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Speaking out against torture

MARTIN C. EVANS / Newsday | January 23 2006

England's former ambassador to Uzbekistan and a former general in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison during the 2004 abuse scandal there were among legal scholars and activists speaking out against the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror yesterday at Manhattan's Riverside Church.

Craig Murray, ousted as Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan after he criticized the use of intelligence gained through torture, said Uzbek security forces supplying interrogation findings to the CIA used torture "on an industrial scale."

"I would rather die than to have [innocent people] tortured to save my life," Murray said, drawing applause from the crowd of more than 500 people.

His appearance followed a Friday radio interview in which he said, "We're not talking about marginal definitions of torture. The U.S. knew this was happening and encouraged it by being prepared to accept and give credence to the results of it."

Murray said in its quest to secure increasingly scarce oil and gas supplies, the Bush administration is fanning anti-American sentiments in the Islamic world. "They are making America a much more dangerous place," he said.

The hearing was held by a panel calling itself the Bush Crimes Commission, which has issued "indictments" against the president and others for what it says are crimes against humanity perpetrated in America's prosecution of the Iraq war. The commission, which has no legal standing, said it had invited the Bush administration to rebut the allegations.

A White House media officer declined comment yesterday.

Former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski said photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib "opened a huge door on" America's mishandling of the war, and that soldiers trained to handle prisoners of war were ill-suited for running Iraq's civilian prisons.

Karpinski said as many as 85 percent of the Iraqi detainees there were "guilty of nothing," but were not released because interrogators "were afraid of releasing the next Osama bin Laden." In April, Karpinski was relieved of her command and in May, Bush approved her demotion to colonel, based on allegations not related to her position at Abu Ghraib.

The commission was organized by Not In Our Name, a New York-based activist group formed to challenge American military actions abroad. A final hearing is scheduled at the church today.

Many of those who attended yesterday said it was persuasive to hear former insiders criticize the war.

Bob Parsons, an autoworker from Detroit, said, "It's incredibly moving for people who have served for so long to stand up and say what is really going on."

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