Friday, January 27, 2006

On the taking of hostages

I do not usually post on current politics and such, as I seldom am in the position to comment in a timely manner. By the time I work out a detailed expression of how I feel, the discussion has moved on.

This time I simply do not care. I am simply too angry about this right now. What follows is a more detailed discussion of just why I am angry, and what I am angry about.

The Story

The reports began in 2004. The Christian Science Monitor's Annia Ciezadlo wrote about Texas-born US citizen Jeanan Moayad's experience when US troops wanted to question her 66 year old geologist father:
They told me it was because he was a Baathist," she says. "They told me my father didn't do anything, but they just wanted to know information about another person."

When the troops learned her father was out of the country, says Moayad, they arrested her husband. As Moayad's mother began to cry, they promised to bring him back the next day, saying they just wanted to ask him a few questions.

For the next 18 days, Ibrahim was held at a Baghdad detention facility. On Feb. 17, says Moayad, three soldiers came to her house and gave her a letter in her husband's handwriting. After greeting her and the children with "peace and kisses," the letter says he will be sent to Abu Ghraib "until the arrival of my father-in-law."

"I'm going to be there in his place until he surrenders himself," reads the letter. "Please tell him that I am in his place and that I'll be released when he arrives here, since I am not the wanted person, as you know from all who spoke to you about my case. Please inform my father-in-law to surrender himself of his own free will, and that will make things much easier for him. They don't mistreat someone who surrenders of his own free will, but just the opposite - they only want to ask him questions."
Note, a person detained not for what they have done, but to influence the actions of someone else. There were other reports of wives of leading suspects being held to encourage their husbands to surrender.

Well those reports turn out to be true. Today it was reported that Department of Defense documents disclose that women were held in order to induce cooperation from their husbands:
In a memo written in June 2004 and released Friday, an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose name was redacted, described the arrest of a 28-year-old woman from Tamiya, northwest of Baghdad. She had three young children, including one who was nursing.
U.S. forces raided her in-laws' home, calling her husband the "primary target." Before the raid, soldiers had decided that if the woman were at the in-laws' home, they'd detain her "in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," the memo's author wrote.

"During my initial screening of the occupants at the target house, I determined that the wife could provide no actionable intelligence leading to the arrest of her husband," the author of the memo wrote. "Despite my protest, the raid team leader detained her anyway."

The woman was released two days later, the memo said.

In the 2004 e-mail exchange, what appear to be American soldiers based in northern Iraq discuss the detention of Kurdish female prisoners. The names were redacted.
In an e-mail dated June 17, 2004, a U.S. soldier wrote: "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband - have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"

A soldier wrote two days later that he was getting more information from "these gals" that could "result in getting husband."

The e-mails and the memo were among hundreds of documents that the Pentagon released under a federal court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices.
Once again the same pattern -- one person is not available, so a relative is detained in hopes that the real target will turn themselves in.

Update: I finally found the other case I remember, the one that started this as an issue, from Saddam Aide's Family Arrested:
The detention of the relatives of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (search), a lifelong Saddam associate who is No. 6 on the list of most-wanted Iraqis, was an apparent attempt to pressure his surrender or gather intelligence that might lead to him. U.S. officials last week offered a $10 million reward for information leading to al-Douri's capture.
Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, detained the women in a raid that also netted another al-Douri associate, spokesman Lt. Col. William MacDonald said at the division's headquarters in Tikrit.
MacDonald gave no details on why the wife and daughter were seized, but American forces have frequently arrested relatives of fugitives to interrogate them on their family member's whereabouts and as a way of putting pressure on the wanted men to surrender.
Same pattern as the others.

So the question is, what's wrong with this? That will be addressed in the next post.

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