Moveon.org – 2004-05-19 10:30:18
As America learns more about the prisoner abuse scandal, it’s becoming clear that the path to the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib prison began at Donald Rumsfeld’s office in the Pentagon. According to an article in the New Yorker magazine, a policy put in place by Secretary Rumsfeld “encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.” 
Despite this horrible scandal and the cascading failures of US military policy in Iraq, President Bush says that Rumsfeld is doing “a superb job.” In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress must step in and hold the administration accountable.
A Deliberate Policy to Sidestep the Geneva Conventions
President Bush approved a policy that the Geneva Convention wouldn’t apply to suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When the war in Iraq started to go badly, Rumsfeld extended these aggressive interrogation policies to Iraqi prisons. According to the current issue of Newsweek:
“It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America’s top military lawyers — and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places.
“While no one deliberately authorized outright torture, these techniques entailed a systematic softening up of prisoners through isolation, privations, insults, threats and humiliation – methods that the Red Cross concluded were ‘tantamount to torture’‚” 
High-level officials in the Pentagon were sent from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq to implement the more aggressive policies, and it appears that command of the prison was placed in the hands of military intelligence officers. Techniques that had been approved only for suspected al-Qaeda terrorists were suddenly applied to Iraqi prisoners (up to 90% of whom were mistakenly detained, according to the Red Cross) .
Despite the eagerness of the Bush administration to blame the torture at Abu Ghraib on a few rogue soldiers, it is now clear that real responsibility lies at the top of the chain of command.
As the Commander-in-Chief, it’s President Bush’s job to decide who runs the Pentagon. If he won’t take the steps that are needed to restore American credibility around the world, Congress needs to use its power to convince the president to do the right thing — whether it issues a clear public call for the Secretary’s resignation or whether it uses other leverage to force the Administration’s hand.
Please call your elected Representatives today and ask them to do the right thing, for America’s sake.
 http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?fact/040524fa_fact THE GRAY ZONE, How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib. Seymour M. Hersh, 5/24/2004, New Yorker
 “The Roots of Torture: The road to Abu Ghraib began after 9/11, when Washington wrote new rules to fight a new kind of war.” John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, 5/24/04 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4989422/site/newsweek/
 Red Cross: Iraq Abuse Widespread, Routine, Alexander G. Higgins, 5/10/04. For AP story on this report, see: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040511/D82G3F9G1.html