FM 34-52 Table of Contents

Reference Material:

US Army Field Manual 34-52, "Intelligence Interrogation," can be found here. It seems to be the governing publication for the operations in Abu Ghraib that led to the questionable practices, although it appears to be undergoing 'field modifications' under the strain of the new war. If you are following the story, you may wish to make reference to it now and again.

Instapundit, on holiday for health reasons (get well, sir), links to this article by the Belmont Club.

My first thoughts at the news of the Abu Ghraib abuses, the Taguba Report and the Presidential mea culpa which followed was whether posterity would recall the incident in the same way the Christmas Truce in the first year of the Great War is remembered today. The last grasp at enforcing civilized standards of conduct before the brutality of the trenches coarsened men completely....

And in a small late-night restaurant in a back street, a small man in steel rimmed glasses told me, over fifteen cent beer, how he had attended a party given by some academic types the night before. They turned the evening into Commie-fest and gathered round someone he knew slightly as a minor functionary in the Red guerilla army in the expectation of edifying stories from the dark years. He was an ex-seminarian, quiet and softly spoken, who told them about his first mission to eliminate a Marcos informer somewhere in a village in southern Luzon. They forced the informer down from his thatch hut one evening, and to save money and avoid the noise of gunfire, cut his throat at the doorstep of his own home. The seminarian was given the honors and he remembered sawing the knife against the informer's windpipe. What struck him most of all, was the rubbery resistance of the cartilage and cries of the informer's children. 'Papa! Papa!' It took a long time to cut though his throat. Before the story was over all the academic bravos had slunk off, retreating like Daisy Buchanan into the 'vast carelessness' of their fantasy world, leaving the man in steel rimmed glasses to drink with the ex-seminarian, ironically improving the company.

One day Ted Koppel will read, in addition to the names of American soldiers who died in Iraq, the names of friends who will have died in another attack on New York. One day Nicholas de Genovea, the Columbia professor who called for a "million Mogadishus" will understand that it means a billion dead Muslims. And then for the first time, perhaps, they will understand the horror of Abu Ghraib while we all raise our glasses, sardonically like Robert Graves, "with affection, to the men we used to be".

This thought crosses my mind from time to time. As much as I respect the Belmont Club, however, I must disagree with the conclusion here. The Geneva Conventions (Appendix J of the 34-52 lists the relevant ones) were written by men who were thinking of 'the men we used to be.' They were adopted in 1949. For the men who wrote them, the Second World War was their background and the Third World War seemed increasingly likely. It is no utopian text.

We'll do what we have to do in order to win, and I'll be right there with you doing it as long as I live and have strength. Yet, we ought not to throw away our heritage so freely. If we are indeed looking toward the horrors of war, let us heed the warning of our fathers. They knew of what they spoke. What is coming may be awful, but we have in their counsel a shield. When a shield breaks, you cast it away: but not before.

deuddersun says...

Best to a Brother in Arms:

Condolences and prayers for US Marine and blogger Deuddersun and his family, who have suffered a death this week. If you have time and are of a mind, send a kind word their way.

Noble Eagle


Welcome to Noble Eagle, a new Milblog.



Counterintelligence inside the US is at an all time high. We don't see it on TV, or read about it in the paper, due to the secrecy involved. However, it can be roughly tracked by following the public statements of the Foreign Intelligence Survellience Court.

The FISC is the court that approves applications for CI activities. Details of its cases are not, obviously, available to citizens for review. However, it does make occasional statements to Congress, some of which are public, such as this one. It states that 1727 applications were made to the court in 2003 for search warrants related to CI activities, of which four (4) were denied. This is up from 1228 the previous year, meaning that CI requests for search warrants in 2003 were 140% of 2002.

You can make of these numbers what you will, but there they are.

My Way News


Grim's Hall is one of the prime defenders of the use of contractors in Iraq and elsewhere. This is probably due in part to a vested interest--being a contractor is the way I've found to contribute to the war, and I want to continue contributing. On the other hand, a lot of the defense of contractors comes from experience. I have seen a fair amount of contract work up front, and I know that it provides a real and indeed an indispensible service to our country. Contractors provide skills in numbers that the military needs.

Human nature being what it is, however, if a good thing is to remain a good thing, accountability is important:

In a sign of continued problems with the tracking of contracts, Pentagon officials on Thursday acknowledged they have yet to identify which Army entity manages the multimillion-dollar contract for interrogators like the one accused in the Iraq prisoner abuse probe.
Pardon me, but what? I mean, this is a Pentagon problem rather than a problem with the contractor, but it's a serious problem. The government ought not to be spending taxpayer dollars in any case without a clear chain of accountability. We need to be able to call people to account for how they've spent (or misspent) our money, regardless of the project.

I think contractors do a world of good for the military, and I believe I have good reasons for saying so. Still, clear rules and guidelines are a wise precaution in any undertaking. It ought also to be an obligation of the government to account for how it spends our coin. It appears there has been a failure in both regards, at least in some cases. I know exactly which department signs my contracts, so it's not true where I work. I know too that the government can get it right some of the time, so there's no excuse for getting it wrong here.

My Way - News

Defensive Lasers:

The Nautilus project knocks down its target. I still remain astonished at this--I understand we have lasers in development that can destroy a 2-foot long artillery shell in flight. It's amazing stuff.



From The Everlasting Man:

Now it is very right to rebuke our own race or religion for falling short of our own standards and ideals. But it is absurd to pretend that they fell lower than the other races and religions that professed the very opposite standards and ideals. There is a very real sense in which the Christian is worse than the heathen, the Spaniard worse than the Red Indian, or even the Roman potentially worse than the Carthaginian. But there is only one sense in which he is worse; and that is not in being positively worse. The Christian is only worse because it is his business to be better.
It is also our business to be better. I take exception to our Mr. Reynolds, who is writing tonight:
That's a lot less courage than was displayed by the U.S. soldier who complained to his superiors about abuses at Abu Ghraib, resulting in an investigation that got his commanding general relieved in January -- months before this issue went public.
And also...
He's right -- more coverage of prisoner abuse in a week than they gave Saddam's torture and mass murder in a decade.
As to the first point, we can see that the Pentagon was able to act so long before the issue went public because they illegally classified it. I don't disagree with their decision--the law should probably be changed to permit just this kind of thing. Nevertheless, when you stack the deck, you don't get credit for guessing where the aces are. They were on top of it before others because they knew it was coming and took steps to keep others from knowing.

As to the second point, Chesterton was right. It may be only one sense in which this is worse than what went on in Saddam's Iraq, and it is not that it is positively worse. It is still a very real sense. It is our business to be better. Those who have betrayed us and our faith in them, and who have soiled the uniform that represents us all, they should face the firing squads. I wrote elsewhere:

The firing squad is exactly the right punishment for those servicemen directly involved in sexual torture, as with forcible rape. I suppose that just why I think so needs explaining.

Human nature is immutable. We would like to argue that Americans "aren't the kind of people" who engage in torture. That isn't so. The fact is that Americans are every kind of people; and, furthermore, that all kinds of people learn to torture.

Consider that we make the opposite argument in the case of democracy. We argue boldly what is yet to be proven, which is that Iraqis are just like any other kind of people, and can learn to do democracy. Yet we turn aside from what is definitively proven, which is that no human culture has been able to forgo torture.

If America is morally better than Iraq, it is not because the kinds of people who live in America are better. It is because the system is better, and it is better in exactly this way: it subjects all men to consequences (rule of law), while protecting those who search out the truth of what Americans have done (the press, the courts, the police, "whistleblowers," citizens who report crimes, even criminals who turn State's evidence).

Now that we know the truth, we must have the consequences. And what consequence should it be? Grant that human nature includes a certain disposition to torture, as evidenced by its universal practice; and that we want to prevent the incidence of torture completely; and that we cannot drive humanity out of our military, which is made of nothing else.

The only answer is to put so great a weight of shame and fear on torture that men, given the opportunity, will not practice it. The firing squad has the correct mix of effect and symbol. The effect--a quick but painful death--is terrifying. The symbol, meanwhile, is the squad itself. A few moments before they were your unit mates. Now they reject you; strip your uniform of its insignia; and then, executing their military function of Rifleman, gun you down as an enemy.

The administrative punishments still include the stripping of insigina and the casting out. But--if the man is no longer a soldier, he is still an American. These acts are treason as much as they are rape, torture, sexual abuse. The practitioners should be both driven out, and killed as foes.

In that way, the regiment is purged. The propensity to torture may remain in every man still in the unit, because it remains in all men. But by the practice of torture, the regiment--the Republic--is unstained. No lesser punishment is complete.
The UCMJ almost certainly doesn't allow for it now, but execution is the traditional punishment for rape in wartime. We should push to restore it. These soldiers have done more damage to the war than if they'd taken Indymedia's advice and fragged their officers. All that we've seen so far--even for the deaths--has been discharge without prison. That serves no function. If this happens again six months on, the cost to the war will be impossible to calculate.

We must not allow the sacrifices of the brave to be so wasted.

Mudville Gazette


If any of you are interested in getting the order of events at Abu Ghraib straight, the Mudville Gazette has undertaken to construct a timeline.

The Cool Blue Blog


Jason Steenwk at Iraq Now confirms that the US military has demonstrated two criminal homicides of Iraqi prisoners--but contented itself with "less-than-honorable" discharges instead of prison time.

It has been said that the only good thing that can possibly come out of this is for the world to learn that 'we don't tolerate this kind of thing, and punish our own.' If even that lesson is going to be learned, we need to get along with that punishment. If the military justice system is going to insist on administrative punishments for criminal homicides, the President needs to get involved personally.

Secrecy News 05/05/04

Torture & Secrecy:

The government has begun the process of shaking out the lawbreakers who were involved in the torture in Iraq. The general in charge was suspended in January; today it is reported that there have been a host of suspensions of soldiers who were not involved with torture, but who should have been involved in oversight. There are also legal charges being filed against the MPs who engaged in torture.

One set of people who may be facing charges probably did not expect to be: the people who classified the reports of torture, to give the government time to investigate before the story broke. That proves to be illegal:

But the classification may have been more than simply unnecessary. It might have been a violation of official policy, which forbids the use of secrecy to cover up crimes:

"In no case shall information be classified in order to ... conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error [or to] prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency...," according to Section 1.7 of Executive Order 12958, as amended by President Bush (EO 13292).
That section of the order states in full:
Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations. (a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

(3) restrain competition; or

(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.

(b) Basic scientific research information not clearly related to the national security shall not be classified.
(c) Information may be reclassified after declassification and release to the public under proper authority only in accordance with the following conditions:

(1) the reclassification action is taken under the personal authority of the agency head or deputy agency head, who determines in writing that the reclassification of the information is necessary in the interest of the national security;
(2) the information may be reasonably recovered; and

(3) the reclassification action is reported promptly to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

(d) Information that has not previously been disclosed to the public under proper authority may be classified or reclassified after an agency has received a request for it under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) or the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a), or the mandatory review provisions of section 3.5 of this order only if such classification meets the requirements of this order and is accomplished on a document-by-document basis with the personal participation or under the direction of the agency head, the deputy agency head, or the senior agency official designated under section 5.4 of this order.
(e) Compilations of items of information that are individually unclassified may be classified if the compiled information reveals an additional association or relationship that: (1) meets the standards for classification under this order; and (2) is not otherwise revealed in the individual items of information. As used in this order, "compilation" means an aggregation of pre-existing unclassified items of information.
Some rethinking of this law is probably in order due to the nature of the current war. This is a tricky situation. On the one hand, we need to be able to keep these kinds of problems "in-house" long enough to develop a response. The explosive nature of these charges would have been heightened if we could not point to the fact that we've been working since January to try to correct the problems. On the other, we need to prevent the government from covering up illegal activity by classifying it. It would probably be wise to alter the law to permit a short "waiting period" before an automatic declassification. That would not only prevent abuses of the secrecy system, but also light a fire under the people whose job it is to handle these investigations.

UPDATE: The ISOO has opened an investigation into this matter. Developing (slowly, as with any gov't bureaucracy).

Report (html format)

"Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003"

The annual report by the State Department is now available in HTML.

Marine Corps News> Gearing up isn't easy

Kitted Out, II:

If you thought poor Kaplan had it tough, take a look at what the Marines do. Thanks to JHD for the link.

DARPA TIDES Iraq Reconstruction Report No. 185

DARPA on Torture:

The DARPA TIDES project ("Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization" according to the homepage--I hate it when people go to that length to be clever with their acronymns) has assembled and posted comprehensive coverage of the torture allegations.


No One Gets Left Behind:

No one:

Luci was left without a family when an Army unit departed Baghdad, said Maj. Gen. Amos. This presented the general with the perfect opportunity to assume responsibility for the courageous dog and her sole surviving puppy from a litter of five.

"Luci was working with Army Special Forces on the streets of Baghdad and over a period of time, she kept following them around whenever they went on patrols," the general said. "Luci was credited with saving their lives a couple of times because of her ability to sniff out an ambush and bark to alert them."

When 3rd MAW went into Baghdad about a month and a half ago to drop off some wounded Marines, Luci and the pup were brought out to the airplane and were taken back to Al Asad, the general said.

The Right Coast


The Right Coast has correctly analyzed the current status of the Supreme Court:

it struck me once again that what the Supreme Court is doing is not really law, and that they are not really a court. They make policy decisions about what should be done. They are in truth a legislature composed of unelected worthies, a kind of house of lords. But if this is true, we should call them not "Justice," but something more indicative of their true function....
He has suggestions. Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

The Atlantic | May 2004 | How Do I Look? | Kaplan

Kitted Out:

Robert Kaplan has an article in the Atlantic on the subject:

I was attracted to one Web site,, which advertised "Clearance: Great Products at Blowout Prices." It offered machine-washable Point Blank Concealable Armor with removable panels. Another Web site,, offered similar vests to "put the odds back in YOUR favor."

But I didn't want concealable armor that fit under a shirt--I am not a Secret Service agent, a police detective, a convenience-store clerk in a high-crime area, a drug lord, or a Mafioso. I wanted tactical body armor that fits over a shirt or a jacket. And the array of tactical body armor offered on the Internet seemed endless.

Friends in the Marines and the Army Special Forces recommended that I buy a vest and plates that gave Level III or IV protection. With that in mind I found a Military Outer Tactical Vest (OTV) I liked for $790 at Bullet, and an even nicer Paraclete Modular Armor Vest--a "hybrid composite [of] Goldflex and Spectra-flex"--sold by for $1,990, with soft-armor panels and Velcro pockets for hard-armor trauma plates....

I also had to choose a color. The vests that interested me came in black, plain tan, smoke green, woodland camouflage, and desert or tricolor camouflage.... My decision was further complicated by the Marines. They wear digital cammies in a pattern different from the woodland and tricolor designs of the other services. Would they be offended if I wore woodland?
Offended? Probably not. It would only confirm what they already know, which is that you're not one of them. Go for the "smoke green."

GIs, Shiite militiamen in Najaf trade fire

AP: Iraqis Commit Suicide

In another lesson on press bias, if one were needed, we have this introductory sentence to an AP article on today's attacks:

U.S. forces in Najaf came under their most intense attack yet by Shiite militiamen in a clash Monday that may have killed up to 20 Iraqis.
You got that, right? Shi'ite militiamen led an intense attack that killed twenty of themselves.

I really miss the days of the old Army war correspondants, who would have written, "They attacked us heavily, but we killed about twenty of them." Failing that, could we at least have "In spite of their most intense effort yet to engage US forces directly, the Shi'ite militias were handily repulsed, with up to twenty fruitlessly throwing their lives away in a battle against US soldiers."

The Liberal Conspiracy - Satire, Informed Commentary and 9-11 Research

Prisoner Torture:

Sovay has a collection of headlines from the Arab and Iranian press on the torture story. There is, of course, no surprise that the headlines in the state-run papers are exceptionally outraged. It is indeed ironic to see Iranian papers trumpeting "Their True Face!", or Egyptian ones calling it "The Scandal!" Saudi papers likewise, right? These guys are among the worst torturers in the world. Their outrage must be wholly manufactured, musn't it?

Certainly the physical torture revealed is rather less strenuous than what is practiced by Arab states. If you'd like some details on what kind of tortures that would be, consider pages nine and ten of the Qaeda manual warning "brothers" what sort of tortures they should expect if captured. All of what was done and far worse is on offer, both physical, psychological and sexual.

All of it, that is, except one thing. The photos of the grinning servicewoman pointing to a masturbating man must be genuinely horrifying to Middle Eastern society. Out of all the rest of it, only two bad conclusions can come: first, that America is hypocritical, which most already believe; and second, that American democracy is no better than their own forms of government, which many already believe. Both points can be largely undone by a public and severe punishment of the offenders. I favor capital punishment, as I always do in cases of rape by uniformed servicemen overseas, which are treason as much as they are rapes. A swift and harsh punishment--even if it is "only" Leavenworth--will undo a great deal of the damage.

The reversal of sexual roles, though, can't be fixed. The damage done by that photograph will outstrip all the others, because in a very real way it points to a truth about America. It isn't true that we engage in routine torture, or that we tolerate it; it isn't true that our government is no better than Iran's or Egypt's. It is true, however, that we intend to totally destroy the sexual order of Islam in the Middle East. The servicewoman, dressed in a military uniform instead of a veil, placed in power over men, abusing them sexually--that violation will haunt our campaign forever.

International News Article |

German Leader Gives Finger to US, Kerry:

In a jab-cross combination, the German Defense Minister, Peter Struck, has managed to slug both American interests generally and John Kerry in particular. This combination was the result of German military plans for the future announced today:

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said Germany will stop protecting U.S. military bases in the country at the end of 2004 and would not send troops to help a NATO force police Iraq, a newspaper reported Sunday....

Some 2,500 German soldiers have protected U.S. barracks and other installations from attack since the start of 2003 because many U.S. troops stationed in Germany -- who would normally have performed the task themselves -- are now in Iraq.

Struck also said Germany would not take part in any prospective NATO security force in Iraq once the U.S.-led coalition transfers sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June.

"It seems highly uncertain if and when NATO will be asked for support," said Struck. "Whatever the case, Germany will not take part in it. The army will only provide special aircraft to transport wounded if this proves necessary."

This announcement follows a week in which Kerry made NATO involvement the centerpiece of his speech on Iraq. Kerry said that "the President must also go to NATO members and others to contribute the additional military forces and to NATO to take on an organizing role." Germany's response is already on the table: "Don't bother."