Thursday, August 28, 2014

ISIS Employed Lawful Enhanced Interrogation Techniques on American Detainees

I know ISIS is bad -- after all, our own Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has pointed out that they’re sophisticated and well funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess, they are tremendously well funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything...

Absolutely, even the war against Nazi Germany, the Cold War we fought against a nuclear-armed Soviet Union… ISIS is beyond all of it. They are really bad. Really, really bad, and we need to be really, really afraid.

And I also know their murder of an American journalist in Syria — the only place they’re operating besides Iraq — proves that ISIS is a “global threat.” If you’re not clear how a local murder translates into a “global threat” that QED requires bombing two countries, try not to think too hard — Richard N. Haas is the guy who made that claim, and he’s the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former special advisor to a president, and also uses a middle initial in his name, which makes some people think you’re smarter than you actually are, so it must be true.

I also know that when a group like ISIS decapitates a hostage, and films and uploads the footage of that decapitation to YouTube, it’s never, ever because the group is trying to provoke America into a disproportionate, military response. It’s not because the group thrives on the deaths of innocents that disproportionate, militarized responses guarantee. They’re just trying to scare America into isolationism, the way 9/11 did.

But as it turns out, despite everything, ISIS can’t really be that bad. Because today, The Washington Post reported that the group does adhere to lawful, enhanced interrogation techniques — such as the waterboarding they administered on various detainees such as James Foley. And we all know that subjecting detainees like James Foley to lawful interrogation techniques is one of the hallmarks of higher civilizations. Right?

Okay, forgive my sarcasm. I’ve just lost count how many times over the years I’ve asked torture apologists, “Would you say it’s not torture if it was Iranians doing it to captured Americans?”

Well, it’s not a hypothetical anymore. If it’s torture when ISIS does it, it’s torture when we do, too.

James Foley wasn’t a detainee. He was a prisoner and a hostage. And he wasn’t subjected to "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques." He was tortured. And while only ISIS is responsible for any of that, no one but the United States of America is responsible for the fact that we can't coherently object to it.


Unknown said...

Without making a judgement on whether or not the waterboarding of Foley by ISIS was "legal" compared to what we did to any detainees we held, we should remember that Foley was not a combatant, he was not armed (as far as we know), he was a journalist whose aim was to report the truth. Evidently ISIS had a problem with that.

Barry Eisler said...

Agreed, letting a government determine whether people it imprisons are "combatants" for purposes of what kind of trial they get -- or whether they can be tortured! -- is problematic in the extreme. Likewise trusting the government's say-so in general in lieu of recognizable due process. Not sure what the journalist part means -- it's okay to torture non-journalists?

Anonymous said...

(taking the conversation in a different direction)

I never know what to make of Haas. He's a regular on Global GPS, maybe the smartest political and foreign affairs show on TV, and he always appears to be the stern, unsmiling face of the nurse who's there to tell you which bitter pill to swallow--it's good for you, really, no matter how bad it tastes. He's fairly cogent in his arguments.

In recent appearances on the show, however, he's made it clear that he thinks Iraq has ceased to exist as a nation and the best we can hope for is to set up an Iron Dome around Kurdistan, replace al-Malaki with someone not quite as bad, and stay the hell out of the Mad Max badlands in between.

Not the most inspired strategy, but with Ukraine blowing up and domestic troubles at home, he'll find plenty of sympathetic listeners.