Tag Archives: Bush

Advocacy Groups Seek Disbarment of Ex-Bush Administration Lawyers

It seems that the chances of John Yoo, Jay Bybee and others architects of the Bush administrations legal justification for torture are one big step closer towards getting disbarred.  The NY Times (here), the Washington Post (here) and others, reported this week about the newly formed group, Velvet Revolution, that is actively calling for 12 high ranking former officials to be disbarred and judged for their actions.

As the Velvet Revolution succinctly puts it on their website (here):

“Torture is illegal under both United States and international law. The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, and it states that treaties signed by the U.S. are the “supreme Law of the Land” under Article Six. The Geneva Convention and The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment both prohibit torture and have been signed by the United States. These laws provide no exception for torture under any circumstances. Moreover, the United States Criminal Code prohibits both torture and war crimes, the latter which includes torture. The Army Field Manual prohibits the use of degrading treatment of detainees.

Despite this well-established law, under the Bush administration, torture was authorized by George Bush and kept secret using classified designations. The White House requested legal memoranda to support its use of torture and it received those authored by a host of attorneys, including John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury. Attorneys who advised, counseled, consulted and supported those memoranda included Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Alice Fisher, William Haynes II, Douglas Feith, Michael Mukasey, Timothy Flanigan, and David Addington.

Their site also has an excellent archive of documents related to the US’s use of torture during the war of terror and a petition for any and all willing to sign calling for these 12 figures debarment.   All I can say is that it seems to be a good start and that no matter how much Obama might want to avoid such a move, it is great to see more and more people from civil society pushing for it.  Impunity in whatever form will prevent the US from regaining whatever standing it once had or deserved about the importance of rule of law, human rights and the idea that no one is above the law.

While some are claiming that this move is too modest, such as the Washington Post, I think it is important to remember that this would be the start of a greater process of revealing what happened, who approved it, and who should suffer the consequences.

New Evidence of Torture Prison in Poland

As pressure mounts on Obama to launch an investigative commission to research who breached the Covenent Against Torture, to which the US is a signatory, new details are starting to come out about other countries that will potentially be implicated as aiding and abetting the US in committing such crimes.   Der Spiegel has an article online today (here) that discusses the newly revealed evidence about the black site used in Poland by the CIA to use harsh interrogation techniques against the mastermind of 9/11 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he was en route to Guantanamo.

The article states that – “Journalist Mariusz Kowalewski at Rzeczpospolita and two colleagues have been searching for months now for proof of the existence of a secret CIA base in Poland. The journalists have discovered flight record books from Szymany that had been declared lost, and based on refueling receipts and currency exchange rates, they have reconstructed flights and routes, and spoken with informants. Over the past few weeks, their newspaper and the television network TVP Info have revealed new details on an almost daily basis.

Kowalewski has collected a wide range of documents on his white Apple laptop. He is convinced, though, that he only knows “a fraction of what actually happened.” He is certain that there was a CIA base in the Masuria region, where high-ranking al-Qaida prisoners were brought. All that is missing is the final piece of evidence. There are rumors circulating that one of the most important interrogators of Sheikh Mohammed, an American named Deuce Martinez — the man who didn’t torture him, but rather had the task of gently coaxing information out of him — was in Poland at the time.”

With the discovery of such evidence pieces are starting to fall into place.  Now comes the more complex legal questions about who will be held accountable.  It is clear that over time the actions of CIA officials, non-US intelligence agents, contracted groups (such as Jeppesen Dataplan or Aero Contractors), and a whole raft of others.  As Chinua Achebe said in Things Fall Apart “if oil finds one finger it soils the others,” which is a very real way to think about how many individuals and country stand to be potentially tainted by the revealing of the US’s actions during the war on terror.

If Everyone Knew, Who’s to Blame?

Mark Danner had a great piece in the Sunday Washington Post (here) that discusses one of the central paradoxes of the current furor over the torture memos – that it was first reported over 5 years ago in 2004.  So if the information was public knowledge for the entire second term of the Bush Administration, why did nothing happen?

As Danner states – “Unlike Watergate or Iran-contra, today’s scandal emerges not from a shocking revelation of wrongdoing but from a long process of disclosure during which Americans have stared at blatant lawbreaking with apparent equanimity. This means Democrats as well as Republicans, including those in Congress who were willing to approve, as late as September 2006, a law, the Military Commissions Act, that purported to shield those who had applied these “enhanced interrogation techniques” from prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

He also discusses the calculated nature of the memos and how they were written exactly for the current moment – to make persecution nearly impossible without dragging a broad spectrum of the American government into the public spotlight in a way that few high level politicians would ever want.

It is worth reading and reminds us how difficult it is going to be for Obama to successfully navigate this issue without getting his image potentially tarnished.

The War is Not Over

John Ross, one of my favorite reporters, has a new article in CounterPunch (here) on all the reasons why Americans should not consider the Iraq War to be over.

His summary is a painful reminder of how dark a chapter the Iraq War has been and will continue to be in US history.  Ross’s overview of what has happened over the last eight years is that –

“Bush had marched into Iraq, overthrown a leader he did not like – hanged him actually, sewn the seeds of hatred amongst the populous, caused the death of a million Iraqis not to mention 5000 of his own troops (20,000 wounded), destroyed the nation’s infrastructure, forced 4,000,000 citizens into internal and external exile, embezzled $2,000,000,000,000 from the taxpaying public to finance these war crimes, and doled out billions to his corrupt cronies and the cronies of his cronies in lucrative contracts to perpetuate this egregious slaughter – and now here was Obama calling this butcher to advise him of his plans.  Now the U.S. was washing its hands of Iraq, walking away from the genocide without even an apology to those who had been so grievously wounded.  Indeed, Obama congratulated the killer marines for having completed their mission with honor.”

Ross bemoans how much of the American public has stopped paying attention to Iraq at all, as the financial crisis became the main issue for the general public, and the left tried to bring attention to how devastated Gaza was by the recent Israeli invasion.  However, Ross points out in simple and brutal terms some of the reasons why for Iraq the drawdown hardly signifies the end of the conflict for Iraqi.

“Iraqis are reminded everyday that the war is not over by the black-clad war widows threading their way through Baghdad traffic begging alms.  There are an estimated 740,000 war widows in Iraq, a number that lends credence to the million plus body count estimates.  Most receive no aid – one U.S. reporter found widows living in a gas station restroom.  With oil prices – Iraq’s only export – in steep decline, the Maliki government claims there is no money left for the social budget. Indeed, the 4,000,000 Iraqis driven from their homes into exile are now viewed as a security risk should they be forced by their host countries to return.”

The sixth anniversary of the US led invasion will take place in little over a week, I certainly think that it is important for people to remember the amount of destruction that we hath wrought.

Obama’s War on Terror and the Bush Legacy

Charlie Savage has a timely follow up to last week’s articles about the ways in which Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas.  There is certainly a growing body of evidence that Obama and his team are following Bush in certain ways, but to me the more compelling reasons are based on why he may be doing so.

As upset as I have been about Obama’s decision to keep the door open on extraordinary rendition, his invoking state secrets to avoid having to deal with the Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan and the sticky issues around his possible torture in third countries, his vote on FISA, and his inability to definitively end the military commissions established by Bush, I do think that his approach to the War on Terror will be different.  Or at least that is what I hope.  So far Obama has seemed as if he mainly wants to call a time-out, rather than really take control of the game, which may be disappointing, but understandable.

The Bush Administration took great care in constructing the legal defense for stripping Guantanamo’s detainees of their rights.  The Office of Legal Council, the Department of Justice, the Federal Courts and the office of the Vice Presidency were made subservient to these ends.  These moves were made to make it nearly impossible for anyone in the Bush Administration to be indicted for their crimes, but they also were done to expand executive privilege.   Whether Obama will curtail these expanded powers so quickly is less than clear, I think that he wants to figure out how they can be used to further his overall vision.

In addition, Obama has inherited a large bureaucracy that includes any number of people hired by Bush that refuse to go anywhere.   The lawyer for the Jeppesen case, who has argued that revealing more facts of the case would endanger state secrets is Douglas N. Letter, who was the same lawyer who did so under the Bush Administration.  The judge who refused to put an end to the military commissions was Susan Crawford, another Bush hire.  Not to mention that the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, was the DC Circuit judge who tried to keep the Hamdan case from going forward.

I remember many many years ago when someone tried to explain that when the communist governments in Central and Eastern Europe fell that they were going to leave a large legacy behind in the form of the low level functionaries that dominated the entire public sector.  The lesson, getting rid of the boss is easy enough, its cleaning up the rest of the firm that is so hard.  I think that people need to take into consideration how many people have burrowed into the justice system, the US intelligence agencies and the federal government that are willing to stop these changes from happening.

So, perhaps Obama is guilty of not using as much force as possible to change the way in which the war on terror is being fought, but there are many reasons why this might be so.  I think that Obama might actually be following more in Bill Clinton’s footsteps, in that he is trying to triangulate the best way to minimize the political fall out from cleaning up this particular aspect of Bush’s legacy.

Who’s Running Guantánamo?

After Obama’s initial executive orders, it seemed that Guantanamo’s days were truly numbered, but since then things have gotten far more complicated.  A bevy of former Bushies denounced the idea as naive and tried to insist that such a move would lead directly to the next September 11th.  Naturally, absolving themselves of any responsibility for why terrorism has continued to spread throughout countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

But Andy Worthington, the author of The Guantanamo Files, has an insightful article on why Obama’s been running into so much trouble.  In his Counterpunch article, Who’s Running Guantanamo, he points out that officials within the Pentagon and left over from the Bush administration, such as Judge Susan Crawford (pictured above), Sandra Hodgkinson, and Tara Jones are trying their best to monkey wrench the process.  Andy Worthington has done extensive research into Guantanamo, the abuses that have taken place there, and those individuals that have made it possible long before Obama came into office.

Unfortunately, this is only one example of the ways in which the Bush administration has managed to keep its hires involved in the government.  I am sure that the burrowing is far more wide spread.

Massacres follow failed U.S.-aided Uganda mission

Over the weekend, more light was shed on the level of involvement of US military personnel in a less than successful mission to shatter the Lord’s Resistance Army in a full length article by the NY Times.  The article, US Aided a Failed Plan to Rout Ugandan Rebels, points out that this was a mission personally signed off on by former President Bush in December and was the “first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda…[and that] no American forces ever got involved in the ground fighting in this isolated, rugged corner of Congo.”

What the article doesn’t explain is why this mission was suddenly given the green light.  Even though it is clear that the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) human rights violations have been particularly barbaric over the last 20 years in Uganda and more recently in Eastern Congo, nothing in the press describes why the decision was made to help with this particular mission in December 2008.  It seems doubtful that Bush wanted to bring to justice Joseph Kony, the mystical leader of the LRA, simply due to his refusal to sign off on a long awaited peace treaty or on account of the failure of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to physically bring his to trial.

What has become clear is that the mission largely failed and that it was poorly executed, which seems completely fitting with just about every military adventure that Bush sanctioned.  Supposedly, the joint mission resulted in about 14 members of the LRA getting killed, while over 900 Congolese civilians were massacred.  On the one hand, I don’t fault the US military, or even Bush, for the LRA’s heinous crimes against humanity, which were completely consistent with their actions over the years.  On the other hand, I do resent that this looks like yet another example of Bush doing a half ass job that result in hundreds of people getting killed due to a combination of incompetence, a lack of strategic planning, and a refusal to work with other international partners (in this case the UN peace keeping mission in the Congo, MUNOC) that were in the area.  Did Bush learn absolutely nothing from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

I remember Bill Clinton once commenting that Bush’s ignorance about the world was not due to a lack of intellect, but rather a lack of intellectual curiosity.  Is this just another instance, where Bush wanted to do something right, but didn’t want to take the time and effort necessary to think it through?  Perhaps we will never know, but it does seem tragic that after being in office for 8 years why the Democratic Republic of Congo was being devastated that this best effort he could muster.