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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More on torture

So, the Washington Post had a story, registration required, in Monday's paper about torture in Iraq, tying in with my previous comments on torture on the television show 24.

According to the article, soldiers in Iraq were asked for a wish list of what coercive methods they would like to be able to use when interrogating prisoners. This included tactics such as low-voltage electrocutions, using dogs and snakes and hitting people with phone books.

These tactics were used on at least two detainees: one was badly beaten by an inexperienced interrogator using a police baton, and one died. Now, I'm not trying to tar all the armed forces personnel with the same brush, here. In fact, I'm not really blaming the servicemen and women, but their superiors who encouraged this sort of thing.

A military intelligence staff sergeant who supervised the interrogators said a "fear up" approach had been approved for the interrogation. The unnamed sergeant wrote in a rebuttal to a reprimand that senior leaders were blurring the lines between official enemy prisoners of war and terrorists not afforded international protection.

"This situation is made worse with messages from higher echelons soliciting lists of alternative interrogation techniques and the usage of phrases such as 'the gloves are coming off,' " he wrote.

I've always felt that torture has no place in American life, be it by civilians or by officers in our armed forces. If we can't get the information we need by conventional means, then we need to go out and get more information. Torture goes against who we, as a country, are. Or at least who I'd like to think we are.

But my thoughts were co-opted and voiced better than I could by an anonymous interrogator in the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion who advised everyone to take a deep breath and "remember who we are."

"It comes down to standards of right and wrong -- something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient," the soldier wrote. "We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there."

Well said.


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