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November 14, 2007

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Nope. Not worth it. End of story.

Extremely good post.

Although I disagree in that I still think under theterms of the hypothetical that it was not worth it.

However, and I think this is important, it is easy to come up with hypothetical situations which can lead people into agreeing to something they are normally against. The fact that the hypotheticals have absolutely no relationship to reality and could not possibly exist in this world is irrelevant to those creating the hypotheticals.

And that is what Patterico has done here. He has created a hypothetical that would never exist in the real world. It may give him some satisfaction to think he has made liberals uneasy, but it shows that this is only a game to him.

"They then waterboard him for two and one half minutes.

During this session KSM feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning.

Before we get to the moral questions, I'm stuck here: "[e]ven though he can breath"?

I'd like Patterico to supply more detail, please, on how breathing works when your mouth and nose are covered by plastic under water?

Once we're all clear on this breathing-without-air mechanism that water-boarding apparently involves, perhaps we'll be ready to consider the moral implications.

But first I'm quite intrigued to learn more of the physics and biology of this.

And let me ask you another question: If committing torture was totally worth it, would you liberal weenies admit it?

Gary - I wondered that myself.

[...] Your hypothetical demands that the government be CERTAIN of the following things:

This man is who we think he is.

This man knows what we think he knows.

No non-torture technique will work.

You've left out another crucial premise: "So he gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings."

1) Why, exactly, would KSM give up "reliable information," rather than "information that will make the waterboarding stop for now"?

2) How, exactly, would the government be able to know that the information was "reliable," or correct in any way, in time to stop this hypothetical attack/disaster?

So far as I can tell, the only way for all these conditions to be fulfilled even once, let alone very time the government has a whim to question someone they suspect of possible knowledge of an attack, would be reliable magic.

Or omniscience, which would make the whole water-boarding thing rather redundant.

Generally speaking, hypotheticals that posit that we possess knowledge we're not capable of possessing aren't apt to be terribly useful when applied to reality.

This is an oft-overlooked distinction between fiction, and non-fiction.

I think Patterico has inadvertantly developed a pretty good argument agaisnt waterboarding: it is only hypothetically useful under hypothetical circumstances. So why would we need it in the real world?

Sebastian:

The only thing I'd point out is that your refutation of the hypothetical stands even if the torturers aren't employed by the government. No human being realistically has the kind of flawless knowledge the hypothetical supposes.

Let me say that again. Bush's administration has tortured men who were factually innocent.

Which means we should jump to the bat keyboard to start dreaming up crazy hypothetical situations not to justify the above, but to help obfuscate it.

Patterico is a sharp guy who knows how to obfuscate with the best of them IMO.

But it certainly doesn't reflect well on him.

Reminds me of the conservative-libertarian argument against capital punishment:
"Do you REALLY trust the government that much?"

(libertarian as opposed to Libertarian, that is.)

The idea is, if you do it you face the music.

Someone breaks into my home, and I shoot them. Now, should self defense or necessity be a permissible defense, or should the laws governing murder be stricken in cases of burglary?

It seems preferrable to limit the circumstances under which a person would be tempted to do something that is abhorrent to all, rather than sanction the activity at the outset.

And Remember, the PResident holds the power to pardon.

And after a couple minutes of waterboarding, KSM spews out the location of a terrorist cell plotting an attack in two days. SWAT teams converge, arrest them, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Two days later, there are two terrorist attacks in two different cities. KSM chuckles to himself that by giving up one of the three attacks, the Americans thought that torture had worked, the two-thirds of his plan were left in place.

Or wait, how about this one? KSM gives out false information he has ready in case he's tortured. After two days of tracking down false leads, the real attack proceeds as planned.

Or how about this one? KSM is tortured and gives out the plan to his torturers. But they figure he's lying so they keep torturing him. Eventually he gives out more information, false information, anything he can think of. Eventually there is a pile of information to sift through, some real, some not.

Hypotheticals are fun. So is '24' is a detached-from-reality way. '24' is like James Bond -- it would be way cool if all that stuff really happened, but none of that stuff does.

To wrap yourself into a "torture would be morally OK in *this* case" hypothetical, you have narrowly define parameters so specifically that it approaches, and surpasses, fiction.

Now how about this one -- in any of the above hypotheticals, what about *after* the attack? Suppose KSM outwits the torturers and the attack proceeds. Could you torture him *afterwards?* You've lost your hypothetical "ticking bomb" at that point, you'd just be taking out your rage and frustration on someone who can't fight back anymore.

But I'm guessing a lot of people would be able to justify it...maybe he knows something else?.....

Very good post, Sebastian.

And the answer is "yes", in the same way that I'd answer "yes" to the hypothetical "Assume that you know for a fact that the only way to save the world from imminent destruction is by feeding your best friend's newborn to a hungry pit bull. Would you do it?" But SFW.

If your grandmother had wheels, and thus were a trolley car, would it be reasonable for her to charge two dollars for a ride downtown?

Discuss the relevance of your answer for US transportation policies.

And why can't we pull out his fingernails if that would work faster and let us safely defuse the nuclear bomb on time (because, you never know, we might need that 2 1/2 minutes).

Anyone can make up goofy hypotheticals. If we knew that Osama had a nuke, and was going to use it to blow up San Diego unless the mayor of that city barbequed and ate a baby on live TV, what should the mayor do? And can we draw any conclusions from our answer to that quetion about the general morality of baby-eating?

"No human being realistically has the kind of flawless knowledge the hypothetical supposes."

This goes back to the fact that U.S. SERE training was designed to counter the torture used by the Soviets and Chinese and North Koreans, whose regimes all were developed for the purpose of breaking prisoners so they'd sign and make public confessions of non-existent crimes.

That's what waterboarding and stress positions and sleeplessness and other forms of torture have been effectively used throughout history for, whether by the Inquisition, or anyone else: not creating a desire to tell the truth, but breaking a prisoner into making a false confession.

They don't create any incentive at all to tell the truth: they create an incentive to say whatever will make it stop, and that's it.

If you, a hypothetical "you," want to argue that that's useful, fine, we can talk about that, if you make that argument, but the argument that torture, of any kind, causes any desire to speak truth, per se, won't fly.

And, of course, if torture/"enhanced interrogation"/water-boarding is useful on Known Terrorists, then what possible excuse would we have for not using these morally adequate methods on domestic kidnappers? How about on violent criminals with knowledge of likely future violence or murder? Why not?

After all, any crime that terrifies people is terrorism. (I remain dismayed at how little attention this has gotten.)

Gary, I read your post on that yesterday.

Makes me wonder when sanity will return to this country.

If an orange were really the difference between a door, would it be worth it for a vest to have no sleeves?

Yes, it's worth it if it generates actionable intelligence. But what I don't understand is the confusion between legality and justice.

This situation is handled easily by non-prosecution or presidential pardon. It is a situation so rare that a legal exception is not only unnnecessary but counterproductive. (And isn't that what Jack Bauer is all about: torturing when you are certain of guilt and when your only recourse to prosecution or even assassination is apresidential pardon?)

[...] Someone breaks into my home, and I shoot them. Now, should self defense or necessity be a permissible defense, or should the laws governing murder be stricken in cases of burglary?

It seems preferrable to limit the circumstances under which a person would be tempted to do something that is abhorrent to all, rather than sanction the activity at the outset.

There's a an opportunity for divergence into a whole 'nother argument, since American state laws have been going strongly in the other direction in recent years.
[...] Florida was the first state to adopt in 2005 a law that was dubbed "Stand your ground" or "Shoot first."

But now they have proliferated largely under pressure from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), the main weapons lobby in the United States.

Today 19 out of 50 US states, mostly in the south and the central regions of the country, have this kind of laws, and similar legislation is pending in about a dozen others.

I tend to prefer a moderate approach, myself.

"If your grandmother had wheels, and thus were a trolley car, would it be reasonable for her to charge two dollars for a ride downtown?"

Yes. Yes, it would. Or even for her to charge more.

If I had a living grandmother.

Even if I had nine hundred grandmothers!

In which case, it would have quite positive effects on the availability of public transit, but riders would be nagged and made to feel guilty endlessly, so the overall result for US transportation policy would be mixed.

Ah, but would it be *liberal guilt*?!?

"if your grandmother had wheels, and were a trolley car, and was careening out of control with her brakes out of commission, should she continue down the track that she's on, thus killing a boy who would grow up to be a famous heart surgeon who would save the lives of hundreds of people, including three tyrants between them responsible for the murder of three hundred thousand people; or should she turn off onto a spur to the right, where she would run over a group from the local old folks' home, including a man who would the next day have given the crucial evidence in the trial of a mass murderer, who, if declared innocent, would, stricken by pangs of conscience, go on to dedicate himself to philanthropy and ultimately contribute to the discovery of a cure for cancer?"

His hypothetical reminded me of a line from Naked Gun 2 1/2...

Commissioner Anabell Brumford: Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to introduce a most special American. Tonight, he is being honoured for his 1000th drug-dealer killed.
Lt. Frank Drebin: [to applause] Thank you. But, in all honesty, the last three I backed over with my car. Luckily, they turned out to be drug-dealers.

In this case, I would say running over pedestrians was morally correct.

i agree with, Seb: Patterico's waterboarding is worth it only if his hypothetical plays out exactly as described.

if he can guarantee things will always play out like that, every single time, he can torture anyone he wants, IMO.

if he can do that, he will probably also be able to read minds, win every lottery and beat the stock market 100% of the time. with those powers, he will have no need to torture anyone, since he will be a pre-cog, floating in a tub of goo down at pre-Crime HQ. crime will cease to exist, since he will know exactly what secrets people are keeping and what it takes to get them to give them up.

until he develops those skills, though, we'll have to do without being able to read the thoughts of prisoners to know what they're hiding. and we'll have to deal with out pathetic inability to predict the future to know that the prisoners will give up the info after his 2.5 mins are up. so, we'll make a lot of mistakes, torture a lot of people trying to get info out of them that they don't have or won't give up.

so sad.

Let me say that again. Bush's administration has tortured men who were factually innocent.

NAME THEM!

Don't give me this stuff about Arar, either. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not want him to enter Canada. Nancy Pelosi has chatted with Assad. Please tell me what Assad told her about Arar's mistreatment.

I'll give you a "torture victim" name to begin with: Khalid Sheikh Muhhamed.

NOT INNOCENCENT!

Come on, Name the Names.

Whether waterboarding in the hypothetical case was "worth it" should come out in testimony at the trial of the waterboarder. The judge/jury can then make the decision based on evidence--or lack thereof.

Unless the US has suddenly changed even more than we suspect, KSM remains factually "innocent" (until proved guilty, you know?).

One of the key things that conservatives ought to remember (and which we notice all the time in liberal proposals) is that INTENTIONS DO NOT EQUAL OUTCOMES.

Ha ha. It's cute that you try to use this as a way to distinguish between conservatives and liberals. Now lets have a conversation about the difference between intentions and outcomes in, for starters, Central American policy for the last 40 years, fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, supply-side economics, welfare reform, No Child Left Behind, the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq . . . is that enough to keep you busy?

I've got a question. Have any one ever actually tortured a villain and gotten information that defused a ticking time bomb, stopped a murder, defused a nefarious plot? Has that ever happened in real life? I'm fairly well read and I can't think of an instance where it has. I'm also aware how much history I don't know or only know vaguely so I'd be happy be enlightened.

"(inspiration here)"

In that case, of course, the brain should bid 75 quatloos on the newcomer.

Dave C
Khaled Masri? I believe there are others, but if we don't know their names, it's ok?

"If your grandmother had wheels, and thus were a trolley car, would it be reasonable for her to charge two dollars for a ride downtown?"

An excellent thought-experiment. And let's say grandpa were a fat man unable to move off the track on which his wife were barelling toward him -- would it be moral to switch her onto a siding if doing so would result in the death of a thousand able-bodied mice?

"Grandma's got wheels! I ride her like a trol-ley!" ought to be the refrain of a hardcore punk tune from the late '80's; but I'm pretty sure it is not.

(And Sebastian, thanks for this post -- it is well written and to the point.)

Yes, it's worth it if it generates actionable intelligence.

Unless it prevents us from getting other actionable intelligence.

Or, maybe just because it's wrong.

Here's how we might be able to capture the Al Qaeda masterminds.

Catch their family members, then torture and kill them, one by one, on live TV until they hand themselves over. Make it grisly just to up the ante.

Or, we could find out which Pashtun tribes are giving them shelter and do the same with their family members until they hand them over. Raid their villages, spirit away their wives, kids, and old folks in the dead of night, and then kill them in spectacularly grisly ways on live TV, until they're sick of sheltering AQ.

Drawing and quartering would probably get it done in a hurry.

Why not? Some of those folks are sure to be guilty of something. Wouldn't it be worth it? We'd get actionable intelligence for sure, and net/net we'd probably kill fewer of them then they have of us.

Grisly deaths on live TV until Al Qaeda masterminds show up in our custody. Sounds like a sweet deal to me. Why not?

Why not? This is absolutely not a hypothetical question. I await your reply. You, or Patterico, or Seb, or any other moral heroes that want to lead us into the land beyond good and evil.

Fire away.

NAME THEM!

Don't give me this stuff about Arar, either.

Dave, your mother wears army boots.

Thanks -

DaveC:

Maher Arar.


Maher Arar.


Maher fncking Arar!

I trust a Canadian public inquiry over a brutal autocrat any day. Apparently your mileage greatly varies. That speaks volumes upon volumes.

Fnck it. Gary (and Jes) are absolutely correct correct about you.

Hope you get something out of continually and (as you've admitted, deliberately) acting like a complete and utter fool.

"Ha ha. It's cute that you try to use this as a way to distinguish between conservatives and liberals."

I wrote: "One of the key things that conservatives ought to remember (and which we notice all the time in liberal proposals) is that INTENTIONS DO NOT EQUAL OUTCOMES."

I don't say anything whatsoever about that being different for liberals. I say that we notice it all the time in liberal proposals. We do. And we talk about that alot. And if we take it seriously, we should strive to note when it is true in our own proposals. I'm sure liberals have their own rhetoric that they apply more noticeably to conservative proposals than they do liberal ones. I didn't speak to that in the quote or anywhere in my argument.

"Grandma's got wheels! I ride her like a trol-ley!" ought to be the refrain of a hardcore punk tune from the late '80's; but I'm pretty sure it is not.

I'm old enough to remember this one:

Hey Grandma, you're so young
Your old man's just a boy
It's been a long time this time
Pow-pow-pow

There was something about Robitussin and elderberry wine in there too, but it's all kind of a haze now...

Thanks -

I don't say anything whatsoever about that being different for liberals.

Fair enough.

And if we take it seriously,

I think it's pretty obvious by now that you do not. Not you, personally, but conservatives generally.

Given the extreme irrelevance of the hypothetical, and the confusion between morality and legality--it is truly sad that we have reached a place where anyone feels no embarassment in making such arguments in favor of such a morally tainted action.

This is the kind of debate you lose when you concede the hypothetical, because the hypothetical is so unrealistic and unlikely, it's never going to be relevant. And since it's not relevant, it's not worth addressing, just dismissing.

In addition to Arar: Abdul Rahim Ginco. Saddiq Ahmad Turkistani. Dilawar. Khaled el Masri. Also? Some people I have met personally whose names I can't list. So just shut the hell up, really. You are factually false about Arar too.

More on topic, given this piece of mendacious garbage by Rep. Trent Franks in USA Today on Tuesday, and prompted by this, I sent the following to Rep. Franks by email today. Let's get these scumbags -- Franks, Patterico, DaveC -- to put their money where their mouths are.

Dear. Rep. Franks:

Although I am not a resident of your state or district, I read with great interest your op-ed, entitled “Severe Interrogations Work,” in the Nov. 13 issue of USA Today. In that piece, you argue passionately for the effectiveness of waterboarding as an interrogation technique. You state categorically that you do not believe in the use of torture in interrogations, which logically suggests that you do not include waterboarding in the category of torture.

Given those facts, I believe that you can assist in remedying a great miscarriage of justice. As you are probably aware, from 1946 to 1949, the United States convened military commissions in Yokohama, Japan, partly for the purpose of conducting trials against former Japanese military members for war crimes. From May 1 to May 28, 1947, a trial was conducted against four men, including 1st Lieutenant Seitara Hata, and Sgt. Major Takeo Kita, and Yukio Asano, a civilian employee of the Japanese military.

Those three men were accused, among other things, of subjecting at least five American prisoners of war to waterboarding and beatings. In some cases, waterboarding was the only specification in the charge regarding certain of the prisoners. All three of these men were convicted of war crimes; all three were sentences to 15 years hard labor as punishment for their crimes.

Another civilian, Genji Mineno, was tried separately for the same charges on June 25-28, 1946. He was also convicted and sentenced to 20 years hard labor.

Given your views on waterboarding, surely you agree that the convictions and sentences given these four men were a terrible tragedy. I urge you and like-minded members of the House to please introduce a resolution urging President Bush to grant these men posthumous pardons. It would be completely contrary to American principles to allow these sentences, for actions which are both legal and useful, to stand another day. I hope that I can count on your support in this matter.

That's not exhaustive either of course; I'm sure there are publicly reported cases I'm forgetting because I'm mad.

sweet.

i was eagerly waiting for Katherine to show up and demolish DaveC's challenge.

That Franks article is mendacious all right. Never a good idea to rely on a National Review article as your source for ANYTHING about U.S. detention or interrogation policies: there are always major inaccuracies & more often than not, at least one complete laugher. For instance: one of the six terrorists whom Deroy Murdock claims was arrested & prevented from killing thousands of Americans as a direct result of KSM's waterboarding was a man named Yazid Sufaat. Sufaat was arrested by Malaysian authorities in December 2001, years before KSM. Oops! Given how much of this information is classified, it's amazing how many of these breathlessed revelations about the efficacy of torture can't even withstand a few minutes of google searches.

In general, leaving aside the question of whether they were actually directly produced by KSM's interrogations & KSM's waterboarding in particular, an awful lot of the touted "breakthroughs" from the CIA program concern plots that (1) had already been disrupted or called off years before, (2) in some cases, may not have actually existed.

Jose Padilla, of course, was also imprisoned well before KSM, & his subsequent conviction sure wasn't obtained by KSM's waterboarding. I never know why the National Review gets treated as comparably credible to say, the American Prospect. As far as I can tell, they just plain don't fact check anything.

Of course it's worth it. As Sebastian correctly notes, however, this has absolutely nothing to do with government policy.

"i was eagerly waiting for Katherine to show up and demolish DaveC's challenge."

The only reason to do it is for other readers, though. It won't make any difference to DaveC. He won't respond seriously or in any sustained way, of course.

He never does. Ever.

At most he'll stick around for a couple of go rounds, tossing whatever ammo he can find, however relevant or irrelevant.

And then, regardless of however much or little factual content or accuracy there is to whatever he's throwing out, trying to get a reaction, he'll vanish again until the next time he's angry at his neighbors and family's friends, and he shows up here to toss out another trolling line to "stir things up."

But in between, he'll make some nice, lighthearted, comments, so everyone will know he's really a swell guy.

Who's just interested in other people online as dolls for his amusement, to see how how he can make them jump.

He's not interested in what anyone has to say back, save to be amused if he gets a rise out of anyone.

He has no interest in honest discussion with anyone. He has no interest in persuading anyone, or being persuaded.

He's just interested in dealing with his own anger, and dumping it on people here, rather than those he's angry with in his offline life, and in playing head games with people here.

He's explained this all at length.

So, tempting as can be to want to put down the sort of infuriating claims any decent troller makes -- that's what makes them a decent troller, anyone who does so is just being DaveC's dancing monkey.

He'll have something funny to say about this, of course. Hohoho.

But torturing innocent people? DaveC won't change his tune on that, or respond substantively. He's just playing. Isn't it harmless fun?

It's what trolls do.

For the longest time, I thought "waterboarding" was a form of surfing. I'm not sure which is worse.

The only reason to do it is for other readers, though. It won't make any difference to DaveC. He won't respond seriously or in any sustained way, of course.

no argument there.

I've said it before, but here I go again. The closest thing to the ticking bomb hypothetical we're likely to see in real life occurs if a pilot on a bombing mission is shot down and captured. How many planes are there in the raid? What are their targets? Are more sorties coming, what are their targets. The clock is ticking and information now will save lives. So I presume everyone who endorses the ticking bomb hypothetical is fine with the torture of US pilots.
Russel,
you're too late with your satire we've already crossed that line. Remember General Hamed Mowhoush? We tooked his wife and three sons, as I remember) and very publicly threatened to send them Abu Ghraib if he didn't turn himself in? It worked, he turned himself in. We were so proud of that trick that both the spokesperson in Baghdad and Secretary Rumsfeld described it in press conferences. General Mowhoush died during interrogation, he was stuffed head first into a soaked sleeping bag and the US interrigator (Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr.) sat on his chest until he suffocated. His family is among the disappeard. They were very publicly acknowleged to be in US custody. They were never released, their relatives have never seen them again, the US says nothing except "they are no longer custody". No one, at least no one who is talking, knows what happened to them.
Or take the case of another Iraqi general, Hamid Zabar. He was captured but wasn't giving the answers that were wanted so his son was subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" while he was forced to watch inorder to get him to cooperate.
Now that's how you win hearts and minds.

Not moral and not even close to any reality based scenario anyone has ever posited.

If you want to play 24 that's fine. Just remember it's a TV show and not exactly reality.

Even if I thought torture worked and I don't, the cost of success will always exceed what could in the torturers eyes be gained. And the the sorry mess that is the government of the United States is the proof.

Mowhoush.

However, Baskaborr: "His family is among the disappeard. They were very publicly acknowleged to be in US custody. They were never released, their relatives have never seen them again, the US says nothing except 'they are no longer custody'. No one, at least no one who is talking, knows what happened to them."

His 18-year-old son, Mohammed Mowhoush, seemed to have no trouble chatting with the Washington Post last year.

[...] Mowhoush said he and his brothers were taken into custody and interrogated for days, with U.S. officials accusing them of carrying out roles in the insurgency. He said he was told they believed he was a sniper, though he said he knew nothing about the war. He and his brothers were not charged with crimes.

Mowhoush said U.S. troops took his clothes off, poured cold water on him, beat him, and made him get into uncomfortable and painful "stress positions," as they are known in the military.

His father later surrendered in an attempt to free his sons, according to classified documents. The military began to use the sons against the general, Mohammed Mowhoush said. After about 28 days in prison, the younger Mowhoush said, the Army brought the general to an old train depot outside of Qaim -- a temporary detention facility nicknamed "Blacksmith Hotel" -- to pressure him to talk.

"He was tired and I saw wounds on his body, and he was tired because they hit him so much, they made a lot of pain on him and he couldn't even talk to me," Mowhoush said, describing how he was briefly reunited with his father.

[...]

Human Rights First, an advocacy organization based in New York, organized the conference call with several reporters. David Danzig, director of the group's "End Torture Now" campaign, said he is concerned about Welshofer's sentence and about the treatment of Mowhoush's sons. "It is yet another disturbing set of evidence that suggests all kinds of illegal activity was taking place," Danzig said.

Mohammed Mowhoush said he and his brothers want to sue Welshofer for his role in their father's death. Mowhoush said he has nothing against the American people but harbors ill feelings for the U.S. Army. "We want justice to be done," he said.

This whole "No one, at least no one who is talking, knows what happened to them" thing? Not so much.

It took me about 45 seconds to learn this. Why do people say things like this, when it only take that long to find out that they're talking utter bollocks?

I mean, it's not hard to look into something one's self, before making a perfectly checkable claim, and it saves looking like a nitwit.

Gary's right, I think. I had thought, in the past: is it trolling if you're genuinely furious? But it's so much factually false stuff & nonsequiturs--I mean, WTF exactly does Nancy Pelosi have to do with Arar's guilt? If you want to blow off steam just find a place that lets you curse & go there, it's a lot less confusing.

"i was eagerly waiting for Katherine to show up and demolish DaveC's challenge."

The only reason to do it is for other readers, though. It won't make any difference to DaveC. He won't respond seriously or in any sustained way, of course.

He never does. Ever.

So Katherine has 5 names. Probably pre-2004.
Now, I have discussed this elsewhere, but say if you were some neanderthal who thought that killing babies by sucking their brains oout and then crushing their skulls is bad (Partial Birth Abortion), really now, how much credence would you get hereabouts?

So many people want consensus, and anybody who strays from the accepted opinion is a Troll!

And I have explained it, elsewhere. I don't think that saying that people who disagree with you are Nazis, or Liars, or Trolls, really is helpful. Yes, I try to be humorous, sometimes oblique. You might have to appreciate subtlety to pick up on some things.

Once upon a time, Obsidian Wings was a place where people with different points of view could discuss things. That time is no more. There are too many humorless consensus enforcers around. But that doesn't keep me from being the occasional pain in the butt.

"Don't let Bush wave the national security flag and make you forget everything you know about how the government actually operates."

Admirable sentiments, Sebastian: but probably way too late - maybe if not quite for Patterico (who is, at least, a long-time pro who knows "the system") but probably for the DaveC's of the world, who still just can't, apparently, get over their simpleminded schoolyard "We're the Good Guys" worldview, and look on the whole torture issue assomea sort of (neatly-scripted) TV-thriller abstraction.

Too bad the Spanish Inquisition has packed it in, Dave: you might have found the perfect job with them: filling the buckets, sharpening the knives, cranking the rack: all with God's Own Holy Blessing! After all, if "they" weren't guilty: they wouldn't be in the torture-chamber! QED.

Simple.

Good post, Sebastian. I agree with the point I've seen you make elsewhere, that we need to emphasize the fact that the people being tortured are in some cases innocent. (Maybe the vast majority of cases for all I know.) In the political world we make it a little too easy for the torture-lovers (one of whom is trolling this thread) who like to pretend it's always a case of Jack Bauer or Clint Eastwood having to get rough with a really vicious bad guy. We've all seen movies like that (well, unless you have better taste in movies than I do) where we are emotionally manipulated by the plot into cheering the hero on as he starts smacking around the evil villain.

Oh, I see our posts crossed: OK, DaveC: how about THIS for "consensus": In response to Sebastian's post about Patterico's perceived apologia for the efficacy of torture for intelligence gathering: your retort (your only contribution, AFAICT) is basically huffy outraged denialism: one outlier example (KSM),
and "Name Names!!" as an apparent attempt to dismiss the whole question (?).

And then you come back with a comment like:
"Yes, I try to be humorous, sometimes oblique."??

Yeah, Dave: really oblique: sorry if you think institutionalized torture is some sort of joke: or that enforcing a consensus against it is somehow "humorless": please forgive us for being acting and thinking like civilized human beings. Our bad, obviously!

The only reason to do it is for other readers, though. It won't make any difference to DaveC. He won't respond seriously or in any sustained way, of course.

no argument there.

If anybody ordered the rendition of Arar, it was the RCMP.

If anybody tortured Arar, it was Syria.

Nobody here will cop to that because this website has become strictly political, and the facts are often twisted for partisan effect, Tell me I'm a liar, that Canada and Syria had nothing to do with this, and I might think that you all are a bunch of fools.

Is that honest, serious and straightforward enough for you?

OK. I'll repeat it again.

1) Canada requested the rendition of Arar.

2) Arar was tortured in Syria, by Syrians.

3) Dick Durbin was initially elected as a pro=life candidate.

4) Dick Durbin has compared our military to Nazis and Guantanamo to Soviet Gulags.

Does anybody dispute these 4 facts?

You guys want to stifle dissent, I understand that, and also understand that resorting to ad hominem is a very effective way of enforcing discipline and keeping other points of view suppressed - witness the Beauchamp comments (which I did not participate in, BTW). Every "conservative" commenter was called a troll. I don't get that. How can everybody with a different opinion be simply a troll. It boggles

"...emotionally manipulated by the plot into cheering the hero on as he starts smacking around the evil villain."

Right on, Donald: the history of the Bush 43 Administration in a nutshell...

Is that honest, serious and straightforward enough for you?

Nahsomuch.

Not to put too fine a point on it:

The Arar case WAS DISMISSED.

The Plame case was DISMISSED.

The Haditha cases were DISMISSED or declared NOT GUILTY.

And you will not own up to that.

Is that factual enough for you?

If you hate it so much, DaveC, you're free to leave any time, you know.

If I ever have the misfortune to meet you personally, I'm going to kidnap and waterboard you. Just so you know in advance.

DaveC, I will dispute fact four. Durbin never compared our military to Nazis. Find me a quote with the direct comparison. It doesn't exist.

Re: Arar, who arranged the actual rendition to a country where it was known he would be tortured. It was not Canada.

There are mnany conservative commenters here who have never or only by newbies been called a troll.

FWIW, I don't consider you a troll, just terribly misinformed or misguided about certain things, torture and the existential threat of Islamic fundamentalism being the two primary ones.

What does a case being dismissed have to do with anything. Re Arar and Plame, at no time in the dismissal was there ever a statement about the validity of the complaints.

Re Haditha, everybody who made any kind of a judgemental statement earlier on, including Gary who made one only if you stretched, has admitted some degree of error. Okay, not everybody, but most.

It's back. Don't feed it.

Not to threadbork, or whatever the kids are calling it today, but:

Let’s assume the following hypothetical facts are true. Inquisition officials have a converso in custody. They know he has already planned the kidnap of one Christian boy, and therefore have a solid basis to believe he has other deadly plots in the works. They try various noncoercive techniques to learn the details of those plots. Nothing works.

They then waterboard him for two and one half minutes.

During this session the converso feels panicky and unable to breathe. Even though he can breathe, he has the sensation that he is drowning. So he gives up information — reliable information — that stops a plot involving people kidnapping Christian boys.

My simple question is this: based on these hypothetical facts, was the waterboarding session worth it?.

Well, from the standpoint of a good Christian, I have to say, emphatically, "Yes!" We all know that God will punish us all if we permit unbelief or heresy among us. And those conversos have been associated with an alarming number of child disappearances lately.

I say, let the good men of the Inquisition go about their business. They defend us, and they do it in our name.

You describe a version of the "ticking time bomb" scenario. It is not new.

Your answer is a balancing test.

What moral theory undergirds the moral decision you arrive at? Note this could be theological or utilitarian (it could not, I think, be Kantian). Any such moral basis is independent of your logic of a balancing test.

"If you want to blow off steam just find a place that lets you curse & go there, it's a lot less confusing."

Sure. DaveC gets mad at his neighbors and family? Fine, we all get mad at times. He doesn't want to deal directly with those people about his anger? That's between him and them. He wants to find an appropriate place to vent his anger? Fine, more power to him.

But dumping it on other people, while pretending to be interested in honest conversation, is simply being a sh*tty person.

And DaveC has said that he comes here and indulges in being "full of bullshit."

When someone compares DaveC to "the fan from the [Bears/Leafs/Rangers] who shows up occasionally just to start sh[*]t with the [Packers/Canadiens/Celtic] fans on a board where you know they are the majority," DaveC states directly that "the Bears / Packers thing is literally something that I do in real life." DaveC, not someone else, describes his approach as "my initial statement was literally dishonest."

And when DaveC gets mad at someone here: he says he "will eventually fight back. Maybe not immediately, but in a place and time of my own choosing...."

He's perfectly honest, at times, about what he's doing, which is being intentionally dishonest much of the rest of the time.

Naturally, that latter includes then fibbing about how he just wants to discuss "different points of view."

This is utter nonsense, of course, but honest discussion, to point out again, is exactly what DaveC doesn't do, and refuses to engage in.

Unfortunately, when one chooses to be a troll, to play people dishonestly, once that fact is clear, you can no longer get away with alternating trolling with claiming you really just want to provoke honest discussion.

Because you don't.

Whereas, for instance, OCSteve doesn't pull this crap, and as a result, doesn't get accused of being dishonest, of just being interested in playing games with people, of just being interested in winding people up, and so on.

Neither does, for most part, Sebastian, or Von, or G'Kar. Nor does even Charles get much of that -- other complaints, but not those.

But, then, anyone with experience on the internet knows the difference between a troll, and someone actually interested in provocative discussion, or with a minority point of view.

Handy lesson for those unable to tell a troll from a non-troll!: a non-troll's response will change depending on what is said to them.

A troll, on the other hand, just carries on regardless, with only superficial, and no substantive, response to any substnative point.

As it happens, folks who have been around here for years will recall that DaveC was once well-regarded, before he started trolling regularly a couple of years ago, with wildly abusive personal attacks on various people here.

For the next year to two, plenty of folks, including myself, wrote endless comments asking DaveC to knock it off, and quit being abusive.

This wasn't about issues: it was simple personal attacks as to how various of us wanted terrorists to win, etc.

We all kept asking DaveC to stop, and we tried to engage him in substantive discussion during all that time.

Of course, he's simply never been interested in that. For him to try to now claim that that's all he's been after is, well, as unsurprising as it is unconvincing.

But, hey, the door of proof is open to him: let him start only responding substantively, supporting his claims, and laying off the abuse and falsehoods, and sooner or later, he'll have made the case that he's interested in doing that, and people will take him up on it. (Inevitably, some people will be apt to take him up on the trolling, anyway; he's good at it.)

So if DaveC wants people to quit treating him as a troll, all he has to do is quit being one, and eventually people will start to believe it.

But, meanwhile, trying to rewrite what's been testified to at length isn't apt to fly.

Sebastian, excellent post. As you may expect, I agree with everything in it. And my answer is exactly the same.

Gary: Whereas, for instance, OCSteve doesn't pull this crap, and as a result, doesn't get accused of being dishonest, of just being interested in playing games with people, of just being interested in winding people up, and so on.

Not exactly true Gary. I’ve been accused of being dishonest, of not arguing in good faith, of being a troll, etc. Multiple times… All right here.

I only get by here by qualifying almost every word I type. I have to be very careful. I’m tolerated here, as long as I am careful. That’s all.

Come on, Name the Names.

I'm sorry, you're not cleared for that information. If you persist in asking, I will have to report this conversation to the FBI.

(Only half :-), unfortunately.)

Good post, Sebastian.

I don't think the government gets it right either, to say the least, when it decides to torture.

However, there are governments who are very competent at torture as a device for terrorizing their citizens or enemies.

I don't think private institutions would get torture right either, which in this case places the private sector and government on an equal footing.

OCSteve, you are "tolerated" here because you're anti-torture and disgusted with Bush. Speaking for myself, I have no respect for people who are pro-torture and aren't disgusted with Bush.

Now on domestic issues things can get pretty heated too, but a lot of us want multiple viewpoints on, say, health care, to be debated here, if only because we want to see you conservatives soundly defeated by logical arguments put forward by liberals. (Truthfully, I stay on the sidelines in such debates, not having enough knowledge to contribute anything worth reading. Not sure why that stops me, come to think of it.)

Anyway, I hope you always feel welcome around here, or at least tolerated enough to want to stay.

And just for the record...DaveC is knowingly spinning the Haditha case. We've been over this elsewhere. The prosecution is compromised by having the trial at Pendleton and therefore not having access to any witnesses for testimony. It's all in the prosecution's recommendations for charges.

DaveC just doesn't like to talk about that. He's never contested or responded to this info. It doesn't fit with his preferred view of the world.

"Not exactly true Gary. I’ve been accused of being dishonest, of not arguing in good faith, of being a troll, etc. Multiple times… All right here."

I can only speak for myself: have I ever done this?

And do you feel that people here generally regard you as a troll, OCSteve? Do you believe that you've been generally regarded here on ObWi, and characterized on ObWi, in the same negative way that DaveC has been characterized by several of us?

Because, really, disagreeing with someone, however wildly or strongly, and noting whether they're trolling or not, are two entirely different things. It's not as if there aren't countless trollers in various places on the internet on "my" side of an issue. Trolling is a behavior, not an opinion. It's a process, it's not content.

Sometimes I wildly disagree with you, OCSteve, and sometimes I'm frustrated, because I believe you're unaware of lots of relevant facts (say, Bob Sommersby's analysis of the media and how they treated Al Gore), but it's not as if that would ever lead me to think you were trolling, any more than it would lead me to think that you were knitting big purple socks. There's just no connection between the one thing and the other thing.

Most people I disagree with in the world aren't trolling, and most trollers aren't dealing with topics I even have opinions about. But: "hey, that person is trolling!" isn't hard to figure out after some experience with primal Usenet, even when one knows nothing about the topic: the form is always the same, because all it is is the form.

The version of the Ticking Time Bomb scenario I like:

There's a TTB. The Powers that Be are pretty sure that one or more of 100 people know how to stop it. Now, is torture enhanced interrogation justified?

How about if one of those 100 people is you? Your child? Your grandmother (with or without wheels :-), who'll probably die under interrogation?

Point is, terrorists don't come with big signs that say "TERRORIST". Also, most folks who like the idea of torture enhanced interrogation assume that they could NEVER be suspected of anything like that. After all, they're the Good Guys!

I will also note that you'll never hear anybody who knows anything about actual interrogation techniques supporting anything remotely resembling torture.

Good post, but you are missing the most important problem. Even a benevolent, fully competent government isn't going to know IN ADVANCE that 3 minutes of water boarding (and, as you point out, the whole three minute aspect of the question is absurd) is going to lead to "reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings." So AT BEST, even ignoring the problems that you cite, and the problems that more cynical people like myself may cite (i.e., that the PURPOSE of water boarding isn't to get accurate information in the first place) is that an investigator is going to be torturing people (and let's at least call it by it's name) on the (probably very, very small) chance that the torture MIGHT elicit "reliable information — that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings."

So really the question posited stacks the deck to an incredible degree. One might, instead, ask "hypothetically" "would you enage in a course of water boarding lasting several days on the tiny off chance that such torture MIGHT result in reliable information that stops a plot involving people flying planes into buildings." Even that IMO stacks the deck unfairly in favor of the torturers, but it is at least closer to the fair hypothetical.

(I'm likely not the first person pointing this out, but I wasn't going to read 70 comments to be sure).

"...say, Bob Sommersby's analysis of the media and how they treated Al Gore...."

Somerby. Sorry.

Donald Johnson & Gary: No, you guys have not. You are both cool. We can always agree to disagree. It’s tough here for some. More tomorrow.

Stickler - indeed. And don't forget, torture played a vital role in exposing the (1321) plot by Jews and lepers to poison wells in the service of the Muslim king of Granada. Forget about Islamofascism, what about JudeoLeproIslamofascism!

I'll go on record that I have never seen OCSteve troll.

I also don't recall ever seeing anyone here say he was a troll, but he would remember such an event a lot more sharply than I would, so I believe him when he says it happened. Has it happened recently? I think people are a little more likely to lash out at newbies with strong contra-group opinions, unfortunately. After the maverick has built up some credibility by remaining civil and on-topic, I think that dies down. By now, OCSteve, you could probably censor himself a lot less than you imply you do.

Unless, of course, when you say you have to "qualify everything," before you post, you just mean that you do the same thing I try to do before I dast post to this very bright crowd: read over my post and make sure I'm actually making any sense. This is not a good site for shooting from the hip. And thank goodness for that.

Although I read ObWi regularly, I don't often have time to read all the comments. While I recognize names, and know a bit about where individuals are coming from, I don't always know where individual commenters are coming from. I have never seen a troll get dissected with such precision and completeness. Mr. Farber, I think you should sell your services as a troll destroyer.

Oops, "yourself," not "himself." Speaking of going over my posts...

"In which case, it would have quite positive effects on the availability of public transit, but riders would be nagged and made to feel guilty endlessly, so the overall result for US transportation policy would be mixed."

Is Gary Farber on one of those UNESCO lists of international heritage sites? Or at least counted as a national treasure?

As to the "is it worth it" question: consequentialist arguments about torture should be based on the factual record, not implausible hypotheticals that stipulate: (1) a fictional form of waterboarding (in which you magically can breathe as the water is forced into your lungs), (2) a bunch of implausible assumptions (3) human omniscience. I won't even have the hypothetical discussion with anyone who won't also thoroughly research & discuss the actual facts. It is inexcusable that presidential candidates are asked to take positions on 24 plots & other fictional scenarios instead of the real torture of real people.

I am happy to discuss the factual details of the Arar case or anything else with anyone genuinely interested & who doesn't keep making provably false statements without any sources or evidence.

And, as we debate the ethics of dripping water on a murderer’s face to save lives, Karim Amer is sitting in prison and getting his teeth broken for …blogging (by our friend and ally ‘The Good Guys’):

He mentioned to his lawyer that the maltreatment was always coupled with this phrase "This is until you do change your mind"!!

http://www.hrinfo.net/en/reports/2007/pr1112.shtml

The ‘Bad Guys’ torture prisoners, cut off their heads, and then either dangle the burnt bodies from bridges or, if properly equipped, booby trap the body. ‘High moral ground’ doesn’t seem to count for as much as it used to.

I say let the water drip. More frequently than three times in five years if necessary.

you're too late with your satire we've already crossed that line.

It wasn't, in the least, satire. Sadly.

Yes, I try to be humorous, sometimes oblique. You might have to appreciate subtlety to pick up on some things.

Ah, oblique. That's why I didn't catch on.

Feh.

I only get by here by qualifying almost every word I type. I have to be very careful. I’m tolerated here, as long as I am careful.

I think you misjudge the regard folks here have for you.

It does suck to be in the minority, but that's a different issue altogether.

Back on topic:

Torture is wrong because torture is wrong. Just like cutting people's heads off on TV is wrong, like flying airplanes into office buildings is wrong, or like strapping explosives around your waist and blowing yourself up in a pizzeria is wrong.

That kind of wrong.

Folks may, in situations of dire, really dire, emergency, be forced to do wrong things. If there ever was an actual ticking time bomb situation, complete with actual ticking time bomb, and an agent of the US beat the hell out of someone to make that bomb not go off, I'm pretty confident that agent would probably get a pass.

That's not what we're talking about.

We're talking about teams of agents who are carefully trained and prepared to repeatedly bring people within an inch of their lives in order to systematically freak them out and break their will. No simulation involved, it's the real thing.

We're talking about a system of holding centers deliberately sited off of US territory so that prisoners can be held beyond the reach of the law.

We're talking about a detention regime that deliberately employs isolation, disorientation, and exploitation of psychiatric information gained through interviews to drive human beings into regressive and psychotic states.

We're so far beyond your hypothetical already, in policy and in daily practice, that it renders Patterico's little mental exercise quaint. To coin a phrase.

I'm sick of this quibbling about what torture is, and what it isn't. "Is waterboarding torture if they use the Saran Wrap, or only if they use the cloth gag?" It makes me want to puke. It's weak, shameful, and disgusting.

If you support torture, gird up your loins, find yourself a spine, and support it. Take a stand. And, god help you. But quit trying to convince the rest of us that it's really OK.

We don't think it's OK. We think it's wrong, illegal, and destructive to this nation. The people who promoted it as policy should go to jail.

It's f*cking wrong.

This isn't a god-damned TV show.

Thanks -

Sebastian,

I think this is an excellent post. If I have one quibble, it's that I think you slightly misread my post as unqualified support for Bush policies on waterboarding. I actually think the issue is more complicated than that. My KSM hypothetical is mostly an attempt to highlight some of the complexities involved, for the benefit of the more self-righteous among those opposed to waterboarding.

I have spent days fighting with the leftists at my site to a) give a straight answer, b) stop badly misreading my post and ignoring the limitations of the hypo, and c) stop making assumptions about my viewpoint. But I can see I won't have to fight with you on these points. Even if we disagree, you are willing to state my arguments fairly and respond to them reasonably.

If you are willing, I'd like to continue the discussion in future blog posts. I'd like to avoid doing it in comments because I don't think everyone (in my comments section or yours) shares your willingness to give the other guy's argument a fair shake. I'd find it less frustrating to do it in blog posts. What do you say?

‘High moral ground’ doesn’t seem to count for as much as it used to.

How the hell would we know?

Thanks -

Sebastian, if you're going to respond to Patterico, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE discuss actual facts rather than made up hypotheticals. Please. You know I'm an encyclopedia on this--more so now than when I posted regularly. You still have my email, right? Feel free to send on any questions.

And for God's sake discuss the interrogation techniques as actually practiced & not fictional, sanitized versions.

I have spent days fighting with the leftists at my site to a) give a straight answer

You obviously were fishing in the wrong pond.

No, it's not worth it. We give up too much.

If not employing torture means that we suffer further attacks that might otherwise have been avoided, then that's the price we pay for being a nation that doesn't torture.

We've paid far, far, far more than that over the course of our history for that position. Maybe you're willing to piss that away, but I'm not.

Thank you -

Well, Bill, clearly we ought to start cutting off heads, hanging burned bodies from bridges, and hijacking airliners and flying them into buildings. There's no reason to restrain ourselves if being the "good guys" isn't about behavior but about being chosen by God or something. Has the idea of winning hearts and minds been superseded by the idea of ruling through fear, or is the new idea that we'll just exterminate everyone who disagrees with us?

Sebastian, if you're going to respond to Patterico, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE discuss actual facts rather than made up hypotheticals.

Too late!!!

:)

FWIW, I think (but could be wrong) that Patterico's hypo was intended mainly for people who not only disagree with him about torture as US policy, but call him scum, monster, etc., for thinking that there may be some real-life cases when torture is justified.

The hypo in and of itself isn't realistic at all, and if he goes on to try to use it to justify a particular real-world event then he's off-base; but just because some people make a different judgment than we do when considering these sorts of moral trade-offs doesn't make them monsters.

D'oh! Or I could simply read a few comments up before hitting the Post button.

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