Tuesday, April 19, 2005

battlefield interrogations

Today’s Washington Post echoes my previous post…well not exactly. The WP draws attention to the US Military’s handling of detainees in Iraq. E-mails, purportedly expanding the list of acceptable interrogation techniques, were sent by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then commander of US troops in Iraq, to interrogators and Army officials. The article insinuates that the new “gloves off” approach led to the death of at least one prisoner.
Army investigative documents released yesterday, as well as court records and files, suggest that the tactics were used on two detainees: One died during an interrogation in November 2003 while stuffed into a sleeping bag, and another was badly beaten by inexperienced interrogators using a police baton in September 2003. The documents indicate confusion over what tactics were legal in Iraq, a belief that most detainees were not covered by Geneva Conventions protections and alleged abuse by interrogators who had tacit approval to "turn it up a notch."
After reading my take on the 24 scenario, one might think that my thoughts on Iraqi detainees are similar. Actually, my insistence upon “due process” applies to US citizens under the protection of the US Constitution. Detained foreign terrorists on foreign soil have no such protection. I tend to agree with the current Administration that stateless combatants can’t claim that the Geneva Conventions apply to them. By all accounts, these savages intend to kill and be killed. Furthermore, the gruesome films they make of decapitating civilians speak volumes about how they would deal with captured soldiers.
Another interrogator, with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion, wrote a response to the headquarters e-mail with cautions that "we need to take a deep breath and remember who we are." "It comes down to standards of right and wrong -- something we cannot just put aside when we find it inconvenient," the soldier wrote. "We are American soldiers, heirs of a long tradition of staying on the high ground. We need to stay there."
I don’t advocate summary execution of detainees because I feel that sort of treatment is beyond the pale. We are, after all, not the barbarians that our brave men and women battle at this very hour. Indeed, those guys and gals are risking their lives to protect ours. This is apparently hard to see from the security of the Washington Post headquarters.