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This is torture?

Posted by Richard on June 13, 2005

The clamor about Guantanamo has reached the stage of absurdity with Time’s cover story on the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the "20th hijacker." The story is based on "a secret 84-page interrogation log" that Time describes as "sometimes shocking" and "a rare glimpse into the darker reaches of intelligence gathering" by "teams that specialize in extracting information by almost any means." Really? What are these shocking, darker, "almost any means" interrogation techniques?

Well, they’re the 16 "more muscular" strategies approved by Rumsfeld for "a select few detainees, including al-Qahtani" on Dec. 2, 2002:

… Now the interrogators could use stress strategies like standing for prolonged periods, isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as dogs) and “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.” According to the log, al-Qahtani experienced several of those over the next five weeks. … 

… After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music. According to the log, his handlers at one point perform a puppet show “satirizing the detainee’s involvement with al-Qaeda.” He is taken to a new interrogation booth, which is decorated with pictures of 9/11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. national anthem. His head and beard are shaved. …

My God! Poking in the chest! Christina Aguilera music! Satirical puppet shows! What barbarism! Have we no decency??

Go read Lileks. Now. He does this sort of thing so much better than I can, and he dissects the Time piece practically line by line in the most marvelous fashion.

Words have meanings. As I noted in an earlier post, the Convention on Torture defines torture as inflicting "severe pain and suffering" under specific circumstances. The anti-American left and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) argue that making someone stand for hours, poking him with a finger, and playing Christine Aguilera music are acts of torture. This is nonsense on stilts, and as I noted in that earlier post, it insults the victims of real torture.

Even worse, the critics maintain that by engaging in such acts, we’re descending to the level of our enemies. As if shaving someone’s beard, pouring water on his head, and subjecting him to the drill called "Invasion of Space by a Female" were morally equivalent to crashing airliners into buildings, shooting children in the back, blowing up marketplaces, and sawing people’s heads off with dull knives.

I’m appalled that some in the administration are said to be considering closing Gitmo. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, for it would lend credence to the claims of the critics. Instead, the critics’ arguments should be given the ridicule they deserve. And the critics should be told to get a grip.

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