May 17, 2007

Candidates and torture... and blogger conference calls.

Here's an L.A. Times piece that discusses the emerging differences between the Republican candidates over the use of aggressive techniques in questioning detainees in the War on Terror.
The issue arose when the debate moderator, Fox News' Brit Hume, laid out a scenario in which suspects had been caught attempting to carry out a terrorist attack. The question was tailor-made for a response on the importance of being tough on terrorists, but McCain laid out a more nuanced reply colored by personal experience....

Giuliani and Romney both said they opposed torture. But when Hume raised the idea of water-boarding, in which a suspect is made to feel like he is drowning, Giuliani appeared to support it, and Romney said he supported "enhanced interrogation techniques." Both offered tough-sounding answers that drew enthusiastic applause from the Republican audience.
The article supplements material from the debate with descriptions of Giuliani's conference call with the bloggers yesterday:
Giuliani in his campaign has emphasized embracing Bush's aggressive anti-terrorism tactics and attacking civil liberties advocates as promoting a pre-Sept. 11 mind-set. He elaborated on his debate remarks during a Wednesday conference call with bloggers. He said he would leave the distinction between enhanced interrogation techniques and torture to "the people who do it," according to a report on the National Review's Web site. He described water-boarding simply as "aggressive," the report said.

Another blogger on the call, University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse, said that Giuliani stressed his differences on the issue with McCain. "His view is that we should figure out exactly where the line is and go right up to it," Althouse wrote, describing Giuliani's Wednesday comments. "He specified that was more than McCain was willing to do."
The LAT reporter -- Peter Wallsten -- called me to check my story. It's interesting to see this interaction between the candidates and the bloggers and then between the bloggers and mainstream reporters. But I wonder if the candidates will continue to want to play this way. Here I am collecting quotations and presenting them my way, able to insert opinion and ridicule and digressive material at will and then becoming a source that injects bloggerly material into the traditional news media.

The candidate is giving up some control and creating risks. On the upside, he is getting some publicity, perhaps looking savvy, and creating some good will. Maybe we'll think twice before criticizing him, either because the feeling of personal contact mellows our attitude or because we fret about getting excluded from the next phone call.

I wonder if it's only a coincidence that a blogger conference call with John McCain that was planned for today got canceled. Seeing how bloggers homed in on the torture discussion, he may not be up for it. From the L.A. Times article:
McCain aides acknowledged that there is a difference between the senator and his rivals for the nomination, particularly on the question of torture.

"There are enhanced techniques that I don't think bother him, but water-boarding certainly does," said McCain's longtime adviser, Mark Salter.

Salter said he watched Tuesday night as the audience remained silent throughout McCain's "full and sophisticated, nuanced" answer. But he noted that the audience applauded after McCain said that most military leaders oppose torture.

"If you polled it, the Rudy-Romney position would be more popular with Republican primary voters," Salter said. "But I think McCain can hold that position and get that respect. I don't think anybody thinks he would be weak in the war on terror. We don't have that problem."
"Nuance." There's an evocative word! I got mightily sick of hearing it used to patch over Kerry's exasperating waffling in 2004. Salter's wrong in saying that McCain's statement at the debate was "full and sophisticated, nuanced." It may have suggested that McCain has a sophisticated, nuanced view of the problem, but, being wholly abstract, it wasn't "full."

Does McCain really know what he wants to say when pushed on the details? If not, the way the bloggers bore in on the torture question with Giuliani may have made McCain's handlers cautious about putting the candidate in this strange new environment. Or maybe he really does have "a sudden conflict with official business." I understand the caution, but I thought McCain really was good on the blogger conference call we did on April 27th.

So, we shall see how eagerly the campaigns continue with this blogger conference call approach. I rather like it, because I like to observe and write about the process. If things go awry, that's just more to observe and write about. The campaign must be careful, but being too careful won't work, and the bloggers will write about you whether you talk to them or not.

And we shall also see how the candidates deal with the torture issue. Are we going to get down to the specific techniques and try to draw that line Giuliani was talking about? As I wrote yesterday, he said some of the techniques are "too gory even to discuss," so perhaps we won't. Are we to be satisfied with the vague sense that Giuliani would go farther than McCain or that McCain has more feeling about the individual subjected to the technique (because of his personal experience), while Giuliani has more feeling about protecting American citizens from harm (because of his personal experience)?

CLARIFICATION: That last question -- "Are we to be satisfied..." -- doesn't mean that the "vague sense" might be a good enough reason to prefer Giuliani over McCain. It is intended only to ask whether we will be satisfied with that level of specificity about the difference between the two candidates as we decide whether to support either of them.

99 comments:

BJK said...

But I wonder if the candidates will continue to want to play this way. Here I am collecting quotations and presenting them my way, able to insert opinion and ridicule and digressive material at will and then becoming a source that injects bloggerly material into the traditional news media.

Absolutely they will. Firstoff, the use of bloggers-as-reporters allows the candidate to avoid questions they wouldn't want to answer (I doubt anyone from the Daily Kos received an invite).

Second, bloggers are more likely to ask prepared questions than follow-up questions requiring greater depth out of the candidate.

Finally, removing the reporters from an otherwise newsworthy event prevents them from adding their own context to the story. The LAT writer was limited to reporting what you had reported. (The Times doesn't strike me as an otherwise Pro-Rudy newspaper.) Because most of the people who are prone to making negative comments about Rudy are left out of the circle (bloggers and reporters alike), it limits the candidate's risk of negative treatment.

Doyle said...

Are we to be satisfied with the vague sense that Giuliani would go farther than McCain

If you're a bloodthirsty wingnut, sure.

Doyle said...

Also, GIULIANI DIDN'T PROTECT ANY AMERICANS FROM HARM!

Fen said...

LA Times editor + bottle scotch = Doyle

Doyle said...

I quit drinking, but your point is well taken.

Tim said...

While the distinctions between aggressive or coercive interrogation techniques and torture are important moral and policy questions, the Republican primaries will not likely turn on this question. So as McCain's position amongst Republican voters is well known, there is not much he can do to change that, but it isn't his biggest problem. As Doyle so sloppily tried to point out, when in doubt and in need, Republicans would probably prefer more assertive techniques rather than less. To the degree this issue resonates amongst Republican primary voters, smart candidates will position themselves just to the "right" of McCain.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I quit drinking, but your point is well taken

I would have never guessed based upon the incoherence of your posts.

Hoosier Daddy said...

While the distinctions between aggressive or coercive interrogation techniques and torture are important moral and policy questions

Its more like torture has been dumbed down. Before it was thumbscrews and bamboo shoots just for the shi**s and giggles of the wards whereas now it constitutes playing rap music too loud, cranking up the AC and not letting someone get thier beauty sleep.

If someone wants to say that torturing a known terrorist to get information to save innocent lives is wrong, that doesn't make you a moral hero but a moron.

Doyle said...

Hoosier -

If you're in favor of torture, why insist that it's limited to loud music and sleep deprivation.

Admit that what you're talking about is the bamboo shoots.

Mike said...

And we shall also see how the candidates deal with the torture issue. Are we going to get down to the specific techniques and try to draw that line Giuliani was talking about?

I think public discussion of what will or will not happen to terrorists when they are caught is incredibly stupid. Next, we'll have Miranda-like text we'll have to read them when they're captured.

Roger said...

We are much to genteel as a nation and these arguments with respect to torture are worse than scholastic disputations about angels and pinheads. An example of real torture (as practiced by Russians against Chechens: Tie one extremity of the victim to one end of an armored vehcile via steel cables; tie the other extremity to another armored vehicle; drive in opposite directions--result: really bad outcome for the victim)

Bernard Lewis in the WSJ the other day did a nice piece on the Russian response to kidnapping of Russian citizens/agents: Visit the families of the kidnappers and kill every man, woman and child in the family. Russians are now seldom kidnapped in the mid east now.

Third example of our gentility: we are concerned that serial murders and other heinous characters may "feel pain" when they are executed. No one else in this world seems to feel that squeamishness.

None of the above comments are meant to condone torture, and the fact that we make these arguments are a reflection on, perhaps, our innate "humanity." That said, torture and other nasty things such as the russian approach cited above can be justified on purely utilitarian grounds; or can be opposed, much as opponents of torture do now, on some other moral calculus. Lets start by looking at the calculus we apply rather than the position that flows from that calculus.

Doyle said...

I think public discussion of what will or will not happen to terrorists when they are caught is incredibly stupid.

Yeah we should just trust the government to do whatever they think is best.

American citizenship at its finest.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Doyle

I have no problem popping the kneecaps of an Osama or his ilk. No one they capture is treated in such a way unless you think beheading humane. I don't think they should be treated any differently than the pirates of the 17th and 18th century which were the terrorists of that time, Capn Jack notwithstanding.

The problem is that torture has been dumbed down to include playing rap music too loud and sleep deprivation. Next thing it will be using harsh language and not giving them halal meals and prayer mats. If you think waterboarding is the same as thumbscrews then you need a lesson in perspective.

Gary Carson said...

There is only one reason to torture -- to appear tough.

Torture does not make anyone safe, it does not help you acquire usable information.

But it does make idiots think you're some kind of tough guy.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Yeah we should just trust the government to do whatever they think is best.

You mean like with health care? Funny when Hillary and company start talking about national health care, the moonbat left seem to think the guv'ment is just honkey dory then.

Doyle said...

You know what would be even better than expressing willingness to torture Osama? Capturing him!

If you think the net effect of our torturing prisoners will be to lower the risk of terrorist attack, you're a fool.

Mike said...

Yeah we should just trust the government to do whatever they think is best.

The public discussion should be about oversight measures provided by Congress and the courts.

Doyle said...

Oversight is fine. As long as you mean to ensure that we're not violating Geneva (and by extension US law) by torturing prisoners, but I don't think that's what you mean.

Doyle said...

Yes the government is more appealing when it is providing its citizens health care than when it is running gulags in Cuba. Funny, huh?

Roost on the Moon said...

If someone wants to say that torturing a known terrorist to get information to save innocent lives is wrong, that doesn't make you a moral hero but a moron.

It seems to me (I hope I'm wrong) that there is a large portion of America that agrees with this. And they agree so strongly that they are willing to assume that it saves innocent lives and that only "known terrorists" get the treatment.

I think that ten years ago, many of the people who see this as a reasonable middle-of-the-road position would have been morally repulsed by it. Something terrible is happening to us, and its not just the angry young men.

___________

This is a great page, not politically "balanced" or anything, but also with no axe to grind, examining visual "convergences" in art, propaganda, science and nature. It's playful and profound, if you have some time to kill. This week's is themed "Hoods and Veils", and it seems apropos.

Mike said...

I mean what I said. Assuring captured terrorists that they have nothing to fear upon capture is stupid.

Doyle said...

Something terrible is happening to us

No it can't be. Glenn Reynolds tells me there's new HDTVs coming out or something. The only problem with America is the people who won't get on board with the invasions and the torture.

Pogo said...

Re: "the government is more appealing when it is providing its citizens health care than when it is running gulags in Cuba"

What Doyle fails to recognize is that the foundation for the latter arises from the same arguments and structure permitting the former.

See: Cuba, Soviet Union, Maoist China. More recently: Venezuela, and (increasingly) the UK.

Doyle said...

And the SPYING. Forgot about the secret illegal spying that Rudy understands is so necessary.

Doyle said...

Pogo -

Why don't you tighten that argument up a little, dear?

Hoosier Daddy said...

You know what would be even better than expressing willingness to torture Osama? Capturing him!

Why capturing him? That just means we have to feed and house him. And don't forget those dialysis treatments are expensive. I say kill him and call it a day.

Yes the government is more appealing when it is providing its citizens health care than when it is running gulags in Cuba. Funny, huh?

So you have no problem letting the government control your health care but are leary about the whole national security thing eh?

Nice turn of phrase with gulag too. Why not just go all the way and throw the ovens in too. Do you think the guards are making slippers out of their beards?

Dumb down torture and now dumbing down the millions who were shipped to Siberia. You have some class Doyle.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What Doyle fails to recognize is that the foundation for the latter arises from the same arguments and structure permitting the former

I wonder where Doyle and the usual suspects stands on gun control. For someone who truly believes the government is out to round up all undesirables, ship them off to Gitmo, spy on our every move, I would guess he'd be all for private gun ownership.

Then again, that's using logic and I'm analyzing a liberal. Silly me.

Pogo said...

In other words, Doyle, the very same government that controls your retiremnent, social security, and other social needs will find it quite easy (and necessary) to take control of your speech and deign it appropriate to detain and torture you.

They are not different mechanisms, but one and the same process, one leading inexorably to the other. It's what Orwell wrote about, as I am sure you're aware.

Roger said...

Hoosier Daddy--I had my personal 'come to jesus' moment with respect to interaction with Doyle, HD, Freder and the like. Life is much simpler if you just ignore them; they have nothing to add or offer other than bomb throwing; they are only here to fling feces, irritate people, and provoke a reaction; they can't structure a coherent argument, and thrive on insulting people who try to interact with them. You are dealing with 2 year olds who throw tantrums.

Stop and think: when was the last time any of those idiots structured an argument that suggested they had more than two operational grey cells? Review the threads below; Nothing, not a glimmer of hope.

There are some lefties that can structure an argument and may even have some education: mark and cyrus come to mind. But do you really want to argue with HDHouse, who doesnt know the difference between Eugenics and Ebonics? or Freder who is genuinely delusional and can't even follow his own argument, and even denies what he has written?

Ignore them--you will be much less frustrated. Honestly--it works.

Doyle said...

I think we should follow the law. As it stands now, that means no spying on American's phone calls without a warrant. If they're talking to known or suspected terrorists, a warrant won't be hard to get.

I also think we shouldn't torture people, even known/suspected terrorists, both for moral and practical reasons.

Could I be any crazier? It's like I wasn't around on September 11!

Mike said...

So you have no problem letting the government control your health care but are leary about the whole national security thing eh?

Amazing, isn't it?

Roost on the Moon said...

Roger,

Maybe you are a good example of what I'm talking about. Did you feel this way 10 years ago? That its ok for us to suffocate and shock prisoners? That we can justify it by pointing at even worse atrocities elsewhere? Anything short of drawing and quartering isn't "real torture"? You seem otherwise reasonable. Would you have condoned this stuff ten years ago?

Hoosier Daddy said...

But do you really want to argue with HDHouse, who doesnt know the difference between Eugenics and Ebonics?

Now that is one of the funnier things I have read on here.

Point taken.

Doyle said...

I thought torture was a winning issue for you freaks. What's all this eagerness to talk gun control and Hillarycare?

Hoosier Daddy said...

They are not different mechanisms, but one and the same process, one leading inexorably to the other.

Indeed. Who was it that said, 'a government that can give you everything you need, can also take it all away.'

I think it was Ford but could be wrong.

Roger said...

Roost: thanks for the question. I do NOT condone torturing in any way shape or form another human being, no matter how reprehensible they may be nor what information they may have; I would include in that prohibition those scum that attacked the Beslan school in russia several years ago.

While I regard the threat from a minority of islamic extremists quite serious, when we resort to their tactics, we have abandoned any moral high ground--Its possible we may well, at some point, die on that high ground, but isnt that ultimately the point of having a moral compass and consistent philosophy?

I was trying to make a point that we should be cognizant of our personal philosophies and make sure that actions we endorse are (1)internally consistent with our own belief structure, and (2) reflect some type of larger moral system.

I am sorry my point wasnt clearer.

The Drill SGT said...

A couple of points.

1. I've seen torture, as applied by the VC to village Mayors, Priests, Nuns, and one luckless GI. I know torture when I see it.

2. I've been through SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school. I think all pilots do and many combat arms types in the army. I was not water boarded, but I was put into a cage in a "rigorous" position, held head into a tub of water till I thought I would drown, beaten with bamboo and had my genitals threatened with sharp objects. If it's good enough for me, I have no problem applying stress techniques to a guy who may know where the bomb is.

3. I respect McCain's position and respectfully disagree. I think we ought to use lots of "stress" therapy on selected captives. Not torture, which I define as the meaningless infliction of harm on a subject.

Doyle said...I think we should follow the law. As it stands now, that means no spying on American's phone calls without a warrant. If they're talking to known or suspected terrorists, a warrant won't be hard to get.

You've got everything in there wrong.

1. there are lots of times when a warrant is not required, in perfectly legal situations.

2. the NSA programs at issue were doing almost exactly the opposite of what you describe. They were targeting a suspected number (generally not a person) overseas, and monitoring the calls from that number regardless of where the call went including the US. The NSA had no knowledge at the time of the intercept whether the person in the US was an enemy combatant, or a "US person" (meaning a citizen or other legal resident). If the NSA did not know who the person on the US side of the call was, how could they in your scenario, obtain a warrant by proving that the person picking up the call was a known terrorist apriori

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

It appears the two sides cannot even agree on what torture is, although I would be inclined to include being forced to read Dolye's rants on the list, just below being forced to listen to rap music; but, I digress.

Doesn't the law define torture as something that will cause permanent physical harm (again, I'm back to reading Doyle)? How can sleep deprivation be torture?

Reading of the physical stress on runners seems to me that running a marathon (something done by folks voluntarily) is more torture than than what the left is willing to allow.

Personally, I am in favor of torture, within limits. Sleep deprivation, poor living conditions, daily questioning all work for me.

Simply put, physical maiming is out, but threats of maiming are not; all psychological actions are in.

Roost on the Moon said...

Roger,

Well, that's a relief. Do you see what I see, though? Do you think it's new?

Or am I way off?

I think the brutal endorsement crowd ("I'll tell you what I'd do Bin Laden...") are just frustrated morons, and were probably always there.

Lots of average Americans have moved on this, though. If you took a poll in 1997 about how much torture is too much, I think lots of people who said "never ever" might now shrug their shoulders and say "well, you know, terrorists...". Do you agree? If so, does it scare you?

Doesn't it seem like a huge line to cross? Turning a blind eye to Human degradation by America? It's a big one.

Roger said...

Roost: damn--upon some reflection I only gave you half an answer to a good question. Like Drill Sgt above i have witnessed some horrific examples of torture in viet Nam (yeah--the VC really did some really bad things to non-believers); I have seen heads lopped off in the square in Riyadh following Friday Mosque--mostly Pakistani Drug smugglers or Yemeni Boy rapists. I think i know where the lines are to be drawn.

What is "torture"? For me, as a old soldier, it would be anything that goes beyond what the Geneva Conventions prescribe as appropriate treatment for a prisoner of war. No physical beatings, no "psychological" harassment, no mock executions. I honestly would HOPE to be treated no worse than any of my captors front line soldiers.

Now be aware that line isnt a bright and clear line. Russian recruits in the red army are treated in conditions that many of you would term torture. I suspect ultimately it would come down to analogous to the definition of pornography: I can't define it but I know it when I see it.

(for me torture would consist of hearing the Mass in B Minor played off key; or listening to rap music) Do you see my points? both the narrower definitional point, and the larger philosophical point?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Not torture, which I define as the meaningless infliction of harm on a subject.

Therein lies the problem Sarge, which is, torture has been dumbed down to mean almost anything that causes the target harm or discomfort. I like you do not agree with toture for the sake of it but if its necessary to glean information to save lives then by all means, have at it.

I think the problem people have is they think you can lock these guys in the room with Kevin Bacon's wife and in 10 minutes we'll solve the national security threat.

It's very easy to thump one's chest and take the moral high ground especially in a hypothetical where you can safely assume you and yours aren't at risk.

As for Roger's position, If I had a suspect terrorist in the Beslan case, I'd be pulling out all the stops including fingernails to get whatever info I could. Three hundred dead kids is a pretty high price for ensuring the rights of sadistic terrorists who don't think anything of gunning children in the back but rather, as thier duty.

Roger said...

Damn otra vez--Roost we cross posted. Of course I see what you see; I believe you see the same visceral gut reaction in people to evil: "meet evil with evil" I understand it, but I dont think it is appropriate. but it is human nature. What did Lincoln say about the better angels? we have to hope those prevail.

Mike said...

Something that strikes me when talking to Doyle, et al. is how certain they are of the assumptions necessary to support their position:

a warrant won't be hard to get

torture never yields information

Must be nice to be so certain. You'd be more persuasive if you at least acknowledged the uncertainities of operating in the real world.

Freder Frederson said...

If someone wants to say that torturing a known terrorist to get information to save innocent lives is wrong, that doesn't make you a moral hero but a moron.

So Hoosier, are you saying that the entire U.S. military are a bunch of morons? Apparently you are, because the new Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which was revised just last year, strictly prohibits torture or anything that even approaches it, or even cruel or inhuman treatment, of detainees.

You do also realize that U.S. law prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment? If we think it is necessary to use these methods, why doesn't the administration renounce the international treaties that bind it and ask congress to change the laws?

I'm really getting tired of all of you advocating breaking the law but not one of you saying that we should repeal the laws or even amend the constitution if necessary to allow cruel and unusual punishment.

Bernard Lewis in the WSJ the other day did a nice piece on the Russian response to kidnapping of Russian citizens/agents: Visit the families of the kidnappers and kill every man, woman and child in the family.

It shows the depths of depravity that the right in this country has sunk to when they hold the actions of the Soviets up as an example to be emulated. Wasn't Dick Durbin harshly criticized for comparing the U.S. government to the Soviets? A year later we should be following their lead?

Freder Frederson said...

Doesn't the law define torture as something that will cause permanent physical harm (again, I'm back to reading Doyle)?

No, that was John Yoo's suggested definition of torture which the administration had to renounce when the infamous torture memo was leaked. Regardless, the law requires a much higher standard of treatment than simply not torturing detainees.

Doyle said...

There have been over 15,000 FISA warrant requests and about 13 rejections.

FISA judges can and have been awakened at all hours to hear requests.

And the clincher: The current law allows for 48 hours of surveillance without a warrant until one can be obtained and retroactively applied.

So there's sufficient evidence for my first assumption (which was actually an explicit claim).

As for no information at all being produced by torture, that's actually not an assumption I'm making anywhere.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Doesn't it seem like a huge line to cross? Turning a blind eye to Human degradation by America? It's a big one.

Again, define what that human degradation is, please. If a #2 or #3 in AQ is captured with obvious intel, does a 20 hour questioning session mean torture? Is subjecting them to loud music or being humiliated by a female interrogator which is an affront to their culture constitute torture? I’m sorry but I don’t equate waterboarding and ‘rigorous interrogation’ with images of Lubyanka Prison. Like I mentioned to another person here, if that does in your eyes, perspective is a learned quality.

As for your other concerns, perhaps the reason more and more people appear tolerant of ‘torture’ for terrorists is because we are subjected to the visions of terrorists who cut off the heads of innocent people, screaming God is Great and promising more. Perhaps it’s because too many people had their come to Jesus moment on 9/11 when we finally realized that these people want to kill as many of us as they can and simply don’t have the same aversion to human degradation as you do. Perhaps enough people saw Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl’s heads being sawed off and have a difficult time equating these terrorists as ‘human’.
That might have something to do with it. What do you think?

Hoosier Daddy said...

So Hoosier, are you saying that the entire U.S. military are a bunch of morons? Apparently you are, because the new Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which was revised just last year, strictly prohibits torture or anything that even approaches it, or even cruel or inhuman treatment, of detainees.

Ok then so there is no issue with Gitmo and the interrogation procedures they are using then.

Thanks for clearing that up.

Mike said...

... So there's sufficient evidence for my first assumption

you need to address Drill Sgt.'s points

(which was actually an explicit claim).

Yeah, no kidding.

As for no information at all being produced by torture, that's actually not an assumption I'm making anywhere.

Others certainly do. All the time. But you acknowledge the possibilty that life-saving information might result?

Lars Porsena said...

There are three Americans missing and presumed captured by AQ in Iraq.
Number me among the depraved since I would use 'water-boarding' or the 'bell-telephone-hour' to extract information to find them. It's all academic for folks here but very real for the men searching for their brothers on the ground at this moment.

So nice that Feder, Doyle et al can remain pure and chaste. Theri lives don't hang in the balance.

Doyle said...

But you acknowledge the possibilty that life-saving information might result?

Of course I acknowledge the possibility, just as stem-cell opponents acknowledge the possibility of life-saving cures being produced.

But as a matter of policy, torturing people is just horrendously bad, as well as wrong.

As I said before, what life saving information we do collect will be far outweighed by a) the misinformation it produces, which will drain resources that could be spent on real threats and b) the increased hatred of the United States worldwide.

Finally, that hatred would be largely justified.

Doyle said...

The refusal of the "24" fanbase to admit the reality that there is a positive correlation between the level of hatred for the United States and the risk of another 9/11 is baffling.

If you don't care what people in Indonesia think, fine, but don't pretend you're "serious" about the war on terror.

MadisonMan said...

If a #2 or #3 in AQ is captured with obvious intel, does a 20 hour questioning session mean torture? Is subjecting them to loud music or being humiliated by a female interrogator which is an affront to their culture constitute torture?

I think a better question is: Do the techniques you list yield credible information?

What reason is there for a citizen of some unenlightened country to aspire to be like the US if the US is torturing people?

Roger said...

Freder: with respect to Bernard Lewis' article, neither he nor I were arguing it should be "emulated." While i don't know Mr. Lewis' position on the subject, I absolutely condemn such an approach.

Tim said...

"I think the brutal endorsement crowd ("I'll tell you what I'd do Bin Laden...") are just frustrated morons, and were probably always there.

Lots of average Americans have moved on this, though. If you took a poll in 1997 about how much torture is too much, I think lots of people who said "never ever" might now shrug their shoulders and say "well, you know, terrorists...". Do you agree? If so, does it scare you?"


I don't think that is accurate, at all. I think it helps to understand and have an appreciation for the nature of war. There is, inescapably, an emotional element to war, both socially and personally - and it doesn't lie deep beneath the surface, either. It's no accident the U.S. Army or U.S. Marine Corps can take a normal 18 yr old man, raised in a good family with good values, who's never demonstrated any violence toward anyone else, and turn him into a trained killer in 3 months or so time. And the same is true within the larger society. While only some of us believe we are at war with an enemy that means to kill us, calling people ‘morons’ who have an emotional, visceral reaction toward our enemies, including support for “torturing” (broadly defined) them might make you feel better and superior to them, but it really is a disservice to your fellow citizens. In democracies, it really is a bad idea to think wars can and should be fought antiseptically, with minimal involvement from the citizenry. Finally, I’m not convinced that which you site is not anything more than ill-considered bluster that could and would easily change upon closer examination of the issues. In many respects we can be thankful such examination really isn’t necessary.

Doyle said...

Does Tim's post make you feel any better? :-)

Roger said...

It seems to me one of the problems surrounding torture is the difficulty in defining it. Really, it end up being like pornography: no abstract definition is possible without listing various examples.

Let me provide and example I saw used in Viet Nam: Suspects are blindfolded and put in a helicopter; chopper flies around but decends to low hover. one suspect is pushed out; chopper flies around some more; chopper lands with one less suspect on board. Repeat process until stories are forthcoming.

torture? yes, no or maybe

Roger said...

oops--not clear: suspect was pushed out with chopper in low hover and not physically injured. No suspects are physically injured in the example.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I think a better question is: Do the techniques you list yield credible information?

Fair question which I will leave to the experts. The assumption I have is that it does and the individuals conducting such interrogations are doing so with the national security at heart. I think there is a difference between a police interrogation of a suspected murderer and a terrorist.

What reason is there for a citizen of some unenlightened country to aspire to be like the US if the US is torturing people?

To be perfectly honest, I could care less. I'm not being flippiant but rather, they could be killing fuzzy bunnies by the bushel for all I care as long as they leave us alone (hence my disdain for both Iraq wars, Bosnia, Somalia, and any thoughts of going to Darfur). It seems like we can be first on the scene saving tens of thousands after a tsunami, provide millions in aid after a earthquake in Pakistan but if being mean to a terrorist negates that, so be it.

Mike said...

But as a matter of policy, torturing people is just horrendously bad, as well as wrong.

I agree. Where we part company is what you and I call torture.

As I said before, what life saving information we do collect will be far outweighed by a) the misinformation it produces, which will drain resources that could be spent on real threats

There's that certainty thing, again.

...and b) the increased hatred of the United States worldwide.

They going to hate us no matter what we do. At least with the ability to interrogate (not torture) terrorists we'll be alive and hated rather than dead and hated.

Doyle said...

They going to hate us no matter what we do.

So much for "hearts and minds," huh? Better just to assume they're all animals and commence the slaughter now.

Roost on the Moon said...

A logical point for Mike:
I assume that I'm included in your et al., and I'd just like to point out neither of your premises are "necessary to support [my] position." Warrants may be hard to get (if not, what's the point of them?), and Torture may sometimes lead to information. I affirm the negation of both, and yet, my argument doesn't crumble, in fact, doesn't even tremble. The uncertainties of the real world are, for us, a primary reason to disallow the use of torture by those in power.

Roger:

They were good cross-posts, though!

I think I see the big point: That in this world, history and experience teach us that cruelty is the rule of nature, and not the exception. And that along the continuum of human suffering, having your head held underwater or being shocked with a car battery may well rank pretty low. Duly and somberly acknowledged.

The small point, though, is that the line between torture and discomfort is a blurry one, and I don't think that's true. Or at least, it needn't be.

I hold the (perhaps extreme) position that any pain extreme enough to cause a prisoner to divulge valuable information that he (or she) otherwise wouldn't have could plausibly be called torture.

Interrogation under pain or threat of pain is a good enough definition for me. But I know that won't fly around here...

So back to the big one. We should be a shining beacon. We should make it clear to the world that we are indisputably better than our enemy. We shouldn't let this overwhelming rainbow of suffering calibrate our tolerance of cruelty among our ranks. The creepy relish with which Hoosier would tear off another man's fingernails (for the children) should be banished from our purview, and we can then proceed under the banner of righteousness.

Pogo said...

Re: "Better just to assume they're all animals and commence the slaughter now."

I think the shift in your logic engine done broke.

Mike said...

So much for "hearts and minds," huh? Better just to assume they're all animals and commence the slaughter now.

Frankly, I don't think we'll ever get a fair shake with world opinion until Americans tone down the vitriol and hyperbole when discussing policy differences.

Doyle said...

Wouldn't that possibly save American lives?

Mike said...

I assume that I'm included in your et al.,

Actually, no. I was thinking of house and Fred.

Freder Frederson said...

There are three Americans missing and presumed captured by AQ in Iraq.
Number me among the depraved since I would use 'water-boarding' or the 'bell-telephone-hour' to extract information to find them. It's all academic for folks here but very real for the men searching for their brothers on the ground at this moment.


And if you were a member of the military I would hope you would be court martialed. As I have repeatedly pointed out. Google the Army Field Manual on interrogation to see what the military considers appropriate interrogation techniques and why.

Ok then so there is no issue with Gitmo and the interrogation procedures they are using then.

If they have returned to following the field manual, none at all. The new field manual was a direct slap in the face to Rumsfeld and the White House. There was considerable pressure from the civilian leadership in the pentagon to loosen the restrictions in the field manual and allow more "enhanced techniques" to deal with the "realities" of the war on terror. That the uniformed military basically left the field manual unchanged indicated that they still believe that torture is detrimental to military discipline, damages our standing, and ultimately counterproductive as a method of procuring intelligence.

And I didn't make that shit up. Its right there in the manual.

Mike said...

Wouldn't that possibly save American lives?

Man, you have a high opinion of yourself.

Doyle said...

Yeah that's why they hate America, because liberals are too mean to conservatives.

Roger said...

Roost: you and I are "on the same sheet." My problem with torture is that I believe the information is fundamentally unreliable. Period. Unless I could some culturally based psychological studies that demonstrate to me that people in fact tell the truth under duress, I am not buying torture as a good policy instrument. (and needless to say no IRB would ever approve such a study).

Fen said...

Freder: You do also realize that U.S. law prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment?

Careful how you weild that sword Freder. We've already been over this yesterday. You admitted you would grant "waivers" for torture in special circumstances, in violation of international law & geneva.

I doubt the virtue of the Left re torture. They won't allow waterboarding to pervent my platoon from being blown up by an IED but when its their family, their city, their life on the line, its somehow different.

Really, does anyone here believe the Left will stand by their claimed principles on this? Freder was the only one here I would have vouched for, and he's failed me.

I'm really getting tired of all of you advocating breaking the law but not one of you saying that we should repeal the laws

No, you're not tired. We have advocated it. When this first came up several months ago, I specifically said that I believed the laws and treaties re torture were broken and should be revisited. Do you remember now?

And I'm still waiting for you to define "demeaning" as regards torture under international law and geneva. Showing the sole of my shoe to a Muslim is deeply offensive to them, and demeaning. If I deliberately do that to psychologically intimidate a Muslim during interrogation, am I a war criminal? Your answers to date have fallen short - so pretend you're my defense: what argument you would present [with cites] to the courts, to prevent me from being wisked away to the ICC? Can you make that legal argument?

Pogo said...

Re: "We should be a shining beacon. "

Ah, but to remian morally pure and stay alive; therein lies the problem.

If a ruthless man attacks, say a 95 year old man who cannot fight back, or say, a Buddhist monk, known for non-violence, you are relying on the attacker realizing at some point that the beacon you shine is meaningful, and not laughable.

That is, you don't seem to grasp the concept of evil. You seem frighteningly unaware that there are many people in this world who don't give a flying f**k about beacons, shining or muted.

They find such displays as evidence that they can play the sucker, and good, and that such stupid people deserve to be beaten.

P.S. I am mostly opposed to the non-torture methods being discussed as I suspect for the most part the yield is small and often false.

I say kill them all on the field. Let go the spontaneously cooperative. Once that policy is known, confessions will be of a far higher yield, to be sure.

Hoosier Daddy said...

The creepy relish with which Hoosier would tear off another man's fingernails (for the children) should be banished from our purview, and we can then proceed under the banner of righteousness.

No relish, just the desire to save the lives of innocent children. If you think the equivalent of 300 dead kids in Beslan helps you hold your banner of righteousness then go for it. I find that rather creepy myself.

Lars Porsena said...

"And if you were a member of the military I would hope you would be court martialed. As I have repeatedly pointed out. Google the Army Field Manual on interrogation to see what the military considers appropriate interrogation techniques and why."

Well that's mighty liberal of you. Right now the AQ in Iraq has had time to work their patented magic with cordless drills on our men. I'm glad you have your priorities straight. I'm humbled by your moral superiority. I know the members of the 10th Mountain Division are feeling a lot better now about their missing men.

Roger said...

It seems to me the problem we are having is developing a definition of torture that is abstract enough to have some generality but specific enough to deal with specific examples of what could be construed as torture. I don't see any resolution to that impasse, quite frankly.

No matter how long the list of proscribed actions, someone will always be able to come up with another example. And that is a lousy way to create a definition.

How about the "do unto others" guidline that someone came up with a while back.

Pogo said...

I mean Let go the spontaneously cooperative, if such data are then verified, they live. If not, execute them (too much of a threat to our reputation if we have to house them).

Hoosier Daddy said...

If you don't care what people in Indonesia think, fine, but don't pretend you're "serious" about the war on terror.

Which makes me wonder if all the aid we provided them after the tsunami was worth it.

We were spending millions plus airlifting survivors in Pakistan after that horrendous earthquake but we still make the #1 on their most hated list.

Support tyrannical dictators = Death to America chants. Remove tyrannical dictators = Death to America chants.

I've long tired trying to rationalize the Islamic world.

AlphaLiberal said...

Retired generals blast torture supporters.

Fear can be a strong motivator. It led Franklin Roosevelt to intern tens of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens during World War II; it led to Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt, which ruined the lives of hundreds of Americans. And it led the United States to adopt a policy at the highest levels that condoned and even authorized torture of prisoners in our custody. […]

The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night’s presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. […]

Fucken A, Bubba.

AlphaLiberal said...

"Which makes me wonder if all the aid we provided them after the tsunami was worth it. "

Did you think we were buying their love?

Can't be done. Can't buy me love.

We help people like that because it's the right thing to do.

Doyle said...

I've long tired trying to rationalize the Islamic world.

Maybe we should try means other than invading it on false pretenses.

Pogo said...

Yer right.
I favor invading it on true pretenses, like we done did.

AlphaLiberal said...

"I favor invading it on true pretenses, like we done did."
Wow. After all the admissions, the testimony, the people in high places saying the reasons for invasion were false, you continue to cling to your fantasy world.

Real men (and women) don't hide in fantasy worlds.

Pogo said...

Re: "We help people like that because it's the right thing to do."

Indeed.
And we go after tyrants because it's the right thing to do.
We go after mass murderers like Saddam and Kim, and eye Ahmadinejad for the same reason.

No, we can't buy their love with either flowers or threats.
We do it 'cause it's right.
On that we can agree.

Pogo said...

Re: "Real men (and women) don't hide in fantasy worlds."

I'd like to visit yours sometime. Sounds colorful. How many suns you got there? 2? 3?

Hoosier Daddy said...

We help people like that because it's the right thing to do.

Fat lot of good it did us. I'm all for doing the right thing but a wee bit of gratitude goes a long way for me too.

You giving me a few bucks to help me get back on my feet after a hard time is a generous and right thing to do but would you do it again if I smacked your wife?

Or were you just trying to buy my love?

Doyle said...

Maybe we should try means other than invading it on false pretenses.


Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia, tsunami aid, earthquake help. Does any of that count? Seriously does it? So if removing a tyrant like Saddam inspires such rage, perhaps it would best to simply ignore them.

I have a dream....

The Drill SGT said...

I think Mike and Hoosier recognize the old ways were not all bad. Rather than use the Russians as examples, we could use Romans :)

Rome, a beacon of advanced thinking and freedom to some, an implacable enemy to others. Remember that Roman citizenship was a hugely valuable possession. a Roman citizen could travel the length of the kwn world knowing that while not perfectly safe,if harm came to him,the Roman Empire would point that out to the malefactors as they sat on sharpened stakes or hung from a cross.

I guess we should be trying to win the "hearts and minds" of those that are open to listening, but for another group of folks like OBL, another Roman saying fits best:

"ODERINT DUM METUANT"

- "let them hate us, as long as they fear us."

Right now we have the worst possible situation, they hate us and don't fear us. we need to change one side of that equation.

Freder Frederson said...

You admitted you would grant "waivers" for torture in special circumstances, in violation of international law & geneva.

I don't know why you put "waiver" in quotes as I never used that term. What I did say was that in "one in a billion" circumstances I could see the legitimacy of a "justification" defense to charges of torture.

You really need to go back and reread what I wrote.

Freder Frederson said...

Rather than use the Russians as examples, we could use Romans :)

Considering some of the people who claim to be Christians in this country, perhaps it is a pity the Romans didn't have more lions available.

Mike said...

"ODERINT DUM METUANT"

I could live with that.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Considering some of the people who claim to be Christians in this country, perhaps it is a pity the Romans didn't have more lions available.

Just out of curiosity, would you be including your buddy's brother in that group? You remember, the one in that Christian militia group who is a close and dear personal friend.

Just wondering because for someone who laments the lack of Roman lions back from antiquity, you were certainly falling all over yourself trying to assure us that your buddy's brother was a sweet guy despite his apparent hatred of all things, non-Christian.

I know Roger warned me about doing this but sometimes I can't help myself.

Cedarford said...

Respecting Prof Althouse's entry being more about how the MSM interacts with the idea of news generated through persons of interest dealing with bloggers, and the bloggers themselves becoming news product, I'd say it is not a new dynamic.

People with an interest in influencing news product have existed a long time. NGOs and activists who "set up" the news stories by organizing what the MSM treats as "Joe Everyman" amazingly deciding to march in the streets or act up on campus for a cause. Corporate PR and lobbyists that meet with media in hopes of shaping a story. The "legit" press having to deal with "tabloid" media (an ever-blurring line)when some celebrity is involved in actual news. Leakers that act as middlemen just like bloggers to pass on info.

Bloggers are just a new version of middlemen the established media must use. Occasionally, the bloggers force traditional media to cover a story they wish spiked as it doesn't advance what the news editors consider "progressive agenda". They uncover news the media misses. They have more resources than the media to analyze cases and matters of high concern.
Yes they are sloppier with facts, make more errors - but initial poster bjk is wrong in that some blogs and the posters ask excellent questions, excellent follow-on questions that traditional reporters lack the educational background to do as well. (Blogosphere has exceptionally intelligent people from backgrounds no reporter generally comes from in education or life experience, subject matter experts. Incredible diversity of the "good" not "PC" sort. And the kooks and opinionated ignoroids).

Initial commentor bjk is wrong to also alledge that "real reporters" removed from an otherwise newsworthy event prevents them from adding their own context to a story. The event wouldn't have existed in the 1st place if newsmakers like Rudy had not decided to use candidate time to reach a different audience and format than than the MSM "gatekeepers" controlled. To the extent that generated news the MSM felt it then had to report, all well and good.

To the extent that candidates feel they can get a forum where they are heard out, allowed to give answers without being aggressively cut off by some arrogant reporter finishing their answer for them, or hit with cynical "gotcha!" questions and deliberate traps set to discredit candidates the MSM media doesn't like, or candidates who later find that their best answers were selectively edited out of the published or broadcast interview? If anyone can avoid that from experience finding certain blogs conferences are more objective and honest?

That is all to the good of the public as well.

Prof Althouse shouldn't be concerned about "becoming news" as long as her role is objective. Which from her questions and others involved ask appear to be - and not cheerleading.

I have always wanted to get rid of just a pack of people with English degrees and a grad journalism or law degree out of being the only ones allowed to moderate, be the moderator's bosses, and decide what questions get to be asked at political debates.

Cedarford said...

On torture and interrogation:

1. Every military has spent time and devoted resources - including some of their best people - into espionage and counter-espionage, which has always involved coerced interrogation which in extreme circumstances - is "classic" torture.
If it "never works", militaries have had a curious habit of sticking with it when they have abandoned other things like chariots, mounted knights, big stone castles, battleships, and mass charges into machine guns once they become apparant to be ineffective and a waste of resources.

2. Same with police and internal security forces. If hard interrogation of criminals "never works", interrogators often selected from the intellectual cream of a society are "always fooled by prisoners" - why do they bother???

3. Gary Carson - Torture does not make anyone safe, it does not help you acquire usable information. But it does make idiots think you're some kind of tough guy.
Typical of the Left, Carson just spouts blind ideology and assertions he lacks any knowledge of. Winning wars, breaking up molestation rings, and getting killers off the street is not a matter of making "people tough guys". They are some of the most critical functions citizens in a society expect of their leaders.

Interrogations do get plenty of useful information. Especially when you have several suspects so you can cross-check and learn from their stories what are facts and what are lies that do not match other's stories. Just not 100% of the time. Arguing it shouldn't ever happen because it isn't 100% effective is fatuous. Arguing it "never works" is plain flat-out stupid.

4. WE currently debate this in complete confusion, from a legal standpoint - on exactly what "precious terrorist civil liberties" Islamoids that do a 9/11, a Beslan on 300 kids, and seek nukes to use on civilian infidel populations are to be "entitled to".
We also currently debate in complete confusion on what "torture" legally is - Because we know what "classic torture" is - but human rights lawyers & leftists with no vote by the people of any country met and managed to foist a "Convention" on torture that expanded what torture is to anything a bad guy might charge was uncomfortable or degrading.

We also are in a morass where Lefties want Geneva Conventions and the Hague to become "unilateral" - instead of reciprocal in obligation or the treaty is nulllified in a war by the breech. At their stupidest, they say that if an enemy hits America with 10-20 nuclear warheads, it would be illegal and criminal for America to retaliate because "innocent enemy children and other civilians would be killed by our counterstrike." Which of course would negate the deterrance outside Geneva we have used that has kept major war at bay for over 60 years on assurance of nuclear destruction of any enemy that uses WMD on us.

5. If harsh words, lack of sleep, stress positions, uncomfortable imprisonment, ordered to do painful work, being physically and psychologically "abused", lack of a Bible or Koran presented by white gloved guards, bad food, and waterboarding is all "Tooooorrrrttuuuuurrrrrrre", then doesn't any US soldier ordered to attended "POW school" have grounds to sue to get out of it because it's torture?
And sans waterboarding, that is basically what any draftee or volunteer can expect in OCS, boot camp in the Marines and Army, and a price they have to pay to get into high prestige, good promotion path specialties in those fields, plus Navy and AF specialties.
And similarly tough experience awaits CIA operations aspirants.

6. Every spy network and partisan saboteur network is arranged with premise that they must have a cutout and prearranged signals and check-ins. This is because the assumption is that if one member of a cell is captured, other members have hours, hopefully up to 24 hours to escape, before their names are forced or persuaded out of the captured member being interrogated.

What do spies and terrorists know that American and Euroweenie Leftists don't know?
******************

That said, I find the ideological inflexibility of the Manchurian Candidate, John McCain, unacceptable to let him become President. I don't want someone in office that knows he was personally broken by the enemy and gave up names, secrets - and made propaganda - pretending now and lying to us that torture "never works". He knows better.

I don't want a man who says he will accept mass American casualties rather than make an Islamoid terrorist uncomfortable or "degraded" - because other countries would criticize us.

I honor him for being a POW who did resist a long time before he gave in. But while his POW experience helped make his political career and provided the teflon to get him out of the ruination of the rest of the Keating 5, like Admiral Stockdale, it appears his trauma has left him a few screws loose and saddled him with inflexible beliefs.

Freder Frederson said...

Just out of curiosity, would you be including your buddy's brother in that group? You remember, the one in that Christian militia group who is a close and dear personal friend.

You obviously don't recognize sarcasm when you see it.

1. Every military has spent time and devoted resources - including some of their best people - into espionage and counter-espionage, which has always involved coerced interrogation which in extreme circumstances - is "classic" torture.

Then can you please explain why the U.S. military, and all civilized countries, have explicitly rejected coerced interrogation?

Hoosier Daddy said...

You obviously don't recognize sarcasm when you see it.

Sorry Fred, sometimes it does escape me. Sarcasm does lose a lot in typed translation. I stand corrected.

Cedarford said...

Every military has spent time and devoted resources - including some of their best people - into espionage and counter-espionage, which has always involved coerced interrogation which in extreme circumstances - is "classic" torture.

Freder - Then can you please explain why the U.S. military, and all civilized countries, have explicitly rejected coerced interrogation?

Because what nations say and actually do are two different things.

It is hard to imagine you are so stupid you don't realize war is all about killing innocent men without trial, starving or pushing enemy civilians off land, ending portions of their culture or aggressiveness others find existentially unacceptable.

But you are that stupid.

War is done with involuntary drafts, rationing, bombs, bullets, spies, interrogations, deprivations. That is it's true nature. Pissing in your panties about terrorists not being treated as wayward Boy Scouts is beyond laughable.

It's horrible, but necessary, given the alternatives of subjugation, loss of control of destiny, mass liquidations of your own people, or permanent Dhimmitude of the Islamoids win.

Freder Frederson said...

Because what nations say and actually do are two different things.

That is where you are wrong Cedarford. Dictatorships, communist and fascist states and nations that do not believe in openness or the rule of law say and do two different things.

In this country, what we do and say are one and the same thing.

If you don't understand that, then you are the traitor, not me.

But then, I already knew that.

Fen said...

Freder: That is where you are wrong Cedarford. Dictatorships, communist and fascist states and nations that do not believe in ...the rule of law say and do two different things.

Whereas you believe in the rule of law, with exceptions? You won't allow waterboarding to save my platoon, you will allow waterboarding to save your city.

Fen said...

...and you get to feel self-righteous about it too. That must be sweet.

AlphaLiberal said...

Not a word about the morality, practaclity or desirability of torture.

Geez, Althouse. Do you surrender every value you have when it comes to the right wing?

But Richardson is supposedly "irresponsible" for wanting to get us out of Iraq. Riiiiight.