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May 13, 2004

Let The Ends Vs. Means Debate Commence

Psychologists contacted by New Scientist for an article on the Abu Ghraib prison pictures say that the images show that the practices at the prison were part of a "well thought through" process.

Robbins told New Scientist: "It looks to me that it was a well thought through process." He says acts of ill-treatment by rogue operatives acting alone are more likely to be routine low-grade violence - "the odd slapping" - and neglect, such as withholding food or access to toilets.

He also points out that the methods of humiliation depicted in the images would be particularly offensive to Arab men. "If you really wanted to humiliate an Arab man, you would strip him, have a woman present, and then have a woman degrade him."

One recent image shows a woman holding a dog lead attached to the neck of a naked Iraqi man. Photographing such events is likely to compound the shame by placing it on record.

Forgive me for entertaining such politically incorrect thoughts, but if being posed naked in degrading positions and photographed was part of a process specifically designed to humiliate Arab men before they were interrogated, then shouldn't part of judging the practices illuminated in the photos be an inquiry into how effective the process was?

Let's say 14 American soldier's/Iraqi civilian's lives were saved by the practices depicted in these photos. Are the images now more acceptable? What if the life of only one person was saved? What if 1000 lives were spared?

PETA spends millions of dollars a year protesting animal testing, yet most Americans are perfectly happy allowing the practice because it results in what they see as a greater good--cancer treatments, hypoallergenic make-up, what have you. Why shouldn't the Abu Ghraib prison photos be judged by the same standards?

Furthermore, if "Photographing such events is likely to compound the shame by placing it on record.", then isn't the subsequent release of the photographs even more shameful--thus rendering the threat of such photos even more effective in future? Suppose you're Saddam Hussein. What would you do to prevent a picture of yourself clad only in a dog-collar and being led around by a woman on your hands and knees from being released?

Posted by Bigwig at May 13, 2004 12:15 PM | TrackBack
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Fine, I'll start.

... then shouldn't part of judging the practices illuminated in the photos be an inquiry into how effective the process was?

Any such judging would be tainted by the fact that the practices didn't end there but also included sexual assault and homicide.

Moreover, last I heard, we're still bound by the rule of law and have ratified a number of treaties prohibiting this treatment of prisoners. Until the Constitution is amended, those ratified treaties rank with the Constitution itself as the supreme law of the land. If Congress decides those treaties have outlived their usefulness, it has legal mechanisms by which it can extricate the U.S. from them. But if we just ditch them via on-the-spot command decisions, or even executive fiat, then we have become, literally, an outlaw nation.

I don't think it's completely loony to believe it possible that the U.S. could export its ideals of democracy and free markets to other regions. But you can't do it via military force alone. You've also got to model the behavior you want to see. There apparently was precious little of that kind of modeling going on in Abu Ghraib, and it looks as if all Iraq knew it.

Posted by: Lex at May 13, 2004 02:13 PM

BigWig, I think you're asking the wrong question. I think your question should not be "how many lives have been saved" by the intelligence data gathered, but "how many lives have been or will be taken because of the photos"? Bottom line: these photos will cost more in American lives than they will save.

Posted by: Kehaar at May 13, 2004 02:21 PM

Sorry folks, that's a crock o' shite. I handled prisoners in my time in (not too long ago) and never heard of butt rape with handy tools as a sanctioned interrogation method. I have friends still in the community, and they confirm that it isn't a sanctioned method; nor is having your clerk put a dog leash on one and marching him around naked whilst laughing at his pecker.

And I, for one, if I hear another Harvard Psychiatrist telling us what Army policy is, based on the S&M porn photos of a dozen MPs, will either journey to Harvard with pitchfork in hand and do to those profs what one should do with a dung pile; or stab my eardrums out with chopsticks.

As Sen. Inhofe said, the outrage over the outrage is getting to be a little much. I appreciate what a great time our Ivy League elitist rulers had in the 60's, but I'd appreciate it if they didn't try to relive VietNam every day, and then compound the error by trying to relive the film "Platoon" in their news commentary. These people are pompous and generally clueless jackasses we didn't listen to when we were in class; why should our public policy makers listen to them now?

Posted by: Blackavar at May 13, 2004 08:02 PM

I remain open to the possibility you describe, Bigwig. However, the main thing for me is guilt. The dudes suffering the psychological torture better damn well have been very guilty dudes. A farmer who threw a rock at a marine is not good enough. I mean bad dudes.

If there was information that would save innocents was obtained by making some very bad dudes have an unpleasant time, then it might have been justified.

Posted by: Jim at May 14, 2004 12:25 AM


The pictures I've seen depict activities that can be seen at San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair. The biggest difference is that the woman holding the leash at the fair is usually dressed better (although I'm sure that this year some will wear fatigues) and often isn't, well, all female, if you know what I mean. Oh, and they use colors other than green and apply them better.

If they're that easily humiliated, they're like French cuisine being threatened by McDonalds.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at May 14, 2004 08:29 AM

Andy hits it.

These things couldf be considered abuse, but torture? The pictures of the guy lying on the ground with the bandage on his face are being reported as various things, examples of severe beating, murder, etc. But there's been no verification of what, exactly that picture is of.

The other aspect of this, the whole issue of the pictures making it worse is largely abesnted from consideration due to the fact that most of these prisoners heads are covered.

And there's the 'rapeest' photo. 'Rapeest'? Surely those soldiers know how to spell rapist. Or was the prisoner forced to write it himself? why? more questions than answers.

And they there's the ever alluded to pictures of actual rape and murder. The only rape pics shown have been documented to be false. And, save for that one guy--whose death is sporadically claimed, there have been no pictures of murdered prisoners.

These pictures are, as I've been saying all along, wrong somehow.

What punishmeant needs to be meted out, will be, that is not in question. What is in question, to me, is what exactly are we looking at here?

Posted by: jack at May 14, 2004 09:44 AM
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