Torture

Some in the US have now admitted that others in the US tortured some other people: see for example [[Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture]]. But on the whole, the people in charge at the time aren’t admitting it, and the CIA can’t even bring itself to use the T-word. Bystander pointed me at this old post containing wise words from George Orwell about corruption of language, and the following from [[A Man for All Seasons]]:

Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More1: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Once I’ve said that, there’s not much more I need to say, because you know what “side” I’m on. But of course I will say more. The West is fat and fearful. We know – or suspect, or fear – that we’re over privileged and that lots of the rather less privileged aren’t very happy about that, but we’re not about to give up our lives of luxury (see? This segues seamlessly into the GW debate; with mostly the same people on the same “sides”; see? I’ve just called the denialists pro-torture, oh dearie me). So while some of us will call torture torture and call for it to stop, many will call it enhanced interrogation and mumble quietly about regrettable necessity. Not Big Ben2, who said

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety

Plenty of other people say much the same; Bruce Schneier is one. The Economist calls the report A tawdry record, but facing up to the past is the best protection for the future which I think optimistic; as I said, lots of USA-ians aren’t facing up to the past. Or the present: The majority of US rape victims are male.

And on not the-same-but related, this on electronic tags by Ross Anderson.

Notes

1. When I first heard this many years ago, it was watching the play itself. In which [[More gets a role of staunch moral rectitude. A different work of fiction, [[Wolf Hall]], paints a somewhat different picture, and who am I to say which is correct. In this instance, however, I’m primarily concerned with the words themselves rather than the character of whoever might have spoken them.

2. According to wiki, [[Benjamin Franklin]] ”returned home in 1785… became an abolitionist and freed his two slaves”. Which is spiffy, but my quote comes from 1755. Now, technically, BF was talking about people who ”give up” liberty to purchase safety, and his slaves hadn’t voluntarily given anything up; nonetheless the dissonance leaves a poor taste.

Refs

* Cheney calls for international ban on torture reports

46 thoughts on “Torture”

  1. You are on the side of the law-abiding citizens that continually call on the foreigners to abide by the constitution.

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  2. There was a line from this season’s Blacklist: Red, the main protagonist, said something along the lines of: “George Orwell’s prescience was amazing, but good Lord his books are downers.”

    Seems to fit here.

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  3. What was the point, I wonder, of including the link to Worstal’s “Interesting Statistic” post? Indeed, what was the point of Worstal’s post, if not to dog-whistle?

    [You really can’t see the connection between tacitly-approving torture and tacitly approving rape? Both are the result of a fat and fearful nation with corrupt politics -W]

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  4. The US admitted its torture program some years ago. It stopped officially around the same time. I’m not sure if rendition continues. The agency charged with doing terrible things has done terrible things. Confession, good for the soul, is worth repeating. In school, the good Brothers warned us about the moral trap of situation ethics.

    [Your words appear to imply that the CIA has confessed, and that is good for its soul. But I don’t think it has; its still in denial -W]

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  5. Hmm – Maybe this George Orwell quote is more pertinent:

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    [That would be more convincing if it wasn’t fake; see for example [[List_of_misquotations]] -W]

    Regardless of your opinion on the question of what the CIA did, the report is worthless because it was so nakedly partisan. They did not even bother to interview anyone who was involved.

    But, the hypocrisy here is astounding. Obama has killed 3 US citizens in drone strikes who were not even charged with crimes (not to mention the 2,500 other mostly innocents). But GW Bush is a war criminal for splashing some water in the face of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

    Likewise, the response of the EU is hypocritical. I have witnessed German police beating peaceful Turkish protesters to a pulp. Not a peep in the intl press.

    Regarding males being raped, the US military sexual assaults that have been in the news so much also feature males as the victim, 53% I believe.

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  6. Tom C, Obama is well aware that his own drone strikes are just as illegal, which is one reason that there will be no prosecutions against those responsible for torture. The real trick is trying to find a US president who isn’t a war criminal one way or the other.

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  7. Because that’s the thing that we realized when we were making the movie. It was always the hardest thing. We wanted to deal with this emotion of being hated as an American. That was the thing that was intriguing to us, and having Gary [the main character] deal with that emotion. And so, him becoming ashamed to be a part of Team America and being ashamed of himself, he comes to realize that, just as he got his brother killed by gorillas — he didn’t kill his brother; he wasn’t a dick, he wasn’t an asshole — so too does America have this role in the world as a dick. Cops are dicks, you fucking hate cops, but you need ’em.

    [I don’t think that last line works, or is true. Its too much excuse-making. Not all cops are dicks, not all cops are the same, no we don’t need torturers -W]

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  8. The “Orwell” quote didn’t sound Orwellian to me. It appears to have been a paraphrase from this rather good essay where he analyses the irrationality of “nationalists”.

    http://orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat

    “I list below five types of nationalist, and against each I append a fact which it is impossible for that type of nationalist to accept, even in his secret thoughts:…

    PACIFIST: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.”

    [Thanks for that. I’m not sufficiently familiar with Orwell to have noticed. And I think that the conflating of all types of violence together as just “violence” is more injustice-to-language; deliberately blurring things together to give torturers shelter under things that are distinct, but that we do approve of -W]

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  9. Tom C

    “But GW Bush is a war criminal for splashing some water in the face of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.”

    So torture is OK because it is not as bad as people think it is?

    I suspect many Europeans are of the opinion that the US is overly trigger happy in many respects (drone strikes, blue-on-blue, wedding party bombings, etc.).

    I think you need stronger evidence for EU hypocrisy (whatever that means) than that, given that the International Press are not representative of the EU or EU citizens, and given that there is plenty of evidence of UK Police being held to account for brutality and racist behaviour.

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  10. The original draft (2nd paragraph 1st sentence) of the DoI as written by TJ (him being a serial rapist (of mostly mens) and serial slave owner) reads:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that some people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

    You can thank BF (B**t F**k) for seeing through this PC version and giving us the final PI version.

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  11. Tom C writes: Regardless of your opinion on the question of what the CIA did, the report is worthless because it was so nakedly partisan. They did not even bother to interview anyone who was involved.

    It’s “nakedly partisan” because during the five-plus year long investigation, the Republican senate members refused to participate or contribute. Their position apparently is that war crimes should be covered up, not investigated.

    From wiki: “The report was prepared following a review of 6 million pages of documents, cables, emails, and other materials principally provided by the CIA.”

    Tom, if you think a more thorough investigation is called for, including subpoenaing and interviewing people accused of engaging in or authorizing the use of torture, I’d be happy to agree.

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  12. Tom C, again: But GW Bush is a war criminal for splashing some water in the face of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

    First, waterboarding absolutely is torture. Read the comments of Michael Nance, who for many years was Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE), charged with training US special forces troops to resist torture if captured.

    Second, at least 26 people were tortured without justification, e.g. due to mistaken identity. At “Cobalt” they got hold of two guys and started them on the torture sequence (stress positions, sleep deprivation) before being told by headquarters that they were actually allied informants. A young man with a mental disability was tortured as a way of pressuring his family members.

    You scoff at the waterboarding of KSM. Waterboarding is great at producing false confessions (and further false accusations) because the victims will say whatever they believe their torturers want to hear. In the KSM case, that “splashing water on his face” caused him to falsely name two brothers as being in Al Qaeda; they were then detained and tortured.

    You really ought to learn more about this, Tom. Your right-wing media is lying to you.

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  13. Well, I guess what I thought was an Orwell quote was a paraphrase. Seems to me it captures what he thought about pacifists at least.

    [You seem to be unable to differentiate between “people who loathe torture” and “pacifists”. This doesn’t speak well for you -W]

    Steve M. – Christopher Hitchens volunteered to be waterboarded. Afterward he ranted about how it really WAS torture. This is absurd, of course. Do you think he would have volunteered to have his fingernails ripped out?

    Ned – What I said is that they did not bother to interview anyone who was involved with the program. You said they did not work with Republican members of the senate, which is completely irrelevant.

    You will also note that I did not defend the whole thing. My point was the hypocrisy of the outrage about it coupled with the silence on Obama’s drone strikes and other incidents. Come on Ned – denounce Obama for drone killing 3 US citizens who committed no crime. Ah, I knew you couldn’t.

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  14. Actually William, you seem unable to understand that in the comment above I admitted that the quote was not relevant. It was not exactly “fake” though, as you said, and it was at least a paraphrase on a closely related topic.

    But, why this outrage, OUTRAGE, about George Bush “torturing” mass murderers who might have had information about imminent attacks on innocent people? Why does the fact that Obama murders thousands of innocents at a distance not even rate as a topic? He has advisors who are assuring him of the legality. He meets with the CIA on this everyday. His popularity is lower than Bush’s in the Arab world as a result. But, among Western progressives…nothing to see here.

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  15. The stupidest stupidity in this stupid ball of stupidness is that the wandering clowns at the Central “Intelligence” Agency thought torture was a useful method of interrogation. Any military field manual will tell you otherwise.

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  16. Oh, how could I have been so insensitive? Of course there’s a good reason why progressives won’t criticize Obama on war and security issues. He won the Nobel Peace Prize!

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  17. Tom C: Christopher Hitchens volunteered to be waterboarded. Afterward he ranted about how it really WAS torture. This is absurd, of course.

    I would think Hitchens would know better than you. Also Malcolm Nance, who is one of the world’s experts on waterboarding and whose comments I referred you to above.

    But even more obviously … of course it’s torture. Why else do you think they do it?

    Tom C again: What I said is that they did not bother to interview anyone who was involved with the program. You said they did not work with Republican members of the senate, which is completely irrelevant.

    It’s not irrelevant. It was a response to your claim that the report was “nakedly partisan”. The only reason the report is “partisan” is that one party — the Republicans — refused to participate. They certainly had plenty of opportunities during the five-plus years of the investigation.

    I also addressed your comment about interviewing people involved in the use of torture. But since you repeat that canard, I’ll respond again, with more details — which, by the way, are nicely documented here:

    * People involved in the torture program refused to be interviewed citing their potential legal jeopardy: “CIA employees and contractors who would otherwise have been interviewed by the committee staff were under potential legal jeopardy, and therefore the CIA would not compel its workforce to appear before the committee.”

    * However, the committee had access to more than 100 interviews of CIA employees and contractors, provided by the CIA Inspector General’s office. These interviews included the following personnel: “former CIA director George Tenet; Jose Rodriguez, director of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, CIA General Counsel Scott Muller; CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt; CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo; CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin; and a variety of interrogators, lawyers, medical personnel, senior counterterrorism analysts and managers of the detention and interrogation program”.

    * In addition to those very thorough interviews, the committee had access to more than 6 million pages of CIA documents, including cables, memos, emails, and internal reports.

    * If there was important information that was missed in the 100+ interviews that were the basis for the report, the CIA could have provided that, since they had the opportunity to provide comments on the draft report.

    Back to Tom C: Come on Ned – denounce Obama for drone killing 3 US citizens who committed no crime. Ah, I knew you couldn’t.

    This thread’s about the torture report. You may want to change the subject, but other people don’t have to cater to your wishes.

    Plus, it’s just a wee bit disingenuous to demand that someone respond to something and then claim they failed to respond in the very next sentence. “Tom C, I challenge you to deny being a kitten-strangler. Ah, I knew you couldn’t deny it. Sorry, too late, you’ve now tacitly admitted to being a kitten-strangler.”

    Tom C: But, why this outrage, OUTRAGE, about George Bush “torturing” mass murderers who might have had information about imminent attacks on innocent people?

    First, some people are opposed to torture on principle.

    Second, some people might reluctantly support torture if it were limited to your imaginary set of conditions. But they recognize that

    (a) Once you start torturing people, it’s not only “mass murderers” who get tortured. At least 26 people were tortured by mistake, a point that you’ve carefully avoided. Forget KSM. What do you think about torturing some random guy who just happens to have the wrong name? Or a guy who’s turned in out of spite by another family that’s feuding with his family?

    and

    (b) As we see in this report, torture mostly provided false and/or useless information. The report thoroughly examined all eight cases that the CIA has claimed as examples of useful information being obtained from people who were tortured. All eight of those stories were misleading and incorrect. There was NO case where torture could actually be justified by information obtained. NONE.

    The main thing that torture provides is false confessions. That’s what the Khmer Rouge used waterboarding for. It also provides lots of false accusations, where people who are desperate to end the torture will falsely name all kinds of other people just to make it stop. This happened with KSM, who while under torture falsely accused two guys of being affiliated with Al Qaeda. They weren’t, but the CIA tortured them anyway since KSM had named them.

    and

    (c) A government that has the legal power to torture people has the power to do basically anything it wants, since torture can be used to produce false information that can then be used to justify anything the torturer wants.

    Tom C, if you think torture is a useful and acceptable way of getting information from foreigners, how about using it on Americans? There could be more Timothy McVeighs out there. If we were to start detaining and torturing right-wing activists in the US, it wouldn’t be difficult to get some of them to confess to plotting the overthrow of the US government. It also wouldn’t be difficult to get them to falsely name, say, prominent conservative political figures, the head of the NRA, etc. etc. etc.

    That seems to be what happens in countries that allow the government to torture people. Why you want to turn the US into that kind of country is beyond me.

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  18. William, I apologize for posting such a lengthy, verbose comment on your blog. This is a subject I feel strongly about, but I could have been more concise. Feel free to delete any or all of it.

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  19. I think that Christopher Hitchens was right, water boarding is really a kind of torture, his testimony is waterproof. And what could possibly be the purpose of water boarding if not torture, obviously not making the face of the prisoners cleaner, or relieving their thirst …

    Here is the Hitchen torture video:

    Note that David Rose is acknowledged at the end, I mean because this is a climate blog.

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  20. Tom C,

    This whataboutery really is tedious. The question of whether the use of torture was morally and/or legally acceptable does not depend on whether people have or have not condemned the use of drones (and how do you know we haven’t).

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  21. Ned –
    Obviously I was prophetic with my statement “Ah, I knew you couldn’t”. You, and William for that matter, can’t criticize far worse behavior from the Nobel Peace Prize winner because he is, as William would say “on our side”.

    [I think this discussion is good to have, because it confirms that despite the apparent rapprochement on GW issues, there are still massive gulfs between us on other issues.

    As for drones: I strongly disagree with you: torture is worse -W]

    One thing about being so unthinkingly partisan is that you lose the ability to read. I did not say that I approved of the program, or that I would have implemented it if it were my decision. I frankly don’t know anything about interrogation and or torture. I can well understand the claim that it might be counter-productive. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to explore these issues with this report, since it was merely a hatchet job.

    The views of persons like Nance and John McCain deserve to be heard. How about the views of McCain’s fellow POWs in Viet Nam who were unambiguously tortured:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/mccains-fellow-pows-support-waterboarding/2011/05/16/AF0f374G_blog.html

    They describe waterboarding as “scary” but not torture. Is this opinion the final word? No. But at least it needs to be heard. I found it compelling for the same reason that anything one is willing to volunteer to experience is probably not torture as most people understand the word.

    In regard to whether it was effective, the former directors of the CIA strenuously claim that the report is wrong. I would recommend you read what they wrote here:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/cia-interrogations-saved-lives-1418142644

    It’s also important to keep in mind the uncertainties about what might be next in the days after 9/11. As the directors wrote:
    • We had evidence that al Qaeda was planning a second wave of attacks on the U.S.
    • We had certain knowledge that bin Laden had met with Pakistani nuclear scientists and wanted nuclear weapons.
    • We had reports that nuclear weapons were being smuggled into New York City.
    • We had hard evidence that al Qaeda was trying to manufacture anthrax.

    Maybe they made the wrong call to use these methods, but they were mindful of the potential consequences of not learning what was being planned. Again, most people are probably willing to cut them some slack and not worry that these methods are not going to be used on citizens.

    As we have seen, it is Obama who has extended the drone program to US citizens. No Democratic report in sight though.

    Andrew Adam – my questioning is “tedious” because of the deafening silence from people like you. You would rather not think about unpleasant things if they involve non-Republicans

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  22. BTW, Ned, I did catch the little bit of demagoguery where you referred to KSM et. el. as “foreigners”. Yeah, that’s right buddy, they are just “foreigners”, probably immigrants, eh? Not psychopathic mass murders. Not guys who star in videos personally cutting off the head of Dan Pearl because he was Jewish. Not people plotting massive terrorist attacks against innocents of all nationalities and races. Just foreigners.

    This pseudo-moral preening is disgusting.

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  23. The United States tortured people. It is a baser country because of it.

    There is no excuse. The argument against torture is the same as the argument against capital punishment. It is horrible what is done to the subject of it. It is worse what is done to the country that permits it.

    Bush, Cheney et al are war criminals. They should stand in the Hague and face trial. So should many members of the intelligence community of the United States.

    It really is that simple.

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  24. I think we should be very careful about using the argument that torture doesn’t actually work. Partly because I’m not sure it’s true – I find it hard to believe that its use would be as as widespread as it is if it did not have some utility and the undoubted fact that the information extracted is not always reliable isn’t necessarily a problem for the torturer, gaining a confession or an accusation against another person can be desirable regardless of its truth.

    But the main reason is the implication that if the information obtained were reliable it might make torture more justifiable. The use of torture is always wrong and always, under the Convention Against Torture, always illegal.

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  25. Tom C,

    If this were a discussion about drone attacks then I would express my views on drone attacks. I have done so elsewhere and I’ve seen plenty of examples of other “progressives” expressing their views on the subject (not all of them in agreement with mine).

    I don’t know where you are based but here in the UK there are plenty of people of a liberal persuasion calling for a proper investigation into exactly what our Labour government knew and the extent to which it colluded with the US.

    As far as I can see my part of the political spectrum is pretty consistent on this.

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  26. Andrew –

    You think that you are consistent but I think you are morally blind. Thomas Fuller wants Bush tried in the Hague. Are you advocating that Obama be tried in the Hague for killing his own citizens on foreign soil with drone strikes. Oh wait, can’t do that, progressive made sure he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    [You’re acting a bit paranoid about this Nobel prize thing. Probably best to let that go; I think everyone agrees its an embarrassment, but harping on about it makes you sound like a Birther -W]

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  27. Tom C,

    As I said above the use of torture is always illegal under the Convention Against Torture, and I agree that there should be consequences for those who sanctioned or carried out such acts.
    The legal position regarding drones strikes appears to be less clear cut, nor are the two issues necessarily equivalent. But if they are similarly illegal then there should equally be consequences for those responsible. And even if this is not the case then one can still make a moral argument against (or for) their use.
    But this is not a discussion about drone strikes, or indeed about the moral consistency of liberals. And I think I occupy a rather different point on the political spectrum from our host in any case – there have been principled objections to the torture revelations from people of varying political persuasions.

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  28. Tom C.

    So Hitchens can be ignored because he didn’t volunteer to have his fingernails torn out.

    Hitchens was waterboarded once – under close supervision of experts concerned about their culpability, and for a limited time. KSM was waterboarded 183 times, presumably for extended periods and by people more concerned about interrogating him.

    And McCain can be ignored because a couple of his colleagues – who don’t say that they have experienced water-boarding, and appear not to understand that waterboarding can cause physical as well as mental injury – disagree with him.

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  29. No one on this thread has been able to bring himself to admit that Obama killing US citizens who have not been charged with a crime by drone strikes is a moral problem. This very nicely illustrates the point I have been trying to make: namely, that the “torture” report was not principled but was a piece of political opportunism. The fact that I keep bringing up the Nobel Peace Prize is that the exquisite irony is rhetorically helpful, not because I am a “Birther”.

    While I admit that the opinions of John McCain and others who oppose the use of these methods is valid an worthy of respect, Steve M displays his moral blindness by traducing the POWs who disagree with McCain and makes the implausible claim that these military men who underwent extreme torture don’t know what waterboarding is. He is not interested in a balanced examination of the matter, he wants to score political points.

    Andrew A thinks he can lawyer his way out but the result is painful and pathetic. Look, the point under discussion should be whether or not it should count as torture. Just saying it is so does not make it so. Being uncomfortable or scared is not being tortured. At least that is how the average person thinks about this.

    My opinion is that being kept awake, or yelled at, or kept in uncomfortable positions is not torture. Waterboarding probably crosses the line and I would probably not have ordered it, but I’m willing to listen to other points of view.

    OK – I’m done. You guys can go back to self-congratulation on your virtue.

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  30. Tom C, I am a progressive liberal who has defended Obama consistently throughout the past six years. I think about ten years from now people will start realizing how good a job he has done.

    I am troubled by what he has done with regards to drone strikes. However, people get killed in war time. Many of them are noncombatants.

    I am not trying to excuse Obama. I am bothered by his over-willingness to order drone strikes.

    However I do not put his actions in the same class as torturing a prisoner.

    The fact that American citizens are among those killed in a combat zone by a drone to me is pretty much irrelevant. I am just as troubled by the Pakistani, Syrian, and Afghani deaths as I am by those of the three Americans.

    If you can’t see a difference between what Obama ordered and what Bush/Cheney ordered, I don’t think you’re looking very hard.

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  31. Tom C is trying very hard to change the subject. He wants to get you all talking about drones, or the Nobel Peace Prize, or pretty much anything other than torture. In a thread called “Torture”.

    Gosh, I wonder why that is?

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  32. Tom C writes: My opinion is that being kept awake, or yelled at, or kept in uncomfortable positions is not torture. Waterboarding probably crosses the line and I would probably not have ordered it, but I’m willing to listen to other points of view.

    I’m glad to see you starting to come around on waterboarding. I am pretty sure that if we were discussing it being used by the Khmer Rouge to torture people in Tuol Sleng prison, you would have no problem at all agreeing that it’s torture.

    Beatings, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, confinement boxes, hypothermia, etc. are all intended to break a prisoner’s will by subjecting them to pain. That is what torture is.

    I understand that you are reluctant to admit to yourself or others that the US government adopted the use of torture as official policy. That’s something we think of as characteristic of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes elsewhere, not countries that respect freedom and liberty.

    I also understand that you think that “bad people” deserve to be treated brutally. But once you start allowing the government to torture people, it won’t stop at “bad people”. As has been pointed out to you, innocent people were subjected to the CIA’s torture regimen by mistake. And aside from those mistakes, once the government becomes accustomed to torturing people, it will find more and more opportunities to do so. Let’s not start down that road, please.

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  33. Tom C,

    I deliberately haven’t expressed my opinion on the morality of drone strikes because it’s a red herring and irrelevent to the subject of this thread. If you really think that “the point under discussion should be whether or not it should count as torture” then why don’t you stick to arguing that point and stop derailing the thread by making it about Obama and drones.

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  34. Tom C

    “Steve M displays his moral blindness by traducing the POWs who disagree with McCain and makes the implausible claim that these military men who underwent extreme torture don’t know what waterboarding is. He is not interested in a balanced examination of the matter, he wants to score political points.”

    You started off describing waterboarding as “splashing some water in the face”. You’re now reduced to a technical point involving a discussion between John McCain and former comrades in arms about whether waterboarding is awful enough to count as torture, or whether the apparent lack of physical injury means it can’t be defined as torture. *That’s* scoring political points.

    Pointing out that statements are factually incorrect is not “traducing” anyone. Examples include:

    “The big, monstrous difference here is that the gentlemen we are waterboarding are people who swore to kill Americans”

    “Waterboarding is just scaring someone, with no long-term injurious effects.”

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  35. My opinion is that being kept awake, or yelled at, or kept in uncomfortable positions is not torture.

    (which were StaSi-Methods, BTW)
    Jesus H. Christ!
    You think that to tie Someone to a scaffolding (let’s say: a cross), en lieu of nailing Him onto it, then constantly yelling at Him for days, and making pretty sure He quickly regains consciousness after He manages to lose it, would have been no torture? Not enough Suffering for Your Sins?
    Why did you forget to mention rape? Raping a prisoner can’t be torture, because there are people outside who want the apparently same thing done to them for pleasure.
    If you really are a ‘merricun Conservative, you’re making them look very bad.

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  36. Sleep deprivation is not a linear extrapolation of how you feel after an allnighter. Extended for more than a few days, it drives people insane. “Uncomfortable positions” become excruciating pain if allowed to go on for a long period. But that kind of euphemistic spin is necessary (waterboarding as “splashing water on the face”) if you want to decide that torture is not torture.

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  37. Meh. Whenever I hear the U.S. version of torture it’s always along the lines of “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!” And the CIA shows up with pillows and the comfy chair.

    It wasn’t that long ago that we really didn’t fancy prisons and guarding people. On a climate calendar, it was only yesterday that pirates ans sheep stealers were hung in chains.

    But lets not forget that the thousands of years of rather brutish behavior, the wealth and lifestyle created through the petroleum-based industrial revolution afforded the West a level of progressive humanity never seen before. In fact, the fear is that instead of rising the less privileged up, the moew privileged will be brought down. It’s not like Somali pirates or Isis is teaching us lessons on compassion. It’s petroleum that has freed up 95% of the population from having to spend virtually all their time growing the food they ate. It’s wealth that civilized society, not morals.

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  38. No one on this thread has been able to bring himself to admit that Obama killing US citizens who have not been charged with a crime by drone strikes is a moral problem.

    It’s a huge moral problem. I’d like to see Obama on trial in Den Haag for war crimes. I’d also like to see Bush, Cheney, Blair, and more or less everybody else involved in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the various other operations in (but not necessarily limited to) Yemen, Libya, Syria, and so on, right along there with him. Hell, can we drag Clinton along too? I’m happy to go all the way back to Kissinger given half a chance…

    Happy now?

    However, I will stipulate that whilst I think both the Bush and Obama administrations are guilty of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity, I think those of the Bush administration are both more numerous and more severe.

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  39. Dunc,

    I’m afraid it’s even worse than Tom C has put it. Connelly put his finger into the wound in the body text of his article, “The West is fat and fearful. We know – or suspect, or fear – that we’re over privileged and that lots of the rather less privileged aren’t very happy about that, but we’re not about to give up our lives of luxury.”

    The Iraq invasion, enhanced interrogation, gulags on foreign soil where prisoners of war are kept in perpetuity against the spirit though not the letter of Geneva conventions are only the most visible evidence of our arrogant duplicity as global citizens.

    We are an empire, chock full of people who do not realize what that entails. Our fiscal power does not presently derive from exceptionalism. We’re not especially hard workers relative to our past and increasingly not particularly innovative when it comes to technologies that have the potential to truly benefit the entire world. We’re great at indulging ourselves with trinkets which are nominally designed here (but not really) and mass produced overseas in countries which our diplomatic corps routinely condemn for their human “rights” violations.

    We get away with it because we are feared. And for good reason. It’s what empires do. This will never be a truly honest discussion until the bulk of us accept the fact that we don’t want to give up our privelege and luxury. And it needs to be an honest discussion because anything else begets the sort of hubris that leads us to ill-advised invasions of soverign countries simply because we can.

    While I’m on it, include on your list of people to face tribunals at the Hague all the members of Congress who voted for the Iraq invasion. And though not legally actionable, I reserve my greatest ire for those who normally would have been expected to oppose that sort of thing but priortized their re-election chances over the optics from the perspective of the world stage amongst both our allies and enemies.

    Even empires need friends. The most successful empires command the utmost genuine respect of their adversaries as well.

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  40. As soon as you hear someone start out “You have to remember what it was like back then…”, well, you know then that they understand that what they are trying to justify was wrong.

    At this point it’s just a matter of at what level of fear/threat threshold are they willing to give up any morals they think they have.

    3000 US citizens, $100B -> torture OK.

    100 US citizens, $100M -> torture OK?

    1 US citizen? X non-US citizens? $1M? -> torture OK?

    A paraphrase of the Winston Churchill anecdote:
    “We’ve already established you’re a sociopath, now we’re just haggling about price.”

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  41. Steve C. (#38): Sleep deprivation is not a linear extrapolation of how you feel after an allnighter. Extended for more than a few days, it drives people insane.

    Quite right. Indeed, I once read that sleep deprivation killed someone in a Central American prison.

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  42. Tom C (#23): One thing about being so unthinkingly partisan is that you lose the ability to read. I did not say that I approved of the program, or that I would have implemented it if it were my decision. I frankly don’t know anything about interrogation and or torture. I can well understand the claim that it might be counter-productive. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to explore these issues with this report, since it was merely a hatchet job.

    Is this a confession? It sure seems to be. Why else would you call the SSIC report “merely a hachet job”? I’ve read 100 pages of it so far; how many have you read? It is in fact an exhaustively researched and thoroughly documented account of a counterproductive intelligence-gathering program.

    Again I will ask: Did you read the SSIC report? Have you read any books about Guantánamo detainees? I can recommend four:

    * Lawless World by Philippe Sands
    * Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power by Joseph Margulies
    * Guantánamo: The War on Human Rights by David Rose
    * Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side by Clive Stafford Smith

    There are other books, as well as online sources. It’s very well documented that:

    1. Many innocent people were scooped up in Iraq and taken to Gitmo, where they were tortured.
    2. Those who did know something useful were far more likely to give it up when well treated.

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  43. Tom C. links to an article by Marc Thiessen, who quotes three POWs (Col. Bud Day, Col. Leo Thorsness, and Adm. Jeremiah Denton) as denying that waterboarding is torture. The article makes it clear that, for those three, waterboarding was less painful than the horrendous injuries they suffered as prisoners. What it doesn’t make clear is how much or how often they were waterboarded.

    Few people today hold that waterboarding is not torture. Christopher Hitchens did; then he underwent the procedure, and changed his mind. Bill O’Reilly also says it is not torture, but AFAIK he hasn’t “walked the walk.”

    Here’s something to ponder: The U.S. Army court-martialed and convicted one of its service members for waterboarding a North Vietnamese soldier. That was in 1968.

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