How the Press, the Pentagon, and Even Human Rights Groups Sold Us an Army Field Manual that (Still) Sanctions Torture
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The rewrite of the Army Field Manual included other seemingly minor changes. It introduced dubious procedures, such as the "False Flag" technique, wherein interrogators could pretend they were from another country. It also redefined the meaning of "Fear Up," a procedure meant to exploit a prisoner's existing fears under imprisonment. Now, interrogators could create "new" fears. The AFM rewrite was a masterpiece of subterfuge and double talk, which could only have been issued from the offices of Rumsfeld and Cambone.
One would think this turnaround of the Pentagon's position regarding a removal of these controversial procedures would have been a matter of some note. But there was no protest from Congress, no mention of the past controversy in the press, and only vague comments at first and then acceptance by human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Only Physicians for Human Rights protested the inclusion of the techniques listed in Appendix M. For the rest ... silence.
DoD Rolls Out the New Model
On September 6, 2006, a news briefing was held by the Department of Defense, as part of the unveiling of the new Army Field Manual, in conjunction with the then-new Defense Department Directive for Detainee Programs (DoD Directive 2310.01E). Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) Lt. Gen. John Kimmons were the DoD presenters.
Much of the belief that the AFM provides an improvement over previous policies of the Department of Defense is likely due to a confusion between the two documents introduced that summer of 2006, the new Detainee Program Directive and the new Army Field Manual.
DoD Directive 2310.10E made a number of changes in regards to detainee operations and management. It made clear that "All persons subject to this Directive shall observe the requirements of the law of war, and shall apply, without regard to a detainee's legal status, at a minimum the standards articulated in Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949..." The same type of language appears in the text of the Army Field Manual itself.
During the press briefing on September 6, and a different one the next day for the foreign press, reporters were not so easily fooled.
One unnamed reporter at the DoD briefing challenged Lt. Gen. Kimmons on the "single standard" issue:
Q: General, why was the decision made to keep these categories -- the separate categories of detainees? You have traditional prisoners of war and then the unlawful enemy combatants. Why not treat all detainees under U.S. military custody the exact same way?
Kimmons's answer gives us insight into the kind of convoluted legal thinking that went into the Pentagon's rationale for the acceptability of coercive interrogation -- for some (emphasis added):
Gen. Kimmons: Well, actually, the distinction is in Geneva through the Geneva Convention, which describes the criteria that prisoner -- that lawful combatants, such as enemy prisoners of war -- which attributes they possess -- wearing a uniform, fighting for a government, bearing your arms openly and so on and so forth. And it's all spelled out fairly precisely inside Geneva.
Geneva also makes clear that traditional, unlawful combatants such as in the -- 50 years ago, we would have talked about spies and saboteurs, but also now applies to this new category of unlawful -- or new type of unlawful combatant, terrorists, al Qaeda, Taliban.
They clearly don't meet the criteria for prisoner of war status, lawful combatant status, and so they're not entitled to the -- therefore to the extra protections and privileges which Geneva affords .