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A new book called Mainstreaming Torture argues that torture has been with us for a long time and remains with us and has been mainstreamed and increased in acceptability in the years since Bush and Cheney left office. We speak with the author, Rebecca Gordon. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People. She is an editor of WarTimes/Tiempo de guerras, which seeks to bring a race, class, and gender perspective to issues of war and peace.
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The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation. Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.
In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that "while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing." In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident "might have passed unnoticed."
I think he has a point. Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture. That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they "would do it again."
While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming. Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we've already seen them confess to on camera.
Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. "Look," he said, "if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we'd be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law. We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren't locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing. And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven't taken place."
During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal. Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, "The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned. Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story.
To: Richmond, Va., Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Police Chief Ray J. Tarasovic, Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr,
From: David Swanson, author; Phil Wilayto, editor, The Virginia Defender; Ana Edwards, chair, Defenders' Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project
We hope you will consider this request from deeply concerned Virginians on its legal merits rather than its acceptability in certain social circles or how it might be received by certain television talking heads.
Conspiracy to torture has long been a felony in the U.S. Code, in both Title 18, Section 2340, and Title 18, Section 2441. The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture, which requires the criminal prosecution of complicity in torture, and which -- under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution -- is part of the supreme Law of the Land.
Were a local resident credibly accused of torture, we sincerely doubt you would hesitate to seek his or her immediate arrest and indictment.
Waterboarding was universally recognized as torture until its acceptance by the U.S. government between 2001 and 2009. The United States hung Japanese soldiers for it following World War II, and U.S. citizens have been convicted for it in U.S. courts.
Former U.S. President George W. Bush has repeatedly admitted to personally authorizing waterboarding. He has made this confession in writing and on television, repeatedly, also declaring "I would do it again."
The Virginia state legislature has banned Virginia law enforcement personnel from cooperating with federal efforts to detain any U.S. citizen in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act in violation of the U.S. Constitution. George W. Bush ordered such unlawful detentions, including in the well-known case of Jose Padilla, as well as numerous such unlawful imprisonments and kidnappings of non-U.S. citizens, including one case in Italy for which 23 U.S. subordinates of President Bush have been convicted in criminal court.
Then President George W. Bush's submission of his March 18, 2003, letter and report to the United States Congress justifying a war on Iraq on false pretenses violated federal criminal law, including: the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. - 371, which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. - 1001, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress. Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush on television why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." The difference was, of course, one of life and death, but also one of law.
The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor reads:
On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the Constitution
my community and the agency I serve.
This admirable oath does not commit one who swears it to upholding the Constitution when convenient, or finding courage when Fox News approves, or betraying one's integrity as long as there's a good excuse handy.
There is no good excuse we are aware of not to arrest George W. Bush if he sets foot in Richmond as he plans to do to speak at the Richmond Forum. Other towns in the United States have passed ordinances committing to seeking his arrest should he set foot there. Bush could be arrested and turned over to federal authorities. What they do with him, if anything, is not our concern.
Or Bush could be arrested and indicted in Virginia. Why Virginia? A program of warrantless spying instituted by Bush has almost certainly violated Virginia law in Virginia. Programs of lawless imprisonment and torture developed by Bush have almost certainly violated Virginia law in Virginia, including in the case of Chelsea Manning's torture at Quantico under Bush's successor, as well as the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi whose illegal treatment under Bush's presidency has been recognized as such by the U.S. Supreme Court. The CIA's torture program has almost certainly violated Virginia law, U.S. law, and the Convention Against Torture at the CIA's headquarters in Langley and its training facility in Williamsburg. Virginia's obligations under the Convention Against Torture are not eliminated by the United States' open and shameful violation of that treaty. Members of the U.S. military from Virginia were sent to their deaths in Iraq on the basis of claims known by Bush and his subordinates to be false. That last fact led famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi to draft an indictment of Bush for murder.
Powers seized by Bush are being continued and expanded by his successor in the White House, whose attitude of law enforcement by "looking forward" is a grant of immunity that the state of Virginia is under no obligation to support.
We thank you for your serious consideration of the legal and moral action to be taken in this moment of national weakness. We would be grateful for your response, and we promise to seriously consider any points on which you can enlighten us.
David Swanson, author; Phil Wilayto, editor, The Virginia Defender; Ana Edwards, chair, Defenders' Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project
George W. Bush should be given an indictment, not a library. An online email action is letting the Department of Justice know the facts about the former president. And the People's Response to the George W. Bush Library and Policy Institute is filling the streets of Dallas with protesters this week as five current or former presidents join in a celebration of Dubya's national service. I'll certainly be there.
I wish I were kidding about the following. The Dallas Morning News is refusing to take good money to publish the ad below because it suggests former president Bush lied about Iraq.
Of course it would be shocking to suggest that Bush might have lied. Who ever heard of such a thing?
Campaign promises don't count, of course. Bush discarded those by the dozen, but who doesn't? And when he said he'd fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name and then didn't, that's more of a technicality than a lie. And when he claimed in his 2007 State of the Union to have prevented four terrorist plots and none of them were real, that was more of a poetic license than a lie. Also when he said he hadn't been warned about Hurricane Katrina and then we saw that video of him being warned, there was no proof he actually understood what was being said to him. Oh, and when he promised never to spy without a warrant and then got caught, that was sort of a willful falsehood for our own good, not a lie at all. And when he said he didn't torture and then confessed to torturing, that was the fault of pesky journalists; Bush himself never intended to admit to torturing if he hadn't been pestered about it!
But if we can remember all of these near-lies these several years later, it does seem possible that Bush had a little trouble with the truth. Let's look at Iraq, just to be sure.
On January 31, 2003, Bush met with Tony Blair in the White House and proposed all sorts of harebrained schemes to try to start a war in Iraq. They understood that Iraq was no threat. Bush promised an all-out effort to get U.N. approval for an attack. Then the two of them walked right out to the White House Press Corpse (sic) and proclaimed their intention to avoid war if at all possible, warned of the threat from Iraq, and claimed to already have U.N. approval for war if needed. I'll grant you that looks like a lie, but if none of the reporters there that day are bothered by it (not a one of them has ever complained), why should we be? Maybe Bush meant that he'd try to avoid war for 60 more seconds. That could have been true. Later that day when he had the NSA start spying on other nations' U.N. delegations, maybe he was trying to determine the best Christmas presents to send them. Hey, it's possible.
In 1999 Bush told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz that he wanted to start a war with Iraq. But that could have been just a random fleeting whimsy. Maybe you had to be there to catch the humor. Also in 1999 at a primary debate in New Hampshire, Bush said he'd "take out" Saddam Hussein. "I'm surprised he's still there," he said. But Bush did get the nomination, so we're probably misunderstanding him somehow.
When Bush moved to the White House he must have learned what was what. In 1995 Saddam Hussein's son-in-law had informed the U.S. and the British that all biological, chemical, missile, and nuclear weapons had been destroyed under his direct supervision. After U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the lead inspector said they'd come to the same conclusion. In 2002 the Defense Intelligence Agency agreed. Also in 2002 CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri -- a CIA informer -- agreed with the U.N. and the D.I.A., as did Iraq's intelligence chief. So, still in 2002, the CIA sent 30 Iraqi-Americans to visit Iraqi weapons scientists, but the mission was a failure: they came back with the same definitive conclusion as the U.N., the D.I.A., and Sabri.
In 2001, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others in the Bush Administration were telling the media that Saddam Hussein had no weapons. The closest connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was that they had both worked with the United States. Everything changed in 2002, and not because of any evidence. In October 2002, the CIA told Bush that Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked first. The CIA had told Bush this four times in morning briefings since that spring. Bush immediately gave a speech in Cincinnati warning of a dire threat from Iraq. Bush's subordinates took an October 1st National Intelligence Estimate that said Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked and "summarized" it to say nearly the opposite in a "white paper" released to the public.
By the time Bush and Blair stood before the White House Press Corpse, they had decided on war and begun it. Troops were being deployed. Escalated bombing missions were preparing the ground. Assorted attempts to initiate all-out war had already failed or been abandoned. That Bush was interested in provoking Iraq is confirmed by extensive covert operations called DB/Anabasis reported by Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris:
"Over an intense forty-five day period beginning in late 2001, [two CIA operatives] cooked up an audacious plan. . . . It called for installing a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq; for elaborate schemes to penetrate Saddam's regime; recruiting disgruntled military officers with buckets of cash; for feeding the regime disinformation . . . for disrupting the regime’s finances . . . for sabotage that included blowing up railroad lines. . . . It also envisioned staging a phony incident that could be used to start a war. A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border. They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way. If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by US fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by U.N. edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war. On February 16, 2002, President Bush signed covert findings authorizing the various elements of Anabasis. The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees -- including Porter Goss, a Republican, and Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat -- were briefed. 'The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out' [said CIA operative John McGuire]. If all went as planned, 'you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in.'"
A White House staffer was instructed in 2003 to forge a letter that could be used to tie Hussein to al Qaeda as well as to forge letters smearing vocal opponents of invasion. Other information tying Hussein to al Qaeda consisted largely of claims fed to a torture victim. Evidence of biological weapons came from a German informant identified as a heavy drinker with mental breakdowns, not psychologically stable, "crazy," and "probably a fabricator." Evidence for nuclear weapons rested heavily on a forged letter, rejected as a forged letter by the CIA. There was also a claim re aluminum tubes that was rejected by the Energy Department and the State Department and even by the military until it contracted out to a couple of hacks in Central Virginia who were willing to say what was needed.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that "In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent."
Clearly Rockefeller is jumping to a conclusion, and the more responsible people over at the Dallas Morning News know better.
Still, if you think there might be something to all of this, I recommend reading The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush.
Laws clearly violated by George W. Bush include, among many others: The U.S. Constitution Article I, Sections 8, 9, Article II, Sections 1, 3, Article VI, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the prohibition on covert propaganda, Title 2 U.S. Code Section 194, Title 18 U.S. Code Sections 4, 371, 1341, 1346, 1385, 2340A, 2441, The War Powers Act, the United Nations Charter Chapter 1 Article 2 Section 3, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, Joint Resolution 114 Section 3, Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 Section 1222, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Third Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Human Rights Articles 7, 10, the Convention Against Torture, the Optional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rights of the Child, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Stored Communications Act.
But who's counting?
On April 25th the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and General Rehabilitation Project will be dedicated in Dallas, Texas. It takes up 23 acres at Southern Methodist University, 23 acres that neither humanity nor any other species may ever reclaim for anything decent or good.
I'll be there, joining in the people's response (http://ThePeoplesResponse.org) with those who fear that this library will amount to a Lie Bury.
"The Bush Center's surrounding native Texas landscape," the center's PR office says, "including trees from the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, continues President and Mrs. Bush's longstanding commitment to land and water conservation and energy efficiency."
Does it, now? Is that what you recall? Bush the environmentalist?
Well, maybe you and I remember things differently, but do we have a major educational institution that will effectively repeat our corrections of the Lie Bury's claims for decades to come?
According to the Lie Bury, Bush was and is an education leader, saving our schools by turning them into test-taking factories and getting unqualified military officers to run them. This is something to be proud of, we're told.
The Lie Bury's annual report shows Bush with the Dalai Lama. No blood is anywhere to be seen. The Lie Bury's website has a photo of a smiling George W. golfing for war. "The Warrior Open," it explains, "is a competitive 36-hole golf tournament that takes place over two days every fall in the Dallas area. The event honors U.S. service members wounded in the global war on terror."
Now, I actually know of some soldiers wounded in what they call by that name who don't feel honored by Bush's golfing, just as millions of Iraqis living as refugees within or outside of the nation he destroyed find Bush's liberty to walk outdoors, much less golf for the glory of war, offensive. But none of them has a quarter-billion dollar "center" from which to spread the gospel of history as it actually happened -- as it happened to its losers, to those water-boarded, shot in the face, or otherwise liberated by Bush and his subordinates.
When Bush lied about excuses to start a war on Iraq -- as with everything else he did -- he did so incompetently. As a result, a majority of Americans in the most recent polls, still say he lied to start the war. But few grasp the lesson as it should be applied to wars launched by more competent liars. And memory of Bush's lies is fading, buried under forgetfulness, avoidance, misdirection, revisionism, a mythical "surge" success, and a radically inaccurate understanding of what our government did to Iraq.
I won't be attending the Lie Bury ceremony for vengeance, but in hopes of ridding our culture of the vengeance promoted by Bush. He based a foreign policy and a domestic stripping away of rights on the thirst for vengeance -- even if misdirected vengeance. We have a responsibility to establish that we will not support that approach going forward.
Bush himself is relevant only as his treatment can deter future crimes and abuses. No one should wish Bush or any other human being ill. In fact, we should strive to understand him, as it will help us understand others who behave as he has.
Bush, of course, knew what he was doing when he tried to launch a war while pretending a war would be his last resort, suggesting harebrained schemes to get the war going to Tony Blair. Bush knew the basic facts. He knew he was killing a lot of people for no good reason. He was not so much factually clueless as morally clueless.
For Bush, as for many other people, killing human beings in wars exists outside the realm of morality. Morality is the area of abortions, gay marriage, shop lifting, fornicating, or discriminating. Remember when Bush said that a singer's suggestion that he didn't care about black people was the worst moment in his presidency? Racism may be understood by Bush as a question of morality. Mass murder not so much. Bush's mother remarked that war deaths were not worthy of troubling her beautiful mind. Asked why he'd lied about Iraqi weapons, George W. Bush asked what difference it made. Well, 1.4 million dead bodies, but who's counting?
I won't be attending the Lie Bury because Bush's successor is an improvement. On the contrary, our failure to hold Bush accountable has predictably led to his successor being significantly worse in matters of abusing presidential power. And not just predictably, but predicted. When we used to demand Bush's impeachment, people would accuse us of disliking him or his political party. No, we'd say, if he isn't held accountable, future presidents will be worse, and it won't matter from which party they come.
I helped draft about 70 articles of impeachment against Bush, from which Congressman Dennis Kucinich selected 35 and introduced them. I later looked through those 35 and found 27 that applied to President Barack Obama, even though his own innovations in abusive behavior weren't on the list. Bush's lying Congress into war (not that Congress wasn't eager to play along) is actually a standard to aspire to now. When Obama went to war in Libya, against the will of Congress, he avoided even bothering to involve the first branch of our government.
When Bush locked people up or tortured them to death, he kept it as secret as he could. Obama -- despite radically expanding secrecy powers and persecuting whistleblowers -- does most of his wrongdoing wide out in the open. Warrantless spying is openly acknowledged policy. Imprisonment without trial is "law." Torture is a policy choice, and the choice these days is to outsource it. Murder is, however, the new torture. The CIA calls it "cleaner." I picture Bush's recent paintings of himself washing off whatever filth his mind is aware he carries.
Obama runs through a list of men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays, picks some, and has them murdered. We don't know this because of a whistleblower or a journalist. We know this because the White House wanted us to know it, and to know it before the election. Think about that. We moved from the pre-insanity state we were in circa 1999 to an age in which presidents want us to know they murder people. That was primarily the work of George W. Bush, and every single person who yawned, who looked away, who cheered, who was too busy, who said "it's more important to elect a new president than to keep presidential powers in check," or who said "impeachment would be traumatic" -- as if this isn't.
In Guatemala a prosecutor has charged a former dictator with genocide, remarking, "It's sending the most important message of the rule of law -- that nobody is above the law." It's not so many years ago that the United States had the decency at least to hypocritically propose that standard to the world. Now, we advance the standard of lawlessness, of "looking forward, not backward."
That's why the people need to respond to the lie bury. Ann Wright is going to be there. And Diane Wilson. Robert Jensen and Ray McGovern are coming. So are Lon Burnam and Bill McElvaney and Debra Sweet. Hadi Jawad and Leah Bolger and Marjorie Cohn and Kathy Kelly are coming. As are Coleen Rowley and Bill Moyer and Jacob David George and Medea Benjamin and Chas Jacquier and Drums Not Guns.
Also coming will be many familiar faces from the days when we used to protest in Crawford. When we'd go into that one restaurant at the intersection in Crawford, there'd be a cardboard cut-out Dubya standing there. We picked him up and stood him in the corner, facing the corner. We said he needed to stay there until he understood what he'd done wrong. In reality, of course, he was cardboard. The lesson was for everyone else in the restaurant. It's a lesson that still needs to be taught.
Where I live in Virginia a member of the county board of supervisors was recently charged with the crime of "forcible sodomy," which carried a sentence of five years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery and was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus probation, etc. He professed his innocence of the original charge.
But what is sexual battery if not forcible sex? The fine line drawn between 30 days and life may have less to do with the action being alleged than with the persuasiveness of the allegation, the prosecutor's confidence of winning a conviction, the schedule and budget of the court, the desire of the accuser or victim to participate in a trial, etc.
English version below.
Con la condanna degli agenti della Cia coinvolti nell'illegale sequestro dell'imam Abu Omar il sistema giudiziario italiano ha dimostrato che davvero la legge può essere “uguale per tutti”. Ora, quasi diecimila cittadini americani chiedono all'Italia di andare oltre.
di David Swanson*, traduzione di Patrick Boylan
Quasi diecimila americani hanno già inviato i loro ringraziamenti all'Ambasciata italiana a Washington in seguito alle condanne definitive inflitte in Italia dalla Cassazione, lo scorso 19 settembre, ai 23 agenti della Cia rei di aver rapito l'ex imam di Milano il 17 febbraio, 2003, e di averlo mandato in Egitto per essere interrogato sotto tortura. Noi di RootsAction.org, movimento di cittadinanza tra i più attivi negli USA, abbiamo promosso una raccolta di ringraziamenti per dire al governo italiano che esiste un'America felice della sentenza della Cassazione e che ora vuole l'estradizione in Italia dei 23 condannati che altrimenti continuerebbero a vivere liberi e impuniti negli Stati Uniti.
Nella foto che ritrae i giudici della Cassazione che hanno emesso la sentenza si intravede, sulla parete alle loro spalle, la frase: “La legge è uguale per tutti”. E la loro sentenza ne è la prova. Ma sarà davvero “uguale per tutti” anche l'esecuzione della sentenza?
A new movie has just been released based on Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder." Bugliosi, of course, prosecuted Charles Manson and authored best sellers about Manson's guilt, O.J. Simpson's guilt, and Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt. Whether we all agree with all of those conclusions, it is worth noting that each book was reviewed and considered by the biggest U.S. newspapers and television networks. When Bugliosi wrote a book about George W. Bush's guilt, something we're almost all united on, the corporate media shut it out. Will the same fate greet this movie?