Sunday, May 29, 2005

Common Sense and Guantanamo Bay

A column by Professor Mathew Manweller of Central Washington University:
There are always going to be those people who never miss the chance to declare their moral superiority over the rest of us. The news has been full of condemnations of late criticizing the way the US government has been interrogating terrorist suspects. From the intensity of the self-indulgent whining, you would think government agents had reconstructed the Hanoi Hilton and were sticking bamboo shafts under the fingernails of these well-meaning but misguided terrorists. The truth however is far more insidious than we could ever have imagined. Did you know they have documented cases from Guantanamo Bay where interrogators have used Twinkies and other forms of junk food to entice terror suspects to spill the beans? I know. Try to keep your revulsion in check. Please, don’t let your children read this article. But I’m afraid it gets even worse. Earlier this year, it was learned that female interrogators were showing up to the detention center scantily clad. Yes, folks, you heard it here. Women dressing up in mini-skirts and tank-tops to get information from Muslim terrorists. When, my friends will the horror end?

This week, we had to confront another crime against humanity. It appears that interrogators have been handling the Koran inappropriately. Of course, for all its symbolic value, we are talking about paper with ink on it. No one was beaten. No one was starved. But who cares really? If it makes a sensational story where a news reporter gets to condescendingly spew self-righteous dialogue, and Democratic senators get to wax poetically about their own moral authority, it is news, my friend.

Today, Amnesty International decided to join in the self-congratulatory posturing calling Guantanamo Bay “the gulag of our time.” They catalogue a host of heinous treatment which includes sleep depravation and psychological torture. Apparently anyone who has raised teenagers has been subjected to torture if we accept Amnesty International’s definition. But to claim that Guantanamo Bay is the functional equivalent of a gulag is proof positive that we have become victims of our own psycho-babble. In the Soviet gulags thousands of political prisoners were systematically killed through starvation and beatings. In Cuba, prisoners are interrogated by mini-skirt wearing women. Yeah, I see the connection. Let’s bring these shameless women before the Nuremburg courts.

I often try to imagine how Amnesty International would like to see interrogations take place. I think it would go something like this:

Interrogator: Tell us who your associates are and what they are planning.

Terrorist: No.

Interrogator: Please.

Terrorist: No.

Interrogator: Pretty please.

Terrorist: No.

Interrogator: Well, this guy is just too tough of a nut to crack. Send him back to the spa where he can wait for his private jet ride back to Afghanistan. Bring in the next guy.

Or, here is the way most Democratic senators would like to see Guantanamo Bay run:

Interrogator: Tell us who your associates are and what they are planning.

Terrorist: No.

Interrogator: If I have to, I will go to the UN and get a resolution demanding you tell me.

Terrorist: You wouldn’t dare!

Interrogator: I will. In fact, I’ll get a Security Council resolution condemning the fact you’re not telling me what I want.

Terrorist: OK, OK, I give. Here is what I know.

The reality is that you can’t win a war fighting by the Queensbury rules. Just like criminals, terrorists don’t walk into an interrogation room and simply tell you everything you want to know. You have to manipulate them. Just like cops do down at the precinct. Sometimes, cops lie to suspects (They tell them their partner ratted them out even when they haven’t). Sometimes they apply emotional pressure (They talk about a suspect’s mother or children). Sometimes they apply psychological pressure (The let them sweat for a while or tell them they will get the needle if they don’t confess). All of this is fair game when you are trying to save lives and protect a community. It is also fair game when you are trying to nab terror suspects and learn more about their organizations. In fact it is more than fair game, it is common sense.