The weekend of October 21-23 saw the coming together of a tribunal that indicted the Bush regime for crimes against humanity.
The First Session of The 2005 International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration was held at the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center in New York City.
There were four initial indictments against the regime:
1. Wars of Aggression
2. Torture and Indefinite Detention
3. Destruction of the Global Environment
4. Attacks on Global Public Health and Reproductive Rights
Responding with outrage to the recent events, the Tribunal decided to also hold a hearing into whether there must now be a fifth indictment–around Hurricane Katrina and the crimes that have emerged surrounding this disaster.
The Tribunal presented and adopted an all-sided, comprehensive indictment of the Bush Regime. The weight of the tribunal was indicated by the gravity of the charges, the depth of the evidence, and the authority and prominence of the participants…
The Commission was opened by Marcus Raskin, of the Institute for Policy Studies and The Nation magazine’s editorial board–who drove home the importance of tribunals like this for holding governments accountable before the world. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), gave a searing picture of the current regime and drove home the importance of transforming a political landscape within which powerful rightwing forces and warmakers have carried out their horrific actions. The third keynote address was a videotaped presentation by historian Howard Zinn, who laid bare how the U.S. has from the beginning forged itself through war crimes and genocide–a legacy that today finds in the Bush regime such a dangerous concentration and continuation.
With that, the panel of judges took their seats onstage–Dennis Brutus (poet and educator), Abdeen Jabara (Arab-American Discrimination Committee), and Ajamu Sankofa (Physicians for Social Responsibility). And then the detailed, richly documented and passionate testimony began.
Legal experts and government targets rose to speak on torture and detention, among them: Lynne Stewart who faces prison for her own courageous legal work, Barbara Olshansky (CCR) detailing global U.S. torture, and a Palestinian exile describing the conditions he saw as a prisoner in U.S. jails.
The U.S. war on Iraq was indicted–as illegal aggression causing unjustifiable suffering among Iraq’s people–with testimony from Revolution correspondent and author Larry Everest, law professor Amy Bartholomew, and professor of political science Stephen Bronner; joined by Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst; Dr. Thomas Fasy of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; Denis J. Halliday, former head of United Nations Humanitarian Mission in Iraq; and Camilo Mejia, GI resistor and eyewitness to U.S. military actions in Iraq.
Finally, the disaster and government crimes in New Orleans were laid bare by eyewitnesses and learned researchers, among them: Annette Addison and Malik Rahim spoke about their experiences in the devastated Black communities of New Orleans. Dr. Robert Bullard described how oppression and inequality have historically left African American people vulnerable to natural disaster. Democracy Now’s Jeremy Scahill documented racist murder and vigilante threat after the flood. Professor John Clark explored how the deeply rooted inequality of Black people within his native city and the surrounding area formed the foundation for their abandonment and loss in Hurricane Katrina.
The Tribunal will reach its findings after a second session to be held early next year. But meanwhile, it was clear from this first weekend of evidence that the Tribunal already established a series of powerful indictments against the Bush regime. Revolution will continue to cover the results of this tribunal.
Larry Everest shared a sense of the participants that “the session was amazing, and the effort was very significant, important and potentially historic.”
On this page, readers can get a sense of the indictments and testimony at the tribunal. We will be making audio files of some testimony and interviews available at www.revcom.us. Also: visit the Tribunal’s official web site bushcommission.org for more information.
Torture and Indefinite Detention
From the testimony of Barbara Olshansky, deputy legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Before I talk about this stuff, I usually want people to go get a shot of whiskey. And maybe now, given what I’m talking about, you need a whole lot…
Immediately after [9/11], people were snatched from their homes all over the United States… On Oct. 26, the USA Patriot Act is passed… On Nov. 13, two weeks later, President Bush issues an executive order creating a military commission, or a trial system, for trying non-citizen detainees… December of 2001 is when George Bush authorizes George Tenet to create the Special Access Program… It is the first official foray into secret detention…
Next is a memo that goes from Alberto Gonzales…to George Bush, telling him that, You don’t really have to apply the Geneva Conventions to the people that are detained… That January 2002 memo is happening at the same time that we are starting to send people to Guantánamo…
Next…is an August 2002 memo that’s provided to Alberto Gonzales by Jay S. Bybee, then of the Justice Department… It talks about what the traditional definitions of torture are…and it says that a very good case can be made for redefining torture. And the definition that is recommended in that memo is that torture really is only when someone is at the risk of complete organ failure or death. And that is a new definition of torture in the United States according to this administration. Then the memo proceeds to…examine all the ways that the government could avoid liability, even if its actions meet that definition of torture. It is a staggering document…
And here’s I think a more staggering fact. That document came out after, unfortunately, Jay Bybee was appointed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The man who redefined torture in this country in a way that no other country in the world believes in or has accepted is now sitting as a judge in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
What comes next…is a discussion, at the highest levels in the White House, of what is permissible under this new scheme of what’s torture and what’s not, and you have Alberto Gonzales overseeing a working group where this is discussed… One of the main components of this in October 2002 is Jeffrey Miller–a very innocuous name that will give me the willies for the rest of my life. He is the one who requests authorization for the use of torture techniques at Guantánamo… People were subject to horrible extremes of temperature. They were deprived of food and water. They were shackled to the floor in stress positions for days on end. They were subject to sleep deprivation for weeks on end. They were denied medical care–people lost limbs, lost eyes. Lived for years, now, with broken limbs, broken spines…
The last piece of this is when Rumsfeld individually decides that Miller should now be shipped off to Iraq, to take the practices that he’s honed and figured out are the most helpful, and bring his kit bag to implement there.
Destruction of the Global Environment
From the indictment presented by Ted Glick, co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition
We are in a very deep crisis….What’s happening is the melting of glaciers, the melting of the arctic, the melting of the antarctic, because of the burning of all the coal and natural gas that has gone on since the beginning of the industrial revolution, towards the end of the 19th century, through the 20th century…. The likelihood is that sea levels around the world will rise fifteen or maybe twenty feet…
Bangladesh is in deep trouble as the sea level rises, which is what’s happening as global warming takes place, as ice melts, as the water expands–which is what happens when it warms. Something like 13 percent of Bangladesh will be inundated with water, and tens of millions of people will be forced to move…
When the Environmental Protection Agency listed the potential effects of climate change on its web site in 2003, in a document known as the National Assessment on Climate Change, the White House ordered the EPA to remove or alter all references to the dangers of global warming. The President dismissed the meticulously researched document which took four years to prepare and review as a frivolous “product of bureaucracy.”
Attacks on Global Public Health and Reproductive Rights
From the indictment presented by Thomas Fasy, MD, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
The Bush administration is using its political influence, aid and funding in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs to advance policies and programs that worsen the AIDS pandemic. Guided by a Christian fundamentalist ideological agenda, the administration is promoting and forcing deadly abstinence-only sex education programs instead of proven comprehensive programs that emphasize safe sex and the use of condoms.
President George W. Bush re-imposed the Global Gag Rule on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) population program. This policy restricts foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive USAID family planning funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortion services, even where a woman’s physical or mental health is endangered, lobby their own governments for abortion law reform, or even provide accurate medical counseling or referrals regarding abortion.
This has resulted in the closing of reproductive health clinics around the world that depend on international funding for staying open. More than 50,000 women die every year from unsafe abortion, a statistic that could be virtually eliminated by the provision of appropriate health information and services. And with the closing of the clinics, condoms become scarce and life-saving HIV prevention information is denied to millions of people.
The Bush administration and its political operatives have distorted sound science and attempted to suppress medical research studies in HIV prevention when it conflicts with the ideology of the Christian Right. One particularly egregious example is that the CDC’s long-standing fact sheet on condoms was removed from the CDC’s Web site and revised. The original advised the public, in accordance with the overwhelming weight of the evidence, that correct and consistent use of latex condoms can help reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs. The new version misinforms the public about the safety and effectiveness of condom usage, which is still considered by scientists the most effective means of HIV-prevention.
The Bush administration has used its political and economic power to coerce other countries into agreements that severely restrict the manufacture and supply of generic drugs, the only affordable option for most HIV+ people in the Third World.
Wars of Aggression
Testimony by Camilo E. Mejia, GI resistor, member Iraq Veterans Against the War
When we conducted missions, it became clear that there was no regard for the lives of the Iraqis. We conducted our operations in the cities. There are no trench lines in Iraq. The war is being fought in every corner of that country. Not in the deserts, not in the mountains, but next to the schools, the neighborhoods, the mosques. In going out of our way to instigate firefights, I can’t say that anyone in my unit died, but there were many in other units who died unnecessarily, and at the same time, on the Iraqi side, the people who died were mostly civilians. Because we knew for instance that if we conducted a tactical control point by a mosque, that this would infuriate the people, and by staying more than an hour and a half, and withholding people for no reason as we searched their vehicles, that we would instigate a firefight. I remember one firefight: Toward the end we knew there was going to be a firefight because we had stayed there too long and we had done it by Aramadi’s biggest mosque. By the time the firefight was over there were seven dead civilians, no insurgents were killed and no soldiers were killed. And this is just one instance. I wonder whenever we hear from the news that there were 54 or a hundred insurgents killed how many of them actually had weapons. I remember that when I left Iraq, my unit alone had killed about 33 people and of those 33 people only three had weapons, about two of them were children, many were women.
I could stand here for hours, go on and on about everything that I saw that was wrong. But I think that the main thing that creates violence in Iraq is that there is a sense among the Iraqi people that we are there to stay permanently to occupy and oppress them –occupy and oppress their land–and they are resisting that occupation. It does not matter if we have good feelings or we are acting out of fear or we are acting out of frustration. The fact is that we have no right to be there and they realize that..
When I surrendered back to the military, there were about 500 cases of desertion in the military, people who for one reason or another were deciding that they were going to put their weapons down and were not going to go back to the war. When I got out of jail some nine months later, that number had jumped up to about six thousand.
Government Crimes in New Orleans
Testimony by Annette Addison, survivor of Hurricane Katrina
I’m struggling. I have nightmares. My heart is broken. I’m aching as I’m speaking right now, because of the suffering. And during the struggle that me and my sister went through in waiting for my son [who was brutalized in Orleans Parish Prison], my sister had two nervous breakdowns when we arrived in Houston, because of the disaster and the way we were treated in New Orleans during this period. Many of my friends died in New Orleans because of this disaster. So I came here to speak freely just to let people know what happened
So many Army trucks just was driving past us. We even waved for the Army trucks to help us because we were so desperate. We was dehydrated. They did not give us any assistance. We even asked the police for water, and where we could get gas to get out of the city. The police just looked at us like we was nobody, as though we were nothing. Many were going into the stores, and they said they were looters. But to be honest, they was going into stores to survive. It was people helping people. It was not the Army, it was not the police. It was not the ones that were in authority to help us. It was just the community helping each other to survive.
Testimony by Malik Rahim, Common Ground Collective, New Orleans’ Algiers neighborhood
The government came into New Orleans as an occupying force. Many of know that wherever America goes it goes as an occupying force. I believe it is the first step in the militarization of America .
Hunting season was declared on young Black men from the time that levee broke up until the military came in and took over. We had a governor that declared martial law with a shoot-to-kill order that only was controlled upon blacks. You had white vigilantes who were given carte blanche to kill whoever they suspected to be “a looter” and the only criterion you had to meet to be a “looter” was to be Black, in particular a young Black male We’ve seen young Black men that was slaughtered, because they said they had guns on I-10, but we seen white vigilantes that was able to ride through the communities in pickup trucks with guns exposed, and the police literally just drove on byWe also know that [people were] told by Jefferson Parish police that “all the person of colors should drown because they are a disease.” There are three things that caused this tragedy: basically exploitation, corruption, and racism. Then the president waited for the last hour–because by then, most of the dastardly deeds was done
The state would offer no services unless you were willing to leave they offered nothing for people to live with, who wanted to stay. There were enough spaces that they could have made sure that everyone could have been allowed in the city of New Orleans. But their estimate is that 30 percent of the African American voters will not return to New Orleans, and when we lose that 30 percent then we cease to be a majority in that city. And then that plantation mentality will raise its head again in the state of Louisiana.