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Ash writes: "Anyone with the courage to want to know has known for over a decade that the U.S., particularly under the administration of George W. Bush, was engaged in a widespread, multinational, highly coordinated campaign of illegal detentions, kidnappings, abuses, and calculated acts of unspeakable torture and murder."

One of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison torture images, 04/15/04. (photo: US Guards Abu Ghraib)
One of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison torture images, 04/15/04. (photo: US Guards Abu Ghraib)

Tortured Folks

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

05 August 14

“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”

– President Barack Obama, Friday, August 1, 2014

hat long overdue moment of candor is remarkable not for what it reveals but for what it foreshadows.

Anyone with the courage to want to know has known for over a decade that the U.S., particularly under the administration of George W. Bush, was engaged in a widespread, multinational, highly coordinated campaign of illegal detentions, kidnappings, abuses, and calculated acts of unspeakable torture and murder.

It should be noted that Obama spoke in the run-up to the long awaited Senate torture report. That’s significant, because we are left wondering if the pending release of the report didn’t force Obama’s hand. It begs the question, if the report caused CIA director John Brennan to admit the agency had spied on Senate members, and Obama to admit that the U.S. had engaged in “torture,” then what’s in the report?

If you don’t like the way Obama handled the admission of torture, then you will love the way the Republican members of the Senate react. They appear ready to double down on denial … big time.

When “folks get tortured” it’s always useful to remember the folks that did the torturing.

The Architects

At the center of the Bush administration’s Geneva Convention-shredding torture mill was Dr. Stephen A. Cambone. In 2007, in the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Cambone was named by George W. Bush to head the newly minted post of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, USD(I).

From that position, Cambone would marshal a campaign of systemic international kidnapping, torture, and assassination. He served directly under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and has been called Rumsfeld’s enforcer, chief henchman, and guard dog. But to say that Cambone was a just another participant in the interrogation process would badly under underestimate the zealousness of his involvement, and the commanding role that he played.

Cambone, with the mentoring of America’s foremost bible-thumping lieutenant general, William Boykin, was the architect of the gruesome acts of torture that occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison/interrogation center in Iraq. The definitive overview of Cambone’s primary role in the Bush administration’s kidnapping, torture, and murder rampage is Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Rumsfeld’s Enforcer.” It’s a bone jarring account. There is without question ample evidence to indict Stephen A. Cambone on war crimes charges.

An anonymous U.S. general is reported to have told the Army Times, “If I had one round left in my revolver, I’d take out Stephen Cambone.”

Cambone’s boss was of course Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was more hands-on when it came to establishing interrogation policy than his boss George W. Bush, but less hands-on than Cambone. Rumsfeld took greater care in insulating himself from potential war crimes prosecution. Rumsfeld did, however, author a set of authorized enhanced interrogation techniques. The memo was titled, “Counter-Resistance Techniques in the War on Terrorism (S).”

In the memo, Rumsfeld lays out method after method that he feels compelled to qualify by saying, “Other nations believe detainees are entitled to POW protections,” followed by a citation. He then goes on in each instance to encourage their use and marginalize the legal consequence. It should be noted that the specific techniques Rumsfeld referred to do not include waterboarding, the use of attack dogs, sexual humiliation, or murder, which are clearly chronicled in numerous documents from those years.

The Enablers

John Yoo: The Bush administration, knowing what it intended to engage in, sought legal cover, a legal fig-leaf so to speak. The centerpiece for their legal rationale was Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo’s novel and notorious so-called Torture Memo. Yoo’s memo of March 14, 2003, preceded Rumsfeld’s memo of April 16, 2003, by roughly a month.

Yoo’s argument for why the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war on terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan, had never been made before, and they have never been made since. Nonetheless, Yoo gave Bush administration hawks a document they could waive around, and what they viewed at the time as legal protection.

Jay (now Federal Judge) Bybee: But whatever John Yoo concocted could not compare in sheer brazenness to the to the August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee Torture Memo. Also working out of the Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft, from the Office of Legal Counsel, Bybee proceeded to torture and murder the Geneva Conventions themselves. The memo is an astounding document. To describe Bybee’s arguments could only serve to legitimize them. To understand the full weight of his departure from law, you must consider his core arguments as he wrote them:

  • [F]or an act to constitute torture, it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.

  • For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture, it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

  • [E]ven if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith. Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his custody or physical control.

  • [U]nder the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate Sections 2340A.

For the record: No, that is not what the Geneva Conventions say. That is specifically the conduct the Conventions intended to define as criminal. Congratulations, Judge Bybee, that qualifies you as a co-conspirator.

It’s interesting to note that both Bybee and Yoo authored their opinions from the DoJ. In doing so, they spoke officially on behalf of the highest law enforcement agency in the U.S. So that either insulates Bush administration officials who acted on those memos from war crimes prosecution or makes at least Bybee and Yoo willing accomplices.

Let’s see what's in the Senate Torture Report. Should be good reading.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+62 # fredboy 2014-08-05 13:34
Did my senior law school thesis on "International efforts to abolish torture" back in 1976.

Amazed that my nation practices such sadism.
+29 # jsluka 2014-08-05 15:49
Isn't it amazing to reflect that back in the 1970s the movement to abolish torture was making real headway and was actually nearly successful - then the rise of the "New Right" (Thatcher, Reagan, then the Bushes, etc.) killed that progress and the pendulum swung back the other way until today, where probably the majority of countries now use torture to some degree as a 'normal' state practice.
+50 # curmudgeon 2014-08-05 13:40
"Let’s see what's in the Senate Torture Report. Should be good reading."

Let's see what isn't redacted.

We will never see what it is in it unless it is leaked
+41 # harleysch 2014-08-05 14:56
Note that Obama seems fine with letting the CIA do the redacting; he has also defended Brennan, despite the CIA's violation of its mandate, by acting within the U.S., in its actions against the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers; and while I don't know if Brennan is still his Tuesday "drone buddy", it seems to me that Obama's defense of Brennan is a sign of where his true loyalties lie.

Given how Obama has done nothing to Brennan, knowing that Brennan did everything he could to prevent the torture report from ever coming to the light of day, I'm not all that impressed with Obama's acknowledgement that we "tortured folk", given that, as Marc Ash points out, we already knew that!
+11 # REDPILLED 2014-08-05 17:36
Obomber is complicit in Dubya & Dick's War Crimes because Obomber refused to obey the law and prosecute the torturers as the U.N. Convention Against Torture requires.

Instead of impeaching him for the silly things the GOP assholes assert, Obomber's complicity in torture cover-ups, illegal drone murders, and illegal war on Libya are more serious crimes truly worthy of impeachment, conviction, and life imprisonment in the same cell block as the entire Bush/Cheney regime members.
+11 # MsAnnaNOLA 2014-08-06 08:37
Yes because murder is still against the law no matter how many memos you get your legal lackeys to write. Just as torture remained illegal when the Bush administration did it, murder remains illegal when the Obama administration does it. This is a dangerous precedent.
-3 # HowardMH 2014-08-06 10:27
Obama the Wimp!
+35 # seeuingoa 2014-08-05 13:57
Whar a legacy: We totured some folks!!!!!!
+8 # jsluka 2014-08-05 15:50
[Sarcasm warning]
They weren't "folks" they were "terrorists."
+10 # grandma lynn 2014-08-06 04:51
So easily done now, that without due process of law, evidence, some people get labeled "terrorists" and then it's okay to kill them.
+6 # MsAnnaNOLA 2014-08-06 08:40
We may never know the truth as the torture causes the tortured to reliably give unreliable information. That is why the Bushies were so into it (and probably they are sadists) but the policy was designed to elicit false confessions to help make a case for war.
+57 # Barbara K 2014-08-05 14:15
I truly hope that those responsible will be held accountable and soon. They are wallowing in their wealth, and we feel the shame for what they did in the name of America. That really saddens me. I love my country and that these gruesome thugs were in charge and tortured people. We can never be free of that stench until they are in prison or face a firing squad. Bush and his gang belong in prison, or worse; and definitely none of them in charge of anything for the rest of their lives.

+5 # JJS 2014-08-06 18:16
Barbara K
I hope so too, truly. There are many shades of gray in this world but when it comes to torture it is purely and absolutely black and white. Even when trying to justify it, like "the bomb is ticking" you can't justify it. Torture is despicable and down right evil-period.
I had hoped that when the spectacle of torture reared its head, a few years back, impeachment would follow for the whole Bush Administation. But the congress of the US abdicated its responsibility and did NOTHING! Shame on them and shame on us for continuing to vote these do nothing representatives .
+37 # fredboy 2014-08-05 14:39
Sadly, few in politics, the military, and business are held responsible for anything. This has got to change.
+5 # grandma lynn 2014-08-06 04:52
How will it possibly change? Should we use the word oligarchy more and find all the nuances that are bad and incompatible with a democracy's survival?
+49 # Starheart 2014-08-05 15:08

+20 # Henry 2014-08-05 16:03
I think we have to ask ourselves, what are WE doing about it? And I do mean, besides signing petitions.
+7 # grandma lynn 2014-08-06 04:54
Oh, geez. Signing petitions. Bless the petitioners, but every time I sign one I think I'm being massaged into thinking I'm doing something, when - not really. We should be banging on actual doors and impeding feet that try to walk away from us.
+19 # futhark 2014-08-05 18:30
The tyranny in Germany beginning in 1933 was justified by the Reichstag fire, supposedly set by a mentally challenged Dutch communist, but most probably set by the National Socialists themselves to justify their abolition of civil rights.

In 2001 the 9/11 attacks were blamed on Islamic radicals using only the weakest of evidence, and this largely unfounded accusation, in the absence of any thorough and objective investigation, has been used to curtail civil liberties in the United States and to justify the prosecution of continuing wars on the other side of the planet, costing upwards of a million people their lives.

Peace and justice will follow only when we have the courage to pursue the truth of 9/11. Supporting the New York High Rise Safety Initiative is a good place to start. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth is another group working to find out what really happened. Find their websites and send them a contribution. Consider it an investment in truth, peace,and justice
+26 # I.M.Salmon 2014-08-05 15:22
Somehow the "we" and "folks" in the sentence are more troubling than the torture we've known about it all along The "we" implies our complicity as citizens while "folks" is more of Obama's failing attempt to sound like a regular guy and
minimize what happened.
+14 # Texas Aggie 2014-08-05 22:01
They weren't "folks." They were people. As you implied, he's trying to make it sound like a Sunday school picnic when it was a horror worse than anything our worst horror movies could imagine.
+30 # btraven 2014-08-05 15:24
Marc.. Yes, it is important to remember who 'started' this but in my opinion it is more relevant to pin the tail on the current donkeys. Obama has appointed the worst elements of the bush administration, like Brennan, to administer the chicken coop and they have continued with essentially the same arrogance to run the system. Obama has personally embraced Bush, defended Brennan after he admitted lying to Congress, and tied up the "torture" report so that what we see may come out as just a Sunday brunch with "those folks" we did something naughty to. Obama sidestepped dealing with the criminality of the Bush regime by saying lets look forward not backward and I think we should stay focused on What Obama has not done.
+27 # GeorgePenman 2014-08-05 16:05
Glenn Greenwald writes:

"Under international treaty that the US has signed: the US is legally required to investigate allegations of torture and to bring the torturers to justice. Not doing so is itself a criminal act. The Third Geneva Convention, which was enacted in the wake of severe detainee abuse during World War II, obliges each participating country to “ search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and...bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.

"The Convention Against Torture explicitly bars considerations of national security or fears of terrorism from being offered as an excuse for perpetuating torture or refusing to prosecute the torturers. Nor is taking orders from one's commanders considered a valid defense."

When do prosecutions begin ? It's the lawful thing to do.
+15 # Cherylaaa 2014-08-05 16:23
I created a petition using the Care2 website telling President Obama to adhere to the dictates of the International Humans Fights Treaty.

Please sign it so It can be sent to the president as a clear message from the people...peace.
+8 # Barbara K 2014-08-05 16:35
Signed your petition, thanks so much for posting it.

+1 # grandma lynn 2014-08-06 04:55
Does anyone know what happens to those petitions that possibly go into a "file" in someone's computer? Or what?
+8 # James Marcus 2014-08-05 18:52
I don't recall Obama saying this practice was now terminated!
Not that I trust ANYTHING he says......
0 # JJS 2014-08-16 06:49
If this will jog your memory, here is Politifact's reporting on the elimination of torture on behalf of the US government:
+11 # angelfish 2014-08-05 19:50
We have become inured to this kind of Bull-Puckey, hence the President's OWN gaffe in referring to the people we tortured as "folks". Also, since it in NO way touches any of us personally, in our narrow reality, it really didn't happen. Living in a "Push button" World where Wars are fought with Drones, only Foreigners die and bleed and suffer the cruelty of War. For WHAT? Oil, a few acres of dirt? The ENTIRE Bush Administration MUST be held accountable for what they have done and for the perversions perpetrated in OUR name. Their loss of moral fiber, at a time when it SHOULD have become so much MORE, makes me thoroughly ashamed to be an American and for that, alone, I blame George W. Bush and "dick" Cheney. ALL the escalations of violence around the World can be laid at their doorstep. THEY have fanned the flames of ALL the extremists, even our own, home grown Cretins who seek to stuff women back into the Kitchen of the 1950's and into the Back Alleys to get Rights for which they fought for and WON so long ago! President Obama, to his everlasting shame, has said going after them is "not an option". Until we begin to WALK the Walk, rather than just TALK the talk, we will NEVER regain our stature in the World as a Country who held to it's Principles and held our OWN criminals accountable, even if others didn't!
+5 # MsAnnaNOLA 2014-08-06 08:49
While we are at it where are the horrible pictures of war? We are insulated not just by war from afar, but from our media that does not show us what war means. Americans, particularly the young only have a view of war from a Hollywood movie.

I was in France once and just walking around I came upon a church that had a photography exhibit. The exhibit was of full color blown up to poster size photographs of the aftermath of war. This was shocking at the time because I never saw the pictures of dead bodies before because our media never shows it. This was a huge contrast to what we see or rather don't see here.
+4 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-08-05 20:08
The Italians took care of Mussolini. What are we going to do about it? Wake up America. take back "our" government.
+14 # NAVYVET 2014-08-05 21:00
What grated on me was BO's use of folksy "folks". Ugh.
+11 # Bolduc619 2014-08-05 22:02
I look forward to reading the involvement of Richard Bruce Cheney, former American Vice President and un-indicted war criminal.
+11 # HPPSINC 2014-08-05 22:47
l look at the broader context of Obama's failure to take a stand on clear violations of international law. The cognitive dissonance contained in the statement "we tortured some folks" sounds like an attempt to whitewash these actions so that he doesn't need to take responsibility for them and actually do something about them. I am reminded of the famous quote of Pastor Martin Niemoller which concludes "then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me." Niemoller was warning about what happens when no one stands up and takes responsibility for evils in his midst. Niemoller was referring to the Nazis, but his warning is just as relevant today.
+8 # Paul Scott 2014-08-05 23:25
Setting aside the Geneva Conventions, Article 3, our own statute laws say that Bush/Cheney and company committed War Crimes

Nowhere can it be found in the U.S. Constitution, or in statute laws that three, or 300, DOJ lawyers have opining authority allowing a president power to set aside statute laws. In fact the president is specifically ordered, under Article II “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

United States of America Constitution
Article II, Section 3. “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.”

Section 3 can not be construed to allow the president to disobey any laws of the United States. The only legal process that laws may be put in jeopardy is by the declaration of Martial Law.

Title 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C > § 2340
In its entirety

Title 18 > PART I > Chapter 113C > § 2340A
In its entirety

Title 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441
War Crimes
In its entirety
+5 # MsAnnaNOLA 2014-08-06 08:53
Exactly which is why we can't let these precedents stand. By letting these precedents stand we are telling future presidents that they are above the law. They are not mere mortal men, but they like the kings we fought a revolutionary war to gain independence from can unilaterally without trial execute a united states citizen.

While we are at it with the constitution. The congress needs to take back its power of the purse when it comes to war. Only congress can declare war according to our constitution. This is not a quaint idea. This idea is there for a reason. To keep us from constantly being entangled in foreign wars that are unnecessary.
+2 # JJS 2014-08-06 18:41
Then we should "make (him) do it."

It is my opinion that there is such a thing as timing. I am hoping that there is strategy involved in the delay of confronting the torturers. The gathering of evidence, the "onion peel" exposure of the deeds in official documentation, giving the Architects enough rope to hang themselves..... And, of course, holding ourselves responsible for not averting this horrendous act from materializing by acting and voting.
0 # AUCHMANNOCH 2014-08-07 07:36
Let the fall of the American Empire, the 'leader of the free world's' epitaph be:


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