Unlike the United States, some democracies take the international and domestic rule of law seriously. That's especially true of countries that once suffered under totalitarianism of various sorts, like communism in Poland. And so we are beginning to see glimmers of legal accountability from Europe for the war crimes perpetrated by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The EU long ago reported the existence of torture sites in Poland and Romania, and one of the EU investigators of these war crimes was former Solidarity member, Józef Pinior. He insists he saw something important:
Pinior has always claimed that, during his investigations, he was told about a document signed by Leszek Miller, Poland’s Prime Minister at the time the CIA prison was in operation, providing information regulating the operations of the prison – in a military intelligence training base in Stare Kiejkuty in north eastern Poland – including information about how, if necessary, to deal with corpses inside the facility.
My italics (but this isn't the only formal recognition of deaths in the torture archipelago). We know, because even the Pentagon has confirmed, that several prisoners held under the Bush-Cheney administration were tortured to death. That those running the program knew that the techniques were brutal enough to risk occasional deaths of the victims adds one extra layer of criminality and evil to the process. The case in Poland appears to have been slowed but not halted by the prosecutors, aware of where it might lead. But one nugget will surely strike home in Poland, as told by Adam Krzykowski, a journalist for Polish public TV, and the first reporter to provide proof of the landing in Poland of a specific rendition plane:
Off the record, Wojciech Czuchnowski and I also obtained information about the location where people suspected of terrorism and kidnapped by the CIA were detained, on the premises of the so-called spy school in Stare Kiejkuty in the Mazury region, about 20 km from the airport in Szymany, where planes landed which were used by the CIA. We were also informed about the existence of another relevant building, a two-storey villa — once named as “Marcus Wolf Villa” in honour of the founder of the East German intelligence service — which appeared to have been used as a back office, and may have included housing for the interrogators. It seems that both the villa and the presumed prison building were located in a specific section of the grounds occupied by the spy school, which was separate from the rest and even more heavily guarded.
Isn't there something grotesquely appropriate in that Bush and Cheney, in importing into the US the torture techniques of totalitarian regimes, used one building named in honor of the founder of the East German Stasi? They remain war criminals, and the rule of law in America remains unenforced by the Obama administration on the core issue of torture. But not all politicians are as craven as Obama on this. Here's the current conservative prime minister of Poland, Donald Tusk:
“Poland will not be a country anymore where politicians will arrange something under the table and it will not come to light, even if they do it hand-in-hand with the biggest empire in the world,” and “those in power must be able very effectively to safeguard the dignity of the Polish state; in other words, they must act only in accordance with their conscience, Polish law and international law.”
Good for Poland. There is far more accountability in that new democracy than is allowed to exist in this one.
(Photo: the exterior of the Polish spy school in Stare Kiejkuty, where prisoners were tortured under the order of president George W. Bush.)