The torture end-game is approaching – and Rumsfeld and Cheney know it. What is now being done to the hero, Captain Ian Fishback, who braved 17 months of obstruction, threats and intimidation by military brass to keep quiet, is a national disgrace. Fishback has now been sequestered at Fort Bragg under orders restricting his contacts (the pretext is that he is a key witness in a criminal investigation and that he should not be in contact with outsiders while it continues). My sources tell me that he has been subjected to a series of long, arduous interrogations by CID investigators. Predictably, the CID guys are out to find just one thing: they want to know the identities of his two or three NCO corroborators. The CID folks are apparently indifferent to the accounts of wrongdoing – telling him repeatedly not to waste their time with his stories. Fishback knows if he gives their identities up, these folks will also be destroyed – so he’s keeping his silence, so far. The investigators imply that he failed to report abuses, so he may be charged, or that he is peddling falsehoods and will be charged for that. They tell him his career in the Army is over. Meanwhile the peer pressure on him is enormous. I’m reliably told that he has been subjected to an unending stream of threats and acts of intimidation from fellow officers. He is accused of betraying the Army, and betraying his unit by bringing it into disrepute. His motives are challenged. He is accused of siding with the enemy and working for their cause. And it goes on and on. This is not surprising. My email in-tray tells me each day that I am a supporter of Islamo-fascism, a traitor, someone who should be deported and so on, for insisting that legalized torture in the U.S. is one of the most important issues we now face. But I’m a free man and they cannot silence this blog. Fishback, whose courage deserves a medal, is not. They are slowly smearing and breaking him. But I have a feeling we have finally found a man with the integrity, faith and patriotism to stand up to the culture of fear and brutality he is now enduring.

RUMSFELD WANTS HIM BROKEN: Another source informs that the word is around that Rumsfeld has taken a strong interest in this. He is quoted by some as saying “Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly.” And no doubt about it, that may be just what they are doing. Expect some trumped up charges against Fishback soon, similar to what they did to Muslim Chaplain Captain James Yee, whom they accused of treason with no solid evidence and then, when those charges evaporated, went on to accuse him of adultery. The bottom line, as the NYT reports today, is that the military and the Bush administration are determined to stop any real investigation about how torture and abuse came to be so widespread in the U.S. military. The scapegoating of retarded underlings like Lynndie England is an attempt to deflect real responsibility for the new pro-torture policies that go all the way to the White House. It’s a disgusting cover-up and it rests on breaking the will and resolve of decent servicemen and women brave enough to expose wrong-doing.

THE EVIDENCE IS OVERWHELMING: Anyone with their eyes open knew all this already. But now, the administration is essentially conceding the reality. Here’s the Washington Post editorial today:

How can it be that an officer of the United States armed services, concerned about detainee mistreatment that he has personally witnessed, could struggle in vain for 17 months to learn the standards of humane treatment the military is applying? The answer to this question appears starkly in the written responses to questions from senators by Timothy E. Flanigan, President Bush’s nominee to serve as deputy attorney general: The Bush administration has no standards for humane treatment of detainees. Capt. Fishback is looking for something that doesn’t exist.

Mr. Flanigan was Alberto R. Gonzales’s deputy when the attorney general served as White House counsel during Mr. Bush’s first term, and he was therefore deeply involved in forming policy on matters related to detainees. Like Mr. Gonzales, he has piously repeated the administration’s insistence that it does not engage in torture. Yet, also following the administration’s disgraceful line, he has refused to say that conduct just short of torture — which is banned by treaty and is a stain on American honor — is either illegal or improper when inflicted on foreigners overseas.

Mr. Bush has promised that all detainees will be treated humanely. Yet, when asked how he would define humane treatment, Mr. Flanigan declared that he does “not believe that the term ‘inhumane’ treatment is susceptible to a succinct definition.” Did the White House provide any guidance as to its meaning? “I am not aware of any guidance provided by the White House specifically related to the meaning of humane treatment.”

Mr. Flanigan could not even bring himself to declare particularly barbaric interrogation tactics either legally or morally off-limits. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) asked him about “waterboarding,” mock executions, physical beatings and painful stress positions. Mr. Flanigan responded: “Whether a particular interrogation technique is lawful depends on the facts and circumstances,” and without knowing these, “it would be inappropriate for me to speculate about the legality of the techniques you describe.” And he reiterated that “inhumane” can’t be coherently defined.

All of which is to say that anything short of outright torture goes — or, at least, that nothing is absolutely forbidden.

What more do you need to know? We have administration memos allowing for de facto torture of “enemy combatants” if “military necessity” demands it; we have new, Bush-approved legal definitions of torture that nevertheless allow all the kinds of horrors we have seen at Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper, Bagram, Guantanamo, Basra, Camp Mercury and dozens of other sites in the war arena. We have decorated captains testifying at great risk to themselves what has been happening – and we have a clear record of the administration’s attempts to silence and initimidate them. I wonder what is required for this to become the national outrage it should be. A first step must be for the Senate to vote down Flanigan’s pending nomination to be deputy attorney general. We already have a man who signed the torture memo heading the Justice Department. His name is Alberto Gonzales. Yes: a man who has approved torture of people without trial is now in charge of this country’s justice system. The second must be for Rumsfeld to resign immediately. The third must be new legislation forbidding any cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of military prisoners, with clear guidleines as to what is allowed and not allowed (legislation that Cheney is adamantly opposing and threatening to veto). Lastly, we need an independent – non-military – investigation which has access to every civilian and solider involved, with subpoena power and immunity for anyone testifying. If criminal charges be brought against Rumsfeld, so be it. And ultimately, this goes to the Oval Office. Bush has brought the deepest dishonor imaginable on his office. The last president was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in a civil lawsuit. Our current one has legalized torture in the U.S. military, and is thereby responsible for the deaths from torture of scores and the staining of the military’s honor for ever. Which crime is worse?