David Kirkpatrick

June 18, 2008

More on Bush 43 and torture

With Congress looking into the torture program of the Bush 43 regime, there’s plenty of news and analysis out there.

Here’s Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent:

In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated report. Interrogation techniques designed for use at Guantanamo Bay, which President George W. Bush had decreed outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions, had “migrated” to Iraq, which Bush recognized was under Geneva, concluded panel chairman James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary. Schlesinger’s panel, however, did not explain which officials ordered the abusive techniques to transfer across continents — or how and why they became Pentagon policy in the first place.

Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee answered those questions. In a marathon hearing spanning eight hours and three separate panels, the committee revealed, in painstaking detail, how senior Pentagon officials transformed a program for Special Forces troops to resist torture — known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, or SERE — into a blueprint for torturing terrorism detainees.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), released numerous classified documents from the crucial period of mid-2002 to early 2003, when the policies of abuse took shape inside the Defense Dept. “Senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees,” Levin said. “In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.”

And Scott Horton at Harper’s :

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a simple question: who initiated torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some times: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.