A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, November 18, 2005


Tired, sick, headache. Bleah. So, probably no Friday List today, sorry. Just a couple of quick thoughts on the whole prisoner/detainee/abuse/torture thingie. Mojo makes a good case, as he nearly always does, that the abuse is the exception not the rule. At this point, I believe he is probably right, but it worries me that people are so vigorously defending those exceptions-- it's part of a larger lack of accountability from Bush's administration and for that matter from our Congress. Mojo also asks why I bring up past abuses in previous wars, since that seems to prove his point that abuse happens in war. Okay, fair question.

My point in mentioning Washington's role in a massacre early in the French and Indian war was that Washington clearly learned from that experience, as his later moral and practical stance on prisoner treatment shows. The current occupants of the city that bears our first president's name don't seem to have learned from Abu Ghraib or anything else. My point on Grant (and Washington) is that strong leadership from above can prevent abuse of the enemy when you have him at your mercy-- I don't see much, if any strong leadership on this from Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice or anybody else except maybe McCain. The basic approach seems to be "Oops, our bad. Sorry." Frankly, that's not good enough-- especially if we're going to call out Muslim leaders for not strongly condemning terrorist atrocities (and no, I am not equating the two).

My point in mentioning the Japanese interment camps, and Mojo's mention of how Sherman is now mostly reviled by history because his march, though successful, was incredibly brutal and retributivel, is meant to illustrate that even when you have good intentions for your mistreatment of the "enemy," that does not, in and of itself, justify that mistreatment. If we just sit around and trust that Bush and Rumsfeld and on down the line won't and aren't pushing that envelope, I think we're just asking for another Abu Ghraib or worse. Frankly, I don't trust either Bush or Rumsfeld farther than I can throw them on this issue, and I'm starting not to trust Bush on just about anything. The fact that members of Congress want to eliminate haebeus corpus for detainees and that Cheney wants exceptions to a ban on cruelty towards captives for the CIA really makes it hard to believe Bush when he says we don't torture. Maybe by the strictest definition of the word, but remember the conservative outrage over Clinton's parsing of particular words to technically not lie?

There's a reason Bush's numbers are free falling lately, and it's not due to the biased media (well, maybe some, but certainly not entirely). To my mind it's that he talks the talk and then completely fails to walk the walk. People notice that, and if you do it long enough and often enough, they stop taking you at your word. With good reason. The retraction of Meirs and selection of Alito helps allay my concerns a little, but only a little.

Hopefully that made sense because I'm not gonna bother to edit it.


Do you realize there's a contradiction in today's screed? Check it out!

Prez Bush is pushing for less restrictions for dealing with terrorists. Call it what you will, that's the issue. So, if he's pushing openly for less restrictions, then he's NOT trying to hide or lie or anything.

So, when you say:

There's a reason Bush's numbers are free falling lately, and it's not due to the biased media (well, maybe some, but certainly not entirely). To my mind it's that he talks the talk and then completely fails to walk the walk.

This is entirely 180 degrees wrong. Like he always has done, and does to this day, Bush say what he wants, or what he's going to do, and then does it.
So, since he's advocating for less restrictions, ie., more freedom to abuse and/or torture, it's okay? Ye gods, John, you've come unglued.

And it is not 180 degrees wrong. It's dead on balls accurate. Bush says The U.S. d/n torture than advocates for more freedom to torture. The only things Bush has followed through on are tax cuts and the War on Terror. Kudos to him for those-- but I'm going to judge the man on his whole record, not on what he tells me is true.
So, since he's advocating for less restrictions, ie., more freedom to abuse and/or torture, it's okay? Ye gods, John, you've come unglued.

Egads, you're blowing the case waaaaaay out of proportion. You know that ACLU lawyers and a whole other raft of lefty moonbats will take advantage of any and every law they can to imped and ruin the government's efforts to gather information. They (the moonbats) have in the past, and they will in the future. Why help them?

No one was tortured! Nobody had their bodily integrity damaged!

You, my long time pal, are Chicken Little. Someone chucked a beer can out of a passing car and hit you in the head, and now you think the sky is falling.
I hope you're right.

But I very much doubt you are.
Thanks for the compliment, Nick, and I'm glad to hear that you believe that I'm probably right that abuse is the exception, not the rule.

We are in an instant society, and the majority of Americans appear to no longer want to wait for all of the facts to be gathered. They want the picture and the sound-bite, and that is enough for most Americans to pass judgement. I think that this contributes to a large part of the problem with what you have referred to as the vigorous defense of the abuses that have taken place; not because people were necessarily defending the actual abuses, but they were arguing about the way in which the abuses were being portrayed and the automatic judgement of the military that took place.

When Ted Kennedy said, on the floor of the Senate in early May of 2005, that, "Shamefully we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management," the debate instantly shifted (if it hadn't already). The questions were no longer ones of who performed abuses, what abuses were inflicted, where did these abuses occur (limited scope of Abu Ghraib, or more widespread), when and for how long did the abuse take place, how did the situation get to this point and how will the guilty be dealt with, and why didn't anyone notice this earlier. Instead, it immediately became a defense of the military and the war effort by arguing against the assertion that the abuse was actually torture and that we weren't as bad as Saddam or the terrorists.

All of a sudden it was a case of one side being accused of condoning the abuses (not defending the troops and asking for perspective), and another side being accused of defaming our entire military as being just as monstrous as those who have committed acts more atrocious than we ever have (not expressing outrage at flagrant abuse and asking for a speedy inquest). The facts were discarded, and personal attacks and broad generalizations ruled the day.

Unfortunately, this type of furor sells papers and gets ratings, so those who dispense the news to the bulk of Americans did not take a step back and present the facts in a clear and concise manner. Instead, the invective was amplified throughout the media and the emotions on all sides ran higher.

The intentional and malicious abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib was wrong. Period. End of story. The investigation by the military into the incidents of abuse began months before the story burst onto the public stage, and many of those involved have lost their careers and/or their freedom.

I think that one of the reasons that everyone thinks that the whole prison was corrupt, that officials haven't learned from Abu Ghraib, and that no one is doing anything to make any changes is because the substance of the government inquiries and their recommendations have not been widely disseminated to the American public at large.

In September of 2004, the Army published an action plan for detainee and interrogation operations. Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder "explained that the plan leverages information learned in investigations into allegations of abuse and operational lessons learned to develop and implement policy and doctrine that 'reflect the nation's commitment to doing what is legally and morally right and meet the needs of the warfighting combatant commanders who are conducting detainee operations.'"

This past March, in a press conference, Vice Admiral Church noted that, "It's been said many times, but I'll emphasize again, the overwhelming majority of our service members have served honorably under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.

And finally, the vast majority of detainees have been treated humanely and appropriately. In those few instances where they weren't, it's been investigated.

This past June, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said,
"The president insisted that all prisoners, detainees, be treated humanely," he explained. "I have issued instructions from the very beginning that all prisoners be treated humanely."

"The idea that there is any policy of abuse, (any) policy of torture, is false -- flat false," he declared. "Those are allegations we have investigated."

Rumsfeld said that more than 300 allegations of abuse at Guantanamo have resulted in 50 convictions for not obeying established rules. "Every (allegation) has been investigated, and (in) the ones where anything wrong has occurred, people have been punished," he said

Abuse is the exception, the abusers are being punished, lessons are being learned, improvements are being designed, and the changes are being implemented. This has been going on for a while, but it apparently is not glamorous enough to make the front-page or the lead-story.

If you'd like some more information on detainees at Guantanamo, such as the information we have discovered in the course of interrogations, the type of individuals that are being detained, and their rights and conditions, then check out this link.

In regards to the elimination of habeas corpus for alien detainees of the DOD or SECDEF, it seems like those who are arguing against it are trying to have it both ways. POWs, according to the Geneva Conventions, cannot be put before the courts of the detaining nation (not including, of course, military tribunals for status review or war crimes). If we are supposed to deal with the detainees as POWs, then they shouldn't get habeas rights.

To be fair, they are not currently classified as POWs, but rather as enemy combatants, so there may be a case (as has been decided) for writs of habeas. That being said, the Graham amendment does not remove the possibility that a constitutional basis for habeas could be established on behalf the detainee(s). Also, the amendment provides for Congress to review Combatant Status Review Tribunals in order to verify that the decision of the CSRTs met with procedures and standards for such.

Keep in mind that these are aliens who are being detained because they have been found to be, or are strongly believed to be, enemy combatants who do not fall under the definition or qualifications of a POW as set forth in the Geneva Conventions. Allowing habeas could not only bog down the federal court system, but it could conceivably allow these detainees to be set free in the U.S. if a court determines that they must be released and no foreign government is willing to accept them. This sort of situation has happened with Somalis who have been ordered to be deported.

Currently they do have the right to a writ of habeas corpus, however, and here is the habeas corpus notification that detainees receive at Guantanamo.

Finally, I agree that the CIA should not be given carte blanche to use any methods to extract information from a subject. As well, I don't think that the McCain amendment should go through without the ban on degrading a subject during interrogations or confinement being removed. While the CIA doesn't need to be able to torture, interrogators shouldn't need to risk incarceration if they tell a subject that their cause is futile, what they were fighting for was wrong, or that they are corrupt for their beliefs or values (all of which could possibly be viewed as degrading in our courts).

I think that we may actually be much closer on this issue than is apparent on the surface, Nick. Not 100% in agreement, mind you, but closer nonetheless.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?