Sunday, March 23, 2008

Race to Hell: Principle, Not Politics

We pick up where we left off at the end of Race to Hell: The Scapegoats.

From Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo by Josh White, July 14, 2005:

A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and later helped set up U.S. operations at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani's interrogation plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow the recommendation.

Miller traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib's startup, and he later sent in "Tiger Teams" of Guantanamo Bay interrogators and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift.

Miller declined to respond to questions posed through a Defense Department liaison. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it is not appropriate to link the interrogation of Qahtani -- an important al Qaeda operative captured shortly after the terrorist attacks -- and events at Abu Ghraib. Whitman said interrogation tactics in the Army's field manual are the same worldwide but MPs at Abu Ghraib were not authorized to apply them, regardless of how they learned about them.

Some of the Abu Ghraib soldiers have said they were following the directions of military intelligence officials to soften up detainees for interrogation, in part by depriving them of sleep. Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., characterized as the ringleader of the MP group, was found guilty of abusing detainees and is serving 10 years in prison. Others have pleaded guilty and received lesser sentences.

Major General Geoffrey Miller abandoned what was right and honorable, and in so doing, instead of defending the United States of America, has damaged our national security by damaging our national image and giving reason to motivate those who fight against us.

The events are summarized in an editorial entitled The Truth About Abu Ghraib, from July 29, 2005:

FOR 15 MONTHS now the Bush administration has insisted that the horrific photographs of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were the result of freelance behavior by low-level personnel and had nothing to do with its policies. In this the White House has been enthusiastically supported by the Army brass, which has conducted investigations documenting hundreds of cases of prisoner mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but denies that any of its senior officers are culpable. For some time these implacable positions have been glaringly at odds with the known facts. In the past few days, those facts have grown harder to ignore.

The latest evidence has emerged from hearings at Fort Meade about two of those low-level Abu Ghraib guards who are charged with using dogs to terrorize Iraqi detainees. On Wednesday, the former warden of Abu Ghraib, Maj. David DiNenna, testified that the use of dogs for interrogation was recommended by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the former commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison who was dispatched by the Pentagon to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 to review the handling and interrogation of prisoners. On Tuesday, a military interrogator testified that he had been trained in using dogs by a team sent to Iraq by Gen. Miller.

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. "We understood," Maj. DiNenna testified, "that [Gen. Miller] was sent over by the secretary of defense."

But it doesn't stop with Major General Miller, does it? Nor does it stop with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Returning to Exposure: The woman behind the camera at Abu Ghraib:

As far as Harman knew at the time, nobody else had taken any pictures on Tier 1A, although later she saw one from a few days earlier of a naked man in the corridor, handcuffed to the bars of a cell door. She wasn't surprised. By the end of Harman's first night, three of the M.P.s had taken at least twenty-five photographs, and over the ensuing months the M.P.s on the night shift took hundreds more pictures on the M.I. block. The officer in charge of the block at night, Corporal Charles Graner, said that he made a point of showing his photographs to officers higher up the chain of command, and that nobody objected to what they saw. On the contrary, after a month on the job, and after showing scores of photographs of prisoners in torment to his superiors, Graner received a written assessment from his captain, a frequent visitor to the block, who said, "You are doing a fine job.... You have received many accolades from the M.I. units here."

What these soldiers were doing had official sanction.

From farther down in the article:

One night in the first week of November, 2003, an agent of the Army's Criminal Investigative Division -- an agency sometimes described as the military’s F.B.I. -- came to the M.I. block to interrogate a new prisoner, an Iraqi suspected of involvement in the deaths of American soldiers. The story, as the M.P.s understood it, was that the prisoner kept giving a false name and insisting that he was not who the C.I.D. said he was. He was given the nickname Gilligan and subjected to the standard treatment: the yelling, the P.T., the sleep deprivation. Graner, who took charge of Gilligan's harassment, gave him a cardboard box -- an M.R.E. carton -- which he was ordered to carry around or to stand on for long stretches. Gilligan was hooded, and normally he would have been naked, too, but, because of the cold, Graner had cut a hole in a prison blanket and draped it over him like a poncho. Staff Sergeant Chip Frederick later told Army investigators that he asked the C.I.D. man -- whom he identified as Agent Romero -- about Gilligan, and that Romero said, "I don't give a fuck what you do to him, just don't kill them."

Frederick said that he took Romero's words "like an order, but not a specific order," and he explained, "To me, Agent Romero was like an authority figure, and when he said he needed the detainee stressed out I wanted to make sure the detainee was stressed out." Frederick found Gilligan where Graner had left him, perched on his box in the shower room of Tier 1A. "There were a lot of detainees that were forced to stand on boxes," he said. Behind Gilligan, he noticed some loose electrical wires hanging from the wall. "I grabbed them and touched them together to make sure they weren't live wires," he said. "When I did that and got nothing, I tied a loop knot on the end, put it on, I believe, his index finger, and left it there." Frederick said that somebody then tied a wire to Gilligan's other hand and Harman said, "I told him not to fall off, that he would be electrocuted if he did."

Harman had been busy for much of the night, keeping awake the prisoner they called the Claw, and attending to another one they called Shitboy, a maniac on Tier 1B who had the habit of smearing himself with his feces and hurling it at passing guards. She was taking a break when she joined the others in the shower room, and although Gilligan understood English, she wasn't sure if he believed her threat. Besides, the whole mock-electrocution business had not lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes -— just long enough for a photo session. "I knew he wouldn't be electrocuted," she said. "So it really didn't bother me. I mean, it was just words. There was really no action in it. It would have been meaner if there really was electricity coming out, and he really could be electrocuted. No physical harm was ever done to him." In fact, she said, "He was laughing at us towards the end of the night, maybe because he knew we couldn't break him."

Once the wires were attached to Gilligan, Frederick had stepped back, instructed Gilligan to hold his arms out straight from his sides, like wings, and taken a picture. Then he took another, identical to the first: the hooded man, in his blanket poncho, barefoot atop his box, arms outstretched, wires trailing from his fingers. Snap, snap -- two seconds -- and three minutes later Harman took a similar shot, but from a few steps back, so that Frederick appears in the foreground at the edge of the frame, studying on the display screen of his camera the picture he's just taken.

These were not the first photographs taken on the block that night, or the last. That afternoon, when the night shift M.P.s reported for duty at the hard site, their platoon commander had called them to a meeting. "He said there was a prisoner who had died in the shower, and he died of a heart attack," Harman said. The body had been left in the shower on Tier 1B, packed in ice, and shortly after the session with Gilligan somebody noticed water trickling out from under the shower door.

As Harman entered the shower room, she snapped a picture of a black rubber body bag lying along the far wall. Then she and Graner, their hands sheathed in turquoise latex surgical gloves, unzipped the bag. "We just checked him out and took photos of him -— kind of realized right away that there was no way he died of a heart attack because of all the cuts and blood coming out of his nose," she said, and she added, "You don't think your commander's going to lie to you about something. It made my trust go down, that's for sure. Well, you can't trust your commander now."


The pictures of Harman and Graner with the corpse may have been taken as a gag -- "for personal use," as Frederick said of his photos of Gilligan -- but they are starkly at odds with Harman's claim of a larger documentary purpose. By contrast, her grisly, intimate portraits of the corpse convey her shock at discovering its wreckage; and later that evening Harman returned to the shower with Frederick to examine the body more carefully. This time, she looked beneath the ice bags and peeled back the bandages, and she stayed out of the pictures.

"I just started taking photos of everything I saw that was wrong, every little bruise and cut," Harman said. "His knees were bruised, his thighs were bruised by his genitals. He had restraint marks on his wrists. You had to look close. I mean, they did a really good job cleaning him up." She said, "The gauze on his eye was put there after he died to make it look like he had medical treatment, because he didn't when he came into the prison." She said, "There were so many things around the bandage, like the blood coming out of his nose and his ears. And his tooth was chipped -- I didn't know if that happened there or before -- his lip was split open, and it looked like somebody had either butt-stocked him or really got him good or hit him against the wall. It was a pretty good-sized gash. I took a photo of that as well." She said, "I just wanted to document everything I saw. That was the reason I took photos." She said, "It was to prove to pretty much anybody who looked at this guy, Hey, I was just lied to. This guy did not die of a heart attack. Look at all these other existing injuries that they tried to cover up."

Let me pause the narrative to draw a line between myself and those who approve of this type of treatment for alleged -- or even for known and duly convicted -- terrorists.

I believe in America, and that America is worth fighting for.

But, Al Qaeda believes in what they are fighting for, as well.

The difference has to then be made in our conduct. We must conduct ourselves such that it is obvious that we really are the good guys. And killing a man through brutal interrogation, which is obviously what happened in this case, is wrong -- it is a crime. When those who commit this crime get away with it, it makes our side criminals, just like the terrorists, and the fact that Islamic extremists routinely do this and worse merely makes the difference between us and them one of degree, instead of one of principle.

There can be no peace in Iraq or anywhere else without justice, and there is no justice as long as those who have caused this atrocity and others like it to occur remain unpunished. They must be held legally accountable for their actions, and only when this has happened will America once again be on the path toward being "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

I am against those who commit these crimes, I am against those who cause these crimes to be committed, and I am against those who excuse these crimes rather than condemn them.

I am a Republican, but more importantly I am an American -- and I stand on principle, not on politics.

To be concluded in Race to Hell: Make Sure This Happens.

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