Tag Archives: torture

On Being A Government DJ, Or, “Torture? You Call That Torture?”


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It’s become more or less common knowledge that US forces have been using music as an operational tool for some time now, and I’ve begun seeing lists of the songs that are being used either to inflict pain, to demoralize, or to just generally disorient various people in various sorts of situations.

There are others, wiser than I, who will opine as to the questions of efficacy and the moral issues surrounding these kinds of operations; I will opine, instead, as to the quality of the songs used.

Frankly, had anyone asked, I could have put the torturers onto much better musical choices, just by selecting from my own “My Music” folder–which left me thinking: “hey, it’s the weekend…why not do exactly that?”

Got any psychological warfare mission planned for the weekend? Expecting to have to direct amplified sound at an angry mob in a defensive maneuver Saturday night? Planning a Halloween haunted house that goes a bit…fuurther?

Come along with me then, soldier, and I’ll provide you a playlist that should do the trick in almost any foreseeable emergency.

Before we go any further, a word of warning: some of the links in this story will lead to material that is extraordinarily offensive and, in some cases, exceptionally distressing in nature.

If you are reading this, and you’re, say, eleven years old, go get your parents and make them read this with you so that they can also learn about some sweet death metal; later on you can all listen to better music in the car on family outings.

What’s On Guantanamo’s iPod?

So the obvious first question: what songs are the government using?

If the lists that I’ve been seeing can be believed, there is a fair collection of songs being used to create “environmental manipulation“, including songs like Eminem’s “White America” and Kim,  the obvious choices like Born in the USA, songs from the super-patriotic county song genre like that “boot in your ass” song, sexually suggestive songs like Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty (which has a waaaay dirtier video than lyrics…), and a heavy diet of heavy metal. (According to Justine Sharrock’s reporting at Mother Jones, MPs on duty in the detention facilities would often be making the choices about what detainees would hear.)

“The healthy man does not torture others — generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”

Carl Jung

The odd thing about the metal: most of the songs seem to be far more tame than what they could have found–and a lot of the songs are actually among my “Rocktober” favorites…although at least one song was new to me, and I liked it, too.

Examples included Nine Inch Nail’s March of the Pigs, AC~DC’s Hell’s Bells, Drowning Pool’s Bodies, Mettalica’s Enter Sandman, and a song by Deicide that I had never heard before…but, to borrow from “American Bandstand”, it had a great death metal beat and you could mosh to it.  

Now if it had been me in there, I would have suggested, for starters, some good old New Orleans Goatwhore, like Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult, or maybe some delightful Cannibal Corpse (Barbaric Bludgeonings being a good place to start), or perhaps something that draws from Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” concept, like Upper Decker, by The Red Chord.

One of my friends suggested I consider a Norwegian Black Metal band (which is a good choice due to the Satanic messages that are literally at the core of the music); and you can’t go wrong with either Gorgoroth’s most excellent Carving a Giant or a selection from Emperor’s The Nightside Eclipse (which should also be mandatory for any haunted house soundtrack anywhere).

Did You Say Sex?

Songs with gay-oriented themes work in both PsyOps and “friendly” haunted house environments; my suggestions would include two long-time favorites: The Mike Flowers Pops’ rendition of Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (which actually manages to be amazingly perky, unabashedly “pop”, samples “The Macarena”, and, despite all that, doesn’t suck), or, when you’re ready for the big guns, the Keta-Men’s super-masculine, give-it-a-beat, four-part-harmony reworking of Sheryl Crow’s Strong Enough; which should be effective, as I said, for any PsyOps you may have planned–or any friendly haunting.

As for other songs with a sexual connection: well, you could do a lot better than Christina Aguilera. How about, just to get things rolling, 20 Fingers and Gilette’s Short Dick Man …and then, after midnight, you gotta dig up the impotent sea snakes’ Kangaroos (Up the Butt) (which is, indeed, about an Australian lifestyle choice gone horribly, horribly, wrong).

Apparently songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Mandy”, Air Supply’s Lost in Love, the entire Celine Dion catalog, and Morris Albert’s unforgettable Feelings (unforgettable? After you hear it, you wish you could forget it…) did not make the list (although the public record is incomplete, and that may yet prove to be incorrect). The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack apparently did make the cut, which confirms some theories I’ve had about the Brothers Gibb and torture that date back to the 1970s…but that’s a subject for another day.

It also appears that no one went for the industrial/dance bands, and as far as I’m concerned, no serious haunted house (or PsyOps mission) is complete until the Negativland comes out to play–but there’s a lot of other top-quality disorienting and jarring music available, including music from :wumpscut: and ohGr and Einstürzende Neubauten…or even Twink’s Pussy Cat.

Finally, a few words about what might be the cruelest songs to make it on the list.

The theme from the Meow Mix commercials made the list.

The Sesame Street theme song made the list.

And, finally, in what might be the most barbaric act ever perpetrated by the American Government…Barney the purple dinosaur’s I Love You, a song you always said was torture to have to listen to, has now actually been used to soften up detainees for interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.

Amazingly, the song that might be the worst ever to have deployed against you in any PsyOps operation–or any haunted house, for that matter–is not on any list I’ve seen so far: the theme from the Disney ride “It’s a Small World“. I can testify to this personally: as a kid at Disneyland I was stuck on the ride, one summer day, for about an hour-and-a-half.

All I can say…is that it changes you.

Check out the link. It’s almost 11 minutes long, and I challenge you to sit through the whole thing. If you do make it, I challenge you to get that song out of your head…ever…again. Good luck.

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Who Pissed In Dana Rohrabacher’s Corn Flakes?

Dana Rohrabacher has been out front in yipping about the need for the President to rhetorically confront Iran, a stupid idea given our history in the region, and the opposite of what actual Iranian dissidents and experts like Shirin Ebadi, Trita Parsi and Akbar Ganji suggest.  As OC Progressive notes, he is undermining the protests and demonstrations by giving credence to the complaint of the ruling regime that foreign interests are intervening in their election.  By saber-rattling, like in the passage of a resolution in support of the protests and then wielding it as a club to criticize the President for not being belligerent enough, you just play into the hands of the regime.  And Rohrabacher and his colleagues never had this kind of commitment to human rights when it involved the systematic, needless torture of detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  In fact, Rohrabacher called those cruel, inhumane and degrading tactics fraternity hazing pranks – when Dick Cheney orders them.  When the Iranians or North Koreans order them, it’s a whole different ballgame.

But I have to step back and admire – and kind of marvel – at Rohrabacher’s comments yesterday about the Uighurs, a group of 18 Muslims held at Guantanamo for seven years without charges, despite having been proven to commit no acts of terrorism or crimes of any kind.  Several were released to Bermuda this week, amidst clamoring by many conservatives, in particular Newt Gingrich.  But Rohrabacher smacked the former House Speaker down pretty hard on this point, decrying him for raising needless fears.  It’s idiosyncratic, of course, because it’s Rohrabacher, and it mostly constitutes a conspiracy theory about the Chinese government.  But embedded in the madness are some true statements about Republican fearmongering and overhyping of threats.

ROHRABACHER: And also, right off the bat, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to the leader in Bermuda – it’s Premier Brown – for his courage to do what is morally right in this situation. He’s demonstrated, I think, the best of democracy. That’s what leadership is all about: being willing to take such tough stands. I’m sorry that our own leadership here at home, and even in my own party, seems lacking at this moment. […]

Much to my dismay, some pundits in the Republican party have fallen for this bait and are lumping the Uighurs in with Islamic extremists. The Bush administration did not help matters. It held Uighurs in Guantanamo as terrorists, and they did this, I believe, to appease the Chinese government in a pathetic attempt to gain its support at the beginning of the war against Iraq, and also to ensure China’s continued purchase of U.S. treasuries. Many, if not all, the negative allegations against the Uighurs, can be traced by to Communist Chinese intelligence, whose purpose is to snuff out a legitimate independence movement that challenges the Communist party bosses in Beijing.

No patriot, especially no Republican who considers themselves a Reagan Republican, should fall for this manipulation, which has us do the bidding of a dictatorship in Beijing.

In the hall of shame, of course, is our former speaker, Newt Gingrich. His positioning on this should be of no surprise – and is of no surprise – to those of who, during Newt’s leadership, were dismayed by his active support for Clinton-era trade policies with Communist China.

Video here.

Would that Rohrabacher would listen to his own words when saber-rattling against Iran.  That moment of clarity – all right, about 1/3 of a moment – ought to be repeated.

On Torture And War Crimes, Part Two, Or, Dr. Addicott And I Find Common Ground

When last we met, Gentle Reader, it was to work through a series of legal precedents and statute law; the goal of the exercise being to determine if we could or could not define waterboarding as torture.

We have the kind assistance of Professor Jeffrey Addicott, who has provided us with his written testimony from his recent appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a personal interview, where he walked me through some of his thinking on the matter.

Today we’re going to take a look at the precedent that he has used to reach the conclusion that waterboarding is not torture.

It’s also possible that the analysis may result in the discovery of a bit of common ground…but as I noted in Part One, it’s common ground that neither one of us might have seen coming.

To begin, a quick review from yesterday:

Dr. Addicott wants you to know that waterboarding is not torture.

He relies on the argument that since the “Five Techniques” (“Wall-standing“, “Hooding”, the application of excessive noise, sleep deprivation, and the withholding of food and water) used on Irish prisoners by the United Kingdom were found not to be torture by the European Court of Human Rights, and waterboarding is not worse than the five techniques, it logically follows that waterboarding is not torture.

Although waterboarding might be cruel, inhuman, and degrading, Dr. Addicott would remind you that legally, torture requires severe physical pain over an extended, but unspecified, period of time.

He also notes a lack of lack of legal precedent specifically defining waterboarding as torture in either US or international courts.

I asked Dr. Addicott why 18 USC § 2340 (which defines torture, in part, as “…an act…specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering” and defines “severe mental pain”, in part, as “the threat of imminent death…”) wouldn’t be the definition of torture that should apply.

His basic responses were that the alleged acts took place overseas to non-US citizens, therefore there is a jurisdictional issue; and that a lack of specificity in the statute males it unclear whether waterboarding would be torture.

Here’s how he expressed it to me:

“Those are words, those are descriptive words…that only find meaning when we have a court define what that means; that’s the whole problem with our Anglo-Saxon tradition, is that you have words that are put out in statute but what, you know, what does “severe” mean, what does “prolonged” mean, is it five minutes, is it 10 minutes…is it four drops to the head, is it three drops of water on your head, what does it mean?”

He also wants you to know that we do the same thing to our own military personnel who undergo “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) training, which indicates the procedure isn’t torture.

He also tells us in his written testimony that the “shock the conscience” standard should apply to define torture.

Additionally, he cites Blefare v United States (362 F.2d 870) and Leon v. Wainwright (734 F.2d 770) to suggest that coercive interrogation is already permitted under US law.

With the catch-up complete, let’s have a look at Dr. Addicott’s assertions.

Right off the bat, Dr Addicott does correctly assert that…

“…the five techniques, as applied in combination, undoubtedly amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, although their object was the extraction of confessions, the naming of others and/or information and although they were used systematically, they did not occasion suffering of the particular intensity and cruelty implied by the word torture as so understood.

168. The Court concludes that recourse to the five techniques amounted to a practice of inhuman and degrading treatment, which practice was in breach of Article 3 (art. 3)”.

…in the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights.

However, there is precedent that declares waterboarding is torture, as another international tribunal saw things a bit differently.

You undoubtedly are aware of the Nuremberg Trials, which addressed the conduct of officials of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. A similar process took place to bring Japanese officials to account, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Here’s what they had to say about waterboarding:

“Torture and Other Inhumane Treatment

The practice of torturing prisoners of war and civilian internees prevailed at practically all places occupied by Japanese troops, both in the occupied territories and in Japan. The Japanese indulged in this practice during the entire period of the Pacific War. Methods of torture were employed in all areas so uniformly as to indicate policy both in training and execution. Among these tortures were the water treatment ( euphemism for waterboarding ), burning, electric shocks, the knee spread, [page number removed] suspension, kneeling on sharp instruments and flogging.

The Japanese Military Police, the Kempetai, was most active in inflicting these tortures. Other Army and Navy units, however, used the same methods as the Kempetai. Camp guards also employed similar methods. Local police forces organized by the Kempetai in the occupied territories also applied the same methods of torture.”

Dr. Addicott feels that 18 USC § 2340 doesn’t apply because the acts took place outside the US to non-US citizens…but the statute tells us jurisdiction applies if “the alleged offender is a national of the United States”.

Conspiracy to torture is also a crime, meaning that those who ordered this behavior would also face potential legal liability, even if the person doing the torturing is not a US citizen.

So what about the argument that SERE trainees are subjected to the same treatment?

The difference, I suggest, is that there is no threat of imminent death when a trainee is waterboarded, which is what 18 USC § 2340 requires.

Can waterboarding actually carry the threat of imminent death?

I know someone who can tell us.

Dr. Allen Keller, MD is an Associate Professor at New York University and the founder and Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, which has provided care for more than 2000 torture survivors. He’s also a member of the Advisory Council of Physicians for Human Rights.

He offered this assessment in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

“Water-boarding or mock drowning, where a prisoner is bound to an inclined board and water is poured over their face, inducing a terrifying fear of drowning clearly can result in immediate and long-term health consequences. As the prisoner gags and chokes, the terror of imminent death is pervasive, with all of the physiologic and psychological responses expected, including an intense stress response, manifested by tachycardia, rapid heart beat and gasping for breath. There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD. I remind you of the patient I described earlier who would panic and gasp for breath whenever it rained even years after his abuse.”

Dr. Addicott also relies on court rulings to demonstrate that coercive methods of obtaining evidence are permissible under US law.

He points two cases for guidance. In the first, Blefare v United States (362 F.2d 870), he tells us (in written testimony) that:

“the appellants were suspected of swallowing narcotics which were lodged in their rectums or stomachs…Then, without Blefare’s consent the doctor forcefully passed a soft tube into the “nose, down the throat and into the stomach,” through which fluid flowed in order to induce vomiting. This resulted in the discovery of packets of heroin and the subsequent conviction of Blefare.

Unlike Rochin ( Rochin v. California , (342 U. S. 165)), the Ninth Circuit refused to hold that the involuntary intrusion into Blefare’s stomach shocked the conscience.

While all that is true, it’s also irrelevant to the facts of the case as it appears in the record.

First, the Ninth Circuit had no reason to reach a conclusion about whether evidence was obtained from Blefare in a manner that “shocked the conscience” because the evidence that the appeal was trying to suppress did not belong to Blefare, but to his co-defendant, Donald Michel (who had voluntarily consented to the intubation that led to the recovery of the challenged evidence).

The second reason the challenged evidence was not suppressed had to do with the fact that the searches of Blefare and Michel were held to be “border searches”.

This, from Blefare:

“No question of whether there is probable cause for a search exists when the search is incidental to the crossing of an international border, for there is reason and probable cause to search every person entering the United States from a foreign country, by reason of such entry alone. That the customs authorities do not search every person crossing the border does not mean they have waived their right to do so, when they see fit…Mere suspicion has been held enough cause for a search at the border.”

 

Dr. Addicott also misstates the effect of Leon v. Wainwright (734 F.2d 770).

From his written testimony:

“For instance, in Leon v. Wainwright the Eleventh Circuit brushed aside the fact that police officers had used “force and threats” on kidnap suspect Jean Leon in order to get the suspect to reveal the location of his victim. When apprehended by a group of police officers in a Florida parking lot, Leon refused to reveal the location of his kidnap victim (the victim, Louis Gachelin, had been taken by gunpoint to an apartment where he was undressed and bound). In order to get the suspect to talk, police officers then physically abused Leon by twisting his arm and choking him until he revealed where the kidnap victim was being held. In speaking to the use of brutal force to get the information needed to protect the victim, the Court deemed that the action of the officers was reasonable given the immediate concern to find the victim and save his life.”

It is inaccurate to say the Court “brushed aside” the use of force and threats.

What actually happened was that the defendant confessed twice-and it was that second confession that was being challenged.

The first confession…the one taken by force…was not admitted into evidence; therefore its admissibility–and by extension, the means by which it was obtained–was not an issue to be considered by the appeals court.

This, from the ruling in Leon v Wainwright:

“Meanwhile, Leon was taken to the police station. He was questioned there by detectives who had neither been involved in the threats and use of force at the scene of his arrest nor witnessed it. After being thoroughly informed of his rights and signing a Miranda waiver form, he gave full oral and written confessions of the crime. This entire process was concluded about five hours after his arrest…

…The totality of the circumstances in this case clearly confirms the finding that the second statement was voluntary.[4] The police, motivated by the immediate necessity of finding the victim and saving his life, used force and threats on Leon in the parking lot.[5] Hours later, Leon was questioned at the police station by a completely different group of police officers. These officers were not even participants in the surveillance team at the parking lot. Prior to questioning him the officers meticulously explained to him his constitutional rights. He specifically waived his right to have counsel present. The necessity of saving the victim’s life, the different physical setting, the different group of questioning officers, and the meticulous explanation to appellant of his constitutional rights constituted a sufficient break in the stream of events to dissipate the effects of the first coercion. The challenged confession was properly admitted into evidence.”

There is a question of what to do if it is suspected that torture has been committed. Here is a portion of Dr. Addicott’s comment on the matter, from his written testimony.

“…those who order, approve, or engage in torture must be criminally charged. If the United States determines that waterboarding as practiced by the CIA is torture, there is no option. Under the Torture Convention violators must be prosecuted. Similarly, lawyers at the Department of Justice who approved the practice must also be prosecuted… In short, in my legal opinion, the subject waterboarding technique used on the al-Qa’eda operatives did not constitute torture and requires no binding obligation to prosecute.”

With all respect to the Professor, this looks like circular logic. To “determine” that torture occurred requires a trial, as Dr. Addicott has previously noted, yet he says here there’s no need for a trial because, by his determination, no torture occurred.

It also appears that his analysis on this point is factually inaccurate, in that there is no obligation to prosecute under either the Geneva Conventions or the Torture Convention. Here are the pertinent texts:

“Article 12

Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committee [sic] in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

UN Convention Against Torture

“Article 129

The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.

Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.”

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

The phrase “bring such persons…before its own courts” will be a subject of controversy, so let me clear it up now. In Europe, the “court” process involves the use of “investigating magistrates” who would decide if this sort of case should or should not be brought to trial; a function that, in the US, would be handled by a Special Prosecutor or the FBI and the appropriate US Attorney, possibly through the federal grand jury process.

As you can see, there is an obligation to investigate people suspected of torture…but no mandate to prosecute every suspected offense…which means, just like in RICO cases case, you can round up the lower-level “actors”, convince them to “flip” on the other co-conspirators up the chain in exchange for immunity…and then you prosecute the ringleaders.

We have spent some considerable time addressing the questions around what is and what is not torture…but now we get to an issue that makes the “torture question” irrelevant.

Remember way back in Part One when I asked you to keep that “cruel and inhuman treatment” phrase in the back of your mind?

And remember the European Court of Human Rights ruling that called the “Five Techniques” cruel and inhuman?

Well, guess what?

If a prosecutor can demonstrate that waterboarding is not torture, but merely “cruel or inhuman” (a standard that only requires “serious” mental or physical pain, not the “severe” standard required for torture)…that’s a “war crime”, as defined by the War Crimes Act of 1996 (18 USC § 2441(d)(1)(B) ).

And those who commit a war crime, it turns out:

“…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.”

And that’s where we get to the point that Dr. Addicott and I finally reach some common ground:

Maybe torture prosecutions are bad policy.

Especially when it’s easier to prove a war crime than it is to prove torture.

Once again, we have come a long way to get here, but let’s review it all before we finish:

Dr. Addicott and I differ on where we should look for a definition of torture.

Despite the language of 18 USC § 2340, he does not feel there’s jurisdiction to prosecute under the US Code.

He does not feel waterboarding is torture, but he acknowledges that the “Five Techniques” are “cruel and inhuman”.

There is precedent in international law to draw the conclusion that waterboarding is torture which Dr. Addicott did not note in his written testimony.

Because waterboarding does create the threat of imminent death and does cause severe and long-lasting mental problems, I feel it is also torture as defined by US law.

Dr. Addicott proffers legal precedent to support his position that the use of coercive techniques does not violate US law…but when you actually examine the texts of the rulings he cites, it appears that he either misunderstands the rulings or misstates their application to this question.

He also testifies inaccurately when he asserts that all cases “determined” to be torture must be prosecuted…firstly, because of the circular logic of “determined”, and secondly, because the two pertinent texts simply don’t read the way his testimony reports they read.

But all that said, it turns out that even if waterboarding is somehow not torture…that it does not cause “severe physical or mental pain or suffering”…it appears highly likely that the technique causes “serious physical or mental pain or suffering”…which, mirabile dictu, is the legal standard for proving a war crime.

Which leads us to the one point upon which we both agree: there should be prosecutions.

Prosecute under 18 USC § 2441 or treat it like any other “organized crime” case: start inviting “parties of interest” to flip on their co-conspirators, immunize the cooperative…and if a judge and jury decides it’s the right choice, people are going to have to go to prison.

So there you go: we started out questioning how torture is defined, and we ended up at a place where, because of the War Crimes Act, that definition become less relevant, a bit of common ground might have been found, and in the search for that common ground we’ve discovered a better way to ensure that justice can be done.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I want to offer a hearty “thank you” to Dr. Addicott for taking the time to talk to me for this story. If we wish to do serious journalism, interviewing the people in the news is critical, and I very much appreciate his willingness to make himself available during the production of this pair of stories.

WARNING-Self-promotion ahead: I am competing for a Netroots Nation scholarship, and I was not selected in the first round of voting. There are two more chances to be selected, and the voting has restarted from scratch…so even if you’ve done so before, I still have to ask you to stop by the Democracy for America site and click on the “Add your support” link to offer your support for me again. Thanks for your patience, and we now return you to your regular programming.

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LA City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Condemning Iraqi Torture of Gay Men

On Wednesday, after hearing several emotional speeches, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution that “calls upon the government of Iraq to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and protect the right to life and the right of all its citizens to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The resolution, sponsored by openly gay council member Bill Rosendahl, is the first public statement by a city or official government body in the United States condemning the torturous actions and murder of gay men in Iraq. Among the atrocious actions is the rounding up of gay men, gluing their anuses shut and giving them a diarrhetic, causing their digestive systems to shut down, ending in death.

The hearing began with an opening from Rosendahl, stating “While we’re standing here in this great country, right now, in Iraq . . . We are seeing gay people rounded up and killed. As I’m standing here, our people are being murdered. Our government needs to focus on it.”

Rosendahl then handed the proceeding over to Hossein Alizadeh from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, whose organization's motto is “Human Rights for Everyone. Everywhere.”

Mr. Alizadeh read a letter from a 25-year old gay man in Iraq who feared for his life.

“My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because,” the letter read. “Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!

“I have no one to turn to.

“My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor.”

The letter is posted in full at the bottom.

While reading this letter, Mr. Alizadeh played the following a PowerPoint presentation that included text from posters distributed throughout Baghdad, calling for the death of homosexuals, as well as witnesses and quotes from news reports.

Mr. Alizadeh concluded his presentation, stating, “There are hundreds of people like him in Iraq that are being tortured to death and killed everyday.”

Following the reading of the letter, Ally Bolour, Immigration Attorney specializing in LGBT asylum and co-chair of the IGLHRC board, spoke. “I’ve been working human rights, asylum cases for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk from all over the world. And after almost thirteen years of being in this business, I’ve seriously thought I’ve seen it all. When I heard and what I saw what’s happening to Iraqi gays, just one word came to mind, one phrase – unconscionable, ” Mr. Bolour said. “How can we as the civilized west, the civilized world, sit by, idly, and not do something?”

The floor was then opened up for public commentary. The crowd in the chamber room contained many union members present for other issues, including the service workers' union SEIU, who were waiting to hear a resolution that would pressure the local airports to provide health insurance to their members.

When those from the public spoke in support of the Iraq resolution, the union members stood in solidarity. In a further show of support, Jose Morales, member of the executive board of the SEIU of local chapter 1877, spoke with a translator.

“We’re an organization that opposes discrimination wherever it is,” Mr. Morales declared. “Whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Mexico, and we’re here today in opposition to what’s happening in Iraq. So we’re here today to demand dignity and respect all over the world for our people.”

Rosendahl then stood up, amending the resolution's motion and heightening its urgency by adding a call to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to take action, to end the persecution and murder of Iraqi gays, including but not limited to making a strong public and international statement, condemning the action and exerting all necessary pressure on the Iraq government to take action.”

At this point, council members took emotional stands of support for the resolution. Councilmember Tony Cardenas stood first. “We as a country stand for equal justice and equal rights for every single human being,” he said. “I think the city of LA should stand up and say we’ve been made aware of this, and because we’re aware of it, we’re saying as a city, that we shall not stand silently and just watch it happen.”

Councilmember Janice Hahn followed with an emotional declaration. “It’s just so hard to hear. It’s so hard to listen to this. It’s unbelievable torture. And it’s interesting that we’ve had this broad civic debate in this country about where we stand as Americans on torture, “she said. “This is certainly a level of torture that I think really rises above all the memos the war memos that we’ve seen released during the last month.”

“And when I say the pledge of allegiance, when it gets to the end phrase, 'with liberty and justice for all,' I always add 'someday,'” she continued. “I believe there is not justice for all at this moment, and as long as we hear stories about that on this planet I will not be able to say that there is liberty and justice for all anywhere. An injury to one is an injury to all. We pray that this type of torture will come to an end.”

District 10 Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr. had an important objection to Rosendahl's earlier statement. “I take issue with one statement that you [Rosendahl] made when you said 'these are my people.’ That’s not true. They are human beings. They are our people. And I think we need to get away from that. People need to just start seeing people for who they are.”

He continued, “I feel real personal where it relates to this because there’s not a member here that doesn’t have a relative, even if you don’t want to admit, that is either gay or lesbian. I got like nine in my family! OK. Every week it seems like I get a new addition. That’s my family, ok. That’s my people.”

He then referred to the importance of the resolution. “The least we can do is stand up and say, 'We know this is going on, it’s wrong, and we’re lifting our voice, saying it’s wrong. Stop it.' I don’t see a reason why the president could not say something about this.”

Councilmember Ed Reyes followed. “This is the 2nd largest city in the country. For this council to make a statement, it will be heard. It will be heard by many.”

Mr. Reyes then made a connection between the torture and the bullying of LGBT youth in America. “Right now, today, throughout the country today, there are children who are being bullied, there are kids being attack because of the way they are, how they behave, because of the tendency to be different. And that’s wrong. And it’s all connected. The message of allowing this to occur, of sticking our heads in the sand, it’s wrong.”

“The United States went to Iraq on the basis of protecting human rights,” Councilmember Jose Huizar reminded the chamber. “And when we see it’s actually gotten worse in respect to gays and lesbians we got to raise the flag and say, 'This is wrong.'”

President of the Council, Wendy Greuel, then called for a vote. The resolution passed unanimously 12-0 to thunderous applause.

I’m a 25 year old graduate student from Baghdad and my name is Ahmad. I want to thank you very much for caring about me and my problem. Finally, after many desperate years of hopelessness I found a group of people that understand and care about me.

My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because:

• My life is in danger. I live in continuous fear of people finding out that I’m gay.

• I can’t express my deepest emotions. I can’t love…I can’t tell those who I care about that I love them… It is like being tortured from inside.

In the past few months I have heard of many cases of violence against gay men, including killing, torturing, and public humiliation of us. The religious vigilantes (known as Maghawer) have kidnapped many men suspected of being gay. No one knows anything about the fate of those gays.

 

The Maghawer’s most popular method of torture for homosexuals is putting silicon glue on their anus to shot down their digestive system and then force them to take laxative drug to make them suffer.

 

Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!

 

I have no one to turn to. Not even other gay men or my family members. Recently I have been blackmailed by men I had sex with in the past. They told me either I have to have sex with them again or they will out me to my family, neighbors and even classmates. I had to choose between scandal and public humiliation and prostitution. But I decided that I can’t have sex with people I don’t love … so I decided to transfer to another college in Northern Iraq.

 

My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor. I always have to pretend in front my family that I ‘m “normal”…but like any other straight man, my family wants me to marry a woman … I try to avoid that conversation as much as I can but there is a lot of pressure on me to get married.

 

I am not happy with myself. I am not proud of who I am.

 

A while back I went to a psychologist to see if he can treat me. I told him about my problem…he told me that homosexuality has no treatment in Iraq and only experienced doctors in developed countries can give me therapy.

 

The news made me so depressed that I started thinking of committing suicide. I feel even without vigilantes killing me, I AM ALREADY DEAD FROM INSIDE. I just want to know what wrong I have done. Do I have a choice to be gay? Do I want to humiliate myself? Do I want to live in constant fear and anxiety? Do I want my family & friends to hate and abandon me if they discover my truth? Do I want myself to be killed on the hand of uneducated people for something I didn’t choose?

 

I don’t want to make it long for you…but I want to let you know that I have already suffered too much and I don’t have the power to go through more pain and suffering.

 

And finally I want to thank you for your support and help…

 

My Regards and Best Wishes to ALL of YOU…

Iwill soon blog about my own personal account, including a public comment at the hearing I gave.

Update On The Fight To Impeach Jay Bybee And Restore Accountability

Yesterday I kicked off an action item, asking people to call and write the members of the House Judiciary Committee or their California members of Congress, informing them that the largest state Democratic Party in the country has voted to support a Congressional inquiry into Jay Bybee and other lawyers for their actions justifying torture, and that they ought to carry this through.  Many people have already contacted their members of Congress and you should do the same.  One thing that would help is to get them on the record.  If you receive any constituent correspondence from your Congressperson about this issue, please forward it to me at david-dot-dayen-at-gmail-dot-com.  We need to build a list of who supports accountability and who does not, of who in the California delegation agrees with their own party and who does not.  We’re starting to get some on-the-record statements, like this nonsense from Illinois Republican Donald Manzullo, who admits that waterboarding doesn’t work, who calls it “more torture than not,” as if there’s a torture continuum of some sort (the fact that CIA interrogators had to add a tracheotomy kit to the proceedings should tell you what they were up to with waterboarding), but who then says that “no laws were broken” (which is patently false), and that, even if there were, nobody should be prosecuted because the whole thing would get “messy.”

MANZULLO: Because then you are going to have to go back and you’re going to have to go through every single interrogation and every single memo and the whole purpose of this is to relive again the fact that somebody made the decision to allow this.

We need on-the-record statements like this for every California Democrat, preferably in writing or on tape.

In other news, John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler announced their support to Attorney General Eric Holder for a special counsel to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in the decision-making process in the Bush Administration that led to illegal torture of detainees.  That letter is here.

Finally, I will be on Angie Coiro’s show on Green960 AM in San Francisco in the 7:00 hour tonight to talk about the CDP resolution, the need for an inquiry and impeachment of Jay Bybee, and the fight to restore the rule of law with respect to torture.  Tune in if you can.

NEXT STEP: Tell Congress To Open Impeachment Inquiry Into Jay Bybee

Thanks again to all of you who signed petitions and made phone calls and helped push the resolution to open a Congressional inquiry into Torture Judge Jay Bybee, which the California Democratic Party adopted at its convention yesterday.  I have been told by the authors of the resolution that the pressure from the outside really aided their efforts.  

The passage of the resolution was a beginning, not an ending.  On the flip, come and join us in the next step.

UPDATE: Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post has the full story of the passage of the resolution at the convention.

I view the impeachment of Jay Bybee from the 9th Circuit Court as a moral and legal imperative, but also an entryway into the larger fight for justice and accountability for those who authorized and directed torture in our name.  I agree with Jerrold Nadler that impeachment should not be seen as a compromise measure, a way to satiate those concerned with accountability.  “There can’t be a compromise — you have to follow the law … If the facts say that some former high-ranking official should be prosecuted, the fact people will get angry should be irrelevant … If we do not investigate the torture that is clear that it occured, and if the evidence is there prosecute, not only are we disobeying the law, not only are we being immoral, but we are inviting torture of our people in the future.”

Bybee’s impeachment can start us down the path to restoring the rule of law.  And now the largest state Democratic Party in the country has spoken.  They have said that the myth about torture being a useful tool to extract actionable intelligence from terror suspects is not only irrelevant when it comes to lawbreaking but also entirely false, according to the CIA’s own inspector general.  They have said that Judge Bybee’s appalling judgment and slavish acceptance of John Yoo’s flawed legal reasoning represents a greater evil – the evil of thoughtlessness – and a greater responsibility for the actions committed thanks to his off-handed signature.  They have said that Bybee’s understanding of his own wrongdoing outweighed by his desire to be a federal judge shocks the conscience, and that far from being rewarded for his obedience to his conservative minders, he should bear responsibility for it, to the fullest extent possible.

So what do we do now?  Members of the California Democratic Party include 34 members of Congress, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and six men and women who sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where an impeachment inquiry would be remanded.  They need to hear that their party just recommended that they open an immediate Congressional inquiry into Judge Bybee, with all appropriate remedies and punishments available.  In fact, the entire House Judiciary Committee needs to hear this.  Thanks to my friends at Firedoglake, they will.  We have put together a contact list for the entire House Judiciary Committee, and you can, with just a few clicks, compose a letter to any member of that Committee telling them of the CDP’s action and demanding immediate action on an inquiry.

House Judiciary Committee
John Conyers, Michigan Howard Berman, California
Rick Boucher, Virginia Jerrold Nadler, New York
Robert C. Scott, Virginia Mel Watt, North Carolina
Zoe Lofgren, California Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas
Maxine Waters, California Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts
Robert Wexler, Florida Steve Cohen, Tennessee
Hank Johnson, Georgia Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico
Luis Gutierrez, Illinois Brad Sherman, California
Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Charles Gonzalez, Texas
Anthony Weiner, New York Adam Schiff, California
Linda Sánchez, California Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Fl
Dan Maffei, New York Lamar S. Smith, Texas
Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Howard Coble, North Carolina
Elton Gallegly, California Bob Goodlatte, Virginia
Dan Lungren, California Darrell Issa, California
Randy Forbes, Virginia Steve King, Iowa
Trent Franks, Arizona Louie Gohmert, Texas<
Jim Jordan, Ohio Ted Poe, Texas
Jason Chaffetz, Utah Tom Rooney, Florida
               Gregg Harper, Mississippi  

In addition, you can call your members of Congress and tell them that they must support an immediate inquiry into the actions of Jay Bybee, federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Congressional switchboard at 1-866-220-0044 can connect you to your member of Congress as well.  Here are some talking points:

• Jay Bybee signed the August 1, 2002 memo approving certain torture techniques to be used on mentally ill terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

• The CIA’s Inspector General found that the torture of Abu Zubaydah and others foiled no terror plots and sent intelligence personnel on wild goose chases and false leads around the world. (McClatchy, 4.24.09)

• The California Democratic Party is the largest state party in the country, and they have spoken with one voice to demand hearings on Bybee.

• We are required by the Convention Against Torture to investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who authorized and committed acts of torture.

• Judge Bybee’s presence on the 9th Circuit disgraces the federal bench and saps at our moral authority in the world.  Congress has a duty to step in and impeach him.

We now have this resolution as a tool.  Let’s use it to pry open the Congress and provide the opening of some accountability for these heinous acts committed in our name.

VICTORY: Impeachment Inquiry Into Bybee On Consent Calendar

Several weeks of hard work have paid off, and the California Democratic Party is poised to provide a major tool in the fight for justice and accountability for the Bush torture regime.  The Resolutions Committee included on their consent calendar the resolution to begin a Congressional inquiry into Judge Jay Bybee and other lawyers who wrote opinions justifying and providing the fig leaf of a rationale for torture, with all punishments allowable under the law, including impeachment.  

Without the release of the OLC memo from August 1, 2002, showing Bybee admitting that waterboarding gives the impression of imminent death and allowing it anyway, showing Bybee allowing the CIA to put detainees in a small box with bugs in a Room 101-style exploitation of phobias, I’m not sure this resolution would have passed.  But the release massed a groundswell of support from the grassroots.  My petition to urge the CDP to support the resolution gathered 4,827 signatures in about a week.  Courage Campaign hopped aboard as well and got 9,000 or so sigs on their petition.  Activists called the CDP offices and pushed for passage.  And the party got the message.

Resolutions can go flat if they aren’t picked up and used as a tool.  Today, when it passes the full party on the convention floor in a few hours, we can celebrate.  Tomorrow, we put this to work.  Thanks to everyone who put in the time and effort to get this done.

UPDATE: Here’s the full text of the resolution, on the flip:

CALLING FOR THE INVESTIGATION OF JUDGE JAY BYBEE AND OTHERS FOR THEIR ROLE IN ALLOWING TORTURE AS PART OF “ENHANCED INTERROGATION”

Whereas, former Assistant Attorney General, and current Federal Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Jay Bybee signed the “Bybee Memo,” or “Torture Memo” of August 1, 2002, which advised the C.I.A. that “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment was at times allowable under U.S. law, and authored, co-authored and signed other memos on “extraordinary rendition” and “enhanced interrogation,” more of which are being currently revealed to the American public as the new Administration brings them to light; and

Whereas the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, the supreme law of the land under Article VI of our Constitution, requires the prosecution of those who authorize torture, and it has been established that waterboarding is torture; and

Whereas, on January 15, 2009 before leaving office, President George W. Bush, in an effort to cover his culpability, and the culpability of others, had his Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice issue a memo stating that certain opinions issued in 2001-2003 with respect to “the allocation of authorities between President and Congress in matters of war and national security do not reflect the current view of this Office;”

Therefore be it resolved that the California Democratic Party supports resolution of inquiry and vigorous investigation of these and related actions by the Congress of the United States, including the full use of Congressional subpoena power authority and all appropriate remedies, to disclose completely the possible criminal actions of Judge Jay Bybee and others to the American people and to take necessary and available action with appropriate remedies and punishment allowed by law; and

Be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution with its original authorization be sent to the Office of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and that copies of the signed resolution be sent to each Democratic member of the California delegation to the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

Barbara Boxer On Bybee Impeachment: “I’m Very Open To That.”

At a press avail following her speech at the California Democratic Party convention, I asked Sen. Boxer about the Resolutions Committee passing support for a Congressional inquiry into the actions of torture judge Jay Bybee and the imposition of all possible penalties including impeachment.  She said “I’m very open to that…. there is an ongoing investigation at the Justice Department into his work (at the Office of Professional Responsibility -ed), and we’ll see how that goes.  But I’m very open to that.  And I’ll remind everyone that I didn’t vote for him when his nomination came up.  I was one of 19 to do so.”

Needless to say, the support from Sen. Boxer will be a great help in the Resolutions Committee, when they prioritize the top ten resolutions to send to the floor of the convention tomorrow.

The other interesting tidbit from the presser was that Sen. Boxer offered no indication of her endorsement on the ballot measures for the special election on May 19.  She says she and Sen. Feinstein haven’t studied the measures yet, and that they will get together in Washington and offer a joint statement once they make their decision.  “I’ll let you know when I go public.  But let me say this – the budget process in California is dysfunctional, because of the super-majority needed to pass a budget and tax increases.  And until we get to the root causes of changing that, it’s very difficult to do anything.”  This pretty much tracks with what we’ve been saying for a long time.  Until you pass #1, it won’t matter if you pass #2-#10.

Other topics covered included torture investigations (Boxer supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Sen. Leahy recommended), the fate of cram-down provisions in the Senate (“Sen. Durbin is doing a heroic job… the banks are still a major lobbying group.”), potential opponents in her 2010 re-election (I hope nobody runs against me!”), and the news of a budget reconciliation deal on health care in the Senate (she didn’t have much to say on that other than that reconciliation should always be on the table, as it was during the Reagan years, and that the situation is “in flux.”)  Boxer was at her most eloquent answering a question about the rule of law and the impression that those at the highest levels of power, be it the banksters or the torture regime, were above it.  “The law must prevail… the people should feel that something’s wrong, if nothing is done on torture.  If we don’t like a law, we repeal it, we don’t ignore it.”

…more from davej.

Senator Boxer Taking Questions

Senator Boxer held a press conference at the California Democratic Convention today.  Originally it was going to be a “roundtable” with bloggers, but because of time problems it instead became a press conference at which bloggers were allowed to ask questions too.  I don’t fault Sen. Boxer for this but it led immediately to the old-style Important Person at a podium giving careful answers to self-serving questions instead of a back-and forth conversation where there is an equal discussion between the people and their representative-who-works-for-them.  The format change forced her into that role, which is the standard in today’s politics.  In my humble opinion.

That said, if we had a senate with 100 Barbara Boxers, this would be a very different and much better country.

Boxer on torture (typing notes as she answered and these are a collection on the subject, while answering several questions):

In our country we have to face all the issues that confront us. …  I support the truth coming out. The people deserve to know the truth and they have to handle it.  

I support a truth commission.

We signed at least three international treaties that deal with outlawing torture.  We have been very clear in our nation that torture is not acceptable and the definition includes the waterboarding technique.

I believe in this country and that means I believe in openness and transparency and getting the truth in front of the people.

We executed Japanese who did it to our people. Either we are a nation that believes in the rule of law or we are not.

If I lose my Senate seat because people think it’s good to torture, so be it.

On banks, mortgage “cramdowns” (judge changing the terms of a mortgage so the person can afford to keep the house) and lobbying,

Dick Durbin is doing a heroic job trying to keep people in their homes.  Right now if you declare bankruptcy as an individual, let’s say you have two homes and a lot of assets, the only one that judge can’t touch is the first home, because bankers have a lot of influence.

These are different times and it really is better to keep people in their homes and renegotiate

The banks are still a major lobbying force, still operating that way.

If a company comes to taxpayers, until you pay us back your executives shouldn’t earn more than the President of the US.

I asked about the rule of law and the appearance that the country has a two-tiered system, and how the people should feel about what they are seeing,

The people should feel something is wrong if there is no investigation, if a law is broken it should be prosecuted.

On banks, we have a court system, if a law is broken it should be prosecuted.

If we don’t like a law we repeal it, we don’t ignore it.

If anyone feels the law is not followed and are concerned about it that is a problem.

If I break it, you break it, should apply to anyone.

Everyone has the right to present their case.

I don’t think I asked my question well because the answer didn’t go to what I was asking.  The “press” format requires a pre-formed question that doesn’t have the opportunity to be a conversation.  I even re-asked at one point during the answer to try to get to the way people are seeing a two-tiered system where the rich are let off…

Resolutions Committee Passes Support For Congressional Inquiry Into Jay Bybee

The very, VERY good news is that the resolution to impeach Jay Bybee from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals passed the Resolutions Committee with only small changes to the language.  Any impeachment process must begin with a Congressional inquiry that gets remanded to the House Judiciary Committee.  That’s exactly the language we got, a resolution supporting a Congressional inquiry into Bybee and the other lawyers who justified torture.  To everyone that signed petitions, you helped make this happen. We’re not done yet, however.  In order to get to the floor, the resolution must get ranked among the top ten at a “prioritizing” meeting today.  Many more than ten resolutions passed in committee, so it will be a fight to get the Bybee resolution on the floor.  I will be testifying in the committee today and lobbying for passage, armed with the thousands of signatures and personal testimonials gathered over the past week.

This could be as consequential as anything done in this convention, despite it happening off the floor and relatively outside of scrutiny.  A resolution of support from the full CDP would be powerful.  I’ll keep you updated.

…Maybe some of Jay Bybee’s anonymous friends will show up to speak on his behalf.