Monday, February 14, 2005

NY Times Replies to Me

Hey, Andrew Sullivan, a self-described conservative, answered my question about his essay in the New York Times. "Atrocities in Plain Sight" is his long book review and analysis of the torture scandal in Abu Ghraib prison, published in the NY Times last month. Those of you who read my blog will be surprised to learn that no polemics or insults were involved. This is probably because we tend to agree on these specific issues.

Sullivan reviewed the two book titles below, analyzed the torture situation at Abu Ghraib, and then invited questions and comments.

    The Official Report of the Independent Panel and Pentagon on the Shocking Prisoner Abuse in Iraq.
    Edited by Steven Strasser.

    America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.
    By Mark Danner.

Here's his reply to my question:

Q. Recent reports of the trial of British soldiers for torture in other prisons in Iraq highlighted the striking similarity in methods, motifs and photography to the U.S. situation, one that you assess so well. Any further thoughts then about why or how the British, ostensibly under a different chain of command, would wind up in the same reprehensible boat?
— E. Heroux

A. Well, the charges are not as bad. No one, so far as I know, died in U.K. custody. We have 28 deaths so far in U.S. custody. And the British abuse cases were mainly beatings. Not sexual abuse, rape or murder. But I'd add that anyone who has read Orwell will see how colonialism corrupts the colonizer. No, we're not colonizing Iraq. But we are temporarily running it. And these abuses can occur. But the scope of the British abuses seems much smaller and the actual abuse less severe.
--Andrew Sullivan
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

While I tend to agree with the general drift of Sullivan's analysis, he avoided or isn't aware of the similar photos, and he is not entirely accurate about the facts in this brief reply. As for deaths, this is not accurate. E.g., "At least one soldier would be charged in connection with the death of 28-year-old hotel receptionist Baha Moussa, who allegedly died after being severely beaten by British troops while in custody . . .." This was from several British newspapers back in May 2004. While some charges and even photos were controversial and possibly not true, this should not detract from the bigger picture that evidence, reports, and charges were submitted several times by several different sources. Here's a bigger picture take:
"The inquiry referred to by the Commons Defence Committee is into the ever-growing list of civilian deaths, injuries or ill treatment allegedly caused by the actions of UK troops in Iraq. Some 33 cases have so far been brought forward. Seven deaths are acknowledged to have been at the hands of British troops in Iraq over the past year, yet no disciplinary action has been taken against any soldier and no soldier has been charged. Twelve cases are still ongoing, while 21 are completed. Of those that are closed, the inquiry has found that there was “no case to answer” in 15 cases. In the other six cases, recommendations are still being considered. The Ministry of Defence has refused to release further details of any of its investigations."

Perhaps this is why so many charges are said to be "not isolated incidents".
As for photos, here's one from the British trial: A picture is worth 1000 words.

See link above for Sullivan's replies to other readers besides me.


At 2:29 AM, Blogger E. Heroux said...

P.S.: Update about this issue of how the British torture motifs mirror the US torture motifs. Turns out that a British officer was part of the crew who re-wrote the rule book about interrogation of prisoners. Yes, that's right, they even had the same BOOK.

See the Guardian report:,6903,1418624,00.html?=rss


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