Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bad Apples at the Top of the Barrel

Raw Story brings us new revelations on the Abu Ghraib torture affair:
New Army documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union today reveal that Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez ordered interrogators to "go to the outer limits" to get information from detainees. The documents also show that senior government officials were aware of abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke…

… Among the documents released today by the ACLU is a May 19, 2004 Defense Intelligence Agency document implicating Sanchez in potentially abusive interrogation techniques. In the document, an officer in charge of a team of interrogators stated that there was a 35-page order spelling out the rules of engagement that interrogators were supposed to follow, and that they were encouraged to "go to the outer limits to get information from the detainees by people who wanted the information." When asked to whom the officer was referring, the officer answered "LTG Sanchez." The officer stated that the expectation coming from "Headquarters" was to break the detainees…

The ACLU said the document makes clear that while President Bush and other officials assured the world that what occurred at Abu Ghraib was the work of "a few bad apples," the government knew that abuse was happening in numerous facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the 62 cases being investigated at the time, at least 26 involved detainee deaths. Some of the cases had already gone through a court-martial proceeding. The abuses went beyond Abu Ghraib, and touched Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca and other detention centers in Mosul, Samarra, Baghdad, Tikrit, as well as Orgun-E in Afghanistan.

It always was a stretch of the imagination to believe that Sanchez, then commander of the coalition forces in Iraq, was entirely out of the loop in the goings on in Abu Ghraib. Back in May of 2004, Sanchez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Abu Ghraib interrogation rules had been written at the company commander level, and that he had no role in preparing or approving them.


We now know that the interrogation practice paper trail leads back to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Steven Shafersman of Texas Citizens for Science has compiled a fairly encompassing collection of links and articles on the subject here.

Janet Karpinski is the senior officer to have been punished over the Abu Ghraib abuses. President Bush demoted her from brigadier general to colonel and she subsequently retired. Her punishment was "administrative," and such did not amount to a conviction on criminal charges. A number of junior officers and enlisted personnel, like Private Lindie England, have been criminally charged and convicted.

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Our war on terror torture record is disturbing at so many levels it's difficult to know where to begin describing them. What perhaps disturbs me most is that I can't feel outrage over this matter any more because I'm all outraged out. Once again, I'm seeing a smoking gun that proves what I more or less already knew, and chances are that this story will fall off the radar thanks to the electronic interference from the other outrageous stories I'm already out of outrage over and the all outrages we haven't heard about yet that will seem tame because the outrage threshold has been set so high that it's impossible to get outraged about anything any more. The human nervous system can only absorb so much.

Here's another thing I can't get outraged about any more. We're never going to get to the bottom this outrage or any other outrageous act of this administration as long as the only investigation of the administration's outrages are conducted by the outrageous administration itself.

Yeah, there's a good chance the Democrats will wrest control of both Houses of Congress come November which would give them control of all the investigative committees. But if they try to conduct an honest investigation of every Bush administration outrage, they'll never get anything else done.

So they'll have to prioritize, do a "triage" of outrage, if you will, and pick and choose who and what they can actually bring to justice.

Let's hope they focus on the apples at the top of the barrel, and not on the Lindsie Englands.

21 comments:

  1. Jeff:

    I agree with everything you said, except:

    "Yeah, there's a good chance the Democrats will wrest control of both Houses of Congress come November which would give them control of all the investigative committees."

    What makes you think there is a "good" chance the Dems will take both houses? Every projection I've seen regarding the Senate ends with the GOP retaining control. House projections vary, with the Dems getting control in some of them and not getting control in others.

    Granted, it is far too early out to make predictions of any accuracy, but that applies as well to predictions about a 'good' chance of taking both Houses.

    Unless the Democrats start acting, rather than simply relying on being "not Bush" I predict that they will not get both Houses, and may very well not take either.

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  2. Jeff, what is now getting me through the night, so to speak, is a little countdown feature available for the Firefox browser at

    https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/468/

    At this writing, it tells me that there are 992 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes till noon on 20 Jan 09 when another President will take over - if our Republic and Constitution survive.

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  3. Yeah, but who are we going to get stuck with next?

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  4. I still have a little shred of hope, but don't see a dream candidate on the horizon. Interesting piece in Time last week on how completely poll-centric politicians have become. We buy a product, we don't elect a leader, essentially.
    So the old question, Scott: if the election were held today, who would you vote for?

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  5. I really like Russ Feingold. He strikes me as a sensible person, and I think he's honest enough (for a politician..heh). I also think he's got the ability to win in middle america, which is something the Democrats need. So I suppose if the election were today and I could pick a candidate who is at least on the political horizon, I'd chose him. I usually end up voting 3d party when the elections come around, but i'm tired enough of the GOP to cast my vote for the Democrats, unless they pick a truly terrible candidate.

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  6. Seven of Six11:03 PM

    Another officer brought up on charges, Lt. Col. Steven Jordan. http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,95757,00.html?ESRC=army.nl

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  7. Jeff,

    After reading your “outrage” comments, I simply must refer you to Tom Tomorrow, who has written all about it in “This Modern World: Outrage...and another thing”

    I will say that you (and TT) have nailed it, as I’ve also noted my outrage well running dry. It’s probably just as well though, because if I were able to get any more outraged I probably would have crossed the line into insanity by now.

    What hurts the most is knowing about the cruelty and mayhem that is going on (still!) unchecked. Death by torture—I never would have believed this could become an American value, even as something discussed merely as an option, but certainly not as something done routinely and sanctioned from on high. But then again, I never would have believed that the U.S. would consider launching pre-emptive strike with nukes either. Until now.

    As far as changing our own “regime” here at home: I can no longer be surprised by the idiocy of the American voters. Who are these people making up the 32 (or so) percent of Americans who still support Bush?

    To put it into perspective:

    “[37 percent] of Russians today … approve of the direction their country took under Stalin” (from VCIOM - Moscow, via Harper’s Index, Jan 2006). It seems that about a third of the populace of any country holds opinions I will never be able to comprehend.

    I am hopeful about the November elections, but have no illusions.

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  8. i have to agree with everything you said about being "outraged out". I cant usually even think of anything to say in the comments on your site and others like it because i am just so over-outraged i feel like i am repeating myself over and over. But i still try to voice something because too many people out there are too apathetic to it all.

    "The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." -plato

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  9. Thanks to everyone for stopping by and posting.

    The 32 percent thing has me slightly perplexed as well. How can 32 percent actually approve of what's going on?

    Don't know. But I suspect the other 68 percent realize that nothing will change as long as the GOP holds Congress, which is why I have some hope for a change of majorities.

    Best,

    Jeff

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  10. Yikes, and that Tom Tomorrow cartoon was three years ago--so many outrages, so little energy left after the bafflement of the remaining 0ne-thirdish.

    I knew this would happen with Abu Ghraib--the links to the top of the food chain would emerge at a time when we're focused on other distractions, like our oil dealers, gay marriage, limiting abortion rights, and another war in Iran.

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  11. Ariadne,

    Deny, delay, distract.

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  12. We are, of course, a long way from 2008, but as of now I predict it will be:

    McCain / (Cheney) (Rice) (Frist) (wildcard)

    vs.

    (Kerry) (Feingold) (Clarke) / (Edwards) (Clinton) (God only knows)

    I think Kerry's proved he can't win; but he's got tons of money and apparently wants to try again. So, unfortunately, he'll have a say at some point.

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  13. I think it would be a big mistake for the Dems to nominate Kerry, and I'll doubt they'll do so, but you're right - he may well want to try again.

    If the GOP could convince Rice to run, I think she'd be hard to beat. McCain would also be a decent pick for them to make. Cheney would be a disaster of a nomination, in my view.

    As an FYI everyone, my name has changed to Musmanno on the blogs because I also post on patent-related blogs about patent issues and politics at the PTO, and an issue was raised with respect to how this could potentially affect client representation if I take a position on a public blog that is adverse to a client's interest. I doubt it's a big deal but I prefer to avoid the issue all together :)

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  14. William Bollinger5:00 PM

    Scott,

    What's with the name change? Getting ready to launch your own blog?

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  15. Hey William. No, I commented on it in another thread, but basically I comment on other blogs that have to do with patents (the area of law I practice), including areas of law and policy, and after having a discussion with some colleagues decided I'd rather not confront the possibility that something I say under my own name that happens to be adverse to the interests of a client is too readily located. I think the likelihood is small, but I'd rather not go there. I've used the name Musmanno on numerous sites, so I'll stick with that (Justice Musmanno was a judge at Nuremberg, wrote the most dissenting opinion of any U.S. justice, and was really nuts. I'll link to en excerpt from his dissent in the Henry Miller obscenity case. You'll get a laugh out of it).

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  16. One prefers to think Justice Musmanno is just a dissenting name and not an ideal. ( wink )

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  17. Lurch: Yes, just a name :)

    Here is the excerpt from Musmanno's dissent in the Miller case. The court ruled the book Tropic of Cancer was not obscene. Musmanno disagreed. It's hilarious.

    http://writersbbs.com/members/fenris/MusDissent.html

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  18. William Bollinger8:43 AM

    Interesting fellow. We were practically neighbors it turns out. Both from the north Pittsburgh area.

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  19. Yeah, he was an interesting guy. Was a rear admiral in the Navy and, like I said, a judge at Nuremberg. There's a bit about him here:

    http://www.library.duq.edu/specialcollections/musmanno.htm

    There are other "Musmanno" judges in PA, but I don't know the extent of the relation.

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  20. Meribeth6:08 AM

    After reading the first link and having my Moment of Zen, I went tot he second link expecting something over the top. Reading through his short bio and how he viewed certain issues, I was surprised! His stands, for the most part, were quite reasonable. Yet, I did not dig through to read his prose. A little of that goes a long way.

    Thanks for the laugh and Zen.

    Is Santorum on the fringe of "Musmanno Judges?" ;)

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  21. Anonymous12:24 PM

    About the 32 percent who still support Bush: didn't Stephen Colbert just remind us that the last 1/3 is "backwash?" So there you go. ;)

    I've been taking a break from the daily outrage. What I'm finding once I distance myself is a calm need to act. Outrage almost gets in the way at this point.

    Kerstin

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