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May 15, 2009

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Don't forget to add in the additional deaths caused by enemies who decide to fight to the death rather than surrender with the expectation that they'll be tortured.

Perhaps, in light of raising the tone of the debate, we might attempt to find some common ground with proponents of torture.

So let me offer, to such dialectic adversaries, the following proposition:

Major Matthew Alexander kicks ass!

I just quoted another of Alexander's pieces in a post, actually. He's quite authoritative. My favorite line from him is probably: "The American public has a right to know that they do not have to choose between torture and terror."

The Senate hearings are interesting, too, although Lindsay Graham really started to grate on me.

Another way to create loads of new guerrillas is through air power!

"Former VP Dick Cheney has requested the release of additional memos showing that torture and abuse saved American lives by preventing terrorist attacks."

When they finally put him in the ground
I'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down.

Evil war mongering son of a b*tch.

I've had enough of him and his crap.

All respect to Alexander.

I do not want in on the so-called debate, but I would like some elaboration on one of Eric's points. It seems to me that Al-Qaida is going to indoctrinate all recruits with the claim that we torture regardless of the facts and the recruits are not likely to be able to make any independent assessment of the truth or falsity of such a claim prior to being detained by those who do the dastardly deed, as shown by Eric's example. If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not.

"If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not."

Suicide bombers are some .01% or less of Afghan fighters, so what this has to do with dealing with Afghan fighters, I don't know.

What makes most of them fight is, as I linked above, stuff like this.

I do not want in on the so-called debate, but I would like some elaboration on one of Eric's points. It seems to me that Al-Qaida is going to indoctrinate all recruits with the claim that we torture regardless of the facts and the recruits are not likely to be able to make any independent assessment of the truth or falsity of such a claim prior to being detained by those who do the dastardly deed, as shown by Eric's example. If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not.

Damn Eric, talk about hitting the nail square, facts do however get in the way of the visceral, having the courage to do what it takes advocated by torture apologists/proponents who do not want to debate the facts anyway. If they had the courage, they'd admit that like rape, torture is about demonstrating one's absolute control over another. Cheney and company are in fact serial rapists.

Mr. Farber

//"If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not."

Suicide bombers are some .01% or less of Afghan fighters, so what this has to do with dealing with Afghan fighters, I don't know.//

GOB's question wants a true/false answer rather than a quantitative one. Also, 'Afghan' was never mentioned on this thread before or after your comment, so "what this has to do with dealing with Afghan fighters, I don't know."

Mr. Alexander (who I don't expect to answer)

Here's what I don't follow:

//Before 9/11, the protection of American soldiers from terrorist attacks was a priority for our country.//

Okay. I'll believe you.

// Consider our responses to the Beirut Bombing, Khobar Towers, and the USS Cole.//

I don't remember any response. Was there one? If not are you suggesting thereby that we DON'T make protection of soldiers a priority? Or that we make it a priority but fail in the execution?

//When we talk about keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks, we need to include all Americans, especially those that serve in uniform.//

I agree with this sentence too. Just not sure where the middle one was going.

>> torture is about demonstrating one's absolute
>> control over another

And invading a country that presents no threat to you is about demonstrating one's absolute control over another 30 million.

Which is worse?

"If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not."

Could be.

We, however, have handed it to them on a plate.

I do not want in on the so-called debate, but I would like some elaboration on one of Eric's points. It seems to me that Al-Qaida is going to indoctrinate all recruits with the claim that we torture regardless of the facts and the recruits are not likely to be able to make any independent assessment of the truth or falsity of such a claim prior to being detained by those who do the dastardly deed, as shown by Eric's example. If my view is valid, then suicide bombers could be recruited whether torture is occurring or not.

Of course, al Qaeda's indoctrination is a lot more believable when it is factually true. If we hadn't tortured anyone, the only recruits they would get are the ones predisposed, without any actual evidence, to believe them. Now everyone believes them.

Ummm, isn't it obvious that it is easier to indoctrinate someone if what you try to convince him of is true? That more people are susceptible (= potential recruits) in this case and that it takes less time? So yes, AQ can recruit suicide bombers whatever US does, but it can recruit _more_ of them if US tortures than if not.

I don't remember any response. Was there one? If not are you suggesting thereby that we DON'T make protection of soldiers a priority? Or that we make it a priority but fail in the execution?

Yes. We bombed areas of Sudan and Afghanistan. We might have done more, too, if Republicans hadn't accused Clinton of undertaking those actions to distract from the all important Monica Lewinsky affair.

Otherwise, what russel, JMN and MR said about recruitment.

It's easier, and they can recruit more, if it's true. Further, sympathy is greater in the larger population of non-recruits if true. This helps AQ to operate with greater latitude.

Also, importantly, if not true, then we can get information from disillusioned recruits, as Major Alexander points out.

I don't want to weigh in on this debate anymore, since I don't want to get the rep as the "torture guy" but just a couple of points: the argument that our using coercion/torture is used as a recruiting tool by al-queda is really weak sauce: lots of things that we do are used as a recruiting tool for al Queda, from our unstinting support for Israel through our stance on women's rights. Should we stop supporting Israel because its probably the biggest recruiting tool for al Queda? Didn't think so. There are other problems with that argument, but frankly, there's not enough time in the day to go through all of them.

Matthew Alexander is a better American than I'll ever be. But there are some problems with using him as a poster boy for non coercive, "friendly" interrogation methods. He is best know for having supervised the eventually successful hunt for Amin al-Zarqawi.We should understand it was at best a Phyrric victory. We eventually got Zaqwiri, but it was after months of horrific bloodshed, in which ticking bombs went off every week and thousands of Iraqis died . Al-Zarqwiri in fact achieved his strategic goal of setting off a war with the Shia- a war in which thousands died and which continued after he was killed. Alexander's "softly, softly" approach did eventually succeed, but there was a big butcher's bill.

You should also understand that while Alexander's interrogators stuck to the Army field Manual, the biggest hammer that they had was that they could threaten recalcitrant susapects with a move to abu Abu Ghraib.They used it repeatedly to break targets who weren't responding to noncoercive methods. That was how in fact they broke the guy who gave up al Zaqwiri. He was imprevious to non-coercive methods until he was told he was going to abu Abu Ghraib. He then suddenly "saw the light" aided by some subtle deception on the part of the interrogators.
This is explained by yes, Mark Bowden in his article" The Ploy"

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200705/tracking-zarqawi

He writes:

Fear, the most useful interrogation tool, was always present. The well-publicized abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere put all detainees on edge, and assurances that the U.S. command had cracked down were not readily believed. The prospect of being shipped to the larger prison—notorious during the American occupation, and even more so during the Saddam era—was enough to persuade many subjects to talk. This was, perhaps, the only constructive thing to result from the Abu Ghraib scandal, which otherwise remains one of the biggest setbacks of the war.

What I got from that article is that non-coercive interrogation does work well (no one denies it). But it works even better if there is a credible threat of coercion. The happy clappy view that hardened terrorists are ready just to spill their guts at the first display of good ol' American friendliness is heartwarming, but just untrue.

I would also point out that we still have yet to hear from the CIA interrogators. We are in effect, in the middle of the state's case. When Eric says :

even if torture works in terms of ferreting out certain information (which it doesn't

well, he can't know that yet. Does win him points on this blog, though.
What is likely is that there are costs to not using coercion at all as an interrogation tool. Everything has costs, and sticking to non-coercive methods ain't a free lunch, despite Eric's assertion. It may indeed be worth it, but let's not pretend its costless.
OK, I'm off to run errands. I expect Gary or someone to pop in and call me a Nazi Stalinst Gestapo type in 5,4,3,2...

"Everything has costs"

Couldn't agree more.

"sticking to non-coercive methods ain't a free lunch"

And vice versa.

It may be that the whole "debate" about torture is past its sell-by date. We all know enough about what went on at this point that you're either on one side of the fence or the other.

What's left to discuss? Let's have the cage match and settle this sh*t one way or the other.

The only thing I'd add at this point is that you can always find a good reason for taking the short cut, if you're inclined to do so.

Feel free to take your stand, dude, and I will take mine.

"Should we stop supporting Israel because its probably the biggest recruiting tool for al Queda?"

This isn't true, so far as I know. Palestinians try to strike at Israel directly. Other jihadis most often tend to go to war because of local grievances (Iraqis, Afghanistan), or to fight the Americans in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden's primary motivation was the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which he regarded as a desecration of holy land.

The number of jihadis who are known to have carried out attacks on America because they're primarily worked up about Israel: 0 in this century. You'd have to go back to the Achille Lauro in 1985, twenty-four years ago, and that wasn't carried out against America; there just happened to be a single American killed out of 400 passengers taken prisoner.

I'd like a cite to support your claim that "the biggest recruiting tool for al Queda" is "supporting Israel," because so far as I know, you're imagining it. It's a secondary grievance at best. If you're not imagining that al Qaeda primarily recruits jihadis because of anger at Israel, and supporters of Israel, please give some cites. Also, explain why al Qaeda doesn't actually strike Israel, or international Israel targets, which are available all around the world. (The PLO and Hezbollah managed to attack plenty, back in the day.) Thanks.

"...but it was after months of horrific bloodshed, in which ticking bombs went off every week and thousands of Iraqis died."

None of which has anything to do with not using torture on Zawahiri: what are you talking about? What's the connection of "Alexander's 'softly, softly' approach" to "months of horrific bloodshed"?

"The happy clappy view"

Your attempts to stack your argumentative deck by use of argument-by-adjective are fallacious. I can call your arguments names, too, but it wouldn't be an argument. These continued transparent substitutes for argument merely underline how weak your argument is.

But I'm sure it makes you feel all tough and manly to, based on your own vast military experience on the front line, derogate actual soldiers, FBI agents, and interrogators, for their alleged naivety and happy-clappyness. Truly, you are far more reality-based, and knowledgeable, than they are.

After all, you've read Mark Bowden. What could make you more expert and manly?

I note, also, stonetools, that you've failed to support your previous comment about torture, or respond to my citing that the Israeli policy on torture, which you claim to support, is that it's illegal.

From WWII:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_akLbxNKanGc/SbfxBhgKGdI/AAAAAAAACko/PcmaDSO-qhc/s1600-h/oldantitortureposter.jpg

Our parents and grandparents were made of better stuff than we are.

Picture link via here:

http://vagabondscholar.blogspot.com/2009/05/torture-versus-freedom.html

h/t digby


>>Our parents and grandparents were made of
>>better stuff than we are.

Our parents and grandparents used nuclear weapons on civilians, firebombed Dresden and put people in concentration camps because they were of Japanese descent.

What a bunch of saints.

"What a bunch of saints."

What a bunch of straw. As if anyone maintained that people who didn't torture were morally perfect, utter saints.

Straw, straw, straw, straw. Troll, troll, troll, troll.

What a bunch of saints.

Whatever.

>> As if anyone maintained that people who
>> didn't torture were morally perfect, utter
>> saints

Yes I know, they are just made of better stuff than people today. The monsters that firebombed the center of Dresden not because the industrial targets were there (they weren't) but because the buildings there were made of wood, and would burn well?

Better stuff, in some people's eyes.

>> Whatever

Whatever indeed. Our parents and grandparents vaporized entire cities full of civilians, but, it must be said, they didn't keep any prisoners up for a few days without sleep or slam a prisoner against a wall.

That would be wrong.

Better stuff, in some people's eyes.

When they finally put him in the ground I'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down.

(Circa WWII):
Sergeant: I'll bet you'll watch the obituaries, and when I die, you'll come and piss on my grave.
Private: No, Sarge, when I get out of the Army, I'm never going to stand in line again.

@Gary;

You might want to read the article. THe guy who gave up al-Zaqwiri was the target who resisted non-coercive interrogation, then caved when the threat of going to abu Ghraib became imminent.

al Queda on Israel:

Al Queda responsible for double attack on Israel in Kenya

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2527133.stm

Al-Queda takes aim at Israel

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0113/p06s01-wome.html

Al Qaeda calls on Muslims to fight Israel

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/27/zawahiri.tape/index.html

Al-Qaeda: No Hamas-Israel truce

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/02/200922320393212154.html

I would say that al Queda spends a fair bit of time whipping up hate against Israel and even trying to strike at Israel. Its likely its anti-Israel policy shows up in its recruitment propaganda.

Israel on torture/coercion:

Although its officials never use the word "torture," Israel is perhaps the only Western-style democracy that has acknowledged sanctioning mistreatment of prisoners in interrogation. In 1987, following a long debate in legal and security circles, a state commission established a set of secret guidelines for interrogators using what the panel called "moderate physical and psychological pressure" against detainees. In 1999, Israel's Supreme Court struck down those guidelines, ruling that torture was illegal under any circumstances.

But after the second Palestinian uprising broke out a year later, and especially after a devastating series of suicide bombings of passenger buses, cafes and other civilian targets, Israel's internal security service, known as the Shin Bet or the Shabak, returned to physical coercion as a standard practice, according to human rights lawyers and detainees. What's more, the techniques it has used command widespread support from the Israeli public, which has few qualms about the mistreatment of Palestinians in the fight against terrorism. A long parade of Israeli prime ministers and justice ministers with a variety of political views have defended the security service and either denied that torture is used or defended it as a last resort in preventing terrorist attacks.

The effect of the Supremer Court ruling:


A turning point in Israel's treatment of detainees came in September 1999 when the Israeli Supreme Court, after a year and a half of deliberations, banned all forms of physical abuse. "Violence directed at a suspect's body or spirit does not constitute a reasonable investigation practice," the court declared.

The justices left open several loopholes. Interrogators who used force preemptively to prevent a terrorist attack could invoke the "defense of necessity" if faced with prosecution. The court also made allowances for "prolonged" interrogation, even if it involved sleep deprivation, and shackling, "but only for the purpose of preserving the investigator's safety."

Nonetheless, the ruling was a landmark. Shabak officials complained that the decision stripped them of the tools they needed to combat terrorism. An opposition lawmaker introduced a bill allowing interrogators to use force in "ticking bomb" cases. Barak supported the idea at first but later reached a compromise that gave the agency a bigger budget, a larger staff and more tools to help it solve cases without cracking heads.

Most of the specific methods used before the 1999 decision all but vanished after the ruling. Yet slowly but surely, human rights lawyers said, new techniques took their place.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A44664-2004Jun15.html?nav=headlines

As you can , even the Supreme Court ruling left loopholes. And in effect, the ruling was not enforced after the second intifada began. Picking up pieces of children blown to bits in restaurants and facing bombings, or the threat of bombings every week does have its effect. You focus on the innocents being blown up, not on the suspects. And certainly no Israeli now doubts that "ticking bomb scenarios" happen.


You might think that I am some keyboard commando who gets his jollies contemplating torture. But the Israeli public and security service seem to see things my way-and they live this stuff every day. None of this is a recipe for happiness- it may just be the way it is.

"You might think that I am some keyboard commando who gets his jollies contemplating torture."

You've chosen your side, dude. Don't think otherwise, because the facts are quite clear.

Good luck with it.

"Al Queda responsible for double attack on Israel in Kenya"

Which says:

If, as seems likely, al-Qaeda was responsible for the double attack on Israelis in Kenya, its motive could well be to rally Arab opinion against the "war on terror" declared by US President George W Bush by focusing more sharply on Israel as the target.

Al-Qaeda may be trying to reshape the battle into the west versus the rest.

In other words, it's an afterthought. Which is what al Qaeda's approach to Israel has always been: they give lip service, of course, to the evils of the Zionists, but it's incidental to their fight.
[...] But until now, Israel has not been a primary target for the al-Qaeda network, which has concentrated on American and other western citizens and interests.
Like I said; thanks for the link demonstrating my point.

"Al Qaeda takes aim at Israel
Zarqawi's group said a December rocket attack was just the beginning."

And, yet, that's all it was.

"Abu Musab Zarqawi, the commander of Al Qaeda's Middle East branch, issued a warning to Israel on the group's website, boasting that Katyusha rockets fired two weeks ago from southern Lebanon were just the 'beginning of a welcome operation to strike deep in enemy territory, at the instructions of Osama bin Laden.'"

Never happened. Oopsie.

"Al Qaeda calls on Muslims to fight Israel
Al Qaeda No. 2 tells Muslims in Lebanon, 'We will stand with you'"

And, again: nothing happened.

Thanks for the links.

"I would say that al Queda spends a fair bit of time whipping up hate against Israel and even trying to strike at Israel."

I'd say that al Qaeda desperately tries to use the general Muslim/Arab antipathy for Israel to little effect. al Qaeda has never managed to commit a signficant attack in Israel. If they're trying hard to strike at Israel, they're a complete miserable failure. Oh, well.

This would be because, as I said, most jihadis are motivated by local circumstances, or generalized desire to defend the Ummah and do jihad.

"The effect of the Supremer Court ruling"

I linked to the actual ruling, and quoted it. If you can't be bothered to respond, there's no point in further discussion. I pointed out where your quote is wrong. Try responding on point, please, rather than demonstrating that you haven't bothered to actually read the decision.

"Interrogators who used force preemptively to prevent a terrorist attack could invoke the 'defense of necessity' if faced with prosecution"

I quoted what was wrong with this statement: you make it sound as if such a defense would make torture legal. But it doesn't.

Since you've ignored this, I'll just have to boringly repeat again from the Israeli Supreme Court ruling you haven't bothered to read:

[...] The very fact that the use of such means is illegal in most cases warrants banning their use altogether, even if doing so would include those rare cases in which physical coercion may have been justified. Whatever their individual views, all petitioners unanimously highlight the distinction between the post factum possibility of escaping criminal liability and the advance granting of permission to use physical means for interrogation purposes.


[...] In the Court’s opinion, the authority to establish directives respecting the use of physical means during the course of a GSS interrogation cannot be implied from the “necessity defense.” The “necessity defense” does not constitute a source of authority, which would allow GSS investigators to make use of physical means during the course of interrogations.

[...]

The “necessity defense” cannot serve as a basis for such authority.

Do you understand what this means?

The court did say that the Knesset could, in effect, legalize torture if it warranted, undoing the court's ruling that it is illegal. The Knesset hasn't, and torture remains illegal in Israel. I realize you seem to have a considerable problem understanding this, but quoting misleading statements, rather than the actual court decision, doesn't change the fact that torture is illegal in Israel.

"As you can , even the Supreme Court ruling left loopholes."

You clearly don't understand the ruling, or what you're talking about, but are simply quoting by rote what you don't understand.

"You might think that I am some keyboard commando who gets his jollies contemplating torture."

I wouldn't say a thing implying what you think or feel, save that you've continually make such accusations in all your comments, about how those who disagree with you are naive, woolly-headed, happy-clappy, etc. Quit making claims about the people you disagree with, and I'll happily refrain from returning the compliments.

"But the Israeli public and security service seem to see things my way"

By making torture illegal. It helps to have a clue what you're talking about. Just repeating stuff you don't understand doesn't get you anywhere.

"And certainly no Israeli now doubts that 'ticking bomb scenarios" happen.'"

I'm willing to bet I have a lot more friends, relatives, relatives of friends, and friends of relatives, in Israel, than you do, and, again, you have no clue.

Jeebus, the idea that "no Israeli" would disagree with any idea is so insanely lacking in knowledge of who thinks what in Israel that David Ben-Gurion would weep in despair.

Be sure to mention this to B'Tselem, though.

"Al Queda responsible for double attack on Israel in Kenya"

In case anyone didn't notice, by the way, this was in 2002. Boy, those al Qaeda attacks on Israel just keep coming down the pike, don't they? It's hard to keep track of them, they're so frequent.

"Picking up pieces of children blown to bits in restaurants and facing bombings, or the threat of bombings every week does have its effect."

Unless you can name close friends or relatives in Israel, by the way, who have authorized you to speak for them, you have no right to allege to speak for people who have gone through this. As I said, I have plenty of friends, relatives, etc., in Israel. I'm Jewish. And few of them are pro-torture.

If you'd like to prove that my guess that you're just arrogating to yourself the right to speak for people whose minds you presume to read, go ahead and name some people you are personally close to in Israel who have authorized you to speak for them as pro-torture. Please.

Thanks for your quotations from the Supreme court decision. You will admit that it makes clear that there is a necessity defense for emergency situations. It does seem to permit the use of coercion in "ticking bomb" scenarios. The interrogator has to justify it ex post facto, and there is no a priori authorization to use such techniques as a matter of course. Can we agree there?

You linked to to B'Tselem, and this is their view on the Supreme Court ruling:

Also, the norm inherent in allowing the necessity defense in certain cases of torture or ill-treatment has an extra-judicial significance: it sanctions torture or ill-treatment on the grounds that the act was, under the circumstances, correct given that it was intended to prevent the occurrence of a much worse danger. It is not surprising, therefore, that the justices avoided expressly stating that the methods described in its decision constitute torture or ill-treatment. However, this avoidance cannot blur the regrettable fact that the highest court in the land legitimated, if only by implication, the use of torture and ill-treatment.

Thanks for the link.

I think that al Queda does point to US support for Israel as a recruiting tool, and indeed this is mentioned by al Queda far more than US use of torture as an Al queda propoganda ploy. We will have to agree to disagree on that, and in any case that whole argument is weak on other grounds.


As to the stance of the Israeli public and security service on on the issue, I am going by the Post article I referenced. If you are saying that reporter is lying, well, you take it up with him. You might want to consider that your friends, etc. may not be normative for Israeli public opinion.

The interrogator has to justify it ex post facto, and there is no a priori authorization to use such techniques as a matter of course. Can we agree there?

Oddly enough, perhaps, I'm fine with this.

If someone comes forward to demonstrate that there was a ticking time bomb, this particular prisoner knew about it and we knew they knew about it, and the only way we could get it out of them was to beat it out of them, I think that's fine.

Make your case and take your lumps. If in fact there was an actual bomb, ticking, and beating the snot out of someone was the only way to keep it from going off, you will likely walk, and I'm fine with that.

That's why we have judges and juries. To evaluate facts in context and exercise good faith judgement.

Unfortunately, that doesn't resemble in the slightest the situation that is on the table.

"You might want to consider that your friends, etc. may not be normative for Israeli public opinion."

Such opinions are hardly universal in Israel -- I certainly know very hawkish Israelis, as well -- but I never suggested otherwise; I was objecting to your ridiculous claim about "no Israeli."

Otherwise, I'll agree with Russell, as well as point out that the Israeli Supreme Court said that if the Knesset wanted to make torture legal, they could pass a law to do so, but meanwhile it wasn't legal; the Knesset has passed no such law. The ISC ruling did not say that there was an out by which torture could be legal.

To quote B'Tselem's summary:

[...] holding that ISA interrogators who exceeded their authority and used forbidden "physical pressure" can avoid criminal responsibility if it is subsequently found that they acted "in the proper circumstances." The court relied on the necessity defense set forth in the Penal Law.

The state based its position on the Landau Commission's conclusions, which included, inter alia, the opinion that the necessity defense grants ISA agents automatic, prior authority to use physical pressure on detainees in certain circumstances. The High Court rejected this position, stating that the necessity defense "deals with deciding those cases involving an individual reacting to a given set of facts," so it cannot serve as the source of a general administrative power. It is “only” a defense to criminal responsibility, claimed after the fact.

That's a defense that those tried for torture can try to plead. As stated earlier in the summary:
[...] In the absence of express statutory provisions permitting the use of physical pressure, the court held, "the power to interrogate given to the ISA investigator by law is the same interrogation power the law bestows upon the ordinary police investigator." Accordingly, the use of "physical means" by the ISA is illegal, inasmuch as they are not part of a reasonable interrogation, violate the detainee's human dignity, which is enshrined in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and is a criminal offense under the Penal Law.
I'll leave it there.

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