30 October 2008
terrorism and torture
This is a letter sent to an Aussie TV program following an interview they did with a respected lawyer who argued that a case could be made for the selective use of torture on terror suspects.
Dave and Kim
I appreciate your interview with your guest today on the issue of torture. Unfortunately, Peter Farris showed that he was completely unaware of the context in which torture is being used in the US. His claim that "some of these people are incredibly dangerous" is simply not supported by the facts. None of the high profile US terrorism and torture cases (about 10 cases) have involved anything but marginal or questionable terrorists. The use of agent provocateurs and falsified evidence is also prominent. Here's a list of what's going on in the US.
I am reminded here of Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, wrongly suspected by US authorities of links to Al Qaeda, who was arrested in 2002 at New York's JFK Airport. Despite traveling on his Canadian passport he was illegally 'rendered' to Syria, one of seven countries that the US has designated a sponsor of state terrorism. His Syrian captors did not believe for one minute that he had al Qaeda links but they had agreed to interrogate him on behalf of the US. So for 10 months he was held in an tiny, unlit cell and only taken out for a series of beatings that nearly killed him. When finally freed he sued the US government. The case was dismissed on the grounds of "State Secrets Privilege", effectively making the US government unaccountable on matters of rendition and torture. The Canadian government held a detailed public inquiry and confirmed that there had been no evidence from the outset that Arar had any links to terrorism.
In Jan 2004 a German, Khaled Masri, while holidaying in the Balkans, was kidnapped and flown to Kabul where he was tortured for four months only to be released when his innocence became clear.
Two Egyptians were kidnapped off the streets of Sweden in Dec 2001 and taken to Egypt. Only one has been released.
Religious cleric Abu Omar was hijacked from Milan in 2003 after the Italian courts refused a legal request from the US government for his rendition. He hasn't been seen since. Arrest warrants have been issued for 26 Americans over this incident, most of whom are believed to be CIA agents, and the US has refused to honour the warrants.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of people (20,000 by some estimates) are alleged to have been kidnapped from the Middle East into an uncharted gulag of prisons from Morocco to Egypt to former Russian states.
Then there's the case of US citizen Jose Padilla. He was a lowly paid Taco Bill employee who wanted to give to Muslim charities. The US government fabricated terrorism charges against him by torturing an alleged co-conspirator whom he had never even met. His own 'confession' was obtained under torture. Padilla was kept in solitary confinement for over three years. He was in a 3m by 2m cell for 1,307 days, with no natural light, no clock, no calendar and where he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators who rarely spoke to him. He was subjected to extreme sensory deprivation and blasting with harsh lights and sounds and was allegedly injected with a 'truth serum', a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP. According to doctors who examined him, Padilla was so shattered that he lacked the ability to assist in his own legal defense. He was convinced that his lawyers were interrogators and his captors were his protectors. Quite literally, he had lost his mind. Under US law since 2006 this treatment is completely legal. Padilla's interrogation videos have gone missing. And this is the brave new world we are expected to accept without question.
23,000 interrogation videos have gone missing from Guantanamo. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Abdelhaleem Ashqar and Sami Al-Arian, two US academics who have argued publicly over many years for Palestinian rights, have been jailed in the US in a blatant political exercise. They refused to provide details about Hamas political figures who ran the legally elected Palestinian government before it was overthrown in a US backed coup that installed Mahmoud Abbas. Ashqar, a former associate professor of business, has been given eleven years in a US jail for refusing, as a matter of principle, to provide testimony he believes would lead to the assassination of Hamas members by Israel or Abbas.
Some have argued that some torture is necessary. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 911, reportedly gave authorities information that led to the capture of Jemaah Islamiah operative Hambali. But we don't know this for a fact. We only know what we are told. But he did confess after being waterboarded -- he provided a list of prominent tourist spots he said he planned to bomb including a building that at the time of his confession was still only on the drawing boards! Bush and Cheney were getting daily reports on the torture of KSM and personally approving specific torture techniques.
Think on this: the US Defense Department admitted to Washington Post writer Thomas E. Ricks (10 April 2006) that a specific US military propaganda program operated in regard to Iraqi based al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a program which also targeted Western domestic audiences. Ricks described how the Pentagon had concocted FAKE Zarqawi letters and then leaked them to the New York Times, which published one of the letters despite having good reasons to believe it was fraudulent.
It's not easy to distinguish between reliable intelligence, propaganda and frightened victims willing to say anything. There's no evidence that torture works and there are fundamental moral principles against it.
What do US Sen.Ted Kennedy, Princeton constitutional law Professor Walter F. Murphy and Anne Summers, PM Paul Keating's former adviser on women's affairs, all have in common? Along with 750,000 other Americans, most of whom made the mistake of writing something critical of the Bush administration, they're all on the US terrorist watch list. So they go through 5 hour check ins at airports.
The US Military Commissions Act 2006 allows the US President to arrest ANY person at all whom he designates a terrorist suspect. They can be incarcerated indefinitely; they are not allowed to see a lawyer; they cannot demand to go before a court; they cannot demand to know the charges against them or to see any evidence as to why they have been detained; they can be tortured by any means the US President approves of; and anyone who carries out these orders on his behalf has full legal immunity.
This is what happened to US resident Ali al-Marri. He has been held in solitary confinement in a US navy brig for five years in a cell no bigger than a bathroom. No one else is in his prison wing; his guards never speak to him; he has been subject to darkness for months on end. His mind has broken. He will never be released. He is almost certainly an innocent man.
The FBI and CIA rejected the torture guidelines set by Pres. Bush for the treatment of detainees. So he sat with his selected lawyers in the White House and determined that it was acceptable to drown people into unconsciousness -- just as long as you could revive them afterwards! One of those lawyers, a distinguished Professor John Yoo, was asked by a Congressional Committee to consider what if the US captured the child of a terrorist suspect, how would he be treated? Yoo insisted that it could not be ruled out -- in pursuing the war on terror -- that the US President might have to order that the child's testicles be crushed!
Bush is also an admitted murderer. In his 2003 State of the Union Address he said that over 3000 "suspected" al Qaeda operatives had been killed outside the rule of any law - "they are no longer a problem for our friends and allies". Suspects murdered. No trials, no apology, nothing.
Bush is prepared to murder innocent civilans quite knowingly and especially his critics. In the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan Al Jazeera's Kabul office was bombed by an American 'smart bomb' in what was officially described as an accident. Journalist Ron Suskind spoke to US military sources who confirmed, however, that the bombing was deliberate, to "send a message" to the media organization. The order almost certainly came from the White House.
In a further incident in April 2003, during the Iraq invasion, Al Jazeera's Baghdad office was hit by a US missile, killing one person and wounding another. The network's chief editor said: "Witnesses in the area saw the plane fly over twice before dropping the bombs. Our office is in a residential area and even the Pentagon knows its location."
Further, two British officials were charged under the Official Secrets Act for leaking a classified memo to the Daily Mirror where it is alleged that Pres. Bush, in an April 2004 meeting with Tony Blair, had discussed bombing the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Qatar. Blair reportedly talked him out of it. Now Qatar is a US ally and the journalists are civilians. The claim appears to have some substance since the officals have been charged and they would have been unlikely to leak a false claim in the face of such serious consequences. So there you have it...Bush planned to murder innocent civilians in a country allied to the US who were just going about their daily business and he was prepared to do so solely on the basis of their political views and their status as media representatives.
Respected, high profile US lawyer Vincent Bugliosi prosecuted killer Charles Manson and has published 5 New York Times best seller books on crime issues. He has successfully prosecuted 21 murder cases and has just published a book detailing the claim that George Bush is guilty of multiple murders under US law. He put his views in detail before a US Congressional Inquiry. The US media now refuses to touch his publications.
This is what happens when the state arrogates to itself the right to torture. You end up with a society debased in every way. Torture is abominable and has no redeeming features.