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When Gibbs Attacks

After Gen. Taguba Alleges Existence of Prisoner Rape Photos, Robert Gibbs Attacks. . . British Media

Wow. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is really embodying the idea that when the message is devastating, you attack the messenger. Except in this case, Gibbs is not even attacking the messenger, but rather the newspaper that quoted the messenger.

In a major story today, London's Daily Telegraph quoted Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba describing photos (that the Obama administration is fighting to keep secret), which allegedly depict US personnel raping prisoners, other sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. "These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency," Taguba said. Put that statement against this one from the president: In defending his decision to fight the ACLU in its efforts to have the photos publicly released, Obama said on May 13, "I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational."

At the White House press briefing [on Thursday], Gibbs lashed out-not at Gen. Taguba, who made the allegation on the record, and not even specifically at the paper that quoted Taguba. Instead, Gibbs went after the entire British media, saying "I think if you do an even moderate Google search (heh) you're not gonna find many of these newspapers and ‘truth' within say 25 words of each other:"

"I want to speak generally about some of reports I've witnessed over the past few years in the British media and in some ways I'm surprised it filtered down," Gibbs said. "Let's just say that if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper... If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I'm not sure that would be the first stack of clips I picked up."

No, instead perhaps Gibbs would pick up one of those stellar US papers with spotless track records on "the truth." He could start with The New York Times, which was basically a conveyor belt for the lies of the Bush administration during the lead up to the Iraq war. Or he could turn to any number of US lie factories masquerading as media outlets.


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This is pathetic. Really. Hey, Gibbs, here's a suggestion: go after Gen. Taguba, a 34 year, decorated military veteran whose career was brought to an end for battling Rumsfeld and the torture machine at the Pentagon. Go after the General who last year (when Bush was still in power) called for prosecutions of the torturers. "There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account," Taguba wrote in June 2008. Go after him, Gibbs. Call him a liar. Say he is a dirty propagandist that wants to hurt US troops. Oh, right, you can't. Taguba actually agrees with Obama on this issue, as he told the lying, evil British media:

"I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them."

I'll wait to see if the Telegraph produces a tape of the interview (they should) or for Gen. Taguba to say he was misquoted before I would even mildly question the veracity of this story. Everything about it rings true to everything Sy Hersh has written, every torture document and photo we have seen thus far and every testimonial we have heard from those former military/intelligence and other government officials with the guts to speak out. As Raw Story pointed out today, this allegation of rape of prisoners is not new:

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), telling reporters in 2004 why the Abu Ghraib photos should not be released as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld faced calls for his resignation. "We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

As for the Pentagon's statement [Thursday] (reiterated by Gibbs as the official US line on this story) that the Telegraph "demonstrated an inability to get the facts right," here is what I say: the Pentagon, whose personnel allegedly commited the torture described by Gen. Taguba, is not an independent observer here to say the least. In fact, the Pentagon has "demonstrated an inability to get the facts right."

Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter, war correspondent, co-founder of The Intercept, and author of the international bestselling books Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield and Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.  He has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere across the globe. Scahill has served as the national security correspondent for The Nation and Democracy Now!, and in 2014 co-founded The Intercept with fellow journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and investor Pierre Omidyar. Follow him on Twitter: @jeremyscahill

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