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On Wednesday, April 29, 2009, the Board and Staff of the Equal Justice Society sent the following to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
The Equal Justice Society would like to go on record as supporting the call to start a criminal investigation by a special counsel into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. We have been shocked by recent revelations of abuses that were committed in our name as Americans. We were shocked to learn that our government used tactics perfected during the Spanish Inquisition and refined by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As a civil rights organization, we denounced the use of torture during the Bush administration to no avail. Now as a country, we have an opportunity to reclaim our honor.
US Iraq Casualties Rise to 71,619
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 19 combat casualties in the 9 days ending April 30 as the official total rose to at least 71,619. The total includes 34,667 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,952 dead and medically evacuated (not updated since Feb. 28) from "non-hostile" causes.*
The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions and PTSD - diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**
By Dave Lindorff
What’s wrong with this picture: Four groups invest in a company. One group puts in a 55% investment, a second puts in a 20-35% investment, a third puts in an 8% investment and a fourth goes in for 2%. The group putting in the 20-35% stake gets three seats on the company’s nine-member board of directors, which will be appointing the new company’s management team. The group investing 8% gets four board members, and the group investing 2% gets 1 seat. Finally, the group that will hold the majority stake in the company, 55% of the shares, gets…the one remaining seat on the board.
Why would anyone buy a majority stake in the company and accept only a 1/9 representation on the board, and thus virtually no say in the selection of management or in management decisions?
On Thursday, April 30, 2009, in a massive act of non-violent “Civil Resistance” over 50 activists were arrested at a protest action in front of the White House. The protesters refused to move from the sidewalk when ordered to so by the police. The activists were demanding that the administration of President Barack Obama uphold the supremacy of the Law and investigate and prosecute wrongdoers in the Bush-Cheney Gang responsible for “acts of torture.”
More "below the fold" - Click "Read more."
Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving Senator in history, today demanded an investigation of torture by the Bush Administration:
The recently leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as the four released memorandums from the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), confirm our worst fears. These documents point to brutal, inhumane acts which were repeatedly carried out by U.S. military personnel, and which were authorized and condoned at the highest levels of the Bush Administration. These acts appear to directly violate both the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. Spain and the United Kingdom have already initiated investigations of Bush Administration officials who approved these acts. The United States needs to investigate as well. To continue to ignore the mounting evidence of clear wrongdoing is a national humiliation.
Byrd is the President pro tempore of the Senate, which puts him third in the line of Presidential succession behind Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi. He was a powerful moral voice during the Bush years; he opposed the Iraq War in 2002 and tried to bring our troops home in September 2005. That December, he denounced torture and Bush's other assaults on the Constitution:
Popular clichés notwithstanding, not all is fair in war. The idea that war is subject to legal rules is an ancient one.
Over time nations have come to accept that their decisions whether to go to war as well as how to conduct warfare once armed conflict has erupted are limited by legal norms.
But do such limitations hold when the enemy is not another nation that itself plays, more or less, by the rules, but rather a nonstate actor such as al Qaeda that flagrantly ignores them?
Does not following the rules in this context mean that we would be fighting with one hand tied behind our back? And if so, should not all be fair at least in war against such an enemy? Yes, yes, and an emphatic no.
Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One)
By Andy Worthington | www.AndyWorthington.co.UK
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, analyzes ten particularly disturbing facts to emerge from the four memos, purporting to justify the use of torture by the CIA, which were issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in August 2002 and May 2005, and released by the Obama administration last week. The article is published in two parts.
The OLC, as the New York Times explained in September 2007, holds a uniquely influential position, as it “interprets all laws that bear on the powers of the executive branch. The opinions of the head of the office are binding, except on the rare occasions when they are reversed by the attorney general or the president.” The legal opinions were, therefore, regarded as a “golden shield” by the administration, although, as lawyer Peter Weiss noted after I last wrote about the Bush administration’s war crimes, “it cannot be binding if it violates the constitution, or a jus cogens prohibition of international law, e.g. torture, or, perhaps, if it was made to order for the executive, as you demonstrate it was.”
Recently, in a Washington Post op-ed, Mark Danner wrote: "However much we would like the [torture] scandal to be confined to the story of what was done in those isolated rooms on the other side of the world where interrogators plied their arts, and in the air-conditioned government offices where officials devised 'legal' rationales, the story includes a second narrative that tells of a society that knew about these things and chose to do nothing." Danner, who did as much as anyone to help uncover what the Bush administration was up to in its secret prisons abroad, should know.
FDR'S New Deal v. Obamanomics in Their First 100 Days
By Stephen Lendman
With good reason, progressive economists reflect positively on Roosevelt's New Deal even though:
- it failed to end the Great Depression;
- had many flaws;
- did too little for blacks, women, immigrants, small farmers, agricultural workers, and the poor;
- let blacks be persecuted, discriminated against, and in the South denied their voting rights and lynched;
- 10 weeks after Pearl Harbor, he signed an Executive Order interning loyal Japanese American citizens because of their ethnicity; smaller numbers of German and Italian Americans as well;
- despite popular discontent with US broadcasting, he signed the 1934 Communications Act establishing permanent broadcasting law that handed the public airwaves to entrenched interests and laid the foundation for today's corrupted media; he called it a "New Deal in Radio Law," indeed for the broadcasters that profited;
- his main task was to save capitalism, not remake America into a social democracy beyond what was necessary at the time;
- like all elected officials, Roosevelt was above all a politician who wanted to be re-elected; and
- it took a world war to restore prosperity.
CFR Corporate Members Get Lion's Share of Bailout Funds
By Thomas R. Eddlem | New American
The man in charge of administering the bailouts is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who served as a staff member of the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations before being hired in 2003 to head the New York City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed). As the vice chairman of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, Geithner is probably a poor choice to get the nation out of it’s current economic mess. He served as Alan Greenspan’s number two man at the Fed, so Geithner is as responsible as anyone for facilitating the severity of the real estate and financial bubble and its subsequent collapse. After all, the Fed was the driving force behind the asset bubble, inflating the bubble larger and larger through artificially low interest rates and an inflationary easy-money policy.
April 29, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
This memorandum is VIPS’ first attempt to inform you on a major intelligence issue, as we did your predecessor; thus, some background might be helpful. Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, when we saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq. Since then, our numbers have grown to 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.
Andrew Sullivan makes what I think is a definitive point in the barbaric "debate" over whether torture "works".
Think back to a time during World War II, when thousands of British citizens were dying a bloody death every day at the hands of the Axis powers. You can't get much closer to a "ticking time bomb" scenario than that, right?
So, what dastardly measures did Churchill's chief interrogator resort to, in the face of the imminent death of hundreds of thousands of his country's citizens?
Colonel Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens was the commander of the wartime spy prison and interrogation centre codenamed Camp 020, an ugly Victorian mansion surrounded by barbed wire on the edge of Ham Common. In the course of the war, some 500 enemy spies from 44 countries passed through Camp 020; most were interrogated, at some point, by Stephens; all but a tiny handful crumbled.
Stephens was a bristling, xenophobic martinet; in appearance, with his glinting monocle and cigarette holder, he looked exactly like the caricature Gestapo interrogator who has “vays of making you talk”.
Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL-19) Asks AG Holder to Appoint a Special Prosecutor; Promises Investigative Legislation
Yesterday, I signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Bush Administration and Justice Department's role in authorizing torture. With the release of the so-called "Torture Memos" last week, and the instrumental role that Bush Administration Justice Department and Executive Branch officials had in orchestrating and approving these techniques, it is evident to me that we need an independent investigation into this troubling series of events that have damaged our national security and diminished our nation before the eyes of the world.
Click here to view the text of the letter I sent to Attorney General Holder.
Spain's crusading prosecutor, Judge Baltasar Garzon, was not put in charge of prosecuting the Torture Lawyers - Judge Eloy Velasco is reviewing that case. But Garzon has opened a brand new case, according to AFP:
Judge Baltasar Garzon will probe the "perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices" to crimes of torture...
Garzon said that documents declassified by the US administration and carried by US media "have revealed what was previously a suspicion: the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture and mistreatment of persons deprived of their freedom" that flouts international conventions.
This points to "the possible existence of concerted actions by the US administration for the execution of a multitude of crimes of torture against persons deprived of their freedom in Guantanamo and other prisons including that of Bagram" in Afghanistan.
Anti-Torture Activists to Rally, Commit Civil Disobedience at the White House, Tomorrow, Thursday, April 30, 2009
ANTI-TORTURE ACTIVISTS TO RALLY, COMMIT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE, THURSDAY, APRIL 30 | Press Release
Demand Prosecution of U.S. Torture and Release of Innocent Detainees
On April 30th, hundreds of human rights activists will gather near the White House to call on the Obama administration to support a criminal inquiry into torture under the Bush administration and to fully break with past detention policies.
At a rally at Lafayette Park at 11:15 am, members of Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition will speak out about the need for accountability and an end to Bush-era policies. At noon, sixty activists from Witness Against Torture — each representing one of the Guantanamo inmates cleared for release but still imprisoned – will risk arrest.
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.