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  • Under The Command

    Posted by Shannon Love on December 15th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Andrew Sullivan does one of his now famous about faces and rants about Bush. [h/t Instapundit] At the end he captions a photo:

    Photo: a prisoner in US custody smeared with his own excrement at Abu Ghraib, under the command of president George W. Bush. [emp added]

    Of course, Sullivan leaves out a little history. He neglects to mention that: A soldier, under the command of President George W. Bush, discovered the abuse and reported it to the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army. The Judge Advocate General, under the command of President George W. Bush, launched and investigation, arrested those involved. Under the command of President George W. Bush, the Judge Advocate General informed the media that the abuses had occurred. Trials were conducted for dozens of individuals, under the command of President George W. Bush. At the end, in addition to the imprisonment of the main perpetrators, 29 officers up the rank of colonel were cashiered, under the command of President George W. Bush.  

    Andrew Sullivan joins the ranks of those who handed Cambodia over to Pol Pot by mutating every abuse, crime or even mistake by anyone in the military into a dark conspiracy on the part of the military itself and the civilian leadership. 

    [update (2008-12-15-4:10): Just to clarify. I am not saying Sullivan is a Pol Pot sympathizer. I am saying he has now joined the ranks of those whose lies and exaggerations drove us to a policy that caused us to abandon the people of Cambodia to their horrific fate. Like those of the previous generation, Sullivan has gone way, way over the top merely to satisfy his own self-interest with a studied indifference to the consequences his polemics have on others. ]

    [update (2008-12-15-6:20): I read the executive summary of the report that Sullivan refers to. He claims:

    What if, in Reynolds’ terms, the torture at Abu Ghraib was indeed “top-down policy”? This is now factually indisputable, according to the bipartisan Senate report issued last week.

    The report actually says:

    Conclusion 19: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.

    So, in sum, the report says nothing new but merely repeats the claims made when the military first revealed Abu Ghraib, i.e., that Bush’s authorization of enhanced interrogation created a moral climate that lead to Abu Ghraib. It does not say Abu Ghraib was the intentional, top-down policy as Sullivan claims.

    Sullivan lied. ]

     

    58 Responses to “Under The Command”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      Poor Sully becomes less and less important by the day so he has to shout louder and louder. It is difficult for a simple mind such as mine to understand how a guy actually gets paid cash money for work like his.

    2. Matt Parker Says:

      I’m amazed that you, like Glenn, have failed to acknowledge Andrew’s underlying premise: that we must know at what levels of government were decisions to use torture made, and if (as now seems evident) they went to the highest levels, what should be done about it.

      Indeed Andrew’s use of the phrase “under the command of” could be read to be a mere chain of command nuance as you’ve treated it in your response. However, if it was directly the policy of the Bush administration to use torture, then “under the command of” is not merely a technicality.

    3. Scott Says:

      To mention that all those people were “under the command of President George W. Bush” doesn’t mean, say, or even imply that they all did what they did with his implicit approval or consent. I would rather guess that He and the chain of command would’ve never actually approved of several of the things that you wrote, such as the informing of the media. I admittedly don’t know, but weren’t those photos originally shown in the New Yorker magazine?

      I think Bush and Cheney are war criminals, and I appreciate Andrew Sullivan for not letting us forget what they’ve done,

    4. Eddie Says:

      Andrew, as usual, goes too far. Yet his underlying point, that Bush, Rumsfeld, etc. is responsible for what has occurred with the violations of federal law and the UCMJ regarding detainee abuse and outright torture, is not an extremist position and was recently shared by Senator McCain, Graham and other Republicans who have no business being antsy liberals aghast at some bad words in a report released last week.

      A few prisoners (in the grand scheme of things) were abused and tortured to the extent of losing their lives, by people following the orders and directives of President Bush, Rumsfeld and the highly questionable (from a legal basis by Jack Goldsmith and other administration lawyers who examined the memos) legal wiggle room created by lawyers like John Yoo.

      We must ask ourselves whether the violation of our laws by our leaders was warranted, especially in the face of evidence from other professionals (at the FBI, NCIS) that such methods did not work or were not necessary. That is not an unreasonable question.

    5. Dan from Madison Says:

      Do you guys honestly think that Sullivan will use phrases like “under the command of President Barack Obama”?

    6. Paul Says:

      This is nitpicking. Maybe you and Reynolds could address Sullivan’s actual accusation? Do those who condemned this stuff, back when it happened–who said those responsible should be charged–still hold that position in light of the Senate’s report? What do you think?

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      “…those who handed Cambodia over to Pol Pot …”

      Only if the USA pulls out and Iraq descends into even worse chaos.

      Obama seems unlikely to let that happen, whatever Andrew Sulllivan says or does.

      BTW, why would anyone read Andrew Sullivan?

    8. Eddie Says:

      Lex,

      He does a reasonably good job of aggregating good commentary from young and interesting conservative bloggers (ala Reihan, Culture 11, etc.). I respect his openness to criticism (unlike most political blogs which seem to treat dissent like a toxic virus) and his willingness to post those critics quite often. So worth a once every few days cursory glance over.

    9. Mike S Says:

      What was done at Abu Ghraib was humilation and suffering for the sake of humiliation and suffering. This was wrong and was punished.

      What was authorized by the Bush administration was harsh interrogation (I won’t use the term torture only because using that term equates the authorized actions with the unauthorized actions at Abu Ghraib) for the specific and limited purpose of obtaining information that could potentially save lives. It was done only on the highest value detainees, and it did save lives.

      I have no problem with congress making specific laws that prohibit any or all acts of aggressive interrogation. However, the Bush administration was operating under laws that did not specifically outlaw aggressive interrogation by the CIA (as opposed to the military) and they had to respond to new threats from terrorists that didn’t exist even decades ago.

    10. Mike in the Mountain West Says:

      I have to concur with several previous posters that your criticism, deliberately or not, ignores the central argument Andrew is making. A bipartisan group of senators has drawn a direct link between the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the policies of this administration. What are we to do about that? If you think the prosecution of the soldiers you cited was just and warranted why does it not follow that the prosecution of the policy makers is also just and warranted? I have yet to hear a bush supporter answer this criticism with any measure of thoughtfulness or honesty.

    11. Mike in the Mountain West Says:

      Mike S,

      Many, if not all, of the techniques used in Abu Ghraib were also approved for use in “harsh interrogations”, including using dogs, stress positions, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and mock executions. Are you asserting that the only difference between torture and “harsh interrogation” is intent?

      It doesn’t get much more Orwellian than that, does it?

    12. Shannon Love Says:

      Mike In the Mountain West, et al:

      I have to concur with several previous posters that your criticism, deliberately or not, ignores the central argument Andrew is making. A bipartisan group of senators has drawn a direct link between the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the policies of this administration.

      The report that Andrew mentions boils down to the idea that by laying rules for “enhanced interrogation” Bush created an environment in which the abuses of Abu Ghraib could occur. This is nothing new and is merely a rehash of opinions voiced immediately after the military under Bush’s command brought the abuses to light.

      If Abu Ghraib was policy, why did the military even investigate it, much less make its results public? No one outside the military even had a hint something was wrong. Indeed, the media ignored the story until the defendants released the famous photos in an attempt to make a Nuremberg defense. Clearly, they could have buried the story if they wanted to.

      Abu Ghraib was a run of the mill prison abuse event just like those that happen in every prison in the developed world. (At the same time that Abu Ghraib was going on, guards in a German prison were beating prisoners nearly to death.) It resulted from a breakdown in military discipline.

      I don’t care if people want to criticize enhanced interrogation. If they want to tear up the Geneva convention they can certainly make their case. However, I do reject the smearing of people like Bush, who thought long and hard about how to fight a ruthless and novel enemy, with the actions of people who he himself (through the people under his command) brought to justice.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      Mike in the Mountain,

      Many, if not all, of the techniques used in Abu Ghraib were also approved for use in “harsh interrogations”, including using dogs, stress positions, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and mock executions. Are you asserting that the only difference between torture and “harsh interrogation” is intent?

      If you saw somebody’s leg off without anesthesia does it matter whether you’re a serial killer or doctor in dire straights? The numbnuts at Abu Ghraib weren’t actually performing interrogations, they were just having sadistic fun. Just because they did things that to a layperson sound like interrogations does not mean they were actually using the same techniques.

      But then again, you don’t exactly care do you? Bush is just bad. All the decisions he made were bad. Nobody else in the same position would have made the same decisions.

    14. jaed Says:

      Was England acting under orders originating from Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld

      I’m sure that any day now, we’ll find a memo from Bush to Lynndie England ordering her,”First, get your no-account prison guard boyfriend to sneak you into the prison on the night shift. Have an orgy in front of the cellblock. Then, get a bunch of the prisoners in the high-security unit and pile them in a pyramid. Do all sorts of petty, nasty stuff. Make sure to take pictures, and smoke a cigarette and giggle a lot while all this is going on… it’s essential to national security.” Any day now.

      Sigh. Do people even listen to themselves?

    15. Victor Erimita Says:

      The sole alleged link to Bush and Cheney, or any of the upper protions of the command cahin, regarding Abu Ghraib, is that they advocated some rough treatment of some p[risoners who were being interrogated in Baghdad by the CIA. But my understanding is that no interrogation by the CIA or anyone else was conducted at Abu Ghraib. It was conducted at other locations. So the notion that a few idiot enlisted level guards were acting out their bully fantasies on Abu Ghraib prisoners, were somehow led to do this by their supposed knowledge of supposed attitudes by the President of supposed conduct by the CIA at sites these people never were posted at, is a ludicrous stretch of credibility. The extensive inquiries and trials over this behavior showed it was lax command and control at Abu Ghraib that allowed a few bad eggs to get away with being bullies.

      Sullivan has just (long ago now) become just another hysterical Kos-like sophomoric conspiracy theiry ranter. Besides, he’s just in it for the torture porn. Too bad, Andrew. You used to be a thoughtful writer of high integrity before the gay marriage thing wacked your brain.

    16. willibro Says:

      You guys will go to *any* length to explain this away and ignore Sullivan’s question, won’t you?

      – It wasn’t torture, it was “rough treatment”, or “harsh interrogation” or…
      – But if it was torture, Bush didn’t order it. He just “authorized” it.
      – But if Bush did order it, it couldn’t have been the “bully fantasy” Lyndie Englund was conducting. Because she didn’t actually *know* that Bush had “authorized” “harsh interrogation”.

      So go ahead, ice the cake: Give us a discussion of what the meaning of “is” is.

      Anyway, nobody cares what Sully thinks, right? Because he’s just a Bush hater, like 80% of everyone else.

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      George,

      The point is that accusations have been made that authorization for certain techniques came down from senior ranks. Are those accusations correct?

      You’re desperately trying to change the subject to obscure the fact that Sullivan lied about the report’s contents. It’s no secret that Bush authorized “enhanced interrogation” back in 2001-2002. It’s been public knowledge since mid-2002. The report covers absolute no new ground.

      It is a lie to say that anyone has provided evidence that the miscreants at Abu Ghraib acted under order from anyone in the chain of command. They did not use interrogation techniques and they did not even ask questions.

      There are a lot of legitimate questions regarding Bush’s actions. Did he go to far? Did he have the authority to authorize the level of interrogation he did? Was it even necessary? These are legitmate questions.

      Asking if Bush authorized an S&M session is merely the product of selfish irrational hate.

    18. James R. Rummel Says:

      Dan from Madison asks a question

      “Poor Sully becomes less and less important by the day so he has to shout louder and louder. It is difficult for a simple mind such as mine to understand how a guy actually gets paid cash money for work like his.”

      Scott weighs in with a comment of his own

      “I think Bush and Cheney are war criminals, and I appreciate Andrew Sullivan for not letting us forget what they’ve done,”

      That is why Sully still has a job. He says what a few people want to hear.

      James

    19. mishu Says:

      Willbro,

      I’ll answer the question with a question. If Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld approved the specific interrogation techniques, why did JAG prosecute the individuals involved at Abu Ghraib *before* public knowledge?

    20. jr565 Says:

      Mishu asks a really important and interesting question. Anyone want to answer it?

    21. NS Says:

      Willibro,
      It wasn’t torture, it was “rough treatment”, or “harsh interrogation” or…
      – But if it was torture, Bush didn’t order it. He just “authorized” it.
      – But if Bush did order it, it couldn’t have been the “bully fantasy” Lyndie Englund was conducting. Because she didn’t actually *know* that Bush had “authorized” “harsh interrogation”.

      You still cannot accept the fact that Abu Ghraib was first and foremost sadism – no one really thought that US military personnel create a pyramid of naked men so that they could be sooo humiliated that they would spill the beans on their supposed terrorism or future acts of terror ?

      If anything, the more humiliated you are, the more resistant that you become to “investigations”. Terrorists are hard core and are’nt going to be humiliated into doing anything. Heck the field manual says that even physical pain is not going to do much to a hardened terrorist – isnt this exactly what opponents of torture say? If you claim that brute force is not going to do anything but unreliable evidence, then how can you claim with a straight face that humiliation and sadism is going to do it?

      Abhu Ghraib was one of the saddest episodes in US military history – but to say that it happened because the highest chain of command starting from the President authorized it is stretching it way too much. And to say that this bi-partisan report implies it is flat out false – creating a “climate” isnt the same as directly authorizing the use of humiliation and sadism on people who were ultimately released.

      The interrogation techniques on people held in secret places/Gitmo were meant to elicit information to uncover terrorist plots – we can have a long argument on whether this is legal, counter productive etc.. But to say that this is similar to Abu Ghraib is just plain stretching the facts.

      Those people who were mercilessly humiliated were let go off – there are STILL prisoners in Gitmo. That must tell you something. Abu Ghraib was a huge and terrible mistake, no one is refuting that.How ever the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques is not going to go away that easily. And it should nt be conflated with peurile sadism.

      Neither is the issue of closing Gitmo itself going away easily. As Goldsmith put it succintly – now that a Democrat is in power, thank God we can now have an honest debate about dealing with prisoners without being distorted by the lens of Bush hatred.

      I would definitely admit that Bush ultimately should take responsibility for what happened. That isnt the same as saying that Bush explicity ordered people to go humiliating Iraqis and release them later – that doesnt even make sense.

    22. NS Says:

      Jr565,
      No one will answer Mishu’s questions… nor will they ask why some US military soldiers who were so ashamed of the conduct of their colleagues went on to report it – guess they didnt get Rumsfeld’s memo – that incompetent guy ! he couldnt even get his orders known to every US soldier !

      The script has been written – the Presidency of Bush 43 shredded the US constitution – and it has to be faithfully followed. That guy deserves to have more than shoes thrown at him, you know ?

      Bush’s fate is going to be worse than Herbert Hoover – Hoover was not hated after he left office. Heck, even Nixon earned pity in his final days. But Dubya is going down as the most hated US President ever.

      I have never agreed with him on many issues -but you have to give it to him. He has had to put up with so much hate and trouble and did the best he could.

    23. Obloodyhell Says:

      > I have no problem with congress making specific laws that prohibit any or all acts of aggressive interrogation. However, the Bush administration was operating under laws that did not specifically outlaw aggressive interrogation by the CIA (as opposed to the military) and they had to respond to new threats from terrorists that didn’t exist even decades ago.

      More critically, if anyone here thinks that no such events took place during WWII vs. the Germans or the Japs then they’re frigging morons. I’m sure the there were far fewer incidences by the Allies than the Axis, and generally only with a great deal of information to suggest that the individual was guilty, but the first rule of war is to survive it.

      And I will also lay you high odds that far more serious actions were taken than waterboarding.

      Much worse, even, than making a bunch of guys wear underwear on their heads while making naked human pyramids (the horror!)

      > Sullivan lied.

      …Unlike Bush.

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      George,

      Sullivan asserted that the Senate report showed that the miscreants at Abu Ghraid acted under the direct “top-down” orders from superiors all the way up to the President. The report says no such thing. He lied.

      The thing you don’t seem to grasp is that the guards who abused the prisoners at Abu Ghraid had no orders to carry out enhanced interrogation nor the authority to carry them out on their own initiative. Only a few trained personnel could do so. Not even the highest ranking general could have personal carried out enhanced interrogations. Just because the President authorized somebody else to carry out enhanced interrogations did not mean that anyone could do anything they wanted. That is what being under orders is all about.

      Just because the President order some special forces guys on a covert mission does not mean anyone in the military can launch a covert operation themselves.

      And as Truabs report pointed out, they weren’t actually asking these guys questions. They weren’t some over eager types trying to get the bad guys. They just humiliated people for the fun of it. No one ordered that.

      Again, the entire question was whether Abu Ghriad happened under orders. It did not. Sullivan lied.

      Oh and…

      Do you think it’s at least arguable that these techniques violate the duty to treat prisoners humanely and to not do “violence to life and person…cruel treatment and torture” or foster “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”? Geneva Third Convention Article 4.

      Article 4 only applies to prisoners of war i.e. those who meet the strict qualifications laid out in the article. As civilians detainees caught out of uniform, no one at Abu Ghraid qualified under Article 4. In WWII, people like that strongly suspected of acts of violence were simply shot of hand. Of course, that was when the Geneva convention was enforced as an actual law of war and not just a convenient tool for anti-Americans to whip out when it suited them.

    25. Anonymous Says:

      “Shannon, I’m not sure what you claim that Sullivan “lied” about. ”

      Think of it more as Sully creating a ‘moral climate’ that distorts facts to fit within his BDS. The comparison between that and lying is just a distinction without a difference.

    26. Anonymous Says:

      “It’s another to pretend it didn’t happen and slough the blame off on some poor, low level soldiers. ”

      Yeah, don’t blame those ‘poor, low level soldiers’. Even though they actually, you know, did it.

      “Soldiers who served at AG sit in jail while the brain trust that “legalized” their actions write books and go on speaking tours.”

      If their actions were ‘legalized’, then how come they were prosecuted and convicted?

    27. Phil Says:

      “Many, if not all, of the techniques used in Abu Ghraib were also approved for use in “harsh interrogations”, including using dogs, stress positions, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and mock executions. Are you asserting that the only difference between torture and “harsh interrogation” is intent?”

      Ok, I’ll bite. Other than mock executions, I really have no problem with any of these and I’m actually quite amused that anyone would be. As someone who actually KNOWS someone who has been involved in interrogations of Iraqi insurgents (unlike the vast majority of all the faux outraged liberals here), an interrogation is not playground time. You don’t gain information by playing good cop, good cop. And some of that information has been used to save YOUR life, if you live in Washington DC (yes, believe it).

      Islamists despise women and especially hate the idea of menstrual blood. Interrogators have used techniques such as using magic marker as a decoy for menstrual blood and wiping the brow of the interrogated with it in order to produce intelligence. Not actual menstrual blood, but magic market. Let me repeat that. MAGIC FUCKING MARKER.

      Since Sullivan has been on record as being morally aghast at tactics such as these, he ceases to lose any seriousness on this topic as a whole. To conflate actual illegal activities that have gone punished (and should have) at Abu Graib with tactics such as the USE OF MAGIC FUCKING MARKER is to lose any ounce of sanity regarding the interrogation of enemy combatants who hate America, regardless of whether The One leads it or not, and would love nothing more than to kill you and your whole fucking liberal family.

      When you dipshit liberals sleep smugly in your beds, realize there are people out there gaining intelligence right now that could very possibly save your lives. If that requires a god damned magic marker, then so be it, regardless of whether Bush or The One is in charge.

    28. Shannon Love Says:

      George,

      Shannon you seem to be making a false distinction about Abu Grahib.

      Sullivan is talking about the abuse scandal as evidenced by picture he displayed. He’s not talking about anything else. Further, he is arguing that the report concluded that Bush intended, as conscious policy, for all the actions taken in violation of policy. Indeed, he compared them directly to Saddam’s policies

      So techniques quite likely forbidden under Geneva did occur there, according to the report, stemming from at least as high as the Secretary of Defense…So you can argue that Geneva doesn’t cover the AG detainees, but it’s pretty hard to argue that acts in violation of Geneva didn’t take place there.

      Well, again, had you actually read the Geneva you would know that performing any form of interrogation of a prisoner of war i.e. a legal combatant, is a violation. All you can ask is name, rank and serial#. The Geneva Convention simply does not give any standards for the treatment of individuals captured when not following the conventions own rules.

      People captured who are not fighting according to the rules of the convention are not protected by it. That is the conventions enforcement mechanism. Now people such as yourself want to destroy the Geneva conventions enforcement provisions and thus the convention itself, just to score political points.

      Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.

      Again, not orders, not policy. You still haven’t answered the obvious question. If Abu Ghraid was the result policy and orders, why did the military bring the abuses to light in the first place? Had they not done so, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

      Face it. Sullivan lied about the contents of the report. Creating an “atmosphere” and “conveying a message” is not the same as “top-down policy”.

    29. Phil Says:

      Let’s make another misconception ABSOLUTELY CRYSTAL CLEAR for you liberal dopes. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are in no way, shape or form (legally or otherwise) “entitled” to Geneva Convention protections. We can elect to grant them such protections but we are under no obligation whatsoever to do so, given that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are not part of any standing army and do not wear a uniform of a standing army, as required by the Geneva Conventions.

      Your faux outrage is even more pathetic given that you are of the apparently sincere belief that we are required to extend these protections to them. Then again, since the vast majority of the US citizenry think the US is a democracy (and not a republic – remember when you said “and to the republic for which it stands” liberals? guess what that meant something) and 52 percent of the country voted for a man whose sole executive experience was that of a failed “community organizer”, I’m not surprised you wouldn’t be aware of these things.

      Well enjoy our trillion dollar deficit this year liberals. Let’s tack on government run health care and even more next year! Don’t worry about the deficit, the American public is too stupid to notice that. Let’s just buy their votes! Now back to your regularly scheduled American Idol…..

    30. Phil Says:

      “People captured who are not fighting according to the rules of the convention are not protected by it. That is the conventions enforcement mechanism. Now people such as yourself want to destroy the Geneva conventions enforcement provisions and thus the convention itself, just to score political points.”

      I actually think you are being too harsh here. I think liberals sincerely believe Geneva applies to everyone, not just soldiers. After all, that’s what the media told them to believe.

      And we know at least 52 percent of the population don’t pay attention to policy and politics at all so they can be forgiven for not knowing such things, even though it’s obvious to people who do pay attention.

    31. Phil Says:

      You know, reading this threads merely confirms my own feelings – thank God we have men and women who are great enough human beings to sacrifice everything (in some cases including their very lives) to a population that is largely too fat, indulgent, self-absorbed, vacuous, stupid, politically retarded and too selfish to appreciate the things that are done on their behalf while they sleep in their bed thinking of where to have their next “Change!” town hall meeting – “Will it be Fred’s or Lisa’s place tonight??? So many choices!”.

      We can only expect so much of them though. At some point, Atlas will shrug and we will lose their selflessness to the Change We Are About To Believe In. Eventually, we’ll just be left with people who think The One will pay their mortgage and gas bills with magic money that descends from The One’s very own hands.

      And we won’t be able to hold it against the ones who have served us for so long for now choosing to stop.

      Good night all. God Bless America, what’s left of it.

    32. Jonathan Says:

      George wrote:
      So you can argue that Geneva doesn’t cover the AG detainees, but it’s pretty hard to argue that acts in violation of Geneva didn’t take place there.

      There was no violation, since these prisoners weren’t covered by Geneva.

      And even Bush’s people backed off the “unlawful combatants” distinction as a weaselly one once this stuff leaked out to the world. “We Do Not Torture” sounds pretty weak when you add in “except for unlawful combatants.” Your argument that these people would have simply been shot during WWII is no doubt accurate, but doesn’t relate to the legality of such actions. Shooting oppositional civilians was never legal when the option of taking them into custody existed.

      Who said anything about shooting civilians? The people in question are enemy fighters who don’t wear uniforms, not civilians.

      The enhanced interrogation techniques used at AG were either legal or not. It’s no substitute to say we could have just shot these people on the street and gotten away with it.

      Not just “gotten away with it.” It would have been legal and justified under the rules of war that you selectively cite. It may be that the laws should be updated to account for large-scale warfare against enemies who wear civilian clothes and are relentlessly brutal and lawless, but so far no one has come up with a workable alternative to the old rules. The closest we have come to new rules are the interrogation and imprisonment procedures introduced by the Bush administration. For their efforts the Bush people have received mostly thoughtless abuse from people like you, who inconsistently argue that we must abandon the old rules re executing enemy combatants in civilian clothes, but that we must apply to those same enemies the old rules for uniformed prisoners (or, worse, modern due-process rules for the treatment of domestic criminal suspects).

    33. Chris Says:

      “….This is nitpicking. Maybe you and Reynolds could address Sullivan’s actual accusation?..”

      I agree and I’ll bite.

      Torture the f’ing hell out of them. Torture them and then blow them away and then dump them back in the godforsaken hole you picked them up in.

      While most people might try to parse what is and isn’t torture while I simply do not care. I have no problem with torture. It is no more barbaric than puting a bullet in someones head, so I really don’t care how we win…all I care is that we win. The terrorists and their allied armies, militias, warlords, what have you will do their worst and we should always do our worst. Go about it brutally and earnestly and let there be no question what crossing the united states means when it comes to terrorism or para-terrorism or whatever other euphamism d’jour someone has come up with to humanize them.

      All of this also does not address the other problem I have with the entire torture debate and that is that torture DOES in fact work, despite what everyone who has never seen it actually applied successfully will tell you.

      So Paul..does that address the issue?

    34. jester Says:

      This is ridiculous. Shannon, have you never heard the phrase ‘plausible deniability’ or heard the question posed ‘will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ Leaders absolutely need to take responsibility for the behavior of their inferiors, with the possible exception of cases in which those inferiors go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their actions which was clearly not the case here.

    35. iLarynx Says:

      Torture: IOKIYAR

    36. Jonathan Says:

      Jester,

      If the abuse of AG prisoners was the result of Administration policy, even informal policy, why has this sort of abuse been a rare exception rather than the rule? And why would the Army investigate the abuse rather than cover it up?

    37. Shannon Love Says:

      Jester,

      have you never heard the phrase ‘plausible deniability’ or heard the question posed ‘will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’

      Your belief that Bush and the U.S. military are inherently evil is not evidence that Abu Ghraib occurred under orders. Since you believe Bush is evil you assume that any crimes brought to life must be just the tip of the ice berg. For people that do not share your axiomatic assumption, there is no evidence.

      Leaders absolutely need to take responsibility for the behavior of their inferiors, with the possible exception of cases in which those inferiors go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their actions which was clearly not the case here.

      Leaders have to accept responsibility for inferiors who carry out the their orders. Leaders are not responsible for inferiors who take action on their own initiative in direct opposition to the leaders orders. Further, it doesn’t matter if the leader ordered someone else to carry out a similar act. Again, that is what being under orders is all about.

      By your reasoning a President would be responsible every time a U.S. service person committed any crime, anytime, anywhere. Six weeks from now, you would hold Obama responsible is a soldier steals a candy bar in Okinawa.

    38. Eddie Says:

      Sullivan posts a response from former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht who are argues well the case for torture and for Bush’s innocence.

      http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/12/in-defense-of-t.html
      Phillip Bobbitt had an even better version of this argument in his book, Terror & Consent, while lambasting the Bush Administration’s leads for doing it so incompetently and with so little legal basis.

      There is a problem with how Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. issued their orders and findings.

      The legal arguments crafted by John Yoo and the other OLC lawyers was considered by substantial numbers of their conservative colleagues in the Bush Administration to be very weak, even laughable, with little legal basis. They also rendered such decisions on torture and detainee treatment by stifling argument and dissent within the ranks (by threatening the JAG heads for arguing against the methods made available to the US military b/c they were against the UCMJ, by hiding and lying about their actions and intentions to fellow administration members (from John Ashcroft to Alberto Mora) and by taking such monumental steps (i.e. America tortures now? when did that start?) without nary a discussion with the American people about it.

      I am fine with the CIA doing what it must to protect the country, while being open to some degree of oversight to judge whether their actions afterward were warranted.

      I am not okay with the US military being told to gut two hundred odd years of tradition with regards to prisoner treatment and basic morality, let alone with nary any sort of meaningful debate at least among senior members.

      That is the argument made by General Petraeus and others over the years in opposition to the schemes hatched by Rumsfeld and others for the US military to export what happened at Gitmo and Bagram with regards to documented (by military investigators no less, before they were stonewalled once they reached higher targets of investigation) abuses carried out under orders and with the SECDEF’s guidance to its operating environs elsewhere.

      Shannon,

      Actually, referring to Conclusion 19, this is not a claim of opinion but an observation of fact made by McCain, Graham and active-duty military officers in leadership positions, as well as those investigating the abuse crimes committed over the years, based on the outcome of those investigations and what was uncovered. I’ll go with their informed observations over pundits, whether that includes Sullivan or Reynolds.

      Further, given the readily easy option for a Senator on such a committee to issue a dissent (as happens often in such investigations) or statement to point out their areas of disagreement, I find it amazing that exceptionally conservative Senators like James Inhofe, John Thune, John Conryn and Jeff Sessions did not air a disagreement unless this was a darn near airtight investigation with damning conclusions.

    39. jester Says:

      Wow, I’ll just back out of here if your method of dealing with criticism is hyperbolic vituperation. Just let it be noted that I do not consider Bush, and especially not the US military (in which I grew up) axiomatically evil. How dare I point out that the Bush administration doesn’t need to be on record ordering atrocities to be responsible for them.

    40. Carl Jonard Says:

      Did anyone here actually read the report that you’re all debating about? It’s only 19 pages, and it’s really extremely straightforward.

      Here are a few phrases which you will not find anywhere in the report: “moral climate,” “atmosphere,” “enhanced interrogation.”

      Here are a few phrases which you will find in the report:

      The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.

      Interrogation policies endorsed by senior military and civilian officials authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques were a major cause of the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.”

      The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO.”

      Interrogation techniques used by the Special Mission Unit Task Force eventually made their way into Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued for all U.S. forces in Iraq. In the summer of 2003, Captain Wood, who by that time was the Interrogation Officer in Charge at Abu Ghraib, obtained a copy of the Special Mission Unit interrogation policy and submitted it, virtually unchanged, to her chain of command as proposed policy.”

      SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.”

      Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    41. bill Says:

      Dude, Where’s my recession?

    42. jester Says:

      Sorry Jonathan, I missed your response:

      If the abuse of AG prisoners was the result of Administration policy, even informal policy, why has this sort of abuse been a rare exception rather than the rule? And why would the Army investigate the abuse rather than cover it up?

      If it was in fact rare, that would certainly go some distance toward exonerating the administration. From the exiting reports, it does not appear to have been rare, though maybe we have different ideas about what constitutes rarity.

      It’s easy to think of several reasons that the Army investigated the abuse. For one, there are vast numbers of good and vigilant people serving in our armed forces. That might have been enough. On the other hand, they might well have been kept in the dark. It’s likely that the administration was shamed into it. We probably would not have seen those investigations without Seymour Hersh’s or 60 Minutes’ reporting on AG.

    43. Joey Valentino Says:

      Carl quoted the report. Shannon? Jonathon? Phil?

    44. Jonathan Says:

      Jester,

      Where was the policy to abuse prisoners? You’re saying that there was a policy to use harsh interrogation methods on prisoners. That’s not the same thing, even if you think we shouldn’t use such interrogation methods. The perpetrators of AG were engaging in gratuitous abuse, not interrogation, and asserting that our interrogation policy lead to abuse (not “atrocities”) is a statement of opinion that isn’t supported by the fact that few AG-type incidents occurred.

      And if you don’t like our use of harsh interrogation methods, what do you suggest we use instead?

    45. Carl Jonard Says:

      Where was the policy to abuse prisoners? You’re saying that there was a policy to use harsh interrogation methods on prisoners. That’s not the same thing

      That’s the point. If you assume that all of your prisoners are potential terrorists with valuable information, and you redefine “interrogation” to include prolonged psychological and physical abuse, then there is no distinction between “harsh interrogation” and “prisoner abuse.” You can justify any kind of sadistic activity on the grounds that it might “break” some prisoner and convince them to talk.

    46. Shannon Love Says:

      Carl Jorden,

      I did read the report. If you read the context of what you actually quote you see that there is no evidence presented that the abuses of Abu Ghraid occurred under orders. They merely assert that Bush created a moral climate.

      There is no doubt that Bush ordered the use of enhanced interrogation and that he ordered its use against some illegal combatants in every area of combat. That does not translate into ordering the abuses committed at Abu Ghraid which is what Sullivan claimed.

      He lied. Your lying.

    47. Craig-Bob Says:

      Gee Shannon, not very good with criticism are you?

      Your argument (or more accurately, willfully obtuse mischaracterization) doesn’t hold water. It boils down to “since Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld et. al, did not personally call Lindy England to tell her to torture these prisoners then they are innocent of all culpability.”

      p.s. “Your lying.” isn’t a sentence. (“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” is a sentence.) Please strive to be grammatically correct when insulting your readers… ;^)

    48. Ginny Says:

      A non-legal observation about the assumptions here:

      Some of this discussion (like the discussion around water coolers) seems to arise from the sense that only if certain policies are encouraged are they likely to happen.

      The problem with Abu Ghraib was insufficient authority was exercised. The excuse of those directly in the chain of command was not that they – and their soldiers – were expected to aimlessly humiliate prisoners but, rather, that they were too overburdened to police those below. Whether we need to accept that as reason or not, it does indicate responsibility.

      It takes energy and a strong command structure to encourage the best in others. Those isolated, late night cell blocks give power to guards; isolation may nurture grace but sometimes less positive attributes. Those who buy into the “noble savage” believe such acts only occur from the top down.

      An emphasis on personal responsibility is important. I’ve always suspected that looking into the practices at the jails in America where these jerks worked before they came to Iraq would uncover unpleasant uses of power – especially on the night shift. They did not become Mr. Hydes when Dr. Jekyll exchanged a state uniform for a national one. Those people were jerks. They belonged in jail. They are in jail.

      That had little or nothing to do with whatever policies were officially approved or not by Bush or anyone else. That such people grab for cover is not surprising. We gravitate to stories that cover us – how often do we believe gossip that reinforces our sense of our own “rightness”? How often do we hear someone describe another as a “hater” with spittle coming out of his mouth? We are all too likely to tell ourselves, yes, I cheat on my wife, but doesn’t everybody? That doesn’t mean everyone does it – nor that he waited to cheat until he felt sanctioned by the state; they often feel sanctioned by gossip, their own interpretations. And, of course, those interpretations are reinforced by remarks by the opponents of this administration far more often than by the administration itself.

    49. Carl Jonard Says:

      I did read the report. If you read the context of what you actually quote you see that there is no evidence presented that the abuses of Abu Ghraid occurred under orders. They merely assert that Bush created a moral climate.

      Again, the report never uses the phrase “moral climate,” nor any words to that effect.

      I will concede that George W. Bush did not personally order Lynndie England to “strip prisoners #43-50 and stack them in a pyramid” or “put prisoner #22 on a leash.”

      Here is what did happen:

      • SERE techniques, which include “stripping students of their clothing,” “putting hoods over their heads,” and “treating them like animals” were specifically approved by senior members of the administration, and torture was redefined to grant them an air of legality. “Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the techniques without apparently providing any written guidance as to how they should be administered.”

      • “Shortly after Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval… the techniques – and the fact the Secretary had authorized them – became known to interrogators in Afghanistan. A copy of the Secretary’s memo was sent from GTMO to Afghanistan.”

      • “From Afghanistan, the techniques made their way to Iraq. According to the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG), at the beginning of the Iraq war, special mission unit forces in Iraq ‘used a January 2003 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which had been developed for operations in Afghanistan.'”

      • “In the summer of 2003, Captain Wood, who by that time was the Interrogation Officer in Charge at Abu Ghraib, obtained a copy of the Special Mission Unit interrogation policy and submitted it, virtually unchanged, to her chain of command as proposed policy. ”

      • “Captain Wood submitted her proposed policy around the same time that a message was being conveyed that interrogators should be more aggressive with detainees. In mid-August 2003, an email from staff at Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7) headquarters in Iraq requested that subordinate units provide input for a ‘wish list’ of interrogation techniques, stated that ‘the gloves are coming off,’ and said ‘we want these detainees broken.'”

      So, to sum up, people at the highest levels of command explicitly approved abusive procedures without setting guidelines for their use. Those orders were passed down the line to commanding officers in Afghanistan and Iraq, including to the Interrogation Officer in Charge at Abu Ghraib, along with orders to break the detainees. Then, soldiers at Abu Ghraib abused prisoners, in many cases using those exact same SERE techniques, such as hooding, forced nudity, and treating prisoners like animals.

      Are you honestly arguing that Lynndie England just happened to come up with the idea to strip prisoners, hood them, and put them on leashes all by herself, and that it is a coincidence that those specific techniques were authorized by those in command?

    50. Dolf Fenster Says:

      Watch it, Carl. You’re creating a climate of Bush hatred. And lies.

    51. Shannon Love Says:

      Carl Jonard,

      I will concede that George W. Bush did not personally order Lynndie England to “strip prisoners #43-50 and stack them in a pyramid” or “put prisoner #22 on a leash.

      So you conceed that Sullivan lied?

      Then, soldiers at Abu Ghraib abused prisoners, in many cases using those exact same SERE techniques, such as hooding, forced nudity, and treating prisoners like animals.

      The soldiers using the SERE techniques where not the same soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Two entirely different sets of soldiers reporting to two different commanding officers.

      Are you honestly arguing that Lynndie England just happened to come up with the idea to strip prisoners, hood them, and put them on leashes all by herself, and that it is a coincidence that those specific techniques were authorized by those in command?

      Yes, because if you had ever bothered to read anything about prison abuse scandals of the past you would have known all the actions they carried out had occurred in other incidents in other prisons throughout history. After all, there are only so many ways to abuse people with the materials laying around in a prison. If not, where did they get the ideas for abuse that were in no way part of SSRE?

      Like I said, this report covers absolutely no ground. England et al where not under orders and where fact in direct contradiction of orders i.e. they were not authorized to use ANY interrogation methods even if others were.

      I realize that the distinction seems small to people who think the military has little more discipline than a sports team but it matters a lot to the honor of those who served. Its grossly unfair to lump those who follow the SSRE with England and her group of sadistic perverts.

      And it is a flat out lie to say that Bush, Rumsfield or anyone else authorized what they did.

    52. Carl Jonard Says:

      The soldiers using the SERE techniques where not the same soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Two entirely different sets of soldiers reporting to two different commanding officers.

      I’m sorry; this is really not clear to me.

      Nudity, hooding, and leashing were SERE techniques. The soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal used nudity, hooding, and leashing. How were the soldiers convicted in the Abu Ghraib scandal not “the soldiers using the SERE techniques?”

      Its grossly unfair to lump those who follow the SSRE with England and her group of sadistic perverts.

      I assume that by SSRE, you mean SERE. Again, from the report:

      “During the resistance phase of SERE training, U.S. military personnel are exposed to physical and psychological pressures (SERE techniques) designed to simulate conditions to which they might be subject if taken prisoner by enemies that did not abide by the Geneva Conventions. As one JPRA instructor explained, SERE training is “based on illegal exploitation (under the rules listed in the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) of prisoners over the last 50 years.” The techniques used in SERE school, based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean war to elicit false confessions, include stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, disrupting their sleep, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. It can also include face and body slaps and until recently, for some who attended the Navy’s SERE school, it included waterboarding.
      (U) Typically, those who play the part of interrogators in SERE school neither are trained interrogators nor are they qualified to be. These role players are not trained to obtain reliable intelligence information from detainees. Their job is to train our personnel to resist providing reliable information to our enemies.”

      There is not some noble military tradition to “follow the SSRE.” The SERE techniques were designed to simulate illegal techniques used by our enemies to elicit false confessions, and they were never designed to actually be used by Americans.

      The SERE techniques are sadistic by design. I fail to see how they would have been justified or less perverted if the guards had asked the prisoners more questions afterwards.

      Both Lynndie England and Charles Graner have claimed that they were following orders, and we now see that those techniques were part of the SOP at Abu Ghraib. Is it really that inconceivable that a “few bad apples” took the fall for misguided policies and poor oversight?

    53. joe from Lowell Says:

      Shannon is doing what most Bush defenders do when this issue comes up: pretending that the night shift escapades of Lyndie England are the sum total of the abuses as Abu Ghraib.

      In fact, it has long been established that precisely the torture techniques authorized and ordered by the administration – the sleep deprivation, the freezing, the sensory deprivation, the “stress positions” – that were found at Guantanamo and Baghram were practiced at Abu Ghraib, by interrogators, as part of the interrogations they were ordered to perform.

      That such practices set a tone for the hillbilly jailers is a rather nasty side effect, but unlike England and her beau, the interrogators acting in an official capacity, in accordance with the orders they were given and using the techniques they were ordered to use, killed several people.

    54. joe from Lowell Says:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manadel_al-Jamadi

      England and Graner didn’t murder al-Jamadi.

      He died under interrogation, using a “stress position” technique explicitly authorized by the administration.

      At Abu Ghraib.

      But by all means, keep pretending that the enlisted personnel’s S&M adventures were all that happened there.

    55. joe from Lowell Says:

      (U) In September 2008 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Colonel Steven Kleinman, an Air Force Reservist who was a member of the interrogation support team sent by JPRA to the Special Mission Unit Task Force in Iraq, described abusive interrogations he witnessed, and intervened to stop, during that trip. Colonel Kleinman said that one of those interrogations, which took place in a room painted all in black with a spotlight on the detainee, the interrogator repeatedly slapped a detainee who was kneeling on the floor in front of the interrogator. In another interrogation Colonel Kleinman said the two other members of the JPRA team took a hooded detainee to a bunker at the Task Force facility, forcibly stripped him naked and left him, shackled by the wrist and ankles, to stand for 12 hours.

      No, Shannon, Sullivan isn’t lying about what’s in the report. You are, and Reynolds is. This isn’t a description of some off-duty hanky-panky encouraged by an “atmosphere,” but of the practices used in authorized interrogations.

    56. joe from Lowell Says:

      In the entirety of Sullivan’s comment, there is not a single reference to naked pyramids, or penis-pointing. He uses the term “the torture at Abu Ghraib.”

      It is Reynolds and Shannon Love, not the Senate report or Sullivan, who are limiting their commentary to the unauthorized night-shift adventures of the hillbilly jailers. The report is quite clear, as numerous quotes above demonstrate, that it is dealing with the official, authorized torture that was conducted as part of the interrogations carried out there.

    57. Carl Jonard Says:

      I apologize if I’ve contributed to derailing this into a argument solely about Lynndie England & Charles Graner’s photographed behavior.

      The “officially” officially-sanctioned prisoner treatment was often as bad, if not worse.

    58. joe from Lowell Says:

      England and Graner didn’t have a body count.

      The photos of them mugging with dead bodies? Those are people who died under authorized interrogation.