WASHINGTON — Two years after photographs exposed U.S. military personnel engaged in torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, demands are rising that President Bush be held accountable for criminal abuses at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and secret CIA or Pentagon prisons around the world.
The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, announced May 12 that 38 Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious organizations have joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “The issue of torture by the United States has been of concern to Americans of faith and conscience since the first pictures of Abu Ghraib were transmitted around the world,” Edgar wrote in an appeal for participation in the campaign. “Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.”
A large contingent of Witness Against Torture marched down Broadway during the April 29 antiwar march in New York sponsored by United for Peace and Justice. They carried a banner that read, “No war, no torture,” and placards that proclaimed, “Close Guantanamo.” Their media spokesperson Mike McGuire pulled a cage mounted on wheels, with a “detainee” in an orange jumpsuit slumped inside.
“Our focus is on closing Guantanamo, the most visible symbol of U.S. torture,” McGuire told the World. “The Bush administration chose Guantanamo as a site for their detention facility in an effort to hide their torture policies from public scrutiny.”
A delegation of 25 WAT members, mostly people of faith, traveled to Cuba last December and marched from Santiago to a site near Guantanamo to demand that U.S. authorities let them meet with the detainees. “A very broad coalition has joined in the demand that Guantanamo be closed, that the torture be ended,” McGuire added.
Torture is one of the central charges against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the growing calls for their impeachment and removal from office.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report on the second anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal accusing the Bush administration of blocking an independent investigation of the “systemic pattern of … torture and abuse” in violation of the world Convention Against Torture and U.S. law. “Its selective interpretation of the convention justified the development of interrogation techniques that violated the treaty, created a climate of confusion among U.S. soldiers and led to widespread torture and abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said his organization is “determined to hold the Bush administration responsible not just for torture and abuse of detainees but for the many other abuses of power in the name of fighting terrorism.”
By ordering kidnapping and “rendering” individuals to be tortured abroad, and by conducting warrantless spying on Americans at home, “Bush is violating America’s values of freedom and fairness,” he said. “No one is above the law, not even the president.”
Amnesty International released a report accusing the Bush administration of “creating a climate of torture” that has included use of brute force that killed several detainees. While Bush and Dick Cheney claim the abuses are the work of a “few aberrant soldiers,” the report says, “there is clear evidence to the contrary.”
Javier Zuniga, Amnesty’s program director for the Americas, wrote, “Most of the torture and ill-treatment stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”
The UK’s attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, denounced the indefinite detention of at least 490 so-called “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo as “unacceptable,” adding, “It is time, in my view, that it should close” to remove “what has become a symbol to many … of injustice.”
The Bush administration’s reaction has been to unleash a witch-hunt against journalists and their sources who have exposed these torture prisons.
Washington Post reporter Dana Priest won a Pulitzer Prize last month for her articles exposing a network of CIA prisons in Europe where victims of “extraordinary rendition” were transported for interrogation that included torture. CIA analyst Mary McCarthy was accused of leaking the story to Priest and was fired.
Pulitzer Prizes were also awarded to New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau for their articles exposing NSA domestic wiretaps. But Bush accused the news media of “hurting our ability to defeat this enemy” in exposing the torture and illegal NSA spying. Bush backer William Bennett went even further, accusing them of “treason” for exposing the Bush administration’s crimes.