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Orientalist garbage .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Orientalist garbage. I’ve seen several reports before that interrogators at Guantanamo are using women interrogators in various ways to gain psychological dominance over the detainees. For instance a common claim seems to be that Muslim men don’t know how to deal with women in positions of authority. My comment on this:

BTW, that comment about women interrogators is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. These guys were never bossed around by their mothers? There are no henpecked husbands in the Muslim world? There are no MOTHERS-IN-LAW? If anybody seriously believes based on a sweeping generalization about Muslims that that is an effective technique, they must be deluded.

Here’s the latest:

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider’s written account.

A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.

British journalist Brian Whitaker analyzed a book called “The Arab Mind” that according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is being used by the U.S. military:

The book in question is called The Arab Mind, and is by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at several US universities, including Columbia and Princeton.

I must admit that, despite having spent some years studying Arabic language and culture, I had not heard of this alleged masterpiece until last week, when the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh mentioned it in an article for New Yorker magazine.

Hersh was discussing the chain of command that led US troops to torture Iraqi prisoners. Referring specifically to the sexual nature of some of this abuse, he wrote: “The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind … the book includes a 25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression.”

Hersh continued: “The Patai book, an academic told me, was ‘the bible of the neocons on Arab behaviour’. In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged – ‘one, that Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation’.”

Last week, my own further enquiries about the book revealed something even more alarming. Not only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.

According to one professor at a US military college, The Arab Mind is “probably the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military”. It is even used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special warfare school in Fort Bragg.

Reader Whitaker’s entire article about this piece of racist garbage whose best use is as a doorstop.

The section of the news story about menstrual blood really jumped out at me because it’s so glaringly wrong:

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man’s wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

“The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength,” says the draft, stamped “Secret.”

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

The statement Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact … with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean is simply false.

Here’s a page by conservative Saudi scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Munajjid that discusses in quite some detail what the rules are for a man and his wife when she’s menstruating: Intimacy with one’s wife when she is menstruating. Short answer: everything short of actual intercourse is allowed between a married couple. Rules regarding physical contact between men and women have to do with the degree of relationship with them, and do not change depending on whether the woman is menstruating or not, except that married couples should refrain from intercourse. Just to make this clear, Munajjid has another article called A menstruating woman is not impure.

Any kind of blood (not just menstrual blood) is considered ritually impure for prayer in that you have to wipe it off before beginning the prayer; here is what Munajjid says about ritually impure substances:

Touching blood or urine does not invalidate wudoo’, … But touching blood, urine or other impure substances does not invalidate wudoo’, rather he has to wash them off.

(“wudoo”, also spelled “wudu”, is the ritual purification that a Muslim undertakes before prayer).

The article mentions that they also took the water away so that the detainee couldn’t wash off the “blood”. Islamic law features a very well-known exemption allowing people to do tayammum or dry ablution when they can’t find water. This reference also says that if they can’t even do tayammum, they can pray as they are:

Whoever cannot get water or soil may pray in whatever state he is in, and he will not have to repeat his prayer later.

Assuming that the interrogators blocked the detainee even from doing tayammum, he could still pray in whatever state he was in.

In other words, the basis of this entire exercise is garbage and doesn’t accurately reflect Islamic rules at all.

However, I suspect that most anybody, and especially men, would freak out if they thought a woman was touching herself to put menstrual blood on her hands then touching them with it. It’s not limited to Muslims, I’m pretty darn sure about that.

Added: An Australian detainee reports that as part of his treatment, he was strapped to the ground while a woman he believed was a prostitute (see other article above) menstruated on him. Is this the image of our country we want to broadcast to the world? Is this the kind of thing that makes you say, “I’m proud to be an American”? [Al-Muhajabah’s Islamic Blogs]

I think Al-Muhajabah is right–I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I would certainly be horrified by the kind of treatment these men are subjected to, and I’m not a Muslim. In fact, I suspect pretty much any civilized person would react the same way to this kind of thing, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

Get in Line for Sudafed .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Get in Line for Sudafed. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) yesterday introduced a bill, dubbed the Combat Meth Act, that would allow sales of remedies containing pseudoephedrine only in pharmacies, require that they be kept behind the pharmacist’s counter, force buyers to present ID and sign a registry, and limit purchases to nine grams (about a dozen 24-packs of Sudafed) a month. [Hit and Run]

bq. There are two parties in Congress, runs the old joke: the Stupid Party and the Evil Party. When the Stupid Party in the ascendancy it passes stupid laws, and when the Evil Party is on top, it passes evil laws. But sometimes they get together and pass law that are both stupid and evil. This is called bipartisanship.

Indeed.

GENE HEALY: Interesting Poll Results .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

GENE HEALY: Interesting Poll Results. According to Tuesday’s Washington Post, the Pew Research Center recently found that “66 percent of Republicans agreed that ‘We should all be willing to fight for our country, whether it is right or wrong.'” (Only 33 percent of Democrats agreed with that statement.) In a related poll, 98 percent of neoconservatives emphatically agreed that all those other guys should be willing to fight for our country. [Liberty & Power: Group Blog]

Now if only those Republicans could tell the difference between fighting for their country, and fighting for a government.

I’ve seen the first three episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica series on Sci-Fi (along with the pilot miniseries), and it’s very good.
Jan 25th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

I’ve seen the first three episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica series on Sci-Fi (along with the pilot miniseries), and it’s very good. The original series was my favorite TV show when it was on, but when I see reruns as an adult it looks pretty bad. This new series is a huge improvement, and I hope that it continues to live up to the quality it’s shown so far.

Maybe Bush really is a liberator …. .
Jan 24th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Maybe Bush really is a liberator ….. Did anyone catch President Bush’s endorsement of anarchism today?

At least I reckon that’s what he must have meant when he said “America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling.”

As one of the unwilling, I was very happy to hear this. [Mises Economics Blog]

I would be too, but I know he means this about as much as he meant his previous campaign promises about pursuing a more humble foreign policy.

“Minister, what were ‘families’?” .
Jan 18th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

“Minister, what were ‘families’?”. I have always endured a distinctly uncomfortable ambivolence on the subject of the physical chastisement of children. My rational inclinations are to disapprove of it as a whole. The law protects adults from being physically assaulted by other adults and I find the arguments that seek to exempt youngsters from this law to be flawed and unpersuasive. That said, I know that there are many good and loving parents who sometimes smack their children out… [Samizdata.net]

Arthur Silber has written some excellent essays on child abuse and how it relates to the acceptance of torture, conquest, etc. It’s interesting (in a sad sort of way) to read the comments to this post on a Crusader site. Many of the same people who have advocated the conquest of Iraq, proclaimed their bigotry against Muslims, and their support of torture, are now arguing that it’s not only acceptable but desirable for parents to assault their children.

House Paint Foils Wardrivers .
Jan 14th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

House Paint Foils Wardrivers. Ant writes “Security-minded U.S. decorators’ supply outfit, Force Field Wireless, claims to have developed a do-it-yourself solution to the international menace of marauding geek wardrivers: DefendAir paint ‘laced with copper and aluminum fibers that form an electromagnetic shield, blocking most radio waves and protecting wireless networks.’ According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s report, one coat of the water-based paint ‘shields Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth networks operating at frequencies from 100 megahertz to 2.4 gigahertz”, while two or three applications are ‘good for networks operating at up to five gigahertz.’ However, there are downsides to this.” Since it’s a water-based paint, exterior use is only recommended for people who want more copper and aluminum in the soil surrounding their house. [Slashdot]

I wonder if this would be of any use as tempest shielding?

Chile: Socialism, Dictatorship, and Liberalism .
Jan 13th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Chile: Socialism, Dictatorship, and Liberalism. Despite years of policy debacle and dictatorship, writes Ryan McMaken, Chile has taken a turn toward liberalism that has gone largely unnoticed. Unlike many Latin American countries, Chile is not notable for its strongman politics (like Venezuela) or its ongoing guerilla wars (like Colombia), but is rather a place where people prefer to get on with the business of doing business. By Ryan McMaken. [Ludwig von Mises Institute Articles]

Cutting the Gordian knot .
Jan 12th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Cutting the Gordian knot. One of the current controversies around the war on terror is how to treat the prisoners. Dale Franks at the excellent Questions and Observations blog gets it pretty much right, I think. My preferred method of dealing with these terror prisoners would be to get two captains and a major together as a tribunal, declare them to be unlawful combatants, and put them in front of a firing squad. Now, maybe, because we’re nice guys,… [Samizdata.net]

For anyone who thinks that the torture and murder of prisoners by the Feds is an anomaly, and not representative of what America has become, here we have a bunch of crusaders openly advocating the murder of prisoners. Caveat: some of the murderous lunatics commenting on this post are British.

Gmail Messages Are Vulnerable To Interception .
Jan 12th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Gmail Messages Are Vulnerable To Interception. Michael Wally writes “GMail messages are vulnerable to interception. An attacker has only to transmit malformed test messages to himself, and information left over in memory, from previous messages destined for other people, will appear with the test messages, in the attacker’s inbox. Sometimes, this information may include usernames and passwords… Do you use GMail? Are you communications private? Should they be? Well, here’s what we figured out about the issue, that may or may not help you – or perhaps GMail, if anyone can get ahold of their developers, to tell them about it.” [Slashdot]

Of course they’re vulnerable to intercept–all email is vulnerable to intercept. If your email is not encrypted, it is not private at all. All that web-based systems like GMail do is make it marginally easier to intercept messages.

I do have a GMail account which I use occasionally as a backup for my main account, but I certainly don’t consider it private or secure. That’s what PGP is for.

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