Tribunal Indicts Bush

Jan. 20-22: International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration

Revolution #032, January 29, 2006, posted at

Hundreds of people came together in New York City on the weekend of January 20-22 for a historic tribunal indicting the Bush administration for crimes against humanity. This extraordinary event opened Friday evening at the Riverside Church, where Harry Belafonte gave a riveting speech that brought the audience to their feet.

Among the witnesses and experts giving testimony about Bush's crimes were Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former head of the Abu Ghraib prison; Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector; Alan Berkman, physician and professor of public health at Columbia University, and Larry McBride, who was left to drown in a New Orleans prison when Katrina struck. The participation of people like this underscored the far-reaching significance and impact of the Bush Crimes Tribunal.

A week earlier, a delegation from the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration delivered a set of indictments at the White House gates. The International Commission has brought five indictments against the Bush regime:

  1. Wars of Aggression
  2. Torture and Indefinite Detention
  3. Destruction of the Global Environment
  4. Attacks on Global Public Health
  5. Hurricane Katrina

The first session of the Tribunal, in October 2005, heard searing testimony on each of these indictments--and the second and concluding session on Jan. 20-22 continued this crucial work. The presentation of the verdicts will take place in Washington, DC on February 2.

As this session of the Tribunal began, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sharply laid out the aims of the Tribunal, and the urgency of the times: "We are putting the Bush administration on trial. We investigate in order to expose. We document in order to indict. We arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of our earth and its people. It's a serious moment. Our country and our world are tipping--tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the truth-tellers--the witnesses to the carnage this country and this administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act."

In this issue, Revolution newspaper is presenting brief excerpts from several of the Tribunal witnesses. We will have further reportage and interviews from the Tribunal in future issues.

For complete information on the sessions of the Tribunal and the judges and participants, as well as updates on the work of the Bush Crimes Commission, go online to

Dr. Alan Berkman, physician and professor of public health at Columbia University:

It's actually almost exactly the 25th anniversary since AIDS was first recognized in Los Angeles in 1981. Since that time, more than 20 million people have died as a result of AIDS. There are currently believed to be about 41 million people infected and alive at this point, with HIV. Over three million people died last year of AIDS. That means that every day, 9,000 people die of AIDS. Most of those deaths are preventable, are treatable, can at least be postponed, if not cured. Two thousand of those people every day are children under the age of 15...

I will maintain that the Bush administration's economic policies, as administered both directly through bilateral programs but also through the IMF and World Trade Organization, have heightened global inequality, that global inequality drives health disparity. And then its ideologically driven prevention agenda has in fact accounted for millions of deaths in the five years since he took power. That when I talk about the ideologically driven prevention agenda, you may have heard that the core of that agenda is to say that people should be abstinent until marriage, after marriage they should be faithful to their partners, and that condoms should be reserved for prostitutes. And they impose this on other countries through the incredible power that they have and wealth that they supply. This is particularly dangerous, obviously, for women in many places, who may have little or no control over their own bodies and reproductive lives. In fact, in many countries in Africa, marriage is one of the greatest risk factors for HIV acquisition. In addition, is the policy that persisted through many U.S. administrations, refusing to fund needle exchange programs for those people who have injection-drug-using habits, which is known to prevent the spread of HIV--which is being used by countries around the world. The United States has taken, under the Bush administration, to exporting that policy, to try to reverse the policy of the United Nations and of other countries, who in fact have to date supported needle exchange programs and harm reduction programs. And again, we're talking about millions of people who've been exposed to HIV through contaminated needles.

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan:

Sixty percent of the population of Uzbekistan are, in effect, slaves in the cotton industry, something that should resonate in this country and this building. They can't leave the state cotton farms. Cotton workers are paid just under two dollars a month, seven cents a working day, for which they work twelve-hour days in the cotton fields, six days a week. And the profits from this industry, which is entirely state-owned and which is only traded by the state trading company, sold on the international market, and the profits go to the president, his family, and their regime...

There's no freedom in that country. There's no freedom of assembly. There's no freedom of religion. There's no freedom of speech. There's absolutely no free media. There's no opposition allowed. One in eight people are employed by the police or secret police, formally employed by the secret police to keep an eye on their neighbors. A high proportion of arrestees are terrorized or coerced into working as informers. And it's a country that practices torture on an industrial scale. In November 2002, a United Nations investigation into torture in Uzbekistan concluded that torture was widespread and systemic in the country. Thousands of people are tortured in Uzbekistan every year. By this, I mean rape, rape with objects like broken bottles. I mean beatings. I mean smashing of limbs... These people were tortured to say that they, and any other Uzbek who showed any sign of dissent or disagreement with their regime, were members of al Qaeda, and allied with Osama bin Laden. That came up again and again and again, in this intelligence. And we could tell in the British Embassy that this was simply nonsense. It was accepted by the CIA. But it was untrue...

To get at the oil and gas, the decision was made to go with the torture. To go with Karamov [the dictator of Uzbekistan]. And to justify that, they needed false intelligence from those torture chambers. The false intelligence gave a picture of the war on terror as a reason for their involvement. Whereas the real reason for involvement is on the screen behind me [a letter from Enron to George W. Bush]. It was the hard-headed pursuit of commercial interests, from big business close to the president.

If we're supporting a regime like that, is it any wonder some Muslims come to hate us? No, it's no wonder at all. And my charge before this commission is not only that the CIA knowingly and openly uses information got from torture, this administration has introduced a dehumanization of our Muslim brothers and sisters--which means that anything done to them doesn't count. And that is a step on the road to the ultimate evil. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is I believe where we are.

Daphne Wysham, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network:

I wanted to bring to your atttention the censorship of climate science, because it is in my mind some of the most damning evidence we have today that the Bush White House is deliberately targeting information policymakers have on climate change in an effort to protect some of the most powerful industries on the planet, namely the oil, gas, and coal industries -- while harming some of the poorest people globally due to climate change. This is what we know. Until June 2005, the former oil industry lawyer and lobbyist from the American Petroleum Institute by the name of Phillip Cooney, was chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. On June 8, 2005, The New York Times, through whistle-blower Rick Pilz, exposed Cooney as the primary censor of climate change policy documents at the highest levels of government. Two days later, Cooney resigned. In three more days, he was back in the saddle at ExxonMobil's lobbying firm. The government accountablity project which represented Pilz summarizes that Cooney's secret mission was to censor and rewrite climate science reports about what the federal government has learned on climate change. Unsurprisingly, his edits of hundreds of pages of reports to Congress routinely downplayed human impacts on global warming and the implications of climate change for society, while exaggerating uncertainty and suggesting that much of the science was controversial. Rick Pilz was a senior official in the Climate Change Science Program. He resigned because, in a nutshell, Bush political appointees had turned the White House scientific base for environmental advocacy into a propaganda machine for the oil industry, with taxpayers footing the bill. The cornerstone of the political disinformation campaign under Bush was embedded in the strategy of replacing career professional government scientists with political appointees. Virtually everything had to be cleared through Cooney. Here are some of their abuses of power. Everything published by the government, including outside research by internationally recognized experts, had to be read, approved, and adopted by the political staff. The administration cancelled normal professional standards of "lead author independence" which means the scientists who researched and wrote the study no longer had the right to approve or even see changes that were made by political appointees or lobbyists for the oil industry, before publication of their research. Cooney and his staff's edits were pervasive with 100 to 450 changes per report, and shameless. Among the topics the government doesn't want you to know about are the national and regional impacts from climate changes, consequences like glacial melting and floods. Actual problem solving was set back at least 10 years.

Harry Belafonte:

It is important when all the instruments of government collapse, we go in the final hour, to the most important line of battle: the people themselves. The people of this nation, I think, and I know it, are awake, and are being more awakened every day. They are hearing, and sensing, the danger that sits on the horizon. Looking at the international oppressions that we are a part of, looking at how we have violated international humanity and law, one day this tribunal I hope, will reach out, and in its investigation look at the oppression and illegal experiences people in this nation are experiencing themselves.

On 9/11, we were all stunned by the tragic events that took place when the Twin Towers collapsed, and this terrorism was put upon our people... And we said they were terrorists, and we should hunt them down and bring them to justice. Tell me where for you does the line blur, when a nation as powerful as this, the most powerful in the history of human existence, and those who have dubiously come to power and who are reigning over the world and this nation, when they lie and mislead the citizens of this country, when they put before us fear and then govern by terrorism -- where does the line blur for you, when our sons and daughters are sent to die in foreign battlefields, each day we claim the lives of tens and thousands of innocent men, women, and children, in other places? Where for you does terrorism end and where does it begin, and who are the terrorists? ( applause)

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former commander at Abu Ghraib prison:

Q: What did [the] photographs that you saw for the first time on January 23 depict?

JK: The first one I saw was the pile of naked detainees, stacked together, and all you could see was their butts, excuse me for saying this, but all you could see was their butts and their balls, stacked on top of each other. And the smiling faces of two [MPs], behind them. Cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. That was the first one. If they meant that for shock value, they achieved that. Because I could not believe what I was looking at. Most of these photographs have been published with the exception of one, so I'm not speaking of anything you haven't seen. One was a long angle shot of a cell block where there was a man putting naked detainees in a configuration. I asked what about everyone else in the photograph, because they’re certainly not all MPs? And the commander of the CID [Criminal Investigation Division] said to me, you’re right, Ma'am. They’re military intelligence soldiers, there’s a medic in there, and civilians. I said, What are the translators doing in the cell block? Because they were not allowed. And he said, Oh, they’re not translators, Ma'am. Those are contract interrogators...

I asked some generic questions: I heard some reference to photographs. Do you know anything about photographs? No. Nothing about photographs. I did go to Cellblock 1A. I spoke to the sergeant there and he said, Ma'am, I don’t know. I don’t work here, but they told me to come over here because I worked here before. I said: Where are your logs, let me see if I can try to put this together? And he said, We don’t have any logs, they took everything, so we started a new one. And I said, any files, memorandums? And he said, The only memorandum is the one that's posted out here--it was posted on a pole, in the cellblock. Right outside this little admin office that they were using.

Q: What did that memorandum say?

JK The memorandum said that it was an approval of harsher interrogation techniques.

Q: And who had signed that memorandum?

JK:That memorandum was signed by the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

Q: And what kinds of techniques were authorized in that memorandum, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.

JK: It was one page, and he authorized sleep deprivation, stress positions, meal disruption--serving their meals late, not serving a meal. Leaving the lights on all night while playing loud music. Issuing insults or criticism of their religion, their culture, their beliefs.

Q: And was there a note in his handwriting on the side?

JK: Yes, in the margin on the lefthand side.

Q: And what did that say?

JK: It said, "Make sure this happens!!" With two exclamation points. And it was written alongside of the list of the interrogation techniques.

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector:

Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, was former director of the Military Industrial Commission during the mid to late 1980s. As such he was the man responsible for the development and implementation of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. He was a gentleman who was in possession of the totality of knowledge necessary to make one capable of speaking authoritatively on Iraq weapons of mass destruction programs. He defected in August 1995. I need to point out that I led the investigation into Hussein Kamel's defection. Therefore I am singularly qualified to talk about not only his defection but also the results of his defection...

Dick Cheney said because of Hussein Kamel's defection the United Nations, indeed the United States, received evidence that Iraq was actively reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. This, of course, served as the foundation of the case the Bush administration was articulating to the Congress, the United States, and indeed the rest of the world--that Iraq had viable ongoing WMD capability. Dick Cheney was lying. Dick Cheney knew that he was lying. And this is one of the harshest indictments one can make against a government official of the United States of America. This is a civil crime, not necessarily a war crime. To lie in the conduct of official duties is a felony that I think Dick Cheney and others should be held accountable to. But it is evidence that the Bush administration willfully exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq's WMDs, thereby negating any case they might make about the existence of a clear and present threat that warranted pre-emptive attack.

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