Copper Green

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is becoming even more disturbing. According to a report by Seymour Hersh, Donald Rumsfeld encouraged the type of “interrogation,” including using physical coercion and sexual humiliation, conducted in the Abu Ghraib prison. Hersh writes:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

The article goes on to explain that Hersh’s source, a high-level intelligence officia, said that President Bush was aware of the program. In general, this article offers a scathing review of Rumsfeld’s pursuit of the “war on terror,” as well as the reconstruction of Iraq. Particualr criticism is reserved for Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who shared Rumsfeld’s approach to the war. Hersh adds that

When it came to the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib, he said, Rumsfeld left the details to Cambone. Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable, the [anonymous Pentagon] consultant added, “but he’s responsible for the checks and balances. The issue is that, since 9/11, we’ve changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means.”

Finally, the article explains the source of the motivation for specifically using sexualized, specifically “homosexual” forms of humiliation, a 1973 book called The Arab Mind by Rapahel Patai. The article further suggests that the photographs themselves might have had a practical purpose: it’s possible they were to be used to blackmail prisoners to spy on their fellow inmates rather have the pictures appear in public.

There’s so much awful information in this article, it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ve already signed the petition demanding Rumsfeld’s resignation, and this news only solidifies the belief that he should resign. It’s pretty clear, as the article suggests, that the behavior here has “lowered the bar” for this war and future wars in terms of following the Geneva Convention. Since September 11, we’ve seen the logic prevail that “the ends justify the means,” and as Abu Ghraib illustrates, that belief can have devastating consequences.

Sign the petition demaning Rumsfeld’s resignation. Article via Atrios.

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