Official American Sadism

Anthony Lewis in the New York Review of Books:

Abu_ghraib_53Since the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was exposed, in April 2004, the Bush administration has maintained that any mistreatment was the work of a few “bad apples.” No action has been taken against any higher-up, military or civilian. But a steady accumulation of disclosures, capped in June by a Senate committee report and hearing, has made it clear that abusive treatment of prisoners was a deliberate policy that came from the top—the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the White House.

In July 2002 the office of the Pentagon’s general counsel made a survey of the techniques used in a Pentagon program designed to teach ways of resisting torture by enemy forces. (The program focused especially on techniques used by Chinese forces during the Korean War to induce American prisoners to confess falsely to such things as using germ warfare.) In August, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, issued a secret fifty-page memorandum concluding that the president had plenary power to order the torture of prisoners in the war on terror. It built on an earlier memo by John Yoo and Robert Delahunty, which had been approved by Alberto Gonzales, then President Bush’s White House counsel. Bybee’s legal conclusions were incorporated into a memorandum prepared for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

More here.