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September 27, 2008 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Sami al-Haj, The TV cameraman, 38, was never charged with any crime, nor was he put on trial; his testimony makes it clear that he was held in three prisons for six-and-a-half years – repeatedly beaten and force-fed – not because he was a suspected "terrorist" but because he refused to become an American spy. There is the worrying fact of medical complicity in his torture. (previously 1, 2)

Medical complicity in Torture has been covered by Steven Miles in his book Oath Betrayed. Also by Burton Lee sometime presidential physician The Stain of Torture; and by Nat Hentoff in Village Voice with The Torture Doctors .
posted by adamvasco (72 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I worked next-door for a few years. It's ten minutes from where I live. And I hope to see W. walk into it one day.

I'm of course talking about this.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:26 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Goddamn those people. We used to be the good guys. Now we're just another banana republic.
posted by RussHy at 1:35 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The attorney that got those sketches out is a really amazing person.
posted by spiderwire at 1:39 PM on September 27, 2008


Surely this...
posted by five fresh fish at 1:44 PM on September 27, 2008


We used to be the good guys

Before you heard about such things, you mean?
posted by Rykey at 1:45 PM on September 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


It shakes me to the core, knowing that there are medical professionals complicit in all of this. I'm confused as to why the AMA has not completely refused to allow its members to cooperate at all with the US Government as the APA did this past week. In '06 it ordered its doctors out of the interrogation rooms, but it seems that the Army has found ways around that. Then again, what happens to the poor bastards when they take away the doctors? What a catch-22.
posted by The White Hat at 1:51 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, is Sami Al-Haj qualified to be the president of the United States yet?
posted by stet at 1:52 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before you heard about such things, you mean?

Let's not be obtuse. We've never been saints, but but we didn't have to be criminals, either.
posted by spiderwire at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


his testimony makes it clear...

And of course we can believe every word he says. No way he'd lie about such a thing, is there? Why, the man is a living saint.
posted by Class Goat at 2:00 PM on September 27, 2008


...or a principled journalist which is just like a saint.
posted by Class Goat at 2:00 PM on September 27, 2008


Before you heard about such things, you mean?
MAybe we did hard things in the past, but they weren't written into the law the way they are now. Presidents who authorized such treatment were still decent enough to be ashamed and try to hide it. Now we are one step removed from fascism. We used to be an idealistic people who tried to live up to the dream. Now the dream is dead.
posted by RussHy at 2:05 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


And of course we can believe every word he says. No way he'd lie about such a thing, is there? Why, the man is a living saint.

Don't be fucking ignorant.

Are you arguing that all his scars and the other gross physical damage were self-inflicted, or what? His attorneys have been seeing this guy for years. You're making up a meaningless objection about something that's not in dispute at all. The U.S. admitted that he was wrongly detained and still wouldn't let him out -- they just moved him to a different part of the compound.
posted by spiderwire at 2:07 PM on September 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Goddamn those people. We used to be the good guys. Now we're just another banana republic.

Don't go selling yourself short. You taught a lot of those banana republics everything they know.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Class Goat: And of course we can believe every word he says. No way he'd lie about such a thing, is there? Why, the man is a living saint.

Does it even matter whether he was tortured or not? The government will all but admit they stuck him in a prison camp for nearly seven years and then didn't file charges. That's more than enough of a crime by itself that the people responsible should be arrested for - we can argue over torture while we're figuring out how many people to charge and whether they go away for life or merely 50 years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:24 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The government will all but admit they stuck him in a prison camp for nearly seven years and then didn't file charges.

Not "will all but admit," that's what they did. He's in Norway now.
posted by spiderwire at 2:33 PM on September 27, 2008


The White Hat, to follow up on your NEJM link, they have continued to address this issue, most recently in their Sept. 11 issue: Military Medical Ethics; The Ethics of Interrogation. This sort of thing makes me ashamed both as an American and as a physician, but it is good to know there are others who realize how wrong this is.
posted by TedW at 2:36 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


And of course we can believe every word he says. No way he'd lie about such a thing, is there? Why, the man is a living saint.

So other than your obviously principled objection, do you have evidence of dishonesty on his part?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:37 PM on September 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


You taught a lot of those banana republics everything they know.

They learned from us, we learned from the British, they learned from the Romans. The mighty course of Empire just keeps rolling on down through the ages.
posted by RussHy at 2:39 PM on September 27, 2008


The government will all but admit they stuck him in a prison camp for nearly seven years and then didn't file charges.

This isn't about law enforcement. We don't capture people because they've broken laws. We capture people and imprison them in time of war because we think they will try to kill our men, or aid in the process of killing our men. Fighting against us in war doesn't violate any law, but we can't let them go free either.

Tens of thousands of German and Italian soldiers were kept in POW camps in the US during WWII and none of them were put on trial, because that isn't how it's done. They were kept until the war was over, and then repatriated once they were no longer viewed as being a potential danger.

Does it even matter whether he was tortured or not?

It matters whether he was tortured, but it doesn't matter whether he says he was tortured, because they all say that whether it's true or not.

At one point a computer was captured in a raid and it contained an al Qaeda training manual. One section of it talked about how their combatants should act if they were captured. One thing it stated emphatically was that they should claim they were tortured, no matter how they were really treated.
posted by Class Goat at 2:40 PM on September 27, 2008


It matters whether he was tortured, but it doesn't matter whether he says he was tortured, because they all say that whether it's true or not.

Do you have evidence of his dishonesty or are you trolling?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Class Goat: This isn't about law enforcement. We don't capture people because they've broken laws. We capture people and imprison them in time of war because we think they will try to kill our men, or aid in the process of killing our men. Fighting against us in war doesn't violate any law, but we can't let them go free either.

Yes, but this guy wasn't a soldier, he was a journalist.

Besides, if he was a soldier and Guantanamo was a POW camp, we just broke the Geneva convention in about a million different ways and the people responsible should be turned over to international authorities based on that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:46 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Do you have evidence of his dishonesty or are you trolling?

I assume that is a rhetorical question.
posted by TedW at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2008


Fighting against us in war doesn't violate any law, but we can't let them go free either.

The rest of your ridiculous argument aside, Sami was never "fighting against us." They picked him up out of 70 other journalists in a convoy and sent him to a prison camp.

Seriously, "they all say that"? Who? People with named like "al-Haj"? What the fuck?

Again, how do you think he was injured? The guy is crippled. If there was a shred of evidence indicating that he's one of "them," where is it, and why was he released in spite of it?
posted by spiderwire at 2:53 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am absolutely ashamed to be an American.

Applying for the JET (Japan English Teachers) program later today. It's just one of the overseas hooks I've got dangling in the water, including applications to positions in Oslo, Frankfurt, and Auckland.
posted by BrianBoyko at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2008


Besides, if he was a soldier and Guantanamo was a POW camp, we just broke the Geneva convention in about a million different ways and the people responsible should be turned over to international authorities based on that.

Under the third Geneva Convention, Article 4 section 1.2, prisoners are only entitled to protection if they wear "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance", and conduct "their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war".

If they do not, they are not protected by the Geneva Convention. They are considered illegal combatants and they have no rights at all. Article II of the convention makes clear that a signatory is bound by the convention only if a non-signatory opponent also abides by the convention, which was emphatically not the case for al Qaeda.

As to this guy, the reason he was captured was because they had good reason to believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

Which, of course, Robert Fisk isn't going to tell.
posted by Class Goat at 3:19 PM on September 27, 2008


He did more time and was tortured worse than John McCain. McCain was actually in the act of attacking the country he was brutalized by.
posted by Megafly at 3:25 PM on September 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is making me literally shake with anger.

WE ARE SO DEEPLY FUCKED.

Everything that happens to us, we more than deserve.

FUCK.
posted by dbiedny at 3:44 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


adamvasco, Thank you for your post. Can't say that I enjoyed reading Andy Worthington's well researched and thorough site but it is an education.

There are, unfortunately, countless instances in which the US government has behaved in ways that have undermined their being credible, trustworthy or honoring basic human rights, while, at the same time, the US government speaks out in righteous indignation if other countries have behaved in any similar way.

As a personal anecdote, when the Republican convention was held in NYC in 2004, mass arrests (1800 people, over 1000 in one day) were made and ordinary American citizens, many of whom were simply bystanders or walking down the street, were detained, incarcerated in what was then called Guantanamo on the Hudson. They were held without being arraigned, some for 3 days. In a holding pen, in New York City.

These people who were arrested, whether they were a 15 year old girl on her way to a movie, a former Vice President of Morgan Stanley, 1800 people, now have a permanent arrest record and dossiers on them even. This sounds more like the Soviet Republic under Stalin than a democracy. Pretty astonishing treatment of regular citizens entitled to their supposed Constitutional rights.

Naturally, it's important to have one's doubts until something seems more likely to be true than not, but the RNC arrests in NYC is just the kind of experience, among many other observations, that make me inclined to believe Sami al-Haj and Andy Worthington's other histories of Guantanamo detainees.
posted by nickyskye at 3:48 PM on September 27, 2008 [9 favorites]


As to this guy, the reason he was captured was because they had good reason to believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

Cite, please.

Or is your argument: They captured him, so he must be guilty?

Yeah, and they held him for seven years without trial. Because they had so much evidence. And then, because he was a dangerous enemy combatant, they...let him go.

Tens of thousands of German and Italian soldiers were kept in POW camps in the US during WWII and none of them were put on trial, because that isn't how it's done. They were kept until the war was over, and then repatriated once they were no longer viewed as being a potential danger.

Yes. They were. And they were not subjected to black ops prisons or systemic torture. They worked on farms; they were paid for their work. Some of Rommel's captured Afrika Korps troops even came back for a reunion. That's how much it didn't suck.

I bet nobody at Gitmo is looking forward to a reunion.
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


Guantanamo Prosecutor Quits, Says Evidence Was Withheld
posted by homunculus at 4:16 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm confused as to why the AMA has not completely refused to allow its members to cooperate at all with the US Government as the APA did this past week.

The APA didn't do anything like that. They just issued a guideline.
posted by delmoi at 4:20 PM on September 27, 2008


[..]illegal combatant[..]

Illegal, huh? Gee, that sounds like something you'd have to be convicted of before you could be punished for...
posted by leviathan3k at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2008


maybe karma is real and this guy stole someone's lunch at work once. it was probably a really tasty curry. i'm gonna go with that. ok. i feel better.

anyone up for thai?
posted by breakfast_yeti at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2008


Class Goat: Under the third Geneva Convention, Article 4 section 1.2, prisoners are only entitled to protection if they wear "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance", and conduct "their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war".

If they do not, they are not protected by the Geneva Convention. They are considered illegal combatants and they have no rights at all. Article II of the convention makes clear that a signatory is bound by the convention only if a non-signatory opponent also abides by the convention, which was emphatically not the case for al Qaeda.

As to this guy, the reason he was captured was because they had good reason to believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

Which, of course, Robert Fisk isn't going to tell.


As near as I can tell, you are essentially arguing that the military should be able to do anything it wants to anyone it suspects of anything, without telling anyone else the reason it suspects them. If we're going to do that, let's just rename the CIA to KGB and go right out there and call Guantanamo the gulag it is, because we've turned into Soviet Russia and abandoned every principle we ever had. Hell, I'm not sure the USSR was even that bad; at least they usually made the charges against you public.

The terrorists can only destroy buildings, but people like you? You're the ones who will kill the spirit of America. I personally suspect you to just be a troll (look at his profile), but I'm bothering to debate because there are actually people who believe this shit.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2008 [12 favorites]


How does it feel to be an apologist for torturers?

I'm honestly curious. I literally can't imagine what leads an individual to adopt the sort of worldview where this would be acceptable.
posted by ook at 5:04 PM on September 27, 2008


Article II of the convention makes clear that a signatory is bound by the convention only if a non-signatory opponent also abides by the convention, which was emphatically not the case for al Qaeda.

You may want to continue reading on to Article III.
posted by srboisvert at 5:10 PM on September 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


And of course we can believe every word he says. No way he'd lie about such a thing, is there? Why, the man is a living saint.

So, your first claim is that he wasn't torturted by the US government, as he states.

As to this guy, the reason he was captured was because they had good reason to believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

So, your story now is that he was tortured by the US government, but it's okay because you believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

Do you have evidence that al-Haj is lying or not?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:21 PM on September 27, 2008


Tens of thousands of German and Italian soldiers were kept in POW camps in the US during WWII and none of them were put on trial, because that isn't how it's done. They were kept until the war was over, and then repatriated once they were no longer viewed as being a potential danger.

As others have pointed out, Sami al-Haj wasn't a prisoner of war. But, okay, let's go with your premise that he was and we didn't owe him a trial or even the pretense of one.

What is the war? When is it over? Who decides when al-Haj (or anyone else) is no longer a potential danger? Who isn't a potential danger? A danger to what? So many questions, each one spawning more questions, and no answers.

Also, do you know what it means for someone's flesh to be pulpified? Think of the texture of an overripe peach. It's "similar to injuries of a person run over by a bus.” That's how an Army pathologist described the injuries inflicted by American military personnel on an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar who was picked up, investigated, determined to have no connection to terrorists or terrorism, and then kicked to death.

Of course al-Haj isn't a living saint; there's no such thing. But he is living, which puts him one up on Dilawar.
posted by dogrose at 5:36 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think the next president may have to institute some sort of truth & reconciliation commission. It's the only way we can put some of this behind us.
posted by alexei at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2008


I think the next president may have to institute some sort of truth & reconciliation commission. It's the only way we can put some of this behind us.

I think the next president should put the current president and all of his men in jail for a long, long time.
posted by caddis at 6:06 PM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


That NYT article you posted is absolutely brutal reading, dogrose. This part really struck me when they were discussing Dilawar's death, after he'd been beaten till he couldn't bend his legs and then chained by his wrists to the ceiling of his cell until he died:

The three passengers in Mr. Dilawar's taxi were sent home from Guantánamo in March 2004, 15 months after their capture, with letters saying they posed ''no threat'' to American forces.

They were later visited by Mr. Dilawar's parents, who begged them to explain what had happened to their son. But the men said they could not bring themselves to recount the details.

''I told them he had a bed,'' said Mr. Parkhudin. ''I said the Americans were very nice because he had a heart problem.''

posted by CheshireCat at 6:32 PM on September 27, 2008


Shine, Class Goat, Shine!
posted by Max Power at 6:32 PM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


It must be terrible to go through life as frightened as Class Goat.
posted by maxwelton at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2008


From a MetaFilter Member Profile: "In every grade school there is a kid that it is fashionable to hate, to bully, to beat up, to criticize. The cool kids do it, and the uncool kids do it to try to impress the cool kids. He is the bottom of the pecking order, the one everyone else looks down on, so that they can feel superior. He is the Class Goat"Sami al-Haj. Fixed that for you.

Then there's the kid who is the top hater, the biggest bully, the one who beats up anyone with the weakness of being human. He stays at the top of the pecking order by brutality alone, and then constructs a fantasy that everyone else is picking on him so he can feel superior. He is the MetaFilter Troll.
posted by wendell at 6:48 PM on September 27, 2008 [7 favorites]


Ah, Class Goat, I remember you from grade school. I remember the time that one kid, the really thin one who always got bloody noses and sort of smelled bad, was attacked by four of his school mates. They just didn't like him. Hell, nobody really liked him, so we all sat and watched. And that kid was really badly beaten. He was hospitalized. His parents pulled him out of the school and threatened to sue, and we had to have an all-school meeting and discuss it. The parents were horrified. They were horrified that a few bullies could hurt someone so badly, but they were also horrified that we all just sat and watched.

And while we were getting lectured, just after a police officer had spoken about how what had occurred was a criminal offense, you rose and walked to the front of the assembly. You stood there and calmly told everyone that that little skinny kid had lied, he did not get beaten. And if he did, he deserved it. And then you walked out and went back to your locker and cleared it out. As I recall, it was full of weird things, like pictures of serial killers and matchboxes full of dead spiders. You put all that junk in your backpack, and you left the school, and I always wondered what happened to you.

That was you, wasn't it?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:54 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Under the third Geneva Convention, Article 4 section 1.2, prisoners are only entitled to protection if they wear "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance", and conduct "their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war".

If they do not, they are not protected by the Geneva Convention. They are considered illegal combatants and they have no rights at all.


Find me where the Geneva Conventions talk about "illegal combatants". They were designed so that one was entitled to either civilian or military protections, not fall between the cracks into some black hole (excepting spies).

And I just love selective quotation. Are you forgetting Article 5? People always seem to forget that one.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:08 PM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


One definition of "freedom" is that it's the ability to say "no." This is the story of a guy who said "no" for seven years straight, under conditions that I would almost certainly surrender in. So I guess he's been freer than me this whole time.
posted by wobh at 7:12 PM on September 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


As to this guy, the reason he was captured was because they had good reason to believe he was cooperating with al Qaeda.

posted by Class Goat at 3:19 PM on September 27


He wasn't charged, he was never tried for these offenses - so I guess they didn't have good reason after all. Oh, but you brave, brave contrarian - please, keep defending the torture of an innocent man.

Remember that? "Innocent until proven guilty"? It's the backbone of our criminal justice system - in many ways, the foundation of our very democracy. They never proved that he was guilty, therefore he is innocent. And you defend brutalization and torture, like the chickenshit coward that you are, because it makes you feel big to do it.

If you are a citizen of the U.S., your fight against those qualities that separate us from evil nations and evil men makes you a traitor. In the world that you want - the world that you deserve - you would be just another casualty, your face smashed by bricks and boots and your corpse dumped in an unmarked grave. So keep wishing for it - and god help us all if we get the kind of country you're hoping for.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:20 PM on September 27, 2008 [6 favorites]


There's not much new here, unfortunately. Even in the best war evar, literally millions of Axis prisoners were legally re-designated as 'Disarmed Enemy Forces' and did not fare well under the Americans, British, and French. (The Russians were even less gracious.)

The participation of psychologists and doctors during torture is questionable — does their presence promote or prevent harm? — but in a nation of increasingly plastic laws, the attorneys who sculpt a Golem-like legal foundation for war are more worrisome.

Wonder what's on the Iran docket?
posted by cenoxo at 7:31 PM on September 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I used to be so proud to be an American. As a kid, I delighted in saying the Pledge (except for the "under God" bit), always stood an put my hand over my heart when the National Anthem played. On th Furth of July, I alwasy made a point of reading the entire Declaration.

It was no mere jingoistic recital for me, but a true love that included, even as a small child, reading and knowing about the actions and idea of Jefferson and Adams and Franklin. (And even as a kid, my love for Adams was tempered by knowing about his very un-American Alien and Sedition Acts.)

Now I just feel ashamed and a little dirty to be an American.

Recently, my sister had my nephews show me they could recite the Pledge of Allegiance, just as we did when we were kids. She expected me, the most "patriotic" of the family, to be delighted. But while I didn't say anything, my discomfort hearing her boys recite the Pledge was apparent.

I feel like my country has failed its ideals, and that I've failed by being complicit in letting that happen. Of course we've failed before, with slavery and imperialism in the Philippines and in creating banana republics in South America, with the Alien and Sedition Acts and Red Scares and Japanese internment.

But out and out torture? Our military, outside of the heat of battle, literally beating innocent people to death, while doctors and psychologists stand by to help make the torture more efficient? That's no mere mistake, that's not an overreaction while bullets are flying, that's a coldly calculated policy.

And even worse, a policy that's inhumanly defended by thin-lipped bloodless lawyers and all too enthusiastic apologists. People who seemingly just don't get the horror of torturing innocents, or even any inkling of why this goes against all that America purports to stand for. It's like these people, many of them leading governmental figures, never lived in the America I loved, but instead have shown up to destroy it.

It's not just that they torture, it's not just that they come up with legalistic sophistries to excuse it, it's that they don't even think it's shameful.

I honestly don't understand what is going on in their minds, or how they can think themselves the heirs of the American tradition.
posted by orthogonality at 8:03 PM on September 27, 2008 [20 favorites]


If they do not, they are not protected by the Geneva Convention. They are considered illegal combatants and they have no rights at all.

One of this administration's most digusting lies. Apparently, even the Supreme Court can't wipe this lie from the brains of useful fools like you.

Of course, by your own reasoning, the government just released a dangerous terrorist scott free.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:20 PM on September 27, 2008


Remember, taxpayers, they're torturing with your money.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 PM on September 27, 2008


"This isn't about law enforcement. We don't capture people because they've broken laws.
We capture people and imprison them in time of war because we think they will try to kill our men, or aid in the process of killing our men. Fighting against us in war doesn't violate any law, but we can't let them go free either."

You're wrong from first principles.
Combating terrorism is about law enforcement. It has nothing to do with war.
We have time and again combated terrorism using law enforcement and the judicial system.

Throughout the world while there is some crossover between military troops and specialized counterterrorism units, combating terrorism is typically under the auspices of an interior ministry and captured terrorist are put through the justice system.

On occasion when intelligence reveals the location of a terrorist cell an operation in progress, or any number of other things that might be happening outside one's country, then military counterterrorist units are dispatched. Typically they do not engage in capture.

If a mission is specialized, then it is common standard operating procedure to have elements of the domestic group attached.
Specialized missions would include capture.

Furthermore, prisoners captured in time of war on a battlefield are most often killed by the engaging units that have neither the time, resources nor the inclination of going through that trouble with rank and file or low value targets.

On rare occasion when higher value targets are captured, or in a mass surrender such as we had in the first Gulf War, typically prisoners are processed, held for a time, then released. This was done in WWII as well with German prisoners.
Even Nazis were allowed repatriation. Higher value - that is, high ranking, Nazis were ultimately processed through a judicial system (at the Hague) sentenced and executed or released when their sentence was served.

It has never been the policy of the united states (before the Bush Doctrine and ancillary elements of foreign policy) to indefinitely detain prisoners
with no resolution in sight. That is neither the law of war nor any traditional system recognized as legitimate.

Furthermore, it's self-defeating and criminally negligent to impose upon a system of interrogation innocent men or useless detainees. Prisoners who have been held more than, arbitrarialy speaking, five years are completely useless in terms of gainful intelligence.
There is absolutely no reason to waste our resources by holding them.

This well aside from the glaringly obvious human rights violations, it has an absolutely corrosive effect on counterinsurgency operations.

It is critical to gain some measure of approval or at least understanding for the various actions taken by the counterinsurgent that affect a population (census, let's say, or control of movement, or imposition of tasks) in order to lay the groundwork for the eventual dissociation of the population and the insurgenr and to prepare the commitment of sympathetic, but still perhaps neutral, elements.

Among any insurgent group - whether world wide terrorist or local guerrillas - there are degrees of commitment to the insurgent's cause.
Treating them as a single bloc unifies their cause. Further - egregious human rights violations such as this absolutely cement in their minds that the cause they may have felt misgivings about at first, is absolutely the right one.
Even worse - it brings, if not the approval of previously neutral elements, than at least their acquiescence.

Removing insurgent political agents is, in essence, a police operation directed not against common criminals but men whose motivations, even if the counterinsurgent disapproves of them, may be perfectly honorable. Men like these often have family ties and connections - being hunted by outsiders - whatever the reason - automatically instills a feeling of solidarity and sympathy towards them on the part of their home population.

One of the favorite tricks of an insurgent is to mislead counterinsurgents into arresting people who are innocent or hostile to the insurgency.

Even when the right people are captured it is dangerous and inefficient for amateurs to interrogate them - exactly because it works contrary to the professionals trying to win support of - in this case - the rest of the world.

Actions such as these - indeed the entire basis of, and further iterations of, your argument absolutely sabotage any chance of something even remotely resembling victory much less stability and peace - and in fact incites and invites further attack by creating even more dissidents.

You're supposed to minimize the adverse effects on people caused by any capture in a counterterrorism operation.

I'm not talking blind leniency here, but it's a good practical policy. People who see detainees set free are more inclined to talk.
This is counterterrorism 101.

"We used to be an idealistic people who tried to live up to the dream. Now the dream is dead."

The dream dies only when people stop dreaming it. Last I checked, my heart was still beating. I'm itching to put those Bushco jokers through some changes.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:01 PM on September 27, 2008 [57 favorites]


Fucking awesome post, Smedleyman. ++good.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 PM on September 27, 2008


I can't believe there are USians who still think they're fighting a "war" on terrorism (sorry, "terror"). Class Goat, it's a metaphor - you don't get to have prisoners of war.
posted by mr. strange at 11:48 PM on September 27, 2008


Talking to psychopaths like "Class Goat" is pointless. Can't you see that he (I assume it's a he) like many (most?) Americans loves the idea we get to torture people to death at will? All those points about "justice," "due process," "freedom" - can't you understand that these people hate and fear these concepts entirely?

In their hearts, they know that if there were really freedom and justice, they'd lose their privileges over Negroes and towelheads. They wouldn't get to blow things up, to be big scary torturers, to destroy countries and show how tough they were, use their mastery of death and violence to impose their will on others and steal the fruits of their labour.

Don't waste your breath.

However, I really do think that Metafilter should have a "ban" button. If say two dozen Mefi-ites click the ban button on your page, you lose your account and your $5. I'm all for diversity - but I'm really not interested in reading Class Goat's postings, nor your responses.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:42 AM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


At one point a computer was captured in a raid and it contained an al Qaeda training manual.

And of course we can believe every word he our government says. No way he'd our government would lie about such a thing, is there?

The last eight years have opened my eyes about how naiive I used to be. When I was a kid, I never thought Truth, Justice and the American Way would become mutually exclusive.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:17 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The fact that the US military gave German POWs and others shoddy treatment after the war is exactly why the military needs governing--the services are great at fighting wars. They aren't so good at those requirements to protect human rights and treat people with dignity and decency. I would guess that after you've fought your way across Europe you wouldn't be too inclined to treat your former enemies very well. But what is happening to people in Gitmo is pure sadism and frustrated revenge--we can't get the guys who harmed us but any old Arab or other Muslim will do. How sick is that?
posted by etaoin at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


If "the little people" had got off their sorry asses and gone down to the polls, they would not be in this mess.

The average American citizen chose this path by choosing inaction. Sitting around with your thumb up your bum on election day does not exonerate you.

And now for a moment of entertainment: War.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:30 AM on September 28, 2008


At one point a computer was captured in a raid and it contained an al Qaeda training manual. One section of it talked about how their combatants should act if they were captured. One thing it stated emphatically was that they should claim they were tortured, no matter how they were really treated.

Wasn't the al Qaeda training manual a translation of a training manual from the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning Georgia?

I don't understand how waterboarding is not torture.
posted by millardsarpy at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2008


five fresh fish: The average American citizen chose this path by choosing inaction.

Unfortunately, I tend to suspect something far less charitable - the average American citizen chose this path intentionally - because that was what they wanted. Because this is the depth the national character has sunk to.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:24 PM on September 28, 2008


[a few personal attacks removed - take it to metatalk or just leave it at home]
posted by jessamyn at 1:27 PM on September 28, 2008


I don't understand how waterboarding is not torture.

It just goes to show how easy the misdirection game is that we're still even discussing it.

"But they've done nothing to us." Oh, it's pre-emptive self-defence.
"But what about the Geneva Conventions?" Oh, they're illegal combatants.
"But how can we justify torture?" Oh, that's not torture.

I do think we need to be careful about all these "America has changed" moments we seem to be having. America's formal policy has certainly come more in line with what it has been doing behind the curtain for a lot of years. That itself is scary, because it means that excuses can be pretty thin. The mainstream has embraced and will embrace a tremendous amount of cruelty and destruction if the right buttons are pressed. I don't enjoy thinking about what a truly desperate America might be capable of, when people have trouble putting food on the table, or freshwater can't be found.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:08 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do think we need to be careful about all these "America has changed" moments we seem to be having. America's formal policy has certainly come more in line with what it has been doing behind the curtain for a lot of years.

Exactly.
posted by Rykey at 4:35 AM on September 29, 2008


I'm not sure I fully accept that premise, Durn, but even if it's so, the fact that we're now doing this sort of thing openly and apparently without shame seems like a substantial change to me. (And lets the behind-the-curtain activities slide even further away.)
posted by ook at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2008


“If say two dozen Mefi-ites click the ban button on your page, you lose your account and your $5. I'm all for diversity - but I'm really not interested in reading Class Goat's postings, nor your response”

No one’s putting a gun to your head to read anything. And I couldn’t disagree more about a ‘ban’ button. There are personal scripts and such to block out members’ comments.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. And people are entitled to respond. I don’t *know* Class Goat was trolling. Perhaps he was being deliberately provocative.
Or it’s his honest opinion. I don’t know that either. If someone is consistently being disruptive (note - I think even some abuse is constructive) that’s one thing. If I posted “nyah nyah naya” 300 times and spouted off like a Markov generator - that’s one thing.
Taking a position contrary to one’s own - however distasteful or even, at times, acrimonious - is something entirely else. I have no interest at all in participating in a community that engages in mob rule and domination of any minority by the majority.

There are discussions to be had concerning torture. I can see the pro-torture position (albeit I believe it’s based on obfuscation of the information received by the poster or outright ignorance, and yeah, on rare occasion stupidity) even as I contend with it.

Exploring the issue is an entirely different thing than engaging in it. And indeed, it’s far better to subject such things to rational discourse, and perhaps resolution, than it is to shove it away and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’ve had my mind changed on some issues. Perhaps someone else can change their mind on something else.

Silencing dissent is never the answer.

I wouldn’t argue the mods, et.al. can't do whatever they wish, it’s their board. But if they do something like that, I’m gone and I’m not coming back. And I suspect a great many people would be too.

Or the folks who remain'd simply start to engage in a winnowing away of those who don’t agree with them.
Then what?
A bunch of half-assed posts all echoing the exact same themes and everyone’s comments heavily favorited by everyone else because everyone in the community thinks the same way.
Yeah, that sounds like fun.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:04 PM on September 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


And yeah - seconding policy changes. Sneaking around cheating on your wife is one thing, nailing a hooker on the couch while your family is eating dinner - whole other thing.

Meh - the more out in the open it is, the better we can fight it.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on September 29, 2008


the more out in the open it is, the better we can fight it.

That reminds me of something I said here some time ago and had forgotten about until just now:
What horrifies me most about the last decade is that our capability for mass slaughter is now covert, and as such no longer tempered by guilt -- and that's seemed to legitimate it, at least on some scale or to some degree. It seems to me that Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the mere thought of a nuclear strike on Iran, the entire fiasco in Iraq in the first place -- the engine driving all these things is a simple abdication of responsibility, an inability to comprehend the ultimate, horrible consequences of our actions, even when they sometimes seem noble or right in the abstract. Our weapons and means have outstripped our consciences and our comprehension. Again, this is the message of Dr. Strangelove and the story of Prometheus -- single men are not strong enough to wield fire.
posted by spiderwire at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2008


Despite Ruling, Detainee Cases Facing Delays
posted by homunculus at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2008


Guantanamo techniques applied on US soil
posted by homunculus at 9:17 AM on October 9, 2008


Andrew Sullivan: "This isn't about intelligence. It isn't about national security. It's sadism. Treating human beings this way is simply evil."
posted by homunculus at 1:00 PM on October 10, 2008


Guantanamo prosecutor who quit had 'grave misgivings' about fairness: Convinced that key evidence was being withheld from the defense, Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld went from being a 'true believer to someone who felt truly deceived' by the tribunals.
posted by homunculus at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2008


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