Posts Tagged 'torture'

Obama administration backs John Yoo, Bush torture memo author

Obama administration lawyers are once again supporting the dismissal of a civil case brought by a victim of illegal detention and torture during the Bush administration, filing a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of John Yoo, the notorious draftsman of Bush’s “torture memos.”  Earlier this year, Obama administration lawyers supported the dismissal of suits brought by victims of CIA “extraordinary renditions,” targets of government eavesdropping, and detainees transported from the Middle East to US military bases in Afghanistan.

World Socialist Web Site, December 12, 2009

Padilla v. Yoo: Obama administration backs appeal of Bush torture memo author

By John Burton

Obama administration lawyers under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder are once again supporting the dismissal of a civil case brought by a victim of illegal detention and torture during the Bush administration.

On December 3, Department of Justice attorneys filed an amicus curiae “friend of the court” brief on behalf of John Yoo, the notorious draftsman of Bush’s “torture memos,” in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews federal court decisions in the western United States.

The brief urges a reversal of District Judge Jeffrey S. White’s refusal to dismiss the case brought against Yoo by Jose Padilla, the US citizen held incommunicado and tortured for over two years after his arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Earlier this year, Obama administration lawyers supported the dismissal of suits brought by victims of CIA “extraordinary renditions” (See “Obama administration defends torturers”), targets of government eavesdropping (See “Obama administration seeks to block lawsuit over illegal wiretapping”), and detainees transported from the Middle East to US military bases in Afghanistan (See “Obama moves to block court access for detainees in Afghanistan”).

And once again the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s argument is the claim that courts have no power to review executive decisions—even incarceration without due process and accompanied by torture—when justified in the name of the “war on terror.” This attack on the fundamental checks and balances underlying the US Constitution apes the police-state arguments used by former attorneys general John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, and other Bush administration lawyers, to justify their attacks on democratic rights following the September 11 attacks.

US agents first arrested Padilla on May 8, 2002 as a “material witness” for a New York grand jury. A month later, on the eve of the hearing on his motion for release, Ashcroft held a sensational press conference, accusing Padilla of planning “to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.”

Bush designated Padilla an “enemy combatant”—a category with no legal precedent—and he was shipped to a South Carolina brig. After two-and-a-half years of legal challenges mounted on his behalf by lawyers not even allowed to meet or communicate with their client, in November 2005 the “enemy combatant” designation was abruptly dropped and Padilla was transferred to a civilian jail, an action taken to head off an imminent Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of his detention.

New criminal charges were then filed that had no connection to the original allegations. Padilla was tried with two other men in Florida, and was unjustly convicted of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. He is now serving a 17-year sentence while he appeals his conviction. (See “US ‘enemy combatant’ Jose Padilla sentenced to 17 years in prison”.)

Padilla sued Yoo, who presently teaches law at the University of California’s Boalt Hall, in San Francisco federal court. Yoo brought a motion to dismiss the case last March, which also was supported by Obama administration lawyers. (See “Obama administration backs immunity for author of Bush torture memos”.)

Last June, however, the motion to dismiss was denied by Judge White, a 2002 George W. Bush appointee.

Judge White’s ruling detailed Padilla’s two-and-a-half years in the brig. Conditions included “extreme and prolonged isolation,” “deprivation of light and exposure to prolonged periods of artificial light,” “extreme and deliberate variations in the temperature of his cell,” “threats to cut him with a knife and pour alcohol into the wounds,” “threats to kill him immediately,” “administering … psychotropic drugs against his will,” “shackling and manacling for hours at a time,” “uncomfortable and painful (or ‘stress’) positions,” “introduction into his cell of noxious fumes that caused pain to the eyes and nose,” “loud noises at all hours of the night,” “constant surveillance, including during the use of toilet facilities and showers,” “denial of access to the Koran,” and “deprivation of medical care for serious and potentially life-threatening ailments,” among other acts of barbarism.

Judge White reviewed the principal documents Yoo had prepared to give the Bush administration pseudo-legal justification for Padilla’s treatment, including an October 23, 2001 memorandum that “the Fourth Amendment [the provision of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures] does not apply to domestic military operations designed to deter and prevent further terrorist attacks,” and that just as “wartime destruction of property does not involve a ‘taking’ under the Fifth Amendment, it seems safe to conclude that the Court would not apply the Fourth Amendment to domestic military operations.”

Judge White also cited a January 9, 2002 memorandum outlining Yoo’s analysis that treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban members is “not governed by the bulk of the Geneva Conventions, specifically those provisions concerning POWs.”

Following a meeting of Bush’s war council in July 2002, in which Yoo and others “discussed in great detail how to legally justify pressure techniques proposed by the CIA, including waterboarding, mock burial, and open-handed slapping of suspects,” according to Judge White, Yoo prepared his infamous August 1, 2002 “torture memo.”

“Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,” Yoo wrote. “For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture … it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.”

Finally, Judge White cited a March 14, 2003 memorandum that approves the use of mind-altering drugs during interrogations. This document states that Yoo “had received assurances from the Criminal Division of the Justice Department that prosecutions would not be brought against interrogators, reinforcing the point that even federal officials who committed war crimes or torture under federal criminal statutes would escape responsibility for their crimes.”

“The Court notes the irony,” Judge White wrote, “of [Yoo’s] position: essentially, the allegations of the complaint are that Yoo drafted legal cover to shield review of the conduct of federal officials who allegedly deprived Padilla of his constitutional rights. Now, Yoo argues that the very drafting itself should be shielded from judicial review. Padilla’s allegations here are that the creation of such legal cover was itself an unconstitutional exercise of power.”

Judge White denied the motion to dismiss, ruling that “Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.”

Urging the Ninth Circuit to reverse this common-sense, democratic ruling, the Obama administration brief argues, “There can be little question that the claims here directly implicate war powers of the President, with respect to the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict, that have never been the subject of money-damages actions in our nation’s long history.”

“Padilla was detained by the military upon the decision of President Bush to designate him an ‘enemy combatant,’” the brief adds. “He claims that the military detention was unconstitutional and seeks money damages from Yoo for having advised that it was lawful…. If enforced, [Padilla’s claims] would create a large shadow over sensitive matters of military discretion.”

The Obama administration lawyers do not mention that the suit actually seeks nominal damages of $1 along with a declaration that his detention and torture were illegal.

On the subject of torture, the Obama administration lawyers added that “a court would have to inquire into what the conditions of Padilla’s military confinement were and as to what interrogation techniques were employed against him.”

In other words, the courts have no power to review the claim of a US citizen—seized while lawfully walking through an airport, and thrown into a brig for more than two years of torture, without access to an attorney, much less a court of law—all because the executive branch declares the action related to an undefined, never-ending “war on terror.”

As a substitute for meaningful judicial review based on the claims of unlawful detention and torture victims, the Obama lawyers offer the following pathetic alternative: “That is not to say that the actions of a Department of Justice attorney providing advice should go unchecked. Department of Justice attorneys, if they abuse their authority, are subject to possible state and federal bar sanctions.”

There is no “federal bar,” and Yoo does not maintain a license to practice law in California, as professors are not required to do so. Regardless, an administrative procedure undertaken against one’s professional license is a far cry from a lawsuit brought by a person who actually suffered through years of wrongful confinement and torture.

The Obama administration position could not be more clear. Despite slogans of “change” bandied about during last year’s presidential campaign, Obama’s Department of Justice embraces the same policies articulated in the Yoo memoranda: that military measures, unbridled either by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights or by the Geneva Conventions, can be used against anyone the executive branch labels a “terrorist,” even US citizens on US soil.

The author also recommends:

Obama administration preparing order for indefinite detentions
[29 June 2009]

“Law & Order” episode makes case for prosecution of Bush administration torturers
[2 October 2009]

US Supreme Court Justice Scalia defends torture
[21 February 2008]

shortlink = http://wp.me/p3xLR-j6

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Free Lynne Stewart!

Protest the Jailing of Lynne Stewart.   One of the first victims of the Patriot Act, she was convicted of aiding and abetting terrorism in the course of her legal work. Based on her years of defending the most exploited, and government infringement of attorney-client confidentiality in the case, she was sentenced to only 28 months of detention, and was freed on appeal.  Now, at age 70 and battling breast cancer, she has been ordered to jail, and her sentence is being reviewed to be increased. Read more.

SF Gray Panther Newsletter, December, 2009
Lynne Stewart’s Appeal Denied

Lynne at the SF Gray Panthers

Lynne at the SF Gray Panthers

After a long career representing the poor, oppressed and unpopular, radical attorney Lynne Stewart has been sent to jail. On November 17, a federal appeals court upheld her 2005 conviction of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists and ordered her bond revoked. It also faulted District Judge John G. Koeltl for failing to issue a finding on whether she had committed perjury, and ordered him to review the mitigating circumstances that led him to sentence her to 28 months rather than the 30 years requested by the government. .

In the many years since charges were brought against her, the Gray Panthers have participated in nation-wide support and fundraising efforts for Lynne. In a typical political analysis of the events, she said the decision’s timing, “coming as it does on the eve of the arrival of the tortured men from the offshore prison in Guantánamo,” carried a message. “If you’re going to lawyer for these people, you’d better toe very close to the line that the government has set out.”

To send Lynne a letter, write:

Lynne Stewart, #53504-054
MCC-NY
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

Read SF Gray Panthers page on Lynne Stewart

Jeff Mackler wrote:

Dear Friends of Lynne Stewart,

I just got off the phone with Lynne Stewart a few minutes ago, that is, late Wednesday (early Thursday, November 19, New York time).  She bravely told me that she has been ordered to report to U.S. Federal Marshals to be imprisoned at 5 pm, Thursday, November 19.  There will be a 4 pm NY rally of her supporters, who will escort her to the courthouse for imprisonment.

In San Francisco, we will rally on Monday, Nov. 23 to protest Lynne’s frame-up trial and imprisonment.  Be there!  (See above.)

Background:

Following the November 16 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit that rejected Lynne Stewart’s appeal of her 1995 frame-up conviction on five counts of aiding and abetting terrorism, Lynne’s legal team as well as the federal district court were in a quandary as to how to proceed.  (Lynne has been a leading civil and human rights attorney for 30-years.  She is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and a member of the Continuations Committee of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations.)

The Second Circuit made what amounted to an unprecedented decision to not only affirm her conviction and reject her appeal but to order that her bail be revoked and that she be remanded to prison.  But lacking clear orders as to who would carry out this decision and when it would happen, the last two days have seen Lynne appear, along with her supporters at two rallies in her defense and numerous press conferences and interviews while judges and lawyers tried to ascertain what to do.  That decision has been made and Lynne will begin serving a 28-month prison term.

However, the Second Circuit’s 2-1 decision also remanded the issue of the length of Lynne’s sentence back to Judge John Koeltl’s Federal District Court ordering Koeltl to reconsider the 28-month jail sentence that he originally imposed.  Obviously furious at the relatively short duration of the sentence, the Second Circuit accepted the prosecution’s assertion that Koeltl had not properly considered the question of whether or not Lynne has perjured herself during her trial.  If that were to be determined, according to the Second Circuit, the length of Lynne’s sentence could be extended.  The single dissenting judge went further — expressing his outrage at Lynne’s relatively short sentence and suggesting that a qualitatively longer sentence be imposed than the majority contemplated.  The government originally demanded a 30-year sentence!

Still fighting, Lynne’s attorneys will ask the Second Circuit for a delay in her incarceration based on Lynne’s scheduled December surgery.  Here too, Lynne guesses that this will be denied, with the court holding that prison facilities are adequate for any medical needs that Lynne, a diabetic with hypertension and recovering from breast cancer surgery, may have.

Meanwhile, a new sentencing hearing before Judge Koeltl is scheduled for December 2 at the Foley Square Courthouse.  Federal prosecutors are expected to ask for the maximum sentence possible.  Also appearing in court will be Mohamed Yousry, Lynne’s innocent co-defendant and translator.  Koeltl was also ordered to reconsider Yousry’s 20-month sentence.  The prison term of a third defendant in Lynne’s case, Ahmed Sattar, who was sentenced to 20-plus years, was not challenged.

At this point we can only speculate as to whether Judge Koeltl will stand by his original sentence or be pressured by the Second Circuit to extend Lynne and Mohammed’s sentences.  The judge is known to carefully consider his sentences.  Close observers believe that he is unlikely to bend and impose a longer sentence.

Should Koeltl refuse to add additional years to Lynne’s prison term, the government is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Government prosecutors and obviously the Second Circuit are outraged that a “convicted terrorist” has been walking around the streets for the past five years, free to champion her own cause and those of all others who suffer political repression.  It was clear from Judge Koeltl’s short sentence and high praise of Lynne’s record as an attorney and human being, a “credit to her profession,” said Koeltl during the sentencing hearing, that he felt compelled to take his distance from the government’s desire to put Lynne, 70, in prison for what would amount to the rest of her life.

Lynne will appeal the Second Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.  She has repeatedly stated that her prosecution and persecution are consciously orchestrated by the government to chill the defense bar, that is, to instill the fear of government prosecutions into any attorney who seeks to afford alleged terrorists or others who are victims of unjust government persecution a vigorous and dedicated defense.  Lynne points to the upcoming U.S. prosecution efforts of Guantanamo prisoners as a prime example.

For further information contact: Jeff Mackler, Coordinator, West Coast Lynne Stewart Defense Committee 510-268-9429, <jmackler@lmi.net>.  Mail tax-free contributions payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation.  Write in memo box: “Lynne Stewart Defense.”  Mail to: Lynne Stewart Defense, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.

Lynne Stewart is charged for her actions acting as attorney for blind Egyptian cleric named Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who is accused for the basement bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  Further investigation of this bombing shows that operatives for Federal agencies were involved in setting up this action.  Read more here.

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere

Huffington Post,  November 23, 2009

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere

A small group of rich people who own most of Honduras and its politicians enlist the military to kidnap the elected president at gunpoint and take him into exile. They then arrest thousands of people opposed to the coup, shut down and intimidate independent media, shoot and kill some demonstrators, torture and beat many others. This goes on for more than four months, including more than two of the three months legally designated for electoral campaigning. Then the dictatorship holds an “election.”

Should other countries recognize the results of such an election, to be held on November 29th? Latin America says absolutely not; the United States is saying, well, “yes we can”- if we can get away with it.

“There has been a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders,” since President Zelaya slipped back into Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, wrote Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and human rights groups worldwide have also condemned the violence and repression perpetrated by the Honduran dictatorship.

On November 5, the 25 nations of the Rio Group, which includes virtually all of Latin America, declared that they would not recognize the results of the November 29th elections in Honduras if the elected President Manuel Zelaya were not first restored.

Why is it that Latin American governments can recognize this threat to democracy but Washington cannot? One reason is that many of the governments are run by people who have lived under dictatorships. President Lula da Silva of Brazil was imprisoned by the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1980s. President Michele Bachelet of Chile was tortured in prison under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship that was installed with the help of the Nixon administration. The presidents of Bolivia, Argentina, Guatemala, and others have all lived through the repression of right-wing dictatorships.

Nor is this threat merely a thing of the past. Just two weeks ago the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, had to fire most of the military leadership because of credible evidence that they were conspiring with the political opposition. This is one of the consequences of not reversing the Honduran military coup of June 28th.

Here in the United States we have been subjected to a relentless campaign of lies and distortions intended to justify the coup, which have been taken up by Republican supporters of the dictatorship, as well as by hired guns like Lanny Davis, a close associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the biggest lie, repeated thousands of times in the news reporting and op-eds of the major media, was that Zelaya was overthrown because he was trying to extend his term of office. In fact, the non-binding referendum that Zelaya proposed had nothing to do with term limits. And even if this poll of the electorate had led eventually to a new constitution, any legal changes would have been far too late for Zelaya to stay in office beyond January 29.

Another surreal part of the whole political discussion has been the attempt to portray Zelaya, who was merely delivering on his campaign promises to the Honduran electorate, as a pawn of some foreign power – conveniently chosen to be the much-demonized Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The anti-communist hysteria of 1950s McCarthyism is still the model for these uncreative political hacks.

What a disgrace it will be to our country if the Obama team follows through on its current strategy and recognizes these “elections!” It’s hard to imagine a stronger statement than that human rights and democracy in this hemisphere count for zero in the political calculations of this administration.

This op-ed was distributed by McClatchy Tribune Information Services on November 18, 2009 and published by the Sacramento Bee and other newspapers.

When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

CounterPunch, October 26, 2009

When Gitmo and Abu Ghraib Come Home

By BILL QUIGLEY and DEBORAH POPOWSKI

The Louisiana Board that licenses psychologists is facing a growing legal fight over torture and medical care at the infamous Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons.

In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired colonel Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a U.S. prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming near-naked man on the floor.

The prisoner had been forced into pink women’s panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort “to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.”  As he recounts in his memoir, Fixing Hell, Dr. James initially chose not to respond.  He “opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason…”

Although he claims to eventually find “good reason” to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

Sadly, the story of Dr. James’ complicity in prisoner abuse does not end there.  The New Orleans native and former LSU psychology professor admits to overseeing the detention, interrogation and health care of three boys, aged twelve to fourteen, who were disappeared to Guantanamo and held without charge or access to counsel or their families. In Fixing Hell and elsewhere, Dr. James proudly proclaims that he was in a position of authority at Guantanamo.

Government records indicate that, as the senior psychologist consulting on interrogations, his decisions affected the policy and operations of interrogations and detention on the base.  During his time there, reports of beatings, sexual abuse, religious humiliation and sleep deprivation during interrogations were widespread, and draconian isolation was official policy.  Prisoners suffered, and some continue to suffer, devastating physical and psychological harm.

Dr. Trudy Bond, a psychologist under an ethical obligation to report abuse by other psychologists, filed a complaint against Dr. James before the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in February 2008.

Dr. Bond’s complaint says that Dr. James’ conduct violated Louisiana laws governing his psychology license.  As a psychologist and military colonel, he had a duty to avoid harm, to protect confidential information, and to obtain informed consent, as well as to prevent and punish the misconduct of his subordinates.

How did the Louisiana licensing board respond?  Rather than investigate, the Board dismissed the complaint, and when asked again, reaffirmed its decision.  Dr. Bond has now taken the case to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.  Dr. James played an influential role in both the policy and day-to-day operations of interrogations and detention in the notorious prison camps built to hold men and boys captured during the U.S. “War on Terror.”

According to his own statements, he was a senior member of interrogation consulting teams that, as documented by government records, were central in designing interrogation plans that exploited psychological and physical weaknesses of individual detainees.  In one example cited by the New York Times, a military health professional told interrogators that “the detainee’s medical files showed he had a severe phobia of the dark and suggested ways in which that could be manipulated to induce him to cooperate.”

Had Dr. James chosen to cast himself as a brave, but ultimately ineffective voice against torture, he may have fooled some people into believing him. Instead, he’s presented an utterly implausible portrait: one of a man “chosen” by “the nation” to “fix the hell” of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, a feat he claims to have accomplished so successfully that ever since he was first deployed in January 2003, “where ever [sic] we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.”

This is patently untrue.  The real “fact of the matter,” as documented by government records, reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and eyewitness accounts, is that serious abuses were widespread both during Dr. James’ tenure as senior psychologist for the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo, and after he left.

One would imagine that such disregard for a law designed to protect the public welfare would greatly concern the body charged with its enforcement. But the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which issued James his license, has refused to investigate whether he violated professional misconduct law.

The Board’s conduct should alarm all Louisiana health professionals and their patients.  The Board demeans the profession when it fails to seriously address the possibility that a Louisiana licensee was involved in torture.  It also strips the Louisiana psychology license of meaning and value.

How can patients rely on a license issued and enforced by a body that arbitrarily refuses to look into allegations of grave misconduct?

As the legal battle wears on, the people of Louisiana need to ask the Board’s members what “good reason” they await in order to act. They should demand that the Board of Examiners conduct a thorough investigation of Larry James and, if what he admits is true, revoke his privilege to practice.

Bill Quigley is a Loyola Law professor working at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Deborah Popowski is a Skirball Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program. Both authors are involved with the campaign When Healers Harm: Hold Health Professionals Accountable for Torture, see http://whenhealersharm.org/

Bill can be contacted at quigley77@gmail.com.

Deborah can be contacted at dpopowski@law.harvard.edu.

 

The Biden and Clinton Mutinies

CounterPunch, July 31, 2009

The Biden and Clinton Mutinies

By Alexander Cockburn

Time bombs tossed seemingly casually in the past month by his vice president and his secretary of state disclose president Obama, in the dawn of his first term, already the target of carefully meditated onslaughts by senior members of his own cabinet.

At the superficial level Obama is presiding over an undisciplined administration; on a more realistic and sinister construction, he is facing mutiny, publicly conducted by two people who only a year ago were claiming that their qualifications to be in the Oval Office were far superior to those of the junior senator from Illinois .

The great danger to Obama posed by Biden’s and Clinton’s “time bombs” (a precisely correct description if we call them political, not diplomatic time bombs) is not international confusion and ridicule over what precisely are the US government’s policies, but a direct onslaught on his presidency by a domestic Israeli lobby that is so out of control that it renders ridiculous Obama’s puny attempt to stop settlements–or to curb Israeli aggression in any other way.

Take Joe Biden. Three weeks ago he gave Israel the green light to bomb Iran, only to be swiftly corrected by his boss. At the time it seemed yet another,somewhat comical mile marker in a lifetime of gaffes, perpetrated in the cause of self-promotion and personal political advantage.

But Biden’s subsequent activities invite a darker construction. In the immediate aftermath of Obama’s Moscow visit, the air still soft with honeyed words about a new era of trust and cooperation, Biden headed for Ukraine and Georgia, harshly ridiculing Russia as an economic basket case with no future. In Tbilisi he told the Georgian parliament that the U.S. would continue helping Georgia “to modernize” its military and that Washington “fully supports” Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO and would help Tbilisi meet the alliance’s standards. This elicited a furious reaction from Moscow, pledging sanctions against any power rearming Georgia.

Georgia could play a vital, enabling role, in the event that Israel decides to attack Iran’s nuclear complex. The flight path from Israel to Iran is diplomatically and geographically challenging. On the other hand, Georgia is perfectly situated as the take-off point for any such raid. Israel has been heavily involved in supplying and training Georgia’s armed forces. President Saakashvili has boasted that his Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili and also Temur Yakobashvili , the minister responsible for negotiations over South Ossetia, lived in Israel before moving to Georgia, adding “Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.”

On the heels of Biden’s shameless pandering in Tbilisi, Secretary of State Clinton took herself off to Thailand for an international confab with Asian leaders and let drop to a tv chat show that “a nuclear Iran could be contained by a U.S. ‘defense umbrella,’” actually a nuclear defense umbrella for Israel and for Egypt and Saudi Arabia too.

The Israel lobby has been promoting the idea of a US “nuclear umbrella” for some years, with one of its leading exponents being Dennis Ross, now in charge of Middle Eastern policy at Obama’s National Security Council. In her campaign last year Clinton flourished the notion as an example of the sort of policy initiative that set her apart from that novice in foreign affairs, Barack Obama.

From any rational point of view the “nuclear umbrella” is an awful idea, redolent with all the gimcrack theology of the high cold war era, about “first strike”, “second strike”, “stable deterrence” ,“controlled escalation” and “mutual assured destruction”, used to sell US escalations in nuclear arms production, from Kennedy and the late Robert McNamara(“the Missile Gap”) to Reagan (“Star Wars”).

Indeed, as one Pentagon veteran remarked to me earlier this week, “the Administration’s whole nuclear stance is turning into a cheesy rerun of the Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction, all based on a horrible exaggeration of one or two Iranian nuclear bombs that the Persians may be too incompetent to build and most certainly are too incompetent to deliver.”

The Biden and Clinton “foreign” policy is: 1) to recreate the same old Cold War (with a new appendage, the US versus Iran nuclear confrontation) for the same old reasons: to pump up domestic defense spending; and 2) to continue sixty years of supporting Israeli imperialism for the same reasons that every president from Harry to Dubya (perhaps barring Ike) did so: to corner Israel lobby money and votes. Regarding the latter, Obama did the same by grabbing the Chicago-based Crown and Pritzker family money very early in his campaign and by making Rahm Emanuel his very first appointment (the two are hardly unrelated).

So right from the start Obama was already an Israel lobby fellow traveler. The Mitchell appointment and the toothless blather about settlements were simply cosmetic, bones tossed to the increasing proportion of the American electorate that’s grossed out by the ethnic cleansing of the Arabs from the Holy Land. Obama does have a coherent strategy: keep the defense money flowing and increasing, but without making so much noise as the older generation did about ancient Cold War enemies (e.g. Russia and Cuba). The F-22 — to date, the one and only presidential issue on which he’s shown any toughness at all — is in no sense a departure from keeping the money flowing, since he is indeed increasing the defense budget, in part by using the F-22 cancellation to push spending on the even worse F-35 and to hide his acquiescence to all the other pork in the Congressional defense budget.

The window for any new president to impose a decisive change in foreign policy comes in the first three months, before opposition has time to solidify. Obama squandered that opportunity, stocking his foreign policy team with tarnished players such as Ross. As the calculated indiscretions of Biden and Clinton suggest, not to mention the arrogance of Netanyahu and his political associates, the window of opportunity has closed.

Would it have been that hard to signal a change in course? Not really. Obama could have excited the world by renouncing the Bush administration’s assertion, in the “National Defense Strategy of the United States” of 2002 — preserved in its essence in ensuing years — of the right and intention of the United States to preëmptively attack any country “at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing.” As William Polk, the State Department’s middle east advisor in the Kennedy era, wrote last year: “As long as this remains a valid statement of American policy, the Iranian government would be foolish not to seek a nuclear weapon.”

But Obama, surrounded with Clinton-era veterans of NATO expansionism and, as his Accra speech indicated, hobbled with an impeccably conventional view of how the world works, is rapidly being overwhelmed by the press of events. He’s bailed out the banks. He’s transferred war from Iraq to Afghanistan. The big lobbies know they have him on the run.

Hence Biden and Clinton’s mutinies, conducted on behalf of the Israel lobby and designed to seize administration policy as Obama’s popularity weakens. When the results of the latest Rasmussen presidential poll were published, showing Obama’s declining numbers, there were news reports of cheering in Tel Aviv. And remember two useful guiding principles: first, it is impossible to overestimate the vanity of politicians, particularly of Joe Biden. Maybe he secretly entertains some mad notion of challenging Obama in 2012, propelled by Israel Lobby money withheld from Obama. Maybe Bill is reminding HRC that he reached the White House in 1992 partly because the Israel lobby turned against George Bush Sr. Second principle: there is no such thing as foreign policy, neither in democratic governments nor in dictatorships. As Thalheimer’s Law* decrees. All policy is domestic.

Gen. McChrystal, Obama’s New Afghan Commander Will Send Death Toll Soaring

Gen. McChrystal, Grim Reaper: Obama’s New Afghan Commander Will Send Death Toll Soaring

By Tom Engelhardt, Tomdispatch.com
Posted on May 22, 200

Yes, Stanley McChrystal is the general from the dark side (and proud of it). So the recent sacking of Afghan commander General David McKiernan after less than a year in the field and McChrystal’s appointment as the man to run the Afghan War seems to signal that the Obama administration is going for broke. It’s heading straight into what, in the Vietnam era, was known as “the big muddy.”

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon’s super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh has described as an “executive assassination wing” out of Vice President Cheney’s office. (Cheney just returned the favor by giving the newly appointed general a ringing endorsement: “I think you’d be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.”)

McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of “manhunters” he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.” Since some of the task force’s men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn’t avoided.

In the Bush years, McChrystal was reputedly extremely close to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The super-secret force he commanded was, in fact, part of Rumsfeld’s effort to seize control of, and Pentagonize, the covert, on-the-ground activities that were once the purview of the CIA.

Behind McChrystal lies a string of targeted executions that may run into the hundreds, as well as accusations of torture and abuse by troops under his command (and a role in the cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the death of Army Ranger and former National Football League player Pat Tillman). The general has reportedly long thought of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single battlefield, which means that he was a premature adherent to the idea of an Af-Pak — that is, expanded — war. While in Afghanistan in 2008, the New York Times reported, he was a “key advocate… of a plan, ultimately approved by President George W. Bush, to use American commandos to strike at Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.” This end-of-term Bush program provoked such anger and blowback in Pakistan that it was reportedly halted after two cross-border raids, one of which killed civilians.

All of this offers more than a hint of the sort of “new thinking and new approaches” — to use Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s words — that the Obama administration expects General McChrystal to bring to the devolving Af-Pak battlefield. He is, in a sense, both a legacy figure from the worst days of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era and the first-born child of Obama-era Washington’s growing desperation and hysteria over the wars it inherited.

Hagiography

And here’s the good news: We luv the guy. Just luv him to death.

We loved him back in 2006, when Bush first outed him and Newsweek reporters Michael Hirsh and John Barry dubbed him “a rising star” in the Army and one of the “Jedi Knights who are fighting in what Cheney calls ‘the shadows.'”

It’s no different today in what’s left of the mainstream news analysis business. In that mix of sports lingo, Hollywood-ese, and just plain hyperbole that makes armchair war strategizing just so darn much fun, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, for instance, claimed that Centcom commander General David Petraeus, who picked McChrystal as his man in Afghanistan, is “assembling an all-star team” and that McChrystal himself is “a rising superstar who, like Petraeus, has helped reinvent the U.S. Army.” Is that all?

When it came to pure, instant hagiography, however, the prize went to Elisabeth Bumiller and Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, who wrote a front-pager, “A General Steps from the Shadows,” that painted a picture of McChrystal as a mutant cross between Superman and a saint.

Among other things, it described the general as “an ascetic who… usually eats just one meal a day, in the evening, to avoid sluggishness. He is known for operating on a few hours’ sleep and for running to and from work while listening to audio books on an iPod… [He has] an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists… [He is] a warrior-scholar, comfortable with diplomats, politicians…” and so on. The quotes Bumiller and Mazzetti dug up from others were no less spectacular: “He’s got all the Special Ops attributes, plus an intellect.” “If you asked me the first thing that comes to mind about General McChrystal… I think of no body fat.”

From the gush of good cheer about his appointment, you might almost conclude that the general was not human at all, but an advanced android (a good one, of course!) and the “elite” world (of murder and abuse) he emerged from an unbearably sexy one.

Above all, as we’re told here and elsewhere, what’s so good about the new appointment is that General McChrystal is “more aggressive” than his stick-in-the-mud predecessor. He will, as Bumiller and Thom Shanker report in another piece, bring “a more aggressive and innovative approach to a worsening seven-year war.” The general, we’re assured, likes operations without body fat, but with plenty of punch. And though no one quite says this, given his closeness to Rumsfeld and possibly Cheney, both desperately eager to “take the gloves off” on a planetary scale, his mentality is undoubtedly a global-war-on-terror one, which translates into no respect for boundaries, restraints, or the sovereignty of others. After all, as journalist Gareth Porter pointed out recently in a thoughtful Asia Times portrait of the new Afghan War commander, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld granted the parent of JSOC, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), “the authority to carry out actions unilaterally anywhere on the globe.”

Think of McChrystal’s appointment, then, as a decision in Washington to dispatch the bull directly to the China shop with the most meager of hopes that the results won’t not be smashed Afghans and Pakistanis. The Post’s Ignatius even compares McChrystal’s boss Petraeus and Obama’s special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, to “two headstrong bulls in a small paddock.” He then concludes his paean to all of them with this passage — far more ominous than he means it to be:

“Obama knows the immense difficulty of trying to fix a broken Afghanistan and make it a functioning, modern country. But with his two bulls, Petraeus and Holbrooke, he’s marching his presidency into the ‘graveyard of empires’ anyway.”

McChrystal is evidently the third bull, the one slated to start knocking over the tombstones.

An Expanding Af-Pak War

Of course, there are now so many bulls in this particular China shop that smashing is increasingly the name of the game. At this point, the early moves of the Obama administration, when combined with the momentum of the situation it inherited, have resulted in the expansion of the Af-Pak War in at least six areas, which only presage further expansion in the months to come:

1. Expanding Troop Commitment: In February, President Obama ordered a “surge” of 17,000 extra troops into Afghanistan, increasing U.S. forces there by 50%. (Then-commander McKiernan had called for 30,000 new troops.) In March, another 4,000 American military advisors and trainers were promised. The first of the surge troops, reportedly ill-equipped, are already arriving. In March, it was announced that this troop surge would be accompanied by a “civilian surge” of diplomats, advisors, and the like; in April, it was reported that, because the requisite diplomats and advisors couldn’t be found, the civilian surge would actually be made up largely of military personnel.

In preparation for this influx, there has been massive base and outpost building in the southern parts of that country, including the construction of 443-acre Camp Leatherneck in that region’s “desert of death.” When finished, it will support up to 8,000 U.S. troops, and a raft of helicopters and planes. Its airfield, which is under construction, has been described as the “largest such project in the world in a combat setting.”

2. Expanding CIA Drone War: The CIA is running an escalating secret drone war in the skies over the Pakistani borderlands with Afghanistan, a “targeted” assassination program of the sort that McChrystal specialized in while in Iraq. Since last September, more than three dozen drone attacks — the Los Angeles Times put the number at 55 — have been launched, as opposed to 10 in 2006-2007. The program has reportedly taken out a number of mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but also caused significant civilian casualties, destabilized the Pashtun border areas of Pakistan, and fostered support for the Islamic guerrillas in those regions. As Noah Shachtman wrote recently at his Danger Room website:

“According to the American press, a pair of missiles from the unmanned aircraft killed ‘at least 25 militants.’ In the local media, the dead were simply described as ’29 tribesmen present there.’ That simple difference in description underlies a serious problem in the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. To Americans, the drones over Pakistan are terrorist-killers. In Pakistan, the robotic planes are wiping out neighbors.”

David Kilcullen, a key advisor to Petraeus during the Iraq “surge” months, and counterinsurgency expert Andrew McDonald Exum recently called for a moratorium on these attacks on the New York Times op-ed page. (“Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent — hardly ‘precision.'”) As it happens, however, the Obama administration is deeply committed to its drone war. As CIA Director Leon Panetta put the matter, “Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.”

3. Expanding Air Force Drone War: The U.S. Air Force now seems to be getting into the act as well. There are conflicting reports about just what it is trying to do, but it has evidently brought its own set of Predator and Reaper drones into play in Pakistani skies, in conjunction, it seems, with a somewhat reluctant Pakistani military. Though the outlines of this program are foggy at best, this nonetheless represents an expansion of the war.

4. Expanding Political Interference: Quite a different kind of escalation is also underway. Washington is evidently attempting to insert yet another figure from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era into the Afghan mix. Not so long ago, Zalmay Khalilzad, the neocon former American viceroy in Kabul and then Baghdad, was considering making a run for the Afghan presidency against Hamid Karzai, the leader the Obama administration is desperate to ditch. In March, reports — hotly denied by Holbrooke and others — broke in the British press of a U.S./British plan to “undermine President Karzai of Afghanistan by forcing him to install a powerful chief of staff to run the Government.” Karzai, so the rumors went, would be reduced to “figurehead” status, while a “chief executive with prime ministerial-style powers” not provided for in the Afghan Constitution would essentially take over the running of the weak and corrupt government.

This week, Helene Cooper reported on the front page of the New York Times that Khalilzad would be that man. He “could assume a powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government under a plan he is discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, according to senior American and Afghan officials.” He would then be “the chief executive officer of Afghanistan.”

Cooper’s report is filled with official denials that these negotiations involve Washington in any way. Yet if they succeed, an American citizen, a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. as well as to Kabul, would end up functionally atop the Karzai government just as the Obama administration is eagerly pursuing a stepped-up war against the Taliban.

Why officials in Washington imagine that Afghans might actually accept such a figure is the mystery of the moment. It’s best to think of this plan as the kinder, gentler, soft-power version of the Kennedy administration’s 1963 decision to sign off on the coup that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese autocrat Ngo Dinh Diem. Then, too, top Washington officials were distressed that a puppet who seemed to be losing support was, like Karzai, also acting in an increasingly independent manner when it came to playing his appointed role in an American drama. That assassination, by the way, only increased instability in South Vietnam, leading to a succession of weak military regimes and paving the way for a further unraveling there. This American expansion of the war would likely have similar consequences.

5. Expanding War in Pakistan: Meanwhile, in Pakistan itself, mayhem has ensued, again in significant part thanks to Washington, whose disastrous Afghan war and escalating drone attacks have helped to destabilize the Pashtun regions of the country. Now, the Pakistani military — pushed and threatened by Washington (with the loss of military aid, among other things) — has smashed full force into the districts of Buner and Swat, which had, in recent months, been largely taken over by the Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas we call “the Pakistani Taliban.”

It’s been a massive show of force by a military configured for smash-mouth war with India, not urban or village warfare with lightly armed guerrillas. The Pakistani military has loosed its jets, helicopter gunships, and artillery on the region (even as the CIA drone strikes continue), killing unknown numbers of civilians and, far more significantly, causing a massive exodus of the local population. In some areas, well more than half the population has fled Taliban depredations and indiscriminate fire from the military. Those that remain in besieged towns and cities, often without electricity, with the dead in the streets, and fast disappearing supplies of food, are clearly in trouble.

With nearly 1.5 million Pakistanis turned into refugees just since the latest offensive began, U.N. officials are suggesting that this could be the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Talk about the destabilization of a country.

In the long run, this may only increase the anger of Pashtuns in the tribal areas of Pakistan at both the Americans and the Pakistani military and government. The rise of Pashtun nationalism and a fight for an “Islamic Pashtunistan” would prove a dangerous development indeed. This latest offensive is what Washington thought it wanted, but undoubtedly the old saw, “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true,” applies. Already a panicky Washington is planning to rush $110 million in refugee assistance to the country.

6. Expanding Civilian Death Toll and Blowback: As Taliban attacks in Afghanistan rise and that loose guerrilla force (more like a coalition of various Islamist, tribal, warlord, and criminal groups) spreads into new areas, the American air war in Afghanistan continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, while manufacturing ever more enemies as well as deep resentment and protest in that country. The latest such incident, possibly the worst since the Taliban was defeated in 2001, involves the deaths of up to 147 Afghans in the Bala Baluk district of Farah Province, according to accounts that have come out of the villages attacked. Up to 95 of the dead were under 18, one Afghan lawmaker involved in investigating the incident claims, and up to 65 of them women or girls. These deaths came after Americans were called into an escalating fight between the Taliban and Afghan police and military units, and in turn, called in devastating air strikes by two U.S. jets and a B-1 bomber (which, villagers claim, hit them after the Taliban fighters had left).

Despite American pledges to own up to and apologize more quickly for civilian deaths, the post-carnage events followed a predictable stonewalling pattern, including a begrudging step-by-step retreat in the face of independent claims and reports. The Americans first denied that anything much had happened; then claimed that they had killed mainly Taliban “militants”; then that the Taliban had themselves used grenades to kill most of the civilians (a charge later partially withdrawn as “thinly sourced”); and finally, that the numbers of Afghan dead were “extremely over-exaggerated,” and that the urge for payment from the Afghan government might be partially responsible.

An investigation, as always, was launched that never seems to end, while the Americans wait for the story to fade from view. As of this moment, while still awaiting the results of a “very exhaustive” investigation, American spokesmen nonetheless claim that only 20-30 civilians died along with up to 65 Taliban insurgents. In these years, however, the record tells us that, when weighing the stories offered by surviving villagers and those of American officials, believe the villagers. Put more bluntly, in such situations, we lie, they die.

Two things make this “incident” at Bala Baluk more striking. First of all, according to Jerome Starkey of the British Independent, another Rumsfeld creation, the U.S. Marines Corps Special Operations Command (MarSOC), the Marines’ version of JSOC, was centrally involved, as it had been in two other major civilian slaughters, one near Jalalabad in 2007 (committed by a MarSOC unit that dubbed itself “Taskforce Violence”), the second in 2008 at the village of Azizabad in Herat Province. McChrystal’s appointment, reports Starkey, has “prompted speculation that [similar] commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.”

Second, back in Washington, National Security Advisor James Jones and head of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, fretting about civilian casualties in Afghanistan and faced with President Karzai’s repeated pleas to cease air attacks on Afghan villages, nonetheless refused to consider the possibility. Both, in fact, used the same image. As Jones told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “Well, I think he understands that… we have to have the full complement of… our offensive military power when we need it… We can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back…”

In a world in which the U.S. is the military equivalent of the multi-armed Hindu god Shiva, this is one of the truly strange, if long-lasting, American images. It was, for instance, used by President George H. W. Bush on the eve of the first Gulf War. “No hands,” he said, “are going to be tied behind backs. This is not a Vietnam.”

Forgetting the levels of firepower loosed in Vietnam, the image itself is abidingly odd. After all, in everyday speech, the challenge “I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back” is a bravado offer of voluntary restraint and an implicit admission that fighting any other way would make one a bully. So hidden in the image, both when the elder Bush used it and today, is a most un-American acceptance of the United States as a bully nation, about to be restrained by no one, least of all itself.

Apologize or stonewall, one thing remains certain: the air war will continue and so civilians will continue to die. The idea that the U.S. might actually be better off with one “hand” tied behind its back is now so alien to us as to be beyond serious consideration.

The Pressure of an Expanding War

President Obama has opted for a down-and-dirty war strategy in search of some at least minimalist form of success. For this, McChrystal is the poster boy. Former Afghan commander General McKiernan believed that, “as a NATO commander, my mandate stops at the [Afghan] border. So unless there is a clear case of self-protection to fire across the border, we don’t consider any operations across the border in the tribal areas.”

That the “responsibilities” of U.S. generals fighting the Afghan War “ended at the border with Pakistan,” Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt of the Times report, is now considered part of an “old mind-set.” McChrystal represents those “fresh eyes” that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates talked about in the press conference announcing the general’s appointment. As Mazzetti and Schmitt point out, “Among [McChrystal’s] last projects as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command was to better coordinate Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency efforts on both sides of the porous border.”

For those old enough to remember, we’ve been here before. Administrations that start down a path of expansion in such a war find themselves strangely locked in — psychically, if nothing else — if things don’t work out as expected and the situation continues to deteriorate. In Vietnam, the result was escalation without end. President Obama and his foreign policy team now seem locked into an expanding war. Despite the fact that the application of force has not only failed for years, but actually fed that expansion, they also seem to be locked into a policy of applying ever greater force, with the goal of, as the Post’s Ignatius puts it, cracking the “Taliban coalition” and bringing elements of it to the bargaining table.

So keep an eye out for whatever goes wrong, as it most certainly will, and then for the pressures on Washington to respond with further expansions of what is already “Obama’s war.” With McChrystal in charge in Afghanistan, for instance, it seems reasonable to assume that the urge to sanction new special forces raids into Pakistan will grow. After all, frustration in Washington is already building, for however much the Pakistani military may be taking on the Taliban in Swat or Buner, don’t expect its military or civilian leaders to be terribly interested in what happens near the Afghan border.

As Tony Karon of the Rootless Cosmopolitan blog puts the matter: “The current military campaign is designed to enforce a limit on the Taliban’s reach within Pakistan, confining it to the movement’s heartland.” And that heartland is the Afghan border region. For one thing, the Pakistani military (and the country’s intelligence services, which essentially brought the Taliban into being long ago) are focused on India. They want a Pashtun ally across the border, Taliban or otherwise, where they fear the Indians are making inroads.

So the frustration of a war in which the enemy has no borders and we do is bound to rise along with the fighting, long predicted to intensify this year. We now have a more aggressive “team” in place. Soon enough, if the fighting in the Afghan south and along the Pakistani border doesn’t go as planned, pressure for the president to send in those other 10,000 troops General McKiernan asked for may rise as well, as could pressure to apply more air power, more drone power, more of almost anything. And yet, as former CIA station chief in Kabul, Graham Fuller, wrote recently, in the region “crises have only grown worse under the U.S. military footprint.”

And what if, as the war continues its slow arc of expansion, the “Washington coalition” is the one that cracks first? What then?

Tom Engelhardt, editor of Tomdispatch.com, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture.

Chicago to pay $20 million to 4 men its police tortured into confessions and sent to death row

Chicago to pay $20 million to 4 men its police tortured into confessions and sent to death row. The four men were among scores of black men who reported being tor-tured, beaten with telephone books, and even suffocated with plastic typewriter covers during police interrogations in the 1970s and 1980s, special prosecutors found last year. The four men were pardoned by Gov. George Ryan in 2003.  (NY Times, 12-8-2007)

The settlement comes at a time of tense relations between the Chicago Police Department and the city’s residents, following a string of incidents — the beatings of civilians caught on video-tape, a report showing a high rate of brutality complaints, a corruption investigation into an elite police unit.  As one lawyer said ““It speaks volumes about the seriousness of the systematic tor-ture, abuse and cover-up that went on in the city of Chicago for decades.”  Many of those who reported torture in police interrogation rooms pointed to a commander named Jon Burge, who was fired in 1993, and to those he supervised. (NY Times, 12-8-2007)

Several former Death Row inmates sued Burge and more than 20 officers who worked with him, alleging that they were coerced into falsely confessing to murder, using techniques like electric shock, Russian roulette, beatings and attempted suffocation.  But prosecutors concluded that none of the men can be charged with a crime because the state’s three-year time limit on felony charges had passed. Burge is collecting his pension and living in Florida. (Chicago Tribune, 12-7-2007)

Last fall, the city reached a tentative, $14.8 million settlement with three of the men, who were allegedly coerced into murder confessions by Burge and his cohorts, and then pardoned and released from Death Row in 2003. That settlement was never forwarded to the City Council for approval. A City lawyer justified delaying payment because the US Justice department was investigating one of the three men.  (Chicago Sun-Times, 12-7-2007)

A lawyer for the plaintiffs commented:

After Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the mayor’s office and many aldermen will undoubtedly try to pretend that the Burge cases are now old history. Been there, done that, we took care of it. Hardly.

+++ There continues to be the minor issue of DOZENS of other African American men serving long sentences downstate thanks to torture-induced “confessions” extracted by Burge and his associates.

+++ There continues to be the issue of criminal prosecution of Burge and his associates, many of whom continue to be employed in senior positions in the Chicago Police Department. The recent Special Prosecutors Report falsely claimed that due to the statute of limitations, Burge et al are immune from prosecution. Sorry, boys, but there’s no statute of limitations on conspiracy. In a just world, you would be dragged into criminal court right now.

+++ There continues to be the issue of the firing of these Burge associates. Many of them are still on the payroll, in senior positions.

+++ There continues to be the issue of restitution to dozens of other Burge, et al victims. Abu Ghraib in America continues to fester.
(Chicago IndyMedia, 12-8-2007)


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