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January 07, 2005

Comments

That’s a nice topic for debate however as no one has actually authorized the use of torture it’s really not very timely.

Good point, thorley winston. Let's wait until somebody authorizes torture before we debate whether or not somebody should authorize torture.

What's the realworld difference between authorizing the use of torture and arguing that terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention, Thorley? In all the handwringing over the advantages we're giving the terrorists by not torturing them, I can't figure this one out.

Thorley, some have proposed making the use of torture official U.S. policy. (See, e.g., Instapundit of a few days back.) I'd like to debate them regarding their proposal. Am I forbidden from doing so until their proposal is accepted?

If so, are we also forbidden from debating Social Security reform?

Really, help me out. Because right now you're not making any sense.

Von wrote:

Thorley, some have proposed making the use of torture official U.S. policy. (See, e.g., Instapundit of a few days back.) I'd like to debate them regarding their proposal. Am I forbidden from doing so until their proposal is accepted?

What part of “that’s a nice topic for debate” was beyond your comprehension abilities? I merely pointed out that it wasn’t timely because no one has actually authorized the use of torture nor frankly has anyone seriously (beyond the blogosphere and water cooler) debated the merits of using it.

By all means debate it if you will but unlike Social Security reform, it's not a topic that's actually before our government nor likely to come up anytime soon.

Seriously, I may not comment as often as I want to here, but this post is just one more example of why this IS the best group blog out there. Period.

And von, I am trying to figure out how it is that I know that I am a bit to the left of you, yet I agree with you more often than not. Then again, I hardly ever agree with Bird and usually agree with Edward so I probably don't have a personal crisis on my hands afterall.

Edward wrote:

What's the realworld difference between authorizing the use of torture and arguing that terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention, Thorley?

Argument ad absurdum. There is nothing that says because we recognize that unlawful combatants such as Al-Qaeda who do not themselves follow the rules of war are not protected by laws which grant special protections to those who do, that it is axiomatic that we are going to then proceed to torture them.

Try again.

"What's the realworld difference between authorizing the use of torture and arguing that terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention, Thorley?"

There are a lot of differences in treatment which are not torture, including the subjects persuable in interrogation.

Once more, the right creates it's own reality.

Rather, this is a debate about the wisdom of using torture as official policy where there is no apparent necessity.

Isn't this sort of begging the question? Who's going to argue for torturing just for the hell of it?

KenB wrote:

Isn't this sort of begging the question? Who's going to argue for torturing just for the hell of it?

Good catch, sounds like Von set himself up a straw man argument.


kenB: Isn't this sort of begging the question? Who's going to argue for torturing just for the hell of it?

I've seen several right-wingers argue that torture of the kind advocated by Gonzales in the infamous memo ought to be allowed routinely - and that what happened at Abu Ghraib wasn't really torture at all. I'd certainly be interested to see who meets Von's challenge.

What's the realworld difference between authorizing the use of torture and arguing that terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention, Thorley? In all the handwringing over the advantages we're giving the terrorists by not torturing them, I can't figure this one out.

The Geneva Convention not only prohibits torture. It also completely prohibits interrogation of any kind. When you capture terrorists* you would want to be able to try to get information, and given that they do not abide by the Geneva conventions, it's odd to imply that they are fully protected prisoners-of-war.

* The heart of my disagreement with administration policy was the fact that they did not convene tribunals to make sure they had actual Al-Queda or Taliban members on their hands.

There is nothing that says because we recognize that unlawful combatants such as Al-Qaeda who do not themselves follow the rules of war are not protected by laws which grant special protections to those who do, that it is axiomatic that we are going to then proceed to torture them.

There's nothing saying that one must torture them, granted, but I'm asking about realworld consequences here.

Yesterday Senator Sessions noted:

Now with regard to al Qaeda, I don't think there's anyone on this committee on either side of the aisle that would say that al Qaeda represents a lawful combatant that is therefore entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions, would they? I mean, that's pretty well undisputed that they are not representatives of an organized state and that they don't carry arms openly and that they don't -- and they clearly do not follow the laws of warfare in the surreptitious methods by which they bomb innocent civilians.

[and then followed up with ]

And truth be known, a number of those people involved in Iraq really shouldn't qualify, but the president has really gone further than the law requires, it seems to me, in granting them privileges that he didn't necessarily have to do as a matter affecting his policy of humane treatment.

IThe President has gone further than the law requires in granting them privileges that he didn't have to do as regards humane treatment. What is "humane treatment" in this context if not stopping short of torture?

So, in other words, if the President isn't obligated to NOT torture them (i.e., as Sessions implied, Bush would legally be able to order inhumane treatment) what is the realworld difference between this position and authorizing inhumane treatment?

Isn't the legal door wide open there? Wasn't that the entire point of the exercise in Presidential immunity Gonzales signed off on in the 2002 memo?

Jesurgislac wrote:

I've seen several right-wingers argue that torture of the kind advocated by Gonzales in the infamous memo ought to be allowed routinely

Which is a lie of course since Alberto Gonzales wrote no such memo advocating torture.

Another way of phrasing the question to avoid KenB's concerns might be:

"Resolved: In fighting the war on terror, there are some circumstances when the United States should legally authorize the torture of prisoners."

Dershowitz would argue against you in that case (unless Abu Ghraib has changed his mind) so I would imagine you could find someone right-of-center to do the same.

If you wanted to be really precise about it, you could say: "Resolved: in fighting the war on terror, there are some circumstances where a U.S. soldier or intelligence officer should be able to torture a prisoner or send him to be tortured by another country, without risking criminal punishment under civilian or military law."

This would clearly distinguish people who favor prior legal authorization of torture, by the President or a "torture warrant" or anything/anyone else, from people who think that torture should never ever be authorized in advance but a limited necessity defense should be available to defendants prosecutred for torture. IIRC you're in the latter category.

The BelmontClub has the good start of a discussion about torture, though the comments slip early.

Defining quote:

If a suspect is found, what technique should be be used to discover where the other mines are planted? The ridiculous "16 approaches" method reviled by Heather MacDonald's interviewees, even now watered down? Or the rapes and crucifixion system which by common consent is torture? Is there is nothing in between? How did we get to where the only choices are between the impractical and the inadmissible?

Edward wrote:

The President has gone further than the law requires in granting them privileges that he didn't have to do as regards humane treatment. What is "humane treatment" in this context if not stopping short of torture?

Providing them with prayer cloths/rugs, copies of the Koran, and letting them pray at regular intervals in Gitmo. Providing them medical care to fix preexisting (non life-threatening maladies) such as dental care. Providing meals consistent with the requirements of Muslim law.

Seriously it’s like you guys aren’t even trying any more to come up with a serious argument.

"The Geneva Convention not only prohibits torture. It also completely prohibits interrogation of any kind. "

I'm not an expert on the Geneva Conventions. I have been told by some experts that Geneva does not prohibit interrogation of POWs; that this is an exaggeration by people who do not want to follow the treaty at all. I have been told by other experts that it does forbid interrogation. Since both groups include law professors who were presumably not trying to deceive their students, I assume that the treaty is at least somewhat ambiguous on this point.

KenB and Thorley

Good catch, sounds like Von set himself up a straw man argument.

I was referring to the defense of necessity, which I've sought to exclude from the debate. I think that's clear enough, but I can see the basis for your confusion(s). I'll update.

I'm fine with either of Katherine's rephrasings, and I'd change the wording in your caveat #2 to something like "this is a debate about using torture in cases other than those where we know for a fact that the detainee (and only the detainee) has exactly the information we need to save x number of lives and that torture is the only way to extract that information, which isn't real-world in any case."

Von wrote:

I was referring to the defense of necessity, which I've sought to exclude from the debate. I think that's clear enough, but I can see the basis for your confusion(s). I'll update.

Actually Von if you really want to have an honest debate you would remove Number 2 entirely since you’ve set yourself up as being able to argue “I’m against torture unless it’s necessary” thereby committing anyone arguing the affirmative as defending torture just for the heck of it.


If you really wanted a reasonable debate. You should change this sentence just a big...

"Resolved: As a matter of U.S. policy, torture should be AN OPTION AVAILABLE to the U.S. and its allies in fighting the war on terror."

Seriously it’s like you guys aren’t even trying any more to come up with a serious argument.

Leave the snarks aside if you can Thorley...your nonsnarky responses are far more interesting.

Providing them with prayer cloths/rugs, copies of the Koran, and letting them pray at regular intervals in Gitmo. Providing them medical care to fix preexisting (non life-threatening maladies) such as dental care. Providing meals consistent with the requirements of Muslim law.

But Sessions wasn't talking about Gitmo. He was talking about Iraq. In a Muslim country that we were supposedly only providing security for at that point, you mean to argue that the President went beyond his obligations by not treating Iraqi prisoners worse than newly trained Iraqi guards would have treated them?

If not, what does "humane treatment" mean in the context Session meant it? Iraq.

Also: Even if you don't say "torture is authorized", if you systematically dismantle all of the legal prohibitions and procedural safeguards against torture, and (this is key) do not replace them with any other safeguards--you are responsible for the torture that results. At best you have negligently or recklessly caused someone to be tortured. At worst you have knowingly or intentionally caused someone to be tortured.

(clarification: I am using some law school jargon here, but I'm talking about moral rather than legal responsibility.)

Edward wrote

But Sessions wasn't talking about Gitmo. He was talking about Iraq.

Yes he was and Gonzales in the portion of his statement that Edward cut out said that the GPW was applicable in Iraq which makes this a rather pointless debate as to the supposed “real world consequences” if we don’t apply the GPW. However the examples I gave of “humane treatment” as the term has been used for the last couple of years are applicable to a situation where the GPW does not apply such as in combating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"if you systematically dismantle all of the legal prohibitions and procedural safeguards against torture, and (this is key) do not replace them with any other safeguards--you are responsible for the torture that results. At best you have negligently or recklessly caused someone to be tortured. At worst you have knowingly or intentionally caused someone to be tortured."

I agree with you, which is why we should have procedural safeguards.

[This is not an attempted threadjack]
But I must admit that I get a twinge of annoyance since I have used this very same argument in nearly every abortion debate on this site to support the idea that we need to have a monitoring system regarding 3rd-trimester abortions to ensure that they really are employed with the proper balance between the life of the fetus and the health of the mother. And every time, I get shot down hard.
[Once again, just whining, not an attempted threadjack]

Actually Von if you really want to have an honest debate you would remove Number 2 entirely since you’ve set yourself up as being able to argue “I’m against torture unless it’s necessary” thereby committing anyone arguing the affirmative as defending torture just for the heck of it.

Thorley, I am right that you are a law student or lawyer, right? And, thus, I presume that you recognize that the "defense of necessity" means something fairly specific. One can be, for example, against torture as policy but be in favor of allowing a defense to a torture charge -- just as one can be against homicide as policy but be in favor of allowing a defendant to raise a defense of "self-defense" (or insanity, etc.).

Now, you may take the next long leap and argue that self defense justifies torture as policy. But, just because one can take that next long leap does not mean that one must take that next long leap.

Thorely,

in the portion of his statement that Edward cut out

Just for clarity (not that you're implying this) Gonzales said that more than once..the omission was not designed to try and fool anyone.

I'll try this from another angle and see if I can be more clear. Sessions was arguing that Bush was more humane than he had to be with the prisoners in Iraq. This implies the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to some of those captured in Iraq. I guess that would have to mean for nonIraqis or Iraqis aligned with organized terrorist groups, but let's assume he's right.

If the "Geneva Conventions didn't apply," in this context, what could that possibly mean other than that torture was permissable? They were surrounded by Muslims, the US guards. They were in a Muslim country, so it's not like they had to go out of their way to accomodate their dietary or religious needs or any of the other items suggested so far. None of that represents any needed extra effort on the part of the US. It would be easier to give them Muslim food.

So what does it mean here really? What did the US do, other than not torture them, that went further than the law required here? I can't see a real world difference between saying the Geneva Convention doesn't apply and authorizing torture. There's no other logical explanation for what that could mean in this context.

I've updated to respond to KenB's, Katherine's, and Thorley's reasonable comment. (My response to Thorley's unreasonable comment is above.)

Jonas Cord: The heart of my disagreement with administration policy was the fact that they did not convene tribunals to make sure they had actual Al-Queda or Taliban members on their hands.

Exactly.

Further, the Geneva Convention does not prohibit interrogation: it merely prohibits, and very sternly, any kind of coercion to force PoWs to provide anything other than evidence of their identity.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind. ..... The questioning of prisoners of war shall be carried out in a language which they understand. Article 17

So, the only reason for not wanting the Geneva Convention to apply to prisoners is if you want to be freed from the restrictions in Section 17 on questioning them. (In any case, I concede the point that terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Convention: but the requirement is for the detaining power to determine the status of each prisoner by a competent tribunal - and until their status has been determined, all prisoners are entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention, Section 17 included.)

If I were going to argue in favor of torture, I guess the best I could do would go something like this:

First of all - torture is effective. Anyone who knows the history of the French in Algeria knows that torture is an effective means of extracting information. Anyone who knows that history also knows that torture can be a PR nightmare, which is why any program of torture will need to include a massive propaganda component by both the government and the mass media justifying its use. This should not be a problem under the current circumstances. Hiroshima was an atrocity. It was also, according to many people, completely justifiable because they argue it was an effective method of ending the war more quickly, and it was an effective method of demonstrating to both current and potential enemies what sort of destruction we could wreak. Torture must be used in a similar spirit.

Second, it is unwise to unilaterally disarm. Our enemies' conduct knows no boundaries. To the extent that torture is effective, we cede to our enemies the use of an effective weapon.

Third, our past policies of not using torture have led to the situation where our interrogation of prisoners has been ineffective, as they have been trained that it is our policy to treat prisoners humanely. The frustration this has caused among our military and intelligence agencies led to harsher and harsher methods being used against such prisoners. Had a credible threat of torture been available and widely known by prisoners, actual torture would have needed to be used less frequently.

The media can help in this regard, also. The need to use actual torture can be minimized by disseminating, in the media, faked pictures of US personnel torturing prisoners. These should be distributed through the Arab media on a regular basis. This will allow us to keep our use of torture to a bare minimum - similar to our use of nuclear weapons. It must always, however, remain a real and visceral threat in our enemies minds, as the threat of nuclear annihilation remains a real and visceral threat in the minds of the leaders of other nations.

Again, none of this is my actual position on the matter, I am playing devil's advocate here.

Edward--there are other laws besides the Geneva conventions that prohibit torture. They include U.S. statutes

Thorley knows a lot about the law, but he uses legal arguments very much like the Bybee OLC or John Yoo uses them. I would not turn to him for a neutral explanation. (I wouldn't turn to me alone either, because I haven't actually graduated and passed the bar yet and because there's usually a certain amount of room for interpretation. But between me, von and Sebastian you should do okay. So here's my best understanding:

1) It is false to say we applied the Geneva Conventions in Iraq. Even accepting that none of the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib were authorized by the administration, we know that Donald Rumsfeld authorized hiding "ghost detainees" from the Red Cross. This violates the Geneva Conventions. That's only the most obvious of a host of examples. So do many of the interrogation techniques short of torture that we know were authorized at Abu Ghraib.

2) Even if the Geneva conventions do not apply, there are other, entirely separate laws against torture, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the anti-Torture statute, and the Convention against torture, to name a few.

3) However, the OLC Bybee memo states that the President's commander in chief power allows him to override and disobey any of the treaties or laws if it is necessary to the war effort. The new memo on torture did not reject this position, and Gonzales refused to reject it at his hearings yesterday. Even if the new memo had changed this position, it was the official position of the justice department for two years.

4) In addition, the Torture Convention and anti-Torture statute, unlike Geneva and the UCMJ, do not have a good set of procedural mechanisms to guarantee the laws are actually obeyed.

5) (this is the one I'm least certain of but this is my best understanding): The UCMJ does not apply to the C.I.A. or to private contractors who conduct investigations or to civilian Defense Department officials. And because the military justice system does not allow you to investigate someone who outranks you, it's a lot more effective at prosecuting low level people like Lynndie England than it is at prosecuting generals.

If the "Geneva Conventions didn't apply," in this context, what could that possibly mean other than that torture was permissable?

No, it means the GCW didn't apply. Or that someone thought they didn't.

Katherine, Thorley, Edward, et al. --

Take a look at the link to the ACS blog in my most recent post. It contains a detailed discussion of the Yoo memorandum, and a comparison to the revised DOJ memorandum.

Thanks for the lucid explanation Katherine...very helpful. It's hard for some of us nonlawyer types around here. ;-)

Slarti, my question arises when I add the two together. Sessions insisted the Geneva Conventions didn't apply to some in Iraq, yet Bush went further than the law required. I cannot wrap my mind around what action constituted going further than the law required in Iraq. How did he go further than the law required? By doing what exactly? The only conclusion I can come to is that he didn't authorize torture, which is what I assumed it meant back when I started my ramblings.

I don't have a fixed or educated opinion on torture (what constitutes torture, where, if anywhere, it is justified, whether or not it should actually BE policy or not), so I'm not debating you Von. But what I do think is that our enemies should absolutely BELIEVE our threat to torture them as a vehicle for soliciting information. I want the threat to be compelling. If we publically say no torture ever, then that threat as a tool becomes unuseable. While perhaps privately we should repudiate the practice, and perhaps that requires phantom charges be levelled at those who DO torture against policy, rather than torture charges, so as to maintain the fiction, I do want someone who walks into a room fool of sharp instruments, car batteries, waterboards etc. scared to the maximum extent and to think it is a real possibility they will be subject to being victimized by them.

I don't think such threats constitute torture, but I'd hate to give away the tool. So for public consumption, I'd allow torture (subject to limitations etc.) as policy.

Well, that's certainly novel. Some questions:

1) How would you propose that voters tell the difference between that government policy and a government policy of actually torturing prisoners?

2) Wouldn't your policy send mixed signals (at BEST) to soldiers about what was and was not legal that would almost certainly lead to even more instances of torture that have already happened? (Remember, we already know of cases where it's happened to innocent people.)

3) Aren't there serious due process issues with charging soldiers with crimes they did not commit, to punish them for something that is officially legal?

4) Would you suggest that Congress repeal the anti-torture statute or the President announce that he reserved the right to override it?

5) How do you think our remaining allies would react to our withdrawal from, or announced intent to violate, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture? I'm not talking only about what they think about us--I'm also talking about whether they contribute any troops to any future U.S. wars, share intelligence with us, extradite suspects to us, allow U.S. planes to use their airspace or refuel at their airports, etc. etc.

6) Say you were a moderate Iraqi civilian or Muslim immigrant utterly opposed to terrorism. Say you suspected your neighbor or family member of participating in the Iraq insurgency or contributing money to Al Qaeda or other terrorist activities. Wouldn't this policy make you much less willing to report your suspicions, particularly if you were not certain of his guilt?

7) Doesn't Abu Ghraib adequately demonstrate to prisoners that torture can happen on a large scale even if it is officially illegal?

"officially legal"

or illegal...

Well, that's certainly novel. Some questions:

Actually, I think Felix sort of hit on it in his "Devil's Advocate" post.

1) How would you propose that voters tell the difference between that government policy and a government policy of actually torturing prisoners?

The same way they do on lots of other matters, using their judgement of what would happen rather than perfect knowledge. It's the way we make most decisions.

2) Wouldn't your policy send mixed signals (at BEST) to soldiers about what was and was not legal that would almost certainly lead to even more instances of torture that have already happened? (Remember, we already know of cases where it's happened to innocent people.)

No, because commanders at Sr. levels would be the authorizing agent for torture in any case, and only specific, specially trained intel troops would be part of the "torture squad," noone else would be permitted in the room, they'd be responsible. Not a perfect approach by any stretch, just better than the alternative.

3) Aren't there serious due process issues with charging soldiers with crimes they did not commit, to punish them for something that is officially legal?

I was thinking of creating a kind of "conduct unbecoming" sort of general catch all charge. The actual trial would be secret, the charge regarding the offense could be done that way. They still get their trial and due process.

4) Would you suggest that Congress repeal the anti-torture statute or the President announce that he reserved the right to override it?

I'm not sure either is a big problem. Kind of like the Prez limitation on foreign assasination which he can withdraw. Maybe that's the best approach, I'm open.

5) How do you think our remaining allies would react to our withdrawal from, or announced intent to violate, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture? I'm not talking only about what they think about us--I'm also talking about whether they contribute any troops to any future U.S. wars, share intelligence with us, extradite suspects to us, allow U.S. planes to use their airspace or refuel at their airports, etc. etc.

Fair point. I'm sure for public consumption they'd yell and scream, but I don't think anyone has pulled out of Iraq over Abu Graib, so I'm not particularly concerned about this.

6) Say you were a moderate Iraqi civilian

Like my distant relatives in Baghdad? The ones who claim the major mistake we are in Iraq is not being brutal enough?

or Muslim immigrant utterly opposed to terrorism. Say you suspected your neighbor or family member of participating in the Iraq insurgency or contributing money to Al Qaeda or other terrorist activities. Wouldn't this policy make you much less willing to report your suspicions, particularly if you were not certain of his guilt?

Jeeze, no. What you think that someone is considering turning someone in at the risk of theoretically life imprisonment or even the death penalty is going to be stopped by this? If someone is that concerned with their relatives welfare, he ain't turning him in at all, regardless.

7) Doesn't Abu Ghraib adequately demonstrate to prisoners that torture can happen on a large scale even if it is officially illegal?

No. An explicit statement of such policy following Abu Graib would demonstrate new resolve and remove the threat in the mind of the bad guys.

I don't think such threats constitute torture, but I'd hate to give away the tool.

FWIW, mock executions have been found to be torture by American courts (in the case I know of, they were American soldiers held by Iraqi forces during the Gulf War). And then there was this case, where an American commander led an Iraqi general to believe that his family would be held hostage if the general did not turn himself in (look for "David Hogg" in the article). This post includes arguments by a couple of current and former members of the armed forces that Hogg's actions were in fact violations of the Geneva Conventions' prohibitions on hostage taking, regardless of whether or not the family would have been released if the general had not turned himself in.

terrorists are not protected under the Geneva Convention

Eddie, that is correct. Now you ought to read this to clear up your understanding.

mock executions are clearly not legal.

to wit:
-----------------
2) ''severe mental pain or suffering'' means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from -

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

Do mock executions cause prolonged mental harm?

"Do mock executions cause prolonged mental harm?"

The short answer is, yes.

The long answer is, I don't have any psychiatric or medical training but I know a bit about this subject. I have had an investigative journalism professor who had stabbed almost fatally and suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, and made us all learn about it because most journalists will deal with a traumatized person at some point in their career and he wanted us to be ethical about it. I worked in a trauma psychiatry program after college, though only in an administrative position. I also interviewed several clients who had been violently harmed at an immigration clinic.

PTSD, like any mental disorder, is not a neat and clean thing. Two people can face the exact same traumatic situation, and one will never be the same at all and one will recover reasonably quickly. Some people who were in the buildings in 9/11 are doing fine, some people who just saw it from across the river or even just on TV are not. It depends on the person. It depends on the kind of treatment, and more importantly, support from friends and family they get afterwards. It depends on why they were tortured--studies have shown that people tortured for their political activities, where they took this risk knowingly and for a reason and are part of a community of human rights activists and dissidents, tend to do better than people who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men.

So you can't say with certainty what kinds of trauma will cause PTSD (or another mental disorder--some people believe that chronic depression is even more common than PTSD in the long run. Other anxiety disorders are also common enough. In a few cases a trauma can also trigger an even more serious mental health condition, especially if it happens early enough in life.)

Some forms of trauma are more likely causes than others. You can't neatly separate this out, because many if most people have suffered more than one form of trauma--and certainly you can't separate out different forms of torture, as usually when you're tortured you're subjected to a whole range of them. As well as the obvious things like risk of death, length of the trauma, and whether you experienced it yourself or just witnessed it, symptoms seem to go up based on:
1) how intense the sense of powerlessness was, and how long it lasted
2) whether this is being done to you deliberately and sadistically by another human being, as opposed to by an accident or an "act of God".
3) a sense of shame or guilt

If I remember correctly, rape and sexual abuse victims and torture victims have the highest rate of PTSD of any form of trauma. I don't remember which group is higher; I think it varies based on the study and based on whether you control for gender (as a higher % of women are rape victims than torture victims and women are more than twice as likely to suffer from PTSD). Both are intensely sadistic and personal form of violation. In both cases you're completely powerless at the hands of another person--"torture is to be totally at the mercy of those whose job it is to have no mercy," was one of the sayings I heard somewhere or other. And I guess rape creates more of a sense of shame/guilt, but torture usually lasts longer.

As I said, the studies I've read don't go into different forms of torture. Most people don't experience only one. So I can't compare mock execution to waterboarding, electric shock, severe beatings, or what have you. But mock execution is designed to demonstrate that you are completely at the mercy of someone--not only can they kill you if they want to, but they're almost making a game of it. (There's a mock execution was the one scene in Schindler's List that I was least able to forget.) So I'd imagine that it's up there as far as PTSD rates go.

"Do mock executions cause prolonged mental harm?"

Dostoevsky was subjected to a mock execution and described it as a very difficult and life-changing experience (read _The Idiot_ for a near-description) - reportedly several of the people in his group at the gallows went insane afterwards.

Just so as to save time, I link to this languagehat blog post about a harper's essay by Mark Soluka comparing Dostoevsky's mock execution to Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert mock execution. Unfortunately, the essay is not online, but it is worth a read.

Of course, one might point out that Dostoevsky turned his life around after that and asked for forgiveness from the goverment. But given the fact that people have more power today and a small committed cell of people could (and has) wreaked previously unimaginable havoc, providing people rationalizations (which then provides the surrounding population the opportunity to rationalize their behavior of ignoring warning signs and failing to report people) could cause more problems than it solves.

Of course, mock execution was a favorite technique of Tsarist Russia and we see how well that worked out.

Arrrgh! beaten to the punch! Curse you rilkefan!

Dostoevsky was subjected to a mock execution and described it as a very difficult and life-changing experience (read _The Idiot_ for a near-description)

Read _House_of_the_Dead_ for a virtually autobiographical account.

Von, I wanna say your posts are both funky and substantive.

I'd like to observe you in court.

Just wanted to say.

lj: "Arrrgh! beaten to the punch! Curse you rilkefan!"

I was there first, but you were there better, so it's me cursing you. I knew someone from Eastern Europe who went through a mock execution [and it's hard to suppress the hilarious awful-taste comment made by friend about his survival], and wanted to make a link from Tsarist Russia to mid-century Communism, but I lacked the google-energy or erudition needed. Now hopefully someone will chime in with a harrowing poem on the subject and make us both look bad...

"I'd like to observe you in court."

Yes, bring on the streaming video.

er, who suggested mock executions????????

Can I ask the question that nobody else is asking?

What's wrong with going by the standards laid down in FM 34-52 and taught at Fort Huachuca? If we won't gain additional useful information by using differing standards in the interrogation of prisoners -- and that seems to be the general consensus among interrogators -- why should we change the standards? And why are we not consulting these interrogators during the process, instead leaving it to bloggers and lawyers and people who sit in leather chairs and muse on existentialisms without ever getting their hands dirty?

It's all very well the people at the Belmont Club asking what the line should be, but we already know pretty damn well what the line actually is in practice, and that changing the line, far from getting us better information, in fact gets us worse information. Making comments like "torture is wrong" garners accusations of fuzzing the argument: "ah," say the self-appointed hard-nosed realists in the room, "but where do we draw the line?" Well, simple. The same place it is now. Unless people can argue a compelling reason for changing the status quo on torture, I'm afraid you're going to have to call me a conservative on the matter.

It's not broken, or at least it wasn't before the "clear-eyed, hard-nosed" types in the Bush administration made some "tough decisions" and, er, fubarred the whole thing, so let's not try and fix it, eh? It's a classic case of a solution looking for a problem.

"Do mock executions prolong mental harm?"

Not if they are fatal. But I mock.

"er, who suggested mock executions?????"

"I do want someone who walks into a room fool (sic) of sharp instruments, or batteries, waterboards, etc. scared to the maximum extent and to think it is a real possibility they will be subject to being victimized by them"

Hey, close enough, tough guy. On the other hand, you might be describing my garage. Wanna come over?

spc67, glad to see you posting here again, always learned something from your posts over at tacitus.org.

John, love that your garage is "a room fool of sharp instruments". Hope you keep the kids out.

I do want someone who walks into a room fool of sharp instruments, car batteries, waterboards etc. scared to the maximum extent and to think it is a real possibility they will be subject to being victimized by them

So you want the US to use terror as a weapon to achieve its political goals? It worked for the Green Mountain Boys, I guess.

Rilkefan:

Well, you know, most of my saws and drills and stuff need sharpening because carpentry is torture for me but like spc67 I can make up anything I want about my personal experience with torture .. which is precisely zero .. but spc67 .. whose experience with same is precisely zero is a good role model for talking like a tough guy.

Oh, yeah, I forgot, we're talking POLICY. Got it. :) Smiley faces all around. You too, spc67.

Von:
"with other noted lefty torturers, like Castro and Stalin, etc.

Kinda breezy, don't you think, on the way to funky, but merely... breezy .. just saying.

Kinda like .. I don't know ... righty Jew-burners, like Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson or Noam Chomsky .. except not exactly.

Wasn't Yoko Ono a lefty-torturer? I mean, from Julian Lennon's point of view?

Did I really write "fool" for "full?" AAArgh.

And Felix, my answer is I don't know, but since I expressly said that I assume you are choosing to engage in your usual foolery. I do want to use the threat, same as I always want the threat of every tool in the USA toolbox.

"because carpentry is torture for me"

walking in Christ's footsteps, I see. Don't let Mel know.

Jihn Thullen,

Talking like a tough guy? How the hell did you come up with that? If I was talking like a tough guy, I'd say "Hey John, sure I'll come to your garage, but you better have more than pointy objects, cuz I sure will." How's that?

I assume you are choosing to engage in your usual foolery

Oh, I don't know that I've ever said a bad word about the Green Mountain Boys. Don't know how I would feel if the British had used their tactics.

Never heard of Banastre Tarleton huh?

spc67:

Well, I don't know. Maybe because you seemed intimately
familiar with the language and practice of torture.

My garage. Pilsner or lite. Just beer.

A few pointy objects.... in the garage. It's like the stuffed owl heads in Anthoney Perkin's motel lobby in Hitchcock's " Psycho".

Somebody's gonna get pecked to death. Eventually.

But, it's just a movie. Go to sleep.

Never heard of Banastre Tarleton huh?

Hadn't before now, but after a quick google, that's not an apt comparison. The Green Mountain Boys were insurgents, but during their insurgency they did not actually kill anyone. They made a lot of people believe they were about to die, and if I recall correctly they were not averse to tarring and feathering and the like, but before the actual outbreak of war they managed to accomplish their goals through terror without having to take a single life.

If I was going to sharpen the arguments in the devil's advocate piece above, I would probably include a reference to Ethan Allen and his cohort. It seems like a relevant comparison when you are talking about people being, "scared to the maximum extent and to think it is a real possibility they will be subject to being victimized...", etc.

Thanks for the history lesson though, I'll be reading about Mr. Tarleton.

I'm back, and at the risk of people screaming slippery slope, if mock executions are authorized, what is stopping them from taking children hostages and threatening to execute them? With some hollywood special fx, we could have those kids convinced they were going to die and they would force their parents to cough up the goods. It works for the toy industry.

I'd also note that there is some joke embedded in "I always want the threat of every tool in the USA toolbox." about the Social Security lockbox, but I leave to better comedic minds than mine to formulate it.

But what I do think is that our enemies should absolutely BELIEVE our threat to torture them as a vehicle for soliciting information. I want the threat to be compelling. If we publically say no torture ever, then that threat as a tool becomes unuseable.

Counterproductive. Do we really wish to promote the idea that it's preferable for our enemies to fight to the death against our troops rather than surrender and subject themselves to the perceived threat of torture?

It's worth noting that mock executions are something that the US government complains about when other countries do it. Notably, the Japanese used this technique against Americans in WWII, and it really pissed us off. I also believe that the Iraqis used mock executions after the Gulf War.

I thought this link might be helpful. Unfortunately, it is illustrative rather than comprehesive, but it would allow those who want to argue for particular techniques to see where else they are used.

*waves*

If it doesn't get any more useful information than not torturing, why should we include torture in the list of things we ask our soldiers to do to prisoners, against the advice of experienced army interrogators? What is the benefit of changing the policy laid down in FM 34-52?

McDuff
I'm sure that the reason no one is addressing this is because it would be unfair for von to cite previous policy as an argument and we haven't gotten anyone to argue against him, except as a devil's advocate.

Of course, if smlook's point (from another thread) holds, just because experienced army interrogators haven't gotten any useful information so far doesn't mean that we might not get some useful information in the future. I hope he pops over here to defend that notion.

Well, I could pre-empt it by pointing out that so far holding hands and wishing really hard hasn't got us any useful information, but it could...

The argument, though, is more addressed to Sebastian and others citing the Belmont Club post as a "reasonable" discussion of torture. As I've argued over on my blog, the entire discussion is based on a false premise, i.e. that we are trading off between "moral standards" and "security," when nobody really believes that. At least, nobody worth listening to.

Jadegold,

Yours is the best counterargument to my position that I had thought of. But given the apparent predisposition of our enemies to blow themselves up etc, I'm not sure about the willingness to surrender idea.

Must_do_more_thinking.

John Thullen,

I don't drink...but I carry. Tough enough smart guy?

It's worth noting that mock executions are something that the US government complains about when other countries do it. Notably, the Japanese used this technique against Americans in WWII, and it really pissed us off.

But not as much, as when they beheaded American servicemen.

Timmy asks: "Do mock executions cause prolonged mental harm?"

Another question: Does being a torturer cause prolonged mental harm to the torturer? Can they be safely integrated back into society? Would you want to live next to one? How does the conscious use of brutality affect the society that uses it?

This whole conversation makes me think of the movie Brazil. Gee, I had a drill just like Michael Palin used. Perhaps I could qualify for a an exciting career in Information Retrieval.

sigh

SPC just ignore JT, he is not worth the structuring of a drip.

How does the conscious use of brutality affect the society that uses it?

Interesting question, one wonders how we, as a nation, progressed from a society which relied on slavery, speaking of brutality.

I enjoyed the movie, Brazil, reminds of the current regime in Iran, only the Iranian fascists are less suttle.

from "John Thullen's Garage"


His eyes, they are obsidian,
His eyebrows, raven's wings,
On singed and crooked fingers
He wears tweleve decoder rings.
He likes to spend his Sundays
In a place that's always dark:
A room fool of sharp instruments
And twelve bottles of Maker's Mark
.

...

You know he tried to warn us
But we didn't want to know.
We turned our backs and hoped
And let the awful horror grow.
Something from the nightmare
Of a tripping Richard Clarke:
A room fool of frayed power cords
And six bottles of Maker's Mark
.

...

Some bad nights you awaken
From another troubled dream.
Was that peals of manic laughter
Or a sort of strangled scream?
Go back to sleep. It's only
Old John Thullen on a lark
In a room fool of 8k modems
And a bottle of Maker's Mark
.

I enjoyed the movie, Brazil, reminds of the current regime in Iran,

Then you really missed the point. I mean, really missed the point.

Then you really missed the point. I mean, really missed the point.

Trepanning is the point. But as many do here, you continue confuse aggresive interogation with torture.

Put the issue to a public debate, see what happens.

Well I think Timmy missed the point too. I don't recall the theocratic references. However, given there are some many versions of the movie floating around perhaps there was a special made for republicans version that Timmy is referring to. I guess I'll have to get the DVD when it comes out. He does raise an interesting question about subtlety. Are our methods of torturing and killing better because we are more subtle about it, if indeed we are?

Since we aren't, the point is moot. With respect to waging war, well of course we are far more constrained than the fascists in Iran, as we don't target civilians. You already knew that of course.

Trepanning is the point.

According to Terry Gilliam, you're wrong. Though feel free to correct me if you can find a cite to justify your claim.

But as many do here, you continue confuse aggresive interogation with torture.

1) Where?

2) This is a vacuous assertion. You're implicitly claiming that "aggresive interogation" and "torture" exist extrinsic to our definitions of same. They don't. They're labels applied to certain actions; and labels which the Bush Administration decided to alter or, if you're so inclined, subvert. The proper question is whether the labels were altered in a manner we see fit.

3) You continue to ignore the fact that many, perhaps most, of the people we "aggresively interogated" were innocent and deprived due process. Any calculus that fails to take this into consideration is, almost by definition, amoral and unethical.

Put the issue to a public debate, see what happens.

What the hell are we doing here, then?

Put the issue to a public debate, see what happens.

Some of us have been. But you've been remarkably reticent to discuss the issue in more than vague generalities. I asked you a couple of questions the last time you suggested that people talk about torture; did you ever respond?

Since we aren't, the point is moot.

What was going on at Abu Ghraib?

What was going on at Abu Ghraib?

Misconduct by Americans, which is far different from a formal policy on the issue. And again I will assume you were fully aware of that and that Iraqis were not to be treated as terrorists, per se, there was a carve out for Baathists though.

What the hell are we doing here, then?

I'm not what you are doing other than repeating yourselves but a public debate would encompass the Congress making new laws, such as, "should terrorists be treated as POWs" just for starters.


I'm not what you are doing other than repeating yourselves...

Cute. Dumb, but cute.

...but a public debate would encompass the Congress making new laws...

Encompassing doesn't encompass necessity, so that's irrelevant. Furthermore, last I checked no-one here was a member of Congress. I'd rail against my senators but hey, they're doing a decent enough job already and it's not like they're up for reelection any time soon. I'd threaten not to vote for the Administration but hey, did that already and my guy lost. About the only recourse I have left at this juncture is to try and convince the people who did vote for those in power -- and who therefore might actually be listened to -- to come to their senses and try to put the brakes on this thing.

I don't have a whole lot of hope for that eventuality, of course, but it's worth a shot. Better than letting the US blithely waltz down a road paved in good intentions, at least.

Timmy says WRT to torture: Since we aren't, the point is moot.

There is a report at Human Rights Watch about Iranian torture. Of relevance is the page
here that gives some details of what they are doing that constitutes torture. This seems remarkably similar to what we are allegedly doing. I suspect (hope) that there is a difference in that matter of degree. but it would seem there is at least a correspondence in techniques.

Misconduct by Americans, which is far different from a formal policy on the issue.

The defense in the ongoing trial for these Americans accused of misconduct is that it was a policy from above. And given the fact such misconduct was widespread throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gitmo--it's really hard to view this as anything but systemic.

Moreover, if one looks at the genesis of the so-called "torture memos," one sees they were commissioned to allay intelligence/military concerns over potential prosecution when Rumsfeld ordered "the gloves be taken off."

Rilkefan:

Thanks for the Rilke recommendations and thanks for the Rilkefan poem. Umm ... it was brandy. But Maker's Mark scans better.

spc67: I know you're tough, and I knew you'd tell me how tough. It's just that I like the testosterone and the "manic laughter" to surge for everyone during uplifting discussions about the finer points of torture. My garage is really not a bad place and the pointiest object out there is a bottle opener. I just wanted to open a beer for you. Ignore the cat o' nine tails and the leather hood hanging on the wall. Halloween costume.

Timmy: "ilk" as in kindred spirit and worthy foe. What I like about recent events in the blogosphere is that occasionally over at Tacitus someone would counsel the thread to ignore Timmy the Wonder Dog for whatever reason and, now at Obsidian Wings, none other than Timmy the Wonder Dog is counseling folks to ignore me. I love it when circles close like that. I hope you don't mind that you remind me of me.

Plus, I want to rescue the meaning of "ilk" from folks like Michelle Malkin and others of her ilk, who spit the word out dripping with conservative bile.

Also, when I write that Moe, Sebastian, and Slartibartfast are "not ilk", I mean to say that they are not ilk in the Malkin sense, but also that they argue their points on a different plane than you and I do. I know what they are saying. Nobody knows what the heck you and I are talking about ... sometimes ... and we like it that way.

It's almost tea time.

This seems remarkably similar to what we are allegedly doing

You really have no understanding on what is going on in Iran do you. Either that or you are comfortable with public executions.

JT, I figured you were playing with the sharp instruments in your garage, now please don't hurt yourself.

Actually, Moe in his prime over at Tac, was more than happy to engage in tit for tat, course he did it with a smile and his trademark, VRWC. I miss Moe in his prime.

Sebastian and Slartibartfast do an excellent job of dealing with the obsessions at Wings. I prefer to engage in the macro rather than the micro. A bigger (yes a fuller) picture rather than minutiae which is so prevalent here.

JT please carry on, I hope you have your safety glasses on. :)

TtWD: You really have no understanding on what is going on in Iran do you.

Telling someone who has provided you with an informative link about torture in Iran that they "really have no understanding on what is going on in Iran" seems a little foolish to me.

If that informative link is their only information, they have to expand their horizons. Notwithstanding their anlysis remains deeply flawed regarding equivalence.

But Jes, I appreciate the observation I should have provided more information on the subject.

Pasdaran very similar to the SS but they are engaged in World Terror and ancillary profits.

Just a start in the information flow.

Timmy: You really have no understanding on what is going on in Iran do you. Either that or you are comfortable with public executions.

Theo/thugocracies are not to my liking, nor is the suppression of human rights in Iran, nor are the methods they employ. I am saddened that we seem to share at least some of the same methods, if not the same motivations.

As to public executions, I don't think civilized societies need to execute their (supposed) malefactors, but I'm not sure that having them be public wouldn't be better, so as a society we could be more directly participants in this noble endeavor.

Timmy: If that informative link is their only information,

So you jumped to the conclusion that because 243 had provided only one link on that comment, that was their only source of information about circumstances inside Iraq? Stumping for a Karnak Award, are you?

Notwithstanding their anlysis remains deeply flawed regarding equivalence.

Since you have yet to provide any analysis at all of why the torture methods in an Iranian jail, which resemble the torture methods in Abu Ghraib, are not equivalent, I think you are in a glass house throwing stones.

But Jes, I appreciate the observation I should have provided more information on the subject.

Timmy, generally speaking, when you post here, you post briefly, cryptically/elliptically, and add nothing to the information content at ObWing. Fair enough: that's your style. But it ill behooves you, who prefers not to contribute information, to criticise other people for not providing enough information.

If you're not prepared to do something yourself, you shouldn't complain that other people do less than you want them to.

Shutting up now.

about circumstances inside Iraq?

...inside Iran. Sorry.

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