WHEN WE LOSE OUR SENSE OF OUTRAGE, SOMETHING ELSE IS LOST AS WELL Can it be so long ago? Only a year since those pictures from Abu Ghraib came out and shocked the world? The torture and the horror are all put away neatly for now. The "bad apples" have been plucked from the bushel basket and all is right again, right? I try to keep a sense of humor in my nights, when I remember those outrageous days, when those photos first came out.
Our memory of those photos faded, I suspect. But harsh reality does not. Someone is responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib. We are. We are responsible for what our leaders do in our name.
I will have my humor. I pray it will never leave me. And when I see outrage, I pray I will not look away. Harsh things happen in shadows and this world could use a light. When what happens in shadows is not confronted, those shadows can only grow. Those shadows may seem on some foreign shore now, but for sure they will one day reach our door.
I do not know who I pray to, but I hope someone will hear my prayer. Perhaps that someone may be you. Someone must speak for those who have no voice. Someone must hold up a light to lessen shadows growing. For those who we call those poor souls, those people, them could someday end up being us.
Outrage never dies alone. Hope goes to hell as well. I will laugh a little today as is my lot, but I hope something in my heart will still burn hot.
FROM HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The United States should name a special prosecutor to investigate the
culpability of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and ex-CIA Director
George Tenet in cases of detainee torture and abuse, Human Rights Watch
said in releasing a new report today.
The report, Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees,
is issued on the eve of the first anniversary of the publication of the
Abu Ghraib photos (April 28). It presents substantial evidence
warranting criminal investigations of Rumsfeld and Tenet, as well as
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and
Gen. Geoffrey Miller the former commander of the prison camp at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“The soldiers at the bottom of the chain are taking the heat for Abu Ghraib and torture around the world, while the guys at the top who made the policies are going scot free,” said Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch. “That’s simply not right.”
On April 28, 2004, the first pictures were broadcast of U.S. soldiers humiliating and torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The pictures have since taken on iconic status: an Iraqi detainee standing on a box draped in a hood and poncho, his arms outstretched with wires attached to his extremities and genitals; a bored-looking female American soldier holding a naked, Iraqi detainee on the floor at the end of a leash; naked, and even dead, Iraqi detainees in a variety of positions with American soldiers laughing and flashing thumbs up.
FROM HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: First, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Bush administration determined that winning the war on terror required that the United States circumvent fundamental principles of human rights and humanitarian law.
On September 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a television interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press”:
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective. Senior administration lawyers, led by then-White House Counsel, and current Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, in a series of legal memoranda written in late 2001 and early 2002 helped build the framework for circumventing international law restraints on prisoner interrogation.
On February 7, 2002, President Bush announced that while the U.S. government would apply the “principles of the Third Geneva Convention” to captured members of the Taliban, it would not consider any of them to be prisoners of war (POWs) because, in the U.S. view, they did not meet the requirements of an armed force under that Convention. As for captured members of al-Qaeda, he said that the U.S. government considered the Geneva Conventions inapplicable but would nonetheless treat the detainees “humanely."
Army Field Manual 34-52 (“FM 34-52”) on intelligence interrogation has long served as the reference for the types of interrogation techniques considered permissible and effective, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. As the first detainees were being captured, however, the CIA sought the opinion of the Department of Justice Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) as to what additional interrogation techniques would be allowable.11
The OLC — in a now-infamous memo prepared by Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee (now a federal appeals court judge) — replied on August 1, 2002 that torturing al-Qaeda detainees in captivity abroad “may be justified,” and that international laws against torture “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” conducted in the war on terrorism. The memo added that the doctrines of “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability” on the part of officials who tortured al-Qaeda detainees. The memo also took an extremely narrow view of which acts might constitute torture. It referred to seven practices that U.S. courts have ruled to constitute torture: severe beatings with truncheons and clubs, threats of imminent death, burning with cigarettes, electric shocks to genitalia, rape or sexual assault, and forcing a prisoner to watch the torture of another person. It then advised that “interrogation techniques would have to be similar to these in their extreme nature and in the type of harm caused to violate law.” The memo asserted that “physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” The memo also suggested that “mental torture” only included acts that resulted in “significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.