Monday, February 21, 2005

Torture revisited 
Patrick Lasswell posts a thoughtful response to my last post regarding the death of an Iraqi detainee here.

The old adage, "cheat but don't get caught" has shown its frailty possibly due to the expansion of Special Forces operations and personnel. This is a serious problem, and I don't have a ready answer. I suspect that the decision to handle the death of Manadel al-Jamadi as a Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP) matter instead of a Court Martial is probably wise. While Court Martial's make better headlines, NJP makes better changes in an operational military.

Lasswell brings up a very good point: Jamadi may well have been doped up. That may well have escalated the level of violence required to subdue him (as anyone who's had to restrain anyone on crystal methamphetamine or PCP can attest to).

Still, I've been involved in hundreds of physical restraints of some awfully pumped up people. Three years of working in hospital psychiatric wards and doing emergency room crisis responses will do that to you. So I think there's got to be more at work.

At any rate, IF this guy really was involved in the Red Cross bombing, then the SEALs are smart enough to realize that you can't get any intelligence out of a dead man.

Alan Dershowitz and others have constructed arguments justifying torture for the greater good - i.e., the "ticking bomb" scenario. I'm sympathetic to that argument as a matter of morality (but not as a matter of policy) But in no case have any torture theorists of the utilitarian school of thought even attempted to justify torture or beating to the point of death as a way of gathering information. And that does not seem to have been the purpose of the beating Jamadi sustained.

I have also not seen any evidence reported that he WAS involved with the bombing. He may have been, but the reality is that coalition forces also bring in the wrong guy quite a bit, too. We'll get a tip, and then we'll round up every adult male in the house, and leave it for the translators to sort it all out.

But the man is dead. Which means he's not ratting out his colleagues like a good little stool pigeon should.

There's no way his death contributed to the war on terror. Maybe he was a prime candidate for waterboarding, I don't know. And maybe the SEALs acted heroically by not simply perforating him center of mass when they had the chance.

That's a finding of fact for the command.

But once in custody, by law, professional soldiers are obligated to safeguard their prisoners, and ensure they receive needed medical attention.

That didn't happen.

Let's not pretend that doesn't matter.

Splash, out


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