With several American cities planning actions against police brutality, racial discrimination and long overdue reforms in the justice system, the last thing the political class in Washington would want is for the public to see damning video evidence of force feedings of hunger striking men at Guantanamo Bay Prison.
The videotapes in question, currently classified as secret, show forcible cell removals and force feedings of “terror suspects” who have been held at the offshore prison since 2002. Their lawyers call the hunger strikes "a cry of humanity from those who feel they have no choice left" because they have been cleared for release since 2009!
Federal Judge Gladys Kessler has ordered the government to release the videos. Over 15 charity organizations and human rights groups have also said the videos should be made public under the First Amendment. They say the tapes are a national scandal, and the best approach is to rip off the Band-Aid, confess the mistake, and fix the abuse going on at the base.
According to a report released last month by the United Nations Committee Against Torture, force-feeding is a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. The heads of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have also criticized the concealment of the tapes. In a letter to President Obama, they stated, "Ongoing secrecy is untenable."
The new developments, however, shine considerable light on what was done and is still being done in the torture chambers the CIA was “instructed” to create and operate in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision by a Federal judge to order the government to release the tapes opens a hopeful new chapter in the effort to hold to account those responsible.
That explains why former Bush administration officials – including president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney – are so nervous now. They don’t waste time in voicing criticism of Judge Kessler’s decision - for their DNAs can be found from top to bottom of the chain of command on torture.
Cheney has publicly confessed to ordering war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Asked about torture methods such as waterboarding in a recent ABC News interview, Cheney replied, "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared. I still believe torture was an appropriate method to use on the terrorism suspects.”
Former CIA director Michael Hayden has also confirmed that the agency tortured Al-Qaeda suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan. US courts hold that waterboarding, where water is poured into someone's nose and mouth until he nearly drowns, constitutes torture. The US Federal War Crimes Act also defines torture as a war crime punishable by life imprisonment.
Under the doctrine of command responsibility, commanders all the way up the chain of command to the president can be held liable for war crimes if they knew or should have known their subordinates would commit them and they did nothing to stop it. Those who openly admit to what has long been known - that they violated the laws of war and international treaties - are war criminals and must be held to account in the Hague Tribunal.
Although the tapes are said to involve only those CIA people who went beyond the Department of Justice's guidelines regarding harsh interrogation, the investigation should not be kept within such tight parameters. It must also include top American and European officials who facilitated rendition flights to transfer terror suspects to the CIA prisons worldwide.
They shouldn’t be allowed to escape from being held to account: The most rotten apples - George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Tony Blair - were at the top of the torture basket.