Friday, July 22, 2005

More Stonewalling on Abu Ghraib

The New York Times reports in Saturday editions that the Pentagon is "refusing to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release secret photographs and videotapes related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal." The evidence, which was ordered released back in June by federal district judge Alvin Hellerstein, at the request of the ACLU and other groups. The deadline for release of the photographs and videos was Friday, but attorneys for the Defense Department filed a letter late Thursday saying "that they would file a sealed brief explaining their reasons for not turning over the material."

While I have zero desire to look at any more images from the disgraceful episodes at Abu Ghraib, I believe that the Pentagon should comply with the judge's ruling. Abu Ghraib is a horrifying and shameful episode that Americans should face and learn from, not try to shove under the rug.

As I wrote back in April, it is long past time for an independent, or at the very least a Congressional investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Every word I wrote in that earlier post holds true today, including my conclusion: "There is no excuse for abuses like this, and there can be no excuses made for not uncovering the full truth and holding to account those who are responsible. It is the right thing to do."

[Update: Just after I wrote the above I read this article from Saturday's Washington Post. It notes that leading Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans John Warner, John McCain and Lindsey Graham recently received some arm-twisting from Vice President Dick Cheney, who is lobbying on behalf of the White House against legislation sponsored by the senators that would "bar the U.S. military from engaging in 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' of detainees, from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and from using interrogation methods not authorized by a new Army field manual."

According to Administration sources, Cheney told the senators that "legislation on these matters would usurp the president's authority and ... interfere with his ability to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack." Ugh. The paper notes this is the second time Cheney has met with senators "to tamp down what the White House views as an incipient Republican rebellion." I have one short thing to say about that: it's about time for a rebellion!

McCain, says a spokesperson, plans to introduce legislation next week that would "set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department and would limit interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army field manual on interrogation" and "require that all foreign nationals in the custody or effective control of the U.S. military must be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross." Another proposal from McCain would "prohibits the 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' of anyone in the custody of the U.S. government."

The measures (and others to be introduced by Graham and others) will likely be attached as amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill. The White House issued a thinly-veiled threat against the proposals Thursday, saying that Bush would veto the bill "if legislation is presented that would restrict the President's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice."

What a great example that would set as Bush's first veto.

I hope that McCain's amendments are introduced, and I hope they pass. I'm glad, as always, that there are still people like Warner, McCain, and Graham in the Republican Party to stand up to the shameful stonewalling trend seeping down Pennsylvania Avenue. If there are three senators best suited to twist arms back, it is them. -- 11:50 p.m.]

[Update: I've posted some new info on this story here. -- 23 July, 6:32 p.m.]


At 8:27 AM, Blogger cakreiz said...

I couldn't disagree more, jbd. We're at war. Now is not the time to engage in further self-flagellation that will enrage and embolden our enemies. Had Abu Ghraib represented US condoned policy & practice, I might agree. But it was not. This will further undermine the war effort and unnecessarily endanger US troops. I'm a McCain man- but not on this issue.

At 9:35 AM, Blogger JBD said...

cakreiz - I'm sorry we disagree on this (but it was bound to happen sometime!). I just don't see how "setting uniform standards for interrogations" or requiring that prisoners we hold in American custody be registered as such amounts to "self-flagellation." I think it's the sign of a mature republic when we can say look, bad things happened. We screwed up. Let's hold accountable those responsible for the outrages (at whatever level - and part of it is we don't even know what level the Abu Ghraib mess rises to, since there has been no independent investigation). And let's learn from the mistakes, not sweep them aside. If I thought the amendments to be offered by McCain, Warner and Graham would undermine the war effort or harm our troops, I would be among the first to oppose them. But I think they do the exact opposite. They show America as what we should be, a paragon of honor and decency, not a nation which allows such atrocities as were committed at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere to be perpetrated on our watch.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger cakreiz said...

I understand the sentiment (and you're right- we had to disagree at least once about something!) Had the NYT not run 47 consecutive front page Abu Ghraib stories, your argument would be more persuasive. That's hardly 'sweeping things aside'. The Administration has reacted by improving training & procedures. That's my point- we've dealt with this. Now, it's akin to introducing 200 new murder victim photos after the Court's already admitted 1,000. Aside from undue prejudice, there's no probative value.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger cakreiz said...

Don't misunderstand; I appreciate the mature nation argument. But we have to weigh the adverse worldwide impact that refanning the Abu Ghraib flames will have. There's been an avalanche of exposure and discussion of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Opening Congressional hearings seems like overkill.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Geoff said...

Don't misunderstand; I appreciate the mature nation argument. But we have to weigh the adverse worldwide impact that refanning the Abu Ghraib flames will have. There's been an avalanche of exposure and discussion of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. Opening Congressional hearings seems like overkill.

Nope. The fact that none of those responsible in the leadership, military or civilian, has been made to pay for this has fanned the flames already, and will continue to erode respect for American policy among our allies. It's time to show the rest of the world that we really don't condone gratuitous torture or abuse, because up until now, we haven't done right by this. McCain, Warner and Graham chose partisanship over doing their jobs on this during the election campaign, it's a shame they didn't have the courage of their convictions back then.

I'd guess a real investigation won't happen with this administration though. They evade accountability at every turn, being a bunch of morally bankrupt thugs. I used to consider my self a Republican, but the sick bastards who have taken over the party apparatus have alienated me and many others who now must favor country over party.

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's the sick bastard here? Groveling in some continuing self-hating display of "maturity" won't win us any friends on the Arab street or anyplace else. If you're a Republican, I'm a primate's uncle. You sound like you're part of the Soros/ clique.


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