2005 June 19 Sunday
Trial Of Accused Assassins Leads To Speedy Decision In Iraq

A trial in Iraq for 3 accused assassins includes no meeting between a defense lawyer and his accused clients and also includes no cross examination of witnesses. The trial lasts less than 2 hours.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The blacksmith, the builder and the laborer were sentenced to death just before noon.

The victim's son cried out, "God is great, God is great." Bowed and unshaven, the murderers were cuffed and silently led away. Someone said they must be guilty: An innocent man would yell in protest until his voice disappeared.

The trial had lasted 1 hour and 58 minutes. It was the third time since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime that the death penalty had been handed down.

They were accused of assassination of Iraqi Interior Ministry intelligence official Gen. Abdulmihsin Ali Abdulsada in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad.

The judge took a small amount of time to question them about their confessions and they indicated under questioning that they were tortured and confessed under duress.

Presiding Judge Luqman Thabit Samiraii prepared papers in his office upstairs. He lives in a tight whirlwind of bodyguards. More than 25 judges have been assassinated in Baghdad since the war ended in 2003.

The case before him represented a complicated intersection of interests. Iraqis live in fear and want murderers executed; the Interior Ministry lost a prized officer; a son wants vengeance; the defendants had confessed but said they did so under torture that included rape with a metal rod.

These guys might be guilty. Who knows how competent the investigators were who fingered them. Who knows what inter tribal vendettas might be involved in either the assassination or the accusation that they did it.

Note that the Abu Ghraib pictures caused outrage because American servicemen carried out the abuse of prisoners. But when Iraqis do it to Iraqis both Arabs and Westerners scarcely lift an eyebrow. That difference in reactions is not going to change and holds a lesson for anyone who supports a wider a neocolonial campaign of conquest and rule in the Middle East.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 19 02:16 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Stephen said at June 19, 2005 5:05 PM:

Even if torture hadn't been used, given recent history who'd dismiss such an allegation? Yet another example of why torture is self-defeating. In fact, torture helps the other side because it will more likely than not result in false intel; the innocent being arrested; the innocent being tortured; more false intel, etc.

The liberal democracies have traditionally held themselves to a higher standard - and that's as it should be. Its a tragedy that the we're now cashing in all those chips.

FriendlyFire said at June 19, 2005 5:22 PM:

“Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly.” From Lawrence of Arabia experience of desert warfare and arab culture during the first world war. US commanders are learning from Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom when it comes to dealing with arabs.

On the other hand accountability has been seriously lacking with the INC. Corruption, ineptness and croniese is crippeling the US effets in Iraq. Chalabi in the oil ministry, no investigation into the 8.5 Billion in missing Funds. Failure to deal with such problems has only allowed it grow.

A step forward or a step backwards ?

Zhang Fei said at June 19, 2005 10:55 PM:

Parapundit: Note that the Abu Ghraib pictures caused outrage because American servicemen carried out the abuse of prisoners. But when Iraqis do it to Iraqis both Arabs and Westerners scarcely lift an eyebrow. That difference in reactions is not going to change and holds a lesson for anyone who supports a wider a neocolonial campaign of conquest and rule in the Middle East.

Don't see what the lesson is. A colonial campaign of conquest and rule (neo or otherwise) would take the oil and drive away or wipe out the locals. Trying to plant the seeds of democracy involves prodding them into doing better. And they are doing better. In the good old days that Parapundit seems to have forgotten, mere verbal opposition was met with torture and rape. Assassination attempts resulted in the torture and massacre of the entire family of the accused. Saddam didn't bother with trials. Note also that Iraq is functioning in the middle of a military emergency. When these United States were engaged in a Revolutionary War, traitors were given a brief trial and shot. Period. Letting a hundred guilty go free rather than execute an innocent man might work in peacetime, but in an environment where guerrillas murder the families of government officials, this really doesn't work. Of course, for guys like Parapundit, Iraqis who cooperate with Americans have no right to live - that right belongs only to the guerrillas who are caught trying to kill America's allies.

Zhang Fei said at June 19, 2005 11:05 PM:

Stephen: Even if torture hadn't been used, given recent history who'd dismiss such an allegation? Yet another example of why torture is self-defeating. In fact, torture helps the other side because it will more likely than not result in false intel; the innocent being arrested; the innocent being tortured; more false intel, etc.

If torture were self-defeating, nobody would use it. Intelligence is checkable - captured guerrillas are not being asked if they are guerrillas - they are being asked to lead the way to weapons caches and other guerrilla operatives, who will, if they are guerrillas, have maps and other equipment at hand. Movements can be checked - and interrogators are tasked independently to see if they come up with the same conclusions. Torture is just another investigative tool, abhorrent in peacetime, but perfectly acceptable in wartime if the other side does not abide by commonly accepted rules.

Randall Parker said at June 19, 2005 11:46 PM:

Zhang Fei/Robert Rosenthal claims,

A colonial campaign of conquest and rule (neo or otherwise) would take the oil and drive away or wipe out the locals.

I must have missed this in my own history reading. As I recall the Brits used the locals to work in mines and do other resource extraction work. Are you telling me I read fictional history?

In the good old days that Parapundit seems to have forgotten, mere verbal opposition was met with torture and rape.

I have a hard time seeing how anything I wrote indicates I have forgotten how Saddam ruled. You appear to just make up stuff about me because you don't like to see me point out some things.

Of course, for guys like Parapundit, Iraqis who cooperate with Americans have no right to live - that right belongs only to the guerrillas who are caught trying to kill America's allies.

Well, I don't have a problem with the Iraqi government killing people who carry out assassinations. However, I have to wonder whether people sentenced to death in 2 hour trials actually did whatever they were accused of doing.

Also, I do have a problem with someone who systematically misrepresents or misunderstands the arguments make.

Intelligence is checkable

True enough, especially if the people who are checking the intel are competent to do so. Though that is not always the case.

- captured guerrillas are not being asked if they are guerrillas

Captured guerrillas? My guess is they are tortured and that at least in some cases the torturers demand first that they confess to being members of the insurgency.

- they are being asked to lead the way to weapons caches and other guerrilla operatives, who will, if they are guerrillas, have maps and other equipment at hand.

Well, certainly some intel is verifiable. But some of these guys do not know anything. They get kept in the dark about other cells and may not have much information to give up. This isn't to say that not torture produces useful information. Surely some of it does occasionally. But not everyone has info to give up that is worth anything. Also, some interrogators are too dumb or unskilled to know what to ask.

As for the argument that torture is perfectly acceptable in wartime: Um, you really ought to read up on torture. It is not nearly so efficacious as perhaps you think it is. Also, it is not always the first thing a good interrogator should resort to in most cases even if the interrogator has permission to use torture. See my post Mark Bowden on Coercive Interrogation and Torture and pay close attention to what the Israeli interrogator told Bowden.

Bob Badour said at June 20, 2005 5:59 PM:

Randall,

I could not find anything about an Israeli interrogator in your article.

Randall Parker said at June 20, 2005 6:49 PM:

Bob,

You have to click thru and read the full article from Atlantic Monthly I just tried to do that and see they have pulled the article. However, never fear, Google comes to the rescue. A British newspaper ran it as well. You can read a long two part article here and here. Also, the full article is here.

But I'm not sure if the quote I'm thinking of comes from the article. It might be from his interview which you also now must pay to read. You can go to my post and use the interview excerpt to try to google for the whole thing.

But read the full article. Interrogation is a very important topic. I came away with the impression that most American interrogators are probably not very good at it because the level of intelligence and skill required is going to be rare and the culture of the US military and US intelligence agencies probably works against a really meritorious search for and development of great interrogators.

Bob Badour said at June 21, 2005 6:33 AM:

I read the article, and nothing stands out in my mind. Was there a point you wanted the Israeli interrogator to make?

Randall Parker said at June 21, 2005 8:37 AM:

Bob,

Bowden might have made the point I remember in the interview. Here it the important point as I remember it: The use of torture should be considered as a last ditch measure. The reason why is that a lot of people who fear torture find that they can actually handle the pain once they finally experience the torture. Yet their fear of the torture can be very great and a more powerful motivator than the actual pain. So sloppy doling out of torture is unprofessional and counter-productive.

Also, the torture can turn a subject against the interrogator and make future cooperation impossible to achieve.

Then there are ethical issues. But leave aside all the political and ethical issues and just look at it purely from the narrow utilitarian standpoint of maximizing the amount of information you get from a single particular subject (and there is a wider utilitarian standpoint that I'm ignoring too). Torture should be seen as a last resort.

Bob Badour said at June 21, 2005 9:39 AM:

Okay, yes, I definitely got that message from the article.

I also got the message that kindness and cunning manipulation work extremely well against the lower echelons of the enemy and that even mild coercion works surprisingly well against the older and more powerful combatants -- many of whom consider themselves sufficiently powerful and connected to avoid any kind of ill treatment.

Thus the incidents at Abu Ghraib and any mistreatment of the prisoners at Camp X-Ray were probably counter-productive.


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