Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Side’

BOOKS-US: “A Policy of Deliberate Cruelty”

September 11, 2008

By Mark Weisenmiller | Inter-Press Service News

TAMPA, Florida, Sep 10 (IPS) – Perhaps the most thorough and informative book about the George W. Bush administration’s approval of the use of torture and “extraordinary renditions” of alleged terrorists to third countries has continued to stay on bestseller lists.

First published in July, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals” (Doubleday) by Jane Mayer is still listed among the top 10 nonfiction best-selling books of 2008 by The New York Times.

In the book, Mayer, a reporter for The New Yorker magazine, shows in detail how high-level officials of the Bush administration, particularly in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, took advantage of the fear and paranoia that gripped the country after the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001 to launch “an ideological trench war” and “a policy of deliberate cruelty that would’ve been unthinkable on Sept. 10”.

While Bush supported the overall strategy, he was almost a minor player, Mayer reports. “President Bush is not typically interested in fine details. He left those to others in the formation of the military commissions, and other areas,” she told IPS.

Arguably, the two administration officials whose post-9/11 policy decisions are most responsible for leaving the United States’ “reputation as a lead defender of democracy and human rights…in tatters”, in Mayer’s words, were Cheney and his Chief of Staff David Addington, whom Mayer notes the vice president came to rely on heavily for legal advice in prosecuting the “war on terror”.

In June this year, Addington was subpoenaed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee — along with former Justice Department attorney John Yoo — about detainee treatment, interrogation methods and the limits of executive authority.

Mayer, who was in the room when Addington testified, said “I…was struck by his utter contempt for both the Congressional panel that was quizzing him, and the gathering press.”

“He evidently thought that hauteur was the way to win the day, which was another example of his astoundingly poor political sense…I think at the moment, it’s a stretch to think that there is the necessary political will to prosecute top administration figures like Addington, who could argue that they were simply doing what they thought was necessary to protect the country.”

Regarding Cheney, she writes in “The Dark Side” that the vice president lived in such a state of anxiety after the 9/11 attacks that “…he was chauffeured in an armoured motorcade that varied its route to foil possible attackers. On the back seat behind Cheney rested a duffle bag stocked with a gas mask and a biochemical survival suit.”

Mayer asked repeatedly to interview Addington and Cheney and was refused. A one-paragraph statement by the CIA, regarding the conduct of its agents in the interrogation of alleged terrorists, is on the last page of “The Dark Side”.

However, she did manage to interview hundreds of sources in and around the Bush White House, as well as sources from the Red Cross, compiling a grim picture of interrogation and abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

The book describes the use of alleged forms of torture by members of a little-known U.S. military programme called SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). It also explores the CIA’s hiring of psychologists of questionable abilities and morals, who proceeded to encourage the use of interrogation methods that were created decades ago, ironically enough by the former Soviet Union’s KGB secret police agency, and points out how essentially no piece of relevant information has ever resulted from such interrogations.

Mayer also looks at renditions, the transfer of suspected terrorists by U.S. authorities, mainly the CIA, to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques and torture. Asked if she believed that renditions were still being done by U.S. government agents, even though the practice has now been exposed by the world’s media, Mayer told IPS, “After the bad publicity surrounding them, there is likely a greater effort to ensure that they (U.S. government agencies) are not ‘rendering’ mistaken suspects, or sending them to be tortured, in contravention of the law, but the programme exists in a classified realm where this is hard to determine.”

Among the many disturbing incidents recounted in the book is the last night of Manadel al-Jamadi.

He was an Iraqi suspect who was detained outside of Baghdad at approximately four a.m. local time on Nov. 4, 2003. “An hour later, he was dead. An autopsy performed by military pathologists classified his death as a homicide,” writes Mayer.

She goes on to report that “Jamadi was driven first to an Army base for debriefing, where the (U.S. Navy special forces unit) SEALs punched, kicked, and struck him with their rifle muzzles for some 20 minutes.” Jamadi was later interrogated by CIA operatives at Abu Ghraib prison, where he was hung up by his wrists, and subsequently killed.

Eight members of the SEALs platoon received administrative punishment for abuse of al-Jamadi and other prisoners, but Mark Swanner, the CIA interrogator, has faced no charges.

“I hope readers (of “The Dark Side”) come away with a vivid sense of how far from American traditions the Bush administration strayed in choosing to set aside the rule of law, in it’s approach to the war on terror,” noted Mayer. “There have been other lapses in the past, but as Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late presidential historian told me ‘Nothing has hurt America more (in the world) ever.’.”

The Dark Side Of The “Free World”

August 31, 2008

By Rob Gowland | Information Clearing House

The book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, published in mid-July, is written by US journalist Jane Mayer, whose specialty is writing about counter-­terrorism for The New Yorker.

The book has particularly peeved the CIA and its boss in the White House for, apparently, Ms Mayer has had access to a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross issued last year labelling the CIA’s interrogation methods for “high-level Qaeda prisoners” as “categorically” torture. In consequence, the Bush administration officials who approved these methods would be guilty of war crimes.

The book says the Red Cross report was shared with the CIA, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It would not be the first time of course that US authorities (civil, intelligence or military) have indulged in or turned a blind eye to torture or other forms of horrifying brutality.

One thinks of their blood-soaked activities to thwart the former Communist Resistance leaders from gaining political power in Western Europe after WW2, or their even more bloody destruction of democracy in Guatemala or Chile, El Salvador and pre-Castro Cuba.

The many atrocities by US forces in Korea and Vietnam were far too numerous to be the work of “rotten apples”; they were clearly the result of US government and military policy, just like the actions of the US military in charge of the Abu Graib prison in Iraq.

A society that bases itself on force and brutality, on state terrorism, while simultaneously indulging in the most hypocritical lip-service to the ideals of humaneness and justice, cannot but find excuses for torture.

Only last year or the year before, Amnesty International — an organisation not noted for being hostile to the USA — stated that the procedures in many US civilian jails amounted to torture. Military prisons operated by the US in other countries must surely be hell on earth.

Red Cross representatives were only permitted to interview high-level “terrorist” detainees in late 2006, after they were moved to the military detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Until then, while the prisoners were being “interrogated” in the CIA’s secret prisons, the Red Cross was not given access to them.

It is now well known that these secret prisons are located in US client states, some in Eastern Europe where anti-Communist regimes are all too willing to co-operate with their US backers, and some in states like Egypt that are equally dependent on US support. Significantly, they all practice torture.

We have all seen the images from Guantánamo Bay of prisoners, shackled and manacled, stumbling along with a guard on either side. But all the time, the particularly frightening threat hangs over them of being taken from there and returned to one of the secret prisons away from any prying eyes.

In testimony to the Red Cross, Abu Zubaydah, the first major Al Qaeda figure the United States captured, told how he was confined in a box “so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the foetal position” and was one of several prisoners to be “slammed against the walls”.

The CIA has admitted that Abu Zubaydah and two other prisoners were water-boarded, a form of torture in which water is poured in the nose and mouth of the victim to simulate the sensation of suffocation and drowning.

The Pentagon and the CIA have both defended water-boarding on the same grounds: “because it works”, the torturer’s classic justification. Jane Mayer’s book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he had been water-boarded at least ten times in a single week and as many as three times in a day.

The Red Cross report says that another high level prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, told them that he had been kept naked for more than a month and claimed that he had been “kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room”.

A New York Times article on the report says the prisoners considered the “most excruciating” of the methods was being shackled to the ceiling and being forced to stand for as long as eight hours. This is a well-known torture technique that has severe physical effects on the victim’s body.

According to The New York Times article, eleven of the 14 prisoners reported to the Red Cross that they had suffered prolonged sleep deprivation, including “bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day”.

The New York Times reported that a CIA spokesman had confirmed that Red Cross workers had been “granted access to the detained terrorists at Guantánamo and heard their claims”.

The same CIA spokesman said the agency’s interrogations were based on “detailed legal guidance from the Department of Justice” and had “produced solid information that has contributed directly to the disruption of terrorist activities”. There’s that justification of torture again.

Bernard Barrett of the International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on the book when asked by The New York Times. He did not deny any of the book’s claims, but regretted “that any information has been attributed to us” because, it seems, the International Committee of the Red Cross “believes its work is more effective when confidential”!

He went on to say: “We have an ongoing confidential dialogue with members of the US intelligence community, and we would share any observations or recommendations with them.”

So that’s OK then.

Madness and Shame

July 23, 2008

by: Bob Herbert, The New York Times

You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney, but without the vice president’s sense of humor.

In her important new book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker devotes a great deal of space to David Addington, Dick Cheney’s main man and the lead architect of the Bush administration’s legal strategy for the so-called war on terror.

She quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: “No one stood to his right.” Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: “He doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”

Very few voters are aware of Mr. Addington’s existence, much less what he stands for. But he was the legal linchpin of the administration’s Marquis de Sade approach to battling terrorism. In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror – regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say – was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it.

This is the mind-set that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and the C.I.A.’s secret prisons, known as “black sites.”

Ms. Mayer wrote: “The legal doctrine that Addington espoused – that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it – rested on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shared.”

When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded.

Continued . . .

%d bloggers like this: