“It seems like we are citizens, or at least a small province, of an empire of the United States.” With this bitterly poignant and perceptive remark, Javier Couso, the brother of the Spanish cameraman killed by a US tank attack on April 8, 2003 in Baghdad, encapsulated his anger at the complicity of Spanish legal officials who aided the American government’s efforts to suppress the family’s lawsuit against three US soldiers.
Some of these same Spanish prosecutors, including both the national court chief prosecutor, Javier Zaragoza, and attorney general, Candido Conde-Pumpido, were instrumental in impeding investigations into CIA rendition flights originating in Spain and attempts by the Spanish magistrate, Baltasar Garzon, to bring charges against Bush Administration officials linked to torture at Guantanamo. According to the recently released US State Department diplomatic cables, the continued lobbying by the US embassy and Washington politicians on all of these legal cases found willing agents within the highest ranks of the Spanish government.
The pertinent cables have been front-page news in the Madrid daily, El Pais, one of the prominent papers to which WikiLeaks provided the formerly classified material. Unlike the New York Times, the Spanish newspaper has not felt the need to check with the government before publishing the damning documents. One of the more revealing cables comes from the former US ambassador, Eduardo Aguirre, a Cuban-American banker and Bush appointee. In this May 14, 2007 cable, Aguirre underscores the fact that the Deputy Justice Minister assured him that his government “strongly opposes a case brought against former Secretary Rumsfeld and will work to get it dismissed. The judge involved in that case has told us he has already started the process of dismissing the case.”
In that same cable, Aguirre points to concerted efforts to get the Cuoso case dismissed. Having bragged to the Spanish media that he was Bush’s plumber, these WikiLeaks disclose what kind of wrenching interference Aguirre and other US officials waged against those seeking legal remedies for American imperial crimes. Unlike Nixon’s Plumbers who engaged in illegal break-ins and other criminal activities, Aguirre and his accomplices found the means for manipulating the Spanish legal system to protect Washington’s ways of war.
Those ways of war included not only the murder of Jose Cuoso by the tank projectile, but also another cameraman on the hotel floor below. On that very same day of April 8, 2003, a US air strike deliberately targeted another Baghdad building where reporters from the Arab media were housed, killing in the process an Al Jazeera correspondent. Later that year, a Palestinian Reuters cameraman was killed by the US military near Abu Ghraib. And one should not forget the 2007 US helicopter lethal attack on several Iraqi civilians and Reuter employees that WikiLeaks, through the valiant whistle blowing of Pfc. Bradley Manning (incarcerated since this past summer in a military prison and facing new charges and outrageous threats), released several months ago.
All of these actions by the US war-machine to target reporters and civilians demand full investigations. Yet, it appears to be the duty of Washington’s imperial pro-consuls to stifle any attempts by other sovereign nations to engage in legal campaigns for justice for the victims of US empire. That legal officers from these so-called sovereign nations can collude with the empire to suppress judicial proceedings is an indictment against imperial corruptions at the highest level.
As noted by Scott Horton, an American international law and human rights attorney, in his interview with Amy Goodman on her “Democracy Now!” program of December 1, 2010: “We have US diplomats trying to dictate which prosecutors are assigned, trying to assure which judge is assigned, engaging in all sorts of conspiracies…with local officials, trying to remove the judge who’s initially assigned, actually trying to remove several different judges.”
Beyond the manipulation of the judicial system in Spain, Washington mounted an unremitting bipartisan campaign to block the prosecution of six former Bush officials who created the legal framework for torture. According to an April 17, 2009 State Department cable originating from the US embassy in Spain, the previous day’s announcement by Attorney General Conde-Pumpido that he would refuse to sustain any criminal charge against the six was directly attributable to the US “outreach to (Spanish) officials…(about) the implications of this case.”
It was those implications that the Obama Administration was concerned about that led to the vaunted bi-partisanship in importuning Spanish authorities to drop the case. Visits by Republican Senators Judd Gregg and Mel Martinez in the company of the US embassy’s charge d’affaires to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted the impact that any prosecution of Bush torture legal advocates would have on bilateral relationships. Obviously, when Obama insisted that he was looking forward and not backward on these matters, he meant that he would do everything in his power as an imperial president to prevent any further besmirching of the reputation and legitimacy of the empire.
Unfortunately, for all of the rulers and complicit agents of US empire, the release of these and other hundreds of thousands of State Department cables underlines the duplicity of American diplomacy. While the New York Times and other compliant corporate media may try to cheery-pick those cables that reinforce the perspectives of the empire, in the provinces around the world the US imperial order stands accused.
Francis Shor is the author of Dying Empire: US Imperialism and Global Resistance. A website for the book can be found at www.dyingempire.org