Juan Cole: Polish PM Admits They Tortured Terror Suspects For US

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Via Juan Cole. As a result of a Polish newspaper article published in February, the Polish PM is admitting that his country's security forces helped torture al-Qaeda suspects for the U.S.:

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk is now more or less admitting what has long been suspected: The Bush administration established a secret CIA prison in Poland and had Polish security officials help torture al-Qaeda suspects there.

These steps were unconstitutional in Poland on two grounds: first, high Polish officials surrendered sovereignty over Polish territory to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Second, torture is forbidden in Poland. In addition, it contravenes European Union conventions and treaties.Poland had only escaped the grip of the Soviet Union in 1989, and so its democracy was a fledgling one. For the Bush administration to seduce its high officials into committing torture risked permanently marring its politics and undermining that democracy. Polish human rights workers have been deeply critical of Soviet-era torture, and to be put in the position of having to acknowledge this practice in their own country weakens their moral standing and besmirches the name of those tortured in the Stalinist era. Waterboarding and extreme stress techniques are also illegal in US law and practice.

One of the suspects tortured in Poland was Abu Zubayda, an addled safehouse keeper whom the Bush administration built up into a mythical ‘number three man in al-Qaeda.’ Abu Zubayda still suffers ill health and increased symptoms of mental illness as a result of the torture.Some detainees at Guantanamo are guilty of plotting or carrying out terrorist operations of some magnitude, and that George W. Bush should have transformed them into victims of torture is the most degrading thing he did to those killed on September 11. In other instances, the U.S. swept up a lot of innocents or petty criminals in its dragnet against al-Qaeda, and torturing them was not only useless and illegal, but actually a way to lose hearts and minds in the Muslim world and so was supremely self-defeating.

President Barack Obama ordered, on coming into office, that waterboarding and other torture cease. He has, however, gone out of his way to block victims of torture from launching legal actions, and has run interference for guilty officials, ensuring that there is no accountability for the torture programs.

Former Polish officials who allowed the torture on their soil, including the then head of Polish intelligence and the then prime minister and president, may be called to testify before the State Tribunal, Poland’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. The prime minister was Leszek Miller. The President of Poland at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski, had not been told by his intelligence officials about the black site.

But in 2003 when George W. Bush visited Warsaw, he thanked Kwasniewski so profusely and warmly for Poland’s help in the “war on terror” that the Polish leader became suspicious, since he hadn’t to his knowledge actually done much. He made inquiries, discovered the truth, and shut the prison down.This darkly comic anecdote demonstrates a number of important points. First, W. is thick as two blocks of wood. Second, he knew about the torture programs and about the farming out of torture to US allies, which is a punishable offense in US law. Third, the practice of torture, being illegal in Europe, impels intelligence agencies to go rogue and establish black cells inside themselves that can hide operations from the president and other civilian political leaders. (Allegedly PM Miller did know about the operation). This procedure, adopted under US pressure, profoundly undermined democracy and human rights in Poland.

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