June 24, 2005

B.D.'s Conscience Caucus

B.D. is thinking of compiling a list of center-right folks who are seriously and honestly grappling with the full panoply of issues presented by the torture/abuse scandals of the past several years. These would not just be bloggers, but any commentators that, you know, don't breezily describe how rosy it all is in the "tropics." I can think of Andrew Sullivan, Jon Henke, John Cole, and Tacitus right off the top of my head. Who else? Both in the blogosphere and outside in academia, business, law, journalism? Thanks for your help.

P.S. These kinds of transparently reluctant, weak-kneed and so ministerial denunciations of Abu Ghraib etc. don't fit the bill. I consider the deaths of detainees in U.S. captivity "serious torture", after all. Don't you?

UPDATE: Yes, yes, Liberal Hawk--thanks for spotting the nit. I mean the death of detainees in U.S. captivity directly resulting from abuse and torture--not varied mortar attacks, accidents, natural causes and the like. I think most of you got my point, however. And such deaths--those resulting directly for torture--occurred at Abu Ghraib too.

MORE: Thanks to many of the commenters in this (and related) thread(s) for their constructive criticism. I will do my utmost and level-best to blog about such topics, going forward, in as non-polemical, judicious and empirically-sound fashion as possible. Many will still be angered, doubtless, by my occasional criticisms. But I hope you will find that I am and will be approaching this issue without ideological blinders, a slanted partisan agenda, or other up-front biases. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this complex, emotional issue.

As to commenter James Drogan's query, I'll have more on that soon I hope.

Posted by Gregory at June 24, 2005 02:37 PM | TrackBack (5)
Comments

I think the posters at Winds of Change, especially Armed Liberal, are seriously considering it, though perhaps not in as much detail as BD.

Posted by: John Branch at June 24, 2005 02:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Change that to "the deaths of detainees in us custody, as a result of US abuses is serious torture"

Not everyone who dies in prison does so due to abuse. Not even everyone who dies of violence at the hands of guards, in a prison where they may have been attempts at rebellion, prisoner violence, etc. Am I soft on torture cause I actually want to hear both sides and see a full and unbiased investigation?

And if, even when death from abuse is proven, I still want to see proof it resulted from interrogation policy and not from rogue guards?

and if, even if it did result from the interrogation policy, I want to see a discussion of interrogation policy that weighs the possibility of abuse, and its moral and strategic costs, against the real need gain intell, and the question of how to do so?

I dont much like the apologia I see at WOC and elsewhere. But I also dont like the implication that everyone who doesnt quite share the black and white views i see expressed by Sully, and here, are somehow morally degraded.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 24, 2005 03:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ALthough Dan Drezner hasn't recently blogged on the issue, my guess is that he would fit right in with the conscience caucus

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 24, 2005 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What about John Henke's blog mates McQ and Dale Franks? Anne Applebaum too. This column in particular (looking at tactics that may or may not be torture, but are certainly debatable in terms of efficacy and morality):


Now, it is possible that no interrogator at Guantanamo Bay ever flushed pages of the Koran down the toilet, as the now-retracted Newsweek story reported -- although several former Guantanamo detainees have alleged just that. It is also possible that Newsweek reporters relied too much on an uncertain source, or that the magazine confused the story with (confirmed) reports that prisoners themselves used Korans to block toilets as a form of protest.

But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed. For example:

· Dogs. Military interrogators deployed them specifically because they knew Muslims consider dogs unclean. In a memo signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in September 2003, and available online, the then-commander in Iraq actually approved using the technique to "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

· Nudity. We know (and the Muslim world knows) from the Abu Ghraib photographs that nudity has been used to humiliate Muslim men. More important, we know that nudity was also approved as an interrogation technique by Donald Rumsfeld himself. He signed off on a November 2002 policy memo, later revised but also available online, that specifically listed "removal of clothing" as a permissible, "category II" interrogation technique, along with "removal of facial hair," also a technique designed to offend Muslims who wear beards.

· Sexual harassment. The military's investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, stated that at Guantanamo there were "two female interrogators who, on their own initiative, touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious beliefs." Although the report said both had been reprimanded, there is no doubt, again, that the tactic was designed for men whose religion prohibits them from having contact with women other than their wives.

· Fake menstrual blood. When former detainees began claiming that they had been smeared with menstrual blood intended to make them "unclean" and therefore unable to pray, their lawyers initially dismissed the story as implausible. But the story has been confirmed by Army Sgt. Erik Saar, a former Guantanamo translator, who told the Associated Press that in a forthcoming book he will describe a female interrogator who smeared a prisoner with red ink, claimed it was menstrual blood and left, saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

There is no question that these were tactics designed to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no question that many considered them justified. Since the Afghan invasion, public supporters of "exceptional" interrogation methods have argued that in the special, unusual case of the war on terrorism, we may have to suspend our fussy legality, ignore our high ideals and resort to some unpleasant tactics that our military had never used. Opponents of these methods, among them some of the military's own interrogation experts, have argued, on the contrary, that "special methods" are not only ineffective but counterproductive: They might actually inspire Muslim terrorists instead of helping to defeat them. They might also make it easier, say, for fanatics in Jalalabad to use two lines of a magazine article to incite riots.

Blaming the messenger, even for a bungled message, doesn't get the administration off the hook. Yes, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, people need to be very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do. And, yes, people whose military and diplomatic priorities include the defeat of Islamic fanaticism and the spread of democratic values in the Muslim world need to be very, very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do to the Muslims they hold in captivity.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/18/AR2005051800869.html

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 24, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My guess is also that if you probed a little, George Will is probably on the right side of this issue - though I could be wrong.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 24, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The center-right and right of ObWi (a group blog representing a range of political views) has been considering the matter in some detail:

See, e.g., Sebastian Holsclaw ("Republicans Must Not Support Torture"): http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2004/09/republicans_mus.html

Charles Bird: See http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/06/amnesty_travest.html, which directs our readership to his post at RedState (http://www.redstate.org/story/2005/6/4/14590/21116).

And yours truly: ("A Challenge" [in the spirit of den Beste] at http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/01/a_challenge_to_.html); and the "Pro-Toture [sic] Right" (http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/01/the_prototure_r.html).*

von

*Gotta love those spelling errors.

Posted by: von at June 24, 2005 04:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To pick up on liberalhawk's point, it may not be "rosy as all in the tropics", but it certainly isn't as bad as you or Andrew Sullivan make it out to be either.

How To Make People Not Care About Torture

By the way, last time I checked about 20% of the US population thought that detainees were being treated badly. You'd think that after all this "moral outrage", more people would be convinced. I guess that would make the rest of us a bunch of unenlightened, unsophisticated neandethals. Or perhaps we are better at putting things in their proper perspective, giving both the Bush administration and the US military the benefit of the doubt, realizing that this is an extremely difficult and complicated issue, in a time of war, made more so by the nature of the combatants and the unseriousness of the opposition in proposing any realistic or credible alternative.

Here's my guess, if these polls are accurate, expect the "outraged" and "upstanding" moral pontificators on the left to quietly start to drop this issue, especially the more shrewd ones (remember it was *such* an important topic, that Kerry repeatedly brought it up in the debates...oh wait). As for those on the right that you're looking for, frankly, the more I read about the "evil" of Bushco re: "torture" (which apparently includes almost all forms of "aggressive interrogation", insulting the "religion" of fanatics, and wrapping said fanatics in, God forbid, the hated Zionist symbol of terror, not to mention any form of psychological "abuse" for which they may need Dr. Phil-like therapy later) by most of you guys, the more unimpressed I am (more so than I was in the beginning) and the more I sympathize with the Bush administration's "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position, because this topic is so difficult and filled with soooo many political (and PC) landmines.

Are the deaths of detainees unfortunate? Yes, as is any actual torture that may be going on, although I suppose it would have been better had they been shot in the first place or sent back to their own countries of origin, where, no doubt, they wouldn't have to deal with the harshness of their US captors and tormentors. But I suspect that most Americans are willing to give the military the benefit of the doubt on this, before they pass any judgement. But what do I know, after all, I'm an unsophisticated, unenlightened torture apologist and right-wing hack, with obviously little to no moral conscience, right?

Posted by: Mike at June 24, 2005 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it is really great that the Dems are mewling about the "torture" at Gitmo and in other prisons. It will highlight their treason. since these captured terrorists were in violation of the laws of war--un-uniformed combatants, whose entire tactics violate the Geneva Conventions--we would be entirely in our rights to shoot them en masse in the field. If we keep them alive for intelligence purposes, I propose the maximum pressure and humiliation--dogs are great, but pigs would be even better as interrogation aids, no?? Perhaps it would be helpful to take them in small groups for flightseeing tours of the Caribbean--with a few of the group not coming back in the helo.

Posted by: John Cunningham at June 24, 2005 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Conscience Caucus"? Try "Hysteria Caucus".

But hey, if you think naked tits, loud rap music, and too much air conditioning are the equivalent of Nazi behavior, more power to ya.

Oooops, according to Greg, this post just excused torture. Darn.

Posted by: Al at June 24, 2005 05:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mike, excellent post.

Especially since most of the information we have detailing the tactics and abuses come from the same people who supposedly are the problem.

I see few solutions from the critics, and the reason why is that they have no idea how to deal with AQ members captured in Afghanistan...oh yeah, Henke says we should summarily execute them...as if that would endear us to world opinion.

My suggestions would be as follows:

Release some details about the detainees. right now everyone is imagining some poor Saudi sap caught up in a war zone...he's really innocent I tell you!

Start speeding up the tribunals and passing sentences ASAP. Part of the legitimate worry is the legal black hole the detainees are in.

Air drop uniforms and Geneva convention instructions into Afghanistan and Al-Anbar province. Seriously, just like we had to air drop in MRE's.

Conduct an immediate tribunal when a detainee is captured declaring him Yes or No as a POW.

Release all Afghani nationals to Afghanistan.

Demand Congress come up with definitions of what is acceptable and what is not...I'm sick of hearing that loud music or magic marker ink is torture.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 05:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Juan Cole is "center-right"????

You have got to be joking

OK - and Rush Limbaugh is center-left

Why not - black is white, tit-jiggling is torture, the US army are nazi's....

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

Pogue, that's John Cole, not Juan Cole. The difference a translation makes, in this regard, is rather significant.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 24, 2005 05:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey Al,

If you think this treatment:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.


Which includes leaving prisoners to defecate and urinate on themselves while chained in stress positions for 24 hours, subjected to extreme temp swings, physical and psyche stress to the extent that they pull their own hair out sounds more like America than that which occurs under despotism to you, then I think we have different views of America.

I think that treatment would fit better in a dictatorship, but apparently you think it fits perfectly in America. That, I suppose, is where we differ.

And that's just one example. There are others, including placing lit cigarettes in detainees' ears, severe beatings and more.

And that's just Gitmo. In other places there are documented homicides, rapes, sodomizations, electrical shocks, hypothermic deaths, burn wounds, severe beatings, sexual humiliation, and more.

Does that also sound more like America than Nazi Germany to you?

Because I would expect to find that mistreatment in a dictatorship, not in an American run prison. Maybe we have different conceptions about what our country stands for.

John C,

Not all prisoners at these various locations were terrorists. According to Army reports, up to 40% of the detainees at Gitmo have or had no ties to terrorism when incarcerated. Many were mistaken identities/false positives, while others were tribal/Taliban fighters.

As for Abu Ghraib, the Army has declared that roughly two thirds of all inmates were innocent of all transgressions, let alone had ties to terrorism - and between 70-90% have been released.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 24, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lindsey Graham made the right kind of noises back at the time of the first shocking photos. Someone ought to try to shame him again.

Posted by: Buce at June 24, 2005 06:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh - JOHN Cole

Never heard of him :)

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

One of the problems we have is that we don't know the circumstances of the incidents. If that detainee was one of the hardest of the hard, and had intel, then maybe we could understand the stress positions, etc. They didn't do these things to the 15 year old Afghani kids who were later released for sure. Others have also said they were treated well.

Also, pulling out your hair may have NOTHING to do with torture. After 4 years in any prison some people must snap.

But, I'm not interested in defending abuse or torture. I am interested in getting clear cut definitions so we can prosecute violations and move on.

BTW, the photos of Graner and Lyndie were never released. What kind of torture was that I wonder?

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

I'll make my thoughts on the subject VERY clear for you:

Smearing red magic marker ink - not abuse, not torture
Naked tits - not abuse, not torture
Christina Aguilera music - not abuse, not torture
Loud rap music - not abuse, not torture
Too much AC - not abuse, not torture
Not enough AC - not abuse, not torture
Shackles - not abuse, not torture
Kicking a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Not wearing gloves when handling a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Using left hand to handle a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Playing on a fear of the dark - not abuse, not torture
Yelling - not abuse, not torture
LIGHT touching/poking/grabbing - not abuse, not torture

Making prisoners masturbate - abuse, but not torture
Taking a photo with wires attached to a prisoner - abuse, but not torture

Extensive beating - torture
Cutting off limbs - torture
Cutting out tongues - torture
Electrocution - torture
Rape - torture
Stuffing a prisoner into a plastic shredder - torture
Throwing a prisoner into a lion's cage - torture

If you have any more you'd like to get my thoughts on, please ask.

Now, Greg would never, EVER, EVER tell us how he feels about individual tactics, like this, because it would show how much of an extremist he really is. His sole purpose here is to conflate every tactic the military uses with beating a prisoner to death, as if they are all the same.

Posted by: Al at June 24, 2005 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How does extraordinary rendition figure into all this? The conservative response to allegations of torture by the U.S. seem to all fall under, "Well, it's not really torure."

Does it matter, then, that the U.S. has made it a policy to send suspects to governments that have not nearly the same aversion most Americans have to torture, i.e., is the U.S. culpable when a suspect it has handed to another governement is tortured byond a reasonable doubt?

Apropos, Italy has issued arrest warrants for CIA agents who kidnapped a suspect in Milan and outsourced the interrogation to Egypt, which promptly broke the suspect's legs.

http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level.php?cat=Security&loid=8.0.180525624&par=0

Posted by: Big Gay Al at June 24, 2005 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent Al - what can one say except to ask, again, to those who feel massive torture and abuse has gone on in Gitmo, what would they allow?

I would love to see them define some tactics for prisoners unwilling to talk

Bet we don't get any takers

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 07:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Al - If you don't think that sound/music can be used in ways that end up being serious abuse (and arguablely torture) you're underinformed (an no, I don't mean that in an yway tied to making stupid jokes about slutty pop stars).

As to the original question, I think it's still worthwhile at this point to pay attention to Sen. Graham and Sen. Hagel - but other them I can't think of Republican politician in DC who's really taking these issues as seriously as they should (and that even men like Lugar and Warner aren't doing it is close to terrifying).

Posted by: Armand at June 24, 2005 07:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You need to differentiate between "offensive methods," "torture," and "abuse".

You also need to very clearly indicate the steps that had already been taken by the military, and the processes that were already in place, before this became front-page news. The grat majority of the issues had already been identified, and were in the process of being dealt with.

And please compare what has occurred here to what has gone on in other wars, and by other countries, and in civilian prisons both here and abroad. And you will find that the military treatment of prisoners has, on the whole, been remarkably good.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at June 24, 2005 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Both in the blogosphere and outside in academia, business, law, journalism? "

Just a suggestion:

If I were sending out an APB for blogging on this issue, for purposes of due dilligence in understanding this issue I'd want participation by military personel. Specifically officers who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan (not retired generals).


Posted by: bob at June 24, 2005 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

I share a lot of Greg and your concerns. However, I think it is a fair point to distinguish between what you personally think is too harsh, and what is an egregious offense by the administration.

I also think, that while I am embarassed and therefore suuportive of Greg and you on this in general, that a sober discussion would conclude whatever this administrations faults here, any previous administration conducting operations of similar scope or larger have failed worse, as has any other army I am aware of now or in the past. Given that, isn't it more an exercise in continuing to improve rather than a failure worthy of righteous indignation? Are you and other liberals going to say that Roosevelt should be condemned as a moral stain on our nation? I am not even talking about internment. I am talking specifically of the treatment of POW's and captured agents. I don't think so, and while I believe the administration is simultaneously trying to change its policies and claim they didn't need changing, might a less outraged, more historically and practically understanding critique lead to more positive change and less polarization? Not that I expect Bush's defenders to be so noble, I am specifically addressing you. I know you care.

I understand for example you not approving of some of the sexual and other tactics as ineffective. Are they really a moral otrage given who and what we are dealing with? Argually stupid, but outrageous? Can you imagine that such tactics wouldn't have been tried, or similar ones under any circumstance? I can't. Someone is going to do things like this in any war.

As for the relatively few instances of truly severe abuse and actual torture, go get them. Just remember how much worse it has always been before, and still is, everywhere else. I don't mean our enemies, I am talking about those we wish were our allies.

Al, some of what you say has merit. Greg however cannot be thrown in the same box as someone like Sullivan on this matter. For that matter neither can Eric. You are mischaracterizing Greg's views. Also, whatever you may think about Greg, Eric or Sullivan's choice on where they draw the line, if it weren't for people speaking up would the administration have made all the changes (admittedly at times going overboard) that needed to be made? Note I am not saying anything particularly bad about Bush. However, every person and every bureaucracy tends to justify its mistakes as good things. Actions taken in haste, policies not thought through come to be justified not altered. We all make our excuses. As I said, this is nothing unique to this administration (just look at the pretzels liberals twisted themselves into to justify Clinton's many, many sins.)

Big Gay Al,

As for extraordinary rendition, it should be considered and may be what I think is the biggest stain. No excuse is there. We know what will happen to these men. No junior officers or grunts can be blamed here at all. Especially for people who we do not know are terrorists, we just want the information they might give. This is a legacy I wish Clinton hadn't bequeathed to Bush. I admit to not thinking through the implications of such a policy earlier in the war and during the '90's. That was a big mistake.

Posted by: Lance at June 24, 2005 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lance,

The cover story of the New York Times Magazine two issues ago was on just this topic:

Where to draw the line, and what is and what is not acceptable practice to employ during interrogations. Which practices from the menu of what is termed "torture lite" should be permitted?

Ironically, the Israelis are out in front in this area as their Supreme Court has issued fairly strict guidelines for the treatment of prisoners during interrogations - clearer than any standard in the US. That is a debate worth having, and the parameters are worth exploring. I don't have all the answers now, but neither does Rumsfeld or Gonzales and I don't quite see why the onus is on me when these men who actually decide on policy cannot or will not enunciate rules and guidelines. As an aside, I would accept a grant to study this issue in depth and come up with a solution, but as of yet, by benefactors elude me.

I tend to gravitate toward a standard that asks whether or not you would be comfortable with our troops receiving the same treatment. Spare me the argument about how our troops would get much worse. Obviously, but that is why our culture, society, vision, message is MUCH better than theirs. If we lower ourselves to the level of our adversary, then we.....lower ourselves to the level of our adversary. It's that simple. Refer to the Ignatieff column Greg cited yesterday for an examination of why this matters.

I don't know from "moral stains" - I've never used such language - but I do think that as Greg said, sunlight is the best disinfectant and much is needed now. Unfortunately, this administration has been averse to sunlight in almost every facet of governance - let alone national security/military affairs. So, a more vigorous effort to monitor abuses, and a more intelligent strategy in terms of using religion as a weapon.

Using religion in such a way is not torture in my book (see below), but such policies are misguided, counterproductive and morally reprehensible. They seem un-American, and they do more harm than good.

As for Al's list above, I think we agree in many areas, and that we agree that some incidents in Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have involved actual torture and others have not. Although I would say that when detainees die of hypothermia, temperature manipulation probably rises to the level of torture. One further, I wouldn't make death by hypothermia the only measure of temperature related torture. Presumably the line should be drawn earlier. Some of the other methods listed, such as loud noise and stress positions, can also rise to the level of torture depending on the magnitude and extent of their use.

As for fake menstrual blood and kicking/urinating on Korans - probably not torture per se, but pretty stupid behavior in a battle for the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims and fence sitters. Classic counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism mistake.

For example, we all agree that there are a certain number of die hards who will not alter their beliefs/behavior no matter what we do. But they are not the targets of our strategy in this regard - they are the targets of our tanks and bullets. The targets of our other tactics are the moderates and middle ground that ebbs and flows with their perception of us. Most Muslims can be influenced by our policies and principles - at least to the extent that the two coincide.

As in Vietnam, we weren't going to win over the North Vietnamese, but we could have taken measures to reduce the number of South Vietnamese officers, officials, villagers and regular citizens who ended up siding with the North - many in reaction to some less than admirable actions on the part of some in our military, officially and otherwise. We need to be smarter, better, more efficient.

But you can't do that if you pretend a problem doesn't exist, or won't admit the existence of policies that create problems.

Posted by: Eric Martin at June 24, 2005 09:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric - you wrote

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

I tend to gravitate toward a standard that asks whether or not you would be comfortable with our troops receiving the same treatment. Spare me the argument about how our troops would get much worse. Obviously, but that is why our culture, society, vision, message is MUCH better than theirs. If we lower ourselves to the level of our adversary, then we.....lower ourselves to the level of our adversary. It's that simple. Refer to the Ignatieff column Greg cited yesterday for an examination of why this matters.

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


You'll pardon me if I don't spare you - because you see your standard is completely unworkable

It DOES matter that our men, and women, are tortured when captured by our enemies - we are under no obligation to do anything for captured enemy that we do not choose to do

There is no rule or regulation on terrorists

And ponder this - death cult fanatics who are prevented from blowing themselves ( and as many innocents as possible ) apart have no fear of the Slobodon Milosovic approach

To be coddled and given such a platform to spew hate - it is a dream

The nightmare is Gitmo - you go there and you aren't coming back

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 09:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric,

A very nice response. I suggest we are pretty much in agreement. I should note (damn, I put enough qualifications and digressions in everything I write, these discussions are so hard to keep on track) that my questions to you were rhetorical, not implying you felt any differently than you do. Your last sentence sums up my defense of you and Greg quite nicely. I just wanted a chance to get you to separate yourself from those who think it is all too clear what we should and shouldn't do and are lumping every issue together.

Okay, a couple of points of disagreement, though I have no problem if our policy came down where you would like it.

"Ironically, the Israelis are out in front in this area as their Supreme Court has issued fairly strict guidelines for the treatment of prisoners during interrogations - clearer than any standard in the US. That is a debate worth having, and the parameters are worth exploring. I don't have all the answers now, but neither does Rumsfeld or Gonzales and I don't quite see why the onus is on me when these men who actually decide on policy cannot or will not enunciate rules and guidelines. As an aside, I would accept a grant to study this issue in depth and come up with a solution, but as of yet, by benefactors elude me"

No problem here, and I wish someone like you were studying this. Can you get me an e-mail list of your benefactors. I'll fill their inbox! Also, I promise I don't think the onus is on you. However, given everybody will land a little apart on these answers kind of means we should be a little tolerant of where different people end up landing given we are not sure where we stand ourselves. Including Rumsfeld. Once again that is rhetorical and not necessarily addressed to you.

"I tend to gravitate toward a standard that asks whether or not you would be comfortable with our troops receiving the same treatment. Spare me the argument about how our troops would get much worse. Obviously, but that is why our culture, society, vision, message is MUCH better than theirs. If we lower ourselves to the level of our adversary, then we.....lower ourselves to the level of our adversary. It's that simple."

Hmm, a little too black and white for me. I certainly expect us to be better than our adversaries. I would probably settle for better than them, less than we want our own troops to face. Of course one might respond that that is where we are now. Okay, lets move a little closer to what we expect for our troops.

The reasons I don't feel the need for reciprocal obligations in treatment is several fold, but here are two.

First we will not get the reciprocation. There is no evidence our troops will be treated better because we treat them better. I'll use such reasoning if we fight the French. Of course the French signed the convention. I don't expect them to do as well as us (all evidence supports me there) but I expect that the convention and our behavior would make a difference. It will not to the Saddamites, Assad, Bin Laden or any of these other thugs. It even worked against the Nazi's. Reciprocation is key.

Second, I think the original rationale for making a definition of who gets treated well under the Geneva Conventions makes sense. pk.lukasiak can keep saying it isn't true all he wants, but the amount of ink spent defining who is and isn't afforded such protection was done for a reason. It was felt it gave nations a reason to prosecute wars within certain boundaries. Those who don't do not get the protection. Without that carrot the Conventions lack teeth. Some consequence has to follow. Does that mean conventional torture should be allowed? No. Does it mean some very unpleasant stress that I do not believe is justified against our own troops? Yes. I also think the death penalty should be used quite liberally (and threatening such a thing is quite stressful, tortuous even.)

Still, most of what you say on this seems quite clear. In fact the rest of your discussion endorses things which I do not believe our troops should face, so maybe you agree with me in fact. Our troops should have to undergo no interrogation. Name, rank and serial number is it. Anything more is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. That is what I expect. I won't get that, not because of smearing menstrual blood or even actual horrors such as the soddomizing of teenagers with night sticks. No, it will be because these enemies don't care about the Conventions in the first place.

My other issue is an old dead horse,

"Unfortunately, this administration has been averse to sunlight in almost every facet of governance - let alone national security/military affairs."

Compared to who? Maybe you are not intending to level a charge specifically against this administration, but if you are I suggest a bit of partisan bias. This administration is at worst (and given the war it is far more excusable than with some, if still wrong) no worse than its predecessors. I can't speak to Hoover or Cleveland, but certainly since Roosevelt every administration has been at least as bad, many (especially Nixon, Johnson and Roosevelt's) much worse. Rail against the bureaucratic state in general and I am right with you. However if your broadside is specific to this administration I must say this particular administration gives me no great pause compared to what came before, and I am including its immediate predecessor which was secretive, triangulatingly disengenous and as willing if not more to make (and break) back room deals with corporate interests, political friends and rivals as any our republic has ever seen, including this one.

Posted by: Lance at June 24, 2005 10:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The only adjective necessary to criticize holding prisoners without providing a hearing before a neutral magistrate to determine if probable cause exists to believe they committed a crime, to torture them, and to continue to hold them for years without charge, is that it is un-American. Friedman says shut Guantanamo down because it is so radioactive to our allies and the rest of the world, but it should be shut down because it is unconstitutional.
Doppler

Posted by: Doppler at June 24, 2005 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I don't have all the answers now, but neither does Rumsfeld or Gonzales and I don't quite see why the onus is on me when these men who actually decide on policy cannot or will not enunciate rules and guidelines. "

In all fairness, gonzales has been blamed for all kinds of things he didnt approve because he signed a memo that allowed for some things. If Rummy or Gonzales were to on record as approving anything explicitly, they would be blamed for every abuse. Thats why a bipartisan commision is needed.

And I would suggest that when you call yourself the conscience caucus, implying that all who disagree lack conscience, the burden IS on you to clarify things. Why should I do so, when I will only be attacked as conscienceless?

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 25, 2005 12:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too would like to be considered part of the conscience caucus, but am probably blackballed because I believe we should pay some attention to the time/place/manner of our criticisms of these issues if that criticism provides inestimable progaganda and morale benefits to the most ruthless enemiex we have ever seen. I also think it is an insult to those who have suffered true torture to put that word down an Orwellian memory hole and apply it to every inconvinience or discomfort these guys suffer.
I'd also like to ask you to try not to engage in the lowering of the standard of this debate. Was the put-down of LiberalHawk necessary? His request for clarification was not a "nit" in my opinion.

Posted by: wayne at June 25, 2005 12:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can only center-rightists apply to the Conscience Caucus? Because I'm a Democrat who's completely for the War on Terror in general, and its crucial chapter currently ongoing in Iraq.

Paul Krugman and Robert Herbert need not apply, nor alas all too many of my fellow Democrats, because they prefer frothing at the mouth about Bush. But to me, conscience demands we set aside partisan affiliation and hold ourselves to the highest standards possible as we take the war to the vicious Islamo-fascist enemy.

Posted by: Eric at June 25, 2005 02:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We can't shutdown Gitmo, it would remove one of major elements of the Democrats platform. All they have left is filibustering and opposing any and all efforts to do anything with social security.

Posted by: spaceman at June 25, 2005 02:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

wow greg put me in a post, im so proud!!!

Seriously Greg, I dont think it was a nit. Some folks have been pointing to the number of deaths in custody, period, as if that proved torture. But deaths from natural causes was not my main concern, as i thought id made clear enough. These are violent men. There have been prison riots in Afghanistan. I dont know that there havent been cases of justifiable homicide at the hands of guards. I dont know how many, if any, of the deaths that are cited as due to abuse really are.

If youve seen my comments at WOC you will see im hardly in keeping with the apologists. I dont think however that everyone who has doesnt share your and Sullys stand is lacking conscience.


Im damned tired of the excluded middle. Of moral certainty. one of the reasons i used to like here. Now i expect im gonna get somebody chiming on on Auschwitz. Look, this aint that. This IS morally ambigous. I just dont see why thats so outrageous.

Sully, when challenged runs to "its strategy, doing stuff like this is stupid" Which is fine, thats a reasonable argument. I think the hearts and minds struggle is VERY important, and im prepared to do a lot for that - yes, I think the careful handling of Koran that the righties mock makes perfect sense. But to say that someone who disagrees with you on such issues of strategy lacks conscience? Ive got problems with that.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 25, 2005 02:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

what wiki left out:

"Prosecutors said that Ledford failed as a leader on a November 2003 mission after he and his men captured al-Jamadi, a suspect in the bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12"

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 25, 2005 02:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

why dont i go ask one of my relatives who was at Auschwitz if the Nazis had picked them up for bombing the frigging red cross.

Id better stop before i get too angry.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 25, 2005 02:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You write with such certainty that al-Jamadi's death was a result of torture.

It appears Mr. al-Jamadi's injuries were sustained before he arrived at Abu Ghraib. The manner in which he was suspended, shackled to a stall, may have contributed to his death as did the failure to recognize he had been brought to the prison with a head injury.

See this entry on Jason Kenner
"Spc. Jason A. Kenner, an MP at Abu Ghraib, will later say the detainee was “in good health” when he was brought in. [The Guardian, 5/20/2004] According to Kenner's later account, the detainee's head is covered with an empty sandbag. MPs are then ordered to take him to a shower room, and told not to remove the hood, according to Kenner."

And, more recent details from the court martial of Lt. Andrew Ledford who was acquitted.
"On the night of Nov. 4, the SEALs burst into al-Jamadi's apartment outside Baghdad, subdued him after a brief, violent struggle and whisked him back to their base at Baghdad's airport, according to court documents and testimony. En route, the SEALs allegedly kicked, punched and struck al-Jamadi with the muzzles of their rifles. They also posed for photos with the hooded and handcuffed prisoner. The SEALs turned al-Jamadi over to the CIA. A few hours later, he died at Abu Ghraib."

I'm not trying to excuse or minimize what has happened to detainees in our custody but the reporting of the incidents brings to mind the film footage of the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD. The problem with the footage was that it did not fully capture what had taken place. When the Navy Seals went in to arrest al-Jamadi, did they use excessive force or was the force used appropriate to the resistance they encountered by al-Jamadi? The continued beating of al-Jamadi while in route to the detention facility was wrong but is it indicative of a top down policy to use torture during interrogations and in detention facilities? I'm concerned about the abuses but I'm not outraged. While I have a confidence in the military justice system, I also understand that public debate and oversight is necessary.

Posted by: Nelly at June 25, 2005 03:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Mike and Al. I used to enjoy coming to read this blog, but lately it's become consumed with beating up America about torture. Almost hysterically. To me it just seems very counterproductive to the troops, to the national morale, to pick on one small slice of the War on Terror and beat it relentlessly.

I grew up in a Christian household and strongly try to maintain one for my family, so I don't condone torture. But war is war and not everything that happens in it is going to be perfect. It wasn't in biblical times either. So to come here and have to read about how bad Americans are, when it isn't hard to see how imperfect our opponents are (who rarely get beat up about it), just isn't my bag. If it continues, I'll move on. Just like I did with Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: Marlin at June 25, 2005 06:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's the point of the list?

Posted by: James Drogan at June 25, 2005 12:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As many of the commenters have pointed out, if you want a real debate about torture, the debaters must establish what torture is or is not. There must be some reasonable agreement on what are acceptable interrogation techniques or debate about torture is impossible.

Almost all of what I've read in the media or on the web has been nothing more than expansive polemic on torture and the American soul, "a tempest in a teapot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Also, in my opinion, the rest of the world's opinion of us plays no part in this debate. There is simply nothing we can do that would please them.

Posted by: G. Hamid at June 25, 2005 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You say "such deaths occurred..." and then link to a story for support.

THe story was about one death.

So why the plural? I had heard about the one, thanks to that moron Graner's photo album. Were there more? Why no further examples?

At any rate, anything Graner was associated with was stupid and he deserves to be in prison. So does Lindie E., for being so stupid as to do what he told her to do. Including to lie down naked for him.

Have the US military interrogators killed anyone else during interrogation sessions? Nobody at Gitmo has died. I can't remember any stories of anyone else at A.G. dying.

Defend your use of the plural.

Dave
Houston

Posted by: dave at June 25, 2005 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What is the point of these interrogations? We have held people in Gitmo for years; surely any information they had is stale news. Surely any information about an insurgent force degrades in value very rapidly. Are the Gitmo detainees supposed to cough up Bin Laden's location?
Can anything useful come from this type of interrogation?
Is there any instrumental justification for these actions?

Posted by: mark s at June 25, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Include us out.

Posted by: Bush Administration at June 25, 2005 07:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

FIrst the security code, and now the talking of oneself in the third-tense? I guess we know who's having the ..."complex, emotional issue."

"Complex"?

Well, I think that Al's comment was so good, that it bears reposting:

I'll make my thoughts on the subject VERY clear for you:

Smearing red magic marker ink - not abuse, not torture
Naked tits - not abuse, not torture
Christina Aguilera music - not abuse, not torture
Loud rap music - not abuse, not torture
Too much AC - not abuse, not torture
Not enough AC - not abuse, not torture
Shackles - not abuse, not torture
Kicking a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Not wearing gloves when handling a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Using left hand to handle a Koran - not abuse, not torture
Playing on a fear of the dark - not abuse, not torture
Yelling - not abuse, not torture
LIGHT touching/poking/grabbing - not abuse, not torture

Making prisoners masturbate - abuse, but not torture
Taking a photo with wires attached to a prisoner - abuse, but not torture

Extensive beating - torture
Cutting off limbs - torture
Cutting out tongues - torture
Electrocution - torture
Rape - torture
Stuffing a prisoner into a plastic shredder - torture
Throwing a prisoner into a lion's cage - torture

If you have any more you'd like to get my thoughts on, please ask.

Now, Greg would never, EVER, EVER tell us how he feels about individual tactics, like this, because it would show how much of an extremist he really is. His sole purpose here is to conflate every tactic the military uses with beating a prisoner to death, as if they are all the same.

Posted by: Al at June 24, 2005 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment


Precisely - Looks like Al just saved you a whole lot of time, DJ

Posted by: Tommy G at June 26, 2005 01:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg said, "I consider the deaths of detainees in U.S. captivity "serious torture", after all. Don't you?"

My understanding is that there have been some 120 deaths from all causes in US custody, but none at Gitmo. These include deaths from injuries received before being taken into custody, deaths from mortor attacks on the prisons in Iraq by the "resistance", murders by inmates to keep other inmates from talking, deaths from natural causes, deaths from real accidents, deaths from fights to control inmates, and deaths from torturous treatment by US soldiers, military interrogators, and contractors. Only the last of that group can be described as "serious torture". So the answer to your question, as posed, is emphatically NO. Unfortunately, the fact you posed the question as you did demonstrates the lack of serious thought you have put forward.

I believe we will learn that (1) there has been some torture and some of it lead to deaths and (2) all of the deaths and all of the torture was done by low level personnel without approval of the military or civilian authority. The number of such deaths is probably more than 5 and fewer than 15. All will be investigated fully and punished.

During my business career I learned to recognize when memos were written with an agenda other than getting to the truth. The FBI memo read by Durbin is clearly such a document. The writer makes claims about the length of ime detainees had been is specific positions when he clearly had no personal knowledge. He first says a couple of cases and then enumerates more than two. He fails to cite time, date, or detainee names. A person who exagerates/lies about one thing will lie about everything. His report is not credible, so it should not be believed. I cannot know what his ax to grind is, but he does have one.

The issue here is not whether some abuse and torture has occurred because it almost certainly has. The issues are (1) how widespread is it and (2) did it represent the policy of US military or government. That which has occurred must and will be punished.

Others have written on what is abuse and what is torture. My input to that is that offending the cultural sensitivities of the detainees is neither.

Greg, it seems to me that both you and Andrew Sullivan have gone off the deep end here with far too little information. If it turns out the the torture is widespread and/or it was approved at high civilian or military levels, then I owe you both an apology. But the fact is that neither of you have any real knowledge of either factor. You are assuming far more than you know and then you are letting your gut emotional reactions to your (likely wildly invalid) assumptions rule the day.

What a pity.

Posted by: Wayne Moore at June 26, 2005 09:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

let me put this delicately. some in my circles view your blog as giving aid and comfort to terrorists, which, if treasonous, is not protected under the first amendment... at the very least, you could be shut down, and, in the US at least, I trust you know the consequences of treason if determined by a court of law (other countries have no such compunction... in your travels, I suggest you watch your back). you call yourself a patriot. don't you know we are at war? just a friendly reminder to someone I believe has good intentions, but whose actions are misguided. don't let them lead you down the path of dishonor. prisoner abuse, if you look hard enough (and sometimes not so hard) can be found in any country and should be criticized, much less condoned... but in dwelling on such issues, I think you have your priorities way off. when prosecuting a war against terrorism, caring about our enemies (in the sense of placing mint-chocolate on their pillows every evening for their efforts before they go bed, i.e. their state of mind, welfare and general wellbeing) should be the least of our worries... in basketball, if you commit an offensive foul, you take note of it and move on. if you get enough of them you sit out, but that doesn't mean you stop the game. you see it to its conclusion doing everything you can to help the team win. like the president (coach) sez, you're either with us or against us. which side are you on?

Posted by: al at June 26, 2005 03:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good idea, and I've got one addition: Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.

I can't decide whether anyone in Congress qualifies. Some of them talk the talk occasionally, but they've never walked the walk.

Posted by: Katherine at June 27, 2005 03:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

these captured terrorists were in violation of the laws of war--un-uniformed combatants, whose entire tactics violate the Geneva Conventions--we would be entirely in our rights to shoot them en masse in the field.

That's ridiculous. We do not remotely have any right to "shoot them en masse in the field." No matter what Limbaugh or whoever you picked this idiocy up from says.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov at June 27, 2005 03:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it is time once and for all for the governent to say that the slitting of prisoners throats and televised head choppings are wrong.

My point is that we need to focus on the worst abuses first.

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

Doppler says Gitmo is unConstitutional.

Which is true if the people being held are American citizens.

So tell me Doppler, how many Gitmo detainees are Americans?

If the answer is zero then the detainees may be held until the war is over. And how will we know that if the enemy has no command structure? I believe we will have to wait until we are sure of no further attacks. Say ten years after the last attack. Just to be sure.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 27, 2005 06:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bernard Y.,

You are correct.

First a field court, then shoot them en mass.

Posted by: M. Simon at June 27, 2005 06:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To all of those saying no high level authority--forget Geneva for a moment. There have been techniques authorized that violated the UCMJ. There are also memos from the Office of Legal Counsel that seem to lay the groundwork for overriding the UCMJ. When you tell people they don't have to follow the laws they have always followed before, and replace it with a vague directive to be "humane" accompanied by authorization of techniques that show them that you define "humane" as no dictionary or decent person does--do you bear some responsibility if they go further?

The answer seems obvious to me. But if you're not convinced, well, let's have an investigation then.

Posted by: Katherine at June 27, 2005 07:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For the Conscience Caucus, Robert Tagorda comes to mind.

Posted by: Russ Q. at June 27, 2005 12:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As for the 80% of the American people who disagree with me about whether there's a problem in Guantanamo -- one of the biggest problems I have with the way prisoners are being handled is that I don't think that most of it has much military, intelligence, or punitive purpose any more.

It's mostly part of Bush's PR, making himself look tough and giving red meat to the mad dogs in his core constituency. A lot of the 80% just don't care or just don't think about it, but there's probably 30%-40% who think the torture is lots of fun. To me that represents a classical sort of national corruption.

In cases of mob violence and mass hysteria, disagreeing with the majority is an obligation, not a right or a privilege. And when a dogmatic, enraged minority takes over the government, likewise. The hard right represents about 30% of the voters, but they control the Republican party, and as long as 21% of the moderate 50% are willing to go along without quite agreeing, the hard right controls the whole show.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 27, 2005 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

one of the biggest problems I have with the way prisoners are being handled is that I don't think that most of it has much military, intelligence, or punitive purpose any more.

And you know this how exactly?

It's mostly part of Bush's PR, making himself look tough and giving red meat to the mad dogs in his core constituency. A lot of the 80% just don't care or just don't think about it, but there's probably 30%-40% who think the torture is lots of fun. To me that represents a classical sort of national corruption.

I also think that the majority of people on the left have lost any and all semblance of common sense, perspective or historical context due to an almost pathological hatred of Bush and anything he is perceived to stand for. But thank you. This is the sorta attitude that leads me to dismiss the vast majority of crap, ummm, I meant "thoughtful criticism" that comes from the left.

Posted by: Mike at June 27, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I vote Wayne Moore as serious.

There's FAR too much public complaining that US troops are failing to meet the "high standards" -- of unspoken Unreal Perfection.

Abuse, and even torture, have occurred. The US chain of command FIRED Gen. Karpinski, now Col.

Show me another army where a General was demoted. The US is doing a fine job, and the process is working to stop torture -- but there is disagreement about torture, abuse, and tough interrogation.

I support rendition -- and more publicity about the prisons in other countries. And even more publicity about prison rape in the USA.

Unreal Perfection is not an option.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 28, 2005 09:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If there's anything stupider than someone affixing the words "Liberty Dad" to their name, I have yet to learn what it is.

Posted by: Pedro Martinez at June 30, 2005 02:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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