Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cheney's Dungeons

"As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture."

There were a couple of important attempts today to trace the policy and practice of torture further up the chain of command.

The Washington Post has a fiery editorial today titled Vice President for Torture, one of the first acknowledgements in the mainstream media that our vice president is in fact a monster. The editorial not only castigates Cheney for yesterday's demand to make the torture of captives the official policy of the US government, but holds him responsible for the disappearances, torture and murder that have already taken place.
VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.

His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships. The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees. Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military. These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.
And Democracy Now has an in-depth interview with Col. Janis Karpinski, the former head of Abu Gharib proson. She admits she broke the Geneva Conventions but says "blame goes all the way to the top."
...General Miller said ... they were being too nice to them. They were not being aggressive enough. And he used the example at Guantanamo Bay that the prisoners there, when they're brought in, that they're handled by two military policemen. They're escorted everywhere they go -- belly chains, leg irons, hand irons -- and he said, “You have to treat them like dogs.”

...the original memorandum directing interrogation -- harsher interrogation techniques and the departure from the Geneva Conventions starts at -- Alberto Gonzales was one of the people who made the recommendations to the President. I don't know if he talked about each detail of that departure or what that may imply, but I do know that the Secretary of Defense signed a very lengthy memorandum authorizing harsher techniques to be used in Afghanistan and specifically at Guantanamo Bay....
In response to a question from Amy Goodman about who should be held accountable for the torture, she said,
... those techniques migrated from Guantanamo Bay, with General Miller, to Iraq and were implemented at Abu Ghraib. So clearly, the Secretary of Defense; Secretary Cambone, his assistant who sent General Miller to Iraq with very specific instructions on how to work with the military intelligence people; General Fast, who was directing interrogation operations and giving instructions to Colonel Pappas on how to proceed and how to be more effective; General Sanchez, because this was his command, and he knew what General Fast was doing, and he knew what Colonel Pappas was doing...


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