Saturday, February 07, 2009

Obama Torture and the Rule Of Law & Deleting the Phrase " War On Terror"

Yes there are some actions which Obama has already taken which can be applauded. But I am especially interested in matters which are related to US foreign policies. These include the so called War On Terror which is framed in a way which is unproductive . Al Qaeda committed a criminal act against the US and so those who ordered the attack should be hunted down in the same way other international criminals are. To punish an entire people for these actions is wrong. With the help of other foreign government agencies the US should have cooperated in tracking these people rather than declaring an all out war and claiming as Bush did that countries are either with America or against America.

Further America was in the wrong to have invaded and occupied the country of Iraq which has led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis. But America likes to strut about throwing its weight around to prove to the world that it is the sole Superpower and answers to no one. We had hoped that President Obama would have a more realistic view of the world and would try to work more closely with the international community and International Organizations such as the UN .But it appears Obama is a true believer in American exceptionalism and so wants to show the world how tough he and America is.

The US under the Bush Regime invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and yet eight years later the situation is worse than it was before 9/11. There is less security and the terrorists groups have multiplied and have more support than they did before. We had hoped that Obama could help to defuse much of this situation.

So the hope is that Obama would bring some fresh perspective to this situation.
Further the hope is that Obama would be clear about his position on issues such as torture and abuse of captured suspected terrorists or so called insurgents. The hope was that in claiming that he believed in sticking to American values and the Rule Of Law which would mean condemning torture and other abuses . This would also mean that in cases of conflict Obama would insist that US forces and intelligence agencies etc. would abide by International Law ie. not use White Phosphorus or other such weapons on civilian populations. That the US forces would not engage in the creation of free fire zones as they have in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another issue is that of the crimes committed by the Bush Regime. The hope is taht Obama will insist on a vigorous investigation to determine what American and international laws were broken by the Bush Regime. This would then be followed where necessary by indictments of those responsible no matter what these individuals positions were at the time from the director of the CIA to vice President Cheney and President Bush and to the lawyers who claim to give them a green light to do as they please etc.

So Obama is considering dropping the term War on Terror or The Global War on Terror but will this mean a substantive change as in rethinking the use of massive military force as in destroying whole cities or knocking in the doors of a few million houses etc.

War on Words
Why Obama may be abandoning Bush's favorite phrase. by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball Newsweek Feb 4, 2009

In another effort to undo the legacy of George W. Bush's presidency, the Obama administration is searching for alternatives to the term "war on terror."

Although partly symbolic, the search for new terror terminology reflects an internal government debate that predates the new administration. Critics have long decried the use of the phrase "war on terror" on the grounds that terrorism is a tactic, not an identifiable enemy. Years ago, State and Defense Department officials tried to move away from the phrase "war on terror," proposing instead to call it a "Struggle Against Violent Extremism," or SAVE.

But when word of the suggested change leaked to the media, President Bush displayed his annoyance at the idea during meeting of National Security Council officials. "The president unleashed over this," said one participant in the meeting who asked not to be identified talking about an internal discussion. "He made it perfectly clear that the American public understood what the war on terror was. … He was clearly irritated about this. That put an end to it."

Indeed, the "war on terror" was one of the signature phrases of the Bush presidency. It was formally declared in Bush's nationally televised speech to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001 - his first after the 9/11 terror attacks - when the president cast the government's response in such sweeping terms that, according to critics, it ultimately opened the door for the invasion of Iraq. "Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them," Bush said then. "Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

Robert Parry argues that those lawyers in the Justice Department who created arguments to allow the president and others to commit illegal or immoral acts .

" First, Jail All of Bush's Lawyers " by Robert Parry at Consortium News Feb. 5, 2009

The logic of targeting former Justice Department lawyers - the likes of John Yoo and Jay Bybee - is that they were the linchpin for justifying acts that were clearly illegal; they provided the paper cover for both the interrogators in the field and the senior officials back in Washington.

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have repeatedly cited this legal guidance when insisting that the harsh interrogation of "war on terror" detainees - as well as other prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars - did not cross the line into torture.

In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense is that independent lawyers at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and elsewhere gave honest opinions - and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved specific interrogation techniques, to the interrogators, who carried out these acts, operated in good faith.

If, however, that narrative is false - if the lawyers colluded with policymakers in creating legal excuses for criminal acts - then the Bush-Cheney defense collapses. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture is of consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.

Obama & Torture

US Officials we are told bullied the British Government telling them that the US would refuse to share intel with them if they revealed any information on torture being used on detainees. It is easy to believe that former president Bush and his buddy Dick Cheney would be involved in such chicanery but was President Obama involved with these threats.

"Evidence of torture 'buried by ministers'

Judges condemn secrecy over files detailing treatment of suspect by CIA by Richard Norton-Taylor The Feb. 5, 2009

Two senior judges said they were powerless to reveal the information about the torture of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, because David Miliband, the foreign secretary, had warned the court the US was threatening to stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK.

In a scathing judgment, the judges said the evidence, and what MI5 knew about it, must remain secret because according to Miliband, the American threats meant "the public of the United Kingdom would be put at risk".

Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones made clear they were unhappy with their decision, but said they had no alternative as a result of Miliband's claim. Their ruling revealed that Miliband stuck to his position about the threat to the UK even after Barack Obama signed orders two weeks ago banning torture and announcing the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

" US Threatened Britain To Suppress Torture Evidence " By Shahram Vahdany Paul Joseph Watson Prison at Media With A Conscience Feb.5,2009

The Obama administration has been caught in a fresh torture controversy after it emerged that America threatened to cease all intelligence ties with Britain if it revealed that a British suspect held at Guantanamo Bay had been tortured into confessing to being part of a dirty bomb plot.

“Two senior British judges have expressed their anger and surprise that President Barack Obama’s Government has put pressure on Britain to suppress evidence of torture in US custody,” reports the London Times.

“Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said they had been told that America had threatened to stop co-operating with Britain on intelligence matters if evidence were published suggesting that Binyam Mohammed, a British resident held at the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, had been tortured into confessing crimes.”

In their ruling, the judges, acting on behalf of the Foreign Office & Commonwealth Office, scorned the hypocrisy behind the Obama administration’s actions.

“We did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials . . . relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be,” they stated.

“We had no reason . . . to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence-sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.”

also see:

"Letters Prove US Threats to Halt Intelligence to UK " by Paola Totaro at The Age ( Australia )Feb. 6, 2009

But then we get the disturbing testimony of Leon. E. Panetta who is to be the new of the CIA in which his answers raise more questions about the Obama's Administrations stand on the torture and abuse of captured suspected terrorists.

Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation by Mark Mazzetti at The New York Times Feb. 6, 2009

... the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, on Thursday left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules issued last month

Before the same Senate panel last month, Dennis C. Blair, who is now the director of national intelligence, declined to say that waterboarding is torture, telling senators that it would be awkward for him to lead intelligence operatives he had accused of carrying out an illegal act.

For years, C.I.A. officials have argued that the agency’s detention and interrogation program not only helped thwart terrorist attacks, but also was the government’s most valuable resource for gaining insight into Al Qaeda.

Mr. Panetta pledged to examine the harsh interrogation techniques used by the spy agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to determine whether any damage done to America’s reputation abroad “counterbalanced” the intelligence gained during the interrogations.

Although the C.I.A. can no longer hold prisoners indefinitely, and can no longer hide prisoners from the Red Cross, the exact rules governing agency detention operations remain murky. For instance, Mr. Obama has yet to spell out exactly how long the C.I.A. can detain a prisoner, and how long a detainee can be in C.I.A. custody before the agency notifies the Red Cross.

Obama's CIA Man

Afshin Rattansi Interviews Retired CIA Man, Ray McGovern

Afshin Rattansi talks to former CIA official Ray McGovern about the consequences for the new head of the CIA and for the United States after Leon Panetta condemns torture, extraordinary rendition and those that were involved in it all. Also, will Cheney go to jail and what about David Milliband who denies that the UK secret services do not engage in torture despite evidence to the contrary for decades of British illegal activity, from Ireland to Gibraltar?

What had been hoped for from the Obama administrastion was a blanket condemnation of torture or abuses of detainees as defined and spelled out under International Law and not just based on the whims of some CIA operative or even the whims of a president. Otherwise Obama may just as well do as Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney did and claim the president can make up the rules and laws as he goes along while rejecting all International Laws and agreements including the Geneva Conventions. Is it that Obama does not understand the distinction or does not understand that there are a myriad of torture techniques which were used by those in the Bush administration. Does Obama need an exhaustive list of interrogation techniques which are deemed to be torture or abuse. That is from insulting and humiliating a prisoner to a few slaps across the face to stripping a prisoner naked and being led around on a dog leash to hanging a prisoner upside down or placing them in stress positions to being sodomized to being urinated on or being told their family or friends will be harmed or killed etc.

Panetta even used the old cliche of the ticking bomb which is no justification for the use of torture as many experts have pointed out. But the point is that he does not accept that torture is never justified . its only purpose is to humiliate and terrorize detainees and helps the interrogators believe they are doing something useful. Any intel brought about by torture is highly suspect and is not reliable.

The use of torture or any abuse of prisoners is against International Law. Once again we get the same old tired rationalizations for using an illegal and immoral practice. Panetta has said he would not use waterboarding but he and others ignore the fact that this was only one form of torture that was used by the Bush Regime.
The Bush Regime also had the audacity to redefine torture which they claimed was any technique which could lead to organ failure or death but this is not how it is defined under International Law .

Is Obama going to allow his administration to start employing language that is using legalese and other bureaucratic language to defend the indefensible. He is going to allow for some sort of slippery slope or make it clear that all forms of torture from sensory deprivation to sensory overload to sleep deprivation etc. are not to be used. Is he like Bush claiming that it is up to him or his legal advisors to decide what constitutes torture.

One wonders how committed Obama is to The Rule Of Law. As we saw in the Gaza conflict he was all too eager to defend Israel in its slaughter of unarmed Gazan civilians.

And from Common there are those who may still be loyal to the Bush Regime and its policies who are working in sensitive positions:

Key Bush Gitmo Advisers Still on Job at Pentagon by Lara Jakes Associted Press Feb. 6, 2009

and we need to be aware that the rhetoric used by the former Bush Regime and its minions should be taken with a grain of salt as in claiming that the majority of inmates at Gitmo or other American run prisons for terrorists or insurgents contain the "worse of the worse ' or that even most of these detainees are guilty of some heinous crime since we do not know nor does Obama. The information he has been given or will be given was created by by a corrupt system made up of those who wished to cover their asses and to protect the Bush Regime at all cost. Some of the information was based on individual's testimony or confessions obtained through intimidation , abuse and or torture. Some of the information on detainees was brought to US officials in return for monetary awards etc.

And the Bush Regime also decided not to respect various International Agreements and laws including the concept of Child Soldiers who are to be treated differently from other captured combatants. The conservatives supporting the Bush ideology believe that anyone arrested or captured no matter what the evidence is to be treated as guilty of terrorist activities.

" The Children of Guantanamo " by William Fisher Feb. 6, 2009

NEW YORK - Legal experts and human rights advocates are challenging the public to remember Guantanamo's "child soldiers" when the detainees there are characterised as "the worst of the worst".

Since the iconic detention centre in Cuba opened in 2002, some 22 juveniles have been imprisoned there. And contrary to the U.N.'s Rights of the Child protocol, all but three have been housed with the general population, despite their being obliged to promote "the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict".

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and many other senior George W. Bush administration officials have repeatedly described all the Guantanamo detainees as "the worst of the worst".

Two "child soldier" cases in particular are being highlighted by human rights advocates.

Next Post : More on Afghanistan and the War On Terror

and so it goes,

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