Wednesday, April 15, 2009

US Use of Torture & Obama's Reluctance to Indict these Criminals & Medical Professionals Willingly Took Part In Abuse & torture of Detainees

Photo from Vanity Fair article on Torture: The Green Light by Philippe Sands, May 2008

(The Bush Public Relations and propaganda campaign after the scandal at Abu Ghraib developed a narrative that those actions had Abu Ghraib were not the result of official secret policies but were the result of a few bad eggs. They further claimed that the administration was responding from requests by those in the field at Guantanamo to use harsher techniques but the facts and the paper trail contradict these claims )

"The real story, pieced together from many hours of interviews with most of the people involved in the decisions about interrogation, goes something like this: The Geneva decision was not a case of following the logic of the law but rather was designed to give effect to a prior decision to take the gloves off and allow coercive interrogation; it deliberately created a legal black hole into which the detainees were meant to fall. The new interrogation techniques did not arise spontaneously from the field but came about as a direct result of intense pressure and input from Rumsfeld’s office. The Yoo-Bybee Memo was not simply some theoretical document, an academic exercise in blue-sky hypothesizing, but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom. And the practices employed at Guantánamo led to abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The fingerprints of the most senior lawyers in the administration were all over the design and implementation of the abusive interrogation policies. Addington, Bybee, Gonzales, Haynes, and Yoo became, in effect, a torture team of lawyers, freeing the administration from the constraints of all international rules prohibiting abuse."

Prisoners Held at Guantanamo- ICRC Report/Red Cross Report Confirms Allegations of Abuse and Torture- Some prisoners held incommunicado for years- The Disappeared - Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld et al guilty of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

pdf file of ICRC at :

UPDATE: 11:05 AM & 12:08 & 12:42 & 1:25PM April 15, 2009

Detainees at Bagram & other sites may not have the right of Habeas Corpus
Prisoners renditioned or transported by the US from other parts of the world to Bagram or other sites.
Obama Takes Bush Position On Habeas Corpus
Obama Also using Friday Nights to make announcements about awkward decisions & policies hoping few will notice and the media stories on these will be ignored-
April 13, 2009 MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show

Reading the ICRC Report on torture at Guantanamo is difficult and disturbing . It is almost incomprehensible that in this so called modern age or enlightened era that there are those who in times of crisis revert to the Dark Side of human nature . Cheney insisted that American officials in order to protect America would have to work in the shadows and in the dark side and so he and others in the Bush Regime let the Genie out of the bottle . They decided that in defense of America any action was justifiable including kidnapping and disappearing suspected enemies. These enemies could be humiliated, intimidated, physically and psychologically abused and in effect tortured all in the name of National Security.

On the one hand there are the Master minds at the top Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush , Feith , Gonzales , Yoo et al who have decided from the get go after 9/11 that the traditional legal standards either in American Law or International Law no longer apply and so they set out just in case to develop a legal veneer for their criminal actions and then we have those lower down in the command structure who are told that what is being asked of them is all above board and is legal and is permissible under International Law and so they do as they are told and believe they are just doing their duty as patriotic Americans and so are helping to defend the Republic.

So members of the CIA, the soldiers, the doctors, the psychologists, the guards, the lawyers and the bureaucrats all can claim that they were just doing their duty. But wasn't that excuse tossed out as a defense at Nuremberg. So shouldn't all of these people who took part in the systematic torture of prisoners be held accountable.

Well probably not because after all they are Americans and Americans are of course born better than other people in the world are are only answerable to their President and their God and International Law has no sway or force over American soldiers or American citizens - they are a breed apart- this is also known as American exceptionalism- that is Americans are not bound by the same laws, rules or morality as other men.

One wonders what is the allure of torture to get revenge to prove who is more powerful and to show that real patriots, real Americans and real men will do whatever is needed to be done to protect their country and its citizens.

Therefore on the other hand the logic goes those who will not go to these extremes ie torture are not as patriotic and therefore according to this logic they are not real Americans or real men.

And real men and real Americans will launch a war of aggression on another nation based upon lies and propaganda in order convince the citizens of their nation that their leaders are taking action.

Fear leads to blind obedience to those who control the flow of information so that the average citizen is unable to think rationally about the actions being taken. So the leaders appeal to the citizenry's sense of loyalty , patriotism and revenge and retribution and if necessary rough justice.

And what is the point or motivation for torture if as the experts tell us that it does not lead to usable intel.
For instance is it a matter of revenge, retribution,a form of rough justice like lynchings in which the innocent and guilty are just lumped into together with the difference between the guilty and innocent seen as unimportant. or as it as has been expressed about the killing of native Americans or the killing of the people in Jerusalem or in Constantinople during the Crusades - someone reportedly said " kill them all and let God sort out the guilty from the innocent".

What other psychological factors are at play in the motivations of the torturer such as the need to humiliate the victim or is it a matter of an the exercise of power.
What Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush ordered or knowingly permitted others to do is beyond the pale. For their actions they need to answer not just to a higher poer or God but they must answer to the laws of men . They must be indicted and given fair trials and sentenced as appropriate . A truth and reconciliation committee or whatever is not enough.

Yet Obama will probably not do what needs to be done . He claims its because he wants to get his policies passed and if he takes action against members of the Bush Regime he fears the Republicans and their friends in government and in the bureaucracy and the Lobbyists etc. will become more obstructionists than they already are. But the problem is that Obama's dream of bipartisanship has not worked and the Republicans are not interested in making it work . So Obama might as well at least do the right thing and using his great communication skills to inform the American people and hopefully convince them that investigating and indicting Bush Regime personnel is not some sort of attack on Republicans or a Witchhunt but that it is a matter of Justice and defending America's core values.

and here's a list of techniques used on detainees gleaned from the ICRC report on torture of detainees at Guantanamo:

While being transported by plane they were shackled made to wear a diaper
dark goggles were placed over their eyes
their ears were covered to block out sound
their transfer took anywhere from an hour to 30 hours
The 14 detainees in the Red cross report were essentially disappeared - they were held incommunicado in solitary confinement from 16 months to 4and a half years years
they did not know where they were being held
they were not allowed any contact with their families
their families were not informed about where or why they were held
they had no access to legal counsel
they had little or no contact with other detainees
nor was a third party such as the ICRC notified that they ( the 14 ) were being held
but nor was third party contacted in the case of other detainees bein held by the US at Guantanamo

use of waterboarding
stress positions kept in standing position for one day to one to three months
beating by use of a collar- beaten against a wall
beating and kicking
confinement in a box
loud repetitive music- for hours to weeks to up to a year
deprivation of solid food
sleep deprivation- from a week to months
prolonged nudity- for days to weeks to months
exposure to cold temperatures for up to a year
dousing with cold water
prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles- for days weeks up to nineteen months
threats of more severe torture - electric shocks , infection with HIV, sodomy, arrest and rape of his family
forced shaving- head and beard shaved
deprivation of access to the open air
deprivation of exercise
deprivation of appropriate hygiene facilities
little or no access to showers or toilets- toilet usually consisted of a bucket but even this was denied for periods of time so detainees had to urinate and defecate on themselves and left standing in their own bodily fluids for several days
restricted access to the Koran linked interrogation
health personnel as mainly enablers for the torturers - to tell them to continue or when to stat the illtreatment again or to modify it so the detainee would not die

As Mark Danner points out in his review of the ICRC report that if the truth about the use of these techniques are not brought into the light and shown that these abusive forms of interrogation do not lead to actionable, usable and reliable information then the myths about the value of torture techniques will go unchallenged. If they are not challenged then at some point in the future they may be used again by the US government as pressure is once more exerted in a time of some national crisis ie a terrorist attack or while fighting a war which may not be going well.

The other issues are ones of morality, ethics, human dignity & decency and the core values of one's society. If anything and everything is permissible then the rule of law is meaningless . Or to put it another way the rule of law is just a matter of power , coercion and force. Americans and those in the West claim to be somehow morally superior to other but this rings hollow when one reads the ICRC Report on torture at Guantanamo . If Americans can justify torturing and disappearing people then they can not complain when their citizens or soldiers etc. are treated in the same way by America's enemies.

also see: The Red Cross Torture Report: What it Means By Mark Danner April 12, 2009 "NYRB"">New York Review of Books

...Cheney’s story is made not of facts but of the myths that replace them when facts remain secret: myths that are fueled by allusions to a dark world of secrets that cannot be revealed. At its heart is the recasting of President George W. Bush, under whose administration more Americans died in terrorist attacks than under all others combined, as the leader who “kept us safe,” and who was able to do so only by recognizing that the US had to engage in “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business.” To keep the country safe “the gloves had to come off.” What precisely were those “gloves” that had to be removed? Laws that forbid torture, that outlaw wiretapping and surveillance without permission of the courts, that limit the president’s power to order secret operations and to wage war exactly as he sees fit.

The logic here works both ways: if “taking the gloves off” was a critical part of the “great success story” that has “kept the country safe,” then those who put the gloves on—Democrats who, in the wake of the Watergate scandal during the mid-1970s, passed laws that, among other things, limited the president’s freedom to order, with “deniability,” the CIA to operate outside the law—must have left the country vulnerable. And if by passing those restrictive laws three decades ago Democrats had left the country defenseless before the September 11 terrorists, then putting the gloves back on, as President Barack Obama on assuming office immediately began to do, risks leaving the country vulnerable once more.

...Cheney’s politics of fear—and the vice-president is unique only in his willingness to enunciate the matter so aggressively—is drawn from the past but built for the future, a possibly post-apocalyptic future, when Americans, gazing at the ruins left by another attack on their country, will wonder what could have been done but wasn’t. It relies on a carefully constructed narrative of what was done during the last half-dozen years, of all the disasters that could have happened but did not, and why they did not, and it makes unflinching political use of the powers of secrecy

...Attacks prevented, threats averted, lives saved—all secret and all ascribed to a willingness to do the “tough, mean, dirty, nasty” things that needed to be done. Things the present “anti-torture president” is just too “legalistic” to do. Barack Obama may well assert that “the facts don’t bear him out,” but as long as the “details of it” cannot be revealed “without violating classification,” as long as secrecy can be wielded as the dark and potent weapon it remains, Cheney’s politics of torture will remain a powerful if half-submerged counter-story, waiting for the next attack to spark it into vibrant life.

...There is a reason that the myth of the “ticking bomb” and the daring, ruthless US agent who will do anything to stop its detonation—anything including torture, a step that proves his commitment and his seriousness—is sacralized in popular culture, and not only in television dramas like 24 but in Dirty Harry and the other movies that are its ancestors. The story of the ticking bomb and the torturing hero who defuses it offers a calming message to combat pervasive anxiety and fear—that no matter what horrible threats loom, there are those who will make use of untrammeled government power to protect the country. It also appeals to uglier and equally powerful emotions: the desire for retribution, the urge to punish and to avenge, the felt need in the face of vulnerability to assert power.[18]

In this political calculus, liberals obsessed by “legalisms” are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and it is no accident that it is firmly in that camp that the former vice-president has been seeking to isolate the new president. Cheney’s success in this endeavor will not be evident now—he is, after all, the most unpopular member of a deeply unpopular party—but the seeds he is so ostentatiously sowing could, if unchallenged by facts and given the right conditions, flourish dramatically in the future.

The only way to defuse the political volatility of torture and to remove it from the center of the “politics of fear” is to replace its lingering mystique, owed mostly to secrecy, with authoritative and convincing information about how it was really used and what it really achieved. That this has not yet happened is the reason why, despite the innumerable reports and studies and revelations that have given us a rich and vivid picture of the Bush administration’s policies of torture, we as a society have barely advanced along this path. We have not so far managed, despite all the investigations, to produce a bipartisan, broadly credible, and politically decisive effort, and pronounce authoritatively on whether or not these activities accomplished anything at all in their stated and still asserted purpose: to protect the security interests of the country.

An Emerging Progressive Consensus on Obama's Executive Power and Secrecy Abuses by Glenn Greenwald, April 13, 2009

In the last week alone, the Obama DOJ (a) attempted to shield Bush's illegal spying programs from judicial review by (yet again) invoking the very "state secrets" argument that Democrats spent years condemning and by inventing a brand new "sovereign immunity" claim that not even the Bush administration espoused, and (b) argued that individuals abducted outside of Afghanistan by the U.S. and then "rendered" to and imprisoned in Bagram have no rights of any kind -- not even to have a hearing to contest the accusations against them -- even if they are not Afghans and were captured far away from any "battlefield." These were merely the latest -- and among the most disturbing -- in a string of episodes in which the Obama administration has explicitly claimed to possess the very presidential powers that Bush critics spent years condemning as radical, lawless and authoritarian.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for honest Obama supporters to dismiss away or even minimize these criticisms and, especially, to malign the motives of critics. After all, the Obama DOJ's embrace of many (though by no means all) of the most radical and extremist Bush/Cheney positions -- and the contradictions between Obama's campaign claims and his actions as President -- are now so glaring and severe that the harshest denunciations of Obama's actions are coming from those who, during the Bush years, were held up by liberals and by Obama supporters as the most trustworthy and praiseworthy authorities on these matters.

Another disturbing part of the Red Cross Report and other relevant pieces of information released or leaked is that Medical Professionals willingly took part in the abuse and torture of prisoners held at Guantanamo and other sites run by the CIA or American military. These then are War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity as defined at the Nuremberg Trials and the Geneva Conventions.

The American Psychology Association tried in 2007 to wiggle out of this conundrum by coming up with its own definition of abuse in order to let its members off the hook.Again we see how this attitude towards detainees began to spread throughout American society so that much of the society becomes implicated from lawyers to doctors to psychologists to the guards at the various prisons from Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib to Bagram to dozens of other sites run by the Bush Regime and now run by the Obama administration.We now know that the abuse was not just a few bad eggs but was systematic as it migrated from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib and throughout the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Gloves were off and any soldier could treat any Iraqi or Afghan prisoner any way they wanted as long as their goals and motivations were to protect the United States and its citizenry at any cost and by any means necessary.

But even given these standards by the the Psychology Association according to the facts as reported by the Red Cross these psychologists along with other Health Professionals who are supposed to do no harm and are supposed to care for their patients instead were there merely to enable the torturers and so were or are guilty of at the least unprofessional if not unethical , immoral and criminal behaviour for which they should be held accountable.

"American Psychological Association Takes Controversial Stand on Torture" By Brandon Keim at Wired Science ,August 20, 2007

Responding to evidence that mental health professionals helped design tortures used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the American Psychological Association has taken a position on torture.

... the group's policy council rejected a resolution that would have forbid its doctors from "taking part in any interrogations at U.S. military prisons 'in which detainees are deprived of adequate protection of their human rights.'"

Instead, they broadly condemned torture and said members couldn't take part in interrogations involving

... mock executions, water-boarding or any other form of simulated drowning or suffocation, sexual humiliation, rape, cultural or religious humiliation, exploitation of phobias or psychopathology, induced hypothermia, the use of psychotropic drugs or mind-altering substances ... hooding, forced nakedness, stress positions, the use of dogs to threaten or intimidate, physical assault including slapping or shaking, exposure to extreme heat or cold, threats of harm or death; and isolation, sensory deprivation and over-stimulation and/or sleep deprivation used in a manner that represents significant pain or suffering ... or the threatened use of any of the above techniques to the individual or to members of the individual’s family.

Supporters of the APA's decision say that having psychologists around helps prevent these tortures from taking place. But the ban's critics are less sure about the value of compromise:

Leonard S. Rubenstein, executive director of the group Physicians for Human Rights, said the psychologists had fooled themselves into thinking their continued presence at detention facilities would make a difference when they were actually playing only a support role.

"It is unfortunate the APA did not recognize you cannot practice ethical psychology in interrogation settings in the context of pervasive violation of human rights," he said.

and there are some in the Medical Professional community who appear concerned that Medical Professionals took part in enabling or facilitating the torture of US held detainees. The media though has tended to downplay all such concerns because they believe that these detainees deserved whatever was done to them. This seems a pervasive attitude in American society . The fears about going down this dark slippery slope have become the reality. Torture is OK if it is done in the name of American National Security.

Medical Personnel Accused of Helping CIA Torture Prisoners By Todd Neale, , MedPage Today, April 09, 2009

-- Some medical personnel allegedly took part in the torture of "high-level detainees" at CIA detention centers as part of the war on terrorism, according to a report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

...The prisoners said that, in addition to routine medical checks before and after transfers and the provision of healthcare for routine ailments -- which was described as "appropriate and satisfactory" -- medical personnel actively monitored or directly engaged in torture in some cases.

"It was alleged that, based on their assessments, health personnel gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust, or to stop particular methods," the report said.

...If the accounts are true, the agency said, the medical personnel acted unethically.

"The alleged participation of health personnel in the interrogation process and, either directly or indirectly, in the infliction of ill-treatment constituted a gross breach of medical ethics and, in some cases, amounted to participation in torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," the report said.

"The role of the physician and any other health professional involved in the care of detainees is explicitly to protect them from such ill-treatment and there can be no exceptional circumstances invoked to excuse this obligation."

and here's another bit from Vanity Fair The Green Light Philippe Sands, May 2008

Diane Beaver, Dunlavey’s staff judge advocate, was the lawyer who would later be asked to sign off on the new interrogation techniques. When the administration made public the list, it was Beaver’s legal advice the administration invoked. Diane Beaver gave me the fullest account of the process by which the new interrogation techniques emerged.

...The common theme was that the techniques were fine “so long as the force used could plausibly have been thought necessary in a particular situation to achieve a legitimate government objective, and it was applied in a good faith effort and not maliciously or sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” That is to say, the techniques are legal if the motivation is pure. National security justifies anything.

and as Philippe Sands comments on the written legal advice given by Diane Beaver to the Bush administration :

Time and distance do not improve the quality of the advice. I thought it was awful when I first read it, and awful when I reread it. Nevertheless, I was now aware of the circumstances in which Beaver had been asked to provide her advice. Refusal would have caused difficulty. It was also reasonable to expect a more senior review of her draft. Beaver struck me as honest, loyal, and decent. Personally, she was prepared to take a hard line on many detainees.

( And on the Banality of Evil :But then in a revealing remark we get a glimpse at the Mind Set of those in the Bush administration and which permeated and percolated up and down the chain of command as in her case Diane Beaver shows her disdain , mistrust and her characterizing the detainees in a what appears as a racist stereotype - she does not take into account that by the time she sees these prisoners they have already undergone abuse and torture by their American captors and so they all appear a bit deranged whether they are guilty of anything or not- they were disappeared, they do not know where they are , their families have not been notified of their situation nor has the Red Cross or other agency- they have spent days shackled wearing diapers into which they urinate and defecate - they have been deprived of sleep for extended periods of time- sleep deprivation brings about auditory and visual hallucinations and leads inevitably to a psychotic break as anyone who has taken psychology 101 knows- they have not been fed properly so of course they are " skinny" - it 's sort of like some anti-semite drawing conclusions about all Jews by observing the Jews held in Auschwitz and so calling them dirty or animal like; a state to which they have been reduced by their confinement and abuse-GORD.)

She once described them to me as “psychopaths. Skinny, runty, dangerous, lying psychopaths.” But there was a basic integrity to her approach. She could not have anticipated that there would be no other piece of written legal advice bearing on the Guantánamo interrogations. She could not have anticipated that she would be made the scapegoat.

For relevant books on the abuse of power by the Bush Regime and on the American Psyche & embedded mythologies also see:

# Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator's Dark Journey Through Iraq By Tony Lagouranis & Allen Mikaelian, pub. 2007
) Lagouranis describes his own personal journey as he worked as an interrogator in Iraq for the US military and the use of harsh and abusive techniques use on hundreds of prisoners & how the abuse of detainees was widespread and approved by those at the top of the Command structure including the Bush Whitehouse, the CIA & the Pentagon. It was not just a few bad eggs but the system was rotten to the core.GORD.)


Grey,Stephen: The True Story of The CIA Torture Program, Pub. 2006

Hersh, Seymour : CHAIN OF COMMAND: THE ROAD FROM 9/11 TO ABU GHRAIB, pub. 2004


# Roberts, Paul William : A WAR AGAINST TRUTH : An Intimate Account of the Invasion of Iraq , Pub. 2004

# Shadid, Anthony : Night Draws Near: Iraqis in the Shadow of America’s War , Pub. 2004

Faludi, Susan The TerrorDream : Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America, pub. 2007

and so it goes,

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