Thursday, December 18, 2008

Torture me this

Last week I started to write a post about the horror of America's policy on torture under George W. Bush. The post was inspired by an NPR story last week about Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was wrongly detained during a layover at JFK in 2002 and sent to Syria, where he was tortured. Eventually, officials realized he was innocent, and Arar was released. The Canadian government awarded him $10 million for his ordeal, and last week the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in his case.

I was struck by the NPR story because the personal story can be so moving. Hearing Arar describe his experience, which you can hear at NPR's website by clicking the link above, penetrates even the deepest cynicism.

That post I started was never finished. And now since Friday, the floodgates have opened on the Bush administration's torture scandal. In the administration's waning days, the Bush crime syndicate would probably prefer to control the message of Bush's legacy. Instead, it has had to deal with the stain it has left on America's reputation and the very real damage it did in America's pursuit of national security through its use of torture.

Last Thursday, the Senate Armed Forces Committee, led by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), released a report indicating that high level administration officials, going at least as high as then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were directly responsible for torture committed by American military members. Lynndie England and Charles Graner weren't a couple of low level bad apples. They were told from on high to do what they did.

The committee report was the result of two years of investigation. It confirmed what we already knew due to the previous release of DOD and DOJ memos.

Stunningly, rather than tamping down the story, Vice President Dick Cheney has faced it head on, telling ABC News that he thinks the use of torture, including waterboarding, was appropriate. Of course, Cheney doesn't admit that the techniques used were torture. He sticks to the administration line that the United States doesn't torture, but in the same interview, within minutes, he states that he feels that all of the interrogation tactics used by the U.S., including waterboarding, were appropriate.

It is well known that torture techniques, including waterboarding, were used on al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and in the ABC interview, Cheney claims that about half of what we knew about al-Qaeda a few years ago came from KSM.

But Cheney's claim doesn't jibe with a new article at David Rose of VF has written a story, "Tortured Reasoning", in which counterterrorism officials from various agencies indicate that the Bush administration's use of torture not only did not produce reliable intelligence but it was also counterproductive in our country's attempt to protect itself.
In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts—with Abu Zubaydah’s case one of the most glaring examples.

Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.

And here's where Cheney's assertion about KSM is blown to shreds:
But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total f--king bulls--t.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

So not only is torture morally reprehensible, it's not practical.

Incredibly, there are people out there still willing to defend this wretched practice. Philly radio talk show host Michael Smerconish told MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Wednesday on Hardball that if the US does it, it's OK.

Meanwhile, Senator Levin stated on The Rachel Maddow Show that his committee's report warrants the creation of a commission to determine if Bush administration officials should be charged with crimes. (Gotta embed this one.)

The New York Times' editorial board, meanwhile, believes the commission step should be skipped:
A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse.

We're all looking forward to putting this sad chapter of American history behind us, but even with a mere month remaining in the Bush administration, this story continues to have plot twists.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Shock Doctrine and I'm still trying to process all this.

The question I would put to the victims of our torture would be, If you could extract eye for an eye justice against your torturers, but could only choose one person to extract it from, who would it be? The person who inflicted the actual torture, the person who attached the electrodes to your testicles,i.e the Lyndee England's or one of the leaders, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bremer, etc.?

We were discussing whether, or not, Milton Friedman was evil. My colleague said not, that he didn't believe in "guilt by association".

I said that Friedman took pride in being a pure science guy. This was all charts and graphs to him. He had no feelings at all for any of the human suffering his theories caused. This is very close to Mengele's philosophy. He used that idea to justify carving up human beings as if they were so many lab rats.

When you remove the human element from the equation, you give guys like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz free reign to do all kinds of mischief. And Friedman was certainly smart enough to know that. So, yes, that makes him evil, if by association, then so be it. He should've f#$n' known better. I hope he's frying in hell.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is much more than meets the eye! Abu Ghraib guards used tactics they used in Pennsylvania Prisons! Starvation covered up as 'hunger strikes', murders covered up as 'suicides', beatings and more let go because of the lies of guards using thier power against forgotten human beings!!!!

Forwarded conversation
Subject: ERN--Urgent Action Alert: Brutal Assault at SCI Fayette--Please Act Now

From: FedUp!
Date: Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 10:31 PM
To: ""
Send Far and Wide

HRC/Fed Up! received a phone call Thursday morning from Carol, a woman in Philadelphia who has a son incarcerated at SCI Fayette. In the last week she has recieved four separate letters from other prisoners at SCI Fayette--who instructed her to contact HRC/Fed Up!--testifying to the same story:

On January 9th her son, Anthony Boyking #DS1972, was assaulted by several prison guards, including C/Os Woods, Bricker, and Kister during a cell search. Mr. Boyking suffered a head wound requiring 18 stitches, his entire head was swollen, both eyes were swollen, he was knocked unconscious, dragged through the cold in shorts and t-shirt, and he was bruised and covered in blood according to eyewitnesses.

Carol has not heard from her son, who is now being held in solitary confinement, and reportedly being starved/denied food. It is common following illegal assaults by prison guards for the prisoner to be subjected to severe restrictions and deprivations to intimidate the inmate into submission, aiming to discourage and prevent them from exhausting administrative grievance procedures, thus sabotaging efforts at civil litigation prior to its beginning.

And Mary Ann Kushner in the Superintendent's office, much to her dishonor, had the nerve to tell Carol that her son had lacerations on his face because he attacked a guard.

Take Action!

1)--Call SCI Fayette at 724-364-2200 ask to speak to Superintendent Coleman and Demand the following:
1: Order staff to provide food and medical treatment to Anthony Boyking #DS1972
2: Discipline pariticipating staff, including recommendations to the state police to bring criminal assault charges: There is never any security threat so severe that inmates need to be beaten beyond recognition, suffering serious head wounds and ending up covered in blood. There is no justification for this and we are fed up with this brutality.
3: This one is critical: Demand--preferably in writing, create a paper trail--that videotape evidence is secured and not erased or "lost." Inform the Superintendent's office that the failure to preserve appropriate videotape footage from January 9th will be understood for what it is: a cover-up.
2)--Call the State Police in Fayette County and Demand an Investigation: Call 724-439-7111; fax complaints (see attachments for PA criminal complaint forms) to 724-439-2228
Criminal complaints are being filed by the family and HRC members, and we are asking others to follow suit and demand an investigation, interviewing prisoner witnesses, reviewing the videotape, and pressing criminal assault charges.

As always, make notes of your efforts and forward them to HRC so we can keep track of and create paper trails. This is the fourth assault reported to us in the last month from SCI Fayette, each one by multiple witnesses. (See enclosed abuse logs). Ask the Superintendent's office why Andre Jacobs, Matthew Young, Rodney Wilson, and Anthony Boyking continue to be in the control of staff who have assaulted them.

Be firm and don't let them divert you from the matter at hand: prisoners are being subjected to rampant brutality that is threatening their lives and causing serious injuries and health problems. We have a busy year in 2009, let's get off to a fighting start.

PS--And HRC has heard whispers that certain DOC staff (Mary Ann Kushner, no doubt following orders from on high) have taken in interest in learning more about the group's "founder." We have several founders, millions actually, and they are all in prison, if you dig what we mean. When you call please identify yourself as one of HRC's co-founders, whoever and wherever you are. This will confuse and rattle them, sending the message that they are not dealing with a small organization but with a movement growing in power and unity. So please, consider yourself a co-founder and let Mary Ann know that we have ears and eyes inside the prison and we know what's going on. . . . and we plan on putting it to a stop. We're in it for the long haul, or as Antonio Johnson in SCI Camp Hill says, "We'll ride until the wheels fall off, and then we'll repair them and keep going until we get where we need to be."

With conviction (and convicts)
in our hearts, in solidarity and struggle,

We remain . . .

Human Rights Coalition - FedUp! Chapter
5125 Penn Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15224
412-361-3022 xt.4

7:40 AM  

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