From what I know of the history, I never really thought that Seymour Hersh’s Abu Ghraib reporting was of the magnitude of his My Lai scoop during Vietnam. I got the feeling that public sentiment hadn’t turned enough for the abuse of Iraqi detainees to really raise any widespread hackles beyond the center-right of the country. Now, however, Hersh has this scoop, and it’s beyond big. It’s so big, I can’t even begin to prioritize passages to pull out.Basically, Major General Anthony Taguba, the head of the initial military investigation into the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, tells all—and it’s blazingly sensational.Here’s the end paragraph from General Taguba; it encapsulates every revelation in Mr. Hersh’s superb article:
â€œFrom the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,â€ Taguba said. â€œAnd yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.â€ â™¦
It’s one of those stories that confirms all of your worst fears and most insidious suspicions about the goings-on at Abu Ghraib (and, incidentally, Guantantamo Bay) in terms of prisoner abuse. It confirms that the Rumsfeld Office of the Secretary of Defense lied to Congress about the extent of its knowledge. It confirms that the presdient probably knew. It confirms that special operations forces essentially circumvented the chain of command in Iraq simply by invoking the talismanic “Global War on Terror.” It confirms that Rumsfeld and his entourage actively sought to pin the blame on the enlisted soldiers featured in the photographs, while continuing to encourage exactly that type of behavior. It confirms that General Taguba had his career destroyed for not lying to protect the party line.And it confirms that this was torture, plain and simple, not “aggressive interrogation techniques.” For instance, General Taguba told Hersh he viewed a video of an American soldier, in uniform, sodomizing a female detainee. In another instance, when pressed by a fellow officer inquiring the severity of the abuse, Taguba told him about a manacled, naked detainee on a wet floor having foreign objects stuck in his rectum.There are a few strands of the Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo torture story that get pulled together in the Hersh piece. I’m going to try and post on them separately.