SEYMOUR HERSH/REPOSTUS Troops TORTURE, Videotape Sodomizing of Young Iraqi BoysFri Oct 7, 2005 14:1722.214.171.124
BY SEYMOUR HERSH
… The truth is, it's so ironic… the best information we may get about this election may come from a combination of The Control Room, Fahrenheit 9/11, John Sayles, the nightly news from Jon Stewart if some of you watch that. At the height of the prisoner abuse stories, [Jon Stewart] had one of his mock news broadcasters say very seriously to the camera, on the Stewart show, he said,
"The important thing is not that we commit torture and abuses, it's that we're a country that doesn't condone torture and abuses" [laughter] — that's a wonderful line.
And so, you start talking about failures of communication, I don't know where we're going to go with this, I can't make you feel happy about where we are. We've got a very important election coming up, probably the most important since, what, 1860. I think it is, and there's nothing I can say to you about any of that. …
So here we are. The bottom line is, by the way, I'm in a tough position because I'm not done reporting on all of this. … It's a tough position because there is more to the story. …
Standards for Government Ethics [1:10:25]
I guess the way to describe how you look at things is, I don’t know about you, but I have a wife and children, and one of the things that makes life livable is trusting in my partner, never lying to my children and never wanting my children — with the exception of teenage girls [laughter] — to lie to me about anything. …
But basically you know what I’m talking about, the core of how we exist. The way we live — not us, there’s nothing special about us, everybody in the world — we all live, the most important thing in our life is our family structure and the integrity with which we live, and the honesty with which we conduct our life, and the trust with which we have people [sic].
And if you think about it, you begin to understand the bad bargain we have [now]. It’s, it's, it's a condition, a requirement, one that we so desperately live with our own families with that we don’t even begin to levy on the President of the United States and the National Security Advisor. It’s not even a requirement [for them]. We don’t even have any expectation that they’re going to have the same trust and integrity in conducting their affairs as we do in our own personal life.
It’s a bad bargain for us in the commonweal. We don’t even begin — we understand what they are. You heard talking about Henry Kissinger, who, for all of his genius, lied like most of us breathe. And when you’re in a situation like that — is that partisan or non-partisan, I don't know [referring to the ACLU's need to remain non-partisan].
But it’s really a bad bargain. And we live with it pretty happily, we go along, ok another President, another National Security Advisor, Condi Rice in this case — and we know we don’t get the story, and what do they have the right to do?
They have the right to send our children, men and women now, in the name of democracy to go kill people and be killed and torture and perhaps be tortured in return, which is always going to be the end result of torture.
And so, I think there’s nothing wrong with holding these people to the highest possible standards. It doesn’t happen enough. But that’s what we have to do.
Scope of the Crimes of Torture [1:12:50]
We don’t know — I’ll tell you right now, the reason I’m saying all that — is what happened at Abu Ghraib, I can just tell you this, and I have to do the reporting on this and you have to wait for me to do it — but it’s not about an academic debate in long essays between the Justice Department and the White House, legal essays about where the Geneva Convention ends and the Presidential prerogative begins.
What we had was a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the President and the Vice President, by this administration anyway, I can say that, I can’t say who did it.
The only way to look at this is as war crimes. What happened are war crimes. I’m not saying it’s there yet. It’s not there yet. But that’s where it has to go. We have to stop looking at it as some sort of academic debate about Geneva Conventions and really begin to look at it in terms of: Who did what? Who died? Why did he die? Are there people missing? Are we doing what the Brazilians and Argentineans did back two or three decades ago and actually into this decade? Are we disappearing people? Are there people being tortured knowingly in advance that the torture was going to put their lives in peril and is nothing being done to relieve their suffering to the point that they die?
Is there mens rea? Is there guilty knowledge? Is it a crime? And we’re going to get there, because I think that’s where it’s sort of ineluctably going, you can just see on and on and on, and we’re not there yet. I’m not telling you I can take it there, I’m just telling you that that’s the way you have to look at it.
Repercussions in the Arab World [1:14:25]
I’ll tell you what an Israeli told me. And the Israelis as you know — a very tough, hard-nosed Israeli told me at one point, about all this — he said, you know, we hate the Arabs. This is a guy who spent his career in the intelligence service and, you know, his hands are bloody. He said, we hate the Arabs, and the Arabs hate us, and before 1948, we’ve been killing Arabs, and they’ve been killing us. But I have to tell you something, he said. We know somewhere down the line, we’re going to have to live with these people, much as we can’t stand them, they’re going to have to be our neighbors. And if we had done in our prisons to the Arabs what you have done to the Arabs in your prisons, we couldn’t live that way.
And so the bottom line is we have started something that we don’t know [what] the end, the bottom line, is of this treatment, as more details come out.
And I can tell you it was much worse, and the government knows it's much worse, than they’ve even told you. There are worse photos, worse videotapes, worse events. To The New Yorker’s credit we decided, not for censorship, but just how much can you, how much can you levy on Arab manhood, in public?
But Arabs, I will tell you, it’s not just the radicals — and we all know how this policy, this administration’s policies, in Afghanistan, too, and also of course in Iraq, has really done exactly the contrary of what they said they were going to do. They haven't ended the war of terrorism — they’ve expanded it — that’s nothing obvious [sic], that’s totally clear.
But Arabs now, moderate Arabs, Arabs that normally would be doing the kind of — as you know, the overwhelming, the vastly overwhelming percentage of moderate Arabs deplored what happened to this country on 9/11, as much as anybody here — but those Arabs we’ve lost. They see us as a sexually perverse society. The sexual stuff we did to them is seen as just perversion. And I think we’re going to have consequences for a long time to come. There’s an awful lot of respect in the Arab world for Americans, I travel there all the time, and American Jews even, it’s not, nobody’s going to — I wouldn’t walk around Baghdad — but most of the world is very safe. We have a lot of problems.
The Neocon Cult [1:16:47]
So, rather than deal with the obvious stuff about Bush and this election and what it means, I think the real question we have to answer, and this is the question I'm inchoate about, I don't have an answer …
The question we have to say to ourselves is, ok, so here’s what happens, a bunch of guys, 8 or 9 neoconservatives, cultists — not Charles Manson cultists, but cultists — get in and it's not, with all due respect to Michael Moore, and you’ll read it, his movie’s fine, but it’s not about oil, it’s not even about protecting Israel, it’s about a Utopia they have, it’s about an idea they have. Not only about — democracy can be spread — in a sense, I would say Paul Wolfowitz is the greatest Trotskyite of our time, he believes in permanent revolution, and in the Middle East to begin, needless to say.
And so you have a bunch of people who've been for 10, 12 years have been fantasizing since the 1991 Gulf War on the way to resolve problems. And of course Israel will be a beneficiary and etc. etc., but the world in their eyes — this was Utopia. And so they got together, this small group of cultists, and how did they do it? They did do it. They’ve taken the government over. And what’s amazing to me, and what really is troubling, is how fragile our democracy is. Look what happened to us.
[In the press, there is] self-censorship, which is the beacon word for me, you know I always think it comes more, you know there is a corporate mentality out there, but there’s also a tremendous amount of self-censorship among the press. It’s like a disease.
But also — they not only — they took away the edge from the press, they also muzzled the bureaucracy, they muzzled the military, they muzzled the Congress, and it’s an amazing feat. We’re supposed to be a democratic society, and all of those areas of our democracy bowed and scraped to this group of neocons who advocated a policy.
General Shinseki [1:19:05]
You know, we all know the story of how mad they got at General Shinseki, who I think is going to run for the Senate in Hawaii and should, for Inouye’s seat, he’s a great general. The important thing about Shinseki for me, and this is just heuristic, I don’t know this, the important thing about Shinseki is this. He testifies before the Gulf War we’re going to need a couple hundred thousand troops and everybody, Wolfowitz and the others — I count Wolfowitz, I lead with him, because he’s sort of the, he’s the genius in the background, he’s the man, very articulate, very persuasive — and so Shinseki testifies we need a couple hundred thousand and everybody’s mad at him, it's about two weeks before the war, and it made sense, everybody said, they were mad because he's talking about numbers these guys say you won’t need. They're going to go invade Iraq and you know the story, they were going to be greeted with flowers and all that stuff, we all know that story.
But it wasn’t that. Their complaint with Shinseki was really much more interesting. It was: didn’t he get it? Didn’t he know what we’ve been talking about, in the tank with the JCS and the generals — didn’t he get it? We could do it with five thousand troops, we have to make these bargains with these crazy Clinton-ized generals — I’m talking like Rummy, like Rumsfeld would talk — literally, unfortunately — these soft generals, these Clinton-ized generals — didn’t Shinseki get it? Didn’t he understand what we’re doing here? We did it in Afghanistan, we’re going to do it in Iraq. Some Special Forces, some bombing, we’re going to take it over. It’s going to be like this. He didn’t get it, that was the problem, that’s why they had to read him out. He wasn’t on the team.
And so you have a government that basically has been operating since 9/11 very successfully on the principle that if you’re with us you’re a genius, if you’re against us you’re not just somebody [in the] loyal opposition, you’re a traitor. They can’t deal with you. I’m exaggerating very slightly.
Pentagon in Disarray [1:21:00]
So what does that mean? That means no dissent. Somebody I know recently was working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a budget issue. The budget’s in incredible chaos, the Defense Department budget. Don’t hold me to this, because, you know The New Yorker has this great fact-checking system, this is just something I’ve heard, but among the problems they have, they can’t find something like one billion dollars in cash that was known to be in Iraq, they just can’t find it. And you know we’re talking with the b-word there, you known one billion.
And so they’ve got huge problems that they’re spending and the Joint Chiefs, this was in big league meetings, and then this gentleman has to go and brief his findings. He’s an outside expert, he’s done an investigation, he has to brief Rumsfeld, and one of the senior generals who happens to be a very good guy — not General Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who’s know to many generals as “hear no evil, see no evil”, you know we have that incredible sort of problem — I wish, this is a digression, I wish they had more guts, the two, three, and four stars. I shouldn’t say that because I’m obviously a beneficiary, you know, indirectly, I’m the beneficiary for their thoughts in some cases, but it is sort of sad that none of them have come forward and really blasted away, because I can tell you right now, the disaffection inside the Pentagon is really extremely acute, there’s never been anything like it, and they feel that this government doesn’t care about — you know a good officer, and I could tell you right now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they’re not good people, they are, and in the intelligence service too, they’re people like everybody else. They want to do their job right, they want to do it with as much honor as they can. And this is something that I feel — I know these guys, and they do care. But they also, the good ones, also they’re in loco parentis. One of the things they take very seriously, particularly, you known I'm a Marine, you know what I’m talking about, you give your children to them, they take of you. They can’t do that now in Iraq. They really don’t think we care, and they don' think, they certainly don’t think people in the White House care. …
Rumsfeld Refuses to Listen [1:23:10]
So one of the good generals, one of the good guys goes in for a meeting with Rumsfeld, and the person I’m talking about is describing the condition that he’s discovered of the budget planning. We’re talking about lots of billions of dollars, this war is going to probably end up being the trillion dollar war that nobody — you can’t even begin to estimate the cost.
When you see the Moore movie, and in [The] Control Room, when you see those movies, the photographs that are the most gripping are the photographs of Baghdad before the war. And look, I know he's a bad guy, etc., etc., etc., Saddam, but still, and the rebuilding —
Anyway, the point is that my friend, this person told Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rumsfeld of course said, oh my God, that’s absolutely wrong, he said, there’s nothing like that, there’s no problem with the budget and he turned to this ranking general and said, isn’t that right? And this general, in front of this outsider, said yes sir, you’re right. And that’s what happens, that’s what you have now, and to me, there’s nothing more scary. That the Secretary of Defense is simply incapable of hearing what he doesn’t want to hear. And he’s not the ideologue that Wolfowitz is. You couple that with an ideologue, and I don’t know what we can do. I don’t know what any of us can do to stop it.
Transfer of Iraqi “Sovereignty” [1:24:50]
I think what’s going to happen is the President’s — my guess is, first of all, again, the idea that three networks — or at least two of them — I think all three sent their anchormen through Baghdad on the 30th for this transfer of sovereignty and I just wonder, I mean, how out of touch are they? What sovereignty? What sovereignty do we have to give? There’s no phones, there’s no electricity [laughter] — no, this is a sad fact. There is no sovereignty, there’s no army. It’s a Potemkin village maybe, yes, so they’re going to go inside the CPA where the grass is green and the air-conditioning works and they’re going to have a change of command with the press monitoring it and they had all three anchors there. I thought to myself, wow, it’s really scary. We’re getting into — we’re making the pictures and we’re believing them now, more than ever. So it doesn’t have much reality.
So the President’s, I would guess the President’s policy is — he’s got no, he doesn’t have a policy behind the new government, the Allawi government, which is basically a bunch of outsiders taking control, and everybody’s got their hands in certain — there’s no way this government’s going to be acceptable to anybody except a very small minority of people. It’s not going to work, it’s not going to sto
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