The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #109748   Message #2522619
Posted By: Amos
22-Dec-08 - 08:29 PM
Thread Name: BS: Bush Administration: Aftermaths
Subject: RE: BS: Bush Administration: Aftermaths
In a recent interview with ABC News, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that, in the period after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration embraced a policy of torturing suspected al Qaeda detainees. Cheney did not refer to the Bush administration's practices as "torture." In fact, he insisted that "we don't do torture. We never have." He did admit, however, that he had supported the waterboarding of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. Waterboarding -- a technique in which water is poured over a prisoner's face to simulate drowning -- is considered torture under international law and has been prosecuted as a war crime by the United States. According to Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism expert and former instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school, waterboarding "is torture, without doubt." 

TORTURE DOESN'T WORK: In a recent story in Vanity Fair, journalist David Rose reports that the conclusion of numerous counterterrorist officials he spoke to is "unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts." The use of torture has made Americans less safe. Former Air Force interrogator and author of How to Break a Terrorist Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) recently wrote that "the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked [to Iraq] to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Alexander, who used non-violent methods of interrogation to obtain information on the whereabouts of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, argued, "Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda. ... Torture and abuse cost American lives."

TORTURE IS A VIOLATION OF OUR LAWS AND VALUES: Arguments about the practical utility of torture distract from the more important point that torture is a violation of U.S. law, and its use represents a significant abdication of the U.S. commitment to human rights. The U.S. federal anti-torture statute, formally known as Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113C of the U.S. Code, "defines the crime of torture and prescribes harsh punishments for anyone who commits an act of torture outside of the United States." Alexander wrote "there's no doubt in my mind" that the tactics allowed by the Bush administration "are illegal." The U.N. Committee Against Torture has been very clear in demanding that the U.S. "should rescind any interrogation technique...that constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in all places of detention under its de facto effective control, in order to comply with its obligations" under the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

HOLDING PERPETRATORS ACCOUNTABLE: The Bush administration's embrace of torture marks a significant reversal of decades of U.S. policy. Back in 2006, then-senator Barack Obama said that torture "is not how a serious Administration would approach the problem of terrorism," and declared the use of torture to be "a betrayal of American values." While Vice President-elect Biden didn't rule out future prosecution of Bush administration officials involved in torture, he made clear yesterday that "President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future." Whatever legal course is chosen by the new administration to deal with recent abuses, the damage done to America's reputation by the use of torture -- making a mockery of U.S. claims to uphold human rights -- has been incalculable.

ADMINISTRATION -- CHENEY ECHOES NIXON: IF THE PRESIDENT DOES IT DURING WARTIME, IT IS LEGAL: On Fox News Sunday yesterday, host Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, "If the President, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" "General proposition, I'd say yes," adding, "I think what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for." Cheney's answer is eerily reminiscent of former President Richard Nixon's claim that "when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Nixon made the comment in his famous interview with David Frost, responding to a question about whether "there are certain situations" in which "the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal." In fact, numerous courts have ruled that the Bush administration has overstepped the bounds of the Constitution. In August 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that "the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional, delivering the first decision that the Bush administration's effort to monitor communications without court oversight runs afoul of the Bill of Rights and federal law." The fact that Cheney's Nixon-esque comment came during an interview with Wallace is ironic, considering that Cheney recently thanked Wallace for defending the Bush administration against comparisons to Nixon.

ECONOMY -- BANKS CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR THEIR BAILOUT BILLIONS: The AP recently contacted 21 banks that had received at least $1 billion in taxpayer-financed bailout funds and found that the banks were unable or unwilling to disclose how they have used the money. The AP asked the banks four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest? However, "[n]one of the banks provided specific answers." In fact, "[s]ome banks said they simply didn't know where the money was going," and "no bank provided even the most basic accounting for the federal money." Earlier this month, a congressionally-appointed bailout oversight board found that the Treasury Department has not sufficiently monitored how banks are using Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds. "If the funds committed under TARP...are not merely no-strings-attached subsidies to financial institutions, then it seems essential for Treasury to monitor whether those funds are used for those intended purposes," the report stated. "Treasury cannot simply trust that the financial institutions will act in the desired ways; it must verify." The panel's chairman, Elizabeth Warren, "said her oversight panel will try to force the banks to say where they've spent the money. 'It would take a lot of nerve not to give answers,' she said."

ETHICS -- BAILED-OUT WALL STREET EXECUTIVES STILL USING EXPENSIVE PRIVATE JETS: Last month, Big Three automaker CEOs were ridiculed by members of Congress for taking private jets to Washington to plea for a federal bailout. Subsequently, GM put two of its five corporate jets out of service, and the executives drove to Washington for a second round of bailout hearings. But Wall Street's similar excesses have largely avoided scrutiny. The AP reports today that "[s]ix financial firms that received billions in bailout dollars still own and operate fleets of jets to carry executives to company events and sometimes personal trips." Insurance company AIG, which received $150 billion in bailout funds, has seven planes, making it "one of the largest fleets among bailout recipients." Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley all still own aircraft for executive travel -- after receiving a combined $120 billion in bailouts. A separate AP analysis today found that "the 116 banks that so far have received taxpayer dollars to boost them through the economic crisis gave their top tier of executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses and other benefits in 2007."