Friday, June 24, 2005

SO NOW, TWO DAYS after Sen. Dick Durbin apologized for his public condemnation of the brutal treatment of detainees at Guantanamo; and after a week of increasingly vicious attacks on Durbin from the White House and from right-wing bloggers for having accused the Bush administration of allowing torture to occur, the United States has admitted, in a formal report to the UN Committee Against Torture, that detainees at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan have been tortured.

Does anyone else remember that this is exactly what the White House did with the Koran desecration scandal last month? After Newsweek published a brief item in its May 9 issue stating that an upcoming military report was going to contain confirmed incidents of U.S. military staff at Guantanamo flushing copies of the Koran down the toilet, the White House condemned Newsweek, accused the magazine of sparking riots all over the Muslim world, and demanded a retraction and apology. Newsweek finally gave in to the pressure, and apologized on May 16.

Two weeks later, late on a Friday afternoon, the Pentagon admitted that Koran desecration had occurred at Guantanamo.

But even when the Bush administration appears to be owning up to wrongs, they give with one hand and take away with the other. So we are told that yes, there was torture, but it was only "isolated incidents," committed by "low-ranking members of the military" whose "acts were not approved by their superiors"; there was "nothing systematic" (they meant "systemic," of course).

These quotes are attributed in the AFP article to the anonymous member of the UN Committee Against Torture which received the report. This is another aspect of the story that I find peculiar. The committee member who characterized the U.S. report in this manner talks like a White House p.r. flack -- like he or she is on the payroll.

"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the Committee member told AFP.
"They haven't avoided anything in their answers, whether concerning prisoners in Iraq, in Afghanistan or Guantanamo, and other accusations of mistreatment and of torture," the Committee member said.

"They said it was a question of isolated cases, that there was nothing systematic and that the guilty were in the process of being punished."

The US report said that those involved were low-ranking members of the military and that their acts were not approved by their superiors, the member added.

Makes you wonder about the timing of this announcement. The contents of the report will not be made public until May of 2006, when the United States will have to explain the report at the UN committee hearing. So why is a member of the panel, who does not want to be named, telling the press about the report now -- and in language so complimentary to the Bush administration?

Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog thinks the answer can be summed up in two words: plausible deniability.

I don't for a minute think the White House is out of the loop. However, I do suspect that great care has been taken not to leave a documentation trail to upper management. It's also possible the Bushies are making small admissions now to innocuate the White House from the political impact of bigger revelations to come.

Barbara also notes that Jeanne d'Arc over at Body and Soul has come up with the Annotated Quote of the Day:

"There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." -- Dick Cheney

We've got two choices here. Dick Cheney is stupid, or Dick Cheney is a sociopath. And I don't think it's the first.

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