An excerpt from an Army Field Manual

Back in the day, when today's colonels and generals were still cadets and young lieutenants, they were taught fundamentals of military law.  It was a part of their curriculum.  Cleaning out a house, I came across a copy of their textbook.  For those who say "no one could have ever anticipated" or "this is totally new" or whatever rationalization they might think is the trendy, latest usage to camouflage torture in some sugar-coated "Enhanced interrogation" wrapper, here is the text from the manual from which those high-ranking officers were taught, as pertains to torture (emphasis added):

Humane treatment of noncombatants - The customary law of war and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 establish rules governing treatment of noncombatants, prisoners of war, sick and wounded, and other detained civilians.  These rules are embodied in one general principle - treat all prisoners of war, civilians or other detained personnel, humanely.  A soldier can fulfill his military mission, such as the requirement to search, segregate, silence, speed to the rear and safeguard prisoners of war and detainees and still treat these people in a humane manner.  Many of these people will be victims of war and some of them may be the enemy soldier imself, but once captured, they are all entitled to the same humane treatment.
What does it mean to treat someone humanely?  If a soldier treats such people as he would lke to be treated were he captured or detained, he would be treating them humanely.  Remember that a PW is in the soldier's protective custody, and he cannot harm him.  ... Furthermore, certain acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever.  These include - a.  violation to life and person, and, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutiliation, cruel treatment and torture;  b. taking of hostages;  c. outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment;  d.  the passing of sentences and the carrying out of execution without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.  

Illegal means of interrogation - Suppose a soldier captures a wounded and hungry enemy soldier who he thinks knows the location of enemy units in the area.  Can he deny him food and medical treatment until he tells the soldier what he wants to know?  The answer is "no."  The Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War states that prisoners are bound to give certain information, (such as name rank, date of birth, and serial number)  but cannot be physically or mentally forced to secure other information.  If the soldier cannot withhold food and medical care from the prisoner, it follows he cannot torture information out of him in any other way.  Here again the Convention is explicit and the language provides -

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatsoever.  Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantaged treatment of any kind.  (Article 17.)
In the past, people have violated these rules and have been tried and sentenced for such violations as beating a prisoner or applying electric shocks, dunking his head into a barrel of water, or putting a plastic bag over his head to make him talk.  No American soldier can commit these brutal acts, nor permit his fellow soldiers to do so and if he sees anyone commit such an act he must report it.  
The humane reasons for prohibiting such acts are clear enough.  There is a practical reason as well.  Information cannot be obtained from a dead man.  Combat experience proves that intelligence secured by torture is unreliable.  Furthermore, torture makes it difficult for the trained interrogtor to secure accurate intelligence later, and a trained interrogator can obtain more complete and accurate information through legitimate, skillful questioning.  That is the practical reason why it is important to send the man suspected of having valuable intelligence back to the detainee collecting point so that a professional interrogator can begin questioning him as quickly as possible.  Indeed, the Convention specifically demand that captured war prisoners be promptly evacuated to the rear.

* * *

Criminal violations of the Law of War - Acts that violate the law of war may result in a soldier being prosecuted for committing a war crime.  Under the Geneva Conventions, the most serious offenses are called grave breaches of the law of war, and include murder, torture, inhumane treatment, and improper destruction of property.  They are capital offenses.  This means that person who commits a grave breach may be tried and executed.  There is no statute of limitations on the prosecution of a war crime.  Nearly all nations have signed the Geneva Conventions, and, in doing so, have agreed to search out, bring to trial, and punish all persons who commit a grave breach of the Conventions.  A soldier may be tried and convicted even after he has left the service.

* * *

Criminal orders and Individual Responsibility - In all cases, the person who actually commits a crime is subject to punishment, even if he acted pursuant to the orders of a superior.  The man who pulls the trigger, killing a prisoner of war who has just surrendered, cannot excuse his act by claiming that his commander told him 'to take care of the prisoner', which he understood to be an order to execute him. Acting under superior orders is not a defense to criminal charges when the order is clearly one to commit a criminal act, as is an order to kill a prisoner of war.  While an American soldier must obey promptly all legal orders, he must also disobey an order which requires him to commit a criminal act in violation of the law of war.  An order to commit a criminal act is a criminal order, and there is a duty to disobey it.An order to execute a prisoner or detainee is clearly criminal.  An order to torture or abuse a prisoner to get him to talk is clearly criminal.  An order to torture anyone is clearly criminal.  These are orders whose criminal content is very clear.

* * *

Do not presume that an order is illegal,  If it is thought to be criminal, it is probably because the order is unclear.  ... Rather than presume that an unclear order directs the commission of a crime, clarification of that order should be asked of the superior issuing it.  All leaders should make their orders clear and understandable.  They should not put their subordinantes in the position where the subordinate may think the superior is giving a criminal order.  


In case you were wondering, this excerpt is copied from ROTCM 145-95 "Fundamentals of Military Law", at 967-105, an official publication of the Depatment of the Army dated 30 September, 1976.

Every one of those colonels and generals who participated in, facilitated or ordered participating in or facilitating the torture/enhanced interrogations programs begun under Bush and continued and expanded under Obama both abandoned their training and committed war crimes.  The manuals they were taught from tell us so.  And those who told them to do what they did are equally guilty.  They can waffle and parse and spin all they want, but torture remains torture and they did it and made it happen and committed war crimes in doing so.

End of story.

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    Excellent diary. (none / 0) (#1)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Aug 16, 2010 at 10:44:13 AM EST
    I went through many classes on the Geneva Convention and the treatment of prisoners also. Yet another reason I have been so bothered by the actions taken.

    It doesn't matter what the superiors said. Even if the order cam from the CIC himself.

    Additionally, your bold remark about torture being ineffective also holds true. Humans haven't changed from 1976 to now to make torture suddenly more effective, nor have techniques formerly called torture suddenly become permissable.

    That's not my remark. (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Mon Aug 16, 2010 at 11:41:35 AM EST
    That's verbatim (except for the boldface) from the manual.

    What's your point? (none / 0) (#4)
    by CST on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 03:33:33 PM EST
    Are we trying to emulate the Congo?  Or the Serbs?  Or the Nazis?  I didn't think so.

    I like to think we hold ourselves to a higher standard than that.  Of course those things are far worse.  That doesn't make what we are doing ok.

    I think (none / 0) (#6)
    by CST on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 03:50:57 PM EST
    you need to take it down a notch.  I did not "send a torpedo" your way or "go bonkers on you" or even really "take you to task".  

    I just pointed out that I would hope we are better than comparing ourselves to the worst of the worst.

    No need to be so defensive.  It's a blog.  People disagree.


    The question is (none / 0) (#7)
    by jondee on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 04:30:30 PM EST
    what war, anywhere, at any time, didn't bring rape, murder, torture, child abuse, sadism, environmental devastation etc in it's train? And most people only know the half of it. If that. For instance, how many people in this country, many of whom are still arguing about how communism "needed to be stopped" in SE Asia, are aware of the obscenely high rate of birth defects in children who were born in areas in SE Asia where chemical defoliants like Agent Orange were used? How many people are aware of devastation wrecked on the innocent by landmines and things like depleted uranium munitions?

    This pr firm generated meme about "surgical", clean, antiseptic wars (packaged for the folks at home by an embedded media), is a lie.

    There no "good wars".


    Not necessarily directed (none / 0) (#9)
    by jondee on Tue Aug 31, 2010 at 04:41:16 PM EST
    at you, you ole jayhawk..