The Senate Armed Services Committee released a bipartisan report blaming former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials for the U.S. military’s inhumane treatment and abuse of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report rejects Bush administration assertions that Abu Ghraib and other abuse cases were “simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.” (Los Angeles Times)
What the commentators said
So “it is official,” said Juan Cole in Informed Comment. Rumsfeld and Bush “bear responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantánamo, and the tossing aside of the Geneva Conventions.” But why report that they and other “high U.S. officials committed war crimes” now, at a time of year “when it will not get much play”?
“Numerous courts-martial” have found that the Abu Ghraib abusers violated “lawful orders,” said Dan Spencer in Red State, so this report seems like “an attempt to rewrite the history of the war.” Either way, I’m glad we had “serious people” willing to delve into the “unsavory issues” of how to deal with the “Islamic extremists waging war against us.” It’s worth noting that their policies have “kept us safe for more than seven years.”
“These abuses did not keep Americans safe,” said Jack Balkin in Balkinazation. In fact, the report rightly states that they’ve “actually undermined our national security” by weakening our “moral authority” and harming our intelligence gathering. It’s unlikely that Rumsfeld or other top officials will ever face criminal prosecution, but Americans “need to know the truth about what happened,” in part so we don’t do it again.
“I’m more inclined to blame al Qaeda” than Rumsfeld, said Boston Herald editor Jules Crittenden in his blog, “for the uncomfortable circumstances in which detainees find themselves.” And while “there were some excesses,” the question of terrorist interrogation and incarceration is “Obama’s problem now.” He’ll find the answers aren’t so easy.