Saturday, March 22, 2008

Exposure - Bush's refusal to give up torture

This evening I read "Exposure - The woman behind the camera at Abu Ghraib" in the March 24th issue of the New Yorker.

The article, by Philip Gourevitch* and Errol Morris,** focuses on Specialist Sabrina Harman, who took hundreds of pictures at Abu Ghraib.

What I focused on was what was being done to the detainees. It appears to me that what was being done at Abu Ghraib in 2003 could still be going on. On March 8th President Bush vetoed the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act due to a provision that would have applied the Army Field Manual on Interrogations to all government agencies, including the CIA.

The Army Field Manual (AFM), officially known as FM 2-22.3: Human Intelligence Collection Operations (Sept. 2006), specifically bans the following in addition to a blanket prohibition of torture:
Forcing a prisoner to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner.
Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a prisoner, and using duct tape over the eyes.
Applying beatings, electric shocks, burns or other forms of physical pain.
Using military working dogs.
Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
Conducting mock executions.
Depriving a prisoner of necessary food, water or medical care.

Bush’s veto means that he reserves the right to allow these practices to be used by the CIA and other government agencies we may not even know about. The descriptions of how the detainees at Abu Ghraib were treated in "Exposure" fits neatly into the list of procedures the CIA can continue to use, thanks to Bush's veto. You can bet there won’t be any Sabrina Harmans around to take photos.

On this Easter eve, I noted this comment near the end of the article: “Of course, the dominant symbol of Western civilization is the figure of a nearly naked man, tortured to death—or, more simply, the torture implement itself, the cross. But our pictures of the savage death of Jesus are the product of religious imagination and idealization. In reality, he must have been ghastly to behold. Had there been cameras at Calvary, would twenty centuries of believers have been moved to hang photographs of the scene on their altarpieces and in their homes?”

*Philip Gourevitch is editor of The Paris Review and A Cold Case.
** Errol Morris is the Academy Award winning director of "The Fog of War" and a new film coming out next month, "Standard Operating Procedures."
Gourevitch and Morris co-authored Standard Operating Procedures, which will be published in May.

Here are excerpts from Morris’s 9 hour interview with Harman, a clip from the film, a video of Morris and Gourevitch from the 2007 New Yorker Festival, and photographs of Harman and of the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

(photo of Abu Ghraib detainee from Update Center at Britannica Encyclopedia)


the democratic activist said...

As ours increasingly becomes a culture of cruelty, deception, and unabashed selfishness, it is more and more important that we do what we can to divert the mainstream away from what can only be described as wickedness and back toward a nation who's people know, understand, and follow the Golden Rule.

Without these efforts both great and small against cruelty and for the rights of all, the river of societal injustice only cuts deeper and deeper and its course becomes harder and harder to correct.

Brava, Gail! We honor and join with you in this cause.

tod said...

Thanks for this, Gail.

It's really too bad the vast majority of McCain/Obama/Clinton voters could give two shits about this situation. Nothing will be done about this by any of these candidates, save lip service and convenient grandstanding when the time comes to 'eliminate' such practices. Question: Where is the outrage from Obama and Clinton on this? On ANYTHING? Bastards.