This will have a disastrous effect on public relations:
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.
In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him “to come get his wife.”***
Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects’ houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.
Iraq’s deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and “we are not Saddam.” A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an “imperative threat” are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities.
But documents describing two 2004 episodes tell a different story as far as short-term detentions by local U.S. units. The documents are among hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices.
Now let’s be clear- according to this report, this happened TWICE, and there is, at this time, no evidence that this is a policy or widespread behavior. So let’s temper our reaction accordingly. However, this is a hideous idea, and those responsible need to be dealt with, particularly if they are Colonels on the fast track to become Generals.
And before anyone even tries to justify this, let me note that this is clearly and explicitly forbidden in the Geneva conventions:
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
There is no question about whether this behavior is inappropriate.
Can someone say, “Medal of Freedom?”
Andrew J. Lazarus
John, the Geneva Conventions are outdated and quaint. We’re in a war here. [Channeling Dougj, and it was real easy.]
When we do it, it’s called ‘getting the job done’. When they do it, it’s called a war crime.
The hypocrisy of it is only lost on us: everyone else sees it and they have no problem hating us for it.
Bob In Pacifica
Juan Cole, the OTHER John Cole, reports at Informed Comment that that is the reason that the reporter, Jill something, was kidnapped. The women prisoners the kidnappers want freed are the wives that the U.S. forces are holding hostage. Suddenly makes sense, eh?
Yet another example of mainstream media falling the public.
Bob In Pacifica
That should have been “failing.”
John Cole, you anti-war, unamerican liberals just don’t get it. We have to destroy democracy in order to save democracy. WE ARE AT WAR! We are America! If we do something, its right. Lawbreaking to uphold truth, justice and the American way is our God given responsibility! You must really hate America if you think we should follow atheistic international “laws” and common decency. Why do you want the terrorists to win?
When Osama gallops a camel with a stick of dynamite up its ass into the Crystal Cathedral and kills innocent, Godfearing men, women and children you will be sorry, John Cole!
Actually this was old news over a year ago.
This is nothing more than harmless fraternity pranks.
MN Politics Guru
Go ahead, John. You can say “illegal” instead of inappropriate. Flossing your teeth in public is “inappropriate”. This goes just a bit further.
Look John, Tom Maguire is asking the right questions while you’re wallowing in these isolated incidents that mean nothing at all.
Aside from the whole Geneva Convention thing, I don’t understand why this isn’t a good idea. I mean, I would certainly be more inclined to not take hostages, or at least give them back, if I knew that the enemy would take my wife (or all of my relatives) and say, send them back to me in little pieces.
Kidnapping the innocent mother of young children when she is still nursing a baby. My, that’s a classy move.
you´re right. Except…that was old news even in 2003.
I guess these articles are behind a subscription wall but I´ve got them as pdf-files.
WaPo, July 28, 2003, Page A01
“U.S. Adopts Aggressive Tactics on Iraqi Fighters”
Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: “If you want your family released, turn yourself in.”
WaPo, December 1, 2004, Page A01
“U.S. Generals Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds”
He [Herrington report to the army from December 2003] added that some detainees were arrested because targets were not at home when homes were raided. A family member was instead captured and then released when the target turned himself in — a practise that, Herrington wrote, “has a ´hostage´feel to it.”
A separate report by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, issued this past May  and intended for internal use, gave the sense that some Army tactics served to “alienate common Iraqis who initially supported the coalition.”
The 134-page CALL report singled out the practise of detaining female members to force wanted Iraqi males to turn themselves in, similar to Herrington´s findings.”
The Other Steve
So what you’re saying is that Tom Maguire hates America, but loves strawmen?
The Other Steve
I think it makes more sense than torture.
However, what I’m more concerned with is a point George Washington once made. If we do these bad things, it just gives our enemy justification for hating us.
But then George Washington was an honorable man. I don’t think there is much honor left in America.
I mean, I would certainly be more inclined to not take hostages, or at least give them back, if I knew that the enemy would take my wife (or all of my relatives) and say, send them back to me in little pieces.
Even disregarding the legal and moral obligations how do you know which female is a family member of a hostage taker?
The two reports (mentioned in the December 2004 WaPo article I cited above) mention too that in several cases back then the wrong persons were “picked up”. Wrong meaning here that they weren´t family members. And back in 2003 the US army was concentrating on Iraqi officers and Baath party officials. People with known names and adresses.
If mistakes happened back then even with this knowledge, what gives you the confidence that you´ll pick up the right people today?
See, the important thing is that as long as Saddam Hussein is not in power, no ill can come to the Iraqi people.
This little meme has disgusted me from the start. Anyone who claims America does not violate civil or human rights because “we’re America” or (in opinion, even worse) “we’re not ” has got some huge brass ones.
There’s honor left in America. It’s just been getting slowly hedged out over the last ten years. When has a president ever been accused of running an administration so flagrantly abusive of human rights? Clinton? Bush Sr? Regan? Nixon? Roosevelt? Grant? Seriously.
I don’t get why this is a big deal. We’re still not as bad as Saddam or al-Qaeda.
Spreading freedom and democracy is hard work.
Jason Van Steenwyk
Pick up hostages? No.
Co-conspirators, yes. And any wife whose husband is running a bomb-making hobby on the kitchen table or is known to her to be a terrorist, and who does not report him to coalition or Iraqi authorities is a co-conspirator.
Jason Van Steenwyk
Heck, even in less cut-and-dried cases, the wife of a known terrorist leader cannot be considered anything less than a material witness.
You can detain those without charges even in the United States.
9/11 changed everything.
What if there’s a ticking time bomb?
The 2003 incident mentioned above, as well as the law around it, was discussed in this post.
Apparently, there are plenty of circumstances where this sort of behavior can be legal. The short form – if the detention was legal (and per the article, there may have been reasons to hold some of these women), then the threatening note is, arguably, simply a ruse.
And FWIW, I love America *and* strawmen. Besides, January is almost over and the Blogger’s Code imposes a monthly quota for hyperbole.
Great link Tom. We were not taking family members hostage, we were only pretending to take them hostage. Pretending to take people hostage is perfectly fine as long as your fingers are crossed when you do it.
And to the effectiveness of this technique, it works quite well. We were able to beat and smother to death a uniformed Iraqi general after we pretended to hold his family hostage so he would turn himself in.
What’s up with the pro-hostage-taking right’s inability to make a short hyperlink?
Why do they hate our page margins?
Is that really the law? If someone in your family is a criminal, you have to turn them in, or you become a co-conspirator? That’s an “interesting” view.
I sorta question whether you have any idea what the criteria are to be a “material witness.” Otherwise, wouldn’t this be a common police practice, arresting wives and family members to get people to turn themselves in?
Jason Van Steenwyk
So you’re one of those muddle-heads who think U.S. constitutional rights apply to wives of terrorists in Iraq?
Feh. No wonder Democrats lose elections.
What’s lacking here are any details concerning these detentions.
I’ve read the documents on the ACLU site. What I see is a possibility (not confirmed in any way) that these detentions were of women who were legitimate targets, but who were also married to men who were also legitimate targets. (NOTE: This is 100% conjecture on my part–it is however, not contradicted by what information is available.)
Hahahaha. Make an argument based on U.S. legal concepts, and then when someone points out that the concepts aren’t even close to fitting, criticize them for using U.S. concepts. Dude, you’re better than Darrell.
Want to stipulate that U.S. legal concepts have no place, and that what’s at issue is simply the law of war? Great. Then this activity would be referred to as “taking hostages.”
Want to keep going around the circle of rationalizations? I can keep up.
From the article:
I’m not sure why liberals think that holding someone against their will in order to get someone else to do something you want is “taking a hostage”. We’re detaining the families of people we want to capture over there, so we don’t have to detain the families of people we want to capture over here.
How do we know that the US military wasn’t merely entertaining these women? Do we have any proof that they weren’t just having a nice spot of tea and they invited the women’s husbands to stop by for a quick snack? Besides, the military had plenty of legitimate reasons to hold these women. If they weren’t guilty, they wouldn’t be married to terrorinsurgentsoldiers.
I would pay money for that video.
I blame the media for reporting this incident; if they had not, then the US would not have suffered such a PR backlash. It’s long past time that the First Amendment join the Fourth and Sixth Amendments on the dustbin of history. This is because Michael Moore is fat.
U.S. loses PR war? Really? Gee golly, we’re playing too rough with the enemy. We should ignore the beheadings, torture, kidnappings, random bombings of children, etc. by the other side and concentrate solely on our Q rating with the world
I really don’t care if the world loves us or hates us. This is a world in which children starved in the name of Oil For Food so that Gus Gallowy got his weekly bribes
Screw the PR. Just win the war. We never worried if the Japs or the Nazis would “love” us after we defeated them
Some of you Democrats should quickly put duct tape over John Kerry’s mouth before he starts spouting about the American troops being terrorists or calling for unfavorable fillibuster of these tactics…
Seriously though… I thought this was public knowledge a couple of years ago… or is the news from Iraq just now being recycled every few years to keep it “fresh?” Does this mean another visit from the Downing Street Memo?
Jason Van Steenwyk
I never argued that US laws should apply to Iraqis. But I AM arguing that we should arrest coconspirators and detain material witnesses in Iraq.
Or would you simply prefer we launched rockets at the house with everyone inside? Because that’s legal, too.
Jeez, thank GOD you guys don’t command.
Up the dosage.
It’s hard to imagine being much more morally bankrupt than someone who can look at behavior like taking someone’s wife as a hostage, assign it a new name like “detaining material witnesses, and then shrug it off.
It’s absolutely pathological, this need to condone any abuse just to show how “serious” one is about the business of war. Yes, thank God we don’t have soft people in charge who wouldn’t take someone’s wife as a hostage, because we’d all end up speaking Arabic in no time.
Remember, the Geneva conventions are for pussies and traitors. They would object to things like our taking the voluntary surrender of a uniformed general officer of a uniformed army, and while in custody stuffing his mouth and sitting on his chest until he died.
My grandfather, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge along with the rest of Patton’s rush to the Rhine, is about done with what these idiot bastards have done to his Army.
He’s also convinced that we’ve internalized the behavior of the Wehremacht and our conduct closer to what he fought than what the Army of that time would have been up to.
Jason Van Steenwyk
Must be nice to lead such sheltered lives.
I love the sheltered lives meme. What about us liberals who’s mother were forced from their homes and country at gun point at the age of 13? My grandparents house is an embassy in Cuba right now. Please, enough with the sheltered lives line. It is a rationalization and a lousy one at that. And of course, the state and city that was actually hit the hardest by 9/11 all of the sudden decided to vote for conservatives in national elections in 2002 and 2004. Bush friggin carried NY and Hillary looks to be in a good deal of danger this fall!
Jason Van Steenwyk
Pataki. Bloomberg. ‘Nuff said.
Bloomberg is the kind of conservative that makes the members of the Bush revolution scared…
Jason Van Steenwyk
What Bush revolution?
Jason Van Steenwyk
Yeah, yeah. Join the club. Same with mine. Well, except for the embassy part. And it was my father who was forced from Cuba at 14, not my mother. Otherwise same deal. Wahh waahh waaah. And no, I don’t claim street cred from it.
Frankly, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what happened to your mother in 1960, for the purposes of this message board.
Well, that’s not quite true. I “care.” I just don’t “care” care.
Hell, after seeing the way some of those folks drive on I-95, Cuban flags fluttering on their antennae, I would expel them, too!
My point is that it is very easy to sit in an air conditioned room in the United States, where your own best guesses and decisions about what you would do as a commander in Iraq in their shoes, are absolutely and totally free of consequence. It’s easy to blithely say “no, we don’t arrest wives of Al Qaeda members,” regardless of the knowledge they may have of their husbands’ activities, and labor under the delusion that your short-term let’s-have-a-warm-feeling-about-ourselves feel-good policy doesn’t have a downside.
It’s easy to ignore the downside when you’re not responsible for a damn thing.
I don’t care if your mama came over on the Muriel boatlift holds a diploma from Auschwitz University – if you’re leading a life in which you are sheltered from the downside of your choices, and choose to ignore those downsides while casting aspersions and pretending you’re morally superior to people out on the pointy end of the stick who are actually responsible for bringing their people home alive, and who are actually responsible for safeguarding the lives of innocent Iraqis while they’re there, and you can’t grasp the tradeoffs reasonable men make in pursuit of those dual aims, then you’re leading a sheltered life.
It’s just amazing to me that so many people can pass judgement on this, either way, without knowing any material facts.