Wash. Times claim that Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib were "completely unrelated" contradicted by bipartisan Senate report

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

In an editorial, The Washington Times asserted that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo "are completely unrelated," adding that "there have never been credible allegations of Abu Ghraib-like misconduct at Guantanamo." In fact, a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that military "interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO," and that those "policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq."

A February 24 Washington Times editorial that criticized President Obama's order to close the Pentagon's detention facility at Guantánamo within a year asserted that Obama "lumped Guantanamo together with Abu Ghraib as negative symbols of America's war against terrorism. The two are completely unrelated, of course -- there have never been credible allegations of Abu Ghraib-like misconduct at Guantanamo." Contrary to the Times' assertion that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo are "completely unrelated," a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report released jointly by chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking member Sen. John McCain concluded that "Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO [Guantánamo]. SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions. SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq."

The report also stated that "[i]nterrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO."

From the Senate Armed Services Committee report:

Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 approval of [Department of Defense general counsel] Mr. [William] Haynes's recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO's October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

[...]

Conclusion 15: Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO. SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions. SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

[...]

Conclusion 19: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.

From the February 24 Washington Times editorial:

This reinforces the conclusion that Mr. Obama's stance on Guantanamo was less principled than political.

He had pledged to close Guantanamo as one of his first acts in office, mainly as a sop to his anti-war support base. At his Feb. 6 meeting with the families of the victims of terrorism, the president played up the symbolism of closing Guantanamo more than the substance. He lumped Guantanamo together with Abu Ghraib as negative symbols of America's war against terrorism. The two are completely unrelated, of course - there have never been credible allegations of Abu Ghraib-like misconduct at Guantanamo - but in the fantasy world of the anti-war radicals they are akin to the Gulag or Auschwitz, so Guantanamo had to go.

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