The most important detainees, the highest ranking officials in Saddam's government, the men and women who ordered genoicide, and rape and murder and torture in numbers too high to even imagine, are now free from the threat of interrogation by -- sleepless nights. Yes, we can all be proud that the US military has taken a number of aggressive interrorgation techniques away from it's top interrogators, not because of a careful, methodical process of evaluation, but because they were railroaded into doing so.
And when the intelligence these men and women might have provided isn't available, and American lives are lost, when innocent Iraqi civilians are killed, turning the Iraqis against us, there will be a hue and cry in this country, and a demand to know "how this could have happened," and more hearings, and more commissions, and the esteemed blue ribbon panel will reach the shocking conclusion that the intelligence community fell short once again, and there will be a political demand that "heads must roll." Except they will never look back, and the media will never look back, and never consider the possibility that they may have played a part, that previous issues may have played a part, that they may be partly to blame, or that it might be their heads that should roll first, if any should.
Look at the Post's quite blunt assessment this morning:
The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has barred military interrogators from using the most coercive techniques potentially available to them in the past, declaring that requests to employ the measures against detainees will no longer even be considered, officials said yesterday.
The directive from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez comes in the face of a political uproar over disclosure earlier this week that U.S. interrogators had been allowed to request permission from Sanchez to use a range of tough interrogation tactics on a case-by-case basis.
How bad were things for these guys, really?
Since October, officials said, Sanchez has approved 25 such requests, all involving prolonged isolation of detainees, the officials said. But interrogators were free under the previous policy to seek authorization for other, more severe measures, including sleep deprivation, diet manipulation, stress positions and the use of dogs to threaten detainees.
Three requests to place detainees in stressful positions to get them to talk were submitted but denied at the brigade level, the officials said without disclosing the reasons for the rejections.
Plenty of people in the human rights community, of course, said these techniques violated Geneva (although their interpretations of these standards are so strict I frankly give their interpretations less credibility than I probably should.) But people are saying that this change is some kind of admission the Pentagon was wrong. But at "a Pentagon briefing, the officials repeated arguments that such intensified interrogation measures were entirely consistent with the Geneva Conventions requiring humane treatment of detainees."
I think that's some trick. The Pentagon gets railroaded into a change they wouldn't have made on their own, then when they make the change, the media says the change is evidence they're admitting they were wrong before.
But, you know, not to worry.
Regular interrogation techniques such as direct questioning of detainees without physical contact will remain allowable without special approval.
Direct questioning. Yeah. I'm sure Chemical Ali will give up everything he knows immediately. What's he got to worry about? Indictment for Crimes Against Humanity? So why not talk?
Of course, the Pentagon isn't admitting it was railroaded.
Pressed by reporters on the reason for the change, DiRita acknowledged that "the heightened scrutiny of the last couple of weeks" may have played a role. But he also cited "a rigorous process" of periodic review that began long before the current scandal over the alleged abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers and private contractors at Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad.
Update: Why use hoods as blindfolds anyway? Here's why.