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December 15, 2008

The other shoe
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:46 PM * 54 comments

While we’ve all been distracted by other news, I see (via Solarbird) that the Senate Armed Services Committee has released the results of its inquiry into the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and elsewhere. A few choice quotes from the executive summary (emphasis added by me):

The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.

One thing that jumped out at me:

Following the Secretary’s December 2, 2002 authorization, senior staff at GTMO began drafting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) specifically for the use of SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape] techniques in interrogations. The draft SOP itself stated that “The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations. These tactics and techniques are used at SERE school to ‘break’ SERE detainees. The same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation.” The draft “GTMO SERE SOP” described how to slap, strip, and place detainees in stress positions. It also described other SERE techniques, such as “hooding,” “manhandling,” and “walling” detainees.

What stands out to me here is something I see over and over in stories about abuse of various kinds: People who’ve been subjected to abuse seem to be imprinted with it, and (under certain conditions) may then reenact that abuse against others. Which implies that perhaps interrogators should be drawn from the ranks of people who haven’t been subjected to these harsh techniques themselves.

Interrogation policies endorsed by senior military and civilian officials authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques were a major cause of the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. […] It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel.


Conclusion 6: The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) interrogation program included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding. Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques. Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under U.S. anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.


Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. […]

If any of your right-wing torture-apologist friends try to paint this as a partisan witch-hunt, point out that while the Armed Services Committee is chaired by Carl Levin (D-MI), the ranking member is John McCain (R-AZ), who knows a little something about torture. The 25-person committee consists of 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and Joseph Lieberman (Likud-CT), and not one committee member dissented from the report.

Harper’s has more on the report, and here’s Glenn Greenwald on the (lack of) media response.

Comments on The other shoe:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Cheney still thinks this isn't torture, and that it's legal.

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 11:07 PM:

Forget Cheney; in a few weeks, he's history.

What we'll still be stuck with is our appalling news media. 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, and JOE FUCKING LIEBERMAN assented to this report, and it's still not as newsworthy as speculation about whether Obama's people ever took a phone call from Governor Blagojevich? This is the sort of thing that makes strong men and women drink hemlock.

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Coincidentally, I was planning to write a post about our appalling news media, based on some other stuff I saw this afternoon, but then this popped into my field of attention. And I don't have a clever title on hand for the news media one.

#4 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Avram: Interrogators are drawn from people who've not been to SERE school.

In 16 years I've not known one interrogator to have been to the school. It's for folks who are in jobs with both a high risk of capture, and a high probabilty of knowing things which are really time sensitive.

Since the purpose of the class is, ostensibly, to teach people how to resist giving up info it's not something interrogators need.

We already know enough to be better at avoiding giving things up than any of those guys are ever going to be.

#5 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 12:28 AM:

McCain voted to approve use of torture. He can burn in hell for all I care.

The military system abused my brother all on it's ownself, Fortunately intervention by civil courts/a wise judge in Topeka made sure he got treatment the VA denied.

They served in the same war. My brother was never a POW, but he was and is, mentally. Second time harmed him, first time he was a NIKE specialist and behind the lines, second time he was a Huey pilot and I'm not sure what he did because he never spoke of it.

#6 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:59 AM:

I fucking hate that justice is so slow that we don't ever KNOW about these things in time to stop them from happening in the first place. I mean, we knew since 2004 at least that it had been happening--but not as it was starting, and no one in power seemed to care even when the first reports came out.

It's almost 2009 and the Senate is finally doing a report on it. I'm glad they are, but it makes me so angry that it happened at all, and that it takes so long to even acknowledge it.

(Of all the things on the Obama administration's plate, this is the one that matters most to me--more even than the economy.)

#7 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 02:02 AM:

From the post title, I thought it was about this incident.

#8 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 03:45 AM:

It's sickening to me that Congress effectively was unwilling to say anything about this until nothing could be done about the Bush administration, because it's effectively over.

#9 ::: pedantka ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:03 AM:

Look, I know Lieberman is a self-serving ass, and I know he's Jewish, and I'd be lying if the Likud jab didn't make me laugh. But 'self-serving ass' and 'Jewish' aren't actually related to each other in any meaningful way; why take a cheap shot at the guy's religion when there are so many other, more legitimate, reasons to dislike him?

#10 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:05 AM:

OK, so Obama closes down Gitmo and reverses all pro-torture policies. Good.


What about the torturers? They'll still be around? Will they be put on trial and say, "I only followed orders"? Or (more likely) will they be quietly paid off to resign and keep their mouths shut?

#11 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:16 AM:

Pedantka @9, what on Earth are you talking about?

#12 ::: Pedantka ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 07:01 AM:

Listing Lieberman's party affiliation as Likud is, to my eyes, playing off the fact that he's Jewish, making his lack of loyalty to any party look like a result of his religious affiliation (implying that he's more loyal to Israel) instead of his being a selfish jerk. I'm not saying that's what was meant, but it reads that way.

Unless he actually has gone and started the American Likud party while I've been out of the country, in which case I take back everything I just said, and promise to don the mantle of dumb for the rest of today.

#13 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 09:10 AM:

Lieberman supports a two-state resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict (scroll to the bottom of here), which the Israeli Likud party opposes. (Yes, there are probably lots of American politicians who will pay lip service to a two-state solutions but advocate policies and conditions that make it highly unlikely that such a solution will actually be implemented. A true Likudnik won't even go as far as lip service.)

Besides, as pedantka said, aren't there enough other reasons to dislike Lieberman?

#14 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 09:23 AM:

FWIW, Pedantka, I agree, both that it was funny and that it came across (to me) as inappropriate.

#15 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 09:38 AM:

Republicans are starting to turn against Bush right after he became a lame duck without a Republican successor. If McCain was the President Elect, it'd have been as 12/12 tie. And of course, there will be no consequences for any of this.

At some point, I really hope that Obama orders the military leadership to tell the American people jut why torture is bad, and infective, and why we shouldn't ever do it again, that yes, what happened in GITMO was torture, and that it was a blot on hour honor. I'd give them extra bonus points if they told us that Jack Bauer was a fictional character, and that torture as depicted in 24 was not how things worked in reality, and that romanticizing torture and implying that it did work was like romanticizing fascism and saying that it worked too.

#16 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 10:06 AM:

What stands out to me here is something I see over and over in stories about abuse of various kinds: People who’ve been subjected to abuse seem to be imprinted with it, and (under certain conditions) may then reenact that abuse against others.

Relatedly, people who underwent bizarrely tough training/indoctrination/upbringing think it's normal, and in fact virtue-building, when they train the next generation. See also the medical profession-as-a-whole (especially surgeons) and its institutional resistance to stopping the 48-hour shifts for residents stupidness, and all the other ways baby doctors are tested to destruction repeatedly (risking patient lives and their own health, as well as causing many talented and dedicated candidates to drop out because they can't handle the pressure) before they get given their little gold star and told they 'rate'.

#17 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:44 AM:

Brilliant title.

#18 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:49 AM:

Pedantka, as uncomfortable as it is for me to admit, I share both a state and a religious heritage with the Man of Lieber. I did not take the Likud designation as a slam on our religion, but as a slam on his positions being so rabidly pro-Israeli that they make him pathologically stupid about anything that happens in the same approximate latitude. An accurate assessment, IMNSHO.

Lieberman is not a great policy fit for Likud, true enough. Unfortunately, the opposition party to Likud is Labour, which is not a distinctive enough name to make the point stick. Political satire is not an exact science.

#19 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 11:52 AM:

What about the torturers? They'll still be around? Will they be put on trial and say, "I only followed orders"? Or (more likely) will they be quietly paid off to resign and keep their mouths shut?


One of the more disgusting things about the whole mess is the way that there has been a blanket excuse for the people actually carrying out Shrub's policies, ranging from aggressive war to torture.

There should be a taint of shame on soldiers who follow orders to attack a nation that has committed no aggression against theirs, or who do all the steps that got the victim to the torturer's door.

Each atrocity is only possible because of many people doing things that follow the orders and enable the direct actors. Picking and choosing who to blame, while excusing others without whom the atrocity couldn't have happened, makes no sense.

There are different levels of blame, depending on what one knew, and how directly one was involved. But if you're actions supported the atrocity, you bear some blame, even if it was paying the taxes that paid the torturer, or filling the fuel tank of the truck that carried the captives to be tortured.

#20 ::: Redshift ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 01:17 PM:

And beyond all of this there is the fact that the torture techniques those in the SERE program were being trained to resist were those developed by the Soviets and the Chinese to elicit false confessions! There are other aspects of this that are more horrible, more criminal, and more immoral, but that fact is without a doubt the stupidest part of the whole evil episode. Only their we-are-always-right "24"-addled brains could ignore that essential information and decide that if our soldiers are being trained to deal with it, the exact opposite must be true. Grrr!

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:31 PM:

What makes ME want to drink hemlock is the fact that none of these people (not Rumsfeld, not Cheney, not Gonzalez) will ever see the inside of a prison cell, not one of them. Much less what they really deserve, which is to see damn little else while they still breathe.

I thought the Likud jab was funny. I didn't think it was inappropriate either, but then I'm not Jewish.

#23 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 04:41 PM:

What would be kind of nice, though, would be issuance of warrants for their arrest to answer indictments at The Hague. Maybe Gonzo could happily avoid international travel for the rest of his life, but Cheney and Bush have these cock-and-bull ideas about foundations to promote democracy around the world....

#24 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:29 PM:

(not lurking but has been enmeshed in the logistics of a transatlantic move for his family)

So, apparently, stuff has happened, what?

Joshing, aside, this journalist did something very few of us actually would. And apparently right now, he is being punished for it.* Regardless of that, he will be lionized in the east and west as someone who finally spoke his mind without the deferential blinkers that we reflexively put on when we refer to our leaders. (Ok, that I put on...I'm not a proper disestablishmentarian, and am still deconditioning myself.)

*OK, if you don't want to acknowledge the BBC as a legit news source, suit yourself. I and a great number of other people do.

#25 ::: Opher Lubzens ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Ursula @19, by that logic all of the western world, at the very least, is guilty of atrocities. At least on account of aiding and abetting the Chinese government, if not for various other stuff(say, whatever their intelligence agencies are doing).

In addition, your definition cheapens the guilt of such things- rather then make people who are guilty of atrocities to be exceptions they become the societal norm. And so guilt becomes meaningless as an indicator of people deserving of censure by society.

#26 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Terry@4: \which/ interrogators? Your colleagues, whose training probably descends lineally from The Ritchie Boys, or whoever they could find in the brute squad who claimed that they were modern-day Wilfred Shadbolts? ("In the nice regulation of a thumbscrew--in the hundredth part of a single revolution lieth all the difference between stony a reticence and a torrent of impulsive unbosoming that the pen can scarcely follow.")

#27 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:11 AM:

I think Terry has made quite clear the ideals and professional standards to which he and his fellows aspire. I'm not sure where any references to 'brute squads' might come in when speaking of Terry, or thumbscrews for that matter, but it's quite possible I don't understand all the nuances. If you could elaborate, please?

#28 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Opher Lubzens @ 25 . . . by that logic all of the western world, at the very least, is guilty of atrocities.

Yes. And your point is?

Actually, I'd include more than the western world, I suppose. But as Ursula L. also said @ 19, there "are different levels of blame, depending on what one knew, and how directly one was involved." The guilt isn't shared equally--that, as you say, would be making the commission of atrocities a societal norm, and I don't believe it is, either, at least not on my more optimistic days--but it is shared to a certain extent. Fix it, fight it, or share the blame. Given that I'm not superhuman, or even close to omniscient or flawless, I've accepted my share of the blame and intend to work to minimize it to the best of my ability.

Sorry. That sounds pompous. I really don't disagree with you all that strongly; I just get tired of the "but how can I do anything about [whatever]?" response. Most of the time, I admit, "the best of my ability" is pretty lame. But there it is. Of course, I also believe that ignorance and inattention often do as much harm as active malice, so that might be influencing my reaction here, too.

#29 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 04:49 AM:

Pericat @ 27: I was JUST about to suggest to CHip that some lunatic with a grudge appeared to have hacked his account and begun posting vicious and pernicious drivel under his name in an obvious attempt to destroy the honour of same for seven generations (or words to that effect, anyway), when I took another look at #26 and finally parsed the "or".

I speak under correction, but I THINK that says "Terry, do you mean you and decent folk like you OR do you mean that other lot we have running around calling themselves interrogators?"

#30 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 09:05 AM:

#28 ::: Mary Frances:

If people feel helpless, then telling them that a situation they really didn't contribute all that much to is their fault isn't going to make them feel more capable.

*****Telling Terry Karney that his profession is something out of Terry Pratchett is wildly inappropriate and obnoxious, not to mention just plain false, but there's an interesting question-- how did the profession of civilized interrogation get started?

#31 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 10:05 AM:


I suspect a better designation for Lieberman would be (BigPharma-CT), going back more than a decade.

#32 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 11:21 AM:

URsula L @ 19:

Your comment came to the question "Who is to go on trial and go to jail for this? Will the torturers?" And while the initial answer of "They'll be paid off and told to keep quiet.", if cynical, is both germane and possibly correct (And something we should prevent), I'm not really sure how your further point about the much wider blame actually connects.

Does the entire wider world need to also be put on trial? That seems impractical. Do they/we need to accept our shares of the blame? Yes, but how does that relate to the chances of - and need to - get the torturers, their superior officers, and their superior commanders, before a judge? The only way our blame seems likely to lead to their trial is via scapegoating. And yet, I would say those whose portion of the blame is greatest need to go to trial, not for the expiation of our shame, but for the principle of justice. More, to do so for the former increases rather than lessens the shame, while the latter may indeed cleanse some small part of it.

#33 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 30: No, but at least we don't have the excuse of ignorance any more. And we can then be alert for the opportunity to do something. Or refrain from doing something, I suppose.

I'm not trying to take the "blame" for all the ills of the world on my shoulders. But I am involved in the world, so there is at least an appropriate portion of it owed to me. Whatever that portion might be.

Lenora Rose @ 32: That's also true. Justice, not blame--good point.

#34 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:08 PM:

Does the entire wider world need to also be put on trial?

My point is that excuses are being made by everyone, and for everyone. You and I did things that made these atrocities possible. So did many, many others. Yet everyone has an excuse. "I had to pay my taxes (that funded this), it's the law." "I didn't know the prisoners in the truck were going to be tortured (despite knowing that there were prisoners being tortured.) "I was just following orders, I had no choice - the blame belongs with the people who gave the order." "I have to support the people who did this, they're our troops and they had to follow their orders." (But they might have thought twice about following orders to commit a crime against humanity, if they thought their family would disown them and their community would shun them if they did something like torture.) "I never hit anyone, I just ordered my subordinates to interrogate them because I was under orders to get the intelligence." "I never gave that order, it was over-zealous subordinates." "I had to give that order, it was necessary for national security, and national security is the most important part of the job I was elected to."

If we, the people who paid the taxes that paid the torturers, make excuses for ourselves, and the things we made possible, how can we then turn around and honestly say "no excuses" to others who were instrumental in the process?

There are no excuses for crimes against humanity - ordering them, carrying out the orders, or supporting those who order them and carry out the orders. Take away any of those three things, and the crimes can't happen.

And the largest group of people involved, the ones who made the torture seem morally acceptable, are the third group, the once who looked the other way, and let it happen, and made excuses. That group is us. We need to start by taking responsibility for our own involvement, not ignoring it and blaming others.

#35 ::: David Owen-Cruise ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 30

Terry Karney can probably give you a better idea of how interrogation got civilized, but I'm pretty sure it worked like this:
1. You capture enemy soldiers. You know they have useful information.
2. Misleading or inaccurate information would be actively hazardous to your own troops, so you want to be confident of the results of your interrogation.
3. The enemy is also capturing your own soldiers, and the quality of treatment will probably be reciprocated. Also, you like to think of yourself as being civilized.
4. If you talk to enough prisoners, even the little bits they do know can add up to a useful picture, so you need enough interrogators feeding information to enough analysts.
5. Somewhere along the line, somebody realizes these are particular skill sets and shouldn't be handled by overworked stressed-out line troops.

Or I could be entirely wrong. It happens.

#36 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Ursula L.: I meant a literal put on trial. Your rhetoric is correct in the moral sphere, but here, on the ground: Who SHOULD go to trial, and what can/should the others do to ensure that it happens?

Are you really, earnestly, equating a taxpayer who had no idea this was happening until the news broke with someone who followed orders knowing it meant people would get tortured?

Are you really earnestly suggesting that trying to get those directly involved to trial is somehow ignoring the portion of blame that goes to your "Third group"? And what has trying to get them to trial to do with "making excuses" for ANYONE? Or are you saying putting a direct torturer or their commender on trial is wrong because somehow the taxpayer taken unawares by the fact that hir absent-minded assumption that "We don't do that" was proven wrong is equivalent?

Can we not accept our portion of blame and *still* say that the ones who attached the wires and loosed the dogs deserve jail time, and even undergo that process? If not, how does any justice ever happen, in this world view?

#37 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Following on Lenora at 36 (and #34), what exactly are all of us in the third group supposed to do? Stop paying taxes because some of it might be used for programs we'd be horrified by but have no idea exist?

#38 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Well, the taxpayers should go on trial to the extent that the US should be civilly liable for the damages caused by the illegal acts (torture, war of aggression) which means the taxpayers, via the US gov't paying damages, should be held accountable. We owe reparations, not in the form of the US "rebuilding" Iraq, but in the form of damages paid to the actual people harmed.

We, as taxpayers and beneficiaries of the US gov't, also owe atonement and recognition of the wrong we have done. This isn't something vague and abstract - it is something as real as when the US forced German civilians to inspect the newly liberated concentration camps in their communities. We have committed a war of aggression, which is a crime against humanity, and in carrying out that war we have committed torture and illegal detentions. The nation is shamed, and must learn, down to the bone, the extent of the horror we have done.

How to "tour the camps" when the crime occurred half a planet away is a logistical problem - but some sort of national accountability is needed. Perhaps requiring people to view films of the atrocities? Mandatory curriculum in US history classes about the shameful behavior of this country, and the fact that it is the obligation of every US person to ensure it never happens again? Investigation of every American involved in the war - soldier and civilian - to determine personal involvement and the extent of responsibility?

Just picking the few people "directly" involved, and isolating them as being the ones to blame, is in no way sufficient. It is a national atrocity, and national accountability is needed.

I find the focus on torture to be problematic, because it means that the initial crime against humanity - the war of agression - gets ignored as something this nation is responsible for. The problem is not merely that people were tortured by the US - the problem is also that we carried out the war that is the context in which the torture took place. And anyone involved in that war, as commander, as soldier, or as taxpayer, is part of that national shame.

#39 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Following on Lenora at 36 (and #34), what exactly are all of us in the third group supposed to do? Stop paying taxes because some of it might be used for programs we'd be horrified by but have no idea exist?

We knew it existed. The war was aggressive, and we knew it from when it was first planned. Ignorance is no excuse, because we were not ignorant.

#40 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 02:30 PM:

Ursula L. @ 38 & 39: Ursula, you have higher standards for individual atonement that I do, I'm afraid. Not that I don't agree with you, exactly: I do. But I also know what I'm capable of and what I'm not capable of. What my limits are, no matter the cause. Agreeing that we as a nation should pay, or at least consider paying, reparations of some sort is one thing, as is arguing that what is happening should be stopped and doing my best to elect representatives who will stop it--but refusing to be involved in the war of aggression/torture in the first place by refusing to pay taxes or the like and/or going to jail or surrendering my citizenship ? I don't think I can do that, just for the record. (No, I know you didn't exactly advocate that level of civil disobedience on a wide scale--but if the initial act was one deserving of atonement, then it also deserved to be resisted and rejected before we got to this point, and the "wide scale" is the part of the population I happen to be standing in.)

I think you are right, in an ideal world. But in an ideal world, we wouldn't be having this conversation, either. So I'm going to bow out of the conversation now, because I don't think I have anything more to contribute. And because it's making me feel both cynical and incredibly naive all at the same time, which feels weird.

#41 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 02:58 PM:

At the very least, by way of admission and atonement, we should be pressuring our elected officials to stop this where it is happening and prevent it where it may happen in the future.

We should all be involved in or supporting groups that educate young men and women who are (or may be) entering the military about their rights to resist illegal orders, and support those who have done so (IVAW can help you find a dissenting soldier to support).

This is a baseline of citizen responsibility, here. I know I've failed - I was out there at the beginning, and that didn't work and I got discouraged and quit. But I'm gearing up again now. And thankfully, other people were out there doing the work while I was loafing.

#42 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Mary Francis,

The decision to go along, to pay our taxes and follow the law, isn't just yours. It's one that everyone here (who also lives in the US, UK, and other nations who participated in Iraq) made. (Including me.) Deciding differently is very, very difficult, with high costs.

Yet the costs we would face, in the US, are low compared to the costs that other people, under other governments, would face making similar resistance. We might wind up in prison - but we're unlikely to wind up in Guantanamo or a similar situation. Being part of the privileged group that is "US citizens within the US" we'd most likely get a trial by jury, and other protections.

And the US has committed atrocities - illegal detentions, torture - against people in Afghanistan who did little more than you or I did, in going along with the people in power, and who faced greater harm had they resisted.

It is an understandable decision, to go along. But it is also a shameful one.

#43 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 03:35 PM:

To chime in on the taxpayer question: I'd be reluctant to refuse to pay my taxes not just because of jail time for civil disobedience (which in and of itself is a price I am willing to pay to stop torture) but also because then I'd no longer be doing my part to fund good things. I mean, my taxes also go to build bridges, pave highways, fund the local public transportation system, help support the local homeless shelter and a hundred and one other worthy causes (yay! Boulder County's "Worthy Cause" initiative passed!). If I stop paying my taxes in order to stop being guilty of supporting torture, I then become guilty of refusing to support things that deserve my support.

It's very problematic.

#44 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Ursula, I agree that reparations for the war are in order. I was referring specifically to the torture in my previous comment.

#45 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Marna @ 29: Thanks! I have trouble parsing stuff like that.

#46 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Ursula, your prescriptions for national responsibility are interesting, but I'd like to know what you're doing, personally, what you're realistically willing to do. Surely if we're all responsible and all accountable, you must be taking steps right now to bear this awful burden. What are they?

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 07:12 PM:

CHip: Excuse me? Which colleagues? Well we can start with the, roughly 250 I helped to train.

Perhaps the 50 odd I served with in Iraq.

Possibly the 30-ish who trained me (and the model isn't the Ritchie boys, but rahter Hans Scharff and the COL. who was running a large chunk of the efforts in the Pacific theater (whose name I can't bring to mind, and which is escaping my google-fu). But that's ok, call me, and the people I respect, criminals and thugs. I'm pretty much used to it.

If that's not how you meant it (e.g. if Marna's parsing of that "or" is correct), I'm sorry. Used to it doesn't mean I'm not touchy on the subject. Having had people tell me that they's assumed I was not merely capable of beastly behaviors, but they'd sort of casually assumed I did them; just because I'm an interrogator, does tend to get on one's nerves.

In point of fact; I know people who committed attrocities (those convicted in the death of Dilawar were in the unit we were assigned to in Iraq). Interestingly none of them were interrogators. They were counter-intelligence soldiers who had been cross-trained to perform interrogations.

They were also young. If it were up to me, neither MOS would be available as a first tour job to anyone who isn't at least 25 years of age. I'd also insist on them speaking another language, in the theory that gives some sense of empathy to a foreign culture.

To answer the question of how humane interrogation got started... people paid attention what has been known for centuries, torture doesn't get good information. At that point the utility argument wins out... if one is in the information collection business.

The Wehrmact and Luftwaffe had very humane interrogations (at least on the wester front). If they could see it was the way to go, we can certainly expect ourselves to do the same, and until some yahoos who don't know squat about how intel really works got involved, we did.

#48 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 07:38 PM:

Wow, Terry, you sure do know how to pull an eight hundred pound gorilla out of a hat. Good job!

#49 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 08:18 PM:

#38 ::: Ursula L:

So far as I know, war is generally not taken nearly seriously enough. Germany's guilt was, afaik, centered on the Holocaust, not on being responsible for WWII. The number of dead in the Holocaust is well known. The number killed by Germany in the war isn't. Or at least I had to to computations and make judgement calls from the stats in Wikipedia, which suggest that it isn't a well-known number.

47:;; Terry Karney:

The profession of humane interrogation must have been invented at some particular time and place, or independently in just a few times and places. I'm willing to bet that it was within recorded history, though I can also see that humane interrogation is so undramatic and lacking in visceral satisfaction that people are more likely to know about the Inquisition.

#50 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2008, 09:35 PM:

Nancy: I think it arose in several times and place, because I have the sad certainty that the visceral satisfaction of torture; combined with the narrative power of it (the certain belief that one can't make the innocent confess... no one manages to answer the question of what the "guilty" [which my profession doesn't address... it's merely those who have information, and those who don't] have by way of incentive to talk) has caused it to return; even in those times and places where it was banished.

Add the odd beliefs of the Church (that those who confessed falsely would suffer no real harm, and saving the souls of those who were guilty), and the strange parallels between ecclesiatic torture, and governmenal (the State wanted to punish the guilty, interrogation by torture was part of that; the Church accepted it because those who confessed could be reconciled to God for the sins which constituted their civil crimes) and things get strange.

Since retain some of that (why are our prisons hellholes? So we can know the guilty suffer), we run the risk of toture.

I think the rise of the action thriller have hurt. We used to have movies which showed how much we didn't torure. Now we have Lethal Weapon, and 24.

As to War. Goering, and Dönitz, et al., weren't convicted; much less condemned, for the Holocaust. They were imprisoned, and hanged, for "waging aggressive war". That's part of what the Holocaust Deniers use to defend their beliefs.

We remember them for the camps, but that wasn't what put them in the dock.

#51 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 09:06 AM:

#50 ::: Terry Karney:

Thanks for the details about WWII.

Torture and popular art: I think part of the problem is that the bad guys were frequently portrayed as enjoying doing torture-- this left room to have good guys committing torture for the pleasure of the audience as long as the good guys were driven by righteous anger.

#52 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 10:26 AM:

To be clear, I am in no way denying the Holocaust.

But the Holocaust was only one facet of the atrocities, and it was tied, in many ways, to the agressive war.

Hitler & Co. were looking for scapegoats, to blame for the loss of WWI, and to justify their agression. As the war turned for the worse (from their POV) the atrocities against Jews were intensified and accelerated, as they came to believe that somehow eliminating this (innocent) enemy would justify their actions and bring them to victory.

For us, the agression was justified by terrorism and WMD, and our scapegoats have been Arabs and "terrorists." As the WMD weren't found, and terrorists didn't appear in the numbers and with the skills that would seem to justify the wars, things like torture were turned to. They didn't need good confessions, they just needed "confessions" that would confirm the belief that WMDs were there and every other person on the street was a terrorist. Innocent people can't be released, as they might expose the truth, and they can't be recognized as innocent, as that would show the agressors to be the wrongdoers.

Agressive war goes hand in hand with atrocities, particularly when the aggressor wants to justify their agression to themselves and others. The scapegoats are deamonized, and the mental disconnect between thinking oneself a good person and participating in a crime agaisnt humanity leads to emotional distress and poor judgement.

You can't separate the torture, and just deal with that. As long as the lies that were used to justify the agression are allowed to stand, and the agressors think of themselves as "good", the abuses will continue.

The Holocaust is what Nazis are remembered for. It's convenient. Because if you only focus on that particular and extreme act, you can overlook the other things that are more likely to be done by your own nation. If you don't have concentration camps with gas chambers, you aren't that bad, and you don't have to worry about learning the lessions of WWII.

(I was really annoyed by Godwin's law in the run-up to the war. The parallels to agressive war were there, but you couldn't make the point without people shouting "Godwin's law!" and stopping listening. We were starting a war based on lies, and the correct WWII analogies were with the side that started a war based on lies, not with the US's role in WWII.)

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2008, 02:53 PM:

Terry @50:
We remember them for the camps, but that wasn't what put them in the dock.

Analogy: Al Capone, income tax evasion.

We all know what else he did.

#54 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2008, 04:24 PM:

Marna@29: exactly so. (Terry, pericat: see Marna.)

I have this bad habit of rambling without putting in enough periods, then trying to make something of the resulting mess; sometimes it doesn't work. I also don't keep antecedents as clear as I should. Editing onesself is not easy; remembering this keeps me civil when reviewing documentation.

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