Rumsfeld "a political corpse"
Michel Porcheron Less than two weeks after the CBS television network's transmission in the United States of the first photos and videos showing acts of torture practiced by US soldiers in Iraq, the "Lynndie England" case has turned into the "Rumsfeld case". Lynndie England is the name of the 21-year-old female soldier who appears in many of the photos. A veteran investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, 67 — the man who revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1969 — unleashed the scandal by directly accusing the Secretary of Defense. According to his May 17 New Yorker article, "The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for al-Qaida, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq". Hersh, who specialises in researching the intelligence services, specifies that the Pentagon has created special interrogation techniques that "... encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq". Rumsfeld gave the green light to a "highly secret" program that basically had "... given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate 'high-value' targets in the Bush Administration's war on terror." Hersh maintains that every soldier who knew the code name of one of these special programs (SAP, Special-Access Program) could act freely in the field. According to a former high-ranking intelligence service official quoted by Hersh, some 200 people in total were in on the secret, including George W Bush himself. For its part, the May 16 edition of Newsweek published a memorandum dated January 25, 2002, signed by Alberto Gonzalez, legal advisor to the White House, explaining that the war on terrorism is a new form of war, and that this new paradigm renders obsolete the Geneva Convention's strict limitations on interrogating enemy prisoners. The confusion reached its peak the weekend of May 15-16, when it became known that abuses being perpetrated on the prisoners at the Guantanamo Naval Base were being videotaped, according to statements by a former British prisoner there. Nobody was surprised when spokespersons for the US authorities scrambled to deny everything. General Miller reappears According to what has come to light, in August 2003 General Geoffrey D Miller, 55, who then commanded the Guantanamo detention centre, made a 10-day visit to the Abu Ghraib prison. His mission was "enigmatic": to inform the chief of the prison's military intelligence on a series of recommendations "from the base" on how to undertake interrogations, punish prisoners and organise arrests. His disciples learned their lesson, beyond expectations. Abu Ghraib was thus "Guantanamised". Today, General Miller is once again in Iraq, this time as ... the man in charge of US prisons, replacing General Janis Karpinski, seven of whose troops have been castigated in the torture scandal. Six of them must remain under surveillance in Camp Victory near Baghdad, possibly awaiting court martial. As for Lynndie England, the notorious female soldier who is currently pregnant, she has been temporarily stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, until her fate is decided. General Karpinski was discreetly "dismissed" in January after the first revelations — at that time internal — of the torture and brutality being practiced there. And, will Rumsfeld be the spark that sends Bush's electoral hopes up in flames, a possibility to which analysts are increasingly referring? In the May 11 edition of El Pams, Allan Lichtman is categorical: "Rumsfeld's days are numbered. He is now a political corpse."
* * *Granma — abridged