by James O'Donnell
Over the last two days in the Senate and House, Code Pink has attended some nine hours of hearings dealing with the origins of the Bush administration's policy of “enhanced interrogations,” or as we on planet Earth call it, TORTURE.
But don't take our word for it.
Consider, if you prefer, the testimony of former General Counsel of the Navy, Alberto Mora, who was so alarmed by this “policy of cruelty,” including forced nudity, stress positions, and waterboarding (a “classic and reviled form of torture,” per Mora), that he threatened to go public with what he saw as a “mistake of massive proportions,” forcing the retraction of the policy... or so he thought.
But, like so many of us, Mora was deceived.
Nine days after Mora was told the policy was rescinded, in spite of his objections (and similar concerns coming from his counterparts in the legal offices of the USAF, Army, and Marines -- as well as the FBI and the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Task Force), top “Bushies” David Addington, John Yoo, William Haynes, et al, pushed the policy through behind their backs, behind the backs, even, of the Working Group assigned to vet the policy -- and without any real consideration of whether the brutal tactics they sought to employ had any proven value in terms of gaining actionable intelligence. (They hadn't.)
William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon's General Counsel under Rumsfeld, stove-piped the custom ordered if “seriously deficient”* legal opinion of GITMO's junior officer, Lt. Col. Diane “eager” Beaver, who admits she was stunned to see her humble “legal” analysis instantly elevated into national policy, albeit without the “controls” she envisioned.
Thus, the Navy Seals SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) training regimen was “reverse-engineered,” and the Bush administration promptly adopted the illegal and inhumane interrogation methods of our former enemies: the Japanese under Hirohito, the Viet Cong, and the Soviets.
With the apparent blessing of top administration officials in the White House and the departments of Justice and Defense, SERE instructors -- with no formal training in interrogation -- were dispatched (eventually to Iraq) to teach our soldiers how to strip prisoners, deprive them of sleep, slap, sexually humiliate, and waterboard them (and to attack their religious beliefs).
In fact, the methods the “Bushies” chose to employ so pushed the legal (and moral) envelope that their early discussions explicitly acknowledged the need to duck the International Committee of the Red Cross and to admonish interrogators that, “if the detainee DIES, you're doing it wrong.”
Just as Bush had deployed White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to the Justice Department to custom-order the infamous Bybee Memo (the: it ain't torture, even if it is, memo), the “cabal” described by Colin Powell's Chief of Staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, had dispatched Addington, Michael Chertoff, and CIA Counsel Rizzo to GITMO to convey to Lt. Col. Beaver just what kind of legal rationale they were seeking... and for what kind of policy.
The result, per the General Fay report and that of the Defense Department's Inspector General: Reverse-engineered SERE techniques initially implemented at GITMO soon “migrated” to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and, yes, to Abu Ghraib (Abu Ghraib, where even Lt. Col. Beaver was surprised to find Gen. Geoffrey Miller's shadow, Capt. Carolyn Wood, helping teach our soldiers to treat American prisoners “like dogs.” (Capt. Wood, according to Ms. Beaver, had been in charge at Bagram, where it’s acknowledged that two of America's prisoners were beaten to death by their interrogators.)
Miller and Wood were in Iraq to “GITMO-ize” Abu Ghraib, and, as the notorious photographs later revealed, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams... and our most horrific nightmares.
No wonder Rummy's pal, DoD Counsel Haynes, squelched the broad-based review of this monstrous policy, the review nominally conducted by the docile Admiral Dalton, originally intended for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And no wonder Mr. Haynes had to answer “I don't recall” to so very many of the Senators' questions.
To be clear: This was a top-down policy, imposed on America's military by ideological chicken hawks and political operators over the vehement objections of senior legal officers of EVERY branch of America's armed forces.
Nobody in our military asked for these worthless “tools.”
It's past time we defend our military men and women and end this counterproductive and immoral policy of officially sanctioned torture, still available to American intelligence agencies, private contractors, and client regimes like Syria, Egypt, and Morocco (to name but a few) to whom we're still rendering our “ghost detainees” in this terribly bungled Global War OF Terror.
*per Rear Admiral Jane Dalton