Wednesday, February 08, 2006
While the torture debate is somewhat in abeyance in the United States right now, it continues in Europe. There, a major scandal brews over the ways in which Eastern European countries were used as CIA secret prison sites, European citizens and others were kidnapped from European soil, and CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights used European air space and airports. All this, by the way, seems to have happened with the support of various European intelligence services which, by the evidence, may work as much for the Bush administration as for their own governments.
The Council of Europe has deputized Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty to conduct an extensive investigation of both alleged CIA "black" sites and Agency rendition flights. His preliminary report to the Council on January 22 concluded, albeit tentatively, that six Agency aircraft had, since 2001, made 800 rendition flights -- a level of covert activity far beyond anything reported in the U.S. press. Marty is under significant pressure to get to the bottom of this scandal, which may end up producing more torture headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, various American media outlets continue to investigate the torture story, insuring occasional bombshells like ABC TV's sensational November 18 story detailing CIA "waterboarding" techniques and its December 5 exposé of the locations of secret CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.
Finally, it's well known that only those in the lowest ranks of the military are being held in any way accountable for torture practices mandated from the top and overseen by top civilian, military, and intelligence officials. Even at the lowest levels, accountability has proved, at best, a moving target, as is clear from the most recent torture case tried in this country. After Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush voluntarily surrendered in November 2003, he was tortured with rubber hoses by "Iraqi nationals, reportedly in the employ of the CIA," while Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr., 43, of the U.S. Army looked on. Mowhoush then suffered other mistreatment before he fell into Welshofer's waiting hands. Welshofer has since used the Nuremberg defense -- that he was just following orders in coming up with "creative interrogation techniques"! to make Mowhoush talk –- to explain his subsequent actions. He forced Mowhoush, face-first, into a sleeping bag, wrapped him in electrical wire, and sat on the 57-year old prisoner's chest. After twenty minutes, Mowhoush was dead.
Recently, Welshofer faced American military justice for his crimes. While tried on murder charges, he was convicted only of the lesser counts of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. These still carried a maximum three-year prison sentence and dismissal from the service (which would have denied him his pension). In the end, however, a military jury sentenced Welshofer to no prison time and only a formal reprimand. He was given 60 days restriction to his home, office, and church; and a forfeiture of $6,000 -- apparently the going rate for an Iraqi life. No one in our self-professed "no-torture" administration thought this worth a comment.
The American Empire Project series I co-edit has just published McCoy's newest book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. I can testify that, while the book's focus is grim indeed -- a half-century-plus history of CIA torture research and how it was applied globally -- it is also, simply put, riveting to read. It offers a window into an almost unknown world that we ignore at our peril. I could not recommend it to all of you more strongly. To get a taste of its early sections, check out McCoy's previous Tomdispatch piece (from which the book developed) or read a Buzzflash review of the book. Tom
Why the McCain Torture Ban Won't Work
The Bush Legacy of Legalized Torture
By Alfred W. McCoy
Click here to read more of this dispatch.