January 06, 2005

Gonzales and Torture Redux

I’ve been shellacked in the comments for trying to make Alberto Gonzales into a poster boy for torture. Since my critics pounced on me at the precise moment Gonzales came out strongly against torture in front of the Senate…allow me to back off for now. I’m not ready to exonerate the man without looking a bit deeper into this, but I will declare myself an agnostic.

However, I won’t climb down an inch in my opposition to torture. And I’m not talking about make-believe “torture,” I mean real actual torture, the kind Andrew Sullivan is talking about here:
Let's retire at the start the notion that the only torture that has been used by the U.S. has been against known members of al Qaeda. This is not true. Many innocent men and boys were raped, brutally beaten, crucified for hours (a more accurate term than put in "stress positions"), left in their own excrement, sodomized, electrocuted, had chemicals from fluorescent lights poured on them, forced to lie down on burning metal till they were unrecognizable from burns - all this in Iraq alone, at several prisons as well as Abu Ghraib. I spent a week reading all the official reports over Christmas for a forthcoming review essay. Abu Ghraib is but one aspect of a pervasive pattern of torture and abuse that, in my view, is only beginning to sink in.
If someone were to ask me where I think we ought to draw the line while interrogating prisoners, I couldn’t answer. I don’t know. A question like that isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Reasonable people can argue about it and, most likely, come up with a reasonable compromise. But I will say this: raping, electrocuting, and crucifying boys (or girls or adults or anyone else) absolutely is over the line.

The fracas in my comments section only seemed to prove (at least to me) one of Glenn Reynolds’ points: Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest. I’m sorry for “going there.” But I’m not sorry at all for saying that some things are over the line and that I don’t want them done in my name.

UPDATE: Please see The Belgravia Dispatch.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2005 05:45 PM
Comments

Michael,

A great example of the fair minded approach that I have come to expect from you. I found this City Journal article by Heather McDonald that posits a contrast to the view proposed by Anne Applebaum. I would note that Ms. McDonald names names and identifies specific situtations.

I join you in your abhorrence of torture and I believe that firm and clear parameters for the treatment of prisoners is a necessity in a just society. I would also note that Ms. McDonald's article is very clear in distinguishing allowable military interrogation techniques from the "black hole" of CIA operations.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 6, 2005 06:00 PM

The fracas in my comments section only seemed to prove (at least to me) one of Glenn Reynolds’ points: Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest. I’m sorry for “going there.”

No need to be 'sorry'.Everything is now going to be a partisan(I prefer intensely understood) 'bitch-fest'until either concensus is achieved or one side is vanquished.The current dynamic cannot survive,and is actually historically unstable.Neither your opinions,nor the direct mention of specific individuals is the causative factor.The 'political'system is decaying(on the Dem side anyway),and these system shocks will continue until it finally explodes.Sometimes the volcano returns to dormancy after a period of stress,but not this time.
It is a pity that reason cannot dictate reality,but it simply can't.I sympathise with you.Truly

ps---- This is still the best(most challenging) blog as far as I am concerned.Thanks again.

Posted by: dougf at January 6, 2005 06:04 PM

I dunno how it's playing in Peoria, but out here in Red America any hope for a debate on torture has been Daschled.

Comment by "Dub" at the coffee shop this afternoon: "He ain't a Democrat bein' appointed by a Democrat president. The rest of it's excuses and politics." Murmurs of agreement, some dubious, all around.

Regards,
Ric Locke

Posted by: Ric Locke at January 6, 2005 06:11 PM
had chemicals from fluorescent lights poured on them,

Here's what is in a fluorescent light:

The central element in a fluorescent lamp is a sealed glass tube. The tube contains a small bit of mercury and an inert gas, typically argon, kept under very low pressure. The tube also contains a phosphor powder, coated along the inside of the glass. http://home.howstuffworks.com/fluorescent-lamp2.htm

The military must have had to break a few hundred tubes to abuse one prisoner. Aunty Andrew might want to check his facts.

Posted by: jrdroll at January 6, 2005 06:14 PM

jrdoll,

I don't know, but it seems to me he probably means portable, chemiluminescent light sticks, the kind where you break a partition by bending, the chemicals mix, and the reaction causes light to be given off.

I'm embarrassed to say I don't know exactly what's in them (and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up right now), but from first principles I'd say any mixture with that much chemical energy bound up in it will probably feel very unpleasant in direct contact.

Posted by: JPS at January 6, 2005 06:55 PM

I spent a week reading all the official reports over Christmas for a forthcoming review essay. Abu Ghraib is but one aspect of a pervasive pattern of torture and abuse that, in my view, is only beginning to sink in.

What reports? Where are they? How does Sullivan get to see them? Show me the money.

Until then, I too am an agnostic.

Posted by: David at January 6, 2005 06:56 PM

If someone were to ask me where I think we ought to draw the line while interrogating prisoners, I couldn’t answer.

I could. Would you want a captured US citizen treated this way? I certainly wouldn't.

Jrdroll:

Sullivan's mistake was a matter of terminology. They weren't fluorescent lights, they were chemical lights and it was the phosphoric chemical that was poured on them. I couldn't find much in the way of warnings, except for this:

Chemical light producing devices contain RCRA listed hazardous materials. Used items must be disposed of as HW because of the listed RCRA waste components, unless they are determined to be non-hazardous by chemical analysis. At a minimum, EPA Solid Waste (SW) 846 Methods 8060 (phthalates) and TCLP organics are the recommended analyses. Expired shelf-life items may be disposed as surplus property through the DRMO. Shelf-life may also be extended for use in situations where performance is not critical. Shelf-life extension requests must be made through the supply- system.
Posted by: Randy Paul at January 6, 2005 07:08 PM

Michael:

I apologize for my language.

You have nothing to apologize about; the issue is vitally important and will have to be dealt with.

My angst eruption arises from the fact that our intercine political fighting and the media coverage pertaining to it are distracting us from why we are having to have this argument in the first place.

I do not support torture. I'm dead behind making a detainee's custody as humanly obnoxious and uncomfortable as is possible within civilized limits. Lights on at odd times? Fine. Barry Manilow at eleven on the volume dial for ten minutes followed by fifteen back- to- back renditions of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" at just above background noise level? By all means. Make the baseline existence condition as pathetic and uncertain and boring as is possible so there's room to grant minor priveliges for cooperation. Torture destroys both parties, Michael, and is a crappy tool, especially when used in a hurry.

If we had a guy with the keys to a nuclear mission in his head, I'd be all for drugs, too. That would be a SPECIAL CASE that would require a point decision.

The minstrel show surrounding the issue of toruture from the minority side begun with Abu Graihb and currently underway in the instance of Gonzalezs' hearing isn't a search for moral superiority, it's a pursuit - a desperate, ill- thought out, staggeringly transparent attempt to exploit the hazards inseperable from a civilized nation having to deal with custody of stateless barbarian psychopaths.

Our criminal element here at home has a term for the criminal justice experience. They aren't doing time anymore - they are going "in the system". Two, three, or fifteen times in front of a judge, behind wire, dealing with their probie, and they know exactly what to expect. Three hots, a cot, state subsidized education, conjugal visits, plentiful opportunities to garner support from groups outside if your crime fits certain PC agendas...

We can afford that. The proportion of career criminals to the general population is low enough that we tolerate recycling them again and again because the truly brutal criminals end up in for life or being victims themselves.

The Democrats are framing their argument on the eloquently unspoken and wholly fallacious premise that terrorists are criminals. Just like the ones we have here.

They are at the very best pirates. Stateless, bound by no treaties, unfettered by social mores even remotely related to anything we would recognise outside of a "B" movie Hannibal Lecter... and internationally active, funded by multiple state and private entities.

They make the vandals of Rome look like somebody we might do business with.

After fifty years of publishing their intent, killing with depressing regularity and succes dependent only on how many innocents decided to take a certain cruise, fly a certain airline, or simply show up for work the wrong day, you'ld think that anyone capable of opening a child- proof medicine bottle might just wake up to what combatting Islamoterror is going to take.

Not yet, apparently.

On a related note, I hear that Ms. McKinney complimented Mr. Moore as a "truth teller" on the house floor today.

Life is good. Very good.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 6, 2005 07:20 PM

Randy:

Thanks for doing the search I was too busy (read lazy) to do.

Your link lists:

"butanol, dimethyl phthalate, and dibutyl phthalate with a small percentage of hydrogen peroxide." It also states that no noticeable heat is generated in the luminescent reaction.

Odd list--none of those ingredients would particularly hurt on skin contact. Hydrogen peroxide can sting, but there has to be more than "a small percentage" for it to do so. I've spilled 30% on my fingers; it isn't pleasant but it doesn't hurt much.

I'm not defending the practice, by the way; but I'm a bit puzzled, and I'm wondering if this is psychological. Play on people's fear of CHEMICALS, in a way that won't actually do much damage, but would scare the hell out of someone who didn't know better.

Posted by: JPS at January 6, 2005 07:21 PM

Trivial note: My Merck Index concludes its description of dimethyl phthalate: "Not irritating to or absorbed through skin." As for butanol, it isn't literally rubbing alcohol, but it wouldn't feel much different. Just not as cold, as it evaporates more slowly.

I'm still puzzled by this one.

Posted by: JPS at January 6, 2005 07:25 PM

Sorry to keep posting, but I'm done being pedantic, and want to echo a point raised by den Beste.

I agree with you, Michael, that there should be a line, and that some acts, like the worst we've read about, should damned well be beyond it.

But I'm not at all sure I want our enemies to know it, and it might be dangerous to announce to the world exactly what we won't do.

I'll put it this way. I've never been through SERE training. The vague details I've heard and read, about how our guys are prepared for the possibility of capture and torture, sound pretty awful. I honestly don't know if I could take it--it would be an empty boast if I even speculated that I could.

But whether I could or not, I am pretty sure I would derive some comfort, during the ordeal, from the idea that however bad it may feel, these guys are not going to kill me. They're not going to maim me. They're not going to inflict any permanent harm. Would that be enough? Don't know, but it would be worth a lot.

And I don't want a captured terrorist to have that to cling to, that if he can just tough it out a little longer it'll all be OK. I do want us to be too decent to do some things, but I don't want him to know it. That may be absurd but so be it.

Posted by: JPS at January 6, 2005 07:38 PM

Randy,

What I mean is that I don't know precisely where the line is. Extreme abuse is obviously well over the line regardless of where I would actually draw it in the end. Didn't I make that clear?

If you're sure where, exactly, you would draw the line, why don't you tell us? I'd like to know. It's a hard question. What do you think is almost impermissible but still just barely okay? And what do you think only barely crosses that line but is almost okay?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2005 07:43 PM

Maybe I'm missing something obvious here, but I have yet to see a clear connection between the memos Gonzales was involved with, and the patent examples of abuse that did happen. The only forms of "torture" explicitly signed off by the Bush administration are very arguably not that at all-- sleep deprivation, loud music, isolation, and so on. The horrible incidents at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo seem to be a case of soldiers losing it and going off reservation, not following orders. Because time and again, they were subsequently punished for these incidents. (And these for incidents that were not publicized until now, so it doesn't makes sense that the punishment was military face-saving.) Here, read the Times' account, and someone tell me where the smoking gun of these abuses being Administration policy is supposed to be:

http://nytimes.com/2005/01/06/politics/06abuse.html?hp&ex=1105074000&en=85b18f9f7aef0632&ei=5094&partner=homepage

The Pentagon now says 137 military members have been disciplined or face courts-martial for abusing detainees. A separate federal investigation in Virginia is looking into possible abuses by civilians hired as interrogators. Several military investigations are still pending, including ones into the deaths of about a dozen detainees...

The earliest abuses on record in Iraq apparently came in May 2003. On May 15, two marines in Karbala held a 9-millimeter pistol to the head of a bound detainee while a third took a picture. One marine, according to military records, then poured a glass of water on the detainee's head. In June 2003, according to records, a marine ordered four Iraqi children who had been detained for looting to stand next to a shallow ditch, then fired a pistol in a mock execution.

In August, a marine put a match to a puddle of hand sanitizer that had spilled in front of an Iraqi detainee, igniting a flame that severely burned the detainee's hands.

In April of 2004, marines shocked detainees with wires from an electric transformer - "the detainee 'danced' as he was shocked," an investigative report said. And in June, Defense Intelligence agents reported members of a military Special Operations task force repeatedly punching a detainee in the face. The agents also reported finding prisoners with burn marks on their backs and complaining of kidney pain...

An agent in Iraq reported seeing military interrogators yelling at detainees, covering them with hoods and subjecting them to loud music. That went beyond acceptable F.B.I. practice, the agent wrote, but had been "authorized by the president under his executive order." An e-mail message from the agent made several references to President Bush's signing of an order allowing such techniques... [Yes, those techniques, but nothing about beating, fake executions, etc. -WJA]

Most of the 137 people who have been charged or disciplined, were members of the Army. Of those, 46 resulted in nonjudicial or administrative punishments, which generally mean fines or reductions in rank.

Fourteen marines have been convicted by courts-martial, including one who shocked a detainee with electrical wires. That marine was sentenced to one year's confinement. The marine who conducted the mock execution received a reduction in rank, 30 days' hard labor and 6 months' forfeiture of pay.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at January 6, 2005 07:47 PM

JPS: I do want us to be too decent to do some things, but I don't want him to know it. That may be absurd but so be it.

It's an interesting point. I'll have to think about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2005 07:48 PM

Michael, my answer was in my last post. I do not believe in treating more harshly than I would want my own citizens treated. Otherwise, how do you complain should one of your citizens be brutalized?

If it's information you want, most interrogators will tell you that torture is not the way to get it.Consider this: Ayman al Zawahiri was imprisoned and tortured by Egypt which has a brutal human rights record including systematized torture. Do you think that if he were captured he would fold? I don't think so.

In my job I often have to play good cop, bad cop (my employer litigates a great deal). I have found people respond to the good cop side a lot more readily.

As someone said in the comments section on this post, "Of course, anyone that is willing to die for their religious beliefs might not be all that well persuaded by torture."

Posted by: Randy Paul at January 6, 2005 08:11 PM

I tried to make a Halloween costume glow in the dark by pouring lightstick chemicals on them. Didn't hurt my skin any, but the stuff stank like hell. I wonder if part of the technique was telling the prisoner that something toxic or radioactive was being poured on him. Certainly someone unfamiliar with lightsticks might fall for this.

The original ACLU reports that seem to have set most of this off can be found here:

http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/fbi.html

Mostly I'm seeing news reports written from other news reports. Has anyone really gone over these in detail? Separated anecdote from confirmed fact?

Posted by: tbrosz at January 6, 2005 08:43 PM

Randy Paul, if your standard for treating prisoners is how our people are treated, you must be some sick, sadistic bastard.

No American would for an instant stand for treating prisoners the way our guys have been treated by our enemies for sixty years.

Now, I understand your point, but you missed BIG TIME that part of the real world which has to do with how our people are treated RIGHT NOW.

If I could offer some advice, it would be to lose the part about how our enemies treat our guys as some kind of standard.

You might say you'd prefer to treat our prisoners the way we'd like our folks to be treated in some ideal world which has no connection with this one.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at January 6, 2005 08:45 PM

Making this issue about a person (Bush or Gonzales) only turns the argument into a partisan bitch-fest.

Opposition to torture appears to be a partisan value.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 6, 2005 10:06 PM

"A crack interrogator from Afghanistan explains the psychological effect of stress:
"Let's say a detainee comes into the interrogation booth and he's had resistance training.
He knows that I'm completely handcuffed and that I can't do anything to him. If I throw a temper tantrum, lift him onto his knees, and walk out, you can feel his uncertainty level rise dramatically.
He's been told:
'They won't physically touch you,' and now you have. The point is not to beat him up but to introduce the reality into his mind that he doesn't know where your limit is."
.Grabbing someone by the top of the collar has had a more profound effect on the outcome of questioning than any actual torture could have, this Army reservist maintains.
"The guy knows: You just broke your own rules, and that's scary."
.temper tantrum

Posted by: Doug at January 6, 2005 10:09 PM

You are so incredibly naive sometimes. "I oppose torture" are very easy words to say, have been said over and over and over and over again since all this began, and accomplish and guarantee exactly nothing. He spent as much time defending the Bybee memo as criticizing it. He refused to even answer Feingold's question about whether there are any circumstances under which the President could override the anti-torture statute. (Read Chris Suellentrop's piece in Slate. Suellentrop is very far from a raving lefty.) He refused to answer any direct questions about his role in drafting that memo. The White House continues to stonewall on documents that Congress has been requesting since Abu Ghraib. Once they and Congressional Republicans pretended that they were working on the request, that there were no need for subpoenas because they would do it voluntarily. Now it is quite clear that they will never hand them over.

There is a certain point at which the understandable, even admirable desire to give your country and its leaders the benefit of the doubt becomes willful ignorance.

And if a topic that can cause a shouting match in blog comments is too sensitive for political debate, well, that doesn't leave many subjects we can talk about. How's the weather in Seattle? How about that Randy Johnson deal...actually, I fear that the hysteria of Yankee haters will only drive up the team's revenues and Red Sox fans will have only themselves to blame.

Posted by: Katherine at January 6, 2005 10:43 PM

Oh well, Michael is beaten back over Gonzales.

If liberal minded decent people can't stand up to people like Gonzales in the USA, things are slipping badly.

Entirely predictable of course. That is simply the inevitable course of this War on Terror.

Posted by: Benjamin at January 6, 2005 10:48 PM

I think part of what makes this difficult is that it's a continuum. Randy Paul offers no specifics, but let me offer some, to show how difficult it is. Here's a hypothetical conversation with a hypothetical guy on the street:

What should we be allowed to do? Interrogate people? Prevent them from speaking with each other? No problem. (Both are prohibited under the Geneva Convention.)

Rape people? Electrocute them? No way!

Put a cloth over their face and drip water on their forehead?

Hmmmmm.

It makes them really think they're drowning. Oh -- that's bad. Better not do that.

But what if they know where the nuclear weapon in New York City is? Well, in that case . . . actually, I'm okay even with raping them and electrocuting them in that case.

There are no easy answers. I agree with Randy Paul that people often respond better to the "good cop" routine. Does this apply to terrorists? I dunno.

I'm no expert on Gonzales and haven't read the torture memos, but from what I've read, it's clear that the Geneva Convention shouldn't apply to terrorists who don't follow the rules of war. My understanding is that that is primarily what Gonzales was assigned to analyze.

Now, whether it's a good idea to allow interrogation techniques that some might view as mild torture -- that's a different question entirely. I can see good diplomatic reasons to observe internally imposed constraints, regardless of the legal applicability of the Geneva Convention.

But I think it was rather beyond Gonzales's pay grade at the time.

Posted by: Patterico at January 6, 2005 11:13 PM

Colonel Stuart Herrington (ret), who was a military intelligence officer in Vietnam, found that torture did not produce reliable information. I defer to his experience, and also to the consideration that such tactics degrade the morale of one's own troops.

However, Col. Herrington was talking about beatings, primarily, not life-threatening or maiming exercises such as one associates with the Japanese in WWII, or the Gestapo, or right-wing death squads in El Salvador or Guatemala during the 1980s, or in Argentina, the Soviet Union, etc.

Which allegedly do often get accurate, swift results.

How far ought one go? I just don't feel qualified to answer. I don't want the military to be crippled or "overlawyered" (which I've read has already happened somewhat since Abu Ghraib) but neither do I want professional sadists as intelligence officers.

But when we have a Beslan or somesuch on American soil, will we have another Congressional Committee on television asking: Why didn't you know this was coming?

Posted by: miklos rosza at January 6, 2005 11:17 PM

Randy Paul,

"In my job I often have to play good cop, bad cop (my employer litigates a great deal). I have found people respond to the good cop side a lot more readily."

But is that true even if you ONLY play good cop, and NOBODY plays bad cop? I always understood that good cop, bad cop was all about making the good cop look sympathetic to the subject by contrast with the bad cop.

Posted by: UML Guy at January 7, 2005 01:05 AM

"If we had a guy with the keys to a nuclear mission in his head, I'd be all for drugs, too. That would be a SPECIAL CASE that would require a point decision."

Whats wrong with drugs? If we're looking for where to draw the line that seems on the OK side of the line to me.

I would also put on the OK side of the line 1)anything that involves trying to break down the person's ego - without making skin contact - which includes threats (e.g. to deport them to a country that actually does practice torture, threats to harm or torure their family members, leaving them in their own urine or excrement, nudity) and 2) anything that our own soldiers are forced to undergo themselves on the battlefield - which could include sleeping in cold places, being forced to assume uncomfortable physical positions for lengthy periods of time, gunshots fired at close range and so on. I have no problem with at minimum subjecting prisoners to conditions that we expect our own soldiers to withstand.

And drugs? Definitely drugs. I don't know much about "truth serum" and how effective it is but why don't our pharmaceutical companies have a stab at producing a reliable drug that breaks down ego barriers and gets people talking.

But crossing the skin barrier - burning, knives, rape, electrocution etc. - NOT OK.

That's my 2 cents if we're literally talking about where to draw the line. Its what I personally feel comfortable with.

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 01:24 AM

The problem here is that what makes headlines is amateur hour torture. Untrained people performing interrogations without the expertise needed, getting frustrated, and using violence in stupid ways. The abuses at Abu Gharib that got photographed were amateur hour and the US military paid for that lapse in training and professionalism. This behavior is dangerous because it ruins good troops for decades after the initial event, especially when it is not caught and corrected. This is something to be concerned with; but it can be corrected because this behavior is against the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and is obviously against the standard of behavior expected of troops.

What you should be afraid of is professional torture performed by experts at not getting away with illegal behavior. This is terrifying because it will not be performed by idiots who will get caught, and the behavior will seep into our professional intelligence gathering apparatus in ways that are undetectable and rewarded for being undetected. The consequence of this is not so much the torturers rising to higher political power within the security apparatus of the United States, but their being protected by those who do get advanced. Arguably, we are better served by having stress positions administered by people who are regularly analyzed, in exactly the same way our explosives experts are, than we are pretending it's never going to happen.

If any of the potential subjects of intentional physical and psychological abuse were acting in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, wearing uniforms, attacking solely military targets using military means, or fighting with any kind of honor, I would never consider asking for more than name, rank, and serial number. As it stands, my greatest concern is for the effect on our troops. Torturing suspects does extreme psychological trauma on those who do inflict the harm as well. Without an honest policy on torture, those traumatized by inflicting damage will not be treated.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at January 7, 2005 01:31 AM

Great. We have people discussing torture in gory detail.

You know, I woke up far too happy today. The sun was out, fresh air, spring in my step. Far too happy.

The solution? Reading Michael's blog. A daily diet of torture, war, and woe. People blowing each other to bits.

The antidote to Prozac.

Posted by: Benjamin at January 7, 2005 01:49 AM

Oh, I forgot this:

:-)

Give us a smile, Mike!

Posted by: Benjamin at January 7, 2005 01:52 AM

"Great. We have people discussing torture in gory detail."

It is an utterly disgusting topic that no moral person should even be forced to deal with. But if we don't discuss it, to whom will those decisions be left? Evil in the world presents a challenge that has to be confronted. Saddam Hussein for example. We could just as well discuss the actual effects of what bombs do to the human body - or bullets - when these are used in war. When someone invented those technologies they essentially sanctioned torture. We send our own soldiers into battle knowing that their bodies can be blown apart. Much much easier to just say yuk - I don't want to deal with this.

I will say that it is the very fact that torture actually goes on in so many brutal regimes that gives us some moral justification for overthrowing them. So we cannot cross a certain line. What is that line? I gave my opinion.

1. NO crossing the skin barrier!
2. If we expect our own troops to suffer certain hardships, then we can expect the same of our prisoners of war (unless you want to claim that we are torturing our own troops).
3. Threats and humiliation do not constitute torture.
4. Drugs that get people talking in my opinion are the most humane option if the goal is to get information that can save innocent lives.

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 03:38 AM

I should have stated at the outset that I am talking about enemy noncombatants in the WOT to which the Geneva conventions do not apply. Otherwise all of the above would be off the table.

OK enough for me. I did my duty and thought about it and stated my opinion. Torture is hands down the most distressing topic in the world. I'm shaking just typing this. I will now take my filthy self off to work and forget about it for awhile.

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 03:51 AM

Let's frame 'torture' in a relative frame, all right? A naked man who may be connected to the 3,000 deaths on 9-11-2001 is put into a dog collar and photographed, and that's wrong. But torture 3,000 unborn in the form of murder on one day and not one peep out of the MSM.

Posted by: James C. Hess at January 7, 2005 04:31 AM

huh?

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 04:38 AM

Our enemy decapitates captured Americans, hangs burned bodies from bridges, hacks off arms and legs from innocent women before TV cameras for all the world to see.

Yet, people find the American approach over the line? Some of thoses approaches have yet to be proven factually accurate in implementation.

The worst thing American interrogators have done thus far has been to recreate Robert Mapplethorpe's artistic photography.

Posted by: syn at January 7, 2005 05:17 AM

Afterthought - water (as in waterboarding, or the drip drip Chinese thing) doesn't break the skin barrier. Neither does near choking. Neither does hanging someone upside down. But none of those are things that our troops might encounter in the context of normal battlefield hardships either. So they fall in between. Clearly my skin barrier guide breaks down here. Also, maybe some people are more afraid of being waterboarded than being sodomized or burnt. OK - this is getting downright Orwellian...

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 05:27 AM

Opposition to torture appears to be a partisan value.

Kimmit,

Any effort at all against terrorism appears to be a partisan value. You name it, the Dems oppose it. Like Michael said, nobody listens to the boy who cries wolf anymore.

Posted by: David at January 7, 2005 05:50 AM

"Our enemy decapitates captured Americans, hangs burned bodies from bridges, hacks off arms and legs from innocent women before TV cameras for all the world to see.

Yet, people find the American approach over the line?"

Assuming what constitutes the paramters of what is allowed for Americans as anything short of death or organ failure, isn't it possible to consider both over the line.

We all know that our enemy is constituted of backward barbarians, maybe they aren't exactly an accurate guage of what we should compare ourselves too.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 05:51 AM

"Many innocent men and boys were raped, brutally beaten, crucified for hours (a more accurate term than put in "stress positions"), left in their own excrement, sodomized, electrocuted, had chemicals from fluorescent lights poured on them, forced to lie down on burning metal till they were unrecognizable from burns - all this in Iraq alone, at several prisons as well as Abu Ghraib."

I agree that such methods would constitute torture and are abhorrent. Andrew is making a very serious accusation, an accusation that would be irresponsible to make unless he has evidence to back it up. If he has that evidence, he needs to disclose it.

I agree that we should not engage in torture, not just because of the fact that it is inhuman, but also do to the dehumanizing effect on the torturer (i.e., us) as well as the fact that information gained in torture may not be reliable. However, not all aggressive interrogation techniques constitute torture and the debate we really need to be having is over what is torture. What happened at Abu Graib was wrong, but I an not convinced it was torture.

Also, before you can hold Bush or Gonzales responsible for torture, it must first be shown that torture occurred and that it was policy to administer torture (or at least that senior leadership knew of it and acquiesced in it). That torture occurs is not enough as there will always be a certain level misconduct among the troops, even to the point of committing atrocities. When these instances of misconduct occur, the question is how the senior leadership reacted to them when they learned of them.

Posted by: Atlanta Lawyer at January 7, 2005 05:51 AM

Ah, the beauty of taking a purely legalistic position on torture and the GC: you get to say that you never actually advocated using torture or violating the GC, you were just making the legal point that we could if we wanted to.

Posted by: too many steves at January 7, 2005 05:54 AM

Michael- You really don't have anything to apologize for in taking a hard swipe at Gonzales. His role in "crafting" that policy is well documented at this point, and there is no denying that policy has hurt our standing in the War on Terror. There are plenty- including on this message board- who rationalize our torture by pointing at our enemy's wickedness, but that is an absurd argument to make. Aside from being morally bankrupt, its completely irrelevant. The people tortured at Abu Ghraib were not from al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. They were regular inmates who were being "punished" for fighting with eachother.

Beyond the torture issue, though, Gonzales is still a poor nominee. Everyone who has looked at his legal writings has come away disapointed. He's like Clarence Thomas- good story, bad mind. Did you see the hearings yesterday? He was evasive, condescending and snide, and whenever he had to answer a tough question he would just hide behind the Department of Justice for cover.

Posted by: Christopher at January 7, 2005 06:10 AM

Courtesy of Frank J. at IMAO,a fair and balanced attempt to establish reasonable guidelines for coercive behaviour.
Should we need to 'interrogate'some misunderstood 'terrorist'---

* He will be asked to "please" give us information.
* If no information is given, he will then be asked to "pretty please" give us information.
* If there is still no response, he will finally be asked to "pretty please with sugar on top" give us information.
* Any further requesting would be badgering and could be construed as torture. If given court approval, though, the interrogator could offer to be the terrorist's "very best friend" in exchange for information

Just trying to help.

Posted by: dougf at January 7, 2005 06:26 AM

Alot of help that was. That stuff may go over great at Freerepublic, but let's try to keep it at adult levels and real discussion over at Totten's site, that is if you have anything realistic to contribute.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 06:29 AM

Alot of help that was. That stuff may go over great at Freerepublic, but let's try to keep it at adult levels and real discussion over at Totten's site, that is if you have anything realistic to contribute--Epitome

There is NO possibility of concensus or even agreement to disagree on this issue,and therfore the best solution is to drop the whole thing.Whatever I say or you say will make neither of us agree with the other or even reconsider our positions.In that context,there is no such thing as 'adult'levels.It is merely a question of lesser or greater 'sophistication'in the presentation of the value systems.What Frank J.'s piece perfectly illustrates is why SERIOUS coercive actions WILL be taken whether we like it or not.The object is HOW FAR to go.If there is another 9-11---- the HOW FAR will be VERY FAR indeed.
Don't believe me?
Follow this thread.It will end up exactly like the previous effort.Two 'worlds'talking at but not with each other,and the pattern will be repeated ad infinitum,until one side prevails.

Posted by: dougf at January 7, 2005 06:50 AM

"There are plenty- including on this message board- who rationalize our torture by pointing at our enemy's wickedness, but that is an absurd argument to make. Aside from being morally bankrupt, its completely irrelevant. The people tortured at Abu Ghraib were not from al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. They were regular inmates who were being "punished" for fighting with eachother."(Christopher)

In talking about torture I am only talking about eliciting information from people we have good reason to expect actually KNOW information that can be used to save innocent lives. I thought the purpose of this discussion was to state what we thought was acceptable in such situations - not to suggest that we should willy nilly drag people in off the street and subject them to all kinds of hardships. So the first question is - what do the rules of evidence need to be to establish that someone may even have such information? Secondly, what is your evidence that all of the people cited by Andrew Sullivan as tortured were not in any way connected with the insurgency (you know - those people who have been blowing up innocent people left and right for well over a year now)?

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 06:52 AM

"There is NO possibility of concensus or even agreement to disagree on this issue,and therfore the best solution is to drop the whole thing.Whatever I say or you say will make neither of us agree with the other or even reconsider our positions.In that context,there is no such thing as 'adult'levels.It is merely a question of lesser or greater 'sophistication'in the presentation of the value systems.What Frank J.'s piece perfectly illustrates is why SERIOUS coercive actions WILL be taken whether we like it or not.The object is HOW FAR to go.If there is another 9-11---- the HOW FAR will be VERY FAR indeed.
Don't believe me?
Follow this thread.It will end up exactly like the previous effort.Two 'worlds'talking at but not with each other,and the pattern will be repeated ad infinitum,until one side prevails."

Fair enough. And you're right, if another 9/11 happens this discussion is mute anyways.

The original post actually was funny, I just have a partisan bug up my ass.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 07:58 AM

Seems to me the heart of the problem is revealed in Michael's comment:

"If someone were to ask me where I think we ought to draw the line while interrogating prisoners, I couldn’t answer. I don’t know."

Unfortunately, that is unacceptable. You can't criticize people for trying to figure out what the line is if you yourself are unwilling to define it. The hearing yesterday was full of people willing to criticize others on specifics but unwilling to offer some constructive alternative.

Yes some things, like raping or mutilating someone, are obviously wrong and cannot be condoned. But many critics, including Sullivan, lump these in with other, less obviously cruel acts (he puts raping boys and leaving someone in their own excrement in the same lists and labels them equally as torture).

The point is, it is easy to say what is over the line. What is harder is to say what is within the lines, and most critics seem to either shrink from defining what is in the line or, like Sullivan, lump in all manner of things so as to make drawing the line meaningless. Unfortunately, neither approach does much to help resolve the pressing question of how we should act when trying to win the fight against a highly motivated and violent enemy.

Posted by: Hacksaw at January 7, 2005 08:05 AM

LSD was originally thought by CIA to be a possible truth serum, but proved unreliable (uh, no kidding). Sodium pentothal is the only other substance I've heard of as a possibility but that's years ago and there may be something new by now.

Ecstasy, or Ketamine, or GHB -- who knows? But when the drug just acts to superrelax all inhibitions, that doesn't mean you'll tell the truth.

Just as, interestingly, polygraphs were found to be worthless when used on Vietnamese (and other Asians). Some of these matters are cultural in ways hard to pin down.

Posted by: miklos rosza at January 7, 2005 08:16 AM

I agree with Michael Totten right down the line.

About defining torture, what we have to do is define acceptable treatment of prisoners. That isn't so hard, we've tended to do it for civilian prisoners already. But when it's people we want to interrogate they shouldn't be allowed to talk to each other because we don't want them to coordinate their stories and we don't want them to find out things from each other. Also we don't want them to talk to common criminals who might be released soon since the criminals are likely to send messages to the other insurgents. So we need to do something about solitary confinement which is generally considered a harsh punishment.

It's OK to withhold addictive drugs from prisoners who happen to be addicted to them, but health-threatening withdrawal symptoms deserve medical care. So it's OK to withhold tobacco from prisoners who don't talk, and give them to prisoners who do. But it isn't OK to addict prisoners to drugs they weren't already addicted to.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 7, 2005 08:40 AM

Is there a sanctioned list of tactics approved by the army that we can put a checkmark by?

I don't mind sleep deprivation, psychological abuse, putting a hood on a guy ,throwing him in the back of a truck and driving around bumpy areas. Heck, maybe I watch too much NYPD blue, but I wouldn't even especially care if a terrorist was hit in the face with a phone book provided the nose and teeth weren't broken. But things like drowning, suffocation, repeated striking, cutting, burning, anything involving dentistry, extended periods of malnourishment or dehydration or even something as passive as leaving someone in excrement make me twinge.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 08:47 AM

Well, the usual partisan dogfight.

There is a difference between torture and effective interrogation. The grey are between them are things like disorientation, psychological pressure, minor slapping around, etc. I've posted the link before (and here it is again) to Mark Bowden's article "The Dark Art of Interrogation" in The Atlantic, it's a worthwhile read, and it covers a lot of what is being talked about here.

And just to flame out the strawmen that are being thrown up - I'm not opposed to interrogation that involves scaring the interroagtee, nor am I suggesting that everything be pretty please. I expect that high-value intelligence al-Qaeda prisoners are going to be subjected to a variety of uncomfortable situations in order to disorient them and adjust their mental attitude to the point where they'll share information. That is, after all, far more effective than shooting electricity through them, as all you'll get from that is them telling you whatever it is that they think will make you stop, true or not.

What this discussion is about is the appointment as AG by the current administration of the man responsible for saying that any torture was legal as long as it didn't kill the interrogatee. And that sends a pretty bad message.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 7, 2005 08:49 AM

Damn, Atalantic has made that article subscriber-only. Too bad, it was very good, especially the interviews with the Israeli interrogators, who amazed me with their professionalism and big bag of techniques they use without resorting to torture.

Note - if ever interrogated by Israelis, I think it would just save a lot of time to tell them everything you know. They're unlikely to hurt you (much), but they're extremely tricky.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at January 7, 2005 08:54 AM

The discussion regarding torture is an important one, and in my view a total no-brainer. But please keep one thing in mind. The war on terror is a different kind of war, a multifaceted war. Intelligence is key. Loose lips sink ships, and all that. Right this moment people in our government know about very specific threats to our lives that we couldn’t possibly ever dream of, but they must be kept secret from the public if we ever want to thwart our enemies. Trust me, for safety’s sake, they’re keeping a tight lid on information vital to our security.

They know more than the average citizen does, so it’s very hard for us to judge them without having all the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions without all the information. This is exactly what you’re doing if you come out against torture in this war. You’re being presumptuous and childish. You’re letting your emotions get the better of you. You can’t accurately gauge the situation without all the information. If the rumors about Gonzales are true, he may very well deserve a medal for all we know.

I only hope that in the future our government can be a little more discreet than they have been with regards to their treatment of prisoners.

And a word to those of you making a big stink out off all this, you’re only shooting yourself in the foot by doing so. The American people are against you, and so is the course of history.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at January 7, 2005 09:17 AM

Epitome,

The DoD has guidelines used for training in what is called the SEREs program. The R in SERE is resistance and the program is used to train those likely to fall into enemy hands. Using methods that are used on our own forces meets what for me is the critical standard of "do nothing to your neighbor that you would not wish done to yourself".

The issue of the amount of coercion permissible is actually moral/ethical in nature rather than legal. Any legal twaddle that does not address first principles is simply CYA (as was the Bybee memo - and the UN Convention). This issue (like most moral/ethical issues) should not be debated on the basis of exceptional example (ticking bomb) but on the day to day occurences involving the brutality of warfare. The fact that we are fighting savages does not require that we descend into savagery.

Anyone concerned that SEREs techniques would be too gentle should investigate prior to commenting.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at January 7, 2005 09:29 AM

"Many innocent men and boys were raped...."

First, I doubt if this was part of the "torture" or that it was organized and approved from above. Second, and not to defend rape, but who says these people were innocent? Is this innocent in the sense of completely blameless, or innocent because they had not yet been found guilty?

We keep hearing that there's worse, much worse, stuff to come, and yet somehow it never seems to arrive.

Coming down against rape as torture is hardly controversial. Where do you stand on waterboarding, or the "stress positions" that Sullivan says amount to crucifiction?

Posted by: Pat Curley at January 7, 2005 10:17 AM

I humbly offer the following empirical observation: when you break a fluorescent light element, a considerable amount of white powder (several teaspoons' worth) falls out.

Posted by: dipnut at January 7, 2005 10:56 AM

"Using methods that are used on our own forces meets what for me is the critical standard of "do nothing to your neighbor that you would not wish done to yourself"." (Rick)

I take it by that you mean what WE do to our own forces in training. If that's what you meant I am in 100% agreement.

Also, scrolling through the comments, there appear to be many objections to torture at all because so many innocents were picked up in "sweeps" and then subsequently tortured at Abu Ghraib as against those who couldn't care less what happened at Abu Ghraib because we're fighting an enemy who isn't complying with the GC.

If we are talking seriously about where to draw the line, then the extent of torture permitted has to bear some relationship to the circumstantial evidence linking the prisoner to an actual crime. After all we are essentially proceeding to administer the punishment, in absence of a trial. So it is legitimate to go much farther with the "insurgent" in the photo who was caught RED-HANDED planting a car bomb, then it is to go with the first guy he fingers if he succumbs to the torture. Unless there is some other evidence to link the guy he fingers to any crime (otherwise its just hearsay).

So a key question is, who decides the status of the prisoner in this regard? Hopefully not the lone interrogator. It has to be decided by certain a priori rules of evidence which are then linked to specific "levels" to which the torture/punishment can be taken. Who sets these rules? (i.e. level 1 evidence can never merit higher than level 1 torture and so on).

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 11:13 AM

Everybody's high and mighty when talking about torture in a vacuum. It's so easy to be righteous.

But war isn't in a vacuum. Someday we will be confronted by the ticking bomb scenario, and at stake will be the lives of tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in a dense metropolitan setting. And then what? Whatcha gonna do? Read him his Miranda rights?

Here's where the self-righteous academic types who theorize from their ivory towers punt. Your answers don't work in the real world.

Posted by: David at January 7, 2005 12:03 PM

You know, democrats love to torture the US economy, but heaven forbid anyone use sleep deprivation on a terrorist. No sir, no panties on the head, no physical discomfort. Spare no expense to make jihadi murderers comfortable.

Meanwhile torture the US economy to death, if possible. Torture US taxpayers to within an inch of their subsistence. Thanks, dems. Now I know why I stopped voting for you after twenty years.

Posted by: Conrad at January 7, 2005 12:05 PM

There is too much sanctimonious BS flying around. Go to the frontlines you turkeys. See just how far you would go.

From belmontclub.blogspot.com:

Donald Sensing has a long post on the recent destruction of a 36-ton Bradley in Iraq resulting in the death of all 7 occupants. If a suspect is found, what technique should be be used to discover where the other mines are planted? The ridiculous "16 approaches" method reviled by Heather MacDonald's interviewees, even now watered down? Or the rapes and crucifixion system which by common consent is torture? Is there is nothing in between? How did we get to where the only choices are between the impractical and the inadmissible? Possibly by the route of partisan politics; at hearings where you may either recite the Boy Scout Pledge or the Green Lantern Oath; where the failure to supply answers never got in the way of uttering a good platitude; where votive candles burn and still burn before the letter of Geneva and the practice of rendition; and people weep at a grave alone.

Posted by: Blythe at January 7, 2005 12:25 PM

Addendum to previous post: By this logic there are certain people for whom the evidence is overwhelming - including UBL himself and Zarqawi. Level 5's as it were. For them I am even willing to break the skin barrier rule to get information. An enemy combatant picked up in Fallujah holding an AK-47 merits a different rank than an unarmed person picked up in a sweep. An individual who many prisoners individually finger (even though this is hearsay) merits a different rank than someone fingered by a lone individual. We used waterboarding on Kaleid Sheik Mohammed (no idea how to spell that) and I am OK with that. But I would not be OK with doing that to someone picked up on the basis of hearsay evidence from another captured prisoner. I think that partly what troubles us with the evidence of torture we’ve seen to date is that we are largely in the dark regarding who these people were, what the quality of evidence was linking them to the insurgency and so on. And of course the better the quality of evidence against them, presumably the more likely they are to actually have useful information. No one wants to see level 1 evidence met with level 3 interrogation, not only because the guy may not have done anything, but he also probably doesn’t know anything. So it is both cruel and useless.

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 12:25 PM

When you have to quote Andrew Sullivan's opinion on anything to make a point, you start dropping of my list of blogs.

Posted by: Xixi at January 7, 2005 12:26 PM

Conrad, you have my vote for posting the silliest comment on this thread - and that's saying something.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at January 7, 2005 12:27 PM

Caroline,

that seems emminently reasonable and rational. Thus, torture would be warranted in some circumstances but not in others. You must not be a Liberal-- you're too logical.

How stupid is the blanket assertion that torture is NEVER warranted when such a position is going to get people killed? Very. Leave it to the approval-seeking idealists who basically live to pat themselves on the back.

Posted by: David at January 7, 2005 12:29 PM

Double-Plus_Ungood
Gonzales didn't write the terror memo, he just asked for it. I also don't know if any other memo's with different positions were written. I have read this memo was rejected and it never became official policy. Which should make the memo irrelevant but this is politics and facts don't necessarily matter.

Posted by: RSwan at January 7, 2005 12:35 PM

So it is both cruel and useless---Caroline

And here you have it.The reason why this debate is both endless and fruitless.For reasonable people such as Caroline,MJT,and the rest of us,the issue is one of 'utility'.It is morally repugant to support or worse engage in 'torture',but 'needs must when the devil drives',and we are not interested in martydom or in sacrificing our loved ones for 'objective'perfect rightness.For others,such as DPU and Epitome(I only use you guys because I know where you are coming from based on previous posts),continued existence at the price of 'dirtying'your hands,is not acceptable.But as I remarked to DPU earlier,very few people will volunteer to be butchered if there is any available option to avoid that fate.So saying that you would prefer to lose rather than do the dirty is just not a viable solution.
On the utility front,I am not at all convinced that the Gestapo, or the KGB,or the Egyptian security police were NOT effective.I have the suspicion that they were VERY effective.As I see it the object is too be that effective,without resorting to pulling out fingernails as standard operating procedure.
How we get there is beyond my capabilities,but getting there is absolutely neccessary for victory.Absolutely neccessary.

Posted by: dougf at January 7, 2005 12:46 PM

So saying that you would prefer to lose rather than do the dirty is just not a viable solution.

They only say that because in their minds they aren't in danger. But if it was their lives that were at stake, and their very existence immediately depended on extracting some bit of information from a terrorist, you'd see how quickly the "idealists" would change their tune. Like pacifism, mindless idealism only works in a vacuum (or similarly, in the mind of a Liberal).

Posted by: David at January 7, 2005 12:53 PM

Andrew has created another former fan with this:

And we wonder why we have all but lost this war.

Don't know about the Coalition, but IMHO, Andrew's definitely lost it. Buh bye big guy.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 7, 2005 01:34 PM

Xixi: When you have to quote Andrew Sullivan's opinion on anything to make a point, you start dropping of my list of blogs.

Get the hell out of here then. Your comments aren't welcome.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2005 02:22 PM

Sullivan's so full of hatred for the hetero middle-class that I wonder why I used to read him regularly. If only we had the self-control and self-discipline the gay community has shown the last couple decades...

Posted by: Raymond at January 7, 2005 02:25 PM

As a public service I borrowed this from Ace of Spades.I urge all of you to visit his site(http://www.ace.mu.nu/) as a reward for posting this little gem.Not going to change any minds but frankly I don't really care to at this point.I always thought it was EFFECTIVE.Unpleasant,brutal,savage,regrettable,possibly immoral,but EFFECTIVE.
_________________________________________________
A Nasty Business
(published in the Atlantic Monthly, January 2002)
Gathering "good intelligence" against terrorists is an inherently brutish enterprise, involving methods a civics class might not condone. Should we care?
...
I cannot use his real name, so I will call him Thomas. However, I had been told before our meeting, by the mutual friend—a former Sri Lankan intelligence officer who had also long fought the LTTE—who introduced us (and was present at our meeting), that Thomas had another name, one better known to his friends and enemies alike: Terminator. My friend explained how Thomas had acquired his sobriquet; it actually owed less to Arnold Schwarzenegger than to the merciless way in which he discharged his duties as an intelligence officer. This became clear to me during our conversation.
"By going through the process of laws," Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, "you cannot fight terrorism."
Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly "terrorizing" the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent.
Thomas had little confidence that I understood what he was saying. I was an academic, he said, with no actual experience of the life-and-death choices and the immense responsibility borne by those charged with protecting society from attack.
Accordingly, he would give me an example of the split-second decisions he was called on to make. At the time, Colombo was on "code red" emergency status, because of intelligence that the LTTE was planning to embark on a campaign of bombing public gathering places and other civilian targets. Thomas's unit had apprehended three terrorists who, it suspected, had recently planted somewhere in the city a bomb that was then ticking away, the minutes counting down to catastrophe.
The three men were brought before Thomas. He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists—highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation—remained silent. Thomas asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved.
So Thomas took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved.
On other occasions, Thomas said, similarly recalcitrant terrorists were brought before him. It was not surprising, he said, that they initially refused to talk; they were schooled to withstand harsh questioning and coercive pressure. No matter: a few drops of gasoline flicked into a plastic bag that is then placed over a terrorist's head and cinched tight around his neck with a web belt very quickly prompts a full explanation of the details of any planned attack .

Posted by: dougf at January 7, 2005 02:36 PM

Quoting Caroline: "So the first question is - what do the rules of evidence need to be to establish that someone may even have such information? Secondly, what is your evidence that all of the people cited by Andrew Sullivan as tortured were not in any way connected with the insurgency (you know - those people who have been blowing up innocent people left and right for well over a year now)?"

Regarding the first question you ask, what I said was that those abused that night at Abu Ghraib were prisoners, arrested for common crimes, who were in temporary isolation for fighting amongst themselves. Your question, written almost in an exasperated tone, about what standard of evidence needs to be established to determine someone is of "value" to the intelligence community is a silly one. In justifying what happened at Abu Ghraib with that question, you are implicitly saying that "they" are all terrorists until proven innocent. Ridiculous.

Regarding my "evidence" about what happened at Abu Ghraib, I would refer you to any of the (is it 9?) government reports already published on the topic. There are another 3 forthcoming, as well. This is the evidence Sullivan was citing from, too, I believe. Its part of the public record.

Posted by: Christopher at January 7, 2005 02:50 PM

Michael, I think you were being a harsh with Xixi. (You've put up with much worse from Kimmit, and unless I've missed something he's still welcome here.) Andrew really did lose me today, precisely because, IMHO, he's become knee-jerk anti-administration. I'm deeply uncomfortable with the coercive interrogation stories coming out. But do we really want a witch-hunt? (Torture is one of those discussion-killing words, so I'm going to stop using it for a while.) Andrew is in full witch-hunt mode, and I think that's counterproductive. But again, that's just my opinion.

I used to read Andrew all the time, then not so much. His writing hasn't seemed like honest criticism since FMA poisoned Sullivan's well of good will. And for me today's little piece of demagoguery was the last straw. Now I'll go to his site if someone whose opinion I respect quotes-and-links, but otherwise I've given up on him.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 7, 2005 02:53 PM

The circumstance should dictate the action. The Abu Ghraib situation was intolerable not for it's brutality, but for it's stupidity...it's amateurishness. Mindless brutality = evil. Brutality employed against an A-Q operative by dispassionate professionals to stop a terrorist act and save innocent lives is not evil. The innocent life saved might be your own child.

What would you do to save a child's life? How about your own child? The use of torture is relative to the value of the information you might get. Therefore torture should be reserved for those who we're sure have critical information. I'd prefer not to hamstring the pros too much on this. The next 9/11 one of us right here might be treated to a snuff film starring his own loved ones. I'd like that to be prevented if possible.

-z

Posted by: rikzilla at January 7, 2005 02:55 PM

"Sullivan's so full of hatred for the hetero middle-class that I wonder why I used to read him regularly. If only we had the self-control and self-discipline the gay community has shown the last couple decades..."

I can't recall any pieces where Sullivan bashes the "Hetero middle-class" while exemplifying the superior virtues of the gay community. Probably because there aren't any. It is clear that you have serious gay related issues to work through.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 03:00 PM

"Therefore torture should be reserved for those who we're sure have critical information."

If used at all, then certainly only in these circumstances.

Posted by: Epitome at January 7, 2005 03:04 PM

Mark Poling: Michael, I think you were being a harsh with Xixi. (You've put up with much worse from Kimmit, and unless I've missed something he's still welcome here.)

If you don't want to read Sullivan, that's your prerogative. There are people I also choose not to read any more. (Sullivan isn't one of them.) But I will not be bullied by someone in my comments section who threatens to take me off their reading list if I don't conform to a blacklist.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2005 03:08 PM

Well, thanks for considering our argument/s.

Of course that stuff is actual torture and criminal. Not getting any argument from me over these examples...

I'm just think the democrats are trying to claim that by not treating prisions as captured troops under the full protection of GC he caused the illegal abuses. I don't buy that that argument.

Posted by: Thomas at January 7, 2005 03:44 PM

“You must not be a Liberal-- you're too logical.”

I do think that liberals tend to speak from the heart and conservatives from the head. Both are equally valuable but I have concluded that I am neither or both – the labels just get in the way of solving the problems we face.

I hate to be redundant in bringing up the legal analogy but if ever there was a case where it applied – this is it. The fact that the Geneva Conventions do not apply in the WOT is incontrovertible. That also means that our own military has to act as jury, judge and executioner (so to speak – substitute “torturer”). If you randomly chose a jury of 12 ordinary citizens – soap-opera watchers, day-traders, school teachers and so on plus one judge – are they better equipped to determine the proper punishment (i.e.degree of “torture/interrogation”) than our military is? There is a great risk in making the guidelines so sanitary that our troops are tempted to take matters into their own hands. I can imagine the frustration that our troops would feel if their POW’s were expected to be treated better than they are on any average day of the week. So the level of punishment (and isn’t torture ultimately punishment?) has to be proportional to the crime. And how do you determine that someone has even committed a crime except by evidence? Mostly circumstantial evidence actually. The punishment should never exceed what a reasonable jury would meet out based on the evidence linking the person to the alleged crime. Whether or not the person has any useful information that could prevent further civilian deaths is quite probably usefully linked to the same evidence linking the prisoner to any wrongdoing in the first place. Therefore – justice served plus utility of information gathered – are likely to be highly correlated. I think that is the guideline we could usefully follow in determining where to draw a reasonable line vis a vis “torture”. If it turns out that there is no information to be gathered – at least our collective consciences can rest easy that our punishment never exceeded what was merited based on the evidence of guilt in the first place. That's what I can live with...

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 03:47 PM

I'm opposed to using torture in the prosecution of the war, except maybe as exemplary punishment for prominent enemy leaders (think al-Zarqawi, Saddam Hussein).

I think everyone is barking up the wrong tree. We hear of torture and abuse going on in American military prisons; and there's an ongoing debate about how roughly we are willing to treat enemy combatants in order to get information. The two aren't related in practice.

Almost none of the atrocities we have heard about had anything to do with interrogation, or with prosecuting the war. They weren't done in anybody's name. This is plain-old Prison Violence, and it's very difficult to get a handle on.

More here.

Posted by: dipnut at January 7, 2005 03:54 PM

"Almost none of the atrocities we have heard about had anything to do with interrogation, or with prosecuting the war. They weren't done in anybody's name. This is plain-old Prison Violence, and it's very difficult to get a handle on." (dipnut)

Exactly - these were irrational acts. That fact cannot be used to discredit the viability of DEVELOPING a rational/humanitarian coda as it were - for dealing with the issue of "torture" - as it relates to the issue of how to deal with POW's captured in the WOT (given that the GC clearly do not apply). Forget the past. Forget Abu Ghraib. Obviously Abu Ghraib was FUBAR. Where do we go from here?

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 04:19 PM

I dunno, Mark Poling. I think Sullivan is a sophist (stopped reading him a year ago), but I don't think Mr. Totten was overly harsh to Xixi. The difference with Kimmitt is that Kimmitt is cute, harmless, effete - almost endearing. He presents a caricature of a slice of morality too simplistic and campy to be of concern. Xixi's comment was an offensive clunker. It's hard to explain the difference.

Posted by: Jim at January 7, 2005 04:54 PM

That fact cannot be used to discredit the viability of DEVELOPING a rational/humanitarian coda as it were - for dealing with the issue...

Very nice idea, and it should be done. But drafting guidelines won't prevent torture. All those tortures Sullivan decries were, and are, illegal; and the perpetrators knew it.

I know I come off as a cynic. Trouble is, the kind of reform needed to address this is beyond my power to imagine. I've tried, without creating much confidence in myself.

Posted by: dipnut at January 7, 2005 04:54 PM

I agree with the other poster that what we're getting is a circus.

Abu Ghraib was a lapse of discipline, made worse by senior Commanders (Sanchez, Pappas, Fast, Karpinski) not delineating responsibility or caring much. That was a MILITARY failure, but "protected class" hispanics and female officers can't and won't be held responsible by either Bush or the Dems in Congress. That's just the way it is. Much easier to attack Gonzalez for something he had nothing to do with.

What's needed is a firm drawing of the lines in two areas: 1. Treatment of prisoners; 2. Questioning of Prisoners.

For example, one of the 9/11 Al Queda conspirators was shot in the groin in Pakistan when apprehended. The US withheld painkillers from him, after a lengthy CIA/FBI battle (the CIA won), and promised painkillers ONLY if he gave up the locations of co-conspirators which he did. We nabbed several, in the Gulf, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

Is this under policy? Dems are suggesting that ALL prisoners be given Geneva Convention status. Under this policy these folks would still be out there; potentially killing Americans. Refusing to use ugly methods of questioning that fall short of classic Gestapo torture means eventually you WILL trade innocent lives for a "clean policy." Please note that "renditions" to other countries who WILL torture enthusiastically started under Clinton according to Scheuer.

We also are all over the map in treatment of prisoners. Connected rich white guys like "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh get civil trials, Padilla gets some sort of military tribunal (if we can ever figure it out), other guys get released based on home country pressure (and go on to kidnap and kill Chinese engineers in Pakistan for Al Queda). We have NO consistent policy, something that speaks to Bush's BIG consistent weakness ... making policy on ad-hoc seat of the pants decisions.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 7, 2005 04:58 PM

His writing hasn't seemed like honest criticism since FMA poisoned Sullivan's well of good will.

Yeah, it's been an absolute blast watching Sully suddenly realize that the kind of intolerance he espoused could be turned against him.

You read Sully with popcorn; it's a well-written peek into the subconscious of a very unexamined mind. This is as it always has been.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 7, 2005 05:04 PM

"But drafting guidelines won't prevent torture."

Then there is no preventing torture period. However you define it. End of conversation. Unless you propose a NO WAR policy. And even then, what do you do about Saddam Hussein's notorious torture? For that matter, what do you do about men beating their wives - so endemic in the Islamic world but quite common here as well? Are you not simply avoiding this unpleasant issue altogether? That's not really cynicism is it? Isn't it better descibed as avoidance?

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 05:07 PM

Any effort at all against terrorism appears to be a partisan value.

Please show me the party-line vote where the Democratic Party voted against the intervention in Afghanistan, you lying sack. After that, explain to me precisely what Bush did that was superior to what Clinton did before Dear Leader allowed the worst terrorist attack in US history on his watch.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 7, 2005 05:13 PM

"For example, one of the 9/11 Al Queda conspirators was shot in the groin in Pakistan when apprehended. The US withheld painkillers from him, after a lengthy CIA/FBI battle (the CIA won), and promised painkillers ONLY if he gave up the locations of co-conspirators which he did."

Would you have felt better about it had we simply left him to die in a field - the "natural" way - as has befallen so many men who have fought in battle over human history?

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 05:14 PM

"Everybody's high and mighty when talking about torture in a vacuum. It's so easy to be righteous.

But war isn't in a vacuum. Someday we will be confronted by the ticking bomb scenario, and at stake will be the lives of tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in a dense metropolitan setting. And then what? Whatcha gonna do? Read him his Miranda rights?

Here's where the self-righteous academic types who theorize from their ivory towers punt. Your answers don't work in the real world."

Your scenario is a hypothetical from academics theorizing from ivory towers. It assumes that:
--we know there is a ticking time bomb shortly before it happens.
--we also have managed to arrest a suspect involved in the plot.
--we know he is guilty.
--we know he has the information we need to prevent the attack.
--we know he will produce this information if we torture him
--we know he will tell the truth under torture, even though we will only have to hold out for a few hours before the bomb explodes, and even though we have no immediate way to distinguish the truth from a lie.
-we know he will not produce this information unless we torture him.

It is incredibly unlikely that all of these conditions would be met. It is impossible for us to know in advance that they are met.

But leave all that aside. Say this happens, and faced with the choice of torturing a suspect and letting him nuke New York City, Kiefer Sutherland tortures him and gets the intelligence needed to save the day.

If there had been no change or reinterpretation of the laws against torture after 9/11, I would bet $25 that Kiefer Sutherland would not go to prison or would face a minimal sentence. Why?
1) prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutors can always choose not to charge someone. Most prosecution departments, federal or state, are led by politicians. There are few politicians who would want to be responsible for imprisoning the man who risked everything to save New York.
2) jury nullification. Jurors always have the option of refusing to convict a defendant even if they believe the state has proved its case. This is not so uncommon, and there are few cases where it would be more likely.
3) presidential pardon. Similar reasons as above.
4) the defense of necessity. In many jurisdictions you can make an affirmative defense to a felony charge that:
a) you believed your actions were necessary
b) to prevent a harm that was clearly much greater than the harm you committed
c) and you were right.

I listed #4 last because not every state allows the necessity defense, and some states do not allow it for very serious crimes. I am okay with making it available as a defense in torture cases in all jurisdictions, provided that it remains limited to the extreme cases in the stringent form listed above.

That is the only change that could even conceivably be needed to deal with the ticking time bomb hypothetical. Since that hypo is so pathetically unlikely, and if it happens it would probably be dealt with by prosecutial discretion, jury nullification, or presidential pardon, I doubt even that much is necessary.

If you legalize torture in advance, or if you signal to people in advance that they can torture without risking prosecution--it will happen to innocent people and it will happen in far more cases than it was ever intended to. And that, unlike the ticking time bomb, is not an unlikely theory dreamed up by academics in ivory towers. It's already happened. We have pages of government reports to prove it. We also have pictures.

Posted by: Katherine at January 7, 2005 05:29 PM

Katherine,

Terrific well-argued post.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2005 05:50 PM

Folks, a lot of this comes down to a few simple questions:

(1) what is torture vs., oh, call it coercion.
(2) assuming that any torture (see 1) occurred, was it policy,
(3) what part, if any, did Gonzales have in any policy permitting torture (see 2).

What we seem to have ascertained, ignoring Sully's overheated rhetoric and the MSM's panic attacks, is this:

(1) we don't agree on what "torture" may be, but common sense would seem to suggest it's somewhat less than something that has a serious risk of causing death, disfigurment or permanent disability, and somewhat more than having someone pointing at your peepee in a polaroid.

I personally find the notion that anything you might run into in a SERE course is the upper limit --- but not beyond the limit --- fairly compelling, but we can debate this.

(2) whatever "torture" might be, we know that stated policy is less than what the DoJ memos said were the limits.

We also know that even the pointing-at-peepee polaroids were over the line, since the Army was already investigating as criminal the abu Ghraib stuff when the story first broke.

(3) As far as anyone seems to know, Gonsalez was merely the recipient of some controversial memos when he asked DoJ for their legal opinion. The policy (see 2) was much more restrictive than those memos.

It looks to me that Gonsalez is primarily being harassed for thoughtcrime: asking questins while serving an unpopular president.

This could be debated ... but unless we manage to answer the first two questions, we can't possibly debate Gonzales's culpability --- it's not clear that he had any connection to any abuses that did occur.

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at January 7, 2005 05:55 PM

Katherine -

Second Michael's kudos -

There must be published standards on how to handle detainees. If I was in the field today I wouldn't be taking prisoners, period. The Muj do not rate capture under the rules of land warfare I was trained on. Period.

I have to believe that capture numbers are way down since Fallujah... for what it's worth. Political maneuvering here has probably lowered the threshhold for employing supporting fires on targets vice overrunning and capturing defenders. Less risk to the troops. Less risk to command. Possible loss of intelligence is outweighed by the facts that giving the muj a phone call, a lawyer, and their very own Christiana Amanpour interview probably won't generate much actionable intelligence anyway. And if you zorch the bastard with an LGB you won't ever see him on the field again, unlike the catch- and- release program in place now.

What should the enemy know about our guidelines? Everything we, the public know, of course. They won't believe any of it, at least not the foot troops. That's o.k. I'm not concerned about their people. OUR people on the point have to know what is expected of them, what tools they are allowed, and most importantly have faith in the leadership and oversight in executing the published policy.

You wrote a very adult and practical post.

I'm not much of a legal scholar... but that necessity defence sounds like an awfully hard sell; the administration has been attempting to demonstrate necissity of action as being the driving force behind asking the torture question in the first place.

The Dems have been too busy photoshopping black hoods on the heads of Bush, Cheney, and those of the cabinet, plus any mere Jebusland contrarians, to address the point.

There must be standards on how to handle detainees as a result of the media game played around the issue since the existence of the Gonzalez memo/opinion and the word "torture" were linked.

Posted by: TmjUtah at January 7, 2005 06:14 PM

To Jim: "Would you have felt better about it had we simply left him to die in a field - the "natural" way - as has befallen so many men who have fought in battle over human history?"

My apologies Jim. I missed the overall context of your point. Chalk it up to post-haste...

Posted by: Caroline at January 7, 2005 06:30 PM

How much sas torture really happened? Well, it's not exactly clear to me, in a way murder is different than manslaughter (with a person dead in both cases). What is clear is that we do NOT have clear legalistic rules for "torture" -- eg how many minutes without sleep.
Whether dogs can be present; threatening, but not biting. (The unintentional/ irresponsible dog bite is like the manslaughter, not murder.) Raping, electrocuting, crucifying (?) seem to much -- but what about hooking up wires which are not hot? "simulated torture".

The real problem is the tradeoff. If the terrorists know that they are not to be pressured to divulge any info, they mostly won't. (The Heather MacDonald piece was fine.) So Americans will be murdered because of lousy info received from terrorists in custody.

Approved police interrogation methods must be usable; possibly worse. In particular "rendition", sending the suspects to other countries.

Though as of today, prolly keeping them as future prisoners of Iraq is not too bad -- or letting a question jury of 13 other Iraqis watch the interrogation. After 1 Feb., Abu Ghraib should be taken over by a newly elected Iraqi gov't, and the captured Arabs can expect more Arab quality treatment.

Posted by: Tom Grey at January 7, 2005 07:58 PM

Kimmit:

Yeah, it's been an absolute blast watching Sully suddenly realize that the kind of intolerance he espoused could be turned against him.
You read Sully with popcorn; it's a well-written peek into the subconscious of a very unexamined mind. This is as it always has been.

Two points: I don't recall Sullivan ever espousing any kind of intolerance. I'm drawn to his writing because he strikes me as instinctively libertarian, and intolerance is the antithesis of libertarianism as I see it.

Point two: Sullivan has always allowed his passions to inform his thinking. The best thinkers do that. The tragedy is when passion overcomes reason. In Sullivan's case I think it has done so, at least in regards to anything having to do with the Bush Administration. But again, maybe I've just been wrong all along.

He's still a damn fine writer. Just wish he hadn't gone Darth Vader on us.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 7, 2005 11:29 PM

It's your holier-than-thou attitude in Portland that ticks me off.

Posted by: Xixi at January 8, 2005 06:10 AM

"But drafting guidelines won't prevent torture."

Then there is no preventing torture period.

UN resolutions didn't put an end to Saddam, but that didn't mean there was no way, period.

As for "avoidance", why is it so difficult for anyone to engage my point? The abuses didn't happen because of inadequate laws/policies/codes of conduct. In virtually every case, the abuses were due to an institutional incapacity to adhere to laws etc. The laws were knowingly flouted. This is not exactly a surprise; for a prison, it is very much the norm.

That's not to say the laws, etc. are anywhere near as well-founded as they could be. They're not. All this arguing over what does and does not constitute torture may come in handy sometime. But in the context of what Sullivan's talking about it's academic, like arguing what kind of weather we'd like to have today. We don't know how to control the weather!

How do we establish institutional responsibility in a prison setting? It'll take much more than 90 comments to work that out.

Posted by: dipnut at January 8, 2005 08:15 AM

Katherine,

Your analysis epitomizes the ivory tower:

Katerine: Your scenario is a hypothetical from academics theorizing from ivory towers. It assumes that:

--we know there is a ticking time bomb shortly before it happens.

Yes. Contrary to what you imply, this is not entirely unlikely at all.

--we also have managed to arrest a suspect involved in the plot.

Yes. Also not entirely unlikely.

--we know he is guilty.

No. Not at all. We don't have to know he's guilty. If the two above points are true, then all we need is a resonable suspicion that he can shed light that would point us in the right direction, let alone him being guilty or even involved.

--we know he has the information we need to prevent the attack.

Again No. All we need at this point (given #1 and #2) is a reasonable suspicion that it's true.

--we know he will produce this information if we torture him.

Definitely, No. Reasonable suspicion given 1 and 2 is all we need.

--we know he will tell the truth under torture, even though we will only

Definitely No. We can never know who knows what or will tell what under questioning.

So you see Katherine, the scenario is not so pathetically unlikely at all. If we ever do have to intercept a nuke, it will very likely look like what I just laid out for you.

Re prosecutorial discretion, do you really think some government interrogator is going to chance it when he could be wrong? Doubtful. And perhaps tens, or hundreds of thousands will die for it.

You argued like a lawyer though. Good job.

Posted by: David at January 8, 2005 12:16 PM

ps. Nobody will chance prosecutorial discretion when we have the Dems nipping at our ankles over every real and imagined indescretion, big or small.

Posted by: David at January 8, 2005 12:17 PM

With regard to the comment on the article by Heather McDonald, LGF asked her if she knew what she wrote from actually seeing it or was it apocryphal. She had to say that she did not know from her own personal sight. She was told by some people. The question she has not answered is who were those people and what was their part in the treatment and what is their political orientation in this situation. Seems to me that she should have included inher article the statement she had been told by some people who - and then she should have identified them enough to let us know whether they could be trusted or not. She did not do that. Until that comes out, I question what she wrote.

It is like the article that that little worm Seymour Hersh wrote about Abu Ghraib. He wrote it as if he uncovered the whole thing and until he wrote nothing was done. He did not tell us that the military had been setting up courts martial for months or that the military involved had been remove from that duty and were being investigated. He also did not tell us that he was handed the photos by a relative of one of the defendants and that the photos had been passed over by senators and congressmen and other media types. He also did not tell us that the "torture" was not approved by the Pentagon. Those little oversights make the story a whole different kettle of fish and the story here is the same thing.

Did anyone mention that the Bybee memo in question started in the Justice Department under Janet Reno? or that the torture which Bush passed over was permitted by the Clinton White House? That also makes a big difference in hitting at Gonzales.

All in all this is a lot like the testimony of the 9/11 Commission and Richard Clarke. When you have Ted Kennedy, of all people, talking about water torture making the prisoner feel as if he were drowning, you really have to wonder about the whole think. Mary Jo, where are you!!!

Posted by: dick at January 8, 2005 04:57 PM

I don't recall Sullivan ever espousing any kind of intolerance.

You weren't a member of the class of people Sullivan called a "fifth column" after 9/11, so I can see where it might have slipped your mind.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 8, 2005 05:14 PM

Kimmitt:

"You weren't a member of the class of people Sullivan called a "fifth column" after 9/11"

Do you hope we lose the War on Terror? No? Then neither were you.

Do some of the loons on the farthest left fringe (or farthest right, but they're a bit rarer)? You know, the ones who see the US as THE biggest bully in the world and are willing to cheer on the enemy because our defeat would teach us a lesson? Yes. I get the sense that's who he was referring to, and he was right, dammit.

Posted by: JPS at January 8, 2005 05:54 PM

Catherine -- no problem.

Katherine -- it is VERY likely that we will have the following scenario:

1. Intelligence that suggests a nuke plot against one or more American cities is underway but is NOT definitive (much like 9/11 btw).

2. A high level prisoner or prisoners who MAY have information or MAY NOT that could help us avert the attack and save millions of American lives.

Under the CURRENT Bush Administration rules, we are NOT able to get the information. See the Heather MacDonald article, the Al Queda and Taliban, Terrorist enemy is NOT like the Japanese, German, or NVA regular prisoners. They do not miss their families, they "divorced" them, and make it a point that they "love death more than we love life." There are no shared points of being drafted, Western culture, families, lonliness, etc. that were present in other conflicts. Kindness will not work with thme.

The Dems and the ICRC, the UN, the Media, are all suggesting adopting the Geneva Convention for ALL our prisoners, Al Queda (and presumably, Bin Laden himself if we catch him) included. Under these rules we have ZERO chance to get info.

Therefore, Katherine, you're saying we should ALWAYS err on the side of the Geneva Convention, even if there is a probability (unknown) that potentially 3-12 million AMERICAN lives could be forfeit (assuming 3 million dead per attack).

This is not only extraordinarily BAD politics its even worse policy.

Prospective SEALs undergo (according to Discovery Channel) extensive immersion (not drowning) in VERY cold water inducing near hypothermia as part of their training, as well as sleep deprivation (as do Interns at hospitals). It is EXTREMELY demoralizing in both cases. Are you suggesting that these measures can not be applied to people who could potentially have info to avert an attack against Americans? Amnesty and Human Rights Watch believe both are torture.

Relying on the hero cop is futile, it won't happen. Kiefer Sutherland is an actor, not a real interrogator. Considering that the FBI has leaked what they view "abusive" interrogation at Gitmo (putting an Israeli flag on a captive) it's clear that we will be defacto applying Geneva Convention standards as the Dems, Media, Red Cross, and some in the Administration want.

Guess who will be blamed when an attack comes through? Yep. The Dems and the Media. "We weren't able to get the info cause prisoners were off limits" the cry will go out ... and the sad thing is it will be largely true.

As a side note, American prisoners benefit the MOST when the desire for reciprocity is on the other side. If say the Chinese, or North Koreans know that we will treat their prisoners with Geneva Convention rules, regardless of what they do to our prisoners, they have EVERY incentive to treat our prisoners without ANY protections. If they know that their prisoners treatment depends on their treatment of our POWs, then they have incentives to treat our prisoners much better.

Giving Al Queda, Taliban, and Iraqi terrorists Geneva Convention protection practically guarantees our guys and gals will get NO protection.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 8, 2005 06:12 PM

Years ago, I had an operation done under a local anesthetic.
To keep me from being anxious, I was given a shot of happy juice, in this case sodium pentothal.
I babbled, I made horrid jokes, I am still embarrassed thinking about it.
I'm sure a good interrogator could have led me, probably by indirect means, to tell anything. There may have been some confusion due to the drug, but the presence of mind necessary to was absolutely missing.
While I do not unconditionally rule out torture, I'd like to see somebody's experience with the use of "truth serum" and interrogation.
Now, of course, it follows as night the day that the dems would howl about chemial warfare or something, presuming we had a republican administration at the time.
So I don't see that this would end domestic criticism of the practice, presuming the administration were republican at the time, but it might solve some practical problems.
If it worked.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at January 8, 2005 08:01 PM

Getting away from ivory tower stuff, here is a moral approach to torture.

If you happen to be an interrogator,
and you believe that a prisoner has vital time-sensitive information,
and you believe that you can extract that information with torture but you can't otherwise,
then you should go ahead.
If possible do a videotape of it.

Then when you're done and you have your results, whatever they are, turn yourself in first to your superior officer and then to the authorities.

At your trial you can point out the lives you saved. Or if you didn't actually save lives you can point out your belief that it was the only way to possibly save lives.

And then if you get convicted maybe the President or a Governor or somebody will pardon you.

We don't need laws saying it's OK for you to torture people. When in your own judgement the results are worth the risk to your reputation, when you're willing to risk your job and possibly your own freedom for the good of the nation, then do it. Take responsibility for your own actions. Get forgiven or not.

See, this whole argument is an ivory-tower argument. We don't actually have professional interrogators coming forward and saying "I can't do my job without illegal torture, and I'm too chickenshit to break the law and take the consequences when innocent lives depend on it, so I need you to give me blanket permission to torture whoever I think needs it.". This is not a discussion that actual interrogators are participating in. This is a discussion that has at best a one-way connection to reality. Some of us have heard about some reality and we comment on that basis. But none of us are doing it hands-on and none of us are actually in a position to directly influence it. This is entirely an ivory-tower argument.

And my own position is that no legal changes are needed. We can keep torture illegal, period. And when the case comes up that it's needed we can make an exception according to the accepted methods to make exceptions -- we can throw out the case, a jury can declare him not guilty, a judge can suspend sentence, he can get a pardon, etc. We don't need to change the laws at all unless we intend to do routine torture with no convincing justification.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 8, 2005 10:30 PM

J Thomas,

let's say we catch one in Iraq and he knows the whereabouts of Zarqawi. What then? You'd rather more people get blown up so that you can keep your hands clean? Talk about self-absorbtion. More ivory tower.

These aren't pathetic hypotheticals. They're real. Just yesterday they caught a top Zarqawi guy in Mosul. What now? Miranda rights? Never mind, I'm sick of the hot air.

Posted by: David at January 8, 2005 11:01 PM

Quoth Sully on September 16th:

The terrorists have done the rest. The middle part of the country -the great red zone that voted for Bush -is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -and may well mount a fifth column.

Nah, he wasn't worrying about a tiny minority. He was very clear -- if you are a part of the left, you support the terrorists.

Believe me, it's been a long time, but it is sweet to watch Sully bite the hand that first fed and then smacked him.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 8, 2005 11:15 PM

Beautifully articulated Katherine, a fine post.

The fact that some posters here seem to repeatedly associate disagreement with the Bush admin's tactics as supporting terrorists is vapid, as well as dull in the extreme.

The USA as a nation has taken contributions from liberals, and conservatives, and all strains of thought, and molded them into a fine, fine country. But one that can always stand up to a little rigorous self-examination.

I think Michael has pointed out more than once that Democrats are not the enemy, and neither are liberals. The enemy is a small group of nefarious, impossible-to-relate-to criminals who whip their neighbours into regular frenzies.

To go drift-net fishing, and leasing out torture consulting to morons like those caught at AG is to put the cause of civilization, not just the cause of the USA, backwards. The majority of posters here show a refreshing grasp of that point.

Great thread MJT.

Posted by: simon at January 9, 2005 02:59 AM

Simon, I expect Orwell's getting tired of being rolled out of his sleep to be quoted again and again.
But, when you suggest those who don't support the Bush administration's strategy or tactics should not be accused of supporting terrorists, we need to shake ol' George for the following observation:
"Effectively, the pacifist favors the fascist."
He follows that by insisting the pacifist would never (naive, Pollyanna guy that he was) deliberately betray his own country.
Nope, he's not talking about intent. He's talking about results. "Effectively [referring to results], the pacifist favors the fascist.
Now, I figured this out when I was about fourteen, so maybe we should let George sleep in peace, since it's such an obvious point. Still, appeal to authority is tempting.
Anyway, anything that libs and dems do that might lead the terrorists to think they're succeeding if they just keep killing people long enough (like Hanoi did), we'll quit and they'll win is...effectively aiding the terrorists.
It's possible the libs and dems will be defeated, and, here's the real kicker, if they are, so will be the terrorists.
There is no measurement in physics small enough to quantify the relevance of intent in this issue.
Now, of course, I do not suggest the libs and dems are the same as pacifists, only that results matter, as Orwell pointed out, and not intent.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at January 9, 2005 03:34 AM

David, it's obvious you didn't read my comment beyond the first couple of lines.

If we catch a Zarqawi associate, and if we care that much about Zarqawi (who is after all mostly a symbol for us, and not that important beyond his symbolic value), and if you are the interrogator assigned to the case, and if you believe that you personally can apply torture effectively to get info, and if you believe you won't get those results without torture,

then go ahead. And take whatever personal consequences come your way.

Consequences to you might include a bad report in your personnel record, losing all chance to advance in rank, demotion, time in stockade, dishonorable discharge, and possibly a civilian trial and prison time.

Or you may be exonerated at your court-martial. Or you might get a presidential pardon. You might get commended. A medal. A media spot that could eventually lead to a Senate campaign.

This is nothing new. Often our heroes are punished for saving the day, against orders. Sometimes they get forgiven and sometimes not. That's how it works. If you personally know what you're doing, and you see what's necessary, then it's your personal duty to risk your career for the nation. Just like you would if you were carrying a weapon and risking your life.

The system isn't broken. This is how it works. This is how it's always worked.

What you want is to take away the personal responsibility. "Yeah, we got 850 new suspects in today but we only have 600 torturers, the system is overloaded. Maybe we can offload some to Gitmo. What, you complain some of them might be innocent? Yeah, but how do you know some of them don't have important info! We can't take the chance, there might be a plot that threatens american lives. Review? We don't have time to do reviews, we have too many suspects to process. Hey, why are you so soft on terrorists anyway? If these guys didn't do anything wrong they wouldn't be suspects in the first place."

If you're on the spot and you believe in the ticking bomb etc, and you're ready to take personal responsibility, nobody will stop you. Unless a higher officer finds out ahead of time, and he disagrees.

But if you're just a blogger who feels tough, and you lack personal experience to tell you when torture is the most effective interrogation tool, and you aren't responsible for any prisoners, and you don't have personal responsibility in the matter except as a random citizen throwing in his two bits on a blog, then you're doing an ivory-tower debate with other ivory-tower debaters.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 9, 2005 06:05 AM

Let's send in a variety of experienced S&M members from around the world to do the job, this way everyone will come out satisified while feeling guiltless.

Posted by: syn at January 9, 2005 06:56 AM

J Thomas,

I read your entire post. It's a repetition of Katherine's. Both post are well stated and persuasive, but ultimately vacuous. Why? Because as I said in my post above (which apparently you didn't read):

"Just yesterday they caught a top Zarqawi guy in Mosul."

This isn't a hypothetical anymore. It's real. It's not an "if". I say we water board him.

What say you?

Posted by: David at January 9, 2005 07:13 AM

"I say we water board him. What say you?" (David)

I say start with stress and proceed upwards from there to waterboarding if he doesn't talk.

I only just now read the Heather McDonald article cited at the beginning of the thread (I know I know - but it was a work day). All I can say is you've got to be f**king kidding me. I am speechless....

Posted by: Caroline at January 9, 2005 08:52 AM

Oh yeah - and that "insurgent" caught red-handed planting that car bomb? He can sit in his own shit just to be reminded of what he is.

I read an article awhile back about the torture of some Kurdish teenagers in a Syrian prison. They hadn't even done anything. But they were regularly beaten, stripped naked and when they lost control of their bowels their feces were put in the mouths. That is torture. I also read that the Russians were particularly adept at torture and would even strap people to boards and then slowly push them into ovens. I could go on and on and on. Stuff that literally gives me nightmares and keeps me awake at night.

Like I said - I am speechless over the Heather McDonald article. Is this seriously what we are discussing here?

Shakes head, laughing to herself...

Posted by: Caroline at January 9, 2005 09:04 AM
Me:
I don't recall Sullivan ever espousing any kind of intolerance.
Kimmit:
You weren't a member of the class of people Sullivan called a "fifth column" after 9/11, so I can see where it might have slipped your mind.

There's a difference between attacking someone for what they do versus attacking someone for what they are. If it's intolerant to call out the “objectively pro-fascist” then what word do you use to describe real racists, or homophobes, or religious militants?

Sloppy thinking has practical consequences. Stop it.

Posted by: Mark Poling at January 9, 2005 10:07 AM

David, once again you have utterly and completely missed the point.

OK, here's this guy in iraq who's accused of being a Zarqawi associate, and he's in US custody.

I say, if you are the interrogator who's in charge of him, and you believe that you're good at torture, and in your judgement it's the only way to get the quality information quick enough to do some good, then you should go ahead.

And you should accept that you might be held responsible. That's how it works. "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

On the other hand if you're a gutless blogger safe in the USA who hasn't actually cver tortured anybody, then you don't deserve to tell us about when it's necessary.

So which are you? Are you a torture expert or not? Do you have the right to tell us when torture is necessary or are you a blowhard windbag who's telling us about the atrocities we have to do, out of your deep inexperience and unknowledge?

Or maybe there's some sort of middle ground there. But you owe it to us to tell us your qualifications before you insist the laws be changed so you can protect us adequately.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 9, 2005 01:38 PM

J Thomas,

I guess that means you're not going to answer my question. It was a simple one: to water board or not to water board.

But you've implied that torture is ok when and if someone is willing to put their own neck and career on the line. So essentially what you're saying is that you're secretly in favor of torture when it's necessary, but you don't have the moral fiber to back it up with the force of law. You want to be able to pat yourself on the back and impress the chics with your faux morality, and let some schmoe in the military take the risk (and the heat) when the rubber hits the road. The fact that he might be doing so to save your life, not his, is completely of no consequence to you. That's what I mean by ivory tower. Self-absorbed and out of touch.

It works in the blogosphere, not in real life. If it's illegal, Zarqawi's buddy will be sent to guantanamo and fed 3 culturally sensitive meals a day while Zarqawi continues on his path of distruction. We can thank you for that.

Posted by: David at January 9, 2005 02:12 PM

"So which are you? Are you a torture expert or not?" (J Thomas)

By the definition of "torture" described in the Heather MacDonald article I will qualify myself as an expert on torture. It turns out that I have actually tortured myself!

I lost so many hours of sleep during grad school that I remember times when I would drag myself out of bed after 2 hours sleep and my eyeballs were literally rolling back in my head for a good 15 minutes.

I lived on peanut butter sandwiches for at least a year because I was so broke.

When I was 12 years old I used to practice holding my breath for 2 minutes at a time while swimming the entire length of a pool under water.

Hell I've even had boyfriends that used more physical force against me than is permissable at Gitmo.

LMFAO!

We might as well get out our prayer mats now if this is where things are heading....

Posted by: Caroline at January 9, 2005 03:35 PM

At Belmont Club, Wretchard made the observation that, unless torture is simply an exercise in sadism, it is designed to torment one person to forestall torment of another person [or more].
This seems to me to be an indisputable fact.
Those taking one side or another are choosing which person is to be tormented.
They are not choosing that nobody be tormented.

I would extend Wretchard's point and address the possibility of torturing uninvolved people. This is the same point made by opponents of the death penalty. What if you get the wrong guy? It would seem to me that the same arguments apply.

Again, those who opine on this matter are choosing who is tormented, not choosing that nobody is tormented.

There is a difference and that has always been with us. It is far easier becoming emotionally involved in someone we know, or know of, whether on death row or waiting for a harsh interrogation, than to be involved in those we don't know, which are the people who will be saved from death or injury by the harsh interrogation. Opponents of the death penalty can point to a living person--they usually try to avoid the subject of the victim--who may be executed. We know his name. We don't know the name of the guard or other inmate he may kill at some later time if not executed. The latter person has no name, no face, no family, no group advocating for him.

As I say, same process applies to thinking about torture.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at January 9, 2005 03:42 PM

There's a difference between attacking someone for what they do versus attacking someone for what they are.

So what you're saying is that Sully wasn't offensive because the Left actually is a fifth column. Thanks!

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 9, 2005 04:49 PM

Kimmit, you're beginning to get it.
Or, rather, to finally get that we get it.

Posted by: Richard Aubreyr at January 9, 2005 06:10 PM

Kimmitt:

Let me try this again. Sullivan referred to a subset of the left, as he emphasized later. Your original quote does not contradict this unless you believe the whole left is decadent.

If, say, I refer to illogical commenters on the left, I am not saying that all commenters on the left are illogical, nor that illogical commenters are found only on the left. See what I'm getting at?

Posted by: JPS at January 9, 2005 06:26 PM

OK, David, one more time around the same old track. You are utterly and completely missing the point.

I will ask you a variation on your simple question.

Let's pretend that you're a good guy. And you've captured a bad guy. Should you do waterboarding or not? Yes or no.

Answer the simple question and then we'll continue from there.

Have I given you enough information to decide? How about more information. OK, his name is Samuel Zapatero, and he's a known associate of a really bad guy named Robert Jordan. Everybody knows that Jordan has done a lot of really despicable things and he's supposed to be real real dangerous.

There, that ought to be all the information you need. Do you waterboard or do you not waterboard?

I went off and fixed a couple of baby bottles and such before posting, and I suddenly notice that when you've consistently missed the point every time so far, there's every reason to think you'll miss the point of this too. So I guess I'll write another post to explain this one in simple language.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 9, 2005 06:41 PM

J Thomas,

it would help if you got to the point instead of dancing around it.

Is Mr. "Zapatero" a bank robber? A common thug? Then no. Hand him over to the cops.

On the other hand, is Mr. "Zapatero" someone captured in Mosul with known links to Zarqawi? Then yes, waterboard him.

Also, give me the legal protection as an interrogator to do so.

Your turn.

Posted by: David at January 9, 2005 06:48 PM

Let me try this again. Sullivan referred to a subset of the left, as he emphasized later.

No, he didn't, but that's okay -- a lot of conservatives said some incredibly foul things shortly after 9/11, none of which any of them have ever apologized for. It's okay. You hate us, you really really hate us. You don't have to pretend otherwise.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 9, 2005 10:46 PM

OK, David. I'll explain.

We are talking about things we don't know. You and I both are talking about things we don't know. What do we know about the Zarqawi associate who was caught? Only that he's a Zarqawi associate, and possibly you might have heard a little more like his name and where he was caught. Does he know anything recent? Do you even know what questions to ask? No, you don't. You are an ignorant american with no direct experience, and you're not just trying to tell us what should happen in this particular incident that you know almost nothing about, you're trying to tell us what the norm should be for a whole class of incidents you know almost nothing about.

And you're accusing people who disagree with you of "ivory tower" theory.

I'll be blunt. You're ignorant. You don't know how ignorant you are. You actually think you know what you're talking about, when you don't. You think you have compelling arguments, and you don't. You have sound-bites that sound plausible to other ignorant fools.

You want to change the most fundamental laws of the land, because you have some silly fantasies about things happening halfway around the world.

Am I talking plainly enough? Do you understand what I'm claiming now?

I'll try to say it even plainer. It looks like you don't understand the laws. And it looks like you don't understand how the laws fit in with how police work in our country. You don't understand the Geneva conventions, and you don't understand what we're talking about changing. You don't understand how torture is supposed to work to get information, and you don't understand the methods that skilled interrogators claim get the same results quicker. In short, you don't understand the issues. And you want the laws to be changed to fit your lack of understanding.

I hope I've been plain enough. It's not that I want to insult you, it's that, ah, "What we have here ... is a failure to communicate.".

So OK, you're welcome to prove me wrong. Tell us the working theory about how torture is supposed to get valid information in 3 days or less. Tell us the working theory about how to do it quicker without torture. Tell us why the second theory is wrong, or why it might not always apply. At that point I'll accept that you're qualified to talk about the basics.

There's the bigger matter of what all this is going to do to our civilian police, now and after this little war is over. You might believe that your local, state, and federal authorities will always consider you a good guy. You might be right. But I want you to consider that they can often get away with illegal interrogation methods already, with the main stipulation that the direct results of such interrogation aren't supposed to be used as evidence in your trial.

If you think this is just about terrorists, go back and look at how the income tax got started and what happened to it over the years.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 10, 2005 02:35 AM

J Thomas,

now I know why you've been dancing around a direct answer. You don't have one. Your lengthy "explanation" (which was nothing more than an ad hominem) failed to explain anything at all, but was a roundabout way of showing just how little you know. And that's ok. I don't judge people for their ignorance, only their arrogance. But don't lump me in there with you, ok?

We are talking about things we don't know. You and I both are talking about things we don't know.

Speak for youself. I'm a law graduate studying for the Bar, and I know the difference between the rights accorded to U.S. citizens and the rights accorded to non-U.S. citizens, especially those engaged in military operations outside of uniform. These people are not accorded Geneva convention protections (or at least there isn't a concensus on that). You, on the other hand, have been unable to distinguish between the rights of U.S. citizens vs those of foreigners under our Constitution, as well as the rights of soldiers in uniform vs the rights of terrorists trying to blend civiliand in vis a vis the Geneva Conventions. Take for instance this statement:

It looks like you don't understand the laws. And it looks like you don't understand how the laws fit in with how police work in our country.

Of course, you don't tell me how "the laws" REALLY operate. You just say I don't understant. And that's all I need to know right? Again, Speak for yourself. But you're clever enough to disguise your arrogance by humbly including yourself as someone who doesn't fully understand either.

Do you understand that waterboarding may apply to Iraqi insurgents but not to shoplifters at your local mall in Boise? Apparently not. You utterly fail to grasp that waterboarding in Mosul wouldn't automatically lead to waterboarding in Boise. Thus your silly and irrelevant question about "Mr. Zapatero." Do you understand that the Constitution and the Geneva conventions are two separate entities protecting two separate sets of people and according them unique rights? Do you understand that you, in your intellectual laziness and ideology-by-gut-feeling, apparently have zero grasp of those distinctions? Apparently not. That's ignorance dude. I expected more of you. But the lengthy ad hominem, that I'm not surprised about. You know what it shows? You were cornered and you couldn't dance your way out.

I asked you a simple question, and you couldn't answer.

And by the way, smarter people than you and I, more knowledgeable people than you and I, are making the same arguments I am. This has nothing to do with "ignorance." That's the problem with you Lefties. You really believe that if the rest of us had more "information" we'd be just like you are. What you fail to realize is that the more information we have the LESS we want to be like you.

And by the way, if Bush has his way, the income tax code is about to get a lot simpler.

Posted by: David at January 10, 2005 05:31 AM

David, you are coming closer to not being worth answering at all. Note that you have not answered a single one of my simple questions.

OK, I'll ask a little more about the single part you came closest to answering. Mr. Law Student, do you claim that the Geneva conventions give no rights to terrorists? Do you claim that the Geneva conventions give terrorists no right to avoid torture?

You didn't asnwer my Zapatero question, you didn't even say what further information you needed. But from your hostile comments, I'll infer the question you might have asked and say that Zapatero is not a US citizen, and neither is Jordan. Now you have all the info you need, don't you? So answer my simple question.

So far you have not answered a single one of my simple questions. Not a single one. While I have given you an answer to yours, and you didn't notice the answer.

Here's the answer again: It depends.

Whether you should torture somebody depends on whether you're good at it, and also whether you're not that good at the alternatives which some say work better, and whether your specific judgement is that it would be useful and necessary.

It isn't enough that some idiot in the USA says to do it. If you don't know how then don't do it.

On the other hand if some other idiot in the USA says there's a better way and torture should never be used, that's wrong too. If you've been trained to do torture, and you don't know how to do the better ways, and you're the interrogator who's available, then you better do what you know. Sucks to be you, sucks to be your victim.

But it isn't enough that you're a good torturer and a bad interrogator, and you're the person on the spot. You also have to think it's necessary. You have to think that this particular case is very very likely to get results. Don't torture people unless you have strong reason to believe they know things you need, and they won't reveal it otherwise, and that they will reveal it under torture.

And for your own protection you should be able to make some sort of case for that afterward, when other people are ready to second-guess you about it.

As to whether US torturers should be exempt from all consequences for their actions, I'm surprised that a legal student would make such a demand. How do you think we should get precedents about that? Isn't the usual way to get legal precedents to actually start with real cases that get ruled on by real judges? If it's a murky area, let's get some trials of real torturers and look at the particular details. Let the justice system decide which details are important. I wouldn't expect a real legal student to go with "He's an accused terrorist so he has no rights" and let it go at that. As if the rights of terrorists are the only issue.

Somehow I get the impression the answer you're looking for is "yes" or "no". I hope -- for the sake of your future clients -- that this is a rhetorical trick and not an indication of your thinking skills.

So besides the legal issues, tell us about your expertise on torture. How does it work? How do the alternatives work?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 10, 2005 07:03 AM

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 7, 2005 05:50 PM

"Katherine,

Terrific well-argued post."

It was but I have not seen anything to show Gonzales is making that argument.

This just demonstrates Glenn Reynolds’s point. By puffing up a partisan torture case against Gonzales, you've opened a door to a 'torture debate'... one that may lead to areas we don't want to go. Like Glen I'd like to just leave it a taboo and deal with violations one by one later.

Posted by: Thomas at January 10, 2005 10:05 AM

You didn't asnwer my Zapatero question, you didn't even say what further information you needed. But from your hostile comments, I'll infer the question you might have asked and say that Zapatero is not a US citizen, and neither is Jordan. Now you have all the info you need, don't you? So answer my simple question.

J Thomas,

I did answer you. Here's what I said:

"Is Mr. "Zapatero" a bank robber? A common thug? Then no. Hand him over to the cops. On the other hand, is Mr. "Zapatero" someone captured in Mosul with known links to Zarqawi? Then yes, waterboard him."

Clear and concise. No dancing. Perhaps it needed qualifying, as most statements on a blog do. But it was a good enough answer to start with.

As far as my comments being "hostile", far from it. I've stuck to the merits, unlike you:

J Thomas: I'll be blunt. You're ignorant. You don't know how ignorant you are.

And that was just one of your ad hominems. Also, I'm not a "mr. Lawyer." I never pull rank unless I'm defending myself from the kind of condenscending arrogance Liberals are so famous for. I'm just regular David who's not nearly as "ignorant" as you'd like to believe, nor some kind of an expert. Your comment was almost as stupid as the Lib who said I didn't know what I was talking about because I've never travelled overseas. Again, I had to pull rank and kindly inform him that I've lived on 3 continents and travelled on four. The irony of Lib arrogance makes my toes curl sometimes and it's all I can do not to bang my head against the monitor.

J Thomas: Here's the answer again: It depends.

Thank you. Then we agree.

Somehow I get the impression the answer you're looking for is "yes" or "no". I hope -- for the sake of your future clients -- that this is a rhetorical trick and not an indication of your thinking skills.

What I'm saying is that YOU don't get to say "no". YOU, in your ivory tower, have no clue what our men in the field know. THEY, not me nor you, should determine who and what will receive their attentions, and in what manner. If THEY feel it's reasonable to take Zarqawi's buddy and dunk him, then I defer to their expertise. You don't. Or certainly it didn't sound like you did--not enough to give them the legal protections deserve. You want to be able to preserve your faux morality intact AND be afforded the protections our men in the field afford you, AND you don't even have the common decency to give them the legal protection.

How do you think we should get precedents about that? Isn't the usual way to get legal precedents to actually start with real cases that get ruled on by real judges?

There is common law precedent as determined by caselaw, and there is statutory law. They would be protected by the latter.

So besides the legal issues, tell us about your expertise on torture. How does it work? How do the alternatives work?

I'm not an interrogator, any more than you're a lawyer. We have people trained to do that. You and I are talking about overall ethics and policies, not the specifics.

It isn't enough that some idiot in the USA says to do it. If you don't know how then don't do it.

Great, then we should leave it to the discretion of the people in the field with the expertise to do it, not second-guessers in their ivory towers.

Posted by: David at January 10, 2005 12:14 PM

Kimmitt:

"a lot of conservatives said some incredibly foul things shortly after 9/11, none of which any of them have ever apologized for."

Actually, some did apologize. They're still assholes, if you know who I'm talking about. But if you ignore them you're making a circular argument: The ones who said foul things and didn't apologize never apologized for them!

"It's okay. You hate us, you really really hate us. You don't have to pretend otherwise."

Aw bullshit. If I hated the left, Kimmitt, why would I go to the trouble of trying to distinguish people like you from the nastiest outliers on your side? You don't seem to return the courtesy.

For that matter, Kimmitt, I wouldn't read Michael Totten's site; I'd spend my time on sites that live up to your caricature.

Posted by: JPS at January 10, 2005 12:42 PM

David, once again you ignore the issues.

But I'll say my version once again -- I agree, we have to let the guys in the field do what they think best. But after they do it, we need them to take personal accountability.

It isn't enough for us to declare that US law says it's OK for them to do war crimes. If they choose to do war crimes based on their view of the necessity, then it's their lookout. No blanket pardons ahead of time.

You haven't at all expounded on your theory that foreign civilians of occupied nations get no Geneva protection when they're civilian combatants or terrorists. The wording looked completely clear to me. Did it not look clear to you?

Did you figure that the geneva accords are something we're supposed to sign with the terrorists, and if they don't sign we don't either? But we signed them with the other signatories, we made agreements about how we'd run occupations. It isn't an agreement we make with the nations we occupy.

You pulled rank claiming you're a law student, but you haven't at all demonstrated your expertise.

And now you claim you don't understand about torture. A lot of people who do understand say it doesn't work. Some say it does work. I've taught some of each (I didn't teach interrogation), and listened to them, and I can probably say the arguments reasonably clearly. It looks to me like the only advantage of torture is that it's easier to teach. But it has a collection of disadvantages -- it's slower, it has physical side effects, it has bad effects on the occupied population, and it violates US law and international law. So I say, for gods sake do the training so you don't need it.

Anyway, as an ivory-tower second-guesser, would you like to explain your rationale why we need statutory protection for US military torturers who act on their own initiative according to their view of what's needed?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 10, 2005 12:50 PM

J Thomas,

I didn't claim to be an expert or to have "expertise". I merely informed you that you're in no position to call me ignorant. It assumes you're some kind of an authority on either the subject of law or torture (you're not) and I'm some kind of a rightwing dolt. Like I said, ignorance is forgiveable, arrogance isn't. Enough of that.

I agree, we have to let the guys in the field do what they think best. But after they do it, we need them to take personal accountability.

I don't disagree with that with that. The use of physical coercion would be strictly controlled and there would always be a debriefing. Take for instance police laws at the local level. Police are afforded statutory protection when they kill somebody. But there is always an ex parte hearing to determine if the killing was lawful. The statutes protect the cop, and the ex parte proceeding protects the public. No blanket pardons.

That's the kind of situation our men in Iraq and Guantanamo should have. Further, it would be made even more stringent by requiring a pre-interrogation hearing to determine if the prisoner is a valid subject for this kind of questioning. This way, innocent prisoners would be protected, but it would be balanced against our very real need to acquire life-saving information.

Regarding the Geneva Conventions, the legal basis or rationale for their ratification was to compel countries to conduct war in a civilized manner. It said if you behave we'll behave. It was NOT some early version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Geneva Convention was for the purpose of giving the combatants an incentive to behave. Is our adhering to the GC going to persuade Al-Qaida to behave? No. They see it as weakness, not civility.

More specifically, in the treatment of prisoners, the GC requires that those captured as POWs have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, that they carry arms openly, as well as other conduct in accorance with the customs of war. That's why an enemy found outside of uniform is traditionally shot outright as a spy or saboteur. The horrors! But current day naysayers (yourself) and opponents of the war generally would have us give SPECIAL treatment to enemy combatants found outside of uniform (terrorists), above and beyond the GC. But you have neither the law nor history on your side. Nor logic really.

Posted by: David at January 10, 2005 01:31 PM

If I hated the left, Kimmitt, why would I go to the trouble of trying to distinguish people like you from the nastiest outliers on your side? You don't seem to return the courtesy.

The honest truth is, while I intellectually grasp the difference between the torturers and those who enable the torturers, at some point you have to draw a line. If you couldn't bring yourself to vote for Bush, then great -- you're one of the few principled conservatives yet remaining, and I hope that you someday manage to have some authority within the Republican Party.

That said, Richard Aubreyr's comment is far more indicative of the general conservative attitude than yours. As is Michael Totten's -- let's keep in mind that his standing argument regarding the Iraq War was that anyone who opposed it for whatever reason was endorsing Saddam's regime. Never mind that the reason many opposed the war was that we had the wit to notice that a man with Bush's theory of government would inevitably engage in the sorts of activities we are describing here.

A vote for Bush was and remains a vote for torture. It's not like anyone held a gun to Bush's head and forced him to nominate his official apologist for atrocity to the post of Attorney General of the United States.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 10, 2005 04:26 PM

You're begging the question, Kimmitt.

A vote for Bush is no more an endorsement of torture than opposition to the war is an endorsement of Saddam Hussein.

One of those stolen bases seems perfectly reasonable to you, the other libelous. You have officially achieved self-parody.

Posted by: JPS at January 10, 2005 04:35 PM

A vote for Bush is no more an endorsement of torture than opposition to the war is an endorsement of Saddam Hussein.

Ah, but since opposition to the war was predicated on the notion that what came after had a large risk of being even worse than Saddam Hussein*, then support for Bush must be predicated on the notion that Kerry had a large risk of being even worse than state-sponsored torture (or, of course, support for Bush's views).

You know, I actually buy that Totten believes that a Kerry Presidency would be even worse than US state-sponsored torture. So I guess my problem is one of framing; I wish he'd say, "...and even with the state-sponsored torture, Kerry would have been worse."

*or that $200 billion could be spent far more effectively elsewhere. There were so many correct reasons to oppose Dubya and Dick's Excellent Adventure. But the opportunity cost argument is irrelevant to a binary choice, such as an election.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 10, 2005 05:33 PM

David, since you've told me what the Geneva conventions are intended to do, why not look at the wording?

----
Art. 2. In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peace-time, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance.
----

The USA and iraq are both signatories, so the occupation of iraq fits this.

----
Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.
----

That says that iraqis in iraq are protected by the convention while we're occupying them.

----
Art. 5. [....]
Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.
----

That says if we catch an iraqi insurgent or terrorist, we don't have to let him communicate but we owe him a fair trial and we must "treat him with humanity".

----Art. 27. Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.
----

This says you don't torture them.

----
Art. 29. The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons may be, is responsible for the treatment accorded to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred.
----

This says if a soldier or contractor tortures them against orders, the USA is responsible for failing to prevent it.

----
Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.
----

This says you don't torture them.

----
Art. 32. The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.
----

This says you don't torture or do "extraordinary renditions".

So, what do you think? Is there anything here that says insurgents aren't "protected people" because they don't wear uniforms?

It looks to me like it says if you capture them you aren't allowed to do any physical interrogation. You can give them a trial and sentence them to death -- there's a lot of detail about how to do that. But it specifically says you don't get to make them suffer. They aren't POWs, they aren't members of the iraqi army (which after all we defeated and disbanded). They are civilians detained for sabotage or "harmful activities".

Have I misread it?

Would you argue that Saddam violated the geneva conventions before he was defeated, and therefore we aren't obligated to follow the conventions in our occupation?

Do you see a way to wiggle past this? I see one way -- if we'd only thought to denounce the geneva conventions one full year before we invaded, then they wouldn't apply to us. But we didn't.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 10, 2005 09:38 PM

That looks like an argument for take no prisoners. What are the obligations to take prisoners (as opposed to shoot them outright) under the current circumstances? Just asking...

Posted by: Caroline at January 11, 2005 04:08 AM

"That says that iraqis in iraq are protected by the convention while we're occupying them."

What are the obligations towards captured foreign fighters (both those captured in Iraq as well as those picked up elsewhere and held at Gitmo)?

Posted by: Caroline at January 11, 2005 04:19 AM

An interesting challenge J Thomas. Let me take at the wording myself and I'll get back to you sometime this evening.

Posted by: David at January 11, 2005 05:44 AM

Caroline, I'm not an authority on international law. I only read the document, which looks clear and simple. But maybe the lawyers involved have special meanings for the words so that "black" and "white" both mean "gray". You can read it yourself and see what you think.

Here's article 4 again.

----
Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it. Nationals of a neutral State who find themselves in the territory of a belligerent State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, shall not be regarded as protected persons while the State of which they are nationals has normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are.
----

The first sentence says that if you occupy iraq then the conventions apply to everybody who's "in your hands" and who isn't one of you. That's clear. The second sentence says that the conventions don't apply to foreigners if their home nations haven't agreed to the Geneva Conventions, and it doesn't apply if their home nation has an embassy in DC.

So if we find a saudi or a turk etc in iraq, they don't go by these rules, they go by the rules we've agreed on with nations we aren't at war with. Treat them the way you'd treat a canadian citizen you found in iraq in similar circumstances. If, for example, you found a canadian citizen shooting at american occupying troops and you captured him, you'd coordinate with the canadian government. Presumably the canadian government would want to see your evidence and would not agree to torture of their nationals. On the other hand if you caught Zarqawi, I don't think there would be any objection to extraditing him to jordan and letting the jordanians question him. Similarly for egyptians we capture in iraq, kurds who have turkish citizenship, and maybe some others.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 09:13 AM

I notice that I made the interpretation that iraqis who don't fit the definition of soldiers and don't deserve POW status would be classed as civilians and would get the protections afforded civilians.

Maybe there's some third category for them to go into, that wouldn't have the protections given to civilians. I haven't found it yet but I haven't studied all the details of all 4 conventions.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 10:32 AM

Maybe there's some third category for them to go into, that wouldn't have the protections given to civilians.

There isn't, but that's the genius of the Administration's approach. By creating a third category, "enemy combatants," they can claim that any person they so categorize is exempt from any Geneva Convention protections.

Posted by: Kimmitt at January 11, 2005 12:50 PM

Art. 5. [....] Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

J Thomas,

You gave it the old college try. I commend you. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not an occupying power. We handed over sovereingty to an Iraqi caretaker government in June '04. It's their country now. Our troops are in Iraq merely to help the interim government maintain security while they get their business in order at the end of Jan. '05.

Therefore Article 4 re "persons protected by the Convention" does not pertain to terrorists and Iraqi insurgents because they are not "in an occupied territory" (Art. 5), and they are not "in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals." (Art. 4). In other words, insurgents and terrorists are not fighting an "occupier", they are fighting the government of Iraq, and it's armed forces, and our troops. Therefore no protection as "individuals in an occupied territory."

Furthermore, specifically regarding foreign terrorists, under Art. 5: "Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

That pertains to your foreign jihadists. Had they been fighting in their own homelands ("occupied territory"), they would have been afforded protections. They are not. They are fighting "in territory of a Party to the conflict." (Iraq) Therefore no protection under Art. 5

I hope that helps.

Posted by: David at January 11, 2005 02:44 PM

David, I have to commend you on the ingenuity of your attempt to slip out of our obligations.

However, if it were to come to a war crimes tribunal or whatever, your argument would get at best a grim laugh. Of course if we simply figure that we're the one world superpower and we'll never have to answer to our crimes then we can figure it doesn't matter and the Geneva conventions mean whatever we say they do.

Of course a whole lot of our torture and rape were before we made the pretense of handing over sovereignty, along with bombing and interdicting hospitals, transporting prisoners out of the country to Gitmo, etc. For the moment let's consider what we did then, before we pretended it stopped being an occupation.

So by Art. 4 they were in occupied territory, and they were in our hands. That would say they deserved the protection of the convention. But then the next sentences say that if they're from some neutral nation they don't get those protections whether they've been fighting us or not. My understanding of that is that in that case they get all the protections they'd get from being citizens of a neutral nation.

See, if they're iraqis we get to "intern" them provided we believe we really need to. They don't have to have done anything, just if they're in our way we can move them into camps. We can't take them out of the nation unless we have no other choice. We have to give them a safe place and we have to make sure they're taken care of etc. If, say, we found a swedish citizen in Baghdad we wouldn't have the right to intern him. He wouldn't have the right to be interned and taken care of. On the other hand he'd have the right to leave the country if he wanted to. He'd have all the rights that swedish citizens have with us. If we want to torture him it isn't against the Geneva conventions. The geneva conventions don't say we can't torture random tourists from neutral nations.... We have other agreements to regulate that.

So if we capture saudi, egyptian, etc combatants then we need to take that up with the saudi, egyptian, etc governments.

Now let's consider the question of what it takes to be an occupation. If all it takes is to set up a puppet government and claim that we're helping out that government, then the Nazis weren't occupying norway in WWII. Nor were they occupying the Ukraine etc. The nazis could have done in france exactly what we have done in iraq. They could have set up a puppet government and then claimed they were not occupying any of france but merely assisting the french government. Of course they didn't bother, as the nazis were considerably more truthful than we are.

Well, have we really ended the occupation? Art. 77 says that when the occupation ends we must give all detainees to the iraqi government. We clearly have not done so. We have not given iraqis any control over the prisons we run. We don't even give the iraqi government lists of names of the people we hold there. But it could be argued that we have no obligation since we went from occupying to "helping" directly, without and "end of occupation" stage in between.

Allawi, a CIA-paid british citizen, chose himself to be the new head of iraq from a list of 4 who had all been pre-approved by the USA. The USA allows Allawi to give advice about US military offensives, but does not give him the final say. In the latest big offensives the iraqi President said no don't do it, but Allawi gave his OK. For all practical purposes the british/CIA Allawi is the iraqi government we are assisting as opposed to occupying.

This is an absurd justification. "If we were occupying iraq then we wouldn't torture anybody. Well, we did, but we were about to stop. But it isn't an occupation any more, we're just helping Allawi The Iraqi Government. We aren't doing war crimes any more because it isn't a war, every atrocity we do has been authorised in advance by Allawi, The Iraqi Government, so nobody should complain."

I have to hand it to you. I would never have thought to justify it that way.

I did a 20-second search to find out the definition of "occupation". The following seems to explain some:

http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList246/F03787EF09362E78C1256B66005C519D

"But if we were to ask each participant to list all the territories in the world that he regarded as occupied, we would end up with a very high number considered as such by a large or small majority, or at least by a minority. If we then asked the governments of all the States described as occupying powers whether they recognized themselves as such, very few of them would do so.

"I am certainly not going to suggest that you embark on such an exercise, Mr Chairman, as it would make this meeting an explosive one and would render your task, which is difficult enough as it is, practically impossible."

Apparently the definition is ambiguous enough that most occupiers claim not to be occupiers, and the USA is not unusual in this.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 04:19 PM

"Furthermore, specifically regarding foreign terrorists, under Art. 5: "Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State,"

Read that carefully. "the latter" If the foreign jihadists were found in the USA they wouldn't get Geneva convention protections. Similarly CIA agents found in iraq during the war before iraq fell wouldn't get Geneva convention protections. But jihadists in iraq would not go under the "Territory of a Party" rules.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 04:27 PM

J Thomas,

I'll agree with you that the letter of the law under Art 4 and 5 make it difficult, but I don't think we are violating the spirit of the law. And considering this is a war like nobody's ever fought before, Gonzales is right, the Geneva Conventions are quaint and outdated. We need to renounce them outright if our enterpretation isn't good enough you.

And even if we don't renounce them and instead choose to interpret them by the spirit rather than the letter of the law, then nobody will suffer but the baddies. It will have no larger repercussions than that. Why? Because terrorists and insurgents aren't signators, so we don't expect reciprocity from them anyway. If they catch a G.I., they'll cut his balls off no matter how strictly we're adhering to the GC.

But those countries that ARE signators know full well that we will afford their armed forces complete protections under the GC, so reciprocity will continue to be ensured by all relevant parties.

I see no downside here.

Posted by: David at January 11, 2005 08:03 PM

David, the spirit of the Geneva Conventions says that you don't torture anybody. It specifically says you feed prisoners regularly, etc. I don't see how the letter and the spirit diverge here.

It says you don't deny civilian hospitals to civilians, unless you need those hospitals yourself for your own wounded in a temporary emergency and then you give them back as soon as you can. It says you don't shoot ambulance drivers.

It says you don't do reprisals against civilian populations. You don't take hostages, and you sure don't torture hostages.

You don't shoot prisoners, not until after they've had a fair trial and a chance to appeal.

What spirit are you talking about?

About repercussions -- there's a question how many iraqi soldiers we allowed to surrender during the war. Our marines are getting the reputation they don't take prisoners period. Soldiers have to surrender before they get the benefits of being POWs, and if they think they'd be shot before they get registered as POWs then they'll fight to the death. Because we've developed the reputation for firebombing them when they try to run away, too.

Then there's the civilians. Iraqi civilians mostly sat at home and did nothing, or cheered when we moved in. I think maybe the first few days a lot of them did think of us as liberators. But when we acted like we thought they were all suicide-bombers and shot a lot of them, they started feeling like we didn't want to be friends. And it turned into a real unfriendly occupation where our side is publicly arguing that the geneva conventions are just plain too easy on civilians....

We expected giant refugee problems when we first invaded. They didn't happen. They'll probably happen next time -- foreign civilians will be real scared to be under our occupation.

Next time we occupy a civilian population we can expect a great big resistance movement to start from the beginning -- unless they expect we'll treat them different. If we're occupying a bunch of white christians who speak english, maybe they'll figure we'll be nicer to them.

Incidentally, why do you think this is a war like nobody's ever fought before? How is it different from the russians in afghanistan? (Here's one way it's different. The afghans had already taken over the afghan government when the russians went in to help them. We're trying to build a puppet government completely from scratch.) But seriously, how is what we're doing in iraq different from what the russians did in afghanistan? Why do you think it's new? For that matter, how is it different from what we did in the philippines a century ago, apart from the improved technology?

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 09:12 PM

Incidentally, if you look at the section on denunciation, you don't get to just renounce the geneva conventions. You can do it and wait a year. And you're bound to them in a particular conflict until that conflict is over.

So here's how to do that. First we pull out of iraq completely. Then we renounce the geneva conventions. We say we'll break them against anybody we want to, and anybody can break them against us. Then we wait one year while we rebuild our military. After a year we can invade again and this time it's no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Maybe we could get Governor Shwartzenegger to join up. Just after the invasion force lands they brodcast him. "We're baaaaa-aaaack!"

Posted by: J Thomas at January 11, 2005 09:19 PM

David, the spirit of the Geneva Conventions says that you don't torture anybody.

J Thomas,

actually it qualifies those who are protected under the conventions, and anybody is NOT protected. The signatories did not have trans-national terrorists in mind when they signed that treaty. That's why the spirit of the conventions has not been violated, but it should be re-written to reflect the intent of the drafters and signatories.

Nonetheless, Abu Graib is the only instance in which you could argue the letter of the conventions have been disregard, though not in a systemic way. In Guantanamo, by contrast, they have merely been denied their ability to communicate, and there's no violation there, as per Art 4 I believe.

Posted by: David at January 12, 2005 05:47 AM

David, the geneva convention says we don't take iraqis out of iraq. Taking iraqis to Gitmo would violate the convention even if we didn't torture them there. Which we did, if you believe the ones who've gotten out or the ones who've been allowed to talk to the Red Cross.

Note that the Red Cross reported a pattern of abuses to the army before the special events at Abu Ghraib, and it wasn't just there.

I will let you in on a silly little secret, something that's hardly a secret at all except people seem to willfully misunderstand.

Suppose you were interrogating somebody, and your job was to make them hold a stress position. Like, say, the traditional "airplane" posture -- feet together, knees bent enough to get chest to knees, head down, arms behind and parallel, in line with chest. You're going to make him hold that position for 4 hours or 6 hours or whatever. It's agonising -- try it yourself with a timer if you don't believe me. And if you hook him up with handcuffs he'll damage himself pretty severely when he falls down. How do you make him do it? He falls down, how do you make him get up?

The way you do it, is you beat him and kick him until he gets back into the stress position. The stress position is a static agony, the kicking is a dynamic thing on top of that, and he'll hurt himself to get back into position.

It's silly to say this doesn't violate the Geneva conventions which prohibit beatings.

You want to say that transnationals aren't covered. It looks to me like it says they aren't covered if their home countries haven't signed onto the Geneva Conventions. And they aren't protected by the Conventions if their home government has "normal diplomatic relations" with us. But see, that last doesn't say they have no protections. It says they aren't supposed to need Geneva convention protection. If you torture a canadian citizen then the Canadian government might have something to say about that.

So, suppose saudi arabia conquers and occupies Qatar. And they find an american woman there, wearing a short skirt with a beer can in her hand. They decide to whip her bare bottom 50 times or so for it. If she was a native that would violate the Geneva Conventions. But since she's an american, the guys at the american embassy can say "OK, no problem, you're just enforcing the law as you see it" and it's all OK.

Whatever the rules are about capturing and torturing the citizens of nations we aren't at war with, the rules about iraqis look pretty clear.

Posted by: J Thomas at January 12, 2005 11:12 AM

"And they aren't protected by the Conventions if their home government has "normal diplomatic relations" with us. But see, that last doesn't say they have no protections. It says they aren't supposed to need Geneva convention protection. If you torture a canadian citizen then the Canadian government might have something to say about that."

Another dead thread but you pretty much laid out a great argument for rendition. Of course these folks had better hope they're citizens of Canada rather than say Syria, Saudia Arabia or Yemen. But then -that really isn't our problem is it? We can rest easy can't we, knowing that We didn't torture them. Isn't that why they theoretically don't need Geneva convention protection? Because their own benevolent governments will see to it that they are well treated? So send them home...

Posted by: Caroline at January 12, 2005 03:36 PM

Caroline, yes.

But the rules are you can only rendition them to their own country, not some other US-friendly torturous country.

And the Geneva Conventions say we don't ship any iraqis out of iraq.

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