pecunium: (camo at halloween)
Quite apart from my personal reactions to the memos, there is the question of how well the system of interrogation they describe works.

The first two memos pretty much cover all we need to go over (after the first forty pages they become redundant, as they elaborate the various excuses, rationalisations, and "justifications" behind the answers they came up with. You can find them all here. You can find some legal commentary here at Law of War.org). The short answer to the questions the 'utilitarian', who wants to justify the use of torture, needs to ask: 1: does it get good information, 2: does it make the US, and her residents, safer, and 3: Does it further the overall agenda of the US in the "War on Terror"? is no, it does not.

So let's look at them, and see why.

Right at the front, in the second graf we see the largest part of the problem. "In light of the information you believe Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an "increased pressure phase."

The information they believed him to have. From the get-go that’s a red flag. One doesn’t interrogate to get confirmation. One interrogates to find out what the subject knows. The only confirmation one is ever looking for is not what one “believes” the source to know, but rather corroboration of things other sources have said.

Even that’s problematic. Going “fishing” for specific facts runs the risk of leading the source to the answers the interrogator is looking for. It’s a form of training, and leads to confirmation bias. (when one gets to the end of the memos, one finds that half of the reports the CIA filed in 2004 came as a result of just “a few” subjects. When just a few sources are the basis for more than 3,000 intelligence reports; in a single year, something is wrong).

The training starts when they begin to remove his, “expectations of treatment.” They lay out 10 techniques, designed in concert with the “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training psychologist” they were working with. SERE isn’t meant to be a blueprint of “how-to”; it’s meant to show the students that torture can be used to break anyone. Even those who know they can actually get out. SERE is a form of the Milgram Experiment, writ small, and with more safeguards.

The ten things they outline are: ”(l) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6)wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard. You have informed us that the use of these techniques would be on an as-needed basis and that not all of these techniques will necessarily be used. The interrogation team would use these techniques in some combination to convince Zubaydah that the only way he can influence his surrounding environment is through cooperation. You have, however, informed us that you expect these techniques to be used in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique.”

"Not necessarily ending with that technique." Nice to know that they aren’t planning things out so carefully. After they waterboard him, they might go to “the stand-up”. Every one of those techniques can be torture. Some of them are torture on their face (The Stand-up, Waterboarding, Cramped Confinement). The others might not be torture, but in this context (convincing him that his present “circumstances” are changed), they probably are.

The one which is most problematic and the one which most people in this line of work keep in the “gray area” is sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep makes for odd reactions. It reduces willpower. I’ve been sleep deprived, and done some strange things. I’ve had hypnogogic events. My personal feeling is that sleep-dep is less than useful.

If I were brought a source who’d not slept, I’d not refuse to question him. In that state he’d be less likely to recall any training he had against interrogation. The second thing I’d do is get him a meal, and a bed. Then I’d do my best to get enough sleep to be alert when I talked to him the next morning.

That’s not what they had planned.

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual's ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of-sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction_ You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.

They didn’t plan to keep him awake for more than 11 days at a time. 11 days. I’ve never gone more than about 60 hours without sleep. That led to some of those “waking dream” states I mentioned. I wasn’t being forced to do it. It’s just the way the training went. If I’d been lower in the chain of command, I’d have gotten a couple of hours of sleep in that time. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

The other time I recall such events was in the middle of Basic Training. I’d been averaging about four hours of sleep a night, for about three weeks. Then I had a run of nights where events conspired to cut that to no more than three hours (or a couple of two-hour stretches). Next thing I knew I was reading about how to defend myself against chemical attack, while
dreaming about something else at the same time. Deuced strange, and I’d
rather not do it again, thanks. Eleven days at a time. Which implies they might let him sleep a few days, to allow “the effect of such sleep deprivation to remit”, and then do it again.

Which is stupid. One of the things sleep-dep does is blur the lines between real and unreal. When one is having hypnogogic events, one is in a dream state. Who among us hasn't awakened from a dream while slightly out of phase with the world? The rules are different in dreams. I don't want a source to be the victim of that sort of thing because he will believe things which aren't true. Which will come back to bite me in the ass, because when I repeat them to him they will become true; in his mind. After that, good luck sorting the fantasy from the real; you will have screwed yourself over.

There is then a bunch of blather about how many people went through SERE training without ill-effects. This is irrelevant. The people taking SERE know it will end. They went to the course voluntarily. That’s not the case for a prisoner. He doesn’t know when it will end. He doesn’t know the people holding him won’t decide to just kill him.

Then comes the “definition” of torture. First they divorce the mental from the physical. Then they say that the acts they are being asked about aren’t the same as beatings with clubs or weapons, and don’t inflict, “severe” pain, and therefore they aren’t, ipso facto torture.

When they move on to the question of mental, they rationalise that, “pain and suffering,” are linked, so the suffering the waterboard causes isn’t torture, because it doesn’t involve pain (because no one is beating on the prisoner), and even that’s not a problem, because the pain and suffering have to be, “severe” to rise to the level of torture.

Even when all of these methods are considered combined in an overall course of conduct, they still would not inflict severe physical pain or suffering. As discussed above, a number of these acts result in no physical pain, others produce only physical discomfort. You have indicated that these acts will not be used with substantial repetition, so that there is no possibility that severe physical pain could arise from such repetition. Accordingly, we conclude that these acts neither separately nor as part of a course of conduct would inflict severe physical pain or suffering within the meaning of the statute.

Got that. Neither separately, nor as a course of conduct.

What about that bugbear, “mental pain and suffering” (after all, I’d think being convinced one was being drowned, would count. The idea that my captors were trying to kill me slowly, I think I’d call that "suffering.”

Certainly, in light of what 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2) says:

(I) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application of mind-altering substances Or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the
personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that any of the preceding acts will be done to another person. See 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2)
(A)-{D).


They say it’s not a problem: the question is whether any of these acts, separately or as a course of conduct, constitutes a threat of severe physical pain or suffering, a procedure designed to disrupt profoundly the senses, or a threat of imminent death. As we previously explained, whether an action constitutes a threat must be assessed from the standpoint of a reasonable person in the subject's position.

Me... I’d say a reasonable person being held prisoner, abused, repeatedly half-drowned, forced to stay awake, bounced off walls (which were designed to make it seem worse than it is: which is part of the plan), part of a system meant to convince the prisoner that his circumstances are not what they were, that, “the gloves are off,” might conclude that the threat of severe physical pain, or imminent death, was a real possibility.

Waterboarding is something they say does just that. But (you knew there was a but), because he doesn’t actually die, and the effects are transitory; and they aren’t, painful, they don’t count, because “profound mental harm” is, so they say, a predicate requirement of the act.

What it boils down to is them saying, unless you do ALL the things listed in 18 U.S.C. § 2340(2) (A)-{D);at the same time, then it isn’t torture.

That gets us through the first memo (about 20 pages).

Memo number 2

Right at the start we see amother problem. To avoid becoming a subject for the “enhanced” techniques the prisoner has to "provide information on actionable threats and location information on High-Value Targets at large-not lower-level information, for interrogators to continue with [this]
neutral approach”


Right there is an institutional disaster. The only way to avoid being tortured is to give up information. If one doesn’t have the information, than one is doomed to be abused. The most willing “detainee” will not be believed, unless he has information about high value targets. This is defined as a “very high” standard.

What it actually is, is no standard. Everyone is presumed to be knowledgeable, and the only way to avoid being tortured to get at that knowledge is to have it to give up.

Honest ignorance will get you tortured. Devotion to the truth of one's ignorance will only "prove" that one is a die-hard fanatic. And "die-hard fanatics" need to be abused, so they will "give up" the information we knew they had. Catch-22.

The report just released about Zabudayah shows where that leads. Millions of dollars, and thousands (if not tens of thousands) of wasted man hours chasing false leads.

To get the prisoner to cooperate the neutral techniques are abandoned, and a “baseline state of dependence” is established: by stripping them naked, depriving them of sleep (while shackled) and manipulating their diet. This isn’t torture, no, it’s meant to "demonstrat[e] to the [detainee] that he has no control over basic human needs" and helping to make him "perceive and value his personal welfare, comfort, and immediate needs more than the information he is protecting

Heaven help the detainee who has no information to protect.

Why? Because the methods being used will teach him to lie. He will, in fact, have to lie. His comfort is dependent on his “cooperation": The insult slap is used "periodically throughout the interrogation process when the interrogator needs to immediately correct the detainee or provide a consequence to a detainee's response or non-response... Another corrective technique, the abdominal slap, "is similar to the insult slap in application and desired result" and "provides the variation necessary to keep a high level of unpredictability in the interrogation process... a third corrective technique, the facial hold, "is used sparingly throughout interrogation. It is not painful; but "demonstrates the interrogator's control over the detainee... Finally, the attention grasp "may be used several times in the same interrogation"

In short, when one says something the interrogator doesn’t like, one gets smacked.

The only way to not get smacked is to tell the interrogator what he, or she, wants to hear.

If there is any doubt that this is what was (is?) going on: The interrogators remove the hood and explain that the detainee can improve his situation by cooperating and may say that the interrogators "will do what it takes to get important information." As soon as the detainee does anything inconsistent with the interrogators' instructions, the interrogators use an insult slap or abdominal slap. They employ walling if it becomes clear that the detainee is not cooperating in the interrogation. This sequence "may continue for several more iterations as the interrogators continue to measure the [detainee's] resistance posture and apply a negative consequence to [his] resistance efforts." The interrogators and security officers then put the detainee into position for standing sleep deprivation, begin dietary manipulation through a liquid diet, and keep the detainee nude (except for a diaper). The first interrogation session, which could have lasted from 30 minutes to several hours, would then be at an end.

The next session starts with a slap, and the process repeats itself, until the interrogators hear what they want to hear. This can go on for 30 days. If the subject continues to resist, it can be continued, until he breaks.

Which is no way to collect information.

The final grace note is the “detention conditions”

The CIA maintains certain “detention conditions" at all of its detention facilities. (These conditions "are not interrogation techniques,” and you have not asked us to assess their lawfulness under the statute.) The detainee is subjected to white noise, not to exceed 79 decibels, and to constant light during portions of the interrogation process."

They do admit there are some gray areas, in which the pattern of behavior might combine to make otherwise legal methods torturous:

Finally we emphasize that these are issues about which reasonable persons may disagree. Our task has been made more difficult by the imprecision of the statute and the relative absence of judicial guidance, but we have applied our best reading of the law to the specific facts that you have provided.

Absence of judicial guidance means that the courts haven’t decided what tortures are legal, and which are beyond the pale, which has made their task “more difficult,” but never fear, they applied their best reading of the law to it, and decided that, so long as there were doctors present, none of the things they are talking are likely to rise to the level of torture.

What they did (as is plain in one of the footnotes) is decide that “torture” wasn’t really defined, and there was no way to interpret it which was useful so they could chop it up and make it legal. This, of course, flies in the face of the intent. Torture was broadly defined so that people couldn’t game the rules and say, “We didn’t chop his fingers off, we just scored his flesh with shallow cuts.”

Their best reading of the law.

Jesus wept.
pecunium: (Pixel Stained)
I am not sure that reading Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear was the best thing to be doing last night, when I got done with reading, and writing, about the memos the Obama adminstration released yesterday. Strange dreams.

But I read them, all 80 pages of 'em.

I was beginning to wonder at myself. It wasn’t until I was deep into the third memo (which is a detailing of the various “techniques” being used, and the rationalisations for them being legal, that I really started to be disgusted. It was the detailing of how sleep deprivation was to be enforced which got me. I can’t imagine doing that to someone. I just can’t.

Part of that is years of being intimate with torture. There is no way to be a good interrogator and not look into torture. To be a good interrogator one has to be curious, and torture is the uncle we don’t like to talk about, because he’s a little off.

It’s not that I’ve not walked right up to that line. In some example exercises I came right up to it. And I stopped the event. The subject was willing, and I wasn’t going to do anything which caused permanent physical, or mental, harm, but if I’d done it, I’d have been on the other side of the lines I’d drawn. It was tempting, seductively so. If I’d done it, he’d have talked. He was getting ready to cry. I hadn’t touched him. I hadn’t even fixed him to the chair (which probably made it worse, he could move, but he couldn’t get away). I had absolute power over him (insofar as the LT would have let me go, which; it turns out, was further than I was willing to let me go).

Torture has a long history, some of it is as object lesson (Henry VIII didn’t arrange for people to suffer in their dying because it was useful in collecting information. There was the one whom he promised he wouldn’t cut down to draw and quarter until after he was dead, then he put him in a cage, and hanged it from a post; letting him die over the course of days; true to his word, but still a terrible vengeance), some of it was because “higher principles” were at stake (the Inquisition was saving souls; the cost of bodies was a small price to pay).

Some of it was really subtle. The Inquisition has become infamous for its tortures (many of which were recounted in Protestant pamphlets... no ax to grind there). There are a couple of parallels to the present. Only the truly resistant, who the inquisitor was certain were hiding something, were to be tortured (compare this to the third memo which says, "Far from being constitutionally arbitrary the interrogation techniques at issue here are employed by the CIA only as reasonably deemed necessary to protect against grave threats to United States interests, a determination that is made at CIA headquarters, with input from the on scene interrogation team, pursuant to careful screening procedures that ensure the techniques will be used as little as possible on as few detainees as possible. Since they also claimed these techniques are only used on a detainee who, until time of capture, we have reason to believe: (1) is a senior member of al-Qaeda or an al-Qaeda associated terrorist group (Jemaah Islamiyyah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al Zarqawi Group, etc,); (2) has knowledge of imminent terrorist threats against the USA, its military forces, its citizens and organizations, or its allies; or that has had direct involvement in planning and preparing terrorist actions against the USA or its allies, or assisting the al-Qaeda leadership in planning and preparing such terrorist actions; and (3) if released, constitutes a clear 'and continuing threat to the USA or its allies." i.e. to say they only use these things when they have enough knowledge to know this is a “ticking bomb” situation)

The first torture was showing the instruments. Letting the subject ponder the pains they were to face the next day. That was considered torture. It was, legally, counted as torture. None of this pretending that only things which leave permanent mental scars or are excrutiatingly painful, or which have as their primary intent the causing of pain. Nope. Making someone think about being twisted, burned, half-drowned, all counted at torture. In that the Inquisition was more honest, and fair, than we pretend to be today.

And a confession gained by way of torture wasn’t admissible in the Canon Courts. It had to be repeated in front of the judge. Given that recanting was grounds for more torture it’s interesting how many people did recant. That’s why the church was reluctant to use it.

All of this is known to me. I’ve read of all sorts of tortures. Some of what finally got to me was the clinical nature of the reports. It was banal. It was no different, in the tone, than reading a memo on the best way to arrange for an easement to allow someone to get from the highway to the beach. It was the evil of small minds. They were asked a question (can we find a theory which makes it legal to call this, “not-torture”) and they answered it, and ignored the greater questions (should we find a theory which makes it legal to call it, “not-torture).

The saving grace in this mess is the military lawyers, pretty much, refused to go along. They protested the torture, and when they faced “evidence” collected from torture, they refused to use it.

This shit can’t be allowed to stand. We have to haul it out into the light. In the second memo they admit that not less than 25 prisoners were subjected to those techniques. Sleep dep, “dousing” (where water, as cold as 41°F is sprayed on a naked prisoner, in a room as cold as 64°F), slaps, grabs, being bounced off walls, confinement in small containers, “stress positions” and all the rest, are done for 1-3 hours at time, 2-3 times a day (well, apart from the sleep dep, that could be done for 180 hours; just over a week, in the finally approved forms), and the topper, waterboarding, could be done for up to twelve minutes of total drowning time.

We admit we did it. We know it happened. We know people did those things. We know other people sanctioned them.

And we know they are wrong. The actions of those who did the approving are those of people who know they were wrong. Classifying something Top Secret/NOFORN is not the sort of thing which ends up on legal theories, as a general rule.

I, as someone who did that job for 16 years, who taught it for 14, I want to see prosecutions. I want trials. I hope for convictions. I say this certain that I know people who were involved in interrogations which used these techniques.

I say this knowing that I like some of the people who may have used some of these techniques. I don’t think all of them evil. I think some of them young and misguided. I think the people who drafted these memos are evil. I think the people who asked for these memos are evil. I think they deserve a lot more grief than I think they are going to get.

In a perfect world, they would go to prison, and the folks at the bottom would get a serious evaluation, and sentences reflective of both the limited scope of action they had; the poor guidance should be mitigating (they were told it was legal, and in keeping with the Geneva Conventions). A ton of community service, and a sealed record (or an expungement) is in order for some.

Others... those who did things which led to death... lock ‘em up.

We need to do this. For ourselves, and for those who were wronged. We have a lot of innocent people who were called, “the worst of the worst,” and treated in ways we wouldn’t treat animals. They aren’t going to be so willing to forgive and forget. We have to make amends.

I'm pissed

Nov. 18th, 2005 07:08 pm
pecunium: (Default)
Which seems to be becoming a semi-normal state of affairs.

Rep Murtha (D-Penn) spoke out recently (not less so than the day before yester) saying we needed to pull out of Iraq now. His reasoning; this pooch is so screwed the question isn't if, but when. He thinks there is nothing going to get better from our being there, and that makes the expenditure of more blood and treasure pointless.

It doesn't matter what you think of the arguments, he's got not only the right, but the duty, to speak to the issue. He's a member of congress, as a Representative he swore to look to the needs of the country, with a focus on the specific interests which affect his district. If he has decided the war (for which he voted, and he makes no bones about his vote; he says that based on what he was told, and knew, he'd vote that way again; is no longer in the interests of the nation, he must speak out, his exact comment was, "The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, "the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency." General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

"For 2 ½ years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused."


Murtha, to give a bit of background, is no shrinking violet. He's a vet. He did two stints in the Corps; 1952-1955, and 1966-1967. He finished out Marine Corps Reserve career in 1990, doing more Reserve time in between '55 and '66. He's got two Purple Hearts, visits Bethesda and Walter Reed, regularly, and once told the commandant at one of them to award a Purple Heart which had been denied to a kid who'd been blinded and lost both hands; because it was friendly fire, saying that if they didn't he'd give the poor bastard one of his.

He's regularly supported the military; and he has the ear of the Corps, as well as contacts in DoD.

He takes no guff. When someone mentioned Cheney he shot back, "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

The response from the Republicans has been severe.

Today, on the floor of the House Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio)(the woman who barely won the Second District, running against Paul Hackett; Marine)said this, "Yesterday I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body – that we will see this through."

After the House lost all semblance of order she asked that it be stricken from the record.

Npw, according to Rollcall (which requires a subscription, so I'll quote it)"Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother’s lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee.

The calls come as Murtha, a former Marine and pro-military Democrat, has made headlines this week by coming out in support of a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

According to a June 13 article in The Los Angeles Times, the fiscal 2005 defense appropriations bill included more than $20 million in funding for at least 10 companies for whom KSA lobbied. Carmen Scialabba, a longtime Murtha aide, works at KSA as well.

KSA directly lobbied Murtha’s office on behalf of seven companies, and a Murtha aide told a defense contractor that it should retain KSA to represent it, according to the LA Times.

In early 2004, Murtha reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a contract to transfer the Hunters Point Shipyard to the city of San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. A company called Lennar Inc. had right to the land, and Laurence Pelosi, nephew to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was an executive with the firm at that time.

Murtha also inserted earmarks in defense bills that steered millions of dollars in federal research funds toward companies owned by children of fellow Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D).

Murtha and KSA have denied engaging in any improper or unethical behavior. Murtha’s offices in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment at press time.

But with GOP leaders infuriated by Murtha’s declaration this week that the United States should pull all its military forces out of Iraq in six months, renewed attention is being focused on Murtha’s dealings with KSA.

“I have read the articles about these appropriations projects that benefited his brother’s lobbying firm,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). “If there is a potential pattern where Congressman Murtha has helped other Democrats secure appropriations that also benefited relatives of those Members, I believe this would be something that merits further review by the ethics committee.”


Now, I won't say this isn't unpalatable, because if it's as presented, it sure looks bad, but then again this is the same House which passed a rule saying that the Majority Leader wouldn't have to step down if he was indicted. The same House that thinks paying half a million dollars to one's wife for a stint as campaign manager (and some tens of thousands of dollars to his daughter as a consultant of some sort, IIRC) is just ducks. At least the firms and people to whom Murtha is accused of tossing the red-meat of contracts had to provide something of benefit to the people, in the form of jobs and goods.

On the other hand, the last three grafs go like this, "Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi aide, dismissed the allegation that the Minority Leader was involved in anything improper as “absolutely ludicrous, and an attempt to divert from the real issue that Mr. Murtha is attempting to engage in debate on a critically important topic — U.S. policy in Iraq. The real story here is the Republican strategy to try to discredit at Congressman Murtha” while he is pushing for a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

Republicans acknowledge that Murtha’s Iraq statement — coming from a Member with strong military credentials — is driving their renewed focus on the ethics questions surrounding the veteran Democratic lawmaker.

“It strikes at the heart of his credibility on [military] issues,” said the GOP lawmaker. “He’s put himself on the frontline.”


What we see is more of an organized use of the levers of power to attack, intimidate, and (if successful) destroy people; people who are merely doing their jobs.

Durbin was forced to recant, when he'd done nothing wrong. So was Newsweek. Saxby Chambliss said his opponent was a coward, who hated America, never mind that he was a Vet, who'd lost his legs in Viet-nam. Hackett was called a coward, because after all, he only led a Civil Affairs detatchment (a small group who go out, by themselves, no infantry support, no armor, no helicopter gunships on call) and mingle with the people, trying to convince them we are the good guys. Civil affairs goes and sees what's wrong, and then rolls up there sleeves to fix it. A pothole? They come back with some engineers and fill it.

He did that for a year. But he's not a "grunt" so how can he claim to be a combat vet.

It's reprehensible. It's petty. It's destructive of the political system. The ideas stop counting. Duty is maligned, and those who attempt to practice it are to be brought low, while those who shirk it are raised up.

It has to stop.



website free tracking

Catching up

Nov. 9th, 2005 09:17 pm
pecunium: (Default)
This weekend was drill. In it's way drill is one of those things which never change, and are never the same. Sadly I am moving up in the world, which means more paperwork. As a middle manager I have to do annual reviews of some of the NCOs junior to me. In the active side of the house this isn't too hard. I'd get to see them every day. Once a year we'd sit down and go over expectations and how to achieve them. Once a quarter we'd review them, and see how much progress was, or wasn't, being made. Once a year I'd write it all up.

Some of it would reflect on me. If my expectations were out of line the senior rater can talk to me, and the reviewer can backstop him.

On the Reserve Component it's a little different. We only see each other once a month (and in my unit I don't have the advantage of a two-week Annual Training to try and squeeze some observational time in, because we do our ATs one at a time).

Last week I got told I had two to do. One of them on someone who has been away for ten months, and I've been away for the two he wasn't. Great. When I got to drill it turned out I had to do one more, and that one on someone whose in his fifties, and used to outrank me. Fun.

That wasn't the high point of the weekend. I suppose the high point might have been the fellow who stopped me to ask a metaphorical question about coercive interrogation (no he didn't know I was an interrogator, he just saw PFC Jones and I in uniform; on a coffee run. One of the perks of rank is being able to draft help. I didn't want to drive, and needed two more hands to carry things, so I grabbed the nearest private. I had practical motives as well, since I needed to teach him how to run a guidon, so there was a justification for choosing him, but the power is there. Ah, what abuses I could practice!).

He probably got more than he bargained for, what with illustrations running from Vietnam, to Louis XIV and all sorts of points in between. Had we not been in uniform, and such a situation come up, it might have been a shorter catechism on my part, but I wanted him to have this in his mind the next time the subject came up.

Or perhaps it was the Army Physical Fitness Test I took Sunday morning.

I hate PT tests. Even when I don't have questions about passing the damned thing, it hurts. Two minutes each of push-ups and sit-ups, followed by a two-mile run. All of these done to muscle failure. One (at least this one) hurts for three to four days after.

To make it more fun, I've not been in training. Seriously, between my general dislike of exercise for the sake of exercise, and the Reiter's, I've done damn all. Used to be I had a notable fraction of an acre I was gardening. I walked the dogs a couple of miles, at least every couple of days. I rode the horses more. No longer.

The closest I come to real exercise is baking bread.

To pass I needed to do 38 push-ups. I had to do the same for sit-ups, but so what. Push ups are my bête noire. If I can pass them the rest is a done deal. Given my slight frame, long arms and lack of upper body mass, push-ups kill me. The most I've ever done was 44, and that was when I was in the best shape of my life. A regular workout 4 times a week, followed by 3-8 miles of running.

I more than half expected to fail.

Push-ups: 44
Sit-ups: 61
Run: 14:23

The only thing I can credit for the push-ups is the baking. I've been kneading a lot of bread, and when I had Maia checking my kokyu (because I was trying to incorporate one of the most important aspects of my aikido into some of my regular routine) I noticed my lats are more developed than I tend to think them.

Before I cut this off, and get to the food porn, some quizzy-goodness.

Kitsune
You scored 17 in Malice and 27 in Chaos!
You are the Kitsune, or "Fox demon," the ultimate doer of mischief. Kitsune belong to a class of demons known as "Henge," or animal shape-shifters, along with the Tanuki, or badger-demon. They are uncanny creatures who are notorious as much for their malevolence as for their wild and unpredictable behavior; a fox demon may help a human, only to betray him in deepest consequence at a later date. Kitsune are known to frequently possess women or pose as humans, causing chaos and catastrophe where ever they go. They are mischievous creatures who take great pleasure in playing terrible tricks on unsuspecting mortals; however, this behavior indicates that they are more perversely playful and apathetic to human suffering than genuinely evil and desirous of harm.




My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:


free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 44% on Malice

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 57% on Chaos
Link: The Japanese Demon Profile Test written by Maharbal on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test


It seems appropriate, mostly.



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I am not sure what to make of Eugene Volokh's "retraction." because he hasn't retracted the position, merely said he finds it impractical.

I do know that I disagree with Digby and Mark Kleiman, because they are treating Eugene's change of position on the usefulness of torture as punishment as a reversal of his core statement, which is support of torture, as public punishment ( Something he agrees with Which is about the public, and participatory, execution of a very unpleasant person).

He has not repudiated such punishments as meritorious, merely said they would so tie up the courts that nothing could be done, "Even if enough people vote to authorize these punishments constitutionally and legislatively (which I've conceded all along is highly unlikely), there would be such broad, deep, and fervent opposition to them -- much broader, deeper, and more fervent than the opposition to the death penalty -- that attempts to impose the punishments would logjam the criminal justice system and the political system.

And this would be true even when the punishments are sought only for the most heinous of murderers. It's not just that you couldn't find 12 people to convict; it's that the process of trying to find these people, and then execute the judgment they render, will impose huge costs on the legal system (for a few examples, see Mark's post). Whatever one's abstract judgments about the proper severity of punishments, this is a punishment that will not fit with our legal and political culture."


None of that, changes this, "I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way."


The only saving grace there is he supposes the larger culture will be opposed to it, on such a scale that, even were it to pass it would break the system. He doesn't seem to address Kleiman's point that the excusal of those who won't pass a capital sentence from capital cases, means the pool of jurors tilts toward conviction in capital cases (though, to be fair, I haven't seen any studies on this, and so it is only a gut-level agreement that makes me nod my head when I read it) and that such a limitation would make the sentence of public torture more likely, in those cases where it was sought. That, should it come to pass, could make a positive feedback loop, where more people were put to trials with torture as the possible sentence, because those would be, not only more likely to lead to conviction, but of a public nature, which makes it easier for a DA to be, "tough on crime." But I am digressing.

But his holding the core belief still bothers me. Not just because I like him, as a person, but because I fully expect him to be granted a seat on the federal bench, if he should ever really want one. Which means wondering how he will define cruel and unusual. Do I think him capable of taking his personal beliefs out of the equation when rendering a decision, yeah; mostly. None of us is so perfect as to be able to do that completely, but the best of us can come fairly close, most of the time.

And he knows how things are done. He clerked for Justice O'Connor. One might try to read things into how he would handle looking for precedent to defend a position from the one's she has written (and the more so if one looks at her decisions from the period of time (ca. '93-94, if I recall correctly) he was one of her clerks.

I am mindful of Micah 7-8, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
" and I wonder how one can reconcile that with the idea of torture.





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Despite my opinions of the overall effect of our the Mess-in-potamia, I happen to think most of the soldiers are doing their best (I may have some bias in that view) and that not all which happens is bad. I'm of a mixed mind on how to cover it, because, on the whole, I think we're fucked and covering all the good, might make it worse, because it will eclipse the bad.

I know the counter-argument... covering the bad without giving the good, at least, equal weight, makes it less likely we'll manage to save this goat-rope. Without a crystal ball, allowing me to see which has more merit (the good, or the ill) I'd have to say I want us out sooner rather than later, because I see no good end.

But I'll grant the right, even the duty of those who hold the opposite view to score what points they can with the good (just don't talk to me about building schools. I will come and scream at you... no I won't detail that, but it's a sore point).

But that does not give anyone the right to twist facts, for any purpose.

Which brings me to this.



This is obviously photoshopped. I suspect I could do better. It's disturbing, in this version, because of the nitrile gloves. Most people are only familiar with them from shots of Abu Ghraib.

So, noodling around a bit I found this version... still photoshopped, but less bothersome (and lacking the propagandistic message)



Then we get a link to the original

title or description

That's a good picture, One might even run it with the propagandistic slogans and while I'd find it heavy handed, it isn't bothersome, until one reads the cutline.

Photo by Hayne Palmour/North County Times
Navy Corpsman Richard Barnett of Camarilo, Calif. checks the heart of a young Iraqi boy as other Navy medics treat the boy's older sister, right, after the two children and their family were caught in a crossfire between US Marines and Iraqi soldiers just outside of a Marine encampment in central Iraq on Saturday, March 29, 2003. The boy was not injured. His sister, who received gunshot wounds, was expected to survive. The father was wounded and the mother was killed in the gun battle. "If anything good comes from this nonsense, I haven't seen it yet," said Barnett after the two children and their father were taken away for a medivac helicopter.


So, how glad do you think she is that we're there? And how would Barnett feel if he knew how his picture of this event was being used?

I know how I'd feel, were it me.




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