Sunday, September 23, 2007

How Bush May Have Gotten Away with Mass Murder, War Crimes and Torture

By Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush is desperately seeking ways to avoid prosecution at the Hague for his many war crimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a long and "tortured" story about how Bush and his cabal have hijacked the apparatus of government and intimidated the Congress.

The obvious motive is money --millions made by defense contractors whose business is killing people. It includes Blackwater, another name for Murder, Inc. It's about war, crimes and torture. It's about a "President" who has committed capital crimes and re-wrote the law to absolve himself.

Found in a recent Keith Olbermann broadcast:
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tells G-Q magazine he is "sorry" he gave the world wrong information when he told the U-N of the threat Iraq supposedly posed.
Olbermann makes the case that the Bush administration is habitually wrong because being wrong or, worse, a bald faced liar is rewarded. The Bush administration is 180 degrees out of phase with every good and human value be it secular or religious.

It bears repeating that Powell's presentation to the UN was a deliberate fraud. Despite his mea culpa, Powell will have trouble scrapping off Bush's guilt. Powell is a modern Faust. It remains to be seen whether he will succeed in redeeming himself. Powell's presentation was not a mere, isolated lie, exaggeration, or misspeak. It was --from start to finish --a polished, planned, pre-meditated fraud intended to deceive all the nations of the world. Powell is up to his neck in a war crime. Perhaps, if Powell told the whole story, he might survive with a shred worth redemption.

I recently made the case that Bush repeatedly tried to escape culpability for his crimes for which even US Codes prescribe the death penalty, that is, until Bush decided to intimidate Congress into re-writing him to be above the laws.
President Bush signs the "Military Commissions Act of 2006? today in the Rose Garden, a bill that will not grant detainees legal counsel. "Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts." The new law sets the stage for what many analysts believe will be yet another historic showdown between the courts, the president, and Congress.

Hidden inside the Military Commissions Act were measures designed to let Bush off the hook for violations of Geneva, most prominently US Codes, Title 18, Section 2441, which make violations resulting in death punishable by death.
§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.
That Bush insisted upon those changes seems to me evidence that he was and remains in violation of them. Typical of his ilk and his endemically criminal party, he has sought yet again to re-write the laws. It is bad enough that Bush presumes to be above the law, he exempts himself from them retro-actively. This --from a monster who pokes fun at Texas inmates awaiting death in a Texas gulag, perhaps the model on which the CIA's gulag archipelago is premised.

Congress ought not to have abrogated any portion of powers delegated only to Congress by the Constitution. Members of congress supporting Bush are not merely misguided, they have been abused and/or intimidated. They have abrogated their responsibilities to the people and the Constitution. These attempts to white wash Bush crimes retroactively are transparent, cynical, contemptuous of the rule of law, and unconstitutional.

As I write this Chuck Hagel is deploring the fact that America's political leadership has lost the confidence of the American people. I am appalled that he has just now gotten that message. Clearly, the Congress has sold out the American people and the people know that to be the case. The people are utterly without competent leadership. The government of the US is a gang of thugs and should be treated as such. It should be overthrown and replaced by a government free of the MIC, the corporate media, the CIA, and the troglodyte thugs of the Skull and Bones best likened to an infestation of Texas cockroaches. Down with this government. Down with this administration. Down with this Congressional leadership! Down with this gang of venal kiss ups to Bush.

I take no pleasure or pride when I say that I have been writing about this since Afghanistan when it was clear that "detainees" were not accorded the protections of Geneva and, later, when the war on Iraq itself is a war crime in violation of the Nuremberg Principles. Over a year ago, Amnesty International called for the Prosecution of George W Bush for War Crimes
The past five years have seen the USA engage in systematic violations of international law, with a distressing impact on thousands of detainees and their families. Human rights violations have included:
  • Secret detention
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment
  • Denial and restriction of habeas corpus
  • Indefinite detention without charge or trial
  • Prolonged incommunicado detention
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Unfair trial procedures
The Congress and the Bush "Presidency", more accurately described as "occupancy", have simply sold us down the river. If there is any good news it is that attempts to rewrite Geneva themselves may violate Geneva to which the US is still bound. Despite the worst efforts of both Bush and the kiss up Congress, Bush may actually face trial for having committed "capital" war crimes in Iraq. The actions of congress itself violates Geneva and are, likewise, punishable by death.

Thanks to the boycott of this story by the MSM, you may have to refer to the Congressional record itself to stay informed. Even so, there is, at least, some outrage to this silent and under-reported coup d'etat, this stealth subversion of the rule of law. Two lawsuits were filed before the legislation was signed .
The new legislation, passed a week ago Friday, bars judges from hearing detainee lawsuits. Instead, it sets up a much more limited appeals process for detainees who are seeking to challenge their designation as an enemy combatant or to challenge a war crimes conviction by a military commission.
One suit was filed on behalf of Majid Khan, one of the 14 so-called high value Al Qaeda suspects recently transferred from secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons to the terrorist detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The other was filed on behalf of 25 detainees being held among some 500 men at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
It remains to be seen whether Bush's re-write of the law will bar these lawsuits. Because the MSM has apparently boycotted the story, it is has been difficult to mobilize public opinion. Bush meanwhile continues to dominate the news with purple rhetoric about his "desperate need to question detainees". My response is simply this: the Bush administration has wasted precious time and resources torturing people who most certainly have no knowledge of al Qaeda --a CIA asset. Bush calls "torture" one of the most "vital tools" in the War on Terror.

That, of course, is nonsense. There is no data whatsoever to support that position. None! On the contrary, numerous studies support the opposite view that torture and coercion are among the least effective measures and counter-productive. Tortured people will simply say anything to stop the pain. No information obtained by torture can be relied upon. It's use has inflamed world opinion against us even as it has made the threat of terrorism worse!  I will debate George W. Bush on that point anytime, anywhere, including main street at high noon! Bush is dead wrong, stupid, and perverted! I am right!
KABUL, Afghanistan - Sixteen Afghans and one Iranian released from years in captivity at Guantánamo Bay prison arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday, an Afghan official said, maintaining that "most" of the detainees had been falsely accused.
The 16 Afghans appeared at a news conference alongside Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, which assists with the release of detainees from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the U.S. prison at the Bagram military base north of Kabul.
Mejadedi said many of the detainees, who are now free, had served up to four years in Guantánamo. He said "most" of the prisoners were innocent and had been turned in to the U.S. military by other Afghans because of personal disputes.

"For four years they put me in jail in Cuba for nothing," said Shah, a doctor from the eastern province of Paktia whose hands shook from nervousness when he spoke.
"All these people (the other prisoners) and all those Afghans still in Cuba, they are innocent," he told reporters. "All were arrested because of false reports, and the Americans, without investigating, they arrested innocent people and put them in jail for a long time."

Another former prisoner, 20-year-old Habib Rahman, said he was arrested because he had a weapon in his home.
"They told me, 'You are against us, you are anti-American and anti-government and you are fighting with us,'" said Rahman. "At that time in our area everyone had weapons. I was innocent and I hadn't participated in any fighting."
Rahman said that he was treated harshly at Guantánamo, and was once kept awake for 38 hours while being questioned about ties to terrorists.
"The last time they tortured me like that was four months ago," he said. "They were kicking us all the time, beating us with their hands."

--17 Falsely Accused Guantanamo Detainees Returned to Afghanistan
Rahman now 20, was taken to Guantánamo when he was only sixteen. Many Gitmo detainees were simply sold into captivity by Afghan warlords.
Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
Via the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU has acquired abundant documention about how innocent people are tortured by the US. Sadly, this information is still ignored, despite the publicity, despite the outrage, despite the revelations about global "rendition". From Thinkprogress:
President Bush has consistently touted the U.S. detention facility in Guantánamo Bay as a "model prison," saying the American people should "take great pride" in the facility.
But a sworn statement by Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny paints an entirely different picture. Cerveny has described how "she met several Navy prison guards at a club on the base where, over drinks, they described harsh physical abuse" of Gitmo detainees. The guards alledgedly told Cerveny of practices including "hitting the detainee's head into the cell door" and "punching [them] in the face." The Pentagon Inspector General today announced a new investigation into the claims.
Cerveny gave her first public comments on her charges last night to ABC News. You can read Cerveny's affidavit to the Pentagon Inspector General here (pdf).
US officials persist in characterizing the US as a nation of laws, though we behave lawlessly. In fact, in the absence of Geneva and Nuremberg, the US has become, under Bush, a rogue nation, in fact, the world's biggest terrorist organization. Or, as the French would put it, Les Etat-Unis sont le plus grande terroriste!

Two expert United Nations bodies - the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee - told the US government that secret detentions violated the USA's international treaty obligations. In effect, the President was rejecting the conclusions of these UN bodies, as well as admitting that the USA had resorted to enforced disappearance, a crime under international law.

The response of the US administration to the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling has been even more shocking but not sufficiently so to nudge Congress into calling the executive to account for "war on terror" abuses. Indeed, President Bush's defense of the CIA's program of secret detention and "alternative" interrogation techniques policy, which he said had been called into question by the Hamdan ruling and therefore needed congressional approval, showed an administration in assertively unapologetic mood.
One can trace the administration's manipulation of the law to fit its policy.

According to a document recently issued by the Director of National Intelligence, after "high-value" detainee Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and handed over to the USA, he refused to cooperate with his US interrogators. In response, the CIA designed a new "interrogation program" and "sought and obtained legal guidance from the Department of Justice that none of the new procedures violated the US statutes prohibiting torture."

Any such claim of legality rings hollow. For until the Detainee Treatment Act was passed in December 2005 (in the face of executive opposition), Justice Department lawyers took the position that because of the reservation attached to the USA's ratification of the Convention against Torture in 1994, the USA had no treaty obligation on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to foreign nationals held in US custody overseas.

In August 2002, the Justice Department provided legal advice in a memo which only came to light in after the Abu Ghraib torture revelations. The memo was reportedly in response to a CIA request for legal protections for its interrogators. Among other things, it stated that interrogators could "cause a great deal of pain before crossing the threshold to torture". It said that there was a "significant range of acts" that might constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment but which might not rise to the level of "torture" prosecutable under US laws.

Congress may rewrite 2441, a Federal statute, but it is hoped that such a rewrite be powerless to save Bush retro-actively. Government simply making up the rules as it goes along is no government at all. At worst, it's tyranny, at best chaos. Laws themselves become meaningless, the "rule of law" absurd. Geneva, to which the US is still signatory, is not a Chinese menu from which an executive can merely pick and choose. Congress, in a blatant, transparent attempt to get Bush off the hook for capital crimes by trying an "end run" around Geneva, will find itself in dangerous violation.

Visualize a day when Bush is taken cuffed, shackled and frog marched to a black helicopter which will whisk him away to the Hague. There he will experience the meaning of justice. He will learn that he is not above the law. He will learn that he is mortal. He will pay the price for his arrogant venality, the mass murders that he ordered, the lies that he told. He will learn, too late to save himself, the penalty for having deliberately defrauded the nations of the world.

An update from Singularity. It's about why the Congress has failed America. Though it supposedly has a Democratic majority, the Congress has kissed Bush's sorry ass:
Again, look at the facts, the reality: Bush wants Congressional approval of his illegal surveillance; he gets it. Bush wants to launch spy satellites against the American people; he does it. Bush wants concentration camps and secret prisons with torture; he's got them. Bush wants to escalate a ruinous, murderous, unpopular war; he does it. He wants to declare people "enemy combatants" and imprison them indefinitely; he does it. Bush's spokesmen openly claim that the laws passed by the people's representatives are "just advisory" and "the president can still do whatever he wants to do," and there is no outcry, no action, no defense of the Republic against this overthrow of the Constitution.

Who could look at this reality and declare that the United States is still a republic, in any genuine form? Who could see this and deny that the nation is now an authoritarian state under an "elected" dictator?

--Chris Floyd, Singularity
This update from Les Enrages:
It's important to remember that SCOTUS did indeed rule against Lincoln's suspension of habeas. In consideration of that, I came up with this (hopefully) interesting (perhaps) legal argument:
  • The legislature's attempt to suspend the Great Writ through the Military Commissions Act was unconstitutional on its face - defying Article I, section 9. There is a procedure for amending the constitution, (Article V), and it was never attempted. BTW, are the Senators and Congresspersons sent to Washington content with having NO familiarity with the document defining their responsibilities? (and limiting their authority, BTW) Are their constituents?
  • The Supreme Court shirked its duty when they shamefully declined to even hear a case testing the law back in April, simultaneously giving the finger to the Constitution, their oath of office, and the American public.
  • Normally when a law is passed, if it hasn't yet been ruled unconstitutional it still has legal weight until it is considered by the Supremes. IOW, it is in the interim period 'the law of the land.' You can't be brought to court later for having followed the law prior to the high court's ruling because you were acting in good faith, and the fact that the law is stricken from the books later shouldn't put you in jeopardy. I think this is as it should be.
  • But what if the Supreme court has already ruled on constitutionality, prior even to the passage of the bill? Shouldn't that change things? In the instance of the suspension of habeas, there is a standing ruling of its unconstitutionality, from Lincoln's time. The alleged suspension is therefore a legal nullity, a bit of shadow-puppet theater, a farce. It is "a tale told by an idiot, all full of wind and fury and signifying NOTHING." I know that quote is well out of its original Shakespearian context, but you get my point.
  • It seems to me that in this particular instance there are a number of federal officials, in the military, the Justice Department, and even in the White House who could be facing multiple kidnapping charges. The idea that they were acting in good faith is absurd on its face.
I think a forceful lawyer could make a damn good case of it anyway. But it is not likely to happen.
--Les Enrages

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