Monday, March 28, 2005

Accessory Before the Fact Part 2
Is No One Accountable?

By BOB HERBERT

“The Bush administration is desperately trying to keep the full story from emerging. But there is no longer any doubt that prisoners seized by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been killed, tortured, sexually humiliated and otherwise grotesquely abused.

These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law, and thus accountable to no one. People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated and in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals.

Arkan Mohammed Ali is a 26-year-old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for nearly a year at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to a lawsuit filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Ali was at times beaten into unconsciousness during interrogations. He was stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked - hooded and naked - in a wooden, coffinlike box. He said he was told by his captors that soldiers could kill detainees with impunity.

(This was not a boast from the blue. On Saturday, for example, The Times reported that the Army would not prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Mr. Ali's story is depressingly similar to other accounts pouring in from detainees, human rights groups, intelligence sources and U.S. government investigators. If you pay close attention to what is already known about the sadistic and barbaric treatment of prisoners by the U.S., you can begin to wonder how far we've come from the Middle Ages. The alleged heretics hauled before the Inquisition were not permitted to face their accusers or mount a defense. Innocence was irrelevant. Torture was the preferred method of obtaining confessions.

No charges were ever filed against Mr. Ali, and he was eventually released. But what should be of paramount concern to Americans is this country's precipitous and frightening descent into the hellish zone of lawlessness that the Bush administration, on the one hand, is trying to conceal and, on the other, is defending as absolutely essential to its fight against terror.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, a New York-based group, filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rumsfeld on behalf of Mr. Ali and seven other former detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan who claim to have been tortured by U.S. personnel.

They charge that Rumsfeld authorized unlawful interrogation techniques, abdicated his responsibility to stop the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody, contend that the abuse of was widespread and that Mr. Rumsfeld and other top administration officials were fully aware of it.

They also contend, it is unreasonable to believe that Mr. Rumsfeld could have remained in the dark about the rampant mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody. They cite a wealth of evidence readily available to the secretary, including the scandalous eruptions at Abu Ghraib prison, reports of detainee abuse at Guantánamo Bay, myriad newspaper and magazine articles, internal U.S. government reports, and concerns expressed by such reputable groups as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

(The committee has noted, among other things, that military intelligence estimates suggest that 70 percent to 90 percent of the people detained in Iraq had been seized by mistake.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/28/opinion/28herbert.html
con·cept: Accessory Before the Fact Part 2 Is No One Accountable?