NY Times: Beaten insurgents give up bomb factory

posted at 9:51 am on April 22, 2007 by see-dubya

Not a lot of surprises here, since I don’t think anyone of whatever convictions about prisoner interrogation believed that the Iraqi army treats its prisoners to cotton candy and mud packs at Pink Sapphire. In fact, the electrical cord whipping isn’t as bad as I thought things might be. But it’s not good.

No sympathy for the particular whippee in this particular case, Mustafa Subhi Jassam. He admitted to “laying and detonating” IEDs to blow up American troops. I would have been fine with him getting shot through the groin while setting one of those IEDs; but I would gladly trade that outcome for capturing him alive and having him lead us to several bomb factories. Which is what he did, though after the Iraqi army had its way with him first.

So it’s not guilty people like Mr. Jassam I worry about; it’s the innocent. Not everyone the Iraqi army captures and interrogates will know the kinds of things Mr. Jassam did. The idea of this happening to innocent people–anywhere, anytime–is horrifying. One of the goals of this war–a very important one–was to free the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture. There is an obvious difference between what happened here and Saddam’s acid tanks in Abu Ghraib, but it would be glib to pretend that problem is fixed now that Saddam is gone.

It would also be glib to pretend that both sides are equally tainted by torture. Here the US soldiers protested that they knew nothing about what the Iraqis did. Whether you believe that or not, the fact that the Times (!) doesn’t dispute at all is that the U.S. soldiers weren’t torturing anyone.

And while Jassam has a hard life ahead of him in an Iraqi prison, it’s much better than what would have happened to someone caught by an insurgent movement. Reports of this war are filled with anecdotes of bodies being found all over Iraq, bound, tortured, and executed by militias or insurgents.

If we stay, we may be able to influence the Iraqi army in a more humane and professional direction. But if we leave, and the Mahdi army or some similar faction takes over, the worst torturers win.

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War is hell. If you are not prepared to fight to win, then you automatically lose. So he was slapped around. Hardly equivalent to being strung up and having your skin sliced off or being fed feet first into a plastic granulator.

Torture is purely sadistic, forceful interrogation is meant to be coercive. You can inflict great pain in someone without actually hurting them, big difference to just slowly killing them by whatever means Saddam used.

Neo on April 22, 2007 at 9:59 AM

The NYT shouldn’t complain, because:

Only western nations can inflict torture on anyone.

Other nations are merely expressing their culture.

But seriously folks, they do worse on episodes of 24 and it shut down a bomb factory. I find it very hard to cry over this.

MoxArgon on April 22, 2007 at 10:05 AM

The idea of this happening to innocent people–anywhere, anytime–is horrifying. One of the goals of this war–a very important one–was to free the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture.

True. But we are also trying to return self-governing back over to them. This is just the way they get things done and it is perfectly acceptable in their culture.

We must stop expecting a Western Cultural mindset to magically errupt in Iraq through the implementation of a representative government.

Lawrence on April 22, 2007 at 10:07 AM

I know this goes against modern sensibilities…

I know we want to be above this kind of thing…

But there is a reason why this type of behaviour has been used throughout history, in every war, in every culture…

Its because, modern protestations from “experts” aside, it works.

Romeo13 on April 22, 2007 at 10:11 AM

This kind of thing is half the battle in Iraq. We spend a lot of our time trying to police up the Iraqi security forces. It’s fundamentally a cultural thing. The iraqi people respond to heavy handedness far better than thay do with more “humane” tactics. The Iraqi security forces know this and many times attemp to “do what they have to do”. I have personally dealt with both Iraqi police and Iraqi army and it can be very frusterating. Conversely they get very irritated with us and think we are too soft on detainees and “sources”. This goes far beyond Hussein and his regime. It’s a cultural thing. I’ve spent many hours talking with Iraqi people and interpreters attached to my unit and they would tell you the same thing. In defense of the local coalition forces who have to work with this particular unit, it is like herding cats most of the time. In the area where we operated where there were 500 Iraqi police, and over a hundred Iraqi army soldiers and only 170 of us, you can see how it gets hard to track their every movement. In fact many times just trying to deal with ISF can take away some of the focus that you might have for your own Marines, or to me it seemed that way sometimes. We had to put a lot of trust and confidence in our Marines because many times we were too busy leading the ISF by the hand. Don’t get me wrong, their not all screwed up. I have met many fine Police and IA soldiers I would be proud to serve with. But the reality is, they are not us, and they will never be us. Their cultural attitude drives many of the events in Iraq and not necessarily Islam itself. What we percieve as bad or immoral is not necessarily viewed the same way in Iraq. There are many local “militias” and “neighborhood watches” that would love for us to stay inside the FOB’s for a few days while they clean houe themselves. And the truth is, it would probably take care of a lot of the insurgency, but of course as long as the US is in country we wouldnt allow that to happen, morally I couldnt let it happen. Sometimes the Iraqi’s just look at things differently.

gator70 on April 22, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Once control is reestablished over the country I think we can work on the problem of bringing civility to the barbarians. You cannot expect a group of people to catch up on 1000 years of progress in the 5 years we have been at it. I think we have moved them from the 9th Century to about the 15th so we still have a ways to go.
Reformation is a long road.

LakeRuins on April 22, 2007 at 10:25 AM

And they say torture doesn’t work……

drjohn on April 22, 2007 at 10:31 AM

So it’s not guilty people like Mr. Jassam I worry about; it’s the innocent. Not everyone the Iraqi army captures and interrogates will know the kinds of things Mr. Jassam did.

How do you decide what someone knows? Who makes that decision? Who decides on what and what not is torture. Is not war in it’s self torture?

If I captured someone who I thought had information to the killing of my family I would be very unkind to the captive. Would anyone else treat the captive nicely?

Wade on April 22, 2007 at 10:34 AM

This story can’t be true, everybody knows torture doesn’t work as an interogation technique. Or maybe being beaten with an extension cord isn’t torture? This stuff is so confusing sometimes.

B Moe on April 22, 2007 at 10:39 AM

One of the stupidest canards of the left is. “Torture doesn’t work.”

Of course it works. It will take very little torture for me to tell you everything: My ATM Pin #, Where my stash is, what me and little Jenny did when I was 17 years old.

There is no doubt it works.

JayHaw Phrenzie on April 22, 2007 at 10:57 AM

If we stay, we may be able to influence the Iraqi army in a more humane and professional direction.

When the Iraqis expand the level of pain that will be inflicted and the US changes nothing in the way we do things, our original position all of a sudden looks reasonable.

It’s called “good cop”, “bad cop”. When run properly the results are amazing. What you don’t see is the “good cop” trashing the “bad cop” to the terrorist. I can think of many other situations where that tecnique could work if we let it.

csdeven on April 22, 2007 at 11:21 AM

One of the goals of this war–a very important one–was to free the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture

I must have missed that particular news conference. If freeing the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture was a very important goal of this THEATRE of the war, you can pay for it. To put it bluntly, f*** freeing the Iraqis. My army’s purpose is to make the world a better place for AMERICANS. If that means torture and death for 25 million Iraqis.. sucks to be Iraqi. The invasion of Iraq should always have been about pacifyingthe middle-east and ending the power of the cult of Islam. We’ve wasted far too much time and money worrying about the desert trash of Iraq rather than stomping them into a stain and using Iraq and Afghanistan as staging grounds for further progress in the war, such as the invasion of Iran and Syria.
Don’t care what happened to an Iraqi. We got a bomb factory out of him, fine. Give him a noodle and move on.

(side note: I’m repeatedly surprised to discover how much more liberal this place is than Townhall.)

Apparently the kidnapping wasn’t so arbitrary; they coughed up valid info. Would suggest that the Iraqi army had what cops in this country like to call “probable cause”. I could only read a couple paragraphs of that traitorous drivel before closing the window.

Hiraghm on April 22, 2007 at 11:35 AM

One of the goals of this war–a very important one–was to free the Iraqis from a regime of arbitrary kidnapping and torture.

It was a goal, but maybe we’d be better served to think of it as a nice one rather than an important one. It’s unpleasant to think of governments doing bad things to innocent citizens, but such things are so prevalent globally as to make them more the norm than the aberration. And it’s hard to make the argument that it’s of America’s vital strategic interest that Iraq possess a government that is as nice to its citizens as our own–from China to Saudi Arabia to Rwanda, we’ve shown we’re quite capable of tolerating a wide spectrum of much less.

What’s truly important is that the Iraqi government does not aid and harbor jihadists, and that Saddam Hussein has been called to accounts for, over the course of 12 years, arrogantly and repeatedly defying the terms of the cease-fire that allowed his regime to survive in the first place. To the extent that this can be achieved by affording Iraqi civilizians greater liberty, wonderful. But maybe we need to stop being quite so concerned about that one, particularly when looking the other way can advance the simple cause of stabilizing a clearly bad situation.

Blacklake on April 22, 2007 at 11:45 AM

Is it too culturally insensitive to conclude that Arab culture is just inherently violent?

flipflop on April 22, 2007 at 12:07 PM

Hiraghm on April 22, 2007 at 11:35 AM
(side note: I’m repeatedly surprised to discover how much more liberal this place is than Townhall.)

Heh. Make sure Andrew Sullivan sees that when he swoops by here on OUTRAGE! patrol.

Like I said, I’m not particularly sympathetic to the case of this particular Iraqi, who was setting IEDs. (I wouldn’t say they had probable cause to detain him, but more like reasonable suspicion.) I’m worried about the random guy who gets the treatment and didn’t know anything. It’s a moral concern and a strategic concern–once a guy gets horsewhipped with a power cord it’s kind of hard to get him to sing the Iraqi National Anthem.

see-dubya on April 22, 2007 at 12:25 PM

See-Dubya
Unfortunately its going to take time before the Iraqi Army can evolve from this and torturing anyone to a more professional army that follows the Geneva Convention. Don’t forget in past wars we didn’t think much of torturing POWs for important information. You know, the officer takes a walk while the enlisted and NCOs work the guy over to get the info. It was a different time but we have to be patient with the Iraqis because the last few systems they knew were just “torture anyone vaguely suspiscious until htey give it up”

Defector01 on April 22, 2007 at 12:53 PM

Like I said, I’m not particularly sympathetic to the case of this particular Iraqi, who was setting IEDs. (I wouldn’t say they had probable cause to detain him, but more like reasonable suspicion.) I’m worried about the random guy who gets the treatment and didn’t know anything.

As am I (my reputation for being Pure Evil notwithstanding).

It should be a concern, but you also have to look at it this way: If the Iraqis hadn’t used these methods and, in so doing, risked using them on the Wrong Person™ as well, then we most likely wouldn’t know about the bomb factory now, and how many innocents would have died because of that?

War is Hell, and there really is no perfect way of doing things. It’s all one long cost/benefit analysis, a continuous acceptable risk assessment and, no matter what you choose to do, you’ll end up with dirt on your hands.

At the end of the day, had this guy been innocent, he’d eventually have recovered fully from the beatings. Now, knowing that he wasn’t innocent, and if the Iraqis hadn’t slapped him around, none of the innocents blown to bits by bombs made in that factory would ever recover.

Again, war is Hell and there aren’t any perfect solutions, only less horrible ones.

Misha I on April 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM

How many Iraqi police does it take to beat a prisoner?

… none, he slipped.

The darn trouble with not being occupiers but being allies, is the host country can do whatever the heck it wants because it’s sovereign.

In the case of this murderer his case is closed. You may execute him at sunrise.

Mojave Mark on April 22, 2007 at 1:20 PM

I correspond with a US Army MiTT member. He will readily admit that these guys aren’t at 100% yet. But he will also tell you that the ISF just wants the time and resources to “Become all that they can be.”

Yes, there is a great deal of historical animosity at play. But we cannot wrtie these people off when they are finally seeing the dawn of a new society.

There really is a new democracy in the ME. Let’s not abandon it during infancy.

SailorDave on April 22, 2007 at 1:44 PM

I don’t have any problem using torture to get information. Like many have said, this is war. If you’re not all in, you may as well just pack up and go home.

By the time this war is over, most of us in the ‘enlightened’ free world will have approved, accepted and encouraged acts to win that seem completely unacceptable to many of us now.

Canadian Infidel on April 22, 2007 at 2:04 PM

The only way to combat violence is with even greater violence.

End of line.

TwinkietheKid on April 22, 2007 at 2:07 PM

“When civilized men discover they can no longer tolerate the horrors of war they will be conquered by those who can.”

I dunno who said that, but they have a point.

Claire on April 22, 2007 at 3:07 PM

Is it too culturally insensitive to conclude that Arab culture is just inherently violent?

flipflop on April 22, 2007 at 12:07 PM

No.

PinkyBigglesworth on April 22, 2007 at 4:01 PM

There is nothing in the Bible about torture being acceptable to God. So how liberal is it to suggest we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to torture?

That said, lives are at stake. Torture happens sometimes to good people. So does war.

unamused on April 22, 2007 at 4:35 PM

If that means torture and death for 25 million Iraqis.. sucks to be Iraqi. ….
(side note: I’m repeatedly surprised to discover how much more liberal this place is than Townhall.)

Hiraghm on April 22, 2007 at 11:35 AM

Uh, for the record, numbnuts – it sure as hell isn’t a “conservative” idea to suggest that we’ll cheerfully murder tens of millions of innocents.

And suggesting that we might try to avoid torturing innocents isn’t exactly a “liberal” idea, either.

Jesus wept. Crap like this is how conservatives get a bad name and liberals get elected.

You can be hawkish on terror and willing to fight to win without becoming evil. We’re the good guys, remember?

Professor Blather on April 22, 2007 at 5:05 PM

Of course it works. It will take very little torture for me to tell you everything: My ATM Pin #, Where my stash is, what me and little Jenny did when I was 17 years old.

There is no doubt it works.

JayHaw Phrenzie on April 22, 2007 at 10:57 AM

I’m going to shoot this kitten right here if you don’t spill the details. Especially the part about little Jenny. If you have pictures, I’ll let the kitten go free.

Professor Blather on April 22, 2007 at 5:06 PM

Uh, for the record, numbnuts …… We’re the good guys, remember?

Professor Blather on April 22, 2007 at 5:05 PM

It’s hard to remember that when calling others numbnuts

Wade on April 22, 2007 at 5:19 PM

Hard for me to get worked up about this. In this case the guy who was beaten was more than deserving thereof. You could even say he’s gotten off light so far.

Yes, it would royally suck if such a thing were to happen to someone who was innocent. But as others have alluded to above, war doesn’t give you any good choices. You only have bad choices and worse choices.

BTW, to everybody who was “horrified” by what happened at Abu Graihb, I urge you to read this month’s cover story by Mark Bowden (of Black Hawk Down fame) in The Atlantic Monthly. During interrogation of the guy who finally gave up Zarqawi, the subject was threatened with being imprisoned in Abu Graihb. The threat was persuasive.

thirteen28 on April 22, 2007 at 5:48 PM

If that photo is evidence of torture, then the torturers AND the torturees are pretty wimpy indeed.

Heck, I got worse injuries from ‘soccer mom’ shoppers last time I was at Wal-Mart during rush hour.
Literally.

LegendHasIt on April 22, 2007 at 7:41 PM

CW, the problem is that you don’t know what the Iraqis knew. If they knew that this terrorist had the information that they needed to save innocent lives, then it’s tough shitzky for him. Beat him senseless.

Jaibones on April 22, 2007 at 10:35 PM

Sorry in advance for the “life imitating art” reference, but the timing is clean.

I was trying to avoid watching the Cubs lose another extra-inning game at home today, and flipped over to “Band of Brothers”, the nuanced lefty production on WWII.

And the only scene I saw depicted the soldiers doing a lot of whining about war in general (npi) and their truck drives by a barn, where Russian soldiers had discovered hiding Germans, and the Russkies take them out in the yard, make them kneel down, and shoot them in the back of the head.

The Americans depicted just sort of shrug as they drive by. War is Hell, and sometimes the demons are on your team, I guess.

Jaibones on April 22, 2007 at 10:44 PM

Is it too culturally insensitive to conclude that Arab culture is just inherently violent?

flipflop on April 22, 2007 at 12:07 PM

Well don’t know about that. It is incongruent to suggest that the Arab culture is just inherently violent, but oh by the way we are sacrificing our young soldiers to allow them to build a sustainable peace. Pick one.

honora on April 23, 2007 at 1:53 PM