Friday, May 21, 2004

 

Nicholas Kristof For The Defense

This 22 May 2004 atricle by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times has me scratching my head.

In sticking up for Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Kristof writes:

The central point is that we have no proof that Mr. Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture.

Um, ok, sure. As I mention below, Mr. Rumsfeld probably did not personally asphyxiate any unarmed prisoners.

But Mr. Kristof continues, and this is the part I can't figure:

It's true that the torture arose in a climate of administration contempt for the Geneva Conventions, particularly reflected in those shameful Justice Department memos outlining loopholes so the U.S. could evade responsibility for war crimes. But this disregard for ethics and law arose mostly from the White House and the Justice Department.

----

But remember: this is not Mr. Rumsfeld's war. It is President Bush's.

Mr. Rumsfeld is not a neo-conservative hawk. He is an old-fashioned conservative, a realist like the first President Bush, and he did not particularly press for war with Iraq. The real culprits are the neo-con ideologues who screamed for war: people like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby and the current President Bush himself.

Mr. Rumsfeld did not display the wisdom of Colin Powell, who pushed back against Mr. Bush in the run-up to war. But neither was he a jingoist. According to Bob Woodward's new book, Mr. Rumsfeld spent meetings asking questions rather than taking positions. So why fire Mr. Rumsfeld for carrying out his boss's invasion?

I wonder how not pressing for war and not being a jingoist in the process of not pressing for war removes Mr. Rumsfeld from the list of people who knew about, and approved of, the Bush Administration’s plan to step away from the Geneva Conventions which created the climate for the abuse of prisoners.

How could he not have known?

Were the instructions to let loosen the strictures of interrogation techniques relayed to persons in Military Intelligence without the knowledge of the Secretary of Defense?

Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reports that Mr. Rumsfeld “...approved harsh interrogation techniques in late 2002....”

Interrogation Tactics Evolved
Rumsfeld Approved Harsh Procedures at Guantanamo, Officials Say

To extract information from suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved harsh interrogation techniques in late 2002 that were not in accordance with standard U.S. military doctrine, defense officials said yesterday.

The approval led to aggressive questioning of at least one prisoner thought to have information at the time about possible terrorist acts. Interrogators learned about a planned attack from him and about terrorist financing, one official said, without elaborating on the information or identifying the prisoner.

But in early January 2003, the harsher methods were halted, and Rumsfeld ordered a review of tactics that could be applied in questioning prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, the officials said.

R. Jeffrey Smith, also of the Washington Post write this:

Memo Gave Intelligence Bigger Role
Increased Pressure Sought on Prisoners

Shortly before the physical abuses of Iraqis were photographed in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad last year, the top U.S. military official in Iraq signed a classified memorandum explicitly calling for interrogators to assume control over the "lighting, heating . . . food, clothing, and shelter" of those being questioned there.

The Oct. 12, 2003, memorandum signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez called for intelligence officials at the prison to work more closely with the military police guarding the detainees to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses."

This memo and the deliberations that preceded it were completely shrouded from public view at the time, but now lie at the heart of the scandal that erupted last month over the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Under congressional prodding, the administration has provided a fuller chronology of the events leading up to its approval.

Ours is a system where policy and direction come from the top.

When that policy is changed to step away from the Geneva Conventions, and that stepping away allows for the use harsh interrogation techniques, and those harsh interrogation techniques create a climate that degenerates into abuse, how again, is Mr. Rumsfeld not responsible?

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