America’s Disappeared July 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, Argentina, barry mccaffrey, bush adminsitration, cheney, chris hedges, cia prisons, Condoleezza Rice, david addington, detainees, dirty war, disappeared, drone missiles, george tenet, habeas corpus, human rights, Human Rights Watch, jay bybee, John Ashcroft, john rizzo, john yoo, pakistan, predator missiles, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, william j. haynes
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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.
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.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, anthony buzbee, antonio taguba, barry mccaffrey, cia tapes, david addington, detainee deaths, glenn greenwald, hillary clinton, human rights, investigate torture, issa, justice department, roger hollander, sheikh issa bin zayed al-nahyan, torture, torture memos, torture videos, uae nuclear, uae torture tapes, uaw, united arab emirates
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www.salon.com, May 3, 2009
As more videotapes emerge documenting the torture inflicted on numerous victims by Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a prince of the United Arab Emirates, the controversy is beginning to jeopardize the UAE’s relationship with the United States, a country that absolutely loathes torture and demands real accountability for those who do it:
“I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa’s involvement in the torture of more than 25 people,” wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter obtained by the Observer.
The news of more torture videos involving Issa is another huge blow to the international image of the UAE . . . . The fresh revelations about Issa’s actions will add further doubt to a pending nuclear energy deal between the UAE and the US. The deal, signed in the final days of George W Bush, is seen as vital for the UAE. It will see the US share nuclear energy expertise, fuel and technology in return for a promise to abide by non-proliferation agreements. But the deal needs to be recertified by the Obama administration and there is growing outrage in America over the tapes. Congressman James McGovern, a senior Democrat, has demanded that Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, investigate the matter and find out why US officials initially appeared to play down its significance.
The U.S. is a very tolerant nation, but the one thing we simply cannot abide is when a government fails adequately to investigate allegations of torture on the part of key officials and fails to hold them accountable. That’s where we draw the line.
The UAE royal family claimed that they had investigated and resolved the matter and made sure that it would not happen again — but when it comes to torture, we have made clear that such a “look-forward-not-backwards/reflection-not-retribution” mentality is morally outrageous and unacceptable — from the UAE:
The authorities in the UAE have certainly mishandled the emergence of the initial torture tape. The 2004 tape was obtained by ABC News and shown on television in the US. The UAE at first said that the matter had been privately settled between Sheikh Issa and his victim. They also added that UAE police had followed all their rules and regulations properly.
But that position did not last long in the face of a wave of international revulsion at the brutality on display. The fierceness of the criticism eventually forced the UAE government to both condemn the tape and announce a new investigation. The government “unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video”, the state-run news agency said last week. It added that a government human rights group in the Judicial Department would also now review the matter. . . .
Buzbee welcomed the developments, but expressed scepticism that the investigation was genuinely motivated, because the authorities had known about the tapes for several years. “I am sceptical about whether there will be a genuine investigation, given that various officials have been aware of these issues for many years and given the fact that members of the government were actually involved in, or covered up, the torture,” he said.
Indeed. What kind of primitive, brutal country knows for years that its own powerful government officials participated in torture and then fails even to investigate what happened, let alone impose meaningful accountability on the torturers? The international community simply cannot tolerate acquiescence to that sort of evil. Note that the UAE apparently compensated the victims of the prince’s torture, whereas the U.S. blocked — and continues to try to block — its own torture victims from even having a day in court.
Had Issa — who ordered these torture sessions recorded — only looked to the U.S. for civilized and moral leadership on such matters, he almost certainly could have avoided this trouble:
U.S. Says C.I.A. Destroyed 92 Tapes of Interrogations
The government on Monday revealed for the first time the extent of the destruction of videotapes in 2005 by the Central Intelligence Agency, saying that agency officers destroyed 92 videotapes documenting the harsh interrogations of two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. detention. . . .
It had been previously known that officials of the agency had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotaped interrogations, but the documents filed Monday reveal the number of tapes. . . . The destroyed videotapes are thought to have depicted some of the harshest interrogation techniques used by the C.I.A.
Only monsters and barbarians fail to destroy their own torture tapes. The New York Times previously reported that the highest-level White House officials — including David Addington and Alberto Gonzales — participated in discussions about whether to destroy those videotapes (acts which the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission have called “obstruction of justice”), though because we need to Look Forward, Not Back, and this all happened in The Past, we don’t know what was said and don’t need to. Knowing that might disrupt our moment of quiet, contemplative reflection.
What’s most notable about the Guardian article reporting on the emergence of the new UAE torture tapes is that it contains this link to one of the new torture videos (or, to use the high editorial standards of our nation’s leading newspapers: “the ‘torture’ videos,” or “videos depicting harsh techniques which critics decry as ‘torture'”):
But if you actually click on the warning link, it merely takes you to a video that — although it’s dramatically entitled “Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan Torturing a man” — shows nothing more than a tied-and-bound victim being slapped around a little bit and forced to eat some sand — a technique that (a) nobody who has read the OLC memos could possibly find shocking, (b) would be dismissed by America’s morally upstanding right-wing warriors as nothing more than a fun fraternity prank; and (c) would never qualify as “torture” as our own government defined that term, given that there’s no organ failure, no permanent physical damage, and no death:
It’s certainly true that the first released video of the torture inflicted by Issa depicted grotesque violence — including severe beating, culminating with running over the victim with a car. But that level of brutality also isn’t exactly unknown to the U.S., as the Far Leftist score-settler, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, recently pointed out on MSNBC:
We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during a course of that, both by the armed forces and CIA. [Releasing the memos] was the right thing to do. . . . There is prosecutorial discretion. We shouldn’t in my view go after the CIA officers involved in this. There is a good argument in my view for reviewing the White House justice council and the Attorney General’s office who okayed this.
Gen. McCaffrey’s point was echoed by the Hard Leftist Vengeful Partisan, Gen. Antonio Taguba:
[T]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. . . . [T]he Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. . . . The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
Even by official U.S. Government acknowledgments, there have been numerous deaths of detainees in U.S. custody which “were acts of criminal homicide.” Independent reports make clear just how prevalent detainee death was.
But anyway, enough about all that divisive partisan unpleasantness — back to this brutal, criminal UAE prince: let’s watch more of those videotapes, express our outrage on behalf of international human rights standards, and threaten the UAE that their relationship with us will suffer severely unless there is a real investigation — not the whitewash they tried to get away with — along with real accountability. We simply cannot, in good conscience, maintain productive relations with a country that fails to take “torture” seriously. We are, after all, the United States.
Tags: ABC, barry mccaffrey, brian williams, CBS, censorship, cnn, david barstow, fox news, glenn greenwald, howard kurtz, investigative journalism, investigative reporting, iraq war coverage, jack jacobs, media censorship, military analysts, msnbc, nbc, ny times, pentagon propaganda, politico, pulitzer prize, retired generals, roger hollander, war coverage
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Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 by Salon.com
The New York Times‘ David Barstow won a richly deserved Pulitzer Prize yesterday for two articles that, despite being featured as major news stories on the front page of The Paper of Record, were completely suppressed by virtually every network and cable news show, which to this day have never informed their viewers about what Bartow uncovered. Here is how the Pulitzer Committee described Barstow’s exposés:
Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.
By whom were these “ties to companies” undisclosed and for whom did these deeply conflicted retired generals pose as “analysts”? ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox — the very companies that have simply suppressed the story from their viewers. They kept completely silent about Barstow’s story even though it sparked Congressional inquiries, vehement objections from the then-leading Democratic presidential candidates, and allegations that the Pentagon program violated legal prohibitions on domestic propaganda programs. The Pentagon’s secret collaboration with these “independent analysts” shaped multiple news stories from each of these outlets on a variety of critical topics. Most amazingly, many of them continue to employ as so-called “independent analysts” the very retired generals at the heart of Barstow’s story, yet still refuse to inform their viewers about any part of this story.
And even now that Barstow yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting — one of the most prestigious awards any news story can win — these revelations still may not be uttered on television, tragically dashing the hope expressed yesterday (rhetorically, I presume) by Media Matters’ Jamison Foser that “maybe now that the story has won a Pulitzer for Barstow, they’ll pay attention.” Instead, it was Atrios’ prediction that was decisively confirmed: “I don’t think a Pulitzer will be enough to give the military analyst story more attention.” Here is what Brian Williams said last night on his NBC News broadcast in reporting on the prestigious awards:
The Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and the arts were awarded today. The New York Times led the way with five, including awards for breaking news and international reporting. Las Vegas Sun won for the public service category for its reporting on construction worker deaths in that city. Best commentary went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post, who of course was an on-air commentator for us on MSNBC all through the election season and continues to be. And the award for best biography went to John Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, for his book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.”
No mention that among the five NYT prizes was one for investigative reporting. Williams did manage to promote the fact that one of the award winners was an MSNBC contributor, but sadly did not find the time to inform his viewers that NBC News’ war reporting and one of Williams’ still-featured premiere “independent analysts,” Gen. Barry McCaffrey, was and continues to be at the heart of the scandal for which Barstow won the Pulitzer. Williams’ refusal to inform his readers about this now-Pulitzer-winning story is particularly notable given his direct personal involvement in the secret, joint attempts by NBC and McCaffrey to contain P.R. damage to NBC from Barstow’s story, compounded by the fact that NBC was on notice of these multiple conflicts as early as April, 2003, when The Nation first reported on them.
Identically, CNN ran an 898-word story on the various Pulitzer winners — describing virtually every winner — but was simply unable to find any space even to mention David Barstow’s name, let alone inform their readers that he won the Prize for uncovering core corruption at the heart of CNN’s coverage of the Iraq War and other military-related matters. No other television news outlet implicated by Barstow’s story mentioned his award, at least as far as I can tell.
The outright refusal of any of these “news organizations” even to mention what Barstow uncovered about the Pentagon’s propaganda program and the way it infected their coverage is one of the most illuminating events revealing how they operate. So transparently corrupt and journalistically disgraceful is their blackout of this story that even Howard Kurtz and Politico — that’s Howard Kurtz and Politico — lambasted them for this concealment. Meaningful criticisms of media stars from media critic (and CNN star) Howie Kurtz is about as rare as prosecutions for politically powerful lawbreakers in America, yet this is what he said about the television media’s suppression of Barstow’s story: “their coverage of this important issue has been pathetic.”
Has there ever been another Pulitzer-Prize-winning story for investigative reporting never to be mentioned on major television — let alone one that was twice featured as the lead story on the front page of The New York Times? To pose the question is to answer it.
UPDATE: Media Matters has more on the glaring omissions in Brian Williams’ “reporting” and on the pervasive impact of the Pentagon’s program on television news coverage. Williams’ behavior has long been disgraceful on this issue, almost certainly due to the fact that some of the “analysts” most directly implicated by Barstow’s story are Williams’ favored sources and friends.
On a different note, CQ‘s Jeff Stein responds today to some of the objections to his Jane-Harman/AIPAC/Alberto-Gonazles blockbuster story — quite convincingly, in my view — and, as Christy Hardin Smith notes, the New York Times has now independently confirmed much of what Stein reported.
UPDATE II: For some added irony: on his NBS News broadcast last night suppressing any mention of David Barstow’s Pulitzer Prize, Brian Williams’ lead story concerned Obama’s trip to the CIA yesterday. Featured in that story was commentary from Col. Jack Jacobs, identified on-screen this way: “Retired, NBC News Military Analyst.” Jacobs was one of the retired officers who was an active member of the Pentagon’s “military analyst” program, and indeed, he actively helped plan the Pentagon’s media strategy at the very same time he was posing as an “independent analyst” on NBC (h/t reader gc; via NEXIS). So not only did Williams last night conceal from his viewers any mention of the Pentagon program, he featured — on the very same broadcast — “independent” commentary from one of the central figures involved in that propaganda program.
On a related note, Howard Kurtz was asked in his Washington Post chat yesterday about Mike Allen’s grant of anonymity to a “top Bush official” that I highlighted on Saturday, and Kurtz — while defending much of Allen’s behavior — said: “I don’t believe an ex-official should have been granted anonymity for that kind of harsh attack.”