WASHINGTON — With the slogan, “Torture is not an American value,” peace groups conducted a “call-in” to senators’ offices Jan. 18, urging them to reject Alberto R. Gonzales as unfit for the post of U.S. attorney general.
Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, pointed out that Gonzales, as White House legal counsel, was the architect of George W. Bush’s torture policies that resulted in rampant torture, abuse, and even murder of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other U.S. military prisons around the world.
“A man who would rationalize torture, even during war, would rationalize anything,” Martin said. “Such a man is not fit to be attorney general.”
Joining in the “call-in” were Win Without War and Church Folks for a Better America.
Peace Action spokesperson Scott Lynch told the World the Bush administration is spinning the torture story as the isolated misdeeds of a handful of “rogue soldiers” such as Army Specialist Charles Graner, sentenced to 10 years in prison last week during a trial at Fort Hood, Texas, for his role in the torture of Iraqi detainees. The overwhelming majority of the detainees were innocent civilians caught up in U.S military dragnet sweeps.
It is not just a few soldiers who are “rogues,” Lynch said. “This entire war is a rogue operation. It brings out the worst in us. If it had not been for the war, Graner would have been back home in Pennsylvania.”
He accused the White House of a double standard. “Bush’s torture policy was written by Gonzales and he is promoted while the soldiers on the ground take the blame. I don’t think any reasonable person would consider what happened at Abu Ghraib to be anything less than torture. These were clearly violations of the Geneva Conventions.”
He urged messages to Democratic as well as Republican senators since many Democratic lawmakers are pulling their punches on Gonzales. The issue has domestic implications, too, Lynch said, noting, “ It’s an easy step to say that if torture is acceptable abroad, it is acceptable here in the U.S. as well.”
In one of many forms of protest taking place during the week of Bush’s inauguration, more than 4,000 people signed an online petition, “Not in Our Name,” which denounced Bush’s $40 million inaugural orgy as a corporate, right-wing “coronation.” The petition reads, in part, “No election, whether fair or fraudulent, can legitimize criminal wars on foreign countries, torture, the wholesale violation of human rights. … We cannot, we will not wait until 2008. The fight against the second Bush regime has to start now.” (The petition can be signed at www.nion.us/).
Graner’s sentencing brought charges that he is a scapegoat for Bush, Gonzales, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who ordered the torture. Harvey Volzer, an attorney who represented another soldier implicated in the torture, told The New York Times he is skeptical that any top officials will ever be prosecuted. “The higher up they go, the more problems they have with people leading to the Pentagon,” he said. “[Col. Thomas] Pappas gives them [Gen.] Sanchez. … Sanchez can give them Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld can lead to President Bush and Gonzales.”
A Pentagon report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba released last August implicated 29 other Army Intelligence personnel in at least 44 instances of abuse of detainees. The scandal erupted after hundreds of photos were released of naked Iraqis being tortured by U.S. soldiers, who posed grinning over the detainees.
In his testimony to a Senate Armed Services hearing, Taguba charged the U.S. soldiers with committing “egregious acts of violence against detainees and other civilians outside the bounds of international law and the Geneva Conventions.”
Later, the Pentagon set up a room in the Capitol where lawmakers could see photos and camcorder videos of soldiers committing even more hideous acts of torture. It included, reportedly, the rape of an Iraqi woman and abuse of Iraqi children. But the Pentagon excluded the media and the general public, and the lawmakers have fallen remarkably silent on these atrocities.
Neither senators nor representatives have linked these war crimes to Gonzales’ infamous memos justifying torture. And no lawmaker has asked about an FBI e-mail memo sent by “On Scene Commander, Baghdad,” that refers to an Executive Order signed by Bush authorizing torture.