Former Military Lawyers Join
Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld
by Edward Spannaus
"Mr. Rumsfeld's policies have stained our military.... We want to remove that stain," said retired Army Gen. James Cullen, one of two retired military lawyers who are part of the legal team in a newly filed lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [See interview with Gen. Cullen.] The action was filed on March 1 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First, on behalf of eight former prisoners, four Afghan and four Iraqi citizens, who were tortured and abused at the hands of U.S. military personnel acting under Rumsfeld's direction.
Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, who is also part of the legal team, acknowledged to a packed press conference in Washington on March 1 that, after 28 years in the United States Navy, "this is not an easy thing for me to do." But, Hutson explained, this lawsuit "is about our national defense, now and in the future; it's about the role that the United States has traditionally played on the world stage; it's about our self-respect and self-image; and it's largely about protecting our own soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are already in harm's way, and who will continue to be so in the future."
Both Cullen, who was Chief Judge of the U.S. Army Court of Military Appeals, and Hutson, who was the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, told EIR that they have received many expressions of support from both active-duty and retired military personnel for what they are doing —on this and on their earlier public statements on prisoner abuse and torture.
"I have been called by many on active and reserve duty," Cullen said, "and have been thanked privately for doing what they cannot do." Hutson said that he has been gratified to receive many e-mails and phone calls from former colleagues and other people, who have encouraged and supported him; this includes both active-duty and retired military personnel, who are appalled by the events of the past couple of years, and who don't want the United States to continue down this path.
Indeed, there is a wide recognition that those retired military flag officers, such as General Joseph Hoar (see EIR interview, April 9, 2004) and General Anthony Zinni (see EIR interviews, May 14, 2004, and Jan. 14, 2005), who have spoken out against the Administration's policies, are speaking on behalf of many active-duty officers who themselves cannot speak publicly.
As background to the March 1 filing, it is essential to recall that in September 2004, eight retired Generals and Admirals signed an open letter to President Bush calling for the creation of an independent commission to investigate prisoner abuse and torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo. The signers, in addition to Hutson and Cullen, were former CENTCOM commander, Gen. Joseph Hoar; former Army Judge Advocate General, Gen. John Fugh; Army Gen. Robert Gard; former Navy Inspector General, Adm. Lee Gunn; Army Gen. Richard O'Meara; and former Marine Corps Senior Legal Advisor Gen. David Brahms.
Then in early January, 12 retired flag officers signed a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressing their concern about the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. At a Jan. 4 press conference, again sponsored by Human Rights First, Generals Cullen and Hoar called for the Senate to reject the Gonzales nomination. Signers included many of those who had called for the independent commission, plus former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, retired Army Generals Evelyn Foote, Robert Gard, and Claudia Kennedy, Navy Admiral Don Guter, Air Force Gen. Merrill McPeak, and USAF National Guard Gen. Melvyn Montano.
One well-placed intelligence source told EIR that there was an entire generation of military officers who had stayed in the military after the debacle of the Vietnam War, to put things back together again, and to ensure that this never happened again. (Colin Powell had been part of this grouping.) They now see all their efforts going down the drain under the Bush-Cheney Administration, and are determined to do everything they can to stop it.
All of this, however, went completely over the heads of the news media. Despite the fact that Admiral Hutson addressed the March 1 press conference, none of the "establishment" East Coast news media even so much as mentioned the military participation in the lawsuit. The only exception found, was the Knight-Ritter news service, which has a better overall record in this regard.
Rumsfeld and Cambone in Charge
The 77-page complaint in the case documents, in detail, the chain of command through which Rumsfeld directed and controlled the torture policy, in most cases operating through his intelligence deputy Stephen Cambone, to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantanamo. Miller was sent to Iraq in August-September 2003 by Rumsfeld and Cambone, so that he could bring the interrogation methods used at Guantanamo into Iraq, including the use of dogs, the removal of clothing, the use of "stress positions," and sensory deprivation and isolation. The complaint shows how Miller gave his orders and directives to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and to two commanders at Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinksi and Col. Thomas Pappas.
Cambone, as EIR has reported, played a particularly key role. The complaint charges that as of the summer of 2003, Rumsfeld and Cambone "knew of widespread torture and other abuses of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, but that "they took no steps to prevent or punish these abuses." Rather, "Rumsfeld took measures to increase the pressure on interrogators in a manner that he knew was likely to result in further torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."
The references to the CIA are particularly important, in light of constant reporting by the Washington Post and others which treats the CIA as an independent operator, rather than an agency which is operating under the direction and supervision of the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon in the so-called Global War on Terrorism. In regard to the CIA, the complaint states: "Cambone supervised, and Rumsfeld approved, the activities of a clandestine program composed jointly of U.S. military and CIA personnel. This program began operations in Iraq in or around the summer of 2003 ... members of this program were authorized to use unlawful techniques, including physical and sexual humiliation, against Iraqi detainees."
The torture and abuse against the eight plaintiffs, which are described in the complaint, include severe beatings, cutting with knives, mock executions, death threats to the prisoners and their families, sexual abuse and humiliation, use of dogs to threaten and intimidate, restraint and confinement in excruciatingly painful positions, and severe sensory deprivation. This all took place in U.S. military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq between June 2003, and June 2004. These dates were after extensive reports and complaints about prisoner abuse had already been given to Rumsfeld and others. For example, Rumsfeld was on notice about torture and abuse being conducted at Guantanamo, as a result of complaints by FBI personnel made in December 2002.
Losing Our Soul
At the March 1 press conference, speakers from the ACLU and Human Rights First (formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) stressed that the lawsuit was not aimed at the military or the Department of Defense as a whole, or at the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that it focusses on the official at the top of the military command structure who is responsible and accountable for the conduct of troops under him. Michael Posner, the Executive Director of Human Rights First, said that throughout the preparation of the suit, they had consulted with military leaders.
Elaborating on his prepared statement (see Documentation), Hutson said that the United States had always been a role model with respect to the treatment of captives during wartime, "but I don't think we are now."
"We've been the country that has given hope to the oppressed and the afflicted around the world, which has made us stronger and the world safer," Hutson continued. "Unfortunately, we've now taken a dramatic step down a slippery slope."
If this continues, we will have lost more than we have gained, Hutson said. "We will take generations to recover from this, unless we stand up on behalf of these plaintiffs who have been abused under our control and authority, and say, 'Enough, Mr. Secretary! We want the old United States back.' "
"This lawsuit," Hutson concluded, "is an attempt to get this country back on the course that our forefathers charted for us."
In his statement, Hutson noted that the drafters of the Constitution had ensured civilian control of the military, but, he said, civilian leadership "is not a guarantee of success ... civilian leaders bear a grave responsibility." Defense Secretary Rumfeld, Hutson charged, "has failed to uphold that duty," and "has permitted, and indeed encouraged, military personnel to fall far short of the aspirational standards that Americans deserve and expect in our armed forces."
Hutson pointed out that not only do direct orders go down the chain of command, but so do attitudes: "In dealing with detainees, the attitude at the top was that they are all just terrorists, beneath contempt and outside the law, so they could be treated inhumanely. Our effort to gain information vitiated 200 years of history. International obligations didn't matter, nor did morality or humanity. It was okay to lose our soul as long as we got information, no matter how unreliable.
"That attitude dropped like a rock down the chain of command, and we had Abu Ghraib and its progeny. The self-respect of the military and the country was diminished. Our international reputation will be tarnished for generations. In the end, Secretary Rumsfeld's nonfeasance and malfeasance has imperilled the war effort and endangered troops."
In a response to questions from EIR following the press conference (see Documentation), General Cullen charged that Rumsfeld's policies have "undermined core principles on which the military's values and training have been based," and he said that Rumsfeld's "short-sighted and arrogant leadership" has put at risk the protections on which the U.S. military depends, when its personnel are made prisoners of war.
Cullen pointed out that, after World War II, the U.S. insisted that leaders be held to account for breaches of international law committed by forces under their command, and that the U.S. today cannot declare itself exempt from this same standard. He showed how the Commission investigating the My Lai massacre in Vietnam applied the same standard, specifically, that "the culture created by the then-Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara," that is, the "body count syndrome" as the measure of success, played a significant role in the circumstances leading to the My Lai massacre. The My Lai Commission also cited the dehumanization of the enemy, which Cullen compared to the dehumanization and humiliation of detainees under Rumsfeld's policies today.