Archive for the 'War Crimes' Category

Whether or not torture got bin Laden does not justify torture, but torture didn’t get bin Laden.

May 12, 2011 in Torture, War Crimes

John McCain, who takes the torture issue a bit more seriously than the Republican party due to the fact that he experienced torture firsthand in Vietnam and has authority on this issue, felt the need to get to the bottom of what led to the intel that eventually led to bin Laden.

Leon Panetta gave torture supporters some ammo last week with a vague statement that info came from detainees, and that some of those detainees were tortured. This week Panetta seems to have looked into the specifics more closely and is thus able to shed a little more light on exactly what intel was gleaned from who and how:

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

McCain doesn’t rule out that torture can potentially offer leads, but reminds us that torture will give you fewer leads of poorer quality than standard interrogation practices. Consistent with that paradigm, the most useful info that came from torture was when KSM and al-Libi lied badly, arousing investigator suspicions. It should be self-evident that interrogation that produces lies isn’t effective, and the question of what more could have been found will always haunt us. Instead, we got such paltry info that the CIA had declared the trail cold.

In conclusion, the bin Laden leads did not originate with torture and were not enhanced by torture, thus removing even the appearance of a moral quandary.

Torture would still be wrong even if we had gotten a useful nugget out of it, but the lack of evidence that torture led to bin Laden important to note because Republicans are perfectly content to use the pragmatic argument. Removing that plank reveals just how depraved and unscrupulous they’ve been the past week, as Fox News and nearly the entire Bush administration has launched a PR salvo in order to rehabilitate their reputations and retroactively justify torture. Much like Andrew Sullivan has noted, they are war criminals seeing an out. More literally, they are torturers who are desperate to find excuses for torture. They got it temporarily legalized, they got the NYT and others to call torture other names when it was done by the US, they got the next president to back off on prosecutions, but they still seem to understand that they lost the argument. They still felt that need for justification.

They thought they had it, and they squeezed tightly, but…it has run through their fingers, and there they are, empty-handed except for the bulk of their crimes. We are left with the threat that the next Republican president will resume torture, and of future blowback from torture-hardened enemies and sympathetic populaces. Letting criminals off inevitably rewards crime and guarantees its continuance.

-hw

But I thought it would be okay…

Feb 22, 2010 in War Crimes

Greenwald sums up the DOJ report on Yoo/Bybee et al:

That Bush officials have to cling to the harsh condemnations of Margolis as “vindication” reveals just how wretched and lawless their conduct was. Essentially, the current posture of the U.S. to the world is this:

Yes, we implemented a worldwide torture regime that we justified with lawyers’ memoranda that were false, wrong, shoddy, lawless, sloppy and extremist, but because those lawyers were such warped radicals, they probably believed what they were saying at the time, so we’re going to declare that we had the right to do what we did and are shielded from all consequences, even though we’ve signed treaties agreeing to prosecute anyone who authorizes torture and constantly demand that other nations prosecute their own torturers. Besides, we have important things to do and so we want to Look Forward, not Backward.

I guess we hanged war criminals because they lacked sufficient conviction? Ah, well. Our system is completely gamed.

-hw

If you keep killing terrorists we can’t torture them!

Feb 20, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Torture, War Crimes

I personally care about the innocents killed in Obama’s drone attacks, but rightwingers don’t, so his steady success rate in whacking terrorists and Taliban leaders (the two are not the same) is painting them into a corner on a stepladder:

“That doesn’t mean I think they are not illegitimate,” he added. “No, we have every right to kill the other side’s warriors. But at what cost? When we do not have an effective detention policy the only option we have is to kill them before we can detain them. And if we don’t detain them, we don’t know what they know and what they are up to.”

And the only way we can know what they know according to the right, despite all evidence, is torture.

Marc Thiessen’s attempt to justify torture as something consistent with Catholic doctrine, which specifically forbids torture, has been sparking a firestorm, on the Daily Dish and, shockingly, at National Review, where a writer named Mike Potemra has broken from the pack and admitted what anybody who wasn’t mainlining Republican doctrine already knew, that waterboarding is torture (the Washington Post’s shark-jumping addition of Thiessen to its op-ed page has been a story unto itself). Andrew Sullivan guides Potemra toward the obvious:

If an American merely suspected of being a spy were captured in Iran, if he were then shackled in a stress position for hours on end, if he were tied to a post in a yard in freezing conditions and regularly doused with cold water and beaten (as happened under Stanley McChrystal’s Camp Nama in Iraq), if he were slammed against a ply-wood wall repeatedly by a collar around his neck, if he were strapped to a waterboard and nearly drowned 183 times, and then confessed that he was indeed a spy, and was planning to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, would the New York Times say he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” and that his confession roved that those techniques worked? Would National Review? Would Dick Cheney?

Look, Bush/Cheney introduced and legitimized torture, and it’s become part of the Republican Party’s plank. Intellectual honesty just doesn’t fit into their calculus anymore. It’s a pretty natural result of the rightwinger’s authoritarian lust for power and control. “Six of one, half dozen of the other!” so-called-centrists need to step off the balancing beam to Hell.

-hw

Now for some criticism of President Obama that actually makes sense.

Oct 26, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Disappointing Dems, National Security, Politics, Torture, War Crimes, War on Terra

NYT editorial:

In the United States, the Obama administration is in the process of appealing a sound federal appellate court ruling last April in a civil lawsuit by Mr. Mohamed and four others. All were victims of the government’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture.

In that case, the Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The ruling rejected that argument and noted that the government’s theory would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

This is a huge topic on the internet, one liberals and centrists are having with each other over the disappointment with Obama for picking up too many Bush-era habits of mind and practice. Even if it’s more rope-a-dope with some eventual plan to make the courts hem Obama in with rulings that become political armor. “We no longer violate human rights simply by uttering the words ‘national security.'” (because the courts told me I couldn’t anymore…) It’s still playing with innocent people’s lives. Much less worthy things have been given 24/7 coverage.

Yet it’s just not sexy enough for reporters, who would also have to look back at how they stood by while Bush re-wrote the rules or threw them out altogether. Wingers make a hot stink over getting an ACORN scoop and get bowed down to, while everybody ignores Obama playing it Beltway centrist on human rights.

Is this what teabaggers are talking about when they scream about feeling like Jews in 1939? Of course not. They think tyranny is social health care. As long as rightwing terrorists get due process, they’re happy.

-jb

Verschaerftene Vernehmung.

Jun 11, 2009 in Journamalism, Politics, Torture, War Crimes

Andrew Sullivan offers a priceless piece of research demonstrating how the New York Times always used to know what torture was, until Dick Cheney decided he wanted to do it.

The classic techniques used by Cheney – sleep deprivation, cold cells, hypothermia, stress positions, forced nudity and “walling” – were described by the NYT in the past very plainly, using the term “mental torture,” or in the recent obit (obviously written before Cheney p.c. came in) of an American airman, captured by the Communist Chinese, simply “torture.” In reporting on the similar techniques used Agabuse by the British in Northern Ireland in 1972, the NYT called them “torture and brainwashing”, which is exactly what the Cheney techniques are designed to accomplish. In 1996, the NYT ran a story on reports of “torture” in Brazil, which included “being kept naked in a cold cell,” the Gestapo specialty that Cheney made standard procedure for the US. In 1997, in reporting on the CIA’s record in training torturers in Latin America in the early 1980s, the NYT used the terms “psychological torture” and “mental torture” to describe long-time standing, stress positions, “deep exhaustion”, and solitary confinement.

In 1998, the NYT reported on the CIA’s training of Palestinian security forces. The Times reported that the CIA had dropped all last-resort use of physical torture in 1985, but also what they called “mental torture.” In discussing allegations of torture by the Palestinian security services, the NYT noted a relevant fact as support for the claim: 18 prisoners had died in custody during interrogation. Even after a hundred deaths have now been recorded under the Cheney torture regime, the NYT refuses to call it torture. In 1999, in contrast, the NYT reported on “allegations of torture” in China that amounted to “beatings and solitary confinement”.

The right has no explanation how “teh librul media” can behave this way, because their media theories are entirely self-serving and incomplete.

-jb

This deserves its own post.

May 25, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Politics, Sophistry, War Crimes

I mentioned in comments the other day that Sharon had linked to us, trying to chortle like we just blather about torture without knowing what we’re talking about. I quickly delivered a smackdown that had her spewing fallacies instantly, but those who know Sharon know that being wrong is the last thing that will shut her up.

Today, stuck in the corner, she actually starts citing the Bybee torture memos as her rebuttal. Memos that have earned the laughter, scorn and derision of nearly the entire legal community (barring David Addington, I’m sure) and set up Bybee for disbarment.

Have rightwingers actually gone so far off the reservation? Sharon quotes Victoria Toensing writing in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, one of the few places other than the Weekly Standard or National Review that such apparatchik nonsense can appear with a straight face. The linchpin? “Specific intent.” Namely, that without specific intent to commit torture, there is no torture!

The law on torture actually states there must be specific intent to inflict severe physical or mental pain. How any interrogator could have imagined that he wouldn’t be doing such a thing is clearly undescribable by any human being. Bybee’s attempt at legalese Newspeak puts it this way:

“As a theoretical matter therefore, knowledge alone that a particular result is certain to occur does not constitute specific intent.”

Sharon, however, gave herself up while flailing for an answer:

The people who saw heads off don’t worry about legalities.

Okay, but when you started off bashing us for not knowing what we were talking about, and then it turned out you didn’t know what you were talking about, you don’t get the win by turning around and dismissing the importance of the law.

Slime and slipperiness may get you out of hot spots momentarily, but people will remember that you have no integrity. In rightwingerland, desperate individuals may find ways to keep clapping, but America will remember how these people acted when they had power, and how they continued to defend themselves afterwards. The Party of Cheney (and Limbaugh, as they are becoming interchangeable) is who they are, and we must keep the car keys out of their hands.

-jb

Pelosi the Torturor.

May 19, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, War Crimes

Go flip mode with Republicans:

Do the Republicans think Pelosi is the key figure here? Ok, knock yourselves out! Let’s investigate the Pelosi torture regime in full. Then maybe we can put an end to the vicious Pelosi torture era.

Haven’t been reading much from rightwingers lately, but we have undoubtedly been assured already that the only laws broken were those done by Nancy Pelosi, and George W. Cheney is an American Hero.

-jb

Clap harder!

Apr 22, 2009 in War Crimes

I wonder if anybody is left with the capacity to be surprised by the mendacious incompetence of the Bush administration. Bueller? Bueller?

Can anybody say they didn’t see this coming?

“There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”

Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.

There’s this thing people invented, they call it “prison.” I’m pretty sure Dick Cheney will still be able to call up Sean Hannity from there, so what are we waiting for?

-jb

The long game?

Apr 14, 2009 in Barack Obama, Glenn Greenwald, Legal, War Crimes

Glenn Greenwald sizes up the liberal consensus against Obama on unlawful imprisonment. It’s brutal. Greenwald should keep up the pressure.

But there are dissenters among liberals and others concerned about habeus corpus. Obama plays the long game, they say, and his critics often speak too soon. Procedural hurdles may be the culprit as the Obama administration takes some time to assess each prisoner on hand. I don’t suggest this as an excuse to be forgotten later: I intend to acknowledge greater blame for Obama as time progresses. Six months from now I’ll have a much harder time believing they’re still working on it. A year? Please, give Obama credit for knowing that line won’t work then.

By no means, however, should we be ambiguous with President Obama about what answer we expect.

-jb

Unambiguous.

Apr 07, 2009 in Middle East, Politics, Sophistry, War Crimes, War on Terra

In one of my recent clashes with the iconic representative of the classic dimwit modern Republican, Brian Pickrell, Iowa’s village idiot, I noted with some awe how bubble-enclosed members of the right-o-sphere are still able to tell themselves and others that we didnt torture.

There’s a simple rejoinder: Every single fact says otherwise.

There’s no debate. Of course, we tortured. Of course, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made sure we tortured. They seeked legal cover for it, and stooge Republican lawyers like John Yoo and David Addington leapt at the opportunity (fortunately, they were so addled by partisanship that their flimsy legal toilet paper won’t protect them in court).

Now let’s be clear here: Rightwingers and other torture supporters feel little concern about methods like waterboarding. We know their rationale: It’s not cutting off limbs! Yet waterboarding is torture, and always has been. It was for them too, until they realized they didn’t like the implications of admitting George W. Bush authorized torture while telling the public, “We don’t torture.” Legally and politically, it’s bad news.

So, they will keep saying waterboarding isn’t torture. It is, and they know it, but they won’t say it. I expect some to have more balls and at least say, “Well, I support milder forms of torture, the psychological stuff, etc.”

However, as you will see in the Red Cross report, there was far more than that. We tortured. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney authorized it. They are war criminals, as are John Yoo and other enablers who knew very well what they were doing but thought they could get away with it.

May there be a methodical, precise, and accurate reckoning.

-jb

It couldn’t happen here….

May 20, 2008 in War Crimes, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to, Women

Every now and again I crawl under a rock, and then bore every one to tears with a Sermon on the Mount.
Here I go again….

One of my guilty pleasures in life is listening to Amy Goodman every morning on Pacifica. I need my daily dose
of realism.

Out of that, I have heard some horrific stories of torture:
One is of the youngest boy in Guantanamo, who was sent there when he was 15.
Omar Khadr
The sole survivor of a bombing raid in a village, and the soldiers had to justify murdering everyone in the village.
He being the only survivor and eye witness, they had to say that he threw a grenade at them and shot
first.

Another being in the many prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the eye witness accounts of young boys,
minors who are raped by the US soldiers, while in custody.

Then we wonder why there are so many young suicide bombers. Has to be the modern-day witchcraft, Islam.

Fine, those people aren’t humans anyways, those are just Arab dogs, or Muslim fanatics.

But now there are reports of Americans. Civilian contractors, nurses, doctors, Blackwater employees, and such,
who have been getting drugged by their coworkers/army personnel, and the like, and waking up to find
they have been raped and brutalized.

Story here…

As Morrissey said,

“…it’s so easy to hate….it takes guts to be gentle and kind…”

(I Know It’s Over, The Smiths)

It’s just as easy for me to dehumanize the perpertrators of these crimes against humanity.
It’s easy to hate the politicians and lawmakers, who even when hard evidence and testimony is brought in front of them
of these deplorable acts, take no actions against the perpetrators.

Now we get to the reason I’m posting all this.

I happened to catch my wife watching a disturbing movie the other day.
We didn’t know what we were in for, having watched Juno, we wanted to see another movie starring
Ellen Page. An American Crime
It’s a movie about a crime that happened in 1950’s Indiana. The good ‘ole heartland of the USA.
Where a young girl was locked in a basement, and beaten/tortured/starved to death. For over 3 gruelling months
she was systematically and increasingly, brutally tortured by the woman who was in charge of her, and by her children and
several children of the neighborhood. The movie is disturbing because the family was any normal blue-collared
American family of the 50’s, church going, school going. The children were all pre-pubescent, except for the oldest daughter.
The crimes were committed mostly by the woman caring for the girl, and by her young daughters. Except, for one young son,
and the daughter’s boyfriend. The neighborhood was your regular 1950’s American neighborhood.
They heard and saw strange things, but no one did a thing.

The movie and book, condemn the family and the surrounding society for this “crime against humanity”.

Both my wife and I, being parents of a young daughter, were extremely disturbed by this.
But I immediately told her, this is what our Armed Forces are doing to young Iraqi and Afghani children
on a massive scale and daily basis.

The soldiers and contractors who are being accused of horrible acts of torture, are no different than the
babysitter and her children. Coming from hard-working blue collar families, maybe even having families of their own.
Good honest, church going people. Their colleagues who don’t report them, even though they witness the horrors, are no different
than those Indiana neighbors of the 1950’s.

It’s easy to react and recoil, after watching this movie of a young American Girl being
tortured by a regular American family.
There are hundreds and thousands of Sandy Larkins lying in mass graves (after being brutally tortured) in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who are still being similarly torture in Guantanamo, without a Jack Ketcham to write a novel about them….

-aa

Dark Secrets

Nov 07, 2007 in Foreign Policy, Legal, National Security, Racism, Straight-up madness, War Crimes, War on Terra, Where's the outrage?!?!, WTF?

If a person gets tortured, but no one sees or hears him, did he really get tortured?

Stephen Gray, and independent British journalist has a very intriguing documentary,that will be aired on PBS.   The documentary is called “Extraordinary Rendition”.  He interviews some of the victims of rendition, all carried out by the CIA.

Up until now we have heard that our gov’t has been outsourcing torture. That it’s not really Americans who are doing it, that they hand the victims over to authorities in countries where torture is common. However:

The dark prison was run by the Americans,” a former inmate, Bisher al-Rawi, tells Grey. “It wasn’t Afghani people flying the aircraft, it wasn’t Afghani people who sort of shackled me and did whatever they did to me. It was Americans.”

Although some of the victims of Rendition are genuine suspects of terrorism, there are countless who are not.  The most famous being Maher Arar, the Syrian Canadian programmer, who was deported to Syria and tortured and then released without explanation or any charges against him.
Amy Goodman interviewed him yesterday about this documentary.

This is what he told her after he had interviewed a victim of rendition in Egypt who was also released without explanation or any charges:

And he also leaves behind dozens of people that he says are still in Egyptian jail, and they all wear a white uniform. The uniform says “interrogation” on it. And that means they haven’t been charged with anything. They are still there, held in secret, without access to any lawyers, and they’re held indefinitely. And they’re all people who have been sent there by the CIA in the rendition program.

If you live in an area where PBS does not air, or if they aren’t airing this program it will be available on their website later this week.

I am really interested in seeing how NeoCons defend this. I guess the same way they defend the Patriot Act and other erosion of our civil liberties…

If anyone saw it when it aired, please leave your comments, I’d love to hear about it.  I missed it.

-aa

Friends like these.

Jun 26, 2007 in War Crimes

Charles Taylor, ex-Liberian president, al-Qaeda sympathizer, disgusting war criminal and close friend of Pat Robertson (yeah, that Pat Robertson), is looking for a new lawyer.  I wonder if Pat will throw some cash his way for his legal troubles? 

-mg