Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, May 10, 2004  

I spent the weekend listening to Republican congressmen define the torture situation thus: it was a few bad eggs. The discussion has turned mostly to whether Rummy should go or not (obscuring the far larger question, which must be asked whether Rummy resigns or not). In an effort to save their collective ass, administration apologists are trying to cauterize the wound and burn just the torturers--hoping no one will ask where the orders came from.

Sy Hersh, in a new article in the New Yorker, asks those questions. He finds all the predictable answers.

The Pentagon official told me that many senior generals believe that, along with the civilians in Rumsfeld’s office, General Sanchez and General John Abizaid, who is in charge of the Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, had done their best to keep the issue quiet in the first months of the year. The official chain of command flows from General Sanchez, in Iraq, to Abizaid, and on to Rumsfeld and President Bush. “You’ve got to match action, or nonaction, with interests,” the Pentagon official said. “What is the motive for not being forthcoming? They foresaw major diplomatic problems.”

Secrecy and wishful thinking, the Pentagon official said, are defining characteristics of Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, and shaped its response to the reports from Abu Ghraib.

Hersh also touchs on some of the arger questions, separate from individual culpability in the Abu Ghraib torture case. In one chilling section, he describes private citizens conducting torture:

Civilian employees at the prison were not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but they were bound by civilian law—though it is unclear whether American or Iraqi law would apply.

One of the employees involved in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib, according to the Taguba report, was Steven Stefanowicz, a civilian working for CACI International, a Virginia-based company. Private companies like CACI and Titan Corp. could pay salaries of well over a hundred thousand dollars for the dangerous work in Iraq, far more than the Army pays, and were permitted, as never before in U.S. military history, to handle sensitive jobs. (In a briefing last week, General Miller confirmed that Stefanowicz had been reassigned to administrative duties. A CACI spokeswoman declined to comment on any employee in Iraq, citing safety concerns, but said that the company still had not heard anything directly from the government about Stefanowicz.)

In fact, far from an isolated incident, the Abu Ghraib tortures seem to be part of regular policy. (Though possibly "coercive" beyond even the Pentagon's standards.)

In his report, Taguba strongly suggested that there was a link between the interrogation process in Afghanistan and the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A few months after General Miller’s report, Taguba wrote, General Sanchez, apparently troubled by reports of wrongdoing in Army jails in Iraq, asked Army Provost Marshal Donald Ryder, a major general, to carry out a study of military prisons. In the resulting study, which is still classified, Ryder identified a conflict between military policing and military intelligence dating back to the Afghan war. He wrote, “Recent intelligence collection in support of Operation Enduring Freedom posited a template whereby military police actively set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews.”

It's pretty much guaranteed to get worse as more evidence comes out. And even Rummy admitted that there's a lot more intelligence.

posted by Jeff | 7:38 AM |
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