Saturday, May 22, 2004


[Darby] said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "
I don't have much to say about the "Christian" in Graner. I try to focus on temporal judgment, and leave religious judgment up to God. But damn, sometimes it's hard.

According to new documents obtained by the Washington Post, some of the most sickly inventive of the Abu Ghraib escapades had nothing to do with Military Intelligence or interrogation. They did it for fun, or as perceived retaliation for prison crimes. "Approved" methods of torture quickly spread not only to unauthorized acts, but also to unauthorized purposes. So much for the various commentators speculating about how torture is necessary in extreme circumstances. So much for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales' specious argument that "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians...In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." They did some of it for fun.

In an earlier post, I talked about how the pressures of the insurgency might have led soldiers to stretch the definition of a prisoner with "high intelligence value," pushed by the increased U.S. death toll to push for actionable intelligence even from unlikely sources. Looks like I overestimated them. I've no doubt that some of that was going on - it's clear from Taguba's report that MI, civilian interrogators, and "other government agencies" were pushing for the mistreatment of specific prisoners. Seymour Hersh has further described the secret Pentagon program authorizing harsh prisoner treatment in the name of intelligence gathering.

But intelligence gathering isn't where it stopped. Permissiveness led to lawlessness. Given the green light to abuse some prisoners for some purposes, given a prison atmosphere in which the rights of prisoners were completely suspended, given a complete failure of accountability and supervision with respect to prisoner treatment - some of the MPs report following orders of MI personnel whose identities they didn't know - some people started freelancing. They gave way to their ugliest impulses. They had no higher motives.
In one of the most striking images to surface, a detainee jokingly referred to as "Gilligan" by the MPs was forced to stand on a box of food, with wires connected to his fingers, toes and penis.

Harman said she attached the wires to "Gilligan" and told him he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

"Why did you do this to the detainee 'Gilligan'?" a military investigator asked.

"Just playing with him," Harman said.