Hersh Connects Rumsfeld to Abu Ghraib

The New Yorker is running a must-read article by Seymour Hersh in which he charges that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not the actions of rogue MPs, but rather were part of a secret program authorized by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the invasion of Afghanistan that was later expanded into Iraq as well:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

The story Hersh tells is quite plausible. He describes Copper Green as a program that grew out of Rumsfeld’s frustration with missed opportunities in Afghanistan — the several times when al Qaeda honchos got away because we were more concerned with legalistic niceties than with reeling them in. So he sets up a top-secret program to allow interrogators to lean on the al Qaeda people we did capture, using harsh techniques (a la Abu Ghraib), and justifies it with the argument that it’s only to be used against Public Enemy Number One — captured al Qaeda leadership.

Then we get into Iraq, and Rumsfeld is surprised when the “dead-enders” in the insurgency don’t go away quietly. Nothing we do seems to quiet the insurgency; indeed, it just gets worse and worse as time goes on. Rumsfeld starts casting about for a way to unravel the insurgency — to get inside its head.

And then he remembers Copper Green…

I’ll leave the rest of the story to Hersh — go read the article already.