Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Donald Rumsfeld: Architect of torture

The secretary of defense began laying the groundwork for detainee abuse years before Abu Ghraib.

That's America - these bastards may not be punished for whatever reasons.

Hopefully, the same revelations of our own torture methods (Police interrogation, Kamunting etc) will be exposed to the world. Let those perpetrators as well as those leaders, who allow these tortures to be carried out for their political survivals, be punished for their crime againts the humanity.

When Donald Rumsfeld heard about plans to force detainees at Guantánamo Bay to stand for hours on end, in order to soften them up and make them talk to U.S. interrogators, he made a joke about it. "I stand for 8-10 hours a day," the then-defense secretary wrote on Dec. 2, 2002, at the bottom of a memo authorizing military officials to use extreme techniques against prisoners. "Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

As a newly released Senate Armed Services Committee report makes clear, the effects of Rumsfeld's cavalier attitude toward what the report calls "detainee abuse" -- and what international law would probably call torture -- didn't just stop at the military prison on Cuba. The techniques Rumsfeld approved for use at Guantánamo oozed into prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, undermining decades of U.S. policy about humane treatment of detainees and leading to some of the worst outrages of the Bush administration, including the Abu Ghraib abuses, which Salon has covered extensively.

Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals

Bush officials said they only tortured terrorists after they wouldn't talk. New evidence shows they planned torture soon after 9/11 -- and used it to find links between al-Qaida and Saddam

"The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply a result of a few soldiers acting on their own," the Senate report says. "Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at [Guantánamo] ... Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officers conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely."

The Bush administration, including Rumsfeld, all treated Abu Ghraib as the actions of a few rogue soldiers. Eleven enlisted personnel were convicted of crimes because of the way they treated Iraqis held there; the longest sentence, 10 years, went to former Cpl. Charles Graner. (One officer, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, was convicted of disobeying an order not to discuss the case, but acquitted on more serious charges.) But the Senate investigation, completed last fall but only released this week, found the abuses there -- forcing prisoners into "stress positions," stripping them naked, menacing them with dogs -- were directly inspired by similar behavior top administration officials had already approved elsewhere.

"Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantánamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there," the report says. The approval from the defense secretary "influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq." Salon reported on Rumsfeld's early involvement in the development of the interrogation programs in 2006.

A matter-of-fact narrative with a clinical tone, the Senate report runs through exactly when various military and civilian officials knew about and authorized what kinds of behavior. And it adds a bitter irony to Rumsfeld's claims that he only learned about Abu Ghraib after the worst abuses had already happened (he later called the day he heard about the prison scandal "the worst day" of his tenure at the Pentagon).

Top Rumsfeld aides were already laying the groundwork for torture barely two months after the 9/11 attacks, and just weeks into the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's general counsel's office contacted the military agency that runs the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs -- schools where U.S. personnel and contractors are taught how to resist abuses that prisoners of war have been through before -- in December 2001 to find out how the SERE training could help interrogators break al-Qaida suspects. Military officials at the time told top Pentagon aides that the SERE techniques produced "less reliable" information.

By the spring of 2002, Cabinet-level Bush aides -- including Rumsfeld, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- began evaluating the CIA's plans to set up an interrogation program at Guantánamo using tactics developed by the SERE schools. The Justice Department's memos giving legal cover for the techniques were written that summer. In October 2002, military commanders at Guantánamo asked the Pentagon to okay the techniques. Uniformed military lawyers had decided they needed approval from Rumsfeld, because otherwise what was being proposed would be illegal. "It would be advisable to have permission or immunity in advance" before carrying out the interrogations, wrote a staff lawyer at the Guantánamo base, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Her analysis found the tactics would constitute a "per se violation" of military law, the report says.

The day before Thanksgiving in 2002, Rumsfeld's general counsel, William Haynes, recommended that his boss authorize "use of mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing," as well as stress positions, stripping naked and dogs. Rumsfeld approved the request on Dec. 2, attaching his hand-written joke about standing to the memo. (As defense secretary, Rumsfeld used a standing desk with no chair.)

Military lawyers almost immediately began to object to the newly approved techniques. The Navy's general counsel, Alberto Mora, spoke with Haynes three times between December 2002 and January 2003, saying what Rumsfeld had authorized "could rise to the level of torture." Because of the pushback, Rumsfeld revoked authority for the interrogation techniques on Jan. 15, 2003, and set up a new "working group" at the Pentagon to come up with ways to handle suspected terrorists without breaking the law.

But by the spring of 2003, the Pentagon decided to plow ahead with torture. Though lawyers on the working group said they were worried about the SERE-inspired tactics, Pentagon officials wound up relying on a March 2003 memo by John Yoo, a Justice Department lawyer, which said laws banning torture didn't apply to interrogation of "enemy combatants." Possibly hoping to head off a conflicting report, Haynes had asked Yoo to write up the memo when the working group convened. Yoo's memo was, in turn, based on one written in August 2002 by Jay Bybee.

On April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld authorized 24 techniques at Guantánamo including sleep deprivation, messing with detainees' diets and pretending the interrogators were from a different country -- one where torture was even more acceptable -- in order to scare them into cooperating. And he told commanders to ask him for permission to use additional techniques.

From there, it was only a matter of time before the tactics spread. "The techniques -- and the fact that the Secretary had authorized them -- became known to interlocutors in Afghanistan," the Senate report says. Rumsfeld's memos authorizing dogs in Guantánamo quickly arrived at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. SERE school trainers, who had developed the interrogation techniques at Gitmo, started showing up in Afghanistan and Iraq. The techniques became standard operating procedure.

By 2004, when news of the abuses at Abu Ghraib got out, the military had already grown accustomed to a culture of abusive interrogation that made that scandal possible -- even if the Bush administration tried to claim it was a blip in an otherwise clean record. And as the Senate report makes clear yet again, that culture came about thanks to Rumsfeld.

By Mike Madden

Editor's note: Download the entire Senate Armed Services Committee report here. Read about how the Bush administration may have pressured interrogators to use torture to extract information linking al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein here. Read about how the Bush administration began planning for torture here.

Our unsung hero - Apik

I love to read this kind of inspiring story about fellow Malaysians living in the same country.

Some rural folk, doctors like this young Sabahan, and teachers like Apik, seek education, so that they can contribute to their poor communities. They support their neglected communities as best they can, in their labour of love.

How many of us, the other Malaysians – educated Malaysians – do the same?

“I walked to the Sekolah Menengah, Form One to Three, when I was 13 until I was 15. Twenty of us, schoolchildren, walked four days, carrying our food rations, sleeping in the jungle.

“Some parents asked me to look after their young daughters, so I ended up carrying their books, food, clothes, even packets of sanitary pads… I ended up carrying 30 kilos,” he laughs.

Apik's love of learning
Keruah Usit | Apr 22, 09 7:14am
Apik can survive in the rainforest, completely alone, with a parang and some salt. He hunts, dives for fish and makes a bed for himself under the forest canopy.

He climbs trees to harvest honey from wild hives. He picks ferns and bamboo shoots to cook, and finds edible fruit and roots. He collects herbs to heal, and uses ipoh, a tree bark, to prepare poison for blowpipe darts.

apik penan love of learning story 210409 04He travels to neighbouring villages in a wooden longboat, with an engine modified from a grass-cutting machine. He manoeuvres the longboat through rapids strewn with giant boulders, as expertly as KL folk weave through rush-hour traffic.

If he finds snakes on jungle trails, he picks up them up with twigs and branches, moving them away from the paths, and from other travelers. He makes fishing nets, and mends them, with a dexterity associated with more delicate, less muscle-bound, maidens.

He can remain underwater for an astounding length of time, looking for fish or a missing propeller. He rears puppies, teaching them to hunt for barking deer and wild boar. He can carry a wild boar heavier than himself, on his shoulders, through the forest, for hours.

His real passion, though, is teaching. He teaches pre-school and primary school, in his small, remote Orang Ulu village in Sarawak. His students adore him, trailing after him after classes, pestering him to go swimming with them.

He takes them down to the river, to cool off and indulge in some horseplay. The children mob him, climbing all over him. They beg him to push them around in their makeshift dinghies, made from truck tyres. They perform somersaults, shrieking and splashing into the water, to impress him.

Subscribe to Malaysiakini for this inspiring story HERE

KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist - anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia. His ‘The Antidote’ column, which will appear in Malaysiakini every Wednesday, is an attempt to allow the voices of marginalised people to be heard all over Malaysia. The writer can be contacted at

Previous column

Simpanan Hari Tua Anda Bila Berada di Negeri Orang

Dalam kemelut dan krisis ekonomi dunia, salah satu perkara yang bermain dalam fikiran ialah simpanan hari tua, seperti slogan KWSP. Di UAE ini tiada KWSP sebagai kewajiban. Hanya beberapa syarikat tertentu yang mempunyai skim serupa.

Pendapatan bagi kebanyakan eksptariat adalah berkali ganda dari pendapatan di negara asal mereka. Tiada cukai pendapatan. Ini tidak bermakna ramai yang boleh menabung dengan banyak untuk hari tua, pendidikan anak-anak mahupun untuk hal-hal ibadah.

Krisis sekarang menyebabkan ramai yang kehilangan pekerjaan di UAE. Simpanan mungkin belum menckupi untuk pencen. Apalagi kalau ada tanggungan lain seperti hutang kereta, hutang rumah dsbnya.

Salah satu matlamat penting untuk menabung ialah pendidikan tinggi anak-anak. Pendidikan tidaklah murah dan lebih payah apabila penggangguran menjadi dilema besar buat graduan, juga ibu bapa yang terus terpaksa menanggung anak-anak.

Dalam perbincangan berkaitan perkara ini dengan seorang kenalan rapat, yang juga jutawan di UAE, kami mempunyai masalah yang berbeda. Dia tidak mempunyai masalah kewangan dan mempunyai banyak pilihan, termasuk terus menghantar anak-anaknya untuk menetap dan bersekolah di Cambridge sebelum ke universiti terkenal itu.

Masalahnya ialah sama ada tiga anak-anaknya akan dapat diwariskan untuk mengambil alih syarikat-syarikatnya. Malah dia mengatakan anak-anaknya tidak perlu mendapatkan apa-apa ijazah, hanya kemahiran vokesyenal dan pendedahan perniagaan dari awal. Dia mahukan anak-anaknya berkebolehan dalam pelbagai bahasa, ketika ini mereka berkomunikasi dalam bahasa Arab, Inggeris, Melayu dan Perancis di rumah.

Saya tidak mempunyai apa-apa syarikat untuk diwariskan ketika ini, masalahnya ialah mendapatkan dana secukupnya dalam menrealisasikan cita-cita anak-anak.

Masa depan mereka menjadi prioriti. Mungkin ramai diantara kita akan terus bekerja walau sudah bertaraf pencen, lainlah kalau berjaya dalam bisnes atau mendapat komisyen tinggi menjual kapal selam dsbnya!

Securing the future

Half of Gulf expats have not changed their retirement plans as a result of the global econ-omic crisis, according to research carried out by a global insurance and investment firm.

The researchers asked local expats in the UAE and Bahrain if the downturn had made them think differently about their future earning plans and 22 per cent said they are now paying more contributions into their pension schemes.

“These results are at odds with the popular perception that people in the GCC don’t save or won’t be saving due to the financial impact. It is also quite telling that, year on year, the use of financial advisors is up across the board with double the amount in UAE and Bahrain getting independent advice. Our goal is to help people prepare for life after work and we are delighted to see that expats in the Gulf are taking a measured approach,” Carlos Sabugueiro, managing director of Zurich International Life said of the research findings.

A similar poll was done in Hong Kong, whereby research revealed that 95 per cent of local residents now cite topping up their retirement fund as the most popular avenue for investment. Savings, especially for children’s education is the number one priority in Dubai, while residential property remains the main priority in Bahrain.

On a much more pessimistic note, one in three of those surveyed said they were feeling less confident about having sufficient funds for their retirement.

“The credit crunch, higher costs of living and a need to provide a sound education for the younger generation means that the need to start saving for retirement isn’t being taken lightly. People must take the responsibility to plan adequately for their future, particularly when they are providing for family, so, seeking professional advice and savings products that provide high returns but also flexibility to meet the needs of changing lifestyles is imperative,” said Andrew Robinson, regional director of Zurich International Life.

The research also revealed that 71 per cent in those in the UAE now feel it is important to have Takaful products available as part of the investment package.

The Zurich Wealth Monitor targeted male and female Arab and non-Arab expats in the UAE and Bahrain, who are aged over 20 years old and who are earning at least $2,100 per month.