In November, the new film The Report will be released in movie theaters across the country. The film will explain the steps Senator Dianne Feinstein and others took to publicly release the torture report. The report outlines the systematic torture the U.S. was authorized to implement under the Bush administration. Even though Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi were made aware of the program, it wasn’t until Obama’s Presidency that the Democrats began reviewing the depths of the horrific torture already waged on innocent people.
To avoid any whitewashing of the truth and fill in historical gaps that the film may not address, we are providing a supplement highlighting an extremely complex and disgraceful moment in U.S. history through the lens of our anti-war, anti-torture campaign activism. The content is intended to educate, engage, and activate the reader.
From Iraq to Afghanistan to Cuba
In March 2003, the Bush administration sacked Baghdad under the false pretense that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, meanwhile paying little to no attention to U.N. weapon inspectors who said otherwise. Days leading up to the invasion, his legal team would fine-tune the rule of law to their advantage, kidnapping men and young boys who were suspected of being terrorists and detaining them at Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan, then secretly flying them south to Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to be held indefinitely. While this was happening, innocent Iraqis were wrongfully detained and tortured by U.S. soldiers and military security contractors at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Images of the late-night torture parties would broadcast live across the globe.
Bagram was donned 'the other Gitmo,' reports indicate prisoners were given fewer privileges than Guantanamo detainees with no access to lawyers. The International Committee of the Red Cross has complained about the continued mistreatment of prisoners being detained. And as investigative reports and the film Taxi to the Dark Side detail, the treatment of detainees at Bagram preceded and may have even led to the scandal and abuse at Abu Ghraib.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft oversaw the detention of thousands of Arabs and Muslims after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Ashcroft was almost held in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide copies of memos written in 2002 that Democratic Senators said could have laid a legal foundation for abuses that occurred at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.
“The U.S. invasion “was the right thing to do, and if we had to do it again, we would do exactly the same thing.” - Cheney, Meet the Press, Sept. 2006
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has long been one of the most influential architects of Bush's invasion of Iraq. He has been quoted as saying U.S. troops would be "greeted as liberators." Years after that pre-invasion quote, the country of Iraq was and remains completely unstable, with approximately 300,000 Iraqis and more than 4,000 US military personnel dead after the invasion. Innocent Iraqis were tortured and humiliated at Abu Ghraib prison while over a hundred prisoners were jailed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What's even more outrageous is Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton. The Wall Street Journal had reported that Halliburton officials met informally with representatives of Vice President Cheney's office back in October 2002 to figure out how best to jumpstart Iraq's oil industry following a war. Cheney and Halliburton denied it. In January 2004, the Army awarded Halliburton subsidiary KBR a no-bid contract worth up to $1.2 billion to rebuild the oil industry in southern Iraq.
"An individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe physical pain or suffering if a caterpillar was placed in the box." - Jay Bybee
Judge Jay Bybee counseled the White House on how to get away with war crimes. Now a federal judge, he led the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from November of 2001 to March 2003. He signed not only torture memos but also a memo purporting to legalize illegal and unconstitutional wars. He represents perhaps the most dangerous example of the Bush Administration's flouting of the rule of law. In August 2002, Bybee wrote a legal memo giving an incredibly narrow - and wrong - definition of torture, justifying the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." The Bush Administration later recanted the memo when it became the source of international outrage. His memos helped pave the way for the abuses seen at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“Reminding Donald Rumsfeld that he has committed atrocious acts of violence in the name of our country, something that myself and no one in my generation asked for, is only the tip of the iceberg of actions we need to participate in order to stop this war from continuing any further. Donald Rumsfeld shouldn't be allowed to walk the streets, let alone host fancy events where he gets to tell jokes and pretend that he's a normal man without blood on his hands. One of the things he said as we started reading our indictment was that he was no longer surprised when people acted as we did in his presence. And to that I say, great! Why should he be able to live a normal, peaceful life free of peaceful disruptions considering the war of aggression he unleashed upon an entire culture of people in the Middle East, specifically Iraq.” -Ashley Lopez, CODEPINK
In 2004, as Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was testifying at a Senate Armed Services hearing, clad in pink and holding pink signs "FIRE RUMSFELD," CODEPINK activists interrupted Rumsfeld as he began giving his opening statement apologizing for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners who were tortured in Abu Ghraib prison.
CIA Black Sites
“Despite the CIA’s claims to the Department of Justice and Congress that their actions helped to obtain valuable information to disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives, the torture report will show that this is false. For example, all the useful information from Zubaydah was obtained well before he was waterboarded a grand total of 83 times. “The CIA conflated what was gotten when, which led them to misrepresent the effectiveness of the program,” said an anonymous U.S. official who has seen the report.
The report details multiple ways in which the CIA misrepresented the utility of the torture program. It will reveal incriminating evidence about a network of secret detention facilities called “black sites.” It will also show that the CIA conflated the ranking of Al-Qaeda officials. In the case of Zubaydah, they claimed he was a senior Al-Qaeda operative, when in reality he was merely a facilitator for recruits.” -Cayman Kai, CODEPINK
In 2009, President Barack Obama said on national television that he was going to close Guantanamo. Over its history, since the first prisoners arrived on January 11, 2002, Guantanamo has imprisoned 779 detainees, most of whom were held without charge or trial. As of May 1, 2018, 40 detainees remain imprisoned at Guantanamo. The prison camp is not only an outrageous violation of the rights of the hundreds who have been held there, but it is a blight on the history of the United States.
In 2017, President Donald Trump revealed in a live television interview that he feels torture absolutely works. Eventually, he would sign an executive order to reactivate “black sites.” In February 2017, he appointed Gina Haspel as CIA director. In 2018, the President signed another executive order to keep the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba open.
Gina Haspel, Director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
“It is common knowledge that Gina Haspel followed illegal orders to supervise torture in a secret black site prison in Thailand called Cat’s Eye. Torture included waterboarding, mock executions by firing squad with the victim blindfolded, putting prisoners in a coffin-sized box with insects. Gina earned the nickname given her by her fellow CIA mates as “Bloody Gina.” The excuse offered to Haspel by collaborationist Senators was that at this time “enhanced interrogations” had been suddenly declared legal by three US Department of Justice lawyers, including John Yoo.
These lawyers had turned themselves into little Daniel Websters and said torture is not torture unless the victim dies from the practice of torture or there is organ failure. Of course, this convenient re-definition was arbitrarily written by one offending party years after we had signed on to the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. It was also long after we had prosecuted Nazis and Japanese war criminals under the Nuremberg Principles, which held that obeying orders that violate human rights are illegal. Most people know B.S. when they see it, but with too many politicians, B.S. is their second language.” -David Barrow, Witness Against Torture/CODEPINK