Friday, June 16, 2006

An Exercise in Transparency...

More than 1,000 pages of reported findings about the systematic, and systematically sanctioned, abuse of Iraqi detainees were released by the Pentagon today, according to the Associated Press, as a result of a victory, by the ACLU, in their Freedom of Information Act suit. Included among the many "incidents" recounted, in this official Pentagon report, was forcing prisoners to subsist on bread and water only, for more than 2 weeks, as well as forcing them to strip, and depriving them of sleep.

While some of these allegations have made their way to members of the press, and Congress, before, this is the first public airing of these documents in which several paragraphs have been blacked out, including specific names of people, and places. Also excised, and excluded, are members of the press who are being kept out of Guantanamo Bay, as a news blackout is underway following the report of 3 suicides there last week.

While the ACLU claims that today's findings represent a "whitewash," and that only a minute percentage of the allegations, against the military special forces, are being investigated, Lt. Col. Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Pentagon, disagrees, telling a reporter for the Associated Press that the military has taken "significant steps" to get to the truth, and hold those responsible accountable, all part and parcel of their "effort to be transparent and show that we investigate all allegations thoroughly, and we take them seriously." Transparent is a term we've heard a lot of lately not unlike the word "asymmetrical," and the irony of how both words are used is something not lost on any reasonable person.

Released today, one of the major reports, by Army Brig. General, Richard Formica, concludes, from his findings, that conditions in Iraqi prisons "did not comport with the spirit of the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions," (AP) hence, by implication, the conditions were less than humane by international standards. Now, step back and look at what the good general said. One can think of nothing more stunning than a statement by top brass of the Army that what he witnessed, in detention centers in Iraq, did not comply with those standards that have governed our military for generations. About the only thing more stunning, arguably, would be if Formica were to call his superiors war criminals. Is that what it will take before Congress wakes up, and stops funding this obscenity that tries to pass itself off as a war on terror?

Clearly, the Pentagon has succeeded in their efforts to "be transparent," as Lt. Colonel Ballesteros suggests. They're transparent as hell! Citizens of the international community can see right through what's going on in prisons throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Lord knows where else despite best efforts, by this administration, to shut members of the press corps out. The phrase "extraordinary rendition" is one that is familiar to far too many people on this planet right now, and Spain, Italy, and Germany have all accused the US of trying to use them as conduits to outsource torture.

These are dark times indeed, but even in the darkest times, a small ray of light manages to seep out. One can only hope that, as Americans, we, and members of Congress, will see through the transparency of war crimes in the name of national security, as well as act to secure our integrity, as a nation, and not just our borders.