War Crimes


Salon.com has more….


I know, I know … the Bush Administration’s war crimes are so passe. Who cares! Get over it, hippie! So, just as Curveball’s latest confession that he completely fabricated the Saddam Hussein-WMD story has caused nary a ripple in the U.S. media’s constant election coverage, I’m sure the largely-unredacted release of Philip Zelikow’s 2006 torture memo won’t register, either. Zelikow was a senior advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a strong critic of the Bush Administration’s authorization of torture. You can read his full memo warning that the use of torture is illegal here.

From the story:

Zelikow wrote that a law passed that year by Congress, restricting interrogation techniques, meant the “situation has now changed.” Both legally and as a matter of policy, he advised, administration officials were endangering both CIA interrogators and the reputation of the United States by engaging in extreme interrogations — even those that stop short of torture.

“We are unaware of any precedent in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or any subsequent conflict for authorized, systematic interrogation practices similar to those in question here,” Zelikow wrote, “even where the prisoners were presumed to be unlawful combatants.”

Other “advanced governments that face potentially catastrophic terrorist dangers” have “abandoned several of the techniques in question here,” Zelikow’s memo writes. The State Department blacked out a section of text that apparently listed those governments.

“Coercive” interrogation methods “least likely to be sustained” by judges were “the waterboard, walling, dousing, stress positions, and cramped confinement,” Zelikow advised, “especially [when] viewed cumulatively.” (Most CIA torture regimens made use of multiple torture techniques.) “Those most likely to be sustained are the basic detention conditions and, in context, the corrective techniques, such as slaps.”

The Obama Administration doesn’t get a pass on any of this, either, coming to the same conclusion as the Bush Administration regarding torture. I find this interesting:

Zelikow’s warnings about the legal dangers of torture went unheeded — not just by the Bush administration, which ignored them, but, ironically, by the Obama administration, which effectively refuted them. In June, the Justice Department concluded an extensive inquiry into CIA torture by dropping potential charges against agency interrogators in 99 out of 101 cases of detainee abuse. That inquiry did not examine criminal complicity for senior Bush administration officials who designed the torture regimen and ordered agency interrogators to implement it.

“I don’t know why Mr. Durham came to the conclusions he did,” Zelikow says, referring to the Justice Department special prosecutor for the CIA torture inquiry, John Durham. “I’m not impugning them, I just literally don’t know why, because he never published any details about either the factual analysis or legal analysis that led to those conclusions.”

Here’s a wild-haired tinfoil hat conspiracy theory for you: I have a friend who is convinced that the Obama Administration cut a deal with the Republican Party. The deal was that the GOP would not field any viable presidential candidate in 2012. In return, the Obama Administration wouldn’t prosecute any Bush Administration officials over the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq War, their use of torture against detainees, etc.

Sounds crazy, I know — especially when you remember that Mitt Romney could easily win in November, what with all of the voter intimidation tactics, the river of money buying this election, the shaky economy, etc. But it’s an interesting theory.

The Bush Administration set the bar to a new low regarding human rights. This is a legacy we’ll be living with for a long, long time. I think this is one of those things they’ll be making movies about in 50 years, the way we look back with horror on the McCarthy hearings. The fact that no one seems interested in even discussing it right now strikes me as a collective admission of guilt by the American people. We know we were wrong, let’s just sweep it all under the rug. No need to worry our beautiful minds about it … yet.


Filed under Bush Administration, Condolezza Rice, Iraq War, torture

12 responses to “War Crimes

  1. Ivan Ivanovich Renko

    This does not require a conspiracy between President Obama and the Republicans.

    All this requires is a recognition of what the right would do if it perceived a Republican administration under legal attack by a Democratic adminstration. You think they hate that Negro now?

    I mean, I think we’d be talking second Civil War, because those people are fucking crazy. (2nd amendment solutions, anyone? blood of patriots and tyrants? don’t tread on me?)

    It does not further the cause of justice, but neither would it to touch off the madness.

    Welcome to Earth, where sometimes there ain’t no good choices.

  2. Randy

    I was in a passionate debate this morning with another Tennessean who was denying hanging a “Whites Only” sign outside a bathroom in their home was racist. Welcome to America. How quickly we forget. ( and for those of you thinking “Hmm…Jim Crow home decor…wonder if there’s a market for that? I thought of it and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.)

    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko

      Well, since that esteemed Tennessean is unlikely to ever allow a black person into his/her home… so since no Negro will ever see it, how could it be racist?

      (by definition, you damn dummy.)

      • Randy

        Damn. My bad. I missed class the day the “Nuances of Quasi-Bigotry In Modern Home Design” lecture was delivered.

        Carry on…

      • Ivan Ivanovich Renko

        My bad– I was referring to the esteemed Tennessean with the sign in his house as the “damn dummy.” Occasionally I get to quippy for my own good. Apologies for any misunderstanding!

  3. You guys are too funny. Yes, Tennessee is a racist place. I’ve just been confronted with exactly how racist in the past year.

  4. Just don’t let it happen again Ivan or I’ll call you Reince Priebus.

  5. War on Women=War on Caterpillars

    ooops, sorry… random………… Just heard Reince Preibus say this.

  6. Racism is alive and well, everywhere I go. It’s not a trait that’s limited to any locale. The “good news” is that if we didn’t have afro-american brown people to hate on we’d still have plenty of other sortabrown people, including southern italians, sicilians, indians, pakistanis–well, it’a a long list. USAryan! USAryan!! USAryan!!!

    The one difference between places like the U.S. South and the U.S. Northeast is that people–racist asshole people– have been a bit more clever in their attempts to disenfranchise non-whites and keep them on the margins of society.

  7. Mark Rogers

    If I can disengage this discussion from ‘aren’t we so much better than ever white person who doesn’t think like us’ to the issue of torture, I would like to make a few points.

    1) Just because some of our allies claim not to use torture does not mean that the are telling the truth. I could think of several nations with traditions of doing whatever they think necessary to achieve important national ends.

    2) Throughout the history of the Geneva Convention there is ample evidence that bans on torture have not prevented other nations from torturing Americans. And it is worth mentioning that in the case of the Japanese, the Nazis, the Communist Chinese, the North Koreans, the North Vietnamese and various groups of terrorists, much of the torture was done for fun rather than to learn anything of value.

    3) Terrorists are not signatories to the Geneva Convention or other agreement between states. They are not soldiers or representatives of legitimate governments. As such, we cannot declare ‘war’ or negotiate treaties with them. The do not fight battles but prefer to attack innocent citizens {like all the non-Americans in the two towers}.

    Police cannot carry out investigations in other countries or be sure that suspects can be extradited to face American justice.

    All those factors argue that terrorists do not deserve the same protections as legitimate soldiers. And since they target civilians, it seems reasonable to suggest that they have placed themselves out of the mainstream of nations and do not merit legal protections.

    Of course, if you wish to argue that America should hold itself to a higher standard because America is really the Shining City on a Hill and that we can forgo torture as part of our continued effort to remain so, than I would agree with you. Anything that causes Americans to remember that we should be better because we are Americans is a valid argument for me.

    • I don’t see the relevance of “what other countries do” here. I seem to recall “those other countries” being prosecuted for their actions, as well. And yes, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, considering we did prosecute “those other countries” for doing it. What does it matter that bans on torture aren’t always effective? Our law prohibits murder, rape and kidnapping, but we still arrest and prosecute those who violate the law.

      The argument that the Geneva Conventions don’t protect terrorists is something long debated by far greater minds than mine — and yours. It is, in fact, the entire fucking point here, isn’t it? It was the point of Zelikow’s memo, contradicting other Bush Administration legal opinions: that the Geneva Conventions DO apply to Al Qaeda. It is, in fact, the point of this blog post. Maybe click the link and read it.

      • Mark Rogers


        The vast majority of prosecutions after WWII were of people who engaged in killings not acts of torture. And again, torture for fun rather than for information was the far more common practice.

        If al Quaeda tortures and murders with no regard for treaties, then why should we bind our hands in dealing with such people? I have seen officers who served in Vietnam admit to using torture to discover information about potential Viet Cong activities.

        As for Mr. Zelikow’s arguments, just because you happen to agree with his interpretation does not mean that he is right. For every lone dissent by a Mr. Justice Harlan in ‘Plessy; there are countless opinions from justices to states’ attorneys general that are never paid any more attention.

        Regarding Mr. Zelikow’s mind, I would not grant him any superior intellectual ability to you. He is supposed to be an expert in these issues, not a constitutional idiot savant. But then the other people writing conflicting opinions are experts too.