Politics Thursday: Your Conduct in Combat

I'm going to take a break from quoting "Powers That Be" in order to share my latest personal documents digitization project:

I think the whole of this slightly post Vietnam era Army-issued guide for soldiers is worth reading and emulating, but no part as worthy as this page:

If you can't make out my cheap digital copy, here's the text (emphasis mine):

BUT .. never use threats, torture, or other forms of coercion to get information. An enemy captive is required to give only his name, rank, service number and date of birth. Combat experience has proven that useful information has been gained from captives who have been treated humanely, while information gathered through torture or coercion is unreliable.

Attacks upon the personal dignity of any captive or detainee, such as humiliating or degrading treatment, are strictly forbidden by the law of war.

We used to know better. Now our high officials talk of "quaint treaties" and the need to do the "hard things." This isn't progress. It's heartbreaking AND counterproductive.

[Note: If you choose "all sizes" on the Flickr page and print out the largest picture, the text should be easily readable except for the inside front cover. The entire set of pages is on Flickr.]


We used to be dealing with the armed forces of countries not religous fanatics answerable to no one.

Hey, Greg! When ARE you going to enlist? I've seen your pic over in Shush World or whatever it is and you look fairly healthy to me. Get with it and enlist! We need you over there!

Of course things happened. But back then our ideal and formal regulation was to avoid coercive mistreatment. Now our formal rules enshrine it. That's what's wrong. That's what our armed services tried to tell us back in 2003. We should have listened.

I'm sure it did. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

And you really believe that none of the supposed torture stories that have occurred in the past 3-4 years did not also occur back then? I have no doubt that with less technology and less oversight to record what you would consider torture, not only did it happen, it happened more often and possibly into realms that I myself would consider torture. Amazing how much faith you put in that little book.

Hi Tomeboy,First, let me thank you for being the only person on the pro-coercion, pro-prisoner mistreatment side who has written so far who did more than just toss cliches at me. It is appreciated.I have dealt elsewhere in comments with why I don't believe the lack of terror attacks on US soil since 9/11 can be considered proof of the efficacy of the administration's interrogation methods.My main claim for why "threats, torture, or other forms of coercion" and "Attacks upon the personal dignity of any captive or detainee, such as humiliating or degrading treatment" are counter productive is based on a reading of history, and not of current classified information (if such exists!). The Army staff didn't believe in it or they wouldn't have wrote in a manual back in 1977. Further history is replete with examples of the ineffectiveness of torture and other forms of coercion and mistreatment.The examples below are drawn from this paper, presented at a military ethics conference:http://www.usafa.af.mil/jscope/JSCOPE03/Arrigo03.h tmlA Consequentialist Argument against Torture Interrogation of TerroristsJean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D.Joint Services Conference on Professional EthicsJanuary 30-31, 2003, Springfield, Virginia

  • In 1979 the [TNP] team captured Nalan Gurtas. She had personally killed 32 Turkish National Police officers.... Trying to obtain intelligence out of one of the most violent people on earth is a bit of trouble.... She screamed, spat, kicked, ripped up her holding facility, refused to talk....She tried to cut her wrists with a plastic knife; she ran full force with her head onto the wall. She threw feces at all of us. Then the word came down to go to Level 1 [i.e., potentially fatal torture]. .... She stayed silent.... [During transport] she tried to jump from the speeding vehicle...after laughing she loved shooting police and Americans. She was between the car and the ground when they fired 32 rounds into her, which was one hell of a hard shot to make.....
  • Even under the Nazis, torture interrogation failed to break dozens of high state officials and military commanders involved in late-war plots to assassinate Hitler. According to Peter Hoffman’s History of the German Resistance: 1933-1945:[27], "Six months from the start of their investigations the Gestapo still had nothing like precise knowledge of the resistance movement.......This lack of information and knowledge is all the more astounding in that Himmler's men employed every means to extract confessions.... Moreover all forms of torture were used without hesitation...."
  • Closer to home for Americans, during the months and years of North Vietnamese torture of American POWs, Commander James Stockdale estimated that under 5% of his 400 fellow American airmen succumbed to North Vietnamese demands for anti-American propaganda statements.[28] These examples expose the bigotry in the expectation that key enemy terrorists will readily give up their plans and associates under torture.
  • The French General Paul Aussaresses, chief intelligence officer in the Battle for Algiers from 1955 to 1957, credits his large-scale, merciless, torture interrogation campaign with crushing the Algerian insurgency and stopping terrorist bombings. Aussaresses’ name is often brought in to support the ticking bomb argument, but his memoir records cases of terrorists dying under torture with their secrets or exasperating him to the point of murdering them himself.[66] He did not run a small-scale, precision, torture-interrogation program, as envisioned by advocates in the U.S. He had an informant for each city block in the native section of Algiers. Altogether, thirty to forty percent of the men were arrested and interrogated during the war, frequently under electrical shock to the sexual organs.[67] Aussaresses ran a dragnet interrogation program, which swept up the peripherally involved and the uninvolved along with terrorist leaders.
  • experimental studies find that the short-term success rate of professional lie catchers—police officers, detectives, prison guards, customs officers, and the like—falls mostly in the 45% to 60% range, where 50% is the chance rate. In these experiments, professional lie catchers only differ from nonprofessionals in their high level of confidence! The professionals’ unwarranted confidence has been traced to lack of feedback in the workplace regarding the accuracy of their judgments and to their false reliance on behavioral signs of deceit, such as gaze aversion. In fact, behavioral signs of deceit differ across liars and constitute only a small effect. Accuracy of lie detection has been raised to the 70% to 85% level through arduous technical methods, such as film analysis of micro-facial expressions, content analysis of testimony, polygraphy by independent examiners, etc. Yet even these methods can be counteracted by trained subjects[74] or may fail due to individual differences.Ã[75] Torture, which exaggerates physiological variability in subjects, may complicate objective lie detection.

In addition to the historical worthlessness of torture, there is also to problem of what systematic mistreatment interrogations does to the people carrying it out:

Training programs have been studied through interviews with former torturers in Greece,[54] Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay,[55] Nicaragua,[56] and Israel,[57] to name a few. As a composite picture, trainees are typically selected on the basis of their ability to endure hardship and pain, for correct political beliefs, trustworthiness, and obedience. Often the young, the lower class, or the poorly educated are recruited, or even kidnapped. Brutal training at the outset desensitizes trainees to their own pain, suffering, and humiliation. Confinement and initiation rites isolate them from prior relationships. Constant physical and psychological intimidation instill obedience. Trainees first learn torture through social modeling in witness and guard roles. They usually experience tension between their new roles and their previous values, and they variously resort to denial, psychological dissociation, alcohol, or drugs. The efficacy of shame tactics tends to lead, as with the Israeli General Security Services treatment of Palestinians, to sexual tortures, which in turn contribute to stigmatization and corruption of torturers. Training programs use dehumanization and scapegoating of victims to relieve the bad self-image experienced by many torturers.

If the techniques used by the administration didn't work in the past, they're likely not working now. And they've cost us so much in honor and integrity they are doubly not worth it.

Greg,We've been fighting terrorists blended with civillian operations a long time. The rule book I digitized is dated 1977, here are some things that happened in the 1960s, according to the Facts on File World News Digest, a product that belongs in every school:Citation: "Vietnamese War: Terror Attacks." Facts On File World News Digest, 26 January 1966. FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. Juneau Public Library, Juneau, AK.Viet Cong terrorists stepped up their attacks against civilians and military personnel in Saigon and in other parts of South Vietnam.Among incidents reported:

  • 2 Viet Cong mine blasts, set off in Saigon January 6, killed a South Vietnamese civilian and wounded 5 U.S. servicemen and several Vietnamese civilians.
  • A South Vietnamese civilian rice convoy was ambushed by Viet Cong January 8 at Conson, between Danang and Hue. A British missionary and 3 civilians were machine-gunned to death. The missionary was identified as John Haywood, 31, of the World Wide Evangelization Crusade. He had been in charge of a leper colony in Danang.
  • The floating My Canh restaurant in Saigon was the target of a terrorist bomb explosion January 8. 2 South Vietnamese civilians and a policeman were injured on the street, but no one in the restaurant was hurt. (The My Canh had been blasted by a Viet Cong bomb January 25, 1965, and 42 persons had been killed.)
  • Other terror incidents reported on this date omitted for copyight reasons.

Then there'sCitation: "Vietnamese War: Terrorism." Facts On File World News Digest, 2 March 1966. FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. Juneau Public Library, Juneau, Alaska.

  • Viet Cong terrorists February 5 exploded mines and grenades in a restaurant in Vinhlong, about 65 miles southwest of Saigon, killing 2 U.S. servicemen and 5 Vietnamese civilians. 6 Americans and 10 Vietnamese were wounded. Police shot and killed one of the terrorists.
  • 56 South Vietnamese peasants were killed within a 3-hour period by Viet Cong mine blasts February 14 on a road near Tuyhoa, 225 miles northeast of Saigon. In the first incident, 29 farmers were killed and 5 injured when their bus detonated a mine. Later a 2d bus detonated another mine 800 yards away and 20 persons were killed; most of them were civilians watching a crane lift the wreckage of the first bus from a nearby canal. The 3d mine explosion killed 7 bus passengers.
  • A Viet Cong mine explosion February 17 killed 12 Vietnamese and injured 60 outside South Vietnamese Armed Forces headquarters in Saigon.
  • Other incidents reported this date omitted for copyright concerns, but you get the idea.

Dealing with terrorists isn't something that happened after 9/11 or even after the 1983 Lebanon bombing. We didn't formally throw out the human rights rule book then, and the President and his advisors shouldn't have thrown it out now.

Another measure of the President's policy to reduce terrorism globally would seem to be reducing or holding steady the number of global fatalities from terror incidents. At least that is what is implied by constant Administration assertions that we are building a safer world.The Terrorism Knowledge Base http://www.tkb.org has records of terrorist fatalities back to 1968. And they tell a grim story - for the current Administration. From January 1, 1968 to December 1, 2001, 17,062 people had their lives snuffed out by terrorists -- approximately 3,000 of those just on 9/11.But since 9/11 and the Global War on Terror, $450 Billion later and over 30,000 people killed by our direct actions in Iraq to this date 24,240 people have been killed by terrorists. Think about that -- more people have been killed by terrorists in the last five years than in the prior 33 years.Those kind of results aren't worth throwing out our Christian values or traditional notions of human rights for. Even if the ends justified the means, the President's means are not achieving their ends.

Hi Tomeboy,I meant to make this part of a longer response tomorrow, but since you brought it up for the second time:"But Chuck the fact still remains that you cannot say with any degree of certainty that coercion, since 9/11, has not been a successful tool for thwarting planned terrorist acts. We can agree on this?"The lack of attacks on US soil from 9/11 to the present is *almost* as long as the time from the Oklahoma City attack of 1995 to the 9/11 attacks. By the logic of "no attacks means successful policy", then Clinton's anti-terror policy produced the same results as the President's. Only without spending $450 Billion and killing 10s of thousands.Or perhaps you want to argue that terrrorists only wanted to kill us since 9/11? I'm not making that argument by the way.

But Chuck the fact still remains that you cannot say with any degree of certainty that coercion, since 9/11, has not been a successful tool for thwarting planned terrorist acts. We can agree on this?

Both the CIA and mlitary intelligence warned against Islamist terrorists using hijacked airplanes as cruise missles. It even made it into the presidential daily briefing in August of 2001.What you are talking about is the prospect of a terrorist who knows the location of a WMD about to go off somewhere very, very bad and several gruffly handsome intelligence agents in $800 suglasses torturing him to save God, America, Fox News and the adolescent part of the male brain that makes this seem remotely possible or helpful.Nice that you conflated the two. Neat trick. Didn't you remember that we READ for a living?You just gave me a check mark in the first square of Idiot Talking Point Tatics Bingo.Cheers!

9/11 sounded like the plot to a bad tv show (box cutters, terrorists and airliners); however, I believe there are a couple of buildings missing in NYC. Suicide bombers blowing themselves up in pizza parlors also sounds like something from a movie.

It sounds like you don't think these scenarios are within the realm of possibility or probablity. Good thing chuck is not in charge of anything.

If I was secure in the idea that anyone was competent, let alone the government, I wouldn't have created SHUSH and would have left the world's troubles to someone else.

What if the world really is an episode of "24"? What then?By the way, I hear that the FBI and local police departments are taking their law enforcement cues from "Starsky and Hutch" and "S.W.A.T." Look for handlebar mustahces and white-dude afros to win the Global War on the Brown.

Greg, I thought a lot about what to say to this. I'll let someone far wiser than me respond:"Your worldview is there for your comfort, to make you feel brave in demanding action, or secure in the idea that your government is competent, or noble in pursuit of higher ideals of patriotism or freedom."I hope your fantasy-world is a pleasing one and that reality, with its liberal bias, never, EVER, intrudes. Back to sleep, good sheep.

The Defense Department also had pamphlets telling soldiers not to get VD. We didn't have soldiers with the VD after those things came out.

I think on the whole, torture and/or intimidation is probably not a good thing; however, what if there was a nuke set to explode in Chicago or Niave, Alaska and we captured one of the terrorists. What if conventional interrogation wasn't working? Do you let Naive, Alaska or Wrigley Field get nuked?

Yes this type of treatment of prisoners can be characterized as heartbreaking, within the context of enemy combatants as soldiers, not cowardly murderers unwilling to extend Geneva conventions on their own behalf. But your second conclusion here, that this is counterproductive is unfounded. Unless of course you are privy to information otherwise unknown to Americans. And therein lies the dilemma for those using secrecy/coercion, (that would be Bush et al.) in justifying the use of such means. Their methods preclude making the public aware of their success. What we as Americans can deduce is that we have not been hit with a major act of terrorism since 9/11. So,we may never know how many innocent American lives may have been saved using such means. Speaking for myself and family, and refusing to establish a moral equivalent with Islamic fascists, Lenin had it right. The ends justify the means.

So you agree with old V.I.! I always knew you were a closet Leninist! What next? Free sex??

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