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August 03, 2005

Torture

The Washington Post has an extraordinary five-page report on torture today.  In this case, it's not just the crime, but the cover-up:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.

...
Hours after Mowhoush's death in U.S. custody on Nov. 26, 2003, military officials issued a news release stating that the prisoner had died of natural causes after complaining of feeling sick. Army psychological-operations officers quickly distributed leaflets designed to convince locals that the general had cooperated and outed key insurgents.

The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.

Unfortunately, our President is objectively pro-torture, and after this week's showdown on Capitol Hill, there's no longer any way to pretend otherwise:

The Senate's Republican leader Tuesday derailed a bipartisan effort to set rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other military detention camps by abruptly stopping debate on a $491 billion defense bill.

The unusual move came after senators, including several leading Republicans, beat back an effort by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to block amendments setting standards for military-prisoner interrogations and delaying base closings scheduled for approval later this year.

The White House had threatened to veto the defense-spending legislation if it contained either of those provisions.
...
McCain had been working with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to respond to widely publicized cases of prisoner abuse.

They proposed to set specific standards for the treatment of foreign detainees. Vice President Dick Cheney, in a meeting Thursday, urged the three to back off.

But Monday, McCain, Graham and Warner submitted an amendment that would have required that the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation cover prisoners in military custody.

The three, together with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also introduced an amendment that would prohibit cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners and would require the United States to abide by the Geneva Convention and other international agreements on the treatment of prisoners.

The two amendments likely would have received substantial Democratic support and had a strong chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Last Thursday, in a statement of policy, the White House said: "The administration strongly opposes such amendments, which would interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war to answer unnecessary or duplicative inquiry or by restricting the president's ability to conduct the war effectively under existing law.

Make no mistake about this.  This administration wants to torture.  They've decided to use it as a tool in the War on Terror.  And if a few innocents who wander into US bases to find their sons, like Mowhoush, get viciously beaten, thrown into a sleeping bag, and whipped to death, then so be it.  Back during the election, Abu Aardvark said the election was really a simple choice

Go read what he said the choice was between.  Then think about what we chose.

August 3, 2005 in Bush Administration | Permalink

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Comments

I think it's really commendable and tenderhearted to care for those who get in the way of war. What is missing here is the caring thoughts for those of our own nationality and the outrage at those who murder them.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 3, 2005 3:54:32 PM

No, what's missing here is any remote sense of logic in Bush defenders' repeated attempt to answer systematic evidence of torture, including the death of someone who had nothing at all to do with attacking Americans, by dishonestly pretending that anyone who's against torture doesn't care about Americans being killed by terrorists.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 3, 2005 4:15:13 PM

This is murder, pure and simple. Not torture, and certainly not just "abuse."

Sorry Fred. We happen to think that the good guys are good guys because we have humane standards. You know, what sets us apart from the bad guys? I'm sorry you don't feel the same way.

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 3, 2005 5:06:24 PM

Fuck you, Fred. Really. You're usually fine, but when trying to create moral equivalence between those killed in a war we started and those tortured to death while looking for their sons, you've crossed into disgusting territory.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Aug 3, 2005 9:20:42 PM

No, you're right, Fred. There is not and should not be a moral equivelence drawn between the 9/11 attackers and what the US did to Abed Hamed Mowhoush.

Because, you see, to me, from my perspective, what we did was worse. The 9/11 attackers can kill us, can terrorize us, and, worst of all, can make us have to try to take bin Laden's idea of a worldwide caliphate seriously (man's a loon). But they cannot touch my honor. After 9/11, I and every US citizen could stand before the world and say, 'Look at this injustice. Help us, aid us in stopping this.'

Only WE have the power to destroy our honor. Only WE have the ability to lower ourselves to the same standards of our enemies. Only WE, as US citizens, can choose to fight with honor against people with no honor. And we have chosen. And we chose torture. We chose slaughter. We chose Abu Gharib, Guantanimo Bay, and Abed Hamed Mowhoush's murder at the hands of the US military, a murder fully planned and executed by the polcies of the Bush Administration. We are all culpable, we are all guilty, all our honor is cast to nothing.

There is nothing so sickening to me than to watch George Bush stand and speak, pretending to be heir to all the good things the US has brought to the world. He is a monster and an evil man, and he has brought us lower than bin Laden could ever have done.

Posted by: NBarnes | Aug 3, 2005 10:15:10 PM

Wow! What a backlash for simply asking where the missing consideration for the troops was when discussing this war. Does the left really "support the troops" as they have claimed, or are the conservatives right when they say the left doesn't? I see no support here, that's for sure.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 4, 2005 5:59:02 AM

Fred: You disgust me. Pretending that having contempt for Bush for his grossly immoral policies somehow calls my patriotism into question is a rhetorical device many dishonest and dishonorable men would still hesitate to take up. But you show little compunction against fearlessly trolling forth were others would fear to tred. I know that my patriotism is not lesser or weaker because of my beliefs; I know that my beliefs come from my patriotism. You believe that supporting the troops, apparently, somehow involves supporting their leadership. I believe that the troops deserve better, much, much better, than George W. Bush. The troops deserve better than a liar and a shirker of his own service to his country. The troops deserve better than the legacy of dishonor and lies the Bush Administration is leaving them. This country, this great country, deserves better than to be known, world-wide, as one of torturers, slaughterers, and warmongers.

Posted by: NBarnes | Aug 4, 2005 6:57:21 AM

Sorry guys, but as horrid as this account is I don't feel very sorry for this guy. If I'm not mistaken, he's a known henchman to Hussien whose culpability in summary executions, ect is really not in question here. What goes around comes around. The folks that conducted this "interrogation" need to be prosecuted to set an example. These techniques used here should never be employed on anyone, except when you have a "ticking bomb" scenario. Ask the Israeli's. When they have a known bad guy who has knowledge of an impending terrorist attack, how hard to you need to lean on him to stop it. It's a moral grey area from where I sit and trying to do the right thing vs. saving innocent lives it always going to be a tough question. Sitting in my comfortable home debating the moral ipmlications of torure (the above case is pretty clear cut, this guy should not have been handled this way, but he's no boyscout. to call him innocent is laughable) have no bearing for those who sit on the front lines every day making these calls. They might not make the correct decision every time, but I believe the do the majority and we just dont read about it in the news.

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 8:10:21 AM

They might not make the correct decision every time, but I believe the do the majority and we just dont read about it in the news.

I think that's probably true. But we are reading in the news about the administration wanting to torture people, so that's worth getting mad about, assuming one thinks torture is bad.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 4, 2005 9:10:25 AM

"I think that's probably true. But we are reading in the news about the administration wanting to torture people, so that's worth getting mad about, assuming one thinks torture is bad."

-Haggai

I agree torture is bad, should not be condoned/sanctioned/ect by anyone. This includes our current administration and upper echelon chain of command. Unfortunately I think (and I know I'm going to be pounced on for this) there are exceptions when you have an imminent threat that requires actionable intellegence from a known "bad guy" where innocent lives are at stake. On another note we need to remember that our military has over one million members and you will have bad characters who will take things into their own hands.

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 9:21:13 AM

I kinda dogged the last comment by Haggai. My apologies. If the adminstration condones torture for people who are NOT ticking bombs, that is flat out wrong. Lead by example, give little leway in issues such as this. Trust your commanders on the ground to determine who need to be treated with kid gloves, and who needs to be leaned on (again the "ticking bomb"). Make sure those on the ground will be held responsible for lethal lapses in judgement.

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 9:26:35 AM

David, a couple of issues:

(1) I don't agree that the supposed "ticking bomb" scenario warrants an exception, since I have a hard time understanding how exactly we would get into that situation without being thrust in the middle of a TV/movie script (how would we really KNOW there's a very specific imminent threat, how would we know this specific guy will know the specifics of that threat). I also think that the odds of falling down a slippery slope from saying "torture is OK, but only with a ticking time bomb," in theory, to torturing a whole lot of other people (including innocents), in practice, are infinitely greater than actually accomplishing anything by explicitly allowing for torture in certain situations. However, this is a serious question that deserves serious debate, and I certainly don't think anyone should pounce on you for it.

(2) But the different issue is that the administration is actively blocking legislation to prevent torture, has done plenty of things to encourage loosening the rules, etc. No "ticking bomb" scenarios have been demonstrated, but we already know that plenty of people who shouldn't have been tortured (even allowing for that exception) have been. Bush and company just want to be able to torture people, period, whenever they see fit. I don't see any way that these people can be trusted to implement anything on this front.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 4, 2005 9:31:44 AM

Ah, your most recent comment came while I was posting mine. I think the situation is that while the administration might say they only want to torture "ticking bombs" (although they just say that they don't want to be "restricted" in how they can fight terror), they've responded to the numerous documented instances of abuse and torture at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, etc. by refusing to tolerate any dissent on their policies, blaming "a few bad apples," etc. They're simply avoiding responsibility for what's happening on their watch. And there's plenty of reason to believe that they don't mind what's been happening very much at all.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 4, 2005 9:35:33 AM

Haggai, I believe that there are situations that warrent a firm hand when you have an imminent threat. There are situations out in the real world where suicide bombers have been intercepted on their way to a target. Not all of those terrorist are discovered at a checkpoint by a suspicious soldier/policeman. Some are identified by intellegence gleened from suspects/informents (maybe as a result of torture, who knows). You do make an excellent point about how this is a slippery slope, and I do not have any answers on how to prevent sliding into the abyss.

On the political front, I have no love for our current administration. I didn't think going into Iraq made any sense (we need to devote efforts in afghanistan to help that country get on its feet). The fact is that we are there now, and need to get that country up on its feet too. I'm still trying to get my hands around the situation there. The mainstream media has been somewhat lacking in its coverage, so i've resorted to trolling any number of blogs to get a better handle. One i've found helpful is:
http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/
This guy is embeded with US troops in Mosul and has some pretty interesting opinions on what goes on. He calls it like he see's it. He's not left or right, just there.

On another note, it's great that we can debate this issue without worrying about a knock on our door and being led away by some sort of secret police! Aint' this country great!

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 10:09:54 AM

First thing,

As David pointed out, the description given by Ezra: "And if a few innocents who wander into US bases to find their sons, like Mowhoush, get viciously beaten, thrown into a sleeping bag, and whipped to death, then so be it."

Is a huge distortion. Mowhoush, for everything I can tell, was not an innocent who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a bad dude. He probably deserved death numerous times over.

To be clear, I don't think that he should have been killed like he was. Obviously that was a mistake and certainly at least the soldiers responsible should (and are) being prosecuted for it. Nonetheless, Ezra's characterization here of Mowhoush as an 'innocent' is emblemic of why debate on this subject tends to be so unproductive.

I think Ezra should make a correction.

Now, the contention that Bush's policies are at fault rather than it being 'a few bad apples' is a serious one to make. I think that it is at least partially true in that the Bush administration has not dealt very well with the illegal combatant issue (as an aside, I don't think the left has helped in this by pretending that their is no difference between legal and illegal combatants.) However, there is a gap between not being especially clear and promoting torture. I have not seen any good arguments that manage to bridge this gap.

In every war we have fought POWs have been killed by our soldiers. Our soldiers have tortured the enemy. Unless every administration who has lead our nation to war has promoted torture, the 'bad apples' scenario is real. I haven't seen any evidence that torture or abuse is more widespread than in other wars (my guess is that the opposite is true.)

While we can, and should, do better, this discussion will only be productive if those who are trying to reduce this sort of thing abandon their pre-concieved conclusions that Bush is the source of all that is wrong in the world and actually look at how to make things better.

I doubt that will happen though, as the dirty little secret of this debate is that a torturing President is more desirable and useful then actually reducing torture is. The myth is more important than the reality.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Aug 4, 2005 10:21:47 AM

I think Mr. Justus does a better job than I.

Posted by: David | Aug 4, 2005 11:06:08 AM

Wow! What a backlash for simply asking where the missing consideration for the troops was when discussing this war. Does the left really "support the troops" as they have claimed, or are the conservatives right when they say the left doesn't? I see no support here, that's for sure.

What missing consideration? We liberals consider it everyday! First of all, in general liberals didn't think we should be there in the first place. But that aside, we called for more troops to actually have a commanding presence on the ground during the occupation (clearly the biggest fuckup.) We called for appropriately equipped and armored troops and humvees. We called for raising the death and health benefits to the fallen and injured. We called for more Moslem and Arab interpreters to pour over the thousands of hours of intellgence sitting somewhere, useless.

And finally, we call for sane, appropriate treatment and interrogation of suspects because that's what the Arab world will see of what it means to be an American, to be a human with certain inalienable rights. The more hearts and minds we win over, the less scumbag insurgents and terrorists there will be to fight us.

So stop making shit up.

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 4, 2005 11:18:00 AM

In every war we have fought POWs have been killed by our soldiers. Our soldiers have tortured the enemy. Unless every administration who has lead our nation to war has promoted torture, the 'bad apples' scenario is real. I haven't seen any evidence that torture or abuse is more widespread than in other wars (my guess is that the opposite is true.)

What do previous wars have to do with it? We dropped nuclear bombs in a previous war, but I sure as hell hope that wouldn't be used as any sort of justification for doing it today.

Undoubtedly there have been some "bad apples" in the recent Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib torture cases. And that's still not an excuse for the increasingly indisputable fact that the Bush administration is explicitly in favor of using torture, and has explictly resisted any efforts to curtail or regulate its use. That's what the issue is, and pretending otherwise is dishonest.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 4, 2005 11:24:17 AM

The myth is more important than the reality.

Yes...to the Republicans, so that they can paint anyone who questions military policies as anti-troop.

Gimme a break Dave. If this Administration was serious enough about this, they would acknowledge that those Rumsfeld memos had something to do with this. To them, the biggest f up was those pictures going public, not the fact that it happened. So how am I supposed to find any arguable common ground with someone like that?

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 4, 2005 11:44:39 AM

Adrock,

The point about the previous wars is, you contend that without Bush in charge these abuses would not have happened. Since similar abuses occured in other wars, and Bush was not in charge of those wars, that conclusion seems unproven to me.

I agree that the Bush administration is in favor of having a freer hand. I am not convinced that they are in favor of torture. What is and is not torture and where we draw the line (and when, if ever the line should change) I think are serious issues that deserve serious debate. I don't think either pro-war Republicans (and I include the Bush administration in this) or anti-war Democrats have done a good job at dealing with this debate in an honest fashion.

That said, your argument that the 'bad apples' is irrelevant to this debate only has as much merit as saying the specific instances of torture, like the Mowhoush case don't have any merit in this debate. As this post rests on the notion that this case is an example of what Bush's policies have caused, then it is fair to refute that example by an alternate explanation for the cause of this event. Trying to then claim that 'bad apples' don't matter, that the underlying narative is still true is not a fair method of argument.

I don't agree with your claim that the administration felt that the pictures going public was the biggest f-up. Abu Ghraib wasn't uncovered by brilliant investigative journalism, it was uncovered by a military investigation.

That said, I fully agree that the administration hasn't dealt with this issue well or seriously. I fault them for that. Their critics make it easy for them to do so however by not mounting serious criticism. That is why I conclude that the myth is more important than the reality.

Certainly I will agree that this is not a phenomenon that is is unique to those on the left, the right has it's cherished myths as well.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Aug 4, 2005 12:10:29 PM

The point about the previous wars is, you contend that without Bush in charge these abuses would not have happened.

Who's saying that? Has anyone actually said that? Not to my recollection.

Torture has happened, on their watch. Their policies undoubtedly have at least some effect on what happens. Torture = good or bad? Bush policies = pro or anti torture? Once again, those are the relevant questions.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 4, 2005 12:59:54 PM

Fuck you, Fred. Really.

So, if I don't agree with you, this is the result?

I really expected more than this, especially from you. If I wanted to hear "fuck this", "fuck that" and "fuck you" I could post on pandagon.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 4, 2005 2:15:24 PM

Abu Ghraib wasn't uncovered by brilliant investigative journalism, it was uncovered by a military investigation.

I thought the pictures were leaked, then there was a military investigation. Thats the timeline.

I wish I had those memos in front of me. But I'm at work, and don't have the time to do it. Andrew Sullivan had some of the best writeups on the connection and why it went straight the chain of command, but his archives for '05 don't appear to work. Then we saw the entire Bush team try to explain away the situation using terms similar to "gray area."

I wish I had the time to debate this, AGAIN, but as far as I'm concerned, we already have and its a done deal. If you don't wish to "see" it that way, then so be it.

Posted by: Adrock | Aug 5, 2005 10:23:27 AM

Hey, Fred, this is America, land of the brave and home of the free.

If you're not brave enough to tolerate a few curse words thrown your way here, then you're free to go somewhere else that will tolerate your stupidities.

Ezra is under no obligation to let you, me, or anyone else here post or post unchallenged. Last time I checked, he pays for the site with his own money.

As Steve Gilliard told someone recently, don't like what you read here, there's always blogger.com.

Also, it's funny that you get all worked up about the 'f-word' when one can see that your own problems about respectful language and respecting others by perusing the archives here and seeing your little 'remarks' about Amamda at Pandagon.net, or seeing the stuff of yours under "Robert Zimmerman" when you were posting there.

LOL!

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Aug 5, 2005 12:34:54 PM

Should be Amanda. Oops!

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Aug 5, 2005 12:36:50 PM

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