Hey, Remember That Sordid Torture Issue? It's Back
It's important to understand that at this late date, we now know for a fact that torture was official policy coming directly from the Pentagon. Military officials called it other things, but there was constant consternation that the Red Cross would blow the whistle or that one day a legal decision would shut them down. Any excuses made for this unconscionable behavior come in one of two flavors, the "bad-apple" theory and the idea that everyone we tortured was a hard-core terrorist and somehow deserved it. We now know that neither of those excuses is even remotely defensible.
At Bagram, Lasseter wrote, guards kicked, kneed, and punched prisoners with systematic brutality. Former guards as well as detainees told McClatchy reporters about what Lasseter called sadistic violence. According to them, the brutality reached a peak in December 2002, when two Afghans were hung from ceiling chains by their wrists and beaten to death by American soldiers.
Two soldiers were prosecuted for those killings. Specialist Willie Brand admitted that he hit one of the Afghan men thirty-seven times. He was sentenced to be reduced in rank to private. The other person prosecuted was Captain Christopher Beiring, who commanded an army reserve military police company. He was given a letter of reprimand.
The army lawyer who investigated Beiring, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Berg, urged leniency because "the government failed to present any evidence of what are 'approved tactics, techniques and procedures in detainee operations.'" In other words, members of the United States Army are no longer expected to know that beating a prisoner to death is against the rules.
Why were the guards so brutal? Anger at the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Lasseter suggests - and a sense that their superiors in Washington wanted "the gloves off." President Bush's decision to eliminate the protection of the Geneva Conventions sent the message that there were no rules.
Another notable point made by the McClatchy articles was that the mistreatment of prisoners made some who had no previous connection with anti-American movements profoundly angry at the United States. It is hardly a surprising result to report, but the articles gave chapter and verse. They quoted a Pakistani intelligence report on men released from Guantánamo as saying that they had "extreme feelings of resentment and hatred against USA."
I wouldn't post this -- it's depressing enough to read without the thought that the perpetrators will probably go unpunished for the rest of their lives -- but it's important to keep these things in mind when you vote, donate or decide just how politically engaged to be this year. These things were done in the name of keeping us safe. How does that make you feel?