Friday, September 15, 2006

The politics of torture.

Ron Suskind, author of the book "The One Percent Doctrine," about the war on terror has an article in this week's Time magazine titled "The Unofficial Story of the al-Qaeda 14." He basically outlines why our interogation practices don't work. I seriously read this article with the attitude of "convince me." Mainly because I'm not comfortable with any kind of torture. Yesterday, McCain along with others, "rejected President George W. Bush's plan to relax standards on the treatment of terror suspects, instead backing a substitute plan offering greater rights protections to "war on terror" detainees."

The President's plan outlined "tougher questioning" of detainees while protecting U.S. interrogators from being prosecuted for war crimes." This has many conservatives angry at McCain...again.

This is the thing. I think McCain knows a thing or two about torture. I think maybe, in at least this area, we should listen to him. (yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking.. my crush on McCain)

On the one hand we don't want to become the people we fight and on the other I am not convinced we have ever come anywhere near that. To get back to the Time's article, Suskind mentions a list of techniques, but only names one...water boarding. Is that the worse one? It must be because that is the one they mention all the time. He also kept referring to "harsh interrogation techniques." He said that in one case of the al-Qaeda 14 Abu Zubaydah, "we used him as an experiment in righteous brutality that in the end produced very little." Yet he goes on to say they did get information out of Abu, but it was by convincing him that he was miraculously saved by U.S. Doctors (after being shot 3 times) in order to help our side.

Oh really. I would like to know how this author knows this. I would like to hear that from the interrogation officers themselves. Forgive me for not having full confidence in the mainstream media when they report on things like this.

Well, I want to know exactly what "righteous brutality" is. Why couldn't the reporter disclose that? Maybe it is his view of brutality, which might be slapping for all I know. The entire article is absent any description of these torture techniques. Why is that? Could it be that many wouldn't see it as "torture?" What other explanation is there?

It seems to me that both are not being upfront on this. Tell the American people plainly. Don't say "righteous brutality," say exactly what the techniques are. We can decide for ourselves if we think it is brutal.

At least Tony Snow did outline what was NOT allowed in his press conference:

" [T]he problem we have right now is that there are no standards and anybody can do whatever they want; in some cases, maybe they are. If you lay out what's going on, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, then everybody is off the same playbook. So, no, this is -- and somehow I think there's this construct in people's minds that we want to restore the rack and start getting people screaming, having their bones crunching, and that's not at all what this is about. Torture is prohibited, murder is prohibited, rape is prohibited, cruel and degrading treatment is prohibited; all those things are prohibited, and what we're trying to do is to make clear what the prohibited list is. That's a good thing, not a bad thing."

Ok, so torture, murder, rape, and cruel and degrading treatment is prohibited. SO WHAT IS ALLOWED?? One side won't say what is brutality and the other won't say what isn't.

But that having been said, is it fair to see this headline over at a Washington Post editorial today? "The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture."

This is what it is all about as I see it. Bush worries that the CIA's techniques won't comply with the Geneva Conventions, which say wartime detainees must be 'treated humanely.' Again, I want a description......details. Can you hit them? Can you scream at them? Bush's bill says the United States complies with the conventions as long as interrogators abide by a 2005 law barring 'cruel, inhuman or degrading' treatment of captives. Bush fears that with the way things are now interrogators would be legally libel. He sees people bringing them up for prosecution in the future for their interrogation techniques. He says that if that part can't be established then the program may be in jeopardy and shut down. What interogater can risk that? Without the program, he says, American could be in danger if we can't get the information we need from the terrorists.

McCain basically says that the requirement is too narrow and that"the United States should not try to limit its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Instead, they want CIA officers to abide by the common understanding of the treaty's meaning, including a ban on 'outrages upon personal dignity.'"

Well, I finally did find a "list of cruel treatments" not allowed by the Geneva Convention, but that we would like to use:

-- 'Cold Cell,' or hypothermia, where a prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees, during which he is doused with cold water.

"-- 'Long Time Standing,' in which a prisoner is forced to stand, handcuffed and with his feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours.

"-- Other forms of 'stress positions' and prolonged sleep deprivation, perhaps akin to 'Long Time Standing.'

"-- Threats of violence and death of a detainee and/or his family."

So we aren't talking acid burns, slicing off of fingers, or the the pulling out of fingernails. Which, I think many would like you to believe.

Now, am I comfortable with these things listed? At face And I certainly see why McCain would not be. (you can surely see his position on this, right??) But then I think of how our enemy doesn't even think of the Geneva convention much less debate it. I think of how they saw off the heads of civilians and do God knows what to our soldiers. Compared to what they do to our prisoners the above list looks like an ice cream social. But then again, should we let them be any kind of standard we go by?

Are you confused on how I feel about this? Well, you should be. Because I am. I understand both sides convictions on this. Bush wants to keep us safe and McCain wants to keep us humane.

via WaPo