Headlines for January 6, 2005
Violence, Confusion, Fear: Problems Mount Surrounding Scheduled Jan 30th Iraqi Elections
Alberto Gonzales' Role in Torture Memos Like "Mafia Lawyer Whose Job it is to Help the Don Stay Out of Jail"
I think he got the treatment that always comes to those who dare question aloud the bona fides of the establishment: First he got misrepresented--his suggestion that the CIA tolerated the contras' cocaine trading became an allegation that the agency itself was involved in the drug trade. Then he was ridiculed as a conspiracy-monger--joked one commentator, Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, "Oliver Stone, check your voice mail." In the end, Webb was rendered untouchable.
But try thinking of it from a black American's point of view. The CIA was tasked with helping the contras, a group President Ronald Reagan had declared the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers. So intent was the Reagan-Bush administration on assuring the survival and success of the contras that it attempted an illegal bargain with the hated mullahs of Iran in order to benefit the Nicaraguans.
Now, you're a CIA agent who must decide whether to blow the whistle on some of your charges for supplementing their budget by trading in cocaine on the side--or just turn your head and not "see" anything. Between the contras, beloved of the president, and some black gangsters in L.A. (we won't talk about the zoned-out, zonked-out end users), who is the more expendable?
I am reminded here of the climactic chapters of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," in which a seething Harlem goes up in flames. It happens not because of anything the protagonist and his cherished "Brotherhood" do. It happens because the leadership of the Brotherhood elects to do nothing, to cease expending any energy at all on Harlem and its problems.
Who is the more expendable? I think Gary Webb had it figured out just right.
That's Don Wycliff, the public editor of The Chicago Tribune, weighing in with "Dangers of Questioning Government Actions" (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-0501060112jan06,0,5603781.column).
The earliest abuses on record in Iraq apparently came in May 2003. On May 15, two marines in Karbala held a 9-millimeter pistol to the head of a bound detainee while a third took a picture. One marine, according to military records, then poured a glass of water on the detainee's head. In June 2003, according to records, a marine ordered four Iraqi children who had been detained for looting to stand next to a shallow ditch, then fired a pistol in a mock execution.
In August, a marine put a match to a puddle of hand sanitizer that had spilled in front of an Iraqi detainee, igniting a flame that severely burned the detainee's hands. ("Newly Released Reports Show Early Concern on Prison Abuse" by Kate Zernike, the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/06/politics/06abuse.html?oref=login)
According to the memo obtained through Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union in late November, interrogators at the Guantanamo detention center allegedly chained an inmate in the fetal position for as long as 24 hours, as the man lay in his own feces and pulled out his own hair in distress.
Other FBI agents told their superiors that they had seen "personnel of other agencies," an apparent reference to Department of Defense interrogators, confronting shackled prisoners with growling dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold to "soften" them ahead of questioning; and wrapping suspects in Israeli flags and subjecting them to blaring rap music. ("Inquiry Ordered Into Alleged Guantanamo Prisoner Abuse" by Carol J. Williams, the Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-abuse6jan06,1,767259.story?coll=la-headlines-nation ).
An Iraqi civilian testified in Ft. Hood that he and his cousin were forced at gunpoint into the Tigris River and that U.S. soldiers laughed while the two struggled against the current.
Marwan Fadel Hassoun said he struggled to shore and tried to save his 19-year-old cousin by grabbing his hand, but Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun was swept to his death.("Iraqi Testifies in Trial of Amry Sergeant" from Times Wire Reports, Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-briefs6.2jan06,1,7268998.story?coll=la-headlines-nation ).
Yet a key issue in the Gonzales nomination is the role he played in defining or approving a US policy that appeared to condone torture. This week, a dozen retired military officers criticized Gonzales for a series of memos on the treatment of prisoners, including a Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum that argued some of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions are "obsolete" and "quaint" in the context of a "new kind of war" against terror.
It is highly unusual for military officials to take a public position on a civilian appointment. But retired officers say that the impact on the military of memos endorsed by Gonzales is too striking to ignore. "We saw this as posing a huge danger for American service men and women taken into captivity. These briefs under Gonzales could be cited by our enemies to justify torture of our people," says retired Gen. James Cullen, former chief judge of the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
He explains in an interview: The Army Field Manual cautions that if readers are in doubt about whether a proposed interrogation technique should be applied, they should ask themselves: If they were taken prisoner, would they want the proposed interrogation measure applied against them? "This very common-sense approach was missed entirely by Mr. Gonzales," says General Cullen. ("Gonzales Likely to be Confirmed as AG, But Faces Sharp Questions" by Gail Russell Chaddock, The Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0105/p02s01-uspo.html ).
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing, Gonzales also said he does not view the Geneva Conventions as either "obsolete" or "quaint" -- words that appear in a 2002 memo he wrote to Bush referring to some of the convention's provisions. ("Gonzales Pledges to Preserve Civil Liberties" by William Branigin, the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52815-2005Jan6.html ).
Does he mean it? Heck, does he even understand it?
Pay attention to this (from the same article above):
In his opening remarks, Gonzales pledged that if the Senate approves him, "I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the difference between the two roles."
Apparently Gonzales didn't realize that the Whie House Legal Counsel (the job he holds now) wasn't some personal trial attorney job. (Not that Gonzales has practiced law much to begin with.) Now he's going to worry about the United States of America???? Now he's going to worry about the citizens????? Uh, news flash Alberto, you were supposed to be representing both all along. That's why when Bush hired an attorney over the outing of Valerie Plame and that attorney wasn't you. Your role as White House Legal Counsel was not to be his personal, private attorney, though some would certainly argue that you acted as such.
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