Friday, May 20, 2005

New York Times obtains copy of military investigation into Afghan prisoner deaths

"The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example." - George W. Bush

After reading this piece from the New York times detailing the death of two prisoners as a result of abuse in Afghanistan (as reported by the Pentagon in its criminal investigation) the above words from President Bush ring forth as empty rhetoric (and if Bush had any knowledge of what was detailed in the Bagram report - it was an outright lie.) By no stretch of the imagination can we be said to be leading by example.

Just look at several disturbing highlights from the article:
  • Yet the Bagram file includes ample testimony that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine and that guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity. Prisoners considered important or troublesome were also handcuffed and chained to the ceilings and doors of their cells, sometimes for long periods, an action Army prosecutors recently classified as criminal assault.
  • Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were "remarkably similar" to those used at Bagram.
  • Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."
  • The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.
  • He also added a detail that had been overlooked in the investigative file. By the time Mr. Dilawar [one of the two prisoners who died as a result of abuse] was taken into his final interrogations, he said, "most of us were convinced that the detainee was innocent."
So here we see that prisoner abuse was routine, that men who were under investigation for prisoner abuse were transfered to Abu Ghraib where similar abuse subsequently took place, that the military lied about the cause of death of the two prisoners, that this mistreatment of prisoners resulted in part from the President's decision that detainees should not be afforded the human rights provisions of the Geneva convention, and ,most dissapointing, that a man believed to be innocent died as a result of interrogator abuse.

As more prisoner abuse comes to light and appears to be systemic rather than isolated it becomes more difficult to deny the charge that such abuse is a result, at least in part, of policy formulated by Alberto Gonzalez.

Instead of blaming Newsweek for America's ills, perhaps the White House should start looking towards holding itself to the standards of human rights which America is supposed to represent.

No comments: