by Zen Toro
The torture of Iraqi detainees by US military forces is undeniable. We now know the Bush administration condoned torture even before Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched upon Afghanistan and Iraq, in this post-9/11 hysteria of terrorist infiltration on American soil.
Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA), a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, was horrified after he viewed Abu Ghraib prison photos released by the Department of Defense. Meehan remarked emerging from the darkened committee room, “I was obviously shocked and horrified to discover that the new photos were even more gruesome than those we have seen in the media. What went on there is indefensible and inexcusable.”
During a recent trip to Panama, President Bush pontificated that Americans “do not torture”—his deployment of executive authority to keep Congress from imposing rules on prisoner treatment notwithstanding. With the implementation of the Patriot Act of 2001, President Bush was given express power to declare anyone suspected of having a connection to terrorists or terrorism an “enemy combatant” and thereby suspend his right to habeas corpus. The Senate diligently voted to cast innocent people into pain and darkness without recourse or rights. American citizens declared “enemy combatants”should not be denied the constitution; but a formable squawk about rights and habeas corpus forced a compromise of allowing a post-conviction appeal – for people who had been arbitrarily seized and held in isolation for years without charges, which had been tortured, humiliated and driven to madness, some committing suicide before facing a kangaroo court. Such was the deal cobbled together for Bush to present as a triumph of human spirit and the American way.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, in his confirmation hearing proceedings, represented the American way in matters of torture to be waterboarding, use of dogs to induce stress, forced nudity, hooding, sensory deprivation, food and sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, a face or stomach slap, the forcible injection of mood-altering drugs, mock executions, and threatening to send detainees to countries where they would be tortured, “might… be permissible in specific circumstances, if appropriately limited, depending on the nature of the precise conduct under consideration.”
The Senate Judiciary members failed to question Gonzalez about a March 2003 Associated Press report referring to the “the (U.S.) military listening closely to Israeli experts and picking up tips from years of Israeli Army operations in Palestinian areas and Lebanese towns.” Gonzalez skirted questioning suggesting he may have been aware of quid-pro-quo prison “interrogation training” (known to insiders as “R-21,” short for “resistance-to-interrogation”) in exchange for the awarding of billions of dollars in Homeland Security contracts to Israel, an expert in torture interrogations. The Senate left untouched validated reports of an interrogation facility in Jordan, employing “interrogation methods… banned by U.S. law.”
More findings of torture this past week: BBC’s Caroline Hawley in Baghdad reported the discovery of 173 Iraqis imprisoned in the central Jadiriya district of Baghdad by Iraqi security forces. The building used to sequester the Sunni prisoners, verified by Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was allegedly used as a base for the militia called the Badr Brigade, a covert operations squad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim concurred with the Hawley’s report that the detainees appeared malnourished, and may have been “subjected to some kind of torture. “In order to search for a terrorist, they used to detain hundreds of innocent people and torture them brutally,” Abdul-Hamid, added, an apparent precondition of democracy in Iraq.
Seymour Hersh has said that the U.S. government has videotapes of children being raped at Abu Ghraib prison. “Some of the worst things have happened you don’t know, okay? The women were passing messages out saying, “Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling.”
Why the compulsion to torture? Roger Burbach and Jim Tarbell wrote in their book, Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire, as “an imperial nation flagrantly imposing its will on others.” Torture demonstrates a righteousness based on the conviction that the virtues of democracy need to be promoted with the real intention to “ensure that the US penetrates other countries’ economies” – the same purpose that animates the US policy in Central and Latin America. The catchphrase, “free market democracies” is deconstructed as “controlled democracies that would recognize the prerogatives of international conflict.” And what better way to emerge as an unchallenged world empire under the guise of the “war on terrorism” as the means to promote a “petro-military complex” than by perpetuating armed conflict and torturing others into compliance.
According to the Center for Defense Information’s “The Defense Monitor” (September/October 2005) “[t]he annual Congressional Research Service report, the United States remains the world’s largest exporter of arms to developing nations and led all countries in both arms transfer agreements and arms deliveries in 2004, including $6.9 billion of transfer agreements with developing nations.” Before 9-11, of the 189 member nations of the U.N., the U.S. already had a military presence in 153. Since then, Bush has established fourteen new military bases extending from Eastern Europe through Iraq, the Persian Gulf, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, called “forward operating bases.”
If one senses a beast bearing on the world, it is a familiar one; it came from the darkest organic forces in American Cold War politics. It went back into hiding when President Richard M. Nixon broke the stalemate between the U.S. and Soviet Russia standoff, but has been allowed to claw its way back out of the shadows in the Oval Office. Again, it comes from a man who is morally feeble, lacks self-humiliation, and is fueled more and more by the commie pinko phobia that is deeply imbedded in his father’s extreme right winger’s (e.g. John Birch Society, and the American Nazi Party) Texas oil milieu, and was infested with organized crime figures to plot to assassinate Fidel Castro by colluding with the Mafia and the CIA. Since George W. Bush’s presidency, we have been thrust into the belly of the beast. As the invasion of Iraq loomed in 2002, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Akin remarked, “The American oil companies are going to be the main beneficiaries of this war. We take over Iraq, install our regime, produce oil at the maximum rate and tell Saudi Arabia to go to hell.” And, with it, the U.S. Constitution.
Yale historian, Paul Kennedy wrote in his book, “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers” (1987) that the United States “runs the risk, so familiar to historians of the rise and fall of previous Great Powers, of what might roughly be called ‘imperial overstretch.’” Certainly, the Bush administrations manifestations of strength, as we’ve come to know as shrouded in layers of untruths of “not torturing” so called “enemy combatants” does in fact signal strategic weakness.
The terrorist attacks, however misguided and criminal, can be directly traced to US military presence in Arab countries, and as an effort to stop foreign corporate takeover and a seemingly unending Bushist totalitarian military crusade. Tariq Ali writes in Planet Porto Alegre of Bush’s warmongering, “It is a multi purpose mantra. The first aim is to convince the public that the terrorists are crazed Muslims who are bombing modernity/democracy/freedom/ ‘our values’, etc.”
Remember Satar Jabar, the faceless man in the widely circulated photograph as the iconic hooded figure with electric wires attached standing upon a crate derisively described by many Iraqis as the “Statute of Liberty”? Satar Jabar is made to look like a demon straight out of Breughel’s painting, “The Triumph of Death” an allegorical depiction of the horrors of war—a city panorama engulfed in blacken smoke and armies of skeletons slaughtering people in a horrific ways. In the midst of the carnage, a fool plays a flute while a skeleton plays along.
9/11 unfortunately changed the lives of non-Americans more than it did Americans. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been imprisoned, tortured, killed and disenfranchised without the human rights protection of habeas corpus. England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair has even weighed in on the right to torture issue, rebuking his own senior judges in Britain by saying, “Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary amending the Human Rights Act.” Blair must be taking his lead from Bush. Bush’s sinister assault on what remains of democracy is the complete removal of habeas corpus within the U.S. Constitution.
This is especially troubling as one of a plethora of reasons given by the Bushists for the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a humanitarian intervention: to overthrow a brutal dictatorship and attempt to replace it with a government founded upon principles of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
Ironically, you have Iraqi-on-Iraqi abuse by Iraqi government agents, such as Iraqi police against Iraqi prisoners, just as it was with Saddam Hussein. Nothing has changed when you consider the evidence of rape and sexual torture at Abu Ghraib orchestrated by U.S. officials.
“It’s not about who they are. It’s about who we are,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated, defending his amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would bar U.S. officials from inflicting “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” on detainees in the war on terror. But somebody ought to explain to Senator McCain, a Vietnam war veteran who suffered torture by his captors for five years in a Vietnamese prison camp, that Bush’s coercive interrogation policy is predicated on a double standard: according to the administration we can do it to “them” because “they” are different from “us.” This turns a jaundice eye towards dissenters in Congress. Although this premise has resulted in untold numbers of homicides, as we’ve yet to know fully the extent of the Central Intelligence Agency’s controlled secret prisons (located in Eastern Europe) “black sites” interrogation techniques and the defined exception to humane treatment of prisoners.
Senator McCain’s infusion of an anti-torture amendment was hailed by editorialists across the country as a great leap forward, but it he did nothing but regurgitate the rule of law. American forces were already forbidden from subjecting any captive “to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” as prohibited by the Constitution and the UN Convention Against Torture.
Alexander Herzen said, in another age, “We are not the doctors. We are the disease.” By even Pentagon figures, more than 21,000 innocent people have been caged without due process in Iraq alone. The prisons are so full, that as a propagandized gesture of humanitarian good will, the Bush administration released 1,500 detainees at the end of Ramadan. Truth be known, the overcrowded living conditions are quickly deteriorating. Classed as “enemy combatants”—untold thousands, like Iraqis, have been unjustly imprisoned around the world. We, English and Americans, have openly and willingly allowed the Iraqi people to suffer the worse of the Bush administration’s deliberate travesty of human rights.
Under the recent stripping of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum provision by the passage of the Graham-Levin Amendment to the Military Authorization Bill by the United States Senate, a cornerstone of Western jurisprudence has been removed. Now, even U.S. citizens can be arbitrarily imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial, the same kind of judicial process that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin loved and Saddam Hussein emulated. Anyone deemed an “enemy combatant” can be plunged into a dark hole somewhere, indefinitely, with no way to appeal innocence or their status.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has established a thousand points of darkness across the globe that will unleash Bush’s demented bidding. No more checks and balances of the courts enshrined in the US Constitution for the common people. To legislate this is disgraceful, but the scandal is more intriguing. The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus is as old as the Magna Carta. “It is too fundamental, too important, too precious, to be rewritten on the back of an envelope, then passed as a floor amendment to an authorization bill on four day’s notice, and then hastily further revised.” No committee hearings were held, no committee reports were had—no Senator even saw the Graham-Levin bill until the day it was put to a vote. Clearly, by the hand of political treachery, they rushed to rip up the admirable merits of the American constitution to purposely violate equal protection, due process, and other human rights. The Graham-Levin Amendment has made America an express enemy of human rights. And yet Bush has the audacity to claim that the new Iraqi constitution has established a democracy. In reality, as we are seeing in America, the Iraqis are being subjected to an “alternative legal system.”
The corporate media, as we have come to know as an accomplice to the Bush administration’s secrecy, deliberately avoided putting light on such constitutional travesties and subsequent actions. They are purposely kept in the shadows from the American people. But when it concerns their own backyard, as in the case of the Rumsfeld-Poindexter Total Information Awareness system that would have given the Bushist’s and all-seeing eye straight out of Orwell’s “1984,” editors throughout the nation showed a light of editorial complaint. Consequently, this has been blocked because our state sanction journalist “watch-dog” expects clemency for parading in sync bylines in the lock step with Bush’s death march.
The Christian Peacemaker Teams reported on November 1, 2005 that Iraqis need our help to end state-sponsored torture by Iraqi security forces. CPT has spent nearly two years documenting abuse of Iraqi detainees in U.S. run prisons in Iraq. Instrumental are the new commando groups, Wolf and Scorpion Brigades, reminiscent of the Central American Death Squads, orchestrated by career diplomat John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence for the United States, who covered upon human rights abuses carried out by CIA-trained operatives in Honduras under the Reagan-Bush administration. Negroponte knows what it means to put obtaining new territory as a priority over killing innocent people. It is the banal truth of the hideous reality of The Beast.
CPT received firsthand accounts of what most of the world already knows about the U.S. run prisons in Iraq: “Method of torture reported by survivors and families include beatings with cables (a favorite of Saddam’s henchmen), electric shock, electric drilling (two detainee deaths have surfaced this week in Basra who show indisputable evidence of being drilled to death) food and sleep deprivation, beatings of feet, stress positions, and suspension from the ceiling.
Torture is as much a common a practice in Bush’s “war on terrorism” as it was during the Spanish Inquisition. Heretics were burned at the stake, executed on cartwheels, suspended on poles. Labor was forced and the religious aristocracy spit upon any declaration of human rights. Putting a ban on cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment has its clear implications, as it is written in the new Iraqi Constitution.
I doubt many Americans have taken the time to read the complete translated version, though they have paid billions and homeland lives for its implementation. Few are aware of the provisional loopholes, the inconsistencies and obvious language manipulations, such as the regional segregation of the parliamentary two-thirds vote clause that allows the occupation to dictate the type of “sovereignty” they want to form in this holy cradle of humanity. There is no “one person, one vote” for the Iraqis to chose their president. The contract for democracy in Iraq is a sanitized document, not surprisingly meant to pervert any safeguard for human rights with gray areas of interpretation that promote a monarchy, not democracy.
Moreover, it is blatantly clear that U.S. troop presence is violating the democratic provisions of the newly approved constitution. After December 31, 2005, when the new Iraq government takes power, it will be interesting to note just exactly how Bush plans on orchestrating control and accountability, without violating the very democracy principles he boasts to have put in place. Until now Bush as failed miserably as a role model for enforcing rule of law. Explicit in the Transitional Administrative Law issued by the Iraqi Governing Council, for instance, were several guarantees of “fundamental rights” to Iraqis, such as equality before the law (Article 12). Where was this enforced for the tens of thousand detainees?
Today, the preamble to the Iraqi reads: “Sons of Mesopotamia, the land of prophets, resting place of the holy imams, the leaders of civilization and the creators of the alphabet, the cradle of arithmetic” and “inspired by the injustice against the holy cities… create a new Iraq, Iraq of the future, without sectarianism, racial strife, regionalism, discrimination or isolation.”
The medieval writ of habeas corpus stated, “You (shall) have/hold the body to be subjected to (examination)” and though reflected somewhat in Iraq’s constitutional wording, there is no explicit clarification that holds accountable the current human rights infractions of the U.S. occupation.
Article (17): Each person has the right to personal privacy as long as it does not violate the rights of others or general morality. 2nd – The sanctity of the home is protected. They cannot be entered or searched or violated except by judicial decision and in accordance with the law.
Another provision, if applied to U.S. military forces, would put an end to “cordon and search” operations in urban settings. Iraqis know this technique well, as their homes are are raided at night, occupants herded into one room, while still in their bed clothes, and the men are filed out, some being taken away in cuffs.
Article (19): 5th – The accused is innocent until his guilt is proven in a just, legal court. The accused cannot be tried for the same accusation again after he has been freed unless new evidence appears. “Unless new evidence appears” seems to be an ominous telling as well as there is no provision for a swift and speedy trial.
Under 12 –a (Arbitrary) detention shall not be allowed.
General Kimmitt has defended the procedures used by American commanders in Iraq as being even more rigorous than those required by international law. “There is a review board that is set up that is done far more frequently than required by the Geneva Conventions where a board takes a look at that person’s case,” he said. “And after a period of time, when those persons are deemed to no longer be a threat to the security of the nation, then they are released.” The board of three persons was clearly not doing its job according to Major General John Ryder’s report (2004), in which it was revealed that Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing “displeasure or ill will” toward U.S. troops. Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held at Abu Ghraib “despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces.”
Article (21): 1st – An Iraqi shall not be handed over to foreign bodies and authorities.
For the past four years the CIA has established a network of covert prisons in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe at abandoned Soviet compounds. Known as “black sites” in White House jargon, the existence and locations are known only to a handful of officials in the U.S., including the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country, the Washington Post reports. Citing national security issues, the CIA and the White House has dissuaded Congress from open testimony about the conditions and captives being held.
Part Two of the constitution, it clearly states that torture will not be tolerated.
Article (35): 1st – (a) The freedom and dignity of a person are protected. (b) No one may be detained or investigated unless by judicial decision. (c) All forms of torture, mental or physical, and inhuman treatment are forbidden. There is no recognition of any confession extracted by force or threats or torture, and the injured party may seek compensation for any physical or mental injury that is inflicted. 2nd – The state is committed to protecting the individual from coercion in thought, religion or politics, and no one may be imprisoned on these bases.
Article (44): All individuals have the right to enjoy the rights stated in international human rights agreements and treaties endorsed by Iraq that don’t run contrary to the principles and rules of this constitution.
The conservative Spanish publication La Razon (December 16) stated, “It is alarming to see that the fear existing after 9-11 in the most powerful nation has blinded its leaders to such an extent that they would see as a good a crime of the state and to consider legal the execution, without previous trial, of people accused, by a discredited security service, of terrorism…”
On October 24-28, 2005, nearly 100 communities worldwide rang a bell once a minute, 1,000 times, symbolizing the more than 100,000 deaths of Iraqi civilians since the US invasion of March 2003, initiated by the Voices for Creative Nonviolence. The 100,000 Rings solemn bell-ringing ceremony was based upon the British medical journal, The Lancet, death toll estimates from a year ago. The purpose of this ceremony is to bring attention to the gravity of the U.S.’s impact on Iraq’s population.
“Paint me as I am,” said Cromwell – “Less than truth my soul abhors.” In the long sweep of recorded history, there are defining moments, more often than not eponymized by figures noble and ignoble. Historians debate; revisionism has become cottage industry. Winston Churchill thought truth so precious as to require a bodyguard of lies. Lies shielded Nixon’s truth, the subterfuge of politics that bred contempt while sacrificing sovereignty. The reality of the genesis of Bush’s invasion in Iraq is regrettably based upon lies, more than the cumulative effect of his presidential predecessors in driving the constitutional government right off its rails.
This pseudo-biblical passage from George Bush: “We’ve climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it’s a valley of peace,” reeks of the credibility gap that has seduced him to abuse his power. Certainly he was not thinking of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. It is self evident that the well documented and heavily investigated and researched events of the Bush administration betrayals gravitate toward that critical mass of hard material as the foundation, the solid source, the primary source, in concurrence with the muck and mire slung from the Oval Office at his alleged “enemies” that borders on the same hellish paranoia that Nixon harbored.
And like Nixon, Bush confuses his political aims with national security. The tragedy of Bush is that he has unleashed the Beast’s hubris upon his country, Iraq and the destiny of the world. Those close to him, his minions, who have tried to save him from himself in vain effort, know the surreal deceitful atmosphere suffused in the White House. Constructive criticism of Bush’s statesmanship is condemned, because honesty looks weak. Instead, stalwart utility, as in terrorism, is geared toward protecting the Bush administration. Instead, it is corroding democracy.
Vulnerability, sentiment, kindness, trust are criterion meant for fools according to Republicans. Any politician knows that his humble God-given talents constitute the only moral route to power. And so corrupted politicians, who in the face of being caught in their lies, throw up more lies, lies to incinerate “enemies”, imaginative devious lies about having ever lied in the first place, spewing out streams of homilies, wrapping themselves in truth, justice and the American way, while all the time in the back alley, they cowardly stab Justice in the back.
We cannot excuse illegal conduct on the basis that others got away with it, either in our homeland or on foreign soil. American democracy is comprised of individuals and the only binding contract that we have is the protection of the rule of law; habeas corpus. Not even the President can willfully violate human rights when claiming victory in Iraq, because it would ring hollow. We cannot fail to punish those in government who abuse its power and obstruct justice; otherwise we enshrine criminality as our legacy.
George W. Bush, the rich Ivy League boy with no natural ability for politics, with Texas oil elitists mentoring him in the passion for secrecy, academically unsophisticated, socially suspicious, clumsy in speech, inept at political debate and diplomacy, defiantly stonewalling cover ups, the sheer audacity to portray himself as a victim of the liberal establishment, and his failures upon subordinates; Bush has snapped the natural bond of the government and the will of the people for grandiose political gain.
As a result, Bush has violated the cardinal rule of politics: Don’t unleash the Beast. In the end, the forty-third President of the United States will have impeached himself simply because of the absence of credible transparency and administrative accountability from the beginning of his regime—for the dismantling of habeas corpus, for the sake of torture.