Saturday, October 07, 2006

Civilized All The Way Through

This is MaxedOutMama, feebly standing in for Dr M. How feebly? It took me over twenty minutes just to figure out how to access this blog. Google was twitching with impatience. Google knows I'm brain-damaged. Google-Blogger often tracks me down and, trying to be helpful, shows me a little picture of a wheelchair when I'm trying to enter one of those terrible verification keys. What can I say? I yam what I am, I do eat spinach (cooked, now) and at least I don't drool on myself any more. I resent the picture of the wheelchair very much. I'm willing to work at doing things right, and I don't want the picture of the wheelchair following me around the blogosphere. This sort of help I do not find helpful.

Haha, if you only knew what the above paragraph looked like when I first typed it....

But on to today's (ahem) brilliant contribution: I'd like to direct you to Patterico's interviews with Stashiu3 about his service at Gitmo, and what he saw there. Stashiu3 was a mental health nurse at Gitmo, and he worked intensively as a mental health nurse with the detainees. After reading the interviews and reading the comment sections, I would describe Stashiu as being "civilized all the way through". His courtesy, integrity and respect for the truth is so strong that it influenced the nature of the dialogue in the comments. This is a man that it's a pleasure to meet even in the blogosphere - which is the only place you'll meet him. He refuses to talk to the press because he is too distrustful of them.

Btw, this series started well before the AP story about the boasting-in-a-bar reports of detainee bashing. If you take the time to read these interviews, I think you'll figure out why Stashiu3 seems to be regarding that story with no little suspicion. The ubiquitous cameras alone make it somewhat improbable.

In order, the interview links: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth. The interchanges in the comments to each of these posts are at least as informative as the interviews themselves. For instance, regarding the Red Cross, Rick comments:

Stashiu; thanks again for sharing your experiences and insights with us. I also want to applaud and thank you for the honorable way in which you performed your duties. Despite my serious reservations about the Guantánamo mission, it’s obvious that you conducted yourself admirably; your service is a credit to healthcare providers and soldiers everywhere.

I ask that you indulge me a little and allow me to respectfully challenge some of your comments related to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Last year alone, the ICRC visited more than one-half million prisoners of war and detainees (including those of Guantánamo)in more than 80 countries with a mission “to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners of war and other detainees held during war or situations of internal violence.”

Since you have told us that you do not trust the ICRC, if you were ever unfortunate enough to find yourself detained under the control of hostile forces, would you want the ICRC to have access to you? Would you cooperate with them or refuse to allow their visits? As a soldier and a healthcare professional, you would be protected by the 1st and 3rd Geneva Conventions, but suppose you were detained while not in uniform or providing medical services: if you complained that you had been mistreated or tortured, how would you like the ICRC to address your claim? What would you recommend the ICRC do differently with your complaint that it’s not doing with the complaints of the Guantánamo detainees to better earn your trust and respect?

Again, I submit these hypothetical questions as a respectful challenge, and I thank you in advance for your response.
Stashiu3 answers:
Very good questions and I understand your point. ICRC is a fine organization at heart and the staff have the noblest of intentions. If I gave any other impression, let me correct it. It becomes personal for me when my country is considered guilty until proven innocent, which seems to be too often the case. As individuals, ICRC staff were very personable and went out of their way to try and make life easier for detainees. Their patience and compassion are laudable. As an organization, I wasn’t convinced they understood the reality that if released, many jihadis would return to the battle. This made trust on my part difficult and to avoid creating bad feelings, I avoided them when possible. Most people can tell when someone doesn’t trust them. It was better to have others (yes, without my bias, deserved or not) interact with them. Some people value compassion over anything else. I believe that compassion, untempered by reason, is irresponsible in the extreme.

If I were captured or detained? The people we fight now are not Vietnamese or Germans who took prisoners. No matter how much they violated the Geneva Conventions, they at least felt some responsibility for those under their control. Our enemy does not take prisoners. Jessica Lynch and the others were not captured by jihadis, they were captured by Iraqi soldiers. This is a huge difference. How many Americans or Coalition forces have been captured and survived? I would not expect an opportunity to meet with the ICRC, just like Hezbollah refused to let them check on the two Israeli soldiers that were kidnapped into Lebanon. If I deploy again, and it’s a combat area, my family will consider me dead if there is any claim of captured or missing. I wouldn’t want them to live with that uncertainty, because in my mind it wouldn’t be uncertain, just unknown, if you catch my meaning.

When ICRC successfully mediates for a Coalition or Israeli soldier, I may reconsider. Until then, I remain wary. Very thoughtful and challenging questions to say the least, thank you. I hope I have answered both the substance and intent of them.
I hope at least some will read and understand Stashiu3's concerns. In the first interview, Stashiu3 wrote of being told by a patient Stashiu3 had worked with a lot, who Stashiu3 says liked him, that the patient would have Zarqawi track him down, kill his family while Stashiu3 watched, and then behead Stashiu3. Stashiu3 takes these people and their ideological basis very seriously.

That is, of course, the main issue. Stashiu3's comment about compassion is well taken, and I think it exemplifies the entire debate. Stashiu3 probably doesn't approve of waterboarding (I know I don't), and Stashiu3 wrote that he believes we must adhere to our principles. But what Stashiu3 saw at Gitmo was that there were a considerable number of dedicated murderers incarcerated there. Is this truly what we wish to unleash back upon the world?

I hope you will read these interviews and the comments, and think seriously about Stashiu3's viewpoint. The truth is so awful that relatively few people can come to grips with it. These people are serial murders by ideology; they believe that killing the families and children of those who don't wish to be subject to them is not only just but dutiful. In past wars, people who engaged in "acts of war" such as these would have been executed by military tribunal under the laws of war, because under the laws of war, those who conduct such acts of war are criminals. It seems that the majority of the civilized world has become too civilized to understand what people who have this ideology are, and is therefore too "civilized" to do anything but surrender to them.

I don't believe that we should torture the detainees, and if we do it will generally be ineffective at gaining information anyway. But I do believe that those who believe in compassion above all else do not believe in compassion at all. Theirs is a narrow sort of compassion that cares not at all for the prospective victims of the people they are so focused upon releasing. I do believe that we are faced with three stark choices with most of these detainees; kill them, release them (and cause many more deaths), or keep them jailed. It seems that the least harmful option is to keep them jailed.

No one will demand of Hezbollah or the other terrorist organizations that they react reciprocally. They use the west against itself because of that fact. Our entire western civilization is grounded upon the basic concept of universality, which means that the act is right or wrong under the law based on the act, and not upon the identity or beliefs of the person who commits the act. Their entire belief system is grounded on the idea that it is the beliefs of the actor that justify the act, and that no act is mean or wrongful if it does damage to their enemies.

By failing to demand reciprocality from our opponents, the ACLU, various human rights organizations and the majority of the US and European press are destroying the law, and spreading death and destruction throughout the world as a consequence. I have agreed with some of their points - I don't think the waterboarding was right. I agree that there were abuses, especially in a couple of the prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were few and were rapidly corrected, largely as a result of the actions of the military justice system itself.

I do not agree with the goals of these organizations now. All those who have written about the Geneva convention refuse to acknowledge that the laws of war themselves condemn most of the detainees at Gitmo to death, and that most of these people deserve just that. Death. The reason they deserve death is because they are deeply committed to killing other people, not out of self-defense, but as a means to their end. Their acts of war are not defensive but offensive, and they believe only in total war of the type that the Geneva Convention tried to outlaw.

Because I believe in mercy, I say give them life. But if you forced me to pick between releasing all of them or killing them, in compassion, I would have to choose to kill them all rather than release them all.

Reality sucks. Deal with it. I'd still have drool dripping down my chin if I weren't willing to admit that Blogger-Google has a point about the wheelchair. You can only make progress when you are willing to cope with reality.


Anonymous said...

Great post MaxedOutMama and welcome to Melissa's blog world.

MaxedOutMama said...

Thanks, and I hope you read Gina's about the Amish girl. I think it is highly related to Stashiu3's concerns about remaining what we are, but also countering the real enemy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I did read her post and I have to agree with you. I can't even imagine how brave those young girls were. As said before, light will NEVER be swallowed up by darknes.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the majority of the civilized world has become too civilized to understand what people who have this ideology are, and is therefore too "civilized" to do anything but surrender to them.

Remember Robert E Howard, Thirties pulp-adventure writer best known for Conan the Barbarian? A continuing theme through most of his fiction (and backstories) is that the Civilized Man is doomed to fall before the axe (or scimitar) of The Barbarian.

Anonymous said...

Something to think about and also to look at what happend from a different perspective. Of course, these were children