April 22, 2007

Good Cop, Really Bad Cop

The New York Times reports on the interrogation methods of the new Iraqi Army in an article that will likely renew the debate on torture. Iraqi Army forces whipped a suspected terrorist with an electrical cord to get a confession -- but that confession led to the discovery of safe houses, bomb-construction facilities, and the names of insurgency leaders. All of this will make American soldiers safer in Iraq, but at what cost?

“The detainee gave us names from the highest to the lowest,” Captain Fowler told the Iraqi soldiers. “He showed us their safe houses, where they store weapons and I.E.D.’s and where they keep kidnap victims, how they get weapons, where weapons come from, how they place I.E.D.’s, attack us and go away. Because you detained this guy this is the first intelligence linking everything together. Good job. Very good job.”

The Iraqi officers beamed. What the Americans did not know and what the Iraqis had not told them was that before handing over the detainees to the Americans, the Iraqi soldiers had beaten one of them in front of the other two, the Iraqis said. The stripes on the detainee’s back, which appeared to be the product of a whipping with electrical cables, were later shown briefly to a photographer, who was not allowed to take a picture.

To the Iraqi soldiers, the treatment was normal and necessary. They were proud of their technique and proud to have helped the Americans.

“I prepared him for the Americans and let them take his confession,” Capt. Bassim Hassan said through an interpreter. “We know how to make them talk. We know their back streets. We beat them. I don’t beat them that much, but enough so he feels the pain and it makes him desperate.”

As American and Iraqi troops set up these outposts in dangerous neighborhoods to take on the insurgents block by block, they find themselves continually facing lethal attacks. In practice, the Americans and Iraqis seem to have different answers about what tactics are acceptable in response.

Beatings like this, which are usually hard to verify but appear to be widespread given the fears about the Iraqi security forces frequently expressed by ordinary Iraqis, present the Americans with a largely undiscussed dilemma.

For the sake of argument, let's presume that the Times is correct about the widespread nature of the beatings. They offer little evidence of it, but regardless, it's almost certain that this is not an isolated incident.

When the Americans found out about the torture, from the reporter and photographer, they made it clear that they did not condone the actions of the Iraqi Army personnel. In fact, as the Times points out, the use of torture is illegal for both the American and Iraqi armed forces. And yet, the information that they derived turned out to be accurate and to allow them to shut down an IED factory that otherwise would kill American troops.

The problem, of course, is not just the Jassams in Iraq, but the people who get caught in the net of suspicion by mistake. Not everyone suspected of insurgent activity will be guilty of it. What happens when the Iraqi security services start breaking out the electrical cord for some intense "interrogation"? Will they remain steadfast in their innocence, or will they start saying anything to make the torture stop and get transferred, as in this case, to American custody?

Even if we restrict the argument to Jassam and his terrorist ilk, it still presents Americans with a tough question. If we allow, actively or passively, the beating and torture of prisoners in order to save the lives of American troops, have we not created a Saddam Light in Iraq with our blessings? We want to protect American troops in order to ensure the success of the mission in Iraq -- but if we have to allow torture to reach success, what has success meant?

And even if we object, how do we impose our objections and values on the Iraqis? After all, it's their country and their values that will run it. If the answer is withdrawal, then we will only force the Iraqis to rely on these methods more and more as the security situation deteriorates. We can't just pull out and leave the Iraqis to that kind of fate. We need to teach them better interrogatory techniques that will free this kind of information without whippings and worse tortures. If the Iraqi people fear torture from their government, that government will not last long under any circumstances.

Tough questions and no easy answers are what we can expect in the long journey to bring democracy and freedom to the Middle East.


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Comments (58)

Posted by Sandy P [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:42 AM

Now, now, now, it's a cultural thing and who are we to judge?

Posted by Steve W [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:52 AM

Interesting article. Obviously in this case one could not say "torture does not work" when it so clearly produced concrete verifiable results.
Of course the Iraqi's torture.
Would any reasonable person not expect widespread torture and execution once the Americans are gone and if the "insurgency" (as we so delicately call those fanatics that murder women and children) continues?

One thing we can be sure of is that while we may, if we are lucky, be able to stay there long enough to stabilize the country, we will never be there long enough to change the way Iraqi's treat those they capture when they are under the kind of pressure and provocation that exists now. The saving grace in all this is that if the Iraqi army is able to stand up by the time the Democrats force a pull out, then they WILL end the insurgency, by ANY means neccesary. This may entail methods we won't like, but they will be effective.

Posted by mrmurph [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:55 AM

"...what has success meant? ''

Fewer dead American soldiers.

Simplistic, but true.

Posted by mrmurph [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 11:04 AM

"...what has success meant? ''

Fewer dead American soldiers.

Simplistic, but true.

Posted by braindead [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 11:07 AM

I think we have taught and emphasized to them that as Americans we don't condone torture.

Who are we to force our values on them.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 11:08 AM

I am sure that Pelosi, Murtha and Reid would prefer that American soldiers die rather than one hair on the head of a terrorist be hurt. They'll demad the Iraqi troops be put on trial. And should anyone be caught planting a bomb in a market place, be sure they get free legal counsel and a fair trail.

This should be labeled "The War of the Absurd".

Posted by John_Apple [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 11:09 AM

First, is our goal here to colonize Iraq and ultimately remake it into a new Little America, or is our goal to help them establish a new government, ran by Iraqis?

It's important to remember that when we leave, the Iraqis are going to conduct themselves as they see fit. Also, I think it is fairly plain that they are going to do this sort of thing after we leave, no matter what we say to them now or in the future. The new government of Iraq is never going to be like Sweden or Denmark, and it is unrealistic to think so.

Finally, while I certainly don't condon whipping people with electrtic cords, I do think that is an improvement from putting people into plastic shredders. (And yes, I am aware of the slippery slope arguments.)


Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 11:32 AM

The Army makes this warning about torture, that people under torture will make confessions and turn in “accomplices” in a desperate attempt to escape the pain. If you pick up someone with no connection to the terrorists and beat them they will “turn in” anyone they can think of, a neighbor, a known petty criminal, someone they consider suspicious, just to make the beatings stop. The person turned in is picked up and the process begins again, you can go down many false roads before you finally understand that the confessions were only being made to stop the torture. Not having any connection to a terrorist group the people involved are released, but now a second problem is created. The people released now hate the government, they might become sympathetic to the terrorist movement and even become active members in a desire for revenge. If you do this to enough people the community turns against you, real terrorist activity is not reported, sometimes even out of fear that a report could lead to another round of beatings for more innocent people. Once the community sees the government as being no better than the terrorists you loose your informants, and ultimately citizen information is what you need to defeat them. This torture had results, what you don’t know is how many torture sessions yielded nothing, how many people were released back to the community after torture, and what that is doing to community support for the government and the US effort.

Posted by ed_in_cda [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:02 PM

As I see it, there have only ever been 5 possible choices in Iraq:

1) Negotiate (that speaks for itself).

2) Don't get involved because you can't decide if your principles are worth dying for.

3) Fight for what you believe is right in which case:
a) You don't take a knife to a gunfight.
b) War is hell and soldiers have always done whatever it takes to get the job done.
c) The media will be your worst enemy.

4) Let the media do the fighting, in which case what people want to believe will become the truth. (In other words, keep moving the goalposts until everyone is happy.)

5)Obsess about details until you lose.

Posted by Ron In Portland [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:05 PM

Excellent comment grognard. For every positive lead you get from torture you run the risk of creating scores of new insurgents. The fact remains people don't tell the truth when you torture them they tell you what they think you want to hear.

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:13 PM

I have decided that 99.5% of Iraqi's are involved in terrorism. They all have a brother or a father or an uncle, or even a sister, who is building bombs, shooting at soldiers, driving get-away cars ... SOMETHING.

If they all weren't involved, then they'd be turning in the terrorists among them and Al-queda would have been defeated years ago.

Therefore, I have no problem with the Iraqi soldiers beating on suspects because there is virtually no chance whatsoever that anyone they choose to scoop up off the street won't have SOMEthing to reveal if asked convincingly enough.

We've been softly softly trying to win hearts and minds for years now. There is no evidence that any of the population of Iraq has either a heart nor a mind, so this approach is now Plan B because they *all* have backs, and they're not using their electrical cords for anything else anyway. And like the poster above said, it's a cultural thing just like oppression of women, sewage in the streets, and shooting at American soldiers.

Fine. As you were.

Posted by Robert I. Eachus [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:29 PM

All this discussion misses the real reason American troops don't use torture and don't condone torture. The post by grognard described pretty well why torture is a bad strategy, but proper interrogation techniques, which do not involve or threaten torture work much, much better than anything else. I think it was Micheal Yon, who described the jaw dropping effect on one Iraqi officer as he watched all sorts of actionable intelligence come out of a captured terrorist after a half-hour of talking.

Why does 'proper' interrogation work so well? Because the focus is not on crime and punishment, but on understanding. Don't get me wrong, once you do understand, the next destination for the terrorist will sometimes be the gallows--and the understanding interrogator will often be wiling to pull the lever. But the terrorist believes that he is misunderstood, and is quite willing to give detailed examples of the misunderstandings to help the interrogator understand him.

Say it sounds crazy if you will, but it works, and makes the prohibition of torture much easier to accept on practical grounds. (I hope no one reading this has problems understanding the moral reasons to prohibit torture.)

Yes, there are some psychotics, psychopaths, and others where this doesn't work. But then again, torture doesn't work on them either. A psychopath in particular may stay silent, or tell all sorts of lies. They can't handle the truth, so expecting them to tell the truth under any circumstances is wishful thinking.

Posted by Laura [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:47 PM

All we can do is continue to train the Iraqis - they are NOT going to change overnight. It's going to take time.

We also need to not let the media manufacture another scandal out of this. Sure, this article acknowledged that our troops didn't condone it, but after a few weeks of buzz on Kos, it will progress from not condoning it, to not preventing it, to condoning it, to Karl Rove going over and personally doing it at Bushitler's request.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:48 PM

"Torture" is different things to different people.

Viewpoint: Ashura, festival of devotion
by Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi

I grew up with these Shia commemorations, which take place annually during the holy month of Muharram, which is the first year of the lunar Islamic calendar.

Every year, I would be taken to the "majlis", or gathering, where the Tragedy of Karbala would be retold through poetry, rhythmic oratory, and passion plays, a tradition going back centuries.

The immaculately robed cleric would recount the events chronologically and in great detail, eliciting an emotional response from the audience, many of whom wept uncontrollably.

As he finished his sermon, the entire congregation would rise to their feet and begin beating their chests in an irresistible rhythm to the sound of nuhakhans, reciters of odes, that accompanied the self-flagellation.

On the day of Ashura, a small number of men would form a circle and, taking off their shirts, whip their backs with curved blades hung together in bunches known as "zanjirs".

Posted by Joshua [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:48 PM

Torture by our side in Iraq (and for that matter the entire global war) is hard enough to accept even when we're aware how vital the war is for the world's future. But given how little impact the war has had - and how determined GWB has been to encourage a business-as-usual attitude - on the homefront, there is, understandably, little if any sense that the war is all that important to our future, and almost no sense of urgency. Even if torture really is necessary (which I still doubt), it's very hard to make that argument to an American public of which such little sacrifice has been required.

Posted by Tom Holsinger [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:49 PM


It's their country and they're the ones doing the dying. We won't be there forever.

The remaining Sunni Arabs (more than half have fled the country) will be there a lot less than that. It couldn't happen to a more deserving group.

Posted by SoldiersMom [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 12:58 PM

I think CE has it right - "We need to teach them better interrogatory techniques that will free this kind of information without whippings and worse tortures." Personally though, I don't consider waterboarding torture. It should be used sparingly and as a last resort, but should be a tool that's legally available in our arsenal.

NahnCee - I used to feel the same way you do, but my son has talked alot about the Iraqis he's working with. There are good and bad there just as here. I'm working on not painting with such a broad brush.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 1:50 PM

Robert, good points. I would also add that you need to be careful of the neighborhood busybody that is firmly convinced that “X” who lives down the street is a terrorist. These people voluntarily give all sorts of detailed information, most of it pure fantasy, on “X” and “know” about the of the comings and goings of suspicious people who associate with him. A trained interrogator would pick up on this quickly, not so for someone less sophisticated. Again when “X” is picked up and given a detailed list of terrorist activities he supposedly engaged in he is in a quandary, if he denies the allegations he faces torture , if he does confess to the charges he must perpetuate the original fantasy by turning somebody else in and exposing the “terrorist network“. Getting even with someone, turning in business or romantic, rivals there are all sorts of motivations for people to make false claims, torture can make sorting this out more complicated.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:13 PM

For those of you that are pure of heart, you had better skip this.

War 101

Sun Zu - abbreviated version. If you are going to war, you go 100% and get it over with quickly.

Some of our countries leading generals in time of war were castigated by the press for heavy casualites. Grant and Patton come to mind. Both believed that a short hard war produced less death and destruction than one carried out piecemeal.
Rumsfeld believed in war fought on the cheap.

To torture for the benefit of inflicting pain is the work of a sadist. As others have noted, you ask questions, but you also ask questions to which you already have verifed answers. It's called establishing credibility. The idea is to reward for correct information as well as to PUNISH for incorrect information.

So I condone torture? See War 101

As Machiavelli told the prince, it is better to be feared that loved. This country will never be "loved" by everyone. Much better that it should be feared.

Do I think we should dominate the world? Not at all. I do believe that had we been feared, 9/11 would not have occurred. Unfortunately, Americans want to be loved.

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:23 PM


The Soviets were feared. Didn't stop their adversaries, including us, one iota.

And what do we remember of them in the end?

We don't know that the power drills and blowtorches favored by Al Qaeda are not also interrogation devices.

We are not the creators of Little Saddam -- the Iraqis are. We need to be forceful in our condemnation of torture. They can go back to that when we are gone, but not on our watch.

That said, got any babble juice?

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:32 PM

How is Saddams use of torture any different than Iraqi Security Forces use of it today. This isn't the first time Iraqis have been accused of torture. Last year the US Army led a raid on the Iraqi Interior Ministry and found 200 prisoners crammed into a space meant for 50, and no latrine facilities. One American said the stench was overwhelming. I suppose the neo-cons will condone torture, winning to them is the only thing that matters. Over 3000 dead, 25,000 wounded, 500 billion spent, what, to prop up a puppet government that will brutalize its own citizens. No Mr. Bush, I really don't think democracy is on the march in Iraq. You can't change a culture that is 7000 years old with an American Army. Iraq is a failed state because of our invasion. Worst foreign policy blunder in US history.As far as the 80/20 solution, the Sauds, Jordanians, and Egyptians will never let their Sunni brothers be ethnically cleansed. There are no good solutions in Iraq. You either occupy permanently or leave and let the Iraqis figure things out. I say leave.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:37 PM

How close are you to knowing this?


The "insight" for me came when Bush kept on pushing his "dream" of a terrorist state. Without the "palestinians" (really eygptians, but unwanted, there), stopping their terror.

Watching Bush? Like watching Jimmy Carter. I was overjoyed when 1980 came. And, the idiot left the White House. Same happens, again, On January 20, 2009.

Till then? Ya know, there's lots of reasons why Bush's popularity has dropped.

And, people, today, are way more skeptical than they were back at 9/11.

It still surprises me that the Saud's are being offered state, after state, in the Mideast. And, in each state, people run away.

Iraq? They didn't have terror under Saddam, like this. This crap was imported! Chalibi, everyone knows, was CIA trained. He even got the transportation IN, during Tommy Franks' 3 weeks. And, Chalibi's goons LOOTED Iraq's museums, in front of the media. That's why you saw pictures.

Chalibi, himself? Lost any toe hold when the Iraqis went to vote.

While, its good to complain that under Bush, the "funny Constitution," doesn't hold a candle to Japan's. Where General Douglas MacArthur sat down with a yellow-pad, and using pencils from the cup on his desk; put down the broad outlines at first. And, then came up with the Constitution that passed muster for the Japanese People. THEY VOTED FOR MacArthur's Constitution.

And, the first test? It seems it was customary to put women to death, in Japan, if they got caught in an adulterous relationship. But men? Got away with it.

So the first "test" deals with this. A woman caught. Who was subject to the state's death penalty.

MacArthur moved for a general election. And, the Japanese voters (who had become adjusted to male dominance) ... Had women with the votes, too.

The question? IF THE WOMAN DIES, THEN MEN, TOO, WILL DIE. Executed by the state, after they're caught screwing in an adulterous relationship.

The people voted. And, voted that NO EXCUTIONS take place. The woman was freed. But so was society.

Good Constitutions work that way.

However, in Bush's view? The Iraqi Constitution took what had been a SECULAR STATE under Saddam; without ANY religious violence at all ... And, turned it into a terrorist encampment.

The Saudi's were supposed to get the keys to this new kingdom.

They're not even close! You'd be surprised. As weak as arabs generally are; they HATE the Saud's. And, except for the oil wealth idiots, from Dubai to the Emirates, to Kuwait; all the other groups of arabs HATE THEIR GUTS. You can also throw in the so-called palestinians.

In Iraq? The first group tossed out were the "palestinians" Saddam imported, to keep "control" over the locals.

And, Iraqis are NOT going back!

Sure, there could have been better guidance.

Instead? Tommy Franks ran home. And, quit the army. After his successful 3 weeks. Have you ever questioned why he was in such a rush?

Then? George Tenet is gone. About due to put out an "I hate Dubya" book, with plenty of finger pointing. Even though our CIA is the last group on earth with "clean hands."

Still? The finger pointing will be interesting. Because the way things got run for most of the four years or so that we've been in Iraq; has been jerky. To say the least. We're not really fighting, ya know!

We became targets. The Sauds saw to it that our military guys were fodder for their suicide bombs, and road side bombs. (So we invested in armor.) And, things are a bit better. It's "good" when an army learns how to fortify its positions.

But then? The Sauds turned on the Iraqi's themselves. And, it doesn't look as if Maliki "lost." But it sure does look queer at what the Saud's have in their pockets, when you find Dubya hanging out as their Realtor.

Things are falling apart, now.

And, we'll get to the truth. Past the sound bytes. I'm sure.

Even Jimmy Carter left the White House with a better reputation than the one that will ignite the Bush's "family business."

And, that's the GOOD outcome, ahead! Where James Baker, and his cohorts, LOSE.

Bush misused the Millitary. Jimmy Carter did not.

Bush is worthless. And, worth less than even Jimmy Carter!

My guess is that while Bush would love to go in and bomb Tehran; he sees that he can catch fire.

He never wants to catch fire. He wants to throw others on their swords! Since Libby? Fewer volunteers.

The only good that can come of this is that the Bush family loses BIG TIME. And, the GOP survives.

Well? Jimmy Carter doesn't do anything, for or against, the donks. They're got their condendah's. And, their plans are to keep things "even-Steven." 50/50. WIth idiots in congress, not having all that much stature. But really only stinking up local ponds.

Could the Saud's actually have funded 9/11? We know the trails lead to Saudi Arabia. And, Eygpt.

But it's possible you're fooled? Osama, who may or may not be alive, but who lives in caves, somewhere without electricity, and toilets; we're told is the "master mind."

How did you swallow that swill?

"Cut-outs" are an old game at the CIA. Put someone there who gets blamed; and the real criminals get away with it. DONE ALL OF THE TIME.

I no longer believe that it's the CAVE MAN. Instead, I think Bush was pushed into Iraq. Because of the way he won in 2000. He couldn't "quite go in on his own." So, the Saudi's FUNDED the crimes on 9/11.

So far? No bill has been presented.

But in Iraq? They're smarter, now. They know it ain't "Al's kay-duh," catering the violence. They know it's the House of Saud!

Ditto, they know this, too, in Lebanon. And, in Syria. Probably? Lots of Eygptians and Jordanians also know the truth.

But arabs won't send you smoke signals. All of them are on the "other side." Bunch of wild indians, just missing the feathers.

Posted by bayam [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:48 PM

There's no way for the US to police and control the tactics of the Iraqis. Unless the Iraqis are employing Saddam-era torture techniques, it's not the problem of the US military. It would be an issue only if the US were intentionally funneling prisoners to the Iraqi military for torture. After all, how could this country spend so much blood and treasure to depose Saddam only to wield the same type of brutality? This incident, however, falls below the radar.

The recent effort by the US to build a wall around part of Baghdad reveals the limits to US power and strategy in bringing peace to Iraq. Obviously, peace will not come as a result of bulding a network of walls around various neighborhoods. The US is better to stand aside and let Iraq handle some problems on its own- including techniques for dealing with prisoners and detainees.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:57 PM


I had hoped for a rational discussion.

"The Soviets were feared. Didn't stop their adversaries, including us, one iota."

To say we did not 'fear' the soviets is an understatement. Korea? We're still there because of actions we did not take for fear of the soviets.
The soviets also feared us. Cuban missle crisis?
Yes, a lot of proxy wars over the years between us, accomplishing what?

The soviets left Afganistan because their country was falling apart from within, not because of battle field victories by the Afgans.

Posted by quickjustice [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 3:11 PM

You're falling into a logical trap, Ed. "We don't condone torture" is a decent sound byte. Like everything else, however, the morality of these decisions is highly context-sensitive.

Torturing prisoners solely as punishment, or to intimidate democratic opponents of an authoritarian regime? A bad idea, both pragmatically and as a policy matter. Torturing prisoners who know where the ticking time bomb in the marketplace is located, or otherwise to save lives? Much less offensive, because saving lives outweighs the torture inflicted.

Nonetheless those who torture pay a moral price for their conduct. The question is whether the price is too high for what they get in return.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 3:25 PM

It is simply not correct to claim that torture doesn't work in extracting information.

It doesn't work perfectly or in every case. Neither does any other method of interrogation, though. Those who claim tortured prisoners will give false information are merely parroting memes from others. It's laughable if the prisoner is to remain in custody, because he knows once his information is found to be false, the consequences will be even worse.

The "false confession under torture" occurs when an INNOCENT person is tortured. If the captors KNOW the individual is a terrorist, torture can and usually will extract the information he has. Other methods can be better, and lead to more information, like our modern interrogation techniques.

Torture is morally reprehensible. To say, however, that it is generally ineffective just isn't true.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 3:26 PM

A good thing to measure in Iraq, is that most people, there, hate the House of Saud. Yeah. Repetitive.

But among the things Americans see, is that the Iraqis, faced with a (Saudi supported) 9/11 each and every week. HAVE STOOD UP! So far, they are not caving in.

And, the military was FORCED to change the heads of generals. Until it came up with General Patraeus. Who cut a great reputation IN Iraq; for the way he handled the North. And, provided American counter-terrorism measures.

That's why Maliki is on board. There's an AMERICAN GENERAL not flapping in the breeze, with instructions coming in from the House of Saud.

As to the media? They ain't so clean.

And, a lot of the things they print are just DUMB.

How can you tell it's dumb? Unlike the Edsel, it's not merchandise. So there's no test that the crap is just left inside the showrooms.

Was "terror" supposed to be a "bitch" word? You think Americans are like the french? Where you can get arrested when you fight back?

You ain't seen terror yet!

But for the most part, even for the terrible bumbling of the incompetents; from Paul Bremer; into ALL of the shinanigans cooked up at the CIA. Even with Robert Gates, now, running around and trying to pump back up the flagging support for the Saudis, you see the Bush's igniting any fires.

It's amazing what you see when you look between the lines.

Between the lines? Lots of Iraqis are glad Saddam is gone. And, they want their country back!

You think people, here, are waiting for January 20, 2009? You'd be surprised. But there's waiting in Israel. And, at 10 Downing Street. And, yes, within the Halls of Congress.

At least you've figured out a lot of stuff on your own.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 3:38 PM

Sun Tzu is not the only master. And, when he spoke he was speaking to ONE homogenious society. Everybody was CHINESE!

Why not look at the ROMAN's?

They conquered. And, then they built out posts. And, they stayed.

They never crossed the Rhine, though. Because they thought the germans were savages. And, they didn't go building roads through those forests.

Still they stayed in Britain. Where they took the blue-painted-faces of savages. And, brought them to the wisdom of ROME.

WHEN IN ROME? You did what the Romans did.

And, when they won their battles? THEY STAYED. Sending out men, who then either married into the local tribes. OR? They brought their own. But they hardly ever travelled back to Rome. Except for "occasions." The Romans learned they could live among savages. Because the savages feared the muscled, and well armed, Roman men.

Rome also brought justice. SInce they GOVERNED.

Perhaps, that's where we got lost?

Though I think our system is the best of all; we're expecting everyone on the globe to adopt this.

Lucky for the Japanese, though. After the savages were utterly defeated; the best general in our world, Douglas MacArrthur, also knew a thing or two about "pacification." And, how to bring the Japanese, who are composed of extremely bright people; into our system of democracy. HE FORCED IT DOWN THEIR THROATS! Then? He stood back, and let them vote.

And, he also provded police and courts with CLOUT. And, Western rules.

You'd be surprised the lessons our military has to learn.

You'd even be surprised what the Israelis learned. No amount of cleaning up the arabs toilet-less wastelands were appreciated. Do you know why? Islam teaches hate.

By allowing Iraq to grow and fester into religious fanatics is just sad. Saddam ran a SECULAR STATE! And, it was the Saudis, who were behind Bush's push for a "local" crapola Constituiton.

For a very long time, ahead, we will be paying for Bush. Do you know why? He took the White House, and he gave the keys to thieves, scoundrels, and murderers, in Riyadh. I can't wait for this creep to leave office.

And, I can't wait for Paul O'Niell's book: THE PRICE OF LOYALTY, to be met by others. Who expose what the Bush's tried to steal.

Personally? Bill Clinton did nothing in the Oval Office as bad as what Dubya's done. A fat lady's ass on the broadloom is no crime; when compared to Bush's motives.

Posted by Damozel [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 4:12 PM

Assuming that torture means "deliberately inflicting physical pain for the purpose of obtaining information," then beating someone with an electrical cord is torture.

A fundamental principle of democracy is respect for the individual, including an individual accused of a crime. Our legal procedures and institutions are intended, at great cost to their efficiency, to affirm the dignity of the individual.

I fail to see how we can be said to be accomplishing anything at all in Iraq if we condone (which in fact we are not) the use of "procedures" that run counter to every fundamental principle of democracy in order to achieve our goal (democracy). We had better get out and leave the Iraquis to it than take a stance that the end justifies the means for our own benefit. Let them find another "strong man" like Saddam if this is to be our position and be done with it. In other words, concede that spreading democracy was never really a possibility, an objective, or an option.

You don't have to be a liberal to believe this; you do need a value for the slow, faulty, often insufficient processes that a democratic government considers the only means of assuring a just or a free society.

From a pragmatic standpoint, torture is of course an unreliable way to extract information. If the person has no information to give, you can beat him or her to death and no information will be forthcoming. And if you do get information, the person may implicate the innocent with the guilty in order to be free of pain.

So this episode, disgusting as it is, does indeed seem to raise the question of what we think we're doing in Iraq.

Posted by Jim [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 4:34 PM

Torture obviously works; afterall, they got actionable intel from this person in the article.

I will say this though; whether or not to torture is a real tough moral call.

I think the main thing that is needed in this country is a long and involoved discussion of what exactly is torture. Is waterboarding torture? Is whipping someone with an electric cable torture?

This is a discussion we must have as a nation. This is going to be a long war, and these endless "scandals" over torture when we haven't even discussed what torture is ridiculous.

Jim C

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 4:52 PM


You are equating the waging of war with the criminal justice system. Bill Clinton did the same thing.

Does a soldier in the field advise someone of their rights prior to opening fire? Once captured, is the captive assigned a personal lawyer?

"....torture is of course an unreliable way to extract information." That's your opinion, based on what? Just out of curosity, I wonder if any emphirical study has ever been done on the topic?

The problem (?) today is the instant means of communication. People today are able to see what actual war is like rather then in the past where it was sanitized, filtered, and to some extent glamorized. Hell, in the 19th century it was romantizied.

People are expressing opinions about something that they see, yet do not fully experience. I can personally tell you what it feels like, physically, mentally and emotionally to be under a motar barrage, but the telling does not convey the full horror of it. The fact that vets don't usually discuss their experiences with those who weren't there is based on that one word "experience".

Much was said during Vietnam about how people could now view the horrors of war while eating dinner, maybe they would learn. Human's being who they are, I'm pragmatic.

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 5:09 PM

torture? forgive me for yawning.

it's a ridiculous subject to discuss. man has been torturing man since adam and eve got their butts kicked out of eden. so you are against torture? well bully for you. i could care less. Yes, that's a grand pontifical statement you are making there, right there with "free tibet" or "save darfur".

personally i have not tortured anything since i was about 10. but who knows, given a brutal war environment where i just saw my buddy get killed--who knows what i would do if no one was around. as to torture not working, i wouldn't be so sure. i know i would start yelping when the electrodes got connected to my parts. i'm very impressed with you folks who speak with certitude that it doesn't work.

personally i think everyone should be water boarded once so we'll all really know what we are talking about. :-)

torture, like capital punishment are no longer pc--but that does not mean they don't necessarily achieve their goals.........

just a question. if it was proven that torture worked, let's say 85% of the time would you be for it then?

Posted by nandrews3 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 5:09 PM

Hey, Ed, that sure is a thoughtful set of reflections about the consequences of tolerating torture by the Iraqi Army. Such a sensitive appreciation of the moral cost of practical expedients. Such wise words about the dilemmas -- "tough questions and no easy answers" -- that we face.

Too bad, then, that you didn't see it this way last fall, when the matter of effectively permitting torture by our own interrogators -- not others -- actually came before the Congress. Now we're facing the problem of telling the Shiites to exercise restraint, when we ourselves have made clear to the world that we'll keep reserving to ourselves whatever methods the President considers necessary. And that -- rather than holding anyone accountable for our own past violations of Geneva -- we'll keep right on doing what we've been doing.

Also, Ed, what's your problem anyway with letting the Iraqi Army beat up their own terror suspects? After all, those suspects aren't in uniform -- and probably quite a few AQ guys aren't even Iraqis. Given the twisted claims about Geneva provisions that you latched onto last fall, those guys aren't any more entitled to legal protections than the detainees we're holding.

Good luck getting any Iraqi Shiites to see that the "unlawful combatants" they're facing are any less threatening, or any more deserving of restrained treatment, than those we consider to be threatening us. If you wanted an internationally accepted code of conduct to be upheld, well, maybe you should have kept that in mind last fall. Of course, you and your fellow partisan hacks had an election to try to win back then.

For now, though, you really should at least have the decency not to pose as someone who cares more about torture than Iraqi soldiers, or anyone else. If the Iraqi forces are routinely doing whatever they think will extract information, it's not as if they're failing to live up to your morally serious "objections and values." It's Captain Ed's own bottom-line values that they're practicing.

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 5:17 PM

Sounds like someone needs a hug. :o)

Posted by The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 5:27 PM

This is not about our immediate "torture" debate. Iraqi cops don't beat up suspects because they may have critical intel. Iraqi cops beat up suspects because they are under arrest. The purpose is for the guilty to know who runs the streets. If they blab that's just icing on the cake.

We didn't form a consensus against that in our own cities until the repression of the political marches of the Sixties. And in a lot of places, that just drove the "third degree" underground.

Were we a "functional democracy" in the 1940s when cops beat thieves, drill instructors struck recruits, and teachers hit students?

As for "global values", who thinks South Korea or Japan or France or Russia or Brazil looks up to and respects us because our cops won't leave a perp bloody and bruised?

No, I don't think it's the way to go. But I know that makes me and most other Americans radical idealists.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 6:06 PM

Quite a dilemma:

It appears that, at least in some cases, the use of torture leads to intelligence that saves lives, not only of our troops but of Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Torture is morally repugnant and is of questionable utility.

But it sometimes works.

What to do?

Further, as others have pointed out with varying degrees of snark, Iraqi society is NOT American society. Do Iraqis in general have the same aborhence of "torture" that most Americans have, or do they look upon it much as our ancestors regarded public hangings, floggings, or even lynchings? Are the Iraqi people willing to make the trade between a rather brutal police force and greater security? Who are we to "tut-tut!" if they are?

Incidentally, I would expect that the ISF have been restrained thus far by us; if we cut 'n' run as the Benedict Arnolds cry for us to do and Iraq descends into a REAL civil war, I expect that all sides will engage in barbarities that make this and Abu Ghraib look like a squabble between bad-tempered Girl Scouts.

When you feel that you're fighting for your survival, the rules and your dainty morals get thrown out the window. We sank Japanese ships without warning after criticizing the nazis for doing the same. We firebombed enemy cities after criticizing the enemy for doing the same.

What to do?

Posted by Fight4TheRight [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 6:39 PM

Excellent comments here.

I guess what strikes me on the subject is the "mental state" of those Iraqi troops that did this beating. First off, I would make the argument that al Queda has brought this from a War to Genocide. Secondly, the American Officers, I'm sure, were trying to express that the beatings are inappropriate - due to the American military's rules of engagement of war but I do ask.....is the car bombing of 100 civilians in a marketplace...war?

My view is these are not enemy soldiers. They are terrorists, genocidal maniacs. They bomb civilians, they kidnap innocents and behead them, they bomb religious sites, they enlist juveniles in car bombings and road-side bomb traps - I say, "Spare the Rod, Condone the Terrorist."

In this "war", playing it by the book will get you dead. If we tell the Iraqi troops that they cannot "coerce" confessions and info from captured al Queda, what's next??? - do we tell them in order to be "proper" , they should done red coats and big puffy hats and walk down Haifa street in columns?

Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 6:54 PM

I believe the current buzz word to describe the situation today is "asymmetric warfare". Essentially, two opponents of unequal power attempt to take advantage of the other's weaknesses using tactics outside the bounds of conventional warfare.


Posted by onlineanalyst [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 7:19 PM

OT: But it rates some attention, especially for Carol, who sees a convoluted conspiracy of Bush manipulation in tandem with the Saudis. (Her whole tale ignores the role of the Neo-Cons, who were supposedly behind the Iraq invasion.)

this assessment
, published in February of 2001 in the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin summarizes the growing concerns in the ME about Saddam's (and his sons') aggression towards Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (again!), as well as his continued funding of terrorism for the Palestinians against the Israelis. (BTW Saddam was not above using sectarian differences of Sunni and Shia to achieve his aims; he was not as "secular" as many claim.)

We probably did have a reason to protect our "business relationship" with the Saudis, who were being threatened by Saddam. The Saudi's control of OPEC and in keeping the oil flowing worldwide cannot be discounted. (I do remember reading, however, that the Saudis discouraged the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition prior to its implementation. The Saudis were probably concerned for the Iraqi minority Sunni population, as well as the threat that a Shia-dominated country would be usurped through Iran's hegemony, throwing the balance of power out of whach again.

At any rate, in this assessment we (the US) were accused virulently by Saddam as being protectors of the "Zionists"-- among his other grievances. The scenario described in this piece of Saddam's manipulations to get around the sanctions by playing off other ME nations and his saber-rattling to establish his own hegemony are quite intriguiging and worth taking a look at.

There is a lot to consider here in that no one is trying to sell a book of "selective, apologetic" memoirs. (A book by George Tenet, who criminally stole and destroyed archives, who made a claim about "slam dunk" Iraq weapons, and who has yet to take his lie detector test, is hardly someone I expect to tell the truth about anything that the dysfunctional CIA was doing under his watch.) What is most interesting is that this summary was published in February of 2001, fully two years before the Iraq invasion, and that Madeline Albright made a boast that Saddam was "contained".

Having been written prior to 2001, the information presented covers a good bit of the "gathering storm" in and the potential shakeups to the ME balance of power... and their effect on the world market. (Yes, obviously oil has a great deal to do with worldwide market stability.)

In that Bush took office in late January of 2001, he must have been mighty quick with a "stratergery" to work up this report and yet be slow to act on it until two years later.

Bottom line in the ME? We were hated prior to 2001 and hated now. They surely do love our money though.


Posted by GarandFan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:04 PM

But, but, but........we want to be loved by all. The whole neo-con, Bush, Cheney, Haliburton thing is so satisfying emotionally and intellectually for some people.

Posted by Mr Lynn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:16 PM

Re 'torture', however defined, I'm with Fight4TheRight:

"My view is these are not enemy soldiers. They are terrorists, genocidal maniacs. They bomb civilians, they kidnap innocents and behead them, they bomb religious sites, they enlist juveniles in car bombings and road-side bomb traps - I say, 'Spare the Rod, Condone the Terrorist.'"

Fear works. I recall hearing some Vietnam vet telling how they would take enemies up in a helicopter, and if no one talked, push one out. That would get the others talking.

Is this less moral than dropping thousands of tons of bombs on enemy positions? I don't know, but he said it worked. If "all's fair in war," where there are some agreed-upon rules, all's more fair fighting terrorists, where intelligence--however gleaned--is often your only weapon.

The problem in Iraq is that the terrorists don't fear us enough.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Tom Holsinger [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:24 PM

Note how so many posters assume that American forces are responsible for what Iraqi forces do.

We can train them all we want, but ultimately the Iraqi forces are responsible to their own government. And were here.

But not for those who start with the conception that America is responsible for every bad thing (defined as something they dislike) which happens.

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:43 PM

When facing evil should I just pacify myself by opening the door and letting evil spray its way all over the place or do I stand in front of the door doing everything possible to insure evil does not pass through the door.

Hmmm, I suppose by the time this debate has ended there will be an awful lot of dead people who would otherwise be alive if the debate had never began.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:18 PM

The neo-cons are gone, now.

So's George Tenet.


Tommy Franks couldn't clear out fast enough. Exited within a short time of his troops reaching Baghdad.

The hard part, of course, was what was going to happen AFTER.

For the Israelis, any time you take an arab country, and topple the viscious dictator, there are changes on the horizon that "could be" positive.

On the other hand? You still have the weak king of Jordan. And, Mubarak. Living high on the hog, so to speak. While their folks can't vote. And, are kept under the thumbs of oppressive regimes.

You bet, I stopped liking what I saw and read, playing out in Iraq. Started with Paul Bremer. A worse turkey than AG Gonzales. And, also asked to "exit."

White the Iraqis are dealing with their own turkeys, as well. Those they elected to parliament, on rich men, bent on making money. Courage is not a word you'd use to define them.

But as the "power" system works?

Well, at IRAQ THE MODEL, when the sunni suicide bomber, ripped the cord on his belt, while standing in the Iraqi parliament, Omar and Mohammed wrote GOOD. They didn't care! A lot of those MK's were purposely interferring with the Americans. ANd, constantly putting roadblocks on those who checked the checkpoints.

Again, we did not enter Bagdad, like the Romans would have done. Bringing in LAW. And, ORDER.

We not only forgot a step or two. We miscalculated. And, once Tommy Franks left, the military was in no position to do much but see American soldiers taken out by terrorists. It was necessary to grow defensive measures. And, QUICK!

You bet I suspect Bush is the Saud's Realtor. Why else is he pressuring Israel to give up land, before terror abates; so the Bush can enjoy seeing a "palestinian state" spring up on the high grounds, surrounding Israel?

Bush even tried to push it, that Olmert would get rejected at home. The 61 signatorees among the ministers, would have pulled his government down.

That doesn't happen. And, Bush was WRONG to tell Olmert that Israel wasn't a "first class nation;" and Bush would no longer take "personal phone calls, " like he did for Arik Sharon. He tried to implement a system where Olmert's calls need to be routed to Condi.

I think she waits, like a spinster. But her phone doesn't ring.

We've reached a point in politics, now, where a lot of people are not on board America's attempts to "work smething out in Iraq."

Particularly not on board, except now working with Patraeus, is Maliki. Others that Bush pushed in, failed.

Failures are more notice-able than success.

And, that's why there are pitfalls. I even believe, that's why in the beginning, such a big deal was made of "neo-cons." Still, Libby's heading to prison. Bush isn't gonna give him a pardon, either.

What's the White House counting on? The name-calling? So all the blame goes to Harry Reid? If Harry Reid's your problem, there wouldn't be issues for people who are not democraps, to look at what they see. And, wonder why it turned out this way.

A few years ago, one article that caught my eye, exposed how the Iraqi arabs were taking billions from Uncle Sugar; and not one cent was spent on infrastructure. Not did the arabs even consider this stealing. To them? It's fun if they can blind side Americans. Take their money. And, not give them a thing in return. It's the arab's way of doing business.

We shouldn't have been that naive!

The other thing I noticed? We've sent in about a half a million troops. Nobody comes out and tells us much, except that our troops are good at what they do.

Go back to Vietnam. Men came back with brides. Here? No sale.

And, no sale, really, in falling in love with "the cradle of civilization, either." Like gazoo, a lot of Iraq is just a toilet. Or more likely? Toilet-less. And, with haphazard electricity, delivered.

To run their "modern conveniences," what passes for the middle-class, uses generators. So the racket is very, very loud.

And, the people? Tribal.

In the future, when we analyze this out, isn't it possible that we'll come to the conclusion that to enforce the rules of law and order, would have taken at least a million troops?

Israel failed in Lebanon. Not for want of trying. But for what goes on in the mosques. And, how the locals get brainwashed.

American kids coming home have a negative outlook. No bars. No whore houses. No real entertainment. The saving grace? Today's soldiers have the Internet. And, the bases on the ground, are what our military does best.

You want me to trust Bush? Never, as long as James Baker is directing traffic from phones in the Oval Office.

And, what I hope for ahead? I sure hope that the $8-billion-dollar contract where the Saud's get our best military equipment, sold to them, just never happens.

Sale can't go through without congress.

And, as the clock turns, days pass. At some point for Bush it will be close to the time he gets to pack. And, go home.

Not soon enough for me!

While I do wish the Iraqi's luck. They shouldn't fall into Lebanon's trap. As to Abner Dinnerjacket? I think his powers are highly overrated.

And, the CAVE MAN? I think he got blown to smithereens up in Tora Bora.

I also don't think Osama was the "top guy" ... Or that the Saud's do anything, where the brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunts. Aren't in total communication! Just like the wild indians. You can't shake the savages, far from the family tree.

Posted by Tom Holsinger [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:20 PM

grognard ignores the ethnic nature of this conflict. He assumes that all members of the population are the same. This is absolutely not true in Iraq, where the most critical differences are those between Sunni Arabs and everybody else.

And the objective of everybody else is to get rid of the Sunni Arabs, because it is the Sunni Arabs and their foreign allies who are responsible for almost all the terrorism. The terrorists hide in, operate from, and are protected by, the Sunni Arab population.

Getting rid of the Sunni Arabs does three things - it denies the terrorists cover, it denies bases, financing, material support and recruits to the terrorists, and it gets rid of the Sunni Arabs.

Which has been going on big-time since the Samarra mosque bombing - Iraq's Sunni Arab population has been decreasing at a rate of about 100,000 a month ever since. Shiite and some Kurdish death squads, and some Shiite militias, have been murdering, torturing, robbing and generally being nasty in Sunni Arab areas to motivate the Sunni Arabs to move elsewhere - mostly to Jordan and Syria, though some have simply fled to other Sunni Arab areas.

The usual drill is for American forces to enter a Sunni Arab neighborhood or area to suppress the Sunni Arab militias which keep out Kurdish and Shiite death squads and militas.

Then, after the Sunni militias have been suppressed, Iraqi government aka Shiite military and paramilitary forces come in to eliminate the Sunni militias. Then the American forces leave.

Whereupon the Iraqi govt. aka Shiite forces let the Shiite death squads and militias into the now defenseless Sunni Arab neighborhood area to encourage the Sunni Arabs to run away fast.

This has been a characteristic, and constantly repeated, drill for almost a year. It works well. The Sunni Arab population of Iraq has dropped by more than half in the past four years, mostly in the past 15 months.

In this instance the Iraqi aka Shiite forces had a can't lose situation. If they tortured the right guy, and from the successful searches afterwards they did, they scored a double success - they found terrorist hideouts and supporters, and they tortured a Sunni Arab without killing him. I.e., other Sunnis in that area know about this, and realize they could be tortured too. This encourages them to run away fast.

Or, if the Iraqi forces tortured the wrong guy, at least he was a Sunni Arab without killing him. I.e., other Sunnis in that area know about this, and realize they could be tortured too. This encourages them to run away fast.

What grognard and the other military posters here do not grok is that this is a political struggle in which ethnic cleansing is a clear path to victory, and in fact is being used by the Iraqi forces to win.

Certainly the use of torture to obtain intelligence has major, major drawbacks in that role. But obtaining intelligence in this context is not the only objective. Ethnic cleansing is the other.

It's not a bug, it's a FEATURE!

Posted by onlineanalyst [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:28 PM

Again OT: AlQaeda is taking note of the Dem "leaders" and their "message control". It is no accident, no mere coincidence that violence in Baghdad escalates every time the Dems attempt to legislate for withdrawal, deadlines, and putting conditions on the purse strings. Al Qaeda is patient and determined to drive us out of Iraq by ratcheting up the deadliness of their attacks. These events coincidentally occur with demonstrable regularity when Dem politicians play to their perceived base of anti-war sentiment. The terrorists' game is to build up American desire to abandon Iraq, and their game plan is enabled by paying attention to media sound bites provided by our own Congressional leaders and Presidential wannabes.

Here is quite a well-sourced round up of "coincidences" that we ignore at our peril. We should hold our Congress's feet to the fire for their careless or self-aggrandizing political posturing.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:28 PM

Tom, I know full well about the ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq. Right or wrong the stated goal of Coalition forces is to keep the nation together and I was speaking in general terms. It is important to note that as a part of the “surge” some Sunnis are going back to the homes they left for the purpose of national reconciliation. I also would not assume that the torture will only be Shiite on Sunni, the reverse could be true in places like Anbar, and Shiite on Shiite torture could happen in the south where there is conflict between SCIRI and elements of the Mahdi Army. I am also keenly aware of the problems between the Kurds and other ethnic groups as the Kurds reclaim territory lost under Saddam, where again there is an opportunity for one group to torture another. Again, without making any comment about the wisdom or possible success of the operation, the stated goal is to produce a democracy in Iraq. Regardless of the justifications, in my opinion creating a government that condones torture would not long have popular support and fail.

Posted by Tom Holsinger [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 12:24 AM


Certainly an Iraqi govt. which condones torture against the Shiites and Kurds would not have popular support, and there will be issues in getting those who practice it against the Sunni Arabs to stop when there are no more Sunni Arabs.

But there absolutely is popular support for torturing the Sunni Arabs, who are down to under 10% of the population, and that proportion is dropping fast.

"... Now it's time for payback.

Most senior government officials, going against popular sentiment, don't want to kill or expel the entire Sunni Arab population. That's over two million people, and would be a disaster on several levels. The Sunni Arabs are a disproportionate number of Iraqis university trained professionals. Without them, Iraq would have to import foreigners to do a lot of these jobs until, a decade hence, enough Shia Arabs and Kurds could be trained. Less of a problem is the worldwide condemnation for the "group punishment" of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. But on the street level, most Iraqis note that the Sunni Arab community has not been able to stop the terrorists living in their midst. This, plus the sins committed when Saddam was in charge, merit expulsion of the entire Sunni Arab community. If it were put to a vote, the Sunni Arabs would be gone.

They're going fast, and torture is a significant reason why. Murder has a lot to do with it too. We can't stop it. We can only make it less obvious and maybe a bit slower. As Jim Dunnigan put it in an earlier Strategy Page column, "All American forces can do is make for a kinder, gentler, ethnic cleansing."

Posted by Doc Neaves [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 4:57 AM

Just a couple of things, take them for what you will.
When I was stationed in the Air Force at a couple of different bases, I was stationed with Iraqis. At one place, we got to meet a couple of them, become friends. One of them showed me his "Big Red Book", as he called it. Turns out his father worked for Saddam as a torturer/beheader.
Ghastly, I thought, and immediately didn't want anything to do with him. But I sat there, listening to him and the other guy talk about Iraq, and his "family business".
Turns out that they've done very complete studies on torture, and I'm thinking it was done long ago, after or during WWII, the way he referred to it. The Book was his fathers, passed down to him. In it, they were instructed on how to torture people and the best ways to behead or kill them ritualistically.
According to them, torture ALWAYS worked, in every single case, even in the case of innocents. But there is a method to extracting the truth, and it always starts with knowing that they person you are starting with (it is usually a multiple person thing, seems to be much more effective) must know something. You ask several questions, this one amongst them, and you can tell when they stop lying and start giving in.
In the end, what it boiled down to was this. Anyone will give up anything eventually. If you know more about this situation, it can go quicker, because you can direct it better and know more when the falsehoods start coming in. If it is a professional, someone who's been trained (their book actually talked about Americans that had been tortured to death just to check out the depth of the training), then eventually you will get the truth, but usually along with one or more cover stories. This is when you have to sort out truth from fiction.
The bottom line, though, was that torture DID work, in all cases, but it works best when you only need to fill in information. It also works best for those time when you know little or nothing if the first guy you only try to find out what you already know, then use the others against each other.
Fascinating book.
And for those of you who say torture doesn't work, I'm betting you have absolutely no first hand experience, because everyone I've talked to (Spec Forces in Korea, Viet Nam, and in Special Ops in the eighties in South America) says it works like a charm, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you get put in prison for it, so nobody in the US forces will do it.

Posted by TheHat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 6:37 AM

I have an easy answer: Stop being so PC.
1. Torture the terrorist using standard effective interrogation techniques.
2. Stop worrying about civilian losses. Strive to kill terrorists but don't hesitate to kill all those around him or her should they show any signs of aggression.
3. In areas dominated by terrorist groups, destroy the entire area. Give one warning and then flatten it.
4. Start a media campaign in the US to counter Leftist and be entirely up front about all efforts to destroy terrorists.
5. Bring charges against individuals who compromise national security. And shoot the traitors on camera. And make sure it goes on the nightly news.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 7:47 AM

Doc, using torture Saddams security forces never found out who made the attempt on his sons life. I am skeptical that torture “always worked”’ no member of Saddams security forces would dare tell the dictator that they were failing to find out information he wanted, that torture was not producing results. If you have someone who you know is an insurgent, someone you picked up in the act of attacking you, then torture can produce information. Randomly taking in people and using torture to find out who did something will only produce results if you get lucky and actually get someone who actually had knowledge of the event. All Saddam ended up doing is killing a lot of innocent people when using torture to find the attackers, but I would be willing to bet the security forces told him they found out who was responsible and executed them.

Tom, yes I agree that there are many people who support torture as payback, but the goal here is a democratic state all sides can support. Torture will not produce that outcome even if it is getting some results. Your analysis of the effects of ethnic cleansing is spot on, but that is a subject of another discussion, our goal as of now is a unified Iraq.

Posted by Jon [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 9:16 AM

Generally like your post but have to take exception to “If the Iraqi people fear torture from their government, that government will not last long under any circumstances.” I think history has shown that abusive governments have, in many cases, had staying power. Sadam managed to stick around until a more powerful force, an external one, took him out of power.

Posted by reddog [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 10:06 AM

You guys are too much.

Hey! I know what would be even more fun.

Concentration camps and gas chambers.

No, not in Iraq, here. You know, In San Francisco and Manhattan, places like that, where all those liberals and sodomites are.

Posted by Tom Holsinger [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 12:14 PM


Iraq's Sunni Arabs do not want a democratic state supported by all ethnic groups. A clear majority of Sunni Arabs, even with their numbers more than halved, persists in fighting for a tyrannical state ruled by them which exploits and suppresses all other ethnic groups.

The Shiite and Kurdish solution to this is simple. Get rid of the Sunni Arabs. Not al of them - there are a lot of Sunni Arabs in southern Iraq, vastly outnumbered by the Shiites, who have been very well behaved for all four years of occupation because they know what the alternative is.

At the current rate of ethnic cleansing, the war should be in less than a year, with a clear victory for our Shiite allies. The proportion of Sunni Arabs in Iraq will be under 5% of the total population, down from @ 22% in January 2003.

The Samarra mosque bombing was conducted by Iranian forces, not by Al Qaeda or Baathists. The latter two groups could not even get into the area.

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 3:54 PM

some folks are avoiding the real issue here--the torturing of a known terror suspect and the success of the torturing.

to grog and the others--you can't say torture doesn't work because it yields poor results as the army manual states. of course it yields poor results when you pick up innocent folks. no one disputes that. however my question remains--if you round up known terrorists would you condone torture in that situation? i have a feeling you would not--even though the army manual says it works.

Posted by skip [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 10:11 PM

You guys are too much.

Hey! I know what would be even more fun.

Concentration camps and gas chambers.

No, not in Iraq, here. You know, In San Francisco and Manhattan, places like that, where all those liberals and sodomites are.

Fun? come on, all we'd need is a bull horn and some box cars. We'd be done in a few days.

Is that the best you've got?

Posted by penigma [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 10:27 PM

Ed has said nothing more, and nothing less, than I and other centrists have said here before. Nothing.

Yet, when he says it, it's reasoned discussion, when we say it, it's the ravings of a lunatic fringe of which we are not members.

The CIA and FBI will tell you, torture doesn't really work, not long term, you get too much bad data, and too little future cooperations from the populace. Little rewards, little offers, (like where tehy'll be held, food, cigarettes, etc..) work far better.

But.. in the zealous pursuit of gettin even.. in fact it has been the extremists on the rigth who are apologists for the AG who writes letters condoning torture.

And just a question, considering the Administration said last week that training Iraqi troops is no longer a concern or primary focus, and the MSM didn't cover the story, what have you to say about our strategy to "stand up their army", or "as they stand up, we'll stand down." We've now decided that we can do, and should do this job for the Iraqis. As Bill Moyers said, if we can't train their troops to not be sectarian and brutal, we have no hope of having them learn how to live in a democracy.

Posted by Doc Neaves [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 24, 2007 4:39 AM

"Doc, using torture Saddams security forces never found out who made the attempt on his sons life."
I never said Saddam was an effective torturer. It has to be done right. The man was a known sadist, and often tortured just to make others fear him. Please don't confuse the concept of torture with what he did. His was mostly sadism. But, in his defense, it mostly worked, too. He didn't find out this or that one piece of information? I'm betting he found thousands more.

"I am skeptical that torture “always worked”’ no member of Saddams security forces would dare tell the dictator that they were failing to find out information he wanted,"
you're confusing people who are loyal lying to save their own butts with people being tortured for information. To make torture look like it doesn't work, you always have to include the obvious crap, like "so and so didn't get everything he wanted, so it doesn't work" or "people still lied to him, so torture didn't work". Those are called Non-Sequitars, things that have nothing to do with each other.

"that torture was not producing results."
All torture produces results. Not all torture produces the desired results, and I never claimed it.

"If you have someone who you know is an insurgent, someone you picked up in the act of attacking you, then torture can produce information."
Thanks for agreeing with me.

"Randomly taking in people and using torture to find out who did something will only produce results if you get lucky and actually get someone who actually had knowledge of the event."
Once again, exactly what I meant when I said, "But there is a method to extracting the truth, and it always starts with knowing that they person you are starting with (it is usually a multiple person thing, seems to be much more effective) must know something". And just knowing that they know "something" isn't enough, in case I didn't make that clear enough. You must know some facts that they know, so that you'll know when they are telling the truth.
In the end, you have to take all that's given under torture and treat it the same as all that's given under questioning of any method. Do your legwork, investigate, use the information as a starting place, not as evidence. This is standard knowledge, anyone would be able to figure this out, unless they were trying to be willfully ignorant in order to make the case for torture look as bad as possible. But none of you guys would do that, now would you?