Dick Cheney is A War Criminal

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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At long last, the Pentagon Post tells the inside story of how the Bush Administration betrayed our history, our Constitutiona, and our laws to make us a nation that engages in torture, despite flat-out denials from Bush, Cheney, Tenet, and all the others who lie when they yell "We do not torture." 

(As Laura Rozen points out, no doubt the Post has known this story for years, but held it until the beginning of summer to minimize its impact - and who knows how many damning details were edited out.)

So who led the fight to "legalize" torture? Dick Cheney and his staff, of course. They did so deliberately because they believe in torture. And their actions resulted in torture, which makes them all war criminals under the Geneval Conventions.

Will the Corporate Media notice? Will Democrats in Congress? Or will everyone ignore the plain facts that are staring them in the face, because the Post portrays Cheney as such a cool and awesome bureaucratic infighter?

Cheney's torture policy evolved after the CIA starting bringing prisoners to Guantanamo.

David S. Addington, Cheney's general counsel, set the new legal agenda in a blunt memorandum shortly after the CIA delegation returned to Langley. Geneva's "strict limits on questioning of enemy prisoners," he wrote on Jan. 25, 2002, hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."

No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk? Cheney's lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives "difficult to predict," might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials.

And well they should worry, because Cheney and everyone else involved in torture are war criminals under the Geneva Conventions.

Geneva rules forbade not only torture but also, in equally categorical terms, the use of "violence," "cruel treatment" or "humiliating and degrading treatment" against a detainee "at any time and in any place whatsoever." The War Crimes Act of 1996 made any grave breach of those restrictions a U.S. felony [Read the act]. The best defense against such a charge, Addington wrote, would combine a broad presidential direction for humane treatment, in general, with an assertion of unrestricted authority to make exceptions.

The vice president's counsel proposed that President Bush issue a carefully ambiguous directive. Detainees would be treated "humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of" the Geneva Conventions. When Bush issued his public decision two weeks later, on Feb. 7, 2002, he adopted Addington's formula -- with all its room for maneuver -- verbatim.

Did Bush know that he was giving a green light for torture? If so, he too should be prosecuted as a war criminal.

In a radio interview last fall, Cheney said, "We don't torture." What he did not acknowledge, according to Alberto J. Mora, who served then as the Bush-appointed Navy general counsel, was that the new legal framework was designed specifically to leave room for cruelty. In international law, Mora said, cruelty is defined as "the imposition of severe physical or mental pain or suffering." He added: "Torture is an extreme version of cruelty."

How extreme? Yoo was summoned again to the White House in the early spring of 2002. This time the question was urgent. The CIA had captured Abu Zubaida, then believed to be a top al-Qaeda operative, on March 28, 2002. Case officers wanted to know "what the legal limits of interrogation are," Yoo said.

This previously unreported meeting sheds light on the origins of one of the Bush administration's most controversial claims. The Justice Department delivered a classified opinion on Aug. 1, 2002, stating that the U.S. law against torture "prohibits only the worst forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and therefore permits many others. [Read the opinion] Distributed under the signature of Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, the opinion also narrowed the definition of "torture" to mean only suffering "equivalent in intensity" to the pain of "organ failure ..... or even death."

When news accounts unearthed that opinion nearly two years later, the White House repudiated its contents. Some officials described it as hypothetical, without disclosing that the opinion was written in response to specific questions from the CIA.

So the U.S. engaged in torture for two years - Cheney and the torturers are war criminals who must be punished.

Administration officials attributed authorship to Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who had come to serve in the Office of Legal Counsel.

But the "torture memo," as it became widely known, was not Yoo's work alone. In an interview, Yoo said that Addington, as well as Gonzales and deputy White House counsel Timothy E. Flanigan, contributed to the analysis.

Note their names - all of them are war criminals.

The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim: that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line of torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."

Oh really? Then why does the Constitution explicitly give Congress the power to "make rules concerning Captures on Land and Water"? (Article 1 Section 8).

That same day, Aug. 1, 2002, Yoo signed off on a second secret opinion, the contents of which have never been made public. According to a source with direct knowledge, that opinion approved as lawful a long list of specific interrogation techniques proposed by the CIA -- including waterboarding, a form of near-drowning that the U.S. government classified as a war crime in 1947. The opinion drew the line against one request: threatening to bury a prisoner alive.

So there we have it - various forms of torture were explicitly approved by the White House, at the insistence Dick Cheney and his staff.

They are war criminals. Impeachment proceedings must begin immediately.

Update 1: Anonymous Liberal says Dick Cheney bears "enormous responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib":

the people who were championing the use of these new (illegal) interrogation techniques were specifically warned that if military interrogators were permitted to use them, it would be difficult to contain the spread of such practices and abuse was likely. In the best case, these warnings were disregarded, the techniques migrated, and the result was Abu Ghraib. In the worst case (which I suspect is more likely), the use of these enhanced techniques was affirmatively encouraged in all military theatres, not just Guantanamo, and the result was Abu Ghraib. Either way, the Office of the Vice President is directly responsible for stripping away the clear rules that had previously existed regarding the treatment of military detainees, a move that set the stage for what would later happen at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

That's fine as far as it goes, but what about the torture and murder that occurred at Abu Ghraib, Baghram, and other military prisons - aren't those war crimes that deserve more than disapproval, but actual impeachment and prosecution?

And why does Anonymous Liberal steer clear of the CIA's use of torture? Isn't that just as unacceptable as torture by the military?



  • Roblex's picture
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Unfortunately, although legally and Constitutionally warranted and valid, there will be no impeachment. Our Democrat leaders in Congress are afraid that initiating impeachment proceedings will cause a backlash of support for Bush/Cheney, thus affecting the anticipated victories in the 2008 elections! Democrats will look like the bad guys! Political fear will allow this criminal administration to walk rich and free after 2008, leaving behind illegal precedents and foreign policy failures that will take decades to repair.

that's based on polling assumptions

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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I pray to God you are right.

  • Roblex's picture
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I pray to God you are right. It just seems so obvious that something must be done quickly to prevent any further destruction, but the other branches of our government seem afraid to use their Constitutional powers to end this madness. Hopefully there are some things going on in the "backrooms" that I don't hear about that may show the courage that I am looking for in our government. This is all very frightening!

Thank you for that informative link!

Don't waste time with impeachment

  • PerryLogan's picture
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The Republicans cheapened impeachment when they used it to smear the last elected President. It simply doesn't mean much anymore.

Besides, every second this administration spends in office is another nail in the Republican coffin.

Selective prosecution of impeachable offenses

  • thepen's picture
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isn't it interesting how enforcing the law and the Constitution is only a "waste" of time when Republicans are the offenders.

the idea that Democrats would NOT stand up against any of this, to try to gain some cheap strategic advantage in a future election, is so GROSSLY offensive to the people who voted for them, who put their faith in them, that it is much more likely to backfire with the result that a large segment of their potential supporters NEVER vote again. in our own activist work we are fielding more brickbats like that than you can possibly imagine.

every second that this administration remains in office is an even larger nail in the Democratic coffin, because they had the power to STOP the occupation (by filibustering the supplemental or at least sticking to their guns on a timetable), and they had the power to impeach (at least in the House, and thereby put everyone on record whether they will defend the Constitution or not), and instead so far they have done NOTHING. the right wing diehards will continue to turn out for their appointed pod person regardless.

the idea that all the Democrats have to do is play rope-a-dope for the next 18 months and just walk into the White House will result in president Bloomberg or worse.