Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TORTURE....I don't write much about torture these days because the whole subject just makes me ill. I know that's a lousy excuse. I'm sorry. But if I'd tuned in to Tuesday's Republican debate and heard the crowd hooting and hollering as the candidates played "can you top this" over who was most willing to take up the mantle of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, I probably would have lost it. It's not just that it's depraved, it's demagogic, and it's depressing, but also that it's dimwitted. Macho talk about torture may be a great applause line on the right-wing rubber chicken circuit, but it does nothing to make us safer.

Today in the Washington Post, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and a former commander of CENTCOM explain why:

It is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night's presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. Indeed, among the candidates, only John McCain demonstrated that he understands the close connection between our security and our values as a nation.

....As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture — only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works — the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone — the rare exception fast becoming the rule.

....This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

Even if basic considerations of morality don't sway you, the fact that torture and abuse contribute to eventual defeat on the battlefield should. That's more important than winning a few more votes from the troglodyte crowd.

Kevin Drum 6:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (110)

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Comments

In fact, torture is a technique which is truly, highly effective.

At winning the votes of ignorant rednecks.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 17, 2007 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Even if basic considerations of morality don't sway you, the fact that torture and abuse contribute to eventual defeat on the battlefield should.

Only if you don't do it correctly. If you torture your enemy by nuking them all, then you win.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

I've lost almost all the respect I once had for John McCain; he's shown the willingness to discard principle when it interferes with his ambitions, and he seems in denial about prospects for "success" in Iraq. But the debate reveals one thing about him: he may be deeply flawed and wrong about many things, but he isn't a monster. Unfortunately, many of his rivals are.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 17, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Cool. Maybe "I'm not a monster" can become McCain's calling card like "I'm not a crook" was for Nixon.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey! That remark about troglodytes was uncalled for! Im against torture!

Posted by: troglodyte on May 17, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Buck; "[Sen. John McCain] may be deeply flawed and wrong about many things, but he isn't a monster."

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 17, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm mixed on McCain. There are lots of reasons to be disappointed: wrapping his arms around Bush in 2004, kissing up to Falwell and other members of the intolerant religious right, fake strolls through Iraqi markets, backing away from rationality on immigration. But I have the sense that he is coming back to himself lately, and I hope he continues to do so.

About his stand on Iraq: He may be right. As bad as things are, they could get worse. It's not clear that we can prevent that from happening, but, like him, I am willing to give it a little more time. I'm not hopeful, and I know I could be accused of being cavalier with other people's lives, but I do think things really could get much, much worse.

Posted by: THS on May 17, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK
Macho talk about torture may be a great applause line on the right-wing rubber chicken circuit, but it does nothing to make us safer.

The participants in the Republican debate are seeking attention and campaign contributions form the "right-wing rubber chicken circuit", not seeking to "make us safer".

Indeed, since conservatives rely on maintaining a state of fear to justify authoritarian policies, the last thing they are interested in is "making us safer", as that makes their job of scaring us harder.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 17, 2007 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK
About his stand on Iraq: He may be right. As bad as things are, they could get worse. It's not clear that we can prevent that from happening, but, like him, I am willing to give it a little more time. I'm not hopeful, and I know I could be accused of being cavalier with other people's lives, but I do think things really could get much, much worse.

Things could, indeed, get worse. How is that an argument for continuing the present policy?

Posted by: cmdicely on May 17, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Voting for a Republican candidate is voting for torture. In that sense the 2008 presidential election is a referendum on our use of torture and it's also a test of the character of Americans. We'd better not fail that test.

Posted by: MarkH on May 17, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

There is an excellent book on war and torture by Elaine Scarry called "The Body in Pain," which demonstrates that the real 'reason' regimes torture is a perceived lack of legitimacy; the less secure about their own authority they are, the more they indulge in torture of whatever enemies they can get their hands on.

What this means in the recent American context is that the one-two combination of (a) the contested election of 2000 and (b) 9-11, with its attendant insecurity raised by the first major enemy attack on the soil of the continental US, together created a crisis atmosphere in the administration which, however loud, proud, and confident it may have seemed from the outside, was at heart deeply unsure of itself and uncertain of its authority; and which responded by licensing itself to torture its perceived enemies, using that old black magic to pump up its legitimacy.

Torture, Tyranny, and Blind Faith: the three pillars of the contemporary GOP

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

MR. GIULIANI: In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know there's going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. It shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of...

Kevin Drum = liar.

Posted by: Al on May 17, 2007 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

MR. ROMNEY: ... And enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used -- not torture but enhanced interrogation techniques, yes.

Kevin Drum = liar.

Posted by: Al on May 17, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Post-it note to Al: "enhanced interrogation techniques" is torture. But you knew that already.

Posted by: Piehole on May 17, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

Al=IDIOT!! What the fuck do think "enhanced interrogation techniques" means, a slap on he wrist??
The fact that we as a country even have to discuss such an issue is repugnant.

Posted by: In need of a Valium on May 17, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

not torture but enhanced interrogation techniques

And to keep the country safe he's willing to redefine as many words as necessary!

Al = willingly gullible tool

Posted by: bob on May 17, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

If there was a ticking time bomb scenario, I'd torture myself until I could figure out who, what, where, and how.

Posted by: Alf on May 17, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

"enhanced interrogation techniques"

I prefer the euphemism "alternative information extraction".

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

How about this. Assuming, for a (brief) moment that there might be a case in which torture is ethical (which, let me be clear, does not exist), the information gleaned via torture is untrustworthy. If I've hidden a bomb in a daycare somewhere in New York, and I get caught, and I am tortured for the information because the bomb will go off in 20 minutes, I'd just lie about it. The so-called 'justification' for torture is only under 'pressing' circumstances. I lie about the location to end the torture, the bomb goes off, I accomplish my goal, divert law enforcement, and avoid torture. Since there's no more justification for torture, I am essentially off the proverbial (meat?) hook. There is never a reason to torture, morally, ethically, or realistically.

Posted by: Everblue Stater on May 17, 2007 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

If Rumsfeld said it once, he said it a thousand times: Torture doesn't yield good intelligence.

But it's just so Fun!!

Posted by: absent observer on May 17, 2007 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

If I've hidden a bomb in a daycare somewhere in New York, and I get caught, and I am tortured for the information because the bomb will go off in 20 minutes, I'd just lie about it.

Not if Jack Bauer is torturing you, you don't. And if you can somehow resist his totally awesome torture virtuosity, then he'll just torture your conveniently accessible daughter in front of you until you tell the truth. And Jack *knows* when you're lying, because he's Jack.

You liberals need to start watching more TV if you want to understand how the real world works.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Everblue Stater: that's the essential argument to make, isn't it? I fully agree.

Now here's the continuation of it, for non-ticking-bomb scenarios:

Captive x is an important figure in an enemy organization. You want to know something about the organization, but he doesn't speak; you torture him, he says something. Now, is what he said true or a lie? You can't know right away, so you have to track down the lead. Let's assume that it's a lie (or outdated info). So you come back, and you have to torture him as punishment. Then you have to pose another question, get another answer, and repeat the cycle of checking. And repeat, again and again. Eventually, the captive either loses his life or his sanity, the torturers have lost their humanity, and no knowledge is gained.

The only case where torture could actually yield information to a regime is if the regime possesses a quite thorough understanding of the enemy group - a reasonably complete chart of its organizatin and its plans, for example. In that case, one could ask the captive a question to which you already knew the true answer, and then immediately punish him if what he confessed was a fib. This would impress the captive with the fact that the torturers are already quite well informed, and may always be a step ahead of him in terms of the questions that they ask; any time he lies, he is immediately punished. In this sort of situation, he is likely to begin confessing the truth, since he can say to himself (in his own head) that he is merely giving away information which his interrogators already know.

But see now how the situation has changed: torture is being used, not to build up basic, fundamental, essential information, but to fill in the gaps. The puzzle is almost complete, and all that is being gained is the last piece or two. So the captive is broken in spirit, the interrogators (again) lose their humanity, and the gain is - what? Some minor details about the organization?

There is no coherent argument in favor of torture. It is all about vengeance and sadism for its own sake; that's all.

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Considering giving someone the wrong eyeglass prescription is now defined as "torture," where is the bar anyway?

The worst level of enhanced interrogation seems to be waterboarding. Is every technique in that list "torture?" Or just the worst ones?

Or is it just anything that makes a prisoner unhappy?

Posted by: elmendorf on May 17, 2007 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

I found the candidates' discussion of torture unedifying. The first question is what constitutes torture?

Take two extremes: One is the use of traditional, bloody methods: the rack, thumb-screws, etc. We would all agree that this constitutes torture, and it should not be done by Americans. These were standard operating procedure at Abu Graib for years under Saddam's rule. I'm proud that our invasion ended that horrible practice.

On the other extreme, a couple of days ago it was reported that

a Pakistani-born US resident detained at Guantanamo Bay has said he was "mentally tortured" there...Mr Khan complained about how US guards had taken away pictures of his daughter, given him new glasses with the wrong prescription, shaved his beard off, forcibly fed him when he went on hunger strike, and denied him the opportunity for recreation. . . .Later, Mr Khan produced a list of further examples of psychological torture, which included the provision of "cheap, branded, unscented soap," the prison newsletter, noisy fans and half-inflated balls in the recreation room that "hardly bounce." http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010082

I think we would all agree that this is not torture.

But, what about making a prisoner uncomfortable by putting him in a cold cell or light deprivation, etc.? Or, what about water-boarding which is said to be terrifically effective while leaving the prisoner physically unharmed? Without addressing specific techniques the discussion was worthless.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 17, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

This whole Bush administration is torturing me to tell you the truth.

Posted by: slanted tom on May 17, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Considering giving someone the wrong eyeglass prescription is now defined as "torture," where is the bar anyway?

The Stasi used to employ psychological torture tactics as subtle as rearranging your furniture while your were out.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

and the gain is - what? Some minor details about the organization?

Which they will have to confirm by torturing a bunch of other people.

Posted by: cld on May 17, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, amazing how those so-called Christian Right-wing members have no problem with torture, cause it's just for those people they call ragheads, the sub-human people that are, well like Jewish people to Hilter.

They have a selective GOD who becomes anything they want God to be, and they are lead by their GOD chosen Commander and Chief of torture and Warmongering, unbid contracts and incompetent cronyism that loved people like Jack Abramoff.

Repugs only want another criminal for president, because they don't like honest, hard working people, instead they like vacationing jerks who prefer doing all things the illegal way, spending tons of tax payer money while their at it.


Posted by: Me-again on May 17, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Considering giving someone the wrong eyeglass prescription is now defined as "torture," where is the bar anyway?

Btw, you should read the pdf file at the link. The torture he went through is truly horrendous, and not at all covered by the BBC article.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

I hope elmendorf and ex-liberal leave this country and take their goofball sophistries with them; perhaps a trip to Cuba or North Korea would do them some good, since the regimes there stand in need of a few good English-speaking torture apologists who will set themselves up as enemies of the human race without prodding.

The case of Mr. Khan pertains to nothing. What we are talking about is torture according to, say, the dictionary definition: 'the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment, or to force them to do or say something.' Waterboarding of course counts as severe pain; CIA officers who exposed themselves to it voluntarily were able to last no more than 14 seconds. And in terms of scars, survivors report that it is exactly like a mock execution: permanent post-traumatic stress that disables them, leaving an uncontrolable terror of showers or even rain.

So, to answer your question, no, uncomfortable prisons do not count as torture, since they do not produce the severe pain and the pain they do produce is not aimed at extracting information. Those are the two criteria that must be met: severe pain, and the goal of extracting information.

Now go crawl back into the slough from which you came.

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

"enhanced interrogation techniques"

I prefer the euphemism "happy fun time."

Posted by: Orson on May 17, 2007 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

I would add that pretending that there's no tradeoff is a copout IMHO. If torture or harsh treatment is always counterproductive, then it should obviously never be used. But, if torture or harsh treatment is effective at getting useful information, then one must decide on how to balance the disadvantages of torture against the value of the information.

A second tradeoff is the importance to us and to the Iraqis of maintaining the democratic government. What if harsh treatment is a necessary tactic in order to defeat the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq?

Me-again considers himself/herself morally superior because s/he eschews torture. But, if me-again's policy apporach causes the government to fail, followed by chaos leading to the death of millions including plenty of torure, then me-again wouldn't have done any good at all for the Arabs s/he claims to care about.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 17, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

A related issue I try to address at my blog (CaliBlogger) is, given the emotions involved in the question, what response to a question about the use of torture would be emotionally satisfying without undermining US committment to civil liberties and the rule of law. My suggested response:

1. As president I would use every and all means available to the the most powerful nation on the planet to prevent and respond to any attack on the United States. 2. That being said, I would never seek short-term political benefit from using means that denigrate the memory and sacrifice of all those American patriots who have died in the name of liberty.

Further points can follow about the unlikelihood of the "24" scenario, the ineffectiveness of torture as a means to elicit truthful information, and the corrosive effect torture has not only on its victims, but on those that practice it, both the torturers and the nation they represent.

Any other suggestions out there?

Posted by: Citizen Kang on May 17, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is such a stud for wanting to double the size of Guantanamo.

What a pathetic piece of shit

Posted by: jim on May 17, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, my reaction was the same. Disgusting display by the Republican candidates.

I strongly suspect that those guys have never had the courage to stand up to a bully who was a real threat to them.

I have noticed that people who have indulged in combat, taken a few stands, even if only on the playground, seem to have more restraint and adult-like perspective than those who never have.

Posted by: little ole jim from red country on May 17, 2007 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Without addressing specific techniques the discussion was worthless.

Why, you couldn't come without it being spelled out for you?

Do you get turned on by the idea? The smell of a human shitting himself out of panic? The terror in a man's eyes when he realizes he's losing control? The idea that keeping a naked guy in a wet cell just above hypothermic conditions is somehow just and humane?

I love this trope. Everytime Kevin mentions torture, the assholes start whinging about our bleeding hearts tearing at "making prisoners uncomfortable" or "why is waterboarding torture?"

Charles Krulak is a fucking Marine, he calls what the US has done torture. Joe Hoar, a former CiC of US Central Command says this shit is torture -- but your sadism and fear tunes out the plainly obvious. Instead, you need the technical language for full tumescence. You see the comfortable newspeak "sleep deprivation" and welcome it like its some kind of little imposition being carried out for God and Country.

"Well, it's justified in circumstances!" You type with one hand.
"You have a problem with a little AC in the cells?" you laugh.

It should be enough to say you're merely inhuman and leave it at that. But, sadly, you and the other maladjusted, fear-soaked losers that make up the diehard 28% are human. All too human. Like most, you look for the easy solution -- dislocating some asshole's shoulder, say -- to prevent an attack.

It's so removed from reality that it's practically a non-sequitir. Might as well belive in magic rocks that ward off aliens as believe that the guy who is pulling out his hair from near-psychois is just one cigarette burn away from giving you the goods.

Pathetic. Sickening. Disgusting. And yet you and your division of the Fighting 101st Keyboarders ignore actual military men like Krulak and Hoar and find solace in the unspeakable and lust in the brutality.

Posted by: noltf on May 17, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Jack Bauer's methods were "cruel and unusual punishment". The next day the Supreme Court had nine vacancies.

Posted by: adlsad on May 17, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

With several missing GI's now being an issue, we should remember that one very good reason for refraining from torture is that we thereby set a standard we can cite about how our own should be treated when they are captured.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on May 17, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Al,
You're a slut for stupidity.

ex-liberal,
Forced, or "focused" stress is torture.

There is no way around it, and the Republicans who support this "bandying" of definitions...they are worse than the Islamicists, because they do know the difference between what is considered American and what is considered unAmerican... and like the Islamicists...they don't care one way or the other, just do it and get it over with.
Damn them both!

Posted by: Sheerahkahn on May 17, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

What if harsh treatment is a necessary tactic in order to defeat the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq?

Good Jesus. A total ignorance of psychology, history and reality wrapped up in a neat little object lesson. That's quite possibly the dumbest thing ever written.

Posted by: noltf on May 17, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Citizen Kang -

What's wrong with your hypothetical response is that it's not emotionally satisfying at all; it's cliched and cerebral, like Dukakis' reaction when asked about how he would respond to news that his wife had been raped.

An emotionally satisfying answer would be 'No one under my command will torture enemy prisoners. Period. End of discussion' or 'Many Americans believe in the existence of the devil. Torture is pure evil, it is the devil's work, and I abhor and reject it.'

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Although I won't be voting for him, McCain (and Ron Paul) have been the only two Republican candidates in the lst debate who have taken the moral position on torture. McCain did note, it's not about them, it's about us. (And I think the Dems need to be repeatedly clear on this as well.) You want to ask Brownback, who would Jesus torture? The whole rest of the field is disgusting, vile and depraved. And I think deep down they know it.

Posted by: MaxGowan on May 17, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Al and ex-liberal are fascist shitbags. What did we fight the Cold War for? What did we fight the Nazis for? After all in many respects, they ran well-ordered, peaceful -- and above all, safe -- societies. Of course, if you dissented, they disappeared you in the night and applied "enhanced" interrogation techniques to help you understand how you had erred in challenging the present order of things. The KGB, if you read your Solzhenitsyn, perfected ways of enhancing interrogation by -- according to ex-lib -- such harmless techniques like cold rooms and sleep deprivation. No physical marks! You hadn't been tortured, right? But for Al and ex-lib, what's good for the KGB is good for them. After all, most of the citizens of Nazi Germany and the USSR went to bed each night fairly free from the fear of terrorist attacks. Oh, unless you count their governments. But who does until it's too late.

Posted by: jonas on May 17, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

Looky:

White angry males haven't a chance in 2008.

They know this.
So they figure they might as well go down playing their strongest hate suit.
This means they will say almost anything to play to their base's most base instincts.

For example:

Witness Rudy asserting that Democrats blame American for 9/11!
This might well win him the party's nomination, but how can it not haunt him to death in the general election?

In effect, the angry white dwarfs are fighting tooth and nail for the right to finish second in 2008.
And just like Custard...
these guys are going to fire all the hate ammo they have.

But make no mistake about it:
We will have a black man or a woman as President in 2008.

But first the game must be played out:

Custard be damned...
Custard be hateful...
Custard be extinct...
(in that order)


Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on May 17, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Al and ex-liberal remind us of the M*A*S*H character, that sniveling Major Frank Burns, who summed it up perfectly: "By only blindly following orders can we ever hope to remain free."

Or to paraphrase Lincoln, if torture isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong.

Posted by: MaxGowan on May 17, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

But, if torture or harsh treatment is effective at getting useful information, then one must decide on how to balance the disadvantages of torture against the value of the information.

Presumably, then, the Iraqi insurgents holding the three missing GIs captive should decide how to balance the disadvantages of torture against the value of information the GIs may hold....

Posted by: Stefan on May 17, 2007 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Duncan Kinder; With several missing GI's now being an issue, we should remember that one very good reason for refraining from torture is that we thereby set a standard we can cite about how our own should be treated when they are captured.

Sen. McCain made the same argument during the debate, so you're in good company Duncan. I think the argument doesn't work. The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are bound by no rules of war. We can behave as nicely as you like, even to the extent of giving prisoners their choice of perfume in their soap and fully inflated balls to play with. But, no matter what we do, the insurgents will not fight according to our rules.

If anything it's more likely the opposite. If we pull our punches when our adversaries are fighting brutally, then we give them no reason to stop fighting brutally.

That's not to say that we should torture. I'm only saying the reference to our enemies' behavior is not the right reason.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 17, 2007 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

What if harsh treatment is a necessary tactic in order to defeat the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq?

A question I'm sure Saddam asked himself as he went about torturing the Kurdish and Shiite insurgents.

Posted by: Stefan on May 17, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

Krulak isn't entirely correct, Ron Paul is against torture too.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on May 17, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is such a stud for wanting to double the size of Guantanamo.

Only double? Why not triple? Why not, indeed, quintuple? Isn't that 2.5 times tougher than a mere girly doubling?

Posted by: Stefan on May 17, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey ex-liberal, why do you distort and omit what McCain actually said, that when HE was being tortured by the North Vietnamese, as were other Americans, their fortitude was sustained by the knowledge that they would not do the same were their positions reversed. McCain noted that in the debate.

During World War II, over 350 Americans were convicted and imprisoned for mistreatment of the enemy. BTW, that works out to more than one every four days, from Dec. 7, '41 to August 14, '45. By some miraculous event, every president from Washington through Clinton managed to keep our republic (if it is a republic at this point) safe without the use of torture.

Posted by: MaxGowan on May 17, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

When Giuliani said he'd use "any means necessary" to torture a prisoner the follow-up question should have been "including rape?"

Posted by: Stefan on May 17, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

When Giuliani said he'd use "any means necessary" to torture a prisoner the follow-up question should have been "including rape?"

with a plunger.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Al and ex-liberal remind us of the M*A*S*H character, that sniveling Major Frank Burns, who summed it up perfectly: "By only blindly following orders can we ever hope to remain free."

"Funny thing, war: never have so many suffered so much so so few could be so happy. "

Posted by: Black Thirteen on May 17, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

So the captive is broken in spirit, the interrogators (again) lose their humanity, and the gain is - what? Some minor details about the organization?

lampwick: as you probably know, your description fits pretty closely the way torture was used by the VC and NVA in immediate post-capture interrogations, on or near the battlefield, in Vietnam up to 1969 or so. US POWs who were tortured to confirm information that the NVA appeared to already know say they only revealed non-essential details -- but of course they would say that, since otherwise they could face courts martial. But the VC and NVA seemed to consider what they were doing worthwhile. What happened in 1969, though, is that the Nixon administration started making North Vietnamese torture of American POWs into a big international issue, and it quickly became clear that the practices were costing the Communists more in international support (from Europe, the American left, etc.) than they were worth. Communist torture of POWs was dramatically reduced from 1969 on, as John McCain notes in his memoirs.

Of course, the VC and NVA were a centralized organization working rationally towards an operational goal. Torture for them was a minor battlefield tactic which could be scrapped when it became counterproductive from a propaganda point of view. The problem with Al-Qaeda and GOP support for torture is that torture, for them, is in large measure A RECRUITMENT STRATEGY pitched at their own base. It isn't actually there for rational operational reasons; it's there because the base of each organization is composed of resentful, violent men to whom torturing the enemy is an appealing fantasy.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on May 17, 2007 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in the Marines we were taught to avoid torture because if the enemy felt that they would be tortured they would not surrender. The other day I had lunch with another Vietnam Vet whose job in Nam was to talk to Vietcong who were trapped in tunnels, caves, etc. and get them to surrender because going in after these guys gets people killed. He was appalled at the recent torture situation because it would definitely get more Americans killed in Iraq.

Posted by: Michael Martin on May 17, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Years ago, when I taught US history, there were certain topics that would predictably elicit chills and disbelief from my students.

One was the witch trials; others were the two Red Scares (1920s & 1950s) and the Jim Crow era. Certainly, many years from now, the same reactions will had by students learning of the actions of our current government and is support by so many of our fellow citizens.

Posted by: Keith G on May 17, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is never done to gain information because EVERYONE--no exceptions--knows that it is useless for that purpose.

It is only done because the victim is thought to "deserve" it.

The "troglodyte crowd" is half the country. Nothing can change that fact, which is what you ought to be focusing on to the exclusion of all else.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on May 17, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

At a party a few months ago I met a guest, a young attorney Republican type, who started to debate me on the necessity of torture. Unfortunately for him I'd had a few drinks by this point and so tore into his arguments and, to cap it off, suggested that since he seemed to be such a fan of brutal violence that we settle it outside with a fight. Torturing helpless prisoners who can't fight back? That he was all for. Standing up for himself in a fair fight? That he didn't seem to be such a big fan of and so refused to step outside with me.

Typical behavior of the standard-issue Republican coward.

Posted by: Stefan on May 17, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Both George Tenent and John McCain have written books stating that torture works to gain accurate and actionable information as well. There are two exceptions.

Posted by: Al on May 17, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Well, of course in order to win the support of a majority of current GOP voters, you HAVE to support torture -- the GOP's remaining registered membership (which is the only one allowed to vote in many primaries, and the only ones likely to turn out for any primary) supports it.

A Survey USA poll of Ohio voters last night, by the way, suggests that the same thing is true on global warming -- only 1/4 of Ohio voters think it's a fraud, but only 1/4 of them are registerd Republicans either, and it's a pretty safe bet that a majority of those Republicans think it's a fraud. So, at the moment the GOP is in positive-feedback shrinkage self-destruct mode (as often happens to one party or the other under the American electoral system), and it will stay there for a fair amount of time unless the Dems do something to screw up disastrously when they're back in power.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on May 17, 2007 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

lampwick,

Thanks for your response, you're probably closer to the right track than am I.

Posted by: Citizen Kang on May 17, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Some people call them troglodytes. I call them mah base. Heh.

Posted by: George W Bush on May 17, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

To me, the penultimate torture is being deprived of freedom. We have already crossed the line just by imprisoning someone. People in prison often must be subjected to coercion to make them obey regulations or just to keep them in. Bad behavior will continue if not punished. And only a fucking idiot believes that our treatment of prisoners will have the slightest effect on Islamist treatment of our troops.
If you cannot interrogate prisoners, why bother taking them? I say that as someone who took 2 prisoners in November of 50 only because we were trained to take prisoners because of their intelligence value. Under today's rules I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on May 17, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

mattsteinglass - I did not know that history. I appreciate, and agree with, everything you've said.

The roots of torture are also deeply intertwined with the institution of slavery. The last time torture was legal on American soil was when slavery was still legal on American soil - for since a slave was, from a legal perspective, his or her master's property, there was no restriction on the physical punishment which could be meted out to the slave, with or without perceived cause. One could make an obvious comment here about the cheering of the crowd in South Carolina last night. Instead I will add that my favorite bar in Providence, Rhode Island, used to be located in the cellar of an old building which had once served as a slave-quarters, during the eighteenth century. The stain of slavery touched the entire US, even though it lifted sooner in the North.

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

To me, the penultimate torture is being deprived of freedom. We have already crossed the line just by imprisoning someone. People in prison often must be subjected to coercion to make them obey regulations or just to keep them in. Bad behavior will continue if not punished.

Well, we've come full circle here in wingnut logic.

Above some guy argues that the line delineating torture must be drawn ridiculously high, for fear of including the trivial.

And now this chucklehead is arguing that the line be drawn ridiculously low, so that all torture appears trivial.

Lovely.

Posted by: Disputo on May 17, 2007 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

The torture arguments presented by the right are always these hypothetical TV drama cases where the only way to avoid something really terrible is to torture some ugly terrorist in a short time because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has the information that can save us in his mind.

In fact, the torture we see is almost never conducted to gain information. It is is to intimidate and humiliate both the prisoners and the general population and to satisfy the sadistic urges of the guards. Were they really getting information from those poor souls in Abu Graib? After all these years do the people in Guantanamo still have useful information? How about those tortured by the sectarians in Iraq? Everyday horribly maimed bodies turn up on the street. Did they all have vital information? How about the thousands that disappeared under Pinochet? And on and on.

Torture is not to gain information. That argument is a red herring put forth to assuage and distract the general public.

Posted by: JohnK on May 17, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Krulak & Hoar:

"Torture is for losers."

Posted by: Bruce A. on May 17, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have never tortured anyone or anything like it, although I have worked in criminal corrections for twenty years and have come across some human beings who were absolutely disgusting (one Mexican gentleman who tortured his own two small children in incredibly imaginative ways out in the family garage comes to mind.)

Were I in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control any individual whom I think may know of the whereabouts of the three missing U.S. soldiers, I might be tempted to make him very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to him. The first qualifiers as to whether I would actually do this loom very, very large. No one wants to torture an innocent person.

In the real world, however, "innocence" is a theoretical concept that can be inflated by defense lawyers. In my experience it has not been that hard to tell those who are guilty as hell and secretly gloating over their crimes from those who are innocent, confused, and scared as hell at what is happening to them.

In a sense, when a society commissions torturers, it has to be able to trust their common sense and judgment. This trust can not, in my experience, be based on normal political considerations, but must stem from a knowledge of the candidate's character and intelligence. A chief inquisitor who is stupid AND untrustworthy is worse than worthless. The right man (or woman) would be priceless. . .

Posted by: mike cook on May 17, 2007 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

But, if torture or harsh treatment is effective at getting useful information, then one must decide on how to balance the disadvantages of torture against the value of the information.

How's this? Tortures get arrested and court martialed. If the information they got out of the suspect turned out to be useful and/or saved lives, the president can pardon him. If not, well then life in prison is just a risk that the torturer felt he had to take for the possibility of saving lives.

In a sense, when a society commissions torturers, it has to be able to trust their common sense and judgment. ... The right man (or woman) would be priceless.

Because, hey, we all know how willingness to engaged in torture correlates with good sense and impeccable character!

Posted by: Constantine on May 17, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

mike cook -

I don't doubt that the Mexican inmate you describe was a vile piece of scum. Nor do I doubt that through your work you have developed a keen gut sense for hostile intentions.

But it is important to mention that the Mexican inmate was captured by police, processed by the legal system, sentenced by a judge, and that all of this was done in accordance (more or less) with the rule of law.

If we replaced this system of the rule of law with your gut intuitions and willingness to inflict suffering on whomever you thought deserved it, we would be living in a much more barbaric world.

Likewise, the soldier you have dreamed up may have all sorts of vague feelings about the mind of the hypothetical Iraqi. But his feelings are irrelevant: his first duty is to obey orders. And the order which all American troops are operating under currently is DO NOT USE TORTURE.

I accept that soldiers and officers of the law will protect themselves and use various means to coerce and intimidate hostile individuals.

But I do not accept your fantasy of a 'chief inquisitor' whose gut instincts are always correct. The only creatures meeting that description would be God or the Devil. And frankly, the fantasies you have outlined in this post have a strong whiff of sulphur.

Posted by: lampwick on May 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Were I in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control any individual whom I think may know of the whereabouts of the three missing U.S. soldiers, I might be tempted to make him very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to him.

What if "he" were a "she"? What if she knew that if she gave out any information, her 8-year-old brother and 6-year-old sister would turn up within a week on a garbage heap with drill holes in their skulls? Or would you only torture them if they seemed to you to be "bad guys"? On what basis do you make such a determination?

What if the 3 captured American soldiers are being held in reasonably decent circumstances and not tortured? Some US captives in Iraq have been treated reasonably well. What if you wind up torturing your captive, while the insurgents treat theirs with moderate respect? Who then becomes the "good guy" in this conflict?

We live in a society of laws. You don't get to break the laws because you're "the right man or woman", as you put it. The fact that we are a society of laws, while Iraq was not, IS THE REASON we could defeat Iraq in the first place. A military that throws out its rules and discipline on issues like torture, loses. If we lose in Iraq, torture will be one of the reasons.

Posted by: mattsteinglass on May 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

MacGowan: Hey ex-liberal, why do you distort and omit what McCain actually said, that when HE was being tortured by the North Vietnamese, as were other Americans, their fortitude was sustained by the knowledge that they would not do the same were their positions reversed. McCain noted that in the debate.

MacCain is a true hero. I agree that he said what you claim. He also said what I claimed. I watched the debate earlier this week and heard him say it.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 17, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Christ, this topic really brings out the scum, doesn't it?

I hate these people.

Posted by: Stefan on May 18, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

some blowhard who in real life would shit himself in terror if he was ever in this situation: Were I in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control any individual whom I think may know of the whereabouts of the three missing U.S. soldiers, I might be tempted to make him very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to him.

And I suppose were I an Iraqi rebel in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control three U.S. soldiers whom I think may know of the whereabouts of my captured comrades, I might be tempted to make them very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to them....but hey, according to the logic above that would be OK, right?

Posted by: Stefan on May 18, 2007 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

ex-asperater: "But, what about making a prisoner uncomfortable by putting him in a cold cell or light deprivation, etc.? "

But what about standing up for American principles and not just bending over for the first phony he-man with Vaseline in his hands? What would you think about that, hero-worshipper?

Posted by: Kenji on May 18, 2007 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

A big Semper Fi to those two gentlemen. They have been there and done that (unlike Pretender aWol and his pack of Yellow Elefants).

"Every once in a while, you've got to do something hard, do something you're not comfortable with. A person needs a gut check." - Corporal Chad Ritchie, U.S.M.C.

Posted by: daCascadian on May 18, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin....If the whole subject of torture makes you ill,why are you a big fan of 24?

Posted by: R.L. on May 18, 2007 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

"The KGB, if you read your Solzhenitsyn, perfected ways of enhancing interrogation by -- according to ex-lib -- such harmless techniques like cold rooms and sleep deprivation."
Posted by: jonas on May 17, 2007 at 9:29 PM

I need to reread "The Gulag Archipelago" again. Not really for the techniques used, but for the personal stories of so many different people experiencing torture. Another thing that really grabbed my memory from that book recently was the recollection about the Soviet news media during Stalinist times. I think the quote was something like: "Trivialities were shouted from rooftops; real news stealthily leaked". Good God, it is just like the media in this country has become lately.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on May 18, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan: And I suppose were I an Iraqi rebel in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control three U.S. soldiers whom I think may know of the whereabouts of my captured comrades, I might be tempted to make them very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to them....but hey, according to the logic above that would be OK, right?

What do you mean by "OK"? OK in whose eyes? Your eyes? The UN's? Gods's?

Stefan, let's get to reality. You know as well as I do that in your hypothetical situation the insurgent captors would feel free to mistreat the prisoners regardless of what the US did. We can both recall what happened to past US prisoners in Iraq. They didn't get 3 meals a day, excellent medical care, and a lending library including Harry Potter books, like the prisoners at Gitmo. No. They were brutally murdered.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 18, 2007 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal >"...let's get to reality..."

Too bad you can`t take your own advise.

And, by the way, when will you be enlisting ?

"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Posted by: daCascadian on May 18, 2007 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, ex-liberal, I see your point.

We should become a lot more like those insurgent captors, maybe match them atrocity for atrocity. And, pray tell, where does this race to the bottom end? With a cheapened, weakened America that now lives up to enemy propaganda rather than being able to laugh at it.

You torture fans are beneath contempt but nevertheless manage to make me ill in the meantime. Why the hell are you sullying America?

Posted by: Rofe on May 18, 2007 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: "ex-liberal" wrote: let's get to reality.

This after "ex-liberal" wondered if waterboarding is torture, when he/she/it has been informed already that it's already defined as such. But then, "ex-liberal" shows a remarkable resistance to being "edified."

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, good Ford! "ex-liberal" wrote: if torture or harsh treatment is effective at getting useful information, then one must decide on how to balance the disadvantages of torture against the value of the information.

No, one must not. As a civilized nation, we should not torture, period, full stop.

There you have it, folks..."ex-liberal" is on record as favoring torture if it can potentially provide valuable information, and of course one can always prentend that it can.

Between publically favoring torturne and "a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_05/011327.php#1094984">favoring the President acting illegally under claims of national security, it's clear that I was wrong about "ex-liberal"'s political stance.

"ex-liberal" is not a neocon; "ex-liberal" is a full-blown, unapologetic authoritarian. For all "ex-liberal"'s smarmy pretense of favoring liberty, "ex-liberal" vocally supports tyranny.

I never imagined "ex-liberal" could discredit him/her/itself more than he/she/it already has, but once again I'm wrong. Shame on you, "ex-liberal."

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

I love these articles. Keep 'em coming, Kevin!

I always get a great chuckle out of reading the writings of liberal pussies pontificating about battle tactics.

The comedic value is fantastic. It's like listening to the guys on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy talking about oil changes and football.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on May 18, 2007 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

I always get a great chuckle out of reading the writings of liberal pussies pontificating about battle tactics.

Yeah, everyone's real impressed at your Republican manliness, "sportsfan". [eyeroll]

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Rofe: We should become a lot more like those insurgent captors, maybe match them atrocity for atrocity. And, pray tell, where does this race to the bottom end? With a cheapened, weakened America that now lives up to enemy propaganda rather than being able to laugh at it.

No matter what standards America lives up to, one cannot laugh at enemy propaganda if he lives in a country ruled by fascistic terrorists. Unfortunately, terrorist government control a substantial number of countries. Furthermore, you may be limited in what you can laugh at even if you live in civilized countries with Islamic terrorist populations, as Theo van Gogh learned the hard way. American newspapers didn't laugh at the Danish cartoons. They didn't feel free to print them. (except for the brave Amanda Bennett at Philadelphia Inquirer)

The worst possible violation of civil liberties and humanity is allowing Islamic fascists to rule. If we use pristine methods of warfare, we Americans will feel better about ourselves. The Europeans will feel better. But, if the cost of limiting our methods is to consign billions of people to live under horrendous circumstanes, that's a questionable tradeoff.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 18, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Yep Sportsfan, that General Krulick is a real pantywaist. I would pay cash money to see you tell him that his pontificating on battle tactics is "pussified."

Posted by: Tom S on May 18, 2007 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I always get a great chuckle out of reading the writings of liberal pussies pontificating about battle tactics.

C'mon Kevin, it is Friday. Make sportsfan's day and post what Domino and Inkblot have to say about torture--are they for it or against it, do they like to "play" with their prey before they kill and/or eat it. Also ask them if they are for birth control for puppies.

Posted by: Nemo on May 18, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

some blowhard who would piss himself in fear if he were ever to be in this situation in real life: Were I in Diyala province and were I lucky enough to have under my control any individual whom I think may know of the whereabouts of the three missing U.S. soldiers, I might be tempted to make him very uncomfortable for a period of time that would seem like forever to him. The first qualifiers as to whether I would actually do this loom very, very large. No one wants to torture an innocent person.

So what if that "any individual" was a twelve-year old girl who knew the location of the missing soldiers but refused to talk? What if it was an elderly grandmother? They're not "innocent," strictly speaking, as they support and sympathize with the rebels fighting against the foreign invader, and in fact they know exactly where the soldiers are but they refuse to talk. What, exactly, would you be prepared to do to them? Come on, be specific, let's get you on the record as to your preferred methods of torture for women and children.

Posted by: Stefan on May 18, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Torture was the last straw for me. In the same way that I have no interest in what communists, fascists, or religious lunatics think, I no longer pay any attention to Republicans. America has moved so far right, the Republican party is now just a bunch of loudmouth extremist crazies.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on May 18, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I always get a great chuckle out of reading the writings of liberal pussies pontificating about battle tactics.

Personally, I always get a great chuckle out of reading the blog whimperings of conservative pussies who fancy themselves big tough guys behind the safety of their keyboards.

Posted by: Stefan on May 18, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: The worst possible violation of civil liberties and humanity is allowing Islamic fascists to rule. If we use pristine methods of warfare, we Americans will feel better about ourselves. The Europeans will feel better. But, if the cost of limiting our methods is to consign billions of people to live under horrendous circumstanes, that's a questionable tradeoff.

Boy, you're really tossing away your mask as a reasonable commentator and revealing yourself as a fervent authoritarian, aren't you?

First of all, the fact alone that you use the term "Islamic fascism" (or any of its variants) dismisses you from being taken seriously.

Second of all, your stated support for torture here (and Presidential lawlessness elsewhere) has already dismissed you from consideration as anything other than an object of contempt.

Moreover, how dare you suggest that adhering to values that have made this country good and great is a matter of "feeling good about ourselves" -- especially given the lack of shame you demonstrate here. How dare you suggest that the United States is so weak as to be helpless against Islamic terrorism if it doesn't torture, all the while deliberately ignoring the argument that it's completely counterproductive in favor of your bullshit hypotheticals.

Let's visit your statement again:

The worst possible violation of civil liberties and humanity is allowing Islamic fascists to rule.

If we torture too -- if we sink to their level, in other words -- how will you know the difference? Because you think it's your side that gets to do the violating?

And this: No matter what standards America lives up to, one cannot laugh at enemy propaganda if he lives in a country ruled by fascistic terrorists.

How that justifies becoming like those countries remains a mystery to eveyrone but you, "ex-liberal."

"ex-liberal", ladies and gentlemen. He/she/it saw during the debates the other day that the Republican Party embraces torture, so now here he/she/it is, dutifully doing propaganda duty. Disgusting and vile don't begin to cover it.

Shame on you, "ex-liberal."

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan, let's get to reality. You know as well as I do that in your hypothetical situation the insurgent captors would feel free to mistreat the prisoners regardless of what the US did. We can both recall what happened to past US prisoners in Iraq. They didn't get 3 meals a day, excellent medical care, and a lending library including Harry Potter books, like the prisoners at Gitmo. No. They were brutally murdered.

And, according to Republicans, that mistreatment and brutal murder of US prisoners by the rebels is OK. They support it. Indeed, they celebrate it. After all, to paraphrase the GOP torture fetishists, what if harsh treatment is a necessary tactic in order to defeat the Americans in Iraq?

Posted by: Stefan on May 18, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

So Ramirez invokes the iconography of Nazi Germany and channels its rationalizations, but it is wrong to refer to his work as Nazi-like, but it is okay to label the Republican presidential debaters as little Hitlers . . .

Just saying.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal:I'm only saying the reference to our enemies' behavior is not the right reason.

Try to think a teeny little bit outside the box. I'm sure you're right that our behavior will have no effect on the militants who captured our soldiers. But what about the people who are currently keeping quiet about where they are? We don't know who they are, so we can't commence to torturing them. Out goal in Iraq is to try to validate the humanity of Iraqis like those who cared for Jessica Lynch.

If we "win" in Iraq by out-Saddaming Saddam, what have we won?

Posted by: cowalker on May 18, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK
......one cannot laugh at enemy propaganda if he lives in a country ruled by fascistic terrorists......ex-lax at 9:47 AM
Are you calling Americans fascist terrorists, because Bush is the ruler of Iraq as Comander-in-Chief ov the occupying forces. Please tell us what Herr Bush is doing to free all those oppressed people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan, and in other putative allies of his. Posted by: Mike on May 18, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

cowalker: Try to think a teeny little bit outside the box. I'm sure you're right that our behavior will have no effect on the militants who captured our soldiers. But what about the people who are currently keeping quiet about where they are? We don't know who they are, so we can't commence to torturing them. Out goal in Iraq is to try to validate the humanity of Iraqis like those who cared for Jessica Lynch.

That's a better argument. I'd like to buy it, but I'm not sure it holds in Iraq. Osama bin Laden said, "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, naturally they will like the strong horse." I'm afraid OBL was right, at least as regards Iraqis. For decades, the most important thing was to be on the winning side, because the losers and their families got tortured and murdered. If we leave and democratic government of Iraq looks weak, I think most Iraqis will try to affiliate themselves with the local warlord, regardless of how cruel he is..

If we "win" in Iraq by out-Saddaming Saddam, what have we won?

This is common argument, but I think it shows a lack of proportion. The worst conduct you can possibly imagine Americans doing isn't remotely like what Saddam did. The Iraqis just commemorated their Mass Grave day, to note the 300,000 graves from people Saddam murdered in cold blood. The dead included many women and children. Taking all the oil money for himself, providing almost no electricity to Shias and Kurds, destroying the ecosystem where the Marsh Arabs lived. gassing men, women and children from the air, torturing children in front of their parents,...

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 18, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: torturing children in front of their parents

Yeah -- our forces only threatened to torture children in front of their parents.

(And talk about looking weak -- if memory serves me right, it was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who called his interrogator's bluff...)

What "ex-liberal" "thinks" isn't worth a bucket of piss, but again "ex-liberal" argues as if the Iraqi government -- with its ongoing fialure to govern or even keep the Green Zone secure -- doesn't look weak right now.

And I, for one, would rather that the United States be regarded as better than moral mosters like Saddam only by matter of degree. It's strange that "ex-liberal," who claimed to be proud that the United Stated ended Saddam's tyranny, would do so.

Oh, wait -- he's doing it to carry GOP water. It isn't strange at all.

"ex-liberal"'s rapid decline from neocon to unabashed authoritarian is symptomatic of the degeneracy of the Republican Party.

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew Sullivan -- no liberal he -- eloquently refutes "ex-liberal"'s pro-torture position:

In a constitutional democracy based on the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the abolition of torture in wartime was a defining mark of America. Washington himself set the moral standard and insisted on humane treatment of all military prisoners - as a defining mark of a new civilization. And the connection between liberty and torture is a very close one. There is no human being who has less liberty than a person being tortured ...
Even a prisoner in a small cell can stand and walk a little, can breathe on his own, has the capacity to tend to his own bodily functions, and to think or pray. Torture is designed to rob him of all these last shreds of liberty. It takes control of his body and soul and by the use of physical or psychological coercion, rids him of any real freedom at all. It puts him into the abyss of tyranny on a personal scale. And any man or woman who is given the license to torture and any man or woman who grants the right to torture is definitionally a tyrant over another person. There is no state more abject than the man broken on the waterboarding rack, or frozen to near death, or forced to stand for days on end, or hooded and strapped to shackles in a ceiling, or having his legs pulpified by repeated beating, or forced to eat pork and drink alcohol against religious strictures. Everything I have just described has been done by US forces under the command and direction of George W. Bush. They are all acts of absolute tyanny, conducted by people who at that moment are absolute tyrants.
The evil of torture is therefore not just a moral one. It is a political one. A constitutional republic dedicated before everything to the protection of liberty cannot legalize torture and remain a constitutional republic. It imports into itself a tumor of pure tyranny. That tumor, we know from history, always always spreads, as it has spread in the US military these past shameful years. The fact that hefty proportions of US soldiers now support its use as a routine matter reveals how deep the rot has already gone. The fact that now a majority of Republican candidates proudly support such torture has rendered the GOP the party most inimical to liberty in America. When you combine torture's evil with the claims of the hard right that a president can ignore all laws and all treaties in wartime, and that "wartime" is now permanent, you have laid the ground for the abolition of the American experiment in self-government. Imagine another terror attack, with Rudy Giuliani as president, and a mandate to arrest and torture at will, with no need to follow or even address the rule of law. We would no longer be a republic. We would be in a protectorate of one man.
America is in danger. And the danger is coming increasingly from within. This was Osama bin Laden's hope and plan - to destroy this country's freedom. He has been more successful than he could have imagined. And he's still alive to enjoy it.

The only question remaining is, why does "ex-liberal" hate America? is it merely pants-wetting fear, or is it something darker?

Posted by: Gregory on May 18, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK
... The worst conduct you can possibly imagine Americans doing isn't remotely like what Saddam did....... ex-lax at 1:23 PM
Iraq leader says abuse worse now. UN survey finds situation in Iraq worse now So you are wrong and wrong again. Of course you will still promulgate this administration's lies and propaganda because you both a fatuous fool and a toadying tool. Four million Iraqis have been made refugees and yet pathetic little bushistas like you mock their suffering and pain from behind their keyboards. Posted by: Mike on May 18, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, please re-read you own cite. Allawi was accusing other Iraqis of committing atrocities, not accusing Americans.

Posted by: ex-liberal on May 18, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Mike, please re-read you own cite. Allawi was accusing other Iraqis of committing atrocities, not accusing Americans.

Translation: Yes, it has been worse for Iraqis since the invasion, but since it is not Americans directly committing these torturings and killings (well, accept for a few hundred, or thousand of them), they are of no consequence and Iraqis should thank their lucky stars that more of them are dying under America's control of Iraq than did under Saddam's control of Iraq, because it is better that you get tortured and killed as the result of America's actions than Saddam's actions. The Holy George Bush is my King and God and no action he has, is, or will ever take can be condemned and no consequence of his actions can ever be evil.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: The worst conduct you can possibly imagine Americans doing isn't remotely like what Saddam did. The Iraqis just commemorated their Mass Grave day, to note the 300,000 graves from people Saddam murdered in cold blood. The dead included many women and children. Taking all the oil money for himself, providing almost no electricity to Shias and Kurds, destroying the ecosystem where the Marsh Arabs lived. gassing men, women and children from the air, torturing children in front of their parents,...

Too bad the facts contradict you and show that Saddam was enabled and aided and abetted in his atrocities by . . . yes . . . wait for it . . . American conservatives, particularly Bush 41.

So, yes, American conservatives were responsible for those 300,000 deaths and more and so what Saddam did was not only like what Americans did, it was exactly what Americans did through their proxy, Saddam.

Only when Saddam crossed Bush 41 and caused him to look bad did Bush suddenly "care" about all the atrocities and even then he didn't care enough to remove Saddam or protect Iraqis in southern Iraq.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Four people have been arrested in connection with the "honor killing" last month of a Kurdish teen that was captured on cellphone video, authorities tell CNN. Two of those arrested are relatives and police are also searching for the victim's cousin. Dua Khalil, 17, was dragged into a crowd in a headlock and stoned to death in Iraq's Nineveh province. The killing was videoed and broadcast around the world -- throwing 'honor killings' into the public eye.

Yep, the Kurds are managing their affairs quite will, ex-liberal. It is a good thing that Bush 43 has freed them to turn women into possessions, taking away their freedom and exercise dominion over their lives to the extent that they can be stoned to death without evidence, without a hearing, without the chance to defend themselves. Once again, a Bush has allied himself with gross abusers of human freedom and dignity. So much for Bush's belief that life is precious and to be respected. But then we already knew that he doesn't value the lives of women, only their fetuses.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

"The climate, the religious and social climate is such that people can do that in daylight and that authorities do not intervene," said the spokeswoman for the Organization of Womens' Freedom in Iraq, Houzan Mahmoud.

This is the climate Bush has created.

What a guy!

Not.

But ex-liberal loves this climate.

Conservative arrogance always loves the smell of brutality when it is by our allies.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

[T]he United States . . . sought to undermine Mossadegh's tenure as president [to protect Western oil interests]. After all kinds of measures that disrupted the nation, a coup was financed and led by President Dwight Eisenhower's CIA, and the Shah of Iran was installed as the leader. We trained his goon squads, thus angering generations of Iranians for meddling in that nation's affairs.

[W]hat happened in 1953 had a direct relationship to the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. We viewed that as terrorists who dared attack America. They saw it as ending years of oppression at the hands of the ruthless U.S.-backed Shah regime.

. . . Think about it. Do we have the moral justification to explain the killings of more than 100,000 Iraqis as a result of this war? Can we defend the efforts to overthrow other governments whose actions we perceived would jeopardize American business interests?

ex-liberal's calculus:

3000 innocent Americans who did not die at the hands of any Iraqi are more important than 100,000 Iraqis whose blood is on the hands of Americans.

American participation in the torture and murder of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Arabs over the last 50 years, both directly and indirectly, through conservative support and direct aid and protection of tyrants in the Middle East and conservative undermining of democracy there, is of no consequence, equivalent to zero balance of evil-doing.

But even a single retaliatory strike that kills only one American or one American ally justifies killing and torturing 100,000 or more Iraqis and occupying their country for an eternity.

Posted by: anonymous on May 18, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

At long last, ex-liberal, have you no sense of decency? If your major accomplishment in life is to get a bunch of otherwise divergent strangers to agree that you are a pathetic, people-hating sea-slug and a disgrace to Americans everywhere, how exactly do you get to enjoy this distinction?

Wait, we don't want to know.

Posted by: Kenji on May 19, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Good. I guess that means he's gone.

Posted by: Kenji on May 19, 2007 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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