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Rumsfeld hidews prisoner from Red Cross
June 17, 2004 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Pentagon officials tell NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held “off the books” — hidden entirely from the International Red Cross and anyone else — in possible violation of international law.
posted by hipnerd (60 comments total)

 
Donald H. Rumsfeld, will you please resign now?
posted by sudama at 9:37 AM on June 17, 2004


By "possible," I believe you mean "without question:"
The suspected terrorist has been held since October without being given an identification number and without the International Committee of the Red Cross being notified, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. Both conditions violate the Geneva Accords on treatment of prisoners of war.

Rumsfeld ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to have the prisoner secretly detained on the day last October, when Tenet made the request, Whitman said.
Rumsfeld and Tenet ordered the Joint Chiefs to violate the Geneva Conventions.

I'm still dealing with that final graf, though: Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law. Wow.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:43 AM on June 17, 2004


So, in other words, "that depends on what 'is' is."

It amazes me how Bush and his cronies get away with this crap when the conservatives would be howling for blood if it were Clinton doing this.
posted by keswick at 9:51 AM on June 17, 2004


Thankfully no one has yet received a plo chop, otherwise there'd be hell to pay.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2004


Q Mr. President, given your administration's assertions that it works closely with the International Red Cross, are you disappointed that Secretary Rumsfeld instructed military officials in Iraq to hold a member of Ansar al-Islam without telling Red Cross officials?

THE PRESIDENT: The Secretary and I discussed that for the first time this morning. And he's going to hold a press conference today to discuss that with you. I'm never disappointed in my Secretary of Defense. He's doing a fabulous job, and America is lucky to have him in the position he's in. But the Secretary will hold a press conference today, and you might want to ask him that question at his press conference.
-- Remarks by President Bush, today @ about 11 am.

I don't feel that lucky.
posted by birdherder at 10:03 AM on June 17, 2004


That link no longer works.
posted by linux at 10:07 AM on June 17, 2004


Just can't fight a war anymore without everyone stickin' their ignorant noses in the middle of it.
posted by Witty at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2004


Duh. The prisoner was obviously on "double secret probation."
posted by ColdChef at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2004


Bush: "I'm never disappointed in my secretary of defense. He's doing a fabulous job and America's lucky to have him in the position he's in."

Yes, we are lucky, if only because Rummy's action might just galvanize this nation against Bush.

onpreview: looks like birdherder beat me to the punch.
posted by ed at 10:16 AM on June 17, 2004


XQUZYPHYR: Come on now! You know as well as I, we won this War months ago so the detainees are obviously not "prisoners of war". Get with the program.
posted by Dr_Octavius at 10:19 AM on June 17, 2004


I think it was just a fun game. Maybe Rumsfeld was just trying to see how long it would take the Red Cross to find the guy -- an Iraqi version of "capture the flag." Perhaps the prisoner was instructed that if he heard the Red Cross say, "Marco!" he was supposed to reply, "Polo!"
posted by pardonyou? at 10:25 AM on June 17, 2004


Maybe Rumsfeld was just trying to see how long it would take the Red Cross to find the guy

Kind of like Where's Waldo? but better.
posted by mathowie at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2004


Real men neither eat quiche nor follow the Geneva Accords.
posted by tittergrrl at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2004


Just can't fight a war anymore without everyone stickin' their ignorant noses in the middle of it.
posted by Witty at 10:15 AM PST on June 17


So, witty, if Moqqy Sadr's militia - a recognised outfit - capture a US soldier but don't allow access by the ICRC, is that ok with you? With Rummy? Bush? The great american public?

Would you please distinguish this from kidnapping?

Suace for the goose...
posted by dash_slot- at 10:50 AM on June 17, 2004


This won't hurt much
posted by homunculus at 11:09 AM on June 17, 2004


Prepare for the worst of Abu Ghraib.
posted by homunculus at 11:28 AM on June 17, 2004


Quoting Seymour Hersh on June 10:

He said that after he broke Abu Ghraib people are coming out of the woodwork to tell him this stuff. He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run."

He looked frightened.

posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:44 AM on June 17, 2004


So, witty, if Moqqy Sadr's militia - a recognised outfit - capture a US soldier but don't allow access by the ICRC, is that ok with you?

No, it wouldn't be ok with me. I'm not saying that this particular incident is fine with me either. But like most of these "alarming" stories that get posted on MetaFilter, they're nothing new... in terms of what goes on in war. The Geneva Accords are certainly well intentioned and quite necessary. But they're pretty much bullshit when war gets right down to the nitty-gritty. I mean that in the sense that war is just a horrifying, unpredictable, nasty, dangerous, terrible, etc. etc. thing. It's very nature makes it damn near impossible for "rules" to stick or be practiced with reliable consistancy.

To quote myself, "But like most of these 'alarming' stories that get posted on MetaFilter, they're nothing new". What IS new however, is how information and "news" is handled, in this age of the internet, instant access, etc. So my point is, right or wrong, people/countries/governments are going to find it increasingly difficult to fight a war (or whatever) and keep everything involved a secret.

In wars past, no one would have ever known that a certain prisoner was being held secretly... nor would that have probably cared all that much. I'm not defending the action, but there was probably a pretty good reason for it, even if it was wrong to do so.
posted by Witty at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2004


I'm sorry witty there is some incredible new information in this story:

The Secretary of Defense himself knowingly ordered the violation of the Geneva convention. He made a decision to hide a prisoner that was so important that their own prison system lost him for a few months.

I will agree that when nations go to war laws (moral and international) will be broken by soldiers in the heat of battle. Our nation should not expect that the highest levels of the command chain should knowingly order people to break these laws.
posted by aaronscool at 12:13 PM on June 17, 2004


Witty: Oh.. so then we should just accept it.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2004


Did the article say that the prisoner was abused? I thought the problem was that they took him out of Iraq???
posted by tomplus2 at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2004


But Witty, what happened in Abu Ghraib wasn't in the heat of battle. Someone stopped and thought about the use of torture, and apparently came to the conclusion that it was OK. Again, the decision to unlawfully move and hide an inmate wasn't made in the heat of battle, it was a cold, calculated move. A decision that was certainly made knowing the ramifications of that decision.

And I might add, again, we are the United States. WE DON'T TORTURE PEOPLE. And we are the United States, WE ARE A NATION OF LAWS.
posted by plemeljr at 12:37 PM on June 17, 2004


When did we become evil?

Also: what plemeljr said.
posted by bshort at 12:49 PM on June 17, 2004


And, in support of plemeljr:

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Robert Bolt, A Man For All Seasons.
posted by donpardo at 12:55 PM on June 17, 2004


there was probably a pretty good reason for it, even if it was wrong to do so.

Out of honest curiosity, Witty, can you suggest an example of what such a good reason might be?
It certainly looks like Rumsfeld did this deliberately, but why? Hiding him from the ICRC strongly sugessts that they were doing something else to the prisoner that they knew to be wrong. Is this just another part of the cover-up of torture?
posted by Zetetics at 1:07 PM on June 17, 2004


Witty, only you could deliver a platitude in one paragraph and then say "to quote myself" and repeat it verbatim in the very next. Accidental self-parody, or intentionally acting as a foil for those ready to call you a pompous ass?
posted by soyjoy at 1:08 PM on June 17, 2004


i think this is incredibly big news, perhaps the most significant piece of evidence yet (that's a big "yet," however) out of this whole prisoner torture saga.

the US Secretary of Defense willfully and knowingly violated the Geneva Conventions. he should resign.

on preview: the prisoner may not have been tortured at all. it's still a serious violation to hide his/her existence from the ICRC. bad, bad idea. unfortunately, they could be holding a mass murderer, but because they insisted on breaking the rules the US looks extremely untrustworthy.

Rumsfeld and other administration officials have said the Geneva Conventions applied to all U.S. military activities in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

even if you don't care that much about following the Geneva Conventions, i think anyone could be upset at blatant lies. but then again, the US president keeps lying and people take it as fact cuz it's on the front page of the Washington Post (whereas the Rumsfeld story is nowhere).

Bush said Hussein had "provided safe haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi, who is still killing innocents inside of Iraq."

he doesn't even seem to recognize the inherent problem in his statement. terrorism in Iraq is worse than ever without Saddam.

in re: "Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally" ... this is all getting a little Clinton-esque (i imagine Bush testifying, "well, that depends on the meaning of 'relationship,' you see ..."), which is delightfully ironic, but shameful nonetheless. sure Iraq and al-Qaeda had/have a relationship. i have a relationship with both Iraq and al-Qaeda. however, that the extent of that relationship and the results thereof are the crucial details that are missing, a concept that the US president doesn't seem to understand. there was no evidence of a relationship so dangerous that the US needed to launch a pre-emptive war.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:16 PM on June 17, 2004


So can we finally get with the program and ship Rumsfeld off to be tried at the Hague?
posted by bshort at 1:36 PM on June 17, 2004


Witty: Oh.. so then we should just accept it.

{sigh}

But Witty, what happened in Abu Ghraib wasn't in the heat of battle.

I'm not saying is HAS TO and ONLY DOES happen in the "heat of battle". War is war, whether you're the one carrying the rifle or just making the strategic decisions. It is quite likely that the guy they were holding secretly had some key information to hide, that the coalition wanted/needed, but refused to give up. They probably kicked his ass around a bit in an effort to get him to spill it. So they kept it "off the books" in the meantime... and Rumsfeld said, "Yea, keep him off the books until we get this shit figured out."

Again, the entire point of my comment(s) is simply to point out that, right or wrong, people/countries/governments are going to find it increasingly difficult to fight a war (or whatever) and keep everything involved a secret. That's all. Just an observation. I think this war is proving that to be the case.

soyjoy - Don't try to fight with me. You're missing my point and that's fine. But don't twist it around just because you think I'm trying to defend anyone. I'm not. I quoted myself to make it easier for the reader of my post to understand what I was trying to say "was new".

Out of honest curiosity, Witty, can you suggest an example of what such a good reason might be?

- a good reason from the point of view of war strategy, rules be damned. Meaning, that I doubt they held him for no reason at all, just to torture him or for other shits n' giggles... or no reason at all. Holding this guy in secrecy is/was wrong (just so everyone understands that I'm not defending the action). But it's nothing new... Rumsfeld isn't unique in this area.
posted by Witty at 1:37 PM on June 17, 2004


Don't "try" to "fight" with you?

Don't worry, Witster, I'm only mocking your style, if it can be called that. Carry on. Please.
posted by soyjoy at 2:03 PM on June 17, 2004


But it's nothing new... Rumsfeld isn't unique in this area.

I think that utterly uninteresting point is understood.

The real question is, do we take any action when it's our guy doing it, or do we just accept it?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:06 PM on June 17, 2004


It is quite likely that the guy they were holding secretly had some key information to hide, that the coalition wanted/needed, but refused to give up. They probably kicked his ass around a bit in an effort to get him to spill it. So they kept it "off the books" in the meantime... and Rumsfeld said, "Yea, keep him off the books until we get this shit figured out."

Once again as quoted from the article.
"In fact, once the prisoner was returned to Iraq, the interrogations ceased because the prisoner was entirely lost in the system."

Obviously this prisoner had such important information that THEY LOST HIM.
posted by aaronscool at 2:08 PM on June 17, 2004


I don't really understanding the military, especially in the way it interacts with the civilian authority.
Does the chain of command allow for Rumsfeld to give direct orders to Sanchez without going through the Joint Chiefs, or whoever he reports to? Are there military personnel that report directly to the secretary? Could an ambitious secretary command in the field like Washington did as President?

Did Sanchez bury this guy as a courtesy to the Secretary?
posted by putzface_dickman at 2:08 PM on June 17, 2004


soyjoy - What is your problem? Why are you trying to provoke me? Got anything to add to the conversation, perhaps?

I think that utterly uninteresting point is understood.
The real question is, do we take any action when it's our guy doing it, or do we just accept it?


Well, if that were my (entire) point... but whatever. Yes, we should "take action". I'm not sure what that should be, as I'm not sure how serious this offense really is.
posted by Witty at 2:15 PM on June 17, 2004


people/countries/governments are going to find it increasingly difficult to fight a war (or whatever) and keep everything involved a secret.

Witty, I will agree with you on this issue, and I want to say that I think this is a good thingTM. People too often forget that war is the most cruel thing humans can do to each other, and the administration is fully culpable in creating a Nationalistic/Patriotic fervor in the leed-up to Iraq2.0 where no debate could happen. Remember that you were "Either with us, or against us."

The problem, is the secrecy. This is the reason why we have checks and balances, and more specifically, why the Congress has oversight in dealing with war and DoD. They don't direct it [the Executive does] but they hold the power of the purse and oversight [laws]. This administration has, from day one, looked to shirk and diminish the checks on Executive power. From Cheney's Energy Commission to the memos that Ashcroft won't release [even though they are out in the public], this administration [and I am guessing this begins with Cheney] has mounted an full court press to expand Executive power. When you have the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel [the Attorney General’s Lawyer] issuing memos that allows the President to override any law if it impedes in the war effort, every American should sit up, and take notice - regardless of political flavor. This President is looking to change the basic interaction between branches of government. I have little faith in the current Congress to rein in this over extension, and I think that the US Supreme Court is the real trump card in this matter. I guess we will all be waiting to hear the ruling on the Padilla/Enemy Combatant cases on monday.
posted by plemeljr at 2:20 PM on June 17, 2004


Witto - don't fret, I'm just amused at how you perpetuate your persona.

As to your supposed additions to the conversation, you seem to be saying that this violation was even worse than admitted, i.e. the prisoner was also tortured in violation of international law and then hidden in violation of international law, yet it doesn't matter, or "is nothing new," to quote you again, because whatever we do is within the grand tradition of pull-out-all-the-stops in a war. So we should find this unremarkable. And you'd say the same if it were an American being treated this way at the formal behest of a foreign head of state?
posted by soyjoy at 2:36 PM on June 17, 2004


"Well, if that were my (entire) point... but whatever. Yes, we should "take action". I'm not sure what that should be, as I'm not sure how serious this offense really is."

It is a violation of the Geneva Convention that goes up to Rumsfeld. There are already set ways to deal with that particular crime. That's the action that must be taken.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:36 PM on June 17, 2004


This incident, in some ways at least, resembles the Clinton/Monica/perjury incident. Clinton got some bjs from an intern, big stuff, but not enough for impeachment. Then, a lawsuit designed to embarrass him leads him to a lie (under oath no less - the idiot should have just refused to answer). His supporters could see through the facade and despite the technical violation did not think impeachment to be appropriate. Here, we have a single individual (at least that is all we positively can say right now) whose capture Rumsfeld and Tenent felt should be kept from the Iraqi resistance as that fact alone might compromise some intelligence (bases could be moved etc.). For one individual, and with a potentially quite large impact upon intelligence, it does not strike me as such a serious infraction, assuming he was not tortured but just that we failed in our obligation to identify him. However, if it legally turns out that this is in some way a felony on Rumsfeld's part - oh boy!
posted by caddis at 2:37 PM on June 17, 2004


Putz, I think the Joint Chiefs report to Rumsfeld, not the other way around.
posted by caddis at 2:41 PM on June 17, 2004


Kind of like Where's Waldo? but better.

I beg your pardon?
posted by waldo at 2:53 PM on June 17, 2004


boytoy - So we should find this unremarkable. And you'd say the same if it were an American being treated this way at the formal behest of a foreign head of state?

Yes, I would. It's happened before, it will happen again... it's human nature. International law is no deterrent.
posted by Witty at 2:53 PM on June 17, 2004


Putz, I think the Joint Chiefs report to Rumsfeld, not the other way around.

I'm sorry. but I believe that to be incorrect. The Joint Chiefs report to the Commander in Chief, not his Secretary. That's with the understanding, of course, that:

a) The CoC (Preznit) requires briefings of his Secratary of Defense from the JC, and

b) The Preznit actually gives a shit about what happens in a theater of War.

However, this definately begs the question ... was Bush uninformed/clueless/incompetant, or was Bush culpable for the questionable (and possibly actionable) responses of his Secretary of Defense?

Just for the record, I understand Witty's point, and I think him correct. But I also think that there are larger questions looming than whether or not Rumsfeld has followed the predisposition of history. The new hotness of Intarwebby info could be the deciding factor, or breaking point, for the administration and all who follow.

For the ramifications, I refer you to donpardo.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:04 PM on June 17, 2004


The chain of command runs from the President, through the Secretary of Defense to the Joint Chiefs. See Encarta's article.
posted by caddis at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2004


caddis, that article doesn't disagree with me, nor does it absolve Bush from some responsibility here. I'm not trying to be difficult, but ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:39 PM on June 17, 2004


TodaysPapers.
posted by nicwolff at 3:40 PM on June 17, 2004


but if Congress doesn't do anything, does anything happen? Isn't it totally up to them to stand up to the administration and subpoena and hold hearings and censure and impeach?

I've read that there are many prisoners like that guy in the link...unfortunately we're not hearing about all of them, if they're at all known.
posted by amberglow at 3:40 PM on June 17, 2004


The discussion has started at TodaysPapers, will anyone follow? (thank you nicwolff)
posted by caddis at 3:53 PM on June 17, 2004


It's happened before, it will happen again... it's human nature. International law is no deterrent.

Human nature is precisely the reason that we have laws, and they quite frequently do work as deterrents. Of course, the key to making them effective is to enforce penalties when they are broken, not shrug off the offense and say "oh well, it happens."
posted by rushmc at 4:36 PM on June 17, 2004


I watched Rummy's press conference (haven't seen any comments here that reference it yet) and it looks like it wasn't Rumsfeld's decision outright, it was Tenet's request to Rumsfeld. (But then again Tenet's out now, so maybe Rumsfeld is only pinning it on him.) Relevant bits:

Q Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask why last November you ordered the U.S. military to keep a suspected Ansar al-Islam prisoner in Iraq secret from the Red Cross.  He's now been secret for more than seven months.  And there are other such shadowy prisoners in Iraq who are being kept secret from the Red Cross.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  With respect to the -- I want to separate the two.  Iraq, my understanding is that the investigations on that subject are going forward.

With respect to the detainee you're talking about, I'm not an expert on this, but I was requested by the Director of Central Intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam.  And we did so.  We were asked to not immediately register the individual.  And we did that.  It would -- it was -- he was brought to the attention of the Department, the senior level of the Department I think late last month.  And we're in the process of registering him with the ICRC at the present time.

Q Well, why did you not register the individual, and has this man simply been lost in the system for -- why didn't you tell the Red Cross that you had him?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  The decision was made that it would be appropriate not to for a period.  And he wasn't lost in the system. They've known where he was, and that he was there in Iraq, for this period of time.


But, yeah. "Hmm, violate the Geneva Convention, eh? OK, let's do it."
posted by emelenjr at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2004


Rumsfeld, testifying under oath before the Senate on May 7th, 2004:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/jan-june04/law_05-13.html

DONALD RUMSFELD: General Myers, correct me if I'm wrong, but my recollection is that any instructions that have been issued or anything that's been authorized by the department was checked by the lawyers in your shop, in the department, in the office of the secretary of defense, and deemed to be consistent with the Geneva Conventions.

GEN. MYERS: Absolutely.

. . .

DONALD RUMSFELD: Second, the U.S. Government announced with respect to Iraq that the Geneva Conventions apply. Articles 3 and 4 apply for the Iraqi prisoners of war and apply for the civilian nonmilitary detainees. That has been the case from the beginning. We believe that the instructions that have gone out were reviewed by military and civilian counsel, and in their judgment, conform to the Geneva Convention. Fair enough so far?

Therefore anyone who is running around saying the Geneva Convention didn't apply in Iraq is either terribly uninformed or mischievous. In either case, it is harmful to the country. If you think about it, Geneva doesn't say what you do when you get up in the morning. It has a set of principles, if you will.
posted by bradhill at 4:59 PM on June 17, 2004


"horrible things done to children of women prisoners,[...]"

That's unlawful enemy combatant children of unlawful enemy combatant women , thank you very much.

Get with the program or you'll find yourself chained to a radiator with a bag over your head.
posted by spazzm at 5:06 PM on June 17, 2004


boytoy. Nice turnabout, fair play.
posted by David Dark at 5:47 PM on June 17, 2004


boytoy: you'd say the same if it were an American being treated this way at the formal behest of a foreign head of state?

Twitty: Yes, I would. It's happened before


Really. When was an American tortured and his imprisonment kept secret in violation of the Geneva Conventions, at the formal behest of a foreign head of state?

Snark: Got anything to add to the conversation, perhaps?
posted by soyjoy at 7:49 PM on June 17, 2004


So, not important, but I was asking if Rumsfeld needed to go through Sanchez' superiors, the Joint Chiefs, army top brass, whatever, or is it customary for the SoD to issue orders at all, and even to skip down the chain of command?
posted by putzface_dickman at 8:46 PM on June 17, 2004


Torture? Ain't no torture like those 70 virgins are going to see. OK, torture is bad, regardless of how bad the bad is, right?

I don't know, I see a difference between dehumanizing and... (warning, THIS IS GRAPHIC) The clip jumps to footage of scrub-clad "surgeons" with rubber surgical gloves severing the man's hand at the wrist. First the skin is peeled away with surgical knives and tweezers; ligaments, tendons, muscle, and bone underneath are exposed. Then the gloved hands wielding the knives begin to slice, shredding through the sinews, slashing muscle, breaking bone, until the hand is ultimately detached and plopped onto a green cloth, as yellow, pulpy tissue spills forth.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:22 PM on June 17, 2004


tomplus2 -- so it's the "yeah but at least we aren't as evil as the other guy" defense, eh?

Yes, torture is bad. Also, the sky is blue.
posted by ook at 6:56 AM on June 18, 2004


Nah, just using the "the punishment should fit the crime" defense.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:22 AM on June 18, 2004


Excellent; I agree completely. The crime, in this case, is violating the Geneva convention by mistreating prisoners of war -- and in so doing, putting future US prisoners of war at a much greater risk of being tortured as well.

I should think the punishment for that should be fairly severe, don't you? The paper trail goes all the way to the top; Rumsfeld resigning in disgrace should be the least of it.

"Dehumanizing?" We were torturing. Prisoners were beaten to death, by US soldiers. I don't care how bad the other guy is, that's not a business we should be in. We're the good guys. We should fucking well act like it.
posted by ook at 9:19 AM on June 18, 2004


Please, No US Gulag
posted by homunculus at 1:01 PM on June 18, 2004


Annan urges U.N. to oppose American exemption from international prosecution for war crimes
posted by homunculus at 3:45 PM on June 18, 2004


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