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War and Terror: Torture, Paramilitarism, Occupation and Genocide|
Posted on Thursday, October 25 @ 08:46:25 UTC
by Stephen Lendman|
October 25, 2007
On October 5, George Bush confronted a public uproar and defended his administration claiming "This government does not torture people." Again he lied. Once secret US Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions confirm the Bush administration condones torture by endorsing "the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency." It also condones paramilitary thuggery, oppressive occupation, and genocide. This unholy combination is the ugly face of an imperial nation run by war criminals. That's the state of things today. First, the practice of torture.
Torture as Policy under George Bush
In a hollow posturing gesture, DOJ publicly declared torture "abhorrent" in a December, 2004 legal opinion. That secretly changed after Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General in February, 2005 and authorized physical and psychological brutality as official administration policy. This continues unabated in violation of international and US laws that include fifth and eighth amendment prohibitions against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in all forms for any reason. These practices been long-standing US official policy, nonetheless, but the mask came off post-9/11 when former CIA Counterterrorism Center chief Cofer Black (now Blackwater USA's vice-chairman) told a joint House-Senate intelligence committee hearing September 26, 2002: "There was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11(on the use of torture). After 9/11, the gloves came off" and "old" standards no longer apply. They never did, and Congress knows and condones it.
Further, George Bush signed a secret September 17, 2001 "finding" authorizing CIA to kill, capture and detain "Al Qaeda" members anywhere in the world and rendition them to secret black site torture prisons for interrogation presumed to include torture.
As White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales then wrote a sweeping memorandum to George Bush January 25, 2002 calling the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete" and claimed the administration could ignore Geneva international law in interrogating prisoners henceforth. He also outlined plans to try prisoners in military "commissions" and deny them all protections under international law including due process and habeas rights. DOD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on board as well. In December, 2002, he approved a menu of banned interrogation practices that allowed most anything short of what would cause organ failure.
A new book called "Administration of Torture," by two ACLU attorneys, contains evidence (from FOIA requests) from over 100,000 newly released government documents. It reveals how US military interrogators carried out abuse and torture orders from their superiors on scores of prisoners. The book quotes Major General Michael Dunlavey who had DOD responsibility for interrogations of "suspected terrorists." He and Guantanamo commander General Geoffrey Miller both told the FBI they got their "marching orders" from Donald Rumsfeld to use harsh methods at Guantanamo that presumably were meant for all other US-run torture prisons as well. It was also revealed that Rumsfeld was "personally involved" in overseeing the torture-interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani. He was falsely accused of being the 20th 9/11 hijacker, confessed under torture, and then retracted his testimony later as completely untrue.
Torture violates international law. The (non-binding) Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlawed it in 1948. The four 1949 Geneva Conventions then banned any form of "physical or mental coercion" and affirmed detainees must at all times be treated humanely. Its first two conventions protect sick and wounded forces in battle. The third one defines who is a prisoner of war and establishes "minimum standards" for POW treatment. The fourth convention applies to civilians and affords them protections during war that require they be treated humanely. All four conventions have a common thread called Common Article Three. It requires non-combatants be treated humanely at all times. There are no exceptions for any reasons and violations are grave breaches under Geneva and other international law that constitute crimes of war and against humanity.
The European Convention followed Geneva in 1950. Then in 1984, the UN Convention Against Torture became the first binding international instrument dealing exclusively with the issue of banning torture in any form for any reason. These are sacred international laws all signatories, that include the US, are bound by. No longer under George Bush's unconstitutional "unitary executive" authority power grab Chalmers Johnson calls a "bald-faced assertion of presidential supremacy....dressed up in legalistic mumbo jumbo." Condoning torture as official policy under it is Exhibit A.
In her important new book, "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Defied the law," law professor and current National Lawyers Guild president Marjorie Cohn calls torture abhorrent and violates at least two US laws - the 1996 War Crimes Act and 1994 Torture Statute. The US is also party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that guarantees the right to life and prohibits cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The 1996 War Crimes Act provides up to life imprisonment or the death penalty for persons convicted of committing war crimes within or outside the US. Administration memos from Gonzales, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and David Addington supported dictatorial powers for the president and advised Al Qaeda and Taliban interrogators were exempt from torture laws under George Bush's "commander-in-chief powers." Cohn, in her book, explained "the Torture Convention permits no such exemption, even during wartime."
Yoo and Bybee also distorted what constitutes torture by claiming psychological harm must last "months or even years." Otherwise, it's just harsh "enhanced interrogation" of the secret kinds George Bush authorized in a July, 2006 executive order. They reportedly include sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, stress positions, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation and/or overload, beatings, induced hypothermia, and more that can cause irreversible physical and psychological harm including psychoses.
The October, 2006 Military Commissions Act followed, appropriately called the "torture authorization act." It gives the administration extraordinary unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate and prosecute alleged terror suspects and anyone thought to be their supporters. The law lets the president designate anyone in the world an "unlawful enemy combatant," without corroborating evidence, and order they be arrested and incarcerated indefinitely in military prisons outside the criminal justice system without habeas and due process rights. US citizens aren't exempt. We're all "enemy combatants" under this law. Anyone charged under it loses all constitutionally protected rights and can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment including torture.
Ironically, on the one year anniversary of the Military Commissions Act enactment, Fr. Louie Vitale and Fr. Steve Kelly were both sentenced to five months in federal prison for opposing torture. They also oppose teaching it at Fort Huachuca, Arizona and tried to deliver a letter with their views to the base commander, Major General Barbara Fast, former head of military intelligence in Iraq. Both priests were arrested for trespassing while kneeling in prayer on the base driveway in November, 2006. In an appalling miscarriage of justice, the presiding judge refused to allow any evidence of torture to be introduced. He also ruled out discussion of the illegality of the Iraq war and all references to international law.
Relief from these type abuses are nowhere in sight as leading Democrats condone them and now assure extremist Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey's nomination won't be challenged. He promises business as usual that's bad news for supporters of the law. He earned his bona fides as a US District Court Southern District of New York judge by ruling Jose Padilla, a US citizen, could be imprisoned without trial and held indefinitely by the military.
Padilla spent three and a half years uncharged in a 9 by 7-foot isolated South Carolina Navy brig cell where he underwent alternating sensory deprivation and overload and was denied the right to counsel for two years. Months of beatings, mind-altering drugs, and denial of medical treatment destroyed his mind, turned him to mush, and him easy pickings to convict on all charges without evidence he broke any law. Under Bush.
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