Friday, December 12, 2008. The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death), a US outlet reports on the remarks by al-Maliki's spokesperson (that the US military may be needed in Iraq for at least 10 more years), Donald Rumsfeld and many others are implicated in the Senate Armed Services Committe report, and more.
Starting with Alsumaria's "Iraq: US Forces could be needed for 10 years:"
In the first statements that point out to Iraq's need for US Forces in the country since the declaration of the US-Iraqi security pact, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said Iraq will need US troop presence to help build up its military forces past the newly agreed three-year deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.
Al Dabbagh, representing Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki in Washington, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years stressing that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and US governments in 2011 since the security pact has not tackled this issue. He added that until that time, the number of troops needed and the level of cooperation and support required would be clearer.
Al Dabbagh statements came at a time when the International Security Council is getting ready to adopt during a meeting scheduled next week a resolution to end multinational forces mission in Iraq upon the request of Baghdad. Iraqi Ambassador to the UN Hamed Al Bayati affirmed in a statement to the Kuwaiti News Agency (Kuna) that Iraq has sent a similar letter to the Security Council Chief. He added that the letter has been distributed to members and will be official early next week. Al Bayati affirmed that Al Maliki has noted in a letter to the Security Council that the extension of multinational forces mission has been done for the last time and while their mission will end late this month.
Yesterday's snapshot noted David Morgan and Anthony Boadle's (Reuters) report and they noted that "Dabbagh's comments appeared to be the first to address the potential need for a residual U.S. presence since the pact was announced." (This topic was covered at length here.) Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) becomes the first reporter at a US outlet to report on it, noting today:
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki last month sold the Iraqi people on a security pact with the U.S. that he called a "withdrawal agreement" to end the presence of American forces in his country by the beginning of 2012.
His top government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, undercut that claim this week, however, when he said in Washington that the U.S. might be needed in Iraq for another 10 years, a statement that reverberated with political leaders in Baghdad, renewing criticism of the deal.
On the treaty, American Freedom Campaign:
The document parading around as the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not valid under the U.S. Constitution. Its legitimacy is based solely on the silence of lawmakers (and members of the media), who seem to be paralyzed by the fear of having an independent and intelligent opinion. Fortunately, one lawmaker has broken the silence and has acknowledged the truth before everyone's eyes.
It is now time for others, including you, to join their voices with hers.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending U.S.-Iraq agreement, decrying the fact that the Iraqi Parliament was being given the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the agreement while Congress was being denied - and was refusing to fight for - the same opportunity.
Well, thanks to our efforts and the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the U.S. House of Representatives may finally get to voice its opinion on President Bush's unconstitutional usurpation of Congress's legislative power.
Yesterday, Rep. Lee introduced a resolution related to the U.S.-Iraq agreement, inspired in part by AFC's call for a "signing statement" resolution. The primary purpose of this resolution is to express the sense of the House that President Bush does not have the power under the Constitution to negotiate and sign such a far-reaching agreement with another nation without seeking congressional approval of the agreement.
Passage of this resolution -- most likely following re-introduction in January -- will send a message to the Bush administration, the incoming Obama administration, and the rest of the world that the agreement holds no legal weight under U.S. law and will be considered merely advisory by Congress.
In truth, even without passage of this resolution, Congress shall not be bound by its terms. No president can unilaterally commit $10 billion per month in U.S. treasure to keep our troops in another nation. The United States has never been a monarchy or a dictatorship and we are certainly not going to accept any similar kind of system today.
Putting aside the question over whether this agreement is currently binding or not, it is important that as many lawmakers as possible openly reject the constitutionality of the agreement. So please tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor, support, and vote for Rep. Lee's signing statement resolution (H.Res. 1535) by clicking on the following link
Once you have sent your message, please forward this email widely to friends and family. In the alternative, you can use the "Tell-A-Friend" option on the AFC Web site that will appear after you have sent your message.
Thank you so much for taking action.
Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) cover yesterday's report from the Senate Armed Services Committee on which "accuses [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the authors and chief promoters of harsh interrogation policies that disgraced the nation and underminded U.S. security. The report, released by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCian (R-Ariz.), contends that Pentagon officials later tried to create a false impression that the policies were unrelated to acts of detainee abuse committed by members of the military." The 19 page report [warning, PDF format] is entitled "Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry Into The Treatment Of Detainees In U.S. Custody." In a statement released by his office, Levin notes:
The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody compromised our moral authority and damaged both our ability to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism and to win the support of people around the world for that effort. In May 2004, just after the pictures from Abu Ghraib became public, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that the abuses depicted were simply the result of a few "bad apples" and that those responsible for abuse would be held accountable. More than seven months later, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked about accountability for detainee abuses, Gonzales said "we care very much about finding out what happened and holding people accountable." Neither of those two statements was true.
Department of Defense investigations into detainee abuse failed to adequately assign accountability to those senior military and civilian officials who authorized abusive interrogation techniques.
As we began to dig into what happened, the influence of SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape) resistance training techniques on our interrogation policies and practices became more and more obvious and became the focus of our investigation. SERE training is intended to be used to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. In SERE school, our troops who are at risk of capture are exposed -- in a controlled environment with great protections and caution -- to techniques adapated from abusive tactics used against American soldiers by enemies such as the Communist Chinese during the Korean War. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard. These techniques were designed to give our students a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody. As one JPRA instructor explained, SERE training is "based on illegal exploitation (under the rules listed in teh 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) of prisoners over the last 50 years."
So, how did it come about that American military personnel stripped detainees naked, put them in stress position, used dogs to scare them, put leashes around their necks to humiliate them, hooded them, deprived them of sleep, and blasted music at them.
How? The report makes clear, in the section entitled "Presidential Order Opens the Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques," how:
On February 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention. The President's order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. While the President's order stated that, as "a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions," the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e. legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.
In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel's Office had already solicted information on detainee "exploitation" from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
What follows is multiple meetings with then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice being brought in, with her requesting then-CIA Director George Tenet provide briefings to the NSC and for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to "personally . . . review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Council." Rice "also said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA's program." In other words, the bulk of the administration in 2002 was involved. The Dept of Justice issued two legal opinions August 1, 2002:
One opinion, commonly known as the first Bybee memo, was addressed to Judge Gonzales and provided OLC [Office of Legal Counsel]'s opinion on standards of conduct in interrogation required under the federal torture statute. That memo concluded:
[F]or an act to constitute torture as defined in [the federal torture statue], it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under [the federal torture statue], it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.
[ . . .]
The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as the Second Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics. While the full list of techiniques remains classified, a publicly released CIA document indicates that waterboarding was among those analyzed and approved. CIA Director General Michael Hayden stated in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 5, 2008 that waterboarding was used by the CIA. And Steven Bradury, the current Assistant Attorney General of the OLC, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2008 that the CIA's use of waterboarding was "adapted from the SERE training program."
Before drafting the opinions, Mr. Yoo, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the OLC, had met with Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the opinions. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Yoo refused to say whether or not he ever discussed or received information about SERE techniques as the memos were being drafted. When asked whether he had discussed SERE techniques with Judge Gonzales, Mr. Addington, Mr. Yoo, Mr. Rizzo or other senior administration lawyers, DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes testified that he "did discuss SERE techniques with other people in the administration." NSC Legal Advisor John Bellinger said that "some of the legal analyses of proposed interrogation techniques that were prepared by the Department of Justice. . . did refer to the psychological effects of resistance training."
In fact, Jay Bybee the Assistant Attorney General who signed the two OLC legal opinions said that he saw an assessment of the psychological effects of military resistance training in July 2002 in meetings in his office with John Yoo and two other OLC attorneys. Judge Bybee said that he used that assessment to inform the August 1, 2002 OLC legal opinion that has yet to be publicly released. Judge Bybee also recalled discussing detainne interrogations in a meeting with Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo in late July 2002, prior to signing the OLC opinions. Mr. Bellinger, the NSC Legal Advisor, siad that "the NSC's Principals reviewed CIA's proposed program on several occasions in 2002 and 2003" and that he "expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations."
As Carl Levin has pointed out the myth is of a "few bad apples" at the bottom being responsible for torture used in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not correct. Equally true is that the report does not pin all blame on Donald Rumsfeld. There are "many bad apples" at the top and all need to share in the blame and in the shame.
By November 2002, alarms were being sounded by the Air Force ("serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques"), the DoD's Criminal Investigation Task Force stated some techniques could leave US military personnel open "to punitive articles of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," the Army's International and Operational Law Division objected (noting some of the techniques "crosses the line of 'humane' treatment"), the Navy asked for further "legal and policy review," and the Marine Corps wanted "a more thorough legal and policy review" (and expressed concerns about violations of federal laws). All of this was ignored even when the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. Jane Dalton and her staff brought these issues to the Defense Dept (specifically the General Counsel's Office).
The report notes that Donald Rumsfeld received a recommendation from DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes that 15 of the 18 techniques be approved (November 27, 2002) and this recommendation "indicated that he [Haynes] had discussed the issue with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and General [Richard] Myers and that he believed they concurred in his recommendations." Rumsfeld signed off on the recomendations (December 2, 2002) adding, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Alarms continued to be sounded and nothing was done (Rice states she held regular meetings to express concerns).
The report notes, "From Afghanistan, the techniques made their way to Iraq. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG), at the beginning of the Iraq war, special mission unit forces in Iraq 'used a January 2003 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which had been developed for operations in Afghanistan'." Col Steven Kleinman's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committtee (September 2008) addresses abuses he personally saw. September 14, 2003 finds Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez providing the authorization for "stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs in interrogations." He withdrew that authority on October 12, 2003 but confusion (intended by Sanchez or not) remained as to what was and was not now authorized.
The report finds the problems went well beyond Rumsfeld. Conclusion One notes the White House's decision to toss aside Common Article 3 and Conclusion Two notes those particiapting in the process: "Members of the President's Cabinet and other senior officials . . National Security Council Principals". Conclusion 19 pertains specifically to Iraq so we'll note it in full:
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their cloths, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistant and at GITMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treament for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
On Wendesday, Senator Russ Feingold issued a call to the president-elect on "Concrete Steps" needed for the Rule of Law to be restored. In terms of the topics noted above, these recommendations from Feingold are worth noting:
The new administration should express its unqualified commitment to enforcing the ban against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and should establish as a matter of policy a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment. I have supported efforts in Congress to make the Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that standard. The new administration should revoke all existing orders and legal opinions authorizing cruel interrogations, including Executive Order 13440 and any relevant opinions of the OLC.
The new administration should commit to providing timely notification of and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for any and all detainees held in U.S. custody anywhere in the world.
The new administration should close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, as you have pledged to do. Closing Guantanamo raises a number of complex questions, many of which were addressed in the hearing submissions. I hope those submissions can serve as a resource to your administration in addressing these difficult issues. As you tackle the Guantanamo problem, however, I urge you not to establish an entirely new preventive detention regime based on concerns about a very small number of difficult cases.
The new administration should reject the flawed military commission trial system being used at Guantanamo Bay.
The new administration should develop effective means of enforcing the ban against rendering individuals to countries where they have a credible fear of being tortured.
The Senate Armed Service Committee was not the only governmental body issuing a report yesterday. The Office of Inspector General at the Dept of Defense released a report yesterday. Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports, "The Pentagon's inspector general said yesterday that the Defense Department's public affairs office may have 'inappropriately' merged public affairs and propaganda operations in 2007 and 2008 when it contracted out $1 million in work for a strategic communication plan for use by the military in collaboration with the State Department." And around 11:00 AM EST, the man who insulted Stephanie Tubbs Jones back in 2005 (longterm community members know whom I mean -- remember the Ohio 2004 vote didn't matter to him) rewrote Walter's article for a website. No link to that trash.
It's Friday. Violence is rarely reported. Yesterday's bombing at Abdalla Kabab resulted in 57 deaths and over 120 wounded. We'll note some of this morning's reporting on that. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The Abdullah restaurant was the kind of place Iraqis took their families on special occasions. It was the kind of place high-ranking officials in the northern city of Kirkuk chose for power lunches, where they dug in to plates on tables covered with white cloths as water burbled from a decorative fountain." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) adds, "Hundreds of families were inside the Abdullah restaurant, an area landmark, celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, police and hospital officials said. It was the deadliest attack in Iraq in six months." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The room was a shambles. On the flood was mass of tortured humanity -- those that lived. Prams and pacifiers; ribbons and toys. Purses thrown open with make up and perfume bottles strewn everywhere. I can see them with my mind's eye. They look much like what my daughter carries in her purse. . . . My daughter, your daughter . . . anyone's daughter." Nico Hines (Times of London) offers, "The explosion may have been targeted at a group of Arab elders and Kurdish political officials who were holding discussions over lunch aimed at easing long-standing ethnic tensions in the northern Iraqi region." Timothy Williams (New York Times) quotes Abdalla Kabab's supervisor Shirzad Mowfak Zangana explaining, "All of a sudden we heard a very loud explosion. Two of the walls collapsed, and then the next thing I remember is that I felt blood covering my face. People were screaming. Children were crying. Smoke filled all three dining rooms." Williams also attempts to connect it to larger issues regarding Kirkuk. Youssif Bassil and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) do that much better -- for starters they note Kirkuk is disputed territory -- and they sketch out the current struggle taking place as follows: "The Kurds have been flexing their muscles lately by building up their substantial oil industry without conferring with the central government. They also want to incorporate towns with significant Kurdish populations outside the region into their sphere -- particularly the city of Kirkuk. But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government has pushed back, criticizing some of the Kurdistan go-it-alone business efforts and criticizing the deployment of the Kurdish peshmerga security forces in towns under the control of the federal government."
Today the British Military announced: "It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway." This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, "No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved." Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178 (ICCC currently is at 177 as I dictate this, it will be at 178 when they note this death).
In other news, independent journalist David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) came out in September and his latest labor article explores (at New America Media) explores this week's win for Chicago workers:
When the day finally comes that Raul Flores loses his job, he will face a bitter search for another one. "I've got a family to support, so I've got to do whatever it takes," he says. "It's going to be hard. The economic situation is not good, but I can't just wait for something to happen to me."
That puts Flores in the same boat as millions of other U.S. workers. Last month alone 533,000 workers lost their jobs, the highest figure in 34 years. A week ago, the heads of the big three auto companies were in Washington DC, pleading for loans to keep their companies afloat. As a price, lawmakers and pundits told them they had to become "leaner and meaner," and in response, General Motors announced it would close nine plants and put tens of thousands of workers in the street. Ford and Chrysler described a similar job-elimination strategy.
What makes Flores special? He didn't just accept the elimination of his job. Instead, he sat in at the Chicago plant where he worked for six days, together with 240 other union members at Republic Windows and Doors.
Republic workers were not demanding the reopening of their closed factory. They've been fighting for severance and benefits to help them survive the unemployment they know awaits them. Yet their occupation can't help but raise deeper questions about the right of workers to their jobs. Can a return to the militant tactics of direct action, that produced the greatest gains in union membership, wages and job security in U.S. history, overturn "the inescapable logic of the marketplace"? Can employers, and the banks that hold their credit lines, be forced to keep plants open?
Public broadcasting notes. One of America's most gifted contemporary singer-songwriter, Aimee Mann, has a Christmas concert on NPR tomorrow. Live from the Kewsick Theater in Pennsylvania, Aimee's concert will be webcast by WXPN beginning Saturday night at 8:00 PM EST. This concert is part of a series of Christmas performances by Aimme that will next find her in Alexandria, VA (December 15 and 16), NYC (December 17 and 18th) and Tarrytown, NY (December 19th). Can't make it to those concerts? One more reason to catch Saturday's webcast. For Saturday's concert, her guests will be Nellie McKay and Grant-Lee Phillips. (In a year of sheep, Nellie McKay stood up for peace and did so proudly and publicly. Very few can make that claim, let alone claim to have her courage.) Aimee first came to national attention as a member of the band 'Til Tuesday whose songs and singing ("Voices Carry," "J for Jules," "No One Is Watching You Now," "Welcome Home," etc.) registered strongly and immediately. On her own she's produced hits like "That's Just What You Are" while still trying to fit into the corporate label scheme before going off on her own and producing amazing work (and earning an Oscar nomination for "Save Me"). Her latest album is @#%&*! Smilers. Kat's reviewed her latest CD as well as The Forgotten Arm. And NPR's previous Aimee Mann coverage includes "Aimee Mann: Heartache And Hope" and "Aimee Mann: Bittersweet Holidays" (here for NPR's archive of Aimee stories).
PBS? NOW on PBS visits Kiribati as it examines the issue of displacement as a result of global warming. Washington Week also begins airing tonight on some PBS stations (others tend to air it as a Sunday morning chat & chew) and joining Gwen will be Pete Williams (NBC News), Christi Parsons (Chicago Tribune), David E. Sanger (New York Times) and John Maggs (National Journal). On broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, 60 Minutes:
Lesley Stahl talks to Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), whose position as House Financial Services Committee Chairman puts him right in the middle of the huge and controversial government bailouts, first for the financial industry and now for Detroit's automakers. | Watch Video
Where's The Bottom?
The mortgage mess that touched off the financial meltdown is far from over, with a second wave of expected defaults on the way that could deepen the bottom of this recession. Scott Pelley reports.
Byron Pitts profiles USC college football coach Pete Carroll, who, in addition to his success in making the Trojans a football dynasty, is making positive contributions toward decreasing gang violence in Los Angeles. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.