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They Knew. Lies to Cover a Rogue Administration

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"From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service," Taguba said. "And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable." -- General Taguba to Seymour Hersch in the New Yorker
After 34 years of service, General Taguba was forced to retire in January 2007 - apparently in retaliation for his report on the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. Seymour Hersch's article The General's Report in the June 25, 2997 New Yorker, is damning in regards to "who knew." General Taguba makes clear that he feels that "everyone knew." He reports that it was clear to him that the orders for the torture came from higher up, and that the torture was systematic and pervasive. He also makes clear that Rumsfeld, Myers (then head of the Joint Chief of Staff), and Abizaid (then in charge of Central Command) knew of the conditions well before the Senate testimonies ever occurred. Therefore, all the "lack of knowledge" testimony was a lie. So too is the prosecution of enlisted personnel as if they were acting on their own initiative.
The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who "didn't think the photographs were that bad"--in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, "Guys on the inside ask me, 'What's the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?' " A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the "basic strategy was 'prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.' " (Hersch)
"Protect the big picture" he says. What exactly was - and is - the "big picture?" Certainly part of that picture was to keep the Bush Administration out of the picture. It amazed me at the time, and it amazes me still, that Bush and Cheney could task Alberto Gonzales with writing a legal legitimation of torture, and why the U.S. was not bound by the Geneva Convention, then argue they never legitimated torture. Likewise Rumsfeld's quipping remarks regarding the "interrogation techniques" as not that bad. So folks knew. In fact, it seems likely that torture was ordered from the top. The country was well served by General Taguba and his dedication to honesty and integrity. It is poorer as he, and others, are purged from the military. Abu Ghraib was not the only lie - as we now know - though this article is not a detailing of the lies. The Guardian/UK headline states blatantly "Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq." This is no surprise for those who took the Downing Street Memos seriously. What is new in this article is how upset Blair was about Bush's lack of a reconstruction plan. This report reconfirms what was clear from before the preemptive invasion of Iraq - the Bush administration saw this as a "cake walk." Two questions arise. First, did the Bush administration really think Iraq would be in and out, or did they hope for the levels of chaos and disruption that ensued? (Which "big picture" was that a part of?) The second question is "What did Blair hoped to gain out of committing Britain to this illegal war?" Was it the same as whatever the Bush administration's goals may have been? We should be very nervous when decision makers stand to benefit significantly from their committing a nation to drastic action. Individual's might confuse their interests as national interests. For example the interests of big oil, or military industries, or construction industries (or those firms that invest in them like the Carlyle Group) are not necessarily the same as the interests of the nation. The "plan" if we read neoconservative reports and plans was to treat Iraq as a test case of unfettered capitalism. I have no idea what Blair's connections are to industry and finance, but it seems that he felt serving those interests were important. Hence, the 1 billion pound payments to Prince Bandar by the MoD of Britain in conjunction with the largest military arms deal in England's history has made is in the news. So too is Blair's accepting responsibility for the deal. One of the largest lessons from the massive debacles of the Bush administration will be that there is no mechanism for putting a leash on a cabal with extreme power. The Bush Administration has broken virtually every law and rule in the books with impunity. There is no Constitutional leash left to protect the nation from an abusive Executive Branch. That is a sad lesson to learn, but it did not just happen. It has been a plan long in the making. The question is, is it a plan we can reverse?
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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