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October 31, 2007

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That Mukasey has not taken this obvious route suggests that he is not motivated by his own uncertainty, but by the desire to keep people he believes have engaged in torture from being punished for their crimes.
Not to mention the fact that the people at the top of the Executive Branch - Bush and Cheney - would also be exposed to criminal sanctions (or should be) for this blatently illegal activity.
That we are even having a debate about this question, and that it is not a foregone conclusion that someone who claims not to know whether waterboarding is torture cannot possibly be confirmed as Attorney General, is a testament to the moral degradation of our country, and of our political discourse.
Absolutely. It is most depressing to contemplate just how severely Bush and Cheney have damaged our society, politics and public morality by allowing torture to become "national policy." They deserve not simply impeachment but criminal prosecution as well.

I suspect we won't be seeing much international travel from either of them after they leave office, lest they be given the same (deserved) treatment Pinochet got for his human rights abuses as dictator of Chile.

"Here is a description of waterboarding (h/t Katherine)"

Matttbastard posted that link here, not Katherine. He called it to Katherine's attention. It seems unjust to credit Katherine with calling attention to the piece at ObWi, rather than Matttbastard.

And yet some people still aren't persuaded.

"I suspect that future generations, and the current inhabitants of other countries, will regard this the same way we would regard people who took it to be an open question whether the rack was torture: with abhorrence."

I think you're assuming too much about how many Americans would regard the rack as torture. Those who accept waterboarding will likely accept any technique. The only way down from here is to advocate it for children, or other obviously innocent people and I'm guessing there are some who've already sunk that low.

Why not ask the question the other way? If Mr. Mukasey says that he'd need the details before he could state whether waterboarding is torture, ask him to provide a description of a situation where waterboarding is NOT torture, and explain why.

I don't think we should grade toughness on what they are willing to do to someone they have bound and gagged. Any coward can do anything to someone they have bound and gagged. If they want to show toughness they need to make stark personal decisions.

Would they rape their own daughter to take care of the tickiing time bomb scenario? Would they rape their own son? Just how deep are they willing to stare into the void? How much of the void are they willing to let stare back into them.

Anyone who makes this argument had better be prepared let us know how far they are willing to take it.
Just exactly where the line is.

Otherwise they deserve nothing but contempt.

There is no line. The means justify the ends. This is but a graphic example of why the unitary executive has never been our form of government, regardless of Yoo memos, Addington rants or Cheney drivel.

Of all the constitutional transgressions we have endured, torture is the one that stains our national psyche the most. Whether or not it ever provided useful information is besides the point.

If Mukasey is confirmed anyone who calls themselves a progressive should fight like hell to make sure none of the offending Senators is returned to office, no matter how red their state may be.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has done extensive testing on waterboarding.

Done properly, it causes no harm. It is true that waterboards have been recalled because they were coated with lead paint.

And the water should be either fresh or treated to avoid contaminating the enemy with E. coli.

Maybe Mukasey believes the E in E coli. stands for "Entertainment."

Hilzoy: That we are even having a debate about this question, and that it is not a foregone conclusion that someone who claims not to know whether waterboarding is torture cannot possibly be confirmed as Attorney General, is a testament to the moral degradation of our country, and of our political discourse.

Usual caveats apply – I’d like to be able to discuss this w/o being labeled pro-torture.

I’m not sure it’s that simple. I realize that it should be. But the Senate had the opportunity to explicitly define waterboarding as torture and as illegal and they took a powder.

That vote was right along party lines (with Specter voting yea and Nelson voting nay). I think it is entirely fair to blame the Republicans in the Senate for any current ambiguity. I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Mukasey for hedging on the legality – again, blame that on the Republican Senators.

When you say “just define waterboarding” it’s not that simple. The version you cite here is by far the most dangerous and brutal description I’ve ever read – I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing that is torture and an especially brutal torture at that. If we assume that as the one and only definition then everything else you write follows naturally. But the version of waterboarding many people are likely familiar with involves cloth or plastic over the victim’s face and certainly does not involve allowing “pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs”. I am not saying that the cloth/plastic version does not constitute torture – it does. But there are miles of difference between what I think many people are familiar with and what you cite here.

If this is what you think waterboarding consists of then you could retain some doubt on the question of “is it torture”.

F: How did you feel afterward?

SH: Fine, excited, glad it was over, sinuses all cleared up. Got water in one ear now.

Hey – it’s good for clearing up your sinuses! There is a point in the springtime I need to keep that in mind…

Again, I’m fine with stating that any form of waterboarding is torture. The beauty of Kennedy’s (failed) amendment (wow – did I just write that?) is that it specified “waterboarding techniques” which would cover any and all versions IMO.

So blame FOX and Republicans and Nelson – but there doesn’t seem to be a clear definition of what constitutes waterboarding, and the very Senators grilling Mukasey are the ones who failed to explicitly make it illegal (blame the R’s for the earlier failure, but the D’s could have tried again anytime this year). I just find it a little ironic to hear these Senators blasting Mukasey for not explicitly stating it is illegal when they have, ah, avoiding making it explicitly illegal.

Note: I consider all forms to be torture. I’m against torture. This is presented for purposes of discussion. Maybe if I say that at both the start and the end it will come through. Probably not.

I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing that is torture and an especially brutal torture at that.

well then, let me help you.

Gary: Katherine emailed it to me before I saw it in comments; thus the h/t.

OCS: the other descriptions I have read haven't said much one way or another about whether water gets into the lungs. They tend to say things like: water is poured onto a cloth over the face, to simulate drowning. One thing that does seem clear, though, is that many of the techniques used in our more dubious interrogations got there via SERE training, and if this is what SERE training involves, it seems likely to be what we are doing.

Oh, and OCS: the fact that you aren't defending any form of waterboarding got through, at least to me. I was just explaining my choice of descriptions, nothing more. :)

OCSteve, for what it's worth, your disclaimers convinced me that you weren't trying to sneak in a justification for just a little torture, even wafer-thin.

my understanding has always been that water entered the lungs--not that I have any first hand experience. I would tend to trust a SERE instructor over a Fox News correspondent. Even if they're doing it "right" mechanically, a news reporter actually has the power to end it, unlike a prisoner.

OCSteve, when Congress knows that the executive in fact interprets the torture statute in bad faith NOT to forbid waterbarding, Congress has a responsibility to do what it can to close the loophole. But their failure to do so does not excuse the executive from good faith compliance with existing law. Take rendition: it would be good if they amended the law to make it absolutely crystal clear that diplomatic assurances aren't enough. But their doing so, or failure to do so, does not change the fact that renditions like Arars are clear violations of Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture.

(I also emailed the article to hil before I saw the link in comments here, btw. Not that I object to anyone else getting hat tipped obviously.)

Wow. That thread at Blackfive is one of the most repugnant things I've seen in the wingnutosphere in a long time. Scratch that, it's one of the most repugnant things, /period/, I've seen in a long time.

It just blows my mind that an American citizen--let alone one who was in the military --can not only knowingly and willfully put themselves on the moral level of people we used to prosecute and hang for war crimes, but can smugly /joke/ about it and take pride in how their unapologetic enthusiasm for torture /infuriates their political opponents/.

There are no words to adequately describe the abomination that is the moral compass for these disgusting, subhuman creatures.

I still don't understand why people can't just say to themselves when it comes to this sort of thing: We are the United States of America, we don't do that.*

But apparently that shining city on a hill was actually a hallucination from the CIA's LSD experiments and it's actually a cesspool at the bottom of an abandoned copper mine. Ooops.

*However much historically that may not be true.

Jimbo is the Ann Coulter of the Milbloggers. He loves the attention no matter what repulsive thing he may say to get it.

Not linking him is the best approach. He'll sit there and watch the hit counter all day...

Note that even in the Fox New version OCSteve linked to, the water seems to go into the lungs:

SH: They punch a hole with a pen in the wrap just over your mouth. Then, they pour the water through that hole. So when you try to get air, you get water and when you suck in hard, you get plastic wrap in your throat. When I felt the plastic in my mouth I panicked.

I find that page a confusing mess of words -- transcript together with reader comments and jokes, but no introduction. It's hard to figure out what's going on. I guess the transcripts are actually just comments, so perhaps not accurate, but I haven't been able to watch the videos.

Once again, I'll observe that torture does work. It doesn't produce any useful information. It does, however, make your internal dissidents more likely to keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

Take a look at the governments who have been (and currently are) most willing to torture. Not what you'd call democratic and freedom-loving, right? That's the group that Cheney and Rumsfeld thought we should join.

The site to which Cleek above links says waterboarding can't be torture because we do it to our own troops. We certainly do, in the course of training them to withstand torture.

Both sick and stupid . . .

and did not want to suggest that Central Intelligence Agency officers who had used such techniques might be in “personal legal jeopardy.”

Heaven forfend that someone applying for the nation's Top Cop job should suggest putting people in personal legal jeopardy. But hey, what can your expect from Republicans? Squishy-soft on crime, crook-coddlers.

BTW, exactly what stops Mukasey from getting a classified briefing? Now that it has become such an issue for his confirmation, has he even asked to be briefed on it?

"That we are even having a debate about this question, and that it is not a foregone conclusion that someone who claims not to know whether waterboarding is torture cannot possibly be confirmed as Attorney General, is a testament to the moral degradation of our country, and of our political discourse."

Thank you.

Yes.

It's this simple: anyone who is so ignorant of fact and law as to not know whether waterboarding is torture, is manifestly unqualified to be Attorney General of the United States of America.

You can't even have the conversation about what and whether and why, after that. E.g. someone says oh he knows; but that's already irrelevant. He has claimed to be that unqualified; we can't argue. He's the one insisting that he lacks basic qualifications. OK.

Yet somehow there are people who think this is an issue, a debate, a question, a fuzzy area. That shows merely how far behind we have left basic morals, sense, and sanity. There is no debate. There is merely rationalization, and it should be identified, dispelled, and condemned.

Here are my questions.

1. When Iran captures American special forces folks operating within their boundaries and waterboards them to get information from them, what the hell are we going to say about it?

2. Where does this stuff end?

I'm at a loss to know what to do about this stuff. Bush wants absolute power, or as close to that as he can come. The courts are not a reliable counterforce, nor is Congress. Nor, for that matter, is the press.

By and large, I think folks here are more or less fine with torture as an interrogation policy. As long as it's behind closed doors, doesn't affect them, and we're not actually tearing anyone's limbs off, folks just aren't that worked up about it. We watch torture on TV for entertainment. It's part of the culture now.

This country lost its mind on 9/11. I don't know if we'll ever find our way back, or if we'll just degenerate into some kind of reactionary caudillo regime. If that seems extreme, listen to Rudy talk, and recognize that he's the Republican front runner right now. People love what he has to say. This country could easily slide into fascism.

I really, really just don't know what to expect, how to prepare for it, or what to do to steer things in a more healthy direction anymore.

I'm at a loss.

Thanks -

Without wanting to minimize the horror of the idea that we're sitting around discussing whether waterboarding is torture, all this is subsidiary to the main point of why Mukasey must not be confirmed: because he will not affirm that the president is in all cases subject to the law.

Bernie Sanders made that clear in explaining his opposition, and to her credit Clinton also cited it (along with the torture question):

"We cannot send a signal that the next attorney general in any way condones torture or believes that the president is unconstrained by law," said Sen. Clinton.

All the other specific abuses -- warrantless spying, torture, unauthorized warmaking -- flow from this central twisted conception that the commander-in-chief role gives the president the powers of a king or dictator. The Supreme Court, thanks to the cowardice and disorganization of the Democrats in the Senate, already has two more adherents of this deeply un-American doctrine than it did before Bush and Cheney were allowed to take office. We cannot allow the Senate to confirm an Attorney General who operates under this doctrine.

Bush will not put up for confirmation any nominee who does not buy in to the president-as-king "unitary executive" approach. That's not a reason to confirm this one.

russell--
I assume that when you say, "By and large, I think folks here are more or less fine with torture as an interrogation policy", by "here" you mean the US?
I have the feeling it's more of a "don't make me think about it" position, the same way people generally would like to avoid the contemplation of, say, how many of us live on land illegally taken from Native Americans, or the consequences of our toppling of the Guatemalan government in 1954, or so forth.

Ironically, given our "rendition" practices, the US is a signatory to the "Convention Against Torture," or "CAT," pursuant to which states are prohibited from sending individuals otherwise deportable to other countries where they would be subject to "torture." CAT defines "torture" broadly as:

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 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.
I can't imagine how anyone with a shred of integrity could argue that waterboarding doesn't fall within this definition. But of course, it's a given that no one arguing for these pro-torture policies -- legal scum like Addington, Yoo and Gonzo -- has any integrity.

Screw future generations, I'm looking shocked and disgusted by my fellow citizens right now. How can these monsters dare to call themselves Americans?

Who’s channeling who?

Me: …the very Senators grilling Mukasey are the ones who failed to explicitly make it illegal (blame the R’s for the earlier failure, but the D’s could have tried again anytime this year). I just find it a little ironic to hear these Senators blasting Mukasey for not explicitly stating it is illegal when they have, ah, avoiding making it explicitly illegal.


Andy McCarthy: …the same senate that wants Mukasey to say waterboarding is unambiguously illegal in all circumstances declined to make it unambiguously illegal in all circumstances. I realize that the senate was in Republican hands then and it is in Democratic hands now; I realize if the vote were retaken today, the Amendment would have a better chance of passing.


My comment was 10:35AM, his was 5PM. Maybe he reads ObWi? ;)

OK. I cop to it. I’m really Andy McCarthy’s sock-puppet.

i iz NRO and im in ur comentz

The people blaming Congress for not explicitly defining waterboarding as "torture" are being silly. If Congress had said "waterboarding is torture," the Bushies would be saying that what they were doing wasn't "waterboarding," but some other thing involving controlled drowning ("It's legal because we didn't use a board". The more detailed the definition of "torture," the more opportunities for the would-be torturers to evade the definition on a technicality ("Gosh, the statute doesn't say anything explicit about the Iron Maiden--it must be okay to use it").

How can he call it a classified technique? It's been around since the Spanish Inquisition. It's described in exquisite detail all over the place. The only reason to call it classified is an excuse to not talk about how horrible it is.

In related news: CIA chief backs rendition flights calling the intelligence thus gathered "irreplaceable".

I suspect we're seeing the lack of clarity about what is or isn't torture only because of whose *ss is on the line. I wish some reporter would ask Bush whether reports that the Burmese government is using waterboarding to interrogate the protest leaders is OK with him?

We torture because otherwise they won't admit they're guilty: "The irreplaceable nature of that intelligence is the sole reason why we have what I admit freely is a very controversial programme."

Shorter Michael Hayden: "We're only breaking the law, and forcing our allies into breaking the law, because the information that the people we torture provide is unobtainable except under torture."

Under torture, Mr Hayden, a victim will tell you anything you want to know. It won't necessarily be accurate, or truthful, or anything you would want reliable data to be. But it will be what your bosses told you they wanted to hear. That's why torture is "irreplacable" to the modern CIA: nothing else will provide the kind of material the Bush administration needs to have.

"My comment was 10:35AM, his was 5PM. Maybe he reads ObWi? ;)"

No, it's that the talking point you were making were all over Republican sites the past couple of weeks, OCSteve. Honest. I saw it made by dozens of Republican hacks last week, before you made it.

Waterboarding is already long illegal under U.S. law. That's how it's been, you know, prosecuted in the past by the U.S. as a war crime.

[...] On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."

The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."

The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.

Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

More recently, the State Department:
Tunisia
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 8, 2006

[...] c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices; however, security forces reportedly tortured detainees to elicit confessions and discourage resistance. The forms of torture and other abuse included: electric shock; submersion of the head in water; [....] For example, on June 25, according to CNLT, 25-year-old Zied Ghodhbane appeared in court in a state of physical and psychological distress, bearing marks of abuse on his body. He reportedly testified that officials at the Ministry of Interior tortured him by [...] holding his head under water in detention facilities at the interior ministry after his extradition from Algeria to the country.

Hard to see what we're complaining about here if this isn't something we consider illegal.

The actual reasons for all this are finally acknowledged explicitly here:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 — In adamantly refusing to declare waterboarding illegal, Michael B. Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, is steering clear of a potential legal quagmire for the Bush administration: criminal prosecution or lawsuits against Central Intelligence Agency officers who used the harsh interrogation practice and those who authorized it, legal experts said Wednesday.
There's more there on that.

Oh, yes, last 'graph of that story:

[...] The senators, John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said anyone who engaged in waterboarding “puts himself at risk of prosecution, including under the War Crimes Act, and opens himself to civil liability as well.”
Pansies.

Pansies.

Um, not that there's anything wrong with that...

"Um, not that there's anything wrong with that..."

Clearly, you are an Arab-loving, America-hating, leftist terrorsymp, and probably Muslim, as well as fond of bestiality. You must be water-boarded at once, to find out who your gay animal terrorist master/lover is, terrorist!

I read in an e-mail someone sent me that your people's ultimate goal is to force all loyal Americans to marry gay Muslims, so I'm onto your Islamo-fuschiast plan!

I read in an e-mail someone sent me that your people's ultimate goal is to force all loyal Americans to marry gay Muslims,

Where do I sign up???

So it looks like the fate of Mukasey's nomination is in the hands of the Democrats on Judiciary, 6 of whom have not yet taken a position:

Cardin (MD)
Feingold (WI)
Feinstein (CA)
Kohl (WI)
Leahy (VT)
Schumer (NY)

If you're from one of those states, tomorrow would probably be a good time to call your Senator.

To expand on Katherine's comment, there are 10 Democrats on the committee, and the 4 that have taken a position are opposed: Biden, Durbin, Kennedy, Whitehouse. So it's looking like he won't get out of committee, and Reid says he won't bring the nomination to the floor in that case. Still, the more "no" votes the better, especially considering the incidence of spinelessness among congressional Democrats.

"So it's looking like he won't get out of committee,"

There are 10 Democrats on the committee, and 9 Republicans. It's safe to assume that all 9 Republicans will vote to move the nomination, so if even one Democrat doesn't vote against Mukasey, he goes to the Senate floor and wins.

How does this translate into "it's looking like he won't get out of committee" just now, when 6 of the Democrats are uncommitted, and Schumer suggested Mukasey in the first place, and showered him with praise?

I dearly hope that they hold solid, and no Democrat votes for Mukasey, but it hardly looks certain at this moment, does it?

I plead temporary insanity.

Anyway, the first sentence of my comment is still useful. My brief period of blissful and inexplicable insanity has been replaced by a return to my fear that this will end with a kabuki vote, with the presidential candidates and a bunch of other Democrats voting no but some of those "uncontrollable" Democrats we love to hate voting yes. But if I had a senator I'd be calling.

I called Senator Feinstein this morning. She still has not made up her mind, but the reaction of the kid that answered the phone to my saying, "This guy is bad news" was positive. I'm keeping my fingers crossed (for her anyway. Chuck Schumer does have a thing for this guy.)

But anyway, as bad as Mukasey's waterboarding comments have been, there were also other revelations at the hearing that are being ignored by not only the mainstream media but by everyone here on this blog. Two biggies are that Mukasey made excuses for President Bush’s violations of the FISA laws and he said that he would not advise the President to grant habeas corpus rights, which right there indicates that he will not abide by the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments to the Constitution!

Admitting that he will hold some other standard higher than the Constitution should be immediate grounds for Mukasey being voted down, regardless of whether or not waterboarding is technically torture.

For those of you who didn't click all the way through and read the comments on the link Hilzoy provided to Mr. Nance's essay, there is a commenter there maintaining that there is a *moral* (read: consequential absolutist) argument for torture in some circumstances.

A 'professional philosopher' tries to smack him down there, but to my mind didn't offer any substantive argument. I'm very lazy, so, Hilzoy to the white phone?

I have been told by a hospital emergency room director (a physician) that water does not normally enter the lungs in drowning - the "gag reflex" shuts the lungs off and death is by asphyxiation.

Thus 1) water does not have to actually enter the lungs to simulate drowning; and 2) if water is forced into the lungs this could be in a way worse than drowning.

Gary -- "You must be water-boarded at once, to find out who your gay animal terrorist master/lover is, terrorist!"

Well, if you'd just ask nicely I'd tell you that my (also) female housemate is a dog named Lily. She is very snuggly. I like to think that I'm in charge.

everyone continues to miss the point -- the AG is NOT the presidents personal counsel. DOJ's function is to protect and enforce the federal laws, including the constitution. Mukasey refuses to commit to doing this if confirmed. He intended to be Gonzo redux. If the AG nominee is committed first to the president and second to the job of DOJ -- reject him or her immediately.

this guy is clearly showing everyone that his loyalty is to the president and not to the rule of law. the waterboarding thing is only one aspect of this character revelation.

couple this with the idea of retroactive tort and breach of contract immunity coming down the pike -- bye bye rule of law. might as well close the courts officially as they will have closed to the majority of the american litigating public -- including criminal defendants

Congress better wake up

Congress better wake up

not gonna happen.

he'll get his upperdown vote, wherein 20 Dems and all Reps will vote to confirm.

Just called Kohl and Feingold. Here's to hoping (against hope).

Contacted Feinstein as well. No idea how this will go down. She surprised me on FISA so I take nothing for granted anymore.

I called Schumer and Feingold. Feingold's staff is as arrogant as he is, by the way.

Either way, I threw in my two cents.

I suggest everyone be sure to call Schumer, at least. ThinkProgress reported this morning that Schumer is on the fence. He seems to be very concerned about depoliticizing the Justice Department, which Mukasey might actually do, but he also said that he wants someone that would "put the rule of law first". That person is definitely not Mukasey, which I think everyone here seems to already know.

Anyway, I think the other Senators might have an easier time voting Mukasey down if Schumer does because Schumer opened the confirmation hearing with glowing statements about the guy. If Schumer says no, the others might actually look foolish if they didn't do the same.

My point: call Schumer.

Feingold's staff is as arrogant as he is, by the way.

Wait, what? Russ is a sweetheart and I've never had any trouble with his staff. You sure you've got the right guy there?

Also: does anyone think non-New Yorkers calling Schumer will make a difference? I'd be happy to if that's so, but I'm always leery of trying to "meddle" in other states' politics.

"Also: does anyone think non-New Yorkers calling Schumer will make a difference?"

No. Schumer, Feinstein Announce Support for Mukasey.

Well [expletive deleted] the both of us, then.

At least this is Feinstein's last term, I assume.

Feinstein: "First and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales."

Talk about setting the bar low. Is she adopting the Republican "not as bad as" standard now? You know, the one where anything we do is okay as long as we're not as bad as Saddam, or al Qaida, or whatever immoral scum we've decided it's convenient to compare ourselves with today.

russel,

"When Iran captures American special forces folks operating within their boundaries and waterboards them to get information from them"

Man, you are really out there if you think that what they will do is connected to anything other then what they want to do.

"We really want to torture these guys, but hte US has been so good to our POW's, oops, I guess we can't".

Yea, seriously.

Stan, Russell didn't ask what Iran would do. He asked what we would say about it.

KCinDC,

Talk is cheap. Writing a strongly worded letter wouldn't amount to much, would it? Look at all the talkin' that was done to create the League of Nations. United Nations.

So it would be perfectly acceptable for Iran to waterboard our people, as far as you're concerned. Nothing to get worked up about, just the normal way to treat prisoners.

huh? We already established that how we treat their prisoners has nothing to do with how they treat ours. We have also established that a strongly worded statement wouldn't do much either. What's your point here?

What's your point here?

I can tell you what my point is.

My point is that any punk nation on the face of the earth can now waterboard or otherwise abuse any US national they care to, and there's not a damned thing we can say about it.

That's a first for us.

Yes, I suppose we could go blow some of their stuff up in response. If that floats your boat, you're welcome to it.

It would be really hard for me to overemphasize how many different ways this country is screwed as a result of the Presidency of George W Bush. It's taken him exactly six and a half years to piss away a level of national credibility and good will that took generations to create.

Man, you are really out there if you think that doesn't matter.

Thanks -

"We have also established that a strongly worded statement wouldn't do much either."

And when we capture them, and want to punish them for torture and war crimes, what then, Stan LS?

Do let's be clear: are you defending waterboarding as a legitimate technique, that isn't torture? Or are you saying that it is torture, and it's a legitimate technique? Or what?

What's your point here?

If I may step in, the point is that if Iran were to waterboard US prisoners we would hear an outcry about torture that would shake the rafters. But somehow, when the CIA or whoever does it, we have all sorts of idiotic arguments that it isn't torture.

"What is hateful to thee do not unto another."

At least I think that's KC's point.

Gary,

"Or are you saying that it is torture, and it's a legitimate technique? "

I am saying that saying that its silly to suggest that our pow's will somehow get better treatment if we treat their terrorists better. That's just dumb. There used to be a time when spies were executed. A soldier out of his uniform performing military duty is a spy.

Yamtov,

"he point is that if Iran were to waterboard US prisoners we would hear an outcry about torture that would shake the rafters."

When did an "outcry" do anything for anyone? Libya tortured the Bulgarian nurses (electric shocks, etc) into signing confessions that they infected libyan children with HIV. What happened there? Hundreds of millions of dollars and military aid, I believe, went to Libya on behalf of EU.

Some outcry.

Hell is laughing with some famous moustache wearers leading the chorus.

Stan LS: When did an "outcry" do anything for anyone? Libya tortured the Bulgarian nurses (electric shocks, etc) into signing confessions that they infected libyan children with HIV. What happened there?

After years of pressure from the EU, the six Bulgarians who had spent years in jail in Libya, were released to Bulgaria, where the President of Bulgaria formally pardoned them. (They had been sentenced and condemned by a court in Libya, then transferred as prisoners to Bulgaria: to be legally released in Bulgaria, a pardon was necessary, though at no point did any EU or Bulgarian authority admit guilt on the part of the medical staff.)

It's interesting you should pick that example, Stan, because it's an excellent example of how public outrage combined with diplomatic pressure can make change happen.

Some outcry.

Indeed.

Stan LS: I am saying that saying that its silly to suggest that our pow's will somehow get better treatment if we treat their terrorists better. That's just dumb.

The present position of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan is that POWs and civilians are not granted the protection of the Geneva Conventions: Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and civilians - that is, the people you refer to as "their terrorists" - are tortured and murdered by US soldiers or mercenaries acting on behalf of the US military.

The idea that this disregard of the Geneva Conventions with regard to POWs and civilians captured by the US military, will not affect how US soldiers are treated by detaining powers elsewhere, is just dumb. If the US is behaving lawlessly, why should its soldiers receive the protection of the law? Granted, the Geneva Conventions say that one side's disregard of them does not allow the other side to disregard them too - but given that the US has also made clear that they will not cooperate with any attempt to make them obey the laws and treaties they have agreed to, what reason does any other nation have to keep their word with regard to such laws as the US has already publicly disregarded?

You could argue, I suppose, that the US is so powerful it does not need the law to enforce its wishes: the argument of the biggest thug on the block.

I am saying that saying that its silly to suggest that our pow's will somehow get better treatment if we treat their terrorists better.

Nobody has suggested that -- at least in this thread, that I can see -- so we're all in agreement. Hooray.

Stan, does the United States stand for anything at all as far as you're concerned? Is everything just reduced to the level of being a sports fan, cheering for the guys in the red, white, and blue, and laughing at the idea that your team could actually believe in anything?

I bought this shirt recently, but I'm beginning to wonder whether "the America I believe in" will ever exist again. Granted, the US was far from perfect, but at least we embraced certain ideals even if we didn't always live up to them. Now we've got presidential candidates competing to see who's most opposed to human rights.

This isn't just about the treatment of American captives at the hands of AQ. It's about the treatment of American civilian captives by the Colombian military. Or the Zimbabwean military. Or the [name country here] secret police.

The critical question is what the words of the various applicable laws mean. One thing is for certain, though: they mean the same thing when applied to the conduct of the United States that they mean when applied to the conduct of anyone else. For this reason, it's required -- even among people who do not share American culture or have any interest in upholding American traditions -- that one assess whether or not we think the specific conduct would be unobjectionable if applied to us.

Jes,

Stan, because it's an excellent example of how public outrage combined with diplomatic pressure

And an excellent example of you omitting facts. And here they are:

The EU maintains it did not pay compensation to either the infected children or their families: according to Sarkozy, Europe did not pay "the slightest financial compensation" for the medics' release. However, the European Commission committed $461 million to the Benghazi International Fund). Also, Bulgaria cancelled a probably-noncollectible $57 million debt owed by Libya....read no...

The present position of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan is that POWs and civilians are not granted the protection of the Geneva Conventions...

Ofcourse you count as POWs people who don't wear a uniform, who don't carry weapons in the open and who use civilian areas to stage their attacks (often aimed at the civilians). The true candidates for POW's were the soldiers of Saddam's army. Those guys wore uniforms and displayed weapons. They were treated as POW's.

"If the US is behaving lawlessly, why should its soldiers receive the protection of the law?"

If a law is not being enforced what law is it? If you are telling us here that one no longer needs to be following the geneva convections (again, be in uniform, display weapons, etc) to be covered by its protections - in other words - blank coverage, then what good is it? You can just pick and choose here. You can't say I am not going to follow the terms, but I expect the protections. That's absurd.

kcindc,

Stan, does the United States stand for anything at all as far as you're concerned?

I don't think your own argument doesn't stand for anything as far as you are concerned as you have failed to respond to my last post to you.

Stan, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to respond to, considering that you have yet to respond to anyone other than to continue saying that our actions won't stop our enemies from abusing our people -- something that we've all agreed to but that isn't relevant to the argument.

Do you think that the existence of terrorists (and an ever-widening definition of "terrorists" that now includes the military of other countries) somehow means that the United States should give up on promoting human rights?

It's about the treatment of American civilian captives by the Colombian military. Or the Zimbabwean military.

Look, if they think that we will apply Geneva protections to everyone (whether they should be covered under the terms or not) then it would be obvious that their actions will not be connected to anything we do. We'll just love everybody and anybody. No matter if they torture, if they hide behind civilians while dressed as one, etc. Everything goes, because according to you guys, they'll still get the POW status.

kcindc,

to continue saying that our actions won't stop our enemies from abusing our people -- something that we've all agreed to but that isn't relevant to the argument.

We all did?

"So it would be perfectly acceptable for Iran to waterboard our people, as far as you're concerned. "

There you are trying to connect what someone else does to what we do.

Here's russel -

"My point is that any punk nation on the face of the earth can now waterboard or otherwise abuse any US national they care to"

Again, trying to make that connection. Did Bulgaria abuse a Libyan national? Any other national?

"somehow means that the United States should give up on promoting human rights?"

But this is where we run into a problem. Putting people in cages and letting them out for one hour for a walk is doesn't sound too humane, does it? yet we have prisons where this happens. Are you against prisons? What do we do with criminals then? If you are for prisons then you are against human rights :(

Look, its simple. I believe that Geneva Convention applies only to those who adhere to its terms. Again, wearing uniforms, displaying weapons, etc. All those things are designed to protect civilians by making the combatants clearly distinguishable from non. If you start applying Geneva conventions to *all* regardless of their adherernce to those terms, then you are doing a disservice to the truly innocents by not providing an incentive, yet again, for the combatants to distinguish themselves from the non. Regular iraqi army soldiers were let go, were they not?

There you are trying to connect what someone else does to what we do.

Yes, that's how internationals standards work.

edward,

"that's how internationals standards work"

But do they?

In theory yes, which is the only way one can discuss them within any context including honor.

It used to be so clear in this country that the standards aren't there for the easy times, but rather for when times got tough. It's when it's tough that folks demonstrate who they truly are. Anyone can adhere to standards when things are going smoothly. Americans can adhere to them when things get tough.

Edward,

"In theory yes"

But this thread is not all that abstract, we are talking real cases here. To come back to your previous post where you responded "Yes, that's how internationals standards work."
to my "There you are trying to connect what someone else does to what we do.", you know we are not that far apart. I am all for connecting that someone else does with what we do. That's a great idea! Imagine if EU practiced that in the HIV nurses case? Instead of shelling out hundreds of millions, perhaps they should've treated Libyans the same way LIbyans treated the Bulgarians? You are on to something there.

In any case, note the "punk" countries that came up on this thread when my opponents tried to make their points - Iran, Zimbabwe, Columbia. Here's something to think about now, do we expect those countries to treat foreign POW's better then they treat their own citizens?

The "victims" of Nuremberg open some extra champagne bottles and cheer uncle Joe while Satan files a complaint for violation of his business monopoly.
Robert Jackson is eating his harp.

Hartmut,

My mother's grandfather died in the purges of 1937, my father's - in a concetration camp in Ukraine during ww2. It's obvious that both of them were murdered because of their own lack of respect for human rights. It's exactly due to that reason that Hitler and Stalin did what they did. Oh, how glad I am that europe did nothing in the 1930's to stop Germany. I am so glad they practiced the highest forms of diplomacy by selling out the Czechs. How refined of them! And how refined of you to remind me of those facts. Thanks!

SLS, I think it's more important as a CAT issue than a GC issue. Dumbing down CAT standards hurts us all.

WRT the GC, CA3 applies to GWOT prisoners in Gitmo, as the Supreme Court has held.

The court of military review just applied the GC in rejecting the government's argument (in Khadr) that the president has the power to declare someone an unlawful enemy combatant, or that the CSRTs as constituted in 2004 do. Even though the MCA, under which the court was created, has explicit language about the application of the GC. Why would they do this? Because when the dust settles, they'd rather be found to have been Spencer Tracy than Burt Lancaster. And maybe they'd rather have Tracy looking back at them from the mirror.

By the way, what uniform are you supposed to be wearing when arrested in an apartment on Karachi, by Pakistani police, hundreds of miles from any battlefield, having (a) never discharged a weapon and (b) 10 months ago fled from any armed conflict. What uniform are you supposed to wear sitting around Sarajevo while not planning to blow up the US Embassy? What uniform are you supposed to wear on a business trip to Gambia from London?

Stan,

you're right that we're not being all that abstract here. What we're really talking about is a defense of the US violating international standards against those we assume or have reason to believe don't follow them either. The "if they don't play by those rules, we don't have to either" argument.

Again, though, the rules are not made to help the nations that don't subscribe to them behave themselves, but rather to help the nations that do suscribe to them behave themselves during times of great stress.

I don't want my humanity to be judged in comparison to the actions of "punk" nations, but rather in comparison to my own standards.

Underlying any defense of America violating her own standards is the implication that this enemy is differnt, therefore we can ignore the same practices we would follow if the enemy were better behaved. Also implied is that we can somehow return to our better selves once we defeat this poorly behaved enemy. This throws the entire notion of a baseline out the window though, and makes all responses to any enemy so subjective as to be meaningless.

Stan, pointing out that Hitler and Stalin were bad and that US prisons are abysmall is not an argument to start torturing is it?

Edward,

"makes all responses to any enemy so subjective as to be meaningless."

Attempts to practice western style diplomacy with nations who don't subscribe it is meaningless. As have been proven.

dutch,

Al prisons are "abysmall", it all involves putting a human being in a cage, denying him sex (well, unless that person is a homosexual), etc. That's what goes on inside *all* prisons. Yet we have them, do we not?

As for Hitler/Stalin, you might want to read what I was responding to and place my reply in the context of the previous messages (specially - Posted by: Edward_ | November 03, 2007 at 12:31 PM).

Attempts to practice western style diplomacy with nations who don't subscribe it is meaningless. As have been proven.

There's a critical difference between meaningless and mostly uneffective.

Western style diplomacy presumes a progressive, accumulative effect. If you demonstrate, as our great leaders from Washington to Eisenhower have, that you'll take the high road even when your enemies don't, you accumulate the higher ground and eventually do set that example that leads to wider change.

Inconsistency (such as backtracking on one's standards) undercuts that goal.

More than that though, it's not that some of our opponents didn't resort to torture that kept us from torturing them, it was the fundamental understanding that torture makes us less than human. It's irrelevant in defining ourselves whether our standards will be adhered to by certain other parties. The only thing that matters in defining ourselves is whether we adhere to our own standards. If we don't, we are frauds.

http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/nuremberg/jackson1.html>still worth a read

...to utilize international law to meet the greatest menace of our times-aggressive war. The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which. leave no home in the world untouched.[...]

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.[...]

The worldwide scope of the aggressions carried out by these men has left but few real neutrals. Either the victors must judge the vanquished or we must leave the defeated to judge themselves. After the first World War, we learned the futility of the latter course. The former high station of these defendants, the notoriety of their acts, and the adaptability of their conduct to provoke retaliation make it hard to distinguish between the demand for a just and measured retribution, and the unthinking cry for vengeance which arises from the anguish of war. It is our task, so far as humanly possible, to, draw the line between the two. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this Trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity's aspirations to do justice.[...]
The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization. In all our countries it is still a struggling and imperfect thing. It does not plead that the United States, or any other country, has been blameless of the conditions which made the German people easy victims to the blandishments and intimidations of the Nazi conspirators.

But it points to the dreadful sequence of aggressions and crimes I have recited, it points to the weariness of flesh, the exhaustion of resources, and the destruction of all that was beautiful or useful in so much of the world, and to greater potentialities for destruction in the days to come. It is not necessary among the ruins of this ancient and beautiful city with untold members of its civilian inhabitants still buried in its rubble, to argue the proposition that to start or wage an aggressive war has the moral qualities of the worst of crimes. The refuge of the defendants can be only their hope that international law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law.

Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance. It does not expect that you can make war impossible. It does expect that your juridical action will put the forces of international law, its precepts, its prohibitions and, most of all, its sanctions, on the side of peace, so that men and women of good will, in all countries, may have "leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law."

Ok, it does not mention waterboarding explicitly, so it must be legitimate. and it was pre-9/11 anyway.

Not all prisons deny sex btw. Some countries allow conjugal visits for that purpose.

If you start applying Geneva conventions to *all* regardless of their adherernce to those terms...

whatever. at the end of the day this one fact remains: America tortures people.

Edward,

"as our great leaders from Washington to Eisenhower have"

Yes, I am sure that POW's (and specially spies) were treated humanly during the american revolution. Or during the civil war. And didn't we execute a few german spies who landed on our soil during WW2? They didn't get a POW status, did they? Didn't Britain do the same to the German spies it has found? If I am not mistaken those guys haven't fired a shot either, they had a radio transimiter. Do you know what I am talking about or do you want links?

Enemy military personel out of unifiorm was executed in WW2, but now days they are granted full POW status. So what has changed?

"it was the fundamental understanding that torture makes us less than human"

Fascinating line right there. What else makes someone less than human? Blowing up civilians? Sending kids to blow up themselves up in a crowd of civilians? And if so, if they are less then human, then what human rights do they have?

Very telling right there. Something that we do can make us less then human, as you said, but no matter what those who oppose us do. They will always be human and deserving of the human rights. Very telling. Stokholm syndrome?

Hartmut,

"Some countries allow conjugal visits for that purpose."

Same difference. You are treating a person like you would a dog. You cage him, you control when he eats, what he eat, when he sleeps, and if the prisoner is lucky, when he has sex. Inhumane treatment, is it not?

Iirc, the spies got a non-phony trial and where actually charged with something before (lawful) execution.
The US (to be) were proud* to have treated British POWs well during the revolutionary war (unlike the British treating their captives).
After the civil war there were trials about mistreatment of prisoners and the commander of at least one camp was condemned and executed for it.

*Some guy by the name of George Washington (I wonder what happened to him?) made a point of that.

"The US (to be) were proud* to have treated British POWs "

And by POWs you mean guys in the uniform, right?

Nance's excellent article is one that the traditional media (TM, not MSM, they are not in the "main" nor we in the eddies) should read.

We should also corrrect the TM's continuing misstatement. To wit, waterboarding is NOT "simulated" anything. It IS drowning. The gag reflex is overcome, water is forced into the lungs, breathing stops and panic ensues. Repetitive drowning, recovery.

Everyone breaks who needs to breath. Nobody can resist the terror and exhaustion. Ask an ocean lifeguard if that's torture. Ask Daniel Levin, who temporarily replaced Goldsmith at the OLC. He tried it once. Even knowing what to expect, it worked; that is, the victim repeats whatever the interrogator wants to hear. Levin concluded it was or could be torture and Addington had him tossed as soon as Gonzales took over from Ashcroft.

But waterboarding doesn't produce valid intelligence data. It breaks the will and humiliates the victim. Which is really what Cheney is about at home and abroad. "Go puck yourself" isn't an anomaly: it's what he is.

Stan LS: You can't say I am not going to follow the terms, but I expect the protections. That's absurd.

I agree. So, basically, you're saying that the US is not going to follow the terms of the Geneva Conventions and the US's soldiers should not expect the protection of the Geneva Conventions?

Stan LS: Attempts to practice western style diplomacy with nations who don't subscribe it is meaningless. As have been proven.

Agreed. So again, you feel that as the US doesn't subscribe to Western style diplomacy, attempts to practice it with the US is meaningless?

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Whatnot


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