What Went Wrong…

A number of people have linked to the following story (myself included) regarding the beating death of a detainee:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such “claustrophobic techniques” were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a “fear up” tactic, according to military court documents.

But, as Gary Farber points out, few are paying attention to how this story became news:

For Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pratt it would have been far easier to look away. If war is hell, after all, there are going to be some demons. And since hooking up with the Colorado-based 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq in early 2003, the Utah National Guard soldier had learned it was simpler to ignore questionable actions than report them.

But the guardsman couldn’t look past what he had seen in the Al Qiem Detention Facility. Not after the death of an inmate whom he believed had been abused by a senior officer. Not even as the Army announced that the prisoner had died “of natural causes.”

Army records show that apparent abuses of inmates at the makeshift prison, known as the Blacksmith Hotel, may have been ignored had Pratt not reported his concerns to Utah Guard officials, outside the chain of command of the unit to which he was temporarily assigned. The documents, transcripts from testimony given by Pratt in a closed hearing last March, also detail the soldier’s struggles to do what he felt was right in the face of pressure to remain silent.

How did he go about it? Repeatedly lodging complaints that were ignored or brushed off:

Among the allegations made in his testimony: That he had witnessed a soldier shoot a 14-year-old boy in the back during a raid – as the boy was running away. That matter, he claimed, was never thoroughly investigated, though fellow soldiers assured him that the rules of engagement had been followed when the teen was shot.

Later, when he learned that unqualified soldiers were conducting interrogations, Pratt again logged a compliant. In response, he testified, he was investigated – and told by other soldiers it was for blackmail purposes.

The final blow came when Pratt reported that a group of combat engineers had confiscated a large stash of currency from an Iraqi family who intended to use the money to send their daughter to Jordan for an operation. When he reported the matter to an officer in his chain of command, Pratt said, “he told me I was getting too close to the Iraqis. He accused me of losing my objectivity.”

“After that incident,” Pratt said. “I realized that it was pointless to report anything.”

That is not, as we have been told repeatedly, a few bad eggs. That is, if Pratt’s claims are accurate, a systemic and institutional problem. And from my experiences in the Army, entire units don’t just go rogue- they take their cues from the leadership. Which, according to Pratt, they did here:

Still, Pratt said he confronted the senior soldier after he watched another officer pull a sleeping bag over an inmate, immobilizing the man with cord before slamming him to the ground. When the inmate began to pray aloud, Pratt said, the officer poured water into his mouth and cupped his hands over the inmate’s face.

Welshofer, the unit’s “subject matter expert” on interrogation techniques, told Pratt “the sleeping bag technique” was authorized, though only certain soldiers were allowed to use it, according to Pratt’s testimony.

Again, while CWO Welshofer has been charged with the murder, as well as several other low level grunts, it is simply too difficult to believe that they repeatedly got these ideas on their own, acted on them, and that others in the chain of command didn’t know what was going on. It defies my experiences, at least. Even if they did, it points to a cavalier approach to interrogation in general, if slipshod spur of the moment ideas ruled the day over tried and true interrogation methods.

I really want to believe that this is just a few rogue soldiers in all of these cases, but the evidence keeps pointing back to approved interrogation techniques (and in fairness, much of this went well beyond approved methods), a sense of ‘anything goes’ because of the muddled legal status of the detainees, a general disregard in the chain of command, a chain of evidence linking policies to different detainment centers, willing participation by clandestine services working in concert** with military intelligence officers and being given free reign with prisoners and junior level enlisted men, and it stinks. It smells like institutional rot, and at the very least a pattern of negligence and callous disregard, something even the military appears willing to admit.

And if just one of you claims I am trying to smear all soldiers, I am going to blow a gasket. You know who you are, so just keep it to yourself. I want the people who put our soldiers in this position to be held accountable and to have a clear and open airing of what has gone on and what continues to go on today. Even if it goes to Rumsfeld and beyond.

And, as always, I am only working with the information that is out there, so I understand there may be more to the story. But this is what I have right now.

** Much more here, in this Amnesty International Report:

On 20 June 2005, Amnesty International delegates visited two Yemeni detainees said to have recently been transferred from the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. However, their accounts described another US detention regime just as sinister, yet more secretive, than Guantánamo. The men appear to have been victims of the US administration’s policy of secret detentions around the world. For over a year and a half they had effectively “disappeared”…

After approximately four days of solitary confinement in Jordan, both men state that they were blindfolded and shackled before being transported in what they described as a small plane for between three and a half to four and a half hours to a second location. Both men state that the guards during the transfer were from the USA.

The place they were held for the next six to eight months was described as an old-style underground facility with high walls. The cells were approximately 1.5m x 2m with buckets instead of toilets. Western music was piped into the cells 24 hours a day. As before, the men were given no reason for their detention, nor were they informed about their rights. They describe being interrogated by US officials about people they might have known and about their activities in Afghanistan and Indonesia. Apart from the guards, the interrogators and translators, the men did not speak to or see any other people during this stage of detention. Neither knew the other was detained. Each was held in solitary confinement, “disappeared” as far as the rest of the world was concerned…

Authorities in Yemen told Amnesty International that they have no reason for holding the two men except that their transfer from US detention was conditional upon them being held in Yemen. One official complained: “now we are running prisons for the Americans”. Another stated that they have finished questioning the men and found they have nothing against them, it is “just a matter of telling the US authorities that we will set them free”.

*** Update ***

More here. And here.

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122 replies
  1. 1
    Richard Bottoms says:

    Oh why do you hate America so!!!!

    Twenty years from now the true patriots will be those who stood up and said stop. Will Rummy and company will never see a Nuremburg style trial history will judge them harshly.

  2. 2
    SeesThroughIt says:

    Twenty years from now the true patriots will be those who stood up and said stop.

    Actually, we’re the true patriots now.

  3. 3
    TallDave says:

    Yes, there are problems, and they should be dealt with. But take a deep breath: all prisons have abuses. It’s just human nature. It’s not the least bit difficult to believe they got the idea on their own; a somewhat famous psychological study was done with volunteers pretending to be prison guards and the results were so disturbing the study was halted.

    How we deal with the abuse is what’s important. If there is institutional rot it should be exposed and dealt with too.

    At the same time, we are fighting a war, and we need intelligence from prisoners. They should be treated humanely, but we can’t treat them like it’s Club Med either, not if we want democracy to survive in Iraq.

    Talk of Nuremberg is silly. This is bad, but it’s nothing remotely like German atrocities, the Rape of Nanking, the Soviet murder of thousands of captured Polish officers at the end of WW II, or for that matter the Allied firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

  4. 4
    ppGaz says:

    This is bad, but it’s nothing remotely like German atrocities

    I never know what to make of speech like this. Don’t worry, we haven’t descended to the level of the worst atrocities in human history?

    I feel better already.

  5. 5
    TallDave says:

    I didn’t bring up Nuremberg, and I didn’t say “don’t worry.”

    I did say have some perspective. Would you rather we pretend every time someone turns up the AC at Gitmo it’s Auschwitz again?

  6. 6
    ppGaz says:

    Would you rather we pretend

    I’d rather this stuff didn’t happen. I don’t give a phuck about comparisons to atrocities in history. And I don’t think making such comparisons is useful. Comparisons to the standards we want these activities held to would be helpful.

  7. 7
    CaseyL says:

    “. Would you rather we pretend every time someone turns up the AC at Gitmo…”

    Christ on a coatrack. How can you expect anyone to take what you say seriously when you say something as studiously, boneheadedly ignorant as that?

  8. 8
    TallDave says:

    Hell, you don’t have to go back nearly rhat far, or nearly that bad. What about the decision to bomb Serbia from 15,000 feet that led to thousands more civilian casualties?

    News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International
    Amnesty International Public document
    AI Index EUR 70/025/2000
    News Service Nr. 102

    NATO violations of the laws of war during Operation Allied Force must be investigated. NATO forces violated the laws of war leading to cases of unlawful killing of civilians, Amnesty International said today, one year after the end of Operation Allied Force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

    — Aspects of the Rules of Engagement — specifically the requirement that NATO aircraft fly above 15,000 feet to provide maximum protection for aircraft and pilots — made full adherence to international humanitarian law virtually impossible.

  9. 9
    Gary Farber says:

    Excellent post, John.

    :-)

  10. 10
    TallDave says:

    CaseyL,

    I don’t expect lunatic leftists to take me seriously, or care if they do.

  11. 11
    TallDave says:

    Someone wake me when they try Clinton for war crimes.

  12. 12
    Sojourner says:

    Someone wake me when they try Clinton for war crimes.

    How pathetic that this is the best argument you can come up with.

  13. 13
    TallDave says:

    How can you expect anyone to take what you say seriously when you say something as studiously, boneheadedly ignorant as that?

    You know, its funny: that was exactly my response to the Nuremberg reference.

    God forbid we should have a little perspective.

  14. 14
    TallDave says:

    Sojourner,

    And your brilliant argument is:

    “You’re pathetic.”

    That must play well with the other 3rd-graders.

  15. 15
    Mr Furious says:

    Good post, John. Not much to add, you’ve summed up what one would hope would be the reaction of any humane, responsible person. I’d like to think that American should be disturbed about this stuff. But I recognize that fear and aggression rule the day, and far too many, believe this treatment is justified if not necessary. I believe those people are wrong, but I suppose I can understand it. What I cannot tolerate is when blind partisanship excuses this stuff just because “their guy” is running the War. People that know better, and know this is wrong, and would be going apeshit if the other Party was in control — we have reached such a low that life and death is LITERALLY less important than politics. It’s become almost more depressing than infuriating.

  16. 16
    TallDave says:

    Excuse me while I try to recall whether a lot of Republicans were saying Clinton should be arrested and tried for war crimes.

  17. 17
    demimondian says:

    …—Aspects of the Rules of Engagement—specifically the requirement that NATO aircraft fly above 15,000 feet to provide maximum protection for aircraft and pilots—made full adherence to international humanitarian law virtually impossible

    AI got beaten up for that claim, too, because it’s both false in law and in fact. First, the bombers being used from 15K feet were quite capable of dropping bombs with a quite small MCE, making the AI claim about “full adherence to international humanitarian law” false in fact. Second, though, and far more important, international humanitarian law does not require the attacker to cause no civilian casualties, but merely requires a good-faith effort to minimize civilians casualties given the requirements of attacking military targets.

  18. 18
    TallDave says:

    Don’t get me wrong, the first memo we find where anyone all the way up to Bush says soldiers should be beating people or torturing them I say they should be prosecuted. At the same time, let’s keep our heads and not start a lynch mob.

  19. 19
    JonBuck says:

    Moral equivelency arguments that “At least X is not as bad as Y” leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  20. 20
    TallDave says:

    good-faith effort

    Good faith is debatable. Some people say 15,000 feet is too high, some don’t.

    Personally, I agree. I just brought it up to point out the Left doesn’t get upset when their President’s in charge.

  21. 21
    TallDave says:

    JonBuck,

    Moral equivalancy arguments that say “X is just as bad as Y” leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  22. 22
    Aaron says:

    You can always disobey illegal orders.

    You can always report abuses…which is how we are learning about these cases.

    and people are being prosecuted.

    Though these things will happen regardless of memos for or against the techniques – it’s a war. And of course, that is not an excuse and there should be prosecutions.

    Plus some really stiff memos from Washington to all units in the field….

    I’d suggest thinking about this like we think about sexual harrassment. Yes, the company has the training sessions, the sensititivity lessons, the memos, etc. But still, we have a man trying to grabass once in a while…maybe even an office or two infected with bad culture…because it’s human nature.

  23. 23
    JonBuck says:

    TallDave:

    I could snipe at you correcting my grammar error. Instead I’ll ask if you agree or disagree with the substance of what I said.

  24. 24
    DougJ says:

    Why is that Amnesty and others turned a blind eye to Saddam’s torture chambers but now they’re coming down on us like a ton of brick? I’m not saying there haven’t been abuses, but it seems like an abuse is only a big deal when the U.S. does it.

    It seems like Amnesty turned a blind eye to what went on under Clinton as well from Dave’s post. Do they only care about abuse when it happens under a Republican president?

  25. 25
    TallDave says:

    I wasn’t correcting your grammar, I was indicating why I made the argument.

    Someone said there should be Nuremberg trials. I pointed out this doesn’t approach that.

  26. 26
    demimondian says:

    I’m trying so hard to snark about the need for “robust interrogation” and the like. Problem is, I can’t.

    Damn it, it’s my country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right, and when wrong, to be put right. I sympathize with those US soldiers who will be tortured because of this crap, but, at the end of the day, I don’t want to defend the United States by saying “It’s better than Stalin’s Gulags.” I want to defend the United States by saying “Our soldiers don’t do that. We are humane and decent, even to purulent lying human sacks of shit, because all humans deserve humane and decent treatment. Our soldiers detain thugs, and they certainly question them to get information, but they do not torture.”

  27. 27
    Jess says:

    Tall Dave,

    Look at yourself. You’re trying to pass the buck instead of facing up to what is happening here and now and trying to do something about it. I assume from your remarks that you’re a Bush supporter, so instead of soothing your conscience with the comforting news that worse things have happened somewhere else at some other time, why don’t you and your fellow travelers pressure the leaders that you chose and urge them to do better than the villains of the past. And if you are going to delve into the past, make note that these sorts of techniques have not proven useful for the sorts of goals we claim have in Iraq. It is your responsibility as voter to hold your elected officials accountable for stuff like this. I’m trying hard to believe that the right has not entirely lost its moral compass, but attitudes like yours make it downright impossible. You’re losing the moderates on this one, along with many of the saner Republicans.

  28. 28
    TallDave says:

    Actually, to be fair Doug, AI did protest at what Clinton did (although again, I disgree with them).

    But you make a very good point: Saddam did this stuff and far worse as a matter of policy. We’re going to find the people who did this and punish them. That’s how democracy works, and that’s why we’re better. It’d be nice if AI would notice that.

  29. 29
    JonBuck says:

    Aaron:

    One of the issues here is: Are these problems the result of a “few bad eggs”, or are they systemic and go up the chain of command? John here believes that evidence is building that these abuses are systemic.

    Those soldiers who committed the acts can be prosecuted for them. But if they were doing them under orders from higher ups, the captains, majors, and generals (depending on how far up these problems originate) need to be prosecuted also.

    How far does the rot go?

  30. 30
    TallDave says:

    You’re trying to pass the buck

    Pass it to who? I said the people who did this or authorized it should be punished.

  31. 31
    Bruce from Missouri says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever John….

    You act all horrified now, but unless you refuse to pull the lever for the GOP in the next election, it means nothing.

    You guys knew this crap was going on before the last election, and it didn’t stop you from voting yes on Bush, yes on torture in 2004.

    Bruce

  32. 32

    […] I’ve wanted to comment on this Washington Post story for a while today, but haven’t been able to have the time to sit down and write up all my thoughs (indeed, it would’ve become quite a long post by then). I think John Cole does a very nice job of bringing the background in as well, so take a look at his comments from Balloon Juice. […]

  33. 33
    John Cole says:

    Oh piss off, Bruce.

  34. 34
    DougJ says:

    The bottom line is that for the most part we treat our POWs much better than American POWs have been treated in past wars and much, much better than Saddam treated dissidents in his own country.

  35. 35
    TallDave says:

    I totally agree JonBuck.

    I want to say again: the vast majority of our soldiers are serving honorably. Insurgents beg to be taken by our guys instead of the Iraqis, manyg of whom don’t yet have our democracratic traditions and notions of what’s fair treatment.

  36. 36
    demimondian says:

    The bottom line is that for the most part we treat our POWs much better than American POWs have been treated in past wars and much, much better than Saddam treated dissidents in his own country.

    Great. And I should be proud of that why?

    DougJ, you’re a Purulent Sack Of Shit. I’m not sure that you’re a Lying Purulent Sack of Shit, though, so you should take great comfort in being more moral than George Galloway.

  37. 37
    TallDave says:

    Bruce, I’ll be right there with you the minute you can show me Bush told anyone to commit torture.

  38. 38
    Jess says:

    Why is that Amnesty and others turned a blind eye to Saddam’s torture chambers but now they’re coming down on us like a ton of brick?

    You’re entitled to your view, but please do your research before you slam an honorable organization that has dedicated itself to the rights of all human beings, regardless of politics. If you disagree with them, explain why without lying about their record. Otherwise you discredit your own argument.

  39. 39
    ppGaz says:

    I’ll be right there with you the minute you can show me Bush told anyone to commit torture.

    The question is, are we going to have aggressive measures to prevent future ocurrences? That would be helpful.

    I’m wondering, TallDave, how many Clinton references you can squeeze into this thread. Just because, you know, it isn’t relevant to anything here.

  40. 40
    DougJ says:

    Ppgaz, TallDave’s point is that all these sorts of things went on under Clinton and you liberals ignored — or even applauded it — yet when Bush does it you compare it to Nazi Germany. It’s a double standard.

  41. 41
    Bob says:

    The “muddled status” of the POWs…

    And who muddled their status? You guys pulled the lever. Reminds me of that “Twilight Zone” episode where the Devil gives a box with a button. You get a million dollars if you push the button. When you push the button someone dies. Oh, maybe it’s not a tight analogy of what’s happening between here and Iraq. You know, pull a lever, push a button, someone you don’t know dies.

    So we’re all agreed here that supporters of BushCo, especially those who revoted them back in 2004, have a responsibility for the power whores expending our nation’s treasury of wealth and morality to sate their hegemonic, bestial greed. Right?

  42. 42
    John Cole says:

    DOUGJ-

    For chrissakes. I sometimes think Amnesty international has a hard-on for the US and for Israel, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that if the publish abuses by the US and Israel, as we are generally people that hold their government responsible, something is usually done.

    But to claim they don;t pay attention to stuff worldwide is absurd. Indeed, much of the foundation of the case against Hussein as stated by this administration was based on Amnesty International’s works. Google it yourself.

  43. 43
    Mr Furious says:

    Bruce, I’ll be right there with you the minute you can show me Bush told anyone to commit torture.

    I’ll be right there with YOU the minute Bush actually lifts a finger to stop it.

  44. 44
    Sojourner says:

    Bruce, I’ll be right there with you the minute you can show me Bush told anyone to commit torture.

    How about the fact that he refuses to support legislation outlawing torture that was proposed by, among others, John McCain? Sounds like consent to me.

  45. 45
    DougJ says:

    Okay, John, I googled as you asked and you’re right. Still, I feel like they’ve made a MUCH bigger deal of the minor US abuses than they did about the horrible abuses under Saddam, even though they did, as you said, report on the abuses under Saddam to a certain extent.

    It just seems to me that with all the bad things that go on under repressive regimes all over the world, it’s silly of AI to focus on the US as much as they do. There’s no way we treat these prisoners as badly as dissidents were under Saddam or as dissidents in Syria and North Korea are treated. AI should focus on the real rogue nations where the real abuses occur rather than focusing so much energy on the United States, which mostly treats prisoners relatively well.

  46. 46
    John Cole says:

    Because we will do something (usually) when they write reports about us that are accurate. They could write ten thousand reports on Hussein and probably did, but his reaction will be the same- “Piss Off.”

    Not to mention, it is demonstrably easier to interview victims of US abuse and shady detainment policies than it is to interview the dead people Saddam Huseein killed. First, they are alive, second, repressive regimes don’t generally open their doors to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

  47. 47
    Jess says:

    DougJ,
    The reason why so many of us “traitors” focus on abuses by America is because as a country ostensively governed according to the will of the people it is our PATRIOTIC DUTY to hold our elected officials accountable if they screw up. I get the strong impression from your various posts that you don’t actually like America all that much, or maybe you just haven’t thought deeply enough about the political philosophy and the Enlightenment principles upon which our system is founded. I recommend dusting off your Civics 101 books and doing a bit of research and honest thinking about the matter. You might want to consider emigrating to a less democratic country. A free society isn’t to everyone’s tastes.

  48. 48

    Bruce, I’ll be right there with you the minute you can show me Bush told anyone to commit torture.

    Well, a good place to start would be in the chain of command of the 3rd ACR. Surely we can agree that there is, at a minimum, dereliction of duty there, right?

  49. 49
    demimondian says:

    Because we will do something (usually) when they write reports about us that are accurate. They could write ten thousand reports on Hussein and probably did, but his reaction will be the same- “Piss Off.”

    More than that, the process by which we hold our government accountable works by amplifying critical reports. If AI or HRW issues an accurate and condemnatory report about the US, we citizens of the US talk about it. That sure generates a lot of publicity for those reports. Repressive regimes don’t trigger that discussion, so the reports tend to vanish.

    When reporters without borders released a report criticizing Vladimir Putin’s government for its behavior toward the press, it sank like a stone. The far milder criticisms in the same report about press freedom in the States created a firestorm. The appearance was that RWB has been a lot harsher towards the US than it has about Russia, when, in fact, it had been far less harsh.

  50. 50
    ppGaz says:

    TallDave’s point is

    TallDave doesn’t seem like a guy who needs a lawyer, Doug.

    Why don’t we let him speak for himself?

  51. 51
    eileen from OH says:

    Jeebus. How horrific. No excuses. None. Not a “Clinton did this, blah, blah, blah.” Doesn’t work. Clinton ain’t the President NOW and those arguments don’t work except to make those who have supported Bush feel somehow vindicated.

    I feel conflicted (which is a natural Dem position, I’ve been told.)

    A. Any individual human being, with a shred of decency, knows that doing this kind of thing is wrong, wrong, oh-so, wrong. They don’t need to be told this, they don’t need a “policy statement” they don’t need anything except the aforementioned shred of decency.

    B. Any human being, without a shred of decency, would not have done this without some kind of absolution/permission/tacit approval from above. They are the ultimate cover-your-ass people. This did NOT happen in a vacuum.

    If you accept that there are just a whole bunch of “A”s out there, we are in major difficulty with our forces. Logically, there has to be some examination that it just mebbe, might be “B.” And if so, there is a culture of cruelty and tolerated torture that has been propogated by those who use, and abuse, 911, to excuse horrific acts that are indefensible.

    It’s about goddam time we stop blaming the Lyndie Englands and Clinton and gawd-knows-who-else and start looking into the systemic breakdown of common decency which we are supposed to be importing to Iraq and the rest of the middle East. And, if that is the case, we are failing miserably in our mission.

    eileen from OH

  52. 52
    Jess says:

    Well said, Eileen.

  53. 53
    Mike S says:

    I hate threads like this. Half the people trying to defend this in some way and the other half just screaming.

    This is horrendous. Sure, the vast majority of soldiers are acting with honor. But these obviously aren’t isolated instances. The more these stories pop up the more idiotic that argument is. Pratt filed complaints and they were ignored. How many more complaints are being ignored or just not filed?

    This isn’t American, or at least the ideal of American. Stop comparing it to other barbaric a-holes and saying “at least we aren’t that bad.” The ideals of America are that we are supposed to be better. Period. Every time some jackass makes that excuse, defends it or praises it like the lowlifes on talk radio or racist blogs, the soul of America gets that much more tainted.

    This shit is happening in our name. It is defiling our names and the countless honorable men in uniform. Every person I know that was or is in the military is better than this. Each one of them is tainted by this.

    Stop defending it or excusing it. Demand an absolute end to it and a full accounting of who is responsible, from the top down.

    John served n uniform. Take into account what he says. You may not agree with most of what he thinks but you can’t deny he has some honor. This is not a Rep/Dem issue. This is an American issue that affects each and every one of us.

  54. 54

    When Homicidal Interrogations Are Thought To Be Employing Authorized, Geneva Compliant Techniques

    A must-read by Josh White in the WaPo. When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the…

  55. 55
    Kimmitt says:

    This isn’t American, or at least the ideal of American.

    What this thread shows is that the very idea that torturing people is un-American is under debate. There are two visions of America now, and, well, the one in which we torture innocent people is the one that’s winning.

  56. 56
    ARROW says:

    What went wrong? The U.S. committed ground troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to accomplish strategic objectives, and because these soldiers are not all as perfect and thoughtful as we are, some of them have behaved in a manner which we find offensive. Some of these offending soldiers are even officers. Gasp…how can this be?

    Please forgive the snide remarks, but you seem to be saying that as more and more alleged instances of abuse are reported, it is more and more proof of a policy. I just don’t agree. The alleged beating death of the “detainee” occurred in late 2003. Even if true, I doubt this type of behavior is widespread today. Look at what passes as torture at Gitmo… loud music and temperature extremes for someone chained to a floor.

    That is not to say that the instances cited in your blog did not occur. These types of “poor” behaviors come with war, period. It happened in World War II, it happened in Viet Nam, and I would venture to guess that it happened in every war (of any duration) that this country has been in. There is no way the military can screen out every soldier that will engage in these types of behaviors. You train soldiers to KILL the enemy, and then you get concerned when they kick or punch a prisoner. The fact that some of these soldiers are officers should surprise nobody. It is a risk inherent in the types of situations that the military places soldiers in. And there is only one way to eliminate all the problems of this nature — do not go to war.

  57. 57
    Rick Moran says:

    The detention of the Yemenis doesn’t bother me 1/10 as much as the interrogation techniques and as you so brilliantly analyzed, the culture that has grown up around “approved” techniques, and high level violations of even basic Geneva Convention rights.

    This whole rotten to the core system has got to come down – along with the most senior of officers that have allowed it to fester in the first place.

    I want trials. I want investigations. I want justice.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    Bob says:

    Mr. Furious, I think that the first report of the connection between Bush and torture was when he was president of his fraternity at Yale by branding initiates on the ass with a heated clothes hanger. I believe that was 1967, in the New York Times, but Dubya was only identified by his position as president and brander.

  60. 60
    Stormy70 says:

    One of the issues here is: Are these problems the result of a “few bad eggs”, or are they systemic and go up the chain of command? John here believes that evidence is building that these abuses are systemic.

    I think John thought this all along, seeing how he jumped on the FBI report that turned out to be bogus. John and I have had our debates on the difference between abuse and outright torture. I don’t excuse physical torture, period. The culprits are on trial, and I’ve yet to see evidence that this is a stated policy. However, there are quite a few Americans who want the hammer to fall, and could care less about the treatment of detainees. My libertarian friends, who lean left, by the way, want us to torture the hell out of them. Which is weird, since torture is not an effective technique for interrogation.

  61. 61
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Because torture is vengeful, and people want vengence and not justice, which is why law and punishment is meted out by the state, by supposedly an impartial 3rd party, and not the party wronged, so that the punishment is considered fair and just, and not a tale of vengeance for the pain suffered.

  62. 62
    Sojourner says:

    I don’t excuse physical torture, period.

    You just refuse to admit that it is happening.

  63. 63
    Defense Guy says:

    What this thread shows is that the very idea that torturing people is un-American is under debate. There are two visions of America now, and, well, the one in which we torture innocent people is the one that’s winning.

    Yes on the first part, sort of, and a big no on the second. Innocent people? You could at least be honest about those on the shitty end of the stick here, they are not saints. It actually hurts your argument, because it makes you seem blind or uber-partisan.

    In the interest of talking about the entire story, I would like to point out that much of this story comes from the lips of one guy. It may well be true, in part or in whole, but the fact that it’s only one guy making these claims gives me pause.

  64. 64
    Bruce from Missouri says:

    Oh, give me an effing break, TallDave. If you don’t believe this goes to the top, you aren’t living in the real world.

    John:
    Unless you refuse to vote for them next time around, you are just as useless as Lincoln Chafee or Olympia Snowe. Just another Republican who provides cover for the fringe element of the party by being the guy people can point to, and say “Well he seems to be sane, he will help keep their extreme impulses in check”. But when push comes to shove, they do what they are told.

    You can tell me to piss off all you want, but unless you punish them at the ballot box, all your pissing and moaning at what the Republicans are doing means less than nothing. It’s not like they started doing it after the elections. We all knew what was going on.

    And with that knowledge 51 percent of the country voted “Torture, F*** yeah!”

    When they write our history, the Bush era will be marked as the beginning of the end of the greatness that was America.

    Bruce

  65. 65
    John Cole says:

    Stoprmy70- No, I thought it was just a few bad actors at first. And I don’t think we have a policy that says we put people in sleeping bags and beat them to death.

    But I do think loose guidelines + a sense of anything goes + a willingness to make things go away + muddled legal status = the status quo.

  66. 66
    Defense Guy says:

    Bruce

    I second the chorus to tell you to piss off. The fact that someone votes a particular way has no bearing on this issue, as we don’t elect our military.

  67. 67
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Perfectly said.

    My only question is why your fellow Republicans disagree with you.

  68. 68
    Sojourner says:

    Yes on the first part, sort of, and a big no on the second. Innocent people? You could at least be honest about those on the shitty end of the stick here, they are not saints.

    The reality is we don’t know the status of these individuals. We do know that in Abu Ghrabi, at least one innocent man died in custody of unnatural causes. Until hearings are held, the status of these folks is unknown.

    To assume that they’re all guilty is clearly wrong.

    And for those who clearly are guilty, torturing them hinders the ability to get good information from them. It’s stupid, short-sighted, and cruel for no reason at all.

  69. 69
    DougJ says:

    “What this thread shows is that the very idea that torturing people is un-American is under debate.”

    Torturing people for no reason IS un-American. Torturing terrorists to get information that could save us from being attacked is not. I’m not condoning everything that was alleged in that Guardian story — that went too far — but I’m comfortable with the “torture lite” that went on at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. And you’ll find that most polls show that most Americans agree with me on this.

  70. 70
    Defense Guy says:

    Sojourner

    I was limiting my comments only to the case at hand. It seems fair to give this case the individual attention it deserves in addition to seeing how it fits into the larger picture. Do you think that I am wrong in assuming that a general in Saddam’s army could fairly be portrayed as not a good guy?

  71. 71
    capelza says:

    Defense guy…a general in Saddam’s (defeated)army that, of his own accord, walks into a U.S. installation, is somehow different to me than someone captured in a battle against our forces.

  72. 72
    Bruce from Missouri says:

    Defense Guy Says:

    Bruce

    I second the chorus to tell you to piss off. The fact that someone votes a particular way has no bearing on this issue, as we don’t elect our military.
    ***********

    Don’t be silly. We elect our Commander-In-Chief. He appoints the Secretary of Defense, who has oversight over our entire military leadership.

    The problem here is the difference between Republicans and Democrats: If Bush got caught butt-raping a Boy Scout on live TV on the National Mall, he would have still gotten 35-40 percent of the vote. A democrat Candidate does that, he only gets 10% of the vote. We hold our guys accountable…at least more than you guys do. This torture thing is no different than my admittedly extreme example. It’s just a matter of degree. Until you punish your people at the ballot box, anything you say means nothing.

    For that matter it would help if you stopped turning Republican criminals and drug addicts into millionaires (North, Colson, Liddy, Limbaugh)

    Bruce

  73. 73
    Guy says:

    John C wrote:
    But I do think loose guidelines + a sense of anything goes + a willingness to make things go away + muddled legal status = the status quo.

    I think this comment by John pretty much summarizes the problem.

  74. 74
    Defense Guy says:

    The problem here is the difference between Republicans and

    Democrats: If Bush got caught butt-raping a Boy Scout on live TV on the National Mall, he would have still gotten 35-40 percent of the vote. A democrat Candidate does that, he only gets 10% of the vote. We hold our guys accountable…at least more than you guys do. This torture thing is no different than my admittedly extreme example. It’s just a matter of degree. Until you punish your people at the ballot box, anything you say means nothing.

    The only thing worth saying to this is bullshit. You are so invested in a left vs. right argument that you are just spewing provably false statements. Your hate is showing.

  75. 75
    Defense Guy says:

    Defense guy…a general in Saddam’s (defeated)army that, of his own accord, walks into a U.S. installation, is somehow different to me than someone captured in a battle against our forces.

    His voluntary surrender bears no weight on whether he was a good moral man or not, I suspect you know this. Just remember my point is that it is unfair to characterize this guy as an innocent, so don’t try to expand the issue beyond that.

  76. 76
    Jimmy Jazz says:

    I’m comfortable with the “torture lite” that went on at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. And you’ll find that most polls show that most Americans agree with me on this.

    Fine, let the Pentagon release all the pictures and videos in its possession and let’s broadcast them on every media outlet. We’ll see what the American people are “comfortable” with.

  77. 77
    Sojourner says:

    I was limiting my comments only to the case at hand. It seems fair to give this case the individual attention it deserves in addition to seeing how it fits into the larger picture. Do you think that I am wrong in assuming that a general in Saddam’s army could fairly be portrayed as not a good guy?

    I don’t consider Saddam’s army to be an acceptable standard against which to compare the U.S. My standards are higher than yours.

  78. 78
    Defense Guy says:

    I don’t consider Saddam’s army to be an acceptable standard against which to compare the U.S. My standards are higher than yours.

    Your attempt at diversion will not hide the fact that the question still stands. Only a dishonest reading of my posts can even bring you to respond in this fashion, as I was in no way comparing Saddams army to our own. My point is the same, characterizing a general in Saddams army as an innocent is a lie.

  79. 79
    Anderson says:

    So now some of you think that torture is okay if the person “isn’t innocent”?

    Torture is wrong, period. That’s why it’s called “torture.” Decent people know this.

    The canard about Bush is hilarious. Do you people realize you’ve just exonerated Hitler from any responsibility for the Holocaust, because there’s no “kill the Jews” order over his signature?

    Even if Bush weren’t aware of the consequences at first (which I doubt), if he were decent, he would’ve come down like hell after the reports of our tortures and murders came out, and he would’ve made it clear that ANY officer who tolerated such conduct would have his ass handed to him.

    Needless to say, Bush did no such thing. He sucks. He’s not fit to sweep the streets. End of story.

    Argue all you want how great torturing people is, and how the White House’s own efforts to legalize torture somehow had no relation to our torturing people in the field, and all you’ll do is demonstrate that you’re stupid, or wicked, or quite possibly both.

  80. 80
    neil says:

    You are so invested in a left vs. right argument that you are just spewing provably false statements.

    PROVABLY false?

    Where’s the video tape, Mr. Guy?

  81. 81
    Anderson says:

    Knight-Ridder’s Joseph Galloway:

    WASHINGTON – There is a quiet struggle going on in the nation’s capital, and the stakes are the very soul of the Republican Party and this administration.

    Three senior Republican senators wrote a small amendment into the Defense Appropriations bill this summer that outlaws cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of all detainees in American custody.

    No one can call Sens. John Warner, R-Va., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., soft on anything, much less terrorism. They constitute the Republican leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee. All three have worn the uniform of our country. One, John McCain, spent long years in the hands of America’s enemies as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.

    The Bush White House is doing all that it can to stop this legislation from passing. Vice President Dick Cheney took the three senators to the wood shed and told them that their law would tie President Bush’s hands in the war against terrorism. His bombast carried no weight with the three senators.

    On the floor of the Senate, before everyone left on vacation, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., sounded the administration line: There is no need for this legislation because we are not dealing with prisoners of war but “terrorists.”

    John McCain stood up and responded that the debate was not “about who they are. It’s about who we are.” We are Americans, the senator said, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard than those who slaughter the innocent in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in London or on 9/11 here at home.

    This debate has a special resonance as investigation after investigation into the outrages against prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and others into the mistreatment of detainees held in American custody at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, continue to focus all blame at the lowest possible level. This in spite of new testimony that strongly suggests that the blame, like cream, settles much nearer the top.

    McCain, by not having his head up his ass 90% of the time, stands forth as one of our best senators. It’s a low standard to meet, admittedly, but let’s be grateful for what we’ve got.

  82. 82
    gratefulcub says:

    If you are president, or the Sec of Defense, and you want this war prosecuted without torture, you can make that happen. You can talk to your top generals and make sure that the doctrine of humane treatment is passed down throughout the military. Then when abuse does happen, it really is a bad apple and they should be prosecuted.

    The Lyndie England’s of the world are spending years in prison for committing acts that pale in comparison to many others, because it was on film. More pictures and videos are being held by our government, even after they received a court order to release them. From all indications from people that have seen them, they may change the minds of the 51% that are ‘comfortable’ with our abuses.

    The president is trying to block an ammendment that simply wants to outlaw torture. I don’t know how much more evidence of this administrations willingness to accept torture is needed. I am sure someone will explain it to me within the hour.

    I have seen many people here defending torture against the Rep Guard general in this story, because he was a bad guy and war is tough business. I assume he was a pretty bad guy, that is how you rise to general of the Rep Guard. But, he wasn’t a terrorist. He was a soldier in a country that we invaded. If it is acceptable to torture him for being a bad guy, then by that logic, it is justifiable to torture any soldier of any army that we fight. Hence, torture by america during war, in violation of the Geneva convention which we signed, is acceptable.

    Lastly, to think that this isn’t systematic is absurd. This is one report, and it took a brave soldier filing multiple complaints to superiors, and eventually filing more after he returned. It was hard for the story to get out even with a whistleblower blowing hard. Interrogations go on in secret, with few witnesses. Most of the people around are on board with whatever is going on. To think that all, or most, or even a good percentage of the abuse has been reported, is absurd. It’s like roaches, if you see one, there are hundreds more out of view. There aren’t that many bad apples in our military. it is an institution that takes pride in what they do. I am not saying that Bush is to blame and that we should start impeachment hearings. i am saying that this was not a few bad apples and we need to find out what happened, why did these soldiers think they were using approved techniques? Maybe congress can take time out of their busy schedule investigating steroids and running for president two and a half years before a primary…..and maybe, just maybe, do their GD job.

  83. 83
    Defense Guy says:

    So now some of you think that torture is okay if the person “isn’t innocent”?

    Torture is wrong, period. That’s why it’s called “torture.” Decent people know this.

    And where exactly do you get the idea that I ever said that. I won’t let you put words in my mouth, even though you have no other way to argue but to do so. You are dishonest and it shows. Decent people know this.

  84. 84
    capelza says:

    Defense guy…a general in Saddam’s (defeated)army that, of his own accord, walks into a U.S. installation, is somehow different to me than someone captured in a battle against our forces.

    His voluntary surrender bears no weight on whether he was a good moral man or not, I suspect you know this. Just remember my point is that it is unfair to characterize this guy as an innocent, so don’t try to expand the issue beyond that.

    Good lord, I wasn’t even referring to his morality or not. Or his “surrender”. Are you somehow thinking that if you can decide if he was a moral man or not makes it more acceptable what happened to him?

    I’m talking about the incredible thing that the guy went to the U.S. of his own free will and we beat him to death. And then tried to cover it up. This guy was not a “terrorist”, you know the ones that are considered beyond the pale of the Geneva Conventions. He was a soldier.

    I have to wonder how many other soldiers who might have considered “walking in” decided that that would be a very bad idea after what happened to him. I wonder how many of them are now working with the insurgency. Not to mention all the good-will and lost intelligence, because we “took the gloves off” and in the chain of command, somewhere, behaving like animals became an accepted interrogation technique…

    I have watched people dance around the subject of torture, offering all kinds of moral relativism and “they are worse than us” and “they deserved it”, yada,yada, yada…are we suppossed to be bringing democracy and decency, yeah, that , decency, to Iraq…well so much for that “shining city on the hill” thing…

    The moral contortions I am watching folks who excuse torture, including this admin, obviously, by their refusal to allow codifying treatment of prisoners (why, if it is like a tropical vacation at Gitmo) or oversight, is mind-boggling. “We don’t torture, no way, that’s a lie… but we don’t want any laws that won’t allow it either”????

  85. 85
    Defense Guy says:

    Just remember my point is that it is unfair to characterize this guy as an innocent, so don’t try to expand the issue beyond that.

    These words just don’t register do they? Not one of you has yet been honest enough to limit the comments to mine to the actual subject I was disputing. Pathetic. No wonder you guys can’t get someone elected.

  86. 86
    Anderson says:

    Defense Guy, if it’s irrelevant whether the guy’s innocent, then why are you bringing it up? It doesn’t matter.

    If I overspoke on that particular issue, mea culpa. Nevertheless, I am sick to death of seeing the fact that the American government clearly has chosen to tolerate torture—don’t even waste breath denying it, y’all—occulted by quibbles.

    We are becoming an evil nation, and quite a few people don’t seem to give a damn. If you DO give a damn, then maybe you should say so, instead of wasting time quibbling over irrelevancies.

  87. 87
    capelza says:

    Just remember my point is that it is unfair to characterize this guy as an innocent, so don’t try to expand the issue beyond that.

    These words just don’t register do they? Not one of you has yet been honest enough to limit the comments to mine to the actual subject I was disputing. Pathetic. No wonder you guys can’t get someone elected.

    Oh phooey…so tell me, what was he accused of? Convicted of what?

    Really, it isn’t dishonest to ignore your command to limit the comments to a response whether the guy was innocent or not. Not quite a strawman, but really…quite the deflection from the general topic. Wanting to get bogged down in whether the man beaten to death was innocent or not is the truly dishonest thing…

  88. 88
    Defense Guy says:

    I should have know better to even try. Fine, go on and think that the characterization of this general as an innocent is acceptable. It doesn’t surprise me.

  89. 89
    gratefulcub says:

    Defense Guy,
    What does it matter if he was an ‘innocent’ or not? I am not attacking in any way, I am honestly asking a question. I know that your original comment was in response to someone saying that we ‘tortured innocents’, but I am wondering if it matters to you if he was an innocent or not. I am not even sure what we mean here by ‘innocent’. He was a general in the Rep Guard, he couldn’t have been ethically and morally innocent to have acheived that position.

  90. 90
    gratefulcub says:

    if we torture people in a war zone, in which our men and women don’t speak the language, understand the culture, etc, we will most definitely torture innocent people. Not this general, but other innocent people.

  91. 91
    cdj says:

    Wow. So many people who are so comfortable with torture. So sad. America no longer even *tries* to be better than the rest.

    btw – I’m with you Bruce – gw voters should either apologize for their pro-torture voting patterns, or else not complain about the torture.

  92. 92
    Stormy70 says:

    We are becoming an evil nation

    I hope that is the platfrom you will be running on in 2006.

  93. 93
    Defense Guy says:

    I am against torture. I am not against coercive tactics being used to elicit information in a warzone. I admit that it is sometimes hard to differentiate between the two and that some have an actual agenda to try to make it even more confusing.

    I think it is a bad thing that this man was beaten to death in this manner. If he was an uniformed member of a recognizable army then he deserved full geneva protections upon his capture or surrender. I appreciate gratefulcub and others finally getting the part I took issue with.

  94. 94
    Kimmitt says:

    Defense Guy — when I refer to “innocent,” I am of course referring to the children we apparently sodomize. I can only assume that at least a few of them are not yet hardened terrorists.

  95. 95
    gratefulcub says:

    Defense guy,
    I think you hit on the difference of opinion, once all the rhetoric and partisanship is removed from the thread.

    some have an actual agenda to try to make it even more confusing

    That is our problem with GW. We believe he wants to confuse the issue so that torture can continue. We believe that he compounded the problem by equating Iraq with 9/11 and the insurgency with terrorists. Then told them to ‘take the gloves off.’ At that point you have a military that at least subconsciously sees all the insurgents as part of a terrorist network that is related to 9/11. Then they are given free reign and told to produce results. Sleeping bag tactics are a predictable result of that environment.

    If he was an uniformed member of a recognizable army then he deserved full geneva protections

    I don’t care if he was in uniform or if he had a bomb filled vest on. Not torturing has nothing to do with who we are questioning, it has everything to do with who is doing the questioning. I don’t even care if it is productive or not. We must maintain our moral superiority, and not by ‘not being as bad as the other guy’, but by holding ourselves to a high standard that we set by deciding what is right and what is wrong.

    I don’t actually think bush make a concious decision to use torture. I think he fostered an environment that made torture a predictable outcome. For that I hold him accountable. And no one has yet given an acceptable answer as to why he is fighting legislation that would make torture illegal.

  96. 96
    WyldPirate says:

    Arrow sez:

    “Please forgive the snide remarks, but you seem to be saying that as more and more alleged instances of abuse are reported, it is more and more proof of a policy. I just don’t agree. The alleged beating death of the “detainee” occurred in late 2003.”

    Hmmm… I suppose the fact that the current chief law enforcement officer and former White House counsel penned his little missive about the provisions of the Geneva Conventions being “quaint” had nothing to do with this.

    ANd I suppose the fact that this torture followed Maj. gen. Geoffry Miller from Gitmo to Iraq had nothing to do with it either.

    At least the old adage from my Army days is still in effect–“shit rolls downhill”. In this guess, the Commander in Chief seems to have set the policies that have been carried out by his chain of command yet the toothless reservists from West Virginia–lower ranking enlisted folks–pay.

    same as it ever was….

  97. 97
    Jess says:

    Fine, go on and think that the characterization of this general as an innocent is acceptable.

    The first time you brought this up, you were defining innocent in absolute terms, i.e. not a saint. That is not the issue. The point was that he, and many other prisoners that were tortured (and in some cases killed), were not terrorists. Furthermore, even if you believe that torturing terrorists could possibly be justified in moral terms, what practical good could possibly come out of such behavior? It’s well known in intelligence circles that torture does not produce useful information, and in a situation like this it radically undermines what we claim we are trying to accomplish in Iraq. It’s not only evil, but stupid and short-sighted, as evil behavior so often is.

  98. 98
    gratefulcub says:

    And you may ask yourself
    Am I right? …am I wrong?
    And you may tell yourself
    My god!…what have I done?

    Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
    Into the blue again/in the silent water
    Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

    Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…same as it ever was…
    Same as it ever was…same as it ever was…

  99. 99
    Mike S says:

    My point is the same, characterizing a general in Saddams army as an innocent is a lie.

    Innocent? No. But a POW who should have fallen within the Geneva Conventions which are supposed to be in full effect in Iraq according to Bush and Rumsfeld.

    But let’s look at your first comment in this thread.

    Yes on the first part, sort of, and a big no on the second. Innocent people? You could at least be honest about those on the shitty end of the stick here, they are not saints. It actually hurts your argument, because it makes you seem blind or uber-partisan.

    In the interest of talking about the entire story, I would like to point out that much of this story comes from the lips of one guy. It may well be true, in part or in whole, but the fact that it’s only one guy making these claims gives me pause.

    First, I don’t see how demanding that any of our prisoners should not be treated this way, let alone a POW who surrendered, should be labeled “uber-partisan.” I’d submit that the people who are being “uber-partisan” are those who are not outraged. As I said in my first comment, this is not a rep/dem issue, it’s an American issue.

    Then you go way off the track in your second graf. Maybe if we looked at this story in a vacume, where it was the only thing that has ever been reported, I’d give it some credence. But it hasn’t and there have been plenty of other stories in the same vein. Not to mention pictures we have seen and a whole group that we have not. A group Sen. Lindsey Graham has described as showing rape and murder.

  100. 100
    Jess says:

    I am against torture. I am not against coercive tactics being used to elicit information in a warzone. I admit that it is sometimes hard to differentiate between the two and that some have an actual agenda to try to make it even more confusing.

    I think it is a bad thing that this man was beaten to death in this manner. If he was an uniformed member of a recognizable army then he deserved full geneva protections upon his capture or surrender. I appreciate gratefulcub and others finally getting the part I took issue with.

    Defense Guy,
    You posted this while I was posting my first reply, and after reading this, I retract much of what I said to you, or at least the tone of what I said to you, although it seems that many of your fellow travelers still need to wise up about this issue. I’m glad most of us are finding some common moral ground on this at last.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I would be willing to put aside the blame game if we could start talking about how to move forward to a better place on this issue, and on the Iraq war in general. We’re in it now, and we have to find a way to leave things in better shape than we found them. Although it may be too late now.

  101. 101

    John, I’ve now had two posts deleted. Any special reason? Or is it just a malfunction in comments?

  102. 102
    Defense Guy says:

    Then you go way off the track in your second graf. Maybe if we looked at this story in a vacume, where it was the only thing that has ever been reported, I’d give it some credence. But it hasn’t and there have been plenty of other stories in the same vein. Not to mention pictures we have seen and a whole group that we have not. A group Sen. Lindsey Graham has described as showing rape and murder.

    I don’t want you to think that I don’t get where you are coming from, because I do. I would only ask that if this argument was used against you personaly as evidence that what you are accused of is more likely, how would you react? This is why we often don’t allow evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted into evidence in legal procedings. In other words, the fact that other bad stuff happened is not in and of itself proof that this did too.

  103. 103
    Mike S says:

    Point taken. But whether we choose to use “prior bad acts” in making decisions on whether a story is true or false or not they are typically fairly accurate. And I have more reason to believe Pratt because of the fact that he not only reported this to his superiors but also reported it after getting out of that unit and Iraq.

  104. 104
    dano347 says:

    Defense Guy Says:

    “His voluntary surrender bears no weight on whether he was a good moral man or not, I suspect you know this. Just remember my point is that it is unfair to characterize this guy as an innocent, so don’t try to expand the issue beyond that.”

    And why not “expand the issue?”
    Is it because your argument falls apart when expanded “beyond the issue”? This is an extremely weak attempt at exorcising republican feelings of guilt at being caught on the wrong side of historical precedent. So soon are the lessons of WW2 forgotten. Were there instances in which the “greatest generation” could have gotten crucial information by torturing Nazi prisoners? You bet. But somehow THEY were able to do their jobs without resorting to torture. Perhaps that is one reason they are remembered as “the greatest generation”.

  105. 105
    John Cole says:

    Slaritbartfast- I have deleted nothing. Maybe you ae saying someting the spam filter picked up.

  106. 106
    dano347 says:

    And defense guy leaves out an important fact about being chained to the floor naked in extreme heat or cold; IT’S A LOT MORE UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN YOU’RE LYING IN YOUR OWN WASTE!

    And that’s why wingers like defense guy aren’t credible – they can’t resist “fox”ing up the story to protect their embattled tribe.

  107. 107
    dano347 says:

    And appologies to defense guy: I pasted the wrong post. Mea Culpa!

  108. 108
    Detlef says:

    From what I´ve read all or most of these torture/abuse cases happened in the second half of 2003. Or at least the cases which were published in the media till now?
    (I´m a German so I might have missed some media reports.)

    The worrying thing though is that it didn´t happen in one location/one region or in one unit only. It looks like things like that happened in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And in different locations in both countries involving different units. That might, just might be a first indication that it´s not “only a few bad apples”.
    Although it´s still possible of course. It´s still a tiny percentage.

    The thing I find hard to believe though that in all of the cases known publicly today, somehow nobody up in the command chain knew anything. Since only some NCOs and Privates are getting prosecuted, charged or investigated.
    I mean if an officer knew about it and did nothing he/she should face charges too, right?

    I was a NCO in the German army and I find that difficult to believe. Just a few bad apples and no rumours, not talks over a beer, nothing? No hints that something is going on to other NCOs or officers?
    Really difficult to believe!

    John seems to be right here.
    “But I do think loose guidelines + a sense of anything goes + a willingness to make things go away + muddled legal status = the status quo.”

    And if he´s right, then it shouldn´t be only a few NCOs and Privates held over the fire now. Officers – regardless of their rank – who looked away, disregarded complaints should face charges too. Just like the officers who gave intelligence guys “free reign with prisoners and junior level enlisted men”.

  109. 109
    dano347 says:

    Actually referred to tall dave.[rends clothing, scourges arm]

  110. 110
    Jess says:

    This is why we often don’t allow evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted into evidence in legal procedings. In other words, the fact that other bad stuff happened is not in and of itself proof that this did too.

    Okay, DG, I have to pounce on you again. While this protocal may be appropriate during an actual trial, it is not how we run official investigations or, on a more mundane level, try to figure out how to blunder our way through the world. Recognizing patterns of behavior is one of the most useful items in our cognitive toolbox. It’s what successful people do on a regular basis, and what what less successful people fail to do on a regular basis. Trial procedings, on the other hand, are highly artificial and very unlike how we normally make sense of the world. Trying to figure out what our government is doing is not the same thing as putting it on trial, even though it may look that way at times.

  111. 111
    Anderson says:

    Stormy 70 says:

    I hope that is the platfrom you will be running on in 2006.

    Politics 1, morality 0. A helpful example of America’s moral decline. Thanks.

    Defense Guy says:

    This is why we often don’t allow evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted into evidence in legal procedings. In other words, the fact that other bad stuff happened is not in and of itself proof that this did too.

    Right, but the obvious counterexample is proving a pattern and practice, which is the case here. We allow pattern & practice evidence in employment discrimination suits, for ex, because it’s rare nowadays for employers to write memos on how to run off the black folk, keep the women in their place, etc. (By comparison, the memos we’ve seen in our “case” have been smoking guns.)

    Apologies as needed for my impatience on this subject. It is just Too Fucking Surreal that (1) my country, America the Beautiful, which I truly believe to be one of the greatest nations in history, is run by thugs who promote or tolerate torture, and (2) the so-called conservatives who should be *leading the fight* against torture (aren’t we Dems supposed to be the squishy relativists? hello?), are sitting on their hands when not actually applauding.

    We beat Hitler and Hirohito without torture. We can certainly whip al-Qaeda and its nasty little friends. Too bad Bush et al. have so little faith in the American way.

  112. 112
    Defense Guy says:

    We beat Hitler and Hirohito without torture.

    Don’t believe it, it most certainly isn’t true. The country you live in today is not the same country as existed in WW2, which wasn’t the country it was under Lincoln.

    The only saving grace you can use once you realize this is that ultimately in those situations, the non-evil side won. Let us ensure it is this time as well, preferably without torture.

  113. 113
    Defense Guy says:

    Jess

    If these allegations are true, then in the interest of justice we can hope that others who witnessed this, as this soldier did not go through the war alone, will be willing to verify these allegations truthfully. If not, then we can hope that others will be truthful in their refutations of his claims.

  114. 114
    Anderson says:

    Anderson:

    We beat Hitler and Hirohito without torture.

    Defense Guy:

    Don’t believe it, it most certainly isn’t true.

    Since you are a “defense guy,” you have citations? Of course, I wasn’t talking about isolated instances by “bad apples”; I was talking about the executive branch’s direct assertion of the power to torture prisoners, or the military’s open endorsement of same.

  115. 115
    rilkefan says:

    Might as well link to my take in verse.

  116. 116
    Stormy70 says:

    Politics 1, morality 0. A helpful example of America’s moral decline. Thanks.

    Oh, no moral decline in calling the whole country evil because there are a few bad apples, who are being tried for their crimes. It’s like accusing an entire race for the actions of a few. I don’t think this country is evil, quite the contrary, and physical torture is not the policy of our government.

  117. 117

    Thanks, John. I was wondering if I’d done something to really, REALLY annoy you, and then missed the response.

  118. 118
    getupstandup says:

    Stormy7O’s most recent comment conjurs an image of the hear no evil-see no evil-speak no evil monkeys. Stormy still believes these incidents are the result of a “few bad apples”. The insurgency is in it’s last throws too. That WMD’s gotta be around her someplace. Them Iraqi’s are gonna love us. Saddam was fixin to give his good buddy Osama a nuke to blow us up. Go git your plastic and duck tape – hurry, I’ll time you!
    I hope that someday soon after you devour another heaping, steaming, stinking plateful they’ve served you you’ll ask “what is this stuff?”

  119. 119
    Stormy70 says:

    Stormy7O’s most recent comment conjurs an image of the hear no evil-see no evil-speak no evil monkeys. Stormy still believes these incidents are the result of a “few bad apples”. The insurgency is in it’s last throws too. That WMD’s gotta be around her someplace. Them Iraqi’s are gonna love us. Saddam was fixin to give his good buddy Osama a nuke to blow us up. Go git your plastic and duck tape – hurry, I’ll time you!

    There you go again. LOL

    No, I’m just not into blanket condemnations for the entire country when it is the fault of the actual persons doing the torturing. I never cared for the WMD argument, thought going to the UN was stupid, never thought it would be a cakewalk, and I don’t need plastic or ducktape, because I’m not frightened at all. I would have told the UN to kiss off, they had their chance, but they blew it. US is responisible for it’s own safety, and no other country should have any say in the matter. I would have closed bases in Western Europe and moved them East (which we are slowly doing). It’s not our job to defend Europe while they waste all their money on their unsustainable social policies.

    I wanted the war in Iraq to send the message that America does not play the bitch for Saddam’s refusal to comply with his cease fire agreements. I wanted the Arab/Muslim world to realize the anklebiting from terrorist supporting regimes was over. The toppling of Saddam has already had good repercussions, and I am focusing on the longterm strategy of the War on Terror. Not the myopic view of the stupidest press in the world, or hystrical Democrats.

  120. 120
    Stormy70 says:

    responsible – dang me!

  121. 121
    boing says:

    Here is Amnesty International’s report from 1996 on how rotten Saddam was, particularly in response to sanctions.

    I can’t help but feel that the denial of what is apparently a clear trail of legal position papers from Gonzales and others, a policy statement presentedy by Bush and his cabinet, and the constant propaganda push by the GOP’s public information ministry (the not-fighting drunk Irishmen of Fox news, CNN, and NBC with the junkies on the radio) is a mental problem on the part of those on the right who find the taste of authoritarian government suddenly bitter.
    I suggest you look at the articles in the Guardian about people being held in “ghost jails” being tortured for years including monthly sessions with American uniformed and non-uniformed persons cutting their penises with razor blades until one individuals genitals were infected chronically. He was finally found to be the wrong guy.
    When it happens to your neighbors, co-workers, and family, what will you do? How will you feel about what you thought was good, right, and just in this administration? How would you expect the world to feel about our nation when more of this kind of thing is shown to have happened? When John Walker Lind finally writes his book describing torture, genocide, and abuse in Afghanistan (why he got off light)?

  122. 122

    […] Of course, the prosecutor is right- that isn’t how professional soldiers act. But as has been proven (conclusively, in my mind), the intentional fuzzying of the lines and the spread of ‘get tough’ tactics authorized by those in senior positions within this administration led to the problems we have suffered in the past few years regarding abuse: […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Of course, the prosecutor is right- that isn’t how professional soldiers act. But as has been proven (conclusively, in my mind), the intentional fuzzying of the lines and the spread of ‘get tough’ tactics authorized by those in senior positions within this administration led to the problems we have suffered in the past few years regarding abuse: […]

  2. When Homicidal Interrogations Are Thought To Be Employing Authorized, Geneva Compliant Techniques

    A must-read by Josh White in the WaPo. When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the…

  3. […] I’ve wanted to comment on this Washington Post story for a while today, but haven’t been able to have the time to sit down and write up all my thoughs (indeed, it would’ve become quite a long post by then). I think John Cole does a very nice job of bringing the background in as well, so take a look at his comments from Balloon Juice. […]

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