Thursday, July 14, 2005

Defining "Humane" Down, Part III -- The Schmidt Report

Marty Lederman

The term "Orwellian" is so routinely used to describe the degradation of common meaning in public discourse that it's lost much of its rhetorical oomph. But if ever it were appropriate to invoke that hoary adjective, perhaps now's the time. Recall the Ministry of Truth in "1984": "WAR IS PEACE; FREEDOM IS SLAVERY; IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH," right? Well, would you believe . . .


As I've discussed several times on this blog—most recently here and here—on February 7, 2002, the President issued a directive requiring the Armed Forces to treat al Qaeda and Taliban detainees "humanely." (This obligation does not extend to the CIA, which is free to treat detainees inhumanely.) Yet it has been increasingly difficult to square that directive with what we now know about the interrogation techniques that the Department of Defense subsequently approved for use at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Part of the problem is the Administration’s convenient failure to define what it (or the President) means by "humane treatment." (I’ve previously explained, for instance, that Attorney General Gonzales appears to have adopted an extremely narrow understanding of the term.) This uncertainty is starkly confirmed in a military report issued yesterday by Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow, describing the results of their investigation into FBI allegations of Detainee Abuse at Guantanamo.

The Report itself (like the Church Report before it) is classified and therefore not available to the public. (This policy of secrecy with respect to the Administration's internal reports of detainee abuse is, in and of itself, a major scandal, especially in the wake of the publication of the much-more-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report—but that's a topic for another post.) But the Pentagon has released a 29-page Executive Summary, which concludes with a recommendation (p.28) that the military focus on deriving a definition of "humane treatment." The lack of a working definition, however, does not deter the Schmidt Report itself from reaching some fairly remarkable conclusions about the "humane" treatment of detainees at GMTO.

The Schmidt Summary explains in great detail that certain interrogation techniques approved and employed at GTMO—particularly those used on Mohammed al-Qahtani, which I've previously described—were "abusive" and "degrading," and further reveals that the interrogation of another "high-value" detainee included unlawful threats against the lives of the detainee and his family. And yet then the Report somehow, and without any explanation whatsoever, concludes that all treatment at GTMO was "humane"—indeed, that the investigators found "no evidence" of any "inhumane treatment" at Guantanamo!

Abusive and degrading . . . yet humane. Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

That is not, however, the most alarming thing about the Schmidt Report. More disturbing still is the Report's repeated assertions that the techniques in question—which included, for example, having female interrogators physically seduce and taunt a Muslim detainee; forcing him to wear a bra and placing a thong on his head during interrogation; tying him to a leash, leading him around the room and forcing him to perform a series of dog tricks; stripping him naked; and pouring water on his head during interrogation 17 times—are not only "humane," but also are authorized by Army Field Manual 34-52. Field Manual 34-52 has, since the 1960's, defined the interrogation techniques that are acceptable within the military even for POWs who are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Until now, the debate over the Bush Administration's interrogation policies has been about whether and why it was permissible for the Administration to go far beyond Manual 34-52 in its coercive treatment of detainees. But if, as the Schmidt Report concludes, the techniques used at GTMO are authorized by the Army Field Manual itself, it then follows that the military may use those techniques on any detainees, including POWs, anywhere in the world, in any conflict. Accordingly, by virtue of the Schmidt Report itself, this is not simply about al-Qahtani and other high-level detainees, nor about what is permissible at Guantanamo. Rather, it presages a radical transformation of what is deemed acceptable, lawful treatment of U.S. military detainees across the board—an erosion of the Geneva-based standards that have been the basis for the military's training and practices for the last few decades.

How is it possible that the Schmidt Report could have reached such a radical conclusion? The Report concludes that the techniques used at GTMO are examples of what Manual 34-52 calls the "Futility" and "Ego Down" techniques. In the Army Field Manual itself (see pages 3-18 to 3-19), these techniques describe forms of questioning and psychological, verbal gamesmanship, designed to induce a detainee to reveal information by, for instance, feeding him disinformation that convinces him that all hope is lost. At GTMO, however—and in the Schmidt Report—these categories are fundamentally transformed, to the point where they are almost unrecognizable. In particular, the "Futility" technique now apparently includes "female military interrogators perform[ing] acts designed to take advantage of their gender in relation to Muslim males" (p.7). So, for instance, a female interrogator touching a Muslim detainee from behind, rubbing against his back, touching his knee and shoulder, whispering in his ear that his situation was futile, running her fingers through his hair, etc., is now characterized as an "act used to highlight [the] futility of the detainee's situation," and thus as an "authorized technique" under the Army Field Manual (p.7—and see more of the same on pages 15-16).

The military also subjected detainees to bombardment with what the Report euphemistically calls "Futility Music"—Metallica, Britney Spears and "Rap music" are singled out for special mention (pp. 9, 16-17)—along with strobe lights. This technique is said to be authorized under the auspices of the "Incentive" and "Futility" Field Manual techniques, because it includes (p. 16) "acts used as reward for cooperating or to create futility in not cooperating." [Presumably the "reward" for cooperating would be for the interrogator to turn the music down, or switch to Handel, or some other such "reward"—analogous to the notion of Winston Smith being "rewarded" by removal of the rats in Room 101.]

Most strikingly, on page 19 of the Executive Summary, the following techniques used on al-Qahtani are among the techniques that are now understood to be "authorized" under the Army Field Manual as examples of the "Ego Down" and "Futility" techniques:

-- forcing a detainee to wear a bra and have a thong placed on his head during interrogation;

-- tying a detainee to a leash, leading him around the room and forcing him to perform a series of dog tricks;

-- forcing him to dance with a male interrogator;

-- stripping him maked;

-- placing Korans on a television "as a control measure";

-- and pouring water on the detainee during interrogation—17 times.

Although Schmidt ultimately concludes (p.20) that these techniques cumulatively were abusive and degrading, nevertheless they weren't inhumane—and, of course, they're authorized by the Army Field Manual . . . . Thus, Schmidt's recommendation is that Commander Geoffrey Miller be held accountable, not for permitting the (authorized) techniques themselves, but merely for "failing to supervise the interrogation." (Even this modest recommendation was to no avail: Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow Schmidt's recommendation because all of the techniques were authorized, thereby in effect absolving Miller of responsibility. This should not be surprising: Miller is the key figure connecting the Pentagon itself to what happened in the field at GTMO and in Iraq; he knows where the (proverbial) bodies are buried.) [In his testimony on Wednesday, General Craddock explained that his disapproval of Schmidt's recommendation was based on the fact that the al-Qahtani interrogation "did not result in any violation of a U.S. law or policy." That is to say—there is, in the view of the SOUTHCOM commander, no U.S. law or policy that forbids tying a GTMO detainee to a leash, leading him around the room and forcing him to perform a series of dog tricks, using female interrogators to humiliate and seduce him because he is a Muslim, and pouring water on his head during interrogation 17 times.]

Once again, what's most disturbing about this is not the whitewash of what occurred at GTMO, but what it portends for the military as a whole. The Army Field Manual, recall, is expressly designed to describe the techniques that the military may employ , consistent with the Geneva Conventions, and even as to POWs who are fully protected under Geneva. (Note, also that on April 16, 2003, when Secretary Rumsfeld specifically approved the use of the "Pride and Ego Down" technique at GTMO, even he emphasized that it was not to be employed "beyond the limits that would apply to a POW.") Until yesterday, there would have been no dispute that the techniques described in the Schmidt Report would clearly be impermissible under Geneva (and under the Army Field Manual) for use on a detainee who is a POW. [UPDATE: Indeed, when Staff Judge Advocate Diane Beaver wrote her original memo proposing that such aggressive new techniques be approved for use in the case of al-Qahtani, she explained that the procedures outlines in FM 34-52—which she deemed inadequate with respect to al-Qahtani and others—"are constrained by, and conform to the GC and applicable international law." The whole point of her proposal was to permit interrogators at GTMO to use techniques that were not authorized by 34-52.]

And yet, astoundingly, the Schmidt Report concludes that such techniques are "authorized" by the Field Manual and, thus, under Geneva's protections for POWs. This document blurs the lines with respect to the military's ordinary interrogation tactics, transforming a number of those into tactics that would now plainly violate the Geneva Conventions. The implications of this are predictable and ominous: In a future conflict, even if we decide to adhere to Geneva and to treat the enemy as POWs, interrogators will likely think that some or many of these new interpretations of Field Manual 34-52 techniques are permissible. Indeed, the message of this Report appears to be the following: (i) Manual 34-52 describes treatment that may be used on POWs, consistent with Geneva; (ii) Manual 34-52 approves of particular techniques denominated "Futility" and "Ego Down"; (iii) Ergo, any technique, no matter how "abusive" and "degrading," that results in the detainee's sense of futility or loss of ego, is permissible, and legal under Geneva.

Such a conclusion is an outrage, an embarrassment. The Washington Post headline today is: "Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo." But that's the least of it. The real headline is: "Abu Ghraib Tactics Are 'Authorized' by Geneva Conventions, Bush Administration Concludes." Indeed, after the Schmidt Report, why don't Lynndie England and Charles Graner have the plausible defense that what they did at Abu Ghraib likewise falls within the parameters of the "authorized" Futility and Ego Down techniques of Field Manual 34-52? [UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is a must-read on this today: "[W]e now know that almost every one of the Abu Ghraib techniques was practised and innovated at Guantanamo. These were not improvised out of nowhere. They were what the report calls 'the creative application of authorized interrogation techniques,' and the interrogators 'believed they were acting within existing guidance.' . . . The kind of techniques used in Abu Ghraib—sexual humiliation, hooding, use of dogs, tying prisoners up in 'stress positions,' mandatory nudity, humiliating prisoners for their religious faith, even the famous Lynndie England leash—were all developed at Guantanamo Bay under the strictest of supervision. What we were told were just frat-guy, crazy techniques on the night shift had been deployed by the best trained, most tightly controlled, most professional interrogation center we have. The Schmidt report argues that, while some of this was out of bounds, it was only because of some extra creativity, not because the techniques themselves were illicit, or unauthorized by Rumsfeld and Bush."] [FURTHER UPDATE: In his testimony on Wednesday, Schmidt conceded that "[u]nder the Geneva Convention, sexual humiliation would not be appropriate." He did not, however, explain how, in that case, he could have concluded that such sexual humiliation was "authorized" by Field Manual 34-52, which is written to be consistent with Geneva.]

But that's not all! What about the seemingly important question of whether these techniques are lawful, even as to detainees such as those at GTMO who are not (not in the Administration’s view, anyway) protected as POWs?

Quite shockingly, the Schmidt Report asserts (p.4) that the investigation "did not review the legal validity of the various interrogation techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual 34-52, or those approved by the Secretary of Defense." And with that sharp move, the Report is able to skirt right by the inconvenient fact—expressed by Pentagon JAGS in 2002-2003, as well as by Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora—that several of the approved techniques were almost certainly unlawful, in that they violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (As I've previously explained, such techniques would also violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and, probably, Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture, as well—except that the Administration has concluded that neither of those legal constraints applies to the detainees at GTMO.) [UPDATE: In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, July 13, SOUTHCOM commander Craddock testified that after General Schmidt completed his report, "my staff judge advocate began a thorough legal review of the report." It would be worthwhile for the military to release the results of that legal review, but it has not yet done so.]

Strangely enough, after this assertion that "we didn't look at the law," the Report ultimately concludes that an interrogator's threats against an alleged high-value GTMO detainee did violate the UCMJ. If that is the case, why didn't the Schmidt Report likewise assess whether the other approved abusive techniques at GTMO also violated the UCMJ—for instance, the prohibitions on cruelty and maltreatment (art. 93), and assault (art. 128)—as they almost certainly did? (See pages A-1 and A-2 of the Field Manual.)

Perhaps this attention-grabbing sentence (page 28) reveals the answer: "The SECDEF's subsequent approval of each of the techniques clearly establishes the ultimate legitimacy of that technique and thus additional corrective action is not necessary." Well, then: If Donald Rumsfeld approves a technique, it must have "ultimate legitimacy" and be legal, right?

Two, other quick observations about the Schmidt Report:

1. Secretary Rumsfeld cautiously approved a technique called "Environmental Manipulation" on April 16, 2003, permitting alteration of a detainee's environment "to create moderate discomfort," but only on the condition that the conditions would not "injure the detainee." In November 2002-January 2003—before Rumsfeld expressly approved the technique—interrogators turned up the air conditioning so that al-Qahtani was "exposed to cold," to the point where he was hospitalized because his heartbeat had slowed—something that happened at least twice. Without providing any reason, Schmidt concludes that the allegation of this "environmental manipulation" "should be closed" (p.17), although it was plainly unlawful—and not even approved by the Pentagon at the time.

2. The Executive Summary identifies several further documents that may well be revealing if they are ever disclosed (in addition to the all-important March 14, 2003 memo from John Yoo to Jim Haynes):

-- Memos dated 12/11/04 and 12/24/04, concerning the subject of the "Second Interrogation Plan" for a high-value detainee at GTMO (see page 3);

-- The CDR USSOUTHCOM memo of June 2, 2003, "providing further guidance on the implementation of the 16 Apr 03 SECDEF approved techniques" (page 5);

and, most importantly,

-- The "plan" for the second high-value detainee, "approved by SECDEF on 13 Aug 03," i.e., after Rumsfeld's April 16th memo and Yoo's March 14th memo (page 21). This August 3d memo would almost certainly provide some understanding of what the Pentagon currently considers to be lawful when it comes to the "humane" military interrogation of non-POWs.


If you really want to get down to the brass tacks, Marty, any coersion whatsoever is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions.

By definition, detention is coersive. The detainee may not leave.

Ergo, all questioning of a detained individual is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions.

I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions about how the troops should go about trying to collect humint. Would you suggest, for example, that questioning should be done with an attorney present, under constitutional standards? (Trial of EPW, of course, is also forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t force our soldiers to abide by the Constitution.


This post very accurately describes the concerns that grow from the release of a summary of the Schmidt report. At the top of the list we must place the erosion of the traditional limitations imposed on interrogation that started with article 16 of the Lieber Code (1863) and have been carried forward from that date, most recently embodied in FM 34-52. Many of the practices that Schmidt views as "authorized" clearly were not authorized under prior understandings of the Field Manual. Consequently, there has been a degradation of the standards fixed by US military doctrine, not to speak of the Geneva Conventions and related international instruments. Senator McCain's questions yesterday were clearly moved by this same concern. One can only hope that veterans like McCain, Graham, Hagel and Warner will take effective action to resurrect historical US military practice, which was a thing to be proud of.

Al Maviva's comments are probably intended to be satirical. The statement that "any coersion [sic] whatsoever is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions... ergo all questioning of a detained individual is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions" sounds like the sort of flawed syllogism used in introduction to philsophy classes. Of course the Geneva Conventions do not contain such a absolute prohibition - the protections against coercion exist largely for the benefit of EPWs, and are certainly not so clearly available for other types of detainees - and the right of interrogation is clearly preserved. Indeed, the detaining power is obligated to interrogate to some extent for the purpose of establishing identity, e.g. Likewise, the statement that the EPW cannot be tried is ridiculous. The Geneva Conventions say just the opposite - trials are welcome, but charges and proceedings do have to meet minimum standards. It sounds to me like Al Maviva has never read the Geneva Conventions. Perhaps s/he writes for the WSJ editorial page.

I wonder, Diogenes, if you've shone your lantern of Truth on Article 17, Third Convention, of the Geneval Conventions. That Article states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.”

Article 17, Third Convention.

By that definition, any interrogation of an EPW whatsoever is a violation of the Conventions. I presume you believe the Gitmo detainees are entitled to EPW status - otherwise you necessarily are in agreement with the authors of the torture memos that captured AQ fighters do not fit into a Geneva Conventions category as protected EPW, per Article 4(A), Third Convention.

My understanding has always been that although coercion is facially prohibited, that customary international law - the law of land warfare – is a normative interpretive device, and that interrogation of EPW is permissible within reasonable bounds, allowing for some forms of coercion. My understanding is also that this is the interpretation followed by the NATO nations, and most other nations in the Western orbit. (Developing world nations have typically applied somewhat lesser standards).

Assuming the Army's FM is off limits, I am really truly seriously wondering what alternatives are proposed to glean information, or if captured AQ fighters are simply off limits?

There is a slight problem, of course, with applying Constitutional standards to captured AQ. (Aside from the practical fact that in a firefight, it’s probably tough to follow Constitutional norms for use of deadly force, Miranda rights advisement, warrant & probable cause requirements, etc.) That problem is that if captured AQ enjoy the full complement of Constitutional rights, one of those rights is the right to a speedy trial. Yet the Conventions prohibit the trial of EPW, except for the purposes of war crimes / crimes against humanity tribunals. Article 84, Third Convention generally prohibits the trial of EPW by civilian courts, and Article 99 prohibits the trial of EPW, especially where coercion has been used to induce confession, as in battlefield and post-battlefield interrogation.

I again pose the question to both of you - who are obviously much sharper than I am in this area of the law - what are we to do with captured AQ?

With respect to EPWs, the Geneva Conventions preclude the use of coercion. That much is correct. What is incorrect is the assumption that this preclusion applies to all types of detainees (it does not), and the assumption that coercion precludes the practice of interrogation altogether (it does not). FM 34-52 as it hitherto existed stated the restrictions very accurately, and the US military could and did use those standards in conducting interrogations of EPWs that fully conformed to the Geneva Conventions. It is true that there is some lack of clarity as to what is and what is not coercion for purposes of the Geneva Conventions, and in particular GCIII(17). But the construction that Al Maviva applies is ludicrous, not backed by Jean Pictet's commentary, the ICRC, the US Field Manuals or those of any other state party with which I am familiar.

It doesn't seem so "inhumane" to me to have a female guard dance around and rub against a male detainee, or to deprive the inmate of his clothing, or to smear fake menstrual blood on him etc. Many on your side of the aisle would (a) think this was funny if done to a conservative Christian, just as they thought it was funny to read an article about Jerry Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse and (b) argue strenuously that female prison guards may not be deprived of equal employment opportunity, meaning that female guards most certainly do conduct strip searches of male inmates, United States citizens, in United States prisons, even if those prisoners are devout Muslims or conservative Christians. So since we do this kind of thing to our own, with judicial and left/liberal academic blessing, I can't get too outraged about doing it to our enemies, and neither can most Americans.

The satire (which was not really that funny) that a unanimous SC opinion upheld as protected of course involves a person reading a cartoon and doing it on their own. Those who don't want to don't have to. So, I assume Sean is somehow making a (again not too funny) joke.

The administration et. al. didn't want to be totally aboveboard and out in the open in drawing hard lines in this messy area. Maybe they need not worry if some of these comments are to be taken seriously.

The comment by Al Maviva that all questining is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions is incorrect.

The Conventions specificallly allow for the questioning of prisoners. The restrictions exist because such questioning is allowed. If it were forbidden then there would be no need to limit it to non-coercive measures.

Sean says he doesn't see the use of acts seen as degrading to the source are abuse.(I will not comment on his blanket assertions about what those on the other side of the political spectrum would feel about it being done to those of religious persuasions other than Muslim).

Not only are the Conventions clear on this (it's prohibited) but respect for the rule of law would preclude it (as do the actual mechanics of fruitful collection of information from a source). One could argue that feeding a prisoner on a diet of maggots and live roaches, with a side dish of bread, mixed with water to form a glop is also not degrading, nor morally wrong, because it meets the requirements for sustaiment of life.

Diogenes tries to make an exception for non-EPWs (which is all persons not entitled to EPW status, which is [from the point of view of privileges; and some rights] the second most desireable, of the four possible categorizations of prisoners, Retained Persons, EPW, Protected Persons and Detained Persons. There are also displaced persons (who may be placed into protective custody, of a liberal nature) and persons who are held in connection with criminal actvity conducted after the occupation by the hostile power takes place, but those last are not parcel to the debate at hand).

Geneva, however, makes no such exceptions, nor does it make exception for, "non-lawful combatants" who would fall into the category of either EPW, or Detained Person.

In any case the abuse and torture of them is prohibited.

His comments on the use of, "contitutional means," (including Miranda) on the battlefield is a red-herring, as the Constitution quite simply allows the nation to engage in war, and war is a beast which has its own set of rules.

The use of things like Miranda, warrants, et alia, are features of law enforcement operations. It is a useful question as to whether the War on Terrorism ought to be fought on a law enforcement model, or a military one, but so long as a military model is the one in use, trying to say the impossibilty of the use of law enforcement means to gain prisoners, means we no longer need to behave lawfully after we apprehend them is not only wrong (both from a practical, and legal standpoint) it is reprehensible on a moral level.

For those who care, I am not only a military interrogator, but I teach the subject. For recent practical knowledge, I was in the V Corps interrogation center from before the shooting started in 2003, until the active shooting stopped and it was disbanded.


Diogenes (who also teaches this subject) agrees with Pecunium, and was indeed thinking specifically of the case of persons apprehended by an occupier in connection with criminal activities when commenting on the detainee/not protected from coercion category. For such detainees the broader protections of Common Article 3 come into play, plus the legal regime of the host country.
With respect to Sean's statement - there is some interesting precedent, namely the Puritan John Bunyan's account of his incarceration by the Royalists in Bedford - in which he describes taunting and ridicule of just the sort that Sean imagines. Bunyan wrote about it, and his experiences were well known by the Founding Fathers (Pilgrim's Progress was the most widely circulated English language books after the King James Bible). It's noteworthy that George Washington gave specific orders requiring that the religious beliefs of prisoners be respected, and Abraham Lincoln wrote the same order into General Orders No. 100 during the Civil War, for good measure directing that soldiers who demonstrated disrespect for the religious beliefs of a prisoner or residents of an occupied zone be flogged. Lincoln wrote that he did this not merely because it was the right thing to do morally, but also because it would be injurious to the nation's cause for the war to generate into religious strife of any sort. Bush made the same pronouncements at the start of this conflict, but the imporance of this observation seems to have gone lost. So US military doctrine on this point was very clear. Something went off the tracks in 2002, and I give credit to Graham, McCain and Warner for trying to put things back in order. Those engaged in interrogation are entitled to clear, unambiguous guidelines. They shouldn't be scapegoated to doing what some political figures want but are too timid to publicly seek. The senators are approaching this in a dignified way, blunting efforts to make a partisan fracas of it, and that is what the country and the uniformed services need at this point.

In moral questions one must look at the alternatives.

If abuse is necessary to prevent murder why wouldn't abuse be morally acceptable? Especially against an enemy who sees nothing wrong with killing twenty children to kill one American.

Utopia is not an option. Especially in war.

And how, Diogenes, would George Washington have felt about the government sponsoring pictures of the Virgin Mary made of vaginas? I don't think things went off the track in 2002? Have you ever heard of chickens coming home to roost? You and your comrades now face the difficult task of persuading Americans that the government must respect Islam more than it respects Christianity.

Our enemies religious beliefs require them to convert or kill us.

Should those beliefs be honored?

while for the most part, this has, as usual in this blog, been an extremely interesting debate, as occasionally happens, we get bogged down once in a while in the irrelevant, and sometimes in the downright insulting.

sean, the point on this issue is not liberal versus conservative. pictures of the virgin mary, no matter how distasteful in the context you refer to, have nothing to do with the original post, or anything else that followed. you cannot seriously argue that liberals have solely brought gitmo and abu ghraib upon us. the question is not how we explain why islam should be given more due respect than christianity by this government, but why you apparently believe, in spite of the constitution, that it should not get equal respect, as all peaceful religions should.... and don't tell me that there are no peaceful muslims in the world.

I carefully worded my statement.

I did not say " Since abuse is necessary..."

I said "If....."

Some repots hve said that abusive interrogations are fruitful. Other reports and diogenes have said it is not.

My mind is not yet made up on the subject.


Our adversaries are not signatories of the Geneva Conventiions.

Not as official action nor by respect unofficially.

Thus they are not accorded the privledges and immunities of the convention.

Perhaps a little tit-for-tat might encourage them to change their behavior. Then again perhaps not.

For the Geneva Conventions to be in effect both sides must abide by them. In the current war such is not the case. I'm not talking about mistakes or the occasional attrocity which in war are not uncommon. I'm talking about general policy.

m. simon is right that for the geneva conventions to be in effect both sides must abide by them; however, the argument over the use of torture and/or abuse goes beyond who the perceived enemy is. remember, not only are we fighting an amorphous group taht simply doesn't adhere to ordinary rules of humanity, but we are also confronted with another problem that is related to nearly everything that we do, and that is the perception of the american soldier by the population of the middle east countries.

there are many countries that are signatory to the geneva convention or simply observe the rule of human decency in general, who are not "friends" of the united states. this would include the countries of the middle east, where we are not exactly the most popular people at present. when the images of gitmo and abu ghraib are shown there, it inflames passions against our country, and can only serve to put our soldiers in a more negative light, fanning the flames of prejudice against them, and thereby making their jobs more difficult and dangerous. you can go forward with your eye for an eye approach, and reap the consequences from all sides, or you can demonstrate the decency and humanity of our country within the population of the middle east, while still being tough on our enemies. this means not crossing the line into actions that degradate ourselves.


I agree with your points.

The question of most import is a political one. What is the trade off of intel vs. world public opinion?

Saw a bit on Al Jazeera today (11th dateline) that said indiscrimnate killing by aQ was hurting the Muslim war effort.

I'd say 50 dead bodies trumps a lot of thong head dresses.

Actually, phq, I sincerely doubt that an Army without female members, with soldiers who did not have extensive exposure to pornography, would have produced Abu Ghraib.

m. simon, i understand your point, but would you feel the same if those fifty dead bodies were caused, at least in part by the reaction to the "thong head dresses"?

so i take it, sean, that you believe then that all female soldiers are bad for the army, that all soldiers have been extensively exposed at some point to pornography, and that they were all so exposed by liberals; therefore, we are now excusing the use of torture as authorized by the army brass, who by your definition are soldiers, so they must be filled with visions from pornography, who got their marching orders from the commander in chief, who... i think i'm finished commenting on this post. let's move on...

The assumption in that if are huge.

Simply put, abuse won't prevent murder, nor is it likely to reveal ticking bombs or buried kidnappees.

I, as a person who has been doing this work for more than a dozen years, very much doubt that 1: abuse has actually generated useful information, and 2: that those persons being interrogated years after their capture are still providing useful information, and 3: that any such useful information can only be practically obtained with non-abusive means.

The use of force (mental or physical) introduces a host of problems, in collection, validation and interpretation of information.

At the collection level the source is taught ignorance is not an acceptable condition, so that even when ignorant he must answer, or suffer. Thus the truth stops being a thing to maintain.

Further the interrogator is self-rewarding for the use of force. When he gets what he sees as a non-responsive answer he smack the source, who then answers, which proves to the interrogator that force works.

Secondarily he gets outside positive reinforcement when he is praised by his superiors for getting information.

This leads to people looking for confirmation, and the use of force to gain it; which is prone to problems of confirmational bias. If a source has reported X, then other sources must be asked about X, when they claim ignorance they get hit, and then they report that X is in fact the case. At this point the information stream is hopelessly corrupted.

As for the, "moral" question, the Catholic Church (of which I am still a member, though somewhat more heterodox than the Church would like) has a clear opinion, one may not do evil that a good may come of it.

If it is immoral to torture someone, it is immoral. Just because it might lead to a desireable end, and that end is a good, doesn't justify a position of moral relativism.

Wrong, as the Religious Right are so fond of telling us is wrong, no matter how much fun it may be, nor yet how harmless it may seem.

As I see torture, abuse and the violation of law and custom (and much of what makes war as civilised as it is is the effect of custom, which is why I can sit here in Ukraine, and drink with people who were trained to kill me) as decidedly not harmless, and certainly not fun.

The allegation that Abu Ghraib is the result of women being in the army, with or without the exposure to pornography (and the connection seems appallingly tenous to me, since the base documents from which the abuses and tortures in Khandahar, and the behaviours at Abu Ghraib seem to stem predate, by decades, the widespread availabilty (which doesn't mean exposure) to pornography. I point out by way of anecdotal refutation that Holland has had a longer availability of pornography, and they have both a non-record of such abuses of EPWs in their care (though the numbers are small) but none of the prisoner abuses we see in civil prisons either) is poppycock. Men, absent the presence of women have been torturing, and sexually abusing, other men since time immemorial.


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Not much on my mind recently, but I don't care. Oh well. I haven't been up to anything. Today was a total loss, not that it matters. I've more or less been doing nothing to speak of.

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