Predictability may give a sense of stability and confidence, but it does tend to get somewhat boring. Think about the most interesting people you know. They will certainly have unpredictable edges to their personality. In fact, aren’t we all strangely attracted to people who are erratic in their behaviour and somewhat elusive? They may not give us a sense of stability but they do stimulate the mind and make life interesting.
That is why romance is best enjoyed in its initial stages, when you are still discovering each other. Each new discovery is the cause of excitement and joy — bits and pieces of a puzzle that make up the concoction you are getting increasingly drunk on.
And then, slowly you get used to each other and life falls into a pattern. Whereas initially you loved to watch him shave, now his precise, just-so movements irritate you with their predictable sameness. Her lilting tone, which tugged at your heartstrings, irritates with its slowness! Nothing has changed, except that you are both used to and well versed with each other’s rhythms now. And there is no excitement in the predictable! It is the unknown and unexpected that beguiles and tempts.
What can be more predictable and beautiful than sunrise every morning and sunset that follows each night? And yet we tend to take these for granted. It is the unpredictable rainstorm that excites us! Similarly in relationships, after a while we tend to take our loved ones for granted, used as we are to them, and get attracted to people who are unknown entities with undiscovered traits, and hence exciting for us.
And so, don’t you think there is an advantage in deliberately disturbing set patterns around us and stirring up the staid and habitual with doses of the unexpected and unpredictable? Should we not make a deliberate attempt to be unpredictable? In an office situation too unpredictability helps one stay on top. You will always find those around trying to use your predictable responses and behaviour to their advantage. If you introduce a totally unpredictable note with inexplicable behaviour and responses, you will succeed in putting them on the defensive and thus help protect yourself.
Both in a relationship as well as professionally, unpredictability arouses interest and keeps attention focused on the person. Behaviour that seems to have no consistency or purpose is what keeps people on their toes and generates curiosity and interest. Most of us instinctively gravitate towards a situation where we can safely withdraw to the comfort of routine and compulsive actions. But it is the unpredictable man who is always kept in mind.
Animals behave in set patterns and that is what makes them vulnerable to attack. Humans have the capability of overcoming the instinct to be creatures of habit and routine.
A good relationship is one where there should be enough predictability to lull us into a state of security but not enough to make it dull and boring for us. Ideally, romance can be kept alive forever if we introduce some unexpected nuances at each corner. A relationship where you expect the unexpected keeps you on your toes and in a state of happy excitement. Taken to an extreme, unpredictability is also a good terror tactic. We are all scared of that which we do not understand or cannot predict. Powerful people often use the tactic of deliberately unsettling those around them so as to keep them always guessing, always scared. Pablo Picasso reportedly used unpredictability as a good bargaining technique. Once he told his art dealer Paul Rosenberg out of the blue that he wouldn’t supply him his work any longer. The idea was that Rosenberg should worry the next 48 hours about what had happened and then ultimately return with a higher bid for his paintings! Picasso worked at peace in the meanwhile. Being unpredictable however doesn’t mean indulging in knee-jerk or spur-of-the-moment reactions. Unpredictability, in order to be used as a successful tool, must have a method to it. It is important we study our behaviour and the usual patterns it falls into and then try to break some of these patterns in a deliberate manner to bring in some excitement into life and keep those around hooked onto you!
As expected, Malaysia’s best known racism-monger Mahathir Mohamad shrouded the Bersih rally with a racial tinge, describing it as a possible clash between the Malays and non-Malays.
He also condemned the rally as a plot by the Pakatan Rakyat leaders to topple the ruling BN government, and seemingly gave tacit endorsement to the string of arrests made by the Najib administration so far.
“I hope that it is not a clash between the Malays and the non-Malays. The Malays with the government and the non-Malays with Bersih. And also, it should not be Muslim against non-Muslim. That is the danger in Malaysia. You play that game, you will divide people. You divide people and then there will be no peace in the country,” Mahathir told reporters on Saturday.
“The purpose is political… precisely for Pakatan Rakyat. It is not about whether the election is clean or not, that is secondary. But they want to paint the government black and therefore, although you are gray, you look more white.”
Whose stories are more outlandish
But as the 85-year-old leader accused the Pakatan of making the country more racially divided than before and of hatching plots to defame the BN, Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin have been insisting that Malaysia’s national security was under threat from “foreign agents”. They even accused the Parti Sosialis Malaysia of ‘rekindling’ communism to justify a string of arrests to scare Malaysians from taking part in the July 9 Bersih rally.
To Pakatan supporters, the slew of outlandish stories about Bersih and PSM were the final proof of BN’s desperation to cling to political power. They are sure that the so-called PSM Commie-plot would fail, just as the Sodomy II, Datuk T sex video and Christian Prime Minister conspiracies had failed to convince the Malaysian public.
In his haste to jump onto Malay versus non-Malay bandwagon, Mahathir also omitted to mention that Bersih 2.0 is supported by PAS, the second largest Malay party, in the country. Condemning UMNO’s gutter politicking, Hadi had urged all one-million odd PAS members to attend the rally, sparking the current panic among the UMNO leaders.
“Amongst the Bersih 2.0 electoral reforms, one is the cleaning up of the voters registration rolls, two is the cleaning of the elections from bribes and corruption and three is to clean up the postal votes system. Only those who are dirty would reject that which is BERSIH (Bersih means clean),” PAS MP for Kuala Selangor Dzulkefly Ahmad toldMalaysia Chronicle.
Warning to Najib
While Mahathir chose to talk tough, his close former aide Matthias Chang had a day ago made a rare posting on his blog, warning Najib not to impose Emergency rule.
Most pundits including many from UMNO had said it was Mahathir warning Najib not to go full throttle on fears that, once armed with the sweeping powers that Emergency gave the prime minister, Najib might use it to prolong his own stay in power.
This would jeopardize Mukhriz’s chances for the top job. Mukhriz is Mahathir’s son.
“The word is that Mahathir wants one term for each president, which means each PM, because the queue is too long. Don’t forget his son Mukhriz is not that young. There is more than meets the eye in UMNO right now and I would be very careful if I were Najib,” said an Umno watcher.
In 1987, Najib had helped Mahathir to successfully launch the Operations Lalang crackdown on political dissidents and rivals. At an UMNO Youth rally, Najib had vowed to bathe the ’keris’ with Chinese blood.
Mahathir was then under pressure from factions led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. In 1987, Tengku Razaleigh challenged Mahathir for the UMNO presidency. Mahathir managed to retain his position, but the struggle left UMNO split down the line.
Mahathir was also trying to hammer through a tolled highway deal that was strenously opposed by activists and political rivals who warned the exorbitantly-priced project would shackle the county in debt.
Ops Lalang helped him to stay in power
Today, Mahathir admitted that Ops Lalang crackdowns helped him to stay in power until 2003. Mahathir is the longest serving PM from 1981 to 2003.
“As a result, we had to arrest some people and put them under ISA. But we did not have clashes and I still won the election with two-thirds majority,” said Mahathir.
However, his words failed to create much impact with Pakatan leaders, who while they acknowledge his huge wealth and still significant influence in UMNO, have little respect left for him.
“At the end of the day, UMNO and BN is full of intrigue. The most important thing for the UMNO elite is to stay in power. Once they are out, just like Suharto and Marcos, they will be hunted down and made to return the wealth they stole from the country,” Pakatan watcher Eddie Wong told Malaysia Chronicle.
“So like a band of thieves, they are always fighting and watching each other. Never expect any redemption from Mahathir or Badawi or Najib. The only way to save Malaysia and the Malays is to reject UMNO and BN.”
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Possibly more damaging to the nation than the lack of prosecutions is the lack of information about the actions carried out during the Bush years. There’s still so much Americans don’t know
about what was done in their name after Sept. 11.
Congress could officially establish an independent commission, with a large staff and subpoena power, that could reach some definitive conclusions about what happened. Such a commission could create an official version of the facts over which a national conversation could then take place.
“I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he had previously told ABC News
Several months later, Jane Mayer
reported in the New Yorker
that some top Obama advisers — including Panetta — had supported the idea of an independent commission. But Obama eventually “vetoed the idea, fearing that it would look vindictive and, possibly, inflame his predecessor,” Mayer wrote.
taken around that time showed the public overwhelmingly wanted some sort of official inquiry.
But in Washington, the commission might have been a heavy lift even if Obama hadn’t refused it. Many of the major players in the military and intelligence field were and still are around, and Republicans feared a witch hunt. And leaders of both parties were leery of too much attention to their oversight failure.
Greenberg insists that some sort of commission investigation is still necessary.
“What we need is an official narrative of what happened, and how it happened: ‘This is who did it. This is what was illegal, under the Constitution.’ It has to be written officially,” she said.
A former CIA agent, who interrogated one of the alleged “high value detainees” and wrote a book describing his experiences, is also calling for a national truth-telling process.
Glenn L. Carle, whose book “The Interrogator
” went on sale last week, says he’s opposed to the prosecution of any CIA agents.
“I believe the most guilty are the small number of policymaking officials — actually, it was 10 people running the country, from the Department of Justice, the Office of the Vice President and the White House — who ordered that the Department of Justice write these exculpatory ‘you can do whatever you want’ memoranda and willingly subverted the Constitution,” he said.
“We don’t need more laws. The laws are clear,” he aid. “That was all fucked up by John Yoo, and Addington and Cheney.”
Carle believes a wide-ranging public investigation would be an education for the American people.
Once the nation understands what took place, “what we need to do is repudiate what happened and strengthen the values that underlie our laws.” he said.
“If you get the truth out it makes it harder for people to do this again,” he concluded. “There is no guarantee. But I think the best defense we have is the truth, and hiding nothing.”
Greenberg said an official inquiry would also lead to “a national discussion about the Constitution.” Specifically, she said, “we need to really think about what we’ve learned in this last 10 years.” The key question would be whether we need more effective checks on executive power.
“Torture was the giant threshold that we stepped through that in a way made all these other things okay,” she said, ticking off a number of Bush-era activities that Obama has not only continued, but in some cases expanded, such as surveillance, illegal detention, the use of isolation on prisoners and the treatment of American citizens as “enemies of the state.”
Constitutional scholars, she noted, are becoming increasingly concerned.
Yale Law School Professor Bruce Ackerman recently wrote in the Washington Post
that “Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors” when it comes to war powers. And he wrote for the Daily Beast
that there is “something wrong with the basic system through which presidents get their legal advice. Without fundamental reform, we can expect repeated scenarios in which top administration lawyers rubber-stamp power-grabs even when they are in blatant violation of fundamental laws
Ackerman wrote in an email to The Huffington Post that while he supports the Obama administration’s decision not to address torture with criminal prosecutions, something does have to be done.
“At present, there is nothing to stop the next president from packing the Office of Legal Counsel with another generation of ideologues who will reinstate the torture memos, or breach other basic legal and constitutional provisions,” he wrote. “Fundamental reform is necessary if the law of the executive branch is to be insulated from short-term political pressures.”
Ackerman’s proposed solution: “The president and Congress should work together to create a new executive tribunal, consisting of nine judges with staggered 12 year terms, appointed with the consent of the Senate, to interpret the law.”
A coalition of human rights organizations is pursuing a smaller, possibly more achievable, but still symbolic goal.
In a letter
issued a few weeks ago, the groups called on Obama to “formally to honor the soldiers and public servants who, when our nation went off course, stayed true to our nation’s most fundamental ideals.”
Doing so would foster public accountability, the groups say. “Formally commending those who rejected torture would send a necessary message that torture is — and will always be — inconsistent with who we are as a nation,” the letter reads.
A bipartisan group devoted to the Constitution has launched its own independent commission.
“The American people have never been fully informed about what happened,” said Virginia Sloan, president and founder of the Constitution Project
Sloan says the project’s 13-member Task Force on Detainee Treatment
has no access to classified information and no subpoena power, but it does have five staffers and hopes that its report, due out in early 2013, will “put pressure on the government to do what it should have done in the first place, which is to do the kind of investigation with classified information and subpoena power that’s appropriate.”
Task force member Asa Hutchinson, a Republican former congressman from Arkansas, told The Huffington Post he is enthusiastic about establishing some agreed-upon facts.
“Without this factual accountability, our nation can never learn from any mistakes that have been made,” he said.
Never have we witnessed UMNO/BN in such paranoia until Bersih 2.0 got going. And the most painful lesson, amongst several others that Bersih 2.0 has forcefully taught UMNO/BN is that the rising middle class citizens of Malaysia are more politically mature and better informed than what the politicians within the corridors of power always thought.
In the very first place, UMNO/BN should never have underestimated not only the citizens but also a whole spectrum of people-representation forces that make up this 21st century social fabric.
To begin with, NGOs today do not operate in isolation. They are riding on the networked society, traversing the world through the 21st century’s technological breakthrough. They are akin to swamps that descend on any issues anywhere in the world in a show of solidarity marshalling global opinions of fame and doom.
Even if local governments try to outlaw any NGO, the damage that these new age NGOs can inflict on errant leaderships can be easily understood from the developments in the world today and in these past two decades.
The other truth is, in any nation that proclaims to rule with democracy, the mantra of ‘divide the citizenry while battering your opponents’ – is long gone with the advent of the 21st century’s global call for the benchmarked true democracy and civil liberties.
New ground rules
In this age and times, the ground rules for power and control are fast changing. To remain in power one must demonstrate leadership, not control. And that calls for acknowledging your democratic opponents as collaborators and not attempting to annihilate them. The industrial revolution styled leadership and power brokering has seen sunset.
Citizens today, particularly the rising global middle class who are the real economic powerhouses of the future are championing that their demands are met through the channels of NGOs and political parties that propagate democracy as understood in this new age technologically driven society.
NGOs have quickly reinvented themselves to serve the changing framework of society that has been liberated with communication technology.
And political parties are building collaborative bridges with people-centric organizations with proclamations to meet civil society demands.
Likewise, professional groups and associations as well as religious bodies are quickly aligning themselves with the tides of change that is set to sweep the globe where values, beliefs and cultural frameworks are being revolutionized by the networked society.
UMNO/BN has in essence handled the Bersih 2.0 saga not only badly and to its own disadvantage but very obviously has re-affirmed the public’s suspicion that it may have outlived its very purpose.
Even if its leaders have made clarion calls to re-invent or even ‘transform’ the party, the barrage of actions and in-actions from UMNO/BN quarters have only proven that the UMNO political party and its BN coalition may face a steep uphill challenge and even risk going off the cliff.
Bersih 2.0 has very clearly – although much to the embarrassment of the UMNO/BN party wigs and even its followers, demonstrated that emotional outbursts, knee jerk orders and accompanied threats to bolster the politicians’ show of power and control does not work in today’s world where there is a resurgence of people participation in leadership and national destinies.
For as long as UMNO/BN remains adamant and deeply rooted in its old age politics, its demise will be inevitable. The very fact that Malaysia’s sovereign ruler His Majesty the Agung had to intervene is already a setback for UMNO/BN’s leadership.
It is also an irreversible signal that in today’s growing transparent and accountable, global, political environment, the independence and separation of powers are the very safety nets for political survival in a networked society. Hence as long as UMNO/BN continues marshalling the various gentries and agentries – namely the media, the law enforcers and unthinking street rowdies, to force swing the pendulum of public opinion, the survival of that political party/parties is timed-out.
A scan across the global media clearly hints how the failures, glitches and sheer lack of integrity and leadership within UMNO/BN have been showcased to the world community.
Hopefully, if UMNO/BN desires to either be the ruling political party or even end up being in an effective opposition position, it must wake up from its blinkered views about the rising tides of the middle class population in the networked society wher the flow of space and time flows are dramatically being challenged.
The Fourth of July is a joyous celebration of the United States’ independence. And yet this country finds itself turning 235 at a morally precarious moment. That’s because President Barack Obama has made it clear that we don’t torture now — but he’s done very little to ensure that we won’t do it again in the future. The Justice Department’s Thursday announcement
that it has closed its investigation into all torture-related actions save two particularly gruesome fatalities was a poignant reminder of that inaction. Obama has renounced torture
. He has issued a new executive order
defining acceptable interrogation techniques. He has reasserted the illegality of many of the techniques used in American prisons around the world during the first few years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But he has also repeatedly expressed his desire to “look forward instead of looking backward.” As a result, there has yet to be any accountability for the actions of the Bush/Cheney administration. And none appears forthcoming.
And without accountability — without either criminal prosecutions or some sort of official national reckoning of what took place — there’s no reason to think that the next time a perceived emergency comes up, some other president or vice president will not decide to torture again.
In his June 22 national address
announcing a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan, Obama tried to recast America in its traditional role of global leadership.
“In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded,” he said. “We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.”
But saying those words doesn’t make it so.
Possibly more revealing than Obama’s high-minded talk was Gen. David H. Petraeus’ endorsement last week of the possible use of inhumane interrogation techniques in the future. As the Los Angeles Times
reported, the highly-decorated general told senators
in his confirmation hearing as Obama’s new CIA director that “humane” questioning standards mandated by the Army Field Manual are almost always sufficient to persuade detainees to talk. But he said that “there should be discussion … by policymakers and by Congress” about something “more than the normal techniques” for use in special cases where there is perceived to be imminent catastrophic danger.
“That David Petraeus quote is a sign of what to worry about in the future,” said Karen Greenberg, executive director of the New York University Center on Law and Security and a scholar of detainee policy.
“We’re not a nation you can rely on not to torture,” she said. “We’re not as much of an outlaw nation as we used to be, but we are wiling to be an outlaw nation when it suits our ends. It makes us a hypocritical nation. It makes us a potential outlaw nation.”
NO GOING BACK
Many expected Obama would take more definitive action to prevent what the last administration wrought from ever happening again. Obama, however, “has refused to clamp down on [torture] in a way that would make it hard for people in the future to do it,” Greenberg said.
“Nobody’s been punished,” she said. Nor has there been any other official, national acknowledgement — and rejection — of torture. In fact, as Greenberg points out, “because we didn’t address this torture issue in any way, it empowers those who embraced it to support it more strongly.”
The result is that the national discourse on torture is often dominated by the pro side. Torture apologists swarmed the airwaves after the death of Osama bin Laden, for instance, claiming validation from unsubstantiated reports that he was tracked down in small part due to information received years earlier from brutalized detainees. Lost in the bluster was the considerable evidence
that torture actually slowed the hunt, as bin Laden might have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly.
Former vice president Dick Cheney and former president George W. Bush have both publicly bragged about their role in approving waterboarding and the use of other “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Bush, for instance, casually acknowledged
last year that he had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded — and would “do it again”. In his memoir, he repeatedly acknowledged
– and attempted to justify
– his actions.
Bush and Cheney insist that nothing they approved amounts to torture. But waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning, has been one of the most iconic forms of torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition
. Until the Bush administration’s infamous “torture memos
,” the practice had always been considered illegal by the Justice Department. It is a clear violation of international torture conventions.
Many of the other brutal interrogation techniques that were used much more pervasively than waterboarding — including forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of food, forced standing, repeated beatings, applications of cold water, the use of dogs, slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in stress positions and keeping them awake for as long as 180 hours — are also widely considered to be torture, and certainly comprise violations of human dignity according to international standards
championed by the U.S. government ever since World War II.
Nevertheless, such tactics were employed as a matter of standard practice, not just on allegedly “high value” detainees, but on countless individuals – many of them guilty of nothing
– who were held in custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
from the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, were just the most visceral public evidence of the vile and sadistic treatment of detainees, something the White House repeatedly insisted
was just the work of a few “bad apples.’
But a 2008 bipartisan Senate report
not only laid out a clear line of responsibility for Abu Ghraib starting with President Bush, it also exposed his administration’s explanations and excuses as untrue
There have been repeated calls for prosecution of top officials for torture. For instance, back in June 2008, Anthony Taguba, the two-star general who led an Army investigation into Abu Ghraib, declared
: “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told MSBNC: “The president has a duty under the constitution to take care the laws of faith to be executed and now that former President Bush said that he personally ordered waterboarding, there must be at least an investigation and a special prosecutor.”
But Nadler said he wasn’t expecting any such thing.
“Judging by the record of this attorney general, he will not pay attention, he will not respond,” he said. “They say, let’s look forward, not backward. By that standard, no one would ever prosecute any crime, and this is a violation of our obligations under the torture treaty, under the torture convention, that Ronald Reagan signed.”
So what has the Obama administration done — not just to turn the corner, but to make sure that we never turn back?
The president has spoken firmly about torture a few times. In an April 2009 news conference
, he said that “waterboarding violates our ideals and our values.”
“I do believe that it is torture,” he said. “I don’t think that’s just my opinion; that’s the opinion of many who’ve examined the topic. … It corrodes the character of a country.”
But rather than calling the Bush administration’s policies on torture a crime, he called them a “mistake.”
Generations of Americans have understood that torture is inconsistent with our values. Over two decades ago, President Reagan signed, and a bipartisan Senate coalition ratified this landmark document, which affirms the essential principle that under no circumstances is torture ever justified. Torture and abusive treatment violate our most deeply held values, and they do not enhance our national security — they undermine it by serving as a recruiting tool for terrorists and further endangering the lives of American personnel. Furthermore, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are ineffective at developing useful, accurate information. As President, I have therefore made it clear that the United States will prohibit torture without exception or equivocation, and I reaffirmed our commitment to the Convention’s tenets and our domestic laws.
But Bush had issued these annual statements, too — for instance, declaring in June 2005
: “Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.”
When it comes to taking action that will decisively deter any future leaders from doing what Bush and Cheney did, Obama’s record is slim.
The Justice Department investigation that was almost entirely closed last week actually dates back to the previous administration, when Bush’s own attorney general felt he could not ignore revelations that a top CIA official had destroyed videotapes of the brutal interrogations of two terror suspects. Then-attorney general Michael Mukasey appointed John Durham
, a career employee at the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office, as a special prosecutor to investigate that matter.
It turned out that 92 videotapes were incinerated
in all. They were ordered destroyed right after the media discovered the existence of secret CIA interrogation sites; the CIA had never disclosed their existence to various federal and judicial inquiries; David S. Addington
, Cheney’s chief of staff and former legal counsel, was among three White House lawyers who participated in at least one key meeting about the videotapes in 2004; and one of the interrogations on tape was that of Abu Zubaydah, the mentally-ill minor al Qaeda operative
who was Bush’s Exhibit A for the effectiveness of torture
, despite the fact that Zubaydah’s torture-induced confessions turned out to be fake.
Despite this evidence, Durham announced
in November that he would not bring any charges against anyone involved in the tapes’ destruction.
In August 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder tasked Durham with reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases the Bush administration had closed, after a recommendation
from the Justice Department’s ethics office.
But Holder dramatically limited Durham’s purview, ruling out any investigation either of the senior officials who approved the torture regime or of the front-line officers who just followed orders.
“The Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees,” Holder said
That was an overly narrow mandate, according to Scott Horton, a human rights lawyer andHarper’s magazine blogger. Durham’s investigation operated “on the premise that the torture memos did in fact grant immunity from prosecution, and it appears to have provided exceptionally broad latitude in the interpretation of those memos,” Horton wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
The investigation ended up essentially validating the Bush administration’s methodology.
“The investigation has proved that Addington and [Office of Legal Counsel attorney John] Yoo correctly understood the Justice Department’s operating principles,” Horton wrote. The result was that the ” ‘golden shield’ approach, under which the Justice Department licenses criminal conduct in advance and then refuses to prosecute it, is a viable approach to official criminality without accountability, in the U.S. at least.”
“When prosecutors stand up in court and say that the Department takes the anti-torture statute seriously and has a firm anti-torture position,” Horton concluded, “no one should believe them. They have demonstrated precisely the opposite.”
The Department of Justice did not recommend professional discipline for Yoo or fellow torture-memo author Jay S. Bybee. In February 2010, a senior DOJ attorney overruled a staff suggestion
that the former Bush officials be recommended for disbarment. Yoo is still teaching law at the University of California, Berkeley, and Bybee is a federal judge.
In his statement on Thursday
, Holder said Durham had ended up examining CIA involvement in the interrogations of 101 detainees in all, but he and the Justice Department had ultimately decided to open full criminal investigations regarding only two — both of which had resulted in death. The Associated Press
identified the two victims as Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi.
A slew of previous press reports have documented
how Rahman died of hypothermia in November 2002 after being stripped of his clothes, beaten, doused with water and left overnight shackled against cold cement with his arms over his head in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul known as the Salt Pit. Washington Post
reporter Dana Priest
first broke the story in 2005.
Al-Jamadi died in 2003 at Abu Ghraib. Adam Zagorin
magazine and Jane Mayer
of the New Yorker
both wrote extensively about the case in 2005. As Zagorin explained in an article last month
, al- Jamadi was known as “the Iceman” on account of a “bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead.” A military autopsy declared his death a homicide.
“Investigators concluded that while in CIA custody, the prisoner was hung on a wall before succumbing to asphyxiation and ‘blunt force injuries,’” Zagorin reported. “The CIA’s Inspector General referred the case to the Justice Department shortly after it happened for possible prosecution, but no action was taken.”
Human rights advocates welcomed the Attorney General’s investigation into the two homicides even while decrying the decision to abandon everything else.
“It is difficult to understand the prosecutor’s conclusion that only those two deaths warrant further investigation,” American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement
“For a period of several years, and with the approval of the Bush administration’s most senior officials, the CIA operated an interrogation program that subjected prisoners to unimaginable cruelty and violated both international and domestic law. The narrow investigation that Attorney General Holder announced today is not proportionate to the scale and scope of the wrongdoing,” Jaffer wrote.
Andy Worthington, a journalist and author who has meticulously chronicled
the fate of detainees who have passed through the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, responded to the announcement with outrage.
“It’s disgraceful that, after a two-year investigation, the final word on a global program of extraordinary rendition, torture, and, in some cases, murder, will be the possible criminal prosecution of CIA agents involved in the murders of two men,” he wrote to The Huffington Post.
“Over a hundred people were murdered in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Worthington continued, “and it is obvious that these murders only took place because of policies that were dreamt up and approved by senior Bush administration officials (including President Bush, Vice Presdent Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and the lawyers who advised them, including David Addington, William J. Haynes II, John Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Alberto Gonzales.”
The timing of the announcement was met with some skepticism; it came only minutes
before the Senate voted 94-0 to confirm Petraeus as CIA director. Leon Panetta, leaving the directorship of the CIA to become head of the Defense Department, shot his staff agoodbye note
celebrating the fact “that the broader inquiries are behind us. We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency’s history.”
Greenberg sees the decision to prosecute as a symbolic gesture, continuing a tradition of hanging a few egregious minor players out to dry while the real perpetrators remain untouched. “They can do that without really addressing the accountability of a government that sanctioned torture as national policy,” she said.
It is only little guys who have ever been punished for torture-related crimes. In one example, Philip Gourevitch
wrote in the New Yorker
in 2009 about Charles A. Graner, Jr., a military police officer at Abu Ghraib, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence: “His superior officers enjoy their freedom, and C.I.A. interrogators, who spent years committing far worse acts against prisoners than Graner did even in the darkest days at Abu Ghraib, have been assured immunity.”
“Whenever crimes of state are adjudicated — at Nuremberg or The Hague, Phnom Penh or Kigali — the principle of command responsibility, whereby the leaders who give the orders are held to a higher standard of accountability than the foot soldiers who follow, pertains,” Gourevitch wrote. “There can be no restoration of the national honor if we continue to scapegoat those who took the fall for an Administration — and for us all.”
Yet American officials have frequently cited Durham’s investigation as proof that they were responsibly pursuing accountability for torture.
U.S. State Department legal advisor Harold Koh directly alluded to Durham’s investigation in November, when the United States had its human rights record reviewed
by the United Nations in Geneva, assuring the auditors that all alleged abuses of detainees in the custody of the U.S. military “have been thoroughly investigated and appropriate corrective action has been taken.’
“In Spain, Italy and other jurisdictions, the Justice Department has sought to shut down local criminal investigations that touch on the CIA renditions and detention program by insisting that its pending investigation demonstrated that the US is fairly investigating these matters and will act on them,” Horton wrote in his email to The Huffington Post.
“They have had some success with this gambit,” he noted. “But the outcome so far provides good evidence to suggest that these investigations are either not pursued in good faith or have been intentionally blindered, so there is no reason for foreign prosecutors to defer to the Justice Department.”
Glenn Greenwald, one of the country’s top critics of expanded executive power, charged in his Salon column
on Friday that the cover-up and protection of crimes committed during the B