Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Not entirely gone away

One hopes that the many retrospectives on Dubya's election victory will get around to studying one of the biggest mysteries of the campaign: the complete disappearance of Abu Ghraib as a news issue, after the initial burst of revelations and reports in early summer. Which is related to the fact that the Abu Ghraib inquiries seem to have made no attempt to reach up the chain of command in assigning responsibility.

Yet the issue is not entirely dead. Today's New York Times brings news of a Red Cross report alleging treatment "tantamount to torture" at Guantanamo Bay. This is important for Iraq because one thing we did learn back when the media cared about Abu Ghraib was that it had been "Gitmo-ised" through a set of recommendations from General Geoffrey Miller, who is linked by his high level involvement in both facilities.

Anyway, we can predict with confidence that the VRC spinner counterattack on the NYT report will focus on who leaked it to the NYT** -- which is actually an interesting question. The NYT is of course coy about its source:

The New York Times recently obtained a memorandum, based on the [Red Cross] report, that quotes from it in detail and lists its major findings.

The paper notes that the Red Cross itself treats its report as confidential, but felt that this had been abused by the Pentagon, which would disengenuously defend Gitmo by saying that the Red Cross hadn't complained about it -- knowing of course that the Red Cross people couldn't say anything under their own rules. Still though, one is left with a sense that the leak did come from within the Pentagon, which would support previous evidence that not everyone in there views the Geneva Convention, like Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, as obsolete.

We suppose that the NYT has to treat at face value the rote legalisms of the official Pentagon response, but this one is especially laughable:

personnel assigned to Guantánamo "go through extensive professional and sensitivity training to ensure they understand the procedures for protecting the rights and dignity of detainees."

In other words, New Improved Geneva Convention Violations: Now with 10% More Corporate Babble!

In a separate story, the Wall Street Journal reports (subs. req'd) that former Abu Ghraib detainees are going to attempt a war crimes prosecution against senior US officials using provisions of German law. It's clearly an uphill struggle for either the Red Cross or these detainees given the current mindset in the upper echelons of the US government. But maybe, maybe, these efforts can keep the issues ticking over until the the moral values voters widen their horizons beyond rumours of condom instructions in schools.

**UPDATE: as above, we told you that the VRC counterattack would be on
the fact of the leak. Thurday's WSJ editorial
(reg. req'd):

For decades, the very core of Red Cross methodology has been strict confidentiality agreements with cooperating governments. The practice has obvious drawbacks ... But now the ICRC has thrown confidentiality aside to attack the U.S., of all countries. And it matters little that the original leaker in this case may have been in the U.S. government. Officials at ICRC headquarters were only too happy to confirm the document's authenticity ...

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