Sunday, May 31, 2009

FOCUS | Dahr Jamail: The Return of the Resistance

The Return of the Resistance

Sunday 31 May 2009

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Perspective


In Baghdad's al-Fadel district, Iraqi Special Forces troops round a corner. (Photo: Getty Images)

    At least 20 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq in May, the most since last September, along with more than 50 wounded. Iraqi casualties are, as usual - and in both categories - at least ten times that number.

    Attacks against US forces are once again on the rise in places like Baghdad and Fallujah, where the Iraqi resistance was fiercest before so many of them joined the Sahwa (Sons of Iraq, also referred to as Awakening Councils), and began taking payments from the US military in exchange for halting attacks against the occupiers and agreeing to join the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. In early April I wrote a column for this website that illustrated how ongoing Iraqi government and US military attacks against the Sahwa, coupled with broken promises of the Sahwa being incorporated into the government security apparatus or given civilian jobs, would likely lead to an exodus from the Sahwa and a return to the resistance.

    Slowly, but surely, we are seeing that occur. While US liaison Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer has called this idea, along with the ongoing controversy from the Iraqi government - led by US-pawn Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - not paying most of the Sahwa members, while continuing government arrests of and attacks on Sahwa members "overblown," this does not change reality. Let us recall the telling words of the reporter Caud Cockburn, father of journalist Patrick Cockburn, "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."

    Not surprisingly, in direct contradiction to Kulmayer's comment, the Sahwa have warned the Iraqi government not to disregard its commitments to the fighters as far as providing them jobs and payment. On May 28, the independent Saudi-owned United Kingdom-based newspaper, al-Hayat, reported:

"A number of the leaders of the awakening councils called on the Iraqi government to honor its commitments towards the members of the awakening councils by paying their salaries which are three months late. They warned that their fighters might rebel against the government if their demands for their financial rights continue to be disregarded which might have an adverse effect on the security situation. Sheikh Masari al-Dulaymi, one of the leaders of the council in Falahat al-Taji to the north of Baghdad, announced that the committee supervising the national reconciliation process warned the leaders of the councils in and around Baghdad that their salaries would be paid and that a form of cooperation will be agreed upon with the tribes to preserve the security in Baghdad."

    The paper added that al-Dulaymi also pointed out that many council fighters abandoned their duties in protecting their areas because of the delays in receiving their salaries, and "we don't want the crisis to grow any worse because the council members already distrust government promises." Al-Hayat also reported that Sheikh Khaled Yassine al-Janabi, a leader of the council in al-Latifiyah in southern Baghdad, warned that the "government's disregard for the issue of the councils and their demands will have an adverse effect on the security situation."

    Simultaneously, the Iraqi Resistance, whose ranks are growing with disenfranchised Sahwa along with other Iraqis joining for the usual reasons: their countrymen and women being detained, tortured, and raped by occupation forces and their Iraqi collaborators, the destroyed infrastructure and the suffering that accompanies this, among a myriad of other reasons (like the fact that one in four Iraqis lives in poverty), are, at least verbally, preparing to resume full operations.

    The Los Angeles Times recently reported that a commander in the Iraqi Resistance, who is also a member of the currently besieged Sahwa, said, "If we hear from the Americans they are not capable of supporting us ... within six hours we are going to establish our groups to fight against the corrupt government. There will be a war in Baghdad."

    Having relied on the US military to fulfill their promises of assisting the Sahwa into the Iraqi political system, as well as for protection from ongoing attacks from the Maliki government security apparatus, their patience has just about run out.

    A former military intelligence general, a resistance commander who heads a group called the Iraqi Liberation Army, and who is also a member of the Sahwa, told The Los Angeles Times in the same article, "If the Americans leave Baghdad in 24 hours, the street belongs to the resistance and the people. The people are boiling."

    Violence has been escalating since January. April was the deadliest month for Iraqis in over a year. Daily we are watching Sahwa members leave their security posts. Rather than safeguarding the areas where they worked as security, many of them, in protest of government attacks and lack of payment, are rejoining the resistance. Simultaneously, they have effectively ceased targeting al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, which was also what the US had created the Sahwa for in the first place. Thus, when al-Janabi warns that the "government's disregard for the issue of the councils and their demands will have an adverse effect on the security situation," the "adverse effect" is two-fold. And this does not account for the future ramifications of having 100,000 fighters, who were allied with the occupation forces, turn completely against them again. Today, as aforementioned, we are getting a small, very small, taste of what that might look like.

    Rivers of blood continue to flow in occupied Iraq. On May 25 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a US patrol in Mosul, killing eight people and wounding another 26. The same day, in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad, a gunman killed a Sahwa fighter who was manning a checkpoint.

    On May 21, suicide bombers struck in two cities, killing three American soldiers and nearly two dozen Iraqis in a spasm of violence that took at least 66 lives in two days. That same day saw more attacks against the Sahwa, who in addition to being attacked by Iraqi government forces, are being attacked by al-Qaeda. Seven Sahwa members were killed in Kirkuk on May 21 as they waited in line at a military base to receive their salaries.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade, despite an "agreement" between the US and Iraq that would bring all US troops home by 2012. General George Casey, the Army chief of staff, recently stated that the Pentagon must plan for extended US combat and stability operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, "Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," he said, "They fundamentally will change how the Army works." It is important to note that at the moment, the US maintains 139,000 troops in Iraq, which is still a greater number than that which existed prior to the so-called "troop surge" of George W. Bush.

    Many of these troops, along with nationalistic US citizens who blindly supported, and/or continue to support the criminal occupation of Iraq, believe it is a mandate from God that justifies the "might makes right" strategy of US Empire. Let us recall one of the better-known authors from the United States, Mark Twain. Better known for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Twain was quite anti-war. I certainly was never instructed to read Twain's "The War Prayer," part of which sardonically reads:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle - be Thou near them! With them - in spirit - we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it - for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

    This is the slaughter and suffering that is being caused by the US occupation of Iraq. This is the death and suffering that is causing the Iraqi Resistance to once again form, gain strength, and prepare to resume full operations.


Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq," (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for eight months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last four years.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Shadow Wars

Shadow Wars


By Conn Hallinan

Foreign Policy In Focus

May 26, 2009


Sudan: The two F-16s caught the trucks deep in the

northern desert. Within minutes, the column of vehicles

was a string of shattered wrecks burning fiercely in

the January sun. Surveillance drones spotted a few

vehicles that had survived the storm of bombs and

cannon shells, and the fighter-bombers returned to

finish the job.


Syria: Four Blackhawk helicopters skimmed across the

Iraqi border, landing at a small farmhouse near the

town of al-Sukkariyeh. Black-clad soldiers poured from

the choppers, laying down a withering hail of automatic

weapons fire. When the shooting stopped, eight Syrians

lay dead on the ground. Four others, cuffed and

blindfolded, were dragged to the helicopters, which

vanished back into Iraq.


Pakistan: a group of villagers were sipping tea in a

courtyard when the world exploded. The Hellfire

missiles seemed to come out of nowhere, scattering

pieces of their victims across the village and

demolishing several houses. Between January 14, 2006

and April 8, 2009, 60 such attacks took place. They

killed 14 wanted al-Qaeda members along with 687 civilians.


In each of the above incidents, no country took

responsibility or claimed credit. There were no sharp

exchanges of diplomatic notes before the attacks, just

sudden death and mayhem.


War without Declaration


The F-16s were Israeli, their target an alleged

shipment of arms headed for the Gaza Strip. The

Blackhawk soldiers were likely from Task Force 88, an

ultra-secret U.S. Special Forces group. The Pakistanis

were victims of a Predator drone directed from an

airbase in southern Nevada.


Each attack was an act of war and drew angry responses

from the country whose sovereignty was violated. But

since no one admitted carrying them out, the diplomatic

protests had no place to go.


The "privatization" of war, with its use of armed

mercenaries, has come under heavy scrutiny, especially

since a 2007 incident in Baghdad in which guards from

Blackwater USA (now Xe) went on a shooting spree,

killing 17 Iraqis and wounding scores of others. But

the "covertization" of war has remained largely in the

shadows. The attackers in the Sudan, Syria, and

Pakistan were not private contractors, but U.S. and

Israeli soldiers. Assassination Teams


In his book The War Within, The Washington Post's Bob

Woodward disclosed that the U.S. military has developed

"secret operational capabilities" to "locate, target,

and kill key individuals in extremist groups."


In a recent interview during a Great Conversations

event at the University of Minnesota, two-time Pulitzer

Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh

revealed a U.S. military "executive assassination

ring," part of the Joint Special Operations Command

(JSOC). Hersh says that "Congress has no oversight"

over the program.


According to a 2004 classified document, the United

States has the right to attack "terrorists" in some 15

to 20 nations, including Pakistan, Syria, and Iran. The

Israeli military has long used "targeted

assassinations" to eliminate Tel Aviv's enemies. U.S.

and NATO "assassination teams" have emerged in Iraq and

Afghanistan, where, according to the UN, they have

killed scores of people. Philip Alston of the UN Human

Rights Council charges that secret "international

intelligence services" allied with local militias are

killing Afghan civilians and then hiding behind an

"impenetrable" wall of bureaucracy.


When Alston protested the killing of two brothers in

Kandahar, "not only was I unable to get any

international military commander to provide their

version of what took place, but I was unable to get any

military commander to even admit that their soldiers

were involved," he told the Financial Times.


In Iraq, such special operations forces have carried

out a number of killings, including a raid that killed

the son and a nephew of the governor of Salahuddin

Province north of Baghdad. The Special Operations

Forces (SOF) stormed the house at 3AM and shot the

governor's 17-year-old son dead in his bed. When a

cousin tried to enter the room, he was also gunned down.


Such "night raids" by SOFs have drawn widespread

protests in Afghanistan. According to the Afghanistan

Independent Human Rights Commission, night raids

involve "abusive behavior and violent breaking and

entry," and only serve to turn Afghans against the occupation.


Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Kamal al-Maliki charged that a

March 26 raid in Kut that killed two men violated the

new security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.


The Predator strikes have deeply angered most

Pakistanis. Owais Ahmed Ghani, governor of the

Northwest Frontier Province, calls the drone strikes

"counterproductive," a sentiment that David Kilcullen,

the top advisor to the U.S. military in Afghanistan,

agreed with in recent congressional testimony. The U.S.

government doesn't officially take credit for the



Budgets and Strategy


If Congress agrees to the Defense Department budget

proposed by Pentagon chief Robert Gates, attacks by SOF

and armed robots will likely increase. While most the

media focused on the parts of the budget that step back

from the big ticket weapons systems of the Cold War,

the proposal actually resurrects a key Cold War

priority of the 1960s.


"The similarities between Gates' proposals and the

strategy adopted by the Kennedy administration are too

great to ignore," notes Nation defense correspondent

Michael Klare. These similarities include "a shift in

focus toward unconventional conflict in the Third World."


Gates' budget would increase the number of SOFs by

2,800, build more drones like the Predator and its

bigger, more lethal cousin, the Reaper, and enhance the

rapid movement of troops and equipment. All of this is

part of General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency doctrine.


The concept is hardly new. The units are different than

they were 50 years ago - Navy SEALS and Delta Force

have replaced Green Berets - but the philosophy is the

same. And while the public face of counterinsurgency is

winning "hearts and minds" by building schools and

digging wells, its core is 3AM raids and Hellfire missiles.


The "decapitations" of insurgent leaders in Iraq,

Afghanistan and Pakistan is little different - albeit

at a lower level - than Operation Phoenix, which killed

upwards of 40,000 "insurgent" leaders in South Vietnam

during the war in Southeast Asia. Hidden Wars


In the past, war was an extension of a nation's

politics "too important," as World War I French Premier

Georges Clemenceau commented, "to be left to the generals."


But increasingly, the control of war is slipping away

from the civilians in whose name and interests it is

supposedly waged. While the "privatization" of war has

frustrated the process of congressional oversight, its

"covertization" has hidden war behind a wall of silence or denial.


"Congress has been very passive in relation to its own

authority with regard to warmaking," says Princeton

international law scholar Richard Falk. "Congress

hasn't been willing to insist that the government

adhere to international law and the U.S. Constitution."


The SFOs may be hidden, but there are eight dead people

in Syria, four of them reportedly children. There are

at least 39 dead in northern Sudan, and more dead in

Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of civilian dead in

Pakistan runs into the hundreds.


The new defense budget goes a long ways toward

retooling the U.S. military to become a quick

reaction/intervention force with an emphasis on

counterinsurgency and covert war. The question is:

Where will the shadow warriors strike next?


c 2009 Foreign Policy In Focus


Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.


Gerard Jean-Juste, Presente!" by Bill Quigley

Published on Sunday, May 31, 2009 by


Revolutionary Haitian Priest, Gerard Jean-Juste, Presente!

by Bill Quigley


Though Haitian priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste died May 27, 2009, at

age 62, in Miami from a stroke and breathing problems, he remains

present to millions. Justice-loving people world-wide mourn his death

and celebrate his life. Pere Jean-Juste worked uncompromisingly for

justice for Haitians and the poor, both in Haiti and in the U.S.


Pere Jean-Juste was a Jesus-like revolutionary. In jail and out, he

preached liberation of the poor, release of prisoners, human rights

for all, and a fair distribution of wealth. A big muscular man with a

booming voice and a frequent deep laugh, he wore a brightly colored

plastic rosary around his neck and carried another in his pocket.

Jailed for nearly a year in Haiti by the U.S. supported coup

government which was trying to silence him, Amnesty International

called him a Prisoner of Conscience.


Jean-Juste was a scourge to the unelected coup governments of Haiti,

who served at the pleasure, and usually the direction, of the U.S.

government. He constantly challenged both the powers of Haiti and the

U.S. to stop killing and starving and imprisoning the poor. In the

U.S. he fought against government actions which deported black

Haitians while welcoming Cubans and Nicaraguans and others. In Haiti

he called for democracy and respect and human rights for the poor.


Pere Jean-Juste was sometimes called the most dangerous man in Haiti.

That was because he was not afraid to die. His computer screen saver

was a big blue picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. "Every day I am

ready to meet her." He once told me, when death threats came again. "I

will not stop working for justice because of their threats. I am

looking forward to heaven."


Jean-Juste was a literally a holy terror to the unelected powers of

Haiti and the elected but unaccountable powers of the U.S. Every

single day, in jail or out, he said Mass, read the psalms and

jubilantly prayed the rosary. In Port au Prince he slept on the floor

of his church, St. Claire, which provided meals to thousands of

starving children and adults every week. In prison, he organized local

nuns to bring him hundreds of plastic rosaries which he gave to fellow

prisoners and then lead them in daily prayer.


When Pere Jean-Juste began to speak, to preach really, about justice

for the poor and the wrongfully imprisoned, restless crowds drew

silent. Listening to him preach was like feeling the air change before

a thunderstorm sweeps in. He slowly raised his arms. He spread his

powerful hands to punctuate his intensifying words. Minutes passed as

the Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights and today's news were

interspersed. Justice for the poor. Freedom for those in prison.

Comfort for those who mourn. The thunder was rolling now. Crowds were

cheering now. Human rights for everyone. Justice for Haiti. Justice

for Haiti. Justice for Haiti.


To the rich, Jean-Juste preached that the man with two coats should

give one to the woman with none. But, unlike most preachers, he did

not stop there. Because there were many people with no coats, Pere

Jean-Juste said, no one could justly claim ownership of a second coat.

In fact, those who held onto second coats were actually thieves who

stole from those who had no coats. In Haiti and the U.S., where there

is such a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, there was much

stealing by the rich from the poor. This was revolutionary preaching.


During the day, people streamed to his church to ask for help. Mothers

walked miles from Cite de Soleil to his parish to beg him to help them

bury their children. Widows sought help. Families with sons in prison

asked for a private word. Small packets of money and food were quietly

given away. Visitors from rural Haiti, people seeking jobs, many

looking for food, police officers who warned of new threats, political

organizers with ideas how to challenge the unelected government,

reporters and people seeking special prayers - all came all the time.


Every single night when he was home at his church in Port au Prince

Pere Jean-Juste led a half hour public rosary for anyone who showed

up. Most of the crowd was children and older women who came in part

because the church was the only place in the neighborhood which had

electricity. He walked the length of the church booming out the first

part of the Hail Mary while children held his hand or trailed him

calling out their part of the rosary. The children and the women came

night after night to pray in Kreyol with Mon Pere.


Pere Jean-Juste lived the preferential option for the poor of

liberation theology. Because he was always in trouble with the

management of the church, who he also freely criticized, he was

usually not allowed regular church parish work. In Florida, he lay

down in his clerical blacks on the road in front of busses stopping

them from taking Haitians to be deported from the U.S. For years he

lived on the run in Haiti, moving from house to house. When he was

arrested on trumped up charges, he refused to allow people with money

to bribe his way out of jail, he would stay with the poor and share

their treatment.


He dedicated his entire adult life to the revolutionary proposition

that every single person is entitled to a life of human dignity. No

matter the color of skin. No matter what country they were from. No

matter how poor or rich. No matter woman or man.


His last time in court in Haiti, when the judge questioned him about a

bogus weapons charge against him, Pere Jean-Juste dug into his pocket,

pulled out his plastic prayer beads, thrust them high in the air and

bellowed, to the delight of the hundreds in attendance, "My rosary is

my only weapon!" The crowd roared and all charges were dropped.


Gerard Jean-Juste lived with and fought for and with widows and

orphans and those in jail and those being deported and the hungry and

the mourning and the sick and the persecuted. Our world is better for

his time among us.


Mon Pere, our brother, your spirit, like those of all who struggle for

justice for others, lives on. Presente!


By Bill Quigley.  Bill represented Pere Jean-Juste many times in Haiti

along with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port au Prince and

the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.  Bill is on leave

from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans serving as Legal

Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.   He can be

contacted at quigley77 at



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Stuff the Bankers, Starve the Kids

Stuff the Bankers, Starve the Kids

Posted on May 26, 2009

By Robert Scheer

All sorts of startling conclusions are being drawn about the failure of California’s ballot funding initiatives last week. Newt Gingrich hailed it as another Boston Tea Party, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman insisted that it condemns California, one of the world’s largest economies, to banana republic status. But if it was such a big deal, how come the voter turnout was so low?

Maybe because the statewide ballot initiatives were a bit of a political practical joke played by a Republican governor and leading Democrats pretending to be dealing on a statewide basis with the consequences of a national economic crisis that can be solved only through massive federal intervention. There is no way that the people of any state will vote to increase their taxes in the midst of a deep recession, and certainly not when the funding demands seem to have little to do with solving the problem at hand. As a subheading in the ever-sober Economist magazine put it, “Voters reject a ballot they could not comprehend.”

I tried, and after reading the opposing argument in the literature supplied at my nearly empty polling station I voted for the ballot propositions that our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had requested. I assumed that this would help our vastly underfunded inner-city schools. Later, my son Chris, who teaches in one of those schools, told me that I might have been wrong and that the convoluted paragraphs of the all too typically obtuse California propositions could not improve matters much at all.

So, filled with doubt and guilt, I took solace in the fact that in terms of the money involved it wasn’t that big a deal, and that surely the feds, to whom we Californians send more in revenue than any other state, would bail us out as they have the banks. Heck, the entire projected California budget shortfall comes to only $21 billion, a tiny fraction of the banking bailout. Yes, only—what is $21 billion in federal loan guarantees for California to skirt bankruptcy compared with the $45 billion given to Citigroup, along with $300 billion more in guarantees for that company’s toxic paper? Or how about the $185 billion doled out to AIG? If Citigroup is too big to fail, isn’t the state of California? Does anyone seriously believe that the national economy can snap back to health if California is in the dump?

The cause of California’s, and almost every other state’s, predicament is an economy ruined by deregulation policies that were secured by the lobbying efforts of Wall Street, led most prominently by Citigroup. So, I expected a federal government that has spent trillions salvaging the banks that got us into this mess to find the relatively minor sums needed to bail out California and other states that have been the victims of Wall Street’s dangerous games.

But I didn’t count on the tough-love steeliness of President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, who told Californians that “there’s a limit to what the government can do” when it comes to bailing out our state (as opposed to the banks). Or of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “Obviously, the state has to make some very tough fiscal decisions … [given] the budgetary constraints that they have.”

Tough for whom? Not the politicians of either party. The results of such decisions are tough for the poor of America, two-thirds of whom are kids, left to the tender mercy of the states, thanks to the sweeping “welfare reform” and other programs put into place by the Clinton White House in one of that Democratic administration’s signature triangulation ploys.

The Los Angeles Times summarized the direction of those difficult choices in a story headlined “Poor would be hard hit by proposed California budget cuts,” which stated that Schwarzenegger “is considering a plan to slash California’s safety net for the poor by eliminating the state’s main welfare program, health insurance for low-income families and cash grants to college students.”

Bail out the banks, but not the 500,000 poor families with children served by the CalWorks program, which will be dismantled, or the 928,000 children covered by the Healthy Families program, slated for oblivion.

At a time when the feds are spending with such abandon in an effort to stimulate the economy, why is it tolerable to leave states in a position where they are forced to fire teachers? As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Schwarzenegger has proposed slashing state spending on education by $3 billion to help close the budget gap, and the state would pay dearly for canceling classes, firing instructors, cutting class days and shortening the school year, experts said.” How can there be federal funds readily available for banker bonuses but not to keep teachers in the classroom with their students? It must have been the kids who caused the meltdown.


AP photo / Rich Pedroncelli

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gestures as he discusses his revised state budget proposal for the coming fiscal year during a news conference in Sacramento on Thursday.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Levin: Cheney Lying About CIA Memos

t r u t h o u t | 05.30

Levin: Memos Don't Show What Cheney Says They Do

Friday 29 May 2009

by: Ed Hornick  |  Visit article original @ CNN

Former Vice President Dick Cheney continues to defend Bush-era torture techniques. (Photo: AP)

    Washington - Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says former Vice President Dick Cheney's claims - that classified CIA memos show enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding worked - are wrong.

    Former VP Dick Cheney has been a vocal defender of Bush-era interrogation techniques.

     Levin, speaking at the Foreign Policy Association's annual dinner in New York on Wednesday, said an investigation by his committee into detainee abuse charges over the use of the techniques - now deemed torture by the Obama administration - "gives the lie to Mr. Cheney's claims."

    The Michigan Democrat told the crowd that the two CIA documents that Cheney wants released "say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques."

    "I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction," he added.

    Justice Department documents released in April showed that Bush administration lawyers authorized the use of techniques such as sleep deprivation, slapping, stress positions and waterboarding, which produces the sensation of drowning.

    President Obama formally banned the techniques by issuing an executive order requiring that the U.S. Army field manual be used as the guide for terror interrogations. Watch Obama discuss the torture debate »

    "I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture," he told a joint session of Congress in February.

    He argued that those techniques provided valuable intelligence that saved American lives, but critics say they amounted to the illegal torture of prisoners in U.S. custody

    On May 14, the CIA rejected the former vice president's request.

    CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, in a written statement, said the two documents Cheney requested are the subject of two pending lawsuits seeking the release of documents related to the interrogation program, and cannot be declassified.

    A former State Department official has told CNN that the main purpose of the Bush-era interrogations was finding a link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

    Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, said that the interrogation program began in April and May of 2002, and Cheney's office kept close tabs on the questioning.

    "Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda," Wilkerson wrote in The Washington Note, an online political journal.

    Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said his accusation is based on information from current and former officials. He said he has been "relentlessly digging" since 2004, when Powell asked him to look into the scandal surrounding the treatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

    Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, on May 21, Cheney said only detainees of the "highest intelligence value" were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. He said only three detainees were waterboarded.

    Bush administration lawyers have said the interrogation tactics did not violate U.S. laws against torture as long as interrogators had no intent to cause "severe pain."

    With thousands of lives potentially in the balance, Cheney argued, it didn't make sense to let high-value detainees "answer questions in their own good time."

    Obama, speaking on the same day as Cheney, said his administration is trying to clean up "a mess" left behind by the Bush administration. He defended his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, his ban on torture, the release of Bush-era interrogation memos and his objection to the release of prisoner photos.

    Levin backed up Obama's "mess" claims, and said the enhanced interrogations have hurt America's image.

    "Cheney's world view, which so dominated the Bush years and dishonored our nation, gained a little traction last week - enough to persuade me to address it head-on here tonight," Levin said. "I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back."

    On Thursday night, former President George W. Bush, who has remained virtually mum on the torture debate, said his administration's enhanced interrogation program was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks.

    Bush told an audience in Benton Harbor, Michigan, that after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."

    In his speech, Bush did not specifically refer to Obama's decision to halt the use of harsh interrogation techniques; he also didn't mention Cheney by name.

    Bush described how he proceeded after the capture of terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.

    "The first thing you do is ask, 'What's legal?' " Bush said. " 'What do the lawyers say is possible?' I made the decision, within the law, to get information, so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."

    The latest charge by Levin comes as another top Democrat - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - continues to defend claims that the CIA never briefed Congress on the specific interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, that were being used.

    Pelosi told reporters in May that she was briefed by the CIA on such techniques once - in September 2002, when she was the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee - and that she was told at the time that techniques such as waterboarding were not being used. She said she learned that waterboarding had been used after other lawmakers were briefed in 2003.

    CIA spokesman George Little, however, said the agency's records indicate Pelosi was briefed on the techniques.

    The claim by Pelosi, D-California, created a firestorm on Capitol Hill, with Republicans - who have been mostly supportive of the Bush administration's policy - blasting Pelosi and demanding she back up the allegation.

    Pelosi has urged the CIA to release information on the meetings, though the CIA admits that no detailed memos, only outlines, exist.

    Until concrete evidence comes to light, the torture debate will continue to heat up the halls of Congress, with Republicans putting pressure on Pelosi, and Democrats, like Levin, continuing to lash out at the former Bush administration.

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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs