In post-WWII Eastern Europe, enemies or people of serious inconvenience to the Soviet state often committed ‘suicide’ by leaping out of windows or from rooftops. Now, in the New World Order, it is America’s enemies who make themselves dead.
The latest, evidently, is Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi.
A few weeks ago, al-Libi, who had been tortured in several CIA “black hole” prisons, was located in a Libyan jail by Human Rights Watch investigators. He related that he had finally agreed to tell his captors whatever they wanted to hear as a way of stopping the torture. What they’d been after was a ‘link’ between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Shortly after his interview with human rights investigators, al-Libi is said by Libyan authorities to have “killed himself.”
The importance of the al-Libi story is in part its place in time. The torture began in 2002, as President Bush and Dick Cheney were preparing the Congress –– and the public by way of the usual media whoring –– for the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. And the torture was regarded as necessary, not for the purpose of learning information but in manufacturing it. al-Libi’s faked ‘confession’ and those of other torture victims were designed to create a false reality in which the war could be marketed.
Leaked memoranda show that torture was routine by April, 2002, at least three months before the government recruited John Yoo and a couple of other men of easy virtue –– one of whom Bush then appointed to the federal bench –– to provide legal ‘cover’ for it. Yoo quite openly asserted that the President had to authority to torture anyone he wanted to; he could, if he wished, Yoo actually said, “order that a child’s testicles be crushed in front of his mother” as a means of extracting information.
While this was going on, a Boeing subsidiary was hired to operate “black flights” in which detainees were kidnapped and flown to torture chambers, “black hole” prisons around the world. A term was invented for the practice: thus kidnapping became “extraordinary rendition” much as torture became “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
It is becoming alarmingly evident that a system of torture was used by the federal government not only for the purpose of ‘supporting’ the fictitious grounds for war but for supplying fictitious answers to questions about the event which triggered national hysteria and gave the Bush regime the reactionary political basis for abrogating the Bill of Rights: the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, says that torture was not aimed at preventing further attacks but in linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. And because no such link existed, it was clear to everyone involved that one would have to be tortured into existence. And Major Paul Burney, a psychiatrist at Guantanamo, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that torture was used on prisoners on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney even after the subject was reported to be “compliant.” This strongly suggests that the government was not interested in discovering intelligence but in manufacturing it.
And there is more. In April of 2003, after the war had begun, the U.S. captured Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi, once chief of the M-14 section of Iraq’s Mukhabarat, secret police under Saddam Hussein. According to Charles Duelfer, head of The Iraq Survey Group and the person in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, he was told by people “at very senior levels” in Washington –– “not the CIA” –– that al-Dulaymi was to be waterboarded despite the conviction of the interrogators that “it was ludicrous” that al-Dulaymi would know of links between al Qaeda and Hussein. Duelfer says he considered the instruction to be “reprehensible.”
In this context, consider the attacks on the World Trade Center and what we have been told about them.
The ‘9-11 Commission’ was appointed by President Bush to pre-empt a congressional investigation. Its Final Report and source footnotes reveal that much of its conclusions as to the planning and execution of the attacks was based on interrogations which used torture. As journalists –– and an independent NBC analysis –– discovered, there was a second round of interrogations in early 2004, specifically to produce answers to questions from the ‘9-11 Commission’ after its lawyers had been unsatisfied by the CIA’s sanitized reports.
The Commission requested direct access to the prisoners and was told, in the words of one intelligence official, to “go pound sand.” Instead, it was allowed to submit written questions; the CIA then employed waterboarding and other torture in producing the ‘answers’ the government wanted the Commission to have.
As many investigators have already argued, there are deeply troubling problems with the government’s official story concerning the events of September 11, 2001. A credible case can be made that the collapse of the towers (and of ‘building 7’) could not have been caused solely by the planes flown into them. Several of the persons named by the government as having participated in the attack have shown up alive.
The commission’s questions about the September 11th attacks, in the chronology now emerging, prompted a new round of waterboarding. One victim was waterboarded more than 180 times in a single month. The prisoners were be tortured until they provided the ‘correct’ answers.
But the second round of questioning is strikingly odd in another sense. It took place as the Commission’s Report was being written. The ‘findings’ had already been made. Thus, it is quite likely that the questions posed of the prisoners held by the government were due to the unresolved nature of the investigation itself. They were writing the Report but they were feverishly looking for proof, enough so that they knowingly countenanced torture as a means to that end.
Philip Zelkow, who was to become counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was the Commission’s executive director. He has since said, “We were not aware, but we guessed that things like that were going on.” A former senior CIA official, still off the record, said that the Commission “never” expressed “any concerns about techniques and even pushed for the second round...” The second round involved at least thirty “enhanced” interrogations.
At least four of the detainees whose ‘information’ was featured in the official Report have testified in hearings at Guantanamo –– hearings which are secret and to which the American people have no access –– that they told their questioners whatever they wanted as a means of stopping the torture. No serious intelligence operative would use torture to extract information because torture induces unreliable stories.
It was never about producing intelligence. It was always about producing fake ‘documents’ –– remember the “yellowcake” claims and the ridiculous forgery? –– to induce domestic compliance with whatever the government had in mind. And it worked.
There are several very dark aspects to all of this, and they go beyond the treatment of prisoners.
Cliff Arnebeck is a lawyer. On the day before the November election, he and other attorneys deposed a critical witness in the lawsuit involving election tampering in Ohio in 2004. The witness, Mike Connell, was the chief IT consultant to Karl Rove and created websites for the Bush and McCain electoral campaigns. In 2004, he also set up the website reporting the 2004 presidential election returns.
On December 19th, Connell, an experienced pilot flying in clear weather, died when his plane crashed and exploded in a residential neighborhood near Akron. He was expected to testify in open court the following week.
Connell had told friends that he feared for his life, that George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw (him) under the bus,” and he had told then-Attorney General Mukasey that he had been warned that he had to “take the fall.”
Connell had told Arnebeck of threats to him and his wife, and Arnebeck contacted Mukasey and Ohio Attorney General Nancy Rogers, and he wrote a letter to the court outlining the threats. No one responded.
Stephen Spoonamore, the original whistleblower who first named Connell to investigators, told Arnebeck that Rove was making threats and that “the White House is very worried about this case.”
They had reason to be. Spoonamore, a conservative Republican and a prominent expert in security and computer fraud, had turned out to be a real conservative –– someone who believed in the Constitution. He’d worked with Connell and personally knew many of the cyber-security people in the Bush operation.
Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University professor who has written extensively about electronic tampering in several recent elections, including the presidential election of 2004, told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! that he had seen Spoonamore’s notes of a conversation with Connell in which the latter asked how to go about destroying White House e-mails.
Karl Rove’s e-mails, which are now “missing,” were on a server in Chattanooga, Tennessee, hosted by something called SMARTech. Also on these servers: the Ohio state presidential election vote tallies, which were sent on election night to Tennessee, where they were “delayed” before being sent back. In one sense, it’s just a more sophisticated and reliable example of the method once employed by Richard Daley, the elder, mayor of Chicago fifty years ago. Daley would ‘sit on’ the Cook County boxes until downstate had reported; then he’d know how many votes he needed to steal.
But in another sense, we are witnessing something entirely new and hostile to the country’s survival. Daley finessing Illinois for Kennedy in 1960, “Landslide Lyndon” Johnson, posing with several cronies around ‘box 13’, the ballot box “discovered” after LBJ had lost the Senate primary by a hundred or so votes to Coke Stevenson, and what a surprise that the ballots came out about 240-3. These were criminal acts, not only unpunished but rewarded. We’ve got a long history of it.
But this is different. The federal government wouldn’t offer protection to the most important RICO witness in a court proceeding and declares that the witness’s plane went down because of bad weather or insufficient fuel, and ignores the fact that Connell’s plane produced a fireball which charred and pocked some of the house fronts in the neighborhood. Miller says that people can go online and see the footage that the news crews got.
Two months ago, famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, in answering a question at a ‘Great Conversations’ event at the University of Minnesota, referred to on ongoing, covert military operation he termed “an executive assassination ring” which reported directly to Dick Cheney’s office. Hersh is working on a book and said later that his comments were “an honest response” to a question but “not something I want to dwell about in public.”
Maybe not, but here’s what Hersh said:
“After 9-11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet.
“Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command –– JSOC it’s called. It’s a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. Gates, the secretary of defense...
“Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three-star admiral named (William H.) McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.
“Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us...”
Right now, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be a criminal investigation, let alone appointment of a special prosecutor, although the crimes more than apparently committed by high government officials strike at the very heart of the nation.
Don’t kid yourself. Obama certainly knows what’s been going on. There is a non-governmental power, in place, which has the ability to carry out death squad activities anywhere they’re sent. Once the civilian authority has been circumvented, democracy itself is dead.
The new President is under enormous pressure. His recent reversal on disclosing torture documents, and his refusal in federal court to change the Bush position on secrecy and national security –– nobody who could write “Dreams From My Father” could possibly believe in what he’s been doing on these matters.
America has some pretty dreadful secrets, and it is very possible that one constraint on the President is his own uncertainty whether a serious investigation, once begun, could be limited before disclosures rocked the country. How much truth can America handle about itself?
And even should he wish to open these channels and bring the light of day to our worst crimes, Obama would face institutional obstruction and congressional cowardice, not to mention the bullets of the twenty-first century’s first “lone assassin.”
Today, the United States Senate, that highest of august bodies, the place where the Democratic Party holds a solid majority and where its members clap one another on the back for empty achievements and deliver oratorical promises they never intend to keep, voted 90-6 to remove funding from the supplemental military funding bill the money to be spent for closing Guantanamo and for conducting a Justice Department investigation into the tortures that went on there.
The six Senators who wanted to fund these things were: Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Carl Levin of Michigan, and both members from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed. That’s it.
I disagree strongly with several major policies of this President. I hate the giveaway of what remains of the Treasury to the thieves in the banks and on Wall Street. We continue to wage an idiot and terrible war in Afghanistan and, now, Pakistan. The Obama education secretary is completely wrong about nearly everything.
But I am supporting this President because I believe that on a fundamental level he is on our side, the side of the people, and it’s been forty-six years since the last President who was decent enough to care and tough enough to nearly pull it off. He is on a long road. I hope we can walk that road with him.