Outrage over Bushs bid to OK torture

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush is meeting stiff resistance both inside and outside Congress as he attempts to ram through legislation to permit use of coerced testimony and secret evidence in kangaroo-style military tribunals at the Pentagon’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Bush’s legislation would authorize continued use of many of the extreme methods of interrogation outlawed in the 2005 McCain anti-torture amendment and in the Supreme Court’s recent rulings upholding the rights of detainees under the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution.

War veterans and other peace advocates have gathered at “Camp Democracy” on the Capitol Mall to denounce Bush’s war in Iraq and his policies of mass detention and torture. The camp, initiated by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in Iraq, is expected to continue at least until Oct. 1.

Sgt. Ricky Clousing, an interrogator with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne, faces court martial in October for refusing to return to Iraq. He told a crowd at the camp that his decision was based on harassment and “baseless incarceration of civilians” he witnessed in Iraq as well as the torture revealed at Abu Ghraib prison in flagrant violation of U.S. and international law.

“I saw an innocent Iraqi killed before my eyes by U.S. troops. I saw the abuse of power that goes without accountability,” he said.

Clousing said he was trained in methods such as subjecting detainees to frigid cold and dousing them with cold water to “induce hypothermia,” methods banned by the Geneva Conventions. “It doesn’t surprise me that Bush is trying to authorize these interrogation techniques,” Clousing said. “Initially, there were no questions raised about these techniques. It was the movement, people standing up and saying that it is not right, that has forced these questions. Now Bush is seeking legal cover. … He is seeking another loophole to continue what they have been doing.”

His charges are not new. In a letter to Sen. John McCain last year, Captain Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate assigned to the 82nd Airborne, accused the elite unit of “a wide range of abuses” against Iraqi civilians, including “death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to the elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment.”

Bush ordered 14 high-profile detainees moved to Guantanamo Sept. 6, hoping that his “war on terrorism” would push the Iraq war from the headlines and put Democrats on the defensive in a hotly contested election year. Instead, it has focused attention back on Abu Ghraib and raised a host of questions about Guantanamo where hundreds are still held, many innocent victims of bounty hunters in Pakistan. France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Venezuela is campaigning for one of the Security Council seats, with its President Hugo Chavez leading the effort. Chavez, along with many others, is calling for restructuring the UN to reduce the influence of the United States and other permanent council members.

Among the reform proposals are expanding the Security Council, ending the permanent members’ veto power, more effective means to handle world conflicts and greater powers for the secretary-general.

Highlighting the problems facing the world organization, South African President Thabo Mbeki, representing his nation and a group of 133 other developing countries, charged that, although the General Assembly had adopted plans to halt poverty and the spread of disease in the developing world, “some of the developed nations have consistently refused to implement” those agreements, which would “alleviate the wretchedness of the poor.”