US War Crimes: torture and a call for Truth and Reconciliation


"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."
- General George Washington, letter to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

Newsweek reported today that the CIA Inspector General will release a report next week that acknowledges the US conducted mock executions against detainees. This evidence is probable cause for immediate arrests for War Crimes. As my previous articles report on documented other War Crimes, and that these wars are Wars of Aggression, do not expect any prosecution. Too many in power are in too deep; that’s why it hasn’t happened. I do ask you to consider and, unless you have a better option, promote a Truth and Reconciliation (T&R) process, as I previously argued. The advantage of T&R is to peel-away those seeking a “Scrooge conversion” willing to trade their cooperation for a lifetime of peace. People may turn-in their own names and the names of others. Those who choose not to cooperate with T&R within an open time window are subject to criminal prosecution. T&R is our best incentive for the criminals to surrender with minimal blood and cost, and T&R moves us the fastest to our using government to collectively build a brighter future. The best explanation I’ve found is from George Washington’s Blog:

The following documentation of US torture is from my brief, “War with Iraq and Afghanistan, Rhetoric for War with Iran.”

Please share this information with all who declare themselves as wanting to be competent citizens with our most important policies. Please use this information to build a brighter future.

Ethical treatment of prisoners is a legal requirement under US and International law. In the so-called “War on Terror,” the Bush Administration, with Democratic leadership agreement, invented the unique legal distinction of “unlawful enemy combatant.” An enemy combatant would not be covered by US or international law. From the passage of the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), it is now legal for the government to declare anyone, including US citizens, as unlawful enemy combatants.[1] We know it’s the government’s intent to apply MCA to American citizens because they have declared American citizens as illegal enemy combatants without legal protection from US law or the US Constitution. For example, the Bush Administration, without complaint by Democratic leadership, argued for MCA application to American citizen Jose Padilla all the way to the Supreme Court. Unlawful enemy combatants can be detained forever, be denied legal representation and contact with family, have any testimony obtained from “harsh interrogation techniques” used against them if the government brings charges (“harsh interrogation” is the exact term used by the Nazis[2]), be denied the right to examine evidence against them for “national security” reasons but to only receive a summary of the evidence (for example, the government could claim they have video of you killing American children as an Al Qaeda terrorist, deny the court the right to see the video, but present a written summary of what’s on the video that the court would have to accept as valid evidence), and finally the same government that accused you would also appoint a three-person military tribunal to decide your verdict, which includes the death penalty.[3] Please do not believe me; look up the MCA for yourself. While a recent Supreme Court decision reestablished Habeas Corpus only to Guantanamo detainees, the rest of MCA has so far been upheld in Federal Courts.[4]

The US treatment of detainees has a deliberate history to circumvent previously established US and International Law.[5] The US has applied interrogation techniques to “enemy combatants” that previous case law found were torture (these have also been applied by our government to American citizens). For example, President Bush admitted to authorizing “waterboarding,” found by courts to be torture in all previous case law in the US and internationally.[6] This authorization was explicitly stated in memos from the White House.[7] When previous courts are unanimous in their findings, that means the legal definition of an act is absolutely certain. In this case, waterboarding, or more accurately termed “controlled drowning,” is torture. Curiously, despite this clear legal definition, former US Attorney General John Ashcroft testified to the House Judiciary Committee that waterboarding had been consistently defined as not torture. He did not present any case law history in his defense or elaborate.[8] However, other released documents suggest the legal opinion supporting these “harsh interrogation techniques” were based partly on the argument that it’s not torture if you don’t say it’s torture.[9]

John Yoo, the principle author of legal memos for the White House that supported torture, also testified to Congress. In apparent support of the strategy that it’s not torture unless you admit it, Yoo refused to answer the direct question whether the President could legally order detainees to be buried alive and have that not be considered torture.[10] Yoo’s legal memo said that interrogation only became torture if it was "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Even then, for national security such pain and injury might be justified. Also, it’s only torture if causing severe pain and injury was the "specific intent" of the interrogator rather than obtaining information for the public good.[11] There also seems to be no restraint on applying these interrogation methods to children. Over 2,500 children have been declared as unlawful enemy combatants and detained without being charged with a crime.[12] Yoo testified that it would be legal to take a detainee’s male child and crush the boy’s testicles in front of the parent to obtain information from the detainee.[13] Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh reported that interrogators have raped children, and video-taped the rapes for their viewing pleasure.[14]

In International Law, torture is a War Crime. The US Constitution expressly forbids torture. The US has refused for over a year the UN’s request to inspect the US prison at Guantanamo Bay to evaluate claims of torture.[15] The US has refused to release to the press the International Red Cross’ findings of the treatment of detainees.[16] Jane Mayer’s new book, The Dark Side, presents the Red Cross reports that she obtained. The Red Cross concluded the US interrogation techniques were “categorically torture.”[17] Torture was the topic of the 2008 Academy Award for Documentaries for the film, Taxi to the Dark Side.[18] The specific case study in the film is a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver who was beaten to death by US interrogators. His death certificate from the US military was leaked: cause of death was marked as “homicide” from blunt force trauma. He was never charged with a crime.

The testimony pointing to torture is mounting, despite a lack of comprehensive coverage in the mainstream media. For example, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, the military’s chief investigator and report author of the torture at Abu Ghraib reported in June, 2008:
"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account…The commander-in-chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture."[19]

The US military acknowledged that they “segregate” some detainees in “humane” sealed crates measuring 3-feet square and 6-feet high for up to 12 hours.[20] There was no mention if the crates are stored outside, where the average daily temperature in Baghdad from June to August is 110 degrees.

According to Seton Hall’s Law Center for Policy and Research, over 24,000 US interrogations of enemy combatants were video-recorded at Guantanamo Prison. These might reveal extensive torture.[21] Indeed, the organization Physicians for Human Rights concluded in their medical examination of released enemy combatants that each person had been subjected to multiple torture techniques over a period of years.[22] These medical findings support the testimony of the released detainees that they were repeatedly tortured.

A recent poll reported that 44% of Americans approve of torture for terrorist suspects.[23] Perhaps they trust their government to not break the law, are unclear of the facts you’ve just read, or believe torture is a necessary evil to “protect America.” History has shown that torture is not an effective interrogation technique to get accurate information, as the victims will say what they believe the torturer wants to hear in order to make the torture stop.[24]


[1] Markon, J. U.S. Can Confine Citizens Without Charges, Court Rules. Sept. 10, 2005: .
[2] Andrew Sullivan: The Daily Dish. “Verschärfte Vernehmung.” May 29, 2007: .
[3] Prison Planet. Watson, P.J. & Jone, A. Military Commissions Act Does Affect US Citizens. Oct. 22, 2006: , Repeal the Military Commissions Act and Restore the Most American Human Right. Thom Hartman, Feb. 12, 2007: , and The Day Habeas Corpus Died: Keith Olberrmann: .
[4] Imprisonment by Executive Order. Ann Shibler, JBS, July 18, 2008. .
[5] Lendman, S. Torture as Official US Policy. July 18, 2008: , and Burghardt, T. Bush Adminstration Post-Constitutional Order: "It Was Real 'Manchurian Candidate' Stuff." June 19, 2008: .
[6] ABC News.Greenburg, J.C., Rosenberg, H.L., de Vogue, A. Sources: Top Bush Officials Approved “Enhanced Interrogation.” April 9, 2008: and Rall, T. Arrest Bush. Bush Confesses to Waterboarding. Call the DC Cops! April 30, 2008: .
[7] The Washington Post. Warrick, J. Oct. 15, 2008: .
[8] Think Progress. Ryan. July 17, 2008: Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’: .
[9] Warrick, J. CIA Played Larger Role In Advising Pentagon: Harsh Interrogation Methods Defended. June 18, 2008: .
[10] July 1, 2008. Way Beyond Waterboarding: .
[11] Redefining Torture. PBS. Oct. 18, 2005: .
[12] George Washington’s Blog. May 21, 2008. Congratulations, America…Children are being Tortured in Your Name:
[13] Arnold, C. The Ticking Time Bomb Thought Experiment. Feb. 7, 2008: .
[14] Jardin, X. Hersh: Children Raped at Abu Ghraib, Pentagon has Videos. July 15, 2004: .
[15] US Faces Prison Ship Allegations. June 28, 2005: .
[16] ICRC Raises Guantanamo Conditions. Feb. 15, 2005: .
[17] Shane, S. July 11, 2008: Book Cites Secret Red Cross Report of C.I.A. Torture of Qaeda Captives: . For commentary, consider Constitutional Law Scholar, Jonathan Turley: Countdown: Rachel Maddow and Jon Turley discuss Bushco war crimes, possible prosecution: .
[18] Taxi to the Dark Side: .
[19] Empire Burlesque. Floyd, C. Torturegate: Truth but no Consequences. June 20, 2008: .
[20] CNN. Starr, B. U.S. segregates violent Iraqi prisoners in crates. Aug. 7, 2008: .
[21] Cohn, M. Feb. 15, 2008: Injustice at Guantanamo: Torture Evidence and the Military Commissions Act: .
[22] CNN. Report: Exams Reveal Abuse, Torture of Detainees. June 18, 2008: , and Spratley, S. Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Review of Physicians for Human Rights’ Report. June 20, 2008: .
[23] Raw Story. Juliano, N. June 24, 2008: .
[24] Human Rights First. Top Interrogators Declare Torture Ineffective in Intelligence Gathering. June 24, 2008: and George Washington’s Blog. Forget Morality, Humanity or Legality: Torture Doesn’t Work. July 15, 2008: .