Tag Archives: Torture

He Said That? 3/15/17

From Jesse Ventura  (born 1951), American former professional wrestler, actor, political commentator, author, naval veteran, television host, and politician who served as the 38th Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003, (Larry King Live, May 11, 2009):

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

 

America’s Spiral Into Permanent War Seems More Foolish Than Ever, by Conn Hillinan

Stupid and immoral policies beget disastrous consequences, or as Mom used to say: “It’ll all catch up to you.” From Conn Hallinan at antiwar.com:

“We have fallen into a self-defeating spiral of reaction and counterterror,” writes Mark Danner in his new book Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War. “Our policies, meant to extirpate our enemies, have strengthened and perpetuated them.”

Danner – an award winning journalist, professor, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations who has covered war and revolutions on three continents – begins Spiral with the aftermath of a 2003 ambush of U.S. troops outside of Fallujah, Iraq.

The insurgents had set off a roadside bomb, killing a paratrooper and wounding several others. “The Americans promptly dismounted and with their M-16s and M-4s began pouring lead into everything they could see,” including a passing truck, he writes. “By week’s end scores of family and close friends of those killed would join the insurgents, for honor demanded they kill Americans to wipe away family shame.”

The incident encapsulates the fundamental contradiction at the heart of George W. Bush’s – and with variations, Barack Obama’s – “war on terror”: The means used to fight it is the most effective recruiting device that organizations like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Shabab, and the Islamic State have.

Targeted assassinations by drones, the use of torture, extralegal renditions, and the invasions of several Muslim countries have combined to yield an unmitigated disaster, destabilizing several states, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and generating millions of refugees.

Putting War Crimes on the Menu

Danner’s contention is hardly breaking news, nor is he the first journalist to point out that responding to the tactic of terrorism with military force generates yet more enemies and instability. But Spiral argues that what was once unusual has now become standard operating procedure, and the Obama administration bears some of the blame for this by its refusal to prosecute violations of international law.

Torture is a case in point.

In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush administration introduced so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques that were, in fact, torture under both US and international law. Danner demonstrates that the White House, and a small cluster of advisers around Vice President Dick Cheney, knew they could be prosecuted under existing laws, so they carefully erected a “golden shield” of policy memos that would protect them from prosecution for war crimes.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama announced that he had “prohibited torture.” But, as Danner points out, “torture violates international and domestic law and the notion that our president has the power to prohibit it follows insidiously from the pretense that his predecessor had the power to order it. Before the war on terror official torture was illegal and an anathema; today it is a policy choice.”

And president-elect Donald Trump has already announced that he intends to bring it back.

There is no doubt that enhanced interrogation was torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross found the techniques “amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” How anyone could conclude anything else is hard to fathom. Besides the waterboarding – for which several Japanese soldiers were executed for using on Allied prisoners during World War II – interrogators used sleep deprivation, extreme confinement, and “walling.” Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, describes having a towel wrapped around his neck that his questioners used “to swing me around and smash repeatedly against the wall of the [interrogation] room.”

To continue reading: America’s Spiral Into Permanent War Seems More Foolish Than Ever

Installing a Torture Fan at CIA, Ray McGovern

Trump obviously has no problem with torture. From Ray McGovern at antiwar.com:

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, an open aficionado of torture practices used in the “war on terror,” to be CIA director shows that Trump was serious when he said he would support “waterboarding and much worse.”

Earlier, there had been a sliver of hope that that, while on the campaign trail, Trump was simply playing to the basest instincts of many Americans who have been brainwashed – by media, politicians, and the CIA itself – into believing that torture “works.” The hope was that the person whom Trump would appoint to head the agency would disabuse him regarding both the efficacy and the legality of torture.

But such advice is not likely from Pompeo, who has spoken out against the closing of CIA’s “black sites” used for torture and has criticized the requirement that interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws. He has also opposed closing the prison at Guantanamo, which has become infamous for torture and even murder.

After visiting Guantanamo three years ago, where many prisoners were on a hunger strike, Pompeo commented, “It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.”

There is little doubt that the champagne was flowing on Friday at CIA headquarters, from the seventh-floor executive offices down to the bowels of that building where torture practitioners have been shielded from accountability for 15 years in what amounts to the CIA’s internal “witness protection” program.

Indeed, relief over the Pompeo appointment came in the nick of time. For one fleeting moment earlier in the week, there was some panic at the hint that the International Criminal Court might show more courage than President Barack Obama in bringing torture perpetrators to justice.

That suggestion caused a moment of angst up and down the CIA’s ladder of authority, from supervisory felons, such as Director John Brennan and agency lawyers, down to the thugs hired to implement the amateurish but gruesome regime of torture depicted in gory detail in the Senate Intelligence Committee investigative report,

Published in December 2014 and based on original CIA documents, the report’s Executive Summary revealed a range of gruesome practices from the near-drowning sensation of water-boarding to the forcible rectal feeding of detainees.

Pompeo’s Defense

Pompeo responded to the findings by personally attacking Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein. He claimed she had “put American lives at risk” and he called CIA participants in the torture program “heroes, not pawns in some liberal game being played by the ACLU and Senator Feinstein.”

Pompeo seemed to be taking his cue from former chair of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, who, right after the Senate report was released, boasted to me on live TV that he had been briefed on “90 to 95 percent” of the cruel practices laid bare in the Senate investigation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Clashing Face to Face on Torture.”

Torture also has its supporters in the Senate, which will be called on to confirm Pompeo as CIA director. At a Senate hearing on May 13, 2009, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, gave a tip of the cap to the Spanish Inquisition, which he cited as proof that torture could elicit some useful confessions (as it was used in the Fifteenth Century to detect “crypto Jews” and to burn several thousand heretics at the stake).

During a hearing on detainee interrogations, Sen. Graham said: “Let’s have both sides of the story here,” pointing out that there could be evidence that torture produced “good information.” Graham added, “I mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.”

To continue reading: Installing a Torture Fan at CIA

There’s Still Time To Prosecute the Torturers, by John Kiriakou

A country is in deep trouble when criminals in government go free, but the people who expose them go to jail. Here’s a disturbing story and a plea for justice from John Kiriakou at antiwar.com:

I served two years in prison for exposing the CIA’s torture program. Why are the men responsible for it walking free?

After I blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program in 2007, the fallout for me was brutal. To make a long story short, I served nearly two years in federal prison and then endured a few more months of house arrest.

What happened to the torture program? Nothing.

Following years of waiting for the government to do something, I was heartened when I read in my prison cell – in a four-day-old copy of The New York Times – that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had finally released in December a heavily censored summary of its report on the CIA’s brutal “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Finally, I thought, Congress will do something about our government’s shameful embrace of torture. It was big news – for two or three days.

I thought there’d be quick action by courageous members of both parties who respect human rights and civil liberties. I thought they’d work together to ensure that our collective name would never again be sullied by torture – that we’d respect our own laws and the international laws and treaties to which we’re signatories.

In retrospect, I was naïve, even after having served in the CIA for nearly 15 years and as a Senate committee staffer for several more.

Despite repeated efforts by the CIA to impede investigations into its conduct, the report confirmed that the program was even worse than most Americans had thought.

Take the case of Ammar al-Baluchi, who was arrested in Pakistan and sent to a secret CIA prison, where interrogators held his head under water, beat him repeatedly with a truncheon, and slammed his head against the wall, causing lasting head trauma.

This abuse wasn’t authorized by the Justice Department. So why weren’t the perpetrators charged with a crime?

Perhaps worst of all, CIA officers tortured as many as 26 people who were probably innocent of any ties to terrorism.

Sadly, the report’s release didn’t lead to any action by the White House or the Justice Department. The architects of the program haven’t been held accountable. Nor have those who clearly violated the law by torturing prisoners without any legal justifications. Why should the government have locked me up for telling the truth and given them full impunity?

But there’s still time for President Barack Obama to order the Justice Department to prosecute these perpetrators of torture. And there’s a clear precedent in how the government has confronted similar actions in the past.

In 1968, for example, The Washington Post published a photo of a U.S. soldier waterboarding a North Vietnamese prisoner. The Defense Department investigated the incident, court-martialed the soldier, and convicted him of torture.

Why should the Senate’s torture report elicit less response than a photograph? It was wrong in 1968 to commit torture. It’s still wrong – and prosecutable – in 2015.

Some current and former CIA leaders will argue that torture netted actionable intelligence that saved American lives. I was working in the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the same time they were, and I can tell you that they’re lying.

Torture may have made some Americans feel better in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. It may have made them feel that the government was avenging our fallen compatriots. But the report found that “the harsh interrogation methods did not succeed in exacting useful intelligence.”

Whether or not it ever gleans useful intelligence, however, is beside the point. The question isn’t whether torture works. Torture is immoral.

There has to be a red line: The United States of America must oppose torture and ban its use absolutely. That begins in the Oval Office, and Obama needs to belatedly do something about it.

John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s a former CIA counterterrorism officer and former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and OtherWords.

http://original.antiwar.com/john_kiriakou/2015/05/19/theres-still-time-to-prosecute-the-torturers/