Republican Endorses Unspeakable Terror
|October 28, 2005||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Republican Endorses Unspeakable Terror
Cheney Wants More U.S. Torture
This article collects excerpts from recent articles in the Seattle Times and the Washington Post. Some politicians, it seems, have decayed to the point of wickedness. The Bush administration has proposed exempting employees of the Central Intelligence Agency from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody.
The proposal, which two sources said Vice President Cheney handed last Thursday to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the company of CIA Director Porter J. Goss, states that the measure barring inhumane treatment should not apply to counterterrorism operations conducted abroad or to operations conducted by “an element of the United States government” other than the Defense Department.
McCain, the principal sponsor of the legislation, rejected the proposed exemption at the meeting with Cheney, according to a government source who spoke without authorization and on the condition of anonymity. McCain spokeswoman Eileen McMenamin declined to comment. But the exemption has been assailed by human rights experts critical of the administration’s handling of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is the first time they’ve said explicitly that the intelligence community should be allowed to treat prisoners inhumanely,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “In the past, they’ve only said that the law does not forbid inhumane treatment.” Now, he said, the administration is saying more concretely that it cannot be forbidden.
The provision in question — which the Senate on Oct. 5 voted 90 to 9 to attach to its version of the pending defense appropriations bill over the administration’s opposition — essentially proscribes harsh treatment of any detainees in U.S. custody or control anywhere in the world. It was specifically drafted to close what its backers say is a loophole in the administration’s policy of generally barring torture, namely its legal contention that these constraints do not apply to treatment of foreigners on foreign soil.
The House version of the appropriations bill contains no similar provision on detainee treatment, and lawmakers are to meet later this week to begin reconciling the conflict.
Cheney’s meeting with McCain last week was his third attempt to persuade the lawmaker, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, to accept a less broad legislative bar against inhumane treatment.
Other sources said the vice president is also still fighting a second provision of the Senate-passed legislation, which requires that detainees in Defense Department custody anywhere in the world may be subjected only to interrogation techniques approved and listed in the Army’s Field Manual.
The manual is undergoing revision, and McCain has contended that this process will give the military sufficient flexibility to respond to terrorist countermeasures. But Cheney’s office has argued in talking points being circulated on Capitol Hill that the manual “will be inapplicable in certain instances” because of such countermeasures.
The CIA has been implicated in a number of alleged abuses in Iraq and has been linked to at least a few cases in which detainees have died during interrogations at separate military bases throughout the country. So far, no CIA operatives have been charged in connection with the abuse, although a single CIA contract employee is on trial for involvement in the death of an Afghanistan detainee, and sources have indicated that a grand jury may be looking at other allegations involving the CIA.
A report by the CIA inspector general’s office on the agency’s role in the handling of detainees is classified. It has been shown to the Justice Department and briefed only to a few lawmakers. Several military investigations have already blamed the CIA for leading a program in Iraq that essentially made detainees disappear within the military’s detention system with no record of their captivity — a practice that human rights groups have said violated international laws of war.
In a particularly infamous case, a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq named Manadel Jamadi was photographed after his death, packed in ice, by military police soldiers at the facility. He allegedly died in a shower room during interrogation by CIA officers after being brought there by Navy Seal team members. A high-level CIA operative allegedly helped conceal Jamadi’s death after Army officers found his body.
But the extent of the CIA’s direct involvement in torture is unclear, partly because the agency has been reluctant to help the Defense Department’s many investigations into abuse and has refused to provide Army officers with documents deemed relevant to the probes.
Cheney’s secret visit, which was admitted only after it became known by the Washington Post, came in response to an amendment attached to a military appropriations bill, approved by a 90-9 Senate vote on October 5. The anti-torture amendment states, “No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”
This amendment, sponsored by McCain, was approved despite statements from the Bush administration that the president would veto the entire appropriations bill if it contained any language restricting the treatment of detainees. The response of the Bush administration to the passage of the amendment has been not simply to attempt to have it removed, but to alter it to include language explicitly sanctioning abusive methods.
Cheney’s proposal is meant primarily to exempt the CIA from any prohibition on torture. However, the proposed change appears to be broad enough to exempt all agencies engaged in what the government declares to be “counterterrorism operations.”
Indicating that the administration wants to ensure that the military, as well as the CIA, is given broad latitude to commit torture, the Post reports, “Other sources said the vice president is also still fighting a second provision of the Senate-passed legislation, which requires that detainees in Defense Department custody anywhere in the world may be subjected only to interrogation techniques approved and listed in the Army’s Field Manual.”
The exposure of the Bush administration’s attempts to secure explicit authorization for torture comes amidst further revelations of torture and killing by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) this week released a report investigating the deaths of 44 individuals taken prisoner in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those 44, which may constitute only a fraction of the total number of individuals who have died while in American concentration camps and prisons, 21 were found to be definite homicides. Most of these prisoners died either of asphyxiation or blunt force trauma, or both. In other words, they were beaten and strangled to death.
Commenting on the report, Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, said, “There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths. High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable.”
In an editorial published in the New York Times on Wednesday, the newspaper stated that Cheney’s proposals would give the CIA the power “to mistreat and torture prisoners as long as that behavior was part of counterterrorism operations conducted abroad’ and they were not American citizens. That would neatly legalize the entire network of illegal prisons the CIA is said to be operating around the world and obviate the need for the torture outsourcing known as extraordinary rendition.” The Times added, “It also raises disturbing questions about Iraq, which the Bush administration has falsely labeled a counterterrorism operation.”
The very appearance of the original Post article, as well as the broad support that the original amendment received within the Senate, is indicative of opposition to the Bush administration’s open embrace of torture as a matter of state policy.
An editorial appearing Wednesday in the Washington Post did not mince words in denouncing Cheney’s intervention. His actions, the newspaper declared, demonstrated that “this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.”
Cheney calls himself a Christian. In your opinion, is it possible for a Christian to support torture?
“Decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan.” While the Post does not say so explicitly, these statements brand the second highest executive official in the country as a war criminal.
The citation of “human rights abuses” committed by other governments has long been a tool of American policy, and the Post editorial points out that “The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating” an international treaty banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners. The war in Iraq itself was, in part, justified on the grounds that Saddam Hussein tortured and killed his own people.
Without the moral trappings of “human rights,” in which American imperialism has long sought to clothe its predatory actions, US foreign policy would be hampered — it would no longer have a plausible pretext to impose economic sanctions, carry out military actions on foreign territory, or launch full-scale invasions and occupations.
Opposition to the administration also reflects worries within the US military that the same methods employed by the US in torturing, humiliating, and killing prisoners will be used by insurgents on American prisoners.
The Progress Report has been pointing this out all along. If the US endorses torture, it can’t complain if others do it too. Notice how the U.S. armed forces are not attracting as many volunteers as they used to. Who would sign up for a job where you could be tortured?
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants a ban on all torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
Congressional negotiators are feeling heat from the White House and constituents as they consider whether to back a Senate-approved ban on torturing detainees in U.S. custody.
Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration is floating a proposal that would allow the president to exempt covert agents outside the Defense Department from the ban.
Meanwhile, some newspapers are calling for lawmakers to support Sen. John McCain’s provision that would bar the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.
“There’s a lot of public pressure to retain the language intact. At the same time, there’s pressure from the vice president’s office to modify it,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, which supports McCain’s provision.
McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said he rejected the administration’s proposal because “that would basically allow the CIA to engage in torture.”
It is unclear how much influence McCain has in the negotiations to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the $445 billion military bill. He will not be involved directly in those talks.
This month, the Senate added the ban and the interrogation standards to its defense bill by a 90-9 vote. The administration threatened a veto if the president’s ability to torture was restricted. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants a ban on all torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
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Torture is always evil. How did it become an issue where public figures dare to advocate it? What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report!