Revelations Lead to Rumsfeld's Door

Revolutionary Worker #1241, May 23, 2004, posted at

As we go to press, senior CIA officials, both past and present, have reportedly leaked that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld approved the extreme interrogation methods used against Iraqi detainees under U.S. control. Their accounts appear in a New Yorker article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (May 24 available at

These revelations have far-reaching implications--first because they document that the approval of torture was made at the very highest levels of the government, and second, because an intensifying inner-ruling class struggle has now erupted with such ferocity that it is breaking into the headlines.

If confirmed, Hersh's allegations would almost certainly undermine Rumsfeld personally. But they will also affect the ability of the U.S. government to pursue its current course in Iraq and could shake the very legitimacy of the whole current ruling clique.

The heads of the U.S. government have, all of them, denied that they authorized torture--in Iraq or anywhere else. They have blamed a few vicious low-level prison guards for all the extreme abuse that has come to light. And now, it appears that they have been exposed--standing at the very center of a monstrous web of lies and horrific brutality.

Seymour Hersh's article opens with the following words:

"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq."

Hersh continues: "According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq."

Hersh claims that in the fall of 2001, Rumsfeld set up a special kind of military covert "black op" called a Special Access Program (SAP). For this SAP, the Pentagon, CIA and NSA gave advance approval to quickly capture, assassinate, or brutally interrogate anyone targeted, anywhere in the world. Hersh reports that President Bush was informed of the operation. A former CIA official summed up, "The rules are `Grab whom you must. Do what you want.' "

This SAP was first focused on al-Qaida and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and then its reach was extended far more widely, including to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq.

SAP torture and assassination methods were first applied in Iraq during the push to capture Saddam Hussein. Then, with the rapid growth of the Iraqi insurgency last fall, the Pentagon was reportedly frustrated by the failure of U.S. military and CIA forces to penetrate the resistance. Rumsfeld approved and his Deputy Stephen Cambone implemented SAP operations targeted on the anti-occupation resistance forces among Iraq's people--including specifically "getting tough" with Iraqis held in U.S.-controlled prisons. Military interrogators in Iraqi prisons were brought under the control of SAP operations. Hersh reports that the methods approved for Abu Ghraib included sexual humiliation--which were recommended based on detailed scholarly study of "Arab culture and psychology." Photos were taken of extreme sexual humiliation in order to blackmail prisoners into acting as informants.

This approval, these methods and the SAP itself have, up until now, been among the most closely guarded state secrets. They were so super-covert that they had no budget, no office, and were not even officially classified "top secret"--they simply didn't officially exist, except for any information they extracted by torture, which was funneled to the military command.

One of Hersh's CIA sources sums up that the special operation developed against al-Qaida was now used against "cabdrivers, brothers-in-law and people pulled off the streets."

Rumsfeld, his Pentagon commanders and the whole Bush administration denied that torture--in Abu Ghraib or anywhere else--had official approval. This was repeated by Rumsfeld in his appearances before Congress last week. Commenting on Rumsfeld's denials, a senior CIA official said to Seymour Hersh, "Some people think you can bullshit anyone."

Before Hersh's article had even appeared in newsstands, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita denounced it as "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture."

However, even before Hersh's latest report, there has been clear evidence that the torture, murder and bizarre sexual abuse of prisoners were being carried out on a worldwide scale. Every day new revelations have come out about how the U.S. military and CIA treated prisoners--rape, forced public masturbation and anal penetration, biting dogs, violent beatings, severe burning of prisoners, electric shock and telling prisoners their female relatives would be hunted down and raped. Many cases are surfacing that document prisoners being beaten and tortured to death.

And it was increasingly unmistakable that all this had been approved (and even demanded) at the very highest levels of the U.S. government--including in the Pentagon, the CIA, the Justice Department, and ultimately the White House itself.