Saturday, October 07, 2006


War Crimes Then and Now

If they do it, it’s a war crime; if we do it, it’s a legitimate interrogation technique. Too bad it often produces bogus information…

This is a two-fer Saturday. This brief history of “waterboarding” and a guest editorial from Seattle on the legacy of the Nuremberg trials—something we all need to think about as the U.S. loses its reputation as the most moral of all countries.

It should be clear, now, that the main reason Bush didn't want the U.S. to be subject to the International Criminal Court was that he and his aides knew their vision of warfare was illigitimate.

Waterboarding Historically Controversial
In 1947, the U.S. Called It a War Crime; in 1968, It Reportedly Caused an Investigation
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 5, 2006; A17

Key senators say Congress has outlawed one of the most notorious detainee interrogation techniques -- "waterboarding," in which a prisoner feels near drowning. But the White House will not go that far, saying it would be wrong to tell terrorists which practices they might face.

Inside the CIA, waterboarding is cited as the technique that got Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the prime plotter of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to begin to talk and provide information -- though "not all of it reliable," a former senior intelligence official said.

Waterboarding is variously characterized as a powerful tool and a symbol of excess in the nation's fight against terrorists. But just what is waterboarding, and where does it fit in the arsenal of coercive interrogation techniques?

On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."

The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."

The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.

Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

A CIA interrogation training manual declassified 12 years ago, "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation -- July 1963," outlined a procedure similar to waterboarding. Subjects were suspended in tanks of water wearing blackout masks that allowed for breathing. Within hours, the subjects felt tension and so-called environmental anxiety. "Providing relief for growing discomfort, the questioner assumes a benevolent role," the manual states.

The KUBARK manual was the product of more than a decade of research and testing, refining lessons learned from the Korean War, where U.S. airmen were subjected to a new type of "touchless torture" until they confessed to a bogus plan to use biological weapons against the North Koreans.

Used to train new interrogators, the handbook presented "basic information about coercive techniques available for use in the interrogation situation." When it comes to torture, however, the handbook advised that "the threat to inflict pain . . . can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain."

In the post-Vietnam period, the Navy SEALs and some Army Special Forces used a form of waterboarding with trainees to prepare them to resist interrogation if captured. The waterboarding proved so successful in breaking their will, says one former Navy captain familiar with the practice, "they stopped using it because it hurt morale."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the interrogation world changed. Low-level Taliban and Arab fighters captured in Afghanistan provided little information, the former intelligence official said. When higher-level al-Qaeda operatives were captured, CIA interrogators sought authority to use more coercive methods.

These were cleared not only at the White House but also by the Justice Department and briefed to senior congressional officials, according to a statement released last month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Waterboarding was one of the approved techniques.

When questions began to be raised last year about the handling of high-level detainees and Congress passed legislation barring torture, the handful of CIA interrogators and senior officials who authorized their actions became concerned that they might lose government support.

Passage last month of military commissions legislation provided retroactive legal protection to those who carried out waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company


U.S. must follow Nuremberg code

Friday, October 6, 2006


Perhaps it was by some quirk of Intelligent Design that Congress passed the law legitimizing the Bush administration's right to do whatever it chooses to detainees (short of rape and mutilation) almost 60 years to the day of the verdicts at Nuremberg.

Two of the Nuremberg trial defendants, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel and Gen. Alfred Jodl, were sentenced to death on Oct. 1, 1946, in part, for delegating Hitler's infamous "commando order." Hitler ranted that allied commandos who attacked German troops by stealth were not soldiers but common criminals. Gangsters, he added, were not covered by the Geneva Convention.

Substitute the word "enemy combatants" for "gangsters," and the Bush administration's approach is certainly rooted in precedent. Moreover, the law doesn't abandon the Geneva Convention. It merely allows leeway in interpreting old-fashioned notions about what constitutes torture.

A second strike against Keitel dealt with his role in carrying out Hitler's "Night and Fog" decree. Under this directive, suspected resistance sympathizers were whisked away by night to places where no one would ever learn of their fates.

Substitute the word "insurgents" for "resistance" and this, too, has a familiar ring. In the wake of Abu Ghraib, the U.S. Army estimated that between 70 percent and 90 percent of those rounded up had done nothing.

Worse, Republicans in Congress maintain that any objections to these breaches of international law and basic decency "coddle" terrorists. For obvious political reasons, advance word is that trials in some cases could begin in synch with next month's elections.

The Nuremberg Charter enumerated four crimes. In highlighted form, these were:

# Conspiracy to wage war of aggression;

# Actual launching of aggressive war;

# Killing, plundering and destroying in a war not justified by militarily necessity; and

# Crimes against humanity.

Arguably, the invasion of Iraq fails to rise to the level of crimes against humanity revealed at Nuremberg. As long as the world draws a moral distinction between shoving children into gas chambers versus chalking up their unintended deaths in an unnecessary war to "collateral damage," that debate will continue. But the first three counts speak for themselves. And I submit that at least some who were hanged at Nuremburg were less guilty of war crimes than the people who brought us Iraq.

Julius Streicher, for one, was executed on general principles. Although a loathsome sort, no evidence was presented linking Streicher to specific murders or the war. However, the tribunal concluded that publishing his vicious anti-Semitic tabloid constituted a crime against humanity because it incited others to murder. In truth, it differed more in focus than in content from some anti-Islamic vitriol heard nowadays from stage right.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor, affirmed that the legacy of Nuremberg should be that the Germans stood trial not because they lost the war -- but because they started it.

The jury of history is out on whether he was correct. Until that verdict is final, holding these detainees without charge or having them tried by hand-picked "military commissions" serves only to incite global terror and lower America's credibility even further.

If there is any evidence of crimes, why not allow these detainees to be judged by an independent international body, as was done with such painstaking circumspection 60 years ago at Nuremberg?

David Rupel is a retired state employee who lives in Olympia.

© 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Terrorist School Teacher Arrested, as reported first onCNN

NEW YORK- A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy
International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said he believes the man is member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of mathinstruction.

"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzalez said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns', but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, "There are 3 sides to every triangle."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God
had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have
given us more fingers and toes."
(MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE),,31200-galloway_060806,00.html (Quran and Science)
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