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Human Rights Law

: Never In Our Names

Lives In The Balance

By Alexa

By way of disclaimer, I understand the desire for prosecution of war crimes. I want justice as much as the next cowgirl. With nothing but admiration, for initiative is always worthy of respect, I can't agree with The Citizens Petition: Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes. I disagree with respect, for reasons I'll try to explain.

Physicians For Human Rights' Broken Laws, Broken Lives campaign has a petition which is quoted in part in the Citizen's Petition via this preface statement by Major General Anthony Taguba:

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba and PHR continue:

Because the United States is founded on principles of human rights and equal justice under law, we call on the US government to:

  • fully investigate and hold accountable those who ordered torture;
  • issue an official apology to survivors of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guant?namo Bay;
  • and make reparation, including compensation and medical and psycho-social services.

I think this is correct, the right path. A fact-finding or truth commission is essential in uncovering how much torture and how many disappeared we don't know about before demanding prosecution.

There can be no justice without a meticulous inventory.

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that between the ghost detainees, ghost ships, ghost planes, black sites, and the hundreds to thousands of civilians and military personnel who were either silent or complicit in the torture, we know only fragments of the story. These fragments are overwhelming, I know. They're shocking and deplorable -- but they are fragments nonetheless.

I would much prefer to learn as much of the truth as we possibly can and favor full investigations, even with immunity, as there are (to borrow a phrase from Jackson Browne) literally thousands of lives in the balance.

Most interesting to me in Cheney's recent uncharacteristic openness about his role in torture is his obsession (which I suspect is not only his but one shared by many of the principals) with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

No argument from me that KSM is a murderous monster. However, it is also true that innocents, including his young children, other family members (Aafia Siddiqui, his sister in law by marriage and her husband and children), neighbors and people who might have met him once have been disappeared or detained and tortured for information about him.

It seems in a sick, surreal way that KSM may have been more important to BushCo than OBL. The names KSM gave up under torture are people young and old, some misidentified, hunted and thrown into torture gulags around the world.

I'd like to know who they are and where they are. I also want to know where Dr. Aafia's children are.

There are 78,500 known prisoners between Bagram and the Iraqi jails.

There are APA and AMA members who witnessed crimes and didn't report them or have even participated in the cover-up.

There are tens of thousands of military, paramilitary and civilian witnesses to the ongoing crimes of the Torture Administration, including murder. Yes, I said murder. They have maintained silence almost to a person, but all this says to me is that they fear prosecution and would, if given a safe venue, tell us what they've observed, or some portion thereof.

If you had been shackled and silenced at Guantanano or Bagram for seven years, I think you deserve an explanation.

If you've lost your family, your home and your very life as you knew it due to Bush's misguided war of attrition on Iraq, I think you deserve some answers.

And if you are undocumented, a ghost detainee, one of the thousands hidden from the International Red Cross in a a living grave in Egypt or renditioned to the Uzbekistan or Diego Garcia black sites, then I believe that without a fact-finding commission, you are considered "evidence" more than a human being and calls for criminal investigation put you at more danger than this citizen would ever risk.

If the Bush administration is given immunity in exchange for cooperation, that doesn't protect them from prosecution in international court.

Lives in the balance. Too many lost, too many broken.

There is no justice without truth.

Full post as published by Never In Our Names on December 27, 2008 (boomark / email).

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