Sunday, May 16, 2004

How Many Shoes Left to Drop. . . on the Iraqi Prison Abuse Scandal? Newsweek Weighs In

I got this link off Josh Marshall's Talking Points site, and thank him tremendously. Frankly, I don't have Newsweek on my regular reading list, but this article looks outstanding. Just the existence of outstanding reporting from other folks not named Hersh is going to find those higher ups who evidently approved or encouraged the hijinks at Abu Ghraib. On that topic, Josh Marshall comments on the Pentagon nondenials:

Rumsfeld spokesman Larry Di Rita's widely-quoted statement -- "Assertions apparently being made in the latest New Yorker article on Abu Ghraib and the abuse of Iraqi detainees are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture." -- isn't a denial, it's splutter -- a classic non-denial denial.

And he's so right. There's lots of evidence in the Newsweek piece, though, that from the top the Bushites were planning getting around the Geneva Conventions, all the way from just after 9/11. From the Newsweek article:

One Justice Department memo, written for the CIA late in the fall of 2001, put an extremely narrow interpretation on the international anti-torture convention, allowing the agency to use a whole range of techniques—including sleep deprivation, the use of phobias and the deployment of "stress factors"—in interrogating Qaeda suspects. The only clear prohibition was "causing severe physical or mental pain"—a subjective judgment that allowed for "a whole range of things in between," said one former administration official familiar with the opinion.

What is fascinating here is that Powell was once more kept out of the loop. It is like these folks instinctively knew the one guy whose moral compass still pointed north, and, as per usual, they bypassed him.

Cut out of the process, as usual, was Colin Powell's State Department. So were military lawyers for the uniformed services. When State Department lawyers first saw the Yoo memo, "we were horrified," said one. As State saw it, the Justice position would place the United States outside the orbit of international treaties it had championed for years. Two days after the Yoo memo circulated, the State Department's chief legal adviser, William Howard Taft IV, fired a memo to Yoo calling his analysis "seriously flawed." State's most immediate concern was the unilateral conclusion that all captured Taliban were not covered by the Geneva Conventions. "In previous conflicts, the United States has dealt with tens of thousands of detainees without repudiating its obligations under the Conventions," Taft wrote. "I have no doubt we can do so here, where a relative handful of persons is involved."

Those folks working for Colin Powell can make you proud to be an American, even if the rest of this Administration sickens you.

Josh Marshall has an interesting point. He says that like one does with polling, throwing out the high and low scores, and then concentrating on the middle ground (I think that's done in figure skating scoring, but then we'd have to make obligatory complaints about the French judges again, wouldn't we?), one might use the same method to evaluate what will be a flood of investigative journalism in the next couple weeks, months. I'm not so sure. As with numerous talking heads and Senators over the last few days, I'm convinced there was some high level orchestration of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. And I'm just not interested in playing fair with these weasels, anyway, though I respect Josh Marshall for it.

We're going to find that the blame will land at Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, etc., or perhaps a mere layer down from them. That's clear, otherwise the Bushites would throw some lower-level stiffs under the bus now, and get the scandal out of the way while there is still plenty of breathing room before the election. Hmm, it sure would be nice if this took three months to come out. . .

OK, I feel dirty now, like a whole gaggle of Republicans drooling over a blue dress and with sparkling eyes at the prospect of months of scandal. Then again, war and dead Americans is a bit more important than a stained dress.