When Torture Becomes Policy
October 9, 2005
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government." Declaration of Independence, July4, 1776
Bush has made it clear that he will veto the $435 billion Pentagon appropriations bill because it restricts his ability to
abuse prisoners in the war on terror. The bill, which forbids the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of prisoners in
US custody, was passed by an overwhelming 90 to 9 majority in the Senate. It was first flagrant rejection of administration
policy in nearly 5 years.
Bush's veto puts the administration on the extreme end of the policy spectrum and links the
president to the widely reported incidents of human rights abuses and torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the other American
prison facilities. It is now impossible to deny that Bush not only supports a policy of calculated mistreatment of prisoners,
but was also directly involved in establishing the current regime. This implicates Bush in violations of treaty requirements
under the Geneva Conventions and the 1996 Torture Treaty, as well as the 8th amendment's provision against "cruel and inhuman"
Bush's veto is a clear sign that the administration is a willing participant in war crimes and intends
to defend that barbarous behavior before the American people and the world. There's no longer any reason to dispute the reports
from Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, the ACLU, or the many eyewitness accounts from US servicemen or former inmates. The
president's veto clearly establishes that Bush tacitly supports "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" as official policy.
is a positive development for those who believe that Bush will have to be physically removed from office via impeachment,
military coup or revolution. It shows how disconnected the current White House is from the nearly 90% of Americans who do
not believe that torture can be justified "for any reason". It also dispels the foolish notion that Bush communicates with
God or is acting on his behalf.
The American people now have a stark choice between good and evil; between those who
advocate the "systemic, blatant and sadistic" (Taguba Report) treatment of prisoners or those who don't. Anyone who continues
to support the current administration or who fails to support the efforts to have them removed from office and held accountable
for their crimes, is equally complicit in their immoral, unethical and criminal conduct.
This week, former UN chief
weapons inspector, Scott Ritter compared George Bush and Tony Blair to Nazi war criminals saying that, "Both of these men
could be pulled up as war criminals for engaging in actions that we condemned Germany in 1946 for doing." Bush's veto removes
any doubt about the veracity of Ritter's comments.
Currently, there are over 25,000 prisoners in American facilities
in Iraq who have been exposed to some level of physical brutality. None of these men have been charged with a crime, nor will
they be. The Pentagon, acting as the surrogate for the imperial presidency, simply conducts its arrests and interrogations
according to its own vicious standards. There are no rules and no constraints; just the vile application of physical coercion.
Guantanamo, more than 200 inmates are in the 2nd month of a hunger strike. 22 of the prisoners have been hospitalized and
are being force-fed by their jailors. The demands of the prisoners are both simple and reasonable; they want to have a fair
hearing before an impartial judge so they can know why they are being held. It is most basic of all human rights and one that
is guaranteed under international law.
Once again, the administration and the collaborative media have conspired to
conceal the horror of what is taking place in Guantanamo behind a wall of government secrecy. If the president is as forthright
as he pretends to be, than there should be no problem opening up Guantanamo to independent media so we can see the affects
of the policies he so ardently defends.
Whether prisoners are being beaten, humiliated, starved to death or simply
held without charges the facts remain the same. The policy originated at the highest levels of government and will only be
strengthened by Bush's veto. The administration is claiming the absolute authority to operate beyond the law and with complete
Torture is the window that allows us to see beyond the public relations smokescreen into the fetid cesspool
of administration thinking. The Bush regime is divorced from any sense of decency or moral compunction. Nothing they say can
be trusted. They have generated an ethos of cruelty and vindictiveness that now pervades the myriad offices of government
and the defense establishment. The very principles upon which American life depends, and which are laid out in the founding
documents, are threatened by their conduct.
Bush's veto tells us that the administration will not operate within the
law or comply with the will of the American people. It shows us that the government now functions beyond its popular mandate
and without a shred of moral legitimacy. Bush and his lieutenants are unworthy of high-office and must be removed before it
is too late.
Courtesy & Copyright © Mike Whitney
Article nr. 16575 sent on 09-oct-2005 20:37 ECT
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Bush White House Declares Torture Vital To US Security Policy
By Patrick Martin
7 October 2005
In an extraordinary declaration of the brutality of American foreign policy, the Bush administration denounced a Senate
vote to bar the use of torture against prisoners held by the US military. Responding to the passage of an amendment to a Pentagon
spending bill—approved by an overwhelming 90-9 vote Wednesday, the White House said the proposal would “restrict
the president’s authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice.”
The statement indicated that Bush would veto the entire appropriation, providing $440 billion to fund military operations
for the next fiscal year, rather than accept the restrictions on interrogation techniques spelled out in the Senate amendment.
The 90-9 vote came on an amendment sponsored by Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican and former prisoner of war
in Vietnam. McCain, a fervent supporter of the war in Iraq, has opposed the use of torture in military facilities like Abu
Ghraib and Guantánamo, because it damages US foreign policy interests and could become the pretext for subjecting captured
American military personnel to the same techniques in retaliation.
McCain’s amendment had the backing of two dozen former generals and admirals, including former Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and former Secretary of State and JCS chairman Colin Powell. Forty-six Republicans, 43
Democrats and one independent voted for the amendment, which was opposed by only nine Republicans. Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist voted with McCain and against the White House position.
Frist delayed the introduction of the anti-torture language earlier this summer, maintaining that Congress should not put
restrictions on the measures which the administration felt were necessary to fight the “war on terror.” But the
events of the past three months, both in the increasingly bloody stalemate in Iraq and the feeble response of the federal
government to the Gulf hurricane crisis, have weakened the Bush administration.
The amendment itself is extremely limited in its scope. It simply prohibits “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment
of those in the custody of the military and requires that questioning of prisoners detained by the military follow the existing
U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. No such restrictions would apply to those held by US intelligence agencies,
such as the prisoners in the CIA-run detention centers at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,
and at undisclosed locations elsewhere in the world. Those captives can still be tortured at will.
During the final debate on the amendment, McCain read out a letter from former secretary of state Powell endorsing the
measure, which Powell said would address “the terrible public diplomacy crisis created by Abu Ghraib.” It was
the first time since his departure from office in January that Powell has publicly opposed the foreign policy of the Bush
administration—a measure of the impact of the Iraqi debacle on the US foreign policy and military establishment.
At a press briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan confirmed that Bush would veto the entire appropriation
bill rather than have his power to order torture restricted. McClellan made absurdly contradictory claims, declaring the amendment
“unnecessary and duplicative” in view of current administration policy, which supposedly bans torture, and at
the same time saying “it would limit the President’s ability as commander-in-chief to effectively carry out the
war on terrorism.”
The McCain amendment originates in an effort by senators with close ties to the Pentagon brass—McCain, in addition
to being a celebrated POW, is the son of an admiral—to get the military off the hook for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and
Guantánamo. In the course of the final debate, McCain cited complaints by top military officers over conflicting signals from
the White House about what was permissible in the treatment of prisoners. “Confusion about the rules results in abuses
in the field,” he said.
This was a veiled reference to the infamous memos authored by the Bush Justice Department and the White House Legal Counsel’s
office—then headed by the current attorney general Alberto Gonzales—that claimed presidential authority to ignore
the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, based on Bush’s constitutional powers as commander-in-chief.
Senators supporting the amendment cited the colossal impact of the Abu Ghraib revelations on world public opinion. Republican
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “The best thing we can do is give the guidance [the troops] need to make sure
we can win the war on terror and never lose the moral high ground.”
One factor in the top-heavy Senate vote was the recent testimony by a former Army captain, Ian Fishback of the 82nd Airborne
Division, about systematic beating and mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in early 2004, near Fallujah, a center of resistance
to the US occupation. Fishback and two former sergeants in his unit have come forward, confirming that Abu Ghraib was not
an exception, but rather typical of the treatment meted out to hundreds and thousands of prisoners across the country.
Also contributing is the steady stream of revelations about torture at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. Last month the US
press carried reports on widespread hunger strikes among the prisoners at Guantánamo, with as many as 200 prisoners refusing
food for as long as 45 days. At least 18 prisoners were hospitalized and several force-fed. The prisoners were protesting
the conditions under which they are held, particularly the savage beatings by a notorious squad of military thugs known as
IRF. They have also demanded the right to challenge their incarceration before an independent panel, as provided for under
the Geneva Conventions, rather than appearing before the rigged military tribunals set up by the Bush administration.
Pentagon dismisses new report on US military torture in Iraq
[30 September 2005]
Study documents US-inflicted carnage on Iraqi people
[26 July 2005]
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see the votes:
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress - 1st Session
[05 October 2005]