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Holsclaw on Torture

Sebastian Holsclaw offers a nice pitch urging his fellow Bush supporters to take the pile of evidence of widespread and systemic American involvement in torture more seriously. In related news, I agree with Jim Henley that there's something sick and bizarre about 24's portrayal of a world in which torture is considered standard operating procedure, to be resorted to at the slightest drop of a hat, even though the torturers seem to repeatedly be torturing the wrong people. I also find it weirdly inconsistent that sometimes they torture with tasers, sometimes with the sensory deprivation machine, and sometimes just be shooting people in the knee. Since they do so goddamn much torturing, you think they'd have a settled pattern.

Sebastian's post is about the real world, which is, of course, more important. For my part, I would go on about real-world torture, but I don't have much else to say except that you should really read the latest on this from Jane Mayer. I do, however, think that pop cultural depictions of the "war on terrorism" are important, because this sort of thing shapes the public's expectations about how the world works.

February 10, 2005 | Permalink

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» WAR: The Torture Problem from Baseball Crank
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Comments

The Jane Mayer piece is pretty chilling.

Posted by: Petey | Feb 10, 2005 12:18:32 PM

You want chilling? Go read Holclaw's RedState.org commenters. *They're* pretty fucking chilling.

Posted by: Anderson | Feb 10, 2005 12:32:11 PM

One quibble: you think that _24_ shapes people's expectations of how the world works? I only saw the first two seasons, but although a single episode might have a certain plausibility, if you continued watching any further the sheer accumulation of crazy plot twists would definitely lose that feeling. I think it's shaping people's expectations of how the world works about as much as Star Wars.

Posted by: Nick W | Feb 10, 2005 12:40:27 PM

Indeed, the Mayer piece should shock any reasonable person.

The Holsclaw piece is a yawner. And it comes too late. Extraordinary rendition, the systemic abuses of Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and elsewhere, the 'torture memos' of Alberto Gonzales were all known before the election. There was no "drip, drip, drip."

Instead, there was a willful effort by many on the right--including Holsclaw--to either ignore, justify, and/or minimize the scope and responsibility for the torture and other accounts of abuse of prisoners.

Posted by: Jadegold | Feb 10, 2005 12:41:59 PM

The new West Wing was about bombing Iran, presented as justified. WTF happened to these people? Were they tortured?

Posted by: John Isbell | Feb 10, 2005 12:43:26 PM

The new West Wing was about bombing Iran, presented as justified.

Well, it was about the British side making the case that it was justified, and the American side making the contrary case. It was, thematically, more about responsibility and (especially unintended) consequences (in the A plot), both on the international stage (the passenger jet was shot down because it was mistaken for one of the US spyplanes that had been surveilling Iran's nuclear sites) and the interpersonal stage.

Posted by: cmdicely | Feb 10, 2005 1:00:18 PM

I never watched that show after the sort of wierd fake out 9/11 episode where they dress down the Arab about why it's justifiable to be suspicious of him and explain Islamic terrorism using the goddamn bible.


Posted by: absynthe | Feb 10, 2005 1:12:12 PM

The 9/11 West Wing response episode is universally considered a complete embarrassment, even its creators aren't at all pleased with it. It's also a very poor basis for forming an opinion of the show. I strongly disagree that last nights episode presented Iran as justified, or at least as clearly justified. The British Prime Minister, the main proponent of the view, was repeatedly presented as rash, weak, and other negative lights. Anyway, everything interesting last night was the intra White House power struggle over Jed's illness.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Feb 10, 2005 1:18:22 PM

The 9/11 West Wing response episode is universally considered a complete embarrassment, even its creators aren't at all pleased with it.

I've always thought it was good for what it was -- a kind of raw artistic reaction while the feelings were very fresh. I also think its pretty clear that they explicitly said it was outside of the storyline and narrative of the series proper for a reason; and it really has very little to do with the rest of the series.

Posted by: cmdicely | Feb 10, 2005 1:25:09 PM

“It’s a big problem,” Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general and a member of the 9/11 Commission, says. “In criminal justice, you either prosecute the suspects or let them go. But if you’ve treated them in ways that won’t allow you to prosecute them you’re in this no man’s land. What do you do with these people?”

Is that a naive question or what?

Posted by: J Thomas | Feb 10, 2005 1:48:19 PM

I probably shouldn't have said universally then.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Feb 10, 2005 2:04:52 PM

I think the point of the depiction of torture in 24 so far has been to criticize overtly several of the current WH administration's opinions on the matter. So far, we've seen 2 people tortured on the show, both of them innocent. In dramatic terms, that's criticism. Furthermore, the torture of the SecDef's son demonstrated the utter cruelty of certain forms of "non-invasive" coersion that would easily escape the torture definition under the guidelines approved by Alberto Gonzales.

Posted by: pickabone | Feb 10, 2005 2:08:04 PM

Why I don't take most of the claims of "abuse" seriously:

"Canadian Was Abused at Guantánamo, Lawyers Say
By NEIL A. LEWIS
Published: February 10, 2005

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 - Lawyers for a Canadian detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old asserted in a document released Wednesday that he was repeatedly abused by his American jailers.

The lawyers for the detainee, Omar Khadr, who is now 18, said he had been regularly shackled and left alone for long periods. During those periods he sometimes urinated on himself, after which guards poured pine-scented cleaner on him."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/10/politics/10gitmo.html?

WTF? This is considered abuse where we've left someone - an Al Qaeda member who has confessed to killing an American medic - alone for too long?

And then there's this "abuse":

"Detainees Accuse Female Interrogators
Pentagon Inquiry Is Said to Confirm Muslims' Accounts of Sexual Tactics at Guantanamo

By Carol D. Leonnig and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page A01

Female interrogators repeatedly used sexually suggestive tactics to try to humiliate and pry information from devout Muslim men held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a military investigation not yet public and newly declassified accounts from detainees.

The prisoners have told their lawyers, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women. The women rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively, at least eight detainees said in documents or through their attorneys.

[...]

The military investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices worldwide, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, confirmed one case in which an Army interrogator took off her uniform top and paraded around in a tight T-shirt to make a Guantanamo detainee uncomfortable, and other cases in which interrogators touched the detainees suggestively, the senior Pentagon official said."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12431-2005Feb9.html

They were "abused" because a female interrogator wore a tight T-shirt??? We can't have the terrorist "uncomfortable"? Give me a f*cking break.

This is why virtually the entire "controversy" about Gitmo and Aby Ghraib is a f*cking joke. And until people - even conservatives like Sebastian and Greg Djerejian - acknowledge that, they are not to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Al | Feb 10, 2005 2:08:26 PM

Real cute, Al. Consider only the more benign examples of abuse and ignore the more severe forms of torture. Ostrich head, meet sand. Sand, ostrich head.

Posted by: jackiet | Feb 10, 2005 2:27:31 PM

Why I don't take most of the claims of "abuse" seriously:

You don't take the documented accounts of beatings, killings, and other serious torture seriously because some people have complained of far more mild treatment as "abuse"?

You, Al, are a complete tool.

Posted by: cmdicely | Feb 10, 2005 2:42:54 PM

Orwell: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them” (1945)


Posted by: absynthe | Feb 10, 2005 2:47:54 PM

I don't know if this makes a difference, but in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, either Joel Surnow or Robert Cochran, both of whom are the creators of "24," says that he is a "right-wing nutjob."

As for why the methods of torture were different, they were dealing with different people. Sec. Heller's son was a Michael Moore type who, in the eyes of the torturers, is probably less trustworthy than Sarah Gavin, who had been working at CTU for eight months. Additionally, at the end, didn't they strap her into a chair and give her some shot? Of course, this is television, and they might just want to do as much cool stuff as possible.

Posted by: Brian | Feb 10, 2005 2:48:10 PM

That had to be Stalker Al.

Posted by: JP | Feb 10, 2005 2:52:29 PM

I changed channels as the plotline emerged. I'm glad they altered it.

Posted by: John Isbell | Feb 10, 2005 2:56:46 PM

You give me credible claims of real, actual abuses, and I'll condemn them. Like the stories posted above, most (although certainly not all) of what I've seen falls into the category of "not abuse". Making a person uncomfortable - not abuse. Leaving them alone for a while - not abuse. Making them wear panties on their head - not abuse. Shackling them - not abuse. Killing them or breaking their bones or electricuting them - THAT'S abuse.

And no, just because HRW or Amnesty Int'l claims something happened doesn't make it credible; in fact, if anything, when HRW or AI (groups that have as their core mission to hurt America) claims something, I find the claim to be LESS credible.

I have not read the Mayer piece yet - perhaps I will this weekend - but the mere act of sending someone to Jordan doesn't trouble me, regardless of what some prisoner claims. It would trouble me (although it apparently didn't trouble Clinton) if we sent them there FOR THE PURPOSE OF being tortured. But the mere claim by a person that he would be (or even that, after we sent him he was, absent our knowing about that beforehand) tortured does not seem especially problematic.

Posted by: Al | Feb 10, 2005 3:07:22 PM

Al, Maher Arar.

Look it up. More information than you could possibly want.

Including repeated beatings in Syria. Including locked in a cell for days where he could neither stand nor lie down. He was a Canadian programmer. We can't show any ties to Al Qaeda.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Feb 10, 2005 3:16:48 PM

It would trouble me (although it apparently didn't trouble Clinton) if we sent them there FOR THE PURPOSE OF being tortured. But the mere claim by a person that he would be (or even that, after we sent him he was, absent our knowing about that beforehand) tortured does not seem especially problematic.

Yeah, we put the guy on a plane to Syria because we thought they were going to do his nails.

You aren't even serious.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 10, 2005 3:54:48 PM

Sebastian - I know about Arar. I know he was a Syrian citizen (and, yes, I know about the blah, blah, blah details of whether he tried to reject citizenship) who we deported to Syria. Which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

The question is: did we know beforehand that he would be tortured there? And no, I don't accept: "well, we know that Syria is a country that tortures people" as sufficient. Him, personally?

As I said above, I don't accept sending someone to another country for the purpose of having him tortured there. But that isn't what happened to Arar.

But, more importantly, the people who go batsh*t about torture and abuse, and yet fail to condemn the egregious overreaching (such as the suggestive T-shirt case I posted above), simply have no credibility to me.

Posted by: Al | Feb 10, 2005 4:49:53 PM

well, fuck Al.

Why stop with the panties and screwing around with the girl in the little top. Why not keep the rape in to.

You are one evil bastard.

I can't decide which is more disturbing a)You keep glomming onto the sexual style degredations because you feel less bad about them than beating people to death and sodomizing them and electrocuting genitals and siccing dogs on people or b) You actually believe that this is some sort of interogation tool and that sexual humliation belongs in the toolbox.

Posted by: absynthe | Feb 10, 2005 4:58:34 PM

I know he was a Syrian citizen (and, yes, I know about the blah, blah, blah details of whether he tried to reject citizenship) who we deported to Syria. Which seems perfectly reasonable to me.


He was a Canadian citizen that renounce Syrian citizenship the same way most people becoming US citizens are required to renounce foreign citizenship -- and when its done to become a US citizen, the US government recognizes it whatever the foreign government says.

Posted by: cmdicely | Feb 10, 2005 5:24:16 PM

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