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June 11, 2007


The last part is particularly interesting, and gets at an important point. Nothing a human can do justifies this type of torture (particularly state-sanctioned). The big error that people make is that they make the correctness of torture hinge on the goodness/badness of the person in question.

Liberals often dance around it, but people should probably just call a spade a spade and state forcefully that prohibiting torture has nothing -- nothing, nothing -- to do with the person in question. I'll stipulate infinite evil, and even then, I'll argue torture is immoral.

It's the brightest of lines.

Well said. I'll agree with publius that the last bit is the most important -- all of us die eventually, and the only thing we'll have to take with us is what we were in life. A terrorist will always be a terrorist, whether we capture them or thwart them or not. They've already condemned themselves, and I don't have to throw my honor down the hole after them to change that. I don't appreciate my country doing it on my behalf.

Because there's another motivation at work, namely: concern for my country, and the desire that it be the best country it can be.

There are some things we, as individuals, should not do to other people.

I'm nostalgic for the good old days of the Cold War, when we condemned NKVD/KGB methods of torture. When conservatives pointed out the horror.

I would feel sympathy even for Dahmer. No one deserves this treatment. You wouldn't do it to an animal; certainly not to a fellow human being. Least of all someone who is at worst a low-level Al-Queda or Taliban grunt. Someone who probably had as much responsibility for 9/11 as an arbitrary American soldier has for My Lai

What have we become?

well said hilzoy. It is amazing that we're even having this debate here in America.

Well, I've never seen a "liberal dance around it"--I've seen no liberals not take a hard and fast position on torture. some of them say its wrong--full stop. Some of them say it doesn't work and its wrong. Some of them say it doesn't work and its wrong and its immoral and they themselves wouldn't do it. Show me an actual liberal who says its ok to do?

I had the honor of going to hear Lt. commander Charles Swift, who fought the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case, at an ACLU dinner. There's a guy you'd think would take a wishy washy view of things since he's a Navy Defence Lawyer. On the contrary, he said flat out that Guantanamo and torture both simply "created more terrorists" and anything that did that had to be wrong and also counterproductive.


Pardon the irrelevance, but you have unclosed italics around "four-month isolation regime" (the closing tag has ".i" instead of "/i") and they're breaking my feed aggregator...

When conservatives pointed out the horror.

Those were the days my friend…

If we can't chain naked bodies into contorted shapes for long, painful periods while blaring the sound of screaming children then the terrorists will have won.

If we can't chain naked bodies into contorted shapes for long, painful periods while blaring the sound of screaming children then the terrorists will have won.

Yes, I know you're being sarcastic, but...there are worse things than having the terrorists win. Becoming them, for example. Or behaving so badly that they look relatively good by comparison (à la Hitler making Stalin seem like a cuddly ally, Cortez making the locals want Montezuma back, Pol Pot making the Vietnamese invasion seem good to the Cambodians, etc.) That's worse and that's happening. Dammit, how do we stop it?

Can we now stop pretending (or seeming to grant the false assumption) that this torture was about gathering information?

Interestingly, the US Government condemns the Iranians for "legalized kidnapping" when the Iranians do this stuff:

US Says Iran's Response on Missing Former FBI Agent Case Not Credible
By David Gollust
State Department
08 June 2007
The State Department late Thursday issued a statement expressing dismay over what it said was Iran's decision to harass and in some cases imprison American citizens on "groundless charges.

Hi -- I've fixed the italics, but I can't figure out what I did to prevent any paragraphs from existing in the last bit. If anyone can suggest possible mistakes that might have had this effect, feel free.

Serves me right -- usually I proofread again after I post (for some reason, I can't do it well in html), but this time I just went to bed. Hah! said the html, and pounced.

Wait -- there are no paragraphs at all, except for blockquotes. Huh?

Well, now we know why GWB was so insistent that Poland was a significant ally in the GWOT leading up to the 2004 election. They were putting their asses on the line, legally, for us.

Hah. I fixed it. Manually.

One wonders how much longer till our nation's ideals and spirit is essentially crushed, if it isn't already. I don't think a country like ours, based on ideals like "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" can survive long if it throws away those ideals in the name of expediancy.

A Lear, a Gulfstream, and a Boeing Business Jet???

Why can't we rendition these folks on commercial carriers and save some money??

The fact that you have to explain to your readership why kidnapping and torturing people -- even very guilty people -- is bad...well, that alone speaks volumes.
This country has been corroded by our dingbat president's fake black-and-white moral philosophy, if you can call it that. When you have to explain to people that principle alone is often a good enough reason not to do bad things, when you have to explain that if you whack your moral compass enough times it eventually loses its function, well then we as a nation have little to hope for.
If your readers can't understand simple principle-oriented notions like "torture is always bad!" then how can we expect them to grasp the subtleties of how we've undermined the statehood of every country we seek to exploit? How can you convey the importance of self-determination for states in the middle east, even if the interim effects of that self-determination are sometimes less than desirable?
Dimwits get what they deserve. Are we a nation of dimwits?

Skeptic -- I think the (core) readership is on board with the "torture bad" concept. However, there is a significant portion of the public who have been cowed into believing otherwise. Some of these people occasionally drop in, but for me the value of hilzoy's more detailed arguments is they give me the ammo to have more than an "Is not! Is so!" exchage with people who might disagree.

I think Hilzoy's arguments are wonderfully clear, too. I myself cannot, however, argue from a position of "love of country", simply because I suffer from a condition called 'acute cosmopolitanism,' and I am therefore not a patriot. It is not love of country that leads *me* to want the US to treat people fairly: it is love of justice.

Farmgirl, I get you. But my point is, people who are stupid enough to not get it in the first place will not be swayed by the most eloquent or logical of arguments. They just think it's okay to torture. They're goal-oriented, we're principle-oriented. They're scared of terror, we're scared of losing our moral bearings.
You can't reform a sociopath. That's why they call them sociopaths.

"But my point is, people who are stupid enough to not get it in the first place will not be swayed by the most eloquent or logical of arguments."

In most cases it's not that people are "stupid"; it's that they have different knowledge sets as to what's been going on, and what historical contexts to place it in, than most of us here do.

In some cases this means they can eventually reached. In other cases not so much. Commonly there are a lot of social/intellectual/emotional filters, often serving to disparage a wide variety of sources of information as legitimate, that interfere with getting to an understanding you and I would agree with. But simple intelligence and ability to process information isn't necessarily lacking, and concluding otherwise is often an error -- an error that happens to make us feel good about ourselves, and superior to others, which is a darn good reason to be suspicious of it.

people who are stupid enough to not get it in the first place will not be swayed by the most eloquent or logical of arguments.

Sure they can be. But a lot of it has to do with moving the line that defines torture. Of course torture is bad, the question then becomes what is torture? “Fun with power tools” is obvious. But I originally did not consider isolation or stress positions or temperature extremes to be torture. It is only via hilzoy’s (and Katherine’s) logic and eloquence that I came to change my mind on that. So just consider me to be a reformed sociopath.

Remember when defending torture was tantamount to defending pedophilia?

Actually, I think -- just guessing -- that a good number of the conservatives I read on blogs do seem to think that liberals are just unhinged by emotion -- everyone except the successful is just a poor victim whom we must drop everything to help, while rich people, the US, etc., are the evil bad ogres who victimize them. If you read someone arguing against torturing actual terrorists -- not innocent people, but actual terrorists --with this in the back of your mind, it's much easier to dismiss the arguments, via the same kind of mental laziness that might lead someone on the left not to take seriously the idea that a conservative arguing against a particular regulation on the toxic waste dumping industry could possibly be arguing in good faith. (Even though surely there are regulations on that industry that might be enacted that are stupid.)

You might find this interesting. My son was taking a course at the local junior college and attending the state police academy. In his junior college class the professor asked who supported torture. My son and the professor were the ONLY ones in the classroom against torture. In his police academy class the professor asked the same question and roughly 50% of the class was against torture (many of whom were ex-military) --some even commented that they weren't becoming cops to abuse and torture people.

What this tells me is that our society, as a whole, is largely lost, though it can probably be regained with the right kind of leadership. On the other hand, there is still some institutional inertia in favor of our historical principles, though it is being quickly eroded.

My uncle once told me that the ends didn't justify the means, they included them.

"Why can't we rendition these folks on commercial carriers and save some money??"

I don't think Travelocity lists flights to the City of Dis.


"though it is being quickly eroded"

In other words - the sky is falling.

Slightly offtopic, but I wondered if you'd seen this? Blackwater are working very, very hard to keep any information about the deaths of the four Blackwater mercenaries killed in Fallujah on March 31 three years ago out of the public domain. Obviously, this is wrong in itself - the families of the dead men have a right to know as much as their employer can tell them about how they died - but the implications are that Blackwater has something to hide - something that they're prepared to go to any amount of trouble to conceal.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 is an Illegal act of Conspiracy between George W Bush, John McCain, and Certain Republican party members of the United States Congress to Obstruct Justice by passing Legislation giving them Immunity from prosecution for Illegal and Criminal Acts of War as described in the Supreme Court Ruling in Hamdan Vs Rumsfeld.

They do it in Poland because they can't do it in the USof A? Please stop. Do you have ANY idea of what goes on in prisons inside this country? To American citizens? But then they're only black and brown American citizens so who cares.

There is no such thing as feeling "badly" about anything. Do you have an impaired sense of touch?

You feel "bad" about something (emotionally).

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