Monday, October 24, 2005

Former defense secretary critical of prisoner abuse

Reporters sometime dig through an article in a periodical for a quick story for their daily. Here's an imaginary one.

We have the headline, and this would be the lede:

Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird was critical of United States prison tactics and the response from government officials in his analysis of the Iraq war for Foreign Affairs.

You'd then link it to McCain, because the Senator has a lot of popular support.

I would also recommend a very disjointed music analogy instead of simply using "said".

Laird joined in a similar chorus trumpeted by John McCain, a former prisoner of war in the Vietnam conflict. McCain bucked the White House and lead a 90 to 9 Senate rebuke of part of the president's Iraq war policies.

46 Republican Senators agreed with their colleague and fellow GOP member in a vote to limit interrogation tactics.

Then you'd go back to Laird's piece in Foreign Affairs.

Laird, in a lengthy article detailing a proposed "Iraqization" of the war in that country, compared the abuses in Abu Gharib to some actions taken against U.S. service personnel in Vietnam.

"For me," he wrote "the alleged prison scandals reported to have occurred in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay have been a disturbing reminder of the mistreatment of our own POWs by North Vietnam."

Though Laird clarified his point that the abuses by the North in that conflict eclipsed alleged American infractions in Iraq, his analogy will no doubt increase pressure on the Bush administration to refrain from vetoing McCain's legislation.

The former defense secretary, under Richard M. Nixon, also wrote negatively about the administration's so-called "renditions" tactic:

"The minute we begin to deport prisoners to other nations where they can legally be tortured, when we hold people without charges or trial, when we move prisoners around to avoid the prying inspections of the Red Cross, when prisoners die inexplicably on our watch, we are on a slippery slope toward the inhumanity that we deplore."

Laird wrote, "[t]o stop abuses and mistakes by the rank and file, whether in the prisons or on the streets, heads must roll at much higher levels than they have thus far."

The former defense secretary's article appears in the November/December issue of the influential publication.

You could then put something in about Army Reserve Pfc. Lyndie England's case.


Quickly move on to new allegations from PBS' Frontline.

PBS' Frontline ran a 90 minute documentary entitled "The Torture Question". At one point in the episode, an Army specialist recounted extreme techniques to coerce prisoners.

Specialist Tony Lagouranis said, "In Mosul, again, I remember the chief warrant officer in charge of the interrogation facility. He'd heard about how the SEALs had set up a 'discotheque' with loud music and strobe lights in order to disorient the prisoner, and he heard about the ice water. We didn't use the ice water; he felt that was too dangerous, somebody might die.

"But it was cold, so we were keeping them hovering around hypothermia in this environment of what they call "environmental manipulation" with the music and strobe lights. And then we would bring in military working dogs and use those on the prisoners. Even though it was controlled; like the dogs were muzzled, they were being held by a handler. But the prisoner didn't know that because he was blindfolded.

"I mean, you know, these are big German Shepherds. So when I would ask the prisoner a question and I didn't like the answer, I would cue the handler so the dog would bark and jump on the prisoner, but he wasn't able to bite him."


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