avatar
“…interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet…”


Given everything we know about the American Government’s radical innovations in the theory and practice of the detention (not to mention the “extraordinary rendition“), the maltreatment, and the torture of the foreign nationals held in its custody since embarking on the current crusade in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (“Go massive, sweep it all up, things related and not,” as CBS News once reported the Secretary of Defense urged that fateful day, “best info fast, judge whether good enough to hit SH at the same time, not only UBL”), from the early “Convoy of Death” in the deserts of Afghanistan, to the Memorandum drafted by the current Attorney General on behalf of his Supra-Constitutional and Imperial Client (I swear this Memo declares that the Executive branch not only is above the law, but is The Law unto Itself), to the massively documented revelations about the Abu Ghraib facility in Baghdad and the presumably two-to-four dozen other known, unknown, and sometimes portable facilities serving eactly the same function in the vast and expanding American gulag, what kind of evidential weight do you suppose we should give the following 13-word passage from the “Periscope” item on the pages of a recent issue of Newsweek?

….interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet….

Should our estimate of the truth or falsity of the allegations that the American Government or its various free-lance and foreign clients engage in the torture of prisoners at different detention facilities around the world hinge on the truth or falsity of this single 13-word passage?

Or, to put my question another way: Supposing that the particular copy of the Qur’an referred to by one of the “sources” which Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff and John Barry relied upon to assemble their May 9 “Periscope” item never really did get flushed down a toilet. What then? Would this fact exonerate the American Government from the charge that a lot of its boys and girls have been engaging in torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities—and elsewhere, too? I mean, in the vast scheme of things, would anything related to your assessment of American Power change if it turned out that this particular copy of the Qur’an survived?

With the furor—both the orchestrated kind emitted by regime spokespeople and by the critics of the “liberal” media, as well as the herd-like kind picked up throughout the rest of the captive American mind—over Newsweek‘s May 9 report nowhere near subsiding, and, more important, with the regime in Washington accusing Newsweek of having “damaged the image of the United States abroad and damaged the credibility of the media at home,” in White House spokesman Scott McClellan’s words, I thought it wise to assemble here some links to documents or collections of documents that show unequivocally the kind of conduct the U.S. Government systematically and routinely sanctions around the world today.

Do you suppose all of this material, too, is destined to be retracted anytime soon?

Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade, U.S. Department of the Army, ca. March, 2004 (a.k.a., Taguba Report)

Department of the Army, The Inspector General: Detainee Operations Inspections, July, 2004 (a.k.a., DAIG Report)

Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, James R. Schlesinger et al., U.S. Department of Defense, August, 2004 (a.k.a., Schlesinger Report)

Article 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Prison and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, LTG Anthony R. Jones, U.S. Department of the Army, August, 2004 (a.k.a., Fay-Jones Investigation)

Review of Department of Defense Detention Operations and Detainee Interrogation Techniques, Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, III, et al., March, 2005 (a.k.a. the Church Report). Note that only an Executive Summary of this document has been made public. The rest remains classified. (Also see the accompanying News Conference (March 10, 2005).)

Hood Completes Koran Inquiry” (News Release), Brigadier General Jay Hood, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005
Koran Inquiry: Description of Incidents” (News Release), Brigadier General Jay Hood, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005
Excerpts from Joint Task Force Guantanamo Headquarters, Detention Operations Group Standard Operating Procedures, 01 FEB 05” (News Release), United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005

Cageprisoners.com (Homepage)

Government Documents on Torture (Homepage), American Civil Liberties Union
U.S. Torture and Abuse of Detainees (Homepage), Human Rights Watch
The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel, Eds. (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Ending Secret Detentions, Deborah Pearlstein et al., Human Right First, June, 2004
Composite Statement: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (a.k.a., “The Tipton Three,” U.K.), Center for Constitutional Rights, July, 2004
Doctors and Torture,” Robert Jay Lifton, New England Journal of Medicine, July 29, 2004
Behind the Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions, Deborah Pearlstein and Priti Patel, Human Rights First, March, 2005
Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees, Reed Brody et al., Human Rights Watch, April, 2005 (For the PDF version of the same report.)
Guantanamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power, Amnesty International, May, 2005 (For the PDF version of the same report.)
Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces, Gretchen Borchelt et al., Physicians for Human Rights, May, 2005
Report into the Systematic and Institutionalised U.S. Desecration of the Qur’an and other Islamic Rituals. Testimonies from Former Guantanamo Bay Detainees, Adnan Siddiqui, Cageprisoners.com, May, 2005 (Also see the accompanying May 16, 2005 Media Release.)
Guantanamo Bay Detainee Statements, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, May, 2005 (Also see the accompanying May 19, 2005 Media Release by Human Rights First.)
Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay,” M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan H. Marks, New England Journal of Medicine, July 7, 2005 (as posted to the ZNet website)
Health Professionals Involved in Guantanamo Interrogations,” Steven Reinberg, HealthDayNews, June 22, 2005 (For another copy of this article, see “Health Professionals Involved in Guantánamo Interrogations.”)

The Death Convoy of Afghanistan,” Babak Dehghanpisheh, John Barry, and Roy Gutman, Newsweek, August 20, 2002
Dasht-E Leili,” Edward S. Herman, ZNet, April 7, 2004

Torture at Abu Ghraib,” Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, May 10, 2004
Chain of Command,” Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, May 17, 2004
The Gray Zone,” Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, May 24, 2004
The Unknown Unknowns of the Abu Ghraib Scandal,” Seymour Hersh, The Guardian, May 21, 2005

Outsourcing Torture,” Jane Mayer, New Yorker, February 14, 2005

Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings,” Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 19, 2004 (web exclusive)
Double Standards?” Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 21, 2004 (web exclusive)
The Roots of Torture,” John Barry, Michael Hirsh, and Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 24, 2004
Prison Scandal: Brooklyn’s Version of Abu Ghraib?” Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, May 24, 2004

Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo, Erik Saar and Viveca Novak (The Penguin Press, 2005)
Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo,” Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW!, May 4, 2005
Soldier lifts lid on Guantanamo ‘abuse’,” Matthew Davis, BBC News, May 9, 2005

It’s all Newsweek’s Fault,” Frank Rich, New York Times, May 22, 2005
Close Guantanamo Prison,” Marjorie Cohn, Truthout, May 23, 2005

…interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet…,” ZNet, May 19, 2005

FYA (“For your archives”): In its totality—all 302 words of it—here is the tiny article from Newsweek‘s May 9 edition over which so much furor has arisen (Periscope, Michael Isikoff and John Barry). The italicized phrase comprises the part of the report the U.S. Government currently disputes—and over which Newsweek itself not only has cravenly apologized, but also on May 16 issued a formal retraction—under massive pressure from the regime in Washington, the American Right, and its parent, the Washington Post Company, whose corporate literature proudly numbers Newsweek among its “Business Properties.”

Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash. An Army spokesman confirms that 10 Gitmo interrogators have already been disciplined for mistreating prisoners, including one woman who took off her top, rubbed her finger through a detainee’s hair and sat on the detainee’s lap. (New details of sexual abuse–including an instance in which a female interrogator allegedly wiped her red-stained hand on a detainee’s face, telling him it was her menstrual blood–are also in a new book to be published this week by a former Gitmo translator.)

These findings, expected in an upcoming report by the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, could put former Gitmo commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller in the hot seat. Two months ago a more senior general, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, was placed in charge of the SouthCom probe, in part, so Miller could be questioned. The FBI e-mails indicate that FBI agents quarreled repeatedly with military commanders, including Miller and his predecessor, retired Gen. Michael Dunleavy, over the military’s more aggressive techniques. “Both agreed the bureau has their way of doing business and DOD has their marching orders from the SecDef,” one e-mail stated, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Sources familiar with the SouthCom probe say investigators didn’t find that Miller authorized abusive treatment. But given the complaints that were being raised, sources say, the report will provoke questions about whether Miller should have known what was happening–and acted to try to prevent it. An Army spokesman declined to comment.

—- “Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown,” Michael Isikoff and John Barry, Newsweek, May 9, 2005

Postscript (November 7): Here’s a real humdinger—and, no doubt, the ultimate litmus test for any aspiring Supreme Court nominee on behalf of the current regime:

A Deadly Interrogation: Can the CIA Legally Kill a Prisoner?” Jane Mayer, New Yorker, November 14, 2005

The trick is, if you want to be nominated to the Supreme Court, first you must attest to the fact that when the Executive Branch murders, you, as a Justice on the Court, will defend its constitutionality. No matter what.

Postscript (December 9):

Human Rights Commissioner Says Fight Against Terrorism Can Only Be Won If International Human Rights Norms Are Fully Respected,” Press Release, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, December 7, 2005
UN Commissioner for Human Rights Says Total Ban on Torture Under Attack in ‘War on Terror’,” Press Release, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, December 7, 2005
Human Rights Day: Independent Experts Reaffirm Prohibition of Torture Is Absolute, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, December 9, 2005

Leave a comment