Camp Cropper: No Deposit, No Return

07/20/2010 03:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. forces turned the last, and biggest detention camp in their country over to Iraqis on Thursday.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, more than 1500 prisoners are now in Iraqi custody including two dozen officials who served under the regime of Saddam Hussein, most of whom would be eligible to collect social security benefits in the U.S. and whose pastime, while incarcerated, was gardening. Some of the detainees who were captured by U.S. forces during the eight year occupation of the region were victims of abuse at Abu Ghraib.

The Iraqi government requested nearly 200 "high value" detainees remain in U.S. hands along with several former officials, a handful of whom are slated to be executed. It is believed that many of these detainees belong to insurgent groups like al Qaeda in Iraq, groups that had no presence there before the U.S. invasion.

Curiously, these men will now share the same barracks as former officials where, as CSM says, they will live in "genteel captivity" watching BBC Arabic, reading books, and even the daily newspaper.

Camp Cropper may someday be seen as a symbol of our protracted presence in a sovereign state, as well as a catalyst for its emergence as a no deposit, no return government. Many in Iraq would have been right to see our collateral when we invaded, back in 2002, and they have every right to demand that we not return. We will know that Iraq is standing on its own two feet when it insists that there be no U.S. presence in the country.

Until then, one must marvel at the irony that Iraq, a country often depicted as cutting its teeth on democracy, should opt to hold accountable officials from a previous regime for their high crimes and misdemeanors while the U.S. government has failed to hold officials from a previous regime responsible for theirs. Jay Bybee, John Yoo, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, to name a few, have all been given a get out of jail free card.

Yes, the teacher has become the student, and can learn a thing or two about accountability.

And, it was also revealed this week that former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, author of the so-called torture memo, has doubts as to whether or not the Justice Department approved the most controversial, and heinous techniques employed by interrogators on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere.

According to the AP, Bybee, in effect, "advised" the CIA that there would be no authorization for "substantial repetitions," meaning no legal cover for interrogators who didn't get that "repetition will not be substantial." Bybee is essentially saying that the CIA acted outside of guidelines which were already stretching the law. Clearly, waterboarding is illegal, and the number of times one is waterboarded is irrelevant.

Now a federal judge, Bybee told the Judiciary Committee in late May that his so-called "techniques memo" did not provide a blueprint for what can only be seen as torture, and what has traditionally constituted a war crime for generations. Or, as he cogently puts it, "those techniques were not authorized."

Who, then, gave the signal to go ahead with procedures that were clearly illegal, and why is it that a country that the U.S. deemed unfit for self-governance is more adept at condemning those who are responsible for corrupting their government than we are?

Every chance the U.S. has had to go after those whose actions, even during times of war, were beyond the pale has been passed up. Back in 2007, a federal district judge dismissed the case against five Blackwater security guards who were arrested for shooting seventeen civilians in Baghdad. Charges against seven of the eight marines involved in the killing of two dozen unarmed Iraqi men, women, anc children, back in 2005, were dropped. Their sergeant,, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who allegedly gave the command to fire still serves in the Marine Corps, his trial having been postponed.

The official, or officials who approved Wuterich's command to fire have yet to be named.

Doubtless, Iraqis must be left to marvel at how former U.S. officials have crossed the line, and with impunity, who should instead find themselves catching up on their gardening at Camp Cropper, too.

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