Addict (drugaddict) wrote,
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Torture

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
 
Transmitted below is quite a strong NEW YORK TIMES editorial, which has also been published by the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE.
 
It appears that the unanimously adopted Senate Armed Services Committee report on the origins and features of the U.S. Defense Department's torture program and practices closely tracks the facts set forth in Jane Mayer's bestselling stomach-churner The Dark Side (which also documents the even uglier practices of the CIA) and identifies the same primary villains in terms of conception, implementation and sadistic perversion.
 
Based on Mayer's book alone, if, at the very least, the five people whose names are mentioned in the second paragraph of this editorial are not indicted, tried in an open court, convicted (not plea-bargained for wrist-slaps) and imprisoned for their crimes, the United States will have no credible right in the years to come to assert that it is either a country which respects the rule of law or one which stands for ethical and humane values.
 

International Herald Tribune

 

The Pentagon and the torture report

 

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/18/opinion/edtorture.php

 

Friday, December 19, 2008

 

Most Americans have long known that the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not the work of a few low-ranking sociopaths. All but President George W. Bush's most unquestioning supporters recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services.

 

Now, a bipartisan report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has made what amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including the former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.

 

The report shows how actions by these men "led directly" to what happened at Abu Ghraib, in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in secret CIA prisons.

 

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America's standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

 

It said these top officials, charged with defending the Constitution and America's standing in the world, methodically introduced interrogation practices based on illegal tortures devised by Chinese agents during the Korean War. Until the Bush administration, their only use in the United States was to train soldiers to resist what might be done to them if they were captured by a lawless enemy.

 

The officials then issued legally and morally bankrupt documents to justify their actions, starting with a presidential order saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to prisoners of the "war on terror" - the first time any democratic nation had unilaterally reinterpreted the conventions.

 

That order set the stage for the infamous redefinition of torture at the Justice Department, and then Rumsfeld's authorization of "aggressive" interrogation methods. Some of those methods were torture by any rational definition and many of them violate laws against abusive and degrading treatment.

 

These top officials ignored warnings from lawyers in every branch of the armed forces that they were breaking the law, subjecting soldiers to possible criminal charges and authorizing abuses that were not only considered by experts to be ineffective, but were actually counterproductive.

 

One page of the report lists the repeated objections that President Bush and his aides so arrogantly ignored: The air force had "serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques"; the chief legal adviser to the military's criminal investigative task force said they were of dubious value and may subject soldiers to prosecution; one of the army's top lawyers said some techniques that stopped well short of waterboarding "may violate the torture statute." The Marines said they "arguably violate federal law." The navy pleaded for a real review.

 

The legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time started that review but told the Senate committee that her boss, General Richard Myers, ordered her to stop on the instructions of Rumsfeld's legal counsel, Haynes.

 

The report indicates that Haynes was an early proponent of the idea of using the agency that trains soldiers to withstand torture to devise plans for the interrogation of prisoners held by the American military. These trainers - who are not interrogators but experts only on how physical and mental pain is inflicted and may be endured - were sent to work with interrogators in Afghanistan, in Guantánamo and in Iraq.

 

On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized interrogators at Guantánamo to use a range of abusive techniques that were already widespread in Afghanistan, enshrining them as official policy.

 

Rumsfeld rescinded his order a month later, and narrowed the number of "aggressive techniques" that could be used. But he did so only after the navy's chief lawyer threatened to formally protest the illegal treatment of prisoners.

 

The abuse and torture of prisoners continued at prisons run by the CIA and specialists from the torture-resistance program remained involved in the military detention system until 2004. Some of the practices Rumsfeld left in place seem illegal, like prolonged sleep deprivation.

 

A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse.

 

Given Barack Obama's other problems - and how far he has moved from the powerful stands he took on these issues early in the campaign - we do not hold out real hope that as president he will take such a politically fraught step.

 

At the least, Obama should order his attorney general to review more than two dozen prisoner-abuse cases that reportedly were referred to the Justice Department by the Pentagon and the CIA - and declined by Bush's lawyers.

 

Obama should consider proposals from groups like Human Rights Watch to appoint an independent panel to look into these egregious violations of the law. Unless America and its leaders know precisely what went wrong in the last seven years, it will be impossible to make sure those terrible mistakes are not repeated.

 

We expect Obama to keep the promise he made repeatedly in the campaign. He said one of his first acts as president would be to order a review of all of Bush's executive orders and reverse those that eroded civil liberties and the rule of law. That job will fall to Eric Holder, a veteran prosecutor who has been chosen as attorney general, and Gregory Craig, a lawyer with extensive national security experience who has been selected as Obama's White House counsel.

 

A good place for them to start would be to reverse Bush's disastrous order of Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the United States was no longer legally committed to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

 



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