WASHINGTON – The Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church here and a leader of United for Peace and Justice, says it is time for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to go. He is one voice in a growing chorus so outraged by the Abu Ghraib atrocities that they are demanding Rumsfeld’s ouster.
Hagler told the World he was horrified when he first saw the photos of grinning U.S. military police posing beside naked Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.
“It reminded me so much of those photos of lynched Blacks in the South with people posing, smiling, as if they were at a picnic,” he told the World.
The war crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, he said, reflect “an attitude of racial and cultural supremacy” against the peoples of the Middle East.
“Now we hear there are secret prisons owned and operated by the CIA and private contractors.” He continued, “People are disappearing. This is the hallmark of a totalitarian regime.”
Secrecy hides the 600 detainees held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he charged. “It explains why the Bush administration is so determined to be exempt from international law or any kind of war crime tribunal.”
Hagler concluded, “We need to step up the calls for the resignation of Rumsfeld. Congress must investigate how far this reaches up the chain of command. They need to ask President Bush what he knew and when he knew it.”
So far, hundreds of thousands have signed a petition demanding that Rumsfeld resign, including over 320,000 who have signed the petition on Democrat John Kerry’s web site www.johnkerry.com/petition/rumsfeld.php. On its web site, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee features a letter to Bush that people can sign demanding that Bush “promptly dismiss Donald Rumsfeld … for his shameful behavior, consistent pattern of disdain for lawful authority” in the torture at Abu Ghraib.
The Bush-Cheney gang seeks to pin blame on a handful of lower-ranking officers and reservists. For example, already U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits has been sentenced to one year in prison and given a bad conduct discharge in a plea bargain agreement.
But a Newsweek report cites internal memos proving that Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, “signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods.”
The system was adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attack “to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. … Rumsfeld, himself, impressed by the success of techniques used against Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, seemingly set in motion a process that led to their use in Iraq even though that war was supposed to be governed by the Geneva Conventions.”
The detainees were to be stripped of their rights on the grounds that Bush had decreed them “unlawful enemy combatants.”
A Justice Department memo written for the CIA endorsed 72 methods of coercion, “including sleep deprivation, the use of phobias and the deployment of stress factors” – all of them violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Subsequent memos argued that U.S. courts had no jurisdiction to review the treatment of foreign prisoners at Guantanamo, and that “neither the Geneva Convention nor any of the laws of war applied to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
White House Legal Counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote to Bush, “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on the questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” Without this interpretation of the law, he wrote, “U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions.”
With the legal underpinnings in place, “Bush began to act,” Newsweek continues, by granting new powers to the CIA, setting up secret detention facilities, and authorizing “harsher” interrogation techniques. The new rules also gave immunity to U.S. government personnel and to private contractors who operated these facilities.
“By 2004, the United States was running a covert charter airline moving CIA prisoners from one secret facility to another. … It was judged impolitic (and too traceable) to use the U.S. Air Force.”
Scott Lynch, media spokesperson for Peace Action told the World, “It’s obvious the torture was the modus operandi. It runs all the way up the chain of command to the president. It’s time for Rummy to go! But this was not limited to Rumsfeld.”
Lynch recalled that in his State of the Union two years ago, Bush made a veiled reference to the assassination of 3,000 people. “This administration has contempt for international law. This administration is a lawless, rogue regime,” he said.
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