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Multifaith Voices For Peace and Justice Joins a National Religious Campaign Against Torture

At its May 23, 2006 meeting, the Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice Steering Committee voted to become endorsing members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The following is an editorial written by committee member Craig Wiesner on behalf of the organization.

Following the editorial you will find extensive documentation and links substantiating the contents of the editorial.

 

Editorial

 

Imagine if one of your children, your husband or wife, your mother or father, sister or brother were dragged from your home in the dark of night, or snatched from the streets in the light of day, a hood placed over the head, flown to a far-off land, body stripped naked and thrown on the concrete floor of a bare cell. Day after day, loud music, bright lights, snarling dogs and endless interrogations make sleep impossible and waking hours a living hell. Temperatures alternate between hellish heat and freezing cold. Imagine his head held under a soaking towel, water poured over the towel and dripping into the covered nose and mouth, so much water seeping through until it felt like drowning. Imagine one day they remove the hood, so she can witness what appears to be the gang rape of another detainee. Later, a female guard walks into the cell, removes the hood again. The guard puts her hand into her own pants, pulls her hand out and smears what feels and smells like menstrual blood on the prisoner’s face. Imagine your loved one sobbing alone in that cell, no idea if or when this ordeal will end, no idea if anyone outside the walls of this prison knows she is even alive. Weeks, months, even years go by, endless interrogation yielding nothing for there is nothing to yield, despite shackled hands and feet, a body chained in excruciating positions for hours at a time, skin smeared with excrement. Dignity and human kindness – are mere memories of the past.

 

Though we can not imagine many people in our community supporting such treatment, the President of the United States and his administration have approved each and every one of those acts as acceptable interrogation techniques. Even after Congress recently passed legislation banning such behavior, President Bush issued a carefully worded signing statement (commentary) indicating that he believes that as Commander in Chief, he is not constitutionally bound by that legislation.

 

As people of faith, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Unitarian Universalists, we are called to love every child, every human being who is part of God’s holy creation. When any person is treated in a cruel, inhumane, or degrading way, it is as though such treatment were rendered against all of humanity. Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, a Bay Area interfaith peace organization, has joined with religious leaders across the United States to declare a National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

The declaration states that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved – policy makers, perpetrators, and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

 

In joining this National Religious Campaign Against Torture, we urge the president to obey the will of Congress and the people of the United States. Specifically, we urge President Bush to remove all ambiguities by prohibiting:

  • Exemptions from the human rights standards established by Congress or by treaty through international law for any arm of our government;
  • The practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are apprehended and flown to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation;
  • Any disconnection of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” from the ban against “torture;”
  • The existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world; and
  • Any denial of Red Cross access to detainees held by our government overseas.

We also call for an independent investigation of the severe human rights abuses at U.S. installations like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

 

It saddens us that we even need to issue a declaration of this nature, to our own government here in the United States. Yet we must. Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the very soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?

 

Let America abolish torture now – without exceptions.

 

ABOUT MULTIFAITH VOICES FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE

Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice is a Bay Area interfaith peace organization that comes together from more than 36 diverse faith communities and traditions to put our convictions into action by saying NO to war and YES to peace and justice.

For more information, including comprehensive documentation of current U.S. policies on torture, please visit www.multifaithpeace.org

ABOUT THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS CAMPAIGN AGAINST TORTURE

As men and women of faith and conscience, we are joined together on a non-partisan basis in profound opposition to torture and cruel and inhuman practices by anyone for any purpose. As United States-based organizations, we feel particular responsibility for the abusive practices being utilized by the United States government today. The United States has historically been a leader in outlawing these practices. The ever-increasing evidence, however, makes it all too clear that current grim abuses are not isolated incidents, but rather constitute a widespread pattern.

Although our beliefs are rooted in many different religions, and although we worship in different ways and in different languages, we stand firmly united and unswerving on this crucial moral issue. Together we will work for the immediate cessation of torture by the United States, whether direct or by proxy, within our territory or abroad. We reject all proffered justifications and distorted definitions. Our condemnation of torture is not based on any political opinion or on the laws or treaties of any nations. Rather, we are guided by a higher law that serves as a compass for all of humanity. Further information can be found at http://www.nrcat.org

 


SUBSTANTIATION OF IMAGINE IF SCENARIO

Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, Amnesty International, and other organizations have gathered and made public documents which substantiate U.S. government approval of certain interrogation techniques. A comprehensive list of these techniques and records of government review and approval can be found at the Human Rights Watch web site at:

 

http://hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/0819interrogation.htm

 

In reviewing these techniques, some of which have vague wording (fear up / fear down, for example), others of which are quite detailed, every single act described in the initial paragraph of this editorial would be considered acceptable according to U.S. government officials and civilian advisors. While to date there have been prosecutions against some military personnel for abuses and murder of detainees, the author of this editorial has not seen evidence of any military person being prosecuted for the types of acts described in the Imagine If scenario.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a comprehensive database of all documents it has received under a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. These documents can be searched by key words.

 

http://www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/torturefoia.html

 

President Bush’s signing statement on the McCain amendment can be found at:

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/12/20051230-8.html

 

Specifically, in regard to the McCain amendment, the President said: “The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.

Statement of SPC, 321 MI BN; Annex to Fay/Jones/Kern Report (provided through ACLU FOIA)

 

Notes it was "common practice to use sleep deprivation and sleep management with the detainees It was also common that the detainees on MI hold in the hard site were initially kept naked and given clothing as an incentive to cooperate with us." Notes seeing a barking dog in an interrogation cell and refers to this as a "fear up" technique, and states that a female colleague told subject that she had stripped an uncooperative detainee and walked from the conex area to the Camp Vigilant area on a cold night of about 30 degrees. Reports knowledge of incident in which interrogators made a female detainee remove her shirt. Adds, "it was common knowledge that [redacted] used sleep deprivation and dogs while he was on his special projects, working directly for Col Pappas." Reports hearing of dogs being used on detainees and MPs referring to "doggy dance" sessions. Describes another incident in which two naked prisoners were made to crawl on the floor.

 

Report of CID Investigation DODDOACID001087-DODDOACID001117 (ACLU FOIA)

 

Detainee alleged that he was captured in Mid-April, 2004 at his house in Ammaria, held at a U.S. facility in Ammaria, then transferred to Baghdad Airport and, finally, Abu Ghraib. At Ammaria, two U.S. soldiers walked on his feet, back, and head, and pointed a rifle against his head. The soldiers came back in the middle of the night and forced him and other detainees to drink a water bottle filled with urine.

 

ABC News Report from Iraqi Detainees (November 15th) abcnews.com

"They took us to a cage - an animal cage that had lions in it within the Republican Palace," he said. "And they threatened us that if we did not confess, they would put us inside the cage with the lions in it. It scared me a lot when they got me close to the cage, and they threatened me. And they opened the door and they threatened that if I did not confess, that they were going to throw me inside the cage. And as the lion was coming closer, they would pull me back out and shut the door, and tell me, 'We will give you one more chance to confess.' And I would say, 'Confess to what?'"

Inside the Republican Palace -- the site of Saddam's former office -- Sabbar says troops taunted him with a mock execution.

"I found the other prisoners who had come before me there in the line beside me mocking, in a way as to make it a mock execution," he said. "They all stood up, those of us who could stand up. They directed their weapons towards us. And they shot, shot towards our heads and chests. And when the shots sounded, some of us lost consciousness. Some started to cry. Some lost control of their bladders. And they were laughing the whole time."

After a night in jail at the Republican Palace, Khalid says he was taken to the prison at the Baghdad airport where the torture continued.

"They put us in individual cells," he said. "And before entering those cells, they formed two teams of American soldiers -- one to the right, one to the left -- about 10 to 15 each American soldiers. And they were holding wooden sticks. It was like a hallway, like a passage. And they made us go that hallway while shouting at us as we were walking through and hitting us with the wooden sticks. They were beating us severely."

Khalid says U.S. soldiers deprived him of food, water, and sleep. He claims he began to suffer from stomach ulcers, but was denied medical care.

All the while, Khalid says, soldiers routinely asked for information about Saddam's whereabouts: "I said to him, 'How would I know where Saddam is?' And I thought that he was kidding me. And that's why I laughed. And he beat me again."

Khalid refuses to talk about one other allegation. In his legal complaint, he holds U.S. soldiers responsible for "Sexually assaulting and humiliating [him] ... by grabbing his buttocks and simulating anal rape by pressing a water bottle against the seat of his pants; putting a hand inside [his] ... pants and grabbing his buttocks during a severe beating ... (and) brandishing a long wooden pole and threatening to sodomize him on the spot and every night of his detention."

MSNBC Interview with Former Army Interrogator May 10th 2004 msnbc.com

“The story evolved, to some degree, this afternoon and tonight, that these other photos and videotape of which Secretary Rumsfeld spoke, as he described as “sadistic, cruel, inhuman,” and the U.S. officials have told NBC News, that on these tapes and photographs, they make these pictures, that we‘re looking at now, look like—essentially like nothing, that there is apparent rape, that there certainly are beatings—beatings to near death, and that there may have been Americans looking on as Iraqi guards raped young boys.”

 

Mock Rape and Meunstral Blood as Reported by New Yorker in May 2005

Critics also allege that the sere program has become a testing ground for interrogation techniques involving sexual embarrassment and humiliation. (Detainees at Guantánamo have complained of such methods, and the scandal at Abu Ghraib last year revealed that guards there photographed prisoners naked and in sexually humiliating poses.) A former military-intelligence officer who was familiar with practices at Guantánamo told me that a friend who had gone through Level C sere training, which lasts three weeks, said that he had been sexually ridiculed by females during the program. “They strip you naked and make you do work while women laugh at the size of your ‘junk,’ ” the intelligence officer told me. “Apparently, it’s very humiliating.” The sere affiliate described another disturbing training technique: the “mock rape.” In this exercise, a female officer stands behind a screen and screams as if she were being violated. A trainee is told that he can stop the rape if he cooperates with his captors.

Erik Saar is a former Army intelligence analyst at Guantánamo and the author of “Inside the Wire,” published in May, which first disclosed the interrogation incident involving fake menstrual blood. He told me that the perpetrator of this particular form of abuse might have come up with the idea herself. But he said that the notion of using sexual gambits to unnerve detainees was promoted by “the bscts, who were these psychiatrists and psychologists from Fort Bragg.” He went on, “The bscts would help interrogators strategize about what techniques to use, and where someone would be vulnerable, and what the best ways to manipulate them would be. Sex, I believe, came from the bscts. I have a hard time thinking it was a couple of rogue interrogators, if that’s what the Army says, because it was very systematic. It wasn’t hidden.”

Human Rights Watch Report on Nagm Sadoon Hatabwas

Former Baath Party official Nagm Sadoon Hatabwas found dead at Camp Whitehorse detention facility near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on June 6, 2003. The autopsy record said he died from “strangulation.” Military records state that Hatab was asphyxiated when a Marine guard grabbed his throat in an attempt to move him, accidentally breaking a bone that cut off his air supply. Another Marine is charged with kicking Hatab in the chest in the hours before his death - several of his ribs were broken. Hatab was also covered with feces and left under the sun for hours.



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