Former General Karpinsky (demoted to Colonel) has an axe to grind: she was made into the scapegoat for Abu Ghraib. Circumstantial evidence is pretty strong that higher-ups who reported directly to Rumsfeld, notably Gen. Miller, were at least as much to blame, but they escaped all responsibility.
How reliable a witness is Karpinsky? Hard to say — but reliable enough to deserve a hearing. Or two: one in the House and one in the Senate, say.
Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general: MADRID (Reuters) – Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison’s former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.
Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain’s El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.
Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.
“The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: “Make sure this is accomplished”,” she told Saturday’s El Pais.
An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA (news – web sites) interrogation while suspended by his wrists, which had been handcuffed behind his back, according to investigative reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that it had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances of the death were not disclosed at the time.
The prisoner died in a position known as “Palestinian hanging,” the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position — which human rights groups condemn as torture — was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.
Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's “ghost” detainees at Abu Ghraib — prisoners being held secretly by the agency.
His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.
Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.
Dr. Vincent Iacopino, director of research for Physicians for Human Rights, called the hyper-extension of the arms behind the back “clear and simple torture.” The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in a case of Palestinian hanging — a technique Iacopino said is used worldwide but named for its alleged use by Israel in the Palestinian territories.
The Washington Post reported last year that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the CIA suspended the use of its “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including stress positions, because of fears that the agency could be accused of unsanctioned and illegal activity. The newspaper said the White House had approved the tactics.
From the Guardian, a sample from the test administered to recruits to the Iraqi Police Force:
Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person is: a) torture; b) interview techniques; c) nterrogation techniques; d) informative and reliable.
How sad that the United States now has an Attorney General who would get this question wrong.
Yet all the Republicans — including POW torture victim John McCain — and six Democrats (including the quisling-like Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and, sadly, our own Bill Nelson from Florida) voted to confirm. The final vote showed only 36 against, too few to sustain the filibuster which was thus not attempted, a tactical decision that I will not second guess.
A vote for Bush, I said before the election, is a vote for torture. We reap now the bitter fruits of what our fellow citizens then sowed.
May they (and the rest of us too) not get what they deserve.
The new accusations generally concern the behavior of American Special Forces, as opposed to prison guards or interrogators, who have been accused at Abu Ghraib.
Rather, it's yet another sign of a pattern and practice.
The American Civil Liberties Union released documents on Monday describing complaints of serious abuse of Iraqi civilians, including reports of electric shocks and forced sodomy, and accused the military of not thoroughly investigating the cases.
The documents list dozens of allegations of abuse at American detention centers – the use of cigarettes to burn prisoners, aggressive dogs, electric shocks, sexual humiliation and beatings – that began at about the same time such acts were occurring at Abu Ghraib prison.
But it is not always clear whether every case described is a new incident.
Based only on the public evidence to date, how much is the ordinary carnage and inhumanity of war, and how much is something that trickled down from above, may be hard to say in a way that would satisfy the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard. But there seems to be the makings of at the very least a very strong case that is more than circumstantial. If a prosecutor were to tackle this with the aggressiveness with which we pursue Mafia cases, I think we'd see something. But there's no sign yet of any desire to go after general officers, or even mid-level officers, much less ranking civilians.
Belgium recently changed its law to make it very difficult to launch war crimes prosecutions against foreign officials, and the supreme court there recently dismissed an attempted lawsuit against Bush. But meanwhile, a significant segment of Belgian public opinion appears to subscribe to the sentiment symbolized by this Wanted poster issued by a Belgian activist group:
Recall that the International Criminal Courtagreement (.pdf) (to which the US is not a party) would prohibit these sorts of trials against our officials so long as we set our own house in order. But we are not doing that.
PS. As noted in the comments, my intent in this particular post was to be positive, not normative. Under what circumstances if any a foreign war crimes trial of a former US President or Cabinet official could ever be be a good thing is very hard for me to think coherently about, as I so passionately want the US to act in a way that makes the whole question absurd.