Friday, September 27, 2013

Condi Rice-- Evil Torture Mastermind

Wow, I knew she was bad, but this is really sick:
The film follows her step-by step quest for power, starting at the age of ten, when, on a visit to the White House, she turned to her father and said, “Daddy, I'm barred out there because of the color of my skin, but one day I'll be in that house.”
Forty years later, having achieved her dream, Secretary of State Rice said, “I want to leave office without anyone knowing where I stand on any of the issues.” (snip)
Author Laura Flanders relates how she was such a devoted board member for Chevron (despite its violent repression of Ogoni tribes-people in Nigeria) that they named an oil tanker after her.
Rice’s record as National Security Advisor is devastatingly attacked by CIA Director George Tenet and Counter-Terrorism chief Richard Clarke. They reveal how she ignored scores of warnings in the spring and summer of 2001 that an Al Qaeda attack was imminent. (snip)

With the winds blowing towards Baghdad, Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, says she had no qualms about pumping up the case for waging war in Iraq (“we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”).
Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Florida, pinpoints 56 times that Rice misled the American public. Richard Ben-Veniste, a senior 9/11 Commissioner, points to the techniques that Rice used – wordplay, filibustering, amnesia – to avoid telling the truth. (snip)
“American Faust” documents how, while Provost of Stanford, she pulled up the ladder of affirmative action that had secured her tenure, and implemented budget cuts that led to dozens of lawsuits for unlawful dismissals of female professors.
Rice’s behavior while the levees were breaking during Hurricane Katrina infuriated black groups who felt that she had dishonored her position as the senior black member of the government. Spike Lee comments in the film: “She was buying Ferragamo shoes on Fifth Avenue and went to see ‘Spamalot’while people were drowning.” (snip)
Yet, I suspect that both Ms. Franklin and the concert organizers at the Mann Center are unaware of the film’s most explosive revelation: that it was Condoleezza Rice who is primarily responsible for the Bush Administration’s torture program.
It was Rice who ordered the CIA to use the torture techniques and dictated which procedures to use for how long. The CIA agents who carried out these brutal interrogations were acting under orders that came directly from the chairwoman of the Group of Principals: Condoleezza Rice.
The role of the Principals – a group that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales – was to select and authorize “enhanced interrogation methods” proposed by the CIA.

According to Christopher Anders, attorney for the ACLU: “The CIA would come in and give a presentation of what they wanted to do, to the point where, where they were choreographing interrogations and the torture from the basement of the White House itself.”

Journalist Glenn Kessler said: “These ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ included water-boarding, fingernail extraction, and sleep deprivation. Condi signed off on the orders to the CIA with the words, ‘This is your Baby, go do it!’”
Richard Clarke, chief counter-terrorism adviser between 1992-2003 concurred: “Rice decided what torture to use on what person.”
“American Faust” reveals that the techniques that Rice approved went far beyond the mock executions and water-boarding already made public. Our film has first-hand accounts of torture techniques that make stress positions look like a slap on the wrist.
Binyam Mohamed had his penis cut, and acid poured into the wounds. Khalid el Masri was drugged, sodomized and imprisoned without charges. Abu Omar was tied to a wet mattress and subjected to jolts of electricity through the mattress coils. Mamdouh Habib had his fingernails torn out.

Even John Ashcroft, known for a nutty rendition of his song “Let the Eagle Soar” but not for his leniency toward Moslem prisoners, objected to the torture meetings that Rice chaired: "Why are we talking about this in the White House?” he asked. “History will not judge this kindly."
Ashcroft’s concern was well-placed. According to historian David Rothkopf, author of Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, “it was recognized by Condoleezza Rice, among others, that they did make a pact with the devil. They essentially said we will do whatever it takes, regardless of morality, regardless of law, in order to protect the American people.”
Rice did what she could to conceal the torture. She authorized the CIA to send detainees outside the U.S., to ‘black site’ countries, including Thailand, Italy, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Syria, Jordan, Macedonia, Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, as well as to the ‘torture ships’ USS Peleliu, USS Bataan, and USS Ashland.
When congressional and legal investigations began into the detention program, videotapes of CIA interrogations of terror suspects were destroyed. She avoided all questions about this felony, and stepped up her work as an international ambassador for the most blatant legal black hole of all, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which she called “essential for the war on terror.” (snip)
Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, Dean of the Academic Board at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, agreed in last week’s New Yorker: “Torture is wrong under any circumstances,” he asserted. “The publicity surrounding Guantanamo, water-boarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ have created far more terrorists than most people understand. For a country that professes to stand for the rule of law and individual rights, we look like the worst kind of hypocrites.”
I have thought long and hard about how such a highly educated, cultured woman of faith as Dr. Rice could have fallen to the infernal point of ordering medieval acts of torture, fomenting a catastrophic war, and supporting the trampling of the rule of law and the Constitution.
This is a similar conundrum to the one posed by historians and philosophers after World War II. How could well-schooled Nazi officers spend their evenings weeping over Rilke poems, and playing Schubert in string quartets, and then wake up the next morning to gas thousands of men, women and children?
Education and culture did not bring more humanity to man, just more knowledge to create more sophisticated forms of violence and barbarity – just as it did with Dr Rice and the decisions she made on which “torture cocktails,” which combination of techniques, to be employed. (snip)

The same principle of command responsibility applies to the Bush Administration’s torture program. Its legacy will continue to poison U.S. military and civil society, and act as a rallying call to her enemies, until Rice and her accomplices are held accountable.
War Crimes
In “American Faust,” Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, whose position as Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff made him a first-hand witness to her actions, states: “I think Americans should be appalled that Dr. Rice was sitting giving the authority to water-board.”
Marjorie Cohn, former President of the Lawyers Guild, calls for her to be removed from her current research position at Stanford University: “We hope to continue this pressure until Rice and her fellow war criminals are punished for their crimes.”
Alan Gilbert, Rice’s former history professor at the University of Denver, identifies the specific laws she has broken under the U.S. Constitution, the UN Convention against Torture (of which the United States has been a signatory since 1988), and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
Manfred Nowak, the UN’s chief Torture Commissioner, says: “There’s an obligation under the Convention against torture, to investigate every allegation against torture, and there is a responsibility to bring this person to justice.”
Christopher Anders of the ACLU states: “You can be sitting in the State Department and if you’re making decisions that are authorizing and facilitating a crime being committed, you’re responsible for that crime.” 
With such a “smoking gun” still in her hands, it is flabbergasting that Rice remains at large. We filmed her at Stanford University (where ABC news cheerily reported her new love of golf) claiming, Nixon-like, that “by definition, if the President authorized it, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention against Torture.”
This is as brazen a perversion of the law as the memos written by Bush administration attorneys claiming water-boarding was legal, which Rice used as further justification for her torture program.

Escaping punishment is one thing. Flaunting her infamy like a pop star is another. 
And that’s where the Fairmount Park concert becomes a real outrage. Her appearance is the equivalent of Sergeant Larry Shafer, the one National Guardsman who has admitted firing on the Kent State students, accepting an invitation, two years after the shootings, to sing an aria at the Metropolitan Opera; or Gov. Rhodes taking a cameo role on“Dynasty.”
There’s no artistic reason for Rice, a mediocre pianist by her own admission, to be on that stage with the incomparably more qualified Ms. Franklin, whom Rolling Stone magazine ranked No. 1 on its list of “The Greatest Singers of All Time.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Torture Report Will Be Ignored by Most Americans.

The Bush administration clearly committed war crimes of torture, and the Obama administration has covered it up.  Glenn Greenwald:
It's hardly news that the US instituted and for years maintained a systematic torture regime, but the success of the Obama administration in blocking all judicial proceedings has meant there has been no official decree that this is so. A comprehensive report just issued by a truly bipartisan group of former high-level Washington officials (including military officials) is as close as we are likely to get to such an official proclamation.
The Report explains that the impetus behind it was that "the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was unproductive to 'look backwards' rather than forward." It concludes - in unblinking and definitive fashion - that "it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture"; this finding is "offered without reservation"; it is "not based on any impressionistic approach" but rather "grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal"; and "the nation's highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture." It also debunks the popular claim that torture was confined to three cases of waterboarding, documenting that more than three people were subjected to that tactic and that the torture includes far more than just waterboarding.
This is not only a historical disgrace for the US and the responsible officials, but, as the New York Times article on this report inadvertently suggests, also shames two other institutions:
(1) the New York Times itself, which steadfastly refused to use the word "torture" to describe what was being done (unless it was done by other countries) and continues to justify that refusal through its then-Executive Editor Bill Keller (Andrew Sullivan ably demolishes Keller's reasoning, while the paper's public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote this week that this choice merits "some institutional soul-searching"); and,
(2) President Obama, who barred all criminal prosecutions for Bush officials and other torturers and thus brazenly violated at least the spirit and probably the letter of the Convention Against Torture. That treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988 (exactly 25 years ago to the day: Happy Anniversary!), compels all signatories who discover credible allegations that government officials have participated or been complicit in torture to "submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution" (Art. 7(1)). It also specifically states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture" (Art. 2 (2-3)).
The disgrace of the American torture regime falls on Bush officials and secondarily the media and political institutions that acquiesced to it, but the full-scale protection of those war crimes (and the denial of justice to their victims) falls squarely on the Obama administration.
Dan Froomkin has more on the significance of this report here. In sum, if you're the NYT or Obama, how do you reconcile your conduct with this establishment finding that it is "indisputable" that the US government, at its highest levels, instituted a worldwide regime of torture?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pentagon investigating link between US military and torture centres in Iraq

The Pentagon is investigating allegations linking the US military to human rights abuses in Iraq by police commando units who operated a network of detention and torture centres.

A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, published on Wednesday, disclosed that the US sent a veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee Iraqi commando units involved in some of the worst acts of torture during the American-led occupation.

The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses, implicate US advisers for the first time in these human rights abuses. It is also the first time that the then US commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, has been linked through an adviser to the abuses.

Colonel Jack Wesley, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Guardian on Thursday: "Obviously we have seen the reports and we are currently looking into the situation."

In an email, he added: "As you know the issue surrounding accusation of abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees is a complex one that is full of history and emotion. It will take time to work a thorough response."

The Pentagon argument is that it needs time because of the legal implications and also because those named in the documentary no longer serve in the military.

The relatively muted response in the US contrasted with that in Iraq. In Samarra, one of the centres of the Sunni insurgency against US-led forces and where Iraqis are alleged to have been tortured in a library, residents greeted a showing of the documentary on Wednesday evening.

Waleed Khalid said thousands of people gathered in the city for anti-government protests were excited to watch part of the documentary and there was a plan to set up big screens to show the whole film on Friday.
Gee, so hard to figure out what will happen to this investigation....