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January 07, 2005

Comments

It's stupider than that.

The reason that special forces are given this training is so that they can RESIST TORTURE.

rationalization is truly a magical thing.

Jeez, when you think Goldberg can't say anything more stupid, he does it. He's the Lance Armstrong of Dumb.

What Goldberg is describing is SERE (survive, evade, resist, and escape) School furnished to pilots, aviators, and SF personnel.

Just a few notes on SERE School; it's physically demanding and the purpose is to stress you. But it is a training course; that is, you are being taught techniques, lessons learned, and skills associated with SERE. Much of your time is spent in a classroom watching video.

Moreover, while there is some level of physical confrontation, it never rises to the level of beatings or abuse or torture.

Additionally, the Resist portion only comprises 25% of the training.

I remember having a very weird discussion with a regular poster on TalkLeft, about the incident where a US soldiers shot dead a wounded Iraqi and called it a "mercy killing" (American soldiers had mistakenly attacked a garbage truck, and the Iraqi who was shot was a teenage boy who had belly wounds and was badly burned).

This other regular poster said that if "you people" defended euthanasia, we had no reason to attack what this soldier had done: both actions were "putting a person out of his misery", and both, in his view, were wrong.

I (and others) pointed out that the difference between legally-sanctioned euthanasia (possible in the Netherlands and a small handful of other European countries) and this killing was that with euthanasia, the patient's consent must be obtained: in fact, no doctor would touch euthanasia without the patient's clearly expressed will to die. Yet this poster was ignoring this and talking as if consent was irrelevant.

(I'd link to the discussion, but it happened before Christmas and I can't even remember the headline now.)

More evidence, as if any were needed, that Goldberg is a moron. He plainly aspires to be major right-wing pundit and is willing to write anything that will please his masters.

Another point of course is that when trainees are subjected to this they know it's part of training, and will end, and they will not be drowned, or suffocated, or starved to death. A prisoner does not know this. A suspected terrorist (note to Jonah: suspected - a large percentage of Abu Ghraib prisoners are, by the Army's account, innocent).

Kevin Brennan wrote:

The reason that special forces are given this training is so that they can RESIST TORTURE.

Bingo, which make the lies being told by the Left about how the administration has supposedly authorized the use of “torture” so patently ridiculous. What our special forces are being trained to resist (actually trying to physically drowning someone) is torture. The coercive interrogation techniques we’ve authorized aren’t.

The coercive interrogation techniques we’ve authorized aren’t.

Aren't what? You lost me there.

What our special forces are being trained to resist (actually trying to physically drowning someone) is torture.

Not even close to accurate; a good deal of the 'resist' portion of the training is reinforcing the Code of Conduct and being told of what interrogation practices they might face and how others have coped and overcome it. Repeat: we aren't torturing our own troops. Most folks going through SERE find the 'survival' part (surviving in an outdoor environment without any resources) of the training more stressful.

Jadegold wrote:

Not even close to accurate; a good deal of the 'resist' portion of the training is reinforcing the Code of Conduct and being told of what interrogation practices they might face and how others have coped and overcome it. Repeat: we aren't torturing our own troops.

That’s nice but it doesn’t actually contradict what I wrote which was that “What our special forces are being trained to resist” is torture. No one suggested that the training itself was torture.


Thorley,

""What our special forces are being trained to resist" is torture. No one suggested that the training itself was torture."

No, what is being suggested is that what happened in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, et al. is torture.

Thorley,

Do you truly not understand that the issue is consent? Please reread hilzoy's examples. Or consider this non-torture example:

If two or three great big guys slam you to the ground that's assault (or some other crime if I have my nomenclature wrong). But not if you're playing football. Is that so difficult?

Thorley: "the lies being told by the Left"

In light of the posting rules, perhaps you'd like to rephrase that.

As a long-term serious student of the martial arts, I frequently go to the dojo and get punched hard, kicked hard, thrown to the ground, and choked.

I don't consider this to be assault & battery, because I give consent. I do it to learn. Furthermore, I know that my training partners are looking out for my safety, and will try their best to avoid actually injuring me.

If someone were to attack me on the street, punch me, kick me, throw me to the ground, and choke me I would definitely consider it assault & battery. (Though hopefully my experience in the dojo would make it less traumatic.)

As far as I can tell, this is exactly analogous to the example given above in regards to military survival school. When done with consent, by someone on your side that you trust to not kill or cripple you, the treatment listed in the original post can count as training. If one of our soldiers was captured and put through the exact treatment by an enemy who couldn't be trusted not to kill or maim, with no set end in sight, said treatment would definitely count as torture. (Although hopefully their training in survival school would help them to resist it better.)

To anyone who insists that it would not count as torture, please imagine one of our soldiers who has been captured and put through said treatment for a few months. Now imagine that person has been released and come home. Now imagine yourself walking up to them and saying "That wasn't torture. That was about the same as a fraternity hazing." Now imagine what said soldiier is likely to want to do to you.

I was puzzled as to the point Thorley was trying to get across, but on re-reading, I think he's trying to say that the administration's authorized coercive interrogation techniques are not as bad as the treatment being simulated by the survival school training. I don't have the information immediately at hand, but that doesn't sound correct to me. What I've heard about the authorized methods (and certainly the methods that have been actually used) sound about in line with the treatment being prepared for in the survival school. (Actually, many of the methods actually used are much worse, but Thorley is referring to the offically approved techniques.) Anyone with the actual reference material at hand want to chime in?

Get back to me when our troops are forcibly sodomized.

If life had posting rules, Jonah and T.W. have violated them.

I think Thorley is suggesting that we should define torture as the methods that SERE training is supposed to guard against. This is a clever means of refining th edebate by giving clear boundaries of what torture "is" by using an existing curriculum as the baseline.

But (I believe, and apologize for misinterpreting) he is implying that torture starts with forced drowning, and other lethal or near-lethal techniques. My understanding is that while defenses to those techniques are taught, they are a subset of the coercive techniques taught in SERE and other resistance/imprisonment courses of its ilk.

Defining the boundaries of torture has been a real third rail in political discourse, but it might be helpful, particularly in light of Von's great idea for a substantive point-counterpoint debate on the subject.

Actually what I got was that Thorley thought that actually trying to drown someone was torture, but holding them under water and pretending to drown them ("waterboarding") was okay. Maybe he'll clarify.

As to what techniques are and are not acceptable--I would judge by the specific descriptions of the techniques that have been used and their effects on prisoners, rather than general descriptions. "Stress positions" or "elevated and reduced temperatures" or "threatening statements" or don't necessarily sound so awful. But then when you read the detailed descriptions of those practices in the government report...

I would also note that often, legalizing something that falls short of torture will lead to torture. Stripping prisoners and menacing them with dogs may not be torture, but letting dogs attack naked prisoners certainly is. And if you legalize the former, the latter follows almost inevitably.

Katherine: Stripping prisoners and menacing them with dogs may not be torture

I beg to differ. Thorley may not think it's torture, but even if the dogs don't actually attack, menacing a naked prisoner with a snarling dog is torture in my book - see Tonydismukes's comments on the difference on being threatened in a situation where you know what happens to you can't escalate to harmful levels, and being threatened in a situation where you know it can.

Katherine,

You miss a fundamental point with your example:

(a) rape:

The rape victim isn't trying to kill unarmed civilians.

(b) kidnapping:

The kidnapped victim isn't trying to kill unarmed civilians.

(c) Having your organs removed for sale on the black market:

The person having their organs removed isn't trying to kill unarmed civilians.

(d) Forced starvation:

The person not eating isn't trying to kill unarmed civilians.


You're comparing apples and oranges here. You're trying to compare people who aren't trying to kill people with people who are trying to kill people.

Our guys will be in life threatening situations. They have to be prepared to handle it. Terrorists also train to resist torture. Your examples are much more of a stretch.

"Actually what I got was that Thorley thought that actually trying to drown someone was torture, but holding them under water and pretending to drown them ("waterboarding") was okay."

I don't know what Thorley was saying, but let me give my 2 cents.

If I think that a terroristss has information that I need to save lives of Americans, (that includes yourself) If all other means fail, then I am perfectly okay with washboarding to help save yours and other American lives.

Would you prefer I let you and the 3,000 other Americans die? Remember, I've tried every other trick in the book and got nothing from them.

If that was the case with Thorley's comment, it makes no sense. Trying to drown someone is attempted murder - and dead men don't do what you tell them to.

Your second paragraph sounds like the start of a reasonable (and debatable) position, Katherine. Are you suggesting there should be a menu of acceptable tactics that interrogators may use, and moving off the reservation should be criminal? Or that there should be an approval process to OK a particular technique that is not on the menu?

I am sure others would disagree with this position, and say that torture is a "thou shalt not", and thus a finite list of specific techniques should be on a no-no list (along with certain results, such as death or maiming).

I'm not throwing my own hat into this ring because I am bareheaded - I really don't have a good framework for thinking about this issue, other than a visceral revulsion to the images and stories of torture, and a nagging sense that we have to push beyond our domestic law enforcement sensibilities to get the intel we need. Or maybe I've just seen too many episodes of "The Shield" and "24". :) Either way, please forgive my high question-to-opinion ratio.

As a tactical consideration, I'd encourage everyone - including myself - to stay away from the slippery slope argument. It can have some truth to it, but since it can be used to justify or condemn almost anything, it's use often provokes interlocutors to move to "don't give an inch, lest we lose a yard" mode. It's probative value is drowned by its destructive impact on productive discourse.

Also, a quick shout-out to smlook: the "these are bad guys" argument has some merit, but my understanding is that most of these incidents are about intelligence gathering, not confession extraction. Thus while the objective of the torture is the bad guy (e.g. trying to kill civilians), the subject of the torture may not be (such as a brother, or a friend), or may not be bad in proportion to the torture. Thus your example of the ends being extremely important doesn't mitigate the horror of the means - though it might justify them.

If I think that a terroristss has information that I need to save lives of Americans, (that includes yourself) If all other means fail, then I am perfectly okay with washboarding to help save yours and other American lives.

If you're in that situation, you're probably screwed no matter what. How do you know that the information that you get from them is accurate? How do you know that the person you're washboarding isn't just telling you something, anything, to make you stop?

smlook: First, I think you mean me, not Katherine. Contrary to popular belief, we are two distinct people. Second, I was responding to Jonah Goldberg, who (as best I can tell) argues that what we can do to our soldiers with their consent, we can do to others without their consent. Thus my post. Third, if you have a way of magically determining who is guilty and who is innocent, don't waste your time here: go straight to the Pentagon (and the courts) and let them know right away. If you don't, however, I don't think you're entitled to assume that everyone we do this to is guilty. In the particular case at hand, a lot of the people we did torture seem to have been innocent.

smlook, the "torture saves lives; and anyway, terrorists deserve to be tortured just on general principles" does not become more accurate nor more palatable no matter how many times you repeat it in multiple forums.

No matter how many times you repeat it, no matter how many places you repeat it, and no matter how much you wish it were so, the prisoners who were tortured at Abu Ghraib WERE NOT TERRORISTS. Even the ARMY says so.

No matter how many times you repeat it, no matter how many places you repeat it, and no matter how much you wish it were so, torture is NOT EFFECTIVE at discovering, halting, or getting revenge for terrorist attacks.

Got that?

WE TORTURED PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT TERRORISTS.

TORTURE DOESN'T WORK AGAINST TERRORISM.

Can you hear me now?

"I beg to differ. Thorley may not think it's torture, but even if the dogs don't actually attack, menacing a naked prisoner with a snarling dog is torture in my book - see Tonydismukes's comments on the difference on being threatened in a situation where you know what happens to you can't escalate to harmful levels, and being threatened in a situation where you know it can."

Jes--You're right. Very poor phrasing on my part. Hopefully I have enough of a track record to say: believe me, I think it's torture. And even if it weren't torture it would be "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" to use the treaty's words. Even I didn't know it would lead to dogs actually attacking prisoners, I would outlaw it.

Here's what I should have said:

let's assume, for the sake of argument, that forced nudity isn't torture and menacing prisoners with dogs isn't torture and doesn't violate Convention Against Torture. Based on all the evidence, it seems clear that if you legalize those things, it is close to inevitable that your authorization will lead to naked prisoners being attacked by military dogs. And that's torture, inarguably.

Meaux--sorry, but in my book slippery slope arguments are allowed when they're supported by graphic photographic evidence, government reports, and the experiences of other countries. Israel's Supreme Court, to its great credit, outlawed "coercive interrogation" policies short of torture because they found it led to torture over and over again.

Smlook--first of all, hilzoy wrote the post, not me. Second of all, her issue with Goldberg was about the definition of torture. The definition of a crime doesn't depends on how good or horrible a person the victim is. Murder is murder, even if the victim is Lee Harvey Oswald. Rape is rape, even if the victim is a man sent to prison for raping a woman. And torture is torture, even if the victim is a vicious terrorist. It's understandable to be less upset when the victim is a terrible person than when the victim's an innocent, but a crime has still occurred. Third of all, not only is it possible that we would torture or abuse someone who wasn't a terrorist at all--we know that it's happened.

Katherine: Hopefully I have enough of a track record to say: believe me, I think it's torture.

You do, and I'm sorry I (momentarily) doubted you.

It seems self-evident to me that the use of torture for no purpose other than to make the lives and conditions of detainees more miserable than they already are (Abu Ghraib) cannot be justified under any circumstances. However, as this thread (and many others elsewhere) suggests, the issue gets stickier for some when it becomes about the use of torture for the purpose of extracting information vital to our self-defense. While there may be some instances where the ends (information) justify the means of extracting it (torture), as policy I believe it would be more dangerous to endorse such a policy than to prohibit it.

If, as a nation, we say to the world, information vital to our national security is so important that we will stop at nothing - including torturing people - to get it, we invite a level of abuse on the parts of our military and our intelligence gathering services than we cannot and should not risk. It is easy to envision rogue (and not so rogue) soldiers and federal agents, acting on the endorsement of their government, detaining and torturing anyone and everyone who could possibly provide information deemed valuable. That could include wives, children, cousins, in-laws, former teachers, ex-associates, children of ex-associates, grand parents of former in-laws... well, you see what I'm getting at.

In the 'information is god paradigm' anything we may do to get it can be justified. And when there is no information to be gotten? Well, sorry. To me, this way of thinking is problematic on its face.

"the prisoners who were tortured at Abu Ghraib WERE NOT TERRORISTS. Even the ARMY says so."

Well, then maybe the torture wasn't the systematic torturing that so many accuse the administration of.

I mean really... who thinks the administration is so dumb that they support torturing people who have nothing to offer.

I take that question back... many of you think the administration is evil.


"How do you know that the information that you get from them is accurate?"

I don't know that it is accurate. But, something that might be accurate or not is better than nothing.

CaseyL,

"torture is NOT EFFECTIVE at discovering, halting, or getting revenge for terrorist attacks."


Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective.

GOT THAT!

"How do you know that the information that you get from them is accurate?"

I don't know that it is accurate. But, something that might be accurate or not is better than nothing.

Uh, no. What if you get information that is outright incorrect? (Say your hypothetical terrorist plants a bomb in one place, but when you torture him tells you he put it someplace else entirely.)

Get back to me when our troops are forcibly sodomized.

Don't ask, don't tell.

I mean really... who thinks the administration is so dumb that they support torturing people who have nothing to offer.

It is known that people with nothing to offer were tortured under the aegis of the present Administration. It is further known that the safeguards designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening were diminished (arguably, removed) by the Administration. It is further known that at least one of the people who condoned these removals -- Gonzales -- has been given an opportunity to repudiate this position and has not done so.

I don't think, nor does anyone here, that the Administration tortures people for the hell of it. It's pretty damn clear, however, that they're staggeringly cavalier about deciding what lines to cross or erase, and when.

Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective.

Mind if we turn that insight into a system of jurisprudence here in the US? If not, why not?

who thinks the administration is so dumb that they support torturing people who have nothing to offer.

Not the point. No one knows who the 70-90% innocent are. The Administration is willing to torture people despite knowing that there is a 70-90% chance that any particular victim is totally innocent. Yes, that's evil.


something that might be accurate or not is better than nothing.

No it's not. A wild guess might be accurate or not.

Terrorists are motivated to make sure the attack happens. They're motivated by religious fervor and hatred. They want the attack to happen more than they want to live, and they want the attack to happen enough to confound torturers.

They can confound torturers by lying, by telling useless truths, by telling contradictory information that has agents chasing wild geese. Every delay, every false lead, just makes it more likely the attack will happen.

All of which - deliberate lies, misleading information, and sheer confusion - are what you get from torture victims anyway.

Saying 'you can't possibly prove it's always ineffective' is insisting I prove a negative. That's false logic. I also can't prove 'aliens from another planet have never visited Earth': does that mean we should have an immigration policy for extraterrestrials?

The burden of proof isn't on me to demonstrate that torture 'never works.' The burden of proof is on you to point out verifiable instances where it has worked.

Do that. Tell me of a terrorist attack that was thwarted by use of torture.

smlook: "The [a,b,c,d] victim isn't trying to kill unarmed civilians"

No, it isn't Katherine that has missed the point, it's you (and anyone who agrees with him) that have missed the point that people trying to kill unarmed civilians shouldn't be tortured, they should be tried and put in jail if found guilty after due process.
Or, if you consider that Iraq is in a state of war, they should be held as POW and treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

Those principles are among the things that separate barbary from civilization; if you don't follow those principles, you don't have a struggle between barbary and civilization, but between two different kinds of barbars.

To all those torture apologists who have shown up on this thread.

Please remember to choke your alleged moral outrage over terrorists who torture Americans, since according to your logic, there is nothing wrong with what they are doing (the torture, that is). According to your logic, they are simply doing it for the wrong reasons. If they change sides, maybe we should use them as the torturers.

Trying to parse reasons when torture is acceptable ends up, in the real world rather than in debate parlors, becoming "I can torture when I feel like it."

It's interesting to see how the torture issue is working on the right. At the top level we have Bush, Gonzales, et al professing shock, horror, etc. Gonzales was "sickened," he claims, by the Abu Ghraib photos.

But down at the grass roots it's a different story. Goldberg, Limbaugh and the like are telling the loyalists it's really no big deal, they're all terrorists anyway, etc. And lots of the loyalists are swallowing it. Read some of the comments here, or go over to Volokh. Orin Kerr has opened a comment thread on the subject that is worth reading if you want to understand attitudes.

There are those, like Graham, who seem to be sincerely on the right side of this issue. But there's a different tale being told to the base.

Read some of the comments here, or go over to Volokh. Orin Kerr has opened a comment thread on the subject that is worth reading if you want to understand attitudes.

Just went over to Volokh. Unbelievable. I wonder if the commenters are indicative of the current readership of the blog, or just trolls. I wonder if it gives Volokh and company any pause to find that they are attracting those types.

Of course, Bernard notes the comments here, but I don't think they consist of a significant portion of the readers. Of course, I may be wrong, but I hope you will permit me to continue fooling myself.

Well, then maybe the torture wasn't the systematic torturing that so many accuse the administration of.
I mean really... who thinks the administration is so dumb that they support torturing people who have nothing to offer.
I take that question back... many of you think the administration is evil."

The torture at Abu Ghraib occurred not because the Army wanted to torture people wiith no information, it is because because the troops running it, and the decisionmakers who control them, treat detention as proof of guilt, and associate every detainee with "terrorists", and thus back to the 9/11 hijackers. It's not surprising that you don't grasp the arguments being made here because you clearly believe exactly the same thing.

But this assumption is deadflat wrong. The Taguba Report found that "MG Fast, according to BG Karpinski, routinely denied the board's recommendations to release detainees in this category who were no longer deemed a threat and clearly met the requirements for release," and the International Red Cross estimated that 70%-90% of the detainees were simply arrested by mistake (download the ICRC report here)

Just try to grasp this - the Army investigated itself, and in light of what it found, it acknowledged that it had imprisoned and mistreated people who had no connection to terrorism in Iraq or anywhere else. This finding has been confirmed by international observers. The Army has looked at the facts and acknowledged that something bad happened, yet you, and stooges like Goldberg, refuse to. Why?

something that might be accurate or not is better than nothing.[...]
Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective.

I'm just speechless. What depravity would not be allowed under this standard? Good lord! Did 9/11 terrify you so utterly that there is there literally nothing you won't consent to in order to feel all safe and #1 again?

Did 9/11 terrify you so utterly that there is there literally nothing you won't consent to in order to feel all safe and #1 again?

I've maintained since about 9/12* that the primary architect of American politics for the forseeable future will be (and indeed, is) fear. Rank, visceral fear, all the more potent because it will never be properly acknowledged. As long as this fear dominates our politics, we'll have no useful discussions nor enact any good policies; instead, we'll be at the mercy of anyone who can harness that fear for their own ends.

I have a longer riff on this theme but I've hurled enough brickbats for the time being so I'll leave off.

* Actually, I was saying similar things in the mid-90s; it took 9/11 to catalyze the process that I foresaw.

Jadegold: "Jeez, when you think Goldberg can't say anything more stupid, he does it. He's the Lance Armstrong of dumb."

Jonah hopes for a threefer.

[going away to take a shower]

lj,

You are right about the respective proportions of pro-torture comments, of course. I wasn't suggesting the threads were equivalent, just that the Limbaugh-Goldberg position seems to be somewhat popular.

victor falk,

As soon as they put uniforms on and fight a conventional war we can call them a POW.

Anarch,

"Did 9/11 terrify you so utterly that there is there literally nothing you won't consent to in order to feel all safe and #1 again?

I've maintained since about 9/12* that the primary architect of American politics for the forseeable future will be (and indeed, is) fear. Rank, visceral fear
"

Interesting analysis since I don't feel any fear.

From many of the comments here it seems obvious that torture really wasn't part of the administrations plan.


"The burden of proof is on you to point out verifiable instances where it has worked."

How 'bout all those captured pilots from the first Iraq war that made statements.

How 'bout all those captured pilots from the Vietnam war.

You guys are so offended you aren't even listening.

I said torture could be the last resort if nothing else is effective.

And if you get bad or good information... who knows. But, you may have nothing without it. Again, in life or death circumstances I would keep torture as an option.


Smlook: You've provided examples of how torture can "work" to force people to say things they'd never say uncoerced. You haven't provided any examples of how torture can "work" to force people to provide useful information to the torturer. How is it "life or death" to force someone to recant their real beliefs?

And if you get bad or good information... who knows. But, you may have nothing without it.

In practical terms: If you torture someone and they give you information, and you have no idea if the information they have given you is bad or good, you are actually worse off than if you had nothing. Do I need to explain why this is?

As soon as they put uniforms on and fight a conventional war we can call them a POW.

You're aware US troops don't always wear uniforms, right?

No? How unfortunate.

There's no such thing as a conventional war anymore; really hasn't been one since Korea.

From many of the comments here it seems obvious that torture really wasn't part of the administrations plan.

When Rummy dirested senior military/intelligence leadership to "take off the gloves," followed by Al Gonzo's direction to DoJ to redefine torture---it really sounds like torture became part and parcel of this appointed administration.

How 'bout all those captured pilots from the first Iraq war that made statements.

You really need to read the Code of Conduct WRT US POWs.

Sometimes even consent doesn't make a difference - consider the soldier who suffered brain damage during a training exercise.

Jade,

"You really need to read the Code of Conduct WRT US POWs."

No! You really need to stop assuming that you know something other people don't.

"You're aware US troops don't always wear uniforms, right?"

Yes, and they know exactly what risk their taking. But, in reality whether our guys wear a uniform or not, torture is probably going to take place.

Interesting analysis since I don't feel any fear.

But you're willing to condone -- hell, endorse -- any inhumane, dehumanizing, despicable act on the off chance that maybe somehow, some way, something useful might result from it. If it's not fear -- and, let me note, your claim that you don't feel any fear does not in any way contradict my analysis -- then what is it that motivates such callousness?

Since I think my previous post may have been unclear, I'm riffing off of st's 1:41pm post. The text he/she cites...

something that might be accurate or not is better than nothing.[...] Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective.

...can, as he/she notes, be used to justify anything whatsoever. Anything. No matter how horrible, no matter how depraved. Anything. Which makes your stated position (though, I hope to god, not your actual position) much as I've said above.

I notice that neither smlook nor any other advocate of torture has responded to my request that they cite a single, verifible instance of when use of torture prevented a terrorist attack.

"I notice that neither smlook nor any other advocate of torture has responded to my request that they cite a single, verifible instance of when use of torture prevented a terrorist attack."

Would anyone outside the covert world be likely to know about any such instances and be willing to cite them?

Anarch,

"But you're willing to condone -- hell, endorse -- any inhumane, dehumanizing, despicable act on the off chance that maybe somehow, some way, something useful might result from it. If it's not fear -- and, let me note, your claim that you don't feel any fear does not in any way contradict my analysis -- then what is it that motivates such callousness?"

The real problem here is that you selectively take my words and then make them say what you want. I can only think that you are doing this either to be difficult, out of ignorance or typical dirty tricks that people use to discredit others.

I have stated up thread a scenario which torture might be an option. When there is a life/death scenario and every other possible option has faied.

Since, you have started doing your analysis on me, let me reply back. Why are you so insecure that you must put words into other peoples mouths to help make your point.

I said:
"If I think that a terroristss has information that I need to save lives of Americans, (that includes yourself) If all other means fail, then I am perfectly okay with washboarding to help save yours and other American lives."

Big difference from your interpretation.

"But you're willing to condone -- hell, endorse -- any inhumane, dehumanizing, despicable act on the off chance that maybe somehow, some way, something useful might result from it."

"I'm riffing off of st's 1:41pm post. The text he/she cites..."

I suggest you stop riffing and actually read. I wonder if you don't often do this and this is how your world view is defined.

CaseyL,

"I notice that neither smlook nor any other advocate of torture has responded to my request that they cite a single, verifible instance of when use of torture prevented a terrorist attack."

I cited examples where people were made to say things against their will because they were tortured. History is riddled with this fact.

But, your point is irrelevant to me. Last choice option is how I stated it. Everything else has failed. Nothing of nothing might be acceptable to you, but it is not to me. I'd rather try to get something and it be wrong, than to have no alternatives at all.

Jes,
In practical terms: If you torture someone and they give you information, and you have no idea if the information they have given you is bad or good, you are actually worse off than if you had nothing. Do I need to explain why this is"

I guess so. So you are advocating that we do nothing. I guess when the people die you will be comfortable saying, "I had nothing, so I did nothing." I doubt that will sit very well with your own conscience or any other Americans.

And Jade,

Thank you for making it so clear to everyone why the Geneva Convention really doesn't fit the bill anymore.

"There's no such thing as a conventional war anymore; really hasn't been one since Korea."

CaseyL,

Interesting article from Michael Leeden:

"But there are phases of gray in between the blackness of torture and the whiteness of gentle inquiry, and many of the gray methods have been effective. So say experts from, say, the Chicago police force in the glory days, or the British questioners of the IRA over the years, or the Spanish judges who have dealt with ETA, or the Israelis who interrogate Arab terrorists."

Smlook: So you are advocating that we do nothing.

I'm advocating that torture should never be practiced. This is rather different from advocating that nothing be done.

I guess when the people die you will be comfortable saying, "I had nothing, so I did nothing." I doubt that will sit very well with your own conscience or any other Americans.

People have already died because of the Bush administration's endorsement of torture in Abu Ghraib and Bagram Airbase. Does that sit well with your conscience?

smlook - Ledeen was being sarcastic. Look at that list again - Mafia, IRA, ETA, and Palestinian terrorists - and tell me which of them were defeated using torture.

"I'm advocating that torture should never be practiced."

Then please work on your posts. Some of them are really painful to the point of torture.

"People have already died because of the Bush administration's endorsement of torture in Abu Ghraib and Bagram Airbase. Does that sit well with your conscience?"

Yes, because people are also being punished for committing some of those acts.

smlook:

I missed this during the fracas elsewhere and this thread has fallen fallow, but what the hell. The most trivial point first:

I suggest you stop riffing and actually read. I wonder if you don't often do this and this is how your world view is defined.

"Riffing", in this context, means to be inspired by someone else's ideas and to pursue them, usually with the understanding that the inspiration will be peripheral or tangential to the original. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "actually reading" which, I assure you, I did.

As to how my worldview is defined... nah, you were just working in a cheap shot. I'd return the favor but I'm not particularly interested in that; I'm interested in nipping this pro-torture movement in the bud.

The real problem here is that you selectively take my words and then make them say what you want.

No, I read what you wrote and excerpted your words verbatim. I didn't do it out of malice or carelessness; I did it to illuminate what I perceive as a very dangerous line of thought, and one which, if unchecked, would be poisonous in the extreme.

I have stated up thread a scenario which torture might be an option. When there is a life/death scenario and every other possible option has faied.

Yes, and this has been done unto death, if you'll pardon the expression. See, e.g., von's remarks about "dialling up the utility knob" or the godmother of all posts on the subject, Belle Waring's By the Power of Stipulation that's been linked to several times on this site.

That such a scenario exists is moot. That such a scenario is commonplace enough to be instituted as the systematized policy of the United States government is not and, indeed, hasn't been addressed by anyone on the right.* You yourself haven't addressed this issue that I recall, in particular the key observation that in order to torture terrorists we have to first identify who those terrorists are.

* I should be more clear: everyone on the right who addressed this issue has, to the best of my knowledge, argued the contrary. Those who've argued the merits of this have generally done so under what used to be known as a "dictionary flame", i.e. choosing one's definitions in such a way as to render the concept void by its very definition.

Since, you have started doing your analysis on me, let me reply back. Why are you so insecure that you must put words into other peoples mouths to help make your point.

Are you denying the authenticity of the quote I supplied? Are you claiming that these are not your words?

"Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective." [- For reference: smlook, Jan 7, 9:20pm]

If not, your remark has no standing. Those are your words; by those words shall you be judged. And st's subsequent point -- one which you've conveniently ignored -- bears repeating:

"I'm just speechless. What depravity would not be allowed under this standard?"

We're all ears.

I said:
"If I think that a terroristss has information that I need to save lives of Americans, (that includes yourself) If all other means fail, then I am perfectly okay with washboarding to help save yours and other American lives."

Yes, you did. [At 5:17pm on Jan 7th, for the record.] Let me go to work on this, then:

1) "If you think"? The standard of determining whether to deliberately inflict grievous bodily harm on an individual is merely "you think"?

1a) How do you know this individual is a terrorist in the first place? Do you merely think that?

1b) How do you know this individual possesses useful knowledge? Do you merely think that?

1c) How do you plan to ensure that the replies the individual gives are, in fact, the useful knowledge you seek? How do you safeguard against the prisoner killing two birds with one stone (so to speak) and sending you on a fool's errand against innocent civilians while arranging the death of innocent lives?

If your answer to these questions is deficient, and it appears to be, what you're advocating is nothing more than institutionalized sadism.

2) Perhaps you meant something stronger. Perhaps you meant to raise the bar higher than you actually did. If so, note that a) you never did so -- one of the perks of actually reading what you wrote in this thread is that I know what you did and did not write -- and b) you never stated how, exactly, this "thinking" would be rendered into a policy beyond merely an option of "last resort". Just because? On a whim? Because you can't think of anything better to do? I'm sorry, that's simply not good enough.

2') You want torture in your arsenal; I want it out, because I don't want American soldiers put in a position where they think it's ok to torture because they can't think of anything better to do. I want that policy and that power outlined as clearly as possible and I want our enemies -- but more importantly our friends, and most importantly still the vast majority of people who are gravely conflicted about America and Americans -- to know that there are limits to the kinds of barbarity we will countenance.

Bluntly, I want us to be better than that.

[Sebastian's multiple notes about policy creep and the way in which lines become blurred are extremely pertinent here. And I'm riffing a tad off of victor falk's post of Jan 8, 2:21pm post, but that's a coincidence.]

3) Anticipating your counterargument, I'll repeat CaseyL's oft-asked question: do you know of any circumstances (in, say, the past 70 years) in which the torturing of a prisoner produced useful, actionable intelligence about a terrorist organization? [Saying "History is riddled" with "people [who] were made to say things against their will because they were tortured" isn't even approximately the same thing.] In other words, you'd like to keep all the weapons in your arsenal just in case; I'm wondering whether it's really a weapon at all.

[My guess, btw, is that the answer will be yes; and that if you look at the regimes under which this occurred, they will not really be ones we wish to emulate. I don't know, though, as I'm not the one trying to make this argument.]

4) I'll note another issue which thus far hasn't come up. Suppose you torture some poor sod to within an inch of his life in return for intelligence that saves American lives. The story doesn't end there, though. This guy has friends, family, companions, allies. Suppose his mangled body* so enrages them, so inspires them, that they coordinate an attack that kills even more Americans than would have died in the first place. What then of this notion of "saving lives"?

[In the twee variation: You can't possibly prove that torturing someone won't directly result in the deaths of more Americans! Muahahaha! ...see how that works?]

Remember, this ?o? is larger than merely the fight against stopping one terrorist from committing one terrorist act. We're trying to destroy an idea and any tactic pursued in this struggle must be weighed not merely against the immediate benefit of life and limb but also the tactical and strategic terrain for years to come.

5) About the moral dimension, I commend to you Arthur Silber's post on torture [I think it's vanished into the ether, alas] (cited at Jim Henley's Unqualified Offerings), in which he concludes that the true reason not to countenance torture is "it's because we're fucking human beings." Preach it, brothah.

Finally:

5) Your patronizing concern -- wow, you'd even try to save my life! -- is duly noted, and duly ignored. I had assumed that it went without saying that all those who debate here are blessed with a minimum of human decency and that, yes, we'd actually try to save each other's lives if they were threatened. If you weren't possessed of that modicum of decency, this conversation would have ended before it had begun; I have enough to do with my life than to argue with moral cretins.**

* Yes, I know waterboarding doesn't really leave marks. If that is one's sole objection to this metaphor, I suggest a serious rethinking of one's moral hierarchy.

** To ensure proper reading, since that's apparently a hot issue nowadays: I'm not saying you're a moral cretin. I'm saying you're not a moral cretin. Damning with faint praise, I know.

As an addendum, I'd like to recommend to you some posts in this thread whose arguments you have not yet addressed.

  • meaux, Jan 7, 10:39pm
  • Josh, Jan 7, 10:41pm, and his subsequent counter-riposte at 2:38am on Jan 8 (coupled with Bernard's at 2:52am)
  • hilzoy, Jan 7, 10:46pm (especially the part about "magical way of determining guilt") in conjunction with CaseyL's ALL CAPITAL POST!!
  • My post of Jan 8, 2:50am
  • The bulk of st's post of Jan 8, 6:41pm, specifically the first part about detainment considered proof of guilt.

You're at liberty to do whatever you like with this; feel free to respond or not as suits your whim. I'm just pointing out that there are a whole lot of people who've ripped a whole lot of holes in your argument, and it might behoove you to counter at least a few of them in order to solidify your position and thus, incidentally, protect you from "misreadings" in the future.

Smlook: Then please work on your posts. Some of them are really painful to the point of torture.

You really can't think of any better response than a cheap shot like that?

Anarch's covered good points you should be responding to: I'm tired of you, frankly.

Anarch,

I couldn't agree with you more.

I have enough to do with my life than to argue with moral cretins.**

** To ensure proper reading, since that's apparently a hot issue nowadays: I'm not saying you're a moral cretin. I'm saying you're not a moral cretin. Damning with faint praise, I know.

""Riffing", in this context, means to be inspired by someone else's ideas and to pursue them"

So you admit, that you quoted out of context to try and make a point against a point that wasn't made. Interesting?

But, again you ask me questions about what I think, but you really didn't read what I said.

I said:

"If I think that a terrorist has information that I need to save lives of Americans"

I specifically said a terrorist (ss, typo). I didn't say someone that I think is a terrorist. It is for this reason that I can't help, but think that you want to twist my words. Because you do. I can't see how we can discuss anything if you refuse to read my posts. That is a consistent tactic that those leaning left here tend to use.

Jes,

Same back at you.

smlook: So you admit, that you quoted out of context to try and make a point against a point that wasn't made. Interesting?

Errr... I said no such thing. I said almost the exact opposite, in fact. Could you perhaps try some of that reading yourself?

I specifically said a terrorist (ss, typo). I didn't say someone that I think is a terrorist.

Presumably at some point the determination of whether someone was a terrorist had to be made, right? You can't simply excise that factor from the calculation and produce a meaningful argument. For a larger illustration of same, I turn, as always, to Fafblog:

Romney's plan is as simple as it is brilliant: use perfect methods instead of imperfect ones. The standard "beyond a reasonable doubt" would be replaced with "no doubt," allowing even a jury of Cartesian skeptics access to unrivaled powers of epistemic certainty.

So no, I don't grant your premise that you have in your presence a terrorist unless you specify how exactly that assessment was made. This concerns the larger point that you have repeatedly refused to tackle that I will repeat once again: "in order to torture terrorists we have to first identify who those terrorists are." Absent a discussion of this, all other talk is void.

So, how do you know that the person in custody is a terrorist? Who gets to make that call? Under what auspices? With what oversight and feedback? With what level of scrutiny, and to what level of certainty? In order for this notion of legitimate torture, odious though it may be, to be systematized -- which is what you're (implicitly) talking about here -- you need to explain, or at least sketch, the system. And if you do, who knows? Something productive might come of this exchange after all.

To clarify a point above: you could, of course, insist in some way that this is a "known terrorist", e.g. Zarqawi. Fair enough. The point is that, for this discussion to be meaningful, you either have to a) talk about a specific exemption which is then not institutable as policy, relating as it does to only Zarqawi, or b) admit that the standard under which someone receives this designation is shockingly high, which more or less undercuts any utility of formalizing it as policy in the first place. The third alternative is, of course, c) you're just dialling the utility knob up so far as to be utterly useless as an example (viz. By The Power of Stipulation once more).

Incidentally, you still haven't answered any questions relating to the following statement:

"Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective."

Those are your words, smlook. Are you going to stand by them or not?

"Torture of some terrorists could be effective. You can't possibly prove that it is always ineffective."

I said it and I meant. I couldn't possibly prove that it is always effective... I couldn't possibly prove that it is only 20% effective. And you couldn't possibly prove that it is always ineffective.

But, once again if we READ the original comment from
CaseyL.

""torture is NOT EFFECTIVE at discovering, halting, or getting revenge for terrorist attacks."

It's all about the reading Anarch. One must READ. How can he be so sure of this fact. Does he think that govt's or organizations publish ALL of this kind of information. Does he have access to all instances of torture that this is a 100% true. Do you also really believe that throughout history there is no instance of torture that has been effective? You seem think I said, "Hey, lets grab a guy of the street and torture him/her."

All I said was that if everything else has failed, then we should keep it as an option.

And I have no desire as stated like you above to respond to every question that someone might ask me when I deem them stupid or irrelevant quesitons.

On a different note:

I wonder how many people at ObWi believe this guy...

"The most senior of the soldiers, former Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick, testified that intelligence officers encouraged rough treatment of prisoners thought to have valuable information about the growing insurgency movement. But Frederick said there were no orders condoning the abuses captured on the cameras of low-ranking soldiers."

I said it and I meant it.

Then I ask once again:

"I'm just speechless. What depravity would not be allowed under this standard?"

Calling this question "stupid" and "irrelevant" betrays such a fundamental failure to understand your own position that I'm almost at a loss for words.

It's all about the reading Anarch. One must READ.

I agree, which is why I'm bewildered you responded as you did. If you go back and READ any of my lengthier posts you'll find I tackled, and dismissed, every one of your almost non-existent arguments. I'd repeat the drubbing but, frankly, I'm tired of one-sided conversations.

So: you take offense when people quote you correctly, you accuse others of not reading when you copiously fail to do so yourself, you refuse to even consider questions that completely undermine your arguments... Jes was right. There's no point in continuing this. Adios.

"And I have no desire as stated like you above to respond to every question that someone might ask me when I deem them stupid or irrelevant quesitons."

That's an all-too prevelant argument lately for a person not responding to challenges to their way of thinking or taking responsibility for what they've said. People have had valid questions. A way to avoid them is to call them "stupid and irrelevent". Saying that allows a person to ignore everything they don't want to think about, research, or believe.

By the way, I'm not intending to be mean or condescending. Rather I'm just profoundly sad. It seems lately that nobody cares to learn more beyond than their own point of view. Why? I don't know. It may just be human nature.

"All I said was that if everything else has failed, then we should keep it as an option."

I understand that. But if you're not going to recognize that life isn't black-and-white, isn't always clearcut and easy to snap-judge, then you're not going to understand why some of us want things CLEAR before any such torture option is considered (regardless of a person's feelings on toture in general).

So I hear what you're saying there, but you're not acknowledging how fuzzy life gets, how hard it is to be certain you have the "right guy", etc. Certainly during the horrible stress our soldiers are under on the streets of Iraq, having to just grab anybody who looks suspicious to forstall a possible suicide attack (understandably!), innocent people are sweeped up. These were and are most of the people in Abu Graib and similar prisons.

So yes, for the sake of arguement (and I'm not necessarily agreeing), let's say it's okay when you KNOW someone's evil. Please, hon, the gray area comes in: How do you KNOW? With most people you just don't know it so clearly, not even remotely; it is more than rare that it's as clear as it possibly is with Zarqawi. I'm not talking about a movie plot where the person's guilt is easily seen, where you *know* beyond doubt they have that "vital" piece of information that will stop the imminent firing of a nuclear bomb, or a suicide bomber caught with the explosives on him, etc. I'm talking about most real-life situations. No way were the majority of people in Abu Graib subjected to a rigorous ascertaining of their guilt. There was/is just no time and not enough man power. Most of them were just there, wrong place, wrong damn time. Before we apply something as drastic as torture, don't you think we should be sure?

His post sounds a lot like this article, which argues that the soldiers who consent to torture shouldn't be tortured either. So there's at least two more reasons no one should read this guy.

Water boarding is torture when done by officials to get information or confessions.

The UN Convention against torture defines it as:

"For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

Waterboarding causes severe suffering. This is a fact. Thus when used by officials against suspects or detainees it is torture.

It goes on to say, a little later:

"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

The convention is signed by the US and as such is legally binding. The facts are in and there is no doubt. The US is guilty of using torture, and everyone involved, from the torturer himself, the doctors overseeing it, the officer ordering and to the government officials sanctioning it, be it the president or a some lowly minion, must be prosecuted for their crime.

I know it will never happen because of the political realities, but this should not cloud the fact that it is and was torture.

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