It is generally hold that the former Bush administration and its allies had lost the war in Iraq on the day when the pictures from the Abu Ghuraib prison in Baghdad had been aired. It was exactly five years ago: detainees in extremely humiliating positions, piled naked bodies forced to almost homosexual practices, interrogation of shackled detainees in front of barking shepherd dogs. Private Lynndie England holding a naked prisoner in a leash and stupidly leering into the camera of her boyfriend Charles A. Graner Jr. Un-American, as G. W. Bush declared with disbelieving disgust. Only one week later, on May 7, 2004, American citizen Nicholas Berg, who had been kidnapped in Baghdad, was beheaded in front of a video camera by the murderer Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. His killer claimed that his death was carried out to avenge the abuse of U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghuraib prison.
The two culprits at Abu Ghuraib prison, England and Graner, and a handful of others, all at low military ranks, have later been convicted guilty of conspiracy, maltreating and committing “indecent acts”. The term “torture” has not been mentioned, though.
Not un-American must then apparently be regarded what has now been released by the Obama administration: four memos detailing “tough interrogation techniques”, including “walling”, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, insects placed in a box confinement, and the notorious water boarding, which have obviously been applied to culprits in Guantánamo Bay and secret CIA camps since at least 2002.
The New York Review of Books will publish the International Committee of the Red Cross report on the treatment of fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA custody later this month. A pdf file can be downloaded here.
President Barack Obama, who has promised to close down the Guantánamo camp in Cuba within 18 months after taking office on January 20, has banned the use of, for instance, sleep deprivation and simulated drowning but has made clear that he would not prosecute CIA agents who have been involved in the mentioned “enhanced” interrogation procedures. “[T]hose who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice… will not be subject to prosecution.” A grave mistake. Obama’s decree will definitely not prevent others from conducting torture. Torture is to be called torture. It is illegal under both American and international laws. Prosecution is in fact mandatory.