18 February, 2006


We in the USA have once again been reminded of inappropriate treatment of prisoners. I was about to post pictures, but this issue has been exhaused the last time these pictures where published ---- see link on the word Torture above. Also see a good blog discussion with pictures on The Jawa Report: http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/063369.php

There is a significant difference (a scientific term for a construct) between torture committed by communist, theocratic and just plain "strong men" regimes. Idi Amin dada comes to mind with his 50,000 bodies floating down the river.

So, lets begin a discussion instead when inhumane treatment or movements are considered "torturous". This should be interesting. Please excuse some of the possible simplistic contrasts--these are just to begin the discussion.

1. Ages of the individuals involved. Someone said in a blog that existing in feces is torture. "Parents" sometimes allow children to remain in this condition because of ignorance, or they are too busy watching TV, drinking or on drugs. Torture?

2. Can children torture? Remember the 5 year old dangled out the Chicago building, then let go to his death?

3. Can a person torture himself? Work long hours, climb a mountain in sub-zero temperatures? Compete in dangerous sport like boxing, football (american), or rugby? How about "running of the bulls"?

4. Is torture to be defined only between human beings? How about other animals? Can two animals torture each other?

5. Now for the issues of today: When, on the battlefield, does combat end, and the possibility of torture begin? Remember, captured enemy combatants are not "criminals", but interrupted enemy combatants.

6. Is it torture if no one ever finds out or the event is not reported?

7. Can torture be torture in one culture and not another. Which culture trumps?

All these and more questions are involved in the question. In addition, unfortunately, the definition has been used and is being used for political points by people like Senators Kennedy and Durban recently.


Anonymous Doug said...


I believe that torture, at least here in the United States is defined by the 8th Amendment as "cruel and unusual punishment". Note the conjunction. The punishment has to be both "cruel and unusual" not one or the other. Of course, this amendment only applies to US citizens.

In the case of enemy combatants I believe the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice apply. Since the Geneva Conventions specifically exclude those who do not openly carry arms, I would suggest that many of the the "enemy combatants" held in Abu Ghraib among other places do not fall under the protections pf the Geneva Conventions either. Neither do they fall under the protections of the UCMJ. That leave protections given under US military regiulations.

Was the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib inappropriate? Yes. Was it cruel and unusual? In some cases, yes. Were those who acted wrongly prosecuted and punished? Yes.

To answer your questions:

1. Feces? No, only if it is done intentionally and in a cruel manner could being left in feces considered torture.

2. Yes, children can torture. They can and are capable of immense cruelty. Some of the worst excesses of the Pol Pot regime were carried out by children.

3. No, a person cannot. It believe otherwise denies the existence of free will.

4. A human can torture an animal but an animal, lacking intent, cannot torture a human.

5. Enemy combatants have to "openly carry arms" in order to have the protections of the Geneva Conventions. They should be treated as spies or partisans if they do not.

6. Yes. There are physical absolutes.

7. Yes, what is torture in one culture may not be "cruel and unusual" in another. Corporal punishment in school is forbidden in most cases in the United States but not in other countries like Singapore. The culture of the captive should be the minimum standard.

Blogger KurtP said...

I guess your questions are all relative.
IMHO, some are definatly in the torture catagory, some are masochism (or dedication), and others are in the eye (feelings) of the beholder.

Boy, that was really Clintonesque, wasn't it?

Blogger T.L. Stanley said...

Good questions. I need to think about this.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

Thanks for your visit and thoughtful and thorough replies. Now maybe we can start some interesting discourse. I would like to expland on your first 3.

1. So... intent is the critical issue. Not being too sarcastic, but if the "perp" is an imbicile, then he can't torture? :) so, we should have imbilciles in charge of prisons! just kidding, but does bring up follow up discussions by others.

2. Thanks for that bit of information. I did not know that about Pol Pot's children. In the US, then children under the age of ?18/16/21? can not "legally" torture.
Again, just for discussion. I respect your intellect.

4. I am not so sure about this. I have seen monkeys throwing feces at humans that taunted them. I have also seen other animals "torturing" other animals. !!

Nice start, y'all, lets have a few more chime in on this one.

Blogger Michael Reese said...

Good blog and good questions that you raise, especially #3 and #4.

Anonymous Oyster said...

It's just too hard to define "torture". It's relative to the intent and degree which the "torturer" employs and relative to the psycholocigal and physical resistance of the one who is "tortured". I think the best we could do is apply only generally accepted ideas of what torture is.

When the subject comes up I'm always reminded of the Monty Python skit in Life of Brian where Brian is tossed into the dungeon with "Ben" the old timer who has been chained high on a wall for years. Brian is absolutely mortified at the treatment he's been subjected to, "You saw him spit in my face! They had me in manacles!" to which Ben replies, "My idea of heaven is to be allowed to be put in manacles... just for a few hours. They must think the sun shines out o' your ass, sonny."

Anonymous Doug said...


I believe that children can torture, in any country. Children as young as 10 were invilved in the excesses of the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia and I won't begin a history of the "Young Pioneers" in the former Soviet Union or the Hitler Jugend.

I do believe that there has to be some kind of intent on the part of the torturer. We have a criminal justice system based upon the idea of intent. I am not sure you can prove torture without intent.

Finally, I'll give you the point concerning monkeys. Maybe I shoud say "most animals" cant torture. Some primates can and do exhibit behavior which resembles torture.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

Doug, and others:

Can children then be "tried" for tourture? Can they be enemy combatants. What if another country allows them to be in the military like Hamas? Should we try them and execute them if they are under 18 years old?

The more interesting point Doug brings up is intent. How can we judge intent, and especially on the battlefield with not lawyers?!

Thanks for the point on monkeys. I'll have to add in Geese vs. Mallards. I saw one drowning a Mallard for no apparent reason last week.

Any PETA people here? Should I have called 911?

Blogger Timmah420 said...

I'd like to make a point about an earlier post, about geneva convention protections and the like. If you are going to deny something as long standing and widely recognized as the Geneva conventions, by calling the prisoners "enemy combatants", which I disagree with by the way, then you need to create a standard to take it's place. Gonzales and the rest of the Bush admin. haven't done this, they've purposely left the rules unwritten or extremely vague which leads to the kind of abuses seen at Abu Garib.

I also do not think the right people have been properly prosecuted, there are people much higher up that helped this along then the few lower level scapegoats they punsihed.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

I did some research. The Geneva Conventions are fairly recent. They are quite complicated and recently have not been universally adhered to. It is not I who call certain people "enemy combatants", but those words are from the conventions themselves! A person who is not openly carrying a weapon, nor in uniform is a spy and can be shot/executed during war. The US atty general or any other country's don't have much to do with the LOAC rules. They are for illegal activities in their own country including defense attys, judges, juries, interpreting their own country's laws, etc. Stop with the Abu Garib distractions until and after the same number of pictures have been shown of Sadam's real torture pictures which are available, but the MSM refuses to publish just like the "late term abortion" pictures of infant's brains being sucked out and skulls crushed.
OK, now an opinion. Thanks, we can discuss this. You said, "I also do not think the right people have been properly prosecuted, there are people much higher up that helped this along then the few lower level scapegoats they punsihed. " This is speculation on your part. I saw the pictures and the smiling female. I noticed she married one of the others, delivered a baby and was punished.
I also saw a picture of Clarence Thomas' accuser in Time Magazine. Pretty much the same.
A picture does tell a lot.
Let's just guess that "someone else" authorized wide-spread use of uncalled for treatment of some captives: Wouldn't there possibly be some other pictures at the numerous other military facilities?
I, personally believe that this was an isolated incident, on a few shifts, at one facility, for a few months. The Truth: A friend of mine said, "that kind of thing goes on all the time at the prison I worked in". The Senator from Illinois, USA has similar problems at prisons in his state. Same type of thing. Isolated instances by human beings who can, and do sin.

Blogger Timmah420 said...

The very term you just pluralized "Isolated incidences" appears to transform that into an oxymoron.

Your contention that the issue won't be properly framed until the west is forced to look at grisly pictures of Saddam's rape rooms misses the point. America is supposed to be BETTER than that, not just a little better, not kinda sorta better, alot bloody well better, or the world will lose respect.

I can't believe that you would first attempt to make the point that these are isloated incidents, and then continue on to pontificate that "well, this happens all the time in domestic prisons, so tough, but it happens." this invalides even the initial point you tried to make.

You also mischaracterized my accusation of the higher ups. I didn't say they explicity authorized any of this, leaving that kind of paper trail would be career suicide, but that failing to set guidelines and boundries on tactics makes them guilty of negligence at best.

I don't think you really believe that these are just isolated incidents. If you do, you really need to start asking yourself some hard questions, chief among those being: Why, if the US military doesen't torture and engage in cruel and unusual punishment is the CIA flying handfuls of prisoners around to Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Jordan, all of which have been cited for human-rights violations by the State Department in what has been described by a former C.I.A. official, as “an abomination.” ?

Blogger Chief RZ said...

Timmah-- Isolated incidences are just that. Another examples would be speeders on the highway. When they are caught and punished, speeding incidences in that area are reduced, unless there is, as you hinted, in another post, higher-up approval or passive approval. No oxymoron.
Yes, contrast is necessary, but "the west" would not be forced to do anything. The liberal MSM should apply the same standards to certain persons as to other persons. My contention is that your argument of better is never enough for some people. It is our country and we will be an example, but we have been unfairly painted as being the only bad guy on the street. You must agree that in many countries, the unelected leaders do not allow pictures, words, or even utterances of bad deeds to be aired. My blog about the Hungarian experience is a real example of this. We have an open government. Part of our job as citizens is to educate others as to the way it is in the world as well as locally.
I already addressed your accusation of my elected leaders. I was involved in an accusation, and it was morally wrong. You are doing the same, accusing others without any proof. In war, it is not good to micro-manage as we learned during the Vietnam war. We will not repeat that mistake.
Yes, I really believe that these are isolated incidents. Were you in Iraq recently, or in the US military? I would venture that I was closer to the action than you were. I also saw how our Soldiers carried out orders and what they were. Again, are you a US citizen, Canadian resident or another nationality? This question would help with another answer.
If we are moving prisoners back to their country of origin, that would be classified firstly, and speculation you your part as to their motivation.
I am glad you brought up the issue of other countries' human rights violations. We should begin with the communist countries, then move into those you mentioned. One person's opinion like your and mine carries about the same weight, unless there is direct observation or lack of.

Blogger Timmah420 said...

Ok, but you still aren't addressing the issue. The government admits that they do what's called "extraordinary rendition" where they send captives to prisons in countries that have no reservations against violating human rights, and the also admit that the only legal defense for doing this is that "they're not *sure*" that these men and women will be tortured.

They might be kinda sure, or sorta sure, but that's not enough according to an obscene loophole in the way this is handled, so off to Romania they go.

You should really take some time to see what's happened to individuals. Canadian citizens have been arrested, rendered and released over the course of the war without being charged with anything, these people come back with horrific stories of torture, their families aren't even informed of their whereabouts.

Mark my words here, the US loses face with the rest of the world every day this continues, soon to be thought of as nothing more than another "China".

Blogger Chief RZ said...

The issue is that we are fighting this war, in which we were attacked, overseas and here in the US against ignorant or brainwashed citizens. My thrust is to educate them to The Truth. We seem to disagree on this because in my opinion you too readily accept heresay. OK. Who are these Canadians and are you a resident or a citizen of Canada? I would assume that a person tells the truth until proven otherwise. You seem to take the opposite. I am not naive that people lie. I encountered these people during my school career. Even after the third time catching them in blatant lies, I still wanted to believe them on the next one. We differ. Was the reference to Romania a guess? I have been in Hungary and as you can see on by blog about the AVO police, they and their neighbors are not about to do the same to others. I may get a chance to visit there in the future, and will try to check this out, but for now, I seriously doubt that any human beings are being dismembered, electrocuted, shredded, boiled, or any of the things that the communists USSR did to them from the 1940s to the 1990s.
I am waiting for the name of the Canadian citizens who have been arrested (where?) in Canada, the US, on a battlefield in Afghanistan, or in Oman? Transferred from where to where? If on the battlefield, a combatant is not charged with anything, they are a combatant. If a non-combatant, a spy, they can be hung.
There are plenty of stories--those are the MO of UBL and his cowards.
Families are not entitled to knowledge of whereabouts of spies.
If a person is an enemy combatant, then we allow the Red Cross to visit and report back to their families, unlike communists who do not and have not.
I agree, the US loses face every day the MSM continues to drag our good name through the streets with more of the same isolated instances of bad treatment that has been punished. I am waiting for other countries to do the same.
China is a communist country. We are not. We have the power to change the composition of our government and may this November 2006 just as Canada changed it's government recently. I watched on C-Span as the liberals were thrown out outright for the first time in over 100 years. I did not see this news on or in the MSM here in the USA. Thanks goodness that at least one or two TV stations here in the US are not afraid to publish the news or have a liberal, socialist-communist agenda. Bloggers have played a part also and I hope that my small time has added to balance this unearned smear.

Blogger Timmah420 said...

Here's a link to a very recent story...<

Excerpts:Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush’s statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture. When Arar described his experience in a phone interview recently, he invoked an Arabic expression. The pain was so unbearable, he said, that “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.”

Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects...

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board...

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause. Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America—including torture...
What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime...

“I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.”

Although the full scope of the extraordinary-rendition program isn’t known, several recent cases have come to light that may well violate U.S. law. In 1998, Congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.”...

To justify sending detainees to these countries, the Administration appears to be relying on a very fine reading of an imprecise clause in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (which the U.S. ratified in 1994), requiring “substantial grounds for believing” that a detainee will be tortured abroad. Martin Lederman, a lawyer who left the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002, after eight years, says, “The Convention only applies when you know a suspect is more likely than not to be tortured, but what if you kind of know? That’s not enough. So there are ways to get around it."...
Perhaps surprisingly, the fiercest internal resistance to this thinking has come from people who have been directly involved in interrogation, including veteran F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents. Their concerns are as much practical as ideological. Years of experience in interrogation have led them to doubt the effectiveness of physical coercion as a means of extracting reliable information. They also warn that the Bush Administration, having taken so many prisoners outside the realm of the law, may not be able to bring them back in. By holding detainees indefinitely, without counsel, without charges of wrongdoing, and under circumstances that could, in legal parlance, “shock the conscience” of a court, the Administration has jeopardized its chances of convicting hundreds of suspected terrorists, or even of using them as witnesses in almost any court in the world.

Torture and lies: A bad practice all around.

Blogger Timmah420 said...

By the way, please read the whole article rather than just the excerpts if you have the time, it has many names, dates, places etc.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

timmah, I did. Quite exhaustive even for the New Yorker. Jamie Gorelick was the person who on her own, put up "the wall", which, in my opinion, let the 9.11.01 because she was "queasy" with the FBI and CIA exchanging information. I kept a timely report on this and still have it.

We and she differ on UBL and Al Qaeda's status. No way are they common criminals nor US Citizens, nor do they get an "OJ" trial. They are at least enemy combatants and worst some if not all are illegal combatants.

"Even if Habib is a terrorist aligned with A Qaeda...." "who was captured in Pakistan in March, 2003..." Just the point. That would make them enemy combatants. This entire article is trying to make 'warriors" on their battlefield into instants US Citizens charged with the equivalent of bank robbery. No way. They can't engage in warfare, then try to claim "Kings X" and try to get world, Canadian and US opinion to grant them criminal status. I would rather they come to the US, rob a bank, be charged, deported to their county and we would be done with them.
"Motassadeq is on trial again, but, in accordance with German law..." Good for the Germans. They only took around 2 Billion from the Oil for Food program. I have been there and do respect their laws. I like the part about instant and on the spot payment for moving violations or impounding and you, right to jail. The crime there is minimal because the consequences are sure and swift. No judges, no lawyers, no jury. Pay or you go to jail. We need to do that in the USA.

"lawsuit brought by Arar’s lawyers against the U.S. government. To go forward in an open court, the government said, would jeopardize the “intelligence, foreign policy and national security.... That is correct. Neither you nor I have a need to know the classified information. This same thing happens in civil and ordinary criminal trials in Canada and the USA. Unfortunately, sometimes, the criminal gets off with less than what he should get. A plea bargan. After this is declassifed, then we can judge his guilt or innocence and the reasons why he was detained.

Boudella’s wife said that she was astounded that her husband could be seized without charge or trial, at home during peacetime... Really? Peacetime in Bosnia? Just this week, one of the Serb's main Generals was finally found. Bosnia, that's a good one. We went there at their request and under the UN's OK. Clinton said we would be out by Christmas 1997? or was it 1998? I was there in 1996-97. He made around 1,000 Soldiers ride in unheated cars from Tuzla to Taszar so he could get a photo-op with them. I still have one of those pictures. I would like to know more about Boudella, but we will have to wait, the same with JFK's 75 year wait for declassification of his shooting in Dallas, Texas.

“As a society, we haven’t figured out what the rough rules are yet,” he said. “There are hardly any rules for illegal enemy combatants. I agree, and UBL et al are making them up as they blow themselves along. The emeny are the terrorists. They have attacked us over 10 times in the last 8 years including 9.11.01 where they killed over 3,000 civilians on our soil. They brought the war to us, now we are taking it back to them. One or two individuals or even 100 may have been harmed or even killed.
The moral responsibility is with the Muslims and others who do this in whatever name of God. We must fight for our freedom while keeping colateral damage to a minimum. As you have seen, we have come a long way since WWII when we leveled Dresden and killed over 200,000 civilians. That was kept a secret for over 30 years.
What is your opinion on that fire-bombing? How about the World Trade Center attack? How about the US Cole, how about the Spanish train attacks, the British, the Indonesians, etc, etc, etc?

Blogger Timmah420 said...

I'm tired of you trying to confuse the issue by trying to draw parrallels to other wars and other battles.

The fact remains that the current "war" on terror is completely unlike world war 2 in every bloody respect, including scope, weaponry, opposition and casualties.

Furthermore, another depressing fact is that these people are being picked up without charge or concrete reason, flown to a country where the US has good reason to believe they will be tortured, against their own rules mind you, and then released without charge.

This kind of behaviour can only serve to make any terrorist networks more resolute and hateful of any prisoners they manage to capture. In short, it hurts the war on terror, just as it hurts America's image.

The problem isn't that the story is being told, as you seem to like to think, but that it's happening at all.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

timmah-- No two wars are exactly the same, nor are two enemies. Some similarities are: Battle tanks, rifles, psychological warfare, propaganda, bombs, spies, chemical warfare, open battlefields and urban ones. What books have you read on this subject? If you had said Vietnam, you would have had a better argument, but I didn't.

The rest of your assertions from the New Yorker article, a left wing magazine are speculation. As I have already commented, we will find out the details when this is unclassifed. We now have the answer to Pearl Harbour since the 1997 declassification of ours as well as the Japanese code breakers.

I can allow that the story could have happened that way, or it could have happened another way, that the person in question was a go-between for our enemy. Ethyl and Julius were spies and were executed. The Stasi files proved that when the USSR dissolved. I guess your perspective depends on whose side you are on.

Blogger Timmah420 said...

It will be unclassified when everyone who should be held accountable for undermining democracy is long out of office.

Must be nice to be able to "classify" all your screwups.

Blogger Chief RZ said...

Operations and communications are classified for US, NATO, Multi-National, and even CAN/US national security interests. They are not unclassified just so that some commercial media interest can sell their product.

Anonymous wiarton willy said...

Thats funny

It must be awefully convenient to be able to "classify" anything and everything that would hold be people accountable to their leadership decisions. What do you have to say about Mahar Arar? I believe he has taken his ordeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. What do you think about the US willingly transferring citizens of one country to another, knowing full well that said person(s) could be tortured?

Blogger Chief RZ said...

wiarton. I don't tell jokes. It is not convenient to classify messages. It is deadly serious and carries penalties which can involve the loss of life. You have no idea what is involved. Canada does have a similar system and sometimes we share our plans with them. As posted elsewhere, for our national security, some operations are classified. Every person killed in the WTC was an innocent person. People with ties to terrorists and criminals are sometimes guilty by association. On the legal side it is called an accomplice. On the battlefield, it is called aiding and abetting the enemy. I do not spend too much time thinking about speculation by people in other countries. We are busy enough defending our own country from another attack by suicide bombers that make the Japanese almost amateurs. These people are fanatics and racists. We will soon see what a jury says about the 20th hijacker here in the USA.


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