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April 23, 2009

Comments

I like this idea, as a strategy.

Unfortunately I think a lot of torture advocates might bite the bullet on this one, just as a practical matter of how people might react. What's the argumentative strategy then? What if somebody just bites the bullet and says in a ticking time bomb scenario, you can pull the person's children in front of them and gouge their eyes out?

One could, for instance, drag in a detainee’s child and begin torturing him or her in front of the detainee. I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line there.

John Yoo didn't.


Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty.

Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

John Yoo, of course, is the guy Bush sought out to justify torture in the first place.

I thought we did capture children and use them against their father, with at least an implicit threat of mistreatment, as well as indoctrination.

In September 2002, Yusuf al-Khalid, then nine years-old, and Abed al-Khalid, then seven years-old, were reportedly apprehended by Pakistani security forces during an attempted capture of their father, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Reports by other detainees indicate that the boys were ill-treated while in Pakistani custody. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was apprehended in March 2003 and was subjected to over three years of enforced disappearance, and to other torture and ill-treatment, by the US authorities before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he is currently held.

After Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's arrest in March 2003, Yusuf and Abed Al Khalid were reportedly transferred out of Pakistan to US custody -- allegedly for questioning about their father's activities and to be used as leverage to force their father to co-operate. A Sunday Telegraph (UK) article in March 2003 alleged that CIA interrogators had detained the children and that one official explained that: "We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children...but we need to know as much about their father's recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care." In the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Combatant Status Review Tribunal in March 2007, he indicates knowledge that his children were apprehended and abused: "They arrested my kids intentionally. They are kids. They been arrested for four months[,] they had been abused." Their whereabouts remain unknown.

link

a logical problem? well then, QED must be right around the corner!

except for the people who are pro-torture because it's what you have to be if you want to remain 100% opposed to Obama and the Dems: they aren't interested in logical proofs. and they dominate the conversation.

What did happen to the princes in the tower?

I believe they were sacrificed in the service of power.

All in all, it’s a fairly clarifying debate – one that will be remembered for some time.

It's not a debate, publius. It's a Rorschac Test. Some people are viscerally, biologically, genetically opposed to torture. Others are not. The latter are either cowards or sadists.

The current pro-torture crowd are trying very hard to pass themselves off as cowards: we must torture because we're afraid of what will happen if we don't. If they take positive pleasure from contemplating the infliction of torture, only proper interrogation would get them to admit it.

--TP

"Via Andrew Sullivan, Steve Chapman raises a really good point – there’s simply no way that the effectiveness of torture can solely justify its use."

It's frustrating when you announce points, such as this, that have been well-stated and chewed over many times in discussion threads on this blog, publius, as if they were new thoughts, and not already extremely well-discussed here. Why not quote the contributors to your own blog, and why not do it in the weeks, months, or years past, that they've done so, than credit someone else, and as if they've had a new and original observation?

I'm personally frustrated because I've written at length about this point here dozens of times, but you write as if you've never read your own blog.

See here from just the other day, in the "More Things That Are Missing" thread, for example. But we've gone over this many many times.

"I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line there. If they didn’t, that tells you pretty much all you need to know."

You seem to have also missed the lengthy discussion here and elsewhere on John Yoo's views on the crushing of the testicles of one's enemies sons. See endless discussion on this thread from two years ago, for example.

You're familiar with this video, right?

Speaking of logical problems for torture enthusiasts, Jim Henley definitively addressed the illogic of using the "Ticking Time-Bomb" scenario to justify torture in January of 2007, and forever ended rhetorical use of that particular fantasy. Um, not.

"Unfortunately I think a lot of torture advocates might bite the bullet on this one..."

Which is why I like the alternative version I've heard, where it's not the prisoner's child, but *your own* child, that you need to brutally torture (and perhaps even murder) to get the prisoner to talk.

I suspect this will give more of them pause, at least those who have children and aren't complete sociopaths.

(The scenario does, of course, assume a rather twisted and unusual psychology in the prisoner, as someone who gains satisfaction from making his captor's loved ones suffer to the extent of trading cooperation for it. But it's not *completely* out of the question; something similar's been the basis for some stories and movies I've come across. And anyone who's seriously entertaining the "ticking time bomb" scenario as justfication for the US torture program is hardly in a position to complain about implausbility.)

Their whereabouts remain unknown.

They belong on this list, which is also missing several other children of people taken prisoner.

I can't quite bring myself to engage in utilitarian arguments these days. But for those who can stomach it: Thanks to the OLC memos, the focus has been on prisoners who probably did have some connection to al Qaeda and terror attacks against the U.S.

But the policy resulted in thousands of people abused by or at the behest of U.S. personnel, hundreds of whom at least were innocent of any connection to terror. Two dozen or more were tortured to death.

Innocent prisoners even include {gasp} white people.

Torture always spreads, and it always spreads to cover many more innocent than 'guilty', and it always comes home.

---
links aren't showing up in preview, so here they are:

disappeared prisoners
http://www.propublica.org/article/dozens-of-prisoners-held-by-cia-still-missing-fates-unknown-422?ref=fp8

Donald Vance
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/18/opinion/courtwatch/main2278325.shtml

I think the response to this is generally: well, we don't need to pull out fingernails, or electrocute genitals, or harm children because the techniques developed by the CIA work just fine.

Is there any argument for torture (or any other subject, for that matter, when it comes to some people) that doesn't reduce to "the end justifies the means"?

Kind of a side note to all this – but another aspect of the story is how common soldiers were asked (ordered even) to become torturers. Alyssa Peterson chose to take her own life rather than be involved with it. (via memeorandum)

Can the same logic be used for warfare generally?

Certain methods of disagreement go too far. Where is the line? Which side of the line is warfare on? Warfare is on the bad side of the line.

If we pursue this line of reasoning far enough then we'll save a great deal of money on the defense budget.

I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line [at drag in a detainee’s child and begin torturing him or her in front of the detainee

Why would you assume that?

There has long been some evidence that the US torturers in Iraq did just that.

If you're trying to tell me that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, who demanded that interrogators "take the gloves off" despite noncompliance and withdrawal by the FBI, despite strenuous opposition by some military brass, would order the "enhanced interrogation" stopped if they heard that a [brown, Iraqi, Muslim] child were physically abused, I have to tell you that I think you're delusional.

Can the same logic be used for warfare generally?

The general rule for the military is to use the least amount of force necessary to accomplish a legitimate military objective.

Torture is not legitimate, so I think the analogy ends there.

Can the same logic be used for warfare generally?

Not really.

The law recognizes a difference between someone who is armed and free to act against you, and someone who you hold captive.

Most moral or ethical thinking other than pure pacifism on one hand, and advocacy of naked will to power on the other, likewise.

"When is war legitimate" is another question that IMO deserves attention right about now, but it is generally considered to be a different question than how to treat prisoners.

If you have a set of techniques of eliciting information which are acceptable and a set which are not acceptable there has to be a dividing line. What differs is where they draw the line between the least forceful unacceptable technique (which would be torture) and the most forceful acceptable technique (which would not be torture). Some techniques are clearly unacceptable, crushing testicles with pliers for example, some are clearly acceptable if a little unpleasant, leaving the suspect in the cells for a few hours before questioning them for example.

What differs is where they draw the line

My own stance is that the proper and justifiable treatment of suspects is that which I would still be willing to defend as proper and justified if

1. ) I myself was the suspect

2. ) I myself was wrongfully accused

3. ) I myself was treated in the manner under discussion.


You write as if these questions have never been considered by ethicists, philosophers, and politicians, d'd'dave: these questions all have well-considered, legally binding, answers:

"Certain methods of disagreement go too far. Where is the line?"

Where we've drawn them in the Geneva Conventions.

"Which side of the line is warfare on?"

On the acceptable side if it's a just war, and on the other side if it's not a just war.

"Warfare is on the bad side of the line."

If you're a pacifist, which most people aren't.

Do you really believe there's no line that shouldn't be crossed when it comes to torture? Are you truly a supporter of Gestapo methods, and feel that the Nazis shouldn't have been punished? Or what?

If you have a set of techniques of eliciting information which are acceptable and a set which are not acceptable there has to be a dividing line.

I got your dividing line right here:

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sup_01_18_10_I_20_113C.html

Even if it doesn't bug you, personally, to asphyxiate people or smash them against a wall over and over again, the law says you can't do it.

I, as a red-blooded American woman, have no idea why you would designate testicle-crushing as "clearly unacceptable." In my experience, it's not really different from a moderate face-slap.

Ok, so I don't mean that.

But I really am interested in how you reached the certainty that the question is settled on this technique if it isn't settled on abusing a prisoner's children (or insinuating that you would).

What Joel Hanes said.

I love the fact that we've finally found an issue where your standard issue wingnut sees nuance.

One think I haven't noticed (a non-barking dog observation). Now that President Obama has released the memos, it seems clear that (a)some members of the United States did use torture, and (b) the highest executive level (and perhaps legislative level as well) authorized or at least knew about that use of torture, and authorized it or did nothing to stop it.

Interestingly, I have not seen any reports of concessions by movement conservatives due to the release of this information. Has any major movement or neo-con figure stood up and said they believed the US didn't torture, then they believed only a few bad apples in the lower ranks got out of control, and now that the Bush Administration clearly did sanction torture, they no longer want any part of it or its defenders or inheritors? If not, or not yet, what does this say about what the Bush Administration and movement conservatism has done to your country?

If not, or not yet, what does this say about what the Bush Administration and movement conservatism has done to your country?

That for somewhere between thirty-five and ninety million Americans, when faced with a moral quandry, or the choice of a course of action, the decision making tool, the categorical imperative, is now effectively "In this instance, what course of action pisses liberals off?"

What is the point of "winning" the War on Terror if we turn into the very monsters we seek to defeat?

I am a member of a party I no longer recognize.

Clausewitz wrote “To introduce the principle of moderation into the theory of war itself would always lead to logical absurdity.”

The torture in question occurred in a context of war.

Bush drew this line:

Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.

If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.

2003 SOTU

So I guess it is okay to capture the kids, just not torture them in front of the parent, because that is evil.

"One could, for instance, drag in a detainee’s child and begin torturing him or her in front of the detainee. I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line there. If they didn’t, that tells you pretty much all you need to know."

Maybe. But, then again, maybe it helps to imagine how they view our criticism of them -- if, for no other reason, so that our disgust has some more justification than momentary disgust. Here's a hypothetical defense:

You (the concerned citizen) believe that torturing people -- whether the accused, his family, or anyone else -- is never justified, even if it saves the lives of thousands of Americans. (OK, we may know it actually doesn't, but we're talking hypothetical justifications here, or justifications of hypothetical situations.)

What is the price of this torture (or rather, this hypothetical torture, which somehow not only works, but makes us safer)? Naturally, we have caused great harm to the victims, some of them possibly innocent; and, by your outrage and grief, it is plain it has done great harm to the conscience and virtue of our nation.

We have, in other words, dirtied our hands. Dirtier than most do, perhaps, bloody even -- but that is the price, summarized.

The real question -- according to our hypothetical defendant -- is why, if you hold the security of yourself and your countrymen in any esteem at all, you would prove so willing to sacrifice it for a clear conscience?

Obviously I am being provocative here, as is my intention. I only ask that those who feel inclined to respond to bear in mind, should they consider arguments of persona or ad hominem, to direct such judgement at the defendant, and not his counsel.

And the simple answer to this hypothetical defendant is that, despite holding the security of myself and my fellow Americans in rather high esteem, I hold the honor and virtue of our nation in even higher regard.

The canard about getting information that will save lives fails to account for the reality that losing the combat multiplier of the Geneva Conventions costs more lives than whatever information gained is likely to save. Rooting out individuals from the rubble who might have otherwise surrendered but now prefer to die rather than be captured is the most intensive and dangerous fight we can face, and the most likely to continue to cost American lives. Think of Japanese sodiers in caves on Pacific Islands and the terrible cost in lives that we incurred. This is not going to be our last war, so even if it was true that in this circumstance torture and inhumane treatment would be more successful in ending the war or gaining key information, it does not account for the loss of lives in future wars due to the enemy not being willing to surrender for fear of expected treatment in American custody.

jrudkis
A life saved today is worth more than a life saved in the future.

b'b'b'baloney.

"Clausewitz wrote 'To introduce the principle of moderation into the theory of war itself would always lead to logical absurdity.'

The torture in question occurred in a context of war."

And thus d'd'd'dave does come out defending Nazism and Stalinism, as well as criminality.

Defenses of the techniques of the Gestapo, KGB, Stasi, etc.

That truly is hating America, and everything it stands for.

What is the price of this torture (or rather, this hypothetical torture, which somehow not only works, but makes us safer)?

Hypothetical crimes can be tried in a hypothetical court. We're talking about real crimes here. Why muddy the waters?

what happened to "yes, torture should be illegal, but if there really were a ticking bomb, it's OK to break the law and then take your chances in court after the threat has passed" ?

i used to hear that one all the time.

"A life saved today is worth more than a life saved in the future."

Why?

To AJ and jrudkis, I'd say their is a value in trying to understand the moral arguments (and universe) of the other side. Sometimes that means taking their (admittedly, often delusional) view of reality as a hypothetical.

To Dan S -- the unnerving thing* is you may be right; sometimes, the only moral rebuke you have is putting principle above security.

*Actually, in comparison to a lot of this discussion, "unnerving" isn't so bad.

A life saved today is worth more than a life saved in the future.

Is there a formula for this? How many lives how far into the future are worth one present life? I've heard about this new math before. Maybe my kids will be able to explain it to me in a few years.

We have a Constitution, the US Code, the Geneva Conventions, and any number of other treaties that we have, of our own free will, agreed to, that all say torture is wrong, along with a very long history of eschewing torture, even in the face of significant threat.

Why do we give a sorry rat's behind what Clausewitz says?

what happened to "yes, torture should be illegal, but if there really were a ticking bomb, it's OK to break the law and then take your chances in court after the threat has passed" ?

i used to hear that one all the time.

I buy that one (though not the ok part). We ask soldiers and police to risk their lives every day: risking your freedom seems small in comparison.

If you are certain enough about your information and techniques that you will torture someone to stop the bomb, you should be willing to risk your freedom to save millions (or thousands, or one). It is a pretty good check valve on how sure you are that someone has information that is valuable enough to be worth the risk of your own freedom.

So really, the argument about the ticking time bomb is nonsense even in the event something like that happened...unless people in the CIA are not patriotic enough to risk their freedom to save a city.

cleek, I remember the argument you are referring to. However, I don't remember anyone here who is currently on the "we don't torture" side saying torture is okay then, just that it would be more understandable under those circumstances. Of course, the point is that there is no possible scenario where torture would wtrk under those circumstances, so it still wouldn't be okay.

//"A life saved today is worth more than a life saved in the future."

Why?//

Simple population growth arithmatic and compounding numbers. One today is two tomorrow and four the next day.

To AJ and jrudkis, I'd say their is a value in trying to understand the moral arguments (and universe) of the other side. Sometimes that means taking their (admittedly, often delusional) view of reality as a hypothetical.

This presumes that the pro-torture crowd is arguing in good faith. Most of what I've seen from them looks a lot more like the Wookie defense.

You know, I've been a commenter at ObWi a very long time, and I've always appreciated that we officially discourage people from calling other people Nazis. I've had trouble with it myself, as anyone who's read the various threads wherein I called Charles a liar can attest. Nazi analogies, as a general rule, aren't helpful even when they're apt or contextually appropriate.

But if someone wanders into the forum and tells you that they're a member of Stormfront and starts going on about our damn ni**er president, you have to stop and wonder where the line is drawn between a insulting them and a factually accurate description. I have no problem telling actual Nazis what they are and where to get off.

You are staring it in the face, people. In this thread and the previous, we have people who are repeatedly, unambiguously and enthusiastically defending what is in every real and legal definition the torture of one human being by another. They're not dancing around the point. They're not leaving it up to interpretation. They're saying that the ends justify the means and it's okay for us to torture people for national security, but if anyone else does it, then it's a war crime. That our people should not be prosecuted for following orders. That the suspicion you pose a danger to national security justifies imprisonment and torture--again, only if it's us. The best they can come up with to defend it, when fully informed of the history of what they're endorsing, is feeble tu quoque arguments about Truman and Clausewitz, either of which are about as germane to the point as Jack Bauer quotes.

This is homegrown, domestic all-American Nazism. The philosophical distance between these proto-fascists and the people we convicted at Nuremberg is measured in the flag they wave and the minority they distrust. And I'm pretty much at an end to my ability to paint a smiley face over it and treat it as a legitimate difference of opinion. When someone walks into the room and yells "ni**er", you call it racism. These people are walking in and cheerfully yelling "torture". And it needs to be forcefully pointed out for what it is. The people who cheer for it need to be shunned by their community as the morally twisted things they are, just as we shun those who persist in bad hygiene or shouting racial slurs in public long after they have any excuse for not knowing better.

"... along with a very long history of eschewing torture, even in the face of significant threat."

Although this point has been made a zillion times before, I'd reiterate that we fought the Axis powers, a genuine existential threat to the United States, and we banned torture, and didn't use it.

We fought the Cold War, and we banned torture, and didn't use it.

Now we have as enemies some pissant terrorist groups, who, while not ignorable, pose no existential threat to the U.S. whatever.

The idea that America needs to, in response, turn to the techniques of Pol Pot, Heinrich Himmler, and Lavrentiy Beria, is a profoundly cowardly notion.

Setting aside that anyone who proposes such things has no apparent moral sense, why are these people so terrified?

And why do they want to destroy the United States of America, which is an idea, an idea of freedom and justice, in order to "save" it?

Why do they hate America?

"This presumes that the pro-torture crowd is arguing in good faith. Most of what I've seen from them looks a lot more like the Wookie defense."

I take your point --but I'm from the school that says people assume bad faith too often as it is; far better to assume good faith until rational discussion is exhausted and you can prove otherwise.

To Gary's last post -- Amen.

"And why do they want to destroy the United States of America, which is an idea, an idea of freedom and justice, in order to "save" it? "

The same question I have been wondering but never asked. Thank you Gary for putting it out in the open.

There is a quote somewhere that goes something like (it depends on which version of the Bible you are reading from) " How does it profit a man to gain the world if in doing so he loses his soul?"

These people are willing for our nation to lose its soul, its very reason for being.

This has nothing to do with logic, and everything to do with the devolution of our democracy into a team sport. The blue team doesn't like torture, so the red team likes it-- no matter how illogical, or immoral, or ineffective, or contrary to our traditions it may be, and no matter what they believed beforehand.

"The blue team doesn't like torture, so the red team likes it"

Perhaps we should discuss Byzantine history, and the Blues and Greens.

So if your immediate family is threatened with imminent death, it's OK? After all, you, as the detainee, are not harmed. And if they are gratuitously executed? Well, then that's murder, not torture.

Sorry. That doesn't work for me.

catsy

I presume you were talking, in part, about me at 9:42p since I'm the only one who mentioned Clauswitz. My position is not as you have described. You probably don't care what my position is but I'll tell you anyway. I believe that as an individual, I should avoid physical conflict if at all possible. I believe my country should do the same. If I am forced into a physical conflict it would in all cases be initiated by the opposing party. I would be defending. My first recourse will be to do the maximum damage in the minimum time by any means at hand so as to disable the opponent. I would have an absolutely clear conscience because I did all I could to avoid it.

I believe my country should do the same. The problem is that my country doesn't do the same. My country goes out looking for trouble. It has no moral high ground.

Now, you folks are all talking about how torture is out of bounds but war is not. It's a bizarre compromise that I do not understand. "I'll kill you but I won't hurt you."

Many say: "But it's against the law. We have treaties." I do not dispute that. It is illegal. So prosecute them.

What I dispute is the logic of "it's okay to kill that soldier but don't hurt him" or "it's okay to harm a few bystanders when you bomb a military target but don't hurt that combatant you've captured if it might help your cause." It is not rational.

What's rational is to stay out of war.

You call me a nazi. That is meaningless. Nazis went out looking for trouble. I do not personally and I do not advocate for my country do do so.

We fought the Cold War, and we banned torture, and didn't use it."

Gary, you know the history better than me, so you'll have to explain to me in what sense this statement is true, because if I start talking about Kubark and so on you will quite correctly inform me that you know all about it.

//"And why do they want to destroy the United States of America, which is an idea, an idea of freedom and justice, in order to "save" it//

// How does it profit a man to gain the world if in doing so he loses his soul?//

//These people are willing for our nation to lose its soul, its very reason for being.//

From my point of view, the soul is lost when we set out from our shores to attack someone else. The torture is just an ugly by product.

From my point of view: if you condone offensive war then your soul is already lost and you might as well do it more effectively and use torture.

"What I dispute is the logic of 'it's okay to kill that soldier but don't hurt him'"

That isn't anyone's position. The distinction between a soldier who is fighting, and a helpless captive, is as broad and significant as the distinction between you right now, and you in a maximum security prison.

What's right to do to a combatant, and what's right to do to a helpless captive, are two entirely different things.

Otherwise, do you not accept distinctions between lawful combat, and unlawful means of combat?

"It is not rational."

The fact that you're unfamiliar with the theory of just war, or unlawful combat, makes you ignorant, rather than making other people irrational.

"Gary, you know the history better than me, so you'll have to explain to me in what sense this statement is true"

We didn't legitimize it.

As well, the manual (KUBARK actually being a code word for the CIA) itself did specify limits as regards legality:

[...] Detention poses the most common of the legal problems. KUBARK has no independent legal authority to detain anyone against his will, [approx. 4 lines deleted]

[...]

Since 4 October 1961, extraterritorial application has been given to the Espionage Act, making it henceforth possible to prosecute in the Federal Courts any PBPRIME citizen who violates the statutes of this Act in foreign countries. ODENVY has requested that it be informed, in advance if time permits, if any investigative steps are undertaken in these cases. Since KUBARK employees cannot be witnesses in court, each investigation must be conducted in such a manner that evidence obtained may be properly introduced if the case comes to trial. [approx. 1 line deleted] states policy and procedures for the conduct of investigations of PBPRIME citizens abroad.

Interrogations conducted under compulsion or duress are especially likely to involve illegality and to entail damaging consequences for KUBARK.

[...]

The CI interrogator dealing with an uncooperative interrogatee who has been well-briefed by a hostile service on the legal restrictions under which ODYOKE services operate must expect some effective delaying tactics. The interrogatee has been told that KUBARK will not hold him long, that he need only resist for a while. Nikolay KHOKHLOV, for example, reported that before he left for Frankfurt am Main on his assassination mission, the following thoughts coursed through his head: "If I should get into the hands of Western authorities, I can become reticent, silent, and deny my voluntary visit to Okolovich. I know I will not be tortured and that under the procedures of western law I can conduct myself boldly." (17) [The footnote numerals in this text are keyed to the numbered bibliography at the end.] The interrogator who encounters expert resistance should not grow flurried and press; if he does, he is likelier to commit illegal acts which the source can later use against him.

Pain was advised against:
[...] Interrogatees who are withholding but who feel qualms of guilt and a secret desire to yield are likely to become intractable if made to endure pain. The reason is that they can then interpret the pain as punishment and hence as expiation. There are also persons who enjoy pain and its anticipation and who will keep back information that they might otherwise divulge if they are given reason to expect that withholding will result in the punishment that they want. Persons of considerable moral or intellectual stature often find in pain inflicted by others a confirmation of the belief that they are in the hands of inferiors, and their resolve not to submit is strengthened.

Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex "admissions" that take still longer to disprove. KUBARK is especially vulnerable to such tactics because the interrogation is conducted for the sake of information and not for police purposes.

If an interrogatee is caused to suffer pain rather late in the interrogation process and after other tactics have failed, he is almost certain to conclude that the interrogator is becoming desperate. He may then decide that if he can just hold out against this final assault, he will win the struggle and his freedom. And he is likely to be right. Interrogatees who have withstood pain are more difficult to handle by other methods. The effect has been not to repress the subject but to restore his confidence and maturity.

[...]

1. The principal coercive techniques are arrest, detention, the deprivation of sensory stimuli, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, and drugs.

The first lines of the "Interrogator's Checklist":
X. Interrogator's Check List

The questions that follow are intended as reminders for the interrogator and his superiors.

1. Have local (federal or other) laws affecting KUBARK's conduct of a unilateral or joint interrogation been compiled and learned?

2. If the interrogatee is to be held, how long may he be legally detained?

I wouldn't and don't defend the KUBARK manual, but a) its use by Americans, was, so far as I know, highly limited; b) its guidance was a lot less harsh than that of the contemporary torture memos -- there's nothing resembling waterboarding, for example, and I'm quoting the harshest portions -- most of the manual is devoted to non-coercive interrogation; c) the U.S didn't stand up and proclaim that such methods were legal and acceptable; they were covert, which doesn't mean they didn't happen, and I didn't mean to imply that they didn't, but it's not at all the same thing as a country saying such methods are acceptable or legal.

It's not at all, in my view, the same as standing up and declaring that waterboarding, for example, isn't torture, and is legal, and acceptable.

"From my point of view, the soul is lost when we set out from our shores to attack someone else. The torture is just an ugly by product.

From my point of view: if you condone offensive war then your soul is already lost and you might as well do it more effectively and use torture."

The first two sentences I agree with. Where you lose me is in your advocacy of more effective soul-losing. Just because a war is wrong to begin with doesn't mean you should compound its wrongness by committing war crimes. And anyway, our use of torture was a recruitment tool for the insurgents.

My impression of Americans who advocate war crimes is that some aren't necessarily sadists or cowards. Some have just been indoctrinated with all kinds of pro-torture notions from popular culture, including much of our wonderful press corps, along with the usual racism that comes so easily in wartime. And the ticking time bomb argument probably comes up every single time I've talked about this with people in real life.

Devil's Advocate: but I'm from the school that says people assume bad faith too often as it is; far better to assume good faith until rational discussion is exhausted and you can prove otherwise.

...that's more than slightly ironic, coming from someone who is identifying themselves as a "devil's advocate" - that is, someone openly arguing in bad faith.

"the U.S didn't stand up and proclaim that such methods were legal and acceptable; they were covert, which doesn't mean they didn't happen, and I didn't mean to imply that they didn't, but it's not at all the same thing as a country saying such methods are acceptable or legal."

Okay, that makes sense. We also supported a lot of people during the Cold War who committed every sort of atrocity, but I agree that the Bush Administration and its defenders have broken new ground in openly defending torture.

What's rational is to stay out of war.

Agreed.

There's nothing all that rational about war, and net/net far more damage is caused by wars than by torturing individual people.

These days we fight wars within the limits of agreed-upon laws of war, which is kind of a perverse concept, but all things considered it's probably better to have them than not.

The distinction between a battlefield situation and torture is that, in torture, you are harming someone you hold under your control. They cannot defend themselves.

It's a distinction that probably doesn't mean a lot if your house is the one that gets bombed, no doubt. But, there it is.

These days we fight wars within the limits of agreed-upon laws of war, which is kind of a perverse concept

i like to think that someday we'll regard the concept of "laws of war" in the same way people today think of The Code Duello: with a giant "Killing each other? WTF? If you were actually harmed by the other party, take it to court. Otherwise, Grow The FU and STFU."

If the sacred end that justifies any means is "keeping the American people safe" then these people should have no problem using these "techniques" on suspects in the U.S. Murder suspect? Waterboard him! Suspected rapist? Bolt him to the floor naked and leave him in a cold room for 7 days. That should get some confessions outta the bastards.

I don't understand why suspected terrorists overseas are more dangerous to me than the suspected murderer in my own town. Ergo, it's time we took the gloves off at home, too. Afterall, didn't Scalia say that hurting suspects wasn't "cruel and unusual punishment" because they weren't being punished? -- so it's constitutional, too. Win win!

"I don't understand why suspected terrorists overseas are more dangerous to me than the suspected murderer in my own town. Ergo, it's time we took the gloves off at home, too."

I've made this point a number of times in the past, as well. Let's not forget child molestors! It's for the children!

And, after all, if someone has kidnapped a child, surely we should used "enhanced interrogation" to find the child before it dies! What could be more important?

And how about any kidnapping? Surely people shouldn't be left in a position where they may be killed!

But, also we can't let murderers get away! They might kill again! Enhanced interrogation is necessary to protect lives!

But we also need to protect people, mostly women, from rapists! Rape is almost as bad as murder!

And so on. Why not use these entirely legitimate, thoroughly inoffensive, techniques all 'round?

If that's the way it's going to be spun.

And the nasty thing is that too many would actually find that kind of logic appealing*.
Admittedly I find appeal in the thought of Rummy gassed, Cheney boiled in oil and Bush quartered but I'd vote no, if I had to decide to it actually happening. But I am not the standard.

*after every grisly murder, some newspapers and radio/TV channels discuss reintroduction of the death penalty over here.

I don't understand why suspected terrorists overseas are more dangerous to me than the suspected murderer in my own town.

Why hasn't Terry Nicholson, a convicted domestic terrorist in US federal custody, not been waterboarded so that he reveals co-conspirators that are currently free to plot more terror attacks?

Some guy on torture:

[...] torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere, and the United States is committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

[...]

Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit. Beating, burning, rape, and electric shock are some of the grisly tools such regimes use to terrorize their own citizens. These despicable crimes cannot be tolerated by a world committed to justice.

[...]

Notorious human rights abusers, including, among others, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Zimbabwe, have long sought to shield their abuses from the eyes of the world by staging elaborate deceptions and denying access to international human rights monitors. Until recently, Saddam Hussein used similar means to hide the crimes of his regime.

[...]

The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy. I further urge governments to join America and others in supporting torture victims' treatment centers, contributing to the UN Fund for the Victims of Torture, and supporting the efforts of non-governmental organizations to end torture and assist its victims.

No people, no matter where they reside, should have to live in fear of their own government. Nowhere should the midnight knock foreshadow a nightmare of state-commissioned crime. The suffering of torture victims must end, and the United States calls on all governments to assume this great mission.

You might wonder who this weak, wussy, liberal is, who refuses to face the facts on the need for torture.

Other guy on torture:

There is also evidence cutting against the CIA's claims. A.B. Krongard, who was the agency's executive director when the coercive interrogations began, told author Ron Suskind that KSM and other Qaeda captives "went through hell and gave up very, very little."

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sup_01_18_10_I_20_113C.html

That depends on what exactly you mean by severe pain, as opposed to moderate pain, which is allowed. Any attempt to define torture generally is going to have some edge cases where opinions can reasonably differ.

That depends on what exactly you mean by severe pain, as opposed to moderate pain, which is allowed. Any attempt to define torture generally is going to have some edge cases where opinions can reasonably differ.

See, this is exactly the kind of sociopathic rationalization that's wrong with this whole debate.

Maybe it's just my wussy liberal nature, but I don't think we have any business inflicting pain on other human beings because they might know something useful to us.

Protesting that something should be legal because it involves inflicting moderate pain rather than severe pain strikes me as being akin to a child molester arguing that what he did wasn't that bad because it didn't involve penetration. It's completely beside the point. You crossed the line by doing it at all in the first place. How, exactly, do you quantify the line between "moderate" and "severe" pain? Do you stop and ask the suspect to rate it on a scale of zero to 5, or some other pain scale variant?

The problem isn't with the subjectiveness of defining pain levels, the problem is that you're attempting at all to determine how much you can hurt a suspect in the name of national security without crossing the legal line. The fact that you're trying to identify that line at all means that your concern isn't whether or not we should torture, but how much torture we can get away with it by keeping it below some arbitrary threshold. To paraphrase a (possibly apocryphal) Churchill quote: "we’ve already established what kind of person you are. Now we are haggling about the price."

That depends on what exactly you mean by severe pain

Actually, the bar is severe physical or mental pain or suffering.

Some of these guys were forced to stand for, literally, days at a time. Their ankles were shackled to the ground and their arms were tied above their heads. If you stand in place for more than 18-24 hours straight, you develop extreme swelling and edema in your legs, possibly extending up into your thighs. You develop blisters that sweat the fluid that is separating out of your blood. If you fall asleep, you suspend your entire weight from the handcuffs used to hold upright, and your wrists and hands develop deep, painful cuts.

Not sleeping at all for a few days will make you psychotic. You see things, you hear things, you develop paranoid fantasies, you lose your grasp of what is real and what is not. You go clinically nuts. The OLC guidelines allowed for subjects to be kept awake for up to 11 days.

Asphyxiation is, well, asphyxiation. If all goes according to plan, they snatch you back before you actually die, but not before you experience all of the physical and psychological effects of imminent death. And, of course, they keep a doctor on hand just in case.

I agree, there are edge cases about which reasonable people can disagree as to whether they constitute torture.

I'd say none of the above qualify.

It's interesting to talk about this stuff in the abstract, and speculate about where, exactly, justifiable harsh interrogation ends and torture begins.

It's also interesting to imagine the real ticking bomb situation, where we have only precious minutes or hours to extract information that will surely save the lives of hundreds or thousands.

None of that isn't what we're talking about here. Some folks will say it was justified, some will say it sucked but we needed to do it, but I don't think there's any serious question that what went on was torture with a capital T.

Let's talk about what actually happened, and why.

The problem isn't with the subjectiveness of defining pain levels, the problem is that you're attempting at all to determine how much you can hurt a suspect in the name of national security without crossing the legal line. The fact that you're trying to identify that line at all means that your concern isn't whether or not we should torture, but how much torture we can get away with it by keeping it below some arbitrary threshold. To paraphrase a (possibly apocryphal) Churchill quote: "we’ve already established what kind of person you are. Now we are haggling about the price."

Regarding the appalling conduct of the warring European powers during the Great War (what we today call WW1), Churchill once wrote: "When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian states had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility."

Since we are now in the midst of a surreal debate about whether just a little bit of torture is OK, is justifiable given sufficient utility, pace Churchill I have to ask if the same principles apply to cannibalism? If it would make America safer for us to dine on the flesh of KSM and the others, should we do so? Would it be right?

What about just a taste? Would that be OK?

Or perhaps it would be OK if our designated gustatory officers were just to chew the long pork, but didn't actually swallow it? If Mike Tyson can do it, why can't the CIA? Huh?

Or maybe if we were just to bite them (the prisoners, that is), but didn't actually tear off any flesh? Would that be OK?

Do those questions strike anyone as depraved, disturbing and deeply weird? Translate cannibalism back into torture, and it shows just how deep into bizzaroland this debate has descended.

Before we put on our armor and take up arms in defense of civilization as we know it, perhaps we should make an effort to actually behave like, well, like civilized people. Which means no torture and no cannibalism. Not even a little bit, even in extremis (like say between 1914 and 1918). Or at least that seems to be where Churchill at least drew the line. What a wimp.

Churchill experienced nothing like 9/11. everything is different now. also.

Churchill: "When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian states had been able to deny themselves: and these were of doubtful utility."

In this modern day of science and godlessness isn't everything a question of utility?

Churchill experienced nothing like 9/11. everything is different now. also.

Well, that changes everything, doesn't it now? It is becoming painfully evident that squeamish liberals are endangering America with their effeminate opposition to cannablism. I have it on authority (and I might say authority at least as convincing as the notion that torture can produce accurate and actionable intelligence data) that if I eat the heart of my enemy, I will gain his courage, and if I sup on his brains I will gain his knowledge.

Knowing this, the following dilemma presents itself: if you had in your custody a terrorist who knew the location of a ticking time bomb hidden somewhere in an American city, and you could find out where that bomb was hidden by cooking and eating him, would you do it?

Well?

How could you not, if there is even a 1 percent chance that by eating our enemies we can defeat their plots and strike fear into the hearts of any that may be tempted to follow in their footsteps. Are precious American lives to be imperiled by your outdated scruples and creeping vegetarianism? Praise the Lord and pass the BBQ sauce!

TLTABQ

I think you're right. But, the brain should be eaten raw for two reasons. First, the ticking timer means time is of the essence. Second, the cooking process probably scrambles the knowledge one is hoping to acquire.

In this modern day of science and godlessness isn't everything a question of utility?

I have a sneaking suspicion that more god-botherers than atheists are pro-torture in this modern day of science and godlessness.

--TP


I think you're right. But, the brain should be eaten raw for two reasons. First, the ticking timer means time is of the essence. Second, the cooking process probably scrambles the knowledge one is hoping to acquire.

Good point! In that case, would it be un-American of me to skip the BBQ sauce and garnish the brains with wasabi instead?

The cite of Churchill is interesting. There are lots of anecdotes around about Churchill, who famously suffered from depression, (he termed it his 'black dog', which seems to capture a lot of the feeling, at least for me) and one of them is going to visit Truman and wondering about whether they were guilty of war crimes, so much so that they set up a mock trial.

However, Sven Lindqvist, in _A History of Bombing_, notes that Churchill, as a fervent supporter of the Royal Air Force, had them use aerial bombing to 'pacify' civilians in the Middle East during the 1920's. There was an excerpt from the book in Harpers, which is behind the sub wall now. It is quite possible that Churchill's personal reflections on war reflect his own history.

Note that I have avoided being specific about what I would consider acceptable. The point I am making is that there will be some techniques where you are uncertain as to whether they are torture. Some of the people you are having a disagreement with don't disagree on the general principal of opposition to torture they draw the line in a different position.

From a purely practical position harsh techniques are fairly useless as they obtain largely unreliable evidence. In fact questioning a vulnerable suspect so as to avoid false confessions is rather difficult, even without using anything anyone would consider torture.

The ticking bomb scenario never seems to actually happen anyway.

"However, Sven Lindqvist, in _A History of Bombing_,"

I read that book--it was great, except for the incredibly annoying way it was put together. I've never seen that before (sort of like following a series of weblinks from paragraph to paragraph) and hope to never see it again.

"and if I sup on his brains I will gain his knowledge."

What America needs are more zombies to defend our country as they search out BRAAAIINNS.

They're still fashionable!

"...Churchill, as a fervent supporter of the Royal Air Force, had them use aerial bombing to 'pacify' civilians in the Middle East during the 1920's."

Not just "the Middle East," but specifically Iraq, after the British-French creation of the country, and he was extremely keen on gassing Iraqis.

The British maintained control of, and prevented revolt in, Iraq primarily with air power.

I have a theory that every ObWi thread with more than 50 comments contains at least one really good band name. This thread's is "Creeping Vegetarianism".

I don't think there will be many cases in which you really need to think very hard about what's "severe" as opposed to "moderate" pain or suffering. If the treatment you're inflicting feels bad enough that the victim will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to make it stop, it's pretty fair to assume it's severe.

there’s simply no way that the effectiveness of torture can solely justify its use.

If torture is effective then refusing to torture in any circumstances is not always the way to minimize the amount of torture that takes place.

If torture is effective, being more skilled at torture than your opponent and also willing to renounce torture if your opponent renounces torture may be the way to minimize torture. Thus the Geneva Conventions and what not.

I say "may be" because your opponent may have less to lose from being known as a torturer than you do. Some situations are not symmetrical.

The moral question for the do not ever torture anyone crowd is this:

If refusing to torture your opponents would increase the number of people tortured, and you believed this with certainty, would you still refuse to torture your opponents?

If refusing to torture your opponents would increase the number of people tortured, and you believed this with certainty, would you still refuse to torture your opponents?

Why would I believe something with certainty that is not only utterly implausible but completely untestable? This question is about as meaningful as, "Would you torture one person to death if it would cure one thousand children with cancer?" What's the point in playing that game?

"If refusing to torture your opponents would increase the number of people tortured"

I have no idea how or why this would work. What are you talking about?

This question is about as meaningful as, "Would you torture one person to death if it would cure one thousand children with cancer?"

No, it's more like would you torture one person to death if it would save two other people from being tortured to death.

Would you?

What's the point in playing that game?

It's not a game. Would you refuse to torture people if you knew that the refusal would result in more people being tortured? Not a game. No ticking clock.

I have no idea how or why this would work

I explained precisely how and why it would work.

Reading is fundamental.

"I explained precisely how and why it would work."

You haven't explained anything.

I can see this will be just more of your usual trollery. Forget I asked. Bye.

Some people can handle hard questions, some people can't.

Would you do something horrid if you knew, with certainty, that it would decrease the amount of horrid things done in the world?

I don't know the answer, but I won't run and hide from the question.

"I don't know the answer, but I won't run and hide from the question."

That's a question for a freshman philosophy class, not the situation in which we find ourselves.

They wont answer the question, you won't answer the question, whatever.

Would you torture one person if you knew with perfect certainty it would keep one thousand other people from being tortured?

I'm not trolling, at the moment.

I want to know. Would you?

"I'm not trolling, at the moment."

Sorry, once you lose credibility, you can't get it back with "I'm not trolling, at the moment."

"I want to know."

Sucks to be you, then. Try not trolling for a few months.

Would you torture one person if you knew with perfect certainty it would keep one thousand other people from being tortured?

Would you torture one person if you knew with perfect certainty it would keep one thousand other people from being tortured?

Would you be able to walk faster if your legs suddenly morphed into bicycle wheels?

There is a point beyond which tossing around hypotheticals becomes solely the realm of idle speculation and has no chance of producing useful insights. You've gone well beyond that point.

My answer is "NO". Although the scenario is ridiculous, the answer is clear. And it really does go into the ticking bomb scenario. It requires absolute certainty about things one cannot be certain about.

We fought the Cold War, and we banned torture, and didn't use it.

(...)

We didn't legitimize it.

I'm glad you backed off on the first claim, because it's an all too familiar and wrong notion that pre-Bush II everything was just dandy as far as torture was concerned. If we include torture by proxies, funded and trained by the US, a case could be made that torture was actually much more widespread then.

Any attempt to define torture generally is going to have some edge cases where opinions can reasonably differ.

Defining torture is one thing, but defining how we should treat detainees is piss-simple: we treat them the exact same way we expect our servicepeople held by enemies to be treated, full stop.

That puts us at a disadvantage, but that's one reason why we spend more than the rest of the world combined on military capability.

To answer the Devil's advocate;

The Devil knows one thing and doesn't another.

What He knows: That he can inflict as much pain and suffering as He wishes on his captive.

What He doesn't: That said infliction of pain and suffering has any utility over His available alternatives.

The Devil opts to maximize pain and suffering for no rational gain whatsoever. One can only conclude that He does this for personal satisfaction. That's why he's the Devil.

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