Imagine you’re the op-ed page editor of the NY Times and a CIA torturer comes forward who wants to publish an anonymous op-ed not just defending torture, but arguing that any and all acts in which he engages should be retroactively approved by the State and its judicial bodies. In other words, he’s arguing that every torturer who ever works for the security services should begin his career knowing that any act of torture he commits will automatically offer him immunity from prosecution. All this on the grounds that the good he does for his fellow citizens and the State far outweighs any harm done.
If this didn’t set off a few alarm bells, then I’d say you shouldn’t be working at the NY Times. Maybe the Washington Times, but certainly not the NY Times. Apparently, this didn’t happen at Haaretz, which just published precisely such an apologia for torture. What disturbs me is not so much the substance of the op-ed, though that’s disturbing enough. But the fact that the newspaper, Israel’s supposed leading liberal media outlet, published this under the pseudonym, “Captain Simon.” I’m betting Haaretz won’t publish this torturer’s screed in English. Otherwise, it would disturb the image that Diaspora Jews hold of the newspaper as a beacon of liberty and civility.
The column revolves around the misdeeds of Doron Zahavi, the torturer who dare not speak his name in Israel, where he is known as “Captain George.” Zahavi sodomized a Lebanese militant named Mustafa Dirani in order to extract information about the whereabouts of Israeli captive pilot, Ron Arad. Dirani filed suit against his torturers and was eventually released from the IDF torture facility where he’d been held. His trial is still pending.
The case against Zahavi was buttressed by a fellow officer who appears to have broken under the pressure of the torture regime he enforced. He was deposed as part of the legal case by Dirani against Zahavi. Now, Zahavi is suing the State for hanging him out to dry. He’s demanding over a million bucks for being sacked from the IDF’s infamous Unit 504 (the torturer’s brigade of Israeli military intelligence), and the suffering it caused him. He now serves as police liaison to the Jerusalem Arab community where he’s right at home bullying its members into becoming spies for him.
Capt. Simon’s piece is a fulsome defense of Zahavi, trumpeting the glory of torturing the bad guys on behalf of the greater good of the nation:
It’s just Captain George’s luck that the videotapes of his interrogation of Dirani reached the hands of the TV news magazine, Uvdah (Israel’s 60 Minutes). It allowed us all to see that the investigation process was fully documented and everything was done fully by the book and under proper authority. This was not violence for the sake of violence. These are methods of interrogation that are consistent with established procedure and reasonable. Everyone knew [what Zahavi was doing]. Everyone encouraged him and approved. Imagine to yourself what everyone would’ve said had Captain George succeeded in freeing Ron Arad [through torture]. We would’ve embraced him and extolled his virtues.
Unit 504 is one of the most extraordinary in the IDF. There are wonderful, extremely skilled personnel. They are brave, determined and wise in understanding the souls of men as well as their weaknesses. It’s critical to protect the nature of the work of this unit by offering its members full immunity.
I’m sorry to have to put it this way, but if this doesn’t make you throw up, nothing will:
…By the way, we are far more refined and cultured in our interrogations than those of other western countries, including those of American interrogators.
We’ve heard this all before, though perhaps in a slightly more subdued fashion from the Cheneys and Boltons of American politics. For that reason, I don’t have a problem with publishing it, even though it’s nonsense. My real problem is giving the author an anonymous platform to spew this garbage. Where is the accountability? Where is journalistic integrity?
Not to mention, do you think Haaretz will publish any accompanying op-ed that calls Simon’s claims, that the torturers actually succeed in exposing acts of terror through their use of savage beatings and acts of rape, rubbish? Unfortunately, while there are Pulitzer Prizes for the best in journalism, there are no prizes for the worst. There should be. This op-ed is one of the worst I’ve seen. I wonder if any Haaretz reporters are chafing at this offensive insult to the profession.
The news that Haaretz is about to begin forcing its web readers to pay for access to its English edition does little for my sense of enthusiasm for the paper in light of the garbage I’ve critiqued above.
H/t Dena Shunra.
In a perfect world there would be no need for “torture” (and excuse me for the brackets, it’s mostly psy ops games, and pressure) in a perfect world Dirani will not be allegedly (innocent until proven guilty is a new concept for the folks of Washington state ?) sodomized, in a perfect world the terrorists will not cause an Israeli pilot to disappear, in a perfect world the politicians will not walk away and will not throw Capt. George under the bus claiming they didn’t know about his methods.
But we don’t leave in a perfect world, and psyops and pressure does work and aids in extracting the right information, as Leon Panetta while serving as CIA chief, admitted in an interview (http://tinyurl.com/6q44tu3)
and until this world will turn into a perfect place, well till then we have the right to defend ourselves.
Dirani wasn’t just a random southern Lebanese guy, as those who read your blog may think. Dirani held Ron Arad for two years, and if you believe anything Ronen Bergman states, part of the time he was held in the trunk of his car. Bergman also stats( the state of Israel will do everything) that Dirani was the one who sold him to the Iranians.
Cap. Simone says, don’t throw us under the bus, everyone new, it was approved by the higher ups people. This was the approved method, now stand by it. IMHO he’s 100% right.
Mark Croydon says
Ahh, so Dirani was one of the bad guys, so it’s OK to torture him. Got it. But when the good guys arrest somebody obviously they are assuming he is one of the bad guys – right? So I guess we can’t complain if they torture pretty much anybody. How about people who know where the bad guys are? Guess we can torture them, too. How about the people we think know where the bad guys are? Well, let’s do the job right, hmm? How about the people we think just might know who might be a bad guy? Better cast the net widely, right? I mean, this is about security. Can’t be too careful.
Psyops and pressure do work, because the head of the CIA said so? Is that some kind of joke? I don’t think that’s even worth responding to.
The only thing I agree with is that it is not the fault of the people who were carrying out the orders. They must be held to account – but so should the higher ups who authorized torture. Democracy? Hello?
Albert Camus already stated that if he had to chose between adhering to moral values to protecting his mother he will chose to protect his mother.
” Psyops and pressure do work, because the head of the CIA said so? Is that some kind of joke? I don’t think that’s even worth responding to.”
not because he said so, because he admitted that the info that led to Osama was extracted this way. You think he was lying ?
Deïr Yassin says
“Albert Camus already stated that if he had to chose between adhering to moral values to protecting his mother he will chose to protect his mother”
This sentence makes absolutely no sens.
Camus has been much criticized for his statement on his mother but now he’s additionally being misquoted and used by the Zionists !
After WW2 USA executed Japanese soldiers as war criminals for torturing US soldiers using waterboarding. Abu Zubaydah has been water-boarded 83 times + “enjoyed” of other torture methods (videotapes of some of his interrogations were destroyed). CIA documents tell that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been subjected to 183 applications of waterboarding + other US/Israeli new methods. Etc.
Christopher Hitchens wanted (voluntarily) to make a test with waterboarding . He lasted 16 seconds. I suppose that after some “water treatment” Liron would confess that his mother builds bombs for the new Stern Gangs and his sister sells drugs in USA to finance the West Bank settlements. There is too much evidence that under torture you get the answers you want and to those which are asked. After a couple of water boardings Liron would answer to the question: “Does your 75 year old mother build bombs to the settler organizations?” Please stop – yes and many of bombs – please stop. There is a reason why courts do not approve evidence got using torture. The reason is not the human right violations, it is the quality of the evidence. Why has USA taken to court so few of those very bad “taxi drivers” sold to them and kept now a decade in Guantanamo Bay? The reason is that it would be to embarrassing to present to the public the “evidence” plus cause very severe problems with international and domestic laws, not to the accused, but to the accusers. That is why they are destroying the evidence and documents.
Moral is a “funny” thing. One can only demand from others the moral values he/she follow. Israel’s presently happening total image collapse is caused mostly of contradiction in the values Israel demands from others and the moral with what Israelis treat non-Jews. Sooner or later Israeli Jewish soldiers and civilians will be caught by the “hypothetical enemies”. What do you say when others try to keep theirs “safe” by torturing the Jews and using your methods?
By the way Albert Camus views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism (closely related to existentialism and nihilism).”The Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. Hmmmm some guru of moral…. If Camus approves torture to keep her mother safe, he had logically thinking needed to approve others torturing his mother in order to keep those close to others safe. By the way Camus mother dilemma was caused by the fact that Camus supported the French rule and actions in Algeria during the independence war (one million killed). He was a Pied-Noir (French citizen in Algeria, in a way “morally” close to those who took over Palestine, a settler).
Piotr Berman says
I tried to check if Camus actually defended torture, at it seems that he did not and that he ridiculed reasoning behind inflicting torture in “Fall”. Namely, the torture itself is a proof of guilt as the innocent would not be tortured. And it is very close to what apologists of oppression say, except that THEY do not say it as an example of absurd.
Camus did not oppose French rule in Algeria but he opposed French actions. The sentence about his mother was in the context of opposition to justify terrorism.
As far as having dim view on “human tendency to seek value and meaning in life”, in his time, and even today, this tendency had an unfortunate link to atrocities.
Piotr Berman Wikipeadia tells about Camus: “He identified with the pied-noirs such as his own parents and defended the French government’s actions against the revolt. He argued that the Algerian uprising was an integral part of the ‘new Arab imperialism’ led by Egypt and an ‘anti-Western’ offensive orchestrated by Russia to ‘encircle Europe’ and ‘isolate the United States’. Although favouring greater Algerian autonomy or even federation, though not full-scale independence, he believed that the pied-noirs and Arabs could co-exist.”
So Camus approved French actions in general when he approved French supremacy over Algeria and Algerians. One can not end a very popular revolt aiming to full independence with non violent methods (that is why one million were killed in that Algerian “process”). Equally intellectually dishonest is to approve Israel’s occupation of Gaza, West Bank and Golan, but condemn Israel’s actions in keeping up the occupation. Even a philosopher must understand that creating a situation demands actions and paying the moral price of those actions. If for example Jews want an area to be empty of non-Jews it will mean mass deportations and/or mass killings. Same in the past in Algeria and South Africa. Apartheid is not possible without paying the price of Apartheid. Neither is occupation. Absurd isn’t it?
Deïr Yassin says
Albert Camus stated: “Au bout de compte, s’il faut choisir entre la justice et ma mère, je choisis ma mère” (After all, if I have to choose between justice and my mother, I choose my mother”.
The statement was in a very specific context, that is Albert Camus’s incapacity of taking sides with the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) during the war of liberation though they had asked him so on various occasions, just as they had asked the Algerian Jews (French citizens since the Décret Cremieux 1870) to side with the uprising. Camus died before Independence, the Jews left with their French ‘fellow countrymen’ though a few stayed in Algeria.
The statement shows Camus’ hypocrisy: he fought the Germans during the WWII, he fought on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War (his mother was a Pied Noir of Spanish origin) but when it came to his own people oppressing a native population, he choose to stay silent thus endorsing the status quo.
Though Camus was born and grew up in Algeria, he spoke neither Arabic nor any Berber language, the native population was always nothing but a ‘décor’ in his novels, and he described Algeria as a country without history.
Best critique of Camus: “Lettre ouverte à Albert Camus” by Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi, 1959, from his prison cell in Fresnes outside Paris. Taleb Ibrahimi later became the Minister of Culture of the Algerian Republic.
The attitude of Camus inevitably makes you think of some Jewish liberals, the famous PEP.
Torture is not a means to get any valuable information, period.
Phisically stronger and fit individuals will resist it, while weaker persons will confess to just anything in order for the pain to *stop now*. In fact rather then a way to get information torture can be seen as a means of confusing evidence. Torture can not help justice, it can only hinder it.
Last but not least torture can have devastating psychological effects on torturers themselves.
Richard Silverstein says
A “perfect world” is one in which Israel stands behind Doron “The Sodomite Rapist” Zahavi??? In which world are you living?
BTW, torture DOES NOT work. It does not extract useful information. It extracts lies & distortions that the victim believes the torturer wants to hear. Just as Israel’s vaunted racial profiling airport security system doesn’t bring security, so sodomizing suspects does not bring useful information.
Leon Panetta has NEVER said torture brings useful intelligence. Never.
If you want to advocate torture you’re not welcome here. If you do it again, you will no longer be here at all.
What do you mean “Leon Panetta has NEVER said torture brings useful intelligence. Never” this is what LP said in the article i linked to:
“Enhanced interrogation techniques” were used to extract information that led to the mission’s success, Panetta said during an interview with anchor Brian Williams. Those techniques included waterboarding, he acknowledged.
So what now ? are you going to argue that waterboarding isn’t torture ?
Richard Silverstein says
So you’re claiming that Obama has approved the use of torture in interrogations? Not that I’m aware. Further, the claim that torture has provided anything of value is confined to members of the former Bush administration.
Here are some articles from U.S. intelligence officers and political leaders which contradict your claims:
Not to mention this statement from Panetta which appears to contradict the statement you claim he made shortly after Bin Laden was assassinated:
It’s not “my claim” this is what Leon Panetta stated. The Interview he gave is available at the link i provided, you can watch it yourself, and hear it from the the mouth of Leon Panetta himself.
If you have any further comments or questions i suggest you will forward them to the DOD press desk at (703) 697-5131.
Between, Panetta as head of CIA has intimate knowledge of what info aided in getting to OBL. He’s also a very honest man (IMO at least) If he said it aided, it probably did.
Aharon Eviatar says
Here is the link to the article in English. It is signed by two journalists Tomer Zarchin and Gili Cohen and appears as a
news item, not op-ed
You might want to check the dates, not the same animal.
Richard Silverstein says
I think you’ve confused things. The article to which you linked is not a report on Capt. Simon’s Hebrew language op ed. Your linked article was published months ago.
Pity about the paywall, just means less people outside Israel will read it (even the limited free articles requiring registration). At the least they should have just allowed 10 or 20 free reads a month like the NYT (although 10 is actually rather stingy).
“Brave, determined and wise, understanding the souls of men as well as their weaknesses, refined and cultured…”
You would think he was talking about Captain George the Tsaddik. Although I would not know what is wise, refined and cultured about sticking…Oh, whatever.
Richard, sorry this is a bit off topic, but it’s about Israeli journalism, so it’s a news tip assuming you havn’t already heard.
Shmuel Cooper, from the Charedi magazine “Tsofar” (published in Hebrew), called for the assasination of Yaron London. You may recall London wrote a piece for Ynet last week attacking the ultra Orthodox. After receiving complaints Cooper changed the title to “Shrink the existence of Yaron London”. Cooper wrote in response to this:
Israel needs fewer haredim
Op-ed: Instead of drafting haredim into army, Israel should focus on shrinking ultra- Orthodox population
Piotr Berman says
I checked the opus of Yaron London, and I hesitate to condemn Haredi writers. London wrote that there should a plan to reduce the number of Haredim because they are parasites, and did not even hint how to do it. Enlist all Haredi girls and give them Norplant? Or simply enlist them and make a law that a spouse can also serve for the other spouse, say for 4 years rather than 2 while the spouse does whatever he/she wishes. With more concrete proposal London would not be accused of hatching some very dark designs.