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Archive for June, 2010

Bush Brags About His War Crimes To Grand Rapids Michigan Crowd.

Meanwhile, CREW Sues Obama DOJ For Protecting Bush Administration Emails. It’s All About Yoo. Roberts Court Solidifies Injustice In Maher Arar Case.

In early June, former president George W. Bush channeled his former vice president Dick Cheney in bragging publicly over war crimes committed under their direction. At a speech and question and answer session at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids as reported by Ted Roelofs of The Grand Rapids Press in an article titled, ” ‘I’d do it again’ former President Bush tells Grand Rapids crowd about waterboarding terrorists

“Yeah, we water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” Bush said of the terrorist who master-minded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. He said that event shaped his presidency and convinced him the nation was in a war against terror.

“I’d do it again to save lives.”

In a speech and question-and-answer session before the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Bush defended his decision to go to war in 2003 with Iraq.

“Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him,” Bush said.

And why not? So far, they have been made immune from the rule of law, by Congress in its failures to inquire and impeach, the Obama administration and its Department of Justice blocking legal actions mainly through abuse of the state secrets privilege and its many defenses in court of Bush administration illegalities, and the Roberts Supreme Court that seems to have a disregard of both Constitution and legal precedents. Make no mistake, these are both Constitutional and codified crimes as well as internationally recognized crimes. Under the Constitution of the United States, the Geneva Convention is “the Supreme law of the Land” under Article Six, clause two. And from the U.S. Code: Title 18, 2441 War Crimes, you have

(c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a grave breach of common Article 3 (as defined in subsection (d)) when committed in the context of and in association with an armed conflict not of an international character; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.
(d) Common Article 3 Violations.— (1) Prohibited conduct.— In subsection (c)(3), the term “grave breach of common Article 3” means any conduct (such conduct constituting a grave breach of common Article 3 of the international conventions done at Geneva August 12, 1949), as follows:

(A) Torture.— The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.

(B) Cruel or inhuman treatment.— The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions), including serious physical abuse, upon another within his custody or control.

(C) Performing biological experiments.— The act of a person who subjects, or conspires or attempts to subject, one or more persons within his custody or physical control to biological experiments without a legitimate medical or dental purpose and in so doing endangers the body or health of such person or persons.

(D) Murder.— The act of a person who intentionally kills, or conspires or attempts to kill, or kills whether intentionally or unintentionally in the course of committing any other offense under this subsection, one or more persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including those placed out of combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause.

(E) Mutilation or maiming.— The act of a person who intentionally injures, or conspires or attempts to injure, or injures whether intentionally or unintentionally in the course of committing any other offense under this subsection, one or more persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including those placed out of combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, by disfiguring the person or persons by any mutilation thereof or by permanently disabling any member, limb, or organ of his body, without any legitimate medical or dental purpose.

(F) Intentionally causing serious bodily injury.— The act of a person who intentionally causes, or conspires or attempts to cause, serious bodily injury to one or more persons, including lawful combatants, in violation of the law of war.

(G) Rape.— The act of a person who forcibly or with coercion or threat of force wrongfully invades, or conspires or attempts to invade, the body of a person by penetrating, however slightly, the anal or genital opening of the victim with any part of the body of the accused, or with any foreign object.

(H) Sexual assault or abuse.— The act of a person who forcibly or with coercion or threat of force engages, or conspires or attempts to engage, in sexual contact with one or more persons, or causes, or conspires or attempts to cause, one or more persons to engage in sexual contact.

(I) Taking hostages.— The act of a person who, having knowingly seized or detained one or more persons, threatens to kill, injure, or continue to detain such person or persons with the intent of compelling any nation, person other than the hostage, or group of persons to act or refrain from acting as an explicit or implicit condition for the safety or release of such person or persons.

The evidence that has come out from both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Bagram Air Force Base, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, and the network of CIA black sites is that most, if not all of those things mentioned which constitutes war crimes has been violated. And to what both Bush and Cheney have bragged about in addition to all the evidence revealed, by law is unequivocally illegal and unequivocally criminal. There are no legal exceptions. It does not matter what a president calls those in custody, whether it be “illegal enemy combatants”, “terrorists”, or “bran muffins”. Any nation whose leaders espouse a fear of the rule of law has no intention of acting lawfully. So the flaunting of these illegalities is a mockery of stated laws, our Constitution, and the rule of law as it is to the pledge candidate Obama signed as a candidate in 2007 to the American Freedom Campaign which stated,

We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal recourse, allow our phones and emails to be tapped without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any President. The Constitution protects American Freedom. With checks and balances, and basic legal rights, it has prevented tyranny and safeguarded our liberty. Yet today, under the pretense of the “war on terror,” the White House is dismantling the Constitution, concentrating power in the President and undermining the rule of law. THIS IS UN-AMERICAN. I hereby join the American Freedom Campaign to educate my neighbors about the threat and urge my representatives to confront and correct these abuses of our America.

That campaign pledge has become just another broken campaign promise to throw on the growing pile along with a public option, open government, alternative energy in place of “drill baby drill”, etc., much like the oil piling up on our Gulf Coast beaches and forever staining the fabric of this nation, its laws, and integrity. Now the Obama administration owns these crimes as well as well as the unconstitutional powers asserted. Instead of its campaign slogan of “change”, it should have been “acquire”.

The Game Being Played

By mentioning only high profile detainees such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, only waterboarding when it comes to torture, and Saddam Hussein when it comes to the attack and invasion of Iraq, what former president Bush is doing is pretending. He is pretending all persons taken into custody without trial and subjected to extreme measures were guilty of terrorism, that there has been a real legal debate as to whether waterboarding is torture, that torture yields actionable intelligence rather than propaganda and that the Iraq war was legal and justified. None of these things is true, but millions of Americans swear by them and have no pangs of conscience. Matthew Yglesias writing in the American Prospect in an article titled, “Do Conservatives Understand Torture?” after explaining torture is to produce coerced confessions for propaganda instead of useful or correct information put it,

This is why, despite the huffing and puffing, nobody on the right has produced any convincing evidence that the torture program has been, on net, useful. Torture fans sometimes claim that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed helped disrupt a terrorism plot in Los Angeles, but it’s questionable whether the plot ever existed in the first place, and at any rate its disruption occurred before Mohammed was captured. We do know, however, that torture succeeded in getting Abu Zubaydah to tell the administration what it wanted to hear in order for it to make its case for invading Iraq and offer up bogus information about al-Qaeda ties to Saddam Hussein.

It would be surprising if widespread application of torture never produced any accurate information. On the contrary, a desperate torture victim is sure to say all kinds of things — true and false. Before Zubaydah hit on the story his interrogators wanted him to tell, after all, he almost surely tried out the truth, that he knew nothing of such ties. That truth-telling would, however, only be interpreted as resistance and met with additional torture. As a system, the main impact of torture is to provide confirmation for what one already thinks one knows, not to produce new, useful facts.

And in recounting the story of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose false tortured confession was used as basis for the war in Iraq and later was found dead in a Libyan prison, British journalist Andy Worthington wrote

In Egypt, he came up with the false allegation about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that was used by President Bush in a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, just days before Congress voted on a resolution authorizing the President to go to war against Iraq, in which, referring to the supposed threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, Bush said, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

Four months later, on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same claim in his notorious speech to the UN Security Council, in an attempt to drum up support for the invasion. “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda,” Powell said, adding, “Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.” As a Newsweek report in 2007 explained, Powell did not identify al-Libi by name, but CIA officials – and a Senate Intelligence Committee report – later confirmed that he was referring to al-Libi.

Al-Libi recanted his story in February 2004, when he was returned to the CIA’s custody, and explained, as Newsweek described it, that he told his debriefers that “he initially told his interrogators that he ‘knew nothing’ about ties between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden and he ‘had difficulty even coming up with a story’ about a relationship between the two.” The Newsweek report explained that “his answers displeased his interrogators – who then apparently subjected him to the mock burial. As al-Libi recounted, he was stuffed into a box less than 20 inches high. When the box was opened 17 hours later, al-Libi said he was given one final opportunity to ‘tell the truth.’ He was knocked to the floor and ‘punched for 15 minutes.’ It was only then that, al-Libi said, he made up the story about Iraqi weapons training.”

Also, on questioning and speculating on the reported death by suicide in a Libyan jail by al-Libi, Worthington further wrote

The most important question that needs asking just now, of course, is whether it was possible for al-Libi to commit suicide in a Libyan jail, or whether he was murdered. I doubt that we will ever find out the truth, but whatever the case, the focus on his death should not rest solely on Libya, which only took possession of him after the US administration had made use of him to justify the invasion of Iraq

The use of false torture confessions, forged documents as was the case with the Niger yellow cake documents of the Valerie Plame Wilson outing affair in which the forgers were named in a report for the UK’s The Times by Michael Smith in 2006, which said,

According to the sources, an official investigation believes Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassador’s assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money.

and the Habbush letter forgery, and the creation of The Office of Special Plans to fix intelligence around policy, make for the Iraq war being a “war of aggression” which is considered the supreme war crime in international law and well as Nuremberg. In fact, a report by Michael Savage in the UK’s The Independent titled, “Blair warned in 2000 Iraq war was illegal“, it said in papers withheld in the Chilcot inquiry that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal and

The document also calls into question Mr Blair’s claim that using troops to bring down Saddam Hussein was only discussed after the 9/11 terror attacks on New York – and will increase pressure on the inquiry to call Mr Blair back to give further public evidence this summer.

For those that still want to be apologists over torture because “they are terrorists”, it should be noted that in a report by the Seton Hall School of Law on Guantanamo Detainees, it was determined that

1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any
hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.
2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining
detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive
affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a
large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist
watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably.
Eight percent are detained because they are deemed “fighters for;” 30% considered “members of;” a
large majority – 60% — are detained merely because they are “associated with” a group or groups the
Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist
group is unidentified.

and most certainly had no connection to the Hamburg cell responsible for the events of 9/11/2001. For those who are still apologists for the Iraq war, it should be mentioned that thousands of US service members died, estimates over 1 million civilians died as a result of the invasion and aftermath, and millions of civilians displaced.

Whenever a government conspires to large illegal acts, it usually tries to develop a facade of legality around those actions through the use of lawyers to provide “legal justifications” for those illegal activities. Two lawyers known to have drawn up the case for torture, rendition, and illegal torture prisons and illegal “preemptive war” were John Yoo and Judge Jay Bybee of the Bybee Torture Memo fame (then Assistant AG to White House Counsel). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for failure to provide them with records relating to the missing Yoo emails requested following the DOJ investigation and report in the role of high ranking Office of Legal Counsel officials released in July 2009. In their press release of May 11th, 2010, it stated

In February 2010, DOJ made public a July 2009 report of its investigation into the roles of former high-ranking Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) officials John Yoo and Patrick Philbin in the drafting of OLC’s torture memos, which authorized the use of torture when interrogating detainees outside of the United States. The investigation was hampered by the fact that most of Mr. Yoo’s emails and many of Mr. Philbin’s had disappeared. CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on February 26, 2010 asking OLC to provide any guidance DOJ employees received regarding preservation of emails as well as any records showing there might have been problems with the storage or retention of emails in OLC. CREW sent a follow-up FOIA request on March 3, 2010 seeking copies of all existing emails sent to or from John Yoo, in an effort to ascertain the extent of the problem with his missing emails.

Although OLC initially agreed to expedite CREW’s request given public interest in the issue, to date OLC has produced only two documents setting forth the record keeping requirements to which Messrs. Yoo and Philbin were subject. DOJ has not provided any of the emails sent to or from Mr. Yoo. In addition, DOJ has not responded to the National Archives and Records Administration’s request that the department investigate and report back on whether the missing high-ranking OLC officials’ emails were destroyed in violation of the Federal Records Act, which mandates the preservation of such emails.

Yoo is notoriously known for such bogus legals arguments such as the president has the authority to torture children (as was reportedly done at Abu Ghraib) and crush their testicles or order the massacre of civilians. As reported by a Newsweek article titled, “Justice Official Clears Bush Lawyers in Torture Memo Probe” despite the precedent set at the Nuremberg trials

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

And in addition to the Obama DOJ hiding behind legal technicalities in its abandonment of its constitutional duties to defend the laws and Constitution of the United States, the British High Court revealed in a ruling that the United States was guilty of torturing Binyam Mohamed (including mutilation of his genitalia with razor blades) before the Bybee memos were drawn up as a legal excuse to commit (or cover up) illegal acts. Yoo recently bragged in an op ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, “My Gift to the Obama Presidency

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.

Completing the shameful full system failure of all branches of government in failing to uphold the laws and constitution of the United States, the Roberts Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal brought by Canadian-Syrian Maher Arar who was wrongly arrested in the US in 2002 and expelled to Syria where he was held and tortured for a year. In an op ed at The Huffington Post titled, “In Refusing to Hear My Case, The Supreme Court Has Put the World’s Peace and Order in Danger” Arar wrote,

Let me emphasize the fact that my case is not an isolated one. My case is unique in the sense that I was the only person who was rendered from US soil. But hundreds of other human beings have been rendered by the CIA and handed over to brutal regimes. No one knows how many of these people have died under torture or completely disappeared. Those of us who were lucky “survived” and were released, but now live with psychological and physical scars.

In times of turmoil and crisis, such as the ones we have been living since 9/11, the judicial system is supposed to do exactly the opposite of what it has done: it is supposed to stand up to the executive branch and make sure the constitution is respected. Unfortunately, the judicial system has abandoned its sacred role of ensuring that no one is above the law. In doing so it has given the executive branch the green light to continue abusing people’s basic human rights. As a result of this willful blindness, it has put the world’s peace and order in danger.

A lot of people had high hopes when Obama took his oath to uphold the Constitution. It later became clear that his administration was no better than that of his predecessor. Here we are, 18 months after he took office, and Guantánamo is still open, renditions are still being carried out and illegal assassinations by drone planes have increased tenfold. This latter tactic has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians so far. One can only wonder what is next in the so-called “war on terror.”

Indeed, no citizen is safe from abuse of power whether a US citizen or as in Arar’s case, not one, when US officials are immune from the rule of law and all citizens are left without the protections the Constitution provides its citizens when neither it nor the rule of law is followed.

Far Right Roberts Court Further Erodes Citizen Rights.

Following up the horrible ruling that established corporations as persons and their money as free speech further cementing the power of the corporate state in the Citizens United v FEC case, the Roberts court further weakened the rights of living breathing citizens in their relationship to state power in a 5 to 4 paradoxial court ruling. In the ruling, the citizen must talk to the police declaring his or her right to remain silent instead of being informed of their right to remain silent by the police. The Baltimore Sun editorializing in a piece titled, “Eroding Miranda“, explained

The Supreme Court this week took another step back from its 1969 Miranda ruling, which requires police to notify criminal suspects of their right to remain silent when questioned. In a bizarre opinion by the court’s conservative majority, the justices ruled 5-4 that unless a suspect explicitly invokes his right not to talk — that is, unless he talks to the police — he’s not entitled to remain silent, and any statement he makes can be used against him in court.

This paradoxical interpretation of the law, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her first major dissent since joining the court, “turns Miranda upside down” and “bodes poorly for the fundamental principles that Miranda protects.” In effect, it says to a suspect: You have the right to remain silent, but if you want to use it you’d better start talking.

The case involved a Michigan man, Van Chester Thompkins, whom police suspected of shooting another man to death outside a mall in 2000. When Mr. Thompkins was arrested a year later, police read him his Miranda rights, but he refused to sign a form acknowledging he understood them. He then remained silent through three hours of questioning until he was asked by an officer whether he thought God would forgive him “for shooting that boy down.”

This should please the Obama DOJ since it will take the pressure off of creating or using law to circumvent the rule of law as it tries to hold on to unconstitutional power of executive branch practices given it by the Bush Administration and a complicit Congress. In a piece titled, “Eric Holder: Miranda Rights Should Be Modified For Terrorism Suspects” by Nico Pitney at the Huffington Post,

Attorney General Eric Holder said for the first time today on ABC’s “This Week” that the Obama administration is open to modifying Miranda protections to deal with the “threats that we now face.”

“The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,” Holder told host Jake Tapper. “I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.”

He is off the hook now. The Roberts Court gave him his wish.