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Abu Ghraib? Doesn't Ring a Bell.

(Linda Davidson - The Washington Post)
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"And that's all you remember?"

"Correct," Haynes repeated.

Luckily for the witness, they don't allow naked pyramids and simulated electrocutions in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

It was the most public case of memory loss since Alberto Gonzales, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, forgot everything he ever knew about anything. And, like Gonzales, Haynes (who, denied a federal judgeship by the Senate, left the Pentagon in February for a job with Chevron) had good reason to plead temporary senility.

A committee investigation found that, contrary to his earlier testimony, Haynes had showed strong interest in potentially abusive questioning methods as early as July 2002. Later, ignoring the strong objections of the uniformed military, Haynes sent a memo to Donald Rumsfeld recommending the approval of stress positions, nudity, dogs and light deprivation.

Before Haynes took his seat at the witness table yesterday, a parade of underlings pointed the finger at him. The former top lawyer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified that Haynes "was aware that the services had concerns." The woman on whose legal reasoning Haynes relied for his judgment on torture testified that she was "shocked" that he did so. And the former general counsel for the Navy said he had warned Haynes that the legal reasoning was "inadequate."

Haynes knew he was in for some cruel and unusual treatment. He took a swig from his Diet Pepsi bottle, put on his reading glasses and announced: "I don't have a formal opening statement." He then read his formal opening statement, in which he defended all those things he couldn't remember doing by saying that "we all rightly fear another assault on our country, one perhaps even more horrific than the last."

He then rested his elbows on the witness table, revealing a big gold watch on his wrist, and allowed the amnesia to wash over him.

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked when he became aware of a Justice Department memo justifying torture. "I don't know when I became aware of that," Haynes replied.

Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked about other legal opinions objecting to the techniques. "I do not recall seeing the memoranda," Haynes answered.

Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asked why Haynes didn't request the opposing viewpoints. "I don't know that I was aware of those," he said. "I don't recall being aware of any particular memoranda."

Haynes mixed his forgetfulness with a dash of insolence. He suggested to McCaskill that "it's important that you understand how the Defense Department works." He cut off Reed with a "Let me finish, Senator!" and disclosed that he had been too busy to give more attention to the Geneva Conventions: "I mean, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of decisions made every day. This was one."

Reed, a West Point graduate, was enraged. "You did a disservice to the soldiers of this nation," he said. "You empowered them to violate basic conditions which every soldier respects, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Convention. . . . You degraded the integrity of the United States military."

Haynes, wisely, retreated to his default position. In the span of just a few minutes, he treated the chairman to a whole new level of forgetfulness:

"I don't recall seeing this memorandum before and I'm not even sure this is one I've seen before. . . . I don't recall seeing this memorandum and I don't recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don't recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don't recall specific concerns. . . . I don't recall these and I don't recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can't even read this document, but I don't remember seeing it. . . . I don't recall that specifically. . . . I don't remember doing that. . . . I don't recall seeing these things."

In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don't recalls, 22 don't remembers, 16 don't knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

It was an impressive performance, to be sure. But let's see him try to do that with a hood over his head, standing on a crate with wires attached to his arms.


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