In one scene, the videotape shows three kidnappers with guns and a knife, preparing to behead a helpless man who is gagged and kneeling at their feet.
In the next, it is one of the kidnappers who is in detention, his eyes wide with fear, his lips trembling, as he speaks to his interrogators.
“How do I say this?” says the kidnapper, identified as an Egyptian named Abdel-Qadir Mahmoud, holding back tears. “I am sorry for everything I have done.”
In the first week after the elections, the Iraqi Interior Ministry and the Mosul police chief are turning the tables on the insurgency here in the north by using a tactic – videotaped messages – that the insurgents have used time and again as they have terrorized the region with kidnappings and executions.
But this time the videos, which are being broadcast on a local station, carry an altogether different message, juxtaposing images of the masked killers with the cowed men they become once captured.
So far, so good. (I’ll overlook the fact that they’re calling the terrorists actions a “crime”.) I’ve noted before the rush to get pictures of ragged, haggard Saddam and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to send a message to the enemy. Pointing out that it isn’t always “all 72 virgins, all the time” in insurgencyland is an important part of winning the propaganda war.
However, in that war, the insurgency has a “coalition of the willing” of their own.
The next paragraph in the NYT story:
The broadcast of such videos raises questions about whether they violate legal or treaty obligations about the way opposing fighters are interrogated and how their confessions are made public.
and a bit farther down
Some people said they found the practice of showing the insurgents on television troubling.
Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said such tactics raised the issue of whether the people were tortured or otherwise coerced into making the statements.
Last week the organization issued a report based on interviews in Iraq that “found the abuse, torture and mistreatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces to be routine and commonplace,” said Ms. Whitson, the executive director of the group’s Middle Eastern division. For example, she said, the police often described detainees as guilty before any trial had occurred and made them available to journalists to be photographed.
Don’t forget who the friend of your enemy is.
Anyway, ACE recommended read the comments of the LGF post, and two stood out to me.
Maybe HRW is right, though. Maybe Allawi could leave a trail of gumdrops and candycanes for Zarqawi to follow to his house. When they meet, there would of course be an awkward silence, but once they saw that they were both sensitive and caring people, they would embrace in a hug and feel embarrassed about their previous misunderstanding. Allawi could invite his new friend Zarqawi in, and then they could have tea together. After lots of hugging and crying and more hugging, the two of them would go for a ride on a pair of shy but friendly unicorns, and, and, and no one would ever do a bad thing in Iraq again. Ever.
Why don’t they just use actors?
While this might be a way to get around the “troubling” aspect of being mean to insurgent fighters who are not signers of the Geneva Convention, do not conform to the Geneva Convention, and were captured out of uniform so are not governed by the Geneva Convention, at some point someone would find out that the Iraqi government (gasp!) WASN’T treating prisoners badly and that the whole thing was a sham. And we’d all be treated to “Iraqi government fakes confessions by captured ‘militant’ fighters” headlines.
No. Catch the bad guys. Treat them badly. Show the video.
Repeat as necessary.
UPDATE: “Treat them badly” wasn’t meant to be an authorization for out-and-out torture. But a little rough treatment and humilitation for those that deserve it is, well, deserved.