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Thursday, March 20, 2003

US invades Iraq

The U.S. plan to invade Iraq began in September 2000 with a report by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Political preparation for war began in earnest during the period of weapons inspections in Iraq over the winter of 2002-2003, carried out by a team led by Hans Blix with the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The U.S. and its principal allies, the United Kingdom and Spain, maintained a sceptical position on the results of the inspections procedure. The contention that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction became the central rationale for the invasion of Iraq.

On March 20, 2003, forces were deployed in Iraq belonging primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq. Ground forces from Australia and Poland and naval forces from Australia, Denmark and Spain played militarily minor, if politically significant, roles (from Wikipedia).

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Minority of Americans oppose torture, decreased from last year

Today Fox News will publish a poll including a comparison of attitudes of Americans on torture to those of one year ago.

33. Do you favor or oppose allowing the government to use any means necessary, including physical torture, to obtain information from prisoners that might/would (2003/2002) protect the United States from terrorist attacks?

Favour Oppose Depends Not sure
% % % %
11-12 Mar 03 44 42 5 9
11-12 Mar 02 41 47 4 8
Note that question 33 was asked as "might protect" in 2003, as opposed to "would protect" in 2002, indicating that support for torture and the circumstances in which torture is employed is increased.

Favour Oppose Depends Not sure
% % % %
11-12 Mar 03 44 42 5 9
11-12 Mar 02 41 47 4 8

Monday, March 10, 2003

Media: deaths in custody

The New York Times and other media report on at least two deaths of detainees held in US custody at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Officially described as deaths by "natural causes", however a document produced by relatives of one of the deceased will describe his death as homicide, a result of "blunt force injuries to the lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease".

On 20 May 2005, The New York Times will publish a lengthy article naming the men and describing how they were killed. There stories are now contained in separate posts: Dilawar, and Habibullah.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Memo: redefining torture

A memo entitled "Working Group Report On Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism; Assessment of Legal, Historical, Policy, and Operational Considerations" (pdf)(html) is created. The following are selected quotes. On the definition of torture:
In sum, the obligations under the Torture Convention apply to the interrogation of unlawful combatant detainees, but the Torture Convention prohibits torture only as defined in the U.S. Understanding, and prohibits "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment" only to the extent of the U.S. Reservation relating to the U.S. Constitution.
Regarding the "US understanding" of torture, the memo notes:
18 U.S.C. Section 2340 defines as torture any "act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain".
Needless to say, Guantanamo Bay is deemed to be outside of the jurisdiction of Section 2340, however it does apply to US operations in Afghanistan. Subsequently, the two potential weasel-phrases "intended" and "severe" are focused upon. With respect to the word "intended", the memo states
the infliction of such pain must be the defendant's precise objective
but further, the defendant's reasonable knowledge that severe pain would result from an action is not sufficient for intent
knowledge alone that a particular result is certain to occur does not constitute specific intent ... Thus, even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith. Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his custody or physical control.
Thus, torture is redefined. However, just in case there is any room left for an action that the US takes to be deemed torture, the memo states the following
In light of the President's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President's ultimate authority in these areas.
This memo will be published by the Wall Street Journal in one year and two month's time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

The Dark Place, Pakistan

Today, a detainee at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, will be questioned by two special agents. His response recorded will eventually be made available due to NGO's Freedom of Information Act request. An excerpt of what he claims occurred is reproduced below (page 3969).
After being interviewed by the two females, he was taken to the "dark place". At the "dark place," a hood was placed over his head and he was yelled at and beaten. [censored] stated that because of this treatment at the hands of his captors he provided the interrogators with whatever information that they wanted to hear.
Next month, on 16 April 2003, another prisoner will be questioned. "The purpose of the interview was for the new agents to build rapport with [censored] and encourage his continued cooperation", so they began by apologising for a previous inconveniencing of him, and "offered encouragement and pointed out he had been moved up to level 2 within the camp as a sign of good faith." He then volunteered information about a similar sounding "dark place" to that mentioned above (page 4000)
[censored] then volunteered that following his arrest in Pakistan, he was moved to a place they call "The Dark Prison" because there was no light. At this prison, run by the Pakistanis, [censored] stated he was beaten, tortured and threatened with weapons.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Media: Detainees finger-nails torn out after rendition to Egypt

Tom Brune, "An aggressive interrogation", Newsday, quotes Vince Cannistraro, former director of CIA's counter-terrorism centre, on the treatment of a Guantanamo Bay Detainee who was sent to Egypt for "failing to cooperate": "They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things".