MANY HIGH BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
GUILTY OF VIOLATING ANTI-TORTURE LAWS
By Sherwood Ross
At least a score of high Bush Administration officials authorized, and hundreds of U.S. military and other government employees committed, crimes involving the torture of prisoners captured in the Middle East, published reports and legal documents indicate.
Indeed, any impartial probe of the widespread abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody could go well beyond the handful of prison guards who have been arrested and tried to date. The list would include top White House officials who designed the torture policies and Pentagon flag officers who executed them. It would include CIA officials and their contract pilots and immigration personnel involved in abducting suspects to be tortured as well as foreign officials who turned suspects over to U.S. authorities for torture. It would include doctors, nurses, and paramedics who abetted interrogators in torture and the civilian contractors of the Department of Defense(DOD) who tortured inmates.
In his May 8, 2004, radio broadcast, President Bush deplored "shocking conduct in Iraqi prisons by a small number of American servicemen and women." But he added, "We will learn the facts, the extent of the abuse, and the identities of those involved. They will answer for their actions." As that's the case, let's begin, starting at the top.
President Bush himself bears primary responsibility for torture for his arbitrary February 8, 2002, suspension of the Geneva Conventions that protect prisoners. This action set the tone for the prison scandals that shocked the conscience of the world with the publication in 2004 of the bizarre prisoner abuse photographs from Abu Ghraib near Baghdad .
As for Vice President Dick Cheney, he's been described by retired Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, as the man who provided "the philosophical guidance that led to the torture of detainees." Wilkerson, who quit the State Department in January, 2005, said he didn't fault Cheney for wishing to keep America safe "but he'll corrupt the whole country to save it."
DOD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his former Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, both authorized torture practices. When Bush nominated Wolfowitz as World Bank boss, Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union lamented, "As privates and sergeants are getting jail time, top level officials are getting promoted." Human Rights First(HRF) has charged Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for torture. And the Center for Constitutional Rights(CCR) named Rumsfeld one of 10 defendants in a criminal complaint filed in Karlsruhe , Germany , for brutal acts of torture at Abu Ghraib.
CCR Vice President Peter Weiss said CCR filed its complaint in Germany "because there is simply no other place to go" as USA refuses to join the International Criminal Court, and Iraq has no authority to prosecute. Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction suspected war criminals may be prosecuted anywhere.
Apparently, Rumsfeld did not put the military on the torture track without internal opposition. Then U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, now retired, put up a diligent fight, according author Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. On December 2, 2002, Rumsfeld formally okayed coercive punishments such as "hooding," "stress positions," "exploitation of phobias," "deprivation of light and auditory stimuli" and other tactics long forbidden by the Army Field Manual, Mayer wrote.
One torture victim was Saudi detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, a terrorist suspect arrested in Afghanistan in connection with the 9/ll skyjackings. According to Mayer, he was stripped and shaved, put in an isolation pen under artificial lights for 160 days, kept in a cold room, interrogated for up to 20 hours at a stretch, deprived of sleep, straddled by female guards, forced to wear a bra and women's underwear on his head, put on a leash and threatened by dogs, taunted that his mother was a prostitute, and forced to listen to blaring pop music.
It was Rumsfeld who appointed Dr. Stephen Cambone, the Defense Undersecretary who gave the orders to "soften up" Iraqi prisoners. Cambone told Major General Geoffrey Miller, former Guantanamo commandant, to go to Iraq to "Gitmo-ize" the interrogation process. Miller reportedly said, "You have to treat them like dogs" and okayed use of stress positions "for agonizing lengths of time," according to reporter Seymour Hersh. Cambone is named in the CCR complaint for his role in "creating a secret operation program whose mandate included committing war crimes."
One form of torture begins with "extraordinary rendition." Alleged terror suspects have been abducted by the CIA and flown to be tortured (and/or murdered) in Egypt , Saudi Arabia , Syria , Morocco , Jordan and Uzbekistan , etc. The practice was begun around 1996 under President Clinton and vastly expanded by President Bush after 9/11. Sandy Berger, Clinton 's National Security Council director, and counterterrorism boss Richard Clarke, have been identified as having approved extreme rendition. Clinton , of course, is also culpable. Right now, Italy would like to lay its hands on 22 C.I.A. agents who three years ago abducted Milan resident cleric Hassan Osama Nasr for torture in Egypt .
CIA pilots involved in extraordinary rendition flights, as well as their boss, former CIA Director Porter Goss and CIA ex-counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black should be called to account. Recall Goss asked Congress to exempt CIA operatives from any law banning torture and Black told Congress, "After 9/11, the gloves came off." Any European officials who transferred suspects to the CIA are culpable.
One human rights consortium said last April it has documented the involvement of over 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel for the abuse and torture of 460 detainees.