Outsourcing torture to Uzbekistan

by Henry Farrell on April 30, 2005

The New York Times, which has been doing sterling investigative work, reports that the US has sent “dozens” of detainees to Uzbekistan under the extraordinary rendition program. This at a time when the US State Department has issued a report noting the prevalence of torture in Uzbekistan and pointing to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture’s conclusion ” that torture or similar ill-treatment was systematic.” As I believe is quite well known, Uzbeki specialties include the “boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers” as well as the boiling of prisoners to death. And the US response?

A senior C.I.A. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would not discuss whether the United States had sent prisoners to Uzbekistan or anywhere else. But he said: “The United States does not engage in or condone torture. It does not send people anywhere to be tortured. And it does not knowingly receive information derived from torture.” (my italics)

Or in other words, don’t ask, don’t tell. It is nothing less than appalling that this has happened, is continuing to happen, and is an official (if unacknowledged) US policy. Indeed, it’s not only appalling; it’s criminal. No other conclusion is possible than that the United States of America is deliberately and consciously shipping people to third party regimes so that information can be tortured from them. This is general knowledge. Yet it isn’t being acted on. Those who have introduced this policy and overseen it shouldn’t just be forced to resign. They should be prosecuted as war criminals.

May Day again

by John Q on April 30, 2005

Another year, another May Day, reminding me that I still haven’t got round to my long-planned series of posts on labour issues in Australia, especially the replacement of permanent jobs by various mixtures of casual and contract appointments. We have a public holiday tomorrow, and I don’t suppose I’d be breaching the spirit of it if I did some work on this topic then.

In the short term, though, the most important historical fact about May 1 is that it’s the anniversary of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech on Iraq in 2003. When I wrote about this anniversary last year, I observed

the anniversary of Bush declaration of victory looks as good a time as any to date what seems increasingly certain to be a defeat [at least for the policies that have been pursued for the last year] … The Administration seems to be inching towards the position I’ve been advocating for some time – dumping the policies of Bremer and Chalabi (though not, unfortunately Bremer and Chalabi themselves), and handing over real military power to Iraqis. If the interim (still inchoate) government has substantial real power, manages to hold early elections and can get enough support to permit a rapid US withdrawal, the outcome might not be too bad. But there’s very little time left, and this scenario assumes exceptionally skilful management of the situation from now on.

How do things look a year later? Bremer is gone, thankfully, and I doubt that there’s anyone left who would suggest that the Coalition Provisional Administration he ran was anything better than a set of incompetent bunglers who achieved less than nothing[1]. Chalabi, by contrast, seems to be the eternal survivor. The Americans dumped him after all, but he promptly switched sides and has popped up as some sort of Deputy Prime Minister in the new Iraqi government and looks set to get the lucrative oil ministry he’s been after for so long.
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