Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, bagram, CIA torture, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, donald rumsfeld, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, International law, nuremberg, roger hollander, senate torture, torture, torture architects, us constitutiion, War Crimes
Roger’s note: The Senate Committee’s torture report is about to be released, possibly tomorrow. Bush and the CIA already are waging a campaign to discredit it, so we can assume it will speak at least a degree of truth to the brutal Bush/Cheney torture regime. What we can also, unfortunately, assume is that those responsible for those legal and moral crimes against humanity, will not soon if ever be brought to justice.
If you click on this link immediately below, you will see the complete Interactive Infographic that identifies all the major criminals, beginning with then President Bush, and by clicking on each one you can read the part they played in this infamy. Please note that President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, both sworn to uphold the Constitution, are as well legally and morally complicit in these crimes for their failure to do their sworn duty, that is, to prosecute the criminals.
Posted by rogerhollander in War, Whistle-blowing, Wikileaks.
Tags: bradley manning, geneva conventions, illegal war, International law, Iraq war, laws of war, manning trial, my lai, nuremberg principles, roger hollander, soldering, soldier, timothy gotto, whistleblower, wikileaks
Roger’s note: this is the key paragraph from this article:
Now, in this day and age, we have a military that has seen continuous combat operations for over a decade. Most of the invasions and operations are, in reality, contrary to the Geneva Conventions themselves. This places the American soldier in a predicament from the start. The question being that if one enlists and takes the oath of enlistment to obey the orders of the officers above him and to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic , when your nation is breaking both U.S. and international law in the first place, how do you obey the orders of those officers that give them?
What many observers, including so-called liberals and progressives, fail to recognize in their commentary, is that the United States government, from the president on down, is committing war crimes en masse via its various military operations. This is not a question of bad policy, it is a question of moral and legal criminality.
OpEdNews Op Eds 7/27/2013 at 08:39:47
By Timothy Gatto (about the author)
After the details of My Lai, a Vietnamese village that was destroyed and men, women and children killed by U.S. Soldiers came out, and the military had selected their fall guy for the massacre, Lt. Calley, we in the Army were subjected to constant classes on when to follow or when not to follow orders. We were told that there are legal orders and illegal orders, and that following illegal orders, would be well…illegal. If an enlisted man followed what he knew to be an illegal order, not only would the person that gave the illegal order be held responsible, the person that carried out the illegal order could also be charged.
It all sounds good, but it reality it is as the Brits say, “A bit of a sticky wicket”. This is because in the military, they also teach you to follow orders immediately, if there is a question about what orders to follow, bring it up later. In combat, when your life is on the line, and also the lives of your comrades on the battlefield with you, the best thing is to follow the orders even if it means putting your own life on the line. This is because the “fog of war” in the midst of battle is usually better seen (but not always) by the command that has a better picture of what is taking place.
We were given class after class as to what is an “illegal order”. Discussions were held, and looking back on it, the classes were really a reaction to the media’s portrayal of the military during and directly after the My Lai trial, for public consumption, and to raise the morale of the troops when many in the military were ashamed of atrocities committed in Vietnam. This was a way to let the public and the troops know that the military was addressing some of the unspeakable horrors of war and they were trying to do something about it. In reality, this was a public relations operation.
The idea was that if a soldier saw something going on that was not legal according to the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, that soldier should go to a higher authority and report it. If he didn’t have the time, he should refuse to participate and if it was within his power, he should try to stop it. This all sounds reasonable, but in the military, sometimes it is not as cut and dry as one would think.
Now, in this day and age, we have a military that has seen continuous combat operations for over a decade. Most of the invasions and operations are, in reality, contrary to the Geneva Conventions themselves. This places the American soldier in a predicament from the start. The question being that if one enlists and takes the oath of enlistment to obey the orders of the officers above him and to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic , when your nation is breaking both U.S. and international law in the first place, how do you obey the orders of those officers that give them?
Now we had situation where a Private First Class was allowed to access sensitive information that showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the American military was committing atrocities and crimes that were against not only his moral code, but were against military law and the Geneva Conventions. This was during a period when the U.S. Military was committing crime after crime by using depleted uranium (a weapon of mass destruction), and destroying entire cities as in Fallujah with air strikes, artillery and armor, killing men women and children indiscriminately and for all intents and purposes, destroying the city.
Meanwhile, no soldiers were reporting crimes to their superiors (that we know about). It was business as usual in this new type of hostilities against other nations in undeclared wars that the U.S. euphemistically calls “The War on Terror”. Soldiers were seemingly following illegal orders on a daily basis and “doing their duty”.
This Private First Class was in a terrible quandary. It must have seemed to him that with his access to all of this sensitive information that allowed him to see a larger picture of what was really going on, that his nation was indeed committing grievous war crimes. When he brought this matter to his superiors, he was ignored. This, in reality, is what many soldiers experience when confronted with war in all of its horrific forms.
The difference here is that this lowly Private decided that he was going to expose these crimes. Like I said, in this day and age, long after the My Lai massacre. this type of behavior is unheard of. According to the American Government, the enemy we face is more horrific and dangerous than any we have ever faced. After all, didn’t Muslims fell the Twin Towers and kill innocent Americans and aren’t they plotting continuously to commit acts of terror against the United States? As far as the military was concerned, the gloves were off and according to the President at the time; “Either you are with us or against us”.
It must have taken a supreme act if courage for Bradley Manning to finally release his information to the only people that seemed to care what was happening in Iraq, Wikileaks. Now he finds himself in front of a Court Martial after being tortured for months by the military by being forced to remain in solitary confinement for months, while remaining naked, in a cold dark cell, being treated like an animal in direct violation to all military law and the Geneva Conventions in regard to treatment of prisoners.
Most of his defense has been deemed by the people in charge of his Court Martial to be inadmissible, and this leaves him defenseless against the power of the United States military that had once proclaimed that if a soldier saw wrongdoing and violations of the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, that soldier should go to a higher authority and report it, and if it was within his power, he should try to stop it. The Private did report it, but the report of these violations fell on deaf ears.
Now he will pay the price of doing the right thing. Doing the right thing, not only to assuage his own sense of right and wrong, but doing the right thing according to what the United States Army once told their soldiers.
This is a new age however. An age of masking wars as defensive actions, even though they are in reality invasions of other nations against all International Law, the Geneva Conventions are no longer relevant. We have seen an observer call on Apache attack helicopters to fire on journalists walking with their cameras on a city street, and once they were wounded and lying on the street and when people ran to help them, the Apaches were ordered to fire on the rescuers. Manning let the world see this. Still, no charges were filed against the individuals responsible for these actions.
It is Bradley Manning that will suffer for these actions. The American military is using this to issue a warning to their soldiers that conscience and adherence to the laws of war will no longer be tolerated. This is what the trail of Private First Class Bradley Manning means.
Former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina. A regular contributor to OpEdNews, he is the author of Kimchee Days or Stoned Cold Warriors. Tim’s political book, “From (more…)
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: alan dershowitz, CIA torture, enhance interrogation, eric holder, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human rights, International law, jay bybee, john yoo, maher arar, philip giraldi, rendition, roger hollander, torture, torture memos
Roger’s note: Here it is Christmas Eve, 2012, and I am posting yet another article on torture. Our shameless president may have chosen to “look forward, not backwards” when it comes to prosecuting those responsible for these high crimes. I for one cannot forget them, nor can I forget the fact that the United States government continues to sow death and destruction around the globe.
By Philip Giraldi (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/23/2012 at 19:46:40
A classified Senate Intelligence Committee report shows the futility of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
If there is one word missing from the United States government’s post-9/11 lexicon it is “accountability.” While perfectly legal though illicit sexual encounters apparently continue to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, leading to resignations, no one has been punished for malfeasance, torture, secret prisons, or extraordinary renditions.
Indeed, the Obama administration stated in 2009 that it would not punish CIA torturers because it prefers to “look forward and not back,” a decision not to prosecute that was recently confirmed by Attorney General Eric Holder in two cases involving the deaths of detainees after particularly brutal Agency interrogations. What the White House decision almost certainly means is that the president would prefer to avoid a tussle with the Republicans in congress over national security that would inevitably reveal a great deal of dirty laundry belonging to both parties.
The bipartisan willingness to avoid confrontation over possible war crimes makes the recently completed 6,000 page long Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture an extraordinary document. Though it is still classified and might well never see the light of day even in any sanitized or bowdlerized form, its principal conclusions have been leaking out in the media over the past two weeks. It directly addresses the principal argument that has been made by Bush administration devotees and continues to be advanced regarding the CIA torture agenda: that vital information obtained by “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the report, no information obtained by torture was critical to the eventual assassination of the al-Qaeda leader, nor has it been found to be an indispensable element in any of the other terrorism cases that were examined by the Senate committee.
What exactly does that mean? It means that torture, far from being an essential tool in the counter-terrorism effort, has not provided information that could not be obtained elsewhere and using less coercive methods. Senator Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has had access to the entire classified document, elaborated, explaining that the investigation carried out by the Senate included every detainee held by CIA, examining “the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy or inaccuracy of CIA descriptions about the program to the White House, Department of Justice, Congress and others.” It “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program…” The report has 35,000 footnotes and investigators perused 6 million pages of official records, which is why it has taken more than two years to produce.
The Senate inquiry’s conclusions inevitably lead to the assumption that there has been a whole lot of lying and obfuscation going on in connection with the so-called war on terror. To recap major developments, 9/11 unleashed a counter-offensive by the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center (CTC), which was at the time headed by Cofer “the gloves come off” Black. Secret prisons were established in Europe and Asia, torture was used extensively in the interrogation of suspects, and some detainees were shipped off to friendly intelligence services in places like Egypt for even more aggressive questioning. This was referred to as rendition. Some suspects were snatched off the streets in European and Asian cities before being rendered.
The Justice Department gave its approval for the harsh interrogation techniques in a notorious secret memo drafted by John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2005 only months after a 2004 public statement in which the selfsame Justice Department declared that torture would not be acceptable. On October 5, 2007, President George W. Bush restated the official position, “This government does not torture people. We stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.” But he also contradicted himself, elaborating that his administration’s interrogation methods included questioning carried out by “highly-trained professionals.” He explained, “When we find somebody who may have information regarding an attack on America, and you bet we’re going to detain them, you bet we’re going to question them. The American people expect us to find out information, this actionable intelligence, so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”
Since that time the issue of torture itself has become an ideological abstraction, with the neoconservatives, many Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats reflexively supporting it. It has also frequently been debated in the intelligence community. There are undeniably some who believe that all terrorist suspects should be tortured even unto death to tell what they know, but an increasing number of former intelligence officers have expressed doubts over the efficacy of the procedure, a conclusion that is now supported by the Senate findings.
To cite one example of what torture can produce, prominent al-Qaeda figure Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, commonly referred to as KSM, was arrested in 2003 in Pakistan was reportedly water-boarded 183 times and “broken” by his CIA interrogators. He subsequently confessed to being involved in virtually every terrorist act carried out in the previous 20 years, including 9/11, the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl, and the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole. He clearly was not actually involved in many of the incidents, but he was willing to admit to anything.
There are also other good reasons to oppose torture and torture by proxy through CIA rendition. Most people and governments worldwide believe that torture is immoral, a view that is generally shared by most Americans. Legally there is also a long tradition condemning torture. German and Japanese officers were executed after the Second World War for torturing prisoners and the principle was firmly established that torture, specifically including waterboarding, is a war crime. The US is signatory to the UN’s anti-torture convention, and both the United States Code and specific acts of congress require prosecution of any government employee engaging in such activity. In practical terms, torture also opens up a door that should never be opened by anyone who genuinely cares about US soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence officers stationed at their peril around the world. To put it succinctly, if we do it to them, they will do it to us.
Mistakes are inevitable when one accepts that it is okay to break the rules in favor of more coercive interrogation. To cite one example of how intelligence operations can go wrong, on December 13, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United States kidnapped German citizen Khaled el-Masri and he was taken to an airport where he was “Severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” before being sent on to Afghanistan for more of the same. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity while subsequent attempts to obtain recompense through the US courts were blocked by the Obama administration, which claimed state secrets privilege.
Another well-documented rendition case, of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, consigned an innocent man to torture in Syria. Yet another rendition, of Milan-based Muslim cleric Abu Omar turned into a prime example of an intelligence operation designed by Monty Python, employing a cast of hundreds at a cost of many millions of dollars. It continues to play out in the Italian courts. Abu Omar was tortured in Egypt and eventually released when it turned out that he had no information of value.
Torture advocates have assiduously cultivated a number of myths, most prominent of which is the “ticking time bomb.” This is a particular favorite of the redoubtable Alan Dershowitz and a number of prominent neocons. It goes like this — a terrorist is captured who has knowledge of an impending attack on a major civilian target, but he won’t cooperate. How to get the information? Simple. Get an accommodating judge to issue a legal finding that enables you to torture him until he talks, thereby saving lives of innocent civilians.
The only problem with the Dershowitz narrative is that there has never been an actual ticking time bomb. No terrorist has ever been captured, subjected to torture, and provided information that foiled an attack, not even in Israel where routine torture of suspected terrorists captured in flagrante used to be the case (but is now illegal). Advocating a policy of torture, with all that entails, based on a “what if” is fighting evil with more evil, not a solution.
Torture brutalizes and degrades the individual carrying it out, the organization he or she represents, and the government that approves of the practice. The Senate committee report should finally put paid to the arguments being made that it is a reliable interrogation tool, but there still remains the question of accountability. A recent book by Jose A. Rodriguez, who approved and oversaw the CIA torture regime while he served as head of the Counter Terrorism Center and later as Deputy Director of the Clandestine Services, demonstrates that there are still zealots who believe in “extreme measures” in spite of any evidence presented to the contrary. The book is entitled “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions after 9/11 Saved American Lives.” Well, apparently that is just not true and perhaps Jose owes the surviving victims of “hard measures” an apology.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Mr. Giraldi was awarded an MA and PhD from the University of London in European History and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Chicago. He speaks Spanish, Italian, German, and Turkish. His columns on terrorism, intelligence, and security issues regularly appear in The American Conservative magazine, Huffington Post, and antiwar.com. He has written op-ed pieces for the Hearst Newspaper chain, has appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, National Public Radio, and local affiliates of ABC television. He has been a keynote speaker at the Petroleum Industry Security Council annual meeting, has spoken twice at the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC convention in Washington, and has addressed several World Affairs Council affiliates. He has been interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Britain’s Independent Television Network, FOX News, Polish National Television, Croatian National Television, al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, 60 Minutes, and other international and domestic broadcasters.
Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, History, Imperialism, War.
Tags: africom, civil disobedience, civil resistance, francis a. boyle, geneva conventions, hans morgenthau, history, International law, mckinley, nuremberg, philippine genocide, roger hollander, spanish american war, u.s. army field manual, U.S. imperialism, war, world war iii
by Professor Francis A. Boyle
Wed, 12/12/2012, www.blackagendareport.org
The following is the text of a speech delivered by Professor Francis A. Boyle at the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights, University of the Sacred Heart, San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 9, 2012.
“The serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening to set off World War III.”
Historically this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions. Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy. But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the so-called “Pacific” Ocean would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the neoconservative Republican Bush Junior administration and the neoliberal Democratic Obama administration are now threatening to set off World War III.
By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Junior administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Middle East and Africa under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against “international terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism”; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled humanitarian intervention/responsibility to protect (R2P). Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundaments and energizers of the global economic system – oil and gas. The Bush Junior/ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America (e.g., the Pentagon’s reactivization of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in 2008), and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. Today the U.S. Fourth Fleet threatens Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador for sure.
Toward accomplishing that first objective, in 2007 the neoconservative Bush Junior administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, steal, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species. In 2011 Libya then proved to be the first victim of AFRICOM under the neoliberal Obama administration, thus demonstrating the truly bi-partisan and non-partisan nature of U.S. imperial foreign policy decision-making. Let us put aside as beyond the scope of this paper the American conquest, extermination, and ethnic cleansing of the Indians from off the face of the continent of North America. Since America’s instigation of the Spanish-American War in 1898, U.S. foreign policy decision-making has been alternatively conducted by reactionary imperialists, conservative imperialists, and liberal imperialists for the past 115 years and counting.
“The Bush Junior/ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.”
This world-girdling burst of U.S. imperialism at the start of humankind’s new millennium is what my teacher, mentor, and friend the late, great Professor Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal book Politics Among Nations 52-53 (4th ed. 1968): The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination–a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….
The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity.
Since September 11, 2001, it is the Unlimited Imperialists à la Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler who have been in charge of conducting American foreign policy decision-making. After September 11, 2001 the people of the world have witnessed successive governments in the United States that have demonstrated little respect for fundamental considerations of international law, human rights, or the United States Constitution. Instead, the world has watched a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international and domestic legal orders by groups of men and women who are thoroughly Hobbist and Machiavellian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign affairs and American domestic policy. Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the U.S. government’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well recognized principles of both international law and United States domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare, which applies to the President himself as Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.
“Specific components of the U.S. government’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well recognized principles of both international law and United States domestic law.”
Depending on the substantive issues involved, these international and domestic crimes typically include but are not limited to the Nuremberg offences of “crimes against peace”—e.g., Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and perhaps their longstanding threatened war of aggression against Iran. Their criminal responsibility also concerns “crimes against humanity” and war crimes as well as grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare: torture, enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, drone strikes, etc. Furthermore, various officials of the United States government have committed numerous inchoate crimes incidental to these substantive offences that under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956) are international crimes in their own right: planning, and preparation, solicitation, incitement, conspiracy, complicity, attempt, aiding and abetting. Of course the terrible irony of today’s situation is that over six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment, and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that these officials of the United States government currently inflict upon people all over the world. To be sure, I personally oppose the imposition of capital punishment upon any human being for any reason no matter how monstrous their crimes, whether they be Saddam Hussein, Bush Junior, Tony Blair, or Barack Obama.
According to basic principles of international criminal law set forth in paragraph 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, all high level civilian officials and military officers in the U.S. government who either knew or should have known that soldiers or civilians under their control (such as the C.I.A. or mercenary contractors), committed or were about to commit international crimes and failed to take the measures necessary to stop them, or to punish them, or both, are likewise personally responsible for the commission of international crimes. This category of officialdom who actually knew or should have known of the commission of these international crimes under their jurisdiction and failed to do anything about them include at the very top of America’s criminal chain-of-command the President, the Vice-President, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, the C.I.A. Director, National Security Advisor and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff along with the appropriate Regional Commanders-in-Chiefs, especially for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
These U.S. government officials and their immediate subordinates are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as specified by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as by U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 of 1956. Today in international legal terms, the United States government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, because of its formulation and undertaking of serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany. As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and the United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by U.S. government officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.
“The United States government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles.”
For that very reason, large numbers of American citizens have decided to act on their own cognizance by means of civil resistance in order to demand that the U.S. government adhere to basic principles of international law, of U.S. domestic law, and of the U.S. Constitution in its conduct of foreign affairs and military operations. Mistakenly, however, such actions have been defined to constitute classic instances of “civil disobedience” as historically practiced in the United States. And the conventional status quo admonition by the U.S. power elite and its sycophantic news media for those who knowingly engage in “civil disobedience” has always been that they must meekly accept their punishment for having performed a prima facie breach of the positive laws as a demonstration of their good faith and moral commitment. Nothing could be further from the truth! Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs! The U.S. government officials are the outlaws!
Here I would like to suggest a different way of thinking about civil resistance activities that are specifically designed to thwart, prevent, or impede ongoing criminal activity by officials of the U.S. government under well recognized principles of international and U.S. domestic law. Such civil resistance activities represent the last constitutional avenue open to the American people to preserve their democratic form of government with its historical commitment to the rule of law and human rights. Civil resistance is the last hope America has to prevent the U.S. government from moving even farther down the path of lawless violence in Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, military interventionism into Latin America, and nuclear confrontation with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and China.
Such measures of “civil resistance” must not be confused with, and indeed must be carefully distinguished from, acts of “civil disobedience” as traditionally defined. In today’s civil resistance cases, what we witness are American citizens attempting to prevent the ongoing commission of international and domestic crimes under well-recognized principles of international law and U.S. domestic law. This is a phenomenon essentially different from the classic civil disobedience cases of the 1950s and 1960s where incredibly courageous African Americans and their supporters were conscientiously violating domestic laws for the express purpose of changing them. By contrast, today’s civil resisters are acting for the express purpose of upholding the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, human rights, and international law. Applying the term “civil disobedience” to such civil resistors mistakenly presumes their guilt and thus perversely exonerates the U.S. government criminals.
“Civil resistance is the last hope America has to prevent the U.S. government from moving even farther down the path of lawless violence.”
Civil resistors disobeyed nothing, but to the contrary obeyed international law and the United States Constitution. By contrast, U.S. government officials disobeyed fundamental principles of international law as well as U.S. criminal law and thus committed international crimes and U.S. domestic crimes as well as impeachable violations of the United States Constitution. The civil resistors are the sheriffs enforcing international law, U.S. criminal law and the U.S. Constitution against the criminals working for the U.S. government!
Today the American people must reaffirm their commitment to the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles by holding their government officials fully accountable under international law and U.S. domestic law for the commission of such grievous international and domestic crimes. They must not permit any aspect of their foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged “war criminals” according to the U.S. government’s own official definition of that term as set forth in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (1956), the U.S. War Crimes Act, and the Geneva Conventions. The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes. That is precisely what American civil resisters are doing today!
This same right of civil resistance extends pari passu to all citizens of the world community of states. Everyone around the world has both the right and the duty under international law to resist ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the U.S. government and its nefarious foreign accomplices in allied governments such as Britain, the other NATO states, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Georgia, Puerto Rico, etc. If not so restrained, the U.S. government could very well precipitate a Third World War. Here in Puerto Rico we saw the stunning example of the most courageous civil resistors against Yankee Imperialism on Vieques.
The future of American foreign policy and the peace of the world lie in the hands of American citizens and the peoples of the world—not the bureaucrats, legislators, judges, lobbyist, think-tanks, professors, and self-styled experts who inhibit Washington, D.C., New York City, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Civil resistance is the way to go! This is our Nuremberg Moment now!
Francis A. Boyle teaches law at the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy, and bio warfare. He received a PHD in political science from Harvard
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: desmond tutu, geneva conventions, George W. Bush, icc, Iraq war, roger hollander, the hague, Tony Blair, War Crimes, wmd
Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair
I couldn’t sit with someone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie
Desmond Tutu: pulled out of a seminar which Tony Blair was scheduled to attend. Photograph: Str/REUTERS
The immorality of the United States and Great Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.
Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.
If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.
On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers’ circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush’s chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.
On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.
But even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.
Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?
Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.
If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?
My appeal to Mr Blair is not to talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it. You are a member of our family, God’s family. You are made for goodness, for honesty, for morality, for love; so are our brothers and sisters in Iraq, in the US, in Syria, in Israel and Iran.
I did not deem it appropriate to have this discussion at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week. As the date drew nearer, I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on “leadership” with Mr Blair. I extend my humblest and sincerest apologies to Discovery, the summit organisers, the speakers and delegates for the lateness of my decision not to attend.
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, cia interrogators, CIA torture, detainee deaths, eric holder, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, Gul Rahman, jim lobe, justice department, Manadel al-Jamadi, roger hollander, torture, waterborading
Roger’s note: when Obama made that ridiculous and inane statement, I posted here an article entitled “Looking forward not backward code for no justice.” Next time you commit a crime and are put on trial, just tell the judge that it is time to look forward and not backward. Refer to the brilliant opinion of that constitutional law scholar who is the current president of the United States. The charges against you are sure to be dropped.
WASHINGTON – U.S. human rights groups have roundly condemned Thursday’s announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department will not pursue prosecutions of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners in their custody.
Rights groups denounced the decision not to pursue prosecutions of CIA officers who may have been responsible for the deaths of two prisoners in their custody. (Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS)
The announcement appeared to mark the end of all efforts by the U.S. government to hold CIA interrogators accountable for torture and mistreating prisoners detained during the so-called “Global War on Terror” launched shortly after the Al Qaeda attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.
For rights activists and for supporters of President Barack Obama, it was the latest in a series of disappointing decisions, including the failure to close the detention facility at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba. They had hoped Obama would not only end the excesses of President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war, but also conduct a full investigation of those excesses, if not prosecute those responsible.
“This is truly a disastrous development,” said Laura Pitter, counter-terrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “To now have no accountability whatsoever for any of the CIA abuses for which there are now mountains of evidence is just appalling.”
“It completely undermines the U.S.’s ability to have any credibility on any of these issues in other countries, even as it calls for other countries to account for abuses and prosecute cases of torture and mistreatment,” she told IPS.
“Continuing impunity threatens to undermine the universally recognised prohibition on torture and other abusive treatment and sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty,” noted Jameel Jaffar, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Today’s decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record.”
In his announcement, Holder suggested that crimes were indeed committed in the two cases that were being investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham but that convictions were unlikely.
“Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
The two deaths took place at a secret CIA detention facility known as the Salt Pit in Afghanistan in 2002 and at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison the following year. The victims have been identified as Gul Rahman, a suspected Taliban militant, and Manadel Al-Jamadi, an alleged Iraqi insurgent.
The two were the last reviewed by Durham, who had originally been tasked by Bush’s attorney general, Michael Mukasey, in 2008 with conducting a criminal investigation into CIA interrogators’ use of “waterboarding” against detainees and the apparently intentional destruction of interrogation videotapes that recorded those sessions.
In August 2009, Holder expanded Durham’s mandate to include 101 cases of alleged mistreatment by CIA interrogators of detainees held abroad to determine whether any of them may be liable to prosecution.
At the time, he also stressed that he would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the controversial legal guidance given by the Bush administration regarding possible “enhanced interrogation” techniques that could be used against detainees.
Such techniques, which include waterboarding, the use of stress positions and extreme heat and cold, are widely considered torture by human rights groups and international legal experts. As such, they violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT), as well as the Geneva Conventions and a 1996 U.S. federal law against torture.
Holder’s position was consistent with Obama’s statement, which human rights groups also strongly criticised, shortly after taking office in 2009 that he did not want CIA officials to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering” to escape prosecution and that he preferred “to look forward as opposed to…backwards”.
In his first days in office, Obama ordered all secret CIA detention facilities closed and banned the enhanced techniques authorised by his predecessor.
In late 2010, Durham announced that he would not pursue criminal charges related to the destruction of the CIA videotapes. Seven months later, he recommended that, of the 101 cases of alleged CIA abuse referred to him, only two warranted full criminal investigations in which CIA officers had allegedly exceeded the Bush administration’s guidelines for permissible interrogation techniques.
Now that Holder and Durham have concluded that prosecutions of the individuals involved are unlikely to result in convictions, it appears certain that no CIA officer will be prosecuted in a U.S. jurisdiction. Prosecutions of Bush officials responsible for authorising the “enhanced interrogation” techniques have also been ruled out.
In 2006, a private contractor for the CIA was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to six years in prison for beating an Afghan detainee to death three years before.
Some commentators suggested that these decisions, including the dropping of the two remaining cases, have been motivated primarily by political considerations. Indeed, HRW director Kenneth Roth wrote in an op-ed last year that “dredging up the crimes of the previous administration was seen as too distracting and too antagonistic an enterprise when Republican votes were needed”.
In a statement Thursday, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee praised Holder’s decision. Republicans protested Holder’s referral of the 101 cases to Durham in 2009.
But rights activists expressed great frustration. Holder’s announcement “is disappointing because it’s well documented that in the aftermath of 9/11, torture and abuse were widespread and systematic,” said Melina Milazzo of Human Rights First (HRF), which has been one of the most aggressive groups in investigating and publicising torture and abuse by U.S. intelligence and military personnel.
“It’s shocking that the department’s review of hundreds of instances of torture and abuse will fail to hold even one person accountable.”
Similarly, the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) noted that Holder’s announcement “belies U.S. claims that it can be trusted to hold accountable Americans who have perpetrated torture and other human rights abuses”.
It said the decision “underscores the need for independent investigations elsewhere, such as the investigation in Spain, to continue”. Victims and rights groups including CCR filed criminal complaints against former Bush officials in Spanish courts in 2009, launching two separate investigations by judges there.
© 2012 IPS
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Alberto Gonzales, crimes against humanity, david addington, Dick Cheney, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, jay bybee, john yoo, kuala lumpur, nuremberg, roger hollander, rumsfeld, Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus, torture, torture victims, War Crimes, william haynes
Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 by Common Dreams
Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal orders reparations be given to torture victims
– Common Dreams staff
Former US President George W Bush, his Vice-President Dick Cheney and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus (center) delivering the verdict yesterday. He is flanked by says reparations should be given to the complainant war crime victims. With him are Prof Salleh Buang (left) and Datuk Mohd Sa’ari Yusof. (Photo/Hasriyasyah Sabudin) Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.
Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.
A member of the prosecution team, Professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University’s College of Law, said he was hopeful that Bush and his colleagues could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.
The eight accused are Bush; former US Vice President Richard Cheney; former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former Counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former General Counsel to the Vice President, David Addington; former General Counsel to the Defense Secretary, William Haynes II; former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.
Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus said the eight accused were also individually and jointly liable for crimes of torture in accordance with Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. “The US is subject to customary international law and to the principles of the Nuremberg Charter and exceptional circumstances such as war, instability and public emergency cannot excuse torture.”
* * *
The Star (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) reports:
Bush Found Guilty of War Crimes
KUALA LUMPUR: The War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President George W. Bush and seven of his associates as war criminals for torture and inhumane treatment of war crime victims at US military facilities.
However, being a tribunal of conscience, the five-member panel chaired by tribunal president judge Lamin Mohd Yunus had no power to enforce or impose custodial sentence on the convicted eight.
“We find the witnesses, who were victims placed in detention illegally by the convicted persons and their government, are entitled to payment of reparations,” said Lamin at a public hearing held in an open court at the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War yesterday.
He added that the tribunal’s award of reparations would be submitted to the War Crimes Commission and recommended the victims to find a judiciary entity that could enforce the verdict.
The tribunal would also submit the finding and records of the proceedings to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations’ Security Council.
On Thursday, head of the prosecution Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush had issued an executive order to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Five former Iraqi detainees, who were tortured while being detained in various prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, were called to give their testimonies before the Tribunal during the trial which started on May 7.
* * *
The Malaysia Sun reports:
[…] In a unanimous vote on Saturday the symbolic Malaysian war crimes tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, found the former US President guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Former Malaysian Premier Mahatir Mohamad said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”Seven of his former political associates, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were also found guilty of war crimes and torture.
Press TV has reported the court heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay of torture methods used by US soldiers in prisons run by the American forces.
One former inmate described how he had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse over a number of months.
A high ranking former UN official, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday, who also attended the trial, later told Press TV that the UN had been too weak during the Bush administration to enforce the Geneva Conventions.
He said: “The UN is a weak body, corrupted by member states, who use the Security Council for their own interests. They don’t respect the charter. They don’t respect the international law. They don’t respect the Geneva Conventions… A redundant, possibly a dangerous, and certainly corrupted organization.”
Following the hearing, former Malaysian premier Mahatir said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”
It was the second so-called war crimes tribunal in Malaysia.
The token court was first held in November 2011 during which Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were found guilty of committing “crimes against peace” during the Iraq war.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, War.
Tags: bradley manning, chris floyd, collateral murder, cuban five, dyncorp, geneva conventions, good corporal, Guantanamo, Hugo Chavez, Iraq war, julian assange, mahmour abbas, nuremberg, Obama, Petraeus, roger hollander, torture, Venezuela, War Crimes, wikileaks, william blum
Chris Floyd (about the author)
If any one person can be said to have ended the direct involvement of the United States military in Iraq, it is not the man whose champions claim this deed as one of his glorious accomplishments: Barack Obama. As we all know (and 99 percent of us have forgotten), Obama fought doggedly to extend the murderous occupation of Iraq into the indefinite future.
No, if you had to choose one person whose actions were the most instrumental in ending the overt phase of the war, it would not the commander-in-chief of the most powerful war machine in world history, but a lowly foot-soldier — mocked, shackled, tortured, defenseless — Bradley Manning
William Blum points this out in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” as he recaps the impact of the revelations made by Manning and Wikileaks. He begins by noting a painful irony: Manning’s own defense team is playing down the heroic nature of this act and instead insisting that such a “sexually troubled” young man should never have been sent to the homophobic environment of the American occupation force in the first place. He was under too much stress, acting irrationally, they say, and thus should not be held accountable for his actions.
As Blum notes, this defense — though doubtless well-intentioned, a desperate bid to keep Obama’s massive war machine from crushing Manning completely under its wheels — partakes of the same deceitful twisting of reality that has characterized the entire war crime from the beginning. Blum:
“It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.
“Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: ‘If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.’
Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?”
Every scrap of evidence presented about Manning’s alleged crimes makes it clear that he was acting from rational, well-considered motives, based on the highest ideals. Indeed, wasn’t Manning simply following the words of Jesus Christ — words carved in stone, with the most bitter irony, in the entranceway of the original headquarters of the CIA: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
In any case, as Blum points out, the effects of Manning’s actions were far-reaching:
“It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video ‘Collateral Murder’ and documented in the ‘Iraq War Logs,’ made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes. The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
“The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
“If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today …”
But he is not a free man, of course. It is very likely that he will never be free again. He will spend the rest of his life in a federal prison for the unforgivable crime of telling the truth to people who don’t want to hear it.
NOTE: A tribute to Bradley and his fellow truth-tellers can be found here: The Good Corporal: To the Exposers of Power and the Troublers of Dreams.
This one goes out to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds, and “all those who speak the hard truth to the state.”
The Good Corporal
Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?
You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.
You’ve opened the door where the dark deeds go on,
Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.
Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime
Done in the name of your country and mine.
Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,
In a land where no echo will carry the cries.
Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame
For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?
Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,
Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?
Good corporal, good corporal, don’t you know the fate
Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State
And all who trouble the people’s sweet dreams?
They’re mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.
Good corporal, good corporal, what have you done?
You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.
© 2010 by Chris Floyd
The Anti-Empire Report
March 5th, 2012 by William Blum www.killinghope.org
The Saga of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks, to be put to ballad and film
“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)
It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.
Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?
Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos. For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”. Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange. Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination. Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated. What century are we living in? What world?
It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes. The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.
Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.
When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.
Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:
- In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects. A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
- Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
- The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
- A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
- The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
- State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data. US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”. The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
- A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
- The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”. US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
- The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth. [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
- The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted. The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
- President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore. He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
- Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state. The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”. The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
- Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing. The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
- Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
- Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
- Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
- The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
- US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
- Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
- Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
- The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
- The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there. It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
- The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five. Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
- The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”. “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency. Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further. There is no USG action required.”
- UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
- A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference. He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”. [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
- Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
- DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits. (Yes, it’s what you think.)
- Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
- Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
- The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people. A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process. In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest. And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
- The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
- Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
- The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
- A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
- The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
- A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
- US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen. [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003. He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized. The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
- 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.” Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago. What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it? American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
- The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
- Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.
William Blum is the author of:
- Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
- West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
- Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org
Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: apa, bagram, brad olson, detainees, ethics, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, human rights, International law, medical ethics, parwan, psychological association, psychological ethics, psychologists, roger hollander, roy eidelson, stephen soldz, torture, trudy bond
Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 by CommonDreams.org
Trudy Bond, Roy Eidelson, Brad Olson, and Stephen Soldz
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantánamo Detention Center, several thousand miles away sits another United States detention facility, less well-known but with a history perhaps even more gruesome. Obscured throughout the decade-long “global war on terror,” the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan is where two detainees died in December 2002. Initial autopsies at the time ruled both deaths homicides, according to a 2,000-page confidential Army file obtained by the New York Times. Autopsies of the two dead detainees found severe trauma to both prisoners’ legs. The coroner for one of the dead noted, “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.”
Detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire inside Camp 4 detention facility at the Guantanamo (Photo: Cryptome)
In January 2009, to much fanfare, newly-elected President Barack Obama signed a directive authorizing the closing of Guantánamo Detention Center. But a month later the new administration discreetly told a federal judge that military detainees at Bagram had no habeas corpus rights to challenge their imprisonment. At the same time, the Pentagon was moving forward on plans to build a new prison in Bagram, renamed the “Detention Facility in Parwan” (DFIP). This facility was designed to accommodate 600 prisoners under normal conditions and as many as 1,100 during a “surge.”
Today, President Obama has abandoned his inaugural pledge to close Guantánamo and there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram — five times the number of prisoners when the president took office — with a scheduled expansion of the facility by the end of 2012 to house up to 5,500 detainees. One troubling constant across the developments at Bagram is the presence and involvement of psychologists at these facilities, which clearly violate international legal standards for the treatment of detainees. Among the military psychologists present during the early years of the Bagram prison were Colonel Morgan Banks, Captain Bryce Lefever, and Colonel Larry James, notable for their key roles in formulating the American Psychological Association’s (APA) much criticized ethics policy on psychologist-assisted interrogations.
According to Banks’ biographical statement, he “spent four months over the winter of 2001/2002 at Bagram Airfield.” More broadly, Banks provided technical, consultation, and interrogation support to all Army psychologists. He also assisted in establishing the Army’s first permanent SERE training program. As for Lefever’s biosketch, it notes that he also served at the detention center at Bagram Air Base. He “was deployed as the Joint Special Forces Task Force psychologist to Afghanistan in 2002, where he lectured to interrogators and was consulted on various interrogation techniques.”
The third military psychologist, James, was the Chief Psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo when, according to his book, Fixing Hell, he flew to Afghanistan to transfer three juveniles who had been forcibly and arbitrarily detained at Bagram. James described these boys as “the most fragile . . . children [he] had ever met,” yet he oversaw their being loaded onto a cargo plane at Bagram Air Force Base, “bound [and] blindfolded,” for a flight that typically lasted over 20 hours. Others who appear to have been transferred from Bagram to Guantánamo that same day reported being chained around the waist, wrists, back and ankles and the intense pain of being unable to speak, see, hear, move, or even stretch or breathe properly.The boys were essentially kidnapped, and were returned home a year later, having never had access to legal counsel and having never been charged with a crime.
Public information about exactly what transpires at Bagram today is scarce. The BBC was allowed a rare, one-hour visit to the new Parwan/Bagram prison in 2010. The report noted that “Prisoners are kept in 56 cells, which the prisoners refer to as ‘cages’. The front of the cells are made of mesh, the ceiling is clear, and the other three walls are solid. Guards can see down into the cells from above.” These detainees were moved around in wheelchairs, wearing goggles and headphones to block sight and sound.
In 2011, Daphne Eviatar, an attorney for Human Rights First, interviewed 18 former detainees from the main facility in Parwan and was permitted to observe seven detainee hearings there. In her detailed report she noted:
After many years of completely denying detainees in Afghanistan the opportunity to defend themselves against arbitrary detention, the United States government has finally implemented a hearing process that allows detainees to hear the charges against them and to make a statement in their own defense. Although a significant improvement, these new hearings fall short of minimum standards of due process required by international law.” [Emphasis added.]
In a subsequent interview with CBS News, Eviatar stated:
[Parwan] is worse than Guantánamo because there are fewer rights…There was no evidence presented, there was no questioning of the government’s evidence, whether this person had done anything wrong, whether he deserved to be in prison. So that’s a real problem — you have a complete lack of due process.
And in 2010 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the existence of a separate, second detention facility at Parwan. Many former prisoners have referred to it as the Tor Jail, translated as “Black Jail.” Nine former prisoners interviewed separately by the BBC spoke of almost identical treatment there: distressingly cold cells, perpetual loud noise, constant light, and, violating any sense of privacy, camera surveillance. One former prisoner said American soldiers made him dance to music to obtain permission to use the toilet.
Today, there are clear indications that psychologists continue to be involved in the detention and interrogation of detainees at Parwan/Bagram. Such activities stand in direct contravention of APA policy based on a 2008 petition resolution. Approved through a member-led referendum, this resolution prohibits psychologists from working in settings where “persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights” (or if they are providing treatment for military personnel).
Significant evidence that psychologists are working at Bagram/Parwan in violation of APA policy comes in part from a symposium on “Operational Problems in Behavioral Sciences” sponsored by the United States Air Force Medical Service in August 2011. The first slide of the partially redacted powerpoint presentation on the “BSCT Mission” describes the role of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) as providing: “…psychological expertise and consultation in order to assist the command in conducting safe, legal, ethical, and effective detention facility operations, intelligence interrogations, and detainee debriefing operations” (OTSG/MEDCOM Policy Memo 09-053).
A later slide reveals that the current BSCTs at the Parwan Detention Facility are composed of a psychologist or forensic psychiatrist, who must be licensed for independent practice, and a “behavioral science technician.” Further confirming the presence of psychologists, a June 2010 newspaper article about Parwan by the military editor of the Fayettville Observer notes: “Air Force Maj. Colin Burchfield, 34, a clinical psychologist, observes the behavior of both detainees and guards on TV monitors.”
Disturbingly, and contrary to the APA’s 2008 referendum policy, one of the key documents still used to support the ongoing involvement of psychologists at the Parwan facility is an earlier 2005 report from the APA’s “Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security” (the PENS Report). The PENS Report, cited in the Operational Problems powerpoint presentation described above, endorsed psychologists’ engagement in detainee interrogations — despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive interrogations and practices that violate international law.
Six of the nine voting members of the PENS Task Force were on the payroll of the U.S. military and/or intelligence agencies. Five of these six served in chains of command that had been accused of the kinds of abuses that led to the creation of the Task Force, including the three psychologists linked to the early Bagram prison: Dr. Morgan Banks, Dr. Bryce Lefever, and Dr. Larry James. The PENS Task Force concluded that psychologists have an important role to play in keeping interrogations “safe, legal, ethical, and effective,” and the APA Board approved the PENS Report in a highly unusual emergency vote.
The APA’s claims that it stands strongly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are belied by the organization’s repeated failure to take assertive and meaningful action. There is no clearer example than the continuing participation of psychologists in detention and interrogation activities at the Parwan/Bagram prison — a site where international law itself is seemingly confined indefinitely to a small, dark cell.
But health professionals, human rights advocates, and intelligence professionals of conscience worldwide have refused to accept this status quo. One noteworthy and promising effort is an online petition campaign calling for the annulment of APA’s PENS Report. The initiative has been supported by many distinguished members of APA, as well as non-psychologists such as psychiatrists Robert Jay Lifton and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles; scholar-activists such as Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky; attorneys who have represented Guantanamo detainees; eminent veterans of the intelligence community; and many other psychologists and human rights advocates. Please consider joining this call and signing the petition at www.ethicalpsychology.org/pens.
Trudy Bond is an independent psychologist, steering committe member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. For questions, responses or media contact, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. Roy can be reached at email@example.com.
Brad Olson is an assistant professor and co-director of the Community Psychology Ph.D. Program in downtown Chicago. He is President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) and co-founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.
Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. Soldz is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and served as a psychological consultant on several Guantánamo trials. Currently Soldz is Past-President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: civilian casualties, dave lindorff, fallujah, geneva conventions, Iraq war, jaime gonzalez, jim crane, police killing, roger hollander, ross cauti, war, War Crimes
According to news reports, 15-year-old eighth-grader Jaime Gonzalez, who was shot and killed yesterday by police in his middle school in Brownsville, TX, was hit at least two times: in the chest and once “from the back of the head.”Jaime Gonzalez is seen in this photo obtained from Facebook by CBS affiliate KGBT-TV in Harlingen, Texas. (KGBT-TV via Facebook)
Police say they were called by school authorities because Gonzalez was carrying a gun, which turned out, at least according to the police, to be a “realistic-looking” pellet gun, a weapon that uses compressed air to fire a metal pellet which, while perhaps a threat to the eye at close range, does not pose a serious threat to life.
There is now a national discussion going on in the media about whether police used excessive force in the incident, and there is, in Brownsville and at Gonzalez’s school, and of course in the Gonzalez family, both anger and mourning. The boy had reportedly been a victim of bullying.
Let me say unequivocally from the outset that, yes, whatever police authorities may say about “justified use of force,” the cops in this instance used excessive force (American cops these days are in military mode, and justify just about any firing of an officer’s weapon). Unless there were other children who were being held hostage by Gonzalez (there were not), or who were near him and being threatened (there were not), the police had no reason to kill him. Furthermore, there is the question of why three shots were fired, why they were fired at the chest of a child with clear intent to kill, and of course, there’s that shot to the back of the head, which is simply unjustifiable under any circumstances.
But having said that, I want to call attention to another point, that gets beyond this one case of overkill by police: the double standard of concern when it is an American kid and when it is foreign kids who are killed.
I’m referring here to Iraq and Afghanistan, where thousands of kids even younger than Jaime Gonzalez, most of whom were not even armed, have been killed by American bombs and by the guns of American soldiers, and whose deaths evoke not the slightest word of sympathy or regret from either the killers themselves or the leaders, military and civilian, who issue the orders that led to their deaths. Nor is any concern about this slaughter of innocents expressed by the millions of Americans whose taxes pay for this ongoing atrocity.
Take Fallujah, a city of 300,000 in Iraq that in 2004 was the scene of one of the most brutal and brutish fighting of the US invasion of Iraq.
In what was clearly a war crime, the Bush/Cheney administration and the Pentagon ordered the leveling of Fallujah in retaliation for the killing by resistance fighters of four Blackwater mercenaries in the city, and the hanging of their burned bodies from a bridge over the Euphrates River. The assault on the city was a pure case of “collective punishment,” a tactic which is expressly declared a “war crime” by the Nuremberg Charter, drawn up and approved by the Allies at the end of World War II, and encoded in the Geneva Conventions in 1949.
The assaults on Fallujah, first in April, when the onslaught was called off because of nationwide protests in Iraq over the massive civilian casualties, and then in November when a larger and even more devastating assault was mounted that leveled nearly half the buildings in the city, also featured more war crimes, including the deliberate attack on and bombing of hospitals, and the executing of captured and wounded enemy fighters.
One of those crimes though, well documented by American reporters (though none of those from the mainstream press ever labeled what was happening as a war crime), was the deliberate entrapment of all “combat-aged males” in the city before the assault began. Under the Geneva Conventions, all civilians must be allowed to flee the scene of a battle or impending battle. Furthermore, since 1970, all those under 18, even if they are armed fighters, are defined as having “protected status” and must to be offered special protection by military forces.
Instead, as AP reporter Jim Krane wrote at the time, the US military ordered a cordon of Marines and members of the British Black Watch regiment to be placed around Fallujah in mid-October, three weeks ahead of the announced assault on the city. Civilian residents were urged to flee. But they had to pass through checkpoints, before being taken to heavily guarded refugee camps, and at these checkpoints, all males between the ages of 15 and 55 were turned back. Since the Pentagon was estimating the number of insurgents in the city at only about 4000 (and concedes that many of them had slipped away from the city before the attack began), it was clear that most of those boys and men were civilian non-combatants. Krane, asking about this, quoted a 1st Cavalry Division officer who declined to be identified as saying of those who were denied safe passage from the future free-fire kill zone, “We assume they’ll go home and just wait out the storm or find a place that’s safe.”
Easy words, but with over 10,000 buildings flattened in the ensuing US blitz on the city, finding safety would have been quite a challenge, and in fact well over 6000 civilians were killed in the nine-day attack in November. Bodies are still reportedly being pulled from the wreckage seven years later.
There was no remorse expressed at this slaughter, which included many 15-year-old boys just like Jaime Gonzalez, and younger kids too. Not by President Bush or Vice President Cheney, not by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or L. Paul Bremer, the jack-booted proconsul who headed up the US occupation administration in Iraq at the time, or by any of the commanders on the ground who set the rules of engagement for the assault. Nor was there any outrage expressed by the bulk of the American people in whose name this slaughter was conducted. Instead, the “victory” was cheered and the Marines were dubbed “heroes.”
Apparently for Americans, murdering young Iraqi boys and civilians in general is no big deal, any more than it is a big deal when helicopter gunships mow down young boys collecting wood on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, or execute sleeping high school students in a nigh-raided compound.
An exception is Ross Caputi, a Marine who was part of that assault on Fallujah, who in a powerful message of contrition last month published in the British newspaper, the Guardian (but not in any major US publication), wrote movingly that, “As a US marine who lost close friends in the siege of Fallujah in Iraq seven years ago, I understand that we were the aggressors.”
Caputi, who hails form a military family, wrote:
I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending themselves.
The same distorted morality has been used to justify attacks against the native Americans, the Vietnamese, El Salvadorans, and the Afghans. It is the same story over and over again. These people have been dehumanized, their God-given right to self-defense has been delegitimized, their resistance has been reframed as terrorism, and US soldiers have been sent to kill them.
History has preserved these lies, normalized them, and socialized them into our culture: so much so that legitimate resistance against US aggression is incomprehensible to most, and to even raise this question is seen as un-American.
History has defined the US veteran as a hero, and in doing so it has automatically defined anyone who fights against him as the bad guy. It has reversed the roles of aggressor and defender, moralized the immoral, and shaped our society’s present understanding of war.
As a society, it is time for us Americans to stop condoning all this violence, particularly against children. No amount of rationalizing by police and by their bloody-minded supporters can justify the killing of Jaime Gonzalez and other children like him, and no amount of rationalizing by the purveyors of fear in government and media or by the rabid neo-cons and neo-liberals who back them and urge them on can justify America’s endless brutal imperial wars and the the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, many of them children, that are such an integral part of those wars.
© 2012 Dave Lindorff