By Dave Lindorff
Should Congress or the US Department of Justice—or perhaps Spanish Investigating Magistrate Baltasar Garzón—ever decide to seriously prosecute those in the US who are responsible for the Bush/Cheney administration’s policy of torturing captives in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the so-called “War” on Terror, they should go back and examine the case of imprisoned American John Walker Lindh, the young man who was captured with Taliban fighters back in the early days of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
It is well documented that Lindh was subjected to what any objective observer would call torture—duct-taped naked to a gurney, his eyes also duct-taped shut, left alone for 23 hours at a stretch in a closed, unheated, unlit steel shipping container, his wounded leg left untreated for a week, removed to be interrogated, threatened repeatedly with death by his American captives, mocked when he asked to see an attorney (his Constitutional right as a US citizen).
But it seems clear that the abuse and torture to which Lindh was subjected after he was captured in Afghanistan was, like the abuse of captives held at Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, not the freelance work of bad apples in the US military. Rather, it was directed from on high within the military chain of command.
One of the documents obtained by Lindh’s lawyers, who finally got on the case once Lindh had been flown home by the government to face trial as a traitor to America, was a written memo from the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, instructing Lindh’s captors to “take the gloves off” in interrogating Lindh. The memo, signed by Rumsfeld’s Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II, does not lay out in detail the specific treatments to which Lindh can be subjected, but appears to simply tell his tormentors that they are free to use harsh measures.
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DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net