Russia Pressures Us to Investigate Our Torture–Some of It

On Friday, Russia joined the growing list of country telling us to investigate our torture chambers. It may be more noteworthy coming from Russia given the turnabout: back in the day, of course, dissidents and the US pressured the Soviet Union to abide by the human rights treaties it had signed. Then there’s this:

Russia called on the United States to conducted a thorough and objective investigation of the facts of torture of prisoners in U.S. secret prisons and detention centres at Bagram and Guantanamo, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, Valery Loshchinin, said while discussing the U.S. Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council.

They want us to investigate Bagram. Great: that’s probably where some of our worst abuse currently takes place (when we don’t simply outsource it entirely). And I’m sure Russia enjoys pressuring us to be better overlords in Afghanistan.

And Gitmo: well, sure. While we have investigated some of this torture, there’s the outstanding question what we did at Camp No.

But notice what Loshchinin’s statement doesn’t mention? Our torture chambers in Eastern Europe, particularly Romania and Poland. I guess maybe they thought it’d be unseemly to say, “investigate what you’ve been doing at those prisons we used for so many years.”

And on the subject of investigating torture, as we’ve been noting, the statute of limitations on the torture tape destruction expires today. Have we indicted anyone yet?

  1. tjbs says:

    Investigate what?

    Mr.& Mr. TORTURE/ MURDER/ TREASON both admitted on public tv they committed war crimes , not the war of aggression, but waterboarding.

    My father used to say don’t pass a law that is unenforceable, CAT and it seems eric holder is committing theft by deception by pretending he’s enforcing ALL the laws of the land.

  2. Jim White says:

    It’s too bad we didn’t think to send someone to DOJ to send out a livestreaming video of the empty podium where DOJ holds its press briefings. That would be a powerful, if boring, image for the day.

  3. scribe says:

    Well, the turnabout is even the more ironic than just “the Americans are the torturers and the Russians calling them on it”, a stance opposite of that during the Cold War.

    Furthering the irony has been the way the statements, justifying or trying to bury the torture, from those in office since 2001 aped those made by the Soviets during the Cold War. Although I’m still waiting for some Admin official to condemn the Soviets Russians for interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation (in this case – “interfering” by condemning the US’ adoption of torture), the US oficials have hit most of the rest of the notes the Russians Soviets used on US and Euro human rights activists back in the 70s and 80s. That, and the US hasn’t quite gone to the prosecutorial lengths the Soviets did on their domestic complainers, but to be fair the US hasn’t had to. They just point at someone as a “terrorist” and most deomstic sympathy melts away.

    More irony, of course, in the design of the now supposedly-abandoned Mexican border fence. It closely aped the design of the fence which ran along the old “Inter-German Border”, i.e., the fence which separated East Germany from West Germany. Not for nothing, I recall some Rethug pols pushing for the inclusion of antipersonnel landmines along the Mexican border fence (in addition to electrifying it, of course). Those mines were a real nuisance because inter alia, in places where a river crossed the border (I’m thinking of the Werra in the so-called Fulda Gap) spring and autumn flooding occasionally washed them downstream into West Germany. In addition to killing East Germans who merely wanted a better life. Those aspects of the fence were regular grace notes of outrage in every Rethug’s screed against the fence (I’d bet we could find them in McCain’s early speeches, if anyone could hold their nose long enough to read them.) and now, both the fence and accoutrements are articles of faith for Rethugs.

    I’m just waiting for some Admin official to condemn some non-plutocrats/non-oligarchs for being “wreckers” for not making the economy come back. They never address the inherent fatal flaws in their economic theology.

    Sadly, all of this should be causing intense psychic pain for the people in the American power structure spouting the crap they do. But, that would require a conscience and integrity and those in power are either born without them or have them removed to facilitate their rise to power.

  4. klynn says:

    Had an interesting talk with a group of folks last night that lean to the Right politically.

    They knew nothing about the torture tape destruction. They knew little about the extent of the use of torture by our country. They did not know the SOL on the tape destruction ran out today.

    I asked them if there was any time in history when there was a country we opposed for their human rights record on torture and if being able to confront issues of human rights had been a diplomatic trump card in the past?

    They named many and agreed it had been a trump card.

    I asked if they thought if our past history on human rights had been a leverage tool diplomatically with other countries historically?

    “Yes!” was the answer by all with some historical examples.

    Asked how they thought we could be successful as a democracy building democratic values globally if we are participating in torture and our top judicial bodies turn a blind eye and let the criminal activity associated go by without any indictments?

    They were all silent.

    Asked how would WWII have impacted our society after the war had there not been the Nuremberg Trials?

    “More chaos,” was the general opinion.

    Asked if they realized that as citizens, remaining silent and not demanding justice on these matters made us guilty too.

    They were shocked.

    They asked who they needed to call to get something done. Asked the lawyer in the group what the lack of action would mean for history of the Rule Of Law in the US?

    He turned and uttered, “The end.”

    I hope Jane considers devoting the lead pages on FDL on this subject and possibly conducts a poll or letter signing campaign today.

    • kindGSL says:

      Thank you so much, you have restored some of my faith in Americans.

      I have to admit it was looking pretty dark and grim. I had basically given up on the rule of law, it is completely meaningless if no cares about enforcement.

    • bobschacht says:

      You have a talent for asking good questions. But I’m puzzled by the ending:

      He turned and uttered, “The end.”

      Who is “he”?

      I recommend copying this list of questions to take to Tea Party meetings. With respect to government intrusion (warrantless wiretapping, etc.), they are our natural allies. Most of them are Constitutionalists, too, even if they value different parts of the Constitution than we do, and want to change it in directions that we find appalling. Think of Republicans like Bruce Fein and Bob Baer(?)

      A couple of years ago, Jane and Glenn Greenwald formed a “strange bedfellows” coalition. If we want to make any progress, it may be necessary to revive that coalition.

      Rand Paul is already advocating putting war spending on the table of things to cut.

      Perhaps “Left” and “Right” are on a circle rather than a line, and somewhere in a strange place on the circle, Left and Right might come together.

      Bob in AZ

      • brutaltruth says:

        It’s not a circle but admittedly there is a little bit of overlap on certain issues especially when the libertarian strain is thrown into the mix.

    • bobschacht says:

      Had an interesting talk with a group of folks last night that lean to the Right politically. They knew nothing about the torture tape destruction. They knew little about the extent of the use of torture by our country. They did not know the SOL on the tape destruction ran out today….

      This is part of what Cable News has given us. In this modern age, we can choose our own news source. If you want, you can choose the Fox News bubble, and live in a fact-free universe. Our you can choose whichever channel most confirms and validates your view of the world. Back in the days before CNN, when we got all our news from ABC, NBC or CBS, there was basic agreement on most of the facts. Nowadays, we have traded facts for opinions. We have entirely succumbed to the Post-Modernist attack on objective reality, and the pendulum as swung too far in the direction of news nihilism.

      As a nation, how can we restore our balance?

      Bob in AZ

  5. harpie says:

    It might also be unseemly to draw attention to our actions in the former Soviet Republics in what they called “Central Asia”. [For an interesting discussion about what constitutes “Central Asia” see wiki .]

    Some of that legacy:

    Lib Dem Ministers Complicit in Torture; Craig Murray; 10/29/10

    [Graphic image warning]

    Under the Lib/Con coalition, MI6 continue to receive intelligence obtained through torture abroad, and Lib Dem ministers will be seeing intelligence obtained from hellish torture chambers in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and numerous other capitals.


    It is the old man I met who had his children tortured before his eyes until he admitted false family ties with al-Qaida. It is the woman raped with the broken bottle, It is the lady who lived opposite me whose father was blinded as a political prisoner, and who was held down while a truck was run over her legs. All of that and thousands more did not stop the government, despite my profound objections as Ambassador, from accepting intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers via the CIA. […]

    Diplomacy, Dictatorship and the Uses of Torture; Craig Murray; 11/1/10

    […] But Brian completely fails to take account of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement. Under this. MI6 and the CIA share all intelligence. The Americans do all the things in the above list. Waterboarding and other physical tortures are just one part of the American arsenal. Under extraordinary rendition, hundreds were knowingly delivered up to torture. I have received direct eye witness evidence of CIA staff physically present at torture sessions in Uzbekistan. As Brian knows, MI6 will have received every US intelligence report received from all this activity. […]

    The following report is illuminating on how the US operates in Central Asia, and how it came to be that [Horton article linked below] “the United States spends roughly six times the money on military and security aid in Central Asia that it spends on promoting human rights, the rule of law, and democracy.”

    US Military Aid to Central Asia 1999-2009; Security Priorities Trump Human Rights and Diplomacy; Open Society Foundations; 10/10

    The report is linked in this Scott Horton article:

    The Whitehouse, the Pentagon and Central Asia; Scott Horton; Harper’s; 11/2/10


    […] Second, we find that Washington’s bark is worse than its bite when it comes to human-rights abuses. Notwithstanding a decision to terminate military aid in 2004 and fairly strong language from the Bush Administration following the massacre in Andijan in 2005, Uzbekistan was able to purchase more than $50 million worth of training and equipment directly from U.S. companies and over $12 million more through U.S. government channels. Indeed, the shutoff of American direct assistance in Uzbekistan seems to have coincided with the mysterious appearance in Uzbekistan of prime U.S. security contractors such as Blackwater. […]

    This is exactly what the US gov’t did in regard to the Yemen/child soldier waivers Marcy wrote about recently. Here’s Josh Rogin’s latest on that issue:

    Human rights groups press Obama on child soldiers decision; Josh Rogin; Foreign Policy; 11/5/10

    CNN on Yemen, today:

    U.S. drones operating in Yemen, foreign minister says; Hala Gorani; CNN; 11/7/10

    […] “The [drone] attacks are undertaken by the Yemeni Air Force but there is intelligence information that is exchanged about the location of the terrorists by the Americans,” said [Yemen Foreign Minister] Abu Bakr Abdullah Al Qirbi.

    Although Americans aren’t known to let other nations operate their drones, Al Qirbi declined to confirm that Americans were operating the drones in his country. If the Yemeni Air Force is operating the drones as he says, it would be a rare concession by the Americans. […]

      • JamesJoyce says:

        Well done klynn. Crime is committed then the cover-up. Meanwhile, people utterly ignorant of facts form opinions then abdicate any responsibility because it is easier to turn and walk away! Class acts for sure!

    • klynn says:

      You should turn that comment into a diary and just add an opener that ties your facts to the SOL on the torture tape destruction running out today.

      • harpie says:

        I agree with James Joyce @10: Well Done! You have more patience than I.

        Also agree tax payers should be angry. I know I am.

        And thank you for the suggestion. If I have time, I might give it a try. I’ve never done a diary before.

        • klynn says:

          Thanks James Joyce, Harpie, joe6pac and kindGSL. I probably should have shared this part of the conversation…

          Has the US ever used human rights as a justification for going to war?

          The group gave many “Yes,” responses and noted such times human rights propaganda “sold” wartime efforts. Including Iraq.

          Then I asked,”Could a country use the same justifications against us now that it is known that we torture and do not prosecute crimes related to such acts?

          That was probably the kicker question which left everyone stunned at the prospect.

          And a member of the group said, “So torture makes us a target and the lack of the rule of law to address it increases our target size.”

          I think they were finally “getting it.”

    • patrickhenrypress says:

      Essentially, those persons involved in torture or the cover-up of torture are domestic (and foreign) enemies of the Constitution.

      I recall when Reagan did an end-around of Congress to move weapons to “freedom fighters” he covertly undermined our government, launching Oliver North’s career in entertainment. The Nazi party wasn’t defeated. They simply changed continents and discovered a fondness for tea.

  6. BoxTurtle says:

    Hmm…Russia pressuring us. What do you suppose they want in trade? We’re not doing anything they aren’t, so they can’t really want the torture investigated. Have we been picking on them for human rights abuses in the republics recently?

    Boxturtle (If so, we’ve learned a lot about chutzpah from Israel)

  7. klynn says:

    November is an important month regarding human rights history and Russia was an involved party…

    Beginning on November 5th:

    The Allies conducted a dress rehearsal for the trial on November 5 at the Palace of Justice, the purpose of which was to test the operation of the translation system.

    It was during this period of November that the prosecution had to determine the status of defendant Rudolf Hess. Hess claimed to suffer from amnesia, and seemed to exhibit genuine symptoms of mental deterioration. The prosecution was skeptical of his claims, deciding to put his memory to the test on November 8. They showed Hess film reels of himself and Hitler at Nuremberg in 1934, which seemed to have an effect on him, but in questioning afterwards, he refused to admit that he remembered being there.

    Later, during the month of November 1945:

    During this time, the debate between General Donovan and Justice Jackson came to a climax. Jackson wanted the trial to be based on documents, while Donovan believed enemy witnesses were necessary for a successful trial. Donovan, who was one of Jackson’s chief staff members, would not relent, leaving Nuremberg by the end of the month, only a few days into the trial.

    Despite these setbacks, the trial would begin at 10:00AM Tuesday, November 20.

    On November 20, at 10am exactly, Justice Geoffrey Lawrence convened the International Military Tribunal with a rap from his gavel, given to his as a gift from Justice Francis Biddle. The prosecutors took turns reading the indictment against the Nazis.

    The court heard the pleas from the defendants on the next day, November 21. Each one of them pled not guilty. After the pleas, Jackson stepped up to the lectern to deliver his opening statement. The speech, which lasted for the better part of a day, began:

    “May it please your honors, the privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility.

    “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.

    “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.”

    Jackson’s Opening Address at Nuremberg.

    If only the DOJ could remember the life’s work of Justice Robert H.Jackson today and carry out justice.

  8. bigbrother says:

    I wore my torture outfit last year at a Democratic rally with our REP Lois Capps last year. The room cringed in shock as I stood before them. The Democrats were our hope until Obama stated ‘we were looking forward not back’. When the FCC under McCain approved the sale of the media to conservative I knew that we had lost the American majority that might have objected had they not been brain washed into believing torture is a national security necessity.
    The irony is McCain was a victim of torture!
    Humanities are a required course in most undergrad curriculums so why aren’t middle class folks getting it.
    And does this mean Reyes is off of the legal hook for his part in that tape destruction?

  9. donbacon says:

    The US State Department annually slams a number of other countries for human rights violations, including torture in Russia. So this is simply some payback.

    From the most recent report on Russia:

    There were reports that federal and local security forces seeking to quell the insurgencies continued to use excessive force and to engage in human rights abuses, including torture, summary executions, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions. . .Armed forces and police units were reported to have frequently abused and tortured persons in holding facilities where federal authorities sorted out fighters and persons suspected of aiding rebels from civilians. . .There were no further developments in the 2007 cases of alleged torture and mistreatment by security officers of Shamsudi Khadisov, Ramzan Khasiyev, or Mihkail Akbulatov. . .The trial of suspects in the 2005 attack on security service buildings in Nalchik, which began in October 2008, continued. Many of the persons accused alleged that they were singled out because of their religious beliefs and then, after the attack, arrested and tortured to extract confessions. etc. etc.

  10. brutaltruth says:

    I’m 100% for indicting the top leadership of the former administration for authorizing torture. Another, infinitely larger, issue is that of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell launching a war of aggression against Iraq, what the Geneva Conventions define as the supreme international crime, their words. While they’re at it they could indict every member of Congress who abdicated their responsibility and handed Bush the power to launch this horrific war including the feckless Dems who wanted to get the issue out of the way in time for the 2002 midterms so they could change the subject to the economy. They’re also very much at fault of course.

    It’s a very simple, straightforward issue: When Country A is not being attacked by Country B but decides to invade it anyway, that can be called nothing other than a war of aggression, making the ones responsible for launching it war criminals. If the war in Iraq isn’t a war of aggression then there has never been one in the history of the world, meaning when the Nazis invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Yugoslavia, Greece and the Soviet Union there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. America, time to face the bad news: The U.S. is the villain in this mess, a rogue state that history will always condemn unless you bring your war criminals to justice.