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A daring raid

As a young kid I remember all those old war films portraying the various RAF air raids on Nazi-held targets like the Ruhr dams or the Norwegian heavy-water plants. The daring achievements of 617 squadron (The Dambusters, as they became known) are part of the folklore of military aviation history. I wonder how many people, however, have heard of a raid that probably helped save the world, at least temporarily, from a serious nuclear threat? I am talking about the bombing of Saddam’s nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981 by the Israeli Air Force.

In a recently published book, Roger W. Claire recounts the tale of how an elite group of pilots trained for the raid that hit the nuclear plant, recording along the way Saddam’s massive programme to build a facility able to produce the materials for nukes. Even though the F-16 planes used in the raid are a light-year away in sophistication from the Lancaster or Mosquito bombers employed in WW2 raids, the pilots still endured terrific strains on mind and body in carrying out the missions deep inside hostile territory, knowing they faced a high chance of not returning.

Israel’s bombing of the nuclear facility drew worldwide condemnation at the time from governments including that of Ronald Reagan, which seems monumentally ironic now. Indeed vice president Dick Cheney was later to thank the Israeli government during the 1991 Gulf War for the raid.

What does this story say about pre-emption as a doctrine? Strict supporters of international law might argue that what the IAF did was illegal, that a sovereign nation like Iraq was entitled to develop weapons and unless there was demonstrable proof of malign intent, no such action would be justified. It remains a point of debate among libertarians, including scribes for this blog.

But it is clear to me, in my view, from reading this and other accounts, that Saddam, both from his actions and his own rhetoric, intended to use nukes to intimidate his neighbours into surrendering territory and the threat posed to Israel from a man fancying himself as a pan-Arab leader was no myth. It was real.

The actions of the Israeli Air Force have not gotten the praise they deserve, in my view. In considering what might have been, it is worth quoting at length from the following influential book by Kenneth M. Pollack:

Although the alternatives are considerably more costly, deterrence is the riskiest of all the policy options available to the United States. We would be betting that we could deter a man who has proven to be hard (at times impossible) to deter and who seems to believe that if he possessed nuclear weapons, it is the United States that would be deterred… The use of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world would be terrible. Their use on the Persian Gulf oil fields; against Tel Aviv, Ankara, Riyadh, or another regional city; or against U.S. military forces in the region is unimaginable… Beyond this, Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons has the potential to push the world into a second Great Depression while killing millions of people.
The Threatening Storm, 2002

The above quotation helped turn yours truly, a formerly fairly isolationist type of libertarian, into a reluctant supporter of the pre-emption doctrine embraced by George W. Bush. Although the failure to find WMDs in Iraq has shown that Saddam’s threat was not imminent – though possibly inevitable – there can be no doubt that the monster harboured a long desire to get and develop a substantial nuclear weapons programme which would have had incalculable consequences.

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66 comments to A daring raid

  • lucklucky

    Yes the World is in debt of those Israelis fighter pilots and ironically probably more the Arabs than anyone else.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Nitpicky note : The ‘Bush doctrine’ is about prevention, not preemption. The latter is about attacking someone who is about to hit you. That’s considered legal by international law. Prevention is the bit that’s so controversial, especially among the clever people who would rather wait until some fascist wacko is actually a threat to the U.S. before the latter act. That worked so well with Germany in the 1930s.

  • Stan

    “a raid that probably helped save the world”

    Rubbish! The bombed reactor wasn’t of a type that could produce fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

    This site is very, very poor.

  • Verity

    Yes, Israeli did the right thing both in taking out the reactor and in not going to the UN to get permission. And ironically, as luckylucky says, the people who benefitted most from this daring raid were the surrounding Muslim countries. When the hell are these people going to wake up?

    And while we’re at it, all this whining about “mishandling” their koran is crap. No one’s obliged to tiptoe reverently round someone else’s holy book. It’s courtesy to treat it with vague respect, but insisting the others give obeisance to their holy book is towering insolence. I do not understand why the US military is taking all this whining so seriously.

  • Axel Kassel

    Re RAF raids on “Ruhr dams.”

    I think you mean the Roer dams, on the Roer River near the Huertgen Forest. The Ruhr is the industrial area on the lower Rhine (also heavily bombed, of course).

  • Marianne Dupuy

    Stan does not know what he is talking about. Any nuclear reactor can produce material ideal for a radiological bomb. I guess Stan is just another Ba’athist useful idiot.

  • Stan

    Marrianne does not know what she is talking about. I guess Marrianne is just another US useful idiot.

    “French nuclear reactor engineer, the late Yves Girard, was aware of the carelessness of the Canadians in supplying a heavy water reactor to India, and the French in selling the DIMONA reactor to Israel without insisting on any international safeguards to prevent military use. In 1975 Girard refused to help to supply a heavy water moderated reactor to Iraq. Instead the reactor, OSIRAK, was moderated by light water, and therefore deliberately unsuited to making plutonium for bombs.”

    http://gnn.tv/articles/614/The_Lessons_of_Osirak

  • lucklucky

    http://gawain.membrane.com/hew/Iraq/IraqAtoZ.html

    From the Nuclear Weapons Archive site, the History of Iraq nuclear research and it’s tentatives to produce Nuclear weapons.

  • lucklucky

    I am not an expert , far from it but isnt heavy water only one of options for nuclear devices and isnt considered that German research in heavy water was a sort of dead end that delayed their program considerably in 2WWar?

    from the link above:

    The upper limit of plutonium production for Osirak would be 25kg but pratically its considered that 16kg could be obtained yearly enough for 3-4 bombs with reactor operatins a 2/3 of the time.

  • John K

    It’s courtesy to treat it with vague respect, but insisting the others give obeisance to their holy book is towering insolence. I do not understand why the US military is taking all this whining so seriously.

    Mishandling the Koran in this context is sloppy and unwise procedure.

    Firstly, if you are trying to interrogate Islamist fanatics, abusing their holy book will surely only serve to harden their hatred and resolve;

    Secondly, in any conflict where the USA would like to win the hearts and minds of people in the Muslim world, this is a crass own goal which anyone with any sense could have seen coming.

    I’m no expert in interrogation techniques, sadly it seems that some of the US personnel at Gitmo seem to be making it up as they go along.

  • lucklucky

    From the same site extensive Nuclear Weapons FAQ : http://gawain.membrane.com/hew/Nwfaq/Nfaq0.html

  • Verity

    John K – OK, I’ve recovered now and have got up off the floor from laughter. Winning the hearts and minds – to employ a dated Viet Nam era phrase? You think this is the problem? A misunderstanding, and we should let them know we mean suicide bombers and people who fly planes into skyscrapers no harm?

    Hint: It’s not all about the West Bank. It’s about expansionism.

    Those incarcerated in Gitmo are having a life they could only have dreamed of. Special diets. Recreation. Time off five times a day for praying. If it’s so rough that Americans aren’t winning the prisoners’ hearts and minds (if they really want to, which I doubt), how is it that the ones that have already been released are applying for Green Cards?

    I am not suggesting that anyone kick their Koran across the floor. I said above, this book that’s holy to them should be treated with the respect that most of us would apply to the Bible and the Torah, knowing the emotional and spiritual investment that millions have in those volumes. But accepting directions from terrorists on how it should be handled, and obeying their rules? No. They’re in prison. They intend great harm to the West. If they don’t want Americans touching their Koran, stay out of prison. Don’t blow up buildings full of innocent people in New York, Bali, Spain, Turkey.

  • Verity

    Oh, and PS. Don’t shred the Bible in Saudi Arabia. Kind of gives the game away.

  • Since one of the most evil and expansionist dictators the world has ever seen, had nuclear weapons galore, yet did not use them, it seems rather improbable that a tinpot Middle Eastern dictator like Saddam would ever have done.

  • Verity

    Julius Blumfeld, what a curious conclusion!

    Just because one evil dictator doesn’t use an option, that means another evil dictator won’t use it either?

    BTW, to which evil dictator do you refer? Hitler? Hitler “had nuclear weapons galore”?

  • Marianne Dupuy

    If Stan could read properly he would have seen I wrote RADIOLOGICAL bomb. My guess is he does not know what that means. And in any case, you CAN make a nuke from that sort of material if you are determined enough, but a radiological weapon is quite bad enough and requires very little technical expertise compared to an actual nuclear weapon.

  • Didn’t that Koran-shredding story turn out to be false anyway?

  • avi

    The IAF, unlike the IDF, has learned its lesson from previous wars.
    It’s remarkable achievements (both Osierak 1981 and Lebanon on June 1982) are due to decade and a half of long preparations. The IAF has failed bomboing H-2, H-3 airports in 1967 and has learned the lesson. It also has failed to assist ground units in 1973, and improved enourmusely in 1982.
    It would be nice to have the new IDF chief of stuff – a former IAF commander – propagating the IAF spirit into the IDF.

  • John Rippengal

    There was no bombing raid on the Israeli atomic facility which has provided a large number of real atomic weapons.

    Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

    This massive stockpile has the potential for an enormous catastrophe.

  • Verity

    John Rippengal – Any stockpile has enormous potential for catastrophe and I don’t think this has escaped the attention of the Israeli government. They are absolutely right to have their stockpile. And they did the world a favour – including the Arab world – when they bombed Hussein’s facility.

    If nothing else, it demonstrated to him that they had the will to do it and could be counted on to do it again if he got overly-ambitious again.

  • There is evidence that Stalin was going to use nuclear weapons when he,er, died suddenly. Because one dictator did no use yhe bomb is not a logical argument that another will not.The use of thermonuclear weapons is only a matter of when not if.

  • Stan

    “If Stan could read properly he would have seen I wrote RADIOLOGICAL bomb.” My, how cutting! Oh, I read and understood it. I wondered why you were completely changing the subject.

    “a raid that probably helped save the world” was the quote. And you talk of dirty bombs…….messy but hardly a danger to the world, but hey, don’t let that get in the way of your hyperbole.

    Note I said that type of reactor was unsuitable to produce fissile material for a nuclear bomb. One hardly needs a reactor to produce a dirty bomb.

  • An
    Atomic bomb using a light water reactor is quite feasible.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    The reactor might not be able to produce fissile material, but it was nevertheless an important component of the technological pyramid on the pathway to obtaining true nuclear weapons.

    Furthermore, I believe that if the Iraqi scientists wanted to, with enough experience and training they could adapt the reactor to produce larger amounts of plutonium regardless of the original specifications, or construct a second reactor that could. Humans are clever, inventive beings.

    Let’s not quibble about Saddam’s motives. He definitely wanted nuclear weapons. Anybody who thinks the Osirak reactor wasn’t part of his masterplan is a useless idiot. What, it was purely for humanitarian and energy purposes? When Iraq had more than enough oil fields to provide energy for itself?

    Sheesh.

    TWG

  • John Steele

    A light water reactor will in fact produce plutonium based on the mix of source “fuel.” The two light water reactors that were proposed for North Korea are estimated to be capable of some 500 kG of eaapons grade Pu per year.

    It isn’t that you can’t produce weapons grade material from a light water reactor, its that separating the weapons material is much more difficult when produced in a LWR than in reactors specifically designed for weapons production.

    To accept what Stan says one would have to accept that the Israelis, wict considerable nuclear knowledge and experience of their own, would not be aware of what he asserts. They certainly knew what kind of reactor was being built at Osirak and that such a reactor can produce weapons grade material. Why would they risk the loss of the flight and the international ‘outrage’ for the sake of attacking a reactor incapable of creating a weapon?

  • Marianne Dupuy

    It isn’t that you can’t produce weapons grade material from a light water reactor, its that separating the weapons material is much more difficult when produced in a LWR than in reactors specifically designed for weapons production.

    Exactly. Which is why I wrote “And in any case, you CAN make a nuke from that sort of material if you are determined enough”. The basic physics is not that hard to understand.

  • Al Maviva

    “Strict supporters of international law” – is that intentionally ironic?

    Signed treaties may be said to be a source of international law. The other source, and far more predominant, is the “law of nations,” essentially common law that has grown up between nations, mostly in the course of trade. Traditional understandings and historical patterns of observing both sources of law (both non-sources, really) is considered the most relevant interpretive aid. So, what international law really means, is “the way we normally do things around here.”

    It’s about as much “law” as custom, practice, and trade standards are law; it’s law only insofar as we assent to follow it.

    Ironic, that, considering that the U.S. Supreme Court has now stooped to adopting law professor opinions on what international law really is. Oh well, any port in a storm (a doctrine recognized in international maritime law, I believe).

  • henry

    “push out a bayonet. if it strikes fat, push deeper. if it strikes iron, pull back for another day.”
    –vladimir i. lenin

    has there been a dictator in the last 50 years that has not followed these very words? anyone? meglomaniacs seek more power to bribe the world around them– and still the international community is surprised by the same pattern every time…
    by his own admission, iron (strength, resolve, conviction, sacrifice) is the only deterrent.

    please…someone….defend appeasement….

  • henry

    “push out a bayonet. if it strikes fat, push deeper. if it strikes iron, pull back for another day.”
    –vladimir i. lenin

    has there been a dictator in the last 50 years that has not followed these very words? anyone? meglomaniacs seek more power to bribe the world around them– and still the international community is surprised by the same pattern every time…
    by his own admission, iron (strength, resolve, conviction, sacrifice) is the only deterrent.

    please…someone….defend appeasement….

  • I'm suffering for my art

    When Iraq had more than enough oil fields to provide energy for itself?

    TWG: Thank you for making that obvious, but up until now untouched on, point – Stan can use all the hack science he wants to defend his position, however you hit the nail right on the head with your post.

  • It’s as likely that the US bombed Iraq for pre-emptive/prevention reasons as it is they bombed it to ‘steal all the oil’. In my view, not very likely.

    The US (and, hence, the rest of the world) has a strong interest in seeing some sort of democracy in as many countries in the world as possible. The bigger or more volatile or more powerful or more aggressive or more financially important the country the better but generally all-round democracy – or democracy-like – countries are good, non-democracies (generally) are bad.

    The Iraq war was about spreading democracy, not prevention or pre-emption. There were many times in the past that prevention or pre-emption would have been useful but there was little need seen for it. But there was always the need to instill democracy and 9/11 provided a great excuse to give Iraq some of it.

    Whether one agrees that the evolved system of government called democracy which took centuries to develop (and is still far from perfect) can simply be airlifted into another place that also has an evolved system of government (or, rather, authority – in the sense of family and tribal custom as opposed to rule by the many) is another question.

    Whether one agrees that it should be airlifted in regardless of all else is yet another…

  • Gordon

    The preferred isotope for an A bomb is Pu 239. Light water reactors produce plutonium which contains significant quantities of other plutonium isotope that have higher critical masses and these isotopes cannot be removed chemically. But this simply means that more LWR reactor plutonium is needed to make a bomb than if heavy water was the moderator. Alternatively the fuel rods can be removed earlier in the cycle before the Pu 239 has been converted to the heavier isotopes. This is very inefficient in terms of the cost of the electricity produced by the reactor, but does anyone believe that Iraq, afloat on oil, needed a reactor for this purpose?

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Gordon – precisely. Stan’s position is ill-considered and, I imagine, predicated on his ideology rather than his capacity for rational thought. Which would explain why he considers this site “very, very poor”.

  • lucklucky

    In links i posted above it’s the history of Iraq nuclear programe. They say that 16 kg of plutonium is enough for 3-4 bombs year with O-ChiraK 😉 reactor working 2/3 of the time.

  • I don’t know if this is actually true, but at any rate I read that during at least one of their wars Israel paint-bombed the Aswan Dam. Look at a map, ideally one showing the population density of Egypt relative to where the Aswan Dam is and how much water is in it. In other words, “back off now!”

  • John K

    I am not suggesting that anyone kick their Koran across the floor. I said above, this book that’s holy to them should be treated with the respect that most of us would apply to the Bible and the Torah, knowing the emotional and spiritual investment that millions have in those volumes. But accepting directions from terrorists on how it should be handled, and obeying their rules? No. They’re in prison

    Propaganda is important in any war. These terrorists are a subset of the Islamic community. Therefore it seems pretty clear to me that there is no mileage in offending Islamic opinion by mistreating or appearing to mistreat the Koran. It just makes no sense on a practical level. Just because the concept of “hearts and minds” is associated with the Vietnam War does not make it invalid.

    As to the treatment of the prisoners, since they are Muslim fanatics again I cannot see how you will advance things by abusing the Koran in front of them. Sadly, the experience of Abu Ghraib seems to show that the Americans are not really thinking this out very well. I expected a better handled operation from them, after all, armies have had a long time to think about the best ways of getting information out of prisoners, and from what I gather torture or mistreatment rarely gets good intelligence.

  • Sheriff

    Osirak was a bomb plant.

    Even Saddam Hussein said as much:

    The agreement with France is the first concrete step toward the production of the Arab atomic weapon.

    Saddam Hussein in the Lebanese paper Al Usbu al-Arabi

    Some links:

    (Link)

    (Link)

  • Is it OK to desecrate “Mein Kampf”?

  • Verity

    Alisa – No. You should treat it with respect. It is the Bible of the Nazis and thus holy to them.

  • Johnathan

    Sheriff, thanks for the links. To Stan above, what on earth did you think Saddam built a nuke plant for in a country with rich oil reserves? To irradiate food? What an ass.

  • Verity

    John K – No one is suggesting “abusing” their holy book. It should be treated with the courtesy we accord other people’s important books IN THE WEST. The terrorists, who mean our civilisation and our people great harm, are in prison. They are not in a position to dictate terms. The US military should treat their holy book the way they normally treat the Bible and the Torah. No less and definintely no more.

    No need for the military at Gitmo to adopt desert tribal practises. What if some iman suddenly remembered that among his tribe, before you could touch the Koran, you had to turn around three times, stamp your left foot once and your right foot twice and say, “Mother, may I?”

    These people are lucky they’ve got their holy book. They’re lucky that they’re getting their diet of choice. They’re lucky that they’re getting plenty of exercise and games opportunities. Now is the time for them to STFU.

    It is absurd to suggest that the might of the West accommodate prisoners who come from a tradition which specialises in whining and begging for an inch and taking a mile.

  • _The terrorists, who mean our civilisation and our people great harm, are in prison_

    That would be the terrorists as defined, tried and convicted by the State and its agents. And by you, obviously. Strange to have such an authoritarian hanging round a Libertarian blog.

    _It is absurd to suggest that the might of the West accommodate prisoners who come from a tradition which specialises in whining and begging for an inch and taking a mile._

    Which is about as idiotic as saying that white folk imprisoned in Africa ought not to be ‘accommodated’ since they come from a tradition of pillage and colonization.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I did not intend this post to focus on the Gitmo allegations etc, but since some regular commenters like Verity and others have raised it, here’s my brief take:

    There clearly have been violations of the Geneva convention in the treatment of some prisoners in coalition captivity. Those responsible must be punished, and seen to be punished.

    We have to hold ourselves to higher, in fact much higher standards, than the barbarians we are fighting. One of the points about the WoT is that we are trying to advance civilisation against nihilism.

    The abuses, while serious and not to be dismissed, as some might do, are minor compared to the broader conduct of coalition forces who have, on the whole, conducted themselves with all the bravery and decency one would expect. That fact must not be forgotten.

    Flushing the Koran down the bog is not quite the same as hacking off the head of an aid worker. Those who get all exercised about the Korean flushing cases need to get a grip. It is only a book. If someone flushed down my favourite copy of PG Wodehouse, I’d be pissed off, but not murderous.

  • Verity

    Jonathan – I’m sorry I brought up Gitmo. I shouldn’t have (and I’m glad it didn’t derail the topic, which is interesting and which I commented upon, although it got rather technical).

    The Newsweek story of the Koran being flushed down the loo were not true. It was a misreport. But it seems to have taken hold in the minds of people who should know better. Newsweek has admitted it didn’t check its facts.

    Also, these prisoners at Gitmo are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and their treatment, despite not being covered, illustrates the generosity and sunniness of the American character. These people did not belong to a recognised army; they did not wear a uniform; they had no serial numbers and no rank and no official commanding officer who was responsible for them.

    That is why they are being held in Gitmo and not in the United States.

    Yes, there have been some minor pranks which, in a disciplined force, there should not have been. But as you rightly note, anyone who thinks playing adolescent tricks on these prisoners equates with hacking people’s heads off (and videoing the event for their later viewing pleasure) and flying passenger planes into buildings and bombing nightclubs full of people needs to get a grip.

    The moral equivalency that is being preached about Gitmo is disturbing.

    On Israel taking out Saddam’s reactor, I said above that I think Israel is a hero. Once they have said they will do something, they do not ponce about. You can count on them absolutely. I also admire them for doing things that they do not announce advance, but simply present the world with a fait accompli. Saves a lot of talk. Also, I had no idea they’d paint bombed the Aswan Dam. “We were here.” That is beyond cool.

  • Hus

    Well, it should be noted that the bombing did not stop Iraq’s nuclear weapons efforts. Indeed, is there any evidence that it even set back the effort?

  • Hus

    Verity,

    Given your standard there is a great deal that the U.S. could get away with before it measures up to the metric that you place before us. Somehow that just doesn’t fly with me.

    As to whether they are covered by the Geveva Conventions (there is more than one), that is a continuing legal dispute which has yet to be settled. Getting the cart before the horse I see. Of course I see you swallow hook, line and sinker the authoritarian approach of the current POTUS who claims powers beyond its constitutional reach.

    The reason they are being held in GITMO is not because of the Geneva Conventions issue (there is no territoriality aspect to the Conventions after all – maybe you ought to tutor yourself on these issues before you discuss them); the reason they are being held there is to Bush administration’s unconstitutional efforts to escape the reach of the Federal Courts. Specifically the Bush administration argued that in light of Ex parte Quirin that their placement in GITMO put them outside the reach of the courts and thus the right of habeas corpus (see the Cert. Brief for Gherbi v. Bush). The SCOTUS disabused them of this idea last summer. So no, the Geneva Conventions issue has nothing to do with territoriality or their presence at GITMO; if it did as you claim, then the mass of Iraqi POWs (since they are similarly situated outside American territory) would not be eligible for Geneva Conventions protection, which is clearly contrary to reality.

    No, they are not at GITMO for purposes of avoiding the Geneva Conventions they are there so as to avoid the eye of the U.S. Courts.

  • Hus

    Verity,

    Actually, we don’t know if the report in Newsweek is true or not. We do know that Newsweek’s source backed away from the story though which caused Newsweek to pull it.

    Also, these prisoners at Gitmo are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and their treatment, despite not being covered, illustrates the generosity and sunniness of the American character.

    *chuckle*

  • Hus

    Johnathan,

    According to Verity, as long as we don’t chop off heads and broadcast such or fly planes into civilian buildings we are O.K. 🙂

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Verity, I don’t really mind you bringing up the Gitmo issue. It does obviously carry a lot of relevance now. As you agreed, there is a need for people to get things in perspective.

    Hus, the Roger Claire book I linked to in my post reckons that the bombing raid delayed Saddam’s efforts by a few years. I have not read enough reports about the aftermath of Osirak to know what the impact in delaying subsequent nuke developments might have been. We are dealing in conjecture. Given that the reactor was about to become “hot” and start producing material, one could argue that even briefly interrupting Iraq’s weapons facilities was worth the effort.

    To repeat an earlier point, the Israeli Air Force deserves to be more widely honoured than it has been. The surgical strike on Osirak involved acts of heroism and cool brilliance. The IAF is very, very good.

  • Hus

    Verity,

    As to Israel, are these the same qualities which led to the deaths of thirty-four American servicemen on the USS Liberty in 1967?

  • Hus

    Johnathan Pearce,

    The perspective of course is what is right and what is wrong, and not what someone else may be doing. Very Kantian of me I realize, but nevertheless true.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Hus, good point. We cannot use the argument that because X commit evil crimes that Y’s actions are somehow acceptable. To be fair to Verity, I don’t think that is what she is saying although I cannot speak for her.

    As I made clear above, the abuses that have been proven should be severely dealt with. There can be no debate about that.

  • Verity

    Hus – I am not American and do not keep close tabs on the travails of what I assume was an American Navy ship (as opposed to a merchant ship – although either way, no one wants to hear of servicemen dying!) I know nothing of the incident of which you speak, but I do know that Israel – obviously with US backing – has been a critical presence in the ME. I know that when they say they will do something, they do it. I know that they are daring. The raid we refer to in this comment section was brave.

    I haven’t swallowed the words of the POTUS “hook, line and sinker” because I don’t follow his words. As I said, I’m not American. I have read commentators who have argued that these prisoners are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. If they are that oppressed, why are the ones who have been released queued up for Green Cards?

  • Verity

    Jonathan, the abuses we refer to are indeed being dealt with with military discipline. You can’t have enlisted people making up the rules as they go along. No argument from me.

    The moral equivalency crowd has tried to pump up these redneck, adolescent actions to the critical mass of the outrage of terrorist activities. They were stupid and undisciplined. No one was hurt. No one died.

  • Johnathan

    Verity, I am not sure that no-one died as a result of the abuses in Abu Graib. I read at Andrew Sullivan’s blog that there were deaths, although Sulli seems to have gotten a bit over the edge these last few months, so he may be wrong.

  • Verity

    Andrew Sullivan is stark raving bonkers and is no longer readable. I used to admire his lucid thinking and incisive writing. Now he’s a damp dishrag.

  • John K

    Yes, there have been some minor pranks which, in a disciplined force, there should not have been. But as you rightly note, anyone who thinks playing adolescent tricks on these prisoners equates with hacking people’s heads off (and videoing the event for their later viewing pleasure) and flying passenger planes into buildings and bombing nightclubs full of people needs to get a grip.

    This is the point I am making. These “pranks” with the Koran are very damaging to our position when they are reported in the Islamic world. Furthermore, they serve no purpose when it comes to getting useful information out of people who are, we must assume, Muslim fanatics. The US army must know how to interrogate people, it’s a psychological process, and one which can be taught and learned. But it does not work if you have ignorant guards “accidentally” pissing on the Koran. In strictly utilitarian terms that sort of thing is wrong, it defeats the very object of getting information from these men, and gives a propaganda advantage to America’s enemies. It is just not a sensible course of action.

    USS Liberty was an American intelligence gathering ship which was attacked in the Med by the IAF in 1967, with a heavy loss of life. The Israelis claimed they thought she was an Egyptian ship, but she was a clearly marked US Navy ship in international waters. There has been much speculation over the years that the Israelis did not want the US to know about their preparations for the Six Day War, so wanted USS Liberty out of the way. It’s a very murky story, and the truth may never be known. It doesn’t get much mention in the USA these days, because it’s an old story which shows Israel in a very negative light, which is not helpful to the powers that be.

  • Verity

    John K – That’s very interesting about the Liberty. I’d never read about it.

  • lucklucky

    uh?? Liberty was targeted while the war was on.

    “Cleary marked” in war time isnt enough sometimes, there are thousands of misidentifications on wars, we just have to remember the Bismark chase.

  • lucklucky

    Another daring raid but this time with not much results in 1940: 4 Italian tri-motore SM-81 wood bombers from Mediterraneum Rhodes Island to Barhain with 15h30 min of continuous flight… and all returned!

    http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197604/air.raid.a.sequel.htm

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Exactly, Verity. No one was hurt, no one died.

    I often wondered what would be the reaction if some militant atheists got on TV and filmed a demonstration of a burning of the Bible, the Koran, and whatever holy books you can name.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting?

    TWG

  • This is the point I am making. These “pranks” with the Koran are very damaging to our position when they are reported in the Islamic world. Furthermore, they serve no purpose when it comes to getting useful information out of people who are, we must assume, Muslim fanatics.

    John, how can you be so sure that these “pranks” are not having the exact opposite effect, at least when it comes to getting info out of someone who is being humiliated?

  • John K

    John, how can you be so sure that these “pranks” are not having the exact opposite effect, at least when it comes to getting info out of someone who is being humiliated?

    I agree I’m not an expert, but what I have read about this subject does not lead me to think that this is a good way of getting info out of a suspect. It is a notorious fact that torture rarely gets you good info, and abusing the Koran in front of a Muslim fanatic is a sort of psychological torture. I just don’t think any of this has been planned, it sounds like bored guards getting up to mischief with prisoners who may well be complete pains in the arse. But that’s not the point. The guards should have the discipline and training to act correctly. This has just handed a propaganda advantage to the enemy, and that’s not good.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I’m not worried about pissing off more muslims. If they are pissed off enough to support the militants by somebody mistreating a holy book, they aren’t the ‘moderate’ muslims we want in the future anyway. ‘Moderate’ means actually tolerating supposedly blasphemous acts and the freedom of speech. Any other definition does not interest me.

    Before we hear any more muslims claim moderacy, I have an excellent litmus test: I have several muslim friends who imbibe alcohol. And consume non-halal food during the fasting period in the day.

    TWG

  • TWG: I agree with the first part of your comment, but I am not sure I have understood the second…

    John: “it sounds like…” is probably the key phrase here. As far as torture goes, I happen to think it does often work, both the physical and the psychological variety. I do realize that the info is not always reliable. But then any info obtained by any other means needs to be corraborated anyway. But what do I know.