Saturday, May 15, 2004

I didn't read this Phillip Carter piece because it seems designed to support the conclusion to which the left has leapt that the photos from Abu Ghraib and the "I was following orders," defense prove that torture is systemic throughout the military and the CIA. Secondly, it starts out by restating the obvious, that information obtained through torture isn't very reliable and is illegal. I don't think that the inadmissability of such information in Federal Courts is of much concern to military tribunals, although that depends on what the rules of evidence in those tribunals happens to be.
It also tends to pale in importance during interrogations when you're trying to prevent more terrorist attacks.

It's certainly a problem for people dealing with prisoners that the constant hostility and resistance wears on one's patience and self-control. It's said that it's easier to brutalize someone if you dehumanize him. Prisoners who are defiant, disorderly and threatening dehumanize themselves and become obstacles more than fellow human beings. That's a problem in every prison system in the world. Add to this the fact that jobs with authority and opportunities to bully unarmed people attract individuals with those propensities.

For these reasons I think the charge that torture is systemic in detention systems and interrogation settings is fairly safe as an allegation. However, there's a difference between coercion and torture. The 'water boarding' technique he describes certainly sounds inhumane, but it is hardly to be compared with cutting off various body parts, putting out eyes, killing one's family or torturing them in front of him. It also seems less offensive when someone with the background of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who by the way is not covered the the Geneva Conventions, since he is an illegal combatant, himself in violation of them.

The real question in these cases boils down to reliability of the information obtained. If the detainees don't produce, I'd be just as happy if we publicly thanked them for their cooperation and released them in Gaza. It seems to me that the problem for interrogators is how to elicit useful, accurate information. The problem with torture is that it may induce a subject to say anything to stop the pain. In the Abu Ghraib situation, the method seems pretty crude. If the defendants were indeed following orders such as "soften him up," the officer giving such orders must be as depraved as the subordinates or very stupid.

I've been trying to figure out how those photos were supposed to be used. I can't quite see it, unless they were to be used as threats for other prisoners to demonstrate the horrors of being treated "like a woman." Perhaps the hoods would prevent the prisoner from seeing his abusers, but when they're in the photos, what good does it accomplish? If you're trying to humiliate the prisoners and threaten them with the photos being shown to their peers, wouldn't you want to show their faces?

I read the Mark Bowden piece on interrogation in the Atlantic Monthly and found it surprisingly balanced. Bowden basically informed my ideas in this post. Basically, Carter's argument is that using torture could prevent information obtained being introduced as evidence against the subject or someone else, such as Zacarias Moussaoui. He concludes:
As a nation, we still haven't clearly decided whether it's better to prosecute terrorists or pound them with artillery. But by torturing some of al-Qaida's leaders, we have completely undermined any efforts to do the former and irreversibly committed ourselves to a martial plan of justice. In the long run, this may be counterproductive, and it will show that we have compromised such liberal, democratic ideals like adherence to the rule of law to counter terrorism. Torture and tribunals do not help America show that it believes in the rule of law. But if CIA officials continue to use tactics that will get evidence thrown out of federal court, there will increasingly be no other option.
An answer might be, "And if courts insist on granting animals like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or al Zarqawi the civil rights they denied their victims, they may just not be given trials at all.

The Iraqi people seem to know what kind of people these prisoners are. They may be officially offended because that's what's expected of Muslims, but on their normal operating level, they probably can think more clearly than American lawyers about the handling and care these criminals deserve. We don't use torture in this country in part because we fear losing out own humanity, but there must come a point where one might conclude that to treat people who take hostages and behead them on video the same as ordinary criminals is lacking in humanity as well.

Bottom line: this is war, folks. I'm not offended by firing a gun near a prisoner's head, if it gets reliable information. I'm not offended by the water boarding, or other means of frightening a prisoner, such as bringing in some Mossad interrogators, or using sexual humiliation, but not with actual prisoners. Use porn actors, they need the work. Use trickery, psychology, disorientation, undernourishment, sleep deprivation, heat and cold, what ever it takes, but don't inflict physical injury or pain to a point where the subject will say anything to make it stop.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The porn before the fact

People are beginning to comment on the hypocrisy of accepting cruelty and sexual perversion in our popular culture while being shocked that it shows up in real life. Wouldn't it be interesting to see Charles Graner's video rental/purchase history?

Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice acknowledges the phenomenon: "[Lynndie England is] not just the face of Torturegate; she's the dominatrix of the American dream."

It's now out that the night shift at Abu Ghraib were making their own porn, with England having sex with multiple partners, involving both themselves and prisoners. Sadly, this kind of stuff is also a face of one level of current American culture. Now that the Supreme Court has declared that pornography and sodomy are protected by the constitution, how can we not expect people in situtation like this, with little supervision, or even presidents and interns, for that matter, to do things that embarrass us all.

Update: Look at the photo accompanying this article . The guy grinning over Lynndie's shoulder Chuck Graner, her baby's father, maybe. He's her Svengali, her Rasputin, her codependent. He's 15 years her senior. She needs badly to get away from him. The good news is that she'll be helped by the military justice system. The bad news is that it'll take her a good number of years.

The party of the working man

You know, blue collar types like MoveOn.org, George Soros. They're now free to spend soft money to defeat the president this year.

No spin here!

Today's top headlines on the NYTimes front page:

MAY 13, 2004

Harsh C.I.A. Methods Cited in Top Qaeda Interrogations

General Took Guant�namo Rules to Iraq for Handling of Prisoners

Lawmakers View Images From Iraq

U.S. Officials Failed to Protect Slain Civilian, Family Says


Really?

The AP seeks to minimize the murder of Nick Berg:
Until stomach-churning pictures emerged of naked Iraqi prisoners stacked like firewood or held at the end of a leash by their American captors, wartime prison abuse was a virtual non-story.

Similarly, the death of American Nick Berg in Iraq may have been little more than a footnote until video was posted Tuesday showing an executioner cutting off the man's head with a knife.. . .

CNN Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr, who reported on the alleged abuse at least four times before the pictures came out, said they illustrated a breakdown in military discipline that hadn't been seen in generations. The U.S. military was cast in the unfamiliar public role of bad guys.

The episode should be a lesson for the news media, Starr said.

``It's very clear that potentially terrible abuses were taking place,'' she said, ``and it didn't become a big story until people could see these virtually pornographic images.''
Interesting that fellow reporters are cited as sources for conclusions like that.

The drums are getting louder

It seems that everywhere I look on the blogs these last few days, there's a hardening taking place. It seems to be related to the Abu Ghraib scandal coupled with the grisly murder of Nick Berg. I felt it myself before I noticed it.

There's a feeling that we've had it with "civilized" warfare. I've seen a number of references to Sherman's letter to Atlanta. I noticed it in Mark Steyn's comments this afternoon on the Hugh Hewitt show. Part of it is exasperation with the idiocy of the loony (scroll down to Senator Levin's remarks)left during the huge flood of triumphal defeatism in the media when the Abuse Ghraib scandal broke. But with the news of Berg's murder it has become grim. I mentioned it earlier, and I've continued to see it. People are getting fed up with patience, and want to kill something. And it's still 6 months to the election.

Update: Read some of the comments in this story.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Some views on why they took pictures.

Since the beginning of the Abu Ghraib scandal, I've been mystified by why the abusers were taking photos. First, it's creating evidence that could come back and bite you. Second, I don't see how they could be useful in interrogating prisoners when the identity of those being photographed is obscured.

This article (requires registration) tries to figure it out, but ultimately it can't. There does seem to be a compulsion to document one's own depravity. I saw the evidence in a case where a rapist wrote a confession in ink on the buttock of the victim and signed it. Maybe it's part of the thrill of violating taboos. When people throw off moral restraints, they sometimes do it extravagantly, giving themselves up to every wild imagination. I don't know if this is what happened at Abu Ghraib, but the GIs in the photos certainly don't look as if they're participating against their wills.

Kaus supports Goldberg

Mickey Kaus joins Jonah Golberg in arguing that CBS should not have showed the photos of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, against Howard Kurtz's hysterical response. Bravo.

What is the point of broadcasting such explosive photos other than to get a scoop? The story was already there and nobody in the media was covering it, but the photos made it sensational. Remember, these are the same people who look down their noses at Fox News and tabloid journalism.

Goldberg's piece is a masterpiece of deconstruction, making a compelling case that using the photos is worse than illegal, it's bad journalism and hypocritical in the extreme given past journalistic practices:
When shocking images might stir Americans to favor war, the Serious Journalists show great restraint. When those images have the opposite effect, the Ted Koppels let it fly.
Kurtz seems not to have thought about whether sensationalizing a four month-old story was a good idea in terms of our national interest, the lives of people like Nick Berg, the effect what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq and in the war against terrorism.

Of course, the bitter irony of accusations that General Myers' request that CBS not use the photos amounted to "suppression" and "coverup" seems to have been ignored, especially when his reason, that it might cost the life of an American hostage, was born out by events. I guess a man's life can't stand in the way of a good story. Goldberg's piece was published before the hideous video of Berg's muder was posted on the internet, so you can add that irony to the mix, too. The irresponsibility increases with the irony.

I've heard a number of journalists dismiss the connection, but I can't. The terrorists may have killed Berg anyway, as they did Danny Pearl, since no one could give in to their demands, but remember that a previous hostage escaped. Where there's life, there's hope.


Update: Wretchard at Belmont Club makes the case against publishing the photos, as well. Unfortunately, Andrew Sullivan and the ombudsman of the Washington Post seem to think the public interest is served by dumping all the horrors on us. That could backfire big time on the antiwar crowd as people troubled by the war see Al Zarqawi holding up the severed head of Nick Berg.

Pat Leahy is one sorry senator

Hugh Hewitt quotes his "question" to Rumsfeld today. As with most senatorial questions, it's really a speech and doesn't ask anything that Rumsfeld could answer.

Closing in on a climactic election

Junkyard Blog details how the Abu Ghraib scandal has been seen by the left and the media as a "silver bullet" to win the presidency. They have raised the viciousness of the campaign up another notch.

He also points to the publishing by the Boston Globe of fake photos of American Troops supposedly gang raping Iraqi women.

Conservatives are raising the tone of the rhetoric themselves. Donald Sensing notes something that I thought about yesterday as I heard about the murder of Nick Berg, and something that Lileks wrote about. America can either listen to the left and bail out of Iraq and figure that as long as they only kill a few of us at a time, we can go back to our sitcoms and sports, and ignore the news; or it can react as the WWII generation did, and demand that the vermin who do such things as the murders of Mitch Berg and Danny Perle be eradicated and settle for nothing less than total victory. As this goes on, will our will weaken or stiffen? Will we hold on to our honor or become like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, "Kill them all!"? Or, perhaps worse, will we become like Theoden, King of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings, bewitched and lethargic, unable to rouse ourselves to face the danger?

In Iraq, as Victor Davis Hanson notes:
We are confronted with the paradox that our new military's short wars rarely inflict enough damage on the fabric of a country to establish a sense of general defeat � or the humiliation often necessary for a change of heart and acceptance of change. In the messy follow-ups to these brief and militarily precise wars, it is hard to muster patience and commitment from an American public plagued with attention-deficit problems and busy with better things to do than give fist-shaking Iraqis $87 billion.
It's frightening to see the democratic control of the military being used as a political football, especially when the good guys seem to be falling in the polls as the media keeps up its Worm-tongue whisperings in our ears, and the left indulges in ever greater spews of hatred. Americans have been entrusted with another in a long line of vital decisions. Will we pass this test?

Update: Reid Stott seems to be suffering the same worries.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Oy veh

The Jerusalem Post reports:
Global terrorism is on the rise and is likely to continue unabated for the next 100 years, according to Prof. Yonah Alexander, one of the world's leading analysts on the subject.
How long before the west realizes that this is serious and starts really fighting back?

The scandal is also a lesson

Iraq1 the Model has an interview with a doctor who worked at Abu Ghraib. You won't see this in the NYTimes or WaPo. Well, maybe Howard Kurtz or David Brooks will mention it, but the last line is what's interesting:
What happened in Abu-Gharib should be a lesson for us, Iraqis, above all. It showed how justice functions in a democratic society. We should study this lesson carefully, since sooner or later we'll be left alone and it will be our responsibility to deal with such atrocities, as these will never cease to happen.


Also, if you want to see the difference between American atrocities and Arab ones, here it is. Seymour Hersh, CBS, take a bow.

Et tu, Andrew?

Andrew Sullivan disappoints again:
[W]e have to be accountable to ourselves and to our ideals. We cannot dismiss, as president Bush did yesterday, the gravity of the events by refusing to hold anyone in his administration accountable."
How does depriving the military of the one man who knows it well enough and is is tough enough to control it add up to more accountability? I have no doubt that there are a lot of systemic problems in the Pentagon. One of them is the rivalry between service branches and another is the the love for expensive and unwieldy tools for fighting the last war. There is no dearth of Rumsfeld critics in the Army because he is insisting that we need to have a military that can move faster and we can't take 6 months to prepare for every battle. The proper model should be Afghanistan, not the occupation of Germany. We don't want to be in Iraq any longer than we have to be, but we haven't quite figured out how to shorten the time it takes to eliminate all the dead-enders and the foreign Mujahadeen flocking in.

Maybe our biggest mistake was taking prisoners in the first place, knowing how freaky our media are about the rights of thugs and terrorists.

My wife told me the other day that the first thing I said after I saw the videos of the planes flying into the WTC was "It has to be bin Laden."

The reason I mention this is because I just saw Jay Rosen's latest. He quotes a speech by Tom Bettag at a dinner where he was given the Fred Friendly Award. Bettag is senior executive producer of Nightline and This Week with George Stephanopolous.

He said, as journalists seem to do a lot, that the media failed us before 9/11. I thought it was ironic, given the press's reactions to the Abu Ghraib story. All I've been reading in the papers is that the stain on America's honor is so bright and so deep that we should just slink away from Iraq, but fire Don Rumsfeld first. I have the distinct impression that they don't really feel that ashamed of that stain, since it really only attaches to Bush and the "Vulcans."
Nightline, you'll remember, took up extra time to observe the end of major combat operations in Iraq to read the names and show the photos of all the men and women who have been killed in the Quaqmire. Not as a political statement mind you, but as a reminder of the "costs of war." I'd have given them another hour if they had been interested in detailing the good things our troops have done in Iraq, like nabbing Saddam, building schools, getting the oil flowing again, repairing the power system, fixing roads, rounding up the criminals Saddam released when we deposed his regime, killing a lot of his Fedayeen and Ba'athists and giving their lives to free Iraq and build democracy there. But I guess that would have been too biassed.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The drawbacks of humane warfare

Victor Davis Hanson puts his finger on the Post-Vietnam dilemma:
We are confronted with the paradox that our new military's short wars rarely inflict enough damage on the fabric of a country to establish a sense of general defeat � or the humiliation often necessary for a change of heart and acceptance of change. In the messy follow-ups to these brief and militarily precise wars, it is hard to muster patience and commitment from an American public plagued with attention-deficit problems and busy with better things to do than give fist-shaking Iraqis $87 billion.
We may end up being the most powerful nation on earth, but unable to use that power for anything worthwhile, unless we snap out of it.

The population bomb, redux

Mark Steyn in National Review ($) makes a good case against Roe v. Wade:
Before the century is out, the Left will come to regret the conflation of feminism and abortion.. . .

The most urgent problem facing the Western world right now is the big lack of babies. On the Continent, abortion is part of the settled political consensus and its persistence as an issue over here is seen as further evidence � along with guns, capital punishment, and functioning militaries � of American backwardness. The result is collapsed birthrates in Mediterranean countries of around 1.1, 1.2 children per couple � that's to say, about half of what's called "replacement rate." Why be surprised that Spanish voters don't have the stomach for war? To fight for king and country is to fight for the future, for your nation, for its children. But Spain has no children, and thus no future. What's to fight for?

Even if you subscribe to the premise of Roe vs. Wade � that abortion is a privacy issue � society as a whole has no interest in elevating a "woman's right to choose" to state policy. The government's interest lies in increasing birthrates, to avoid the death spiral of post-Catholic Italy. If any Democrat understands that, she or he is in no hurry to speak up.
The point is often made that economic prosperity causes reduced birth rates, but I imagine that birth control and abortion do their share as well.

It wasn't just the MPs!

The BBC reports that the UN is making Abu Ghraib look like kindergarten:
The UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (Unmee) patrols a 1,000km (620 mile) border between the two Horn of Africa countries, which fought a war between 1998 and 2000 that is thought to have killed more than 70,000 people.

Eritrea broadcast a statement on Thursday alleging a string of offences committed by Unmee, including housing criminals, paedophilia, making pornography and even using the national currency as toilet paper.

An Unmee report last June quoted Eritrean women as saying Irish peacekeepers on the mission had used prostitutes as young as 15.

The Eritrean government said: "The fact that Unmee has to date not taken any concrete actions and shown no co-operation to correct its modus operandi and clean up its activities, exposes to grave danger the peace and stability of the people and government of Eritrea, as well as the security and stability of our region."
Via Tim Blair

The UN said it was shocked by these allegations. (Especially the ones about using the national currency as toilet paper. Oh, the humanity!)

The best commentary on the Abu Ghraib scandal

It's from Rich Galen who's been there. His comments pack some punch.

The Democrat talking points today have led to absurdities by a lot of bigshots over this trying to drive Rumsfeld out of office. I hope they learn the meaning of "blowback."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The blogging life

Even on his deathbed, Instapundit can't stop blogging. I guess all we can do is enjoy it now, and watch his candle burn.

Victor Davis Hanson's latest column on NRO has some stark warnings about failing to stay the course in Iraq.

This woman is insane.

Lileks coins a word that is instantly recognizable, "blogligations." He's referring to writing his Bleats, but I think it could also refer to the need people like me feel to keep up with the blogosphere. Fortunately, I don't have an audience, unless you count webbots looking for email addresses.