Friday, June 11, 2004

Refuting the Stupid Arguments of Your Wingnut Friends, Part IV

Yes, it's time for another episode. Adam from Muncie, Indiana writes today:

"Goldstein, don't you think you're overplaying this whole Abu Ghraib thing? I mean really, so what if some Iraqis were made to stand or march around, or didn't get to bed on time? I'm sure it wasn't pleasant but come on, it's not torture!"
Thanks for writing Adam. I've received similar messages from many patriotic Americans, and I'd like to respond.

Adam, Sec. Rumsfeld approved a list of permissible interrogation tactics for use at the Guantanamo detention center in Cuba ("Camp X-Ray"). It has been determined that a similar list of interrogation tactics were posted in the wing at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad where many of the widely reported abuses of Iraqi detainees took place. These tactics included various forms of physical duress (standing or marching for long periods of time, sitting in uncomfortable or stressful positions, etc.), exposure to extreme heat or cold, and "dietary manipulation." It is difficult to know precisely what took place, because these clinical descriptions of approved tactics could cover a wide range of inhumane treatment. For example, the three tactics I've just cited - physical duress, extreme heat/cold and "dietary manipulation" - were sufficient to produce one of the most infamous and sadistic incidents of torture in history: the Bataan Death March.

Thousands of Americans and Phillipino soldiers died on a six-day march through the suffocating heat and searing sun of the Phillipines, denied food, generally denied water, and driven by their Japanese captors to march to the point of utter exhaustion. Many died from the hellish conditions alone; others that collapsed, still alive, were shot or bayoneted by Japanese soldiers. Accounts of many survivors describe such agony produced by the heat, hunger and exhaustion that they found themselves tempted to fall by the way and accept their fate at the end of a bayonet rather than continue.

Adam, we do not yet know all that took place at Abu Ghraib, but we must keep in mind that the tactics approved by the Pentagon, however harmless they may sound in the clinical tones of Pentagonese, could have been used to produce treatment so hellish and inhumane as to shock the conscience. The military has acknowledged that it is investigating more than three dozen deaths of Iraqi detainees under suspicious circumstances. Needless to say, if even one Abu Ghraib detainee (none of whom were terrorists according to the Pentagon) died from physical duress, extreme heat or cold, and/or "dietary manipulation", it is a stain upon everything that America stands for.


Blogger Don Porges said...

As a confirming example: when Nick Berg's body was found -- but before the video was posted -- the Army announced that his body had been found "with signs of trauma". So you can see that they've perfected the art of the understatement of violence.

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