Balkinization  

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Scandal of Abu Ghraib, One Year Later

JB

And justice has not yet been done. To our great shame.

Senator Kennedy's speech yesterday is well worth reading for a reminder that the torture scandal goes well beyond Abu Ghraib. It involved decisions by government officials to use methods of interrogation that violated our own country's norms of decency, Congressional statutes against torture, and international law, and had been rejected as ineffective by the Army's own internal interrogation manual. Kennedy's speech concludes:

Last weekend, the Army's Inspector General revealed he had exonerated almost all of its top officers of any responsibility for abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, even though one of them, Lieutenant General Sanchez, explicitly approved the use of severe interrogation practices, and even through a review by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger found that General Sanchez and his deputy "failed to ensure proper staff oversight of" the operations at Abu Ghraib.

What signal does this pattern of prosecutions for low-ranking soldiers, exonerations for generals, and promotion for civilians send to our men and women in the armed services, and to our veterans?

The torture scandal is not going away on its own. Our nation will continue to be harmed by the reports of abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, the failure by top officials to take action, and the abandonment of our basic rules and traditions on human rights.

The scandal directly endangers U.S. soldiers and U.S. civilians abroad. We no longer demand that those we capture in the war on terrorism be treated as we treat prisoners of other wars. What will we say to a country that justifies its torture of a U.S. soldier by citing our support for such treatment? How we can we hold other nations accountable for their own human rights violations, when we continue to hold prisoners for years, without charging them or convicting them of anything?

The nation's standing as a leader on human rights and respect for the rule of law has been severely undermined.

We cannot simply answer, as some have done, that the behavior is acceptable because terrorists do worse. By lowering our standards, we have reduced our moral authority in the world. The torture scandal has clearly set back our effort in the war on terrorism. It is fueling the current insurgency in Iraq. Even our closest allies, such as Great Britain, have raised objections to our treatment and rendition of detainees.

Al Qaeda is still the gravest threat we face. The widespread perception that the U.S. condones torture only strengthens the ability of Al Qaeda and others to create a backlash of hatred against America around the world. If we do not act to locate official responsibility for Abu Ghraib, we will condone a new status quo in which our policy toward torture is technically one of zero tolerance, while de facto our officials tolerate and commit torture daily.

Many of us were struck by the rhetoric in President Bush's Inaugural Address. "From the day of our founding," he said, "we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth." Many of us would like to work with the President to develop a foreign policy that advances these important values. But rarely has the gulf between a President's rhetoric and his Administration's actions been so wide. It is simply not possible to reconcile his claim that "America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies" with the barbaric acts that have been committed in America's name.

We must not allow inaction to undermine two bedrock principles of human rights law that we worked hard to establish at Nuremberg: that higher officials cannot escape command responsibility and lower officials cannot excuse their actions by claiming that they were "just following orders."

It is time to come to terms with the continuing costs of the torture scandal, and respond effectively. We need to fully restore the nation's credibility and moral standing, so that we can more effectively pursue the nation's interests in the future.

First, we must acknowledge that the rule of law is not a luxury to be abandoned in time of war, or bent or circumvented at the whim and convenience of the White House. It is a fundamental safeguard in our democracy and a continuing source of our country's strength throughout the world.

Sadly, a recent National Defense Strategy policy contained this remarkable statement: "Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism." Who could have imagined that our government would ever describe "judicial processes" as a challenge to our national security-much less mention it in the same breath as terrorism? Such statements do not reflect traditional conservative values, and they are clearly inconsistent with the ideals that America has always stood for here and around the world.

Second, we must acknowledge and apply the broad consensus that exists against torture and inhumane treatment.

Never before has torture been a Republican versus Democrat issue. Instead, it's always been an issue of broad consensus and ideals, reflecting the fundamental values of the nation, and the ideals of the world.

President Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988. The first President Bush and President Clinton supported its ratification. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Senator Jesse Helms voted 10-0 in 1994 to recommend that the full Senate approve it. The Clinton Administration adopted a "zero tolerance" policy on torture. Torture became something that Americans of all political affiliations agreed never to do.

9/11 didn't nullify this consensus. We did not resolve as a nation to set aside our values and the Constitution after those vicious attacks. We did not decide as a nation to stoop to the level of the terrorists, and those who did deserve to be held fully accountable

Americans continue to be united in the belief that an essential part of winning the war on terrorism and protecting the country for the future is safeguarding the ideals and values that America stands for at home and around the world.

That includes the belief that torture is still beyond the pale. The vast majority of Americans strongly reject the cruel interrogation tactics used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo -- including the use of painful stress positions, sexual humiliation, threatening prisoners with dogs, and shipping detainees to countries that practice torture. The American people hold fast to our most fundamental values. It is time for all branches of the government to uphold those values as well. It is clear beyond a doubt that we cannot trust this Republican Congress or this Republican Administration to conduct the full investigation that should have been conducted long before now. We've had enough whitewashes by the Administration and Congressional Committees.

Finally, to implement these values, we need a full and independent investigation of our current detention, rendition, and interrogation policies, including an honest assessment of what went wrong in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.

The investigation will require genuine candor and cooperation by all officials and agencies in the Bush Administration, full accountability, a clear statement of respect for human rights, and a plan for protecting those rights throughout the government. Only a truly independent and thorough investigation can restore America's reputation and put us back on the right path to the future.

The challenges we face in the post-9/11 world are obvious, and the stakes are very high. Working together, we have met such challenges before, and I'm confident we can do so again. I urge all of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to join together to protect the rule of law, protect our soldiers serving abroad, and restore America's standing in the world.


Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, thinks it's reason to celebrate:

"The sad anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal is now upon us." (Laughing.) Sad, my foot! These guys are happy as hell to be celebrating this today, but I think that we should encourage them. They have misread the public totally on this and they still think this is an election winnable issue for them.

Senator Kennedy says, "It's an appropriate time to reflect on how well we've responded as a nation. The images of cruelty and perversion are still difficult to look at a year later. An Iraqi prisoner in a dark hood and cape, standing on a cardboard box with electrodes attached to his body. Naked men forced to simulate sex acts on each other." Senator Kennedy is just jealous. This is the kind of stuff that used to go on in Hyannisport and he's just jealous that as he's getting older, he's not part of it. . . .

You want to know what to get me for Abu Ghraib? You know what? That is a good question. I don't really want anything for Abu Ghraib. The Democrats, that is who we need to get presents for. One thing, have you thought about handcuffs? Those have multiple uses for Democrats. A whip. You know, to go along with the handcuffs. Dawn says a good present would be to give a Democrat a digital camera so that he or she can document their own atrocities. All you have to take it to a Madonna concert. You got the whips, and the handcuffs and chains right there on stage and people are paying for this. . . .

We're putting our heads together down here at EIB Southern Command. We've come up with three more gift ideas for a liberal Democrat today. It is Abu Ghraib Day. Senator Kennedy issued a statement, Democrats celebrating the one year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal. I don't know how I forgot this. Obviously, at the top of the gift list has to be women's underwear. Remember, women's underwear was put on the heads of Islamic prisoners to humiliate them. Democrats found this totally objectionable, can't believe it. Another thing, remember all of the pictures of Abu Ghraib prisoners with bags on their heads, with eye holes cut out. Give them some of those. Those are cheap. Go to the grocery store, get groceries, then give them the empty bags with the eye holes cut out favorite liberal Democrat, that as well as handcuffs. The bag for the head has a series of uses for liberal Democrats as well. Then, of course, there is a leash. A leash can be found at any pet store and it goes along with the German Shepherd that you are going to give away to a democrat here as they celebrate the one year anniversary of Abu Ghraib Day.


As I said before, to our great shame.


Comments:

What is the statute of limitations on torture in violation of federal law? Will senior Bushies risk prosecution in the event the Dems take over in 2008? Or will mass pardons for high-level torturers be Dubya's closing gift to the Nation?
 

And just how loudly would Mr Limbaugh, et al, scream if US military prisoners were similarly tortured as those at Abu Ghraib? Whhat happened to their christian belief of the golden rule-do unto others as you would have them do unto you- or do they just elieve in the gold(en) rule-them's that got the gold makes the rules?
 

Also, I wonder how loudly Limbaugh would be laughing if it this occurred under a Democratic President. I just love the hypocrisy which abounds from ideological extremists. I commented on it here:

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Google plans instant-messaging system, report says



Google Inc. is set to introduce its own instant messaging system, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday, marking the expansion by the Web search leader into text and also voice communications.

Citing unnamed sources "familiar with the service," the Los Angeles Times said that Google's Instant Messaging program would be called Google Talk and could be launched as early as Wednesday.

Google Talk goes beyond text-based instant messaging using a computer keyboard to let users hold voice conversations with other computer users, the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on the company's product plans.

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The product push comes as rivals Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL are all pushing to upgrade existing instant messaging systems and expand into new Internet phone-calling services.

Google's moves take it beyond its roots in Web search and closer to becoming a broad-based Internet media company.

With instant messaging, Google would be breaking into a market in which its major competitors boast tens of millions of subscribers to their established instant messaging services.

America Online, with its AIM and ICQ brands, counts more than 40 million IM users in the United States alone. Yahoo has around 20 million and Microsoft's MSN Messenger numbers some 14 million users, according to recent comScore Media Metrix data.

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