Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Fact That We Are Debating This At All Makes Me Sick

That, in a nutshell, is my position on the whole torture, extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, wiretapping, and every other liberty and right a bunch of frightened cowards have chosen to trample in their endless War on Terror.

I have tried being pragmatic, talking about how torture simply does not work. If your goal is to produce valid, actionable intelligence, you will not be torturing people. If you're a sick, twisted piece of shit who enjoys inflicting pain to make yourself feel omnipotent and stuff put on some leather chaps and chains, go to a bar where people think that kind of thing is sexy, hire a pro, and have at it. If you want to save the lives of our men and women out there on the fields of battle, you need to get the truth. Truth does not spring from torture. Even in the cases where almost by accident some bits and snips of truth fall to the floor of the torture dungeon they are surrounded by fantasy and lies which are produced by somebody in unimaginable torment in the vague hope that this will somehow fucking stop.

I have seen torture. I have seen it on the battlefield where the "ticking time bomb" was no mere philosophical conceit. I have seen wounded, frightened prisoners, bound and helpless in a group as an interrogator with a pistol in his hand shot the first one without so much as an acknowledgement that this was ever a human being. The next one was shot because the interrogator (an ARVN "officer") didn't like the look on his face. The third victim was crying when the torturer stood in front of him. He was the first one to be asked a question. It was a simple "How many of you are there?" He was too frightened to respond, he was choking on the snot and blood from his cut lip. He was pistol whipped and the question was asked again. Again, there was not an acceptable or understandable response. This might have be a result of his jaw now being broken too, but he might have been a hardened communist, that implacable foe we were all supposed to fear. The fourth prisoner didn't wait to be asked any questions, he told the man with the pistol that he was a member of the 4th NVA division, the name of the commander, the name of his lieutenant and where he had last seen all his comrades two days ago when they had been dropped off and told to hold their position in the city of Hue. I thought that this was going to be the end of the session. I was wrong. The man that just gave that information was shot in the kneecap. It kept going on. I couldn't watch anymore. When I was finshed thowing up I returned to my unit and told them that there was nothing to do here.

I asked my immediate superior why we were turning prisoners over to the ARVN. We knew full well what was going on. The VC shot on the street in Saigon in the famous picture got off easy. I was reminded that I was the only person in my unit that spoke enough Vietnamese to do more than find the nearest whorehouse and haggle over the price. Every time I brought things like that up I was told that if I wanted to become a full time interrogator that a billet would be found.

There was a successful intelligence program that worked very well in the south. It was called "Chu Hoi" which means "open arms or welcome home." The basic idea was to take a VC or NVA and tell them that if they gave up information that would be of use to us in an immediate, verifiable context we would take them away from all of this, give them a ticket to the big PX and make sure they had enough cash left over to open themselve a liquor store in Orange County. If you have ever eaten noodles in Garden Grove, had your nails done, or conducted business with a Vietnamese American in that area chances are you might have been dealing with someone who was a communist until the moment he was offered that deal. I have. They are some of the finest Americans I know. Usually once the words came out of the mouth of the interrogator there were no more communists in the room. The biggest problem that the Chu Hoi program faced was that it was no fun for the sadistic shitheels that were used to going to bed at night with a long lullaby of screams.

There are reasonable, veteran politicians who are right now sitting this out. They are perfectly content to watch the Republicans debate the finer points of torture and what is or isn't allowed.

I am officially and completely all out of fucking reasonable. Understand? TORTURE IS WRONG. WE SHOULD NOT FUCKING DO IT AT ALL. The fact that we are having this debate at all means that we have already lost far more than was ever imagined when the planes hit the towers. An analogy I used on an open thread at the Dark Wraith Forum was that it is akin to having to explain to teenagers that the acceptable way to dispose of unwanted puppies does not involve throwing them out of a speeding pick up truck at highway signs. The fact that you have to explain this kind of thing at all implies a high level of failure is already in place. The fact that the president has gone before the nations of the world and defended his policy of torture and cruelty shames us all. Maybe we deserve to lose this fucking war too.

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog


Blogger Melissa McEwan said...

Amen, brother.

10:22 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

thank you shakes. i need a meeting now.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Pogo said...

Of course,the chickenshits that devised this "system" couldn't know anything like that, could they? Assholes.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Maggie Rosethorn said...

I agree, this is all just WRONG. That's why I vote and will continue to vote against politicians who allow the things like this to happen.

2:57 PM  
Blogger J. Goff said...

Fuck yeah. ANytime my idiot father brought up how if we would have just tortured more Vietnamese, the war would have been won, I felt compelled to seriously hurt him. It's like he had never seen that picture. Torture dehumanizes and destroys torturer and tortured alike, and yet we still hear Bill Frist and other morons playing semantics over waterboarding and "interrogative techniques". I feel sick, I want off this crazy train.

5:47 AM  
Blogger andi said...

thank you thank you thank you.

i hear this shit on the radio and it literally makes me ill. i can't believe we are even having these fucking conversations.

it reminds me of the posting at shakes' place yesterday (maybe, i dunno) about "vituperative and foul-mouthed [leftist] bloggers."

i mean, what else can you expect when this is the state of our union? at some point the fury of watching human ethics get pissed and shat upon by our "elected leaders" becomes too much for polite conversation.

if this kind of crap doesn't warrant foul language, i don't know what does.

7:27 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

as far as the effect it has on the torturers, let me say that it isn't scenes of open combat that keep me awake at nights. it isn't times of force on force encounters, however brutal, that bring the disturbing dreams. i only skirted the subject. i left out the part where i wasn't the only one puking, i left out the part where some of the prisoners collapsed while shitting and pissing themselves because they knew they were going to die horribly and nothing would stop it. there were also some times that were worse.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Jim Yeager said...

Every time I read a post like this, I think of something Ward Churchill (yes, that Ward Churchill) said in late November 2001: "You want your children to be safe, stop killing other people's babies -- or looking the other way while they die."

Obviously, that sentiment just isn't making any headway...

9:28 AM  
Blogger sumo said...

Sorry you had to go through that in Nam. It's the same in Westminster as in Garden Grove. Mini mall after mall are all asian shops. They work hard for what they have. We'll never make it up to those folks either. The scores of Iraqis dying and dead weigh heavily on our psyche...if only the politicians would feel the same.

2:21 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

no, we can never fully make it up to the vietnamese people. we made a complete and total hash out of our involvement. all we accomplished in fifteen years of slaughter was to lay waste to large areas of land and whole cities, and harden the hearts of the inevitable victors. a long list of american mistakes, some from simple ignorance, some from cynical politics, some from plain ass country greed accumlated over decades and resulted in a brutality and almost national psychosis. those that were able to make it here through a combination of endurance and luck are a real and true asset to our nation. that we are again repeating the same cycle of brutality, ignorance, and incompetance at great cost, to ourselves and the poor dumb bastards we are claiming to "help" or "liberate" both horrifies and disgusts me.

remember when they first kicked the whole thing off? it was to be called "Operation Iraqi Liberation" the fucking acronym said it all. and not even in a subliminal way.

9:39 AM  
Blogger trog69 said...

Stop the world, I wanna get off. I truly fear what these monsters have in store for us, and our children. Man, I am so sorry that you had to go through such unbelievable horror. To think that under the sme sun that I rode my bike, played with friends, unspeakable shit was going down, I can't get my mind around it. The fact that you have not let the demons beat you shows real courage and strength. Peace!

7:24 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i am completely disgusted by the way this administration conducts itself and the war. the thing that war is in and of itself is cruelty enough. i found that i could be violent, and absolutely ruthless in the performance of my duty, and refrain from acts of cruelty. there is a difference. war can be brutal and vicious, but in the hands of honorable soldiers it is not wantonly cruel. that's where torture crosses the line. over and over i have heard torture victims talk about the line that gets crossed in the sessions where things have absolutely nothing to do about information or interrogation and everything to do with the torturer satisfying his needs. the lines on the behavior of both men in the field have to be drawn close and sharp. if they are not hard, fast and clearly marked the boundries will be crossed again and again. thank goodness there are some legal minds still left like glen greenwald who are already preparing the challenges to this piece of shit law.

9:53 PM  

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