Maybe We'll See More Abu Ghraib Photos After All

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From the New York Times:

A federal judge in New York told the Defense Department yesterday that it would have to release perhaps dozens of photographs taken by an American soldier of Iraqi detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. […]

The judge focused on 144 photographs that were turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at Abu Ghraib. A small number of the pictures have already been published, including those showing naked detainees piled in a pyramid and simulating sex while their American military captors looked on. […]

[Judge Alvin Hellerstein] rejected [the government]'s argument that releasing the pictures would violate the Geneva Conventions because some prisoners might be identified and "further humiliated."

As I predicted in my April column, privacy concerns are being easily allayed by blacking out the eyes of the victims. Of course, I also predicted that "we'll never see" the second round of Abu Ghraib images, though the Defense Dept. might still appeal. (Link via Andrew Sullivan.)

NEXT: Too Many Tourists

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  1. Weren’t there supposed to be some photos in with the original Abu Ghraib collection that had a bunch of soldiers having group sex? At least let us have those.

  2. why do digital cameras hate america?

  3. I still want to see the naked pictures of Jessica Lynch.

  4. But, I thought releasing pictures of these prisoners was a violation of the Geneva Convention?

  5. RC — That was the govt’s argument, which the judge rejected, by pointing out you could easily maintain the detainees’ privacy.

  6. So if we had blacked out Saddam’s eyes, no one would be complaining about the tighty whitey shots?

    I know, I know. I just think its interesting how everyone cites holy writ, I mean, the Geneva Conventions, for their own purposes.

  7. With all the news lately about recruitment levels being in trouble, the military is missing a great opportunity to boost its recruiting by not releasing pictures of group sex. Hell, the recruiters should be dropping off “Girls of Abu Graib” videos at high school libraries.

  8. Girls of Abu Ghraib. Hmm. I dunno. I suppose if you’ve been in the desert a long time borderline retarded hillbillies built like a sack of potatoes start to look good, but still.

  9. “I know, I know. I just think its interesting how everyone cites holy writ, I mean, the Geneva Conventions, for their own purposes.”

    RC Dean’s right.

    …Publishing anonymous pictures of torture victims, holding prisoners indefinitely–six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    …Publishing anonymous pictures of torture victims, citing the Conventions to denounce the mistreatment of prisoners–what’s the difference?

  10. Brian,
    at least one of them chicks was hot. Lyndie England of course was not. But then again the dude she was hooking up with was an older married dude. Have you seen the standards of older married dudes that cheat? By those standards she was Britney Spears (befere Britney got pregnant).

    Incidentally, I think that it is only the Army that has recruiting problems the rest of the services don’t. I know that during war the Marince have more people applying than they can take. I tried to join during the first Gulf war, and ended up getting in afterwards.

    Litterally, the Army recruiter tried to get me after my first attempt with the Marine recuiter, he said “they don’t want you they have too many recruits, come talk to me”

  11. A bunch of soldiers having group sex? Interesting how all this machoism inevitably breeds homoeroticism. Anyone seen “Beau Travail”?

  12. panurge,
    I think there were chicks involved, notably Lyndie England and the at least one other hot chic mentioned earlier.

  13. Ken, perhaps the question is – what (non-political) purpose is served by publishing the AG pictures?

    If publishing pictures of prisoners is, as we have been told, a violation of the Geneva Convention, shouldn’t there be some justification other than laying a bruise on some politicos you don’t particularly care for?

    I’m not opposed to GW and crew getting roughed up over all this, but I do get a little tired of people who only genuflect to the Conventions when it suits their purposes.

    I seriously doubt that all the folks now claiming that the little black bar over the eyes creates an exception from the Conventions will be satisfied if the “wrong” people start publishing pictures of prisoners for the “wrong” reasons, even if they use that little bar.

  14. RC — Well, speaking as one proponent of the little black bar, I have no problem if the “wrong” people publish pictures for the “wrong” reasons (though I don’t know who you’re referring to exactly).

    As for non-political reasons, here’s one — the belief that Americans have a right to know what is being done with their tax money. Here’s another: The belief that more information, and more transparency, makes a system more efficient and more just, even when the information is awful & can be used by enemy propagandists. Without a doubt, the original publication of the Abu Ghraib photos greatly accelerated the process by which the U.S. investigated & reassessed its interrogation & imprisoning methods. I don’t see that as a bad thing. And I don’t fear the truth, no matter how much it hurts.

  15. I’ve heard your argument before, and I maintain that there’s a big difference between using photographs of prisoners to humiliate the enemy and using photographs to publicize the abuse of prisoners.

    …by your strict interpretation, it would seem to me that when CNN showed Somalis dragging a dead soldier through the streets of Mogadishu or when media all over the world showed film of concentration camp victims in Bosnia, it was a violation of the Conventions. It is my understanding that this was not the intent of the Conventions.

    It is my understanding that the reason the Conventions prohibited publishing prisoner photos was to discourage whatever regime from torturing prisoners into making public confessions. …That is, the Conventions were intended to discourage the abuse of prisoners, not to discourage the public documentation of prisoner abuse.

    “Ken, perhaps the question is – what (non-political) purpose is served by publishing the AG pictures?”

    Perhaps Messrs. Rumsfeld and Gonzales didn’t intend for the things that happened at Abu Gharib to happen as they did; regardless, according to my reading of the Schlesinger Report, they were responsible for what happened and they need to account for their actions in public.

    …So that this never happens again.

    In my opinion, this also speaks to national character–it speaks to what it really means to be American. Part of that means we don’t torture people–at least not as a matter of policy. …And if some American is found torturing someone, it means he gets severely and publicly punished as an example to others who would disgrace us.

    …and then there’s the question of justice. Has everyone who should have been charged been charged?

  16. There is no torture going on.

    The torture isn’t a violation of the Geneva Conventions because the Geneva Conventions don’t apply here. The enemy combatants are from Eurasia, and Eurasia has always been our ally. So they aren’t prisoners of war because there is no war.

    And because we are (and always have been) at war with Eurasia we must adhere to the Geneva Conventions and not show pictures of prisoners being tortured.

    Four legs are good and two legs are better.

  17. I don’t think we’ll ever see more photos. The more photos that get published the more obviouse the “this was the work of a few low ranking bad apples” lie becomes.

  18. thoreau,

    Perfeccione!!

  19. Warren,
    How in the hell is a photo going to prove anything else?

    Do you think that there is a photo out there that convays Donald Rumsfeld giving a dog leash class to Lyndie England?

  20. kwais, let’s face it. The position I agree with you on has been beaten by the people who constantly repeat the same bleating BS over and over.

    There are simply way too many people of the “everytime someone screws up in the military it goes all the way to the top” conspiracy theory school.

    You can’t defeat that kind of one-issue insanity any more than you can convince someone who is an agoraphobe that wide open spaces have no inherent power to harm them.

    It’s just another manifestation of the tin foil hat crowd that thinks the NSA satellites are reading their minds. (Makes for fascinating reading, I’m sure…)

  21. “kwais, let’s face it. The position I agree with you on has been beaten by the people who constantly repeat the same bleating BS over and over.”

    Thanks for the laugh rob, that’s hilarious.

    …You see, I’ve been beating people over the head with the Schlesinger Report, well, since last summer, and people like you–apparently–no matter how many times they get hit over the head with the facts, still don’t seem to get it. I guess you’re right though, if hittin’ ’em over the head with the facts doesn’t work, maybe we should try something else. …Maybe I’ll try rubbing their faces in it, like a dog that shit on the carpet.

    “It’s just another manifestation of the tin foil hat crowd that thinks the NSA satellites are reading their minds. (Makes for fascinating reading, I’m sure…)”

    “In the Summer of 2002, the Counsel to the President queried the Department of Justice Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) for an opinion on the standards of conduct for interrogation operations conducted by U.S. personnel outside of the U.S. and the applicability of the Convention Against Torture. The OLC responded in an August 1, 2002 opinion in which it held that in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain and suffering that is difficult to endure.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 9 of 126

    http://www.npr.org/documents/2004/abuse/schlesinger_report.pdf

    The OLC opinion in question obviously refers to the Gonzales Torture Memo, dated August 1, 2002.

    …But don’t take my word for it; read the Memo for yourself.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/dojinterrogationmemo20020801.pdf

    Anyway, Rumsfeld changed torture policy on this advice and the subsequent policy confusion led to the abuse at Abu Gharib, or as the Schlesinger Report says:

    “The existence of confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies contributed to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 12 of 126

    and…

    “Interrogation policies with respect to Iraq, where the majority of the abuses occurred, were inadequate or deficient in some respects at three levels: Department of Defense, CENTCOM/CJTF-7, and Abu Gharib prison. …As already noted, the changes in DoD interrogation policies between December 2, 2002 and April 16, 2003 were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.”

    My charge against Donald Rumsfeld has always been the same–incompetence. The advice Rumsfeld acted on, the Gonzales Torture Memo, may have been lawyerly, but it was also morally pathetic. It was, surely, among the worst advice given by the OLC ever, but in spite of this, President Bush promoted Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General.

    Contrast these facts with your silly statement, “There are simply way too many people of the “everytime someone screws up in the military it goes all the way to the top” conspiracy theory school.”

    It’s not your fault, I suppose. The existence of the Schlesinger Report was way underreported in my opinion, and its contents were waaaaaaayy underreported. …But make no mistake, it was the incompetence of Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumfeld that got this ugly ball rolling downhill.

    …or as the Schlesinger Report says:

    “We cannot be sure how much the number and severity of abuses would have been curtailed had there been early and consistent guidance from higher levels. Nonetheless, such guidance was needed and likely would have had a limiting effect.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf pp. 15 & 16 of 126.

  22. Just noticed I forgot to tag the page number on that quote:

    “Interrogation policies with respect to Iraq, where the majority of the abuses occurred, were inadequate or deficient in some respects at three levels: Department of Defense, CENTCOM/CJTF-7, and Abu Gharib prison. …As already noted, the changes in DoD interrogation policies between December 2, 2002 and April 16, 2003 were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 16 of 126

  23. Dammit, Ken, don’t bug us with the facts. There’s some non-white, non-Christian, non-American people to torture, and at least a few of them might even be guilty!

  24. And even if they aren’t guilty of participating in or aiding terrorists, you know they don’t like America. Especially not now. So they have it coming.

  25. I tell ya thoreau, it’s hard findin’ the time to make this stuff up.

    …I mean, first I gotta get up early, swill some latte, put on my red state hatin’ hat…

    ; )

  26. Ken,
    My original post was about there being photos that would show that the Abu Ghraib stuff went all the way to the top. My point being; how is a photo going to prove that? I don’t know, I suppose it is possible. There could be the picture of Rummy giving the dog leash class to England.

    But on to your point about the Schlesinger report. I suppose it is possible that the lack of guidance from the top led to this, but I doubt it. I really doubt it specifically encouraged the bad behaviour. There are too many people between England and Rummy for that to have been possible without a huge outcry.

    I think that because Rummy and the President are the top bosses, ultimately they bear the responsibility.

    But truthfully, Abu Ghraib was a failure of mid level management leadership. And to some extent whoever England and Co’s parents were, for they raised children with no morals.

  27. I want the photos released because of the truth in that old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    When the first Abu Ghraib photos came out, many Americans were outraged by the disgusting things done in our name, and some Congressman whose name I forget said “I’m more outraged by the outrage.” Then the members of Congress saw the rest of the photos, and apparently his “outrage over the outrage” evaporated; at least, we heard no more about it.

    Showing the photos might reduce the number of Americans who take the despicable stance that whatever we’re doing over there is perfectly moral and right. No writer, no matter how talented, could have described the more iconic photos, such as the man draped in black or the thumbs-up over a corpse, and gotten the same visceral response that the pictures themselves did.

    Not trying to Godwin this, but if the Germans in 1941 or ’42 had been bombarded with photos of the atrocities going on in the concentration camps, such behavior would most likely have ground to a halt in view of the outrage of the Germans and the rest of the world. Likewise, if America and the world sees the full horror of Abu Ghraib–in pictures so stark and shocking that no rational-sounding excuses can be invented for them–then perhaps we can nip this torture thing in the bud and stop our descent down the perilous moral road we’ve been travelling since the President and those of his ilk decided that morality is only a concern of lesser nations.

  28. Kwais,

    I was obviously responding to rob’s post above. I don’t have much to add to that post other than the following:

    “…the abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 7 of 126.

    I suspect you’re right in regards to the photographs not showing the participation of Messrs. Rumsfeld and Gonzales in the hijinks; however, I suspect it is possible that the photographs could shed some light on the role of MI in the abuse, which is an open question as far as I’m concerned.

    …Every defendant I’ve heard has claimed that they were following the instructions of Military Intelligence. I’d like to know more about that, wouldn’t you?

    “…the Panel did not have full access to information regarding the roll of the Central Intelligence Agency in detention operations; this is an area the Panel believes needs further investigation and review. It should be noted that information provided to the Panel was that available as of mid-August 2004. If additional information becomes available, the Panel’s judgments might be revised.”

    —-Schlesinger Report, page 8 of 126.

    I think it unlikely that MI or CIA people, if they were involved, would be foolish enough to allow themselves to be photographed, but you never know.

    P.S. I know the following isn’t in response to your comment about the photos blazin’ a trail up the chain of command to Rumsfeld et. al.; it’s more in regards to the spirit of the thread:

    “Concerning the abuses at Abu Gharib, the impact was magnified by the fact that shocking photographs were aired throughout the world in April 2004. Although CENTCOM had publicly addressed the abuses in a press release in January 2004, the photographs remained within the official criminal investigative process. Consequently, the highest levels of command and leadership in the Department of Defense were not adequately informed nor prepared to respond to the Congress and the American public when copies were released by the press.”

    —-Schlesinger Report p. 15 of 126

    It’s not clear to me that the “the highest levels of command and leadership in the Department of Defense” ever would have been “adequately informed” or “prepared to respond to the Congress and the American public” had the press not published the photographs in question.

    …If there were further unknown issues or people involved, publishing those photographs may be the only way to make sure those issues are addressed and those people are punished.

    I would like to see someone ask Rumsfeld what he’s done to make sure that this sort of abuse never happens again, and I would like to hear Rumsfeld reply that he, most effectively, rescinded his own interrogation policies. …but I know that will probably never happen.

  29. “..Every defendant I’ve heard has claimed that they were following the instructions of Military Intelligence. I’d like to know more about that, wouldn’t you?” – Ken

    So take a look at the trial transcripts of the defendants. Apparently those claims have not held up in court.

    “I suspect it is possible that the photographs could shed some light on the role of MI in the abuse, which is an open question as far as I’m concerned.” – Ken

    You think the defendants (England, Graner, etc.) wouldn’t turn over on the MI if they could? You think they didn’t try? I guess this will have to remain an open question for all eternity, and can be placed alongside who Sirhan Sirhan and John Hinkley Jr. were REALLY working for.

    “I would like to see someone ask Rumsfeld what he’s done to make sure that this sort of abuse never happens again, and I would like to hear Rumsfeld reply that he, most effectively, rescinded his own interrogation policies. …but I know that will probably never happen.” – Ken

    You’re right, that will never happen. But not for the reasons you likely ascribe to. What is displayed in the Abu Ghraib photos are not interrogation tactics – they WERE illegal, and that’s why the people who conducted them are on trial and going to jail. There’s no need to rescind orders to do that stuff because those orders were never given. And vaguely defined ROEs do not mean that abuses are tolerated.

    As for this: “…the abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.” —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 7 of 126.

    There’s always institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels. That doesn’t mean it’s a conspiracy that goes to the top. If anything it’s a sin of omission, not comission. (More on that in a bit.)

    “Interrogation policies with respect to Iraq, where the majority of the abuses occurred, were inadequate or deficient in some respects at three levels: Department of Defense, CENTCOM/CJTF-7, and Abu Gharib prison. …As already noted, the changes in DoD interrogation policies between December 2, 2002 and April 16, 2003 were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.”

    Somehow this indadequacy regarding guidelines lead people to order up mock executions, dog leashes, light stick sodomy, etc. in the belief that they were legitimate interrogation techniques? It’s a lot more likely that idiots conducted these things because they thought they could get away with it and because they were having “a good time” at the expense of the inmates.

    Please… Something signed by the AG in 1988 is probably still in the process of being implemented. But with a sweep of his pen Gonzalez changed how the Army’s prison guards do business overnight? Sure, and when the CO of a base declares everyone will roll the sleeves of their BDUs beginning April 1st, how many guys are still walking around with sleeves down in June? They’ll get chewed out a bit, but they’re still doing it “the old way.”

    Yep, I know how fast the military folks on the ground change their operations based on guidance signed by the Attorney General. As soon as that memo was signed, troops on the ground responsible for conducting interrogations got busy ordering dog leashes and drawing up plans for the newly condoned antics (because they certainly weren’t tactics!). It’s more like turning a battleship than a Cooper Mini. Stricter guidelines MIGHT have curtailed the abuses, but so could personal responsibility and adherence to normal SOP.

    Besides, for Graner, England, etc. to have conducted interrogations based on what they claim (and you apparently believe) was guidance from above that legitimated their conduct of torture wouldn’t they have had to be assigned to conduct interrogations???

    They weren’t. They were prison guards, not interrogators. They weren’t assigned to MI. Their duties did not extend to interrogation, so even if the guidance specifically said it was OK to smash someone’s legs with an iron bar (which it damn sure doesn’t), it wasn’t up to them to do the smashing.

    But hey, don’t let reality get in the way of cherry-picked quotes from the Schlesinger report. (Which, by the way, I HAVE read.)

    The Schlesinger report points to inadequacies in clear guidance (policy) that goes all the way to DoD-level. It doesn’t say that clearer guidance would have prevented the crap at Abu Ghraib, and your own quotation from the report says that better guidance MIGHT have curtailed some of the abuses – not that it would have definitely prevented them.

    That’s a sin of omission, not commision. It’s a failure of omission to point out that these things are bad and you shouldn’t do them, perhaps. But there were clearly no orders to commit these abuses, and clearer guidance might have curtailed them (not really strong language there).

    But the defendants all knew about the Geneva Conventions, and at least Graner has been a prison guard for a LONG time.

    Here’s a hypothetical: If you’re in charge of me, and you don’t order me to do it, but I come up with the idea to beat hell out of people and abuse them, is it your fault for not giving me an order that is the equivalent of “don’t do something that is CLEARLY wrong?”

    Is it your fault if you don’t order me specifically NOT to do clearly wrong things like form naked human pyramids or commit light stick sodomy?

    Ken, have you ever been in charge of anyone who screwed up? Did you take the heat for it because you didn’t tell them specifically not to do what you didn’t imagine they’d do? Or did they take the heat for making a mistake that you had nothing to do with?

    I think your standard of guilt would extend to every person in the U.S., and possibly in the world, every time someone commits a crime…

  30. I think Jennifer hit the nail on the head.

    I don’t claim to know if these crimes go all the way to the top. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the government is so inefficient that the elbow doesn’t even know what the hand is doing, let alone the head.

    But I do know that a lot of Americans seems willing to forgive what happened at Abu Ghraib, while the people who have seen all of the pictures are not so forgiving.

    Also, I love the way that people cherry-pick the least abhorrent acts at Abu Ghraib. If none of the acts rose above the level of humiliating then I could see why some compared it to frat pranks.

    The fact is that people were forcibly sodomized. I repeat: forcibly sodomized. And not just by other inmates (which probably happens in every prison on earth) but by the guards.

    The problem with the humiliation (underwear on the head, leashes, etc.) is not simply the fact that it was really humiliating. The problem is that it was a symptom of a lawless culture among people who are supposed to be enforcers of law and order. And that lawless culture culminated in things much worse than humiliation.

    But we don’t get to see the worst pictures. We just get to see the humiliation. And that limit on the flow of information makes it easier for the apologists who either:

    1) Just want America to lash out and be as brutal as possible toward the damn Arabs who attacked us. Never mind that there were significant numbers of innocent people in Abu Ghraib.
    or
    2) Are such sycophantic apologists for the Dear Leader that they can’t bring themselves to agree with any critics of the government. Not even critics of government employees who clearly slipped the bonds of law, procedure, and decency and turned into savages.

    Fuck revenge, and fuck the government. We need to know what the people acting in our names are doing. It’s not that I want more pictures of acts that, taken in isolation, might be dismissed as humiliation. I want to know about the murders, the sexual assaults, the savage beatings, and other acts that are indisputably torture. And I want the people who would prefer to talk about leashes and underwear hats to shut the fuck up. I can’t believe that they’d rather kiss the ass of the Dear Leader than condemn these crimes. Maybe gaius marius is right. God, I hope not.

  31. “So take a look at the trial transcripts of the defendants. Apparently those claims have not held up in court.”

    It’s my understanding that claiming you were ordered to do something illegal is not a recognized defense in a military court. It’s my understanding that in that situation you’re expected to ignore such orders.

    …The guards at Auschwitz claimed they were only following orders too. Even if they were ordered to do what they did, that didn’t mean they weren’t guilty. It also didn’t mean that whoever ordered them to do what they did wasn’t guilty.

    You don’t have a link to the transcripts you’re referring to, do you?

    “I guess this will have to remain an open question for all eternity, and can be placed alongside who Sirhan Sirhan and John Hinkley Jr. were REALLY working for.”

    Why should this remain an open question?

    The Schlesinger Report Panel considered it an open question and so do I. Honestly, I don’t get it. Are you comparing the Schlesinger Panel to conspiracy theorists?

    “What is displayed in the Abu Ghraib photos are not interrogation tactics – they WERE illegal, and that’s why the people who conducted them are on trial and going to jail. There’s no need to rescind orders to do that stuff because those orders were never given. And vaguely defined ROEs do not mean that abuses are tolerated.”

    The abuses covered in the Schlesinger Report weren’t limited to the events depicted in the infamous photographs. People died during interrogation.

    “Of the 66 already substantiated cases of abuse, eight occurred at Guantanamo, three in Afghanistan and 55 in Iraq. Only about one-third were related to interrogation, and two-thirds to other causes. There were five cases of detainee deaths as a result of abuse by U.S. personnel during interrogations.”

    —-Schlesinger Report, page 15 of 126

    “…As already noted, the changes in DoD interrogation policies between December 2, 2002 and April 16, 2003 were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 16 of 126

    December 2, 2002 is when Donald Rumsfeld approved a revised list of “interrogation techniques”; on April 16, 2003 Donald Rumsfeld approved yet another revised list.

    …Deal with it.

    “There’s always institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels. That doesn’t mean it’s a conspiracy that goes to the top. If anything it’s a sin of omission, not comission.”

    Setting policy and overseeing its implementation is the responsibility of every administrator. Donald Rumsfeld’s policies, based on the advice of Antonio Gonzales, and implementation were a major contributing factor to what happened at Abu Gharib.

    “We cannot be sure how much the number and severity of abuses would have been curtailed had there been early and consistent guidance from higher levels. Nonetheless, such guidance was needed and likely would have had a limiting effect.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf pp. 15 & 16 of 126.

    …Donald Rumsfeld should answer for his incompetence in public.

    “Yep, I know how fast the military folks on the ground change their operations based on guidance signed by the Attorney General.”

    No one said the policy was changed by the Attorney General. Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly changed policy. He, apparently, changed policy based on the legal advice he got from our now Attorney General, who was then Counsel to President Bush. …RTFSR.

    “Stricter guidelines MIGHT have curtailed the abuses, but so could personal responsibility and adherence to normal SOP.”

    That’s the point Buddy Roe!

    Standard Operating Procedure was that we treat everybody according to the Geneva Conventions regardless–the Schlesinger Report even mentions that everyone that mattered agreed that the War on Terror could be fought just as effectively if we adhered to the Geneva Conventions! (pp. 8,9 of 126)

    …It wasn’t until Donald Rumsfeld changed torture policy that there was any problem.

    “Besides, for Graner, England, etc. to have conducted interrogations based on what they claim (and you apparently believe) was guidance from above that legitimated their conduct of torture wouldn’t they have had to be assigned to conduct interrogations???”

    I don’t remember anyone suggesting that Graner, England, et. al. were conducting formal interrogations per se. I do remember it being suggested that they were encouraged to do what they were doing to soften detainees up for formal interrogation–why is this relevant?

    “But hey, don’t let reality get in the way of cherry-picked quotes from the Schlesinger report. (Which, by the way, I HAVE read.)”

    Cherry picked!

    I cherry picked quotes from a document I’ve posted the link to at least 20 times over the past year. I cherry picked! I cherry picked quotes from a document in the very thread I posted the link to?

    …and if you read the Schlesinger Report before, why did you post this comment?

    “There are simply way too many people of the “everytime someone screws up in the military it goes all the way to the top” conspiracy theory school.

    I would estimate that, at least, half of the Executive Summary of the Schlesinger Report deals with the confusion created by Donald Rumsfeld’s changes in torture policy, and how those changes contributed to the abuse at Abu Gharib. How could you have read the Schlesinger Report and still think that anyone who thinks the people at the top are partially responsible is a conspiracy theorist?

    “Ken, have you ever been in charge of anyone who screwed up? Did you take the heat for it because you didn’t tell them specifically not to do what you didn’t imagine they’d do? Or did they take the heat for making a mistake that you had nothing to do with?”

    I have been and am responsible for other people’s mistakes. My responsibility was and is total if it’s my policy that led to the mistake.

    …but generally speaking, when I make a policy mistake, no one dies and America isn’t disgraced.

  32. “We need to know what the people acting in our names are doing. It’s not that I want more pictures of acts that, taken in isolation, might be dismissed as humiliation. I want to know about the murders, the sexual assaults, the savage beatings, and other acts that are indisputably torture. And I want the people who would prefer to talk about leashes and underwear hats to shut the fuck up. I can’t believe that they’d rather kiss the ass of the Dear Leader than condemn these crimes.”

    Hear, hear!

  33. Ken, your argument boils down to claims that the Abu Ghraib abuses were ordered and condoned by officials and official policy. They clearly were not. While I don’t have a transcript of the trial, here’s a good link about Graner’s trial:
    http://www.cdi.org/news/law/abu-ghraib-graner.cfm

    “claiming you were ordered to do something illegal is not a recognized defense in a military court… Even if they were ordered to do what they did, that didn’t mean they weren’t guilty. It also didn’t mean that whoever ordered them to do what they did wasn’t guilty.” – Ken

    That is true. There is no excuse for carrying out an illegal order, and if one was given it is ALSO a prosecutable offense. But there is no proof thus far that such an order was given.

    Even so, do you really think it was Rumsfeld ordering these idiots to “soften up” the detainees? Or was it more likely that it was overzealous interrogators who had no idea what kind of shit-storm they were encouraging these idiots to get up to? (Oh, wait, let me anticipate your answer: “it’s a conspiracy that goes all the way to the President!” Or at least to Rumsfeld, right?)

    You seem to willfully ignore the fact that it was Graner’s duty to STOP such abuses, and his failure to do so led to charges against him:

    “Duty to Intervene and Dereliction of Duty: Ironically, while the defense had sought to raise the prospect that Graner had been obeying orders, for example, alleged orders from military intelligence to weaken detainees in preparation for interrogation, Graner was prosecuted for something analogous to disobeying orders for failing to do his duty to intervene to stop abuse. The military prosecuted him under UCMJ Article 92: 892. ART. 92. FAILURE TO OBEY ORDER OR REGULATION Any person subject to this chapter who– (1) violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation; (2) having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or (3) is derelict in the performance of his duties; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
    http://www.cdi.org/news/law/abu-ghraib-graner.cfm

    “I don’t remember anyone suggesting that Graner, England, et. al. were conducting formal interrogations per se. I do remember it being suggested that they were encouraged to do what they were doing to soften detainees up for formal interrogation–why is this relevant?”

    It’s relevant because the DoJ policy YOU CITE regarding interrogation is aimed at determining how interrogations are conducted NOT how military prison guards treat their prisoners. The memo clearly states that torture is illegal, and attempts to define torture and to put forward possible defenses against claims of torture.

    But it’s not whether Graner et al were ordered to conduct torture that’s irrelevant (by a long shot!), it’s the DoJ memo you cite that is irrelevant.

    That’s because the UCMJ, under which Graner et al was convicted – and which he was expected to serve honorably – is much more stringent than the AG’s memo on the subject of interrogation.

    Military personnel are required to follow the UCMJ, not some poncy lawyer-speak from DoJ. Therefore, the parsing of what does or doesn’t amount to torture by the Dept of Justice memo (not even a DoD memo) doesn’t matter a whit in regards to UCMJ requirements for the treatment of prisoners.

    It was suggested by Graner, et al, in their own defense – not proven – that they were asked to “soften up” the detainees. Even were that the case, no one ordered them to commit the acts that they committed, nor could anyone reasonably expect that this would be the outcome.

    Nor is such a request illegal, so long as “softening up” doesn’t constitute UCMJ-actionable offenses. (Not to mention it was NOT an order.) There are tactics that can be used to “soften up” someone that do not include torture, cruelty or maltreatment.

    As for why it’s relevant that they were not assigned to interrogation duties, obviously, the DoJ memo is intended to ensure that interrogation techniques do NOT go over the line in such a way as to constitute torture (tho it parses to an extent that makes me uncomfortable, that’s a very lawyerly thing to do).

    Those idiots were not conducting interrogation, so interrogation policy does not constitute an order to do anything.

    But as I said, that’s got nothing to do with it, as the DoJ interrogation memo did not supersede UCMJ regulations against Cruelty and Maltreatment, a lower standard than the torture standard:
    “While political appointees at the Department of Justice had tested the boundaries of what constituted ‘torture’ under the CAT and related federal legislation, parsing what constituted the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, UCMJ Article 93 states simply that cruelty or maltreatment directed at someone subject to one’s orders is a criminal offence: 893. ART. 93. CRUELTY AND MALTREATMENT Any person subject to this chapter who is guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    Graner was charged under Art. 93 because – despite DoJ memos regarding interrogation – the SOP for military personnel had not changed regarding Cruelty and Maltreatment.

    “The Schlesinger Report Panel considered it an open question and so do I. Honestly, I don’t get it. Are you comparing the Schlesinger Panel to conspiracy theorists?” – Ken

    No, I’m suggesting that no matter what, there will always be questions by people who wear tin-foil hats that this was a conspiracy to torture that goes all the way to the SecDef, the President, etc. It couldn’t be that you’re not getting it because you’re being purposely obtuse, could it?

    “The abuses covered in the Schlesinger Report weren’t limited to the events depicted in the infamous photographs. People died during interrogation.” – Ken

    And those who conducted those interrogations should be subject to criminal prosecution. That people died during interrogation does not support your claims that this is the SecDef’s fault or that this is due to the interrogation policy itself.

    Besides, it’s not even clear that those were DoD interrogations. I thought those were CIA interrogations in which people died. (I could be wrong.) Blaming Rumsfeld for CIA interrogations is like me blaming you for someone else’s argument here on HNR.

    “December 2, 2002 is when Donald Rumsfeld approved a revised list of “interrogation techniques”; on April 16, 2003 Donald Rumsfeld approved yet another revised list. …Deal with it.” – Ken

    Deal with WHAT? That most of the abuses occurred outside of interrogation and therefore had nothing to do with the policy? That people may have gone beyond what is legally allowed and did illegal things during the interrogations despite UCMJ regulations? I promise that I’m NOT being purposely obtuse when I ask you what the heck you mean by “deal with it.”

    “Donald Rumsfeld’s policies, based on the advice of Antonio Gonzales, and implementation were a major contributing factor to what happened at Abu Gharib.” – Ken

    Not proven, not even remotely. The language in Schelsinger says might. Deal with THAT.

    “…It wasn’t until Donald Rumsfeld changed torture policy that there was any problem.” – Ken

    I’m still waiting for you to produce something Rumsfeld did that changed the UCMJ regarding treatment of prisoners, or that condoned actual torture, or any of the antics the idiots at Abu Ghraib got up to.

    I’ll probably be waiting for that about as long as you still consider it an open question that there’s a torture conspiracy that goes to the top.

  34. I think rob is open to evidence that the responsibility goes “to the top,” or at least he claims to be.

    But it seems to me his point is more philosophical than evidentiary – he doesn’t seem to approve of the instinct to suspect systemic problems when abuses are committed by people working with or for military and intelligence branches of the government.

    I have to disagree. I consider such a disposition to be very healthy.

  35. Oh, wait, Ken. My bad! Look – I found the smoking gun for you:

    From: SECDEF
    To: SPC Graner
    Subject: Treatment of prisoners

    I hereby authorize you to torture detainees. I?d recommend naked pyramids, beating hell out of people, and sodomy with a light stick. Hell, beat ?em to death if you?ve gotta.
    Go get ?em Tiger!

    Signed,
    Rummy
    XOXO

    P.S. Enclosed please find my old dog leash (my dog has a new one) that you can use for dragging detainees around.

  36. joe – I’m open to the possibility, sure. But my experience is that such conspiracies are VERY rare. (And I’m extremely suspicious of gov’t power.)

    As for systemic problems – now THAT I believe in. I’ve seen it firsthand, up close and personal.

    I consider the Abu Ghraib abuses to be a good example of systemic problems and serious leadership failure.

    What else would you call it? Not enough supervision, a bunch of knuckleheads given total power over other people and then left to do whatever they want… Those are SERIOUS systemic problems.

    But the conspiracy foolishness, considering what it would take to maintain such a conspiracy in the face of serious inquiry, just doesn’t hold up.

  37. “The language in Schelsinger says might. Deal with THAT.”

    —-rob

    “…[Donald Rumsfeld] directed the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel to establish a working group to study interrogation techniques. The Working Group…included wide membership from across the military legal and intelligence communities. The Working Group also relied heavily on the OLC. The Working Group reviewed 35 techniques and after a very extensive debate ultimately recommended 24 to the Secretary of Defense. The study led to Secretary of Defense’s promulgation on April 16, 2003 a list of approved techniques…”

    —-Schlesinger Report, page 10 of 126 (emphasis added)

  38. Flail as you like, I’ve seen nothing here to suggest that I should back away from my statement.

    “Perhaps Messrs. Rumsfeld and Gonzales didn’t intend for the things that happened at Abu Gharib to happen as they did; regardless, according to my reading of the Schlesinger Report, they were responsible for what happened and they need to account for their actions in public.

    Comment by: Ken Shultz at May 27, 2005 03:44 PM

    …furthermore, I see no reason to back away from riding you for your statement:

    “There are simply way too many people of the “everytime someone screws up in the military it goes all the way to the top” conspiracy theory school.

    You can’t defeat that kind of one-issue insanity any more than you can convince someone who is an agoraphobe that wide open spaces have no inherent power to harm them.

    It’s just another manifestation of the tin foil hat crowd that thinks the NSA satellites are reading their minds. (Makes for fascinating reading, I’m sure…)”

    Comment by: rob at May 28, 2005 01:00 PM

  39. You’re not allowed to ride me, Ken. That’s torture.

    Besides, show me where the working group’s recommendations led to the abuses. You can’t.

    You show there was a working group and that the group made recommendations as to what is and isn’t illegal during interrogations. How that condones or orders clearly illegal behavior that is not during an interrogation is a leap that apparently you can make, but I just don’t see it. I also doubt that you can provide anything tha says torturing people to death is legal.

    You say the guys at the top are responsible for something they did not order. I say that’s like you ordering me to pick up some garbage in the parking lot and being held accountable when I torch all the cars in the parking lot.

    As for flailing – you haven’t refuted my points. You can’t. I stand by my statement regarding “that kind of one-issue insanity any more than you can convince someone who is an agoraphobe that wide open spaces have no inherent power to harm them.”

    Of course, I SHOULD have followed my own advice – it’s pointless to argue FACTS in the face of FAITH.

  40. “…As already noted, the changes in DoD interrogation policies between December 2, 2002 and April 16, 2003 were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 16 of 126

  41. “How that condones or orders clearly illegal behavior that is not during an interrogation is a leap that apparently you can make, but I just don’t see it.”

    —-Comment by: rob at May 29, 2005 05:44 PM

    “The existence of confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies contributed to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned.”

    —-Schlesinger Report .pdf page 12 of 126

  42. “I stand by my statement regarding “that kind of one-issue insanity any more than you can convince someone who is an agoraphobe that wide open spaces have no inherent power to harm them.”

    Well at least you’ve backed away from the rest of your ridiculous statement.

  43. I haven’t backed away from anything in my statements.

    And while we’re at it, let me make sure that I’ve got this straight…

    We agree on what I said earlier that “The Schlesinger report points to inadequacies in clear guidance (policy) that goes all the way to DoD-level. It doesn’t say that clearer guidance would have prevented the crap at Abu Ghraib, and your own quotation from the report says that better guidance MIGHT have curtailed some of the abuses – not that it would have definitely prevented them.”

    So getting together a working group to determine clearer guidance on what is and isn’t illegal, and then putting out the guidance on what is and is not illegal constitutes illegal orders?

    I’d argue that the issued guidance is intended to be further clarification in addition to previous guidance on what is allowable. Tho you seem to feel that they supersede all other guidance, including the UCMJ, I remain unconvinced.

    You seem to be arguing that the military justice system put Graner et al in jail for something that had been declared legal by the working group higher ups. That’s clearly not the case.

    The abuses at Abu Ghraib were so clearly violations of the UCMJ that no reasonable military personnel would be ignorant of the fact that such abuse is illegal. Find me someone in Graner’s MOS (who are trained SPECIFICALLY to know better!) who has argued it was legal and within SOP. You won’t.

    Reasonable, responsible military personnel all think these people were sadistic, moronic dirtbags who did immeasurable harm to the U.S. military and the image of the U.S. abroad. They don’t try to pin it on guidance and some sort of top-down conspiracy.

  44. How does your Comment by: Ken Shultz at May 29, 2005 06:05 PM have anything to do with my statement that you quoted?

    You’re saying that interrogation policies led to confusion in situations where no interrogation was being conducted???

    You post the Schlesinger’s report bit that says “Confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies contributed to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned” as response to my statement “How that [interrogation policy] condones or orders clearly illegal behavior that is not during an interrogation is a leap that apparently you can make, but I just don’t see it.”

    Again, what the heck are you talking about? Or are you trying for a double-play by cherry-picking Schlesinger AND my comment?

  45. I would just observe that it’s a sign of progress if the primary issue being argued is just how high the responsibility goes. Previously there were people dismissing the notion that what happened at Abu Ghraib was even a bad thing in the first place.

    Also, in this thread and others some people have (rightly so) suggested that not every unpleasant thing that happens in a prison can or should be considered torture and beyond the pale. That’s a fair proposition. I would be less upset if the infliction of pain or psychological trauma (or whatever you want to call it) was used with careful deliberation in specific cases where there was good evidence to suggest that the person being tormented had valuable information.

    Again, we could debate the range of circumstances under which various methods of duress should be used, but if things proceeded in a deliberate and controlled manner I would be less worry. The problem is that Abu Ghraib wasn’t about seasoned intelligence professionals looking at evidence, identifying specific people with valuable (and time-sensitive) information, and carefully applying duress or torture (or whatever term you prefer) in a controlled manner.

    Rather, it was basically “Guards Gone Wild.” There was no discipline, no careful decision-making, no judicious use of duress. We need more evidence before we can conclude whether the fault lies with their immediate superiors, or somebody higher in the chain of command. But there should be no mistake about the nature of the crimes: Abu Ghraib was about a bunch of soldiers losing all restraint and discipline and acting like savages, and there is no excuse for that.

  46. rob,

    The conspiracy already hasn’t held up. It’s already been cracked open. We’ve go the Bybee Memo, the Yoo Memo, the Schlesigner Report, abuses that look a whole lot Gitmo happening just after Gen. Sanchez goes over there to “Gitmo-ize it.”

    You’re right, a conspiracy that size does leave traces all over the place. You just keep making up excuses why they aren’t what they seem.

  47. “I haven’t backed away from anything in my statements.”

    —-Comment by: rob at May 29, 2005 06:08 PM

    “There are simply way too many people of the “everytime someone screws up in the military it goes all the way to the top” conspiracy theory school.

    —-Comment by: rob at May 28, 2005 01:00 PM

    Your statement ignores the Schlesinger Report, which shows that Rumsfeld’s policy changes in regards to the Conventions contributed to the abuse at Abu Gharib.

    “You can’t defeat that kind of one-issue insanity any more than you can convince someone who is an agoraphobe that wide open spaces have no inherent power to harm them.”

    —-Comment by: rob at May 28, 2005 01:00 PM

    You haven’t given me any reason to alter my statement, which, once again, read:

    “Perhaps Messrs. Rumsfeld and Gonzales didn’t intend for the things that happened at Abu Gharib to happen as they did; regardless, according to my reading of the Schlesinger Report, they were responsible for what happened and they need to account for their actions in public.”

    Comment by: Ken Shultz at May 27, 2005 03:44 PM

    Noticing Donald Rumsfeld’s incompetence and Alberto Gonzales’ moral bankruptcy isn’t “one-issue insanity”; rather, it’s a function of an objective reading of the Schlesinger Report. Indeed, the Schlesinger Report specifically identifies Rumsfeld’s policies as a contributing factor to the abuse at Abu Gharib.

    …When you wrote:

    “It’s just another manifestation of the tin foil hat crowd that thinks the NSA satellites are reading their minds. (Makes for fascinating reading, I’m sure…)”

    —-Comment by: rob at May 28, 2005 01:00 PM

    …was it in reaction to my statement above?

  48. “The conspiracy already hasn’t held up. It’s already been cracked open. We’ve go the Bybee Memo, the Yoo Memo, the Schlesigner Report…” – joe

    Yep, attempts to determine what the problem is, what the extent of that problem is, or to fix a problem receiving play in the national media are obviously signs of a conspiracy being blown wide open.

    “You’re right, a conspiracy that size does leave traces all over the place. You just keep making up excuses why they aren’t what they seem.” – joe

    Yep, those memos and reports are sure signs of a cover-up, joe. But you can’t have it both ways – they’re either good-faith attempts to fix what’s wrong and bring the guilty to justice or evidence of a cover-up… No matter, tho, the entire military is damned either way, right? This is a conspiracy that goes to the top – and probably through everyone in uniform at the rate this is going.

    By that logic, any attempt to organize, research or report on anything is a sign of a conspiracy. By your logic, your job is part of a conspiracy to create mass transit.

    Memoes and reports might be a conspiracy to organize, conspiracy to determine legal bounds in order not to over-step them, but not conspiracy to torture.

    “You’re right, a conspiracy that size does leave traces all over the place. You just keep making up excuses why they aren’t what they seem.” – joe

    I have yet to argue with the reports or the memos. But I sure have a problem with some people’s characterization of the documents.

  49. “Your statement ignores the Schlesinger Report, which shows that Rumsfeld’s policy changes in regards to the Conventions contributed to the abuse at Abu Gharib.” -Ken

    No, I’m not ignoring the Schlesinger report, but I do take issue with your conclusions about the report. Did you get low grades any time a class required you to paraphrase written material in school? Because the conclusions you draw just aren’t in the report.

    “ou haven’t given me any reason to alter my statement…” – Ken

    Of course I haven’t. There is nothing I can write, no evidence I can produce, no fact I’ve pointed to, that will convince you that your earnestly held faith is wrong. You are right, the facts be damned, because you have faith that your reading of the Schlesinger report is the only one that counts.

    “Noticing Donald Rumsfeld’s incompetence and Alberto Gonzales’ moral bankruptcy isn’t “one-issue insanity”; rather, it’s a function of an objective reading of the Schlesinger Report. Indeed, the Schlesinger Report specifically identifies Rumsfeld’s policies as a contributing factor to the abuse at Abu Gharib.” -Ken

    Rumsfeld may be a lot of things, but incompetent isn’t one of them. I’m sure that based on your EXPERT reading of the Schlesinger report, you can point to the place where it says “SecDef Rumsfeld was incompetent.”

    And as far as Gonzales and the DoJ interrogation memo goes, like I said, I’m not comfortable with the parsing in the interrogation memo, but it’s standard lawyer behavior. Maybe you should take that up with the law schools and the bar associations. My biggest beef with nearly all lawyers is the tendency to parse away from the spirit of the law.

    “…was it in reaction to my statement above?” -Ken

    Dude, is that what’s got you so fired up? Do you think my tinfoil hat crowd statement was directed at you? If so, maybe you shouldn’t take things that don’t have your name on them so personally… Unless, that is, you actually WERE wearing a tinfoil hat when you read that statement. Sheesh.

  50. “Do you think my tinfoil hat crowd statement was directed at you? If so, maybe you shouldn’t take things that don’t have your name on them so personally… Unless, that is, you actually WERE wearing a tinfoil hat when you read that statement. Sheesh.”

    Yeah, I must have been imagining things.

    …’cause it’s completely unreasonable to think that someone who’s demonstrated the kind of profound commitment to intellectual honesty that you have, would create a tin foil hat wearing straw man out of my argument. …you couldn’t possibly have taken the kidding about latte swillin’ and red-state hatin’ hat wearin’ and conflated it with some self-absorbed vision of your other blueberry sorbet for brains strawman.

    You wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t twist the ridiculous suggestion that Donald Rumsfeld must have written a memo telling some lower-down to torture prisoners out of the observation that the Secretary of Defense should be held accountable for the results of his policy prescriptions. …No way, ’cause you’ve got intellectual honesty.

    Tin foil hat! …no, that couldn’t have been directed at me!

    …Just like I wouldn’t suggest that your unwillingness to see what’s in the Schlesinger Report indicates that you probably spend a lot of time listening to echo chamber radio.

    …Just like I wouldn’t suggest that having subjected yourself to all that propaganda, you’ve probably lost your critical thinking skills like the victim of some kind of cult. I just wouldn’t do that!

    …Just like I wouldn’t suggest that after having swallowed gobs of the Administration’s propaganda, you would probably have to get up off of your knees, wipe off your chin and read things written by people that disagreed with you–for like a year–before you regained the use of your critical thinkin’ bone again.

    …Just like I wouldn’t do any of those things, you wouldn’t suggest that someone was a tin foil hat wearin’ conspiracy theorist just because he or she thought Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable for the abuse at Abu Gharib to the extent that his policy changes were responsible for the mess. You just wouldn’t do that!

    ’cause after all, you already read the Schlesinger Report, and you already knew that the Schlesinger Report doesn’t have anything to do with Donald Rumsfeld or changes in policy regarding the Conventions. …and even if it does, you already knew that there’s nothing to conclude from that.

    …but not everyone else knows it yet. So in the name of free minds and free markets, let’s both hope everybody reads the report for themselves.

    http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/dod/abughraibrpt.pdf

  51. Wow, Ken, you’re REALLY angry. I don’t suppose that would have colored your judgement in any way, shape, or form, would it?

    It’s a good thing that the insults and mis-judgements you “wouldn’t suggest” about me aren’t actually things you’re suggesting. Because they’d be about as accurate as your “expert” reading of Schlesinger…

    “I wouldn’t suggest that your unwillingness to see what’s in the Schlesinger Report indicates that you probably spend a lot of time listening to echo chamber radio.”

    Good thing you wouldn’t suggest that, because when I listen to the radio, I don’t use the AM dial. In fact, I usually listen to NPR. Woops… Good thing you’re not making a living as a fortune teller.

    “I wouldn’t suggest that having subjected yourself to all that propaganda, you’ve probably lost your critical thinking skills like the victim of some kind of cult. I just wouldn’t do that!”

    Wow, good thing I wouldn’t counter-suggest that you’re describing someone you see “through a mirror, darkly” when you shave. But then, it would be a waste of time, since it wouldn’t advance the arguments I’ve made that you’ve failed to counter.

    “I wouldn’t suggest that after having swallowed gobs of the Administration’s propaganda, you would probably have to get up off of your knees, wipe off your chin and read things written by people that disagreed with you–for like a year–before you regained the use of your critical thinkin’ bone again.”

    Ah, good thing that you wouldn’t suggest that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a stooge for “the Administration.” (It’s much more ominous with the capital A, isn’t it?) Like I told joe, I haven’t disagreed with the reports, but your conclusions aren’t to be found in them. And the gay sex reference – that’s pure class. Wins you a lot of arguments, does it? Or are you practicing up for a letter to a skin magazine about your personal exploits?

    I actually HAVE NOT suggested that our disagreement is because you despise the current administration beyond rational thought. I’m not a big fan of the Bush Administration, either, particularly its domestic & fiscal policies. But I’m not irrationally rabid about it, either.

    In comparison, tho, until now I actually haven’t suggested that anyone who disagrees with me does so solely because they are beyond the ability to disagree rationally. Or that your overwhelmingly non-rational response is clearly because you’ve run out of reasonable arguments, so you’ve circled back to take offense at something I said flippantly.

    “Just like I wouldn’t do any of those things, you wouldn’t suggest that someone was a tin foil hat wearin’ conspiracy theorist just because he or she thought Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable for the abuse at Abu Gharib to the extent that his policy changes were responsible for the mess. You just wouldn’t do that!”

    I do reserve the right to poke a little fun at those who irrationally adhere to a silly conspiracy theory. If you feel the shoe fits, wear it or not, according to your personal sense of fashion.

    But I want you to know that the comment was directed at people who wear tin foil hats and believe that everything is a conspiracy – you know the type, right? I was not referring to you, Ken, and I did write it to get your knickers in a twist.

    Hey, I actually agreed with most of what you posted most previous to my tin foil hat comment.
    Specifically where you state “In my opinion, this also speaks to national character–it speaks to what it really means to be American. Part of that means we don’t torture people–at least not as a matter of policy. …And if some American is found torturing someone, it means he gets severely and publicly punished as an example to others who would disgrace us. …and then there’s the question of justice. Has everyone who should have been charged been charged?”

    But then we got to arguing and it’s very telling that you would go back to the oldest statement I’ve made – flippantly made, by the way – so you could use it as an excuse to get offended, self-righteous, and offensive. Of course, I wouldn’t suggest that you’re doing that because you’ve got nothing rational left to say.

    Nothing personal, man, seriously. (No, REALLY.) But maybe you should switch to decaf.

  52. My bad – I forgot to respond to one of the charges:

    “’cause it’s completely unreasonable to think that someone who’s demonstrated the kind of profound commitment to intellectual honesty that you have, would create a tin foil hat wearing straw man out of my argument. …you couldn’t possibly have taken the kidding about latte swillin’ and red-state hatin’ hat wearin’ and conflated it with some self-absorbed vision of your other blueberry sorbet for brains strawman.”

    Ken – It is completely unreasonable to assume that I was responding to your comment, since I don’t consider a comment about latte and red states to apply to me. I don’t take offense at comments I don’t think are directed at me. So, no, no offense taken.

    But when I mention tin foil hats you assume it’s directed at you? That’s scary. Maybe a switch to decaf won’t cut it – has “the Administration” recently changed your meds?

    (Ok, I admit it, that last shot was after the bell. But man, you are seriously freaking out!)

  53. ken,

    I think that the disconnect between yourself and Rob is much simpler than you think. You’re claiming that because Rumsfeld changed policy, injustices occured. Rob is claiming that this there is no real proof of this correlation. you’re claiming that the schlesinger report proves it. Rob claims that it doesn’t. I personally have to agree with Rob on that point, but you two can keep pissing into the wind if you’d like.

  54. Aw, c’mon Matt, we were really getting to the good parts – the ad hominem part of the show! Then you have to go and ruin it by being all sensible and logical.

    Of course, upon re-reading the thread, I think thoreau generally makes the most sense out of all of us…

  55. rob-

    The thing is, I really doubt Ken will ever find a memo from Bush to Lynddie England recommending dog leashes, but at the same time I don’t think we should underestimate the way that leaders set a tone which can contribute to a breakdown of discipline in the ranks.

    So it becomes a debate over just how much various sins of omission at the top might have contributed to the breakdown of discipline and outbreak of savagery at Abu Ghraib. And on the one side you can argue “Clearly some but not a lot” and Ken can argue “Not the only factor, but clearly a huge one.”

    And once the debate is that nuanced, well, might as well stop arguing and wait for more facts to come in.

    Or just hand the debate over to John Kerry. He’ll appreciate the nuances, and if he flip-flops then he can effectively debate himself on it! ;->

  56. thoreau – You’re right. I doubt that there’s ANY direct correspondence between Rumsfeld and anyone at Abu Ghraib.

    But that brings up something interesting… I actually DO think that if someone had changed the rules to order the behavior that Graner, England and the rest of those bone-heads got up to, there’d have been a question fired BACK up the chain of command.

    Something along the lines of “Are you guys freaking serious? You really want us to leash, sodomize, beat and even kill prisoners?” I really do. Because people ordered to do illegal things question those orders out of a sense of self-preservation. At least at the company command level – those guys don’t want to take the fall for something that’s clearly a violation of the UCMJ.

    If memoes like that surface – even if the answering memo to “go ahead and do it” aren’t to be found – I’ll be all for trying any member of “the Administration” that had a hand in ordering it.

    I’m THAT sure no one would give orders to do that kind of stuff without questions from the field – particularly when even when the much-maligned and oft-cited DoJ “torture” memo says that crap is a no-go.

    I agree that there may have been sins of omission at the top – but to be frank, I think it’s far more likely that these were incidences where there just wasn’t sufficient leadership and supervision at Abu Ghraib. But how big of a sin of omission is it if everything done is obviously a clear, unequivocal, violation of the UCMJ?

    If such an order had been issued, wouldn’t Graner and the other defendants have trotted that out as documentation or AT LEAST ratted out the guys who ordered them? If for no other reason than to avoid prison?

    As for the nuances in Ken’s arguments, I don’t think an argument that claims that the Abu Ghraib abuses were ordered and condoned by officials and official policy is particularly nuanced. Further, my purely subjective score-keeping leads me to think that nothing Ken has pointed out has bolstered that claim.

    I have come to believe that the crimes here were crimes of commission, commited at the unit level. Those are prosecutable. But crimes of omission – failure to re-re-RE-emphasize that certain things are criminal under the UCMJ – aren’t prosecutable, and may not even be provable. (Unless one ascribes to the theory that a commander can be arrested/relieved of command for failing to re-emphasize to one of his subordinates that murder is illegal under the UCMJ.)

  57. “The thing is, I really doubt Ken will ever find a memo from Bush to Lynddie England recommending dog leashes”

    That’s one of rob’s stawmen; in that one, he used a red herring for a smile.

    “…but at the same time I don’t think we should underestimate the way that leaders set a tone which can contribute to a breakdown of discipline in the ranks.”

    I think it’s more than just a question of tone thoreau; I think it’s a question of policy.

    …The policy was that the United States treated everyone in accordance with the Conventions until Donald Rumsfeld changed that policy. The resulting policy confusion made a significant contribution to the abuse at Abu Gharib–significant enough for the Schlesinger Report, that is.

    “And on the one side you can argue “Clearly some but not a lot” and Ken can argue “Not the only factor, but clearly a huge one.”

    Bingo!

    I encourage everybody to read the Schlesinger Report and make up their own minds.

    http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/dod/abughraibrpt.pdf

    Personally, I think Rumsfeld should have to account for his policy changes in public.

  58. The policy for treatment of prisoners – and the penalty for mistreatment and cruelty to prisoners – is the same under the UCMJ, regardless of what you claim are “policy changes.”

    But at least Ken has backed off of the name-calling and has retreated to the “nuance” position thoreau laid out. Now we’re to the point of arguing nuance – since it’s obvious that there were no orders and no policy change sanctioning torture.

    Odd, that of all the things linked to by Ken and I, the thing we don’t have to look at are the specific policy changes. Even I agree that’s a bit suspicious.

    But it still doesn’t change the fact that none of the things Ken has linked to provide support for the claim that the policies were responsible for the mis-treatment of prisoners by guards. The policy changes were for interrogators, and anyone not working as an actual interrogator (a separate job from prison guard) wouldn’t be affected by those policy changes no matter what they are.

    I think the meat of this argument lies in whether policy changes in interrogations condone or order torture. In my opinion, THAT is the only open question left.

    Of the laundry list of things the Schlesinger report points to as reasons for the abuses, “evolving and unclear policy” is the next to last reason given:

    “A cursory examination of situational variables present at Abu Ghraib indicates the risk for abusive treatment was considerable. Many of the problematic conditions at Abu Ghraib are discussed elsewhere in this report, to include factors such as poor training, under nearly daily attack, insufficient staffing, inadequate oversight, confused lines of authority, evolving and unclear policy, and a generally poor quality of life. The stresses of these conditions were certainly exacerbated by delayed troop rotations and by basic issues of safety and security. Personnel needed to contend with both internal threats from volatile and potentially dangerous prisoners and external threats from frequent mortar fire and attacks on the prison facilities.” – Schlesinger Report .pdf page 120 of 126

    While it may have contributed, policy was but one issue of a laundry list of problems, and certainly not the most compelling problem pointed out by the report. HOw could anyone be confused into thinking that Ken of cherry-picked the policy issue out of that list?

  59. “But at least Ken has backed off of the name-calling and has retreated to the “nuance” position thoreau laid out.

    If you look through this thread, and think I’m the champion name caller, then you’re a dumb fuck.

    “Odd, that of all the things linked to by Ken and I, the thing we don’t have to look at are the specific policy changes. Even I agree that’s a bit suspicious.”

    …Oh for Christ’s sake! The policy changes are in the Appendix! Read the Report already!

    “But it still doesn’t change the fact that none of the things Ken has linked to provide support for the claim that the policies were responsible for the mis-treatment of prisoners by guards.”

    Does anyone else smell burning stawman?

    “I think the meat of this argument lies in whether policy changes in interrogations condone or order torture. In my opinion, THAT is the only open question left.”

    You opinion ignores the report.

    “HOw could anyone be confused into thinking that Ken of cherry-picked the policy issue out of that list?”

    I invite everyone to read the report and form their own opinion.

    http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/dod/abughraibrpt.pdf

  60. “If you look through this thread, and think I’m the champion name caller, then you’re a dumb fuck.”

    Yep, I’m looking through this thread and that rant you pulled on me certainly puts you in the #1 position. What is your deal that you can’t handle someone disagreeing with you without resorting to name-calling and profanity?

    “…Oh for Christ’s sake! The policy changes are in the Appendix! Read the Report already!”

    Really? I have read the Report, granted it was a while back and it’s not a short read. Ok, I’m looking at the appendix… Hmmm… What I see are a list of acceptable interrogation techniques. Nope. None of the abuses condoned or ordered there…

    Wait a second! Just before that I see a Memo signed by President Bush: “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.”

    Is THAT what you’ve been referring to?!? I assumed there were further changes that hadn’t made it to the light of day, the way you were carrying on!

    So that’s it? Man, I hate to break it to you – cause it’s going to hurt you more than me – if that’s your “smoking gun” your reading comprehension skills need SERIOUS improvement.

    Because if THAT’S the memo you’ve been referencing, the language in it DOES NOT support your position.

    Yes, it does say that Bush accepts the legal conclusions of DoJ “and determine that the common Article 3 of Genevadoes not apply.”

    But what then? Here’s why I figured you had seen or at least heard rumors about something I hadn’t:

    “3. Of course, our values as a Nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. Our Nation has been and will continue to be a strong supporter of Geneva and its principles. As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”

    Then that order is RE-affirmed, essentially word for word, in the 5th point of the memo. In other words, the President concludes that there are illegal combatants in this conflict for whom Geneva doesn’t apply, but that we should treat them humanely in accordance with Geneva.

    Woops. Guess that’s a booming double dumb-ass on you, Ken.

    “Does anyone else smell burning stawman?”

    Only when I’m reading your posts, Ken.

    “You opinion ignores the report.”

    Nope. Not in the slightest. I just think that your read of it is colored by what you’ve already concluded, so you think you see what you are already looking for.

    “I invite everyone to read the report and form their own opinion.

    http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/dod/abughraibrpt.pdf

    Yeah, so do I Ken. So do I. Because your interpretation of the report seems to be … biased. That’s the kindest thing I can say about it.

  61. Oh, almost forgot the reference notation for the Memo:

    – Schlesinger Report .pdf page 109-110

    Yep, I think that Memo regarding “Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees” is about all she wrote for your line of argument about Rumsfeld repealing Geneva. No wonder those changes to policy were immediately put into effect – they were already in place!

    I can’t believe it. You’ve been toe-to-toe with me all this time, and that’s all you had? The memo from Schlesinger that re-affirms the U.S. policy to apply Geneva to those who don’t qualify for it? That orders the SecDef to communicate that to the military?

    I feel like I nearly got bluffed by a guy with a pair of deuces! Man, that’s just sad.

  62. rob, the only “problem” Gonzales’ memos were meant to solve was the “problem” that treating prisoners the way the administration wants them treated has been considered criminal for decades.

  63. joe – Huh? Last I checked, we hadn’t been holding detainees for “decades.”

    Or do you mean the way those convicted under UCMJ were treating detainees recently has been considered criminal for decades under Geneva? I’d agree with you that the abuses were criminal, but that’s a no-brainer – punishment under UCMJ for those who committed the abuses bears this out.

    I don’t see how the Gonzales memo plays into this – it was counsel that was accepted as legally sound but then Bush declined to utilize it to alter how we treat detainees in the same Memo.

    There are two memoes being discussed here – DoJ’s Interrogation Policy memo advising that Geneva conventions don’t legally apply to some detainees, and Bush’s Memo on Humane Treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees (which cites the Interrogation Memo).

    It is true that in Bush’s memo the DoJ conclusions were accepted that some detainees don’t legally qualify for Geneva protections. HOWEVER, Bush’s memo THEN orders Geneva-like protections DESPITE DoJ’s conclusions.

    The Bush policy memo re-inforces that the military will treat detainees humanely in accordance with Geneva – in spite of DoJ’s conclusions.

    Essentially the Bush Memo says, “Yeah, legally DoJ’s correct, but it’s a bad idea and we’re not going to exploit that legality in a way that contradicts our values as a Nation to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment.”

    The memo is a clear victory for those who believe any prisoner we take, illegal combatant or not & reciprocity or not, should be afforded protections in the spirit of Geneva. Certainly it doesn’t show IN ANY WAY that the abuses were ordered or condoned. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

    If the administration was trying to find a way to treat detainees in a manner that has been considered criminal for decades, why does the Memo order exactly the opposite?

    Honestly, I kept expecting a reference to a document showing that DoD (Rumsfeld, etc.) deviated from the guidance in the Bush memo, especially from the way Ken kept carrying on. I just overestimated him and failed to recognize the weakness of what he considers to be evidence of culpability at the top. (Like I said earlier, it appears to be a reading comprehension problem.)

    I still think that the actual guidance (from DoD to the field) being left out of the report is a bit hinky. But this walk back through the documents has only reinforced that there was no conspiracy to torture. Period. Nuanced arguments or not.

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