Tribunal on Crimes Against Humanity Indicts the Bush Regime
Revolution #021, November 6, 2005, posted at revcom.us
This week we continue our coverage of this historic tribunal. Click here for previous coverage on revcom.us
An extraordinary Tribunal came together on October 21-23 to indict the Bush regime for crimes against humanity. The First Session of The 2005 International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration brought four indictments against the regime:
1. Wars of Aggression
2. Torture and Indefinite Detention
3. Destruction of the Global Environment
4. Attacks on Global Public Health and Reproductive Rights
And it held a hearing into a fifth indictment--around Hurricane Katrina and the crimes of the Bush regime that have emerged surrounding this disaster.
The Tribunal will reach its findings after a second session to be held early next year.
But meanwhile, it was clear from this first weekend of evidence that the Tribunal already established a series of powerful indictments against the Bush regime.
The following are statements made to the Commission of Inquiry. More testimony from the First Session and information on how to contact the Commission are available at bushcommission.org .
On Torture and Holding Captives in Indefinite Detention
From the presentation of indictments by Lynne Stewart
This year, the prominent defense attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted of conspiracy and providing support for terrorism – all for work done in her capacity of defense attorney. Just days after the Tribunal, a federal judge upheld her outrageous conviction, and sentencing is scheduled for December. Stewart, 63, faces 20 to 30 years in prison.
At the Bush Crimes Commission, she addressed several counts of the inquiry's indictment on torture and holding captives in indefinite detention.
I think that I must have been chosen to read these particular charges because there is no doubt, I think, in anyone's mind, that the lawyers upon seeing the condition of our client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman back in 1995 and up until 2000 and the change in him, doubted that the United States could torture on these very shores...
And I think that is why I was asked to read this: one great things that prevents torture is the intercession of lawyers. This administration...has put a chilling effect on all the lawyers, by the indictment and now conviction of me, to say you really do not want to aggressively fight these cases, even if your client is being tortured.
I particularly want to talk about Count 5 [on indefinite detention of U.S. citizens]. I think it is one of the cases which we are also well aware of: Jose Padilla.
Who would have thought, who can remember a time when an American citizen arrested on American soil and charged not with a crime -- charged with nothing, just held at the will of the government, just held until THEY decide to do something with him, held in some remote jail? And, of course, as we know the most recent ruling on that case has ok'ed--the federal government has ok'ed George Bush to continue that detention and continue it without end as far as Jose Padilla is concerned.
Consider yourself Jose Padilla, because we must at this tribunal let the very air be rent with our cries of indignation.
Count 6 [on CIA assassination]: Today the news is that George Bush is daring to ask the United Nations to convene a special assembly because he has a report that says that Syria was involved in the assassination in Lebanon. This George Bush who inherits [the assassination of Chilean exile Orlando] Letelier and all the history of CIA murders, going back as far as [Iranian prime minister Dr. Mohammed] Mossadegh. And he dares to raise this issue! And while these things make us breathless when we read them -- we say "I can't believe it!" -- well we have to believe it.
This inquiry can focus our attention. This inquiry can give us the wherewithal to go out and fight and organize the resistance to these charges, to these conditions.
The Lies of the Iraq War
From the testimony of former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, with "Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity"
We have now no further need to total up the chronology of how it became possible for this president to start this illegal war. We now have the Downing Street minutes--which many of us, by blogging away for four weeks, even forced the Washington Post and New York Times to take cognizance of.
Those minutes, as probably most of you know, were the records of the briefing that the head of British intelligence brought back after his discussions in Washington with [CIA head] George Tenet, [then-national security adviser] Condy Rice and the rest of them. And he said that the President of the United States has decided to remove Saddam Hussein by war. The war will be justified by the conjunction of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Translation from the British: we're gonna say that Saddam Hussein has all manner of weapons of destruction and he is likely to give them to terrorists.
And then came the crowning sentence, but the " intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy. " What further need have we of proof?... I mean, fixed is fixed!...
So how did all happen? Well, Cheney goes to the CIA, right? And he beat on the analysts. People ask me, "Is it unusual for the Vice President of the United States to go to CIA to talk? It doesn't sound unusual." No, it isn't "unusual." It's unprecedented!....
Cheney started the ball rolling with his famous speech of August 26, 2002, where he said: You know Iraq, Saddam Hussein is embarked on a nuclear weapons quest and he is likely to have a bomb before we know it, and U.N inspections aren't worth a damn, all they do is give you a false sense of security. Cheney had the chutzpah to cite one of Saddam Hussein's sons-in-law Hussein Kamel, as supporting the notion that they had weapons of mass destruction. Now when I say chutzpah, that's chutzpah folks. Because you know what Kamel told us in 1995 when he defected? He said, "All weapons of mass destruction were destroyed at my order." He was in charge of them...
I think a reasonable question to ask is: How did these people think they could get away with this stuff?
Paramilitary Security Forces in Post-Katrina New Orleans
from the testimony Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist and Democracy Now producer
I think out of the rubble of New Orleans and other devastated areas, we're seeing a model for disaster profiteering that is emerging – similar to war profiteering that we've seen happen in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans....We are getting a glimpse of part of the future for this country, that so many people live as their present. It gives us a window into declarations of martial law, the wiping out of posse comitatus--which prohibits federal forces from operating as domestic law enforces on U.S. soil.
You see the rich and the elite view New Orleans right now as an experiment. Those aren't my words, that's not my term, it's theirs...
James Rice, who heads one of the most powerful business lobbies in the South...flew in Israeli paramilitaries by helicopter from Texas, from a firm called Instinctive Shooting International. I talked to two of these men as they guarded the only privately owned street in New Orleans, the Audubon Place housing community, which is where extraordinarily wealthy people live...When I looked on the website of the company... they make a point of emphasizing that some of their men have served in the...Shin Bet or other Israeli intelligence agencies. So there were these men, from Instinctive Shooting International, Israelis, on the ground with their M-16s slung around their shoulders, operating a check point.
They were just a few of the the hundreds and hundreds of private security forces that fanned out across New Orleans. In fact the people of Blackwater beat FEMA to the scene with their Puma helicopter. They deployed some 200 men in New Orleans. When I encountered them in the French Quarter and asked them, "What is your function here?" they told me their function was to "confront criminals and stop looters"... And as I talked to these men from Blackwater I knew well who they were, because its was because of the four Blackwater mercenaries that the U.S. had its supposed justification to slaughter the city of Fallujah, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, outright killing hundreds upon hundreds of others... Seeing them on the streets of New Orleans stunned me. They sped around in an unmarked car, four of them, dressed in all khaki bullet-proof jackets. One of them showed me a Louisiana state law enforcement badge. They said they had been deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana... Two weeks earlier they had been in Iraq... They were given the first no-bid contracts to do security for the Federal government...
The Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson said, "It's not going to be as Black as it was for a long time, if ever again." That's the dream of the corporate elite. And what they've done is they've have brought in paramilitary private security forces to back up their agenda. You see its not just about what is happening right now, in New Orleans. It's about what happens when ten thousand Black people want to return to their neighborhood. Who are they going to be facing down? The same men who shoot people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Balkans are deployed on the streets of an American city by the same people who have said explicitly that we don't want Black or poor people to live here any more....
Patrick Quinn is one of the wealthiest hotel operators in the South of this country. He runs a hotel chain called the Decatur Hotel chain... They are contributors to George W. Bush. He brings in private security to guard his hotels.
His head of security, a man named Michael McGommery, brags to me that he had been engaged in a shoot-out with some people he calls "Black gang bangers" on an overpass in the Ninth Ward. He said, "We were driving to go pick up some of Mr. Quinn's associates," on one of the first days they deployed... They claimed they came under fire from an overpath. I said, "What did you do?" He said, "I was on the phone with my business partner at the time. I dropped my phone and we returned fire." He returned fire with an AR-15 rifle and with a Glock 9.
I said, "Did you kill them?" He said, "Put it this way, there was a lot of moaning and screaming and then it stopped. Enough said."
I said, "What happened after that? Was there a report filed?" He goes, "Oh yeah, the army came. They thought we were the enemy and surrounded us. But I explained that we were security. And then they turned around and they left. Then Louisiana state troopers came, and asked us what happened"....
So this guy shot up people he describes as "Black gang bangers" on an overpass in the Ninth Ward, and then left the scene. Two separate agencies had come to the scene and did nothing about it. Didn't file a report. They just left.... This man was nothing but a cheap murderous vigilante, if what he says is true. But he was in the employ of one of the wealthiest citizens of Louisiana.
We can't view what has happened, and continues to happen, and will continue to happen in New Orleans through a narrow lens. We need to view it through a much broader lens – the bigger lens of what is happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the prisons of this country. We've got the vicious and hidden hand of the free market backed up by the iron fist of militarism. We see it in Iraq. And now, the Mississippi has become the Tigris.
Destruction of the Global Environment
From the indictment presented by Ted Glick, co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri--Chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius, this month, that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in pollution if humanity is to "survive." He told delegates, "Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose."
Now, Dr. Pachauri is not a radical. That's not his background. In fact, Dr. Pachauri became the head of this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the organization of 2000 scientists from 100 countries around the world that has been studying this issue of global warming and climate change since 1989, he became the head of that body when... a memorandum from Exxon to the White House in early 2001 specifically asked it to get the previous chairman, Dr. Robert Watson, the chief scientist of the World Bank, "replaced," at the request of the U.S. The Bush administration then lobbied other countries in favor of Dr. Pachauri, who former Vice President Al Gore called the "let's drag our feet" candidate, and got him elected to replace Dr. Watson, a British-born naturalized American who had repeatedly called for urgent action.
This is an example of both the depth of the crisis, and what the Bush administration has been attempting to do since it came in office. They failed in the case of Dr. Pachauri because apparently he was a man who, whatever his past background, was willing to look at the facts, and came to the position that scientists and people who look at the facts come to, which is that we are in a very deep crisis....
There has been so much melting of ice in the Arctic that the water now, that is exposed, that is no longer ice, is absorbing heat. Because ice reflects heat back, but open water absorbs heat. So, that the process, what this article, what this study came out and said, is that the process of the ice melt over the summer has moved forward to such an extent that it might not be possible, any time this century, for the ice to get back where it was and it may pretty much disappear during the summer, within the next number of decades.
If that happens, there's great concern about Greenland, and the melting process in Greenland. Because, just like there's the West Antarctic ice sheet, that if it melts and goes into the ocean, it will raise sea levels worldwide by fifteen feet or so, there's a similar ice sheet on Greenland, that's on land, it's not in the water. If it melts and goes into the water, it's a very similar thing. So there's various aspects to this crisis, just to give you some examples of what we're facing.
Let me briefly go through what the Bush administration has been doing about this crisis. ... I mentioned the withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement. That was one of the first things that they did, within about two months of their coming into office. They've actively collaborated with energy giants like ExxonMobil to in various ways to confuse people and to keep information from people....
Finally, the last specific that I would like to put forward for consideration is New Orleans. It was not a surprise that New Orleans was hit by a hurricane, and that serious damage was done to it with a great deal of flooding. It's been known for many many years, for decades, that New Orleans was one of the few cities in the United States most in danger of a major catastrophic effect. And that catastrophic event would be a major hurricane. It's under sea level, six or seven feet below sea level. That's why you have all the levees. It was know that the whole development of New Orleans, and the destruction of wetlands that could serve as a buffer to prevent the kind of damage that a hurricane would bring. It was know, one of the two top, or maybe three top cities, with SF being another one in terms of earthquakes, and New York City being one in terms of terrorism, it was one of the top three cities in the United States facing a catastrophe.
This is from Ross Gelbspan, an article he wrote shortly after Katrina hit: "Last year, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported that the Corps of Engineers had determined that the Bush administration was spending less than 20 percent of what was needed to complete the fortiﬁcation of the city’s levees. While the massive destruction of Katrina left Americans in shock, it should have been no surprise to the federal government. In 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency cited a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the three most likely U.S. disasters. Nevertheless, by 2004 the Bush administration had cut funding to the corps’ New Orleans district by more than 80 percent."
Earlier this year, a Louisiana congressional delegation got the Congress to provide about sixty million dollars for flood prevention for the city. But the Bush administration reduced that figure to 10.4 million dollars, according to Newhouse News Service. While the Bush administration was cutting funding to strengthen protective dikes and levies, the state's bipartisan congressional delegation was also working to secure money for the restoration of it's coastal wetlands to buffer the impacts of storm surges. Louisiana officials estimated this effort would cost 14 billion dollars but the lawmakers managed to secure only a tiny fraction, 570 million over 4 years according to the Times Picayune.The requested 14 billion dollars was all but erased from the administration's energy bill. So in order to save sort term, for disaster prevention, the administration's lack of planning has yielded what will likely top one hundred billion in damages. Now we're talking 200 billion, most of it uninsured.
These are a number of specifics, and a number of particulars that it seems to me make a very compelling case that the current administration can only be accurately be labelled as climate criminals. And I urge this effort to go forward to to bring out more evidence and take appropriate action.