Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where is the media?

Last week's bipartisan Senate report on the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere doesn't just lay out a clear line of responsibility starting with President Bush, it also exposes the administration's repeated explanation for what happened as a pack of lies.

The report notes that in early 2002, not long after the Defense Department legal counsel's office started exploring the application of the sorts of abhorrent practices later documented at Abu Ghraib, Bush signed a memo exempting war-on-terror detainees from the Geneva Conventions. "[T]he decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody," the report states. And the report concludes: "The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at [Guantanamo]. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely."

Yet where is the U.S. media? Where is our corporate media? Not covering this major scandal, that's for sure. No our TV pundit class has been consumed with righteous indignation over the titillating, sleazy, and in the end rather petty Governor Blagojevich and his Soprano-like scandal. Each talking head has seemed more intent on competing with one another over who could sound more righteous, and spew the most derision and scorn for this apalling figure. And while Blagojevich was brazen his crimes in the end were relatively inconsequential.

Bush lawbreaking and war crimes scandals gets no coverage, while a corrupt Illisnois governor gets 24/7 coverage. What is wrong with our media?

Yes Blagojevich was vulgar and reckless but the media fixation on this ultimately irrelevant scandal, when compared to their steadfast ignoring of the Senate report documenting systematic U.S. war crimes, is perfectly reflective of how our political establishment thinks.

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball dig into the supporting documents and write for Newsweek: "The Bush administration approved the use of 'waterboarding' on Al Qaeda detainees after receiving reports from government psychologists that it was '100 percent effective' in breaking the will of U.S. military personnel subjected to the technique during training, according to documents released today by a Senate Committee. . . .
"'Use of the watering board resulted in student capitulation and compliance 100 percent of the time,' wrote Jerald F. Ogrisseg, the Air Force's chief of psychology services, in a July 24, 2002 memo released as part of the Senate report. . . .
"Much of the report, including the role top White House officials played in approving such methods, is based on material made public in two previous hearings by Levin's panel and other government reports. But it also includes some recently declassified documents, as well as new evidence showing how critical the use of SERE methods was in persuading senior officials to adopt interrogation techniques the U.S. government previously found strongly objectionable."

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