A Few More Bad Apples

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A Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU has led to the release of a series of FBI documents with yet more depressing details about the abuse of detainees in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay. The LA Times and The New York Times both have lead stories today on the whole ugly, depressing business. Documents indicate that, in addition to being, you know, morally repugnant, the harsh tactics described weren't particularly good at eliciting information. Some choice bits:

[A]n agent from the Washington field office reported that an Abu Ghraib detainee was "cuffed" and placed into a position the military called "The Scorpion" hold. Then, according to what the prisoner told the FBI, he was doused with cold water, dropped onto barbed wire, dragged by his feet and punched in the stomach.

[Another] was reportedly spat upon and then beaten when he attempted to roll onto his stomach to protect himself. At one point, soldiers apparently were "beating him and grabbed his head and beat it into the cell floor," knocking him unconscious.

Another agent reported this past August that while in Cuba he often saw detainees chained hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor "with no chair, food or water."

"Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left for 18-24 hours or more," the agent wrote.

[An email by the] "On Scene Commander—Baghdad," contains ten explicit mentions of an "Executive Order" that the author said mandated US military personnel to engage in extraordinary interrogation tactics.

FBI agents were apparently nonplussed that military interrogators would often attempt to pass as FBI, in what at least one agent regarded as a ploy to dodge accountability. It's increasingly clear (if it wasn't already quite clear) that this sort of treatment was systematic, not restricted to a few grunts playing fraternity pranks.

NEXT: Is Ashcroft Softcore?

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  1. Soon the neocons will explain why this isn’t really torture, either.

    I read that our guys put lit cigarettes into prisoners’ ears. I wonder if they then smoked ’em.

  2. Jennifer – the ears or the cigs?

  3. Actually, speaking as a neocon, it worries me more that they’d continue to use a tactic that was ineffective. If they’re electrocuting a guy’s genitals to find out like, where bin Laden’s bin hiding or the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices, not real happy about it, but end, means, whatever. If they’re just electrocuting a guy’s genitals for the hell of it, or just to fill out the torturer’s equivalent of a TPS report, that’s just inefficient.

  4. Worse yet, the rabbit trail leads directly to Bush via Executive Order:

    Here it is.

  5. Hi Junyo, what’s going on.

    Mm, listen, I saw that report about hooking up Hassan to a car battery, and it didn’t have a cover sheet. Um, yeah, we’re putting cover sheets on all the interrogation reports now.

    Um, yeah, so if you could go ahead and make sure you put a cover sheet on that Torture Report, that’d be great.

  6. Well, I usually show up to the dungeon at least 15 minutes late. I take the side entrance so the sergeant won’t see me. Then I sit in front of the car battery and just sort of zone out. I hold some wires in my hands and stare at it, so it looks like I’m reconfiguring the torture equipment, but really I’m doing nothing.

    I’d say that in a typical week I only do about 15 minutes of real torture.

  7. < mumble >
    And, I was told that I could play Barry Manilow music to torture the inmates between 9 and 11 as long as I kept it to a reasonable volume. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the volume here. And the red staple gun that I used on Abdul went missing. I can’t do my work without the red staple gun. If I don’t get some respect I will burn down the prison. Yes, I will burn down the prison.
    < /mumble >

  8. Chaplain: I’m thinking about taking that new kid from block C. If things go right I might be showing him my O-face. You know: Oh, oh…

  9. Soon the neocons will explain why this isn’t really torture, either.

    No political affiliations required to be skeptical about the frequent misappropriations of such terms as anti-semitism, racism, and torture.

    In this case, however, I agree that there was some torture going on. Don’t bother saving me a seat on the bandwagon, though. I’m still not impressed.

  10. Hmm, Hassan Nagan…Na…Nagann…

    Na ganna be able to walk when I get through with him!

  11. So, you insert objects in their rectum.

    Yeah.

    And they don’t consent to it.

    Nope.

    How is that not torture?

  12. So, you ___[fill in the blank]___.

    Yeah.

    And they don’t consent to it.

    Nope.

    How is that not torture?

  13. thoreau – in case I was characteristically unclear, it all depends on where you draw the line.

    Arab captives being humiliated with Israeli flags wrapped around them

    Now that’s not torture, that’s comedy. I love it.

    In deference to various interpretations of the wise and mighty Geneva Conventions I agree with the use of sleep deprivation, loud music, yelling, hoods, and dogs. Fear is the single most appropriate and effective motivator in interrogation.

  14. Can’t this leak be blamed on those liberal intelligence officials?

  15. rst, just so we’re clear, I was talking about sodomy.

  16. “it all depends on where you draw the line.”

    Isn’t that what conservatives like to call “moral relativism” when people on the left say it?

  17. Also speaking as a neo-con, I am becoming very disturbed by all of this. It would seem that the Big Picture Strategy of democratizing south Asia (which I agree with) is being co-opted by some people who have lost sight of the philosophical underpinnings of the strategy (i.e. the tacit moral superiority of free societies).

    This article was my tipping point:

    http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040524fa_fact

    I don’t mind the roughing up of a few baddies (particularly Al Queda types) but out and out brutalization of the average Hassan Al-Sixpack is counter to achieving our overall goal of establishing friendly regimes over there.

    Rummy’s got to be replaced. If not for the good of the overall cause, then pragmatically for avoidance of serious and long-term political fallout.

  18. I was hoping that the word “troglodyte” would someday come back into common use, little did I realize that it might take people defending something like this in order to see that happen.

    Words mean things. Try “troglodyte”–it’s a great word.

  19. “Arab captives being humiliated with Israeli flags wrapped around them”

    “Now that’s not torture, that’s comedy. I love it.”

    Henny Youngman: Take my rights, please.

  20. “it all depends on where you draw the line.”

    Isn’t that what conservatives like to call “moral relativism” when people on the left say it?

    I think that’s the opposite of moral relativism — the insistence that there is a line to be drawn, and it makes a difference whether or not “X” is over that line.

    Example:

    Slapping your spouse = “domestic violence?” Yes.

    Yelling and stomping your feet at your spouse = “domestic violence?” No.

    Running electrical current through a person’s genitals = torture? Yes.

    Wrapping someone in an Israeli flag = torture? No.

    Loud obnoxious music (short of actually damaging a person’s hearing), sleep deprivation, lying and threatening punishment you wouldn’t actually deliver = torture? Frankly, folks, I don’t know. That’s why I contribute little to this particular topic. But there is a line to be drawn when it comes to what is acceptable or not for interrogation. Stuff on one side is torture, stuff on the other side is not. The line is important. (Even though I personally haven’t yet figured out where it should be drawn.)

  21. This savagery is illegal. The military interrogators who inflicted it are criminals and If justice and the rule of law are to prevail, they must be punished for their crimes. These crimes are an affront to the founding principles of our republic. Please contact your rep and senators and demand that these crimes be prosecuted.

    http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

    The government workers who committed them are enemies of liberty.

    huskermet:

    It would seem that the Big Picture Strategy of democratizing south Asia (which I agree with) is being co-opted by some people who have lost sight of the philosophical underpinnings of the strategy (i.e. the tacit moral superiority of free societies).

    The moral superiority of free societies (they are indeed morally superior) is NOT what the neocon agenda is about. If it was, the neocons would not support our government giving many billions of dollars to the Israeli government every year to maintain the occupation of the Palestinian’s land, or support the thug Egyptian regime receiving 3 or 4 billion dollars from our government as well as the half billion dollars that goes to the oppressive Jordanian regime. Also, it’s opposition our government’s foreign policy that makes us the target of terrorists.

    The neocon agenda in the Mideast is about having the US be in service to the goals of the Israeli government.

  22. Well, we tried to make this a fun thread, but the “neocons vs. other cons” can of worms has been opened, and now the subject of Israel has come up. So much for that.

    I shall blissfully ignore it, having been hypnotized into a serene trance by an obese guy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go destroy a printer with a baseball bat.

  23. Damnit, Rick, you were doing so good until the end …

    “The neocon agenda in the Mideast is about having the US be in service to the goals of the Israeli government.”

    Is it possible that the neocons you speak of might honestly disagree with you, without being in the service of the Israeli government?

  24. If I’m in the service of the Israeli government, I damn well better start seeing some paychecks.

    Actually Rick, the Grand Strategy I was referring too can be summed up as follows:

    “Making the world safe for globalization by promulgating democracy and free market capitalism amongst the world’s problem children, like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

  25. Torture-derived Intelligence, Nina speaking. Just a moment. Torture-derived Intelligence, Nina speaking. Just a moment. Torture-derived Intelligence, Nina speaking. Just a moment.

  26. Is it possible that the neocons you speak of might honestly disagree with you, without being in the service of the Israeli government?

    Of course it is. And also, those two things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But, the evidence is that the prime goal in the mideast for the neocon gang is the promotion of the Likudnik agenda. This goes way back. Some history:

    Note the 1996 report “A Clean Break” written by prominent neocons for the Israeli government. The report advocated the elimination of Saddam Hussein as a primary goal. Baghdad was depicted as the lynch pin in the undermining of both Iran and Syria for the good of the Israeli State. After this report, they start a campaign to put forth those goals laid out for the Israeli government as something America must do in its own interest. Fabrication and exaggeration of Saddam’s WMD capacity are part of this campaign.

    “Only ground forces can remove Saddam and his regime from power and open the way for a new post-Saddam Iraq . . .” PNAC founder Kristol wrote in a 1997 report. Kristol’s Weekly Standard magazine is owned by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox News Channel

    http://www.onlinejournal.com/Special_Reports/011604Leopold/011604leopold.html

    One of PNAC’s first goals when it was founded in 1997 was to urge Congress and the Clinton administration to support regime change in Iraq. This was before Rumsfeld was approached by the group.

    The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) sent this letter to President Clinton in January of 1998:

    http://themoderntribune.com/letter_to_clinton_1998_war_on_iraq_project_new_american_century.htm

    It’s signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol, James Woolsey, Robert Kagan, Elliott Abrams and others. The letter argues for aggression against Iraq. They lobbied both Clinton and Gingrich to remove former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power using military force and indict him as a “war criminal.”

    Unsatisfied with Clinton’s response, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, Kristol and others from the Project for the New American Century wrote another letter on May 29, 1998, to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott:

    “U.S. policy should have as its explicit goal removing Saddam Hussein’s regime from power…”

    http://www.onlinejournal.com/Special_Reports/022003Leopold/022003leopold.html

    Note also that Richard Perle, the man at the nexus of so many neo-con “pro-democracy” organizations that have a long history of advocating an attack on Iraq, back in 1970, while working for Sen. “Scoop” Jackson’s office was caught on a NSA wiretap giving classified information to the Israeli Embassy.

    http://www.amconmag.com/03_24_03/cover.html

    http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/82may/hershwh2.htm

  27. huskermet,

    Free market capitalism IS freedom, and is always a worthy goal. But, it is not one that can justify the American taxpayers being forced to support a war. Only a REAL threat to our liberty and safety meets that criterion.

  28. I know it’s passe to suggest that we should be above things like torture (or mere “abuse” for anyone wanting to quibble about definitions), but, well, we should be. By “we”, I mean the liberal West in general, but I especially mean the U.S. We have an awful lot of good to offer the world, and whatever short-term gains we get from acting immorally (and it sounds like there ain’t much in the way of any short-term benefits coming from torturing our prisoners) are more than offset by the harm we do to our reputation. For the GOP types here, whatever happened to that “shining light on the hill” thing? Or was that referring to some guy having a strong current running through him? I grow confus-ed.

  29. Rick Barton:

    This thread originally started out about torture in Iraq. To that end I posted about Rummy needing to go. So as not to be confused with the great mass of people on the left advocating the same for the purposes of a poltical gotcha, I identified myself as a neocon.

    My purpose was never to discuss the propriety of war in Iraq. The purpose was to discuss the propriety of the conduct of the war in Iraq.

    Having cleared that up, I come from the particular group of neocons who think the interests of both the U.S. and Israel would both be best served by cutting Israel completely loose. I would be happy to discuss this philosophy with any and all comers, but it is off topic for this thread, so just email me.

    To get back on topic I offer only this…

    “Peter…they let you have sex with Pfc. England in this place? I’m am in!”

  30. Furthermore, for all of our realpolitik friends out there: “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” -Thomas Paine

  31. I wouldn’t say I’ve been torturing ’em, Bob.

  32. I think that’s the opposite of moral relativism — the insistence that there is a line to be drawn, and it makes a difference whether or not “X” is over that line.

    But assuming that we can draw the line between moral and immoral at whatever point we choose (ie, is convenient for us), that is the essence of moral relativism. The opposite of moral relativism would be moral absolutism, which assumes that the line is drawn at a certain point, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. All we can do is try to find it.

  33. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson (pace Jason Bourne):

    Why is it that the loudest yelps for liberty come from apologists for torture?

  34. Wrapping someone in an Israeli flag = torture? No.

    Once again we see people defending the most (relatively) insignificant acts in a series of ever more horrendous acts in order to minimise the horror of the entire series.

    Now that’s not torture, that’s comedy. I love it.

    I never doubted it for an instant.

  35. “Why is it that the loudest yelps for liberty come from apologists for torture?”

    — because they aren’t interested in “liberty” only insofar as they are “liberated” from those things they don’t like. “freedom” means to them the ability, nay, the charge, to free themselves of anything that might challenge their fixed-horizon worldview.

    basically they’re fucking assholes who deserve to have the bullying they submitted on others come back to haunt them every night for the rest of their miserable fucking lives. fuck them. and if you’re for the torture: fuck you.

  36. If I’m not mistaken the guardsman in these situations are the same folks who, in their civilian lives, routinely subject prisoners at home to abuse and torture. I am, therefore, hardly surprised at their conduct as “willing executioners” of what appears to be the policy of this administration.

  37. It would seem that the Big Picture Strategy of democratizing south Asia (which I agree with) is being co-opted by some people who have lost sight of the philosophical underpinnings of the strategy (i.e. the tacit moral superiority of free societies).

    fwiw, mr huskermet, this was probably inevitable — see france 1792-4.

    but, as bad or worse is the kantian “nobility” delusion under which this entire Idea suffers. is there any amount of pain, cruelty, torture, rape, maiming and killing that would be too great to see The Noble Idea manifested?

    this is exactly the problem with the decayed western morality that has yielded “nobility”. the consensus developed since kant is that evil and unhappiness is acceptable — desirable — if it serves the noble ethic.

    few seems to understand how slippery that slope is, even when it isn’t just a gaping moral chasm.

    one would think that the ramifications of the kant-to-nietzsche development of ethics could have been driven home to most by hitler. i suppose perhaps we americans simply didn’t have enough of our fathers and grandfathers murdered in that little episode to learn anything. instead, we still send narcissitic teutonic heroes to the throne with a mandate to make the world suffer for our own “nobility”.

  38. Officer: Lynndie, I see you only have 15 S&M-themed pieces in your uniform.

    Pfc. England: I was told that 15 was the requirement, sir.

    Officer: 15 is the minimum. Do you want to be the sort of torturer who only does the minimum?

    Pfc. England: Sir, you want me to wear more? I could add a spiked collar and put stilleto heels on my combat boots.

    Officer: What we want is for you to express yourself. Now, if the image that you want to project is that you just meet the minimum, well, that’s OK. But the sergeant over there has 37 pieces of flare in his outfit.

  39. Watch your bunghole, thoreau.

  40. joe, if you’re going to quote one of my favorite movies, at least get it right:

    Watch out for your cornhole, man.

    Happy Festivus!

  41. then thoreau, you’d like this one:

    phydiux.com/sound_boards/gary_v1.swf

    glaedlig jul
    frohe weihnachten
    joyeux noel
    feliz navidad (now is that song in yer head??)
    legiposten

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