Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Battle of Algiers

I know it's been two years since its re-release, but I just got around to seeing it.

How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.

That from the flier issued by the US Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict at The Pentagon, advertising its screening of the film on August 27, 2003.

"There is no comparison to what is happening in Iraq," he says, speaking over the phone from a hotel in Paris. "The only thing in common is the use of torture."

That from Saadi Yacef, the writer whose work was the basis for the movie.





Mad fervor indeed. Aren't you glad we're more civilized than this?

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  • At 11:31 AM, Blogger LL said…

    Please don't tell my you are implying that our troops performed the same level of "torture" as depicted in these photographs.

  • At 12:33 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I have to take a little while to think about how to respond, because your comment has made me so angry I'm afraid that if I answer it right now I will have to offend you. In fact, I've already deleted my original reply. In the meantime, please explain why you put the word torture in quote marks.

  • At 8:57 PM, Blogger LL said…

    ABH, I was not trying to offend you. But the photos of Abu Ghraib do not come anywhere near the level of torture shown in the photos you have posted. I too am mad because you imply, with that second quote, that there is a commonality of torture between Algiers and Iraq.

    If you look at the whole wikipedia analysis of the movie, which I have not seen, it says that both sides used systematic torture to achieve goals. Yes, there were some bad apples at Abu Ghraib (our most well known incident), but that does NOT indicate a government endorsed or sponsored program.

    And it truly offends me that there is a segment of the population that believes our fighting men and women take pleasure or enjoy doing that to another human. Yes, sometimes they snap. Yes, when they watch their best friend burn to death while trapped in a vehicle blown by an IED they may hit the limit and take it out on the guy who emplaced that IED. But I can understand WHY they do those things. It is up to the chain of command to correct it when it happens. And I know that the men in charge DO take those kinds of incidences seriously.

    These are your fellow citizens. Do you think that our nation has raised a generation of killers and torturers?

  • At 9:10 PM, Blogger Big Daddy 2x4 said…

    Government sanctioned torture is quite a bit different from what's essentially kids with no supervision.

    The military never condoned actions like those photo'd in AG and they went specifically against multiple UCMJ articles, conduct unbecoming and disobeying a lawful order. Were those actions wrong? You bet your butt they were but they do not rise to the level of torture.

    The UCMJ specifically prohibits acts like those performed by some punk reservists and even if, by some quirk, they were following orders, they'd still go to Levenworth as humiliating prisoners of war (well, prisoners anyways) as they would still be obeying an unlawful order.

    There were two main things done in AG by those misguided hoodlums, one was humiliation and second was allowing the prisoner to think of what he'd do if the situation were reversed.

    Does the nekkid pyramid rise to the level of torture? Nope.

    Setting the dogs on 'ya? Wrong and reprehensible, you betcha, perhaps even bordering on torturous though the aims of torture aren't met by doing it in that instance.

    AG was bullying, plain and simple. No information was garnered, nobody was seriously hurt and the prison population was not cowed by the example, if anything, unified.

    The intention and condoning of an act is what makes it rise to the level of torture. Everyone in those pictures is going to jail for a very long time for what was some very harsh hazing.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the acts in AG were wrong but they have never been a condoned practice of the US. Those acts certainly don't rise to the level of breaking someones knees or dunking, they were acts of stupid kids that thought they wouldn't get caught beating up bums.

    Ethically, the two examples are not in the same league.

  • At 3:20 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    The intention and condoning of an act is what makes it rise to the level of torture.

    That is very true. And I don't use the word lightly. When Abu Ghraib first came into the public I think it was possible to believe these were just a few kids in a situation beyond their training, with inadequate supervision, who got out of hand. But in the time since then, we have learned of other, similar abuse (and worse) at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, and in other prisons in Iraq. The practices in each new case are so similar that it seems to me we are clearly dealing with something systematic, which means something condoned by superiors.

    I don't like to believe that we are turning some of our best young people into torturers. But I do, and I'm furious at the people who command them for at best allowing it to happen again and again and at worst actively encouraging it. There are really only a few bad apples. But they are at the top of the barrel, not the bottom.

    Finally, before I begin a huge document dump I want to say that I don't believe U.S. soldiers themselves perform torture as violent in most cases as that in these movie stills. We outsource the most brutal stuff. But make no mistake, we know exactly what we are doing when we send our prisoners to countries (such as Egypt) that we know practice torture, and our leaders are responsible when it happens.

    As warned, document dump.


    (Reprint of an article from the Boston Globe)

    Although seemingly less brutal, no-touch torture leaves deep psychological scars. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to cruelty and lasting emotional problems.


    According to the Washington Post, a fact-finding mission for Army generals warned a year ago that Task Force 6-26 was running an off-the-books prison for detainees and applying more-than-moderate physical pressure--and that same task force is implicated in two prisoner deaths. Despite those warnings, Task Force 6-26, with its bland bureaucratic label, operates in Baghdad to this day.

    The infamous photographs of depravity at Abu Ghraib may now actually be impeding public reckoning with the latest evidence of operations like Task Force 6-26. The pornographic violence of Abu Ghraib could be hung on low-level, poorly trained reservists like Lynndie England. The latest reports trickling out of prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo paint another picture: systematic violence by trained interrogators and systematic deceit by their bosses up the chain of command. FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memos released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act depict Defense Department interrogators--not "rogue" reservists--gagging a Guantánamo prisoner with "duct tape that covered much of his head" for reciting the Koran; squeezing a prisoner's genitalia and bending back his thumbs; punching another's face to a pulp and leaving beaten prisoners moaning in a fetal position on the cell floor. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports physical and psychological coercion "tantamount to torture," with the collusion not just of career leg-breakers but physicians and psychologists. These reports match in sickening detail affidavits from Camp Delta detainees David Hicks of Australia and British national Moazzam Begg.


    E-Mail This StoryPrintable Version

    Did Abuses Go Beyond Abu Ghraib?

    WASHINGTON, May 29, 2004

    (CBS/AP) Several U.S. guards allege they witnessed military intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib, investigative documents show.

    Court transcripts and Army investigator interviews provide the broadest view of evidence that abuses, from forcing inmates to stand in hoods in 120-degree heat to punching them, occurred at a Marine detention camp and three Army prison sites in Iraq besides Abu Ghraib.

    That is the prison outside Baghdad that was the site of widely published and televised photographs of abuse of Iraqi detainees by Army troops.

    Separately, The New York Times reports in its Saturday editions that interrogation experts from the American detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were sent to Iraq last fall and played a major role in training American military intelligence teams at Abu Ghraib. The Times cites senior military officials.

    The newspaper says, "Tthe teams from Guantánamo Bay, which had operated there under directives allowing broad latitude in questioning 'enemy combatants,' played a central role at Abu Ghraib through December, the officials said, a time when the worst abuses of prisoners were taking place. Prisoners captured in Iraq, unlike those sent from Afghanistan to Guantánamo, were to be protected by the Geneva Conventions."


    CID Report of Investigation. 0074-2004-CID342-64146 11/4/2004 Investigation based on civilian (former military) person's allegation that he witnessed U.S. Service members abusing Iraqi detainees. Investigation did not develop sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. Sworn statement where person says he saw Marines place bags over prisoners' heads and strike them in the head with pick axes' handles in an effort to obtain information. (DOD043462). When he reported the incident to Marine MAJ he was informed the Marines were doing their job by getting guns off the street that were meant to kill US service members. (DOD043462). He witnessed Marines repeatedly pouring peroxide and water over the open wounds of an Iraqi prisoner.

    Documents provided by the 4th Infantry Division Staff Judge Advocate. Memorandum for IG, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. Subject: Detainee Abuse by Taskforce Ironhorse Soldiers as Reported to CJTF-7 9/8/2003 5/12/2004 On 09/08/03, an Iraqi man was detained and alleges he was blindfolded and taken to a jail cell in Northern Tikrit where American soldiers in civilian dress and an Iraqi interpreter hit him repeatedly for two hours. At one point a rope was put around his neck and he was choked almost to the point of passing out. (DOD043553).

    Chronology of Guard / Detainee Issues Appears to be a visit to the facility where an observer takes notes. "Lost keys are an endemic problem for the guards. This is the 4th day in a row where processing was delayed due to lost keys." (DOD043615) 01/10/02: "Detainee [redacted] has broken finger due to rough handling by guards. Guard states that detainee was "giving them a hard time." (In cuffs and shackles?)" (DOD043616 ). 01/11/02: "Detainee 374 had a deep cut and swelling of right hand, cuts and bruises on face, cuts on ankles.. . he's around 70 years old, I doubt that he gave them much trouble." (DOD043616 ). 01/21/02: MP detainee states that he was roughly treated and beaten by guards during in-processing "(Remington)"; MP detainee was unhurt during in-processing, photo shows no physical damage. Upon screening the next day, complains of beating - new photo shows "some physical damage"; MP detainee complains of abuse by guards, being hit with butt of weapon. Detainee's head was swollen on top left side. (DOD043618). 01/28/02: "We arranged with day shift MP's to keep detainee #[redacted] in JIF booth number 1 on sleep dep beginning 271507ZJAN02. 02/01/01: Officers question detainee and notice multiple cuts, bruises and abrasions on detainee's face; detainee complains of severe headache and sore ribs. (DOD043619-20). 02/01/02: During interrogation, MP did not loosen detainee's ankle cuffs when asked to do so, stating they were not tight. When asked again, SPC used unnecessary force, pulling detainee's feet out from under him by the ankle chains, stepping on his thigh while loosening the cuffs, then kicking him in the feet when finished. Later, the MP NCOIC SSG barged into the booth demanding to know the problem. Detainee asked not to make a fuss over his treatment for fear of further mistreatment. (DOD043620) 02/04/02: Detainee states that whe he was praying the guards asked him a question and when he did not answer, because he was praying, he was punished with physical training. (DOD043620) Medic is unresponsive to detainees' needs and appears callous. DOD043620. Great deal of disorganization in moving detainees from cells to interrogation rooms.

    Sworn statement of interrogator, Task Force 202 Military Intelligence Battalion 1/2/2002 On 01/02/02 noticed detainee in joint interrogation facility with cuts and bruises and complaining of pain and soreness. Detainee stated that he was beaten by three or four guards. Everybody in pen was instructed to get up and when he couldn't because of numbness in the legs, guards began to beat him. Declarant had spoken to detainee about a week prior and had not noticed visible marks on his face at the time. "It is quite apparent that between my initial meet and 01FEB02 meet that something had happened to MP number [Redacted]'s face.

    Sworn statement of U.S. personnel, 202 Military Intelligence 2/11/2002 On 02/11/02 declarant noticed abuse. During a medical exam, instead of a medical personnel, one of the MPs conducted an anal probe on detainee. "He was a large man. Without warning the EPW [Enemy Prisoner of War], and in a cruel way he pushed both his fingers into the EPW's anus. This caused the EPW to scream and fall to the ground violently. His leg irons, which I supposed were not locked, came open by force of his reaction."

    Sworn Statement of interrogator, Task Force 202 1/3/2002 2/13/2002 Translator tells of incident during interrogation. "[We] took a break to regroup … While we were out of the booth, several special forces members entered the booth. … [we] finished the break and went back to continue the interrogation. When we entered the booth, we found the special forces members all crouched around the prisoner. They were blowing cigarette smoke in his face. The prisoner was extremely upset. It took a long time to calm him down and find out what had happened. .. The prisoner was extremely upset. He said that they had hit him told him that he was going to die, blew smoke in his face and had shocked him with some kind of device.

    Activity Contents 9/13/2003 Documents interview with detainee. Detainee states he was tortured at an American base in Kandahar by making him lay on the ground and kicking him; pulling his penis until he told them what they wanted to hear.\

    Activity Contents 10/9/2003 Documents interview with detainee. Detainee stated that while in Kabul, he was interrogated for 607 days and was beat and shocked during interrogations. An interrogator told him that if he confessed, he would be released at the Pakistani border. He confessed and was brought back to Bagram Collection Point.

    Memorandum for Record. Subject: Interrogation Incident Report Reports that DOD Contract Linguist stated that he was involved in at least two questionable interrogation techniques while on duty in Iraq. An unidentified interrogator choked a detainee with a rope noose, lifting the detainee up slowly until the detainee stated he would talk if let down. The interrogator then lowered the detainee to the ground, whereupon the detainee gave a confession. An "AFOSI Agent (NFI)" placed a gun to the temple of a detainee until he confessed.

    Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) Report of Investigative Activity 9/14/2004 Documents interview with detainee. Detainee states he was abused by American forces in Khost, Afghanistan; the American interrogator made him admit to everything by holding a knife to his throat; he was made to hold his hands outward and not let them drop while he was made to walk back and forth all night. This created a hard sore spot in his stomach that still hurts; he was made to bend over and grab his ankles and sometimes his knees; he was not allowed to sleep for a long time.

    After Action Report (AAR) - Preliminary Investigation into the death of a Detainee at Geresch Forward Operating base, Helmand Province, Afghanistan US personnel captured an Afghani male, 25-27 years of age on or about 11/04/03. When processed by USSF medical staff, he had several bruises to his hips, groin and buttocks area (some severe to minor) and numerous burns to his chest "(which is a known interview/interrogation 'technique' used by the local Afghanistan Militia Forces.)" On November 6, 2003, detainee was guarded by AMF security force at Geresch FOB with one other detainee. The AMF Security guard left the detainment area, and when he returned he discovered the detainee laying in a supine position, wrapped in a wool blanket in the center of the detainee area. It was determined that he was deceased. Interviews were conducted. A Staff Sergeant said it was not unusual to see detainees released to USSF with bruises to hips, groin and buttocks. The Staff Sergeant described these injuries as a "normal interview/interrogation method used by local AMF, that discovery was always determined by medical personnel and never reported by detainee... this was due to a cultural difference .. showing your buttocks to other pesonnel (especially males) was offensive and embarassing to the detainee, and was also considered a sign of weakness." A Sergeant First Class said he could provide photographs of prior detainees with similiar injuries when initially processed and photographed by the SF medics.

    Memorandum for Record. Subject: Interview of Orgun-E Military Intelligence Detention Facility Interrogator, SGT [Redacted]. 2/13/2004 Interrogator states that the Standard Operating Procedures at Bagram are "modified"; that they keep PUCs (Persons Under Control) awake for the first 24 hours that they are there; they make them stand for 24 hours; keep them blindfolded for the first 24 hours; give them water immediately and give them food after the first 24 hours are up. Describes OGA practices of using drugs and prolonged sensory deprivation.

    Memorandum for Record. Subject: Interview of Military Intelligence OIC, 1LT [redacted] and MAJ [redacted], Bagram 2/12/2004 Interview of Joint Intelligence Facility Officer in Charge. Describes interrogation techniques: Does not use the "Safety Position" in the MI Booth; "Fear Up" includes disrespect for the Koran, throwing a chain inside the room; spotlights in a room; loud music; telling the detainee he's going to Guantanamo; raise the tone of voice of the interrogator or interpreter. This is all done under the supervision of the MP guard. Describes "giv[ing] light and sound for many days" and using females as an approach. "The process of interrogation is to degrade a PUC. We do not degrade a PUC for the sole purpose of degrading." States that in September 2003, instructors from Fort Huachuca went there to teach about interrogations. "Interrogations are professional and monitored. We have a problem that we are so restricted that we cannot use techniques to get intelligence from PUCs and that we are ineffective."


    Executive summary of Article 15-6 investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba

    ...between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility (BCCF), numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees. This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force (372nd Military Police Company, 320th Military Police Battalion, 800th MP Brigade), in Tier (section) 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison (BCCF). The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements (ANNEX 26) and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.

    6. (S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

    a. (S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

    b. (S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

    c. (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

    d. (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

    e. (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

    f. (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

    g. (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

    h. (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

    i. (S) Writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

    j. (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

    k. (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

    l. (S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

    m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

    8. (U) In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):
    a. (U) Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;
    b. (U) Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;
    c. (U) Pouring cold water on naked detainees;
    d. (U) Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;
    e. (U) Threatening male detainees with rape;
    f. (U) Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;
    g. (U) Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.
    h. (U) Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

  • At 11:40 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Two more:


    Doing unto others as they did unto us

    M. Gregg Bloche and Jonathan Marks The New York Times

    MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2005

    The Pentagon effectively signed off on a strategy that mimics Red Army methods. But those tactics were not only inhumane, they were ineffective. For Communist interrogators, truth was beside the point: their aim was to force compliance to the point of false confession. Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture.

    That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train U.S. soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

    The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the U.S. Southern Command, General James T. Hill, said a team from Guantánamo went "up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques" for "high-profile, high-value" detainees.

    Hill had sent this list - which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees' phobias - to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.


    The New York Times

    May 20, 2005
    In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths

    Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

    The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

    Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

    "Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

    At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

    "Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

    Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

    The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

  • At 8:56 PM, Blogger LL said…

    I read each and every article you listed. And I noticed that you didn't mention the multiple cases of prosecution for the beatings. I noticed that you also included stuff that was done by foreign forces--Afghanistan and Iraq forces. I also noticed that a LOT of that stuff--sleep deprivation, stress positions, etc., are performed during rush week every year on campuses throughout this nation and I'm expecting to see an outcry of torture any minute now. I noticed that you didn't include any quotes such as this:

    In his statement on reforms at Abu Ghraib last week, General Geoffrey Miller, former chief of the Guantanamo detention center and now prison commander in Iraq, offered an unwitting summary of this two-phase torture. "We will no longer, in any circumstances, hood any of the detainees," the general said. "We will no longer use stress positions in any of our interrogations. And we will no longer use sleep deprivation in any of our interrogations."

    I noticed that all of the articles are from 2003 and 2004 except for one. I noticed that a lot of the allegations could not be determined to be true or not.

    I will leave you guys to be. Solomon has been to my site and he probably has a clue as to how I feel about our military. I am in contact with military members, both enlisted and quite a few officers, and I believe they have integrity, strength and fortitude in the face of an enemy that does this.

    Gentlemen, I wish you peace.

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Clearly there is strong disagreement within the military about the use of torture, although I wouldn't cite Geoffrey Miller since he oversaw its use in Guantanamo and seems to have been the one to carry it from there to Abu Ghraib. But I would say it's almost certainly the case that most of the military objects to this and that it's being pushed by a small number at the top, especially civilian leaders like Rumsfeld and Cheney. That's why we still have a large number of military people who are willing to testify about what they saw, and why people are being prosecuted. I don't see how you can look at the same sorts of techniques being used in multiple places and not see some kind of systematicity going on here, though. I don't see how you can see the White House so strenuously objecting to a bill banning the use of torture, or White House lawyers writing memos defining it so narrowly as to be meaningless, and not see that civilian leadership is interested in using it as an instrument of policy. And while I agree that the institution of the military is not responsible for the acts performed by our most brutal allies, our leadership is, and, by extension, so are all of us who elected them. (I am referring here mainly to our practice of "extraordinary rendition" to such horrorshow countries as Uzbekistan.) Notice, by the way, that in my original post I did not blame this on the military, but on us as Americans in general. In fact, your reflexive equation of "us" with "the military" is one of the things I find most troubling about your responses.

    That said, while I have great respect for people who serve in the military, they have the same human nature as the rest of us, and for me it is not beyond the realm of belief that some small number of them might be willing to act as torturers. Clearly, human beings have been willing to torture one another in the past and as the Milgram experiment showed, a shocking number of us will torture a fellow human being for no reason other than that we have been told to do so.

    If your point in noting that most of these articles refer to events in 2003 and 2004 is that perhaps we have stopped doing these things, in the absence of contrary evidence I am willing to concede that that may be so. It depends on how you read the actions of our political leaders. I see no evidence that they have acknowledged this is wrong and moved to stop it, but that could be my own prejudice talking. (That and the fact that the President had to be dragged kicking and screaming into signing the torture amendment, and then issued a signing statement indicating he won't follow it.) In any event, we definitely have not begun to hold accountable those at the top who set these policies.

    Further, we have opposed brutal and horrible enemies in the past (the Nazis, for example, and the Soviets) and not sunk to the level of torturing them, for two reasons:
    a) It doesn't work. No reliable information comes from torture; it is merely sadism.
    b) We are supposed to behave better than our enemies, not sink to their level.
    Incidentally, the vast majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress agree.

    Finally, to write this

    I also noticed that a LOT of that stuff--sleep deprivation, stress positions, etc., are performed during rush week every year on campuses throughout this nation and I'm expecting to see an outcry of torture any minute now.

    is simply depraved, and betrays a desire to minimize what we as a nation are doing so as not to have to face it. If you can't see the difference between doing such things for one week to a frat rushee who's volunteered for the experience and who can leave at anytime, and doing them to a prisoner who can't make them stop and on whom they may be practiced indefinitely, then I simply don't know what to say to you. We have not done these things before as an instrument of policy (at least not since our occupation of the Phillippines). We just don't do it. As one of the later articles I cited pointed out, we got these techniques by studying the Red Army; as a self-proclaimed libertarian I would have assumed it would bother you more to see us borrowing methods from the Soviets.

  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Incidentally, I would also add that the attitude in that paragraph probably largely explains why those few of our military who are engaged in this abuse are able to do it: because so many inside and outside of government desperately argue that what they are doing is not torture, and anyway it's justified because our enemy cuts off people's heads. If you argue long enough that it's not torture and that it's justified, some people will come to believe it's not torture and that it's justified and not believe they're doing anything wrong.

  • At 5:07 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    AB it is very noble of you to be so patient as to reply politely and informatively to those comments.

    Butchie you are a very ignorant woman(?) and it has been really very trying to read your naively partisan responses.

    (Naive, i feel, is a generous term in this instance and used because i would like to hold on to the illusions i have about the essential humanity of most people.)

    There is not an argument that you could form that would be remotely convincing (both in the face of the evidence and because of your apparent lack of reasoning ability). For my part i would hope that if you are not prepared to open your mind to the possibility that your position is, at best, questionable, then you might spare me (I cannot speak for the gentlemen) the 'torture' of reading any more of your drivel.

  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger LL said…

    ABH, here is an article about one of the cases you cited. It appears we, as a nation, DO take these cases seriously, but I would have you note that the second half of the article emphasizes that this person took it into his OWN hands because there was no guidance from above. That would tend to disprove your theory that it was directed and ordered from the top.

    Neda, I have nothing to say to you because it appears you can only resort to name calling.

    Solomon, when you get a chance, drop me a line. ;-)

  • At 9:36 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    How darling.. your earnest attempts to participate in an intelligent debate, while pitiful, would be endearing if you hadn't already exposed yourself as a small-minded bigot.

    That you have nothing to say to me pleases me in a way you can only imagine, and I delight in the idea that you do not see the hypocrisy in assuming the guise of a person above name-calling. (You have a universally accessible blog - do try to remember that when engaging in conversations using your Blogger display name)

    Much love, Neda (FYI, a fucking muslim)

    p.s. If Solomon ever indulges your request for a private audience it will be a sympathy email - I am not the only ugly-fascist to be found among this blog's contributors.

  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    It seems to me that in the face of similar abuse taking place in different units at widely spaced locations around the globe (unprecedented abuse, mind you) you can choose to believe one of two things:
    1. There is something severely wrong with today's military that is causing soldiers from different units in different locations to burst spontaneously into expressions of psychological torture, sexual humiliation, and outright brutality.
    2. These practices are being foisted on a traditionally unwilling military by a small group of mostly civilian leaders through a combination of suggested and outright approval.

    I choose to believe the second despite the single counterexample you point to, for a number of reasons:
    a) It seems to me far more respectful of the military.
    b) We know that Donald Rumsfeld has personally approved the use of these kinds of techniques (including, specifically, tying people in bags).
    c) We know that our leaders are not shy to use torture when they see fit, as they are sending our prisoners to countries that use it happily and openly.

    Did Lewis Welshofer go beyond what he had been approved to do in actually suffocating his prisoner to death? Almost certainly. But I'd point out that a thirty-nine month maximum sentence does not count, to me, as taking very seriously the charge of deliberately killing someone. In addition, Welshofer seems to have been fairly open in his use of this technique over an extended period of time, and although a superior officer recommended that he "take a deep breath and remember who we are," no one ever stepped in to stop him.

    Finally, where one soldier claims he wasn't given direction by his superiors, here's another who says she was.

    It is seeming less and less likely that I will manage to convince you of the reality of what, to me, is our most urgent moral failing of the moment. This depresses me. I invite you to have the last word; I don't wish to continue this discussion any longer.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    I go away for a few days and look what happens!

    Can't we all just get along? ;)


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