Posted tagged ‘Abu Ghraib’


December 11, 2014

The Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001 shocked America. Not only were three thousand citizens killed but four passenger jets were hijacked right before our eyes. How could something so catastrophic happen in a Country that spends so much on intelligence gathering?

9/11 happened early in the George W Bush – Dick Cheney Administration. It was somewhat understandable, although completely unacceptable, that a new Administration might have trouble connecting the dots. After all Osama ben Laden and al Qaeda were not unknown to the intelligence community, but it does take time for an administration to gel.

The Neoconservative element saw an opening to asset a much more proactive foreign policy. They saw a chance for the US to flex it muscles and teach these “bad people” a lesson. Little did most Americans know that neocons had populated many key jobs in the Bush/Cheney teams. Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowicz, Scooter Libby, and David Firth, all charter members of the PNAC (Project for the New American Century) began writing position papers on what the US needed to do to fight these radicals. Two products of their recommendations became the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq and enhanced interrogation techniques.

Both of these events went beyond the accepted bounds of governance and stepped into the unchartered area of war crimes.

The neocon driven frenzy connected Iraq and Saddam Hussein with 9/11 and the Iraq efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Using phony intelligence, this neocon faction got Colin Powell to say before the US Security Counsel that proof existed that Iraq was active in developing weapons of mass destruction. Time has shown this claim to be totally false.

When the Iraq invasion turned sour and instead of handing flowers to incoming US soldiers, the presumed grateful Iraqis offer IEDs to unsuspecting and unprotected US troops. Thanks to the neocons.

The neocons, however, were just getting started. They pressured the CIA and the Army to get tough with prisoners and gather intelligence. The Senate Intelligence Committee report issued yesterday fairly well documents the excesses of the CIA effort.

Abu Ghraib showcased the attempted corruption of the military.  When Army prison officials would not voluntarily adopt enhanced interrogation, CIA and private security contractors were brought into work in Abu Ghraib.  The rest is sad history.

The third piece of the get tough policy was to pressure the Justice Department to write opinions which held these methods as legal (thanks to Jonathan Yoo).

In both these cases, the neocon method of deflecting criticism (and frankly indictments) was to blame excess upon the low level soldiers and CIA officers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prison guards and the CIA officers were doing what they were told to do.

The politically clever but ethically and morally lacking behavior of top Government officials such as George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfeld stand out for all to see… unless one is not distracted into the debate whether useful information was obtained from the use of torture or whether Saddam Hussein was a evil person or not.

Bush by apparent laziness and Cheney by misplaced intent started a ball rolling and cared not to know the details, only confirmation of results.

The fiery rhetoric we are hearing today is the frenzied GOP efforts to get this genie back in the bottle.

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee report was written only by Democrats (Republicans refused to participate).
  • The Committee did not interview any of the CIA leaders involved (They had already testified before Congress and they were currently part of an on-going criminal investigation and would be limited in what they could/would say).
  • The intelligence results may or may not have been valuable. The Committee report says no, CIA officials say yes. What is not being debated is whether enhanced methods were necessary and have clearly not lead to a safer world today. (More to the point, torture is outlawed in a treaty to which the US is a signatory.

Additionally, unless the US wishes to adopt the standard line from Russia and China that “this matter is about the internal affairs of another country and we do not meddle in those matters”, using enhanced interrogation makes the US clearly a hypocrite country.)

Abu CIA sprung from the same bad seeds.

Follow The Leader

July 18, 2011

The big news story occupying front page attention, other than the Federal debt ceiling, is the fiasco in London. Headlines read “hacking” and “a close chummy relationship with Scotland Yard”.  Ruppert Murdoch’s English media empire seems to be crumbling and may soon disappear.  What could have caused this?

“Tabloid News” is the offered explanation.  You are supposed to nod your head and say, “oh yes, those sleazy excuses for newspapers”.  By that you are suppose to mean there are different standards for Tabloids.  They are like the “few bad apples” analogy we hear often here.

Murdoch’s “News of the World” tabloid has been implicated in hacking into private cell phones as a means of obtaining juicy bits of gossip, and then publishing this information .  Celebrities, the Royals, politicians, and innocent commoners were all violated.  Ethics and decency were words totally missing from the tabloid’s vocabulary.  The hint was “everyone was doing it”.

Donald Rumsfeld said the Abu Ghraib prison guards who treated Iraqi prisoners in a sick and depraved manner, were just a few bad apples.     We now know differently.  The prison guards were simply following what they thought their bosses wanted.  They were behaving in accordance with the tone at the top.

While President Bush may have been a somewhat innocent bystander, Vice President Dick Cheney was a cheerleader, if not ring leader.  Cheney still endorses “enhanced interrogation” techniques.  The “torture memos”, rendition, secret CIA prisons, and finally, Guantanamo were all part of the “tone at the top”.

Rupert Murdoch has set the tone for his media empire. Make money and take no prisoners.  In the UK, the technique was to gain personal information by what ever means, and then publish it.  In the US, his Fox News introduced a highly successful (from commercial perspective) TV network and showed everyone how to make money with one sided, inflammatory reporting and commentary.  Murdoch may have never told his UK management to “lie, cheat, and steal” but when they did, and the publication made money, he rewarded them.

Murdoch may be an exception but I think we need to be careful.  Past US practices of preventing too many news outlets to be owned by one person (or corporation) looks to be an important restriction worth revisiting.

The Wall Street Journal still publishes an excellent newspaper.  (They keep their political bent on the editorial and opinion pages.)  But there is no apparent reason to have the WSJ in the same stable as Fox News.

Looking broader, Comcast is getting dangerously close to being “too big to manage”.  With the largest number of cable franchises, NBC network (and its news divisions), Universal Entertainment, and a large number of local TV stations, Comcast represents both content and distribution.

In other arenas, our major financial institutions are too also big to fail.  They have had a corporate ethos that more profit is good profit even though they knew liar’s loans and predatory lending was not in anyone’s best interest.

The tone can reside in one person or with top management.  When it seeps out and pours down through the organization, it enables regular people to go astray.  In large and powerful organizations, these regular people can go far astray.

Murdoch and his UK problems are just the tip of a much larger iceberg.

A Continuing (Corporate) Gift

May 19, 2011

Just when most people thought the Catholic Church had decided to keep its head down and put in place “zero tolerance”governance practices for priest who molest others, especially children, the Catholic Corporation surprises you.

In a report somewhat reminiscent of the George W Bush Administration, the Church released the finding of a lengthy study which concluded it was the Hippy Era (60’s) that was to blame.  Dick Cheney routinely deflected attention from the fact that there was an organized effort to distort facts and persuade the American public with false information to back an invasion and occupation of Iraq.  Do you remember?  “They were bad apples in Abu Ghraib”.  “It was other Intelligence Agencies who lead the US to conclude Hussein possessed WMDs.”  “Scooter Libby was a patriot and not a common criminal who participated in outing a CIA agent.”

The Hippy connection is laughable at first blush.  It is horrifically sad upon reflection.  And it is so far off the mark in relevance that you must question the sincerity of the Church.

The issue of why certain priest abused their position of trust should never have been the question.  This happens through out society.  We have laws that deal with that and the laws should have been applied from the get go.  They were not.

So the real question before the house is why did the Catholic Church organizational leadership (to the highest levels) cover up these cases of abuse?  Why did these same officials thwart investigations and buy silence?  I see no relationship between these behaviors and the Hippy movement.


May 5, 2011

It has been instructive to hear Republican and Neoconservative supporters of former President George W Bush.  They have flocked to the forefront in search of any open microphone.  Their message… we were right.

If their message is directional, we can agree they were on the right side.  If their message is about truth, they are just as wrong today as they were from 2000 to 2008.

The crowd that supported “W” fell victims to the juice they were trying to sell everyone else.  Deconstructing government and helping oil companies and any other big spending K-Street organization was the focus of this group.  Their goal was simple.  Get elected and divert as much money as possible into the hands of supporters.

The Bush Administration slept until 9/11 took place.  They had been warned but knew better.  Following 9/11 there was little they could not do which would remind the nation of fear and how the nation needed these tough Bush guys.  The irony, of course, is that Karl Rove and “W” were two softies of the first magnitude.

Never the less all government responses to 9/11 were crafted for maximum impact on the 2004 election.  The enhanced interrogation methods were first conducted in secret since the nation’s reaction could not be predicted.  This was a cowardice Administration.

Think about these brave men.  Invading and occupying Iraq under false pretenses, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Katrina, wireless (unauthorized) wiretaps, NSA spying on Americans, and ultimately, the collapse of the financial sector.  This all happened on “W’s” watch.

So it is with amazement that I watch and listen to some that old crowd puff up their chests and try to claim credit for finding bin Laden.  They do not seem to remember that it is ten years after 9/11 or that the CIA “bin Laden” desk was disbanded during “W” term due to lack of action.

You have to suspect that Republican motivation is similar this time.  If they could fool the country into thinking it was Bush/Cheney that are responsible for bin Laden’s elimination, so much the better.  But they will settle for clouding the subject so that Democrats do not get credit.

It is not in Obama’s nature but his best move would be to encourage the right to say more about enhanced interrogation.  Then ask Attorney General Holder to prosecute.

Year End, Decade End

December 31, 2010

Today marks the end of the first decade of the 21st century.  Since it is the last day of both the year and the decade, one might ask the question, what has this period taught us?  Even more important, what have we learned?

I can think of three important lessons.  I am not sure, on the other hand, whether the Country has digested these events and learned anything.

War on Terror. It is difficult to understand, even today, how such an event as 9/11 could have taken place.  Sufficient precaution were in place but not followed.  Further, had the capability to lock the pilot’s cabin door been in place, it is arguable that the disaster might have been averted.  So what did we learn?

Not much based upon the Government’s reaction.  First, the event became politicized and the term “war on terror” was coined.  This was a thinly veiled ploy to gain Republican election victories.  Under this political cover, we have seen an invasion of a sovereign country that posed no imminent threat (pure opportunism since there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11), Abu Ghraib (reflection of the tone at the top of the Administration), enhanced interrogation (torture), and Gauntanamo detention facilities (indefinite detention).

Financial sector implosion.  During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, the financial sector found (created) ways to make a lot of money (fees) on mortgage and other lending transactions.  Mortgages which once were tied to the original lender (at least in part) were now being sold and resold.  Once the mortgage sold (or resold), the previous mortgage holder was free from any future liability.  Banks knowingly and willingly repackaged these mortgages and created instruments that spread the risk around the world in pieces that bore credit agency high ratings.  Financial firms then expanded the use of an unregulated form of insurance.  Once they began to see the imminent collapse of the mortgaged backed financial instruments, the use of this unregulated insurance instrument was seized upon even more.  Financial firms thus created a global interwoven web of insurance and cross insurance policies.  The result was that each institution could show healthy looking balance sheets (based upon the potential payoff from these insurance contracts).  No one took into account the consequences of what might happen if the “insurer” could not pay.  So, what did we learn?

Not much based upon the size of bonuses and salary packages that followed the financial bail outs.  The simplest learning should have been that banks have little or no regard for their social or moral position.  Further, they produce nothing yet they collect fees that place financial firms as the largest maker of corporate profits.  Sensible regulation should have been a no brainer but such proposals were made to look like an attack on motherhood.

Healthcare reform.  Comparisons of the US health care delivery system with those of other civilized, modern, industrial countries consistently show that the quality of US health care is mediocre while costing more than any other country.  Further one aspect of US health care is that unless you can afford it, or fit some poverty category, you do not get health care until it is too late or too costly, and on top of that, insurance companies in pursuit of higher profits can deny anyone coverage for their own reasons.  With models of many successful plans around the world, what did Washington reformers learn?

Not much based upon the 2009 reform.  For sure, President Obama’s reform eliminated the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage and this is morally a great step forward.  The reform also promises to slow the increase in premiums but did nothing to attack the current high cost or address the underlying factors of why the outcomes of the US health care system lag behind places like Germany, France, the UK, Canada, and Japan.  All elements of the health care industry (AMA, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies) attacked the suggestion of any reform that might affect them.  Not a one said lets step back and fix this socially and financially broken system).

The first decade of the 21st century has put in sharp focus the evolution of American values and misuse of capitalism.  America was founded upon individual hard work and progressive ideals.  Our country has flourished based upon hard work, innovation, and updating our progressive values.  America has always been at it best when the gulf between the rich and the poor, while real, were not excessive.  America has always flourished when education was put to work inventing and making things.  America has always flourished when the concept of “one man, one vote” was expanded to include all person, male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight, religious or not.

I hope that the second decade will demonstrate that these historic traditions have not been lost and America can flourish again.


Being Thankful

December 24, 2010

On Christmas Eve, there is time to reflect and assess how lucky (or unlucky) you might be.  This can be on a personal level or in a more abstract vein.  In particular, when I think in the abstract  about this blog, I see our Country “regaining the center”.  If we can stay there, this bodes very will for all ships.

Think about the not too distant past.  We had an Administration that picked people for their religious or political views and placed some of them in critical roles administering justice.  Imagine appointing John Yoo to write memos on the admissibility of torture. (Just the notion that someone would ask about torture is mind bending).

Think about an administration that made up story after story about why the US should invade a sovereign country that posed no imminent threat to the US.  Consider what happened when the tone at the top of this Administration taught that some people were less than human and places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo appeared.

Or, think about all the talk of god and reading the bible.   Now think about the Terry Schaivo disgrace and the wholesale rejection of science.  We cannot overlook that Administration’s views of regulations and regulators, and the incompetents who were placed in key posts.  Katrina, the burst housing bubble, and the financial sector implosion resonate from these decisions.

For sure in every Administration, fate or luck plays a role.  Some years everything seems to go well with the economy and world affairs.  And, in other years, misfortune reigns.  When an Administration enters any period with a strong tilt, either right or left, the ship of state is in for a rough ride.

The years 2000-2008 were dreadful in this respect.  We are only two years into the new Administration but somehow I think the ship of state has a better chance to sail the course.


Closing the Door – Almost

August 19, 2010

Yesterday in a made for TV special, the US Army exited Iraq. Well that’s almost true. It was a made for TV special (featured on MSNBC). The last Brigade rolled through the boarder to Kuwait and the end officially came to the US combat role in Iraq. About 100,000 other US troops had already done that in the previous weeks, with no fan fare, so in one sense the last group’s departure was for show.

The military, itself, and certainly most of the troops served with professionalism and dedication. MSNBC made this point repeatedly. For those currently on active duty and coming home, those were fitting words.

In reality, however, the Iraq debacle is a matter of great American shame. The pretenses for invading were fabricated and shown to be untrue before the world. The rotten “tone at the top” projected by chicken hawks George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld trickled down and gave us Abu Ghraib, enhanced interrogation, NSA warrantless spying, and Guantanamo detention facility. These were four smears on the American way heaped on top of the assertion that American can invade another sovereign country at will.

Sadly no amount of parades or media accolades can erase the real situation behind the departure of US troops. It is not the troops fault. It was a failure at the top of our Country facilitated by a content hungry (and history deprived) news media. No matter how professional (or how successful) US forces were, their efforts were for naught. The Iraq invasion and occupation should never have taken place.

It is difficult to decide which is worse, the $ 700 billion price tag and the 4400 lost lives, or the terrible precedent and resulting stain on Americas reputation?

Poor Judgement

February 20, 2010

The Justice Department has released its findings in the investigation of the “torture memos”. And the answer, please. The authors used “poor judgement”.

This is certainly a testimonial to clear thinking. All Americans should rest easier knowing that their Justice Department professionals can determine that the “torture memos” and those that created them used poor judgement.

What other words might have been used? Were these memos “insightful”? Were these memos “brilliantly conceived”? Were these memos “extensions of previous precedents”? The answer, of course, is no.   Not any of those possibilities could be used to describe the memos.

John Yoo was recruited to his position in the George W Bush Justice Department largely because he was bright, ambitious,very conservative, and, as a bonus, sympathetic to the view that the chief executive is the more equal of the three equal branches of Government. He was just the type of lawyer Dick Cheney was looking for. Yoo listened to what was wanted (justification to use enhanced interrogation techniques) and went to work on developing memorandum that provided legal cover to those who would subsequently violate US Law, the Geneva Convention, and common sense.

Yoo and his former boss, Jay Bybee failed the test of professional ethics and did their clients (President George W Bush as well as Dick the chicken hawk Cheney) a huge disservice by issuing the torture memos.

It is hard to explain the whitewashing that the Obama Administration Justice Department has given in its final conclusions (if you read the report, the facts would lead most people to a much harsher conclusion). One explanation is that one lawyer is just trying to protect another. More likely, however, is the desire not to open Pandora’s box. Had Bybee and Yoo been charged with “misconduct” and disbarment proceedings were to begin, the trail would quickly lead to former Vice President Cheney and ultimately to former President Bush. It seems our leaders do not have the stomach for opening this wrenching examination.

Instead Americans are left with facts that support a much stronger conclusion but findings that simply do not go far enough. No wonder Americans do not trust the Government or lawyers.

Is That A Chest or A Tail?

November 16, 2009

Over the weekend, we heard a new chorus of chicken hawks, their feathers neatly preened, warning Americans of the imminent danger that is involved with trying Guantanamo detainees in US Courts. Voices like that of Senator Joe “l want the Surge” Lieberman mounfully warned of wreckless danger in Attorney General Holder’s announcement that 5 detainees, all associated directly with planning 9/11, would be brought to court in New York City. I just wonder whether I am seeing Lieberman’s chest bravely sticking out or whether instead it is his tail.

Senators Bluster and Fluster were also on the Sunday talk show circuit denouncing rumors that the Government might move as many as 100 detainees to a prison in Illinois. I guess the good Senators were on holiday when they taught in American History class that around 300,000 German POWs were housed all over the US during WWII.

What really stands out is that these same people who object to moving detainees to the US mainland, were standing tall in support of the foolish and unnecessary invasion of Iraq.

A chicken hawk is a special kind of person. They take pains to avoid military duty themselves, but are quick to send other people’s children into war. They pompously preach behind the American flag and spout the great values we must all protect.

Guantanamo has been a disgrace to those American values and it is time to correct this mistake.

Cheney’s Song

August 31, 2009

US Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special prosecutor (Ed Durham) for the alleged purpose of investigating CIA “excesses and abuses” of the interrogation of detainees. From what has been discussed in the media for a long time, this seems poorly focused. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, true to form, has once again this past weekend sung his favorite song about “how the ends justify the means”.

Reports indicate that the CIA did not want the responsibility of interrogating anyone but never the less were tapped by the Bush Administration. We know also that the Justice Department, under former Attorney General John Ashcroft, worked diligently to find someone like Jonathan Yoo, who would write opinions that defined torture as akin to organ failure. We know that these rulings were requested by the CIA for their legal protection, and can rationally assume that protection was not lost on White House officials. And we now know that a wisw range of “enhanced interrogation” techniques were used on detainees with one detainee being waterboarded over 100 times. How can this be a case of excesses and abuses? This was clearly a case of Government Policy.

The question is how can anyone in the CIA, at the “hands on” interrogation level, be guilty of anything when the Vice President and the Justice Department were on record for endorsing their methods. It was not a question of ambiguity but rather one of prerogative. As Richard Nixon once said, “if the President says its ok, than it is legal”. This was debunked once and should be again.

The greatest mistake that Special Prosecutor Durham could make is do a rerun of the Abu Ghraib charade. “They were just “bad apples”, proclaimed the White House. Later we were to learn that the degrading and disgusting photos were really the result of an overall license which taught subordinates to think of detainees as things, not humans. The source of the Abu Ghraib disgrace and the excess of CIA interrogation are the same, Government policy.

Former Vice President Cheney declared this weekend that he might not cooperate with this “political” investigation. I wonder what he will say when he, himself, becomes the target?