Phil Carter has some excellent analysis of Sy Hersh’s latest piece on the Abu Ghraib scandal, which alleges that Rumsfeld and other high DoD officials authorized the use of abusive treatment. The Pentagon is denying these allegations in the strongest terms. My instinct is to trust Rumsfeld more than Hersh at this point, but the truth will certainly come out in the weeks ahead. Clearly, though, it was official policy to allow intense fear and disorientation as a tactic in certain cases.
Phil has some interesting thoughts on the nature of command responsibiliy and the difficulty in refusing illegal orders with which I agree. Still, while from a legal standpoint it’s hard to draw a line between standard tough interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation and “stress positions” and the more severe abuses at Abu Ghraib, it seems to me that there’s a rather bright line morally and psychologically. Keeping someone awake is mean but it’s hardly immoral. Goodness knows, the Army uses what Hersh terms “torture light” in training its own soldiers. I’ve experienced much of it as I’m sure has Phil. Anyone who’s gone to Ranger school, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or a Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape course has done it in spades. Sometimes, these hazing rituals shift into abuse when handled by immature or sadistic people. But it’s still a far cry from sexual humiliation and some of the other horrors at Abu Ghraib.