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May 7, 2004

User base persistence
Posted by Teresa at 11:08 PM *

Josh Marshall writes:

This article in tomorrow’s Guardian suggests that some of these sexual humiliation methods apparently practiced at Abu Ghraib are taught to various special forces and military intelligence troops in the US and the UK, both to use them and also to prepare themselves to withstand them.
What the Guardian suggests is in fact correct.

No, I’m not going to name my source on that.

Back to Josh Marshall:
What’s now happening in Iraq is that the same methods are being passed down to untrained and unsupervised reservists; and the whole situation spirals out of control.

I’m not sure this is the whole story. But it has a ring of truth to me, mixing, as it does, ugliness with disorganization and a spiralling cycle of unaccountability.

[He quotes from the Guardian]
The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: “It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn’t know what they were doing.”

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands …

Many British and US special forces soldiers learn about the degradation techniques because they are subjected to them to help them resist if captured. They include soldiers from the SAS, SBS, most air pilots, paratroopers and members of pathfinder platoons …

“The crucial difference from Iraq is that frontline soldiers who are made to experience R2I techniques themselves develop empathy. They realise the suffering they are causing. But people who haven’t undergone this don’t realise what they are doing to people. It’s a shambles in Iraq”.
As I said when I first wrote about this, those photos from Abu Ghair didn’t look to me like the kind of thing a bunch of novices would come up with on their own.

We delude ourselves when we give permission to commit evil acts to what we tell ourselves is a limited group of specialists.

There’s going to be some unavoidable human evil in any large undertaking. We can prepare for it, and do what we can about it when it happens, but nothing we do can wholly eliminate it. Still, in its state of nature it’s going to be limited, sporadic, improvised, situational, and in most cases not very effectual. That’s because only a fraction of the population will think up and carry out evil actions on their own steam; and, as with any other naive inventions, what they initially come up with probably won’t work very well.

A lot of what military discipline, employee supervision, law enforcement, and other rules maintenance systems boil down to is spotting these actions, and keeping them from happening again so that the people who commit them don’t have the opportunity to get additional practice, refine their techniques, make contact with other like-minded individuals, and share what they’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t.

This level of everyday enforcement is hugely important—one of the underappreciated bases of a law-abiding society—because while only a small percentage of people will do evil on their own, a much larger middle group will do so if they see others committing evil acts unchecked. Things the midrange would never think up to do on their own, they’ll learn in the company of others; and it will become part of their character. It’s the difference between four or five drunk, irresponsible louts jumping some defenseless person and beating them half to death—heinous though that is—and the complex learned social behaviors of American lynch mobs during the first half of the twentieth century.

No one ever forgets how to do something that’s worked for them in the past. Just replacing it with another behavior can be hard enough, and the old behavior is still going to be lurking there underneath it. Thieves keep stealing. Liars keep lying. Drunks never forget about chemically modifying their nervous systems. And what our troops are learning to do in Iraq, they’ll know when they come home again. For the best of them, that knowledge will be a sickening burden. For the worst, it’ll be usable expertise. And for that broad moral midrange, this will be stuff that doesn’t shock and nauseate them the way it once might. They’re our children, and this is what they’ll be bringing home to share with us.

We delude ourselves when we think we can keep a little pet evil set aside, telling ourselves it’ll only be used on Bad Guys. Whomever that turns out to be. Not that we’ve been thinking about that question real hard.

And now, a list: The Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another’s Sin.
1. By counsel. 2. By command.
3. By consent.
4. By provocation.
5. By praise or flattery.
6. By concealment.
7. By partaking.
8. By silence.
9. By defense of the ill done.
Anybody feel like keeping score?
Comments on User base persistence:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Seems to me the levels are appropriate and necessary here, kind of like keeping track of how many kidneys the _Amanita muscaria_ has gone through before it reaches you.

First level: people experience this kind of degradation as an interrogative technique. They want to warn others that it may happen.

Second level: The warning is used to develop a simulation that helps people learn how to react.

Third level: those who have gone through the simulation warn others just how bad it feels.

Fourth level: Those who have been warned apply it to others because they've come to believe it's effective at making people feel bad.

I think sin (not personally religious, but using the religious term as the closest I can come to describing my outrage) enters here at the littoral between the third and fourth level. That is a personal opinion. YMMV. Responses will be discussed here and elsewhere.

#2 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:18 AM:

Tom, I think you left something out. People who have been humiliated don't necessarily "apply it to others because they've come to believe it's effective at making people feel bad." One reason they apply it to others because humiliation has become part of their landscape, and the line between dishing it out and taking it is thin indeed.

When GWB apologized, he said something on the order of "I want the world to know that Americans aren't like that," and my immediate response was that more and more I feel like Americans are like that, and I hate it. I do love my country and its people; at the same time, I see the currency of humiliation becoming more and more the coin of the realm. Maybe it's just age ...

#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:23 AM:

I hadn't thought about the R2I stuff, probably because it is purely an intellectual understanding for me, and I know that the sorts of things we do to soldiers at such schools are criminal; outside that setting.

There is no way to do this job and not learn some kinds of torture, the literature of evil is huge, and looking for war-crimes means sitting across the table from evil people.

It's a misuse of the tools (and there is a debate going on that teaching people they can be broken actually makes it easier to break them later, but I digress).

We reap what we sow.

Terry

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:33 AM:

It's known, from multiple published accounts by ex-SAS soldiers, that part of the training for the SAS is the experience of interrogation involving torture (by International Law definition). Not the obvious, physical, Gestapo-style torture; they don't want to maim their own soldiers.

It's partly because, in the sort of operation they train for, they might end up in the hands of ill-trained, undisciplined, angry troops, who are using the interrogation as a means of revenge. It's also partly a demonstration of what works.

The cases involving the British Army, currently in the press here, seem more like that scenario than what the US Army has been doing. But they don't seem to be getting the same incisive analysis in the blogoverse. Perhaps, in part, because of a different legal system, including the Official Secrets Act.

#5 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 03:03 AM:

As far as no. 9 goes: if I believed in a smite-prone God, the massive phalanx of bolts from the blue that has utterly failed to strike any of a number of reactionary pundits these past few days would have shaken that faith to the core.

#6 ::: Kristjan Wager ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 05:05 AM:

No matter if we belive that there were someone higher in the ranks that wanted this to happen or not, it's clear that the mere presence of the untrained people in the prisons is a breech of the Geneva Convention (IV), namely article 144:

"Art. 144. The High Contracting Parties undertake, in time of peace as in time of war, to disseminate the text of the present Convention as widely as possible in their respective countries, and, in particular, to include the study thereof in their programmes of military and, if possible, civil instruction, so that the principles thereof may become known to the entire population.

Any civilian, military, police or other authorities, who in time of war assume responsibilities in respect of protected persons, must possess the text of the Convention and be specially instructed as to its provisions."

If they weren't trained in this, and didn't have a copy of the convention, it broke the convention. A convention that the US ratified in 1955.

Whoever was responsible for them being there (and that might very well be Rumsfeld), should be prosecuted for breaking international law.

#7 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 06:13 AM:

I still want to believe that most Americans aren't like that, though I might be too optimistic--certainly the idea that convicts/criminals should be treated cruelly has been common currency for quite a while, and when I say "should", I don't mean some wimpy little "it would be nice", I mean that people seem to think it's a strong moral imperative, and fun besides. I suppose I thought it was mostly talk--and with less reason than I should, since it has obviously been affecting the way American prisoners are treated.

In any case, even if most Americans aren't like that (and I hope they aren't), a basic level of trust has been destroyed.

#8 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 06:20 AM:

I still want to believe that most Americans aren't like that, though I might be too optimistic--certainly the idea that convicts/criminals should be treated cruelly has been common currency for quite a while, and when I say "should", I don't mean some wimpy little "it would be nice", I mean that people seem to think it's a strong moral imperative, and fun besides. I suppose I thought it was mostly talk--and with less reason than I should, since it has obviously been affecting the way American prisoners are treated.

In any case, even if most Americans aren't like that (and I hope they aren't), a basic level of trust has been destroyed.

#9 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 06:54 AM:

Teresa (if I can make so bold as to call you by name), please tell: what is the source of that brilliant list of Nine Ways?

#10 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:39 AM:

The pictures of abuse that we have seen from America are far more graphic than those photographs (genuine or staged) that the Daily Mirror has published.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that any American soldier has no knowledge of the Geneva Convention, reservist or regular. The claims that the prison guards weren't given the proper direction or instruction simply sounds like someone passing the buck and trying to avoid being blamed.

A solider needs to know the Geneva Convention for his or her own safety - it is a core part of basic training in the UK, as I imagine it is in the USA - so the denials of responsibility sound childish and naive. Naturally, senior Officers and NCOs are also to blame for allowing such practices to go on, but it is no defence to say 'I was only following orders and did not know I was doing wrong.'. A soldier has the moral duty to refuse to perform immoral orders.

#11 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:44 AM:

I won't be able to post until tonight, but I want to point out the new David Brooks, who is disavowing all knowledge of the November David Brooks, in the NYT today.

Put in the cognitive dissonance earplugs first so your head doesn't explode.

And for more of the "no cannibalism in the Royal Navy" spiel, we have the BBC's letters from servicemen page.

Keep fighting the long defeat. It's the timeline that is going to kill them, above and beyond the actual 'worse' that was armtwisted out of Rumsfeld. Did you all hear what he gave away? TK, what you said about once you start talking - us old Smiley readers knew that all laong.

Rumsfeld openly admitted that he wants to suspend the so-called free press, on national television. And the so-called free press isn't screaming its head off.

It's the but we're the *good guys* people we need to win, the ones who are in denial, and who don't want to believe that this is the face of America, not the freepers like Washington Times.

In order to do that, we *cannot* a) let them bury this *again* with "we'll take care of us, just trust us, we have your/the victims good in mind" (Fall River, anyone?) and b) let them now claim credit as they are doing for bringing it to the open, as if they were the ones doing it voluntarily, not under a gun, "But see, you wouldn't have had *this* under Saddam Hussein!". Did anyone else imagine Sy Hersh standing behind Rumsfeld holding the latter's wrist up under his earlobe the whole way through?

There are starting to be a lot of letters to the editor saying they won't vote Republican, even if they can't in conscience vote Democrat and mean to sit it out in protest.

Do Bush & Co realize how badly they have alienated a lot of older veterans? Or are they all intoxicated with power, and oblivious to the fallout?

#12 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:47 AM:

Quick ObRef: the hero of Alistair MacLean's The Satan Bug (1962) threw his medals back at the end of WWII, saying he was too old to play with toys. (He also had been injured, semi-disabled and lost family to the enemy, and was disgusted with the current Western powers but thought they were better than the alternative, so stayed in government service, uneasily.) That's another story about WMD and deception which is wierdly OT, the more so for being so dated.

#13 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:52 AM:

Last thought - the collective denial, This isn't the America I know, on all sides, reminds me of the case a few years ago in which a woman was convicted of harrassing a neighbor she didn't like via the mails. Even though there was no lack of proof that she was the one who had done it, (it was weird, she didn't write threatening letters, she subscribed her enemy up to all kinds of junk mail and magazines, hundreds of them, as her hate mail) - at her sentencing, she was quoted in the papers as saying, over and over again, "But that isn't *me*, that isn't the kind of person I am--"

Confronted with the evidence, she still couldn't get past her own self-image as the Good Guy.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 09:36 AM:

Meanwhile, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is starting a move to impeach Rumsfeld.

#15 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 10:07 AM:

Debbie --

Self esteem, one's sense of being valuable and worthwhile and so forth, is a balance between internal and external.

No internal -- no belief that you yourself are inherently valuable -- and you'll go along with anything to get approval from your social group.

No external -- a belief that no event can alter your value -- and you won't regard how your actions affect others. You, and all your works, are good by definition.

So ideally, everyone is pretty sure that they're inherently valuable, and pretty sure that the people around them agree, and the two mild convictions interact with each other and with experience. (Leaning how to do this is one of the things adolescence is supposed to accomplish.)

Humiliation can affect either internal or external basis for self worth; the stuff Teresa is calling R2I above is designed to get at internally sourced self esteem, the basic conception of what makes 'you' you.

If you can pull that off, you have someone who is suddenly, artificially, if you will, utterly dependent on external sources of self esteem, and will do whatever you want to get it -- betray comrades, shoot people, emote for the cameras, whatever.

The basic pattern happens lots of places; badly run military basic training, high school sports teams, corrupt businesses, it's a long list.

It's also precisely the pattern of Christian fundamentalism; you can have no inherent worth, and can only get worth from God, which in practise means by conforming to the dictates of your Church.

This is, from the point of view of most other Christian churches, heretical; there's a whole nuanced understanding of the distinction between efficient and sufficient grace, teachings that emphasize that God is bigger than doctrine, all the stuff that can make something really work by not gluing it to absolutes.

But that Fundie pattern -- the same one the Roundheads were using, three hundred fifty years ago -- says 'you are nothing; obey, and be perfect'.

It works. It makes orcs, but it seems like a good trade to the folks who take it, and they defend it, and lose the ability to be temperate in their dealings, because they know, as they know that they're good, that this is the only way to be good.

The first step of that construction of being good involves believing that you are nothing -- no inherent worth or value, no right to breath or life, existing in a world that weeps from the weight of your feet upon it.

Since this surrender of worth is the requirement for all virtue, inflicting humiliation becomes a virtuous act; only through the destruction of the self can one come to the surrender to God.

So of course humiliation is spreading; that whole vile construction of virtue is spreading. There can be no distent, or subtlety, there may only be absolutes that make everyone the same.

Put people on the top of the stack of absolutes who really don't have any externally sourced self esteem, and you get purely cynical exploitation.

What the United States has got right now is a mix of that -- the looters and the would-be aristios, if those are separate groups -- and true believers in the necessity of universal personality destroying humiliation -- the theocrats -- and those with really profound issues with possibly mythical sources of external value -- George W. Bush.

There's other, better ideologies, but this one is cursed persistent, I think because it offers robust absolutes for a price people are glad to pay.

Which is just what this heathen would expect from the sales pitch attached to selling their souls to the devil.

#16 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 10:48 AM:

I wonder if being reservist impacted the ability of the troops involved to say no, rethink, or tell someone higher-up. I also wonder if the PTB picked reservists on purpose to help set the tone (or whatever phrase Miller used).

One of the fastest ways I know to break down someone's morality and replace it with another type is to completely isolate them from their previous community and replace it with a new community, with different rules.

I'd think regular troops would have an already established law-and-moral community, but I am guessing that the reservists wouldn't (I am thinking in part of the lack of saluting and uniform wearing infractions mentioned in the report), so would be easier to turn into purveyors of evil. Reading between the lines of Taguba's report, I am ashamed to say that I am coming to believe that these troops were turned loose onto the prisoners on purpose and with malice a forethought and given tools to do evil with.

#17 ::: Phill ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 11:04 AM:

This is not the sort of thing a bunch of amateurs think up for themselves, but taking photographs is.

The lack of supervision is like the dog who did not bark. Why didn't the senior officers visit the prisons they were responsible for? The most obvious reason is that they knew what was going on and wanted to make sure nobody could accuse them of knowing.

I think that the reason they put Lt General weepie in charge is because they knew she was easily intimidated and could be kept out of the interogation wing. Replacing her with Miller appears to me to be another signal - the guards implicated know that Miller ran exactly the same regime at Gitmo, he is in it with them.

During the conservatives bleat over the ICC they made a big deal about US servicemen being brought up in front of it. One wonders what the situation would be now if any of the Ab Ghareb guards came up before the ICC. The Pentagon is still insisting that the contractors it hired are not subject to military justice and are therefore not subject to any justice at all. Kinda hard to insist on immunity from the ICC when the US refuses to put these criminals on trial.

I think this is the start of the scandal not the end. The first photos came out because the Pentagon tried to make 6 reserve soldiers carry the can. The father of one of them gave the photos to CBS through Hackworth (having first tried to give them to Bill O'Rielly).

I don't expect the administration to start arresting senior officers, they will start at the bottom, still clinging to the claim that this was an isolated incident. They will start off by charging some NCOs who make public the claim they were following orders. That will force the admin to charge junior officers who will turn on the seniors, and so on all the way up the chain of command.

The coverup won't work because everyone knows that a Kerry administration is a real possibility and they will have no reason at all to recognize the deals made by the previous admin. Its every man for himself.

The other videos will inevitably come out, as will the rapes and the coverups. It is now known that senior members of the administration were warned of the state of the prison long before any attempt was made to stop it.

The next step will be to ask Powell how many reports from the red cross etc. he received on the torture, how many times he warned Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and of course Bush about them.

#18 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 11:40 AM:

And what our troops are learning to do in Iraq, they’ll know when they come home again.

At least one of the indictees learned it here and took it there--I don't have time to dig up the details, but one of the men in the photographs has a history of abuse at prisons in the US. This is someone who has travelled the world in search of opportunities to strip prisoners down and make them bark like dogs.

Which raises the question of why he was ever put in charge of prisoners. Dave Drake's observation about "putting scared eighteen-year-olds with guns in charge of your foreign policy" pales when one thinks of putting it in the hands of thirty-year-old fetishists with an inability to distinguish between consensual sex and rape.

#19 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 12:21 PM:

In the meantime, the U.S. military higher-ups have closed the barn door after the horses already got out.

And have effectively cut off our soldiers' one meaningful lifeline with home. Paper mail, as Terry will attest, has been spotty, given that KBR is handling delivery.

There are already apparently a ton of photos and reports and videos out there, but no more will get out easily, under these new regs (being enforced by a civilian contracting company -- hello, Halliburton).

#20 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 01:35 PM:

Side note, sort of.

The Guardian article includes another lovely bit of blowback from Bush Administration prewar lies:

The British former officer said the dissemination of R2I techniques inside Iraq was all the more dangerous because of the general mood among American troops.

"The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11".

Emphasis mine, of course. I'm not sure if I can start to express how additionaly angry that makes me -- and I am afraid I would not be able to stop if I did.

#21 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 01:46 PM:

Jonathan, if I may, Teresa's list is an element in any number of classic forms for examination of conscience before the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Roman Catholic Church. Here is an example from a Secular Franciscan site. I do not know the ultimate source for the list, but Teresa may well know it.

#22 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:02 PM:

Claude Muncey:

I see, after puzzlement, that you are clarifying for Jonathan Shaw, and not myself.

As to belief in the God who designed the Fibonacci spirals in flowers [for which I'd supplied numerous hotlinks earlier in this thread), this news just in, oddly related to the other Powell thread on water and deserts:

Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 168102
(issue of 23 April 2004)

Cactus Patterns Buckle Up [web page includes illustrations]

The intricate spiral patterns displayed in cacti, pinecones, sunflowers, and other plants often encode the famous Fibonacci sequence of numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, . . . , in which each element is the sum of the two preceding numbers. Now a mathematical model published in the 23 April PRL suggests that these spiral patterns, and the Fibonacci relationships among the spirals, arise out of simple mechanical forces acting on a growing plant.

The round head of a cactus is covered with small bumps, each containing one pointy spike, or "sticker." For some cacti, you can start at the center and "connect the dots" from each sticker to a nearest neighbor to create a spiral pattern containing 3, 5, or 8 branches. These are three consecutive numbers from the Fibonacci sequence. Other cacti, sunflowers, and pinecones display this or other triples of Fibonacci numbers.

One theory for these patterns is that they are driven by mechanics. New leaves on a plant emerge from a rounded growing tip that consists of an outer shell covering a squishy core. As the plant grows, the theory goes, the shell grows faster than the core, so spiral ridges form in the shell to accommodate the extra surface area, just as wrinkles form on skin when there is more skin than the flesh below requires. Where different sets of ridges intersect, they generate hills and valleys as they reinforce one another and cancel each other out. On a cactus, these hills become the locations for stickers. Although biologists have some experimental evidence for the theory, no one has shown exactly how a plant's internal forces could generate the patterns.

To test the idea, mathematicians Patrick Shipman and Alan Newell of the University of Arizona in Tucson created a mathematical model of cactus growth that takes into account the elastic properties and stresses on the plant's growing tip. The pair then computed the buckling patterns that are most stable.

Newell says the stable configurations have precisely three families of spiral waves, with spirals from all three families intersecting at each sticker. Once formed, the spirals tend to reinforce each other and suppress any other arrangement. The Fibonacci relationship then comes from geometry: The three sets of spirals divide the plant's surface into triangles with curved sides, and according to textbook math, a surface "tiled" with such triangles has special properties. Of the three sets of spirals that form the triangles' borders, the number of branches in two of the sets must add up to the number in the third.

Shipman cautions that not all sets of numbers with this additive relationship are members of the Fibonacci sequence, but the relationship does make the Fibonacci numbers plausible in plants. In computer simulations, the team produced patterns almost identical to those found in living cacti.

The work is "a very nice step forward in showing that buckling can play a tremendous role in pattern formation," says Charles Steele, a mechanical engineer at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who has studied pattern formation in sunflowers. Jacques Dumais, a biologist at Harvard University, says models like Shipman and Newell's are valuable to biologists provided that they suggest specific experiments, rather than simply producing pretty pictures of plant-like patterns. In response, Shipman says his model makes testable predictions about the thickness of the outer shell and other material properties of the plant.

--Erica Klarreich
Erica Klarreich is a freelance science writer in Berkeley, California.

Related information:

nice write-up in the latest issue of New Scientist


background:

Phyllotactic Patterns on Plants
Patrick D. Shipman and Alan C. Newell
Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 168102
(issue of 23 April 2004)
[interactive web site with pictures of plant spirals ]

New Zealand page on Fibonacci numbers and patterns in Cactus and Succulents ... in progress

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Of the nine ways of being an accessory to another's sin, I think that Bush and Rumsfeld have each scored a solid nine-out-of-nine.

Resignation/dismissal/impeachment/criminal trial shouldn't be ruled out.


#24 ::: Calimac ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 02:28 PM:

The part I'm having trouble believing is the idea that this form of torture is actually supposed to be an interrogation technique with a name. "R2I technique" indeed. That just sounds so self-satisfiedly bogus, like Harvey Manfredjinsinjen and his "XK Red 27 technique."

#25 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 04:49 PM:

It has the military feel, a quasi-mathematical shortening. C3I is well-established, and I'd expect it to be some sort of short list, three words with initial letters R, R, and I.

What they are, I don't know.

It sounds a lot more real than "IPCRESS".

#26 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 05:32 PM:

Dave Bell:

I've also seen C4I = Command, Control, Computers, Communications, and Intelligence.

Then there's ECM = Electronic Countermeasures
and ECM = Electronic Counter-Countermeasures

Yup. It sounds like authentic jargon. Or, to be sfnal, Doublespeak.

It's easier to be evil with the right doublespeak... you can so much more easily fool yourself and others... not that the victims care what you call torture. It is what it is.

#27 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 06:44 PM:

That David Brooks piece, the dissonance to me is that he hasn't disavowed his previous position.

The closest he comes is this, "We still face a world of threats, but we're much less confident about our own power. We still know we can roll over hostile armies, but we cannot roll over problems. We get dragged down into them. We can topple tyrants, but we don't seem to be very good at administering nations. Our intelligence agencies have made horrible mistakes. Our diplomacy vis-à-vis Western Europe has been inept. We have a military filled with heroes, but the atrocities of a few have eclipsed the nobility of the many."

I don't see him saying the atrocities are wrong, merely that they've gotten attention.

When compared to the Nov. 4 stuff, "The real doubts come when we see ourselves inflicting them. What will happen to the national mood when the news programs start broadcasting images of the brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt? Inevitably, there will be atrocities that will cause many good-hearted people to defect from the cause. They will be tempted to have us retreat into the paradise of our own innocence.... The president will have to remind us that we live in a fallen world, that we have to take morally hazardous action if we are to defeat the killers who confront us. It is our responsibility to not walk away. It is our responsibility to recognize the dark realities of human nature, while still preserving our idealistic faith in a better Middle East."

I don't see the slightest sense that he thinks any differently, but he's like us to think so.

Terry

#29 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:21 PM:

Jim; Thanks for the info about Rangel's impeachment drive. I've just written a letter to my congressman asking him to support it. Since he (my congressman) has the text of a speech called Rumsfeld Must Go up on his front page, I suspect there's a good chance he will. I recommend everyone else do the same. The House has a web page where you can find out your who your representative is and his fax numbers. (I intend to fax the letter next time I go upstairs.) Do it now.

MKK

#30 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 08:33 PM:

I was all ready to believe that this kind of training was necessary, until I was reminded of the Stanford study.

#31 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 08:37 PM:

C4I led to BMC4I - the TLA grows by accretion

#32 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 09:52 PM:

Let's add more ways to participate in torture:

By voting for those in the chain of responsibility when they run for office.

By giving money to anyone in the chain of responsibility, either directly or by buying their goods and services.

#33 ::: David W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 12:01 AM:

For details on what an R2I course involves, which allows you to confirm Teresa's assertion on their relevance for yourself, see here.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 12:18 AM:

Tom, Deb, the person I know whose experiences most nearly approximate that treatment came out of it with great sympathy for people in that position, and a very clear sense of what that treatment can and cannot do.

As far as I can tell, the institution with the strongest belief in torture as an intelligence-gathering mechanism is the movie industry. It makes a great plot device.

Terry, my experience with human beings in general is that being broken is more likely to increase one's fragility, not confer immunity.

Dave Bell, I've done a little writing elsewhere about the British case. It's appalling, but seems to me to be a simpler affair -- more basic human evil, fewer intimations of large-scale structures being revealed.

Kip, have you noticed how many of these commentators, who for years have been going on nonstop about a little canoodling in the Oval Office, are lightly dismissing our forces' deliberate use of rape and gross sexual abuse to traumatize and disorient prisoners prior to interrogation?

Kristjan, JC, this business about the guys at Abu Ghraib not getting adequate instruction in the Geneva Conventions is patently ridiculous. Bugs Bunny knows from the Geneva Conventions. And since the investigation found several of them lying about it, they can hardly claim they didn't know it was important.

Jonathan Shaw: Yes, it's okay to call me Teresa. Everyone else does. Even my mother calls me that.

The list of ways to be an accessory to another's sin comes from a page called Numbers to Remember, which is part of the Thesaurus Precum Latinarum. It's one of those artifacts of the church's systematizing impulses that's useful no matter what your beliefs.

Bellatrys, maybe some people are still doing the "We're the good guys" routine, but I very much fear that Rumsfeld and others are building a gulag. I assume you caught the story about them holding prisoners brought there by Other Government Agencies (OGAs)

...without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention. The Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center (JIDC) at Abu Ghraib called these detainees “ghost detainees.” On at least one occasion, the 320th MP Battalion at Abu Ghraib held a handful of “ghost detainees” (6-8) for OGAs that they moved around within the facility to hide them from a visiting International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) survey team. This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law.

Since then, I've read one that said that "A congressman with experience in military detention said Saturday that the Pentagon rejected an Army plan to send him to oversee Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison in the early months of the war in Iraq." By "the Pentagon" I think they must mean "Rumsfeld," since the Army wanted the guy to go and oversee the prisons. I think Phill is right: they chose the people and the structure they did because they knew they wouldn't interfere with their plans.

Kevin, I've been thinking about this, and you're right: David Drake's quote is the defining one for this period. I've heard it before from other sources, by the way; it was phrased as "teenagers with automatic weapons," but otherwise identical.

Nancy, is there any justification whatsoever for depriving our troops of their contact with the outside world? This isn't going to slow down the bad 'uns among them, but it's going to be hell on the morale of the good ones.

JVP, I yield to no one in my admiration for FIbonacci patterns in nature, but that ought to have been posted to an open thread.

Calimac, don't read more meaning into military nomenclature than is there. It's a strange language. In fact, it's several of them.

#35 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 01:09 AM:

Wow, go away for a family reunion and a lot happens!

Deb, very true. Not all who get humiliated in that way, as T points out, go that way, and I did elide the ways various folks go when faced with an unacceptable (to them) situation.

On another front in relation to this: in another online community, someone pointed out that Islamic belief basically says "Once someone else breaks the rules, it's okay to respond in kind" -- in other words, documentation of this sort of atrocity gives them permission to do the same to prisoners from our forces. Which means our troops over there are in much worse danger than they were a few weeks ago. The Quran also apparently suggests restraint, Allah preferring that -- but once the gloves are off, the gloves are off.

I have not seen this mentioned elsewhere, and I'm worried because of it. Among other things, if this is a basic mindset of Islamic religion, we're setting up for a serious escalation of hostilities here, and it'll spiral right through US thought without folks expecting it (-"Oh those damned heathens, they're not willing to accept our peace offerings so we gotta sock it to them harder."-) and that will make it much harder for us to find peace. I am much afeared.

#36 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 02:56 AM:

I missed the comment about reservists not having the mindset/discipline to refrain from this sort of crap.

In a word: bull.

I can't help but take that a trifle personally, being a member of the Reserve Component, and it ain't so.

Most reservists have time in the Regular Army, and reserve units are more tightly knit than an active unit, because they don't have the turnover.

I was a wreck, low-grade, while the rest of my unit was still in Iraq. It affected (though I didn't notice it) everything I did, every relationship I had.

There are guys in that unit I have known for 10 years, guys I would rather die than disappoint. The sad, and scary fact, is the UNIT went bad, because the circumstances took advantage of other weaknesses (and created more).

I do, however, think that one, or two, strong people could have stopped it. Held the line against abuse (even while obeying the wicked, wrong-headed and counter-productive instructions to, "set the tone") it is to the NCOss, and the commander's infinite shame, that none of them was such a person.

#37 ::: Heather ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 03:10 AM:

I find myself agreeing with many of these comments so much I had to jump in.
Tom: On your comment of May 9, about the Islamic gloves-off attitude we will experience now, with the drastically increased danger to our troops, I completely agree. I've been staying up late and posting journal comments and sending protest emails until I'm sick to my stomach. I found myself thinking through why anybody would set up such a bureacratic situation, and encourage such widewspread practice of torture, just as in creating a Vietnam or Korea monster unit.
I agree completely that the methods that were used could be untrained misapplications of methods used to train frontline guerilla units to resist primitive interrogation methods.
So that in fact it became just that, primitive interrogation methods.
But I have trouble believing that the higher levels who tolerated this were acting out of cowardice at confronting it. I can't think there was anything accidental about it. I think it was deliberate, conscious, and planned to accomplish exactly that.
The fact that it was documented in Afghanistan and among British troops, theater-wide, suggests there is high-level intent here.
I got to this point by working my way through the fact that such a useless application of torture on prisoners held for long periods was not in fact an attempt at getting intel at all.
It shouldn't be called 'interrogation', a misnomer.
It is one form of waging a war of terror on an occupied people. (Monster units are another. I wouldn't be surprised if we learn about that too, in days to come.)
Which led me to the seriously paranoid thought that it is intended that way: Malice aforethought.
Well, American power has been known to engage in such "unAmerican" use of force before.
I began to wonder if exacerbating the whole conflict and making it an indefinite endless war of terror was the whole intent.
Extend the war of terror for generations.
Then somebody will retaliate with another 9/11 event, and then it's a great excuse for declaring martial law.
I know, if you're the Tom Whitmore I happen to know in other contexts, that you're very well aware of fictional warnings about all of this.
Babylon Five featured exactly such a political coup in a futuristic setting.
To anybody else who hasn't read Margaret Atwood's book 'The Handmaid's Tale,' either speak out against this future now, loudly, or be prepared to live in the kind of fear experienced by those prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
Apparently this is exactly what happened to inmates already, if you were in Texas during Gov. Goerge Bush's term of office.

Nancy:
Had to comment that, in fact, we have been treating American prisoners very badly indeed.
One of the links about it that I saw posted by an actively political person over on live journal was this one:
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_05_02.php#002937

I am afraid I can't post another link to a different story, as I would like to. I have asked this very active person to post the link here, if they get the chance. There's enough data in the summary that it should be searchable online, if anyone is interested in pursuing it.
I can only offer that, IMHO, this person's summaries of news stories tend to be pointed and accurate.
This was their summary of the news story:
The corrections experts say that some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.

#38 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 03:49 AM:

As an aside Maze Prison, which is not in the good ole U.S. of A. is not a bad search term for enhanced interrogations in the context of but not the presence of a ticking bomb.

Somebody set up a torture machine and walked away and left the machine running.

The torture is never right. The killing may be.

There is, there can be, no justification for depriving our troops (or almost anyone else) of their contact with the outside world. There is precedent, see Stalingrad and obsf as referenced (by a veteran) in Marching Morons.

There is often justification for censoring current information even before dissemination only through secure channels to folks and family with established need to know. Such justification may well include considerations well beyond operational security.

I have no doubt there is plenty of self censorship in what we see - no talk of equivalents to shit on a shovel and throw it away from the fighting hole for instance.

Time was you could tell the senior from the junior NCO's: the senior were the alcoholics (prop blast cup really meant prop) the junior the potheads. Not a criticism of either; a sign that things change.(don't mean any given individual need be either)

I know a couple who each got a Ham ticket for Korea and I may think of MARS before LiveJournal. Lots of folks will communicate.

From my aging perspective I would have taken exception to some of the personal references - Tedious Girl - by everybody's favorite. I would likely suggest going for a long jog or such arrangements as seemed good to NCO's on the ground for the author and as appropriate for the other. It's a different world; I'm likely wrong.

Fighting the last war is a truism because it's true. The thesis of Attack and Die about the American Civil War is that the South lost in part because they had all the good generals who knew how to fight the last war. Cf. Robert S. McNamara and another armed struggle.

We do seem to have very old men making things up as we go along - I won't know what's right in many respects until I look backward on it.

#39 ::: Heather ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 03:56 AM:

Had to break up my comments a bit.
Graydon:
Thank you very much for the comments explaining the neocon/fundie humiliation basis for reconstructing a person's morality on their outside instead of their inside.
It never made sense to me before why the extremist right wing want to destroy the self-esteem of their converts--"breaking their will for God"--while also building up the whole social unit's image as monolithic, never wrong, a completely safe haven that will never be questioned.
Manipulating people who will do anything at all for the unit they're bound so tightly to.
Well, jellyfish rely on water to support them.
Take away the water, what's left?
In more extreme form, it's the same way that you create a torture unit, as I understand from my admittedly limited reading in nonfiction on the subject. I can barely handle the sf novels by Susan Matthews on it--very stiff stuff, with the kind of moral impact that makes Rumsfeld's answers to the Congressional hearings all the more difficult to tolerate.
I have always been queasy around the kind of relativists who clearly lack an internal skeletal structure on which to hang their decisions.
Ask them questions about unconventional topics, and you soon notice the goo simply oozing out in every direction.
Your comments explain exactly why I should be.

There in Iraq, somebody took away all the external structures those people had ever relied on in their lives, and watched them go right to pieces, like jellyfish on the beach.
Reading such uncomfortable books does make you well aware of the theory that very few people's ethics, put to the test, would prove to have genuine internal skeletons.
I'm not sure I agree with it.
There were plenty of ordinary people, during 9/11, who proved to have calcium in those bones, and plenty to spare.
Doing this in their name is an abomination.
I can't think it's accidental.
Neocon/fundies know exactly how to create social units full of these jellyfish. If you're right about this, they practice it all the time. And of course they're perfectly comfortable with the idea of the military bootcamp breakdown of civilians to remake them into soldiers who will shoot other people on command.
But if the social unit provides the entire structure that these jellyfish people lack, what happens when their social unit fails them?
That makes me wonder if the way to clear out every last rat from this rotten crib in the Pentagon is to prove that their social unit is not safe. That it is leaking at every seam.
The troops in Iraq relied on their social construct so heavily, so completely enmeshed in it, that those troops did and condoned things against every law and ethical code they ever knew before. The isolation of the unit made them fall all over to be adopted by their new social unit. The crimes, and hiding the crimes, becomes an important part of the meshes binding them together in a unit full of secrets.
Well, *they've* found out it wasn't something to rely on.
It's about time the cynics in the Pentagon who created these monster units should experience the same thing.

Let them learn that the social unit that has coddled them to this unbelievable point is going down fast.


#40 ::: Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 04:16 AM:

Hello all,
I always read these threads and seldom comment but a few of you mentioned that Islam officially sanctions eye for an eye type of vengeance. Actually that is completely false, although ordinary Muslims may feel that way (just as many Americans who identify as Christians also like to hear about vigilante justice). The Prophet's behavior, which most Muslims think we are supposed to take as a guide for our own, strongly suggests otherwise. The basic premise is that you deal with your enemies more kindly than they did with you when you overcome them. The "just war" in Islamic thought is strongly reminiscent, to me, of the Catholic model of (?) Aquinas (?) that I studied the basic premise of in college. I can bring a book from home that is written for children called "The Battles of the Prophet Muhammad" which carries many instances of his behavior during and after conflicts, if anyone is interested in specific examples.

#41 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 09:44 AM:

Anna, I think that would be an excellent addition to the current discourse.

Graydon, Heather, it's an interesting model but I'm not sure it's an all-explaining one. I've been thinking about all those photos passing from hand to hand, which is a new thing in a war. We're all little primates, and we learn stuff by seeing other primates do it. I'm wondering whether the dissemination of photos hasn't accelerated the pace at which troops are learning novel behaviors from each other.

#42 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 09:55 AM:

Heather --

The troops are doing an exceptionally good job of staying ethical.

One of the things Secretary Rumsfield should be impeached, tried, and hung by the neck until dead over is that he apparently neither knows the very basic things taught to junior officers about the psychological durability of troops in combat nor is he willing to have anyone tell him.

The most basic part of which is courage is not a renewable resource, and that the more modern the war, the worse this effect is. The Hitler's War numbers are fifteen weeks of full intensity combat, and then eighteen weeks of lower intensity 'rear area security' and 'anti-partisan' sorts of service. After that, they're done; it'll be years before you can get the kind of service psychologically stable people provide out of those troops, you've used them up.

There are a lot of technical arguments people can make from various perspectives about how being stuck in a distant land when you know the supply chain is fragile and your objectives are obviously insane while people you can't talk to and don't culturally comprehend use you for target practise with anti-armour weapons compares to Hitler's War full intensity combat, but irrespective of the precise professional estimations of just how much service you could expect to get out of the line troops, fifteen months is not less than six months too long.

The troops start coming apart; anyone would start coming apart, it doesn't matter if you send in Roland of the Horn and Sigifrith the Dragon Slayer, courage is a finite resource.

Once they come apart, they lose any sense of proportionate response, the general value of life, the general value of their own lives. Standard failure modes of human brains under intolerable stress, and culpable in the command structure, not in the troops, because this has been known about since 1700 at the very latest, and been part of military doctrine since the Napoleonic Wars, and then extensively studied in consequence of Hitler's War, Korea, and Vietnam. This is not a surprise; it's a basic, fundamental, necessary part of force level planning.

Secretary Rumsfield and President Bush have burned through the US Army's combat power for net negative result; used it up, thrown it away, pissed it away, to make the people of the United States the active targets of tens of millions of justly furious people whose suffering has been repaid with destruction of those things which kept them from utter poverty, disease, and starvation.

The specific atrocities we're hearing about in the prison system established in Iraq were and are matters of deliberate high level policy, specifically intended and not merely condoned but actively desired by Secretary Rumsfield and President Bush.

No one sets up extensive extra-legal enclaves for the holding of prisoners by accident; no one establishes systematic use of torture by mistake.

The US Army isn't perfect, but it's pretty decent as huge warfighting institutions go, and it's not actively stupid; getting around the professional officer and NCO corps to force actions that will get them and their troops killed for no benefit is work. Secretary Rumsfield had to order it done and back it up with steady, concerted, deliberate institutional pressure to get it, required obedience to civil authority on the part of the uniformed military notwithstanding.

The low-level criminal behaviour should be tried, and should conviction result be punished harshly, but don't kid yourself that this is some sort of localized moral failing. This is the exposed corner of a large, concerted, desired and deliberate effort to introduce torture to the institutional behaviour of the United States, to be used against whomever the President, the Cabinet, or whomever can claim to be acting in their names, doesn't like.

Torture is terror.

The President and Secretary of Defence and various of their personal followers and minions desperately want to be terrorists. They've gone to a lot of trouble to be able to say "take this person somewhere and hurt them until they go screaming insane, and then don't stop."

Because the President and the Cabinet have the moral character of something inorganic, the intelligence and foresight of sawdust, and no sense of duty to anything but their bank balances and fellow thugs, perhaps; perhaps because they have no soul of their own.

Why matters much less than that they hang for it, with as little metaphor as can possibly be arranged.

#43 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 09:58 AM:

Teresa --

It certainly isn't all-explaining. I see it as having more explanatory power about limitations of response -- things that are not imagined, such as "this person who disagrees with me isn't bad" -- and patterns of insecurity management than about where bad behaviour originates.

Enforced externally sourced self esteem doesn't generate novel attrocities, particularly, though it will sure use them.

Teaching people sexual desire is evil, now that will get you novel attrocities, in a scary bow-wave curve whenever new tech hits the conviction of loathesomeness.

#44 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 11:05 AM:

Heather -- yes, same Tom W.

Anna -- I'll dig out the cited quote from the Quran a bit later. Agreed that it is suggested that good Muslims refrain from such behavior, but the quote specifically permits them to indulge (and I did reference the suggestion in my quote). Not all people will read a given religious text the same way, of course, and I believe that Muslims are no worse than Christians about "an eye for an eye" -- I'm just pointing out that when such retaliation happens, Muslims have _an explicit religious permission_ to do this. And given the tone of combat we've set, I think we have to expect such retaliation.

#45 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 11:20 AM:

And here is the quote. I have not verified it myself by checking a copy of the Quran, but I personally trust my source.


…and so for all things prohibited, there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, Transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves. (Quran, Buqara, 194)

That looks pretty clear to me.

#46 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 12:40 PM:

This reminds me of Watergate, EXCEPT, in Watergate, the new media was AGAINST Nixon, and actively working together to pull him down. They loathed him, and wanted him disgraced and fallen. [source--drunken argument of two political professors, one from Harvard whose commentary sometimes appeared in the New York Times, can't remember his name anymore, and an MIT professor].

One of my college dormmates, during the Watergate investigations, has a giant chart on his dormmorm wall with the Executive Branch of of the US Government, and was crossing off members of it as they were indicted and convicted, all the way up to and including Richard M. Nixon himself.

==================

Didn't look to me like there's much interest this mess in DC or in the press evinced in Why Did This Happen as opposed to playing the pin the blame on someone convenient and don't let the USA get caught shown in a bad light by this sort of thing again.

I just heard excerpts of commentary by Hersch, that it wasn't a coverup, that how can something be a coverup with Bush and Rumsfeld have their ears and eyes closed and their minds set against being informed of anything they don't want to hear. ""Bad news, in that Pentagon, doesn't go anywhere." "-Four months [and all the generals were concerned with was keeping the information out of the public, not in changing anything, it wasn't until the photos came out that anyone wanted anything changed]-"

Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld are -willfully- deaf and blind, and the people who report to them act accordingly. Anyone who someone delivers a message to the trio that the trio don't want to hear, is relieved of their position in the government if in a position to be removed by the Excecutive Branch, and whether removable or not, immediately and continually attacked by the spin and slime and misinformation brigade of the repressionist malign rightwing pressuremongers and disseminated out by news media and colonists into newsgroups, mailing lists, etc. Some of them are direct minions, others are parroting stoolies. It's amazing, and scary, and terrifying. A driveby flack dropper even breezed through Elizabeth's Moons sff.net newsgroup a couple weeks ago posting one of those bogus stories purporting to be from Patriotic Wife and Mother of Servicemen so Very Proud of her serving Son and Husband who were being attacked by all these people with the temerity to question the actions of Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld.

There ARE conspiracies involved, and systematic breakdown of the ideal of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

I heard Rumsfeld say, in different words, that he wants the US to be a police state where information doesn't flow freely, where the US Government intercepts all electronic data and blocks whatever it objects to, for whatever reasons. He didn't provide detail, other that ranting about digital photographs getting around without him having seen them.

He seemed to not care that before digital cameras existed, newswires sent pictures from film cameras, converted into as few as THREE different levels of grayscale intensity (black, white, one gray shade) from place to place, or that people did and still do, in the case of courtrooms with no cameras allowed, makie pictures with pens, pencils, ink, chalk, paint.... taken words and create pictures, that was what illustrated books, before photography, used. Nobody knows exactly what Hector, Priam, Achilles, Helen, Briseis, Menelaus, etc., looked like, but in a few days the Trojan War comes to theaters, in the film Troy, taking words and turning them into pictures....

#47 ::: Heather ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 03:24 PM:

I had mentioned earlier getting a link about prison guard "training" right here in the US, including this summary:
The corrections experts say that some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.

Here it is.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/08/national/08PRIS.html?ex=1399348800&en=bea18d005140f198&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND


#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2004, 08:51 PM:

Here is what's required of our troops who fall into enemy hands. Full text with discussion here.

Article I

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

Article II

I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

Article III

If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

Article IV

If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

Article V

When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

Article VI

I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

#49 ::: Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 01:35 AM:

To the person who quoted Baqara 194, it is out of context. It is not a blanket permission to transgress Allah's limits. Here are the verses preceding it.

2.190] And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits.
[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
[2.192] But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
[2.193] And fight with them until there is no persecution, and religion should be only for Allah, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
[2.194] The Sacred month for the sacred month and all sacred things are (under the law of) retaliation; whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
[2.195] And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good.

As you can see the transgression they are talking about here is whether or not to fight in the Holy Place (the Kaaba) with the people if they start a fight there, and it is about self-defense. It does not say that you can do anything at all. It says that it is forbidden to fight in the Kaaba but if you are attacked, then you have the right to fight the oppressor until he is vanquished.

It is not very wise to cherry-pick verses from the Quran without looking at their context just to make Islam look like a bloodthirsty religion. It is easy, though, and you can do the same with any religion that has a text.


#50 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 02:00 AM:

I agree, and thank you for the context.

However, I have enough experience with Christians cherrypicking verses to believe that some Muslims will do the same.

I have no wish to depict Islam as a bloodthirsty religion. I merely wish to point out that we've handed those fundamentalists who wish to be bloodthirsty a serious Excuse On A Platter. I have little argument with anyone who is thoughtful in his/her religious belief.

#51 ::: Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 05:27 AM:

Incidentally, "just war doctrine" originates with Augustine (at least as usually told - I suspect that there were earlier formulations in the Eastern church) & the modern version was formulated by Aquinas.

The historical dictionary of terrorism [not what I would ideally use as a source, but it was the first link to come up when I googled "ibn rushd" "just war doctrine"] notes that modern mainstream Islamic doctrines of Jihad are almost identical to Aquinas' theory. This is hardly surprising, given how much Aquinas cribbed from Ibn Rushd.

Here's a primer on Just War from the Minnesota Council of Churches.

#52 ::: Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 06:38 AM:

Thanks, Mr. Scudder! I was debating in my head "was it Augustine or Aquinas?" but decided to just name one of them and hope for the best, trusting that both of them had probably at least raised the issue.

It has been about 15 years since I had my liberal Jesuit education. I have forgotten a lot about the great Christian philosophers.

To Mr. Whitmore, yes, Muslims probably could take those verses out of context, but we also have a long juristic tradition of arguing against doing this. Our philosophers disagree on almost everything except this issue. Any Quranic verse means absolutely nothing / everything, unless you see it in context. That said, there are many current firebrand imams who really lack the classical traditional education the Muslim system used to produce and they can be really sloppy in this regard (particularly when it serves to make some sort of rhetorical or political point).

The classic example of taking a verse out of context is regularly taught to grade school Muslims in religion classes: "Do not approach prayer" which is half of a verse that says "do not approach prayer when you are under the influence of alcohol". The argument is that if you took the first half out of context, you'd have a Quranic verse telling you NOT to pray. Therefore taking stuff out of context means you WILL end up misunderstanding it. Hopefully, most Muslims take that seriously.

#53 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 10:34 AM:

(Please, Anna, call me Tom unless you want me to call you Ms In Cairo! We're all at the same party here, and I think we can assume that T would have properly introduced us long since.)

Many Christian groups have the same bias towards seeing context (the Jesuits come immediately to mind); unfortunately, there are some that don't (and I noticed you concurring in believing there are similar folks on the Muslim side). I hold to fearing that such folks will make serious difficulties for any captured American troops, and that this will result in serious escalation because the Americans won't understand the cultural context. I would love to be proven wrong on this! And your thoughtful posts help me believe I might be.

#54 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 11:06 AM:

Look, here's hope, Tom. The public impession to the contrary, endorsed even by Major Names In The Press, is that 1) the Blackwater Four came first, then 2) the Abu Ghraib atrocities. *We* know that's rot and anyone with half a brain does, but the pictures came in that order and as our adminstration so too the nation.

But the Marines had been shooting civilians, wrecking the town, and people had been being taken away and tortured for *how many* months before Fallujans en masse lost it? How long would *we* have put up with people shooting into crowds and exacting reprisals for guerrilla warfare on the civilian population?

What we need is someone who can convince the Iraqis that *we* are just as screwed as they are. Faiza, Raed's mother, recognizes this and prays for us on her blog. But how many people out there are going to look at the US and US propaganda and think here are a bunch of poor, semi-educated young peasants who joined up to get food and medicine and hope of a paying career after, and who believe everything their political machine tells them, when the evidence is out there in libraries and journals and on the internet to the contrary?

ObRef Cherryh - you don't shoot at beings you can't talk to. And right now, our people look like the *kif* in all this. Can we convince both us and them that we're not? Not in this mess of moral absolutism combined with intransigent willful ignorance. But reality hammered at has the power to crack such walls, if the holder of the absolutist position isn't completely selfish.

#55 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 05:19 PM:

One reason (among so many) that my wife and I are so disgusted with this whole mess is that we both have a pretty good idea what is supposed to go on in an well-run American prison and how it can go bad. One of the first things we picked out of all the stories is that a couple of these reservists are CO's (correctional officers) in civilian life. We get to work with some true corrections professionals in the state or federal facilities we visit, and depend on them for protection when inside. We have never witnessed anything but the most professional behavior.

But this kind of stuff does go on here as well, and we have no illusions about it. Consider the story this morning concerning a dog attack on a California Youth Authority ward (a juvenile) in a facility near here that has had problems with "counselors" -- CO's in the juvenile facilities -- assaulting wards on videotape. This sounds way too familiar all of a sudden.

#56 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 05:36 PM:

Since we're quoting from scripture, allow me to offer this quote -- Namely, Article 77 of the Uniform Code of Miltary Justice.

Any person punishable under this chapter who— (1) commits an offense punishable by this chapter, or aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures its commission; or (2) causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him would be punishable by this chapter; is a principal.”
#57 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 05:53 PM:

I've found this scandal to be disorienting in an unexpected way. The more I learn, the less is inexplicable. The more I know about Abu Ghraib, the less incomprehensible it becomes. I'd much rather the other way around. Too many pieces of previous knowledge and experience have been falling into place, making a clear mosaic out of what had previously been little sharp bits of knowledge, and that image is amazingly ugly.

The Stanford Prison Experiment has been mentioned more than once. The person who designed it was Prof. Zimbardo. His hompage is at http://www.zimbardo.com/current.html I recommend reading his chapter on evil, entitled "A Situationist Perspective on the Psychology of Evil:..." Of the stunning things I learned about the Stanford experiment, it took exactly two days, two days!, to go bad, and that they stopped it after six, out of the original fourteen days that they had planned. Monstrous behavior out of randomly selected, normal adult men, in two days.

Nobody has a complete handle on how or why any of these things happen. Zimbardo's argument, which seems to be at least partially correct, is that evil is created, not by bad people, but by situations which permit bad behavior. Lack of supervision and anonymity are two situational aspects likely to cause sadistic behavior. I gather that part of the way in which the military is structured is to prevent (or, in other circumstances, create) exactly this type of behavior.

For another curious experience, poke around in http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/mylai/MYLAI.HTM

You've probably already noticed Seymour Hersh's role in bringing information forth about Abu Ghraib, and you probably know that it's the same Seymour Hersh who wrote some of the most important stories about My Lai. Didn't they promise me that this wasn't going to be another Viet Nam?

#58 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2004, 06:23 PM:

Many Christian groups have the same bias towards seeing context

I spent last Friday being led by the Sprit, or pagan prattle, or something, to mock a fundie tract that relies on out-of-context quotes.

#59 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2004, 04:34 PM:

A solider needs to know the Geneva Convention for his or her own safety - it is a core part of basic training in the UK, as I imagine it is in the USA - so the denials of responsibility sound childish and naive.

Actually, to the best of my recollection from boot camp, the Geneva Convention is not a part of basic training in the United States. From what I understand, it is part of the training kit for combat and MP specialties, but its delivery in boot camp depends on the individual instructor. Hopefully, better law-of-war training will be one of the reforms that follows from this atrocity.

#60 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2004, 07:00 PM:

Out of town, so going from memory on this, but seeing the photos immediately sparked recollection of the old list of classic Arabic insults from "Ritual and Belief in Morocco," I believe by Clark Westerman.

Among the insults, if I remember correctly:

O son of a dog.

O son of twenty men and one woman.

O son of a woman who makes water in the streets

Looking at the pictures leaked, some of them could certainly be taken as photo-illustrations for these insults, and I knew immediately that these weren't just random things some soldiers invented, but things culturally tailored to piss off Muslims.

Dog leashes and bras may be cute fetish fashion accessories in San Francisco (where except for being non-consensual, the photos shown so far are pretty tame), but in a culture where being called a son of a bitch is still a grave insult?

Anthropology is still playing the Handmaid of Imperialism, it seems. And these actions were not the inventions of a bunch of low level reservists, ordered to pose for pictures.

#61 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2004, 09:31 PM:

Correction to the above: Ritual and Belief in Morocco, by Edward Westermarck.

Clark Westerman is someone I knew from the comics field ten years ago.

#62 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2004, 01:58 PM:

For at least the past 11 years the Geneva Conventions has been a four hour block of instruction for Basic Trainees in the US Army.

Some of it is confused (bits and pieces of the Hague Conventions are often added in, as parts of Geneva, I can't say this conflation bothers me, on the practical level).

Perhaps it's different in the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force.

#64 ::: ElizabethVomMarlo ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2004, 04:39 PM:

One of my old professors is an expert on torture. He has written an article here on one of the methods used in the pictures, the one with the hood, the electrodes, and the box. It even has a name.

http://lostpages.net/lostpagesDRtorture.html

I ran across the link in Kathryn Cramer's blog, but for what it's worth, Prof. Rejali was one of the best and most precise profs I ever had.

#65 ::: Chris Anthony ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 07:35 PM:

Mrs. Neilsen Hayden,

I feel a little bad about posting this, because not only do I agree with what you've said (and think that you're probably right, to boot), but I'm commenting on form rather than content. That said:

What the Guardian suggests is in fact correct.
No, I’m not going to explain how I know that.

This puts me off a bit; it sounds, to be quite honest, like you're speaking ex cathedra, which I doubt is the image you want to project. I understand that you have reasons for not revealing how you know that the Guardian is correct, but reading your statement in its current form, I found myself wondering briefly whether I should trust your confirmation.

Other than that, I really have nothing to say that hasn't been said better by you or other commenters. Thank you for your time.

#66 ::: Chris Anthony ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2004, 07:37 PM:

...and, of course, I've gone and mistyped your name. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

#67 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2004, 04:32 PM:

Chris Anthony, I know how it sounded; and frankly, I expected to take more stick for it than I did. I do know that they're right, and it's within the bounds of propriety for me to say that I know, but the rest is not my story to tell. That's just the way it is. I didn't want to dance around that point or try to disguise it, so I decided to just say it as plainly as I could, and take whatever stick I got.

Why do I think anyone should believe me? Because normally I do explain how I know things, or short of that I explain where my theories are coming from. Because I don't respect BS arguments, even ones made in support of things I support. Because I do my best not to lie, and I'm prepared to change my position if I find out I'm wrong.

That still doesn't prove that anyone should trust me, but it's the same set of reasons that would make me trust someone else who made an assertion like that; so I figure I'm on firm ground.

Amar, forgive me if I do you an injustice, but I don't yet believe in you. If you'll send me private email explaining why I should, I'll be likelier to let that message of yours continue to stand.

#68 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2004, 09:44 PM:

This Sunday's Times Magazine

Meanwhile, Donald "Not Yet Under Indictment" Rumsfeld knows right what to do. The problem isn't torturing prisoners, it's taking pictures of tortured prisoners. To that end, he's banning digital cameras for the troops.

Here's a better idea, Donny: Why not ban torture? That'll put you in line with international law....

#69 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2004, 11:52 PM:

Scant Evidence Cited in Long Detention of Iraqis
By DOUGLAS JEHL and KATE ZERNIKE

Published: May 30, 2004

WASHINGTON, May 29 — Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were held in Abu Ghraib prison for prolonged periods despite a lack of evidence that they posed a security threat to American forces, according to an Army report completed last fall.

The unpublished report, by Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, reflects what other senior Army officers have described as a deep concern among some American officers and officials in Iraq over the refusal of top American commanders in Baghdad to authorize the release of so-called security prisoners. Some of those prisoners were held for interrogation at Abu Ghraib in the cellblock that became the site of the worst abuses at the prison.

General Ryder, the Army's provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing "displeasure or ill will" toward the American occupying forces. The Nov. 5 report said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks justifying imprisonment, and for deciding when to release them, violated the Pentagon's own policies. It also said the conditions in which they were held sometimes violated the Geneva Conventions.

...

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2004, 12:02 AM:

Jim, tell me what all this means. You know from military personnel interacting with local civilian populations, and what interrogation can and can't do, and what intel's good for, and what everyone's relatives think about it. Put it all together. Or don't, if you don't want to; but you are hereby official encouraged to Feel Encouraged to do so.

I know bits and pieces. Put it all together.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2004, 12:23 AM:

This is the very simple answer:

No one wants to be responsible for releasing the next Mohammed Atta.

The intel they're getting is bad intel -- but there's high level pressure to produce Results. We have a demand for intel, and not only intel but intel that says what we want it to say.

There's only one way to get the information, and only the information, that you want to hear.

Now we know that the Army recognized the problem back in November, and investigated it, and reported it. This reporting happened at the Major General level. Therefore, whatever happened to fail to act upon that report, happened at a higher level.

So. That's what we know.


#72 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2004, 12:56 AM:

Nobody ever starts at the beginning and explains all the way through.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2004, 07:45 AM:

I don't understand what you're asking.

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