January 23, 2006
Hundreds of people came together in New York City on the
weekend of January 20-22 for a historic tribunal indicting the Bush
administration for crimes against humanity. This extraordinary event
opened Friday evening at the Riverside Church, where Harry Belafonte
gave a riveting speech that brought the audience to their feet.
Among the witnesses and experts giving testimony about Bush's crimes
were Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former head of the Abu Ghraib prison;
Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Scott Ritter,
former UN weapons inspector; Alan Berkman, physician and professor of
public health at Columbia University, and D. McBride, who was left to
drown in a New Orleans prison when Katrina struck. The participation of
people like this underscored the far-reaching significance and impact
of the Bush Crimes Tribunal.
A week earlier, a delegation from the International Commission of
Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration
delivered a set of indictments at the White House gates. The
International Commission has brought five indictments against the Bush
- Wars of Aggression
- Torture and Indefinite Detention
- Destruction of the Global Environment
- Attacks on Global Public Health
- Hurricane Katrina
The first session of the Tribunal, in October 2005, heard searing
testimony on each of these indictments--and the second and concluding
session on Jan. 20-22 continued this crucial work. The presentation of
the verdicts will take place in Washington, DC on February 2.
As this session of the Tribunal began, Michael Ratner of the Center
for Constitutional Rights sharply laid out the aims of the Tribunal,
and the urgency of the times: "We are putting the Bush administration
on trial. We investigate in order to expose. We document in order to
indict. We arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We
want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war,
to torture, to the destruction of our earth and its people. It's a
serious moment. Our country and our world are tipping--tipping toward
permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and
death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this
slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms
folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The
witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the
truth-tellers--the witnesses to the carnage this country and this
administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act."
In this issue, Revolution newspaper is presenting brief excerpts
from several of the Tribunal witnesses. We will have further reportage
and interviews from the Tribunal in future issues.
For complete information on the sessions of the Tribunal and the
judges and participants, as well as updates on the work of the Bush
Crimes Commission, go online to bushcommission.org.
Dr. Alan Berkman, physician and professor of public health at Columbia University:
It's actually almost exactly the 25th anniversary since AIDS was
first recognized in Los Angeles in 1981. Since that time, more than 20
million people have died as a result of AIDS. There are currently
believed to be about 41 million people infected and alive at this
point, with HIV. Over three million people died last year of AIDS. That
means that every day, 9,000 people die of AIDS. Most of those deaths
are preventable, are treatable, can at least be postponed, if not
cured. Two thousand of those people every day are children under the
age of 15...
I will maintain that the Bush administration's economic policies, as
administered both directly through bilateral programs but also through
the IMF and World Trade Organization, have heightened global
inequality, that global inequality drives health disparity. And then
its ideologically driven prevention agenda has in fact accounted for
millions of deaths in the five years since he took power. That when I
talk about the ideologically driven prevention agenda, you may have
heard that the core of that agenda is to say that people should be
abstinent until marriage, after marriage they should be faithful to
their partners, and that condoms should be reserved for prostitutes.
And they impose this on other countries through the incredible power
that they have and wealth that they supply. This is particularly
dangerous, obviously, for women in many places, who may have little or
no control over their own bodies and reproductive lives. In fact, in
many countries in Africa, marriage is one of the greatest risk factors
for HIV acquisition. In addition, is the policy that persisted through
many U.S. administrations, refusing to fund needle exchange programs
for those people who have injection-drug-using habits, which is known
to prevent the spread of HIV--which is being used by countries around
the world. The United States has taken, under the Bush administration,
to exporting that policy, to try to reverse the policy of the United
Nations and of other countries, who in fact have to date supported
needle exchange programs and harm reduction programs. And again, we're
talking about millions of people who've been exposed to HIV through
Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan:
Sixty percent of the population of Uzbekistan are, in effect, slaves
in the cotton industry, something that should resonate in this country
and this building. They can't leave the state cotton farms. Cotton
workers are paid just under two dollars a month, seven cents a working
day, for which they work twelve-hour days in the cotton fields, six
days a week. And the profits from this industry, which is entirely
state-owned and which is only traded by the state trading company, sold
on the international market, and the profits go to the president, his
family, and their regime...
There's no freedom in that country. There's no freedom of assembly.
There's no freedom of religion. There's no freedom of speech. There's
absolutely no free media. There's no opposition allowed. One in eight
people are employed by the police or secret police, formally employed
by the secret police to keep an eye on their neighbors. A high
proportion of arrestees are terrorized or coerced into working as
informers. And it's a country that practices torture on an industrial
scale. In November 2002, a United Nations investigation into torture in
Uzbekistan concluded that torture was widespread and systemic in the
country. Thousands of people are tortured in Uzbekistan every year. By
this, I mean rape, rape with objects like broken bottles. I mean
beatings. I mean smashing of limbs... These people were tortured to say
that they, and any other Uzbek who showed any sign of dissent or
disagreement with their regime, were members of al Qaeda, and allied
with Osama bin Laden. That came up again and again and again, in this
intelligence. And we could tell in the British Embassy that this was
simply nonsense. It was accepted by the CIA. But it was untrue...
To get at the oil and gas, the decision was made to go with the
torture. To go with Karamov [the dictator of Uzbekistan]. And to
justify that, they needed false intelligence from those torture
chambers. The false intelligence gave a picture of the war on terror as
a reason for their involvement. Whereas the real reason for involvement
is on the screen behind me [a letter from Enron to George W. Bush]. It
was the hard-headed pursuit of commercial interests, from big business
close to the president.
If we're supporting a regime like that, is it any wonder some
Muslims come to hate us? No, it's no wonder at all. And my charge
before this commission is not only that the CIA knowingly and openly
uses information got from torture, this administration has introduced a
dehumanization of our Muslim brothers and sisters--which means that
anything done to them doesn't count. And that is a step on the road to
the ultimate evil. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is I believe where
Daphne Wysham, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network:
I wanted to bring to your atttention the censorship of climate
science, because it is in my mind some of the most damning evidence we
have today that the Bush White House is deliberately targeting
information policymakers have on climate change in an effort to protect
some of the most powerful industries on the planet, namely the oil,
gas, and coal industries -- while harming some of the poorest people
globally due to climate change. This is what we know. Until June 2005,
the former oil industry lawyer and lobbyist from the American Petroleum
Institute by the name of Phillip Cooney, was chief of staff for the
White House Council on Environmental Quality. On June 8, 2005, The New
York Times, through whistle-blower Rick Pilz, exposed Cooney as the
primary censor of climate change policy documents at the highest levels
of government. Two days later, Cooney resigned. In three more days, he
was back in the saddle at ExxonMobil's lobbying firm. The government
accountablity project which represented Pilz summarizes that Cooney's
secret mission was to censor and rewrite climate science reports about
what the federal government has learned on climate change.
Unsurprisingly, his edits of hundreds of pages of reports to Congress
routinely downplayed human impacts on global warming and the
implications of climate change for society, while exaggerating
uncertainty and suggesting that much of the science was controversial.
Rick Pilz was a senior official in the Climate Change Science Program.
He resigned because, in a nutshell, Bush political appointees had
turned the White House scientific base for environmental advocacy into
a propaganda machine for the oil industry, with taxpayers footing the
bill. The cornerstone of the political disinformation campaign under
Bush was embedded in the strategy of replacing career professional
government scientists with political appointees. Virtually everything
had to be cleared through Cooney. Here are some of their abuses of
power. Everything published by the government, including outside
research by internationally recognized experts, had to be read,
approved, and adopted by the political staff. The administration
cancelled normal professional standards of "lead author independence"
which means the scientists who researched and wrote the study no longer
had the right to approve or even see changes that were made by
political appointees or lobbyists for the oil industry, before
publication of their research. Cooney and his staff's edits were
pervasive with 100 to 450 changes per report, and shameless. Among the
topics the government doesn't want you to know about are the national
and regional impacts from climate changes, consequences like glacial
melting and floods. Actual problem solving was set back at least 10
It is important when all the instruments of government collapse, we
go in the final hour, to the most important line of battle: the people
themselves. The people of this nation, I think, and I know it, are
awake, and are being more awakened every day. They are hearing, and
sensing, the danger that sits on the horizon. Looking at the
international oppressions that we are a part of, looking at how we have
violated international humanity and law, one day this tribunal I hope,
will reach out, and in its investigation look at the oppression and
illegal experiences people in this nation are experiencing themselves.
On 9/11, we were all stunned by the tragic events that took place
when the Twin Towers collapsed, and this terrorism was put upon our
people... And we said they were terrorists, and we should hunt them
down and bring them to justice. Tell me where for you does the line
blur, when a nation as powerful as this, the most powerful in the
history of human existence, and those who have dubiously come to power
and who are reigning over the world and this nation, when they lie and
mislead the citizens of this country, when they put before us fear and
then govern by terrorism -- where does the line blur for you, when our
sons and daughters are sent to die in foreign battlefields, each day we
claim the lives of tens and thousands of innocent men, women, and
children, in other places? Where for you does terrorism end and where
does it begin, and who are the terrorists? ( applause)
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former commander at Abu Ghraib prison:
Q: What did [the] photographs that you saw for the first time on January 23 depict?
JK: The first one I saw was the pile of naked detainees, stacked
together, and all you could see was their butts, excuse me for saying
this, but all you could see was their butts and their balls, stacked on
top of each other. And the smiling faces of two [MPs], behind them.
Cigarettes dangling out of their mouths. That was the first one. If
they meant that for shock value, they achieved that. Because I could
not believe what I was looking at. Most of these photographs have been
published with the exception of one, so I'm not speaking of anything
you haven't seen. One was a long angle shot of a cell block where there
was a man putting naked detainees in a configuration. I asked what
about everyone else in the photograph, because they’re certainly not
all MPs? And the commander of the CID [Criminal Investigation Division]
said to me, you’re right, Ma'am. They’re military intelligence
soldiers, there’s a medic in there, and civilians. I said, What are the
translators doing in the cell block? Because they were not allowed. And
he said, Oh, they’re not translators, Ma'am. Those are contract
I asked some generic questions: I heard some reference to
photographs. Do you know anything about photographs? No. Nothing about
photographs. I did go to Cellblock 1A. I spoke to the sergeant there
and he said, Ma'am, I don’t know. I don’t work here, but they told me
to come over here because I worked here before. I said: Where are your
logs, let me see if I can try to put this together? And he said, We
don’t have any logs, they took everything, so we started a new one. And
I said, any files, memorandums? And he said, The only memorandum is the
one that's posted out here--it was posted on a pole, in the cellblock.
Right outside this little admin office that they were using.
Q: What did that memorandum say?
JK The memorandum said that it was an approval of harsher interrogation techniques.
Q: And who had signed that memorandum?
JK:That memorandum was signed by the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.
Q: And what kinds of techniques were authorized in that memorandum, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.
JK: It was one page, and he authorized sleep deprivation, stress
positions, meal disruption--serving their meals late, not serving a
meal. Leaving the lights on all night while playing loud music. Issuing
insults or criticism of their religion, their culture, their beliefs.
Q: And was there a note in his handwriting on the side?
JK: Yes, in the margin on the lefthand side.
Q: And what did that say?
JK: It said, "Make sure this happens!!" With two exclamation points.
And it was written alongside of the list of the interrogation
Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector:
Hussein Kamel, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, was former director of
the Military Industrial Commission during the mid to late 1980s. As
such he was the man responsible for the development and implementation
of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. He was a gentleman who
was in possession of the totality of knowledge necessary to make one
capable of speaking authoritatively on Iraq weapons of mass destruction
programs. He defected in August 1995. I need to point out that I led
the investigation into Hussein Kamel's defection. Therefore I am
singularly qualified to talk about not only his defection but also the
results of his defection...
Dick Cheney said because of Hussein Kamel's defection the United
Nations, indeed the United States, received evidence that Iraq was
actively reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. This, of course,
served as the foundation of the case the Bush administration was
articulating to the Congress, the United States, and indeed the rest of
the world--that Iraq had viable ongoing WMD capability. Dick Cheney was
lying. Dick Cheney knew that he was lying. And this is one of the
harshest indictments one can make against a government official of the
United States of America. This is a civil crime, not necessarily a war
crime. To lie in the conduct of official duties is a felony that I
think Dick Cheney and others should be held accountable to. But it is
evidence that the Bush administration willfully exaggerated the threat
posed by Iraq's WMDs, thereby negating any case they might make about
the existence of a clear and present threat that warranted pre-emptive