Saturday, May 30, 2009

Torture and Photos

Headlines from Democracy Now!

White House Asks Court to Block Torture Photos’ Release

The Obama administration has formally requested the censorship of hundreds of photos of torture committed at US prisons overseas. On Thursday, the administration asked a federal appeals court to block the photos on the grounds they would incite violence against US troops. The administration’s court filing cited two secret statements from top US generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, who have both lobbied for blocking the photos’ release.

Admin Denies Photos Depict Rape, Sexual Abuse

The move came one day after the head of the Abu Ghraib inquiry, Major General Antonio Taguba, said the photos include images of the rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denied the claim.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “I think the Pentagon has been very clear in a statement saying that the story is not true. I want to speak generally about some reports I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the British media, and in some ways I’m surprised it filtered down.”

Anti-Torture Activists Call for Prosecutions, Photos’ Release

Meanwhile, here in New York, anti-torture activists with the group World Can’t Wait held a protest at Grand Central Station calling for the photos’ release. Protesters donned orange jumpsuits and black hoods similar to those worn by Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Samantha Goldman of World Can’t Wait rejected the Obama administration’s argument for censoring the photos.

Samantha Goldman: “What inflames anti-American sentiment is US military bases around the world. What inflames anti-US sentiment is torture, is what we’re actually going over there to do. That’s what inflames anti-American sentiment. Prosecuting the criminals, which, to do that, you need the photos to be released, to actually prosecute Bush-era criminals, you would need to have the photos as evidence.”

Report: Cables Indicate Doctor Role in Zubaydah Torture

The investigative website ProPublica is reporting a team of doctors may have been involved in monitoring the torture of suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in August 2002. Secret CIA cables contain several “medical updates” on Zubaydah’s interrogation, where he was waterboarded at least eighty-three times. The updates contain detailed information that suggests doctors actively monitored the waterboarding in what would be a violation of medical ethics.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cheney v. Ventura: The Torture Debate Smackdown

You give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
--Jesse Ventura

Sunday, May 17, 2009

President Obama: Veterans For Peace speaks out against crimes

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

May 12, 2009

Dear President Obama,

We write to you again, this time to say we are saddened to see that you now clearly believe in the tired, inhumane and unworkable assumption that violence will somehow work; that might makes right. But that is not the only thing we need to tell you.

We are not just saddened. We are angry. We are outraged by these actions, this practice of “death from above” you are ordering, causing the killing and wounding of hundreds of innocent people, as exemplified by the recent horrific attacks in Afghanistan.

When will it be enough, Mr. President? What is the number of dead and injured at which you will say “this can’t go on;” the number at which you will decide it’s time to turn away from violence and find another way? This really is the question upon which everything else will turn – how many bodies are too many? You know it is impossible to kill our way to a resolution, if for no other reason than every death and injury creates even more people willing to fight and die to remove us from their land.

We’ve been through this before, Mr. President, and I don’t mean that in a rhetorical way.

We have indeed been through this all before – unlike most of the people in our country or in your administration. We have seen and heard and smelled and felt what “death from above” actually means, not in a briefing report but right there in our hands and before our eyes.

We’ve seen the look in the eyes of the people we occupied. We felt their anger and their humiliation. We remember these things well, Mr. President, because they will not go away no matter how many years pass.

Veterans For Peace will continue to speak out against such crimes. We will do so along with the growing numbers of people who are telling you that by going down this road you are making a tragic mistake. We no longer face the old question of “guns or butter?” Now the question is: will we completely destroy our economy with all that means, or will we step back from the brink and do what our humanity demands of us before the slide into moral and economic ruin is irreversible?

At some point, Mr. President, you will decide to turn away from violence, to end these occupations. As we wrote before, we stand ready to assist you in any effort to find another way.

Until then you will find us in the streets.

Most Sincerely,

Mike Ferner
National President
Veterans For Peace


War Crimes Will Be Prosecuted

See the 30-second video where George W. Bush says:

"It Will Be No Defense To Say, I Was Just Following Orders."


Friday, May 15, 2009

Torture? You're missing the point--It's about Murder!

John Sifton speaking in an interview with Amy Goodman:

"....the debate right now about torture is missing the point.
These aggressive techniques were not just limited to the high-value detainee program in the CIA. They spread to the military with disastrous results. They led to the deaths of human beings. And when there’s a corpse involved, when there’s a dead body involved, you can’t just have a debate about policy differences and looking forward or looking backward.... there are detainees as early as 2002 who died in Afghanistan. Some were interrogated by the CIA in closed sites north of Kabul. Others were in the military base at Bagram, beaten to death, literally, by guards who were being instructed by military intelligence officers, you know, to soften detainees up. Later on in Iraq, when the insurgency heated up in August and September of 2003, we saw deaths there, including both CIA interrogation deaths and regular military deaths."

Read, watch, or listen to the Democracy Now! interview Part1 and Part2

Read John Sifton's article, "The Bush Administration Homicides."
"The bottom line is that many detainee homicides in Iraq and Afghanistan were the direct result of approval and orders from the highest levels of government, and that high officials in the government are accomplices."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I read the news today oh boy

by Tarak Kauff

Once again, we see that government officials lied. The NY Times reported on May 8th, “U.S. Admits Afghan Civilians Died in Raids.” Of course they will not admit the whole truth. Instead, as the article says, “United States officials acknowledged Thursday for the first time that at least some of what might be 100 civilian deaths in western Afghanistan had been caused by American bombs.” Again lies or at best half truths.

Chris Hedges worked as a foreign correspondent for the NY Times for two decades. Here’s his comments on the recent slaughter,

“The bodies of dozens, perhaps well over a hundred, women, children and men, their corpses blown into bits of human flesh by iron fragmentation bombs dropped by U.S. warplanes in a village in the western province of Farah, illustrates the futility of the Afghan war. We are not delivering democracy or liberation or development. We are delivering massive, sophisticated forms of industrial slaughter. And because we have employed the blunt and horrible instrument of war in a land we know little about and are incapable of reading, we embody the barbarism we claim to be seeking to defeat . . . we are the best recruiting weapon the Taliban possesses.”

At the core of all this increased and expanded warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continued presence and mounting death toll in Iraq is the issue of government lying and deception to the public - which since the end of the Bush era is now more sophisticated but just as rampant and endemic in our present leadership.

Take, for example, the President’s statement, “My view is that nobody is above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrong-doing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen.” Period, President Obama. There are no “buts” that come logically after that statement. Either the President and his Attorney General will abide by that or it was yet another propaganda lie fed to the American public.

So even after the torture memos came out publicly, showing what many of us knew long before their appearance, to this day Attorney General Holder refuses to appoint a special prosecutor. The law demands prosecution but as has become all too usual, some get away with crimes more premeditated and open to prosecution than even the horrific American bombing and killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

When criminals like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzalez and others walk the streets with impunity, Obama’s grand statement about nobody being above the law, seems hollow and false.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently revealed that even after the planned closure of Guantanamo, the Obama administration may still imprison, without charges or trials, up to 100 prisoners. The administration has asked Congress for $50 million to build new facilities for them in the U.S.

Why? - because the only evidence was extracted by torture. So these men, without just cause or real evidence may remain imprisoned indefinitely while those responsible for torture walk free with little if any threat of prosecution from Obama’s so called Justice Department.

So the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan expands further under the new Obama administration, the death toll mounts with our continued presence in Iraq, new prisons for those held with no charges are being built, the military budget is being vastly increased, billions will be spent for war while the economy continues to fail for many of us and torturers walk free - all justified by deception, broken promises and outright lies - business as usual.

“The audacity of hope” my ass. More like the continued audacity of war crimes.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Marjorie Cohn and Lenny Siegel Nail Petition to Stanford University President's Door

“We the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other concerned members of the Stanford community, believe that high officials of the U.S. Government, including our former Provost, current Political Science Professor, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Condoleezza Rice, should be held accountable for any serious violations of the Law (included ratified treaties, statutes, and/or the U.S. Constitution) through investigation and, if the facts warrant, prosecution, by appropriate legal authorities.”

Video of Marjorie Cohn's comments (4:36)

Video of Lenny Siegel nailing petition to door (1:46)

Read Marjorie Cohn's article

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tortured Wrong Guys, Didn't Prevent Attacks, and Oh Yes, Helped Al Qaeda

by Ralph Lopez

With Bush FBI Director Robert Mueller confirming that we heard him right, that he didn't "believe" torture had disrupted any attacks, the last of the moral ambiguity hanging over the torture issue is being removed. Mueller directly contradicts what Dick Cheney has repeated many times, that "enhanced interrogation methods" worked. It turns out that regular tortures included slamming prisoners' heads into walls, sodomy with instruments, electric shocks to the genitals, and the host of tortures we are not even aware of conducted by allies like Egypt during extraordinary rendition. They "did work, they kept us safe for seven years" Cheney told Fox News Sunday. In one case documented in a report by General Anthony Taguba, a prisoner was forced to drink urine. Taguba concludes that the tortures were a result of “[a] permissive environment created by implicit and explicit authorizations by senior US officials to ‘take the gloves off.’”

Former Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander told MSNBC that, in the course of his interrogations in Iraq, he found repeatedly that claims that the Americans torture were Al Qaeda's number one recruiting tool, and the reason most Iraqis joined the resistance. (See the YouTube video.)

This, combined with former Bush official Col. Lawrence Wilkerson's revelation that Bush knew most of those he had at Gitmo were in the wrong place at the wrong time when caught by bounty-hunters, puts a very different sheen on Bush's claim that he was "protecting America."

Largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released. But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released.

Individual detail of the innocent being tortured are emerging randomly. These should be the focus of any commissions. Damage control is being attempted by, for example, cleverly placing the spotlight on stories like Khalid Shiek Mohammed being waterboarded 180-something times. Take a man firmly convicted in the public mind (who knows what the truth is anymore?) as one of those closest to the 9/11 attacks, then make the debate over how right it is to torture him. Getting less coverage is the story of Dilawar, the 22-year-old taxi-driver who made the mistake of driving past Baghram AFB a few days after a rocket attack with three paying fares.

The New York Times revealed: "In February, an American military official disclosed that the Afghan guerrilla commander whose men had arrested Mr. Dilawar and his passengers had himself been detained. The commander, Jan Baz Khan, was suspected of attacking Camp Salerno himself and then turning over innocent ‘suspects’ to the Americans in a ploy to win their trust, the military official said.”

One form of torture used on Dilawar was the peroneal Strikes. Peroneal strikes are a specific form of beating, consisting of blows to the soft tissue and nerves just above the knee. Dilalwar was beaten to death at Bagram had been given so many peroneal strikes that a coroner testified that his leg tissue had 'basically been pulpified.'"

Orders from the top bring out sadists at the bottom. Dilawar, was 5'9", 122 pounds. Dysblog quoting the Times report tells us: “.... one guard noticed, for instance, that the bruise on his leg was ‘the size of a fist.’ Why would guards torture a man they considered innocent? At first it was all in fun: M.P.'s would drop by to give him common peroneal strikes just to hear him scream, ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!’ This was done to him perhaps 100 times, according to one of his tormentors, Specialist Corey E. Jones: ‘My first reaction was that he was crying out to his god... Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny.’"

19-year-old Murat Kurnaz disappeared into the House of Horrors That Bush Built even though according to 60 Minutes: “.... there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.”

Kurnaz says his captors shocked him with electricity, and that he was hoisted up on chains suspended by his arms from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar for five days. "Every five or six hours they came and pulled me back down. And the doctor came to watch if I can still survive to not. He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart. And when he said okay, then they pulled me back up,"

Former prosecutor and tireless accountability activist Elizabeth De La Vega warns us against jumping the gun in appointing a special prosecutor too soon, before a cohesive and irrefutable public narrative of the criminal activity is developed and an opportunity is given for victims to be heard in an open forum. She fears the appointment of an SP before open commissions with subpoena powers do their work will result in congresscritters clamming up with "no comment during an ongoing official investigation" gambit.

The narrative must indeed be focused, and public. Sen. Pat Leahy's commission must have a narrow title like "Commission on the Torture and Detention of the Innocent," otherwise the defenders of torture will shift the debate onto ground they like, that of the non-existent "ticking-bomb" scenario. And it must be public, broadcast on CSPAN full-blast, rather than letting them pull a "Conyers" which is to have hearings guaranteed to go nowhere because they let no one in the media know that they are taking place. It must demand an accounting for the full range of tortures which make even waterboarding appear relatively mild, such as:

• Hanging By The Arms. A highly excruciating "stress position" torture used on many prisoners, sometimes every day for two to three months, usually on tiptoe.

• Slamming A Prisoner’s Head Into Concrete Walls. In this torture a towel is wrapped around a prisoner’s neck and is then used to propel the prisoner head first into a concrete wall. This torture was so fraught with risk of serious injury to or death of a prisoner that the CIA kept a doctor on hand at all times to guard against death or crippling injury.

• Additional "Stress Positions" And Electric Shocks. "Palestinian hangings," they were hung by the arms with their feet on a drum through which electric shocks were applied to their feet; the shocks would cause the feet to "dance."

Making the truly awful even worse is that it was all done in your name. Only the loud shouts that this cannot stand has forced the politicians to address it this far. They can do whatever they want in their own names, but sure as hell not in mine.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal explains Why We Must Prosecute

Mark J. McKeon wrote in the Washington Post:

“....I felt myself standing in a long line of American prosecutors working for a world where international standards restricted what one nation could do to another during war, stretching back to at least Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials. Those standards protected our own soldiers and citizens. They were also moral and right. So I didn't understand why, a few months after the attacks in 2001, the Bush administration withdrew its consent to joining the International Criminal Court. Wasn't accountability for war crimes one of the things America stood for? Although staying with the court did mean that the United States would be subject to being charged in that court, how likely was that to happen? Surely we would never do these things. And, in any event, the court could only assume jurisdiction over a person whose own government refused to prosecute him; surely, that would never happen in the United States.... I hope that the United States has turned the page on those times and is returning to the values that sustained our country for so many years. But we cannot expect to regain our position of leadership in the world unless we hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect of others. That means punishing the most senior government officials responsible for these crimes.

Read Why We Must Prosecute: Torture Is a Breach Of International Law by Mark J. McKeon

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War Crimes Times Statement of Purpose (revised 06/2011)

The War Crimes Times provides compelling, ongoing information on war and the war crimes that invariably accompany war, the many costs of war, the effects of our war culture on our national character and international reputation, and the need to hold accountable those who initiate and conduct illegal wars. Additionally and importantly, we also report on the efforts of the many people who sacrifice their time, money, and comfort to work for peace.

When national leaders initiate hostilities they create the conditions—the extreme use of force coupled with limited accountability—for the war crimes which invariably follow. War crimes are therefore an inherent part of war. The suffering caused and the enmity aroused by war crimes must be regarded as costs of war. Since these and other costs far exceed any benefits of war, we seek to end war as a tool of international policy.

Towards this goal, we believe that holding war criminals accountable will send a strong message to all current and future heads of state to very carefully weigh all the consequences of the decision to go to war. While we recognize that United States has long relied on unlawful military force to further its foreign policy goals, we are particularly concerned with the blatant and egregious violations of international law committed by the United States beginning with the Administration of George W. Bush and now continued and expanded under President Obama.

We endorse any efforts, including impeachment, which would bring war criminals of any administration to justice. The War Crimes Times has resolved to see that Bush, Cheney, Obama, and other government officials and military officers who have committed war crimes are prosecuted—no matter how long it takes.

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