ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Lileks on Gitmo

LILEKS on Gitmo - a Must Read. (Provided in full below because I know folks like Downer just don't want to be shown how idiotic they are):

"06 13 05- The true horror of American Torture has been revealed. Let me make light of it. Says Time:
” On Dec. 2, Rumsfeld approved 16 of 19 stronger coercive methods. Now the interrogators could use stress strategies like standing for prolonged periods,

What, he made them stand in line for eight hours to vote? Fiend.
isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as dogs) and “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.”

If you’ve read accounts of the Soviet gulag you may recall the tales of men forced to march ten miles to a labor site in shoes made of cardboard and frozen spit, and digging hard dead beets from permafrost with hands that hadn’t seen mittens in three years. “Light pushing” in this context was a rifle butt to the chin, twice. Did the 19 methods in the Bill of Cruelty itemize “poking in the chest with the finger” as a separate method, or was it folded into a general go-ahead for acting like a high-school gym teacher?
According to the log, al-Qahtani experienced several of those over the next five weeks.

The techniques Rumsfeld balked at included “use of a wet towel or dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation.” “Our Armed Forces are trained,” a Pentagon memo on the changes read, “to a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.” Nevertheless, the log shows that interrogators poured bottles of water on al-Qahtani’s head when he refused to drink. Interrogators called this game “Drink Water or Wear It.”

This is how articles are written, conventional wisdom chopped pressed and formed: the techniques Rumsfeld “balked at” – meaning, I assume, did not permit – did not include actual suffocation, but the use of a wet towel that would induce the misperception of an emanation of a penumbra of suffocation. NEVERTHELESS. Key word, that. Lines crossed not in fact but in spirit. He balked at fake suffocation, aye; NEVERTHELESS the climate of pain and retribution did not forbid men from freely dumping bottles of Dasani on the heads of the detainees. Why, it was a game to the interrogators. “Drink Water or Wear it.” Spiritually, it’s a first cousin to Saddam’s game, “Use Tongue Then Lose It.”
After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.

Djinni in a bottle, no doubt.
According to the log, his handlers at one point perform a puppet show “satirizing the detainee’s involvement with al-Qaeda.”

So Doug is part of the torture crew, then. From the ever-prescient Pythons:
Vercotti: Doug (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.

2nd Interviewer: What did he do?

Vercotti: He used... sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire. He was vicious.

And at one point the reader might assume that if something really bad had happened, we might have read about it by now. I know a little bit about modern journalism, and we tend to emphasis the splintery plunger up the butt over the mocking puppet show. In any case, this detail makes you almost want to weep in frustration; domestic politicians are posturing for the camera, huffing about then horrors of Gitmo, insisting that the rest of the world won’t forgive us until we close the joint down and pave it. Over what? A Punch and Judy show? If we gang-mimed the guy and had 17 men in striped shirts with white makeup pantomime falling out of a burning skyscraper, would the critics demand we not only let the guy go but pay him a per diem for his troubles? I’ve read the story twice, and I keep wondering if I missed the part where the suspected 20th hijacker spits teeth into a chamberpot rimming with own bloody urine while massaging the welts the jumper cables left on his groinal division. I mean, I take all that for granted, because our soldiers are all killbot brutes - except for the lower-class ones who got drafted against their will and can only hope Bruce Springsteen sings a monotonal account of their disaffection.

Puppet shows and secret code / I don’t know who to trust / I’m the metaphorical twin of old Tom Joad / inasmuch as we both dealt with dust / his was the kind that got in your eyes / mine gets in your gun / but they both get down deep in your soul / whaddya mean, sing “Born to Run”?
He is taken to a new interrogation booth, which is decorated with pictures of 9/11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. national anthem.

Okay, this is torture. But only if you’re interrogating a poster on the Democratic Underground.
His head and beard are shaved. He is returned to his original interrogation booth. A picture of a 9/11 victim is taped to his trousers. Al-Qahtani repeats that he will “not talk until he is interrogated the proper way.”

Meaning what? Forced to kneel before a camera and confess you’re a Jew before your head is sawed off?
Invasion of Space by Female: Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female

Mind you, this is considered punishment. Right now across America there are guys who are seriously peeved because they ordered “Invasion of Space by a Female IV” on pay-per-view and the cable went out. They’re on the phone admitting they wanted it, and demanding they get IV and V no charge, understood?
and he becomes especially agitated by the close physical presence of a woman. Then, around 2 p.m. on Dec. 6, comes another small breakthrough. He asks his handlers for some paper. “I will tell the truth,” he says. “I am doing this to get out of here.” He finally explains how he got to Afghanistan in the first place and how he met with bin Laden. In return, the interrogators honor requests from him to have a blanket and to turn off the air conditioner.

One suspects it isn’t the presence of a woman that bothers him; it’s the fact that she doesn’t take any guff, looks him in the eye, laughs at him, blows smoke rings in his face and generally fails to behave like one of the 72 docile celestial whores he was promised. In short: he was broken by the concise application of cultural insensitivity.

You know, there’s a word for college professors who get freaked out by women in positions of confident authority, and it isn’t “tenure.”

Do you have a problem with that? Then this will freak you out anew:
Soon enough, the pressure ratchets up again. Various strategies of intimidation are employed anew. The log reveals that a dog is present, but no details are given beyond a hazy reference to a disagreement between the military police and the dog handler.

This is one of those telling details that describes the chasm between the culture of the American soldiers and the culture of the terrorists. What can you make of men who are scared of women and dogs?
But a much more serious problem develops on Dec. 7: a medical corpsman reports that al-Qahtani is becoming seriously dehydrated

Because they’ve been withholding water and beating him in the kidneys with the Brooklyn Yellow Pages while the guards belt out “Singin’ in the Rain”?
, the result of his refusal to take water regularly.

Remember drink or wear it? So he doesn’t want to drink it. Under Rummy’s Rules of Torture, no bout #19 is “Let him die, if that’s his wish. Scratch one off, move along.” Right after #18, “Poke him in the sternum, but not more than five times in 30 seconds.” But no:
He is given an IV drip, and a doctor is summoned. An unprecedented 24-hour time out is called, but even as al-Qahtani is put under a doctor’s care, music is played to “prevent detainee from sleeping.” Nine hours later, a medical corpsman checks al-Qahtani’s pulse and finds it “unusually slow.” An electrocardiogram is administered by a doctor, and after al-Qahtani is transferred to a hospital, a CT scan is performed. A second doctor is consulted. Al-Qahtani’s heartbeat is regular but slow: 35 beats a minute. He is placed in isolation and hooked up to a heart monitor, TIME reports.

Because he didn’t drink the water. This guy got more medical care than anyone in non-Gitmo Cuba, and of course he survives to experience additional indignities, such as having a picture of a nude woman hung around his neck.

That’s where the story ends in the web version. You’ll have to read the cover story to learn the entire tale. Because it’s the most important story in the world this week.

If the 20th hijacker had been on a plane, and the author of the Time story had been killed fighting with him in the aisle before the plane hit its target, and we knew this from cell-phone dispatches, there would be an award named after the journalist. With a yearly banquet. Chicken, probably; it’s always chicken. With some limp asparagus no one ever eats, but it looks nice on the plate.

After three years, the award would go to someone who exposed how soldiers in Afghanistan used a Koran as a doorstop. Or so sources said.

Given the hand-wringing over Gitmo (now that we know the "worst" of what goes on there), I can accurately say that we have lost the will to exist...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler