The Corner

Andrew’s Concession

I know I said I wouldn’t do this, but just wanted to point something out about Andrew’s latest post. After much badgering, he admits he doesn’t have a problem with shaking or slapping detainees, in fact his tone suggests it is ridiculous to ask whether he does, because a little shaking and slapping is so obviously not CID. (The “belly slap” with which he says he’s not familiar has been reported on by ABC News–it’s one of the special techniques we used against 12 top al Qaeda detainees.) He also says slapping a detainee is just fine by the Army Field Manual. But the Army Field Manual doesn’t sanction any physical contact as far as I can tell.

The Field Manual’s harshest method is described here: “Fear-Up (Harsh). In this approach, the interrogator behaves in an overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice. The interrogator may even feel the need to throw objects across the room to heighten the source’s implanted feelings of fear.” Notice it doesn’t say anything about hitting anyone. Just a raised voice and perhaps objects thrown around the room. In a long run-down of interrogation techniques, Slate dealt with “mild, non-injurious physical contact, e.g. grabbing, poking, or light pushing.” It noted that administration lawyers said it was OK to use on detainees in Gitmo, but: “Military law is less forgiving. ‘The use of physical contact with the detainee, such as pushing and poking, will technically constitute an assault under Article 128, UCMJ.’”

So Andrew is condoning what under military law is an assault on detainees. More importantly, he is admitting that there are practices that are not approved of by the Army Field Manual but that are clearly not CID. So he has conceded what NR and the Wall Street Journal have been saying all along: making the Army Field Manual the law for our treatment of all detainees, no matter what their status, is unreasonable. Personally, I think it is fine to have a hard-and-fast rule against hitting POW’s (the Manual is designed to deal with them), but it is not “cruel” to do it to top-level al Qaeda captives, as long is it is part of a tightly controlled regime that doesn’t slip into torture or real CID.

Anyway, after all his heavy-breathing, Andrew has given away the store. Just wanted to mention it…

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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