern terrorist or an American citizen.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.


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