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Tough Love for Terrorists and Troubled Teens

Maia Szalavitz, author of "Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids", writes in Mother Jones:

Americans tend to valorize tough love at times, even tough love that verges on torture in prisons, mental hospitals, drug rehabs, and teen boot camps. We aren't squeamish about the psychological aspects of torture. We might even admire them. Thousands of troubled children, for instance, now attend tough "wilderness programs" "emotional growth boarding schools" and other "tough love" camps where they face conditions like total isolation, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and daily emotional attacks. (...)

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that getting tough is the answer to everything. It’s often harder to resist kindness and compassion than it is to submit to brute force and tell your captors what you think they want to hear. This is, in part, why the FBI wanted nothing to do with "enhanced interrogation." The data on both teen treatment and legal interrogations by the FBI are clear: torturous tactics are both unnecessary and harmful.

Less tough love for the Gitmo detainees in Germany? The German government currently reviews the official US request to accept as many as 17 Uighur detainees from Guantanamo. The initial reaction is mixed. Chancellor Merkel has said that Germany has an obligation to help US President Barack Obama in his efforts to close the American military prison camp, writes DW World. Foreign Minister Steinmeier is in favor of taking some inmates as well, but apparently Wolfgang Schäuble, who heads the Interior Ministry, which is comparable to the Department of Homeland Security, has expressed reservations, writes the Washington Post.

The conservative newspaper Die Welt is running an online poll. Right now 91 percent of 1473 voters are against it. Tough love...

US was better prepared to interrogate Germans in WWII than todays terror suspects

New York Times:
A group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable. The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects. While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices. (...)
President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series “24” to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.
But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion. “It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report. Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.
The Defense Intelligence Agency offers the full report (pdf). Via: The Daily Dish and Balkinization

It would help if more people would watch the well-made, balanced, multi-faceted, and suspenseful TV series "Sleeper Cell" on DVD (, rather than "24". Anybody a fan?

Tom Tancredo in Republican Debate on Torture: "I'm looking for Jack Bauer"

Please let me generalize a lot in answering these questions:
Why are European leftists unpopular in the US? Because they talk so much about social justice, the welfare state and evil capitalists etc.
Why are American conservatives unpopular in Europe? Because they talk so much about family values, religion, gay marriage, abortion, torture etc. None of these issues is central to America's political problems and can be fixed by politicians.

When American conservatives read about European debates they can constantly shake their head in amazement about the strange ways in the old world. Europeans (and liberal Americans) shake their head in amazement, when they read the Los Angeles Times article about the second Republican presidential debate: "The GOP's torture enthusiasts":
IT WASN'T AN edifying spectacle: a group of middle-aged white guys competing with one another to see who could do the best impersonation of Jack Bauer, torture enthusiast and the central character on Fox's hit show "24." In Tuesday's Republican presidential primary debate, Fox News moderator Brit Hume — who appears to have been watching too much "24" himself — raised what he described as "a fictional but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it." He then laid out the kind of "ticking-bomb" scenario on which virtually every episode of "24" is premised — precisely the kind that most intelligence experts consider fictional and entirely implausible.
Mitt Romney suggested: "My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo" and "enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used." And Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo said: "We're wondering about whether water-boarding would be a — a bad thing to do? I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you." This remark was according to the LA Times "greeted by uproarious laughter and applause from the audience because, after all, who doesn't enjoy thinking about a hunky guy threatening to gouge out a detainee's eye with a hunting knife?" (Jack Bauer is supposed to be "hunky"?). Politicians appear stupid, when they look for help from TV show characters.
Dialog International shows excerpts of the FOX News video. And below is Stephen Colbert's take on the second Republican presidential debate; might take some time to load:

Conservative Americans, who blame Anti-Americanism for Europeans' harsh criticism of Republicans, might want to have a word with their own politicians and their eager bases and/or listen to McCain's honorable statement in the presidential debate. Though, I don't want to praise Saint McCain too much since he was joking about bombing Iran a few weeks ago. According to CNN, McCain answered
a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann." "That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..." His audience laughed.
FOX News and some presidential candidates give US conservatism a bad name. Please, don't just blame your lack of popularity on European Anti-Americanism. If you want to be liked by Europeans, please elect serious politicians, who do not refer to Jack Bauer and sing Beach Boys songs, when they are asked serious questions about matters of life and death. They are reinforcing the worst stereotypes Europeans have about Americans. And I am saying this as a fan of both "24" and the Beach Boys.

Foreign Policy Round-Up

Iraq vs. Darfur: Foreign Policy Blog

Torture: "The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that two Chechen brothers were tortured in their strife-torn Russian republic and that authorities there failed to investigate their allegations of abuse." The Washington Post

EU Military Capabilities: EU Observer:
Europe says it is ready for more military action under the EU flag in 2007 after its "success" in Congo last year, with the German EU presidency putting Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon and Afghanistan at the top of its defence agenda for the next six months. "We begin 2007 ready to take up our responsibilities if needed - which I sincerely hope won't be the case - but we are in a position of readiness," EU top diplomat Javier Solana said in Brussels on Wednesday (17 January), after recalling that the EU's "battle group" structure reached "full operational capacity" on 1 January.
I have not noticed any serious debate about more military and other commitments for Lebanon and Afghanistan. Did I miss anything? (I am not counting the German debate about sending Tornado reconnaissance jets for Southern Afghanistan)

Pakistan: "More Evidence of Taliban Leader Hiding in Pakistan" Christian Science Monitor

Iran: "U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified, say that the Iran policy has expanded from focusing chiefly on Iran's nuclear ambitions to challenging Tehran's suspected misbehavior across the Middle East. Indeed, one source said succinctly that the new policy is geared to 'confront Iran in every way but direct armed conflict, using all means short of war.'" National Journal

Insurgencies: "Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different. Now that it finally has a winning strategy, the Bush administration is in a race against time to beat the insurgency before the public’s patience finally wears out." Foreign Policy

Why is Abu Ghraib a cover story again, but not Darfur?

Popular German magazines such as Der Spiegel frequently put US critical pictures on their cover. Critical reporting about the world's sole superpower is necessary, but statements like "Torture in the Name of Freedom" (as seen on a recent Spiegel cover) appear to  be malicious distortions to sell more copies rather than critical, ethical journalism. (More at Medienkritik)
The German media (e.g. Die Welt) reported that published more Abu Ghraib torture pictures. Bild published some pictures. 
Those responsible for the torture in Abu Ghraib have done great harm to their victims, their families and the US reputation in the world. The number of insurgent attacks increased dramatically after the Abu Ghraib scandal first became public. The torturers and the high ranking officers who failed to maintain discipline in Abu Ghraib have unintentionally aided the US enemies.  Continue reading "Why is Abu Ghraib a cover story again, but not Darfur?"

"Vice President for torture", secret CIA prisons

Folkard Wohlgemuth recommends the op-ed "Degrading our soldiers and ourselves" in the International Herald Tribune, which deals with Vice President Cheney's attempt on allowing the CIA to treat (or should one rather say: "abuse"?) captives basically as they please. "It is worth remembering that the rule of law is not just a "value," much less a luxury confined to more peaceful times", comments the author, Anne-Marie Slaughter. "Our founders looked to law as constraint, not as license; as a check on power, not authorization. The difference is a matter of honor, of values, of identity itself."
Washington Post editorial calls Vice President Cheney "an open advocate of torture."

The Wash Post's Dana Priest reports about a "covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries":

Continue reading ""Vice President for torture", secret CIA prisons"

Standing up for moral values in the war on terrorism

Many people around the world believe that the United States does not anymore live by Benjamin Franklin's famous principle "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security." And it is indeed of concern that a federal appeals court panel ruled in September that the president has the authority to indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen without charge as an enemy combatant, as the Washington Times reports. (The Supreme Court will probably have the final word.)

However, the US Senate, an army captain and a US District judge have recently made courageous decisions in support of Benjamin Franklin's principle regarding the interrogation of detainees and the release of unpublished Abu Ghraib pictures. MSNBC informs us that

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday to impose restrictions on the treatment of terrorism suspects, delivering a rare wartime rebuke to President Bush. Defying the White House, senators voted 90-9 to approve an amendment that would prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. (...) Bush administration officials say the legislation would limit the president's authority and flexibility in war. But lawmakers from each party have said Congress must provide U.S. troops with clear standards for detaining, interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects in light of allegations of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay and the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "We demanded intelligence without ever clearly telling our troops what was permitted and what was forbidden. And when things went wrong, we blamed them and we punished them," said McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Senator McCain (R-Ariz), who proposed the amendment, cited a letter he received from Army Capt. Ian Fishback. The Washington Post published his entire letter, which includes these quotes:

Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq. (...)
Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda's, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (...) Do we sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve security? Terrorism inspires fear and suppresses ideals like freedom and individual rights. Overcoming the fear posed by terrorist threats is a tremendous test of our courage. Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is "America."

Similarly, US District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein defended US ideals at the expense of US security by ordering the release of unpublished Abu Ghraib photos. The Boston Globe writes:

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had argued in court papers that releasing the photographs would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against American troops. But the judge said: "My task is not to defer to our worst fears, but to interpret and apply the law, in this case, the Freedom of Information Act, which advances values important to our society, transparency and accountability in government." (...) An appeal of Hellerstein's ruling is expected, which could delay release of the pictures for months.