I beg your indulgence for a rant, intended to provoke you to respond to some blog-poll questions at the end.
You remember Antonio Taguba, right? The only person I can immediately think of who came out of the whole Abu Ghraib thing looking good. As Froomkin says,
In his 2004 report on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.” He called the abuse “systemic and illegal.” And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.
Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker profile of Taguba was impressive. Antonio grew up in a Catholic home with a strong sense of what he says is “above all, integrity in how you lived your life and practiced your religion.” His father was drafted into the Phillipine Scouts, captured by the Japanese, and survived the Bataan Death March. His mother, who spent most of the war in Manila living across the street from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, told stories about prisoners who were bayonetted arbitrarily or had their fingernails pulled out. When he was eleven his family moved to Hawaii, where his father retired from the military to work on the logistics of preparing units for deployment to Vietnam.
When Antonio was handed the Abu Ghraib investigation, because they needed a major general to investigate a lieutenant general, he realized he was well and truly screwed: “If I lie, I lose. And, if I tell the truth, I lose.” Sure enough.
Thing was, he couldn’t deny the facts without dumping his upbringing, his honor and integrity and truthfulness, as well; and he wasn’t as facile at compartmentalization as his colleagues. One lieutenant general refused Taguba’s requests to look at the Abu Ghraib pictures (WARNING, graphic depictions of violence): “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”
Taguba also knew that senior officials in Rumsfeld’s office and elsewhere in the Pentagon had been given a graphic account of the pictures from Abu Ghraib, and told of their potential strategic significance, within days of the first complaint. On January 13, 2004, a military policeman named Joseph Darby gave the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) a CD full of images of abuse. Two days later, General Craddock and Vice-Admiral Timothy Keating, the director of the Joint Staff of the J.C.S., were e-mailed a summary of the abuses depicted on the CD. It said that approximately ten soldiers were shown, involved in acts that included:Having male detainees pose nude while female guards pointed at their genitals; having female detainees exposing themselves to the guards; having detainees perform indecent acts with each other; and guards physically assaulting detainees by beating and dragging them with choker chains.
Rumsfeld claimed to Taguba the day before testifying to Congress that he’d followed the hear-no-evil see-no-evil strategy.
Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”
At best, Taguba said, “Rumsfeld was in denial.” Taguba had submitted more than a dozen copies of his report through several channels at the Pentagon and to the Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, which ran the war in Iraq. By the time he walked into Rumsfeld’s conference room, he had spent weeks briefing senior military leaders on the report, but he received no indication that any of them, with the exception of General Schoomaker, had actually read it. (Schoomaker later sent Taguba a note praising his honesty and leadership.)
Not among the poll questions following this rant is whether Rumsfeld is the most disgraceful person ever to hold the office of Secretary of Defense (including his predecessors, the more accurately named Secretaries of War). The implementation of torture as a policy of the United States government has dropped our moral standing below that of our opponents in most of our conflicts, and no amount of corruption can top that.
The obvious question is, what we will do about it? The Senate investigation has shown that the Bush administration initiated the use of torture. Consistent claims that the initiative came from field commanders, and the actions in the prisons were those of a few bad apples, have been shown to be what we knew all along they were in fact: lies.
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
So here are the promised/dreaded poll questions.
To say that this is not a scientific poll is tautological, of course, but there it is.