Once again, Seymour Hersh at The New Yorker has got the goods. While the rest of us have been speculating about how the contempt for the Geneva Conventions shown by higher-ups in the Bush administration led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Hersh has tracked down the actual step-by-step cause and effect. It’s more direct than you might have suspected.
(Update: The Pentagon denies it but this seems to be one of those denials where only an exaggerated straw-man version of Hersh’s story is being denied: “No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos.”
Hersh is saying that officials [“responsible” is certainly an ambiguous modifier here] approved programs and a reckless lack of oversight over those programs in a way that could certainly be expected to result in abuses such as the ones at Abu Ghirab. The phrasing “could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses” is of the same species of legalese that convinces Rumsfeld that there’s got to be a torture loophole somewhere.)