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September 17, 2006

Comments

I lean towards the view that it stacks the deck somewhat to include figures from Iraq and Afghanistan in with those from elsewhere.

For instance, when one says "And that's also 14,000 people who are about to be definitively stripped of habeas rights," given that the vast majority are in Iraq, shouldn't they be subject to Iraqi law, not American? Should we be claiming extra-territorial jurisdiction and supremacy?

"In almost every war between the drafting of the Geneva Conventions and George W. Bush's election, we managed to deal with this problem without just tossing the Conventions aside and detaining huge numbers of people."

Um, we took hundreds and hundreds of thousands of prisoners in WWII.

And I'd say that we also took "huge numbers of people" prisoner in Korea, as well.

And neither did habeas corpus apply to Vietnamese prisoners we took.

See, this is part of the problem with this sort of lumping.

On the other hand, I certainly agree that declaring a "war on terror" and stating that we won't release prisoners until said "war" is over is madness.

(But, hey, why not do the same for the "war on drugs"? Or better idea, let's re-open the "war on poverty," and this time let's take prisoners.)

And apologies for posting three times in a row, but I think pointing to Vietnam as an example of our virtuous and lawful treatment of prisoners, let alone treatment of prisoners by the South Vietnamese under our supervisions, is highly problematic.

And the camps in South Korea, as well as plentiful cases of shooting prisoners, also wasn't a pretty picture.

I'd like to draw a clean line and say that we have a history of lawful and admirable treatment of prisoners prior to George W. Bush, but the facts aren't so supportive.

"And neither did habeas corpus apply to Vietnamese prisoners we took.

See, this is part of the problem with this sort of lumping."

You are the one doing the lumping, by conflating "prisoners" with "detainees". I would be quite satisfied if detainees in Iraq had the rights and treatments of WWII prisoners. Actually, those rights of POW's have been extended.

As far as Vietnam goes, Katherine in the thread below discusses Military Tribunals in Vietnam.
...
"...and even if we manage to undo the damage Bush has done to our legal system and our republic, the damage we have done to them can never be undone."

For the sake of the world and rule of law, I would bring the USA down with War Crimes Trials and reparations. Completely destroy it.

"let alone treatment of prisoners by the South Vietnamese under our supervisions"

That is lawful. If we had established an Afghani puppet, say Karzai, and handed Taliban detainees over to him for summary execution, it would have been morally offensive but legally defensible. An awful lot of people seem confused about the very important difference between de jure and de facto, and the difference between atrocities committed by miscreant individuals or groups and those sanctioned by the state at the highest level.

Calley implicated me very slightly. Bush and Graham have implicated and made an accessory at my core. I am responsible for the detainees in Gitmo.

Example:

The Pentagon's program went by the name of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group (or simply SOG). Despite his implicit approval of SOG, Shultz deserves credit for revealing officially-sanctioned SOG programs, some of which deserve to be prosecuted as war crimes. In one project, North Vietnamese POWs were released back into North Vietnam with incriminating evidence secretly planted on them, so that they would look like American agents. In another tactic, 1,000 North Vietnamese fishermen were kidnapped and brought to an island that they were told was a liberated territory in North Vietnam, and then blindfolded and brought home. The hope was that they would spread the word that there was a resistance movement underway.
More here from James Risen a few years ago, and here from the WaPo.

A dissertation">http://txspace.tamu.edu/bitstream/1969.1/3727/1/etd-tamu-2006A-HIST-Springer.pdf#search=%22vietnam%20%22north%20vietnamese%20pows%22%22">dissertation on American treatment of POWs. (A href="http://txspace.tamu.edu/bitstream/1969.1/3727/1/etd-tamu-2006A-HIST-Springer.pdf#search=%22vietnam%20%22north%20vietnamese%20pows%22%22">PDF format.)

Prisoners during the Cold War became tools of propaganda rather than labor. In the Korean War, fought just five years after World War II, American military planners ignored or forgot the lessons of World War II, and developed an entirely new system of prisoner confinement, with disastrous results.

[...]

In Vietnam, American commanders abdicated responsibility for POW treatment by turning virtually all captives over to the care of the South Vietnamese government, which made little pretense of following the Geneva Convention.

[...]

He focused most of his discussion on communist confinement practices, but noted that UN POW facilities on Koje-do were overcrowded, often operating at double capacity, and understaffed, with only one American guard for every 180 prisoners.

Max Hastings found that the few American troops at Koje-do were undisciplined and miserable, and made no effort to maintain control of the compounds in the face of communist infiltration.

William Stueck, like Hastings, argued that communists allowed themselves to be captured for the purpose of managing prison compounds.

Stanley Sandler also saw a lack of guards as a contributing factor to unrest in UN camps, noting "something approaching pandemonium prevailed in the UNC POW camps," and arguing that prisoners deliberately provoked guards to fire into POW compounds as a means of generating anti-American
propaganda.

[...]

He argued that UN troops viewed taking prisoners as problematic, and to avoid paperwork, they often turned prisoners over to South Korean troops, knowing the POWs might be mistreated or even executed.

[...]

Initially, American forces in Korea received little guidance regarding the capture and treatment of enemy prisoners.

[...]

Not until 16 August did MacArthur clarify that UNC forces would follow the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1949, and that summary executions were strictly forbidden.

On 26 September 1950, the United States accepted all responsibility for the maintenance of prisoners taken by UN forces.

UNC forces captured over 150,000 POWs during the war, of the total captured, 126,000 were taken from October to December of 1950.
20
Throughout the war, American commanders placed little emphasis
on POW affairs, and provided a limited number of trained custodial personnel for the
guarding and maintenance of prisoners. By understaffing prison compounds, the U.S.
leadership allowed the formation of massive underground prisoner organizations. Prisoner factions exerted ruthless control over the compounds, enforcing discipline and judicial punishments upon any prisoners expressing political sentiments contrary to the leaders of the compound. Each compound soon had a distinct political ideology, some were hard-core communist, others were strictly anti-communist. Interventions in the compounds by guard forces were rare, and almost always undertaken to stop violence rather than to prevent it. Camp commanders had virtually no control over camp behavior until the last year of the war.

[...]

Despite ample evidence that thousands of South Koreans had been forced into North Korean service, UN forces made no attempt to free South Korean conscripts who had been captured.

[...]

Agitation within the POW compounds at Koje-do occurred due to many factors, but a major contributor was simple overcrowding, often a problem in POW compounds in other wars. By June of 1951, UNC POW Camp Number One, at Koje-do, consisted of thirty-one compounds, some housing as many as eight thousand POWs. A total of approximately 150,000 POWs filled the compounds beyond capacity, and were guarded by only six military police companies.

[...]

Prison riots became increasingly common in the summer of 1951 and spring of 1952. On 20 March 1952, the Koje-do commandant, Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd, noted that demonstrations by POWs were spreading through the compounds, and requested permission to deny food to all POWs within compounds holding
demonstration. Dodd's superior, Brigadier General Paul F. Yount, approved the plan, but felt that denial of food might convey propaganda advantages to the POWs more
significant than any gained from demonstrations, which were already having an effect on armistice negotiations underway at Panmunjom.

[...]

On 10 June, Boatner ordered guards to enter Compound 76 and forcibly remove the prisoners to a new, more secure compound. When the prisoners resisted, a melee ensued, resulting in the deaths of forty-three prisoners.

[...]

On 31 March 1953, Boatner issued the final standard operating procedure for
POWs at Koje-do. Almost three years had elapsed since the first capture of enemy
prisoners, and the UNC finally issued comprehensive orders for the care and maintenance
of enemy prisoners.

This is not an admirable history, and I've not yet even gotten to Vietnam.

So what? Facts as a shield for moral...whatever. Again. No, no, you are not saying atrocities are ok fine. Just that they have happened before, so...so...so what, Gary?

Well, we interned 110,000 Japanese and japanese Americans in WWII, and that was with a smaller population so it was actually a larger in terms of percentage, so 10,000 or so is just a drop in the bucket.

Also, since Gary is talking about Korea, I finally sat down and watched Simido, which is actually based on an actual event, though fictionalization inevitably occurred. That, along with the film Taegukgi should suggest that it wasn't simply a question of treatment of prisoners, it was a much more complicated problem.

I've been arguing with this statement: "In almost every war between the drafting of the Geneva Conventions and George W. Bush's election, we managed to deal with this problem without just tossing the Conventions aside and detaining huge numbers of people."

But we did detain huge numbers of people, and problematically. And specifically, citing Vietnam as a case where we applied Article 5 as an easy and fair means of justice is just a severe distortion of history and the facts. We instead simply didn't hold prisoners, turning them over to the South Vietnamese, or we killed them. This is not an example to be held up as a better way. That's all.

Obviously I otherwise agree with Hilzoy's position; I hardly think I need to state so, given that I've been blogging for years, in hundreds of posts, on these issues.

As a separate point,
I'm definitely unclear as to whether prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan are entitled to habeas rights under U.S. jurisdiction, or more specifically, why U.S. jurisdiction should apply, rather than Iraqi and Afghani.

Haebeas flows from the U.S. Constitution; it's not part of Article 3. But by what rights would or does the U.S. have legal jurisdiction in either Iraq or Afghanistan? Do we have a treaty or extra-territoritality agreement with either country? Does U.S. policy say they're not sovereign?

Gary: In the cases you're talking about, we detained large numbers of people as prisoners of war, and accepted the legal obligation to treat them well that arose out of that status. And then we failed to live up to our obligations.

This is bad, but it is different from what is happening now: a claim that we have the legal right to detain large numbers of people indefinitely and ill-treat them without determining whether they have committed any offense.

Gary: I meant the 'tossing the GC aside and detaining...' to go together, though I see, on rereading, that I wasn't clear enough. I didn't mean to suggest that we didn't hold lots of people during earlier wars; just that we didn't do so as a result of having decided not to so much as try to establish a process for figuring out who we actually needed to hold. (E.g., the Article 5 Tribunals.)

By the same token, I didn't mean to suggest that our treatment of detainees was in all respects examplary (the result of treating the 'tossing the GC' part as separate -- though there I'd argue that one could violate the Conventions without, um, tossing them out, but that would be a hard argument to settle.

In any case, though, I meant the two bits to go together. Sorry not to have been clearer.

"Obviously I otherwise agree with Hilzoy's position"

If you are in full agreement with hilzoy's moral position...hilzoy is an ethicist not a lawyer...are you asking these questions in search of possible legal defenses for administration actions?

I certainly agree there might be legal defenses, if I am not mistaken the administration never officially called itself an "occupying power" under Hague, and perhaps lawyers could play with that for five to ten years. I would not associate myself with Yoo and Gonzalez, and it is not in my purpose or portfolio to be Bush's advocate.

Gary, no one doubts your agreement with hilzoy, but South Vietnam was a sovereign entity, whereas it is not altogether clear that Iraq and (to a lesser extent) Afghanistan are. Thus, turning over prisoners where they were mistreated or worse (and note that we had similar problems in repatriation after WWII cf Operation Keelhaul) is a problem between two sovereign governments, whereas this is basically an internal problem. That doesn't make it better, but we don't have anyone to blame this on but ourselves. Think of sins of omission and commission.

I think one of the reasons that Bob is bristling at your comments is that it reminds one of the common debate tactic of 'well, this has happened before, so what's new?' and as we get closer to the mid term elections, I think you are going to see a lot more anger when it is invoked than you may have previously. How you want to deal with that is your own concern, but that is simply my view of it.

"I think one of the reasons that Bob is bristling at your comments"

I am a bristly kind of guy, and can shoot my quills way threads up, where my Krugman link...never mind.

I don't mind. Some people would question war crimes trials on legal grounds. I consider war crimes trials, like Nuremberg or Saddam, questions of morality and politics. Is it the right thing to do, right on either deontological or consequentialist grounds...I consider the consequentialist argument overwhelming, these precedets are extremely dangerous...and can we gather the power to do it.

The "Law" is where morality and politics intersect, simply something to use and abuse. It has no value in its own self. If I have offered contradictory views of the law, that doesn't contradict my view of the law.

Not that I care, since we're all piles of particles evolving according to immutable laws, and the end-point of all our striving will be the heat-death of the universe - but I would guess that the difference between then and now is that in the former frame a judge presented with an accused's case of the sort in question would have laughed in the govt's face and the govt would have been ashamed to respond, "Do what I will shall be the whole of the Law".

"...just that we didn't do so as a result of having decided not to so much as try to establish a process for figuring out who we actually needed to hold."

But, in fact, that's what we did do in South Vietnam. We didn't hold Article 5 hearings for everyone (of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese we captured); we turned them over to the South Vietnamese, instead. I'm sorry, but your claim that we did is just factually wrong, inconvenient as that is.

Basically, you're buying into the official propaganda put out during Vietnam, and not noticing.

The cite">http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/milreview/gebhardt.pdf">cite you give notes:

The South Vietnamese Government regarded captured Viet Cong as political prisoners, not EPWs, and im- prisoned them in civil jails, sometimes without due process. South Vietnamese military units also did not observe GPW on the battlefield and often tortured or executed Viet Cong prisoners. Having made a policy decision at the highest levels of government to turn all detainees captured on the battlefield over to the custody of the South Vietnam- ese Government, and faced with the reality of more Americans becoming POWs as the level of troop commitment escalated, the United States announced in August 1965 it would apply the provisions of GPW in Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Gov-
ernment followed suit.
And that led to happiness for all, given that South Vietnam didn't torture!

Oh, wait.

[...] 6 No de- tainee would be turned over to South Vietnam- ese custody before a status determination had been made.
But much of the South Vietnamese torture took place in the field, before any "status determinations" or hearings. Ditto that which took place after any hearings. Neither were such hearings by either South Vietnam or the U.S. particularly marked by the ability to confront witnesses and evidence against the accused, etc.

Pointing to this as admirable, as back when we did it right, is pretty awful.

Just a bit later in that citation of yours, it says:

The United States and South Vietnam also combined their intelligence interrogation efforts, placing
combined interrogation facilities in each U.S. sepa-
rate brigade and division base camp and at a central location near Saigon.

These facilities held sources for 1 to 7 days and up to 4 months in exceptional cases. By MACV directive, all interrogations were conducted according to GPW standards, particularly those prohibiting maltreatment.

Believe that, and I've got a lovely bridge for you. That's how credible this piece is. It's Official Propaganda, and I hate to see you citing it as credible, Hilzoy. Sorry.

As that dissertation I cited above says:

In Vietnam, American commanders abdicated responsibility for POW treatment by turning virtually all captives over to the care of the South Vietnamese government, which made little pretense of following the Geneva Convention.
It's nice to think we punctiliously followed the rule of law in Vietnam, but that's just not true.

LJ: "Gary, no one doubts your agreement with hilzoy, but South Vietnam was a sovereign entity, whereas it is not altogether clear that Iraq and (to a lesser extent) Afghanistan are."

I'm utterly unclear by what standard South Vietnam was sovereign that Irag and Afghanistan was not. We changed South Vietnamese governments like kleenex one throws out when we blow our nose. We ignored the 1954 Geneva Conference mandate on what would constitute a legal government of Vietnam, despite our having signed a legally binding treaty. We then instigated a coup against the government we ourselves backed. Coup after coup after coup followed.

Much of the world regarded South Vietnam as our puppet, and while practically there were distinct limits to that, there often are -- not all puppets are 100% cooperative; North Vietnam, of course, never recognized what they never did not call "the puppet government," and said government never exercised sovereignty over its territory. Let alone over Americans in Vietnam, or what Americans did to Vietnamese.

"I think you are going to see a lot more anger when it is invoked than you may have previously."

I get pretty angry at people forgetting the crimes of the U.S. in and of Vietnam, and glossing them, myself.

I can't think of any standard by which Vietnam was sovereign but Iraq and Afghanistan today are not. Care to name some?

I have to think there's a lot of amnesia about Vietnam.

Newsweek, an Abu Ghraib story a while back:

By John Barry, Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff

May 24 issue

The Roots of Torture

[...]

Indeed, the single most iconic image to come out of the abuse scandal—that of a hooded man standing naked on a box, arms outspread, with wires dangling from his fingers, toes and penis—may do a lot to undercut the administration's case that this was the work of a few criminal MPs. That's because the practice shown in that photo is an arcane torture method known only to veterans of the interrogation trade. "Was that something that [an MP] dreamed up by herself? Think again," says Darius Rejali, an expert on the use of torture by democracies. "That's a standard torture. It's called 'the Vietnam.' But it's not common knowledge. Ordinary American soldiers did this, but someone taught them."

Historians Against The War:

Don Luce's essay, "The Tiger Cages of Con Son," reveals again, as did his original testimony in the 1970s, the depths to which the U.S. government sank in its ultimately futile efforts to defeat the Vietnamese people. It imprisoned those Vietnamese it considered "the enemy" in tiger cages, subjected them to physical abuses, deprived them of food and water, and, as if all that was not bad enough, poured lye on them to burn and scar them.
A .mil book on Vietnam and the law:
The Republic of Vietnam, while asserting its separation from North Vietnam and its existence as a sovereign state, steadfastly refused to accord to the Viet Cong any degree of legitimacy, either as a separate political entity or as an agent of Hanoi.

[...]

The Republic of Vietnam regarded the Viet Cong as criminals who violated the security laws of South Vietnam and who consequently were subject to trial for their crimes. As indigenous offenders, the Viet Cong did not technically merit prisoner of war status, although they were entitled to humane treatment under Article 3, Geneva Prisoner of War Conventions. Under Article 12, the United States retained responsibility for treatment of its captives in accordance with the Geneva Conventions even after transfer of the captives to the South Vietnamese.

[...]

South Vietnam had tried and publicly executed some Viet Cong agents, there had been retributory executions of Americans by the Viet Cong.

[...]

A major practical difficulty in implementing a prisoner of war program was that the Vietnamese government had no facilities suitable for the confinement and care of prisoners of war. In December 1964, the Vietnamese Director of Military justice took the MACV Staff judge Advocate on a tour of courts and confinement facilities throughout South Vietnam. As a result of his observations during that tour the Staff judge Advocate prepared a study pointing out some of the serious problems that existed in handling Viet Cong suspects and prisoners. These problems were quickly becoming joint U.S.-Vietnamese problems, because combat captives and Viet Cong suspects picked up by U.S. forces, Free World Military Assistance Forces, and Vietnamese forces were all delivered to Vietnamese authorities for interrogation, processing, and possible confinement.

During 1965 the number of political prisoners in confinement rose almost 100 percent, from 9,895 in January to 18,786 in December. These were primarily members of the Viet Cong, but also included some Viet Cong sympathizers, supporters, or collaborators. A total of 24,878 of these political prisoners were confined during the year (compared with 14,029 in 1964), while 15,987 such prisoners were released during the same period.

[...]

In terms of the war effort, probably the most serious shortcoming of the prisons was the fact that common criminals, Viet Cong suspects, prisoners of war, and even juvenile delinquents were all mixed together.

[...]

The classification of Viet Cong combatants and Viet Cong suspects posed an interesting legal problem. Because it believed the Viet Cong were traitors and criminals, the Vietnam government was reluctant to accord prisoner of war status to Viet Cong captives. Furthermore it was certainly arguable that many Viet Cong did not meet the criteria of guerrillas entitled to prisoner of war status under Article 4, Geneva Prisoner of War Conventions. However, civil incarceration and criminal trial of the great number of Viet Cong was too much for the civil resources at hand. In addition, Article 22 prohibited the mingling of civil defendants with prisoners of war. By broadly construing Article 4, so as to accord full prisoner of war status to Viet Cong Main Force and Local Force troops, as well as regular North Vietnamese Army troops, any Viet Cong taken in combat would be detained for a prisoner of war camp rather than a civilian jail. The MACV policy was that all combatants captured during military operations were to be accorded prisoner of war status, irrespective of the type of unit to which they belonged. Terrorists, spies, and saboteurs were excluded from consideration as prisoners of war. Suspected Viet Cong captured under circumstances not warranting their treatment as prisoners of war were handled as civilian defendants.

Thus, even after not following Geneva for the entire history of the war until August, 1965 ("In August 1965 the U.S. government and the Vietnamese government notified the International Committee of the Red Cross that their armed forces were abiding by and would continue to abide by the Geneva Conventions"), there was still just pro forma recognition given, and huge gaping loopholes left.

FWIW, the Russell Tribunal found that:

Have prisoners of war captured by the armed forces of the United States been subjected to treatment prohibited by the laws of war? Yes (unanimously).
Bernard Fall, in "The Impersonal War":
“… following the logic of the State Department’s assertion that the North Vietnamese were “foreign aggressors”, North Vietnamese regulars caught inside South Vietnam would have to be treated as regular POWs, as were American pilots shot down over Vietnam. … The attitude that this isn’t our war could hold as long as US combat troops were not operating on their own and taking prisoners all by themselves. Now, this is no longer possible, and the Viet Cong are in the position of virtually bulldozing the US into accepting responsibility for what happens to prisoners; they can shoot in reprisal American POWs whom they hold whenever America’s Vietnamese ally executes VC prisoners, as just happened in Danang. Two American servicemen had to pay with their lives for that gratuitous gesture. The September 29 announcement by Hanoi that henceforth, American pilots caught in the North will be treated as “war criminals’ is a direct consequence of Washington’s lack of foresight on the POW problem.
Congressional testimony, 1971:
Dr. Barnet, in your statement you alleged, and that is, your statement of March 31, you alleged that some summary executions of Vietcong prisoners have been common practice. ¶

What proof do you have of that statement?

Dr. Barnet. I have, Mr. Zablocki, included in my written record a long account, eyewitness accounts by returned soldiers involved, and newspaper correspondents and others which were introduced into the Senate by Senator Hatfield, and I have included it in the record, as you requested.

There are however, in this room, Mr. Chairman, a number of individuals who informed me before the hearing that they themselves were “witnesses to torture of South Vietnamese prisoners,” and I would strongly suggest that some of them be invited to testify now—

[...]

Dr. Barnet. I was concerned about the stories of ejection of prisoners from helicopters, about the use of electric generators to extract information in interrogations and other reports by responsible known correspondents, that in 1963 I went to the Department of State and asked for information about it.

At that time, there was the usual denial, as there has been since.

[...]

Mr. Findley. Just one, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Meacham, I have the highest respect for the Society of Friends and for the Quakers, and for you, and I am sure that you would not make a statement based on very skimpy evidence or hearsay.

You have made a charge against the Government of the United States that is very grave. ¶

I am sure you are aware of that. ¶

You have charged that a Government agency has actually financed torture chambers in South Vietnam. ¶

I think in fairness to our Government, in fairness to the Society of Friends, that you serve, as well as in fairness to this subcommittee which, believe me, is seeking to get the facts about the treatment of prisoners of war, whether it be in the south or the north, you should be as specific as you possibly can be about those charges so that we can delve further into this matter.

Mr. Meacham. Yes, sir.

Mr. Findley. I cannot underscore the importance of this too greatly, because I can’t recall a charge against the Government of the United States that has been made that has had greater gravity.

Mr. Meacham. Yes, sir. ¶

I have reference to the interrogation center that is located in Quang Nghai.

Mr. Findley. Would you spell that?

Mr. Meacham. Q-u-a-n-g N-g-h-a-i. That is in I Corps. It is one of the very active combat areas of the northern part of South Vietnam. ¶

The CIA financed the interrogation center that is there.

Mr. Findley. The construction of this?

Mr. Meacham. The construction and the management and the training of people who carry on the interrogations in that interrogation center.

* * * {p.383}

Dr. Barnet. Mr. Findley, there are people, I am informed, in this room, who can give “eyewitness testimony” as to the operation of those camps, and I think there is nothing more important for the committee to do than to hear that testimony.

* * * {p.403}

Mr. Bingham. I agree we should make every effort to see that the Geneva Convention is applied. ¶

I think we should also do that to many of those in South Vietnam who have not had the benefit of the Geneva Convention. ¶

[Applause.]

[...]

Mr. Rottmann. The reason I didn’t include that originally is because I didn’t think it was really that important who I was, only that I had been chosen to speak for my brothers here.

Since you are interested in direct testimony and have chosen because of time limitations to hear one of us, I will move most directly to instances of maltreatment of prisoners and suspects taken by American forces with which I have direct personal knowledge.

The most frequent thing that I saw in regard to this kind of treatment was a thing called water torture. ¶

Water torture usually takes two forms—three forms actually. ¶

One is the denial of water.

Mr. Fulton. North Vietnam or South Vietnam?

Mr. Rottmann. What I am talking about, or what we will all talk about for the rest of the time we have to talk, is treatment of prisoners of war or suspects taken by American personnel.

Mr. Zablocki. And the mistreatment was perpetrated by U.S. personnel?

Mr. Rottmann. By American forces, yes. ¶

The most frequent is water torture, as I started to say. ¶

This denial of water to prisoners, in {p.408} other words, just putting them in the sun, putting them in a Conex container, pinning them to the ground, or tying them to a tree and not giving them anything to drink.

Another form is just a bucket of water or a stream, if it happens to be nearby, just keep dunking the prisoner in for longer periods of time until he talks or drowns.

The most frequently used is a thing called towel torture, and we learned this in the infantry OCS in Fort Benning. ¶

The victim is placed on his knees, his hands are bound behind him with common wire, and he is bent over backward and the towel is wrapped around his mouth— his mouth usually and his nose.

Water is then poured onto the towel, and the sensation, I can tell you through experience, was one of drowning. You can sort of half breathe, but every time you breathe you get a big snootful of water. ¶

It is very painful and unpleasant, and a human being can stand an awfully large amount of it before dying.

This is the favorite, almost the favorite, kind that the ARVN troops utilize. They are very good at that.

DESCRIBES “POLE TORTURE”

Another kind has been called pole torture. ¶

We also learned it at infantry OCS, involving having a prisoner face a small pole or tree and put your left leg around the front and you put your right leg over your left leg and tuck it under so you are hanging, in effect, from the pole, and you are sort of like lifted up off the ground, and then you take the prisoner’s neck or his chin or his—just whatever you can grab and bend him over backwards.

What this does is, it pulls the legbone sockets out, the hipbone sockets out. It can break the neck, back, some of the spinal column, and it is really painful, and again I speak from personal experience because I was taught how to do it in OCS, and the way they taught me was they put me on it.

It is a very, very painful experience, and it causes a great deal of pain and bodily injury.

Mr. Zablocki. You have seen this torture?

Mr. Rottmann. I have seen this done; yes, sir.

Mr. Zablocki. Who was the commanding officer?

Mr. Rottmann. The commanding officer at that time of the division would be—

Mr. Zablocki. Who gave the orders?

Mr. Rottmann. I don’t know that anybody gave the particular order. In other words—

Mr. Zablocki. You mean the U.S. soldiers did that on their own? ¶

Who gave the order?

Mr. Rottmann. There was nobody who gave a specific order that I heard or saw. ¶

I am talking about, this kind of torture is de facto or official military policy, something that is used and utilized at all times in almost every unit, especially the infantry and field units.

There's a lot more in that testimony at that cite. Nor was there a shortage of reporting on the South Vietnamese treatment of prisoners, or the CIA treatment of prisoners, in Vietnam.

I'm utterly unclear by what standard South Vietnam was sovereign that Irag and Afghanistan was not.

Utterly? It's bizarre that you want to make an issue of the US relation with South Vietnam along Chomskyan lines, but they you want to complain when Bob and I wistfully hope that the Dems will break some china in the Senate gift shop.

I can't think of any standard by which Vietnam was sovereign but Iraq and Afghanistan today are not. Care to name some?

Let's see, Vietnam had an active army that could enforce internal order and maintain its borders, Afghanistan and Iraq, not so much, Vietnam, Vietnam had a series of elections, while I&A had one each. The Republic of Vietnam lasted 2 years after the US withdrawal, I&A wouldn't last 2 weeks. The Republic of Vietnam was a member of Interpol, the World Bank, The Red Cross, the Universal Postal Union. There were 'elections' in 67 and 71 and if you want to cite the fraud as denying sovereign status, then are you going to claim that every country that has had cooked elections shouldn't be considered sovereign?

Any number of countries have been controlled by other countries, yet are, for the purposes of discussion, considered sovereign. In South Vietnam, you had the US handing prisoners to a different country. Here, we are not transferring any prisoners to another country, we are simply moving them within our own hierarchy. Again, sins of omission vs commission. There is a reason why 'plausible deniability' has that modifier.

The funny thing is that if you go to Vietnam, the amnesia is on both sides. Sure, they still have the museums with horrific exhibits, but for the most part, they simply want to get on with the business of living. The recent unsuccessful suit against Monsanto by Vietnam victims of Agent Orange first had to overcome resistance from within their own government to have their suit go forward. Of course, much of the attitude of Vietnam traces itself to the fact that it has to find a way to integrate those who were opposed to the regime, especially those who relocated. So it, too, has to play a balancing act.

But I don't think there is any balance in taking hilzoy's piece and making it an opportunity to play Jeopardy: The war in Vietnam version. At one level, it is a question of tactics. If hilzoy says 'just as in Vietnam, the US has thrown away the Geneva Conventions', I believe there are any number of people waiting in the wings to tear her down. It seems that the amnesia involved is not hilzoy on Vietnam, it is you on what has happened to political discourse in the past 4 years.

This thread has certainly been Farbered.

Folks, Gary is just right about this. Sorry.

Our behavior in Iraq & Afghanistan didn't just come out of nowhere. It's precisely the whitewashing of our previous conduct that helps make our current conduct possible.

I mean, hell, our torture & abuse of "high-level" prisoners is straight out of the CIA playbook from the 1950s & 60s.

"It's precisely the whitewashing of our previous conduct that helps make our current conduct possible."

So? So let's stop now. I don't understand Gary's argument, if he is making one, or the relevance of it. Whatever the argument is, I hope it is not in direct opposition to mine:

The Bush Administration must be tried for War Crimes.

We ignored the 1954 Geneva Conference mandate on what would constitute a legal government of Vietnam, despite our having signed a legally binding treaty.

Actually, the US didn't sign that treaty - only France and the Viet Minh did. Hooray! I have caught Gary in a minor error. My life is complete.

I don't understand Gary's argument, if he is making one, or the relevance of it.

Gary wrote that "In almost every war between the drafting of the Geneva Conventions and George W. Bush's election, we managed to deal with this problem without just tossing the Conventions aside and detaining huge numbers of people" is a debatable statement--indeed, that he considers it inaccurate. I think he's right about that, depending on how one defines "huge."

His argument, as I read it, is that we shouldn't argue on the basis of "we've never done this kind of thing before," because we have. The better argument, surely, would be that we shouldn't do these things because they are Wrong.

Of course, if the prisoners detained and murdered in the Phoenix program (for ex) were all registered with the ICRC, etc., etc., then please correct me.

What Anderson said. Gary is completely right about this and I'm surprised to see people attacking him.

It's simply not the case that the US had a good human rights record with respect to torture or prisoners until Dubya came along. How this is a defense of Dubya I'm not sure, except in the utterly cynical sense that once people realize how disgraceful our previous history has been they may feel like "everyone does it and so who cares?" One reason this stuff keeps happening over and over again is because people keep getting away with it.

If Bush isn't tried for war crimes, you can guarantee that in 20 years some other US President will be doing something awful and people will talk about it as though it is unprecedented. About a year ago I saw a liberal commenter at another blog (probably someone 20 years younger than me) compare Dubya to Reagan on human rights, saying that Reagan would never have condoned torture. Yeah, right. Death squads, terrorists as "freedom fighters", genocidal dictators, Reagan had no problem with, but sure as shooting ole Ronnie would never have condoned torture. Dubya is uniquely evil.

A question: Are any of the Iraqi men and women detained by U.S. forces and held in U.S.-run prison camps being declared and/or treated as prisoners of war?

Or are they all being considered "detainees" in the "war" on terror?

I'm assuming that it's the latter in Afghanistan, thanks to Bush's declaration that Geneva would not apply and that they would not give captured persons prisoner of war status.

Has that lawless approach been explicitly applied to Iraq, or just implicitly, or are there some prisoners of war there? If there are, they would seem to be the ones actually attacking U.S. soldiers, where the posited 80% innocent picked up in sweeps have even fewer rights.

"but they you want to complain when Bob and I wistfully hope that the Dems will break some china in the Senate gift shop."

I'm unaware of any such desire, and any such complaint; what are you talking about?

"Let's see, Vietnam had an active army that could enforce internal order and maintain its borders, "

False on both counts. It did have an active army, yes, but it never did either of those two things, even remotely, and not even close. Whereas both the current governments of Iraq and Afghanistan don't, at least, have the armies of other nations roaming at will throughout the land.

"If hilzoy says 'just as in Vietnam, the US has thrown away the Geneva Conventions', I believe there are any number of people waiting in the wings to tear her down."

That might be, but I'm uninterested in arguing propaganda for cause; I'm interested in facts, and not seeing them distorted.

Jes: "This thread has certainly been Farbered."

So much for Jes's promises.

Indeed. I feel that we should shrug and move on: Slarti successfully Farbered the thread, let's acknowledge that, have a group hug, and move on.

Posted by: Jesurgislac | May 04, 2006 at 12:26 PM

[...]

Jes,

Regarding this comment, this is a warning for violating the posting rules. Gary is right. It was a unsolicited, gratuitous attack.

Posted by: Charles Bird | May 05, 2006 at 09:19 PM

[...]

Charles: Regarding this comment, this is a warning for violating the posting rules. Gary is right. It was a unsolicited, gratuitous attack.

Going to go back and warn everyone else who's used Gary's surname as a verb? Or is it just me who's not allowed to do it?

Posted by: Jesurgislac | May 06, 2006 at 08:12 AM

[...]

Jesurgislac: "Going to go back and warn everyone else who's used Gary's surname as a verb? Or is it just me who's not allowed to do it?"

From my own view, I noted John Thullen saying "You're not an idiot. At least you tried to link, which would please Gary Farber," which was perfectly innocuous, and Catsy referred to "Farber-caliber pedantry," which was faintly annoying, but I'm willing to plead guilty to pedantry on occasion, if not necessarily in every given example, and in any case, again, the charge is relatively innocuous, whereas yours was distinctly a nasty slur, so from my view, it's a matter of usage, not a matter of who did it.

That you'd try to wiggle out, and not even remotely apologize, astonishes me not at all.

If you'd like to submit evidence of other people mis-using my name behind my back, though, do feel free.

It's actually, you know, not nice to say such things about someone. I'm not a perfect person, nor do I manage to always avoid saying stupid things I later regret, but I've never done that sort of thing to you, either. I'd suggest you just consider apologizing, but it seems futile.

[...]

Posted by: Gary Farber | May 06, 2006 at 10:55 AM

[...]

Jes -- for what it's worth, I agree with Charles. Especially now that Gary has made his views on it known.

Posted by: hilzoy | May 06, 2006 at 09:29 PM

[...]

Hilzoy: Jes -- for what it's worth, I agree with Charles. Especially now that Gary has made his views on it known.

While Charles does tend to get my back up on a personal/political level, I acknowledge I should have accepted his rebuke when he was speaking ex cathedra, as it were.

I won't verb Gary's surname again.

Posted by: Jesurgislac | May 07, 2006 at 01:12 PM

Jes, May 7th: I won't verb Gary's surname again.

Thanks, Jes.

Posted by: hilzoy | May 07, 2006 at 01:42 PM

Jes, September 18th: Jes: "This thread has certainly been Farbered."

Good demonstration of how you keep your word.

Bob:

Whatever the argument is, I hope it is not in direct opposition to mine:

The Bush Administration must be tried for War Crimes.

No, Bob, I have no disagreement with you, or as regards that, whatever.

Anderson:

His argument, as I read it, is that we shouldn't argue on the basis of "we've never done this kind of thing before," because we have. The better argument, surely, would be that we shouldn't do these things because they are Wrong.
Correct-a-mundo!

Donald:

About a year ago I saw a liberal commenter at another blog (probably someone 20 years younger than me) compare Dubya to Reagan on human rights, saying that Reagan would never have condoned torture. Yeah, right. Death squads, terrorists as "freedom fighters", genocidal dictators, Reagan had no problem with, but sure as shooting ole Ronnie would never have condoned torture. Dubya is uniquely evil.
I didn't want to digress too much further into the torture aspect, as the waters are already muddy enough, and I've already touched on it, but, of course, the U.S. has an endless record of, and Reagan has a consistent record in, as you know, of course, our training of, and colloboration with, and support of, various Central American governments that widely used not just death squads, but torture. And John Negroponte has a very long record of being the Ambassador de jour-and-jure, and denying the facts of such torture.

As most of us know, there's great continuity of personnel, as well as policy, between the criminals of the Reagan administration and the Bush administration (I dunno if John Cole, Andrew Sullivan, and others who have recently awakened, but were staunch Reagan fans, will ever notice that the people they hate now are the people they still love from then).

Gary, to pick up a point way upthread, I think it's a mistake to rest habeas jurisdiction on the physical location of the prisoner. Rather, I would ask whether the court has jurisdiction over the jailer. If the answer is yes, then I think the jailer is answerable to the court.

My view is a hair short of accepted as the law -- but, as I've said, I think Eisentrager wrongly decided.

The Habeas Act of 1679 was passed to close a loophole that had been exploited during the Stuart Restoration: secreting prisoners overseas to avoid the writ.

The hide-them-abroad strategy is utterly and totally morally bankrupt. If the President has the power to act abroad at all, he is subject to the constraints of the Constitution and of US law. Without the cover of the Constitution and US law, he's just a megalomaniacal spoiled brat, with armed retainers.

And by the way, it's not like we always observe national boundaries in the law. For example, an American taken hostage in Beirut can sue the government of Iran in US federal court for its role in the hostage-taking.

The notion that foreigners captured during a war don't have a common law right to habeas is mistaken. There were cases in the 18th century in England.

I think CharleyCarp is right, and would add only that habeas corpus is fundamental enough to be on the short list of universal human rights.

America, IIRC, is supposed to be the nation that believes people "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." We don't believe that those rights accrue just b/c you're a citizen of the U.S. And surely, the right of habeas--demanding that your captor demonstrate his authority to imprison you--qualifies. (Nod here to the Congressional power to suspend habeas in emergencies, with the note that a 5-years-and-running GWOT isn't an "emergency.")

As the joke goes, Bush says that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, so he's protecting us by getting rid of as many freedoms as possible.

Anderson, he's an appeaser. And his remarks about the difficulty of catching bin Laden show him to be a loser-defeatist.

Anderson, he's an appeaser. And his remarks about the difficulty of catching bin Laden show him to be a loser-defeatist.

Impossible ... he's not a Democrat!

I have to go along with Gary here. It's important that our arguments against torture be as factually accurate as possible to avoid the other side simply undermining a factual claim and then using that as a pretext to throw out the entire argument. This is a common technique, and one that works more often than it should. We therefore need to guard against it so we can force the other side to argue on the ground they'd rather avoid: why the United States should legalize torture. That's where we have to place this fight, or we'll lose.

On the other hand, there's also something to be said for tact and a gentle, sensitive touch with regard to the feelings of people who are demonstrably interested in doing good things and not doing bad things, who are (like oneself) tired and discouraged (at a minimum) after six years of this crap. We are not the enemy, and being shouted at in exactly the same tone thato ne would use in addressing someone who is doesn't effing help much.

Gary, you've said yourself that you often find yourself surprised at and mystified by others' emotional responses. Well, it's happening again. I do not feel edified. This was a lousy, annoying, depressing bit of hectoring. It took other people to explain what you were doing in terms that left me at all edified.

Now that I've seen the point summaried, I understand and even agree. Yes, it is is important not to neglect the evils of the past in forming judgments about the present. I wish you'd made the point some other way.

Anderson, Donald,
I think it is a relatively hard sell to argue from the stand point that somehow, the US has always had the problems with the treatment of prisoners taken on the battlefield and the current regime is just ripping the mask off. I also think that looking at Vietnam and wondering why the US didn't set up separate facilities to hold POWs rather than turning them over the South Vietnamese is akin to wondering why those guys in the Spanish Inquisition didn't just realize that they weren't making things better. You've got to acknowledge all of the circumstances. Of course, the fault probably lies with me for trying to calm things down here.

The invocation of Reagan is interesting. While I think very little of the man, there was at least, within the structure of the Republican party, at least some braking mechanism to slow things down, which is why the adults famously took over are Iran-contra. I really have no idea whether, if we were able to magically replace Bush with Reagan, if things would be better, except the sneaking suspicion that any other option would be better than the current trainwreck.

But unfortunately, people need history to hang on, and this 'well, this is nothing new, the US has always pulled this crap' is the argument from the left that you see from the right as 'well, you can't trust either party, look at William Jefferson'. Not saying that this is Gary's intent, but, as Bruce notes, it has a hectoring tone that I can really do without.

Gary, just to clarify, the Senate gift shop remark referred to this, which specifically quoted what I said, but I note that you withdrew that here, so I assume that everything is all is right with the world, until the next time we end up arguing.

Bruce: "I wish you'd made the point some other way."

I am by no means without flaws.

I think it is a relatively hard sell to argue from the stand point that somehow, the US has always had the problems with the treatment of prisoners taken on the battlefield and the current regime is just ripping the mask off.

Well, let me be clear that I'm not saying that. Our present situation, AFAIK, seems quantitatively & qualitatively worse, overall.

What I meant to say was that our poor record in the past, and our failure to acknowledge it, has made the present failures more thinkable and do-able.

Institutional memory, if you will. It seems very unlikely to me that there weren't officers, in the military and CIA, who remembered in the 1960s what had been done in the 1950s, in the 1970s what had been done in the 1960s, and so on to today.

LJ, your attention and points are all about "sells" and arguments. Those don't interest me much. History interests me.

As a general note, I'll point out for the zillionth time that it drives me crazy when people read my plain statements, and proceed on the basis that they need to analyze what I really mean, and what's my agenda.

My agenda is to write what I mean, and to address whether facts are accurate or not.

That this may or may not inconvenience anyone's argument about anything is not my concern. I am not a tool, and I haven't volunteered to be anyone's tool.

Any further "analysis" of why I'm writing what I write is doomed to hallucinatory conclusions.

Gary, I am absolutely positive that you have no political agenda when you write. None whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned, you have put an idea out and I am discussing how it interacts with other ideas. You suggest that we shouldn't believe This is why I inevitably include asides like 'no one doubts your agreement with hilzoy' or 'I'm not saying that Gary is saying this'. I hope this clarifies things, but if there is some other formulation you would like me to use, I would be happy to do so.

Apologies, I had a section about sovereign status of South Vietnam that I cut because I just wanted to emphasize the point that I believe Gary Farber has no political agenda, but didn't get it all. Let me repeat, Gary Farber has no political agenda, I do not believe that he is anyone's tool and anyone who suggests this will have to take it up with me.

Let me repeat, Gary Farber has no political agenda, I do not believe that he is anyone's tool and anyone who suggests this will have to take it up with me.

Of course, mere political agendas would be an annoying distraction from Gary's plans for galactic dominion.

"Of course, mere political agendas would be an annoying distraction from Gary's plans for galactic dominion."

It's true. As Galactic Emperor, I shall grant my people political freedom, and the right to agendas, when they demonstrate that they have the maturity to be ready for them.

Meanwhile: Guards! liberal japonicus is to undergo "alternative methods" of interrogation. I expect a report every eight hours.

Just don't leave me in the chair like they did here

"Just don't leave me in the chair like they did here"

Fear not! You shall be programed to love your Galactic Emperor.

And the Plane'arium.

I've been away all day; but I've posted an update in which I try to respond to Gary's points. As soon as it finishes publishing, I'll change the part of it that put everything in bold.

So, Jes: you've not responded with any sort of apology for breaking your word here. I figured I'd give you a day before bringing it up again, but you've had much to subsequently say in other threads.

You were previously warned not to engage in that practice, or be banned. I'm assuming you'll at least apologize for giving your word and breaking it; I'm not otherwise interested in seeking your being banned, after having been warned, but I would appreciate an apology, and a re-affirmation that you will not do it again, at which time I'll drop the subject. Thanks.

Jes: Gary has asked you not to use his name as a verb. It would be polite to respect his wishes.

Hilzoy: Jes: Gary has asked you not to use his name as a verb. It would be polite to respect his wishes.

As ever, Hilzoy, you make the best point.

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