Friday, 15 February 2008

Torturer-in-Chief to veto bill on waterboarding

Legal expert says Democrats don't have the guts to do their constitutional duty

President George Bush is certainly earning his nickname of ‘Torturer-in- Chief’ with announced plans to veto a bill that would expressly forbid the intelligence agencies from engaging in extreme forms of interrogation, including waterboarding.

Bush claims it would prevent the lawful interrogation of terror suspects. Bush hasn’t ruled out the possibility that waterboarding will be used again in the future.

Shortly after I published the opinion piece, Guantanamo is not Nuremburg, I had the opportunity to speak with Ed Spannaus and asked him if George Bush wants to be impeached, or is he just so confident that the Democrats haven’t got the stomach for an impeachment battle in an election year.

“I think you put your finger on it,” Spannaus said, “It’s the latter. He is quite confident at this point, both Bush and Vice President Cheney that the House will not go through with impeachment, even though there is enormous pressure for impeachment. Even more so of Cheney.”

Spannaus said House Speaker Pelosi has repeatedly said that impeachment is not on the table, and John Conyers, the Congressman who heads the House Judiciary Committee, has the jurisdiction to launch the process, but he is going along with Pelosi.

“Bush and Cheney, at this point, have nothing to fear from the House of Representatives because they’ve shown right now that they don’t have the stomach, they don’t have the guts to do their Constitutional duty,” Spannaus said.

Since waterboarding is universally accepted as torture, and torture in the United States is illegal, what law was Bush referring to when the claimed the bill would prevent the lawful interrogation of terror suspects?

“Bush has been told by Vice President Cheney and Cheney’s lawyers that he can make up his own law. That he doesn’t have to pay attention to the laws passed by Congress. He doesn’t have to pay attention to the laws as interpreted by the Supreme Court. That he is the law.,” Spannaus explained.

“Now this doctrine has a long history. It is what Hitler said, and Hitler’s lawyer said it is the leader that makes the law. And when Bush says he can issue a signing statement or ignore a law passed by Congress, he is following in the footsteps of the Nazi lawyers who said that Der Fuhrer is the law.”

Regarding the Guantanamo-Nuremburg comparison made by the White House, Spannaus immediately condemned it as blatant hypocrisy.

“At Nuremburg, the Nazi war criminals were not held in secret prisons for five years, they were not tortured, the process was an open process, and the world could see what was going on.”

Spannaus said he has no problem with putting the suspects on trial, but the problem is the Bush administration does not come into this with clean hands.

“In fact, they themselves should be on trial as war criminals,” he said.

What has happened over the past five to six years, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons and so on, means the American people and people around the world have no confidence in the process that will take place in Guantanamo.

“The process will have no credibility,” Spannaus said, “because of the administration’s record.”

Above article based – in part – on interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV News on Thursday 14th February, 2008.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Guantanamo is not Nuremburg

US cites Nazi war crimes trials to justify death penalty at Gitmo

As the movement for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war crimes grows on an almost daily basis, how bitterly ironic is it that the White House would instruct its diplomats overseas to compare the military kangaroo court process at Guantanamo to the Nuremburg War Trials.

A four-page memo has been sent to all United States diplomatic missions instructing them to make the Nuremburg comparison in the event they were questioned about the legality of the death penalty requested by the prosecution in connection with the trials of the so-called Guantanamo Six.

There is no comparison. The Guantanamo trials will be held behind closed doors. The public will be denied the right to hear the evidence, or how that evidence was obtained. No television camera will record the examination and cross-examination of witnesses for the evening news.

A verdict will be announced, a sentenced passed -- and the world at large will be denied the right to know how it was achieved.

Nuremburg, on the other hand, was open to the public and newsreel cameras. To the best of any historian's knowledge, none of those on trial at Nuremburg was tortured in order to gain a confession.

In addition, the accused at Nuremburg were also presumed innocent until proven guilty, and as a consequence were offered legal rights and privileges they themselves had denied their victims. Unlike their counterparts in Guantanamo.

A judge at the time said the Nuremberg trials had to be as open, fair and transparent as possible in order that the prosecuting powers would not be accused of anything resembling the criminal behavior of the accused.

No, not by any measure of comparison can the Gitmo trials be likened to Nuremburg.

The memo came after the Pentagon this week announced formal charges against alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other Guantanamo detainees, adding that military prosecutors would be seeking the death penalty.

A serious concern to human rights organizations, and apparently to Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, are the unanswered questions regarding whether the confession of Khalid was obtained through the use of torture, specifically waterboarding.

The tribunal, or military court, has been instructed to ignore any evidence that may have been obtained through waterboarding or other "extreme interrogation measures" since the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 -- but information gleaned by torture prior to this may be considered by the court.

Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly subjected to waterboarding in 2002 or 2003. So his half drowned, muffled confessions will likely stand. Any confessions or statements obtained thereafter were doubtless made with the possibly unstated but ever present implied threat of further torture.

Under these circumstances, anything Khalid said to his interrogators post-waterboarding is highly suspect and would normally be inadmissible in any court of law.

Despite a growing international outcry over these latest developments, while Bush and Cheney remain in the White House, there is unlikely to be any measured or reasonable response.

Importantly, what is happening at Guantanamo cannot be considered in isolation. The well-known detention center clinging to the edge of a Caribbean island that does not enjoy diplomatic relations with Washington is essentially the front for a network of secret prisons that the United States maintains around the world.

The administration has admitted the existence of the secret prisons, but has offered little or nothing regarding the locations, the number of detention centers or the number of people being held. They are usually the victims of "extraordinary rendition" -- alleged suspects picked up off the street or snatched from their homes and simply made to disappear.

What happened at Guantanamo was a template for Abu Ghraib in Iraq. If you accept that premise, then allow your imagination to consider what happens at the secret prisons of the American gulag where there is no law, no oversight and no repercussions.

After years of essential isolation, most of the detainees at Gitmo now have access to lawyers -- but no direct access to their families, the only communication with loved ones being through messages passed by their legal representatives. There is no direct contact, and this is in violation of any number of US and international laws. It violates the rights of the detainees, and it violates the rights of their families.

As for the prisoners in the secret prisons, obviously they receive no legal or family support whatsoever. They are held in total isolation from anything even remotely familiar -- itself considered a form a torture.

Anything could, and probably does, happen in these places. And another irony is that it is being done in the name of liberty, democracy and justice.

Legal experts say all of this is so unnecessary. The arrests, detentions and trials could have been adequately handled by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or the civil Justice Department in the United States, with everything open to scrutiny, above suspicion.

But that was never the plan. What the US hoped to gain was the terror element -- isolation and the threat of torture. Has it worked? Is the world a safer place by playing the game, as the Bush administration would have us believe, by the same rules employed by our alleged enemies?

Or has the distinction now blurred regarding what constitutes terrorism or a terrorist act. Obviously, the Bush administration is confused over what constitutes torture to the point where they openly admit that under certain circumstances they may consider the use of waterboarding again in the future.

Amnesty International and other rights organizations have called for the closure of Guantanamo, the tarnished jewel in Dick Cheney's American gulag. But its closure will only remove the most visible of Washington's illegal activities.

The operation will just be moved elsewhere, to some secret location that defies any scrutiny whatsoever.

Article first published on Ohmynews International

Reproduced by:,, American Chronicle,,

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Friday, 8 February 2008

CIA veteran calls for Bush's impeachment

Former CIA analyst rips into Bush over torture, Iraq and Iran

After 27-years as an analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency, Ray McGovern is now one of the most vocal critics of the government he once served. A founder member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, or VIPS, McGovern is highly critical of the way the Bush administration manipulated or fabricated intelligence to justify its war on Iraq.

McGovern spoke to PressTV on a range of issues, including the recent scandal over waterboarding.

CG: You are on record as saying you had no desire to be associated, however remotely, with an organization that engaged in torture. You say the agency bowed to political pressure, who was responsible in the administration and the agency for giving the go-ahead for torture?

RM: Well that's really no secret. If you look at Richard Clarke for example, the head of the counter terrorism operation at the White House. He wrote that on the very evening of 9/11 the President convened his top national security advisers in the bunker under the White House and said to them, "We're at war. There are no restrictions. We will need to do what we have to do, and there will be nothing in the way here."

And when someone objected and said there is international law that applies to attacking a country, for example like Iraq, the president turned on him and shouted, "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we're going to kick some ass."

That set the tone and the torture followed very quickly after. Actually the first person tortured was an American citizen, John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan and was subjected to very harsh treatment.

CG: You have called for the impeachment of George Bush - on what grounds exactly, and what prospects to you see for impeachment in the final eleven months of his presidency?

RM: We are strong devotees of the Constitution of the United States. The people who drafted that document had a very foresighted view, given that human nature was at work here.

I think they would be surprised that it took 240 years before a President started acting like a King.

You see, they were used to the King experience in England, and they were hell-bent and determined that this would not happen here in this country. So they made a provision in this basic document that were a President to start acting like a King, were he to accrue powers that were not due him, were he to diss the Congress, then there would be an orderly process to remove that President and its called impeachment.

The clause that pertains here says that the President or the Vice President shall be removed from office upon impeachment for and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors.

It would be hard for me in five minutes to detail all the high crimes and misdemeanors, but let's just take one, one that I feel very close to, and that is the deliberate falsification, the deliberate forgery, the deliberate manufacture of intelligence to "justify" an unjustifiable war of aggression.

That's what we had with respect to Iraq, and its very clear in retrospect that the President knew exactly what he was doing.

If you add to that the torture, the warrantless eavesdropping, and a whole string of other abuses you have quite enough to impeach the President and the Vice President.

The problem is there is a political season here and the opposition party, the Democrats, are reluctant to cause any waves. The President's polling numbers are very low, the Vice President's are even lower, and their political advisers are telling them don't make any waves now, just hang on there, don't do anything for eleven months now, and we'll have a sweeping victory in November, then we can do what we want.

That is not what the Constitution says, that is not what will get our troops out of Iraq, it is really a cave in to political maneuvering rather than doing the proper thing in conscience. They should impeach the President, and they could easily do it.

They say there's not enough time, but you don't need a lot of time when you have the evidence that we have against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Its a matter of political will and the people in charge now don't have that political will. They are more cowardly than determined to protect the Constitution.

CG: You have accused the Bush administration of manipulating or fabricating intelligence before the War in Iraq. Why didn't more people in the agency "come out" if you will and publicly denounce the administration for going to war - as you have said for oil, Israel and logistics - that is permanent bases in the middle east?

RM: It is very difficult to do that, and the tone set by the Director, George Tenet, was very mischievous. He was the worst example of an intelligence officer that I can imagine. He saw it as his duty to help the President do whatever the President wanted. And when you set that tone at the highest level its very difficult for people at lower levels to speak out and say "this isn't right, we shouldn't be doing it."

There still should be some who do that, but it didn't happen.

Now, the good news is, there have been at least four National Intelligence Estimates that have told the truth. They have been rather courageous in telling the truth. For example the most recent one which said that according to our analysts Iran stopped its nuclear weapons related program four years ago and as far as we can tell, has not restarted it.

Why is that courageous? Because Dick Cheney and George Bush himself were saying just the opposite in the months prior to the release of that estimate.

So there is a lot of hope that there are good people left in the intelligence community, and that not only are they inclined to tell the truth, but some of their superiors are making sure that the truth does get out.

CG: You've said Israel should not be considered an ally of the United States - and critical discussion of Israel comes with the risk of being tagged an anti-Semite. Just how strong is the Israeli lobby in the United States - and who is doing whose bidding?

RM: Well, it is very difficult to sort it all out, but it is very clear that the state of Israel has inordinate influence over our body politic. There is nothing that can happen in our country that is not conditioned by the worry about the reaction of the Israel lobby. This is just a fact of life here. It is a matter of courage to speak out and say that this doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for Israeli interests over the long term.

CG: Last August I believe you published an article that asked the pertinent question: Do we have the courage to stop a war with Iran? Well, does the American public and military have the courage?

RM: I think the National Intelligence Estimate that says that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program helps, but I count on the senior military, Admiral Fallon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who have been responsible, so far, in my view in preventing the President and the Vice President from doing what they want to do, and actually what they have promised the state of Israeli they would do, and that is deal with the Iranian nuclear problem.

CG: Is George Bush losing control of the military, are they acting in a way to protect the best interests of the United States and not the Commander in Chief?

I think this time they have insisted on sitting down with the President and saying we can do this, but look what will happen on week one. look what will happen on month two, look what we can expect in terms of retaliation three months down the road. That is very scary because it is not like the situation in Iraq. And I think the President is chastened by his experience in Iraq and has had to listen to the senior military on this one and I hope he continues to listen.

The above interview was conducted by the author and first broadcast on PressTV News on Saturday 9th February, 2008.

Reproduced on Ohmynews International,
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An interview with Ed Spannaus

Washington admits to torture, legal expert calls for impeachment

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency has revealed to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that waterboarding was legal in the U.S. in 2002 and 2003, and was officially prohibited from interrogations in 2006.

Michael Hayden said that under current U.S. laws, waterboarding would NOT be considered illegal. Hayden, added that consequently the use of waterboarding on three al-Qaeda suspects in 2003 was deemed to be lawful.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey told a separate House hearing that he would not investigate whether CIA interrogators broke the law when waterboarding accused terrorist suspects.

Mukasey said whatever was done as a part of a CIA program at the time had been approved by the Justice Department and that he could not investigate or prosecute people for actions it earlier had authorized.

The White House has defended the use of waterboarding, saying it still could be legal in certain situations. Waterboarding is considered torture worldwide.

PressTV News put the following questions to Washington-based Ed Spannaus, the Legal Affairs Editor of Executive Intelligence Review via satellite from our Tehran studios.

CG: In 1947 the United States sentenced Japanese officer Yukio Asano with war crimes for carrying out waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. He got 15 years at hard labor. The United States even prosecuted its own soldiers in the Spanish-American War for waterboarding prisoners. But apparently it was legal again in 2002. Who changed the law?

Spannaus: Well, no one changed the law. In fact the U.S. prosecuted a soldier in 1968 during the Vietnam War as well. The argument made by the administration is that the Justice Department wrote a legal memorandum and they interpreted the law to say its legal. But the Justice department cannot change a law that is passed by Congress, it cannot change treaties such as the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Convention which have been approved by the United States Senate. So the argument that somehow it was legal is total nonsense and no one believes it.

CG: There is going to be no investigation into the CIA waterboarding. Attorney General Mukasey said whatever happened was done with the approval of the Justice Department. So are we going to start handing out pardons to the family of Yukio Asano and convicted World War Two war criminals who were, in all fairness, acting within the established laws of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan?

Spannaus: That's an interesting point because in the war crimes trials at Nuremburg and Tokyo it didn't make any difference if the law at the time, the domestic law, said it was legal. I mean Hitler had his lawyers. Hitler had lawyers writing memos the same way that Dick Cheney has lawyers writing memos to try and justify violations of the Geneva Conventions and international law. But you can't change what is international law and well established by simply writing a legal memo.
At Nuremburg and Tokyo the United States prosecuted, and executed as war criminals those who carried out war crimes irrespective of how they had manipulated their own domestic law.

CG: The waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would obviously have come out in an open court - and doubtless would have caused a scandal - so does this mean the U.S. never intended to give any of these detainees any form of open trial - even as far back as 2002 and 2003?

Spannaus: Yes, I think that's true. That's what I've thought for some time. They never expected this to come out into the open. Remember it began to come out in the spring and summer of 2004 when the Abu Ghraib disclosures were made. All of this was supposed to have been kept quiet. And its worth remembering that the first indications of this came from military lawyers who were opposed to the policy as the policy was being formulated during 2002. But they were really restricted from talking about what they knew. So you just had hints that something very terrible was going on within the administration.

CG: I interviewed an analyst yesterday who spoke extensively of a cover-up, and even pointed to the release of this information on Super Tuesday when attention was focused elsewhere as another element of the cover up. If the action was legal, why try to hide it?

Spannaus: That's a good point and I think they decided that there had been so many partial admissions and near admissions that the White House decided they should get in front of it and come out and say 'We have nothing to hide, this was completely legal.' And then, as you know, Admiral Hayden made a statement on Tuesday and Attorney General Mukasey defended it today in another hearing. But no matter what they come out and say, everybody knows, every honest lawyer and every military lawyer knows that waterboarding is illegal under U.S. law and under international law.

CG: Its out there in the open now. The United States tortures prisoners, no question. Now while they may not consider it to be torture, the rest of the world does. How much damage has this done to the credibility of the United States, and can the United States ever recover from it?

Spannaus: It has done terrible damage to the image and the credibility of the United States, and I think the only way we can recover from this, and I do believe we can recover, is to hold within the United States' court system, and system of justice, to hold accountable those responsible for the policy. It won't work as they tried to do at Abu Ghraib to hold a few low level people accountable and prosecute them and leave the policy makers untouched. I think the only way we can recover the image of what the United States should be and has stood for, is if we go from the top as we did at Nuremburg. We go to the policy makers at the top, and that means starting with Vice President Cheney, Cheney's lawyer David Addington, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. You must go to the policy makers. I think if we do that, and there are many people who want to do that - including many military people - that I believe is the only way to restore the honor of the United States in this matter.

Above interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV on Friday, 8th February 2008.

Reproduced on American Chronicle,

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Thursday, 7 February 2008

Lies, half truths and failures

The United States admits to torture, and Rice lies over progress in Afghanistan

After months of half truths, mendacity and outright falsehoods, it is finally out in the open: the United States has endorsed the practice of waterboarding.

The Central Intelligence Agency has confirmed that it waterboarded three al-Qaeda suspects at its Guantanamo Bay detention center some five years ago, but has since not engaged in the practice.

Could these three be the subjects of the video tapes that were mysteriously destroyed - despite a very specific court order banning the destruction of any evidence obtained in the interrogations of terror suspects at the Gitmo facility? Interesting times ahead.

Amnesty International has demanded a criminal investigation, describing the method that simulates drowning as torture, pure and simple.

The United Nations has urged the U.S. government to give up its now very hollow defense of waterboarding, calling the practice "absolutely unacceptable" under international law.

The White House, and in a very vague way the Justice Department, maintain that waterboarding does not amount to torture. Having said, when testifying to a Senate committee, Attorney General Michael Mukasey did admit that if he were the subject, then he might consider it to be torture.

Brian Becker, a Washington-based political analyst, says the Bush administration knew that at some point this information would come out, so they've attempted some sort of damage control.

"They've admitted that they've waterboarded three individuals, but not for five years. They are trying to say 'perhaps this is a form of enhanced interrogation that is controversial, but its something far in the past," he told PressTV via satellite during a regular newscast.

"Anyone who has been following the case," he said, "knows the Bush administration has been following a pattern of torture not only at Guantanamo, but also at secret prisons that are housed all over the world. And of course through the use of secret renditions or extraordinary renditions, taking prisoners who have been arrested without any due process to third countries where they are in fact tortured."

Everyone knows this is against the law, its against the United Nations Covenant on Torture, the United States is a signatory to these laws. It was no accident that the announcement was made during Super Tuesday when everyone's focus was elsewhere.

"Obviously the timing of the news release was another part of the cover up," Becker said.

"They knew the news would come out, so they picked a day when all attention would be on the upcoming election. Its is very important that people realize," Becker said, "that the announcement that these three individuals were waterboarded is the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg."

Is it possible that the cover up has failed, and the door to impeachment has been pushed a little further open?

"If the United Nations and if all the international organizations assert as they do that waterboarding is a form of torture, then those officials, including President Bush, including Cheney, including Gonzales, including Rumsfeld, all of them to the extent that they violated international law to which the United States government is a signatory, they must be held responsible for committing what would be declared as high crimes and misdemeanors, in other words, impeachable offenses."

The damage to America's image overseas is incalculable.

"It will fortify the image that the United States has become an Imperial Power, that this is an Imperial Presidency, and contrary to the assertions that this is a government of checks and balances so there is no dictatorial entity that emerges, that the Bush administration in fact - using the pretext of endless war - has accumulated to itself all the powers that a tyrannical regime would enjoy," Becker said.

Meanwhile, the other great cover up story of the day was Condoleezza Rice's attempt to put a brave face on the failure of NATO to subdue the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Speaking in London where she was attempting to encourage NATO allies to throw more young soldiers into the Afghan meat mangler, Rice confidently said progress was being made in Afghanistan.

Since this progress isn't apparent to most of us, we put the question to Jeff Steinberg, Senior Editor of Executive Intelligence Review in New York, what progress is she talking about?

"Condoleezza Rice has no idea what she is talking about," came the quick reply, "the on the ground assessments from American and European military personnel is that the situation is out of control and there is no prospect of deploying a sufficient military force into there to deal with the problem."

Steinberg said about a third of the country is now in the hands of the Taliban, the border areas with Pakistan are control centers for both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, "And my best estimate is that a billion dollars a year is generated in Afghanistan from the sale of the largest opium crop that has ever been produced there, and that about 100 million dollars of that regularly goes to the Taliban. So they've got their own source of funding to keep their operations going."

According to sources, the war in Afghanistan is presenting problems the allies didn't foresee - a bit like Donald Rumsfeld's "unknown unkowns that we don't know about." Are these unknowns suddenly making themselves apparent, or was it just a badly conceived campaign from the very start?

"Well it was a badly conceived campaign," Steinberg agreed, "but it was made far far worse by the fact that the Bush administration was committed early on to redirecting forces to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

Essentially, it would appear that Bush made the classic mistake of trying to fight a war on two fronts.

The two war fronts, two wars that have gone on for far longer than ever estimated, has depleted and exhausted the U.S. military, and that of its closest ally, Britain. But despite this, there are still calls for more troops, more sacrifice on the alter of Bush's arrogance and stupidity.

"The American Enterprise Institute, the high palace of neoconservatism in Washington, has just come out with a proposal for 12,000 more American troops to be sent into Southern Afghanistan to wage a counter insurgency war and possibly invade Pakistan," said Steinberg, "Its all madness, its all failed, and the best thing I have to say is that I very much agree with British Politician George Galloway when he said 'Pull the troops out and let the Afghanis sort it out themselves.'"

Things are obviously going so well, at least according to Rice, that she is calling for more troops to fight the Taliban. So why is it that some NATO countries are reluctant to commit troops, especially to areas where they are likely to get shot at?

"Most governments in Europe are fragile coalitions, and they are hypersensitive to things like losses of life of troops in peacekeeping missions. The Europeans are reticent to do the kind of heavy combat that the U.S. forces have been engaged in for the last five years in Iraq. They don't want any part of that," Steinberg said.

So that would leave it to the United States to finish what they started, right?

"The U.S. flat out does not have the troops, and even if they did exist in sufficient numbers, I don't think that this is any way to win that situation."

Steinberg painted a pretty grim picture of the current state of affairs, one that is sharply at odds with the smiling optimism of the Bush administration.

But then, if Iraq is going as well as General Petraeus claims it is, then maybe if the worst comes to the worst in Afghanistan Bush could always send in Blackwater and their friends to finish the job.

Reproduced on:, American Chronicle,

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

U.S. allows Gaza humanitarian crisis to worsen

PressTV discusses the human cost of Israel's collective punishment

"The 92nd patient [in the last three weeks] died today as an outcome of this siege. One of our patients, a child 9 years old suffering from cancer, died today while trying to cross the border at the Erez Checkpoint for treatment in the West Bank." Mona El-Farra, doctor and human rights advocate, speaking to PressTV's Middle East Today on Saturday.

Life in the Gaza Strip has never been easy, but in recent weeks the situation has worsened with a stepped up blockade by Israel.

The situation is so bad, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement describing Gaza as the "largest prison on the face of the Earth" with Gaza residents being imprisoned and traumatized in their own land.

United Nations agencies operating in the Gaza have warned of a humanitarian crisis and have appealed for a relaxation in the siege to allow desperately needed supplies to be delivered, in particular to hospitals and schools.

The United States, meanwhile, maintained its unreserved and essentially unquestioning support of Israel by vetoing a non-binding United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli siege of Gaza. This brings to more than 60 the number of times the United States has blocked a resolution critical of Israel.

Since 1990, the United States has cast more Security Council vetoes than any other permanent member, many of them favoring Israel, its long-time ally.

PressTV's Middle East Today program gave viewers a personal glimpse into the life of Gaza residents during an interview with El-Farra, whose blog, From Gaza With Love, gives a first-hand and moving account of daily life in the Gaza Strip, which has been declared "hostile territory" by Israel.

"Long live Mr. Bush and Israel for this big blessing of electricity in Gaza," wrote El-Farra on her blog recently. She made her entry during one of the few opportunities she has had because of the chronic fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip, a result of the Israeli siege on the territory.

"On the other hand," El-Farra told PressTV, "I was glad that the electricity was back because I don't have regular power in my flat, as don't most of the people of the Gaza Strip, so the problem of electricity is still there. And of course all the petrol stations in Gaza are closed; they don't have enough fuel."

El-Farra was speaking as thousands of Gaza residents were taking advantage of a breach of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to buy essential supplies.

"People are still going to the Egyptian border for supplies and necessities," she said, "The border was open, but the people didn't have enough cash. NGOs and other organizations are working hard to help the people, but it is not enough. And then the Israelis announced they would not allow a fuel shipment into Gaza, adding to the problems of the people. The generators in the hospitals and operating rooms do not have enough fuel."

So life in Gaza at the moment is unbearable, El-Farra continued, but we are living here and we have to continue to help our people.

On her blog, El-Farra describes the daily horror of living under what many still describe as Israeli occupation, despite the fact that Israel officially withdrew from the territory three years ago.

"The [Israeli] settlers are out, but we are still occupied," El-Farra explained. "It is a new version of occupation where the occupying forces control us from the outside. They control every aspect of our lives; the food we eat, the water we drink, the borders, the education, everything. That leads to an increasing number of children in Gaza who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only because of the closure but because of the continuous Israeli military atrocities against us in Gaza. The number of children who suffer from PTSD is 61 percent, and this is according to the latest study from the Gaza Community Health Program."

El-Farra described a visit to a local school, where conditions are so far removed from normality that most readers would take them for granted; it is almost like being transported back to the Dark Ages.

"Yesterday I was visiting one of the schools and I could see the children in the classroom with candles. Gaza is a very crowded place, 1.5 million people, and the schools have two shifts. It is winter now and the day is too short and there is no electricity in the schools. So you can imagine the disruption in the education, the effect on health, and the general effect on all aspects of our lives."

El-Farra started her blog almost two years ago, often making entries by candlelight, praying her computer batteries would survive long enough to allow her to finish.

"I started writing my blog because I felt that it was a window in the sky, it was a way of telling the people what's happening in my country under occupation," she said.

Appearing on the same edition of Middle East Today with El-Farra was Professor Alon Ben-Meir, a well-known and respected author and Middle East analyst.

"I am against any kind of occupation, direct or indirect. I have always advocated that occupation in any form, however benevolent, is not sustainable. And it has to end," he said.

While not defending Israel's actions, Ben-Meir noted there were always two sides to a story, and if the Kassam rocket attacks on Southern Israel stopped, so would the Israeli retaliations.

But many other analysts believe the largely ineffective rocket attacks are a pretext for the siege, saying the destruction of Hamas politically is the sole intention of the Israeli government.

"Hamas has denied the right of Israel to exist," Ben-Meir told Middle East Today.

And so, in line with conventional wisdom, Israel and the United States have decided that Hamas should cease to exist either as a political entity or as a military threat.

And the 1.5 million Gaza residents are being collectively punished for voting Hamas into power in an election judged generally fair and open by international observers, including former US President Jimmy Carter.

The best way to stop the violence and open the way for a negotiated settlement, said Ben-Meir, is for the United Nations to issue a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire -- an end to the rocket attacks and an end to Israeli incursions and retaliations in the Gaza Strip.

"A resolution with heavy penalties for any side that breaks the ceasefire, including Israel," Ben-Meir said.

Prof. Ben-Meir's suggestion was made with profound earnestness, borne out by one of his earlier statements: "I am concerned about every Palestinian life, about every human life."

There was no doubt about the sincerity of Ben-Meir's appeal, but will care and concern for human life be enough to get such a resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council?

A third guest on the program, the Chicago-based writer and commentator Stephen Lendman, dismissed the proposal, saying the possibility that the United States would allow such a resolution to pass would be "between little and none."

And given America's past record, he is probably right.

This article is based on interviews conducted in the production of PressTV's news and current affairs program, Middle East Today, hosted by the author and first broadcast on Saturday, Feb. 2.

First published by Ohmynews International

Reproduced by: American Chronicle,, The,

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Mukasey ducks waterboarding issue

Attorney General Protects Dick Cheney from possible charge of war crimes

America's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, on Wednesday appeared uncomfortable and evasive under a barrage of tough questions from a US Senate committee investigating charges that the United States has committed, and continues to commit war crimes in its war on terror.

Grilled on the question of whether the interrogation technique of waterboarding was considered to be torture under US law, Mukasey offered only vague and ambiguous answers.

"I thought it was really disgraceful," Ed Spannaus, Legal Affairs Editor of Executive Intelligence Review told PressTV in an interview. "Every military lawyer in the United States knows that waterboarding is torture, there's no question about it. They know that this is illegal under US law; this is illegal under international law. So for the Attorney General to be unable to give a clear statement of waterboarding as illegal was really quite astounding. But the reason he won't say it is obvious. If he were to admit that this is illegal he would then be obligated to prosecute those who engaged in the policy, but more importantly those who developed the policy in the first place."

In a letter to the committee before the hearing, Mukasey had indicated that waterboarding might be considered an acceptable form of interrogation, "under certain circumstances." He then refused to clarify what those circumstances might be.

"For me to answer that question would be for me to do precisely what I said I shouldn't do," Mukasey told the committee, "because I would be, for one, imagining facts and circumstances that are not present and thereby telling our enemies what they could expect in those eventualities."

Waterboarding is a technique that simulates the effect of drowning.

Spannaus said there is no defense under US law for torture, specifically waterboarding, under any circumstances.

"At the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials of the Nazi's we rejected the defense that either 'I was following orders' or that 'it was authorized' or that 'it was necessary to do.' There is no exception in the anti torture law in the US; there is no exception in the Nuremburg principles where you can say it depends on the circumstances, which is what the Attorney General stated today."

Spannaus pointed out that for over a hundred years the United States has prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime.

"In the Spanish-American War in 1898 the US prosecuted its own soldiers for using this, considering it a war crime. After World War Two the United States prosecuted Japanese soldiers for war crimes involving the use of waterboarding. So there's no question under US law, US history and US military doctrine that waterboarding is unlawful and illegal under US law. So this administration is just trying to dance around the question and leave a loophole so it can engage in practices which everybody knows, especially the military, are illegal and constitute a war crime."

The loophole, Spannaus said, specifically protects Vice President Dick Cheney from the possibility of facing charges of war crimes.

"Cheney was interviewed at one point on this and he said something to the effect of, 'Well if you've got a terrorist and he's got information, it's a no brainer, there's no question you should use these techniques.' But Cheney is the one, right after 9/11 who gave an interview on NBC television in which he said 'We're going to have to go over to the dark side. We are going to have to do things in the shadows that nobody knows about.' And it was his lawyer, David Addington who was the actual originator of these policies. And there were people in the justice department and civilians in the Pentagon that worked with him on this. But the policy came out of Dick Cheney's office."

And right there, Spannaus said, was why Mukasey was so evasive and ambiguous under Senate scrutiny.

"If he were to admit that waterboarding is illegal he would essentially be saying that Dick Cheney is a war criminal, and that's why, that's actual reason that he will not give a clear statement on that issue."

Above article based on television interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV on Thursday 31 January, 2008

First published by Ohmynews International

Reproduced by: American Chronicle, The,

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