We are constantly told that the United States does not torture or abuse detainees as a matter of policy. President Bush has told the American people exactly that. Two facts in the news today show otherwise. The first is evidence of how many detainees have actually been tortured to death by the U.S. Over a hundred detainees have died in captivity. The ACLU looked at the records of 44 such deaths and concluded that 21 were homicides and that “at least eight resulted from abusive techniques by military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation or ‘blunt force injuries’, as noted in the autopsy reports.” This is the minimum we are likely to know about. Let’s see how the government itself has accounted for some of the deaths. In the following, the term “OGA” or “Other Government Agency” refers to the CIA:

An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by x93OGA.x94 He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries. Notes summarizing the autopsies record the circumstances of death as x93Q by OGA, gagged in standing restraint.x94 (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Jaleel.)

* A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on November 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq. A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of General Mowhoush, lists x93asphyxia due to smothering and chest compressionx94 as the cause of death and cites bruises from the impact with a blunt object. New documents specifically record the circumstances of death as x93Q by MI, died during interrogation.x94

* A detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison, captured by Navy Seal Team number seven, died on November 4, 2003, during an interrogation by Navy Seals and x93OGA.x94 A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of Manadel Al Jamadi, shows that the cause of his death was x93blunt force injury complicated by compromised respiration.x94 New documents specifically record the circumstances of death as x93Q by OGA and NSWT died during interrogation.x94

* An Afghan civilian died from x93multiple blunt force injuries to head, torso and extremitiesx94 on November 6, 2003, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Wahid.)

* A 52-year-old male Iraqi was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Nagm Sadoon Hatab.)

Over to you, James Taranto.

EXEMPTING THE CIA: And now you begin to understand why the president is so insistent on the Roberts and Miers nominations (the one thing the two nominees have in common is complete deference to the executive in war-time, which means to say for the indefinite future). And you also understand why Bush is for the first time threatening to veto a piece of legislation – the McCain Amendment. If the administration doesn’t and would never condone abuse or torture of detainees, why would it want to exempt the CIA from the ban on torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners? If we are not abusing detainees as a matter of policy, why would the White House be in any way resistant to the amendment? The compromise is that the military will no longer abuse detainees, as long as the CIA still gets to do it. In other words, prodded by the Bush administration, the U.S. would actually legislate the government’s permission to torture for the first time. Money quote:

“They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely,” Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said. “You can’t tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A. personnel are allowed to engage in it.”

McCain is resisting any compromise, as he must. It’s one thing to have a rogue president, violating the law and instituting torture and abuse as militarily acceptable. It’s another thing to actually give him the cover of the law. One day, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld will be held accountable for their actions. Let them have no legal defense. Bush and Cheney are also threatening a veto of any independent investigation that would examine their own role in sanctioning torture and abuse in the military. Duh. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you?

GAY ARABS: The first magazine in the Arab world for homosexuals debuts. And gay life begins to come to life in Namibia. The shift in consciousness is global. And unstoppable.


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