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May 14, 2004
Love Or Let Them Be Lonely

General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of US forces in Iraq, has issued an order putting some of the most coercive interrogation techniques out of bounds, the Washington Post reports in tomorrow's edition. In fact, the Iraqi commander made it clear to his staff that anything more coercive than isolation or segregation would not even be considered:

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has barred military interrogators from using the most coercive techniques potentially available to them in the past, declaring that requests to employ the measures against detainees will no longer even be considered, officials said yesterday. ...

Under the new order, which was issued Thursday, Sanchez and his staff will no longer consider any extraordinary interrogation methods other than putting prisoners alone in cells or in small groups segregated from the general prison population for more than 30 days. Regular interrogation techniques such as direct questioning of detainees without physical contact will remain allowable without special approval.

This change was not unexpected in the paroxysms of self-flagellation we've experienced since the release of the abuse photographs, but questions remain about their advisability. No American wants to condone torture, with the possible and surprising exception of Alan Dershowitz, who argued that it was "inevitable" and should just be legalized, with special warrants required from a judge before using it on a suspect. However, Sanchez has ordered the elimination of any higher-pressure techniques, not just those involving physical discomfort.

The question must be asked: how effective will the remaining options be in extracting information from terrorists? While torture rarely produces any effective intelligence, loneliness hardly does much better, especially for fanatics whose deep-cover techniques require them to avoid contact with their comrades for months on end. Due to the temporary nature of our stay in Iraq especially, but also keeping in mind the vociferous opposition to any war at all here in the US, terrorists know that keeping their mouths shut long enough will allow them to outlast US interrogators, regardless of how isolated they feel.

When determining interrogation strategy, we must concern ourselves with what will effectively get vital intelligence from reluctant sources in our custody while staying within the laws and treaties of the US. Unfortunately, that point seems lost; the new policy smacks of political correctness that has spread throughout all of American politics. It's now not enough to comply with the law -- the mere appearance of unpleasantness has become unacceptable, in a weird throwback to the notion of war as a gentleman's pastime.

Worse yet, it shows just how far politics has infiltrated into the war effort. Instead of structuring the most effective interrogation policy that fits within our laws, Sanchez has structured the least objectionable interrogation policy to fit within the narrow window of what will cause the least controversy. That policy will get Americans and others killed as we lose opportunities to capture vital intelligence.

I reject torture for both humanitarian and utilitarian reasons. However, the new guidelines described by the Post puts my family and our nation at greater risk than necessary and demonstrates that even this administration may not be totally cognizant of the stakes involved in the war on Islamofascism. The time has arrived when Americans need to wake up, grow up, and finally understand that our survival depends on the outcome of the war, in massive battles like Afghanistan and Iraq, and the obscure psychological battles fought every day between Coalition intelligence officers and homicidal fanatics in places like Abu Ghraib.

Surely our survival ranks higher than political correctness?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 14, 2004 11:34 PM

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