Monday, June 19, 2006

How Would You Like to Live in Your Filing Cabinet for Two Days?

Spencer Ackerman in The New Republic:

Sadly, few people besides Andrew and the ACLU care much about torture anymore. But, thanks to the ACLU, on Friday the Pentagon finally declassified a missing piece of the grim portrait of American torture: a November 2004 report about detainee abuse by Special Operations Forces in Iraq. (Warning: PDF) I've been trying, and failing, for over a year to obtain this report, conducted by Brigadier General Richard Formica, but it turns out to be underwhelming--that is, sadly consistent with disingenuous reports like that filed by Vice Admiral Tom Church, which strip the bark off the trees to avoid seeing the forest. Formica opted to investigate specific allegations of abuse about certain units rather than the broader conduct of Special Operation troops who seize detainees. (One such unit, not investigated by Formica, had the motto "No Blood, No Foul.") He told reporters on Friday that it was "regrettable" that the troops he did investigate had inadequate guidance about detention policy, but singled out no one as ultimately responsible. Indeed, going by The New York Times, there are some serious questions about Formica's judgment here:

General Formica found that in the third case at a Special Operations outpost, near Tikrit, in April and May 2004, three detainees were held in cells 4 feet high, 4 feet long and 20 inches wide, except to use the bathroom, to be washed or to be interrogated. He concluded that two days in such confinement "would be reasonable; five to seven days would not." Two of the detainees were held for seven days; one for two days, General Formica concluded.

Here are two such questions you can puzzle over from your home or office. Take all the shelving out of a typical filing cabinet. (My own office cabinet happens to be slightly smaller than the cell described here.) Now lock yourself in it for two days. You may notice you can neither stand up straight nor lie down, and crouching gets really uncomfortable extremely fast. Remember that as an Iraqi detainee, the Geneva Conventions apply to you. Now ask yourself: Why would Formica consider such treatment "reasonable" for two days? And if someone put an American soldier in such conditions for two days--or authorized doing so--what should happen to that person?

No comments: