Laying Down the Law on Torture

Written by Chris Floyd 09 December 2005 7964 Hits

No sleazy Condoleezean weasel-wording from Britain's highest judges on the subject of torture. The Law Lords' ruling yesterday -- striking down the use of any testimony garnered from torture, even if it was produced in foreign dungeons -- was a hard slap at the moral cretinism of Blair and Bush. Try to imagine any figure on the U.S. Supreme Court -- which has thus far allowed unconscionable tyrannies and atrocities to stand -- speaking such rigor and clarity on the subject. The full text can be found here. These excerpts of the ruling are from the Guardian:

Lord Hoffman: "The use of torture is dishonourable. It corrupts and degrades the state which uses it and the legal system which accepts it ... Many people in the United States have felt their country dishonoured by its use of torture outside the jurisdiction and its practice of extra-legal 'rendition' of suspects to countries where they would be tortured. The rejection of torture ... has a special iconic importance as the touchstone of a humane and civilised legal system."

Lord Hope: "Torture is one of most evil practices known to man. Once torture has become acclimatised in a legal system it spreads like an infectious disease, hardening and brutalising those who have become accustomed to its use.

Lord Brown: "Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished."

Lord Bingham: "The English common law has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years ... I am startled, even a little dismayed, at the suggestion (and the acceptance by the court of appeal majority) that this deeply-rooted tradition and an international obligation solemnly and explicitly undertaken can be overridden ... The issue is one of constitutional principle, whether evidence obtained by torturing another human being may lawfully be admitted against a party to proceedings in a British court ... To that question I would give a very clear negative answer."

Lord Nicholls: "Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country. For centuries the common law has set its face against torture ... Torture attracts universal condemnation. No civilised society condones its use. Unhappily, condemnatory words are not always matched by conduct."

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Sacred Terror: The Global Death Squad of George W. Bush

Written by Chris Floyd 09 December 2005 20172 Hits

The much-belated, poll-prompted outcry of a few American elected officials against the widespread use of torture by the Bush Administration – following years of silent acquiescence in the face of incontrovertible evidence of deliberate atrocity – is a welcome development, of course. But it has left an even more sinister aspect of Bushist policy untouched, one that likewise has been hidden in plain sight for years.

altOn September 17, 2001, George W. Bush signed an executive order authorizing the use of "lethal measures" against anyone in the world whom he or his minions designated an "enemy combatant." This order remains in force today. No judicial evidence, no hearing, no charges are required for these killings; no law, no border, no oversight restrains them. Bush has also given agents in the field carte blanche to designate "enemies" on their own initiative and kill them as they see fit.

The existence of this universal death squad – and the total obliteration of human liberty it represents – has not provoked so much as a crumb, an atom, a quantum particle of controversy in the American Establishment, although it's no secret. The executive order was first bruited in the Washington Post in October 2001. I first wrote of it in my Moscow Times column in November 2001. The New York Times added further details in December 2002. That same month, Bush officials made clear that the dread edict also applied to American citizens, as the Associated Press reported.

The first officially confirmed use of this power was the killing of an American citizen in Yemen by a CIA drone missile on November 3, 2002. A similar strike occurred in Pakistan this month, when a CIA missile destroyed a house and purportedly killed Abu Hamza Rabia, a suspected al Qaeda figure. But the only bodies found at the site were those of two children, the houseowner's son and nephew, Reuters reports. The grieving father denied any connection to terrorism. An earlier CIA strike on another house missed Rabia but killed his wife and children, Pakistani officials reported.

But most of the assassinations are carried out in secret, quietly, professionally, like a contract killing for the mob. As a Pentagon document unearthed by the New Yorker in December 2002 put it, the death squads must be "small and agile," and "able to operate clandestinely, using a full range of official and non-official cover arrangements to…enter countries surreptitiously."

The dangers of this policy are obvious, as a UN report on "extrajudicial killings" noted in December 2004: " Empowering governments to identify and kill 'known terrorists' places no verifiable obligation upon them to demonstrate in any way that those against whom lethal force is used are indeed terrorists…  While it is portrayed as a limited 'exception' to international norms, it actually creates the potential for an endless expansion of the relevant category to include any enemies of the State, social misfits, political opponents, or others."

It's hard to believe that any genuine democracy would accept a claim by its leader that he could have anyone killed simply by labeling them an "enemy." It's hard to believe that any adult with even the slightest knowledge of history or human nature could countenance such unlimited, arbitrary power, knowing the evil it is bound to produce. Yet this is what the great and good in America have done. Like the boyars of old, they not only countenance but celebrate their enslavement to the ruler.

This was vividly demonstrated in one of the revolting scenes in recent American history: Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, delivered to Congress and televised nationwide during the final frenzy of war-drum beating before the assault on Iraq. Trumpeting his successes in the Terror War, Bush claimed that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists" had been arrested worldwide – "and many others have met a different fate." His face then took on the characteristic leer, the strange, sickly half-smile it acquires whenever he speaks of killing people: "Let's put it this way. They are no longer a problem."

In other words, the suspects – and even Bush acknowledged they were only suspects – had been murdered. Lynched. Killed by agents operating unsupervised in that shadow world where intelligence, terrorism, politics, finance and organized crime meld together in one amorphous, impenetrable mass. Killed on the word of a dubious informer, perhaps: a tortured captive willing to say anything to end his torment, a business rival, a personal foe, a bureaucrat looking to impress his superiors, a paid snitch in need of cash, a zealous crank pursuing ethnic, tribal or religious hatreds – or any other purveyor of the garbage data that is coin of the realm in the shadow world.

Bush proudly held up this hideous system as an example of what he called "the meaning of American justice." And the assembled legislators…applauded. Oh, how they applauded! They roared with glee at the leering little man's bloodthirsty, B-movie machismo. They shared his sneering contempt for law – our only shield, however imperfect, against the blind, brute, ignorant, ape-like force of raw power. Not a single voice among them was raised in protest against this tyrannical machtpolitik: not that night, not the next day, not ever.

Not even now, when the American people's growing revulsion at Bush's bloody handiwork has emboldened a few long-time enablers of atrocity to criticize the "excesses" of his gulag and his "mishandling" of the war of aggression in Iraq. A few nips at the flank of the beast have been permitted. But the corroded heart of Bush's system of state terror – officially sanctioned murder by presidential fiat – remains curiously sacrosanct.

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Art, Truth and Politics

Written by Chris Floyd 08 December 2005 8739 Hits

The following are excerpted passages from Harold Pinter's Nobel speech, delivered on Tuesday, Dec. 7. The whole video (in Flash and WMV format) and speech, supplied by our webmaster, Rich Kastelein, can be found here.

The majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now.
Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed...

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s. The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch...

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'
The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.
The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'.
The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.
...Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.
I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'
I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

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Rough Justice

Written by Chris Floyd 08 December 2005 5985 Hits

Rough, tough Tony Blair is cracking down on war criminals in Britain, The Independent reports. In a single day, he had the following terrorists trussed up in court:

* Maya Evans, 25, convicted for reading out names of 97 British soldiers killed in Iraq at unauthorised protest.
* Douglas Barker, 72, threatened with jail for withholding part of his tax payment in protest at the Iraq conflict.
* Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a 37-year-old RAF medical officer, facing court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq. 
For more on Kendall-Smith, see The Philosopher's Stone.

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The Glamour of Bushgoonery

Written by Chris Floyd 07 December 2005 7766 Hits

With his usual eagle eye for depravity, Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution has abstracted the most representative fact from the recent Washington Post story about the Bush gang's "erroneous renditions" (a.k.a. kidnapping innocent people and torturing them). Jon notes the lurid S&M quality of the operations, mentioned only in passing in the Post story and left unremarked by the commentariat -- which probably says volumes about the unspoken assumptions that underlie the American Establishment these days.

The Part They DON'T Tell You About James Bond (ATR)

Except: [The rendition story] is all very bad, of course, but I don't think enough attention has been paid to the smaller details. For instance:

Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip. Their destinations: either a detention facility operated by cooperative countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Afghanistan, or one of the CIA's own covert prisons.

The easy joke here would be the resemblance our foreign policy apparently bears to a peculiar, intricate sexual fantasy:

My greatest fantasy? Um, I'm wearing a costume, an all-black costume with a mask. Then I blindfold you and cut off all your clothes. Did I mention all this time I'm a secret agent? And that I've brought an adult diaper with me? Then, I, uh...

The less easy but more intriguing joke is that apparently there really is someone at the CIA whose job it is to administer INTERNATIONAL TOP-SECRET ENEMAS. Despite the undeniable horror of what we're up to, I can't deny I enjoy this. I enjoy the idea that out there right now there is a person who's the James Bond of Enemas.




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Brass in Pocket, Blood on the Tracks

Written by Chris Floyd 06 December 2005 9134 Hits

The only defense for the indefensible is to be offensive, it seems. The Bush Faction has obviously decided to stop refuting allegations about torture and just openly embrace the heinous practice instead. You've got Bush vowing to veto torture restrictions, you've got Cheney twisting arms on Capitol Hill to preserve the Faction's inalienable right to beat people to death -- and now you've got Condi Rice traipsing off to Europe to tell America's allies to stop all their whining about extraordinary rendition, secret prisons and the CIA kidnapping people in their countries.

In a remarkable display of brass, Rice tried to have it both ways, both denying that the U.S. tortures anyone then saying that American "interrogation techniques" have saved European lives by thwarting terrorist plots. She offered no proof of this, of course, and she said nothing at all about the growing number of innocent people caught up in the rendition process. (This is a well-known diplomatic technique: if you just close your eyes and pretend something isn't there, why, it just goes away! Metternich used it all the time.) Basically, Condi's message to the Eurosissies boiled down to this: "We're saving your sorry butts with our rough stuff, so shut up already."

But doubtless to her great surprise, Condi is finding that the usual Bushist shtick of playing the 9/11 card -- "Whatever we do is OK because we're keeping the terrorists from getting you!" -- doesn't work on the other side of the water. (Except with the yappy little lapdog Tony Blair, of course, who is bidding fair to outdo his master in stripping away ancient liberties and ruling solely by fear.) The Europeans have dealt with terrorism for decades -- centuries -- and don't require lessons from Crawford clodhoppers on the subject. They are also past masters at recognizing bullshit -- having dispensed so much of it down through the ages -- so Condi's heaping helpings of hokum are falling flat.

But what is most surprising is that even the Washington Post's editorialists -- of all people -- have also got Condi's number. The Post is infamous for its heroic contortions in defense of Bushist miscreancy, but in a piece on Rice's rendition rhetoric, the paper nailed it solid:

[Excerpt]: In an attempt to quell a growing storm in Europe over the CIA's secret prisons, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday issued a defense based on the same legalistic jujitsu and morally obtuse double talk that led the Bush administration into a swamp of human rights abuses in the first place. Ms. Rice insisted that the U.S. government "does not authorize or condone torture" of detainees. What she didn't say is that President Bush's political appointees have redefined the term "torture" so that it does not cover practices, such as simulated drowning, mock execution and "cold cells," that have long been considered abusive by authorities such as her State Department.

Ms. Rice said, "It is also U.S. policy that authorized interrogation will be consistent with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment." What she didn't explain is that, under this administration's eccentric definition of "U.S. obligations," cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is not prohibited as long as it does not occur on U.S. territory. That is the reason for the secret prisons that the CIA has established in European countries and other locations around the world, and for the "renditions" of detainees to countries such as Egypt and Jordan: so that the administration can violate the very treaty Ms. Rice claims it is upholding.[End excerpt]

If the Bushists have lost the well-wadded, ever-deferential conventional wisdom-peddlers on the Washington Post editorial board, they really are in trouble.

Next is a Guardian roundup of human rights experts giving their view on Rice's tortured reasoning, with the admirably straightforward headline: "US defence of tactic makes no sense, say legal experts." A few choice quotes:

[Excerpt]: Her assurances that spiriting terror suspects away to clandestine prisons is a legitimate tactic did not carry much weight with human rights organisations or legal scholars yesterday. They argued that the sole use of extraordinary rendition was to transport a suspect to a locale that was beyond the reach of the law - and so at risk of torture.

"The argument makes no sense unless there is an assumption that the purpose of rendition is to send people to a place where things could be done to them that could not be done in the United States," said David Luban, a law professor at Georgetown University who is presently a visiting professor at Stanford University. "Rendition doesn't become a tool in the war against terror unless people are being sent to a place where they can be interrogated harshly."

..."The reason she is able to say that the United States does not engage in torture is that the administration has redefined torture to exclude any technique that they use," said Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch. "What makes this awkward for Secretary Rice is that the state department has continued to condemn as torture techniques such as waterboarding when they are used by other countries - in other words the very techniques the CIA has used against these high level detainees."

Other critics noted yesterday that the utility of information gathered under duress was also unclear. Some intelligence gathered from such suspects has proved unreliable most notoriously in the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who told his interrogators before the war in Iraq that Saddam Hussein's regime was training al-Qaida terrorists in the use of chemical and biological weapons. Al-Libi later recanted, but the flawed intelligence was used by the then secretary of state, Colin Powell, in March 2003 to make his case for war to the United Nations. [End excerpt]

Ah, but here I must dissent from these learned Thebans. It is most incorrect to say that the information gleaned from whomping the tarwater out of al-Libi lacked utility. On the contrary, it was precisely what was required for the successful promulgation of Administration policy. The false connection between Saddam and 9/11 was perhaps the most crucial element in the deliberate manipulation of public opinion in favor of the war. As no real evidence for the connection existed, it had to be manufactured. And as any bent cop or crooked prosecutor will tell you, a false confession is the best way to sell a rotten case.

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Your Progressive Opposition in Action

Written by Chris Floyd 06 December 2005 5906 Hits

Hillary Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill with Utah Republican Bob Bennett that will make it a crime to "desecrate" a U.S. flag. (The word "desecration" should always be put in quotes in this context – because the American flag is not a sacred object, for God's sake! It's a national emblem, not a religious relic.) The law would ban protestors from "intimidating any person by burning the flag, lighting someone else's flag or [']desecrating['] the flag on federal property." Clinton "has compared the act of flag-burning to burning a cross." [From Newsday]

A few questions raised by this interesting story:
When in the entire course of American history has a flag-burning protestor ever dragged someone from their house and lynched them, or burned down a church, or driven a family from their home, or proclaimed the God-ordained superiority of their race – and how could anyone with half a brain who was not shamelessly pandering to the worst instincts and most ignorant prejudices of the electorate in order to hoist themselves up the greasy pole of power make such an odious and frankly stupid comparison?

Next question: What exactly is the point of Democratic "leaders" who eagerly embrace right-wing policies like aggressive war, the destruction of the welfare system (thanks, Bill!), corporate deregulation, capital punishment (which was vastly expanded under Bill), and, in this case, utterly pointless lunatic fringe notions that address non-existent problems in the most ham-handed, un-Constitutional way?

Final question: "For what will it profit a woman if she gains the whole world, and loses her own soul?"

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Pit Boss:George Bush's Empire of Torture

Written by Chris Floyd 05 December 2005 15199 Hits

Mark Follman of proves an excellent Virgil in this harrowing tour through the sulphurous pit of George W. Bush's vast torture Hell. Bush has wrought a work of genuine evil in America's name, systematically and deliberately infecting society with moral corruption and subverting the very nature of law itself in an attempt to escape responsibility for his crimes.

I've been writing articles about Bush's use of torture since January 2002. I don't know what else to say about it. When I look at Bush's face -- however well-scrubbed, tanned and carefully made-up it is -- I can no longer see anything but oozing pustules and smears of blood, the ugliness of his spirit turned inside out.

There is no excuse or mitigation for Bush and his minons. They had ample investigative, enforcement, intelligence, military and prosecutorial tools already at their disposal to deal effectively with the problem of international terrorism by Islamic extremism -- if they had wanted to use them. They didn't want to. They are not actually serious about terrorism, except as a justification for the kind of unlimited executive power -- dictatorial power -- that Dick Cheney and his ilk have been openly dreaming about for decades. Bush and his minions wanted to torture people. They wanted to kill people. They wanted to wage war, break nations, loot and destroy. They exult in death. Their only God is power. They are the mirror-image of the oh-so-convenient "enemies" they affect to despise. Who can look on them and not be revolted?

The Salon story is behind the subscriber firewall, but you can read the entire piece on the continuation below. First though, a quick quote, from security expert Thomas Powers, to alert us to the fact that despite the increasing amount of attention being given to Bush's empire of torture, the worst is probably yet to come.

[Excerpt]: The rising backlash against torture today indicates more military and intelligence officers are realizing that the Bush administration is sinking the United States into an unprecedented moral quagmire -- one that could lead to an especially dire end. "The problems with this are huge and they're hitting home now," Powers says. "How do you let these people go, especially the ones deemed to be of no intelligence value, after they've been treated so badly? Are you just going to hold them forever? You have to ask whether or not they will eventually reach the stage of just summarily killing them. It may have happened already. This policy isn't just ineffectual -- it's complete madness." [End excerpt]

Madness, indeed. But summary execution is the logical conclusion -- the final solution -- of Bush's deliberately chosen policy. In the end, he will have to destroy the evidence of his foulest crimes: the bodies, the minds, the lives of his victims.

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Death Mask: The Deliberate Disintegration of Iraq

Written by Chris Floyd 01 December 2005 44126 Hits

This is an extended version of a column appearing in the Dec. 2 edition of The Moscow Times.

The recent revelations about the virulent spread of death squads ravaging Iraq have only confirmed for many people the lethal incompetence of the Bush Regime, whose brutal bungling appears to have unleashed the demon of sectarian strife in the conquered land. The general reaction, even among some war supporters, has been bitter derision: "Jeez, these bozos couldn't boil an egg without causing collateral damage."

But what if the truth is even more sinister? What if this murderous chaos is not the fruit of rank incompetence but instead the desired product of carefully crafted, efficiently managed White House policy?

Investigative journalist Max Fuller marshals a convincing case for this dread conclusion in a remarkable work of synthesis drawn from information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public Pentagon documents. Piling fact on damning fact, he shows that the vast majority of atrocities now attributed to "rogue" Shiite and Sunni militias are in fact the work of government-controlled commandos and "special forces," trained by Americans, "advised" by Americans and run largely by former CIA assets, Global Research reports.

We first reported here in June 2003 that the U.S. was already hiring Saddam's security muscle for "special ops" against the nascent insurgency and re-opening his torture haven, Abu Ghraib. Meanwhile, powerful Shiite militias – including Talibanic religious extremists armed and trained by Iran – were loosed upon the land. As direct "Coalition" rule gave way to various "interim" and "elected" Iraqi governments, these violent gangs were formally incorporated into the Iraqi Interior Ministry, where the supposedly inimical Sunni and Shiite units often share officers and divvy up territories.

Bush helpfully supplied these savage gangs – who are killing dozens of people each week, Knight-Ridder reports – with American advisers who made their "counter-insurgency" bones forming right-wing death squads in Colombia and El Salvador. Indeed, Bush insiders have openly bragged of "riding with the bad boys" and exercising the "Salvador option," lauding the Reagan-backed counter-insurgency program that slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, Newsweek reports. Bush has also provided a "state-of-the-art command, control and communications center" to coordinate the operation of his Iraqi "commandos," as the Pentagon's own news site, DefendAmerica, reports. The Iraqi people can go without electricity, fuel and medicine, but by God, Bush's "bad boys" will roll in clover as they carry out their murders and mutilations.

For months, stories from the Shiite south and Sunni center have reported the same phenomenon: people being summarily seized by large groups of armed men wearing police commando uniforms, packing high-priced Glocks, using sophisticated radios and driving Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings. The captives are taken off and never seen again – unless they turn up with a load of other corpses days or weeks later, bearing marks of the gruesome tortures they suffered before the ritual shot in the head. Needless to say, these mass murders under police aegis are rarely investigated by the police.

Earlier this year, one enterprising Knight-Ridder reporter, Yasser Salihee, actually found several eyewitnesses willing to testify to the involvement of the U.S.-backed commandos in 12 such murders. The offer was shrugged off by the Interior Ministry's spokesman – an American "adviser" and veteran bones-maker from the Colombian ops. In the end, it didn't matter; Salihee was shot dead by a U.S. sniper at a checkpoint a few days afterwards.

The Bushists may have been forced to ditch their idiotic fantasies of "cakewalking" into a compliant satrapy, but they have by no means abandoned their chief goals in the war: milking Iraq dry and planting a permanent military "footprint" on the nation's neck. If direct control through a plausible puppet is no longer possible, then fomenting bloody chaos and sectarian strife  is the best way to weaken the state. The Bushists are happy to make common cause with thugs and zealots in order to prevent the establishment of a strong national government that might balk at the ongoing "privatizations" that have continued apace behind the smokescreen of violence, and the planned opening of Iraq's oil reserves to select foreign investors – a potential transfer of some $200 billion of Iraqi people's wealth into the hands of a few Bush cronies, the Independent reports.

The violence is already dividing the county intomore rigid sectarian enclaves, the New York Times reports, as Shiites flee Sunni commandos and Sunnis flee Shiite militias in the grim tag-team of their joint endeavor. It's all grist for the Bushist mill: an atomized, terrorized, internally riven society is much easier to manipulate. And of course, a steady stream of bloodshed provides a justification for maintaining a substantial American military presence, even as politic plans for partial "withdrawal" are bandied about.

There's nothing new in this; Bush is simply following a well-thumbed playbook. For example, in 1953 the CIA bankrolled Islamic fundamentalists and secular goon squads to destabilize the democratic government of Iran – which selfishly wanted to control its own oil – and pave the way for the puppet Shah, as the agency's own histories recountIn 1971, CIA officials admitted carrying out more than 21,000 "extra-judicial killings" in its "Phoenix" counter-insurgency operation in Vietnam. (The true number of victims is certainly much higher.) In 1979, the CIA began sponsoring the most violent Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan – supplying money, arms, even jihad primers for schoolchildren – to destabilize the secular, Soviet-allied government and provoke the Kremlin into a costly intervention, as Robert Dreyfus details in his new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Later, Saudi magnate Osama bin Laden – whose family firm helped kick-start George W. Bush's business career – joined the operation, and his men were sent to America for "anti-Soviet" terrorist training, as Greg Palast reports And of course, these examples only scratch the scorched-earth surface of America's double-dealings in this deathly shadow world.

This bi-partisan policy has been remarkably consistent for more than half a century: to augment the wealth and power of the elite, American leaders have supported – or created – vicious  gangs of killers and cranks to foment unrest, eliminate opponents and terrorize whole nations into submission. The resulting carnage in the target countries – and inevitable blowback against ordinary Americans – means nothing to these Great Gamesters; it's merely the price of doing business. Bush's "incompetence" is just a mask for stone-cold calculation.


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Die Laughing: The Bush Way of Rehabilitation

Written by Chris Floyd 30 November 2005 24447 Hits

Orginally published in the Aug. 29, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times.

Here's a headline you don't see every day: "War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals."

Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.

Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word, seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained "insiders" responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.

Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin "Governing Council" – aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared" loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave." Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.

However, the sahibs' unabashed embrace of their soulmates in the Saddamite security forces did provide some sinister comedy in the Post story. The wary reporters and Raj officials displayed the usual hilarious delicacy in coming up with reality-fogging prose to protect the tender sensibilities of the American people, who must never be told what their betters are really getting up to.

For example, the American alliance with Saddam's killers – yes, the very ones who inflicted all those human rights abuses which, we're now told, was the onliest reason the Dear Leader attacked and destroyed a sovereign nation in an unprovoked war of aggression – was described demurely as "an unusual compromise." (As opposed to, say, "a moral outrage," or "a putrid stain on America's honor," or "a monstrous copulation of rapacious conquerors with bloodthirsty scum.") However, the Post hastens to assure us that the wise sahibs do recognize the "potential pitfalls" of hooking up with "an instrument renowned across the Arab world for its casual use of torture, fear, intimidation, rape and imprisonment."

Those kidders! Surely they know this "potential pitfall" is actually one of the main goals of the entire bloody enterprise: to intimidate the "Arab world" until they straighten up and fly right – i.e., turn their countries over to Halliburton, Bechtel and the Carlyle Group. That's why you buy an "instrument" like the Mukhabarat in the first place. You certainly don't employ professional murderers and rapists if you are genuinely interested in building a "decent, open, democratic society," as the Bushists claim in their imperial PR.

But like vaudeville troupers of old, the media-sashib double act saves the best gag for last. First the Postmen present the seamy Bush-Mukhabarat humpa-humpa as some great spiritual agon – "an ongoing struggle between principle and…the practical needs of the occupation" – instead of what it is: business as usual for the American security apparatus, which happily incorporated scores of its Nazi brethren into the fold after World War II, and over the years has climbed into bed with many a casually raping and murdering thug – such as, er, Saddam Hussein, who spent a bit of quality time on the CIA payroll.

In fact, the entire Baathist organization – including the Mukhabarat – was midwifed into power by not one but two CIA-backed coups, as historian Roger Morris reports in the NY Times. And shall we mention the intimate relations between Saddam's regime and American intelligence services back when Saddam was merrily gassing his own people – and the Iranians – with the eager connivance of Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and their "special envoy" to Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld? Yes, let's.

So the new alliance is no "struggle": it's a veritable Bush family reunion, a happy homecoming for Rummy and his old Mukhers. But "this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood" – or to Post readers, anyway. Our vaudevillians, eager to keep the fleecy Homeland flock nestled comfortably in its cozy amnesia, skip the history and go straight to the punchline: Raj officials say that it's OK to hire the most hardcore killers, rapists and torturers – as long as you "make sure they are indeed aware of the error of their ways."

You guys! What yocks! "So, Mr. Mukhabarat Man, are you indeed aware of the error of your ways?" "Oh yes, boss, I got my mind right!" "Not going to rape or torture anybody anymore?" "Oh no, boss, no – not unless you tell me to!" "Okey-dokey then! You're hired! Get on over to Abu Ghraib – you've got some interrogating to do!"

What? It's not funny? What do you mean? Look at those Iraqi kids over there, those American soldiers – they're grinning from ear to ear! No, wait – that's just their skulls. The new Bushabarat are using them for soccer practice.

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Citizen McCain:Hugging the Hard Right Shore

Written by Chris Floyd 29 November 2005 6351 Hits

This Nation article ("The Real McCain") is a good antidote for all those naïfs out there who believe that John McCain is some kind of "maverick," a genuine alternative to the hard-right Bushist machine. If anything, McCain's rock-ribbed conservative credentials have long been more solid than Bush's. Read McCain's gushy, cringing praises of his Glorious Leader below and you will know exactly what we have here: another Colin Powell, riding a media-concocted image of bipartisan statesmanship to national prominence, but when the chips are down, falling dutifully into line behind the ruthless agenda of the predatory Right. God save us from any more such poseurs.

[Excerpt] But the senator...projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy....

 He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary... he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities.

In late September, as Bush's presidency tailspinned, McCain headlined a dinner of conservative intellectuals sponsored by The American Spectator magazine. "Campaigning with George W. Bush was one of the proudest moments of my life," McCain declared. "McCain spoke fervently and with obvious sincerity about how much he admires Bush and the job he has been doing," wrote Michael Barone of US News & World Report...

McCain has urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral." At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government."

In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL..He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

The turning point came when McCain not only endorsed Bush for re-election but made more than twenty campaign appearances with the President and defended his Iraq policy at the Republican National Convention....McCain campaigned with Bush on his push for Social Security privatization last spring...McCain strongly supported all three of Bush's Supreme Court picks.

"I admire the religious right for the dedication and zeal they put into the political process," McCain told Larry King recently. [End excerpt]

Oh yes, he was also hip deep in one of the most sordid bribery scandals in modern Senate history -- the Keating Five -- and barely escaped the hoosegow by the skin of his teeth. If this is your big bipartisan hero, the visionary statesman who will "bring us together" (as long as we all agree to live in locked-down, hard-right bliss) -- you "muscular liberals" can have him.

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Truth:A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Written by Chris Floyd 28 November 2005 6177 Hits
A soldier speaks the truth - now watch the Beltway cowards and their blogger brigades tremble. From a letter to Stars and Stripes, via Buzzflash:

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Weapons of mass destruction? I'm still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom" touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces' belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire" society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald's, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans "feel good" about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.
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