Saturday, October 1, 2005

Torture in the Bush Gulag: The new Human Rights Watch report (2)

"I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court. It's a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial.

"And I wouldn't join it. And I understand that in certain capitals around the world that that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move not to join a foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted." - George W. Bush 09/30/04

"Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine." - Dick Cheney 01/26/05

Continued from Part 1

The HRW report also focuses on the problem of the misconduct of Military Intelligence and the CIA.  From Officer C:

I  talked to an MP who said that he was in charge of holding detainees and that the CIA would just come and take the detainees away.  They would be like, “How many detainees do you have?” and he knew he has seventeen detainees but the OGA would be like, “No, you have sixteen,” so he’d be like “Alright. I have sixteen.”  And who knows where that detainee went.

The CIA often appears in these reports as an OGA; gangsters have to operate on a need-to-know basis, so they may only be known as an "other governmental agency".  This is why we have to keep in mind that, even though many CIA analysts and officers have shown integrity far beyond that of the offices of the White House and the Vice President in relation to the Iraq War, for instance, it's a bad mistake to sentimentalize or idolize them, either.  They are critical to combatting terrorism, and the CIA in general has a high reputation for professionalism.  But they also have to operate with laws and with Congressional and judicial oversight.

I love James Bond movies, and "Alias" is my favorite TV series.  (Jennifer Garner even did a recruitment ad for the CIA, which appeared on the CIA's Web site.)  And I would certainly encourage anyone who's interested in a career  in intelligence to pursue a CIA career.  Atleast a couple of my former political science classmates from undergraduate school have worked there.  I would think it would be a great opportunity for someone studying Arabic, for example.  At least it should be, but Juan Cole has written that it's hard for anyone who has lived in an Arabic country to get a security clearance.  Also, if you go to work for the CIA, don't count on being partnered up with a Jennifer Garner or a Mia Maestro.  We can all dream, of course.

But anyone over the age of six or so should be able to distinguish between a fictional story and reality.  And there have been major problems over the years stemming from the covert ops side of the CIA.  Two of their greatest success stories were overthrowing the Iranian government of Mossadeq in 1953, and supporting the brave, freedom-fighting mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s.  And the "blowback" from those brilliant successes are still central problems is US foreign policy.

Also, we can't automatically assume that the "OGAs" who are reported in many of these stories related to torture in the Bush Gulag are necessarily CIA.  The Bush dynasty, and the Dick Cheney brand of Bush loyalists especially, are devottees of secret government.  Not even the paranoid Nixon administration comes close to this one in terms of its obsession with secrecy.  I'll be very surprised if we don't learn one day about off-the-books intelligence operations going on right now, far outside the regular and legal channels, that will make Iran-Contra and Nixon's plumbers look like minor foibles.  Call me cynical on that score if you want.

HRW's conclusions

The concluding section is valuable not just in summarizing the implications of their findings in this case:

In short, the refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan was to undermine long-standing adherence by the U.S. armed forces to federal law and the laws of armed conflict concerning the proper treatment of prisoners.

But it also lays out the various applicable laws that criminalize torture for US agencies and armed forces.  I'm not being theleast bit metaphorical when I call this conduct "criminal" torture.  Everyone involved in the system of torture in the Bush Gulag are involved in activity that is literally criminal under American and international law.

This is why I'm so skeptical about that great Maverick McCain's current pantomine of objecting to torture in the Bush Gulag.  What he's trying to do is insert a provision in the current defense appropriations bill that would require the services to follow Geneva Convention guidelines in the treatment of prisoners.  Bush has threatened to veto the bill if that provision is included.

But what if it were passed?  As the HRW report reminds us, torture is criminal for the armed services several times over.  If the civilian authorities and the officer corps are overlooking the current laws, why would they obey a new one?  Maverick McCain looks more and more like a big phony to me every day.

This article makes it sound like the Republicans have come up with some other excuses for the veto threat  that won't highlight their support of criminal, sadistic torture quite so dramatically: White House threatens veto of defense bill by Rick Maze Army Times 09/30/05.  They've pulled out an accounting reason, having to do with some hopeless obscure transfer of $7 billion from one fund to another.  Bush has so far not vetoed a single spending bill.  Farther down in Maze's article, we see that Bush of the Christian Republican Party also objects to the inclusion of "restrictions on presidential authority to conduct war, including detention, treatment or trials of terrorists captured in the war on terror."

But, like I said, if they don't follow the current law, why would this one stop them from doing anything they're currently doing?

The HRW report is very worthwhile reading, grim though it is, for anyone who wants to understand the implications of the current practice of torture by the United States.  The Summary section reminds us, that despite a slew of cover-up reports the Pentagon has cranked out:

The military has made no effort to conduct a broader criminal investigation focusing on who military command might have been involved in reported abuse, and the administration continues to insist that reported abuse had nothing to do withthe administration's decisions on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions or with any approved interrogation techniques. (my emphasis)

The report notes that among other things, the Bush/Rumsfeld torture policy has "betrayed the soldiers in the field" and resulted in "placing in an impossible position all those who wished to behave honorably."

But "honor" seems to be an even more irrelevant concept than "legality" for the Bush administration.  As Dark Lord Dick Cheney said, in the statement I use as an introduction to all my posts on this topic: "Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine."

But this one is not going away.  The consequences are too damaging and too far-reaching.

1 comment:

ereading7 said...

I can see why you don't write on this topic very often.  Very discouraging and distressing.  I was tense by the time I finished reading it, I can imagine how it must be upsetting researching and writing about it.  
Thanks for keeping us informed.
"I'll be very surprised if we don't learn one day about off-the-books intelligence operations going on right now, far outside the regular and legal channels, that will make Iran-Contra and Nixon's plumbers look like minor foibles.  Call me cynical on that score if you want."
Same here.