Friday, May 25, 2007

Not to worry, it's in the manual

On The Smoking Gun's website, we have this interesting news item:

MAY 24--In a recent raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like "blowtorch to the skin" and "eye removal." Along with the images, which you'll find on the following pages, soldiers seized various torture implements, like meat cleavers, whips, and wire cutters. Photos of those items can be seen here. The images, which were just declassified by the Department of Defense, also include a picture of a ramshackle Baghdad safe house described as an "al-Qaeda torture chamber." It was there, during an April 24 raid, that soldiers found a man suspended from the ceiling by a chain. According to the military, he had been abducted from his job and was being beaten daily by his captors. In a raid earlier this week, Coalition Forces freed five Iraqis who were found in a padlocked room in Karmah. The group, which included a boy, were reportedly beaten with chains, cables, and hoses. Photos showing injuries sustained by those captives can be found here. (12 pages)

(By the way, sorry if you clicked on these links and were shocked or sickened by the images. I would have warned you, but life sometimes comes upon you without warning -- and without editing.)

Should we in the West be outraged by this discovery? Why isn't it front-page news in all of the mainstream newspapers, or the lead story on all the nightly newscasts?

Could it be that members of the mainstream media don't expect any better from Arabs? It's possible -- they expect the United States Armed Forces to perform their jobs impeccably and above any moral reproach, and boy, do they dish out the moral reproach when they detect anything less than perfection on the part of United States personnel. But perhaps Muslim terrorists yanking out eyeballs is too much of a dog-bites-man story to rate much interest in Western newsrooms.

Maybe it doesn't fit the template of noble freedom fighters battling Western imperialist oppression. After all, The Minutemen hid behind rocks and trees instead of fighting in orderly ranks, but at least they didn't routinely dismember the British troops they took prisoner, or detonate wagonloads of gunpowder in the middle of crowded markets in Philadelphia or Boston.

Or maybe it's because the al-Qaeda folks are following the standard that Sen. John McCain says American military personnel should follow -- namely, the manual:

MR. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise to offer an amendment that would (1) establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of Department of Defense detainees and (2) prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in the detention of the U.S. government....

The first part of this amendment would establish the Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for the interrogation of Department of Defense detainees. The Army Field Manual and its various editions have served America well, through wars against both regular and irregular foes. It embodies the values Americans have embraced for generations, while preserving the ability of our interrogators to extract critical intelligence from ruthless foes. Never has this been more important than today, in the midst of the war on terror.

This amendment would establish the Army Field Manual as the standard for interrogation of all detainees held in DOD custody. The Manual has been developed by the Executive Branch for its own uses, and a new edition, written to take into account the needs of the war on terror and with a new classified annex, is due to be issued soon. My amendment would not set the Field Manual in stone – it could be changed at any time.

The advantage of setting a standard for interrogation based on the Field Manual is to cut down on the significant level of confusion that still exists with respect to which interrogation techniques are allowed. Confusion about the rules results in abuses in the field. We need a clear, simple, and consistent standard, and we have it in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation. That’s not just my opinion, but that of many more distinguished military minds than mine, including General Colin Powell, General Joseph Hoar, General John Shalikashvili, RADM John Hutson, and RADM Don Guter.

These and other distinguished officers believe that the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere took place in part because our soldiers received ambiguous instructions, which in some cases authorized treatment that went beyond what the Field Manual allows, and that, had the Manual been followed across the board, we could have avoided the prisoner abuse scandal. Mr. President, wouldn’t any of us do whatever we could to have prevented that? By enacting this amendment, our service members can follow the Manual consistently from now on. Our troops deserve no less.

So there's the McCain standard, you see: it's okay if it's in the manual. And of course, if that's the standard for US forces, it should be the standard for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

May I offer one suggestion? Can't we agree to have both sides operate from the same manual? If al-Qaeda doesn't want to adopt ours, then we should adopt theirs.

Just to make it fair, you know.

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