In the foreword to the book Cultures of Insecurity: States, Communities, and the Production of Danger (Jutta Weldes, Mark Laffey, Hugh Gusterson, Raymond Duvall: 1999; Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press), George Marcus writes that effective critique locates “‘cracks’… those concepts, methods, ideas, practices, and life experiences within the culture of the mainstream about which there is self-doubt and uncertainty…” (xi). Torture scandals have opened up all kinds of fissures of doubt and uncertainty in the face of the “War on Terrorism.” Some of the strongest criticism of GWOT human rights abuses comes from within the ranks of military itself, and points to a productive fissure for exactly the kind of questioning and exploration that Marcus suggests.
As people within the national security community come forward to question the policies and practices that lead to human rights abuses, more fissures appear, and they are worth exploring in depth. For example, Samuel Provance is one of the most outspoken critics of DoD prisoner abuse. Trained in military intelligence and a specialist in information systems, Provance arrived in Iraq in September 2003 to assume the role of system administrator (i.e., computer guy) for Abu Ghraib prison. His tenure at the prison coincided with the worst of the abuse incidents. In written testimony to Congress, Provance describes how his experience at Abu Ghraib directly contradicted the values, policies, duties, and practices that Army training inculcated in him:
The Army has stood for duty, honor, and country. In wearing my country’s service uniform and risking my life for my country’s protection, it never occurred to me that I might be required to be a part of things that conflict with these values of duty, honor, and country.Provance doesn’t blame the torture on a few “bad apples.” Instead, he points to changes in “procedures,” and sees soldiers being encouraged to act in ways that he understands as prohibited by DoD policy and training.
When serving with my unit in Iraq, I became aware of changed in the procedures in which I and my fellow soldiers were trained. These changes involved using procedures which we previously did not use, and had not been trained to use, and in involving military police (MP) personnel in “preparation” of detainees who were to be interrogated.Provance’s description of Abu Ghraib is surreal: a female interrogator bragging about the discomfiting power of her sexuality among Arab men; interrogators playing the Barney “I Love You” theme song at full blast to torment prisoners in Abu Ghraib; Military Police laughing as they exchanged tips on knocking detainees unconscious without leaving any marks. Provance insists that he was not trained to behave this way, and indicates that he and other soldiers were very uncomfortable with what they saw going on around them – though he writes that most were discouraged by their immediate superiors from reporting abuses.
One way to get a sense of the degree of difference between Provance’s training, and what he actually saw going on around him, is to review the DoD policies that govern the humane treatment of military and civilian personnel in its custody during a time of war. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s indicative of the legal and policy frameworks that were in place prior to the beginning of detention and interrogation operations under the Global War on Terrorism – and how far we’ve gone astray.
The Geneva Conventions. 194 states have acceded to the Geneva Conventions, which provide the grounding principles for US policies towards military and civilian prisoners of war. The third and fourth Geneva Conventions deal with, respectively, the treatment of enemy prisoners of war and civilian populations held under enemy control. The International Committee of the Red Cross has an excellent website on the history of the Geneva Conventions and their role in international humanitarian law, including links to the text of the four Conventions.Within the Department of Defense, there are several directives and regulatory documents that govern how prisoners of war are treated:
DoD Directive 5100.77, “DoD Law of War Program,” (December 9, 1998) (ACLU Document #DODDOA010213-DODDOA010221) references the four Geneva Conventions in setting out the roles and responsibilities of DoD leadership in ensuring the appropriate “care and treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, retained persons, and detainees.” It requires that DoD observe and enforce law of war obligations, that it maintain an effective program to prevent violations, and requires that all reportable violations be promptly and thoroughly investigated and remedied.
DoD Directive 2310.1, “DoD Program for Enemy Prisoners of War,” (18 August 1994) (ACLU Document# DODDOA010206-DODDOA010212). Directive 2310.1 directs the US Military services to “comply with the principles, spirit, and intent of the international law of war… to include the Geneva Conventions.” Like DoD 5100.77, it sets out roles and responsibilities for each element of the Department of Defense in ensuring that all enemy prisoners of war, sick and wounded, retained personnel, civilian internees, and other detained personnel (detainees).More specific guidance appears in Army Regulations governing the treatment of enemy prisoners of war.
Army Regulation 190-8, “Enemy Prisoners of War, Retained Personnel, Civilian Internees and Other Detainees” (ACLU # DODDOA000643) is an 86-page document that sets out policies for the general protection of enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees, and other detained persons. This includes policies governing the conditions of captivity, the administration and operation of internment facilities, employment and compensation for labor, treatment of personal effects, complaints about detainee mistreatment, and policies and procedures for maintaining internment facility discipline and security.
Army Field Manual 27-10, “The Law of Land Warfare," sets out similar rules and regulations for military personnel conduct during war, to include appropriate treatment of prisoners of war. It also references the Geneva Conventions.
Army Field Manual 34-52, “Intelligence Interrogation” (1987 and 1992). This handbook for interrogators is a fascinating read. It defines interrogation and explains its place in the intelligence cycle and lays out a series of strategies and approaches for effectively obtaining information from “sources” – a category that includes civilians, insurgents, defectors, refugees, prisoners of war, and any “other non-US personnel.” Section1-8 of FM 34-52 clearly prohibits the use of force:
The psychological techniques and principles in this manual should neither be confused with, nor construed to be synonymous with, unauthorized techniques such as brainwashing, physical or mental torture, or any other form of mental coercion… [which] revolve around eliminating the source’s free will. … Torture is defined as the infliction of intense pain to body and mind to extract a confession or information, or for sadistic pleasure.Apparently, the Department of Defense had a well-documented set of policies and procedures in place to ensure that its personnel treated prisoners in accordance with commonly recognized international standards, treaties, and law. I expect that Provance isn't the only soldier asking why so many years of training and practice were thrown out the window.