Senate Report: Rumsfeld to Blame for Detainee Abuses

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A new report from the Senate Armed Services Committee places significant blame for abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay on former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

The report’s executive summary, made public by the committee’s Democratic chairman Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and its top Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said Rumsfeld contributed to the abuse by authorizing aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay on December 2, 2002.

He rescinded the authorization six weeks later. But the report said word of his approval continued to spread within U.S. military circles and encouraged the use of harsh techniques as far away as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report concluded that Rumsfeld’s actions were “a direct cause of detainee abuse” at Guantanamo and “influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques … in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The report concluded that the abuses were not merely a case of a few soldiers acting on their own but the result of decisions made at the highest levels within the Department of Defense. The report also faults President Bush for signing a memorandum in February of 2002 that stated the Geneva Convention did not apply to the U.S. war with al Qaeda.

While I know there are still plenty of people who view torture as an acceptable means of extracting information from terrorists, I have long argued that we damage the deepest principles of America and compromise our moral authority when we resort to abuse — even when we do so in the name of our own defense. The “but our enemies are worse” argument holds no water for me. Yes, they are much, much worse. That doesn’t matter. We can’t let our enemies set the standards for morality.

Careful observers have long known that the instances of detainee abuse were not just the result of a few “overzealous” soldiers but the result of an administration that overreached in its quest for victory. I’m glad the Senate Armed Services Committee was willing to place the blame where it belongs: at the top.