July 2, 2008

"The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face."

Christopher Hitchens has himself waterboarded.
Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
He has a second go at it:
Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it....
Hitchens concludes: "[I]f waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture." But if Hitchens is willing to submit to it as an experiment, it can't be the worst torture. We can easily think of many tortures that he would not have accepted for journalistic purposes and that no one friendly to him would have perpetrated.

Hitchens doesn't deprive us of the pro-waterboarding argument:
[A] man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.
But Hitchens nevertheless concludes that it is torture and that Americans should not torture, and his argument is chiefly a practical one premised on American interests.

ADDED: Video of the Hitchens waterboarding.

100 comments:

TMink said...

I am against waterboarding in general as it is beneath us as a nation. I can certainly accept that under specific circumstances the needs of the many outweigh the needs of one terrorist, but I oppose the practice.

Given the choice of having my fingernails torn off, my genitals hooked up to electricity, or being waterboarded, I would go for the wet towels any day.

Trey

Bob said...

This will be the talk of the blogosphere for the next 24 hours, I'm guessing. I admire him greatly for being willing to put himself on the line like this.

He mentions US Military SERE training, which involves waterboarding and other techniques. I refused the chance to go to SERE school when I was in the Navy, since I didn't have any desire to do the work that require it (air crew). SERE is discussed at Wikipedia.

Roger J. said...

I agree completely with Mr. H and his ratinale for his disapproval. Wow--can't wait for Freder to weigh in on this one!

Roger J. said...

BTW: did Hitch do this experiment aided by ingestion of alcohol? Of course, he may have enough residual alcohol in his system to never have to take another drink.

SteveR said...
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Salamandyr said...

Kudos to Hitch for going through the whole ordeal.

It seems to me, there is a whole range of bad things we can do to prisoners, from a stern talking to all the way up to the rack and iron maiden. No matter where we draw the line, somethings we do are going to come close to torture. Waterboarding was right on the line. Now we've decided, nope, that's torture. Well, now we've moved the line, and now stress positions and sleep deprivation are up against that line. Do we ban those next? But interrogators will still have the need to do some kind of unpleasant thing to prisoners to get them to talk. So where will we stop?

Henry said...

I'm with Hitch.

One additional point in regards to both Hitchens' experiment and military SERE training: all the candidates in these cases trusted their torturers not to actually kill them.

SteveR said...

Does not waterboarding help us as a nation? Perhaps, all I know is the summation of all the blood and treasure spent by America over the last 100 years or so to advance freedom (and yes admitting to faults) has many (most) in the world hating us anyway. So I'm inclined to say the hell with that rationale.

Also most (all) of the people subjected to this are willing to cut off people's heads and any number of horrible acts many against innocents so I don't think Hitchens'impression compares in the same sense that it would to compare his impression of having to eat dog food versus a dog's.

George said...

stever--

It's a myth that people in other countries hate America.

"We have nothing to give the Americans; we are the ones who should be thankful!"

So say a group of Iraqi expatriates planning to return home.

The tragedy is that we don't have the resources or the will to liberate people in Zimbabwe, N. Korea, and other countries.

Dave said...

"But if Hitchens is willing to submit to it as an experiment, it can't be the worst torture."

I wouldn't necessarily reach this conclusion. Unlike some other forms of torture where it is easy for one to imagine the pain/discomfort caused, there is an unknown element to water boarding which leaves it open to debate as to whether it constitutes torture. It is easy to imagine the pain caused by the rack, not so easy in the case of water boarding. But that doesn't necessarily mean the former is worse than the latter.

Greybeard said...

"When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay."

So it's not torture?
Waterboard on!

AlphaLiberal said...

Waterboarding Hitchens. What a treat. Thanks, Ann.

In other news, it's revealed that the Bush-Cheney torture regime used methods developed by Communist China.

OK, all you lockstep keyboard warriors. Let's hear how you defend using torture techniques developed by Red China.

"What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners."

Titan said...

There are lots of things that would be torture that I might submit to for journalism.

Holding an (empty) gun to a prisoner's head and threatening to shoot is fairly unanimously agreed to be torture, but I would be happy to undergo it as a journalist because I would know what was going on.

As a journalist, you know what is going on. As a prisoner, you are terrified. Prisoners in American custody have died during these sessions, and they do not have the benefit of the professional handlers that Hitchens got.

Sloanasaurus said...

I think "torture" is justified if it is being done to obtain information to save lives. In that case it is no longer torture, but self defense. Perhaps it does put a black mark on our nation, but sometimes it's better to be alive with a black mark than dead.

Torture is not morally justified to obtain a confession or for propaganda.

If a psychopath imprisoned your child and hid them in a pit and you captured the psychopath away from the pit and they refused to tell you where the child was. Torture is justified in that case to obtain the information before the child starved to death.

SteveR said...

George, If in fact most of the world does like us and is thankful (and I would assume Iraqi expatriates would) it doesn't change the fact that we need to do what's best for us and ultimately that's what's best for everyone else.

William said...

Just after the fall of Saddam, the BBC (yes the BBC) showed a torture chamber in one of his prisons. A harness and tackle were rigged over a vat. The vat was filled with acid. A human being was secured into the harness. His lower body including the groin was then dipped into the vat. They interviewed a man who had undergone this torture and showed some of the scars on his lower limbs.....There are people opposed to waterboarding who do so because they wish to luxuriate in their moral superiority over those who support it. Those same people are reticent to express disapproval over AQ's use of power drills as an instrument of torture because moral superiority over such people is racist....In Algeria, Rhodesia, and Vietnam, the left saw their heroes triumph. There was no diminishment of pain in these liberated countries. There was only a diminishment in Western protests against the pain in those countries.

AlphaLiberal said...

"The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency. "

PJ said...

I think Salamandyr suggests the pertinent question -- do such men as KSM have a right not to have their will overborne by means other than verbal persuasion? It seems to me that if you define "torture" as anything you wouldn't wish on a captive American, that's where you end up.

And note that the argument that ultimately persuades Hitch isn't even "if we don't do it, they won't do it." The argument is (as I read it) that "if we do it, they'll feel justified in doing it." So Hitch's practical argument isn't that if we stop waterboarding, future Americans won't be tortured. (At least with respect to the current war, he surely knows better). His argument is that future torturers of Americans won't feel (or be) justified. (Take that, future torturers.)

I'm not saying I think waterboarding isn't torture, and I do applaud Hitch for ensuring that both sides of the argument were aired in his piece. I just didn't find Hitch's side of the argument particularly persuasive, and if I'm going to simply outsource my opinion I'd rather outsource it to someone like John McCain.

AlphaLiberal said...

So if the USA willingly embraces Communist torture techniques, what is left to separate us from them?

We have an expanded police state with broader surveillance powers. To this day many of their surveillance activities are withheld from the public.

We even have members of the opposition party being jailed, though nothing close to Red China.

Bush and Cheney have moved us closer to resembling Communist China!!

Middle Class Guy said...

SteveR said...
...has many (most) in the world hating us anyway. So I'm inclined to say the hell with that rationale.


If that propaganda assumption is true, then why are so many people trying to get here? I do not see people risking life and limb to go to France, Italy, or Germany. No one is going to Somalia, Sudan, or Cuba either. People are flocking to America. They would not want to come here out of hatred for us.

BTW, since France, Italy, Spain, and Gernmany have been moly coddling terrorists for years and giving in to thier demands, who cares what they think of us anyway.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Bush and Cheney have moved us closer to resembling Communist China!!

Oh posh. There aren't communists anymore and even if there were, there wasn't anything wrong with them. A lot of my college profs told me so. They were enlightend people who ensured a fair and egalitarian society.

Even so, I would have thought a liberal like yourself would embrace emulating China as showing our multi-cultural bona fides. After all, our culture is no better than theirs isn't it? Can't we learn from other more older cultures such as the Chinese?

michael farris said...

"I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer."

Yes. That's the problem. If he didn't have the answer I'm sure he'd be glad to make something up.

Skyler said...

As a Marine, I'm appalled that our government even talks about allowing these techniques, let alone uses them. If I were to be captured, I would not want to be treated that way at all.

But then again, none of our enemies have treated us well when captured with the strange exception of the Germans. Our insistence at good treatment was not reciprocated in the past.

But that still does not excuse torture. Two wrongs don't make a right. Prisoners should be fed and treated humanely. No exceptions, or we become what we claim to be fighting against.

Salamandyr said...

Blogger michael farris said...

"I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer."

Yes. That's the problem. If he didn't have the answer I'm sure he'd be glad to make something up.


Therein lies a misunderstanding. We do not use waterboarding to determine guilt, but to convince those we already know to be guilty to provide information damaging to their cause, like "where's the ammo dump" and "when is the attack planned".

clint said...

This all seems like we're debating about angels dancing on the heads of pins.

Who cares whether this particular technique should be labeled as "torture"?

The question of whether or not we should be waterboarding captives doesn't hinge on a terminological debate. Either that level of fear and coercion is acceptable or it is not.

That's a tough argument to have, since few of us know just exactly what that level of fear and coercion is -- Hitchens is now someone who can productively weigh in on that. But that's the only relevant debate.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

I'm with Ann this time. Would he have been willing to submit to tarring and feathering? Did you see that John Adams mini-series on HBO? There's a qualitative difference between the two procedures. That's not to say that waterboarding is, therefore, something we should countenance. But to confuse something that's part of basic training for the military, like the gas chamber, with true forms of torture is not the way to resolve these issues.

AlphaLiberal said...

I agree with Skyler. And this is exactly the sort of belief system I was raised on by very conservative parents who grew up during WWII.

Let's remember that WWII interrogators also agree with this view:

"For six decades, they held their silence.

The group of World War II veterans kept a military code and the decorum of their generation, telling virtually no one of their top-secret work interrogating Nazi prisoners of war at Fort Hunt.

When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

Back then, they and their commanders wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners' cells with listening devices. They felt bad about censoring letters. They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up. They played games with them.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess."

But what do they know? They only defeated Hitler and Tojo. Not a real threat like Osama bin laden (who Bush has still failed to capture).

LarsPorsena said...

""We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess."

Okay, I'll bite. What actionable intelligence did they get?

JBlog said...

No serious discussion about torture can take place with a review of this first: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture1.html

Read that, and then we can intelligently discuss what does and doesn't constitute torture.

AlphaLiberal said...
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Salamandyr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UWS guy said...

First they wax his balls and now this!

Salamandyr said...

Reading comprehension Alpha...that was a Hitch quote, where he was quoting somebody else.

And to your prior remark.

Alpha, this was a time when it was still common for police to beat a confession out of a suspect, or sweat them under hot lights for hours. Don't for a minute think that we didn't do the same thing to POW's if it was warranted.

If you've been doing research, you know that military interrogators use the soft technique in Iraq as well-especially with Saddam's generals. So how is that different?

the wolf said...

They could have made Hitchens read the NY Times, but no one can stand that for very long.

TMink said...

Dave wrote: "It is easy to imagine the pain caused by the rack, not so easy in the case of water boarding. But that doesn't necessarily mean the former is worse than the latter."

I think that there is a real distinction between a procedure that makes me uncomfortable and one that physically damages me. I bet you do too. The rack dislocated people's joints. Waterboarding makes us freak out because we are convinced that we are drowning.

I would rather be frightened than damaged.

Trey

Andrew Graff said...

"Yes. That's the problem. If he didn't have the answer I'm sure he'd be glad to make something up."

Yes, I'm sure he would. And if he was smart, he might know that he couldn't resist and preplan various false answers to decieve his interogators.

But if the interogators are smart, they'll be aware of both problems and take steps to correct them.

There are all sorts of ways to correct for false information. Taking steps to correct for false information is absolutely necessary no matter which approach to interrogation we use. Bribing a guy with chocolate and playing chess with him gets false information from braggerts, people who want to stay in your good graces, and devious men who want to misled you with false information. It's not a problem with interogation through duress alone. People lie period. But people are somewhat less likely to lie if they are terrified about what they will do if they are caught lying.

AlphaLiberal said...

The al Qaeda torture techniques are sick, depraved and wrong. And that fact should be obvious. But it doesn't make al Qaeda any stronger, just more vicious.

But if al Qaeda jumped off a cliff, should we, too? Since when do we follow al Qaeda's lead in establishing the morality we will demonstrate to the world? (Ironic that you guys used torture as an excuse to invade Iraq to begin with and now you defend it...)

Maybe conservatives see torture as a matter of "strength?" If you're strong, you can be cruel and sadistic and torture. That's some twisted and immoral thinking.

This from the moral posers who always tell us how morally superior they are. Bah humbug.

Roger J. said...

Gee Alpha: you really think the senior German commanders were exactly of the same cloth as Islamic terrorists? Really!

Roger J. said...
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AlphaLiberal said...

"Reading comprehension Alpha...that was a Hitch quote, where he was quoting somebody else."

Oops. My bad. I misread it by reading the post here in this comments page. I deleted the erroneous comment, but salvaged this:

torture advocates have invented a requirement that torture must involve physical harm. However, torturers know that terror and fear are also torture. The mind is more a target than the body.

From the article detailing USA adoption of Communist Chinese torture techniques:

'Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article described “one form of torture” used by the Chinese as forcing American prisoners to stand “for exceedingly long periods,” sometimes in conditions of “extreme cold.” Such passive methods, he wrote, were more common than outright physical violence. Prolonged standing and exposure to cold have both been used by American military and C.I.A. interrogators against terrorist suspects.

The chart also listed other techniques used by the Chinese, including “Semi-Starvation,” “Exploitation of Wounds,” and “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” and with their effects: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” and “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns.” '

-----
roger, I have no idea what point you're trying to make about Sr Nazi officers. Not as tough as al Qaeda?

LarsPorsena said...

Chocolates, ping-pong, and conversation are very nice BUT intelligence(the good stuff) is perishable you don't have months to get info re numbers ,arms, bank accounts, locations, targets, phone numbers, sympathizers, contacts.

In terms of 'cruel and sadistic' how many of ours will die whilst you adhere to code of chivalry?

Andrew Graff said...

To be perfectly honest, I've never settled in my mind how I feel about waterboarding. If it is to be used, it should be safe, rare, expertly administered, and used only in extremis, only for non-judicial reasons, and only against foreign spies, sabateurs or terrorists not serving as the uniformed soldiers of a nation. But, the actual question of whether it is ever appropriate is not one I've decided.

The simplistic arguments of neither side persuade me. In fact, I came away from the Hitchens article more in favor of Waterboarding than I had been before reading it. He focused only simplistic and easily dismissable arguments against waterboarding, and neglected anything which might have some substance.

To a certain extent, I'm not sure I could decide on a firm stand unless I were the POTUS. I think if I had the authority to choose which way our country would go, it would be the following.

I would tell my Chief of Staff one word in secret. I would submit myself to the best interogattors we had. They would have only one chance. If at the end of 15 minutes (or whatever short time they deemed necessary) they could go into the other room and tell my Chief of Staff the one secret word instead of a false word, then I'd leave it available by executive order (with the requirement that a high level of executive authority was required). If they couldn't, then I'd abolish the practice as being not worth the potential damage.

SteveR said...

I don't think they mostly hate us but the people who say that we should not engage in "torture" are the first to say how we've damaged our reputation in the world by taking all these unilateral actions. Which really means its a bunch of European liberals and we know the deal on them. The reality is people vote with their feet and they mostly want to come here.

Salamandyr said...

So Alpha, serious question (unlike you, I won't engage in strawman positation about what liberals "think")...if we ban waterboarding, will you be satisfied? Will you consider the US virtuous if we no longer use waterboarding, relying instead on stress techniques, sleep deprivation, and sensory deprivation?

Or will you, flush from your victory for the side of all that is good and decent, begin your campaign to get those techniques thrown out as well? What means do you feel are allowable for interrogators to force prisoners to talk?

AlphaLiberal said...

Salamandyr imagines a new historical fact:
"Don't for a minute think that we didn't do the same thing to POW's if it was warranted."

I've provided accounts from the people involved in WWII interrogations that they did not do that.

You, OTOH, have provided speculation.

Why don't you back up your speculation with a fact and then we can talk about it? Otherwise, you're just blowing smoke.

(And "beating a confession out of someone" doesn't mean you're learned the truth, just that the sadists were given the information they wanted.)

AlphaLiberal said...

Salamandyr, I'm not using strawman arguments but arguments I've faced here and elsewhere from conservatives.

I'm honestly trying to understand why conservatives are so gung ho to torture.

To your question, those are torture techniques. Like when the US bolted peoples' hands and feet to a hook in floor for hours on end.

Or when the US, and our proxy torture states, put people in tiny boxes so they couldn't move, with loud music so they couldn't pass out, for hours.

Sick. Sadistic. Not useful. Immoral. Not necessary.

IMO, the torture proponents want simple animalistic revenge. They gloss it over with "24" (it's fiction.) based fantasies that they're doing something useful.

Well, it's been fun. Must go away now.

Andrew Graff said...

One point that some people fail to consider is the various methods of duress which were adopted in the wake of 9-11 weren't adopted simply because we wanted to start torturing people. We didn't start out with the assumption, 'Hey these are bad guys, let's water board them.'

They were adopted because the methods with which we were acustomed to had no effect whatsoever on hardened religious fanatics who had literally read our play book and vicerally hated us and everything we stood for. Instead of breaking captured terrorists, the captured terrorists were emotionally breaking our interogators. A long session of interogation using the methods we had deemed civilized and moral ended up with a terrorist laughing at us, and some poor military interrogator stunned, confused, distraught, and either out of control or on the verge of tears - in any event unable to continue to face the guy he was supposed to be extracting information from.

Pretending you can interogated a religious cultist for a casually barbaric society who hates you and everything you stand for in much the same way Fred Phelps hates homosexuals and who has been specifically trained to resist the traditional American form of interogation the same way you can extract information from criminals and young European soldiers is ridiculous. So if you want to interogate them at all, by duress or otherwise, you are going to have to come up with new methods.

Salamandyr said...

Yes, you provided evidence that we used the soft technique on German generals. I speculated as it were, that we also went hard option when it was warranted.

And yes, I'm aware that beating a confession out of someone doesn't prove their guilt, which is why I'm glad that for the most part, the police no longer do that. But the fact remains that it was once a common practice, including during a time period where you assert we were more delicate in our interrogation techniques.

ChrisLee said...

“We have an expanded police state with broader surveillance powers. To this day many of their surveillance activities are withheld from the public.

We even have members of the opposition party being jailed, though nothing close to Red China.”

Comon, you want people to take you seriously right? We have an expanded police state? Are people in this country the LEAST bit afraid to speak their opinion or protest a particular policy for fear of imprisonment, torture or death? Are you looking over your shoulder as you post on this website? Is a single American citizen being held without a writ of habeas corpus? The state video surveillance in England is much more expansive then it is over here. You say members of the opposition party are being jailed. Have they been accused of legitimate crimes? Are you referring to some conspiracy theory? Don’t you think liberal media outlets (like MSNBC) would jump on the story of false up charges if there were the least shred of credible evidence? Are you proposing the executive branch has bribed every cable and network news outlet and threatened all their families? If waterboarding is torture, we shouldn’t do it. If someone can somehow convince me that it is a humane practice, then I’m fine with it regardless of whether it came from communist China or the moon. Do you see the point I’m trying to make?

In your last post you made a good, logical argument, at least from my point of view.

Andrew Graff said...

"IMO, the torture proponents want simple animalistic revenge."

I think it is that sort of thinking which renders any rational discussion of the question impossible.

Roger J. said...

Alpha: it's clear you fail to understand my point that senior German Officers who were rooted in western culture, highly educated, shared a similar approach to warfare(Clausewitz), and probably spent time in the US, were qualitatively different than AQ terrorists. What worked as interrogation techniques on Senior German Officers was probably due to a shared heritage; there is no similar connection with AQ terrorists and their captors. I thought you multi-culti guys understood the importance of culture.

Salamandyr said...

I'm honestly trying to understand why conservatives are so gung ho to torture.

You see, this is where you fail. Conservatives aren't gung ho to torture. Now, you'll see the occasionally barstool superman who bellows about how we ought to "fry em all" or "turn Iraq into glass", but that's not uniquely conservative, merely human chestpounding.

But back to torture. Do you agree that sometimes it's necessary to extract information from prisoners? If that is the case, what do you believe is allowable to do so? The difference between you and me, is that you believe it's possible to stop all cruelty. Imprisonment is cruel-sleep deprivation is cruel. Long, interminable interrogations are cruel. Hell, basic training in the military is a very intentional infliction of cruelty, that most of us agree is necessary to mold a civilian into a soldier.

I'm okay if we want to take waterboarding off the table. Don't want stress positions, fair enough. But what will you leave? How will you interrogate prisoners?

Poster said...

I like and respect Hitchens. But he really isn't the target audience of waterboarding. Neither he nor I am particularly tough.

If I was tasked with interrogating Hitchens, I'd give him a nice single malt and cigar in exchange for information.

Waterboarding is and should be reserved for the toughest enemy. But keyboard warriors like myself should not be dictating to those risking their lives what they should be doing.

paul a'barge said...

You can argue that something is beneath you if you first offer an alternative ... wait. Make that a real, viable alternative.

So, let's have a go at it shall we? Tick Tock. Waiting ...

Come on folks. The enemy is not out there TP'ing your oak trees and ringing your doorbell in the middle of the night. They want to cut off the heads of your children.

Grow a freakin' pair for crying out loud.

Hoosier Daddy said...

If I were to be captured, I would not want to be treated that way at all.

Well you should be assured that you would not be. Those US troops unfortunate enough to fall into Taliban or AQ hands have been beheaded and dismembered.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Alphaliberal said But what do they know? They only defeated Hitler and Tojo.

Indeed. But lets be honest here Alpha and lets give credit where it’s due. I daresay that the 8th Army Air Corps along with the British RAF had a greater impact in defeating Hitler than did a few chaps interrogating German POWs. Then again, such tactics like strategic bombing would of course be considered war crimes by the standards which enlightened folks of today have established. Japan was ultimately defeated after we dropped a couple of nukes on them which of course is considered by many of the enlightened clique to be another example of our barbarism.

So while you might like to believe that the noble interrogation methods we adhered to defeated Hitler and Tojo, the hard realities of what we actually did suggest otherwise.

PJ said...

BTW, this makes me think of something germane to the thread about the Wes Clark kerfuffle. If Bush's torture policy was one of his major failings as a President, and if a McCain policy would have been different, and if the difference would have been informed by McCain's experience as a POW, then wouldn't McCain's experience as a POW be relevant to his qualifications for President?

Schorsch said...

"...a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down."

Boy, can Hitch write. I'd read his opinion about the Ozark County Sewage Repair Initiative.

Cincinnatus said...

Liberals would have to see a bomb threat as a vialation of civil rights before they're ready to weigh in on this issue.
"Yah know, I've been thinking ... getting blown up is almost as bad as experiencing racism."

Sloanasaurus said...

I'm honestly trying to understand why conservatives are so gung ho to torture.

Leftists are for torture. They just use torture for different reasons. While some conservatives may support using torture for self defense, Leftists support torture to force compliance with the utopian state.

AlphaLiberal said...

Matt Ygelsias makes a great point on the Chinese Communist torture tactics adopted by the Bush-Cheney Admin:

"the main purpose of these Chinese torture techniques was to elicit false confessions"

True. And this may be why American Conservatives are so eager to embrace torture. The people who insist they can define their own reality need false confessions to prop up their Potemkin village.

False confessions can also help paint the innocent people held and tortured in Gitmo and elsewhere as guilty.

Salamandyr said...

From what I understand, there have been a grand total of three (3) cases of waterboarding since the Iraq invasion. I'd hardly call that "embracing torture".

AlphaLiberal said...

Salamandyr, if you spend 15 minutes surfing conservative blogs and magazines you will find an overflowing eagerness to torture. And a ridiculing of those who oppose torture. I stand by my words, slightly modified, that most conservatives are gung ho to torture.

Yes, it's sometimes necessary to get information from prisoners. And there are ways to do that without becoming sadists. (Really, that's a very slippery slope and is a process that rapidly corrupts the torturers and the process).

And, as I've documented above, we sometimes have the wrong people. Can we agree torturing innocent people is wrong?

To finally and respectfully answer your last question, see the Wash Post link above from the WWII interrogators. As I recall that sums things up pretty well.

The Hollywood notion that brutality is the road to truth is pretty discredited in the real world.

AlphaLiberal said...

Andrew Graff:
"They were adopted because the methods with which we were acustomed to had no effect whatsoever on hardened religious fanatics who had literally read our play book and vicerally hated us and everything we stood for."

Seeing as how this is all secret stuff, where do you come by this idea? Anything rising above internet gossip? i.e., "got a link?"

-----------------------------------
Chrislee said...

"We have an expanded police state? Are people in this country the LEAST bit afraid to speak their opinion or protest a particular policy for fear of imprisonment, torture or death?"

Yes. I've meant rational people who are afraid to speak up. Especially in the years after 9/11.

There are shades of grey in this world and we are becoming more and more of a police state. Less and less free.

Not every police state does this stuff you list. But the fact is the right to privacy has been rolled back, the ancient writ of habeas corpus has been rolled back, yes, American (and Canadian) citizens have been tortured. they are spying on citizens.

Dem Gov Seagelman was jailed on trumped up charges, now released. A Wisconsin state worker was jailed in an effort to hurt the Dem Governor, now she's released and been compensated by the State. US Attorneys were instructed to bring political charges and were fired when they resisted. This list continues...
-----------------------------------
Roger, your point that we must torture them because they're from a different (non-white) culture is pretty offensive nonsense.
-----------------------------------
Schorsch, agreed Hitch sure can write, much as he irritates me at times.

Salamandyr said...

AL, Others have rebutted your assertions regarding the Washington Post article better than I did.

And I probably spend more time reading conservative blogs than you do. And I haven't seen any desire to torture-period. I've read of a willingness. I've read a lot of arguments over where the line between "forceful interrogation" and "torture" is, with the understanding that torture is a bad thing that we don't want to do, but forceful interrogation is a sometimes necessary tool in the fight against terror. And then of course arguments whether this or that technique falls on one side of the line or the other.

But big deal. The thing I see, is that the definition of torture gets treated by everyone like it's a constant, like there is some absolute standard, like a physical law, as to what is torture and what is not. But it's not. The English language does not differentiate between making someone uncomfortable, causing them temporary pain and fear, and causing permanent debilitating injury. They're both torture. But surely you can see that there's a difference in the two?

Andrew Graff said...

Alphaliberal, if you spend 15 minutes surfing milblogs, magazines, and geo-political strategy communities and magazines you will find an overflowing of evidence that what passed for hard interogation had no effect at all on hardcore Al Queda members. I stand by my words, slightly modified, that additional harsh measures were only devised after our initial attempts at interrogation spectacularly failed.

What, you say expect me to do the hard work of educating you? Then perhaps you should hold yourself to the same standard. Show me were most conservative bloggers have been gung ho about torture. Does your evidence go beyond a few loud mouth comments?

My general impression of the conservative blogosphere is that to the extent that anyone is gung ho about torture is that they have not been sufficiently convinced that the techniques in question constituted torture. They may be wrong, but that's not quite the same thing as being gung ho about torture. If they ridicule 'liberal' critics, its for overwrought diatribes equating things that they endured in high school PE classes, band camp, fraternity hazing, and basic training to 'torture'. Whether they are wrong in that is an interesting question of human psychology, but its not a matter of being gung ho about torture.

"Anything rising above internet gossip?"

Does anything on the internet rise above the level of 'internet gossip'? Unless I had scans of original military documents to put on line, which I don't, you'd not believe me - and probably not even believe me then because you'd claim that they were part of a military disinformation campaign.

In any event, no I don't have the time to dig up links from years back just so I can score one point against an internet troll.

But to begin with, I'd ask you to read FM 34-52, the existing Army Field Manual on Interogation. Then, drop the assumption that the only reason that anyone would want to change that manual or depart from its guidelines is that they are monsters animated by a desire for animalistic vengeance, and honestly ask yourself, "What could go wrong with this? Why might this not work?" Then, after that, go back and read comments from military analysts for 2003-2005. I read several accounts of the early experiences of military and CIA interrogators during that period that back up my statements.

To me, the most damning thing about the whole affair is not that some prisoners were waterboarded, but the incompotance, failures of military bearing, and general chaos that resulted when the approved techniques failed. All sorts of techniques far more embarassing and far less effective than waterboarding were tried, including stupid things like dousing the prisoner with 'menstrual blood'. That Rumsfeld was delinquient in getting control of that chaos is far more damnable to me than that he authorized waterboarding in a half-dozen cases.

I don't know, I guess I always just assumed that the CIA and the Army were better prepared to use harsher methods in an emergency than they proved to be.

But I don't know why I'm answering you, because you pretty much long ago in this thread demonstrated that you were a partisan hack with no ability to think seriously about serious questions.

Hitchens, even though his argument was less than persuasive, at least tried to make an honest argument. You though, are just a troll.

Roger J. said...

Alpha--excuse me, but no where did I say we must torture them--in fact I specifically in a post toward the top of this thread said I do not approve of torture and agreed with Hitchens--and what I said was that the method of interrogation used on high ranking german prisoners was successful because of cultural similarities--that, coupled with my rejection of torture, should have made my position quite clear. Can you not read Alpha? Clearly you can not.

Nathan said...

Alpha has so far failed to articulate acceptable methods for eliciting information from uncooperative detainees.

Nathan said...

"Cardinal Fang... fetch... the COMFY CHAIR!"
"The... Comfy Chair?"
"So you think you are strong because you can survive the soft cushions. Well, we shall see!"

Skyler said...

Nathan, you're assuming, without basis, that information is so valuable as to warrant any means to obtain it.

It has been a hallmark our our nation's policies for a very long time that we do not condone such behavior. To so blithely adopt these methods for no better reason than because someone claims that we need information is not sufficient. Some people watch too much television and imagine that our very survival depends on knowing whether to cut the green or the blue wire, or that some secret code will save the world. That's nonsense.

Information is important, but not so important as to justify inhuman behavior such as this.

MadisonMan said...

Christopher Hitchens has himself waterboarded.

How long was the line of people wanting to do the torturing?

sloan, your 9:31 hypothetical is ridiculous -- as in the odds of it actually happening are exactly zero (well, to 20 significant digits), but the mindset behind it is exactly why parents keep their kids from doing anything remotely dangerous.

CyndiF said...

"But if Hitchens is willing to submit to it as an experiment, it can't be the worst torture. We can easily think of many tortures that he would not have accepted for journalistic purposes and that no one friendly to him would have perpetrated."

Not necessarily. Have you read _Gulag_? The one torture method that broke everyone in Soviet custody, even those who held firm under beatings and other painful methods, was the conveyor belt, a combination of non-stop interrogation and sleep deprivation.

Gabriel Hanna said...

I agree that Alpha Liberal should tell us what he thinks is acceptable.

He apparently thinks that even holding people at GTMO without charges is unconscionable.

Funny that soldiers can shoot people on the battlefield without charges and a jury trial, but I'm sure Alpha Liberal is willing to do his bit to end that too.

Are we "torturing" those kids in boot camp?

You know, I hear the Red Chinese breathe oxygen and put their pants on one leg at a time. Alpha Liberal better stop thise things.

Gabriel Hanna said...

Kudos to Hitch though, for going through with it.

And double kudos for his thoughtfulness in accurately presenting the views of the pro-waterboarding side--Alpha Liberal has failed to absorb the lesson, but margaritas ante porcos.

It is nice to see someone not demonize the person they disagree with.

Alpha Liberal, it is every easy to discredit those conservatives who would want to torture just because they like the thought. But that's like three people. If you are opposed to waterboarding or GTMO or capital punishment or whatever, you can't argue with CARTOONS and expect to convince anyone. You have to address your opponents BEST arguments.

But you're trying to discredit the people who oppose your position, without having to engage their arguments--that's why you say conservatives "like torture".

It doesn't convince anyone but adolescents.

John Stodder said...

Just a question: If the American system of jurisprudence can find room for the concept of justifiable homicide, why should we not recognize "justifiable torture," for the precise circumstance of getting information from a suspected perpetrator that is needed to save lives.

I'm not at all comfortable with torture as a government policy, but I'm also uncomfortable with murder, and yet I'm willing to recognize that sometimes a murder is committed and the murderer is not charged because it is found to be justifiable, such as in the case of an abused spouse.

Cops shoot people they believe to be a deadly threat. These cases are always investigated, but they do not always result in sanctions or charges, even when it turns out the suspect was not an actual threat. Is depriving a suspect of his or her life morally less questionable than torturing them?

In my cosmos, there need to be bright lines to define what is moral and immoral, legal and illegal. But within those bright lines, there must be allowances for exceptional circumstances.

Or perhaps not. Why not?

shoosh said...

Waterboarding is torture? Please; I've been treated worse then that by friends and bought them beer afterwards. Hell, I've hurt myself worse shaving. If Mr. Hitchens still has his hands and feet and eyes it wasn't torture.

A damp hankie pressed to his face and he had a safety word? Grow some balls Hitch.

Nathan said...

Nathan, you're assuming, without basis, that information is so valuable as to warrant any means to obtain it.

How the heck do you get that out of 1) a request for suggestions and 2) a Monty Python quote?

Good grief.

You appear to be a Marine officer. What, then, in your personal opinion, is an acceptable means of obtaining information- how do you even ascertain its value, before or after interrogation?- from an uncooperative detainee?

I might try poking him with soft cushions myself.

Cedarford said...

But Hitchens nevertheless concludes that it is torture and that Americans should not torture, and his argument is chiefly a practical one premised on American interests

Maybe so. But what would Hitchens have done if we hadn't "tortured" KSM and learned the details of the Hethrow plot and 23 Jihadis in place as badged workers ready to transform in an instant into Jihadi combat teams ready to launch crowded jets into other crowded jets and fully fueled, right into the Heathrow Terminals with 30,000 people inside.

Maybe it would have been better strategically for America, if we had let that and planned Singapore/Kuala Lampour plots continue rather than "cause this presumed innocent KSA" any discomfort.

And told the Euros and Malays that the 2,000 to 14,000 dead at Heathrow or the 2,000 dead in both Singapore and "near-apostate" Malaysia were preferable to violating KSM's precious terrorist civil rights by aggressively interrogating him.
Had we let the Islamoids do it, we could have spared ourselves a ton of wailing about "poor freedom fighters at GITMO" coming from snotty Brit and Continental anti-Americans or our Progressive Jewish-owned media organs in the USA.

At least Hitchens debunks the moronic Lefty slogans of (and John Mccain's, to be fair) that (1)Torture Never Works; (2)We must be better than that, even if it means accepting needless American combat deaths inflicted by terrorists; (3)The best way to assure our good treatment in future wars is to not do what the Japanese, N Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Iraq regulars, now Jihadi headchoppers - do to captured GIs in war. (After all, Colin Powell, 3rd on the Black God of Absolute Moral Truth list behind MLK and Obama - said it is so.)

Rather than state it succintly to the Nazis as Churchill did when Hitler was threatening to whack bomber crews as war criminals - execute out guys and Geneva is a dead letter, and we'll send you pictures of triple the Allies you kill, swinging on a rope - Powell and others like him want it understood that each US soldier and overseas civilian knows it is death to be captured by Jihadis and they must die while GITMO detainess plat soccer and dine on lemon chicken with couscous so that maybe enemy will be nicer next time around after the Powell way failed in 6 sucessive wars.

Cedarford said...

alphaliberal - Let's hear how you defend using torture techniques developed by Red China.

Agressive interrogation of a few enemy Americans saved tens of thousands of Chinese - possibly over 100 thousand - from death, maiming, being burned by napalm.

A choice the Chinese defend to this day. Better to be tough on the enemy than be cavilier with the lives of the men under you and trusting you to lead them to defeat the enemy and lead as many home again safe as possible.

A rational call. The US also did very tough interrogations in the Civil War, Philippines insurgency, and gainst high-value Nazis and Japs at bases in the UK, Italy, and India.

***********************
PJ said...
I think Salamandyr suggests the pertinent question -- do such men as KSM have a right not to have their will overborne by means other than verbal persuasion? It seems to me that if you define "torture" as anything you wouldn't wish on a captive American, that's where you end up


Yep.
Along with tiresome cliche`s about how it was best not to "risk the slippery slope" (as others fill body bags with Americans.)

**************
George - The tragedy is that we don't have the resources or the will to liberate people in Zimbabwe, N. Korea, and other countries.

We have the resources. The NORKS avoid any rescue mission by having 10,000 artillery launch tubes ready to rain down anything from nukes to anthrax to HE in 280K heavy warshells on 35% of the S Lorean population in under an hour. Zimbabwe would be a month kill and cleanse of Mugabes thugs.

However the non-left has the will to only save fellow Westerners threatened with loss of life if casualties threaten, for the most part. The whites of Zimbabwe mostly escaped intact.

While the Left has no will to risk their sweet asses for anyone.

********************
Dave - It is easy to imagine the pain caused by the rack, not so easy in the case of water boarding. But that doesn't necessarily mean the former is worse than the latter.

Well, gee Dave, given a choice of all your limbs disjointed and tendons and disc cartilage torn all along your spine or five minutes of having waterboarding done on you with full recovery in 5 minutes...What do you thing the average Lefty would choose? Torture that disabled or even killed with severe pain, or waterboarding with little pain and no wounding?

**************
alphaliberal - AlphaLiberal said...
So if the USA willingly embraces Communist torture techniques, what is left to separate us from them?


Another insipid Lefty argument that anything we learn from another nation to win a war or battle makes us "Just like them!!!".

1. Brutal discipline in the Royal Navy that the US used to help in it's own great victories "made us just like the Redcoats!!"

2. Adopting Nazi Blitzkrieg tactics in US Army thrusts made us "No Better Than Nazis".

3. Rapid development of Soviet shock troop tactics to the US Army and Marines made them "effectively, Communists themselves".

4. Use of Israeli counter-terror techniques somehow transforms America into "land-grabbing Zionist sympathizers"

What a crock.

All we need are a few hundred or thousand Blue-Staters dead by Jihadis and they will do a self-righteous 180 and be suing right and left for damages that "Not everything was done and American citizens were left to die recklessly" rather than wake up a terrorist involved in the combat plan.

Kirby Olson said...

I confess (without torture) that reading Hitchens is the closest I've ever come to being waterboarded.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm coming late to this. Hitch deserves a medal for trying it out first hand.

His experience with waterboarding looks about like mine at SERE training. It's not fun, it's an involuntary reaction at the primal level. Torture? I don't think so, unpleasant in the extreme? terrifying? yes.

The dirty secret, is that these techniques work. Is it useful in getting confessions? absolutely not. Wil it get you the location of a bomb, or the right phone number, absolutely. anything that can be independently varified can be gotten and used from stressful methods.

What do we train folks in SERE school? Everybody talks. Just try not to give away operational facts while the operation is ongoing. So the point is, you need to use methods that break folks quickly to get the facts needed to avoid ongoing plots.

The use of the word torture is a gimmick by one side in a debate about the use of stressful methods. Just like pro-life folks define the other side as pro-abortion, and themselves as pro-choice. the words anti and abortion, being loaded.

Skyler said...

Nathan, there is no information that is worth getting through these methods. This is of course a value judgment, but it's one that used to be quite widely shared in this nation of ours. That it is now considered good to use these methods is shocking to those of us who remember how our nation used to think. And I'm not that old.

What would I use to get information? Questioning, soft cushions, reasonably nutritious food (and I've had some pretty crappy diets while on active duty so I'm not saying that anyone should be gaining weight), and not much else. I don't too much care what they know. Leave them in a hole and toss them food and give them a shovel for their excrement. If they want to talk, they talk. Reward them with better food and privileges, like getting a book to read or clean laundry.

I just don't care what they know. Some people do care and that's fine. I've seen interrogators get some very useful info without mistreatment. It's not always possible, but it does happen.

Perhaps by not mistreating or torturing people we don't get some interesting information, and perhaps the war continues on as before, but we don't lose what's important about our country in the process of prosecuting the war. That's important to me, it's why I fight.

Taking the high road is not always the quickest way, but it is the better way in the long run. We've sullied our international reputation in a very real and important way. And we've sullied ourselves, too. I'm not going to stop fighting, because I know that what we are is better than what is currently being bandied as our policy. In the long run I'm pretty confident that this torture fad will go the way of the zoot suit.

Methadras said...

One of the pics makes Hitchens look like he had another appalling night at the pub. I'm sure after this there was an immediate whiskey sour sitting in his hand.

MC said...

By my count, that brings the total number of people who have volunteered to undergo waterboarding to four (Hitchens, a Fox news reporter and two anti-war protestors who did it to each other in protest at a demonstration).

Which is amusingly ironic given that waterboarding has only been used by the US three times. It's hard to take all the hyperbole about the evil 'torture' techniques the US uses seriously when more people voluntarily undergo it.

Andrew Graff said...

"Leave them in a hole and toss them food and give them a shovel for their excrement. If they want to talk, they talk."

Incidently, we used to denounce this sort of treatment as torture too. Solitary confinement in a filthy hole for an extended period is an extremely effective means of breaking people. And its at least as offensive to human dignity as water boarding.

Try again.

PierreLegrand said...

I don't hold any animosity towards those who are against torture because it besmirches this nations honor...at least in their eyes. I only ask that when the the Grim Reaper comes to claim the lives lost because of our failed efforts to lovingly convince murderers to release information, that the innocents who refust to allow torture give up their family first.

If your honor is so pure that you ask me to sacrifice my son. Then you give up your son first. Have John McCain give up his children first. Have Obama give up his wife first....have Pelosi give up her family first. Then the rest of us who understand that war is terrible will reluctantly allow our sons and daughters to die because we refuse to do whatever it takes to win.

PierreLegrand said...

Nathan, there is no information that is worth getting through these methods. This is of course a value judgment, but it's one that used to be quite widely shared in this nation of ours.

So then if your family is being held and you get to witness one of them being beheaded...you don't think that it might be worthwhile to apply a bit of pressure on one or two scumbags to gain the rest of your families freedom?

My god...I will tell you that I will sacrifice all of my "honor" to save my family. I will live with my shame...

blake said...

Not necessarily. Have you read _Gulag_? The one torture method that broke everyone in Soviet custody, even those who held firm under beatings and other painful methods, was the conveyor belt, a combination of non-stop interrogation and sleep deprivation.

Hmmm. So the litmus test for an interrogation technique--the way we can be sure it's torture--is if it works.

I think it's fine to be upset over torture. It's like abortion and many other contentious issues: We don't really have to be comfortable with it.

I just wish I could believe those arguing so stridently against it aren't also the ones who would be first to blame the administration if it failed to foil an attack.

mitrii said...

All thi is a good theoretical debate, and as long as only unknown other people should pay with their lives for your moral high ground it holds.

However, this changes quickly when YOUR life (or your children life) is in immediate danger.
A journalist Tsahi Noi repeatedly expressed similar liberal position. However, after he was caught yesterday in the middle of ter. attack in Jerusalem, he decried ROE of police and wondered why they tried to subdue terrorist first and did not shot him immediately instead.

This subject is too theoretic to most (all?) participants, because there were no terrorist attacks in US since 911 (due to GWB?). The hard earned at that moment small amount of sanity disappeared, and you are ready to return to the calm 90-ies, forgetting that 911 was just after 90ies.

Skyler said...

Graff, okay, I'll try again. If you took my description as too much, I'll agree. Solitary confinement is too much. I don't care about these people, I care about us. If it's considered inhumane to do this then I don't want our nation doing it.

Legrand, your hyothetical has no basis in reality. There is no tit for tat in intelligence. It's not like on "24" or a spy novel. You're too caught up in movie magic and not reality. You won't learn whether to cut the yellow or the red wire from torture.

amba said...

You could almost describe waterboarding as psychological torture. Like sleep deprivation, it's right on the borderline where physiology is used to break the will without maiming the body.

I'm not really sure why we're talking about this publicly. Torture of all kinds, including waterboarding, should be illegal and roundly condemned by this nation. And then there still need to be a few highly trained guys who do it under extraordinary circumstances in obscure places without the public knowing about it. Not the soldiers of the U.S. military.

El Presidente said...

Alpha you say "Bush and Cheney have moved us closer to resembling Communist China!!" like it is a bad thing.

CyndiF said...

"Hmmm. So the litmus test for an interrogation technique--the way we can be sure it's torture--is if it works."

It depends on your definition of "works." The Stalinists wanted a confession, regardless of truth. We claim to want useful, accurate information.

However, my real point was that techniques don't have to be physically brutal or damaging to qualify as torture.

Michael said...

I confess I don't have time to read the article, but I do wonder how this compares to his experience getting his sack, back, and crack waxed.

PierreLegrand said...

Legrand, your hyothetical has no basis in reality. There is no tit for tat in intelligence. It's not like on "24" or a spy novel. You're too caught up in movie magic and not reality. You won't learn whether to cut the yellow or the red wire from torture.

Ah lets just go ahead and ignore any personal attacks. I know that you would be just as insulting to my face. Bravery is so prevalent these days.

Actually, yes, you do find out the information. McCain himself admits that torture works.

"Demands for military information were accompanied by threats to terminate my medical treatment if I did not cooperate," he wrote.

"I thought they were bluffing and refused to provide any information beyond my name, rank and serial number, and date of birth. They knocked me around a little to force my cooperation."

The punishment finally worked, McCain said. "Eventually, I gave them my ship's name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant."

I simply don't like your reasons for NOT torturing folks who need it. Because it makes you uncomfortable is not a valid reason. Tell me that you would pay for your desire to remain comfortable with your family's lives and perhaps I will respect your opinion. But don't stand around acting like there is no cost to your feeble desires to make war pleasant.

No I do not advocate burning holes into a terrorists skin to make them talk. But waterboarding and sleep deprivation, lights, do not qualify as torture that I would refuse to sanction.

Tell me that you would sacrifice YOUR family and you have some moral grounds to stand on. Tell me that you are willing to sacrifice other peoples lives and I will laugh at you.

Skyler said...

Legrand,

For someone who likes to torture people you sure are sensitive. I never insulted you.

I never said torture didn't work. I said the information isn't so time critical or safety critical. McCain gave the name of his ship in your example and his target. Whoopdeedoo. That was so hurtful to the war effort. I mean, they sure didn't know that an aircraft carrier was sitting off their coast or that a power plant was a bombing target, now did they?

I also didn't say torture didn't provide valuable information. It doesn't provide time sensitive critical info that will stop an imminent bomb from blowing up. Ain't going to happen.

And yes, you can keep throwing families into the equation, but that is exactly my point. There are no families that will be directly helped by such intelligence. Such stuff is only in the movies.

I put my own butt on the line often enough that I don't need lectures from you on danger, not that this changes the merit of your argument. I've seen plenty of dead Marines and been shot at and mortared often enough that I understand danger. What I also understand is that I need to be able to lead and motivate Marines to fight and they have to believe that we're the ones with the white hats. When the fighting goes bad and hope starts to fade, it might be the only thing keeping them going to win the war and not simply survive it.

Terry said...

Skyler: "McCain gave the name of his ship in your example and his target. Whoopdeedoo. That was so hurtful to the war effort."

I find it difficult to believe that anyone with a even a modicum of knowledge or experience with intelligence gathering would make such a stupid statement. It clearly indicates a lack of basic knowledge about how intelligence is gathered and used to form actionable plans.

One of the most basic fundamentals of the intelligence gathering process is that while no one piece of information may in itself be damaging, when added to other pieces of obtained information it can result great harm to our people and efforts.

The very intent of gathering information from any individual enemy is to use that information together with information from other sources to create and/or reaffirm the clearest possible picture of enemy activities and whereabouts possible. Every little piece is vital to achieving that goal.

McCain's captors knew more after he talked than before - and that helped their cause incrementally or significantly, but it helped. If you have real, verifiable information that proves that McCain's information had no effect on the war effort whatsoever, provide it - otherwise I suggest you retract your statements around that concept.

Skyler said...

Terry,

I think you missed the point. It kind of sailed right past you.

I didn't say that knowing the name of the aircraft carrier was valueless, but as an example of critical information that must, absolutely MUST be known at the cost of using torture, that just doesn't make a dent.

And knowing the name of the aircraft carrier that John McCain flew from had little to no impact on the eventual result in the war or on any actionable intelligence by itself.

I'm not saying that John McCain didn't provide any information that was valuable, I'm not privy to his torture session logbooks. I'm saying that whatever they learned did not help anyone cut the blue wire instead of the yellow wire or send up a sortie in the nick of time to stop a bombing attack.

It comes to an issue of values. Do you value your own integrity more than the type of information obtained? I do. This country used to.

PierreLegrand said...

What I also understand is that I need to be able to lead and motivate Marines to fight and they have to believe that we're the ones with the white hats

Perhaps we shouldn't be putting your Marines in danger unless they understand that white hats or not if they lose those standing behind them die? We are not fighting the Germans who had some sort of rules of war...we are fighting folks who run airliners into buildings. Whether you wear a white hat or not he is coming.

This entire exercise is Hitchens making an ass of himself to prove that waterboarding is cruel. That we shouldn't use waterboarding to extract information from terrorists. I call BS to that...

Torture works...it gets information out. Your attempt at clouding the issue wasn't successful. They got information from McCain, and from the three scumbag Al Qaeda terrorists that have been waterboarded.

Had we the chance to waterboard Atta I would have done it myself. I would hope that you would have done it. I would not feel shame for doing so...but if I were shunned for doing so I could live with that shame. I prefer winning against these folks to losing.

Skyler said...

Legrand, you're assuming that we can only win by torturing people. I disagree with that unsupportable assumption.