Jan. 27th, 2005

windelina: (topofhead)
"This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed ... were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees."

Most people who hear this quote today assume it was uttered by a senior officer of the Bush administration. Instead, it comes from one of history's greatest mass murderers, Rudolf Hoess, the SS commandant at Auschwitz. Such a confusion demonstrates the depth of the United States' moral dilemma in its treatment of detainees in the war on terror.

In past weeks, we have been treated to a show trial of sorts at Fort Hood, Texas, starring Cpl. Charles Graner and other low-ranking military figures. The Graner court-martial and the upcoming trial of Pfc. Lynndie England are being hyped as proof of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's explanation for the Abu Ghraib prison tortures: A few "rotten apples" -- not U.S. policy or those who created it -- are to blame.

Graner entered a "Nuremberg defense" -- arguing that he was acting on orders of his superiors. This defense was rejected in Fort Hood as it was in Nuremberg 60 years ago, when Nazi war criminals were found guilty of crimes against humanity. A misled American public can choose to see in the Graner verdict the proof of the "rotten apples" theory and of the notion that Graner and the others acted on their own initiative. But what it should see is a larger Nuremberg lesson: Those who craft immoral policy deserve the harshest punishment.

Consider the memorandum written by Alberto Gonzales -- then the president's attorney, now his nominee for attorney general. He wrote that the Geneva Convention was "obsolete" when it came to the war on terror. Gonzales reasoned that our adversaries were not parties to the convention and that the Geneva concept was ill suited to antiterrorist warfare. In 1941, General-Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the head of Hitler's "Wehrmacht," mustered identical arguments against recognizing the Geneva rights of Soviet soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front. Keitel even called Geneva "obsolete," a remark noted by U.S. prosecutors at Nuremberg, who cited it as an aggravating circumstance in seeking, and obtaining, the death penalty. Keitel was executed in 1946.

Keitel's remarks were made in response to a valiant memorandum prepared by German military lawyers who argued that the interests of Germany's soldiers, and the interests of morale and good order, would be served by adhering to the Geneva treaty. Secretary of State Colin Powell, echoing the opinions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. military lawyers, sent Gonzales a letter that hit the same notes.

Rumsfeld and the White House would have us believe that there is no connection between policy documents exploring torture and evasion of the Geneva Convention and the misconduct on the ground in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan -- misconduct that has produced at least 30 deaths in detention associated with "extreme" interrogation techniques [emphasis mine]. But the Nuremberg tradition contradicts such a contention.

At Nuremberg, U.S. prosecutors held German officials accountable for the consequences of their policy decisions without offering proof that these decisions were implemented with the knowledge of the policy-makers. The existence of the policies and evidence that the conduct contemplated in them occurred was taken as proof enough.

There is no doubt that individuals such as Graner and England should be held to account. But where is justice -- and where are the principles the United States proudly advanced at Nuremberg -- if those in the administration and the military who seem most culpable for the tragedy not only escape punishment but in some cases are slated for promotion?

Next week, the world will commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. A memorial prayer for the death camp victims will be read at the United Nations. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will attend to acknowledge that the depravities at Auschwitz were not the work of a few "rotten apples" but the responsibility of a nation. Such a courageous assumption of responsibility should provide a model for the United States, which can still act to salvage its tradition and its honor.

Scott Horton, a New York attorney and a lecturer in international humanitarian law at Columbia University, wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.
windelina: (lenore scowly)
Most patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have a lot on their minds: the war they just fought, the injuries they came home with, the future that lies ahead. The last thing a wounded soldier needs to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. But for hundreds of Walter Reed patients, that's a real concern. Starting this month, the Army has started making some wounded soldiers pay for the food they eat at the hospital.

For its part, the Army explains -- and defends -- the food charges at Walter Reed by saying they apply only to some outpatients, not inpatients confined to hospital beds. "I have been absolutely assured ... that no inpatient has been charged for meals," Walter Reed spokesman Don Vandrey told Salon. But until Jan. 3, outpatient soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan ate for free in the chow hall. Now outpatient soldiers there longer than 90 days pay for meals in cash. Although Walter Reed did not disclose the exact number of soldiers affected, the policy is most likely to affect at least the estimated 600 soldiers getting long-term outpatient care at the hospital in what the Army calls "medical hold."

Soldiers in medical hold are considered outpatients, but they usually live on hospital grounds -- some are put up in nearby hotels if housing on the grounds is full -- and have little choice but to buy food at the Walter Reed chow hall. Even as outpatients, soldiers in medical hold often have serious injuries. Some have been blown up by roadside bombs or crumpled in Humvee wrecks. They have serious head wounds and amputations. Others are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being flown out of Iraq with shellshock. Some soldiers in medical hold are waiting to get processed out of the Army because their wounds are so serious that they will never return to duty. But processing at Walter Reed can take over a year, much to the frustration of the soldiers who would prefer to get outpatient treatment near their homes and families. Soldiers in medical hold also complain they are still expected to line up for daily formations and buy new uniforms even as they struggle with debilitating physical and mental trauma from their service in Iraq. They say being charged for food while they're recovering is one more indignity.
windelina: (Gir's oh face)
In light of the second revelation this month that the Bush administration had hired a Republican-friendly pundit to help promote policy initiatives -- payments that were kept hidden from readers and viewers -- conservative commentators are calling on the White House to come clean and detail any other controversial agreements. The opinion makers say they don't want a black cloud of suspicion hanging over their own columns and broadcasts.

"If other contracts exist, then the White House should disclose them," says Jonah Goldberg, editor at large for National Review Online.

***

There's a Freedom of Information Act request about this - and they optimistically think that it will reveal any other wrongdoing.

But let's review: We now have evidence and admission that two columnists were paid by the Administration to push their policies, and this was done without full disclosure to the public that these "opinions" had been bought and paid for.
That's just skanky. In my RIGHTEOUS opinion.

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