Monday, December 18, 2006

Our Bad

If this doesn't make you feel comfortable with our detention system in the war on terror, I don't know what will!
One night in mid-April, the steel door clanked shut on detainee No. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the United States military's maximum-security detention site in Baghdad.

American guards arrived at the man's cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

Yeah, yeah, I know. He was sleep deprived, subject to "harsh interrogation methods," blah blah blah. Nothing new here right? Wrong.
The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

If we can't figure who our own operatives are in these operations, how the hell are we supposed to know if we're detaining run-of-the-mill innocent people?
[A Pentagon Spokewoman] said officials did not reach Mr. Vance's contact at the F.B.I. until he had been in custody for three weeks. Even so, she said, officials determined that he "posed a threat" and decided to continue holding him. He was released two months later, Lieutenant Fracasso said, based on a "subsequent re-examination of his case," and his stated plans to leave Iraq.

This is what "posed a threat" has been reduced to? I know that this administration is not a fan of whistleblowers, but this is ridiculous.

Oh, and by the way--perhaps this is just me being Jewish, but I always find it particularly creepy when people are assigned numbers in place of their names. It is a classic dehumanization strategy, there is no purpose behind it other than to make it easier for guards to brutalize their wards, and it has no place in American policy.

Vance says he's suing Rumsfeld. I have no idea what the legal merits are here, but at some point there needs to be some accountability--criminal accountability--for the violations Rumsfeld and his ilk have approved against our own citizens.

14 comments:

Gatt Suru said...

Wow. Bright lights, irritating sounds, and cold temperatures.

Good thing there's absolutely nothing nearly close to that in modern America's jails, or you'd seem like a hypocritical asshole trying to earn political points at the expense of giving those who are supplying terrorists with weapons extra protection from the law.

Oh, wait...

Seriously, we do worse to friggen college students than this, nevermind alleged rapists or felons. And we're supposed to sympathize with someone who's associated with those providing arms to terorist organizations?

I'm sorry, innocent people have a bad tendency to get hurt. It's this thing called war. Maybe Ashcroft should have let someone with these sort of ties wandering around Baghdad. Maybe he would have been aced within minutes of snitching. Who knows.

Maybe Mr. Contractor from Chicago will win his court case. I'm doubtful, but there's always the potential of a very bad defense lawyer and a Democratic Congress announcing that unlike when Lon Horuichi murdered someone, Ashcroft attempting to prevent terrorist attacks is worth waiving sovereign immunity.

David Schraub said...

And the redline that Gatt simply will not cross in fighting terrorists (or people standing next terrorists, or people who look like terrorists, or in this case people helping us fight> terrorists) continues to recede yet further into the horizon.

I don't know what it will take (aside from a Democratic President approving it), but golly I swear to find some combination of depravity and inhumanity that even he will not support.

Randomscrub said...

While I feel no more than minor qualms about the treatment mentioned in the article (sleep deprivation, etc), you are correct that before the inmates begin receiving such treatment, the government should be damn sure that they are enemies.

If the government can't get its act together on that front in the next year or so, the issue may need to be revisited on the grounds that if one can't tell who deserves the harsh treatment, one shouldn't be dealing out such treatment.

Gatt Suru said...

Ah, nothing like an attack on my 'humanity', Schaub. I mean, it's not like I've placed clear lines before, both here and in The Moderate Voice, limits that I stick to here unless the man's fingers were falling off at 50 degrees.

And, in case you missed it, even if every single fucking thing 343 said was the truth, he still choose to voluntarily work for a company he believed was supporting terrorists militarily. Whistleblowing doesn't overturn ignoring the rest of it for months.

David Schraub said...

First of all, I have absolutely no recollection of you ever finding any interrogation treatment the US has engaged in beyond whatever theoretical limit you've set. Care to enlighten us?

Second, Mr. Vance (he has a name, and as I pointed out, referring to people by numbers instead of names is dehumanizing in general and particular insensitive when talking to a Jew) did not knowingly start working for a company engaged in weapons smuggling. He started working for a company, discovered it was possibly engaged in weapons smuggling, and immediately turned the information over to the authorities. That's textbook what you're supposed to do in the situation. It isn't supposed to lead to brutalization. And even if that's not the case (which it is for those of us not being deliberately obtuse)--weapons smuggling is not a torture-worthy offense (I can't believe that I even have to create that category). Even most theoretical proponents of torture ("harsh interrogation techniques") purport to claim that it's necessary for the baddest of the bad. Even under the type of hallucinogenic drugs I'd need to take to live in your fantasy world where Vance is an evildoer, he's still not the type of person who deserves to be subjected to this sort of thing.

Oh, and since we're all so fine and dandy with sleep deprivation, it's worth noting that sleep deprviation is one of the oldest forms of psychological torture, known to cause confusion, delusion, and psychosis, with targets willing to sign false confessions for crimes carrying the death penalty if promised they'll be allowed to sleep afterwards. Same thing with "cold room" (rooms chilled to 50 degrees, though this is considered physical rather than psychological torture). If you're not allowed to really move around or duck into a warm room or wear layers, 50 degree tempratures are well low enough to cause hypothermia.

But meh. It's only someone whom we had no reason to believe was a terrorist. And if we can put "terrorist" in the same sentence with them, they have no rights, right?

Robert said...

Gatt's a terrorist.
Let the treatment begin.

Gatt Suru said...

Oh, you mean providing weapons illegally to terrorists isn't a serious offense? In that case, surely providing weapons to otherwise law-abiding citizens, and then being responded to with.
Oh, wait, no, you're still only finding this interesting at all because the Bush Conspiracy is involved.

And, no, Schaub, if you believe your company is supporting terrorist activities or forces you to violate any other law (such as, for example, aiding and abetting a group which is at war with the United States), you don't stay with them for more than seven months.

David Schraub said...

I love how "serious offense" became a synonym for "torture-worthy". If you do favor torturing all persons suspected of committing a felony, why not just say so? Why the facade? This comment thread could have ended 5 posts ago.

Meanwhile, you continue a rather pathetic attempt to grasp at any straw that would justify this sort of treatment. I have no idea why you think that Mr. Vance knew about the arms smuggling the moment he joined the company. I highly doubt it was something they told at employee orientation. Everything we've been told about this case points to a very simple (and, I might add, heroic) path of action by Mr. Vance: He joined a company, found out they were engaged in illegal (and dangerous) activity, told the authorities, and helped the company be taken down. Desperate attempts to swing increasingly implausible counterfactuals reveal nothing but an S&M fetish.

Finally, my name has an "r" in it. Schraub. Not Schaub. Schaub was a QB for UVA. My brother will be going to UVA--I just go to Carleton.

Gatt Suru said...

Hm... phrase must have different meanings in other languages.

If bright lights, irritating sounds, and cold temperatures are all that constitute torture, yes, I do advocate it in the case of serious offenses (most felonies). Actual torture, things that people who aren't Euroweenies might consider unreasonable, like breaking someone's fingers or subjecting them to prison rape... not so much a fan of it. Mid-line stuff like waterboarding is situational, or at least a waste of time in most cases. No facade here; I just haven't been asked my position on the techniques.

Anyway, the seven months was the length of time between his meeting with the FBI in October to when he resigned his position (the same day he got arrested) in April. He had been working with the company in Iraq for well over a year before being detained, and the article suggests that he was aware of significant problems long before meeting with the FBI. Top of page two and bottom of page one, for those who haven't bothered reading the damn thing yet.

David Schraub said...

Suspected felonies (there was and will be no conviction in this case). But great, now we're set with your standard. Anybody arrested as part of a felony investigation can be suscepted to hypothermia and sleep deprivation. Which is a form of torture--to the British (Euroweenies!), but also the KGB (Euroweenies?), and North Korea (Asiaweenies!).

Let's start with Tom DeLay.

Gatt Suru said...

My apologies - Euroweenies is equivilant to liberal socialist.

Green Dreams said...

"Oh, you mean providing weapons illegally to terrorists isn't a serious offense?"

I know gatt is hopeless, but hey. Reagan did that. He admitted it. A bunch of the Bush team were in on it. Do you advocate torture for those of them still alive? Are you ready to admit that according to your definition Reagan is a traitor worthy of such treatment?

philou said...

What is clear, is that the American government support and cover-up weapons deals in Irak.
So, one can ask if that is not a deliberate will to make last civilian war in this country.
This, in order to justify the presence of american Army and to continue to control Irak’s Oil.

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