But Bush already believes he is on his own — and he likes that way. He
has already asserted that he will continue his course in Iraq even if
he is deserted by everyone but his wife and dog. And his little
mouthpiece, Tony Snow, has just announced that the President is an autocrat who cannot be restrained
by any action of Congress whatsoever: "The President has the ability to
exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong
way." (Via Cenk Uygur
by way of Steve Gilliard
"Symbolic votes" won't stop Bush. Even substantive actions — such as
cutting off funding — will not stop him. He will clearly provoke a
constitutional crisis and continue the war (and the tortures in his
gulag) by any means necessary. He is probably willing to attempt to
overthrow the government altogether with a military coup if he feels he
is being thwarted in his "sacred duty as Commander-in-Chief to protect
the nation," which, in his mind, means waging aggressive war, torturing
people, spying on us all and looting the treasury on behalf of his
cronies. The only possible way to derail his destructive and criminal
course is impeachment.
But how will that happen with the weak reeds and blathering hairpieces
now in charge of Congress? What will it take to light a fire under them
and force them to do what they are legally and morally bound to do —
uphold the Constitution? Will they really let Bush go on and on, in
slaughter and torture, escalating the war crime in Iraq and very likely
launching a new war against Iran?
If the past five years is any indication, the answer is yes, they will. Consider that most leading Democrats are even more hawkish
in their saber-rattling at Iran than the Bush Administration, which is even now methodically preparing for war with Tehran
either via a direct U.S. strike or else in reaction to the inevitable
Iranian response to an attack by Israel. How can the bellicose
Democrats object when Bush puts blood and iron to their rhetoric? A
strike on Iran would be the perfect way to "restore bipartisan unity on
Yet we live in hope and die in despair, as Brother Edsel always says.
So keep pounding the drum: impeach, impeach, impeach. Make it so loud
that one day it might even pierce the hairpiece of Joe Biden, and
convince the cowardly lions of Congress to do their duty. The
alternative is too ghastly to contemplate — although that grim reality
may well be thrust upon us. But for God's sake, let's not go down
without a fight.
Guantánamo's Lost Souls
(Guardian). By American lawyer George Brent Mickum.
Excerpts: The day after tomorrow marks the confluence of two
ignominious anniversaries. The first is the five-year anniversary of
the opening of the notorious prison camps run by the US at the
Guantánamo naval air station in Cuba. In the five years since the US
started shipping prisoners from around the world to Guantánamo,
approximately 99% have never been charged with any transgression, much
less a crime. Approximately 400 prisoners, characterised by the Bush
administration as "the worst of the worst", have been released without
charge, many directly to their families. That any prisoners have been
released is due almost entirely to the outrage of the civilised world.
Thursday is also the start of my clients' fifth year of captivity
around the world: Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna...Bisher and Jamil
have withstood various forms of physical torture during their five
years as prisoners. Both have suffered numerous beatings (Bisher
suffered broken ribs and perhaps a broken foot because of beatings by
guards, though both injuries went untreated - despite Bisher's requests
for medical assistance), stress positions, temperature extremes,
extreme sleep deprivation, death threats, threats to family and, at
various times, starvation and being denied water that was fit to drink.
It pains me to report that, at the start of his fifth year in prison,
the once healthy and extremely articulate Bisher is failing. He is no
longer able to withstand the most insidious form of torture being used
by the US military: prolonged isolation combined with environmental
manipulation that includes constant exposure to temperature extremes
and sleep deprivation...
What the British government knows and the British public needs to know
is that Bisher's treatment is designed to achieve a single objective:
causing an individual to lose his psychological balance and,
ultimately, his mind. Every aspect of Bisher's prison environment is
controlled and manipulated to create constant mental instability. The
damage to Bisher's psyche is not unexpected. The ravages of extended
isolation and sensory deprivation leave no marks, but they destroy the
Bisher al-Rawi is, slowly but surely, slipping into madness.
British officials have long been aware of Bisher's treatment. To my
knowledge, they have done nothing to intercede on his behalf. They have
done nothing to end his torture and constant mistreatment. They have
done nothing to address the constantly changing list of spurious, new
allegations that the military is uses to justify continued
Among the latest new allegations: the military alleges that Bisher
received terrorist training in Bosnia and Afghanistan. British
officials know these charges are false beyond conjecture. Bisher has
never been in Bosnia and has signed an affidavit to that effect. The
only time Bisher has been in Afghanistan was when the CIA rendered
Bisher and Jamil there aboard CIA Gulfstream V-N379P out of the
Republic of the Gambia to Cairo, Egypt, where the aircraft refuelled,
then went on to the notorious Dark Prison. The reports Bisher and Jamil
have given us have matched exactly the flight logs of CIA flights we
have obtained. In the Dark Prison, Bisher and Jamil spent weeks
underground, encased in total darkness, chained to a wall and shackled
in leg irons, starved, and assaulted 24 hours a day with cacophonously
loud noise before being transferred to Bagram....
Until last March the British government adamantly refused to intercede
on behalf of any of the British residents still interred at
Guantánamo....That changed suddenly when the government asked for
Bisher's return on non-humanitarian grounds, belatedly conceding that
Bisher had worked for MI5. Unfortunately for Bisher, this long-overdue
admission, and the British government's request for his immediate
repatriation, coincided with Bisher being thrown into isolation. He
remains there more than nine months later, with no end in sight.
Bisher's world is a cell 6ft by 8ft in Camp V, where alleged
"non-compliant" prisoners are incarcerated. After all these years and
hundreds of interrogations, Bisher finally refused to be interrogated
further. Despite the fact that Guantánamo officials have publicly
proclaimed that prisoners are no longer required to participate in
interrogations, Bisher is deemed to be non-compliant and hence is
Solitary confinement is but a single aspect of the torture that Bisher
endures on a daily basis. While in isolation, Bisher has been
constantly subjected to severe temperature extremes and other sensory
torments, many of which are part of a sleep deprivation program that
never abates. Frequently, Bisher's cell is unbearably cold because the
air conditioning is turned up to the maximum. Sometimes, his captors
take his orange jumpsuit and sheet, leaving him only in his shorts. For
a week at a time, Bisher constantly shivers and is unable to sleep
because of the extreme cold. Once, when Bisher attempted to warm
himself by covering himself with his prayer rug, one of the few
"comfort items" permitted to him, his guards removed it for "misuse".
On other occasions, the heat is allowed to become so unbearable that
breathing is difficult and labored. For a week at a time, all Bisher
can do is lie completely still, sweat pouring off his body during the
day when the Cuban heat can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the
temperature inside Camp V is even higher.
Bisher is allowed no contact with fellow prisoners. Bright lights are
kept on 24 hours a day. Bisher is given 15 sheets of toilet paper per
day, but because he used his sheets to cover his eyes to help him to
sleep, his toilet paper - considered another comfort item by his
beneficent constabulary - has been removed for "misuse". Accordingly,
he is no longer receives his daily ration of 15 sheets of toilet paper.
Imagine being in the position of having to make a choice between using
your tiny allotment of toilet paper for the purpose for which it was
intended or using it to sleep, and then having it removed altogether...
Changes of clothing take place at midnight when prisoners are given a
single, thin cotton sheet. Prisoners are unable to sleep until close to
1am. They are awakened at 5am, when each is required to return his
sheet. All of Bisher's legal documents and family photographs were
seized from him last June and have never been returned.
If Bisher spends four more months in the conditions I have described,
the man I met in September 2004, who was healthy, articulate,
thoughtful and humorous, will in all likelihood no longer exist. He
will probably slip into a madness that is permanent. If that comes to
pass, Britain must recognise and accept the grave culpability it
The Bush Administration, of course, continues to deny that the United
States uses torture, prating endlessly about the Administration's
humane treatment of the prisoners and its robust compliance with the
Geneva Conventions. It long ago defined away torture in the now
infamous "Torture Memo" commissioned by now Attorney General Alberto
Gonsales. But thousands of pages of memoranda generated by FBI field
agents at the prison camps in Guantánamo and released pursuant to
Freedom of Information Act litigation belie the Administration's hollow
assertions and paint a grim and accurate picture...
These memoranda expose in detail only some of the "torture techniques"
employed by the military. They document abuses that include
"strangulation, beatings, [and] placement of lit cigarettes into the
detainees ear openings" (document 4911 entitled Urgent Report). Mamdouh
Habib, a former prisoner at Guantánamo who was rendered first to Egypt
for unmentionable torture before being transferred to Guantánamo,
arrived there without fingernails and bleeding from the ears and nose
where cigarettes had repeatedly burned him. Habib, one of the few
prisoners actually charged by the military, was summarily released to
his home in Australia once the extent of his abuse was exposed. But
before placing Habib on the aircraft that would eventually take him
home, military officials could not resist one last gratuitous torture:
they told him he was being transferred back to Egypt! Among the horrors
I have been exposed to in this case, this particular story haunts
These FBI memoranda also document efforts by the military to cover-up
the abuses. Document number 3977 is a memorandum entitled
"Impersonating FBI at GTMO". It informs FBI superiors in Washington, DC
that military interrogators at Guantánamo are impersonating the FBI
when torturing prisoners. It goes on to state: "These tactics have
produced no intelligence of a threat neutralisation nature to date and
[the Department of Defense, Criminal Investigation Task Force] believes
that [the torture] techniques have destroyed any chance of prosecuting
this detainee. If this detainee is ever released or his story made
public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable
because these torture techniques were done [by] the 'FBI'
interrogators. The FBI will be left holding the bag before the public."
If I alone were making these claims, I would expect at least some
readers to doubt the reliability of my account. But FBI field agents
wrote these documents. The FBI withheld them until a US court ordered
their production. Notably, no one in the Bush Administration or the
military has questioned the veracity of these FBI accounts. Thus, there
is no debate regarding the authenticity or accuracy of the information
contained in these documents.
But if corroboration is needed, the FBI accounts are confirmed by the
International Committee of the Red Cross, which reports that the
methods used at Guantánamo have, over time, become "more refined and
repressive" than those witnessed by the Red Cross on previous visits.
Red Cross officials are on record stating that military interrogators
seek to make detainees dependent upon them through "humiliating acts,
solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions".
They confirm that prisoners are exposed to loud and incessant noise and
music and were subjected to "some beatings".
The Red Cross also reports that interrogators not only used
psychological and physical coercion, but also enlisted the
participation of medical personnel in what the report called "a
flagrant violation of medical ethics". Doctors and other medical
personnel work directly with military officials at Guantánamo,
conveying data about prisoners' "mental health and vulnerabilities".
The Red Cross reports these medical professionals become part of the
torture and interrogation machine. Their chief function is not the
medical care of prisoners, but assisting interrogators in extracting
information. As a result, prisoners no longer trust doctors and others
to whom their treatment is entrusted.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the Red Cross concluded
that "[t]he construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the
production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an
intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form
...Almost a hundred prisoners that we know of have died in US custody;
33 of these deaths are formally classified as homicides by the
military. Not since the second world war, when the US imprisoned
American citizens of Japanese descent, has this country experienced
such a constitutional nadir. If the world is to fight this war on
terror, morality must not be allowed to become collateral damage. The
time is long past for the British government to demand Bisher's and
Jamil's immediate return. Paradigms of innocent suffering, they will
remain wraiths that hover above the political and moral landscape,
constantly reminding us that the destinies of those who would wage just
war and those against whom that war is waged are mingled.