Anna Gregoline | May 6, 2004
I normally hate the Sun Times, but I liked their headline this morning, something about Bush telling the Arab world that the torture does not reflect the heart of Americans, but he didn't say he was sorry. Apologies go a long way, dude.

I really just wanted to post this about the Iraqi torture, which, if it's true, is amazingly disgusting.

Anna Gregoline | May 6, 2004
I think he apologized now, after bad press, probably.

Melissa Erin | May 6, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 6, 2004
Apologies indicate fault, and that's why presidents, especially this one, don't apologize. I heard he only apologized to the King of Jordon. How about an apology to the Iraqi people?

Whatever the short term events, I hope that history remembers Bush as an evil, arrogant man.

Melissa Erin | May 6, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 6, 2004
I'd say that at the very least, waging two wars during four years of presidency is pretty memorable.

I respected Gore's character - he was really chewed up by the media, but I think he is a decent guy.

Jackie Mason | May 6, 2004
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Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
What I find interesting is that everyone in this country seems focused on the political fallout from all of this. Who will be belamed? Will this affect the election? These questions seem to be the order of the day.

I agree that this is a horrifying moment. I don't think it reflects on the vast majority of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. And much as I vehemently oppose the war and Bush in general, I don't think these instances of torture reflect on him in any moral sense. It's not like he advocates torture. The administration has eitehr covered this up, or was simply so out-of-touch as to be oblivious to these events until the story broke. Either of those inescapable alternatives is, in my opinion, a very good argument against retaining the Bush administration come November.

But in the long run, the real problem isn't here, it's in the Middle East, where these pictures will be used as evidence by every repressive regime, every Al Quaeda recruiter, every Iraqi militant, that the United States' fine talk of toppling Saddam's brutal government and overthrowing tyranny are complete lies. The soldiers who did this may as well have thrown grenades at their buddies, or at people in this country, and they've helped prop up any number of dictatorships from Saudi Arabia to North Korea by letting anyoen in charge of those countries say, "Look, see, every other country does this. Even democracies, and even that self-appointed savior America."

Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
And for anyone who thinks that the photos are all there is to this, here is an article excerpt from the official report on the torture, as submitted by a Major-General in the U.S. Army.

I Warn you, skip the italics portion if you don't want to read overly graphic material:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

Oh, and if you're moribidly curious, Rush Limbaugh referred to the incidents as "fraternity hazing" on his radio program.

Melissa Erin | May 7, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
One could say that many administrations have advocated torture - Quantanomo Bay.

Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
Melissa, do you believe that all of the prisoners of war that were tortured were the same people who killed U.S. civilians and drug them through the streets? Just as the soldiers that participated in the torture are not reflective of the whole of our army, the people who we've tortured certainly don't reflect the majority of Iraqis.

They're worse than us so it's not so bad that we're bad to them? Two wrongs don't make a right.

Sorry if I sound mean at all, I'm just a bit shocked.

Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
And no way does "sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick" sound like hazing to me. That's rape, and if fraternity members are raping their new recruits, well than hazing is sicker than I thought.

Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
They didn't just threaten prisoners with rape, Melissa; according to the report, they actually raped one of them with a broomstick. In addition, poruring phosphoric chemicals onto soemone is the same thing as burning them. That's what phosphoric chemicals do -- they burn.

Yes, some Iraqis did horrible things to the corpses of four contractors. These soldiers systematically brutalized prisoners starting in November of 2003 and ending, apparently, now that these pictures have finally come out and broken the story.

Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
Oh, I'd also note that the prison doesn't just house captured fighters, but also people picked up by caolitionb authorities oin suspicion of terrorist affiliations. Suspicion, last I checked, isn't the same thing as certain guilt. And certainly I've read of Iraqis being released weeks after their arrests once it was determined that no such links existed.

Jackie Mason | May 7, 2004
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Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
Don't waste your time trying to defend these soldiers. They raped and tortured, and took pictures of it as though it were a fun little vacation.

I just worry that the message to Iraqis and the rest of the world from this will be, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

I also worry about the fact that, because 19 people, none of whom, were from Iraq, murdered 3000 strangers three years ago; and because a crowd murdered four people in Fallujah some months ago; it's "not too bad" if U.S. troops torture and rape Iraqi prisoners from various parts of that country. After all, they're just Muslim terrorists, right, not human beings?

I'm still not arguing that these troops indict the whole army. I am, however, now going to argue that the vocal, visible willingness on the part of many to defend such actions or at least try and minimize them represents a loss of that "moral high ground" that's so stridently used to justify both this war and American exceptionalism in general.

Melissa Erin | May 7, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
I wouldn't be surprised at anything fraternitys do, because those cultures are so warped to me.

but after hearing about so many more horrible things that have been done to people, I have a hard time classifying those things as "torture."

You don't classify rape as torture? I've had two friends who have been raped, and it is about the worst thing I can imagine someone having to go through.

(Think about it this way too - if the situation was reversed, and all these things were happening to American prisoners of war, would you consider it torture?)

Melissa Erin | May 7, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
Rape can be long and drawn out (and always is such, really, since the person deals with it psychologically for the rest of their lives) and is incredibly physically painful, so I guess I don't understand what your defining difference is between the two.

Anna Gregoline | May 7, 2004
Scott likes definitions, and I do too:

Main Entry: 1tor·ture
Pronunciation: 'tor-ch&r
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Late Latin tortura, from Latin tortus, past participle of torquEre to twist; probably akin to Old High German drAhsil turner, Greek atraktos spindle
1 a : anguish of body or mind : AGONY b : something that causes agony or pain
2 : the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure
3 : distortion or overrefinement of a meaning or an argument : STRAINING

Sounds like it fits the definition easily.

Melissa Erin | May 7, 2004
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Kris Weberg | May 7, 2004
Actually, George W. Bush has called rape a form of torture. He spent quite a lot of time in his speeches about the evil of Saddam harping on Saddam's "rape rooms," and often equated them with torture.

Rape is also considered a form of torture under international law, including the Geneva Convention governing treatment of POWs.

I also can't really buy into the "state of mind" defense. Our own legal system doesn't waive charges if we discover that a criminal had an abusive childhood, or even of the criminal is a war veteran.

If it can't be applied ina court of law, I fial to see why it's any kind of defense for these soldiers or their actions. Especially since it seems like the overwhelming majority of their fellow soldiers managed to see action and not resort to torture. Of course, there are always a few who use any cause as an excuse. Like the soldier who tricked an Iraqi into posing in a phot with him, holding a signt hat read (in English, which the kid couldn't read): Lt. Corporal Bordreux killed my dad and knocked up my sister."

For awhile, some commentators opined that the photo had been manipulated, but the guy's own commanding officer seemed to think it had actually happened as pictured. And so does the Marine Corps wn news service. All the Marines are currently investigating is whether the Lcpl. did in fact kill the boy's fatehr and impregnate his sister, or as they put it, "if the claims on the sign are true." Interestingly, a fake photoshopped sign with much nicer sentiments -- "Lcpl. Bordreaux saved my dad, then he rescued my sister" was peddled by various onlione sorts as the "real thing" for a while, so loath were people to believe that 19-year-old idiots in the Marines might act like, well, 19-year-old idiots anywhere else.

Of course, raping someone with a broomstick leapfrogs "fraternity hazing" and "boys will be boys" by some margin.

So yes, I agree that soldiers are only human, but if we don't tolerate gross failures of that humanity in open society, why on earth should we tolerate them in the military, where discipline, character, and judgement are literally matters of life and death?

Melissa Erin | May 8, 2004
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Jackie Mason | May 8, 2004
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Scott Hardie | May 8, 2004
I'm with Melissa on this: The abuse was terrible, and nobody's saying it wasn't, but let's keep it in perspective. As ashamed as I am of the soldiers who did this (and worried for what effect it will have on our nearly pointless campaign for the "hearts and minds" of Iraqis), I find myself feeling glad that this is the worst that our military's deviant sickos can come up with. Rape and murder by unchecked American soldiers were a widespread problem in Vietnam, so if we're not yet the faultless humanitarians we mean to be, at least we're making progress.

When this story broke, I remember reading that the abuse was ordered by officers for purposes of interrogation, not necessarily instigated by soldiers. Now I can't find any mention of that in the news. What did I miss?

As for why the Pentagon didn't acknowledge this abuse earlier if it knew about it for the past two months: I think Rummy said in his testimony today that when it crossed his desk, the abuse was described in vague terms, nothing specific or graphic like the photographs running in the Washington Post, so he didn't realize the magnitude of it at the time. I doubt that this excuse should get him off the hook, but I can imagine how such a thing just gets easier to overlook as it gets mentioned higher up the ladder.

Kris Weberg | May 8, 2004
Rape and murder? here you go:

Rumsfeld did not describe the photos, but U.S. military officials told NBC News that the unreleased images showed U.S. soldiers severely beating an Iraqi prisoner nearly to death, having sex with a female Iraqi female prisoner and “acting inappropriately with a dead body.” The officials said there was also a videotape, apparently shot by U.S. personnel, showing Iraqi guards raping young boys.

This sounds pretty graphic to me. And apparently, based on this story, someone lower down in the ranks had been holding back the tapes and photos that depict the worst of it.

Kris Weberg | May 8, 2004
Oh, and I found the source of the "ordered by superiors" idea in the article linked above:

"The Defense Department said the photos were taken by a small number of soldiers for their own pleasure. But military officials told NBC News that nude photos were often used as an interrogation technique, saying interrogators would threaten to release the photos of prisoners unless they cooperated."

Anna Gregoline | May 8, 2004
Yeah, I don't know why anyone would take this any less seriously than it actually is - I don't think I can comment on this thread anymore.

Kris Weberg | May 9, 2004
Looks like the "few bad apples" defense is out too, based on this article from the Baltmore Sun:

WIESBADEN, Germany - The two military intelligence soldiers, assigned interrogation duties at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, were young, relatively new to the Army and had only one day of training on how to pry information from high-value prisoners.

But almost immediately on their arrival in Iraq, say the two members of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, they recognized that what was happening around them was wrong, morally and legally.

They said in interviews Friday and yesterday that the abuses were not caused by a handful of rogue soldiers poorly supervised and lacking morals but resulted from failures that went beyond the low-ranking military police charged with abuse


As described by the soldiers, military intelligence was under enormous pressure to get "actionable intelligence" during this time. The soldiers were working from two lists of tactics to get Iraqis to talk.

The "A" list included directly asking for information as well as relatively mild interrogation techniques, such as becoming angry with the prisoner or threatening to withhold meals - but not actually doing so. The interrogators were free to use these techniques at their will.

The "B" list included harsher techniques, such as sleep deprivation and withholding meals.

These techniques were considered acceptable, but because they were also considered close to the line of abuse, the interrogators could not use them without permission from their commanding officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, or his designate.

Around November, with casualties among U.S. troops rising, Saddam Hussein still in hiding and solid intelligence becoming more urgent, Pappas issued an order that broadened acceptable interrogation methods.

"I think he was referring to any techniques on the A and B lists," the soldier said. "But there was kind of the third list, the unofficial list. Guys called that the 'made-up list.'"


The made-up list spawned a couple of other terms, the soldiers said: "going cowboy" and "wild, wild west."

"I don't know where they got this from, but the MPs would say it all the time," one of the soldiers said. "MI would drop off a guy who wasn't talking, and the MP would say, 'So looks like I'll be going cowboy on him' or 'Looks like he needs some wild, wild west.'"

The terms meant beatings, they said, and the military intelligence interrogators and private contractors did nothing to discourage them.

Nor does it sound like all these guys were nsurgents or terrorists, and certainly not all were from Fallujah:

The Iraqi prisoners were divided into two main categories: common criminals and "MI Hold," military shorthand for those designated as potential sources of intelligence information.

The MI Hold section, where it is believed many of the naked and abused Iraqis were photographed, was subdivided into two camps, Camp Vigilant and Isolation.

Procedure dictated that prisoners in MI Hold had to be interrogated at least three times before being released, though the soldiers interviewed for this article said they quickly determined that at least 25 percent of those locked in this section had done nothing wrong and even fewer were of any intelligence value.

For months, though, prisoners languished, contributing to unrest at Abu Ghraib, which led to riots and the killing of several Iraqis by the Army.

"Some of these guys didn't even have paperwork or files for me to read before I could get them in the [interrogation] booth," one of the soldiers said. "I'm sorry if it sounds mean, but I wasn't there to do humanitarian work, so I wasn't going to take someone in just so I could get him released. There were other prisoners we thought had information that would help us save lives, so they were our priority. Those were the guys we took in the booth."

What an atrocious mess.

(Sorry to quote so much of the article, but I like to present it up-front for those who don't want to wade throuygh the whole thing.)

Kris Weberg | May 9, 2004
Also disturbing, from the same article:

"Many of the military intelligence interrogators were paired with private contractors from CACI International and with linguists from Titan Inc. The soldiers said most of those employees seemed to operate with autonomy, seemingly answerable to nobody in the command.

'They would say it right out, that 'we don't answer to you,'' one of the soldiers said. The Taguba report recommended that two of the contractors employed by CACI be dismissed."

Jackie Mason | May 10, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 11, 2004
Yeah, really. Who cares if they even were Al Qaieda, why should we stoop to their level?

Melissa Erin | May 11, 2004
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Kris Weberg | May 12, 2004
Melissa, the Red Cross has been reporting the abuses since late last year, as have Amnesty Intrernational and otehr human rights organizations.

Melissa Erin | May 12, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 12, 2004
Right, which while such cause and effect happenings would have occured with just the invasion, it's all the more reason why our soldiers shouldn't be abusing Iraqi prisoners. I'm becoming more ashamed of our country's actions every day. Now is a bad, bad time for us.

Melissa Erin | May 12, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 12, 2004
Oh definitely - that's one of the aspects of those particular pictures, that it's insanely degrading to Iraqi men. I don't think that we even can understand it.

Anna Gregoline | May 12, 2004
I just keep thinking about this stuff in reverse. I feel we have no reason to be outraged at the latest beheading thing - although many people around me/news seems to be. I think that if the same situation was happening here, and the American public had access to the Iraqi public? That you'd see lots and lots of abuse and death towards them. Enough hate crimes happen in our nation without provocation, so I can only imagine what our people would do to the average Iraqi if they could get their hands on them.

Not that this excuses soldiers to do these things.

Scott Hardie | May 13, 2004
Sorry, Anna, but I am also outraged by the beheading. Degradation of prisoners is bad. Soldiers shooting civilians by accident is bad. Suicide bombings are bad. This is worse: This is five sane civilians committing premeditated murder of an innocent civilian in ice-cold blood. Maybe they truly thought it could serve a political cause (it won't), but their main reasons for doing it were vengeance and anger. It is totally inexcusable, just as much as it would be if five Americans tied up one innocent Iraqi for eleven hours, then held him down and slid his throat. We should not let our outrage get the better of us and retaliate for it, but we should be outraged.

I hope two lessons can be learned from this incident:
A) There are some things worse than degradation in prison by a foreign occupation.
B) When your own government warns you to get the hell out of some country for the sake of your life, you get the hell out of that country. (Berg's family claims he never would have ignored government warnings and thinks they were not given to him, but I'm not so sure.)

Scott Hardie | May 13, 2004
If you doubt that the beheading is worth the controversy, watch the complete video online in gory detail.

Kris Weberg | May 13, 2004
Yes, the murder of an innocent civilian in cold blood for any reason is a pure, simple atrocity. It's essentially the worst act I can imagine, unless of course you gleefully videotape the murder for "political" purposes.

I would also echo remark that the murder of Nick Berg does not justify or erase the lesser, but still criminal actions of U.S. troops and Iraqi allies at Abu Ghraib prison, any more than a corrupt cop should escape investigation and prosecution because Jeffrey Dahmer is on the loose.

I am saddened by the fact that, perversely, I expect horrible crimes to be committed by terrorists and insurgents. Perhaps I'm more outraged by the actions of U.S. troops because, while less horrific in most regards, they have been committed by those who are supposed to stand in some kind of moral opposition to people like Al-Zarqawi.

As to the second lesson, I don't know who to believe.

Berg's family were in fact trying to sue because Berg was apparently detained for 13 days by our own forces after Iraqi secruity forces arrested him for reasons not yet clear. Berg was given no access to a telephone, no opportunity to contact an American consulate or other official who might have verified his identity, and was not provided any notion of why he was being held.

They filed suit April 5. He was "suddenly" released April 6. This woudl seem to be a matter of easily verifiable record. It may be that Berg was released because the lawsuit ironically provided the kind of documentation he needed. It may also be that the army sought to spare itself a lot of embarrassment when the suit was filed and a story threatened to break.

His family claims, as you note, that he was trying to leave as early as March 30. After his release, who knows -- but it sounds as though he stopped keeping in touch with his family at that point.

None of what little anyone knows about this mess adds up enough for me to believe either side in this matter. The army and the government have plenty of reason to claim their side if the family's accusations are true, and the family understandably want to believe that something could have happened differently to save Nick Berg.

One thing is clear, though -- no matter who detained him or why he was eventually released, the only people who deserve the blame for Nick Berg's death are the five men on that videotape.

(EDIT: I feel really rather stupid for having inadvertantly called Nick Berg by the name "David."

Kris Weberg | May 13, 2004
Is there really any "controversy" here? I doubt that the people who are as upset (or more upset) about the prisoner abuse and torture scandal aren't condemning the murder of Nick Berg. It's horrific, monstrous, and cruel.

But surely someone can understand why I'm more shocked at the supposed "good guys" -- our own troops -- doing bad things than I am at the notion that terrorists murder innocent people, often in horrible ways. The first is a shocking and unexpected act of indecency by people I thought better of. The second is a group of known murderers committing murder yet again, in a particularly gruesome fashion.

This is how I interpreted Anna's comment: like me, I think she is sickened and horrified by the graphic murder of Nicholas Berg. But I'm more outraged and honestly a bit more activist regarding the rape and brutalization of prisoners by our own troops. It shocks, enrages, and saddens me a lot more to see U.S. troops committing crimes against their prisoners than to see terrorists behaving like terrorists always have.

Will our outrage prevent terrorists from committing murder in the future? Hell no. They're fucking terrorists. We're already trying to kill them off. You don't get higher on the "not standing for it" scale than full-scale war.

Will our outrage perhaps help prevent U.S. troops from abusing and torturing prisoners in the future? Possibly.

I don't think I'm minimizing the seriousness of what happened to Nicholas Berg (or before him, journalist Richard Pearl, who was also beheaded on videotape by terrorists).

I'm just trying to remain aware of where my energy, focus, and, yes, outrage might actually change things or at least get people thinking about things they can change.

So unless people are angry enough over the murder of Nick Berg to actually sign up for the armed forces and go to Iraq -- which is, quite literally, the only way I can imagine to actually have a direct effect towards dealing with Al-Zarqawi and his band of murdering scum -- I think it's more useful to shout about things that our voices and potential votes could directly affect.

Everyone has a right, arguably a kind of moral duty, to be angry and horrified at Berg's murder. Nor do I advocate that we "just move on" or "forget about it." It's someone's life, it's gratuitous cruelty and a vision of evil. But in the end, it's going to be an impotent rage for most of us.

Anna Gregoline | May 13, 2004
Thanks, Kris, for clarifying me. You did it better than I could have, and you hit it right on the nose. We're supposed to be BETTER THAN THAT, which is why the soldier abuse is so much more shocking to me, than the fact that Iraqi terrorists/insurgents would do something like they did to an American. And I still stand with my previous statement - that if the average Joe American public had access to Iraqi civilians? We'd be seeing the same sort of murders towards them. I don't find it surprising. Upsetting, sure, but not surprising. I was, however, surprised that our troops are THAT brutal to prisoners.

I feel like lamenting the whole human race's downfalls right now, really.

Anna Gregoline | May 13, 2004
P.S. I don't think I need to watch the video of the beheading. Why would I doubt that it's worth controversey, Scott? It's a beheading for crying out loud. Of course it's disgusting and violent and worth controversey. Why should I seek out and see something like that? More than a few people I know said they wished they hadn't seen it. I think I'll pass.

Melissa Erin | May 13, 2004
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Anna Gregoline | May 13, 2004
Everytime I stop to THINK about it since 9/11, I've been terrified. Especially because I work in a big city next to many potential targets for terrorists (no, really, I'm literally surrounded by them on all sides - the Sears Tower, the Federal Reserve Bank, the trading place, etc.). I've known since 9/11 happened that it was only a matter of time before we have another event just as catestrophic as that one. We just have no idea when it will happen. But it will. I have no doubt of that.

Jackie Mason | May 13, 2004
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Kris Weberg | May 13, 2004
I thionk there's a fundamental misconception many people have about Al Qaeda, or "the Base" in English. It's as much a support network for various terrorist groups as a group itself, such that even different cells of Al Qaeda are essentially distinct groups unto themselves. This is, as we've all read, part of why Al Qaeda is so hard to defeat -- there's no nucleus or center to wipe out. Even killing bin Laden isn't quite like, say, killing the head of a foreign army or government. It's more akin to taking out a high-ranking Mafioso and watching another rise to fill the vacuum, or the other "families" take the turf and the business now vacant.

Of course, by taking the name Al Qaeda, any group that wants to can engage in propaganda -- you convince people that there really is a vast shadow army out there, as though James Bond's SPECTRE were real and supported Wahabbist Islam. And so long as their stated goals don't confluict with bin Laden's, he and his murderous cabal are more than happy to keep up the illusion.

Not that anything but the presentation is new -- even in the 1970s, groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang called themselves "the Red Army Faction" in order that others might suppose they were tied to the Japanese Red Army; and the infamous mid-70s terroist raid on an OPEC summit meeting included Middle Eastern, European, and Asian terrorists with causes ranging from Wahabbism to Maoism.

Scott Hardie | May 14, 2004
Melissa beat me to what I was going to say: We're essentially in agreement here, just differing on the politics of it. I took Anna's comment to mean that we would be unjustified for getting angry over the video (and I was daring her to watch the video and not get angry while viewing it). I won't put aside my feelings over this video. An innocent man was murdered because of his nationality; I feel such sympathy for his family and such bile for his killers. The soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib deserve similar contempt. This war has brought out the worst in a lot of people.

Kris Weberg | May 14, 2004
Wars often do.

Anna Gregoline | May 14, 2004
I wasn't saying you shouldn't feel upset over the video, Scott. I only meant that the public outcry of it feels out of proportion to me. I don't know, I guess it's that while it was horrific, I wasn't surprised by it. It's something that has happened, and will happen again. I wish I wasn't so jaded about these things, but I can't help it. Anyway, see Kris' points above, they're much better than mine.

Kris Weberg | May 21, 2004
Boy mistreated to get dad to talk

"A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.

The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said."

CIA investigates death of three detainees

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA is investigating three cases of prisoner deaths during interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In one of the cases, two pictures surfaced Wednesday that appear to show U.S. soldiers gloating over a corpse.

Spc. Charles Graner of the 372nd Military Police is seen smiling, giving the thumbs up in one picture. In the other, Spc. Sabrina Harmon, a member of the same unit, is in a similar pose.

The soldiers who appear in them are among those already facing charges in the abuse scandal. The pictures came out following the first court-martial in connection with the abuse."

Pentagon: Gitmo interrogation techniques lawful

"The Pentagon refused to disclose what techniques are employed. But it insisted they were 'in accordance with the Geneva Conventions,' even though the Bush administration argues those protections do no apply to terrorist groups or individuals.

Two top Pentagon lawyers -- one civilian and one military -- who spoke on condition of anonymity described how a range of acceptable interrogation practices was drawn up between January and April of 2003, resulting in guidance issued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year.

Under that guidance, certain aggressive techniques could only be used with the direct approval of the Secretary of Defense, the officials said.

The officials would not disclose any of the tactics, nor say if they were the same ones that had been available in Iraq, until they were rescinded May 13."

Anna Gregoline | May 21, 2004
I am absolutely sickened.

And when the next 9/11 happens, I won't be the least bit surprised or shocked.

Kris Weberg | June 8, 2004
The Wall Streety Journal has reported on a secret pentagon memo outlining just how soldiers and officers might avoid being charged with torturing prisoners. You need to subscribe to read it, though. I did find what appears to be a web-ripped copy, and comparing it to the print edition in my hand, it looks to be faithfully reproduced. Interestingly, the report doesn't seem to condemn any of the practices at Abu Ghraib; it just explains how to avoid legal penalties. A few highlights of the article and report, with
the actual Pentagon report bits in italics for easier reading:

The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture...[it] must be of such a high level of intensity that the pain is difficult for the subject to endure.

"The report outlined U.S. laws and international treaties forbidding torture, and why those restrictions might be overcome by national-security considerations or legal technicalities. In a March 6, 2003, draft of the report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, passages were deleted as was an attachment listing specific interrogation techniques and whether Mr. Rumsfeld himself or other officials must grant permission before they could be used. The complete draft document was classified 'secret' by Mr. Rumsfeld and scheduled for declassification in 2013."

"Civilian or military personnel accused of torture or other war crimes have several potential defenses, including the necessity of using such methods to extract information to head off an attack, or superior orders, sometimes known as the Nuremberg defense: namely that the accused was acting pursuant to an order and, as the Nuremberg tribunal put it, no moral choice was in fact possible."

"A military lawyer who helped prepare the report said that political appointees heading the working group sought to assign to the president virtually unlimited authority on matters of torture -- to assert presidential power at its absolute apex, the lawyer said. Although career military lawyers were uncomfortable with that conclusion, the military lawyer said they focused their efforts on reining in the more extreme interrogation methods, rather than challenging the constitutional powers that administration lawyers were saying President Bush could claim."

"A military official who helped prepare the report said it came after frustrated Guantanamo interrogators had begun trying unorthodox methods on recalcitrant prisoners. 'We'd been at this for a year-plus and got nothing out of them' so officials concluded 'we need to have a less-cramped view of what torture is and is not.' "

"The official said, 'People were trying like hell how to ratchet up the pressure,' and used techniques that ranged from drawing on prisoners' bodies and placing women's underwear on prisoners heads -- a practice that later reappeared in the Abu Ghraib prison -- to telling subjects, 'I'm on the line with somebody in Yemen and he's in a room with your family and a grenade that's going to pop unless you talk.' "

" Methods now used at Guantanamo include limiting prisoners' food, denying them clothing, subjecting them to body-cavity searches, depriving them of sleep for as much as 96 hours and shackling them in so-called stress positions, a military-intelligence official said. Although the interrogators consider the methods to be humiliating and unpleasant, they don't view them as torture, the official said."

" In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority, the report asserted. (The parenthetical comment is in the original document.) The Justice Department concluded that it could not bring a criminal prosecution against a defendant who had acted pursuant to an exercise of the president's constitutional power, the report said. Citing confidential Justice Department opinions drafted after Sept. 11, 2001, the report advised that the executive branch of the government had sweeping powers to act as it sees fit because national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

"Administration lawyers also concluded that the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 1789 statute that allows noncitizens to sue in U.S. courts for violations of international law, couldn't be invoked against the U.S. government unless it consents, and that the 1992 Torture Victims Protection Act allowed suits only against foreign officials for torture or extrajudicial killing and does not apply to the conduct of U.S. agents acting under the color of law."

"The law says torture can be caused by administering or threatening to administer mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the sense of personality. The Bush lawyers advised, though, that it does not preclude any and all use of drugs and disruption of the senses or personality alone is insufficient to be illegal. For involuntarily administered drugs or other psychological methods, the acts must penetrate to the core of an individual's ability to perceive the world around him, the lawyers found."

" After defining torture and other prohibited acts, the memo presents legal doctrines ... that could render specific conduct, otherwise criminal, not unlawful. Foremost, the lawyers rely on the commander-in-chief authority, concluding that without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority to wage war. Moreover, any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the commander-in-chief authority in the president, the lawyers advised."

"Likewise, the lawyers found that constitutional principles make it impossible to punish officials for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities and neither Congress nor the courts could require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."

"To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a presidential directive or other writing that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is inherent in the president."

"The report advised that government officials could argue that necessity justified the use of torture. Sometimes the greater good for society will be accomplished by violating the literal language of the criminal law, the lawyers wrote, citing a standard legal text, "Substantive Criminal Law" by Wayne LaFave and Austin W. Scott. In particular, the necessity defense can justify the intentional killing of one person ... so long as the harm avoided is greater."

Kris Weberg | June 8, 2004
Newsweek broke a story about three weeks ago that seems to indicate just how far back the free-handed approach to running our prisons in Cuba and Iraq went.

"May 17 - The White House's top lawyer warned more than two years ago that U.S. officials could be prosecuted for "war crimes" as a result of new and unorthodox measures used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism, according to an internal White House memo and interviews with participants in the debate over the issue."

There's much more. Again, I'd like to add that this goes back two years, well before the current Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

Jackie Mason | June 9, 2004
[hidden by request]

Jackie Mason | June 9, 2004
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | June 9, 2004

Kris Weberg | June 9, 2004
The boldness was my fault. Failed to close a tag. Thanks, Scott.

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