Sunday :: May 16, 2004

Our Heart of Darkness

by Mary

Steve's post below talks about what a lethal blow Sy Hersh's incredible exposé is proving to be. Hersh reported on how Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone actively backed the Gitmo-ization of Abu Ghraib and that this was a violation of the Geneva convention which governed the US occupation. Certainly, the Pentagon and administration are vigorously trying to discredit Hersh allegations. Yet, Hersh's report is not the only article that is causing political damage for the administration.

Newsweek provides another glimpse into the growing scandal (or as Hersh's informant called it, "our heart of darkness"). Newsweek taps other sources than Hersh does and it's report goes directly to who backed the official policy that created the gray area where prisoners held by the US could be mined for their information without regard to the Geneva convention or other international standards - standards that the US had once worked so hard to create. Newsweek reports that after 9/11, Bush, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation designed to sidestep the Geneva convention which laid down the rules of how prisoners must be treated. Justice Department lawyers wrote the initial opinions which put some people (Bush's evil ones) outside all international and US legal systems. This was signed off by White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, was approved by Bush and became the rule of the land. Anyone the President determined was an enemy combatant no longer had any legal recourse and could be interrogated harshly.

Recently the US Supreme Court heard the arguments that will either uphold the President's right to total control over the "enemy combatants" or will finally provide a check on the executive branch when they rule on this later this summer. Regarding the prisoners in Guantanamo, the deputy solicitor general, Paul Clement, stated that the President should have no limits as he argued before the 9th Circuit Court.

The government's assertion that torture and summary executions might be carried out without recourse to the law clearly shocked the [9th circuit] court. Reminiscent of Argentina's "dirty war" or the Soviet Gulag, the notion of a legal vacuum in which abuses can be freely committed hardly squares with American constitutional traditions. Indeed, the court emphasized, "to our knowledge, prior to the current detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, the U.S. government has never before asserted such a grave and startling proposition."

Once this policy was put in place, it only took someone like Rumsfeld to think that perhaps it should apply to the prisoners in Iraq, even though the US had been put on notice that as an occupying power, everyone in Iraq, whether a prisoner of war or civilian in their control, was covered by the Geneva convention. Nevertheless, as the situation in Iraq was growing worse, Rummy and his deputy, Stephen Cambone, decided that it would be much easier to get information from the Iraqis if they "took the gloves off". So they sent General Miller over to make his recommendations of how to increase the information flow, and the little hell on Earth was reopened under new management.

With the photos designed to blackmail and humiliate the Iraqis, one has to ask how many of the Iraqis that were caught in the nightmare were there because their name was given up by someone who had been interrogated in Abu Ghraib? What could the quality of the information have been when it is clear that torture is a very poor way to get reliable information?

Although the Bush administration continues to say that the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were simply the acts of a few bad apples, the evidence shows that this cannot be so. The senators and representatives that sat through three hours of the photos were badly shaken and many thought there must be more to the story than just a few bad apples, including a number of the Republicans. The question is once more, who taught the MP's these techniques?

Indeed, the single most iconic image to come out of the abuse scandal—that of a hooded man standing naked on a box, arms outspread, with wires dangling from his fingers, toes and penis—may do a lot to undercut the administration's case that this was the work of a few criminal MPs. That's because the practice shown in that photo is an arcane torture method known only to veterans of the interrogation trade. "Was that something that [an MP] dreamed up by herself? Think again," says Darius Rejali, an expert on the use of torture by democracies. "That's a standard torture. It's called 'the Vietnam.' But it's not common knowledge. Ordinary American soldiers did this, but someone taught them."

Americans are starting to see what can happen, what was inevitable, when you give absolute power to one man, especially when that one man has so little compassion or empathy for others and so little concern about the rule of law.

If you have not yet done so, sign the petition to fire Rumsfeld.

Mary :: 7:25 PM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!