Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Thank You for Your Links

I would like to thank everybody who linked me. The wonders of trackback magic are a mystery to me, mostly because I am far too lazy to learn them.

First, I want to thank Captain Van Steenwyk for his inspiration and analysis. He is continuing to follow this subject and I look forward to discussing it with him more. I especially value his experience controlling psychiatric patients, and having served in a National Guard light infantry unit, understand what a great contribution his experience is for a commander. I agree with his conclusion that dead prisoners detract from the mission.

I would like to point out that the unit corpsman for the SEAL team did not meet the standards of his unit on other grounds, and that may have contributed to the demise of al-Jamadi. I have served aboard a ship with a messed up doc. Even on units as large as a frigate (company sized) in peacetime operations, when your doc is bad, the ship is hurting. We were lucky in that our baby doc (junior corpsman) HM3 Mike Fiore was stellar, and he stepped up to the plate big time. Mike if you're out there, come to Portland and dinner is on me.

Matthew Heidt honored me greatly by taking me seriously. He pointed out several key limitations of my article and gave me a lot to think about. As a SEAL, he knows the stresses I tried to describe better than I want to. He pointed out that experience with stress does not give you x-ray vision for hard men. He also noted that even SEALs are vulnerable to "blindside" stress, the stuff that nobody can prepare you for. One of the things I am trying to address with this potentially endless series of posts on torture is that the nature of deliberate abuse can cause all kinds of "blindside" stress.

Which leads me to somebody who called themselves Red River who talked about some serious issues in comments, but felt that he could not leave accurate contact information? If this was a dog-blogging post I might take umbrage, but since this topic is so damn taboo, I have to value the need for discretion. I was about to say something about not having met the kinds of enemy the SEALs are facing, but I went to college with them and worked with Mike Hawash at Intel. My primary concern is not the enemy, but the lingering effects of handling them abusively.

Somebody is going to abuse a prisoner for information and they are going to get caught. This war on terror is not going to go away any time soon, and this is going to happen. Regardless of the value of the information extracted, somebody is going to go to a court martial, and eventually we are going to see one of our best people make a mistake and be hung for it. This result is of value to the enemy because it will mess up our operations and get a bunch of people who do not understand up in arms. Deferring this event to 2038 or much later is in the Nation Interest of the United States. Al-Jamadi may well have been working to inflict as much damage as he could to our side once he was captured by getting himself beaten to death. The enemy's actions and intentions are externalities you and I have no control over, all we own is our decisions.

Cancerman, thank you for the explaining the book answers. This has a place in the discussion and I should have put something about that down, but the post was too long already.

Kit Lange, thank you for keeping one Marine off the streets and out of the pool halls. My mother did that very thing, and it seemed to work for her for more than fifty years. I suggest very strongly that you study stress management as if your life depended on it, because it does. My mother never had the tools to deal with the kinds of things my dad was going through, and although she did magnificently well with what she had, there were some spectacularly rough patches. You have access to a lot of tools, and will get access to more soon. When you get married, I strongly suggest you find the healthiest military wife you can and study her in earnest.

Right up until I wrote the above paragraph, I never understood why all the exchanges had such an extended selection of china. It bugged me for a lot of years, because I was always single when I was in the service, and the selection of useful tools for servicemen in the exchange was so damn limited. Now I get it, china is a stress management tool for military wives. Military husbands have a more prosaic term for this tool: ammunition. My lovely wife admonishes me to be careful about this jokeā€¦proving my thesis.

For those unclear on the concept of the penalties associated with getting caught abusing prisoners, please read my friend Michael Totten's Tech Central Station article.

A Syrian friend of mine immigrated to the US two years ago. He and I occasionally have good-natured arguments about foreign policy. Some time ago during one of our conversations I promised him that the US and British troops would be kind to the people of Iraq, that we wanted only the best for them. Then came what Christopher Hitchens rightly called a moral Chernobyl: allegations of abuse and even torture in Abu Ghraib prison with the accompanying photos of smiling sadistic soldiers and guards.

It wasn't as bad as watching Al Qaeda snuff films or video shot inside Iraqi prisons under Baath Party management. But it was bad. Real bad.
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