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September 19, 2006

Comments

I need Charles to tell me again about how the Republicans are the party with all of the ideas, and the Democrats are once again the party of no BY SAYING NO TO TORTURE.

I know Charles has written posts making it clear he condemns this torture nonsense, but its gotten to the point where if you support Republicans, then you are for torture. Sorry -- this behavior is too immoral to pretend you can just opt out of supporting the party on this one and still be a good Republican.

"...but its gotten to the point where if you support Republicans, then you are for torture."

Yeah, yeah, and leftists were responsible for the Soviet gulag.

I have to say that I don't think it's right to use Charles as a random stand-in for Evil Republicans, given that he's not posted to this thread, and that he's specifically come out against torture many times.

I think it's perfectly fine to attack Charles for what he says when he says it when he deserves it, and to hold him to his statements.

But I don't understand the case for bringing him up out of the blue, other than as simply abusing him gratuitiously, simply for convenience, and to feel good about one's self by abusing someone else's name randomly.

That's ugly. And it's not moral high ground to stand on.

Neither do I think much of people puffing themselves up for their high moral standards by abusing other people.

This is the ugly side of moral debates: un-earned moral righteousness as a justification for acting creepy.

The point is that all of these techniques constitute torture, may be life-threatening, and certainly don't represent truth, justice and the American way.

No wonder Republicans don't like Glenn Greenwald... it can't be nice to be reminded that your party is fundamentally unAmerican.

I have to say that I am astonished that we have come to the point where one must explain why torture is wrong. On TV, on the radio, in conversations I hear people who apparently do not understand that torture is immoral and shameful.

Bush refuses to discuss specifics, yet is asking for general legislation that will allow for these "techniques". Does anyone else see the danger that this poses? What could the legislation do but allow him to determine, at his exclusive discretion, what is acceptable and what isn't?

I hope that the rising chorus of denunciation of these disgusting methods of torture will prevent these proposals from becoming law. I fear that political gamesmanship will allow this deeply flawed and anti-American legislation to pass. If it does it will take decades to recover our honor from this stain upon our country. What does it say about a country when it becomes apathetic enough for these abominations to become standard operating procedure? This is a true injury to America, and it is entirely self-inflicted.

This, via Lindsay Beyerstein, is an interview with Stephen Miles, who has written about the complicity of medical personnel in torture. At the bottom of the page, there are a number of other interviews, including a number of lawyers, and they have a number of links that may be of interest.

Katherine, I heard a mention of the Maher Arar case on NPR this morning. I half-expected to hear you mentioned as someone who has written extensively on this subject.

Can anyone clue me in as to what McConnell is talking about? Is it about secret evidence, or is it something else?

American right-wingers scream bloody tyranny when the state organizes medicine to help the poor. However, they are more than willing to hand the state over to paranoid frat boys and scared hillbillies to brutalize and torture all suspicious characters.

Yeah, yeah, and leftists were responsible for the Soviet gulag.

Posted by: Gary Farber | September 19, 2006 at 03:10 AM

The Soviet gulags were organized by John Kerry?

Who knew?

Lots of the "evidence" against various detainees is classified. Naturally, we don't know exactly why, tho the Executive's mania for classification (not new to Bush) isn't reassuring.

A theory I've seen is that the info is classified b/c of how it was obtained ... illegal surveillance, torture, who knows.

CharleyCarp doubtless has something informed to say on the subject.

The Soviet gulags were organized by John Kerry?

Of course! Don't you watch political commercials?

A theory I've seen is that the info is classified b/c of how it was obtained

Of course, it could be that some evidence is classified because of sources and methods, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is. It's practically a certainty that classified evidence has been submitted in courts civilian and martial, but what's less clear (to me) is how said evidence is presented in these cases.

I'd want testimonial evidence to be treated with a great deal of askance-looking, though. And testimonial evidence gathered in a way that's, well, involuntary: lots of askance-ness. I'd like to hear from lawyers with experience in cases like this before going one way or the other on the issue of classified evidence.

Yeah, yeah, and leftists were responsible for the Soviet gulag.

*brooop* Wrong answer, Gary. Complicity in torture that took place in a different country before you were born is fundamentally different from torture ordered by officials you voted for when you knew what they would do.

Any Republican who is not absolutely, publically 4-square opposed to torture should be assumed to be in favor of it. They have voted with their votes, and we need to respect that they know what they're doing.

It's stuping f**king crap like McConnell's statement that makes me think of Bob.

And Greenwald has it exactly right:

If they are already "terrorists," why bother with military commissions at all? What are the commissions supposed to determine? Why not just skip to the execution part?

Bush has all these terrorists and he's just letting them hang out in the Gittmo sun? Some tough guy he is.

von - the comments link to your post doesn't work (assuming it isn't intentional).

I'd want testimonial evidence to be treated with a great deal of askance-looking, though. And testimonial evidence gathered in a way that's, well, involuntary: lots of askance-ness.

Trouble is, such decisions are left to the discretion of the court, and the kangaroo-tribunals that Bush wants are not the most discretion-prone entities I've ever seen. *I'd* be scared to be tried before them.

There might be some leeway for appellate review here, if the tribunals are evaluating record evidence that the appellate court is equally able to evaluate, rather than live testimony which the tribunal would be best able to judge.

"Any Republican who is not absolutely, publically 4-square opposed to torture should be assumed to be in favor of it."

This morning :) I would not go that far. Support for the bills in Congress might be support for torture. However, I would rephrase it as support for torturers in which class I would put Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld. I would ask Republicans (and others) to withdraw their support for these torturers and other torturers to the maximum extent their individual respect for the rule of law would allow. Calling for resignation and/or impeachment would be the minimal moral position.

I would rephrase it as support for torturers

Good point. Let the record show that I now say "Republicans must be assumed to support torturers."

Incidentally, I wondered last night that if lawyers who advised and aided the Nazis could be tried for war crimes, if Congresspersons who voted for torture could be considered war criminals.

For that matter, you also had propagandists, IIRC. Like Limbaugh and Coulter.

So what is allowable during interrogation?

By not saying these should be disallowed does that mean that these are allowed

(3) sleep deprivation;
(4) the "attention grab" (the forceful seizing of a suspect's shirt);
(5) the "attention slap";
(6) the "belly slap";
(7) sound and light manipulation.

or should they be disallowed as well?

The Congress is going to have to explicitly condone certain methods, and that is being debated. Citizens will determine whether they agree or disagree with their Senators and Representatives.

If you think that induced hypothermia or forced standing is always and forever too rough, then that is your call. As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists, from records of phone calls, to financial transactions, to surveillance, to human intelligence.

For that matter, you also had propagandists, IIRC. Like Limbaugh and Coulter.

Well, we did hang Julius Streicher for propaganda alone, on the grounds that the Holocaust wouldn't have been possible without such propaganda. But it seems to me that we might not have, had we nabbed Goebbels (who of course committed suicide, after he & his wife poisoned all their children).

Let the record show that I now say "Republicans must be assumed to support torturers."

Good idea. Human nature being what it is, that will bring Republicans over to our side in droves. Certainly it won't cause anyone to dig in their heels and take a bad stand out of pure obstinateness, because human beings are all purely rational beings. Yep, that's the way to go. We'll convince the other side in no time with rhetoric like that.

Or am I mistaken? I'm assuming the goal is to convince Congress to get the U.S. out of the business of torture, doing which will probably require actually convincing some people to change their positions. Is that what's really important?

If you think that induced hypothermia or forced standing is always and forever too rough, then that is your call.

If it were my call, yes, but unfortunately it is not. This piece from the WaPo by Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch (via Mark Kleiman)

As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists, from records of phone calls, to financial transactions, to surveillance, to human intelligence.

That is because this administration ridiculed the idea of treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and wants an issue to run on rather than true intelligence.

If you think that induced hypothermia or forced standing is always and forever too rough, then that is your call.

Dave, hypothermia is torture. Obviously. Try doing it to one of your kids, or your wife, & see what they think. Did you read Katherine on how we *killed* one guy with this method?

As for forced standing, I've been spreading these tidbits around the web:

Here's Robert Conquest on Stalin's torturers:

Even the ostensibly nonphysical methods used in 1936 are described by victims as both mentally and physically devastating. One man arrested briefly told me that the comparatively mild-sounding stoika, when a prisoner was kept standing against a wall for days, was hardly bearable.

But just *standing* isn't torture, is it? Darius Rejali, a professor who studies torture:

Two experts commissioned by the CIA in 1956, Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle, described the effects of forced standing: The ankles and feet swell to twice their size within 24 hours, and moving becomes agonizing. Large blisters develop. The heart rate increases, and some people faint. The kidneys eventually shut down.

According to Marty Lederman, forced standing for 40 hours at a stretch is one of the tactics the CIA uses and the President is defending.

As for your fantasy about "there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists," well, please tell me who's been against any *legal* intel gathering?

As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists

that's just plain ridiculous.

I understand your point, Andrew, but how long do we wait till they come around? DaveC lives next door to Mitch McConnell, when should we stop worrying about how he digs in his heels?

The Congress is going to have to explicitly condone certain methods, and that is being debated.

Congress has to do no such thing.

As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists, from records of phone calls, to financial transactions, to surveillance, to human intelligence.

There is a concerted effort to get the administration to abide by the law and the Constitution when its doing any of those things, and if the administration thinks the law is too strict, it can ask Congress to change it. Instead, what we have is an administration that has taken the position that it can do anything it wants in the War on Whatever the F**K We're Warring On, and only changes it ways when it has exhausted all possible avenues of evasion, cover-up, delay and obfuscation and then only if the freaking Supreme Court has told them they can't keep doing what they're doing.

I meant Mitch digging in, not DaveC.

DaveC's notion about "no" intel gathering tracks Bush's attitude, and offers some insight into why we torture.

My theory, recently formed, is that Bush and Cheney want us to torture because that proves to them how tough they are, how different from the sissy-ass Democrats.

Tell them they have to stay within legal bounds, and their response is "you're not letting us do *anything*!" Because they've dismissed all the legal methods ... the ones that, say, Bill Clinton might authorize ... as inadequate by definition, merely because they *are* both legal and bipartisan-approved.

Torture is about the torturer's building himself up in his mind.

DaveC.: "As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering..."

Well, Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch has a pretty good post up regarding the "miserable wretch of a man" who would shut down the CIA's Interrogation Program completely if he doesn't get his way.

I think it is the same guy who hated the idea of a Homeland Security Department until he found out it was a good way to neuter public employee unions.

I wonder about this guy's mother. She must be a tough bird. To have negotiated with and gotten the best of this snot-nosed kid who threatened to blow up the house and lick the frozen well-pump if he didn't have his way. I hope Osama Bin Laden doesn't have her level of Will.

Last night, Lawrence Kudlow (through dingy little teeth that capitalism seems at a total loss to fix) was raving about reports that some terrorist or other was broken by being subjected to a few seconds of blaring Red Hot Chili Peppers music.

See, there are more gentle methods. But if Bush loses this fight over the Geneva Conventions he'll prevent our people from using the music of Cher to save western civilization.

And, Culture Club would be out. They could either completely subdue the Mideast or send it into conflagration.

DaveC: As I see it, there is a concerted effort going on to shut down any type of intelligence gathering on terrorists, from records of phone calls, to financial transactions, to surveillance, to human intelligence.

As we see it, you're supporting torture.

Not just supporting torturers: supporting torture.

lj,

I'm not suggesting anyone wait. Far from it. I'm suggesting that commentary like "Republicans support torture" and "Republicans are unAmerican" serve only to drive people away from the right position. Like it or not, it's human nature to defend one's position and one's group. People who have been Republicans or who are Republicans can be reasoned into supporting a ban on torture, but it's a lot less likely they can be berated into doing so.

I understand, for example, the frustration people feel towards DaveC's comment. But if you think Dave is somehow unique in that belief, you're wrong. And saying 'that's ridiculous' won't convince them otherwise. You've got to engage and offer an alternative narrative.

I'd argue that what Dave is seeing is inaccurate; we all have the goal of improving our intelligence systems in order to better detect and fight terrorism, but we need to do it the right way. Congress and the President need to sit down and determine what powers the government needs to collect that data, and then develop laws and safeguards that provide that ability while ensuring they are not misused. We need to have a debate on what tactics are and are not permissible in interrogations.

Just ask yourself this: if the Democrats were doing something wrong, and some right-leaning people told you that the Democrats were bad people for supporting their leaders, what would your first reaction be?

It's quite possible that the only way to end torture is to give Bush-supporters a face-saving way to step away from his torture policies.

But this is not the only thing that's really important. It's also important for people to understand to what extent they've been complicit in the current set of American atrocities and how the doctrine of American exceptionalism makes us prone to do this sort of thing. It might be necessary to go easy on Bush voters and not talk about their moral responsibility for this mess, but if so, that's unfortunate.

Lefties are constantly reminded about past leftist support for communist tyrants and though this kind of lefty-bashing is often unfairly directed at lefties who've never done anything of the sort, on the whole I think it's been good for the left to be reminded of it. Apparently, though, the same reasoning doesn't apply to Bush voters. I think I can say why that is the case. People on the far left don't have any real power anyway, so there's no reason to hold back on the criticism. But Bush supporters do have power, so the rules are different. I'm not happy about this, but that's life.

Dave, hypothermia is torture. Obviously. Try doing it to one of your kids, or your wife, & see what they think.

When I was a kid I went backpacking in the winter in the Smokies without a hat. It rained on me, then my hair froze. During the time that I was cold, but did not have hypothermia, I was uncomfortable and shivering. When I did get hypothermia, I just sat down, and told my friends I would catch up with them in a while. At that point I was not uncomfortable and not shivering or anything, but I probably would have died had my friends not come back for me after about 15 minutes, and coerced me to keep walking. So, from my personal experience, I would say that hypothermia is dangerous but not really torture.

"I'm assuming the goal is to convince Congress to get the U.S. out of the business of torture"

I don't think the U.S. should ever have been in the business of torture. I think that was a clear and easy call, on any grounds I can imagine. I don't think we need any new laws, tho old laws were entirely adequate. I think anyone still in the business of torture is clearly criminal.

And I think the idea that we must make compromises to get out of the business of torture...posting rules.

"I'm assuming the goal is to convince Congress to get the U.S. out of the business of torture""

You assume wrong. My goal is to establish the precedent, or better re-establish that the Geneva, Hague, and Torture Conventions are not provisional, conditional, arbitrary, or a matter of whim and will. I am quite willing to sacrifice lives to achieve that goal.

bob,

I'm sorry you seem to think I'm of the opinion we ever should have been in the torture business. That is certainly not the case. Indeed, I concur with that entire paragraph. But since my time machine is on the fritz, the best I can now hope for is to get us out of it as quickly as possible. And doing so means convincing people to stand up and vote the right way. That requires persuasion, not name-calling.

Donald,

Hey, point it out all you want. After we've stopped it. First things first.

I would say that hypothermia is dangerous but not really torture.

So...it's really uncomfortable, dare I say painful, in the state just prior to hypothermia, and dangerous after it sets in, but it's not torture.

I hear that electrodes don't hurt either....after you lose consciousness. Still dangerous, though.

I probably would have died had my friends not come back for me after about 15 minutes, and coerced me to keep walking. So, from my personal experience, I would say that hypothermia is dangerous but not really torture.

DaveC, we are obviously not using the same language, appearances notwithstanding. Almost kills you, dangerous, but not torture? WTF?

Would you care to imagine that rather than your friends' coming to get you, you'd been kept in a cell? And more water poured over you at intervals? And guys offering to dry you off & let you sit by the fire, if you'll just admit that you performed fellatio on Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan?

How are you using the word "torture," exactly?

Andrew: I'm suggesting that commentary like "Republicans support torture" and "Republicans are unAmerican" serve only to drive people away from the right position.

No, Andrew. People like DaveC have never been in the "right position". We are not "driving him away": he's voluntarily driven himself away. If DaveC is happy to support torture, that's where he's put himself: we should not indulge in euphemisms to try avoiding making him feel bad.

if the Democrats were doing something wrong, and some right-leaning people told you that the Democrats were bad people for supporting their leaders, what would your first reaction be?

Hee. This is a joke, yes? Let's see: minimum wage, women's right to choose, access to contraception, same-sex marriage... The idea that I could be persuaded that any of these things were wrong by any means whatsoever, from the sweetest persuasion onwards, is just laughable.

If DaveC feels as strongly as I do about (for example - same-sex marriage) that it's not wrong to torture and murder prisoners, nothing will persuade him otherwise.

bob,

That's a great slogan. Help me out in concrete terms. What do you see as the next step in reaching this laudable goal? Whose lives do you feel should be sacrificed? And how will that reestablish the precedents of Geneva?

Dave: Your friends COERCED you to keep walking?

I once ate a popsicle really quickly and gave myself a gigantic ice cream headache. My mother coerced me to stop. Which was too bad, because I was just about to confess to being the second gunman on the grassy knoll. If I recall correctly, she wailed out some Red Hot Chili Pepper lyrics, which was odd, considering that the Peppers weren't born yet.

Dave, sorry to pile on. Are you O.K. down there? Can you breathe still? May I suggest that confessing that "hypothermia can kill you in another 15 minutes but is NOT really torture" is a bad way to avoid the torture of a pile-on.

O.K. everybody get up. Coerce Dave to walk around. ;)

When I was a kid I went backpacking in the winter in the Smokies without a hat.

which is exactly the same as being tied up in a windowless room where you are alternately beaten and then questioned by three big guys with guns. poor DaveC.

I posted this on the next thread:

GEN. KIMMONS: Let me answer the first question. That's a good question. I think -- I am absolutely convinced the answer to your first question is no. No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.

And moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress, under -- through the use of abusive techniques would be of questionable credibility. And additionally, it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used. And we can't afford to go there.

Some of our most significant successes on the battlefield have been -- in fact, I would say all of them, almost categorically all of them have accrued from expert interrogators using mixtures of authorized, humane interrogation practices, in clever ways that you would hope Americans would use them, to push the envelope within the bookends of legal, moral and ethical, now as further refined by this field manual. So we don't need abusive practices in there. Nothing good will come from them.

Kimmons is the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. Or was. I'm sure he's been sacked by now.

So folks, I am asking the question. Which of these is torture and should never be allowed?

(1) induced hypothermia;
(2) long periods of forced standing;
(3) sleep deprivation;
(4) the "attention grab";
(5) the "attention slap";
(6) the "belly slap";
(7) sound and light manipulation.

Depending on how long, how hard, how quiet, how bright, how cold, how hot, etc., any of these could be torture or none of these could be torture.

Is sound over 130 dB torture? Hmm, I don't know. For how long are you talking about? So then is total sensory deprivation torture? How long would be too long for that. Well, I'm for giving our soldiers and intelligence workers the benefit of the doubt, unless there is some sort of explicit definition.

First, I'd lank to thank you all for coming to this meeting, we're really excited about the results for the last quarter and even more about excited the future.

Second, I'd like to recognize Joe Smith of the Thumbscrew division. Joe was a real trooper these past few months, powering on with his work despite suffering hearing loss from all the screaming. Also, special reconition should be given to Ann Jones, who produced a 99.999%, that's right, the mythical "five nines," confession rate this past quarter. What makes Ann special is her bad-cop worse-cop routine. Just when the suspect thinks things can't get any worse, Ann pulls out the blow torch. How about a nice round of applause for Ann? Great job Ann, you get the employee of the month parking space.

Next I'd like to announce that the Board has approved expansion into the Cattle Prod market. We see this as a real growth opportunity, as cattle prods are simple to operate and yet very effective.

Last, but certainly not least, thanks to all the hard work we've done the past five years I've learned that President Bush will be presenting our CEO with the Presidential Medal of Freedom next month. While the CEO will be receiving the award, he asked me to tell you that it wouldn't have been possible without all of your hard work in the trenches with the butt plugs, pliers, hypothermia, water boards, electrodes, and all the other tools of our trade. As I'm sure you know, our stock price reached an all time high yesterday, making our investors very happy.

Great job folks, and let's have an even better next fiscal year!

DaveC,
the difference is that you had some control over your actions. Hiking and getting soaked is different than having all of your clothes taken away, having yourself doused with ice water and left in a cell. Joe Theismann having his thighbone emerge from his leg after he was hit by Laurence Taylor is not torture. Having someone do that to you when you are restrained in a chair is.

Andrew,
thanks for the response, but in the face of such comments like McConnell's, as dissected by Hilzoy with actual examples, I'm hard pressed to understand why I should even care about heels digging in. You suggest that it is more important to get them to stop now, but a package that allows this administration and Republicans to claim even the slightest justification for this is, imo of course, sending the wrong message. What's really important is to make this position so toxic that no one can conceivably come up with a justification for it. Unfortunately, it seems like it is going to have to take place the way it did over Vietnam, and it will inevitably leave a rump of 20 or 30% convinced that it was Bush derangement syndrome or Communist sympathies or whatever that makes people protest. I'm not happy about this, but I see it coming down the pike, and comments about how we don't want to have people dig in their heels just increase my sense of dread.

Which of these is torture and should never be allowed?

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

mm k?

DaveC,

I'd outlaw #1 and #2 because they can easily kill.

I'm not comfortable with #3, although I can't give a reason for banning it right now. I'd still ban it, though, just on my gut feeling.

#4 through #6 are bad because they can too easily lead to escalation.

#7 is too generic to judge.

Also, see this (amateurishly written) book description over at Amazon. The Luftwaffe's crack interrogator never used torture. Go figure.

This Intelligence Officer gained the reputation as the man who could magically get all the answers he needed from the prisoners of war. In most cases the POWs being interrogated never realized that their words, small talk or otherwise, were important pieces of the mosaic Hanns Scharff was constructing for the benefit of Germany's war effort. In the words of one erstwhile POW; "What did Scharff get from me? Nothing, yet there is no doubt he got something. If you talked about the weather or anything else he no doubt got some information or confirmation from it. His technique was psychic, not physical." * * *

The tortures and savagery of the North Koreans and North Vietnamese caused prisoners to resist to the death. Hanns Scharff's methods broke down barriers so effectively that the USAF invited him to speak about his methods to military audiences in the United States after World War II.

Andrew, one reason for banning sleep deprivation is that it's particularly liable to yielding false confessions.

Keep somebody awake for 72 hours, and they'll confess to anything, if you'll just let them sleep. See Darius Rejali on the subject (annoying Salon click-through ad).

The Soviets got lots of their false confessions through simple sleep deprivation, while the CIA stared in awe, convinced they must be brainwashing their victims or using chemicals. Lots of crazy 1950s-era experimentation went on, until our spooks got wise. (See McCoy, A Question of Torture.)

So folks, I am asking the question. Which of these is torture and should never be allowed?

That would be all of them. Every. Single. Goddamned. One.

Army Field Manual 30-15 and a litany of other research from our own government comes to the same conclusion: this kind of cruel and degrading treatment is illegal (btw, both under our own treaties and statutes and regulatioins AND UNDER CUSTOMARY INTERNATIONAL LAW, meaning we would be behaving as a pariah nation to even "clarify" this, whether we legislated it or not), it is immoral, it puts our personnel at greater risk when captured and it is ineffective (and worse than ineffective, it leads our limited intelligence resources on wild goose chases, such as happened after the madman Al-Libi was waterboarded so that Dubya "wouldn't be disappointed"... kind of like Uday or Qusay when you get right down to it).

I hear that electrodes don't hurt either

If you have back surgery, and the hospital that you go to is any good, you will have electrodes uop and down your spine and on your head. Furthermore, you will have electric stimulation on your wrists and lower legs. And you should want this to be done because it will decrease the chances of being accidentally paralyzed during the operation, but it also might freak you out.

Same deal with lie-detector tests. I don't think that they objectively prove anything, that is, they don't work in that the squiggly lines don't positively identify a lie or rule out a lie. On the other hand, the person that is being tested may be more likely to give useful information - sometimes even when they are trying not to do so. So this is coercive, but is it torture? I'd agree that putting electrodes on genitals is out of bounds, but how about using some freaky looking mad scientist setup - is that torture because there are electrodes involved?

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

That is totally too broad a definition. I mean, if you cannot punish a criminal for a crime that they have committed, what the heck can you do? You can't intimidate them either. Well then, a whole slew of my teachers were torturers by that definition.

but how about using some freaky looking mad scientist setup - is that torture because there are electrodes involved?

Funny you should ask. The notorious pic of the hooded guy from Abu Ghraib--the one called "the Statue of Liberty" by the Iraqis we've been teaching democracy to--shows wires running from his hands.

He was told that if he didn't keep standing, he'd be electrocuted.

Is that mad-scientist enough for you?

At what point, DaveC, are you going to start paying attention to the Army Interrogation Manual, and the statements by expert interrogators, that torture isn't just wrong, it's useless? That professional interrogation, built on creating a relationship with the subject, is more effective?

Instead of acting like you're the first person to ever think about these things?

I didn't know jack about torture. But I had strong opinions on the subject. So I looked around to see whether the facts supported or refuted those opinions. And now I know lots of creepy stuff about CIA experiments and NKVD interrogations that I didn't used to know.

I for one am looking forward to your doing the same. You might start here, with a roundtable including Mark Bowden, who began from the position (not unlike your own) that torture might be necessary, and where he went from there.

Hmmm, mad scientist set up. How about this one?

That is totally too broad a definition. I mean, if you cannot punish a criminal for a crime that they have committed, what the heck can you do?

This failing to read what's in front of you, DaveC, is not helping you learn anything from this thread.

It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Does that help?

Anderson,

Thanks. I suspected there were good reasons for it, but I'm not an interrogator.

lj,

Yes, there are some people who will dig in their heels regardless. But there are others who are on the bubble, but who will react negatively to the kind of comment we're discussing. This is politics, which means it's the art of the possible. It's possible we can get Congress to pass a bill that establishes that the U.S. does not torture and lives up to its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, but to do so we've got to work at the margins and get the votes. Or are you hoping that intransigence can simply prevent any bill from being passed? (Which might be better, I'm not sure.)

Anderson - don't you know that if the President or someone in the administration thinks you're a terrorist then you're a terrorist? They act to create their own reality.

OT: Tanks are rolling through the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, amid rumors of a coup attempt, CNN confirms.

Actually, LJ, I think Dostoevsky posed a similar scenario, and apparently he rejected torturing the child.

(His dichotomy was perpetual utopia vs. small child, rather than horrible apocalypse vs. small child, but I can't really see that it would change Alyosha's response.)

I mean, if you cannot punish a criminal for a crime that they have committed, what the heck can you do?

when you read the 8th Amendment...

    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

... do you miss the qualifiers there too ?

Anderson - don't you know that if the President or someone in the administration thinks you're a terrorist then you're a terrorist? They act to create their own reality.

That reminds me of the account from one of our prisoners:

The detainee said the soldiers handcuffed him to a bed.

"Do you believe in anything?" he said the soldier asked. "I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you.' "

Reality-based vs. faith-based? Faith in what, exactly? ... That is maybe the single most chilling thing that I recall reading, out of the many chilling things that Bush has created for us to read.

I agree with Andrew's answer to DaveC's question. And, as DaveC probably anticipates, with everyone's response to his claim that there's an effort to stop intelligence gathering on terrorists: no, just an attempt to get our government to do this within the laws. We are, after all, a government of laws, not of men.

About presuming that Republicans support torture: again, I'm with Andrew. What matters is to get this to stop. That matters more than forcing people to admit that they have supported something evil, and it is probably also a necessary first step en route to the second. We are not likely to get people to actually change their minds by telling them that they are, in fact, the antichrist.

Moreover, I don't think it's true that Republicans necessarily support torture. Republicans in Congress who are not working against this bill: sure. Republicans who are working against this bill, but who nonetheless support a Congressional leadership that's opposed to them on this: a harder call. Republican citizens who are political junkies, and comment on blogs about how all this is necessary: sure. Republicans who don't follow all this stuff closely, and who are part of the audience for whose sake Bush is describing torture as "alternative techniques" rather than spelling out what he means: not so clear. They are enabling torturers, but they may not at all support torture. (If they did, there would be no need for all this obfuscation.)

There are a lot of ordinary people who really do not know what Bush is talking about. No doubt all of them should, just as we should all be well-informed citizens who take the responsibility of casting our votes really seriously. No doubt, similarly, that I should not recently have found myself in the position of not voting for members of the Democratic State Commission, since I had no clue who any of the candidates were. But it does no good at all to conflate these people with Dr. Mengele, or even Mitch McConnell. Our primary need right now is to educate them, not to vilify them.

Conceded that "Republicans support torture" is less accurate and less useful than "Bush and Cheney support torture."

For that matter, are the Dems taking an open stand on this? No. They're hanging back for (mis)perceived political advantage. So do the Democrats support torture? How do we know?

"That's a great slogan. Help me out in concrete terms."

I am working on this for a comment. It would be a long story. To be honest, I expect very little concrete progress toward achieving my goal. I consider the bills before Congress to be backward steps and cannot accept or support them in any fashion.

I consider "War Criminals" a description of behavior, not of character. I would not even like to judge Adolf Eichmann's character, he was kind to his family and dog. He did very bad things. This is the point.

What price was paid for demanding Unconditional Surrender in WWII? If I have my timing and facts right, perhaps the highest price ever, a price Truman perhaps never realized was paid. Why was that price paid? Why was a negotiated surrender unacceptable?

Or are you hoping that intransigence can simply prevent any bill from being passed? (Which might be better, I'm not sure.)

I'm not sure what I am hoping, except that I wake up and this was a bad dream. It seems to me that when the President says that if these measures aren't approved, then we were not going to go forward, there is an intransigence that has to be met with the good guys saying 'sorry, here is where we dig our heels in'. It's possible that we can get a bill, but if it has the effect of immunizing people from the charge that they supported torture, I'm not sure if that's a worthwhile tradeoff. I personally think that the same resoluteness that Reid is portraying over the wiretap bill. I am very concerned that Dems are sitting this out because they are hoping to watch the Republicans tear each other up. I think they should say 'I don't care what compromise you think up, it is not going to pass.'

Anderson,
true, but the point is that there's actually no way to stop DaveC from proposing a bigger bomb or a greater disaster from which we are forced to derive the benefits of coercion. To simply enter in the discussion is to miss the point.

LJ: To simply enter in the discussion is to miss the point.

Gotcha.

Bob: Why was that price paid? Why was a negotiated surrender unacceptable?

Because there was a widespread feeling that the negotiated armistice in 1918 led to a do-over in 1939, and this time, by god, we were going to make damn sure the Germans knew they'd lost.

I personally am not 100% convinced it was a good idea. The Germans certainly used it as an excuse for continuing to fight on even in the west. OTOH, excuses for wartime conduct are a German cottage industry.

Andrew, it is a sign of a real sickness that the following slogan would be persuasive: if we ban torture, than the liberals will have won.

Mr. Rove is betting on it, and he's no fool when it comes to understanding what his base thinks.

My own thoughts concerning anyone for whom this slogan is a motivation to support the President cannot be written without violating the posting rules.

"What matters is to get this to stop"

No, hilzoy. What matters is to minimize the odds of it happening again.

We will be attacked again. The post-war conventions were not negotiated with the concept that there would be no more war. We must, I must, do my moral calculations within the framework of a nuke destroying Chicago. This will be a multi-generational war. It is going to get much worse.

How I can keep America sane and decent? The rules of war are hard rules, and will cost lives to enforce and protect. We must be upfront and honest and direct about our priorities.

THEN

CharleyCarp! Help us out! Why is there "classfied evidence" to conceal from our prisoners in the 1st place? Slarti wants to know.

DaveC: Why have you not yet asked what interrogation techniques have been found to produce best results? Don't you care? You seem awfully interested in how much pain and misery the rest of us might want to allow, but in fact many of us are lots more interested in best practices - if we could allow only a handful of techniques, what would we want them to be? You don't seem to have any interest in that at all, though.

As has been pointed out here many times, the techniques that actually work aren't violent at all. Interrogators who establish their authority peacefully get the information that saves lives and changes the course of wars. Good interrogation needs time, and the prisoner's physical security and basic well-being, in order to break down the barriers between potentially useful information and the interrogator's knowledge of it. Brutality is only a distraction from this. A list of half a dozen or a dozen best practices in interrogation wouldn't get anywhere near the "is this torture" list that so fascinates DaveC, as it does Bush and his croneys.

Some of us would actually like to fight a war usefully, if we're going to fight it at all, and in any event, since there's always some need for intelligence gathering, prefer to have best practices enshrined as best practices.

Anderson, I think the statement that Dems are not taking a position on torture is borderline calumnous. The statements may not be getting through to you, but they are being made nonetheless.

Apropos of nothing at all, really:

On this day in 1945, Lord Haw-Haw was convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Something to consider when speaking of war crimes, treason and the like.

And, Anderson, to anticipate your response, no, I don't think making statements audible in Mississippi ought to be the top priority for the congressional Dem leadership in the current political circumstance.

Anderson, I think the statement that Dems are not taking a position on torture is borderline calumnous. The statements may not be getting through to you, but they are being made nonetheless.

Well, I sure hope that's the case, but the media is doing a great job of stifling them. I admit to getting very frustrated very easily with the Dems.

As for Slarti on Lord Haw-Haw, aka William Joyce, I like to quote A.J.P. Taylor. Joyce was an American who got a British passport by falsely stating he was a British subject. That was how they were able to prosecute him for treason.

Thus, "Technically, Joyce was hanged for making a false statement when applying for a passport, the usual penalty for which is a small fine." English History 1914-1945, pp. 533-34.

And, Anderson, to anticipate your response, no, I don't think making statements audible in Mississippi ought to be the top priority for the congressional Dem leadership in the current political circumstance

Pooh. I rely exclusively on the Yankee (online) media, to where I frequently learn about my own state's news only when I happen to find something in the Washington Post.

Though, who knows, maybe if them anchor-folk would just talk slower ...

Charley,

You should know better than that. People don't think that way. When a Republican hears a comment disparaging Republicans, he doesn't think it through rationally, weigh the evidence, and come to a conclusion. He hears the slur and reacts to the person making the slur. (Equivalence alert: Democrats do this, too. And Libertarians. It's part of the human condition.) They're not going to phrase it as 'if we can't torture, the terrorists have won,' they're just going to discount the argument because of the slur.

Really, this all comes down to what the goal is. If the consensus here is to preen about how morally superior 'we' are, then I'll leave you to it. I maintain that finding a way to stop torture that is currently taking place.

The past is past. We can't change what has happened.

The future is out of our control. We don't know what we'll do in the future, let alone what anyone else will do.

But we do control right now. And right now, people are being tortured. So I'm all about changing the now.

That was how they were able to prosecute him for treason.

Yeah, I knew that. My point, however, was to (once again) fasten some of the finger-pointing to real-life consequences. And, yes indeedy, I do in fact realize that Republicans have been much more guilty of this than have Democrats.

They're not going to phrase it as 'if we can't torture, the terrorists have won,'

Andrew, sorry, but you are so kidding yourself.

Respectable figures like Bush may not say that, but there's no other implication conceivable from what he has said. He's flat-out stated that if the CIA isn't allowed to use its "alternative" methods, then security will be impaired.

Q at Belgravia was quoting Rush Limbaugh:

So, again, we've gone from the Geneva Conventions not even applying to terrorists to having them apply to terrorists, to preventing us from interrogating terrorists effectively. This is going to go down as the event that will result in us getting hit again, and if we do, and if McCain, et al, prevail, I can tell you where fingers are going to be pointed on this program: at every senator, Republican or Democrat, who stood in the way here.

Clear enough, doncha think?

Oh, I didn't see the question on classified evidence. I can see that it would be critical that criminal defendants not be told who is saying he saw them commit the crime. If they knew, then they might be able to show that they were not in the same place at the same time as the witness,* or maybe that the witness has a personal grudge against the defendant unrelated to the events in question. [/snark]

Everything any prisoner says is classifed. Anything any member of the services says is classified. Anything any witness has ever said is classified. The names of everyone involved are classified. Anything ever learned about the prisoner -- where he grew up, the names of his siblings, how he came to be where he was arrested -- is classified. What methods were used in the interrogation of the defendant, or of witnesses, is classified. Pretty much the entire factual universe relevant to either a Commission trial or a CSRT is classified, except as the government decides to selectively de-classify it. And guess what, they don't like to de-classify facts that don't reflect well.

* This is a huge problem at Guantanamo, where one prisoner has made claims implicating dozens of others, many of which are demonstrably false. (Or would be demonstrably false, if anyone was actually interested in checking them out).

If you have back surgery, and the hospital that you go to is any good, you will have electrodes uop and down your spine and on your head.

Well DaveC, if you have back surgery, or any other type of invasive surgery, and the hospital you go to is any good, the doctors will slice open your body with an extremely sharp knife and poke around the insides of your body.

Furthermore, you should have this done. I'd agree that an extremely sharp knife on the genitals is out of bounds, but i mean, is it really torture just because it's a knife?

Yeah, I knew that.

Figured you did, but it's a wonderful quote. And see my just-posted reply to Andrew, quoting Limbaugh, where he actually says "fingers are going to be pointed."

Better than rifles, I suppose.

For me, one of the key facts of the 20th century was the amazing flips. How did the Nazis or Soviets or Cultural Revolution happen? And what does it mean that the German people were reasonably well behaved citizens after WWII?

It means "Don't follow leaders"

You will rarely hear me say anything nice about anyone. Certainly not Democratic leaders. I have attacked Obama, hell I don't need to go there.

What was the point of the post-War consensus, on everything from the various conventions to Bretton Woods to the U.N.

What is America, what is the American project? "Give your loyalty to principle, put your faith in law and process." Inalienable rights.

I am perhaps monstrous and treasonous. I have little loyalty to the U.S. as a geographical entity or collection of persons.
I place a very conditional value on individual human life, and a near absolute value on the post-war consensus, as ideals.

Nanking, Treblinka, Stalingrad, Iwo Jima. Too many people died because of ...well you describe the problem. I define it very broadly.

I would take the country to full civil war over torture.

Pretty much the entire factual universe relevant to either a Commission trial or a CSRT is classified, except as the government decides to selectively de-classify it. And guess what, they don't like to de-classify facts that don't reflect well.

Like I suspected, except worse. Slarti?

"We don't know what we'll do in the future, let alone what anyone else will do."

Good grief.

I will not torture. I will die first. You consider that "preening" I suddenly consider you quite dangerous.

Anderson,

Maybe I am kidding myself. If a majority of Americans are willing to support torture because they think it will make them safer, then I guess it really is time to move to Estonia. But I don't think that people are thinking of it as actual torture. I think that most people hear the insults don't think about the torture at all.

As for the Limbaugh quote, I read it as conflating torture with other intelligence-gathering techniques. Our goal should be to get the evidence Katherine does such a wonderful job gathering into the public forum so people hear about what is being done in their names. I think if more people heard that, there'd be a lot less support for torture. (At least, I really, really hope so.)

I would take the country to full civil war over torture.

Good luck with that.

bob,

Coming from the guy raising an army, that's pretty funny. No, I do not consider that preening, for the record.

I'm all about changing the now.

I'm sure you are. I didn't say or mean to imply that I thought you would go against your principles on this issue because you don't want domestic opponents to have won. I'm surprised, though, if you are telling me that there are no people on the Administration's side of the question for whom the domestic politics of this is more important than the principle.

I hope you've spoken with your senators on this point. Sen. Brownback might be worth engaging on this.

Not that anyone asked, but the argument to the effect that "thus-and-such has consented to receive essentially the same treatment", as a defense of [torture, highly coercive questioning, whatever you want to call it], is uncompelling. The difference is consent. There are other, similar kinds of treatments that humans can receive at the hands of other humans that are acceptable (even pleasurable) if consensual, but otherwise traumatic.

And yes, I believe I've used some of the same arguments myself, but was wrong to do so. If I, once upon a time, got a rather large splinter embedded under my thumbnail, and then elected to remove it myself (which involved removing part of my own thumbnail, note. Excruciating pain, that), does that make it perfectly ok for me to insert splinters under YOUR thumbnail, and then yank them out, if I can convince myself that you know something important?

This of course ignores questions of efficacy of such techniques, as well as whether such techniques would be justified if there was a chance that the suspect didn't actually know anything and in fact was an innocent bystander, etc, etc, which seem to get completely ignored by those who are convinced that torture is just another weapon in our arsenal, and that we're crippling ourselves if we have to give it up.

Andrew: If the consensus here is to preen about how morally superior 'we' are, then I'll leave you to it.

I agree with Bob about this comment.

I maintain that finding a way to stop torture that is currently taking place.

Difficult, if Republicans in Congress and in the White House are determined to make torture legal, and part of that is whitewashing torture and pretending that torture techniques authorized by Congress aren't "really" torture, and - which follows - when prisoners die because these authorized torture techniques were applied, as they have and will, this is not "really" murder. That's where DaveC already is: and it appears you're heading in that direction.

The past is past. We can't change what has happened.

So, no point prosecuting US soldiers who have committed torture and murder, then? No point even trying? No point even saying that US soldiers who have committed torture and murder - as so many have, and so many will, if this gets through Congress - are committing crimes. That's the past.

The future is out of our control. We don't know what we'll do in the future, let alone what anyone else will do.

I join Bob in saying I will not commit torture. That part of the future is under my control. If you can't join us in saying that, I agree with Bob.

"Good luck with that."

Thank you. What I want, what I hope is likely irrelevant. What I expect and predict is an American committed Holocaust.

The momentum to prevent it is not really there.

Andrew: If a majority of Americans are willing to support torture because they think it will make them safer, then I guess it really is time to move to Estonia. But I don't think that people are thinking of it as actual torture.

Do you really think this a good reason in and of itself not to point out to them that of course it is, and to explain why?

Why have you not yet asked what interrogation techniques have been found to produce best results?

DaveC can speak for himself, but Bush, like a passive-aggressive child, doesn't care what produces the most effective results, only what he's permitted or isn't permitted to do.

George Packer gets it exactly right:

"The purpose of the rhetoric is not to persuade—if the Administration believed in argument on the merits, Bush would have to defend torture—but to make reasoned debate impossible. With one half of the country whipped into a state of fear and the other half sunk in cynicism, Americans can scarcely think or talk clearly about whether, five years on, we need a profound change in strategy."

I'm inclined to agree with Bob. The Republican Party--as it is currently constituted--has become a cancer on this country.

Slarti?

Eh? CC's comment didn't mean much to me, other than that it underscores the idea that "classified" can mean different things to different people.

To me, it means (or could mean) that intelligence sources and methods may be risked by revealing the information to those who aren't authorized. So, I can see how it COULD be that an intelligence source might be risked by sharing the intelligence with a prisoner, and then having him share it with two friends, and so on. And of course this brings us back to how this can cause problems in trial. But I'm ignorant of how tribunals are supposed to work.

But we do control right now.

No, we don't. Change something right now, if you don't believe me.

Slarti, I think CharleyCarp has experience with the tribunals and CSRT's or whatever they're called, so I think his was a pretty good indication of what's "classified."

So, no point prosecuting US soldiers who have committed torture and murder, then? No point even trying? No point even saying that US soldiers who have committed torture and murder - as so many have, and so many will, if this gets through Congress - are committing crimes. That's the past.

We can't change the past. That's not an opinion. That is (barring new discoveries in physics and the opinions of certain historians) a fact, not an opinion. If you think that fact means that prosecution of those who have committed crimes is pointless, well, we'll just have to disagree.

Personally, I'm all in favor of prosecuting those who've broken the law, both because it may prevent them from doing so in the future and because it serves as a potential deterrent in preventing others from engaging in such activities. But I am not under the illusion that doing so will alter the past. Is that your contention?

That part of the future is under my control.

No it's not. It will only be under your control when it becomes the now. Again, this is pretty basic physics. I'm perfectly content to believe that you and bob will not commit torture if the situation ever arises (which seems unlikely), but the only thing you actually control is what you're doing right now. Really. Give it a try. Resolve that tomorrow you're going to get up at three in the morning; try to control that from right now. I suspect you'll find that the only time you can control that will be tomorrow morning at three. Before then, you have an intention. After then, what happened, happened. Your span of control, however, is only that moment.

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