Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 14, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

DEFINING TORTURE DOWN....Paul Waldman is pissed off that Republicans have successfully cowed the media into refusing to use the word "torture" for things like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which are pretty clearly torture:

This is not complicated. Everyone all over the world agrees on what constitutes torture. Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions. Not hard to understand. Yet Republicans have successfully lured the entire journalistic community into their moral sewer, where there is some degree of suffering (defined not by how awful it is, but by whether it's fast or slow, and whether it leaves visible scars) that marks the line between torture and not-torture. If I rip your fingernails out — torture! If I tie you in a "stress position" designed to gradually inflict elevating amounts of pain, up to sheer agony, over the course of an hour or two — not torture!

Italics mine, and of course Paul is correct. It's not hard to understand.

But here's the part I don't get. Obviously a lot of people deal with this issue by simply not thinking about it. But among the torture supporters who do think about it, what exactly do they think? Putting legal issues aside, there are two basic moral positions:

  1. The stuff we do is OK, full stop. If Iranians or al-Qaeda or Hamas used waterboarding or stress positions on Americans in order to wring information out of them, we'd have no cause to complain. War is war.

  2. It's not OK in general, but it is acceptable when used against suspected terrorists. It would be wrong to torture Americans because our fighters are uniformed soldiers, not irregulars.

I guess — what? It has to be #2, right? That's the usual legal distinction, and we certainly know that we wouldn't accept waterboarding or stress positions or any of the rest against Americans with equanimity. So it has to be #2.

But is this also the moral position among torture apologists? Or something else?

Kevin Drum 1:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (138)

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Comments

Hypocrisy and double-standards are a world-wide phenomenon. Americans are just so self-righteous about it that it makes everyone else sick.

We haven't had a media worth the First Amendment for decades, I don't care what they do.

Posted by: freelunch on December 14, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the press can't handle cognative dissonance.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on December 14, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

We're scared.

They're brown.

USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 14, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

I guess what? It has to be #2, right?

It's actually #1, but you described it incorrectly, so I'll explain it to you. Conservatives believe torture is wrong just like murder is wrong. Murder is wrong, but it is not murder if there are mitigating circumstances like, say, self-defense. Similarly, torture is wrong, but there can be mitigating circumstances which would make it not torture.

In our case of Al-Qaeda suspects, the mitigating factor for America is self-defense from the terrorists and supporting freedom and democracy. These are certainly mitigating factors which means the so-called "torture" done by America is not really torture. To the contrary, the torture done by Iranians, al-Qaeda, and Hamas is justified by hatred of America, support of terrorism, and crushing freedom and democracy. These are certainly not mitigating factors and so they are certainly torturing which would be wrong because torture is wrong. That's why America and Bush does not torture while the terrorists like Iran, Al-Qaeda, and Hamas do torture.

Pretty simple, really, if you think about it.

Posted by: Al on December 14, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK


I think they feel it is the moral equivalent of playing by street rules. If the other side isn't going to abide by the 'rules' of modern warfare, then neither should we.

What gets lost in that moral calculus is the fact that the methods are a) ineffective, and b) bring us down to their level. Plus, how do you put that genie back in the bottle - limit its use or maintain your credibility?

Posted by: kis on December 14, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty simple, really, if you think about it.
Posted by: Al

"Simple" describes you well, scum. I preferred it when you applied your feeble reasoning skills in a pathetic attempt to defend serial rapist/murderer Wayne Dumond.

Posted by: DJ on December 14, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's not #2.

GRAHAM: You mean you’re not equipped to give a legal opinion as to whether or not Iranian military waterboarding, secret security agents waterboarding downed airmen is a violation of the Geneva Convention?

HARTMANN: I am not prepared to answer that question, Senator.

Crazy, eh?

Posted by: Larry on December 14, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think "most people" have a problem with, or are aware of, inconsistencies. Most people don't have consistent moral positions.

So it's okay/necessary/justified/deserved when done to others - the guilty - but not when done to "us". Most people wouldn't have much problem with slight torture of convicted murderers, child molesters, rapists, etc. (or else why all the jokes about prison rape?), but if slight torture happened to one of "us", then it's a problem.

Witness people who will cut others off in traffic without a second thought, but when done to them 10 seconds later, get pissed off.

It's a very common aspect of human behavior. Assuming that people have fully developed philosophies of justice which require "consistency" is kinda silly.

Pundits who act as if they do value consistency, are usually either fooling themselves, or know they are lying in order to sell copy and stay employed.

Posted by: luci on December 14, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

The stuff we do is OK, full stop. If Iranians or al-Qaeda or Hamas used waterboarding or stress positions on Americans in order to wring information out of them, we'd have no cause to complain. War is war.

That does seem to the new position of the United States military. A few days ago at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Legal Rights of Guantanamo Detainees”, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser at Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly refused to condemn the hypothetical torture of an American pilot by the Iranian military. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who asked the hypothetical, then pushed Hartmann on his answer, asking him if it would be a “violation of the Geneva Convention”:

GRAHAM: You mean you’re not equipped to give a legal opinion as to whether or not Iranian military waterboarding, secret security agents waterboarding downed airmen is a violation of the Geneva Convention?

HARTMANN: I am not prepared to answer that question, Senator.

So there you have it. According to the Pentagon, foreign militaries are free and clear if they want to torture captured American servicemen.

I cannot begin to express my disgust.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think most torture apologists don't even have enough moral reflectiveness to have gone through the mental exercise you postulate.

So, the answer is Option 3: "I don't know and I don't care."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 14, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

shit. 'waterboarding' has now entered the acceptable political discourse. didn't you hear tweety the other night scream at rachel maddow -- who had the audacity to offer an opinion not agreeable to tweety -- who then said 'i want to waterboard you, rachel'. to which she had no reply.

besides, when the majority of the teevee chattermonkeys are in favor of torture, chances are they'll employ the language to diminish the reality of what they are endorsing.

Posted by: linda on December 14, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Al is an idiot. His line of reasoning should have led to the U.S. refusing to sign the Geneva Accords. We should be able to torture anyone, anywhere at any time in any war. After all the U.S. is always waging war to protect and spread democracy and freedom. It would NEVER be wrong for us to employ ANY methods of extraction on anyone. Why don't we just withdraw from all treaties and agreements having anything to do with anything related to the treatment of prisoners, detainees and suspicious persons? You know, since everything we do is with the pure intent of protecting God's chosen nation and making such benevolence possible for others?

Posted by: steve duncan on December 14, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

"If Iranians or al-Qaeda or Hamas used waterboarding or stress positions on Americans in order to wring information out of them, we'd have no cause to complain. War is war."

Gee Kevin, if only the worse thing that al Qaeda or Hamas did to Americans was limited to waterboarding or stress positions. I'm sure the reporter from the Wall Street Journal who got his head hacked off or the victims of 9-11 would have prefer being subjected to such "torture" instead of the treatment they got at hands of our enemies.

Your descent into becoming a poor Kos knockoff appears to be accellerating. The question is why? Need to attract more of the "Four legs good, two legs bad" liberals to the site?

Posted by: Chicounsel on December 14, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Not everyone in this world shares American moral values, not even every American.

Torture apologists simply don't share our values.

They really think that certain people DESERVE to be tortured. They really do. They think that not torturing people that DESERVE to be tortured is worse than torturing the occasional person they mistakenly think DESERVES tortoring.

Posted by: ken on December 14, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's a very common aspect of human behavior. Assuming that people have fully developed philosophies of justice which require "consistency" is kinda silly.

I think luci's exactly right here. Most folks want things both ways. We want rules, codes, & laws to prevent *other* people from doing unbecoming shit, but there are always mitigating circumstances when it's we who get caught up by those rules, codes, & laws. (Cutting folks off in traffic is a good example. So is trying to bring something oversized as carry-on.) It's cute when you see it in a three-year-old. It's less so, if understandable, when you get it from a teenager. It's ridiculous when you see it in adults. It's unspeakably loathsome when you see it done by governments.

Oh, and it's entirely predictable when you see it in Al & his ilk.

Posted by: junebug on December 14, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Torture doesn't work." (repeat as necessary)

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 14, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

"It would be wrong to torture Americans because our fighters are uniformed soldiers, not irregulars."

One word: Blackwater.

Posted by: Robert earle on December 14, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Another factor in America's acceptance of torture is the crushing blow to the nation's psyche that was 9/11. Bush stoked feelings of vengence to the degree citizens experienced true bloodlust, maybe for the first time in many of their lives. You'd think to hear people pine for the opportunity to mow down a few thousand Muslims that Bin Laden had nuked NYC. 3000 people died. That's a slow week in Somalia. Terrible? Yes. Deserving of a swift, appropriate, targeted response? Yes. The end of the goddamned world as we knew it and time to saddle up, perpetually swing the sword and rejoice in tit-for-tat slaughter? Hardly.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 14, 2007 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

It would be wrong to torture Americans because our fighters are uniformed soldiers, not irregulars.

No, you idiot. It would be wrong because torture is wrong. Period. Torture doesn't magically become correct "on a technicality."

Posted by: Tyro on December 14, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

"supporting freedom and democracy" Al says as Britain and the US become police states with every passing day.

They hate our freedom, WE hate our freedom, the terrorists have won.

Posted by: Speed on December 14, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

It seems that many take the position the president has. America doesn't torture -- hence whatever is brought up in this context isn't torture. If someone does it to an American, that's a different story. It's an updated call along the lines of My Country, Right or Wrong (and it's never Wrong.) Or America, Love It or Leave It.

Posted by: Taxpayer on December 14, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

It comes down to america can do no wrong. God and country alwayss right. it is the oldest story in the book, and the slippery slope that always elads to downfall

Posted by: chris on December 14, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Robert - I can't wait until some Blackwater mercenary gets captured by Al Qaeda, they waterboard him, and release the videotape on the net. Then watch the wingnuts explode with outrage.

Posted by: Zero on December 14, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

You can sign me up for the
"My Country, Right or Else" mailing list.

Posted by: kenga on December 14, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

At least some of the torture apologists believe that torture (or "harsh treatment") is intrinsically good when done to "bad guys." The point isn't getting information, it's a) retribution for 9/11 and b) a way of showing toughness. Harsh treatment of prisoners is always preferable to humane treatment, even if humane treatment is more effective in obtaining useful intelligence, promoting public safety, and enhancing the U.S.'s international reputation.

Posted by: janet on December 14, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

The Armed Forces Journal on Waterboarding

http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/12/3230108

TO RUDY GIULIANI AND ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE MICHAEL
MUKASEY

For their tacit support of waterboarding. In an
interview, Giuliani was asked for his views on using
“enhanced interrogation techniques,” including
waterboarding. He responded that in a hypothetical
scenario that assumed an attack, “I would tell the
people who had to do the interrogation to use every
method they can think of.” Prompted again on the
specific use of waterboarding, he repeated “every
method they could think of.” Mukasey said he found
waterboarding to be “repugnant,” but he wouldn’t
answer whether it amounted to torture.

Let AFJ be crystal clear on a subject where these men
are opaque: Waterboarding is a torture technique that
has its history rooted in the Spanish Inquisition. In
1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese military officer
for carrying out a form of waterboarding on a U.S.
civilian during World War II.

Waterboarding inflicts on its victims the terror of
imminent death. And as with all torture techniques, it
is, therefore, an inherently flawed method for gaining
reliable information. In short, it doesn’t work. That
blunt truth means all U.S. leaders, present and
future, should be clear on the issue.

Posted by: VetDemInColorado on December 14, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

We're at war, Kevin. Perhaps you've forgotten that.

Yes, we try to maintain certain standards and code of conduct during war. THat we're above the insurgents and Iranians is beyond dispute, and not even you would debate that.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and that's been the case throughout our history. Perhaps you efeet liberals dining on your cheese and brie from your ivy towers haven't been impacted by this war. But this war demands sacrifices from Americans, and we owe it to ourselve to protect ourselves. If that demands enhanced interrogation techniques, so be it.

Posted by: egbert on December 14, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

>"His line of reasoning should have led to the U.S. refusing to sign the Geneva Accords"

>"Why don't we just withdraw from all treaties and agreements"

I think the above that pretty well encapsulates the Bush regime position on these matters (and more).

Geneva Accords, other treaties, civil US laws, the US Constitution (etc) are only applicable when they serve the interests of the current regime... otherwise they are to be ignored, abrogated or get an imperial 'signing statement'.

Other news at 11.

Posted by: Buford on December 14, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's #3:

It's not ok to torture Americans; it's ok to torture anyone else.

Posted by: Disputo on December 14, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Torture apologists, meaning pretty much everybody who watches the Fox propaganda channel and listens to Rush Limbaugh, should not be expected and cannot be expected to have an actual rationale for their beliefs.

You are the enemy. I am the enemy. Libruls are the enemy. The apologists' minds don't even consider what is or is not torture. All they know is what they were told they should argue by the Republican propaganda channels. And all they will do is argue those bankrupt arguments because those arguments have been served to them on a silver platter and they know that all they have to do is shout those arguments loud and long enough and The Enemy will shut up. The United States does not torture. The United States obeys all laws. Waterboarding is not torture. We must do everything we can to prevent terrorist outrages. Next question.

The point of making or winning arguments is not that you believe what you say, and not that anyone else believes what you say. The point is To Win and you do that by demonstrating your implacable will, no matter how pea-brained you may be. How do you think all of these mediocrities get to be the heads of Fortune 500 firms and earn 10s of millions of dollars every year? A lot of them probably can't write a single coherent paragraph and never bothered to learn how to type.

Posted by: Anon on December 14, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

My neighbor is an uber wingnut. He's always wailing about tax & spend liberals, welfare cheats, the virtues of CEO's making millions while laying off thousands, government (except the military) is evil, incompetent, both,yada yada, the usual.
His job? Working at public universities handing out government paid or sponsored student aid.
As for torture, it's just their fascist streak. Abu Graib, Haditha, etc? Our brave men & women are being harassed by the vast liberal conspiracy.
Torture (and it's cousin, abrogation of civil liberties here) is ok, at least of Muslims. This supposedly devout Christian sees Islamofascism under every bed, and is convinced that we're in a to the death struggle with Islam (and to a lesser extent, with anyone who disagrees with that), and if we don't eradicate Islam completely all non-Muslims will either be rounded up like the Jews in 1940 Europe, or at best the US (which is incapable of being wrong under Bush) will come under the rule of the Taliban. He completely believes this. Since this is a life or death struggle, torture by us is fine.
As an example: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City bombing was just the work of a couple nuts. 9/11 was a conspiracy of all Muslims against the US, Christians, and the West in general.

Posted by: sal on December 14, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

"We're scared. They're brown."

"most torture apologists don't even have enough moral reflectiveness"

"Torture apologists simply don't share our values."

Once again we see that liberal excel at nothing so much as when they are in moral preening mode. Do any of you even know a supporter of enhanced interrogation? Have you ever honestly asked them their opinion?

I know of no one that thinks that anything the US does is OK. The answer to Kevin's question is that supporters of enhanced interrogation believe partially in his 2nd option (that these techniques are not OK in general but OK when used in specific circumstances against terrorists) and partially in a third option Kevin did not provide. And that option is a genuine disagreement on what constitutes torture. Self-righteous liberal never seem to consider this and conclude instead that we "know" it is torture and defend it nevertheless because (1) we are Bush lackeys, (2) we don't believe in the Constitution, (3) we have no moral code, or (4) we hate "brown people" and don't care what happens to them. Im sure that makes you feel better about yourselves but it is deeply offensive and utterly preposterous.

Supporters of enhanced interrogation have clear moral boundaries when it comes to torture, they just aren't your boundaries. As should have been obvious in the previous discussion on waterboarding, this above all others is an extremely difficult case for folks like me to deliberate upon. But self-righteous liberal never consider why. The answer is, that is the most extreme form of interrogation folks like me are willing to consider acceptable. We are literally debating the limits when we discuss it. Liberals, in my experience, refuse to set the same boundaries for themselves. They are quick to say whatever Bush has approved is torture but then either (1) decline to say what the most severe practice they would accept is, (2) use the Geneva Convention to either hide behind by asserting it but not actually stating how it applies to terrorists, or (3) asserting Geneva or other laws apply fully and that any treatment beyond the kind of questioning you would find in a US police station is torture.

This is why Waldman is unable to restrict his moral preening on torture to waterboarding but feels compelled to include sleep deprivation and stress positions. He either sincerely believes that anything beyond what is legal for criminals in the US justice system is torture or he is avoiding the question of what additional measure he would approve of. I think it is incumbent on all of these critics to do what conservatives have been doing all along - state the most severe interrogation technique you would support and then defend it.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry if the rhetorical value of my original post was missed... I meant it to indicate that I don't think most torture apologists have a moral compass, so, contra Kevin, there's just not a lot of people seriously thinking about it.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 14, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Gee Kevin, if only the worse thing that al Qaeda or Hamas did to Americans was limited to waterboarding or stress positions.

Ah, the old "b-b-b-but Tommy did something worser than me!" defense so beloved by five year olds everywhere....

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

For their tacit support of waterboarding. In an interview, Giuliani was asked for his views on using “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding. He responded that in a hypothetical scenario that assumed an attack, “I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of.” Prompted again on the specific use of waterboarding, he repeated “every method they could think of.”

I'd have loved if the interviewer had followed that up with "what about rape and/or sodomy?" Let Giuliani answher that.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK
Do any of you even know a supporter of enhanced interrogation?
It still sounds better in the original German. Posted by: kenga on December 14, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

We are the good guys. Our enemies are evil, in league with Satan, or something like that. It would be cowardly to back down from anything in the fight against evil.

Posted by: Gary Sugar on December 14, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

If that demands enhanced interrogation techniques, so be it

Coward, as ever. In this case, he can't bring himself to use the word even when explicitly defending the practice of torture, resorting to the weasely orwellian euphemism instead. A euphemism actually coined by the Gestapo, in fact.

What a craven and despicable little twerp this eggbert item is. Not to mention he verbally spits on Viet Nam vets.

Posted by: DrBB on December 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

"3. It's okay for us because we are White Americans and those we torture or who torture our people are not."

Posted by: MNPundit on December 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK
I'd have loved if the interviewer had followed that up with "what about rape and/or sodomy?" Let Giuliani answer that.

Stefan - take it a step further - "What do you think would be acceptable to do to the subject's children?"

Yeah kids, that slope is pretty motherfucking slippery.

Posted by: kenga on December 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Supporters of enhanced interrogation have clear moral boundaries when it comes to torture, they just aren't your boundaries.

The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

acceptable when used against suspected ...

That's your slippery slope right there. "Suspected" inevitably includes innocent people, and "suspected" is determined extremely early in the game, and varies widely from person to person.

So, not only does it generally not work, works less well than other methods, is a war crime, is cruel and unusual, is a hearts-and-minds catastrophe, and is immoral -- if we set the bar at "suspected", we virtually guarantee that we will do it to innocent people.

And the whole "ticking time bomb" canard is just "suspected" on a grand scale. It supposes that I could know, with certainty, that there is a bomb; that it will go off very soon; that the person in my custody knows the location; and that he will give me good info if I torture him -- if there is no bomb, if there is no hurry, if I have the wrong guy, if he won't tell me anyway, if he lies, if he makes stuff up to get the torture to stop, then the torture gets me nothing. And somehow, even though I know all that stuff with utter certainty, I don't know where the bomb is. Has such a scenario ever occurred? Do we ever expect it to occur? (And has anyone checked Alan Dershowitz for the onset of senile dementia?)

And remember, "suspecting" that a ticking time bomb scenario exists, is not the same thing as a ticking time bomb scenario, and that is the crucial difference -- the hypothetical question assumes one-fact-missing omniscience, but in real life, we don't know if there is a bomb, when it will really go, or the guy we have in custody knows the information we need, or if he will even give it to me, and in particular, that he will not lie.

A particular flaw in "ticking time bomb" is that there is no incentive to tell the truth. Suppose the "suspect" lies about the location. A bomb team is dispatched to the wrong place, and time passes, and the real bomb goes off. Further torture is useless, right? So the torture is stopped. The suspect faces zero charges for lying, because he has an obvious defense. There's no evidence that he ever knew where the bomb was -- telling the truth would be confirming, but lying, no. So what does it profit him to tell the truth? He can't rely on any promises from the people who are torturing him ("excuse me, I'll have to let my lawyer look at this deal?" I don't think so). It's a game theoretic dead-end -- as long as he remains the least bit sane, he will lie. And if he is not sane, what good is his information?

Posted by: dr2chase on December 14, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

This is why Waldman is unable to restrict...torture to waterboarding but feels compelled to include sleep deprivation and stress positions. He either sincerely believes that anything beyond what is legal for criminals in the US justice system is torture...

Is it an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him information or a confession, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity?

Then it's torture.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think Al's reasoning is typical, to the extent that people reason about this rather than just having gut feelings about it. The torture apologists think that being Americans and serving America's interests are "mitigating circumstances," so when we do waterboarding, it's not torture (or it's justified torture, or it's just o.k. and it doesn't matter whether you call it torture). Of course, that's not written anywhere in the Geneva Conventions or the history of American law. It's just a case of Americans, in practice, making exceptions for themselves from the general rule. Which we do in almost every area of international politics, because we can. Bali, anyone?

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on December 14, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Read Al's first comment (2nd comment on board) and I think his response captures the conservative mindset exactly (not that I agree with it).

When I read conservative columns or listen to conservative radio, the rationailzation always pivots around two themes: "good vs. evil" and "means vs. ends". This became especially clear during the recent discussions on Abu Zubaydah.

First, Zubaydah is an "evil" human being and therefore loses all of his rights as a human being. Second, as long as the "end" is achieved of recieiving one actionable piece of intelligence (regardless of how much bad intelligence is provided alongside), the "means" of torturing is wholly justified. Wouldn't you do whatever it took to a "sub-human" in order save just one human's life? If the "sub-human" died through the process of extracting intelligence, it is still worthwhile.

By contrast, all American service men and women are deemed "good" and therefore are conferred human status. And we should never torture humans.

I am pretty confident that most identified modern conservatives (including Al) agree with my analysis above (they may tone it down a bit, but basically agree).

IMO, that is one of the larger differences between your modern liberal and conservative. A conservative believes that there is a "good" and "evil" side and that they can easily differentiate between the two and have no issues in using whatever means to justify the ends (the destruction of said evil).

Posted by: JPhilly on December 14, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

But this war demands sacrifices from Americans, and we owe it to ourselve to protect ourselves.

What sacrifices are the upper classes and the higher strata of the Republican Party making? They're not paying for the war thanks to tax cuts and deficit spending. Their children are the ones who are enlisting, fighting and dying.

We endanger, not protect, ourselves when we torture innocent people. Sure, all the talk has been about those two Al Queda guys, but how many others have been imprisoned and tortured by us when they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And don't argue this isn't happening, we've released several hundred from Gitmo after Rummy called them the worst of the worst. I'm sure all those guys, their families and friends are all saying, "Hey, it was an honest mistake, we won't hold any grudges."

Posted by: tomeck on December 14, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

And that option is a genuine disagreement on what constitutes torture.

There's a genuine disagreement on what constitutes torture the same way there's a genuine disagreement on what constitutes rape.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Double-high authoritarians, like Dick Cheney, George Bush and the rest of the gang, have no problem with torture when needed. I think it is hard for most people to get into the minds of these folks or even to believe such amoral people exist. Double-highs are not working out some kind of moral balancing act or set of justifications. They don't care about legality, rights or human well-being. They care about power.

Below those people are the apologists. They will come up with any kind of excuse to protect the leader's project. This is why we having the Republican noise machine injecting poison into the neutered MSM. Since the Republicans couldn't run away from the charge of torture they just said it wasn't torture, they legitimized it and they celebrate it.

The apologists open the door to normalization and the banality of evil. The rank and file now can follow orders without worrying about moral conflict or responsibility. Now there is no problem.

It resembles historical fascism because it is a form of fascism.


Posted by: bellumregio on December 14, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is, that is the most extreme form of interrogation folks like me are willing to consider acceptable. We are literally debating the limits when we discuss it.

Lay of the chest pounding yourself. You're debating the limits, but the rest of us--along with the military, as per the AFJ and above--accept that waterboarding is in fact over the limit and has been recognized and accepted to be such for decades. The problem here is that you want us to accept that this is some earnest, philosophical debate that moral persons can disagree about. For us, it is like discussing the conditions under which rape is justified. To discuss the pros and cons of it isn't a way of reaching a meeting of minds on a debatable topic, it's a form of lunacy.

Posted by: DrBB on December 14, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I’m old enough to remember Vietnam. It’s sad and pathetic, but a lot (most?) of conservatives didn’t see anything that William Calley did at My Lai as wrong. Basically we can’t do anything wrong, because God is on our side. If on occasion we do something that is a bit questionable, well it’s just because the other side drove us to it.

Posted by: fafner1 on December 14, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK


Whatever we do is _right_ because it's us that did it: that's not new. Worse yet, a big fraction of the country is saying that everything we do is _sensible_ and _practical_ because it's us that did it. So blowing a trillion dollars on invading and occupying a country that was never a threat, doing it in a way that reduces Iraqi oil exports, unbalances the local strategic equation to our disadvantage, immobilizes the Army, screws recruit quality, and alienates most of the world while giving us nothing at all in return - that's sensible and practical, since the alternative would entail admitting that the people running the country are utter damned fools. This includes every Democrat who voted for war authorization, essentially the entire Republican party, and the vast majority of all published pundits.
Even bad guys can call off wars that sap national wealth and strength to no purpose: we don't seem to be able to.

Posted by: gcochran on December 14, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

"There's a genuine disagreement on what constitutes torture the same way there's a genuine disagreement on what constitutes rape."

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 3:14 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sadly many conservatives likely feel there are gray areas and room for debate on the exact nature of rape.

Posted by: steve duncan on December 14, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly many conservatives likely feel there are gray areas and room for debate on the exact nature of rape.

Like, eg, Haliburton.

Posted by: Disputo on December 14, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

If Al and Egbert actually existed, they could join "efeet liberals dining on your cheese and brie" (wow, both!) while their children were being raped by Halliburton, and it would all be okay. But they are not human beings, and cannot have children, and therefore torturing them is also okay. Because everything can always be justified all the time now. Simple is the word for it.

Posted by: Kenji on December 14, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

There's not really even a distinction about Americans - an awful lot of people, in my experience, are pretty much OK with the police torturing American suspects if they want to. An awful lot of the conservative outrage about "liberal judges" and criminals "getting off on technicalities" starts there, even if their examples are less barbaric.

Posted by: stuck in 200` on December 14, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Have you ever honestly asked them their opinion?

Why is their opinion relevant, in this case? We already know that waterboarding is illegal and considered torture. We also know that torture doesn't work.

I'm not really interested in the "opinions" of flat-earthers, too. You need to explain why I should care.

Posted by: Tyro on December 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

I do not believe the authoritarians had worked out the definition of torture before the waterboarding scandal. They are trying earnestly to legitimize it as not torture because it is so politically damaging. To even entertain the "debate" of where the line lies is to give credence to their wicked amoral position.

We must not forget that many of these Republican authoritarians have no moral compass, nothing is beyond the pale for them.

We are up against the brutal force known as nationalism. We will have to accept the charge being so many Neville Chamberlains if we think these authoritarians will be appeased with this or that form of brutalization.

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

George Orwell
Notes on Nationalism
1945

Posted by: bellumregio on December 14, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Torture smorture.

What's got to be dealt with is the mLB mess. That seems to have our preznut in a frenzy.

I mean, it's okay to do all manner of unmentionable things to other humans in the name of our government.
But, god forbid, the game of baseball should be sullied!!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 14, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

Or like, eg, the Duke lacrosse players.

DrBB,

Uh, Armed Forced Journal is not a DOD publication.

However, there is an Army field manual on interrogations that bans waterboarding, among other things. Of course, I (and I think most others like me) would not support just anyone being able to use enhanced interrogation techniques. That is why the current system authorize only specific personnel to apply these measure, with the highest approval, and in a case by case basis.

Stefan,

Great well the Nazi's also coined "autobahn" and the Brits coined "concentration camp,"

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, when someone is trying to tell you that something is merely "enahnced interrogation techniques," they're trying to use a word other than torture, in order to cover up the fact that they are, in fact, using torture. "Orwellian" is the word you're looking for.

That is why the current system authorize only specific personnel to apply these measure, with the highest approval, and in a case by case basis.

That doesn't magically turn it into something other than torture, which is not only immoral, but is also ineffective, compared to the alternatives.

Also, you should note that we are discussing what the United States of America should do, not what some two-bit banana-republic country should do. The latter, not having to worry about moral authority and being perhaps less considered with efficacy, can likely make a more compelling case for torture than the united states can. Libya, for example, doesn't really have to portray itself as a moral beacon, while we actually do.

Posted by: Tyro on December 14, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Between Huckabee and Abu Gonazales, it's pretty clear that this crowd is soft on crime. Those damn liberals are soooo sentimental.

Posted by: Kenji on December 14, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, when someone is trying to tell you that something is merely "enahnced interrogation techniques," they're trying to use a word other than torture, in order to cover up the fact that they are, in fact, using torture. "Orwellian" is the word you're looking for.

That is why the current system authorize only specific personnel to apply these measure, with the highest approval, and in a case by case basis.

That doesn't magically turn it into something other than torture, which is not only immoral, but is also ineffective, compared to the alternatives.

Also, you should note that we are discussing what the United States of America should do, not what some two-bit banana-republic country should do. The latter, not having to worry about moral authority and being perhaps less considered with efficacy, can likely make a more compelling case for torture than the united states can. Libya, for example, doesn't really have to portray itself as a moral beacon, while we actually do.

Posted by: Tyro on December 14, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I loved the image of the Republicans luring jouralists into their moral sewer. It somehow hit the spot. US journalists must be so embarrassed these days, what with bloggers nailing them so accurately day after day. How can they sleep at night?

Posted by: Bob M on December 14, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, I (and I think most others like me) would not support just anyone being able to use enhanced interrogation techniques. That is why the current system authorize only specific personnel to apply these measure, with the highest approval, and in a case by case basis.

As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, I (and I think most others like me) would not support just anyone being able to use enhanced interrogation techniques. That is why the current system authorize only specific personnel to apply these measure, with the highest approval, and in a case by case basis.

I've searched US federal law and international law statutes forbidding torture, and for the life of me I haven't been able to find the section where torture is permitted so long as it is applied only by specific personnel, with the highest approval, and on a case by case basis. Perhaps you can find it for me?

In fact, those three conditions are damning rather than mitigating. If we look at the definition of torture as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture -- "the term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity" -- then the fact that it is carried out with only by "specified personnel" with the "highest approval" makes it fall under the category of an act "at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or...person acting in an official capacity." You'd have been better off arguing that it was applied randomly and without approval.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

DrBB, Uh, Armed Forced Journal is not a DOD publication.

Uh, did he say it was, you moron? No, he merely said it reflected the views of the military ("along with the military, as per the AFJ...."). Learn to read.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Obviously I'm not looking to change anyone's mind on this subject. What I am trying to address is the perception that supporters of enhanced interrogation are rationalizing torture to themselves. That we somehow "know" this is torture and are nevertheless willing to look past it because we are, well take your pick looking at this thread - immoral, un-American, stupid, Nazis, racists, and so on. The reality is quite different, there is a very real struggle to determine where the boundaries should be, and the reason I will defend these techniques is that I do not view them as torture and not because I really know they are torture but am cowed from rejecting it by my love for the president, hatred or brown people, or ignorance of the Constitution. Maybe you don't actually give a crap about why people might have a different perspective than yours, but you should.

I also love it how folks like you love to cite essentially the same language from the various anti-torture conventions. I know them well, have studied them, have contemplated them in the context of the war with Islamic extremism. So let me ask you (sorry I can't recall if you answered this in the waterboarding thread) - what is the most aggressive interrogation technique you would find still in compliance with the language you cited above. What technique does not rise to:

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.


Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

No need to get snippy.

As per, to me, carries a more direct connotation than "according to this non-DOD publication. As with the Army Times and other Gannet publications, a lot of folks have mistaken these journals for officials military publications carrying military weight. They aren't and they don't. I was just clarifying.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

The are more than two reasons. The #3 reason (very common) is "because we do it to our own people in training."

Posted by: SJRSM on December 14, 2007 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK
What I am trying to address is the perception that supporters of enhanced interrogation are rationalizing torture to themselves.

And Stefan and others have been trying to address is the perceptions of folks like you, that you are NOT rationalizing torture. 'Cause, dude, that is exactly what you are doing.

Posted by: kenga on December 14, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Please take this in good faith, OK, but: if "torture" is to include mental suffering (and just what does that mean?), then even being imprisoned is "torture" since it is miserable in any case. So, does that mean we can hold suspects etc. to keep them from getting away, but any incentive to them to tell us information thereby (like getting out sooner) must be somehow "incidental" or coincidental to their being held?

Posted by: Neil B. on December 14, 2007 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

What I am trying to address is the perception that supporters of enhanced interrogation are rationalizing torture to themselves.

What I am trying to address is your deluded perception that you supporters of torture such as you are not rationalizing torture to themselves.

I also love it how folks like you love to cite essentially the same language from the various anti-torture conventions.

I, too, love it how we cite the same legal definition of torture when discussing the legal definition of torture. Call us crazy.

I know them well,

Apparently not.

have studied them,

Study harder.

have contemplated them in the context of the war with Islamic extremism.

What context would that be?

So let me ask you (sorry I can't recall if you answered this in the waterboarding thread) - what is the most aggressive interrogation technique you would find still in compliance with the language you cited above.

I'll answer that (again) and will ask a question in return. My answer is the same technique that law enforcement already uses for criminal suspects -- sitting them down in a chair and questioning them.

Now, my question: what are the most aggressive interrogation techniques you would find acceptable when used agianst captured Americans?

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

There is only a "very real struggle to determine where the boundaries should be" among ultra-rightists in the United States who are looking for brutal ways to interrogate prisoners with minimal observation of long established norms of prisoner treatment. These prisoners are often abducted under conditions of extraordinary rendition and are purposely sent to countries where the “limits” of civilized nations, their laws, and their treaties, do not apply. They are usually held without a right to habeas corpus.

You see it is all part of a package. The ultra-rightists want to carve out a lawless zone where they can act as brutally as they like. They do this under the aegis of the American president acting as a wartime dictator. Authoritarians through the ages have explained their dual proclivities for violence and suspension of rights as logical necessity in a time of danger. Now they repackage the old story as the epochal struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. It is so novel a threat that it requires new rules- suspension of rights and a bit of mild torture. It would be far more honorable if they would just say they like to torture instead of trying to concoct some story about working out the fine limits of brutality.

These people are enemies of the Republic and everything liberal democracy stands for. Ben Franklin weeps, but he would not be surprised.

Posted by: bellumregio on December 14, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Huh, this is actually one of those cases where it's handy to have a troll around.

I guess the short version is that even evil acts can be justified so long as they are in defense of a good cause. Other people have bad causes, so their evil acts can't be justified.

I wonder what percent of torture apologist Al speaks for.

Posted by: Greg Sanders on December 14, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Please take this in good faith, OK, but: if "torture" is to include mental suffering (and just what does that mean?), then even being imprisoned is "torture" since it is miserable in any case.

Article 1 of the Convention's definition of torture provides that "It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions." Being imprisoned subject to due lawful process, as for example a prison sentece after a trial, therefore, wouldn't be torture.

Being imprisoned for the express purpose of inflicting suffering (for example, as the Stasi or KGB would lock people into solitary confinement for weeks or even years on end to induce a mental breakdown) could, however, be torture.

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

The are more than two reasons. The #3 reason (very common) is "because we do it to our own people in training."

So? What does that have to do with it? I punched my self-defense students in the face in training. That doesn't mean I get to overpower a stranger, strap him down and punch him repeatedly in the face while he begs me to stop.

Our own people are volunteers who can quit at any time. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Guantanamo prisoners volunteered to be kidnapped, and I don't think they're given a safeword and allowed to go home at any time. But I may be wrong....

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

"The #3 reason (very common) is 'because we do it to our own people in training.'"

ROFL.... That may well be the lamest excuse I've ever heard. Dear heart, has it occurred to you, perhaps, that there just might be a difference between a short, consentual, training exercise and prolonged torture? When you have learned the difference, you might have earned a place in this conversation. Until then, you should probably stfu.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"What I am trying to address is the perception that supporters of enhanced interrogation are rationalizing torture to themselves"

Dear heart, since your every post on this thread basically consists of "rationalizing torture," forgive us if we laugh our asses off at the way you're confirming Kevin's post, not to mention our opinion of you. It's really hilarious watching you dig that hole deeper and deeper, squirming as you try to deny the obvious.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is another one of those "debates" that isn't really a debate at all. Of course waterboarding is torture. Every one knows it's torture. Furthermore, I'd bet that 90% of conservatives know it's torture.

But they set up this false debate where we're supposed to pretend there are two legitimate sides. It's like the "debate" over evolution, or the "debate" over climate change. Conservatives do this because they have no integrity and they know that facts are almost never their friends.

Posted by: BBpd on December 14, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Again, my question: what are the most aggressive interrogation techniques you would find acceptable when used against captured Americans?

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

When you have learned the difference, you might have earned a place in this conversation. Until then, you should probably stfu.
Posted by: PaulB

Actually, I think waterboarding is torture.

I knew some miserable moron would confuse bringing up a reason (like Kevin brought up two) with agreeing with it (like Kevin doesn't agree with the two he brought up), thus demonstrating their embarrassing lack of even the most basic tenets of logic and therefore humiliating themselves in a very public way.

I'm glad it was you.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 14, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

I can say it better here. Take what Kevin quotes:
This is not complicated. Everyone all over the world agrees on what constitutes torture. Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions. Not hard to understand.
Sorry, no. You can't *define* torture per "in order to..." those specific things, because then, doing it just to be cruel etc. isn't "torture." Torturing for X reason is doing "torture" for X reason, not a proper definition of it.

Really, if I catch you and rip you on the rack, it doesn't really matter why I did it. (That isn't clear anyway - can you read my mind? What if I never give a reason nor have any context around it?) You and every other "decent person" are going to say I tortured you.

If we strip that purpose-bound context away, then we are left with "Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering." Maybe, but then we have to define imprisonment as "torture" because being locked up causes suffering, seriously.

That scheme just won't work, and I don't know why the basically good writers at Tapped would be careless. A better formulation is needed.

Posted by: Neil B. on December 14, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Sorry, I forgot that you had said that earlier.

In response to your question I have two answers.

U.S. soldiers, like any soldier fighting in accordance with the laws of war and therefore captured as a POW, is entitled to all the rights and protections of a POW. This of course has not happened for U.S. soldiers caught by any enemy since, surprisingly, the Nazis.

But an American citizen captured while fighting as part of a terrorist organization? Say a US citizen that was part of an IRA bombing cell hat was caught by the British. Well I would expect the Brits to treat as they treated any other IRA bombers. Of course an example to cover waterboarding would make this American a major planner and top leader within the IRA which is more than a stretch.

PaulB,

Of course I know that most folks here see my position as one of rationalizing torture. But Kevin's questions was whether "[Torture is] not OK in general, but it is acceptable when used against suspected terrorists." I am trying to answer his question by describing how proponents of enhanced interrogation have answered this question for and amongst themselves. Which was Kevin's interest, since he too, obviously, feels that whatever manner we used to arrive at our position it still amounts to rationalizing torture.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

But an American citizen captured while fighting as part of a terrorist organization? Say a US citizen that was part of an IRA bombing cell hat was caught by the British. Well I would expect the Brits to treat as they treated any other IRA bombers. Of course an example to cover waterboarding would make this American a major planner and top leader within the IRA which is more than a stretch.

That's not an answer to my question. I said "captured Americans," not "captured Americans captured while fighting as part of a terrorist organization." And what if the suspect was not an IRA bomber, but only an innocent Irish-American tourist?

Now let's assume there's an American CIA agent in Pakistan, and the Iranians kidnap him, fly him to Tehran, and accuse him of being in league with domestic terrorists setting off bombs in Iran in order to undermine the regime. What should the Iranians be allowed to do to him, given that to their mind he's helping terrorists who are endangering innocent Iranian lives?

Posted by: Stefan on December 14, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions.

Wrong. At least according to the US Code. What constitutes torture is not constrained by a putative purpose (to obtain information), nor is it permissible under any extenuating circumstances (to protect the lives of others).

Sec. 2340. Definitions

As used in this chapter--
(1) ``torture'' means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control

The definition makes the case of the critics of torture apologists: it's ok to do to others. That view, however, is inconsistent with US and international law.

Posted by: scudbuckets on December 14, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a name for the subspecies of wingnut troll that posts something wingnutty, gets called on it, and then responds "haha, I'm not *that* nutty, you fool"?

Posted by: Disputo on December 14, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

There is only a "very real struggle to determine where the boundaries should be" among ultra-rightists in the United States who are looking for brutal ways to interrogate prisoners with minimal observation of long established norms of prisoner treatment...
You see it is all part of a package. The ultra-rightists want to carve out a lawless zone where they can act as brutally as they like.

Bellumregio

Bingo.

Posted by: scudbucket on December 14, 2007 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

(1) (a) That with reference to article 1, the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

- US Congress reservation against the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984.

IOW, Kevin is an ignorant twat playing up to ignorant twats.


Posted by: a on December 14, 2007 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

The problem with your question is that the answer to "captured Americans" actually does depend on who they are - a concept quite clearly captured (sorry, bad pun) in the Geneva Conventions for example.

To take your example of an American spy kidnapped in Pakistan and taken to Iran, I would first point out that the CIA has a wall covered in stars that represent agents who have been killed in the line of duty so clearly the expectation is not that they will be sat down and questioned Law and Order style. But to go with your hypothetical, I suppose if the Iranian made a show trial out of it, we would respond with a list of demands for humane treatment and the rest. But I would also suppose that no one would be surprised that an American spy was treated roughly or even tortured by the nation that captured him. In fact, I dare say we would assume they would do that.

But your hypothetical may suffer from several false analogies. You said:

Now let's assume there's an American CIA agent in Pakistan, and the Iranians kidnap him, fly him to Tehran, and accuse him of being in league with domestic terrorists setting off bombs in Iran in order to undermine the regime.

Rather than assume what you meant by this, let me ask. Are you suggesting a situation in which Iran kidnaps this person in order to make a show trial over them even though they know he was not actually in league with domestic terrorists? Or are you suggesting a scenario in which they truly believe this individual was involved with those domestic terrorists? If they believed they had actually captured a ringleader, do you think they would publicly disclose this or would they simply do whatever they could to get the information from him?

I ask because there is in fact a perfect example of this. The kidnapping of William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut. He was kidnapped by Hezbollah and tortured to death. It certainly was not my sense that there was an expectation that even though he was an American, he would only be treated within the confines of Geneva POW rules.

But is an American spy the same thing a Khalid Sheik Mohammed? To make your Iranian example relevant, we can't just talk about some spy, we need to make the American a senior individual in a group responsible for devastating attacks against Iran. And you know what, if the Iranian caught an American doing that, they would be well within their rights to kill that person, let alone waterboard them. I wouldn't be happy about it, but that's reality.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I seem vindicated about the "purpose" business. But how do we define "severe"?

Posted by: Neil B. on December 14, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

"I knew some miserable moron would confuse bringing up a reason"

ROFL.... Dear heart, if you bring up a reason, that is prima facie evidence that you think that it is, in fact, a potentially legitimate excuse, even if you don't agree with it. I was simply pointing out the abject stupidity of the excuse -- that it was not, in fact, a valid reason and that anyone who brought it up would be demonstrating that they are a moron.

"I'm glad it was you."

LOL... Love you, too, sweetie.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Is there a name for the subspecies of wingnut troll that posts something wingnutty, gets called on it, and then responds 'haha, I'm not *that* nutty, you fool'?"

Yeah. Moron.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Of course I know that most folks here see my position as one of rationalizing torture."

You have a problem with the truth, dear heart?

"But Kevin's questions was whether '[Torture is] not OK in general, but it is acceptable when used against suspected terrorists.'"

No. Kevin's question was: what rationalization are you using to justify your support for torture? You have amply confirmed his, and our, opinion of you with your handwaving and pretense on this thread.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

To make your Iranian example relevant, we can't just talk about some spy, we need to make the American a senior individual in a group responsible for devastating attacks against Iran. And you know what, if the Iranian caught an American doing that, they would be well within their rights to kill that person, let alone waterboard them. I wouldn't be happy about it, but that's reality.

How about an American senior individual responsible for devastating attacks against Iraq?

You wingnuts are really too stupid to see what crazy world your morality leads to, aren't you?

Posted by: Disputo on December 14, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

I am trying to answer his question by describing how proponents of enhanced interrogation have answered this question for and amongst themselves. Which was Kevin's interest, since he too, obviously, feels that whatever manner we used to arrive at our position it still amounts to rationalizing torture.

Hacksaw

Some thoughts. First, the personal justification of individual enhanced interrogation practioners seem to be irrelevant here: what is at issue is a policy which is viewed as either consistent or inconsistent with normal morality and the law.

Second, and more to the point, is that the proposed 'exception' to the normal application of the law and morality to (say) waterboarding suspected terrorists when there is evidence of a planned attack on civilians has a heavy burden of justification, since clearly - by hypothesis - this activity is both illegal and immoral. The question, then, is under what circumstances, if any, can torture in the described case be justified?

Well, one view is that it is justified if a) the subject is known to be a member of a terrorist organization, b) it is known that there is an impending attack such that c) the information obtained by torture will be sufficient to prevent the ensuing attack. This seems to me to be most generous characterization of the exceptional-circumstances position.

Now, it seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the whether torture is justified in this type of scenario, even those who feel strongly that torture is immoral. And the reason is that such a case is very analogous to loosening the justification of murder in the case of self-defense.

The problem with this scenario, however, is that, by being so circumscribed, it cannot justify a general policy which prescribes torture as a method of interrogation as a matter of course. On the contrary, such a scenario - as the details of the hypothetical make clear - would merely elucidate an exception to the general rule(s) against torture in the same way that murder, when committed in self-defense, constitutes an exception.

An exception to the normal prohibitions against torture, therefore, cannot ground a general policy of 'enhance interrogation' any more than an exception to the normal prohibitions against murder can justify a policy of indiscriminate (or even discriminate) killing.

Posted by: scudbucket on December 14, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

ROFL.... Dear heart, if you bring up a reason, that is prima facie evidence that you think that it is, in fact, a potentially legitimate excuse, even if you don't agree with it.
Posted by: PaulB

Sweetness, first, if you had been reading threads, you'd have known that I think it is torture, and that I have been waterboarded in training and know exactly what I am talking about. You haven't and you don't and therefore should take your own advice and stfu when dealing with those more knowledgeable.

Second, thinking that mentioning an argument regularly made by proponents in some way legitimizes it...thanks for the textbook example of a non sequitur.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 14, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, our own behavior should only be dictated by our own morals, irrespective of who we are interrogating. Anyone can see that you don't want to torture a 12 year old girl for information, for example. We don't cut their ears off (unlike in Liberia) and feel good about ourselves. But the real test of a society is when the decision is *hard* to make. When confronted with a terrorist, it is hard. How we behave with regards to them is the real indicator of our morality.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 14, 2007 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Dear heart, I don't think you know what the term "non sequitur" means, but I love it that you keep trying to defend the moronic post you made rather than just admitting that you screwed up. Ta-ta, snookums.

Posted by: PaulB on December 14, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the basic problem with the morality of torture is, ironically, the same one that exists with "terrorism" itself. In theory, it's rather easy to justify both practices in the service of a higher cause. It makes sense that the suffering of 10 terror suspects is less important than preventing an attack in which 10,000 people are killed. And similarly, groups like the IRA (although it is now nonviolent except for a few fringe elements), ETA, Hezbollah, etc. can plausibly say that the independence of an entire nation or people numbering in the millions matters more, morally, than the lives of a much smaller number of civilians killed in order to achieve this independence.

In practice, however, things are much more complicated. In order to justify a behavior ordinarily considered immoral, it is not enough merely to invoke a higher, more important goal. One must also show that the tactics being used have a likelihood, or at least a strong probability, of achieving that goal. And one must also show that other, more peaceful tactics are not realistic. This is where proponents of both torture and terrorism usually fail. There is generally no clear indication that torture will prevent an attack. In order to stop being tortured, people can just as easily give false information as true information. Similarly, terrorism usually does not work unless it is part of a larger military or political struggle (as with the Algerian FLN against the French, the Irgun in Israel, the IRA, etc). There is usually little reason to believe that simply killing civilians will by itself create change. Therefore, it is generally difficult to justify in practice.

It's ironic that torture is considered a response to terrorism, since the justifications (and lack thereof) for both are so similar.

Posted by: Lee on December 14, 2007 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

Dear heart, I don't think you know what the term "non sequitur" means...
Posted by: PaulB

Why, it does not follow from my posts that I wouldn't know what "non sequitur" means.

But sweetcheeks you are so verily desperate to undo your silliness and misguided interpretation, gaily taking illogical leaps and bounds through fields of knowledge that you know not, trampling facts like little wildflowers under your feet. It is cute and charming. Please keep it up.

Posted by: SJRSM on December 14, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

I have heard folks argue that because we drown (but don't kill) American pilots (among others) in training exercises to teach 'em what capture and interrogation can be like, that therefore it isn't that bad.

So SJSM is right, and Paul B is wrong. It IS a third rationalization for torture, which Kevin hadn't mentioned.

I dunno why folks don't start the argument on the most solidly PERSUASIVE foundation -- it doesn't work.

McCain is in the best position of anybody to prove this point: he was tortured in North Vietnam and made a false confession. Most (but not all) of our POWs did. It proves the point: torture simply doesn't work for the ONLY valid purpose for Americans, namely getting useful information on terrorism.

What some folks want to argue is that torture is okey-dokey EVEN THOUGH it doesn't give us any useful information.

The rest of this stuff -- like what "severe" means, oy -- is beside the point.

Right, Hack?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 14, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Lee: I think you're wrong, precisely cuz you're focused on morality rather than results. That's a more dangerous place to be than you think.

Terrorism DOES work -- it's just that the goals suck.

Torture does NOT work -- if your goals are worth anything.

See the difference?

I think it goes back at least as far as Trotsky, who sort of invented modern terrorism out of the meaningless violence of anarchists: the purpose of terrorism, is to terrorize. A terrorist wants to make contradictions as stark and steep as possible. So the first guy you shoot isn't the Bull Connor-type law and order cop who releases police dogs at peaceful protestors: HE is your best recruiter. No, the guy who gets carbombed is the courageous 'why can't we all get along?' preacher; you want to murder folks who believe in compromise... cuz you don't: that's why you're a terrorist, after all.

When the courageous people of good will are the primary targets, folks on both sides look to radicals: THAT is what terrorists want, and why terrorism has often been effective -- at making things worse, not doing any good, but that's the point: terrorists WANT things to get worse.

Torture isn't (or at least, AMERICAN torture shouldn't be) aimed at making things worse.

Right?

That's why it doesn't work. Start THERE -- and the rest comes easier.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 14, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, your philosophizing about torture is so solipsistic as to be useless. As others have pointed out, individuals don’t define torture. A society does. American society has already defined waterboarding as torture. That definition can’t reasonably be retracted.

Also, as has been pointed out here (and as I’ve pointed out elsewhere), “ticking time bomb” scenarios rely on implausible assumptions about what terrorism suspects know that make them useless as justification to do anything. If obtaining useful information is truly the goal, then an interrogation session will use methods of questioning that actually obtain information. As people who have experience with interrogation have repeatedly pointed out, torture is useless as a means of obtaining useful information, so one can assume that people who support “enhanced interrogation techniques” want to use them to inflict pain on people they hate, whether they want to admit that or not.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R. Stahl on December 14, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM - I agree completely that our own behavior should be dictated by our morals. The disagreement is how we actually assess these techniques against those morals. Of course the real test of a society is when we face a hard case such as interrogating terrorists. But I would argue that the biggest cop-out in the face of that question is to refuse to answer what should be done and content oneself to moralizing against the people trying to figure out what should be done. Hence the constant "what would you allow" questions I have raised.

Waterboarding is an extraordinary difficult practice to square with those morals. That is why is was done so infrequently and has not been done for years. The very debate over it is evidence of our morality - to be sure our enemies don't struggle with such things and of course we must hold ourselves to a far higher standard.

What I have been trying to get across to folks is that supporters of enhanced interrogation also struggle with these questions, that it is not simple a question of saying "yeah it's bad but the terrorists are worse" as Kevin had asked. I am not asked for people to accept or agree with my conclusion but I am asking them to allow that it wasn't arrived at due to racism, fascism, or anything like that.

theAmericanist, if none of these practices work, I agree that the rest of this would be beside the point. But it is simply wrong to state these interrogation methods don't work. There is a point beyond which a person will cop to anything, but there is ample evidence that before then these methods can and have worked. But I would hasten to add that just because something works does not mean it is morally acceptable.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Steven:

"American society has already defined waterboarding as torture."

When?

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 14, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's ironic that torture is considered a response to terrorism...

If Guantanamo is any indication, torture would continue even without terrorists....

Posted by: scudbucket on December 14, 2007 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

"American society has already defined waterboarding as torture."

When?

When we tried and executed Japanese military officers for using the technique against Americans after World War II? That count as precedent?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 14, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

But it is simply wrong to state these interrogation methods don't work.

Hacksaw = Brian (?)

Posted by: scudbucket on December 14, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

"There is a point beyond which a person will cop to anything, but there is ample evidence that before then these methods can and have worked."

Hack, you're missing the point. It's not what it does to THEM.

It's what it does to US.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 14, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: I know the AFJ isn't DOD and you're clinging to irrelevancies as usual, in good GOP style. "Hack" being the apt part of your moniker. How about the Army Field Manual, that good enough for you?

Delayed more than a year amid criticism of the Defense Department's treatment of prisoners, the new Army Field Manual was released Wednesday, revising one from 1992.

It also explicitly bans beating prisoners, sexually humiliating them, threatening them with dogs, depriving them of food or water, performing mock executions, shocking them with electricity, burning them, causing other pain and a technique called "water boarding" that simulates drowning, said Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence.

Officials said the revisions are based on lessons learned since the U.S. began taking prisoners in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Unted States.
Posted by: DrBB on December 14, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

What I have been trying to get across to folks is that supporters of enhanced interrogation also struggle with these questions

Why are you afraid to call it torture then? What you're supposedly struggling with is whether and when it's okay to torture, not whether it IS torture, correct? So why are you so afraid of the word? "Enhanced interrogation" is orwellspeak. Why not have the courage of your convictions? Let's see what it looks like: "What I have been trying to get acrossis that supporters of torture also struggle with these questions..."

Huh. Put it like that, it looks kinda sicko doesn't it? Can't have that.

But that is what you're saying, every time. You just want to use weasel words to try to muddy it up so it doesn't sound as ugly as it in fact is. This isn't reasoning, it's obfuscation.

Posted by: DrBB on December 14, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Notice the torture apologists no longer much no longer use the term "enhanced interrogation," once they discovered this term was originally coined by the Gestapo. Waterboarding was, of couse, the favored torture during the Spanish Inquisition, by the KGB, the Gestapo and the Khmer Rouge.

During WWII, the US military averaged two court-martials per week, against GIs who had abused or tortured the enemy. Hold that thought. From Washington to Clinton, torture was not tolerated.

Torture is used only for torture sake. Just look at the cowards who excuse it.

Posted by: MaxGowan on December 14, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

To the torture apologists who think torture is fine on "terrorists", what is a terrorist and what is the standard of proof that someone is a terrorist? It certainly isn't beyond a reasonable doubt; no one at Guantanamo has met that standard. Because I say so seems to be the standard of this administration. And if that's good enough for us, it's good enough for anyone else.

The apologists don't seem to realize that turnabout is fair play. If it's fine for us to sweep folks who were in the wrong place at the wrong time off to secret torture sites or Guantanamo, it's fine for everyone else to do the same to us. If you or your children or your spouse are traveling in China or Russia or Pakistan or wherever at the wrong time and get swept up to be tortured at a secret site by a foreign government, don't say we didn't warn you and don't howl for your lawyer or your consulate. It's what you deserve.

It's also what Cheney and many other members of this administration deserve. By their and the apologists' reasoning, Cheney is a terrorist. The Iranians amongst others would be justified in abducting him and torturing him to find out when and how they are going to be attacked.

On the what is torture question, everyone who supports a given torture technique should have to undergo it in public, on national television and radio. Not once, but ten times, at random intervals. Then let the public decide.

Posted by: Malcolm on December 15, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

"I dunno why folks don't start the argument on the most solidly PERSUASIVE foundation -- it doesn't work."

"McCain is in the best position of anybody to prove this point: he was tortured in North Vietnam and made a false confession. Most (but not all) of our POWs did. It proves the point: torture simply doesn't work for the ONLY valid purpose for Americans, namely getting useful information on terrorism."-tA

The goal of McCain's, and others', torturers was to break him and extract a false confession. They succeeded. The torture worked. They got exactly what they wanted, exactly what McCain did not want to give them.

Posted by: majarosh on December 15, 2007 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist: Terrorism DOES work -- it's just that the goals suck.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are those living in Tel Aviv and Belfast (among other places in recent memory), who--along with much of the citizenry--are enjoying the fruits of past and less-than-honorable labor in pursuit of goals that they would strongly assert do not suck.

Posted by: has407 on December 15, 2007 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any reason to draw the line at mass killings and public rapes "because we say so"?
Or are some acts, quaintly enough, still considered reprehensible.

Let's face it, a large section of the American electorate thinks it's fun to hurt people. The lack of interest in the general destruction to the Iraqi population speaks for itself. How much do we even care about the 50,000 or so injuries to American servicemembers? Oh, right, they volunteered, so that's okay too.

Posted by: Kenji on December 15, 2007 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist:

"Terrorism DOES work -- it's just that the goals suck.

Torture does NOT work -- if your goals are worth anything.

See the difference?"

No, I don't. The goals of both torture and terrorism can be good or bad. The goals of terrorism do not always "suck." It's hard to argue that the Algerians did not have a right to be independent from the French, for example. And if you're a supporter of Israel, it's hard to argue that the Irgun's goals were bad either.

You say I focus on "morality" rather than "results." But on issues like this, which involve doing behavior normally considered bad, the possible result helps to determine the morality. Just like with the bombing of Hiroshima. If there was no reason to believe the bomb would save anyone's lives, it would be very hard to justify dropping it. Same with torture and terrorism. My point is that if there's no reason to even think they will produce results to justify the horrible things being done (most of the time), it is hard to defend either of them.

Posted by: Lee on December 15, 2007 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Man, doesn't it HURT to be that stooopid?

It is simply not true that the Irgun, for example, helped the Zionist cause the way its apologists claim. And the terrorism committed by the IRA in Northern Ireland (as well as the often incredibly stooopid British reaction to it) harmed, it did not help, the North.

It's easy to get sucked into a Dice-like discussion of distinctions (without differences) between 'insurgencies' and terrorism, but Trotsky nailed it long ago: the purpose of terrorism, is to terrorize. There are valid contrasts between, say, the King David hotel bombing and the last blown apart pizza parlor in Tel Aviv, but why go there?

To the extent a terrorist campaign succeeds in driving people out of their homes so they can be replaced by those the terrorists prefer, to pick an example that many apologists for terror like, it fails precisely to the extent it "succeeds": look at the West Bank and Gaza, at the millions of Palestinians all over the Middle East who have never lived in "Palestine" yet support downright genocidal rhetoric to get it back. Look at the whirlwind the Irgun reaped by shooting up buses in the 30s, and TELL me their goals were good.

Like I said, the goals of terrorism suck, and it's not excused by pretending the ends are any different from the means.

And maja: WE don't have the goal that McCain's torturers did, do we? We're not torturing people to get them to make false confessions we can use for propoganda? Lord, let that be the explanation that 'torture works'.

Hell, cuz if THAT is the defense Mukasey is offering, let's hear it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 15, 2007 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

"but there is ample evidence that before then these methods can and have worked"

Oh, garbage. For every bit of real data you get, you'll get any number of false leads, with no good way to sort the wheat from the chaff. That is precisely what we got, time and time again, from the people we tortured in Guantanamo. It's a lousy way to get information, which is why most professional interrogators abhor it. You're simply making shit up again, as usual.

Posted by: PaulB on December 15, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"But I would argue that the biggest cop-out in the face of that question is to refuse to answer what should be done and content oneself to moralizing against the people trying to figure out what should be done"

Moron, we've said time and time again what "should be done." You just don't like the answers. This is not a new discussion; it's been held time and time again over the decades and the procedures to be used in questioning prisoners have been thoroughly fleshed out, both practically and legally.

Posted by: PaulB on December 15, 2007 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

"Waterboarding is an extraordinary difficult practice to square with those morals."

Actually, it's not even remotely difficult. Either you support torturing innocent people or you do not. There is no difficulty there at all. You support it, we don't; it's that simple. And all your hand-waving and rationalizing is just designed to help you pretend that you don't really support torturing innocent people, even though that is precisely what you are doing.

The only person you're fooling is yourself.

Posted by: PaulB on December 15, 2007 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Why, it does not follow from my posts that I wouldn't know what 'non sequitur' means."

Yes, dear, it does, because my comment was not, in fact, a non sequitur, which leads us to the inescapable conclusion that you simply do not understand the term. But you keep digging that hole deeper and deeper, dear. It's so much fun watching you squirm.

Posted by: PaulB on December 15, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

PB, methinks it is you who doesn't understand what a non sequitur is.

Kevin's post said there are two basic pro-torture positions. Somebody posted that actually, there is a third, and described it.

You replied "if you bring up a reason, that is prima facie evidence that you think that it is, in fact, a potentially legitimate excuse, even if you don't agree with it..." which pretty much establishes that you're a thundering idiot.

It is simply NOT true that cuz somebody says "Jews do not believe in the Immaculate Conception", therefore they are Jewish. Your logic is false.

Being more precise, when a cop observes that the first alibi to check in an apparent murder is the spouse's, that doesn't mean the spouse is guilty, or even a suspect: it just means the cop is a professional who knows where to start. Your reasoning is flawed.

And the description of the fallacy, the label for the particular flaw you exhibit, PaulB, is: "non sequitur".

It is generally smart to learn how those who disagree with you think, to find out what does and does not move them. Kevin deserves credit for wondering just what it is that persuades people to think torture is okay, and he posed two likely answers: 1) WE can't do anything bad, cuz we're US; and 2) it's not bad when it's done to THEM.

It's probably not quite on the same level (it seems actually a supporting argument for #1), but the observation that some torture supporters rationalize it by saying we do it to OURSELVES in training is simply a fact.

So what you did IS a pretty textbook example of a non sequitur: it doesn't follow that knowing what those who disagree with you say and believe means that you must believe it, too.

It does mean that you're reading and listening, with some comprehension of what you hear and read: a practice I'd commend you take up, PaulB.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 15, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

"It's not about them; it's about us." - John McCain

Posted by: MaxGowan on December 15, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

DrBB,

I actually cited the field manual in my initial response to you. To your second point, I don't call it torture because I don't believe it is torture. Here we are well into the discussion and PaulB still feels free to toss out lines like "Either you support torturing innocent people or you do not." Well of course I don't. It's insulting to me to suggest I do and insulting to everyone else because you clearly haven't tried to understand my point of view. Not agree with, but understand.

Stefan earlier stated that he believed that we should do to terrorists what we do do criminal suspects in the US - question them. His definition of torture is anything beyond that (I had asked what the most severe technique short of torture he would approve of). And I understand that, from his perspective, anything beyond that is indeed inflicting severe physical or mental pain to get answers. Now I think that's crazy, but I won't insult him be suggesting he doesn't care about American lives or that he thinks the destruction of NY City is more acceptable that a head slap on Khalid Sheik Mohammed. And yet here you are PaulB claiming I'm fine with torturing innocent people.

Posted by: Hacksaw on December 15, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is a higher power,a God, Karma, an ancient race with spaceships perhaps...

Anyway, I don't understand the right wing might is right Orwellian Christians today. They talk about peace, Jesus, peace on earth and all these humanitarian things then do just the opposite. George vetoed SCHIP then porked 12 million bucks for Lauras library, as if we need more libraries, when is the last time you saw a packed library???


The Mammonists, apparently, have infiltrated the Church.

Posted by: Ya Know... on December 15, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, you seem to be assuming that when a “terrorist” is interrogated, he has information which can only be extracted through force. That’s obviously not the case. Any given terrorist might have a little information, some, or a lot; since any answers given will have to be checked out, there’s no way to be confident that the information given is accurate until he’s engaging in conversations with his questioners, and his body language verifies that he’s calm and rational. Torture is infamous for inducing false statements; one can go back to the Salem witch trials for evidence of that. Ignoring the fact that a suspect can’t prove he doesn’t know anything is more evidence that torture advocates are simply for inflicting pain.

SRS

Posted by: Steven R. Stahl on December 15, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Hack, your love of terrorizing individuals via torture marks you as anti-American as they come. Whatever rationalizations you wish to give for your desire to torture people, it is a criminal act.

As has been pointed out to you, there are no ticking time bomb scenarios that are even remotely plausible. The moment you move from the department of justice approved interrogation you are simply handing the would-be terrorists a victory.

Here's the problem Hack: terrorism is a criminal matter. There is no more reason to torture a suspected terrorist than there is to torture a suspected murderer.

Your position is no better than dropping bombs on the heads of suspected terrorists and killing innocent women and children along with the suspect.

In fact, once you support torture, or the slaughter of innocents in order to murder suspects, the line between you and the guys who chop off heads is non-existent. You are a terrorist. If you aren't willing to do the torture yourself (or kill by hand), you are both a coward and a terrorist.

Posted by: heavy on December 15, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

theAmericanist:

"Man, doesn't it HURT to be that stooopid?"

OK, since you have shitty arguments you have to call me stupid. Gee, does it really HURT to be such an asshole?

"It is simply not true that the Irgun, for example, helped the Zionist cause the way its apologists claim."

Where's your evidence? I'm certainly not about to just take your word for that.

"Look at the whirlwind the Irgun reaped by shooting up buses in the 30s, and TELL me their goals were good."

First of all, I'm not a Zionist or particularly pro-Israel (I'm not particularly pro-Palestinian either). So I don't think the Irgun's goals were "good." Secondly, the goal of the Irgun was not to have Palestinian groups imitating it, it was to create a Jewish state. This clearly happened, regardless of the amount of credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) the Irgun deserves for it. If it's true that Palestinian groups have emulated them, this is an effect of their tactics, not a goal. To say that it was a goal of the Irgun to spawn Palestinian terrorist groups would be like saying that a goal of the U.S. in fighting Nazi Germany was to have the Soviet Union dominate Eastern Europe. Both were effects rather than goals.


"And the terrorism committed by the IRA in Northern Ireland (as well as the often incredibly stooopid British reaction to it) harmed, it did not help, the North."

What do you mean by "the North"? This doesn't make sense. There were two opposing sides to the conflict in Northern Ireland, not a "North."

"It's easy to get sucked into a Dice-like discussion of distinctions (without differences) between 'insurgencies' and terrorism, but Trotsky nailed it long ago: the purpose of terrorism, is to terrorize."

Oh bullshit. That's like saying the purpose of bombs is to bomb. Terrorism is NOT an end in itself, it is a means to an end. Just like torture. This is why the whole idea of a "war against terrorism" is so utterly nonsensical.


Posted by: Lee on December 15, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Here we are well into the discussion and PaulB still feels free to toss out lines like "Either you support torturing innocent people or you do not.""

Yup, because that's the bottom line. We have tortured, and even killed in the process of torturing, innocent people. All the hand-waving and lame rationalizations in the world cannot get around those simple facts.

"Well of course I don't."

Yes, Hack, you do. You're just doing everything in your power to pretend you don't because you cannot bear to admit to yourself what you have become.

"It's insulting to me to suggest I do"

Sorry, Hack, but the truth is, by definition, not insulting. You don't like it? Take a good hard look in the mirror and change what you see there.

"and insulting to everyone else because you clearly haven't tried to understand my point of view. Not agree with, but understand."

LOL.... Sorry, Hack, but we understand all too well. We understand your view, we understand the silly games you're playing, we understand the rationalizations, we understand that you will never admit, to yourself or to anyone else, the simple truth: you support torturing innocent people.

The only person you're fooling here is yourself.

Posted by: PaulB on December 16, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

"And yet here you are PaulB claiming I'm fine with torturing innocent people."

Yup. And the evidence is right here in this thread. Q.E.D.

Posted by: PaulB on December 16, 2007 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

"It is simply NOT true that cuz somebody says 'Jews do not believe in the Immaculate Conception', therefore they are Jewish. Your logic is false."

LOL... And another idiot joins in. Dear heart, that was not my logic. Do try to read and understand what I actually said, won't you?

Posted by: PaulB on December 16, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

"The torture worked"

Torture always "works" if your goal is to get the person being tortured to say whatever he thinks the person torturing him wants to hear, e.g., in medieval times to get a suspected witch to admit she was a witch. But that is not the goal that people who support torturing innocent people, like dear little Hacky, actually pretend that they want.

The only way they can rationalize their support for torturing innocent people is to pretend that torture "works" to yield accurate information more quickly and reliably than other methods. On that score, it does not, in fact, "work".

Now, did you have a point to make?

Posted by: PaulB on December 16, 2007 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw, your presence in this thread reminds me of that old joke where a guy in a bar asks a women he's been chatting with if she'd sleep with him for ten million dollars. After mulling it over, she replies that she probably would. He then asks her if she would sleep with him for ten dollars. Indignantly, she asks him, "What kind of girl do you think I am?" He replies, "We've already established that; now we're just negotiating the price."

That joke, lame as it is, is pertinent to this discussion, Hacksaw. Because all of your handwaving, all of your "struggle to determine where boundaries should be," all of your hairsplitting, all come down to the same thing: you're supporting torturing innocent people. Now we're just haggling over how much.

You wrote in your very first post: "I think it is incumbent on all of these critics to do what conservatives have been doing all along - state the most severe interrogation technique you would support and then defend it."

That statement is utter bullshit on two counts. The first is that few, if any, conservatives, and certainly not the Bush administration, are willing to state and defend the most severe interrogation technique they would support. You certainly have not done so and I'm quite confident that you will continue to not do so.

The second reason it's total bullshit is that it's you and the Bush administration who want to change the status quo with respect to prisoners and interrogration, not us. Accordingly, it is up to you to explain just what changes you want to make and why you want to make them, justifying these changes publicly and openly. This is something you will never do, just as the Bush administration has refused to do this.

What the Bush administration has done, and what you are supporting, violates U.S. law, the U.S. Constitution, various international treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Convention. It also violates everything this country stands for, destroys our standing in the world community, along with our moral authority, and gives our enemies ammunition to use against us. Add in the fact that, contrary to what you state above, there is ample evidence that torture does not, in fact, work and what you're left with is ... nothing.

All of your hand-waving, all of your "struggle," all of your rationalizations, all of your whining comes down to this: you are supporting torturing innocent people for no good reason.

Posted by: PaulB on December 16, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

WE don't have the goal that McCain's torturers did, do we? We're not torturing people to get them to make false confessions we can use for propoganda?

Yes, we are. We're doing exactly that. Haven't you been paying attention to any of these supposed Guantanamo "trials"? We torture someone, they produce a false confession, that confession is allowed to be introduced at trial at evidence of the person's "guilt," and the Bush regime gets a conviction of a "terrorist" which it can wave around for propaganda purposes.

Posted by: Stefan on December 17, 2007 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan earlier stated that he believed that we should do to terrorists what we do do criminal suspects in the US - question them. His definition of torture is anything beyond that (I had asked what the most severe technique short of torture he would approve of).

As usual you are conflating and using vague and misleading terms in an attempt to confuse. Firt is your use of "terrorist" -- how do we know someone is a terrorist or not? If we are questioning someone, then that someone is a terrorist suspect, not a terrorist -- he has not been tried and convicted in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. Until that point he is a criminal suspect just like every murder suspect, etc. in the system, and is presumed innocent before the law.

And I understand that, from his perspective, anything beyond that is indeed inflicting severe physical or mental pain to get answers.

My perspective, and curiously enough the perspective of settled United States law.

Now I think that's crazy, but I won't insult him be suggesting he doesn't care about American lives or that he thinks the destruction of NY City is more acceptable that a head slap on Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

How exactly would Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prevent the destruction of New York City? As a resident, I'm kind of curious as to the chain of causation here, so please, lay it out a little more. Be specific. Show your work.

And yet here you are PaulB claiming I'm fine with torturing innocent people.

What if the person you're subjecting to "head slaps" isn't, in fact, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, but his look-alike cousin Khareem Sheik Mohammed? And every time you strike him he cries out "you've got the wrong guy?"

Posted by: Stefan on December 17, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

How exactly would Khalid Sheikh Mohammed prevent the destruction of New York City?

Excuse me, that should read "How exactly would slapping the head of Khalid Sheik Mohammed prevent the destruction of New York City"?

Posted by: Stefan on December 17, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

To your second point, I don't call it torture because I don't believe it is torture.

Rather like the rapist who claims "I don't call it rape because I don't believe it is rape."

Here we are well into the discussion and PaulB still feels free to toss out lines like "Either you support torturing innocent people or you do not." Well of course I don't.

Well of course you do.

It's insulting to me to suggest I do

It's insulting to us to keep pretending you don't.

and insulting to everyone else because you clearly haven't tried to understand my point of view. Not agree with, but understand.

We're understand your point of view perfectly well. Hence our contempt and disgust.

Posted by: Stefan on December 17, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK
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