Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unresolved Issues: War Crimes And Criminals: Torture, Wars, USA, Iraq. Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine.

Unresolved Issues: War Crimes And Criminals: Torture, Wars, USA, Iraq. Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine.

Weekly Torture Action Letter 27 - When Is There Enough Evidence?!?

by Something The Dog Said,
November 2, 2009 - 9:23am

Happy Monday and welcome to the Dog’s letter writing campaign for torture accountability. For those who have wondered in for the first time, here is how it works; every Monday the Dog writes a letter to the Attorney General or one of the national level decision makers urging them to follow the law of our nation and initiate a full investigation of the acts of torture and the conspiracy to commit torture which the Bush Administration participated in. Your part in this is to either use this letter as starting point for your own or cut and paste the letter over your signature and send it off. The Dog even provides the e-mail addresses; you just provide a very small amount of time and effort.

"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"

This week we will be writing the AG with copies to the President, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader Reid, Judiciary Committee Chairs Conyers and Leahy, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Deputy Attorney General Ogden and Associate Attorney General Perrelli.

Here is the letter:

Dear Attorney General Holder;

Sir, what level of evidence of conspiracy and criminality does it take for the Attorney General of the United States to act? I refer specifically to the Bush Administrations apparent State Sponsored Torture Program. The amount of evidence about this program, which is in the public record already, is more than enough to justify a Special Prosecutor, yet we are still going down the “a few bad apples” path.

I understand the political difficulties of a new administration having to investigate the one immediately before it. I understand the problems connected to the issue of torture, which has been spun to the public as somehow necessary to national security and only done to bad people who would do bad things. However, none of this relieves you or the entire Department of Justice from your obligations to uphold, enforce and follow the laws of our nation.

Beyond the rule of law issue, which should be paramount to you and every other officer of court, there is a bigger societal issue. There is no such thing as a little torture. Once the absolute prohibition on torture is broken, it spreads. The level of justification for these heinous acts falls and falls until it becomes not a choice of last and illegal resort, but the first tool of interrogation.

This can clearly be seen in the recently released FBI Inspector Generals report from 2004. In this report the FBI IG finds once it became clear within the intelligence community that the CIA had a license to torture, were recommending some of their prisoners be transferred to CIA interrogation for “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”. Further, when it became clear we were in the torture business and there would not be the swift legal action required, these field commanders stopped forwarding reports of overly harsh interrogation by their agents.

This is the problem with torture, Mr. Holder, once it starts to spread, it continues to do so until it is stopped. We have let this cancer eat away at the very fabric of our own law enforcement. When the FBI cannot be trusted to uphold the law in the face of legitimized torture, we are in grave danger.

Please do not kid yourself that President Obama’s insistence on an end to torture is all that is required. The people who bent, who bowed to the idea that torture, is acceptable are still within the DoJ, they are still within the FBI and over time, some of them will rise to the highest levels of those organizations. They will still have the lesson that there is no accountability for one of the most horrible and heinous crimes man can commit on man. When this President is no longer in office, what will prevent them from advising another less principled one to again torture?

There is nothing short of full investigation, full disclosure and full prosecution of any and all crimes discovered to prevent this. You know this to be true AG Holder. This is the shield and sword of the law in its purest form. The deterrent of loss of status, of loss of liberty is all that will make it clear there is a line, which we do not cross, no matter what the circumstance. The position you hold is the one which has the final say, it is the final line of defense against letting torture become acceptable, and frankly sir, you are failing in your duties.

AG Holder, do the right thing, do the thing you know to be the right thing; appoint, without delay, a Special Prosecutor who will be empowered to investigate this conspiracy fully, whether that leads to the CIA, the Bush White House or even the DoJ. It is the only thing which can prevent a future and likely more wide spread use of torture by officials of the United States.

If you do not act now, you will not be able to avoid doing so in the future. The evidence of conspiracy to commit torture and torture will continue to come out. Eventually there will be too much evidence for anyone of any level of conscience to look away from. The last three Attorney Generals put politics over the Law. This is to their eternal shame and to the determent of our system of justice. AG Holder will you make it four in a row? Or will you act in the best traditions of American Law and investigate and prosecute crimes which are clear and open? The choice is yours.


President Barack Obama
Speaker Pelosi
Majority Leader Reid
Judiciary Chair Conyers
Judiciary Chair Leahy
Rep. Jerry Nadler
DAG Ogden
AAG Perrelli

Okay so there is a bit of a fire-breathing letter, now for some links. First off if you would like to read the entire FBI IG report the ACLU has it here.

AG Holder, Deputy AG Ogden and Associate AG Perrelli can all be reached at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov. Be sure to put Attention then their name in the subject line.

The White House, Attention President Obama
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Majority Leader Harry Reid
Rep John Conyers - Judiciary Committee Chair
Chairman Leahy
Representative Jerry Nadler
(to get past Rep. Nadler's filter use Zip Code 11224-4561 and the address of 445 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY)

The Dog has put the screws to the AG today, but now it your turn. This all means nothing if the Dog is the only one sending these letters. Please don’t be distracted by other events, don’t let cynicism and apathy prevent you from making a small stand for justice. Do it today, do it now.

The floor is yours.

A Poetic Justice
ACTionable RESISTance
And, yes, I DO take it personally
The Anti-War Theatre
APJ Headlines
The Art of Peace
BFD Blog!

Blazing Indiscretions
Blog Me No Blogs
Le Cafe Politique De Camus De Cafe
Concerned TN Citizens
Downtown Daves World-at-Large

The Garlic
Gold Star Mom Speaks Out
Happening Here
I Dreamed I Saw Grace P Last Night
Intrepid Liberal Journal
Iraq Moratorium Blog
Iraq Today

Ketchup Is A Vegetable
Left In Missouri
Left Wing Nut Job
The Liberal Doomsayer
The Liberal Journal
Liberal Values
Lost Chord
Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time

Making The World Safe For Hypocrisy
Mo Rage
Ms Sparky
The National Gadfly
No Rest for the Awake - Minagahet Chamorro
Notes From Underground
Outta the Cornfield
The Peace Tree

Pissed On Politics
Poets for Peace
Poetryman Video
The Paragraph
Queers Against Obama
Raw Dawg Buffalo
Redneck Liberal

Rooks Rant
Screaming In An Empty Room
Skeptical Eye
Socratic Gadfly
They gave us a republic
The WAWG Blog
The Well-Armed Lamb
Uncomfortably Numb

Worldwide Sawdust
Wounded Times


Truthdig - Ear to the Ground - Iran Counters U.N. Offer
By editor@truthdig.com
Now Israel is ruled by out and out war criminals who have the successes of violence in their Israeli background. they feel that if Israel attacks Iran under the right conditions, then the US MUST back them, having no better choice. ...
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines - http://www.truthdig.com/

By Irish4Palestine
Israel's ambassador in London, Ron Prosor colludes with Jewish Lawyers to sue any and all news outlets that refer to Israelis as “War Criminals” or anything else deemed offensive by Zionists. In a recent meeting at his London home, ...
Irish4Palestine - http://irish4palestine.blogspot.com/

Fact Sheet: Afghanistan

The Afghan Marshall Plan, an Exit Strategy. No Troop Escalation!

(Sources at www.JobsForAfghans.org)

- There is 40% - 50% unemployment in Afghanistan, and the Taliban pays $8 a day to young fighters who would rather be doing anything else. There is literal starvation taking place across the country, including in Kabul.

- 35% of Afghans are malnourished, according to the UN. Eight years after the occupation began, 1 out of 5 children still dies before the age of five, and two-thirds of the population still has no access to safe drinking water. Many children die of easily preventable or treatable disease. What is needed now is a "civilian assistance surge."

- The Taliban is politically unpopular, and most Afghans are repulsed by its ideology, which is an extreme Wahabist interpretation of Islam. Many people remember the cruel punishments and executions in the National Stadium. But it is growing in strength by taking advantage of vast numbers of unemployed men.

- In 2001 the vast majority of Afghans welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban, which was a small minority which ruled mostly by fear.

- The best way to defeat the Taliban, and to decrease the danger to our troops, is with a countrywide jobs program costing about $4 billion, less than what military operations cost for 2 months. The Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), a ministry of the Karzai government, reported that governors and district chiefs unanimously agreed that unemployment is the number one driver of the insurgency.

- Work projects which pay cash by the day or week are up and running successfully in Afghanistan. The problem is there are not nearly enough of them.

- Men gather in the squares in Kabul by the thousands hoping to be hired for day labor at $4 per day. They are of all ages, and ready and willing to work.

- One Afghan government ministry, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD,) is ready and capable of managing large numbers of works projects which would hire large numbers of potential Taliban recruits. This project would include digging drainage ditches, irrigation ways, and clearing canals. This would cause mass defections in the Taliban ranks. The MRRD has set up over 25,000 Community Development Councils (CDCs,) committees at the village level, to insure that the help reaches ordinary Afghans, not corrupt warlords.

- "Building up" the Afghan National Army and Police will not by itelf insure stability. Rural Afghans are often more afraid of the National Police than they are of the Taliban.

- The Taliban is not an indigeneous movement to Afghanistan. The Taliban originated in Pakistani madrassas funded by the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI, in order to have a friendly or neutral country on its northern border. This was an imperative in Pakistan's contest with India.

- Afghanistan is not an Arabic country, and has no affinity with Al Qaeda, which is Arabic in origin. The Pashto and Dari languages spoken in Afghanistan are Indo-European in origin, and distantly related to English.

- To frame the debate as being solely over whether there should be more troops, fewer troops, or no troops is flawed and misleading. This ignores the economic context of the insurgency. To advocate withdrawal without putting forth an alternative plan for stability is irresponsible.

- A withdrawal of US troops, by the traditional means of cutting off war funding, could be made possible a by modest infusion of economic assistance which targets and reaches ordinary Afghans. Most have no desire to join the Taliban, and would rather do anything else to make a living. Once freed of their need for the Taliban's opium money, Afghans of all ethnicities will turn on the Taliban themselves, and be capable of defending themselves.

- Penatagon spokesman Col. Tom Collins said in 2007 "There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men."

- General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan told Congress in 2007 "much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to feed their families."

- General Stanley McChrystal in his recent report says there is little ideological loyalty between the local Pashtuns and the Taliban. The Taliban gain local support by capitalizing on “vast unemployment by empowering the young and disenfranchised through cash payments, weapons, and prestige."

- Starting jobs programs now in Afghanistan is not "nation-building." It is "starvation-stopping." A works program to employ vast numbers of unemployed, for two years, at $7 a day, is the first crucial step to stability and further development, guided by Afghans. It would result in small capitol savings which would jump start the Afghan economy. Afghans have suffered through 30 years of war and misery. It must stop, and the world will be rewarded with a stable and prosperous partner in the war on terrorism.

- Starting the Afghan Marshall Plan will win the war at a fraction of the cost of an extended military presence, and will leave much, much more money for Americans to create their own jobs programs here at home.

- That American Soldiers are getting killed by young men who would be willing to lay down their arm for $5 a day is a travesty.



Sources at www.jobsforafghans.org

Crimes Of War

Despite being written in semi-legalese, The Goldstone report [warning: 600-page PDF] never ceases to be an interesting read. I keep finding these dry little statements of fact that are either heartbreaking or pithy wordings that somehow encapsulate the breadth of the crimes committed. Here are a couple of the ones I found today.

First off, the account of the shelling of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in the southern Rimal area of Gaza City, on January 15th of this year. It's interesting reading. You find it on page 162 to 174 of the PDF.

Basically what happened here was that the Israeli forces, despite having GPS coordinates and despite at least forty telephone calls from UN leaders in Gaza and Palestine to Israeli authorities through established channels on that morning and provable contact between those authorities and the field personnel of the army, they repeatedly shelled a United Nations compound where 700 Palestinians were taking refuge, with illegal white phosphorous grenades. The report is blistering in its dismantling of the Israeli arguments defending this attack, summed up in this paragraph:

The question then becomes how specialists expertly trained in the complex issue of artillery deployment and aware of the presence of an extremely sensitive site can strike that site ten times while apparently trying to avoid it.

They also note that the area struck by the shells was within one football pitch of one another, and coincidentally, the incendiary weapons all happened to strike near the enormous fuel depot of several hundred thousand litres of fuel on the site. The entire site was two football pitches in size.

Another paragraph that struck me deals with the equally horrific attack on the Al-Quds hospital, in direct violation of Geneva Convention IV §18 and §19. The Israeli military also used illegal white phosphorous shells here. The story that really struck me was this one:

596. The doctors with whom the Mission spoke all occupied senior positions but also witnessed the events that occurred throughout that day. The Mission was impressed with their objectivity and the genuine distress several of them showed at being unable to help or protect the sick and wounded who had come to the hospital. Throughout that day many of the staff, including the doctors, took exceptional risks to stop fire spreading, including by removing white phosphorous wedges from near diesel tanks. One doctor in particular showed remarkable courage. He left the hospital to drive an ambulance through artillery shelling as he sought to bring an eight-year-old girl to al-Shifa hospital for treatment which he was no longer able to provide in al-Quds. Having taken the girl there, he drove back to the hospital in the same conditions to continue assisting the efforts to fight the fires.

The 8 year-old girl, who had been shot in the jaw by an Israeli sniper (since the snipers prepare their shots, presumably while she was engaged in launching terror rockets against Israeli settlements or other military activities), later died from her injuries. The report concludes that she would not have died had the attack on the hospital not occurred and considers the Israeli military responsible for her death.

Longtime readers of this blog have probably noticed that I will occasionally write abouthuman rights, international humanitarian law, crimes of war or crimes against humanity, which are all topics I've been interested in since at least high school. For two years in high school and on and off afterwards I was an active member of my school Amnesty Youth group. It was a great time, and I learned most of what I know about international law and human rights -- which isn't a lot compared to most of the wonderful activists I met in Amnesty -- during those two years. Then, just as I was starting university and entering my last time in Amnesty, I bought a book called Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know. I think more people should do themselves the favour of reading that book. It is by far the best introduction to the topic I know of.

If I'm completely honest, I pretty much bought it impulsively because it's an uncannily well-designed, physically beautiful book: it is printed on high-quality smooth paper and bound in a strange, tall and narrow format, with a gorgeously simplistic cover and a magazine-like layout. It is thoroughly illustrated with stunning black and white photographs from war zones all over the world taken by some of our time's leading photojournalists, including many from the Magnum group.

But the book turned out to be a remarkable book which I am constantly coming back to. It is basically an illustrated A to Z guide to war crimes and international humanitarian law written by legal scholars and other experts. I know that sounds dry, but it is quite simply relentlessly readable. I read it from cover to cover (it is ingeniously laid out so that if you read it in this order, it proceeds more or less from basic rules to more complex issues). It is meant as a guide for people requiring a basic working knowledge of the laws of war. In this day and age, I'm afraid that means everyone who follows the news, but particularly journalists, commentators, teachers, activists, aid workers, anyone working with international issues and politicians.

I still find myself constantly returning to this book to look things up -- if my brother hasn't stolen it, that is -- and refind my footing when Israel or the US or some other beligerent power tries to relativise what they have done or try to give rhetorical cover to their crimes. It is one of the most useful books I have ever read, and while I have read many other books later on these topics, this one must be the most influential one. I have made a habit of recommending it to everyone over the past couple of years.

So imagine my delight when I discovered yesterday that the entire book has been made availably online for free along with numerous other extra materials, commentary and articles not in the book.

Though you will have to miss out on the great layout on the web, I hope that at least a few of my literally tens of readers will take the time out to read a few articles or maybe even the whole thing over a few days. It's a book that taught me a lot proportional to the amount of work I had to put into it. I can only second the blurb on the back, from W. Pfaff of the International Herald Tribune: "A reference work that has no counterpart ... civilization is in debt to all [its contributors]."

Labels: crimes against humanity, crimes of war, gaza, goldstone, international humanitarian law, operation cast lead

• Preface
• Preface to the first edition
• Foreword
• International Humanitarian Law: An Overview
• Introduction to International Humanitarian Law*


• Act of War
• Afghanistan
• Aggression
• Algeria *
• Amnesty *
• Apartheid
• Arab-Israeli War
• The Second Intifada and After
• Israel’s Views of the Application of IHL to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
• Armistice

• Belligerent Status
• Biological Experiments
• Biological Weapons
• Blockade as Act of War
• Bosnia
• The Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal

• Cambodia
• Carpet or Area Bombing
• Chechnya
• Chemical Weapons
• Child Soldiers
• Children as Killers
• Civil Defense
• Civil Patrol
• Civil War
• Civilian Immunity
• Civilian, Illegal Targeting of
• Collateral Damage
• Collective Punishment
• Colombia
• Combatant Status
• Command Responsibility
• Common Article 3
• Compelling Military Service
• Concentration Camps
• Congo, Democratic Republic of
• Courts and Tribunals
• Crimes against Humanity
• Crimes against Peace
• Cultural Property and Historical Monuments
• Customary Law
• Customary Law: The ICRC Study

• Dangerous Forces: Dams, Dikes, and Nuclear Stations
• Darfur
• Dead and Wounded
• Death Squads
• Deportation
• Detention and Interrogation
• Disappearances
• Due Process
• Due Process Rights

• Environmental Warfare
• Kuwaiti Oil Wells
• Ethnic Cleansing
• Evacuation of Civilians from the Battlefield
• Executions, Extrajudicial
• The Camera as a Witness

• Forced Labor
• Free Fire Zones

• Genocide
• Gray Areas in IHL
• Guantanamo
• Guerrillas
• Gulf War

• Health Care System
• Hors de Combat
• Hospitals
• Hostages
• Humanitarian Aid, Blocking of
• Humanitarian Intervention

• Identification
• Illegal or Prohibited Acts
• Immunity from Attack
• Imprisonment of Civilian Population
• Incitement to Genocide
• Indiscriminate Attack
• Internal Displacement
• Intervention, Right of *
• International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
• International Humanitarian Fact-finding Commission
• International vs. Internal Armed Conflict
• Common Article 3
• Iran-Iraq War
• Iraq
• Irregulars

• Journalists, Protection of
• Journalists in Peril
• Jurisdiction, Universal
• Jus ad Bellum/Jus in Bello
• Just and Unjust War

• Legitimate Military Targets
• Levée en Masse
• Liberia
• Limited War

• Mass Graves
• Medical Experiments on POWs
• Medical Transports
• Medical Personnel
• Medico-Legal Investigations of War Crimes
• Mercenaries
• Military Necessity
• Military Objective
• Mines

• NATO and the Geneva Conventions
• Nuclear Weapons

• Occupation

• Paramilitaries
• Parlementaires
• Perfidy and Treachery
• Persecution on Political, Racial, or Religious Grounds
• Pillage
• Poisonous Weapons
• Prisoners of War
• Prisoners of War, non-repatriation of
• Private Military Firms
• Property: Civilian, Destruction of
• Property: Wanton Destruction
• Proportionality, Principle of
• Protected Persons

• Quarter, Giving No

• Red Cross/Red Crescent Emblem
• Refoulement
• Refugees, Rights of
• Remembering, duty of *
• Reprisal
• Reprisal Killing
• Rwanda
• Rwanda–Refugees and Genocidaires

• Safety Zones
• Sanctions
• Sexual Violence
• Sexual Violence: Enslavement
• Sexual Violence: Systematic Rape
• Shields
• Sick and Wounded
• Siege
• Slavery
• Soldiers, Rights of
• Starvation

• Terrorism
• Terrorism against Civilians
• Torture
• Total War
• Training in International Humanitarian Law
• Transfer of Civilians

• Undefended Towns
• United Nation and the Geneva Conventions
• Unlawful Confinement

• Victims, Rights of

• Wanton Destruction
• War Crimes, Categories of
• Water Supplies and Works, Destruction of
• Weapons
• Willful Killing
• Willfulness

• Afterword
• Note on the Law and Legal Terms
• Major International Humanitarian Law
• Further Reading
• Legal Resources Online
• Contributors
• Acknowledgments

No comments: