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Scott Horton, who has led coverage of Bush-era wrongdoing, exposes three pervasive myths—and the surprising reason Cheney and Rove are keeping the issue alive.
- A torture memo writer refused to comply with a warning about criminal risks—and exposes the truth about the policies.
- Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are convinced that Bush-era torture policy is a promising political product for a party down on its luck.
- Donald Rumsfeld gave step-by-step directions for techniques used at Abu Ghraib.
- Torture techniques originated from the White House shortly after 9/11—long before they were arguably needed on the battlefield.
- Torture was used by Cheney and Rumsfeld to find justification for the invasion of Iraq.
- Jay Bybee was confirmed to a lifetime appointment as all eyes were on Colin Powell’s speech to the U.N. about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.
In the space of a week, the torture debate in America has been suddenly transformed. The Bush administration left office resting its case on the claim it did not torture. The gruesome photographs from Abu Ghraib, it had said, were the product of “a few bad apples” and not of government policy. But the release of a series of grim documents has laid waste to this defense. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report—adopted with the support of leading Republican Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham—has demonstrated step-by-step how abuses on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan had their genesis in policy choices made at the pinnacle of the Bush administration. A set of four Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memoranda from the Bush era has provided a stomach-turning legal justification of the application of specific torture techniques, including waterboarding.
Rove and Cheney are convinced that Bush-era torture policy is a promising political product for a party down on its luck. Its success on the political stage is just one more 9/11-style attack away.
The first 100 days of the Obama administration presented a historic opportunity to restore the Constitution after the Bush administration’s systematic attempts to dismantle it, right by right, while ignoring international human rights standards. Yet, despite several strong steps, the Obama presidency has failed to live up to its promises in many areas of critical importance, including human rights, torture, rendition, secrecy and surveillance.
The Primacy of Healing: Politics and Combat Stress in America
By Tyler E. Boudreau | Truthout
I am a veteran of the war in Iraq. Like many, I came home bearing an unexpected skepticism toward our operations there and a fresh perspective on America's use of military power. And also like many, I found myself emotionally and psychologically harried by my experiences on the battlefield. But unlike many, I landed after discharge in a community where criticism for the war was both socially acceptable and, in fact, quite common, leaving me free to process a distress which was directly connected to US foreign policy. I was, literally and figuratively, right at home. So, I couldn't help noticing how the political dissent of my community was facilitating my mental healing. That has given me reason to consider all the ways in which politics has corresponded with and influenced the understanding and acceptance of combat stress. And while combat stress survivors have, in some ways, benefited from this relationship; they have suffered from it as well.
Combat stress has a stigmatic heritage, well-recognized now, but that was not always so. World War I was an era in which distraught soldiers were often labeled "men of deficient character"; and yet, the unspeakable carnage of its battles seemed to have offered latitude enough in the aftermath for the painful expressions of its veterans. But after the infinitely more popular World War II, veterans became known more for reticence than effusion and for a stoical veneer beneath which (we know now) a growing tumult was quietly raging. With the country so steeped in enthusiasm, it is not surprising that their invisible wounds went largely unnoticed. After all, with whom, in such a climate, might a veteran have shared his horrible stories?
By Dave Lindorff
For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.
The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, reality, in the form of their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, that could avoid being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.
That situation has continued to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.
By Harry Giroux | Truthout
With the election of Barack Obama, it has been argued that not only will the social state be renewed in the spirit and legacy of the New Deal, but that the punishing racial state and its vast complex of disciplinary institutions will, if not come to an end, at least be significantly reformed. From this perspective, Obama's presidency not only represents a post-racial victory, but also signals a new space of post-racial harmony. In assessing the Obama victory, Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein wrote, "It is a place where the primacy of racial identity - and this includes the old Jesse Jackson version of black racial identity - has been replaced by the celebration of pluralism, of cross-racial synergy." Obama won the 2008 election because he was able to mobilize 95 percent of African-Americans, two-thirds of all Latinos and a large proportion of young people under the age of 30. At the same time, what is generally forgotten in the exuberance of this assessment is that the majority of white Americans voted for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket. While "post-racial" may mean less overt racism, the idea that we have moved into a post-racial period in American history is not merely premature - it is an act of willful denial and ignorance. Paul Ortiz puts it well in his comments on the myth of post-racialism:
The idea that we've moved to a post-racial period in American social history is undermined by an avalanche of recent events. Hurricane Katrina. The US Supreme Court's dismantling of Brown vs. Board of Education and the resegregation of American schools. The Clash of Civilizations thesis that promotes the idea of a War against Islam. The backlash facing immigrant workers. A grotesque prison industrial complex. [Moreover] ... [w]hile Americans were being robbed blind and primed for yet another bailout of the banks and investment sectors, they were treated to new evidence from Fox News and poverty experts that the great moral threats facing the nation were greedy union workers, black single mothers, Latino gang bangers and illegal immigrants.
Poland's Krystian Zimerman, widely regarded as one of the finest pianists in the world, created a furor Sunday night in his debut at Walt Disney Concert Hall when he announced this would be his last performance in America because of the nation's military policies overseas.
AD HOC CAMPAIGN TO FREE EHREN WATADA | Press Release
End the U.S. Army’s Prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada: The Justice Department Can Say No to Army’s Legal Appeal
In June 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused orders to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal and immoral. His court martial in February 2007 ended in an Army-contrived mistrial. In October 2007, the Army attempt to have a second court martial was stopped by a Federal judge who ruled that a second court martial would be double jeopardy. But the Army has not allowed Lt. Watada to leave military service. Instead, they have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit of their plans to appeal the double jeopardy ruling. The Army has also threatened to revive old charges stemming from Lt. Watada’s speech in Seattle to the 2006 convention of Veterans For Peace.
Justice Department to Decide If Army Will Appeal Double Jeopardy Ruling
The U.S. Solicitor General’s office in the Department of Justice will soon decide whether the Army can go ahead with its plans to appeal Federal Court rulings in Lt. Watada’s favor.
Never Give A Life, Or Take A Life, For A Lie
A Call to American Generals to Respect the Rights of our Troops
by Veterans For Peace and Asian Pacific Islanders Resist
There are many kinds of betrayal in human affairs. But in the affairs of state, there is no greater act of disloyalty than to send young men and women to their deaths on the basis of fraud. No soldier should ever give a life, or take a life, for a lie.<
All American ranking officers and commanders take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. For self-serving generals, to be sure, the oath is a mere ritual, of no consequence to real behavior in war. But for generals of conscience and integrity (and here is our hope and reason for writing) their oath is a solemn obligation to the American people, especially to American troops, to abide by the law. Our men and women in uniform place great trust in their superiors. They risk their lives in the belief that they will not be used falsely, illegally, or for ill-gain.
If not the Justice Department lawyers, who gave the earlier go-ahead? The Senate report puts the onus directly on the decider-in-chief, President George W. Bush. He issued a written determination on February 7, 2002, "that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees."
Three cheers for Dick Cheney. The former vice president has urged, however rhetorically, that the Obama administration release more of the torture memos. "One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort," the former vice president told FoxNews.
"I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."
News reports differ as to whether Mr. Cheney has formally made the request, but he is absolutely right that the American people need to see the complete record. He is wrong about what the record will show. From the material already released or ferreted out by journalists, it is clear that he and Mr. Bush succeeded in using torture, not primarily to secure needed intelligence, but to create the propaganda they used to sell their invasion of Iraq.
In a CNN debate with Ari Fleischer, I said the United States executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding. My point was that it is disingenuous for Bush Republicans to argue that waterboarding is not torture and thus illegal. It's kind of awkward to argue that waterboarding is not a crime when you hanged someone for doing it to our troops. My precise words were: "Our country executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime we are now committing ourselves."
Mr. Fleischer, ordinarily the most voluble of men, was tongue-tied. The silence, rare in cable debates, spoke volumes for the vacuity of his position.
This is vital, because it reveals just how bad a card Cheney has to play in protecting himself from being prosecuted as a war criminal. The CIA inspector general's report found no evidence that torture had given any information that would not have been found using legal and moral means. Even one of the legal architects of the torture program, Steven Bradbury, had to concede that much:
"It is difficult to quantify with confidence and precision the effectiveness of the program," Steven G. Bradbury, then the Justice Department's principal deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in a May 30, 2005, memo to CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, one of four released last week by the Obama administration.
"As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. And because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, 'there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness'," Bradbury wrote, quoting the IG report.
More salient for future war crime prosecutions will be the fact that the actual waterboarding did not even follow the absurd attempts to make it non-torture:
CIA official: no proof harsh techniques stopped terror attacks
By Mark Seibel and Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers
The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.
That undercuts assertions by former vice president Dick Cheney and other former Bush administration officials that the use of harsh interrogation tactics including waterboarding, which is widely considered torture, was justified because it headed off terrorist attacks.
On a Saturday night in May last year, Jay S. Bybee hosted dinner for 35 at a Las Vegas restaurant. The young people seated around him had served as his law clerks in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the post Bybee had assumed after two turbulent years at the Justice Department, where as head of the Office of Legal Counsel he signed the legal justifications for harsh interrogations that have become known as the "torture memos."
Five years along in his new life as a federal judge, Bybee gathered the lawyers and their dates for a reunion, telling them he was proud of the legal work they had together produced.
The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."
"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.
It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that technical advisers on the harsh interrogation methods voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.
The document was included among July 2002 memorandums that described severe techniques used against Americans in past conflicts and the psychological effects of such treatment. JPRA ran the military program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which trains pilots and others to resist hostile questioning.
The cautionary attachment was forwarded to the Pentagon's Office of the General Counsel as the administration finalized the legal underpinnings of a CIA interrogation program that would sanction the use of 10 forms of coercion, including waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning. The JPRA material was sent from the Pentagon to the CIA's acting general counsel, John A. Rizzo, and on to the Justice Department, according to testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Now is the time for the left to exercise its political independence. Now is the time for us to revisit the political tradition of radical struggle in this country. Now is the time for us to pose our own solutions for what is clearly a broken system. Now is the time for us to call for an end to the wars abroad, and an end to the drug war at home. And now is the time to animate our struggles with the idea that another world is not only possible, but necessary....The road may be long, but the wind is at our back. Obama said in a recent meeting with CEOs, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." We need to say to Obama, "If you don't mind, please get out of the way."
5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said "my interest is to hit Saddam".
And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement "judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time", is the statement "Hard to get a good case." In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.
Moreover, "Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda".
And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.
And yet Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials claimed repeatedly for years that Saddam was behind 9/11. See this analysis. Indeed, Bush administration officials apparently swore in a lawsuit that Saddam was behind 9/11.
Fixing the Facts and Legal Opinions Around the Torture Policy: The Case for 'Looking Forward' to the Impeachment of Jay S. Bybee
Fixing the Facts and Legal Opinions Around the Torture Policy: The Case for 'Looking Forward' to the Impeachment of Jay S. Bybee
Guest Blogged by Ernest A. Canning | BradBlog
At the same time he took a step forward, releasing the four Justice Department torture memos he described as a "dark and painful chapter in our history," President Barack Obama assured CIA employees, who tortured under cover of these quasi-legal sophistries, they would not be prosecuted. The President said this was "a time for reflection, not retribution...nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibb explained that the President insisted on "looking forward." U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder not only seconded the President's promise not to prosecute, but vowed to provide legal counsel to defend these war criminals and to pay the damages awarded to their victims.
Great Britain's Times Online, quoting an unnamed former official, suggested there may be cases where the CIA exceeded the DOJ guidelines; perhaps even killed detainees. The President's hint at immunity does not extend to officials who exceeded the guidelines. Although the President, in his remarks, made no mention of those who ordered torture, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's George Stephanopoulos last Sunday that the President did not believe "those who devised the policy" should "be prosecuted."
The President's promise not to prosecute generated a firestorm of protest from the legal community. Law Professor Jonathan Turley blasted the effort to equate law enforcement with "retribution."
He is trying to lay the ground work for principle when he is doing an unprincipled thing....President Obama himself has said that waterboarding is torture, and torture itself violates four treaties and is considered a war crime. So the refusal to allow it to be investigated is to obstruct a war crimes investigation.…There aren't any convenient or inconvenient times to investigate war crimes. You don't have a choice....You have an obligation to do it, and what I think the President is desperately trying to do is to sell this idea that somehow it's a principled thing not to investigate war crimes because its going to be painful…It will be politically unpopular because an investigation will go directly to the doorstep of President Bush…and there's not going to be a lot of defenses that can be raised for ordering a torture program.
By Dave Lindorff
Enough is enough. It’s time to free John Walker Lindh, poster boy for George Bush’s, Dick Cheney’s and John Ashcroft’s “War on Terror,” and quite likely first victim of these men’s secret campaign of torture.
Lindh is in the seventh year of a 20-year sentence for “carrying a weapon” in Afghanistan and for “providing assistance” to an enemy of the United States. The first charge is ridiculously minor (after all, it’s what almost everyone in Texas does everyday). The second is actually a violation of a law intended for use against US companies that trade with proscribed countries on a government “no trade” list like Cuba or North Korea. Ordinarily, violation results in a fine for the executives involved.
Underscoring Obama’s new stance on the issue, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters: "the president determined the concept didn't seem altogether workable in this case."...At a congressional hearing Thursday, Holder told lawmakers that he would not "permit the criminalization of policy differences. However, it is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law. "If I see wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law," Holder said....Conyers has also said that Holder should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a probe simulataneously....But at the White House meeting Thursday, attended by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Pelosi and Rep. John Boehner, Obama said he would not support any attempt to investigate the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies. Whether Congress decides to act in defiance of Obama's wishes remains to be seen.
"I will not permit the criminalization of policy differences. However, it is my responsibility as attorney general to enforce the law. It is my duty to enforce the law. If I see evidence of wrongdoing I will pursue it to the full extent of the law," Holder said.
Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Thursday he won't play "hide and seek" with secret memos about harsh interrogations of terror suspects and their effectiveness. In testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Holder said he's willing to release as much information as possible about the interrogations.
Several members of the committee pressed him about the Justice Department's release last week of four long-secret legal memos detailing the harsh techniques used on some detainees during the Bush administration.
"It is certainly the intention of this administration not to play hide and seek, or not to release certain things," said Holder. "It is not our intention to try to advance a political agenda or to try to hide things from the American people."
Bybee seems to be against corporal punishment, but has no problem with slamming prisoners against walls, locking people in boxes and simulating drowning.
Jay Bybee authored one of the most chilling of the four Bush-era torture memos declassified last week by the Obama administration. Bybee signed the August 2002 memo in his capacity as a Deputy Attorney General working in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. Now he is a federal judge sitting on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest appellate court in the US (Remember, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid helped him get there).Following the disclosure of the memos and Bybee’s role in developing legal strategies for justifying the torture of prisoners, activists launched a campaign to demand that Rep. John Conyers, chair of the Judiciary Committee, hold a hearing to determine whether grounds exist for Bybee’s impeachment. As the Center for Constitutional Rights points out:
Jonathan Turley on Rachel Maddow: "Obama is obstructing justice"
Obama Plays Hamlet; Shredders Hum
By Ray McGovern
Well, well. The New York Times has finally put a story together on the key role played by two faux psychologists in helping the Bush administration devise ways to torture people. We should, I suppose, be thankful for small favors.
Apparently, a NY Times exposé requires a 21-month gestation period. The substance of the Wednesday’s lead story on torture had already appeared in an article in the July 2007 issue of Vanity Fair.
Katherine Eban, a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes about public health, authored that article and titled it “Rorschach and Awe.” It was the result of a careful effort to understand the role of psychologists in the torture of detainees in Guantanamo.
Reservists Might Be Used in Afghanistan To Fill Civilian Jobs
By Karen DeYoung | Washington Post
Military reservists may be asked to volunteer to fill many of the hundreds of additional U.S. civilian positions in Afghanistan called for in the Obama administration's strategy for that nation and neighboring Pakistan, officials said yesterday.
Although the State Department is still recruiting agronomists, engineers, accountants and other experts for Afghanistan, "pressure coming from the president for action is making us consider that some of the people might come from the reserves," one senior administration official said.
European prosecutors are likely to investigate CIA and Bush administration officials on suspicion of violating an international ban on torture if they are not held legally accountable at home, according to U.N. officials and human rights lawyers.
Many European officials and civil liberties groups said they were disappointed by President Obama's opposition to trials of CIA interrogators who subjected terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other harsh tactics. They said the release last week of secret U.S. Justice Department memos authorizing the techniques will make it easier for foreign prosecutors to open probes if U.S. officials do not.