June 29, 2005

Crisis of Faith

When I heard about Abu Ghraib, I thought it was a few isolated incidents. And I winked at Gitmo's abuses, because, well—detainees there are rumored to actually gain weight before they leave.

But prison ships; I hadn't heard of these being used since the revolutionary War, when thousands of privateers were held in squalor in New York Harbor by the British. It's inhumane, and I just don't know if I can go on making excuses for this kind of thing.

This could be a turning point for me.

Posted by Attila at June 29, 2005 11:35 PM | TrackBack

Thank you.

Torture is never moral.

It produces usable information only rarely. Very rarely.

It's being used on people who have not been found guilty of any crime. Among those are people who are factually innocent of any wrongdoing, and who have no information to give us. A number of them were simply caught up in street "sweeps."

People who say things like, --It isn't really torture unless they die-- don't understand the first thing about torture.

Beating someone to death over several days has also been called "not torture." It's just beating to death. Not correct. Especially when you beat them as they hang suspended from the ceiling by their wrists.

All the above points have been verified by people in our own military.

This approach to prisoners is pervasive. It's pervasive because in our anguish over 9/11, we've decided it's ok. A survey I read during the Afghanistan war disclosed that 75% of Americans approved of torture.

I do not. I never have and I never will.

It is, very simply, wrong.

Extremely wrong.

Posted by: k at June 30, 2005 03:56 AM

Oh. It was a joke.

That's what I get for commenting before I finish my coffee.

Boy, is my face red.

Now everyone will know I'm a Humorless Anti-Torture Fool.


Posted by: k at June 30, 2005 04:15 AM

I was worried for a moment, my dear.

Being an Interrogator, um sorry, HUMAN INTELLIGENCE COLLECTOR for the Army, I concur with the first post by K, while laughing about the sarcasm in the link. Prison ships don't work - too much logistics train. The likely explanation for the rumor is the use of Navy vessels to transport prisoners to a secure location for airlift to Gitmo.

I have a few friends working at Gitmo - one is a retired CW3. I know him, I know his wife (another retired 97E); they might be screwing with their heads in a most strange and somewhat severe manner, but there is no way in hell there is torture. I think Chief would kill (literally) someone conducting themselves in that manner, just on principle.

Have a good morning, thanks for the eye-opener and then the laugh.

SGT Dave, Ft. Leavenworth, KS

Posted by: SGT Dave at June 30, 2005 05:21 AM

I washed out of interrogator training so part of me feels unqualified to pontificate about prisoner treatment other than to say, if it's good enough for an American caught stealing a TV set, it should be good enough for a jihadi caught trying to murder "infidels". And that goes the other way too: if something is considered too inhumane to do to Americans caught trying to rape little kids, then it's obviously beyond the pale for terrorists in captivity too. In other words, treat terrorists like any other criminal--blowing stuff up and murdering civilians IS illegal, right?

But that article you linked to, it VERY NEARLY produced a coffee-spit. It did physically make me spill some on my hand, and I'm still laughing at it. Nothing is ever so serious that you can't find the humor in ...something.

Posted by: Ciggy at June 30, 2005 06:55 AM

Actually, K, you are correct: I'm okay with a little bit of sleep deprivation (Geneva Convention doesn't apply to most of these people, but the guideline there is what our own soldiers get under combat conditions: four hours a night).

But the most successful interrogators take time to listen to those they are questioning, and become, in some sense, their "friends." Then they'll want to talk.

Deep down, most people do.

There is an old rule discovered by the Israelis: if the authorities ever approve methods that go "over the line," these methods become more and more routine. If anyone ever pushes the envelope because he really feels that there is another 9/11 at stake and harsher treatment is justified, it needs to be that person's own individual responsibility. Anything else just sanctions torture: it looks more and more acceptable, and the standards get looser and looser--with no improvement in the quality of the information.

But wrapping someone in an Israeli flag is not torture. It's just an unpleasant experience for them.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 30, 2005 08:53 AM

Thank you, Sgt. Dave. That's a comfort. Looking at the statistics, military folks often come up as opposing torture at a far higher rate than civilians do. That speaks well for military personnel, both as to their humanity and their real-life understanding of goals.

And I see Miss Attila is thinking of those goals, too. The point should be to get the info, right? not to satisfy one's emotional needs on the prisoners.

It isn't that I can't joke about any subject under the sun. Truly. I even make torture jokes of my own, although they tend to run along "The Addams Family" movie lines (Anjelica Huston: "Don't torture yourself, dear. That's my job."). I often scandalize people. I don't know why they sometimes insist on calling me a kind person; I think they're mistaking kindness for my fierce love of my friends.

As a standard cold-blooded vicious adolescent - you know how they are - I used to tell dead baby jokes.

I don't any more.

Reality intruded and the humor was lost.

I miss it.

I use morgue humor to help deal with tough subjects. It helps. I do differentiate between fictional characters and real human beings who suffer. But I saw how those dead baby jokes could hit too close to home for some people. So I shut up.

Now, some logic: Saying torture is immoral does not equal (DNE) saying --Terroristic acts are not illegal-- or, --They aren't vicious and inhumane-- etc. etc. Honestly! Beat me up for what I say, not for what I don't say and don't believe. I take pains not to put words in other people's mouths. I only ask the same courtesy back. I don't always get it. On this thread, so far so good. Really good. I notice that and I appreciate it. Little Miss Attila is rightly known to be a decently rational place to talk.

So, Ciggy: Finally! another person who recognizes that if it's not okay to do that to American pedophiles, it's not okay to do it to war prisoners. Even the ones that really and truly are terrorists. And, for recognizing that criminals are criminals. They may be more than that, too, but they're still criminals. Saying they aren't doesn't do us any good. Instead of emphasizing that they're also terrorists, it serves to whitewash their criminality. IMO.

Luis Posada is a terrorist, too. See, I hate terrorism with a deep and abiding passion. All of it. I hate it on principle. Murdering innocent civilians, some from foreign countries, because he hates Castro does not make Posada's terroristic and criminal acts OK. Terrorism is never OK; terrorism against a *bad ruler's country's airplanes and hotels* DNE *good terrorism.* No matter how much he proudly brags about it, and refuses to renounce violence.

*Their criminal rapes our children* DNE *it's okay to rape theirs.* Not only do two wrongs not make a right, it's critically unjust to make an innocent bystander pay for someone else's crime.

This brings to mind a recent infamous case in Pakistan, where a nice, churchy, sheltered, innocent girl was gang-raped, on order of the village elders, to punish her family (not her?!) because their 11-year-old boy was caught walking - walking - with a girl from a higher ranked tribe. Apparently the walk equaled adultery (instead of a social caste insult), which equaled punish the boy's whole family, by means of gang-raping his sister.

Vaginal rape is especially painful in that part of the world because the women have had their genitals surgically gouged out and the skin sewn back together. It's a tribal practice, but it's mistaken for Islam by both Muslims and others. In some tribes, the ideal-sized opening left after the sewing is the thickness of a matchstick. Often the first sex act requires a knife to make that opening large enough for sex.

Pakistan is our ally. Vicious crimes committed by allies DNE *crimes that are OK.*

Torture is wrong. Revenging criminal acts by making innocents pay is also wrong. It doesn't matter whether the Geneva Convention applies or not: it's still wrong to torture people. I'm not talking about wrapping them in the Israeli flag, either.

Whenever we're tempted to think otherwise, a telling reality check is to put your own loved one in that position. How would you feel if your innocent teenager were tortured or raped? How would you feel if your GUILTY teenager were tortured or raped? It just ain't right, folks. Not for either side.

These are values. Injustice is not a moral good.

Is there a time I'd do one of those wrongs, say to prevent another 9/11? Yes. In extremity only, and precisely under Miss Attila's guidelines: not sanctioned, and taking full personal responsibility for it.

I would never pretend it was RIGHT. I fully recognize I'd be committing a WRONG. I would do it because the wrong thing is, with extreme rarity, the best thing to do under extreme circumstances.

But choosing to do wrong for a good reason DNE *it's a right thing to do.*

Those extreme circumstances were NOT in play when Graner bragged to his kids about the "neat stuff" he enjoyed doing at Abu Ghraib. He tortured people for pleasure, and he said so. Dehumanizing people helps so much to make that possible. And, whether we want to believe it or not, there's lots more out there just like him. It's a quirk of human nature.

Then they hear 75% of Americans approve of torture, and get poor guidance from above, and are shot at and IED'd and RPG'd and angry about 9/11, and maybe pissed off about well-paid civilian contractors too. Maybe they've been promised they'd go home over and over, but had their tours extended instead. Put it all together, and torturing prisoners is a very predictable result.

OK. I'm done. I hope y'all don't mind if I lighten up. I've had enough of this grisly subject for the nonce. Now I can be humorous again.

Does anyone believe it's in me any more? Sure it is.

But I still won't tell you any dead baby jokes.

Posted by: k at June 30, 2005 12:14 PM

It's interesting to me that in most arenas I'm a LOT more squeamish than Attila-Hub, who is a military historian and reads about things like torture on a regular basis.

There is one subject, however, in which I'm a bit less squeamish than he is, and that has to do with crime--very often crimes against women. Because I'm working on a murder mystery, I've had to simply turn off the part of myself that might sympathize with the victim of a serial killer.

Which means that an atrocity committed against a GI by the Viet Cong, would leave me gasping and give me nightmares. My husband would soberly nod his head. But the EXACT SAME ACTION committed by a serial killer against a female victim would disturb Attila-Hub for hours on end, whereas I'd probably keep eating my peanut butter sandwich when I heard about it.

In general, I'm the compassionate one who feels genuine sympathetic pain in her body when hearing about horrific things. But I couldn't follow the careers of guys like Ted Bundy if I hadn't found the "off" switch somewhere.

Posted by: Attila Girl at June 30, 2005 01:29 PM

Huh. Go figure.

I'll have to give that one a good slow think.

Posted by: k at June 30, 2005 04:07 PM

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