October 4, 2007

"Painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures."

The White House admits today that it approved the use of "painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures" for terrorism suspects in CIA custody. It denies that these things constitute torture, which it calls "abhorrent." Whether or not it is torture, is it not abhorrent?

145 comments:

Carl said...

Ann, you're not telling the whole story.

Gonzalez approved these in 2005 AFTER the DoJ shot the White House down in 2004!

Further, by the CIA's own admission, these were the worst possible forms of torture that had ever been allowed.

Cmon, Ann, catch up with the rest of us, will ya?

Ann Althouse said...

Carl, what's your point? I'm not purporting to tell a "whole story." I'm asking a question. Try answering it. And be more polite.

rcocean said...

"Head slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures"

Sounds like boot camp. And I wasn't even a terrorist.

hdhouse said...

It is indeed abhorrent because 1. it doesn't work as demonstrated over and over and over and 2. what possible good does it do to use torture on suspects who "just might" be innocent (gosh not that it ever happens) or have languished in prison for enough time to either go mad or forget every thing of value.

It makes us look stupid and silly. It lowers our moral stature and IT DOES NOT WORK.

Rather they play videos of Bush "talkin' tough" endlessly..that would break anyone.

AJ Lynch said...

Not if you suspect they have knowledge of WMD.

In fact, maybe we should have used this technique on the incompetent George Tenet before we went into Iraq.

Joe said...

I question these repeated claims that these techniques causing physical discomfort do not work. They may not be a poor way to interrogate people and may be politically unwise, but to categorically claim they never work is absurd and demonstrably false. (And I don't disagree that even in those cases, lesser techniques may have been vastly superior. Or not.)

Reading the headline at it's most expansive would include the grilling I've given my children over various things.

(Lest there be any confusion; I oppose using extreme techniques--though admittedly differ on the definition of extreme--since it's very bad politics, I don't like sadists and it creates a moral environment where the next time we may find justification to go further and then further.)

Richard Fagin said...

Whether the listed interrogation tactics are abhorrent depends on who's receiving them and what information they are believed to know. They're absolutely abhorrent if used on garden variety criminal suspects.

The people being interrogated as claimed are not mere criminal suspects. They are throat slashers, use civilians including children for protective cover to launch attacks (frequently on other civilians), and respect no laws, let along laws of war. Don't get me stated on female genital mutilation.

"Interrogation" tactics not even as brutal as the described tactics are, on the other hand, always abhorrent if done for the mere purpose of inflicting pain or terror.

The difficult thing is preventing real information extraction from turning into infliction of pain and terror for no good purpose. It's difficult because knowing what some of those barbarians have done and are capable of, it is difficult to resist the temptation to torture them for mere retribution. What American wouldn't like to put Osama on a BBQ spit and roast him alive? Those who say they wouldn't like to do that (not necessarily actually to do it) either haven't had their retributive anger threshold passed, or they lack one, which in my view is a serious moral failing.

michael farris said...

"is it not abhorrent?"

Of course it is. You of all people have to ask?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Whether or not it is torture, is it not abhorrent?

No.

I think Zoomies and Academy cadets get worse treatment at SERE school.

Gary Carson said...

What's abhorrent is that we actually have people in the US that can read that and still support Bush and his insane ideas about world conquest.

Simon said...

To add to Richard's observation that whether it's acceptable depends on who and for what purpose (2:07 comment), and assuming the listed practices are the length and breadth of it, it becomes abhorrent if one can't rationally expect it to work, where "work" is defined not as "extracting information" but rather, extracting reliable information more efficiently than could be done by other means without undue side effects. However, undue side effects can be quite broadly defined, and as hdhouse alluded to above (1:56 comment), damage to our stature in the world -- and thus our ability to obtain cooperation and allies in the GWOT -- might be considered collateral damage of coercive interrogation to be taken into account in assessing its utility.

Gary Carson said...

Joe, it's not that they never work, it's that you can never know whether they work or not.

You'll get information but it's never reliable, you will never have any clue whether the information you get is accurate or not and in most cases it won't be.

Darkbloom said...

Under any reasonable definition, waterboarding/simulated drowning is torture. How the administration could claim that it is not is simply beyond comprehension.

hdhouse said...

If I know you won't kill me then what is to keep me from telling you anything you might believe?

1. You aren't going to kill me or let me go so I have nothing to loose...i'm there for the duration.
2. If the only thing you are going to do is hurt me then I have nothing to loose by saying anything that you might believe.
3. If I know you will kill me "after" I tell you everything, regardless of what I tell you, I can pick between death and pain or I can tell you in 1001 nights.

But for you who think this works, just think about it for a minute...

You can't just think someone knows about WMDs for instance or "might know" about a plot. If they don't know anything what are they going to do to make the pain stop? a. lie. If they do know something what are they going to do? a. lie b. tell. So HOW will you know the difference?

The Russian method was so much better. "If you don't tell me in 5 seconds I will kill you". Hey it was worth a shot.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I have to say that I would view each of these actions as a form of torture, but not as illegal torture. Anything done to encouragae a specific response could be considered torture, even something as simple as handcuffing an individual or tasering them.

My statndard on this is not in our eyes, but in the enemy's.

Individuals who can slit the throats of innocent flight attendants, and don't see that as abnormal behavior, probably will not see head slapping as deviant either.

Something that has always bothereed me about the death penalty arguments is the standard that the electic chair is cruel and unusual. Of course it is, to the eyes of normal society.

Yet to the convicted felon, who perhaps used a saw to kill and them dismember his victim, actions he didn't see as abnormal enough to stop him from doing them, would death in the electric chair be cruel and unusual, to some one other than himself?

Joe said...

Gary, to say "You'll get information but it's never reliable" is demonstrably untrue. The only thing you can accurately hypothesize is that they information may not be reliable.

It also conveniently skirts the issue that if you are after a specific piece of information, the reliability of everything else may be irrelevant. (It's also tremendously naive to suppose that any interrogation technique will result in full reliable information or any information at all. I am reminded that many POWs have said that eventually, everyone breaks. One hope is that you've fed the enemy so much bullshit that when you do break, they don't know whether it's bullshit or not.)

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

hd, you are looking at the subject's responses too logically.

Part of the process is to not allow logical thought on the part of the suspect.

Its easy to sit in your armchair and decide a logical path; try doing it on 40 hours with no sleep, in an atmosphere of constant noise and teams of individuals yelling contraditory and random orders at you.

it not if they THINK you will kill them; its if they BELIEVE you will kill them. A subtle difference, but a difference.

Mob said...

I find it hard to believe that torture doesn't work. There has to be a reason that it is such a common tool of warfare. Either there are a whole lot of sadistic folks just looking for an excuse to torture someone, or the practice has some actual effective use.

And for the record, these are hardly abhorrent. Head slapping? Really? Head slapping? Like the Three Stooges? Frigid temperatures? Winter must be a nightmare for some of you people. Even simulated drowning is far from what I would consider abhorrent.

brylun said...

"Batter[ing] by thundering rock music" is certainly torture that every card-carrying lefty would oppose.

Simon said...

Gary Carson said...
"[I]t's not that ... [torture] never work[s], it's that you can never know whether [it] work[s] or not ... [because although y]ou'll get information ..., you will never have any clue whether the information you get is accurate...."

While I agree with the basic point, as my comment above noted, your formulation here is overly broad. Of course it's possible to extract reliable information through coercive interrogation and torture; just as police will usually hold suspects separately to avoid any chance of stories being coordinated, if you hold two or more prisoners without their being able to communicate with one another, and they both cough up the same story (or even, to an extent, if you have a single interogatee who confirms something that (a) you already knew but (b) they don't know you knew and (c) is credible), that may well produce reliable results. The question isn't whether it can work, the question is whether in real-world (i.e. non-ideal) situations it does work, and works efficiently all things considered.

hdhouse said...

well Redneck...actually practice is of course different than just thinking about it and i must admit I'll confess to starting the sun on fire after about 2 minutes of Mr. Bush at a press conference...

but the issue is the abhorrence of torture. My point is that it may or may not work and to a lot of degrees in each instance...but it guarantees the surrender of the high ground when employed.

Earlier posts indicate that the "beauty of torture is in the mind of the beholder" which just avoids the issue. I don't care a rat's ass about someone executed other than I don't like the loss of any life and think that is abhorrent that we have a system that does it and it is a particularly evil way to die but what I really do care about is that we do it. The prisoner dies, guilty or innocent. I have to live with it.

Simon said...

Darkbloom said...
"Under any reasonable definition, waterboarding/simulated drowning is torture."

The UN Convention on Torture defines it as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" for a variety of reasons including extracting information. But even that definition - which I assume you'd consider reasonable - is ambiguous to the extent it turns on the keyword "severe," which one has to interpret as excluding practices which are "merely" painful or involve "non-severe" suffering. That definition would clearly exclude "head slapping," but although waterboarding is a much, much closer call, I think it's disingenuous to say that even under this most reasonable of definitions it's an obvious question or that it's "incomprehensible" that reasonable minds can differ.

Blake said...

Darkbloom said...

Under any reasonable definition, waterboarding/simulated drowning is torture. How the administration could claim that it is not is simply beyond comprehension.


One reasonable definition of torture requires extreme physical pain, where waterboarding (done properly) is purportedly not painful so much as terrifying.

Abhorrent, sure, why not? War is pretty abhorrent, too, at least to me. Why is that the question?

Is it effective or not? If it's not demonstrably effective, why do people keep doing it? For fun? And if someone is doing it for fun, can you trust them?

DBrooks17 said...

Gary Carson said...
What's abhorrent is that we actually have people in the US that can read that and still support Bush and his insane ideas about world conquest.


You might as well say "and still support Bush and his secret organization of clams and leprechauns." It makes about as much sense, and is more entertaining.

Revenant said...

Whether or not it is torture, is it not abhorrent?

I don't think so, no. Calling slapping someone in the head "abhorrent" renders the word pretty much meaningless.

Ralph said...

They say they've had good results at Gitmo with a comfy chair and a middle-aged lady.

David53 said...

Torture does work. To categorically say it doesn't is just crap.

It's just a question of separating the fact from the fictional responses, which if you have a good interrogator, is not too hard.

By comparison to what the Vietnamese did to our troops this is mild. War sucks and if a little head slapping will help save lives I'm all for it.

EnigmatiCore said...

I think we should provide to all of our captured enemy combatants catered meals, Tempurpedic matresses, comfy chairs, conjugal visits, occasional work-release, and unfettered internet access and cell phone usage so they can stay connected, as much as possible, to their loved ones.

Simon said...

Blake said...
"One reasonable definition of torture requires extreme physical pain, where waterboarding (done properly) is purportedly not painful so much as terrifying."

It surely can't be gainsaid that any reasonable definition of torture can include mental suffering as well as physical -- which at minimum could reasonably be thought to sweep in practices that deliberately put a person in imminent fear of their life.

michael farris said...

The golden test for torture:

You've been arrested and the government is sure that your internet conservative Bush-voting persona is a clever lie.

You try to tell them the truth (you know nothing! nothing!) and they don't believe and fear time may be running out.

Now, what do you want them to be able to do to you?

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

I don't care a rat's ass about someone executed other than I don't like the loss of any life and think that is abhorrent that we have a system that does it and it is a particularly evil way to die but what I really do care about is that we do it. The prisoner dies, guilty or innocent. I have to live with it.

hd, look at this the other way; the jury finds teh party guilty and the appeals have all run with the same verdict. He serves his 25 (or whatever) and while in prison kills a guard or another inmate or both. If he had gotten the chair both of these folks would be going home to their families. Do you feel guilty that these two died?

I know your argument will be that these two didn't die in your name, as the convict would, but my question is why feel guilty for a just punishment, when the failure to implement that just punishment has caused two more innocent lives to be lost?

EnigmatiCore said...

Michael Farris,

Interesting hypothetical.

Now we should consider a different hypothetical. Let's say there is someone who was an associate of Mohammed Atta. Let's say we became aware of him on Sept.10, and took him into custody. We were aware that some bad stuff was going to go down, and that if he did not come clean we were not going to know enough to stop whatever it was.

Now, what do you want our people to be able to do?

Now that we have two hypotheticals, each that lead to different responses (I would imagine). Which should hold sway in an argument? I would argue that the probability of each hypothetical would be a prime consideration. Yours is not very likely. The latter seems more likely to happen.

reader_iam said...

I'm interested in knowing how many commenting on this thread so far went and read the entire article which Althouse linked, or are basing their comments on just the brief excerpt. (The article is lengthy.)

michael farris said...

EnigmatiCore, answer mine first and I'll answer yours.

Darkbloom said...

Blake said:
One reasonable definition of torture requires extreme physical pain, where waterboarding (done properly) is purportedly not painful so much as terrifying.

Well, we are already in disagreement, because I don't consider the requirement of extreme physical pain to be a reasonable definition of torture. Extreme psychological distress that causes you to believe you life is about to end is torture, and I don't think it's reasonable to say that it isn't. As Simon points out, the UN Convention on Torture defines it as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person." (emphasis added)

Simon, re:
That definition would clearly exclude "head slapping," but although waterboarding is a much, much closer call, I think it's disingenuous to say that even under this most reasonable of definitions it's an obvious question or that it's "incomprehensible" that reasonable minds can differ.

Really? You think it's reasonable to characterize the imminent fear of drowning (often repeated multiple times) as something less than "severe mental suffering"? Obviously people can disagree on what "severe" means, but there is a point at which that disagreement really isn't reasonable anymore. [Like you, I wouldn't put headslapping in the severe category, even if others might.] While I cannot precisely identify that point, I feel unconflicted in saying "waterboarding = not severe" is on the other side of reasonable.

MadisonMan said...

Yes it's torture. Yes it's abhorrent -- if by abhorrent you mean detestable or loathsome. (I did read the article -- it doesn't seem that lengthy to me.)

My definition of loathsome/detestable/abhorrent: would I want it done to US Servicemen by an enemy in order to extract information? If no, then yes it is.

The CIA maintains that the torture has produced information to disrupt plans. Left unsaid (and remaining unknowable) is whether humane treatment would have elicited the same information.

Sloanasaurus said...

Using torture is moral when its direct purpose is to obtain information in order to save lives that may be in immediate danger.

Torture is not moral for any other purpose.

reader_iam said...

MM: I meant lengthy in terms of the excerpt, and to imply that there was more in there than just these tactics in a vacuum. Sorry for a lack of specificity.

mcg said...

I don't want U.S. servicemen wounded or killed, either. So I guess I can't allow them to shoot the enemy...

reader_iam said...

Using torture is moral when its direct purpose is to obtain information in order to save lives that may be in immediate danger.

My main, though not sole, problem with this definition is that it is entirely intent-based, which intent is supposed to trump all other factors, accountabilities and realities.

EnigmatiCore said...

OK, my answer is that I would not want them to be able to hurt me, but if they are the type to do that to me then probably whatever rules we come up with they would ignore anyway.

Now, if someone was being held who could stop my family from being killed by telling what he knows in a timely manner, and he refuses to talk, I would want them to take pliers to his balls.

My point is that context matters. The possibility of the government deciding to throw random people in jail and torture them just because is very small. The possibility that terrorists who have information that could prevent American deaths end up in custody is very real.

Should we torture them all? I say no. Should we get bent out of shape if circumstances dictate that a little roughness be used? I say no again.

reader_iam said...

Also, what's the definition of "immediate"? What type or types of "danger" And why the weaselly "may be" before "in immediate danger"?

Your description of when torture is "moral," as stated, is useless.

Revenant said...

The golden test for torture:
[...]
You try to tell them the truth (you know nothing! nothing!) and they don't believe and fear time may be running out. Now, what do you want them to be able to do to you?

And here we have the reason why that "golden test" doesn't work -- because what I want them to be able to do to me is NOTHING WHATSOEVER, including "keep me for questioning". But it is obvious that our standard for questioning captives cannot be "politely ask them whatever questions they're willing to answer until they choose to walk out of the cell and go home".

I would also advise against using silly scenarios like the one above. You know, and I know, that I'm more likely to be killed by a random meteor strike than I am to be grabbed by the government and shipped off to Gitmo for torture. If the government made a Top Two Hundred Million list of potential terrorists, I wouldn't be on it. So if you want to argue against terrorism, don't use the "what if it was YOU" approach, because it isn't gonna ever BE me.

Revenant said...

if you want to argue against terrorism

that should be "torture", not "terrorism". Darn "t" words...

Simon said...

michael farris said...
"The golden test for torture ... [is w]hat do you want them to be able to do to you?"

Your theory only holds good if we assume that the government has to follow identical rules for differently-situated persons. Would you say that the same standards that apply to prisoners in the federal pen should also apply to prisoners of war? And even in the civilian prison population, for that matter, would you argue that the government must treat all prisoners alike? No one is suggesting coercive interrogation as a tool in domestic criminal investigations.


Darkbloom said...
"You think it's reasonable to characterize the imminent fear of drowning (often repeated multiple times) as something less than "severe mental suffering"? Obviously people can disagree on what "severe" means, but there is a point at which that disagreement really isn't reasonable anymore. [Like you, I wouldn't put headslapping in the severe category, even if others might.] While I cannot precisely identify that point, I feel unconflicted in saying "waterboarding = not severe" is on the other side of reasonable."

I think waterboarding's a close call - as my subsequent (3:33 pm) comment suggests, I'm not arguing that it doesn't (or shouldn't) qualify as torture, only that it's not as intuitively easy a question as it at first appears. Personally, I lean towards agreeing with you that it crosses the line, and I thought the Fox News demonstration that purported to "show" how it wasn't problematic was fairly silly, but I think it's a close enough question in difficult enough circumstances that I'd hesitate to say that it should be in all circumstances impermissible.


MadisonMan said...
"The CIA maintains that the torture has produced information to disrupt plans. Left unsaid (and remaining unknowable) is whether humane treatment would have elicited the same information."

Quite so, but equally left unasked by your comment is who is in a better position to make that assessment, us, or the CIA? I also think that comparisons to "would the enemy do this to us" don't help your case; we know precisely what the enemy does to interrogate people, and by comparison to those practices, it's risible to call the techniques we've used "torture." Of course, the bad guys don't get to set our frame of reference, and I don't mean to suggest that as long as we're more humane than AQI we're golden, but if you're going to bring up the comparison, it seems fair to say.

michael farris said...

revenant,

your position seems to be that physical and psychological abuse of prisoners is okay because you're certain to never be subjected to it. That certainly does seem to be the prevailing attitude.

And my scenario is really no sillier than the usual ticking bomb scenario.

rhhardin said...

Well, it's not being done for the good of the victim, so that counts against it.

On the other hand, the basis of the rule of law isn't the rule of law. That is to say, it doesn't defend itself.

The best Presidential rule seems to be go ahead and do it, and then let people make their retroactive judgments. If you get prosecuted, you get prosecuted. So it had better be for a good reason.

It's not likely you'd get off for torturing political enemies, for instance.

But here :

People like the ticking time bomb example ; the real time bomb is already out there, an eventual repeatable nuclear attack on an American city. The _response_ to that is the ticking time bomb, and it takes out not Americans but Muslims.

So perhaps it is for the good of the victim after all.

If everybody played by the rules, everybody could play by the rules.

michael farris said...

"Let's say there is someone who was an associate of Mohammed Atta. Let's say we became aware of him on Sept.10, and took him into custody. We were aware that some bad stuff was going to go down, and that if he did not come clean we were not going to know enough to stop whatever it was."

My answers (warning, you won't like them).

Well it depends on what timetable we think is involved (not being clairvoyant and all).
Generally, from what I've read the most effective intelligence gathering techniques take some time and don't involve physical or mental torture as such.
If we catch him Sept 10 with no reason to suspect anything's going to happen the very next day then what happened the next day would have been unpreventable. I don't know how I'd live with that.

But let's stretch credibility and say I have reason to believe that there is a ticking bomb and physical torture might be necessary to prevent massive death of innocents. I'm pretty sure I would revert to torture in such an unlikely case. And I would despise myself afterward and expect and hope to be punished to the full extent of the law (and would lose all respect for a government that did not do so).

There is a _big_ difference between saying something is okay because you can't think of anything better and something worse will happen if you don't and saying something is okay because it's inherently okay.

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

michael farris said...
"[M]y scenario is really no sillier than the usual ticking bomb scenario."

I don't know precisely when the ticking clock scenario ceased being silly, but we became aware that it was no longer silly on 9/11, and to maintain that it's silly today is to try and live in the 9/10 mindset. If hawks sometimes overemphasize 9/11, better that than doves who didn't get the message the first time.

Darkbloom said...

Simon...
I think it's a close enough question in difficult enough circumstances that I'd hesitate to say that it should be in all circumstances impermissible.

For the record, what I maintain is that waterboarding is torture, and it's not reasonable to say that it isn't. I did not say that it is impermissible; I wasn't addressing the question of whether or not torture is ever permissible. My complaint here is that our government has defined the word "torture" so unreasonably that when it then announces "We do not torture" (as Dana Perino did again today), it cannot to any reasonable person be seen as telling the truth. And how are we helped in the world by having our government lie about its arguably unacceptable behavior in such an apparent fashion?

michael farris said...

"I don't know precisely when the ticking clock scenario ceased being silly"

Never, there was no ticking bomb involved in 9/11 but long term shoddy intelligence and follow up by two successive adminstrations. A very different scenario.

knoxwhirled said...

Althouse: abhorrent

Too pat.

enigmatic: context matters

Yes.

Trooper York said...

Paul Kersey: Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don't defense us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.
Jack Toby: We're not pioneers anymore, Dad.
Paul Kersey: What are we, Jack?
Jack Toby: What do you mean?
Paul Kersey: I mean, if we're not pioneers, what have we become? What do you call people who, when they're faced with a condition or fear, do nothing about it, they just run and hide?
Jack Toby: Civilized?
Paul Kersey: No.

(Death Wish 1974)

Simon said...

Michael, the ticking timebomb scenario depicts an event that will certainly happen as a result of a scheme already in motion unless it is found and neutralized. It's an evocative metaphor, which is why it's invoked so often. In this case, there's a ticking clock in the metaphorical sense of an enemy who wants to attack us, and will do so unless we either foil their efforts individually or eliminate the enemy and thus their ability to threaten us. Which part of this reasoning do you disagree with?

Revenant said...

your position seems to be that physical and psychological abuse of prisoners is okay because you're certain to never be subjected to it. That certainly does seem to be the prevailing attitude.

No, my position is that the "what would YOU be willing to tolerate" argument is silly because I'm not going to be in that scenario, ever. It doesn't matter what I would tolerate, because I'm not at risk.

My primary concern here is the safety of Americans. I am willing to accept a risk of harm to innocent non-Americans in exchange for a reduced risk of harm to innocent Americans.

And my scenario is really no sillier than the usual ticking bomb scenario.

I don't agree. I think it is much more likely that we would find ourselves in possession of a person with knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack than it is that the government would torture me as a suspected terrorist.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm getting to the party late, and rcocean and Ruth have beaten me to my best points.

1. as rcocean says, and as my moniker indicates, I have inflicted and been subject to "painful physical and psychological tactics, As an basic trainee or Boot camp inmate :)

2. as Ruth says cadets get worse treatment at SERE school.

SERE = is an acronym for the process that front line warriors prepare for in the event that things go bad. Survival (in behind the lines), Evade (to avoid capture), Resistance (in the event of capture) and Escape (nough said). The point being, we the US Military subject many of our troops (special ops and aviators for example) to this training. In my case, it included threats, abuse, waterboarding, freezing showers, confinement in unusual positions in a small bamboo cage, food and water deprivation (these days in the longer 3 week courses, students lose from 10-20 pounds). I only had 1 week. It was an experience.

was it torture? no. No electric shock, no power drills to my knees, no acid drips, no branding irons, no taking off joints 1 at a time with a cauterizing iron in between, no raping daughters in my view, etc.

Liam said...

There is no pat answer to this, given the fact that we wage war in order to acheive higher goals than just killing other people.

Analyzing torture as extreme pain and suffering can the be extended to confinement and even lawful imprisonment. None of the techniques listed would produce anything more lasting than psychological damage, which can also be inflicted by solitary confinement, which society regularly inflicts on those it deems deserving of it.

In addition to this, the matra that "once is too often" overlook the fact that given the amount of damage that could be inflicted on a detainee, what the US gov't had "admitted" to doing is minor at best.

Time for all of us to grow up.

knoxwhirled said...

I am willing to accept a risk of harm to innocent non-Americans in exchange for a reduced risk of harm to innocent Americans.

I believe that, if pressed, most people feel this way -- including a lot of those who say, adamantly, that they don't. It's easy to say "how abhorrent!" But, given the chance to save their own lives or those of their loved ones....

Methadras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
titus22 said...

I have experienced torture in my life.

One time I went to bed with someone and he gave me a horrible blowjob. It was pure torture. I tried to think of some other hotter guy blowing me but it didn't work. My pee pee became limp and I ended jerking off in his bathroom. The entire experience left me traumatized. I know torture and a bad blow job is pure torture. Take it from me fellow republicans.

Methadras said...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm living in the land of weaklings. We bemoan ourselves at the humiliation of our enemies, call it torture so the world can bring about it's unrighteous and fake indignation at how we humiliation those we catch on the battlefield, and then we say that we won't do it anymore because we want to be liked Europe.

Geez, I wonder if any of that unrighteous and faux indignation found it's way to Myanmar last week. I mean, they didn't even have to take prisoners to torture democracy out of them. They just kill them in the streets and throw them in the jungle like used toilet paper, but I'm sure tourism will increase to that country soon, perhaps? I wonder where Human Rights Watch was. I wonder were Amnesty International was. I didn't see them. I'm sure Kos and the kids were outraged by it. Oh look, not a mention.

This bullshit about torture is just that, bullshit. Most people here don't know what torture is. Never seen it outside of the pictures of Abu Ghraib that show a hillbilly with a leash on an enemy combatant. Oh my, I'm sure his feelings were hurt. Maybe he's still mad because they used his image without a photo release. I've seen the real after affects of torture from my time in Africa. Outside of actually living in that shithole of a continent, seeing people continuously maimed or killed for simply being who they were was the real torture. This is nothing in comparison.

Yet we wring our hands. Genuflect and cowtow to these disgusting pigs of the left that say we are the enemy and we are the bad guy for making sure that our citizens stay safe. That we won't do it again because we need to take the high road. If taking the high road means that you have to lift your nose up from the unpleasantness of the task of fighting a war against 8th century, flea-bitten, illiterate, malcontents, then I suppose trying to smell the roses seems quite pedestrian at this point.

We shame ourselves by being this weak. We denigrate the sacrifices of other by succumbing to mock nobility as defined and dictated by a bankrupt ideology that has no concept of what nobility means. What's the point of being noble in the face of death cultists?

Michael_H said...

"head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures"

Sounds like a date I had whilst a UW undergrad in the late 1960's.

Waterboarding vs bombing a US city with a suitcase nuke? I'll take the waterboarding, thanks.

It's no worse than making the fascists listen to non-stop Peter Paul and Mary records for about 5 years.

Skyler said...

The ancient Greeks believed that no statement made by slaves in their legal processes was allowed unless it was brought out through torture.

The Greeks had a lot a good ideas, this was not one of them.

It doesn't matter whether it works or not. It doesn't matter how bad the bad guys are. Civilized people do not use torture. I'm continually appalled that some people call for torture and mistreatment.

If we fought this war as a war and not as a half-hearted excursion, then we wouldn't feel a need for this. It's about time we unleash our military on the full scope of our enemy and stop pussy-footing around.

The Drill SGT said...

It's no worse than making the fascists listen to non-stop Peter Paul and Mary records for about 5 years.

PP&M, easy time.

Dylan or the Monkey's: Torture

Seneca the Younger said...

Under any reasonable definition, waterboarding/simulated drowning is torture. How the administration could claim that it is not is simply beyond comprehension.

Practice makes perfect.

(On the other hand, claiming that an opponent's position is "simply beyond comprehension" is a nifty way of avoiding an argument.)

John said...

For further discussion, please advise whether we should apply the pressure tactics against this recently captured chap, who seems to know where there are several hundred ticking time-bombs;

"....The financier funded al Qaeda cells in the Doura neighborhood of Baghdad, and the cities of Tarmiyah and Baqubah. "He allegedly employs 40 to 50 extremists who help deliver and emplace improvised explosive devices to attack Iraqi and Coalition Forces," Multinational Forces Iraq stated. "The group allegedly pays cell members $3,000 for each operation," and supplies over $50,000 to al Qaeda operatives per month...."

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/10/al_qaeda_financier_a.php

When adopting a morally righteous tone, please remember that it is not you, your son or daughter, your relative or your university peers, who is now driving towards those IEDs.

Seneca the Younger said...

The real problem with all these definitions of torture is that they don't really exclude anything. As a result, we have people literally making the argument that failure to provide a private toilet is "torture", that extended interrogation of any sort is torture, that imprisonment for the duration of hostilities is torture.

By doing so, we establish an implicit moral equivalence between shared baths and the extended physical abuse that John McCain endured, or being murdered by having your head slowly sawed off, as with Danny Pearl.

As long as we can't come to some conclusion about "torture" that doesn't distinguish successfully among these, the whole argument is useless, and very probably purely political. As this argument has clearly become.

John said...

Oh, and please hurry up with the advice.

My shift starts in a few hours.

oldhack said...

So, did anyone die. No? So, why, then is it torture -- because we scared somebody? If we can't scare anybody why, exactly, would anybody tell us anything?
I suspect the average U.S. citizen is a LOT more squeamish than the average terrorist. Don't you?

Dr. Ellen said...

In the current climate, with the current enemies, we really could get more imaginative with torture. If I were torturing those suckers, it would be all-you-can-eat barbecued pork, and nothing else but water until they spill the info.

Then, if the info turns out false, it'll be barbecued dog. If THAT info turns out false, I'll use burning Korans to fuel the barbecue pit.

If the government captured me and fed me barbecued pork, I'd be happy. So I guess that meets dear ol' Michael Farris' Golden Test.

Hey, respect for the Religion of Peace? Show me one, and I'll respect it.

oldhack said...

Lasting injury, even? No?
Man, you guys' standards are a lot tougher than mine. I figure we ought to be able to at least say, "Boo!" to folks trying to kill us.

Revenant said...

It doesn't matter whether it works or not. It doesn't matter how bad the bad guys are. Civilized people do not use torture.

Ok, so we're uncivilized. Now that we're done with the name-calling, do you actually have a reason for not using torture?

It's about time we unleash our military on the full scope of our enemy and stop pussy-footing around.

Now, see, you just demanded -- probably without realizing it -- that we actually *kill* hundreds, thousands, or even millions of innocent civilians. That's what happens when you "unleash" the "full scope" of the most powerful military force in the history of mankind. A lot of innocent people get killed -- especially when you're fighting people who LOOK like civilians and use civilians as cover. So why are you so blase about "collateral damage", but so vehemently opposed to "torture"?

From a utilitarian perspective, torture often creates less overall pain, suffering, and death than using the military does.

Salamantis said...

In ABC's Blotter report, Brian Ross reprted on the interrogation of Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, Al Qaeda's 9-11 planner. Other techniques failed, but after 2 1/2 minutes of waterboarding, he broke, and gave up several high-value targets and a dozen ongoing terror operations, saving many innocent civilian lives. Coercive interrogation, especially waterboarding, works; the proof is in the pudding.

zzRon said...

An easy to understand morality guide on torture:

1) If one freely *decides* to inflict physical or mental pain and suffering upon another human being for no other reason than to advance their belief system, it is abhorrent and evil.

2) If one is *forced* to inflict physical or mental pain and suffering on another human being in order to save the precious lives of perhaps thousands of innocent people, it is most unfortunate.... but definitly morally acceptable.

Of course though, thats just my opinion...and I could be wrong.

Dogwood said...

Here is the Blotter report.

The report states it took .31 seconds of water boarding before he began talking.

The Blotter also said that out of 12 high value targets, only one broke without water boarding.

Casey Graham said...

You view this in a context that is too restricted, too confined, too parochial. These activities are conducted in an environment in which much information is already known or thought to be known. This raw data is cataloged in huge databases. Q&A sessions with detainees are likely viewed by multiple 'users' who refine, define, and redefine the data as it is extracted. Frequently this known or thought-to-be-known (I'm channeling Rummy) information requires confirmation, authentication, or other support. Jolting loose a piece of data through coercion - call it torture if you must, but it falls far short by most standards - might save lives - many lives. Broaden your view of the process. This isn't as simple as good-cop/bad-cop to catch a petty thief or get him to rat-out some acquaintance. This is life-and-death and on a scale of sophistication and magnitude most of us will never fathom. It's not James Bond. It's playing three-dimentional chess, while putting together a jig-saw puzzle, as you juggle a Rubik's cube, while sitting on a time-bomb that has the alarm set for ... well, you don't know what it's set for.

People under stress do strange things. Spit out a name - utter a place - gag out a date - whimper a code. A fragment to us is a volume to experienced interrogators, cryptologists, and data-miners.

Also, watch the TV show 'Dirty Jobs' - that guy goes through more in one episode that most of these detainees go through in one Q&A session, is my guess.

Casey Graham said...

You view this in a context that is too restricted, too confined, too parochial. These activities are conducted in an environment in which much information is already known or thought to be known. This raw data is cataloged in huge databases. Q&A sessions with detainees are likely viewed by multiple 'users' who refine, define, and redefine the data as it is extracted. Frequently this known or thought-to-be-known (I'm channeling Rummy) information requires confirmation, authentication, or other support. Jolting loose a piece of data through coercion - call it torture if you must, but it falls far short by most standards - might save lives - many lives. Broaden your view of the process. This isn't as simple as good-cop/bad-cop to catch a petty thief or get him to rat-out some acquaintance. This is life-and-death and on a scale of sophistication and magnitude most of us will never fathom. It's not James Bond. It's playing three-dimentional chess, while putting together a jig-saw puzzle, as you juggle a Rubik's cube, while sitting on a time-bomb that has the alarm set for ... well, you don't know what it's set for.

People under stress do strange things. Spit out a name - utter a place - gag out a date - whimper a code. A fragment to us is a volume to experienced interrogators, cryptologists, and data-miners.

Also, watch the TV show 'Dirty Jobs' - that guy goes through more in one episode that most of these detainees go through in one Q&A session, is my guess.

Chip Ahoy said...

Torture terror suspects; I'm for it. Should be public. Please sign my petition to bring back the pillory.

Ken said...

I dislike torture because of what it does to the torturer. The effect on those being tortured is murkier. I do not think the techniques under discussion are torture or abhorrent but they are ineffective.

I can suggest a simple alternative that causes no pain and will work without fail. Its only problem is that it's slow.
Prepare a room, 8 ft by 8 ft by 8 ft. Contents are a comfortable bed, sink and toilet. The door is the only marking on wall, floor or ceiling and it is as unnoticeable as possible. Feed the person three times a day at random intervals. Good food. Let the prisoner know he will be returned to normal confinement when he has talked and his information is verified. Keep the light level and somewhat low. The temperature should be steady and comfortable.
No torture. No pain. Minimal effort.

Ricar said...

Yes. of course it is abhorrent. It is war, not chess.
Torture and terror, whatever our revulsion may be, do work. It is how 15 insurgent warriors can keep a village of thousands silent and cooperating.
Our holding back from such behavior may create the illusion of moral superiority, but ensuring military defeat in the face of a warrior who is indeed willing to take brutality to whatever level necessary to win.
Indeed, it may be part of "their" strategy to have us pull out of combat rather than "get in the dirt with them".
The fallacy of the argument that "we'd rather leave the battlefield than fight like them" is that the bad guys win and everybody lives under their rules- execute gays, oppress women, execute apostates, etc. etc.

Simon said...

zzRon said...
"If one is *forced* to inflict physical or mental pain and suffering on another human being in order to save the precious lives of perhaps thousands of innocent people, it is most unfortunate.... but definitly morally acceptable."

But that begs the question: what does it mean to be "forced" to torture for information?


Casey Graham said...
"People under stress do strange things. Spit out a name - utter a place...."

"Tarkin: You would prefer another target, a military target? Then, name the system! I grow tired of asking this, so it will be the last time. Where is the Rebel base?

Leia: Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.

Tarkin: There, you see, Lord Vader? She can be reasonable."

(To beat TrooperYork to the punch.) But, of course, they weren't on Dantooine...

Cedarford said...

Gary Carson said...
Joe, it's not that they never work, it's that you can never know whether they work or not.


A common misconception of how coerced interrogations work, based on a set of misconceptions.

1. First, the terrorist is not automatically smarter than the interrogators and thus able to "outwit them" everytime, as your TV shows, Hollywood scripts, and ALCU lawyers profess.

2. Secondly, by training and resources, good interrogators not only have years of expertise about the art of detecting liars using numerous physiological and psychological reactions (call that judgment - they know the cover stories, they smell a lie), and they have ready means of checking on the facts and storyline.

They will hone in on what are lies, what areas they and the terrorist know the interogatee will not talk about unless a range of coercions are applied that depend on the individual in the extent that will cause divulgence. Part of that range of coercion is justly out of bounds to us...

3. People tell the truth consistently, but they cannot lie well and consistently over time unless they are very, very good at it. Most Islamoids are not.

4. Cross-checking with other Islamoids caught will screen lies from truth since no two people can tell the same lie and the same exhaustive details behind the lie, but whole groups will tell the same truth, in the same detail. Going back to the liar after lies are made and caught, and more coerced interrogation, gets terrorists to give up trying to lie in many cases.

5. The claim by John McCain that as a tortured POW he knows that "torture never works" is belied by the knowledge that most of our POWs eventually broke and gave valuable info to the enemy, including McCain. McCain's claim that he "fooled" interrogators at one session now and then is true. What he leaves out is the Vietnamese usually caught his lies on cross check, went back and coerced him further until they got the truth(using real torture on our POWs - not the ACLU's version of anything past acceptable questioning by cops of a robber with Constitutional rights that is uncomfortable, degrading, too long - is "torture".)

6. Once cops "break" a serial killer in interrogation (if the guy has a bad lawyer or the lawyer is unable to shut the killer up) or a terrorist like 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is broken by interrogators - they tend to open the floodgates up and talk, and talk - squealing like pigs.
This is far better than a bad guy still in full possession of his will that will offer a crumb or two in exchange for favors like more rec time or TV privileges. And remain otherwise resistant and uncooperative.
(One thing Lefties that believe in nothing have a hard time with is their assumption that people with deep commitment to nation, cause, or religion will not just betray those iron vows and start talking of their own violition if we only "befriend them" and "give them good stuff as rewards.)

EDH said...

Did anyone catch Ken Burn's The War on PBS?

US troops machine gunned captured German prisoners of war. Oh, hum.

And Germany was a party to Geneva.

Whew, at least they didn't slap them!

Have our methods changed or our effete standards?

Contrary to popular belief, there are two ways coercive interrogation "works": by its use and its threat.

The possibility that it might be used reduces the necessity of its actual use by increasing the effectiveness of interogation without its use.

The Drill SGT said...

but you truncated your lines to hide the point that THOSE guys were REALLY evil, and the "torture" ws about inflicting pain and suffering more than just gathering informattion.

Princess Leia: ...Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.
Governor Tarkin: There. See, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
Princess Leia: WHAT?
Governor Tarkin: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration - but don't worry; we'll deal with your rebel friends soon enough.

Skyler said...

Revenant said,

Now, see, you just demanded -- probably without realizing it -- that we actually *kill* hundreds, thousands, or even millions of innocent civilians.

Muslim "governments" only stay in power because the people they rule support them or fail to overthrow them. They are not innocents. All people have a moral responsibility to take actions to end dictatorships ruling in their name.

Unleashing the horror of the consequences of their failure to support civilized governments is the surest way to keep us safe, end the war, and restore civilization to barbaric lands.

The only moral war is total war.

Using torture against specific individuals in our current watered down "war" only serves to give the impression of absolution to the citizens of evil nations for failing to overthrow their own regimes and serves to make us appear barbaric ourselves.

The Drill SGT said...

The dirty little SERE secret is that:

"everybody ultimately breaks"

enough of the right torture and pressure can break anyone. What one tries to do is safeguard the critical info until it is no longer useful in a tactical sense.

beyond that, you can attempt to withhold, or mislead, but there are ways of getting to you. they may not break your inner spirit permanently, but they will get you to talk.

Casey Graham said...

Leia didn't have SERE training. Her ploy failed.

If Vader had the technology to build a Death Star and have outposts all over a galaxy far, far away, he probably knew Dantooine was a hoax.

The Islamists might have SERE or the equivalent, but they don't have MIT and CMU and Ft. Meade.

We can undoubtedly verify, confirm, or debunk much of the information they provide in nano-seconds. Most information is unlikely new, but rather suspect and requiring some level of confirmation.

Think of what we now know about 9/11 and how we might have woven that information into actionable intel if it had been in one location at one time. That was a harsh lesson that hasn't been repeated - yet - thank God. There's a reason - we learned from it - we've adjusted. (But, it's not infallible.)

If we have the technology to wash through millions of telecom links daily, isn't it reasonable to assume we can also wash through info from an interrogation at least as easily and quickly?

The trick is getting them to talk. So make 'em talk.

garage mahal said...

The dirty little SERE secret is that:

If you have evidence of the U.S. Military torturing American soldiers, you have quite a story. Like, 60 Minutes material. But you don't, do you. Or are you confused what torture is?

enough of the right torture and pressure can break anyone.

This is assuming the person captured has actual information you want, instead of delivery drivers and farmers sold out by warlords that make up the 400 or so people in Gitmo, that we can't try because we did torture them illegally, and can't kill them because everyone knows who they are.

Now what?

Just like apple pie and baseball isn't it.

Revenant said...

Muslim "governments" only stay in power because the people they rule support them or fail to overthrow them. They are not innocents. All people have a moral responsibility to take actions to end dictatorships ruling in their name.

Skylar, your way of thinking about this is a little too alien for me to really respond to it. The only moral war is total war? I can't think of ANY moral system under which that is true.

I'd also like to point out that your "its their fault for not overthrowing their government" argument ignores the fact that there are innocent *children* in those countries, too, who obviously cannot be held responsible for failing to topple the local mullahs. It is one thing to argue that their innocents need to die to make the world safer for OUR innocents, as happened in WW2. But denying the innocents even exist in the first place is just Orwellian.

Revenant said...

If you have evidence of the U.S. Military torturing American soldiers, you have quite a story. Like, 60 Minutes material. But you don't, do you. Or are you confused what torture is?

Well, garage, since you agree that waterboarding, frigid temperatures, and the like aren't "torture" then there's no problem here. We can all agree that the United States isn't using torture, and go right on ahead waterboarding suspected terrorists as necessary. :)

zzRon said...

But that begs the question: what does it mean to be "forced" to torture for information?


In this case, I chose to use the term "forced" because there is no reasonable way of dealing with a group of people who have shown time after time that they place little if any value on human life in the here and now - and most disturbingly, not even their own lifes. When reason is not an option for our enemies it cannot be an option for us, and civilized alternatives do not (or at least should not) exist.

Gary Carson said...

Cedarford --

Cops "break" innocent people often. They get confessions, find something to corroborate the confession, and convict them. Innocent people confess and get convicted just because of stressful interrogations.

And you think torture has reliable results?

garage mahal said...

Revenant
If you have evidence, I'm all ears. Perhaps email me offline with these internal DoD documents of superior officers giving torture orders to a list of American Soldiers [judged against their own defintion of torture], and we can sell them to TMZ and split the proceeds?

Oh, maybe I get what you mean. Boot camp is torture! Kinda like quitting smoking is "torture".

Got it. I'm afraid we're still both at our day jobs.

:(

downtownlad said...

It's abhorrent, yes.

I would also say it's un-American, but not anymore. Torture is now as American as apple pie.

The Drill SGT said...

Cops "break" innocent people often. They get confessions, find something to corroborate the confession, and convict them. Innocent people confess and get convicted just because of stressful interrogations.

yes and no.

cops are interested in convictions, rather than the actual truth of the confession. Let me explain in a second.

The Intel guys aren't trying to convict anyone, they are focused on the factoids that come out. Those are the valuable elements, not a conviction. Also, military events or terrorist acts are not done by single crooks, so there are others who have the same data.

so when a cop "tortures" a crook, the crook gives up a fact, that may or may not be confirm-able, but it leads to a conviction, so perhaps it isn't tested for accuracy.

an intel guy tortures a terrorist and gains 5 factoids. He confirms those with facts on the ground, or by getting data from somebody else, or by asking different questions to get the same 4 factoids, for 30 days straight. The point is, the focus of the 2 interrogations is completely different.

The Drill SGT said...

garage,

the point that rcocean, ruth and I were making is that by the standard that some NGO's want to apply (apparently) only to the US military we currently "torture" soldiers in a lot of circumastances. sleep deprivation :) LOL, SERE, Ranger school, basic taining, etc. we train at being miserable.

our point was that the bar on torture was both vague and set far to low to be meaningful.

Cedarford said...

I met a few Russians a couple of years back who served in their Siberian mech units.

Drill SGT mentions our SERE. Which requires that specialized people more at risk of enemy capture go through pain, intense stress, getting slapped around, and mock interrogations inc. waterboarding. ....
The Russians did similar, except their boot training included "toughening up" beatings and winter survival with just a uniform in -25 DEG weather.

Which isn't as harsh as what the Chinese and S. Koreans do to select combat troops to get them ready. Their people regularly DIE in training.

Lefties - normally with no military background - do not appreciate how tough basic training can be for US Marines to help them save their lives and do the mission, let alone what certain countries do. They call what we do to our enemy "torture" not realizing that thousands of US servicemen go through SERE on orders. (And let's just say that in the field "quitters" - too tired, to demoralized, in too much pain to continue - aren't an option and it is best to walk away as an O-2 and let the NCOs "render appropriate motivation to not quit")

Blake said...

I knew this would be hot but I think it's pretty clear that the topic contains a number of highly debatable aspects.

My definition of torture being physical was from the dictionary. It was the first definition:

http://www.answers.com/torture&r=67

I've always considered the use of the word "torture" metaphorical when applied to the psyche.

And I think what's interesting is that even if we agreed what we meant when we said "torture", we would be no closer to determining whether it should be done or how we should feel about it.

Danny said...

This situation is ever-so-confusing! Can't someone please, oh please, reduce it to a cheesy straight-outta-"24" hypothetical situation that will define our country's policy on detainee treatment? Oh wait, what's that?! Oh, why, that's perfect.... that just might work...the ticking bomb theory! It all makes sense now, thank you, thank you hard-working legal scholars!

Revenant said...

If you have evidence, I'm all ears.

I really doubt that, but see below.

Perhaps email me offline with these internal DoD documents of superior officers giving torture orders to a list of American Soldiers [judged against their own defintion of torture], and we can sell them to TMZ and split the proceeds?

The press already knows that SERE involves waterboarding and other forms of "torture". Plenty of left-wing blogs have written about it. This is not new information. Nobody is going to pay you for it. Just because you have your head up your ass doesn't mean you can get rich by pulling it out!

Google "SERE waterboarding". It returns 51,000 hits. This is not some tightly-held government secret we're talking about here.

Revenant said...

Can't someone please, oh please, reduce it to a cheesy straight-outta-"24" hypothetical situation that will define our country's policy on detainee treatment

Danny, it is a hypothetical scenario, like "would you steal a million dollars if you could be absolutely certain nobody would every know you did". Even if it can't happen in real life, answering it tells you something.

The key question is this: is there a point at which it becomes acceptable to inflict pain on one person in order to benefit other people? The "ticking bomb" question is one extreme of that scenario, where millions of lives depend on causing pain to one person. It is useful because if you say "even then, torture is wrong -- let the millions die" then that firmly establishes that you're dead serious about the whole "torture is always wrong" thing. Saying "no, go ahead and torture the guy", on the other hand, establishes that you DO accept the fundamental idea that one man's pain can be justified by the benefit of others, and all that's left to argue about is how much pain is justified by how much benefit.

Michael said...

Gary Carson:What's abhorrent is that we actually have people in the US that can read that and still support Bush and his insane ideas about world conquest.

Look out, Belgium!

Skyler said...

Clearly, Revenant, you haven't examined the issue from the correct angle.

Total war brings the awfulness of war to those most able to adjust their culture and end the real cause of the war. This was true in the US Civil War and World War II.

When a society commits evil from the position of a society, then it mus be punished and stopped as a society. This is the only method that works. It may not play well to your nice, idealistic sensitivites, but the fact that nothing else works makes it moral.

Failing to end the war as quckly as possible is immoral and in the end causes more harm.

M. Simon said...

They should have just made them eat pork chops or greased their clothes with lard, or made them kiss a dog.

That's not torture, it's lunch.

M. Simon said...

We do in fact accept that pain is allowed in society to benefit others. In fact some people believe some pain is a requirement. Usually it is the same people who cry the loudest about torture in war. What is the main mechanism?

Its called taxes.

The only thing in question is the acceptable level.

hdhouse said...

Torture causes a lot of abhorrent issues. A secretary of state lying to allies by telling them we no longer utilize torture, a shill attorney general who signs secret memos that contradict the law and of course a president who lies to the peopole.

and to the foolish scenarios on here specially that hijacker one where we catch his buddy and torture him to tell us what would-be hijacker is up to...that is a beauty of all illogic....shy not detain would be hijacker? but I digress.

M. Simon said...

OK. So torture is abhorrent.

Could we stop using it in The Drug War?

M. Simon said...

Can we all agree that by the time a kid has completed a year of jihad kindergarten that s/he is no longer innocent? Say by age six?

M. Simon said...

"Batter[ing] by thundering rock music" is certainly torture that every card-carrying lefty would oppose.

So rap music would be OK?

I say we just set up a simulated disco and call it entertaining the POWs.

M. Simon said...

OK. Torture is Iron Maiden.

Turn up the volume.

blogging cockroach said...

i'll tell you what real torture is.
it's when they pull your legs off, one-by-one.
there's no reason for that.  we can't tell you anything.
or at least most of us can't.

and don't get me started about insecticides.
the worst is borax powder under the fridge.
a slow and painful death is the inevitable result.
there ought to be an international ban against these chemical weapons of mass destruction.
and you can't tell which ones are going to be effective, anyway.

all some of us want to do is share in your bounty.
opening your homes to us is the civilized thing to do.

Ricar said...

Yes, torture is as American as apple pie because we have always used it. We also firebombed Dresden, nuked Hiroshima, etc. in "the good war".
There is no "torture" in our diplomat language, just as there is no definition of terrorist, and no "genocide" in Darfur, Rwanda, or Burma.
No ,Victoria, there is no Santa, and we haven't suddenly "turned bad" under the evil Republicans. It's just that a sizeable component of the American population is no longer convinced that we should get our hands dirty once in a while to defend our values. Yes, and that means violating our values once in a while- it's a rough world.
Imagine that,Victoria, Daddy is not Santa! (But I see you still took the presents and didn't move out)

Ann Althouse said...

hey, blogging cockroach, why can't we read your blog? and how do you do question marks if you can't work the shift key?

EnigmatiCore said...

"And I would despise myself afterward and expect and hope to be punished to the full extent of the law (and would lose all respect for a government that did not do so)"

I was with you until here.

What I see when I read that sentence is that you would feel guilty for doing what you know is right and would want to be punished. Your hypothetical actions are a nod to reality; given the hypothetical circumstances, they are the right, sane, and correct actions. But you want a different world, and would rather have guilt about acting sane in an irrational world than realize that the rational world you crave has never existed, and never will.

I am very skeptical about 'studies' showing 'torture' to be ineffective; has the definition of 'torture' been consistent in the study through to the arguments being made here, was the underlying culture of the subjects consistent (Jihadis), was the study funded by those pursuing an ideologic agenda, etc. However, I do not need a study telling me that, in general, torture is not something I want our people engaging in.

However, if you tell me that when our soldiers have some asshole who isn't cooperating, who they know has knowledge of the infrastructure being used to make IEDs that kill fellow soldiers and they need the info before they change locations as they regularly do, that they can't slap him around a bit or make him uncomfortable (or even fearful for his life), then we part company. I don't consider that torture, and whatever anyone wants to call it, if our military believes it helps them save American soldier lives, then Godspeed.

Actually, beyond the critiques mentioned above, I actually did like much of your answers. I think that you are correct in that is a better way to be in general. My problem is turning it into a moral absolute. Sorry, in war there should be as few of those as possible. The goal is to kill the enemy and prevent our people from being killed to as great of an extent as possible.

rhhardin said...

You can put it this way : the legal system does not make itself possible. Access to overwhelming violence makes it possible.

For the legal system to say, ``We now take over all judgment of access to overwhelming violence'' gets the topology wrong.

One side effect is that the legal system disappears in the face of jahadi violence trying to make it disappear.

For it is now unsupported.

The legal system only seems to be a priori to intellectuals wanting to say they're better than those who preceeded them.

EnigmatiCore said...

"Other techniques failed, but after 2 1/2 minutes of waterboarding, he broke, and gave up several high-value targets and a dozen ongoing terror operations, saving many innocent civilian lives."

I certainly hope those who did this to him feel incredibly guilty about it and dream of having the full penalty of the law brought to bear on them.

I mean, 2 1/2 minutes is a long time! That's 150 whole seconds! The humanity!

Let me tie this back to the "golden test" for torture Michael Farris wrote:

"You've been arrested and the government is sure that your internet conservative Bush-voting persona is a clever lie.

You try to tell them the truth (you know nothing! nothing!) and they don't believe and fear time may be running out.

Now, what do you want them to be able to do to you?"

I'll have to role play since I did not vote in 2004 and am conservative only on some issues and liberal on others, but...

Let's see. I could have them throw me in jail, make me get a lawyer, pay a tremendous cost in time and expense to try and clear myself, with all the effects of stress on top of everything, all with no guarantee that I will succeed and with the possibility of this dragging on for a considerable amount of time,

Or they could waterboard me for 2 1/2 minutes. They would realize that there is nothing in particular of value in what comes out of my mouth since I have nothing to share of value.

I'll take door B, Monty. Those 2 1/2 minutes most certainly would suck, and I might have some nightmares. But the same would be true with door A but the agony would extend much longer and would cost a hell of a lot more.

I make the assumption here that they are not trying to get a 'confession' out of me, for we already have our enemy combatants in custody and are not trying just to get them to admit to their involvement. We are trying to get them to give information which will help us save American lives and kill the enemy. I absolutely, without equivocation, reject even these slightly rough techniques if the purpose is to gain a confession. But that's not what we've been using them for, and since we are discussing what we've been doing, that is to what the 'golden test' should be applied.

NSC said...

Kinda late coming in here but . . .

No it is not abhorrent. Our own military goes through worse in survival training.

And even if they didn't who the hell cares. These techniques will be used on terrorists. This is a war for Heaven's sake.

Oh, and they DO work.

Simon said...

Sarge, I know this is a tangent, but I think it bears noting that the context of the surrounding lines don't show that "the 'torture' was about inflicting pain and suffering more than just gathering information" (emphasis added). Let's come back to the transcript:

TARKIN: Princess Leia, before your execution I would like you to be my guest at a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.
LEIA: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
TARKIN: Not after we demonstrate the power of this station. In a way, you have determined the choice of the planet that'll be destroyed first. Since you are reluctant to provide us with the location of the Rebel base, I have chosen to test this station's destructive power...on your home planet of Alderaan.
LEIA: No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons. You can't possibly...
TARKIN: You would prefer another target? A military target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this. So it'll be the last time. Where is the Rebel base?
LEIA: (softly) Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.
TARKIN: There. You see Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. (addressing Motti) Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.
LEIA: What?
TARKIN: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration. But don't worry. We will deal with your Rebel friends soon enough.


The threat of the destruction of Alderaan was used to make Organa cough up the location of the rebel base, and it failed, to the extent that torture is problematic: it may yield an answer, but the answer may be a lie or - even if true to the best knowledge of the interogatee (Star Wars never picks a side on whether Leia was genuinely broken) - simply wrong. But I question what I take to be your suggestion that Alderaan was destroyed to inflict more pain and suffering on the interogatee, Leia. Tarkin explains, as I see it, that the Death Star's completion needs an effective demonstration as a capstone, in order to generate fear of the imperial government (as is often the case with WMD, the Death Star exists to coerce through fear of its being used, more than it exists to be used). Tarkin, I suspect, is more amoral than immoral; he has goals and isn't especially concerned with how they're achieved. Proximately, he wants to make a massive show of force and eliminate the rebellion. He likely doesn't care whether the target is Alderaan or somewhere else, as long as his objectives are met. Tarkin proposes Alderaan while asking Leia expressly to provide another target that meets one of his goals (left unspoken is that he isn't going to be deterred from his other goal); but there's no reason to doubt Tarkin's word that the reason he continues with the destruction of Alderaan isn't to cow a soon to be executed prisoner, but because the alternative target Leia proposed didn't meet Tarkin's criterion of needing a prominent target to "make an efffective demonstration."

Next week's exciting Star Wars digression: the Endor Holocaust. ;)

Simon said...

Cedarford -
"One thing Lefties that believe in nothing have a hard time with...."

What's that quote from G.K. Chesterton? "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe anything"?

Jim said...

War is abhorrent. These interrogation techniques become less abhorent as one comtemplates the recovery of the body parts of innocents from the WTC pile or the area around a car or truck bomb.

themix said...

Torture or "abhorent" behavior is gratuitously inflicting pain on an innocent person. Interrogation is compelling a suspect to give information. It's acceptable to harm him in this process if the harm is proportional to the value of the information in saving innocents, the certaintity that he has it, and his degree of resistance.

Jason said...

I think we should allow waterboarding illegal combatants in some circumstances. The Geneva Conventions clearly prohibit this treatment of legal combatants, but the illegal combatants could well be guilty of capital crimes, anyway, so cry me a river.

Having said we should allow for waterboarding in certain circumstances, I think we should definitely prohibit Chinese water torture.

The problem I have with Chinese water torture is that half an hour after torturing someone, you get sadistic all over again.

submandave said...

I am always amused by how, without exception, all discussions on GWOT, interrogation and torture devolve into a "this is torture - no, this is torture" schoolyard argument. I am also amused how often that argument is entirely devoid, even on blogs with a legal basis, of relevent legal reference. I offer my non-lawlerly reading of 18 USC 2340 once again for consideration in clearly demonstrating that none of the acts authorized could possibly be legally considered "torture."

Ann, however, is not questioning the legality of such acts, but rather the propriety. It seems to me that the question of propriety hinges upon some very clear questions:
- How inately "bad" are these techniques?
- What is the intent of the using these techniques?
- What degree of discrimination is used in chosing to apply these techniques?

On the first point, except for simulated drowning (i.e. water-boarding), these techniques have routinely been used in initiations, training and many other fairly common occurances. In other words, I do not generally consider them on the good-bad scale of being inately too far on the "bad" side.

On the second point, if any of these techniques are used specifically to cause discomfort or pain, then the usage is "bad" and should be subjected to censure. Like any other segment of society, the military does include some sadistic bastards (see "Abu Ghraib" for an example), but I think we generally do a good job of finding and punishing them (again, see "Abu Ghraib" for an example). The fact the a few may misuse these techniques is no more a reason to disallow them than the fact that a few may misuse their weapons is a reason to disarm the soldiery.

Key to the question of intent is utility. While the "torture never works" argument is both succint and sanctimonious, it is also unproven and requires the acceptance of unstated assumptions in order to truly be valid. If one truly believes that "torture never works," then one must also believe that those interrogation professionals throughout the ages, including those who are guiding this policy, are either complete idiots in ignoring the collective experience of their profession or merely sadistic bastards who don't care that it is ineffective. This seems to be quite a stretch to me. Likewise, the commonly offered conjecture that you never know the validity of information obtained under torture implies that the interrogator is using a single source with no follow-on verification. In reality, it is very easy to verify if, for example, the information on where an IED is burried is accurate or not. Simply call EOD and have them investigate. To those questioning the validity of information obtained under durress, please consider the following question. If you were a bad guy and knew where an IED/weapons cache/hostage was and felt compelled under simulated drowning to give up information, wouldn't you expect that giving wrong information would result in more of the same? Wouldn't that, by itself, serve as motivation to tell the truth?

Finally, on the third point I agree that using these techniques as a matter of course on any and all individuals detained would be "bad," but the policies themselves and, as far as I can tell, demonstrated practices show this is not the way they are applied. For example, of the former Gitmo detainees that have been repatriated, how many have subsequently offered testimony of such coersive techniques? In face, a Google of "guantanamo detainee repatriated torture" actually shows page after page of pleas to not repatriate detainees where real torture is practiced.

In summary, if the question is "is it not abhorrent?" then I'd have to say that no, I don't find harsh and sometimes severe treatment against specifically selected enemy combatants to obtain important actionable intelligence abhorrent. It is without question regrettable and, depending upon the specifics, it may be bad, but I like my words to have meaning and to ascribe the label "abhorent" in this case robs that useful word of its bite and strength.

blogging cockroach said...

dear professor althouse,

sorry no one can read my blog just yet.

it's been a little slow creating it for reasons you probably know.
things are just not ready to 'go live.'

when it's up, believe me, you'll be the first to know.

Freder Frederson said...

Let's make a few points here.

--Whether or not the techniques used constitute torture or not (and by almost universal agreement on the definition of torture, they are), they most certainly violate U.S. and international laws. As such, if such techniques were approved by the president and used, then he and those who carried out the orders have presumably violated those laws.

--Quit talking about ticking timebomb scenarios. No one has even implied that these techniques were necessitated by any such situtation. So that line of argument is merely a red herring.

--For all of you people who think that these techniques are vital and necessary to fight the war on terror, I have a question for you. Why did the military explicitly and unequivocally reject the use of these techniques in the new Army Field Manual on Interrogation? Now only do they reject such techniques they state in the introduction to the manual that such techniques are counter-productive.

All you advocates of torture are beneath contempt.

Freder Frederson said...

Like any other segment of society, the military does include some sadistic bastards (see "Abu Ghraib" for an example), but I think we generally do a good job of finding and punishing them (again, see "Abu Ghraib" for an example).

This is a horrible example. Only low level soldiers were punished. Allegations of command responsibility were never followed up on. And the persons responsible for torturing a detainee to death that very same night (whose pictures were included in the Abu Ghraib photos), apparently CIA contractors, were never held accountable.

Jason said...

No one has even implied that these techniques were necessitated by any such situtation. So that line of argument is merely a red herring.

I know, personally, of one such situation. It involved a guy named LTC West. West was court martialed, but the act saved lives.

I went out on hundreds of convoys in Iraq. The need for battlefield intelligence isn't a "red herring." It's a lifesaver.

I understand the ethical problems involved in coercive interrogation and deciding where to draw the line.

Having evacuated some of our wounded, and having grasped their hands in the aid station I lived in while they were being worked on by our medics and PA, I also understand the real world consequences of not getting that intelligence in time to act on it.

Bottom line: Take your red herring and shove it.

Jason said...

Er, that first graph was supposed to be italicized. (grrrr)

Skyler said...

Jason,

There is not a shred of credible evidence that Lieutenant Colonel West saved any lives. That was his goal, but there's nothing to indicate that he did so.

Freder Frederson said...

Having evacuated some of our wounded, and having grasped their hands in the aid station I lived in while they were being worked on by our medics and PA, I also understand the real world consequences of not getting that intelligence in time to act on it.

You are talking about military situations and you should be famaliar with the Army Field Manual on Interrogation and procedures that require you to turn captives over to MI units as quickly as possible. From a tactical standpoint, I am sure the ticking timebomb or ambush scenario is very real. But from a strategic perspective, which is what the military must consider, maltreatment and torture of captives is counterproductive.

Compare the death rates on both sides in Europe in World War II. In the east no quarter was given while on the western front Geneva was substantially. Literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of allied soldiers (and Germas) owe their lives to the fact, that on the whole, German prisoners were very well treated. On the eastern front they fought to the death. The Russians probably lost more men in the last month of the war than the western allies did in Europe from D-Day til the end of the war.

hdhouse said...

themix said...
Torture or "abhorent" behavior is gratuitously inflicting pain on an innocent person. Interrogation is compelling a suspect to give information. It's acceptable to harm him ...."

How amazing. Can you draw the line for me where innocence ends, a suspect begins, and guilty starts?

When you encounter someone how do YOU know which he/she is? In your case I am going to assume your answer is "by looking at him".

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Jason: Your 10:29 a.m. comment? Hysterically funny. Still LOLing.

Freder Frederson said...

I am always amused by how, without exception, all discussions on GWOT, interrogation and torture devolve into a "this is torture - no, this is torture" schoolyard argument.

I am actually disgusted by this, because this argument shouldn't even be taking place. When the president or whoever says "we don't torture" as if that is good enough, the follow-up should be "so what? Simply not torturing people is not good enough, the law requires that you don't treat detainees cruelly or inhumanely either".

If the president doesn't like those standards, then he needs to go to Congress and say he needs the law changed; not issue secret memos excusing and justifying illegal behavior.

And if all of you people think we should be torturing people, then you need to call your congressperson and tell them we need to repeal the War Crimes Act and withdraw from the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (See, right there in the title it tells you that just "not torturing" just isn't good enough).

Revenant said...

Quit talking about ticking timebomb scenarios.

I'll stop discussing hypothetical torture scenarios when people stop making brain-dead statements like "torture is always wrong" and "we should never use torture".

So long as people keep making statements like that, I'll keep pointing out how ridiculous they are.

No one has even implied that these techniques were necessitated by any such situtation.

There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of interrogations using the techniques described here. We don't know the full set of reasons for them, although we do know that terrorist attacks have been foiled as a result. So there's no basis for your claim that the situation has never come up. It is easy to see that a captured jihadist might be interrogated for the location of IUDs, for example, which would be a small-scale version of the "ticking bomb" scenario.

Freder Frederson said...

It is easy to see that a captured jihadist might be interrogated for the location of IUDs, for example, which would be a small-scale version of the "ticking bomb" scenario.

If we have used these techniques "hundreds or thousands of times" or on jihadists for the locations of IEDs (I could make a joke about your typo), which of course would be a direct violation of current military policy, then Bush certainly needs to be impeached and tried for war crimes with all due haste.

submandave said...

"Whether or not the techniques used constitute torture or not (and by almost universal agreement on the definition of torture, they are), they most certainly violate U.S. and international laws."

Freder, I will pause while you both read the US law as well as the US recognized reading of the UN charter on torture quoted at my link and take the time to form an actual argument on how "Painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping, simulated drowning, and frigid temperatures" meets the legal definition of torture. Absent any cogent rebuttal I will assume your entire argument hinges on the "everybody knows..." argument.

"this argument [what is torture] shouldn't even be taking place"

I see you also added the "this topic is off the table an dif you don't agree with me you're morally bankrupt" defense to your repetiore. How properly sanctimonious.

"And if all of you people think we should be torturing people, then you need to call your congressperson and tell them we need to repeal the War Crimes Act and withdraw from the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (See, right there in the title it tells you that just "not torturing" just isn't good enough)."

And your moral superiority is assured, no actual reading of others' comments needed! Had you chosen to actually link to the OHCHR convention you need not limit your reading to just the title. As such, I wait, again, for you to offer an argument that the text of the convention provides any specific prohibition against any practices other than torture.

If empassioned pleas were all that was required I might just be won over by your ardent chest beating and cloak rending. However, I try to season my reason with a dash of logic.

submandave said...

Oh, and concerning your evaluation of Abu Ghraib, all who participated or had knowledge of the activities but failed to act were charged and tried. Additionally, the commanding General, who was ultimately responsible for the overall command climate, was relieved and demoted. As to your allegation that another prisoner was "tortured to death" that same night, I'd appreciate a link to a relatively neutral and well-known source to research it before responding.

submandave said...

OK, I assume you are talking about the death of Manadel al-Jamadi on 11/4/03. The details are limited, and the largest article on it, from the New Yorker, has several factual errors that make me believe the author is predisposed against US action in Iraq (describing water-boarding as "near drowning" and claiming evidence of "pervasive prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib"). That said, it seems there has been no further information available since.

In case there is any question, I do not approve of torturing and beating prisoners to death. Strange that I feel I need to tell you, lest you think otherwise, but in my book that says more about you than me.

Freder Frederson said...

Oh, and concerning your evaluation of Abu Ghraib, all who participated or had knowledge of the activities but failed to act were charged and tried. Additionally, the commanding General, who was ultimately responsible for the overall command climate, was relieved and demoted.

You are obviously woefully misinformed about Abu Ghraib. If what you say is true, name one commissioned officer below the rank of BG who was disciplined (and the only flag officer who was disciplined didn't even have command authority over that section of the prison--she was quite simply railroaded). Since you are spouting off about AG without knowing the first thing about it, researching for the picture of the dead detainee yourself will do you some good.

As for your patently ridiculous assertion that the techniques described are not torture and therefore not illegal. Waterboarding is recognized by almost every NGO and most governments as a torture technique and is often cited by the State Department when condemning other countries for torturing people. The other techniques, in isolation, may not be torture, but when combined and used over a long period of time, or used in certain circumstances, certainly can be. The fact that we may subject our soldiers to some of these techniques under carefully controlled circumstances so that they may better hold up under torture does not demonstrate that they are not torture, actually it proves just the opposite.

Freder Frederson said...

And your moral superiority is assured, no actual reading of others' comments needed!

Actually, my moral superiority is assured. I am sickened that so many Americans--including the President and the sick, depraved dishonorable people in his administration--are so willing and so afraid that they are willing to sacrifice American and Christian principles so quickly. So while you go round and round and try to parse language and justify barbaric behavior I can sit on my moral high horse and judge you because you do not have a shred of moral decency. And big whoopy shit that you don't think we should beat people to death. How humane of you.

I have said over and over again on this page that I think the Army Field Manual on Interrogation should be the standard for how we treat prisoners. Not one of you has given me one valid reason why we shouldn't trust the experience and good sense of the uniformed military on this issue.

You are just a bunch of bloodthirsty bastards, or more likely, bedwetting cowards, who are willing to surrender all vestiges of human decency in some misguided zeal and need to strike out.

Revenant said...

which of course would be a direct violation of current military policy, then Bush certainly needs to be impeached and tried for war crimes with all due haste.

There are many amusing aspects to that little rant:

(1): If in fact it is policy to not do that -- as you claim -- then Bush isn't liable for those occasions when it DOES happen. Presidents are responsible for the policies they set, not for soldiers who violate those policies.

(2): You would rather see American soldiers die than see terrorists suffer. That says a lot about which side you're on, in my opinion.

(3): No American President is ever going to be tried for war crimes, because no foreign court capable of putting people on trial for war crimes has jurisdiction over Americans and no US law is violated by the waterboarding of captured enemy troops.

(4): No Congress is going to impeach a President for taking an action that demonstrably saved American lives. That's just political reality.

hdhouse said...

hey rev....if 4000 dead and 30,000 wounded is thepositive of torturing the bad guys then we are getting the guys with no information.

...oh and hey torture does work...i haven't had an elephant in my back yard in years...i think 10 now...but i am sure they are coming back so i grabbed me a squirrel who looked aged and might remember the elephants from their last visit and i tortured the rascal because i felt that if any animal in my yard would know he would...you know little secret animal get to gethers and all. before he died he told me they were up the street and would be here when they were done with the neighbors.

now i can just wait.

knoxwhirled said...

hd: don't comment while drunk!

Eric said...

You folks are seriously disturbed, and disturbing.