"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

US Senator Robert C. Byrd

"Standing for the Founding Principles of the Republic"

Remarks delivered Tuesday as the Senate debated the nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination on Wednesday.

The Constitution, in Article Two, Section Two, states that the President "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States..." Recognizing that the Senate’s role of advice and consent is one of the few legislative powers explicitly cited in the Constitution, Senator Byrd believes that it is a power that Senators of both parties must rigorously protect. It is not a ceremonial exercise.

To confirm Dr. Rice to be the next Secretary of State is to say to the American people, and the world, that the answers to those questions are no longer important. Her confirmation will most certainly be viewed as another endorsement of the Administration’s unconstitutional doctrine of preemptive war, its bullying policies of unilateralism, and its callous rejection of our long-standing allies.

With regard to this nomination, Senator Byrd has been particularly concerned about Dr. Rice’s role in crafting the Bush doctrine of preemption, or the first-strike war. No one denies that the President has the inherent authority to repel attacks against our country, but Senator Byrd believes that the doctrine of first-strike war against another country which does not pose an imminent threat to the United States is unconstitutional.

In Federalist Number 77, Alexander Hamilton wrote:
“It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing.”
Although Hamilton explains the importance of the role of the Senate in the appointment of officers of the United States, neither he, nor the Constitution, is specific about what criteria Senators must use to judge the qualifications of a nominee. The Constitution only requires that the Senate give its advice and consent. It is therefore left to Senators to use their own judgment in considering their vote. The factors involved in such judgments may vary among Senators, among nominees, and may even change in response to the needs of the times.

The position of Secretary of State is among the most important offices for which the Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate. It is the Secretary of State that sits at the right hand of the President during meetings of the Cabinet. The Secretary of State is all the more important today, considering the enormous diplomatic challenges our country will face in the next four years.

I must commend the Foreign Relations Committee for its work in bringing the nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice to the Floor of the Senate. Chairman Richard Lugar conducted two days of hearings for this nominee, and the debate that began in the committee on this nomination is now being continued here on the Floor of the Senate. Senator Biden also provided a voice of great foreign policy experience during those hearings. I was particularly impressed by Senator Boxer, who tackled her role on the committee with passion and forthrightness, as did Senator Kerry.

There is no doubt that Dr. Rice has a remarkable record of personal achievement. She obtained her bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 19. Speaking as someone who did not earn a bachelor’s degree until I had reached 77 years of age, I have a special appreciation for Dr. Rice’s impressive academic achievement. She then obtained a doctorate in international studies, and quickly rose through the academic ranks to become Provost of Stanford University.

Dr. Rice has also gathered extensive experience in foreign policy matters. She is a recognized expert on matters relating to Russia and the former Soviet Union. She has twice worked on the National Security Council, once as the senior advisor on Soviet issues, and most recently, for four years as National Security Advisor. Dr. Rice has had ample exposure to the nuances of international politics, and by that measure, she is certainly qualified for the position of Secretary of State.

The next Secretary of State will have large shoes to fill. I have closely watched the career of Colin Powell since he served as National Security Advisor to President Reagan, and we worked together during the Senate consideration of the INF Treaty of 1988. He distinguished himself in his service as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, particularly during the 1991 Gulf War. When his nomination came before the Senate in 2001, I supported his confirmation based upon the strength of his record.

The vote that the Senate will conduct tomorrow, however, is not simply a formality to approve of a nominee’s educational achievement or level of expertise. I do not subscribe to the notion that the Senate must confirm a President’s nominees, barring criminality or lack of experience. The Constitution enjoins Senators to use their judgment in considering nominations.

I am particularly dismayed by accusations I have read that Senate Democrats, by insisting on having an opportunity to debate the nomination of Dr. Rice, have somehow been engaged in nothing more substantial than “petty politics” or partisan delaying tactics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Senate’s role of advice and consent to presidential nominations is not a ceremonial exercise.

I have stood on this Senate floor more times than I can count to defend the prerogatives of this institution and the separate but equal – with emphasis on the word “equal” – powers of the three branches of government. A unique power of the Legislative Branch is the Senate’s role in providing advice and consent on the matter of nominations. That power is not vested in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or any other committee; nor does it repose in a handful of Senate leaders. It is not a function of pomp and circumstance, and it was never intended by the Framers to be used to burnish the image of a President on inauguration day.

And yet that is exactly what Senators were being pressured to do last week – to acquiesce mutely to the nomination of one of the most important members of the President’s Cabinet without the merest hiccup of debate or the smallest inconvenience of a roll call vote.

And so we are here today to fulfill our constitutional duty to consider the nomination of Dr. Rice to be Secretary of State. Mr. President, I have carefully considered Dr. Rice’s record as National Security Advisor in the two months that have passed since the President announced her nomination to be Secretary of State. That record, I am afraid, is one of intimate involvement in a number of Administration foreign policies which I strongly oppose. These policies have fostered enormous opposition -- both at home and abroad -- to the White House’s view of America’s place in the world.

That view of America is one which encourages our Nation to flex its muscles without being bound by any calls for restraint. The most forceful explanation of this idea can be found in "The National Security Strategy of the United States," a report which was issued by the White House in September 2002. Under this strategy, the President lays claim to an expansive power to use our military to strike other nations first, even if we have not been threatened or provoked.

There is no question that the President has the inherent authority to repel attacks against our country, but this National Security Strategy is unconstitutional on its face. It takes the checks and balances established in the Constitution that limit the President’s ability to use our military at his pleasure, and throws them out the window.

This doctrine of preemptive strikes places the sole decision of war and peace in the hands of the President and undermines the Constitutional power of Congress to declare war. The Founding Fathers required that such an important issue of war be debated by the elected representatives of the people in the Legislative Branch precisely because no single man could be trusted with such an awesome power as bringing a nation to war by his decision alone. And yet, that it exactly what the National Security Strategy proposes.

Not only does this pernicious doctrine of preemptive war contradict the Constitution, it barely acknowledges its existence. The National Security Strategy makes only one passing reference to the Constitution: it states that "America’s constitution" -- that is "constitution" with a small C -- "has served us well." As if the Constitution does not still serve this country well! One might ask if that reference to the Constitution was intended to be a compliment or an obituary?

As National Security Advisor, Dr. Rice was in charge of developing the National Security Strategy. She also spoke out forcefully in support of the dangerous doctrine of preemptive war. In one speech, she argues that there need not be an imminent threat before the United States attacks another nation: "So as a matter of common sense," said Dr. Rice on October 1, 2002, "the United States must be prepared to take action, when necessary, before threats have fully materialized."

But that "matter of common sense" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. For that matter, isn’t it possible to disagree with this “matter of common sense?” What is common sense to one might not be shared by another. What’s more, matters of common sense can lead people to the wrong conclusions. John Dickinson, the chief author of the Articles of Confederation, said in 1787, “Experience must be our only guide; reason may mislead us.” As for me, I will heed the experience of Founding Fathers, as enshrined in the Constitution, over the reason and “common sense” of the Administration’s National Security Strategy.

We can all agree that the President, any President, has the inherent duty and power to repel an attack on the United States. But where in the Constitution can the President claim the right to strike at another nation before it has even threatened our country, as Dr. Rice asserted in that speech? To put it plainly, Dr. Rice has asserted that the President holds far more of the war power than the Constitution grants him.

This doctrine of attacking countries before a threat has “fully materialized” was put into motion as soon as the National Security Strategy was released. Beginning in September 2002, Dr. Rice also took a position on the front lines of the Administration’s effort to hype the danger of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Rice is responsible for some of the most overblown rhetoric that the Administration used to scare the American people into believing that there was an imminent threat from Iraq. On September 8, 2002, Dr. Rice conjured visions of American cities being consumed by mushroom clouds. On an appearance on CNN, she warned: “The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Dr. Rice also claimed that she had conclusive evidence about Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program. During that same interview, she also said: “We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know that there have been shipments going into… Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes… that are really only suited for nuclear weapons programs.”

We now know that Iraq’s nuclear program was a fiction. Charles Duelfer, the chief arms inspector of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group, reported on September 30, 2004: “Saddam Husayn ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the Gulf war. [The Iraq Survey Group] found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the program.”

But Dr. Rice’s statements in 2002 were not only wrong, they also did not accurately reflect the intelligence reports of the time. Declassified portions of the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate from October 2002 make it clear that there were disagreements among our intelligence analysts about the state of Iraq’s nuclear program. But Dr. Rice seriously misrepresented their disputes when she categorically stated, “We do know that [Saddam] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.”

Her allegation also misrepresented to the American people the controversy in those same intelligence reports about the aluminum tubes. Again, Dr. Rice said that these tubes were “really only suited for nuclear weapons programs.” But intelligence experts at the State Department and the Department of Energy believed that those tubes had nothing to do with building a nuclear weapon, and made their dissent known in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. This view, which was at odds with Dr. Rice’s representations, was later confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and our own CIA arms inspectors.

Dr. Rice made other statements that helped to build a case for war by implying a link between Iraq and September 11. On multiple occasions, Dr. Rice spoke about the supposed evidence that Saddam and Al Qaeda were in league with each other. For example, on September 25, 2002, Dr. Rice said on the PBS NewsHour:

“No one is trying to make an argument at this point that Saddam Hussein somehow had operational control of what happened on September 11, so we don’t want to push this too far, but this is a story that is unfolding, and it is getting clear, and we’re learning more…. But yes, there clearly are contact[s] between Al Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented; there clearly is testimony that some of the contacts have been important contacts and that there is a relationship there.”

What Dr. Rice did not say was that some of those supposed links were being called into question by our intelligence agencies, such as the alleged meeting between a 9-11 ringleader and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague that has now been debunked. These attempts to connect Iraq and Al Qaeda appear to be a prime example of cherry-picking intelligence to hype the supposed threat of Iraq, while keeping contrary evidence away from the American people, wrapped up in the red tape of top secret reports.

Dr. Rice pressed the point even further, creating scenarios that threatened tens of thousands of American lives, even when that threat wasn’t supported by intelligence. On March 9, 2003, just eleven days before the invasion of Iraq, Dr. Rice appeared on “Face the Nation” and said:

“Now the al-Qaida is an organization that's quite dispersed and --and quite widespread in its effects, but it clearly has had links to the Iraqis, not to mention Iraqi links to all kinds of other terrorists. And what we do not want is the day when Saddam Hussein decides that he's had enough of dealing with sanctions, enough of dealing with, quote, unquote, "containment," enough of dealing with America, and it's time to end it on his terms, by transferring one of these weapons, just a little vial of something, to a terrorist for blackmail or for worse.”

But the intelligence community had already addressed this scenario with great skepticism. In fact, the CIA’s National Intelligence Estimate from October 2002 concluded that it had “low confidence” that Saddam would ever transfer any weapons of mass destruction – weapons that he did not have, as it turned out – to anyone outside of his control. This is yet more evidence of an abuse of intelligence in order to build the case for an unprovoked war with Iraq.

And what has been the effect of the first use of the reckless doctrine of preemptive war? In a most ironic and deadly twist, the false situation described by the Administration before the war -- namely, that Iraq was a training ground for terrorists poised to attack us -- is exactly the situation that our war in Iraq has created.

But it was this unjustified war that created the situation that the President claimed he was trying to prevent. Violent extremists have flooded into Iraq from all corners of the world. Iraqis have taken up arms themselves to fight against the continuing U.S. occupation of their country. According to a CIA report released in December 2004, intelligence analysts now see Iraq, destabilized by the Administration’s ill-conceived war, as the training ground for a new generation of terrorists. [Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project, pp. 94] It should be profoundly disturbing to all Americans if the most dangerous breeding ground for terrorism shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq, simply because of the Administration’s ill-advised rush to war in March 2003.

Dr. Rice’s role in the war against Iraq was not limited to building the case for an unprecedented, preemptive invasion of a country that had not attacked us first. Her role also extends to the Administration’s failed efforts to establish peace in Iraq. In October 2003, five months after he declared "Mission Accomplished," the President created the Iraq Stabilization Group, headed by Dr. Rice. The task of the Iraq Stabilization Group was to coordinate efforts to speed reconstruction aid to help bring the violence in Iraq to an end.

But what has the Iraq Stabilization Group accomplished under the leadership of Dr. Rice? When she took the helm of the stabilization efforts, 319 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq. That number now stands at 1,368 as of today (Tuesday 1/25). More than 10,600 troops have been wounded. The cost of the war has spiraled to $149 billion, and the White House is on the verge of asking Congress for another $80 billion. Despite the mandate of the Iraq Stabilization Group, the situation in Iraq has gone from bad to worse. More ominously, the level of violence only keeps growing, week after week, month after month, and no Administration official, whether from the White House, the Pentagon, or Foggy Bottom, has made any predictions about when the violence will finally subside.

Furthermore, of the $18.4 billion in Iraqi reconstruction aid appropriated by Congress in October 2003, the Administration has spent only $2.7 billion. With these funds moving so slowly, it is hard to believe that the Iraq Stabilization Group has had any success at all in speeding the reconstruction efforts in Iraq. For all the hue and cry about the need to speed up aid to Iraq, one wonders if there should be more tough questions asked of Dr. Rice about what she has accomplished as the head of this group.

There are also many unanswered questions about Dr. Rice’s record as National Security Advisor. Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism advisor, has leveled scathing criticism against Dr. Rice and the National Security Council for failing to recognize the threat from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the months leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In particular, Mr. Clarke states that he submitted a request on January 25, 2001, for an urgent meeting of the National Security Council on the threat of al Qaeda.

However, due to decisions made by Dr. Rice and her staff, that urgent meeting did not occur until too late: the meeting was not actually called until September 4, 2001. Mr. Clarke, who is widely acknowledged as one of the leading authorities on terrorism in government at that time, told the 9-11 Commission that he was so frustrated with those decisions that he asked to be reassigned to different issues, and the Bush White House approved that request.

Dr. Rice appeared before the 9-11 Commission on April 8, 2004, but if anything, her testimony raised only more questions about what the President and others knew about the threats to New York City and Washington, D.C. in the weeks before the attacks, and whether more could have been done to prevent them.

Why wasn’t any action taken when she and the President received an intelligence report on August 6, 2001, entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States?” Why did Dr. Rice and President Bush reassign Richard Clarke, the leading terrorism expert in the White House, soon after taking office in 2001? Why did it take nine months for Dr. Rice to call the first high-level National Security Council meeting on the threat of Osama bin Laden? As the Senate debates her nomination today, we still have not heard full answers to these questions.

In addition to Mr. Clarke’s criticism, Dr. David Kay, the former CIA weapons inspector in Iraq, also has strong words for the National Security Council and its role in the run up to the war in Iraq. When Dr. Kay appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 18, 2004, to analyze why the Administration’s pre-war intelligence was so wrong about weapons of mass destruction, he described the National Security Council as the "dog that didn’t bark" to warn the President about the weakness of those intelligence reports. Dr. Kay continued: “Every president who has been successful, at least that I know of, in the history of this republic, has developed both informal and formal means of getting checks on whether people who tell him things are in fact telling him the whole truth.… The recent history has been a reliance on the NSC system to do it. I quite frankly think that has not served this president very well.”

What Dr. Kay appears to state was his view that the National Security Council, under the leadership of Dr. Rice, did not do a sufficient job of raising doubts about the quality of the intelligence about Iraq. On the contrary, based upon Dr. Rice’s statements that I quoted earlier, her rhetoric even went beyond the questionable intelligence that the CIA had available on Iraq, in order to hype the threats of aluminum tubes, mushroom clouds, and connections between Iraq and September 11.

In light of the massive reorganization of our intelligence agencies enacted by Congress last year, shouldn’t this nomination spur the Senate to stop, look, and listen about what has been going on in the National Security Council for the last four years? Don’t these serious questions about the failings of the National Security Council under Dr. Rice deserve a more through examination before the Senate votes to confirm her as the next Secretary of State?

Accountability has become an old-fashioned notion in some circles these days, but accountability is not a negotiable commodity when it comes to the highest circles of our nation’s government. The accountability of government officials is an obligation, not a luxury. And yet, accountability is an obligation that this President and his administration appear loath to fulfill.

Instead of being held to account for their actions, the architects of the policies that led our nation into war with Iraq, policies based on faulty intelligence and phantom weapons of mass destruction, have been rewarded by the President with accolades and promotions. Instead of admitting to mistakes in the war on Iraq and its disastrous aftermath, the President and his inner circle of advisers continue to cling to myths and misconceptions. The only notion of accountability that this President is willing to acknowledge is the November elections, which he has described as a moment of accountability and an endorsement of his policies. Unfortunately, after-the-fact validation of victory is hardly the standard of accountability that the American people have the right to expect from their elected officials. It is one thing to accept responsibility for success; it is quite another to accept accountability for failure.

Sadly, failure has tainted far too many aspects of our nation’s international policies over the past four years, culminating in the deadly insurgency that has resulted from the invasion of Iraq. With respect to this particular nomination, I believe that there needs to be accountability for the mistakes and missteps that have led the United States into the dilemma in which it finds itself today, besieged by increasing violence in Iraq, battling an unprecedented decline in world opinion, and increasingly isolated from our allies due to our provocative, belligerent, bellicose, and unilateralist foreign policy.

Whether the Administration will continue to pursue these policies cannot be known to Senators today, as we prepare to cast our votes. At her confirmation hearing on January 18, Dr. Rice proclaimed that “Our interaction with the rest of the world must be a conversation, not a monologue.” But two days later, President Bush gave an inaugural address that seemed to rattle sabers at any nation that he does not consider to be free. Before Senators cast their vote, we must wonder whether we are casting our lot for more diplomacy or more belligerence? Reconciliation or more confrontation? Which face of this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde foreign policy will be revealed in the next four years?

Although I do not question her credentials, I do oppose many of the critical decisions that Dr. Rice has made during her four years as National Security Advisor. She has a record, and the record is there for us to judge. There remain too many unanswered questions about Dr. Rice’s failure to protect our country before the tragic attacks of September 11, her public efforts to politicize intelligence, and her often stated allegiance to the doctrine of preemption.

To confirm Dr. Rice to be the next Secretary of State is to say to the American people, and the world, that the answers to those questions are no longer important. Her confirmation will most certainly be viewed as another endorsement of the Administration’s unconstitutional doctrine of preemptive war, its bullying policies of unilateralism, and its callous rejection of our long-standing allies.

The stakes for the United States are too high. I cannot endorse higher responsibilities for those who helped set our great country down the path of increasing isolation, enmity in the world, and a war that has no end. For these reasons, I shall cast my vote in opposition to the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice to be the next Secretary of State.

Published on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

Right To Life

War should be left behind us in the memories of history. The people of the world should practice it no more. Better results in peace could be realized if we were to reach out to our fellow man with an understanding instead of aligning them in our rifle sights. I know that this is a concept that will take time for people to understand, but isn’t it time to start trying?

I have come to the conclusion that the Creator does not want us to fight wars or to leave our brothers to die in hunger or disease for we have been given the things we need to provide all men on the planet what he needs to get by in the world. I have been lead to question some things about myself that I could change to better myself as a man.

Why should I not help another human being that needs what I can help them with? I have ignored that for far too long. I have turned my head when the homeless person asks for a little help. I have taken advantage of others when I should have been offering a hand up. I have done things in my life that I am not proud of. I have not lived a perfect life so I do not claim to have the authority to tell anyone else how to live his or hers.

Some people are asking me why is it now that I have come to this conclusion that I can no longer take part in an organization whose primary purpose is to kill. People are asking how I can spend ten years in the military and now want to get out or how I can abandon the people that I have served with. I have to tell them that I have seen the wrong way that I had been living and that I need to make some changes. Changes that will hopefully let me live a better life and that will allow me to be a better part of the human society.

I have learned that I have done things that are not to the benefit to mankind and that to continue in that vein would be detrimental to my growth as a human being. And now that I have seen the errors of my ways, wouldn’t it be prudent to change the way I conduct myself? Why should I continue with what I see as self-destructive behavior? And why should I continue a way of life that does nothing to alleviate some problems that have plagued humanity far too long? If a drug addict learns that the drugs are killing him then he is expected to stop using drugs. That leads me to ask the question, "If what I am doing is killing me spiritually, why should I continue?

Some people claim that war brings peace; if that is the case then why do we not have peace in the world? There have been wars as long as I have been alive and yet we still have no true peace in the world. We are taught in school that we have had the American Revolution and the two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Grenada, Beirut, Persian Gulf War, and now the Operation Iraqi Freedom, and my point is, "When will it be enough?"

Do we want our grandkids to learn the "art" of war? Should we teach them to throw hand grenades and learn how to shoot center mass of a human being in order to kill them? Or should we be teaching them to hit home runs and to catch fly balls? We should teach them to throw the winning pass at the super bowl, anything but how to kill other humans. There are many things that should be shown to our young besides the "honor" of killing.

War should be left behind us in the memories of history. The people of the world should practice it no more. Better results in peace could be realized if we were to reach out to our fellow man with an understanding instead of aligning them in our rifle sights. I know that this is a concept that will take time for people to understand, but isn’t it time to start trying?

We have recently observed the day that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and shouldn’t we remember his words and try to live them? "I have a dream that one day that all the children of the world can live together" That may not be the exact quote but I believe that is the essence of what he wanted to see in our world. When will we try to attain that goal?

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."

Why can’t we take that view for peace in our country and expand it to the nations of the world? It made sense then and it makes sense now. ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.

And if is the case that all men are equal, why I am facing the possibility of seven years in Federal Prison because I do not want to kill another human being?

January 25, 2005

Kevin Benderman [send him mail] is an Army Sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Stewart, GA.

Copyright 2005 Kevin Benderman

Army Closed Many Abuse Cases Early

Few Detainee-Treatment Inquiries Led to Penalties, Documents Show

Army personnel have admitted to beating or threatening to kill Iraqi detainees and stealing money from Iraqi civilians but have not been charged with criminal conduct, according to newly released Army documents.

Only a handful of the 54 investigations of alleged detainee abuse and other illicit activities detailed in the documents led to recommended penalties as severe as a court-martial or discharge from military service. Most led to administrative fines or simply withered because investigators could not find victims or evidence.

The documents, which date from mid-2003 to mid-2004 and were obtained by five nongovernmental organizations through a joint lawsuit, suggest that the pursuit of military justice in Iraq has been hampered by the investigators' closure of many cases without reaching a determination of likely innocence or guilt.

In the case of Hadi Abdul Hasson, an Iraqi who died in U.S. custody at a prison near the southern port of Umm Qasr, Army criminal investigators were unable to locate meaningful prison or military records on his capture or fate.

"Due to inadequate recordkeeping, this office could only estimate that Mr. Hasson possibly died between April-September 2003," and so the case was closed, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command said in October. Hasson's death was evidently not noticed until mid-2004, when disclosures of detainee abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad prompted a review of records and sparked many new abuse allegations by Iraqis.

The newly released reports detail allegations similar to those that surrounded the documented abuse at Abu Ghraib -- such as beatings with rifle butts, prolonged hooding, sodomy, electric shocks, stressful shackling, and the repeated withholding of clothing and food -- but they also encompass alleged offenses at military prisons and checkpoints elsewhere in Iraq. The elite soldiers with Army Special Forces and other Special Operations personnel stationed in various parts of Iraq were also implicated in some of the abuse but did not admit involvement, according to the documents.

The reports, drawn directly from Army case files, also explain for the first time exactly how many of the abuse allegations were investigated and adjudicated.

A January 2004 probe, for example, found that nine soldiers in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Carson, Colo., and deployed in Iraq "were possibly involved in a criminal conspiracy to rob Iraqi citizens of currency" at traffic-control points. Two members of the unit affirmed the plan in sworn statements and named its participants. But the investigation was terminated after the commander "indicated an intent to take action amounting to less than a court proceeding," the report said.

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which published the documents on its Web site, said they showed that the investigations of torture and abuse "have been woefully inadequate" and, in some cases, a whitewash. Army spokesman Dov Schwartz responded that "the Army has aggressively investigated all credible allegations of detainee abuse and held soldiers accountable for their actions."

Schwartz said that more than 300 criminal investigations so far have resulted in some type of action against more than 100 military personnel. The 54 investigations outlined in the released documents are among those 300.

Some of the cases involved petty crimes as well as assaults. In one case, a platoon of infantry troops beat Iraqis and stole money, calling it a "Robin Hood tax," to support a fund used to buy soda, food, beer, whiskey and gin for the platoon. In another case, two soldiers burst into a civilian's home, stating they were looking for weapons, and stole cash and jewelry. In another, two other soldiers pushed an Iraqi man into the back of their five-ton truck, drove him to an isolated area, stole his watch and money, and punched him in the face.

Many of the participants in such crimes were referred for courts-martial, while those who participated in beatings or abuse generally received lesser punishments, according to the documents.

An officer in the 20th Field Artillery Battalion deployed in Taji, for example, was given an unspecified nonjudicial punishment and fined $2,500 after he admitted to threatening to kill an Iraqi, firing a pistol next to the man's head, placing the man's head in a barrel, and watching as members of his unit pummeled the man's chest and face.

One of those who administered the beating told investigators that the officer "had given us a talk about how some circumstances bring about extra force." Another said the officer told them after it was over: "This night stays within" the unit. "We all gave a hooah" before parting, the soldier said. The document indicates that four soldiers received suspended nonjudicial punishments and small fines, while a decision on a fifth soldier was pending.

Another of the cases described in the documents involved an unnamed service member's allegations in late 2003 of "war crimes" at a Baghdad holding facility known as Camp Red. The member complained that Iraqis were made to sit for hours or stand on a brick in the hot sun, hooded and with their hands bound; that they were frequently pushed and kicked; and that soldiers would deliberately drive an armored vehicle next to where they were seated to "spook" them.

An officer at the camp told investigators that such treatment was needed to keep Iraqis from "acting up." The case was closed because "serious injury" was not proved, according to the document.

Another case involved a 73-year-old Iraqi woman who was captured by members of the Delta Force special unit and alleged that she was robbed of money and jewels before being confined for days without food or water -- all in an effort to force her to disclose the location of her husband and son. Delta Force's Task Force 20 was assigned to capture senior Iraqi officials.

She said she was also stripped and humiliated by a man who "straddled her . . . and attempted to ride her like a horse" before hitting her with a stick and placing it in her anus. The case, which attracted the attention of senior Iraqi officials and led to an inquiry by an unnamed member of the White House staff, was closed without a conclusion.

The military eventually released her and reimbursed her "for all property and damage" after her complaints, the report said; details of the Delta Force investigation remain classified.

In several cases, Army investigators concluded that the allegations were without merit. An inquiry begun after a Washington Post article detailed the shooting death of a Baghdad man by U.S. forces last summer ruled that the shooting was a "justifiable homicide."

Sajid Kadhim Bori Bawi's family had said that U.S. soldiers stormed into their home, accused him of crimes against coalition forces and dragged him into a room away from other family members. He was shot five times after yelling out.

Army investigators ruled that a soldier shot Bawi while "engaged in a struggle" with him, during which Bawi allegedly tried to grab a soldier's M-4 carbine rifle. They ruled that a soldier fired his pistol repeatedly at him "to nullify the threat to himself and the other soldiers." Military lawyers ruled it a "good shoot."

More often, Army investigators closed their cases after finding insufficient "evidence to prove or disprove the allegations." That was their conclusion after a detainee in Mosul reported that a Navy SEAL team beat him for two to three days and threatened his family after taking him into custody in May. "They took me back to a small room and they left me for two days without food and drinks and the bag was over my head and my hands were cuffed and then they threw cold water and ice and they banging me on the wall once," the detainee, whose name was blacked out on the reports, told an interpreter during the investigation.

An Air Force captain who examined the detainee after the alleged abuse reported the man had bruises on his shoulders. A military lawyer issued an opinion on July 6 that the evidence was inconclusive, ending the investigation of aggravated assault and cruelty and maltreatment.

Another detainee said he was whisked off a Baghdad street by two U.S. soldiers, blindfolded and taken to an unknown location, where he was beaten by wooden sticks, sodomized and given electric shocks during an interrogation session. He was also one of three detainees who said in separate cases that he was forced to drink urine.

"They made me take a picture with the captain giving me a hundred-dollar bill," the detainee said. "They then threatened to show the picture to the Iraqis and say I was working with them."

Medical examinations corroborated the injuries to the detainee's wrists and noted injuries to his anus. Military lawyers ruled that the "investigation did not further diminish the integrity or credibility of [the] allegation," according to a report dated Aug. 5, but they closed the case.

R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 25, 2005; Page A01
Staff writer Dana Priest contributed to this report

A Fantasy of Freedom

If Bush wanted to tackle tyranny, he could start with regimes under US control. But liberty clearly has limits

There is one tiny corner of Cuba that will forever America be. It is a place where innocent people are held without charge for years, beyond international law, human decency and the mythical glow of Lady Liberty's torch. It is a place where torture is common, beating is ritual and humiliation is routine. They call it Guantánamo Bay.
Last week the new United States secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, listed Cuba, among others, as "an outpost of tyranny". A few days later President Bush started his second term with a pledge to unleash "the force of freedom" on the entire world. "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," he said

You would think that if the Americans are truly interested in expanding freedom and ending tyranny in Cuba, let alone the rest of the world, Guantánamo Bay would be as good a place to start as any. But the captives in Guantánamo should not ask for the keys to their leg irons any time soon. Ms Rice was not referring to the outpost of tyranny that her boss created in Cuba, but the rest of the Caribbean island, which lives in a stable mixture of the imperfect and the impressive.

In short, while the US could liberate a place where there are flagrant human rights abuses and over which they have total control, it would rather topple a sovereign state, which poses no threat, through diplomatic and economic - and possibly military - warfare that is already causing chaos and hardship.

Welcome to Bush's foreign policy strategy for the second term. His aim is not to realign the values at Guantánamo so that they are more in line with those championed by the rest of the world. It is to try and realign the rest of the world so that it is more in keeping with the values that govern Guantánamo, where human rights and legal norms are subordinated to America's perceived interests.

Under this philosophy, the Bush administration understands the words "tyranny" and "freedom" in much the same way as it understands international law. They mean whatever the White House wants them to mean. Bush is happy to support democracy when democracy supports America, just as he is happy to dispense with it when it does not. Likewise, when tyranny is inconvenient, he will excoriate it; when it is expedient, he will excuse it.

Take Uzbekistan, one of the most repressive regimes in central Asia. In April 2002, a special UN rapporteur concluded that torture in the country was "systematic" and "pervasive and persistent... throughout the investigation process". In the same year, Muzafar Avazov, an opposition leader, was boiled alive for refusing to abandon his religious convictions and attempting to practise religious rites in prison. In 2003, Bush granted a waiver to Uzbekistan when its failure to improve its human rights record should have led to its aid being slashed. In February 2004 the US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, visited the country's dictator, Islam Karimov, and said: "The relationship [between our countries] is strong and growing stronger. We look forward to strengthening our political and economic relations."

Yet the US continues to shower the country with aid, docking a mere $18m last year (around 20% of the total) after expressing its "disappointment" that Mr Karimov had not made greater strides towards democracy. Pan down the shopping list of tyrannical states in Ms Rice's in-tray (Iran, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Belarus and Cuba) and you will find no mention of Uzbekistan. Why? Because Uzbekistan, with an estimated 10,000 political prisoners, hosts a US military base that offers easy access to Afghanistan and the rest of the region.

So for every tenet that Mr Bush claimed last week to hold dear, it was possible to pick out a country or place he is bankrolling or controlling that is in flagrant violation, and where he could improve conditions immediately if he wished. The point here is not that the US should intervene in more places, but that it should intervene consistently and honestly or not at all.

Bush's inauguration speech was packed with truisms, axioms, platitudes and principles that appear reasonable at first glance. The trouble is they are contradicted by the reality he has created and continues to support.

As he delivered his address, you could almost whisper the caveats. "America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains [apart from in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay], or that women welcome humiliation and servitude [apart from in Saudi Arabia] or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies [apart from Uzbekistan and Israel]."

Such hypocrisy is not new. When Mr Bush said "Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way", nobody imagined he was referring to the Bolivian peasants fighting oil price hikes and globalisation or the landless Venezuelans taking over farms.

The agenda for a second Bush term represents not a change in direction but an acceleration of the colossal and murderous folly that he, and most of his predecessors, have pursued.

The damage that this selective notion of liberty inflicts on the rest of the world should by now be pretty clear. According to the independent website Iraqbodycount.net, reported civilian deaths in Iraq have already reached between 15,365 and 17,582 since the war started, while the recent study for the Lancet estimated the death toll at 100,000 at least, and probably higher; meanwhile, the number is growing remorselessly. Next weekend's elections in Iraq - which take place in the midst of a war against foreign occupiers with most candidates too scared to campaign, the location of polling sites kept secret until the last minute and key areas unable to participate - have become not an example of democracy but an embarrassment to the very idea of democracy.

Meanwhile, a global poll for the BBC last week showed the US more isolated than ever, with people in 18 out of 21 countries saying that they expect a second Bush term to have a negative impact on peace and security.

What is less clear is whether most Americans understand that this isolation leaves them more vulnerable to attack. Ms Rice last week promised "a conversation, not a monologue" with the rest of the world. But as the situation in Iraq shows, conversations that start with "D'you want a piece of this?" rarely end well for anybody.

Both Osama bin Laden and the Taliban have shown that the tyrants the US supports today can easily turn against it tomorrow while fostering resentment among their victims. Yet the idea that the US is a civilising force endowed with benevolent intentions is still as prevalent within the US as it is rejected outside it.

Indeed, Tony Blair seems to be the only foreign leader who still holds to the mixture of wishful thinking, wilful ignorance and warped logic behind the idea that Bush is leading humanitarian interventions at the barrel of a gun.

When questioned about the prospects for Bush's second term, the British prime minister was upbeat. "Evolution comes with experience," he said. The fact that Bush does not believe in evolution has long been known. Only now are we discovering how little Blair learns from experience.


Copyright The Guardian.