As activists and human rights organizations around the world prepare for a Global Day of Action Against Torture we reflect on the US governments continued use of torture.
Shortly after the release of the Senate Report on CIA Torture Americans were hit with a barrage of media coverage that attempted to either discredit the report, paint it as a one sided partisan issue, or simply distract the masses. All of these efforts were designed to suppress the real issue: The US military with the support of the US government has tortured and continues to torture suspected terrorists, many who have been cleared of any wrong doing. Read that again. CLEARED OF ANY WRONG DOING.
That’s right. The country that has boasted about freedom and democracy for the last 100 years actually closely resembles many of the nations Americans are told to despise. However, the actions and decisions of top authorities and military soldiers are not the choices of individual Americans. If we are to regain any sense of moral high ground we, individually and collectively, need to reassess whether we truly support torture. And if Americans do support torture they should be honest and stop parading around as if America is a bastion of compassion and freedom.
It has become increasingly obvious that both parties during the Bush administration and continuing into the Obama administration were aware that torture is happening. Late in 2014, the NY Post reported that Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the interrogations program from 2002 to 2004, stated that all members of Congress were briefed on the programs. Rodriguez went as far as saying that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was briefed on “all of the techniques … she never objected to the techniques at all.” Rodriguez said Pelosi was specifically briefed on waterboarding and sleep deprivation. No word on whether or not she heard about Rectal Feeding.
As far back as 2010 it has been known that at least 68 members of Congress were told about the program. Watchdog organization Judicial Watch obtained formerly “Top Secret” government documents that detail congressional briefings between 2001 and 2007.
But what about today? Does torture continue under President Obama’s watch? When running for President, Senator Obama promised to hold Bush officials accountable for the crimes perpetuated under that regime. However, in 2009, after a Department of Justice investigation was announced, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated it was “time for reflection, not retribution.” The DOJ would eventually close all investigations into alleged abuse and conclude that no charges should be brought.
Despite the Obama administrations claim that no charges should be brought forth, members of the U.N. Committee Against Torture recently told the US that it rejects the Bush administrations interpretations of torture law. The Committee rejected the findings of the DOJ investigation. Committee Chairman George Tugushi stated, “In our view, any investigation into possible ill treatment by public officials must comply with the criteria of thoroughness. And actually to be considered credible, it must be capable of leading to a determination of whether force or other methods used were or were not justified under the circumstances, and to the identification of the appropriate punishment of those concerned.”
When pressured on the apparent failure of the investigation, US officials said they interviewed more than 90 witnesses but declined to say whether any of the witnesses were actually prisoners who had been subjected to the CIA interrogations. The Obama White House actually broke promises to help the Senate investigation into the CIA torture. The White House withheld thousands of documents from the Senate.
There has also been reports boasting of executive action taken by Obama shortly after coming into office. Allegedly his executive order put an end to torture under his administration. This is also false. To be fair Obama did upgrade interrogation techniques to make sure they were in line with the US Army Field Manual and thus the Geneva Convention which has prohibited torture since 1956. However, the Alternet reports that in 2006 the manual was revised to allow techniques that went beyond the Geneva Convention’s restrictions.
” As pointed out by US psychologist Jeff Kaye who has worked extensively with torture victims, a new UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) review of the manual shows that a wide-range of torture techniques continue to be deployed by the US government, including isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules, among others.”
Still President Obama continues to give interviews stating that no torture has been condoned on his watch.
Investigations by The Nation have found the use of CIA “black sites”, or secret locations for interrogation and torture, has increased under President Obama. One investigation found secret prisons in Somalia and another facility known as “Obama’s Guantanamo”. The Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan is reportedly home to regular beatings, loud blaring music, sleep prevention, and forced “stress positions”. Former detainees allege that there is a second, secret prison on Bagram Air Base that organizations like the Red Cross are denied access.
Probably the most blatant example of continued torture under the Obama administration is the use of force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay. Many of the remaining detainees at the prison have been cleared of wrong doing for years yet they cannot leave because most nations are not willing to harbor formerly suspected terrorists. One of these men is Syrian citizen Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
Dhiab has been at the military prison since 2002 and cleared for release since 2009. He is represented by attorneys with the international human rights organization Reprieve. Dhiab and others began a hunger-strike to protest their conditions and the military responded by force-feeding detainees. Dhiab recently asked the federal courts to stop the forced-feedings, as well as the process known as Forced Cell Extractions (FCE), where detainees are violently removed from their cells.
During the hearing Reprieve attorney Cori Crider presented three expert witnesses. One of the witnesses was Boston University medical professor Sondra Crosby. Crosby examined Dhiab and stated that he complained of bleeding and pain from the tubes forced up his nose. He also stated that he had been forcibly removed 1,300 times since 2002. When Crosby saw footage of the forced-feedings she called it “disturbing”.
The hearing wrapped up after attorneys with the government failed to present any witnesses to speak in defense of the forced-feeding methods. The judge is expected to write an opinion on the case which could take weeks.
Videos of the forced-feedings were shown privately during the hearing. On October 3, Judge Kessler ruled that the government must unseal 32 video tapes related to force-feeding Dhiab. The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the type “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities”. Several news organizations came together to oppose the sealing of the videos, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters. Immediately following the ruling, the Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to halt the release. The issue still remains in legal limbo.
Just yesterday VICE News reported that a two-page document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the US military acknowledged that force-feeding violates medical ethics and international law. The document is dated June 21, 2013 and titled “Legal Authority and Policy for Enteral Feeding at JTF-GTMO” (Joint Task Force-Guantanamo).
The last paragraph of the document states, “While enteral feeding is solidly supported under US federal law and policy, international law and certain medical ethical standards holds that the ‘forced feeding’ of a mentally competent person capable of making an informed decision is never acceptable.” The reference to medical ethical standards comes from a letter from the American Medical Association which stated the practice “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”
The picture could not be more clear. President Obama has not only refused to pursue charges against Bush administration officials responsible for torture, he has actually continued and expanded the practice. It is als0 unlikely the next president will seek charges against Obama.
In response to the torture report activists and human rights organizations around the world have called for prosecutions of US officials who ordered and allowed torture to take place. Indeed, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have called for prosecution of U.S. government officials. The Anti Media, The Conscious Resistance Network, Hustle For Humanity,The Solutions Institute, The Houston Free Thinkers, and many more organizations are calling on activists and concerned citizens around the world to organize actions on Saturday January 31st.
The Global Day of Action Against Torture is also partnering with the 501(c)(3) Charity, Hustle For Humanity. Hustle For Humanity recently announced their new viral challenge campaign to stop torture. It’s called the “Hustle For Humanity 30 Second Waterboard Challenge” and organizers offer to pay $300 to any participant that can last a full 30 seconds of properly applied waterboarding.
In exchange, if the participants don’t last the full 30 seconds, they agree t0 make a tax deductible donation of $30 to Hustle For Humanity as part of their nationwide awareness campaign.
For more information on the event please see this.