Breeched Wales Bloviating in the Hot Sun

Location: Long Island, New York, United States

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Some evidence that torture is not the official US policy

The conclusion I came to on the Abu Girab torture incidents was that it was some loose cannons operating of their own accord, not official US policy. There was not clear cut evidence in that case that it was the policy except for the claim of the perpetrators that they had been ordered to do so by higher ups.

Often when discussing the Abu Girab incident my opponents would then shift to other incidents to show a pattern. One often used was the killing of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer. The victim was suffocated in a sleeping bag in this incident.

During the trial, prosecutor Maj. Tiernan Dolan described a rogue interrogator who became frustrated with Mowhoush's refusal to answer questions and escalated his techniques from simple interviews to beatings to simulating drowning, and finally, to death.

"He treated that general worse than you would treat a dog and he did so knowing he was required to treat the general humanely," Dolan said.

Again in this incident the perpetrator claimed that his commanders had approved of his interrogation techique.

Well Welshofer was found guilty of negligent homicide on Saturday. Which again shows the difference between us and them. However, what is most interesting in this case is the e-mail trail that shows his defense was fabricated.

In an e-mail to a commander, Dolan said, Welshofer wrote that restrictions on interrogation techniques were impeding the Army's ability to gather intelligence. Welshofer wrote that authorized techniques came from Cold War-era doctrine that did not apply in Iraq, Dolan said.

"Our enemy understands force, not psychological mind games," Dolan quoted from Welshofer's message. Dolan said an officer responded by telling Welshofer to "take a deep breath and remember who we are."

In his own words Welshofer admits that there were rules in place that restricted him to the same policies used through-out the cold war. Presumably policys in place under Democratic as well as Republican administrations throughout the era. It also shows that he was aware of them and chose to ignore them.

This does leave me wondering about the commander who wrote this reply. Upon recieving such an email wasn't he the least bit curious to see how these interrogations were being carried out. From the article I get the impression that he dropped the ball on this one, especially given the following from the article.

Welshofer used his sleeping bag technique in the presence of lower ranking soldiers, but never in the presence of officers with the authority to stop him, Dolan said.

It might have been that his superior had popped in for the occasional visit but that Welshofer was actively hiding these techniques by keeping a lookout or doing them when he knew superior officers would not be present. If so then how much effort does it take to find out? Not much I think as he could ask who was involved in the interrogations and then query them as to the worst techniques used. Even better he could have just asked the Iraqi being interrogated and followed up on that.

All in all, I think this is not only a crime on the part of Welshofer but also a failing on the part of the army. It does show a lack of supervision. Clearly an Iraqi General is covered by the Geneva Conventions (assuming Iraq is a signatory), so torture is not allowed regardless of US policy. Officers are instructed in such things and Welshofer should have known that it would be a crime regardless of whether his superiors ordered it or not.

I will conceed that the fact that this was a Iraqi General whereas the Abu Gharib victims may not have been, and that there might have been a different policy for different types of prisoners. It's possible. That's why I titled this article "Evidence that ..." and not "Conclusive evidence that ...".

I do not in reality know what the policy was, not being there, however I don't like the standard of evidence that is being used to convict the Administration. Many of the "deaths in captivity" being counted by those arguing against the Administration were Iraqi soldiers who had died of wounds recieved on the battlefield. If you are going to argue a position at least do so honestly. I understand that who use these statistics to argue are often unaware of such things but I feel it is their responsibility to verify such facts. It is well established that such statistics are often already contain partisan interpretations if not outright deceptions.

How many times have we heard numbers on civilians killed where those citing the statistics count terrorists as civilians? Though it is technically true that terrorists are not soldiers it is deceptive to group them with innocents, as they are certainly not innocent. Frankly, this sort of thing gets me pissed.