Category Archives: War on Terror

Rectal Rehydration, Death by Hypothermia and “Enhanced Interrogation” of the Illegally Detained: Agency Gone Rogue or Approved by the Administration?

Did the White House approve the conduct set forth in the CIA Torture Report? Or did the CIA engage in that conduct without the approval of any political branch of government?

The question is not merely academic.

If the CIA’s conduct was not approved by elected officials who answer to the voters, then to whom does the CIA answer? If the CIA’s conduct was approved, then the voters need to know by whom so they can cast future votes with full understanding of what is at stake.

By now we have had time to digest the disturbing details in all their infamy: the rectal “feedings,” the ice baths and sleep deprivation; the death of Gul Rahman; the forced placement of body weight on broken limbs; sensory deprivation so intense it lead to self-mutilation and hallucinations; and, the mistaken identifications, false accusations and simple negligence that lead to the illegal detention of 26 human beings and “enhanced interrogation” of our own intelligence sources.

Rather I should say all of us have heard those details now except for Dick Cheney. Or at least he had not heard of them last week, when he sat down with Fox New’s Bret Baier.

As scathingly detailed by Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, Dick Cheney is trying to have his torture cake and eat it too. When Baier asked whether it was true that “President Bush was not fully briefed on the program and deliberately kept in the dark by the CIA,” Cheney was unequivocal in his response:

The notion that … somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis and that we weren’t being told or that the President wasn’t being told is just a flat out lie.

Later in the interview, Cheney reiterated that:

The men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program.

All right then. The CIA was doing exactly what Bush and Cheney wanted when its operatives injected pureed food into the anuses of detainees. The CIA was doing exactly what Bush and Cheney wanted when its operatives left a man half-naked man chained to the floor in a frigid cell.

Only Cheney is either a coward or he does not actually know what he is talking about, because later in the interview he retreats to what appears to be an inconsistent position. As noted by Friedersdorf:

… Baier notes a particularly depraved tactic. “At one point, this report describes interrogators pureeing food of one detainee and then serving it in his anus,” he says, “something the agency called ‘rectal rehydration.’ I mean, is that torture?” (More to the point, did Bush and Cheney know about that? Is it “exactly” what they asked the CIA to do?)

“I don’t know anything about that specific instance,” Cheney said. “I can’t speak to that. … “

Cheney cannot have it both ways. If he wants to be the face of the defense for the enhanced interrogation program, he should own it. If he is not willing to own it, in all its gory particulars, then he cannot really present a meaningful defense. Either the administration approved the conduct described in the report—or the CIA acted without the approval or knowledge of the political branches tasked with overseeing that agency on the people’s behalf. That the CIA was trying to prevent future attacks is not related in any logical way to which of those things is true.

Cheney’s tactic throughout the interview is to avoid being pressed on this issue by: 1) extolling the praises of the CIA for doing exactly as Cheney and Bush wanted ; 2) denying knowledge of any of the troubling accusations contained in the torture report; and, 3) then getting emotional and bringing up 9/11.

Consider the following examples.

Baier asks Cheney whether Bush was comfortable with leaving a man chained to the ceiling in a diaper to urinate and defecate on himself. Cheney responds:

I have no idea. I never heard of any such thing.

If Cheney does not know the details, why is he giving interviews? Why should anyone take his word about any of it? That is the topic at hand, sir!

Baier raises the issue of Gul Rahman, who died of hypothermia shackled naked from the waist down to a freezing cement floor in a frigid cell:

Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 because of what these guys did. And I have no sympathy for them.

There is a missing link in the logic here. Even if we assume there are people so bad that we can sleep with unfettered consciences while our CIA tortures them to death, what is the evidence Gul Rahman was one of them?

Rahman was not captured on a battlefield, like enemy combatants of yore. To the contrary, Associated Press reporting states that:

Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He was staying with Baheer, an old friend, when U.S. agents and Pakistani security forces stormed the house and took both men, two guards and a cook into custody.

In fact, in addition to this Gul Rahman, who died in CIA custody, the CIA apparently kept a different Gul Rahman in isolation for a month because its operatives were confused about which Gul Rahman was the target (page 133/499 of the Committee report).

At least 26 people were found to have been improperly detained. Two of our own intelligence sources were subjected to enhanced interrogation. Tortured detainees gave information that falsely implicated others. One man provided false intelligence under torture that was used in Colin Powell’s address to the UN in advance of the Iraq War.

Dick Cheney is not troubled by these details.

On Meet the Press this past Sunday, he gave yet another interview, in which he disavows any problems with the detention of innocent people. He also disavows any qualms over the death of Gul Rahman, despite appearing to agree that the wrong Gul Rahman ended up frozen to death:

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, what do you say to Gul Rahman, what do you say to Sulaiman Abdula, what do you say to Khalid al-Masri? All three of these folks were detained, they had these interrogation techniques used on them. They eventually were found to be innocent. They were released, no apologies, nothing. What do we owe them?

DICK CHENEY: Well—

CHUCK TODD: I mean, let me go to Gul Rahman. He was chained to the wall of his cell, doused with water, froze to death in C.I.A. custody. And it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity.

DICK CHENEY: —Right. But the problem I had is with the folks that we did release that end up back on the battlefield. …

CHUCK TODD: 25% of the detainees though, 25% turned out to be innocent. They were released.

DICK CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are—

CHUCK TODD: Well, I’m asking you.

DICK CHENEY: —you going to know?

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD: Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?

DICK CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States.

But Cheney did not offer any evidence that “enhanced interrogation” prevented other attacks. He cited without elaboration to the “West Coast” “Second Wave” plot. But that claim was debunked in the CIA Torture Report based on information provided to the Committee by the CIA itself. If the Torture Report is wrong or incomplete on this issue, Cheney needed to tell us why.

Baier challenged him by repeating a claim made on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Mark Udall that the classified Panetta Review found no “direct linkage” between enhanced interrogation techniques and thwarting any attacks. As chronicled by Friedersdorf:

Here is Cheney’s actual retort:

“Well, I don’t know where he was on 9/11, but he wasn’t in the bunker.”

That is a non-answer.

A U.S. Senator who has seen the documents said on the floor of the U.S. Senate that Leon Panetta found no direct link between enhanced interrogation and thwarted attacks—and Dick Cheney’s response is, “Well he wasn’t in the bunker with us?”

The American people deserve more.

Their defenders deserve more.

What is lost in Cheney’s chest pounding is a meaningful reflection on why, beyond principles, civilized nations disavow torture. It is done for the same practical reasons that, for thousands of years, enemies have agreed to return bodies, to ensure last rites, to grant quick deaths or to refrain from persecuting surviving family members.

Because they want to make sure their own people get the same consideration.

What have we done for so little gain?

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

Torture and Denial

torture

If the tiny percentage of the torture documents that were released yesterday should give us a clue about anything, it should be the degree to which the federal government officials and politicians lie to cover their own asses. Those of us who called for the documents to be released were admonished that in releasing them, U.S. troops and diplomats will be put in greater danger. Of course if these “enhanced interrogation” techniques aren’t really “torture,” then it seems to me that those who are fearful of the release should have nothing to worry about (one can’t have it both ways). Why not prove to the world that everything going on at Gitmo and the various black sites are on the up-and-up?

Of course then there’s the argument: “The Bush administration/CIA/Senate did not know nor approve some of these techniques…”

Ah, the good old “plausible deniability” excuse. The people in charge can’t be held responsible because some underlings decided to go all Jack Bauer on the detainees.

no evil

Of course then there is the ass-coverer-in-chief President Obama responding to the report:

Today’s report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence details one element of our nation’s response to 9/11—the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which I formally ended on one of my first days in office. The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests […] That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.

President Obama is trying to convince the world that torture is a thing of the past which occurred when George W. Bush was president. Obama, we are to believe, ended torture on one of his first days in office. We are supposed to forget that he was also supposed to close Guantanamo Bay and that he has a secret kill list which sometimes includes American citizens (killing people without any sort of due process with a drone is morally superior to torture, you see).

Beyond this, President Obama is also misleading the world about no longer torturing detainees at the now infamous island prison which he promised to close. As The Intercept reports:

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a 43-year old Syrian national, was among the six Guantanamo Bay prisoners freed last week and transferred to Uruguay after spending 13 years in U.S. detention. He had been cleared for release since 2009, yet the husband and father of three found himself imprisoned several years longer in circumstances characterized by indefinite detention, humiliation and inhumane treatment.

In response to what they saw as their increasingly desperate conditions, Dhiab and many other Guantanamo detainees repeatedly sought to employ the only means of resistance left available to them: refusing food. “We have given up the very things which are important: food and drink,” Dhiab stated last year, describing his motivations and those of his other hunger-striking prisoners. “And we have done so to get answers to our questions: What is our guilt and what is our crime?”

I suppose President Obama can use weasel words about not using torture to interrogate detainees but clearly torture is being used for other such things as force-feeding. Skipping ahead a little, the article continues:

While military officials may be able to casually characterize the force-feeding of such prisoners as some kind of innocuous guard-detainee interaction, they are correct that many others in the United States and around the world would likely not have the same reaction to such footage.

So far, the actual videos remain classified. At the end of The Intercept article a video was posted to show what is difficult to convey in words. The video (below) is a re-creation of what this force-feeding looks like.

Does this look like torture to you?

No?

Suppose it was American soldiers subjected to this treatment as well as what was detailed in the torture report? Would you still consider these techniques as “enhanced” but not torture? Suppose it was your own son?

Even if you think that it is permissible to treat actual terrorists this way, we should all agree that keeping individuals who haven’t been charged (again, this includes American citizens) or who have been cleared of any wrong doing should not be treated this way and should be returned to their homes.

We the people have the right to know what is being done in our name. The rest of the world needs to know that not all of us approve of what is being done in our name.

Here’s A Crowdfunding Idea, A Volunteer Brigade To Fight ISIS

Crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe has made everything from business startups to trips a reality for many that otherwise would not have been. The beauty of crowdfunding campaigns is that it provides a way for people to leverage their social media networks and real life friends to collect and pool together small contributions into a large sum of money for a purpose. Crowdfunding also builds grassroots support for projects, big and small.

If crowdfunding can be used to launch a business or a documentary, can it be used to recruit and fund an all volunteer brigade to fight ISIS? Best-selling sci-fi author and U.S. Army veteran John Ringo seems to think so. On Friday, he posted a status update on his Facebook wall that he was considering such a concept:

RingoFacebookPost

As Ringo points out, members of Dutch and German biker gangs are fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria against the jihadist scourge that is ISIS. A couple of Americans have already volunteered to fight alongside the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia. However, there’s nothing on the scale that Ringo* is envisioning. Ringo is envisioning something like a non-Communist version of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of American volunteers who fought for the Communist-aligned Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s.

As for the legal issues, the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has warned against volunteers joining the Syrian Kurds due to the YPG’s ties to the PKK, which is a Turkish Kurd political party on the terrorist lists of both the United States and the European Union. The U.S. State Department advises that serving in a foreign military is not grounds for loss of citizenship on its own. However, if that foreign military is facing combat against U.S. forces, that could be grounds for loss of citizenship.  A possible grey area is that U.S. law appears to state that serving as a commissioned officer or non-commissioned officer in a foreign military could be grounds for loss of U.S. citizenship. It’s important to note that I could not find any attempts at prosecuting members and commanders of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade or attempting to strip them of citizenship for their role in the Spanish Civil War.

Similiar legal issues were raised over the summer when Americans who served in the Israeli Defense Forces were killed in Gaza. Americans have had a history in serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and other foreign military units such as the French Foreign Legion.

So legally, serving with the Iraqi Kurds shouldn’t be a problem. However, serving with the Syrian Kurds could be legally problematic, given their ties to the PKK. However, the PKK itself is fighting alongside the Iraqi Kurds and the U.S. is arming other Kurdish organizations designated as terrorist organizations to fight ISIS. My guess is, the U.S. would turn a blind eye to Americans fighting ISIS, regardless of what units they’re with.

As for the crowdfunding idea itself, I like it. This could be a way for Americans who are frustrated with the current U.S. policy towards ISIS to step up and do more. They can give money to help American (and likely other foreign volunteers) equip themselves to fight an evil enemy. This unit can be recruited from social media. An example of this is the Donbass Battalion, which is a Ukrainian militia unit fighting against pro-Russian and Russian forces in the Donbass War in Eastern Ukraine. As its commander admits on this Vice News documentary, they recruited on Facebook and relying on donated weapons, uniforms, and provisions.

This is part of a trend of decentralization in warfare that’s going to become more common. As the enemies of freedom are often stateless, the forces of liberty need to decentralize and use the funding mechanisms of peace to respond accordingly. As has been shown in Ukraine, the enemies of liberty and freedom are still often powerful states, so a decentralized means of warfare is often a necessity.

As everything else has become decentralized and crowd-driven, why should warfare be any different?

*Ringo isn’t the only one with this idea. One friend of mine, who has military experience as well, is working on a similiar project as well.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Watch Out For The Lever-Action Full Auto Double Barrel AR-15

Here’s a picture from the folks at Satirical Analysis, whose Facebook page you should like, along with our page, that sums up the American media’s stupidity in the gun control debate.

10407684_577416762360154_4217636978870922729_n

Of course, the Ottawa shooter was using a common lever-action hunting rifle, but they’ve also been nicknamed the “cowboy assault rifle” because they have a high rate of fire compared to bolt-action rifles.

Hmmm…….maybe this picture may not be so satirical afterall….

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Operation Inherent Resolve Inherently Hard to Nail Down

Operation Inherent Resolve is the new name for the 2014 U.S.-led intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. From military aid, advisors and humanitarian efforts, the operation has evolved into airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has troops on the ground, to serve as “military advisers,” to protect key infrastructure and U.S. installations, and to coordinate humanitarian interventions.

Though the “resolve” is allegedly “inherent,” President Obama maintains these troops will not engage in combat. What is not inherently apparent is whether the operation is constitutional, how its goals will be achieved, or how things are going thus far.

CONSTITUTIONALITY

Congress has not declared war. Air strikes commenced on August 8, 2014. The Commander-in-Chief’s sixty-day grace period under the War Powers Resolution—itself of questionable constitutionality—thus expired in early October.

Or maybe Congress has authorized the operation.

The White House claims that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force and/or the 2002 AUMF provide sufficient Congressional approval. The former authorized the use of force against anyone who aided in the September 11, 2001, attacks (whoever or wherever they might be). The latter authorized force against “Iraq” (whatever that is).

One can have some fun—and score some purely political points—arguing that, if the same authorization applies, then those “wars” were not successfully completed. Or if they were successfully completed, and this is a new and different conflict, then POTUS needs to go back to Congress.

THE STRATEGY

In late August, Obama stated “we don’t have a strategy yet” and that his administration was working to “cobble together” a coalition to come up with one. That same month, the Pentagon suggested that airstrikes alone “are unlikely to affect ISIL’s overall capabilities,” have “a very temporary effect” and have neither “effectively contained” nor “br[oken] the momentum of the threat.”

It is now mid-October. Has the strategy been any more clearly defined?

While the U.S.’s involvement “is going to be a long term project,” the President nevertheless concedes that “[t]here is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.” Instead, the U.S. encourages the formation of an inclusive Iraqi government, which would in turn make Iraqi forces stronger and more cohesive in their efforts to defend themselves.

Wait.

We already did that once, didn’t we?

This effort will be complicated by the fact that, as the Times reported back in July, classified assessments of the Iraqi military find it to be “compromised” by extremists, making it too dangerous for US troops to work with them against ISIL.

That complication illustrates one of the overarching problems with the “war” on “terror” from the outset: We cannot tell who the enemy is and we cannot know when it has surrendered. How do we tell which people in Iraq and Syria are ISIL and which are ISIL’s victims? What would the “defeat” of ISIS look like? How do we know when it has happened? Does everyone who supports ISIL have to be dead? Do its leaders sign surrender documents?

Until we define the answers to these questions, our actions against ISIL will either be ineffective or never-ending—or both.

HOW IT’S GOING SO FAR

If it remains unclear exactly how the US will know when it has defeated ISIL or how long that might take, it is even murkier how it is going so far.

With $2 billion in assets and substantial support from Sunni Muslims around the world, ISIL’s ranks are swelling and it is drawing recruits from foreign countries everywhere. As ISIL continues to behead captives in retaliation for western interference in its endeavors, the fault lines of shifting alliances are as treacherous as ever.

In Syria, ISIL is fighting President Bashar al-Asad, who the U.S. agrees “must go.” The U.S. is trying to help Syrian “moderates” fight against both Present Bashar al-Assad and ISIL and other “non-moderate” rebels.

After Susan Rice claimed Turkey had agreed to let coalition forces use Turkish bases to assist the moderate Syrians rebels, Turkey repudiated any such agreement. Instead of helping in the fight against ISIL, Turkey has bombed a faction of Kurds called the PKK. The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the U.S. But the PKK—along with other Kurds—is currently trying to defeat ISIL militants near Kobani, which the U.S. (and presumably Turkey) also wants to do.

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia officially condemns and opposes ISIL. It is one of the coalition members. But Saudi Arabia supports Sunni Salafism, which is the philosophy also followed by ISIL.

The U.S. and Iran do not get along, because the U.S. considers Iran a terrorist state and opposes its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. But Iran is helping support the Iraqi government against ISIL. In exchange, it wants concessions on its nuclear aspirations and a reprieve of sanctions. Fighting ISIL would help the U.S. and moderate Iraqis. It would also help Iran’s friend, Bashar al-Assad, who the U.S. says “must go.” At the same time in Yemen, Iran is supporting the Houthis, who are moderate Shiites and thus enemies of ISIL. This will anger U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, who is helping in the fight against ISIL in Iraq but who also supports Sunni Salifism, which is the philosophy of ISIL.

Clear as mud?

If not, you may have some sympathy for Rear Admiral James Kirby as he tries to answer a question about how things are going in Operation Inherent Resolve. “Military action is not going to be decisive in and of itself,” Rear Admiral Kirby explains. There are “areas where we are having success,” but it is a “mixed picture.” It is “gonna take a long time” and the U.S. will be “in this … for a matter of years.”

Whatever else may be said about the author of this meme that has been making the rounds on social media, the situation can aptly be summed up as follows:

So some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies are our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

[And i]f the people we want to defeat are defeated, they might be replaced by people we like even less.

 

Miss me yet?

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
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