09 August 2011

Torturer Graner out of prison; high-level accountability still lacking

Charles Graner, who gained fame as one of the Abu Ghraib prison guards posing with thumbs up amongst the abused and bloody detainees in the infamous torture photos from that prison, was released on August 6 after serving a 6 1/2 year sentence at Ft. Leavenworth military prison.

Some of his co-offenders, including Abu Ghraib dominatrix Lynndie England, have also served time for their war crimes.

It is good that these low-level soldiers were held accountable once their abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib came to light. They clearly did wrong, and they probably knew it at the time. But were they simply having too much fun following the misguided orders they were given?

Abu Ghraib may have been the work of a few bad apples, as was an excuse at the time. But the rottenest of apples happened to be sitting in the West Wing and the Pentagon. Little Lynndie England sat in a prison cell for following orders (to break the detainees), while Donald Rumsfeld sat comfortably at home.

The Bush administration's actions were evil but cunning. The Bushies hid - and continue to hide - behind the legal justifications that they ordered from their legal counsel. And Jay Bybee and John Yoo were unscrupulous enough to twist rhetoric and law to the point where it would seem to justify the unjustifiable.

And, for some unimaginable reason, it has all gone unchallenged, even by the Obama administration.

So, despite the low-level convictions and sentences, torture ultimately wins.

Humanity loses, as does the rule of law.

And, perhaps most distressing of all, this could lend itself to an unthinkable sort of slippery slope over time.

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