Archive for January, 2013

Zero: bin Laden

January 25, 2013

The purpose of torture authorized by the White House wasn’t to get bin Laden “dead or alive.” Bush had armed drones, “a tool that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. The CIA planned and practiced the operation. But for the next three months, before the catastrophe of Sept. 11, President Bush and his advisers held back…At least twice, Bush conveyed the message to the Taliban that the United States would hold the regime responsible for an al Qaeda attack.” (Washington Post 1/20/02) Bush also wanted to hold Iraq responsible and by shifting troops for an invasion of Iraq, Bush allowed bin Laden to escape again, this time into Pakistan. Pursuant to Bush’s order to develop an updated war plan for Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks in November 2001 to initiate planning for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government.

Declassified documents at the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org) reveal “Secretary of State Powell’s awareness, three days into a new administration, that Iraq ‘regime change’ would be a principal focus of the Bush presidency” and “the difficulty of winning European support for attacking Iraq (except that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair) without real evidence that Baghdad was implicated in 9/11.”

Immediately after 9/11, Bush wanted to launch an attack on Iraq with no evidence that it was involved. Prime Minister Blair is credited with talking Bush out of such an action and persuading him to focus on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. It is believed that in order to do so, Blair had to commit Britain to war on Iraq at a later date. From early 2002 both governments were seeking regime change, but Blair and his officials knew they had to make a case for war based on claims about Iraqi WMDs.

The Archive reveals newly available British government documents showing how the US and UK attempted to sell the war strategy to the world. A CIA white paper, “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs,” was commissioned as early as May 2002 and rewritten to conform to White House preferences. All intelligence predictions were what the Bush administration wanted to hear. There is a record of the Blair government’s efforts to shape the content of the British white paper to “fix the facts and the intelligence around the policy” of regime change.

Both Bush and Blair were concerned about consistency in their claims. In the spring of 2002 the two countries began to produce in parallel the white papers on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that they published that fall. At least two drafts of the respective white papers were exchanged from either side in order to avoid providing openings for opponents. Officials re-drafting the U.K.’s white paper or “dossier” in September 2002 were told to ensure that it “complemented” rather than contradicted claims in the US document. Despite skepticism by intelligence officials, the British included in their white paper allegations about Saddam’s nuclear ambitions because they had been made publicly by Bush and Cheney, for example the allegation that Iraq could obtain a nuclear weapon within a brief one- or two-year timeframe. The US paper, which had omitted the claims from an early draft, also included them after Bush and Cheney made public references to them.

As reported by Knight Ridder Newspapers, by mid-2002 it was clear to veteran Pentagon workers that Bush was “methodically preparing an invasion” and tried to avoid opposition to his war by means of secrecy and deception, restricting information to allies like Britain, and pretending there were no war plans. Instead, there was a PR campaign of fear. One of the biggest surprises of the declassified documents is Bush’s “confidence in perception management” with the help of the compliant “liberal” media as a “successful strategy for overcoming public and allied resistance” to an aggressive war on Iraq. Perception management was perhaps the Bush administration’s biggest success.

David Manning, Blair’s chief foreign affairs adviser, met with US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and reported to Blair, “I said that you (Blair) would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States.” What was different was the ease with which Democrats and the public were cowed by repeated images of a “mushroom cloud,” and the “too complicit” US media that Bush’s former White House spokesman Scott McClellan ridiculed as being “liberal.” After resigning as spokesman, McClellan called the Bush White House, “a culture of deception.” With the exception of Knight Ridder that checked the facts and found them wanting, the US media obligingly parroted the Republican party line of “yellowcake” uranium, mushroom cloud and drones that could hit the east coast with chemical weapons.

The British media were not so compliant. Guardian (UK) reported that “Britain and the US are engaged in a joint strategy designed to apply pressure on Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq while preparing public opinion for military action against the country,” and Bush’s “confidence in perception management” with the help of the compliant “liberal” media as a “successful strategy for overcoming public and allied resistance” to an aggressive war on Iraq. The British media also reported the “Downing Street Memos,” that were leaked to the media, the “dodgy dossier” that largely had been copied, without attribution, from an article in a journal, and the leaked memo of an emergency meeting shortly before the invasion of Iraq in which both Bush and Blair acknowledged that WMD were not likely to be found in Iraq because UN inspectors had found none and agreed they needed a better pretext for the war. Those British documents, especially the last, are still largely unknown in the US, although they were headline news in Britain and forced Blair out of office.

The declassified documents suggest that the public relations push for war came before the intelligence analysis, which then conformed to public positions taken by Pentagon and White House officials. The Senate Armed Services Committee released an exhaustive review of torture showing that the Bush White House began planning for torture in December 2001, developed the interrogation techniques the next month, and the military and the CIA trained interrogators in coercive practices in early 2002, before they had any high-value al-Qaida suspects or any trouble eliciting information from detainees. Interrogators employed the techniques, which are notorious for producing bad intelligence, to get detainees to make statements linking Iraq and al-Qaida. (Salon 4/22/09)

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stated to “Washington Note” that the purpose of the torture was not to capture bin Laden but to support the lie that Iraq was behind 9/11. Wilkerson said on “Democracy Now” that “my FBI colleagues, my CIA colleagues, who will speak the truth to me, have told me that (was the reason). I’ve also gleaned it from other methods that I can’t talk about here on the television.” He also said that Powell was deleting all statements about Iraq and al-Qaeda in his statement to the UN when CIA Director Tenet said a high level al-Qaeda confirmed Iraq was behind 9/11. “We later learned that that was through interrogation methods that used waterboarding, that no U.S. personnel were present at the time—it was done in Cairo, Egypt, and it was done by the Egyptians—and that later, within a week or two period, the high-level al-Qaeda operative recanted everything he had said. We further learned that the Defense Intelligence Agency had issued immediately a warning on that, saying that they didn’t trust the reliability of it due to the interrogation methods.”

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Zero:Dark Side

January 22, 2013

There is a persistent attempt to justify torture by claiming that it led to the death of Osama bin Laden. It didn’t and it doesn’t matter.

Article VI of the US Constitution states: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Reagan signed and Congress ratified the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

Article 4 of that Convention states that “Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.” Article 7 states, “The State Party in territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offense referred to in article 4 is found, shall…if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.”

Article 2, paragraph 2 of the Torture Convention states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Torture was an abysmal failure with blowback yet to come. If it had worked it would have been irrelevant. It was a violation of the US Constitution, domestic law, the Army Field Manual and an international crime. Low-ranking enlisted soldiers were demeaned, dishonored, disgraced, prosecuted and sent to prison for obeying orders while those who issued the orders, in violation of the Constitution and their oaths, from Commanding Officers to the White House walk free as honest and honorable citizens.

What can be more dishonorable, more cowardly than commanding officers, including the Commander-in-Chief, throwing loyal soldiers to the public and media wolves to save themselves?