Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 16, 2009
By: Hilzoy

The Obvious Comparison

"You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. (...) As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar. If you do so, to ensure you are outside the predicate death requirement, you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain. If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so, you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death."

OLC memo of August 1, 2002, signed by Jay Bybee.

"'You asked me once,' said O'Brien, 'what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.'

"The door opened again. A guard came in, carrying something made of wire, a box or basket of some kind. He set it down on the further table. Because of the position in which O'Brien was standing. Winston could not see what the thing was.

'The worst thing in the world,' said O'Brien, 'varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths. There are cases where it is some quite trivial thing, not even fatal.'

He had moved a little to one side, so that Winston had a better view of the thing on the table. It was an oblong wire cage with a handle on top for carrying it by. Fixed to the front of it was something that looked like a fencing mask, with the concave side outwards. Although it was three or four metres away from him, he could see that the cage was divided lengthways into two compartments, and that there was some kind of creature in each. They were rats.

'In your case,' said O'Brien, 'the worst thing in the world happens to be rats.'"

George Orwell, 1984

Hilzoy 8:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

From Time/Swampland Blog:

"UPDATE: A footnote in a second memo released Thursday notes that the insect option was never employed by the CIA. "We understand that--for reasons unrelated to any concerns that it might violate the [criminal] statute--the CIA never used the technique and has removed it from the list of authorized interrogation techniques," wrote Steven Bradbury, a principal deputy assistant attorney general, on May 10, 2005."


Posted by: tao9 on April 16, 2009 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the ends justify the means, and the instances of life-saving intel extracted by torture are even now being made public.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 16, 2009 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

(cricket.wav)

Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 16, 2009 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

It therefore begs the question -- did these guys read Orwell and get their bright and sadistic ideas from his books.

Or, Was Orwell a intuitive genius at ciphering out evil logic when absolute power is present or perceived by some men.

I vote the latter, but the answer could be all of the above.

Posted by: Comrade Stuck on April 16, 2009 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Left" or "Right" folks who use Big Brother's 1984 behavior as a primer deserve to be imprisoned.

Posted by: freelunch on April 16, 2009 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

I read quite a bit about the Duvaliers of Haiti and I can't help but think of them while reading this stuff.

If there ever was a god, he was nowhere to be found at Gitmo.

Posted by: MissMudd on April 16, 2009 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, now we have to explain to countries like Togo and Eritrea that we broke the Geneva Conventions because our Deadly Caterpillar Plan failed.

Posted by: Zandar on April 16, 2009 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

There's no comparison. Rats are not insects!!!

Posted by: Grumpy on April 16, 2009 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody could have predicted that you could use someone's worst fears to torture them with. Other than George Orwell 50 years ago.

Posted by: Jim Benson on April 16, 2009 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just a caution here: Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum have already cautioned us very Seriously(tm) that we are not to use the word "fascism" in discussion the Bush/Cheney Administration.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on April 16, 2009 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

From Reichstag fires and Brooks Brothers riots have come to pass the worst parts of our collective capacities.

The tragedy is that we should have acted when the monsters were weak. The greater tragedy is that good people never seem to act decisively when monsters are weak--instead convincing themselves that things can't be as bad as they seem to be. Evidence be damned. Rantings are out of context; speeches simple hyperbole.

Then it is all tsk tsking when we realize the evil we have loosed upon the world with apathy. We can cull it back again only at great cost to innocents. We knew these people were amoral, ignorant, and sadistic. And still we let them own the media and the day. Tsk Tsk. Must look ahead.

Posted by: Sparko on April 16, 2009 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Orwell was describing was happened in Stalin's Gulag. Cheney was imitating it.
Same Gulag, by the way.

Posted by: M. Carey on April 16, 2009 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 9, 2007; Page A01

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

Posted by: tao9 on April 16, 2009 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

Posted by: Hank Roberts on April 16, 2009 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

The movie "Brazil" encompasses the same brutal racism.

Posted by: IntelVet on April 16, 2009 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

The movie "Brazil" encompasses the same brutal facism.

Posted by: IntelVet on April 16, 2009 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Other than George Orwell 50 years ago."

Oh come on, the Chinese mafias figured that out a thousand years ago. They are very good at it. But that raises an interesting question: would rather have your torturers be very good at what they do, or inexperienced? An inexperienced torturer might screw up and kill you, but that may be a blessing. At Tuol Sleng, they had to put up barbed wire to prevent people from jumping off the balcony to kill themselves. The torture techniques were that frightening. But what's really scary is that we use the same techniques.

Posted by: fostert on April 17, 2009 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

The rat bastard tortures are legally off the hook.

Because Obama said so. Because he is president.

It's laughable- it really is- that those dumb GI bastards who took the fall for the crimes committed at Abu Ghraid were so fucking unconnected to real power.

What chumps they are.

What chumps they will ever remain.

Posted by: JL on April 17, 2009 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Bybee is now a sitting Federal Judge, sworn to uphold the Constitution and all the laws of the United States. I think he has proven himself incapable of such work, and it's time to impeach the Mutherfrakking Nazi bastard.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 17, 2009 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Paradis: Go fuck yourself you worthless Nazi, you tenth-generation proof of what happens with urelenting Southern inbreeding.

Go die you ratbastard piece of shit.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 17, 2009 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Obama should not let the interrogators/torturers off the hook. They killed people in their interrogations, too, though seemingly unintentionally. Graner and Englund at Abu Ghraib had pictures of them unwrapping a corpse with his face all beaten up. I don't believe he was the only one. Maybe they'll be subject to a malpractice lawsuit now that Obama has sanctioned the "I was just following orders" defense. Why did we bother deporting the old man for his crimes at Sobibor when he was "just following orders" approved by his Nazi leaders?

Posted by: tko on April 17, 2009 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

All this sanctimonious breast-beating from the left would be justified if Obama actually had the guts to hold the torturers and their enablers responsible for their crimes.

He has no intention of doing so, and, therefore, please get off this outrage bandwagon. It does not make you any more moral to express your disgust in strong words unless you actively participate in a movement to persuade Obama to change his mind.

Posted by: gregor on April 17, 2009 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

"All this sanctimonious breast-beating from the left would be justified if Obama actually had the guts to hold the torturers and their enablers responsible for their crimes."

For Christ's sake, it's only the middle of April 3 months after the swearing in.

Just because the Obama administration hasn't yet, doesn't mean they won't. I think that they are correct in assessing that the public doesn't have the stomach for prosecutions right now along with the economic issues. People can only take so much bad news.

Posted by: OhNoNotAgain on April 17, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Steve Paradis: Go fuck yourself you worthless Nazi, you tenth-generation proof of what happens with urelenting Southern inbreeding.

Go die you ratbastard piece of shit."

The second part of my post, the sarcastic (cricket.wav), disappeared because I used the more conventional arrow brackets. Apparently the Amiga-based response technology for this board hasn't been updated for them.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on April 17, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

If the CIA torturers won't face prosecution, then they can be compelled to testify about what they did.

And who told them to do it.

In the long run, this gambit by Holder is the last thing that Yoo, Bybee et al want. In fact, they have reason to be very afraid for their freedom. If the torturers won't be tried, the torturers can't be set up as chumps. But they can be forced to testify. They can't plead the Fifth if they won't be prosecuted.

Let's wait a few years, and see if Holder and Obama weren't playing several moves ahead of everyone else.

Posted by: Holdie on April 17, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama said the White House isn't going to pursue torture charges. It's not the White House's responsibility, it's the Department of Justice's responsibility. Obama can back off and let them do their job per Rule of Law.

Posted by: justice for all on April 17, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Do it to her!"

Posted by: Dave X on April 17, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly