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Friday, January 07, 2005

Falstaff and Torture

Lyndie England, 2004’s Cracker of the Year, has effectively made it impossible for the U.S. to interrogate prisoners. From Heather MacDonald via (the always great) The Belmont Club http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/:

Reeling under the PR disaster of Abu Ghraib, the Pentagon shut down every stress technique but one -- isolation -- and that can be used only after extensive review. An interrogator who so much as requests permission to question a detainee into the night could be putting his career in jeopardy. Even the traditional army psychological approaches have fallen under a deep cloud of suspicion: deflating a detainee’s ego, aggressive but non-physical histrionics, and good cop-bad cop have been banished along with sleep deprivation.
Timidity among officers prevents the energetic application of those techniques that remain. Interrogation plans have to be triple-checked all the way up through the Pentagon by officers who have never conducted an interrogation in their lives. In losing these techniques, interrogators have lost the ability to create the uncertainty vital to getting terrorist information. Since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the military has made public nearly every record of its internal interrogation debates, providing al-Qaida analysts with an encyclopedia of U.S. methods and constraints. Those constraints make perfectly clear that the interrogator is not in control. “In reassuring the world about our limits, we have destroyed our biggest asset: detainee doubt,” a senior Pentagon intelligence official laments.

Of course the MSM, especially The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, is responsible for exaggerating what happened at Abu Ghraib and for supporting the false meme that what happened there was not an aberration. To see whether or not you’re, well, infected with the meme, (and why you shouldn’t be) go here: http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/001989.html.

Now there is no middle ground. The MSM, generally a great believer in the benefits of NUANCE and SHADES OF GRAY, has framed the debate so that guards either serve suspected terrorists tea and crumpets or they are Torquemadas. (For an oddly pro entry on Tomas de go here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torquemada.) This is familiar to anyone who has been called a KKK Grand Wizard for expressing reservations about affirmative action.

But the War on Terror will be long and the MSM’s victory http://harkonnendog.blogspot.com/2005/01/msm-strikes-back.html will pass. At that time the question will not be “Does the U.S. condone torture or not?” It will be “What is torture and what is not?”

You can’t exactly make a list of what is and isn’t torture. Or, rather, you can make any number of lists… but you can’t make a definitive list. Any interrogation is a dynamic dialogue (ask any parent trying to figure out whether or not their kid cleaned their room). No manual can cover every possible scenario- and if such a manual could be written nobody could use it. It would dwarf the U.S. tax code, for one thing. U.S. questioners require an intuitive guideline that does two things.

1. Covers all scenarios.
2. Stops the MSM from attacking people who use it. (This is especially important. If the MSM has stopped interrogation once it can do so again. Therefore the protocol used during interrogation should be designed to…well, to make people who say the protocol allows torture look silly.)

I can think of one such protocol off the top of my head, but it is kind of silly in itself… More on this later.


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