Last week, we reached some closure on a burning and controversial question that has occupied many for many years now. That is the simple question of who was responsible for the abuse, torture, rape and murder of prisoners in American custody in the war on terror, most indelibly captured by the photographic images of Abu Ghraib. The Senate's bipartisan report, issued with no dissents, reiterates and adds factual context to what we already know. And there is no equivocation in the report.
The person who authorized all the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, the man who gave the green light to the abuses in that prison, is the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
Again: there is no longer any reasonable factual debate about this (hence to near total silence of the Republican right), and the Senate report finally holds the president responsible in bipartisan fashion:
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. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.
Those ghastly pctures of naked, hooded prisoners? Bush approved nudity and hooding of prisoners. Hypothermia? Sleep deprivation? Bush signed a memo removing the most baseline protections for all human beings under the Geneva Conventions. Waterboarding? Bush knew full well. As did Rice and Tenet and Powell and that poseur in defense of human rights, Paul Wolfowitz. But even before the memo, before any prisoners were captured, the Bush administration was working on how to torture them:
In December 2001, more than a month before the President signed his memorandum, the Department of Defense (DoD) General Counsel’s Office had already solicited information on detainee “exploitation” from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
Let's be absolutely clear what this means: When we saw an image of Lynndie England pulling a naked prisoner around on a leash, we assumed at the time that she improvised this, or was some kind of "bad apple." This is and was a conscious lie to the Congress, and to the American people, and to the world. The person who authorized the use of nudity and leashes on prisoners was not Lynndie England or any of the other grunts thrown to the wolves. The man who authorized the technique shown below is the president of the United States:
The report itself is not that long and I highly recommend reading it all closely. It is the most sobering indictment of high government officials in the U.S. since Watergate. And, in the gravity of crimes, it is a far more profound violation of the law and the constitution and the security of the United States than Watergate ever was. Bush's crimes are far greater than Nixon's - because war crimes are far graver than burglaries. And there is no statute of limitations for war crimes.