General Taguba: Bush Administration ‘Guilty of War Crimes’

Physicians for Human Rights has just published a report detailing the medical evidence of detainee torture at the hands of U.S. Personnel in Iraq, Afghanist, and Guantanamo Bay.

Maj. General Antonio Taguba (Ret.) authored the preface to the report, in which he accuses the Administration of having committed war crimes:

The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted—both on America’s institutions and our nation’s founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

The answer to that question? No. They won’t be.

(link via Radley Balko)

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations…

    And we know these three groups represent unimpeachable sources, the last becuase they include the words human rights in their name! Just curious, do you unflinchingly accept the reports of government investigations and media reports when they don’t match your preconceived political postures?

    Guilty until proven innocent again, eh?

  2. Hal says:

    Guilty until proven innocent again, eh?

    And the process of actually proving guilt consists of??? You say “unflinchingly accept” when you, yourself, “unflinchingly accept” the premise that people who have already admitted that they torture somehow didn’t commit war crimes.

    Cute little rhetorical trick. You and Yoo are all peas in a pod.

  3. Tlaloc says:

    The answer to that question? No. They won’t be.

    Most likely you are right, hell Kissinger, a convicted war criminal in France, is still floating around afterall.

    On the other hand now is the worst time to press for any prosecution. Earlier might have mitigated Bush abuse by shortening his term. Later allows you to circumvent any pardons by Bush by waiting for him to be out of office.

    So maybe once Bush is out on his ass the real trial can begin. Yeah… longshot.

  4. Bithead says:

    And the process of actually proving guilt consists of???

    So, let’s haul your butt up before a war crimes tribunal, Hal. After all, how to know you’re innocent?

    Oh, you mean that logic doesn’t work both ways?

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Hal, all of the jihadi’s are innocent. They are serving Allah’s will therefore they do no wrong. If you believe the charges they are makeing, you should familiarize yourself with the Muslim practise of LYING to non believers to futher Muslim purposes. Let us waterboard this retired general to see if he is lying, although I personally prefer iron maiden or the rack.

  6. Wayne says:

    It looks like a lame hatchet piece to me. He gave stories from the accusers view only. Surely they wouldn’t lie. What was the General medical proof? The story tellers had physical conditions consistent with being beaten. Them and 80% of blue collar workers. One who served in the 80’s in Iraqi army had rectal tearing. Not surprising since the youngest soldier in many of Iraqi army platoon were the platoon bitch by policy. Also many of the Muslim faith whip themselves and cause other bodily harm during some of their religious practices.

    Assuming just for argument case that all they said was true which I doubt. Having served once upon a time doesn’t give someone Geneva Convention privileges. The U.S. soldiers would still be held to the UMCJ standards but non US soldiers would not. The practice is to give the privileges to many who don’t qualify for them but that is different them being required by law to do so.

    It amazing that being handcuff and chain why being transported is considered torture by so many.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    Just curious, do you unflinchingly accept the reports of government investigations and media reports when they don’t match your preconceived political postures?

    That depends on whether I find them reliable or not. I found this report reliable, just as I have found many reports over the past six years regarding U.S. treatment of detainees to be reliable. I do believe that sufficient evidence exists to construct a prima facie case that the administraiton knowingly ordered, or at the very least knew about and condoned, the maltreatment, and in some cases torture, of detainees in U.S. custody. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with evidence, law, and morality.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    You know the nice thing about the last eight years? It makes it ever so much easier to understand how other countries have countenanced obscenities like torture and gulags. We no longer have to ask why it happened *there.*

    I salute all of the great many apologists who have made that possible.

  9. Hal says:

    Oh, you mean that logic doesn’t work both ways?

    Well, assuming you’d grant me the writ of habeas corpus, which you have consistently argued is not something you’re willing to grant, my logic works in that I would still be defending myself against charges.

    What you cannot seem to distinguish between is the concept of charges and a ruling from a court.

    If I find a body lying on the ground, stabbed and strangled, I can deduce that the crime of murder was committed. Then the matter becomes one of determining who to hold account for that murder.

    Likewise, the report which is the subject of this post has determined that war crimes were committed. What is left is determining who to hold accountable for those crimes.

    Apparently, this (un)subtle distinction is lost on you, and consequently you brashly display your ignorance using an analogy that makes literally no sense at all.

  10. Hoodlumman says:

    Tlaloc, try as you might, you’ll never ever be successful in making a moral equivalence between the systematic transportation, imprisonment, torture and death of millions of Russians and Chinese who actually did die at gulag’s with waterboarding and sleep deprivation of a handful of terrorists.

    But keep trying to force down your definitions of these terms – after all, there are elections to win!

  11. JR Ewing says:

    Methods of torture experienced by the former detainees evaluated by PHR included interrogation and detention practices such as isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nakedness, severe humiliation and degradation, and sensory deprivation that were officially authorized by military and civilian officials during certain periods when these men were incarcerated.

    So which of these methods of “torture” represents war crimes? Or are you arguing rogue, unauthorized treatment should be blamed on the President? Should we hold the current President accountable whenever an American breaks a law or only when you want to use it to make a political point?

  12. Davebo says:

    So which of these methods of “torture” represents war crimes? Or are you arguing rogue, unauthorized treatment should be blamed on the President?

    Well, when he admits to having authorized it, as he has done, yes.

    What part of that is difficult for you to understand?

  13. JR Ewing says:

    Also when they say

    were officially authorized by military and civilian officials during certain periods when these men were incarcerated

    they don’t even explain which were authorized by US forces versus foreign forces and of those authorized by US forces, which were even authorized by the administration.

    I could authorize you to rob a 7-11 store, but that does not mean that President bush thinks it’s ok to do.

  14. JR Ewing says:

    Well, when he admits to having authorized it, as he has done, yes.

    What part of that is difficult for you to understand?

    Who has admitted to authorizing torture that at the time was a War Crime? No one. What part of that is difficult for you to understand?

  15. NotFarva says:

    I like how this article implies that the U.S. picked out some random ragheads to torture as we please. These terrorists wanted and still want you dead Davebo and given the chance they would cut your head off and make it a hood ornament.

  16. Hal says:

    Who has admitted to authorizing torture that at the time was a War Crime?

    a) I really love the “at the time” qualifier, which is, btw, completely irrelevant. There’s nothing that we, the United States of America can do to determine the definitions of a war crime, despite the Bush administration’s assertion to the contrary.

    b) Cheney, others OK’d harsh interrogations

  17. Hal says:

    I like how this article implies that the U.S. picked out some random ragheads to torture as we please.

    a) love the racist term “ragheads”. That underscores the respect and unbiased nature of your statement

    b) America’s prison for terrorists often held the wrong men

    Do you guys actually get your information from anything other than Fox news?

    Just wondering.

  18. NotFarva says:

    Hal, with your almighty wisdom and experience, please tell us how you would have done things differently given the circumstances.

  19. Hal says:

    Hal, with your almighty wisdom and experience, please tell us how you would have done things differently given the circumstances.

    How can one resist such a wonderfully condescension free request? Still, I would request that you elaborate on what you mean by “things”. Do you mean, what would I have done as commander in chief? If so, the answer is butt simple:

    a) follow the Geneva conventions
    b) cooperate fully with the international red cross
    c) do not torture
    d) do not render captives to foreign governments for torturing
    e) comply with the constitution and provide a writ of habeas corpus.

    Is that really so hard to figure out that it takes my almighty wisdom to delineate? Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood your question.

  20. Hoodlumman says:

    Hal, your link to:

    ‘Cheney, others Ok’d illegal war crimes interrogations’

    is broken.

    And the Fox News dig is much more funny and clever if you spell it “Faux” or something equally witty.

    It sounds like you guys have an airtight case here for prosecuting Bush and Cheney and any other republican. Democrats also control congress. So what’s the hold up? Doesn’t poll well? Still gathering evidence?

  21. Alex Knapp says:

    Democrats also control congress. So what’s the hold up?

    Probably because the Democrats don’t want to establish the precedent for their politicans to be held accountable for war crimes, either. Remember, members of government are politicians first, party members second.

  22. Hal says:

    Ah, sorry. Here’s a better one:

    Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation’

    So what’s the hold up? Doesn’t poll well? Still gathering evidence?

    Well, that’s certainly part of the problem. You’ll certainly not get any defense from me regarding the lack of back bone on the democrat’s part regarding such issues. Let it suffice to say that y’alls strategy after 9/11 has been tremendously successful and you’ve gotten precisely what you’ve wanted.

    One can note that war crimes are not simply a matter for the Democrats in the US congress to deal with. Oddly, war crimes turn out to be an international criminal issue and other countries are already hard at work compiling evidence for the case. Clearly, any of the principals in this administration will want to limit their travel outside of the United States to avoid the same fate as Chilean dictator Pinochet.

    Finally, it doesn’t take mad googling skilz to find that there are several lawsuits by human rights organizations, which are doing precisely what you suggest is not being done.

    I’m sure you would have found that out eventually, but I thought I’d give you a hint.

  23. Hal says:

    Probably because the Democrats don’t want to establish the precedent for their politicans to be held accountable for war crimes, either.

    Wow. That’s a pretty darn bold statement. Have any evidence for it?

  24. Tlaloc says:

    Tlaloc, try as you might, you’ll never ever be successful in making a moral equivalence between the systematic transportation, imprisonment, torture and death of millions of Russians and Chinese who actually did die at gulag’s with waterboarding and sleep deprivation of a handful of terrorists.

    So we’ll put you down in the apologist column, then? It amuses me that your argument boils down to “we haven’t tortured enough people yet to be really bad.”

    I really miss the good old days when the *first* person you tortured was too many. Now you have to torture millions! Immoral inflation…I guess.

  25. Hal says:

    Immoral inflation…I guess.

    Our moral currency is also dropping like a stone, matching the trajectory of the exchange rate of our dollar. We seem to be on course to be on parity with the Chinese in this respect.

  26. spencer says:

    the shame of this is that all Team Bush had to do was obey the law and all of these issues and problems could have have been avoided.

  27. Bob says:

    Hal, rendition was established in Clinton term. I believe if you look, Viet Nam atrocities were conducted in Johnson term. Ditto Truman and Korea and Roosevelt in WWII. Specifically targeting of civilian installations. Of course then there’s the Clinton war crimes regarding our little bombing campaigns in Balkans.

    Part of the rub here is those in GITMO have not met the conditions for GC status as combatants.

  28. JR Ewing says:

    Hal, people here are saying that Bush and Cheney are guilty of war crimes by directly authorizing the use of torture that would constitute War Crimes. They did not. That point is a fact.

    You can disagree with some of the methods they may have used and you can point out some unauthorized methods that may be War Crimes, but the point stands that they did not authorize mutilations, electrocutions, and other torture methods that have long been identified as War Crimes and used in the gulags as referenced above.

    This and the other ridiculous claims of outrageous felonies supposedly committed by Bush that would jeopardize him and his family for no reason other than because he is evil, is all a power play from Democrat supporters.

    If you are swallowing this hook, line and sinker than I feel sorry for you. It’s no different than the ridiculous claims that the reason Clinton ok’d the release of Osama bin Laudin was because he was tied with him other than the fact that it’s a ridiculous claim about the “other” party.

  29. Tlaloc says:

    Bush’s administration has been a stellar example of why we should be in the ICC.

  30. Hal says:

    They did not. That point is a fact.

    Um, no. You are categorically and objectively wrong.

    but the point stands that they did not authorize mutilations, electrocutions, and other torture methods that have long been identified as War Crimes and used in the gulags as referenced above.

    Um, no. Please actually read the link I provided before you mistate the facts above. And, to stave off future tedious conversation, you don’t get to define what is and what is not torture. Water boarding, which they have already admitted to using and was authorized at the highest levels in this government, is an internationally recognized form of torture, one that the United States actually prosecuted as war crimes after WW II.

    is all a power play from Democrat supporters.

    Yes, we’re all about power plays here on the liberal side. Power all the time.

    I feel sorry for you.

    How you feel is, quite frankly, immaterial.

    It’s no different than the ridiculous claims that the reason Clinton ok’d the release of Osama bin Laudin was because he was tied with him other than the fact that it’s a ridiculous claim about the “other” party.

    Could you please clarify that? It seems completely incomprehensible.

  31. Tlaloc says:

    Hal, people here are saying that Bush and Cheney are guilty of war crimes by directly authorizing the use of torture that would constitute War Crimes. They did not. That point is a fact.

    Well break it down:
    Fact 1) Bush did authorize “harsh interrogation techniques”
    Fact 2) Many of those techniques are torture
    Fact 3) Torturing prisoners is a War Crime

    Conclusion: Bush authorized activities that constitute War Crimes.

    Now you might argue that he didn’t know they were war crimes, but that doesn’t really matter. If ignorance of the law doesn’t get you out of a speeding ticket, it certainly doesn’t excuse you committing atrocities.

  32. Hal says:

    Hal, rendition was established in Clinton term.

    I’m reminded of the old adages my mother used to scold me with when I’d make similar excuses. Sadly, I’m pretty sure you don’t seem to have the moral compass necessary to understand them.

  33. Wayne says:

    Tlaloc
    Fact 1) “harsh interrogation techniques” is not the same thing as torture.
    Fact 2) The Dems refused to clarify what constitutes torture so the term is still vague.
    Fact 3) Torturing prisoners is not necessarily a War crime.

    There are conditions that have to be met before something is considered a war crime. The left want to think anything they don’t like is a war crime. It is not.

    The left want to think that the world is some fairytale. It is not. The left are the one ‘s that prevented our Intel agency from talking to each other or dealing with shady characters before 911 then scream that the Intel agency didn’t break the laws that the Dems put in place.

  34. War and crime are two different things requiring entirely different approaches. Trying to address one with the tools of the other doesn’t work whether it be the war on drugs or a neighborhood watch to stop terrorism.

  35. Hal says:

    Charles, you might want to review your post WW II history before you start spouting stuff like that.

    Education in this country really needs to improve….

  36. Tlaloc says:

    Fact 1) “harsh interrogation techniques” is not the same thing as torture.
    Fact 2) The Dems refused to clarify what constitutes torture so the term is still vague.
    Fact 3) Torturing prisoners is not necessarily a War crime.

    1 is true but irrelevant as *some* of the “harsh interrogation techniques” did in fact turn out to be torture.
    2 is ridiculous since torture is well defined by international law.
    3 is just flat out wrong.

    Your “facts” are found wanting.

  37. Dave Schuler says:

    I have no idea whether President Bush or Vice President Cheney is guilty of war crimes. I suspect that intent might have something to do with the case, i.e. if either had legal advice that they believed to be correct that what they were authorizing was not torture I don’t see how they can reasonably be convicted. I’d have no problem with the matter being fully investigated.

    The other day I heard an interview with the president of the Physicians for Human Rights and there was one question that the interviewer failed to ask that I dearly wished had been asked: did any of the cases where people claimed to have been tortured prove to be false?

  38. Alex Knapp says:

    I have no idea whether President Bush or Vice President Cheney is guilty of war crimes. I suspect that intent might have something to do with the case, i.e. if either had legal advice that they believed to be correct that what they were authorizing was not torture I don’t see how they can reasonably be convicted.

    That’s rarely a good defense in U.S. Courts. But you’re right in one respect–I doubt that Bush and Cheney were sitting around cackling evilly. I’ve no doubt they thought they were doing the right thing. But they were wrong.

  39. Dave Schuler says:

    Absence of mens rea doesn’t constitute a defense under U. S. law? That surprises me, Alex.

  40. Alex Knapp says:

    Dave,

    Mens rea is about your intent to commit the act, and your opinion about whether the act is legal is usually irrelevant. Just ask Wesley Snipes.

  41. Hal says:

    So Dave, how does the whole “just following orders” defense – or more acurately, its well established legal precedent of *not* being a defense for war crimes fit into your novel ‘mens rea’ defense. Further, how do you square this conjecture with the quote from Ashcroft, at the meeting of the principals where they decided on how to torture the prisoners. Clearly, from just this one account, they knew precisely what they were doing. The fact that they may not consider it wrong is simply evidence of a broken soul, not a defense for a war crime.

  42. JR Ewing says:

    The bottom line is neither you guys nor the authors of this article are really concerned that sleep deprivation or other psychological interrogation methods are inhumane and have been used by the US. There’s been countless hours spent researching and interviewing people to find out what happened both authorized and unauthorized by US and foreign forces while Bush was in office, yet zero while Clinton or George HW Bush or Carter or Kennedy, etc, etc was in office. If these methods are so inhumane and so horrible why is the deciding factor of what is relevant who is in office?

    You lose all credibility when you are attacking one administration for continuing policies or methods done by other administrations, yet have absolutely no interest in discussing what the previous administrations did. Publish a paper, do some research, or have an open debate about US interrogation methods over the last 25 years, 100 years, etc.

    But you won’t, because your whole intent is to tarnish Bush, Cheney, and by default the Republican Party. So this “torture” debate is all fluff, because you don’t even believe that its torture unless George W Bush is the President at the time.

  43. Hal says:

    The bottom line is neither you guys nor the authors of this article are really concerned that sleep deprivation or other psychological interrogation methods are inhumane and have been used by the US.

    Really? And you come to that conclusion, how? Through the mighty use of your declarative process, which merely wills such assertions into existence?

    If these methods are so inhumane and so horrible why is the deciding factor of what is relevant who is in office?

    Could you rephrase? That interrogative is incoherent as stated.

    You lose all credibility when you are attacking one administration for continuing policies or methods done by other administrations, yet have absolutely no interest in discussing what the previous administrations did.

    Really? So we must prosecute all murders before we can prosecute any? This is lunacy and an assertion that very, very few people outside of the right wing echo chamber would agree with.

    But you won’t, because your whole intent is to tarnish Bush, Cheney, and by default the Republican Party.

    Well, that is your framing, not mine. This trick of yours is the entire basis you are using to dismiss these issues. You are the one who is saying “this is irrelevant because all you’re trying to do is discredit Bush and the Republicans”. Mighty fine cognitive blind spot you have there.

    So this “torture” debate is all fluff, because you don’t even believe that its torture unless George W Bush is the President at the time.

    Pray tell, when has any of the previous presidents declared that we’re not obeying the Geneva conventions? Please document the cases where habeas corpus has been suspended by previous administrations. Please let us know the incidences where non citizens and citizens alike have been denied consul and held without charges for years. Please point out where, as a matter of stated policy, internationally recognized methods of torture have been used on prisoners under our control.

    I’m not denying such things existed previously. But the extent, and the matter of actual publicly stated policy of this administration wrt to these issues has not been present before. If you believe it has, then get off your frickin’ high horse and write your own f’ing paper and show us rather than spouting off a bunch of horse droppings that you think has any chance of forming an actual argument.

    Geebus.

  44. anjin-san says:

    your whole intent is to tarnish Bush, Cheney,

    No one needs to tarnish Bush & Cheney. They did that all by themselves…