An especially strong broadcast from Democracy Now! features a segment on the war crimes lawsuit filed today in Germany against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet, General Ricardo Sanchez and other high U.S. officials — see also this report in Time magazine — and a segment with the star witness in the case, former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, at left, who headed Abu Ghraib.
Karpinski talks with Amy Goodman about the infamous torture photos, their meaning, and the memo on interrogation techniques that Rumsfeld signed, including “a handwritten annotation in the margin” consisting of four words: “Makes sure this happens!!” It was the “same handwriting and appeared to be the same ink as the signature on the memorandum,” she says, indicating at the very least that Rumsfeld “had knowledge of what was being allowed in terms of interrogation.” The techniques were, she notes, “authorized, ordered, designed and directed by people at much higher levels than mine or anybody else serving in Iraq.”
The memo and notation are old news, pointed out earlier in many reports. Here’s one (from tomdispatch.com, a project of the Nation Institute):
While testifying this January 21, [2006,] in New York City at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, Karpinski told us: “General [Ricardo] Sanchez [commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq] himself signed [an] eight-page memorandum authorizing literally a laundry list of harsher techniques in interrogations to include specific use of dogs and muzzled dogs with his specific permission.”
All this, as she reminded us, came after Major General Geoffrey Miller, who had been “specifically selected by the Secretary of Defense to go to Guantanamo Bay and run the interrogations operation,” was dispatched to Iraq by the Bush administration to “work with the military intelligence personnel to teach them new and improved interrogation techniques.”
Karpinski met Miller on his tour of American prison facilities in Iraq in the fall of 2003. Miller, as she related in her testimony, told her, “It is my opinion that you are treating the prisoners too well. At Guantanamo Bay, the prisoners know that we are in charge and they know that from the very beginning. You have to treat the prisoners like dogs. And if they think or feel any differently you have effectively lost control of the interrogation.”
Miller went on to tell Karpinksi in reference to Abu Ghraib, “We’re going to Gitmo-ize the operation.”
When she later asked for an explanation, Karpinski was told that the military police guarding the prisons were following the orders in a [one-page] memorandum approving “harsher interrogation techniques,” and, according to Karpinski, “signed by the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.”
… In the left-hand margin, alongside the list of interrogation techniques to be applied, Rumsfeld had personally written, “Make sure this happens!!” Karpinski emphasized the fact that Rumsfeld had used two exclamation points.
When asked how far up the chain of command responsibility for the torture orders for Abu Ghraib went, Karpinski said, “The Secretary of Defense would not have authorized [them] without the approval of the Vice President.”
What has changed since then? When it comes to prosecuting the top officials, very little. And that’s the news that stays news:
“The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer,” says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany, [Time reports]. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going back to Sept. 11, 2001.
Precisely, as noted here just the other day: “… despite claims to the contrary (such as “saving American lives”), the bullshitter’s Republican enablers rammed through the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [to] protect him and his henchmen from potential prosecution.”
So as not to confuse an already complicated legal issue, made more so by the conflation of separate but related problems (Abu Ghraib vs. Guantanamo, Al Qaeda vs. Iraqi insurgents, interrogations abroad vs. in the U.S., captured enemy combatants vs. arrested U.S. citizens, and so on), here’s an excellent backgrounder about the original memo of 2002 (the “Bybee memo”) that set things off.