On Tuesday afternoon, the ACLU announced a lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight Iraqi and Afghan citizens who claim they were tortured in various U.S. military prisons. The ACLU claims that Rumsfeld has personally approved "brutal and illegal interrogation techniques."
The suit shines a spotlight on U.S. human rights policy since the onset of the war on terrorism and the direct culpability of the Pentagon in violating international law. The Bush administration has deplored new reports of abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib but denies a larger pattern. The media generally moves on before people can ask hard questions about the government's official sanctioning of torture abroad, and most conservatives are uneasily silent on the issue.
This is not the first legal action taken against Rumsfeld for his alleged part in promoting torture abroad. In a German court in November, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Berlin's Republican Lawyers' Association charged the Defense Secretary with war crimes. The case was thrown out. Another lawsuit, filed by the CCR against Rumsfeld, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others on behalf of four British detainees released from Guantanamo, is still pending.
Ironically, the State Department just released its annual survey of the worst human rights abusers around the world, citing China, Syria, Sudan, Egypt and North Korea in particular.