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July 21, 2009

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And yet our government willingly puts us in the same company as Iran's regime in this regard.

Typo correction: Obama is maintaining the policy of extra-judicial imprisonment of kidnap and torture victims, so it's present continuing tense, not past.

"That day I saw an entire family of brothers sent away - seven in all, I think. One of them was almost certainly retarded...A civilized country and a civilized people cannot presume guilt. Guilt without evidence is anathema to a functioning civil society, and rule of law is vital to win a war that is more about minds than weapons or troops. Pragmatically, a system that incarcerates scores of innocents is a broken one, destined to be fought by those it victimizes."

"Although it borders on banal in the extreme to have to point this out, but detention without due process combined with torture will lead to all manner of horror story. And yet our government willingly put us in the same company as Iran's regime in this regard. Lovely."

Really? You think anything we've done with a few hundred POW's is comparable to this? I don't think we should shirk from the moral (and legal) dilemma we have created, but this, really?

Our government doesn't put us there: we do. We are an evil people. Our leaders, drawn from among us are evil. Our soldiers, drawn from among us are evil. Maybe they don't mean to be evil, but somehow, they keep doing evil things. Because we demand it of them. And because we don't stop them. And because we refuse to punish them after the fact.

This is what the United States is: torturing retarded men until they "confess". I'm so proud.

You think anything we've done with a few hundred POW's is comparable to this?

"Whoever saves a single soul it is as if he saved the whole world."

And I believe the converse is true, too.

@Jesurgislac --

I get your point, but you're no grammarian. (Not that many people are, these days). The continuous (not "continuing") aspect (not "tense") is formed by preceding a present participle form with a form of "to be" as in "I am running" or "He was sitting." "Puts" is the simple present tense, third person singular. In Eric's context, you cannot be sure whether he is referring only to prior events (using the historical present) or to current events as well.

Last I looked, Obama's position was that he would not unilaterally order indefinite detention of anyone but would ask Congress to give him that authority. I guess you can look at this at an attempt to regularize things, or you can look at it as an attempt to spread the blame. I hate the idea of holding anyone that way, but there probably are a few guys you really just can't turn loose.

Being president is no picnic.

Marty: You think anything we've done with a few hundred POW's is comparable to this?

On November 10 2003, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush turned himself in to the US forces in Qaim, because a few days earlier his sons had been kidnapped by the US military in an attempt to get Mowhoush, who was believed to be leading the resistance in that area, to surrender.

Mowhoush was questioned, but either refused to give information beyond his name and rank, or else failed to give the information that they wanted.

On November 23 2003, Major General Mowhoush was interrogated by the CIA for the first time, and had apparently to be carried back to his cell after his first beating. He was 57 years old.

A day or so later, Mowhoush and his youngest son met for the last time:

Later that evening, Chief Welshofer arranged for a short meeting between Mowhoush and his youngest son, Mohammed, then 15 years old; Welshofer hoped the meeting would compel Mowhoush to convey more useful information. He later described Mowhoush as being moved to tears upon seeing his son. According to Mohammed though, the meeting was more than a conversation; in interviews with Human Rights First, Mohammed explained that U.S. personnel made Mowhoush believe his son would be executed if he did not speak to their satisfaction, and soldiers fired a bullet into the ground near Mohammed’s head within earshot but just beyond the eyesight of Mowhoush. Mohammed reports this was the last time he saw his father alive.

The interrogation continued - the pattern of bruises on Mowhoush's body when he was returned to his family suggested he had been regularly beaten with rifles - and finally, on 22nd January 2004, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer stuffed Mowhoush into a sleeping bag, tied a cord round his body (at that point Mowhoush had several broken ribs), sat on his chest, and covered Mowhoush's face with his hands: after a short while Mowhoush died. Those facts are not now in dispute: though the US military at first simply dumped their prisoner at a hospital and claimed he had died of natural causes, Welshofer was convicted in January 2006 of negligent homicide and dereliction of duty: he was fined and restricted to barracks, work and his place of worship for 90 days. He remains the highest-ranking officer in the US military to suffer any penalty for murder, torture, and kidnapping: apparently the trial fixed the entire responsibility on Welshofer, who then escaped jail by pleading that he had “tried to be a loyal soldier, putting the needs of this institution before my own.” The major general he killed was just one of over six hundred prisoners he interrogated while he was in Iraq.

At least 90 other prisoners of war have been murdered in US custody. Obama says “we should be looking forward and not backwards.”

Welshofer said, "I helped save soldiers lives. I'm 100 percent convinced of that. If I had done anything less than what I did, if one soldier more had died because I had done anything different, I find that even more reprehensible — even more unacceptable."

How many other Welshofers, who think torturing and murdering prisoners of war is "acceptable", are currently serving - while Obama is determined that they should not be investigated, prosecuted, or blamed - and is having Bagram Airbase expanded to hold tens of thousands more prisoners?

"And yet our government willingly puts us in the same company as Iran's regime in this regard." Still a typo...

A few hundred POWs?

Um, try tens of thousands - probably in the neighborhood of hundreds of thousands when you factor in all the prisoners taken by US forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and abroad.

And do I think that torturing and wrongfully imprisoning mute/deaf/mentally handicapped individuals is somehow morally superior when the US does it as opposed to Iran?

Well, let's just say that I find torture and wrongful imprisonment reprehensible no matter the identity of the torturer/jailer.

"And do I think that torturing and wrongfully imprisoning mute/deaf/mentally handicapped individuals is somehow morally superior when the US does it as opposed to Iran?"

I did not disagree with this

Well then?

What I wrote was this:

And yet our government willingly put us in the same company as Iran's regime in this regard.

What part of that was objectionable?

Just to clarify: the first part of this post described the wrongful detention/torture of a mute deaf in Iran by the Iranian regime.

"Really? You think anything we've done with a few hundred POW's is comparable to this?"

Iraq prison abuse scandals. (That's prisons run by Americans.)

Bagram torture and prisoner abuse.

Camp Bucca:

[...] On March 15, 2007 military officials announced plans to once again expand Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper. Officials stated that this increase in capacity would be necessary to handle the detainees generated from the increased security operations in Baghdad. At the time of the report, Camp Bucca's detainee population stood at 13,800.[26]

[...]

n August 2007, two separate news articles reported Camp Bucca's detainee populate stood at approximately 20,000 inmates.[37][38]

In October 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced it had suspended its visits to Camp Bucca due to the deteriorating security situation in the area. The ICRC visits all detention facilities in Iraq to monitor the conditions detainees are receiving and make recommendations where they perceive improvements could be made. To maintain their neutral status, they refuse coalition security when traveling in Iraq, which causes them to occasionally suspend visits when they deem conditions too hazardous for their personnel.[39]

On October 31, 2007, it was announced that Camp Bucca would be expanded once again to increase its capacity from 20,000 to 30,000 detainees. The $110 million dollar project will be over seen by The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and would include $17.6 million dollar retrofit of “13 existing compounds to add concrete pads to prevent tunneling, better segregation areas, and better shower and latrine facilities” as well as new housing, a waste water treatment plant, a water treatment plant and a $3.2 million brick factory for prisoner labor.[40]

Camp Cropper:
[...] Camp Cropper Theater Internment Facility is a holding facility for security detainees operated by the United States Army near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The facility was initially operated as a high-value detention site (HVD), but has since been expanded increasing its capacity from 163 to 2,000 detainees.

[...]

On March 15, 2007 military officials announced plans to once again expand Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper. Officials stated that this increase in capacity would be necessary to handle the detainees generated from the increased security operations in Baghdad.

Mea Culpa, I actually read some of this wrong. I do believe we have placed ourselves in a questionable moral position. Any splitting of hairs I might do would do a disservice to the point of this post.

A civilized country and a civilized people cannot presume guilt.

Now, if we could just find such a country and people.

One extra problem with torture is it establishes a whole new bell curve. The picture presented by adherents is of the dead mean. The largest lump in the middle where it is targeted. But even if that case range was justifiable (which it ain't) they conveniently ignore the statistical certainty of those margin cases. The vulnerable, weak and defenseless who will be abused, screwed..., just basically fcked over and/or murdered. Just one of those cases invalidates the whole program.

"One extra problem with torture is it establishes a whole new bell curve. The picture presented by adherents is of the dead mean. The largest lump in the middle where it is targeted. But even if that case range was justifiable (which it ain't) they conveniently ignore the statistical certainty of those margin cases. The vulnerable, weak and defenseless who will be abused, screwed..., just basically fcked over and/or murdered."

This is why I was never convinced that the best tactic against torture was to focus to much on the "its just wrong" part. It is, but that doesn't do much to convince people who are wavering.

"We are torturing innocent people" sounds much stronger to me.

I shudder to think of the rates of mental illness in stateside US prisons. Charles Graner was a correctional officer before he was sent to Abu Ghraib, remember.

'We are torturing innocent people' sounds much stronger to me."

It is, for some people, but once we've done that, then the argument simply becomes "it's okay if we simply torture the right people, the ones who truly deserve it."

And I simply can't accept that we should even be arguing that. It once again puts us in the moral position of the Gestapo, the KBG, Mao's enforcers, etc. They, too, were only torturing the right people, in a good cause, all within very carefully written legal guidelines, after all.

This is why I was never convinced that the best tactic against torture was to focus to much on the "its just wrong" part. It is, but that doesn't do much to convince people who are wavering.

I don't know, Sebastian.

The people who support torture, do so for all sorts of different reasons, and some of them at least because they've been given the impression by the Bush and Obama administrations that, however wrong torture is, it's just not that important in the big scale of things.

Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush almost certainly wasn't "innocent". He was a senior, long-serving officer in Saddam Hussein's military. Just as the world can now be sure there's a good chance that a senior US officer with service in Iraq has condoned if not given orders for kidnapping and torture, so I'd say there's a fairly good chance that Mowhoush had committed similar crimes.

But nonetheless: torturing Mowhoush to death, a serving soldier who had surrendered in form to save the lives of his sons, is one example of clear wrongdoing, where every soldier concerned knew - if they knew anything about the legal requirements for holding prisoners of war - knew they were committing a crime.

One reason why the warrant officer who was tagged with all the blame got off so lightly is because there was evidence - e-mails and so on, as well as pretty direct common sense - that his senior officers had encouraged their subordinates to commit torture, and had then stepped back to lay all the blame on the NCO who actually got his hands dirty beating the Major General and then smothering him to death. A jury of their peers either wished to spare the NCO punishment for following orders and then being staked out for blame, or else wished to spare their fellow officers any kind of investigation and blame if the jailed NCO insisted on talking about who told him what to do.

If Mowhoush was refusing to talk in order to save the lives of the soldiers serving under him, wouldn't those soldiers hope that their senior officers would behave the same way if they had surrendered to the enemy? Innocent or guilty, he was a serving soldier who had surrendered, and whom the US military had tortured to death. Ask your average "I don't care what they do to terrorists" guy if that's the reputation he wants the US military to have about how it treats surrendered military prisoners... and if he thinks that's how a surrendered soldier ought to be treated by his captors.

Even if no torture had happened, the person responsible for kidnapping the sons to get at the father should have been taken out and shot. In public.
---
Maybe not totally appropriate, I felt reminded of a scene in Notre Dame de Paris (aka The Hunchback of ND) where the deaf Quasimodo is interrogated by the deaf judge and condemned to flogging more because of the necessity to keep up the false front of the court than because he was guilty (although he technically was but only on order of his superior Frollo).

Hartmut: the person responsible for kidnapping the sons to get at the father should have been taken out and shot. In public.

President Barack Obama says "Look forward, not backward", Hartmut. What's the catch-phrase? "Yes we can!"

Indeed, it appears Americans can look forward to their aspirations, rather than back to their past crimes. It's just a bit of a mystery why anyone would think that constitutions change.

constitutes change. Typo correction.

Well, then hand him over to the Iraqis to be shot in public. I am looking forward to the positive reactions of the Iraqi public. May lead to US soldiers not to have to look backwards as often for natives shooting at them from behind. ;-)

I shudder to think of the rates of mental illness in stateside US prisons. Charles Graner was a correctional officer before he was sent to Abu Ghraib, remember.

That is a very good point.

Mental illness pre and post incarceration. One of the potentially positive unintended consequences of universal (or nearly so) health care coverage may be at least some delivery of mental health services to a population that has had none -- with all kinds of grim individual and social ramifications.

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