“In the years since 9/11, the U.S. government has repeatedly violated both international and domestic prohibitions on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in the name of fighting terrorism.”
This statement from Amnesty International is one that many of us have known to be true for a long time, but the government under George W. Bush flatly denied it over and over again.
U.S. Engaged In Torture: Bush Administration Responsible
Now a nonpartisan review of the U.S. government’s anti-terrorism response after the attacks of September 11, 2001, has found “indisputable” proof that the U.S. engaged in torture and that the George W. Bush administration bore responsibility.
The report, which runs to 577 pages, is the product of a two-year study conducted by a task force of 11 experts from a broad range of perspectives and professions. The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment surveyed the ways in which prisoners were held and interrogated at Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at secret CIA “black prisons.” It covers the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, but focuses most sharply on the Bush era.
According to the report, brutality has happened before, “but there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after Sept. 11, directly involving a president and his top advisors on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”
Once the Bush administration had given the go-ahead for “enhanced interrogation techniques, U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading’ treatment.”
There you have it: the Bush administration knowingly endorsed the use of torture.
Not Just “A Few Bad Apples”
The report also rejects the contention that torture resulted from of a “few bad apples,” as Bush said following the release of sickening photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
One of the co-chairmen on the study was former Representative James R. Jones, who was interviewed by Jeffrey Brown on NPR this week. Here are excerpts from what he had to say:
An exhaustive study of the laws of court cases, of the practice, of interviews and all — the summary of all of it was it was indisputable there was torture in many cases.
Well, the staff and some of the panel members visited several countries, visited the black sites where some of these were, in Poland, Lithuania, et cetera. They talked to officials. They talked to detainees themselves, and they did an exhaustive research of the law.
Retired Army Brigadier General David Irvine, another Task Force member, who was also interviewed, added:
The decision to suspend the application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan was a critical decision that opened the door for all kinds of abuses, because there was nothing put in place thereafter that would tell soldiers, for example, what they could or could not do.
No Evidence That Torture Produces Any Significant Information
Irvine went on to stress that there is no persuasive evidence that torture produces any valuable information. On the contrary, the evidence seemed to show that much of the gathered information was neither useful nor reliable. This, of course, is the one of the main points of contention in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”
The report outlines torture under Bush, but it also makes recommendations to Obama. The authors call for the declassification of information regarding detainee policy, and for the United States to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and ensure that the transfers of detainees to Afghan prisons do not result in their torture.
(Remember how in 2008, a newly elected President Obama declared his opposition to investigating torture under the Bush administration, advocating instead “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward”?)
John Bolton Refuses To Face The Truth
Not surprisingly, John Bolton, a U.S. ambassador the U.N. under Bush, called the report “completely divorced from reality” and stressed that the procedures were “lawyered, and lawyered again, and lawyered again.”
The Los Angeles Times reports Bolton’s words:
“The whole point of the Bush administration’s review of the techniques was so that no one would be tortured,” he said. “The intention was precisely the opposite.”
Just like his boss, George W. Bush, Bolton refuses to face the truth or to admit that the administration could have made a mistake or been flat-out lying.
“Task Force members believe that having as thorough as possible an understanding an understanding of what occurred during this period of serious threat — and a willingness to acknowledge any shortcomings — strengthens the nation, and equips us to better cope with the next crisis and ones after that,” the authors wrote. “Moving on without such a reckoning weakens our ability to claim our place as an exemplary practitioner of the rule of law.”
That is, indeed, what most sane people believe.
This is an important document, which must not be swept under the carpet.
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