Newsweek: “As a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America’s top military lawyers – and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places. While no one deliberately authorized outright torture, these techniques entailed a systematic softening up of prisoners through isolation, privations, insults, threats and humiliation – methods that the Red Cross concluded were tantamount to torture.”
New Yorker: “The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scanda lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of elite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.”
Is torture ever OK? I think in some cases it might be. But don’t expect the Bush administration to open the issue up for dialog anytime soon. Because there is a bigger story here. It’s a story of a small number of political leaders who have taken the law, ethics and the course of American history into their own hands. From the torture at Abu Graib to the doctrine of preemption, are we being led down a road that ultimately makes us a nation more aggressive and less effective?