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May 3, 2004

The rot. So much has been written about Abu Ghraib. Not by me. I doubt my reactions are much different from most of yours. Sick. Angry. Sad. Surprised. Not surprised. Surprised.

I will say that if you buy the “just a few bad apples” line, you haven’t been paying attention. Rivka has a few words about that. So does Seymour Hersh.

For don’t-miss weblog coverage, be sure to read Rivka, as well as Jim Henley and Billmon, all three of whom have been on fire for days. Kathryn Cramer also continues to be good on the shadowy business of “contract employees.”

Oh, and of course Juan Cole continues to make the case for actually knowing something about the Middle East, almost as if they had history and stuff over there. Yeah, I know, aren’t experts annoying? Who cares what they think.

Nathan Newman, another smart person, reminds us of the stakes at home:

The Bush administration wants not only the prisoners at Guantanamo but even American citizens they deem “enemy combatants” to be exempt from all judicial review of the conditions under which they are contained.

So who would then decide what conditions are acceptable? Military intelligence officers doing their interrogations.

And it is military intelligence officers who are accused of directing the torture of prisoners in Iraq.

In other words, This Could Be Your Next Vacation.

Oh, all right, one Jim Henley quote. Take it away:

The “right wing” critique of the sort of interventionism that has led to the current state of the Iraq war was always simply that it is incompatible with republican virtue. That case has been well and truly proved by events. We ship people to foreign countries to be tortured based on evidence extracted by torture in the first place. We torture foreigners in their own land, then carefully circumscribe the attribution of responsibility. We lock American citizens detained in the US away without counsel and maintain they should have no right to appeal or review. We excuse ourselves by saying we’re not as bad as some departed despot.

We used to have more pride than that, and it was justified. I want it back.

Last word to Ken MacLeod:
Something within you has become harder and colder this week. You’ve glimpsed the bestiality and the decadence, in the system’s nerves like a venereal disease. It’s sick, and there is something sexual in its sickness, something warped beyond therapy. The oiled skin of a gladiator, the lusty roar of the arena. A line from Cornford, whom you haven’t read for years, slides beneath the surface of your mind. ‘The painted boy in the praetorian’s bed.’ Camphor and pincers, piss and blood. You’re in this rotting system, you’re part of it. You pay the soldiers. Civis Romanus sum.

[03:44 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on The rot.:

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 03:57 PM:

It's really awful: I keep thinking that I've reached the point where things can't make me madder anymore (which is a scary feeling in and of itself) only to have to have the same thought, a few hours later, madder still.

I can't yet resign myself to the horrible conspiracy theories: that "They" have been planning for so long; that the complacent, incompetent media and bought-and-sold courts are just a historical coincidence. I can't just hope that it'll all just pass with the next swing of the pendulum.

Or maybe it's me who's gone insane.

Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 04:04 PM:

Imagine me trying to explain that front-page photo of the man in black to my 8-year-old, and tell her that what "our guys" were doing was wrong, and why there are supposed to be codes of conduct for prisoner treatment.

Yeah, that was fun.

I am so not enjoying this government and all its works, large and small.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 04:10 PM:

I am appalled and ashamed.

ElizabethVomMarlo ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Back in the last of the Clinton years, I felt so proud to be American. We had finally conquered so many old ills.

I was so glad to be *human*. We'd proven, I'd thought, that we weren't going to blow ourselves off the planet with nuclear war. That we were bigger than that. That all those old bully tactics were over--genocide, torture, invasion of peaceful peoples.

I was so naive. I never, ever thought we would come to this. How did we get here? I don't even know anymore. I used to blame Bush--but he's only one man.

I'm just sickened and ashamed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 04:41 PM:

I hasten to point out that some war-related atrocities happened on Clinton's watch, too. Oddly enough, also involving "outside contractors" not subject to normal military discipline. How about that.

But yes, there's a distinct sense that we really are sliding down the oubliette of history, this time. To say nothing of this.

What I know for sure is that if, fifty years from now, the US is a second-rate power and and economic and intellectual backwater, we'll still be telling one another what a light unto other nations we are, and how our unique democracy makes us special in the eyes of God. USA! USA! USA!

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 05:08 PM:

I'm so disgusted and ashamed of my government I can't stand it. If this doesn't make a person an activist, I don't know what will.


Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 05:13 PM:

We have to get these goddam gung-ho jerks out of power. And that goes for anyone who thinks "My country, right or wrong" means "I have to support anything, no matter how abominable, that my government or any of its minions choose to do against foreigners, no matter how innocent or justly angry."

That's what the bile-spewing of monsters like Ann Coulter amounts to, isn't it?

We have to get rid of ANY politician who wants to keep the US out of accountability in ANY international forum. That means don't vote for them unless a) they support e.g. the World Court OR b) they're running against someone even worse, which is the disgusting reality we have to face.

If Kerry is elected, then MAYBE we'll see a fullscale investigation of this, going up to the level where it actually began. I predict we won't see anybody much above grunt-level punished for any of this during the Bush Administration.

I don't know what's going to happen. But I have a sinking feeling. This morning was the first time I actually heard the term 'contract interrogator'. A chill went down my spine; I can't believe anyone is allowed to interrogate prisoners who isn't subject to some sort of discipline! That's why they use them, of course.


Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 05:26 PM:

I'll point to a thread titled "War Crimes" on a blog run by military people (current and former) called Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing.

With a very few exceptions, it's a heartening affirmation of our beliefs and values.

Yes, I'm disgusted, too. I'm working very hard at keeping my temper in control. Outrage fogs the mind -- and clear minds are needed to address this kind of stuff.

And, appropos the other link, it's off to do my bit to bring about needed reform of aerospace.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 05:51 PM:

Terry Karney had a comment in another thread that caused me to realize that I had never associated the word "interrogator" with anything other than torturer. That's a telling assumption. It suggests that I gave up so long ago that I don't even remember doing it. I simply expect that kind of moral bankruptcy from the cops and the soldiers that my tax dollars pay for. And because I simply expect it, (disapprove of it , of course, but expect it), I haven't put any effort into fighting against it. How could I have not known that there were ways of getting information that didn't include torture? Even as I write this, I find myself wondering what they are. By not thinking about it, I've accepted the lie that information can only be gotten in one way, in a way that doesn't bear thinking about.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Xopher wrote, "I predict we won't see anybody much above grunt-level punished for any of this during the Bush Administration."

Or even afterwards. Remember that Daddy Bush pardoned Cap Weinberger and a few other perps from Iran-Contra on his way out the door in 1992.

If you haven't read Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty about the Bushes, I recommend it.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Second the recommendation of American Dynasty. Phillips--see also The Cousins' Wars--has a knack for finding the metanarrative.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 06:26 PM:

I wonder what this will do to all the people saying Kerry lied about atrocities in Vietnam back in the 70s, that Americans don't *do* that sort of thing.

After a few weeks of that, now we get graphic images of American soldiers doing just that sort of thing. Today. And it's our new, professional, all-volunteer army, not the conscription military of the Vietnam era.

Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 06:30 PM:

Pardons. Yep.

Presidential pardons can be all-purpose, can't they? No specific charges need be listed? No need to say precisely what a person is being pardoned for, right? Like Nixon, who received a general Get Out Of Jail Free card, good for any and all offenses he might or might not have committed while president:

"Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974."

Mind you, I remember how much controversy there was over that, back then. People worried that it would be setting a bad precedent....

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 06:55 PM:

The grinning fellow with the thumbs up is wearing nitrile gloves.

Those are used for much the same set of purposes as latex gloves, only they're physically much sturdier, and less likely to cause skin sensitivities in the wearer with prolonged use.

So they're used in surgical applications to avoid the risk of sterility punctures from surgical instruments, or for a number of kinds of solvent based materials handling.

That fellow is wearing the lined, long-wearing kind; the cotton liners are flipped down over much of the glove cuff. He's wearing them with the same degree of disregard wood finishers who wear them all day, most days, do, and with absolutely no regard for their sterility.

Anybody who wants to argue for it all being passive -- for values of "passive" as would shame the devil to utter -- psychological coercion is advised to think very carefully about those gloves.

Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 07:23 PM:

I think the Milgram experiment and its replications on three continents showed that humans of all walks of life are capable of this behavior if they have normative experiences that encourage it. Check out the Stanford Prison Experiment as well, to see what Americans are willing to do to others if they're given custody of them.

I think the shock and outrage expressed by people the world over is justified, but the Americans saying that they are disgusted and shocked because they "never thought Americans could do such a thing" are either arrogant or naive. I guess I have to blame Uncle Sam's propaganda machine for that. It's created Americans that think that--as a country--our morals, ethics, and methods are superior to those belonging to other nations the world over. And why wouldn't we think that? It wasn't the government that broke this story, or the Hué massacre story, or any other act of American barbarism. That might disillusion the American public, and a disillusioned American public votes its leaders out of office.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 07:43 PM:

According to the media, the big tragedy this week is all of us having to face up to saying goodbye to the gang from "Friends."

Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:06 PM:

So I'm not the only one who saw the gloves and shuddered. The grins of "See, boss, what I learned to do--you taught me well!" coupled with the gloves have been haunting me more than anything else.

My father worked in Navy intel.

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:10 PM:

Tony, I can't speak for others, but I know my outrage isn't a naive assumption that Americans -- or any human beings, under the right conditions -- aren't capable of such behavior. But I'm still disgusted with them.

Just because I know my kid might lie to save her butt, instead of sucking it up and telling the truth, doesn't mean I don't have the right to be angry, when she lies. Just because I know a parolee might violate the terms of his parole and commit another crime doesn't disentitle me to feel outrage when he does so.

And furthermore, I'm horrified and outraged that our country's leaders -- who damn well ought to know better -- haven't done a better job of controlling the abuses. Didn't come down on the perpetrators like a ton of depleted uranium cartridges when the first hints of this began to trickle up. Didn't have better controls to prevent this sort of thing, in the first place. It's their arrogance I find so infuriating. It's the depth of the corruption. It seems to be endemic, with this administration.

Once WMD weren't found, the reason for us going in there suddenly became to oust Saddam and prevent the abuses that his regime inflicted on his people.

Um. Right.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:13 PM:

Not just the gloves, Graydon - I too noticed those. Not just the fact that that's his fiancee with whom he's sharing this bonding experience, which just makes it all the more of a Roman Holiday - I keep having Secret Histories moments -who apparently got pregnant and had to be shipped home early.

Their NCO keeps referring to the prisoners as *it* in the excerpts from his writings. As in "its hands", "its penis."

And he isn't a non-native speaker of English, for whom eg "das" is a legitimate way of referring to a human being, or whose base language doesn't have any gender pronouns, to lead to that mistake.

But the mess is more horrible than this. I've been trying to pull it all together, from the first reports last on how a drugstore clerk in Britain stumbled across shots of people being hung from forklifts and - forced into humiliating sexual positions - on a roll of souvenir film that a soldier just back from Iraq had dropped off to be processed.

Soldier's war snaps show British troops abusing prisoners
By Eddie Fitzmaurice,
London, June 1 2003,
The Sun-Herald

The BBC never picked this up and of course the US media didn't. Supposedly the British were going to be 'thoroughly investigating it all' on Geneva Con. grounds, and it just slipped into a black hole.

It's just such a horrible, horrible tangle - worse than I *expected*. I *expected* and have been waiting in dread to find out that we'd been treating civilians over there the way, well, that cops treat minorities over here.

I just wasn't expecting it to be a) so blatant, b) so openly approved and endorsed and even mandated from the top levels.

I used to think that comparing the right wing to the Nazis was liberal excess.

I don't any more.

We can *disappear* people into the Bastille now. On nothing more than the rumours of their enemies, or the fact that someone doesn't like their looks, and we can do it here or there--

We can shoot people protesting for having troops quartered on them, and then again for having been shot for protesting, and Americans won't even blink.

And when they rebel, and rebel at having South African death squad hit men set over them in the prisons where they are thrown for protesting, we say they are evil and they deserve to be mowed down, or even nuked. (I have been googling usenet to try to find outrage on the part of compatriots. It is very depressing.)

Did you all see this interview with one of the detainees in Abu Ghraib? Riverbend's friend's story all over again, plus some cute Vietnam-era tricks, from the men's side.

And yes, I too have assumed that "interrogation" and "torture" were synonymous. Of course, my parents were Beatniks and war protestors and Bolsheviks as well as Air Force brats, so I grew up with a certain amount of ingrained cynicism/skepticism that always shocked my teachers.

But I didn't expect to find my paranoia to be insufficient.

The Enemy Is Still Us, Folks.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:22 PM:

Thanks, Graydon. I was wondering about those gloves but had no clue what they might be intended for by the manufacturer.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:22 PM:

(I meant to add a note about the aphrodisiac nature of power and sadism, in re Lynndie England getting pregnant and shipped stateside.)

And yes, I have all my life contended with the spherical argument that "We don't do those things, because we're the Good Guys, but if we did do them, they'd be justified, because we're the Good Guys and we wouldn't do them if they weren't justified."

--That is, apart from the wide majority of people out there who just say, "So? War is hell."

There are a lot of people out there, many of whom seem to be women, who think the only crime in all this has been to show the pictures.

There is good indication that people were *asking* the resistance to bomb the prison and save them by killing them - that this is the explanation for that attack that killed 22 prisoners. Not that they were stupid and didn't realize it, the way the western pundits put it, but that they had heard from those released that to be in the hands of the Americans was a fate worse than death.

BTW, did anyone catch the fact this week that the handful of My Lai survivors was trying to sue for reparations, and got kicked in the face again? Aparently there *is* a statute of limitations on murder, because they were told that they should have filed claims by March of 1972, and their suit was thrown out of court.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:39 PM:

Only for those with strong stomachs, and steely wills: from the Good Old Days when they didn't allow sex and violence into the movies...

Without Sanctuary

Because if I hear one more person saying "what have we *become*, today?" and/or "What about them contractors, hmm?" I'm going to puke.

Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:39 PM:

Anyone else pick up on the reference in Joe Ryan's blog (follow through from Kathryn Cramer's blog, too) to "Wild" Bill Armstrong? According to this entry, he was there, apparently assisting at the prison, with the contractors from CACI. Who is Armstrong? He teaches at Ft. Huachuca, outside Tuscon, AZ -- which is the intelligence school.

Someone here should ping Jenn, who writes on LiveJournal as House_Draven. She took her schooling there and had an interesting career in both the Army and, later, The Company. Within parameters, she may have some very interesting insights.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 09:54 PM:

This is why I despair for us:

I was going to try to break the comments down into how many of each,

"A Few Bad Apples, that's all"
"So What? They're terrorists"
"So What? This is war"
"So What? Saddam was worse"

but it was too sickening.

Larry B ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 10:02 PM:

There's a Walter Mosley story (I forget the title) in which felons are routinely shipped offshore, where their rights become inoperative. They are then used as forced labor and as subjects for medical experiments. When I first read this story, I thought it was more than a little hysterical.

Since then, we've seen American citizens shipped overseas (to Guantanamo) where their rights may very well be inoperative. No word of physical abuse there, but we seem to have crossed the Rubicon as regards civil rights.

Now we're seeing undeniable evidence that American forces (military or otherwise) are torturing prisoners in Iraq. There's a fair amount of handwringing over this, but also a great deal of triumphal gloating from my fellow citizens, replete with the usual "If you disagree, you're against our troops and with the terrorists," retoric.

Two Americas indeed. One civilized and the other populated with bloodthirsty ghouls who think they're doing the Lord's work. God save us all.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 10:18 PM:

A lot of folks in the quickpress have been making apt reference to the Monty Python skits about how there's no cannibalism in the Royal Navy, but I'm afraid this Python quote is also appropriate:

"They should attack the lower classes, first with bombs and rockets to destroy their homes, and then when they run helpless into the street, mow them down with machine guns. And then, of course, release the vultures. I know these views aren't popular, but I have never thought of popularity."
- Stockbroker

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 10:33 PM:

Actually, Larry, there have been allegations of physical abuse from Gitmo, just not in the US media, except briefly on NPR.

Guantanamo Briton 'was tortured

He said the guards had tried to get prisoners to confess to things they had not done.

They were shackled and attached to metal rings on the floor during interrogation, Mr Udeen claimed in the newspaper.

But he said: "The beatings were not as nearly as bad as the psychological torture - bruises heal after a week but the other stuff stays with you.


Guantanamo man condemns treatment
"We have watched Guantanamo Bay very carefully knowing of the interest of a number of nations, including the United Kingdom, and knowing that we have responsibilities under the Geneva Convention and because we are Americans, we don't abuse people who are in our care."

Mr Powell said it was "not in the American tradition to treat people in that manner".


Freed Afghans condemn Cuba prison

Washington says detainees at Guantanamo Bay are treated according to the Geneva Convention.

But many of those who arrived at the Bagram air base near Kabul on Monday night claimed otherwise.

So was anyone else *not* reassured at all by the revelation that Karpinski was going to be replaced by the Commandante of X-Ray?

Particularly since a team from Camp X-Ray had visited Abu Ghreib to tell them how to run things...

We also learn in this article that it wasn't "the Pentagon" it was Gen. Myers himself who asked CBS to hold the photos lest they cause friction at this tense time, which means that when he says he hasn't had time to read the 50pg report he's either a) lying or b)bgfck crazy...

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 10:43 PM:

I have always been, and continue to be, aware of a difference between interrogation and torture. This is torture. I can't imagine that "contract interrogators" are anything other than freelance torturers.

A note to all the "private armies funded by insurance companies" libertarians -- this is what money gets you all alone.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 11:09 PM:

Bellatrys, Without Sanctuary has been linked from Electrolite more than once.

Not that everybody oughtn't look at it. Look hard. This is America, every bit as much as Walt Whitman, the Marshall Plan, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2004, 11:21 PM:

It’s interesting that, in our outrage, our vehemence and disgust, so few of us are willing to use the one word our warrior President employs to bolster his ratings. Evil. But here it is, in grinning color, straight from the fetid, bottomless pit of Iraq. Evil.

You might disagree, but in my mind, when anyone - man, woman or child - steals the dignity of another human being and replaces it with pain, with anguish, with a fear so deep and so real that it becomes pervasive and all-encompassing, then evil exists and, at least for that moment, triumphs. And our world is diminished.

I wish I could say that I am immune, that my beliefs will allow me to easily forgive the transgressions that no doubt occur on both sides of this insane war. But I can’t. I once heard Tom Brown, Jr. say, “Don’t hate the man, hate the ignorance.” Yet these photos document something so hideous that, for once, I don’t know what to say or how to react. Or even how to forgive. This goes beyond ignorance, beyond petty political schemes and the “us versus them” harangues of nations at war. This is evil, and from everything I can see it starts with the man in the White House.

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:17 AM:

tost: "It’s interesting that, in our outrage, our vehemence and disgust, so few of us are willing to use the one word our warrior President employs to bolster his ratings. Evil."

It was totally evil. Do you honestly think any of us here who have expressed our repugnance see these acts as anything but evil?


Larry B ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:29 AM:

OK, so I took a look at the NY Times and found this. 2 Men Charge Abuse in Arrests After 9/11 Terror Attack.

What I find particularly horrifying is the decision not to dismiss, charge or even reprimand anyone, despite the acknowledged existence of videotapes of the officers in question engaging in abusive interrogations.

Abuses do happen, but a functional system is supposed to expose them, root them out, and put systems in place to keep them from happening again. Things are more broken than they appear to be.

So, tell me again, am I either with them, or with the terrorists?

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 01:07 AM:

I posted this paraphrase on my LJ two weeks ago and got no comments on it, which is a shame since I think it's an important insight from someone who knows whereof he speaks:

The words of noted anti-war writer David Drake are haunting me: "When you start a war, you're letting eighteen-year-olds with guns set your foreign policy."

It is worth noting that David Drake was an interrogator during the US's war on Viet Nam.

Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 02:10 AM:

>Tony, I can't speak for others, but I know my
>outrage isn't a naive assumption that Americans
>- or any human beings, under the right
>conditions -- aren't capable of such behavior.
>But I'm still disgusted with them.


Just so you and others don't think I'm generalizing, I only directed my comments to Americans that fit the profile I observed ("but the Americans saying..." [italics mine]). I think finding it disgusting it a fairly universal reaction. I was just addressing people who were disturbed more because they thought "we were better than the others we've heard doing this sort of thing."

chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 02:59 AM:

Xopher, way up the thread:

The original quote was, "My country right or wrong: when right to be kept right, when wrong to be set right."

Funny what happened to the second bit, isn't it?

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 04:03 AM:

Anyone who want can e-mail me for discussions of interrogation, without torture (or Patrick can ask me to pen something, and I'll post it).

Whimsey, before the meat of it, there are pretty much four stnadard responses to people finding out I'm an interrogator:

Disbelief (usually in the interrogative assertive, "No, really...?)

"So what kinds of torture do you use?"

"That sounds really interesting."

And the scary one: [eyes wide, breathless] "Reallly...?!?" [with undertones of sexual tension.] That one used to unsettle me, now it gets filed under, "it takes all kinds."

This is why I have railed against Gitmo, and the (speciou) unlawful combatants category. It sets people up for this.

Funny, I've read a lot of Drake, since I was a teen. I've heard the complaint that he ought to have worked all of his angst about Viet-nam out of his system years ago (people might want to read "The Interrogator" [if I recall the title aright]by him).

When I got back to Ft. Lewis, after Walter Reed I understood why he still writes about it. Watching The Capitol Steps at Cal Tech gave me flashbacks. This stuff (even when one has an easy war, which he and I both did, for various values of easy) never goes away, and the slightest of things can bring it back, but I digress.

I know there are people in my line of work who step out of bounds. For years I've tried to teach those bounds, and now I see the nation telling us to forget those bounds. It goes with the profiling, the deep-sixing of people like Padilla, the detentions at Gitmo, the use of non-military interrogators (some of who are former members of the Army... they disgust me... somehow they manage to sully my uniform, while no longer wearing it).

I am saddened, saddened that so much has gone so wrong, that the principles of Hans Scharff have been cast aside, after some 50 years of trying to inculcate them, but we (interrogation) have no institutional memory... our sole repository of the rights and wrongs, the tricks of gentle coercion, and knowing where to draw the lines lives only in the people who are in service.

And I am angry. Angry in a way I hope none of you can understand. I can't describe it. It is part white hot rage, and cold fury. Dispassionate wrath and frenzied hate.

I want to disgrace all of the people who were involved, and I don't think it would be safe to let me in the same room with them.

I also feel incapable of expressing my shame, incoherent in my attempts to distance myself. I know I didn't put out, but who will believe the protestations of the painted lady?


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 08:06 AM:

"or Patrick can ask me to pen something, and I'll post it"

Terry, if you feel you need permission, consider it granted.

Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 09:17 AM:

Any American that's been paying attention has known that the US has been using (let us be polite) highly questionable techniques in interrogating the prisoners at Gitmo, Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations.

But those people have been foreigners, so for the most part, Americans haven't cared about the prisoners.

What we've cared about has been our moral high ground. And we've excused the use of torture, both physical and psychological, on the grounds that it's an unfortunate necessity of the War On Terror.

And as long as it took placed in a closed, windowless room, we could pretend that our side still had that moral high ground. We could pretend that -our- interrogators were better than -their- interrogators. We could pretend that -our- interrogators did their work reluctantly, solely out of duty, solely out of a desire to serve and protect their country and fellow citizens. We could pretend that -our- interrogators, if their hands and souls were bloodied and fouled by what they did, were at least being sacrificed nobly, in a good cause. We could pretend that they did their work with regret, and nightmares.

And what the photographs from Abu Gharib show us is: Torture Is Fun! Sexually humiliating people is cool! Having the power to make someone do anything -- ANYTHING -- you want is a massive turn-on!

The word is "depraved".

This is what the slippery slope looks like. Enjoy the ride, America.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 09:33 AM:

Hey, it's your party, and highjacking a conversation, which is what it feels like (and I confess, I am feeling a tad sensitive at the moment) seems rude.

The main trick of interrogation is to get the subject talking. The prime difference between military and police interrogation is intent. The cop is asking questions to which he thinks he has the answer. He also has the club of punishment to wave at the subject.

I don't have those. In a classic war, the guy across the table is going to be here until he is exchanged, or the war ends. Gives me very little leverage.

So we use a bit of head game. Take advantage of the shock of capture, the silence he's been kept in, the segregation he's undergone, and the sense of loss, shame, helplessness, and fear that go with it.

We look for clues, his attitude, his rank, the condition of his gear; his uniform, how much ammo he had (and how much it was, relative to the rest of the dead and the captured) how many people were killed and wounded in the fight, his pocket trash (which includes things like letters and photos).

We then make nice, offer him a cup of coffee, a cigarette. Engage in chit-chat. Feel him out. Ride the clues.

Is he an officer? Did his unit get stomped? is he actinf proud anyway? Then maybe I belittle him, tell him a trained chimp could've done better, get him angry enough to blurt out information.

Maybe his unit was stomped, but he seems at a loss... ashamed. Then I tell him no one could've stopped it, build him up. Get him to tell me why I'm right.

The trick (and it's the only trick we really need) is to get them talking and, to not make them think we want anything other than a truthful answer. Once they start to talk, I will get everything he knows, or at least everything my commander wants.

I may offer him things... like the chance to write a letter home the instant we get done talking. This is half a lie. He gets to write home when I let him out... well no. He gets to write a given number of letters a month, and I might, were I inclined to be cruel see to it that he had to wait three weeks to do so, but easier to promise him things he's entitled to, because most people are not trained in what their rights are, as a POW.

Once he starts to talk I'll use what I already know (order of battle information, previously fond information, weather/road conditions) to verify the things he says. That's called, "using control questions," and it's one of the hardest things to teach a new interrogator.

He says he's in an armored unit, and the patch on his sleeve matches that... OK. Half a control. He says they have tanks, I ask what kind. He says T-72s. I know (or check) that unit has that type of tank. That's a better control question.

I ask how many and he says his platoon has five... DING alarm bells go off, because the Order of Battle for his army has four tanks in a platoon. I ask how long they've had four tanks. He says one week. I ask why they have four tanks, and he says the Company Commander attached himself to the unit. It all makes a certain amount of sense, so I write up the change in the OB, and go on.

Later I ask him questions about the Company Commander and when they match what he said before, I consider that to be a repeat question. I'll ask any number of questions, to which I have an expectation of answer, based on what I've been told, by the subject. Consistency (and I'm taking notes) is a sign of honest recall by the prisoner. He may be wrong, but it is as he remembers it, and that's what matters.

If he tries to tell lies, I'm going to spot the discrepancies, esp. if I'm doing a complete OB interrogation. The lowliest of privates takes about two and-a-half hours to give up everything a full OB takes. An officer can take a couple of days, and when one gets to COL and above, it becomes a serious project.

Before I go into the booth I get a briefing from the OB NCO (which was the job I did in the box). He is responsible for keeping track of the battlefield, as best it is known at the time.

What booth time I got in Iraq was to get some fast controls in, when the interrogators (we used two, with an MP for guard) weren't sure about the guys story. It was easier for me to go in and ask the questions, than it was to try and brief them enough (they hadn't been keeping up with events as well as I, but then I spent about four hours a day tracking things, so...) to get the answers.

There are other types of interrogations, ones which are faster, because rather than try to get everything he knows, we are only interested in certain types of information.

We also had a larger repetoire of inducements to talk. Because we had so many who were no more than farmers, who got swept up my nervous MPs we could tell them that, barring some evidence they were just farmers, the MPs would take them to Talil, or Basra. Talil was the nearest and that was something like 100 miles away.

I recall one interrogation where the source wasn't talking. Which is a pain, because we were pretty sure he was nothing more than a tomato farmer, and if he continued to stonewall, the MPs were going to take him to Talil, and he's be there for a couple of days, and then left to make his own way home.

The lead interrogator drew a stick figure of a man, and of a woman, in the dust on the table. They were holding hands. He then said, if you don't talk to us... and rubbed out the connected hands.

The man started t cry, and then to talk. We sent him home four hours later.

On the down side... there were guys who liked to make the sources cry, who worked at it.

And we did keep them isolated, until after we'd talked to them, which was a problem when we had a lot of them, because (as I said last April, in Making Light) we didn't have enough shade.

Done right, it's effective, and doesn't need torture, because if the subject is willing to talk to me, about anything... I can eventually get him to start talking about the army, and then I can get everything. In for a penny, in for a pound. The only defense is to answer nothing but the big four.

Date of birth
Service Number.

If you talk about anything else... you'll talk about everything else.

And that's why the situation at Abu Ghraib bothers me. These were not that time sensitive, these guys didn't need to go off the reservation. If they had as many prisoners as they say they did (and this is just in April, when the fighting in Falluja was the primary thing on the agenda) they could afford to take the extra hour or so it might have taken to get a guy talking.

And before April... they had all the time in the world, because the more prisoners one has to work with, the easier it is to get them to talk. You can play on fears. I come to talk to A: Ten minutes later I come to talk to B:, along about the time I get to G, he will be afraid, because A-F have not been seen since. He's probably been told we will torture, and then kill, him. He's convinced himself this is happening. When all I want to do is ask questions, he tells all he knows, because in his mind he's saving his life.

On the flip side, if I start to hit him, he resists, because that is what he's been trained to do, avoid giving up information in exchange for pain.

And we know this doesn't work. If you think torture is useful in breaking people, and thus garnering information, talk to John McCain, or anyone else who had a room at the Hanoi Hilton.

I guess that'll do for now.


James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 09:56 AM:

Terry, posting in blogs is great, but this sort of information needs to get into print media. The people who need to hear it aren't here.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 10:12 AM:

James: It's all out there. FM 34-52 INTERROGATION

And to whom/how do I sell it. If I go out under my own name, and reputatation I am either seen as an apologist, or a fool.

I also, in that case run the risk of running afoul of my command, who (along with most of the army brass) would like to see as little on the subject as possible.

So, I head into the trenches here, as I have wandered, to and fro in the world for the past ten years, talking about it, telling people (even the ones who make the scary responses) what it really is.

Sometimes, if I like them, and trust them, and don't think they'll run away, I do a small demonstration.

That last is usually an eye-opener, because the exchanges aren't conversational. A lot of the relationship is expressed in tone of voice. There is an almost callous dispassion to the collection of information. To many little boxes have to be checked and the questions are what we call, "Single subject, requiring a narrative response."

That is not the way of conversation, with it give and take and sloppy structure. Want to see an interrogator go crazy... make him watch lawyers in court. They ask horrible questions. I have yet to see a lawyer I couldn't lead into apalling circles....

They ask compound questions, negative questions, leading questions (all right, the last are only bad if one doesn't know the answer, or the subject is not, in some way, compelled to tell the truth. So someone under oath wouldn't be expected to give the typical response to a leading question). And they have weak follow-up.


Elric ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 10:14 AM:

One of the worst parts of this situation was listening to the Resident last week, on the anniversary of his "Mission Accomplished" speech.

I've never had a good opinion of him. Or of his handlers. Even given that, I thought they'd started going for a new low by having him say, in the same speech, how wonderful it was that Iraq was free of Saddam Hussein and his death squads and torture chambers, and how awful it was that Americans were torturing prisoners.

Is the entire administration that stupid?

(Even the standard broadcast media are now mentioning that the CACI and other nonmilitary inerrogators over there are outside any chain of command or threat of prosecution. Gee, isn't it a surprise that I've yet to hear anyone in the White House, or anyone in the majority party in Congress, who is talking about changing the laws that now protect these "contract specialists." )

Iain J Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 11:56 AM:

This is what the slippery slope looks like.

This is what empire looks like.

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:01 PM:

Ahhrm, Terry.

The reason lawyerly questions seem so odd-and-bad to you is they have an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PURPOSE. You are trying to learn things. Any litigator who asks a question in open court (or even, really, in a deposition) believes he or she knows exactly what the answer will be.

Similarly, the idea, to a lawyer, of actually trying to recover information directly from an adversary is chilling -- not only for the bar against ex parte contact, but because you don't want them framing the answer.

To a lawyer, the facts as they are believed, or purported to be believed, by everyone involved are generally known, and it is how those facts are framed and presented to the factfinder is the important thing -- hence the compound, complex, leading, vague questions.

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:03 PM:

Tony, I think I understand, then. After 9-11, I saw a lot of this, and I referred to that willful naivete we had as our malevolent innocence. Is this what you mean?

I lived overseas for a couple of years in the 80s, and it was a real eye-opener to me, just how insular we Americans can be, and how self-deceived about the nature of the world (and ourselves). We have this whole mythology that we're taught from childhood and we're in this big echo chamber of our own making.

It's always dangerous to generalize too much, because it's not true of all Americans, but there is a strong strain in our culture of ignorance regarding other nations and lack of awareness of our own actions abroad.

I think that when you are powerful, you don't feel impelled to listen to other voices and perspectives. Combine that with a general discomfort with strangeness, and it's a toxic brew.

Invulnerability (real or perceived) makes us complacent.


Stephan Wehner ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:30 PM:

Surely dropping cluster bombs was as scandalous.

That happened a year ago in Iraq, earlier in Afghanistan.

War crimes of our times. Thanks USA.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:50 PM:

Terry, thank you. That's both interesting and informative. Why is it that, if people start talking, you can get everything they know, eventually? For that matter, why do people start talking? I've always wondered about this when watching cop shows (which are, of course, a realistic representation). Why doesn't the person under arrest just "lawyer up" and wait?

Jim's right. This is information that needs to be in the public sphere, right now. I don't think that it is necessarily your job to put it there, but I wish the information was out there, front and center. Is there anyone you know who could and would write a useful article if a good market could be found? What about an interview with a reporter? Hell, what am I talking about, I don't know how to make these things happen, either. My own fantasy is having Seymour Hersh do a follow-up to his story contrasting Abu Ghraib with proper interrogation, and the effectiveness of each.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 12:54 PM:

Is the entire administration that stupid?

Oh, no indeed. People like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neo-cons are by no means stupid. They just think we are.


ElizabethVomMarlo ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 02:09 PM:

Terry, I too wish your information could reach a wider public. Although, I can see how that would really really dicey. I have no idea how it could be done safely.

But I found what you said about how it's supposed to work comforting. Good, competent people working in non-evil ways. Before you wrote what you wrote, I had a hard time imagining what that would look like in the realm of interrogation.

MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 02:11 PM:

Re "Why do people start talking?" -- I'd love Terry's thoughts on this -- but my take would be, fear and loneliness, perhaps. Isolation is dehumanizing.


Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 02:36 PM:

MorganJLocke, Terry also mentioned pride (or perhaps self esteem) in one of his posts. He said something about how if the subject seems proud, tell him how badly his side did/is doing. Get him arguing, trying to prove you wrong. If he seems ashamed, reassure him and tell him it's not his fault, and get him talking with you about the things that were outside his control that resulted in his surrender. Either way, you're playing on the subject's need to convince himself and you that he's worthy of respect.

MD² ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 03:20 PM:

First thing this whole affair did is call back cumming's "Humanity i love you" poem from my memory bank to my fore-mind, and leave it there playing in repeat mode.

I feel appalled by the lack of intelligent coverage, and the almost anecdodotal coloration, these events mostly seem to get in my country. As if the unspoken logic behind the articles was "We're neither executioners, nor victims; we'll make news of this only as long as it pleases the event-driven lecturing pleasure of our readers".
I've seen people laugh.

Thanks Terry, it was a great post.

For that matter, why do people start talking?

Switching to pseudo-philosophical mode (get close to te fireplace, enjoy the warmth while holding your head "my hat's two size too small and my brother's pulling it off" style):

Remember the original cogito ergo sum ? "I think, and as long as I think, I know that I am" ? Well since reality on the personal level is more of a convention than a perception, talking is the first and foremost tool one uses to assert one's existence and place in reality.
There's a reason why imposed isolation is considered a form of torture.

End of pseudo-philosophical mode, you may now enjoy reading again. Careful with those hands, though You've left marks on your forehead.

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Terry, thanks for the information; much appreciated.

Regarding wider dissemination of same, why are there no journalists asking "what does real, professional interrogation look like, how does it work, what evidence do we have that it works better than torture?"? Wouldn't that be an appropriate way to frame reports of the abuses in Abu Ghraib? O for a real free press!

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Terry's description of the process is pretty close to descriptions I've read of how RAF and USAAF prisoners were interrogated in Europe, by the Luftwaffe.

Trouble is, there's going to be some stuff which won't work out quite the same if you're dealing with genuine terrorists or guerillas. There isn't the uniformity that's the OB baseline, no starting point to count the tanks in a platoon.

And some people will use that as an excuse to drift towards the dark side, instead of learning about farming tomatoes.

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 03:39 PM:

Also, his fiancee? Ewwwwwww.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Guys, we are well and truly fckd.

I've been waiting, searching, and hoping in dread that the Mossad link rumours weren't true.

They are.

Billmon, followng up on his scoop of Steve Stephanovich being the contractor reprimanded and left in place, has now tracked down a bio of that Joe Ryan whose journal proved so inconvt for his radio station.

He's ex-special forces. He was trained by the Israelis.

I was in Air Force Junior ROTC in high school and went to University of Colorado for two years on Air Force ROTC scholarship. I decided that Aerospace Engineering was not for me and left college.

I enlisted into the Army as a PFC for an interrogator position with an airborne slot.

Terry, I'm sorry. I really am.

In Haiti I performed more than 80 interrogations and conducted the force protection assessments.

When he found out he could be called up again:

In order to avoid going back to active duty, I signed on with a defense contractor and am now over here as an interrogator.

Is there any *possible* way this can get worse?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 04:15 PM:

Bellatrys --

Keep in mind that Israeli involvement will have been axiomatically assumed from the outset by the Iraqis. The Arab assumption is that the invasion was undertaken for the benefit of Israel. It will cause some increased anger to get proof that there were Israeli citizens involved in the war crimes, but not much. That's going to be a given already among Iraqi public opinion.

In general, though, things can always get worse.

Using aircraft to spray pig blood over Shrine of Ali would make things much worse. Attempting forced conversions to Christianity, similarly.

The likely value of worse is hundreds of thousands dead in a full-up uprising.

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 04:25 PM:

Terry: I think your perspective would do some good in this comments thread. I didn't comment there (with a link back to this thread) because I didn't know whether or not you'd be comfortable talking about such topics with that particular crowd.

bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 05:01 PM:

I didn't mean how could the war be escalated, Graydon, I just meant how could this series of revelations get worse. Street fighting into/bombing Falluja into glass would make things worse on the whole and likely provoke complete rebellion. But in terms of revelations - sure, the Arabs have always thought that Zionists run the US as a puppet - and others have always dismissed them as paranoiacs. This is the smoking gun. Those shadowy "third party nationals" allwoed to wander the prisons that have been mentioned, suspected of being Mossad agents by some, may very well be. I was hoping they would turn out to be South Africans, as there have been several of those already.

I mean, we've already had the revelations that it isn't isolated, wasn't spontaneous lowlevel mischief, that the CIA was running it, and was known and covered up by the Pentagon all along.

The only thing I think of making it worse is when the facts from the side where they keep women and juveniles becomes public.

From the NYT just now:

But practices like hooding, depriving prisoners of sleep and forcing them into "stressful positions" were legitimate means of interrogation, the general said, and among the 50-odd coercive techniques sometimes used by American soldiers against enemy detainees.

"There are interrogation techniques that increase anxiety," General Miller said. "For example sleep deprivation, and stress positions and all that, could be used but they must be authorized."

General Miller said he decided to ban the practice of hooding just four days ago, following reports of abuse and the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners.

"It sends a message we do not want to send to the civilian population," General Miller said. "If we were going to continue to use hooding, we would use a less intrusive method that will accomplish the same thing."

Dave Menendez ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 05:42 PM:

Back when I still watched 24, I remember being uncomfortable with the way the good guys kept having to resort to torture. By the third season, it was just a matter of course.

If I were a believer in conspiracies, I'd suggest that Fox and, by extension, the administration were trying to desensitize people to the horror. After all, if an honorable Democratic President is willing to torture members of his own administration, how bad can it be?

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 05:51 PM:

Hrmn... (I seem to be saying a lot of that lately).

This confirms something I was interpolating from Ryan's comments: he isn't presently on active duty. huzzah.

I find some of the things he claims in his bio to be questionable. The not being released to SF... not usally the Regiments call. One goes to SF and applies. Lots of guys take the "S" (Additional Skills Indicator for Special Forces Support Personnel) and never make the switch to "Q" which is member of SF.

But it's possible.

The recall, because he was SF, as I recall, one had to have the "Q" to be subject to that. For my money, he just wanted some more jollies, and this was the easiest way to do it, because if the Army wanted him, nothing could've saved him. One of the linguists we had in Iraq was slated to get his commission, he'd taken his Vet Boards and was waiting on the results, it was locked in, except that the Army wanted a linguist, and his commission couldn't be made until a bit after the results came in.

So he goes to the desert as a sergeant.

sennoma: I've been posting in a different thread at Billmon.

As for my getting the word out, I'm doing what I can, trust me on that. Further deponent sayeth not.

re lawyers questiong methods: I know they are after different things, but the depositions I've read, and the sheer slop, the wiggle room for questions to be answered in ways contrary to the hope of the asker, while still being legitimate answers... well it amuses me.

Dave: re terrorists/those trained to resist interrogation. They are a tough problem. I can say that non-torture is effective, but transient.

Here's the rub. There is no good way to tag team the questioning. The trick is to get the guy to break.

Everyone will break. Where the trained resistance comes in is 1: knowing the shelf life of the information one has, and holding out that long.
2: Understanding that because one broke yesterday, doesn't mean one has to stay broken today. What I've heard from Gitmo, and Bagrham is that the actual terrorists are doing that. take four-five hours and get him to break. talkto him for four-five hours. Start all over again tomorrow. What got him yesterday, won't get him today. To make it worse, there is no way to completely seperate them, and he will tell everyone he can what broke him, and it won't work on anyone else.

Why do people talk?: Because they need to feel good about themselves. Watch NYPD Blue. The interrogations they do are actually pretty good (I started watching it as a homework assignment, while I was at Ft. Huachuca). They use a much more limited repetoire of approaches (the techniques of psychological manipulation to get a source to break) and they have a much more adversarial relationship with the subject than is healthy for a miltary interrogator, but the things they show work.

Remember the maxim, "No one is a villian in their own eyes." It gives the interrogator leverage, the trick is to find what the subject needs to prove to other people to redeem himself.

Cops tend to play on guilt, "Come clean, get it off your chest and find forgivness."

I don't get that, usually. But I have a slew of oher things I can play on. Love of comrades, or family (and the flip side, some people feel they've been betrayed, they want to get even). Fear (being a prisoner is very unsettling, one hears rumors, imagines all sorts of horrors, and until they are confirmed, or dispelled, the anxiety is a powerful motivator. One can play on that, finding out one is not going to be tortured can lead to gratitude, and a desire to please).

As for why they keep talking. We say we own them, once they start talking. There are two ways to do this. One is to not let them know they've given anything up. Great, if one has the time to set it up.

Anecdote, from Scharff. He was asked to find out what a stream of white tracers meant. He spent a week talking to a pilot. Nothing relevant. He took him for a walk, they talked.

He took him for another walk, and pointed at an anthill, made comparisons to industry, and observed that the Americans must be having supply problems, because they had a shortage of red tracers, and were using only white ones.

The kid, full of pride said "Hell no, we got all the tracers we need, but some of us put in a dozen or so near the end of the belt so we know when we're out of ammo."

Never knew he'd given it up.

The other way is that they feel guilty about betraying their side, they are afraid that it will come out that they gave aid and comfort to the enemy. They decide to keep talking so the captor will remain happy with them, and not tell anyone they talked.


As for Ryan, no need to feel sorry for me. 1: there are bad actors, and we are actually not that bad at weeding them out (I know of about a dozen administrative actions, and/or courts-martial taken against interrogators. They didn't get what I'd've like to give 'em, but I'm probably not the most disinterested of parties in such an action. We should do more, but look at all the crap being slung around to justify this shit, which is worse than any of the stuff I know of people getting booted for).

Balm to my soul to know that Ryan is a civilian. It makes me think they didn't think the Army interrogators would do the deed. MPs, well they are often impressionable. They want to be Jack Friday, and Rambo, all in one, and they don't know what interrogation is supposed to look like.

Doesn't excuse them, but it helps explain them.

And it means I can feel better about things.

What I do isn't always pretty. I do my best... God I hope it's been my best, to keep it merely unpleasant, and no ugly, but I kill people.

I have blood on my hands, not on my conscience, because I played by the rules (and we know the rules make for some strange views of the world. Check my conversation with Xopher on expendabilty after Bush said, "Bring it on.").

Soldier kill each other, because governments decide things are that important. It's why we are more alike than different, why I can sit in any bar, with any soldier and have a drink and a laugh and make a strange sort of friend.

Because all of us, even from friendly countries, know that tomorrow it might be bullets, instead of beers.

Ryan, and his ilk, is less than the dust beneath my feet.

Adina ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 06:20 PM:


I've been thinking the same thing about 24. I haven't been watching for a while, but my roommate is a fan, and tells me what's going on, and I keep being appalled, and he keeps making excuses. And yes, it's just a silly TV show, but when I heard about Abu Ghraib, the first thing that went through my head was to wonder how many of those soldiers had seen movies and tv shows where it's ok to torture the bad guys?


Thank you, that was fascinating. I never before realized that the point of only stating your name, rank, etc. was to remind yourself that you can't say anything else.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 07:38 PM:

It's talking to the client that getting information from a dumb bastard with an inflated ego and something to hide comes up for many lawyers. The rest is just making a record.

On the abuses: just possibly some smart people created a torture machine for reasons of their own and then went off and left it running?

Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 07:49 PM:

It's been mentioned elsewhere, but Maj. Gen. Taguba's report (sans witness names) has been posted online by MSNBC.

Lance Boyle ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 08:20 PM:

Nice if some of the individuals responsible for the variously broken subjects of these more or less damaging techniques could get to work on some healing processes.
You could start in Argentina. Or El Salvador. Or Indonesia. Or Bosnia. Or Azerbaijan. Or China. Or the Philipines. Or Chile. Or Angola. Or Zimbabwe. Or Sudan. Or Palestine.
Or Iraq.
It would take insight and intimate knowledge of the particulars, a familiarity with the nuanced disintegration of the human personality.
And it would take a conscience.
And shame.
Wouldn't be near as glamorous and powerful though. Kinda weak really, helping people. Makes you vulnerable.
Breaking people is strong. Even tricking them is strong.
Power and control are a turn-on.
Clean-up's a drag, though. Yuck.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2004, 11:55 PM:

Actually, one of the good things in 24 is that torture is presented as something that actually almost never works.

In the second season, I think there were four instances of torture, only one of which actually worked against a determined victim.

One instance failed to produce any information before the subject was freed; one produced false information that almost lead to catastrophe; one was against a subject who gave in easily because he decided he didn't have much to hide. The one determined subject who caved was subjected to psychological torment rather than what is commonly thought of as torture--he thought that his children were being executed, though they weren't.

In the third season, there have been two instances of torture; both failed, completely, to produce any useful information, and one lead directly to terrible consequences for the torturers.

I don't think that the creators intend to send the message that "torture almost never works", but that is, none the less, the dramatic effect. Other forms of investigation are invariably shown to be more effective.

Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 12:55 AM:

Elric wrote,

"I've never had a good opinion of him. Or of his handlers. Even given that, I thought they'd started going for a new low by having him say, in the same speech, how wonderful it was that Iraq was free of Saddam Hussein and his death squads and torture chambers, and how awful it was that Americans were torturing prisoners.

"Is the entire administration that stupid?"

It's arrogance and hubris, that's why I've taken to calling it "Hubris Boy" as one of a set of sobriquets.

["Mongo's not a who, Mongo's a What." To a degree Bush II reminds me of Mongo--riding into town on a big hunk of hooved beef as a bully unafraid of anyone else because it's meaner than anyone else and is bigger [read, has more influential buddies with tons of money to buy political influence]]

Mark Gritter ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 01:53 AM:

General Taguba's report is worth reading, just to appreciate the magnitude of the screw-up. It really got to me, particularly this bit: Master-at-Arms First Class William J. Kimbro, US Navy Dog Handler, knew his duties and refused to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure from the MI personnel at Abu Ghraib.

He said "no" to the bastards. They wanted to use him and his puppy for evil, but he understood that he was his dog's conscience and his country's representative. It was just that easy (or that hard) to take personal responsibility, know one's duties, and say no.

I guess what upsets me most is that there's little indication elsewhere in the report that the MI people had to threaten or pull rank to get cooperation--- they just showed up and the MPs willingly turned into thugs.

I'm reminded of a recent medical marijuana case in Calfornia (Ed Rosenthal, I believe) where the judge refused to allow any evidence about the grower's motivation, and instructed the jury to ignore any comments the defense made about California law. And not one of the jury found the courage to say "no" despite their misgivings, and their claims after the trial that they would have acquitted "if only they had known". They knew. They lacked--- not the courage, for there was no threat, but the intelligence and simple decency--- to do what they felt was right.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 02:44 AM:

I will point out the crew chief, who landed the bird and told the door-gunners to open fire, if they had to, on US troops... got a medal.

Funny thing about Calley. I am only one degree of separation from him. A former girlfriend's father was the JAG officer who caught his defense.

We've never talked about it, but I get the decided impression he was glad the man retained civilian counsel.


Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 06:09 AM:

Terry, my thanks for all your elucidation at a difficult time for you. One small thing did answer a question I'd asked in a different thread.

When an officer said the perpetrators "hadn't been trained in the Geneva Convention", I thought it was strange because I had assumed that they must be told what is legal & illegal to be done to them if they are captured, and must therefore also know what they should & shouldn't do to others.

But then you said: "most people are not trained in what their rights are, as a POW." Maybe it's so they won't have to think about being captured, but OTOH stories (truthfulness??) show troops being 'toughened' to withstand 'stress' in case of capture.

Something to consider for the future, perhaps.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 06:34 AM:

Going back to a couple of comments earlier:

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." Naval commander Stephen Decatur originated the phrase in a toast given at an April 1816 banquet in Norfolk, Virginia, to celebrate his victory over the Barbary pirates.

(from http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jun02/voice.htm )

As chris pointed out, in 1871 Carl Schurz put the concept in a slightly different light,
     "Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right."
which is more to my way of thinking. I've seen a comment by Mark Twain saying
     " 'Our Country, right or wrong,' ... Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?"

One of my old sigs is based on Frank Herbert's thought in Dune:
     The greatest victory your enemy can have is to make you a mirror of himself.

Just the other day I saw another similar sentiment, but don't know its source apart from one J. Bugden:
     If you set out to defeat an enemy because you despise what they do or say, make sure that you are different - not just stronger.

Just some things that show the problem is not a new one.

pi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Back up to PNH's front-page post, I want to commend to y'all's attention the whole of Ken McLeod's very fine "Midnight Fathers" post.

It could use translation into the vernacular of the American resistance (sub The Monkeywrench Gang for Marx), but merits wide reading, linking -- heck, it merits printing and posting at the bus-stops.

And kudos to TNH for her excellent work over at Cit. Smash's (scroll way, way down). It's infuriatingly difficult to explain, much less defend, the dingbat indymedia scene even to libs. It is, nonetheless, important, if only because so much of the youthful potential energy for political action is being expressed in such circumstances.

Modeling adult behavior does help.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 03:50 PM:

A small story in a big mess (via Body and Soul):

Iraq: A conversation with a concerned soldier - Art Gish, Sojourners, March 4th, 2004

Saddam Hussein's infamous prison just west of Baghdad is still full, except now the U.S. military is running the prison. The prison contains more than 10,000 detainees and is being expanded. The U.S. authorities allow few visits; the detained have no right to due process, and only recently have families been able to visit their loved ones.

Cliff Kindy and I had just walked through the razor wire around the prison with an Iraqi man who wanted to make an appointment to visit his brother. "He is not allowed any visits," a guard told us.

We told the Iraqi guards we wanted to talk with an American official. That is when we met "Tony," an American soldier, about 22 years old, short, and good-looking. He likes to work out in the gym, but most days he is too tired after standing guard in front of the prison for 12 hours every day. "Most days," he said, "I have no energy left after my shift to even think." When we asked him where his home was, he said, "I am homeless."

He told us he had no authority and there was nothing he or we could do to arrange a visit. He apologized for not being able to help us. He then opened up to us. He said, "The situation is a mess in Iraq, and the American military is making it worse. I can understand that the Iraqi people would be angry. Under Saddam," he said, "families could visit their loved ones once a week."

Tony is eager to leave Iraq and the military, but said he could be killed any day. He was wearing a ragged piece of cloth as an armband in remembrance of a buddy who was killed a few days earlier.

Tony said, "If you try to do what is right, you get kicked. I tried to do what is right, and I got knocked down into the cellar." He didn't explain what he meant.

He was fighting back tears as we expressed our concern for him. We told him we wanted him to be safe, that we cared about him. Here was a good person, caught in a force he could not control, trying to preserve his integrity, doing his best to keep his heart from becoming hard and cold.

Art Gish is serving in Baghdad with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations, promoting violence-reduction efforts around the world. http://www.cpt.org

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 09:24 PM:

That is heartbreaking, David.

God, this war sucks.


James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 08:45 PM:

A long and interesting article from The Atlantic by Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down).

It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work.

Ironically enough, this article was published in October 2003, about the time when "Joiner" was putting on his blue nitrile gloves.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 02:44 AM:

I read that article (sitting on Hal and Ulrika's couch) and it was well done.

I am not sure how it played to all of you, but I have a colored view of the subject.

I worried that it seemed (and that sentece to imply) certain types of illegal coercion were ok. I read it, with jaundiced eye, as a comment that most of those methods should be avoided, because they don't work.

Buzz ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2004, 02:54 AM:

Wanted to comment on this awhile back, but I've been busy. This is a great entry. I love how you pull in all these key related elements to summarize your observations. That's why you're a great editor, Patrick, and why I love the Starlight series.

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2004, 10:19 PM:

AP. Defense lawyers asked a judge Saturday tod ismiss all charges against a Travis Air Force Base translator accused of spying while working at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Citing "repugnant and illegal government and prosecutorial misconduct," lawyers for Senior Airman Ahmad Al Halabi filed their formal request with a military judge. The Air Force has a week to respond in court. Master Sgt. Dan Murphy, an Air Force spokesman, said Saturday that he could not comment. Al Halabi, 25, is a Syrian-born US citizen accused of attempting to deliver more than 180 e-mail messages to Syria from detainees at Guantanamo Bay, where the US government is holding suspected terrorists. Al Halabi also is charged with mishandling classified material and repeatedly lying to Air Force investigators. If convicted, Al Halabi could be sentenced to life in prison. He has not yet entered a plea. In their filing, defense lawyers contend there "simply was no evidence to support the wild speculation surrounding the allegation of sending e-mails with 'classified' material to 'enemy' agents." Al Halabi's civilian lawyer, Donald G. Rehkopf, accused the lead investigator in the case of lying and exaggerating while testifying during the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. A judge last week released Al Halabi from a military jail, saying he's no longer a flight risk. He's returned to work as a supply clerk. Pretrial motions are scheduled to continue next month.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2004, 12:00 AM:

Dave, it appears someone agrees with you on the need to tell people about my opinions.

I found this, looking this up