Just Ask Them

Hey, at Guantanamo Bay they’ve been able to get useful information out of the detainees! So reports the Belgian Dutch-language newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: “GUANTANAMO BAY – Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay have elicited useful information from detainees. Not by mistreating them, but simply by asking questions. So says former interrogator Paul Rester.”

The rest of the brief article has mostly to do with various other pronouncements from Rester. The very next paragraph is great: Rester complains that his profession has gained a bad reputation due to all the reports about the CIA mistreating detainees in various secret prisons. “His work is little appreciated by the public and that sticks in Rester’s craw.”

Of course, as the article goes on to note, by now the CIA has admitted that it has subject detainees to waterboarding in the past. But Rester wants to make it clear that at Gitmo there have only been two cases of inmates being harshly treated – and, he adds, that was when the infamous prison-camp had only just been opened. I guess they were still trying to get their bearings then about how they were supposed to interact will all these characters in the bright-orange jump-suits that the military airplanes were delivering to them.

The article does mention one instance of “success” derived from what we are to believe is Gitmo’s standard “ask-and-ye-shall-receive approach,” namely a map of the Tora Bora region in eastern Afghanistan that inmates were persuaded to draw and which was useful to the American forces there. However, it does not name the reason why this entire subject of “We just ask them normal questions – honest!” has come up now, which is of course that the Bush administration has now identified six such inmates that it wants to try – using those “military commissions” – and to execute for allegedly complicity in the September 11 attacks. So the government is now pushing hard the idea that it used normal non-coercive (add “humane” and/or “legal” here to taste) questioning techniques – either exclusively or else at least in some strange parallel way to the “harsher” techniques.

Not that that additional explanation would do anything to alter the impression any literate Flemish-Belgian would take from this piece: Why did they have to torture them in the first place if they didn’t have to go that to get their information?! In all, this is a short + sweet, remarkable piece: it just lays out the facts, ma’am, and Rester’s various opinions and explanations, adding no opinions from the actual writer. None are needed for the point to be clear.

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