Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Nick Baumann and David Corn, was originally published in Mother Jones, May 6, 2009
Who in the George W. Bush White House tried to shred a memo challenging the use of torture?
On April 21, Philip Zelikow, who was counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the Bush administration, revealed on Foreign Policy's "Shadow Government" blog that he wrote a memo in 2005 disputing the conclusions of Bush Justice Department lawyers that torture was legal. The existence of such a memo was a surprise. But Zelikow also disclosed that the "White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo.
"This story is not over. Zelikow tells Mother Jones that he doesn't know for sure who in the White House ordered the suppression of his memo, but he says that his "supposition at the time" was that the office of Vice President Dick Cheney was behind the cover-up. In an email exchange with Mother Jones, Zelikow notes that Cheney's office did not have the authority to request that his memo be deep-sixed: "They didn't run the interagency process. Such a request would more likely have come from the White House Counsel's office or from NSC staff." But that request did not reach him in written form. "It was conveyed to me, and I ignored it," Zelikow recalls. But he suspected that Team Cheney was probably behind it
Zelikow, who is scheduled to testify before a Senate judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday Wednesday, also notes that his memo was not the only one raising questions about the administration's legal rationale supporting so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques": "There were a number of papers, mainly arguing for alternative legal frameworks." But his memo, he adds, was "a more direct assault on [the Bush Justice Department's] own interpretation of American law."
(UPDATE: The Senate judiciary subcommittee just formally announced the testimony, which will be on Wednesday, not Tuesday, as earlier reports had indicated.)
Congressional Democrats are already seeking any surviving copies of Zelikow's memo. They might now also want to request these other papers. (No such documents have been declassified or released so far.)
Cheney's office was reportedly the hub of the Bush administration's torture program. And Neil Kinkopf, a law professor at Georgia State University, who served in the Clinton administration's Office of Legal Counsel, notes, "People in the White House—Dick Cheney for example; David Addington, his legal adviser—didn't want the existence of dissent to be known. It's not hard to imagine David Addington playing very hardball internal politics and not only wanting to prevail over the view of Zelikow but to annihilate it. It would be perfectly consistent with how he operated." Zelikow, who ran the 9/11 Commission before joining the State Department, wrote in his original blog post that he believed the administration had failed to erase the evidence of his dissent: "I expect that one or two [copies of the memo] are still at least in the State Department's archives." And four top congressional Democrats on Monday wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [PDF] and Adrienne Thomas, the acting national archivist [PDF], requesting surviving copies of the Zelikow memo.
In their letter to Clinton, the Democrats—Reps. John Conyers, Howard Berman, Jerry Nadler, and Bill Delahunt—ask for a search of the archives that Zelikow believes may contain his memo. But the Dems' letter to the archivist requests more. In that letter, Conyers and the others request the Zelikow memo along with "[c]opies of any 'documentary materials'" that "mention or refer to" the Zelikow memorandum or "are related to or reflect any effort by an official of the Bush Administration to collect, destroy, or impede the preservation or retention of this memorandum." In other words, they are looking for evidence of who attempted to bury Zelikow's opposing view.
This could even have legal implications. Federal law—including the Presidential Records Act—requires that the White House adhere to strict record-keeping standards. If a White House official tried to disappear an inconvenient memo, he or she might have committed a crime. Concerning the Presidential Records Act, the Bush administration never was a stickler. If millions of emails can disappear, what's one memo?
The Dems want to get Zelikow's allegations of a cover-up on the record and under oath, and they will. In his email to Mother Jones, Zelikow says that when he testifies next week he plans to "go through a brief chronology of the various arguments for changing the administration position." But since Zelikow doesn't appear to know who attempted to smother his memo, congressional Democrats may have to do some legwork—which could include questioning various Bush White House officials—to solve this latest Bush-era mystery.
Pasadena City College, Building R room 122
1570 E. Colorado Blvd in Pasadena
All are welcome to attend this forum for veterans, military families, and experts to share their views and experiences concerning the military. We will address the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. We will also have a question and answer session.
Boots on the Ground-Marine Infantry (Iraq Veterans Against the War)
History's Relevance-Vietnam Veterans Against the War
A Daily Sacrifice-Military Families Speak Out
The Ultimate Sacrifice-Gold Star Families
Military Combat Strategy-Why the U.S. can't win an occupation
Guests should park in the designated student lot and follow the signs to building R room 122. Make sure to pay the $2 fee for parking and display it on your dashboard to avoid college citations. Please be prepared to register by showing identification and association to an organization (if any) the day of the event. All attendees should have proper registration to be allowed in by security personnel.
This is a peaceful and informative gathering. Attendees agree to abide to a strict Code of Conduct by registering and by presence. Violence, slander, or any other disruptive activity will not be tolerated and attendees displaying such behavior will be asked to leave.
Dinner and snacks will be provided and donations are highly encouraged and appreciated.
The event will also include informational resources from:
Military Families Speak Out
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Veterans for Peace
Orange County Recruitment Awareness Project
Addicted to War
Peace Action West
SoCal Oath Keepers
For more information or to volunteer to help out at the event, please email Wendy Barranco at email@example.com. Members of the media contact should contact Pat Alviso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, by Mark Townsend, was published by The Observer, February 22, 2009
Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by US guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantánamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.
Mohamed will arrive back tomorrow in the UK, where he was a British resident between 1984 and 2002. During medical examinations last week, doctors discovered injuries and ailments resulting from apparently brutal treatment in detention.
Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which have been exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo's guards to give him counselling.
Mohamed's British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten "dozens" of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks. He said: "He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages."
Lieutenant colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed's US military attorney, added: "He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don't like to think about it because my country is behind all this."
The former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who campaigned for Guantánamo Bay to be closed, said any allegation of US abuse against a British resident inside the prison should be urgently raised by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
"If there are credible accounts of mistreatment then they need to be pursued," said Goldsmith.
Claims that Mohamed was beaten during the period after President Obama announced Guantánamo's closure in January risk harming diplomatic relations between the administration and the British government. Prime minister Gordon Brown is believed to have raised Mohamed's case with the US president during their first talk following Obama's inauguration two months ago.
Stafford Smith, the director of legal charity Reprieve, said yesterday that Mohamed had been routinely beaten by Guantánamo's notorious emergency reaction force, a six-strong team of guards in riot gear who have been the subject of previous abuse allegations. The alleged beatings were routinely administered against Mohamed "for no reason" and some were "recent" according to Stafford Smith.
Upon his return to England after more than four years inside Guantánamo, Mohamed will be taken to a secure, secret location in order for him to be fully rehabilitated by a team of volunteer doctors and psychiatrists. Mohamed will be kept under a "voluntary security arrangement" which involves reporting to the authorities, but he will not be subject to an anti-terror control order. His lawyers reiterate that he has nothing to hide after US terror charges against him were dropped last year.
Mohamed will not be debriefed upon his arrival by the British authorities or face any interview from the British security agencies. At least one MI5 officer is currently waiting to hear whether he will face a criminal investigation over alleged complicity in the torture of Mohamed, who settled in Kensington, west London, after arriving from Ethiopia as a teenage asylum seeker.
Mohamed's eventual testimony may also shed light on MI5's alleged complicity in his interrogation and alleged torture. One likely step will involve suing the British government and its security services over potential allegations of complicity in his illegal detention, abduction, treatment and interrogation.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent reviewer of the anti-terrorism laws, warned yesterday that, once settled, Mohamed's possible legal action against the US or British authorities could force them to disclose vital evidence relating to the torture allegations.
Following his arrest in Pakistan more than six years ago, Mohamed has claimed he was told by British government officials that everything would be done to help him.
Lt Col Bradley, who is staying in England until Thursday to welcome Mohamed, said the most crucial issue was stabilising his health. Mohamed's weight has fallen from 170lbs to about 125lbs. "He needs to get his weight back on and start eating," she said.
Mohamed's return to England coincides with signs that the government is preparing to accept more detainees from Guantánamo in the face of increasing US pressure to help shut the camp.
The Foreign Office appears to be softening its stance towards accepting more detainees from the prison after last month insisting there were "no plans" to accept more inmates. The position has now shifted to a statement explaining that "no formal decision has been made" on the UK accepting detainees from other countries.
A Foreign Office source added that all cases were now being reviewed on an individual basis by the home secretary Jacqui Smith. This comes amid intensifying pressure from the US authorities, with the Observer learning that direct requests for Britain to accept more detainees have now been lodged by the Obama administration. Sources at the US department of defence said talks were ongoing with countries, including the UK, to re-house inmates.
Dean Boyd, spokesman for the US department of justice, said: "We will undoubtedly need the assistance of our close friends and allies as we work towards closing Guantánamo."
Goldsmith said Britain should accept prisoners from the camp if it would help Obama to close it down.
British citizens and residents mentioned in the report is Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, from Rochdale, who claims he was tortured by Pakistani intelligence agents before being questioned by two MI5 officers. Ahmed was convicted of being a member of al-Qaida at Manchester crown court, yet the jury was not told that three of the fingernails of his left hand had been removed. The response from MI5 to the allegations that it had colluded in Ahmed's torture were heard in camera, however, after the press and the public were excluded from the proceedings. Ahmed's description of the cell in which he claims he was tortured closely matches that where Salahuddin Amin, 33, from Luton, says he was tortured by ISI officers between interviews with MI5 officers.
Zeeshan Siddiqui, 25, from London, who was detained in Pakistan in 2005, also claims he was interviewed by British intelligence agents during a period in which he was tortured.
Other cases include that of a London medical student who was detained in Karachi and tortured after the July 2005 attacks in London. Another case involving Britons allegedly tortured in Pakistan and questioned by UK agents involves a British Hizb ut-Tahrir supporter.
Rashid Rauf, from Birmingham, was detained in Pakistan and questioned over suspected terrorist activity in 2006. He was reportedly killed after a US drone attack in Pakistan's tribal regions, though his body has never been found.
Hasan said: "What the research suggests is that these are not incidents involving one particular rogue officer or two, but rather an array of individuals involved over a period of several years.
"The issue is not just British complicity in the torture of British citizens, it is the issue of British complicity in the torture period. We know of at least 10 cases, but the complicity probably runs much deeper because it involves a series of terrorism suspects who are Pakistani. This is the heart of the matter.
"They are not the same individuals [MI5 officers] all the time. I know that the people who have gone to see Siddiqui in Peshawar are not the same people who have seen Ahmed in Rawalpindi."
Last night the government faced calls to clarify precisely its relationship with Pakistan's intelligence agencies, which are known to routinely use torture.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that an investigation by the British security services had revealed "there is nothing to suggest they have engaged in torture in Pakistan". He added: "Our policy is not to participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture, or inhumane or degrading treatment, for any purpose."
But former shadow home secretary David Davis said the claims from Pakistan served to "reinforce" allegations that UK authorities, at the very least, ignored Pakistani torture techniques.
"The British agencies can no longer pretend that 'Hear no evil, see no evil' is applicable in the modern world," he added.
Last week HRW submitted evidence to parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights. The committee is to question Miliband and Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, over a legal loophole which appears to offer British intelligence officers immunity in the UK for any crimes committed overseas.
It has also emerged that New York-based HRW detailed its concerns in a letter to the UK government last October but has yet to receive a response.
The letter arrived at the same time that the Attorney General was tasked with deciding if Scotland Yard should begin a criminal investigation into British security agents' treatment of Binyam Mohamed. Crown prosecutors are currently weighing up the evidence.
Hasan said that evidence indicated a considerable number of UK officers were involved in interviewing terrorism suspects after they were allegedly tortured. He told the Observer: "We don't know who the individuals [British intelligence officers] were, but when you have different personnel coming in and behaving in a similar fashion it implies some level of systemic approach to the situation, rather than one eager beaver deciding it is absolutely fine for someone to be beaten or hung upside down."
He accused British intelligence officers of turning a blind eye as UK citizens endured torture at the hands of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.
"They [the British] have met the suspect ... and have conspicuously failed to notice that someone is in a state of high physical distress, showing signs of injury. If you are a secret service agent and fail to notice that their fingernails are missing, you ought to be fired."
Britain's former chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, said that the Foreign Office would want to examine any British involvement in torture allegations very carefully and, if necessary, bring individuals "to book" to ensure such behaviour was "eradicated".
WASHINGTON — President Obama gave his national security team on Wednesday a new mission to end the war in Iraq, nearly six years after United States-led forces invaded, but he held off ordering a troop withdrawal right away to hear concerns and options from his military commanders.
On his first full day in office, Mr. Obama summoned senior civilian and uniformed officials to the White House to begin fulfilling his campaign promise to pull combat forces out of Iraq in 16 months. Among those meeting with Mr. Obama was Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander of American forces in the Middle East, who had not seen him since the Nov. 4 election.
“I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq,” Mr. Obama said in a written statement after the meeting. He added that he planned to “undertake a full review of the situation in Afghanistan in order to develop a comprehensive policy for the entire region.”
While the economy has overtaken Iraq on Mr. Obama’s agenda, his opposition to the war was the original foundation of his presidential race, and ending it stands as perhaps the most salient test of his commitment to his campaign promises. Yet fulfilling his pledge also could put him at odds from the start with generals who worry that acting too quickly may jeopardize the progress achieved since President Bush sent in more forces and General Petraeus revamped the strategy two years ago.
The meeting on Wednesday served mainly to brief Mr. Obama on the state of affairs in Iraq. He heard from Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of forces in Iraq, who participated by secure videoconference from Baghdad, and the departing United States ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker. The session did not focus on specific withdrawal proposals but instead featured a broad discussion of the political climate and security situation, according to senior officials.
Among the topics were the challenges as Iraq moves through a series of critical elections this year and the required changes to the location, size and mission of the American military force under a new agreement between Washington and Baghdad, the officials said. General Petraeus also weighed in on the regional implications of Iraq.
Military planners have prepared a series of possible withdrawal plans that, in the words of one official, “range from conservative to aggressive.” One of them matches the president’s 16-month timetable, although Mr. Obama always envisioned a substantial “residual force” remaining beyond that to train Iraqi forces and hunt terrorist cells.
Senior officials said another proposal for a more gradual withdrawal was drawn up to meet the terms of the agreement recently sealed by Mr. Bush and Iraqi officials, which requires the United States to pull combat forces out of Iraqi cities by June and to withdraw all troops from the country by the end of 2011.
General Odierno initially favored withdrawing just 2 of the remaining 14 combat brigades by summer or fall, and military planners drew up a faster option only in recent weeks, on the assumption Mr. Obama would ask for it. But a number of senior officers have warned about the risks of a rapid withdrawal, military officials said.
Since the election, Mr. Obama has reaffirmed his intention to end the war, while leaving room to rethink the details by saying he would listen to his commanders before issuing any orders. In his Inaugural Address on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said, “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people.”
Aides said he was taking a cautious approach to make sure that his promise would be executed effectively and safely for the troops. “This will start a planning process,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said before the meeting.
Some opponents of the war said they intended to hold Mr. Obama to his campaign promise. “I take him at his word,” said Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, a group opposing the Iraq conflict. “He could not have been clearer as a candidate. There’s no reason for me to believe he will not fulfill that campaign pledge of 16 months.”
At the same time, some veterans of the Bush White House warned against making precipitous moves, or even changing the mission. Peter D. Feaver, a national security aide to Mr. Bush, said a key to the turnaround in Iraq in the past two years was the decision to redefine the mission, focusing it on protecting the civilian population.|
“It may sound like an easy thing to do, and it is certainly the president’s call,” said Mr. Feaver, now a professor at Duke University. “But there are risks associated with changing the mission, so it shouldn’t be done lightly.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Obama and his advisers said it was important to signal a commitment from his presidency’s inception. On the campaign trail last summer, Mr. Obama said, “My first day in office, I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war responsibly and deliberately but decisively.”
In fact, he did not call in the Joint Chiefs, but he did invite their chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser; Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff; and other top advisers. Hillary Rodham Clinton was not confirmed as secretary of state until after the meeting got under way.
Officials said Mr. Obama would meet in the coming days with the rest of the Joint Chiefs, who include the heads of all four services.
This brief report, byBarry Schweid, was published by the Associated Press, January 21, 2009.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama is preparing to tap George Mitchell, the former Senate Democratic leader, for a top diplomatic post for the Middle East.
Officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the new administration is preparing to announce the appointment shortly. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not been authorized to disclose it publicly.
Mitchell would assist Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's pick for secretary of State. The Senate was expected to vote on Clinton's nomination Wednesday.
The parameters of Mitchell's role were not immediately clear. Recent reports said Dennis Ross, longtime U.S. negotiator, would be named an adviser to Clinton.
Mitchell, 75, took on difficult diplomatic assignments during President Bill Clinton's presidency.
This article was published by Agence France Presse, January 21, 2009.
New President Barack Obama on Wednesday made a flurry of calls to Arab and Israeli leaders in a signal that Middle East peacemaking is a top priority following an Israeli offensive in Gaza.
A Palestinian spokesman said that Obama had told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that he was the recipient of his first call as the 44th US president.
The White House source confirmed the calls, on condition of anonymity, and said Obama also telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel, are key mediators between the Jewish state and the Palestinians, including in efforts to clinch a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.
More than a week after Israel launched its December 27 assault in the Gaza Strip to halt rocket fire from the Islamist movement Hamas, Obama promised to engage in Middle East diplomacy "immediately" upon taking office January 20.
Obama promised Abbas to work toward a "durable peace" in the Middle East, Abba's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
"He said he would deploy every possible effort to achieve peace as quickly as possible," the spokesman added. "President Abbas urged him to work towards peace based on international resolutions."
A close Abbas aide admitted surprise at the speed with which Obama moved.
"We were not expecting such a quick call from President Obama but we knew how serious he is about the Palestinian problem," said Yasser Abed Rabbo.
"The speed of the call is a message signalling to all concerned parties that the Palestinian people has one address and that's president Abbas."
The Islamist Hamas movement ousted Abbas' Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007, deepening divisions between the two camps.
"It also shows the level of seriousness that we hope to see translated into practice in the future," Abed Rabbo said.
"This message after the Israeli massacre in Gaza shows that President Obama realizes that the only way out of this tragedy is a political settlement guaranteeing the rights of the Palestinian people."
He was referring to the 22-day Israeli assault on the strip that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, including at least 400 children.
Hillary Clinton, Obama's choice for secretary of state who is expected to face a Senate vote Wednesday for her confirmation, said recently that she would rule out engaging with Hamas.
The Senate will hold a roll call vote on Clinton's appointment the day after Obama was inaugurated, a Democratic leadership source said.
Obama then plans to name former Northern Ireland peacemaker George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy, aides told the Washington Post, adding the move is to send a signal the new administration wants to deal quickly with the conflict.
Mitchell, 75, is a retired US senator who steered the tough negotiations that led to lasting peace in Northern Ireland. He is the son of a Lebanese immigrant mother, and of an Irish father who when orphaned was adopted by a Lebanese family.