The Long Pursuit of Accountability for the Bush Administration’s Torture Program

In June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, a notorious memo from August 2002 was leaked. It was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and it claimed to redefine torture and to authorize its use on prisoners seized in the “war on terror.” I had no idea at the time that its influence would prove to be so long-lasting.

Ten years and four months since it was first issued, this memo — one of two issued on the same day, which will forever be known as the “torture memos” — is still protecting the senior Bush administration officials who commissioned it (as well as Yoo, and his boss, Jay S. Bybee, who signed it).

Those officials include George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and their senior lawyers, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington. None of these men should be immune from prosecution, because torture is illegal under US domestic law, and is prohibited under the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US, under Ronald Reagan, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994. As Article 2.2 states, unequivocally, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Abruzzo: Photos of a Journey by Train from Rome, the Valle Peligna and Torre dei Nolfi

Roman silhouetteClouds from the trainScurcola Marsicana stationThe mountain and the cloudTrains, AbruzzoCelano and the castle
Ortona dei MarsiGoriano SicoliThe first view of the Valle PelignaThe valley and the hillThe valley and the motorwayThe view from the apartment in the evening
The view from the apartment in the morningThe cart on the roofThe adorable kittenThe threshing machineThe storm cloudSunset on the outskirts of Sulmona
Torre dei NolfiDoors, Torre dei NolfiDoor and stepsNumber 43The street of the swiftsOn the outskirts of Torre dei Nolfi

Visiting Abruzzo: A Journey by Train from Rome, the Valle Peligna and Torre dei Nolfi, a set on Flickr.

Last month — although it now seems like an eternity ago, and a distant dream — I visited Italy for a two-week holiday, spending the first week in Rome and the second in Abruzzo, a mountainous region to the east. I posted photos from Rome in five sets, available here as a collection on Flickr, or here, and I still have two sets to post, but until now I hadn’t posted any photos from the second week, in Abruzzo, where we were based in a small village called Torre dei Nolfi, near the city of Sulmona, famous as the birthplace of the Roman poet Ovid.

Our journey to Abruzzo — to the city of Sulmona — involved a two and a half hour journey by train from Tiburtina station in Rome, on a wonderful trip through the mountains in which, for added atmosphere, the lights in our carriage didn’t work, so that we were plunged into darkness every time the train passed through a tunnel. To be fair, the lights did work in the rest of the carriages, although I really did enjoy the darkness, and I wasn’t looking to complain, given that our three return tickets cost just 25 Euros, the price of three One Day Travelcards in London. Read the rest of this entry »

Echoes of Ancient Rome: Photos of the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill

The Forum of Caesar, from the road to the ColosseumStatue of Nero and Trajan's MarketFirst view of the Roman ForumThe Arch of Septimius SeverusThe Temple of VestaThe Temple of Saturn and the Capitoline Hill
The Temple of RomulusThe giant arches of the Basilica of Maxentius and ConstantineThe Arch of Titus and the Colosseum from the Palatine HillSculpture on the Arch of TitusThe house of the Vestal VirginsThe remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux
The Roman Forum from the Temple of SaturnThe ColosseumThe Arch of ConstantineThe Colosseum close upLooking into the ColosseumInside the Colosseum
Looking along the axis of the ColosseumInside the Colosseum from the south eastThe awe-inspiring scale of the ColosseumLooking west inside the ColosseumDoorways inside the ColosseumThe Arch of Constantine and the Palatine Hill from the Colosseum

Echoes of Ancient Rome: The Roman Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, a set on Flickr.

My two-week family holiday in Italy is at an end, and I am now back in London, slightly cold and pining for the heat, the cooking, the fresh fruit, the culture of Rome and the mountains and lakes of Abruzzo province. All holidays must come to an end, however, and as I reacquaint myself with my home, and my friends, and try to focus once more on Guantánamo and the parlous state of British politics, and look forward to cycling in search of new and unexplored parts of London as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I will also be posting more photos of Rome and of our travels in Abruzzo province.

I have already posted four sets of photos of Rome (here, here, here and here), and this fifth set takes up where the last one left off — with a visit to the Roman Forum, on August 15, followed by a visit to the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill on August 16. These three sites — the heart of Ancient Rome, and consisting of its civic and religious centre, the hill on which several emperors made their home, and the colossal blood-stained amphitheatre where murder was turned into sport — offer an unparalleled insight into Ancient Rome, and for visitors, from the UK at least, the fact that access to all three sites is open for two days and costs just 12 Euros is a bonus, as my wife and I joked that in the UK each site would probably cost £27.90, with a ticket for all three offered at “just” £75. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of The Pantheon and Il Vittoriano in Rome: Transcendental Illumination and a Show of Power

Entering The PantheonThe Pantheon and the ray of divine lightInside The PantheonThe eye of GodThe Pantheon inside and outThe tomb of King Vittorio Emanuele II
Looking out from The Pantheon, RomePiazza Della Rotonda, RomeColourful apartments in RomePretty apartments in RomeA heavenly church ceilingCourtyard of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome
Il Vittoriano, RomeLooking east from Il VittorianoGuarding the Tomb of the Unknown SoldierThe statue of King Vittorio Emanuele IIThe Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the top of Il VittorianoLooking north from the top of Il Vittoriano
Statue on the top of Il Vittoriano, RomeViewing churches from the top of Il VittorianoThe Colosseum from the top of Il VittorianoThe Theatre of Marcellus from the top of Il VittorianoThe Roman Forum from the top of Il VittorianoCapitoline Museums from the top of Il Vittoriano

The Pantheon and Il Vittoriano in Rome: Transcendental Illumination and a Show of Power, a set on Flickr.

I’m nearing the end of my two-week family holiday in Italy, and have been in Abruzzo province, near the town of Sulmona, since Sunday August 19. For the first week my family and I were in Rome, and I posted my photos from the first three days of that wonderful week here, here and here.

Our time in Abruzzo has also been wonderful, in this little known area of Italy, with its mountains and lakes, its vertiginous roads, its excellent food, and its old-fashioned hospitality with a laid-back vibe. However, we have been so busy travelling around that I have been unable to find the time to post more photos of Rome — until now. Read the rest of this entry »

Churches, Temples, Fountains and Piazze: Photos of the Historic Centre of Rome

Beside the Vatican wallThe steps down to the Metro at CiproStreet art by the Metro at CiproFaded gloryCipro Musei Vaticani Metro stationIs it art?
Piazza del PopoloPincio Hill GardensiConPensiero e dinamite (thought and dynamite)Yayoi Kusama - window art for Louis Vuitton, RomeThe Spanish Steps, Rome
Colourful houses near The Spanish Steps, RomeThe view from The Spanish StepsThe Madonna in Piazza MignanelliMcDonalds and propagandaCloisters, RomeTrevi Fountain
The crowd at the Trevi FountainHadrian's temple in the Piazza di PietraHouses in the Piazza di PietraA world of PinocchiosEarly evening at The PantheonCorso del Rinascimento

Churches, Temples, Fountains and Piazze: The Historic Centre of Rome, a set on Flickr.

In two previous sets of photos (here and here), I have covered the first two days of my two-week family holiday in Italy — with a series of photos from Rome, where we have been during this first week, before moving on to Abruzzo province for the second.

Rome is so photogenic, and the compunction to wander around it so compelling, despite the average daytime heat of around 35 degrees, that it has been impossible to publish the photos as I take them, as a sort of visual diary, but if you bear with me I’ll eventually get all the photos published. At present, I doubt that Abruzzo province is as well-connected to the Internet as Rome, which may make a big difference to my ability to get my photos online. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of Rome: A Storm, the Hills and the Tiber at Night

Dawn over St. Peter'sA storm is comingSt. Peter's in the rainA break in the stormLooking down at the rainThe rain and the sun
Apartments in the rainThe Gianicolo wallClouds above RomeYou're my sweet angelMonument to GaribaldiThe road through the trees
Mona Lisa musta had the highway bluesThe view over Rome from GianicoloFontana Dell'Acqua PaolaDetail of Fontana Dell'Acqua PaolaA mausoleum at nightTrees at night
Wake up!Reclaim the road signsTrastevere at nightThe Tiber at nightPlaying table football by the TiberA bridge at night

Rome: A Storm, the Hills and the Tiber at Night, a set on Flickr.

This is my second set of photos from my family holiday this year — in Italy, and, specifically, in Rome this week and, next week, a village in Abruzzo province. The eternal city (la città eterna) is one of the most extraordinary places I have ever visited — with its excellent cuisine, friendly locals and its unparalleled architectural wonders, the result, of course, of having been a major player on the world stage for nearly 3,000 years.

On our first evening, we were introduced to Rome’s super-sized architectural heritage via a visit to Piazza San Pietro, the colossal square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica (la Basilica di San Pietro) at the heart of the Vatican, and on Day 2, although we saw little of the city’s architectural splendours, we nevertheless had an inspiring day, despite being housebound for the whole afternoon as the entire city was drenched by a full-on tropical storm, which reduced the humidity sufficiently that we didn’t have to sleep outside, as we did on our first night. Read the rest of this entry »

Architecture on an Epic Scale: Photos of Arriving in Rome, Visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican

Welcome to RomeBlue corridorThe monorailFlags on the autostradaThe view of St. Peter's from our balconyA view of the balcony
Bacchus on the streetStazione San PietroHouses and motorbikesThe tunnel and the hillSt. Peter's BasilicaThe Piazza San Pietro
Castel Sant'AngeloThe River Tiber, looking south west from outside the Castel Sant'AngeloThe River Tiber, looking east from outside the Castel Sant'AngeloThe angel on the bridgeThe seagull on the angelCastel Sant'Angelo from the south
The bus stop and the churchStatues on the bridgeThe approach to St. Peter's and the night skySt. Peter's and the night skySt. Peter's from the south west at nightSt. Peter's at night from our balcony

Architecture on an Epic Scale: Arriving in Rome, Visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican, a set on Flickr.

I’m on holiday right now, in Rome, an astonishing city, saturated in history, and still, of course, the centre of the Catholic church worldwide. Italy is a country that I have loved for a long time — on a visit as a child, as part of a family tour of Europe in our sky blue Triumph, in which we camping in France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany, and, in Italy,  passed though dozens of tunnels, visiting Pisa and Firenze, and finding marble quarries high in the mountains; Many years later, with an Italian girlfriend, I visited Milano on numerous occasions, and also made memorable trips to Venezia, to Calabria and to Como — and it wads during this time that I learnt Italian, learned to love espresso, and also learned the basics of Italian cookery.

Fast forward to my life now, with my wife, Dot, and my son, Tyler, and Italy — along with Spain, and, last year, Greece — is one of the regular features of our family holidays in the Mediterranean. A few years ago, we had an amazing Easter holiday in Sicilia, and we also had a short holiday in Firenze, and, two years ago, a two-week bonanza with the first week in Puglia and the second in Napoli, which must rank as the most extraordinary city in western Europe, full of contradictions that are normally only associated with the developing world. Read the rest of this entry »

New Perspectives on the Euro Crisis, and the Need for Greece to Default

Delighted though I am to see the back of Silvio Berlusconi, no one should be reassured that his replacement, the unelected technocrat and former EU commissioner Mario Monti — or another unelected technocrat, Lucas Papademos, a former vice-president of the European Central Bank., who has taken over in Greece from former Prime Minister George Papandreou — are in a position to provide a solution to the financial crisis sweeping Europe.

Even before the unelected technocrats were parachuted in, those intent on addressing the crisis through austerity cuts of unprecedented savagery had a crisis of authority, having failed to consult with the electorates of the countries involved, and imposing unelected leaders is a truly alarming development.

For those seeking to understand why, it is clear that the fault lies primarily with the entire Euro project, and not with individual countries, but understanding that involves certain Northern European countries putting aside their dreadful knee-jerk racism regarding their southern neighbours’ purported laziness and corruption, and understanding that the Euro is and was an inherently flawed project, biased in favour of the richer countries, and essentially presided over by a handful of unaccountable officials.

As the Guardian noted in an article last week, “the latest phase of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has exposed the quite flagrant contempt for voters, the people who are going to bear the full weight of the austerity programmes being cooked up” by “the Frankfurt Group, an unelected cabal made of up eight people: [Christine] Lagarde, [the head of the IMF]; [Angela] Merkel; [Nicolas] Sarkozy; Mario Draghi, the new president of the ECB [European Central Bank]; José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission; Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup; Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council; and Olli Rehn, Europe’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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