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January 19, 2005

Comments

I think you miss the point of why you had so few responses... very few people support torture of anyone if it's not a life/death or some kind of exceptional situation.

Nobody really believes in torture in other circumstances. So its not that everyone wants to argue an exception it's that the exception that is the rule when one might approve of torture. You say, "Let's debate the rules." But, then you kill the debate, when you say, "Let's not argue the exception."

No peeps out of Hinderaker?

Nobody really believes in torture in other circumstances.

That's kinda my point, Smlook. A reasonable person won't take the debate challenge and, if no one does, great.

But see:

This post on torture by Reynolds (http://instapundit.com/archives/020262.php) -- if we debate torture, the anti-torture folk will lose!;

This post by den Beste (http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/01/Negotiatingwiththreats.shtml) -- "if we say we have rules against torture, we'll lose!"; and

This post by Steve Sturm (http://thoughtsonline.blogspot.com/2005/01/no-fan-on-bush-ever-since-bush-voiced.html) -- "hell, yeah we should torture."

Smlook: Nobody really believes in torture in other circumstances.

Sebastian has argued in favor of it on this thread - it's just that he wants "torture" to be called "breaking a prisoner's will through mental/physical abuse".

Von,

But you will lose to the larger crowd. Your average American and certainly your soldier won't show signs of weakness. It's our heritage.

Even AQ trains it's people that we won't torture. They view it as a sign of weakness in us.

We might chose not to torture, but saying it reminds me of the British police on patrol with their bobby sticks facing criminals with their 9mm. These guys cut off heads of hostages. I can just see them laughing at us and gaining confidence in their laughter.

You will only win with the crowd that sees themselves as intellectuals, but you will lose with the practical crowd which is the majority.

So to me it looks like Instapundit and den Beste are both correct... as are you in a way.

Two points, Jes: first, I take issue with your contention that Sebastian has argued in favor of torture. He's been adamantly opposed (and far more strongly than any other conservative I can think of offhand) since Abu Ghreib etc.* came to light. You two differ in where to draw the line -- inasmuch as either of you have a clearly defined line which, frankly, I doubt because no-one seems to -- but continually asserting that Sebastian's pro-torture is neither fair nor helpful.

Second, the phrase "breaking a prisoner's will through mental/physical abuse" isn't Sebastian's. Please be more careful to delineate your "Shorter" summations from his actual words, especially on an issue this contentious.

* How sad is it that I need to put an "etc." there, anyway?

But you will lose to the larger crowd. Your average American and certainly your soldier won't show signs of weakness. It's our heritage.

In what way is choosing not to torture people a sign of weakness?

Anarch,

It is a sign of weakness from the perspective of the enemy. One can easily infer that from reading some of the AQ op guides taken in Afghanistan.

I don't mean to be pedantic, but it seems that von and the commenters on this thread accept the premise that torture produces more accurate and speedier results than other methods of interrogation. I don't belive that anyone has ever proven that torture actually works better the alternatives. I'm in favor of getting accurate information quickly from the bad guys, but until someone can show that torture is a better method than mere interrogation, I will consider the case for torture to be motivated by vengance and bloodlust rather than effectiveness.

So, let me get this straight: Despite its general unusefulness, its negative propaganda value, and its effects on the nation's character, we're supposed to leave torture on the table as a general proposition because if we don't, al Qaeda might think we're pussies?

I'm going to need a LOT better reason.

etc. - No, I don't think anyone here who's debated torture in lo, these many boards has actually made the claim that torture is an effective means of getting information.

The pro-torture posters seem to support torturing prisoners for the sake of torturing prisoners.

That's why von's posted the challenge in the first place. To see if there's anything BESIDES vengeful sadism out there.

So far, not.

etc,

"I don't mean to be pedantic, but it seems that von and the commenters on this thread accept the premise that torture produces more accurate and speedier results than other methods of interrogation"

I don't think anyone here is saying that.

Phil,

I don't think anyone is saying leave torture completely on the table. We have all kinds of policies about toture. People are being tried as we speak. I think it would be more accurate to say that we have our rules already that we should follow. When people break the rules they face the consequences. That is currently happening.

CaseyL,

"The pro-torture posters seem to support torturing prisoners for the sake of torturing prisoners."

I guess if we are going to falsely put words in anothers mouth... we can accuse anyone of anything. I don't think that really contributes though.

Oops, I guess I should be more honest. CaseyL really caught me.

I support torture of prisoners only for the sake of torturing prisoners. It's really fun. Everyone should try it and you can get great pictures and free publicity in case you are trying to make a name for yourself in the public eye.

CaseyL,

Does that make you feel more superior now?

etc: but it seems that von and the commenters on this thread accept the premise that torture produces more accurate and speedier results than other methods of interrogation.

Nope. My contention is (1) Torture ought to be forbidden because it is monstrous (2) Torture ought to be forbidden because if you do these things to enemy prisoners, you have no authority to say these things shall not be done to your own soldiers in the hands of the enemy (3) Torture ought to be forbidden because there is no evidence that it provides accurate information, and considerable evidence that it doesn't.

To my mind, any one of those three reasons is sufficient to make the use of torture a really, really bad idea. But all three are good reasons why torture must be forbidden - and must not be allowed in by the back door pretending that it's only casual abuse of prisoners, or only a few bad apples.

I'm sure von doesn't need help with his debating points, but reiterating some of what etc and others have said, I pass along this short anecdote to the torture advocates from one of my professors, a former CIA officer, who among other posts served as the head of a cell based in South Korea (he didn't volunteer dates, but I'm assuming prior to democracy in the 80s.) Their job was to intercept North Korean defectors and glean information from them, which meant detaining them and interviewing them for a while until it was deemed that they'd shared everything they were going to, at which point they were released and sent on their way to try and make a new life for themselves. His counterparts in the Korean CIA, by contrast, would beat captured defectors horribly, and were dismissive of what they considered American squeamishness. His evaluation of who got the better of the other: torture gets you nothing, as any professional interrogator should tell you. And while he may be just one guy and this may just be a story I'm sharing out here on the internet, this column in the Washington Posts features several professional intelligence officers testifying with attribution to the exact same thing.

So you ask him. "Who is your handler? Who supplied you with all these explosives, who installed the detonator? Where did the explosives come from? He does not answer. What you gonna do?

Actually, this example misses another point as well.

There seems to be this too-common misconception out there, probably from 24 or something, that interrogation consists simply of screaming direct questions at prisoners. If they don't reply, and you really need an answer, then obviously the only thing left to do is to start shooting out their kneecaps or whatever.

In this worldview, torture makes sense whenever the information a stubborn interrogatee is believed to have would save enough lives to cancel out the bad karma of torturing. From what I can tell though, this worldview bears little resemblance to reality.

Proper interrogation involves beguiling the subject, analyzing and exploiting weaknesses. Even the most spitting mad jihadist has a basic need for human contact. A skilled interrogator can very likely convince them to talk. To assist, there's a universe of fairly benign "coercive" techniques of psychological disorientation, all far less vile than even the ones Sebastian so coyly refuses to call "torture".

What am I gonna do? Faulty premise. I am certainly not going to start by directly asking "Who's your handler?". I am going to let a properly trained interrogator handle the problem.

So, let me get this straight: Despite its general unusefulness, its negative propaganda value, and its effects on the nation's character, we're supposed to leave torture on the table as a general proposition because if we don't, al Qaeda might think we're pussies?

I'm going to need a LOT better reason.

Bang along side ya, brother.

von:

it appears that smlook has volunteered to support your resolution.

Rationale: By publicly refusing to use torture, the US induces laughter among terrorists and increases their confidence.

[i submit that the above rationale is an accurate characterization of smlook's 6:23 pm post.]

[please note that i do not believe that the rationale, even if true, justifies the use of torture.]

Francis

fdl,

I propose that you read the trianing ops manuals from AQ.

Yes. It's very important that AQ thinks we're cool. In addition to torture, we probably ought to consider taking up smoking and getting a tattoo.

Jack,

Actually it is very important that AQ thinks that we will hunt them down and kill them. If being cool, smoking ant a tattoo helps in that, then I say let's do it.

Actually it is very important that AQ thinks that we will hunt them down and kill them

it's also important that people who aren't yet AQ not be given reasons to become AQ. moral high ground, shining example, not the great Satan, etc.

Then - and this is just my own very humble suggestion - perhaps we should concentrate on actually hunting them down (rather than, say, torturing innocent Iraqis). Also, in order to encourage the rest of the world to help us, and to stem the tide of new terrorist recruits, perhaps we should make some token efforts to actually look like the good guys once in a while.

You really think it's better when the AQ recruiting brochures read "The infidel Americans torture and kill without mercy, even the innocent."?

It's easy enough to jump on smlook's posts, but that is just going to result in back and forth snark. looking at the underlying premise exposes the cognitive dissonance. The 6:23 post suggests that 'intellectuals' are against torture, but the 'majority' supports it. Thus, the moral leadership is not an issue here, because this is what everyone wants. Yet many want to laud Bush and the admin for 'democracy building', which seems as much a moral issue as the former.

Now, seeing that British troops are also guilty of mistreatment of prisoners, it seems clear that this whole adventure is corrosive to the moral fibre of those participating and ultimately, to the countries that are members of the coalition.

Those sound like great ideas. It's ashame the Islamic world has view us as the great Satan for over 20 years. I think their own leaders did all the real work in that arena. It's ashame we aren't also perfect.

Maybe, our policy could be to send aide workers who lend a helping neck to the terrorists for all their efforts.

Maybe you could work that into your humble suggestions somehow?

People who advocate torture can only come up with 'exceptional' cases because they know torture doesn't work as an interrogation technique but they want to 'keep it on the table' anyway - for reasons that have a lot more to do with their own psychology than with intelligence gathering.

I don't think much of Donald's example of 'exceptional case.' A suicide bomber who's 'none too bight and none too sane,' is all the more likely to react to torture by becoming confused, saying whatever he thinks his torturers want to hear, or even going off into Crazyland delusions, rages, and catatonia. Yeah: real useful, that.

smlook: there exists a middle ground between committing suicide and engaging in torture.

Also, letting our foreign policy be driven by how we are perceived by our enemies is weakness, not strength. I'm less concerned about what the AlQ manuals say than whether we are killing off their hard-core loyalists faster than they can recruit. But beyond that, i'm far more concerned about interfering with llQ's effectiveness in recruiting new hard-core jihadis.

there are over 1 billion muslims alive, and it is one of the fastest growing religions. our success or failure in the Global War on Terror [sic] will be determined ultimately by ideology, not military strength. Repudiating our prohibition on terror does a dis-service to our long-term goals.

Francis

it seems clear that this whole adventure is corrosive to the moral fibre of those participating and ultimately, to the countries that are members of the coalition.

It's the Milgram experience on steroids. Possibly literally.

The Milgram *Experiment*. Dang.

Heh, Anarch; 'the Milgram Experience on Steroids' sounds like a rave. Or like an updated version of those 70's encounter groups :D

Haha -- as a not entirely unrelated aside, there is/was a well-regarded punk band called the Stanford Prison Experiment. (q.v.)

MC Masterchef -- see also Terry Karney's comments in this and successive posts at Making Light. (IIRC he also had some comments at Crooked Timber.)

Wow. So here's a response to James Donald (via Dr. James Rockford from before the war).

Those who defend torture will often base it on the Alan Dershowitz "ticking nuclear bomb" scenario: There's a nuclear bomb ready to go off and kill thousands of people. The one person who knows where it is won't say. In this case, who wouldn't use torture to extract the information?

Well, it is only fair to ask the pro-torture people to explain how far they would go. Torture, after all, it's not really about causing physical pain; it's about applying unbearable pressure -- which may involve physical pain but always involves degradation.

Since this is inherently a very unpleasant subject I will be uncomfortably, gruesomely specific: What if a nuclear bomber won't respond to mere pain? After all, terrorists like the 9/11 villains are prepared to die; I'm sure they can put up with a little pain. Now, the clock is ticking. Should we try sexual torture? Should we rape his child in front of his eyes to make him break? Cut the toddler up in pieces, a piece at a time?

Would Willis, Balko and Hesiod be willing to perform these services for their country?

It is only fair to ask those who support torture to provide a public answer. For the record, I'd rather go up in a mushroom cloud with my whole family and all my children and all my friends and pets and compatriots and acquaintances, and the whole country and the whole earth if need be than surrender my humanity. After all, in the long term, we'll all be dead. I'd rather die earlier and die a human.

Powerful stuff, Hal. Thanks.

re Stanford Prison Expt - I think I saw them maybe eight years ago opening for The Jesus Lizard and was unimpressed. I'd recommend skipping the German movie of more or less the same name.

Re losing my humanity - I'll have to side with the continuation of the human race and the present only mild sullying of the environment. I think San Francisco's worth more than my soul or whatever.

People who advocate torture can only come up with 'exceptional' cases because they know torture doesn't work as an interrogation technique but they want to 'keep it on the table' anyway - for reasons that have a lot more to do with their own psychology than with intelligence gathering.

What about the psychology of the interrogatee? By that I mean does the fear of torture cause other interrogation techniques to work better? If so, wouldn't a "don't torture, don't tell" policy be more effective than a public pronouncement that the US is taking it off the table? I'd say the fear of the unknown is the most frightening of all.

"torture doesn't work as an interrogation technique"

Haven't we been through this discussion. No one is arguing that torture is the most effective method to get information out of someone. But, to say it does not work period just isn't accurate.
fdl,

"smlook: there exists a middle ground between committing suicide and engaging in torture."

It sort of looks like you are saying I said that, but since I didn't I am assuming you are just directing that comment at me.

fdl says:
Also, letting our foreign policy be driven by how we are perceived by our enemies is weakness, not strength.

Now since you obviously have the ability to see that there is a middle ground, why do you assume that I don't have the same ability? When did I ever say anything about letting the enemies perception of us by the driving force behind our policy in the War on Terror? I gave one example where they perceive us as weak. I never said anything about that driving every decison we make. Why do so many posters here assume that they are so much smarter than others? Why do they not have the common sense to see that people who disagree with them have thought through their positions just as much as they have their own?

I guess this goes back to intellect vs. common sense. I'll choose common sense any day of the week.


Yes, smlook: we have been through this discussion, and we keep citing sources - actual, professional, experienced interrogators - who say torture not only doesn't work but is counterproductive.

That's actual, professional, experienced interrogators. Not bloggers. Not armchair warriors. Not propagandists.

Actual, professional, experienced interrogators say torture is no goddamn good, and the pro-torture gang keeps making believe otherwise.

Actual, professional, experienced interrogators say torture is no goddamn good, and the pro-torture gang reacts like there's a jet plane going overhead: it's just white noise, wait 'til it passes, and then keep arguing torture is legitimate and effective.

Toture is no goddamn good. Only losers commit torture. Weak, scared, mean losers.

I'm just wondering -- Did torture as an issue cause any voters to switch from Republican to Democrat in the last election? Or vice versa?

In other less-than-encouraging news, the future attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales has stated on the record that he believes that the treatment of Maher Arar was perfectly legal, in response to a question from Senator Richard Durbin.

The link is here. (note: PDF) The question asks about rendition in general, not Arar in particular, but Gonzales's answer clearly indicates a belief that what happened to Arar was legal.

This is not even a tiny bit surprising to me, but I thought it might be noteworthy for some of the rest of you, especially those who oppose torture and rendition but voted for Bush and/or support the confirmation of Gonzales.

I will elaborate later; right now the PDF has frozen Acrobat and I need to go back to class.

Here's a thought: keep in place a rule that says that anyone who commits abuse or torture of prisoners shall be punished by twenty years in the brig, regardless of extenuating circumstances, followed by a dishonorable discharge. From a strictly utilitarian standpoint, what this means is that we raise the standard for "exceptional circumstances" to the level where someone needs to be willing to trade their honor and twenty years of their life to do it, which sounds about right to me.

I think I see the problem between the 'pro' and 'con' sides of this debate. Absolutes.

CaseyL: "actual, professional, experienced interrogators - who say torture not only doesn't work but is counterproductive"

Do those sources say that for EVERY SINGLE case? The 'con' side of this debate keeps saying the 'pro' side uses exceptions to prove their point but the 'pro' side DOES have the point that exceptions DO exist.

I see the 'pro' side as saying torture should not be used but shouldn't be taken completely off the table.

I see the 'con' side saying that in nearly all cases torture just doesn't get good results.

Perhaps both sides are correct in their 'worldview'?

Still, I don't think the current administration is anywhere near 'moral' in this ballpark.

Do those sources say that for EVERY SINGLE case? The 'con' side of this debate keeps saying the 'pro' side uses exceptions to prove their point but the 'pro' side DOES have the point that exceptions DO exist.

Do they? Has anyone come forth with a verified story (from, say, the past 50 years) wherein the torture of an individual produced actionable intelligence? I'm willing to grant that, as von said, we can hypothetically twiddle the utility knob all the way up to 11; I'm curious, though, that no-one seems to have confirmed that this is other than a hypothetical.

Anarch: No. Not a single one. Nada. Zilch.

On which note, I think it's worth bringing up James Donald's point again: why restrict ourselves merely to torture? What if the only way to break the victim's will is to rape his son in front of him? To eat his wife alive? To raze his village to the ground and slaughter every man, woman and child therein? I can't possibly prove that such tactics are never effective; how can we therefore exclude them from the table?

IOW: At what point do we say that this scenario no longer bears enough resemblance to reality to be worth considering?

Anarch: No. Not a single one. Nada. Zilch.

No-one answered your (completely justified) queries here; I'm wondering if something had surfaced elsewhere in the blogosphere. If so, I haven't seen it.

Anarch: "I'm curious, though, that no-one seems to have confirmed that this is other than a hypothetical."

Is this info the other side could be expected to have? I assume the official eleven-appliers keep their mouths shut and the elevened are dropped in the river.

Actually, the actions of the French in Algeria that we discuss so much does seem to have provided actionable intelligence resulting in breaking up cells.

While I'm not trying to promote torture, simply understand both points of view, I did a google to find and answer to the question asked and quickly came up with this essay by Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Pearson. In the essay he has mention of at least one sucessful use of torture to extract information quickly.

But it must be mentioned that while there are examples of 'successful' uses of torture, they ARE the exception. The essay still finds that "There is no need to descend to torture, or to hide the policy from the international human rights organizations if such a professional, results based approach is adopted. Robust interrogation works."

So while I think the 'pro' side of this argument can find examples of successful torture, I personally don't want to know about such things, and would still posit that they are the very rare exception.

Bingo. This thread lead me to do a similar search, and I found the same article and a few more. What I came away with is this: Torture is unreliable, and by far and away not the best way to extract information, all other things being equal. This is not to say that its totally ineffective, because it can work at least some of the time, and it can work faster than other more effective forms of interrogation. Also, torture is vastly more effective if you have multiple suspected subjects that you can use to methodically verify and cross reference the information, but still much less effective than other methods given time.

So, for a lone terrorist ticking time bomb scenario, its going to be a crap shoot. But, depending on time constraints, it might be worth rolling the dice. If you manage to capture a team of terrorists during a ticking time bomb situation, then you have better odds of getting correct info. So I think its incorrect to say that torture is never, ever, ever effective.

That said, I agree with Von. Torture is NEVER an option. If you take it upon yourself to make it one, then you better be prepared to face the consequences from your superiors, your peers and your self.

All right, here we go. Apologies in advance for the length, but I want to give the full context.

This is Durbin's question:

As you know, Article 3 of the Torture Convention requires, "1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. 2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all revelant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." At your, hearing you told me, "Under my undersndaing of the law...we have an obligation not to render someone to a country that we believe is going to torture them." According to media reports, the United States has rendered individuals to countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, which are known to engage in torture. In some cases, the U.S. reportedly sought assurances from these governments that the rendered individuals would not be tortured. Nevertheless, these individuals allege that they were subsequently tortured. Has to government complies with Article 3 of the Torture Convention from September 11, 2001 to the present? Is it legally permissible in any circumstances to render someone to a country known to engage in torture? If yes, in what circumstances is it legally permissible? Is it legally permissible to render someone to a country that is known to engage in torture if the U.S. receives assurances from that country that they will not torture a rendered individual? If yes, why do you believe that promises from a country known to engage in torture are a reliable basis for asserting that the U.S. is in compliance with its obligations under Article 3 of the Torture Convention? If confirmed as Attorney General, will you ensure that we do not accept assurances from a country known to engage in torture that they will not engage in torture as grounds for rendering someone to that country?"

I haven't been keeping up with this discussion very well, so I may be raising an issue that has already been raised and settled, but has anyone mentioned the Milgram experiments yet? These experiments seem to demonstrate that the majority of people (65% or more) are willing to torture a person they suspect of no wrongdoing into (as far as they know) death or unconciousness simply because they are told by an authority figure that they have to do so. If this finding is true then torture should never be officially allowed or condoned under any circumstances, including the "nuclear bomb about to blow and terrorist who can defuse it" scenario, simply because people are all too willing to torture each other when they are told to do so. Of course, a prosecuter might go easier on someone who believed (rightly or wrongly) they had to torture someone to prevent Washington from being turned into a radioactive mist than someone who thought making a human pyramid out of random prisoners would be fun, but there should never be an official statement saying that it is ok to use torture.

This is Gonzales' response:

Response: The government has complied with its obligations under Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture. The Senate, in giving its advice and consent to the CAT, included an understanding to Article 3 stating, "That the United States understands the phrase, 'where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture,' as used in Article 3 of the Convention, to mean, 'if it is more likely than not that he would be tortured.' " In carrying out U.S. obligations under Article 3, as subject to the Senate understanding, it is permissible in appropriate circumstances to rely on assurances from a country that it will not engage a torture, and such assurances can provide a basis for concluding that a person is not likely to be tortured if returned to another country.

Arar's case was not mentioned, but Gonzales clearly states that the government has been in compliance with Article 3 of the C.A.T. from 9/11 to the present. This includes the day when Arar was sent to Syria. Further, Gonzales' reasoning about why rendition is legal applies fully to Arar's case: we got those assurances from Syria, and the theory is that Syria's word is enough to reduce the odds that he would be tortured to 49.9%, and if it turns out he was actually tortured--hey, you win some you lose some.

Durbin asked Gonzales explicitly for reassurance that, if confirmed he would ensure that we would no longer trust promises like the worthless ones Syria gave in Arar's case. Gonzales made it very clear that he would not.

As I said, it's not a surprise. The only thing that surprises me that Durbin was able to phrase the question carefully enough to get a relatively straight answer...not that anyone will notice, of course, but good for Durbin.

Von,

On another thread Katherine was quoting someone:

"Just because they aren't horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn't mean that they don't know that it's wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong."

then she says:

"Look at how many people were willing to argue against von."

But in my opinion, she misses the real reason no one took your challenge.

Most Americans think torture is wrong about 99% of the time. My mind reading capabilities make me conclude that she thinks alot people are okay with torture, while I think most people actually think torture is a tactic in an extremely exceptional case and other than that it is wrong. So many are taking a molehill of a difference and making it a mountain.

And then you want to challenge the blogosphere to create rules of engagement for torture when it's not the exception. That seems mute to me and we learned that others agree, but not for the reason Katherine thinks.

The interesting conlusion to be reached from that is that 99% of the time we all agree on torture, but yet is argued and debated so much. Shouldn't the posters here be appluading that?

If you want a debate then debate the exception. That's only when anyone really believes torture should be used as your challenge seems to indicate. (Of course, this really can't be done until we define what are really acts of torture like Sebastian tried to do a while ago.)

Our soldiers kill people during battle. Is that worse, better or equal to torture? I mean almost all accept that is part of war.

I find that interesting. (Give me death, but not torture!)

What's the rules of engagement when the terrorist is using human shields?

The human being is basically being tortured by the terrorist and it's okay to shoot. I guess that is consistent... death before torture.

I don't really see anyone debating the rules under those circumstances.

Which is worse killing a human shield or torture?

It seems some are willing to concede some exceptional case, but not others. I find that intersting, too.

"Durbin asked Gonzales explicitly for reassurance that, if confirmed he would ensure that we would no longer trust promises like the worthless ones Syria gave in Arar's case."

But should we have trusted the worthless one's Hussein gave us and should we now trust the worthless one's we are getting from Iran?

Just asking?

Smlook: Most Americans think torture is wrong about 99% of the time. My mind reading capabilities make me conclude that she thinks alot people are okay with torture, while I think most people actually think torture is a tactic in an extremely exceptional case and other than that it is wrong.

Well, it's an issue, because the current President of the US endorses torture, and his nominee for Attorney General believes torture ought to be legal. If 99% of Americans disagree with the Bush administration, and think torture ought not to be legal, and the US government ought never to endorse torturing people, well - how do they get their message across?

Most Americans think torture is wrong about 99% of the time.

When is torture right?

Oh, Jes as usual you don't read what I write...ughh!

You somehow think I said:

"If 99% of Americans disagree with the Bush administration, and think torture ought not to be legal, and the US government ought never to endorse torturing people"

But, I came no where near saying that. I said:

"Most Americans think torture is wrong about 99% of the time."

And I bet the Bush administration agrees with that.

Please tell me you can figure out how you twisted my comment and in the future quote me on what I write... not what you wish I would have written or what Dr. Evil might have to say on the subject.

Edward,

"When is torture right?"

I answered that question already.

"If you want a debate then debate the exception. That's only when anyone really believes torture should be used as your challenge seems to indicate."

And from the first post in the thread:

"I think you miss the point of why you had so few responses... very few people support torture of anyone if it's not a life/death or some kind of exceptional situation."

Now please if you have time go back an answer some of my questions...

1)Our soldiers kill people during battle. Is that worse, better or equal to torture? I mean almost all accept that is part of war.

2)What's the rules of engagement when the terrorist is using human shields?

3)Which is worse killing a human shield or torture?

Smlook: And I bet the Bush administration agrees with that.

Unfortunately, all we know is that the Bush administration thinks it right to torture people. We have no idea - at present - whether Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Airbase represent 1% or more of the instances where people could have been tortured, and weren't. You may want to believe that the Bush administration thinks that torture is acceptable only 1% of the time, but you cannot prove that: all you know is what we all know: that the Bush administration does, in fact, endorse torture.

Now please if you have time go back an answer some of my questions...

I have the time. I just don't see the relevance. The issue is why people who are against torture support an administration that endorses torture: your questions don't appear to be relevant to that issue.

smlook: i didn't accuse you of being stupid; i accused you of being wrong. You apparently advocated, at 6:23, that the US have a stated policy of using torture in exceptional circumstances, so that terrorists would live in fear.

that is a legitimate position; i just profoundly disagree. i think the consequences of publicly retaining the option to use torture far outweigh the benefits.

as to your 3 questions: what do you mean by "worse"?

1. I expect soldiers to use the force necessary to accomplish their given mission. The US could have carpet-bombed Falluja; instead we chose to wreak damage retail. Military planners should be keeping their strategic goals in mind at all times. This means needing to win the peace as well as winning the war. Without a shred of proof, I nevertheless believe that Iraqis object less to the combat death of jihadis than the Abu Ghraib torture stories.

So, in purely strategic terms of winning the peace, I think it's likely that torture is "worse" than combat killing. On the moral issue, take it up with the philosophers at Crooked Timber.

2. If there's time to negotiate for the release of the shields, do so. Every police force in the US has hostage rescue teams, and they all start by negotiating. If there isn't time, attack hard and fast and accept your losses.

3. Torture. But like Jes, I'm not sure what you're weighing in this balance.

Francis

Jes,

Nice job at avoiding that you mischaracterize others statements.

I guess there is no reason to engage you because you already "know" everything with your direct contact into the Bush administration collective brain. Would it make you fell better if I said 98%, 97% of the time? Please don't bother answering.

I actually addressed the questions to Edward not you. As always, you seem to already know everything.

But, again another issue that you can avoid is that my post is relavent in this thread. You said the thread is about:

"The issue is why people who are against torture support an administration that endorses torture: your questions don't appear to be relevant to that issue."

But Von actually deals with:

Still, to answer Mr. Donald's question:"

Mr. Donald's exceptional case.

He specificallly posts an email about exceptioanl cases. I came up with a few of my own cases that we accept in order to understand all the exceptions better. Torture is a morally questionable act. I posted some other morally difficult situations that we are more comfortable with to show how many like yourself blow this issue up bigger than it is, while ignoring other equally difficult sitations.

I've got another one:

Was it wrong of the U.S. to use the atomic bomb in order to reduce American deaths, even though many civilians were killed. What should the rules of engagement have been? 50K, 100K more U.S. deaths would be acceptable before using that weapon.


I brought them up to indicate how difficult rules of engagement can be if the issue is the exceptional one.

Please, again read read read.

Since we can take so much liberty with each others words, I can now say that you approve of killing human shields, but torture is unacceptable. It's okay to shoot someone dead in battle, but torture is bad. Just trying to be clear.

Von,

You know what I think is the real difference here. People want to argue like this is a typical war, but the reality is that the entire War on Terror is an exception.

Ignoring the exceptions is what delivered 9/11 to our shores.

fdl,

"i accused you of being wrong. You apparently advocated, at 6:23, that the US have a stated policy of using torture in exceptional circumstances, so that terrorists would live in fear."

No, I didn't. What else is one to think since I never advocated the position?

I accuse you of thinking that I must be stupid because you can easily see that their is a middle ground, but I cannot. You take my statement as meaning that this is the ONLY way or reason that I see it. That's weird to me. If you are capable of seeing a middle ground on the issue, surely I have that same capability.

At 6:23 I say:

"Even AQ trains it's people that we won't torture. They view it as a sign of weakness in us."

Are you going to actually argue that?

"These guys cut off heads of hostages. I can just see them laughing at us and gaining confidence in their laughter."

Are you going to actually argue that? I mean just read some of bin Laden's writing to see how they view us.

And you think:

You apparently advocated, at 6:23, that the US have a stated policy of using torture in exceptional circumstances, so that terrorists would live in fear.

Do you think that unlike you I'm not capable of finding some middle ground on the issue? That I don't know that how we appear to them isn't the only driving issue. You seem to know that about yourself.

You said:
smlook: there exists a middle ground between committing suicide and engaging in torture.

It didn't occur to you that I might also think there are some drawbacks to torture. I mean after all, you are capable of seeing them.

Nope, you don't. You seem to you think that all my tiny little brain is capable of is:

"You apparently advocated, at 6:23, that the US have a stated policy of using torture in exceptional circumstances, so that terrorists would live in fear."

And you must have completely ignored this comment at 6:23:

"So to me it looks like Instapundit and den Beste are both correct... as are you (Von) in a way."

Smlook, I don't see any point in continuing this discussion.

rilkefan: Is this info the other side could be expected to have? I assume the official eleven-appliers keep their mouths shut and the elevened are dropped in the river.

If the "other side", whoever they may be, wish to convince me of the utility, let alone the morality, of torture, then yes, they'd better be able to marshal such evidence. Thanks both to you and Crock Pot for those examples; I'll look them over when I have the time.

Edward: When is torture right?

I'd be flabbergasted if people were able to give non-vacuous answers.

Also, I'd be interested in what people have to say re my 11:36am post. Any thoughts?

This whole argument reminds me of the abortion issue.

Those that are 'con' are against this no matter what end of story it's completely immoral and shouldn't be allowed, PERIOD.

Those that are 'pro' seem to think that it is probably wrong (or at least distasteful), should be rare, and anyone that does it should be held accountable because it is a HUGE personal responsibility to do it, but should not be taken off the table completely because it might really be necessary from time to time.

Neither side can see the others point of view and I doubt any true middle ground will be found anytime soon. The fit isn't perfect but some resemblance is there.

Unlike the abortion issue which I'm not going to touch with any sort of pole, this torture issue would probably best be settled by saying it is the policy of the United States to NOT physically torture prisoners or 'render' them to other countries, but if it is done; for each incident to be publicly reviewed and for those responsible to be held accountable or forgiven depending upon the review's findings. This may or may not be agreeable to everyone here but it doesn't really matter because that isn't what is going on in this administration anyway.

Also this issue could be taken too far either way. 'con' we end up with a courts martial every time a PFC shoots his weapon, throws a punch or even an insult. 'pro' we are actively secretly torturing people and everyone the world over (yes Republican's too)is living in fear of the American secret police.

Actually,

"To raze his village to the ground and slaughter every man, woman and child therein? I can't possibly prove that such tactics are never effective; how can we therefore exclude them from the table?"

Actually, those tactics have all proven effective. Just look at the Romans throughout the world or the English in Scotland. The Yankees in the South.

I think you make a good point. It is all the grey area that makes it so difficult to define rules of engagement.

" What if the only way to break the victim's will is to rape his son in front of him? To eat his wife alive?"

I personally wouldn't harm children. But, I might use them. Is this torture? If he has multiple children take one into another room and act like you killed him. Then threaten to take another. Sounds horrible, right? Could be effective.

"At what point do we say that this scenario no longer bears enough resemblance to reality to be worth considering?"

For me, the scenario that the Bush administration is pro-torture for anyone and any reason and anytime. I'd like to find another starting point. That's just doesn't bear enough resemblance to reality for me.

From the other side, it is difficult to say since the terrorists will stoop to anything. Do you believe they wouldn't explode a bomb in NYC? I mean that have show a history of escalating their attacks on NYC. I'm gonna err on the side of accounting for something bigger next time.


Actually, those tactics have all proven effective. Just look at the Romans throughout the world or the English in Scotland. The Yankees in the South.

I didn't say you couldn't raze the villages to the ground; history is replete with such examples. I asked whether doing that as a means of obtaining actionable intelligence was morally legitimate: are you (generically) willing to slaughter a few hundred bystanders in order to break the victim's will?

[Also, as a side note to all and sundry: please don't invoke the Romans as a positive example of governance unless, for example, you'd have advocated crucifying the entire March on Washington down the length of the Northeastern Corridor.]

I personally wouldn't harm children.

Why not? What if that's the only way to stop the bomb?

For me, the scenario that the Bush administration is pro-torture for anyone and any reason and anytime. I'd like to find another starting point. That's just doesn't bear enough resemblance to reality for me.

I was hoping that when people chose to answer my question, they'd do so with something other than irrelevant strawmen.

Anarch,

"I was hoping that when people chose to answer my question, they'd do so with something other than irrelevant strawmen."

Strawmen meet strawmen.

"please don't invoke the Romans as a positive example of governance"

You're talking about hundreds of years of history - too much to reduce to one Realpolitik action by Crassus.

smlook: Strawmen meet strawmen.

Nothing straw about my question. It was a legitimate attempt clarify how improbable an occurrence must become before we disregard the logical ramifications of such an occurrence in our moral calculus. Looked at the other way around, it sought to clarify whether there were acts so barbarous that we would be unwilling to take the sin of them upon ourselves irrespective of the potential good that might ensue. [And I'll note that you've already declared that there are, contradicting the moral framework you established in a previous thread.] Whether that line turns out to impact Abu Ghreib or the various torture memos is something we'll find out as we pursue this discourse.

Your answer, OTOH...

PS: Given the history of our conversations, you're probably about two keystrokes away from accusing me of illiteracy once again. Save it. Answer the question or not at your leisure, but spare me the wounded innocence.

rilkefan: You're talking about hundreds of years of history - too much to reduce to one Realpolitik action by Crassus.

True, but that's usually what's implicit in these admiring statements of the Pax Romana or their (highly successful) quelling of rebellions. I'd be overjoyed if people were to talk about the aftermath of the Social War and the integration of minority and subject ethnicities into the Roman polity and legions, or the realization that peace could best be kept in the provinces by fostering economic growth and political freedom* -- or hell, admit there were complexities to the Roman Republic and Empire that avoid reduction to any one particular facet of barbarism or civilization -- but it never seems to work out that way.

* Inasmuch as any plebian had political freedom c. 100 BC - 400 AD.

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