Torture Trail

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Abu Ghraib

Rightly or wrongly, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will forever be connected to the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

How does he explain what happened while he was in command? In his autobiography, Sanchez seems to buy in to the "torture narrative" whereby detention and interrogation policies hatched in the White House, Justice Department and Pentagon are believed to have led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. At the rotting, poorly secured Iraqi prison, intelligence personnel used non-standard interrogation practices, and military police were enlisted to "set the conditions" for interrogation. The results were displayed for the world to see on April 28, 2004, when 60 Minutes II aired photographs taken by military personnel during the abuses.

Sanchez writes on pages 144-146 of his book about the effect on the military of government decisions about interrogation:

This presidential memorandum [of February 7, 2002] constituted a watershed event in U.S. military history. Essentially, it set aside all of the legal constraints, training guidelines, and rules for interrogation that formed the U.S. Army's foundation for the treatment of prisoners on the battlefield since the Geneva Conventions were revised and ratified in 1949. Our current detention and interrogation doctrine had been rendered obsolete and invalid in the war with Al-Qaeda. According to the President, it was now okay to go beyond those standards with respond to al-Qaeda terrorists. And that guidance set America on a path toward torture.

In the early days of GTMO, many self-confessed members of al-Qaeda were brought into the detention facility. Still only a few months after the horrendous events of 9/11, tremendous pressure was placed on interrogators to obtain information from these prisoners. Government leaders wanted to gain intelligence for two main reasons: to prevent another possible terrorist attack in the United States, and to identify al-Qaeda cells so they could be wiped out. But that was not an easy thing to do, because these prisoners were hard-core fanatics who were willing to die for their cause. And if forced to operate within the constraints of the Geneva Conventions, interrogators were not likely to gain any substantive information, especially since the enemy was trained to resist interrogation.

President Bush's February 7, 2002, directive did not fix limits on interrogation approaches, nor did it specifically order any new methods to be used. That crucial step was left up to the Department of Defense. . . .

Prior to the invasion of Afghanistan, the Geneva Conventions and the Laws of War provided limits on authority and prevented abuse of prisoners. President Bush's February 2002 memorandum established new guidance that allowed suspected al-Qaeda prisoners to be tortured.

Later, on page 150, Sanchez goes into more detail about the effects of this memo:

During the last few months of 2002, while the higher levels of the U.S. government were sparring with Saddam Hussein and setting up its case for an invasion of Iraq, there is irrefutable evidence that America was torturing and killing prisoners in Afghanistan. It occurred at the coalition's Bagram collection point located at Bagram Air Base, just north of Kabul. This was the central detention and interrogation center for prisoners captured throughout Afghanistan during the conduct of coalition operations.

Because of the U.S. military orders and presidential guidance in January and February 2002, respectively, there were no longer any constraints regarding techniques used to induce intelligence out of prisoners, nor was there any supervisory oversight. In essence, guidelines stipulated by the Geneva Conventions had been set aside in Afghanistan -- and the broader war on terror. The Bush administration did not clearly understand the profound implications of its policy on the U.S. armed forces. In essence, the administration had eliminated the entire doctrinal, training, and procedural foundations that existed for the conduct of interrogations. It was now left to individual interrogators to make the crucial decisions of what techniques could be utilized. Therefore, the articles of the Geneva Conventions were the only laws holding in check the open universe of harsh interrogation techniques. In retrospect, the Bush administration's new policy triggered a sequence of events that led to the use of harsh interrogation tactics not only against al-Qaeda prisoners, but also eventually prisoners in Iraq -- despite our best efforts to restrain such unlawful conduct.

In concert with this colossal mistake, the administration also created an environment of fear and retribution that made top military leaders hesitant to stand up to the administration's authoritarianism. The result was total confusion within the ranks in the execution of interrogations. The Army, as the executive agent, did nothing to clarify the policy, update doctrine and procedural guidelines, or revise the training programs for interrogators and leaders. Having eliminated the Conventions, it was the responsibility of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army (as the executive agent) to publish new standards to steer our soldiers away from techniques that could be deemed torture. The fact that this was not done constitutes gross neglience and dereliction of duty.

Sanchez, however, doesn't exactly have clean hands here. As I'll discuss in my next post, as commanding general, he signed at least a couple memos that had a profound effect on detention and interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib.

By Phillip Carter |  May 22, 2008; 2:00 PM ET  | Category:  Wiser in Battle
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Phil-

I wasn't aware of your article from 2004. Well done.

As to torture, to me it is simply a domestic political stalking horse. The question remains as to the "identity" of the hunter.

My guess? Our very own little version of a corrupt police state. . .

http://www.radaronline.com/from-the-magazine/2008/05/government_surveillance_homeland_security_main_core_01-print.php

Posted by: seydlitz89 | May 22, 2008 5:47 PM

Sometimes I wonder if the tone for all this was set by Dick Cheney and then executed by a chosen few properly placed - some true believers who acted like his political officers.

They provided the counsel, screened the field leaders and assure all executed and acted "properly".

To succeed it also relied upon passivity by rest of the general commands and staff.

No one was permitted to question or resign about it; none did.

Dick Cheney once when addressing energy policy and the conservation alternative observed that character issues are not a concept upon which to build national security.

This indifference to character, virtue and other ethical or moral qualities may have been the "conceptual integrity" of the VP directed administration and general staff.

I suspect it remains as a mutating but functioning virus among people within this government and inside supporting media editors, talking heads and performing party members.

Posted by: Bill Keller | May 22, 2008 8:13 PM

Hasn't he argued himself into a box here? " I was given no direction...".
Doesn't that beg the question, "Why did you pick that direction?"
Did he just got up one morning and decide the army was going to start to chain its prisoners to the floor, naked except for a bra strapped on their heads? Or did somebody under him make the decision to do it and they just forgot to tell him? He didn't see that as a problem or he preferred not to see it at all? The last thing I wonder is what does he say about his soldiers who also received no direction, other than from NCOs' and CIA contractors? Does he want to get them out of the stockade? Does he want the bunk next to them? Did they even cross his mind? Was he out of the country or something when they went to trial? You don't think that was germane to their defense, that they weren't given direction either? This was SOP for the facility and they were just doing what everybody else was doing, just following the orders of their NCOs' and Junior Officers?

Posted by: dijetlo | May 23, 2008 12:23 AM

For uncensored news please bookmark:

www.wsws.org
www.takingaimradio.com
www.onlinejournal.com
www.globalresearch.ca
otherside123.blogspot.com

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/may2008/052308_bilderberg_luminary.htm

Bilderberg Luminary To Select Obama's Running Mate

Fannie Mae CEO James A. Johnson was also behind 2004 Edwards pick after Bilderberg signaled approval

It has been announced that Bilderberg luminary and top corporate elitist James A. Johnson will select Democratic candidate Barack Obama's running mate for the 2008 election and in turn potentially act as kingmaker for America's future President.

Johnson also selected John Kerry's running mate John Edwards in 2004 after Edwards had impressed Bilderberg elitists Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller with a speech he gave at the globalist confab in Italy that year.

The news further puts to rest any delusions that Bilderberg is a mere talking shop where no decisions are made. In reality, the group is shaping some of the primary developments in the domestic and geopolitical arena today, particularly in the context of oil prices which continue to accelerate towards Bilderberg's target of $200 dollars a barrel.

(Article continues below)

It also ridicules once again any notion that an Obama presidency would bring "change" to the status quo of America being ruled by an unelected corporate and military-industrial complex elite.

"Former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson has been asked by Senator Barack Obama on Thursday to start the search for a viable Vice Presidential candidate," reports Trans World News.

"Johnson and Obama are starting the top-secret search as Obama edges closer to the Democratic nomination. Johnson did the same job for Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984."

The report lists Johnson as a member of "American Friends of Bilderberg," which is an offshoot Bilderberg front group that has accepted donations from the Ford Foundation to fund Bilderberg meetings where lavish hotels are entirely booked up for three days, by no means an inexpensive feat. The organization is basically a steering committee for the Bilderberg Group - a secretarial outpost through which Bilderberg conferences are organized.

Johnson has also directly attended Bilderberg meetings therefore can be classed as a Bilderberg luminary. He attended last year's meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.

Johnson is also "A vice chairman of the private banking firm Perseus LLC, a position he has held since 2001. He is also a board member at Goldman Sachs, Gannett Company, Inc., a media holding group, KB Home, a home construction firm, Target Corporation, Temple-Inland, and UnitedHealth Group."

Predictably, he is also also a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.


James A. Johnson (center): Ultra-elitist Bilderberg luminary and corporate capo who will select the potential future U.S. President.

This would be the second presidential race running that the Bilderberg Group has been instrumental in helping to select the running mate for the Democratic candidate.

In 2004 it was reported that John Edwards' performance at the Bilderberg conference in Italy was a key factor in his selection as John Kerry's number two. Bilderberg attendees even broke house rules to applaud Edwards at the end of a speech he gave to the elitists about American politics.

Despite the fact that Edwards was in hot competition against around two dozen other serious contenders for the number two spot, Bilderberg's approval of his policies after his impressive display swung the decision. Johnson himself selected Edwards in a last minute change of decision after it appeared as though Dick Gephardt was going to secure the position. The New York Post even reported that Gephardt had been chosen and "Kerry-Gephardt" stickers were being placed on campaign vehicles before being removed when Edwards was announced as Kerry's number two.

Kerry went on to lose the election to his fellow Skull and Bones member George W. Bush, but with Obama enjoying an 8 point lead over Republican candidate John McCain, this year's running mate decision is all the more important, with the individual selected likely to have a shot at becoming President in 2012.

Bilderberg has a proven history of acting in a kingmaker capacity. Both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair attended Bilderberg meetings in the early 90's before becoming President and Prime Minister respectively.

Posted by: che | May 23, 2008 12:22 PM

This guy is a real piece of work. Note how he adopts the dispassionate voice of the professional historian when describing the background to the torture issue:

"Because of the U.S. military orders and presidential guidance in January and February 2002, respectively, there were no longer any constraints regarding techniques used to induce intelligence out of prisoners, nor was there any supervisory oversight."

And, "The Bush administration did not clearly understand the profound implications of its policy on the U.S. armed forces. In essence, the administration had eliminated the entire doctrinal, training, and procedural foundations that existed for the conduct of interrogations. It was now left to individual interrogators to make the crucial decisions of what techniques could be utilized."

I guess Sanchez wasn't actually a military commander, master of his domain, responsible for his command. He was just an innocent bystander, just a guy taking notes for history. It was those bad Bushies and other evil persons who caused the problems. Not Sanchez. He's clean.

Here's where we see the ring of truth in what Sanchez writes: "In concert with this colossal mistake, the administration also created an environment of fear and retribution that made top military leaders hesitant to stand up to the administration's authoritarianism."

He was clearly frightened to death of his masters and willing to take any and all orders received without subjecting them to any sort of moral, ethical or legal tests.

What a small, weak man. To think that American service personnel have to serve under such people.

Posted by: Publius | May 23, 2008 1:58 PM

Publius: Right as usual. Especially the use of the term "fear of his masters" as his motivation force seems very correct, and speaks volumes about the condition of his spine, etc.

However, our contempt for the man shouldnt blind us to the fact that he is choosing to step forward and name names. That is brave, though his lack of accepting responsibility for his command is apalling.

Posted by: fnord | May 24, 2008 9:40 AM

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