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:
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.