Daily archives: April 25, 2009

Waterboarding Approved Specifically To Justify Iraq War

I have just learnt something which has convinced me that Bush, Cheney and Rice are indeed evil in the sense that Hitler was evil. I did not actually believe that until today.

The excellent and much-respected Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild of the USA and Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has discovered that waterboarding was first approved in July 2002 by Condoleeza Rice, specifically to force confessions of links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein.

Everybody in the intelligence and security worlds knew there were no such links – Bin Laden and Hussein were enemies. Only torture could yield “intelligence” of such links to provide a justification of the invasion of Iraq. There could be no clearer indication that these evil people wished to launch an illegal war of aggression for their other reasons.

If it is not evil to use torture to try to create a pretext for launching aggressive war, then what is evil?

Here is the full text of Marjorie’s article.

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to a newly released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That link was never established.

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Condoleezza Rice approved waterboarding on July 17, 2002 “subject to a determination of legality by the OLC.” She got it two weeks later from Bybee and John Yoo. Rice, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and George Tenet reassured the CIA in spring 2003 that the abusive methods were legal.

Team Bush claimed – and still claims – that it had to use harsh techniques to protect us from the terrorists. They really sought to create evidence to rationalize an illegal, unnecessary, and tragic war.

That is absolutely stunning in its implications. How much of this did Blair and Straw also know?

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Hillary and Pakistan

I will go back out to Pakistan again later this year. In the meantime I have been talking to Pakistani friends and to journalists and others based in Pakistan, before trying to give a few considered thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary and calculated remarks on Wednesday about the “mortal threat” to the USA posed by Pakistan.

The first and most obvious point is that, since Obama and Hillary have been in office, the United States has killed over 200 Pakistani civilians in Pakistan. Pakistanis have killed no United States civilians in the United States. For Hillary to call Pakistan a mortal threat is therefore somewhat rich.

The evidence is incontrovertible that missile strikes from aerial drones are a particularly indiscriminate way of killing. Very often the justification of the attacks is a desire to assassinate a particular indivdual; but the average number killed in each strike in Pakistan is 19. The majority of those killed have been women and children.

It should be self-evident that these brutal attacks will stoke resentment of the US in Pakistan. They are helping to create the fundamentalism which Hillary claims horrifies her. Which leads me to wonder, as I have wondered so often in the “War on Terror”, whether apparently brutish action by the United States is in fact intended to provoke a reaction.

The attacks not only stoke outrage, but are a blow to the self-esteeem of the average Pakistani and fuel contempt for the Pakistani government which permits the United States to attack its territory and kill its women and children. The truth is that the spread of the Pakistani “Taliban”, which Clinton so deplores, is not achieved through military strength but through popular sympathy.

One of the most potent things the Pakistani government could do to prevent the leeching of support towards Islamic extremists, would be to forbid the United States absolutely to carry out any more bombing operations in Pakistan, with the threat of physical resistance. That would damage the cause of the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan much more effectively than bombing ever will.

I share the Clinton viewpoint that theocratic government is, in itself, a bad thing. But it is also important to consider the motivation behind the increasing support for Islamism – manifested in the issue of sharia law – among ordinary Pakistanis. We very seldom hear their voices. The very pleasant and highly educated Pakistani commentators from all sides we hear on the mainstream media, are a tiny fraction of the population.

I strongly supported the reinstatement of the judges sacked by General Musharraff, but these middle class concerns mean nothing to the 90% of the Pakistani population who live on under $350 a year. They have no access to justice at all and are subject to oppression by an arbitrary and extremely corrupt police, backed by corrupt courts. The appeal of sharia law is that the westernised system has corrupted and failed the poor. Add to that an economy going backwards while neighbouring India has surged forward. It is impossible to tackle corruption under the President who is its walking embodiment, but without radical reform the theocratic movement is going to continue to make ground – literally. Clinton’s harsh words and bombs will do the opposite of help.

On 12 April the US signed a new military agreement with Islam Karimov, the Butcher of Tashkent, for supply of US forces in Afghanistan through Uzbekistan – thus conclusively killing any hope that the Obama/Clinton administration would prioritise human rights in foreign policy. The increase of US forces in Afghanistan is in progress. The ultimate goal remains the revival of the Unocal plan for a pipeline over Afghanistan and through Pakistan to bring out Central Asia’s massive hydrocarbon resources to the sea. But the actual result of US action throughout Central Asia and of their support of deeply corrupt regimes in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, continues to be the growth of fundamentalist Islam. A radical change of US policy is needed. Instead, like a desperate gambler, Hillary is upping the ante.

Either the United States is preparing the ground for ultimate invasion of Pakistan, or it is behaving very stupidly indeed.

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