U.S. soldiers here are taught by the book how to be military prison guards.
Treat detainees with dignity and respect. Instill fear, but never with torture or abuse.
It is a far different picture from the photos of physical humiliation inflicted upon Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
And it is far from the reality of the beatings, strippings and cuffings used by American forces at detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba, human-rights groups charge.
As Congress demands explanations, as more than 35 investigations unfold, Americans are debating this question in a post-Sept. 11 era: Under what circumstances is use of force justified?
"It's time we get away from the myth that we don't do these things and engage in a public debate as to when, how and if at all, it is appropriate to use such tactics," said Arthur Caplan, an ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Bush administration has attempted to draw a distinction between the rough treatment of suspected terrorists - mostly those held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - and the detainees in Iraq, who Washington acknowledges have the protection of the Geneva Conventions.
At the Army's Ft. Huachuca Intelligence Center in Arizona, instructors said military interrogators are taught to abide by a manual called "The Law of Land Warfare." It prohibits depriving detainees of food, subjecting them to mental torture, inflicting pain, using shock therapies or moderate physical force.
But, according to human-rights monitors who have interviewed U.S. prisoners, the military's well-crafted guidelines and U.S. laws against torture are being widely ignored in Iraq and Afghanistan as thousands of detainees are subjected to intense interrogation. Experts say the American public, though revolted by photos of GIs dehumanizing prisoners, must balance such feelings with the nation's security needs.
"We are being forced to fight an ugly war," said Robert Friedmann, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University who has advised Israeli police on fighting terrorism. "That means we have to sometimes do ugly things, things we would rather not do."
Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, several polls showed that nearly half of Americans questioned accepted torture methods if they were necessary in the war on terrorism.
Liberal-leaning Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz advocated last week on ABC News that torture become an accepted part of U.S. interrogation procedures in regards to terrorism.
"Try buying them off, then use threats, then truth serum, and then if you came to a last recourse, non-lethal pain, a sterilized needle under the nail to produce excruciating pain," he told The Washington Post. "You would need a judge signing off on that."
But that would clearly go against a longstanding American stance against torture.
Through the years, U.S. administrations have used human-rights violations by other nations to deny aid and impose sanctions.
In 1984, the United States was a key figure in ratifying a United Nations convention against torture of suspects that was ultimately signed by 160 countries.
"It says clearly that you cannot use any form of physical or psychological force against a person," said M. Cherif Bassiouni, a DePaul University law professor who was co-chairman on a committee that drafted the U.N. anti-torture position.
Sleep deprivation and assuming stressful positions are unlawful, Bassiouni asserts, even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that Pentagon lawyers approved such methods.
"Since 9-11, we have allowed our values to slip back," he said.
For years, though, U.S. intelligence has collaborated with allies who have found success using torture. Britain used harsh techniques for years to quell terrorism in Northern Ireland, intelligence reports say.
Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, routinely used physical coercion against Palestinians being interrogated, methods that were sanctioned by a government commission as acceptable "moderate physical pressure."
The methods later were banned by Israel's Supreme Court, which still allowed "moderate shaking."
"But who defines moderate shaking?" asked Friedmann.
Veteran American ex-military interrogators claim it does no good to rough up, embarrass or humiliate a prisoner.
"Very generous and dignified treatment works a lot better," said retired Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a former spy catcher who also administered detention facilities from the Vietnam War to Operation Desert Shield.
At training sessions here Friday, 181 privates, most fresh out of high school, heard sergeants insist over and over that prisoners are to be treated humanely.
The soldiers, 60 percent of them reservists or National Guard troops, will likely be deployed to Iraq following their 17-week training. Thirty-one of them will work solely as prison guards.
Soldiers say there are two words that their instructors have not uttered: Abu Ghraib.
[Source: By E. A. Torriero, Chicago Tribune, Us, 15may04]
War in Iraq
|This document has been published on 21May04 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|