By now you're probably aware of the story in The New York Times about nasty prison abuse in Afghanistan. Yes, please read it. If you're time-deprived, at the very least read the first section and the last three, which focus on the taxi driver Dilawar, almost certainly not a terrorist, and now dead; he was beaten, he was deprived of sleep and water, and shortly before his death "[h]e had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days."
Maybe you're the kind of idiot who reads a story like this and has no reaction except "How dare the liberal media undermine our troops?" If so, listen up: The people responsible for this are the ones who are undermining the troops. The people who are too stupid to know that you don't do this when you're in a global battle for hearts and minds are the ones who betrayed our country.
And I'm referring less to the torturers than to the high mucketymucks who gave the go-ahead for this kind of interrogation or suggested with a nod and a wink that it was a good idea, while turning the job over to callow amateurs understandably flush with post-9/11 righteous indignation:
What specialized training the unit received came on the job, in sessions with two interrogators who had worked in the prison for a few months. "There was nothing that prepared us for running an interrogation operation" like the one at Bagram, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sgt. Steven W. Loring, later told investigators.
Nor were the rules of engagement very clear. The platoon had the standard interrogations guide, Army Field Manual 34-52, and an order from the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, to treat prisoners "humanely," and when possible, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. But with President Bush's final determination in February 2002 that the Conventions did not apply to the conflict with Al Qaeda and that Taliban fighters would not be accorded the rights of prisoners of war, the interrogators believed they "could deviate slightly from the rules," said one of the Utah reservists, Sgt. James A. Leahy.
"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.
And on the day this story appears, by astonishing coincidence, the Murdoch-run Sun in England and New York Post in America run a front-page photo of the jailed Saddam in his underwear. The U.S. military is shocked, shocked (even though The Sun claims the photo came from "U.S. military sources"). Meanwhile, the torture story has to compete for attention (expect a lot of underwear jokes from Leno and Letterman tonight) -- and the White House, yet again, gets to condemn the "irresponsible" media (so nice of Murdoch to volunteer to be the target!), which taints all stories that infuriate the Arab/Muslim world, including, of course, the Times story. And maybe the worst of it is that the White House fans the flames of Arab/Muslim anger even more with the underwear photo, just to win the day's domestic news cycle. (Do I sound paranoid? Well, so be it.)