Saturday, March 26, 2005

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Let's get something clear..

I was remiss before, but it's worth quoting the salient parts of this Tyler Cowen post:

The purpose of our blogging is to circulate ideas that are new, or at least new to us and perhaps to you. But every now and then there is something to be said for sheer repetition of the important. If nothing else, this incursion into the known might make those points more memorable, more salient, or more likely to influence your behavior. So here goes:

Torture is morally wrong, and the U.S. government should not be torturing people or easing the use of torture. And yes I will make an exception for the ticking nuclear time bomb.

And for those who think this is merely an example of the United States "outsourcing" torture to other countries, consider the following Los Angeles Times story by Mark Mazzetti: (which is not about torture per se, but certainly an exanple of what happens when torture is condoned):

The Army has concluded that 27 of the detainees who died in U.S. custody in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2002 were the victims of homicide or suspected homicide, military officials said in a report released Friday.

The number is higher than Pentagon officials have acknowledged, and it indicates that criminal acts caused a significant portion of the dozens of prisoner deaths that occurred in U.S. custody.

The report by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command is the first detailed accounting of detainee death cases the military has investigated in those countries.

Most of the incidents cited in the report previously had come to light. Three death cases cited in the documents occurred after the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq revealed serious abuses in the military detention system and prompted several high-level investigations into the U.S. military's prison system worldwide.

The 27 confirmed or suspected homicides occurred during 24 separate incidents, 17 of them in Iraq and seven in Afghanistan. The Criminal Investigation Command has determined that there were homicides in 16 of the incidents and is continuing to investigate the other eight incidents.

So far, the Army has found sufficient evidence to support charges against 21 soldiers in 11 incidents on offenses that include murder, negligent homicide and assault. The five other completed investigations involve personnel from the Navy, other government agencies and foreign armies.

Despite the report, the Army does not plan on prosecuting anyone named.

Here's a thought -- with the Iraqi insurgency looking for an exit option, and with it becoming increasingly clear who's running foreign policy nowadays, perhaps this would be a good time to ease out the guy responsible for this cancer on the military?

posted by Dan on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM


Not only has no one of high rank been charged, even those who did the actual killing are being let off. But then if anybody were charged, in all fairness blame would have to be placed where it really beongs: at the top, the man to whom Rumsfeld reports.
So more than two dozen outright killings go unpunished. And beyond them must lie a world of mayhem and anguish inflicted by American agents. And an attempt to require the rudiments of due process for our captives in the future looks to be scotched by our Darth Vader, the Vice President.
I wish to God that as an American I were not implicated in this ghastly business. Even my greatest fears can't touch the shame of it.

posted by: PutToShame on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

I hate to sound pendantic, Dan, but do torture and the homicides documented by the GIC really represent the same issue?

Not that killing detainees out of hand is morally any more elevated that having them die in the course of an unlawful interrogation, but it is not the same thing, and was never (as far as I know) given any legitimacy or sanction by any administration official civilian or military. Half of the confirmed or suspected homicides being investigated by the Army "...occurred during firefights, raids or other incidents outside U.S. detention facilities," according to the LA Times article you linked to.

Since you mention the value of repetition, let me make again some points I've made before. First, there might have been some value in relieving Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in the immediate aftermath of the Abu Ghraib disclosures. With the passage of time any political or propaganda value that step would have had has evaporated. Second, Rumsfeld will most likely leave on his own within the next year or two.

And third, PR and foreign policy are not the same thing. I read the same Rice interview you did. In that interview, Sec. Rice described a number of things she hoped to see and alluded to a few things she hoped not to see. She made clear her enthusiasm for public diplomacy and her unfamiliarity with how well the money we spend on that purpose now is being spent. She outlined both in the interview and in two subsequent follow-up calls that she sort of knows what we agreed to with the Israelis about a settlement freeze, but not really. In short, Sec. Rice gave an interview that apart from the wishing and hoping could have been given by Sec. Powell.

She hasn't proven anything yet.

posted by: Zathras on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

21 people have been charged in 11 of these cases, that is hardly letting offenders go free. Investigations such as these, are often thought to be slow. That's not exactly the case, it is more that the investigation is quite thorough and every detail is covered prior to the filing of charges. Whatever the yardstick used, number of people in uniform, number of prisoners, it is obvious that while no American can be proud of what has happened (if it is proven) the number of cases does not indicate that the Nuremberg Tribunal needs re-convention.

We expect our leaders to lead us and absent evidence of a leadership complicity, it is absurd to hold them responsible for every sparrow which falls. Get real.

posted by: FASTNED on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

First of all George Bush can not run for office so he can not be eased out. Gonzales wrote and approved the underlying memos for torture and now is the Attorney General. I can not see him investigating himself. Rumsfield isn't going anywhere because it would be to admit that Bush was wrong. Same with Rice, Hadley, Wolfowitz, the current head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of military justice who rolled on this issue. We are going to bury this just like we did with most of the the Axis war criminals except its in reverse. Those giving the orders get off and those following get punished in the name of national security.

posted by: Robert M on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

Robert M.:

Well said. The only thing that I can add is that it's good to be the king.

posted by: Randy Paul on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

The prisoners at Abu Gharib were murderers of children. They weren't there for political crimes. The worst they suffered was humiliation and the only thing they lost was their dignity and the only thing that was hurt was their feelings.

They aren't worth two heart beats of Donald Rumsfeld's time.

I'm surprised you're still blogging. After your endorsement of The Dork, I would have thought you'd stick to your knitting and leave off blogging.

posted by: erp on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

The problem with getting rid of Rumsfeld at this point is that Bush would somehow, somewhere, find someone even worse to replace him.

Besides Rice (yes, I know you rather like her, and at least she's not morally repellent; it's her incompetence I object to), who's been getting promoted to bigger and better things lately? Gonzales. Bybee. Yoo. Bolton. Wolfowitz. It's as if Bush is using his 2nd term appointments and nominations to flip the bird at everyone. (As he also seems to be doing with his court nomination do-overs.)

Who would replace Rumsfeld? The mind boggles. Sanchez? Meyers? Boykin??

posted by: Palladin on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

Was it really the weakness of the evidence against them that explains why fifteen enlisted men engaged in torture or similar practices were let off?
Could twenty-some deaths have occurred if there weren't hundreds, more likely thousands, subjected to treatment outside the bounds of law and humanity, at many different locations, under many different commands?
Could they have occurred without initiative and approval from the highest officials? Why did the new Attorney General fight so hard for language that effectively sanctioned torture? Why is the Vice President so intent on denying the rudiments of due process to prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere?
I admit to a naive hope that colonels and generals may still be indicted, since it seems plain to me they initiated or knew full well of illegal practices.
But of course if privates are indicted, the question arises whether the sergeant knew or ordered what happened, and then the lieutenant, and then the colonel, and then the general, and then---
not hard to understand why indictments are hard to come by.
We shouldn't imagine that the American state is failing. More likely its control remains robust. One doesn't need to resort to conspiracy theories or believe Bush tracks sparrows to see that several murders and systematic torture, widespread and similar in technique, happened, could only have happened, because of the policies of our leaders in Washington. To suppose otherwise is make oneself even more deeply complicit in torture than every American citizen must needs be.

posted by: PutToShame on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

I wonder if Mr Drezner would be willing to put a small list of American cabinet officials who should have been fired for the killing of unarmed prisoners by US soldiers during WW2?

There are a few sites where you can see actual pictures of Americans lining up Germans, believed to be SS camp guards at Dachau and gunning them down.

I've read Patton's diaries, the higher ups knew about the killings there, just as they knew about the killing of German and Italian prisoners on Sicily in 1943 and nobody was prosecuted or forced to resign over it. I'm sure Mr Drezner would not excuse that? So who should have been fired? I've yet to see any evidence of Rumsfeld or Bush ordering prisoners to be murdered, so I hope Mr Drezner uses the same criteria to judge FDR, Stimson, Marshall, Ike, Bradley, Patton etc. And I won't even mention the Pacific theater......But I'm sure either Mr Drezner or others here will find some way to excuse what "the greatest generation" did or call it past history irrelevant to 2005, to which I'd say then let's revisit this 60 years from now and then poo-poo it because it happened so long ago...

posted by: MKL on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]


It seems to me that you are trying to conflate two differen things (and I suspect you realize this yourself). Patton had after-the-fact knowledge of a criminal event that occurred at Dachau. In contrast the Bush team has created and encouraged the implementation of a brutal system of torture and mistreatment in which murder is the natural end of the continuum.
Secondly, there is an important distinction between murdering civilians during the course of an occupation and murdering soldiers in a battlefield context. There is after all a strong moral duty for occupying powers to protect human rights, provide justice and guarantee due process to civilians. That kind of duty isn't being met in Afghanistan or Iraq. It was met in Germany and Italy once the occupation got organized.
The "heat of battle/horror of war" defence has some legitimacy in the context of finding a concentration camp. One could mount a temporary insanity defence if nothing else (as Patton no doubt understood). That kind of defence does not bear on the treatment of prisoners who have been removed from their homes or from battlefields or wherever and then taken to a prison, often (possibly usuallY) without any good reason. Cold-blooded torture to the point of murder against civilians during an occuptation vs hot-blooded murder of SS guards in a liberated concentration camp after a string of hard battles. Are you really sure you don't see a difference?
I'd also add that the bar is also a lot higher today because there has been from the outset greater moral controversy surrounding the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan than there was concerning Germany. If you are engaged in a morally dubious war it strikes me that you have a higher obligation to respect the rules of war and occupation. And you certainly do if the whole point of the invasion was to spread the blessings of democracy.

posted by: peter on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

BTW, I would be the last person to call WWII the "great generation". The internment of japenese-americans, the turning-away of jewish refugees, the bombing of Nagasaki, etc. all tarnish any such claim. Lots of people should have been brought to justice for lots of different things then as today.

posted by: peter on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

No torture, not even with the ticking atom/hydrogen/neutron bomb, to permit it for any reason leads to Abu Ghraib.

posted by: old ari on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

"Cancer on the military" is such a florid, loaded phrase that it undercuts your point, Dr. Drezner.

posted by: Beldar on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

Does denial of exercise bikes and cable tv constitute torture? Just asking.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

It seems that so many people who like to call themselves torture opponents were outraged at the existence of the torture memos themselves, and indeed outraged at any attempt to even define what is and is not torture at all. They get extremely upset when asked to give their own opinion on what does and does not consitute torture, finding the question absurd-- a position as silly at that of Richard Clarke's on Iran that you castigate above. I find that point of view ridiculous. From surveying the history of war (and looking at prison systems the world over), it's rather obvious that without clear rules that torture and exceeding your imagined unwritten boundaries will occur. So, I think that the fanatical anti-torture discussion people lead to more torture than would happen even under the widely-discussed memos.

It may shock you, Dr. Drezner, but a rather large amount of summary executions of captured Germans and Japanese occurred during WWII. It's especially likely when the captured person just finished killing somebody's friend, or in the immediate aftermath of battle.

posted by: John Thacker on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

Also, Dr. Drezner, it's a good thing you linked to that NYT article, since you blatantly misread it and mischaracterized it when you said "the Army does not plan on prosecuting anyone named."

Completely untrue. A more hotheaded person would even call that a lie. The article says that 17 people in three specific incident (resulting in 3 deaths) are not going to prosecuted, despite recommendations. That alone is questionable. However, the article also states that some soldiers are being prosecuted.

To date, the military has taken steps toward prosecuting some three dozen soldiers in connection with a total of 28 confirmed or suspected homicides of detainees.
In one of the three cases in which no charges are to be filed, the commanders determined the death to be "a result of a series of lawful applications of force." In the second, the commanders decided not to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. In the third, they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement.

It's also shocking how people with an utmost concern for the rights of detainees seem to combine that with an utter disregard for following the rules of justice when it comes to the accused in the military. Any case where prosecutors fail to win conviction is an automatic miscarriage of justice? What strange rules that would make in our court system; what perversion of justice.

posted by: John Thacker on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

And again from the same article:

They also include a prisoner in Marine Corps custody whose death resulted in the conviction of two marines on charges including assault and dereliction of duty, according to a Marine spokesman.

Which is completely different from "not prosecuting anybody named."

posted by: John Thacker on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

Well said, Thacker. Interested readers will also find such prosecution updates in the right-hand side-bar of any week's Army/Navy/AF/Marines Times.

One suspects than Drezner's comment count suffers from time to time. Nothing a good "Rummy as Evil Incarnate" post can't fix.

No time for an "update" either, eh Professor? For shame.

posted by: Art Wellesley on 03.26.05 at 05:12 PM [permalink]

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