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torture and moral equivalency

First, the photographs. They are of actual live castrations of Kurds. Now, the video tapes: Two beheadings, during one of which "Happy Birthday, Saddam" is being sung in Arabic. Fingers being cut off one by one from a hand tied to a board. People being thrown off four-story buildings, one forced to wear a Superman costume.
Read Roger Simon. Right now.

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Comments

There was an Iraqi gentleman who told his story about his time (15 days) in one of Saddam's prisons, in the comments to Zeyad's post about Nick Berg. What with the Haloscan comment length limit, it took up four comments. Part of it:

I spent twelve days in my own lonely cell, on a naked floor. There was torture daily and my feet swelled to twice their size from beatings on the soled of my feet. We were then moved to another prison at the Headquarters of Ramadi.torture started again. I was hung by my two hands from the roof of a toilet and continuously hit. At about 7.00 PM they let me down and gave me a roll with egg. I was using my right hand and the guard watched me. He said “Your hand looks fine after the torture.” So next, he proceeded to beat my right hand with a thick stick until it swelled up and then told me to go on with my food.

And he was one of the "lucky" ones.

So this won't surprise anyone who's been reading Iraqi blogs. As for the antiwar crowd, they'll just holler that two wrongs don't make a right.

Which is true, but honestly. How about a little perspective?

Yes, this situation desperately needs some perspective. I am sick and tired of these leftist communists like John McCain whining about how they hate America and torturing prisoners is oh so wrong. Too bad we don't have any pictures of Lenin administering "justice" in the Gulag so we could show them how their idol behaved.

It's simply ridiculous and unfair to hold America to a higher standard than petty 3rd world dicators! Simply. Ridiculous. To those that say treating prisoners well helps us win because it makes the enemy more likely to surrender and the only thing that can restore that is a good house cleaning with a serious commitment to independant oversight, I say "Ha, you blame America first do-gooder, telling them how much worse we could be doing will certainly accomplish the same thing, and make us feel morally self-righteous too!"

You know, Soli, I do think it is possible that you can try not to be a smug asshole. If you really wanted to, that is.

And besides, I thought it was Stalin in the gulags with the lead pipe.

You know, Andrea Harrison, I do think it is possible that you can try not to respond to a serious argument, admittedly made with a surplus of snark, by resorting to cheap ad hominem attacks. If you really wanted to, that is.

Oh excuuuuse me, I'm sorry I hurt your little feewings. You poor baby.

By the way, the name is Harris. It says so right there under each comment of mine; if you have trouble spelling, try copy-and-pasting. Precious.

Soli, the problem is that we don't actually believe your sort when you claim that you're merely "holding America to a higher standard than petty 3rd world dicators."

Looking at the outcomes you argue for, it seems more likely that you are ACTUALLY arguing that America should never do anything to curb the dangers posed by petty 3rd world dicators or liberate people from terrible oppression.

Soli, go home, grow up, and come back. Cruel prison guards? who would have imagined such a thing. And of course ther are no guilty people in jails, they are all honest and misunderstood

Joshua -

Here are the possible outcomes I see:

1) America fully and completely acknowledges that the way we ran the prison was wrong. We use comparisons with a properly run American prison for perspective. We apologize, make reparations however possible to the injured parties, punish the guilty (especially the officers, the civilian contractors and higher up the chain of command), and remake the prison system in as transparent a model as possible.

Result: we have a few more bad months and then word of mouth gets around that we really aren't as bad as they say. Things wind down, Iraq has free elections, becomes a strong ally in the war against terror.

2) America admits that mistakes were made, but continues, in practice, to transparently attempt to minimize the impact. We use for perspective the practices of totalitarian regimes. We make non-apology apologies to the injured parties while having 2nd tier officials and blowhard shills play blame the victim and congratulate the torturers (see Hedrick, Bill). We give fairly harsh punishment to the infamous 7, see that a few grunt level civilian contractors get fired, emphasize the punishment of the guys who took the pictures and leave out the chain of command. The prison system remains mostly status quo with only some of the more extreme excesses curbed.

Result: nothing ever gets any better, we occupy until the American people get sick of the continual train of bodybags and force us to pull out, leaving Iraq to degenerate into civil war.

Yeah ... I'm a big peacenik here! You're so right.

Soli, I'm sure that after all this, American run prisons in Iraq will have far less humiliation, beatings and killings than American prisons in America.

However one thing in your analysis I completely disagree with is the assumption that our treatement of prisoners from now on has the slightest effect on the outcome of the war.

Hell, Iraqis (and other Arabs) are used to much worse than we ever gave and no doubt will do worse after we leave.

This crap probably affects public opinion everywhere except Iraq, where the mass of public opinion may even be in favor of humiliating insurgents.

I'm a big peacenik here!

If you don't want to be mistaken for a moonbat, then don't snark like one.

"However one thing in your analysis I completely disagree with is the assumption that our treatement of prisoners from now on has the slightest effect on the outcome of the war."

I think World War 2 showed us that how you treat the prisoners can have a large effect (ie compare how easily troops surrendered to Americans who treated them well vs Russians who treated them horribly).

From what I've heard, it sounds like this did not really affect public opinion in Iraq because they all assumed that's what we were doing anyway. However, if it was clearly and decisively stopped without continuous excuses and heaping blame on the victims, I think it might make a change for the positive.

Also, why does everyone keep assuming they are all insurgents and/or terrorists in the prison? It's my understanding that the majority of them are not. Can you point me to some factual information that says otherwise?

Soli from what I've read the regular criminals were not humiliated, just the suspected insergents - to soften them up for interrigation.

Maybe you could point me in the right direction to read this. What I've read suggested that in many cases it was just prisoners who had acted up or brought themselves to the attention of the guards. It sounds like some of them have even been released.

It sounds like the abuse occured mostly in Tier 1-A/1-B. 1-A from what I understand would, in theory, be the suspected insurgents and 1-B would be designated "trouble makers." However, they also appear to have "lost" records explaining why prisoners were transfered to these tiers, and the prison was vastly overcrowded ...