There is a passage in the Taguba Report that reads as follows …
MG Millerâs team recognized that they were using JTF-GTMO operational procedures and interrogation authorities as baselines for its observations and recommendations. There is a strong argument that the intelligence value of detainees held at JTF-Guantanamo (GTMO) is different than that of the detainees/internees held at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and other detention facilities in Iraq. Currently, there are a large number of Iraqi criminals held at Abu Ghraib (BCCF). These are not believed to be international terrorists or members of Al Qaida, Anser Al Islam, Taliban, and other international terrorist organizations.
There’s a lot of jargon here. So let me try to add a little <$Ad$>context and explanation.
“MG Miller” is Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, until recently the commanding officer of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was just recently placed in command the US prison system in Iraq.
In August and September of last year Miller went to Iraq to study and report on the prison facilities the US military was running in the country and how they were being utilized for generating intelligence by means of interrogations. He made his report in October.
[ed. note: I got some hints this evening of high-level interest in the contents of Miller’s report. And I strongly suspect that we’ll be seeing that report show up in print and online some time pretty soon.]
In the passage above, Taguba makes the point that Miller was using Gitmo rules as “the baselines for its observations and recommendations” for how things should be conducted in Iraq.
Now, there are all sorts of problems with what’s happening at Guantanamo Bay. In my mind, the issue is not so much the particular conditions and procedures — which are hard to determine since everything is so secret — but the fact that the US government has tried from the first to argue that the camp is literally off-limits for law of any sort. Geneva Convention rules don’t apply. US courts have no oversight whatsoever. Nothing.
That’s simply beyond the pale in a democratic state under the rule of law. Everybody gets to go before a magistrate. Even if it’s a hanging judge. Everybody.
Now, having said that, it’s not hard to see why different procedures might be called for if you’re dealing with active and hardened terrorists (though with no rule of law at Guantanamo there’s really no way to know if that’s even the case). But in Iraq you’ve got everything from petty criminals to bona-fide terrorists in detention. And between those two extreme categories you’ve got plenty of people picked up for various levels of association with the former regime, sympathy with various anti-American groups, insurgent violence, people picked in raids looking for intelligence, innumerable people who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, almost everything under the sun.
Many are probably, no doubt, not the most pleasant folks. But to imply, as Taguba does, that we shouldn’t be applying Guantanamo rules to these folks is really an understatement. Basically, the idea seems to be that we’re taking the unprecedented and extra-legal Gitmo rules and applying them as the baseline for how we’re going to deal with everyone we take into custody in Iraq.
Now, we can’t draw too much from Taguba’s brief description of what Miller’s report contains or the context of its commission. And certainly this doesn’t mean that everyone in Iraq literally got the Gitmo treatment. But I can’t think of a more tangible example of the corrosive effect our embrace of lawlessness at Guantanamo has had on our conduct. First we devise these outlandish rules to deal with the worst bad guys behind 9/11 and the next thing you know we’re applying those brave new rules to miscellaneous bad actors who fall into our net in Iraq. What are we looking at here but the fraudulent connection between Iraq and 9/11 suddenly become flesh, as we look into our own faces and see a paler shade of our enemies looking back at us?