Before the Memos

by matttbastard

Flashback: On Murat Kurnaz:

Murat Kurnaz was picked up in Pakistan in December 2001, before then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales signed off on the torture memo. Kurnaz and hundreds of others were subjected to “illegal torture” (what a concept) before Bybee and Yoo drafted a memo that would protect the torturers from prosecution. The expanded legal definition of torture in their memo doesn’t provide cover for those agents who tortured Kurnaz immediately after he was detained.

“The beatings began as soon as I was turned over to the Americans,” Kurnaz said. Once in the Americans’ hands, he was transferred to a camp at Kandahar, in Afghanistan, where suspected terrorists were held in tents. His account of his torture at the hands of the Americans–in his book and in interviews–is clear-eyed and consistent. He has repeated it in testimony before a committee of the German parliament, where he was described as a “very credible witness.”

In the prison camp in Kandahar, Kurnaz said, he was hoisted on chains and was forced to hang by his hands while he was being interrogated. He was left hanging for “hours and days” after the interrogators left. An American physician in camouflage would come and check his vital signs to determine if he could withstand more enhanced interrogation.

The doctor’s house call must have failed Kurnaz’s neighbor in the next room. “They were hanging me and pulled me up higher than the other times. I could see the man in the other room. He was hanging, too. Maybe they lifted him higher that time, too, I don’t know. I had heard him moaning and breathing; this is the first time I saw him. He was dead. The color of his body was changed and I could see he was dead.”

Kurnaz said he was also subjected to waterboarding and electric shock. And that beatings were routine and constant. He theorizes that much of the torture was a result of the failure of the American soldiers and agents to capture any real terrorists in the initial sweeps. (He was told that he was sold to the Americans for $3,000 by Pakistani police, who identified him as a terrorist.) “They didn’t have any big fish. And they thought that by torture they could get one of us to say something. ‘I know Osama’ or something like that. Then they could say they had a big fish.”

Ah, the good old days, back when torture was still fucking illegal.

*blink*

Background: more on Kurnaz from Der Spiegel (and here) and CBS News (h/t Kevin Drum).

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Nightmares and Dreamscapes

by matttbastard

ABC News interview with President George W. Bush (h/t pogge & skdadl):

RADDATZ: …ABC News reported this week that your senior national security officials all got together and approved — including Vice President Cheney — all got together and approved enhanced interrogation methods, including waterboarding, for detainees.

BUSH: You mean back in 2003?

RADDATZ: Are you aware of that? Are you aware of that?

BUSH: Was I aware that we were going to use enhanced…

RADDATZ: That they all met together?

BUSH: Of course. They meet together all the time on…

RADDATZ: And approved that?

BUSH: … a variety of issues.

RADDATZ: And approved that?

BUSH: Yes.

RADDATZ: You have no problem with that?

BUSH: In 2003?

RADDATZ: Yes.

BUSH: No. I mean, as a matter of fact, I told the country we did that. And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it. And, no, I didn’t have any problem at all trying to find out what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed knew.

RADDATZ: OK.

BUSH: And guess what? I think it’s very important for the American people to understand who Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was. He was the person who ordered the suicide attack — I mean, the 9/11 attacks. And back then, there was all kinds of concerns about people saying, “Well, the administration is not connecting the dots.” You might remember those — that period.

RADDATZ: I remember.

BUSH: Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people. And, yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved. I don’t know what’s new about that; I’m not so sure what’s so startling about that.

Chris Floyd (h/t Chet Scoville):

This pattern has recurred over and over throughout the Bush Administration. Bush and his minions commit crimes and atrocities in secret; they move heaven and earth to conceal their filthy deeds; they squirm and squeal like panicked rats when their some small portion of their evil comes to light; they belch forth a relentless series of self-contradictory lies to cover up, obfuscate or explain away the crimes; and when at last their malefactions can no longer be denied, they trot out the president himself to say: “Yeah, we did it; so what?” And then….nothing happens.

And now nothing is happening again. It is an astounding phenomenon. Bush is the most widely despised president in modern times. The war he launched on false pretenses against Iraq is deeply unpopular, and is plainly bankrupting the country. His economic policies have plunged millions into ruin, want and insecurity. The opposition political party controls the Congress — a bastion they could have used as a bully pulpit to rally the public and as a battering ram to bring down an openly criminal, shamelessly unconstitutional, dangerous, illegitimate regime. And yet….nothing happens.

Tristero:

One final point. As horrifying as this latest news is, I’d like to remind you that we don’t know the half of it. The fact that Bush felt comfortable confirming his own approval of White House torture planning indicates that far more dreadful moral outrages were planned and committed by these bastards. And that those horrors are official United States policy.

This is not some puerile propaganda-disguised-as-entertainment like ’24,’ dear friends, where the guns fire blanks and the blood is ketchup. This is the real thing. People are being tortured with your tax dollars. And let us not forget that there are no “utilitarian” excuses that trump this immorality. “Our” goals are not intrinsically benign and therefore justify these obscenities. Torture has not saved a single American life.

Should Bush, et al immediately be impeached and removed from office for these and other heinous activities? Should he and the others stand trial? Of course they should, it goes without saying. It is a measure of how far removed we are from a representative democracy that, politically, it is simply inconceivable that the top level of planners will ever encounter justice.

Liss:

When that feeling stirs in our guts, that creeping sense that something isn’t right, we must listen to our intuition. We cannot keep our heads down, hold our breath, and wait for it all to be over.

[…]

We must not give up on our right and our responsibility to vote, but voting alone will not solve the problems we face. Those of us who can look beyond our next chance to trek to the voting booth must find other ways of making our voices heard in the interim. When Ukraine’s government attempted to undermine their democratic principles, there was rioting in the streets. When will we riot in the streets? I wonder, anxiously, what it will take to shake us from our immutable belief that democracy will solve the problem of its own inevitable ruination so long as we depend exclusively on its fading potency.

Citizens of a democracy, we are taught, address their concerns and protest bad administrations and their dire policies on election days. We are polite and respectful as we register our dissent in quiet booths with drawn curtains. But maybe, just maybe, the pride we take in our civility will become our greatest shame.

You goddamn right it’s time to make some noise, so that we might awaken the sleeping giant and finally–finallymake something happen.

Update: Larisa Alexandrovna with the first of a projected series of posts on the criminal legacy of the Bush Administration (thanks, skdadl).

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Systemic Banality

by matttbastard

Well, isn’t this lovely — CBC News is reporting that the Feds are trying to block military commission hearings into Afghan detainee transfers: 

In papers filed in Federal Court, government lawyers argue the issue never should have gone as far as it has with the MPCC.

“In a spirit of co-operation, the government did not challenge the jurisdiction of the MPCC to investigate,” the Justice Department said in its Federal Court filing, according to the Globe and Mail.

“This should have given the commission the opportunity to satisfy itself that the…complaint should be dismissed either because it lacked merit or because the commission has no jurisdiction to investigate it,” the department states.

[…]

Government lawyers argue the handling of detainees is a military operation — not a policing issue.

But Amnesty International’s Alex Neve said it is appropriate for the commission to investigate.

“The military police are involved in the detention and transfer of prisoners, they do so in their police capacity,” he said.

He added that the government had indicated it would co-operate.

“So how can it be, one year later now, they change their mind and turn around and say they will contest this? It simply isn’t right.”

Ah, those wacky Little Eichmanns in Ottawa.  Nice to see the small government ideologues have come to realize the inherent value contained within an amoral, labyrinthine bureaucracy.  Nothing says “depraved” like using a last-minute jurisdictional argument to try and suppress torture allegations.

More from pogge, who notes that, according to The Canadian Press, “the government has already provided reams of documents and information -1,300 pages in all – and has delivered 38 witnesses to the commission.”  As pogge aptly observes, “That’s awfully strange behaviour when the entire matter is outside the commission’s jurisdiction, don’t you think?

Yes, I really do think.

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