"The Program" and Abu Ghraib


I'm amazed that, in the context of what we now know this president has authorized for the CIA, and wants to retain for use by the CIA, an obvious connection has not been made more forcefully. When you look at the photographs from Abu Ghraib, what do you see? You see exactly the "alternative methods" this administration is trying to preserve: long-time standing, nakedness, degradation, stress positions, sleep deprivation - and much worse as well that will now be clearly banned: rape and murder. (Worryingly, sexual abuse short of penetration seems to be a gray area in the proposal.) It strains credibility to believe that these images were not related by clear signals from the very top that the "gloves were off" and that the president and defense secretary gave torture and abuse cover and approval.

Now the Los Angeles Times has a serious investigation into yet more sickening practices by Special Forces in Afghanistan. Again the bottom line is that abuse and torture were widespread:

The Times has since reviewed thousands of pages of internal military records showing that prisoner abuse by Special Forces units was more common in Afghanistan than previously acknowledged.

More than a year before the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal broke in Iraq, top officers worried that harsh treatment and excessive detentions could lead to criminal prosecutions. In one November 2002 correspondence, a high-ranking Special Operations official said military police were detecting "an extremely high level of physical abuse" of detainees transferred from Special Forces field bases to a prison in Bagram....

Early in 2003, the chief Special Forces intelligence officer in Afghanistan warned in a note to the task force commander, Col. James G. "Greg" Champion, and his top aides: "As you are all aware, alleged assaults and kidnapping [have] been occurring for quite some time. Again, I want to emphasize, this is not isolated."

The compound at Gardez, then occupied by ODA 2021, was portrayed as one of the worst. Detainees there alleged they were beaten, kicked, doused with cold water and deprived of sleep for days at a time.

"Doused with cold water" and "deprived of sleep for days at a time." Sound familiar? One point we must repeat insistently is that the torture bill being unwisely rushed through the Senate may well legalize many of the abuses at Abu Ghaib, Bagram, Camp Cropper, Camp Nama, and many in the dozens of sites of torture and abuse in this war for ... democracy and human rights.

Remember how you felt when you first saw some of those photographs. Remember the shame. Now remember we may be about to legalize and endorse some of it as American policy. Should we not take the time to get it right?

(Photo of an "alternative interrogation method": Reuters.)