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ACLU Sues Rumsfeld for War Crimes
Pam Harrison
Friday, March 04, 2005


“This lawsuit presents the opportunity to make clear that the United States is still committed to the rule of law, and that every American, no matter how high-ranking, is bound to comply with those rules.” – Michael Posner, Human Rights First Executive Director

Oh, boy, did I make a mistake, recently, complimenting Scott Sherman on his HIV piece. Not only did he bite me in the ass for it—barking cynics such as he are not used to being seriously read, much less complimented. He’s now so full of himself after actually having written a relevant article for the first time in his life that his head is starting to look like that scene in Airplane, where O.J. Simpson’s enormous Afro gets caught in the doorway. That’s about the type of mean-spirited, cheeky, low-class hatefulness I would expect from a Gay Republican in Independent’s clothing, who at the end of election crunch-time, voted Democrat to demonstrate to all of us the “courage of his convictions.”

Then he turned around and wrote an article that said we should protect the privacy of a president who brought us the glorious Patriot Act and holds war captives for interrogation without due access to legal representation. Now there is talk of collecting our DNA in order to “prevent” crime by keeping us all on their little government records for scrutiny at will. These tapes are an asset that should have been released to the public much sooner because they would have given us an idea of what we were in for. But it’s doubtful their release will make any difference now because W. gets away with a lot more under the umbrella of his present conservative regime than Clinton would have ever thought possible. Yet another case in point:

Earlier this week, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed the first federal court lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan that has tarnished America's reputation. Both organizations charge that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.

What the ACLU lawsuit against Rumsfeld charges:

• Widespread abuses did not spring from the spontaneous acts of a couple of soldiers. Secretary Rumsfeld personally authorized the military to abandon our nation's historic prohibition against torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

• Secretary Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military officials failed to stop the torture and degrading treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay even after credible reports of abuses began to emerge in the media and in military documents.

• Although Secretary Rumsfeld knew of wrongdoing and even ordered investigations into the torture of prisoners, he knowingly limited those investigations in a way that blocked high-ranking civilian or military officials, including him, from being held accountable.

The ACLU/Human Rights First lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois on behalf of eight men who were subject to torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. forces under Secretary Rumsfeld's command. The groups charged Secretary Rumsfeld with violations of the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention, an international law prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment of military and civilian prisoners of war.

On Tuesday, the New York-based U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association, and four Iraqi civilians who were subjected to various forms of torture and abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, joined together to file a criminal complaint with Germany's Federal Prosecutors. CCR said it has chosen Germany because of its Code of Crimes Against International Law, introduced in 2002, which grants German courts universal jurisdiction in cases involving war crimes or crimes against humanity. The CCR accuses Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, a senior defense official and seven U.S. military officers, including the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, of complicity for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The U.S. government is not willing to open a serious investigation into Abu Ghraib. The scandal ignited outrage all over the world last April when photographs showing U.S. soldiers inflicting torture, abuse, and sexual humiliation on Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison first surfaced. A top-level U.S. inquiry leveled full responsibility on the military chain of command for creating the environment that allowed the abuses to take place. So far, only seven lower ranking military police and an intelligence soldier face trial and court martial for abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib at this time. It presently appears that their superior officers will be exempted from disciplinary action.

CCR vice president Peter Weiss said the U.S. government’s failure to pursue those responsible and its justification of violations because of "extraordinary circumstances" had set a dangerous example. "This authorization that has come from the highest levels...gives a green light for those kinds of violations throughout the world," he said.

Here’s a footnote, in case you had forgotten: Private Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old clerk from Palestine, West Virginia, was a member of the U.S. Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company that took a wrong turning near Nassiriya and was ambushed. Nine of her U.S. comrades were killed. Iraqi soldiers took Lynch to the local hospital, which was swarming with Fedayeen, where she was held for eight days.

The doctors in Nassiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for Lynch in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital, and one of only two nurses on the floor. It was only thanks to a courageous Iraqi lawyer, Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, that she was saved. According to the Pentagon, Al-Rehaief risked his life to alert the Americans that Lynch was being held. Damn those Iraqis! They set a much finer example than we did. It also gives the rest of the world just one more reason to be disgusted with us.

For more information on the suit against Donald Rumsfeld, see the World Affairs Board and ACLU.org.

Pam Harrison is a professional and freelance writer residing near Fort Knox, Kentucky. Her first historical fiction novel, House of the Muses: Mnasidika, and its sequel, Sappho: The House of Penthilos, will be published in 2005. For more information, visit her writer’s resources website.

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Past Issues

European Opinion of American Foreign Policy
(Feb. 25, 2005)

How to Survive as an Opinion Columnist
(Feb. 18, 2005)

The Insidious Agenda of Gay Cartoons
(Feb. 11, 2005)

The State of Our Union
(Feb. 04, 2005)

A Sea of Red — The Impact of Homophobia on Our Nation
(Jan. 27, 2005)



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