Taguba Report Online; Bush tries Damage Control on Arab Satellite TV
The Taguba report on Abu Ghuraib prison abuse is now online at MSNBC, or at least an executive summary of it. On Wednesday, this story finally broke in the United States in a big way. On Tuesday night Koppel had Rami Khoury on, a respected Arab journalist, to talk about the impact in the Arab world. The president went on al-Arabibiya and al-Hurra but refused to do an interview with al-Jazeera. Inevitably, this fit of pique limited the impact of his message, since al-Jazeerah is the leading satellite television channel. Since Bush did not apologize, did not take responsibility, did not make anyone else take responsibility, and just talked in a vague way about investigations, I doubt his message will resonate. Even pro-American Adnan Pachachi, who tried to put the best face on the matter, said that an apology would have been helpful.
A reader writes: “ I wonder if you have any comment on the fact that the general sent to clean up the Abu Raghib prison, Major General Geoffrey Miller, is the exact same person blamed in the Taguba Report as being the person responsible for creating the environment for abuse. According to the Taguba Report posted at msnbc, (U) The Investigating Team also reviewed the Assessment of DoD Counter-Terrorism Interrogation and Detention Operations in Iraq conducted by MG Geoffrey D. Miller, Commander, Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO). From 31 August to 9 September 2003, MG Miller led a team of personnel experienced in strategic interrogation to HQ, CJTF-7 and the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) to review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence. MG Miller’s team focused on three areas: intelligence integration, synchronization, and fusion; interrogation operations; and detention operations. MG Miller’s team used JTF-GTMO procedures and interrogation authorities as baselines . . . (S/NF) The recommendations of MG Miller’s team that the “guard force” be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees would appear to be in conflict with the recommendations of MG Ryder’s Team and AR 190-8 that military police “do not participate in military intelligence supervised interrogation sessions.” The Ryder Report concluded that the OEF template whereby military police actively set the favorable conditions for subsequent interviews runs counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility. “
Given that at least one of the alleged deaths of a POW was caused by a civilian security guard, see also Louis Nevaer, “Hired Guns in Iraq May Have War Crimes Pasts”: “ When a suicide bomber parked a van disguised as an ambulance in front of the Shaheen Hotel in the Karadah neighborhood of Baghdad on Jan. 28 and blew himself up, he killed four people and wounded scores of others. He also blew the lid off a dirty little secret of the Coalition Provisional Authority: Due to its “outsourcing” of privatized security services, the CPA has put terrorists, mercenaries and war criminals on the payrolls of companies contracted by the Pentagon. After the Shaheen Hotel blast, departmental spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa at South Africa’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that one of the Westerners killed was South African Frans Strydom. Four of the wounded were also South African nationals, including Deon Gouws, who sustained serious injuries. News that Strydom and Gouws were in Iraq sent shockwaves throughout South Africa: In front of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, both men were granted amnesty after confessing to killing blacks and terrorizing anti-apartheid activists, acts that can only be called crimes against humanity.“
David Finley writes:
“ Claims that contractors who engage in or encourage torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, or wherever are not subject to US legal sanctions are wholly without foundation. Torture is a “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions; all signatories are required to include measures in their legal code to deal with citizens who commit grave breaches. The US has done so.
Per US Code Title 18 (criminal code) Sec 2340A (see http://www4.law.cornell.edu//uscode/18/2340A.html)
<>Sec. 2340A. – Torture
(a) Offense –
Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
<> (b) Jurisdiction. – There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if –
<> (1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
<> (2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy. –
A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
US courts have jurisdiction if the alleged offender “is a national of the United States” or “is present in the United States”. Period.
All contractors, and all reserve or active duty military personnel who engage in torture can go to jail for up to 20 years, and are subject to up to life imprisonment if they kill a prisoner.
Any US citizen who causes someone else to commit torture is subject to the same penalties as the torturer.
The anti-torture law may not apply in some of the cases of abuse due to a deficient definition of torture in Sec 2340 (http://www4.law.cornell.edu//uscode/18/2340.html):
(1) ”torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) ‘severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from –
(a) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(c) the threat of imminent death; or
(d) (threatening to do either to another person)
Unfortunately, much of the abuse, including the sexual humiliations, doesn’t count in this very narrow definition of torture. However, forcing people to stand on boxes for hours and telling them they’ll be electrocuted if they fall off (one of Saddam’s favorites) is a prima facie case of “threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering” and therefore is clearly torture, even by this restricted definition.
Burying two brothers in sand up to their necks, out of sight of each other, firing shots, and then telling one of them that his brother is now dead also qualifies.
(It would be a nice gesture on the behalf of the victims if Bush were to invoke Title 22, Sec. 2152:
“The President is authorized to provide assistance for the rehabilitation of victims of torture.”)**
In addition to the torture provisions, Title 18 includes Sec. 2441 – War Crimes, that covers much more that has been being done to US prisoners abroad. See http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2441.html.
Sec. 2441. – War crimes
(a) Offense. –
Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.
(b) Circumstances. –
The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
<> (c) Definition. – As used in this section the term ”war crime” means any conduct –
<> (1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
<> (2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict….
Grave breaches include “torture or inhuman treatment”, “wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health”, and “wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention.” (Third Convention, Art. 130 and elsewhere).
Common Article 3, of all four Geneva Conventions, dealing with non-international armed conflict, which the US occupation of Iraq now definitely is, prohibits: “at any time and in any place whatsoever” “violence to life and person,” “cruel treatment and torture”, and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”.
The photographic evidence and the clear language of the Conventions definitively show that war crimes have been committed. USC 18 Sec 2441 makes any US national subject to prosecution and imprisonment for up to a life term.
The response of the military so far — proceedings against the lowest level people, administrative sanctions against higher-ups — and some internal investigation by one of the contractor firms — is utterly inadequate given the widespread offenses that have occurred.
If a lot of people don’t go to jail over these outrages, it will be further evidence (were any needed) that this administration has no regard whatsoever for the “rule of law”.
Oh, and by the way, we shouldn’t forget Art. 17 of the Third Geneva Convention:
*No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and all the other US interrogation centers are being operated in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. “