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December 19, 2008

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Of course, he's never really been faced with those circumstances, just with the fantasy of those circumstances in his mind.

If he hadn't caused so much pain and destruction, it would be sad, really.

Torture: ineffective after twenty days. Relationship-building: effective in six hours.

Absolutely. And yet you know exactly how the "realistic" tough dark-side-facing "conservative" will spin that -- it was the 20 days that broke the man down so that that "relationship" could be built. The real comparison (and I imagine "Alexander" gives some) would be between a body of experience with interrogations both with and entirely untainted by torture....

But how can you believe anything a terrorist says without the answer being forced out of him (or her)? In Rome the testimony of a slave was only valid when he was tortured first because all slaves lie. Do you expect modern terrorists to be more honest than ancient slaves? [/snark]

Thanks, for that! I'm fairly new reading here so I was unaware of your long history of activism against torture. Recently, I was made aware in some offblog communication with one of your regular commentators. Thanks Nell for taking the time to educate me on the long history of hilzoy's activism against torture.

This really clears up any misunderstandings people new to this blog might have and is info I was previously unaware of. That's why I came to appreciate this blog, I like the opportunity to learn from smart people willing to explore difficult/emotional subjects in factual ways which your blog seems to be filled with.

Thanks, for that! I'm fairly new reading here so I was unaware of your long history of activism against torture. Recently, I was made aware in some offblog communication with one of your regular commentators. Thanks Nell for taking the time to educate me on the long history of hilzoy's activism against torture.

This really clears up any misunderstandings people new to this blog might have and is info I was previously unaware of. That's why I came to appreciate this blog, I like the opportunity to learn from smart people willing to explore difficult/emotional subjects in factual ways which your blog seems to be filled with.

Could or would someone delete my double post? I don't know how it happens, unless maybe I tried to back out of posting to edit something and that caused it?

Could or would someone delete my double post?

Don't worry about it.

When your post shows up twice, it just means the kitty really likes you. :)

Thanks -

But hilzoy, what if we don't have 6 hours, what if we only have 5? There will always be a rationalization given, no matter how ludicrous it sounds.

But hilzoy, what if we don't have 6 hours, what if we only have 5? There will always be a rationalization given, no matter how ludicrous it sounds.

My answer would be that, if we don't have 6 hours, we sure as hell don't have 20 days.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will return to private life, and we'll never have to pay any attention to them again unless they are prosecuted for war crimes.

Or perhaps in Cheney's case, a psych hospital.

at what point will cheney and rice and all the people that support torture just admit that they like to hear people scream? torture doesn't work. it's been proven over and over again.

we are left with only 2 conclusions: cheney, rice, et al. are so stupid that if their cars got a flat tire, they would rotate the tires and keep trying to drive

or

they just like the idea of muslims screaming.

My answer would be that, if we don't have 6 hours, we sure as hell don't have 20 days.

Well, obviously if we don't have 6 hours, then we torture them. Everyone knows that's fast and effective. It's only those mambly-pambly (yet still important tools in our Global War Against Violent Extremism Related Program Activities) enhanced interrogation techniques that take like 21 days. I mean, we all know if they hadn't been treating him with kid gloves by giving him lemon chicken, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and whatever but instead had, ya know, tortured him, he'd've cracked in, what, maybe two hours tops?!?!?

Torture: blowback, costing lives. No torture: no blowback, so no such cost. Also: torture: requires selling soul. No torture: soul retained. And: torture: makes mockery of claim that our country has principles. No torture: our principles in action.

I'm with you, hilzoy, and I admire Katherine's posts on this blog, but I have to ask:

What about killing?

My fear is a bit similar to that of some anti-death penalty activists who have voiced concerns that they are in a Catch-22 when they highlight the cases of wrongly convicted persons.

Their concern is firstly that highlighting the possibility of wrong convictions is necessary to arouse public sentiment against the death penalty and secondly that if they succeed in making the process less error-prone, the death penalty might be even more widely accepted than it is currently.

My concern is that it takes torture and unlawful detainment of prisoners to arouse public sentiment against the Iraq war/"war on terror"and that there might be the idea of a clean and ethical war led according to the Geneva conventions in which every killing is "justified" or unavoidable "collateral damage".

Now just to clarify, I support both the activists campaigning against wrongful convictions and torture etc. wholeheartedly and preventing these things from happening is a good thing in and of itself. Also, most activists are against the death penalty and anti-war on principled grounds. And obviously I wouldn't want these crimes to continue in order to be able to better justify my anti-war position.

Yet I fear that once such obvious violations are stamped out (one can always wish) the public might be more inclined to accept war as lawful and justified and pay less attention to the greatest crime of all which is inherent in war, that of killing people.

Highly recommended as a companion piece to the Alexander interview: "Tortured Reasoning" by David Rose, which further examines the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation" in comparison to non-coercive methods of intelligence-gathering.

The following passage, taken from the conclusion of the article, is especially telling:

In an interview in London in April 2008, I remind F.B.I. director Robert Mueller of the attacks planned against targets on American soil since 9/11 that his agents have disrupted: for example, a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and another to wreak mayhem at army recruiting centers and synagogues in and around Torrance, California. These and other homegrown conspiracies were foiled by regular police work. The F.B.I. learned of the Fort Dix plot from an informant at a local mosque, while the Torrance cell was rounded up when cops probed the backgrounds of two of its members after they allegedly robbed a local gas station.

I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

Those interested in a philosophical demolition of ticking time bomb arguments would like Bob Brecher's book from Blackwell.

@novakant:

I understand your concern, but believe that the actual effects of people thinking through the issues of torture do not make them more inclined to support wars, but less.

"This really clears up any misunderstandings people new to this blog might have and is info I was previously unaware of."

If you look on the right sidebar, you'll note various categories of posts you can use to inform yourself about previous posts by the bloggers here, so you don't have to wait for someone else to inform you. The posts about torture and detention are subtly hidden under "Torture and Detention."

For a short visit elsewhere, Jim Henley got it right long ago, and more recently, on why some are so eager to torture.

And speaking of torture by other governments, people should be asking questions about the rumored appointment by Obama of former Admiral Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence.

In just over a month, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will return to private life, and we'll never have to pay any attention to them again unless they are prosecuted for war crimes. That moment cannot come too quickly.

Which moment, when they leave public office or when they're prosecuted for war crimes?

"I listened time and time again to foreign fighters, and Sunni Iraqis, state that the number one reason they had decided to pick up arms and join Al Qaeda was the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the authorized torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay."

Isn't it possible that these foreign fighters, etc. are lying or deceitful? Would it make sense for a Sunni to say, "Abu Ghraib made me so mad I decided to kill a bunch of Shiia".

"Isn't it possible that these foreign fighters, etc. are lying or deceitful?"

Isn't it possible that one of our most experienced interrogators actually has a clue about that sort of thing?

Larry, how about "Abu Ghraib made me mad so I'm going to fight back against the Sunni-dominated government that's supporting the foreigners committing these outrages"?

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