June 23, 2005

Torture Isn't a Laughing Matter--It's Deadly Serious

From this week's Economist (no link avail), a book review:

Reports of the brutality of American interrogators—or their surrogates in Egypt and Uzbekistan—have become commonplace. Still, this book, by an army sergeant who spent six months at the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, has something to add, not because of what it says about the effects of inhumane treatment on suspects, but for what it did to soldiers like himself.

Erik Saar is “every American”. At the age of 22, he had never been outside his own country, had been married for three years and had proudly voted Republican in 2000. Not seeing much future in a marketing job at UPS, he joined the army to pursue a career in intelligence. The army taught him Arabic, and after September 11th, he “couldn't imagine anything more satisfying” than using his training to “flush out the terrorists who wanted to bring on a holy war.”

At Guantánamo, Mr Saar's world crashed. He attended a PowerPoint briefing by an army lawyer on the Geneva Convention, which George Bush decreed did not apply to the men picked up in Afghanistan, or elsewhere, in the “war on terrorism.” It was “nothing but spin,” he says, adding that the administration referred to the men held in Guantánamo as “detainees”, because to call them “prisoners” would have meant regarding them as “prisoners of war”.

As a soldier this bothered Mr Saar. If America ignored the Geneva Convention, “what kind of brutality might we be visiting upon ourselves in the future fight?” Mr Saar had also been taught that torture doesn't work and that it produces less reliable information. When he saw torture being used at Guantánamo, he struggled to “reconcile my beliefs as an American, my conscience, and my religious beliefs with my duty as a soldier.”

The struggle was lost during the interrogation of a 21-year-old Saudi. The man was believed to have taken flight training with two of the September 11th hijackers. Interrogators got nothing from him. After each gruelling session, he returned to his cell and prayed, but a female interrogator sought to break him by making him feel dirty before his God. With the prisoner shackled in an uncomfortable position, she unbuttoned her blouse and began rubbing her breasts against him. “Do you like these big American tits?” she asked. She made another sexually crude remark, then added, “How do you think Allah feels about that?”

The prisoner spat in her face. She grew cruder. She told him she was having her period, unbuttoned her military trousers and wiped what she said was menstrual blood on his face (it wasn't blood; it was from a red magic marker). He screamed but did not break. Outside the room, she began to cry. So too did Mr Saar. “I hated myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. He went home, and took a shower, but “there wasn't enough hot water in all of Cuba to make me feel clean.”. [emphasis added]

The Economist reviewer concludes: "Not a policy to be proud of."

No, it's not. But I guess this is the kind of stuff that leaves tough guys from Ye Stolid Heartland like Lileks supremely Not Giving A Shit (or maybe titillated--it's kinda hard to tell from his sophomoric ditty over at the aptly named screed-blog).

Lileks, detailing a different interrogation than the one mentioned in the Economist, writes:

Invasion of Space by Female: Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female

Mind you, this is considered punishment. Right now across America there are guys who are seriously peeved because they ordered “Invasion of Space by a Female IV” on pay-per-view and the cable went out. They’re on the phone admitting they wanted it, and demanding they get IV and V no charge, understood?...

...One suspects it isn’t the presence of a woman that bothers him; it’s the fact that she doesn’t take any guff, looks him in the eye, laughs at him, blows smoke rings in his face and generally fails to behave like one of the 72 docile celestial whores he was promised. In short: he was broken by the concise application of cultural insensitivity.

How witty and whip-smart! Applause all around right blogosphere! He writes like a dream and he's one of our own! Hurrah. Or not. Poor Lileks, no? It looks like he's clicked on the Dominatrix-Spankavision-Pay-for-View-Channel one too many times on his travels around Minnesota motels or such. And so gotten a little carried away with his fantasizing about all those prison warden hotties----sultry vixens who don't take any "guff" from assorted sand-nig&*az--whilst going about the hard, patriotic duty of nobly rubbing America's finest D cups in detainees faces so as to Save the Republic. So let's help him climb back on the clue train, shall we? The real issue here, at least for anyone with half a brain, is that we cannot win a long-term war on terror by being widely seen to denigrate the religion and mores of those we seek to win over to our political model. As Michael Ignatieff writes in the New Republic:

Thinking that torture will help us in a war against terror also falsifies what our problem is. We think that our problem is information, and so we need torture to get the truth. In reality, before September 11 there was plenty of information in the possession of the American authorities (noise, but no signal). No, our problem is not a problem of knowledge. It is a problem of belief. It is not what terrorists know that makes them dangerous; it is what they believe. And beliefs cannot be changed by physical duress. Indeed, they may be reinforced. Those who survive torture become living monuments to the brutality that has been inflicted upon them. If they die under torture, they become martyrs to their cause.

Any counter-terror campaign is a battle to persuade as well as to dissuade. Terrorists do need to know that what they believe about us is false. They believe that we are weak and will not fight; and so we should prove them wrong. They believe that we are hypocrites; and so they need to know that we actually believe in the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. They need to know all this if we are to win. Winning is about not losing our nerve, about not losing control in the face of provocation. The military logic of terror is to provoke us into reciprocal atrocity that will lose us the war for legitimacy and the war for opinion.

The barbarians who kidnapped Daniel Pearl undoubtedly tortured him. He was subjected to indecent abuse, followed by horrifying death, because he was an American and a Jew. It is hard not to want to do the same in return, but it would be a mistake. Torturing his captors would set in motion an escalation of reprisals that would probably end up jeopardizing the life of every American in Pakistan. The people who killed Pearl may have violated all humane norms, but we have strong prudential reasons for holding on to these norms, even when our enemies do not.

Controlling the impulse to escalate in a counter-terror campaign is not easy, but other countries have shown that it can be done. British interrogation techniques in Northern Ireland in the early years of the Troubles did fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights. Then the British realized that their methods were losing them important friends abroad, not to mention the support of the Catholic population in Belfast. Over time, they shifted from interrogation under duress to signal interception and infiltration, and managed to gain the upper hand. Information was never effective enough to prevent all bombings: mistakes and tragedies occurred, but each bombing ended up with the terrorists slowly losing public support.

Also worth noting, of course, in an era of non-stop Internet feeds and 24 hour cable, acts of abuse, felony abuse and torture quickly becomes fodder for our enemies. Perhaps Lileks would have preferred that, as the saying goes--what happens in Abu Ghraib; stays in Abu Ghraib. But as Rumsfeld has awkwardly expressed himself, when he was seemingly dumbfounded that people, you know, have cameras and can jpeg shots of soldiers flashing the thumbs up next to murdered detainees (cool!)--shots that go around the world mighty quickly--well, a big part of this war is going to be making sure such public relations debacles don't occur. One way to help ensure it doesn't is not to have free-ranging improvisation going on in Bagram, in Abu Ghraib, in Gitmo, in other detention centers. We need cohesive top-down directives on what is and isn't permissible. We need real accountability beyond the party line about a few-bad-eggs-on-the-night-crew-at-Abu-Ghraib bullshit (oh, and Colonel Karpinski too, how could I forget?!?). We desparately need some real leadership on this issue (Where are the Wise Men who would step in and intervene as in yester-year? To0 busy making money in Manhattan or just plain extinct, I guess).

Look, I'm not sure Guantanamo needs to be closed down (I'll have more on that topic soon). There has been a huge amount of hyperbole painting Guantanamo as some modern Auschwitz-on-the-Caribbean. The orange jump suits and outdoor cages and shackled detainees being wheel-barrowed around didn't help in the salons of Paris or London or Cairo when the first pics of Gitmo hit the media circus. "Tortured" blared an English tabloid! But, yeah, there are some of the hardest of the hard core al-Qaeda mother fuc*ers in the batch. They have to be somewhere--and that might have to end up being Guantanamo (though shouldn't they be tried, like, some day?). Furthermore, there are strong arguments indeed for why POW status should not extend to al-Qaeda (or even the Taliban) so that the exact letter of the Geneva Convention need not apply (more on this below). But surely the time has comes, as the New Republic editors write, to figure out what the hell is going on in our detention centers worldwide:

More than a year after the revelations of Abu Ghraib, we still lack a sufficient understanding of what goes on in the entire system--from Guantánamo to Afghanistan to the secret facilities run by the CIA--and how well it truly serves the war on terrorism. In order to gain that understanding, rather than simply shutting Guantánamo down, Congress and President Bush should appoint an independent commission of Republican and Democratic security experts to investigate the system and suggest how it should operate.

It's true that the Pentagon has conducted numerous reviews of its detention and interrogation policies and practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay. But important doubts remain about their independence and thoroughness. Consider the March report of Vice Admiral Albert Church on Defense Department interrogations, which found "no link between approved interrogation techniques and detainee abuse." This week, Time published excerpts from the interrogation log of would-be September 11 hijacker Mohammed Al Qahtani, whose resistance to questioning prompted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to expand the list of approved interrogation techniques. That expansion resulted, among other things, in Qahtani being intravenously fed 312 bags of fluid and forced to urinate on himself. With the Pentagon defending his interrogation as taking place under "active supervision and oversight," it's difficult to accept Church's conclusion that official policy was unrelated to Qahtani's clear abuse. Then there's the question of what the abuse gained us. Church refers directly to Qahtani when praising "effective interrogation policy," but Time, citing senior Pentagon officials, reports that true breakthroughs came not from stripping Qahtani nude or intimidating him with dogs, but from confronting him with information gleaned from other detainees--in short, traditional intelligence work.

Whatever the problems with the Pentagon's investigations, the CIA hasn't conducted any policy reviews. All we know about its detention facilities comes from press reports: In March, The Washington Post published an account of a CIA-operated prison near Kabul known as the Salt Pit, where an uncooperative inmate was allowed to freeze to death and was buried in an unmarked grave. The CIA contends that it has had legal authority for all its conduct in the war on terrorism--but the administration won't disclose the sources of that authority.

I won't hold my breath for some bipartisan national commission to be appointed. Washington (both parties) has become all about 'stay on message' and political courage and character are often in low reserve indeed. But, who knows? If enough of us clamor for it--and weren't seen as Mooreian types mindlessly trying to turn the torture issue into a political football to hurt Chimpie and BushCo and Big Oil and so on--but instead as allies of this Administration on the War on Terror (I'm thinking of people like Tacitus, Jon Henke, John Cole, Andrew Sullivan), maybe? Well, one can hope at least...

But I digress. Permit me to return to the beginning of this post and the Economist book review. Simulating the slopping of menstrual blood on a detainee's face is repulsive, it is grotesque--it should never have happened in a U.S. run detention center. Period. It also most assuredly constitutes an "outrage(s) upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"--in contravention of the Third Geneva Convention. (I know, I know--the Geneva Conventions don't apply, but I'm blogging from Geneva, so let's just pretend for a second). And wait, maybe, to a fashion, they do apply somewhat:

On February 7, 2002, President Bush announced that the U.S. government would apply the "principles of the Third Geneva Convention" of 1949 to captured members of the Taliban, but would not consider any of them to be prisoners-of-war (POWs) under that convention. As for captured members of al-Qaeda, he said that the U.S. government considered the Geneva Conventions inapplicable but would nonetheless treat the detainees humanely.

Was the treatment of the detainee Dick Durbin recounted "humane"? Was the sexual degradation involved in the menstrual high jinx in Gitmo "humane"? Is the death of some 108 detainees in U.S. custody "humane"? Well, not from where I'm sitting friends. And at least a quarter of these deaths may have been homicides (I suspect the proportion is actually higher). But, hey, who gives a shit? We didn't put them through some Saddamite-shredder, or pour nitric acid on them, or rape their daughters in front of them for kicks, or hack an arm or tongue off--it's torture lite, the cool, American, Gitmo-way. 'Cept 108 people are dead. A footnote, you might say. Get on board you sap; there's a war on!

I want to make a few additional points here because this is very tricky, sensitive terrain indeed. I'll start by reiterating that I found Lilek's treatment cretinous and infantile. But he did pick an easy example to crack jokes about. The specific interrogation that he wrote of, in my view and all told, was probably handled mostly appropriately. The individual in question, al-Qahtani, was the likely 20th hijacker, had tremendously important intelligence to impart, and clearly was an avowed, deadly enemy of these United States. So I agree with Andrew Sullivan who writes:

It may well be that the important interrogations were indeed professionally handled and that abuse was kept to a minimum, although some of the techniques are still offensive. Perhaps the real story of the last couple of years is how these techniques filtered down the ranks, how unprofessional individuals got the message from above that the gloves were off and went further, with far less significant figures.

I do think that could be a big part of the larger story. After all, of course, Rumsfeld himself wasn't poring over each detainee's approved methods of interrogation regimen (like he did for al-Qahtani's) stating specifically what was and wasn't allowable. He's got a war to run (rather poorly)--and he doubtless only scrutinized the specific interrogation techniques of a handful of detainees. But in an era when 'socialite' Paris Hilton (no Brooke Astor, she!) doesn't care a whit to fellate on camera; or junior high girls in private schools on the Upper East Side jpeg and videotape masturbatory acts to E-mail around so as to egg guys on to date them--we do have a quite sad pornification of the culture. This maybe helps explain why a not insignificant amount of the top-down authorized interrogation procedures involved sexual degradation (and also that Muslims are deemed to be sensitive to such tactics so that intel would get dished out quicker). Guys like Lileks can't resist the 'dude, wouldn't you like to have tits rubbed in your face?' idiocy, which is unfortunate. I guess it's part of the new and exciting, middle-brow porned-out US culture. But don't let these empty screeds divert you from the bigger story. Part of which, at least, is that top-down authorized tactics for specific high-value detainees--like the sexual humiliation tactics used with the presumed 20th hijacker--got transmongrified into more frequent, unapproved techniques used by varied free-lancers from Bagram to Gitmo. Like, say, the simulated menstrual blood smears and such assorted grotesqueries.

Finally, let me close with a little noticed part of Dick Durbin's recent speech that caused so many marathon bloviations like the one about the war effort being imperiled in the Weekly Standard and so on:

Former Congressman Pete Peterson of Florida, a man I call a good friend and a man I served with in the House of Representatives, is a unique individual. He is one of the most cheerful people you would ever want to meet. You would never know, when you meet him, he was an Air Force pilot taken prisoner of war in Vietnam and spent 6 1/2 years in a Vietnamese prison. Here is what he said about this issue in a letter that he sent to me.

Pete Peterson wrote:

From my 6 1/2 years of captivity in Vietnam, I know what life in a foreign prison is like. To a large degree, I credit the Geneva Conventions for my survival....This is one reason the United States has led the world in upholding treaties governing the status and care of enemy prisoners: because these standards also protect us....We need absolute clarity that America will continue to set the gold standard in the treatment of prisoners in wartime. Abusive detention and interrogation policies make it much more difficult to win the support of people around the world, particularly those in the Muslim world. The war on terrorism is not a popularity contest, but anti-American sentiment breeds sympathy for anti-American terrorist organizations and makes it far easier for them to recruit young terrorists.

Polls show that Muslims have positive attitudes toward the American people and our values. However, overall, favorable ratings toward the United States and its Government are very low. This is driven largely by the negative attitudes toward the policies of this administration. Muslims respect our values, but we must convince them that our actions reflect these values. That’s why the 9/11 Commission recommended: “We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.”

No, it's not all Mr. Rogers-in-the-Hood, hunky-dory fare, popularity contests. But our basic values, not least that we will not countenance the torture of detainees in American detention, must be abided by. This must be a red-line for all thinking conservatives. The President says this is our policy. That torture will not be tolerated. But how can we know for sure this is the case now? The dismal record of these past years provides little comfort or confidence on this score, alas. At the end of the day, a not insignificant part of our national greatness stems from America being the 'gold standard' in its respect for its fellow man, in its role as ultimate guarantor of democratic liberties in the international system, on, yes, the standards governing the detention of our detainees and POWs. Sober wisdom and our better angels must prevail as we move forward towards what will doubtless be a difficult, troubled decade ahead. There will likely be more chaos and bloodshed on our shores. What will we do when, say, there is a WMD attack that kills 12,000 in Tulsa or San Diego or Peoria in 2009? Round up the Muslims in our midst and place them in pens governed by Lileks-compliant standards of detainee treatment? No, better that we standardize the rules and have a top-tier, bipartisan outside commission thoroughly look at America's detention facilities and policies from the bottom-up, the inside-out. There's simply too much rot that has been accumulated these past years. And the bright sunlight of judicious, wholly unbiased and serious scrutiny is needed to disinfect it. This will help America re-gain its footing as undisputed avatar of the rule of law and standard-bearer of human rights on the world stage. We owe this to ourselves, to our country, to our grandchildren. It's the right way. And it's not a joke. It's deadly serious.

Posted by Gregory at June 23, 2005 01:14 AM | TrackBack (11)
Comments

I thought the twisted beliefs of these terrorists didn't represent the "true" Islam. I thought their beliefs were "abominations of the true faith."

So, pardon me, but who really cares if we use their religion to push their buttons and extract some information?

The moral high road just might lead us over a cliff.

Posted by: Joey at June 23, 2005 01:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Read this, too:

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/mac_donald200506091006.asp

Posted by: Joey at June 23, 2005 02:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What do you think about a presidential or nonpartisan commission to investigate and make recommendations about how those captured SHOULD be treated, how long held, what their proper rights are etc? One problem is there is an absence of policy, an absence of bipartisan consensus. The current situation is new, unprecedented in any previous war or conflict. What's the path to get beyond this? We cannot set all Al Qaeda members and battlefield captives free. In the absence of real policy the result we see is what has ensued. There is very little discussion about what the correct path is.

Posted by: Martin Dickinson at June 23, 2005 02:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In case anyone cares, here is a link to a post on Chris Hedges' latest discussion of his book about war and religion.

Posted by: Exit 145 at June 23, 2005 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

God I wish the Dem's had run a plausible opponent to Bush last time. The pretzel logic and lack of proportion surrounding these issues, even by someone as usually sober as you, Greg, practically guarantees that after the next attack here in the US a sizable part of the intelligencia will say we deserved it.

If bad things happened, let's correct it. After our blockhead President is out of office we can rahash this to your heart's content and correct any errors that were made. I don't think Lincoln should have put editors in jail, I don't think FDR should have bombed U-Boats in '40 and '41 in violation of the neutrality acts, but a dispassionate review can put those mistakes in context.

This saturnalia of self-loathing has got to stop, we are the good guys, no matter how many panties get put on someone's head. Why not one note of context about these fellows upset about the fake blood? Why not point out that they would rub lipstick or makeup off women's faces in Kabul with steel wool and broken glass.

Posted by: wayne at June 23, 2005 02:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Maybe it's just me, but for a post that purports that this issue is deadly serious, parts of it seem to have a surprisingly breezy tone. Or was that part of some point that I'm missing?

Posted by: fling93 at June 23, 2005 02:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

No disrespect for Pete Peterson, but when exactly did the NVA abide by the Geneva conventions?

As for the issue at hand, while I certainly do not want GTMO inmates to be getting the same treatment that American pilots got in captivity in Veitnam, I have absolutely no problem with depriving them of sleep, forcing them to stand for extended durations, and/or having "American tits" shoved in their face. These people have information that I want to know...and so do you.

The military was legally entitled to summarily execute these scumbags, so I'm not going to cry over them being forced to listen to Matchbox 20 and the Dixie Chicks. If you feel like crying over it then please do, but spare us the "Bush Administration did not do enough" bromide the next time a terrorist attack kills 3,000 Americans.

Posted by: Jason at June 23, 2005 02:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is better to be feared than loved.

Posted by: David Meyers at June 23, 2005 02:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Way to go Greg! I didn't realize that those who raised their right hands to defend the Constitution were guilty before proven innocent. 108 deaths--22 due to a fucking mortar attack, but hey, no need to mention that, go with the higher number, makes your point seem snazzier, right? Because at least one quarter are homicides--because you suspect, right? Then it must be. Forget self defense, escapes, prison riots, etc, all those poor prisoners are always so well mannered. From someone just back from Iraq and seeing the outstanding work done by the Marines and Army, thanks for the vote of confidence from a 'just a few bad apples crowd' believer. My, my I must have been the only one over there not a torturer.

Posted by: Steve Wood at June 23, 2005 02:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

See these tears I'm crying, asked the alligator? They're for the illegal combatants at gitmo. They're real alligator tears.

Posted by: Gator at June 23, 2005 02:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Geneva conventions are intended for uniform wearing, state representing, order following men and women above whom a chain of responsiblity exists.

These people, - those captured in this non-police investigation, i.e, WAR, have arrogated to themselves the right to do any damn thing they think God has made their own PERSONAL responsibility.

The rules we created, just like the way wars are fought are fit only for the last war.
That world is gone.

We need to ensure our own values are not corrupted, but that also we obliterate from this planet those who carry out the actions committed, as we have seen them.

Lincoln would be a good example of what is possible without corrupting these values. We have done NOTHING approaching what occurred under Lincoln.

I wish we could sleep deprive and drug the lot and get whatever info is to be had, but even those methods would raise the ire of people who think that those who believe we are zionist crusaders from lands where they think we killed all the indians and Hiroshima was a war crime, and that we are tools of jews, deserve their miranda rights and a defense in court. These people who think such things are dangerously wrong.

At the very worst, gitmo type detainees should simply be locked away fed and forgot until that future day when it's obvious this war is over.
No german POW's ever got a tribunal. These people we have now are getting far more rights than the nazis they so resemble in their beliefs.

Posted by: epaminondas at June 23, 2005 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sometimes I think Greg stakes these positions just to pacify his liberal friends overseas. Nothing else exlains the crying over a few enemy terrorists who would slit his throat in a heartbeat.

Fine, Greg, you win. Lets close Gitmo and send them back to Afghanistan and Baghdad where they can be tortured and executed in proper Arab tradition.

Posted by: ed cohn at June 23, 2005 03:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While I share the concern of the blowback from the perceptions that America tortures prisoners, I don't think anything we do at Guantánamo means a tinker's damn.

Islamic fascism and other nihilistic creeds need no external justification for the abasement of other 'not worthy' human beings. It is completely self contained.

Attempts to placate nihilistic savagery based on one's own actions is as doomed to failure because it is not really about you. It is about them.

One of the reasons the war on terror got so far out of hand to begin with was the perception that Americans were too soft. Actions we thought were based on kindness, the advancement of human rights, and the recognizing of grievances were perceived only as weakness.

Now, I do not argue that perceptions are not important. I merely argue that attempts to control the perceptions of others is futile.

If we change SOP in Guantánamo solely on what we hope will be a change of perception of us by others, at a cost of actual benefit to ourselves i.e. intelligence gathering, it is not worth it, in my opinion.

As to your argument that the American soul has been damaged by the happenings at Guantánamo, something which we both agree to be a sorrowful thing if it had, I respectfully disagree and cite www.hughhewitt.com/#postid1729 as another POV.

Posted by: Adriane at June 23, 2005 03:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is it too obvious to suggest that if this looks so bad, it should be CONCEALED? There was a Simpsons episode where Bart is gabbling to a cold-hearted preacher's daughter and she interjects, "Do you ever think anything you DON'T say?"

Yes, how about: let's do it, and let's not TELL anyone! Wrap your tiny minds around it. So simple. Whatever reporter gets such a scoop isn't flippin' obligated to publish it, is he? Nor is the editor or owner. Meanwhile this stuff should not get out in the first place. Genius, no?

It doesn't have to be anything official or evil. Just imagine how the MSM would have covered this war, these acts, in a Democratic Administration.

Otherwise you're right, this is perfectly disgusting, a fine piece of American womanhood having to touch a terrorist. I agree. Much better to use advanced drugs, disorientation and electroshock techniques that don't leave a mark. That'll show how we respect them. And, of course, executions with a halal knife are right on.

Look:

Letting them go is unacceptable; in-cell cable pr0n and weightlifting and "Please, please tell us where the bomb is" are unacceptable.

Feeding them to wild animals is unacceptable. I guess it is, anyway.

Can't we find a middle ground?


How about this: Not playing Christina Aguilera, but 24/7 audio and video of the worst killings, mutilations, etc, etc. Make movies, shows, or music video type programming showing them the terrible things they do. Show how Islam is violated by their actions. Show it all the time, perhaps at varying levels of intensity to different classes of prisoner. The innocent ones may see why we are so angry and offer what cooperation they can; the guilty may go crazy over their guilt and shame (show innocent Iraqis getting killed rather than the Pearl or Berg videos which might be like death pr0n to them), and be more pliable; show actions of current prisoners if possible, the more offensive ones. Make tapes of them crying up Islam and the next taking a drink or screwing some poor girl or tearing up a Koran.

Furthermore, the videos could be edited to show the captives their own faces or those of people they know. Perhaps of their own families suffering these crimes.

Roll your own riffs. I had originally thought of showing doctored photos of their families being held at risk or being harmed; or make these threats to interrogatees and then come back the next day with pictures of what had "happened" to their families. Some false-flag pseudo-renditions could be mixed in if they didn't believe we'd do it; maybe make them think they were in the hands of Kurds or Israelis or Egyptians or somebody they would fear.

This is choice because it was a Saddam tactic, but we would not actually be doing the hurting. Of course, the moment it was known it would stop working, so it would have to be suppressed, and evidently that just isn't allowed to happen these days in America.

(Secrecy? Disinformation? Snooping? Pfui, those don't reflect American ideals! Was it Stimson who said gentlemen don't open other people's mail? Pfui! I wish he'd had a hole drilled in his teeth for every death his 'gentility' caused.)

But anyway:

1) Would this be kosher?
2) Would this be effective?
3) Could we accomplish it?

and

4) If not, what? What CAN we do to get them to talk?

Are there different answers for different types of people? If reciprocity is asserted as a value, can we likewise do tit-for-tat? If Golden Rule sophistry is called for, consider that you are giving them what they seem to show you they want. I would be much more impressed by the reciprocity arguments if we were seeing AQ videos involving panties and abused Bibles applied to KBR contractors--but funny, they seem to cut right to the juicy bits.

I bet most of these trolls are big Malcolm X fans. You know, "Chickens coming home to roost" and "By any means necessary." But-but-but!...That doesn't apply to romantic foreign brigands, only to whitey! Naw, all these guys should die in their beds on the Riviera, tended by servile nurses.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 04:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Incidentally, I think you are off the mark making Lileks out a fraternity manqué. If it were a Mormon or a born-again Baptist or an Orthodox Jew getting rubbed up and not liking it, you'd probably think he was unhip, and so would the NYT.

The point is not that we would get our jollies; it might be unpleasant for various reasons. The point is normal people don't go into screaming fits over such stuff (unless, as Lileks said, the cable goes out in the middle). Is it really so wrong to exploit an enemy's weakness? --But it's OK to shoot 'em.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You're absolutely right. We should treat all of the detainees according to the Geneva Convention.

Which, as combatants captured while fighting out of any uniform, specifies that they should be shot as spies, saboteurs, and/or terrorists.

Happy?

Posted by: Dean Howard at June 23, 2005 05:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To be sure, Dean, hanging might be more appropriate. It is perfectly humane, death is usually instantaneous, and a firing squad is a relative honor--pirates are hanged.

Then again, we could offer them the choice of a blindfold and cigarette, or cooperation and maybe a few dinar and other assistance to take the clan to Al-Faraway in an Iraqi Witness Protection Program.

Or just to fake his death, and send him to a 7-11 in oh say the lobby of the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

But at least summary executions would have a deterrent value. Even if it emboldens some, we wanted to kill them anyway, not waste our time trying to crack them with Mickey Mouse.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 05:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Maybe we can just point out to the Muslim (and Christian) world that all this god stuff is all made up anyway? And you know, let's just all be friends and buy stuff.

Posted by: TG at June 23, 2005 05:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TG, when he starts to believe you, buds up, says he's sorry, cries, hugs, promises to open a date shop and sin no more, maybe gives you a name and address or two...

then the minute he's loose from the cuffs, he goes Hannibal Lecter on you...

I hope they manage to save your tongue. We would all miss your charming naivete.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 05:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg;
Whereas I don't really give a rat's ass about what happens to those people there ("They deserved it."), maintaining the best standards of treatment of these people is important for two reasons. First, I don't want us to become what they are. America is the 'gold standard' against which the rest of the world weighed and, hopefully, found wanting. I want to keep it that way. Those who hate us will never accept nor acknowledge this to be the case, but our enemies are a distinct minority in the world community. Not that I think that America needs or should be currying favor to win international friends. But we ought to win the respect of that vast teeming masses, and having won it, earn the right to keep it. We should never allow anyone, especially an enemy, to provoke us into being anything other than the best in the world.

Secondly, the best interrogation techiques are very, very effective, and don't involve either torture or the kind of disrespect these stories speak of. These are the atavistic relics of a darker, more brutal age, be done with them.

Posted by: Tamquam Leo Rugiens at June 23, 2005 05:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How many different ways can people justify this absolute crap fest to themselves? Come on already...

Again...America is the big silver city in the sky...we're better than this. It's not about what we think is allowable, it's about what we think is right.

You want to talk about giving aid and comfort to the enemy.....How about serving up their recruitment posters, talking points and anti-US images gift wrapped.

Great post Greg...the only thing missing I thought would have been some insight into how the Isrealies handle interrogation, i.e., learn the Koran word for word instead of tossing it around...

Posted by: Talbott at June 23, 2005 05:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uh I was joking Nichevo.

I mean, it'd be great if someone would point out the absurdity, but I ain't holding my breath. I'd bet a lot more rage is generated these days by real and perceived American/Western material/physical transgressions than slights against Allah.

And Mr. Theoretical ex-captive-skygod-believer would also have no reason to promise to "sin no more" ;-) having seen the light (so to speak!)

Posted by: TG at June 23, 2005 05:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

First time commenter here, I'm a Democrat who is completely supportive of our war (including Iraq), just to note my particular angle.

Although all too many of the posters above don't get it, you do -- it's NOT about being nice to terrorists, it's about being effective and holding ourselves to the highest of standards.

Not only is this morally the right thing to do, but it will in the long run help our cause with the on-the-fence persuadables in the Muslim world.

Thanks for your thoughtful take on this subject.

-- Eric

Posted by: Eric at June 23, 2005 05:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you really want to know what is wrong with the US detention/interrogation processes:

It is Mickey Mouse stuff. The point is not that it is Nazi-like; but that it is the stuff of cliched southern sheriffs (or, better yet, south of the border). Cheap, tawdry pokes when you dare not punch. Weakness, not strength. Kid stuff.

REAL torture would work great on these guys, I bet. Resisting this kind of stuff doesn't make me think them hard core. But maybe we can come up with something sufficiently ethical that will work sufficiently well.

Red Magic Marker? They have no budget for stage blood or better yet pig's blood? Would you be fooled by Magic Marker? I reckon I wouldn't. They may not know menstrual, but they are experts on blood. Loud pop music? Yawn. Dirty cells, etc.? Well, that may work, but it is nasty, and they are probably more used to it than we are.


Put them in a nice red room on a two-hour Versed sleep-wake cycle and feed them breakfast, lunch and dinner twelve times a day. Different guards every time, play with the lights, use more effective sounds than rock--like calls to prayer mixed with the sounds of slaughtered pigs, voices of dying Iraqis, or just loud feedback and distortion if that is not sufficiently clinical. Ghostly voices in their dialect of Arabic saying "Oh, what terrible things you've done," etc.

This could be mixed with other drugs such as thiopentathol or as in the case of al Zubeideh quick-acting painkillers; or LSD, THC, qat derivative, whatever works. Good-cop-bad-cop. Some cultural and linguistic knowledge would help. Read KUBARK (you could google it up).

Can we at least use whatever they train the guys with in SERE courses?

But professional, clean, by people who know what they're doing and are doing things they can live with. (And yes, I could live with myself if my detainee soiled his underwear after I caught him with a bloody saw in his hands. Easier than seeing the saw. Or seeing what it did. But a 'decent' or 'dignified' process would be easier on our people, which is important.)

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 05:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

TG, not sure I entirely follow you. One thing, they seem to be quite wired into Allah. If they want a new car, they will think, Allah wills I have a new car. Or soemthing like that. I don't think religion can be dismissed or ignored. They certainly won't.

Eric, others: Let's be nice as pie if that works, but first get the information. Right now it isn't us, mostly, getting blown up, it is Iraqi civilians. It's one thing to sacrifice our own lives, but how about theirs? I wonder how the Arab street, or whoever you want to please, will feel about deaths caused by inefficient interrogation? And I wonder at how you mirror-image their perceptions.

That said, I have agreed that the current methods are unsatisfactory. But as I have said elsewhere:

What CAN we do? Yes, you can do _________. Please fill in the blank.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 05:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ah I was just rambling on the religious tangent.

As you mention, and is mentioned above about Israeli tactics (having extensive knowledge of the Koran - which I don't know to be the case with Israeli intel but sounds feasible), a professional, knowledgable approach would likely be much more effective, and quite likely possible in a more socially acceptable way (serious disorientation, etc. as you mention).

For people quite obviously deeply into their Allah thing dismissing it obviously isn't feasible. That was more of a meta, "how many more people will die in the name of religion" sort of sigh. Course this could then veer to the educated hijackers pissed at the US for its actions, etc., not just religious glory, and on and on. Off-topic.

Posted by: TG at June 23, 2005 05:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The real issue here, at least for anyone with half a brain, is that we cannot win a long-term war on terror by being widely seen to denigrate the religion and mores of those we seek to win over to our political model.

Why not?

Religion, social mores, torture, the Koran... these are all secondary to the actual matter of winning the war.

This war will be won in the same way every other war has been won. Eventually, one side will either decide the costs of continuing to fight outweigh the benefits, or they'll run out of people. When that happens, the war will be over.

What forms of interrogation are acceptable and what are not is an important discussion, but such matters are secondary to winning the war.


Posted by: rosignol at June 23, 2005 07:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I love this blog but the last 2 posts have been real clunkers. Btw, I'm interested to hear what Josepth Britt thinks. I don't think it would be this mush-headed.

Greg doesn't do the 'self righteous indignation' act very well. Doesn't suit him, he sounds like a school marm (think Kyle's mom on South Park) "That's not funny! You shouldn't make jokes, young man. It's not appropriate material for satire Mister Lileks, with your clever writing style and jokes about cable soft-pr0n....you probably watch a little too much of it anyway, otherwise how would you know about it....."

Posted by: John in Tokyo at June 23, 2005 08:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Looks like everybody pretty much spanked the crap out of this little soggy sapism...

One thing that has not been mentioned in all the Gitmo hysterics:

Gitmo cost $100 million to build, and costs $90 million per year ot operate. A $55 million dollar contract has been awarded to build a new tow story facility which will include a rec room, exercise facility and a state of the art cafeteria. The contract may be extended up to $500 million.

Do the math....so far $100m +$90M/yr over three years versus a grand total of 700 prisoners (250 having been released) means that these murdering terrorists cost the US taxpayer $528,000 per detainee....with 550 still in custody, that's $163,000/detainee/year. Now wonder they get lemmon chicken for dinner!

Wanna know who is REALLy pissed about Gitmo (besides the American taxpayer)?

Our own domestic murderers! Who are treated far worse thans these Islammunist scumbags.....

Posted by: Blotto at June 23, 2005 09:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

maybe most of the commenters just don't care, but i think it is necessary to say that the discussion above, looked from a non american perspective, is totally unconceivable.

nothing - geneva convention, US laws, international laws - nothing justifies physic or psychologic torture. nothing justifies detaining somebody without giving a fair trial. period.

nichevo, there is nothing you can do. you can investigate seriously and get good intelligence. stop.

nothing justifies the fact that US government simply decides it is running a war on terror and forgets habeas corpus, forgets all basic human rights.

it's surprising that it is necessary to remind to US citizens these very basic principles.

Posted by: zuavo at June 23, 2005 10:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi -

The detainees are unlawful combatants. They deliberately and maliciously broke any claim they had on the Geneva Conventions. Under these circumstances the US would be perfectly justified in taking them out once captured and shooting them. They've had their military tribunal hearings, each and every one of them: that was their only legitimate right to any sort of hearing, to determine whether they were unlawful combatants or not.

In other words, these people are dead already. I'd love to live in a world where everyone played by the game rules.

It's not thrilling to live in a world where ethical comprimises are made: I'd rather live in a world where none are made. But that's a parallel universe.

Sorry, don't have any nice pat answers and easy solutions. Sending all the detainees "back home" is not a solution; putting them up in front of a judge in the US for civil processes is also not one, unless you want to make propaganda for the other side; draining them dry of information while preventing them from doing more damage is, as far as I can see it, the only real solution.

Am I happy with that? Not particularly: I'd rather see them shot out of hand on the battlefield so that the other side learns that we play by specific game rules and the penalties for not following those rules are extreme and highly unpleasant. But I also know that there has been apparently quite a lot of valuable information gathered by not doing so, and I'm not in the field of military intelligence, so I lack the knoweldge to question that.

John

Posted by: John F. Opie at June 23, 2005 11:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We owe this to ourselves, to our country, to our grandchildren.
______________________________

er, greg, congratulations, you look MUCH younger.

Posted by: zuavo at June 23, 2005 11:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

john - not at all. if they are caught and not killed in combat, either they are prisoners, and they deserve geneva convention treatment, or they are convicted of some crime, and they deserve a trial. you can't just shoot somebody like that (back to basics).

Posted by: zuavo at June 23, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

zuavo- To Americans, the Geneva Convention is a treaty. Treaties apply to those who are party to it, and honor it's terms. If someone party to a treaty does not honor it's terms, the other party is released from it's obligations. This is a very old and well established tenet of international law.

Niether Al Qaeda or the Taliban honored the terms of the Geneva Conventions. Therefore those affiliated with those organizations do not have rights as defined in the Geneva Conventions.

Habeas corpus is not something the US has ever extended to enemy prisoners. Such people are held, without trial, until hostilities are concluded or arrangements for repatriation are arranged.

Posted by: rosignol at June 23, 2005 12:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg....

Thanks for this thoughtful and well reasoned post. When I saw its length initially, I didn't think I'd get through the whole thing, but it was so well written and compelling I had to read every word.

Perhaps what is most distressing to me is that, at this point, when rational conservatives like yourself are trying to paint the big picture and explain the damage that these incidents are inflicting upon the long-term best interests of the USA, the message isn't getting through to most of your audience.

And it is those readers that truly frighten me, because rather than understand what you are saying, they accuse you of being "mush-minded" or "trying to pacify your liberal friends", or find nits to pick to justify ignoring your entire argument. It is these kinds of folks who make it abundantly obvious that "it can happen here"....


Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 23, 2005 12:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"maybe most of the commenters just don't care, but i think it is necessary to say that the discussion above, looked from a non american perspective, is totally unconceivable."

yeah, those french paras from algiers have NO idea what we're talking about.

tg: well i certainly wouldn't die for *their* book! ;> Yes, if it is a source of their strength, it can also be used against them.

p.lukasiak, now I see how you stay on. Quit sucking up. Drama queen.

Posted by: Nichevo at June 23, 2005 01:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

nichevo - it does not seem to me that torture has helped those paras from algiers. torture is first of all a crime (it looks like it is necessary to remind it here, sorry to say) AND it's useless, if your ultimate goal is to win a war.

Posted by: zuavo at June 23, 2005 02:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

it does not seem to me that torture has helped those paras from algiers. torture is first of all a crime (it looks like it is necessary to remind it here, sorry to say) AND it's useless, if your ultimate goal is to win a war.

Interesting. In order to "win a war" as you say and possibly save more lives in the long run, presumably many many people will have to die, some innocent. But "torture", whatever the hell that means today, is the crime for you right, as opposed to you know, actually KILLING people.

Posted by: Mike at June 23, 2005 02:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

mike - seems to me there's a big difference - factually, morally and legally - between killing an armed enemy on the battlefield and beating a chained detainee to death, or the like. it is interesting that you do not understand it.

Posted by: zuavo at June 23, 2005 03:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i agree with the need for a commision, and as an early poster said, it should NOT just look for abuses and responsibility for same, but should establish a positive policy.

1. The stuff happening looks out of control -whether it is or not, it sure looks that way. Legal or not, its created a huge uproar that hurts in the hearts and minds war, and may well be making it more difficult to use more effective (but still controversial) techniques
2. OTOH we NEED to get intel out of these folks
3. They are NOT entitled to the Geneva conventions EPWs are, and with good reason. An EPW is just a soldier, and has no obligation to share intel on the military ops he was associated with. Thats why you cant force him to release any info other than name, rank, etc. An illegal combatant however is associated with activities that violate the laws of war (like terrorism) and one IS and SHOULD be entitled to force him to divulge info on such matters. The question comes up, though, what level and type of coercion is both effective and will fit with our moral values. We need to address this question.
3. The continued mixing of Taliban foot soldiers with AQ members at Gitmo confuses the situation. This needs to be rectified.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 23, 2005 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

let me guess, Instapundit linked to you today, huh?

The comments seem like today's daily hate.

Posted by: just me at June 23, 2005 03:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All Hail the Moral Absolutist Zuavo - informing us that "NOTHING" makes torture ( which he does not define ) allowable

I call bollocks

If Zuavo's child were buried alive with 3 hours of air and we had the kidnapper in our hands and he refused to talk - want to guess how quickly Zuavo would enthusiastically endorse ANY torture method to get the information required

Please spare me the "what if he lies under torture" and "what if we have the wrong guy" responses

I am sure you can wrack your brain for a dozen other objections

The reality is that torture can be justified - that Gitmo interrogations ( which are not "torture" ) are very justifiable - and there is no reason to abandon the practice

Frankly, unless these reports are harming terrorist morale ( "I'd like to go blow up a bunch of women in that market and get my 72 raisins and all - but if I am caught they will send me to Gitmo and mishandle my koran - can't take that chance!" ) then there should be a complete lockdown on information out of the place

It doesn't exist - don't worry about it

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 23, 2005 03:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let me add a few comments, rather than rehash things I said on the last thread about this subject, or that other people have said on this one.

The first thing is that we need to understand the context in which the overseas audience sees reports of abuses at Guantanamo. That context was defined over a year ago, by the documentation of abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Americans have largely set this aside, partly because we tend to have short memories and partly because we make a distinction between Iraqis picked up in more or less undiscriminating sweeps and then abused in detention (which most Americans find appalling) and al Qaeda types manhandled at Guanatanamo (which most Americans find, at most, vaguely inappropriate and with which many Americans have no problem at all). The problem is that the government's response to the Abu Ghraib situation -- investigations that implicated hardly anyone except a few enlisted personnel -- struck the foreign audience as something of a whitewash. This makes it all too easy for anything that happens now or happened years ago at Guantanamo to be portrayed overseas as the same kind of thing: abuse of Muslims for being Muslims. I don't see that picture myself, but I can understand why others might.

The second thing is that most of the detainees in Cuba have been there for a while now. Whatever information they had about terrorist operations is likely out of date. So what abuses took place there had better not be going on any more. I can't speak to all people being detained everywhere, but I certainly hope military and intelligence authorities are able to be more discriminating as between people who are and are not likely to have information about terrorism than they were able to be three years ago in Afghanistan.

Thirdly, about this commission idea: Congressional commissions, or independent ones, cannot set policy. Only executive agencies can do that. A commission could after examining an issue like this, make recommendations as to what should or should not be allowed, but that's all. The ideal procedure would have been for the relevant agencies to develop procedures in regular consulation with appropriate Congressional leaders, but that water under the bridge by this time -- the Bush administration doesn't like this kind of consulation and oversight is too much work for the people we have in Congress now anyway. I'm inclined to favor some kind of commission to address the treatment of detainees; I just think we ought not be too expansive in our expectations of what it ought to do.

Finally, in response to comments above from John in Tokyo (and thank you for the kind words): it would be a mistake to exaggerate the differences between Greg's take on this issue and mine. Most of these are differences in tone and emphasis only. Also Greg is inclined, as here, to take on other bloggers, something I generally don't do. This is not a criticism -- blogospheric battles can be an effective tool to build readership, and in Greg's place I might start some myself. But the battles themselves don't interest me very much.

Posted by: JEB at June 23, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak, now I see how you stay on. Quit sucking up. Drama queen.

hah! I think were you to ask greg, he'd say I was one of the most disagreeable people who shows up here!

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 23, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak, now I see how you stay on. Quit sucking up. Drama queen.

hah! I think were you to ask greg, he'd say I was one of the most disagreeable people who shows up here!

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 23, 2005 03:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Again...America is the big silver city in the sky...we're better than this. It's not about what we think is allowable, it's about what we think is right.

You want to talk about giving aid and comfort to the enemy.....How about serving up their recruitment posters, talking points and anti-US images gift wrapped. "

Posted by: Talbott a

Talbott, back during the 1980's, a lot of stuff criticizing the comunists seem to me to carry a bit of worry that the USA wouldn't do that, and therefore was weak, and would lose. Of course, much of the stuff was already being done by the US (see America, South and America, Central for an idea of what US government policy has been for decades now).

A lot of these people don't want America to be a shining city on a hill, but rather a fearsome empire, imposing its will on all. They don't want a free country, except for themselves, who they fondly imagine will stay free. They like and crave a strong leader, an untrammeled executive (of their party, of course; anybody else has no right to power).

These things were all true long before 9/11; 9/11 was merely an excuse for them to do what they had always craved.

Frankly, they deserve to get what I think that they will get; I spare no tears for them. The innocent others are the ones who don't deserve this. If it was only them, I wouldn't care.

Posted by: Barry at June 23, 2005 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So when is Karen Hughes reporting for duty? As others have mentioned, the detention and interrogation situations have led to horrible PR, and the administration seems to have been pretty damn inept at countering it so far.

I don't think they need to disavow everything and kiss and make nice, but they just strike me as pretty bumbling when it comes to giving any sort of principled, calm explanation[s] of the situation and decisions that led to it. Assuming there were rational decisions made -- much of it I gather is reactionary.

I think they've just done a poor job presenting an overall picture of what's going on -- making it very easy to portray everything as horrible abuse, total chaos, and affecting every single detainee or prisoner in every location. Certainly some blame falls on the media, but if they got a coherent picture from the administration they'd at least print it, before or after taking it apart. Maybe they have, but I missed it and based on general reaction it seems most others have as well.

Posted by: TG at June 23, 2005 05:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Djerejian:
I applaud your remarks. We can't allow this conflict to turn into a struggle of my gang vs. your gang...they have plenty young men who are not less tough than our young men in withstanding imprisonment, discomfort, and outright torture.
After several years of confinement, what possible information can these prisoners have? I suspect that Bin Laden has moved to a different location by now. Whatever we are doing to them is gratuitous.
BTW, this situation has made me much more "conservative." I have much less faith in persons and greater belief in institutional structures such as courts, habeas corpus, and laws.

Posted by: mark s at June 23, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"Islamic fascism and other nihilistic creeds need no external justification for the abasement of other 'not worthy' human beings. It is completely self contained."

Well said, Adriane. The perception issue is more about what the people in our own political and journalistic circles think, not what people think in the Muslim World. Saddam Hussein was a hero to many Arabs (except the ones in Iraq); the Anfal campaign not withstanding. All he had to do was stand up to the US and survive. All OBL has to do is evade capture, and his popularity will be assured.

The emergence of new democratic leaders in the ME hopefully will at least create more heroes to choose from. Democracies, even ones that hate us, will make the world more secure.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at June 23, 2005 07:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow. Up here in Canada, a lot of apologists for the U.S. say things like, "We don't need to worry. The average American doesn't agree with the crazy stuff the Bush Administration is doing."

The more I read and hear, the less I believe that.

If you want one clear example of how this stuff is damaging America (a country I've lived in and love to death, by the way), have my personal perspective:

Canadians have supported the U.S. through every major war in the 20th century. Hell, we even sent medics to Vietnam, a war we were against. But we can't support this one.

This is how we (and the world) see it:

Afghanistan was fine, but the Administration lied to initiate the Iraq war. Then they went in without international support of the scale America almost -always- gets. And now, we're hearing about a prison where people are held without trial, subjected to dehumanizing conditions, and the Administration's response is to basically shrug and say, "Oh, it's just a few rogue guards." And we're left wondering about their rosy claims on Iraq. It leaves us with a feeling of, "Oh, God, what's next on the agenda?"

Unfortunately, the Iraq situation makes anything related to Afghanistan look even worse. And since Bush and Co. said Iraq was a weapons-laden breeding ground for Al-Qaida...and it wasn't...we're left doubting any American claim of justified action.

I'm all about smacking down terrorists. But how the heck do you even know they -are- terrorists, if they're not being allowed a trial? I'm all for getting information from them, but as another commenter pointed out, these aren't effective interrogation techniques. Torture just doesn't work, folks.

American credibility is being damaged across the world. We laugh out loud when GWB gets on the news and crows about democracy and freeing the poor Iraqis and how America is a shining beacon of truth to the world.

I mean, how can we take that seriously, when the Bush Administration is stripping away your civil liberties, has 1 in 150 Americans in jail, indiscriminately attacks countries on trumped-up charges, then holds and tortures people without a trial? When the press, the Republicans and the White House make smirking, condescending remarks about liberals, as if the age of being reasonable was over?

Heck, what about the U.S. gov't deporting Canadian citizens to get tortured in other countries, like what happened to Maher Arar?

The Bush Administration may be right in everything it's doing. But yelling "They deserve it!" and "We don't need international approval!" and "We deserve revenge for 9/11!" doesn't prove anything but that America has become filled with rage-filled bullies, casting their will on the world because they can.

It seems this way because America is making no significant effort to hold itself to a higher standard of conduct. To lead in moral action, as opposed to leading with anger-filled rhetoric and rejection of America's place in a world community.

And as an avowed American-lover and a citizen of your largest trading partner and staunchest ally, I feel the need to note: this is how empires fall, and are not mourned when they go.

Please don't let it happen.

Posted by: Ben in Canada at June 23, 2005 07:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is one of the best pieces I've read on this topic and it really deserves wider and better circulation. I think its tone and attitude, if pursued carefully, match pretty closely to what most Americans feel about the torture issue.

The ironic problem is that I suspect it is counterproductive. Administration opponents now seem to read this stuff and milk it for the anti-BushCo bits, and Administration supporters read it and screen it for bits about the detainees being bad guys. The set of people who support the Administration and the war on terror but are willing to call a spade a spade on war practices --- you enrich for such people on this weblog --- are the only ones who will actually, y'know, _read_ this post. I think that the atmosphere now is so toxic that any lengthy and careful exposition of facts is actually counterproductive.

Posted by: Sanjay Krishnaswamy at June 23, 2005 08:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ben wrote

"Wow. Up here in Canada, a lot of apologists for the U.S. say things like, "We don't need to worry. The average American doesn't agree with the crazy stuff the Bush Administration is doing."

The more I read and hear, the less I believe that."

We know - this is the same perception you get in the UK - that most American's loathe the Bush admin as much as they do - hence the "how can 58M be so dumb" headlines

Oh - most Americans don't think holding 500 AQ sorts in prison is "crazy"

"If you want one clear example of how this stuff is damaging America (a country I've lived in and love to death, by the way), have my personal perspective:"

OK

"Canadians have supported the U.S. through every major war in the 20th century. Hell, we even sent medics to Vietnam, a war we were against. But we can't support this one.

This is how we (and the world) see it:"

In WW1 and 2 - it was the US who supported Canada - which was already involved In Korea it was a UN police action - If you didn't want to help you didn't need to - but it was supporting the US
In Vietnam Canada and Canadians were opposed - only the Aussies and S Korean's showed up
GW1 - not sure what Canada sent
Afghanistan - great
Iraq - we'll see

"Afghanistan was fine"

AH, the old standby. let me say one thing Ben - if it wasn't for Iraq - things going on in Afghanistan would be the story. Your tune would now be "toppling the Taliban was fine - but now poppy production is up, and what about the abuses of prisoners at Paklal prison we have all read about..."


"but the Administration lied to initiate the Iraq war."

That is a lie Ben

"Then they went in without international support of the scale America almost -always- gets."

I see - so because France and Germany and Canada didn't go along with getting rid of Saddam, it was a bad idea
Did you ever think getting rid of Saddam was a good idea?


" And now, we're hearing about a prison where people are held without trial, subjected to dehumanizing conditions, and the Administration's response is to basically shrug and say, "Oh, it's just a few rogue guards." "

Ever been in a prison Ben? They are all pretty well dehumanizing - depends who you ask. At least the Gitmo inmates aren't subject to rape from the general population - hmmn - theres an idea


"And we're left wondering about their rosy claims on Iraq. It leaves us with a feeling of, "Oh, God, what's next on the agenda?" "

What rosy claims Ben? We are at war with islamic facists. Is this unclear? No matter what your view of Saddams connections to terrorists before 2003 - do you dispute Iraq is a haven for terrorists today? Are the head choppers and mosque bombers "freedom fighters"?


"Unfortunately, the Iraq situation makes anything related to Afghanistan look even worse."

huh?

"And since Bush and Co. said Iraq was a weapons-laden breeding ground for Al-Qaida...and it wasn't...we're left doubting any American claim of justified action."


Right, because if we had only listened to Ben in toronto we would have known what he knew - that Saddam had no WMD or production facilities

I mean, nobody else made this claim Ben - but you knew it huh

Oh right - you are using 20/20 hindsight - clever

One supposes that had Clinton gone into Afghanistan in 1998 after OBL you would have been ok with that - would you?


"I'm all about smacking down terrorists. But how the heck do you even know they -are- terrorists, if they're not being allowed a trial? I'm all for getting information from them, but as another commenter pointed out, these aren't effective interrogation techniques. Torture just doesn't work, folks. "

And how do we even know you are canadian ;)

So what is torture - what would you allow?

Tell us why it doesn't work Ben


"American credibility is being damaged across the world. We laugh out loud when GWB gets on the news and crows about democracy and freeing the poor Iraqis and how America is a shining beacon of truth to the world."

OH - the best of all....the pampered and comfy europeans ( and canadian euro wannabe's ) "laugh" about the changes in Iraq now that Saddam is gone

How wonderfully entertaining it all is for you

I'm just disgusted by all of you - thats the reaction

You don't give a good God-damn about ANYBODY but yourselves

Talk talk talk - Rwanda, Darfur, blah blah blah

And when it comes to taking a stand and actually doing anything - NOTHING

Typical - just like Rwanda with the Canadian general - doing nothing, helping nobody

Was that a good laugh too?


"I mean, how can we take that seriously, when the Bush Administration is stripping away your civil liberties, has 1 in 150 Americans in jail, indiscriminately attacks countries on trumped-up charges, then holds and tortures people without a trial? When the press, the Republicans and the White House make smirking, condescending remarks about liberals, as if the age of being reasonable was over?"

Is that what you are - a liberal? Odd, liberals used to believe in standing up for freedom and opposing tyrany. Seems the only tyranny you can see now is if it can be blamed on your boogyman GW Bush

Pathetic really


"Heck, what about the U.S. gov't deporting Canadian citizens to get tortured in other countries, like what happened to Maher Arar?"

Why don't you go and save him - send the Mounties

"The Bush Administration may be right in everything it's doing. But yelling "They deserve it!" and "We don't need international approval!" and "We deserve revenge for 9/11!"

Its not about revenge - since I live in NYC you don't know a thing Its about prevention
Since it wasn't an attack on Canada ( the terrorists tried to find a worthwhile target there for months but eventually gave up ) you can think anything you like

As usual - Canada will enjoy security provided by the US and bitch about it all along

Canada - the teenager of nations


"doesn't prove anything but that America has become filled with rage-filled bullies, casting their will on the world because they can."

Thats now what those MILLIONS of Iraqi's who voted in January think Ben

If it was left to you Saddam would still be in power - how does that make you feel? Like laughing?

"It seems this way because America is making no significant effort to hold itself to a higher standard of conduct. To lead in moral action, as opposed to leading with anger-filled rhetoric and rejection of America's place in a world community."

There is no standard we could reach that would make you happy. The interrogation techniques that have been discussed as childs play compared to ANY arab prison - let along being in the terrorists clutches. But to you were aren't making "any significant effort"

Maybe we should do what the Germans did and try and release these terrorists

"And as an avowed American-lover and a citizen of your largest trading partner and staunchest ally, I feel the need to note: this is how empires fall, and are not mourned when they go.

Please don't let it happen"

You are not an America lover - you are a wannbe european The sooner you understand this the happier you will be

Empires falling now....oooooo

Tell ya what - imagine a world without our "empire"

What do you think then?

No - I doubt you give 2 seconds thought to everything that America provides in the world

You know what Canada has that America doesn't


A good neighbor

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 23, 2005 08:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

PG Mahone wrote:

"Oh - most Americans don't think holding 500 AQ sorts in prison is "crazy""

That's the tip of the iceberg, actually.

"In WW1 and 2 - it was the US who supported Canada - which was already involved In Korea it was a UN police action - If you didn't want to help you didn't need to - but it was supporting the US
In Vietnam Canada and Canadians were opposed - only the Aussies and S Korean's showed up
GW1 - not sure what Canada sent
Afghanistan - great
Iraq - we'll see"

Um. Wow. So, basically, what you're saying is that we haven't supported the U.S. (e.g. fought side-by-side with you) in every major conflict the U.S. has been involved in this century? Oh, and on Vietnam: wrong. We sent Army medics, because you folks didn't have enough to treat all the wounded.

"AH, the old standby. let me say one thing Ben - if it wasn't for Iraq - things going on in Afghanistan would be the story. Your tune would now be "toppling the Taliban was fine - but now poppy production is up, and what about the abuses of prisoners at Paklal prison we have all read about...""

If the same crap were happening? Absolutely. But the initation of that war was righteous.

""but the Administration lied to initiate the Iraq war."

That is a lie Ben"

Sure it's a lie. They just had bad intel. Except for the Downing Street memos, hmm? And the CIA, who've bluntly said they didn't think Iraq had WMDs? C'mon. Gimme a break.

"Did you ever think getting rid of Saddam was a good idea?"

Sure. I think manipulating the intelligence and propogandizing it as a "war on terror" and "getting rid of the WMDs" damages America's credibility.

"Ever been in a prison Ben? They are all pretty well dehumanizing - depends who you ask. At least the Gitmo inmates aren't subject to rape from the general population - hmmn - theres an idea"

Actually, yes, I have. And by the way? The whole prison rape thing is way overblown. But, hey, who needs homosexual assault, when you've got Lynndie England ready to sexually humiliate you?

"What rosy claims Ben? We are at war with islamic facists. Is this unclear? No matter what your view of Saddams connections to terrorists before 2003 - do you dispute Iraq is a haven for terrorists today? Are the head choppers and mosque bombers "freedom fighters"?"

Yes, it's a haven for terrorists -- because you guys have made it into an Islamic cause celebre. Good job! Thanks for making the world safer, by uniting a previously fractured Islamic community in one cause!

As for "what rosy claims" -- Donald Rumsfeld says the insurgents are on the run, and yet, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq tells Congress the attacks are intensifying, becoming more sophisticated, and show no signs of slowing down.

Welcomed as liberators, says Rumsfeld. No more than six months, says Rumsfeld. WMDs litter the landscape, and they've got nukes, and bioweapons, and we'll find them, says Rumsfeld. -Those- rosy claims.


"Unfortunately, the Iraq situation makes anything related to Afghanistan look even worse."

"Right, because if we had only listened to Ben in toronto we would have known what he knew - that Saddam had no WMD or production facilities

I mean, nobody else made this claim Ben - but you knew it huh"

Let me reiterate: CIA. Downing Street memos. Your own intelligence agency and an allied gov't didn't think he had 'em.

"So what is torture - what would you allow?

Tell us why it doesn't work Ben"

Anyone with military intelligence training will tell you the same. Go check out a library. It's common knowledge.

As for what I would allow? Nothing. You want to try them? Grand. You want to imprison them? Grand. But with billions of dollars of spy satellites and special forces, etc., I don't think the words of a guy who is trying to avoid torture are terribly valuable.

"Typical - just like Rwanda with the Canadian general - doing nothing, helping nobody"

Yeah, and our response was to take responsibility for it. The general was court-martialled. An entire unit of our military was disbanded, and the whole command structure re-built from the ground up.

See? Taking responsibility. Unlike Bush and Co., who now claim they went into Iraq to "free Iraqis." Let's ignore those disproved Al-Qaida links and the nonexistent WMDs, shall we?

"Is that what you are - a liberal? Odd, liberals used to believe in standing up for freedom and opposing tyrany. Seems the only tyranny you can see now is if it can be blamed on your boogyman GW Bush"

I am opposing tyranny. Your President's, at the moment.

"Its not about revenge - since I live in NYC you don't know a thing Its about prevention
Since it wasn't an attack on Canada ( the terrorists tried to find a worthwhile target there for months but eventually gave up ) you can think anything you like"

Oh, bullshit. If it was about prevention, Bush would've sent in a team of commandos into Afghanistan to off bin Laden before he ever knew what was coming. If it was about prevention, Bush would be fixing America's public image in the Middle East, not uniting them against America.

Grow a brain.

"Thats now what those MILLIONS of Iraqi's who voted in January think Ben

If it was left to you Saddam would still be in power - how does that make you feel? Like laughing?"

Oh, yay! They got to vote! And how long do you think the democratically elected officials will last, once Americans get sick of paying for Iraq?

"There is no standard we could reach that would make you happy."

That's pointless hyperbole. I've made it very clear what standard I would be happy with. Don't lie. Apply principles of justice. Pretty simple stuff, really.

"You are not an America lover - you are a wannbe european The sooner you understand this the happier you will be"

Bleah, bleah, bleah. Got any more pointless jabs to further reinforce the idea that you're a moron?

"Tell ya what - imagine a world without our "empire""

I'd rather imagine a world where America is what it claims to be -- a light of truth, justice, and democracy.

"No - I doubt you give 2 seconds thought to everything that America provides in the world"

Considering I lived in America on and off for ten years, I'm quite aware of what America provides. Maybe you ought to give two seconds to think about what it takes away.

"You know what Canada has that America doesn't

A good neighbor"

Well, y'know, if I were that bad of a neighbor, why would I give a damn about what people think of the U.S.? Why would I be wasting my online time pleading for sanity?

If Canada were that poor a neighbor, why would we still be sending troops into Afghanistan to back you guys up?

It's this kind of reactionary garbage that makes me want to throw up my hands and give up on your entire country. It's a good thing that, unlike many Canadians, I actually know a lot of Americans, and they're not people I'd give up on.

Imagine what the rest of the world is thinking...the people who don't have the benefit of my experience.

PG -- if a friend criticized you, would you respond by telling the friend he was a horrible person who'd never helped you out? Probably not, right? Then why can't you accept some well-intentioned criticism of your gov't's actions from this well-intentioned friend?

Something to consider.

Posted by: Ben in Canada at June 23, 2005 08:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I want to make a few additional points here because this is very tricky, sensitive terrain indeed." GD

Precisely, neither trivializing nor grotesque overreach as exemplified by Durbin, Amnesty International or the UN's apparatchiks helps, in fact it impedes better discussions and policies.

Posted by: Michael B at June 23, 2005 09:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are enormous problems trying to define a war that, in most senses of the word, is undefineable. The war against terrorism in all its guises is probably unwinnable: there are always those who feel slighted or have lost family who will take up arms against an obvious target. There are those who can be rabble-roused, and those who do it because it seems "fun" to play with weapons.

The best hope for this war is that gradually a state of reasoned if guarded armistice develops. Nations have to be convinced there is no material gain in persevering and gradually they will reduce support so individuals may feel unable or unwilling to continue.

Mistrust may take longer to disperse and is possible, but requires patience. Do we see these times as allowing us patience or should we impose a deadline? If so, on what basis?

Every conflict is different though you have to look for the common elements and work with those. Not easy, but that should be what military planning is about.

As for detainees of this war, it may - by the fractured nature of this conflict - be immaterial what they know, especially after a long period in detention. Since September 11, 2001 a lot of things have changed and a lot of water has flown under many bridges. This is just the nature of time and change.

As for torture to extract information, the question always arises what is the value of it and what are you going to do with it? The address of one "enemy" leader would be useful but unlikely to be forthcoming. Numbers, locations, funding, plans... something valuable may be among what you can reasonably discover but you have to then apply these bits to a bigger picture. A little like panning for gold.

Most intelligence work requires intelligent gathering - not electronic harvesting alone but the kind of down and dirty, among the ordinary people work.

In the West there as been a recent tendency to think this too expensive, too slow, too uninteresting. But it is needed, just as patience is needed.

Do you grind opponents down with any crude means? I think not: no matter what their compatriots do (and some will be more humane than others) I don't think there is any gain in being more cruel, more obscene, more evil.

If you always do the right thing it will astonish your enemies and gratify your friends.

If a part of the world believes the West (mostly but not exclusively America) is evil then there is little point in demonstrating they are correct. Such is the nature of communication today that errors of judgement are soon broadcast.

There will always be errors in war but the effort should be in minimising them.

By all means a country should be strong (more correctly, be resolute and show it will not be swayed) but it must also show even-handedness.

Any war has to be fought on a multitude of levels. For all we know this present conflict is so being managed - what we are shown and what we are led to believe may not be the exact truth, though we like to believe we are not being lied to by our leaders.

We just have to keep on doing what is right as long as we can. Not very glamourous in any conflict but it may be the only way we can prove that we in the West will be ultimately victorious.

Posted by: steve at June 23, 2005 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Durbin is quoted by GD as saying in his infamous speech: "Polls show that Muslims have positive attitudes toward the American people and our values. However, overall, favorable ratings toward the United States and its Government are very low. "

What poll? Which Muslims? The polls I've seen (and were quoted recently in, IIRC, strategy page) indicate that the middle eastern and Arab Muslims don't share this attitude. They are against the US for a variety of reasons, particularly support for Israel.

Durbin continues: "This is driven largely by the negative attitudes toward the policies of this administration. "

Well, all the data I've seen show this to be a disingenuous statement at best. It's Israel, Sen. Durbin. The great Arab street we were to be so afraid of is convinced that the US has been under the control the the International Jewish Conspiracy for decades, regardless of who is in the White House. And CNN International and BBC World news channels play right into this by giving anti-Semite conspiracy mongers like Ray McGovern air time.

I'd suggest that state-sponsored teaching of IJC theories and wide distribution of the "Protcols of the Elders of Zion", combined with a need to deflect domestic anger to an outside agent has the most to do with Why They Hate Us.

Posted by: ech at June 23, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Touche Ben. Bravo in fact. The pogue mahone's the jim rockfords and others of the world are PRECISELY the reason America now finds itself in an ideological conflict with Islam that may well make the cold war lok like a side show. After all NOT that many communists were prepared to undertake Jihad and willing die and be martyred for the glory of allah.

If your level is political analysis and understanding of the religious, political and ideological drivers of conflict never gets beyond we are good guys and they are bad guys then we may as well get rid of the UN and build big fucking concrete bunkers in our backyards because we will be destined to suffer ever worse global conflicts every 50 years or so.

Everything America has stood for is being shown to be a lie by the undiguised bigotry and rampant ethnocentrism of people like PM, JR and others...

I just feel sory for those other great Americans unlucky enough to be forced to live in the same continent whose lives are under threat, by muslim extremists whose hatred is fueled not only by a twisted relgious fantacism, but also by the ignorant back biting ignorance of those who have reduced America to not much above a school yard bully.

And you can call me a liberal muslim loving pansy all you want. I couldn't give a toss. Me and mine are not responsible for this situation. You made your own bed. I hope you enjoy lying in it.

Posted by: Aran Brown at June 23, 2005 11:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You are exactly who's responsible for the media war, Brown. You give hope to the caliphate jihadists, you spineless filth. A sizable portion of Iraqi civilian blood is on your hands. I hope you're proud - because I'd be sick to my stomach if I were you.

Posted by: Tommy G at June 24, 2005 12:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gee thanks Tommy. Good luck killing all the muslims. Get back to me when you finish... I might need some help washing the blood of my hands... Oh wait I'm a bad guy too, so when you finished that feel free to lob some bombs my way. Don't forget to lock me away without rights and torture me so that I can tell you everything I know about my plans to bomb washington.

Once you've finished killing everyone who disagrees with you which if the 3 of you left will clean the toilets?

You might want to check out Sun Tzu's the art of war. There's a useful little section there about knowing your enemy. Might help a bit with killing all the Muslims and Arabs, because you're doing a half abked job of it at the moment... You've still got Iran, Syria Egypt and Saudi left to go once you've finished in Iraq.

Oh yes and when you've finished ALL of that you may want to read a dictionary - I suggest checking out a definition of "parody"

Sorry to lower the tone of your fine blog Greg.....

Posted by: Tommy G at June 24, 2005 03:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oops... Sory that's not Tommy's "rational" half talking to himself there - it was me. Sorry - I don't quite know how that happened - but it wasn't intentional.

Posted by: Aran Brown at June 24, 2005 03:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If a part of the world believes the West (mostly but not exclusively America) is evil then there is little point in demonstrating they are correct. Such is the nature of communication today that errors of judgement are soon broadcast.


"It is useless to try to reason someone out of something they were never reasoned into" - Jonathan Swift

Much of the criticism of the US's conduct these days does not seem to be based on rational thinking, but on emotion, envy, and resentment.. I am unsure exactly why- as near as I can tell, some people think the reason the world isn't the way they want it to be is because the US will not allow it to be that way.

There may be a grain of truth to that- people in the US think they should have a say in how the world should be, instead of just accepting the ideas of others- but only a grain. Factors that have nothing at all to do with the US are much greater obstacles to achieving utopia than the US will ever be- but they are large, poorly definied, and would take a lot of work to deal with (consider the problem of poor governance in the third world), while the US is a clearly definied target that others know will not retaliate to even the vilest criticism.


There will always be errors in war but the effort should be in minimising them.


The US does try. It does little good, as the critics simply move the goalposts. It is not good enough to be better than everyone else- the US is condemned for not being perfect.

Seriously, compare Iraq to Russia's conduct in Chechnaya, France's conduct in Algeria (or anywhere else, to be frank), Britain's conduct in Northern Ireland, or any middle eastern or arab government fighting against militant insurgents. In comparison to all of the above, the US is better by any objective criteria, yet it is condemned more harshly by all of the others combined.

And then the critics have the audacity to wonder why so many Americans ignore them.

Humans are very strange creatures.

Posted by: rosignol at June 24, 2005 04:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Who are you sick fucks who seem to have so much time to spend thinking up perfect not-quite-torture methods of interrogation?

(I'm looking at you, epaminondas and Nichevo.)

Posted by: Patience at June 24, 2005 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Values, values, values.

Muslims and others who are pissed off at America are not usually pissed off by American values: they are pissed off by American actions that make a mockery of those values.

Too many Americans just don't understand how counterproductive it is for Americans to torture, to detain indefinitely without due process, to flout international law, etc. etc. etc. They think these acts enhance US security, when they in fact breed the very threats to security that they are supposed to be combating.

Unfortunately, principle doesn't seem to sell when fear reigns.

Posted by: d52boy at June 24, 2005 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A very reasonable essay. As a liberal, I'm sorry that I find this to be the exception. I think the one thing those of us on both sides should assume is good will, and a common wish to suceed in our batlle against terrorism. And our good name, if you will, and the example of what I would call tough-minded decency, is what will win it for us.

It's not enough to say we stand for something -- we have to stand for our values when it's truly hard to do so.

Posted by: reillyhund at June 24, 2005 05:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An excellent blog entry with, by and large, an appalling commentary track.

What is notable among the many defenses of US torture is the assumption of guilt. Not only is that troublesome when being mouthed by people who live in a country whose legal system is predicated upon the notion of a defendant being innocent until proven guilty, it also doesn't remotely stand up to investigation. Seymour Hersch reported in his Abu Ghirab investigation that at the time of the widespread abuses that at least 80% of the prison inmates were not charged with being insurgents or were even serious suspects. The Times ran front page stories detailing the abduction, imprisonment and murder of Afghans who were once again not suspects. Considering the systematic nature of the reported abuses, it's simply not sufficient to look at Guantanimo Bay in isolation (and even there, plenty of inmates have been released, suggesting that they were guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time...I mean, we're not in the habit of releasing terrorists, are we?). Predictably discussion has been funneled towards things like Koran desecration and sexual intimidation and away from things like the body count. Because you really can't argue about a body count, and that's what our interrogation and detention centers are producing.

Posted by: Sean at June 24, 2005 05:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"They deserve it." Most of the detainees know nothing and are wrongly detained. In fact, those from Afghanistan were PURCHASED, not caught "fighting without a uniform." So any clan with a grudge could make money by SELLING false tips against their enemies.

One of the detainees murdered was a cab driver in the wrong place at the wrong time. Too bad for him, huh?

And why did we invade Afghanistan and Iraq when the murderers were SAUDIS in the first place?

As for the American soldier freshly back from Iraq who posted above that he "believes" in the "few bad apples" fairy tale. Say, True Believer, where do you suppose those West Virginia grunts got those BLACK HOODS and ELECTRODES? In their local WALMART? Did they carry them over to Iraq in their duffel bags, thinking, wow, maybe we'll be assigned to Abu Graib and can practice our secret brand of bad appledom? Someone higher up ORCHESTRATED these acts, from the black hoods and electrodes to the red magic marker "menstrual blood" to the anal-raping of children within the earshot of their fathers.

Believe what you want, including that "they" deserve it, but
that doesn't change the facts:

A. The torture is a policy, not the act of a "few bad apples"

B. We invaded the wrong country, ANYWAY. Those were SAUDIS on the planes on 9/11, not Iraqis. And 55% of the insurgents in Iraq today are Saudis! But I guess since Bush holds hands with the Saudi royalty we won't be targeting the right people any time soon.

A nod to Patience for asking the question I was wondering, too. Who *are* these people on this thread who have given so much thought and planning to how THEY would torture detainees?! Creepy.


Posted by: R at June 24, 2005 05:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Adriane says: "I do not argue that perceptions are not important. I merely argue that attempts to control the perceptions of others is futile."

Are you out of your mind? What has Mr. Bush been up to since Jan. 2001 if not striving mightily to "control the perceptions of others" about Iraq, global climate change, stem cell research, education policy, Social Security, (shall I continue?) "Futile" my ass! Enough sheep bought the "attempts" (i.e., lies) that he got re-elected in 2004, didn't he?

Oh, and I'll notify Proctor & Gamble, General Electric, Halliburton, and U.S. military recruiters that they can stop spending money for advertising, because "...attempts to control the perceptions of others is [are] futile."


Posted by: Joe at June 24, 2005 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Adriane says: "I do not argue that perceptions are not important. I merely argue that attempts to control the perceptions of others is futile."

Are you out of your mind? What has Mr. Bush been up to since Jan. 2001 if not striving mightily to "control the perceptions of others" about Iraq, global climate change, stem cell research, education policy, Social Security, (shall I continue?) "Futile" my ass! Enough sheep bought the "attempts" (i.e., lies) that he got re-elected in 2004, didn't he?

Oh, and I'll notify Proctor & Gamble, General Electric, Halliburton, and U.S. military recruiters that they can stop spending money for advertising, because "...attempts to control the perceptions of others is [are] futile."


Posted by: Joe at June 24, 2005 05:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Today's American right-winger is about as brave as a little white girl at a Klan lynching.

Posted by: NeoDude at June 24, 2005 06:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What is notable among the many defenses of US torture is the assumption of guilt. Not only is that troublesome when being mouthed by people who live in a country whose legal system is predicated upon the notion of a defendant being innocent until proven guilty, it also doesn't remotely stand up to investigation.


You are trying to apply a valid legal principle in an utterly inappropriate way. These people were captured, not arrested. They are not subject to the US criminal code, they have no Miranda rights, no Constitutional rights, no Geneva Convention rights and they will not be convicted or sentenced in any regular US court. All they are entitled to is a hearing before a tribunal to determine their status- not guilty or innocent, but if they are a civilian or a combatant.

The only way in which guilt or innocence is relevant is if the US decides to charge them with war crimes- which has not been done thus far.

Posted by: rosignol at June 24, 2005 06:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look, there's an equivocation of two points here that completely obscures reasonable discussion: so long as we're equivocating getting boobies rubbed in your face with "torture", you're going to have some difficulty geting anyone who has ever had a job outside the Academy to take you seriously.

It requires a lifetime of insulation from reality to maintain the notion that a lap dance is at all comparable to, say, having your arms broken, much less having your tongue cut out or having to watch your daughter raped and murdered.

Elswhere I called people who could entertain that whole collection of ideas "moral cretins", but that's really not fair, as thyroid deficiency is not a choice; this moral confusion has to be a failure of character.

Now, could you argue that the payoff is not good enough, compared to the cost? I suppose. But then, I don't notice the Islamic world is particularly shy about what it says about Christianity, or Judaism, and as a Buddhist I've got to take some notice that the Talibs weren't real cautious about OUR cultural heritage.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at June 24, 2005 06:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post, Gregory.

Let me also add that even though I've found the recent revelations of prisoner abuse/murder to be truly appalling, the torturing of logic on the right to justify it has been an even more gruesome spectacle.

Posted by: ricecake at June 24, 2005 06:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I remember recently seeing something on the news that I couldn't believe wasn't more "on the news": A US soldier got the crap beaten out of him at Gitmo in an interrogation "training" excercise where the soldiers doing the interrogating thought the other guy was a "terrorist" until they stripped his orange jumpsuit off of him, revealing his US military uniform which he was wearing underneath. Unfortunately it was too late. The soldier suffered brain damage during the "interrogation" and now has seizures.

He's suing the military. Supposedley while they were beating him, he kept yelling that he was a US soldier, but the interrogators didn't believe him and continued pounding his head against the pavement.

Brain damage and a lifetime of seizures... is this what we're doing? Is this what we stand for? And why is it that the media has nearly ignored the story of this US soldier and what happened to him at Gitmo.

Posted by: Sid at June 24, 2005 07:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lots of comments in this thread like:

"Oh those poor terrorists, who gives a shit about them? If they weren't illegal combatants fighting America and being terrorists in Iraq setting off roadside bombs, maybe I would care that they were being tortured and killed in American custody."

Reread Peterson's letter. Think about what you're saying--you are using a subjective standard that makes sense to you in your cozy midwestern home, but which you do not know to be true and which noone outside of your country recognizes.

By your standards, any American who gets captured anywhere in the world where the local population is hostile to Americans or feels that the American presence is illegal, has the right to chain him to the floor in a freezing room, drug him, knee him in the legs until they turn to pulp, let him shit all over himself, sodomize him and kill him.

This is what you are saying you agree with. My suggestion to you is that if you are comfortable with this position, enlist, go fight for your principals, and when you are captured I will still be working to stop this practice, in your prison as well as in ours.

Posted by: Lud at June 24, 2005 07:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It is better to be feared than loved."

Well, no, it isn't. What you fear, you will seek to destroy. I honestly think that most of the ends-justify-the-means folks these days really do believe Jesus is going to be back any minute now to bail them out.

There are centuries and millennia ahead, folks. The US is not ordained by God to be the most powerful country in the world forever. What we do now will be done back to us in spades. Being feared and hated is not a good long-term strategy; it is a good way to make sure there is no long-term.

Posted by: Eric at June 24, 2005 07:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All I have to say is, my God, What Have We Become?

It saddens me that this close to the end of my life, that a country I loved and fought for has sunk to such a low point.

We are that which we despise most, and yet fail to see it in our mirror.

We think we are justified and strong, yet we are weak, because we are wrong.

We think we are courageous in our attitudes, and yet we have become cowards and abandoned our virtue.

We will suffer the loss of our character, and won't have the foresight to mourn its passing because we have become prisoners of our own lies.

Posted by: Mike Taylor at June 24, 2005 07:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rosignol:

This war will be won in the same way every other war has been won. Eventually, one side will either decide the costs of continuing to fight outweigh the benefits, or they'll run out of people. When that happens, the war will be over.

War on WMD: won by default, there weren't any

War on Iraqi AlQaida: won be default, there weren't any to speak of. Saddam hated religious nutters. About his only redeeming feature, and the reason Reagan armed him to fight Iran and control Shia & Kurdish Iraq.

War on Saddam (regime change): Won - he's captured.

War on terrorism: Iraq alone doesn't cut it. The ones to worry about are in other countries, chiefly western ones. Counter-productive in that it breeds terrorism inside and out of Iraq.

War on Iraq: Didn't know it had been declared.

Undefined war as excuse for all kinds of idiotic inflammatory acts (some fatal)? You said it.

Posted by: AlanDownUnder at June 24, 2005 08:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You shouldn't pretend to be outraged at conduct that you claim is barbaric if you use that outrage as an excuse to emulate those you condemn.

Posted by: Jon Koppenhoefer at June 24, 2005 08:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moral hazard.

It's why you cannot give these people Geneva Rights.

Saar spent six months in Gitmo. Maybe you should read the book "The Interrogators" about an interrogator in Afghanistan.

You know, just for a second opinion.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 09:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"They believe that we are hypocrites; and so they need to know that we actually believe in the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

This is the exact OPPOSITE of what the interrogators have learned. They find that threats of punishment, being sent back to their country for interrogation, and psychological pressure (like threatening to deport their families from the UK) work best.

Reading them Miranda rights is what they already expect and have prepared for.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 09:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Torture is not an American value. Period. My daddy taught me that the dfifference between us and the godless Commies we were fighting overseas was that Americans treated their prisoners fairly, while the Commies tortured their prisoners. My daddy taught me that the difference between us and the godless Commies that we were fighting overseas was that we could move around in America without needing to answer the question "your papers please", while everybody in those Commie countries was labeled from birth and could not move around without an internal passport and permission of the authorities.

When did we become our enemy, I wonder? And what should we do about it?

Making excuses for brutality is just mental masturbation to hide from yourself the knowledge that we have become our enemy. The fact of the matter is that we are not the America that I grew up in anymore. We are a far more mean, brutal, vicious place than that America, which was a land filled with hope and opportunity (even for black people -- that was the era in which black people finally were granted full rights as Americans). Now a poor kid in America has less chance of getting out of the ghetto and making something out of himself than a poor kid in the Netherlands. THE NETHERLANDS, for cryin' out loud! We've destroyed our educational system, we've turned our public discourse into a trash heat of smut, lies, and stupidity, you now need an internal passport ("valid government-issued ID") and permission from the authorities ("name not similar to one on the no-fly list") to travel from state to state via airliner, the Supreme Court has ruled that any policeman, anywhere, can stop you on the street for any or no reason and demand your papers, please... where has America gone? And how can we get it back?

- Badtux the Patriotic Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at June 24, 2005 09:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It surprises me that everybody seem convinced these detainees are terrorists (and the people we kidnap and send to foreign "friendly" governments known to torture).

Not a lot of these people have been let go, but a few hundred have -- enough have been released to say that time spent on their cases and interrogation didn't produce any convincing evidence against them.

I wasn't aware that they were "captured" in any meaningful sense of the word. Maybe some were, but most are accused of being suspicious characters -- some on more information, but a lot on quite slender suspicions.


Someone above said, whoopee, he didn't care that a guy in Iraq was swept up just because he happened to be driving his taxi past a check point near the time an explosion went off. He was abused badly for days and days and died from it. It turned out the interrogators thought he was innocent, but hadn't gotten around to making it official.

Our guy above may not care, but the Iraqis do. They're pretty concerned about the abuses. And, by the way, allegations of rape at Abu Ghraib seem pretty likely to be true.

The Iraqis are beginning to press pretty hard to have our Iraqi detainees turned over to them.

And as for people making fun of harsh interrogations at Gitmo, let me tell you, prisons in Uzbekistan and Egypt are hard-core torture chambers. The UK Ambassador from Uzbekistan reported people all the time coming to him who had been immersed in boiling fluids, gang-raped, their family members gang-raped in front of them, and so forth as evidence of just how hard-core these prison officials are. And, the newspapers say, we trained them. The Egyptians pretty regularly beat their own people to death.

Sophisticated methods of modern interrogation can supposedly get all the information needed from prisoners without torture or "hard" conditions like handcuffing prisoners in contorted positions to cold floors in freezing rooms for days or more at a time while they urinate and defecate on themselves a la conditions at Baghram.

And, information obtained in such ways is not considered reliable. (I'd tell 'em what they want to hear, wouldn't you?)

This is the kind of stuff we used to villify the Rusians for. Surely we're better than this?

Posted by: Carolyn Maisel at June 24, 2005 10:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thank goodness for your willingness to speak out for the sake of conscience. I'm increasinly alarmed at the willingness of people who are perfectly willing to look away from American involvement in rape and torture, and the willingness to cheer it on like a pack of drunken frat boys on a rampage. This is very dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

I'm seeing this nation become more and more violent, in its foreign policy, and in its daily life. To allow this behavior in our name corrodes us as a nation, and if I can get away with quoting Miyazaki a little, we're becoming monsters and we're losing our humanity. This is bloody dangerous.

So my deep thanks to you for speaking truth to power. I can't say how other Republicans or conservatives will react to you, aside from the usual denials and pompous, macho posing. Hopefully you won't wind up having to defend yourself against endless assaults or witchhunts. Hopefully, there are still thoughtful, honest Conservatives. I'm always willing to side with anyone who's willing to question authority. Heck, it's fun.

Posted by: Daniel Thomas at June 24, 2005 10:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Islamic Jihad training manual expects Western civil society to act like wussies and Western civil society is accomodating.

Islamic Jihadists can comfortably beheaded captives, while Western Liberalization must wear kid gloves when forced to handle a book.

So the world is disgusted by American's kid gloves yet makes no mention of Islamic Jihadist practice of hacking-off heads?

There is something completely perverted about Western Liberalization's behavior.

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 11:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

War on Iraq: Didn't know it had been declared.
-AlanDownUnder


Dunno why it didn't make the papers down there, it was pretty big news in other places.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2318785.stm


[...] Making excuses for brutality is just mental masturbation to hide from yourself the knowledge that we have become our enemy. The fact of the matter is that we are not the America that I grew up in anymore. We are a far more mean, brutal, vicious place than that America, which was a land filled with hope and opportunity (even for black people -- that was the era in which black people finally were granted full rights as Americans). [...]
-BadTux


War is inherently brutal. Failure to recognize that indicates a level of immaturity and self-delusion that is beyond my ability to help..

If you really think the US wasn't mean, brutal, and vicious during your childhood, when the civil rights struggle was going on, I suggest you talk to some of the black people who were around back then. The Reverend Jackson has a story about something that happened at a place called Selma that he'd be delighted to share with you.


[...] And as for people making fun of harsh interrogations at Gitmo, let me tell you, prisons in Uzbekistan and Egypt are hard-core torture chambers. The UK Ambassador from Uzbekistan reported people all the time coming to him who had been immersed in boiling fluids, gang-raped, their family members gang-raped in front of them, and so forth as evidence of just how hard-core these prison officials are. And, the newspapers say, we trained them. [...]
-Carolyn Maisel


You should be able to spot a pretty basic reason why those newspapers aren't credible. If the US had people who were skilled at that sort of interrogation, why would we be improvising fake menstrual blood with a magic marker? That's the kind of thing you'd expect on a Fear Factor style gross-out TV show, not in a military interrogation.

US instructors may have taught the Uzbeks and Egyptians some things, but it's pretty clear that torture isn't one of them.

Posted by: rosignol at June 24, 2005 11:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"we are becoming monsters and we're are losing our humanity"

No, we are wussies fearful of defending ourselves from terrorizing Islamic Jihadism.

And, why will not Western Liberalization ever question Islamic Jihadist imposed authority?

Why is Western Liberalization aiding Islamic Jihad, an ideology which will one day destroy Liberal Democracy?

Europe has already transformed into Eurabia, do American Liberals really wish to follow suit?

Just to spite one leader, Western Liberalization will continue defending Islamic Jihadism even after the day America infidel gays are thrown off roof-tops or America infidel females are stoned to death for having been raped.

During Nazism's rise to power the Jews did not think it possible that they would systematically be exterminated until the day after 6 million were exterminated.

Who is the monster?

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 11:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

syn - western liberalization (whatever that means) is a better and more advanced society than others because it is able to identify individual responsibilities and prosecute them - get those terrorists who behead people or bomb markets, schools and buses, trial them, put those individuals responsible for such crimes in jail or execute them as appropriate. western liberalization (whatever that means) is not a tribal society because it does not seek blind revenge against somebody else than the individual responsibles for crimes and acts of terrorism. AND europe has not tranformed into eurabia at least as i see it from my window. europe has many immigrants and many problems to solve with them just as the US have.

Posted by: zuavo at June 24, 2005 12:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd like to suggest that you look at torture and rape in American prisons. The real point that has to be made, is that this could happen to you. I find it interesting that some people on freerepublic.com understand this very well. I believe that we should be doing more to make sure that all Americans understand it.

---Begin quoted text---

Torture Inc. Americas Brutal Prisons
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8451.htm

Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq?

By Deborah Davies

They are just some of the victims of wholesale torture taking place inside the U.S. prison system that we uncovered during a four-month investigation for BBC Channel 4 . It's terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you're not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying.

The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs. Many of the prisoners have been ordered to strip naked. The guards are yelling abuse at them, ordering them to lie on the ground and crawl. 'Crawl, motherf*s, crawl.'

If a prisoner doesn't drop to the ground fast enough, a guard kicks him or stamps on his back. There's a high-pitched scream from one man as a dog clamps its teeth onto his lower leg.

Another prisoner has a broken ankle. He can't crawl fast enough so a guard jabs a stun gun onto his buttocks. The jolt of electricity zaps through his naked flesh and genitals. For hours afterwards his whole body shakes.

Lines of men are now slithering across the floor of the cellblock while the guards stand over them shouting, prodding and kicking.

Second by second, their humiliation is captured on a video camera by one of the guards.

But there is a difference. These prisoners are Americans.

---Begin new quoted text---

"The Sexual Abuse of Female Inmates in Ohio
http://www.spr.org/pdf/sexabuseohio.pdf

"In some women's facilities, rates of sexual abuse (typically of prisoners by corrections staff) have been found to be as high as 27 percent."

---End quoted texts---

There's lots more and it is horrible. Some of those prisoners are innocent, as the system is hardly perfect. But none of them were sentenced to be tortured or raped. That's the real Gulag.

It can happen to you. Someday you might make a mistake while driving and kill someone and be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Then you're just another prisoner -- until you bail out, are found innocent or receive a non-prison sentence.

As Phil Ochs sang, "There but for fortune...."

Posted by: Jules Siegel at June 24, 2005 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Zuavo
Western Liberalization means when Liberals use their Liberal values to defend the human rights of beheaders whereby imploding upon it's own self in order to accommodate the values held by the enemy. For example, the reaction towards Gitmo.

By the way, mainland European law is defending Sharia law and if you as a European were to publically speak against the brutality of Sharia law you would be executed on the public streets by an Islamic Jihadist who willl in turn be released on behalf of tolerance as seen recently in the Netherlands when a film director was hacked to death on the streets for simply making a film.

Or you would be arrested by your liberal court and held on the grounds that you spoke against Islamic Jihad Fascism, as seen recently in Italty when the court system went after a 70 year old women who spoke against radical Islam.

You may not see it from you window because you are hiding behind your window.


I repeat, when Nazism came to power the Jews did not think it conceivable that human beings were capable of conducting such inhuman acts until the day after 6 million Jews were exterminated.

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 12:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow, I used to wonder if something like Nazi Germany could happen here. Reading all the rationalizations for torture in this comments thread by the posterchildren for Modern Conservativism dispels any doubt. What a great Two Minute Hate!

Posted by: FoundingFather at June 24, 2005 01:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nazi Germany systematically exterminated 6 million Jews.

At that time, Progressive Leftist ideology defended the Nazism much like today's progressive Lefitist ideology defends Islamic Jihadism.

I am a liberated female who will not defend those who wish to perpetuate the deterioration of my liberty.

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 01:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Look at this, Greg. You make one reasonable post about torture and all of a sudden everyone's defense mechanisms come out.

Oh, you're naive, they gripe. You're not grown-up. This is fuel for Bush-bashing, they complain, as if that were the most important thing. The election is over, folks.

They employ every possible device available to them to excuse or avoid talking about the real issue.

Did it ever occur to any of you that ordinary civilians don't wear uniforms? That means ANY OF US could be considered "enemy combatants" if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For that matter, have any of you seen what uniform the Afghans wore when they fought the Soviets? MANY OF THEM NEVER HAD ONE. They fought in the clothes they had on.

Some of the detainees in Gitmo have been released by the Pentagon. THEY WERE NOT COMBATANTS. They posed no threat. There has been no formal determination or hearing to find who is a combatant and who is not.

And one last thing guys, if you are fighting in your home country, you don't have to have a uniform for the Geneva Conventions to apply to you.

This camp is a deliberate effort to skirt around the law. Donald Rumsfeld has said so himself.

Oh, but of course I'm the naive one, right guys? Do everything you can to bash the liberals, equivocate, and otherwise dodge the issue. It makes you look so virile and strong.

Surely, the commenters on this thread are the most grown-up and wise men to be found anywhere on Earth! Keep it up, Greg, you've got your work cut out for you.

Posted by: autegocrat at June 24, 2005 01:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How is the word "terrorist" defined by the Geneva Conventions and why is the definition distinguished from ordinary civilians who do not wear a uniform?

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 01:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read a lot of "Go ahead, torture 'em. They're terrorists, aren't they?" Well, the problem is we do not know the answer to that question. That's what due process is about. Even in the criminal justice system, with all the attention paid to according the accused due process, egregious mistakes are made. Does anyone here excusing the torture of terrorists actually believe that fewer mistakes were made in the heat of battle than are made in the criminal justice system? Apart from the fact that we should be holding ourselves to a higher moral standard than people we think it's okay to torture because of how evil they are, and apart from the well-known low quality of "intelligence" obtained through torture, does anyone actually believe that the simple fact that someone is secreted in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere proves that they are guilty of heinous acts deserving torture? Come on. Admit it. The only real "justification" for torture is the pursuit not of intelligence but of vengeance. Go ahead and defend that justification.

Posted by: Patrick Snyder at June 24, 2005 02:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The real issue here, at least for anyone with half a brain, is that we cannot win a long-term war on terror by being widely seen to denigrate the religion and mores of those we seek to win over to our political model.

Thank you. Would that more of your readers were capable of this level of common sense.

Posted by: Uncle Kvetch at June 24, 2005 02:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Syn, you seem pretty concerned about being a wuss. Why don't you go get some psychotherapy instead of besmirching America and sabotaging the war on terrorism?

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at June 24, 2005 03:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just trying to understand the logic here.

Would it be acceptable if the British government had rounded up a few thousand suspected IRA sympathisers, held them for an indeterminate period of time without the benefit of legal council and interrogated them by chaining them to the floor of a 100+degree cell in a fetal position, covered with their own waste, for 36 hours or so without food or water?

Posted by: orogeny at June 24, 2005 03:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not even going to debate whether the Geneva Convention is relevant or not (it is by the way), because one can determine that torture is illegal from other sources. The Uniform Military Code of Justice forbids harm to come to prisoners. The US has ratified international agreements not to torture, therefore what is going on is illegal, to say nothing of being despicable, anb barbaric.

Here's an alternative:

Do what the FBI has been saying all along. They have openly advocated, from their experiences investigating terror, that the best results (and yes they have actually had results without torturing people) come from conduciting said investigations as one would any other crime. Read the suspect his rights, and conduct an interrogation as a police officer would, not as a mititary/intelligence interrogator would. Offer the lesser terrorists deals to get them to cooperate for information that will lead to the capture or dismantling of the greater terror networks. After all, drug dealers and hired hit men are offered deals for the bigger fish, and as the conservative rant goes they want to "KILL US!" as well, just for different motives. You deal with the little, insignifigant terrorists and get their cooperation, their information in order to shut down the big operations, go after the big players. I'd feel safer knowing a whole cell had been removed, than knowing a fighter from rural Afghanistan is no longer prowly the Afghani country side with an AK 47.

The FBI has been saying all along that the torture, and this sytle of interrogation doesn't need to happen to get results. What needs to happen is that, first proper terrorist suspects needs to be indentified, sperate the fighters from the farmers. How can you extract information from a "terror suspect" if he's not even relevant to the "war on terror" anyway?

But, from the above posts I feel I am wasting my breath. A lot of people here are no different than those they see as there enemy, as fanatacism is dangerous in any belief system, any ideology, whether it be American Nationalism, of fundemental Islam. It robs us all of our senses, reason and judgement.

Posted by: Antares at June 24, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(Diary early 20th century)

I just let the class out for recess...

America is out playing with his freinds as usual...
Damned stupid crazy retard Osama decided he needed to go pick on the fattest kid he could find...America decided to be it.

The funny thing was America only hit Osama once...in the gut...then decided it wasn't any fun to beat up on him and decided to pick on Saddam...(Saddam cries more when hit...guess he liked the crying)

So here I am hearing America whine on about how Saddam told Osama to hit America...unfortunately America doesn't know what I do That Saddam beat up on Osama last weak for being a "crazy evangelinut"....

I'll send America home with a letter...maybe that will help

-World-


Diary (PTA meeting next week)
...I should a expected this

America decided to tell his parents that "I" was the problem for not punishing Saddam earlier...Both of his parrents are up here at the PTA bitching bitching bitching...I wish they weren't so damned powerful in the PTA, at least they will have to do whatever it is alone as no one else wants to go along with it...

ESP since after I bothered reminding them all Osama started this, He threw the first punch...NOT SADDAM....yet here is America's stupid parents...yelling about how I need to expell Saddam...

I think I'll go get drunk tonight
-World-

Diary (following weeks PTA)

America parents managed to find a loophole in the rules with a little help.....they got Saddam expelled ...at least I won't have to deal with him or his crazy ass brothers anymore....

but I REALLY wish it was Osama I didn't have to deal with...Saddam was easier to control and not so damned sneaky. I asked twice about Osama, America's parents no longer even rememebered who I was talking about....thought it was some new music group.

Dairy ( next class week )

What a royal fuckin headache those two parents are. They convinced the fucking PTA that they should be in charge of the ME grade lvl class. Yet they obviously don't know what they were doing...they only brought enought lesson plans to last the morning....now all the kids are taking advantage of them and they are sitting their clueless begging me to "help them out" All this once again...because one stupid kid WHO IS STILL IN THIS SCHOOL ANNOYING THE PISS OUTTA ME hit their kid.

-World-

Dairy (yet another long week)

Evidently the rest of the ME class teachers decided to dump their classes on the Americans...its now 5 classes worth for 2 people...who don't know what they are doing....I asked if any of the other american's family ( who are out of work btw and mooch off them causally) were coming to help out since its so many kids (wish I could but I have my own crap/job)...They said so...two was plenty for 100+ kids....

uggg
The alcohol will make the stupid words leave my mind, yes?
-World-

Diary (why bother...still the same subject)

The Americas almost had a really good idea....They decided to elect class representitives to help them manage....That's what I thought...until I realized they were just electing them so they could skip out sooner for the day...
I had to explain to them how while they had actually managed to get a good group of kids...the kids had no idea how to mantain authority against Osama's crazy ass ragtag gang (on the upshot I did manage to get that group a few members lower with Americas help back before the whole class takeover...but still not Slick O himself...damned weasel)

My last hope for the teachers returning got shot by the board...The Americas showed up claiming they were doing a find job...Unfortunately for me they have relatives on the board....bah. Yet they still think the class reps will survive eventually...they are so dilluding themselves...I asked them about their friends in the PTA, who helped elect them a few years back to lead it...why not ask them to help...America got really quiet and didn't say anything...

Ran into one such memeber later who acted like I was an idiot...that America had it well under control and didn't need him what so ever.

-World-

Diary

FUCKING STUPID AMERICAS. They are paddling the fucking kids who act up. They forgot they THEMFUCKINGSELVES got the FUCKING STATE to ban paddling last FUCKINGYEAR after I swat there kid one FUCKINGTIME. America evidently forgot the whole fucking school can be closed down if I get enough bad PR...and they still refuse to stop paddling...Claims the kids won't tell them who started a recent series of fights...and are paddling them till they do...They tell me it works wonders for finding out who did what....Fucking idiots never considered that the kids will scream out any name (the reallllly smart ones screw out the names of their enemies)

I now have a fucking useless list of rivals thanks to their spanking...yet the Americas expect me to act on it...
in worse news

Osama is now running around recruiting more damned kids...several who won't before are being convinced thanks to the new paddling.....Really funny thing is none of the members are being named in the spanking.....it appears the kids being spanked have new found liking for Osama and name any kid BUT those in his gang...

I've finnally found out why, Osama is planning a massive revolt...And I can't do anything about it because none of the kids want to stop it...and I can't afford 5 day a week security till it happens...I'm not sure what will happen...

Screw drunk...I'm gonna chase down Francis...she may be a mean girl...but she has one pretty face. That and I've heard rumblings Osama isn't stopping with America...and I better be sober for the days ahead.

-World-

Posted by: Rob at June 24, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"By the way, mainland European law is defending Sharia law and if you as a European were to publically speak against the brutality of Sharia law you would be executed on the public streets by an Islamic Jihadist who willl in turn be released on behalf of tolerance as seen recently in the Netherlands when a film director was hacked to death on the streets for simply making a film. "

syn - i dunno whether i am supposed to give a serious answer to that. anyway there's a lot of problems with muslim immigrants in europe and the theo van gogh murder is something to think about very seriously just to mention one case, but my friend if you think that what you have written above has even a minimum connection with the reality, you definitely need a therapy as somebody suggested. or, maybe better, a long pleasant european vacation

Posted by: zuavo at June 24, 2005 03:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Its so wonderful to see how many people want to express their moral outrage at the reports of Koran abuse and fake-mentrual blood trauma inflicted on the detainee's in Gitmo

So many passionate feelings - wonderful

I wonder if any of the posters above has spent 1/1000th of the time they have spent on this issue as they have on the actual gulags in Cuba - the ones holding prisoners of conscience - democrracy activists

Do tell me - how much time do you spend on this issue?

http://www.cubafacts.com/

"In March 2003, the government of Cuba arrested dozens of journalists, librarians, and human rights activists and charged them with sedition. After summary trials in which fundamental rights of due process were denied, the accused were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 to 28 years. In all, 78 journalists, librarians, and dissidents were sentenced to a collective total of more than 1,400 years in Cuba's gulag. Among the condemned are renowned champions of freedom, such as poet and journalist, Raúl Rivero, economist, Martha Beatriz Roque, and Christian activist, Oscar Elías Biscet"


Oh right - there is no Blame GW Bush angle there - nothing to see here folks - move along

Just admit it already - your focus on the "crimes' of the US Gov't is completely out of proportion to the reality of the world outside of your comfortable existance

You can only get worked up if you can blame your boogyman - chimpymchalliburton - your childlike simplicity in approaching the challenges of the 21st C and the threat of islamic facism and its nihistic adherents would be quaint if it wasn't so dangerous

So no Ben - I don't consider Canada some great friend of the USA - I don't really think its relevant at all that we have stood shoulder to shoulder in X number of wars - no more relevant than your burning our capital in 1812

What I do find relevant is how Canada has operated in the past decade or so and what drives this policy - lets consider what MANY canadians think is THE cause of arab/muslim anger toward the West - ... Israel ( or the zionist entity if you prefer )

Why is the US singled out for anger by the arabs - because we stand by Israel - thats what being a friend is Ben

Why is Canada "safe"...because you throw Israel to the wolves without a second thought

Canada's voting record on the multiple anti-Israel UN resolutions is shameful...take a look

http://www.cicweb.ca/UN/un_article.cfm

2003

"With one noteworthy exception, the resolutions were nothing new, had no binding authority in international law and will have no impact on Israel. But to the extent that Canada has anchored its foreign policy on the principles of internationalism and multilateral diplomacy, its voting record on the 20 Israel-related resolutions - support for 15 and abstentions on the remaining five - should be of deep concern to all Canadians. (For a complete listing of relevant resolutions and Canada's votes, visit the Canada-Israel Committee Website at www.cicweb.ca.)

In a word, Canada's chronic failure to take a principled stand against the continued hijacking and perverting of the UN and other international institutions by Israel's enemies and its enemies' supporters (including 22 Arab states, 57 Muslim countries, and some 160 members of the Non-Aligned Movement) compromises the integrity of Canada's efforts to project internationally the core values that Canadians cherish."


So - we should be more like Canada ( euro-wannabe - same UN voting pattern Ben )

Thanks but no thanks

When the Organization of Islamic conference - the 23 - ooops - now 22 : ) - muslim dictatorships cobbles together several dozen resolutions condemning Israel a year - at least this small DEMOCRACY of 5 M souls has ONE friend in the world

A real friend Ben

I can't wait to hear all about how bad Israel is from you - or your pal aran brown - I am sure - as he put it - "we made our own bed"

Wonder what that means - by being a friend to Israel? By keeping the Persian Gulf oil flowing ( twice as much goes to Europe as to America )

By trying to maintain some global order while preventing 5M people from being pushed into the sea?

Sure - friends like these who needs enema's eh ;)

And I am so glad to hear that the Candaian General lost his job - wonderful comfort to the million dead there Ben

As for your dismissive comments about the Iraqi vote

------------------------------------

Oh, yay! They got to vote! And how long do you think the democratically elected officials will last, once Americans get sick of paying for Iraq?

-------------------------------------

HOW DARE YOU!

These people are being blown apart by homocide islamic facists every single day

They are being singled out by head sawing maniacs motivated by religios bigotry - the same kind that led the Taliban to stoning women in the soccer stadium...and they went out and voted and stained their fingers - making themselves targets - risking their LIVES - and you sneer - what an arsehole

What is it ben - are they too DARK to have democracy?

They don't live that way eh?

Maybe they need help - maybe they need some friends to help them while the islamic facists attack mosques and hospitals and police stations and schools

Maybe if Canada was a friend to freedom you would support sending help

But no - so much better to sit back and SNEER isn't it

So much more fun to LAUGH at their efforts at democracy

So much better that feeling of moral superiority as you ponder at great length the "crimes" of GW Bush and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz

THEY are the bad ones huh


You know what Ben - the truth that you don't ever want to hear is this - they are better people that you will ever be

Wolfowitz pushed hard to get rid of Saddam and give the Iraqi's a chance to vote and live without REAL torture and fear - to live in freedom

Will it be perfect - unlikely

Will it be easy - certainly not

Will it work - we can't know yet

All we do know is this - that Bush and his neo-con Cabal have done more to advance human freedom in the last 4 years than Canada has in the last 40

That they are better people than pontificating bigots like you

Thats right - bigot

For your sneering contempt at Iraqi democracy

They aren't up to it in your opinion

And you don't care one way or the other - only about yourself and your comfort

Nope - thats not the kind of friend the US, Israel or Iraq needs


Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 04:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue:

HOW DARE YOU

How dare you be a hypocrit and claim to want to spread democracy to everywhere but here where people dont' agree with you.

Remember you need an opposition in democracy...otherwise its called a one party contry...aka a dictatorship.

Just because we disagree with you does not mean we are evil.

Posted by: Pogue Opposition at June 24, 2005 04:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you read from the Saddam's speeches given throughout the 1990's, you will find he gave great praise to both Allah and Osama.

Yes, America was attacked (twice on home soil) by terrorizing extremists who hijacked a religion (see Islam, koran) and turned it into an ideology (see Jihadism) which avows to destroy feminist pleasures, homosexual lifestyles, and political film makers, as well as, alienate and terminate all those religious infidels including Athesist, Buddhist, Christians, Kabbalist, Jews, Scientologist, and black Sudanese Muslims yet I am sabotaging the War on Terrorism by breaking the Jihadist training manuel rules and calling Liberals wusses.

I must repent and agree listening to Christine Agulleria, daily dose of lemon chicken, and acknowledging female nature is torture of Gulag standards and we of Liberal minded thinking must hold ourselves higher than that.

If Liberalism remains on a path of such 'high standards' it won't be long before females will be forced to remember never to speak of our 'dirty nature' for it may shame man.

Posted by: syn at June 24, 2005 04:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey everybody, the Italians want to arrest the CIA operatives who kidnapped someone in Italy.

Bad news for the Italians is that since wearing uniforms or fighting in your own country are no longer preconditions for the Geneva Conventions to apply, we can demand the CIA operatives be granted POW status and should not be able to be tried for acts of war.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great essay, Greg.

Torture and a disregard for human rights degrades the perps as much as it causes suffering for the captives. Torture and a disregard for human rights also undermines American security and our standing on this planet.

I wonder how Lileks would feel if an American servicewoman had a "big Iraqi dick" shoved in her face? I mean, there are porn videos like that, so it must be ok, right?

Posted by: Geek, Esq. at June 24, 2005 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding the gulags in Cuba, both those run by the Cuban government and our own: When I was a child, the difference between the Commies and us was that we were the good guys. We did not run gulags. In fact, our POW camps were so lavish that entire units of enemy troops during WWII would desert and surrender in order to get that luxury treatment, and when a few German soldiers escaped from the POW camp in Phoenix, most of them walked right back in within a week because, well, hiding in a cave in the countryside was just too darned harsh compared to bingo and concerts and good food in the POW camp.

We were not only less brutal than the Commies, but we were *SMARTER*. We realized that, if we promised to treat our prisoners of war gently, and showed the world that we were doing so, it was as effective as having another division of soldiers out on the field because it gave the enemy incentive to surrender or desert rather than fight to the last man. And then, as now, the majority of the enemy are young men plucked out of their villages by a vile and evil bunch, handed a gun, and told to go out and kill Americans, rather than hard-core fighters willing to fight to the death for their ideology. While we had no choice but to flatten large parts of Germany and Japan in order to remove the means via which the leaders of those countries had attacked us (and yes, Germany *had* attacked our shipping prior to the formal declaration of war), it was understood that the vast majority of the footsoldiers were not, and that once they entered our custody, they were to be treated fairly and held under conditions which were as good as could be done under a wartime economy. It wasn't just because this was what Americans do. It was also good sense.

It's still good sense. The majority of people we're pulling in at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and Baghram aren't hardcore (those who even have any connection to the terrorists at all). They're footsoldiers, handed guns and told by vile and evil leaders to do their duty to their country by killing Americans, who, they've been taught, are vile and evil people who hate Muslims. Torturing them once we get them into our custody just does not make sense. First of all, foot soldiers rarely know anything of operational importance beyond a few days after their capture. Secondly, we merely confirm, in their minds, what they were told by the vile and evil people who recruited them and put guns in their hands -- that Americans are evil and vile people who hate Muslims. That's no way to get results.

Torture is not an American value. It is not an American value not only because it's evil. It's not an American value because it's *STUPID*. And stupidity, in the America that I grew up in, was not an American value. Although, with the destruction of the educational system in America over the past 30 years, that appears to have changed. Alas.

Posted by: BadTux at June 24, 2005 05:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To R, I was with the Marines. Please tell me you were never in Iraq, because you seem fairly ignorant of the situation. The military uses local vendors there as much as possible to buy non-critical items, and even I went to the market once--where one could purchase as many feyadeen helmets as one wanted. I don't think black hoods, electrodes, hell new cars, would be hard to buy in Iraq.

To the others who have a problem: I certainly apologize for being a monster. Somehow I don't remember terrorisizing families, arbitrarily shooting or beheading anyone, setting off bombs in crowed market places, etc, since I am now morally equivalent to the terrorists. I actually voluntarily extended my service contract--along with hundreds of other Marines-- to redeploy (been there before) to be in Iraq during the elections, and again, was impressed (contrary to Greg) on the high morale of the Marines and the belief we are doing good work, although we were 'oppresively' forcing democracy on the Iraqis. Please lecture me further about my shortcomings and again, how I am morally equivalent to terrorists because I remain uncovinced that the military engages in systematic torture. I don't recall saying anywhere that I support torture, because I don't. I don't apologize for being blunt: in my view Greg assumes the military guilty with little proof.

Posted by: Steve Wood at June 24, 2005 05:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good post, sir. One question:

Do you ever get a little dispirited by seeing who your readers are?

Posted by: Anderson at June 24, 2005 05:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh right - now calling a spade a spade is preventing democracy on the web ... my my my how standards have fallen

Ben et all are perfectly free to sling all the accusations they want about US infamy in the world and how we "made our bed" ( ie: didn't march lockstep with the arab dictators as they devoted 80% of the UN's condemnations on 1 nation - Chechnya, Tibet...cricket, cricket ) - indeed I welcome these "observations"

Is it unfair to point out the blatent hypocrisy of these human rights advocates who fly to Cuba to enjoy the sex tourism ( young girls, and boys!, readily available for the asking ) while the REAL Gulag operates thanks to their generosity

Sorry - it seems like any effort to have some kind of rationale look at the issue of Gitmo and interrogation earns the

"America should be better than that" or "so you think torture is ok" from these loopy idiots

Often accompanied by disclaimers of great affection for the "real" America

Sorry Charlie's - you will find the vast majority of American's don't have problem one with our handling of these fanatics in Gitmo

there are 500 incorrigables there - we won't release them - or give them a world platform to spew more lies in the grand Arab tradition

( take a view of MEMRI.org sometime to see how us infidels and esp the jews are portrayed )


We must stop pretending we can play by our civilized rules in this conflict and fight the enemy to his complete destruction

Wahhabi inspired Islamic Facism has found quite a following in the arab world

Aided in no small part by Western apologists like Ben who practice a soft bigotry that doesn't allow for a muslim democracy ( "they are different" )

For the die hards - nothing I have read about makes me think we have gone too far on an official level - and those who have done things out of line have been punished

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 06:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

These responses are sick.

Really and truly sick.

People are making excuses for behavior that is, frankly, outright unamerican.

We won the cold war, not through firepower or superior espionage, but because our ideals seeped through the Iron Curtain. We won the cold war because we convinced Eastern Europe that there was a better way.

To win this conflict, we must again be Reagan's shining city on a hill shedding light upon the world. We can't do that if we make excuses or bend the rules, or behave as though our virtue is an inherant property ("we" are always better than "they" no matter what we do). It's not enough to just be better than the Nazis or the Soviets, or the terrorists. We don't get to make excuses or get away with half measures that degrade our prisonders while keeping (most of them) physixally intact. If we are to win this war, our righteousness must shine like an undeniable beacon.

We win this war only when the society of the Islamic world decides that WE are right and they were wrong.

That's it.

That's the ONLY win condition.

Yes, this may come at a price. It may even hamper our efficacy at information gathering (though, as has been raised, the actual efficacy of torture is debatable). Lives may be cost.

But it's the only way we can hope to win.

Posted by: Anthony Damiani at June 24, 2005 06:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well Anthony - thats not how we won WW2 is it

Those japs were determined to fight to the last - so our Marines started throwing phosphorous grenades into the caves first and not bothing with upholding some ideal behavior reccomended from far away

Maybe we shouldn't have done that - what do you think?

Maybe our guys on Okinowa should have tried a softer approach

Lives would have been lost for sure - not yours mind you - but to you it would have been "worth it"


And we won the "cold" war with the sacrafice of 100,000 American dead - not through our example alone

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 07:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Assuming that the 108 deaths were all of innocents, which by any measure has to be a stretch, you have to admit that this number of casualties is chump change compared to the carnage inflicted on civilians day in and day out by Jihadists in Iraq. Last figure I heard was that at least 2500 civilians have been killed this year by terrorists. If memory serves, 12000 civilians have been killed since Bagdad fell.

You just wrote an eloquent 3500 word essay on how we need to take the moral high ground, establish some modern day code of ethics for handing combatents, and hold officials at all levels accountable.

I agree. Put morality aside for just a minute, I would agree purely for tactical reasons that you probably could articulate better than most.

I have one problem though. I just looked over your entries for the month of June and don't see anything written about the carnage in Iraq (except of course that we are bungling the job over there and this maybe a repeat of Vietnam.)

Where in this blog or in the MSM (NYT, Newsweek,Time,CNN) is there *proportionate* outrage focusing on Middle East extremists? And by proportionate, I don't mean an occasional post, lamenting the bombing du jour and the obvious seque into adminstration incompetance.

Btw, anyone who says "of course" they are outraged doesn't cut it with me. Neither does someone who says well we hold the U.S. to a higher standard. That is a defacto admission of a double standard, and an easy way to breezily dismiss the actions of the enemy.

It is not the fact that we are investigating Gitmo, that has troops abroad wonder about our commitment. It's what is not revealed and about the people we are fighting.

Another simple question: who would you rather be, a prisoner at Gitmo or Nick Berg?

Posted by: bob at June 24, 2005 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why Bob - you can expect to be accused of supporting torture now

Get ready for a torrent of "well, if your going to compare us to them, thats NO standard"

This is the excuse given for the complete lack of interest in the real torturers out there

Is there an entry on this blog about the actual torture chamber the US Marines found a few weeks ago?

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 08:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregory:

As a liberal myself, I found your post to be articulate and well-reasoned. The comments, though, leave a lot to be desired, both in cogence and responsibility.

As a veteran, I shudder to think that a comrade-in-arms would stoop to such unAmerican behavior and be applauded for it. All the arguments for humane treatment of prisoners have been made, but it's like talking to your dog: these chickenhawks just want to see blood. Maybe they think that revenge is the way to win against the enemy, but wiser heads have shown that "kindness can kill" as well and probably better.

I say to you apologists for sadism, ENLIST. Then you can get your share of jackbooting in, too.

This putting "things in context" is just an excuse for condoning the uncondonable.

The whole point of America is that America is unique, that we rise above the sordid, that we defend the weak against the bully, that we eventually forgive our enemies as we smother their cultures with McDonalds'. But that gets dismissed by your target audience as "weak" and not bloody-minded enough.

And one more time: these arguments for torture are made by people who don't know what they are talking about. I defy the whole blogosphere to come up with a real, been there, done that veteran who approves of this crap or wants it wished on him or herself.

Well, I've been there, buddy, and I can tell you this whole thing stinks.

Posted by: fazzaz31 at June 24, 2005 09:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg - I agree with your general point about taking the treatment of detainees seriously. But:

1. If you think Andrew Sullivan is still an ally of the Administration in any way, you are crazy.

2. Treating Lileks as if he has some mental disorder for mocking people who got upset about an interrogation you yourself can't condemn . . . that just makes you sound like the Moore-ite Left. And we know you're not, which is what makes it so ugly.

Posted by: Crank at June 24, 2005 10:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Chances are few post here even know what a Communist Gulag was...If ya don't want to read all of Solzhenitsyn(although you should) here is a greatest hits.... http://www.rempost.blogspot and please don't read these offical documents they will just confuse you http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/fbi.html .. remember it is important to continue to follow a government that told us the absolute truth prior to the Iraq invasion and occupation http://www.boozle.net/leak ... remember,, never let the documented truth come between you and what you know for sure....

Posted by: nogo postal at June 24, 2005 11:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

sorry about the bad link try this http://www.rempost.blogspot.com

Posted by: nogo postal at June 24, 2005 11:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The soldier, Eric Saar, is no "every American" as the Economist reveiw suggests. Married at 19, and doesn't think a marketing job with UPS is much of a future. Call me cynical, but this is a "pretty low" bar for your "every American" set-up.

And Saar doesn't understand why the Geneva Conventions do not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban types picked up in Afghanistan--shall we count the reasons? Most of us can do it from memory--never having read the documents--the reasons have been reported so many, many times. But it does follow the Eurosnob critique of Americans as stupid stooges being led around by their noses by the horrid neocons.

A weak start to a very weak argument.

You know, if some Eurodamsel eased herself aside Greg in Geneva, unbuttoned her blouse a bit, and said, "How do you like these big European tits?", he'd think it was a come-on. Men go out to bars and clubs looking for just that behavior. So let's lighten up on the sanctimony about such behavior being torture.

And the idea that al Qaeda and Taliban types--having hijacked a religion--are to have their religiosity respected? Please, that's not an argument, that's a farse.

Posted by: Forbes at June 24, 2005 11:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What is there to gain for an enemy of the US to adhere to the Geneva Conventions? Their combatants can infiltrate civilians and attack using civilian cover, knowing if they get caught they will receive humane treatment until the end of the war. They can summarily execute captured US soldiers without the bother and expense of housing, feeding, and medical treatment they would be obliged to provide.

Our failure to punish those who do not abide by the Convention increases violence against civilians in the war zone, and leads to the death of coalition soldiers taken prisoner.

Help me here. If we are pursuing this policy to gain goodwill in the world, the posts in this forum indicate we are paying a high price for nothing. Can anyone suggest a course of action for the coalition that would lead to the enemy adopting the Geneva Conventions, including wearing uniforms and treatment of prisoners?

Posted by: Foxtrot at June 25, 2005 03:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How very, very sad. Greg wrote an outstanding, thoughtful, principled post on exactly what some of the problems are with what we are doing in these detention centers -- as Americans, as humans. And the response from the peanut gallery is... very, very sad.

Did you people grow up in the same country as me (uh, that would be America, by the way)? What happened to you to make you so unthinking, so bitter, so souless, so... dead.

I'll keep trying to remember that you are NOT America, nor is this abomination that we have placed in charge. You are a history lesson. You are the bogeymen and women that my children will point to in happier days as they tell their children that yes, even America, the shining light on the hill, has its share of dim bulbs.

God help you all.

Posted by: Mike at June 25, 2005 03:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mike,

Thanks anyway, but it would be better to pray for the people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Posted by: Steve Wood at June 25, 2005 04:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was referred here (1st time) by a news gathering web site so I wasn't prepared for the opinions of the clientelle.

I read the original article nodding and grinning. I was reading a sensible, conservative opinion on a right-wing blog!

Then I read the posts...

I could never have believed that there was so much ill conceived support for the EVIL policies of this president and his collaborators. (The orders permitting torture came from the top. Believe it.)

The True Believers among you frighten me silly.

So thanks to the Clear Headed here for explaining eloquently why it is fundamentally wrong to torture peope. The True Believers won't be convinced but Sensible Conservatives should be.

AD

Jesus Is A Liberal

Posted by: arthurdecco at June 25, 2005 05:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Steve, you're absolutely correct about who to pray for, and I do. But it's important to get to the root of the problem. Since by definition, I suspect God has a view of "the big picture," I'll continue to ask for mercy for all.

Posted by: Mike at June 25, 2005 05:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Mike,

If you were riding any higher on your almighty horse you'd be suffering from nosebleeds. Rather than pontificate from on high, why don't you climb down from the summit, co-mingle with the huddled masses and start talking substance.

Fyi, when I pray I don't pray for mercy (well perhaps not exclusively), I pray for insight and brains to navigate a dangerous world, and as obnoxious as Christian Fundies are and some members of the VRWC, the dangers in this world are abroad in the Middle and Far East.

Posted by: bob at June 26, 2005 01:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This has been a very interesting read. On this thread alone, America has been bashed from all around the globe, even from our "staunchest" ally. This is disconcerting.

It would be in our best interest to count noses, and see just who our allies are. These are examples. http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/2005/06/willing.html
It would be wise for us to remember our friends.

It appears that we have become game for anyone with a sharpened spear. All of our "old" allies appear to be mute in our defense. No, make that openly hostile.

I don't support torture and I don't believe that many do. But, this "moral outrage" heaped upon America's head for these insignificant abuses compared to the SOP of our enemies is rediculous and disgraceful. We punished those guilty and started the procedure long before any of the abuses came to light.

Now, we try to defend our actions to people that have never demonstrated any moral superiority or courage. Why bother? The fact that they can criticise us is only possible because of America. One would think that our "old" allies think that they don't need us anymore. I guess the're right. The Cold War is over, I guess. We need to pull some of our troops from Germany and other wasted deployments.

As far as prisoners go, I wouldn't take and hold any. Casualties occur when a priority is made to take prisoners above winning the battle. If we were forced to capture some, I believe that the Afghan and Iraqi people should be in charge of interrogation. Our CIA could observe.

As far as making friends with Islamic Jihadist, good luck. I understand, that if you convert to Islam, that they might let you live. I am not sure that I would take that to the bank. Now, they are probably pissed because they have to eat that damned lemon chicken. Maybe I would be too.

Me, I prefer that we go ahead and fight the jihadist in Iraq and Afghanistan, while we can. Before this war is over, we will all probably have the opportunity to engage on our own soil; even our "staunchest" allies.


Posted by: Dick at June 26, 2005 04:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

1. Out of uniform
2. No chain of command

Not a POW.

BTW the reason for not following the Geneva Convention for non-POWs is to encourage the other side to join the conventions.

i.e. you respect our troops we respect yours

I think we should do everything in our power to see the prisoners are released once the war is over.

This will be somewhat difficult since the troops are not comanded by competent authority. Not having a chain of command sucks.

In any case we are following the GC for combatants captured who have no chain of command and no recognizable from a distance uniform.

It has gotta suck to be them. Great test of their belief though. So you see we are helping them advance in their religious practices. The harder we are on them the greater the merit for them. We are not doing nearly enough to support their religious practices.

I like our method of taking no prisoners. There are others. And worse. Much worse.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 26, 2005 03:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

America, like all civilizations, is maintained at the point of a gun.

Sad but true facts of life.

Things get rough when there is no competent authority.

So at heart killing is the job of government. Now as civilized people we want to keep the killing to a minimum. Which considering past wars we are doing a pretty good job.

Given human nature it is unlikely the killing will ever get down to zero.

War is politics by other means. It is a hard way to decide who will rule. Personally I prefer ballots. Unfortunately the unpopular kids don't like that method, they are afraid they will not get enough votes. So we get revolutions, coups, and armies on the march.

Still given the choice between American civilization running the world and Islamic Jihad's version, I'll take America. GITMO and all.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 26, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If it is belief that drives them then killing them wholesale may be the only cure.

Since WW2 (well at least for 50 years) the Nazi belief was a lot less popular than it was at its peak. Spouting such stuff could get you killed. Besides it had a bad odor.

We need to do the same for Islam.

During a war I prefer we were feared. After they surrender we can work on the love. See Marines, Pacific, WW2. Nothing wrong with sinking to the level of your enemies. No quarter for no quarter.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 26, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Ben in Canada,

The Clinton Administration policy was:

Saddam probably has WMDs. (All the Western Governments thought so in 2002)

In any case Saddam is a monster and has to go.

Bush's policy was no different from Clinton's except he acted.

BTW go back and read Bush's speeches of the time. Democracy promotion was policy. It is just that Canada (like most of the world) wasn't listening. Why? WMDs sexier than democracy?

OK.

You Canadians need to get out more.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 27, 2005 12:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nothing wrong with sinking to the level of your enemies.

I couldn't ask for a clearer one-sentence statement of where I part company with what passes for "conservatives" these days.

Posted by: Philip at June 27, 2005 06:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Jesus Is A Liberal"

Darwin is a Neocon.

Posted by: Darwin Award at June 29, 2005 06:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wanted to write a quick note to let the Brits know that all of us here in the U.S. stand solidly behind them and have them in our thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: fierce Allegiance at July 7, 2005 03:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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