Sunday, May 09, 2004

Abu Ghraib torture: Hersh: More units involved, photos part of process 

From Seymour Hersh's interview with CNN:

HERSH: The important thing about the group in this photograph is that it's not -- there's seven people being prosecuted from the -- by the Army from a unit known as the 372nd MP Company.

BLITZER: And today the first court martial was announced where the specialist Jeremy Sivits...

HERSH: Sivits. Right, and this photo came from somebody in a different unit, the 372nd MP Battalion, also at the prison. But it's a whole separate group of people. So now all of a sudden we're not looking at six or seven possible suspects.

No, we're looking at an entire system. And taking these photographs was part of that system:

HERSH: [The New Yorker] photo department analyzed the camera. There were two cameras operating at the time. This was a 12-minute sequence inside a prison. There were two cameras shooting these photos over 12 minutes, so we know two cameras were working.

And we know from the other -- in the other photographs we've seen, and from stories from one of the prisoners who was interviewed last week by The New York Times, one of the guys that showed up in the horrible pictures the week before, one of those naked people being forced to do awful acts to themselves. And he said all during that process there were cameras going.

So I'm here to say that the evidence suggests that cameras and the use of cameras was part of the interrogation process. And I'll tell you what somebody has told me, which is that one of the ways you could possibly get more leverage on a potential witness or if it's somebody you want to interrogate, is to threaten ... a prisoner with taking these photographs and showing them to neighbors or showing them to others. It would be a greater source of humiliation to have others actually see the problems he had in prison.

And where does the fish rot from? The head:

BLITZER: So what are you suggesting? That there was a systematic policy to humiliate, to abuse these prisoners, and it came from where? The order came from where?

HERSH: The article is called "Chain of Command." And what I'm saying is you have to turn the whole way we're approaching the story over. We have to sort of turn the hourglass over from looking at the kids, who were directly involved, and looking at the high-level policy level.

We have to go up the chain of command to see where did this order come to change the rules?

And one of the things I discovered as I wrote about it, is that last November the general of Iraq, General Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez, the lieutenant general, three-star general, promulgated an order last November to all the prisons, saying from now on Military Intelligence are in control, they run the prisons.

And under Army regulations, the MPs, the military police, they're prison guards. You don't want prison guards involved in interrogations because that leads to an enormous amount of hostility. And you want prisons to be tranquil. Otherwise you're going to have people always at you.

And so the guards are forbidden by Army regulations from getting involved in the interrogation process.

Sanchez, the three-star general in charge of everything, changed it, and [Sanchez] based that change on a recommendation from guess who? Major General Geoffrey Miller, the man that was formerly at Guantanamo, who did a study last summer for Sanchez and who's now back running the prison system.

So, let's go up one more step. Who gave Sanchez the order? Hersh doesn't say. But he does say what they were thinking:

BLITZER: Well, what was the theory behind stripping these prisoners, having dogs there, forcing them to simulate sexual acts, what was the possible logic behind any of that?

HERSH: Well, last fall, if you remember, was a time when the insurgency started blooming again. It was very rough for us, and it was at that time people like General Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander, and others, the commander of all of the region, and General Sanchez were talking publicly, we think there's 5,000 people in the insurgency.... They saw it as a finite force. They sort of misread the sort of mass anti- Americanism that obviously exists. Fhe idea was, I guess, to escalate the pressure on them, do everything you can, humiliate them, have the sexual stuff, have photographs there that can be used as leverage. And the idea was to get the names, the magic names of the 5,000 people, so we can go arrest them.

Battle of Algiers, anyone? And the implications are very, very bad:

HERSH: I've talked to Middle Eastern people in the last week, and they say the damage is much more acute. The average person who follows the Islamic word, and believes in it, is really horrified in a profound way about who we are, that we would use women and sex in the way we use it, is to them, it's so degrading and, as I say, perverse.

This is a strategic issue. We're picking a fight with 1.3 billion people. And I'm not sure that the guys -- you know, if you look at the way Rumsfeld and the president handled this, this sort of, "Oh, my God, let's rearrange the deck chairs of the Titanic for the last four months," God knows what they were thinking about. This has been a train coming down the tracks.

You begin to get a sense, [the people in charge] can't cope with information they don't want to hear. They haven't been able to listen to the generals in the Pentagon, who have been saying for six or eight months that we were really in trouble.

They won't listen to them. And it's not because it is a cover- up, it's because they don't listen to what they don't want to hear.

And now we're getting into a strategic struggle with the whole Middle East. This is expanding. And I'm not sure that the guys running the government really know that the high stakes involved.

This is truly a clusterfuck. The only way we're going to get out of this alive—and hopefully with all our cities intact—is to repudiate Bush in the most decisive way possible, come November. Though impeachment would not go amiss.

NOTE For more detail on Military Working Dogs, and why there may be a smoking gun here, see below at Who let the dogs out?", especially the comments by alert readers.

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