The Washington Post yesterday published a crazy op-ed by a former Bush speechwriter named Marc Thiessen, who argued as follows:
Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, “as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, ‘brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship.” In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can — and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that “Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable.” The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.
The policy outlined here by Abu Zubaydah for Al-Qaeda prisoners is exactly the same policy that was followed by American POWs in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. According to John McCain, the policy established among US POWs in Vietnamese camps was as follows: you should resist efforts to coerce you into revealing information or making taped propaganda statements denouncing the US and its war efforts to the best of your ability. But if your efforts to resist are exhausted and you feel you are at the breaking point, go ahead and make a concession, the smallest one you feel your captors will accept, and do so in clean conscience, knowing you’ve done your best. Then go back to resisting to the best of your abilities. In “Survivors,” Zalin Grant’s oral history of the POWs, Air Force Col. Ted Guy, who was the senior US officer at “the Plantation,” the camp where McCain was held until 1970, describes the policy as follows:
I told them [new POWs who had just arrived] through commo that I had made a tape. I said, ‘Yes, they got me to that point in 1970 where I was very low and under a lot of mental pressure. I thought I could get word out to my family if I made a tape [denouncing the US]. The promise was broken so I quit. I expect everybody in this camp has a different breaking point, depending on how long you’ve been captured and your mental attitude on any given day. Some days you will be called in for interrogation and won’t be able to resist at all. Okay, make the damn tape. But don’t do it every day. Next time make them take you to that point or further. As far as writing, if you can write your family, go ahead, but don’t sell your soul to do it.”
— “Survivors: Vietnam POWs Tell Their Stories,” Zalin Grant, P.287
After he returned to the US, John McCain spent some time at the National War College, where in 1974 he wrote a paper analyzing the US Armed Forces’ Code of Conduct for POWs in light of the Vietnam experience. In discussing the Code’s Article V, “I am bound to give only my name, rank, serial number, date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the best of my ability,” McCain wrote as follows:
It is patently obvious that if enough mental and physical pressure is applied in the proper manner, it is unlikely that any man can not be forced to submit to some degree. …The article states further, “I will evade answering further questions to the best of my ability.” This should mean that a deviation from name, rank, serial number and date of birth does not necessarily mean that a prisoner of war has committed a violation of the code of conduct if he is temporarily forced to “fall back” from that position and has resisted to the best of his ability; that is the most our country should ask of him.
— Commander John S. McCain, “The Code of Conduct and the Vietnam Prisoners of War,” National War College, April 8, 1974
Clearly, John McCain had been influenced by Muslim theology when he wrote this. And it appears that he welcomed the help of his Vietnamese captors who, in 1968, obligingly beat him over the course of 3 days so viciously that he felt he had been pushed to his breaking point, and was able in good conscience to record a short tape for Voice of Vietnam radio admitting that he had committed war crimes against the Vietnamese people and thanking them for their kind treatment of him.
Seriously, it never fails to amaze me that people can interpret perfectly universal human attitudes, such as the belief that a prisoner tortured by the enemy should not feel self-hatred when he finally succumbs and tells his torturers whatever they want to hear, as if they were bizarre recondite elements of Muslim theology that make Muslims different from you and me, and render it perfectly acceptable to treat them as non-humans.
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