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Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Rebutting the “torture narrative”

Posted by Richard on July 17, 2008

Former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith testified yesterday before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Power Line posted his opening statement in its entirety. If you think you know all about the Bush Administration's policy decisions regarding enemy combatants and the Geneva Conventions — especially if your information is based directly or indirectly on the allegations of Philippe Sands — you really should read this. Here's a bit from the beginning:

The history of war-on-terrorism detainee policy goes back nearly seven years. It involves many officials and both the law and the facts are enormously complex. Some critics of the administration have simplified and twisted that history into what has been called the “torture narrative,” which centers on the unproven allegation that top-level administration officials sanctioned or encouraged abuse and torture of detainees.

The “torture narrative” is grounded in the claim that the administration’s top leaders, including those at the Defense Department, were contemptuous of the Geneva Convention (which I refer to here as simply “Geneva.”) The claim is false, however. It is easy to grasp the political purposes of the “torture narrative” and to see why it is promoted. But these hearings are an opportunity to check the record – and the record refutes the “torture narrative”.

The book by Phillipe Sands is an important prop for that false narrative. Central to the book is its story about me and my work on the Geneva Convention. Though I’m not an authority on many points in Sands’s book, I do know that what he writes about me is fundamentally inaccurate – false not just in its detail, but in its essence. Sands builds that story, first, on the accusation that I was hostile to Geneva and, second, on the assertion that I devised the argument that detainees at GTMO should not receive any protections under Geneva – in particular, any protections under common Article 3. But the facts are (1) that I strongly championed a policy of respect for Geneva and (2) that I did not recommend that the President set aside common Article 3.

I will briefly review my role in this matter and then discuss Sands’s misreporting. As it becomes clear that the Sands book is not rigorous scholarship or reliable history, members of Congress and others may be persuaded to approach the entire “torture narrative” with more skepticism.

Read the whole thing. I think Feith's account hangs together well, seems to make sense, and is quite plausible — none of that proves it's true, of course, but I'm inclined to believe it.

Feith's discussion of the issue of POW status introduced me to something I wasn't aware of: During the Reagan Administration, the U.S. rejected a treaty to amend Geneva called "Protocol 1" because it would have granted POW status to terrorists. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post praised Reagan (uncharacteristically) for this decision. 

Like I said, read the whole thing. Then read something I posted three years ago, They aren't criminal suspects!  

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Council vacancy

Posted by Richard on May 31, 2007

Busy week. Regarding blogs and the Internet, I've done little reading and no writing. But the Watcher of Weasels tells me he's trying to fill a vacancy on the Watcher's Council. If you're interested in applying, or in nominating someone, check out the rules and submit your nomination in the next couple or three days.

I saw that al Qaeda tortures people. And they use power drills and knives and such, not bright lights and Christina Aguillera music. Who knew?

I suppose Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, and hordes of human rights advocates across Europe and the U.S. will begin expressing their outrage any time now. 

chirp … chirp … chirp

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Maybe this should be a crime

Posted by Richard on May 25, 2007

Yesterday, I wrote disapprovingly about the criminalization of hateful speech. I'm pretty close to a First Amendment absolutist, really. But today, I read something so horrendous and pain-inducing that I'm tempted to call for criminal penalties. The material in question is shareholder information from ICICI Bank of India (I own some ADRs in it). To cope with the rather happy burden of a 40% annual growth rate, the bank's board wants shareholder permission to make some changes in capitalization and the articles of association pertaining to that. There are three proposals before the shareholders (see this PDF if you dare). It's the third one that brought me to my knees:

RESOLVED that pursuant to the provisions of Section 81 and other applicable provisions, if any, of the Companies Act, 1956 (including any amendment thereto or re-enactment thereof), and in accordance with the provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of ICICI Bank Limited (the "Bank") and the regulations/guidelines, if any, prescribed by the Government of India, Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India and United States Securities and Exchange Commission or any other relevant authority, whether in India or abroad, from time to time, to the extent applicable and subject to approvals, consents, permissions and sanctions as might be required and subject to such conditions as might be prescribed while granting such approvals, consents, permissions and sanctions, the Board of Directors of the Bank (hereinafter referred to as the "Board", which term shall be deemed to include any Committee(s) constituted/to be constituted by the Board to exercise its powers including the powers conferred by this Resolution) is hereby authorised on behalf of the Bank, to create, offer, issue and allot (including by way of Preferential Allotment, Private Placement (including allotment to qualified institutional buyers by way of Qualified Institutional Placement in terms of the Chapter XIII-A of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Disclosure and Investor Protection) Guidelines, 2000) or Public Issue, with or without provision for reservation on firm and/or competitive basis, of such part of issue and for such categories of persons as may be permitted), in the course of one or more public and/or private offerings in domestic and/or one or more international market(s), equity shares and/or equity shares through depository receipts and/or convertible bonds and/or securities convertible into equity shares at the option of the Bank and/or the holder(s) of such securities, and/or securities linked to equity shares and/or securities with or without detachable/non-detachable warrants with a right exercisable by the warrant-holder to subscribe for equity shares and/or warrants with an option exercisable by the warrant-holder to subscribe for equity shares, exchangeable bonds and/or any instruments or securities representing either equity shares and/or convertible securities linked to equity shares (all of which are hereinafter collectively referred to as "Securities"), to all eligible investors, including residents and/or non-residents and/or institutions/banks and/or incorporated bodies and/or individuals and/or trustees and/or stabilizing agent or otherwise, and whether or not such investors are Members of the Bank, through one or more prospectus and/or letter of offer or circular and/or on public and/or Preferential Allotment and/or private/preferential placement basis, for, or which upon exercise or conversion of all Securities so issued and allotted could give rise to, the issue of an aggregate face value of equity shares not exceeding 25% of the authorised equity share capital of the Bank, as amended by the resolutions of the shareholders of even date such issue and allotment to be made at such time or times, in one or more tranche or tranches, at such price or prices, at market price(s) or at a discount or premium to market price(s), including at the Board's discretion at different price(s) to retail investors defined as such under relevant rules, regulations and guidelines of the relevant authority, in such manner, including allotment to stabilizing agent in terms of green shoe option, if any, exercised by the Bank, and where necessary in consultation with the Book Running Lead Managers and/or Underwriters and/or Stabilizing Agent and/or other Advisors or otherwise on such terms and conditions, including issue of Securities as fully or partly paid, making of calls and manner of appropriation of application money or call money, in respect of different class(es) of investor(s) and/or in respect of different Securities, as the Board may in its absolute discretion decide at the time of issue of the Securities.


OK, that's enough — I'll spare you the remaining five RESOLVEDs. I really did try. I made it almost half-way through that first paragraph, desperately hoping to reach a period soon, before my eyes became totally unfocused and my lip began quivering. I believe at the time I was inside three levels of nested parentheses.

If you can get further and would like to advise me what to think of this proposal, I'd appreciate it. I'd wash my hands of them, but my ADRs are up 110% in 10 months, and the way they're still growing…

Does the CIA know about Indian attorneys? Do the interrogators at Gitmo? Forcing prisoners to listen to this probably violates international law, but I'll bet it breaks them faster than Christina Aguillera music. 

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Why we’re safer

Posted by Richard on September 7, 2006

Last week in Salt Lake City, President Bush delivered the first of a series of speeches about the war against Islamofascism. I dubbed the speech "Bush channels Sharansky" –it made the case for rejecting the policy of promoting Middle East "stability" (which the U.S. pursued for over a half-century) in favor of encouraging freedom and democracy.

On Tuesday at the Capital Hilton in Washington, Bush followed up with a speech to the Military Officers Association of America, which included a sobering picture of our enemies:

We know what the terrorists intend to do because they’ve told us — and we need to take their words seriously. So today I’m going to describe — in the terrorists’ own words, what they believe… what they hope to accomplish, and how they intend to accomplish it. I’ll discuss how the enemy has adapted in the wake of our sustained offensive against them, and the threat posed by different strains of violent Islamic radicalism. I’ll explain the strategy we’re pursuing to protect America, by defeating the terrorists on the battlefield, and defeating their hateful ideology in the battle of ideas.

The terrorists who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, are men without conscience — but they’re not madmen. They kill in the name of a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs that are evil, but not insane. These al Qaeda terrorists and those who share their ideology are violent Sunni extremists. They’re driven by a radical and perverted vision of Islam that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women and children in the pursuit of political power. They hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call a "Caliphate" — where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology. …

We know what this radical empire would look like in practice, because we saw how the radicals imposed their ideology on the people of Afghanistan. Under the rule of the Taliban and al Qaeda, Afghanistan was a totalitarian nightmare — a land where women were imprisoned in their homes, men were beaten for missing prayer meetings, girls could not go to school, and children were forbidden the smallest pleasures like flying kites. Religious police roamed the streets, beating and detaining civilians for perceived offenses. Women were publicly whipped. Summary executions were held in Kabul’s soccer stadium in front of cheering mobs. …

The goal of these Sunni extremists is to remake the entire Muslim world in their radical image. In pursuit of their imperial aims, these extremists say there can be no compromise or dialogue with those they call "infidels" — a category that includes America, the world’s free nations, Jews, and all Muslims who reject their extreme vision of Islam. They reject the possibility of peaceful coexistence with the free world. Again, hear the words of Osama bin Laden earlier this year: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

Read the whole thing — it’s excellent.

Today, Bush followed up with the third installment, and it was the big newsmaker because of Bush’s revelations about terrorists held by the CIA:

In addition to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. This group includes individuals believed to be the key architects of the September the 11th attacks, and attacks on the USS Cole, an operative involved in the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and individuals involved in other attacks that have taken the lives of innocent civilians across the world. These are dangerous men with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans for new attacks. The security of our nation and the lives of our citizens depend on our ability to learn what these terrorists know.

Many specifics of this program, including where these detainees have been held and the details of their confinement, cannot be divulged. Doing so would provide our enemies with information they could use to take retribution against our allies and harm our country. I can say that questioning the detainees in this program has given us information that has saved innocent lives by helping us stop new attacks — here in the United States and across the world. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the examples provided by our intelligence community of how this program has saved lives; why it remains vital to the security of the United States, and our friends and allies; and why it deserves the support of the United States Congress and the American people.

Please don’t just rely on the 90-second news stories about this speech. Read the whole thing — or better yet, watch the video (about 30 minutes, available at the same link; requires Real Player). Bush is compelling and persuasive, and his recounting of the events set in motion by the capture of Abu Zubaydah –including the thwarting of several planned attacks on the U.S. — is the stuff of great spy thrillers. In particular, I found the revelation of a foiled anthrax weapons program chilling.

Bush presented, in my opinion, a powerful defense of the CIA detention program and the interrogation techniques used:

These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. I cannot describe the specific methods used — I think you understand why — if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

This program has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists. It is invaluable to America and to our allies. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.

This program has been subject to multiple legal reviews by the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers; they’ve determined it complied with our laws. This program has received strict oversight by the CIA’s Inspector General. A small number of key leaders from both political parties on Capitol Hill were briefed about this program. All those involved in the questioning of the terrorists are carefully chosen and they’re screened from a pool of experienced CIA officers. Those selected to conduct the most sensitive questioning had to complete more than 250 additional hours of specialized training before they are allowed to have contact with a captured terrorist.

I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it — and I will not authorize it. Last year, my administration worked with Senator John McCain, and I signed into law the Detainee Treatment Act, which established the legal standard for treatment of detainees wherever they are held. I support this act. And as we implement this law, our government will continue to use every lawful method to obtain intelligence that can protect innocent people, and stop another attack like the one we experienced on September the 11th, 2001.

Personally, I wouldn’t have been as diplomatic and restrained in discussing McCain — or the Hamdan decision. I’d have said that this crap about humiliation, intimidation, and degrading treatment being torture is ridiculous and insults the victims of real torture (in fact, I have). But I’m not a politician, and I suppose Bush is right not to complain about things he can’t change now.

I’m glad Bush is going to Congress. It’s about time they quit just carping and viewing with alarm, and actually fulfilled their role. Bush is correct that, in the wake of Hamdan, we need specific legislation spelling out what is and isn’t legal. And Congress should certainly authorize military tribunals to deal with the men at Gitmo — they can’t and shouldn’t be handled as a law enforcement problem.

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Contemptible cartoon

Posted by Richard on June 23, 2006

Atlanta Journal-Constipation — sorry, Constitution — cartoonist Mike Luckovich came up with one of the most contemptible moral equivalence claims I’ve seen yet, and to drive his point home, he made the cartoon’s URL (the title) "pot-to-kettle.html":

Book on torture

I was going to compare and contrast, but I see that Sweetness & Light already did it, using some pictures that made the point without being too graphic. And don’t overlook Sweetness’ long list of "Related Articles."

I’ll just amplify a bit regarding the differences (but I’ll spare you the pictures):

  • American "torture": Humiliation and degradation. Sleep deprivation. Turning air conditioning way up. Playing Christina Aguillera music. Invasion of space by a female.
  • Al-Qaeda torture: Drilling holes in body with cordless drill. Gouging out eyes. Breaking and contorting limbs. Amputating limbs. Cutting off genitalia and stuffing in mouth. Eventually, using a dull blade, sawing off the head. Or cutting out the heart. 

Sweetness suggested (I think in jest), "Maybe Moslems have the right idea about how to handle cartoonists after all." Someone might want to point out to Mr. Luckovich that if America were really comparable to the Islamofascists, outraged good ole boys would be waving "Behead the Anti-American Cartoonist" signs outside the Journal-Constitution building, burning cars, threatening editors, and trying to shut the paper down.

Of course, right now I’m thinking that sounds like good, clean fun…

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Calling evil evil

Posted by Richard on June 22, 2006

Ralph Kinney Bennett at TCS characterizes perfectly the monsters who brutally tortured and killed Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker — and, in passing, those who ignore, excuse, or refuse to judge them:

This is the routine evil of those worse than beasts.

This is the routine evil that beheaded Daniel Pearl, and Nick Berg; that left Van Gogh dead on a street in Holland.

This is the routine evil that still wraps itself in the garb of a religion while leaving young students bound and shot beside their bus and innocent women and children blown to bits in the market place.

The routine evil that draws comfort from the ignorant maunderings of a Murtha or a Sheehan; that somehow escapes the diligent moral radar of Human Rights Watch.

The routine evil that finds shelter in partisan "talking points" about the war and the shameless babble of armchair thumbsuckers about "reciprocity" with Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

The routine evil of men with a vision of a world of subjugated women and mindless children, ignorant of all but blood and suicide and revenge.

This is the routine evil that dreams of cyanide gas in subways and thirsts for a nuclear weapon.

This is the routine evil that some still think can be embraced into civility, "brought into government," tamed away from its loathsome imperatives.

This is the routine evil that will not be ignored and must be exterminated.


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Humiliation and torture

Posted by Richard on June 5, 2006

Quite some time ago, I grew tired of  repeatedly arguing that Christina Aguillera music, ridicule, and "invasion of space by a female" aren’t torture. So, now that Andrew Sullivan has declared the U.S. a "rogue nation" for failing to protect detainees from humiliation, I’ll just point you to this Protein Wisdom post, in which Jeff Goldstein mixes thoughtful analysis with acerbic wit — and I’ll quote some of the latter:

Sullivan pronounces on the debased status of a once great nation in response to a story noting that the Pentagon is rewriting its training manuals to strike Geneva Convention rules against prisoner humiliation.  Humiliation being a form of torture, the argument goes—which, were that true, would make junior high the equivalent (for emotionalist hysterics like Sullivan), of Abu Ghraib.

… Me, my knuckles drag.  So I stubborly persist in my ludicrous assertion that humiliation and torture are different animals, and that to conflate the two is, in the long run, to diminish torture and raise discomfort ("I’m offended!") to the same level.

RTWT. Including the update and comments. In the latter, you’ll find some important information:

Also missing from Andrew’s post is the fact that in signing on to the UN Convention Against Torture, the Senate specifically adopted a definition of torture consistent with the changes being made to the Field Manual now.

That’s why he refers to the US being a “rogue state,” rather than focusing on the Administration, though he probably hopes people won’t catch the distinction.

Along with fun comments such as:

I’m okay with the US being a rogue nation,

I think our flagrant disregard for international treaties, conventions, and our out-and-out bloodthirstiness gives us that Che Gueverra bit of panache that’s been so desperately lacking since the days of Ike. 

And this:

I’d comment on this, but I’ve got to see a lawyer about a wedgie.


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The difference between us and them, part 2

Posted by Richard on June 28, 2005

Last week in part 1 of this topic, I noted that "People like Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin are convinced that U.S. detention centers are cesspools of evil, as bad as the worst detention facilities anywhere, anywhen." To further disabuse such people of that absurd notion, Captain Ed offers a look at this story of the ten years of torture endured by a Tibetan nun at the hands of the Chinese:

Ngawang Sangdrol was just 13 when she was first imprisoned by China in Tibet. She was so small her prison guards found it easy to pick her up by the legs and drop her, head first, on to the stone floor of her cell.

They beat her with iron rods, placed electric shock batons in her mouth and left her standing in the baking heat until she collapsed of exhaustion. They called her the "ballerina", because when the pain became too much for her, she would stand on the tips of her toes like a dancer. "The more we cried out in pain," she said, "the more they laughed."

Captain Ed explains:

I point this out just in case anyone still doesn’t understand the difference between systemic torture as policy and genocide as a state goal on one hand, and isolated cases of abuse by rogue personnel who get prosecuted for their actions on the other.

I’m sure quite a few people still don’t understand, Captain. Fortunately, according to this poll, it’s only about 20% of the American people.

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The difference between us and them

Posted by Richard on June 24, 2005

People like Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin are convinced that U.S. detention centers are cesspools of evil, as bad as the worst detention facilities anywhere, anywhen. For the sake of argument, assume that we sincerely want to change their minds and that their minds are capable of being changed. How can we demonstrate that there’s no moral equivalence between our soldiers and the enemies they fight? How can we illustrate what makes us different?

Opinipundit suggests that a recent discovery in Western Iraq illustrates the difference nicely:

We have manuals on how to properly handle the Koran and humanely treat prisoners, paying respect to their cultural sensitivities, they have manuals on how to properly torture and decapitate hostages.

Baghdad, 23 June (AKI) – US Marines have found manuals on taking hostages and decapitation during a raid on a guerrilla hideout in the Iraqi village of Karabla, near the town of Qaim, close to the Syrian border. The Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that in the hideaway the troops also found several hostages who were being held there by Islamic militants. The hiding place was being used as a centre for the interrogation and torture of hostages, and contained electrodes and other instruments of torture.

The manuals found were used as Jihad (Holy War) handbooks. The first was titled: "How to choose the best hostage", the second covered decapitation and was called: "Rules for cutting off the heads of infidels", and the third manual, "principles of the philosophy of the Jihad", was more theoretical.

The three documents, the last of which is 574 pages long, carry the name Abdel Rahman al-Aliya, which the newspaper says is probably a cover name to hide the identity of the real author. The hideout – in the volatile western Anbar province which has been the scene of fierce fighting between insurgents and the US-led forces – is believed to have been used by the group led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He is credited with introducing the practice of decapitation to the activities of the Jihadist movement.

Who are the barbarians Sen Durbin?

Good question. Anyone who has trouble answering or mumbles something insincere followed by "but…" needs to be smacked with a cluestick.

I’ve seen a decapitation video. I don’t recommend it and wouldn’t inflict it on anyone. Nevertheless, the American people need to know much more about the Islamofascists — their beliefs, goals, tactics, methods, etc. That means, for those willing, exposing them to some things that aren’t for the squeamish. I’d like to see a non-profit put together and promote to the public some "Know the Enemy" educational programs and materials.

I’m willing to consider force-feeding the stuff to members of Congress.

(HT:Michelle Malkin)

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