Welcome Dick Cheney and George W. Bush—perhaps Mugabe or Gadhafi can visit Vancouver

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I wonder how the mainstream media would react if Saddam Hussein were still alive and decided to drop by the Vancouver Club to speak about his memoirs.

Would they consider it newsworthy that a non-American who had committed crimes against humanity could visit Vancouver without being arrested?

Let's say Robert Mugabe or Moammar Gadhafi or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trundled into the Terminal City Club to speak to leaders in the local business community. Would it be worthy of comment in the Vancouver Sun or the National Post or the Globe and Mail?

But when former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney is coming to town, it's seen as a largely unremarkable event. Only after a leading international human-rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, issued a statement yesterday did our lamestream media (to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin) feel that the Cheney visit was noteworthy.

On Monday (September 26) at 5:30 p.m., Vancouverites who object to Cheney speaking in our city will hold a demonstration outside the Vancouver Club at 915 West Hastings Street.

We at the Georgia Straight have consistently covered visits of Cheney and his former boss George W. Bush to Canada. Here are some of the reasons why:

• Under international law, it is illegal to launch a war of aggression against another state without the support of the UN Security Council.

• There have been more than 100,000 documented civilian deaths in Iraq from violence since the U.S.-led invasion of that country in 2003 without the authorization of the UN Security Council.

• Cheney has admitted that he supported measures such as waterboarding, which are tantamount to committing torture.

• The Bush administration's support for rendition, whereby suspects were taken to third countries to be tortured, is worthy of severe condemnation.

(Anyone interested in a more detailed examination can read the Straight's April 7, 2005 cover story, entitled "Are Bush & Co. war criminals?")

This weekend, here's what Human Rights Watch said about Cheney's visit to Vancouver:

(Toronto) – The Canadian government should be prepared to bring criminal charges against former US Vice President Dick Cheney for his alleged role in the torture of detainees when he visits Vancouver on September 26, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today.

Overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens, obligates Canada to investigate Cheney to comply with the Convention Against Torture, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, Canadian law expressly provides for jurisdiction over an individual for torture and other crimes if the complainant is a Canadian citizen, even for offenses committed outside of Canada. Canada ratified the Convention against Torture in 1987 and incorporated its provisions into the Canadian criminal code.

“The US has utterly failed to meet its legal obligation to investigate torture by the Bush administration, but that shouldn’t let other countries off the hook,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Cheney’s visit to Vancouver is a rare opportunity to remedy this shameful failure to uphold the rule of law.”

Human Rights Watch has documented the role of senior Bush administration officials in authorizing torture of detainees, including “waterboarding” and prolonged exposure to heat and cold. The US was directly responsible or complicit in the alleged torture of at least two Canadian citizens, Maher Arar and Omar Khadr.

Cheney played a key role in the formulation of US detainee policy and was a member of the National Security Council “Principals Committee,” which approved interrogation policies. He was critical in pressing US Justice Department officials to provide authorization in mid-2002 for the use of coerced interrogation methods. Cheney’s memoir, In My Time, published in August, details his continued support of abusive interrogation techniques, which he calls “critically important … to … national security.”

“Canada’s own investigation into the Maher Arar case shows there is sufficient evidence to investigate Cheney for authorizing torture,” Roth said. “Bush, Cheney, and others authorized the abusive detention regime that Canadians and thousands of others were subjected to. They should be held accountable.”

Human Rights Watch said that the US government's failure to investigate US officials for the torture and ill-treatment of detainees undermines global efforts to press for accountability for human rights violations. President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed a reluctance to “look backwards” at alleged crimes committed during the previous administration.

In February 2011, former President George W. Bush cancelled a trip to address a charity gala in Geneva, Switzerland after it was reported complaints were going to be filed against him with the Geneva Canton prosecutor for authorizing torture and other ill-treatment. The planned complaints, by a current and a former Guantanamo detainee, alleged beatings, shackling in stress positions, prolonged food and sleep deprivation, and extremes of heat and cold while in US custody.

“Canada should make clear that torture is a crime, not a policy option,” Roth said. “The best way to do that is to show that Canada is not a safe haven for torturers.”

Cases of Maher Arar and Omar Khadr

Maher Arar

Maher Arar was born in Syriain 1970 and immigrated to Canada at age 17. A Canadian national, he was detained in September 2002 by US authorities while in transit through John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on his way to Montreal. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police supplied incorrect information to US officials that was used to support his detention. After holding him incommunicado for nearly two weeks, US authorities flew Arar to Jordan, where he was driven across the border and handed over to Syrian authorities, despite his statements to US officials that he would be tortured if sent there. Indeed, he was tortured during his confinement in a Syrian prison, often with cables and electrical cords, and was kept in a tiny cell. The US practice of rendering terrorist suspects abroad changed during the Bush administration, when the CIA began handing people over to their home or third countries, apparently to facilitate abusive interrogations.

Following an extensive investigation by the Canadian government, which cleared Arar of all terror connections, Canada offered him a formal apology, acknowledged playing a role in Arar’s rendition, and provided compensation of CA$10.5 million plus legal fees. The inquiry expressly concluded that Arar had been tortured in Syria. The Bush administration refused to assist the Canadian inquiry and disregarded Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request that the US acknowledge its inappropriate conduct.

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr was born in Canada in 1986. At age 10, his father, an al Qaeda financier, took him to Pakistan and then Afghanistan, raising him among al Qaeda fighters and using him as an interpreter. At 15, Khadr was given weapons training. On July 27, 2002, the same month that abusive interrogation techniques were deemed “lawful” by the US Department of Justice, he was inside a compound in Afghanistan with an al Qaeda cell that had been building and planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) targeting US and coalition forces. During a firefight, a grenade killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. Khadr was shot twice in the back and blinded in one eye.

US forces airlifted Khadr to Bagram air base where he was interrogated on a stretcher while receiving medical treatment and subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including being told by an interrogator that he would be sent to a prison where he would be raped. Despite his age, Khadr never received the special protections that must be extended to children under international law by US forces either during his three months of interrogation at Bagram or once he was moved to Guantanamo. In October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to murder before a military commission for throwing the grenade that killed Speer and was sentenced to eight additional years in prison.

On January 29, 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court in Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr held that the Canadian government's participation in interrogating Khadr for the purpose of assisting prosecution by the US “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” Although it declined to order the Canadian government to request Khadr's repatriation, holding that to do so was a matter for the executive branch, its declaratory judgment held that the breach of Khadr's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms continued as long as Khadr was held in the US. As part of his plea agreement, Khadr’s lawyers submitted evidence that the US and Canada exchanged a series of diplomatic notes in which Canada agreed to consider favorably a request by Khadr for repatriation after completion of one year of his sentence, which will be in October 2011.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Surrey, Dianne Watts, has invited former president George Bush to speak at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit next month. What does it say when the mainstream media is so uninterested in linking this event to the ugly spectre of the Bush administration's alleged war crimes? Could the silence be related to the fact that the Surrey Regional Economic Summit is cochaired by the head of the Business Council of British Columbia?

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

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18 Comments

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Lawson1945

Sep 25, 2011 at 11:49am

What about the China Chinese President and Communist Officials arrest them and china chinese supports living in Vancouver, human violations, group murders of other socities, corruption, fraud of China Chinese companies in North America, you stupid wing nuts, you forgot about the Chinese right this pro China rag of a newspaper, right Hui

8 7 Rating: +1

Nona

Sep 25, 2011 at 11:52am

Most sheeple here don't care because our illustrious leaders like Harper, Obama, and Ban Ki-moon don't enforce the laws. Torture, schmorture...history is what they want it to be, laws only apply to those without power. Perhaps it's time regular people stand up for what's right and arrest this sociopath...

4 4 Rating: 0

Etvlan

Sep 25, 2011 at 12:00pm

By taking position on a topic like keeping war criminals out of the country you are one step ahead of the other medias in terms of honesty and integrity.
Congratulation!
It's music to my hears.

5 4 Rating: +1

non proud Canadian

Sep 25, 2011 at 12:02pm

Canada is just the 53 state, has Governor Harper not told you?

6 3 Rating: +3

john smith

Sep 25, 2011 at 12:28pm

History and the good guy/bad guy labelling, is written by the winners & those in control. They also like to manipulate public opinion through their control of the media.
Figure it out

4 6 Rating: -2

Taxpayers R Us

Sep 25, 2011 at 1:03pm

I second Lawson's call for the arrest of Hu Jintao.

You can't expect the citizenry to accept the vilification of one torture advocate while ignoring another who allows it to be done on his own people.

8 6 Rating: +2

Terence Chung

Sep 25, 2011 at 1:56pm

I suggest y'all call 1-888-502-9060 Border Watch toll free line for the Canadian Border Services Agency and report we have a suspected war criminal coming into Canada

Name: Dick Cheney
DOB: January 30th 1941
Location Date of Suspected Activity: During tenure as Vice President of United States of America
Jan 20th 2001- Jan 20th 2009
Physical Description: Balding, receding hairline, chubby
Conveyance: Plane, United Airlines
Known Associate: George Bush, suspected war criminal
Known Business Ties: United States of America

6 6 Rating: 0

Mark Fornataro

Sep 25, 2011 at 3:42pm

Terence- and you can add to your APB that as further(fuhrer?) proof of his psychopathy,Cheney shot his hunting 'friend'.

4 4 Rating: 0

Lawson1945

Sep 25, 2011 at 4:59pm

@Terence Chung Only a matter of time the north america perimeter will be set up to keep the China Chinese Communist, crooks, frausters out and criminals let by Kim Campell!

4 5 Rating: -1

Point of Order

Sep 25, 2011 at 5:52pm

The law is the law and should be turned out evenly regardless of a persons political position. If the evidence support a trail, then the person in question should be brought to trail. Case closed... whether a Commie bastard or a Fascist bastard. Cheney has quite literally admitted to sanctioning torture.... .which is a crime. He should be brought to trial. The same would apply if it was Gadhaffi or Mugabe. Alas, we don't live in a society where the rule are handed out evenly. So Gadaffi better not show his face around here... but we'll all bend over and kiss the royal backside of Dick and Bush.

4 5 Rating: -1
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