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Bush Won't Block Abuse of Detainees

Helen Thomas, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2005 -- President Bush, who bills himself as a "compassionate conservative," refuses to rule out cruel, abusive treatment of prisoners of war and detainees.

He has gone so far as to threaten to veto the vital $491 billion defense bill if an amendment barring mistreatment of prisoners is attached.

This is the president who -- along with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- was shocked last year when he saw photos of leashed naked prisoners under U.S. guard at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

The irony is that Bush's close adviser, Karen Hughes, has just been put in charge of the State Department's public diplomacy division to improve the nation's tattered global image. Millions spent on this effort will go to waste if we do not wipe out the impression that the United States tolerates torture.

There have been a dozen Pentagon investigations of POW abuse -- the latest by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who recommended that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison, be reprimanded for failing to supervise the mistreatment of Mohamed al-Kahtani. He admitted to being "the 20th hijacker" for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Schmidt said, but was blocked from entering the United States by an alert immigration agent.

But Gen. Bantz Craddock, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, overruled the recommendation that Miller be punished. Miller has a reputation for aggressive methods in the prisons and for introducing dogs at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, where he was sent to beef up the interrogations.

Al-Kahtani was threatened with dogs and made to "perform a series of dog tricks," according to an unclassified version of Schmidt's report released earlier this month.

Al-Kahtani also had to stand naked in front of female soldiers, and was forced to wear female lingerie and dance with a male interrogator. Also he had his copy of the Quran squatted on by an interrogator.

These revelations did not evoke universal outrage on Capitol Hill. Sen. James Imhofe, R-Okla., was incensed that investigators put so much energy into the inquiries.

"It's hard to see why we're so wrapped up in this investigation," he said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of."

Last week, Bush dispatched no less an emissary than Vice President Dick Cheney to warn members of the Senate Armed Services Committee against any congressional intervention on detainee interrogations.

The White House told Capitol Hill that Bush's advisers would urge him to veto the multibillion-dollar military bill "if legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War, is proposing an amendment that would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department. He would limit the questioning techniques to those along the lines of the Army field manual, which is undergoing revision.

McCain also proposes all foreign nationals held by our military be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would block the practice of holding "ghost detainees." Unfortunately it would not cover the CIA's practice of "extraordinary rendition" where we send detainees to other countries for possible torture.

McCain's key amendment prohibits the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of any person in U.S. custody. The amendment was based on the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States has ratified.

The administration says the treaty doesn't apply to foreigners outside the country. The White House opposes any restrictions it thinks would tie the president's hands in wartime.

The sadistic, humiliating treatment of Iraqis, Afghans and others rounded up by U.S. forces has disgraced the country.

But Bush and Rumsfeld have taken no responsibility.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army Reserve officer in charge of military police at Abu Ghraib, was demoted and given a written reprimand. But otherwise low-ranking MPs have been forced to take the fall.

It is high time that the Pentagon stopped investigating itself.

Sen. Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed an amendment to the defense bill to create an independent panel to review the detention and interrogation practices that have led us down this shameful path.

Meantime, consideration of the defense legislation, including the controversial amendments, has been put off until fall. Let's hope wiser and kinder heads prevail by then.

ę 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


:: Article nr. 14179 sent on 29-jul-2005 05:05 ECT

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Link: www.commondreams.org/views05/0728-31.htm



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