McDonald’s: No workers comp for employee shot protecting patron
By Muriel Kane
Fast food giant McDonald’s has denied workers compensation benefits to a minimum wage employee who was shot when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant.
A representative of the administrator for McDonald’s workers compensation plan explained that “we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett’s injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment.”
Nigel Haskett, then aged 21, was working at a McDonald’s in Little Rock, Arkansas last summer when he saw a patron, later identified as Perry Kennon, smacking a woman in the face. A surveillance video of the incident, which had been posted to YouTube, was taken down after McDonald’s charged copyright infringement, but according to written descriptions of the video, Haskett tackled Kennon, threw him out, and then stood by the door to prevent him from reentering.
(Update: The video is now available in a news report from KARK4 in Little Rock, which is not subject to copyright claims and which can be seen above.)
Kennon went to his car, returned with a gun, and shot Haskett multiple times. Haskett staggered back into the restaurant and collapsed.
Kennon, who has a long criminal record, was arrested a few days later and charged with first-degree battery. The judge at his arraignment praised Haskett as a hero.
Haskett has since undergone three abdominal surgeries and has incurred over $300,000 in medical bills. McDonald’s has declined to comment on their reasons for refusing his claim, because the case is still pending before the Workers Compensation Commission, but according to Haskett’s lawyer, Philip M. Wilson:
“McDonald’s position now is that during thirty-minute orientation Mr. Haskett and the other individuals going through the orientation were supposedly told that in the event of a robbery or anything like a robbery . . . not to be a hero and simply call 911. Mr. Haskett denies that anything like that was even mentioned during orientation or at any time during his employment with McDonald’s.”
McDonald’s may be on shaky legal ground in their attempt to deny benefits. As explained by the blog “Joe’s Union Review,” courts have repeatedly ruled that injuries incurred in the course of “good samaritan” acts while on the job are entitled to compensation, especially if they result in good will towards the employer.
“McDonald’s is really living up to it’s reputation as an evil empire,” another blog comments. “They’re no longer merely all about moving in on the little guy, or clogging your arteries with fry grease, or making kids big chunkers, but are also now turning on their employees.”
We have received the following press release from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel announcing the initiation of investigations of Israeli doctors for complicity with torture and other detainee abuse. If only US medical and psychological associations would similarly investigate complicity by US medical personnel (doctors, nurses, etc.) and psychologists in US torture. It looks like it will take considerablygreater pressurebefore US organizations like the American Psychological Association act:
18 February 2009
Following pressure from British and international groups:
Israel Medical Association to investigate possible doctor complicity with torture of prisoners
The Ethics Board of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) has agreed to investigate cases of possible complicity with torture of prisoners following international pressure and a letter listing specific cases sent by Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) and Public Committee Against Torture Israel (PCATI). In the letter, the groups called on the IMA to investigate 6 cases where there is strong suspicion of failure on behalf of prison doctors to document and report tell-tale signs of torture on inmates’ bodies and in their testimonies.
The cases described deal with inmates allegedly tortured during interrogations and doctors’ subsequent physical examinations of them. These incidents raise serious questions about the prison doctors’ documentation and reporting of signs of violence and torture they discovered on inmates’ bodies, which were corroborated by testimonies from the inmates themselves.
In the letter PHR urged the IMA to investigate all cases to determine the identities of the doctors in question, and a full picture of all actions taken after examining the inmates. In one instance, a prison doctor failed to follow up on his written recommendation to transfer an inmate to a hospital and instead agreed to postpone the recommendation after speaking with investigators. PHR-Israel and PCATI demand that incidents such as this be investigated.
“The cases described indicate a lack of awareness among physicians in hospitals and particularly in prison clinics, of the rules of medical ethics, especially in regards to the documentation of signs of violence and/or torture on inmates’ bodies and the complaints they express,” says the letter. “The cases described indicate that doctors do not report on the violence/torture and sometimes are susceptible to ‘pressure’ exerted on them by representatives of the security establishment that require them to act against the rules of medical ethics.”
Anat Litvin, Director of Prisoners and Detainees Department at PHR-Israel: “The Israeli medical Association has an obligation to investigate cases when doctors comply with torture, and pressure the Ministry of Health to take steps against them. We believe that doctors are used by torturers as a safety net – take them out of the system and torture will be much more difficult to enact.”
For more information: Libby Friedlander 054-245-7682
The Observer describes an upcoming Human rights Watch report claiming that British agents often interrogated detainees after the Pakistani intelligence services tortured them. It seems the British government employed the Pakistanis as their torturers:
UK agents ‘colluded with torture in Pakistan’
By Mark Townsend
A shocking new report alleges widespread complicity between British security agents and their Pakistani counterparts who have routinely engaged in the torture of suspects.
In the study, which will be published next month by the civil liberties group Human Rights Watch, at least 10 Britons are identified who have been allegedly tortured in Pakistan and subsequently questioned by UK intelligence officials. It warns that more British cases may surface and that the issue of Pakistani terrorism suspects interrogated by British agents is likely to “run much deeper”.
The report will further embarrass the foreign secretary, David Miliband, who has repeatedly said the UK does not condone torture. He has been under fire for refusing to disclose US documents relating to the treatment of Guantánamo detainee and former British resident Binyam Mohamed. The documents are believed to contain evidence about the torture of Mohamed and British complicity in his maltreatment. Mohamed will return to Britain this week. Doctors who examined him in Guantánamo found evidence of prolonged physical and mental mistreatment.
Ali Dayan Hasan, who led the Pakistan-based inquiry, said sources within the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau and the military security services had provided “confirmation and information” relating to British collusion in the interrogation of terrorism suspects.
Hasan said the Human Rights Watch (HRW) evidence collated from Pakistan intelligence officials indicated a “systemic” modus operandi among British security services, involving a significant number of UK agents from MI5 rather than maverick elements. Different agents were deployed to interview different suspects, many of whom alleged that prior to interrogation by British officials they were tortured by Pakistani agents.
Among the 10 identified cases of 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”.
Valtin has done us all a favor by transcribing one of the most important and disturbing of the torture documents, the minute of the October 2, 2002 planning meeting for developing SERE-based techniques for use at Guantanamo.
If you wish to repost this essay you can download a .txt file of the html here (right click and save). Permission granted.
What follows below was transcribed from a PDF of the original document (or a copy of same), posted on the website of Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It, along with a wealth of other documentation, was used in preparing the SASC’s highly critical report late last year on interrogations and detainee treatment, which concluded that high officials bore responsibility for the mistreatment and torture of prisoners under U.S. control.
The document below constitutes the minutes from a meeting held at Guantanamo in early autumn, 2002. It is presented with minimal editorial comment, as I believe it speaks for itself. So far as I know, no other transcription of this document, minus certain excerpts, has ever been published or posted before. It is done so here as a public service, to promote the position that prosecution of the government’s torture crimes is of paramount importance.
Cast of characters:
Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, the Staff Judge Advocate at Guantanamo; Lt. Col. Jerald Phifer, who sent a memo to Maj. Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey, Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) 170, requesting approval for more severe interrogation techniques” (Dunleavy told a superior that Phifer was his “point of contact” on interrogation matters); Major John Leso, a military psychologist, who was present at the torture interrogation of Mohammed al-Khatani (Leso, like Major Burney in the minutes, were members of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) — Burney is reportedly a psychiatrist — last month, the Convening Authority of Military Commissions at Guantanamo dropped the charges against al-Khatani, concluding his treatment amounted to torture); Dave Becker, representing the Defense Intelligence Agency; and John Fredman, then chief counsel to the CIA’s counter-terrorism center.
I’d like to make only two observations that I think are relevant at this point. One, it is clear that coercive interrogations amounting to torture had already begun at Guantanamo prior to this October 2002 meeting. In the document itself, the participants have a general discussion recalling how prisoner “063″, Mohammed al-Khatani, “has responded to certain types of deprivation and psychological stressors,” indicating, perhaps, that al-Khatani was some kind of experimental test case. (H/T to Trudy Bond, who noted this fact in an article published at Counterpunch earlier this year.)
Secondly, it struck me when transcribing these minutes the degree to which John Fredman, the CIA legal counsel and rep to this meeting, dominated the discussion. All the participants seem to bow to his authority, especially on legal issues, with Lt. Col. Beaver chiming in as well. While the BSCT members — who are the medical professionals present — appear to criticize “fear-based” interrogations techniques at the beginning of the meeting, in favor of rapport-building, as well as abusive environmental “approaches,” as the discussion veers more and more to propositions regarding blatant torture, like the “wet towel” (waterboarding) technique, nary a protest is heard from these individuals, who have by their actions disavowed the ethics of their medical and/or psychological professions.
One final note: the acronym SERE, which appears throughout, refers to the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape program found in the various military branches. Meant to inoculate U.S. servicemen against the rigors of enemy capture and torture, Sen. Levin’s investigation documented the various ways in which SERE methods were reverse-engineered to provide torture techniques for use by the military and CIA on prisoners held by under U.S. control. So far as we know, the first approach by the Defense Department (specifically, by DoD Chief Counsel William J. Haynes, II) to the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, parent department for SERE, regarding information on SERE techniques, was in December 2001, well before any legal memo by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel allowing (illegally) for abusive treatment of detainees. There can be no alibi that DoD was following legal advice or protected by presidential order at that point in time.
Re transcription: I have tried to follow as much as possible the layout, spelling, punctuation, and font emphasis of the original. Bullets have been changed to asterisks, arrows to long dashes. All brackets and parentheses are as in original, unless otherwise indicated.
Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting Minutes
Persons in Attendance:
COL Cummings, LTC Phifer, CDR Bridges, LTC Beaver, MAJ Burney, MAJ Leso, Dave Becker, John Fredman, 1LT Seek, SPC Pimentel
The following notes were taken during the aforementioned meeting at 1340 on October 2, 2002. All questions and comments have been paraphrased:
BSCT Description of SERE Psych Training (MAJ Burney and MAJ Leso)
* Identify trained resisters
* Al Qaeda Training
* Methods to overcome resistance
* Rapport building (approach proven to yield positive results)
* Friendly approach (approach proven to yield positive results)
* Fear Based Approaches are unreliable, ineffective in almost all cases
* What’s more effective than fear based strategies are camp-wide environmental stratetgies designed to disrupt cohesion and communication among detainees
* Environment should foster dependence and compliance
LTC Phifer: Harsh techniques used on our service members have worked and will work on some, what about those?
MAJ Leso: Force is risky, and may be ineffective due to the detainees’ frame of reference. They are used to seeing much more barbaric treatment.
– At this point a discussion about ISN 63 [Mohammed al-Qahtani] ensued, recalling how he has responded to certain types of deprivation and psychological stressors. After short discussion the BSCT continued to address the overall manipulation of the detainees’ environment.
* Psychological stressors are extremely effective (ie, sleep deprivation, withholding food, isolation, loss of time)
COL Cummings: We can’t do sleep deprivation
LTC Beaver: Yes, we can — with approval.
* Disrupting the normal camp operations is vital. We need to create an environment of “controlled chaos”
LTC Beaver: We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques. We must have the support of the DOD.
Becker: We have had many reports from Bagram about sleep deprivation being used.
LTC Beaver: True, but officially it is not happening. It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention.
COL Cummings: The new PSYOP plan has been passed up the chain
LTC Beaver: It’s at J3 at SOUTHCOM.
Fredman: The DOJ has provided much guidance on this issue. The CIA is not held to the same rules as the military. In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD has “moved” them away from the attention of the ICRC. Upon questioning from the ICRC about their whereabouts, the DOD’s response has repeatedly been that the detainee merited no status under the Geneva Convention. The CIA has employed aggressive techniques on less than a handful of suspects since 9/11.
Under the Torture Convention, torture has been prohibited by international law, but the language of the statutes is written vaguely. Severe mental and physical pain is prohibited. The mental part is explained as poorly as the physical. Severe physical pain described as anything causing permanent damage to major organs or body parts. Mental torture described as anything leading to permanent, profound damage to the senses or personality. It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong. So far, the techniques we have addressed have not proven to produce these types of results, which in a way challenges what the BSCT paper says about not being able to prove whether these techniques will lead to permanent damage. Everything on the BSCT white paper is legal from a civilian standpoint. [Any questions of severe weather or temperature conditions should be deferred to medical staff.] Any of the techniques that lie on the harshest end of the spectrum must be performed by a highly trained individual. Medical personnel should be present to treat any possible accidents. The CIA operates without military intervention. When the CIA has wanted to use more aggressive techniques in the past, the FBI has pulled their personnel from theatre. In those rare instances, aggressive techniques have proven very helpful.
LTC Beaver: We will need documentation to protect us
Fredman: Yes, if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be extremely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.
Becker: LEA personnel will not participate in harsh techniques
LTC Beaver: There is no legal reason why LEA personnel cannot participate in these operations
– At this point a discussion about whether or not to video tape the aggressive sessions, or interrogations at all ensued.
Becker: Videotapes are subject to too much scrutiny in court. We don’t want the LEA people in aggressive sessions anyway.
LTC Beaver: LEA choice not to participate in these types of interrogations is more ethical and moral as opposed to legal.
Fredman: The videotaping of even totally legal techniques will look “ugly”.
Fredman: The Torture Convention prohibits torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. The US did not sign up on the second part, because of the 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment), but we did sign the part about torture. This gives us more license to use more controversial techniques.
LTC Beaver: Does SERE employ the “wet towel” technique?
Fredman: If a well-trained individual is used to perform [sic] this technique it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function. It is very effective to identify phobias and use them (ie, insects, snakes, claustrophobia). The level of resistance is directly related to person’s experience.
MAJ Burney: Whether or not significant stress occurs lies in the eye of the beholder. The burden of proof is the big issue. It is very difficult to disprove someone else’s PTSD.
Fredman: These techniques need involvement from interrogators, psych, medical, legal, etc.
Becker: Would we blanket approval or would it be case by case?
Fredman: The CIA makes the call internally on most of the types of techniques found in the BSCT paper, and this discussion. Significantly harsh techniques are approved through the DOJ.
LTC Phifer: Who approves ours? The CG? SOUTHCOM CG?
Fredman: Does the Geneva Convention apply? The CIA rallied for it not to.
LTC Phifer: Can we get DOJ opinion about these topics on paper?
LTC Beaver: Will it go from DOJ to DOD?
LTC Phifer: Can we get to see a CIA request to use advanced aggressive techniques?
Fredman: Yes, but we can’t provide you with a copy. You will probably be able to look at it.
An example of a different perspective on torture is Turkey. In Turkey they say that interrogation at all, or anything you do to that results in the subject betraying his comrades is torture.
LTC Beaver: In the BSCT paper it says something about “imminent threat of death”,…
Fredman The threat of death is also subject to scrutiny, and should be handled on a case by case basis. Mock executions don’t work as well as friendly approaches, like letting someone write a letter home, or providing them with an extra book.
Becker: I like the part about ambient noise.
– At this point a discussion about the ways to manipulate the environment ensued, and the following ideas were offered:
* Medical visits should be scheduled randomly, rather than on a set system
* Let detainee rest just long enough to fall asleep and wake him up about every thirty minutes and tell him it’s time to pray again
* More meals per day induce loss of time
* Truth serum; even though it may not actually work, it does have a placebo effect.
Meeting ended at 1450.
*********** The Immediate Aftermath
It is worth noting some of the administrative responses to this meeting. On October 11, a week after the Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting, LTC Jerald Phifer wrote a request to Major General Michael B. Dunleavy, Commander at Guantanamo, requesting use of Counter-Resistance Strategy techniques. He divided them into three categories of intensity.
Category I included direct approach and rapport building techniques, but also false identification of national identity of the interrogator, yelling at the detainee, and “techniques of deception.” Category II techniques included use of stress position, isolation up to 30 days, light/auditory deprivation, 20 hour interrogations, nudity, hooding, and use of phobias “to induce stress.” Category III techniques included the “wet towel” (waterboarding) treatment, threats of death to the prisoner or his family, and exposure to cold.
On the same day, the Staff Judge Advocate at Guantanamo, LTC Diane E. Beaver, wrote a legal brief that concluded “the proposed strategies do not violate federal law.” She did suggest, though, that Category II and III techniques undergo further legal review “prior to their commencement.” Still on the same day, Maj. Gen. Dunleavy wrote a memo to the Commander of U.S. Southern Command asking for approval of the techniques. He concluded, without exception, that “these techniques do not violate U.S. or international laws.
On October 25, 2002, General James T. Hill, Commander at SOUTHCOM, forwarded the request to use the techniques to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While he worried about the legality of some of th Category III techniques, particularly the death threats, he urged them to consider that he wanted “to have as many options as possible at my disposal.”
A few days after that, on October 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, Deputy Commander at Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) sent a memo to a colleague. He was uneasy about what he had read in the Counter Resistance Strategy Meeting Minutes. He told his colleague the comments of Beaver and others “looks like the kinds of stuff Congressional hearings are made of.” The techniques “seem to stretch beyond the bounds of legal propriety.”
Quotes from LTC Beaver regarding things that are not being reported give the appearance of impropriety…. Talk of “wet towel treatments” which results in the lymphatic gland reacting as if you are suffocating, would in my opinion; shock the conscience of any legal body looking at using the results of the interrogations or possibly even the interrogators. Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this.
Glenn Greewald discusses the ending of the ability of “antisemitism” charges to silence criticism of Israel:
The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg — in a paragraph he entitles “Where the Left and Right Always Seem to Agree” — writes (emphasis added):
Joseph Epstein’s excellent essay in The Wall Street Journal about I.J. Singer’s The Brothers Ashkenazi . . . contains this penetrating observation: “Politics taught I.J. the bitter lesson that, however much the extreme left and the extreme right might disagree, the one common ground upon which they met comfortably was anti-Semitism.” This is an evergreen phenomenon, unfortunately. We see the brown-red coalition aligned against Israel in Europe, of course, and, in less dramatic, but still disturbing fashion, we [sic] The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan’s paleo-con magazine, featuring the writings of doctrinaire leftists on Buchanan’s least-favorite country, the one he recently compared to Nazi Germany. The Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do theirIsrael-bashingfor them. This particular development falls in the category of shocking yet not exactly surprising.
His link to “Israel-bashing” in the penultimate sentence — as in: “The Buchananites have even recruited Jews to do their Israel-bashing for them” — is to an article I wrote for the January 26, 2009, issue of The American Conservative, an article in which I documented and criticized the lack of any disagreement or genuine debate in the U.S. Congress over America’s ongoing, one-sided support for Israel generally and for Israel’s attack on Gaza specifically.
As an initial matter, the rank guilt by association technique Goldberg employs here is not only painfully transparent but also factually false. Pat Buchanan has had no involvement with the publication or editing of that magazine for many years. But why let facts get in the way of rabid attempts at character assassination?
More notably, what Goldberg is doing here in unusually unconcealed (though otherwise characteristic) fashion is relying on the most standard, by-now-clichéd debate-suppressive tactic of neoconservative Israel-fanatics in the U.S. Anyone who criticizes the actions of the Israeli Government will, for that reason alone, have “anti-Semite” tossed in their vicinity and attached to their name (just as those who criticized the actions of the Bush administration — say, for attacking Iraq – were branded “anti-American”). Any American citizen who argues that we are acting counter-productively with our unquestioning, full-scale support for Israel — the use of American money, arms and diplomatic tools to enable anything the Israeli Government does — is guilty of the crime of “Israel-bashing” and is condemned as being “anti-Israel” (or, worse still, will have the phrase “Sheikh Hassan” disgustingly placed before their name by Goldberg and his friends). These rancid equations are too familiar to require any elaboration or refutation.
But what is worth noting — and celebrating — is that a significant and palpable change has occurred. Whereas these smear tactics once inspired fear in many people, now they just inspire pity. They no longer work. Very few Americans are going to refrain from expressing their views on American policy towards Israel out of fear that the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world are going to screech “anti-Semitism” at them. Neocons are far too discredited and their policies far too self-evidently destructive for them to intimidate anyone out of questioning their orthodoxies. Now, watching neocons recklessly spew their bitter little epithets in lieu of (and in order to suppress) debate is like watching an old, dying dragon sadly trying to breathe mighty fire from its mouth but collapsing in a debilitating coughing fit instead — or is like watching a disgraced, post-censure Joe McCarthy in 1956 stand in an empty Senate chamber and rail against hidden Communists. Nobody cares.
People like Jeffrey Goldberg — and his comrades at places such as Commentary and the ADL — have so abused, over-used, manipulated and exploited the “anti-semitism” and “anti-Israel” accusations for improper and nakedly political ends that those terms have become drained of their meaning, have almost entirely lost their sting, and have become trivialized virtually to the point of caricature. That behavior has produced serious harm. Their trivialization and misuse of those terms have severely diminished the ability to stigmatize and attack real anti-Semitism, because legitimate accusations of anti-Semitism are now conflated with and discredited by the neocons’ cynical attempts to wield it as a cheap debating weapon. That’s a particularly dangerous — and ironic — outcome given that it has been spawned by many who have long claimed proprietary ownership over the “anti-Semitism” term in order, ostensibly, to protect it from trivialization.
Indeed, people like Goldberg are becoming extra rancid and reckless in their rhetoric precisely because they know that these rhetorical devices have ceased working. There is a definite sea change when it comes to American policy debates toward Israel. They no longer possess the ability to stifle dissent through thuggish intimidation tactics and they know that, which is why they can now do nothing but turn up the volume on their name-calling attacks.
America’s destructive involvement in all Israeli conflicts and its blind devotion to all Israeli actions is one area where — not due exclusively or even primarily to Obama — change is on its way. That policy just isn’t sustainable any longer, nor are the myths that have long been propagated, and the smear tactics that have long been invoked, in service of shielding that policy from critical scrutiny and open debate. As the debate finally unfolds, Jeffrey Goldberg can — and almost certainly will — scream “anti-Semite” until he loses his voice. But the louder he screams, the more he abuses and exploits that accusation, the fewer people who will be listening. Or caring.
As I said above, they know this isn’t working any longer. They’ve lost the ability to intimidate people with their slimy name-calling and to control the debate. And all that’s left for them to do is turn up the volume, ratchet up the venom levels, and scream a little more loudly. But they and their debate-suppressive tactics are far too discredited to provoke anything other than indifference.
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.
I must poit out that, in his new interview Gen. Taguba is a little too sanguine about the military’s record of punishing its torturers While a few MPs got punished, there are many up and down the chain of command who did not. If civilian leaders authorized the torture, what about all those officers who conveyed and carried out those authorized abuses? And what punishment was there for the many at all levels who reportedly followed the policy of “No Blood, No Foul” that encouraged abuse and have gotten away with it?
Here is the interview:
“You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table”
Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.
By Mark Benjamin
President Obama vowed that “the United States will not torture” only two days into his new administration. But one big question Obama hasn’t answered is whether and how to investigate notorious Bush-era interrogation and detention policies. On Thursday, 18 human rights organizations, former State Department officials and former law enforcement and military leaders asked the president to create a nonpartisan commission to investigate those allegedly abusive detention practices.
Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who investigated the famed abuses at Abu Ghraib, signed on to the effort. He explained his support in an interview with Salon. Taguba agrees with many attorneys who think it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to prosecute former Bush administration officials. A nonpartisan fact-finding commission, however, might provide some degree of accountability for official U.S. detention and interrogation policies that Taguba called misguided and illegal.
Taguba would like to see a broad mandate for the commission, including a study of administration claims that abuse gleans good intelligence, which he fervently disputes. And while he believes the commission should look at the decisions of military and civilian policymakers, he has a particular interest in getting to the bottom of civilian leaders’ claims for the legality of the administration’s interrogation and detention policies, which he called “despicable and questionable.” The retired general would also like to see the commission empowered to make recommendations for the future, to help ensure such abuses never occur again.
You are best known for doing an honest investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. You suffered some consequences for that. Is that fair to say?
As far as consequences are concerned, the report and testimony were not going to be well received. I followed my conscience and integrity — the best I could do to honor the Army uniform I had the privilege of wearing for over 34 years.
They parked you at the back of the Pentagon in retribution, right?
I was disappointed in my assignment back to the Pentagon to be on Rumsfeld’s staff. I was suspicious about the assignment. But I served at the pleasure of the president and performed as expected. It was conveyed to me by close friends that I had to be watched closely by senior leaders.
Can you describe this torture commission that you and others are advocating?
I would not refer to it as a torture commission. [It remains to be decided] if it is to be a truth and reconciliation commission, or a presidential commission, or a congressional commission, or a private commission … Interest groups have talked about establishing a special prosecutor in that regard. I feel we have to come to terms with policies that have gained such notoriety and have been debated about whether they were in the best interest of our national security, and whether those who created these policies were pressured by their senior leadership.
Are you advocating one particular flavor of a commission, or are you simply advocating for an investigation in general?
“Investigation” is a good term, but not one I would subscribe to. [I support] a structured commission with some form of authority with clear objectives and a follow-on action plan. I’m not looking for anything that is prosecutorial in nature, unless a suspected violation of relevant laws occurred, which should be referred to the Department of Justice.
That was going to be my next question. Why not?
Because it would be difficult. In my opinion, our military prosecuted those who were involved in torture or unlawful interrogation. And I think our military has come to terms with that. We are an institution that prides itself on taking corrective action immediately, admitting to it, and holding ourselves accountable. And we have done that. But I am not so sure that our civilian authorities in government have done that for themselves.
Is there still a lot of dirty laundry out there that we don’t know about?
I think so. This notion that a lot of constitutional legal experts — lawyers with great intellect, well-educated — came up with such despicable and questionable legal findings that were contrary to the definition of defending the Constitution? And then they framed this as if the executive branch had the authority to extend beyond the Constitution to establish a policy of torture and illegal detention?
The argument against a commission is that it would turn into a political catfight between Democrats and Republicans. What is your response to that?
I think we have to satisfy the American public at large. Some of those that were tortured were innocent. How do we come to terms with those that were cruelly mistreated and were innocent, never charged, were illegally detained and never compensated for their suffering? This is not a political issue, but a moral and ethical dilemma which has far-reaching implications.
Proponents of coercive interrogation argue that it works. I can’t find an experienced interrogator who thinks torture is an effective way of gathering quality intelligence. Should the efficacy of torture be a part of this commission’s work?
I think so. You have two sides here. One says, “We had to do it.” The other says, “It never actually worked.” You have to consider this in those terms. Some of those activities were actually not effective and those who thought so were in the academic or pristine settings of their offices. What would they know?
Should people receive amnesty for coming forward and participating in a commission of this type?
If you want people to talk, you need to give them that immunity. I would submit to you that issuing a subpoena to people like [former counsel to the vice president David] Addington, [former Justice Department attorneys John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee or [former Pentagon general counsel Jim] Haynes will not work. They are not going to come up and talk freely because they want to save their reputations and write books about it. They know their positions and so do the public. They know that it was illegal.
But you have other folks, soldiers, for example, or civilian contractors who are willing to address why things happened and who gave them the authority to do these things.
What else should I have asked you?
This is a comment. In the opinion of some legal experts, it would be extremely difficult to stand up a commission and question those in government because they were supposedly acting in the interest of national security. What do we say to the soldiers who committed wrongdoings with regard to detention operations who were also acting in the interest of national security and who are now in jail or who have been punished? If the military can hold themselves accountable, why can’t the civilian authorities be as well? Why can’t they hold themselves accountable as well?
So, you’ve got low-level soldiers in jail. Why not take a look at the people who put those policies together in the first place?
When the policymakers create a policy, you have to account yourself for the consequences unintended or intended. The question we ought to ask these civilian authorities is, What was your intent in creating those illegal policies? What was the intent? Was the intent in the interest of national security, which is broad and contestable? What was the intent and what were the lawful precedents, if any, that led them to these highly questionable opinions?
It seems to me that if we don’t do some sort of review, this thing will just continue to come out in dribs and drabs and sort of haunt us forever. Do you agree with that?
I agree with that. You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table and just forget about it. I feel strongly about this because we have future generations who will be the beneficiaries of these actions. We have a president who declared that torture is illegal. He signed executive orders repudiating torture and unlawful interrogation practices.
We have a lot of unanswered questions on accountability, questions that need to be answered and hold responsible officials — civilians and military — accountable. These include contractors. We ought not to refer to accountability as a bumper sticker or to be used loosely. We have an integrity issue to contend with if we are to prevent this matter from recurring.
Having spent the last several years fighting the American Psychological Association, the nation’s largest mental health organization as it curried favor with the Bush administration by providing cover for the administration’s torture program, I am especially moved by this story of two who refused to yield their honor when another large organization, Harvard Law School, bowed to the powerful.
The Lawyer’s Tale: Harvard Law School’s Hour of Shame
By Alexander Cockburn
Early in the age of Obama, before he’d even been inaugurated, I drove down to St. Simon Island on the coast of southeast Georgia to spend a couple of days with Jonathan Lubell and his wife Dee. Jonathan is the best libel lawyer in the country, carving his way into legal history with such brilliant actions as the suit he fought on behalf of Colonel Herbert against CBS in the late 1970s, where he triumphed before the U.S. Supreme Court in convincing the justices to issue the seminal decision allowing discovery (in legal terms – compulsory disclosure of facts or documents) in defamation cases.
Jonathan has represented CounterPunch down the years with 100 per cent success. I’ve often pestered him to give the full story of how shameful reds-under-the-bed hysteria had got him blocked from a rightful spot on the Harvard Law Review at the height of the McCarthy witch-hunts. Until now, he’d always said he’d tell me “some day”. Maybe the fact that the White House was about to be occupied by a former Harvard Law Review president made the principle of transparency applicable to the Law School. At all events, he finally gave me the essential story.
Jonathan and his twin brother David had attended Cornell from 1947 to 1951. The two young men, both recipients of Sidney Hillman scholarships at Cornell, went to Harvard Law School from 1951 to 1954.
In their years at Cornell, the Lubell boys had been active politically on civil rights and issues of war and peace, particularly on the Korean War. “We wrote papers and spoke at meetings, taking the position that the U.S.A., in alliance with South Korea, was responsible for the war.” Jonathan points out that the events in Vietnam, years later, confirmed their view of the Korean War.
At the end of 1952 and start of 1953, Joe McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (this last one often known as the Jenner Committee) were all running hearings on red subversion. “Having been ultimately subpoenaed by more than one of these committees,” Jonathan recalls, “I understand that there was some sort of bargaining, and eventually the task of subpoenaing us was taken up by the Jenner Subcommittee.
“We were in our second year and when we received the subpoenas, we went to the office of the dean of the Harvard Law School, Erwin Griswold, who asked what we intended to do. We responded that, of course, we weren’t going to cooperate because we believed that the committees’ activities violated the First Amendment and the academic freedom that should exist at Harvard Law School. Griswold was furious and told us that others at the Law School would be talking to us. At that time, the dean expressed the position that the Fifth Amendment was available only for those who were involved in criminal activities. Some nine months later, changing his position, the dean wrote that the Fifth Amendment was available to the innocent. This was the position we had taken with Griswold when we first met with him.”
Soon thereafter, the Lubells were asked to meet with three professors from the Law School. “The meeting was characterized by an absence of communication. We told the professors that we had no intention of cooperating with the Jenner Committee. When one of the professors evoked the damage that could be suffered by Harvard if we refused to cooperate, we responded that far greater would be the damage to our honor and to what we felt were the principles that the Law School should be upholding. It was necessary to protect the rights set forth in the Constitution; otherwise, our country would be in grave danger.
“The three professors were not of a single mind. One of them had a history of actually working on Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s strike force at the end of World War I, which had persecuted reds and suspected radicals. This was professor John McGuire; to his honor, he was clearly the most understanding of our position. Another of the professors, who had a reputation as a ‘liberal,’ became a judge on the commonwealth of Massachusetts’ highest court. During the course of several weeks of discussion with the three professors, David and I were called into the office of one of the professors for ‘a private discussion.’ He said he had ‘great news’. The Jenner Committee’s counsel, Robert Morris, had offered to interview us in private in Washington, D.C. No one would know that the interview had occurred. Without any hesitation, both David and I had the same immediate response that ‘we would know’ and that the offer was unacceptable.
“During this whole period of time it became known that we had been subpoenaed. The result was that no one would sit with us at any of the tables in the Harvard Law School dining room. To make sure we got the message, no one would also sit next to us in any of the classrooms either.”
In addition to the isolation imposed by both the faculty and the students, the school thought to bring pressure from other quarters. “The vice dean, Livingstone Hall, invited our mother to meet with him. His only point was to try to convince her that she should have us take a sabbatical until after the committee’s activities were over. She would not entertain the idea that her sons remove themselves from the Law School.”
As the scheduled day of appearance before the Jenner Committee grew closer, the pressure on the Lubells escalated. “We informed the vice dean that we were planning to speak with somebody at the ACLU to represent us at the hearing. Hall immediately got very upset, stating that we should not get one of those communist lawyers. It was clear to us that the lawyers favored by the school were not going to help defend our position in any way. In fact, their role seemed to be to get us to give up our rights and change our position.”
Finally, Jonathan and David Lubell appeared before the Jenner Subcommittee in 1953. “We briefly explained that we would not cooperate in any way; that the subcommittee’s activities directly violated the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the principles of academic freedom that Harvard had reiterated so many times in the past.
“We had made our position clear and then the subcommittee said the hearing was concluded. After our appearance, some of the professors at the Law School told us that we had jeopardized any possibility of ever becoming lawyers. In addition, the scholarship that we had was terminated. However, David and I made it clear that we intended to be lawyers and to be involved in the legal profession.”
The next attack involved the Harvard Law Review. At no time prior to this had a student been denied membership in the Law Review if he or she was academically qualified. “In our case, the Law Review convoked a special meeting to discuss whether we would be admitted to the Law Review. We had both graduated magna cum laude.”
The Law Review had a meeting. Jonathan Lubell was told that neither he nor his brother would be admitted. As time passed, other events occurred concerning the Law School and the Review. “We were informed by students who had been in our class that the main concern of those who voted to keep me off the Review was to protect their possibility of becoming successful lawyers.”
During the same period, the Law School was obviously trying to have the Lubells removed from the Law School: Jonathan and his brother learned that a faculty meeting was held on the subject of whether the Lubells should be expelled. “Soon thereafter, we were told by a faculty member that there was a meeting and that we were lucky that an expulsion required a two-thirds vote. We understood that this meant that a majority of the faculty had voted for our expulsion – regardless of the Law School’s widely publicized concern for the protection of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. That concern was not as powerful as the congressional subversive activities committees. It was a precarious time. Significantly, in the early Seventies, the then current members of the Law Review stated that I should have been admitted.”
“After that time, a number of our classmates from 1951-54 would bump into either David or me and express their gratification that we had been able to enter the legal profession. (David is a lawyer in the intellectual properties and entertainment fields.) Of course, they did not dwell on the ignoble roles that they played, nor that we had become lawyers without surrendering to the unconstitutional demands of the Jenner Subcommittee.”
At one convention of the American Bar Association Jonathan Lubell spoke on the Herbert case. The Law School’s former dean, Erwin Griswold, later LBJ’s solicitor general, was present. “Those were hard times for Harvard,” Griswold said to Jonathan. “To which I replied, ‘Dean, they were even harder for me.’”
I vainly begged Jonathan to tell me the names of at least a few of these who would not sit next to him or David in the dining room or the lecture hall. That’s how witch-hunts swell in malign potency, as frightened people perform cowardly acts in the cause of self-protection or self-advancement. Victor Klemperer’s I Will Bear Witness, his diary of the rise of the Nazis, has plenty of kindred examples of such cowardice at the Technische Universität Dresden.
In his memoirs, I Claud, my father records a conversation with the owner of a pub in the East End of London just after the Second World War:
“A year or more after the war was over, Mr. Harry took a trip to the Channel Islands – the only bit of the British Isles actually occupied by the Germans during the conflict. He was enthusiastic. He described some huge beer cellar which the German military had remodeled and decorated in the Munich manner – a magnificent place, which, by its existence and the amenities it could offer to the English visitor, showed that out of evil some good could come.
“I made some disobliging remark to the effect that I had read somewhere that a good many of the Channel Islanders had made quite a good thing out of the war – had collaborated with the invaders 100 per cent, given them lists of local Jews so that these could be deported, and so on. Mr. Harry said he had heard similar reports in the islands, and judged them to be well based. “‘But you don’t understand, Claud old boy,’ he said, ‘at the time they did that, those people thought the Germans were going to win.’”
Amid the McCarthy red scare, those Law School grads who shunned the Lubells, those professors who tried to coerce them to testify, were similarly trimming their sails to ensure that they would not displease the winning side.
Scientist here measure the amount of water melting in a Greenland glacier and sinking from the surface to the bottom. They estimate that Greenland is losing enough water each year to cover Germany a meter deep. And that’s only Greenland: