..there’s really no other explanation.
Today’s editorial was about “Rewriting the Geneva Conventions“, and criticized Administration efforts to lawyer their way through the standards for prisoner care in such a way as to allow rougher treatment of prisoners.
I’m flatly against torture, although I’m not sure that I subscribe to a set of standards that would make the ACLU happy; but I’m against them for three core reasons: they damage the people who do the torturing irremediably; they don’t necessarily work very well; the damage to they do to the perception of American might and behavior is typically out of proportion to any benefit gained (see “they don’t necessarily work very well”); and they damage my society through the acceptance of that kind of behavior.I’ve said in the past that the man or woman on the spot who decides to use duress or brutality to interrogate someone who’s planted a ticking time bomb should do so fully aware of the legal consequences he or she will face when it is over.
But the Times says we shouldn’t torture captives because:
The Geneva Conventions protect Americans. If this country changes the rules, it’s changing the rules for Americans taken prisoner abroad. That is far too high a price to pay so this administration can hang on to its misbegotten policies.
Maybe if our troops ever get captured by the French. But to suggest that the standards of behavior of those we fight or have fought since World War II match our own – or that by degrading ours we somehow risk their lowering theirs is just ludicrous.
The ground offensive in the 1991 Persian Gulf War was in its second day when Joseph Small III piloted his OV-10 Bronco toward Kuwait City. The low- flying plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. He ejected and was captured. Within days, the war ended and, after being beaten and tortured, Small was released.
“I’ll be honest, there’s not a day in the past 12 years when I haven’t given some thought to the experience,” he said Monday from his home in Racine, Wis.
Because of the grim experiences of Small and 22 other POWs from the last Gulf war — officials say all were beaten and one of the women was raped — the Pentagon is especially concerned about the fate of Americans now believed to be held in Iraq, including two pilots confirmed as POWs Monday. U.S. officials repeatedly warned Iraq on Monday to abide by the Geneva convention that prohibits mistreatment or humiliation of prisoners.
“It’s a concern,” said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, spokesman for the Defense Department. “It’s a brutal regime, and their past experience would make us concerned.”
From Andy McNabb’s memoir of his captivity in Iraq. Go to Amazon, look up Bravo Two Zero, search within the book for ‘beating‘:
1. on Page 195:
“… the crowd. The soldiers started pushing the people away. It was a wonderful feeling. Just a minute ago they were beating me up; now these boys were my saviors. Better the devil you know … I was lying on my stomach …”
2. on Page 204:
“… and moaned. Some of it was put on. A lot of it wasn’t. Then, as if on a signal, the beating stopped. “Poor Andy, poor Andy,” I heard, and a mock clucking of concern. I got to my knees and put …”
3. on Page 223:
“… site. The slaps became punches that knocked me off the chair, but it wasn’t very exciting compared with the last beating. Probably they thought they’d now …”
4. on Page 277:
“… BRAVO TWO ZERO 277 split in several places during the beatings, and the wounds kept trying to congeal. But even the slightest movement made them reopen. My arse and lower back …”
5. on Page 296:
“… certain point; beyond that, it’s not a viable inducer of the goods. They can assess your physical state from the beatings they’ve given you. What they can’t gauge for sure is your mental state. For that, they need to know your …”
6. on Page 325:
“… and for what must have been quite a few days, it just carried on. Hour after hour, day after day, beating after beating, taking my turn with the other two, lying curled up, cold and in pain, waiting for the terrifying …”
7. on Page 359:
“… an American. We weren’t sure about Russell. We decided to initiate some form of contact with them. We risked a beating or worse if we were caught, but we decided it was worth it. If they were released or escaped , …”
8. on Page 366:
“… “Come on, then.” They backed off, shouting, “We’re going to split you up.” The threat was more horrifying than a beating would have been. Miraculously, nothing happened. We could only surmise that the boys didn’t report the incident in case their …”
9. on Page 380:
“… amazement. He was wearing a dish-dash. His body looked wasted, and he still bore the bruises and scars of severe beatings. “When we had that last contact and we both went down, I went left and got caught up in fire. …”
Here’s Admiral James Stockdale, a year after his return from North Vietnam:
For the sane man there is always an element of fear involved when he is captured in war. In Vietnam the enemy capitalized on this fear to an extreme degree. We were told we must live by sets of rules and regulations no normal American could possibly live by. When we violated these rules and regulations, we gave our captors what they considered sufficient moral justification for punishing us–binding us in ropes, locking us in stocks for days and weeks on end, locking us in torture cuffs for weeks at a time, and beating us to bloody pulps. As we reached our various breaking points, we were “allowed” to apologize for our transgressions and to atone for them by “confessing our crimes” and condemning our government.
Or this, from the Korean War:
Confinement of U.S. military personnel in the POW camps located in North Korea operated in three phases: July 1950 until the entry of the CCF into the war in November; the winter of 1950-1951 when several temporary camps were created that included the three “Valleys”; and the permanent camps. As mentioned, the NKPA had no POW system, just collection points. During the summer and fall of 1950, the NKPA moved POWs to the rear on foot, often by a death march. For example, during a 120-mile forced march during November 1950, approximately 130 of 700 POWs died. The First Offensive of the Chinese Communist Forces in late 1950 resulted in the capture of several thousand U.S. soldiers and Marines. Like the NKPA, the CCF at that time had no established POW system. As an expedient, the CCF set up a temporary camp called the “Valley” located 10 miles south of Pyoktong, North Korea, near the Yalu River. Primitive living conditions there resulted in the death of 500 to 700 of the 1,000 internees. American soldiers, most of them members of the 2d Infantry Division captured at Kunu-ri in November 1950, were kept at a place called “Death Valley,” 30 miles southeast of Pukchin. Forty percent of the camp’s 2,000 inmates died within three months. The other internment point known as “Peaceful Valley,” located near Kanggye, that held about 300 U.S. POWs, had better living conditions than the other two “Valleys” and only a 10 percent death rate.
Iraq, Vietnam, Korea. In which of these wars were captured American or allied troops treated in accord with the Geneva Conventions? What is the liklihood that a future American soldier, captured by Hizbollah will meet the standards in Guantanamo?
Again there are dozens of good reasons to insist that we treat captives firmly but decently (no matter how badly they may behave).
The reason proposed by the Times editors has nothing to do with reality or history, and isn’t one of them. But it speaks volumes about how they see the world, and what they know about it.