Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not Just a "Few Bad Apples"

President Bush said in an interview on Arab television soon after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke that "what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know." In a statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 7, 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the abuse at Abu Ghraib was "un-American" and "inconsistent with the values of our nation." The persistent claims that prisoner abuse was an aberration--the work of a "few bad apples"--have become unsustainable under the mounting evidence that interrogation techniques used at Abu Ghraib were imported from Guantanamo.

The Washington Post reports another bit of evidence today from a preliminary hearing in the case against two soldiers accused of abusing detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison. The story begins:

Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.

One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.

Earlier this month, a Pentagon investigation (not publicly released) urged a reprimand of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantanamo who went to Iraq to spread the interrogation techniques that had been employed in Cuba. (Miller's superior, Gen. Bantz Craddock, declined to issue the reprimand.) As the Post story on the report notes, "The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on [Mohamed] Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq."

Sadly, there are a lot of things surrounding the torture scandal that do not represent the America that I know. A lot of them have more to do with the actions of those in authority than with the actions of low-ranking reservists and private contractors.