Monday, June 13, 2005

Guantanamo "Torture": Lileks vs. Time

This isn't a fair fight. Kind of like Bob Herbert vs. the National Review.

This week's issue of Time magazine breathlessly reports that it has acquired a log of the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the suspected 20th hijacker of September 11. From the introduction you're expecting Abu Ghraib writ large:

It is a remarkable look into the range of techniques and methods used for the interrogation of Mohammed al Qahtani, who is widely believed to be the so-called 20th hijacker, a compatriot of Osama bin Laden and a man who had tried to enter the U.S. in August 2001 to take part in the Sept. 11 attacks.
It is a sometimes shocking and often mundane hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute account of a campaign to extract information.

I can just visualize Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi girding their loins for the terrible narrative.

Lileks' deconstruction of Time is merciless. Some excerpts:

”On Dec. 2, Rumsfeld approved 16 of 19 stronger coercive methods. Now the interrogators could use stress strategies like standing for prolonged periods,"

What, he made them stand in line for eight hours to vote? Fiend.

isolation for as long as 30 days, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as dogs) and “mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.”

If you’ve read accounts of the Soviet gulag you may recall the tales of men forced to march ten miles to a labor site in shoes made of cardboard and frozen spit, and digging hard dead beets from permafrost with hands that hadn’t seen mittens in three years. “Light pushing” in this context was a rifle butt to the chin, twice.
After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.

Djinni in a bottle, no doubt.
He is taken to a new interrogation booth, which is decorated with pictures of 9/11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. national anthem.

Okay, this is torture. But only if you’re interrogating a poster on the Democratic Underground.
Invasion of Space by Female: Over the next few days, al-Qahtani is subjected to a drill known as Invasion of Space by a Female

Mind you, this is considered punishment.

and he becomes especially agitated by the close physical presence of a woman. Then, around 2 p.m. on Dec. 6, comes another small breakthrough. He asks his handlers for some paper. “I will tell the truth,” he says. “I am doing this to get out of here.” He finally explains how he got to Afghanistan in the first place and how he met with bin Laden. In return, the interrogators honor requests from him to have a blanket and to turn off the air conditioner.

One suspects it isn’t the presence of a woman that bothers him; it’s the fact that she doesn’t take any guff, looks him in the eye, laughs at him, blows smoke rings in his face and generally fails to behave like one of the 72 docile celestial whores he was promised. In short: he was broken by the concise application of cultural insensitivity.
But a much more serious problem develops on Dec. 7: a medical corpsman reports that al-Qahtani is becoming seriously dehydrated

Because they’ve been withholding water and beating him in the kidneys with the Brooklyn Yellow Pages while the guards belt out “Singin’ in the Rain”?

[No], the result of his refusal to take water regularly.

He is given an IV drip, and a doctor is summoned. An unprecedented 24-hour time out is called, but even as al-Qahtani is put under a doctor’s care, music is played to “prevent detainee from sleeping.” Nine hours later, a medical corpsman checks al-Qahtani’s pulse and finds it “unusually slow.” An electrocardiogram is administered by a doctor, and after al-Qahtani is transferred to a hospital, a CT scan is performed. A second doctor is consulted. Al-Qahtani’s heartbeat is regular but slow: 35 beats a minute.

...This guy got more medical care than anyone in non-Gitmo Cuba, and of course he survives to experience additional indignities such as having a picture of a nude woman hung around his neck

And, well, apparently that's all that is available in the web version.

That's it?!!!??!

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