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April 17, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Torture: The Bureaucracy In Action

I will have a lot more to say about the torture memos later tonight. For now, though, I just want to echo this point by Andrew Sullivan, which is very, very important. He's contrasting the Bradbury memos from 2005 to the Bybee memo from 2002:

"What is far more important and far graver is the decision after the 2004 re-election, after the original period of panic, to set up a torture program, replete with every professional and bureaucratic nicety. This is why the Bradbury memo of 2005 is so much more chilling in its way. This was long after Abu Ghraib, long after the initial panic, and a pre-meditated attempt to turn the US into a secret torture state. These legal memos construct a form of torture, through various classic torture techniques, used separately and in combination, that were to be used systematically, by a professional torture team along the lines proposed by Charles Krauthammer, and buttressed by a small army of lawyers, psychologists and doctors - especially doctors - to turn the US into a torture state. The legal limits were designed to maximize the torture while minimizing excessive physical damage, to take prisoners to the edge while making sure, by the use of medical professionals, that they did not die and would not have permanent injuries. (...)

This was done by the professional classes in this society. It was not done by Lynndie England or some night-shift sadists at Abu Ghraib. (...)

If you want to know how democracies die, read these memos. Read how gifted professionals in the CIA were able to convince experienced doctors that what they were doing was ethical and legal. Read how American psychologists were able to find justifications for the imposition of psychological torture, and were able to analyze its effects without ever stopping and asking: what on earth are we doing?

By the time the Bradbury memos were written, the bureaucracy had evidently swung into full gear behind the administration's policies of torture. There are references to various background papers on the techniques used, guidelines (apparently quite elaborate) on their proper use, etc. There is a proliferation of detailed requirements -- when administering an abdominal slap, "the interrogator must have no rings or other jewelry on his hand" (pp. 8-9), though oddly this prohibition is absent from the section on facial slaps. There are specific requirements about how cold the water with which a detainee is doused can be, in what ambient temperature, and for how long (it's different for different water temperatures.)

Moreover, there seem to be a lot of people involved. Besides the interrogators, "medical and psychological personnel are on-scene throughout (and, as detailed below, physically present or otherwise observing during the application of many techniques, including all techniques involving physical contact with detainees)" (p. 7.) Batteries of physical and psychological exams are given. Elaborate interrogation plans are submitted for approval, and detailed records are kept.

Suppose, for instance, a detainee who has been deprived of sleep (but not for more than 180 hours!), and is now being subjected to "walling", dousing with water, and nudity. There is a mass of detail about how this should be done: the water must be no colder than 41 degrees farenheit; when slamming the detainee into the wall, he will wear a collar to protect against whiplash; when the detainee is deprived of sleep by chaining his hands to the ceiling to prevent him from lying down, medical personnel shall check at all times to ensure that he is not developing edema in his feet; if he does, they will switch him to a special horizontal no-sleep position. And yet, somehow, the obvious question never arises, namely: what on earth are we doing repeatedly slamming this naked and sleep-deprived guy into a wall and then dousing him with cold water? How can this possibly be OK?

As Andrew says: this is how democracies die.

Hilzoy 7:18 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

I am ashamed. I have never ever endorsed torture nor voted in favor of the political party that used it. However. I am ashamed to be a countryman to the ones who committed these atrocities. Today, of our red white and blue; i see only the red.

Posted by: Talphon on April 17, 2009 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

This kind of sounds like your "abuse" posts from several days ago. Seems like the sole purpose of the memos was to insure that the evidence of abuse would not be visible to the naked eye. The Bush Administration was, in many ways, no better than a spouse abuser who doesn't want anyone to see the bruises. The abused can claim injury, but they can't prove it if nobody can see physical evidence of it. And all the while, the abuser says, "Why did you make me do this to you?"

Posted by: VA2CA on April 17, 2009 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

We are not nor have we ever been a real democracy. We have always been a Country started and always ruled (led) by a wealthy elite. In over 50 year I have watched the exectuive branch accumulate more and more absolute power. What we see now is but the begining of rule by an absolute oligarcy.

Posted by: Davidp65 on April 17, 2009 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

There are references to various background papers on the techniques used, guidelines (apparently quite elaborate) on their proper use, etc

Dr. Mengele took notes too.

Posted by: Comrade Stuck on April 17, 2009 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah. The Nazis did a bang-up job of institutionalizing war crimes, replete with detailed records of the victims and their health and travel histories.

And "following orders" is not a good defense.

When crap like this happens, the terrorists really do win.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on April 17, 2009 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

This is why, as a national security professional, Dennis Blair's statement defending the CIA operative makes me sick to my stomach. Remember the heady days of 9/11! he says, but that 2005 memo was AFTER the Abu Gharib photos came out. In what world does his statement make sense after that?

Posted by: colleeniem on April 17, 2009 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

"I am ashamed. I have never ever endorsed torture nor voted in favor of the political party that used it."
In light of these revelations, I too am ashamed to call myself an American.

Here is what I want to know: How can this be prevented from ever happening again, regardless of which party or administration is in power?

Posted by: Diana J on April 17, 2009 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Remember Michael Palin's character in the movie "Brazil," the cheerful, likeable family man who tortured people for a living, read transcripts of their screams and then hugged his little daughter? To think that when I saw that movie I thought the satire was completely over the top. And worse, to think I never thought I'd see such things done by my own government.

Posted by: T-Rex on April 17, 2009 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

How in the name of common humanity, decency and American principles of justice can we find ANY way to justify this. The laws against what we did are clear and you can write a thousand legalistic memos claiming it can be done, but every one of them will be justification for breaking the law.

The laws on torture are clear. We are not allowed to arbitrarily violate them. The International Red Cross says it was and is torture. It is the same thing the Japanese and the Germans did and the same thing they were hung for and imprisoned for life for.

How are we different? The top levels of our government broke the law, violate our constitution and international treaties and they need to be brought to justice. If we do not do it.....it will happen again....only worse.

Wake up America and take a look in the mirror. If you don't say NO, you are as guilty as they are!!!!

Posted by: dweb on April 17, 2009 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

"The banality of evil" is a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt and incorporated in the title of her 1963 work "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil." It describes the thesis that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 17, 2009 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Who was getting the therapy here? Who needed to torture to make himself feel manly??
It is sick. Don't forget that when asked how America stayed safe after the eleventh of September, the ultimately honorable Tom Ridge rapped his knuckles on the table, said it was sheer luck, and to his credit indicated at one point in an interview that this administration insisted he raise the orange alert level related to security despite Ridge himself thinking that was not necessary much of the time.
The previous administration played us.
That was their bureaucracy in action.
Bush era memos show a sickness.
McCain seems way too silent at this time about the wrongness of torture.
How corrupt these Republicans remain.
Such practices condoned still.
I am ashamed.

Posted by: Horrified on April 17, 2009 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

...repeatedly slamming this naked and sleep-deprived guy into a wall and then dousing him with cold water? How can this possibly be OK?

its called sadism.

its inescapable. Undeniable.

Posted by: pluege on April 17, 2009 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'll tell you what's worse than these memos: The lack of any visceral disgust by most of the liberal bloggers I've been reading for years toward Obama's a priori amnesty of the CIA torturers.
____________________________________________

Posted by: Aris on April 17, 2009 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Americans need to wrap their minds around the fact that for 8 years, they were led by a sadistic cult; that the highest, most revered offices in the nation were inhabited by brutal, psychotic, sadists.

Posted by: pluege on April 17, 2009 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

What purpose do your expressions of deep outrage serve? The deeds have been done, and those responsible have been pardoned in the name of the need to look forward.

If it makes you feel superior go ahead, but ultimately it's a futile exercise. Dems or Repubs may not be alike, Obama and Bush may not be the same, but they are all similar to a close approximation on matters as substantive as this. So forget it. Just as there is suffering in the world, there are people who torture without feeling guilty about it, and there are people who condone the acts of the former. That's the way it is.

Posted by: gregor on April 17, 2009 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

It's the detailed 'rules' that confound me. Like, it wasn't torture if the water was at the temperature in the chart, but if it was a few degrees off, then it would have been torture and they all would have recoiled in horror?

"Jones, you are a monster! How could you slap that man with a ring on??!! Oh my god. I thought you were an honorable soldier, but you have disgraced the uniform and all it stands for. A ring. I feel sick."

The heinous absurdity of these precise detailed restrictions just makes it clear that there was no actual attempt to follow the law, instead there was a conspiracy to provide rationalizations for the torture which was their actual intention.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 17, 2009 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

"There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do."
- Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on April 17, 2009 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just how democracies die; it's how ANY civilization descends, in large or small part, into barbarity.

And I would submit that it is due to a combination of two factors: (1) materially unchecked power, and (2) profound fear on the part of those who hold it.

The second cannot be controlled, but the first can, and this is the answer to the implied question. Power must be divided, and in a democracy, transparency is crucial to this end. (The latter, BTW, is why Obama's decision to publicize the memos was correct.)

Posted by: bleh on April 17, 2009 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

I am sorry, but there is no comparison between what the Bush Administration has done and Obama for pardoning the agents who carried out these orders. The final chapter on this sadistic chapter of American history has yet to be written, and the most guilty are still in the breach for possible justice of some sort.

What I WOULD like to see and expect are further efforts to uncover just how this nasty cake was baked, and definitive determination by some official mechanism, just who the chefs were and what direction they provided, even though we already have a pretty good idea of the who. This will take time unwrap and when it's completed and we know what happened, the American people will have a decision to make as to what punishment, if any, and how much.

Obama is the president and not a prosecutor and in case no one noticed, he kind of has a full plate of Bush leftovers to clean up. And I don't blame him for letting the public at large make these decision by consensus when it's time. His job is to keep doing what he did in this case, show us the papers, and not pardon the masterminds.

These things take time to play out and in the meantime, if he is going to pardon the CIA agents, then he should do the same with the idiot guards from Abu Graib, currently doing hard time for much the same thing.

Posted by: Comrade Stuck on April 17, 2009 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you Comrade Stuck. Agreed totally.

Posted by: MissMudd on April 17, 2009 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Comrade Stuck: Agreed.

Look: if it was absolutely settled that Cheney, Addington, Bush, Rumsfeld, Yoo, et al were going to be tried, I'd be upset about letting the CIA operatives who did not exceed the memos off the hook. But in practice, *the* fight is going to be about holding anyone accountable, and I would much, much, much rather it be the people who authorized this policy than the people who carried it out.

Posted by: hilzoy on April 17, 2009 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

hilzoy

I'm pretty sure (though not positive) I heard an NPR reporter say on Jim Lehrer tonight, that in fact, there were instances where some agents went beyond the memos criteria, and may be liable for prosecution.

As for the top henchmen, I do hope they face prosecution, but my American gut tells me some humiliation and maybe a few law licenses lost will be what we end up with, if that. Do hope I'm wrong though.

Posted by: Comrade Stuck on April 17, 2009 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

As Andrew says: this is how democracies die.

Not necessarily.

If democracy is founded on a majoritarian principle, and the majority in a polity supports actions such as these, then such actions cannot be anything but small-d democratic.

Read the Melian Dialogue. Democracies are capable, qua democracies, of some pretty grim things. Moral or ethical behavior is not necessarily precluded by, or instinct in, any form of government.

It's only our attachment to democracy -- a historical accident, and perhaps a transitory one -- that makes it seem so.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 17, 2009 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Remember Michael Palin's character in the movie "Brazil," the cheerful, likeable family man who tortured people for a living, read transcripts of their screams and then hugged his little daughter?

Of course, a bigger part of Brazil is that the main character was a cog in the machine that helped these things happened. That's something that always sort of confused me about that film, until I realized that we weren't really supposed to like the main character. He was a spineless twit who helped make a horrible system work better because he was too cowardly to stand up to it.

And when you think about it that way, it kind of changes the ending. He got what he deserved. He wanted someone to save him, yet wouldn't do anything to save anyone else. You can't wait until you're the one being tortured to stand up against it.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on April 18, 2009 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Obama and Bush may not be the same, but they are all similar to a close approximation on matters as substantive as this.

Yeah, except that one of them approved of torture while lying about it, while the other one stopped the torture and told the truth about it. Beyond that, they're absolutely identical.

Idiot. Not that I'm big into insulting people, but sometimes it's required.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on April 18, 2009 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

"what on earth are we doing repeatedly slamming this naked and sleep-deprived guy into a wall and then dousing him with cold water? How can this possibly be OK?"

If you keep in mind that these imbecilic atrocities were developed and sanctioned for the purposes of producing intelligence, it helps to see past the veneer of legalese and to view the conduct as indefensible. The "techniques" are idiotic, the antithesis of intelligence, particularly when you consider their most likely outcome was to reduce the detainee to a state of psychosis. Godwin's law warrants against direct comparison to the Nazi state, but then, the Bush Administration was always more closely modeled after Communist East Germany, with its Stasi-esqe attempts to develop "Total Information Awareness", and with the debased training of professional classes toward sadism.

Posted by: Esoth on April 18, 2009 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

"We're you tortured, Mandrake?'

"Um, yes, I was, Jack."

"Did you talk?"

"I don't think they wanted me to—the swine."

-- Dr. Strangelove

Posted by: buddy66 on April 18, 2009 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Diana J: "I am ashamed. I have never ever endorsed torture nor voted in favor of the political party that used it."
In light of these revelations, I too am ashamed to call myself an American.

Here is what I want to know: How can this be prevented from ever happening again, regardless of which party or administration is in power?"

Seeing that the Bush administration was the product of well orchestrated election fraud, I would imagine election integrity is one place that needs much greater attention. Journalism is in crisis, so that's another serious breakdown in checks and balances.

Posted by: Varecia on April 18, 2009 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Here's how to make sure it never happens again: start torturing right wing extremists in the name of stopping terror.

Posted by: Boronx on April 18, 2009 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

hilzoy: "But in practice, *the* fight is going to be about holding anyone accountable, and I would much, much, much rather it be the people who authorized this policy than the people who carried it out."

Many have pointed out that these banal torture memos show how democracies and civilizations die. I disagree. A government that engages in criminal and barbaric acts will not bring a nation down, any more than ordinary criminals can bring a nation down merely by their crimes. Democracies die when citizens can't be bothered to object to crimes, and otherwise rational people -- especially those with influential voices -- find a myriad rationalizations to argue that for practical reasons we must allow government criminality to go unchecked and nobody should get too upset about it.

It's bad enough to have conservative commentators ranting on TV that anyone who's against torturing people supports the nuclear destruction of major US cities, without nary a pip from our major media. But when "liberal" voices from hilzoy to Kevin Drum try to make us poor hysterical souls understand why Obama is not doing his Constitutional duty, I fear torture is now an accepted interrogation technique, as long as it comes with a manual in memo form. Sure, Obama said we won't torture any longer, so I guess all's well with the world. All better now.

The argument that we shouldn't go after the perpetrators of torture because we should go instead after those who authorized torture is so thoughtless I'm surprised anyone is making it with a straight face. First of all, we're not going after those who authorized torture. Has anyone -- Obama, the Congress or any other institution -- expressed any intention to go after anyone involved with torture? Even the Spaniards are pulling back. Besides, by making the argument that these memos carried enough legal authority to excuse criminal activity, Obama has made it even more difficult to go after the writers and architects of the policy expressed in the memos since he just established that when the President has a memo written, regardless of the content, the memo is a legal imperative. With his statement Obama has made it far harder to hold anyone accountable.

What nobody seems to be noticing is that the CIA torturers not only won't be prosecuted, but they will apparently continue to protect America. Now, think about it: Even if you really consider these agents to be patriots "just following orders," don't you have to wonder how stupid and incompetent they have to be not to have known that that torture is a very bad illegal thing, which no memo could render legal? Do we really want these people to be implementing any other intelligence activities?

If Obama had decided to do his duty under the Constitution and investigate wrongdoing by government, then perhaps, maybe, at some point, there could be some justification made for not prosecuting lowly torturers outright. But this is not what is happening. Unless these memos create a groundswell of public anger -- which is extremely unlikely -- absolutely nothing will happen to anyone.

Yes, I think pretty much everyone understands that Obama has his plate full and there are many policy priorities, from reviving the economy to health care reform to global warming, etc. etc. And prosecuting anyone from the Bush era over anything will be stupendously difficult politically since no BJs were involved. I don't envy his job. But he didn't have to state outright that he won't be prosecuting criminals. He could have said his DOJ is looking into it, and at some point appoint a Special Prosecutor and allow the process to continue without getting personally involved. The only reason he absolved the CIA spooks is obvious: as usual, the CIA bureaucracy, which has done nothing to protect us from 9/11 and has been creating one scandal after another since the '70s, is holding the US President hostage. Obama had to appease the CIA, or else they won't do their jobs.

Thanks hilzoy, and thanks to everybody else too, who has made me even more cynical about human nature that I used to be a few days ago. I didn't think it was possible! I thought the whole partisanship-above-principle thing was a conservative trait.
____________________________________________

Posted by: Aris on April 18, 2009 at 8:11 AM | PERMALINK

So forget it. Just as there is suffering in the world, there are people who torture without feeling guilty about it, and there are people who condone the acts of the former. That's the way it is.

So when I kick you down a flight of fucking stairs for being an asshole, well, just forget it. It will have been a done deed. Bygones-be-bygones and all that nonsense.

Posted by: Matt on April 18, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Aris, while I also think that some of the techniques described in the memos goes beyond anything a reasonable person would consider to not be torture and therefore the memos should not by themselves excuse those who carried out the torture, there are still practical consderations.

For example, how many of those in the intelligence community who did not participate in any way in the torture, would still quit or perhaps stay on the job but seek to undermine President Obama if he went ahead with prosecuting significant numbers of their fellow agents? Second, while the Republican congress is already being obstructionist towards President Obama's agenda, but to what degree would the controversy over such prosecutions shut down all progress on dealing with day-to-day business?

Now I still feel prosecutions are necessary, preferably starting with the authors of these memos and continuing to their bosses and then finally to any interrogators either exceeded these guidelines or that can be shown to have not been acting in good faith in accepting these guidelines.

However, it may well be that releasing as many of the details as possible of what was done is the best way to start. This could allow the public to mull over just how obscene this process was and how the far it went beyond what we were previously told in terms both of techniques and of who was tortured and in the process generate a public demand for prosecutions. If it doesn't, then our country's problems go beyond the rot at the top during the Bush administration.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

tanstaafl, what you're basically saying is that this is an inconvenient time to prosecute crimes committed by our government.

Well, you know what? It's never convenient to prosecute anyone who has power -- and the CIA bureaucracy obviously has a lot of power. This is therefore not an argument about not prosecuting these particular CIA torturers, but an argument about never prosecuting anyone unless it's really easy and popular. A country of laws -- where everyone is equal under the law, and the law is supreme and applies to everyone equally -- does not live up to its principles only when convenient.

If Obama has some stratagem in mind, wanting to entice and inspire the citizenry to want to do something about American torturers, he could have said nothing. But he didn't keep his mouth shut. He absolved the CIA without even the pretense of an investigation. I think he considers this issue finished, and I'm afraid it is finished.
____________________________________________

Posted by: Aris on April 18, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

You're right and I do think Obama is making a mistake. I am just pointing out that there are some very intense pressures on him that make any decision very difficult.

Too many people on both sides of this argument are treating things as all or nothing propositions. Many Bush supporters routinely suggested that anything other than 100% support of the President made someone a traitor. Many on the other side now seem to be suggesting that anything less than dismantling everything Bush did and prosecuting ever single person in government that broke the law makes Obama or Congressional Democrats no better than Bush.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 18, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Too many people on both sides of this argument are treating things as all or nothing propositions. Many Bush supporters routinely suggested that anything other than 100% support of the President made someone a traitor. Many on the other side now seem to be suggesting that anything less than dismantling everything Bush did and prosecuting ever single person in government that broke the law makes Obama or Congressional Democrats no better than Bush."

Black and white thinking will be the end of us all. While the idealism of jailing everyone responsible is appealing, it's not practical. Those of us on the left need to take care not to simply reverse the equation of fear politics, changing the object from foreign terrorists to domestic torturers. Nothing seems more appealing then trying and convicting the guilty, even if every one of them is a card carrying right-wing conservative.

Obama is nothing if not practical, because he knows that we cannot punish the wrongdoers without crippling our country politically. Texas succession now is a joke, but after convicting and hanging a thousand conservatives, however guilty, it could very well become a bloody reality. That might be hyperbole of a sort, but there are thousands of ways a truly enraged 18% fringe could cripple the democratic political process. Obama seems to view solving the problem in a similar way to healing the wounds caused by racism. There is no way to truly punish everyone responsible, because in a democracy almost everyone bears some responsibility. Better to bring everything to light and air out the wounds so that they might begin to heal over time. This isn't going away, we should all know that by now.

The sad fact is that other issues are more important, too important to sacrifice on the altar of moral purity. The economy for one, and the climate crisis for another. Cruelty is not an American monopoly, understanding that will be part of the key for moving forward.

Posted by: Talphon on April 18, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Aris: "tanstaafl, what you're basically saying is that this is an inconvenient time to prosecute crimes committed by our government.

Well, you know what? It's never convenient to prosecute anyone who has power -- and the CIA bureaucracy obviously has a lot of power. This is therefore not an argument about not prosecuting these particular CIA torturers, but an argument about never prosecuting anyone unless it's really easy and popular. A country of laws -- where everyone is equal under the law, and the law is supreme and applies to everyone equally -- does not live up to its principles only when convenient..."

I don't think anyone is saying it's merely an "inconvenient" time. The country is and has been teetering on collapse in *many* ways, not just in terms of the moral decay of the last administration, and sure, the Obama administration could pursue prosecution with blinders on...but there may not be a country left by the time that's done. Talphon is essentially right: "The sad fact is that other issues are more important, too important to sacrifice on the altar of moral purity. The economy for one, and the climate crisis for another."

Posted by: Varecia on April 18, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hopefully, Obama will continue to release as many formerly secret Bush White House Documents as possible. Then on the torture issue, it will be up to the ACLU, the Red Cross, the Human Rights Watch, progressive bloggers and others to repeatedly point out until hopefully the MSM and the public begin to pick up on the following facts:

1) the techniques (torture) being described in the memos by Yoo, Bybee and Bradbury are viscerally disgusting and inherently immoral.

2) despite claims to the contrary, these techniques were not being used only on the worst or the worst terrorists who had crucial time-sensitive information about future attacks. In particular, there wasn't a single fucking ticking-time-bomb in sight with any of these interrogations.

3) As Hilzoy pointed out and lawyers with the above organizations can undoubtedly confirm, the legal reasoning in the memos was so transparently shallow and the precedents cited so carefully chosen to ignore those more relevant but less helpful to their cause that any claims that the memos were offered or followed in good faith fail.

4) while torture is illegal and immoral even if it is effective, all the historical evidence is that it rarely produces useful information and is mostly useful for producing false confessions and satisfying the sadistic urges of the torturers. And that despite claims to the contrary, most of the useful intelligence produced from Al Qaeda members during the Bush administration came from traditional interrogation techniques.

If the American public is exposed to this information frequently enough to begin to understand and believe it, then hopefully there will be public support and even demand for prosecutions. If the public remains too apathetic to care, then as I said before, that is as serious a problem as anything the Bush administration did.

Posted by: tanstaafl on April 18, 2009 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

One thing that hasn't been discussed by anyone: what exactly would the sentencing be if people were successfully prosecuted for torture? I have no idea, but I imagine it would be incarceration. Considering all that's been cited, would a few months imprisonment in minimum security prisons be worth potentially sacrificing progress on the larger issues with global impact?

Posted by: Varecia on April 18, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Varecia: "Considering all that's been cited, would a few months imprisonment in minimum security prisons be worth potentially sacrificing progress on the larger issues with global impact?"

Yes.

This has been another edition of simple answers, etc.

Posted by: Steve Rapport on April 18, 2009 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama is nothing if not practical, because he knows that we cannot punish the wrongdoers without crippling our country politically."

What, have you been listening to the same dumbass pundits Obama has? Americans, in point of fact, overwhelmingly support investigating this stuff and seeing justice done. There have been a few different surveys about this; here is just one of them.

"The sad fact is that other issues are more important, too important to sacrifice on the altar of moral purity. The economy for one, and the climate crisis for another."

What utter crap. We can address that while cleaning up the torture controversy also. Really, it isn't that hard to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Posted by: Shade Tail on April 18, 2009 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

OK, the public support looks stronger than I expected, at least at the time of that particular survey. I don't argue that it's right and just to investigate and prosecute. I am/was concerned that it's a choice between many equally right and just actions.

Posted by: Varecia on April 19, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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