UAE 'Torture' Scandal and Cover-up Sparks Outrage in the US

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Salon.com

UAE 'Torture' Scandal and Cover-up Sparks Outrage in the US

As more videotapes emerge documenting the torture inflicted on numerous victims by Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a prince of the United Arab Emirates, the controversy is beginning to jeopardize the UAE's relationship with the United States, a country that absolutely loathes torture and demands real accountability for those who do it:

"I have more than two hours of video footage showing Sheikh Issa's involvement in the torture of more than 25 people," wrote Texas-based lawyer Anthony Buzbee in a letter obtained by the Observer.

The news of more torture videos involving Issa is another huge blow to the international image of the UAE . . . . The fresh revelations about Issa's actions will add further doubt to a pending nuclear energy deal between the UAE and the US.  The deal, signed in the final days of George W Bush, is seen as vital for the UAE.  It will see the US share nuclear energy expertise, fuel and technology in return for a promise to abide by non-proliferation agreements. But the deal needs to be recertified by the Obama administration and there is growing outrage in America over the tapes. Congressman James McGovern, a senior Democrat, has demanded that Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, investigate the matter and find out why US officials initially appeared to play down its significance.

The U.S. is a very tolerant nation, but the one thing we simply cannot abide is when a government fails adequately to investigate allegations of torture on the part of key officials and fails to hold them accountable.  That's where we draw the line. 

The UAE royal family claimed that they had investigated and resolved the matter and made sure that it would not happen again -- but when it comes to torture, we have made clear that such a "look-forward-not-backwards/reflection-not-retribution" mentality is morally outrageous and unacceptable -- from the UAE:

The authorities in the UAE have certainly mishandled the emergence of the initial torture tape. The 2004 tape was obtained by ABC News and shown on television in the US.  The UAE at first said that the matter had been privately settled between Sheikh Issa and his victim. They also added that UAE police had followed all their rules and regulations properly.

But that position did not last long in the face of a wave of international revulsion at the brutality on display. The fierceness of the criticism eventually forced the UAE government to both condemn the tape and announce a new investigation. The government "unequivocally condemns the actions depicted on the video", the state-run news agency said last week. It added that a government human rights group in the Judicial Department would also now review the matter. . . .

Buzbee welcomed the developments, but expressed scepticism that the investigation was genuinely motivated, because the authorities had known about the tapes for several years. "I am sceptical about whether there will be a genuine investigation, given that various officials have been aware of these issues for many years and given the fact that members of the government were actually involved in, or covered up, the torture," he said.

Indeed.  What kind of primitive, brutal country knows for years that its own powerful government officials participated in torture and then fails even to investigate what happened, let alone impose meaningful accountability on the torturers?   The international community simply cannot tolerate acquiescence to that sort of evil.  Note that the UAE apparently compensated the victims of the prince's torture, whereas the U.S. blocked -- and continues to try to block -- its own torture victims from even having a day in court.

Had Issa -- who ordered these torture sessions recorded -- only looked to the U.S. for civilized and moral leadership on such matters, he almost certainly could have avoided this trouble:

U.S. Says C.I.A. Destroyed 92 Tapes of Interrogations

The government on Monday revealed for the first time the extent of the destruction of videotapes in 2005 by the Central Intelligence Agency, saying that agency officers destroyed 92 videotapes documenting the harsh interrogations of two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. detention. . . .

It had been previously known that officials of the agency had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotaped interrogations, but the documents filed Monday reveal the number of tapes. . . . The destroyed videotapes are thought to have depicted some of the harshest interrogation techniques used by the C.I.A.

Only monsters and barbarians fail to destroy their own torture tapes.  The New York Times previously reported that the highest-level White House officials -- including David Addington and Alberto Gonzales -- participated in discussions about whether to destroy those videotapes (acts which the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission have called "obstruction of justice"), though because we need to Look Forward, Not Back, and this all happened in The Past, we don't know what was said and don't need to.  Knowing that might disrupt our moment of quiet, contemplative reflection.

What's most notable about the Guardian article reporting on the emergence of the new UAE torture tapes is that it contains this link to one of the new torture videos (or, to use the high editorial standards of our nation's leading newspapers:  "the 'torture' videos," or "videos depicting harsh techniques which critics decry as 'torture'"):

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But if you actually click on the warning link, it merely takes you to a video that -- although it's dramatically entitled "Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan Torturing a man" -- shows nothing more than a tied-and-bound victim being slapped around a little bit and forced to eat some sand -- a technique that (a) nobody who has read the OLC memos could possibly find shocking, (b) would be dismissed by America's morally upstanding right-wing warriors as nothing more than a fun fraternity prank; and (c) would never qualify as "torture" as our own government defined that term, given that there's no organ failure, no permanent physical damage, and no death: 

It's certainly true that the first released video of the torture inflicted by Issa depicted grotesque violence -- including severe beating, culminating with running over the victim with a car.  But that level of brutality also isn't exactly unknown to the U.S., as the Far Leftist score-settler, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, recently pointed out on MSNBC:

We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during a course of that, both by the armed forces and CIA. [Releasing the memos] was the right thing to do. . . . There is prosecutorial discretion.  We shouldn't in my view go after the CIA officers involved in this. There is a good argument in my view for reviewing the White House justice council and the Attorney General's office who okayed this.

Gen. McCaffrey's point was echoed by the Hard Leftist Vengeful Partisan, Gen. Antonio Taguba:

[T]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. . . . [T]he Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. . . . The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account. 

Even by official U.S. Government acknowledgments, there have been numerous deaths of detainees in U.S. custody which "were acts of criminal homicide."  Independent reports make clear just how prevalent detainee death was.

But anyway, enough about all that divisive partisan unpleasantness --  back to this brutal, criminal UAE prince:  let's watch more of those videotapes, express our outrage on behalf of international human rights standards, and threaten the UAE that their relationship with us will suffer severely unless there is a real investigation -- not the whitewash they tried to get away with -- along with real accountability.  We simply cannot, in good conscience, maintain productive relations with a country that fails to take "torture" seriously.  We are, after all, the United States.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian US and Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the PowerfulGreat American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican PoliticsA Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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