Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rusty cages

You wired me awake,
And hit me with a hand of broken nails.
You tied my lead and pulled my chain,
To watch my blood begin to boil.

This is not a debate on the pros and cons or the effectiveness of torture.

I repeat. This is NOT an argument in favor or against torturing or nearly torturing prisoners to extract information from them. That can be a topic for another posting.

Does everyone understand that? I am NOT arguing that torturing people is moral or immoral. Ok? Great, now let's continue.

I was listening to the Opie and Anthony show today and their guest Pete Dominick, who is a DJ on the Sirius/XM channel, POTUS. Unlike my last entry about the show, this exchange did not involve a lot of laughing and joking...rather it became a pretty serious debate about whether torturing al Qaeda prisoners is effective or not. Jim Norton and Anthony Cumia argued in favor of torture while Pete Dominick was adamant that he could convince them that it was not the way.

I'm going back up to say this one last time, this article is NOT about the merits (or lack thereof) of torture. It IS about the fact that Dominick, in an attempt to prove his point, related accounts he had read from CIA interrogators (known as "gators" to their colleagues) that captured Iraqis said the reason they were fighting the Americans was to avenge the humiliation of Abu Ghraib.

Since torture is back in the news once again, (and because this administration is obsessed with re-defeating Bush on a daily basis) I would like to once and for all, BURY this misconception. Because you see, this is a favorite tool of apologists and terrorist-sympathizers...to say that our actions in the world are what inspires the enemy to fight us. They, like Dominick point to editorials like this one, written by "Matthew Alexander" a former 'gator that did some tours in Iraq and was very upset by what he saw. I put his name in quotes because it's pseudonym, he uses a fake name for "security reasons." From the article:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.

Pretty damning stuff...except that it is based purely on emotions and not in reality at all. I have no doubt that Mr. Alexander was in Iraq and was told this fairy tale by the people he met there. I have no reason to doubt any part of his story (I guess) except for his interpretation of it.

For one thing, why on Earth would he believe these people that the reason they signed up to kill Americans was because of Abu Ghraib? If you captured a Nazi during WWII and he told you the reason he signed up to fight for Germany was because the Jews were responsible for Germany's humiliation in the first World War...would you believe him? Would you drop what you were doing and say to yourself "gee, every Nazi I talk to just HATES Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals....perhaps they have a point!" I thought rule number 1 of being a spy was not to buy into the enemy's propaganda.

But then let's even say that these prisoners, (again, people who were in the business of murdering Americans) actually believed what they told Alexander. Unfortunately, the statistics (as well as the history of the region) are just not on their side.

Let's first of all look at the statistics. The news story broke on April 28th, when 60 Minutes II aired photographs of Iraqi prisoners in pretty horrifying positions. For those who remember what Iraq was like in 2004, April of that year was one of the worst months on record for American soldiers in the entire conflict. In fact, according to icasualties.org, 135 American soldiers were killed in April/2004...2nd only to November of the same year which had 137 KIA. Obviously in April, Iraqis were extremely angry about something...proof positive you say that Alexander's point is a valid one? Not so fast...

Remember, the scandal broke at the END of April. If we look at the following month of May, the amount of Americans killed is 80...a 40% DECREASE at a time when Abu Ghraib fever was sweeping the world. Everyday another American or world leader was getting on international television and condemning the actions of these rogue soldiers. The "Arab street" was in an uproar all through May...and yet, we see a 40% decrease in attacks on Americans. Well, maybe al Qaeda was expending all of its resources on recruitment efforts in May and needed to devote some time to training.

You have to figure that it takes at least a month for new hires to be fully proficient in how to blow themselves up and how to demand a fair trial/lawyer when captured...insiders tell the RONMOSSAD blog that the "effectively managing Western laws and benefits to your advantage" part of the training program comes after HR explains to you how to put in a sick day request and what to do about sexual harrassment in the workplace. So with training out of the way, you have to figure then that there would be a major spike in violence in June. Right?

June/2004: 42 Americans killed. Almost a 50% decrease from the previous month. Hmmmm.

In July the number went up to 54, an increase but not anywhere near where it was BEFORE the story broke. In fact we do not see a major increase in American fatalities until November of 2004, a full 6 months after the news of the abuses got out. And lest you think it was a slow burn that finally resulted in an explosion of Abu Ghraib-motivated, consistent violence against Americans, the following month of December had half the fatalities. The war as we know it did not become a real chaotic free-for-all until 10/2006-10/2007 when civil strife pushed American casualties fairly consistently into the triple-digit range. For the "recruiting tool" scenario to hold water we would have to accept that the enraged Iraqis sat on their anger for nearly 2.5 YEARS before finally erupting in violence. Does this make sense to anyone? Anyone at all?

The defense is wraawng

But wait - it gets better. In mid-March of 2006 additional Abu Ghraib pictures were released and we were forced to relive the scandal anew. March of 2006 had only 31 American deaths, the quietist month since February/2004. Breaking down the month into halves (the story was released on the 15th), 16 of these deaths occurred from the 1st-15th and 15 occurred from the 16st-31st. In short there is NO CORRELATION between the Abu Ghraib abuses and American deaths. None. Period.

Finally, let's not forget that historically, this argument doesn't work either as this issue did not begin with Abu Ghraib or Iraq. Our friends over at TROP have a counter that they update with every attack that is committed in the name of Islam:

Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

Based on painstakingly meticulous record-keeping, they have a database of Islam-related violence that is broken down by day, week, month and year. If you click on this link, you will see that between September/2001 and the beginning of the Iraq war (which was a full YEAR before the Abu Ghraib story broke) Islamic terrorists had killed THOUSANDS of non-Muslims. What was the motivation for those attacks? Prisoner abuses? The Israeli operation in Gaza? The 2006 Lebanon war? What did Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have to do with the attacks in Mumbai from last Thanksgiving? And how about this historically random sampling of incidents:

April 18, 1983: U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. 63 killed

January 28, 1980: A Lebanese jihadist hijacked a Middle East Airlines Boeing 707 with 137 people on board. This flight took off from Baghdad, Iraq and was scheduled to land in Beirut, Lebanon.

June 2, 1978: In Israel, five people were murdered and 20 were severely injured in an explosion on a bus in Jerusalem.

May 15, 1974: In Ma'alot, Israel, 22 Israeli high school students, aged 14–16, from Safed were killed by three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Before reaching the school, the trio shot and killed two Arab women, a Jewish man, his pregnant wife, and their 4 year old son, and wounded several others.

August 19, 1974: In Cyprus, U.S. Ambassador Rodger Davies and one local employee, an embassy secretary, were killed when armed Cypriot Muslims fired shots at the ambassador's office and residence.

September 5, 1972: Eight Palestinians broke into the Israeli quarters of the Olympic Village during the Munich Olympic Games at dawn and took 11 members of Israel's wrestling team hostage. All the Israelis were executed by the time the crisis was over.

August 29, 1960: Jordon's Prime Minister, and 11 of his associates, were assassinated with a bomb placed in a public building.

Need more? Think American and Israeli foreign policy is to blame? Somehow these attacks are justified because of it? Ok...

1936: Haj-Amin al Husseini, the leader of the Palestinians and inspiration of Yasir Arafat instigated uprisings that left hundreds of Jews and thousands of Arabs dead in the British Mandate of Palestine. He later travelled to Nazi Germany and assisted the Nazis with planning the Final Solution...going so far as befriending Adolf Eichmann and training SS units. He also issued a fatwa encouraging "resistance" in Iraq that led to hundreds of Arab deaths and riots against the dwindling Jewish population of Iraq.

1915: The Turks blamed their lack of success in WWI on the Armenian Christians. They force the entire population of two million people from the homes and land - killing over a million unarmed Armenian men, women, and children.

Sources: Google searches, news stories, TROP and theprophetofdoom.net

Both of those events occurred LONG before the state of Israel was founded and DECADES before the very first American soldier ever set foot on holy Saudi Arabian or Iraqi or Lebanese soil.

And there's more...much more. Attacks on Jews. Attacks on Christians. Attacks on Muslims. Just general chaos emanating from the Middle East ever since Muhammad founded his new religion in the 600's. And before that, blood feuds between tribes lasted for generations...Muhammad just took it from the inter-tribal level and made it international. The Middle East has been a historically violent place years and decades and centuries and millennia before Abu Ghraib, or Gaza or the security fence or even the founding of the State of Israel. The torture scandals are as much a cause of Islamic terrorism as drinking cola is a cause of higher SAT scores. (it's NOT)

But perhaps more importantly than any of this, is a point that Norton brought up during the debate with Dominick (which is supported by the history). Saddam Hussein and other Arab/Muslim leaders have committed much worse atrocities against their own populations for centuries. Where was the insurgency against them? Or if there could be no insurgency for some reason...where was the outrage from the "Arab street" ? Where was the outrage from the apologists who are so quick to point fingers at American and Israeli foreign policy? Do they even know about Turkish foreign policy?? Or Iraqi, Egyptian and Palestinian domestic policy???

So don't tell me it's about Abu Ghraib or torture or any of that nonsense. Torture may or may not be an effective tool for intelligence officers but it does NOT create new terrorists or new enemies for the West. PERIOD.

But I'm gonna break,
I'm gonna break my,
Gonna break my rusty cage and run.
-Johnny Cash (cover of Soundgarden)

And anyone who tells you differently is just selling you the enemy's propaganda. Intentionally or unintentionally.



Jaime said...

I understand the point of this blog is that pictures or tales of torture do not recruit en masse. There are as many reasons to join a terrorist group as there are terrorists. One of them is because of torture. It is hard to say how many. The usual recritment strategy is to find unemployed dissaffected youths. Showing pictures or tales of torture is one of the ways to add fuel to the fire, but it is only one.

As to whether or not torture works, Israel and Mossad do not use it. It does not work and they know it.

RonMossad said...

Hi Jaime and thanks for the comment. I'm not saying if torture works or it doesn't - I just want to make sure it is clear that there is no connection between "enhanced interrogation" and increases in terrorists. Since Hamas and al Qaeda are not publicly traded corporations they are under no obligation to publish the amount of employees they have. All we have to go by is their activity.

The fact that there was no increase in Iraqi terror activity after the Abu Ghraib scandal, rather there was a decrease should put an end to the debate once and for all. It won't, because people want to believe whatever helps them sleep at night and its easier to think if we changed our approach the other side will learn to like us.

In the end it doesn't matter what we do. There are people in this world that want to kill you and me and nothing will change that. Whether we humiliate them or bow down to them they will always want to destroy the West because that's what's been going on for over a thousand years. Not because of torture.

They may TELL you it's because of that, but they're lying.

Jaime said...

I agree with you about people wanting to kill others no matter what but I don't agree with you on the effects of torture. Ultimately it hurts us. It is not the grand recruiting tool as some who do not understand the region like to believe. One problem is that when we torture it gives them this reason to feel self righteous. It is something that is used when they capture Americans. It doesn't affect the ultimate treatment of a captured soldier because they will do whatever they will but it is demoralizing for the prisoner and affects his/her state of mind. We need to take the moral high ground on the use of torture. It is who we strive to be. Using torture gives our enemies one more weapon to use against us.

RonMossad said...

But they feel self-righteous already Jaime. They've been doing this stuff for hundreds of years...long before any torture scandals. You have to understand before they had real scandals they just made it up.

Now if your point is not to torture because of the effect it has on OUR soldiers, from a moral/psychological standpoint that's a different story entirely.

I'm not advocating the practice - I'm just saying that no regular Joe Chummus is transformed into a murderer psycho suicide bomber killer because we waterboarded some lowlives. No way, no how. The data just does not support the argument.

Jaime said...

I appreciate your considerate responses. I read your blog and know you to be a talented fact based writer on Jewish/Israeli issues. Your argument as I understand it is that these guys are terrorists and have always been no matter what. I can't argue that. But it does not follow that the photographic proof of abuses by the US did not become a reason to become an Islamic terrorist for some. You cannot state that torture does not create terrorists. One single issue does not create a terrorist would be a more accurate statement. You proved conclusively that our criminal behavior was not the one and only reason for terrorist activity and that is all. In your attempt to discredit the effect of prisoner abuse and torture you imply tacit approval of these actions even though you state that your post was not about the right or wrong of these actions.

You speak of the amount of time it takes to recruit, indoctrinate and train a terrorist. You underestimate the training process. It is more than a month. It is long intense months and more often than not, years. You say an idea cannot fester in the mind for more than 2 years and have it be the reason for commmitting atrocities. You cannot see into the hearts and minds of these individuals. You cannot say what it is that takes someone down this path or how long it takes. If the pictures of prisoner abuse was the image even one terrorist carried in his mind as he committed heinous acts than it is one too many. If even one of our soldiers, airmen or Marines was killed because of our illegal acts, it was too many.

Is torture alone the cause of Islamic terrorism. No. No one has said that. It is a tool. It is a contributing factor. It has had an effect and I know that as fact. You have never been motivated to volunteer your life for either of your nations. You do not know what things go through an individual's mind as he or she makes this decision. You do not know these things. They cannot be determined by looking at statistics and incident rates. When an individual decides to fight for an idea or their country it doesn't happen over night and it isn't because of just one reason and not all reasons are altruistic. Only that person knows what was in their heart when they made that decision and often the reasons change over time. Some go just to kill because they enjoy it. That happens on both sides. I know for me it took months of soul searching. If nothing in your life has ever pushed you to put your life on the line you can't really understand this.

I have spent the majority of my adult life fighting to protect your right to speak your opinion and I am proud to have done so and you do it very well. The terror issue is something I cannot stay quiet about. My only criticism with your post is numbers will not show you what goes to the heart of a man. Sometimes it takes months, even years for these things to push someone to take action. The pictures horrified America, imagine what they did in the Middle East. I know you know this because you understand better than most. Torture hurt us more than it ever helped us. Keep writing.

RonMossad said...

Whoaaaa...easy there partner. I appreciate the compliments but please don't make assumptions about what sacrifices I've made or not made for my cause. I may not understand the feeling of joining a military and making a CAREER out of risking my life in defense of a country but that doesn't mean I haven't put myself in harms way. I appreciate your service to this country tremendously and have the utmost respect for you regardless of whether our opinions differ...but you can not possibly know what life experiences that have led me to this place I am today.

As for this article being a tacit endorsement for torture or enhanced interrogation or whatever you want to call it...if you don't believe my opening lines I wonder if you noticed that I included within this entry the lyrics to a Soundgarden song that talks about escaping from the pain of torture.

Your point that you brought up about it taking time, years maybe for thoughts to drive someone to joining a terror organization may have merit. However, how do you explain that here were are now...five years removed from Abu Ghraib and violence levels in Iraq are down to negligible levels. The very people who were supposedly so OUTRAGED about the photographs are now our allies against al Qaeda. When I said it would take a month for the "training" I was being sarcastic...that's why I pointed out that it took 2.5 years for violence levels to really increase before subsiding...

I would also like to point out that I disagree with your assertion that I cannot see into the hearts and minds of terrorists. Well, maybe I can't but I can tell you historically that Islamic terrorism spikes DRAMATICALLY when there is a real incitement. I will give you two examples of what I speak of.

1. The Danish Muhammad cartoon riots

2. The 2nd intifada in Israel

Both were instances of real incitement and real responses by the Islamists.

In case number 1 you had a cartoon of Muhammad that Muslims and Islamists found offensive. The result: riots all over the world that left over 100 dead, just in NigeriaIn case number 2 you had what was perceived to be a provocative action on the part of Israel when Ariel Sharon (who is one of the most hated Israelis in the Arab world) visited the Temple Mount which coincidentally is also the site of the al Aqsa Mosque. The result? Over three years of riots, pitched battles, rocket attacks, hundreds of dead Israelis, thousands of dead Arabs, destroyed property, suicide bombings...in short a HUGE SPIKE in violence that did not subside until Israel crushed the uprising years after it began.

In both cases the response by the Islamists was immediate, extrememly painful and did not subside quickly. I can bring you boatloads of additional examples if you like.

The response to Abu Ghraib just does not fit the historical model of responses to humiliations going back decades if not centuries. It just does not. I'm sorry, but the facts just do not support the assertion.

I'm not saying we should torture, I'm just saying that apologists should stop using it as a justification for Islamic terror attacks. Just like they should stop using the security fence that Israel is building, just like they should stop using the Palestinian refugee camps, just like they should stop using the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, just like they should stop using the invasion of Iraq, etc etc etc. It's all just excuses for what this really is...

A clash between two civilizations that have had differing views of the future for thousands of years.

Jaime Madrid said...

We don't agree but I have said what I wanted to say and I am done. I appreciate your thoroughness. Good luck to you. I've shared your blog with my current employers.

Al R. said...

First let me say that your post was outstanding. Unfortunately the folks we need to reach don't seem to place facts ahead of their own desire to simply believe that good will come, and that the facts you speak of just don't make them feel tickly inside.

I post the TROP stats on my facebook page and I had two high school friends (basically) tell me that it brought her down, and that she simply relies on people like me, and you, and her dad to sort it all out and she would simply raise tolerant children (and sometimes one of them just cries about it).

I told her that I doubted her children would ever be the problem, and that she should hope Islam decides to raise tolerant children.

These ideas are deeply rooted in simple hope, albeit naive (extremely). Is this the only war that we've assumed defeat because the enemy fights back or actively recruits? I can't imagine this conversation back in WWII; "Mr. President, the Germans continue to recruit. One could assume that they don't like us on their soil so consider halting strategic bombing. This will illustrate our rightness and they could realize the error of their ways.”

(I realize the article was not about the right or wrong or torture) As far as the ruse of “torture” is concerned, if I'm a cop I'm allowed to strike an individual on the meaty portions of his/her legs, with a stick yet, in order to merely gain the compliance of someone SUSPECTED of a crime. Is that now torture? I suppose the occasional pinch/spanking of my child is also torture now (or apparently always has been). I am absolutely not an advocate of torture, but the idea that we can’t, or shouldn’t, be forceful as a last resort is simply absurd. Let’s say hypothetically speaking, that we are attacked again, are we actually going to claim that the dead died for the sake of being (possibly) morally correct? It’s like we’re counter martyring the Islamists.

RonMossad said...

Hi AI R - welcome to the show. I hope you will post some links to this site now in addition to TROP on your Facebook.

As for what you said about your friend, I could not agree more. It's interesting that you brought up WWII right afterward because without meaning to (or perhaps you did) you linked two things that have a lot in common:

WWII and the clash of civilizations that is happening in our lifetimes.

And both had the same kind of isolationist silliness in the leadup to them. If you look at the 1990's in the US and A and compare that decade to the 1920's it's scary how similar of situation it really is.

Both had rising discontent outside of the States (Germany/Arab World). Both had previously unheard of economic expansion (tech bubble/credit bubble). Both had Americans feeling like we saved the world from evil and now we can go back to our "normal" lives (WWI/Cold War). One ended in disaster (WWII)...the other one the jury is still out on.

But I can tell you one thing we've already done that FDR neglected to do in in the 30's - we eliminated two dictatorships BEFORE they were strong enough to stand up to us. Imagine if Roosevelt and Chamberlain had taken out Germany when it was still weak, before Hitler had a chance to rearm. No Holocaust. No invasion of Poland/France/Russia/etc. No disaster.

Fast forward to 2001/2003 and Bush eliminates the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. So we've already managed to avert some level of disaster. Unfortunately, people like your friend now want to go back to their pre-9/11 lives and pretend there's nothing to worry about anymore. The trouble is there is still a very serious threat called Iran that threatens the entire Middle East and gets stronger everyday.

And instead of having a Bush in office we have a Roosevelt (or worse a Carter). Israel has their Churchill in power in Netanyahu. The question is - will we stand with them against the rising threat of Iran. Or will we put it off for another generation and leave it to our children to do the work for us, against a significantly stronger enemy and with a significantly weaker group of friends on their side.

Keep raising awareness on this. We cannot afford to leave this to the next generation.

Anonymous said...

Dean of med school (no names mentioned here), orig from Islam Middle East Country says she KNOWS Jooz routinely target and kill children...blah blah.. because a friend of hers told her. Forgive me for even repeating this here - but my point is that she accepts as truth a lie that is in sync with her prejudices and emotions.

Al R. said...

We can compare and contrast this war with WWII all day long, both in their successes and failures (the Europeans haven’t changed a bit have they?). I’d have to say that most Americans that I meet, outside of my fellow army friends, have been living pre-nine eleven lives for about 5 years now. And it’s not an accident, they purposefully pretend that it’s not a big deal and I think that also drove so much Bush hate; they can’t blame radical Islam because that means there’s a threat that they must come to terms with so they divert that to a threat that is easier to chew which equaled Bush. All they had to do was elect some other cat to office and threat gone (of course, add to that the burden that the media places on anybody who thinks Islam’s inability to reason is the real problem; you’re intolerant or a racist if you hold that opinion ). It’s all a neat little, chewable, package.
I was in Egypt in 2007-08 as part of the MFO (for the second time). There is absolutely no legit proof of Israel’s inability to live peacefully with its Arab neighbors, NONE (as you well know). Yet the media feeds us that exact scenario each and every day. I fear that this administration will attempt to force Israel into doing something very stupid, as if Israel is to blame for the current problems in the region. Madness. What has HAMAS done to meet any of it’s obligations under any agreement?
Until we, and by WE I mean the entire free world, get to the meat of the problem (that Islam is rooted in violence and MUST evolve) all this will continue to fester forever. We, non Muslims, will not be able to do this, THEY must do it. All we can do is, sad but true, kill those (on the battlefield) who are solid believers in violence. The idea that somehow all this is linked to an Israeli state is absolute crap. You mention the Armenian genocide which I know a bit about (my wife is Armenian). That was absolutely rooted the in Islamic belief of supremacy and domination of non Muslims. Interesting side point is that the vast majority of American Armenians voted for Obama thinking he would finally call those killings Genocide, and what did he do? I believe he said that there had been an incident of killings, or something along that line. Good times. Like the American Jews who voted for him en mass who I believe will be very upset before these 4 years are done.
Interesting how all those who have the most to lose, or should know better from past losses, fell for some very obvious sleight of hand. You’d think they would be extra attentive, especially the Israeli’s, because it wasn’t like he hadn’t made some very Carter-like statements regarding the Israeli Palestinian issue.
I’ll be in touch my friend.

Al R.

RonMossad said...

AI - you hit the nail on the head with the Bush blaming. It's the same exact silliness that leads to the 9/11 conspiracy insanity. You see it's much less scary to blame a group of people that you can vote out of office and argue with in English than a group of psycho-murderers 6,000 miles away that not only don't speak English...they don't SPEAK at all. They just chop your head off if they get their hands on you. I went into that ostrich mentality when I spent some time delving into some of the popular conspiracy theories in this entry back in April.

Hey if you want to send me your e-mail information I can add you to my mailing list that I send out when I make a major update. Send it to me at ronmossad (at) gmail dot com.