Sunday, May 25, 2008

Compare and Contrast

Hering in October 2007:

“This government does not torture people,” the president said again last week. Of course not. But if the world thinks we do, we are losing the battle for hearts and minds — the most important battlefield in this prolonged war.

Hering today:

For years, there has been a public argument about the use of torture in the terror war. (Whether we employ it; whether it might be justified.) Now we have new answers, and they make unpleasant reading.

The Office of the Inspector General of the

U.S. Department of Justice has reviewed how FBI agents were involved in or observed “harsh” interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq. In general, it found that the hundreds of FBI agents engaged in this work did not abuse prisoners but that they heard of and saw plenty.

Abuse is too mild a term.

“A few FBI agents,” the summary says on page xxii, “reported other harsh or unusual interrogation techniques used by the military at GTMO. These incidents tended to be small in number, but they became notorious at GTMO because of their nature.

“They included using a growling military dog to intimidate a detainee during an interrogation; twisting a detainees’ thumbs back; using a female interrogator to touch or provoke a detainee in a sexual manner; wrapping a detainee’s hand in duct tape; and exposing a detainee to pornography.”

Other techniques the FBI heard about or saw included sleep deprivation, blindfolding or “hooding” prisoners, exposing them to strobe lights and loud music, keeping them in isolation for long periods of time, and chaining them in painful positions, sometimes to the floor, for hours at a time.

In one interrogation described in the report, prisoners were chained in a kneeling position while an interrogator poured water down their throats. (A footnote makes the point that this was not the same as waterboarding, but the footnote does not say whether it was not as bad or worse.)

The gist of the report is that these techniques were illegal for the FBI to use, but that they had been authorized for military personnel by the Department of Defense until, acting on complaints, the harsh techniques were again disapproved.

One telling element of the review: The FBI believes that another way of interrogating people, by building rapport with them, works much better and faster than the harsh techniques that the Defense Department authorized for a time.

Inflicting physical pain and psychological terror on prisoners is what the movies teach us we might have expected two or three generations ago from dictatorial and totalitarian regimes. Our motives are different, but this report from the Department of Justice confirms that our techniques in some cases were just as brutal.

Regardless of the outcome, the history of our struggle against terrorism will be marked by that regrettable fact. (hh)


While I'm glad Hering addressed the issue, he managed to do so in amazingly weasel-like fashion. Notice how, in comparison with pretty much every other editorial he writes, no one is to blame for this? And how no one is directed to take responsibility? Or that he describes the U.S. practice of torturing people as a "regrettable fact"? It's not even a condemnation, for fuck's sake.

Jeebus, Hering. Even I thought you'd summon a little more outrage than this. This editorial reminds of the little boy who has to apologize after being caught red-handed and does so, but in an oh-so-sullen manner: He's obviously feeling humiliated, but he's not mature enough to openly own up to his mistakes.

I actually expect better than this from Hering.


Russ said...

Dude, you are scaring me. All the comments on Hering's editorials. I swear you are bordering on stalking! Me thinks you have an obsession!

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