Saturday, June 12, 2004

Abu Ghraib: Bush heaves Sanchez over the side? 

The operations of The Fog Machine continue: First, the privates and the specialists; now a general. Of course, Bush has only so many subordinates to blame....

Of course, as we suggest (at great length below), the real story isn't who gave the orders for torture; the real story is the chain of custody for the interrogation reports, photographs, and videos. Who in the West Wing was reading them? Who was viewing them?

In any case, R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White report that it now looks like Sanchez gave orders that authorized some kinds of torture. And though that is bad enough, the story is just as noteworthy for what it does not say:

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, borrowed heavily from a list of high-pressure interrogation tactics used at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ... The U.S. policy, details of which have not been previously disclosed, was approved in early September, shortly after an Army general [Miller] sent from Washington completed his inspection of the Abu Ghraib jail and then returned to brief Pentagon officials on his ideas for using military police there to help implement the new high-pressure methods.
(via WaPo)

Great euphemism, that—"high pressure methods."

What the story doesn't say: Who, higher up in the chain of command, gave Sanchez his order?

One of the documents, an Oct. 9 memorandum on "Interrogation Rules of Engagement," which each military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib was asked to sign, sets out in detail the wide range of pressure tactics approved in September and available before the rules were changed on Oct. 12. They included methods that were close to some of the behavior criticized this March by the Army's own investigator, who said he found evidence of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuse" at the prison.

What the story doesn't say: Anything about the civilian contractors and "other agencies" (CIA) who were also present and the interrogations.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman did not defend these tactics. He said "there are a number of investigations that are looking not only into interrogation procedures and processes, but how they were implemented. The baseline standard for all interrogation as well as the security procedures for holding detainees has always been humane treatment."

What the story doesn't say: Whether Whitman believes that the Geneva Convention, a treaty signed by the United States, has the force of law. This goes to the heart of Bush's claim to have the "inherent authority" (back)to set aside the law. A simple claim of "humane treatment" sidesteps this question neatly (or could even be said to answer it, since the "baseline standard" is something other than the Constitution or the law).

For example, Spec. Luciana Spencer, a member of the 66th Military Intelligence Group who was removed from interrogations because she had ordered a detainee to walk naked to his cell after an interview, told investigators that the military police did not know their boundaries. "When I began working the night shift I discussed with the MPs what their SOP [standard operating procedure] was for detainee treatment," Spencer said in a statement. "They informed me they had no SOP. I informed them of my IROE [interrogation rules of engagement] and made clear to them what I was and wasn't allowed to do or see."

What the story doesn't say: Whether the lack of an SOP was deliberate. I believe it was: the operation of The Fog Machine.

A civilian contractor, Adel Nakhla, an interpreter for military intelligence, told investigators he was briefed on interrogation rules only after being implicated in an abusive event.

What the story doesn't say: Who briefed the civilian contractor? Who implicated him? And how many civilian contractors were never "implicated"? Note again the confusion of the chain of command; the operation of The Fog Machine.

when intelligence officers arranged for military police to help impose some of the more severe tactics, they often failed to specify how to do so, leaving wide latitude for potentially abusive behavior.

What the story doesn't say: Whether the "wide latitude" was deliberate. I believe it was: the operation of The Fog Machine.

Some of the rules for U.S. military personnel at the prison made it easy for people to duck responsibility for their actions, a factor that may also have opened the door to abuse.

The acronym MI "will not be used in the area," according to an undated prison memo titled "Operational Guidelines," which covered the high-security cellblock. "Additionally, it is recommended that all military personnel in the segregation area reduce knowledge of their true identities to these specialized detainees. The use of sterilized uniforms is highly suggested and personnel should NOT address each other by true name and rank in the segregation area."

Here is the crucial evasion in this story: "All military personnel in the segregation area reduce knowledge of their true identities to these specialized detainees". (I note, in passing, the curious use of the euphemism "special," which again suggests the operation of the Special Access Program (back).) But the real point, I suggest, was not that the interrogators hide their indentities from the prisoners; it was to hide them from each other. Here again, in the minutest of details, we see the operation of The Fog Machine, which seeks always to confuse the chain of commmand so that responsibility can be diffused.

So, what the story doesn't ask: How any policy directed only by Sanchez could have effect when soldiers, out of uniform, are mixed together with civilian intelligence personel, and civilian contractors?

The answer: It couldn't. Clearly, Sanchez—though no innnocent—is the fall guy here. And here again is the operation of The Fog Machine, which always seeks to protect superiors by sacrificing subordinates. Abu Ghraib, like the Iraq war itself, is a quagmire that the military was placed in by Bush.

And, again: Who saw the reports, videos, and photographs from Abu Ghraib? Follow the bytes!

corrente SBL - New Location
~ Since April 2010 ~

~ Since 2003 ~

The Washington Chestnut
~ current ~

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]


copyright 2003-2010

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?