Big posts on torture by Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan (here and here and here and here and here), and a pretty shameless piece in the Opinion Journal. Read all of them and then come back here for my 2 cents.
Ok- did you read them all? Good.
One of the recurring statements leveled by those who oppose the McCain amendment is that those supporting the McCain amendment are being fuzzy with their definitions, and calling things torture which clearly are not. For example, this piece from the previously mentioned shameless Opinion Journal article:
The critics are still conveniently vague about just what interrogation techniques they would allow. The Post frowns on “other CIA pressure methods.” Well, what are they? Sleep deprivation? Exposure to hot and cold? Stress techniques such as kneeling for a long time? Or how about good cop-bad cop interrogation of the kind practiced in the average American police precinct? That can certainly be “degrading” and “cruel” if you interpret those words in the most expansive manner.
You see! I am just one of those nancy-boy Amnesty International bleeding heart liberal types! I don’t even want the worst of the worst subjected to a room a little colder than room temperature! I get the vapors when detainees are subjected to a little bit of sleep deprivation! I should just STFU and let the manly men, including the million dollar metrosexuals at the Wall Street Journal editiorial board, make all the tough decisions.[/snark]
Of course I don’t have a little problem with a little sleep deprivation. Of course I don’t have a problem with with turning down the air conditioning a little bit. Of course I don’t have a problem with some use of stress positions. I doubt most people would. But do I have a problem with chaining someone’s arms and legs behind them, chaining them to a floor, subjecting them to freezing cold without water or food, allowing them to lie for 24-48+ hours in their own shit and urine while listening to rap music at ear-bleeding volumes until they pull their hair out.
Maybe I am not as manly a man as say, Paul Gigot or Daniel Henninger, but that constitutes torture in my book, and it sounds to me like someone else is playing fast and loose with definitions.
Or do I have a problem with ‘cold cells’ and ‘waterboarding,’ as described here:
The fourth consists of forcing a prisoner to stand, handcuffed and with shackled feet, for up to 40 hours. Then comes the “cold cell”: Detainees are held naked in a cell cooled to 50 degrees, and periodically doused with cold water. Last is “waterboarding,” a technique that’s already been widely reported. According to the information supplied to ABC: “The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.” ABC quoted its sources as saying that CIA officers who subjected themselves to waterboarding “lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in.”
Well, yeah. I may not be as brutish and tough as John Fund or Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., or another one of those macho guys at the Opinion Journal who get their morning pedicure, head to the office in their tailored suit, write about the benefits of torture, and then head for drinks at the Russian Tea Room, but pretty much that last description seems to define torture.
Now, no- it may not leave any permanent physical scarring, and it may not lead to broken bones or organ failure, but I feel pretty comfortable calling those actions torture. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, there is a paper trail- we watched abusive techniques migrate from one prison complex to another, and it is documented.
So I would suggest that those who keep whining that us softies are simply playing fast and loose with definitions come clear on what their definition of torture is. Then they can level the arguments that my opposition to torture is just soft-headed thinking, or giving aid and comfort to terrorists, or merely there so I can feel morally superior to those who are actually doing what they have to to keep our country safe.
Because they are the ones who are really playing fast and loose, and they damn well know it. And this latest maneuver by Rumsfeld is going to blow up in his face.
*** Update ***
More here from the always worthwhile Cathy Young, who has a back and forth of sorts with Jonah Goldberg (another manly man, one presumes, and not prone to general wishy-washy liberalism and terrorist-coddling like me)
Not to sound overly melodramatic here, but I find it rather frightening that Jonah is reducing a basic principle of post-Enlightenment Western culture — the bodily inviolability of the individual as a cardinal principle — to mere aesthetic preference.
*** Update #2 ***
And this piece by Max Boot is so shockingly stupid it could have been written by John Gibson or Sean Hannity:
HOLD THE PRESSES. I’ve discovered that the use of torture by the U.S. government is far more pervasive than previously believed. There are major facilities all over the country where thousands of men and women who have not committed any crime are held for prolonged periods while subjected to physical and psychological coercion that violates every tenet of the Geneva Convention.
They are routinely made to stand for long periods in uncomfortable positions. They are made to walk for hours while wearing heavy loads on their backs. They are bullied by martinets who get in their faces and yell insults at them. They are hit and often knocked down with clubs known as pugil sticks. They are denied sleep for more than a day at a time. They are forced to inhale tear gas. They are prevented from seeing friends or family. Some are traumatized by this treatment. Others are injured. A few even die.
Should Amnesty International or the International Committee of the Red Cross want to investigate these human-rights abuses, they could visit Parris Island, S.C., Camp Pendleton, Calif., Ft. Benning, Ga., Ft. Jackson, S.C., and other bases where the Army and Marines train recruits. It’s worth keeping in mind how roughly the U.S. government treats its own defenders before we get too worked up over the treatment of captured terrorists..
Look Max, I can do it too:
HOLD THE PRESSES. I’ve discovered the use of torture by groups within the U.S. government that is far more pervasive than previously believed. There are major facilities all over the country where thousands of men and women who have not committed any crime are held for prolonged periods, forced to listen to loud music for hours on end while being made to consume large quantities of alcohol to the point that they vomit and are incapacitated.
Aren’t I clever? I made a funny. University fraternity parties are the same thing as torture, just like boot camp is torture! Now watch me go eat my own poo!
Seriously, this is the kind of deranged garbage that makes me never want to read anything else Max Boot has written, and to take back any of the times I ever agreed with him. And this is the tack- to claim that the real instances of abuse and torture are nothing, and then to pretend that when folks put forward legitimate concerns about torture (think beating people to death, cold cells, or any of the other stuff we know has occurred) is the same as wanting to ban all interrogation methods.
Again, if anyone is ‘fuzzying’ definitions, it is not me. If you think the McCain bill is too vague, fine. Show me where you draw the line. I have showed you where I stand- waterboarding is torture. Cold cells are torture. Beating people until they hemmorage internally is torture. Kneeing people in the thigh until they die is torture. Chaining people in stress positions for 24 to 48 hours in rooms where it is excessively hot, and refusing to give them food or water while forcing them to lie in their own urine and shit- that is torture. Just because they are not as bad as the end of Braveheart, or they aren’t as bad as sticking someone’s arm in a paper shredder or raping someone’s daughter does not mean they are not torture. So if you think otherwise, let me know where you stand in this troubling world of ‘vague’ definitions.
Well, then, that begs the question: if terrifying someone with waterboarding is torture, what level of frightening them isn’t? Is yelling at them torture? Making scary faces?
Excellent post, John.
But the Russian Tea Room closed years ago.
“Hey Toquemada, walk this way.”
“I just got back from the Auto-de-fe.”
“Auto-de-fe? What’s an Auto-de-fe?”
“It’s what you oughtn’t to do but you do anyway.”
If water boarding was good enough for Torquemada, it’s good enough for me!
While you are willing to identify what does and does not constitute torture to you, the legislation currently proposed by SEN McCain makes no such distinction. That’s the problem.
I don’t know if this could have been avoided or not, and it only affects the politics and PR of the situation rather than the ethics and practicality, but use of the word “torture” might not be helping. As you said, people are complaining about a lot of incidents and practices and they aren’t all really torture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should allow our government to do them. Sleep deprivation probably isn’t torture, but it definitely would be called cruel and unusual punishment if the prison guards were doing it just for kicks, probably even for evidence-gathering purposes.
And about that Max Boot who Instapundit quotes, I don’t know if he’s always a blithering idiot, but he is in that column.
Yes, because there’s absolutely no difference between someone signing up for this stuff knowingly and voluntarily, and it being done without legal oversight to people who haven’t consented, some of whom aren’t guilty of anything in the first place. What an asshole.
I mean, at what point do we just admit we aren’t going to seriously interrogate people, even when we know they have information that could save lives?
Honestly, our military’s efforts to gain intel are becoming so demonized in the press I’m ready to just throw in the towel and say all detainees should be treated as comfortably as possible and never subjected to the slightest bit of pressure. Sure, it might get a few more people killed, but at least we won’t have to hear people slandering our counbtry and our troops as torturers.
Besides, since the press has once again done yeoman’s work for the terrorists by publicizing all the interrogation techniques, they probably aren’t going to work anymore anyway.
From here on out, I say anything less than a mint on every detainee’s pillow every morning is unacceptable.
If it makes them jump a little, OK. If they start to cry, OK. Wet their pants, OK. Crap their pants, not OK. I’m sure McCain will line this all out.
Ain’t it fun trying to reason with people who just want to dismiss you? People who twist what you’re trying to say into something they can easily defend? You try making a point and all you get in response is ‘you want us to give them hugs and candy’. This is how your side has one elections.
Nothing like a brain fart word choice to totally screw up your point.
Typical. It’s always the press’ fault for publicising the things we do wrong, never the fault of the people who do wrong.
Ha ha. Does your “Club Gitmo” shirt only come in children’s sizes.
I think we should all just accept the Bush administration guidelines. If the interrogation does not rise to the level of death, organ failure, or the permanent impairment of a significant body function, then it isn’t torture. That gives the non-torturers plenty of room to work with electro-shock, sodomy, beatings, monitored hypothermia, and a slew of other techniques.
For instance, attaching electrodes to a human body and applying voltage is not torture as long as it doesn’t cause any permanent damage. Temporary damage? That’s fine. What are a few electrical burns on the scrotum, just between friends? So I vote we embrace the Bush policy of non-torture. It’s not torture if it doesn’t kill you!
I’m calling my new policy the “Ramada Inn Standard.” It’s an easy standard to apply: if it’s something the Ramada Inn wouldn’t do, it’s unacceptable. No sleep deprivation, no loud yelling, thermostat is on the wall, and if the detainee so requests, the sheets will be turned down.
Seroously though, I’m not kidding about the “no pressure.” No matter how high the bar is set, someone is going to call it torture, or tantamount to torture, or approaching the line or torture, or nuzzling the labia of torture. So the hell with it.
Challenge yourself sometime and deal with what people are actually arguing instead of strawmen. It’s tough, but I know you can do it. Well, maybe. I mean, you clearly don’t do it anywhere in this post.* And if you’re really feeling up to it, you might bother adressing the assertion John and others around here have made that torture rarely if ever gets useful information.
* I’ll make it easier for you. Some of the strawmen present in here are the assertion that abuse is reserved for terror suspects, which it’s not, the assumption that torture works, which it doesn’t, and the assumption that anyone in the anti-torture crowd wants prisoners to be treated any better than they get treated in domestic American prisons, which we don’t. I wish you luck making up evidence of any of that. Wait, no I don’t.
From your Rummy link:
They’re just laughing about all this. If we want to torture, just be uncowardly enough to stand up for it and define it. But after hearing for the last two years that “we don’t torture”, their hypocrisy is just amazing.
Where do you draw the line TallDave? Are stress positions okay? How about hypothermia? Electrodes? What about crushing the testicles of the detainees child (ask John Yoo)?
Don’t ever type those words again.
Yes, Dave. And what you and the WSJ folks are doing is conflating the absurd charges made by some with the legitimate charges made by others. Which was the entire point of the post.
The WSJ says we oppose the use a little temperature controls to make peopole uncomfortable, when what I really oppose is inducing hypothermia over long periods of time by keeping naked detainees in metal rooms at fifty degrees and pouring ice cold water on them. They attempt to mock our legitimate disdain for those pracxtices by pretending we are just talking about lowering the room temperature making detainees ‘uncomfortable.’
Again, I would argue your side is having problems with definitions. Not mine, because pretty clearly I think that is torture. And so do army interrogators.
I’m reminded of an episode of Mythbusters (love that show). In it, the secondary team was assigned to find out whether the “Chinese Water Torture” was really an effective method of torture. (You know the one…person is strapped and shackled to a board, and water is slowly and consistently dripped onto the forehead).
So they come up with this rig that will steadily drip, drip, drip water, and they strap the girl in, and even among people she trusts completely, she didn’t last more than 10 minutes (I forget the actual time – I saw this episode months ago) before she was crying and begging to be let free.
Now the point is this. In concept, the Chinese Water Torture doesn’t really sound that bad. What’s so harmful about water being dripped onto your forehead?
In practice though, everything becomes much, much different. The act of total physical restraint (she couldn’t even move her head), coupled with the dripping became psychologically terrifying to this person even though she was in a familiar place, surrounded by people she knew wished her no harm.
Personally, after having seen that episode, I question the veracity of any information gained under similar techniques. I think that girl would have claimed to have shot JFK if she knew it would have meant an end to the experiment. And if you’re dealing with a person supposedly trained to resist traditional interrogation technique, why would torture then provide legitimate information?
Whatever ends up being done to our prisoners will be done to our soldiers when they are captured now. A vicious circle.
I’d say if it results in the death of the detainee it’s torture, as well as murder.
But as we’ve seen, that’s a very subjective thing. Death that is.
But of course we’ve prosecuted those responsible. And sent a strong message to any others who might consider murdering their detainees.
I suppose if the soldier’s blood alcohol level at the time was over .10 he might have gotten a year.
Welcome to the girly-man, American haters club John. What size jacket do you wear?
So now you’re slandering our troops by implying that they sawed off the heads of Iraqi civilians? You just don’t know when to stop, do you?
You’re either with us, or you are against us.
Standard tactic of the Repubsheviks.
I think I’m experiencing a real life DougJ transformation, but in the opposite direction. A year ago I would have echoed every word in this post, but as I sit here to today, I feel like a freeper or something, all I can think about while we’re debating how cold we can make the rooms where we hold these guys, is that we’re facing an enemy who wants to film themselves cutting our heads off and then put the video on the internet.
Now, yeah, I know one has nothing to do with the other, and intellectually speaking I’m still against torture and understand the arguments against it.
It’s weird, it started with Howard Dean’s comment about how we can’t win. I suddenly went from someone who would have been proud of Dean for speaking his mind, for “telling it like it is”, dissent is patriotism, ect, ect. But a funny/scary thing happened, I read the righty blogs reaction to his comments, how they were defeatist, offensive to our military, counter-productive to our goals, a slap in the face to all the men and women in Iraq, Americans and Iraqis alike, literally putting their life on the line to make Iraq a better place than it was, a place for hope…..and, well, I agreed. And now the same sort of thing is beginning to happen with the torture debate, and I’m wondering what the fuck is happening to me, heh.
Either that’s a DougJ type joke or you have used up every last ounce of straw left in the world.
We can either be a “shining city on a hill” or we can be a little better than our enemies. America has always been about being the best country in the world not about being better than the worst.
Mike S just doesn’t understand that following his logic leads to the conclusion that the sawing of heads happened only after any of the alleged torture that our soldiers might have participated in. I don’t remember reading about your beloved ACLU charging our soldiers with beheading, when did that happen?
That this is even a debate in a civilized country is mind-boggling. I’ve heard people RATIONALIZING torture. You know, that kind of stuff Sadam did that was so abhorrent, you had to invade? The problem with this is, if you take some guy off the street because you suspect him, torture him for some kind of confession or information, then let him free, if he wasn’t a terrorist before, he sure would be now. So if they waterboard some guy because waterboarding, etc “isn’t that bad” they can never, ever let him go. This whole issue will make more terrorists than it catches.
Call me insane
I’m not saying that I agree with the “interrogation techniques” going on and I don’t completely disagree with them either. I am still up in the air about this one, I’m not really sure how I feel. However, there is a fine line between a way to get information out of another person and just being cruel but that fine line does need to be walked in order to get information. Does anybody really think that by sitting these guys down, who by the way think it is heroic to strap a bomb to themselves and blow up innocent people, and ask them what they know that they are going to say anything? Everybody gets so up in arms about the way we treat these terrorists because nobody real cares when the blow themselves up in another country but lets see how those same people will feel if a terrorist blows him or herself up in the US. Will torture be alright then?
WTF are you talking about? This isn’t even straw, it’s delusions.
Did you see the story in today NYTimes. It seems in an effor to “clarify things” they are revisiting the Army field manual on torture.
I guess I could be more convinced about the necessity of torture if I believed that we were doing everything we could to fight terrorism with the evidence we have or had.
Too bad that isn’t the case.
Andrew J. Lazarus
1. I don’t think I would be afraid of a single pro-torture media personality in a bar fight. I’ve never been in a bar fight. I’m middle-aged. I have bad rotator cuffs, both shoulders. Tough guys every one.
2. The pro-torture crowd will have to decide between reliable intelligence and masturbatory fantasies. For some people, torture does provide the latter, especially when it can be packaged as just revenge. Hint: your nearest major city will have establishments where you can indulge without dragging America’s reputation through the mud.
3. I wonder if Mrs. Max Boot is familiar with her husband’s inability to distinguish voluntary vs coerced submission. I sense a fantasy opportunity here too.
Where do you draw the line TallDave?
Exactly my point: no one can draw the line, because what’s acceptable to you or I won’t be acceptable to someone else.
In concept, the Chinese Water Torture doesn’t really sound that bad. What’s so harmful about water being dripped onto your forehead?
Again, exactly. Anything we do is going to be called torture, so we should just give up all coercive techniques.
In WW II, our troops committed torture. Not panties on the head, but beating people to death. It’s been documented as being fairly routine and uncontroversial. It was dismissed with a wink and a nod, because the media supported the war (they agreed to, since FDR was going to take them over if they didn’t) and there weren’t digital cameras everywhere, and even if there had been no one was going to shed any tears if a few of the damned krauts and japs got what everyone felt they deserved.
Today we’re more enlightened, which is probably a good thing overall. So we might as well accept the fact that any kind of harsh interrogation is going to be used against us publicly, and just give it up entirely.
The WSJ says we oppose the use a little temperature controls to make peopole uncomfortable, when what I really oppose is inducing hypothermia over long periods of time by keeping naked detainees in metal rooms at fifty degrees and pouring ice cold water on them.
Potato, potahto. Are we going to negotiate the exact temperature? Is 58 degrees acceptable, but 57 degrees torture? Is one cup of cold water acceptable, but two is inhumane?
That debate will never, ever be won by anyone. All it does is make it look like America not only tortures people, but tries to rationalize it.
That’s why I’m arguing for the Ramada Inn standard:
I like The Shield & 24, and if works for those guys then I say torture the terrorist creeps until they sing.
Damn pansies. You act like you can’t satnd a little discomfort.
Insightful cooments there, Andrew. Max Boot and Jonah Golberg are wrong because they are sexually disfunctional wimps.
Man. How could anybody argue with that?
BTW, a couple weeks ago on a similar thread re: white phosphorus, I argued that submitting tactical choices to judicial review would be disastrous, clogging up courts with frivolous litigation. I raised the point in an earlier discussion on the McCain Graham bills. Those here who apparently know the court system better than I ridiculed the possibility.
Well, the figures are in. A friend with too much time on his hands to study such things infgorms me there are roughly 210 civil suits pending in federal court filed by Gitmo detainees and others on their behalf.
I renew my argument, that reducing a matter of ministerial judgment to a matter of criminal law – such as the dozens of little decisions a tactical interrogator must make *inside the confines of existing laws prohibiting torture* – will only go to hamstring legitimate interrogation efforts and spawn frivolous litigation, in a concerted attempt to thwart U.S. intelligence gathering strategy. This in turn will dis-incentivize the risky endeavor of bothering to take prisoners at all. On the other hand, it should keep plenty of lawyers fully employed.
The strawman keep coming.
Only you seem to be suggesting that.
Also, we can’t get 100% of the people in this country to agree on anything. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have standards and policies.
There is a difference between an official government policy regardinging torture and random incidents of torture. I am sure some of our troops were AWOL during WWII as well, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have policies in place against being AWOL.
Did that give you a hard on Davey? Maybe you and Big Pharma can join together for a comedy act. The two of you will help us make the GOP the party of torture.
There is a difference between an official government policy regardinging torture and random incidents of torture.
No there isn’t. Just ask John Cole. It’s always the administration’s fault. It’s never just a few bad apples.
Where were FDR’s official policies on torture? Where was the official guidance on what were acceptable ways to treat Nazi soldiers and what weren’t?
You can find answers to those questions by reading the Geneva Conventions.
A lot of people seem to think I’m kidding about the Ramada Inn standard. I’m really not.
The reality is, there is no other way the U.S. can avoid being labelled a torturer. John’s hypothetical 58 degree standard won’t be acceptable to someone else who thinks cells should be kept at at least 59 degrees. We’ll hear expert testimony that 58 degrees can kill people. That debate will never end. There will always be one side who says the other side is “pro-torture,” and another side that says the first side is a bunch of pansy-ass whiners who are going to lose the war.
So screw it. The only way that debate can ever end is to hold ourselves to a standard so high it’s impossible to criticize.
Bullshit, Bush didn’t get off on that excuse.
For all of you torture fans: I’m just wondering how long it will be before the use of these techniques against American citizens is “justified” in your eyes. Oh, I know. That will never happen in America! Sure. But the fact is, for people who will sink to any level in order to feel that illusion of “safety”, it’s only a matter of time.
When did Bush ever say we were treating enemy combatants according to the terms of the Geneva Conventions? I thought his adminstration specifically said we were not doing that.
Unlawful combatants were executed on the spot in WW II.
And you complain about Gitmo?
Hey, it’s not like we ever invaded a country based on faulty information that came from torture. cough’Al Libbi’cough
I think there is a huge difference between “enemy combatants” and “unlawful combatants”.
Just imagine if Bush did this:
As I said, we have a more evolved sensibility these days, which probably isn’t a bad thing overall.
There was never any question about lawful combatants getting Geneva protection.
There is a huge difference between creating a standard which no one will criticize and creating a standard that is acceptable to a majority of people. I’m not sure why you are pressing such extremist logic.
Everything about that case was done in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. There is a difference between a spy and a combatant, and you don’t seem to know what that is.
Well, most people think torture’s acceptable:
So if that “creating a standard that is acceptable to a majority of people” were true, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
What are you talking about? The GC didn’t apply to unlawful combatants, so it wasn’t used in that instance. Terrorists and spies are both unlawful combatants and not subject to GC.
FDR was a commie, so those actions are understandable coming from him.
You know Talldave – if we were in a finite war with clear battle lines and a specific enemy, your analogies to WWII would be a little more adequate. But we are literally fighting a war against a tactic. The POTUS has admitted that this conflict will take decades and that there won’t be a moment of surrender.
So, the question becomes whether the US is going to grant open ended, infinite war powers to the office of the POTUS. Powers that can include suspending parts of the constitution and labelling American citizens “enemy combatants” and jailing them indefinitely.
I say “no” to granting the POTUS that power.
Maybe he got legal advice from his buddy “Uncle Joe” Stalin on those trials?
Are you sticking to “Abu Ghraib” was just a few bad apples? I would suggest the evidence suggests, rather clearly, otherwise.
Were there some bad actors at Abu Ghraib- of course. But they start with General Milller, who was sent from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib to ‘toughen’ folks up.
It’s too bad that World War 2 is viewed through such a distorted prism: that absolutely everything we did was good, righteous, saintly, and worthy of emulation. Yeah, I know it was “The Good War”, “The Greatest Generation”, and so on. But come on: would it really be such a terrible sin to look at history with a little objectivity?
I’m just making the point, what applies to mistreatment under Bush applies to mistreatment under FDR.
As for “toughening people up,” hell, read some of the stories about Patton.
I tend to agree. Hence, the Ramada Inn standard.
Well, I’m out. I have to go print some “WWRD” bumper stickers (“What Would Ramada Do?”)
Interesting discussion though.
The “at least on rare occassions” greatly queers the question. The phrasing is also interesting since it asks whether it is “justifiable” and not whether it should be “legal”. I suspect that once you take away the ticking bomb scenario out of the equation that those numbers probably look quite different. But, I would be open to looking at a poll that shows how many Americans think that torture should be a legal interrogation tool open to our soldiers and agents in any scenario – including those scenario involving American citizens (which Mr. Padilla is).
Andrew J. Lazarus
TallDave, as far as I know, WWII unlawful combatants were not “shot on the spot”. They got taken before a drumhead tribunal and tried, and they were allowed to make a defense (if they could think of one). Then they were executed. If you have any evidence to the contrary—especially that it was official policy to shoot them on the sport, please let me know.
To me, this is a significant difference.
TallDave, in 1671, the Ottoman Empire declares war on Poland.
And you’re arguing on a blog?
Interrorgating prisoners under duress is a waste of time, because the Bush administration would take the information thus produced and twist it to suit their objectives anyway. They have entire departments in the White House whose mission it is to filter and cherry-pick information to suit their political agenda.
According to Aleksander Solzhenitzyn, sleep deprivation was one of the worst tortures in the gulags.
I guess it’s like the Chinese water torture. The ones that don’t seem so bad are the ones that fuck you up the most.
One such poll was done very recently:
This asministration could get sooo much more done if it didin’t have to answer to the people.
And why should it listen to people like you, jg, people that just want America to fail so you can thrust your version of progress down our throats? Kill God in your own home, leave mine alone. Bush is doing the job he was mandated to do, and so far, given the lack of terrorist attacks and the soaring economy, he’s doing pretty well. The country could still be a lot better off if people like yourself wern’t constantly casting everything done by the White House in such a dark and contemptuous light.
Hey, NorthWstPHD, how did you get from this:
Whatever ends up being done to our prisoners will be done to our soldiers when they are captured now. A vicious circle.
So now you’re slandering our troops by implying that they sawed off the heads of Iraqi civilians? You just don’t know when to stop, do you?
The first statement is of the form “All A are B” (A=”Stuff we do to our prisoners”, B=”Stuff enemy does to our soldiers”)
Your version is equivalent to “All B are A”, same definitions, since you say he is implying that the stuff the enemy is doing was first done by us. These are not equivalent statements at any time. I’ll be generous and assume you have a reading comprehension or logical reasoning problem, rather than assume you are a lying piece of crap.
Given your repeated citations/endorsement of Andrew Sullivan on this particular issue, I think it’s clear that your “side” most definitely has trouble with such definitions. Claiming that the smearing of fake menstrual blood = torture is a prime example:
Seems forcing them to eat pork is in the same category as the fake menstrual blood:
I believe you John that you have a pretty clear idea of what constitutes torture, a definition which probably has pretty broad agreement. However, your ‘side’ has conflated the putting of underwear on heads, smearing fake menstrual blood, and forcing prisoners to eat pork with actual torture. Furthermore, your side has trumpeted to an extreme degree the “systematic torture” meme, even after past abuses were reported and cleaned up. I’m with you on not giving the CIA and other govt agencies the power to torture without checks, although as I understand John’s position, he opposes torture under any circumstances. But let’s not pretend the torture-under-no-circumstances side has not gone over the top on their definitions of what constitutes torture
I don’t think any of those things constitute torture, but I still don’t think we should be doing them. What purpose do any of those activity serve other than to humiliate the prisoner?
So if they have a Christian terrorist in custody, would they torture them by doing things to them that would send them to hell? A little falafel in the rear, a little crack-whore rubbing her skeez all over a guy, then having a priest there to tell the guy that he’d better atone for those sins or else he’s going to hell when they put a bullet in his skull?
Nah, its not torture, its just the realization that you arn’t getting your 72 virgins.
If the Bush administration considered its interrogation techniques to be morally or politically defensible, it wouldn’t hide detainees in secret prisons.
He’d help his case, a lot, if he explained just what sort of time-critical information he needs from Ramzi Bin Yusef. It must be of the “slow-fuse” sort of time-criticality, since Bin Yusef has been held in a secret location for years.
I could go on, but basically I have nothing but disdain and disgust for this President. A man of low character in every sense of the word.
There’s physical torture, and then there’s mental torture. The latter can leave more scars than the former. Imagine if someone captured John, and then forced him to eat Tunch. You think that wouldn’t fuck him up for life? (Terribly sorry for the mental image, John…just illustrating a point, and you know I wish neither you nor Tunch any harm.)
Well, polls show pretty significant support among the American population for use of torture in ‘rare’ cases. However, I agree with you that the Bush admin should handle the issue in an above-board fashion, something they definitely are not doing now
Yeah, resistance fighters in France were executed on the spot by the Nazis.
However, I would like to know when did this become a precedent we should follow?
You have your very own God? Well aren’t you the special one?
Exactly…great point. It’s like the kid holding his hands behind his back, and when you ask what he has, he says, “Nothing!”
Throwing fake menstrual blood on people, or pissing on Koran, or any of the other stupid shit they did in that vein is not torture in my book.
But it is fucking stupid and pointless and will do far more PR damage than we will gain during interrogations. And denying that it happened only to later have the military ackowledge it did occur was even fucking dumber.
With the exception of pissing on the Koran, I don’t see how throwing fake menstrual blood, or forcing the prisoners to eat pork is such a big PR screwup as you say. And in the case of pissing on the Koran, wasn’t that a one-time accident, and not a typical interrogation technique?
Unless you mean the PR damage from lying about actual torture. If that was your point, I agree
Sophistry aside, this administration has overturned longstanding American policy that accorded with what I hope we could consider our better natures because… it was afraid. There is no other reasonable explanation.
I simply do not believe the proffered explanation: that vital information could not have been obtained without these techniques. If they believe that, they can and should declassify an example and provide it to the public in great detail. Guess what: they won’t, because they don’t believe it.
These policies were purely and simply about panic followed by revenge. We sent the world a message. Some message: don’t scare us or we will do awful things to anyone we catch.
We are led by people who are morally and intellectually weak.
“With the exception of pissing on the Koran, I don’t see how throwing fake menstrual blood, or forcing the prisoners to eat pork is such a big PR screwup as you say.”
Imagine that Islamic terrorists had captured some born-again US troops, and forced them to have sex with someone/something unclean, like a farm animal or another same-sex soldier. It’d be humiliating for the captives, and if word got out, pundits would have no trouble demonizing those horrible raghead bastards that did that terrible thing.
That’s what we’re talking about here. It makes us look like asshole fanatics with a religious agenda, and that in turn makes everything else we’re trying to do in the region a thousand times harder.
If we’re going to talk about torture from a practical standpoint (since many of the people involved in the debate have no morals to speak of), remember that torture is a useless and even harmful information-getting tactic because people will say anything to make it stop, whether true or not. Any “heavy interrogation” tactics that would invoke a strong “Oh God, make it stop!” factor would seem to be fairly useless, whatever you want to define them as. Good-cop, bad-cop and many other psychological interrogation games don’t meet this criteria, but waterboarding sure as Hell does.
Mandate? Not even going to go there.
Soaring economy? Maybe for the folks who use words like ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ as verbs but not to the rest of us who don’t like Kool Aid.
Lack of terrorist attacks. Because of Bush? Maybe. Al Qaeda had a goal in mind when they attacked us. Maybe that goal was to get us into a war in the middle east. Bush did that so I guess he did, in a backwards ass sort of way, prevent any further attacks. Maybe. we won’t know until we’re hit again if there was any US cause for the length of time between attacks.
Civilians getting caught in the crossfire of a military action, imprisonment with little regard for due process, invading in the first place… all this looks like a country with the wrong approach to solving problems, and lots more but mostly only if you’re inclined to think that way in the first place. Not commendable, but not really remarkable either. The incidents you described look like religious war, a new crusade.
“Now watch me go eat my own poo!”
Thanks for the giggle! I believe that this phrase, when appended to any statement by a politician, may add significant insight into their thinking.
I agree. What’s so bad about teasing them about their religious beliefs? We’re at war here people!
Excuse me while I laugh. So let me get this straight. It is acceptible to use international opinion to justify torture, but when a Supreme Court Justice does the same to write an opinion against the death penalty, the conservative crowd is up in arms?
HYPOCRITICAL, say I.
Grow a brain. First of all, I was responding to another poster’s request, I was not using the poll to “justify torture” as you dishonestly assert. Second, it was not just ‘international’ opinion in that poll, it was also US opinion.
What longstanding policy are you referring to? We’ve never fought a war like this before. I mean, it sounds good and all to pontificate about “overturning longstanding American policy” and all, but what in the hell are you talking about.. sophistry aside
I’ve heard the same thing, and it makes sense to some degree. However, torture could also be used a punishment if a prisoner was caught lying to interrogators, making him more likely to give valid info knowing what waits in store if he’s caught lying. Many experts in the CIA and military believe that useful intel can be gained through certain forms of what is commonly understood to be torture. Whether or not they are right, well, that’s the million dollar question.
If it was so ‘obvious’ that no valid intel could be obtained through torture, then there would be no dilema, now would there?
What war? Iraq? We’ve done this a few times now, Phillipines, Vietnam.
WOT? That I’ll give you. We’ve never before derclared war on an intangible object, a behavior. Unless you count the war on drugs. Compared to that one the war on terror is turning out exactly the same.
Finally, an honest conservative!
The NVA and Viet cong wore uniforms and were limited to fighting for control of 1 country. I don’t know if the Phillipines example is valid either, as we were trying make them a colony, taking over from Spain.
Are we establishing as a principle that techniques such as “waterboarding” (whether you agree that’s torture or not) is an acceptable practice? For whom, and when?
If these techniques are morally justified, why don’t we use them within our own legal system? Say an Amber Alert–kid has been kidnapped–is raised. The police believe that you know where the kid is, and the clock is ticking (IIRC the statistics show that if the kid is not found within hours of disappearing he’s most likely dead). The police are wrong; you don’t know anything. Is it OK if they waterboard you? If not, why not?
Is it OK for other governments to do this? To their own citizens, or to ours? If not, why not?
Can I do it to someone who pisses me off? If not, why not? Government agents can do it to anybody they want…why not the rest of us? Do agents of the government ascend to a higher moral plane than the rest of us?
For the same reason we don’t give POW’s the same civil and criminal legal protections as civilians, and why illegal combatents who hide among civilians are accorded fewer rights than legit POW’s
Actually, why do prisoners of war and illegal combatants have fewer rights?
If the techniques are morally justified, why are these distinctions necessary? I’m asking about the principle, not “what we’ve always done”.
You raise an interesting question. We do not give non-Americans the same rights and priveleges as Americans, otherwise the entire country of Zimbabwe would be eligible for US welfare benefits and medicaid. We are at war. We bomb and blow up things and even kill civilians accidentally.. None of which would be permitted unless there was war. We use HE on the enemy, we bomb them with Daisy cutters when appropriate.. Those ‘distinctions’ are necessary because we are at war. I never said this is “what we’ve always done”, so if you’re going to quote me, please don’t lie your ass off putting words in my mouth that I never said or wrote. Fair enough?
Because A) They are not US citizens and B) During time of war, it is impractical to give full civilian rights to military personnel captured in battle and C) Geneva convention allows us to summarily execute illegal combatents. Any punishment more lenient than that is up to our discretion and mercy
“That’s what we’re talking about here. It makes us look like asshole fanatics with a religious agenda, and that in turn makes everything else we’re trying to do in the region a thousand times harder.”
Yeah, they can’t handle naked women, and we’re asshole fanatics with a religious agenda.
People are going to die because you people are so hung up on your narcissism that you can’t with reality. Insurgencies, and Al Qaeda is a global insurgency, are won with information. In the worst case, we could have executed unlawful combatants from the very beginning, instead we played nice and got you assholes who couldn’t find perspective if you sat on it. Oh, but torture never works? Seriously, do you understand how fucking stupid you sound? Yes, thousands of world history and you bright bulbs were the first people to come to this epiphany. You pretend you’re righteous, no, you’re moral cowards. It takes nothing to put yourself on a pedestal while other people die for you. Moral cowards, idiots, or political opportunists, take your pick.
Ramada treatment? Hah. As far as I know Ramada doesn’t give culturally correct breakfasts and Korans. WAR CRIME.
Darrell, you may not see it this way, but your answer does amount to saying that we do it this way because it’s what we do, and does not address the moral issue. BTW the use of quote marks does not necessarily indicate something you’ve said; quote marks have other uses in the English language.
Go back to the whole question that I originally asked. If the local police are going to waterboard you, is this wrong? If so why?
BTW only Congress has the authority to declare war. And welfare is not a “right”. People are not given rights by the U.S. government.
“Yeah, resistance fighters in France were executed on the spot by the Nazis.
However, I would like to know when did this become a precedent we should follow?”
Well shit, I heard the Germans actually shot insurgents too, WITH BULLETS. WHEN DID THIS BECOME A PRECEDENT WE SHOULD FOLLOW?
We executed Germans at the Battle of the Bulge who were out of uniform. Without trials. To set an example.
We incinerated hundreds of thousands of people from the air, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
We practiced illegal submarine warfare.
Get it through your thick heads – even the good war wasn’t a good war. They never are. Now, unless you’re ready to take the ultimately idiotic plunge and declare yourself a pacifist, I suggest you get your ass out of the way and allow people to fight the war, which is extra-legal and nasty by fucking nature. After we’re done we can let you gobble up Chomsky books demonizing all that evil America forced its persecuted volunteer soldiers to do, but just let the grownups win first.
Because A) They are not US citizens and B) During time of war, it is impractical to give full civilian rights to military personnel captured in battle and C) Geneva convention allows us to summarily execute illegal combatents. Any punishment more lenient than that is up to our discretion and mercy.
A) And? B) Impractical how? It is impractical not to torture people? Isn’t it equally impractical in some domestic crime as well? C)Being allowed by whoever to do whatever isn’t a reason to do it.
We have a Bill of Rights which is part of the framework of our govt.
Are you talking about “me” specifically, or in a general sense? Because you specifically mentioned me. In some cases I believe it not to be wrong necessarily. I can envision scenarios in which certain forms of torture, if useful intel could be obtained, would be the lesser of two evils. It may be illegal to torture illegal civilian prisoners, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong in a moral sense, which is what you seem to be asserting
Wow, we really are to the point where the extremist left-wing is arguing that prisoners of war and even illegal combatants deserve every single civil right that American citizens deserve.
How has America devolved to this point? Is the left so morally obtuse that they are incompetent to draw distinctions between Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and, say, me? What is happening to our country?!
Darrell, don’t let them browbeat you with the Phillipines.
The guy doesn’t have a fucking clue how we fought in the Phillipines. We didn’t hesitate at all to hesitate the Moros when we needed information, at times we left piles of bones. Religious sensitivity? Read up the rumors about Pershing and pig skin.
Is it pretty? No. Do we still fight that way? No.
Is he a fucking idiot for pretending that somehow the Phillipines legitimizes his point? Yes.
This is why military history needs to be taught in schools.
The discussion of what’s torture and what’s only mistreatment can appear as a pseudo debate.
To observers outside of America, the disrespect for human beings, for civilians of other cultures, and for ethnicities that are considered of lower status in the U.S., is what shines through and what makes Americans appear as emperors in new clothes.
It’s too obvious that the purpose with the ongoing mistreatment is not to extract any information, and particularly not any urgently needed information, but rather to degrade humans, break people’s dignity, teach them and their kin the lesson that they are barely human and definitely not worthy of any Civil Liberties. There seem to be a certain component of racism mixed into this.
For a European, it’s easy to see the relation with our long history of anti-semitism.
The Bill of Rights does not “grant” us rights. Rights are not the gift of our (or any) government.
I was asking about you specifically, in the hope that you will look at the question as more than a mere abstraction. It is often a useful way to examine moral questions.
If you don’t like that question, you can look at the other ones. For instance, if it is ok for the U.S. government, is it ok for other governments too? If, say, we are at war with Iran, can they waterboard any prisoners they take? After all, they’re at war. Or will you loudly declare that “it isn’t right!”?
Ok, you want something from me, I want something from you. We negotiate and come to terms. You agree to treat my captured soldiers well, I will agree to treat your captured soldiers well. Hence, the Geneva convention.
We are fighting now an enemy which beheads captives, targets civilians, flies a white flag of surrender then shoots at our troops, and hides among civilians without uniform endangering innocents. By “playing by the rules” against such a dishonorable enemy, you are putting the US at a disadvantage. Will you acknowledge that? And how do you justify such a position?
I’m sorry if I offended you, Al. I’m not arguing anything, just being curious from my side of the Atlantic.
I try to love everybody, I guess it is a weakness.
I believe it was June 10 1944; D-Day plus three that General Dwight Eisenhower issued a standing order that it was a summary offence to kill captured German troops. By summary I mean shoot to kill to prevent the killing of POWs. Seems there was a lack of higher-ranking prisoners being taken so intelligence gathering was being harmed.
Can’t remember in what historical account of WWII I read it, it was many years ago, but I’m fairly sure of the general order. War is hell and those that have not participated in one so that the can fully appreciate just what hell is about should STFU. Until you have experienced trying to stuff the intestines of your best friend back into his belly or seen his brains fall into your lap or watched as his life poured into the ground, and felt the hate produced by these events, hate that boils the blood and removes all one’s thoughts but revenge try to be a little less judgmental of those who are living it day to day.
Yes stress positions can be prolonged to the point that it is torture, lack of blood circulation from extended kneeling can cause the tissue in your lower legs to die and gangrene sets in, yes continual beatings to the stomach can cause internal injuries to vital organs, yes heat and denial of water can dehydrate a person to a point that cause brain damage occurs and water boarding can probably cause severe psychological damage.
Most of these negative results occur only through an excessive prolongation of the techniques not through the mere application of the technique. I have no problem with the techniques as long as they are not used in excess for in the end a prisoner will say anything to get them to stop. The information gleaned from excessive application will not necessarily be useful. But proper application can produce valuable information. When I went through the Vietnam era version of SERE, then called Survival Escape and Evasion training, I experienced most all of the above, no water boarding, while they are most unpleasant they are not torture when reasonably applied.
Yes, many on the left hold that position. What’s worse, they minimize and excuse the atrocities of our enemies, while calling down the harshest possible judgement on the US… but don’t dare question their patriotism
We’re talking past each other still. You are sticking to a utilitarian viewpoint, which does not address the moral issue I raised.
To answer your question, no I will not acknowledge that I am putting the U.S. at a disadvantage. In today’s warfare the moral issues are actually the most important. The Iraq war will not be won by the side using the most firepower. Consider the political ends that we are supposedly trying to achieve.
I have to turn in, so rather than expand on that further I recommend that you look into the writings on Fourth Generation Warfare, particularly by William Lind and Martin Van Creveld.
Thank you for an interesting debate and good night.
The Viet Cong wore uniforms? IIRC correctly part of the problem was that we couldn’t tell VC from civilians. I guess they weren’t wearing their uniforms.
You clearly have no idea what my point was.
Nice to get more International perspectives here. But tell us Laurila, why, in the context of terrorists who target and hide among civilians, why are you so concerned with the “dignity” of such scumbags?.. and they most definitely are the lowest form of scum. What motivates you to be so concerned about the dignity of those who have no hesitation at holding schoolchildren as shields while firing at our troops? or intentially setting off bombs in crowded markets? I want to understand the basis for such a mentality.. if that’s possible.
Just so you know
Thats not a uniform. Thats how people dressed in Vietnam. You realize that a turban is not a part of a jihadi uniform right?
I assume you are too stupid to know that there is no such thing as a “jihadi” uniform
Just dropped by to get a whiff of a little Bush-bashing and moral preening. Thanks to Juan (er, John) Cole for hosting and his playful, harpy minions for the awesome mental contortions. Love the “nancy boy” appellation for the WSJ and NRO gang. I agree with TallDave. None of you will be satisfied again until progressive nancy boys are running the show. Which could happen soon enough. Looking forward to the ensuing standards of perfection against which you all seem to judge events in the real world. Maybe we can have another foreign policy based on human rights? Jimmy Carter II anyone?
PS: there is a lot of “fuck” this and “fucking” that on this site. You aren’t really a bunch of closet nancy boys, now are you?
Wow, PD Quig.
I mean, wow.
If torture is such a valuable weapon, why haven’t we seen anything realeased by the administration showing that we got useful information? They could redact the hell out of it to hide the assets identifying details, location, etc. Something along the lines of:
[Redacted] was captured on [Redacted] in the Kandahar Province by [Redacted] after a tip from CI [Redacted]. After 2 days of interrogation [Redacted] had not said a word except his name. After 20 minutes of waterboarding [Redacted] told us that he knew of a plot to [Redacted] the US city of[Redacted] on [Redacted], 2004….
So far the only arguments FOR torture seem to be:
– The people that are evil do it to us.
– The ticking timebomb scenario.
– They have to think we might.
– Jack Bauer sure gets a lot of mileage out of it.
And it isn’t like the “libruhls” like John Cole and McCain are exactly throwing out ambiguous definitions. The bill expressly says that we abide by the Army Field Manual. That’s not to say that this is ultimately the best choice, and I hate to agree with Jeff Goldstein, but there should be a discussion over what our bright line is. Dismissing it as the “Ramada” convention is just silly.
Apparently I missed the memo where beating people to death was a good “wedge” issue.
As for the Krauthammer/Sullivan debate. Sullivan has it right (and well though out for once). If you feel like the only way to get vital information is to torture the prisoner, then torture the prisoner. Just be willing to face the consequences.
In reality, I would certainly kill the guy who raped my mother or my sister or my neice or my wife. But I’d throw myself at the mercy of the court afterwards, rather than try to get a law passed legitimizing blood vengeance.
Similarly, if the guy was John Smith of Abilene, TX who raped my wife, and I killed John Smith of Hays, KS, I should probably get whatever sentence is imposed upon me.
Lastly, John is taking some heat for his characterization of the pro torture side, but a lot of the pundit class who are asking the rest of us to “Man up” are people who’s most recent brush with horror involved a sub-par lobster salad.
Addendum for PD Quig: Fuck.
John’s “Golden Rule” standard or “I’ll know it when I see it” standard for torture is just silly and self-congratulatory. Purely subjective preference, which he then defends as being “pretty clear.” It’s basically just whether he personally regards something as intolerable. (Nevermind that the whole point of prisoner coersion is to make the withholding of information intolerable.) It would seem that any practice constitutes torture once it extends to a duration or degree that John imagines that he’d really really really want it to stop. But it’s certainly fine if it remains ineffective at breaking the will to resist.
I say we allow the government to sanction certain, limited known psychological methods that ARE by any definition “torture,” then impose them after obtaining a secret warrant. The details should be known by a broad-enough swath of government officials to keep it on the level, but each warrant should not make the nightly news. I don’t want to know the details of each torture event anymore than I want a main street picture window on butcher shops and sausage factories.
Life is precious and brutal. Some see hell so that others can live well. “Humanity” has never attained the god-like sanctity many do-gooders attribute to it, and it never will. Moreover, there’s no reason enemy combatants and spies should be shielded from practices less abusive than treatment received by innocent crime victims on the street every fucking day. If John Cole can ensure that shit stops happening to good people, he might convince me that it’s morally intolerable to seek safety and security for them by imposing lesser shit on bad people.
I’m aware that the existence of ratified torture creates the possibility of it wrongly happening to innocents like me, and God willing, if I continue to not seek the destruction of Western civilization, I’ll never be sent off for secret torture. But if I am, sucks to be me. And if I get in a horrific car accident tomorrow because of a drunk driver, sucks to be me. World keeps spinnin’.
I have listed some pretty specific actions which I think constitute torture. On planet Earth, that is pretty clear.
What the opposition to the McCain amendmend it is doing is claiming the army manual (what McCain wants codified) is ‘vague,’ and then claiming I and others want to outlaw anything and everything that just seems unfair. And in the process, they accuse us of being weak, coddling terrorists, or not being serious. Or in the case of SS, accusing us of being silly and self-congratulatory and wanting to ban anyything that I ‘really really really want to stop.’ In short, SS’s argument is exactly what I am mocking in this post, and he/she is too dimwitted to figure that out. It is a rather cheap and lazy form of argumentation, and would be the soul sister of me simply saying that everyone who opposes the McCain amendment is merely a sadist who is in love with torture.
IN other words, not putting forth their clear definition of what is and is not torture and pretending the other side is being vague is the entire MO for the anti-McCain amendment side. And btw- Rumsfeld and Hadley and company apparently think McCain’s guidelines are not vague, as they are rushing to
“a little sleep deprivation” NOT Torture
“turning down the air conditioning a little bit” NOT Torture
“some use of stress positions” NOT Torture
” I doubt most people would.” ‘Most’? You’re probably right. Only about a third of this country self identify as ‘Liberal’.
The words in question here are “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. Does anyone really believe that writing that those words into U.S. law will bring agreement? No, I suppose not. There will be lots & lots of disagreement (just survey the ‘detainees’). We’re a country of laws. This is a law. We’ll just settle any such disagreements in our court system.
Anything wrong with that post-snark reasoning?
Maybe it’s a straw man – maybe it’s not happening right now.
Or maybe open enemies seeking the destruction of this country will have court appointed taxpayer funded equal access to a wonderful new tool for use in the furtherance of their cause. What will the monetary settlement for a ‘waterboarding’ case be, I wonder? The U.S Constitution was a suicide pact after all.
“It is outrageous to hold ourselves to the narrowest possible interpretation of the law while we fight against enemies who, if victorious, will destroy any hope of a world based on law.”
– Winston Churchill
John, that was an excellent post. One which I agree with and further, those of you who think torture is ok, need to read the Geneva Conventions. Conventions which this country is a party to and which states, almost exactly, albeit lengthier, what the McCain legislation says. You might want to actually read them all, as there are several, plus the Protocols: GENEVA CONVENTIONS
I personally do not want this country known as one that tortures others. And, keep in mind that, countries that allow torture and breaches of their rights, never seem to get those rights back and they too may fall under the purvue of torture in the long term. Are you anti-ACLU as well?
One wonders where the conscience of this nation and its people has gone – because I haven’t seen much of one since 2001.
And this piece by Max Boot is so shockingly stupid it could have been written by John Gibson or Sean Hannity:
If I was drinking milk, that line would cause it to spurt out my nose.
Andrew J. Lazarus
Do you have a cite for this? We certainly did execute them, but I thought after drumhead tribunals.
I apologize if this far down the comments chain I strayed from the post’s original connection to the army manual. My bad. I don’t doubt that you lay forth some examples of actual “torture.” And murder when you really wanted to show your ugly side. Though I think there’s some line between “turning down the air conditioning a little bit” and “cold cell” that is not exactly bright. And I can only assume that the reason “turning down the air conditioning a little bit” is acceptable in your book is that it is not intolerable. Perfectly resistable and hence a permissible, if futile, “interrogation” technique.
Yet my real point is not the definition of torture, but the silliness of pretending that humanity is better than that. You’re smart enough to know that civilization is a veneer. And to know that indulgent political correctness is what results when citizens forget that ugly things like war, pain, suffering, and death necessarily underlie the whole fabric. I’ve experienced personal pain and uncomfortability that I’d gladly wish on a terrorist, “torture” though it may be. And if it resulted in the production of information that could save innocent lives, so much the better. That doesn’t make me a sadist, however, as I don’t revel in the thought, and I don’t care to have the results splashed in my face. I just accept that it should be as such. Forgive me for thinking you soft for apparently advocating that a terrorist’s interrogation should be markedly better than the worst day in the life of an average innocent civilian.
Or maybe I’m completely misreading you and you’re fine with limited predefined and regulated torture. If that’s the case, I just didn’t find it in your post.
American citizens do not deserve every single civil right they have because they happen to be born in and/or have sworn an oath to America. They deserve those civil rights, so the theory goes, because all people deserve those rights. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” and it goes on from there. Yes, I know that’s not the Constitution, but the Constitution is a nuts ‘n bolts guidebook for running a government; you wouldn’t expect to find moral philosophy in it anyway. Those rights are only explicitly applied to American citizens for the very simple reason that the American government doesn’t have even a fraction of the power or authority necessary to ensure those rights for all humans of the world.
So, to answer your question, if you think that in a general moral sense Iraqi thieves and rapists don’t deserve the same human rights as American thieves and rapists, it’s the founding fathers you have to take it up with, not us eeevil libruls. And if you believe they do have those rights but you think the American government doesn’t have the power or authority necessary to ensure those rights in a countries we occupy, and most especially in prisons we’re running, you should be mad as hell at how your government is being mismanaged – I mean, what kind of utter moron couldn’t write and enforce policy at a military prison they have command over, right?
I suppose I might, just maybe, stop assuming that the pro-torture crowd was made up of psychos who shouldn’t be allowed near children, if they ever seemed at all aware of the fact that many if not almost all of the people being abused have nothing to do with terrorism. This is the Newsweek article I’ve linked to half a dozen times, and I don’t have time to look for it right now, but haven’t we released waves of people from Gitmo and/or other prisons after extensive imprisonments without filing charges, some of whom had been abused? There’s really no point in arguing logic and ethics until we’ve all stopped burying our heads in the sand.
Huh. I just read the Geneva Conventions again and can’t find anywhere that it says you can summarily execute ANYONE.
There’s more in Part III, alot more….
Darrell, perhaps you should read it.
Heh, whoops. I see the link didn’t work. Sorry. As I tried to say, “this is the Newsweek article I’ve linked half a dozen times…”
Sine.Qua.Non – you gave us information relating to the Treatment of Prisoners of War – not the folks we’re talking about. Try ‘Illegal Combatants’, iirc.
Some portion of this discussion boils down to: “We’re better than them!” Yep, I believe that too. Not really the point though, is it? Ask any Frenchman in the fall of 1940 if he was better than the average German. No contest. Not in the Frenchman’s mind nor in the facts on the ground. Read history. Civilizations fall all the time.
“We will survive/defeat them” I believe should come first. The “better than them” idea should come after “survive them” is assured. The Romans really didn’t think Rome would ever fall. Impossible! How could it? Today we really don’t believe that Sharia Law will ever be enforced in the suburbs of Paris or the beaches of Australia. Nope. Can’t happen. Until it does happen.
If creative intelligent professional interrogation techniques (which an ignorant fellow like myself might mistake for senseless torture) Never Work then I’d support the Ramada Standard. Get the president’s political opponents to talk about something else for a while. After all, The World Can’t Wait!
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
– Winston Churchill
First-rate post, John. And to Tall Dave: If you think being yelled at or shown scary faces is the same as feeling like you’re about to drown, you are truly nuts.
We are not legally at war. I have this from my senator, John Warner. He added the qualifiers: we are at war (de-facto) at war (morally), etc. However, we are not at war legally. This ambiguity is inevitable, since we’re kind of identifying the belligerents as we go along.
Again: if the interrogation techniques used by the CIA are so acceptable, then do it in the light of day and make an explicit defense of the actual practices.
The reason that isn’t done is because the very people ordering the abuse are ashamed of it and know there would be a firestorm if it saw the light of day.
To Darrell: If you support abusive interrogation techniques, then it seems to me you should justify them. Provide examples, try to convince. I am waiting. If you support spiriting people away to black holes and keeping them there, tell us why. I am waiting.
The next step in the secret prisons thing will be to secretly execute all the prisoners. What do we think will happen, that all of a sudden people will appear? Kind of blows deniability, doesn’t it?
Imagine the country of MaxBootia, in which you can’t use a coercive interrogation technique unless you can show that a lot of apparently-sane men and women volunteer for that coercion and are apparently okay with it afterwards. That doesn’t strike me as a “shockingly stupid” rule; it would certainly be better than what we’ve been doing, and I think in fact it would rule out most of what Cole firmly describes as “torture”.
By the way, I don’t think Cole’s definition of torture by examples is a good one; he firmly states that waterboarding is torture, but he does not say, for example, that boot camp is or isn’t. He does say he has no problem with “a little sleep deprivation”. Well, that leaves a whole lot of fuzz. I’m not even sure how far he disagrees with Boot.
At least it seems fuzzy to me, until I learn better. I put those and further thoughts at my mistakesByTJM blog, and will be happy to put corrections there as my education proceeds.
If you think being yelled at or shown scary faces is the same as feeling like you’re about to drown, you are truly nuts.
What if they yell “I’m going to drown you!!”
Throwing fake menstrual blood on people, or pissing on Koran, or any of the other stupid shit they did in that vein is not torture in my book.
Ahhh, but many a Muslim might disagree.
Again, you cannot escape the fact that every definition of torture is subjective, and any kind of stress whatsoever is going to characterized as approaching torture.
Thus I am forced to conclude, as much as it galls me, that we should replace the interrogation manual with the Ramada Inn Employee Handbook.
At least it seems fuzzy to me, until I learn better
And therein lies the rub. Reading the legislation won’t help you learn any better. If you accept Cole’s definition, you still don’t know. If you read Andrew Sullivan’s definition, you won’t know either.
As Tall Dave has been trying to say throughout this thread, there is no set definition of torture. It is a COMPLETELY subjective concept. Waterboarding may or not be torture, but this flawed, politically charged legislation doesn’t say either way. I would be much happier if it was an even MORE strict bill, but defined what is considered torture. I could live with that, and we could have a debate about its merits.
Congress passes stupid, lame, vague legislation all the time, and conservatives rightly complain. But this time, because it’s a “feel good” piece of legislation, we accept it.
Conservatives and Republicans, as usual, are their own worst enemy.
My reading comprehension is fine. Let’s just do a little Gedanken experiment. Imagine that a Gore or Kerry administration were calling the plays and were still using rendition to Egypt a la Clinton because they couldn’t decide how to deal with captured terrorists (again, a la Clinton). A few questions result:
1. Would we even know about it? Would the CIA have been as absurdly sloppy in not covering the tracks of their charter planes and flight plans? Would they have leaked it to the press? Is it okay for the CIA to leak top secret information when they oppose the policy?
2. If noted at all in the media would it command page A16 space or page one above the fold? Would the story run in obscurity and then fade away or would it be running on an endless loop tape?
3. Do you (honestly) think your abstract, hermetic worldview would hold up after a few days in Nick Berg’s circumstances? Would you be interested in having your head sawed off rather than have waterboarding interrogation techniques applied to a captured terrorist that knew your whereabouts? Did torture work when it induced 11 of 12 Al Qaeda bosses to start providing quite useful information after waterboarding?
1. No, No, No, No
2. Page A16, obscurity
3. No, No, Yes.
The point is that all the moralistic conversation aside, we would not even be having this discussion if your team were running the show. We never heard about rendition until Bush was inaugurated. That’s not to say that we don’t need to be discussing the development of new rule sets for the post-Cold War world. I just find the situational ethics and faux indignation tiresome.
Again, if anyone is ‘fuzzying’ definitions, it is not me. If you think the McCain bill is too vague, fine. Show me where you draw the line.
It’s NOT UP TO US to show YOU where to draw the line. It’s up to McCain to draw the line with his bill. Maybe Max Boot thinks certain things are torture, and maybe you disagree. But that’s not the argument made by most conservatives.
What is McCain trying to accomplish? If you have something, show me in the legislation where it says that.
Cole, that was the most knee-jerk post of yours I’ve ever read. You usually do better than that.
If you would have read what I wrote, I said many CIA and military expert believe that techniques which fall under common definition of torture work. “They” believe it to be true. Furthermore, it makes sense that torture may yield useful intel in some cases. So given your dishonest interpretation of what I actually wrote, it’s up to YOU to justify why the experts in the CIA and military are wrong
Oh, and those of you who would prevent the use of torture under ANY circumstances, be honest enough to tell the American people your position, which is that you would prohibit abusive interrogation even if it were the only way of saving 10 thousand of them. Because that is exactly your position
Happy to oblige: I am all for prohibiting abusive interrogation under any circumstances.
Anything less than a blanket prohibition is morally cretinous. “Experts” who suggest that torture is justified are simply people without moral compass. There are plenty of those types of folks in every country of the world. That doesn’t mean their opinion is or should be determinate.
As for saving people, we may just save more people by being able to say with a straight face that we don’t abuse people under any circumstances.
I also don’t care whether those techniques work. Nuking the middle east might also work, and I don’t believe in that either.
Not at all. It’s simply something bad that has to happen (to murderous vermin who target civilians) to prevent much worse things from happening to innocents. But if it makes you feel morally superior to demonize others out of your own ignorance, far be it from me to deny you that
I don’t either. Now. However, I believe the nuking of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as bad as that was, saved US and Japanese lives. See battle of Okinawa which just preceded it. Another example of something bad which had to be done to prevent something much worse from occurring.
To Tall Dave:
Yelling “I’m going to drown you!” and actually inducing the sensation of drowning are not the same experience. I assume you’re an adult. Do you really need to be told this? You don’t know that being threatened with drowning and actually being submerged in water to the point of actual drowning are different experiences?
“Not at all. It’s simply something bad that has to happen (to murderous vermin who target civilians) to prevent much worse things from happening to innocents.”
You frame the discussion in a dishonest way. How do you know that any given detainee being tortured by U.S. interrogators is a “murderous vermin who targets civilians”? If it’s okay to torture someone as long as you label them as “a murderous vermin who targets civilians,” then would it be okay for Iraqis to torture U.S. marines for killing hundreds of innocent civilians with white phosphorus, bombs, and assault weapons? To a Fallujan who has lost his entire family, the Americans responsible are also “murderous vermin who target civilians.” Doesn’t matter that Darrell the solid American citizen disagrees.
How exactly does a U.S. interrogator know that a detainee is a “murderous vermin who targets civilians”? What if he’s tortured and it turns out he’s not a “murderous vermin who targets civilians”? Can you swear to it that the Bush administration only tortures “murderous vermin who target civilians”?
By calling the people tortured in U.S. facilities “murderous vermin who target civilians,” you are essentially acknowledging that torture is wrong. The only way you can justify it in your mind is by convincing yourself that the people the U.S. is torturing are “murderous vermin who target civilians” — although you clearly have no way of knowing anything of the sort.
Are you one of those folks who believes in her heart that the United States Military intentionally targets civilians?
If so, I’ll save myself some typing.
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest thing: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling
which thinks nothing worth a war is worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he
cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made
and kept so by the exertions of better men.”
–John Stuart Mill
Have trouble coming up with a definition of torture? Here’s one that covers most of it: anything that would make you angry if a cop did it to your mother, brother, or sister.
I don’t care whether torture works. So what if rejecting torture puts me at greater risk from Muslim terrorists? I’m an American. I grew up staring down the barrel of thousands of nukes. And now I’m supposed to be so scared of a few nuts crashing airplanes into buildings or a suicide bomber with a suitcase nuke that I’ll be willing to countenance torture? Give me a break! Freedom is not for the faint-hearted. Let the cowards of the world torture to save their own skins. We as Americans can stand up and show that we have the courage to reject torture.
Because there is no difference made between scumbags who’ve commited atrocities and scumbags who have not. If you’d treated convicted criminals as scumbags, it wouldn’t have bothered anyone much, but victimizing innocent civilians as scumbags seems more like racism.
It’s un-Christian and it makes westerners look bad in the eyes of people who identify with the victims. It increases the occupied people’s will to resist — and it increases the will to harm westerners also in other countries …also in our countries.
Contrary to the American Indians and contrary to the slaves in America, the Arabs and the Muslims are too many to be treated as scumbags, and it will only hit back at us when we do.
The simple fact that we are having a debate on whether torture is acceptable, whatever its definition, shows how far we have gone to abase ourselves under the Bush leadership.
The U.S. is now a rogue state. I am ashamed.
Notice the whacked moral equivalence promoted by so many jerks on the left. US military fighting to free Iraqis from tyranny = terrorists setting off bombs in markets (Americans shot his brother/father/friend, after all). Nice touch white phosporous. You’re really speaking truth to power Kathy
Behold the f*cked up mentality of the left. Fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistation is “racist” comparable to slavery in the US.
US military free the slave prisoners in Iraq! Oh, and vote Democrat!!
This is the most sensable thing I’ve seen in this entire post.
On memorial day, and veterans day and labor day we reflect on the scrifices this country has made to ensure our freedomes.
And on 9/11 I reflect on the other types of sacrifices this country makes in the name of freedom.
Freedom is the most expensive thing in the world, and it’s cost is not in money, or esteem. The cost is in blood.
Blood of those died to fight our overt enemies. Blood of those that died to successfull attacks by our covert enemies, because freedom ISN’T free. Sometimes the bad guys win one because we are not a police state.
And how’s this for a guideline. Go to , or any of the other sites like that out there on the web.
Know what my definition of torture is? If those sorts of people would consider it a fun date, it’s prolly torture.
Ever kneeled for half an hour? try it some time. Breaking my hand and walkin on a broken leg were arguably less painfull that that deep muscle pain.
Let me echo up above, you think you REALLY need to torture a suspect? go for it. then suck up the consiquences.
Many a great general has violated orders and won the day. And then been promptly sacked for violating orders, even though they won. But they belived they were right, and history bore them out. BUt they knew that there was a cost, and were willing to pay it.
I’d have no problems hearing about the ‘abuses’ that happened….if we saw results. Instead I see fearmongering that looks like it’s been lifted stright from the KGB ’38 manual and Mein Komph.
People keep quoting Winston Churchill. It’s an appropriate quote. He was a strong leader, got his people through some suck ass times.
But he was british.
I prefer the Grand-Daddy of american tycoons, ben franklin.
You all know the quote, y’know, liberty, security, something about trading and not deserving of either.
WE’re america. We’re better than the rest of the world because we should be willing to pay the costs freedom requires.
We’ve won the hardest war ever with nothing more than jeans, coke and an idea. WE’ve proven that cultural war is the most powerful thing we have. You can’t wage a cultural war when little Abul grows up with the strange men coming to take away relatives, friends and maybe even him.
anyway. Thank you John for reminding me that the people I loathe are only those in power, not the people they claim are the “silent majority” behind them. Because, y’know, Nixxon claimed the same thing.
The US republicans are cowards.
They are telling us that if a nuclear device was about to blow in a US city, and they had their hands on the person who culd stop it, they would not dare to do anything to him that the *law did not allow*.
The only time I would allow someone to use torture, or any other fine word or conjunction of words that equates to torture, is when the law says that he will be punished for it, and harshly.
Only when the torturer has as much to lose as the victim, when he knows that what he is doing will ruin his life utterly, *but what he believes gives him no other choice*, will I accept torture. And even then, the torturer will face the responsibility for his actions.
We do not use the law to stop a man who believes his cause and actions are righteous from doing what he knows he must, because the law cannot stop such a man. We use the law to stop torture becoming the easy way out.
If the US believes it cannot punish its sadists and fools because it might stop a righteous man, then there are no righteous men left in america.
Darrell ought to read once again. Fighting terrorists and fighting civilians may be different things. One can wonder where Darrell’s “right” draws the border, or do you imagine all approached civilians feel so intimidated that they immediately turn into terrorists? If so, is that really how you wish for it to be?
But no, it’s of course not the fight against terrorists that’s racist. It’s the way this fight has been carried out in recent years that is. For instance, I don’t remember that the Oklahoma bombing was followed by much racist persecution.
I also wonder what makes Darrell hastily classify my reasoning as “leftist”. I wrote:
Since I come from a part of the world that has been in the deep shadow of the Soviet Union, I rather associate Darrell’s attitude to the one we recognize from the Communists.
“Aren’t I clever? I made a funny. University fraternity parties are the same thing as torture, just like boot camp is torture! Now watch me go eat my own poo!”
Pure journalistic talent. People around the world must cringe in fear of you opposing their attempts to defend America.