Lightning Strikes Twice

27 August 2004

Fay-Jones Report Adds to Abu Ghraib Blame

On Tuesday, the Schlesinger Commission appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reported on the shameful abuses of detainees by US personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Wednesday, the Fay-Jones Report, authored at the request of the army brass, supported the Schlesinger findings. The army report, in one very important way is more damning – it claims military intelligence personnel kept some prisoners “off the books” and hid them from the Red Cross.

Prisoners, in either a civilian or military situation, are entitled to certain basic humane treatment. This is not a matter of being soft on the criminal or on the enemy. Instead, it is a calculated matter of self-interest. In the case of decent treatment of prisoners in a civilian prison, there is an expectation that the prisoner will, one day, return to society, and it is better is he or she returns undamaged by the prison term. In a military situation, where the idea is not to kill the enemy but to eliminate the desire and ability to resist, decent treatment of prisoners actually reduces the number of hard core fighters one’s own troops face. When an army treats enemy prisoners decently, it loses fewer of its own.

Detainees who are not officially recognized, whose paperwork doesn’t exist, are a problem for the Red Cross. How does one inquire about a non-person? Augosto Pinochet and his criminal regime understood this in Argentina during its “dirty war” against the left in the 1970s. People were “disappeared” rather than arrested. When family and friends asked where Juan and Pablo were, the government shrugged and said it had no record of their arrest. Some Juans and Pablos are still missing.

If American military intelligence created desaparacidos in Iraq rather than prisoners, the question is why? Why hide any one from the Red Cross and other human rights watchdogs? The question almost answers itself. The detainee is denied protection of his human rights because those who are planning to violate those rights don’t want to face punishment.

In a war against Fascislam, against suicide bombers, surely any means should be used to prevent another September 11. But those means must be effective. The value of intelligence gathered from someone tortured after being picked up at a checkpoint for not having the right stamp in his work papers is of dubious value at best. Stalin and Pol Pot were very good at extracting confessions, but those confessions were exactly the opposite of intelligence. Bad intelligence in the war on terror can actually do more to undermine freedom than no intelligence at all. Torture is against America’s self-interest.

© Copyright 2004 by The Kensington Review, J. Myhre, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent.


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