GETTING WARMER

If you’re still mystified by vice-president Cheney’s adamant refusal to allow a ban on “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment of detainees, this story might help you out. Colin Powell’s former top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, claims that there is a direct paper trail from Cheney’s office directing abuse and torture in Iraq:

“The secretary of defense under cover of the vice president’s office,” Wilkerson said, “regardless of the president having put out this memo” – “they began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we’ve seen.” He said the directives contradicted a 2002 order by President George W. Bush for the U.S. military to abide by the Geneva conventions against torture.

There was a visible audit trail from the vice president’s office through the secretary of defense, down to the commanders in the field,” authorizing practices that led to the abuse of detainees, Wilkerson said. The directives were “in carefully couched terms,” Wilkerson conceded, but said they had the effect of loosening the reins on U.S. troops, leading to many cases of prisoner abuse, including at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, that were contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

“If you are a military man, you know that you just don’t do these sorts of things,” Wilkerson said, because troops will take advantage, or feel so pressured to obtain information that “they have to do what they have to do to get it.” He said that Powell had assigned him to investigate the matter after reports emerged in the media about U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both men had formerly served in the U.S. military.

Wilkerson also called David Addington, the vice president’s lawyer, “a staunch advocate of allowing the president in his capacity as commander in chief to deviate from the Geneva Conventions.

This argument backs up Brigadier General Karpinski’s assertions that there were clear directives out of Rumsfeld’s office directing abuse of detainees for intelligence purposes. Her account has back up from others in the military, currently too leery to go public. If we begin to get some of them to talk on the record, we could find evidence of profound deception on the part of the Cheney cabal to hide authorized torture on their watch. This is not over yet.

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