washingtonpost.comImpunity - Have the senators forgotten their words?Sat Apr 30, 2005 17:16126.96.36.199
Have the senators forgotten their words?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005; A14
A YEAR AGO this week, the release of shocking photographs of naked and
hooded Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison alerted the world to serious
human rights abuses by U.S. forces. Those images, it turned out, were
the tip of an iceberg: Subsequent investigations by the media, human
rights groups and the military itself revealed hundreds of cases of
torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantanamo
Bay prison, including scores of suspicious deaths. A trail of documents
showed that abusive interrogation techniques, such as the use of dogs
and painful shackling, had been approved by senior military commanders
and the secretary of defense. Even more extreme practices, such as
simulated drowning and the withholding of pain medication, were
authorized for the CIA at White House meetings presided over by
President Bush's counsel.
All these facts are undisputed. Yet Pentagon officials have now made it
known that the last of the official investigations of prisoner abuse, by
the Army inspector general, has ended by exonerating all but one senior
officer, a female reserve brigadier general who was not directly
involved in the abuses and who received an administrative reprimand.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; former CIA director George J.
Tenet; and Alberto R. Gonzales, the former White House counsel who is
now attorney general, are excused: In fact, they were never directly
investigated. The only people to suffer criminal prosecution from one of
the most serious human rights scandals in U.S. history remain a handful
of lower-ranking soldiers, including seven reservists implicated in
those first photographs from Abu Ghraib. That the affair would end in
this way is even more disgraceful for the American political system than
the abuses themselves.
Because there has never been a truly thorough or independent
investigation -- the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress
have repeatedly rejected calls for a commission or a special prosecutor
-- we may never fully know how such widespread and serious war crimes
came about. But even the limited disclosures that have taken place make
clear the culpability of several senior officers whom the Army has
Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then top commander in Iraq, signed an order
on Sept. 14, 2003, authorizing a number of interrogation methods that
violated the Geneva Conventions, which legally applied in Iraq. These
included the use of guard dogs to "exploit Arab fear of dogs," a
practice documented in the Abu Ghraib photos. Gen. Sanchez subsequently
misled Congress, testifying under oath last May 19 that "I have never
approved the use of any of those methods" appearing over his signature.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller commanded the Guantanamo Bay prison when
prisoners were subjected to abuses documented by visiting FBI agents, as
well as the International Red Cross, which called them "tantamount to
torture." Gen. Miller also visited Abu Ghraib in 2003: According to one
official investigation, dogs were introduced there at his suggestion.
Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, as the senior intelligence officer on Gen.
Sanchez's staff, was responsible for intelligence gathering at Abu
Ghraib; she also received, and failed to act on, reports of abuses in
the fall of 2003.
Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Gen. Sanchez's deputy, was responsible for
detention operations; he reportedly approved interrogation plans
involving the use of dogs, and failed to respond to a Red Cross report
about the systematic abuse of prisoners in November 2003.
When the abuses first came to light, a host of legislators -- led by
Republican Sens. John W. Warner (Va.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and John
McCain (Ariz.) -- promised that everyone culpable would be held
accountable, no matter how senior. Now the outcome they said they would
not countenance, the limitation of punishment to a handful of lowly
scapegoats, has come to pass. Have the senators forgotten their words?
� 2005 The Washington Post Company
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