Friday, May 20, 2005

Is This Torture Or Misplaced Outrage?

Someone ask Rush Limbaugh whether the following account from an internal Army investigation would constitute torture. Maybe this is just another example of fraternity type hazing, or just some soldiers blowing off steam in a harmless, but irreverent, manner. While you're at it, please inquire with Senator James Inhofe's office as to whether or not my display of disgust over this incident will lead to his outrage. He has been known to lose patience with the complaints of us shocked at torture-sodomy-and murder crowd. Apparently, we offend his Christian sensibilities.

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.

The story of Mr. Dilawar's brutal death at the Bagram Collection Point - and that of another detainee, Habibullah, who died there six days earlier in December 2002 - emerge from a nearly 2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.
As the Armchair Generalist put it, naturally, I blame Newsweek for this. Or perhaps Dan Rather is implicated in some way. If all else fails, there is always the familiar target of the New York Times to take aim at. But before you scoff at my snark, consider this post from Arthur Chrenkoff. He actually does blame the media - and liberals too, to the extent that he bothers to differentiate between the two. So much for the ideology of personal responsibility. You see, its not that these heinous incidents occurred, its that those nasty, back-stabbing liberals went and told everybody about it. I guess things would be better if our press would just ignore the messy, discomforting little details and only reported the positive, kind of like....why, Arthur Chrenkoff! That way we can finally paint over whatever remaining window there is into understanding how and why the rest of the world view us the way they do. The warm, anesthetized embrace of a cocoon.

Speaking of the increasingly quaint notion of "responsibility," and how our actions translate on the world stage, I wonder if anyone will be held accountable for this:

"There was nothing that prepared us for running an interrogation operation" like the one at Bagram, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sgt. Steven W. Loring, later told investigators.

Nor were the rules of engagement very clear. The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.

"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.
I have a better idea, why don't we defend, laud, pin medals on, promote or retain everyone involved in any way in justifying torture or arguing that the Geneva Conventions don't apply (Gonzales, Bybee, Woo, Rumsfeld, etc.). Here's the trick: just don't let the press report this to the rest of the world, and they'll never know.

By all means though, read the rest of the Times story for what is still just a partial accounting of the many horrific events in just a handful of the overall cases of abuse that occurred all over Iraq including, but not limited to, Abu Ghraib, as well as Afghanistan, Gitmo, and numerous ghost detention facilities dispersed around the globe. After you're done, see what the conservative blogosphere has to say about these incidents. Here is Time Magazine's
Blog of the Year (via what would have been a far better choice, Digby):

I really think that calling Newsweek's blunder "the press's Abu Ghraib" is unfair to the low-lifes who carried out the Abu Ghraib abuses. After all, they didn't even hurt anyone, let alone kill them. And the people they abused were almost certainly terrorists. One can't say the same for the people who were murdered in the riots that foreseeably followed Newsweek's story.
No one died huh? Really?

Then there's Glenn Reynolds criticizing fellow conservative Andrew Sullivan (via the more principled conservative,
Greg Djerejian):

"When Andrew was a champion of the war on terror, writing about martial spirit and fifth columns composed of the "decadent left," did he believe that nothing like Abu Ghraib would happen, when such things (and much worse) happen in prisons across America (and everywhere else) on a daily basis? If so, he was writing out of an appalling ignorance"
I am by no means a champion of the prison system in the United States, nor an apologist for what goes on behind bars, but this is taking it a bit far. There have been over two dozen deaths at American detention facilities - some of them ruled homicides despite the obvious pressure to conceal the circumstances of these deaths. Reynolds' attempt to explain away these events as par for the course is unacceptable. The deplorable condition of the one does not excuse the other.

The obvious retort might be that both these quotes reference Abu Ghraib and not Bagram or the many other locations where abuse, torture, murder and sodomy occurred. My response to that is as follows: these guys insist on using "Abu Ghraib" as a euphemism for all such facilities, while ignoring the inconvenient evidence to the contrary, and in the process attempt to minimize the full range of events to one narrow geographical and temporal sliver. I'm not going to accommodate that effort. When they own up to the full range of murder, sodomy, sexual assault, torture and violence that occurred, then we can talk about parsing words.

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