Yesterday, Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin called for an independent panel to consider whether officials who authorized torture and other harsh interrogation tactics should be punished.
Over the past week, Senator Levin has been visible in the debate over whether or not to release Bush administration memos on torture to the public and whether or not to hold their authors accountable.
In response to a report released Tuesday, Levin says that:
In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse – such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan – to low ranking soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a “few bad apples,” were simply false.
The record established by the Committee’s investigation shows that senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques. Those senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses. As the Committee report concluded, authorizations of aggressive interrogation techniques by senior officials resulted in abuse and conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody.
The report–released by Levin’s Senate Armed Services Committee–was based on a review of more than 200,000 classified and unclassified documents and interviews with more than 70 people with direct involvement in the issue.
As always with Senator Levin, his objections are framed within an imperialist argument that generally has a favorable view of U.S. power. Just with his criticism of the Iraq War–that was the Iraqis who just weren’t thankful for the U.S. presence–Levin says that abusive interrogation tactics make it difficult for the U.S. to “retain our status as a leader in the world.”