The Israelis tried torture. It didn’t work. Then they tried coddling terrorist prisoners, which I can safely say is something our government hasn’t tried yet.
Quelle horror! Appeasement, you cry. They might as well blow up their own buses. Actually it worked pretty well for them:
Robert Baer, a former CIA covert officer who worked in Iraq and elsewhere, said he recently spent time in an Israeli prison, talking with detainees from the radical Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas for a British documentary about suicide bombers.
The Israelis, Baer said, have learned that they can gain valuable information by establishing personal relationships with the inmates and gaining their trust.
“They found that torture, abusive tactics, made things overall worse for them politically,” Baer said. “The Israelis are friendly with their prisoners. They play cards with them and allow them to contact their families. They are getting in their minds to determine what makes up a suicide bomber.”
Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of operations and analysis in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, said detainees would say virtually anything to end their torment.
Baer agreed, citing intelligence reports from Arab security services that yielded useless information. “The Saudis and Egyptians torture people all the time, but I have yet to see anything that helped us on the jihad movement and (Osama bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al) Zawahri,” he said.
Ibn Sheikh al Libi, an al-Qaida training camp commander who was captured, was a principal source of the Bush administration’s prewar claim that Iraq had provided chemical weapons training to bin Laden’s network. He was subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques – and the information on Iraq and al-Qaida turned out to have been invented.
As I said before, you don’t even have to care that torture runs counter to international law and degrades any country that uses it. It also simply doesn’t work. When it mostly yields useless information and has the pleasant side-effect of hardening civilians against us to the point of creating warm and cozy local environment for insurgents, it’s hard to imagine a good argument in favor.
Pretty much the only way left to defend this administration’s bizarre record on torture is to claim that they don’t do it. Good luck with that.
Hat tipped in the general direction of Drum.
Hanns Joachim Scharff was an interrogator of WWII allied airmen. He was the most successful interogator on the other side during WWII, and his methods had nothing to do with torture. In fact, some of the POW’s that he interrogated actually sponsored his entry into the US so he could obtain American citizenship.
The link also talks about Col. Stuart Herrington,a US interrogator of Viet Namese prisoners during the war in Viet Nam and he had this to say:
I think there is ample proof, for anyone who wants to look, that torture isn’t an effective interrogation technique.
Absolutely, Tim. It does not extract information. This is why we do not do this. Rogue regimes apply it as a form of terrorism
Trying to pre-emptively slap down the pro-torture crowd might be futile, but still, there was a comment at Drum’s that I thought was so good I’d shamelessly steal it and cross-post it here…
“They are getting in their minds to determine what makes up a suicide bomber.”
Dare I say the Isrealis are looking for “therapy and understanding” of suicide bombers? What would Karl say?
Again, I’d love to hear how this reporter, or any reporter, can say the information given by al Libi was “invented” when his statements corroborated intel going back as far as 1998 in the Clinton Administration, as testified by then-Defense Secretary Cohen in front of the 9/11 Commission. Al Libi might’ve been simply repeating common knowledge about the Al Qaeda-Iraq VX link of which he personally knew no details, but that’s not the same thing as totally making something up.
This doesn’t go away.
So, coddling terrorists worked ‘pretty good’ for the Israelis? I must have been imagining all those suicide bombers and dead people then. After all, the terrorists got to play cards and call home. Why would they want to commit acts of terrorism?
If torture didn’t work the human race would have abandoned it long ago. Why is that fact so hard to grasp?
Again, it is not a good thing, it is not something that one should revel in, but neither is war. Neither is execution. Neither, for that matter, is police having to shoot a suspect. But they all happen, and they all have worked.
Does it work all the time? Of course not, nothing with so many variables involved works all the time. But it works well enough, and often enough that even the freest nations on this planet have been aided by the practice. Even the freeset nations, the ones that believe most highly in the worth of a human life still use it when it is needed.
Is it wrong? Who knows? The circumstances would dictate the morality of the torture. And that’s the tricky part.
People were tortured to keep freedom away from the Soviet Unions oppressed masses. People are tortured in China today to keep them from bringing truth out from behind the red flag. People are tortured in Cuba for such crimes as speaking freely, reading the wrong books, being gay. This is largely punitive torture. Torture for revenge. Torture to teach you a lesson. That is wrong.
Trying to get information that will save lives? Can you really say that that’s wrong?
Those of you who are so vehemently against torture behave as if those of us who see that there could be a need for torture actually like torture. As if we like the whole idea and revel in it. You’re idiots.
Understanding that hard, even horrible things might need to be done to protect oneself, ones family or ones country does not mean that one cannot see the horror of those actions. It does not mean that we will not be scarred by having to perform, order or condone them.
But it does mean that we stand a better chance of being there to atone for them and to do–again–whatever it takes to insure that these actions never need to be undertaken again.
Haven’t you heard? The brilliant, nuanced minds on the left have determined, through countless hours of study, that torture gives those on the right a “chubby.” How could you call such deep thinkers “idiots?”
Not that I actually condone it, but I’m thinking torture lite, coupled with the use of lie detecters and other confirming facts may work more quickly than being nice. For instance, after a detainee gives some info, he or she is checked with a lie detecter. If they pass, they get carrots, if they fail, they get sticks. That way they will have an incentive to give the truth and not just make things up. This would probably work only until they learn how to beat a lie detecter- in the long term, killing them with kindness is probably more effective.
If torture didn’t work the human race would have abandoned it long ago. Why is that fact so hard to grasp?
Torture isn’t abandoned because people want to do it. It’s a primordial indulgence; state-sanctioned torture is permission to act out ones’ fears and loathing of the enemy. People makes up excuses about why they “have” to do it, but ultimately they do it because on some sick level it is gratifying.
I’m thinking torture lite, coupled with the use of lie detecters and other confirming facts may work more quickly than being nice.
That might make sense, but apparently experience says otherwise. This is explained in the article linked to by Tim, which apparently you didn’t read. See also:
is explained in the article linked to by Tim, which apparently you didn’t read.
Yes, but it didn’t link up to my idea about lie detecters. Without using them, there would be no way to catch made up information. I agree that the use of torture is very risky, as among other things, you will always find some sadist who will torture just to get their jollies. But does it never work? Hard to say.
Lie detectors depend on physiological indicators of stress. If I knew that a bad answer would result in having my fingernails pulled off, it’s a safe bet that I’d be stressed way the fuck out before they even turn the machine on. The test would be practically useless.
The test would be practically useless
Maybe, but lie detectors work by looking for patterns, not a baseline of stress. If they just judged whether a person was stressed or not, they would never work at all, as most people are going to be somewhat stressed when they take one. As I understand it, they ask some mundane questions, see the pattern, then ask the important questions. If there is much difference between the two, it is considered a lie.
And by the way, I’m not talking about actual torture, such as fingernails being pulled out. I’m talking about the methods currently allowed.
I think you people are missing the larger picture. If a cybernetic terrorist had a death ray pointed at bird flu laced nuclear bomb that was planted under a stadium filled with children and puppies, what would you do?
Make friends with the robo-terrorist? Take him on a shopping trip for a new pair of Ferragamos? Give him a back rub and a foot soak while you plead, “Please Hammer don’t hurt them?”
Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture.
And he would never authorize the use of torture. We have an obligation to do all that we can to protect the American people.
Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people. We are engaged in a global war against Islamic radicals who are intent on spreading a hateful ideology, and intent on killing innocent men, women and children.
We do not torture
He’s right, we don’t torture, we use torture lite.
We are also going to do so in a way that adheres to our laws and to our values. We have made that very clear. The President directed everybody within this government that we do not engage in torture. We will not torture. He made that very clear.
I’m by no means advocating torture, which should go without saying but when intelligent discourse like “pro-torture crowd” is being thrown around, you never know.
But this “torture doesn’t work” or “torture never works” talking point that’s thrown around is pretty silly.
How in the hell do you know that? Do you think that if the CIA or some Special Ops unit got information from someone through some method of “torture” that they’re gonna call a press conference and announce that they obtained crucial intel, and they did so by shoving bamboo under their fingernails and running several thousand volts of electricity through their nuts?
You’re right, we need a study. Any volunteers?
Jeff, we not torture.
“If torture didn’t work the human race would have abandoned it long ago. Why is that fact so hard to grasp?” No empirical evidence? People routinely torture out of anger and frustration, not out of carefully thought-out information gathering. Those who have thought of what they are doing routinely take a more sophisticated approach to information-gathering. Think of the inspector in Crime and Punishment, or Colombo (who is modeled on the inspector in C&P).
As an aside, from my work with folks on death row at San Quentin, prisoners generally become more competent and balanced if treated well. They learn to read, get off drugs, react positively to structured life. Mitigation specialists – hard core abolitionists – chafe at that fact. If the SQ prisoners were treated as badly as they generally were on the outside, they would manifest their mental health disorders more clearly, and have an easier time getting relief in post trial proceedings. Same goes for terrorists in jail in Israel, I suspect. Humane treatment also makes life much easier and more honorable for the jailers.
Think about the torturing of McCain and his buddies (downed airmen). What did that torture over 7 years net the NVN folks? Nothing “actionable” that I know of. Lots of saturation bombing by Nixon, but no net plus for NVN.
Find me some torturer who ever “saved the day” with actionable intelligence, or who you expect to find the hideout of OBL (or some other actionable intelligence) by torture. Who is going to find us nukes bought by OBL? If we have no idea, what does that tell us about the efficacy of trying or planning to rely on torture (or abusive interrogation)? As they say, military intelligence can be a contradiction of terms. The MI and CIA folks are just not good enough (in terms of track record) to be given abusive interrogation warrants.
Suppose an abused captive said OBL was in Iran in this village and has two nukes, what good does that do you? Are you going to risk troops for a mission based on evidence from torture? What are your chances of being sent on a “wild goose chase”? One must get real about the efficacy of torture, yes? Then, it seems pretty easy to accept the McCain amendment.
See Jack’s post, above. Scs seems determined to toe the line, and when Stormy shows up we’ll have three. Technically-speaking, three’s a crowd.
Wilson, obviously, you have a different view from the American people. I think the American people understand the importance of doing everything within our power and within our laws to protect the American people.
Tim you are once again showing your partisan nature. That means making gross exaggerations not based in fact to prove your personal interest. I was merely making a theoretical discussion about whether or not torture is effective, regardless of its ethical dimensions, and as I have said, I don’t actually condonee it. In fact this is what I said
You are just trying to get me back from yesterday’s comments.
If torture is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
I don’t think anyone’s saying “torture never works.” I’m sure it works to some extent. It just doesn’t work as well as getting detainees on your side and using psychological tactics on them, at least as far as several of the links provided here and everything I’ve ever read on the subject are concerned.
I mean, if outright, hard-core physical torture was proven to be the best method, I’d be all for it. But it doesn’t appear to be, and isn’t it all about getting the best information?
Glad to see you haven’t lost your touch.
THAT was funny.
In fact Tim, I’m getting madder here by the minute, and I really think you should apologize to me for your comment. First you bring up a post claiming to discuss the practical side of torture, whether it really works or not, besides its ethical component. And then when I chime in, and give my opinion on the criteria YOU brought up, about whether it works, you say “I’m toeing the line”. There was no evidence for that in my postings.
I repeat, you are not a poster anymore. You need to start holding yourself to a higher standard if you expect people to want to read what you write.
Scs, I think you’re right here, for what’s that worth — by that I mean I don’t think that my opinion is worth much here since I am on the verge of being banned.
But, even if we scratch you from the list of pro-torture posters, we’ve got to add Perry Como after this comment:
Recitation of MC Hammer album titles is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
BTW, did people see Bobo’s recent column “Gangsta, In French”? It was a masterpiece of idiocy, the best I’ve read in a while.
I thought you were Perry, DougJ. Could I have been wrong?
I’m not Perry. I have to keep spoofing on the DL, as David Brooks would say, from now on or risk banishment.
scs, you are right that ‘toeing the line’ was inappropriate – it’s an idiom that I used in place of what I had in mind, which would be more like probing the contours of the boundary between right and wrong.
Here’s what I mean. You keep bringing up ‘torture-lite.’ If you condoned the whole nine yards, fingernails and all that, I would have said that you crossed the line entirely. If you dismissed any form of abusive treatment then you wouldn’t be anywhere near the line. Some people would hear ‘torture lite’ and simply think, ‘torture,’ but that isn’t 100% correct. Nonetheless I don’t think that endorsing a watered-down version is appropriate either.
Tim, I appreciate your comments of inappropriateness, However, I NEVER even said I condoned Torture-Lite, which was an ironic, tongue-in-cheek way by me to describe what the Bush Admin is doing. I merely questioned whether it would be effective or not, as you INVITED us to do by your musings! That’s why I was kind of mad cause I kind of felt you set up a trap there. But perhaps you just misread my comments, so in either case, no hard feelings.
Andrew J. Lazarus
I wouldn’t want to say that Israel has stopped torturing, but I will say that the Israeli Supreme Court finally made it unlawful. More precisely, they ruled that the International Convention Against Torture, which they ratified as have the United States, prohibited various allegedly-secret abusive treatments. The funny thing is, suicide bombing didn’t suddenly increase. Suicide bombing is way down, although the Separation Fence is by far the most important reason.
What’s most interesting is that the Israeli experience made clear that torture is an ineffective tool for investigation, but it’s pretty good if your intention is terrorizing a hostile population and you simply don’t care about things like false positives. The Israelis then didn’t care if Ahmed rats out Mussa under torture, they’ll just round up Mussa and make him “confess” too in a big daisy chain. The security services offered up only one example of a genuine ticking bomb that had been defused through torture. I can’t imagine it was worth the ill will.
The Israelis released the interrogation video of a teenage girl (!) suicide bomber who was intercepted. She was extremely remorseful. The Israelis made sure the video got play on TV. Not dumb. Not dumb at all. Newspaper story here.
The vietcong tourtered the POWs in their prisons when they refused to meet with hanoi jane a nd denounch our nation why were there not charges filed against the vietcong then?
“Those who have thought of what they are doing routinely take a more sophisticated approach to information-gathering.”
And when that doesn’t work? Do we just say ‘Oh well’ when there might be millions of lives on the line? Or do we take the crude, unsophistcated step?
“As an aside, from my work with folks on death row at San Quentin, prisoners generally become more competent and balanced if treated well. They learn to read, get off drugs, react positively to structured life.”
I will repeat, The Israelis purported niceness, as stated above. has netted them zero positive response from the terrorists they are supposedly ‘treating well’. I don’t care if these creatures feel good, learn to read or react positively to anything. I want to know what they know as quickly as possible. After that, I really couldn’t care less if you killed them. They are enemy combatants. They want us dead–all of us, particularly the cute little children. Some of those released from our custody have gone right back to what they were doing before–trying to obliterate us. Did setting them free have any positive effect?
“Same goes for terrorists in jail in Israel, I suspect. Humane treatment also makes life much easier and more honorable for the jailers.”
But it doesn’t stop terrorism. It doesn’t stop these animals from blowing up more people. If your humane treatment of your prisoners–brought in for trying to blow up innocents–does not result in the eradication or allieviation of your people being blown up. Then your ‘humane treatment’ is not honorable, it is providing comfort to an enemy that is actively trying to slaughter you.
“Think about the torturing of McCain and his buddies (downed airmen). What did that torture over 7 years net the NVN folks? Nothing “actionable” that I know of.”
The VC were not seeking information so much as they were seeking to brainwash.
“Find me some torturer who ever “saved the day” with actionable intelligence,”
I can’t. Torture is not something that is bragged about. How much actionable information that we’ve gotten from our various intelligence angencies over the course of this nation’s history is something that we’ll probably never know.
“As they say, military intelligence can be a contradiction of terms. The MI and CIA folks are just not good enough (in terms of track record) to be given abusive interrogation warrants.”
And you base this on…..? Somehow I doubt that you are privy to the nation’s total intelligence picture.
“Suppose an abused captive said OBL was in Iran in this village and has two nukes, what good does that do you? Are you going to risk troops for a mission based on evidence from torture?”
How reliable is it? Has it been corroborated? Does the story seem to hold water? There are more factors than the ones you choose to put forth. However, the answer is YES you DO risk troops to check it out–unless the information source is shown to be utterly unreliable(and then you risk a few fewr troops) That is the troops job, and the situation is too risky to ignore. In fact, many will be HOPING hat it’s a wild goose chase. The converse is far too scary.
“Then, it seems pretty easy to accept the McCain amendment.”
And you didn’t torture. And you didn’t go. And you stand on your moral high ground above another smoking hole in our country. How do you feel?
The last hole was created because we held a different moral high ground. We didn’t profile, and we didn’t detain. We looked pretty PC good–until September 12th when we realised that a bit of extra questioning(there’s that term again) and this wouldn’t have happened.
But we held that moral high ground. We acted honorably, right? Now we’ve got to do it again. Right?