Monday, November 27, 2006

General Karpinski May Be Abu Ghraib Witness Against Rumsfeld

I read body language better than most people though, in reality. reading body language is more an art than a science. You can't use body language in a court of law and a reporter is better off not mentioning a hunch about facial expressions, though TV journalists will let you draw your own conclusions from a carefully selected videotape without saying a word.

But I'm just a writer, not a reporter. I allow myself some latitude. Now I know how easy it is to get things wrong, but I've learned that if you have a hunch, you just keep watching, and the person who's raised your curiousity may eventually confirm the hunch. Sometimes, repeatedly. In the spring of 2004, Rumsfeld repeatedly confirmed my hunch that he knew all about Abu Ghraib long before the photos surfaced. Rumsfeld never once acted like a man who was angry about the torture. But he was clearly angry that somebody in charge, in his view, was stupid enough to let pictures be taken. It was the pictures and therefore the leaks that bothered him, not what was going on inside the prison.

So I'm inclined to believe General Karpinski who was nominally in charge of the interrogation proceedings at Abu Ghraib and says that Rumsfeld authorized the interrogation methods; here's the story from Reuters:
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

I suspect there's more to the Karpinski side of the story. I have a theory and it's only a theory since there's much about the Bush Administration we don't know. Not even Bob Woodward, who has shown on a number of occassions that he can be easily misled. My theory is that Dick Cheney, who was put in charge of staffing most of the Bush Administration just after the 2000 election, designed the staffing in such a way that he would be more in charge that even the president would fully recognize, though Bush appears to have intended Cheney to have the largest role we have ever seen a vice president have (Bush's presidency has been a strange two-headed monster that the historians will be talking about for decades). It's clear that Cheney's own staff, at least in the beginning, was in some areas stronger than Bush's immediate staff—and nowhere was this more clear than in the selection of Condi Rice.

Rice, I believe, was picked by Bush but Cheney may have been thoroughly delighted by the choice and may never have pointed out that she was a poor choice for national security adviser; she was an intellectual, an expert on the Soviet Russia era, but had no management skills (and for that matter, she shared with other administration figures a poor understanding of foreign policy developments during the 1990s). Time and time again, we have seen the more experienced Cheney or Rumseld run roughshod over Rice, whether as national security adviser or secretary of state. Even when she is given more authority, Condi Rice isn't quite able to get the job done and this has suited Cheney and Rumsfeld.

It's not uncommon for presidents to have advisers who are largely bypassed. Nixon, in his first term, did not rely much on his secretary of state; he relied on Henry Kissinger. But it is unusual for a vice president to set up such a system (with or without Bush's consent) where it has been possible at times to bypass the president's own people or simply use them as a tool while the real policy was being pursued elsewhere (with or without Bush's involvement: Bush, too, likes to play games). Given this background, I suspect Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld may have seen to it that something of the same sort was done to General Karpinski who was nominally in charge of the interrogations but not really. She was supposed to be somebody they could easily ignore. In any case, once the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, she was a convenient scapegoat; she was relieved of duty, demoted and not expected to be heard from again. It's entirely possible, however, that General Karpinski will have the last word.


Blogger Bob said...

Your passage on body language and hunches is stunning, and right on. I want to jump from that to the business of the poisoned spy in London, and the bit about radioactive polonium-210 being the agent. We read that this material is rare, hard to obtain, requires a nuclear lab, blah blah.

This is nonsense, and it baffles me why not a single journalist has remarked that polonium-210 is a component of a widely-obtainable and cheap gadget for removing dust from photographic materials and lab equipment.

Surf HERE>

The 'Staticmaster' line of ionizing brushes has been in the market for over 40 years. You can buy the one-inch brush for under $30, today, and the replacement polonium-210 cartridge, which is the part any evildoer needs, goes for just twenty bucks.

Note in the information given by this supplier that the polonium is safely encased -- unless one grinds away the matrix that contains it and ingests the material. Let's see, take one polonium-210 cartridge, pulverize, add gin, mix...

Back to hunches and body language. Litvenenko's death is not a happy event, but the pictures of him in his hospital bed, which did show him languishing hairless, did not however show him gaunt, emaciated, fading...but rather practically in the pink and all but smug.

His written statement, if indeed it is something he wrote, was the same , self-righteous and, well, smugly self-contained. He was either one tough nut-- or else just plain nuts.

Of the Staticmaster brushes, each with its little polonium-210 pill aboard, there must be zillions out there. Even though the radioactivity declines rapidly -- Staticmaster wants you to buy a new cartridge every year or so to keep the thing working right -- there is still plenty of punch in what's left, if it finds it way into the wrong part of one's anatomy.

Please note that I do not reject as probable that his death was a murder.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Bob, thanks for the comments and information. John Emsley, the author of Elements, says there's only about a 100 grams produced a year. I suppose that reduces the number of sources to check.

I understand that Polonium is also used in satellites as a heat source.

1:29 AM  

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