Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Importance of Good Torture

Before we dismiss torture out of hand, we should examine how torture has been used in the past and how it may once again be an Agent of Good that quickly leads us to Truth.

From the great 19th century scribe Charles Mackay. (Comments in brackets '[]' are my own)

[ Background of the Terror ]

Europe, for a period of two centuries and a half, brooded upon the idea, not only that parted spirits walked the earth to meddle in the affairs of men, but that men had power to summon evil spirits to their aid to work woe upon their fellows. An epidemic terror seized upon the nations; no man thought himself secure, either in his person or possessions, from the machinations of the devil and his agents.

Every calamity that befell him, he attributed to a witch. If a storm arose and blew down his barn, it was witchcraft; if his cattle died of a murrain-if disease fastened upon his limbs, or death entered suddenly, and snatched a beloved face from his hearth—they were not visitations of Providence, but the works of some neighbouring hag, whose wretchedness or insanity caused the ignorant to raise their finger, and point at her as a witch. The word was upon everybody's tongue—France, ItaLy, Germany, England, Scotland, and the far North, successively ran mad upon this subject, and for a long series of years, furnished their tribunals with so many trials for witchcraft that other crimes were seldom or never spoken of.

Thousands upon thousands of unhappy persons fell victims to this cruel and absurd delusion. In many cities of Germany, as will be shown more fully in its due place hereafter, the average number of executions for this pretended crime, was six hundred annually, or two every day, if we leave out the Sundays, when, it is to be supposed, that even this madness refrained from its work.

A misunderstanding of the famous text of the Mosaic law, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," no doubt led many conscientious men astray, whose superstition, warm enough before, wanted but a little corroboration to blaze out with desolating fury. ... From the best authorities, it appears that the Hebrew word, which has been rendered, venefica, and witch, means a poisoner and divineress—a dabbler in spells, or fortune-teller. The modern witch was a very different character, and joined to her pretended power of foretelling future events that of working evil upon the life, limbs, and possessions of mankind.

[The State Declares War]
The early annals of France abound with stories of supposed sorcery, but it was not until the time of Charlemagne that the crime acquired any great importance. "This monarch," says M. Jules Garinet, 88* "had several times given orders that all necromancers, astrologers, and witches should be driven from his states; but as the number of criminals augmented daily, he found it necessary at last to resort to severer measures. In consequence, he published several edicts, which may be found at length in the Capitulaire de Baluse.

By these, every sort of magic, enchantment, and witchcraft was forbidden; and the punishment of death decreed against those who in any way evoked the devil˜compounded love-philters˜afflicted either man or woman with barrenness˜troubled the atmosphere˜excited tempests˜destroyed the fruits of the earth˜dried up the milk of cows, or tormented their fellow-creatures with sores and diseases. All persons found guilty of exercising these execrable arts, were to be executed immediately upon conviction, that the earth might be rid of the burthen and curse of their presence; and those even who consulted them might also be punished with death.

[ Early Successes ]
After this time, prosecutions for witchcraft are continually mentioned, especially by the French historians. It was a crime imputed with so much ease, and repelled with so much difficulty, that the powerful, whenever they wanted to ruin the weak, and could fix no other imputation upon them, had only to accuse them of witchcraft to ensure their destruction. Instances, in which this crime was made the pretext for the most violent persecution, both of individuals and of communities, whose real offences were purely political or religious, must be familiar to every reader.

The extermination of the Stedinger, in 1244; of the Templars, from 1317 to 1323; the execution of Joan of Arc, in 1439; and the unhappy scenes of Arras, in 1469; are the most prominent. The first of these is perhaps the least known, but is not among the least remarkable. The following account, from Dr. Kortum's interesting history90* of the republican confederacies of the Middle Ages, will show the horrible convenience of imputations of witchcraft, when royal or priestly wolves wanted a pretext for a quarrel with the sheep.

[ The Crimes]
Just as absurd and effectual was the charge brought against the Templars in 1307, when they had rendered themselves obnoxious to the potentates and prelacy of Christendom. Their wealth, their power, their pride, and their insolence had raised up enemies on every side; and every sort of accusation was made against them, but failed to work their overthrow, until the terrible cry of witchcraft was let loose upon them. This effected its object, and the Templars were extirpated.

They were accused of having sold their souls to the devil, and of celebrating all the infernal mysteries of the witches' Sabbath. It was pretended that, when they admitted a novice into their order, they forced him to renounce his salvation and curse Jesus Christ; that they then made him submit to many unholy and disgusting ceremonies, and forced him to kiss the Superior on the cheek, the navel, and the breech; and spit three times upon a crucifix. That all the members were forbidden to have connexion with women, but might give themselves up without restraint to every species of unmentionable debauchery. ...

[ Torture Reveals their True Allegiance]
Philip IV, who, to exercise his own implacable hatred, invented, in all probability, the greater part of these charges, issued orders for the immediate arrest of all the Templars in his dominions. The pope afterwards took up the cause with almost as much fervour as the King of France; and in every part of Europe, the Templars were thrown into prison and their goods and estates confiscated. Hundreds of them, when put to the rack, confessed even the most preposterous of the charges against them, and by so doing, increased the popular clamour and the hopes of their enemies. It is true that, when removed from the rack, they denied all they had previously confessed; but this circumstance only increased the outcry, and was numbered as an additional crime against them. They were considered in a worse light than before, and condemned forthwith to the flames, as relapsed heretics. Fifty-nine of these unfortunate victims were all burned together by a slow fire in a field in the suburbs of Paris, protesting to the very last moment of their lives, their innocence of the crimes imputed to them, and refusing to accept of pardon upon condition of acknowledging themselves guilty. Similar scenes were enacted in the provinces; and for four years, hardly a month passed without witnessing the execution of one or more of these unhappy men.


As the fear of witchcraft increased, the Catholic clergy strove to fix the imputation of it upon those religious sects, the pioneers of the Reformation, who began about this time to be formidable to the Church of Rome. If a charge of heresy could not ensure their destruction, that of sorcery and witchcraft never failed. In the year 1459, a devoted congregation of the Waldenses, at Arras, who used to repair at night to worship God in their own manner in solitary places, fell victims to an accusation of sorcery.


[ The Rack Reveals All ]
The rack, that convenient instrument for making the accused confess anything, was of course put in requisition. Monstrelet, in his Chronicle, says that they were tortured until some of them admitted the truth of the whole accusations, and said besides, that they had seen and recognized, in their nocturnal assemblies, many persons of rank; many prelates, seigneurs, governors of bailliages, and mayors of cities, being such names as the examiners had themselves suggested to the victims. Several who had been thus informed against, were thrown into prison, and so horribly tortured, that reason fled, and, in their ravings of pain, they also confessed their midnight meetings with the devil, and the oaths they had taken to serve him.

Upon these confessions judgment was pronounced: the poor old women, as usual in such cases, were hanged and burned in the market-place; the more wealthy delinquents were allowed to escape, upon payment of large sums. It was soon after universally recognized that these trials had been conducted in the most odious manner, and that the judges had motives of private vengeance against many of the more influential persons who had been implicated. The Parliament of Paris afterwards declared the sentence illegal, and the judges iniquitous; but its arrêt was too late to be of service even to those who had paid the fine, or to punish the authorities who had misconducted themselves; for it was not delivered until thirty-two years after the executions had taken place.


[ The Outsourcing of Interrogation ]
It was now that the Witch Mania, properly so called, may be said to have fairly commenced. Immediately a class of men sprang up in Europe, who made it the sole business of their lives to discover and burn the witches. Sprenger, in Germany, was the most celebrated of these national scourges. In his notorious work, the Malleus Maleficarum, he laid down a regular form of trial, and appointed a course of examination by which the inquisitors in other countries might best discover the guilty.


Straightway the inquisitors set to work; Cumarius, in Italy, burned forty-one poor women in one province alone, and Sprenger, in Germany, burned a number which can never be ascertained correctly, but which, it is agreed on all hands, amounted to more than five hundred in a year. The great resemblance between the confessions of the unhappy victims was regarded as a new proof of the existence of the crime. But this is not astonishing.

The same questions from the Malleus Maleficarum, were put to them all, and torture never failed to educe the answer required by the inquisitor. Numbers of people whose imaginations were filled with these horrors, went further in the way of confession than even their tormenters anticipated, in the hope that they would thereby be saved from the rack, and put out of their misery at once. Some confessed that they had had children by the devil; but no one, who had ever been a mother, gave utterance to such a frantic imagining, even in the extremity of her anguish. The childless only confessed it, and were burned instanter as unworthy to live.

[ Renewal of the Zeal ]
For fear the zeal of the enemies of Satan should cool, successive Popes appointed new commissions. One was appointed by Alexander VI, in 1494; another by Leo X, in 1521, and a third by Adrian VI, in 1522. They were all armed with the same powers to hunt out and destroy, and executed their fearful functions but too rigidly. In Geneva alone five hundred persons were burned in the years 1515 and 1516, under the title of Protestant witches. It would appear that their chief crime was heresy, and their witchcraft merely an aggravation. Bartolomeo de Spina has a list still more fearful. He informs us that, in the year 1524, no less than a thousand persons suffered death for witchcraft in the district of Como, and that for several years afterwards the average number of victims exceeded a hundred annually. One inquisitor, Remigius, took great credit to himself for having, during fifteen years, convicted and burned nine hundred.


Gilles Garnier was put to the rack, after fifty witnesses had deposed against him: he confessed everything that was laid to his charge. He was, thereupon, brought back into the presence of his judges, when Dr. Camus, in the name of the Parliament of Dole, pronounced the following sentence:—

"Seeing that Gilles Garnier has, by the testimony of credible witnesses, and by his own spontaneous confession, been proved guilty of the abominable crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft, this court condemns him, the said Gilles, to be this day taken in a cart from this spot to the place of execution, accompanied by the executioner (maître executeur de la haute justice), where he, by the said executioner, shall be tied to a stake and burned alive, and that his ashes be then scattered to the winds. The Court further condemns him, the said Gilles, to the costs of this prosecution."

The ninth Parliament of Queen Mary passed an act in 1563, which decreed the punishment of death against witches and consulters with witches, and immediately the whole bulk of the people were smitten with an epidemic fear of the devil and his mortal agents. Persons in the highest ranks of life shared and encouraged the delusion of the vulgar. Many were themselves accused of witchcraft; and noble ladies were shown to have dabbled in mystic arts, and proved to the world that, if they were not witches, it was not for want of the will.


[ It is not Easy to Locate the Guilty ]
Gellie Duncan, the prime witch in these proceedings, ...neither old nor ugly (as witches usually were), but young and good-looking, her neighbours, from some suspicious parts of her behaviour, had long considered her a witch. She had, it appears, some pretensions to the healing art. ... In order to discover the truth, he put her to the torture; but she obstinately refused to confess that she had dealings with the devil. It was the popular belief that no witch would confess as long as the mark which Satan had put upon her remained undiscovered upon her body. Somebody present reminded the torturing Bailie of this fact, and on examination, the devil's mark was found upon the throat of poor Gellie.

She was put to the torture again, and her fortitude giving way under the extremity of her anguish, she confessed that she was indeed a witch—that she had sold her soul to the devil, and effected all her cures by his aid. This was something new in the witch creed, according to which, the devil delighted more in laying diseases on, than in taking them off; but Gellie Duncan fared no better on that account. The torture was still applied, until she had named all her accomplices, among whom were one Cunningham, a reputed wizard, known by the name of Dr. Fian, a grave and matron-like witch, named Agnes Sampson, Euphemia Macalzean, the daughter of Lord Cliftonhall, already mentioned, and nearly forty other persons, some of whom were the wives of respectable individuals in the city of Edinburgh.


[ Steps that Must be Taken ]
Dr. Fian, or rather Cunningham, a petty schoolmaster at Tranent, was put to the torture among the rest. He was a man who had led an infamous life, was a compounder of and dealer in poisons, and a pretender to magic. Though not guilty of the preposterous crimes laid to his charge, there is no doubt that he was a sorcerer in will, though not in deed, and that he deserved all the misery he endured. When put on the rack, he would confess nothing, and held out so long unmoved, that the severe torture of the boots was resolved upon. He endured this till exhausted nature could bear no longer, when Insensibility kindly stepped in to his aid. When it was seen that he was utterly powerless, and that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth, he was released. Restoratives were administered; and during the first faint gleam of returning consciousness, he was prevailed upon to sign, ere he well knew what he was about, a full confession, in strict accordance with those of Gellie Duncan and Agnes Sampson.

He was then remanded to his prison, from which, after two days, he managed, somehow or other, to escape. He was soon recaptured, and brought before the Court of Justiciary, James himself being present. Fian now denied all the circumstances of the written confession which he had signed; whereupon the King, enraged at his "stubborn wilfulness," ordered him once more to the torture. His finger nails were riven out with pincers, and long needles thrust up to the eye into the quick; but still he did not wince. He was then consigned again to the boots, in which, to quote a pamphlet published at the time,94* he continued "so long, and abode so many blows in them, that his legs were crushed and beaten together as small as might be, and the bones and flesh so bruised, that the blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance, whereby they were made unserviceable for ever."


[ The Thoroughness of Evidence ]
So strong was the popular feeling, that no one once accused of witchcraft was acquitted; at least, acquittals did not average one in a hundred trials. Witch-finding, or witch-pricking became a trade, and a set of mercenary vagabonds roamed about the country, provided with long pins to run into the flesh of supposed criminals.

It was no unusual thing then, nor is it now, that in aged persons there should be some spot on the body totally devoid of feeling. It was the object of the witchpricker to discover this spot, and the unhappy wight who did not bleed when pricked upon it, was doomed to the death. If not immediately cast into prison, her life was rendered miserable by the persecution of her neighbours.

It is recorded of many poor women, that the annoyances they endured in this way were so excessive, that they preferred death. Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate, at the time when witch-trials were so frequent, and himself a devout believer in the crime, relates, in his "Criminal Law," first published in 1688, some remarkable instances of it. He says, "I went, when I was a justice-depute, to examine some women who had confessed judicially: and one of them, who was a silly creature, told me, under secrecy, that she had not confessed because she was guilty, but being a poor creature who wrought for her meat, and being defamed for a witch, she knew she should starve; for no person thereafter would either give her meat or lodging, and that all men would beat her and set dogs at her; and that, therefore, she desired to be out of the world; whereupon she wept most bitterly, and upon her knees called God to witness to what she said."


[ The Emergence of Heroes ]
Among the ill weeds which flourished amid the long dissensions of the civil war, Matthew Hopkins, the witch-finder, stands eminent in his sphere. This vulgar fellow resided, in the year 1644, at the town of Manningtree, in Essex, and made himself very conspicuous in discovering the devil's marks upon several unhappy witches. The credit he gained by his skill in this instance seems to have inspired him to renewed exertions. In the course of a very short time, whenever a witch was spoken of in Essex, Matthew Hopkins was sure to be present, aiding the judges with his knowledge of "such cattle," as he called them.

[ Waterboarding Comes of Age ]
As his reputation increased, he assumed the title of "Witchfinder General," and travelled through the counties of Norfolk, Essex, Huntingdon, and Sussex, for the sole purpose of finding out witches. In one year he brought sixty poor creatures to the stake. The test he commonly adopted was that of swimming, so highly recommended by King James in his Demonologie. The hands and feet of the suspected persons were tied together crosswise, the thumb of the right hand to the toe of the left foot, and vice versa. They were then wrapped up in a large sheet or blanket, and laid upon their backs in a pond or river. If they sank, their friends and relatives had the poor consolation of knowing they were innocent, but there was an end of them: if they floated, which, when laid carefully on the water was generally the case, there was also an end of them; for they were deemed guilty of witchcraft, and burned accordingly.


Humbug said...

As an experiment (and with the participant's permissions) I'm attempting to move our e-mail discussions to here. Hopefully, this will keep from "polluting" my already trodden reputation with those unfortunate enough to be caught in my e-mail address book. :-)

-- jas

Humbug said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

John responds:

Maybe this will help settle the issue. As a member of Marine Corps, I
learned what my rights were under the Geneva Convention. I say they should
apply even in today's war. If someone is captured in uniform, they should
be treated accordingly. If they are captured in civilian attire while
actually members of the opposition, they are treated as spies and shot.

Go on about your days asking the representatives to apply the rules of the
Geneva Convention to this 'war.'

Humbug said...

Persons caught fighting while in civilian attire treated as spies and shot.
Sounds perfectly reasonable. I don't disagree with that course of action.

Fighting our enemy is the job at hand. Turning ourselves *into* our
enemies (through use of torture) is not.

Anonymous said...

John Responds:

I agree. However, I think too many people are misusing the term 'torture.'
Loud music and sleep deprivation is something that happens to people in our
very own military by our very own military. I was kept awake for over 54
hours my first 'day' of boot camp.

Now, if we are talking about blindfolds and car batteries attached to body
parts, Okay, I can agree that we aren't any better than the enemy by doing

Lets define what we are talking about before we start complaining about

Anonymous said...

Not a lot happening here, Humbug.

Humbug said...

I propose

- Waterboarding
- beatings
- hypothermia
- electrocution
- disfigurement/maiming

be considered a "starting point" for discussion of the definition of torture.

Regarding boot camp. The US military has a vested interest in not damaging its equipment unnecessarily. Each boot camp cadet also has the option to drop out, indeed the military is interested in "unfit" cadets dropping out of the program as early as possible. Those put to torture do not have that option.

Anonymous said...

Nick responds:

First of all, how can someone be treated as a spy within their own
country? The vast majority of the Iraqi resistance are Iraqis. I'm
prepared to back that up if needed.

Also, where in the Conventions does it say spies (or anyone else not
covered under the Convention) are to be shot? This was made up, correct?
You could have just as easily said that "people not covered under the
Convention, are to be dressed as ballerinas, sodomized with a broomstick
and burned alive in front of their children."

And actually, there is a very good case that the Iraqis fighting against
the occupation are covered under the Convention according to Protocol 1,
Article 1.4 (adopted in June 1977):
4. The situations referred to in the preceding paragraph include armed
conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and
alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their
right of self-determination, as enshrined in the Charter of the United
Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law
concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in
accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Furthermore, our continued military occupation may be considered the
real crime according to Fact Sheet No.13, International Humanitarian Law
and Human Rights:
The legal status of combatants struggling against colonial and racist
régimes for the right to self-determination was defined by the General
Assembly in 1973. The principles agreed were as follows:

Such struggles are legitimate and in full accord with the principles of
international law.

Attempts to suppress struggles against colonial and racist régimes are
incompatible with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial
Countries and Peoples as well as with the Principles of International
Law concerning Friendly Co-operation Among States. Such attempts
constitute a threat to peace and security.

Captured combatants are to be accorded the status of prisoners of war
under the Third Geneva Convention.

The use of mercenaries against national liberation movements is a
criminal act.

Violation of the legal status of combatants entails full responsibility
in accordance with the norms of international law.

Here's the definition of 'colonialism', for the true doubters:
1. the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent
country, territory, or people.
2. the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such
control or influence.


Humbug said...

Damn, looks like I need to start actually *reading* the Geneva Conventions.

Thanks a lot, Nick. (grumble) ;-)

Anonymous said...

Jody responds:

How I define torture is irrelevant. It's a moral question. We all have
different morals, if not we would have no need for laws. What's important is
that everyone engaged in fighting agrees to what the interrogation limits
are. Everyone must agree, otherwise its a moot question.

A friend of mine is fond of saying, "A four-way stop only works if all four
of the people at the intersection know how a four-way stop works."

So, if Al Qaeda "enemy combatants" want protection under the Geneva
Convention, fine with me. Then Bin Laden should come forward and sign the
Geneva Convention and agree that his "base" will start wearing uniforms and
acting like a proper army.

If not, then they are guerrillas at best, terrorists at worst. Not going to
get into a semantic debate about that.

How can someone be treated as a spy in their own country ... hmm ask
Benedict Arnold that question.

The Iraqi resistance (how noble) are blowing up police stations manned by
Iraqis; killing innocent Iraqi women and children in the process. Is that
how fighting a colonial occupation is defined today? I missed that episode
on NPR, sorry.

Humbug said...

Nick, you're not the first to point out that the Iraqi's didn't "invite" their current invaders and can't be considered "spies" within their own country. Likewise, someone else pointed out that the "Host Country" of invasions can't be expected to run out and buy uniforms just to make the war more acceptable to the invader.

Looks like I need to re-examine my view on shooting "spies" a bit.

-- jas

Anonymous said...

Nick responds:

Using your four-way stop analogy...does the situation get better if two
people don't know how a four-way stop works, instead of only one?

> The Iraqi resistance (how noble) are blowing up police stations manned by Iraqis;
> killing innocent Iraqi women and children in the process.

Our Liberation troops (how noble) are performing aerial bombings of
towns and villages (sometimes using white phosphorus) killing innocent
Iraqi women and children in the process. But somehow the label of
collateral damage makes it ok.

> Is that how fighting a colonial occupation is defined today?

Well, if I remember right, I believe during our American fight for
independence against British colonialism, there were Americans who
killed other Americans because of their collaboration with the British
forces. Would you consider such Americans terrorists? Would you have
turned those fighters into the British, if you were there? Would you
have undermined our own push for independence? I think it's arguable
whether killing collaborators is justified. But let's keep the same
rules, no matter who they are put to.

What about the Iraqi people who are fighting only against the US forces?
You must at least acknowledge their efforts as resistance, with regard
to the sources that I cited. If not, please provide just as clear
sources as to why not.


Humbug said...

I don't think anyone would define "blowing up women and children" as an indicator of terrorism, because that happens in all conflict. "_Intentionally_ blowing up women and children" is probably more acceptable to many.

Humbug said...

One thing I think we as a nation need to get over is the "horror" we experience with seeing civilians blown up by "terrorists".

If I were to be attacked by someone in a tank, I'm not going to run headlong into them and start beating it with a sledgehammer. It'd be useless. What I would do instead is hide until the occupants either left or got tired and exited for a smoke. Then attack.

My point is that in war you don't attack your opponent's strengths. You attack their weaknesses.

To win a war, you must take away your opposition's *will* to fight.

No nation or group has the power to take on the US directly. Almost by definition, any organization that wishes to oppose the US militarily will be forced to use guerilla methods if any degree of success is to be had.

Attacking civilians is a method for taking away the enemy's *will* to fight. I don't condone the behavior, but that's the way it is.

I suggest we get away from the politically-induced hystrionics of "Terrorism" and come together to figure out a way to contain or eliminate this enemy. Getting outraged over some action or another only saps our own will to fight. Better to ignore it and attack the enemy to the best of our abilities. To jump up and down in indignant outrage is about as useful as the British's outrage that our revolutionary fighters refused to line up in rows and "fight" in the open fields.

To get back to the subject at hand, I doubt that torture will affect the enemy at all. It will, however, completely destroy both our own integrity and any support we have left with any remaining allies.

To win, we have to show the world that we offer a better alternative.
Take away their will to fight our way of life.

We have to show the world that our Democracy has the strength to weather these affronts. Not to slide back into barbarism the second we lose a couple of buildings. We can't give away the constitution because a couple of planes hit our country.

We must show them that our way is better.

If *I* had the choice between blowing myself up and being tortured for years in some hole, I know which one I'd chose.

Doug said...

I agree/ disagree. There is the plurality of America for you. Not to be contrary, but...WE as a nation need to continue to be horrified. Otherwise, there's no sense having a military. Part of their job is to protect the innocents from this shit. I WANT women and children to be ignorant of what the world of war really is. I WANT that boundary in place, and I want my military to keep it far away from them.
I DO NOT want my military to be horrified. I want them to be capable and to deal with it, and, most importantly, I want my National chain of authority to recognize that when something falls so far that I need to "let slip the dog's of war", that I leave it up to the dogs, and not politicize that war. This is where I feel the Administration has failed.
If, and only if the Nation's existence is threatened should the military be sent in. Afghanistan? Yes, maybe... If the intent was to topple the Taliban and get Bin Laden for killing 3,000 people and as a justified ,thought out, military op with a defined set of objectives, then let's go.
If it's a "We'll send 'em in and decide later what to do", then no! The honor we should give to our military demands they not be sent on such a mission.
Iraq is a waste of billions of dollars a week. Over $2,000.00 for every taxpayer to date, and the number is growing daily. I want more than what we have gotten for my 2 G's. "W" hasn't given it to me, and I resent that.

Doug said...

Everything else Abu Gharaib et al stem from the Administration's callous disregard for doing things the 'right' way.
Open communication? Nope. The litmus test for Abu Gharaib was simple. Who knew what, when. If the story reached the desk of the President or the JCS on May 5th, then anyone in the chain of command up to 2359 hours on 4 May who knew about it were in collusion and needed a court martial to define their innocence.
Instead, we get a long drawn out bullshit trial of a couple of seargents and a corporal. That does NOT address the lieutenants, majors, colonels, etc. who neglected their duty to America and the American way of life. Where are their trials? What does that say for openness and a clear responsibility? If I am a squad mate of one of the accused, I am thinking I've been left out on my own here.
Everyone is responsible for everyone else in the military. Orders don't just come down, responsibility also goes up. Somehow that got lost, and I am disappointed.
Torture and abuse of prisoners is another example. WE don't do that. Openness and transparency are part of our lifestyle I had thought. Not now they ain't.
Now it is OK to have secret CIA jails in foreign countries so they can't claim the rights they'd have if they were on US soil. What bullshit! What tampering with the system by the authorities is that? It is an obvious and blatant example of trying to sidestep the safeguards put in place by the Government, by the Government! No one else seems to want to admit that, though. Or, if they do, I haven't heard of it.
When this administration leaves office, I pray for my country that the next tenant of the Oval office can draw back the blinds, open some windows and let some fresh air into the Whitehouse. I am concerned it has been befouled for 8 years and there is figurative shit in the corners, and old food remnants thrown on the floors.
It is going to take a lot of scrubbing to clean this mess up! Can we pre-order clorox and windex and get a discount?

Nick said...

And to add more...I don't really think the fight in Congress is actually about the future of these interrigation methods, but they're more about the recent past. The Administration needs these past actions to be retroactively legalized, otherwise some higher-ups may face some serious charges. So it's about Bush & Pals' well-being...not the ecurity of our country, which we are led to believe.

Humbug said...

I agree with Nick that this bill seems aimed more at CYA than "clarifying" the Geneva Conventions.

Why the sudden need for clarification? They were clear enough when the Abu Graib defendants were put on trial. The Administration described them as a "few bad apples" not "professionals that need clearer guidelines".

Humbug said...

With regards to uniforms or not, we seem to be arguing past each other.

Yes, *terrorists* don't wear uniforms and probably fall within the "spies" designation from a military perspective.

*Iraqi's* fighting an invading army certainly aren't terrorists and should not be required to put on big red uniforms with a white cross on the chest, line up and march against the invading enemy. We wounldn't do it if we were invaded, nor should they be compelled to.

There seems to be an intentional effort by many in government to actively continue this Iraqui=Terrorist association.

This also brings up the biggest issue I have with our abandonment of Habeus Corpus. Want to punish "terrorists"? Fine. But to lump Iraquis defending their country with everyone else, label them terrorists and dump them in a dungeon with no Geneva protection ( and no oversight of the process due to "security concerns") is apalling.

"Let God sort them out"?

Humbug said...

Remanded without due process, a Canadian citizen was tortured:

Anonymous said...

John says...

According to the definition below, nobody that we have captured in Iraq
is a combatant and therefore not entitled to the rights of combatants.

Also, because of the rules of sabotage (attached below) those that have
been captured are subject to the penal laws of Iraq. Do you believe that
the laws of Iraq are better than the laws of the US? Last time I checked,
you didn't get your hand cut off for stealing in the US and you weren't
stoned to death if you are a woman that gets raped.

Also, if you see the definition of Sentences of Death (attached below) you
will see that I did not make it up that spying is punishable by death.
Thanks for saying I'm making things up though.

So, based on this information, I think we are treating many of the
prisoners above and beyond what is required.

Combatants have protections under the Geneva Conventions, as well as

Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as
members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict,
members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized
resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command,
are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms
openly, and obey the laws of war. (Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec.

However, other individuals, including civilians, who commit hostile acts
and are captured do not have these protections. For example, civilians in
an occupied territory are subject to the existing penal laws. (Convention
IV, Art. 64)

The 1977 Protocols extend the definition of combatant to include any
fighters who carry arms openly during preparation for an attack and during
the attack itself, (Protocol I, Art. 44, Sec. 3) but these Protocols aren’t
as widely accepted as the four 1949 conventions.

In addition to rights, combatants also have obligations under the Geneva

In the case of an internal conflict, combatants must show humane treatment
to civilians and enemies who have been wounded or who have surrendered.
Murder, hostage-taking and extrajudicial executions are all forbidden.
(Convention I, Art. 3)

For more protections afforded the civilian population, see civilian

Although all combatants are required to comply with international laws,
violations do not deprive the combatants of their status, or of their right
to prisoner of war protections if they are captured. (Protocol I, Art. 44,
Sec. 2)

A mercenary does not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.
(Protocol I, Art. 37)


An occupying power may sentence civilians to death if they are guilty of
serious acts of sabotage — but only if these offenses were punishable by
death by local laws before the occupation began. (Convention IV, Art. 68)

death sentences

Prisoners of war and the protecting powers must be informed as soon as
possible about which offenses are punishable by death. Other offenses may
not be added to the list later without the agreement of the protecting
power. (Convention III, Art. 100)

An occupying power may sentence civilians to death only if they are guilty
of spying, serious acts of sabotage, or if they murdered one or more people
— but only if these offenses were punishable by death by local laws before
the occupation began. (Convention IV, Art. 68)

If civilians in an occupied territory are charged with an offense that is
punishable by death, their protecting power must be notified immediately.
If the notification is not received at least three weeks before the first
hearing, the trial shall not proceed. (Convention IV, Art. 71)

See also fair trials.

Nick said...

Interesting. I just found out that the US has not ratified Protocol I or Protocol II. This is certainly a blow to anyone arguing legally for combatant status for Iraqis fighting against the occupation. With this information, I'm forced to agree with John's second attempt characterizing detained Iraqis, which was that they are subject to the penal laws of Iraq. However, Iraq did not operate under Sharia law, which John's implies. Iraq was a very secular government.

My big problem was with John's first characterization of detained Iraqis:
"If they are captured in civilian attire while actually members of the opposition, they are treated as spies and shot."

It seems John has since revised this statement, to say that Iraqi resistors/insurgents are to be treated under Iraq penal laws, instead of summarily shot. If I'm misinterpreting you here, let me know.

On the shooting of spies, I've been educated. I would not have guessed that the Conventions would have language to say when it's ok to punish people with death. However, as seen in Convention IV, Art. 71, there is a process/trial to determine their guilt. This process is not obvious from your first statement regarding spies.

What does the exclusion of Protocols I and II mean? Apparently for any country that did not ratify I and II, then they can occupy any country without regard to resistance? That seems to mean that Iraq (who also did not ratify I or II) could have invaded us, and we would have no legal right under international law to resist or fight back. This brings us back to the legality of the invasion itself. Our invasion was illegal. So we dismissed international law, then now we're trying to use it where convenient to give it some legitimacy. I would suggest that no Iraqis are tried or punished for their violations of international law, until our government is tried and punished for our own violations. And I'd point out that the detained Iraqis violations could not have occurred, if not for our own original violation....the invasion.

Doug said...

Allow me to amend my 8 years statement. Maybe the number is 16, or 20, 24 32, 128, it doesn't matter. I insist we stop at Andrew Jackson because he had an open Whitehouse, and the staff possibly really did have to clean up food from the floor.
Maybe what we are all searching for is 'common ground'. Maybe that is why "W" could get reelected by the plurality in 2004.
Maybe America is in the middle of trying to examine herself and the conservative edge won out because people wanted/needed the pace to slow down. I am certain this kind of thing is NOT what anyone bargained for.
If America is in search for herself then I can bet on a few things.
1) No %$#@! lawyer will write a line, paragraph, brief, or non-fiction novel that defines it. It lives in our hearts somewhere.
2) Nearly all legislatures happen to be lawyers, so it ain't going to be codified into law.
3) "Lead by example" is still the best advice, and between cloakroom politics, CIA fuckups, Katrina malappropriations, NSA wiretaps and blowjobs in the oval office, the last 16 years ain't been no 1,000 points of light. I'd prefer the latter, but I am reminded that the two best jobs in everyone's life are the last one and the next one. So maybe I'm guilty of romaticizing the Clinton administration.

I guess I see the future as a lot of paths leading various places. Each of them with their own hazards, and I want to reject stuffy cloakroom government as an anachronism. It doesn't 'fit' into a faster-paced more examined government, which I am betting we are headed for.
Furthermore I've travelled a bit in the last few decades. I discovered some scary things. As a 'race' Americans are not unique among the world's peoples. We ain't got the upper hand by genetics, religious fervor, education, or the Will of God. Only thing that singles us out, across the board, is hard work.
(And now we're outsourcng that!)
If someone wants to see threats to America's future I'll provide a few.
1) Revolution against an overly stratified upper class, trying to steal the 6th 9 of wealth. (99.9999%)
2) Apathy as stakeholders in America just quit all of their social responsibilities when their efforts aren't rewarded.
3) Polarization. Until someone can actually work back towards the middle and away from either end, they will alienate and disaffect huge segments of the population, cuaising even more zealotry and polarization. A downward spiral of mutual abuse from both ends. Resulting in the old "You're either with us or against us!" stupidity.
4) Economic collapse. Once there are no more jobs in manufacturing on our shores, Our need for real time engineering drops towards zero. (Fixing fuck-ups causes some smart ideas to pop up.) We can all get jobs redistributing wealth to each other from imports until the dollar has no value overseas, and we can't buy a damn thing on the world market we had foisted on us by ourselves.
These 4 things; Revolution, Apathy, Polarization, and the Economy, spell the RAPE of America and her future demise. (Nice tie-in, huh?)
I don't think terrorists even figure in to it.
"We have found the enemy, and he is us!"

Humbug said...

I remember three of the main arguments for overturning Saddam were:

+ He tortures his own people
+ He invaded a sovereign neighbor based on puffed up rhetoric.

- We all (now) know the WMD story.
-*We* invaded a sovereign nation based on puffed-up rhetoric.
- We apparently think we our torture is justified while his wasn't.

As we continue down this path, we become more like what we're fighting than different from it.

Don't even get me started about "religious" factions fighting each other over how to govern. Say what you want about lawyers, but at least some of our issues are being sorted out in courts (here) rather than in the streets (Iraq).

So who's gonna invade us and straighten out this country that has WMD, a leader bent on torture and invading sovereign countries?

Humbug said...

So I found the Geneva Conventions online and saw the first couple of articles and thought, "Hey, this isn't nearly as bad as I had feared."

Then I get to Article 6, "...xpressly provided for in Articles 10, 23, 28, 33, 60, 65, 66, 67, 72, 73, 75, 109, 110, 118, 119, 122 and 132, .." and thought to scroll down a bit.

Holy crap!