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Jack Hidary

Jack Hidary

Posted: May 31, 2009 10:58 PM

General Ricardo Sanchez Calls for War Crimes Truth Commission - VIDEO UPDATE


UPDATE - Tonight on MSNBC's "Countdown" Keith Olbermann cited this post and interviewed General Ricardo Sanchez on the truth commission issue. VIDEO BELOW

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In front of a packed audience on Sunday night at the Times Center in New York City, General Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, called for a truth commission to investigate the abuses and torture which occurred there.

The General described the failures at all levels of civilian and military command that led to the abuses in Iraq, "and that is why I support the formation of a truth commission."

The General went on to say that, "during my time in Iraq there was not one instance of actionable intelligence that came out of these interrogation techniques."

I interviewed General Sanchez after the event and asked him to elaborate on why he felt the US needed such a commission. "For the American people to really know what happened, " he replied, "...this was an institutional failure, a personal failure on the part of many...."

"If we do not find out what happened," continued the General, "then we are doomed to repeat it."

The event tonight was moderated by Rachel Maddow and featured General Sanchez, Vince Warren, exec director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Ron Suskind, the author and reporter. The event also featured Liev Schreiber, John Leguizamo and other actors who portrayed various characters from the topics at hand.

During the panel, Ron Suskind made an impassioned plea for the restoration of "American's moral energy... It is this alone which can protect us in the future," he said. Suskind called Bush "the ultimate confidence man" who yearned for certainty over the nuanced feeling about of real life.

Maddow injected that this was a "toxic certainty" which distorted the decisions of the Bush-Cheney administration.

I interviewed Rachel Maddow after the event asking her if a truth commission is indeed a political possibility. "We have to rescue our institutions and restore faith in them," she responded. "With every passing day we are hemorrhaging moral energy [as Ron Suskind had been discussing]."

I asked her what she thought of General Sanchez coming out with an open call for a truth commission. "He is not shirking the discussion, he wants to be part of it."

I also interviewed Vince Warren, the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. On the panel, he took issue with General Sanchez's call for a truth commission if that meant amnesty for those involved in violations of the Geneva Convention and other laws.

In our post-event interview Warren stated that "any commission that promises blanket amnesty to those who violated the law we could not support." He said that the case of the truth commission in South Africa was different as that country was going through a change in form of government.

I also interviewed Liev Schreiber. Liev shared that he has been "conflicted" about whether the president should disclose the new set of abuse photos. He said that he has "enormous confidence in the judgment of Barack Obama," and that "the president should be given the opportunity to have a clean slate."

Senator Patrick Leahy has called for a truth commission on the abuses in Iraq and set up a website to collect online signatures in support of the framework -- www.BushTruthCommission.com. More than 113,000 people have signed so far since the site's launch in February of this year.

The event this evening was produced by the Culture Project and is intended to be first in a series that combine leading policy figures with top creative talent.

Tonight is the first time a senior military officer from the Iraqi theater has called for a truth commission.