Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Senate Supports Interrogation Limits

Senate Supports Interrogation Limits:
Forty-six Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one independent in voting to define and limit interrogation techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects, the latest sign that alarm over treatment of prisoners in the Middle East and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is widespread in both parties. The White House had fought to prevent the restrictions, with Vice President Cheney visiting key Republicans in July and a spokesman yesterday repeating President Bush's threat to veto the larger bill that the language is now attached to -- a $440 billion military spending measure.
Pat Roberts voted to support torture, as did Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe (OK), Kit Bond (MO), Wayne Allard (CO), Thad Cochran (MS), John Cornyn (TX), Jeff Sessions (AL), and Ted "fucking moron" Stevens (AK). Senator Corzine couldn't make it, not doubt he had a good excuse.

I hope Bush does veto a defense spending bill, letting soldiers go without pay just so he can protect his torture.

The 82nd Airborne is rightly famous, and noted in Iraq for their successes in some areas. That's what made this news so disturbing:

[T]he sergeants said they saw soldiers break prisoners' legs. The group said the sergeants had related that they watched and participated in some of the violence.

If substantiated, the allegations would represent one of the most serious episodes in the mistreatment of detainees by American military personnel since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This is the first time that soldiers in the regular Army have been implicated in widespread abuse. Previous abuse cases have involved misconduct by relatively untrained National Guard and Reserve troops.
This wasn't a few bad apples. The 82nd is composed of men who follow orders. They did this because they were instructed to. They didn't earn the nickname "All-American Division" for nothing.

[D]etainees feared for their lives and referred to members of the 82nd as the "Murderous Maniacs" because of the level of brutality inflicted on prisoners.

"One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC [person under control] to grab a pole," Human Rights Watch said one of the sergeants recounted. "He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger, a metal bat."

In their statements, the three said that collectively they witnessed soldiers delivering blows and kicks to prisoners' faces, chests, abdomens and extremities, pouring chemical substances on skin and eyes, and forcing detainees into stress positions such as holding heavy water jugs with outstretched arms.

In retrospect, one of the sergeants acknowledged in an interview with Human Rights Watch, "what we did was wrong." At the time, he said, "everything we did was accepted; everyone turned their heads."

He said the mistreatment continued after his unit learned about the events at Abu Ghraib.

The other sergeant said soldiers often bragged about abusing detainees. "I saw hard hitting, I heard a lot of stories," he said. "Guys were always talking about what they did to the PUCs. Guys mentioned stuff, but I couldn't care less."

Trying to explain the severe treatment, the sergeant said, "Putting guys with frustration in charge of prisoners was the worst thing to do." The frustration among the troops the sergeant referred to apparently was the result of their experiences with insurgent attacks in the Fallouja area that claimed many American lives.

Fishback's unit returned from Iraq in the spring of 2004. By then, he said, he and his soldiers and paratroopers already knew of the Abu Ghraib abuses.

As at the notorious penitentiary near Baghdad, Fishback told the Senate panel, soldiers photographed prisoners being coerced into talking — and, he said, the coercion was meted out under the direction of military intelligence officers who wanted prisoners softened up for questioning.
This is what George Bush has done to the Band of Brothers.

Update: The Band of Brothers is a different Airborne regiment. Apparently I wrote this too close to midnight to double-check myself. The broader point stands, that the Administration's systematic efforts to bring dishonor to (one of) the world's finest and noblest fighting forces doesn't restrict itself to a few people, or even a few units. That's what Captain Fishback meant when he said:

Interrogation techniques that violated the Geneva Convention found their way into Army systems. The problem was systemic, and it was widespread.
"Widespread" and "systemic" means that, barring an explicit repudiation, these actions appear to represent the will of the nation, and that tars not only the Armed Forces, but the nation as a whole.

Contact Sen. Roberts and bitch at him. I'm currently waiting for a call back from the staffer who handles this stuff in his office. As the chair of the Intelligence committee and a member of the Armed Services committee, he has oversight over this behavior, and he has to know that his constituents are watching.

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