|May 6, 2004 - “According to Americans with direct knowledge and others who have witnessed the treatment, captives are often "softened up" by MPs and U.S. Army Special Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. The alleged terrorists are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep. The tone of intimidation and fear is the beginning, they said, of a process of piercing a prisoner's resistance.”
The Washington Post article echoes what Chip Frederick wrote home to his family when he knew that the secret of Abu Ghraib was leaking out. The words he wrote were self serving justifications for the abuse of prisoners that we are shown on television and the internet. Except that the article was not written in the last week and the subject was not the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The article by Dana Priest and Barton Gellman was published December 26, 2002 and described conditions at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
On March 12th of this year, shortly after General Taguba’s report on Abu Ghraib was completed, British nationals newly released from confinement spoke to the British press and charged that they had suffered similar abuse at the hands of guards. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the charges unwarranted and said that it was "not in the American tradition to treat people in that manner." It may not be in the tradition of America but it has been part of America’s war on terror since the beginning and it was part of the widely accepted interrogators lore from America’s war in Vietnam. The prisoner who watched the first prisoner thrown out of a helicopter door couldn’t wait to spill his guts.
Now we have entered the “clean up” phase of the current military scandal. Major General Geoffrey D. Miller has been put in charge of military prisons in Iraq and the new Warden apologized to the Iraqi people for the conduct of a few. It may be only a coincidence that in August this same General Miller led a group of 30 experts in interrogation from Camp Delta to bring new techniques to the task of interrogation and to urge that the military police guards be tasked to assist the interrogation process by creating conditions that, in General Miller’s words, facilitates the rapid exploitation of detainees. In short, to make the prisoners break down and break down fast.
It may or may not be a coincidence that after General Miller completed his mission to Iraq in September the “exploitation” of the prisoners in Tier 1 of Abu Ghraib started in October. It may or may not be a coincidence that Chip Frederick and his troops created conditions that inspired the interrogators to tell them that they were doing a great job. It is probably no coincidence that the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Secretary of Defense had no idea what was happening on their watch while General Karpinski was relieved because she did not know. But then that is in the American tradition. The buck always stops down there. No one is ever responsible.
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