Sunday, November 13, 2005

Torture and the bean counters: Belmont Club - Be he ne'er so vile

The Belmont Club makes a bet on increased acts of torture. As a former Bean Counter I'm inclined to agree,
I'm going to make a personal prediction. The number of incidents involving the torture of terrorist suspects will increase after the McCain Amendment, or something like it, is passed. There will be a fall in the number of interrogation incidents in US custody. It may even become zero. However, there will be a corresponding increase in torture incidents involving agencies of other governments, including European governments, all of whom will fully subscribe to every piece of human rights legislation which can be imagined, but who in practice will simply do what they want.
My only experience with US practice is having five enlisted soldiers working for me. The oldest of them at 24 was the specialist in charge. At 28 I was an old man.

Every day Specialist H. would take charge of the uniformed guys for an hour to do some military training.

Once I watched them work through torture scenarios from an Army training manual such as, you are Military Advisor to troops of Country A out in the jungle, you capture a belligerent and the Country A troops slice off an ear, what do you do? You have no authority here. Your a guest in the jungle with Armed people intent on slicing off an ear. I was really humbled --after all I was Grinnell College class of 76-- to see how serious kids with GED education would work through these problems.

It was a typical work day then but the image has stuck with me now for 20 years and because of it I understand the training that prompted these people cited in the Taguba Report to report the abuses at Abu Ghraib,
4. (U) The individual Soldiers and Sailors that we observed and believe should be favorably noted include:

a. (U) Master-at-Arms First Class William J. Kimbro, US Navy Dog Handler, knew his duties and refused to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure from the MI personnel at Abu Ghraib.

b. (U) SPC Joseph M. Darby, 372nd MP Company discovered evidence
of abuse and turned it over to military law enforcement.

c. (U) 1LT David O. Sutton, 229th MP Company, took immediate action and stopped an abuse, then reported the incident to the chain of command.
I like systems where the lieutenants empowered to take action (how many other Armies could this have happened in?), stop the abuse, report up the chain of command; and a Taguba report is the result. I'd stake my life on that instead an Act of Congress.

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