Michael Totten has the lowdown on the New Yorker’s report concerning Don Rumsfeld. His verdict:
While Im aware it could be absolute nonsense, not a single word seems implausible.
For my part I was not as shocked as most by the photos from prisons in Iraq. I read an article about methods used in last October’s Atlantic Monthly. It was written by Mark Bowden, who has also written a piece on the goings-on in Abu Ghraib. Bowden notes:
The only way to prevent interrogators from feeling licensed to abuse is to make them individually responsible for their actions. If I lean on an insurgent leader who knows where surface-to-air missiles are stockpiled, then I can offer the defense of necessity if charges are brought against me. I might be able to persuade the court or tribunal that my ugly choice was justified. But when a prison, an army, or a government tacitly approves coercive measures as a matter of course, widespread and indefensible human-rights abuses become inevitable. Such approval unleashes the sadists. It leads to severe physical torture (because there can never be a clear line between coercion and torture), to rape, and to murder.
These things may already have happened. The Bush Administration has tried to walk a dangerous line in these matters. The President has spoken out against torture, but his equivocations on the terms of the Geneva Convention suggest that he perceives wiggle room between ideal and practice. There are reports that Administration lawyers quietly drafted a series of secret legal opinions last year that codified the “aggressive” methods of interrogation permitted at U.S. detention facilitieswhich, if true, effectively authorized in advance the use of coercion.
Perhaps the most disturbing evidence of this mindset was Donald Rumsfeld’s long initial silence on the Abu Ghraib photos. His failure to alert the President or congressional leaders before the photos became publicand he knew they were going to become publicleads one to conclude that he didn’t think they were a very big deal. If so, this reveals him to be astonishingly tone-deaf, or worse. Maybe he simply wasn’t shocked.