Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama & Holder Trash Nuremberg Principles (updated)

A dark, dark day for America.

"They were only following orders." This is the opinion of Eric Holder, as offered in his statement today, describing the decision to release four Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel memos. (The memos have just been posted, and link is here.)

And so the United States government, 64 years after the end of World War II, adopts the infamous slogan of "Befehl ist Befehl" (literally "orders are orders"), otherwise known as the Nuremberg Defense.

Furthermore, Holder pledges the U.S. government will defend any CIA torturers before any tribunal, domestic or international, pay any fines, and make every effort to assert "any available immunities and other defenses".
"It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department," Holder said.
No matter how you try to spin it. No matter how enraged you are at my making a comparison to of U.S. governmental leaders to Nazi war criminals, there is no getting around it. Torturers are absolved by this administration. And the way they did was by using the defense made popular by the Nazis at their war crimes trials, and thoroughly rejected by the United States at that time.

In taking this position formally, the Obama administration has discarded the principles enumerated in the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where Articles 7 and 8 state (emphasis added):
Article 7. The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in Government Departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment.

Article 8. The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment if the Tribunal determines that justice so requires.
"Mitigation of punishment" sounds a hell of a lot different than what Holder is proposing, which is an all-out defense of those who claim who were "only following orders" (quotes for irony, not Holder's). Perhaps Holder should consider this statement, from the Nuremberg IMT's Trial of the Major War Criminals:
Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.
Or both Holder and Obama can consider what the U.S., as a High Contracting Party, or signatory, to the Geneva Conventions says about the duty to prosecute war crimes, such as torture (emphasis added):
Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.

Geneva III POWs, art. 129, Geneva IV Civilians, art. 146; see also 18 USC 2441(c)(1).
Evidence of the crimes committed by CIA officers, agents and/or contractors in perpetuating torture are documented in a number of sources, but none as authoritative as the recent report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on CIA abuse and torture of "high-value detainees" in its custody. The failure to seek prosecutions of war criminals, and now by formal pronouncement, puts high officials of the U.S. government in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Additionally, and no less outrageously, when Eric Holder or Barack Obama tell you the U.S. government does not condone torture, they do not tell you the truth. The government maintains a classic form of torture within the current Army Field Manual, combining partial sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, harsh use of fear and dread, all while instilling a sense of hopelessness in prisoners, which is the same sort of psychological torture perfected by the Stalinists of various countries, and advocated in the CIA's own counter-intelligence interrogation manual from the early 1960s, known as the KUBARK Manual.

Those who are so inclined may wish to watch this concluding section of the famous film, "Judgement at Nuremberg." The quote that follows is from Spencer Tracy's speech. As you watch, consider how far subservience to the military and intelligence agencies has acted as an acid to undermine all that this nation once believed and fought for.

The principle of criminal law in every civilized society as this in common: any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime, is guilty....

Before the people of the world let it now be noted in our decision that this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.

The release of the memos by OLC justifying torture are up for anyone to view. The link is at the top of the diary. I've looked at the Aug. 1, 2002 memo from Jay Bybee (and any helpers) to John Rizzo at CIA. It's an extraordinary document, and everyone should take a look.

It authorizes the use of ten abusive interrogation techniques: attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap (insult slap), cramped confinement, wall standing (should be called slamming), stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box (!), and the waterboard.

The connections between SERE techniques and use CIA operational use of same is made clear throughout, as is the collaboration with medical professionals and SERE military psychologists. Notably, Bybee claims the OLC decision was vetted with interrogation experts, SERE experts, and "outside psychologists". One wonders who the latter were, and I would like to see the American Psychological Association ask for an immediate investigation of who these "outside psychologists" were.

Throughout the document there are blacked-out sections, mostly those that obviously relate to names and identities. But not entirely, as there are whole paragraphs blocked out in sections that evidently go into more details than DoJ wished to release.

As you read these documents and their bogus claims of authority to torture, imagine you are one of the interrogators getting these orders (place insects in a confinement box! waterboard!). And remember, finally, that the CIA and/or military used torture prior to the authoring of these memos (also see this link), so Holder's "they were only following orders" defense is pure BS from top to bottom.

Also posted at Daily Kos

1 comment:

Trudy Bond said...

Jeff, This piece is excellent and powerful. Would like to see it on Alternet or Counterpunch!


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