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Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Village Voice > What Did Rumsfeld Know? ACLU releases documents of U.S. torture of detainees by more than 'a few bad apples'

Nat Hentoff
What Did Rumsfeld Know?
ACLU releases documents of U.S. torture of detainees by more than 'a few bad apples'
by Nat Hentoff
January 4th, 2005 10:55 AM Write to Us
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The secretary of defense: Is he above the law?
photo: Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, U.S. Air Force/USDDU.S. officials who take part in torture, authorize it, or even close their eyes to it, can be prosecuted by courts anywhere in the world [under international law].
Kenneth Roth, executive director, Human Rights Watch, December 27, 2002
U.S. Navy documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that abuse and even torture of detainees by U.S. Marines in Iraq was widespread. . . . ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero [said] "this kind of widespread abuse could not have taken place without a leadership failure of the highest order."
American Civil Liberties Union, December 14, 2004
The president insists that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will remain in office, and on December 19, Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card Jr., said on ABC News' This Week that "Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a spectacular job and the president has great confidence in him."
However, on December 9, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, wrote Rumsfeld to express his "deep concern over issues related to detainees being held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Recent reports indicate that not only were detainees mishandled and interrogated in a manner inconsistent with the Geneva Conventions, but that subsequent internal reports of abuse appear to have been suppressed . . .
"While the abuse of detainees is unacceptable under any circumstance, reports of the suppression of evidence regarding abuse are extremely disturbing. . . . Please inform me of the actions you intend to take." As of this writing, there has been no response.
For two years—in this column, as well as from human rights groups and the press, particularly the reporting of Dana Priest in The Washington Post—there has been mounting evidence of torture of prisoners by American forces, including "ghost prisoners" in secret CIA interrogation centers.
These reports include stories of "extreme interrogation techniques" used by Special Operation Forces (Navy SEALs, Delta Force, et al.) under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld and his close associates in the Defense Department. Rumsfeld has long encouraged the use of Special Operation Forces.
But now, with the release by the ACLU of actual government documents not intended for the public to see, the president is confronted with irrefutable evidence of continued violations of not only the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, but also our own torture statute forbidding such practices.
As for the suppression of evidence, there is this December 8 report in The New York Sun by Paisley Dodds of the Associated Press on the documents released by the ACLU:
"[U.S.] Special Forces [accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq] . . . monitored e-mail messages sent by [troubled Defense personnel in the field] and ordered them 'not to talk to anyone' in America about what they saw."
U.S. Navy documents released by the ACLU include "interviews with Navy personnel [about] routine abusive treatment of detainees by U.S. Marines in Iraq. . . . In one interview, a Navy medical officer described the regular process by which Iraqis classified as Enemy Prisoners of War would be taken to an empty swimming pool, handcuffed, leg-cuffed, and have a burlap bag placed over their head.
"They would then remain in kneeling position for up to 24 hours awaiting interrogation. Despite this description, the [navy medical] officer stated that he 'never saw any instances of physical abuse' towards the detainees."
And from Richard Serrano in the December 15 Los Angeles Times:
"Marines in Iraq conducted mock executions of juvenile prisoners last year, burned and tortured other detainees with electrical shocks, and warned a Navy corpsman they would kill him if he treated any injured Iraqis."
That was one of the stories based on documents released by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that was joined by Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans for Peace, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The latter organization has compiled a massively documented indictment of Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet, and other U.S. officials and military personnel for war crimes perpetuated against Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib.
The charges have been filed at the German federal prosecutor's office at the Karlsruhe Court in Karlsruhe, Germany, where, "under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, suspected war criminals may be prosecuted irrespective of where they are located." (Emphasis added.) (Also see James Ridgeway's "'War Crimes' Murmurs," Mondo Washington, December 22-28, 2004.)
After the photographs of the repellent Abu Ghraib abuses were circulated around the world, the president attributed those atrocities to "a few bad apples" in the lower ranks of the military.
One of those "bad apples" is Lynndie England, the soldier smiling, pointing to the genitals of a prisoner at Abu Ghraib, and holding a naked prisoner by a leash. She could face a prison term of up to 38 years. But how long will Donald Rumsfeld and other august officials in the Defense Department, along with administration lawyers who have provided contorted permission to these crimes, avoid accountability?
How many members of Congress will join Senator Jeff Bingaman in his attempt to open the Defense and Justice departments to the rule of American law? Will we hear from New York senators Schumer and Clinton, who have been silent on the question of torture? Or will a judgment on Rumsfeld et al. be made only in Germany?
Will the president speak about an FBI agent's account, released by the ACLU on December 20, of interrogations at Guantánamo in which detainees were shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor and kept in that position for 18 to 24 hours at a time until most had "urinated or defacated [sic]" on themselves?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Baghdad Governor Slain as Attacks in Capital Intensify

The New York Times > International > Middle East >Baghdad Governor Slain as Attacks in Capital Intensify

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 4 - Gunmen assassinated the governor of Baghdad Province today, the highest-ranking Iraqi official slain since May, not long after insurgents detonated a huge fuel-truck bomb that killed 10 people and wounded about 60 in central Baghdad, near the main American compound and an office of the Interior Ministry. At least eight of the dead were Iraqi commandos.

The governor, Ali al-Haidari, and several of his bodyguards were killed after he left his home this morning, according to the Interior Ministry. Mr. Haidari was the most senior Iraqi official assassinated since the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ezzedine Salim, an Islamist politician and writer, was killed by a suicide bomber on May 17.

The steady violence in Iraq, which also claimed the lives of four American soldiers and a marine, prompted Iraq's interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, to urge the United Nations to look into whether Iraq should go ahead with elections scheduled for Jan. 30.

"The United Nations, as an independent umbrella of legitimacy, should really take the responsibility by seeing whether that is possible or not," Mr. al-Yawar, a Sunni Arab sheik, said in an interview with Reuters. "On a logical basis, there are signs that it will be a tough call to hold the election."

His comments pulled back from the position he expressed in Washington in December, when he and President Bush asserted that elections must go ahead as scheduled, despite the violence.

Despite Mr. Yawar's new misgivings, that message was reiterated in Washington and throughout the Bush administration today.

The chief White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that on Monday President Bush and Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, had discussed the importance of the elections taking place as scheduled and that there had been "no discussion of delaying the election."

"Most of the country is in a secure-enough environment to proceed with those elections," Mr. McClellan said, adding that American forces were working with Iraqi security officers to improve conditions in places where they were not yet adequate so "as many people as possible can participate."

A senior State Department official in Iraq, who spoke to reporters in Washington via a Pentagon hookup, echoed that message. "I think absolutely the elections are going to be held on Jan. 30," the official said this afternoon, speaking on condition of anonymity under rules for what is termed a "background briefing." "I don't think there's any question out here in Iraq. And frankly, I don't think the security situation is deteriorating. I think the security situation is actually a little better than it was, say, six weeks ago" and that in "most of Iraq, the situation is not that bad, frankly."

The administration also got support from Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who told reporters that the interim government was still determined to proceed with elections on Jan. 30.

In Phuket, Thailand, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he was saddened to learn of Governor Haidari's killing. "It once again shows that there are these murderers and terrorists, former regime elements in Iraq, that don't want to see an election," he said. "They don't want to see the people of Iraq choose their own leadership. They want to go back to the past."

The terror group headed by Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took credit for the attack in an Internet posting, calling Mr. al-Haidari an "autocrat" and his killing part of an effort to "liberate this city and all the country."

The Zarqawi group also took credit for detonating the fuel truck in western Baghdad this morning as it sped toward the commandos' outpost in the Qadissiya neighborhood. Witnesses said guards fired at the tanker as it hurtled toward them, killing the driver but failing to stop the tanker from exploding.

"The police had shot the suicide bomber, but the tanker moved on and killed most of those who were in the front gate, whether civilians or guards," a 23-year-old commando said. The insurgents, he said, "don't want elections to be held, the terrorists don't want a stable country here."

Muhammed Hashem, a 40-year-old laborer who lives nearby, said, "We woke up at 9 a.m. from the sound of the explosion, and saw window panes destroyed, and shrapnel everywhere."

"The place has been targeted before twice, the Americans and the police should have provided more security to it, but they haven't," Mr. Hashem said. "The Iraqi blood has become so cheap that we have people everyday killed for trivial reasons."

The two bloody attacks converged at the Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad. As victims from the tanker truck bombing were carried in, the widow of Governor Haidari stood with her 16-year-old son, Hussein. "We've got no one to turn to now," she said.

The American casualties came in three attacks, the military said. In northern Baghdad, three soldiers from the First Cavalry Division were killed and two were wounded about 11 a.m. local time by an improvised bomb. About 30 minutes later a soldier from the First Infantry Division was killed and one was wounded when a bomb exploded near Balad, the site of an American air base, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. The marine was killed while carrying out security operations with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Al Anbar Province, a restive Sunni region west of the capital.

The violence today came a day after more than 20 Iraqis and Westerners were killed in five separate attacks that included car bombs, hidden artillery shells, and a booby-trapped, headless corpse. On Sunday, 18 Iraqi troops and one civilian were killed in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, when a suicide bomber detonated his four-wheel-drive vehicle next to a bus full of Iraqi national guardsmen.

While American military commanders say they believe the violence is designed to derail the national elections and throw Iraq into even deeper turmoil, several people interviewed at the scene of this morning's tanker bombing said the attack would only strengthen their resolve to vote.

"It's true that they don't want us to take part in the elections," a 26-year-old man wounded by the blast near the Interior Ministry office said, "but I am telling you that I am now more committed to go to the electoral centers and vote."

Christine Hauser, Zaineb Obeid and Layla Istifan contributed reporting from Baghdad for this article, and David Stout from Washington.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Shirley Chisholm

BBC NEWS | Americas | First black US Congresswoman dies

BBC NEWS | Americas | First black US Congresswoman dies

First black US Congresswoman dies
Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the US Congress and also the first woman to run for the presidency, has died, aged 80.

She was an outspoken advocate of women's and minority rights during her seven terms in the House of Representatives from 1969 until 1982.

She also famously sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.

Ms Chisholm, who died on Saturday in Florida, had recently suffered several strokes, US media reported.


Born in New York in 1924, Shirley Chisholm was the eldest of four children of Caribbean immigrants to America.

She began her professional career as a nursery school teacher, and soon became actively involved in local politics with the Democratic Party.

I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo
Shirley Chisholm
She ran successfully for the New York State Assembly in 1964, before becoming the first black congresswoman - representing her native Brooklyn district - in the House of Representatives five years later.

During her terms in office she campaigned tirelessly for women's and minority rights, and was also a staunch critic of the Vietnam War.

Her failed presidential bid in 1972 was viewed as more symbolic than practical.

"I ran for the presidency, despite hopeless odds, to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo," she later wrote in her book The Good Fight.

After leaving Congress in 1982, she taught for several years at a college in Massachusetts and was also a speaker on the lecture circuit.

She spent the last years of her life living in Florida.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson called Shirley Chisholm "a woman of great courage".

"She was an activist and she never stopped fighting," he told the Associated Press news agency.
Story from BBC NEWS:

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies

African American political pioneer Chisholm dies
NEW YORK, Jan. 3 — Political pioneer Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress and a champion of women's rights, died Saturday in Florida, congressional officials said. She was 80.
Details of her death were not yet known, but a former member of her staff told The New York Times she had suffered several recent strokes.
Chisholm, a slender, sharp-tongued former teacher, served seven terms representing a poverty-stricken district in Brooklyn and was one of the first women ever to seek the presidential nomination of a major party, winning 151 delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami. She served in Congress until 1982.
''She was a great trailblazer, not only for African Americans but for women,'' civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who sought the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, told Reuters.
Chisholm, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Organization for Women, hired an all-women staff during her first term in Congress and spoke out for civil rights, women's rights and against the Vietnam War.
Chisholm's 1968 congressional campaign slogan was ''unbought and unbossed,'' which she also used as the title of her 1970 book about her historic election.
The daughter of a factory worker and a seamstress from the Caribbean islands, Chisholm attended Brooklyn College and went on to earn a master's degree in elementary education at Columbia University.
Chisholm taught at a nursery school and eventually became a nursery school director and an educational consultant to New York's bureau of child welfare before turning to politics.
After registering a shock victory to win her seat in Congress, Chisholm wasted little time in raising her voice.
Placed on the House Agriculture Committee, Chisholm challenged the assignment as irrelevant to constituents in her urban district.
''Apparently all they know here in Washington about Brooklyn is that a tree grew there,'' she said in a statement at the time referring to Betty Smith's well-known book.
She was soon reassigned to the Veterans Affairs Committee and later to the Education and Labor Committee.
''She was a hero to those of us who wanted to see blacks advance to their rightful place in politics,'' George Dalley, chief of staff to New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, said Monday.
Sharpton said he had known Chisholm since he was an 18-year-old working as a youth director on her presidential campaign.
''If not for her I don't think Condoleezza Rice would ever had existed,'' he said, referring to President Bush's national security adviser and secretary of state designate.
''She broke the barrier down for black women in the highest circles of power in Washington and she did it with dignity and did it effectively and did it with no fear.''
Funeral arrangements for Chisholm were expected to be made public Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman at the Leo C. Chase & Son Funeral Home in St. Augustine, Florida.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Newsday > HE'S A MAN OF INFLUENCE Rep. Charles Rangel may be Democrats' best bet at countering Bush's economic agenda in the House


January 2, 2005

WASHINGTON - Returning home from the Korean War in 1952, Charles Rangel thought he had reached the pinnacle of success.

He had a pocket full of money, a chest covered with medals and a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings chronicling his battlefield heroics that saved the lives of 40 fellow soldiers.

Rangel was impressed with himself, he says.

But that feeling was fleeting as he realized that as a high-school dropout his future would lead him from one low-paying dead-end job to another.

"I had no clue where I wanted to be," Rangel said recently, recalling the pivotal decision he made more than 50 years ago about becoming a lawyer, altering the course of his life.

"I knew where I did not want to be, and that was poor, in poverty and never knowing what a new suit was."

Today Rangel, 74, of Harlem, is one of the most respected members of Congress - and one of its snazziest dressers, too. From his perch as the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has broad authority on tax policy and social programs like Medicare and Social Security, Rangel has been a liberal counterbalance to a conservative-leaning Congress.

"Charlie Rangel is not only one of the most powerful members of Congress, he is one of the most effective advocates for the powerless I have ever known," said former President Bill Clinton in a statement for this story. "People who don't have lobbyists to argue their case in Washington have Charlie."

When Congress reconvenes here on Tuesday, Rangel will likely be thrust into the national spotlight as House Democrats look to him for guidance as they wrestle with President George W. Bush on his ambitious plans to overhaul the tax code and partially privatize Social Security.

"Charlie Rangel is the master of tax issues in the Congress," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. " ... His leadership is absolutely essential to middle-income taxpayers and all of America's seniors."

Bush is expected to seek an overall simplification of the tax structure beginning with permanently abolishing the estate tax and eliminating various exemptions like the deductibility of state and local taxes.

The president also is expected to push for a partial privatization of the New Deal-era Social Security program that would allow younger workers to put some of that money into individually managed personal investment accounts.

But there as yet have been no specific proposals.

"We have no idea where the battle is going to be," said Rangel, who has served on Ways and Means since 1975. "The president has indicated that he's going to have a panel and they will present a plan and that plan will have options. We're leaving it to the president to meet with the Democrats."

Limited influence

Although Rangel may be his party's most influential member on taxes and Social Security, his sway could be marginal at best with Republicans in firm control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

"His influence is really going to depend upon the manner in which the Republicans run the House," said Ron Walters, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland at College Park. "Republicans may want to pursue their agenda unfettered without compromising."

And that's precisely what the GOP-dominated House is likely to do, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group that opposes all tax increases.

"The Republicans can pass anything they want without a single Democratic vote, and they do it every day," Norquist said, adding that Rangel will likely be further marginalized because he's viewed as a "partisan bomb-thrower" within the Republican ranks.

"If he's the [Democrats'] point guy on taxes he strengthens the Republican case that you should never trust a Democrat on tax issues."

But even if the GOP is inclined to press ahead with the president's program without input from Democrats, the monumental scope of fundamentally restructuring the tax system and Social Security will displease enough Republicans to require a bipartisan approach, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said.

King said any move to eliminate deductions for mortgage, local and state taxes would likely result in plenty of GOP defectors - himself included - strengthening Rangel's hand as a power broker.

"Charlie will be key," King said. "He can hold Democrats in line and attract Republicans without making it sound like Bush-bashing."

Frequent sparring partners on the television talk shows, King - a conservative, advocate of smaller government from the suburbs - and Rangel - an uptown liberal defender of government programs - couldn't be further apart ideologically. Yet King has the utmost respect for Rangel as a statesman.

"Even though we disagree on most national and international issues, we've never had a personal disagreement," King said. "He's a very easy guy to work with."

Despite a public reputation for being hyper-partisan and quick to lob a rhetorical grenade into the Republican camp, Rangel's tactics are decidedly less confrontational when the microphones and cameras are turned off.

"He's got well-honed political instincts and actually works very well behind the scenes," Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons said in a telephone interview.

Parsons and others who have worked closely with Rangel through the years say he is an effective advocate for his cause because he uses his charming wit to seek out a compromise that all sides can live with.

"With great good nature he's also irreverent at the same time," said former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

New York City Councilman Bill Perkins (D-Harlem) agreed, saying, "He can tell you no and still make you smile."

Charismatic statesman

Perkins said Rangel, an enchanting storyteller with his raspy voice and colorful language, knows that the art of brokering a deal requires a consensus builder who has the patience to overcome the obstacles preventing a compromise.

Such skills have served Rangel well on Ways and Means, where the minority side comprises all aspects of the Democratic coalition from Northeast union-backing liberals to conservative-tilting Southerners to Midwestern moderates.

"It's a style of participatory leadership," said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs (D-Ohio) of Rangel during caucus meetings. "He mostly sits back and listens. He gives us an opportunity to have some input in the process."

Uphill battle

Rangel says he's too old to let the GOP's management style of the House frustrate him, but he admits it does make his time in Congress "not as exciting" as it once was. But the way he sees it, there's no way the president will be able to accomplish what he wants on taxes and Social Security without having to deal with some Democrats, and that means having to deal with him.

"When you start taking away all the deductions and expense, you're going to find some very angry people," he said. "That means you're going to have to do it in a way where the losers say, 'Damn, where can I turn, everyone is against me.'"

And the only way that's going to happen, Rangel said, "is if [Democrats] are part of putting together the bill."

Rangel said he knows the fight he's about to wage isn't going to be easy, but he's accustomed to working hard and surpassing expectations.

When Rangel decided to become a lawyer - they were the only people his grandfather, an elevator operator at the criminal courts building in Manhattan, showed respect for - everyone laughed at the high school dropout. His grandfather, too.

But Rangel finished his remaining two years of high school in one, earned his bachelor's degree in three years instead of four, secured more than a dozen scholarships to law school and landed an appointment as an assistant U.S. attorney when he graduated.

Rangel says he knows what it takes to achieve goals.

"But in order to win," he said, "I guess it takes a lot of -- and vinegar and a little lack of reason."