May 02, 2004
Not To Be Too Crass About It
But what, exactly, was the point of the Abu Ghraib "interrogation" method?
We needn't spend much time in righteous indignation at the incomprehensible sadism of the "interrogators", their trainers, and policy-makers. It's highly likely that any of us, when thrust into the utterly dehumanising environment of military occupation in a foreign and hostile land would be capable of carrying out similar routines.
Anyway, one need only note the indifferent reaction to the high-tech murder of tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands if we include the low-tech murders of the '90s' sanctions regime) of innocent people, including with radiological munitions, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons to recognise that the "civilised world" is in its entirety culturally implicated in the workings of Abu Ghraib and its imperial outpost cousins.
Which is to say that Empire is an ugly business. Our Imperial history is littered with Abu Ghraibs, Guantanamos, My Lais, Hiroshimas, El Mozotes, Christmas Bombings, al-Shifas, Rolling Thunders, and on and on. So long as we demand unfettered access to the world's resources, so long will the histories repeat themselves.
But what, again, was the point of it all? Ostensibly, the "interrogations" were useful in obtaining intelligence data:
"The [Military Intelligence] staffs to my understanding have been giving Graner compliments...statements like, 'Good job, they're breaking down real fast. They answer every question. They're giving out good information.'"
The "good information" obtained by these grisly methods hasn't prevented attacks on "coalition" forces. It hasn't prevented attacks on civilian institutions (which have led to the virtual withdrawal from Iraq of the UN and humanitarian relief organisations). It hasn't prevented terrorist attacks in neighbourhing countries. It hasn't prevented multiple assassination attempts upon Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf, or led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. It most certainly hasn't endeared us to those we have "liberated".
Most egregiously of all, it hasn't prevented continued attacks upon the Iraqi oil infrastructure.
Moreover, if the methods were effective, we could surely expect Donald H. Rumsfeld to condescendingly inform us that the victims are the worst of the worst -- "regime elements and terrorists" -- who would stop at nothing to murder innocent women and children; and that if we weren't torturing them, there, they'd be busy torturing us, here. (Update, 5/3/04: CNN's Wolf Blitzer pursued this very angle in an interview with Seymour Hersh: "Was it useful, though, this kind of -- if there was torture or abuse, these atrocities, did it get information vital to the overall military objective in Iraq, based on what you found out?")
But instead, the President professes dismay at the practices of a few renegade miscreants.
So, we know the methods aren't producing results. The Administration knows the methods aren't producing results. Yet the methods are still employed.
And we can abstract Abu Ghraib to the "War On Terror" generally: bombing, incarcerating, torturing, and pillaging the holy living fuck out of already down-trodden populations objectively does not reduce the likelihood of more terrorist attacks upon American "interests", nor does it reduce the likelihood of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
So again the question: irrespective of their barbaric nature and hypocritical philosophical underpinnings, why in hell are such obviously ineffective methods used?
Bureaucratic inertia? Wishful thinking? Cognitive dissonance? Arrogant incompetence? Armageddon itch?
Or maybe it's simply time to once again bring out the always trustworthy Chewbacca Defense:
Look at me, I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca. Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense. None of this makes sense.
And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberating and conjugating the Emancipation Proclamation... does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense.
None of this makes sense.
If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
Posted by Eddie Tews at May 2, 2004 09:34 PM