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When Torture Becomes Policy

Mike Whitney


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

President 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" punishment.

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.

This 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.

In 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 impunity.

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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The opinions are the authors' own and doesn’t necessarily represent Uruknet's opinion.

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.

See Also:
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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U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress - 1st Session
[05 October 2005] 

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