United States News Digest
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Former State Dept. Legal Advisor: DOJ Responsible for Prisoners Abuse
by Edward Spannaus
April 2 (EIRNS)The abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo was a "predictable" consequence of the decision made by Justice Department lawyers in early 2002 that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to al-Qaeda personnel, the State Department Legal Advisor at the time has charged. This conclusion, reached by the Justice Department lawyers, "unhinged" those who were responsible for the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, from the legal guidelines that had governed such treatment for decades, said William H. Taft IV, who was the Legal Advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the Bush Administration's first term.
A number of legal specialists consulted by this news service say that Taft's March 24 statementwhich has received no news media coveragerepresents the first time that any current or former Administration official has acknowledged the connection between the decision to reject the application of the Geneva Conventions, to the abuse and torture of prisoners which later occurred. Taft made these statements while speaking on the record, at a conference on the Geneva Conventions at American University's Washington College of Law on March 24.
On Jan. 9, 2002, lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) had drafted a memo to the Pentagon, arguing that neither Taliban or al-Qaeda forces should be subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
Taft and his staff immediately wrote to the OLC lawyers, telling them that their advice was "seriously flawed," and "incorrect as well as incomplete." They attached a 41-page memorandum, hurriedly pulled together, which tore apart the OLC arguments, and warned that a determination that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, could lead to conduct by U.S. personnel that would constitute a "grave breach" of the Conventions, raising "a risk of future criminal prosecution for the U.S. civilian and military leadership and their advisors."
Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Jan. 26, arguing strongly against a determination that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan, warning that this "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops," and outlining a series of likely adverse consequences for the U.S. and the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.
Powell's recommendations were ignored, as were the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior military officers.
'It Was Predictable'
In his March 24 remarks, Taft said that, if the U.S. were going to depart from the law of war, "there ought to have at least been some particular justification, or at least some practical benefit for departing from this guideline." But, he pointed out, neither the military nor the civilian leadership of the Pentagon saw any such justification or benefit from this, when they were considering the issue in January 2002.
"The original Rules of Engagement issued to the forces fighting in Afghanistan, had rather directed that the Geneva Conventions be complied with, in the treatment of persons taken into custody, regardless of whether they were, strictly speaking, entitled to this. In this respect, the rule followed the American practice in Vietnam, where the Vietcong were treated in accordance with the Conventions, even though it was understood that this was not required."
"It has been a continuing source of amazementand, I may add, considerable disappointment to methat, notwithstanding the stated intention of the Pentagon's leadership, to comply with the requirements of the Conventions, without qualificationlawyers at the Department of Justice thought it was important to decide at that time, that the Conventions did not apply to al-Qaeda as a matter of law, and to qualify the commitment to apply them as a matter of policy to situations where this was 'appropriate' and 'consistent with military necessity.'
"This unsought conclusion unhinged those responsible for the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo from legal guidelines for interrogation of detainees reflected in the Conventions, and embodied in the Army Field Manual for decades.
"Set adrift in uncharted waters, and under pressure from their leaders to develop information on the plans and practices of al-Qaeda, it was predictable that those managing the interrogation would eventually go too far, and news reports now indicate that, from time to time, that happened."
Top GOPer Cool Toward Bush's Social Security Plan
If President Bush was hoping for an endorsement of his scheme to privatize Social Security, from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) when the two appeared at a Cedar Rapids town hall meeting March 30, he must have been mighty disappointed. Instead, Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for writing any bill to change Social Security, demurred: "We agree on a blueprint; that blueprint is that we need to do something to guarantee Social Security for our children, ... and doing nothing is not an option." So the Senator used the right buzz-words, but concluded his introduction of Bush by saying, "We've got to turn up the heat on Washington, D.C. to see this is an issue and get a bipartisan agreement to get something done." What the something is, was not specified.
A bit more telling were Grassley's remarks during an interview the day before: "I said I intend to bring this up even if the President is not successful. Now, have I said I'd fall on my sword? I haven't said that yet." Also with Bush was Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) whose district was the site of the meeting. NPR radio reported that after 15 town meetings in his district, Leach says he hasn't found any support for the President's plan, and so he's still not endorsing it.
Meanwhile, in Minot, N.D., Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, an out-front opponent of Bush's Social Security heist, told North Dakotans that something needs to be done, "but there really isn't a crisis. The program is solvent until President Bush turns 106 years old.... There is, however, a real crisis with Medicare." Participants at the meeting also discussed saving Amtrak, energy policy, and tax codes, among other issues, the Minot Daily News reported March 30.
Republican Governors Reject Bush-Style Austerity
A number of Republican governors are raising taxes and blasting the Bush Administration for bankrupting the states, the Washington Post reported March 27. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who once championed the state constitutional limits on taxing and spending, is now working with Democrats to suspend the limits for five years, in order to spend $3.1 billion over the mandated limit. Owens and other governors blame the Bush tax-cutting and cuts in entitlements for the financial disasters in their states. Attacked by a fellow Republican, House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, for breaking the "no-tax" orthodoxy, Owens responded: "When the next volume of Profiles in Courage is written, there won't be a chapter on Joe Stengel."
Sounding like the Europeans who are bucking the Maastricht restrictions on spending, Idaho's Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said: "I have done something that is absolutely not part of my fiber. But I'm not going to dismantle this state, and I'm not going to jeopardize our bond rating, and I'm not going to reduce my emphasis on education." Nevada's Gov. Kenny Guinn, on his tax hikes, said: "Some people say that makes me a bad Republican. Well, I would be a worse Republican and a worse grandfather, and a worse citizen, if I didn't find enough money to educate our children and fund our Medicaid program and provide decent prenatal care." Georgia's Gov. Sonny Perdue and Ohio's Gov. Bob Taft are also named as Republicans dumping their no-tax pledges.
Diplomats Oppose Bolton Nomination to UN
Fifty-nine former diplomats have sent a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind) opposing the nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The letter, delivered March 29, said, "We urge you to reject that nomination," arguing that "his past activities and statements indicate conclusively that he is the wrong man for this position." Diplomats who signed the letter included those serving in Republican and Democratic administrations, going back to President Richard Nixon.
The list includes Arthur A. Hartman, Ambassador to France and the Soviet Union under Presidents Carter and Reagan, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs under President Nixon; James F. Leonard, deputy Ambassador to the UN in the Ford and Carter Administrations; Princeton N. Lyman, Ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton; Monteagle Stearns, Ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter, and Reagan Administrations; and Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., Deputy Director of the Arms Control Agency in the Carter Administration.
The former diplomats chided Bolton for his "insistence that the UN is valuable only when it directly serves the United States."
Bush Adopts New Counterintelligence Strategy
The Bush Administration has released an unclassified, sanitized version of what it calls the "National Counterintelligence Strategy"elements of which had previously been made public in a March 5 speech by the National Counterintelligence Executive, Michelle Van Cleve, and then in a March 6 Washington Post article.
The so-called strategy is based on a totally paranoid, Hobbesian view of the outside world, in which at least 90 countries are seen as trying to spy on the U.S. and gain access to its secrets, including technological secrets. In the fantasy-world of its authors, the United States is the world's technological leader, and U.S. defense strategy is based on "transformation"the discredited notion peddled by Rumsfeld and others, that the wars of the future will be high-tech, computerized battles in which boots never have to hit the ground.
The hallmark of the new counterintelligence (CI) "strategy," as outlined in Van Cleve's March 5 speech, is that it will be pre-emptive"a proactive strategy of prevention," or, as Van Cleve put it, "We will shift emphasis from a posture of reaction to a proactive strategy of seizing initiative."
Many nations are running "denial and deception" operations against the United States, in order to present a false picture of reality," Van Cleve warned, but the U.S. will now have a policy of "attacking foreign intelligence services systematically via strategic CI operations."
In true Cheneyac fashion, Van Cleve asserted that, in the past, "by waiting for intelligence threats to mature before taking action, we have ceded the initiative to the adversary. No longer will we wait until we have been harmed to act."
As we previously reported, Van Cleve worked for Doug Feith's law firm, Feith & Zell, during the years she was not in government, and her top deputy, Kenneth deGraffenreid, most recently worked in Doug Feith's shop in the Pentagon. During the Reagan Administration, deGraffenreid was one of Lyndon LaRouche's most outspoken enemies in the National Security Council staff, according to court testimony.
Iraq, Afghanistan Vets Suffering Psychological Disorders
As many as one out of four veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars treated at Veterans Affairs Hospitals suffer from mental disorders, according to a report in the latest New England Journal of Medicine. The report covers the 16-month period between October 2003 and February 2005. Over a quarter of those veterans who sought treatment at VA hospitals, reportedly suffer from mental disorders ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to anxiety disorder, to drug and alcohol abuse.