When I first heard of alleged mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay, I went on record scoffing at it. Pure Qaeda propaganda, it seemed to me. Why was I so dismissive? Because I knew the US armed forces would never torture or mistreat prisoners systematically. Maybe a few violations that would be disciplined - but the idea of a vast array of methodically planned and executed outrages against human dignity was absurd. Besides, I told myself, no president would be so crazy as to launch a war of ideas against Jihadism by torturing Muslims and exploiting specific cultural Muslim taboos.
We know the rest. But yesterday's WaPo has some new detail. It tells the story of how the military did indeed first approach Gitmo - humanely, in concert with the International Red Cross. That's not surprising and what most of us just assumed. The rank and file have been relentlessly trained in humane treatment and the Geneva standards. This was America, after all, and there are some things one just takes for granted.
But we didn't account for Bush. Humane treatment was terminated when Donald Rumsfeld intervened to order torture and abuse out of a frantic pursuit of intelligence. The Rumsfeld-Cheney-Addington axis keeps saying that the torture emanated from below and that they merely accommodated demands from soldiers and interrogators. In Gitmo, at least, the reverse was true. It was Bush and Cheney who intervened - judging that only torture could work and making successful prosecution of the worst terrorists now impossible. It is Bush and Cheney and their civilian clique who need to be held accountable.
(Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty.)