September 25, 2005

"You Didn't See Anything, Right?"

Scott Horton:

The Army is the oldest of the nation's institutions, antedating the Presidency, the Congress and the courts. It played a unique role in defining and unifying the nation and in fixing the traditions with which the country has been associated since its founding. First among these may well be the tradition of humane warfare, articulated by George Washington after the Battle of Trenton, December 24, 1776. "Treat them with humanity," Washington directed with respect to the captured Hessians. He forbade physical abuse and directed the detainees be quartered with the German-speaking residents of Eastern Pennsylvania, in the expectation that they would become "so fraught with a love of liberty, and property too, that they may create a disgust to the service among the rest of the foreign troops, and widen the breach which is already opened between them and the British." (Things unfolded exactly as Washington envisioned). Washington also set the rule that detainees be given the same housing, food and medical treatment as his own soldiers. And he was particularly concerned about freedom of conscience and respect for the religious values of those taken prisoner. "While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the rights of conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of hearts of men, and to Him only in this case are they answerable."

Under Abraham Lincoln, in 1862, Washington's orders were expanded in the world's first comprehensive codification of the laws of war, General Orders No. 100 (1862), also called the Lieber Code. Among other points, Lincoln clarified what was meant by "humane" treatment. It could under no circumstance comprehend torture, he directed in article 16.

This tradition has been a source of pride for our nation for over 200 years. The pressing question today is whether this legacy has been betrayed by those in the highest positions of our Government and in the Department of Defense. The evidence to this effect is now overwhelming.

So true. I've been delayed (because of major professional and personal commitments) in writing a significant post on these matters. Still, I've dug into a huge amount of the literature these past months. What's become very clear to me is that, techniques that may have worked under the controlled circumstances of Gitmo (though these techniques were often offensive regardless), failed miserably when they 'migrated' to Afghanistan and Iraq. Besides, we could have pursued perfectly adequate interrogation tactics as enumerated in Army Field Manual 34-52 ("FM 34-52")--but top Pentagon and DOJ leadership insisted on defining torture down via eager enablers like John Yoo and Don Rumsfeld--and coming up with interrogation tactics outside the rubric of Geneva-compliant FM 34-52.

It didn't have to be this way:

...the Department of State had argued that the Geneva Conventions in their traditional application provided a sufficiently robust legal construct under which the Global War on Terror could effectively be waged. The Legal Advisor to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and many service lawyers agreed with the State Department's initial position. They were concerned that to conclude otherwise would be inconsistent with past practice and policy, jeopardize the United States armed forces personnel, and undermine the United States military culture which is based on a strict adherence to the law of war. At the February 4, 2002 National Security Council meeting to decide the issue, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in agreement that all detainees would get the treatment they are (or would be) entitled to under the Geneva Conventions
(p. 34, Schlesinger Report)

Sadly, however, previously tried and true interrogation guidelines were deemed too wimpy for the brave post 9/11 world. Some brief background, courtesy of the Schlesinger Report. FM 34-52 has "long been the standard source for interrogation doctrine within the Department of Defense" (p.7, Schlesinger Report), and outlines some 17 authorized interrogation techniques. Rumsfeld decided on December 2, 2002 to authorize the use of 16 additional interrogation tactics at Gitmo beyond those enumerated in FM 34-52 (to better extract information from reportedly recalcitrant detainees). Rumsfeld later rescinded most of these additional measures--in the face of strong opposition by the Navy General Counsel. Of the still authorized tactics that went beyond FM 34-52, Rumsfeld declared that such techniques could only be used if he so explicitly authorized. As all this was occurring, Rumsfeld had convened a working group to study interrogation techniques that was headed by Air Force General Counsel May Walker. After extensive deliberation, the Working Group recommended approval of 24 interrogation techniques, leading to Rumsfeld's promulgation of a list of approved tactics on April 16, 2003--tactics that were intended to be strictly used solely at Guantanamo. Alas, of course, when you grossly underman a war effort, and don't provide adequate training to (the too few) guards and interrogators on permissible tactics, and blur the line between those entitled to POW status and those who aren't, and define torture down in legal memoranda, and generally keep real accountability at the Karpinski and below level--is it little wonder that abuses of detainees in U.S. custody have occurred well removed from the supposedly sole permitted venue and, even, after the moral debacle of Abu Ghraib?

But let's back up for a second. According to Schlesinger, all forces in Afghanistan were using FM 34-52 as a "baseline for interrogation techniques." (p. 8) But, "more aggressive interrogation of detainees appears to have been on-going." (ibid). Indeed, in response to a call from the Joint Staff on behalf of the aforementioned Working Group (that was debating suitable interrogation tactics), Commander Task Force-180 sent on a list of techniques that were in employ in Afghanistan--some that were not in compliance with FM-34-52. Reportedly, these techniques were later included in a Special Operation Forces Standard Operating Procedures document released in February of 2003. The 519th Military Intelligence Batallion, some of whom were later sent to Abu Ghraib, helped with Special Ops interrogations. Thus did interrogation tactics migrate, helped on by Rumsfeld's inability to diligence adequately his 2002 authorized list of tactics, from Gitmo to Afghanistan to Iraq.

As the Schlesinger report (for which I rely for most of the above information) put it delicately:

In the initial development of these Secretary of Defense policies, the legal resources of the Services' Judge Advocates General and General Counsels were not utilized to their full potential. Had the Secretary of Defense had a wider range of legal opinions and a more robust debate regarding detainee policies and operations, his policy of April 16, 2003 might well have been developed and issued in early December 2002. [emphasis added]

Note the passive verbiage: "had the Secretary Defense had a wider range of legal opinions..." What about the Secretary of Defense pro-actively seeking and ferreting out a wider range of opinion himself? It's, like, an important issue!

Look, let's posit, shall we say, that there are some ironies surrounding Guantanamo. First, it very much does have the worst enemies of the United States in captivity. And the interrogation techniques in employ there, while sometimes beyond the pale, have by and large been employed in a very controlled manner that has not lead to full-blown, mega-disgraces like Abu Ghraib (still they run contra Geneva norms and so must be spurned, imho, of which more another day). But these interrogation techniques, through confusion, inattention, poor leadership (among other variables)--were allowed to migrate to places like forward camps near Fallujah, or Abu Ghraib, or Bagram--where tempers often flared, interrogators weren't adequately trained, the ratio of guard to detainee was too low. Is it little wonder then, that the abuses of Camp Mercury would go on, even after Abu Ghraib?

In a bygone era, Wise Men would have stepped in and advised the President to sack Don Rumsfeld, and explained to the President the undue harm he was causing the reputation of our Armed Forces, the propaganda gift he was handing to the enemy, the corrolary risk of our own forces now being mistreated in the future if captured. We don't really have such men around any more, it seems, though I had hoped John Warner and John McCain would have stepped up to bat with more alacrity. What I want to better understand now is just how widespread detainee abuse has been. We know of Bagram, of Abu Ghraib, of Camp Mercury, of other camps in Iraq. I invite those with relevant knowledge to E-mail me with accounts from other locations. Please be assured your privacy will be respected.

Because this can't be allowed to go on anymore:

Interrogators pressed guards to beat up prisoners, and one sergeant recalled watching a particular interrogator who was a former Special Forces soldier beating the detainee himself. "He would always say to us, 'You didn't see anything, right?' " the sergeant said. "And we would always say, 'No, sergeant.' "

One of the sergeants told Human Rights Watch that he had seen a soldier break open a chemical light stick and beat the detainees with it. "That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad," he said.

A second sergeant, identified as an infantry squad leader and interviewed twice in August by Human Rights Watch, said, "As far as abuse goes, I saw hard hitting." He also said he had witnessed how guards would force the detainees "to physically exert themselves to the limit."

Some soldiers beat prisoners to vent their frustrations, one sergeant said, recalling an instance when an off-duty cook showed up at the detention area and ordered a prisoner to grab a metal pole and bend over. "He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini-Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat."

Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, one of the sergeants said, the abuses continued. "We still did it, but we were careful," he told the human rights group.

Much more on this story to come. We've really just scratched the surface here in terms of culpability over at OSD and related precincts.


Posted by Gregory at September 25, 2005 08:48 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

"In a bygone era, Wise Men would have stepped in and advised the President to sack Don Rumsfeld, and explained to......"

Greg, what is it with you? Why can't you see that if this is something that needs to be explained to the POTUS before he can understand it and take appropriate action, then that man has no business being POTUS.

Furthemore, it is Bush's lack of initiative, clear thinking and leadership in general that allows this sort of thing to go on and therefore this is a situation created by Bush.

Of course a possibility that you also completely ignore is that the torture and abuse was carried out on direct orders of POTUS.

You know Greg, it's ok to be wrong and it's a sign of good character when a man admits it. You backed the wrong man in the election. All the issues you complain about here (Rumsfeld, torture, etc) are ultimately the responsibility of Bush. Bush is a weak, stupid, and shallow man and a poor leader. Stop blaming everyone but Bush. Put the blame where it does belong.

Posted by: avedis at September 26, 2005 12:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, Andrew Sullivan has been on this a long, long time. This whole thing is rapidly spiraling out of control. Unlikely this enterprise will end on a good note.

Bush himself is responsible.

Posted by: Tony Shifflett at September 26, 2005 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Understatement of the year:

Unlikely this enterprise will end on a good note.

Rather more likely this enterprise will end on a cacophany of bad notes. A clashing, grinding, twelve-tone cantata of bad notes.

But at least Kerry didn't win the election! Think how bad things might have been if he had!

Jesus wept.

Posted by: stickler at September 26, 2005 06:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can't find the source anymore, but this quote I first heard when Abu Ghraib was revealed keeps rattling through my head, "They opened the door to a little bit of torture, and a whole lot of torture walked in."

Rumsfeld and Cheney et al. are the Wise Men. This is the policy they want. These are the outcomes they are willing to accept. The US Government is in their hands, and it is behaving as they intend.

And if you voted Republican for president in 2004, you voted for this. And if you voted Republican for Congress in 2004, you voted to have no oversight.

Posted by: Doug at September 26, 2005 09:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All you morons needs to go and talk to anybody that has been in the military the past 50 years on really what the word "smoked" means.

Also since I just stopped by. Why did Human Rights Watch wait until the weekend of the big DC wing ding to release the report? You see, you think the American people are dumb and they really not. Do you see this on the cover of all the papers and talk shows and 24hr news stations? No. Hmm wonder why. It's a non dupicate event.

Posted by: Ray at September 28, 2005 01:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, Ray, "smoked" used to carry similar meaning as "light up", but I suppose it depends on what decade we are talking about, branch of service, context, etc. Your point being what exactly, anyhow?

BTW New York Times, today, had this story all over the cover as did other major publications.

Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by: avedis at September 29, 2005 12:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg? Hello Greg.

Greg? Are you going to say something..anything...regarding Bush's (the CEO POTUS) level of responsiblity?

?

?
?

Didn't think so.

Posted by: avedis at September 29, 2005 12:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most of the left-wing touchy-feely cowards in the world just dont get it yet, so i often have to take time from my busy day protecting them to spell it out:

WE ARE FIGHTING FANATICAL ANIMALS WHO HAVE NO RULES WHATSOEVER! Therefore, the threat of a little teeny tiny bit of barbarism MAY be necessary to prevent the whole TON of barbarism they wish throw at us.

someday you will wake up and see that not everything is pretty, and that wars cannot be won without spilling alot of blood, and hurting a few peoples' feelings.

Most people are too yellow to spend even 2 minutes in the parts of the world I work in; yet they insist on trying to tell me how to do my job.

I believe that it IS possible to work in the grey area between the geneva convention and barbarism, and get the job done effectively. This doesnt mean hooking up their genitals to car batteries, but a slap or 10 here or there shouldnt get your panties in a bunch!

now, if only the media and the entire left-wing panzie revolution would let us do so behind closed doors, we'd all be better off. You really are better off hiding from the truth, because as Jack once said: "YOU CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

does having nasty names thrown your way bother you? try bullets and bombs carried by 8-year-old kids. After your best friends die to those bullets and bombs, come back and tell me again that I cant slap the guy who did it around a bit to find out when it's going to happen again! then again, none of you bastards will put yourself in that position, will you? you'll just hide behind your thin veils of pseudo-patriotism while real men fight for you.

g'day.

Posted by: soldier at October 7, 2005 05:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most of the left-wing touchy-feely cowards in the world just dont get it yet, so i often have to take time from my busy day protecting them to spell it out:

WE ARE FIGHTING FANATICAL ANIMALS WHO HAVE NO RULES WHATSOEVER! Therefore, the threat of a little teeny tiny bit of barbarism MAY be necessary to prevent the whole TON of barbarism they wish throw at us.

someday you will wake up and see that not everything is pretty, and that wars cannot be won without spilling alot of blood, and hurting a few peoples' feelings.

Most people are too yellow to spend even 2 minutes in the parts of the world I work in; yet they insist on trying to tell me how to do my job.

I believe that it IS possible to work in the grey area between the geneva convention and barbarism, and get the job done effectively. This doesnt mean hooking up their genitals to car batteries, but a slap or 10 here or there shouldnt get your panties in a bunch!

now, if only the media and the entire left-wing panzie revolution would let us do so behind closed doors, we'd all be better off. You really are better off hiding from the truth, because as Jack once said: "YOU CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

does having nasty names thrown your way bother you? try bullets and bombs carried by 8-year-old kids. After your best friends die to those bullets and bombs, come back and tell me again that I cant slap the guy who did it around a bit to find out when it's going to happen again! then again, none of you bastards will put yourself in that position, will you? you'll just hide behind your thin veils of pseudo-patriotism while real men fight for you.

g'day.

Posted by: soldier at October 7, 2005 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Most of the left-wing touchy-feely cowards in the world just dont get it yet, so i often have to take time from my busy day protecting them to spell it out:

WE ARE FIGHTING FANATICAL ANIMALS WHO HAVE NO RULES WHATSOEVER! Therefore, the threat of a little teeny tiny bit of barbarism MAY be necessary to prevent the whole TON of barbarism they wish throw at us.

someday you will wake up and see that not everything is pretty, and that wars cannot be won without spilling alot of blood, and hurting a few peoples' feelings.

Most people are too yellow to spend even 2 minutes in the parts of the world I work in; yet they insist on trying to tell me how to do my job.

I believe that it IS possible to work in the grey area between the geneva convention and barbarism, and get the job done effectively. This doesnt mean hooking up their genitals to car batteries, but a slap or 10 here or there shouldnt get your panties in a bunch!

now, if only the media and the entire left-wing panzie revolution would let us do so behind closed doors, we'd all be better off. You really are better off hiding from the truth, because as Jack once said: "YOU CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

does having nasty names thrown your way bother you? try bullets and bombs carried by 8-year-old kids. After your best friends die to those bullets and bombs, come back and tell me again that I cant slap the guy who did it around a bit to find out when it's going to happen again! then again, none of you will put yourself in that position, will you? you'll just hide behind your thin veils of pseudo-patriotism while real men fight for you.

g'day.

Posted by: soldier at October 7, 2005 05:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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