Torture is all-American

News & Politics

Though it is likely to ruin your day, this New Yorker article on the torture of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi in Abu Ghraib is a must-read. Yes, the details of Jamadi's treatment are gruesome -- his hands were secured behind his back so as to suspend him by his arms, and then beaten to death -- but they are made more so by the attitude of his CIA interrogator Mark Swanner:

When (M.P. Walter) Diaz entered the shower room, he said, he was surprised to see that Jamadi's knees had buckled, and that he was almost kneeling. Swanner, he said, wanted the soldiers to reposition Jamadi, so that he would have to stand more erectly. Diaz called for additional help from two other soldiers in his company, Sergeant Jeffery Frost and Dennis Stevanus. But after they had succeeded in making Jamadi stand for a moment, as requested, by hitching his handcuffs higher up the window, Jamadi collapsed again. Diaz told me, "At first I was, like, ‘This guy's drunk.' He just dropped down to where his hands were, like, coming out of his handcuffs. He looked weird. I was thinking, He's got to be hurting. All of his weight was on his hands and wrists�it looked like he was about to mess up his sockets."
Swanner, whom Diaz described as a "kind of shabby-looking, overweight white guy," who was wearing black clothing, was apparently less concerned. "He was saying, ‘He's just playing dead,' " Diaz recalled. "He thought he was faking. He wasn't worried at all." While Jamadi hung from his arms, Diaz told me, Swanner "just kept talking and talking at him. But there was no answer." ...
Diaz, sensing that something was wrong, lifted Jamadi's hood. His face was badly bruised. Diaz placed a finger in front of Jamadi's open eyes, which didn't move or blink, and deduced that he was dead. When the men lowered Jamadi to the floor, Frost told investigators, "blood came gushing out of his nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on."
Swanner, who had seemed so unperturbed, suddenly appeared "surprised" and "dumbfounded," according to Frost.
Jamadi's death has been labeled a "homicide," but the investigation has been "lying kind of fallow" for two long years -- which is not surprising when the head of the Justice Department, Alberto Gonzalez, the U.S. Attorney for the district that has jurisdiction over CIA cases, Paul McNulty (also now a Bush nominee for Deputy A.G.), and the new head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Alice Fisher, are all ardent advocates of torture.

The real tragedy, however, is that Mark Swanner may not in fact have done anything illegal under this administration's torture guidelines, which have remained exceedingly generous despite the leaked "torture memo":
The Administration subsequently revised the guidelines, using language that seemed more restrictive. But a little-noticed footnote protected the coercive methods permitted by the "torture memo," stating that they did not violate the "standards set forth in this memorandum."
The Bush Administration has resisted disclosing the contents of two Justice Department memos that established a detailed interrogation policy for the Pentagon and the C.I.A. A March, 2003, classified memo was "breathtaking," the same source said. The document dismissed virtually all national and international laws regulating the treatment of prisoners, including war-crimes and assault statutes, and it was radical in its view that in wartime the President can fight enemies by whatever means he sees fit. According to the memo, Congress has no constitutional right to interfere with the President in his role as Commander-in-Chief, including making laws that limit the ways in which prisoners may be interrogated. Another classified Justice Department memo, issued in August, 2002, is said to authorize numerous "enhanced" interrogation techniques for the C.I.A. These two memos sanction such extreme measures that, even if the agency wanted to discipline or prosecute agents who stray beyond its own comfort level, the legal tools to do so may no longer exist.
One other little fact: Mark Swanner "did not get any information out of the prisoner." [LINK via Real Clear Politics]

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