Thursday, April 5, 2012

FIRST THURSDAY ANTIWAR PROTEST/The Torture Memo Bush Tried to Destroy

The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will host an End the Wars vigil on Thurs., Apr. 5 from 5 to 6:30 PM in Mount Vernon at Centre & Charles Sts.  The Pledge gathers in Mount Vernon on the first Thursday of the month to protest U.S. wars.  Call Max at 410-366-1637.


The Torture Memo Bush Tried to Destroy


     A document advising the Bush administration against

     torture has resurfaced, despite his best efforts to

     hide it


By Jordan Michael Smith

Apr 4, 2012


In February of 2006, Philip Zelikow, counselor to

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, authored a memo

opposing the Bush administration's torture practices

(though he employed the infamous obfuscation of

"enhanced interrogation techniques"). The White House

tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but

one survived in the State Department's bowels and was

declassified yesterday in response to a Freedom of

Information Act request by the National Security Archive.


The memo argues that the Convention Against Torture, and

the Constitution's prohibitions against cruel and

unusual punishment, do indeed apply to the CIA's use of

"waterboard[ing], walling, dousing, stress positions,

and cramped confinement." Zelikow further wrote in the

memo that "we are unaware of any precedent in World War

II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or any subsequent

conflict for authorized, systematic interrogation

practices similar to those in question here, even when

the prisoners were presumed to be unlawful combatants."

According to the memo, the techniques are legally

prohibited, even if there is a compelling state interest

to justify them, since they should be considered cruel

and unusual punishment and "shock the conscience."


Chillingly, the memo notes that "corrective techniques,

such as slaps," may be legally sustained, as might be

"[C]ontrol conditions, such as nudity, sleep

deprivation, and liquid diets.depending on the

circumstances and details of how these techniques are

used." However much distress Zelikow's memo caused the

White House, it was not an ACLU briefing paper.


"I'm pleased the memo is now part of the historical

record and available for study," Zelikow wrote Salon in

an email. The White House had determined that the memo -

which was not binding since Zelikow's was a bureaucratic

position without legal authority - was too dangerous to

exist. "I later heard the memo was not considered

appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my

memo should be collected and destroyed," he said in a

May 2009 congressional hearing.


At that hearing, before the Senate Committee on the

Judiciary, Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and

the Courts, Zelikow said he had "no view on whether

former officials should be prosecuted," a decision he

thinks should be left to "institutions." However, he did

call for a thorough inquiry and a public report

examining how the U.S. came to employ torture.


Of course, no such inquiry was ever launched. The Obama

administration declined to revisit the U.S. employment

of torture, with the president saying he didn't want to

"look back." Zelikow believes this was a mistake. "I

still believe an inquiry would be useful, though less so

as time passes and more information becomes available,

especially after the 9/11 trials conclude, hopefully

this year," he says in an email.


During his congressional testimony, Zelikow declined to

say whether Department of Justice lawyers acted

improperly or immorally, conceding only that their

opinions were "unsound, even unreasonable." But in a

2007 lecture in Houston, he had no problem saying "the

cool, carefully considered, methodical, prolonged, and

repeated subjection of captives to physical torment, and

the accompanying psychological terror, is immoral."


The importance of the memo lies in its revelation that

there was real, serious debate inside the Bush

administration about how to interrogate captured

terrorist suspects. The members of the White House

declined to enter that debate - indeed, they did their

best to squash it. The destruction of Zelikow's

carefully reasoned memo suggests the White House did not

want any record of alternative views even existing, lest

they be considered reasonable or people get the idea

that the torture policies were thought controversial

even by members of the administration.


Jordan Michael Smith writes about U.S. foreign policy

for Salon. He has written for the New York Times, Boston

Globe and Washington Post. 



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