Balkinization  

Friday, May 11, 2007

General Petraeus on Torture and "Other Expedient Methods"

Marty Lederman

This is a remarkable, powerful letter. (Text below.) Imagine, if you can, how different the world might look if such a letter had been promulgated throughout the military by someone of such stature at the beginning of 2003. What's distressing, of course, is that it is virtually unimaginable that such a letter would have emanated from Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Just four years ago, this was the guidance conveyed to those in charge of detention practices in Iraq. The contrast could not be starker.

"Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. . . . We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. . . . Leaders, in particular, . . . need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make."

Such words, although well-nigh inconceivable in 2003, are hardly unprecedented. General Petreaus here is demonstrating fidelity to the grandest American military traditions, plainly invoking the historical examples of General Washington, and of President Lincoln, both of whom insisted upon a strict standard of humane treatment, and an absolute prohibition on cruelty, even in the face of brutal and indiscriminate—that is to say non-reciprocal—treatment of our troops by our enemies.

If only our current President would heed the words of General Petraeus and General Washington and President Lincoln . . . .

The Petraeus letter stresses that torture and "other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy" are not only "wrong" and (unequivocally) "illegal," but also that "history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary."

And yet, . . .

even now, the Commander in Chief, ignoring the wisdom of General Peteraus, insists that such techniques are among "the most vital tools in our efforts to protect this country," and there continues to be a "sharp debate" within the Administration as to whether the CIA shall be authorized to engage in such "expedient actions."

In this respect, one can't help but wonder whether the debate about the CIA is the source of the single discordant, and uncharacteristically awkward, note in General Petraeus's letter: the modifier "frequently" ("Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they are also frequently neither useful nor necessary. . . ").

What are the odds that the Vice President's Office insisted upon insertion of that ungainly adverb?


HEADQUARTERS
Multi-National Force—Iraq
Baghdad, Iraq
APO AE 09342-1400

10 May 2007

Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.


David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army
Commanding

Comments:

from larua @ warandpiece

Not a single contractor in Iraq has been punished. I doubt all those contractors are angels; we know, for instance, that several were implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal—but those cases never went anywhere. This is not just a prison scandal. It’s a huge blow to America’s image and it’s something we’ll be dealing with for generations.

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/05/hbc-90000032
 

General Petreus is referring to actual torture such as beatings of captured enemy. He is not talking about CIA coercive interrogations.

It has been several months since I saw it, but I believe that Frontline or Fox did a piece following a US infantry platoon attached to an Iraqi unit around on raids against terrorist cells. The Americans would find explosives or explosives residue on the captures, but the captures would simply deny they had anything to do with terrorists during the approved interrogations. Then the American unit would turn their captures over to the Iraqis with a wink and a nod and within an hour the captures had talked and disclosed another terrorist cell. It was pretty much implied that the Iraqis were using "ineffective" beatings to get the information they were after.

There is the book and then there is real life on the battlefield The military needs to keep a leash on their units and punish those who they catch engaging in this behavior, but it is naive to believe that soldiers will not bend the rules to defeat an enemy which is violating all the rules to kill them.
 

So it is written.

So it is done.
 

Bart, why are you even trying to lie about a letter that has just been quoted in full?

"Torture OR OTHER EXPEDIENT METHODS," the letter said.

Thus, the assertion that the general referred only to "torture" is blatantly false, offered only as a deliberate lie. Retract it.
 

Bart long ago on Glenn Greenwald's UNCLAIMED TERRITORY revealed himself to be a proponent of torture--I mean, "alternative coercive interrogation techniques," i.e., torture by another name. For all his high tone, Bart is an advocate of barbarism.
 

That is a fine letter that is long overdue. Thanks for posting it here for us, Marty.
 

Anderson said...

Bart, why are you even trying to lie about a letter that has just been quoted in full? "Torture OR OTHER EXPEDIENT METHODS," the letter said. Thus, the assertion that the general referred only to "torture" is blatantly false, offered only as a deliberate lie. Retract it.

You are baselessly reading what you want into Petreaus' letter.

This letter is reacting to a survey of soldiers where a substantial number of respondents said they would not report their buddies for abusing Iraqi citizens. There are lots of "expedient" abuses which fall short of or differ from torture.

The survey and the letter reacting to the survey have nothing, nada, zero to do with coercive interrogation techniques used by the CIA and not the Army. To claim that it does simply misstates the letter.

I will not return the favor by calling you a liar. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you are ignorant of the facts.
 

There are lots of "expedient" abuses which fall short of or differ from torture.

Which is why Petraeus expressly designated them as well as torture.

Yet Bart said that *all* Petraeus was addressing was "torture."

That was a deliberately false statement by Bart, meant to mislead anyone who did not read the letter. Any slim chance that it was a genuine mistake has been erased by Bart's refusal to correct himself.
 

Bart,

If something like waterboarding can crack someone in less than 5 minutes versus, say, hours of conversations and relationship building, how in the world could you not label that an "expedient alternative"?

Also, please address why both torture and expedient methods were used in his letter. How does that not completely undercut your argument?
 

Bart once again provides classic stuff. Our commanding general in Iraq has the audacity to disagree with Bart on the usefulness of beatings; therefore, General Petraeus must not understand "real life on the battlefield."

The conservative movement has produced a seemingly endless supply of people like Bart; so eternally unshakeable in their convictions and yet so, so wrong.
 

steve:

The claim that torture does not work is simply wrong. All you need to do is compare the statements made by various targets isolated from one another and then continue the interrogation until the stories match.

If you want a good example of the technique, I would commend the book Bravo Two Zero by SAS commando Andy McNabb to you. McNabb's SAS team was compromised and captured behind enemy lines during the Persian Gulf War and he describes how the Iraqis Iraqis brutally tortured the team members, picked out inconstancies in the team members' cover story and kept working them over until they finally gave in to keep from being literally tortured to death.

Once again, the fact that torture does work DOES NOT mean that I am advocating its use. I am simply recognizing a fact. As I wrote above in my first post, the military needs to prosecute its soldiers who engage in this behavior.
 

"The claim that torture does not work is simply wrong. All you need to do is compare the statements made by various targets isolated from one another and then continue the interrogation until the stories match."
***
You can always get people to talk under torture. Hell, you can even get them to say the same thing if it's obvious that's what you want. No doubt that the thousands of admitted "witches" uncovered by the Inqiusition eventually got their stories to match whatever narrative the torturers wanted.

I am really interested in hearing from you, Bart, just what your definition of torture is. Do you include beatings with fists or pieces of wood? Being tied to the top of a hot Humvee hood fora couple of hours while the engine runs? Telling the captured party that you will have his sister gang raped to death?

All of these have been done, and worse.
The infamous "My cock is your God!" PFC who was court-martialed (and reported in this very blog earlier this month...)) for abusing detainees at Bagram AFB demonstrated the very problem with coerced interrogation. Beyond the sheer dehumanizing and corrosive effect it has on discipline...it is simply too much fun for the real sadists. Never mind that nobody pays attention to us anymore wrt human rights...
 

The only one who does not think Bart is detached from reality is Bart.

As we've been told, these authority freaks make their own reality.
 

The problem is not that torture is a sporadic occurrence meted out by rogue sadists, although I'm sure that is a reality, but that torture is American policy, and is approved and overseen at the highest levels of our present illegitimate government, their repeated mendacious assertions that "We do not torture"! notwithstanding.
 

celticdragon said...

Bart: "The claim that torture does not work is simply wrong. All you need to do is compare the statements made by various targets isolated from one another and then continue the interrogation until the stories match."

You can always get people to talk under torture. Hell, you can even get them to say the same thing if it's obvious that's what you want.


If your purpose is to gain intelligence, you do not give the target any idea what his comrades are saying. You just tell the target that his comrades have come clean and that he will be the only one being punished for holding out.
 

Today's NYT has an article on the great skill shown by the Japanese police in getting confessions ... from the innocent.

The law allows the police to detain suspects for up to 23 days without an indictment. Suspects have almost no contact with the outside world and are subject to constant interrogation * * *

Another man, Kunio Yamashita, 76, succumbed after a week of interrogation. The police told him that he was the lone holdout and that he could go home if he confessed.


Boldfacing for comparison with Bart:

You just tell the target that his comrades have come clean and that he will be the only one being punished for holding out.

It works so well in Japan.

Historically, torture and abuse are used to secure confessions. That's how it worked in the witch craze. That's how it worked (and still works) in police departments.

And when you have a White House that knows the answers it wants in advance -- you were aided by Saddam, you were trained in WMD's, etc. -- you know just what you want them to confess to. As Matt Yglesias pointed out a while back, our "fixing the facts around the policy" approach is the flip side of our faith in torture.
 

This is getting tiresome. Stop being willfully obtuse.

The purpose in intelligence gathering IS NOT to gain confessions. It is to get actionable FACTS.

In intelligence gathering, the interrogator does not suggest what the target needs to say. Rather, the interrogator will attempt to keep the target in the dark as to what the interrogator actually knows and to disorient the target so he or she will lower their defenses and reveal everything the target knows, which may include things the interrogator never suspected. Suggesting the answers to the target is useless and usually counter productive.
 

Bart seems to think governments subjecting subjects to torture or "alternative coercive interrogation methods" are actually interested in obtaining actionable intelligence, or primarily so; I suggest that tyrannies generally care primarily about extracting confessions in order to justify their repressive regimes and to further justify their continuation and escalation of their brutal repression.

The attaintment and maintenance of power is its own excuse.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

General Petreus is referring to actual torture such as beatings of captured enemy. He is not talking about CIA coercive interrogations....

... you know, like the 'kinded and gentler treatment' they did to el Masri....

Or, for that matter, like this beating to death ... or this one.

There are rules, you know. And limits....

"Bart", of course, will ignore these links and my post. "Aaaayyyeee caaannnn't seeeee yoooooo", he says, with his hands over his eyes.

Cheers,
 

Bart reports from Fantasyland:

In intelligence gathering, the interrogator does not suggest what the target needs to say.

Right. That is why *torture* is not part of "intelligence gathering" -- because the whole point of torture is the victim's MAKING THE TORTURE STOP by saying WHAT THE TORTURER WANTS TO HEAR.

If you don't know what the torturer wants to hear, or if the torturer doesn't know what he wants to hear, then how do you know when the torture can stop?

Consider al-Libi, whom we sent to Egypt for interrogation. What, exactly, did we think the Egyptians could do differently than we could? We wanted "intel" on Iraq-Qaeda ties ... and we got them from al-Libi.

(Tenet has denied intending for al-Libi to be tortured in Egypt, while failing to persuade as to the reason for sending him there in the first place.)
 

General Petreus is referring to actual torture such as beatings of captured enemy. He is not talking about CIA coercive interrogations.

Maybe not, although if he wasn't, he should have been.

Gen. Petraeus:This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground.

Bart, would you argue that the CIA's actions have no effect on achieving what the general claims is critical to success, namely the treatment of other people with dignity and respect?

Moreover, the important issue here is not whether the General was referring to the armed forces or the CIA. The issue at hand is the long-lasting damage that the disparity between our stated values and our policies can have on our socioeconomic future. As we continue to excuse ourselves from international treaties by pointing at our superior Constitution, these obvious letter-of-the-law workarounds will continue to alienate our supporters and reinforce the opinions of our detractors. Since we are not an autarky, eventually that sort of behavior is going to bite us in the collective keister.
 

PMS_Chicago said...

Gen. Petraeus:This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground.

Bart, would you argue that the CIA's actions have no effect on achieving what the general claims is critical to success, namely the treatment of other people with dignity and respect?


I see no evidence that the CIA's use of coercive interrogation techniques against high value targets has increased al Qaeda recruiting at all. Indeed, al Qaeda does not appear to desire to put a spotlight on the fact that their leaders broke and gave up other al Qaeda cells under CIA interrogation. Rather, al Qaeda propaganda has concentrated on the sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib, which did not employ these techniques and was a criminal act.

The bottom line is that I would rather roll up al Qaeda cells through coercive interrogation and alienate the political left in the West than the reverse.

As we continue to excuse ourselves from international treaties by pointing at our superior Constitution, these obvious letter-of-the-law workarounds will continue to alienate our supporters and reinforce the opinions of our detractors.

We have not excused ourselves from a single international treaty. Rather, we have extended POW rights under the Geneva Conventions to unlawful enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan and extended due process rights under the MCA to unlawful al Qaeda captures which never existed before. The fact that the political left would like to go further and have the Geneva Conventions treat unlawful enemy combatants as US criminal defendants does not mean that the US has violated any treaty.
 

"The bottom line is that I would rather roll up al Qaeda cells through coercive interrogation and alienate the political left in the West than the reverse.
We have not excused ourselves from a single international treaty. Rather, we have extended POW rights under the Geneva Conventions to unlawful enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan and extended due process rights under the MCA to unlawful al Qaeda captures which never existed before. The fact that the political left would like to go further and have the Geneva Conventions treat unlawful enemy combatants as US criminal defendants does not mean that the US has violated any treaty."
...bart depalma



Your contempt for the political left is noted. Does that contempt extend to the rule of law as viewed by most Western Nations? Do you conflate those of us on the right who abhor this practice with the lenient, weak kneed and fainting left?

Your willingness to disregard basic human decency and replace it with callousnous and "the ends justify the means" expediency is your mistake. When it comes down to it...you can justify anything, and for any reason.

You can throw American farmers and merchants of Japanese descent into prison camps.

You can put people into prison as "enemy combatants" solely on the word of the executive and hold them indefinately without review.

You can own slaves.

You can wage genocidal warfare against indigineous peoples, including the use of biological weapons.

Everything in it's own time has been debated and justified by passionate and purportedly principled men. They are all wrong. They damage the standing of this country...both then and now. The stains of slavery and internment camps lingers on, as does the unbelievable near extermination of many native American societies.

Your defense of the indefensible will linger to your shame, because to defend American lives, you destroy the very principle those men and women fight for. You destroy decency and humanity, and exchange it with cruelty and sadism. All the justifications you manufacture will not cover this particular stain, and you will not dismiss me by calling me a leftist. (I am a life long Republican)

What you will suceed in doing is to provide an object lesson for the future in a cautionary tale of how we lost our way; by destroying our very openess, freedoms and cherished values in order to preserve them.

Sounds like something from Vietnam, doesn't it?
 

Bart, you say we have not excused ourselves from a single international treaty. Could you please explain to me again which treaty allows waterboarding?
 

It's a nice letter and to be applauded.

But why is everyone turning a blind eye to the fact that it is FIVE MONTHS late?

The NYT article on the ethics report that began all this clearly said "The report was provided in November to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., then the senior American commander in Iraq." The recent release was only the PUBLIC release, held over until the surge was well underway.

It's unimaginable that Casey could have seen this report in November but Petreaus, who took over from him, be unaware of it. Yet he waited until there was a public outcry before penning his letter.

What does that say about his belief in his own words?

Regards, cernig @ Newshoggers
 

Bart dePalma: 1:43PM

"Once again, the fact that torture does work DOES NOT mean that I am advocating its use."

Bart dePalma: 6:07PM

"The bottom line is that I would rather roll up al Qaeda cells through coercive interrogation and alienate the political left in the West than the reverse."

Bart dePalma: 12:12PM

"I will not return the favor by calling you a liar."

I have to admit, Bart does say it all.
 

celticdragon said...

Your contempt for the political left is noted. Does that contempt extend to the rule of law as viewed by most Western Nations?

If by "most western nations, you mean the block of the EU run by France and Germany (Rummy's Old Europe), then my answer is yes. Those countries have not had anything useful to offer our national defense since the Cold War.

With apologies to the feelings of those here who share this view, Old Europe's current public suggestions to treat wartime enemy combatants as civilian criminal defendants are impractical if honest and hypocritical given that these countries actively cooperated with our extraordinary rendition program so that we would remove the worst of the jihadis from their countries so they would not have to put their preaching into practice.

Do you conflate those of us on the right who abhor this practice with the lenient, weak kneed and fainting left?

I do not give a damn what your politics are. An exceedingly bad idea does not become better if espoused by someone with which you otherwise agree.

Your willingness to disregard basic human decency and replace it with callousnous and "the ends justify the means" expediency is your mistake.

With respect, you need to grow up. War is not an abstract game to be played out on blogs like this. Sherman was correct when he said: "War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine...War is hell." There is nothing civilized about war, which at its most efficient is unfair mass murder and destruction of the enemy until they surrender or are all killed.

This war being waged against us is worse than most because this enemy recognizes no laws of war and seeks WMD to murder literally millions of our citizens.

With the Soviets, we could hold their cities hostage as a means of non violent deterrence. Against a non state terrorist movement which worships death, there is no deterrence. There is only killing them before they can do the same to us.

Under such a war, I will be damned if I will grant this enemy any greater rights and handicap our forces any more than in past wars. In other words, I will not lose the life of a single US soldier or civilian so we can play out your naive notions of due process or fairness.
 

Enlightened Layperson said...

Bart, you say we have not excused ourselves from a single international treaty. Could you please explain to me again which treaty allows waterboarding?

The Geneva Conventions to not extend the rights of POWs or civilians to unlawful enemy combatants who are neither.

Further, the Torture Convention bars the intentional infliction of severe pain. Imposing transitory panic by waterboarding for 2 minutes is not the intentional infliction of severe pain.
 

"Severe pain" is of course physical or mental. The sensation of drowning is pretty clearly the latter.

This was less clear to the Nazis, the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge, and Bart -- soulmates, all.
 

Bart dePalma:

"In other words, I will not lose the life of a single US soldier or civilian so we can play out your naive notions of due process or fairness."

To which the only reply is:

Our invasion and occupation of Iraq have cost more lives of US citizens than 9/11. We should not lose the lives of one additional US soldier or civilian to fulfill your twisted notions of revenge and retribution.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

The bottom line is that I would rather roll up al Qaeda cells through coercive interrogation and alienate the political left in the West than the reverse.

C'mon, we're friends here, you can be honest: You sure you'd not rather see us "roll up the political left in the West [] and alienate al Qaeda"? You've expressed sentiments along those lines in the past WRT Murtha, the New York Times, and others....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says that back is white:

We have not excused ourselves from a single international treaty. Rather, we have extended POW rights under the Geneva Conventions to unlawful enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan....

What a load of horse manure. The Dubya maladministration has taken evey pain to insist that the detainees (alleged "unlawful enemy combatants") in Gitmo are not given GC3 POW rights, and the Republican-led Congress has passed laws that explicitly say that the Geneva conventions cannot be invoked in any legal challenge to this detainment.

"Bart" is as dishonest and disingenuous as day is long ... at the North Pole on June 20st.

Cheers,
 

Bart:

It's a lonely world when you're right and surrounded by morons who willingly embrace the means to their own destruction. Keep up the good fight!
 

Bart, you may not be excusing us from any treaty obligations, but you are subjecting those treaties to controversial, not to say tortured interpretations.
 

Jerome [to "Bart"]:

It's a lonely world when you're right and surrounded by morons who willingly embrace the means to their own destruction.

I can understand why you're telling this to "Bart". There's a good reason he knows nothing about that. I can tell you from experience it won't do any good to explain it to him, though.

Cheers,
 

Fraud Guy said...

Our invasion and occupation of Iraq have cost more lives of US citizens than 9/11. We should not lose the lives of one additional US soldier or civilian to fulfill your twisted notions of revenge and retribution.

Your metrics are skewed.

During 1993 - 9/11, al Qaeda and its allies killed around 4000 people of various nationalities in attacks on our people. Additionally, we lost well over a billion dollars in property and a million unemployed. In response, we killed a handful of the enemy and left their bases largely unmolested.

During the liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq, we killed tens of thousands of the enemy at a loss of around 3000 KIA. There have been no substantial attacks against us outside of these war zones.

I would say the metrics have improved considerably. Why would we want to go back to pre 9/11 passivity?
 

Three of our soldiers were reportedly captured alive by al Qaeda in a recent ambush. I can only pray we get lucky and rescue them or they die quickly.

More likely, the enemy will torture them to death as they have with past captured US troops.

The idea that the enemy will reciprocate our voluntary extension of Geneva Convention POW rights to enemy captures was a fiction in Korea, Vietnam and now in the al Qaeda war.

And you wonder why I have absolutely no sympathy for al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatants.
 

Bart has no sympathy for "al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatants." Well, obviously: he's admitted he has no sympathy for "naive notions of due process or fairness" or for any humane standards of behavior toward "the other" during wartime. For that matter, why should we assume he has any sympathies for "naive notions of due process or fairness" in ANY circumstances that threaten the public order or safety? Obviously, any person arrested for a crime MUST be guilty, or the police wouldn't have arrested him. Why expend public time and money on trials? Why spare any sympathies for criminal offenders who have no compunctions about harming others? Why stand for the intolerable prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" included by our shamefully "naive" forefathers in that wretchedly liberal portion of the Constitution which comprises our Bill of Rights?

Bart, here's a little rebuke to the filthy mind you display: humane and just people do not modulate their level of barbarity or civility against others, do not adjust the degree of their respect or observance for the law and due process, or the application of it, according merely to the degree of barbarity or civility of those they deem to be criminals or enemies. Due process, respect for the law, strict adherence to the highest standards of just and humane treatment of others must flow naturally from the temperament of humane and just people, and from the ingrained cultural and legal traditions of their society.

The Constitution only holds legal dominion within the United States and applies to its government and citizens because, obviously, no nation can make laws or establish Constitutions that can apply to other nations. However, the Constitution is more than a mere legal document, a document to be scrutinized for its loopholes to find ways to brutalize people while claiming still to be a nation of laws, a just and fair and humane nation; the Constitution is also a statement of principles, a challenge to ourselves to live up to the highest standards of just behavior, a philosophical definition of who we are, or should be.

We should extend due process to enemy combatants, "illegal" or otherwise, simply because its the requirement of a just nation and of a just people. We must insure to ourselves that those we imprison and punish for alleged offenses against us are, in fact, guilty of those offenses. Once we know those alleged offenders are actual offenders, we must treat them with scrupulously humane and just and regulated punishments.

To do otherwise is to make of ourselves the lowest barbarians, to wallow in the sadism and lawless tyranny of those whom we condemn for just such evils, and to corrupt ourselves with the swinish state of mind which justifies or glorifies barbarity, a state of mind you display with your every ugly bleating.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

The idea that the enemy will reciprocate our voluntary extension of Geneva Convention POW rights to enemy captures was a fiction in Korea, Vietnam and now in the al Qaeda war.

There is no "voluntary extension of Geneva Convention POW rights".

And, just for the record, the Geneva conventions bind the parties regardless of whether anyone else violates the conventions. There's no "out" that says you have to treat POWs this way until your enemy (or someone else) doesn't.

Moreover, abiding by the conventions is not a prudent measure just because you hope to lead your opponent by example. You also hope to lead other potential opponents in the future.

And then there's that "moral" thingy. Abiding by the conventions (and the Treaty Against Torture) is not just a good idea for prudential reasons, but also because it is the right thing to do. At least, that was the word from Dubya's favourite philosopher.....

Cheers,
 

Robin/Arne:

Once again, we are at war and not dealing in a civilian criminal justice situation. The comparison of the two are absurd.

In war, combatants have no right to life and may be killed on sight. Under a civilian criminal justice system, a criminal has a right to life until removed by due process.

Given that combatants have no right to life in a war, the privilege to life and other privileges of a enemy wartime capture are earned under the law of war by a reciprocal extension of the same privileges by the enemy to your captures.

This principle of reciprocity is written into the terms of the Geneva Conventions. Try reading them. They are crystal clear on this subject

Justice for a captured al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatant under the law of war is an interrogation, a status hearing and then a swift execution. All other benefits are privileges which we have extended to the enemy captures out of our sense of mercy.

Stop claiming that unlawful enemy combatants have the rights of a civilian criminal suspect. The Supreme Court in Ex Parte Quirin categorically rejected this nonsense. The Quirin Court spends several pages describing the difference between lawful combatants who earned POW status and unlawful enemy combatants who have forfeited those rights under the law of war.

Do not presume to tell me or the families of the thousands whom these animals have murdered that al Qaeda terrorists have somehow earned special rights which no other unlawful enemy combatants have received in our history. Such an argument is obscene when al Qaeda is now probably now beating, dismembering, burning and/or dragging to death our captured soldiers.

Finally, do not presume to argue that declining to extend civilian criminal rights to unlawful enemy combatants as we have done for our entire history somehow reduces us to al Qaeda's level. The United States is not beating, dismembering, burning or dragging to death captured al Qaeda terrorists. There is no comparison between the United States and al Qaeda and to make such a comparison is a gross slander.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Once again, we are at war and not dealing in a civilian criminal justice situation. The comparison of the two are absurd.

No, we're not at war. We weren't even "at war" legally when Dubya invaded Iraq. Dubya's consigliere said so.

But now, we're in an "occupation", and helping the "legitimate" gummint of Iraq -- that we've duly engineered and installed in a shining example of "democracy by gunpoint" -- in a police action against brigands and internal Terra-ists, not to mention a host of pissed or craven people struggling for power, revenge, loot, whatever.... It's a "police action"; much more so that our little "police action" in Korea, and more than our other police actions in Panama, Grenada, etc.

You keep insisting that the people in Guantanamo are (in your repeated language) "illegal enemy combatants" or alternatively "unlawful enemy combatants". They'd just be St. Ronnie's "freedom fighters" if you didn't make this bolded distinction (or if they were fighting 'on our side'....) So, the distinction is the illegality of their (alleged) acts. They're supposedly violating the "laws of war" (or whatever ex post facto 'laws' the maladministration has cooked up). If anyone has gone out of their way to insist this is a criminal matter, I'd have to say it's the maladministration, who keep using the same language you do. Fine, so be it. Let's get on with real trials in a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples". Not these Stalinisn 'show trials' that Dubya's maladministration has cooked up. Let's show the world we're better than Stalinist Russia, OK?

In war, combatants have no right to life and may be killed on sight....

Ummm, not quite. Once rendered hors de combat, they may not be killed, and if you have the alternative of disabling them or killing them, you may have an obligation (at least morally) to disable them instead.

... Under a civilian criminal justice system, a criminal has a right to life until removed by due process.

Once arrested. Under certain circumstances, criminals while in the act may be subdued with deadly force if necessary.

Given that combatants have no right to life in a war, the privilege to life and other privileges of a enemy wartime capture are earned under the law of war by a reciprocal extension of the same privileges by the enemy to your captures.

Seeing as your major premise is wrong, your syllogism is fatally flawed. Not to mention, it just ain't true.

This principle of reciprocity is written into the terms of the Geneva Conventions....

Nonsense.

... Try reading them. They are crystal clear on this subject

Oh, I have. Feel free to cite your supporting material and quote the relevant portions. In particular, the part that says once someone's (allegedly) broken the rules, all bets are off.

Justice for a captured al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatant under the law of war is an interrogation, a status hearing and then a swift execution....

I'll patiently await your exposition and cites to the relevant treaties and laws of war for this proposition. Or, for that matter, to U.S. law, that is, prior to the Dubya maladministration's gutting of the Constitution.

All other benefits are privileges which we have extended to the enemy captures out of our sense of mercy.

"[O]ur sense of mercy", eh? Still got that mouse in your pocket, IC. Here's your "sense of mercy": "Justice for a captured al Qaeda unlawful enemy combatant under the law of war is an interrogation, a status hearing and then a swift execution." Trials optional, of course. And not if the maladministration can avoid it.

Stop claiming that unlawful enemy combatants have the rights of a civilian criminal suspect. The Supreme Court in Ex Parte Quirin categorically rejected this nonsense....

The one they rejected was the right to a civilian jury trial. As I pointed out, though, the reason was that our own military, under the same charges, had no such right.

... The Quirin Court spends several pages describing the difference between lawful combatants who earned POW status and unlawful enemy combatants who have forfeited those rights under the law of war.

I disposed of your Ex Parte Quirin nonsense here (and above in that thread).

Do not presume to tell me or the families of the thousands whom these animals have murdered that al Qaeda terrorists have somehow earned special rights which no other unlawful enemy combatants have received in our history.

Huh? Where did I ever say that? Don't get so friggin' indignant about your own hallucinations, m'kay?

The big argument by a number of the detainees is that they didn't "murder[]" "thousands". It's an 'inconventient truth' that you keep avoiding, "Bart". If any of these people in Guantanamo flew planes into the WTC, sentence them for that terrible crime. After a trial that proves that. What's the matter with holding a freakin' trial that reaches a "judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples"?

Such an argument is obscene when al Qaeda is now probably now beating, dismembering, burning and/or dragging to death our captured soldiers.

A bit of an indirect tu quoque, eh? "We can be as nasty and as bad as al Qaeda"? Wow. What a campaign slogan.

Finally, do not presume to argue that declining to extend civilian criminal rights to unlawful enemy combatants as we have done for our entire history somehow reduces us to al Qaeda's level....

Check out the links in my first post above, m'kay?

... The United States is not beating, dismembering, burning or dragging to death captured al Qaeda terrorists....

Perhaps. Some of these folks that have been beaten to death probably weren't al Qaeda. In fact, they may not have been guilty of anything other than falling into the hands of pretty nasty people.

... There is no comparison between the United States and al Qaeda and to make such a comparison is a gross slander.

I'd suggest that it's you that are seeking to blur any worthwhile distinctions.

As for myself, I think we can do what needs to be done without soiling ourselves irreparably in the process. What you have consistently failed to do is show that there is no alternative to the abbreviations of the rule of law committed by the Dubya maladministration.

Cheers,
 

Good work, Arne. I imagine you have a set of Bart bookmarks -- "refutaion of Quirin misreading," etc.

Who could have guessed that "Americans should not act like the KGB or the Gestapo" would be such a tough sell in our lifetimes?
 

Bart dePalma said:

"Your metrics are skewed.

During 1993 - 9/11(2), al Qaeda and its allies killed around 4000(1)people of various nationalities in attacks on our people. Additionally, we lost well over a billion dollars in property and a million unemployed(4). In response, we killed a handful of the enemy and left their bases largely unmolested.

During the liberations(5) of Afghanistan and Iraq, we killed tens of thousands of the enemy (3) at a loss of around 3000 KIA. There have been no substantial attacks against us outside of these war zones.

I would say the metrics have improved considerably. Why would we want to go back to pre 9/11 passivity?

1:41 PM"

1) I called you on this on a previous chain, and you have yet to provide support for these statistics.

2) In that chain, you laid the responsibility of attacks from 1993-2001 at the feet of Clinton (though you give him 2001 as part of a grace period to Bush II). This is intellectually dishonest, and the fact that you continue to frame your claims in this way shows that you acknowledge their inherent weakness.

3) As usual, you forget to include the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq as the result of our invasion and mismanaged occupation.

4) IIRC, we were in a economic downturn even before 9/11, and the attacks accentuated that. Even acceding to your claim of $1 Billion lost in property damage (which I don't, see below), we have spent over $500 Billion in our War on terror.

Let's look at that one again, since you seem to have some imaginary cost/benefit analysis running through the back of your head:

Clinton: No "Great War on Terror"
1000 American lives lost. $200 million in property damage (see below). Thousands of collatoral lives lost.

Bush: "Great War on Terror" 6000 American lives lost (9/11 + troops + civilian contractors), WTC collapsed (say 80% of your property damage) for $800 million in damage, $500 BILLION in war/occupation costs. Hundreds of thousands of collatoral lives lost.

Any sane businessman would look at those figures and realize that the agressive method that you prosetylize is a failure of catastrophic proportions. You want to spend 500 times as much to lose 6 times the personnel, in addition to loss of public prestige and ruining the brand name.

5) Invasions, not liberations--they didn't ask us to free them (except for some exiles who wanted to take over power) and they want us to leave. They meaning the people of these countries, not Al-Qaeda.
 

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