Noam Chomsky and I reported back in 1979, of 35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United States. The idea that many of those torture victims and their families, and the families of the thousands of "disappeared" in Latin America in the 1960s through the 1980s, may have harbored some ill-feelings toward the United States remains unthinkable to U.S. commentators.
The Abu Ghraib torture scandal
New York Times: Human Rights Watch Cites Rumsfeld and Tenet in Report on Abuse
The report found that Mr. Tenet had been responsible for policies that sent detainees to countries where they were tortured, which made him potentially liable as an accomplice to torture...The report said that of seven investigations by the Pentagon, none had critically examined the role of the civilian leaders with ultimate authority over detainee policy. Investigations into case-by-case abuses have largely focused on lower-level personnel.
The report is found here:
Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees
Their Humiliation, and Ours
The U.S. was forced to see itself as the world does — and it was painful to behold
Monday, May. 17, 2004
By Nancy Gibbs
I thought war was hard to explain to a child. But compared to this, war is easy. When my daughters saw the pictures flashed on the Today show and wanted to know "Why are there wires attached to that man's hands?", I could not bring myself to explain that this is designed to maim a man's soul: in a culture that sanctifies masculine pride and sexual privacy, you strip him and make him masturbate in front of a mocking female captor, or put him on a leash or pretend you are going to electrocute him. But I did have to explain that the bad guys — this time — were seven U.S. soldiers, of whom it might be said that seldom has such harm been done to so many by so few.
This "does not represent the America that I know," President Bush said of the events at Abu Ghraib, and how tempting it was to go there. The pictures can't be real. If they are real, they can't be typical. If they are typical, this can't be America — unless, perhaps, you are Rush Limbaugh, who invited listeners to identify with the frustration the soldiers must have felt being shot at by the ungrateful Iraqi people; so naturally they felt the need to "blow some steam off," to "have a good time." Others noted that there was less outcry when Saddam was doing the torturing, or argued that "they would do the same to us" if they had a chance. When we are reduced to insisting that our depravity isn't as bad as the other guy's, we have fallen deep into a pit of moral equivalence that reveals what we have lost.
You could track the stages of grief, because something precious had surely died: a hope that the world might one day come to see Americans as we see ourselves. Instead, we have had to see ourselves as the world sees us. On the very site where Saddam drilled holes in prisoners' hands or dipped them in acid, the American guards, instead of planting new values, harvested the ones already there. I heard the pain last week of people who had supported the war out of principle, who continued to support it after weapons weren't found and soldiers kept getting killed and other nations pulled out, and did so because, as Brigadier General Kimmitt put it last week, "we came here to help." That meant at the very least ensuring that Abu Ghraib was no longer a torture chamber. Now the front page of a Baghdad paper shows the defiled prisoners and the caption: "This is the freedom and democracy that Bush promised us." Psychologically, if not in fact, these pictures shred the last good reason to feel righteous about having gone to war.
Denial was of little use because the pictures told the story in a universal language of domination. And the perps in the pictures were somehow familiar, the giddy weekend warriors under the command of the traveling window-blind salesman, the boy next door — and the girl. This time women can't privately tell one another that if only we were in charge, we might all have a chance of getting along, because there she is, Private England, gloating, holding the leash. And the female general in command was telling reporters last summer that conditions were so much nicer now at the prison that she was worried the prisoners "wouldn't want to leave," as though she expected a spread soon in House & Garden. Nor was there much room for philosophical debate over means and ends or a game of scruples over whether it's O.K. to torture a prisoner who knows where a suitcase nuke has been planted in downtown St. Louis. These prisoners were not the big fish, and these guards were not trained and disciplined interrogators. What they did was give the jihadists a gift of incalculable value. Our enemies call the U.S. godless, depraved and corrupt, and now they have a p.r. weapon of mass destruction that they will use as another reason to kill any other infidels they can. That's why we look for powerful people to be punished, even out of proportion to their responsibility. Soldiers should not be the only ones expected to sacrifice for the safety of the country. This event requires, to use the military term, an asymmetrical response.
In the search for any conceivable solace, I find it in the varieties of courage the other soldiers have shown, including the courage to report the ones who did this. Humiliation — in this case America's own — may beget humility, of which there has at times been a shortage in the face of so daunting a challenge as Iraq poses. And as for the violation of American values, we must recalculate the cost of the post-9/11 instinct to change the rules we play by, detain whomever we need to, forget due process and forgo the Geneva Convention. If this is indeed a fight to the death, what is it we are fighting for, if not the values we seem so ready to sacrifice on the grounds that this is a different kind of war? There will be other causes and threats, and we will need not only the power to confront them but the moral authority as well.
Abu Ghraib scandal goes higher than claimed according to book by Seymour Hersh
From The Economist:
Oct 21st 2004
"A few low-level American guards stupid enough to have themselves photographed torturing and humiliating prisoners have been charged. A few dozen others have been reprimanded or discharged. No intelligence officers who conducted the interrogations, nor anyone higher up the chain of command, have been charged. Official investigations have been launched. None has blamed any senior official. Asked about the clear evidence of widespread torture, Mr Bush said simply that “the instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law.” He later declared that “freedom from torture is an inalienable human right” and that the United States “remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions."
A searing critique of the Bush administration
FOR over three decades, Seymour Hersh has been a pain in the neck to American presidents and he is proving no less of one to George Bush. Mr Hersh's dogged style of investigative journalism has produced brilliant scoops—he revealed the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and this year in the New Yorker he did much to uncover the story of American torture at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. As important, his writing offers a kind of real-time alternative history to the official version of events. His latest book is a blend of articles from the New Yorker since the September 11th attacks along with new material. It makes disturbing reading. Mr Hersh portrays an administration whose top officials are not just duplicitous—a charge which can be laid against plenty of their predecessors—but gravely incompetent, blind to facts they dislike, determined to ignore advice they do not wish to hear and lamentably ignorant about large chunks of the world.
Such criticism that appears in the thick of a presidential campaign is bound to be attacked as biased, or politically motivated. Mr Hersh is not coy about his view that the Bush administration has mishandled both the war on terrorism and the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But the sheer quantity of detail makes the book impossible to dismiss as mere polemic. Mr Hersh's reporting is based on anonymous sources, something the Pentagon pounced on in an extraordinary press release before the book's release. Yet unlike Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, his chief American rival as an investigative journalist, Mr Hersh attributes almost every piece of information to an individual, and he describes that person's position or experience in some way. Mr Woodward's two books covering the same period, “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack”, have plenty of dramatic flourish and recreated conversations, and are certainly entertaining. However, the sober tone of Mr Hersh's book, the careful marshalling of evidence and constant attributions: all lend it an undeniable credibility. What is more, the author spends almost as much time quoting senior officials defending the administration's policy and actions as he does others criticising them. Readers get to hear both sides of the story.
The picture that emerges from this account is perhaps a familiar one: that of a Bush administration as much at war with itself as with al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein. Yet Mr Hersh's narrative is less about the battle between the Departments of State and Defence, which has been well charted, than that between the top layer of political appointees at the Pentagon and the White House and the senior and middle-ranking career officials in the military and intelligence services. If Mr Hersh is to be believed, a growing crowd of serving and retired officials despair at the blunders and the opportunities missed by Mr Bush and his closest advisers—in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaeda, in efforts at controlling nuclear proliferation, in dealings with Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran, and in trying to improve homeland security.
The Bush administration's response to the torture committed by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib illustrates a pattern of behaviour described again and again in Mr Hersh's book (even though only about a fifth of the book actually deals with the story of Abu Ghraib). Soon after September 11th, Mr Bush issued a secret presidential order setting up covert teams of commandos to scour the globe to capture, interrogate and kill terrorists. Such teams were authorised to operate outside the law. Mr Bush later issued an order declaring that any captured al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters would not be deemed prisoners of war covered by the Geneva Conventions, and that in the war on terror he had the right to suspend the conventions whenever he wished. Donald Rumsfeld, Mr Bush's defence secretary, expressed repeated disdain for the conventions.
Teams of lawyers within the government, most of them political appointees, formulated new legal policies that redefined torture as limited to the pain equivalent to “major organ failure or death”. They argued that in any case the president, as the commander-in-chief in the war on terror, could not be bound by international treaties or federal laws forbidding torture. When interrogations of prisoners at Guantánamo yielded little in the way of intelligence, Mr Rumsfeld authorised new, harsher interrogation techniques. The general who developed these techniques was sent to Iraq, to “improve” interrogations there as well, since Iraq's insurgency was growing, and the American forces there had little knowledge of whom they were fighting. Torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib soon became routine.
Before all this became public, repeated complaints about what was happening at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo were made to senior administration officials by the International Red Cross, human-rights groups, a number of CIA and military officers, and even by a group of Pentagon lawyers. When photographs and videos of the torture at Abu Ghraib fell into the hands of Mr Hersh and an American television station last April, Mr Rumsfeld first brushed the issue aside, then professed himself shocked. Mr Bush denied all knowledge and blamed some bad apples.
A few low-level American guards stupid enough to have themselves photographed torturing and humiliating prisoners have been charged. A few dozen others have been reprimanded or discharged. No intelligence officers who conducted the interrogations, nor anyone higher up the chain of command, have been charged. Official investigations have been launched. None has blamed any senior official. Asked about the clear evidence of widespread torture, Mr Bush said simply that “the instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law.” He later declared that “freedom from torture is an inalienable human right” and that the United States “remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions.”
It is this brazenness which amazes Mr Hersh, a man who has spent a lifetime exposing the deceptions of politicians. And yet even for such a veteran reporter, there is something puzzling, even terrifying, about Mr Bush. When he denies, or just ignores, a fact, is he lying, or does he simply say whatever he finds convenient, and then come to believe it? Mr Hersh asks the question, but he cannot answer it.
The My Lai Massacre
My Lai Massacre
"Eighty soldiers were initially under investigation for the My Lai massacre. Twenty-five officers and enlisted men, including Lt. Calley and his superior officer Capt. Medina, were eventually charged with crimes. Only six cases were ever tried. In some cases, the evidence was overwhelming; some of the defendants admitted killing the civilians. But only one soldier, William Calley, was found guilty of murder.
After Calley had served three days in prison, President Nixon ordered that he be taken to Fort Benning, Georgia, to be held under house arrest. Sequestered in a comfortable apartment, Calley was allowed to have pets, entertain guests, and cook his own meals...
Calley’s life sentence was subsequently reduced to twenty years, then reduced again to ten years. In 1974 he was paroled after serving three years under house arrest."
"COLIN POWELL. In 1968, as a staff army major in Vietnam, Colin Powell played a direct role in suppressing the inquiry into the My Lai massacre, and into related atrocities against civilians. As a White House fellow during the Watergate years he earned a reputation -- but only for keeping his mouth shut."
The Vietnam Tiger Force killing spree
Transcript of interview with Toledo Blade reporter Michael Sallah on the NPR radio program On the Media: Vietnam Coverup Uncovered
"After an unprecedented four and a half year investigation into the crimes of Tiger Force back in the early '70s, the military determined there was enough evidence to convict but no one was convicted. Information reached the highest levels of government, but the files were locked away for good under President Gerald Ford and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld..."
Read the entire series:
The Toledo Blade Newspaper: Tiger force
"The decision not to prosecute was made more than a year after Gerald Ford became president in August, 1974, but it is not known how far up in the Ford administration the decision went."
At the time the decision not to prosecute was made the secretary of defence, then as now, was Donald Rumsfeld and the White House chief of staff was Dick Cheney.
America's complacent media
Seymour M. Hersh interview (Exposed the My Lai Massacre, author of the book "Chain of Command" in the review above)
"In war-crimes investigations, the disparity between the facts and the military’s official versions of them has repeatedly been exposed, often with bruising consequences, by an independent press. The Blade’s extraordinary investigation of Tiger Force, however, remains all but invisible. None of the four major television networks have picked it up (although CBS and NBC have been in touch with the Blade), and most major newspapers have either ignored the story or limited themselves to publishing an Associated Press summary"
The New Yorker: Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America’s “Extraordinary Rendition” Program
New York Times: It's Called TortureCongressman Edward Markey introduced legislation that would ban "Extraordinary Rendition"...the outlook for this legislation is not good.
Boston Globe: US Must Stop 'Outsourcing' Torture by Congressman Edward J. Markey