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This trip report covers the period of April 13-20 as I traveled to Seoul, South Korea to attend the Global Network’s (GN) 17th annual space organizing conference. Traveling with me was Mary Beth Sullivan and Tom Sturtevant, a leader from Maine Veterans for Peace.
A Korean Organizing Committee, comprised of 10 groups, organized the GN conference and they collectively did a wonderful job of hosting the large international delegation that came from about 25 countries. In addition to our GN international delegation the conference was also supported and attended by many international activists from the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).
Our first day was a field trip by bus to visit the DMZ along the border between North and South Korea.
Nancy Pelosi denies knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding — but GOP operatives are pointing to a 2007 Washington Post story which describes an hour-long 2002 briefing in which Pelosi was told about enhanced interrogation techniques in graphic detail.
Iraq's government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005 in violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings, according to government statistics obtained by The Associated Press that break open one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war.
Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by The Associated Press, the figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
"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."
Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link
By Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
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.
Clinton says Pakistan is abdicating to the Taliban
By Arshad Mohammed | Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan's government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and the country now poses a "mortal threat" to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
Surging violence across Pakistan and the spread of Taliban influence through its northwest are reviving concerns about the stability of the nuclear-armed country, an important U.S. ally vital to efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who on March 27 unveiled a new strategy that seeks to crush al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan and those operating from across the border in Pakistan, meets the presidents of both countries May 6-7.
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.
Abu Ghraib head finds vindication in newly released memos
By Samira Simone | CNN
She said she was a scapegoat. She said she was just following orders. She said she was demoted unfairly.
Now, retired Army Col. Janis Karpinski can say: I told you so.
Karpinski was one of two officers punished over the aggressive interrogations at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Pictures of detainees caused outrage around the world when they were leaked to the news media in May 2004. The photos showed naked prisoners stacked on top of each other or being threatened by dogs or hooded and wired up as if for electrocution.
A newly released document indicates that the CIA proposed using waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning, on terror suspect Abu Zubaydah three months before the Justice Department approved the harsh interrogation technique.
The document, released today by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence provides a detailed narrative of the history of the Bush administration's attempts to authorize so-called harsh interrogation techniques.
"...the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA's harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House. The new timeline shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee....But even the new timeline has yet to resolve the central question of who inside the Bush administration first broached the idea of using waterboarding and other brutal tactics against terror detainees..."
Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice verbally OK'd the CIA's request to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, a decision memorialized a few days later in a secret memo that the Obama administration declassified last week.
...it becomes clear that torture was carried out with the intention of getting a false connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report does a very good job of describing the process by which Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld drove prisoner interrogation techniques into the realm of torture. The report also provides us with confirmation that one of the underlying reasons for torture was to provide a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein just prior to the invasion of Iraq.
A former psychiatrist in the US Army, Major Charles Burney, provided very clear evidence to the Senate investigators on the reasons for torture and on the intentional disregard for warnings from SERE trainers that torture would not work.
Dissent Within the Bush Administration on Torture
WHAT: Vicenza City Councilwoman testifies before Congress on behalf of Italian citizens opposed to a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy
WHEN: 10 am, April 23, 2009
WHERE: U.S. Capitol Building, H-143
WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, April 23 a delegation of Italian citizens opposed to a new U.S. military base in Vicenza, Italy, will testify before the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
Vicenza is a UNESCO World Heritage site and showcase of renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. The new base will be located in a residential area completely surrounded by houses and just one mile from the historic city center. Vicenza is already home to several U.S. military installations, including Camp Ederle, which dates back to 1955, and was just recently designated as Army Command for Africom.
Commentary: Obama has to be more than the 'un-Bush'
By Andrew Bacevich | CNN
At every stop during his recent trips abroad, President Obama went out of his way to assure observers that he is the un-Bush: a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, with both his feet firmly planted in the reality-based world.
To yesterday's untouchables, like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the cordial Obama offers smiles and handshakes. Although all to the good, this falls well short of being good enough.
Pragmatism devoid of principle provides an inadequate basis for coherent strategy. At the end of the day, there is no avoiding what the elder George Bush once called "the vision thing": a conception of how the world works, where it is headed and the role the United States should play in getting it there.
In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use
By Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti | NYTimes
The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
Refuting the Self-Fulfilling Torture Prophecy: A Response to Hayden and Mukasey
By Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-IL-13 | Huffington Post
No timid wimp is former CIA Director Michael Hayden. And he's not reluctant to tell you so. You can find out what a tough guy he really is by reading his opinion piece, written with former Attorney General Michael "Not sure waterboarding is torture" Mukasey in the April 17 Wall Street Journal, defending the use of torture and objecting to the release of the nightmarish memos. We're talking here about "walling", (repeatedly smashing a detainee against a wall), stress positions (hanging a person from the ceiling with feet barely touching the floor -- including a one legged man), sleep deprivation for as long as 11 days, cramped confinement (put in a casket-sized box or smaller -- insects optional), and that medieval favorite, waterboarding.
In fact, it was the torture described in these memos, the existence of secret prisons, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib that endangered the security of the United States. What better tools could there be to inflame and recruit new terrorists and instill hatred for our country throughout the Muslim world and beyond? Still Mukasey and Hayden clearly believe that these techniques should have been used and should be used in the future. They are in favor of torture.
The OLC "torture memos": thoughts from a dissenter
By Philip Zelikow | Foreign Policy
I first gained access to the OLC memos and learned details about CIA's program for high-value detainees shortly after the set of opinions were issued in May 2005. I did so as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy representative to the NSC Deputies Committee on these and other intelligence/terrorism issues. In the State Department, Secretary Rice and her Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, were then the only other individuals briefed on these details. In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.
US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 23 combat casualties in the week ending April 21 as the official total rose to at least 71,598. The total includes 34,648 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,950 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.**
Senior Bush figures could be prosecuted for torture, says Obama
President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence
By Ewan MacAskill and Robert Booth | Guardian UK
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today.
He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
President Barack Obama and other top officials in his administration have made it clear that there can be no military solution in Afghanistan, and that the non-military efforts to win over the Afghan population will be central to its chances of success.
The reality, however, is that U.S. military and civilian agencies lack the skills and training as well as the institutional framework necessary to carry out culturally and politically sensitive socio-economic programmes at the local level in Afghanistan, or even to avoid further alienation of the population.
The Story of Mitchell Jessen & Associates: How Psychologists in Spokane, WA, Helped Develop the CIA’s Torture Techniques
We broadcast from Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. We speak with three journalists who have closely followed the story. [includes rush transcript]
Mark Benjamin, National correspondent for Salon.com.
Katherine Eban, Investigative reporter and writer for several national publications. Her July 2007 article for Vanity Fair, “Rorschach and Awe.”
Karen Dorn Steele, a local investigative reporter who covered Mitchell and Jessen for The Spokesman-Review. She won a George Polk Award for a 1994 newspaper series on squandered money in the $50 billion Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.
Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. Both of the men had years of military training in a secretive program known as SERE—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which teaches soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics taught in SERE training for use on prisoners held in the CIA’s secret prisons.
The declassified torture memos released last week relied heavily on the advice of Mitchell and Jessen. In one memo, Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee wrote, quote, “Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged harm would result from the use of the waterboard.”
OBAMA "LOVE LETTER" TO CIA DISTORTS HISTORICAL TRUTH
By Sherwood Ross
One can only wonder what prompted the incredible absurdities written by President Obama in his April 16th love letter to the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA). It not only absolves CIA torturers from prosecution on the grounds that they were only following orders, (the same defense employed by Nazi hoodlums at the Nuremburg war crimes trials after World War Two,) but his laudatory statements about The Agency fly in the face of the historical record. Obama’s letter surely will go down in history as one of the most disingenuous documents ever to appear under the presidential seal. Worse, it strongly hints the American public has elected another in that long line of imperial presidents stretching back to William McKinley.