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Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Donald Rumsfeld

By December 11, 2008

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Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo Bay. Donald Rumsfeld: Three sets of compound terms, quite synonymous in some contexts, no one is too thrilled to be reminded of in this season of celebrations rich in gifts (Christmas and Hanukkah, the end of the Bush administration, the beginning of the Obama administration).

But here they are again, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal--never fully aired, never fully investigated, anyway (those photographs that were finally disclosed, and terrifically documented by Salon, represent only a fraction of the photographic and video evidence; the rest was suppressed by Rumsfeld and Company, part of their accountability tactics)--, Guantanamo, and Rumsfeld himself, revealed again in a report by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

From Committee Chairman Carl Levin's office:

A major focus of the Committee’s investigation was the influence of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training techniques on the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. SERE training is designed to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. During SERE training, U.S. troops --- in a controlled environment with great protections and caution --- are exposed to harsh techniques such as stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation, and until recently, the waterboard. The SERE techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody. The Committee’s investigation found, however, that senior officials in the U.S. government decided to use some of these harsh techniques against detainees based on deeply flawed interpretations of U.S. and international law.

The Committee concluded that the authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials was both a direct cause of detainee abuse and conveyed the message that it was okay to mistreat and degrade detainees in U.S. custody.

Blame for this "abuse" (still a misnomer, by the way: it was torture, it was lawbreaking, it was sanctioned from the highest levels, and no one but a few low-level hacks paid a price) is put at Rumsfeld's feet, among others.

Those others include President Bush who, on Feb. 7, 2002, as the report puts it, "signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention. The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees."

The report, according to The Times, explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe. The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other incidents of abuse."

More to the point,

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”
The report doesn't stop with Abu Ghraib. It explores the entire detention system of the American military, including Guantanamo Bay. Of course, that's not the whole story, either. The Pentagon's prisons are under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee. The CIA's prisons, including its secret "black sites" and its shadowy detention centers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and who knows where else, aren't. Nor is the CIA banned from torturing prisoners, as Pentagon personnel now is. John McCain, remember, supported the CIA exemption from the torture ban he pushed to such great acclaim, and publicity, back in 2006. McCain is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and that report issued today had his name on it, too. It may be an additional, worthy piece to the bleak puzzle. It's far from the complete picture.


April 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm
(1) Reality says:

Take em high for a ride open the door and let them fly. Are only the soft headed getting the press. We’re at war let the games begin when your #1 don”t worry about #2 or #3.Get in there and kick butt fast and hard and if not get out of the kitchen and hide in the john where all the crap you let flow from your upper anal hole can be flushed.

April 20, 2009 at 8:21 pm
(2) Pierre says:

Reality, you’re wasting you time auditioning for a job. They’re not taking applications at Guantanamo anymore, and the black sites are closed. Good luck anyway. Times are tough, I know. Even for brutes.

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