“Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation” -James Madison

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gathering information

The United States Senate is embroiled once again in a battle that involves by necessity ties to various concepts including national defense, information-gathering, preservation of historical treaties, validity of those same treaties, philosophy, self-image, external image, civilian/military relationships, and congressional power. This battle is of course the debate regarding "torture" and acceptable treatment of detainees captured in WoT battles, plucked from the fields of Afghanistan and the suburbs of Baghdad.

Most people paying attention are familiar with the basics of the conversation -- the detainees are held indefinitely in military prisons external to the US, are questioned through a variety of means to determine their knowledge of operations and to extract that knowledge, and then are processed and returned home for further imprisonment or freedom (such as it is in their native lands). The means of questioning range from good cop - bad cop to "aggressive questioning" methods, many of which are experienced on a daily basis in your average frat house or latch-key household where at least 4 teenaged boys gather. Sleep deprivation, waterboarding, attention-slapping, temperature control, and various forms of humiliation are all examples of these more aggressive methods. Sadly, some rogue soldiers, in the tradition of bad cops and bad teachers, chose to abuse that authority and perform acts of humiliation on the prisoners not for information-extraction purposes, but for their own amusement.

The infamous Guantanamo Bay photos were the end of a situation that never should have happened, and they triggered another situation that should not be happening now. The investigation by the military was well-established and was in the process of resolution and punishment of those soldiers by the time the photos were leaked to the press. The public outrage since led to the WoT being taken to the courtrooms instead of the battlefield. Zacarias Moussaoui was allowed to rant and rave for weeks in an open public platform with full media attention during his trial. The Supreme Court followed up by granting the detainees FULL POW STATUS (effectively putting the ball back in Congress' hands) in accordance with the Geneva Convention, despite the fact that they have not met the conditions laid down therein:

From Wikipedia:
  • Article 4 defines prisoners of war to include:
    • 4.1.1 Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict and members of militias of such armed forces
    • 4.1.2 Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:
      • that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
      • that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I);
      • that of carrying arms openly;
      • that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
    • 4.1.3 Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
    • 4.1.4 Civilians who have non-combat support roles with the military and who carry a valid identity card issued by the military they support.
    • 4.1.5 Merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.
    • 4.1.6 Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.
    • 4.3 makes explicit that Article 33 takes precedence for the treatment of medical personnel of the enemy and chaplains of the enemy.
  • Article 5 specifies that prisoners of war (as defined in article 4) are protected from the time of their capture until their final repatriation. It also specifies that when there is any doubt as to whether a combatant belongs to the categories in article 4, they should be treated as such until their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.
The people at Gitmo are not innocent. They were taken prisoner either following a battle in which they attempted to kill American soldiers or in raids designed to break up and capture individuals planning on killing American soldiers or innocent civilians in the future. These are not passers-by, nor are they examples of the good parts of their society. They are not eligible for the same constitutional guarantees enjoyed by American citizens. They are military prisoners.

They are killers, and they wish to do to us what their brethren did on 9/11, and worse. They are cowards who hide behind civilians, who fire rockets and RPGs from civilian apartment buildings, who bury IEDs in public roads, who open fire on any group of people whether it be at a marketplace, schoolyard, or police station where others gather to join in the fight for civilization.

They swear allegiance to no nation save the Nation of Allah, carry no flag, are not a part of any national force bound by the legal definitions of war-making powers, and can in no way be classified "soldiers".

They have no respect for the Geneva Convention -- the unfortunates captured by the terrorists are in for true torture, starvation, beatings, rape, coerced conversion, forced confessions, death by shooting or beheading, and desecration of their corpse.

This is not to say that we should descend to the level of the barbarian. We *ARE* better than them, our civilization *IS* superior, and we owe it more to ourselves than to them that we treat them humanely. Torture is not, and should not be, an option.


To begin, most people misunderstand "torture," which is defined primarily as "the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty" and secondarily as "extreme anguish of body or mind; agony."

It does NOT mean "making someone uncomfortable." The word "excruciating" is key in the first definition, and "extreme" is key in the second. Perhaps I am jaded, but I do not view putting panties on someone's head "excruciating" or "extreme" (even if they need washing), as I am sure most Americans agree.

People love the cop shows like "Law and Order" and "CSI" where the Angry Cop throws the Really Bad Guy around the interrogation room until RBG tells AC where the body of his latest 5-year-old victim can be found. We cheer for Angry Cop and take great delight when Really Bad Guy gives in.

But let a Marine play Kid Rock loud and turn the air conditioning way down to 60 in order to make Mohammed Turban too uncomfortable to sleep, and the media (along with the sheeple) go nuts.

For pete's sake, we give these people prayer mats, specially-designed food so their "faith" remains intact, and even re-orient the toilets so they're not facing Mecca when they go Number Two!

And now we are told by our own Supreme Court and the court of world opinion that we are too harsh, that our methods are too severe and inhumane, and that we must simply ask the prisoners nicely to give us what they know.

So our Senate is embroiled in the debate mentioned above. We are attempting to codify the vaguely-worded sections of the Geneva Convention to be more precise so as to let our soldiers know exactly what the US considers appropriate and what it does not. Recently the President signed a bill that codified the military-tribunal requirement portion of the larger debate. Detractors (mostly the Dems but also a surprisingly large number of Repubs) claim that we are wrong to try to define the Geneva Convention for ourselves because that will allow other nations to do so as well, and that they might not be equal.

Well, yippee skip -- look who just discovered the inherent weakness of the Geneva Convention. It was a feel-good reactionary document that was largely ignored from its inception and has best been used as a club by Really Bad People against the collective national conscience of those who would abide by it. Like the United Nations, it was a nice idea that could not work in reality that has been around far too long and has attained far too much stature relative to its true worth. I would welcome withdrawing from both, as if that were a realistic possibility.

This post is not meant as a plea to perform torture. I do not wish to resort to beheadings, maimings, or other true forms of torture, even on the Really Bad Guys. But we need to leave our military guys alone -- the methods they have been using have worked far more often than they have not, and it is only when the media and Congress get involved that things go to hell.

Let them sleep-deprive the detainees, or waterboard (which is *NOT* torture), or slap 'em around a little. Take away the prayer mats, re-orient the toilets, and cut the food to simple water and basic nutritional requirements. Leave it in the realm of the military and get rid of the lawyers.

Most of all, make them aware that they are not going anywhere until either they talk or we are satisfied that they don't know anything. Make it indefinite, unpleasant, and therefore more worthwhile to submit. That is, after all, the literal translation of the name of their religion.


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