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 I received a note from the Center for Justice and Accountability that I wish to share with my readers. I was particularly pleased since in the past I had criticized such kind of human rights activists for only becoming active with torturers and wrongdoers in the "third world" thus participating in the propaganda on the superiority of  Western rule of law....So Here is the message.

Burmese Monks  415 544 0444 · info@cja.org · cja.org Dear Friends:Last week, President Obama released four declassified memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under the Bush administration.  These memos provided a legal framework for the torture of detainees held by the CIA in connection with the "War on Terror."

The contents of the memos are spine-chilling. Government lawyers employed strained legal reasoning to eviscerate the definition of torture under international and domestic U.S. law.  In effect, these memos gave the imprimatur of the U.S. Justice Department to abhorrent and illegal acts.  The memos authorized interrogators to slam a prisoner's head against a wall repeatedly; to deprive prisoners of sleep for eleven days at a time; and even to subject prisoners to 'waterboarding,' a technique of controlled suffocation that was used extensively by the Spanish Inquisition and by the Khmer Rouge during the genocide in Cambodia.  As a result of these legal opinions, one prisoner was water-boarded 183 times.

In one of the memos, Steven G. Bradbury, then Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, opines on what constitutes "prolonged mental harm" as a result of torture.  He juxtaposes waterboarding, which is used to "induce a sensation of drowning," with the game of "Russian roulette" which CJA's clients, Kemal Mehinovic, Muhamed Bicic, Safet Hadzialijagic and Hasan Subasic, experienced while being held in a Bosnian detention camp.  Strangely, Bradbury concludes that that waterboarding is an acceptable form of torture but "Russian roulette" is not.  Needless to say, CJA's clients who have been subjected to waterboarding would disagree.

In the statement accompanying the release of these memos, President Obama stated that he believes strongly in "transparency and accountability."  Certainly, transparency is a virtue, and more light must be shed on the torture program outlined in these memos.  But transparency alone will not serve to deter torture unless it is followed by accountability.  The disclosure of these memos is only the first step in ensuring that the United States will never again violate the prohibition against torture.  It is time to make the next step.

In order to hold the authors of these memos accountable, CJA joins human rights groups around the world in calling on Congress and the Obama administration to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute U.S. officials responsible for torture.  Those held responsible should include the interrogators who committed torture, the lawyers and senior officials who authorized torture, and the medical personnel who oversaw torture. 

Investigating torture is not only our moral duty: it is our legal obligation.  When the U.S. Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1994, we committed ourselves as a nation not only to refrain from torture but to prosecute perpetrators when there is evidence of a crime. 

Recent events show that if the U.S. government fails to enforce its own laws, foreign courts may step into the breach.  One effort to hold U.S. officials accountable in a foreign court is already underway.  On Friday, April 17th Judge Baltasar Garzón of the Spanish National Court decided that a criminal complaint against six Bush administration lawyers and advisers could proceed.  The complaint alleges that Spanish citizens detained at Guantánamo were subjected to a program of torture devised and authorized by senior Bush administration officials. Although CJA supports the principle of universal jurisdiction underlying the Spanish criminal complaint, we strongly believe that the endgame must be a formal investigation of the allegations of torture and prosecutions in the U.S. justice system. 

The timely release of the OLC torture memos and the Spanish criminal complaint underscore the urgent need for the U.S. government to take this essential step towards accountability. Our human rights reputation depends on it.

All the best,

Pamela Merchant
Executive Director

  P.S.: Your investment in CJA goes an extremely long way: for every dollar CJA receives, we deliver four dollars in value because of our network of pro bono attorneys, investigators and researchers. Donate online safely and securely: http://www.cja.org/donate/donate.shtml

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The Power of Ideas

A latecomer comment on the Obama-Chavez encounter. I find this news really amazing and I wish to share it with the Plunder Blog's readers: Barack Obama seemed surprised when Hugo Chavez has left his desk at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad to give him a book as a gift. But even more surprised was the publisher: the American edition of "The open veins of Latin America ", the masterpiece by Eduardo Galeano in 48 hours has become a bestseller jumping from 54.295 to the second place in the ranking of Amazon, the largest worldwide seller of books online. Unprecedented 'jump' for a text of 1971, published in the U.S. by the Socialist Monthly Rewiew Press and translated by Cedric Belfrage, a former British spy in the 40's, expelled from the U.S. durinf McCarthyism and repaired in Mexico in the 60s. This is not the first time that Chavez creates a bestseller: three years ago he cited Noam Chomsky in a speech to the UN, and " Hegemony or Survival " jumped from the 15.494 to first place. A good news in a sea of bed ones, regarding a book which is central for the argument supported in 'Plunder'... For the Italians reader: buon 25 aprile! Michele Spanò

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Spano's blog response got me

Spano's blog response got me thinking on a tangent that I wanted to share.

It seems to me that one of the things that has happened over the last 30 years or so, is a gradual creep to politically neo-conservative thought. The right has been very successful at pulling the discourse in this direction, and I think one reason for this is that they are willing to be unapologetic and take bold stands, knowign that if they can frame the conversation, and continue to find ways to legitimize far right actors, even if those people are not necessarily followed, that the conversation will move their way.

In other words, we need a new open radicalized left wing. The danger for people who take this stance is that they will be stigmatized/routinized, but perhaps only after having shifted the conversation a little bit back to the left. We need more writers like Chomsky, like Galeano... Most importantly, it seems to me that we need people with senority and experience from within the profession, who also possess a high degree of sophistication in their arguments to push back against the current conservativism of global politics and open up a space for a future generation to continue on this struggle. So, what exactly is the struggle, what are the arguments, and what is the best strategy to get us there?