A woman I knew some years ago used to be beaten regularly by her husband. Having finally had enough, she divorced him; these being the bad old days of "fault" divorce, she had to testify about the beatings. Estranged hubby accosted her in the courthouse hall: "How could you say a thing like that about me, in front of our children?!"
"It's true! You broke my eardrum, for God's sake! -- one of our daughters even saw it happen!"
"I don't care," he hissed, all self-justification. "It's still a terrible thing to say about a man, in front of his children!"
Similarly (it seems to me), on the theory that when everything you've done is a miserable and utter failure (and much of it actually criminal) you'd better change the subject, the FAUX News crowd is suddenly all over Sen. Dick Durbin for "attacking our troops" by comparing some of the tactics (formerly?) used at Gitmo with those used in repressive regimes of the past -- Nazis, Stalin, Pol Pot. I'm consistently avoiding politics these days, but a few points worth noting:
1. Durbin's source was a shocked FBI agent's report, released under FOIA a year ago, on how some Gitmo detainees were being treated: chained in "stress positions" in their own urine and feces for upwards of thirty-six hours, subjected to extreme heat, cold, noise -- the treatment apparently prompting one detainee to tear out his own hair -- and so forth. (That was just Gitmo, of course: a number of our detainees elsewhere have died under questioning, some from what the US military itself determined to be murder. Still, the original Gitmo commander left thanks to his disapproval of how the detainees were being treated there, so one assumes it wasn't good.)
2. What Durbin said wasn't These tactics are the equivalent of murdering millions in death camps; what he said was, If I read you this description you'd think it was something done by Nazis or Stalinists, not by Americans. Not long ago, before we were expected to be "good Germans," that would have been true, IMO.
3. The reason to avoid mistreating prisoners needn't be because they're good guys (though inevitably some of them will be, particularly among the civilians detained in Afghanistan and Iraq). It's because torture tends to get you bad information, because you're hoping to avoid your own guys being tortured, because you're trying to uphold a standard for the world that lets you criticize other regimes for torturing people. People seem to have forgotten that some of the well-attested "unfortunate excesses" in US custody of late have included, e.g. (per Seymour Hersh), a mercenary raping a child in his charge. I can't believe that was ordered...but I can believe that once you authorize certain levels of "stress" (beatings, dog attacks, waterboarding, etc.) -- and give unprofessional mercs (of whom any merc will tell you there are some) too much leeway, come to that -- such excesses are likelier to happen. So, recapping: torture, murder, rape rooms...isn't that what we used to use to justify why we overthrew that assbite Hussein in the first place?
But our title isn't "Why I think detainee mistreatment is a poor idea," and that wasn't the main point I wanted to make.
4. You see, as tired as I am of the "good German" tone some wish Americans would adopt -- "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer" -- I am sick to death of the sort of hypocrisy we see here in the attacks on Durbin. Bad enough that a bad-guy regime remakes American policy in its vile and crazy image...and when anyone dares to criticize them as unAmerican, he's accused of "attacking the troops." But more importantly:
NEWS FLASH: These guys ordered American troops to mistreat prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and (after denying it was happening), when they got caught at it, TURNED AROUND AND PROSECUTED THE TROOPS FOR DOING WHAT THEY'D ORDERED THEM TO DO...and the only higher-up punished is (coincidentally enough) the one officer who, quite properly, criticized the mistreatment. (Probably one reason US generals are resigning or taking early retirement in unusual numbers, btw: their commands have been usurped by lunatics, and unable to honorably obey, they can at least honorably depart.)
See my point? How dare these chicken-hawk punks talk about who's "not supporting our troops"? I mean, seriously, how dare they?
93 93/93 -- AJ
P.S. I don't go debate people on their blogs, as a rule; I have my own blog for my occasional rants. But I have to note how weird it is to me to see how many defenders of the Shrubbistas tend to post either spin or lies, then disable comments. Are they merely cowards too frightened to defend their statements...or conscious liars, who don't want to be caught at it?