“Camp No”

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This is the isolated part of Gitmo where paddy wagons came and went, whence screams could be heard during "aggressive questioning", and whence three corpses are believed to have emerged after the kind of treatment once reserved for totalitarian states but now indelibly part of the American way.

No, this is not a satellite of a secret Iran torture chamber; it is not a Soviet camp; it is not an isolated black site in North Korea. It is in Gitmo. And it is where America's founding principles came to die.

The corpses were delivered to their families with their necks cut out, to make it impossible to tell whether they were strangled to death in a session engineered by Cheney and Rumsfeld or whether they hanged themselves simultaneously as the cover-up insisted.

A closer-up version of the same photograph below the fold:

Ali Soufan, American Hero

"We're the United States of America, and we don't do that kind of thing."

In the months ahead, as the full details of the Bush administration's decision to leave the rule of law behind and illegally torture human beings for intelligence, the experience of Ali Soufan will be vital for understanding how what happened happened. Like many other individuals along the way – Ian Fishback, Alberto Mora, Antonio Taguba come to mind – Soufan saw what was going on, understood immediately that it was illegal and immoral and did all he could to stop it. He failed but he may provide critical evidence of the war crimes of Cheney in the invesitigations that should and will come. He was the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah and he gained a treasure trove of information without violating the law or core American values. From Mike Isikoff's must-read:

"We kept him alive," Soufan says. "It wasn't easy, he couldn't drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips." Gaudin, for his part, cleaned Abu Zubaydah's buttocks. During this time, Soufan and Gaudin also began the questioning; it became a "mental poker game." At first, Abu Zubaydah even denied his identity, insisting that his name was "Daoud."

But Soufan had poured through the bureau's intelligence files and stunned Abu Zubaydah when he called him "Hani"—the nickname that his mother used for him. Soufan also showed him photos of a number of terror suspects who were high on the bureau's priority list. Abu Zubaydah looked at one of them and said, "That's Mukhtar."

Now it was Soufan who was stunned.

Not All Were Silent I

In the wake of final proof that the US became a nation of torture under president Bush, it is worth recalling two brave souls who told the truth when it counted and stood up in a climate of intense fear and Rovian intimidation. The first is a young man championed by this blog years ago now, who wrote a letter to Senator McCain, based on his horror at what he saw in front of him: a policy of torture and abuse of prisoners that was endemic throughout the military commanded by George W. Bush until the Abu Ghraib scandal forced Bush to ratchet the torture back in and concentrate it in his own hands. Here is Ian Fishback's letter from September 2005: Dear Senator McCain:

While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq.

On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command through battalion commander, multiple JAG lawyers, multiple Democrat and Republican Congressmen and their aides, the Ft. Bragg Inspector General's office, multiple government reports, the Secretary of the Army and multiple general officers, a professional interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, the deputy head of the department at West Point responsible for teaching Just War Theory and Law of Land Warfare, and numerous peers who I regard as honorable and intelligent men. Instead of resolving my concerns, the approach for clarification process leaves me deeply troubled.

Person Of The Year

I don’t begrudge Time magazine for their obvious choice. But given the great progress we’ve made this year in flushing out and facing what happened in the past seven years with respect to prisoner abuse and torture as policy, I’d like to nominate someone else. You can see the gradual exposure of presidential war crimes as a permanent blot on the United States. But it remains equally true that this blot was first exposed by people within the military, the CIA and the FBI, who refused to sanction the orders of president Bush on down. I prefer to see the exposure of this evil as a result of patriotic Americans serving their country, resisting and finally ending the immoral and ineffective policies of their commanders. Ian Fishback was one of the very first, with a great deal to lose. He is a loyal soldier, still in active service, in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is worth recalling not just because he stood up to abuse in Iraq, but because his letter to Senator McCain, after desperately and endlessly trying to get his concerns taken seriously by a Pentagon command under orders to retain the abuse, is an historic document. Here it is, as moving and as vital as the day it was written, September 16, 2005:

Dear Senator McCain: