Sunday, July 23, 2006

Human Rights Watch: Bush Administration Lied About Torture; it's widespread, endemic, and goes right up the chain of command

In a 53-page report, “No Blood, No Foul: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq,” US soldiers reveal that contrary to previous statements by the Bush administration, detainees were routinely beaten, put in stressful positions, deprived of sleep and exposed to hot and cold extremes. Human Rights Watch bases its report on interviews, memoranda and sworn statements.

The report, consists of first-hand accounts by U.S. military personnel and provide details of detainee abuses that are at odds with previous statements by the Bush administration. The official program of torture took place at " off-limits facility at Baghdad airport and at other detention centers throughout Iraq." Soldier accounts allege that abusive techniques "...were authorized by the military chain of command". This directly contradicts various Pentagon statements and cover stories. It directly refutes the "few bad apples" defense.

The report is consistent with widely reported efforts by the Bush Justice Department to find legal justification for torture even as various administration officials were denying that it had taken place or that it was widespread.

Soldiers were told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, and that interrogators could use abusive techniques to get detainees to talk. These accounts rebut U.S. government claims that torture and abuse in Iraq was unauthorized and exceptional – on the contrary, it was condoned and commonly used.”

—John Sifton, the author of the report and the senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch.

From the report:
Many of the crimes detailed in this report are violations of international humanitarian law, U.S. military law, and U.S. federal criminal law. The U.S. government’s failure to properly investigate these violations is an affront to the victims of the abuses, and a violation of U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions, which obligate states to prosecute serious violations of the conventions’ provisions (“grave breaches”).

The accounts in this report are further evidence that detainee abuse was an established and apparently authorized part of detention and interrogation processes in Iraq for much of 2003-2005. The cases also show that U.S. military personnel have faced systemic obstacles to reporting or exposing abuses, that the U.S. military in numerous cases has not taken adequate measures to stop reported abuses. The report also shows that the U.S. military has often failed to properly investigate and prosecute perpetrators, including officers who allowed abuses to occur on their watch.

Conclusions, No Blood, No Foul, Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq, Human Rights Watch

Serious abuses are associated with a special task forces —Task Force 20, Task Force 121, Task Force 6-26, and Task Force 145 — which was stationed at an off-limits detention center at the Baghdad airport, called Camp Nama. Other incidents referred to include facilities near Mosul airport, and a base near al-Qaim, on the Syrian border.

George Bush has repeatedly insisted, "We do not torture." Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has repeatedly claimed that the United States does not engage in "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. And CIA Director Porter Goss affirms that his agency "does not do torture. Torture does not work." But no one believes the BUsh administration on this issue and for good reason.

—John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience

Dean goes on to point out that the Bush administration had coaxed the Justice Department into re-defining torture out of existence. Meanwhile, the Economist disounted Bushco's absurd claims that if the President authorized it, it is legal —and his equally absurd claim that the US is not bound to the Geneva Conventions.

Since then, of course, the Supreme Court dealt the Bush rationale a death blow. By a vote of 5-3 SCOTUS, in 'Hamdan v. Rumsfeld', ruled that Bush overstepped his authority when he ordered military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. The administration had claimed that the detainees were not entitled to Geneva protections because they were not prisoners of war. This is, of course, another inconsitency in Bush's position. We are told we are at war, yet "prisoners" taken in that war are not "prisoners of war". If they are not, then we are not at war.

In the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens forcefully rejected the Bush argument, writing:

Congress has not issued the executive a 'blank check,"' [adding:] "Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here.
Bush had claimed that the US was not bound by Geneva at all. Clearly —that is not the case. The US is, in fact, bound to International Law as well as U.S. "...laws prohibiting torture and other ill-treatment of any person in custody in all circumstances." Human Rights Watch states that the
"...prohibition[s] apply to the United States during times of peace, armed conflict, or a state of emergency. Any person, whether a U.S. national or a non-citizen, is protected. It is irrelevant whether the detainee is determined to be a prisoner-of-war, a protected person, or a so-called “security detainee” or “unlawful combatant.”
In other words, prohibitions against torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are absolute despite Bush's various efforts to re-define torture and to make legal, after the fact, the crimes that he's already committed.

The Existentialist Cowboy
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