Comments: No Kudos

Anne -
I'm not sure why you just say the West..last time I checked there were a lot of nations in the UN..but your point on Darfur should provide another wake up call to those who believe the UN is capable of handling these problems (look at when we had a "UN" force in Rwanda and even in Sbrenecia)..

As for the policy on torture, there is a fine line separating legal advice on how to stay within the law, and legal advice on how to avoid prosecution for breaking the law. DoD and DoJ lawyers often provide this first kind of sensitive legal advice to top decisionmakers in the Executive Branch (regardless of administration) who want to affirm the legality of their actions. Often times, memoranda on these topics can be seen both ways, depending on your perspective. I tend to think that the DoJ memo and Gonzales memo leaned more heavily towards providing advice about how to stay (barely) within the bounds of the law not how to break the law and get away with it. I too am troubled by the apparent DOD legal office memo which (not having read it) according to these news sources seem to advocate ways to break both US law and iternational treaties. But, it was also good to read that internal to DoD that others passionately opposed the advice even to the extent of going outside the system.

Thought you might want to read a different perspective for a change..

E-Mail From Guantanamo Bay

Good news a well-kept secret

By Dom Giordano

When you hear the words Guantanamo Bay, the words Abu Ghraib seem to echo back.

But I was in Guantanamo for three days last week, and I saw something very different. I concluded that, at Gitmo, we extract information from prisoners not by torture but by developing rapport with them. It involves amenities. Full rolls of toilet paper. Fruit baskets. A field trip barbecue. I talked to prisoners, visited cell blocks, surveyed their medical care, interviewed the base commander and chief interrogator on my show, and allowed callers to probe them with questions. My research extended to the officers who escorted me to breakfast and lunch - even to times when all parties were well lubricated at the Tiki Bar.

The leadership at Gitmo is much more disciplined and focused than the leadership of Maj. Gen. Janis Karpinski at Abu Ghraib appears to have been. Soldiers at Gitmo say they are repulsed by the photos and stories from Abu Ghraib. Senior staff told me of strict patrols of the prison to make sure all is being done properly.

Another great contrast with Abu Ghraib was the interrogator I met at Camp Delta. She was fluent in Arabic and talked about various ways she was able to reach prisoners. She's not leading anyone around in a dog collar.

One story probably summarized best what I saw at Gitmo. I was sitting in a chair in one of the interrogation rooms at Camp Delta when the chief interrogator told me the chair wheels were one of their greatest tools. Some sort of torture device? No: The wheels let interrogators slide in closely to bond with prisoners when they believe they are telling the truth and move away when they are lying.

This mentality is the legacy of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Miller, who is accused of taking his "brutal" tactics from Gitmo to Iraq and causing the prison scandal. I can't know what Miller did in Iraq, but I think most of us would find the system he put in place in Gitmo as humane and fair treatment for captured Taliban and al-Qaeda members. In fact, a number of my listeners felt the treatment was too good for people we have reason to believe are among the worst of the terrorists.

This picture of humane treatment isn't being widely disseminated by other media sources. Their agenda seems to be that if they can't find a horror story, then there's no story to report. But it should be big news, to stand in contrast to Abu Ghraib.

Humane treatment works not only to get information but also to dissuade significant numbers of these guys away from their urges to attack and kill Americans. In fact, 144 prisoners have been sent back home and have been judged to be a threat to us no longer. I was amazed to consider that we are reaching good numbers of these former al-Qaeda and Taliban members.

I can't say whether the information they are getting at Gitmo is really helping to prevent attacks. I can say they are staying patient and positive.

At Gitmo, they are beginning to assemble military tribunals for four inmates. These were called for by President Bush and, if approved by the Supreme Court, will begin later this summer. This promises to put the American system of justice on view for all the world. For example, Osama bin Laden's driver is at Guantanamo. It will interest many people to know this man has a lawyer - a U.S. military officer who, as I found out, intends to mount a detailed and aggressive defense of his client.

So it's not that the American people can't handle the truth. It's that they are not getting enough of the truth. A visit to Guantanamo persuaded me that the truth is comforting.

Posted by Col Steve at June 8, 2004 10:38 AM

What do you think the world should do about Dafur?

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at June 8, 2004 12:27 PM

Col Steve, it seems fitting that today NPR ran a piece on the military lawyers for the defense.

Military lawyers appointed to defend suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba say the Pentagon isn't giving them the resources they need to mount a proper defense. The lawyers say they lack staffing and translation support, and charge the Pentagon has yet to respond to requests for discovery -- the witnesses and evidence the government intends to present against the accused.
A detailed and vigorous defense indeed.

Posted by Hal at June 8, 2004 06:32 PM

Col Steve - My years are showing. I grew up in an era when human rights was the public concern of "the West". There are times when I carelessly and unjustifiably write in those terms, even today. I was, in fact, thinking of the entire U.N., and not just the "Western" countries, in that statement.

I'm not doubting your "good news" message but...I am sort of. Who is this person? A (right-wing) talk show commentator or someone less biased? Where was this published? Am I the only one who sees careful staging behind the glowing revelations of abundant toilet paper?

I'm not saying Gitmo is Abu Ghraib on different soil. I've never said that. What I have said, and what I stand by, is that if it's all so wonderful there, why aren't international aid groups given free access to do inspections?

As I've said again and again about this Administration...it's not (maybe) what they're doing that's so suspicious, it's the code of secrecy they're trying to wrap themselves in that makes their every move look so disturbing.

Posted by Anne at June 9, 2004 08:10 AM

Lawrence - Such a short, simple question. Such a complicated subject.

I have some thoughts but they'll have to wait for later.

Posted by Anne at June 9, 2004 08:15 AM

Hal - When I was a commander of two units, the military defense lawyers always used every available tactic to defend their clients to include raising issues about lack of discovery and resources. Although annoying to me at the time, I respected the fact they were using the tools available to them given the amount of evidence against their clients. I guess I missed the section where other than a story in NPR you've done a more thorough assessment of the defenses in those upcoming cases to base you comments on - because what is again more illuminating is the fact those alledged terrorists are getting a trial and have lawyers able to openly criticize their government - which is far more than has been accorded our citizens (punishment first, trial later..)

Anne- Philadelphia Inquirer..you're right, I should have done more of a check on the columnist in the interest of balance..having gone back, I'm not sure which way..I did ask a JAG friend and an Intel friend of mine who's been down there recently and they both said there's been a definite change in the approaches. And of course, don't we expect our organizations to learn from mistakes? The cynic might say the change in behavior is a reaction to unfavorable press..my take is we may actually be learning from our mistakes..which I agree with you that is something the more senior leadership perhaps needs to inculcate..although having served in two administrations, secrecy in the bureaucracy is not a trait confined only to this administration..

According to our own National Security Strategy, Darfur is a case we should be taking a role in helping to solve. Of course, our military capabilities are rather stressed and our State Department has suffered perhaps 30 years or more from the lack of a "transformation" - both in culture and operational capabilities (and the associated resourcing) to enable our decision makers to respond fully to crises with other than the military (even in the application of non-lethal response). I've thought it's time Congress wrote legislation similar to the 1947 National Security Act for the State Department..and perhaps merged the Foreign Relations and Armed Serviced committee to a more inclusive National Security committee which attempted to integrate all aspects of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic). In a larger sense, you don't hear much from the UN or even the traditional continental European powers that one would think might have a concern about the future of Africa if only from a selfish concern of the migration of population flows. But they are sure quick to criticize the US...

Posted by Col Steve at June 9, 2004 10:24 PM

And of course, don't we expect our organizations to learn from mistakes? The cynic might say the change in behavior is a reaction to unfavorable press..my take is we may actually be learning from our mistakes..which I agree with you that is something the more senior leadership perhaps needs to inculcate..although having served in two administrations, secrecy in the bureaucracy is not a trait confined only to this administration.

Imagine the thrill I must feel upon learning that over 200 years after the founding of this country, we're deciding to learn that it's wrong to torture and abuse people.

According to our own National Security Strategy, Darfur is a case we should be taking a role in helping to solve. Of course, our military capabilities are rather stressed and our State Department has suffered perhaps 30 years or more from the lack of a "transformation" - both in culture and operational capabilities (and the associated resourcing) to enable our decision makers to respond fully to crises with other than the military (even in the application of non-lethal response). I've thought it's time Congress wrote legislation similar to the 1947 National Security Act for the State Department..and perhaps merged the Foreign Relations and Armed Serviced committee to a more inclusive National Security committee which attempted to integrate all aspects of national power (diplomatic, information, military, economic).
I think reconsidering a government department's "mission' from time to time is an excellent idea, but I'd certainly resist a "National Security Committee" responsible for controlling "all aspects of national power." Even the idea makes me queasy.

No one department of the government should have too much power.

In a larger sense, you don't hear much from the UN or even the traditional continental European powers that one would think might have a concern about the future of Africa if only from a selfish concern of the migration of population flows. But they are sure quick to criticize the US...

That's one of the penalties of being a leader. It's also one of the mechanisms used to keep a leader honest. Public criticism is not an evil to be endured, it's a daily "vote" on the success or failure of your efforts.

Posted by Anne at June 22, 2004 03:29 PM