The “independent” commission appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to investigate whether orders were given from the defense administration to torture prisoners in Abu Ghraib acquitted the ministry officials from wrongdoing Tuesday. Coincidentally, the same officials who appointed the committee were the ones investigated. But the questions surrounding the torture cases are far from answered and involvement by “higher-ups” still seems likely.
The commission described the incidents at Abu Ghraib as “freelance activities on the part of the night shift at Abu Ghraib” and said they were not premeditated or ordered by higher officials.
According to the Washington Post, however, White House officials asked the Justice Department in August 2002 for an evaluation of whether torture would be allowed in some instances. The Justice Department responded in a memo, saying torture of prisoners “may be justified” and suggested international law “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” when need be in the war on terror.
This essentially gave the Commander in Chief George W. Bush legal carte blanche.
The question therefore remains if higher officials played this card by creating an atmosphere in which such acts were likely to occur. At the same time, the level of plausible deniability was carefully retained to protect them if the matter was discovered.
Since prisoners of other installations, such as Guantanamo Bay, have also reported they have been held under similar conditions as the prisoners of Abu Ghraib, the cases do not appear to be as isolated as the Bush administration would like to make it appear.
Sadly, the public will never know for certain what led to the instances at Abu Ghraib because the matter is officially closed. However, it remains to be seen what actions are taken, if any, for those who remain on trial.