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The worse is yet to come...

Those are the words that everybody must be dreading... for it looks like we've been looking the other way for a year or more in Abu Ghraib (the second syllable sounds terribly like "grave") while the military did stuff that not even in my most darkened cynical mode I could fathom... And the Defense Department, the Administration even did precious little to stop the abuse.

I thought the adults were supposed to be in charge again...

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rtfirefly
May. 7th, 2004 05:25 pm (UTC)
The worst is definitely yet to come for Rumsfeld:

How did the "permissive environment" that encouraged rampant criminality and cruelty arise at Abu Ghraib? According to the JAG senior officers who spoke with Horton [Scott Horton, a partner at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler who now chairs the Committee on International Law of the Association of the Bar of New York City], Pentagon civilian officials removed safeguards that were designed to prevent such abuses. At a detention facility like Abu Ghraib, those safeguards would include the routine observation of interrogations from behind a two-way mirror by a JAG officer, who would be empowered to stop any misconduct.

The JAG officers told Horton that those protective policies were discontinued in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said that interrogations were routinely conducted without JAG oversight -- and, worse, that private contractors were being allowed unprecedented participation in the interrogation process. Moreover, the contractors who participated in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners were operating in a legal twilight zone, says Horton.


"The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs the conduct of officers and soldiers, does not apply to civilian contractors," he adds. "They were free to do whatever they wanted to do, with impunity, including homicide."

If that seems hard to believe, it is apparently true that the contractors are exempt from prosecution by Iraqi and U.S. courts and not answerable to those within the military chain of command. Kenneth Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch, has suggested, however, that under the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. government "nonetheless remains responsible for the actions of those running the detention facilities, be they regular soldiers, reservists or private contractors."

In practice, the changes in oversight appear to have blurred authority and accountability at Abu Ghraib. Along with the lack of proper supervision and training of the Army reservists who ran the prison, these changes resulted in lawlessness and atrocious abuse.

After hearing the complaints of the JAG officers, Horton and his bar colleagues wrote to Haynes and the CIA's general counsel in an effort to clarify U.S. policy on the treatment and interrogation of detainees. Those inquiries, he recalls, "were met with a firm brushoff. We then turned to senators who had raised the issue previously, and [we] assisted their staff in pursuing the issue directly with the Pentagon. These inquiries met with a similar brushoff." The Bush administration wanted no meddling by human rights lawyers as it brought democracy and human rights to the benighted region.

Horton says that career military officers at the Pentagon were "greatly upset" by what they regarded as the deliberate destruction of traditions and methods that have long protected soldiers as well as civilians. Those officers, and others who may have evidence to offer, are obviously reluctant to step forward and speak because they fear reprisal from the Pentagon and the White House. They have been instructed not to talk to anyone about these issues. It is to be hoped that in the investigations to come -- whether or not Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Feith keep their jobs -- those conscientious officers will be able to tell what they know about the decisions that led to this national disaster.
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