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March 21, 2005



I smell spin. Stinks like old gym socks.

Winston Smith

Well, you're right about the comparison as far as it goes. But doesn't it raise the question why this war requires the detention of scores of thousands of prisoners?

I think over a hundred deaths in custody is HUGE no matter what the basis. And that includes North Vietnam. I guess the other important basis for comparing them would be, over what period of time?



I think one can reasonably argue that the number of deaths (most by violent means, apparently) is a big deal. However, I don't think comparing time periods would make the comparison to the North Vietnamese any less tenuous. The best way to introduce time into the equation would be considering "prisoner hours" as we consider "man hours"; that is, the sum of the hours spent by each individual in captivity. The resulting disparity would still be quite large, even when one assumes a large contrast in the average length of time a prisoner is in captivity for the respective conflicts.


GRRRRR I hate our government.


I agree Hubris not a fair comparison at all. I do wonder why we have taken so many people prisoner but that is an entirely different subject.


Suspected terrorists?


Suspected terrorists?

Or because American forces didn't indiscriminately kill everyone in sight?


“Military officials said 70% to 90% of the Iraqis swept up for interrogation were arrested by mistake, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.”
from: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-06-09-our-view_x.htm
Unfortunately, one thing Arabs hate more than Americans’ personal freedom and wealth is being swept up as a terrorist and treated ‘consistent with but not constrained by’ the Geneva Conventions, American style. I wonder how many of the innocent Iraqis swept up in our drag net and treated to American Ethics 101 at Abu Ghraib went on to be not so innocent after being released.


Lest this thread become about something else entirely, I'll make my position clear: Torture bad.


Haha Hubris. I don't think sweetchuck was trying to paint you as someone who likes torture. I think sweetchuck was trying to show that perhaps the reason there were so many prisoners was because we thought the entire country was terrorists and that perhaps had some negative affects on the way things happened there. Again this has nothing to do with the subject but it is fun to think about.


I can understand why a wide net was cast considering the circumstances; on the other hand, I would agree that this made it even more important than usual to ensure that captives were treated appropriately.

Again, my main problem here is the comparison to the North Vietnamese captors during the Vietnam war. From what I know, that is not anywhere close to a valid comparison. It's sort of the opposite extreme of the silly "just like fraternity hazing" argument.


"Unfortunately, one thing Arabs hate more than Americans’ personal freedom and wealth is being swept up as a terrorist and treated ‘consistent with but not constrained by’ the Geneva Conventions, "

Somehow I don't think this is limited only to Arabs. I know I would probably not be happy about being arrested period, much less some of the stuff these people were put through. In fact I wouldn't put a dog I didn't like through most of it.

Yup, still hating our government, and wondering how much longer I'll be allowed to say that out loud without getting arrested. (Melodramatic, I know)


I'm curious as to the nature of the hypothetical process by which your freedom of speech would be curtailed.


Hubris: “I can understand why a wide net was cast considering the circumstances; on the other hand, I would agree that this made it even more important than usual to ensure that captives were treated appropriately.”
I agree entirely, and I also agree that the comparison between POW’s is unfair spin.
My comment on Arabs was in jest of course, and meant to parallel the conversation on the Robot thread about why they hate us. One great way to defuse potential terrorists is to treat captives very well, and show them that it is not an anti Arab thing, or a Empire thing. I may just be a freakin’ liberal, but I think it would be great when we released an innocent detainee and their friends asked “Did they beat you? Did they wipe menstrual blood on you? Did they electrocute your testicles?” The detainee would say back “No, not at all, I was treated with respect, the food was great and the bed was soft, I havn’t felt so refreshed since Ramadan. I think you should really give these Americans a second chance, I have meet them face to face and they are really very nice people”.
But alas, this thread is not about torture, it is about the silly analogy between Vietnam POW’s and our current ones.


Hubris: “I'm curious as to the nature of the hypothetical process by which your freedom of speech would be curtailed.”

Hypothetically, of course, perhaps it would come in the form of saying something derogatory about Bush at the YMCA and having a subsequent visit from the FBI (really happened). Or, perhaps making anti-war art and getting a subsequent visit from the FBI (really happened). Or, not being allowed to a rally on public property because your t-shirt supports the wrong candidate (really happened). Or being a peace activist and getting a visit from the FBI because you are a peace activist. Remember, America is no longer a ‘free speech zone’, we now have designated free speech zones where people holding signs (but not Bush signs, they are allowed at the rally) must go. These ‘free speech zones’ look a lot like cages.
“When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us."
The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a "designated free-speech zone" on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech.
The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, but folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign.”
From: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/01/04/INGPQ40MB81.DTL&type=printable
Sure we aren’t at the point where Shinobi would get arrested for saying she hates the government (are we?), but which direction are we going?


The "visits from the FBI" don't bother me and don't sound extraordinary. When the FBI is alerted as to a potential threat (for example, I would guess that the dude at the YMCA got in an argument with someone who then reported him, but I would welcome a correction if I misunderstand it) and has to investigate it. Did any arrests and convictions result from those investigations?

I agree that the "free speech zone" stuff is problematic, but there has always been some element of control involved when a president is out speaking (a president doesn't have to tolerate someone yelling "President ______, you suck cock!" throughout a speech; it has always been a matter of degree versus having absolute freedom of speech at all locations at all times).

Non-violent protestors have been arrested for years, so I don't think there's a real trend in any new direction.


IF the FBI shows up at my house because of something I said, in any context I would consider my free speech curtailed. (FBI==scary, and I'd probably be arrested for possesion) But I certainly think the FBI has bigger fish to fry than me. And I don't think that it is likely to happen, I was, as I said, being melodramatic.

But I personally do feel somewhat constrained by the amount of information that the government is free to gather on me without my knowledge. And seeing the rampant censorship in Iran and China does amp up one's paranoia just a tiny bit. (They're coming to take me away he he ho ho ha ha...)


I don't know, I'm just not surprised by the FBI following up when someone complains about a potential threat - how can they decide ahead of time whether the complaint was bogus? I hope the do follow up on potential threats to rule them out.

Perhaps my attitude was shaped in childhood by that episode of One Day At A Time where the FBI/Secret Service thought that one of the characters was presenting a threat to President Ford's upcoming visit to the city, when they were actually talking about getting rid of a Ford automobile (as I recall).


sweetchuck: "Military officials said 70% to 90% of the Iraqis swept up for interrogation were arrested by mistake, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported."

Oh, yes, the anecdotal evidence from a group of the IRC that had always been on record against the action. IN any event, I'm surprised Shinobi hasn't educated you that even a factual claim that most people "swept up for interrogation" are falsely accused does not necessarilly correlate to a same rate of false incarceration. I've read many accounts of people taken into custody, questioned and then released.

Winston Smith

Submandave, agree or disagree, this ain’t anecdotal. It’s statistics. The Red Cross apparently sources them to military officials, and takes no political positions, “on record” or otherwise. Even if they did, wouldn’t that supply a convenient reason to ignore the substance of their report?

I’d also think it’d go without that saying a falsely accused person who’s “swept up for interrogation” IS falsely incarcerated—until they’re released.


A more telling comparison would not be the number of prisoner deaths, but rather how they died.

The number of prisoners taken is also a false comparison because US soldiers were in a foreign land presumably on missions while the prisoners we took were in their homeland, and may have been just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

This did not just affect those incarcerated because their family members were not allowed access much like during Saddam days. The residual effects went well beyong the prison walls.


I agree with Hubris that the comparison makes no sense except for the most base kind of manipulation (as opposed to persuasion).

I find the stuff about the FBI and detention interesting. Makes me think none of the speakers have had a visit from the FBI or spent any time in jail. Maybe that would change your perspective.


Chum, I agree that there's an element of apples to oranges across the board. That's why I generally find such comparisons to be much less than helpful.

Peace, I don't mean to understate the personal impact of getting a visit from the FBI. I just think the personal harm/stress is outweighed by the need for the FBI to investigate when alerted to potential threats. An investigation is not robbing someone of liberty. For example, I sure hope they follow up when informed of potential white supremacist threats.


I assumed what Winston said, that these individuals were rounded up, incarcerated and later released. The actual quote from the ICRC document said

"Certain CF Military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."


Which means that they are or were prisoners at one time I believe.

However, this also tells me that it is based on some "estimates" that were given by people. And people, are unfortunately really terrible estimators. So this is basically a worthless statistic unless there is other data to back it up... which clearly we don't have.

I do think it would be interesting to see statistics on lenght of incarcerations and reasons for incarceration from the Iraq war. That might give us some clues. But I REALLY doubt they keep track of that sort of thing (or are about to hand over their data even to someone as lovely as yours truly).


Getting back to the comparison, it would have to factor man hours incarceration, actuarial age adjusted deaths from natural causes versus age distribution on entry, severity of wartime-related illness on entry, and some estimate of treatment capacity. This is complicated but if my calculations are correct the result is that the Cong were barbarians and we're heroes. As for the FBI, you can't expect them to investigate your neighbor without a little reciprocity.

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