Sunday, June 17, 2007

Killing the Bearer of Bad News

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

In today's reading assignment we find an article by Seymour Hersch for The New Yorker about Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba (title bar), who was assigned the task of investigating claims of detainee abuse & torture at Abu Ghraib, & was later forceably retired for doing an honest job of it.
Taguba filed a report finding "blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees . . . systemic and illegal abuse. "
However, nobody in command above him would own up to actually having read it.
The story adds to the ever growing catalog of well-worn witticisms in the Donald Rumsfeld Hall of Fame (my all-time favorite being, "My God, did I order them to wear womens' panties on their heads?")
Here, in a meeting the day before he was to testify to Congress, he's reported to have greeted Taguba mockingly with "Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” & to have complained, “Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.”
"As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, 'He’s looking at me. It was a statement'.”
(Rather brings to mind another Bushco stud, Alberto Gonzales, telling Monica Goodling in his office about his "recollection" of events surrounding the partisan purge at DOJ, with the clear implication that she'd better back him up.)
Another shining moment, according to Taguba:
"In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. 'Could you tell us what happened?' Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, 'Is it abuse or torture?'
"At that point, Taguba recalled, 'I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, 'That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
Hersch writes that other videos & photos are not generally known or have not apparently been made public including " the first wave of materials included descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees. Several of these images, including one of an Iraqi woman detainee baring her breasts, have since surfaced; others have not. (Taguba’s report noted that photographs and videos were being held by the C.I.D. because of ongoing criminal investigations and their 'extremely sensitive nature.')
"Taguba said that he saw 'a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.' The video was not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it. Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib.
The Rumsfeld DOD Strategy: See No Evil (Willfully)
"In subsequent testimony, General Myers, the J.C.S. chairman, acknowledged, without mentioning the e-mails, that in January information about the photographs had been given 'to me and the Secretary up through the chain of command. . . . And the general nature of the photos, about nudity, some mock sexual acts and other abuse, was described.'
"Nevertheless, Rumsfeld, in his appearances before the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees on May 7th, claimed to have had no idea of the extensive abuse. 'It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn’t say, ‘Wait, look, this is terrible. We need to do something,’ Rumsfeld told the congressmen. 'I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more sooner, but we didn’t.'
"Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, 'it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.' As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, 'I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them'; at the House hearing, he said, 'I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.' Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said: There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know. '
"And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,' Rumsfeld said.
"Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. 'The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,' Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, 'Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.' It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials."
Read on.



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