The Washington Post recently published an eye-opening article December 9th noting that Key members of Congress (Included Nancy Pelosi) was briefed in 2002 on “harsh techniques”, “detention sites”, and other CIA operations. The Article “Hill briefed on Waterboarding in 2002” said select members were given a “virtual tour” about the CIA operations on going around the world. The reader needs to be cognizant that this briefing came before the Iraqi Invasion. And the article dwells on “Waterboarding” as the ultimate evil of the torture that was occurring.
Unfortunately this recurring theme-that waterboarding is the worst of torture-is a distraction of the real torture that has occurred and is occurring. This theme is also repeated so often in media, that the story of detainees tortured to death, is so unreported that few Americans know of the awful torture that has been going on since 9/11. The upshot is that the extent and the brutality of the torture is so glossed over that the revelation that prisoners have actually been tortured to death – none from water boarding – is just about unknown by the general public.
Many episodes of detainees being tortured to death, dying of unexplained circumstances, disappearing, being killed while in our custody, prisoners no longer unaccounted for, renditions, and a multitude of other sins, are documented and easily found for review. The count of documented episodes number in the hundreds. The undocumented number is obviously unknown. And the Congressional members briefed in that 2002 meeting were sworn to secrecy for fear of warning Al-Queda about what they might expect. And just last week the CIA admitted that they had destroyed tapes of waterboarding for “Security reasons”. But critics have said, “the administrations motivation was at least partly to hide from view an embarrassing practice that the CIA considered vital but outsiders would almost certainly condemn as abhorrent”.
Although waterboarding is abhorrent, are detainees dying from it? Why not condemn the killing of detainees for whatever cause? Say for example “Palestinian Hanging”. This is how Manadel Al Jamadi http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0217-09.htm died on November 4, 2003 at Abu Gharib while being “Interrogated” by Navy Seals and a couple of “Contractors” (Corporate Mercenaries anyone?). I choose this case of a torturing to death because it is so well documented. Jamadi was subjected to Palestinian Hanging, a technique where the hands are cuffed behind the back, and then the person is raised off the floor by attaching to the cuffed hands. This puts intense pressure on the shoulder joints and ribs. By all accounts Jamadi had a bag over his head and after about an hour of this, he died, and depending on who did the autopsy, he either drowned in his own blood from his ribs broken from the hanging pressure, or he died from blunt trauma to his head and face. The soldiers who brought in Jamadi swear he didn’t have any thing wrong with him when he was brought in. The Navy Seal Lieutenant who was in charge was tried for “striking a detainee on the arm with a rifle butt”. After the five day Court Martial trial he was found “Not Guilty”. Ironically, Al Jamadi was not the only detainee tortured to death that night at Abu Gharib. Another unidentified prisoner was also tortured to death that night but the event just faded away to languish somewhere, wherever it is that those cases disappear.
U. S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Confirmation Hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, January 6, 2005
Another example of torturing to death is the case of Nagem Sadoon Hatab http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/dic/hatab.asp who was killed while in U. S. custody at a holding camp close to Nasiriyah, Iraq. He was described as having died at the hands of a U. S. Soldier who “accidentally” broke his neck. For accountability purposes a victim’s body is required to be available for an autopsy. But in his case, the body was left on an airport tarmac for hours opened up with his internal organs exposed, in the blistering Baghdad heat, as a result the organs were destroyed, the throat bone to support a finding of strangulation, (when a U. S. Medical examiner did examine the body) well, was missing.
Then there is the case of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, http://www.geocities.com/mnsocialist/iraqi3.html a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U. S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces (Contractors again), stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death. In the trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death the officer received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church. Might need that Church time.
Basically, according to the CWO http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0124-03.htm who was tried for this atrocity on January 2006, he didn’t violate any rules of engagement “since an August 30, memo from Senior Commanders knew, “there were no ROE (rules of engagement) for interrogations”. They were still struggling with the definition for a detainee. The memo also said that commanders “were tired of us taking casualties and they told the interrogators they wanted the gloves to come off”. The CWO went on to say that other than a memo saying that they were to be considered “unprivileged combatants “ we received no guidance from them on the status of detainees.
There you have it. For every detainee who has died from torture in our custody, none have died from waterboarding (that we know of), and that gives room for some to argue, “Nobody is dying from our questioning”. But that argument would be false. Many are dying (hundreds documented) and an unknown number who have suffered the same fate. Alberto Gonzales argued that Bush does not condone torture, but a reading of the record would also negate that statement. A Feb. 7, 2002, memo signed by Bush saying that he believed he had "the authority under the Constitution" to deny protections of the Geneva Conventions to combatants picked up during the war in Afghanistan but that he would "decline to exercise that authority at this time." "Our nation recognizes that this new paradigm -- ushered in not by us, but by terrorists -- requires new thinking in the law of war," Bush wrote.
And back to Congress and the briefing on the Hill. Did those who were briefed condone these practices? Judge for yourself. From ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/09/2113802.htm "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," the report quotes former director of the CIA Porter Goss as saying. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”
Shame on those members of Congress who were briefed and kept silent. Shame on those in the Administration who were complicit and acted moral and indignant when questioned about torture. Shame on a complicit media for not boring in and exposing this madness. Shame on those in America who will applaud this brutal and deadly practice, and there are some.
Will Congress follow up on the destroyed waterboarding tapes? To bluster yes, to assign fault and prosecute those that torture and violate the Geneva Convention, which is part of our Law? Not likely. So now its up to you and me. What can we do? Send Congress the following message.
Stop Torture now. It is immoral, it is indefensible, and it is against not only our law of the land, it is against God’s laws.