Friday, May 04, 2012

The torture crimes of the Cheney-Bush Administration aren't going away

The systematic use of torture during the Cheney-Bush Administration continue to be an issue and will be for many years into the future. So far, we have only circumstantial evidence that the Obama Administration may be continuing torture in some form. It certainly seems clear that Bradley Manning was tortured by the extreme sensory isolation to which he was subjected, similar in kind to the treatment that fried US citizen Jose Padilla's brain. Padilla was publicized by former Attorney General John Ashcroft as an aspiring "dirty bomber", but the government never even charged him with anything related to a "dirty bomb".

Human rights attorney and torture opponent Scott Horton talks about the recent spectacle of Jose Rodriguez, CIA torturer who is now doing a book tour bragging about his career as a war criminal. (Jose Rodriguez, Poster Boy No Comment 05/01/2012)

He points out the painfully obvious - painfully obvious, that is, if your not a celebrity pundit who lives to be invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner every year - about Rodriguez' motive to destroy torture tapes: "His motivations in shredding them therefore seem clear enough: he was afraid of criminal prosecution."

And Horton writes (italicized insert in original):

Indeed, why has Rodriguez not been charged and put on trial? That’s a question many are asking as he takes to the airwaves to push the idea that torture works. The only satisfactory answer lies in the doctrine of in pari delicto [In pari delicto applies when both sides of a lawsuit have been involved in the same wrongdoing.] - the Justice Department is itself so deeply enmeshed in Rodriguez's crimes that it could hardly prosecute the case. But if this doctrine explains the DOJ’s failure to prosecute, it also suggests that someone else should be bringing the charges. ...

There is no immediate threat that charges will be brought against Rodriguez and his bosses - not under Barack Obama and Eric Holder. But Rodriguez has plenty of reason to be concerned that such charges will be pressed against him outside of the United States, and eventually here as well. Rodriguez is a thirty-year veteran of the CIA who spent virtually his entire career in Latin America, serving in Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and other locations. He happily embraces the dark side; indeed, Latin America was home to some of the blackest of CIA black ops, including assassinations and operational support for regimes that routinely used torture. But he would also have observed what happened to many of the CIA’s allies who turned to torture—to generals and admirals who fought the “dirty war” in Argentina and Uruguay, to Pinochet loyalists in Chile, and to Alberto Fujimori in Peru. Each of these regimes left office armored with amnesties and immunities, with official decisions to decline prosecution, and, significantly, with strong public support for the use of torture as a necessary evil in the battle against terrorists. But in the past few years, former heads of state and leading figures in the intelligence communities of each of these countries have been charged, tried, and convicted of crimes that include torture and conspiring to torture.

What happened? Across more than two decades, public opinion steadily turned against those who had used torture. This process was driven by disclosures of photographs and tapes of heinous acts, by the meticulous work of forensic pathologists who gave the victims a voice, by survivors who forcefully recounted their experiences, by journalists who published exposés, and by lawyers who pressed for information to be revealed and who painstakingly assembled facts for lawsuits. [my emphasis in bold]
I continue to think that the single greatest failure of the Obama Administration was to decline their legal obligation under international treaty to prosecute torture crimes. Torture is a fundamental breach of the rule of law that threatens the entire structure of the rule of law in a fundamental way. Obama's obligation as President was to see that these crimes were prosecuted and the practice halted. He very consciously declined to do so.

The torture crimes aren't going away.

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