Every time Dick Cheney or John Ashcroft or any of their toadies boasts on cable or television “We kept the homeland safe for seven and a half years” I ache to scream, “No you didn’t, you slimy bastard.” It’s not the timeline that bothers me — you and President Bush really kept us safe for only seven years, four months and ten days — it’s that before that you and President Bush contributed to the deaths of more Americans at the hands of a foreign power than any President in the history of the United States.
The Japanese killed 2,350 at Pearl Harbor when FDR was President. Under James Madison, we lost 2,260 Americans in The War of 1812, and that war lasted almost three years. But it was under George Bush and Dick Cheney that, on 9/11, 2001, that 2,974 Americans were killed by al Qaeda.
What’s worse is that Cheney, Bush, Condileeza Rice and George Tenet had been warned about al Qaeda’s plans. Richard Clarke, the National Coordinator for Security, warned Condileeza about Osama face-to-face in January 2001, and had sent memos to the CIA about him and al Qaeda as far back as the Clinton Administration. What’s more, in August, two FBI agents, one in Arizona and one in Minnesota, sent warnings to FBI headquarters about suspicious Arab pilots training in American flight schools. The Bush Administration chose to ignore all the intelligence.
Bush and Cheney’s lack of diligence, their refusal to heed warnings, resulted in the deaths of almost 3,000 Americans in their first eight months in power. And, worst of all, the only way they could think of keeping America safe was torture. Richard Clarke didn’t torture anybody to get his information; neither did the two FBI agents. They were just smart people doing their job, following clues, and sounding the alarm. But the best Bush/Cheney solution was stripping people down and water-boarding them. Cheney claims that torture got us the information that kept Americans safe for seven and a half years.
But if torture is so effective, how come it hasn’t led us to Osama bin Laden? How come we haven’t found out where he is and sent in the drone that will launch the missile that will blow Osama to smithereens? How come torture didn’t get us the information to tip off the Spaniards and the Brits about the terrorists who killed 243 of their citizens on buses and subways? How come torture didn’t reveal Jamaah Islamiyah’s plan that wound up killing 202 Indonesians and tourists in Bali? Maybe torture doesn’t work.
For years the Bushies have told us that they saved us from plot after plot; but of course they couldn’t tell us what the plots were without jeopardizing national security. How come Bill Clinton was able to save us from the real “millennium” plots to blow up the Los Angeles Airport and the Radisson Hotel in Amman without torturing anybody?
I guess it’s all a matter of intelligence, and that’s something the Bush Administration didn’t have.
Originally posted at The Huffington Post.
Bush Administration Pushed Torture In Attempt To Find Iraq-al Qaida Links
This story is almost unimaginably repulsive.
McClatchy reports that one of the prime pressures that led to using torture as an “interrogation technique” was the prewar effort to find “links” between al Qaida and Iraq — links which the intelligence community already were confident did not exist:
A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that intelligence agencies and interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.
“There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
“The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”
It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubeida at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Mohammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document. [...]
“Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn’t any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies.”
Senior administration officials, however, “blew that off and kept insisting that we’d overlooked something, that the interrogators weren’t pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information,” he said.
According to another source, from the Senate Armed Services report:
“While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq,” Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. “The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”
I sat myself down to write a long essay about this, but I could not.
We have here the foul nexus between the Bush administration pushing “enhanced” interrogation techniques, and the ginned up case for the Iraq War. As early as 2002, torture was being used not to break “resistant” subjects, but in an effort to gain information that would be primarily politically useful.
Two points are critical. First, that both the approval for which “enhanced” techniques would be used and the political pressure to use them came directly from members of the Bush administration.
And second, that the torture was used in spite of the intelligence services involved knowing that the torture was extremely unlikely to produce any useful information, because they already knew — despite the pressure from “Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people” — that there were no such links. And yet they tortured prisoners in an attempt to find them.
They ordered torture; they approved the specific methods to be used, including “waterboarding”, a long-recognized method of torture; they did it in an attempt to extract politically expedient information from prisoners; they did it in spite of knowing that the prisoners would almost certainly not be able to provide any such information.
I cannot come up with any rationale for why this would not be, unambiguously, a war crime.
Originally posted at Daily Kos
Naomi Wolf: John Yoo’s Legal Groundwork for the Possible Subversion of Liberty that US Citizens Narrowly Averted
If history gets this recent era right, future textbooks will have to show that the US narrowly averted a carefully planned but thorough and unmistakable conspiracy to subvert the rule of law and the process of democracy from 2001-2008. For three years, since writing End of America, I have been arguing inferentially that the Bush team sought to possibly subvert liberty. Fortunately, this appalling and conceivably irrevocable subversion of the tenets of freedom was narrowly averted by citizens at every level — from the grassroots to the courts — resisting in time. But the release this week by the Justice Department of the “secret memos” sought valiantly by the ACLU confirms that Bush’s legal architects were building up the framework for something even scarier than our most anguished projections.
You can see the documents themselves online — but, as usual, there is a gap between the cautious journalistic interpretation of the event and the dense legalese in which they are written, and no one yet has really explained to citizens who are not attorneys what these memos claimed to give Bush the right to do. This is my initial reading of these documents:
Most dramatically, one memo asserts that Bush can deploy the military within the United States — all of the military if he so wishes — overriding Posse Comitatus, which has kept us safe from military policing for over a century. As many heard me warn in October and November of last year, when the first troops were sent to US streets, history shows that once the military is deployed domestically to “keep order” in a civil society, it is over. This memo is especially galling, since last fall’s red alert from us was met with alarm by citizens but by ridicule by mainstream media outlets. Turns out we were right. This `deployment’ memo proves that Bush indeed, as we feared, wanted the power to deploy military for domestic policing purposes, a mission that Northcom spokesmen denied — apparently falsely — when a few critics from non-mainstream platforms raised the alarm last November about the deployment of the First Brigade from Iraq to the US. This memo shows that Bush sought the power to deploy any number of U.S. military into the U.S. itself for any reason he chose; direct them to rip through your home without a warrant, even if you have not been charged with anything; seize material and documents; and even gave Bush the power to use deadly force against you — yes, you, innocent US citizen — “in self-defense.” In your homes and streets — not on a faraway battlefield. Major David Antoon confirmed that this power — to send US military to control, arrest and even shoot US civilians in self-defense — was in Bush’s hands last fall when I asked Antoon about it. Turns out this memo shows Bush indeed wanted to have that power.
Another memo would give the power to Bush — at his discretion — to close down or censor newspapers, radio and the Internet – override the First Amendment in the interest of “national security.” So if he had deployed, say, ten brigades — 37,000 warriors — in key cities (he deployed three before the election and 20,000 are due to be deployed domestically by 2012 unless we stop it), you would not be able to hear about it through the news media if he invoked this power to suspend free speech. And if you protested — if you dared — well, his actions would have been — thanks to John Yoo and others, who will go down in history along with the criminal Nuremberg lawyers as one of Satan’s willing attorneys — perfectly legal.
Yet another memo gives Bush not only the right to call any US citizen an “enemy combatant” and hold him or her indefinitely – a danger we knew about, and one that we have tried hard to alert citizens to, a warning that has seemingly penetrated collective consciousness. The newly released memo demonstrates that was the very surface of the powers over US citizens Bush claimed. For three years when I have cautioned citizens about this power Bush invoked to seize US citizens as “enemy combatants” I reassured them that he did not yet have the power to torture US citizens, “only” drive them mad through prolonged isolation in a navy brig. Well, this memo asserts Bush’s right to do whatever he wants to innocent US citizens in this kind of custody, and rejects the notion that Congress would have any role in how US citizens are held or treated — say, by the hypothetically deployed military – on US soil. It seems also to claim the right to hold innocent US citizens in domestic military custody while Bush has the right to do anything he wants to them. Anything he wants. Remember this is an administration in which Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney have now been proven by Jameel Jaffer’s revelations in Administration of Torture to have known about and okay’d not just waterboarding as a policy but ok’d the discretion for interrogators to use tactics such as electrodes attached to genitals, sexual assault, threats against family members, suffocation, the beating of prisoners’ legs to “pulp,” and in some cases the covering up of their murders. This memo gives Bush the authority to do those things if he wants to innocent US citizens.
Still another memo gives Bush the right to ignore any international treaties — to take over any country, say, or render and citizen anywhere, and do whatever he wants to the citizens of any country against any law, without consent of Congress.
The Washington Post called these memos “legal errors.” We need to stare them in the face and understand them: they are evidence that the groundwork was laid out that gave the president the legal power effectively subvert the Republic. We need to understand the full darkness of what we narrowly escaped — for now, our work is hardly begun. We need to build these lessons into our history and to use the terror they represent to dismantle the last of Bush’s evil legacy — a legacy that could have been activated by any US president in the future, including Obama or McCain — and see these memos for what they are: the revealed architecture of an intended edifice of what amounts to treason again our republic and against all of us, regardless of belief, station of life, or political party.
WASHINGTON—Organizers reported Sunday that the 44th White House Carnival was a rousing success, raising a record $800,000,066,845 for the federal government—$800 billion of which came from a dunk tank featuring former vice president Dick Cheney.
According to Secretary of the Treasury and carnival volunteer Timothy Geithner, the 5-foot-deep tank has provided a much-needed boost to the nation’s flagging economy.
“We expected a big turn out, but this is unbelievable,” said Geithner, adding that it’s tradition for the outgoing vice president to work the dunk tank. “More than half the country has already gone, and there’s still about 20 million people stretching all the way to Maryland waiting for their chance to sink Cheney. We’ll be leaving this booth open for as long as it takes for everyone to get a turn.”
According to carnival sources, a visibly irritated Cheney, clad in sandals and a white cotton robe, arrived at the one-day event shortly before 10 a.m. After removing his robe to reveal a black, 1940s-style bathing suit, the vice president reportedly touched his hand to the water, muttered something to himself, and was then helped up the tank’s ladder by several members of his Secret Service detail.
“All right, you candy arms, let’s go,” Cheney shouted at the line of people, which consisted of Americans, non-Americans, out-of-work autoworkers, teachers, luminaries from the science community, gays, lesbians, military personnel, members of Congress, children, and the entire Arab-American population. “Hey [former British prime minister Tony] Blair. I see you back there. Think you’ll be able to stop crying long enough to throw the ball?”
Added Cheney, “You bunch of pansies couldn’t hit a barn door if you were sitting on the handle.”
Records show that the first dunk of the day came at the hands of Iraq War veteran Ben Hunter, whose throwing technique, Cheney repeatedly said, was reminiscent of his own grandmother’s. After being goaded by the former vice president for several minutes, Hunter reportedly struck the tank’s target on his third turn, plunging Cheney into the pool below and eliciting wild cheers from the roughly 150 million people on hand.
“That felt really good,” Hunter told reporters. “I mean, really good. I’m going to get back in line and do it again.”
Established in 1797, the White House Carnival was the brainchild of President George Washington, who wanted to raise funds for the burgeoning new republic. That year, citizens paid two cents apiece to watch Vice President John Adams jump into a nearby pond, an act that ultimately led to the dunk tank tradition.
Although past carnivals have raised anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000—just enough to pay for the carnival itself—tallies indicate that, thanks to Cheney, this year’s record-setting proceeds could help steer the nation out of a deepening recession.
“The water’s great,” Cheney said moments after being dunked by third-grader Sean Biller, who traveled all the way from Denver for his chance to meet the former vice president. “Hopefully your unemployed dad can afford to give you money for another turn.”
Unlike Biller, who carefully threw the ball at the bull’s-eye, many citzens opted instead to aim directly at the head and chest of the 67-year-old politician.
One contestant who struggled to hit the target was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). After nearly 20 unsuccessful tries, several of which involved Kerry standing well ahead of the thrower’s line, carnival officials finally allowed Kerry to just walk up and press the button with his hand.
Other carnival highlights included “Crazy Rahm’s Guess Your Weight” game, President Carter’s face painting station—which raised $52.75—and Laura Bush winning her third consecutive demolition derby. Still, the main attraction was Cheney, who several times sprayed the crowd with a Super Soaker, suffered an estimated 1,396 assassination attempts, and once suggested that participants with weak arms be sent to Afghanistan “to toughen up.”
“I think that son of a bitch was actually having a good time up there,” said attendee and former press secretary Ari Fleischer. “Much different than in 2000 when Al Gore refused to take off his T-shirt.”
While the dunk tank remained busy throughout the evening, reports from the other side of the White House lawn were less favorable, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice having not yet received a single customer at her kissing booth.
The Huffington Post community and the netroots played a vital role pursuing, demanding, and exposing the Bush-Cheney administration’s numerous abuses. But there’s still more we don’t know, and more we must uncover, about the misdeeds of the past eight years.
That is why I proposed the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney administration. These abuses may include the use of torture, warrantless wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.
I have set up a petition at BushTruthCommission.com, and I hope you will sign it to urge Congress to consider establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the Bush-Cheney administration’s abuses. We already have over 7,000 signatures, but we need to hit 10,000 signatures — or more — by next week, to build momentum behind this idea.
During the past several years, this country has been divided as deeply as it has been at any time in our history since the Civil War. It has made our government less productive and our society less civil. In this week when we begin commemorating the Lincoln bicentennial, there is need, again, “to bind up the nation’s wounds.” President Lincoln urged that course in his second inaugural address some seven score and four years ago.
Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. The best way to move forward is getting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again.
The Obama administration has already made huge strides to restore the Constitution and renew our commitment to international law after eight corrosive years. But we must read the full page on this dark chapter in American history before we can turn it for good, which is why I feel so strongly about investigating what really happened. I hope you agree.
On Monday, I delivered a speech at Georgetown University where I outlined my ideas about why we need a truth and reconciliation commission and how it could work.
A truth and reconciliation commission would be tasked with seeking answers. It would provide Congress and the American people with a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past, so we do not repeat them in the future.
Thank you, in advance, for taking action at www.BushTruthCommission.com to prevent history from repeating itself and joining me to support the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission.
Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 04:20:04 PM PST
A week ago, Pro Publica published a terrific hyperlinked list of 50 of the Cheney-Bush administration’s memos on torture, detention, warrantless wiretapping. Investigative journalism at its public service best.
Most of the memos came from the Office of Legal Counsel, whose decisions are binding on the Executive branch. Primarily because of lawsuits, 11 of the memos have become public over the past few years. These include John C. Yoo’s view that the U.S. Deputy Attorney General has authority to approve warrantless wiretapping and Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo’s infamous take on the (non)application of treaties and laws to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. Thirty-nine of the memos remain classified. Upon publishing the list, Pro Publica called upon the Obama administration to make them public.
On Monday, veteran Federation of American Scientists secrecy expert Steve Aftergood took note of written replies to pre-confirmation questions provided by Sen. Russ Feingold by Eric H. Holder, Jr., now the U.S. Attorney General. In one of those replies, he said:
“I will review significant pending cases in which DOJ has invoked the state secrets privilege, and will work with leaders in other agencies and professionals at the Department of Justice to ensure that the United States invokes the state secrets privilege only in legally appropriate situations,”
The devil is in the details, as always. But Holder’s statement offers hope that we could soon be getting a fuller understanding of the Cheney-Bush administration’s thinking and justification in these matters.