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In defense of our personnel at Abu Ghraib

By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
web posted May 24, 2004

US military sketch of prison guard Jeremy Sivits who was the first person to be convicted for abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison
US military sketch of prison guard Jeremy Sivits who was the first person to be convicted for abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison

The swift court martial of Specialist Jeremy Sivits, who pled guilty to the charges of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, gave the distinct impression that what had taken place at the prison was unauthorized and illegal. But if that was the case, why did the guards take all those incriminating photos with their own faces in them?

According to the Boston Globe (5/20/04):

Asked by Judge James Pohl why the soldiers had abused the prisoners that night, Sivits said they had followed the directions of the military intelligence officers who oversaw the prison's interrogation functions. The accused soldier "said that they were told by intelligence to keep doing what they were doing to the inmates because it was working. They were talking," Sivits said, "I guess they mean they were talking when they were interrogated."

If the abuse of the prisoners had not been authorized or permitted, the guards would not have taken the pictures. Nor would Sivits have participated. He is the kind of soldier who would never, ever do anything that would lead to a court martial. He was the perfect obedient soldier. Nor would his fellow soldiers do anything to jeopardize their military careers. They were asked to do a distasteful job, and they did it.

And this is confirmed by a report in USA Today, 5/13/04: "Lawyers for two of the soldiers at the center of the Iraq prisoner-abuse scandal said Wednesday that military intelligence personnel ordered the photographs taken of the soldiers with bound and naked prisoners….Military intelligence soldiers worked behind the scenes to tell military police how to pose Iraqis in humiliating positions."

Why this treatment of the prisoners? Obviously they were not there for jaywalking. They were considered dangerous terrorists who had been psychologically conditioned by their Islamic trainers to kill Americans, foreigners, and Iraqis in the name of Allah. The latest victim of these robotic killers was the head of the Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, killed by a car bomb, which also killed six others, on 5/17/04.

The detainees at Abu Ghraib are for the most part from the same group of dedicated killers. The guards at the prison had been told by the intelligence people to soften them up for in-depth interrogation. That meant using psychological techniques to undo the conditioning the terrorists had undergone to become robot killers for Allah.

Behavioral psychologists have devised a whole battery of treatments that can make these killers maleable to interrogation: humiliation, being dominated by women, hooding, nudity, the threat of perverse sexual practices, sleep deprivation, loud noise, photo taking, etc. Since these detainees had not been captured as soldiers in uniform, they were not protected by the Geneva Convention. They were robot killers, operating internationally under a different set of circumstances, and thus not protected by the Geneva Convention.

In other words, the kind of "abuse" they were subjected to by American guards was limited to those forms that aided the interrogation process. We don't know if there was a manual that described how all of this was to be done. We are sure that Israelis has used a variety of techniques to extract information from captured terrorists. Do the Israelis have a manual prescribing these techniques?

Virtually every police department in the world uses a variety of techniques to extract information from terrorists. The guards at Abu Ghraib seem to have been following some basic rules. They were not a bunch of GIs inventing new techniques. But they seemed to enjoy what they were doing. After all, abusing a robot killer totally under your control is a lot better than being beheaded by one of them. And the abuse, for the most part, was pretty mild compared to what other governments do to their prisoners. But when a woman is shown holding a naked prisoner on a leash, as in one of the supposedly horrendous photos, we are all supposed to be shocked and horrified as was Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. But the woman's role is vitally important in breaking down the mindset of the Islamic terrorist.

It's important to look at what was done at Abu Ghraib in the proper perspective. The detainees were being abused for a reason: to confuse the minds of these sadistic killers. These terrorists show no mercy or conscience when they kill innocent people. They have been turned into murderous robots by their trainers. Behavioral psychologists have spent years developing techniques that can turn these robots into normal human beings with consciences. The abuse is an important part of the process. Does it work? We don't know why the behavioral psychologists haven't stepped forward and explained to the public why they consider these techniques to be necessary.

The Israelis are probably the world's experts on trying to turn terrorist robots into normal human beings. But apparently it isn't easy, and we wonder what their success rate has been. That's what we should be thinking about instead of flaying ourselves with guilt and apologizing for what we are trying to do in bringing normalcy to Iraq.

Throughout history torture has been used by inquisitions of all sorts to extract information and confessions from people. But modern behavioral psychology has provided us with better, more humane tools to do the same thing. No more racks or physical torture, just some varieties of abuse that may turn a terrorist into a harmless human being.

None of the American guards at Abu Ghraib should be prosecuted for what they did. They were engaged in activities calculated to save American and Iraqi lives. Although Time magazine, to its indignant shock and horror, called the abuse "scandalous, abhorrent, sadistic," they and their fellow liberals have not provided any alternative, civilized means of defanging the terrorists, many of whom are still out there killing our soldiers and innocent Iraqis. For our loyal soldiers at the prison to be punished for doing a thankless job is a terrible show of ingratitude on the part of the American people. If anyone is owed an apology, it is they.

Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including, "Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers," "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud," and "Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children." These books are available on Amazon.com.

Other related articles: (Open in a new window)

  • The buck stops where? by Terry Graves (May 24, 2004)
    Everyone is falling over themselves to lay blame for the events at the Abu Ghraib prison but Terry Graves believes some people may be going a bit far with their efforts
  • The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? by Jackson Murphy (May 10, 2004)
    The disgusting incidents at the Abu Ghraib prison deserve nothing but the strongest condemnation but Jackson Murphy argues that story shouldn't divert your attention away from the good that is also happening in Iraq
  • Propaganda value by James Ruhland (May 10, 2004)
    The controversy over Abu Ghraib gives America's enemies a minor propaganda victory, writes James Ruhland, one that should be answered very clearly by the United States
  • Iraqi prison probe dominates news by Carol Devine-Molin (May 10, 2004)
    What happened at Abu Ghraib is appalling, argues Carol Devine-Molin, but what's also important is how the situation will be dealt with. The right moves are being made to punish those responsible
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