Today’s torture headlines are self-explanatory. Anyone who cannot see the signs of
systematic mismanagement in all that’s being reported must be blind. Even if the nitwit in the
White House and the top Pentagon brass from Rummy boy on down had no knowledge of what
was going on — which strains credulity — such purported ignorance is in itself Exhibit A for their
culpability as incompetents.
Some sentient Republicans finally understand this. Like the rest of us shamed by the torture of
prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, they presumably see the crisis as a moral issue. But if they
don’t — if they see it merely in practical terms as “a metaphor for the mismanagement of the war”
(Tim Russert’s description this morning) — we won’t argue with them as long as their practicality
leads to ridding us of the unredeemable thugs now in charge.
Today’s menu: “New Details of Prison Abuse
Emerge.” The Washington Post reports “Abu Ghraib Detainees’
Statements Describe Sexual Humiliation And Savage Beatings.” Scott Higham and Joe Stephens
write: “Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe
in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of
prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their
food from toilets.”
The Post, which obtained more graphic evidence of the torture, reports: “Videos Amplify Picture of
Violence.” A photo gallery accompanying the article shows a U.S.
soldier threatening a prisoner with an attack dog, a naked prisoner covered in feces standing with
his arms outstretched as though crucified, a hooded prisoner handcuffed to the bars of a railing
who appears to have collapsed.
Josh White, Christian Davenport and Scott Higham write: “The new pictures and videos go
beyond the photos previously released to the public in several ways, amplifying the overt violence
against detainees and displaying a variety of abusive techniques previously unseen.”
Now add to those articles, these in The New York Times this morning:
+ “Justice Memos Explained How to Skip
Prisoner Rights.” Neil A. Lewis reports: “A series of Justice
Department memorandums written in late 2001 and the first few months of 2002 were crucial in
building a legal framework for United States officials to avoid complying with international laws
and treaties on handling prisoners, lawyers and former officials say.”
+ “Afghan Policies on Questioning Prisoners
Taken to Iraq.” Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt report: “The
interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in
Afghanistan and that had taken to Iraq the aggressive rules and procedures it had developed for
the Afghan conflict, according to documents and testimony.”
Toss in this column by Bob Herbert: “‘Gooks’ to
‘Hajis,'” about a soldier who’s being court-martialed for refusing to
return to Iraq, where he witnessed “the killing of children, the cruel deaths of American G.I.’s
[targeted by bounty hunters] … the ineptitude of inexperienced glory-hunting military
officers who at times are needlessly putting U.S. troops in even greater danger, and the growing
rage among coalition troops against all Iraqis (known derisively as ‘hajis,’ the way the Vietnamese
were known as ‘gooks’).
Have a look at this article, “Pentagon Approved Intense Interrogation Techniques for Sept. 11 Suspect at
Guantánamo,” and this one, “Screening of Prison Officials Is Faulted by
Lawmakers,” in which Fox Butterfield and Eric Lichtblau report on
the “checkered record” of the assistant director of operations of American prisons in Iraq, John J.
Armstrong’s appointment was approved by the Justice Department, although he is a former
state commissioner of corrections for Connecticut who resigned from that post after the state
“settled lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union and the families of two Connecticut
inmates who died last year after being sent by Mr. Armstrong to a supermaximum security prison
“One of the inmates, a diabetic, died of heart failure after going into diabetic shock and then
being hit with an electric charge by guards wielding a stun gun and kept in restraints,” Butterfield
and Lichtblau write. The other, “who had been diagnosed with mental illness, jumped off his bunk
with a makeshift rope around his neck in plain sight of a guard who did nothing to come to his
aid,” according to the senior staff counsel for the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
You may recall that Butterfield earlier this month revealed that Attorney General John
Ashcroft sent another prison official with a checkered
history to Iraq to re-open Iraq’s prisons. That official was Lane
McCotter, the former director of the Utah Department of Corrections, who resigned that post
under pressure in 1997 following the death of a mentally ill prisoner who’d been shackled naked to
a restraining chair for 16 hours.