Tuesday, February 15, 2005



How stupid do they think we are?

It's the usual story: a detainee is released from Guantanamo and alleges torture, while the government strenuously denies it. In this case, the detainee is Australian Mamdouh Habib, who claims that he was beaten, electrocuted, drugged, sexually assaulted, and on one occasion, "smeared with the menstrual blood of a prostitute". And the government is Habib's own, who rather than being concerned about the treatment one of their citizens were subjected to, are denying that any torture took place, or that if it did, then it was conducted by heathen Egyptians (which was precisely why Habib was turned over to them). But what's interesting about all of this is that there is solid documentary evidence for at least one of Habib's claims: the draft of an upcoming book by a translator who worked at the camp recounts how US interrogators used sexual tactics to "break" prisoners, including this rather interesting bit:

According to Sergeant Saar, a Muslim linguist then told the woman interrogator that she could break the prisoner’s faith by making him believe that she had smeared menstrual blood on him and cutting the water off to his cell so that he could not wash. The translator’s manuscript gives explicit details of the way in which the suspect was interrogated.

Some devout Muslim men will not touch women other than their wives, particularly if they are menstruating. The theme has come up repeatedly in the US media since September 11. It was widely reported that Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, left written instructions no woman should attend his funeral or visit his grave.

According to the draft, the idea was to make the detainee feel unclean and "unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength".

You really have to wonder how stupid the Australian government thinks people are, denying something when the very people that did it are admitting it in a book...

13 comments:

Poor chauvinistic pigs eh. Aside from the fact the interrogation method is to "make them think" its menstrual blood, ie using a red replacement, why does he think the very idea of menstrual blood is unclean? Because hes a woman-hater?

Why is "the left" committed to defending people who hate women? I don't get it. Is it an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" strategy?

Tim Blair has documented Habibs changing story at the end of this post:
http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/believe_it_or_not/

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/15/2005 11:28:00 PM

AL: Just because I support Habib's right not to be tortured, it doesn't mean I support Habib.

To use Ahmed Zaoui as an example, here's a brief paragraph I wrote on Left and Lefter:

"I haven't met Ahmed Zaoui, I haven't heard him speak, I haven't had the opportunity to properly judge his personality for myself. If he does indeed advocate sharia law (as has been suggested), I vehemently disagree with his politican persuasion. That does not mean, however, that he should be refused refugee status.

If he does indeed pose a security risk, then that risk should be detailed to the courts. If the court then so decides, deportation can occur. If he does not pose a significant security threat, then his merits should be judged. His merits as a refugee that is, not as a person."

Essentially, it is using the theory of "I might not like what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it"

Posted by Asher : 2/16/2005 12:29:00 AM

Asher: I think you missed the thrust of my argument. Daubing someone in red marker pen ink (the example in the book Idiot refers to) and insinuating its menstrual blood is not torture.

First of all I doubt any adult human of sound mind could mistake red ink for blood. And secondly, torture is having your fingernails ripped out, or your balls cut off. It is not "being forced" to watch a woman wear a thong (another example from the same book).

Only a extremist paranoid religious freak would consider sexual suggestions as torture (I'm referring to Habib, not you). Under normal circumstances, such a person in our country would be considered borderline schizophrenic, or perhaps in Habib's case a pathological liar.

Zaoui has nothing to do with former Gitmo prisoners complaining about their treatment.

The whole Zaoui issue was raised because we have a Refugee Council who's guidelines have not been modified post-9/11 to disqualify people with links to political groups related to terrorist organisations. (yes i know the links are tenuous, but that is Government security policy and legislation governing the Refugee Council should have been modified to match that policy).

If he hadn't been granted refugee status then the whole kerfuffle would never have arisen, and he could have gone back to Malaysia and got himself a new passport.

AL

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/16/2005 01:14:00 AM

Thank-you, antarctic lemur.

Here is a quote from a Dowd column:
After the prisoner spat in her face, she left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God. The linguist suggested she tell the prisoner that she was menstruating, touch him, and then shut off the water in his cell so he couldn't wash.
"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength."

There have been serious accounts of real torture from Guantanamo prisoners and no one should be tortured, whoever he is, whatever he does or whatever he thinks. But it is really hard to feel any sympathy for people who feel they are unclean and unable to speak to God because a woman has touched them.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/16/2005 01:52:00 AM

yeah, i think lemur may have gone off then deep end on this one.

no one is defending the status of women in any of the number of different muslim societies, but the point of the matter is that habib thought he was having blood smeared put on his face.
i'm an atheist. i'm not partial to being convinced that a working girl is rubbing blood in my face either. while seeing any woman except amanda vanstone in a thong would probably peak my interest, not disgust.

you're confusing your own anti-islam agenda with the question of whether any torture can be condoned by a progressive, liberal society.

you must have seen the photos, so why do you doubt that the fine line between duress and torture has been crossed? and why can't it have been crossed in this case. is habiob too special to have been spared 'the treatment'?

personally? i thknk there's a lot more to the habib story than we're finding out. i see you're writing about nzl, so probably over there, and not getting to full media barrage.
the federal government is doing its utmost to make habib out to be a very, very bad man. which in my books looks like a big spin set.
but, habib may well be asociated with terrorists. the question then becomes, what methods do you use to get information from him?

Posted by the other 'Che' : 2/16/2005 10:49:00 AM

other che:

I didnt mention Islam or muslims anywhere in my post. Therefore you have no basis to claim I have an "anti-Islam agenda".

And Anonymous above was agreeing with me, not you.

The choice of your blogspot login suggests YOU think chauvinistic men of extreme violence are romantic figures to be idolized. Che was certainly of your stereotypical Argentinian chauvinistic type. He slept with many women and then ran off afterwards. You might want to read the section of the most popular Che biography which describes him virtually raping the house maid while he was a teenager.

As for Habib being shown a woman's finger smeared with red ink (or being daubed in it as he said in a different interview)- its not torture, its not important, get some perspective.

If Habib thinks the reality of a woman's menstrual cycle is revolting and makes him unclean, then tough shit for him.

The photos at Abu Graib Prison in Iraq were taken on one night (?) by a bunch of reservist MP's (and one skanky typist ho). Again none of them involved torture, though they were definitely much worse than the red ink episode.

There is no logical relationship between Habib's red ink and the Abu Graib photos.

I will always confront men (and women!) who think women and sex are more evil than real torture and oppression.

AL

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/16/2005 03:41:00 PM

Mmm.. the unmistakely scent of rabid feminism..
Quit haggling over semantics - who cares where the academic line is between abuse and torture? You presumably wouldn't want either to happen to your mother, so why justify it happening to anyone?
Every society has its good and bad points.. the muslim ones may not be big on women's rights, but they haven't sanctimoniously napalmed many other countries either.
And if you think Abu Graib was an isolated incident, you've been living under a rock.

Posted by andrewh : 2/16/2005 05:09:00 PM

andrewh, the voice of reason.

lemur, you need to relax a little. che is the name my mother gave me.

and 'allegations' of torture and abuse by soldiers, male and female, are widespread, in many armies, including the US and UK (both of which are currently trying the lower ranks for it)
proof however is exceeding rare.

Posted by the other 'Che' : 2/16/2005 05:36:00 PM

andrewh:

Finding men repugnant who link menstruation to uncleanliness before God is now rabid feminism?

"Semantics" is the study of meaning in language. I assume you know what facts are. Torture is clearly defined in dictionaries and various treaties. Showing a man red ink and saying its menstrual blood is not torture.

"the muslim ones" - aircraft drop napalm at the direction of governments, not entire religions. The aggression of various middle eastern governments towards their own populations and their neighbours is well documented. I assume your napalm comment is related to Viet Nam. Are you John Kerry?

And yes Abu Graib was an isolated incident.

Why are you relating my mother to a guy who "holidayed" with the Blind Sheikhs mates in New York, pre 9/11? In fact what sort of a person brings anyones mother into an argument?

Please use facts and argument rather than resorting to insults ("you've been living under a rock") when I provide evidence, and you do not.

The level of intellectual debate from you guys is incredible [sarcasm]. But keep it up. The more moderate NZers you scare away from Labour &c the better.

Unfortunately replying to any more of your posts is obviously wasting my time.

AL

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 2/16/2005 05:47:00 PM

antarctic lemur:

It's not a matter of male chauvanism, it's a matter of religious practice.

Islam has ritual purity laws, like Hinduism and most religions. Certain substances are taboo, menstrual blood is one of them, so is pork and semen for that matter. It's not a way to oppress women, it's a way to mark the difference between the sacred and the mundane.

By using a taboo substance, the interogator is using psychological torture. You might not like ritual purity, you might think it stupid and sexist. But your personal opinion on another person's religious practices are irrelevant.

Habib has the right to be whatever religion he so chooses, and he has the human right to not be tortured based on his religious understanding.

Another form of religious/sexual torture was (and probably is still occuring) by the Chinese, where they forced Buddhist monks and nuns to have sex, thus destroying their celibate status.

Posted by muerk : 2/16/2005 08:16:00 PM

antarctic lemur:

It's not a matter of male chauvanism, it's a matter of religious practice.

Islam has ritual purity laws, like Hinduism and most religions. Certain substances are taboo, menstrual blood is one of them, so is pork and semen for that matter. It's not a way to oppress women, it's a way to mark the difference between the sacred and the mundane.

By using a taboo substance, the interogator is using psychological torture. You might not like ritual purity, you might think it stupid and sexist. But your personal opinion on another person's religious practices are irrelevant.

Habib has the right to be whatever religion he so chooses, and he has the human right to not be tortured based on his religious understanding.

Another form of religious/sexual torture was (and probably is still occuring) by the Chinese, where they forced Buddhist monks and nuns to have sex, thus destroying their celibate status.

Posted by muerk : 2/16/2005 08:17:00 PM

To pop back in on this: I don't think that being made to think that menstrual blood is being smeared on your face is on quite the same scale as being beaten or electrocuted. However, it is interesting to note that what would normally be considered the most outrageous and unlikely of Habib's claims has effectively been confirmed.

At the same time, there's also no question that Habib's treatment - and that of Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib who were forced to eat pork and consume alcohol - violates the Geneva Conventions and simple human decency. There is something fundamentally disrespectful and invasive about using people's most central beliefs as a weapon against them in this manner. There's also something fundamentally disrespectful about using something as basic as cleanliness as a weapon - what next, are they going to starve people till they talk?

There's also a consistency argument here. I imagine that none of us would like to be immersed in excrement (or something we were "made to believe" was excrement), or have it wiped on us. And I expect the US military would react with outrage if such happened to any captured US soldier. Therefore, in order to be consistent we should be similarly outraged at this happening to others - not laugh at it and treat it as a joke.

The reaction of some parts of the blogosphere to the "sexual torture" story when it originally broke simply confirmed how many bloggers are stuck in the mindset of adolescent males.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/16/2005 11:09:00 PM

Idiot Savant: On one topic I see you are all for New Swedenland.

It would likely require the government to grow and control more facets of life and business.

It seemed to me you trust the government to do the right thing.

On this, you point out the evil of Howard and the current Aus government.

How is this balanced?

Posted by Tyrone : 2/18/2005 11:07:00 PM