Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's The Link Between Chevron, Guantanamo and Ecuador?

So, at long last the mainstream media appears to be catching up with reality of torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghriab. Whilst stories surrounding the extent to which those closest to Bush were aware of the new policy regarding torture has been doing the rounds on the internet for some time, it is only now that it is being taking seriously by one of the 'quality' newspapers in the UK. The Guardian's Weekend magazine prints an extensive excerpt from Philippe Sands' Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty And The Compromise Of Law which explores Donald Rumsfeld's authorisation of previously illegal interrogation techniques. Although Rumsfeld's name sticks out like a sore thumb, there is one other name that repeatedly surfaces in this expose: William J Haynes II. Yes, the very same William J Haynes II who has recently been employed by Chevron.

Sands' piece makes a pretty damning case against Haynes. Sands writes: the Pentagon, an event took place for which there was no comment, no fanfare. With a signature and a few scrawled words, Rumsfeld reneged on the tradition of valour to which Bush had referred. Principles for the conduct of interrogation, dating back more than a century to President Lincoln's famous instruction of 1863 that "military necessity does not admit of cruelty", were discarded. He approved new and aggressive interrogation techniques that would produce devastating consequences.

The document had been drafted a few days earlier by the general counsel at the Defence Department, William J Haynes II (known as Jim Haynes), Rumsfeld's most senior lawyer. The Haynes memo was addressed to Rumsfeld and copied to two colleagues: General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the most senior military official in the US, and Doug Feith, under-secretary of defence for policy and number three at the department.

Yes, Haynes was
the man responsible for the policy of torture and human rights abuses that the Bush administration employed across the globe. But to what extent did Haynes approve of new interrogation techniques?

[Attached to the memorandum] was a list of 18 techniques of interrogation, set out in a three-page memorandum.

These techniques were new to the military. Category I comprised two techniques, yelling and deception. Category II included 12 techniques, aiming at humiliation and sensory deprivation, including stress positions, such as standing for a maximum of four hours; isolation; deprivation of light and sound; hooding; removal of religious and all other comfort items; removal of clothing; forced grooming, such as shaving of facial hair; and the use of individual phobias, such as fear of dogs, to induce stress.

Finally came Category III. These methods were to be used for only a very small percentage of detainees - the most uncooperative (said to be fewer than 3%) and exceptionally resistant individuals - and required approval by the commanding general at Guantánamo. In this category were four techniques: the use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact", such as grabbing, poking and light pushing; the use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences were imminent for him or his family; exposure to cold weather or water; and, finally, the use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation. This last technique came to be known as water-boarding, described on a chat show by the vice-president, Dick Cheney, as a "dunk in the water" and a "no-brainer" if it could save lives.

The Haynes memo recommended "blanket approval" of 15 of the 18 techniques, including just one of the four techniques listed in Category III: mild, non-injurious physical contact. However, he did not reject the others, nor did he advise that they were contrary to the Geneva conventions. Rumsfeld signed his name next to the word "Approved", and added his comment at the bottom of the page: "I stand for eight to 10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?"

'Blanket approval'. Not 'contrary to the Geneva convention'. Haynes essentially gave the administration the go ahead to indulge in torture on a scale never seen before. Haynes is culpable for one of the greatest crimes against humanity since the Second World War. And now, he has been enlisted to work on legal matters with Chevron. Legal matters that may well include the dispute with Ecuador regarding the alleged damage to the local environment. A dispute that has led to allegations of intimidation of key players in the prosecution (see Chevron in Ecuador label). A dispute that has been subject to a massive smear campaign by Chevron. One does not have to consider for long what Mr Haynes might bring to the dispute. Perhaps new techniques that will encourage the prosecution to drop it's case? One thing can almost be guaranteed. Haynes will explore avenues that will push the boundaries of the law in Chevron's favour. However, as Sands points out, there is still an opportunity for Haynes to receive the justice he deserves:

In June 2006, the Supreme Court overturned President Bush's decision on Geneva, ruling it to be unlawful. The court confirmed that Common Article 3 applied to all Guantánamo detainees. It was as simple as that. Whether they were Taliban or al-Qaida, every one of the detainees had rights under Common Article 3 - and that included Mohammed al-Qahtani.

The majority opinion, reaffirming the "minimal protection" offered by Common Article 3, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens. One of the Justices went even further: Common Article 3 was part of the law of war and of a treaty that the US had ratified. "By Act of Congress," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote pointedly, "violations of Common Article 3 are considered 'war crimes', punishable as federal offences, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel."

Justice Kennedy's remark put the issue of war crimes on the American political agenda. Individuals who had contributed to a violation of Common Article 3 would know that they were at risk of criminal investigation and prosecution. Even more ominously, it underscored the risk of being investigated outside the US.

Parties to the international Torture Convention are required to investigate any person who is alleged to have committed torture. If appropriate, they must then prosecute - or extradite the person to a place where he will be prosecuted. The Torture Convention is also more explicit than Geneva in that it criminalises any act that constitutes complicity or participation in torture. Complicity or participation could certainly be extended not only to the politicians and but also the lawyers involved in the condoning of the 18 techniques. After all, the scheme applied to al-Qahtani was devised by lawyers, reviewed by lawyers, overseen by lawyers.

Haynes could yet be prosecuted for his abuse of the most basic of human rights. These final few paragraphs might also explain one other aspect of the situation in Iraq. Moqtada al-Sadr is seen as a real threat to US power in the region. A threat that needs to be crushed in order for the US plan to be fully carried out. What, perhaps, makes this even more crucial is the realisation that should al-Sadr wield any power in Iraq, the consequences could be very serious indeed for various members of the Bu$h clique. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that leading members of the current administration could face extradition to Iraq for their flagrant abuse of the Torture Convention at Abu Ghraib. This, from their point of view, cannot be allowed to happen. Consequently, it is vital for al-Sadr to be portrayed as a dangerous Iranian proxy (ridiculous considering the extensive links between the current Iraqi government and Iran) by the Western establishment (politicians and the media). The thought of Western leaders being exposed as war criminals would be too much for the Western system of government to contend with.