'You Can't Handle the Truth!'

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The
bellicosity was missing, but the spirit of Col. Nathan Jessup was
alive and well at last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee’ hearing.
The purpose of the hearing was to determine the origin of policies
which legitimized the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Torture at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Yeah, Jessup was definitely there.
The hearing was spurred by revelations of previously classified
documents which confirmed that the torture of those imprisoned by
the military was not the spontaneous act of a few demented junior
enlistees. The paper trail led all the way back to the White House,
and the resulting program of abuse and torture led retired General
Antonio Taguba, who investigated similar abuses at Abu Ghraib to
conclude that the Bush Administration had engaged in "a
systematic regime of torture."

During eight
hours of questioning, various defense department personnel subjected
the Committee to their own form of torture. Speaking in acronyms,
half truths and passing-the-buck replies, the DOD witnesses spun
in circles those seeking to get to the bottom — or should we say
the top — of the torture scandal. "I’m sorry Senator you would
have to ask BEEBOP Command within Central One at SIXPACK REDRIVE."
Huh? Oh yeah, let’s not forget this timeless gem: I’m sorry Senator,
I am trying very hard to answer your question, but that was six
years ago and I really have no recollection of that." In listening
to the Senators’ incredulous follow-ups you had the clear impression
that they had no idea what the heck these witnesses were talking
about. It was the DOD’s version of the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil,
speak-no-evil monkeys.

Predictably,
lawyers from the Department of Defense expressed indignation at
the Senators’ suggestions that they may have crossed any lines.
In Jessup-like fashion they deviated from direct questions in part
to avoid answering them and in part to provide long lectures about
terrorism, terrorists and the need to defend the country through
the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." The implication
was clear. The determination of how badly detainees can be abused
is a matter of national security and only the military — not some
namby-pamby Senators or U.S citizens — are smart enough to make
that decision.

Taguba has
concluded that "There
is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration
has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered
is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to
account."
"Taguba! You make me puke! You want the
truth? You can’t handle the truth!" No, and frankly, neither
can the rest of us.

June
23, 2008

John
M. Peters [send him mail]
is a practicing attorney in Michigan.

John
M. Peters Archives

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