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Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld
Guilty of war crimes

May 21, 2004 | Page 1

TORTURE IN Iraq wasn't the work of a few "bad apples." It was standard operating procedure--approved and organized by officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration, according to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in New Yorker magazine.

So much for liberating Iraqis from the cruel oppression of a tyrant. Like the phantom "weapons of mass destruction" and Saddam Hussein's non-existent connections to al-Qaeda, the last justification for George Bush's war on Iraq--that the U.S. would bring "democracy"--now stands exposed as a fraud.

According to Hersh's latest revelations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a Pentagon operation to use physical "coercion" and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to gain information about the Iraqi resistance. "The rules are 'Grab whom you must. Do what you want,'" said a former intelligence official.

Another source told Hersh that the program was kept secret "[b]ecause the process is unpleasant. It's like making sausage--you like the result but you don't want to know how it was made. Also, you don't want the Iraqi public, and the Arab world, to know. Remember, we went to Iraq to democratize the Middle East. The last thing you want to do is let the Arab world know how you treat Arab males in prison."

The scandal isn't confined to Iraq, either. The Bush administration is using a worldwide gulag presided over by Pentagon officers and CIA spies. Thus, the plan to "get tough" with Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib was modeled on the treatment of prisoners at Camp X-Ray in Guantánamo Bay and in U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan.

Among the torture and interrogation methods used by the U.S.: beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, placing prisoners in "stress positions" for agonizing lengths of time and sexual humiliation. And all of it has become a routine part of the "war on terror."

According to Newsweek magazine, in January 2002, White House lawyers even sent a memo to administration officials saying that "this new paradigm of terrorism renders obsolete" the "strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners" spelled out in the Geneva Convention. In other words: throw out international law and roll over human rights--anything to pave the way for giving the U.S. free reign in the Middle East and success in its wars for oil and empire.

But the Bush gang has learned the hard way that occupation and brutality breed resistance. With a June 30 deadline for a supposed "handover" of power in Iraq--to an interim government handpicked by the U.S.--approaching, opposition to the U.S. and any Iraqi who collaborates with Washington is only growing. The latest proof came in the form of the assassination of Iraqi Governing Council President Ezzedine Salim, whose car was blown up as it was stopped at a U.S. checkpoint.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to meet every sign of resistance with punishing force. Top on the hit list: Muktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose followers have opposed U.S. rule. As Socialist Worker went to press, U.S. and British troops had spent the weekend battling al-Sadr's forces in at least four Iraqi cities.

In Nasiriya, American fighter jets bombed portions of the city--after Sadr's forces drove Italian troops out of a base there. The U.S. simultaneously showed its disdain for Sunni Muslims as well, with U.S. soldiers sealing off the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad--holding nearly 200 Sunnis at gunpoint for nearly an hour, before damaging several doors and throwing copies of the Koran on the floor while conducting a search.

Kassem, a 54-year-old grandfather who works as a guard at the mosque, told Inter Press Service that a U.S. soldier hit him on the forehead with the butt of an M-16 rifle. "When I fell to the ground, they kicked me," he said. "They came to humiliate the people of Islam. Why else? We have no guns here, no mujahedeen. They want to destroy the Islamic religion."

Washington's war makers are whipping up a new round of anti-Arab racism as justification for stepping up their violence--and claiming that Iraqis aren't capable of running their own country. But Washington's war crimes in Iraq won't end until U.S. forces are driven out.

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