George W. Bush wasn’t duped — he lied about WMDs

The best estimates available suggest that more than 250,000 people have died as a result of George W. Bush and Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. A newly released investigative report from the UK government suggests that intelligence officials knew ahead of time that the war would cause massive instability and societal collapse and make the problem of terrorism worse — and that Blair and Bush went ahead with the effort anyway.

The correct response to this situation is to despair at the fact that the US and UK governments created such a horrific human tragedy for no good reason at all. However, partisan grudgefests run deep, and some on the right have argued that the UK’s Chilcot report proves the real dastardly actors are liberals who accused Bush and Blair not just of relying on faulty intelligence suggesting Iraq had WMDs but of lying about the intelligence they did have.

To some extent, this is beside the point; even if they had been totally cautious and careful in characterizing the intelligence, the war still would’ve been a catastrophic mistake that took an immense human toll. But the truth also matters, and the truth is that there were numerous occasions when Bush and his advisers made statements that intelligence agencies knew to be false, both about WMDs and about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda. The term commonly used for making statements that one knows to be false is “lying.”

A single example out of several in this article:

In December 2002, Bush declared, “We do not know whether or not [Iraq] has a nuclear weapon.” That was not what the National Intelligence Estimate said. As Tenet would later testify, “We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.” Bush did know whether or not Iraq had a nuclear weapon — and lied and said he didn’t know to hype the threat…

The Bush administration on numerous occasions exaggerated or outright fabricated conclusions from intelligence in its public statements. Bush really did lie, and people really did die as a result of the war those lies were meant to build a case for. Those are the facts.

The failure of Iraq was not merely a case of well-meaning but incompetent policymakers rushing into what they should’ve known would be a disaster. It’s the story of those policymakers repeatedly misleading the public about why, exactly, the war started.

RTFA for more of what the Republican Party and obedient Blue Dog Democrats would like you to forget.

Mitsubishi apologizes, offers $56 million for Chinese forced labour in WW2 — 71 years after war’s end!


Click to enlargeXinhua/Wang Haofei
Sun Yuanxin, 1 of 20 survivors, views remains of hundreds who died at this mine

A Japanese company that used Chinese forced labour in its coalmines during the second world war has agreed to compensate and apologise to thousands of victims and their families.

Mitsubishi Materials, one of dozens of Japanese companies that used such labourers from China and the Korean peninsula, said it would pay US$15,000 to each of the surviving victims and the families of those who have died.

If all 3,765 people entitled to compensation come forward, the total payout could reach US$56m, making it the biggest deal of its kind so far – From Imperial Japan.

“We have come to the conclusion that we will extend an apology [to the victims] and offer the money as a proof of that apology,” a Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said…

The victims hailed the decision a victory in their long quest for Japanese companies to take responsibility for bringing an estimated 40,000 Chinese to Japan between 1943 and 1945 to work in factories and mines amid a wartime labour shortage.

Almost 7,000 of them died due to the harsh working conditions and malnutrition…

Some of the relatives of former labourers, however, were concerned the settlement was in lieu of official compensation from the Japanese government, which insists that all reparation claims were covered by postwar treaties with former victims of Japanese militarism.

I’m surprised they didn’t wait for a nice round number — like 100 years, eh? Just continue the official Japanese policy of doing little or nothing to compensate anyone for the war crimes committed in the name of that militarist nation. Might only be a dozen or so survivors left by then.

They know they will be backed up all the way by Uncle Sugar – who gets to use Japan’s territory as their own private aircraft carrier and military barracks to “interact” with Asia.

Attacking doctors in conflict zones is a War Crime. Why is no one prosecuted for it?

While a United States AC-130 gunship blasted a Médecins Sans Frontières
 hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, with howitzer and incendiary rounds early on the morning of October 3, 2015, MSF staff phoned and texted American and Afghan authorities more than a dozen times trying desperately to stop the attack. Medical staff and patients were shot as they fled the building. Others burned to death as they lay in their beds. By the time the half-hour airstrike was over, 42 people — including doctors, nurses, and patients — were dead.

The Pentagon later carried out an investigation and determined that while errors were made, no one will face criminal charges.

Though it was horrific, the Kunduz hospital attack was not unusual. It was one of hundreds of assaults on health care workers and hospitals in conflict zones around the globe since 2015, as cataloged in a detailed new report from Johns Hopkins University. The consequences of these attacks have been devastating…

Attacks on health care workers and medical infrastructure were recorded in 19 countries in just over a year of warfare. The attacks were as varied as they were widespread…

There have been virtually no consequences for the perpetrators of these attacks. Regardless of who is committing these atrocities, says Leonard Rubenstein, who coordinated and edited the report…For more than 150 years, international law has deemed these attacks on medical personnel and infrastructure illegal. The Geneva Conventions provide strict rules for warring parties: Attacks must differentiate between military targets and civilian objects, hospitals can’t be taken over for military purposes, and health professionals cannot be punished for providing health care. “A deliberate attack on a health facility is a war crime—it’s true under the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court,” says Rubenstein. When it comes to crimes against health professionals, he says, “There haven’t been prosecutions, and there should be.”

I’ll second that emotion. It’s not a new accusation against any of the human rights “champions” in the West. France, England, any former colonial power – the United States took over the role of Imperial Copper after the Brits trudged back from Empire. All have been guilty. Perhaps not as often as any of the newsprint evildoers; but, the hometown press ain’t too picky about telling the truth about how we defend the American way of life in someone else’s country halfway around the world, eh?

Agent Orange linked to cancer precursor

Veterans exposed to the powerful and toxic defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have a significantly increased risk of the precursor state for multiple myeloma, a prospective cohort study now shows.

Exposure to Agent Orange doubled the risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), as compared with veterans who were not exposed.

The herbicide was used from 1962 to 1972 to destroy vast stretches of jungle canopy, missions known collectively as Operation Ranch Hand…

Agent Orange contained several herbicides, including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), a known human carcinogen, as reported online in JAMA Oncology by Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center…

“To our knowledge, our findings provide the first direct scientific evidence for an association between the multiple myeloma precursor, MGUS, and exposure to Agent Orange/TCDD among (Operation) Ranch Hand veterans,” the authors wrote.

“Our observations are important in that they add support to a previous finding that certain pesticides play a role in the development of MGUS,” they added…

In an accompanying editorial, Nikhil C. Munshi, MD, of VA Boston Healthcare System and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, noted that the study "now provides further evidence of an association between Agent Orange exposure and development of plasma cell disorder."

"Although this study associated risk of MGUS with Agent Orange exposure, the fact that all multiple myeloma cases originate from MGUS provides the first scientific evidence for a direct link between multiple myeloma and Agent Orange exposure," Munshi wrote.

Munshi pointed out that the Institute of Medicine has identified a predisposition to seven types of malignant neoplasms in veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Four of these, including the one reported by Landgren et al, are B-cell lymphoid neoplasms…

Of course, this means nothing to the reactionary fools who stand around, nowadays, and blather that folks shouldn’t even bring up the name of George W Bush and responsibility for the ever-expanding disaster that now is the Middle East. If newspapers and TV talking heads are willing to forget our nation’s responsibility for death and destruction in the last decade or so – why even bring up our slimy behavior from fifty years ago?

American conservatives have become a breed apart from their own history. There was a time when man-made disasters were worth considering in the intellectual lexicon of politics. Not anymore, man. The murder of tens of thousands stretching from Southeast Asia through Iraq and beyond mean nothing to fools with no conscience. The additional social burden of the slow murder of our own veterans is ignored as collateral damage from the heroic task of American justice.

Contemptible.

Psychologists end collaboration with “national security” interrogations


So, why is Gitmo an exception?

The American Psychological Association…overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration…

The vote followed an emotional debate in which several members said the ban was needed to restore the organization’s reputation after a scathing independent investigation ordered by the association’s board.

That investigation, conducted by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer, found that some officers of the association and other prominent psychologists colluded with government officials during the Bush administration to make sure that association policies did not prevent psychologists from involvement in the harsh interrogation programs conducted by the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The ban was approved by the association’s council by a vote of 156 to 1. Seven council members abstained, while one was recused…

The final vote was met by a standing ovation by many of the council members, as well as the large crowd of observers, which included anti-torture activists and psychology graduate students who had come to the meeting to support the ban. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “First, Do No Harm,” a reference to the physicians’ Hippocratic oath.

RTFA for all the gory details. I think it stands as mute testimony for the sentiment solidly rooted in many Americans that war criminals like George W Bush and Dick Cheney should stand trial for their crimes.

Members of the APA have been expelled for their role in torture. I think that body would support their prosecution. I hope so, anyway.

Psychologists are also still assigned at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where they oversee “voluntary” interrogations of detainees.

Must we have a new government before war crimes prosecution for torture ?


Click to enlarge

The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report.

The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

A 542-page report concludes that prominent psychologists worked closely with the C.I.A. to blunt dissent inside the agency over an interrogation program that is now known to have included torture. It also finds that officials at the American Psychological Association colluded with the Pentagon to make sure the association’s ethics policies did not hinder the ability of psychologists to be involved in the interrogation program.

The association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public…”

Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program, it said.

The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board. Mr. Behnke did not respond to a request for comment…

After the Hoffman report was made public on Friday, the American Psychological Association issued an apology.

RTFA. Long, it details the collusion between the APA and the Pentagon, torture programs, cover-ups.

Aside from scum like Dick Cheney who advocate torture, we still have a White House which alternates between ignoring opportunities to prosecute war crimes committed in our name – and letting reports like this lie fallow if not hidden away from the public.

Like many, I do not expect Congress to do their duty and support war crimes prosecution; but, the difference between words and deeds from the White House on this question stinks on ice.

A brave American soldier who testified against war crimes


Jess Cunningham tried to stop the murder of Iraqi detaineesPhotograph/Jonas Fredwall Karlsson

Cunningham was now a pariah.

He says warnings spread through Alpha Company to be careful about what was said around him. Thirteen men had been present at the killings at the canal site, and Cunningham was the one who could take them all down. For Cunningham it was a dangerous position to be in.

Critics later blamed him for not coming forward at once, but the army has no mechanisms in place that would have whisked him away and protected him. For precisely that reason, war crimes are more common than is generally supposed: they are simply too dangerous to report. A related truth is that some number of soldier suicides in combat zones are not suicides at all—they are murders committed to cover up crimes.

At the highest level, American military leaders must be aware of the pattern. They could begin to remedy the problem if they chose to—just as they have in the case of sexual assaults within the ranks, where immediate protections are offered to accusers. But war crimes are different. The United States takes a serious hit every time one is reported. It seems that the leadership would rather not know about them than have to deal with every one that takes place. The consequence, however unintentional, is that soldiers who report war crimes are put in harm’s way.

Had Cunningham come forward in Baghdad, he would have been exposed to a battlefield where there were a hundred ways to die. Even silent dissent was tricky for him now.

RTFA from the beginning. Long – and worth every word. Once again VANITY FAIR does the world journalistic service.

The tale is too real. Ignorant blind patriotism taken down to the gangbanger level. A command structure, military incompetence from the grunt level up to a White House that rejected global treaties and standards of conflict that respected the value of human life.

Jess Cunningham deserves the gratitude of the portion of this nation that stands for justice and honor. The remainder hate people like Cunningham for supporting justice over gang pride.

Revisit the legacy of Agent Orange


Click to enlargeReuters photographer Damir Sagolj

As April 30 approaches, marking 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, people in Vietnam with severe mental and physical disabilities still feel the lingering effects of Agent Orange.

Respiratory cancer and birth defects amongst both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to the defoliant. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange onto Vietnam’s jungles during the conflict to expose northern communist troops.

Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj travelled through Vietnam to meet the people affected, four decades on.

I would say, “Never again”; but, I haven’t that much trust in our government, our politicians.

The trial of the “accountant of Auschwitz”

“One night in January 1943, I saw, for the first time, the Jews being gassed. I heard the panicked screams of human beings as the doors were closed.” This is how Oskar Gröning described his time at Auschwitz in several German newspaper articles in 2005.

He served with the SS there from September 1942 to October 1944, and was responsible for managing the money and valuables of the murdered – hence his nickname the “accountant of Auschwitz” in the media. He proclaimed himself innocent. “I killed no one, I was just a small cog in the killing machine. I was not a perpetrator,” he said in 2005.

But now, ten years later, Gröning is on trial – what could be the last major Nazi trial in Germany is set to begin on April 21. Since the accused has lived in a small village in the area for years, the trial will take place in the German regional court in Lüneburg. The 93-year-old is accused of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.

The charges brought by the state prosecutor’s office in Hanover, responsible for the prosecution of Nazi crimes in Lower Saxony, have been limited to the so-called “Hungarian Operation,” for “legal and evidence reasons.” The operation took place between May 16 and July 11, 1944. During that two-month period the SS deported about 425,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Some 300,000 of these were led directly to the gas chambers and murdered…

This trial “comes decades too late,” says Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee. “The accused lived the most important decades of his life in peace and in freedom in the heart of society.” Gröning, born on June 10, 1921, came to Auschwitz as a young man of twenty-one. Now he is an old man who will soon turn 94.

Why so late?

Average life expectancy in Germany is about 80 years. For that reason alone one has to ask, why have things progressed so slowly in the case against Gröning? Why is the “accountant of Auschwitz” coming before the court now, at the end of his life? Especially since the so-called Ludwigsburg “central office” for the investigation of Nazi crimes has been active since 1958.

One reason is a revision of legal jurisprudence. In the 1960s and 1970s, the legal premise was that each perpetrator had to be proven to have committed a specific crime. This precedence changed with a Munich court’s decision in the trial of John Demjanjuk. In 2011, the now deceased former guard at the Sobibor death camp was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 Jews – although his direct participation could not be proven.

So far the Lüneburg court has slated 27 days for the trial. The verdict is to be handed down at the end of July. More than 60 co-plaintiffs will testify, travelling from the United States, Hungary, Canada, and Israel.

Complicity is rarely a tough question for survivors of genocide, mass murder. It not so unusual to find folks on both sides of a question like this who agree on guilt, either. Witness the hundreds of Americans who have made their way back to VietNam – to work, to rebuild what they helped to destroy. Witness – if you would – Leo Szilard’s novel The Voice of the Dolphins where essentially he puts himself on trial for a leading role in designing nuclear weapons for the Manhattan Project.

But, in practice – most of those “cogs in a killing machine” are in denial of any responsibility. If you are not a survivor, if your government doesn’t care more for victims than perpetrators, responsibility is a hard thing to come by.

Thanks, Honeyman

Brits beg Obama for Special Dispensation over participation in US torture program


Preppie Crimelords

The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.

The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11…

Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition…

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, accused the UK government of seeking to redact embarrassing information: “This shows that the UK government is attempting to censor the US Senate’s torture report. In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain.”

Lawyers representing a number of terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay believe their clients were rendered via Diego Garcia. Papers found in Libya indicated that the US planned to transport Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, and his wife via the territory, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased by Britain to the US. The government has denied Belhaj was rendered via Diego Garcia, but there are suspicions that others were held on the atoll.

Crider said the UK’s attempts to lobby the US into redacting parts of the report “turns the government’s defence in the Libyan renditions case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife entirely on its head”…

“The government protested America would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial – and now we learn the British government is leaning on the Americans not to air Britain’s dirty laundry. It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing,” she added.

Confirmation that a British territory was involved in extraordinary rendition could leave the government vulnerable to legal action. Last month the European court of human rights ruled that the Polish government actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees interrogated in secret prisons across the continent…

The judges concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory”, but also “for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it”, prompting lawyers to ask what else it has been used for since.

The exposure of how far Tony Blair would go to maintain the UK as the United States’ 51st state will open that nation to more than embarrassment for their crimes. Criminal prosecution of the kind already historically required against the United States – should proceed against co-conspirators. Breaking treaties, abrogating human rights on a global scale should have consequences. Citizens of countries committing such crimes have a responsibility to speak out, to demand that the thugs in charge of government should bear the responsibility for those crimes.

Tony Blair and William Hague deserve prison time as much as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.