War crimes and crimes against humanity

Col. Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff, says he’s heard about the maltreatment of prisoners directly from those who carried it out: “CIA, military, and contractor.”

Transcript from the Australian Broadcasting Company:

DEBBIE WHITMONT: But only recently, in an affidavit for an English court, [Hicks] set out his treatment in detail. In Afghanistan, he said he was slapped, kicked, punched and spat on, could hear other detainees screaming in pain, saw the marks of their beatings and had a shotgun trained on him during interrogation. “I realised,” said Hicks, “that if I did not cooperate with US interrogators, I might be shot.”

Hicks also detailed, as reported by Four Corners in 2005, twice being taken off a US warship, flown to an unknown location and physically abused by US personnel for a total of 16 hours. Two American investigations have found that claim unsubstantiated. We asked Lawrence Wilkerson, who studied similar abuse patterns, though not the Hicks case, what he thought of Hicks’ claim and the investigations.

COL LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: I think they’re a farce. I think they’re a farce. I know this kind of abuse happened. I’ve talked to people who participated in it – CIA, military and contractor.

Note also the virtual concession from the State Department that Hicks was forced to plead guilty under an ex post facto law:

JOHN BELLINGER, LEGAL ADVISER, US SECRETARY OF STATE: That’s really what’s so difficult here, is that – I think, now that we all look back in retrospect, we find that there were gaps in our laws both domestically and even internationally, and we have all had to scramble to fill in those gaps, but I don’t think that we should simply say “Well, it’s too bad, looking back that on September 11, that we didn’t have enough laws on the books and that therefore these people who all trained in acts of terrorism” ought to just go free.”

Hicks was charged with “material assistance to terrorism” because, having signed up to fight for the Taliban when it was the de facto government of Afghanistan, before 9-11, he fought against the Northern Alliance (our allies, but in real life a trade association of heroin refiners and dealers). He was not charged with planning or carrying out any action against the United States or against Australia. A bad actor, and a fool? Sure. “The worst of the worst”? Don’t make me laugh.

If “providing material support to terrorism” is a crime with retrospective application, can we go back and try the folks in the Reagan Administration who supported the terrorists of UNITA and the Contras? Or the folks in the Carter Administration who supported (as I thought was a good idea at the time) terrorist actions by the mujaheddin in Afghanistan? Or Pat Robertson for palling arround with terrorist governments in Central Africa? Doesn’t the rule of law mean anything anymore?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com