Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Bush administration defends its right to torture

Sgt. Santos A. Cardona and Sgt. Michael J. Smith are being court-martialed for inappropriate use of dogs against prisoners at Abu Ghraib. They claim they were just following orders when a dog bit a naked detainee while his cell was being searched. They might have a point:

The Washington Post (Thursday):

Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller told top officers during an advisory visit to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison that they needed to get military working dogs for use in interrogations, and he advocated procedures then in use at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

Maj. David DiNenna, the top military police operations officer at Abu Ghraib in 2003, said that when Miller and a team of Guantanamo Bay officials visited in early September 2003, Miller advocated mirroring the Cuba operation.

"We understood he was sent over by the secretary of defense," DiNenna testified by telephone. DiNenna said Miller and his team were at Abu Ghraib "to take their interrogation techniques they used at Guantanamo Bay and incorporate them into Iraq." ...

The use of military dogs to exploit fear in detainees was approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use on a specific important detainee in Cuba in late 2002 and early 2003.

"He was going to talk to [Lt. Gen. Ricardo S.] Sanchez and get us the resources we needed." ...

The dogs ... arrived a few weeks later.

A day earlier, the NY Times reported on documents obtained by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - himself a former military lawyer - which show that:
Senior military lawyers lodged vigorous and detailed dissents in early 2003 as an administration legal task force concluded that President Bush had authority as commander in chief to order harsh interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, newly disclosed documents show.

Despite the military lawyers' warnings, the task force concluded that military interrogators and their commanders would be immune from prosecution for torture under federal and international law because of the special character of the fight against terrorism.

From the same NY Times story, here are some of the statements by military lawyers made to the Bush administration's legal task force in early 2003:
  • Several of the "more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law. ... The use of many of the interrogation techniques "puts the interrogators and the chain of command at risk of criminal accusations abroad" (Air Force, Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives).

  • While detainees at Guantánamo Bay might not qualify for international protections, "Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?" (Rear Adm. Michael F. Lohr, the Navy's chief lawyer).

  • All the military lawyers believed the harsh interrogation regime could have adverse consequences for American service members. General Sandkuhler said that the Justice Department "does not represent the services; thus, understandably, concern for service members is not reflected in their opinion" (Brig. Gen. Kevin M. Sandkuhler, a senior Marine lawyer).

  • The approach recommended by the Justice Department "will open us up to criticism that the U.S. is a law unto itself" (Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, the Army's top-ranking uniformed lawyer).

In a Friday editorial, the Washington Post clarified the role of Miller and of the Bush administration in not just authorizing torture methods that violate both the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military code, but in covering up their roles in continuing to use the same torture methods and then covering up their authorization of those methods:
In statements to investigators and in sworn testimony to Congress last year, Gen. Miller denied that he recommended the use of dogs for interrogation, or that they had been used at Guantanamo. "No methods contrary to the Geneva Convention were presented at any time by the assistance team that I took to [Iraq]," he said under oath on May 19, 2004. Yet Army investigators reported to Congress this month that, under Gen. Miller's supervision at Guantanamo, an al Qaeda suspect named Mohamed Qahtani was threatened with snarling dogs, forced to wear women's underwear on his head and led by a leash attached to his chains -- the very abuse documented in the Abu Ghraib photographs.

The court evidence strongly suggests that Gen. Miller lied about his actions, and it merits further investigation by prosecutors and Congress. But the Guantanamo commander was not acting on his own: The interrogation of Mr. Qahtani, investigators found, was carried out under rules approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 2, 2002. After strong protests from military lawyers, the Rumsfeld standards -- which explicitly allowed nudity, the use of dogs and shackling -- were revised in April 2003. Yet the same practices were later adopted at Abu Ghraib, at least in part at the direct instigation of Gen. Miller.

Meanwhile (here we go again), rather than take a principled stand for human rights and the better aspirations of the United States, with a few exceptions, congressional Republicans have placed themselves in the indefensible position of defending the right of the Bush administration to use torture.

It would be hard to find (in the mainstream press), but thanks to Daily KOS and the ACLU, we now know that Bill Frist postponed debate on the $442 billion defense authorization bill (in a time of war) because a few wild Republicans are drafting an amendment that:
...includes provisions to bar the military from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross; prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees; and use only interrogation techniques authorized in a new Army field manual.

The NY Times last week featured an article on Dick Cheney's lobbying to kill the amendment, threatening Republicans that President Bush would veto the defense appropriations bill if it contained any language against abuse, and today featured an opinion on the White House's obtuseness with regard to condemning abuse.
The three Republicans are John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman. They have complained that the Pentagon has failed to hold senior officials and military officers responsible for the abuses that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, and at other detention centers in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, NPR's Morning Edition featured John McCain's remark that the provision is only doing what the U.S. military code already requires.

How unusual that, in a time of war, the Senate would leave in suspense military appropriations for the coming fiscal year.

Oh yeah, before Frist postponed the Pentagon budget vote, he inserted an NRA-friendly amendment protecting the gun industry from lawsuits. I guess that pretty much demonstrates that politics trumps defense among rank-and-file Republicans.


At 7/31/2005 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your email address? I have a question for you.

At 7/31/2005 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Ask away:


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