Yeah, I'm writing about the Busheviks again. It's dismaying to keep adding entries to the worst president ever category, but scandals from the notoriously secretive Bush administration are still being unearthed. The latest offense to be uncovered is from Sunday's Physicians for Human Rights report entitled "Experiments in Torture" (PDF), noting the Bushies' not-quite-Mengele-but-too-close-for-comfort medical experimentation on detainees.
PHR writes that "The Experiments in Torture report is the result of six months of investigation and the review of thousands of pages of government documents. It has been peer-reviewed by outside experts in the medical, biomedical and research ethics fields, legal experts, health professionals and experts in the treatment of torture survivors." Here are some excerpts from the report:
This current report provides evidence that in addition to medical complicity in torture, health professionals participated in research and experimentation on detainees in US custody. (p. 3)
Even the claim of systematic medical monitoring in the name of making "enhanced" intelligence techniques (EITs) "safe, legal, and effective" is contradicted by official monitoring policy, which failed to adequately take into account the mental harm caused by the tactics, among other factors. In fact, the "enhanced" interrogation techniques are premised on the infliction of mental harm, so the concept of studying them to make them more effective is ethically impermissible, and studying them to make them "safer" is logically untenable -- as the techniques are unsafe by design. (p. 6)
In a circular application of science to law, and in violation of the ethical principles of both professions, experimentation relating to the EITs apparently was used by Bush administration lawyers in an effort to protect US personnel engaged in the EIP from potential legal liability for their acts. OLC lawyers argued that efforts to refine and improve the application of techniques would provide a potential "good faith" defense for interrogators against charges of torture. [...] But in attempting to legitimize the crime of torture, the lawyers left those who authorized and performed the research open to the charge of illegal human experimentation. Even if medical monitoring was dutifully applied for the intended purpose of mitigating the infliction of severe physical and psychological harm, the medical monitoring itself, because it generated research that was applied to future application of the techniques and as part of efforts to mitigate legal liability, could be considered a major breach of professional medical ethics, and could constitute a crime. (pp. 11-12)
This program engaged in violations of the detainees' health and human rights that are explicitly prohibited by international human rights agreements to which the United States is party --including the United Nations Conventions Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (p. 15)
Is PHR's work the definitive and conclusive exposé on this subject? No, and we can't expect it to be. This NYT editorial states:
The report from the physicians' group [PHR] does not prove its case beyond doubt -- how could it when so much is still hidden? -- but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.
Renouncing the Busheviks' illegal and immoral behavior is the absolute minimum acceptable response from the Obama administration. If Obama wants to truly earn that Nobel Peace Prize, a thorough repudiation is also required. PHR, in fact "demands that President Obama direct the Attorney General to investigate these allegations, and if a crime is found to have been committed, prosecute those responsible."
Now that Bush has admitted approval of his administration's despicable waterboarding--after Cheney said much the same thing--there should be an independent investigation into their involvement in the war crimes at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, the various black sites, and who knows where else.
According to Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, part of the president's duties is to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."
Obama, you're not doing that part of your job very well.
The reality-based blogosphere is fairly well appalled, and here is a sampling of the voices calling for justice:
Jeff Kaye explains at FDL (here and here) that it's a "vital necessity that investigations take place:"
...hopefully PHR's report will provide the added impetus to push this issue to the forefront of a tired, confused, and frightened country, a country misled in so many ways over the past decade, and now forced to confront the full panoply of evil that has resulted from having a portion of the government held apart from public scrutiny. That must end now.
Adam Serwer (American Prospect) notes that "by refusing to investigate torture, the current administration is fully implicated in establishing a de-facto legal immunity for government officials when they break the law in the name of security."
PHR report co-author Stephen Soldz notes at AlterNet that PHR "confirms previous suspicions and provides the first strong evidence that the CIA was indeed engaged in illegal and unethical research on detainees in its custody:"
The report, the result of six months of detailed work [...] points to several instances where medical personnel -- physicians and psychologists -- monitored the detailed administration of torture techniques and the effects upon those being abused. The resultant knowledge was then used both as a legal rationale for the use of the techniques and to refine these abusive techniques, allegedly in order to make them safer.
Dan Froomkin observes the outrage over Bush's admission, and quotes retired Brigadier General David Irvine:
"When [Bush] decided to [torture detainees] the first time, he launched the nation down a disastrous road, and we will continue to pay dearly for the damage his decision has caused. We are seen by the rest of the world as having abandoned our commitment to international law. We have forfeited enormous amounts of moral leadership as the world's sole remaining superpower. And it puts American troops in greater danger -- and unnecessary danger."
Andrew Sullivan has "one lingering question about all this" [actually several]:
Since it appears that these refinements of torture were not ad hoc but part of a systemic effort, where was the experimentation taking place? How many doctors and psychologists were involved? Was there a separate facility, as at Bagram, for experimenting with torture? Did these experiments ever go wrong?
Could prisoners, for example, accidentally suffocate during experimentation? And what would the US government do if such a thing occurred? One thing is clear: we will never find out from the Obama administration. They have been as diligent in protecting the government's record of torture as Bush and Cheney were. That kind of accountability and transparency is not change Obama ever believed in.
Glenn Greenwald observes that "Obama is not only protecting repugnant crimes and the criminals who committed them, but also ensuring that they will occur again:"
An added benefit: by so vigilantly protecting Bush crimes from investigation and refusing to apply the law, Obama significantly increases the chances that should he break the law [...] he, too, will be bestowed with imperial immunity for his actions. It's a never-ending, mutually beneficial agreement among Presidents and their parties to agree to place Presidents above the law.
Jason Leopold's "Human Experimentation at the Heart of Bush Administration's Torture Program" (TruthOut) quotes Obama as taking a bold stand in favor of accountability:
"We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards and understanding that that was an enormous problem."
Oh, never mind...he was talking about Indonesian human-rights violations. The "Bush blind spot" is alive and well, and his presidency will apparently be held to a lower standard by Democrats as well as Republicans.