Friday, February 18, 2005

Prisoner abuse 
First of all, let me be very clear in stating that the U.S. should not tolerate the abuse of prisoners or other detainees, and where evidence of abuse is sufficient, the U.S. should prosecute the perpetrators, as well as leadership in a position to know of the abuse and who failed to stop it, to the fullest extent of the law.

Now that the disclaimer is over with, I have some serious problems with the way this AP piece is reported.

1.) In the opening paragraph, the article states that the prisoner in question was "suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back," in "a position condemned by human rights groups as torture."

But it's not until the reader gets to the very end of the article -- IF he gets to the end of the article -- that we learn that the prisoner was not "suspended" in such a position at all. He was still able to support himself on his feet. Or would have been able to, had he remained conscious.

2.) The reporter uses the term "Palestinian hanging." Why? Because hanging someone by their wrists behind their back is a torture technique that goes back millennia. It is by no means unique to Israeli forces (if the allegations are true, although I'm agnostic on that point for now) and didn't even originate with them. So why use an unnecessarily loaded term?

Oh, other than to slime the Jews again, of course.

3.) The pathologist stated that the position this man was bound in "may have contributed to his death." But again, you have to read to the end of the article to learn that the REAL cause of death was that he had apparently had the crap beaten out of him by the SEALs who made the snatch. Yeah, that would explain the internal bleeding, evidenced by the blood flowing from the mouth.

4.) The REAL story, then - that this man was beaten so severely prior to arriving at Abu Ghraib that it caused internal bleeding sufficient to kill him within a few hours has been buried, and not even seriously dealt with, except in passing.

5.) The "green plastic bag" was almost certainly a sandbag. They're plastic, and they're green, and were commonly used at the time to hood prisoners. Not the most comfortable things in the world, in hot weather, but they're porous and you can breathe in them. That's a small, but important detail to get right. The reporter probably had no way of knowing it was a sandbag. But that's because most reporters are clueless.

6.) Again, we don't find out until the end of the article that this guy was allegedly among those who bombed the Baghdad Red Cross center. Don't you think his identity might be relevant to the story? (It would certainly explain the richly deserved pummeling courtesy of the swabbies.)

All in all, this would be a better news story if it were written upside down.

There IS a story here, and an important one. But it's not the story the AP wrote. What we have here is a pretty clear case of a reporter wanting to hop on to the Abu Ghraib torture angle, and therefore he presented the story in the most sensational angle possible.

But the most sensational aspects turn out not to be true. The truth is something far more mundane, although equally -- I hate to say that this guy's death was tragic -- equally unacceptable.

It was not the case in May 2003. But by November, there were certain due process safeguards put in place for all detainees. If I turned someone over to interrogators, I had to muster some evidence against him, and document that evidence, which would eventually go before a joint U.S./Iraqi tribunal.

Now, the reporter blew the story. So I'll lay the story out for him another way:

Was this man actually involved in the Red Cross bombing? The evidence is probably out there somewhere. I had to write down the evidence on the Coalition Forces Detainee Processing Form, along with providing photographic or physical evidence implicating the man.

Now, it may well be the case that we cannot divulge how this guy was identified - often it's by a HUMINT or SIGINT methodology best kept under wraps. But there may have been physical evidence at the guy's house. Can that be produced?

If not, are SEALs and other Superfriends-type outfits exempt from following the due process safeguards set up by CJTF-7? If so, why?

Finally, riddle me this, ladies and germs: How is it that an Army Specialist in an obscure reserve MP unit can put a pair of panties on someone's head, and pose for a bunch of tasteless pictures, and get 10 years in jail, but group of Navy SEALs can beat a man to death (the facts don't seem to be in dispute here) and walk away with Article 15s?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Splash, out


Good job. You hit the nail on the head. The SEAL team may have gotten a little overzealous, the the real story here is that they mjay have caught a guy who helped murder 33 people on October 27, 2003.

The willingness of some folks to make the terrorist their martyr in the holy jihad against the Bush Administration is pretty disturbing.
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