Monday, February 16, 2009

More Evidence of Torture Still Translates to Zero Accountability

Recently, over at The Public Record, Jason Leopold took a look at some recently declassified documents from the Department of Defense that continue to make it clear that the Bush Administration knowingly put procedures into place that allowed for the abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. custody. The ACLU has also released reports on five detainee deaths that have occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the Leopold:

Those documents which span thousands of pages include:
  • Investigation of two deaths at Bagram. Both detainees were determined to have been killed by pulmonary embolism caused as a result of standing chained in place, sleep depravation and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators. (Also reveals the use of torture at Gitmo and American-Afghani prisons in Kabul).
  • Investigation into the homicide or involuntary manslaughter of detainee Dilar Dababa by U.S. forces in 2003 in Iraq.
  • Investigation launched after allegations that an Iraqi prisoner was subjected to torture and abuse at “The Disco” (located in the Special Operations Force Compound in Mosul Airfield, Mosul, Iraq). The abuse consisted of filling his jumpsuit with ice, then hosing him down and making him stand for long periods of time, sometimes in front of an air conditioner; forcing him to lay
    down and drink water until he gagged, vomited or choked, having his head banged against a hot steel plate while hooded and interrogated; being forced to do leg lifts with bags of ice placed on his ankles, and being kicked when he could not do more.
  • Investigation of allegations of torture and abuse that took place in 2003 at Abu Ghraib.
  • Investigation that established probable cause to believe that U.S. forces committed homicide in 2003 when they participated in the binding of detainee Abed Mowhoush in a sleeping bag during an interrogation, causing him to die of asphyxiation.

These documents make it clear more of what we already know and what I have written about in great detail, that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, was personally involved in the policies that were implemented regarding treatment of detainees:

Additionally, a Dec. 20, 2005, Army Inspector General Report relating to the capture and interrogation of suspected terrorist Mohammad al-Qahtani included a sworn statement by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt. It said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.


“Those techniques were implemented under the supervision and guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, Major General Geoffrey
Miller. These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep
deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”

This is not groundbreaking news for anyone who has been following this issue, but rather more evidence that very real crimes were more-than likely committed during Bush's reign in the White House. Couple the results of these reports with an item that came out of Newsweek recently. According to Michael Isikoff, an Internal Justice Department report has preliminary findings concluding that Bush Administration lawyers (including John Yoo) did not act in good faith in issuing legal opinions on issues of torture. The implications of this, that these legal opinions were so outrageous that the actions of these lawyers cannot be viewed in good faith, continue to undercut claims by the Bush Administration and their supporters. Namely, that they believed their actions to be legal. To the contrary, evidence continues to mount that the legal opinions were crafted around policies (which required legal backing) that the former Administration wanted to implement.

Despite all of this, President Obama continues to respond to questions about criminal charges against the Bush Administration by stating that he wishes to "look forward" instead of backward. While Attorney General Holder and President Obama say that "no one is above the law", their language of "moving forward" indicates that serious investigations into lawbreaking are not a top priority. Chris Floyd suggests (though obviously tongue and cheek) that since the current Administration has no interest in pursuing any type of serious investigation into some of the worst crimes that we have seen in recent years, that we have a bipartisan compromise. We take one high level official (Floyd suggests Rumsfeld) and have him take the fall for everything. This way, as Floyd puts it, "The Republicans can claim they got rid of their 'bad apple,' and the Democrats can claim they have 'restored American honor."' After all, isn't this what bipartisan has come to mean these days during this so-called "new age" of government?

Despite calls for investigations and the growing interest of the public to look into criminal wrongdoing, the White House continues to downplay any meaningful action under the guise of putting the past behind us. Part of the "past" that the current Administration is attempting to bury is the complicity of the Democrats in implementing torture policies. It is not just the absence of action that should warrant criticism, but the proactive approach by the Obama Administration to defend and continue some of the worst policies of the Bush Administration; most recently the "state secrets" provision.

Claiming that "no one is above the law" while simultaneously turning a blind eye to crimes committed by the past Administration is inherently contradictory and will not deter future elected officials from committing blatant violations of the law. Actual accountability is not shielding members of your own party from potential investigation nor is it continuing policies like the "state secrets" provision after naming it one of the fundamental problems of the last eight years. The pressure on the Administration for real accountability needs to continue as more evidence continues to see the light of day.

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