The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, May 08, 2004


From AP:
Pentagon officials rejected an Army plan last year to send an experienced military lawyer — who is also a Republican member of Congress — to help oversee the unit blamed for prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib complex outside Baghdad.

That left the prison complex, which holds up to 7,000 Iraqis, without an onsite lawyer to guide interrogations and treatment of prisoners.

The top lawyer for the 800th Military Police Brigade, the Army unit in charge of detainees at Abu Ghraib, later came under fire in an Army report about the abuse for being ineffective and "unwilling to accept responsibility for any of his actions."

The rejected lawyer, Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., and other experts say having had a lawyer at the prison might have prevented or at least mitigated the beatings, sexual humiliation and other abuse detailed in photographs and the Army probe.

"It's always good to have a lawyer around so you've got a conscience for the command and an opportunity to vet questions," said retired Army Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, who commanded an armored brigade during the 1991 Gulf War.

Pentagon officials confirmed there was no onsite lawyer at Abu Ghraib, but spokesmen for Army Secretary Les Brownlee and Pentagon personnel officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, referred questions to the Army.

Buyer, a strong supporter of the Iraq war and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, had volunteered to go to Iraq shortly after the invasion in March 2003.

In a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press, Buyer said military officials all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved his assignment to the 800th Military Police Brigade, which has handled Iraqi prisoners of war since the beginning of the conflict.

Pentagon personnel officials and Brownlee rejected the assignment, saying the Army could fill the requirement another way. Brownlee also wrote to Buyer that his high-profile status could bring danger to the troops around him.

Buyer said he objected to David Chu, the Pentagon's personnel chief, and Charles Abell, Chu's deputy.

"I expressed the importance of having a (lawyer) at the camp," Buyer said. "You have to ask, when you had a qualified officer, and the civilian leaders, Dr. Chu and the secretary of the Army, said no, who did you send in his place?"
CNN is reporting right at this instant that an Army official is citing a couple of excuses for why Buyer's trip was nixed, both of which were not particularly satisfying. One of them cited Buyer's safety, and the other has slipped my memory, but neither excuse was all that impressive.

Here's CNN's recap.

So now we have the higher-ups in the Pentagon -- and that means Rummy -- rejecting any serious oversight for treatment of prisoners by the US military in Iraq. We already know that some of the torturers in the pictures claim to be acting on the orders of intelligence officials. That, combined with the Pentagon's "nothing to see here" stance regarding Buyer's rejected trip, suggests that these were not acts of a mere few underlings.

Furthermore, now we have the Pentagon -- Rumsfeld -- acting in a way that clearly enabled the torturers and shielded them from accountability. One would think that means his ass.


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