Some of Us Remember When the Department of Defence Was (Rightly) Called the War Department March 26, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: dod, history, roger hollander, us wars, war, war department, war history, warfare, warmongering
add a comment
Only nation to have ever used atomic weaponry in war; more conventional and nuclear weapons stockpiled than the rest of the nations of the world combined; world’s largest manufacturer and vendor of armaments; supplier of arms to some of the world’s most brutal dictators, past and present; and, oh yes, the nation’s current wartime president, recently won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Senate Amendment Calls for a Return to Bush-Era Torture November 30, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: army field manual, CIA torture, dod, enhanced interrogation, geneva conventions, human rights, jeffrrey kaye, kelley ayotte, lindsay graham, roger hollander, secret torture, sensory deprivation, torture, waterboarding
add a comment
Artist’s rendering of a detainee in goggles and earmuffs used for sensory deprivation. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)
Ayotte amendment on secret torture overshadows abuse problems with “Army Field Manual.”
An amendment by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) to the current Defense Authorization Bill (SA 1068) now before Congress would roll back the 2009 Obama executive order against torture by re-establishing a secret “classified” set of interrogation techniques and then attaching them to the current “Army Field Manual” on human intelligence collection. But whether the amendment passes or not, the existence of certain interrogation techniques as used currently by the US military and intelligence services in the “Manual” do not comply with international norms, such as the Geneva Conventions.
A recent United Kingdom high court ruling on the use of hooding prisoners as a detention or interrogation technique indicated that use of any form of sensory obstruction, such as use of blindfolds, goggles or earmuffs, in place of hooding, which is outlawed, could only be temporary and “only for the time and extent necessary to preserve operational security.” British military and security officers are directed not to work with governments that do not observe these rules.
Yet currently, use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation used on prisoners is part of “Appendix M” of the “Army Field Manual.” Their use is part of something called “Field Expedient Separation,” and only to be used on “war on terror” detainees, who are deemed not subject to Geneva Conventions protections. Their purpose is beyond “operational” or security based and is meant to “Prolong the shock of capture … and foster a feeling of futility.”
The abusive use of sensory deprivation through use of blinding goggles and earmuffs is made even more explicit in the “Appendix M” discussion of the 12-hour time limitation on “field expedient separation,” wherein such “limit on duration does not include the time that goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs are used on detainees for security purposes during transit and evacuation,” i.e., the time limits concern use of goggles/blindfolds/earmuffs for purposes of psychological derangement. In addition, the technique cannot be applied without medical staff present, because of the dangers involved.
Sensory deprivation studies have shown that psychological symptoms, including panic and hallucinations, can be produced within hours of the application of such techniques.
A “Hooding” Substitute
In a “Statement on Hooding,” written by the International Forensic Experts Group (IFEG) of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and presented to the UK high court in its deliberations, hooding was described as “a form of torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT) [recognized] by a number of international and regional human rights bodies,” and “a form of sensory deprivation that is associated with a number of physical and psychological effects and also may have significant adverse legal consequences.”
The effects include psychological symptoms such as anxiety and claustrophobia. Hooding also “increases the likelihood of severe physical pain, injury and subsequent disability as it increases an individual’s vulnerability to other methods of torture by preventing the anticipation of harm such as kicks and punches and subsequent defensive response.”
While the US “Army Field Manual” forbids the use of hooding, it appears to have merely substituted parallel forms of abuse, as Field Expedient Separation mimics the effects of hooding. Indeed, the IFEG notes, “Hooding in this statement also refers to other equivalent forms of sensory deprivation such as the use of goggles or blindfolds and earmuffs.”
Dr. Vincent Iacopino, the lead author of the IFEG statement, told Truthout in an email, “Although the DoD [Department of Defense] may not consider the use of goggles and earmuffs as a form of sensory deprivation, the IFEG Statement does…. Since the IFEG Statement makes clear that the use of goggles and earmuffs is a form of sensory deprivation, equivalent to hooding, that constitutes CIDT and, under some circumstances, torture, it should be clear that we consider the DoD’s use of goggles and earmuffs a form of CIDT and/or torture as well.” (Emphasis added.)
Interestingly, when the “Army Field Manual” was being rewritten in 2005 and 2006, the procedures used in its “Appendix M,” which also includes use of solitary confinement (isolation up to 30 days or more), sleep deprivation and manipulation of “environmental conditions, were initially meant to be included in a “secret annex” to the manual. Apparently, there are some in the military or intelligence services who wish the decision to make “Appendix M” public had never been made. In fact, there is no indication as to what the fate of this little known appendix would be should Ayotte’s amendment pass.
Secret Torture and “Enhanced Interrogation”
There is little question that the proposed “classified annex” would mean a return to the “enhanced interrogation” torture (EIT) practiced by the Bush administration, including use of waterboarding, water dousing (induction of hypothermia), stress positions, extreme sleep deprivation, various forms of physical abuse, confinement in a box, and more. Sen. Lindsay Graham, one of three Republican senators co-sponsoring the Ayotte amendment, hinted as much in a November 11 article at the National Review where he labeled President Obama’s executive order stopping the EITs a “major mistake.”
Graham called the EITs “consistent with our national values,” and lauded the fact they “remain unknown to our enemies.” (In fact, the EITs were later exposed and are as available online as the “Army Field Manual” is. See here and here.) But some veteran interrogators and a number of former military officers have expressed their opposition to Ayotte’s amendment, this despite the fact that Ayotte ties the new secret interrogation rules to use by Obama’s High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG), a fact little mentioned in press accounts.
Former interrogator Matthew Alexander, author of “How to Break a Terrorist,” told Truthout in an email exchange that he was unaware of any secret annex on interrogation related to the HIG. Additionally, he added, “I’m against a secret annex and sensory deprivation outside of transport,” he said, adding he believes “more, in-depth cultural training [of interrogators] is needed to eradicate prejudice.”
Alexander noted, “I have been searching for a Muslim interrogator in the Army for five years and have yet to find one (compared to WW II where about 70% of interrogators were ethnic Americans – Japanese, German, Italian, Austrian, etc.),” noting he supports an “emphasis on what is now being called the Informed Interrogation Method, which Ali Soufan has advocated.
In an exchange of op-eds with Mr. Alexander at The New York Times in January 2010, Sen. Dianne Feinstein indicated that the Obama administration was reviewing the varied complaints against “Appendix M.” No public result of this review was ever released and a recent query to Senator Feinstein’s office by Truthout regarding the fate of the review was not answered.
What Kind of Standard Is the “Army Field Manual”?
While the Ayotte amendment represents an appetite by some in government to return to a more unbridled form of torture, the current “Army Field Manual” is not “a respected standard that put an end to torture as an interrogation practice,” as it was described recently in a column opposing the Ayotte amendment by Rev. Richard Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). In a recent emailing to supporters, also opposing Ayotte’s amendment, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) referred to the “Army Field Manual” as the “gold standard” for interrogation.
Yet, both NRCAT and PHR have openly criticized the “Army Field Manual” and its “Appendix M” at other times in the past (see here and here), as have other human rights groups, including Human Rights First, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and others. It is an indication of how far the interrogation discussion has drifted to the right that criticism of the manual has been dropped in order to defend it against a likely return to the days of secret interrogation techniques used by the Bush/Cheney White House, DoD and the CIA.
Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Truthout, “We expect strong opposition to the amendment” in the Senate. Senator Ayotte has complained that her critics do not notice that any proposed classified techniques stemming from her amendment must abide by the laws against torture, including those in the UN Convention Against Torture treaty and the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. But these laws have been interpreted in such a fashion that the definitions of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment have been eviscerated from their original meanings.
Dr. Stephen Miles, professor and Maas family endowed chair in bioethics, Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, and a noted anti-torture author and activist, told Truthout, “The Army Field Manual is not an authoritative reference work on torture. The United States has adjusted its definitions of terms in international law to make its practices appear to comply with international law even in instances where we have called such acts ‘torture’ or unacceptable (i.e., cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) when practiced by other nations. The United States is out of compliance with numerous conventions pertaining to the treatment of prisoners.”
Tags: 9/11, Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, canceled weapons, defense budget, dod, Iraq, Iraq war, joshua holland, Pentagon, post 9/11, roger hollander, war, war spending
add a comment
This week, the National
Priorities Project (NPP) released a snapshot of U.S. “defense” spending
since September 11, 2001. The eye-popping figures lend credence to the theory
that al Qaeda’s attacks were a form of economic warfare – that they hoped for a
massive overreaction that would entangle us in costly foreign wars that would
ultimately drain away our national wealth.
They didn’t bankrupt us the same way the
Mujahadeen helped bring down the Soviet Union
decades before, because our economy was much stronger. But they did succeed in
putting us deep into the red – with an assist, of course, from Bush’s
ideologically driven tax cuts for the wealthy.
number is this: we have spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland
security since 9/11. The Pentagon’s base budget – which doesn’t include the
costs of fighting our wars – has increased by 81 percent during that time (43
percent when adjusted for inflation). The costs of the conflicts in Afghanistan
and Iraq have now reached $1.26 trillion. But that only scratches the surface;
it doesn’t include the long-term costs of caring for badly wounded soldiers, for
suggests that 9/11 has been used to justify greater military spending across the
board; the nuclear weapons budget has shot up by more than a fifth after
adjusting for inflation. How intercontinental ballistic missiles that can
vaporize whole cities are useful in a “war on terror” is anybody’s
itself acknowledges these dollars haven’t all been spent effectively – there is
certainly plenty of waste. According to the Washington
Post, the DoD has blown $32 billion
(enough to offer free, universal college tuition for a year) on canceled weapons
programs since 1997. According to the Post story, which is based on an unreleased Pentagon
report, “For almost a decade, the Defense Department saw its budgets boom
— but didn’t make the kind of technological strides that seemed possible.”
“Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s
modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on
procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains
in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an
address last week.
He called that outcome both “vexing and
disturbing.” Some might find the relentless focus on cutting benefits for
vulnerable Americans “vexing and disturbing” in light of this profligate
spending. Budgets, after all, are a reflection of our priorities.
Toward that end, let’s put these numbers in
perspective by looking at some of the other things we might be doing with those
dollars. Because a buck spent on guns is one less for butter.
1. Post-9/11 Defense Hikes Equal Five Times the
Economist Dean Baker notes
that “the projections in the Medicare Trustees report, as well as the CBO
baseline budget, show that the program faces a relatively modest long-term
shortfall.” The amount of money needed to balance the program’s finances over
its 75-year horizon, he adds, “is less than 0.3 percent of GDP, approximately
one-fifth of the increase in the rate annual defense spending between 2000 and
2. Afghanistan Costs Alone Could Pay for 15.6
Years of Head Start
Head Start provides education, health, nutrition,
and parenting services to low-income children and their families. It’s an
incredibly successful, effective and popular program, but there are only 900,000
places in the program for more than 2.5 million eligible kids. According to the
National Priorities Project, what we’ve spent on the Afghanistan war so far
could fund Head Start for all eligible children for the next 15.6 years.
3. Covering the Uninsured
study conducted by researchers at Harvard University estimated that 45,000
people die every year in the United States from problems associated with lack of
coverage. The study found that “uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40
percent higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts,” even
“after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline
According to NPP’s
analysis, the costs of the Afghanistan conflict alone could cover every
uninsured American for 1.7 years.
4. Closing State Budget
Forty-six states face budget
shortfalls in this fiscal year, totaling $130 billion nationwide. The
supplemental requests for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan this year add up to
$170 billion – that doesn’t include the Pentagon’s base budget, nukes or
5. Iraq, Just in 2011
Iraq is still a bloody mess, with
an insurgency still underway. But our politicians have declared vistory and
the media have largely moved on. That doesn’t mean we won’t spend almost $50
billion on those “non-combat troops” which remain, however. What else could we
do with that kind of scratch if we just brought them home? NPP tells us it would
- 24.3 million children receiving low-income health care for one year, OR
- 726,044 elementary school teachers for one year,
- 829,946 firefighters for one year, OR
- 6.2 million Head Start slots for children for one
- 10.7 million households with renewable electricity
– solar photovoltaic for one year, OR
- 28.6 million households with renewable
electricity-wind power for one year, OR
- 6.1 million military veterans receiving VA medical
care for one year, OR
- 9.8 million people receiving low-income health
care for one year, OR
- 718,208 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for
one year, OR
- 6.0 million scholarships for university students
for one year, OR
- 8.5 million students receiving Pell grants of
The Big Picture
It’s a tragic irony that so much of the discussion
surrounding the public debt centers on “entitlements” like Social Security
(which hasn’t added a penny to the national debt) when we’re still paying for
Korea and Vietnam and Grenada and Panama and the first Gulf War and Somalia and
the Balkans and on and on.
Estimates of just how much of our national
debt payments are from past military spending vary wildly. In 2007, economist
Robert Higgs calculated it
I added up all past deficits (minus
surpluses) since 1916 (when the debt was nearly zero), prorated according to
each year’s ratio of narrowly defined national security spending–military,
veterans, and international affairs–to total federal spending, expressing
everything in dollars of constant purchasing power. This sum is equal to 91.2
percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006.
Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government’s net interest
outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.
When Higgs did that analysis four years
ago, he came up with a figure of $206.7 billion just in interest payments on our
past military adventures.
AlterNet. He is the author of The
15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want
You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America). Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.
Tags: al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, bush administration, cia, detainees, dod, ethical standards, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human experimentation, human rights, interrogations, jason leopold, jay bybee, jeffrey kaye, john yoo, Mohammed al-Qahtani, nazi atrocities, nuremberg, prisoners of war, psychological warfare, research, roger hollander, rumsfeld, sere, Taliban, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, wolfowitz
add a comment
(Roger’s Note: many people, including so-called liberals and progressives, balk at the use of the word “fascist” to describe the US government. They should read this article. Add Paul Wolfowitz, who already has major claim to infamy, to the list of torture enablers that includes Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, et. al. The use of the term “breed” by Wolfowitz is particularly chilling [“We are dealing with a special breed of person here.”]. Since holding onto power [at the moment, the task of maintaining majorities in Congress] is the major objective of President Obama and the Democratic Party, don’t expect much attention to be paid to the Nazi-like human research described in this article, any more than the Obama Administration has paid attention to the massive human rights violations characterized by illegal detentions, rendition, and torture. History will judge.)
Thursday 14 October 2010
(Illustration: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t)
In 2002, as the Bush administration was turning to torture and other brutal techniques for interrogating “war on terror” detainees, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz loosened rules against human experimentation, an apparent recognition of legal problems regarding the novel strategies for extracting and evaluating information from the prisoners.
Wolfowitz issued his directive on March 25, 2002, about a month after President George W. Bush stripped the detainees of traditional prisoner-of-war protections under the Geneva Conventions. Bush labeled them “unlawful enemy combatants” and authorized the CIA and the Department of Defense (DoD) to undertake brutal interrogations.
Despite its title – “Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards in DoD-Supported Research” – the Wolfowitz directive weakened protections that had been in place for decades by limiting the safeguards to “prisoners of war.”
“We’re dealing with a special breed of person here,” Wolfowitz said about the war on terror detainees only four days before signing the new directive.
One former Pentagon official, who worked closely with the agency’s ex-general counsel William Haynes, said the Wolfowitz directive provided legal cover for a top-secret Special Access Program at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which experimented on ways to glean information from unwilling subjects and to achieve “deception detection.”
“A dozen [high-value detainees] were subjected to interrogation methods in order to evaluate their reaction to those methods and the subsequent levels of stress that would result,” said the official.
A July 16, 2004 Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) report obtained by Truthout shows that between April and July 2003, a “physiological warfare specialist” atached to the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program was present at Guantanamo. The CID report says the instructor was assigned to a top-secret Special Access Program.
It has been known since 2009, when President Barack Obama declassified some of the Bush administration’s legal memoranda regarding the interrogation program, that there were experimental elements to the brutal treatment of detainees, including the sequencing and duration of the torture and other harsh tactics.
However, the Wolfowitz directive also suggests that the Bush administration was concerned about whether its actions might violate Geneva Conventions rules that were put in place after World War II when grisly Nazi human experimentation was discovered. Those legal restrictions were expanded in the 1970s after revelations about the CIA testing drugs on unsuspecting human subjects and conducting other mind-control experiments.
For its part, the DoD insists that it “has never condoned nor authorized the use of human research testing on any detainee in our custody,” according to spokeswoman Wendy Snyder.
However, from the start of the war on terror, the Bush administration employed nontraditional methods for designing interrogation protocols, including the reverse engineering of training given to American troops trapped behind enemy lines, called the SERE techniques. For instance, the near-drowning technique of waterboarding was lifted from SERE manuals.
Retired US Air Force Capt. Michael Shawn Kearns, a former SERE intelligence officer, said the Wolfowitz directive appears to be a clear attempt to shield then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from the legal consequences of “any dubious research practices associated with the interrogation program.”
Scott Horton, a human rights attorney and constitutional expert, noted Wolfowitz’s specific reference to “prisoners of war” as protected under the directive, as opposed to referring more generally to detainees or people under the government’s control.
“At the time that Wolfowitz was issuing this directive, the Bush administration was taking the adamant position that prisoners taken in the’ war on terror’ were not ‘prisoners of war’ under the Geneva Conventions and were not entitled to any of the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
“Indeed, it called those protections ‘privileges’ that were available only to ‘lawful combatants.’ So the statement [in the directive] that ‘prisoners of war’ cannot be subjects of human experimentation … raises some concerns – why was the more restrictive term ‘prisoners of war’ used instead of ‘prisoners’ for instance.”
The Wolfowitz directive also changed other rules regarding waivers of informed consent. After the scandals over the CIA’s MKULTRA program and the Tuskegee experiments on African-Americans suffering from syphilis, Congress passed legislation known as the Common Rule to provide protections to human research subjects.
The Common Rule “requires a review of proposed research by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), the informed consent of research subjects, and institutional assurances of compliance with the regulations.”
Individuals who lack the capacity to provide “informed consent” must have an IRB determine if they would benefit from the proposed research. In certain cases, that decision could also be made by the subject’s “legal representative.”
However, according to the Wolfowitz directive, waivers of informed consent could be granted by the heads of DoD divisions.
Professor Alexander M. Capron, who oversees human rights and health law at the World Health Organization, said the delegation of the power to waive informed consent procedures to Pentagon officials is “controversial both because it involves a waiver of the normal requirements and because the grounds for that waiver are so open-ended.”
The Wolfowitz directive also changes language that had required DoD researchers to strictly adhere to the Nuremberg Directives for Human Experimentation and other precedents when conducting human subject research.
The Nuremberg Code, which was a response to the Nazi atrocities, made “the voluntary consent of the human subject … absolutely essential.” However, the Wolfowitz directive softened a requirement of strict compliance to this code, instructing researchers simply to be “familiar” with its contents.
“Why are DoD-funded investigators just required to be ‘familiar’ with the Nuremberg Code rather than required to comply with them?” asked Stephen Soldz, director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development at Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.
Soldz also wondered why “enforcement was moved from the Army Surgeon General or someone else in the medical chain of command to the Director of Defense Research and Engineering” and why “this directive changed at this time, as the ‘war on terror’ was getting going.”
The original impetus for the changes seems to have related more to the use of experimental therapies on US soldiers facing potential biological and other dangers in war zones.
The House Armed Services Committee proposed amending the law on human experimentation prior to the 9/11 attacks. But the Bush administration pressed for the changes after 9/11 as the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan and new medical products might be needed for soldiers on the battlefield without their consent, said two former officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Yet, there were concerns about the changes even among Bush administration officials. In a September 24, 2001, memo to lawmakers, Bush’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the “administration is concerned with the provision allowing research to be conducted on human subjects without their informed consent in order to advance the development of a medical product necessary to the armed forces.”
The OMB memo said the Bush administration understood that the DoD had a “legitimate need” for “waiver authority for emergency research,” but “the provision as drafted may jeopardize existing protections for human subjects in research, and must be significantly narrowed.”
However, the broader language moved forward, as did planning for the new war on terror interrogation procedures.
In December 2001, Pentagon general counsel Haynes and other agency officials contacted the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which runs SERE schools for teaching US soldiers to resist interrogation and torture if captured by an outlaw regime. The officials wanted a list of interrogation techniques that could be used for detainee “exploitation,” according to a report released last year by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
These techniques, as they were later implemented by the CIA and the Pentagon, were widely discussed as “experimental” in nature.
Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, declined to comment on the Wolfowitz directive.
Back in Congress, the concerns from the OMB about loose terminology were brushed aside and the law governing how the DoD spends federal funds on human expirementation and research, was amended to give the DoD greater leeway regarding experimentation on human subjects.
A paragraph to that law, 10 USC 980, which had not been changed since it was first enacted in 1972, was added authorizing the defense secretary to waive “informed consent” for human subject research and experimentation. It was included in the 2002 Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in December 2001. The Wolfowitz directive implemented the legislative changes Congress made to the law when it was issued three months later.
The changes to the “informed consent” section of the law were in direct contradiction to presidential and DoD memoranda issued in the 1990s that prohibited such waivers related to classified research. A memo signed in 1999 by Secretary of Defense William Cohen called for the prohibitions on “informed consent” waivers to be added to the Common Rule regulations covering DoD research, but it was never implemented.
As planning for the highly classified Special Access Program began to take shape, most officials in Congress appear to have averted their eyes, with some even lending a hand.
The ex-DIA officials said the Pentagon briefed top lawmakers on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee in November and December 2001, including the panel’s chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and his chief of staff Patrick DeLeon, about experimentation and research involving detainee interrogations that centered on “deception detection.”
To get a Special Access Program like this off the ground, the Pentagon needed DeLeon’s help, given his long-standing ties to the American Psychological Association (APA), where he served as president in 2000, the sources said.
According to former APA official Bryant Welch, DeLeon’s role proved crucial.
“For significant periods of time DeLeon has literally directed APA staff on federal policy matters and has dominated the APA governance on political matters,” Welch wrote. “For over twenty-five years, relationships between the APA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been strongly encouraged and closely coordinated by DeLeon….
“When the military needed a mental health professional to help implement its interrogation procedures, and the other professions subsequently refused to comply, the military had a friend in Senator Inouye’s office, one that could reap the political dividends of seeds sown by DeLeon over many years.”
John Bray, a spokesman for Inuoye, said in late August he would look into questions posed by Truthout about the Wolfowitz directive and the meetings involving DeLeon and Inuoye. But Bray never responded nor did he return follow-up phone calls and emails. DeLeon did not return messages left with his assistant.
Legal Word Games
Meanwhile, in January 2002, President Bush was receiving memos from then-Justice Department attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo as well as from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Bush’s White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, advising Bush to deny members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions.
Also, about a month before the Wolfowitz directive was issued, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) asked Joint Forces Command if they could get a “crash course” on interrogation for the next interrogation team headed out to Guantanamo, according to the Armed Services Committee’s report. That request was sent to Brig. Gen. Thomas Moore and was approved.
Bruce Jessen, the chief psychologist of the SERE program, and Joseph Witsch, a JPRA instructor, led the instructional seminar held in early March 2002.
The seminar included a discussion of al-Qaeda’s presumed methods of resisting interrogation and recommended specific methods interrogators should use to defeat al-Qaeda’s resistance. According to the Armed Services Committee report, the presentation provided instructions on how interrogations should be conducted and on how to manage the “long term exploitation” of detainees.
There was a slide show, focusing on four primary methods of treatment: “isolation and degradation,” “sensory deprivation,” “physiological pressures” and “psychological pressures.”
According to Jessen and Witsch’s instructor’s guide, isolation was the “main building block of the exploitation process,” giving the captor “total control” over the prisoner’s “inputs.” Examples were provided on how to implement “degradation,” by taking away a prisoner’s personal dignity. Methods of sensory deprivation were also discussed as part of the training.
Jessen and Witsch denied that “physical pressures,” which later found their way into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, were taught at the March meeting.
However, Jessen, along with Christopher Wirts, chief of JPRA’s Operational Support Office, wrote a memo for Southern Command’s Directorate of Operations (J3), entitled “Prisoner Handling Recommendations,” which urged Guantanamo authorities to take punishment beyond “base line rules.”
So, by late March 2002, the pieces were in place for a strategy of behavior modification designed to break down the will of the detainees and extract information from them. Still, to make the procedures “legal,” some reinterpretations of existing laws and regulation were needed.
For instance, attorneys Bybee and Yoo would narrow the definition of “torture” to circumvent laws prohibiting the brutal interrogation of detainees.
In his directive, Wolfowitz also made subtle, but significant, word changes. While retaining the blanket prohibition against experimenting on prisoners of war, Wolfowitz softened the language for other types of prisoners, using a version of rules about “vulnerable” classes of individuals taken from regulations meant for civilian research by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
This research and experimentation examined physiological markers of stress, such as cortisol, and involved psychologists under contract to the CIA and the military who were experts in the field, the ex-DIA officials said.
One study, called “The War Fighter’s Stress Response,” was conducted between 2002 and 2003 and examined physiological measurements of mock torture subjects drawn from the SERE program and other high-stress military personnel, such as Special Forces Combat Divers.
Researchers measured cortisol and other hormone levels via salivary swabbing and blood samples, a process that also was reportedly done to war on terror detainees.
Three weeks after the Wolfowitz directive was signed, SERE psychologist Jessen produced a Draft Exploitation Plan for use at Guantanamo. According to the Armed Services Committee’s report, JPRA was offering its services for “oversight, training, analysis, research, and [tactics, techniques, and procedures] development” to Joint Forces Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner. (Emphasis added.)
There were other indications that research was an important component of JPRA services to the DoD and CIA interrogation programs. When three JPRA personnel were sent to a Special Mission Unit associated with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in August 2003 for what was believed to be special training in interrogation, one of the three was JPRA’s manager for research and development.
Three former top military officials interviewed by the Armed Services Committee have described Guantanamo as a “battle lab.”
According to Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), he was uncomfortable when Guantanamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term “battle lab,” meaning “that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit DoD in other places.”
CITF’s deputy commander told the Senate investigators, “there were many risks associated with this concept … and the perception that detainees were used for some ‘experimentation’ of new unproven techniques had negative connotations.”
In May 2005, a former military officer who attended a SERE training facility sent an email to Middle East scholar Juan Cole stating that “Gitmo must be being used as a ‘laboratory’ for all these psychological techniques by the [counter-intelligence] guys.”
The Al-Qahtani Experiment
One of the high-value detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo who appears to have been a victim of human experimentation was Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was captured in January 2002.
A sworn statement filed by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, al-Qahtani’s attorney, said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Major General Miller, commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.
The treatment of al-Qahtani was cataloged in an 84-page “torture log“ that was leaked in 2006. The torture log shows that, beginning in November 2002 and continuing well into January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated in 20-hour stretches, poked with IVs and left to urinate on himself.
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents al-Qahtani, had said in a sworn declaration that his client, was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.
“At Guantánamo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’” Gutierrez said. “These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”
In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee report said al-Qahtani’s treatment was viewed as a potential model for other interrogations.
In his book, “Oath Betrayed,” Dr. Steven Miles wrote that the meticulously recorded logs of al-Qahtani’s interrogation and torture focus “on the emotions and interactions of the prisoner, rather than on the questions that were asked and the information that was obtained.”
The uncertainty surrounding these experimental techniques resulted in the presence of medical personnel on site, and frequent and consistent medical checks of the detainee. The results of the monitoring, which likely included vital signs and other stress markers, would also become data that could be analyzed to understand how the new interrogation techniques worked.
In January 2004, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) initiated a DoD-wide review of human subjects protection policies. A Navy slide presentation at DoD Training Day on November 14, 2006, hinted strongly at the serious issues behind the entire review.
The Navy presentation framed the problem in the light of the history of US governmental “non-compliance” with human subjects research protections, including “US Government Mind Control Experiments – LSD, MKULTRA, MKDELTA (1950-1970s)”; a 90-day national “stand down” in 2003 for all human subject research and development activities “ordered in response to the death of subjects”; as well as use of “unqualified researchers.”
The Training Day presentation said the review found the Navy “not in full compliance with Federal policies on human subjects protection.” Furthermore, DDR&E found the Navy had “no single point of accountability for human subject protections.”
DoD refused to respond to questions regarding the 2004 review. Moreover, Maj. Gen. Ronald Sega, who at the time was the DDR&E, did not return calls for comment.
Meanwhile, the end of the Bush administration has not resulted in a total abandonment of the research regarding interrogation program.
Last March, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who recently resigned, disclosed that the Obama administration’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), planned on conducting “scientific research” to determine “if there are better ways to get information from people that are consistent with our values.”
“It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area,” Blair said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He did not provide additional details as to what the “scientific research” entailed.
As for the Wolfowitz directive, Pentagon spokeswoman Snyder said it did not open the door to human experimentation on war on terror detainees.
“There is no detainee policy, directive or instruction – or exceptions to such – that would permit performing human research testing on DoD detainees,” Snyder said. “Moreover, none of the numerous investigations into allegations of misconduct by interrogators or the guard force found any evidence of such activities.”
Snyder added that DoD is in the process of updating the Wolfowitz directive and it will be “completed for review next year.”
Jason Leopold is the Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, “News Junkie,” a memoir. Visit newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.
Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist living in Northern California, writes regularly on torture and other subjects for Firedoglake. He also maintains
Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know December 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan troops, Afghanistan War, Blackwater, defense department, dod, dyncorp, jeremy scahill, mccaskill, mercenaries, obama administration, private contractors, private security, privatization, roger hollander, surge, USAID, war, war cost
Contrary to popular belief, the US actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.
by Jeremy Scahill
A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.” That’s not in one war zone-that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.
In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff, “From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”
At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.
The US has spent more than $23 billion on contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. By next year, the number of contractors will have doubled since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion in Afghanistan-related contracts.
Despite the massive number of contracts and contractors in Afghanistan, oversight is utterly lacking. “The increase in Afghanistan contracts has not seen a corresponding increase in contract management and oversight,” according to McCaskill’s briefing paper. “In May 2009, DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] Director Charlie Williams told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that as many as 362 positions for Contracting Officer’s Representatives (CORs) in Afghanistan were currently vacant.”
A former USAID official, Michael Walsh, the former director of USAID’s Office of Acquisition and Assistance and Chief Acquisition Officer, told the Commission that many USAID staff are “administering huge awards with limited knowledge of or experience with the rules and regulations.” According to one USAID official, the agency is “sending too much money, too fast with too few people looking over how it is spent.” As a result, the agency does not “know … where the money is going.”
The Obama administration is continuing the Bush-era policy of hiring contractors to oversee contractors. According to the McCaskill memo:
In Afghanistan, USAID is relying on contractors to provide oversight of its large reconstruction and development projects. According to information provided to the Subcommittee, International Relief and Development (IRD) was awarded a five-year contract in 2006 to oversee the $1.4 billion infrastructure contract awarded to a joint venture of the Louis Berger Group and Black and Veatch Special Projects. USAID has also awarded a contract Checci and Company to provide support for contracts in Afghanistan.
The private security industry and the US government have pointed to the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker(SPOT) as evidence of greater government oversight of contractor activities. But McCaskill’s subcommittee found that system utterly lacking, stating: “The Subcommittee obtained current SPOT data showing that there are currently 1,123 State Department contractors and no USAID contractors working in Afghanistan.” Remember, there are officially 14,000 USAID contractors and the official monitoring and tracking system found none of these people and less than half of the State Department contractors.
As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says that the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $950 million in questioned and unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department contracts for work in Afghanistan. That’s 16% of the total contract dollars reviewed.
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Gonzales’s Advice to Bush on How to Avoid War Crimes June 22, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, acul, al-Qaeda, Alberto Gonzales, bush administration, Condoleezza Rice, defense department, detainee abuses, dod, doug feith, foa, freedom of information, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, jason leopold, mike dunlavey, richard myers, roger hollander, rumsfeld, sere, Taliban, torture, War Crimes, waterboarding, william haynes, wolfowitz
add a comment
17 June 2009by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report
On January 25, 2002, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales advised George W. Bush in a memo to deny al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners protections under the Geneva Conventions because doing so would “substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act” and “provide a solid defense to any future prosecution.”
Two weeks later, Bush signed an action memorandum dated February 7, 2002, addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney, which denied baseline protections to al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners under the Third Geneva Convention. That memo, according to a recently released bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee, opened the door to “considering aggressive techniques,” which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior Bush officials.
”The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees,” says the committee’s December 11 report.
“While the President’s order stated that, as ‘a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,’ the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in US custody.”
The Supreme Court held in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that the prisoners were entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions.
Many of the classified policy directives, such as Gonzales’s memo to Bush, are now part of the public record thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Bush administration, which has so far resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages of documents that shows how Bush officials twisted the law in order to build a legal framework for torture.
These documents have been posted on the ACLU’s web site. But several hundred of the most explosive records were republished in the book “Administration of Torture” along with hard-hitting commentary by the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer, who heads the group’s National Security Project, and Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the organization.
Rumsfeld Wanted a “Product”
On February 14, 2002, just one week after Bush signed the action memo, Maj. Gen. Mike Dunlavey was contacted by Rumsfeld, who asked him to attend a Defense Department meeting with Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others on February 21 or 22. At the meeting, Rumsfeld told Dunlavey he wanted him to oversee interrogations at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility in Cuba. Prisoners captured by US military personnel had first arrived at Guantanamo a month earlier. Dunlavey was a family court judge in Erie County, Pennsylvania, when he got the call from Rumsfeld and was placed in charge of interrogations at Guantanamo.
Rumsfeld told Dunlavey, according to a witness statement he made on March 17, 2005, to US Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who was investigating FBI complaints about abuse at Guantanamo, that the Department of Defense had rounded up “a number of bad guys” and the secretary of defense “wanted a product and wanted intelligence now.”
Rumsfeld “wanted to set up interrogation operations and to identify the senior Taliban and senior operatives and to obtain information on what they were going to do regarding their operations and structure,” Dunlavey said, according to a copy of his witness statement. “Initially, I was told that I would answer to SECDEF (Secretary of Defense) and [US Southern Command]. The directions changed and I got my marching orders from the President of the United States. I was told by the SECDEF that he wanted me back in Washington, DC every week to brief him…. The mission was to get intelligence to prevent another 9/11.”
Dunlavey did not explain what he meant by “I got my marching orders from the president.” But his comments suggest that Bush may have played a much larger role in the interrogation of prisoners than he has let on. Moreover, Dunlavey’s witness statement indicates that harsh interrogations, such as waterboarding, may have taken place earlier than previously known and may have preceded an August 1, 2002, legal opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel authorizing specific interrogation techniques to use against prisoners.
As early as December 2001, according to the documents obtained by the ACLU, high-ranking military officials began to implement an Army and Air Force survival-training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which were meant to prepare US soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.
In June 2004, Gen. James Hill of Southern Command, the Defense Department’s command unit responsible for military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, held a press briefing and confirmed that interrogation techniques specifically authorized by Rumsfeld for use at Guantanamo were derived from the SERE school. In October 2002, Dunlavey wrote to Hill to seek authorization that interrogators be granted the authority to use methods that strayed from the Army Field Manual in order to extract information from prisoners.
Dunlavey, in making his case to Hill for authority to use more aggressive techniques, attached a copy of Bush’s then classified February 7, 2002, action memo along with an analysis that said, “since the detainees are not [Enemy Prisoners of War] the Geneva Conventions limitations that ordinarily would govern captured enemy personnel interrogations are not binding on US personnel.”
Hill sent Dunlavey’s request to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers discussed it with William Haynes II, the Defense Department’s general counsel, who briefed Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith. The request ultimately ended up on Rumsfeld’s desk and he approved it, according to the documents.
”The documents establish that senior officials in Washington, including White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, constructed a legal framework that would permit the abuse and torture of prisoners,” the ACLU’s Jaffer and Singh wrote in “Administration of Torture.” “They establish that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, relying on this legal framework, expressly authorized the use of interrogation methods – including SERE methods – that went far beyond those endorsed by the Army Field Manual. They establish that Rumsfeld and Gen. Geoffrey Miller oversaw the implementation of the newly authorized interrogation methods and closely supervised the interrogation of prisoners thought to be especially valuable.”
In early December 2002, FBI officials who had participated in some interrogations at Guantanamo complained to Miller that the methods used against prisoners at Guantanamo were unlawful. But Miller was not receptive. That led FBI officials to conclude that senior Bush administration officials and Rumsfeld were making decisions about interrogations in particular.
A December 16, 2002, email written by an FBI official expressed frustration that the Defense Department refused to budge from its controversial interrogation methods.
”Looks like we are stuck in the mud with the interview approach of the military vs. law enforcement,” the email said.
In May 2004, Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he briefed Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone about his plan to “Gitmo-ize” the Abu Ghraib prison.
That month, an email written by a senior FBI agent in Iraq in 2004 specifically stated that President George W. Bush had signed an executive order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation, and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.
The FBI email, dated May 22, 2004, followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the US military’s harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards, but fit within the guidelines of a presidential executive order.
According to the email, Bush’s executive order authorized interrogators to use military dogs, “stress positions,” sleep “management,” loud music and “sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.” to extract information from detainees in Iraq.
The May 2004, FBI email stated that the FBI interrogation team in Iraq understood that despite revisions in the executive order that occurred after the furor over the Abu Ghraib abuses, the presidential sanctioning of harsh interrogation tactics had not been rescinded.
”I have been told that all interrogation techniques previously authorized by the Executive Order are still on the table but that certain techniques can only be used if very high-level authority is granted,” the author of the FBI email said.
”We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices.”
The White House had emphatically denied that any such presidential executive order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the email “mistaken.” Prior to the May 22, 2004, email several others written by FBI agents that month were sent to Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s general counsel, about detainees being tortured before the unnamed agent sent Caproni the email citing Bush’s alleged executive order.
On July 9, 2004, the FBI’s Office of Inspections distributed an email asking its agents who were stationed at Guantanamo whether they had witnessed, “Aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques … which were not consistent with FBI interview policy/guidelines.”
More than two-dozen agents responded that they observed numerous instances of detainee abuse. One FBI agent wrote that, despite Rumsfeld’s public statements to the contrary, the interrogation methods “were approved at high levels w/in DoD.” In addition to Rumsfeld, the FBI emails said Paul Wolfowitz, one Bush administration official who has largely escaped scrutiny in the torture debate, approved the methods at Guantanamo.
In 2006, Miller received a Distinguished Service Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service.” Dunlavey is an Erie County judge.
Jason Leopold is editor in chief of The Public Record, www.pubrecord.org.
Will 39 Democrats Stand Up to Stop the War Funding? June 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
Tags: Afghanistan escalation, Afghanistan War, anti-war, defense department, democratic leadership, democrats, dod, graham, harry reid, IMF, imf funding, Iraq war, jeremy scahill, lieberman, lynn woolsey, military spending, Obama, pelosi, prisoner abuse, Rahm Emanuel, roger hollander, torture photos, U.S. militarism, war funding, war spending
add a comment
The White House and the Democratic Congressional Leadership are playing a very dirty game in their effort to ram through supplemental funding for the escalating US war in Afghanistan and continued occupation of Iraq. In the crosshairs of the big guns at the White House and on Capitol Hill are anti-war freshmen legislators and the movement to hold those responsible for torture accountable.
In funding the wars, the White House has been able to rely on strong GOP support to marginalize the anti-war Democrats who have pledged to vote against continued funding (as 51 Democrats did in May when the supplemental was first voted on). But the White House is running into trouble now because of Republican opposition to some of the provisions added to the bill (and one removed), meaning the pro-war Democrats actually need a fair number of anti-war Democrats to switch sides. In short, the current battle will clearly reveal exactly how many Democrats actually oppose these wars. And, according to reports, the White House and Democratic Leadership have the gloves off in the fight:
Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a leader of the antiwar Democrats, said the White House is threatening to withdraw support from freshmen who oppose the bill, saying “you’ll never hear from us again.”She said the House leadership also is targeting the freshmen.
“It’s really hard for the freshmen,” she said. “Nancy’s pretty powerful.”
On June 11, the relevant committees in the House and Senate approved the $105.9 billion spending package. According to an analysis by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:
The bill includes $79.9 billion for the Department of Defense, primarily to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly $4.4 billion more than the amount sought by the Administration. This funding is in addition to the $65.9 billion “bridge fund” in war funding for FY’09 that Congress approved last June. To date Congress has approved over $814 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the $80 billion recommended by the Conference Committee, In addition, the Obama Administration is seeking $130 billion in for fiscal year 2010. Both the House and Senate could take up the conference agreement as early as this week.In addition to funding combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bill provides $10.4 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $7.7 billion for Pandemic Flu Response.
The current battle over war funding has brought with it a couple of high-stakes actions, which have threatened passage of the bill. Many Democrats were up in arms about an amendment sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham that would have blocked the release of photos depicting US abuse of prisoners (which the White House “actively” supported. Facing warnings that the provision could derail the funding package, the White House stepped in, deploying Rahm Emanuel to the Hill to convince legislators to drop the amendment, while at the same time pledging that Obama would use his authority to continue to fight the release of more photos:
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel ‘rushed’ to Capitol Hill and prevailed upon Senate Democrats to remove the torture photo measure in exchange for an explicit White House promise that it would use all means at its disposal to block the photos’ release. Obama also issued a letter to Congress assuring it he would support separate legislation to suppress the photos, if necessary, and imploring it to speed passage of the war-spending bill. The rider would “unnecessarily complicate the essential objective of supporting the troops,” Obama wrote.
In other words, Obama took a position that amounted to providing political cover to Democrats to support the war funding, while pledging to implement, through other means, the very policy they supposedly found objectionable.
Secondly, the White House and Congressional leadership added a provision to the bill that extends up to $100 billion in credits to the International Monetary Fund. While this sent many Republicans to the microphones to denounce the funding, the Democratic leadership portrayed the IMF funding as a progressive policy:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is trying to paint the IMF provision as a “very important national security initiative.” The IMF, she said, “can be a force for alleviating the fury of despair among people, poor people throughout the world.”
It is a pathetic symbol of just how bankrupt the Congressional Democratic leadership is when it comes to US foreign policy that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are trying to use funding for the IMF to convince other Democrats to support war funding. The IMF has been a destabilizing force in many countries across the globe through its austerity measures and structural adjustment schemes. Remember, it was the policies of the IMF and its cohorts at the World Bank and World Trade Organizations that sparked global uprisings in the 1990s.
To support the IMF funding scam, the Center for American Progress, which has passionately supported Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan, released a position paper today called, “Bailing Out the Bailer-Outer: Five Reasons Congress Should Agree to Fund the IMF.”
Thankfully, some anti-war Democrats seem to understand the atrocious role the IMF has played and have tried to impose rules on the funding that would attempt to confront the IMF’s austerity measures by requiring that “the funds allocated by Congress for global stimulus are used for stimulatory, and not contractionary, purposes.”
By adding the IMF provision to this bill, the White House is making a bold statement about the intimate relationship of the hidden hand of US neoliberal economic policy to the iron fist of US militarism.
At the end of the day, the real issue here is: How many Democrats will actually stand up on principle to the funding of the wars, regardless of the bells and whistles the White House and Democratic Leadership attach or the threats they need to endure from their own party?
In order to block passage, 39 Democrats need to vote against it in the House. As of this writing, 34 reportedly are committed to voting against it. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake has been doing great coverage of this issue, much of which can be found here. So too has David Swanson at AfterDowningStreet. This does seem to be one issue where phone calls and letters matter-tremendously. See where your representative stands here. As of this writing, these are the legislators who are reportedly leaning toward a “No” vote, but have not yet committed. They are the people most likely to be convinced by hearing from constituents:
- Steve Cohen
- Keith Ellison
- Chakah Fattah
- Mike Honda
- Doris Matsui
- Ed Markey
- Jim McDermott
- Gwen Moore
- Jared Polis
- Jan Schakowsky
- Jackie Speier
- Mike Thompson
- John Tierney
- Mel Watt
- Anthony Weiner
UPDATE: I just spoke to Trevor Kincaid, Jan Schakowsky’s communications director and he told me that Schakowsky will not release a statement on her position on the supplemental “until after the vote.” I asked him if she was concerned about going back on her 2007 pledge never to vote for war funding that did not call for troop withdrawal. He said, “She is currently reviewing the pros and cons of the bill.” He would provide no further comment.
Also, Jane Hamsher reports that it now appears Keith Ellison is voting no.
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.
Obama Has 250,000 ‘Contractors’ in Iraq and Afghan Wars, Increases Number of Mercenaries June 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: afghanistan mercenaries, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, Blackwater, defense department, dod, Iraq mercenaries, Iraq occupation, Iraq war, jeremy scahill, obama mercenaries, Pentagon, private security contractors, roger hollander, triple canopy
add a comment
Newly released Pentagon statistics show that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the number of armed contractors is rising. The DoD says it sees “similar dependence on contractors in future.”
by Jeremy Scahill
A couple of years ago, Blackwater executive Joseph Schmitz seemed to see a silver lining for mercenary companies with the prospect of US forces being withdrawn or reduced in Iraq. “There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint,” Schmitz said. “And there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in.”
When it comes to armed contractors, it seems that Schmitz was right.
According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. These numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual “security” contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.
Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): “Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and “Operational Contract Support, ‘State of the Union.’”
“We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations,” according to the contractor “State of the Union.” It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are “fixed by law,” but points out that the number of contractors is “size unfixed,” meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.
At present there are 132,610 in Iraq and 68,197 in Afghanistan. The report notes that while the deployment of security contractors in Iraq is increasing, there was an 11% decrease in overall contractors in Iraq from the first quarter of 2009 due to the “ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq.”
Both Pentagon reports can be downloaded here.
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill
Tags: Abu Ghraib, cia torturers, convention against torture, defense department, detainee abuse, Dick Cheney, dod, doj, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human rights, human rights abuses, International law, interrogation, iraqi police, iraqi prisons, jeremy scahill, justice department, kurdish regions, nuremburg, obama administration, roger hollander, rule of law, torture, torture techniques, u.s. torture system, un human rights, War Crimes
1 comment so far
Published on Friday, May 1, 2009 by Rebel Reports
Part of the deadly serious problem with the Obama administration’s position on (not) holding accountable CIA torturers, their lawyers and the Bush administration officials who authorized and ordered all of these crimes is this: It sends a message to other governments that if Washington does it, we can too. Especially governments completely created by the US government.
No governments on the planet are more controlled by the US right now than the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A new UN human rights report examining Iraq shows that torture of prisoners by Iraqi authorities is widespread and accountability is nonexistent. “The lack of accountability of the perpetrators of such human rights abuses reinforces the culture of impunity,” the UN bluntly states. The 30-page report by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, which examined conditions in Iraq from July to December 2008, was just released Wednesday.
At times, the report reads as though it could have been written about the US torture program at Guantanamo and other US-run prisons and the total lack of accountability. In Iraq, the UN cites “the use of torture as an interrogation method” and “prolonged periods of detention without charge or access to legal counsel and the use of torture or physical abuse against detainees to extract confessions.”
UN investigators said it was of “particular concern” that a senior Iraqi police official complained that the Iraqi government’s pending ratification of the Convention against Torture would “not be helpful,” stating, “How are we going to get confessions? We have to force the criminals to confess and how are we going to do that now?” It sounds like that Iraqi police official has been listening to Dick Cheney.
The UN says “there are no documented cases to this day where an official of the Minister of Defence has been held accountable for human rights abuses.” That is exactly the situation within the US Department of Defense (and Justice and CIA and White House for that matter). “This laxity in the prosecution is contrary to the international obligations undertaken by Iraq and to the provisions of the Convention against Torture.”
Iraq hasn’t even ratified the convention, but the US has-so what does that say about US conduct?
Some of the worst abuses in Iraqi prisons are said to take place in the northern autonomous Kurdish region, which has long been an area of major US influence (going back to the Saddam era). Among the findings of the UN:
claims of beatings during interrogation, torture by electric shocks, forced confessions, secret detention facilities, and a lack of medical attention. Abuse is often committed by masked men or while detainees are blindfolded. In general, detainees fear the interrogators and investigative personnel more than prison guards.
As of December 2008, there were 41,271 people being held in prisons throughout Iraq, 15,058 of them in the custody of the US-controlled “Multi-National Forces.” The UN found that “many” of the prisoners “have been deprived of their liberty for months or even years in overcrowded cells” and expressed concerns “about violations of the minimum rules of due process as many did not have access to defence counsel, or were not formally charged with a crime or appeared before a judge.”
While the report primarily focused on Iraqi run prisons, it notes that in US-run prisons “detainees have remained in custody for prolonged periods without judicial review of their cases.” And remember, the US is in the process of turning over more prisoners to Iraqi custody.
It is well known that after Bush launched the so-called “War on Terror,” the US torture system was exported from Guantanamo to Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently the disdain for accountability and international law was as well when the US was setting up the new Iraqi government. Wasn’t Saddams torture and disdain for international law one of the justifications for the invasion (after the WMD myth was exposed)? This UN report should serve as a sobering reminder of why it is so important to hold those who created, ordered, justified and implemented the US torture program responsible for their crimes. Sadly, the US at present has zero credibility in confronting these crimes by the Iraqi authorities.
For more information, see: http://uniraq.org/