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America’s Disappeared July 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
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Published on Monday, July 18, 2011 by TruthDig.com 

  by  Chris Hedges

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror” of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

© 2011 TruthDig.com

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Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

 

 

 

 

21 Comments so far

Posted by sivasm
Jul 18 2011 – 9:03am

Chris Hedges, as always one of the best piece I’ve read especially on Obama. I will rejoice when they drag Obama in chains, together with his cronies to stand trials for crimes against humanity.

Posted by Gdpxhk
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is just another puppet. He would only be replaced by another marionette. The men in the shadows need to be revealed like night crawlers under a rock. Follow the money trail and they can be found, but would anyone listen? Actually, I should say, follow the gold trail as fiat money means nothing to these creatures…and they will have all the gold.

Posted by Richard-Ralph-Roehl
Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am

After reading this disturbing article, another masterpiece of sober truth-telling by Chris Hedges, I’m not entirely surprised there no comments yet posted herein. Hedges’ article makes one wonder if blogging makes people a target for nefarious action by Amerika’s $ociopathic ruling class. And like Mr. Hedges, I blog under my legal name. Perhaps I’m more brave (or foolish) than I believe I am. Albeit… I’m not as brave as Mr. Hedges.

It is my opinion that Amerika’s foreign policy is delusional, violent and criminallly insane. It is the fruit of $ociopaths and psychopaths. It is why 9-11 happened.

And Amerika’s domestic policy isn’t much different. It is cruel and stupid and mean-espirited. I rest my case on the latter policy with the damn War on Drrrugs, a vicious minded policy that is the antithesis of personal freedom. Rome is burning! It burns because Amerika’s rapacious ruling class has the insight of rabid dogs.

Amerika is NOT a beacon of light for the world. It is a violent, war mongering beast that pushes humanity down the road toward an extinction event. It is evil.

What to do? Well… you don’t pet rabid dogs. You fukin’ shoot ‘em!

Posted by Thalidomide
Jul 18 2011 – 9:12am

Obama is the leader of a terrorist theocracy and in case people think things will get better someday it is important to realize that a large majority of young Americans support torture.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:25am

Correct. You always hear about “someday, our children will ask us why we did what we did – why did we leave them such a horrible nation.” WRONG. Young people today grew up in this Orwellian police state – they don’t know how Amerika “used to be.” This is the “norm” to them. They are growing up quite acclimated to torture, illegal invasions, the destruction of civil liberties once enshrined in the Constitution, no habeas corpus, the president claiming he has the powers of a dictator, etc.

As Thalidomide says – don’t count on our youth to straighten out the mess we are making. They will take the ball we have handed to them and run with it.

Posted by James Edwards
Jul 18 2011 – 9:17am

The USA is far worse than Argentina was. The body count, the period of time, the area over which the US’ns have killed and their glee makes this blatantly clear.
The USA is a grand human mistake (actually fuck-up in modern parlance). Humanity must eradicate its influence. There is no other way forward. Present US citizens are part of humanity and have a duty to perform. They must deny the authority of their government and the validity of the structure called the USA.
Hedges does not write so and as the likes of Steve Biko have discovered it is dangerous to do so, but it is so and those who cannot see so are in Hell already.
We must remember that it is an honour if Hell kicks us out.
The man Jesus said so and he was no Christian.

Posted by raydelcamino
Jul 18 2011 – 10:19am

Definitely far worse…Argentine facists actions killed Argentinians, American fascists kill people from every nation on earth.

Posted by Space Cadet
Jul 18 2011 – 9:43am

Excellent analogy.  Americans like to consider themselves as a first world country while they label Argenrina as some backward, third world country with no respect for the rule of law.  Unfortunately the American ruling class feels confident that they will never see the inside of a cortroom because of their wealth, sense of moral superiority and a complacent population that basically says… “better them than me”.
I for one, don’t see any of the culprits being brought to justice in my lifetime because most Americans still buy into the official State line that they’re just “doing their job” to help keep us safe.  Muslims have been vilified so successfully that the average American feels nervous next to a Middle Eastern man if he dons a long beard and speaks a foreign language.  We cloak our racism in the camoflauge of patriotism as we place  ‘support pur troops’ bumper stickers on our cars and wave tiny American flags as military processions roll by in tanks and armoured personnel carriers.  We’re taught to hold our founding fathers in high esteem while ignoring uncomfortable truths about them such as their slaves, genocide of the aboriginals and their selfish, financial motivations for declaring war on behalf or their fellow countrymen.
Critical thinking in our schools have been replaced by standarized tests that just have the narrow focus of honing our literacy and numeracy skills so that we may all be able to improve our chances of entering that rapidly shrinking employment pool known as corporate America in exchange for minimal wages, routine drug tests and a psychotic corporate mantra that places profits above family, empathy and morality.
One thing Argentina lacked compared to their U.S. contemporaries is the omnipotent influence of their State propaganda apparatus.  The Argentine elite couldn’t unabashedly expect a private media to cheer lead their crimes and responded with their own State run media lies.  But it had neither the sophistication, the reach or the deep pockets that America has and the populace quickly ignored it for the bunk that it was.
The elite in the U.S. have no such worries as the masses goose step with pride in defence of the status quo boasting of a free press, the greatest military in the world and a country personally blessed by God Almighty.  Everyone’s on board, or at least those who really matter  as we assuage our moral conscience that only America can save the world if the world would only embrace Big Macs, Paris Hilton and the Super Bowl as proof of a superior culture.  How stubborn the world must seem to be, when so few recognize that unchecked consumerism, limitless entertainment and blind patriotism are the only true paths to happiness.

Posted by Demonstorm
Jul 18 2011 – 11:30am

Extremely well-said. It is scary how much Amereichans today resemble Germans of the 30’s and 40’s. Only worse. Back then, at least many Germans could use the excuse they didn’t know what their government was really doing. Amereichans see it every day and don’t give a rat’s ass, for the reasons you so well stated. Indoctrinated and acclimated to Amerikka the Great, anything and everything she does is hunky-dory for them. They say most evil people don’t really believe they are evil, in their own minds. No better example of this exists than in this country.

Posted by memento
Jul 18 2011 – 9:44am

Hedges writes:

“Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants.”

I am having problems believing what Hedges has written. If each disappeared American had at least 10 friends and relatives, then well over 400,000 Americans a year would experience personally knowing someone who was disappeared by militarized police units breaking down doors. Someone, please explain where Hedges gets the numbers he writes.

Posted by Brian Brademeyer
Jul 18 2011 – 10:15am

>>>> Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away …

Hint: The “blue” text (haul them away) in the article is a link to more information (assuming you’re not just a concern troll and actually want to learn).

Posted by gardenernorcal
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

I am not sure where Mr. Hedges got his information but there is information out there.

http://www.immigrantjustice.org/isolatedindetention

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2010/09/immigration-detention-report.html

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/aboutdetention

“The recent impact of ICE enforcement includes:

•Approximately 380,000 immigrants were detained in 2009, more than 30,000 people per day. The average length of detention is currently 33.5 days.
•More than 369,211 immigrants were deported in 2009, a record for the agency and a twenty seven percent increase from 2007.
•DHS has spent over $2.8 billion on efforts to deport immigrants since the creation of ICE in 2003.
•In total, 3.7 million immigrants have been deported since 1994.
•A 12 fold increase in worksite arrests between 2002 and 2008. A new trend is to use “identify theft” charges to put immigrants in the category of “criminal alien” to make it easier to deport them.
•Over 100 “Fugitive Operations Teams” and the development of other specialized operations. ICE claims these are focused on specific groups but they are often used as a pretext for wide scale arrests in apartment complexes, workplaces, and public spaces.
•67% of ICE detainees are housed in local and county jail facilities, 17% in contract detention facilities, 13% in ICE-owned facilities, and 3% in other facilities such as those run by the Bureau of Prisons.
•According to the Washington Post, “with roughly 1.6 million immigrants in some stage of immigration proceedings, the government holds more detainees a night than Clarion Hotels have guests, operates nearly as many vehicles as Greyhound has buses and flies more people each day than do many small U.S. airlines.” (Washington Post, February 2, 2007)”

http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/node/2382

Posted by Randy G
Jul 18 2011 – 11:10am

Memento — as Brian mentioned there is a link to Hedges’ assertion & you might want to read it on Truth Dig.

What may have confused you is that you seem to assume that Hedges is claiming that the 40,000 were executed clandestinely and never seen again. He is simply describing the number of arrests performed during which police execute military style raids in the middle of the night — often without knocking.

There are many, many incidents where it later turns out police have raided the wrong house, innocent people are shot, and the level of police violence in the raid is out of all reasonable proportion to the alleged offense.

Here is one tragic example of a raid gone bad:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/17/aiyana-jones-7-year-old-s_n_578246.html

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I was recently surrounded –while camping legally in my car– by over a dozen sheriff’s officers with semi-automatic weapons and night vision goggles. This occurred in Arizona. It was, needless to say,  scary. They screamed at me to keep my hands in clear site while I was “laser sighted” from multiple rifles.

There was no warrant, there was no evidence of me doing anything wrong (I was asleep but my dogs started barking at them), and they admitted that I had committed no crime. I was 100 miles from the border but they had ‘suspicions’ that I might be a drug trafficker….

I wrote up more details in an earlier post but my main point is that I could have easily been killed if I had slipped trying to get out of the car or seemed like I was reaching for a gun.

They had not even bothered to run my vehicle license plate before launching their little raid. Since I was eventually let go without being arrested (or shot) there is not even an official statistic on this encounter.

There is no presumption of innocence and the 4th amendment is a joke.

You have to experience or witness something like this to appreciate how totally militarized our police have become. This is not a highway patrol officer cautiously approaching your car after stopping you for speeding.

The total number of arrests in the U.S. — much of it in the service of the ‘drug war’– is simple  mind boggling.

How many arrests per year are made in the U.S.?

14,172,384.

“From 2005 to 2008, there are on average 14,172,384 arrests made per year in the United States. This is based on data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. Of all reported arrests, drug abuse violations remains the greatest, with on average 1,819,970 arrests made per year.”

http://www.numberof.net/number-of-arrests-per-year/

“Arrests for drug law violations this year are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.6 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2009.”

“Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.”

http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock

http://able2know.org/topic/172440-1

Posted by Jill
Jul 18 2011 – 9:52am

Gdpxhk,

Arrest a puppett and he will tell you who pulls his strings.

I agree that following the money is also essential.

Posted by readytotransform
Jul 18 2011 – 10:11am

.

Posted by Oikos
Jul 18 2011 – 10:18am

Richard-Ralph-Roehl, Jul 18 2011 – 9:11am, is unfortunately right.

What a painful, albeit necesary, article by Hedges.

Posted by Jim Shea
Jul 18 2011 – 10:36am

Thanks again to Chris Hedges. Unfortunately, he is a voice crying in the wilderness, and NOTHING will be done to bring the American war criminals to justice. We American are too caught up in our own mythology.
Jim Shea

Posted by Stig
Jul 18 2011 – 10:50am

The concerted effort by thousands of ordinary Argentinians, over decades, made sure the junta responsible were punished. In the States there is no equivalent embodiment of injustice by its citizens, no strong sense of moral outrage, nothing to bring ordinary people together, to insure a prison cell for Bush, Cheney and the rest of them. There is no cacerolada here, our hands and voices have been effectively amputated, by ourselves. Indeed, Bush would probably receive a Nobel peace prize, before anything here, resembles the type of justice that is taking place in Argentina.

Posted by downtownwalker
Jul 18 2011 – 11:03am

“Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. “
I will certainly feel less “soiled” by my country’s dirty deeds when some of our laundry has been hung. No doubt that we are no longer a country where the “rule of law” means much any more. Hopefully one day that will change (and it will probably change “in one day”).

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:24am

The condors* have come home to roost.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor

Posted by chaokoh
Jul 18 2011 – 11:36am

Collapse and disintegration is a much more likely destiny for the dumb ol’ USA than any kind of long march to justice. The US hasn’t got three decades to spend defending its criminal acts in court. It probably hasn’t got three years. The US is perched on the mother of all tipping points, economically, socially and militarily and one wing beat from one black swan will send the US into the ravine. Here, for instance is just one of them:

Al Jazeera: CIA veteran: Israel to attack Iran in fall

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/201171775828434786.html

Anatomy of Bush’s Torture ‘Paradigm’ April 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
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torture_inquisition2

Ray McGovern

www.consortiumnewscom, April 14, 2009

The prose of the recently leaked report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on torture seems colorless. It is at the same time obscene — almost pornographic.

The 41-page ICRC report depicts scenes of prisoners forced to remain naked for long periods, sometimes in the presence of women, often with their hands shackled over their heads in “stress positions” as they are left to soil themselves.

The report’s images of sadism also include prisoners slammed against walls, locked in tiny boxes, and strapped to a bench and subjected to the drowning sensation of waterboarding.

How could it be that we Americans tolerate the kind of leaders who would subject others to systematic torture — yes, that’s what the official report of the international body charged with monitoring the Geneva agreements on the treatment of prisoners concludes — torture.

Over the past week I have been asked to explain how this could have happened; who authorized the torture in our name? The Red Cross report lacks the earmarks of rogues or “rotten apples” at the bottom of some barrel.

This is what I have been telling those who ask:

Rather than Harry Truman’s famous motto on his Oval Office desk, “The Buck Stops Here,” this was a case of “The Buck Starts Here.” President George W. Bush set the tone and created the framework, with strong support from Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The first hints of what was in store came from the President himself in the White House bunker late on Sept. 11, 2001, at a meeting with his closest national security advisers after his TV address to the nation about the terrorist attacks that morning.

The vengeful bunker mentality prevailing at that meeting comes through clearly in the report of one of the participants, Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies. Describing the President as confident, determined, forceful, Clarke provides the following account of what President Bush said:

“We are at war.… Nothing else matters. … Any barriers in your way, they’re gone.”

When, later in the discussion, Secretary Rumsfeld noted that international law allowed the use of force only to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush nearly bit his head off.

“No,” the President yelled in the narrow conference room, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”

‘Taking the Gloves Off’

In the weeks that followed, the air in Washington hung heavy with demons of retribution. Afghanistan was invaded in October 2001, and during a prisoner uprising on Nov. 25, a CIA officer was killed there.

A young American citizen, John Walker Lindh, was discovered among the prisoners in the area. There was not the slightest evidence that Lindh had anything to do with the killing.

But documents show that U.S. Joint Special Operations troops were told that the office of the Defense Secretary’s counsel (William J. Haynes II, was Pentagon general counsel at the time) had authorized an Army intelligence officer “to take the gloves off and ask whatever he wanted” of Lindh.

Despite urgent intervention by Justice Department ethics attorney Jesselyn Radack, Lindh was not properly read his rights. Instead, the FBI agent on the scene ad-libbed in an offhand way, “You have the right to an attorney. But there are no attorneys here in Afghanistan.”

Lindh had been seriously wounded in the leg. Despite that, U.S. troops put a hood over him, stripped him naked, duct-taped him to a stretcher for days in an unheated and unlit shipping container, and threatened him with death.

Parts of his humiliating ordeal were captured on film (a practice that became tragically familiar with the photos of Abu Ghraib).

In her book, Canary in the Coalmine: Blowing the Whistle in the Case of John Walker Lindh, attorney Radack comments that official documents pertaining to this case provide “the earliest known evidence that the Bush Administration was willing to push the envelope on how far it could go to extract information from suspected terrorists.”

(Because she protested, Radack was fired as Justice Department legal ethics advisor, put under criminal investigation, and even added to the “no-fly” list.)

End-Run Around Geneva

But the Bush administration was just getting started.

On Jan. 18, 2002, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised the President that the Justice Department had issued a formal legal opinion concluding that the Geneva Convention III on the Treatment of Prisoners of War (GPW) does not apply with respect to al Qaeda.

Gonzales added that he understood that Bush had “decided that GPW does not apply and, accordingly, that al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not prisoners of war under the GPW.”

On Jan. 19, 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told combat commanders that the President had “determined that al-Qaeda and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defense are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell asked the President to reconsider his decision and to conclude, instead, that the GPW does apply to both al Qaeda and the Taliban. But Powell’s protest was couched in bureaucratic politeness, rather than in anger and outrage. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Cowardice in the Time of Torture.”]

The next step took the form of the fateful memorandum of Jan. 25, 2002, signed by Alberto Gonzales but drafted by counsel to the Vice President David Addington. That memo outlined for the President “the ramifications of your decision and the Secretary’s [Powell’s] request for reconsideration.”

It described a “new paradigm” that, the writers claimed “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners, and renders quaint some of its provisions.”

Gonzales and Addington urged the President to disregard Powell’s misgivings and move ahead. But they cloaked their argument in lawyerly language that obscured what was to come.

The lawyers argued that it was “appropriate” and “consistent with military necessity” to waive Geneva regarding the treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, but they inserted assurances that the prisoners would be treated “humanely” and “in a manner consistent with the principles of GPW.”

Powell Rebuffed

Brushing aside Powell’s objections, President Bush adopted the Gonzales/Addington language and signed a memorandum to that effect on Feb. 7, 2002. The memo went to Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Chief of Staff to the President Andrew Card, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers.

The memo amounted to an executive order, although it was not labeled as such. In it, the President alludes fulsomely to Justice Department opinions and recommendations, as well as “facts” supplied by the Defense Department.

Bush then takes clear responsibility for the decision to spurn Geneva: “I determine that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. … I determine that Taliban detainees … do not qualify as prisoners of war under Article 4 of Geneva … and that al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war.”

The Feb. 7, 2002, memo bears the Orwellian title “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.” In it, Bush lifts verbatim the language from the Gonzales/Addington memo of Jan. 25, 2002, and makes it his own.

Bush claimed, for example, “the war against terrorism ushers in a new paradigm [that] requires new thinking in the law of war.”

Bush then tries to square a circle, directing (twice in the two-page memo) that “detainees be treated humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of GPW.”

Smell Smoke?

The smoking-gun memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, was released to the media, together with other documents, by Gonzales on June 22, 2004, but it did not receive the attention it deserved until recently.

On Dec. 11, 2008, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released, without dissent, the summary of their committee’s report on the abuse of detainees.

The report’s first subhead was: Presidential Order Opens Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques, and the first words of the first sentence of the first paragraph were, “On Feb. 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating…”

Referring to the “President’s order,” the first paragraph adds that “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.”

“Conclusion Number One” of the Senate Armed Services Committee report states: “Following the President’s determination [of Feb. 7, 2002], techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions … were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.”

Once Bush had opened the door with his Feb. 7, 2002, memo, other actions followed to implement the President’s “new paradigm.”

White House lawyers worked with Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel to develop constitutional theories about expansive presidential powers that effectively let Bush operate beyond the law.

The OLC traditionally is the office that tells presidents the limits of their constitutional authorities. However, in this case, Yoo collaborated with Gonzales, Addington and other White House lawyers in hammering out arguments that the administration could use to implement harsh interrogations of al Qaeda suspects.

On Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo and his OLC superior, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, issued an opinion that so narrowly defined “torture” that it cleared the way for a variety of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, which creates a near-drowning experience.

Top-Down Torture

As the legal framework for Bush’s torture policies took shape, senior officers and lower-level participants in the interrogations understood that the basis for the newly permitted harsh tactics stemmed from a presidential decision.

In a report on Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger indicated that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, instituted a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the Geneva Convention.

Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President’s memorandum,” which he said allowed for “additional, tougher measures” against detainees, according to the Schlesinger report.

An FBI e-mail of May 22, 2004, from a senior FBI agent in Iraq stated that President Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

The FBI official sought guidance in confronting an unwelcome dilemma. He asked if FBI personnel in Iraq were required to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of detainees when such treatment violated Bureau standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential Executive Order.

In sum, abundant evidence indicates that the torture techniques applied in the jail cells and interrogation chambers — the “alternative set of procedures” about which Bush boasted publicly on Sept. 6, 2006 — resulted directly from Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo and implementing actions by his administration.

Interrogators also were egged on by comments from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld regarding the “tough” treatments they favored.

One fig leaf left covering the otherwise exposed role of Bush and his top aides remains the clever inclusion of the word “humane” in the memo that made possible what the International Committee of the Red Cross condemned as “inhuman” treatment of terror suspects in U.S. custody.

There’s also the-Justice-Department-told-me-it-was-legal excuse, though the evidence is now clear that the Bush administration essentially stage-managed the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

For instance, when the Yoo-Bybee opinions were withdrawn by Bybee’s OLC successor, Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, Addington and other administration officials successfully pressured Goldsmith to resign and then welcomed a new OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, who reinstated the key opinions in May 2005.

And – as the evidence built of illegal torture in 2006 – the Bush administration pushed the “Military Commissions Act” through the Republican-controlled Congress with phrasing that granted a degree of retroactive immunity.

The law states that “no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.”

That provision was interpreted as a broad amnesty for U.S. officials, including President Bush and other senior executives who may have authorized torture, murder or other violations of human rights.

The law also granted Bush the authority “to interpret the meaning and the application of the Geneva Conventions.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Shame on Us All.”]

However, there remain legal questions about whether the law’s language would prevent prosecutions under pre-existing anti-torture laws.

The sudden appearance of the damning report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, initially given to the CIA’s acting general counsel on Feb. 14, 2007, greatly complicates any rotten-apples-at-the-bottom-of-the-barrel-type disingenuousness.

In a departure from the usual diplomatic parlance, the ICRC minces not a word in referring to those who authorized torture. In the report itself, the Red Cross calls on current U.S. authorities “to punish the perpetrators, where appropriate, to prevent such abuses from happening again.”

What do you suppose is holding Attorney General Eric Holder back from appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate, with a view toward rubbing out, once and for all, this shameful stain on our collective conscience?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. An Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 years, he now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

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Spanish Judge, Pinochet Nemesis, to Go After Bush Gang? March 28, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, About Justice, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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gonzales-and-bushPartners in Crime

 

baltasar-garzpmSpanish Judge Baltasar Garzón

 

Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com

March 29, 2009

 

Today’s edition of the Spanish daily, Público (www.publico.es) reports that the Spanish judge who nearly sent Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to the calaboose, may be taking aim at the Bush team that was responsible of the Guantánamo Gulag.

 

Justice Baltasar Garzón, examining magistrate of the Juzgado Central de Instrucción, no. 5, which investigates the most important criminal cases in Spain, has forwarded to the Fiscalía (Spanish government Attorney General) for investigation a complaint issued on March 17 by four Spanish attorneys who specialize in crimes against humanity.

 

The complaint does not name Bush himself but rather the legal team that set the stage and provided the justification for the Guantánamo Bay torture machine. Those included are Alberto Gonzales, a Bush advisor at the time of the Guantánamo policy design (and future Attorney General); David Addington, advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney; William J. Haynes, General Counsel to the Department of Defence under Donald Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defence for Policy; Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel and author of the infamous “torture memo.”

 

The Spanish legal system gives jurisdiction to the complaint under the notion of “universal jurisdiction,” which applies to serious infractions such as torture and other crimes against humanity.  The complainants, however, are also claiming specific Spanish jurisdiction via a case that the same Justice Garzón had opened against five accused members of a Spanish Al Qaeda cell, who had passed through Guantánamo and were subsequently acquitted because of testimony obtained by torture at Guantánamo.  The present complaint gives Garzón cause to reopen this case and instruct the Attorney General to investigate those responsible for the torture which resulted in the acquittal.

 

According to the Público account, a similar case in Germany in 2006 that named Bush and Rumsfeld went nowhere; however, Spanish legal authorities are suggesting that the case against the legal team that gave justification to the Guantánamo torture policy is much more concrete and likely to go forward.  It is much more realistic, they say, to go after subordinates rather those in positions of the highest authority.  Furthermore, the principle of universal jurisdiction is absolute in Spanish jurisprudence, which makes it that much more likely that the case will be heard.

 

Gonzo Gonzales and his fellow torture-mates may very well be restricting their travel plans in the near future.

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