Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Nailing Dickie Durbin

Less than a week after comparing our guards and interrogators to Nazis and Stalin's gulag henchmen, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has "apologized." I use that word advisedly, since it was a typical, Democratic weasel job, made only after a wave of public outrage.

The Washington Times has an account of Drubin's apology speech that was tearfully delivered in the Senate yesterday.

Durbin is obviously a callow and seditious moron, who richly deserves the scorn and indignation he has received. But I couldn't resist the tempatation to re-publish this letter, sent to me in a e-mail. It was apparently submitted to the good Senator by a retired Air Force officer, who has also experienced "torture" at the hands of the U.S. military. Enjoy.

An Open Letter to Senator Durbin

June 19, 2005

Senator Richard Durbin, D-IL
332 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Durbin:

Based on your recent comments, it seems clear that you are deeply disturbed about the alleged torture of terrorist detainees at the hands of the U.S. military. While many have condemned your remarks—and I won’t rehash them in this letter—I found them remarkable, even revelatory. Despite a 20-year military career, extensive training as an intelligence officer and a graduate degree, I had no idea that I had experienced U.S.-sanctioned torture, until hearing your speech in the Well of the Senate.

Consider my experiences: in the late summer of 1992; I was the leader of a group of military trainees who were forcibly removed from an exercise area in the Pacific Northwest. Informed that we were “war criminals,” members of my group were detained and herded into a small holding area; our hands were bound and hoods placed over our heads to prevent escape. Next, we were loaded onto buses for a 90-minute trip to a military detention facility. During our “capture” and transit, we were not allowed to communicate with other members of the group, nor with outside agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Arriving at the detention compound, we were mocked and ridiculed by prison guards, who wore the uniform of a hostile power. Members of my group were then placed in individual isolation “boxes,” that were less than six feet high, and barely 30 inches wide. There was no light inside our detention cells and ventilation was poor. We were forced to remain standing inside our boxes for almost fourteen hours; sleeping or sitting was not permitted; guards periodically banged on the boxes or flung the doors open to catch detainees attempting to sit, or catch a few winks. Offenders were summarily punished.

As you can imagine, long stretches in a small, dark, stuffy box can trigger sensory deprivation and several members of the group—myself included—experienced minor hallucinations. Our only “break” from isolation came during frequent interrogations, conducted at all hours of the day and night. Detainees were routinely mocked and harassed by interviewers and guards during these sessions. No contact was allowed with other prisoners and access to legal counsel was also denied.

Back in our cellblock, we were bombarded with incessant, mind-numbing music that sounded like a cross between a bad Ravi Shankar CD (an obvious redundancy) and chart-topping tunes from Radio Pyongyang. No insufferable pop music for us—although that would have been a noticeable improvement over the sitar-plunking and caterwauling that filled our ears for hours on end. Incidentally, this “music” provided the background for our only meal during the first stage of captivity. It was a thin gruel, as I recall, served from a gleaming steel trash can. Rice pilaf apparently wasn’t on the menu that day.

Later, members of our group were transferred to a larger facility, where detainees could interact on a limited basis. But the interrogations and psychological pressure continued; prisoners were encouraged to make videotapes, professing their war crimes in exchange for better treatment. Some incidents of physical abuse also occurred. A number of detainees were shaken like rag dolls; others were poked by guards and at least one of my troops was slapped. Others were placed in outdoor detention cells that were almost as cramped as the isolation boxes. In this intense environment, a few detainees capitulated and agreed to make propaganda tapes for their captors. Others donned the uniforms of the enemy and agreed to “guard” their fellow Americans.

After more than 36 hours of this treatment, or imprisonment ended, and we resumed our military careers. But my experience is hardly unique; in fact, the “detention facility” I described has been operated by the U.S. military for more than 30 years. You’ve probably heard of it, Senator Durbin—it’s better known as the U.S. Air Force Survival School, located at Fairchild AFB near Spokane, Washington. The “treatment” we received at Fairchild—what you might describe as torture—is referred to as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training, and it’s required instruction for military personnel who are at risk for capture and confinement. Over the past for decades, thousands of military pilots, aircrew members, intelligence specialists and Special Forces troops have graduated from the Air Force school and other SERE facilities run by the DOD.

Speaking for my fellow graduates, I don’t believe any of us considered ourselves victims of maltreatment or torture at the hands of our military personnel. The instructors at Fairchild were among the most skilled and professional In encountered in my military career; the training they provided (while demanding) greatly improved our chances for evading capture in hostile territory, or—in a worst-case scenario—surviving the hell of a prisoner of war camp. We also understood that the “treatment” we received at Fairchild was mild in comparison to the experiences of actual POWs. We never equated SERE training with the Hanoi Hilton or Saddam’s torture chambers, just as you cannot equate Guantanamo Bay with the Soviet Gulag, or Pol Pot’s killing fields.

I did a cursory check of your voting record, Senator Durbin, to determine if your outrage extends to other military facilities that might meet your “torture” criteria. Not surprisingly, I cannot find a single example of your voting against appropriations for SERE training, or the schools that provide that type of instruction. Perhaps these line items are buried so deep in defense bills that you consider them unimportant, or they simply don’t catch your attention. On the other hand, as an elected representative who professes to represent our troops, I would hope that you are aware of these schools and support their critical mission—even if their training methods are appropriately harsh.

Of course, I would also hope you understand the difference between genuine torture and mild forms of sensory deprivation and physical confinement that produce intelligence information that saves American lives. However, judging from your remarks in the Senate last week, that distinction appears to be beyond your grasp, or something to be merely ignored in the interest of partisan politics.


Gary Pounder, Major, USAF (Retired)
Oxford, MS

1 comment:

Sean Smith said...

As I recall from my SERE training, the resistance portion of training is classified. You might want to remove that post.