As Fred Kaplan noticed, the man Obama has just selected to be his new commander in Afghanistan has a history. It appears to involve some pretty horrifying toleration of rampant abuse and torture of prisoners:
"Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. 'Will [the Red Cross] ever be allowed in here?' And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there's no way that the Red Cross could get in: "they won't have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators." ...
During his first six or seven weeks at the camp, Jeff conducted or participated in about fifteen harsh interrogations, most involving the use of ice water to induce hypothermia ...
Cold can be a serious torment to a naked man on a winter night; in Afghanistan, one prisoner died from hypothermia. Sometimes, to maximize the humiliation of the Iraqi men, American women would be brought in to watch them undress. Sleep deprivation was also used to an extreme extent, especially in Jeff's early days at Nama.
They could keep a prisoner on his feet for twenty hours, and although the rules required them to allow each prisoner four hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, nowhere did it say those four hours had to be consecutive--so sometimes they'd wake the prisoners up every half hour. Eventually they'd just collapse. "This was a very demanding method for the interrogators as well, because it required a lot of staff to monitor the prisoner, and we'd have to stay awake, too," Jeff says. "And it's just impossible to interrogate someone when he's in that state, collapsed on the ground. It doesn't make any sense."
Within the unit, the interrogators got the feeling they were reporting to the highest levels. The colonel would tell an interrogator that his report "is on Rumsfeld's desk this morning" or that it was "read by SecDef." "That's a big morale booster after a fourteen-hour day," Jeff says with a tinge of irony. "Hey, we got to the White House."
The full Esquire piece is here. Who was responsible for overseeing one of the worst torture and abuse centers in Iraq?
"Was the colonel ever actually there to observe this?" "Oh, yeah. He worked there. He had his desk there. They were working in a big room where the analysts, the report writers, the sergeant major, the colonel, some technical guys--they're all in that room."
To Garlasco, this is significant. This means that a full-bird colonel and all his support staff knew exactly what was going on at Camp Nama. "Do you know where the colonel was getting his orders from?" he asks. Jeff answers quickly, perhaps a little defiantly. "I believe it was a two-star general. I believe his name was General McChrystal. I saw him there a couple of times." Back when he was an intelligence analyst, Garlasco had briefed Stanley McChrystal once. He remembers him as a tall Irishman with a gentle manner. He was head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the logical person to oversee Task Force 121, and vice-director for operations for the Joint Chiefs.
He's now running Obama's war. We need to know what he authorized and what responsibility he took. I presume that the Pentagon knew of this history. I wonder if the president did.
(Photo: Army Major General Stanley McChrystal, Vice Director of Operations, listens to a reporter's question during a briefing at the Pentagon March 26, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. By Stefan Zaklin/AFP/Getty.)