Today’s Must Read


Months after Justice Department lawyer John Yoo carefully delineated for the Pentagon how U.S. personnel could torture detainees all they wanted, the abuses at Abu Ghraib occurred. Does this put a dent in the “few bad apples” theory?

The New York Times mulls it and comes back with: “Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.” So it’s no smoking gun.

The memo was intended to deal with “‘unlawful combatants,’ a label that would not apply to the largely Iraqi population captured during the Iraq war.” Still, the natural suspicion remains that Yoo’s expansive parsing might have migrated over to Iraq. After all, Major General Geoffrey Miller, then the commanding officer at Guantanamo Bay, did travel to Iraq in August of 2003 to advise officials there on interrogating Iraqi detainees. Miller had been briefed on the Pentagon’s guidelines for interrogation, which owed much to Yoo’s green light.

Not so, says Yoo:

“The ‘culture of abuse’ theory has no reliable evidence to support it,” Mr. Yoo wrote. He noted that several military investigations had found that what he called “the appalling abuses” at Abu Ghraib were not authorized by any military policy.

“While each case of abuse is regrettable,” Mr. Yoo wrote, “it is not possible for a large organization charged with protecting the national security, under extraordinary pressure, to perform its mission error-free.”

Shit happens.

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