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June 07, 2007

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Oh, hilzoy, it seems you didn't hear.
Among the many horrors inflicted at Abu Ghraib, the non-accountable contractors in the pay of my US government, your US government, tortured children in front of their parents in an attempt to get the parents to talk.
I know this is the kind of thing one wishes one could forget.

Here's a link to the Seymour Hersh interview:
http://stream.realimpact.net/?file=clients/aclu/conf2004/20040707_aclu_AmericaAtACrossroads_300.rm

He states:

" Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

Mistah Kurtz, he dead.

One of the most horrible parts of The Looming Tower is the detailed description of the torture and coercion by the Egyptian police of sons of men close to Zawahiri (Chapter 12: "The Boy Spies"). The boys were videotaped being raped, and so shamed, they were blackmailed into spying on their fathers' associates. Eventually the truth came out, and Zawahiri held a court to condemn them to death as dishonored males (but more importantly, I suspect, as compromised spies).

That was a horrible episode, all around. The Egyptian police was terribly abusive towards these children, and Zawahiri's group was unthinkably cruel in executing them for having been victimised.

I would very much like to believe that my country didn't engage in this sort of evil coercion against children.

Also, I have to wonder what sort of child psychologists are lending their names and reputations to this sort of practice. While, obviously, I don't know anything about what is actually going on, what role the child psychologists are actually playing, or wht sorts of conditions actually obtain, I'm beginning to think that the APA move more aggressively to decertify members who participate in prisoner abuse.

joel hanes: For better or worse, I draw some sort of distinction between what my government does as policy, and what people do when they have just gone bad. I think that a lot of what went on in Abu Ghraib was either policy, the predictable result of policy, or the predictable result of a clear failure of leadership; but I would have liked to hope that what Hersh describes in the passage you quote was not.

On the other hand, I don't see how we could detain children without some sort of official approval.


That link doesn't look so good, does it? Here it is, fixed:
http://stream.realimpact.net/?file=clients/aclu/conf2004/20040707_aclu_AmericaAtACrossroads_300.rm

And here's a link to the BoingBoing story from whence I lifted it:
http://boingboing.net/2004/07/15/hersh_children_raped.html
and the followup:
http://www.boingboing.net/2004/07/20/evidence_for_hershs_.html

But really, all one has to do is to Google on "seymour hersh torture children".

I don't know, but I imagine that one of the problems with the kids in Hilzoy's article is what do we do with them now? Who do we turn them over to? And when they were captured by the Pakistanis, should we have left them in their custody?

If American soldiers raid a house and capture the adults as enemy, and there are young children there, should we just leave them, or take them into some sort of protective custody? Should we get them adopted by someone?

I don't know what the answer is, but it seems to me that it would be difficult to get them into safe hands belonging to anyone on the other side, and leaving them to fend for themselves does not sound much better than taking them with us.

I don't believe that we had a policy to torture children, no.
And I'll bet that initially, the detention of the five disappeared kids you started writing about wasn't a matter of policy, but rather the result of an over-amped decision by some underling. That's how a bunch of innocent guys ended up in Gitmo, too: a hasty bad decision by the guy on the spot.
And in the latter two cases, the real policy in place seems to be CYA. BushCo can't possibly let some of these people loose where the press can find them, because they would talk about how they'd been treated; so the detention, once begun becomes effectively indefinite.

jrudkis,

I know what we could have done with those kids: we could have told the Pakastani government, "Hey, listen, imprisoning children is not cool. It would be really great if those kids ended up living with their relatives. We (embassy staff) would like to check up on them in a few months. You wouldn't mind doing this tiny favor for us? Oh, by the way, about those billion dollar payments we're supposed to give you every year for doing nothing? There's a little problem. Probably nothing, we'll look into it right away. It would be awful if there was a, you know, delay in getting you your money. Oh, and we're still working on getting you those F-16s you've been complaining about for 20 years. Anyway, we sure hope those kids get to have normal life with their relatives."

In other words, you ask the government nicely, and if they don't play ball, you make their lives difficult by withholding things they want. This really is not very hard to understand.

If the Pakastani government refuses to play ball or if we decide that they won't be safe there, then put them into foster care in the US. In any event, you can't hold people in prison when they have done absolutely nothing wrong. It really disturbs me that I need to spell that out.


I don't know what the answer is, but it seems to me that it would be difficult to get them into safe hands belonging to anyone on the other side, and leaving them to fend for themselves does not sound much better than taking them with us.

Why would it be difficult? Is it difficult because those animals on the other side are just as likely to tear the children limb from limb as play soccer with them? I kid.

Kids almost certainly have relatives that care about them and are willing to ensure their safety. Ask their parents. Iraqis are human beings; they think about who will take care of their kids if they die suddenly just like Americans do, even if they don't write out a will. This is really the kind of thing that most parents living in a war zone have given some thought to.

CYA, slip through the cracks, a few bad apples, whatever. It has got to stop.

And until everything that has been done to detainees by the US during this "War on Terror" has been fully documented and brought to light, I fear that apologists for half-suspected horrors will continue to multiply.

We cannot afford to let clear human rights violations become admitted, sanctioned policy. There are already far too many public figures who are willing to entertain the notion.

A couple of years ago I attended a conference during which Salman Rushdie spoke. "We cannot let The United States become a nation of torturers," he said, as verbatim as I can recall. The idea of the United States meant something to him, as a political exile, something more than our nation-state to be defended against all threats real and imagined.

I think that there remain a lot of people who hold onto Rushdie's ideal of the United States. In better times, the idea of our country helped them hope that democracy, transparency, and the strict rule of law would improve their lives.

I'd like to say that this hope was our most powerful export, but, to be realistic, our most powerful export was probably the dollar. Its value on the world's market has markedly declined in the past few years. There are of course many complex economic theories to explain this phenomenon.

Turbulence,

Generally when we take the kids of American criminals into custody, we do not turn them over to other criminals. We would try and find a family member, or put them into foster care or some sort of institution. I don't know how we do that in Afghanistan or Iraq and have some reasonable expectation of safety.

And in the case of a war with insurgents and no central enemy government, it is not generally that easy to find some way to turn kids back over to the enemy. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be hard to find anyone who it would be safe to turn the children of Al Qaeda members to, particularly one who is so well known.

The Geneva Conventions does require that the occupying power care for children orphaned or separated by war, preferably by someone of their own nationality, language, and religion, if you can't find a near relative or friend.

At the same time he prohibits taking hostages. Whether these kids or hostages or not is a hard question, but I would not turn children over in Iraq to the members of an armed gang.


The picture of a hooded prisoner with his son from 2003. I'm not sure why we should be surprised, we were headed down this route long ago.

The picture of a hooded prisoner with his son from 2003. I'm not sure why we should be surprised, we were headed down this road long ago.

LJ,

Should they have separated the kid from his father, or let him be comforted by him?

I remember how hard that picture hit me (my daughter was the same age at the time), though I don't remember the precise details of the caption and now I'm wondering. How do you pick up a prisoner of war (which is what the current caption has) who is with his son? And in white shirt, white pants and sandals? I don't remember any stories of insurgents using their own children for cover, and in 2003, everything was coming up roses, if I recall correctly. My point is not a Karl Maldenesque 'What will you do?", it is that there were policies and procedures in place (as well as a blindness to the necessary infrastructures to deal with such problems) that have led us to the point where we are disappearing children. So to answer your question, we don't get in a situation where we have to make those kinds of choices. And understanding that we are in that situation, we don't promote fanciful surges as solutions (that's not directed at you, mind you) but we get out. Now.

To back up a bit, when you bring up the notion of the courts dumping children in the hands of criminal gangs, every state has a system of foster care, centers, etc. for precisely such an occasion, so, if we had given some thought to COIN, we would have considered these kinds of consequences. We never did, I don't imagine we ever will, and we will most certainly pay for that.

Parents in the united states are arrested everyday in front of their children when they are suspected of committing a crime, not just when they are in the act. I don't find it surprising that we detain people who are not dressed like you might expect an insurgent to dress, at home.

At the same time, it is not an environment where we can ask the Department of Family Services to come with us. There will be some period of time where the kids are just with soldiers, who are in the middle of a combat operation.

USAID does run orphanages in Iraq, where we presumably would put the kid in the picture if we can't find his mom.

But I would think that putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's kids in an orphanage would make that place a target of anti al Qaeda forces, and would not be the best thing for anyone.

jrudkis: A suggestion. If I were you, I'd take a hard look at the slope I'm standing on. Because some things really don't need a Devil's Advocate, because even Satan would consider it something to shun.

We're not talking "Oh noes, the US wasn't handing out candy to the kids of terrorists we arrested".

We're talking things like "US soldiers sodomized the kids of people suspected of being terrorists but who, it turns out, were just stupidly looking Muslim in a Muslim country".

One of my most vivid memories of the invasion was an interview with an US officer after the fall of Baghdad. I cannot recall his exact rank, but it was high enough that he was given interviews with the Press and discussing decisions the US army was making.

He was discussing one of the "Most Wanted" Iraqi Generals, and how the US Army was going about getting ahold of this missing General. They went to his house, took his wife and kids into custody, and left a note stating they'd release his family when he turned himself in.

Hostage taking -- of children -- to coerce the surrender of a uniformed officer of a duly-recognized state military. It was an egregious violation of the Geneva Conventions, and a US Army officer was bragging about it to the press.

Since then, nothing I've heard about Abu Ghraib or our solider's habit of torturing, raping, sodomizing, and killing has really surprised me.

The rot was apparent from the beginning, and the stresses of a long occupation were simply going to make it worse. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel, and even faster when the rot is coming from the top.

Jrudkis: Sorry, it appears I misread you. :) Just mentally remove the first paragraph of my post with my apologies.

[snark]But the president has the authority to have the children's testicles crushed in front of their (the children's) parents to make them talk (the parents, not the testicles), so simply taking them hostage should not be a (legal) problem[/snark]

Another age-old authori/totali-tarian tool: Sippenhaft ("we can't get the one we want, so his relatives will do and they are guilty by association anyway")

I don't want to get snippy, but the picture is from 2003, so I'm don't think that this is insurgent, this is, as the caption says, POW. What that picture says to me is not some tricky insurgent dressed in a way to not attract attention, but rather a military age man who was assumed to be a soldier who was picked up with his son, and then humiliated in front of him.

Maybe he was a soldier, an officer even, trying to escape the cordon and not get picked up and so he needed to be detained, with his son. But if this is the kind of treatment that was dealt out in plain view, knowing the treatment done behind the walls of Abu Grahib and Bagram, it seems clear that we aren't talking about bad apples or unintended mistakes, we are talking about a desire to humiliate and cause pain in whatever way possible.

We don't know if that guy was one of the worst of the worst, or just some joe caught up in a dragnet. But he is clearly not KSM. As one wag around here said, the pin has been pulled, regardless of whether we stay or go.

We don't know anything about him. But it really doesn't impact the treatment. Soldiers are required to search, segregate, silence, safeguard, and "speed to the rear" detainees.

Is your concern about the bag on the head? Otherwise I see someone who has been detained, and rather than drag the kid off, the soldiers allowed him to stay with his father.

Hilzoy: but I would have liked to hope that what Hersh describes in the passage you quote was not.

Until there's a major-league investigation into everything that has been done in the US's prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, and elsewhere, I don't see that you have any room to hope.

No one was arrested and tried for raping kidnapped children: therefore, whether or not that particular method of torture was officially approved by the US before it was carried out, it certainly received official approval after the event - enough, at least, to keep the people who did it from being put on trial for their crimes.

Hilzoy: but I would have liked to hope that what Hersh describes in the passage you quote was not.

Until there's a major-league investigation into everything that has been done in the US's prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, and elsewhere, I don't see that you have any room to hope.

No one was arrested and tried for raping kidnapped children: therefore, whether or not that particular method of torture was officially approved by the US before it was carried out, it certainly received official approval after the event - enough, at least, to keep the people who did it from being put on trial for their crimes.

Is your concern about the bag on the head? Otherwise I see someone who has been detained, and rather than drag the kid off, the soldiers allowed him to stay with his father.

How nice of them. Would have been even nicer if the soldiers had refrained from "detaining" a father out with his young son, wouldn't it?

jrudkis, I agree that we don't know, and it's not going to help much fighting about it. But I'm thinking of the movie Colors, where Robert Duvall's veteran cop has to keep busting Sean Penn's rookie cop, because he keeps going out and trying to show how he's tougher than the guys he's arresting. A COIN approach is not one that attempts to suppress the opposition as search, segregate, silence, safeguard, and "speed to the rear" would. It accepts that those people taken out would, at some point, return, and so it was clearly important to take steps to alleviate situations like that. I'm not trying to get you or anyone else to have some sudden change of heart my point is to suggest that the approach we took into Iraq was inevitably going to lead to the problems we see now. You look and see a military force doing its best at a job it was not prepared to take on, I look and see that that lack of preparation, at least partially, at the root of the problems we are having now.

Does anyone know where they are?

Yes.

Does anyone care?

Not anyone in a position to do anything about it.

Average U.S. citizen: What's their name?
A: [muslim sounding first and last]
A. U.S. C.: f@ck em'

"someone identified as 'a CIA official' says of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: "His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.""

is this a contemporary quote or a years-old one?

because if it is contemporary, it is ridiculous--KSM could not possibly have any interesting actionable information left in him.

Count Cant: years old. The article is from 9/2003.

jrudkis: My point is: first, kids should not be in detention. Second, they are not psychological levers. Third, surely we are smart enough to devise some way in which these kids could be safe, if we thought enough about it. Fourth, apparently no one knows where these kids are now. Why not? Where are they?

No one was arrested and tried for raping kidnapped children: therefore, whether or not that particular method of torture was officially approved by the US before it was carried out, it certainly received official approval after the event - enough, at least, to keep the people who did it from being put on trial for their crimes.

The Taguba report claimed that this was done only by contractors, not by military personnel.

And the contractors were in a legal limbo, they weren't under UCMJ, they weren't under US law while they were in iraq, and they weren't under what passed for iraqi law. The US military did say they threw some of them out of iraq with complaints to the contracting company they worked for.

So there could have been some sort of retribution against the one(s) who raped children. They might have been thrown out of iraq and perhaps fired by their companies, they may have even become unemployable in their profession as interrogators.

This was a legal loophole that should have been closed quickly. The delays may have come from the inevitable snafus rather than a deliberate intention to prolong that situation.

detained contractors

long-detained contractor (NY Times)

Not all contractors in iraq get away with everything.
contractor child porn

There have been scattered reports of contractors setting off car bombs etc, denied by somebody-or-other with the claim it was insurgents disguised as contractors. I haven't seen any such reports from reputable sources, almost by definition.

You people talking about the correct way to detain people with children -- you're thinking peacetime.

We could work out "nice" procedures for doing such things in iraq if we had the resources. But we're badly overstretched and we clearly are not in control of the situation.

When somebody is being detained the troops who're doing the detaining are at risk, and the detainee is also at risk -- he could get sniped at from a distance any time, if somebody really doesn't want him to get interrogated. Keeping the troops (and the detainee) safe is the first priority, and things like finding the kid's mother so she can take him home are not high on the list.

Bad things happen in wars, and not least to children of suspected terrorists. If we win (in 8-16 or so years) then we can start picking up the pieces.

Ron Suskind, recall, in his One-Percent Doctrine book, says that we threatened to torment and kill KSM's children to try to "break" him. To which his reported response was that they'd be better off in Paradise.

As Suskind noted, once you've made that kind of threat to a prisoner, rapport-based interrogation -- the kind that works -- is pretty much out the window.

J Thomas: in 8-16 years, these kids will be 19-27 and 21-29. They will have spent the majority of their lives in detention. They will have had no late childhood and no adolescence. For them, the pieces will already have been irredeemably scattered.

It is not impossible for us to do what we have to do and take care of these kids. We could put them in foster care somewhere, for instance, without breaking a sweat. 'We're fighting a war, bad stuff happens' is not an excuse.

Morat20, do you mean this article?

U.S. Adopts Aggressive Tactics on Iraqi Fighters

WaPo July 28, 2003

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in."

Oh, and 4th Infantry Division rang a bell.

It Looked Weird and Felt Wrong

"Personnel at the ICE regularly see detainees who are, in essence, hostages," he charged. "They are normally arrested by coalition forces because they are family of individuals who have been targeted by a brigade based on accusations that may or may not be true, to be released, supposedly, when and if the targeted individual surrenders to coalition forces."

In fact, he said, the U.S. military tended not to keep its end of the bargain because the detention system was so badly operated: "In reality, these detainees are transferred to Abu Ghraib prison and become lost in the coalition detention system regardless of whether the targeted individual surrenders himself."

Since it - kidnapping children - already happened in Iraq why shouldn´t it have happened anywhere else?

And I wouldn´t call it "detaining" children. You detain persons suspected of a crime. This here was/is kidnapping and hostage taking.

jrudkis,

Can you please explain to me why American forces can't hand over children to other members of their families? Are you trying to say that if one man is an insurgent (not just suspected, but an actual insurgent), then, by necessity, his wife, his mother and father, and all of his siblings are also in the insurgency? Do you really believe that? That entire families, including young children and the elderly are actively engaged in hostilities all the time?

From what I can tell, families show up at American prisons to secure the release of their relatives rather frequently. Presumably, that includes the families of insurgents. Am I mistaken? Do families instead completely abandon people that are detained?

I'd ask that we not make this a pile on here. Thanks.

jrudkis,

Let me try asking my earlier question in a different way. One of the big problems in Iraq is that no one can tell insurgents from non-insurgents, right? Insurgents blend into the population. If an insurgent and his son are captured by U.S. forces, why can't their insurgent relatives act like ordinary non-insurgent Iraqis and claim the kid at prison? American soldiers can't tell the difference in any event. Are things now so bad that American soldiers are imprisoning random Iraqis that show up at prisons looking for their loved ones for no reason at all?

I appreciate the efforts of jrudkis and others to get across the point of view of those who have detained children. Like other commenters here, I don't agree that the choices made were the only ones open to the detainers, but it helps to have some sense of the perceived difficulties and issues involved.

However, it's important for everyone in this discussion to bear in mind the essence of what it means for someone to be 'disappeared': no one will confirm that they are detained and vouch for their location, nor allow access to them by the Red Cross, diplomatic representatives, etc.

'Disappearing' (unaccountable detention) is a fundamental blow at the rule of law, one which has historically been a cover for torture, abuse, and murder. At best, the detention of children in many of these situations is hostage taking; 'good treatment' of the family members themselves does not mitigate the crime, it only fails to aggravate it.

I don't have anything substantive to add; we seem to be abandoning the moral high ground like it was the Titanic.

we seem to be abandoning the moral high ground like it was the Titanic.

That's what I find so scary about Cheney & co. -- they think the "moral high ground" is for sissies. They really and truly believe that we have to *do* evil to *fight* evil.

That's always true to some extent in this vale of tears (realm of Maya, whatever); but they've morphed necessary evils into the necessity of evil.

The view to which I keep returning is simple. If you took my wife and my child and harmed them just because they were my family, then I will oppose you to my dying breath. If you took them "just" to force me to exchange myself - hostages - then assuming they were well-treated and released on my exchange, I might forgive you -- in a couple of decades. But I'd never, ever trust you. Since I suspect - based on what our opponents have done so far - they react the same, a simple question keeps coming to mind.

Why are we giving our opponents their Masada moments?

J Thomas: in 8-16 years, these kids will be 19-27 and 21-29. They will have spent the majority of their lives in detention. They will have had no late childhood and no adolescence. For them, the pieces will already have been irredeemably scattered.

You're missing the crucial last sentence of that paragraph:

They will become the next generation of terrorists.

we seem to be abandoning the moral high ground like it was the Titanic.

Who is we, kemosabe?

There's a certain irony that those who fretted about John Kerry having ever been to Cambodia or his wind-surfing skills are now concerned that we might be doing something untoward.

No; this is your mess, your responsibility.

Hilzoy,

I certainly agree that kids should not be held hostage or mistreated, but once kids like that are in our custody, I don't know quite what the responsible thing to do would be.

I think we probably do not want to continue the type of religious teaching favored by the parent (ie, extemist violent wahabism), yet we are supposed to based on the GC. I think it would be irresponsible to not have them in some sort of protective custody, rather than leave them in the streets, or turn them over to someone that may be an enemy of the parent, or alternatively could use the kids in much the same way we are accused of doing: to prevent the parent from talking.

Whether it is appropriate to tell the parent the children will be mistreated to get them to talk (rather than actually mistreat them), I would say we should do it if it works. It seems to me that we do similar things in civilian cases all the time (ie, your kid will be in foster care, or we will charge your wife (wasn't that the deal with Ken Lay?)).

Who do we turn Khalid's kids over to?

Turbulence,

I don't think it is a regular practice to keep kids. I suspect they are taken to the wartime version of the Department of Family Services or USAID, and then dealt with there as displaced. Kids would only be taken in the first place (generally, not referring to the specific case of Khalid or the post above) if there were no adults in the home (or vehicle) that were not detained, more or less like happens with arrests in the states.

But with someone like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, who appears to be a professional international terrorist rather than a local insurgent, and whatever ties he had in Pakistan were likely more terrorists, I don't think we had many good options.

I am not defending mistreatment of anyone, let alone kids. But I also would not defend leaving the kids alone once the parents were detained, or turning them over to associates who are suspected of being violent criminals.

The two parts of the post created an odd and disturbing image for me. I used to do the lightning show at the Theater of Electricity. (Not attend, do.) I flashed on doing the show and with every spark, someone in the audience, sometimes an adult, sometimes a child, disappeared - and no one seemed to notice or care because it wasn't their family, it wasn't their kid.

I know, not terribly coherent. Then again, visions rarely are.

I have also read vague reports of a teenager being possibly rendered to Syria. It's mentioned in Stephen Grey's book. We don't really know the scale of the CIA program. It's small compared to the number of people imprisoned by the military, but some people talk as if it were 14 people--that's quite false. If you add these 38 to the former CIA prisoners in Guantanamo (all of them, not just the ones transferred after Hamdan) & who have been released, I think you're already pushing 70 or 80, and that's the ones that have been publicly reported. (some had relatively short stays in the CIA prisons).

Oh, and God only knows what's gone on in Pakistani 'safe houses' with U.S. knowledge, or exactly what the deal is with the proxy detentions in East Africa.

On Abu Ghraib, I would rely somewhat less on Hersh's offhand verbal statements than his New Yorker articles (which are thoroughly researched & sources & carefully factchecked by one of the best magazines around). They are more likely to be secondhand, less corroborated, and easier to be misinterpreted. I think he is honest, and I'm not ruling it out, I'm just not actually sure whether it's true or not.

I cannot overstate how important I think it is for a new administration to conduct one, really, really, really thorough investigation of this whole mess. DOJ, Dep't of Defense, and CIA; Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghaanistan, and the whole archipelago of renditions and secret prisons. The whole thing. After restoring habeas/closing Guantanamo, I think that should be the highest priority on these issues, and I would like to see equal commitment to it from the Democratic Presidential candidates.

Hilzoy, I didn't intend to excuse it.

In 2003 our forces were overstretched and not trained for the work. As I understand it, they had been forbidden to plan for an occupation. This sort of thing was predictable, if not exactly excusable. If we'd just had a lot more troops, and a plan....

Now it's mostly the same people and they're getting tired. Still nothing like an adequate plan. An effective opposition -- several oppositions -- getting more competent. Still not nearly enough people. Our military simply doesn't have the resources to correct the problems.

Meanwhile, probably some iraqi children have gotten caught in a giant bureaucracy where nobody who has the authority to make a big choice about them, has the time to make it. That's a bad thing, and it's also true for every one of our military men who gets rotated to iraq. They're all trapped in a giant bureaucratic mess, and the best any of them can do is get his job done while making an attempt to do good where he has a choice.

It isn't going to get any better. As the resources get more strained the choices will get harder.

And the civilians who think we ought to be able to run a humane occupation -- maybe we could, if we were willing to spend the people and the money. But we aren't. Our civilians are less willing to put up with bad wars, and I don't know how that will change things. Korea had a population of about 30,000 in 1950 and by official count they lost somewhere between 3.5 and 4 milion civilian deaths. They lost 80% of their infrastructure, half their houses, etc. But we helped the surviving south koreans rebuild, and the public was mostly upset that we stalemated and didn't win outright.

Iraq won't be that bad off until they've lost 2.5 to 3 million civilians, and everybody's suggesting the deaths are still under a million. Our enthusiasm is declining for giant bureaucracies where individual people get crushed in the gears and provide lubrication.

I certainly agree that kids should not be held hostage or mistreated, but once kids like that are in our custody, I don't know quite what the responsible thing to do would be.

Jrudkis, first off, I suspect that there isn't a coherent policy about this, that individual people tend to do whatever they think best when it's their turn to decide. Then the guys who choose something that leaves hard choices later, leave somebody with hard choices. I don't know how much that's actually so, though.

So I can imagine it might sometimes work to ask the detainee what he wants done with his child. Let him tell the child where to go, and hope for the best.

If he's worried about insurgents capturing and torturing his child to keep him from talking, he might have the same concern about his undetained wife, if she isn't being detained. And they have the problem of contacting him. They need to get the message to him that they'll torture or kill his relatives if he talks, and they need to persuade him that they'll know. Without that communication they're just a worry, he could hold out and they torture and kill his children anyway on the assumption he talked, and he doesn't find out until much later. But of course if he knows that some of the translators etc are actually insurgents then all that's taken care of. And in that case it's mostly a waste to try to interrogate him -- the other side will know exactly what we hear and can react appropriately.

Suppose it's important that the other side not find out quickly that we picked him up. Then we have to take the child too. We can't let a 6-year-old run home to mama because he'll tell. And consequences will unwind from there.

I've never worked as a military interrogator, but I've read about it and listened to a few. For some good ones, one of the most important things is the clear statement, "For you, the war is over.". He won't be released until the end of hostilities. The war is over for him. It may not take long before he's ready to hash out what he did right and wrong, hear how it looked from the other side, etc. But of course for the interrogator the war isn't over at all. This doesn't work when you're threatening his kids. That means the war isn't over one little bit for him. It may lead to suicide. "Better dead than that man's prisoner."

It isn't irresponsible to arrange to send children back to their families, even if the families are salafis. Just as CPS returns children to fundamentalist christians when convinced the family won't physically abuse them. Show the child we're human beings who try to do the right thing, and you do more good than you do holding them. If the war is still hot when they're old enough to fight, then we'll have problems a lot worse than a few extra teenage salafis.

... once kids like that are in our custody, I don't know quite what the responsible thing to do would be.

I don't think any one answer is right all the time. You just have to do the best you can.

I made an effort to find some common ground with jrudkis, to avoid "piling on". And this is what comes next:

jrudkis: Whether it is appropriate to tell the parent the children will be mistreated to get them to talk (rather than actually mistreat them), I would say we should do it if it works.

I'm done here.

Who is we, kemosabe?

America, that's "we."

Otherwise, I guess the Dems could shrug off our misdeeds with "hey, not on *my* watch" and wait for 2008.

Children are kidnapped, prisoners are tortured, etc., under the United States flag. I doubt it matters much to any of our victims that 49% of us voted for the other guy. What are we supposed to be, "Good Americans"? Inner exiles?

"I'm done here."

To try to keep to issues, I'm curious, Nell, if you're advocating forbidding interrogators to lie to prisoners, as a general rule, or are you proposing a narrower rule that forbids... well, what would be your preferred phrasing?

"what would be your preferred phrasing?"

How's this?

Specifically, the prohibition on inflicting "severe mental pain or suffering" by means of "the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality."

@Gary: When I said 'I'm done here', I meant that I'm done here.

Congrats Hilzoy! Glenn Greenwald has named you at the top of his SALON column today for this very post.

Actually, the torture statute--which is what I just linked to--as written CAN be interpreted so narrowly as to allow things like waterboarding and threatening to torture people's seven year old children. I don't think those interpretations are fair or plausible, but it might be better to tighten the language a little--delete the word "specifically" before intended and "prolonged" before mental harm.

As far as non-imminent threats to family members, I think they are prohibited by other sources of law, such as Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions.

I think we probably do not want to continue the type of religious teaching favored by the parent (ie, extemist violent wahabism), yet we are supposed to based on the GC.

Right here I see a really big assumption. How do you know (not think, but know as a fact) what kind of religious teaching these kids were getting? Is there some reason they can't be foster children - not adopted - of a Muslim family anywhere in the world, including the US? (Adoption, BTW, is a legal procedure, generally involving consent by one or both parents, which makes the child legally the child of the adopting parent(s). With a new birth certificate issued, usually.)

I consider holding children for 'leverage' to be about on a level with the medieval practice of holding them hostage for the good behavior of the parent, where they sometimes were executed because the parent didn't cooperate. (Look up John of England sometime.) It isn't who most of us think we are, or should be: it's a kind of extortion.

There's the other issue also: if it's okay to do this to those whom we call enemies, what protection do we have against our own government doing this to our own families?

Just to be clear: I can easily understand how a kid might be picked up in the course of hostilities -- there you are, in a firefight, there's a kid, he might get hurt, you take him to try to keep him safe; eventually, it's over, and there's no one to turn him over to -- ??

And I wouldn't blame anyone for that. In general, I don't blame soldiers for comprehensible choices in the heat of the moment (where 'comprehensible' doesn't mean that I agree with them at all, but does preclude things that are plainly out of bounds, like, oh, My Lai.)

But precisely because it's so predictable that unpredictable stuff happens in war, I do hold people higher up responsible for setting policies to deal with the stuff that happens, and/or for responding to things like this with clear direction once it has happened; and also for exercising the kind of leadership that makes it as unlikely as possible that the choices people make in the heat of battle will be bad ones. (I don't mean to suggest that that could ever be eliminated -- soldiers are not robots, after ll; they're normal people, and sometimes scared normal people in awful circumstances. Just that I would think that leaders who established a clear assumption of lawful and decent behavior, and who did not tolerate bad stuff, could make a big difference, and I hold them responsible for trying.)

I mean: my basic view of the military -- which I know is uninformed -- is that you take a bunch of people, of more or less ordinary degrees of goodness, and prepare to put them in very stressful, awful situations in which they will be unable to rely on ordinary precepts of decency like "you just don't kill people" by training, training, training, followed by leadership, leadership, leadership, and it is up to the trainers and leaders to do their very best to keep the people they train and lead from both physical and moral harm. So I am much more likely to become absolutely livid at, say, Donald Rumsfeld, whom I regard as having wholly neglected large chunks of these duties to our soldiers, than at individual soldiers.

Oh, and about these particular kids: KSMs sons started out in Pakistani custody. Then, somehow, we acquired them for use as psychological levers. Then, who knows. So in this particular case there is no question of us somehow finding ourselves with these kids and wondering: OMG, what to do?

It was and still is a common practice in totalitarian/authoritarian regimes to take children away from their politically suspect parents and let them be adopted by more "reliable" people. To give the appearance of anything like that would also not be in the US's long term interests.

"How's this?"

Good. The question that immediately arose in my mind stems from the observation that is is, so far as I know (please correct me if I'm in error), perfectly legal for police to lie to suspects about -- and it's possibly I'm wrong -- more or less anything and everything.

My understanding is that this is the practice, and while SCOTUS has not explicitly authorized it, it hasn't forbidden it, either -- it merely hasn't addressed the issue as yet, leaving the tactic of lying to remain legal. (Let me know if I'm misunderstanding, please.)

And police, in my understanding, make use of the tactic of lying in interrogations absolutely routinely and with tremendous frequency, as SOP.

The inconsistency of allowing our domestic police to lie about any and everything, and not allowing military interrogaters to lie, looms large.

It's presumably, however, entirely possible to forbid only "threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering" and "the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering," even when those threats are pure lies.

If the prohibition on lying were limited to that, I don't, offhand, see any serious problems with inconsistency arising (although the fact that interrogators will be allowed to lie in general, save about violence, would be a notable, though proper, anomaly).

The anomaly bothers me a little, though, because if lying about violence is torture, then what does that make lying about other forms of dire consequences? It seems a bit arbitrary, when what we're talking about is simply verbal discussion, and nothing more. I'm frankly a little hesitant to say that speech is torture. I'd welcome the thoughts of others on this.

Thanks for clarifying, Katherine, although I don't know, and may not find out, apparently, what Nell thinks.

Specifically, the prohibition on inflicting "severe mental pain or suffering" by means of "the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering"

Well, that resolves *that* issue, doesn't it? Thanks, Katherine.

Note that the rest of the portion Katherine quotes -- "the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality" -- applies to sensory deprivation, that darling of CIA torturers.

Here's the Council of Europe Report confirming CIA prisons in Poland and Romania & offering new details. Long, but probably worth a thorough read. I, alas, don't have time.

The anomaly bothers me a little, though, because if lying about violence is torture, then what does that make lying about other forms of dire consequences?

What non-violent dire consequences do you have in mind?

It seems clear to me that there's a big difference between, say, falsely telling a suspect "we've captured your friends, you might as well confess" or "come to this location and you'll get a free TV" and threatening him that you'll hurt his kids if he doesn't talk.

Threatening torture is just as morally unacceptable as torture itself, seems to be the watchword.

Between the two extremes I've identified, I'm not sure what you believe the close cases would be.

jrudkis: I think we probably do not want to continue the type of religious teaching favored by the parent (ie, extemist violent wahabism), yet we are supposed to based on the GC.

Mmm. That's the same law that prevents us from kidnapping the children of America's 29% and breaking their connection with the extremist violent Christianity favored by their parents. Do you have any idea why it's probably a good thing not to kidnap children away from their parents, regardless of your views about what their parents are teaching them? It's a serious question, because you seem to be seriously proposing this as a solution.

J Thomas: Meanwhile, probably some iraqi children have gotten caught in a giant bureaucracy where nobody who has the authority to make a big choice about them, has the time to make it. That's a bad thing, and it's also true for every one of our military men who gets rotated to iraq.

Are you seriously comparing the situation of an American soldier rotated to Iraq with a child - any child - who has been kidnapped and separated from their parents?

jrudkis: Whether it is appropriate to tell the parent the children will be mistreated to get them to talk (rather than actually mistreat them), I would say we should do it if it works.

I only noticed this part of jrudkis's comments when Nell picked it up - I think my eye must have slid over it out of sheer repulsion. I wonder if jrudkis is one of those childless adults who genuinely dislikes children? I play with this because I'd rather think he really feels indifference or dislike towards all children - and parents who care for children - than that he thinks this is something appropriate to do to any parent.

No wonder the US lost the war in Iraq, with people like jrudkis serving in the US army.

Whoa, Jes.

What non-violent dire consequences do you have in mind?

Life in prison.

"What non-violent dire consequences do you have in mind?"

Nothing that isn't distinguishable from violence, first of all.

On considering it further, it does seem to me that drawing a line under threats of violence, as per the torture statute, and differentiating them from other lies, isn't a problem: we draw lines like that all the time in law, regardless that they're arguably somewhat arbitrary (voting at 18, say, rather than 19 or 17).

So I no longer see a problem.

But to answer your question, I had in mind police lies that would threaten one's employment, family relationships, relationships with loved ones, that sort of thing.

Stuff like -- and competent police would make it plausible in a way I won't bother to here -- "we've spoken to your boss, but so far he thinks your innocent: if you don't cooperate with us, he'll find out you're guilty, and you'll lose not just your job, but your pension and benefits -- and that's such a shame when you're two years away from retirement, Jimmy!"

Or "your husband never has to know about your infidelity, Mrs. Smith, but if you don't cooperate...."

Etc. Maybe not as terrifying as "we'll beat the crap out of you" or "we'll let you go, but clue in Freddie that you've talked to us, and he'll kill you within a week!" (if that's true, is it still a threat, rather than a statement of fact?, by the way? Is truth a defense?), but still pretty scary under a lot of circumstances.

Of course, so long as interrogations aren't videotaped, police are still practically free to lie as they wish, and then if the suspect accuses them later, they just lie again. But practice is one thing, and law another.

"No wonder the US lost the war in Iraq, with people like jrudkis serving in the US army."

So much for sticking to substance, and avoiding personal attacks.

Life in prison.

Threatening to put an innocent person in prison for life seems obviously unacceptable to me. YMMV, of course.

Maybe I'll propose this rule of thumb: If actually doing something would be immoral, then threatening to do it is also immoral, even if you don't mean it. Are there any obvious counterexamples to this rule?

Jes: "I wonder if jrudkis is one of those childless adults who genuinely dislikes children? I play with this because I'd rather think he really feels indifference or dislike towards all children - and parents who care for children - than that he thinks this is something appropriate to do to any parent.

No wonder the US lost the war in Iraq, with people like jrudkis serving in the US army."

This is well over the line. Please stop.

"Threatening to put an innocent person in prison for life seems obviously unacceptable to me. YMMV, of course."

When police are questioning/interrogating someone, they do so under the full range of possibilities, ranging from thinking the person simply an innocent witness, to being dead convinced via compelling and incontrovertible evidence that the supsect is guilty, to all points in between.

While the system is theoretically required to treat them as innocent until proven guilty, in fact there are a lot of intermediate degrees of how someone is treated, depending on their circumstances, as the case proceeds through the justice system: the judge will set bail, or not, depending on those circumstances, for instance, and so on.

"Maybe I'll propose this rule of thumb: If actually doing something would be immoral, then threatening to do it is also immoral, even if you don't mean it. Are there any obvious counterexamples to this rule?"

I'm not sure what you'd rule in and out as moral or immoral: is all lying immoral? If not, where precisely do you wish to draw the line of permissible lying for the police and military interrogators, if not at threats of violence, but at some lesser point, instead?

And advocating kidnapping, imprisoning, and threatening to torture children isn't over the line?

Yeah, yeah: jrudkis is entitled to whatever repulsive, sticky, nasty little ideas he comes up with. But yeah, and I don't actually care if you suspend me for 24 hours for this, if jrudkis is a typical US soldier who thinks that kind of thing is just fine "if it works" - no wonder the US lost the war in Iraq.

"Life in prison" -- "immoral" perhaps, but not expressly illegal under the statute that K. cites, which would be progress for our CIA torturers.

Leaving aside what a lousy tactic it is. How many times can you play that card? Would someone who'd cooperate in that case, *not* cooperate if we applied legitimate methods? Have we even tried?

This from Darius Rejali in that Salon article that Lederman linked:

"Part of it is that they really do believe these techniques work," explained Darius Rejali, a professor at Reed College and author of the upcoming book "Torture and Democracy," due out later this year. "It is a kind of hall-of-mirrors effect. All the information they are getting is all from coercive interrogation," he said. "Everything begins to reflect everything else. It all looks like it is making sense."

eventually, it's over, and there's no one to turn [the kid] over to -- ??

Clearly, if you had permission to be in the country, you return the kid to an embassy of theat country, either in America or some neutral nation.

And if you DIDN'T have authorization to be in the country where you got the kid, you fucking take your lumps and admit you were in there illegaly and you still turn the kid over.

These are children.

"Would someone who'd cooperate in that case, *not* cooperate if we applied legitimate methods? Have we even tried?"

Regular cops threaten people with life imprisonment all the time (if it's remotely plausible, or at least if the suspect will think it is): if the SCOTUS considers this an illegitimate method, they've not spoken to it; have any appeals courts? How are we defining "legitimate" here? Should we be pushing to ban cops from all lies and deceiving of suspects? Or are they "legitimate" methods, even though so far the courts seem to think they are?

I'm wondering what the consensus here is. Do you have any thoughts, Hilzoy?

Jes: And advocating kidnapping, imprisoning, and threatening to torture children isn't over the line?

Jrud: I am not defending mistreatment of anyone, let alone kids.

If you're going to impugn my friend's character, at least do it over something he's actually done.

Do you have any thoughts, Hilzoy?

WWKD?

... Leaving aside law and morality, the pragmatic problem with threatening a prisoner is that he'll tell you something to escape the threat -- regardless of whether what he says is true.

Remember, police do not seek the truth; they seek confessions.

And any assurance by the police that "if you talk, you *won't* go down for life," etc., is worthless; they don't have that kind of authority. Anyone represented by counsel would know this.

So it's an interrogation tactic that pretty much relies on one's waiving the right to counsel. That should raise a red flag right there.

And while I wouldn’t advocate telling a prisoner that his children will be tortured if he doesn’t give up some piece of information, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that FALSELY threatening to torture someone’s children is justified if doing so were to, say, prevent the ACTUAL torture or killing of someone else’s children. Taking a position like that, to my mind, is not worse than disliking all children or the people who care for them.

BTW, my last comment was in response to this:

I wonder if jrudkis is one of those childless adults who genuinely dislikes children? I play with this because I'd rather think he really feels indifference or dislike towards all children - and parents who care for children - than that he thinks this is something appropriate to do to any parent.

I'm a little incoherent right now and can barely type out of sheer anger. And I have to leave, so don't expect replies to any comments directed at me.

it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that FALSELY threatening to torture someone’s children is justified if doing so were to, say, prevent the ACTUAL torture or killing of someone else’s children

It just happens to be illegal, under the laws of the United States of America.

(Not to deprecate your anger w/ Jes, who seems to have skated full-speed into the penalty box.)

Regular cops threaten life imprisonment, but the person interrogated knows that he will get his day in court and knows that there is some possibility of parole. And I don't think regular cops say 'and when you go into jail, who's going protect your kids when I go after them?'

So the question is not whether it is legitimate so much as whether the system has enough checks and balances to compensate. I don't think that the system of secret prisons and outsourcing torture does that.

Finally, I'd apologize to jrudkis if I set the stage for any of the unacceptable personal attacks on him.

I'm not sure what you'd rule in and out as moral or immoral: is all lying immoral? If not, where precisely do you wish to draw the line of permissible lying for the police and military interrogators, if not at threats of violence, but at some lesser point, instead?

All I can do is refer you back to what I suggested: if it's immoral to do something, then it's immoral to threaten to do it as well, or such would be a sensible rule of thumb, anyway.

What's immoral? Well, I doubt we'll ever achieve total consensus on that. But I'm suggesting that IF we can agree that something is immoral, I postulate that it's immoral to threaten to do that something, as well.

If it's immoral to waterboard someone, then it's immoral to threaten to waterboard them.

If it's immoral to imprison someone's innocent kids, then it's immoral to threaten to imprison their kids.

Can you offer me an example of something that is not "okay" to do, but is "okay" to threaten to do? I'll let you supply your own judgment as to what is and isn't "okay," since I'm sure we won't be in 100% agreement.

Stuff like -- and competent police would make it plausible in a way I won't bother to here -- "we've spoken to your boss, but so far he thinks your innocent: if you don't cooperate with us, he'll find out you're guilty, and you'll lose not just your job, but your pension and benefits -- and that's such a shame when you're two years away from retirement, Jimmy!"

Here's an example. If the police genuinely believe someone to be guilty, it's not so bad to tell people that he's guilty, and thus it's ok to threaten to tell people. But if they don't believe he's guilty - if they're threatening to tell hurtful lies about him, in other words - then threatening to do so seems out of bounds.

it’s not entirely unreasonable to think that FALSELY threatening to torture someone’s children is justified if doing so were to, say, prevent the ACTUAL torture or killing of someone else’s children.

This strikes me as a sort of "ticking time-bomb" hypothetical that never actually comes up in the real world, so it doesn't really advance the discussion.

No wonder the US lost the war in Iraq, with people like jrudkis serving in the US army.

Just to note one additional thing about this: I like the fact that we have a community where people freely express themselves. Some of their opinions may appall me; but to the extent I gain insight into the thought processes that produce those opinions, I'm glad of that. Bril's final comment (as distinguished from his earlier, rather substance-free comments) was a good example of this; he's going to think his thoughts either way, so why shouldn't I at least gain insight into them?

Which is all by way of saying that when someone makes the effort to be honest about their views and explain the reasons behind them, it's fine to let them know we disagree, but being needlessly vicious about it just discourages similar candor in the future. Which won't make the world a better place, because people will still hold their beliefs; they just won't share them with you.

Steve:"Threatening to put an innocent person in prison for life seems obviously unacceptable to me. YMMV, of course."

I meant things like police saying "we know you're guilty, if you don't confess, you'll get life, but if you cooperate, you'll be out in 2 years" when life and two years are both known to be wrong to police.

Jes: first of all, reread what jrudkis said, namely: "to tell the parent the children will be mistreated to get them to talk (rather than actually mistreat them)." There is nothing -- zero -- in there about advocating kidnapping or imprisoning children. Zero. In jrudkis' earlier comments, as I read them, he's mostly wondering what on earth you do if you end up with kids in your custody. In this comment, he's not even there.

He is, of course, talking about "threatening to torture children", but not in the sense of making those threats to the child, but in the sense of saying so to the parent. This could be done without having the child in custody, or for that matter ever having gone anywhere near the child. That's a completely different thing. It's lying, not harming a child.

So yeah, I'm banning you for some period of time, maybe a day. Next time you feel like insulting someone, let alone really seriously insulting him or her, read what s/he has to say first.

For the record, I believe that we should not make this sort of threat to a parent, for the simple reason that we have signed a treaty saying we should not do so, and we should keep our word. Plus, I can't imagine a situation in which this would be our only possibly effective tactic.

I don't know what I would think absent the treaty -- I haven't thought much about it. I do not, in general, think that it's wrong to lie in interrogations, although I do think it's important for interrogators to retain their credibility, and so would have prudential cautions. I can see slippery slope arguments on the one hand, and possible workarounds on the other, and in general I'd need to know a lot more about how using this tactic would actually play out.

I do know that given a choice between our never using sensory deprivation or prolonged isolation ever again, and our never making false threats to detainees ever again, I'd choose the former in a heartbeat.

I meant things like police saying "we know you're guilty, if you don't confess, you'll get life, but if you cooperate, you'll be out in 2 years" when life and two years are both known to be wrong to police.

Oh, I thought we were talking about what they could threaten to do to the guy's family if he doesn't talk.

Lies which take the form "confess, and you'll get off easy" don't really trouble me.

Lies which take the form "confess, and you'll get off easy" don't really trouble me.

Perhaps they should.

False confessions are surprisingly common; perhaps such lies are one reason why?

I don't know what I would think absent the treaty -- I haven't thought much about it. I do not, in general, think that it's wrong to lie in interrogations, although I do think it's important for interrogators to retain their credibility, and so would have prudential cautions.

Something else you should consider is that if we make a practice of threatening to do something, people will reasonably come to believe that we actually do it. Word will get out regarding how people are treated in custody; if we threaten to hurt people's kids, whether or not we do it, America will acquire the reputation of being a country that hurts people's kids in order to get them to talk. And it's not like we'll persuade anyone to the contrary by saying, "Oh, but we never actually DO it!"

Not to distract from the impending flame war, but I'm surprised no one has made any Paris Hilton jokes yet.

Incidentally, since we've drifted into discussing interrogation, this may be of interest to those who haven't read it.

Man oh man. What is in the water around here lately?

What is in the water around here lately?

Whiskey?

Excellent, Gary -- thanks for the link. I have actually started a "Favorites" folder for this stuff ...

The police can legally lie to you, but to threaten to torture your children, even if it's a lie? I don't think so. Perhaps if the atrocities committed by US troops during Vietnam had been properly addressed, instead of attacking those who spoke out about them, we would not be here for this. I hope jes doesn't spend too much time in the penalty box over:

http://www.jrudkis.blogspot.com/

Any soldier that thinks "hunting and killing hippies sporting (eco-garbage)" is "fun," even in jest. Is a disgrace to the uniform and the United States military. I checked his blog first and chose to ignore him. Sounded like a blue fallcon to me from the get go.

Perhaps if the atrocities committed by US troops during Vietnam had been properly addressed

Speaking of which ...

The Marine Corps Interrogator/Translator Teams Association:

THE USE OF "TORTURE" IN INTERROGATION
Maj. Anthony F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)
19 May 2005

http://www.mcitta.org/torture.htm

Written by a military man with some class. Don't judge by the bad apples. It's difficult to find good people, especially now.

Long story short: It doesn't work.

Torture's only purpose is to terrorize a population.

LMW: look: it is against the posting rules to vilify other posters. In practice we are a little flexible about the distinction between attacking someone's argument and attacking the person: it's easy to stray over the line when you mean to be considering the argument, and I try to recognize this. Also, sometimes we just don't catch stuff, since none of us has the time to constantly monitor the blog, etc., etc.

That said, though, calling someone "a disgrace to the uniform and the United States military" is completely out of line. It just is. Do it again and you will be banned.

This would be true even if it weren't, to me, completely unclear what jrudkis' stance towards the fake press release and the recruiting tactics described in it is.

Sorry: I meant LWM.

For the record: there are things people can say here that are worse than some of the things they cannot say. This is because any attempt to police actual views for horribleness gets into the business of deciding which views are horrible. We do not decline to get into this -- we will ban people, for instance, over saying that people should be assassinated or hung or whatever -- but none of us wants to go any farther down that line than we have to.

Vilifying commenters, on the other hand, is something there's no need for whatsoever, and so we just don't allow it.

I was thinking more along the lines of Tiger Force, Anderson.

Or The Phoenix Program

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Program

Hilzoy,

I was being polite. There is a better word for someone who fantasizes about hunting and killing hippies. Does serial killer work for you?

LWM, I think that was satirical. I'm not exactly sure of the point, but I don't think I'd make too much of it.

As for threatening parents with harm to their children, that is obviously immoral. It also occurs to me that there's no reason to think the parents we threaten are necessarily guilty of anything.

That said, I think I'll leave this thread, since it looks like another train wreck.

If you actually read the report, you'll find there is very little substance to the charge that the US has 'disappeared' any children. Most is hear say from relatives, who I doubt are impartial. As far as having secret prisons is concerned, I think it is the only option judging from the over-reaction to even the hint of wrong doing at Gitmo.

I think peoples hatred of Bush has so clouded their minds that any allegation is turned into 'the truth'.

The truth is that we are fighting an enemy that has no prohibitions. They will kill their own people with impunity, strap bomb vests to their children and never feel a moments remorse.

We, otoh, get all wobbly every time there is a hint of something wrong.

"This would be true even if it weren't, to me, completely unclear what jrudkis' stance towards the fake press release and the recruiting tactics described in it is."

My impression is that he wrote it, as well as all the other intended-to-be-humorous posts that are the majority of the front page of his blog. I could be all wrong, though.

Anyway, although it's easy enough to slide into characterizing people, and making observations about them, and in particular, to be snotty about them, it's really not that hard to, as a rule, stick to issues and substance, rather than going personal. I'm certainly in favor of some enforcement of that here, rather than just having it be theory, so good for Hilzoy: hear, hear.

"There is a better word for someone who fantasizes about hunting and killing hippies. Does serial killer work for you?"

Probably not.

My own reaction to that piece was that it struck me as rather dopey, and completely unfunny. But humor is entirely subjective, and neither is writing something I think a little dopey a crime.

Regardless, having some views, or some aspects of a sense of humor, I don't share, or you don't share, doesn't turn someone into a "serial killer."

Even writing a series of nasty "funny" stories about categories of people that person doesn't like, or hates and despises, wouldn't make someone a "serial killer," nor a wannabe serial killer.

The worst it would make them is someone with opinions you dislike.

Bonus safety tip: these distinctions are important, since, for instance, if a serial killer approached you with a chain saw, and an angry look, you might want to run. If it's merely someone with a different sense of humor, and some opinions you don't like, you're probably okay.

"We, otoh, get all wobbly every time there is a hint of something wrong."

One might think that that's what makes us the good guys, if we have any claim at all to that, and that if we surrender that, it's perfectly clear that we're the opposite of the good guys.

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Whatnot


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