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 Obama Ruling Shields Torturers and War Criminals

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Posts : 7972
Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Obama Ruling Shields Torturers and War Criminals   Mon 10 Sep 2012, 09:11

Obama Ruling Shields Torturers and War Criminals

By Ray McGovern

Global Research, September 09, 2012

Region: USA

Theme: Law and Justice

When Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu said last week
that the ex-leaders of the U.S. and U.K. should be made to “answer for
their actions” in attacking Iraq on the basis of lies, Western savants
and pundits greeted the remarks from the retired archbishop of South
Africa with an all-too-familiar knowing, dismissive shrug. It was the
same condescending shrug with which U.S. media dismissed the undisputed
documentary evidence in the Downing Street Minutes of July 23, 2002, clearly showing that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” plan to attack Iraq.

But in his op-ed of Sept. 2 in London’s Observer, Tutu
pulled no punches: “Those responsible for this suffering and loss of
life [in Iraq] should be treading the same path as some of their African
and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the

Tutu noted that shortly before George W. Bush and Tony
Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, he called the White House urging
that the U.N. inspectors be given more time to search for weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq. Then-national security adviser Condoleezza
Rice “demurred, saying there was too much risk and the President would
not postpone [the attack] any longer.”

Mincing few words about the fraudulent “justification”
for the attack, Tutu wrote, “The then-leaders of the US and UK
fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies. … They have
driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the
spectre of [new conflicts in] Syria and Iran before us. …

Tutu continued, “If it is acceptable for leaders to take
drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an
apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?”

Tutu and Brandeis

What leaped to mind is the famous (but largely
unobserved) warning of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in 1928 – a
strong admonition with such sad relevance today:

“The government is the
potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people
by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a
lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a
law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that the end justifies
the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes — would
bring terrible retribution.”

Before this century, it was not unknown for the U.S.
government to break the law. What distinguishes the first dozen years of
the 21st Century is Washington’s utter disregard for law –
both national and international – and its backsliding into the law of
the jungle, where might makes right.

Nowhere is this clearer than in reluctance of the Obama
administration to hold practitioners of the most flagrant abuses –
torture, for example – to account. As Marjorie Cohn has pointed out,
Attorney General Eric Holder, in announcing on Aug. 31 the closure of
the last two criminal investigations of deaths apparently from CIA
torture, Holder conferred amnesty on countless officials, lawyers and
interrogators who set and carried out the policy of cruel treatment.

Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department will
not prosecute CIA officials responsible for the deaths of detainee Gul
Rahman in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002 and Manadel
al-Jamadi in Iraq in 2003 is tantamount to giving CIA operatives license
to torture and kill with impunity.

Rahman froze to death after being beaten, stripped and
shackled to a concrete wall at the CIA’s infamous “Salt Pit.” A U.S.
military autopsy ruled al-Jamadi’s death a homicide. This came as no
surprise to the millions who saw the photo of his beaten, lifeless body
packed in ice and wrapped in plastic, lying on the ground at Abu Ghraib.

These two cases had been the only ones still open, after
President Barack Obama decided not to prosecute other CIA officials
involved in abusing detainees. Applying a novel approach to this heinous
chapter, the President insisted on not “laying blame for the past” but
“instead come together on behalf of our common future.”

The Seven Moral Dwarfs

One of the most powerful pressures intimidating Obama
was the vocal opposition of seven previous CIA directors, supported by a
sympathetic “mainstream” media, to the very thought of holding CIA
officials accountable for torture and other abuses. Although it has been
long since forgotten, Obama and Holder initially gave some lip service
to the concept of no one being above the law.

Unable to prevent Holder from starting an investigation
of torture and other war crimes implicating CIA officials past and
present, some of those same CIA officials, together with what in
intelligence circles are called “agents of influence” in the media,
pulled out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice’s
preliminary investigation.

In a bizarre twist, seven CIA directors — including
three who were themselves implicated in planning and conducting torture
and other abuses — wrote to the President
in September 2009, asking him to call off Holder. The letter and the
motivation behind it could not have been more transparent or
inappropriate, in my judgment.

Afraid of the CIA?

In these circumstances, Obama refused to honor his
Constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully
executed.” For the same reason – fear – he kept on duty the CIA
managers, lawyers and operatives implementing the kidnapping, torture,
secret prisons and other abuses of the Bush/Cheney years.

The CIA director in place before Obama took office,
Michael Hayden, made the mistake of threatening Obama, none to subtly,
that there would be insubordination in the ranks, were he to allow CIA
officials to be held accountable for war crimes and other abuses. So
Obama dispatched Hayden unceremoniously, replacing him with a much more
politically astute, malleable, well-connected politician/lawyer named
Leon Panetta as CIA director.

Panetta at once took on the function of defense lawyer
for the CIA. Virtually all those responsible for the abuses of the
Bush/Cheney-era continued in place. And to this day, those operations
officers loudly sing Panetta’s praise for protecting them.

The only CIA manager who paid something of a price for
his open advocacy of “extraordinary rendition” (aka kidnapping and
sending captives abroad for torture) and other abuses was John Brennan,
one of former CIA director George Tenet’s closest lieutenants.

Brennan Too Tainted

Obama had appointed Brennan to lead his advance team at
the CIA and it became quickly clear that, initially, Brennan was in line
to become CIA Director. But the Senate Intelligence Committee had the
book on Brennan, and warned Obama’s staffers of the likelihood of a
Donnybrook at any confirmation hearings, were Obama to nominate Brennan
to become CIA director.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has spent the last
three years researching the CIA’s detention and interrogation program,
in which Brennan played a key role, and reportedly has completed its
report. According to a reliable source with good access, Brennan is
shown to be one of the senior officials complicit in the worst abuses
and that, partly for this reason, the Senate committee will not make the
report public until after the November election.

That Brennan had a very soft landing within the Obama
administration speaks volumes. Apparently, Obama felt it not quite
possible to just let him go, since Brennan knew where a lot of the
bodies were buried, so to speak, and would be less dangerous (and maybe
even an asset) if kept on the inside.

In any case, whether out of fear of a jilted Brennan or
regard for his experience on what Cheney called the “dark side,” Obama
decided to give Brennan a White House job in which he could still wield
considerable influence on intelligence operations without having to go
through a contentious confirmation proceeding.

Brennan became deputy national security adviser for
counterterrorism, with White House writ over several key functions
related to “covert action” – like compiling lists of terrorism
“suspects,” including American citizens, to be summarily assassinated –
and CIA-led drone operations.

A Congenital Structural Fault in CIA

It was an unfortunate accident of history that, after
World War II, covert action operatives were given a home in a CIA
created by President Harry Truman for a completely different purpose –
to give him prompt, no-holds-barred intelligence analysis and prevent
another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor. The State Department’s George
Kennan, on the other hand, wanted to create a strong capability to
checkmate the U.S.S.R. by covert action, including overthrowing
governments (known today as “regime change”).

Kennan and his supporters cleverly shoehorned the covert
operations function and its practitioners into the CIA by inserting one
sentence into the National Security Act of 1947. That sentence charged
the CIA director with performing “such other functions and duties
related to intelligence” as the President might assign.

Presidents like George W. Bush have interpreted that
sentence as carte blanche to use the CIA as their own personal
Gestapo. Do not blanche before the word Gestapo, the name for Adolf
Hitler’s secret police. Once out of office, Truman himself was quoted as
using it while bemoaning what had become of the CIA he created to
provide him with objective intelligence upon which to base well informed
policy decisions.

In a Washington Post op-ed on Dec. 22, 1963, titled
“Limit CIA Role to Intelligence,” Truman complained that the CIA had
been “diverted from its original assignment … from its intended
role.” He argued that the CIA’s “operational duties be terminated or
properly used elsewhere.”

Correspondence between Truman and a former intelligence
aide, Admiral Sidney Souers, suggests that the timing of the op-ed, one
month after President John Kennedy’s assassination, was no accident.
Documents in the Truman Library show that nine days after the
assassination, Truman sketched out what he wanted to say in the op-ed.

The mainstream media moved quickly to prevent further
distribution of Truman’s op-ed. Moreover, it was reportedly pulled from
subsequent editions of that day’s Washington Post itself. Apparently,
covert action, including the use of “agents of influence” within the
U.S. media, was alive and well in 1963.

Accumulated Evil

Fast forward four decades to George W. Bush’s decision
to mount a “global war on terror” and to attack Iraq under conditions
identical to what the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal defined as a “war of
aggression.” Nuremberg depicted such a war as the “supreme international
crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within
itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

It fell to then-CIA Director George Tenet to structure
and staff the accumulated evils of kidnapping, torture, secret prisons –
and God knows what else. Tenet performed “such other functions and
duties” with aplomb – with only a tiny trace of soul searching.

In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet notes
that the CIA needed “the right authorities” to do the President’s
bidding: “We would be given as many authorities as CIA had ever had.
Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some
of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers
our new freedom to act.” (p. 178)

But Tenet and his White House masters concluded,
correctly, that given the mood of the times and the lack of spine among
lawmakers, congressional “overseers” would bend into their post-9/11
role of serving as congressional “overlookers.”

That left only the federal prosecutors to worry
about. With Holder’s announcement last week, any lingering fear that
Obama or Holder might summon the courage to prosecute CIA officials,
operating within those “authorities” or beyond them, has now evaporated.

Back at CIA

What effect, I wonder, will the exoneration of all those
“dark-side” CIA officials have on the agency’s efforts to recruit new
employees? What kinds of recruits are likely to be attracted at the
prospect of engaging in this kind of work with “no worries?” And what
will it be like eating in the CIA cafeteria, wondering whether the folks
at the next table have had blood on their hands.

What kind of chilling effect will Holder’s announcement
have on CIA and military employees with a conscience, who might consider
blowing the whistle, in the hope that the crimes be stopped and the
perpetrators held to account?

Now, not only will they be acutely aware that by
sticking their necks out they will risk their own livelihoods and more,
but they would also have to reckon with the likelihood that the crimes
they might try to expose would be covered up and their perpetrators

Bottom line? Nothing will be done about it anyway, so
why take any risk at all? That is the message intelligence officials are
likely to take from the announcement of our chief law enforcement
official, Attorney General Eric Holder, that no one is to be prosecuted
for grievous crimes of state.

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