“Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding Torture as Policy From Guantanamo to Iraq,” by Dahr Jamail
While President Bush has regularly claimed – as with reporters in Panama last November – that “we do not torture,” Janis Karpinski, the U.S. Brigadier General whose 800th Military Police Brigade was in charge of 17 prison facilities in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib back in 2003, begs to differ. She knows that we do torture and she believes that the President himself is most likely implicated in the decision to embed torture in basic war-on-terror policy.
While testifying this January 21 in New York City at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, Karpinski told us: “General [Ricardo] Sanchez [commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq] himself signed the eight-page memorandum authorizing literally a laundry list of harsher techniques in interrogations to include specific use of dogs and muzzled dogs with his specific permission.”
All this, as she reminded us, came after Major General Geoffrey Miller, who had been “specifically selected by the Secretary of Defense to go to Guantanamo Bay and run the interrogations operation,” was dispatched to Iraq by the Bush administration to “work with the military intelligence personnel to teach them new and improved interrogation techniques.”
Karpinski met Miller on his tour of American prison facilities in Iraq in the fall of 2003. Miller, as she related in her testimony, told her, “It is my opinion that you are treating the prisoners too well. At Guantanamo Bay, the prisoners know that we are in charge and they know that from the very beginning. You have to treat the prisoners like dogs. And if they think or feel any differently you have effectively lost control of the interrogation.”
Miller went on to tell Karpinksi in reference to Abu Ghraib, “We’re going to Gitmo-ize the operation.”
When she later asked for an explanation, Karpinski was told that the military police guarding the prisons were following the orders in a memorandum approving “harsher interrogation techniques,” and, according to Karpinski, “signed by the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.”
That one-page memorandum “authorized sleep deprivation, stress positions, meal disruption -serving their meals late, not serving a meal. Leaving the lights on all night while playing loud music, issuing insults or criticism of their religion, their culture, their beliefs.” In the left-hand margin, alongside the list of interrogation techniques to be applied, Rumsfeld had personally written, “Make sure this happens!!” Karpinski emphasized the fact that Rumsfeld had used two exclamation points.
When asked how far up the chain of command responsibility for the torture orders for Abu Ghraib went, Karpinski said, “The Secretary of Defense would not have authorized without the approval of the Vice President.”
Karpinski does not believe that the many investigations into Abu Ghraib have gotten to the truth about who is responsible for the torture and abuse because “they have all been directed and kept under the control of the Department of Defense. Secretary Rumsfeld was directing the course of each one of those separate investigations. There was no impartiality whatsoever.”
Does she believe the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib has stopped?
“I have no reason to believe that it has. I believe that cameras are no longer allowed anywhere near a cellblock. But why should I believe it’s stopped? We still have the captain from the 82nd airborne division [who] returned and had a diary, a log of when he was instructed, what he was instructed, where he was instructed, and who instructed him. To go out and treat the prisoners harshly, to set them up for effective interrogation, and that was recently as May of 2005.”
Karpinski was referring to Captain Ian Fishback, one of three American soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Forward Operating Base Mercury near Fallujah who personally witnessed the torture of Iraqi prisoners and came forward to give testimony to human rights organizations about the crimes committed.