February 09, 2005

The Post He Never Wanted to Write

Those of us who supported regime-change in Iraq are obligated to go on record in opposition to torture – assuming we really do oppose torture, that is. Anti-war liberals can’t be expected to fight it all by themselves.

Republicans have a partly overlapping, but also somewhat unique, obligation. Sebastian Holsclaw, who calls himself a conservative, explains that obligation over at Red State. If you’re a Republican, this is today’s required reading. I know I'm telling you to eat your peas here, but this is important.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 9, 2005 10:22 PM
Comments

I wish it wasn't so, but I'm sure your rightie commenters will ask why you're giving in to the terrorists. sigh Attorney General Gonzales indeed.

Posted by: Oliver at February 9, 2005 10:53 PM

The old litmus test...

Your family is being held hostage and will be killed. You have someone in your custody that knows where they are. He/she is not talking.

What do you do?

Tough question. I think torture is abhorrent, but I will lie if I say that I will not at least consider torture if it can save the lives of my children. Perhaps it's a question that can only be answered when one is actually put in such a position. Hope I never am.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 9, 2005 10:53 PM

Thanks for the link Michael. Three misconceptions I've seen in previous discussions that I think we should head off.

A) This isn't the 'Ticking Nuke in NYC' scenario. Whatever you think about that scenario doesn't apply when you have time to send someone over to Syria for a couple of months of torture.

B) We aren't just talking about terrorists. We are talking about quite a few people who now appear to be innocent.

C) This doesn't have an easy procedural fix because the whole point of extraordinary rendition is to move someone away from the reach of US procedural safeguards.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at February 9, 2005 11:18 PM

Hmm,

And what about the insurgents captured by the Iraqi forces. I am pretty sure many are being tortured and providing useful information. I am willing to let it pass, not least because to oppose it would bring everyone up in arms against us. Where do you stand on that?

Posted by: chuck at February 9, 2005 11:25 PM

I can't help wondering how much of these discussions
about torture are aesthetic. As an analogy,
most of us in the US seem to be ok with state execution by lethal injection in a prison, but are horrified by public guillotinings. Both are
fairly fast and fairly painless. The reactions differ on aesthetics. So what's the difference
between intensive interrogation under duress
and torture? Clearly (sic) there's a large
grey area. But aside from politely asking questions, making no threats, etc. once you
start putting pressure on a suspect, it can
be a matter of aesthetics. People who imagine
there is a clear high-road in this area strike
me as mistaking their aesthetic for their
ethics. Reminds me of the social workers I
know who consider spanking a child to be
child abuse. Or highminded folks who think
the only alternative to war is pacificism.
No sense of proportion. This is a very rough
planet.

Posted by: EssEm at February 9, 2005 11:29 PM

"So what's the difference
between intensive interrogation under duress
and torture? Clearly (sic) there's a large
grey area."

To use your analogy, there is a big difference between swotting a child's clothed bottom a few times to impress upon it the dnager of darting out into traffic, and beating it black and blue because it didn't clean its plate at dinner.

Likewise there is a big difference between controlled psychological interrogation - which can be very effective if done right - and months-long sadistic infliction of physical pain and tissue damage.

Just because we haven't decided where to draw the line doesn't mean we should abdicate the repsonsibility to draw one.

Posted by: Yehudit at February 9, 2005 11:51 PM

"The old litmus test..."

counts for very little. There's a big difference between doing something terrible because you can't think of anything else to do and doing something terrible because you can't think of anything wrong with it.

I wonder if the famous litmus test (or it's first cousin the ticking-bomb-scenario) have ever really happened at all.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 10, 2005 12:22 AM

I am "against" torture -- but of the physical, not phsycological kinds. I favor tough interrogations. Stanford Magazine had a good story on it about Afghanistan. But today, "Stop Torture" means no serious interrogation.

The world has been developing a huge double standard -- the US is supposed to be perfect, and if not, it's terrible, but the rest of the world gets a pass. When US prisons include many stories of rape, and other abuses, I am NOT going to condemn the US military in a war zone, getting mortared almost daily, for being a little too rough.

Yes, Abu was a "little" too rough -- relative to real beheadings the insurgent death squad types carry out, as policy. And Abu abusers ARE getting punished, and a Gen. was relieved of command. (Over a year ago.)

Part of torture is intimidation, so that others "co operate" and do as they're told without torture. The anti-Iraqi death squaders did this, rather effectively, in Fallujah after April 2004.

The unwillingness of the US folk to use more torture reflects well, by our standards, on the US forces. With no credit by the Left, only continued "not perfect = terrible!"

I'm not at all certain how it is seen by the Arabs -- I get the feeling that many of them knew the "torture", the abuses, that the Leftist press was saying was so terrible, was far less than what actually occurred under Saddam, or under the death squads -- or what will occur to those we render to other gov'ts (including the new Iraqi gov't.)

By THEIR standards, maybe we were too weak; meaning maybe we aren't serious; meaning maybe we're going to leave, and thus lose, and thus the death squad insurgents will take over. So ... maybe they think their rational self interest is to act enough in support of the death squads to be left alone, since the Americans won't do much, anyway.

The Sunni Arab support for the death squads is why they continue to be successful at killing Americans, and at killing those Iraqis trying to work with Americans. Remember, the US ran out on Vietnam, and let death squads win there -- and the Leftist press cheered this Leftist "victory".

When you can show me evidence that doing no serious interrogation of spy/ death squad/ insurgents produces faster victory, I'll strongly support ending torture, and rendering. (Utilitarian) Right now I suspect the opposite. In fact, I think if stronger, more "torture" like sleep deprivation interrogations had been used earlier, there would have been fewer attacks, so hundreds more Iraqis would be alive.

Can you honestly say you think weaker interrogations, rather than stronger, would have stopped more attacks and saved more lives?

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 10, 2005 12:25 AM

Please note the large number of torture apologists on that thread. Hopefully, this will provide insight into one liberal critique of the war, e.g. "There is no way that these particular people are serious about democracy or human rights."

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 12:26 AM

"When you can show me evidence that doing no serious interrogation of spy/ death squad/ insurgents produces faster victory, I'll strongly support ending torture, and rendering."

This is crazy.

Even if torture is not so bad that it cannot ever be justified--something the founding fathers apparently disagreed about, but nevermind--surely it is bad enough for the burden of proof fall on those who support legalizing it to show it will save lives, rather than those who oppose legalizing it to show it will take lives.

Especially since it's us, and not you, who have the f***ing United States army on our side.

Posted by: at February 10, 2005 12:37 AM

Kimmitt,

Democracies are still democracies, even if they engage in the odd bit of torture here and there. They still uphold the human rights of the vast majority. They're not perfect, of course, but usually a whole lot better than the totalitarian alternative.

But that's not the point, is it? I don't believe in physical torture. I don't think the US should be using it at all. Maybe I've watched too many movies, but I just dont understand why we haven't reached the stage where physical torture is redundant, and only sophisticated psychological methods are used that ascertain fairly quickly who's got something to tell and who hasn't.

But then, I still don't get why the US didn't plant WMDs in Iraq when it looked like they weren't going to find any. Yep, I've definitely watched too many movies!

Posted by: Fish at February 10, 2005 01:31 AM

I'm sceptical about the efficacy of torture.

Look at the witch trials in midevial Europe etc. you can torment someone enough that they'll say anything you want them to. Or, they'll say anything they think you want them to and good luck in sorting it all out. So what?

Seeing as how there are more humane (at least physically) ways of getting intelligence information from detainees, I'm left assuming that most cases of torture we're discussing is because those inflicting it enjoyed it and that's what those here are defending.

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 10, 2005 02:17 AM

"I still don't get why the US didn't plant WMDs in Iraq when it looked like they weren't going to find any."

For those who could to do that would imply they a) cared about WMDs in Iraq in the first place b) cared about how they are perceived by the rest of the world (and a good chunk of the US population). What evidence can you site that lead to believe either of those cases were true?

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 10, 2005 02:19 AM

I’m sorry but I expect grown adults to stop running away from reality. What is torture? What is reasonable stressing out of the suspect? These awkward and uneasy questions cannot be ignored. And if somebody claiming to be an intellectual (like Andrew Sullivan) does so---they deserve to be ridiculed. Our military and police organizations need guidelines. If Michael Totten is so concerned, perhaps he might consider offering his ideas. The Israelis, for instance, constantly grapple with this issue. Why shouldn’t Totten?

This is slightly off topic, but still needs to be said. Andrew Sullivan is living off his past. He did indeed once upon a time deserve our respect. Some people accurately even compared him to George Orwell. No longer is this true. Sullivan’s views on torture and many other issues are immature and lazy. Am I too harsh? Not in the least. It’s time for Sullivan to once again earn what he gets. These free rides must cease.

Posted by: David Thomson at February 10, 2005 02:27 AM

Nice dodge, David.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 02:28 AM

“But today, "Stop Torture" means no serious interrogation.”

Yup, that’s exactly what it means when immature people like Ted Kennedy and Andrew Sullivan complain about torture. Once again, perhaps Michael Totten might like assist us in distinguishing between outright torture and serious interrogation. Should I hold my breath?

Posted by: David Thomson at February 10, 2005 02:34 AM

Michael Farris,

I was joking about the planting of WMDs. So I guess that lets me off having to cite evidence of...actually, I'm confused! And I'm too tired to try to work out whether that's your fault or mine :)

Posted by: Fish at February 10, 2005 02:42 AM

The problem is that people define torture in different ways. What I went through in survival school was far worse than the reports I've seen of "torture" thus far. And that was done as a "mild" way of preparing me for the possibility of being captured.

Physical pain seldom accomplishes anything except getting someone to say what he thinks you want to hear just to stop the pain. Psychological "torture" is, in my opinion, useable and valid. We have too many people who don't want anyone to suffer loss of self-esteem.

Posted by: Mike at February 10, 2005 03:35 AM

This is NOT a 'moral'argument.Or more precisely,it is essentially a 'conditional'moral argument.
We should not use torture because we must invariably finish by torturing innocents. I agree with this,and am therefore quite content to concur that we should not engage in the use of systematic'torture'(once we define it properly),or use others to do our dirty work for us.That said,by framing the debate in these'utilitarian'terms,it is clear that 'in some cases 'torture' might be not only acceptable but also 'moral'.If all Al-Queda types,and only Al-Queda types were coloured purple,would it be legitimate to 'torture'them,,on the more than reasonable assumptions that they were,guilty as sin,knew something of value,and were an ongoing danger to the lives of innocents?
Answer------------ Yes.

Posted by: dougf at February 10, 2005 03:51 AM

Michael, YOU are avoiding the issues:
1) what is the definition of torture; in particular, how many hours (minutes? seconds?) is acceptable for sleep deprivation?

2) Do you believe it is "true" (in an unprovable, but believable way) that "no torture" means nearly useless interrogations? If not, HOW do you interrogate without pressure, which some will call "torture"? (see the article, or other serious ones).

3) Are you willing to let innocents die, by NOT interrogating firmly, and thus NOT getting information? If so, how many have to die before you increase pressure on the interrogators/ babysitters to obtain information (that might save lives)?

You are right that it is important. It should be important enough to be honest about the tradeoffs: a) tougher interrogations trying to get life-saving information/ (or info that assists in capturing terrorists) -- but sometimes is excessive; b) essentially giving up on US interrogations for info (thus relying almost exclusively on "tips" for info, including ambushes).

You seem to be so far choosing (b) but not accepting the loss of info.

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 10, 2005 04:08 AM

Many of the people who "defend torture" are doing so because they can envision scenarios where they'd be ok with torture. They are misguided but let's try to be fair here and understand what their basis is for taking a torture-is-ok stance: essentially, they're saying torture is ok because it can be ok.

As others have pointed out, this isn't a "ticking bomb" scenario we're talking about however. And Sebastian had previous posts explaining this but there's a difference between wanting torture to be banned and "saying that torture is in no circumstance ok".

I too agree with the torture-apologists that I can envision a circumstance where I'd be "ok" with torture but that doesn't mean those circumstances should be explicitly codified into law as "ok to torture". Whereever you draw the line demarcating what is "ok" and what isn't, it's going to be pushed. So if you draw a line that effectively says torturing is ok for 1% of whatever-group-of-people because that's what you can envision, you're actually going to end up with 10% of that group getting tortured. (insert real numbers please) If you can envision 1% of this-group being ok-to-torture the way to get that result is to just ban torture.

"But what about this pet scenario I've thought up?" Well if the scenario is dire enough it's a little dumb to suggest that torturing a suspect (1) can be useful in averting a megadisaster and yet (2) our guys will decide not to do it and let the millions die "because of regulations". They will torture, and then face responsibility (and a jury) and explain themselves. This among other things helps (better) ensure that it really is a "ticking bomb" scenario....

As for "rendition", I don't see how one can justify that even using "ticking bomb".... the whole point is these are not ticking bomb cases and they want to get around regs... i mean, come on!

Posted by: Blixa at February 10, 2005 04:34 AM

Tom Grey wrote my post! (His first one.)

Legally, there's a requirement that the United States have regulations (not necessarily public) defining the status and treatment of illegal combatants. We have to, because they exist and they are not covered by the Geneva Convention except to be clearly outside the definitions of legal combatants in that document.

Under a rigid application of Geneva, a captured jihadi could be shot at the discretion of the capturing force; they have NO status. The nature of this war makes our historical definition of "the battlefield" moot. But in the real world, what is the level of certainty that every person rolled up in a curfew sweep, or is found in a house with a weapons cache, or was seen talking with a person who later ends up a suicide bomber, or was simply reported via anonymous tip, is really a jihadi?

We are a nation of laws, and our military and LE types depend on guidance from leadership in order to stay on the right side of those laws.

Tom's point is extremely important. Yes, there must be a workable procedure for interrogating detainees. An already complicated issue is being made even more diffucult to address sensibly because of our domestic political minority's (and the international opposition) willingness to exploit any opportunity to damage the administration; their motivation is divorced from any consideration of our security needs or the reality of the stakes involved.

I do not support medieval tactics. I just as vigrously support keeping the right to use reasonable coercion in the form of sleep deprivation, total physical regimentation, extended interviews, misinformation, and other such techniques that are familiar to any U.S. servicemember who has ever undergone SERE training, as I have.

We must not allow political calculation to drive the discussion of this issue and end up allowing any coercion beyond those applying in our criminal justice system to be labeled as torture, as seems to be the working goal of the anti-war types now.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 06:05 AM

Mike -

I was a guest of the AF for about a week and change (the days ran together) up in the Sierra Nevada.

They never got the score of the Cub's game. And I ended up spending the last night in a snow cave outside the wire, too. A very informative experience.

I believe they actually washed out a pilot who refused to exploit an opportunity to escape, too. This was back during the time shortly after the Libya strikes. Serious people, those SERE folks.

The moral of the story is "Never piss of your S-2 officer".

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 06:13 AM

Someone wants to take the ticking nuke in NYCity off the table. Why? Does it blow all your arguments away? What about a ticking roadside bomb in Iraq that kills our guys in their bradley vehicles. Are you going to take that off the table too?

It would be nice if we could define torture first though. Otherwise it's all hot air--as someone called it, an exercise in "aesthetics." It becomes a who's the nicest guy on the blog competition. I have no use for nice guys. There's too much self-absorption in that. And what could possibly nicer than saving lives?

So what's torture? I know sticking needles under someone's fingernails is torture. That's clear. And electric shocks are torture.

But can you have psychological and even physical pressure that will breakdown a man's resistance without it crossing over into the realm of torture? I think so.

Is loud music over an extended period of time torture? Nope. Is sleep deprivation torture? Nope. Are truth serums torture? Nope. Is dunking a guy in water torture? I don't think so. Is giving the guy a hard on by having a naked chic rub up against him torture? Nope. It's embarrassing (or "humiliating" as the terror apologists call it), but it's not torture.

With the proper red tape and government oversight (unlike Abu Graib), we should give our interrogators the tools they need. Lives are are stake.

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 06:25 AM

TmjUtah has it right. I am against torture (in deference to Blixa, there are times when I think you have to do whatever has to be done). The problem is that those who are more concerned with attacking the President than anything else have made it impossible to have a reasonable dialogue about this. Virtually everything that is done is labeled "torture" by some critics, even things that clearly are not torture. Ironically, this cheapens the meaning of torture and probably emboldens interrogators to use tactics they would not otherwise be permitted to use.

Another problem arises in that the effectiveness of interrogation is diminished if the enemy knows where the "line" is that interrogators will not cross. Our interrogators need to know what they can and cannot do, but how can we develop such a policy without giving too much information to the enemy?

Posted by: Ben at February 10, 2005 06:36 AM

Michael, thanks for posting this. I notice a lot of evasion among the President's supporters, and this saddens me. Thanks to Sebastian Holsclaw for posting here too, and trying to keep things on track.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 06:56 AM

Asher,

I see a lot of grappling and good arguments from the President's supporters, and only platitudes and evasions from his detractors. You're not even trying to engage on the merits. Being nice or feeling "sad" isn't an argument.

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 07:09 AM

All I can say is I'd rather be a prisoner interrogated in the United States than say Saudia Arabia, Sudan, Libya, Iran, Syria, France, North Korea, Cuba, China, Latin America, etc, etc, etc.

And, if we REALLY oppose such horrific torture why then do we actively advocate permitting the torture of innocent babies whenever they are sucked out of the body via a vacumn cleaner?

40 million tortured over three decades, yet nary a word.

Posted by: susan at February 10, 2005 07:12 AM

I can't see any justification for extraordinary rendition. It's clearly a back door to allow torture. Not sure how to get rid of it, but it looks like a clear-cut moral disgrace.

There is plenty of psychological pressure we could be exerting -- and taking the heat for it -- rather than passing the buck to third-world sadists. It looks to me like a way to pass our dirty laundry to someone else. And it seems very likely to me that we are doing this because bad press has neutered our ability to apply severe psychological pressure on possible terrorists.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at February 10, 2005 07:19 AM

Wow, that article forces one to ask himself a number of poignant questions. I'd say on principle torture is an inhumane and horrid practice. Unfortunately I think for many people here, as evidenced above, it's only so if "the other guy" commits acts of torture.

One has to use subjective reasoning though because it all depends on your own individual definition of torture. Was it torture when Maj. Allen West fired his pistol next the the head of an "insurgent" in order to extract intel that saved his men? I say no. Is it torture to hold someone under water until they think they will drown, only to pull them up at the last second? No again. Is it torture to mentally mindf*** someone until they completely have a breakdown? Nope.

Should we draw line at all? You're damn right we should, Yehudit's assertion is crap; the line already exists, just like every abyss has an edge. Ok, well if so then where is it? How about at the point just before we start farming out interrogation to other "less reputable" regimes and/or "Intn'l Corporations" so that they can engage in practices the the AMERICAN VOTERS have said we cannot engage in.

It's one thing to walk the line, it's quite another to skirt around it. We should challenge ourselves find more creative, effective methods of breaking people than the same ones employed by despots, and that does NOT include hiring the despots themselves to do our dirty work.

But keep in mind that I'm still all for "breaking people" because I don't believe we can extract information from suicidal zealots by playing good cop/bad cop. I also believe in fighting fire with a flamethrower; meaning that once we obtain actionable intelligence we should employ tactics so frightening, so overpowering, so horrific that we permanently sear into the minds of our enemies the cost of doing battle with the United States. For more on that read "The Hunt for Bin Laden" by Robin Moore.

And on a OT side note, I for one am personally glad to have men like General James Mattis on our frontline having "fun shooting some people" because the "some people" he's fighting have, through their deeds, exempted themselves from the human race. Those who are in collusion with such people, although they may not be guilty of the same acts, do so at their own peril and I lose no sleep over that.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 07:19 AM

Asher -

I hope you aren't putting me in the evasion column.

There is a vital need to develop intelligence about enemy intentions, plans, and organization. Nothing beats human intelligence, especially when the opposition is covertly organized and has minimal physical infrastructure subject to surveillence.

We can't measure al Q's posture by snapping pictures of their missile silos, factories, or ports. They don't have any. Monitoring email via automated scanning at best produces guesses based on traffic volume.

The people who trumpet Abu Ghraib as a reason to provide every jihadi captured on the battlefield with an O.J. defense team and their own book deal are equating moves to tighten our borders and implement more rigorous tracking of visitors/immigrants from terror-producing states and regions with racism - with the implicit suggestion that the motivation behind these tactics is purely political and intended to falsely alarm the citizenry.

Those same people will be first in line to condemn the administration for failing to do "enough" to prevent the next domestic mass- casualty attack. It's transparent, and sad.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 07:21 AM

Susan: And, if we REALLY oppose such horrific torture why then do we actively advocate permitting the torture of innocent babies whenever they are sucked out of the body via a vacumn cleaner?

Don't you know Susan? The supreme court said they're not babies, they're fetuses. They haven't reached that magical point, determined by men in black robes, where they're lifeless fetuses without feeling one moment, and then human babies the next.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 07:27 AM

I'm sorry, men and women in black robes...

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 07:29 AM

It is sure neato to be "against torture" when you haven't defined what the word means in the first place.

Let's start the stopwatch for how long before I am branded a "torture appologist" for asking tough questions such as 1) what is and isn't torture? 2) when is it appropiate to use certain interigation methods on terrorists?

I would rather be branded a "torture appologist" than cost the lives and freedoms of others by spouting leftist platitudes about a "taboo" topic and trying to score cheap political points.

Posted by: Fred at February 10, 2005 07:29 AM

Sebastian,

I like your concise summary of your points. I'm in favor of tough interrogations when it's necessary, but if innocent people are being tortured, that needs to stop.

A couple of questions about the Redstate article:
' Perhaps some people would be willing to torture Al Qaeda members.  I'm not one of them, but perhaps some are.  The problem with that mindset is that we aren't just torturing Al Qaeda members.'
I'm not sure I follow this reasoning. Are you saying that a "slippery slope" is inherent in allowing the use of torture on suspects?

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 07:33 AM

TmjUtah,

No indeed. As far as utilitarian, ticking-bomb scenarios go, I come out on the pro-torture side, at least until someone can show me why I shouldn't.

I remember reading in Debka about a literal "ticking bomb" scenario that occurred a few months ago. (Sorry, I can't come up with the citation right now.) A very tough suspect had finally, under "intense torture" (I remember Debka used the word torture) and threat of death, given information that allowed US and Israeli authorities to prevent a bombing wave, saving unknown numbers of lives.

This is a case where you're interrogating someone who you know has the information you need and is withholding it from you. But what about innocent suspects? If innocent people are being made to suffer by our side, then this issue plainly has to be addressed immediately.

This is why I have difficulty with Sebastian's claim that "the problem with that mindset is that we aren't just torturing Al Qaeda members." I don't think it's a problem with a "mindset", I think it's a problem with hurting the wrong people. If you assume that all those who are not anti-torture absolutists are part of the problem, then it becomes difficult to have a productive dialog. I would like some assurance that Sebastian can separate the "all torture is wrong" debate from the "we're torturing innocent people" debate.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 07:50 AM

For those of you who still need to 'define torture', let me bring back a point mentioned some few weeks ago on the subject.

The United States has signed the "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, G.A. res. 39/46, [annex, 39 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 51) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/39/51 (1984)], entered into force June 26, 1987."

In signing the document, we have agreed to the defination of torture, as listed in that Convention. To wit:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Is that clear? Severe pain or suffering for the purpose of obtaining information. No where does it indicate that 'severe' means 'to death'. The word chosen was severe, not fatal, nor even debilitating which would indicate permanent damage or death.

Now, of course, we don't want to take away that great Strawman "What If". What if there is a ticking nuke? What if its your wife/child/mom/dog? What if, What if, What if I could find an excuse to torture?

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Now, I can hear those great champions of the American way (Hi Tom and David) try to slip out by saying that we're just making people run around in their birthday suits, take a little sodomy here and there, maybe some electrocution... I mean, its not like we rolled out the Iron Maiden (I think being forced to listen to them would be torture). Surely, what's being reported in GitMo and AG don't meet the hard requirements listed above...

And they might be right... but, Article 16 of said document says:

Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Now, we can disagree with the fact that we signed our name to an entangling alliance with a idiot run toothless Lion. We can disagree with the defination vs. our personal defination.

But, we signed our name. We gave our word. We swore to uphold these standards.

Personally, I'd rather die than break my word. Surely, we must feel the same as a nation.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. - James 5:12 NIV

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 08:06 AM

To take things one step further, who here are in favor of using torture (and I mean the real, visceral, craative kind of torture) for retribution against people like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi? Would any of you use inhumane and monstrous techniques to punish the worst of our enemies?

I know I would. Hell, I've daydreamed about it. You see I live just a few short miles from Nick Berg's house, and a friend of mine actually grew up with him. It becomes very personal when you see someone from your own community, let alone your country, get beheaded. I can still hear his screams.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 08:09 AM

Asher -

The methods I mentioned above aren't torture. They are the most effective means we have for developing intelligence from detainees over the long term - and if we have in fact swept up someone completely innocent, we are guilty of making a mistake, making that person's life miserable, and have likely harmed our standing in that person's eyes, and the eyes of his family and friends.

Meanwhile, there is still a war raging that must be prosecuted with all the legal means at our disposal.

Tha package delivered by the anti-torture crowd conspicously lacks any acknowledgement of that reality, as well as even the faintest suggestion that honest mistakes are going to be made. There is a total absence of constructive criticism; the only conclusion I am able to arrive at is they want us to treat terror suspects like our citizens are treated in criminal justice proceedings.

Not on a battlefield. Not against this enemy.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 08:12 AM

You can slice it and dice it anyway you want. DO you support torture or not? Yes or No. If no, then you are still a member of the human race. If yes, you are loser, bullying, scum. There is a difference between interrogation and torure, one is effective and the other isn't. All your other reasons are strawmen designed to camouflage your desire to dominate over other humans. Causing pain some how makes you feel morally superior even tough you are the lowest form of scum, should be declred an enemy of the U.S., have your citizenship revoked, and sent to Saudi Arabia.

Read this and see if you still think torture is good:

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050214fa_fact6

Posted by: SFA at February 10, 2005 08:23 AM

TmjUtah,

OK, I think we are beginning to understand one another better.

I've re-read your previous posts, and I think you've got it right. There does need to be some provision for effective coercion techniques - I've never quarreled with that. And there also needs to be recognition that in an imperfect world, there will be mistakes and innocent people will be caught up in the process. Putting "a" and "b" together, we can add that some "medieval" torture methods are beyond the pale and should be ruled out entirely.

Mike's post about "torture" vs. survival school brings out some good points too. To a civilian (and even to an ordinary grunt like me) survival school sounds a lot like "torture" - but that doesn't mean that it is, or that it should be treated as its equivalent.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 08:28 AM

I cannot agree with the convention on torture as written. It appears to disallow police interrogation as practiced in every country in the world. The notion of causing "mental suffering" is a black hole of endless litigation and roadblocks. It's absurd to think that the interrogation of suspects (whether terror suspects or criminal suspects) is not going to involve mental suffering. Who the hell wants to be interrogated? It would make every one here suffer mentally if he or she were interrogated about a crime or act of terror by the police over an extended period of time. Does this mean we will not interrogate? How moronic!

I am not in favor of phyical torture causing the infliction of pain or bodily violation, including the simulated drowning technique mentioned (which has actually resulted in real drownings on occasion). It seems far more productive and humane to simply keep a suspect awake until he or she she cracks, or use other techniques. Torturing prisoners with REAL torture is crossing the line into inhumanity and barbarism, and should never be given sanction by society.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at February 10, 2005 08:38 AM

"I'm not sure I follow this reasoning. Are you saying that a "slippery slope" is inherent in allowing the use of torture on suspects?"

No, I'm saying that we aren't just torturing Al Qaeda members, we are also torturing suspected Al Qaeda members. And a disturbingly high number of them are in fact turning out to be innocent. So we can't hide from the moral consequences of using torture by dodging the issue by saying that 'they deserved it anyway'. Because even if you believe that Al Qaeda members deserve torture (and I believe they deserve it, but that we ought not employ it), I'm pretty sure we can agree that innocent people don't.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at February 10, 2005 08:41 AM

But back to the question of torture itself. Some of the allegations -

"They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables"

" But both suspects have said, through lawyer and family members, that they were torture with electrical charges to their genitals. (Zer said that he was also forced to lie on a electrified bed frame."

"He said that he was beaten frequently with blunt instruments"

"Habib said that he was shackled and forced to stand in three torture chambers: one room was filled with water up to his chin, requiring him to stand on tiptoe for hours; another chamber, filled with water up to his knees, had a ceiling so low that he was forced into a prolonged, painful stoop; in the third, he stood in water up to his ankles, and within sight of an electric switch and a generator, which his jailers said would be used to electrocute him if he didn’t confess."

Are these stories true? If so, are they torture?

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 08:42 AM

Matthew Cromer, excellent points.

Sebastian, thanks for the clarification. No argument there.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at February 10, 2005 08:46 AM

Rat -

I don't see where the Geneva convention applies to individuals specifically excluded from the protections of the conventions, i.e. "unlawful combatants".

I'm no lawyer, but I rather think our current judicial climate is such that a winning case might be made that mere interrogatoin rises to the level of "torture" as it is spelled out in the covenant you referenced.

In the Ninth Circuit, at least, for sure.

I'd like to see that agreement ammended to place our compliance as conditional on the enemy's compliance, even if they aren't signatories. Or, in the absence of that option, see it formally repudiated in favor of the earlier Geneva articles that deny protections to unlawful combatants.

Keep it legal, by all means.

War is hell. Our good intentions and traditions of fair play ("just war", if you will) make it possible for us to subscribe to such agreements. When good intentions generate intolerable outcomes we must recognise what must be done and act accordingly.

I'm willing to die to preserve my country. Not to honor an agreement that provides a ruthless enemy with impunity from interrogation.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 08:52 AM

Matthew Cromer,

I too have problems with the way that the Convention was written. However, that is something that you would need to take up with President Reagan. (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1079/is_n2137_v88/ai_6742034)

I guess my point is, that while we may personally have some problems with some parts of that document... we signed it.

As Mr. Reagan told Congress:

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

Now, we were able to put Declarations and Reservations in place as well. We chose to do this with:

"The United States declares, pursuant to article 21, paragraph 1, of the Convention, that it recognizes the competence of the Committee against Torture to receive and consider communications to the effect that a State Party claims that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention. It is the understanding of the United States that, pursuant to the above-mentioned article, such communications shall be accepted and processed only if they come from a State Party which has made a similar declaration."

That's it. In 1988, thats the only problem we had with this document.

So, do we honor our word, or do we, at least, honorably extricate ourselves from the treaty (and deal with the political s*itstorm that would follow)?

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 08:54 AM

Asher -

"OK, I think we are beginning to understand one another better."

Problem is it's not you and me who will decide the issue.

SFA -

"You can slice it and dice it anyway you want. DO you support torture or not? Yes or No. If no, then you are still a member of the human race. If yes, you are loser, bullying, scum."

Define torture.

By the broad language in the covenenant referenced by Ratatosk, "degrading" is torture.

I'd be pretty bummed if I had to wear the same prison garb as everyone else. I'd feel... degraded. And I'd make sure my lawyer passed that on, too.

This argument is funny, in sick sort of way. Do you know how to make money on a crooked horse race? You don't have to know which horse will win - you just have to know which one won't.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 09:00 AM

Tosk,

It's clear that we can't politically extricate ourselves from that treaty at this time, so there will be a certain amount of hypocracy involved for all the signatories as they all continue to violate the "mental torture" clauses.

Nonetheless, we don't need a treaty to know that extradicting people to Syria for torture, or partially drowning people is un-American and morally reprehensible.

The convention on torture is not associated with the Geneve convention AFAIK, so the issue of legitimate POW does not arise, IMO. It's clear to me that the "insurgents" do not merit Geneva protection. Geneva POW's should not be treated like suspected criminals or suspected terrorists, but AFAIK there are no such honorable POWs in Iraq at this time.

Posted by: Matthew Cromer at February 10, 2005 09:02 AM

TMJUtah,

I don't see where the Geneva convention applies to individuals specifically excluded from the protections of the conventions, i.e. "unlawful combatants".

I agree. But, thats why I didn't quote the Geneva Convention.

In the preamble it states:
Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,

Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,

Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975,

Desiring to make more effective the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world,

It applies to all humans.

Now, as for your point of amending it, I agree that if we are to move forward with a policy in contradiction to this agreement, we must change or nullify the agreement. Personally, I'd just as soon see it (and most other treaties/Conventions and Concords) tossed out on their ear. However, until we extract ourselves from this entangling alliance, I think we should hold to our word.

That means, to my way of thinking, that we (well Ronnie acting on our behalf) agreed to this defination of torture. So we don't have to ask in the blogsphere for people to define torture. Its already been done, officially, by the United States.

Now the question becomes "Have We Broken Our Word?"

When does interrogation become torture?

I think that we can say it's when the act meets the defination of torture in the document that our government signed. In this case, I can see three key elements required for something to be called torture.

1. The action results in severe pain or suffering (mental or physical)

2. The action is being done in order to get information, confession or as punishment.

3. The "consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity". (Ergo. While the Mafia may torture people, the US government is not held liable)

So, if someone in the Millitary orders any act that inflicts severe pain and suffering on a person, in order to get information or met out punishment... the United States has said that it is torture. (per the document referenced in the original post).

Have we committed acts of torture already?

I don't know. We know that soliders have inflicted pain (even death) upon some of these prisoners. We have evidence that in at least 'some' of the situations the pain was inflicted to get information. We do not know if it was sanctioned by a government official or person acting in an official capacity.

I am not yet convinced that the US has engaged in torture that breeches this agreement.

I am convinced that people who keep asking for definations and carping about 'unlawful combatants' are apparently reading a different document... or at least reading this one from some alternative universe.

But, that may be the rays that the government keeps shooting into my brain.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 09:15 AM

the only conclusion I am able to arrive at is they want us to treat terror suspects [on the battlefield] like our citizens are treated in criminal justice proceedings.

What we want is for us to treat terror suspects according to US law. If you want to change the law, fine -- you've got all three branches of government, and the 8th Amendment only applies to US citizens. But the law says you can't waterboard people, you can't sodomize them, and you can't tie them up so that their extremites lose circulation and become gangrenous.

That's what we want. The rule of law.

I know I would. Hell, I've daydreamed about it.

Sure, and I've had similar daydreams about the son of a bitch who did heinous things to a member of my family. But I don't get to act them out, because we live in a country where we don't act based on the rage of the victimized's loved ones, we act on the principles of law and careful proportionality, with outer limits set on how far we go. I don't want to go back to a world of honor killings -- or mass reprisals -- and I imagine you do not either. Part of the point of winning the war against the terrorists is to have some kind of moral distinction between us and them.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 09:16 AM

Ratatosk - thanks for your post. Presenting the "definition" for torture is a key to the whole argument.

Since the US has signed the UN Convention Against Torture in 1987 then we should abide by it - not weasel around by sending people to other countries that didn't sign it and have them do our dirty work. Simple answer I think.

The whole argument about torture comes down to the questions: what are you willing to do for the greater good? And are you willing to sell your soul for the greater good (and become the thing that you dispise)?

By signing the Convention Against Torture the US had decided at that time to take the high road and not justify the use torture for pursuing the greater good.

Truth serums, and other coercive interrogation techniques may be okay - but there are grey areas there too. I read that one interrogation technique in Iraq was to play nonstop Barney songs to the prisoners - I don't know if that could be considered "severe" or not.

Posted by: Brian at February 10, 2005 09:32 AM

My fuzzy/non-scientific (etc etc etc) torture threshhold. Not meant to evaluate but for planning.

Scenario: You think the detainee might have valuable information but there's no ticking bomb.

Evaluation: You limit yourselves to those actions which would not be too extreme if the detainee turned out to be utterly, completely innocent (like most of the poor sobs who we treated so well in Abu Ghraib).

For all the torture enthusiasts here, imagine you're face to face with someone from Abu Ghraib who should never have been detained in the first place (again, a majority from what I understand). What are you gonna tell him?

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 10, 2005 09:35 AM

Brian,

No wonder they want to kill all Westerners. If I had to listen to Barney for more than one round of "Apples and Bananas"... I'd want to destroy whatever civilization brought him into existence as well!

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 09:35 AM

Before you get too lathered up, do your self a favor and read the excellent article on torture by Heather MacDonald in the winter City Journal.

Posted by: Michael Herbert at February 10, 2005 09:40 AM

'Tosk,

I appreciate you quoting the source material. Doesn't it all come down to the definition of the word "severe"? Bamboo under fingernails -- severe. Naked dogpiles -- not so much.

Posted by: BladeDoc at February 10, 2005 09:41 AM

TmjUtah: I don't see where the Geneva convention applies to individuals specifically excluded from the protections of the conventions, i.e. "unlawful combatants".

In order to exclude a captured individual from the protections of the Geneva Convention, the Detaining Power is required to prove by means of a "competent tribunal" that the individual is not included under the definitions provided in Article 4.

As the US has never shown evidence to competent tribunals that any of the prisoners held in Bagram Airbase, or other Afghan prisons, orGuantanamo Bay, or the various Iraqi prisons including Abu Ghraib, are not entitled to be considered PoWs, legally all prisoners held by the US are entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Convention as PoWs. That's what the Geneva Convention says: see Article 5. Bush & Co have caused the US to be in breach of the Geneva Convention at least since they first set up Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 10, 2005 09:43 AM

Nonstop Barney songs? Bush should be hanged for that.

Posted by: Fred at February 10, 2005 09:54 AM

Where do we find his competent tribunal?

The U.N.? The body that refused to enforce seventeen sanctions it authored against Iraq? The world criminal court? We ask the Red Cross?

I still maintain that the motive driving the debate is a search for political points - and yes, that's an opinion.

Ratatosk, please accept my thanks as well for providing source documentation. I liken this situation to what Lincoln faced - he could confine his actions to a narrow interpetation of the law or he could act in the what he thought to be the necessary manner to preserve the union.

Kimmit -

I agree with your comment about wanting to conform to U.S. law. You said "Part of the point of winning the war against the terrorists is to have some kind of moral distinction between us and them."; would you agree that the furthest out-there faction of the opposition to the war or administration already have judged the administration as morally reprehensible as the enemy?

I'll be back later in the day; lots happening here.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 10:44 AM

Kimmett: I don't want to go back to a world of honor killings -- or mass reprisals -- and I imagine you do not either. Part of the point of winning the war against the terrorists is to have some kind of moral distinction between us and them

No I don't want that, but for me it is easy to rationalize the exemption of barbarous animals from the benefits of a civil society. You, the 9/11 Victims families, and the Beslan parents are all stonger people than I because, although I know it is my flaw, should anyone hurt my loved ones, they will witness wrath on a level most of us can can barely imagine; or want to.

My moral distinction comes from my capacity to be a better person. However, to distinguish myself from them, I don't need to treat those who wish to do me harm, better than they would me.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 10:56 AM

Ah, interrogation.

Lemme see, my desktop dictionary defines interrogate as: to question formally, systematically. Looking at other sources, that's just about as physically (or even psychologically) intrusive as it gets.

So, the question becomes: why are we calling physical and/or psychological coercion of a desired testimony interrogation? It seems like it's being used as a euphemism for something else.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 11:01 AM

Let me throw out a strawman argument and see where it goes. I'm going to define torture as anything that causes damage (either mental or physical) that takes longer than a week before the person is "good as new".

Sleep deprivation can be fixed by a night or two of sleep so it's not torture.

Pulled out fingernails take longer than a week to grow back - it's torture.

Loud music - not torture.

Loud music that damages hearing - torture.

Posted by: John Davies at February 10, 2005 11:06 AM

No, John. There's lots of things you can do that leave no lasting damage (other than the psychological trauma) that are torture.

For a fictional example, one could look at the first volume of Dune, where excruciating pain can be induced via nerve induction. No lasting damage, but the pain is real. Not valid? Well, let's look at the water torture. No physical damage at all. Ditto attack dogs and other debasements.

But these are all quite beside the point. The point is, we have no business doing anything with these prisoners other than questioning and confinement. If we continue attempting to extract confessions with inducements physical or psychological, what's going to happen is that eventually we're not going to be able to question them at all without legal counsel present. Not to mention, as Michael Kimmitt has pointed out, we lose a great deal of the moral edge that we've been saying we hold, plus, well, you can't go back. Torture is a taint that you can't wash off. We're supposed to be the good guys, here, and we're only that as long as we act that way.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 11:22 AM

TMJUtah,

Ratatosk, please accept my thanks as well for providing source documentation. I liken this situation to what Lincoln faced - he could confine his actions to a narrow interpetation of the law or he could act in the what he thought to be the necessary manner to preserve the union.

That's a good point. Unfortunately, I think it wqill just make the situation more contentious. While I'm glad that there is not slavery in America today. I personally think that Lincoln overstepped his bounds, precisely because he went past the law and acted in what 'he thought' to be the necessary manner to preserve the union.

To my mind, the President and every elected official in the US government, is there to do the will of the American people. The Will of the American People is decided through a democratic republic that passes laws.

If a president wishes to do something that is beyond the law, as it stands, then it is his responsibility to create a bill and get it passed into law (or at the very least issue a Presidential decree). It is, in my mind, unacceptable for any elected official to do what they think is necessary, particularly if it contradicts existing laws.

Personally, I would have told the South to sod off and make their own country if they didn't like this one.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 11:25 AM

Good arguments about the subject. However, as some posters have mentioned, and others have done, some of the complaints about this are designed obviously to hurt the administration's war effort. To that end, to punch up the numbers, the opponents haul in various procedures normal people would not think of as torture.
When this gets out, when others can say, "See, they think having no toilet paper is torture" the entire discussion disappears.
When a dozen million veterans can say, "Hell, I had worse than that in Basic.", the argument is over.
When somebody, in order to avoid having to acknowledge real thinking, challenges one to admit supporting torture or being against it (the former makes you an animal)and then hauls in anything at all, torture or not, which the administration is currently doing, that's not an argument. Admitting to being for or against anything in a situation like that is signing a blank contract with your obligations yet to be defined.
And anybody who didn't bitch about rendition when Janet Reno started it gets to go someplace else and shut up. Otherwise we might think this is all partisan.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 11:32 AM

Kimmett and Slartibarfast,

I'm obviously conflicted and largely undecided on the whole issue of torture, its definition and so on. However I do truly support the rule of law and the adherance of U.S. Citizens to that law, and I DON'T support side-stepping our laws. Time and time again that has burnt us.

I would though like to ask you this. If we are to not engage in such coercive behavior as you have defined, then that would mean a limitation of our offensive, or pro-active, abilities to combat our enemies. That is given that torture to some degree, on some occasions, can bear fruit. So to my question, if we sacrifice our offensive posture, then we should bolster our defensive posture, are you willing to take such measures as sealing up our borders, strictly enforcing immigration policy, and possibly even compramising to a certain degree, some of our civil liberties?

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 11:37 AM

Sobering reading. Nasty topic. But the charge that us "righies" (a description I wouldn't use on myself, but which has been thrust upon me often enough that I'm tired of arguing with it) are ignoring the torture issue is wrong. Obviously we've thought about it. We just don't think the mention of the "T" word is reason to light a torch, pick up the pitchfork, and storm the castle.

Actually, the whole torture aspect of this story is something a red herring. For once I agree with Kimmitt; the real issue here is respect for the law by the government. And the New Yorker article presents plenty of evidence that the W Administration is more than willing to bend the rules for what it believes to be the greater good. Unlike Kimmitt and the rest of the Storm-The-Castle crowd, I don't believe anyone in the Whitehouse is getting vicarious thrills imagining a global Abu Ghraib scenario; but I do believe there's an ends-justifies-the-means attitude that, left unchecked, would do very bad things to this country.

So now do I pull a Sullivan and grab the pitchfork? Not quite. I'm jaded enough to accept that in a dirty war dirty things happen to -- and get done by -- the better side. I'm very confident that the Enlightenment Culture (represented mostly by the U.S., with useless kvetching contributed by our doddering forerunners) is the better side.

What I'd like to see is rational discussion of the best way to fight our enemies, with everything on the table. Places like the comments section on this site seem better at it than just about any other venue, and even here we get a nearly tortuous heat-to-light ratio.

Which, for you torchbearers out there, is the biggest reason Bush & Co. can get away with their mischief. Given the choice between letting Bush slide on stuff like this, or settling for your dystopian view of the depravity of our nation, most people settled for the less depressing option.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 10, 2005 11:46 AM

Conservatives, to me: Define torture

Physical pain. Breaking the skin barrier. And, in my opinion, waterboarding.

Loud music and sleep deprivation are not torture.

Now, please quite accusing me of dodging and address Sebastian Holsclaw's argument. Forget the ticking-bomb scenario. If you bothered to read his essay before posting here you'll know he's talking about shipping prisoners off to Syria, which would never ever happen under any ticking bomb scenario.

So. Are you in favor of this "extraordinary rendition"? Or are you against it? Do you Republicans really want to deserve being labelled the Torture Party, or would you rather avoid that?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 11:48 AM
When a dozen million veterans can say, "Hell, I had worse than that in Basic.", the argument is over.

No, there's a minor difference or two there. I trust that you can figure it out if you think about it for a while.

As a clue, I've gone through protracted, excruciating pain. Any athlete has. I've also done things to myself (like extracting a large splinter that got lodged under my thumbnail) that I imagine is rather worse than some of the physical travails documented. There's a wee bit of difference, though: I was in control. I consented. If you think that anything any soldier has endured in training ought to be ok, consider arbitrarily inflicting that same thing on anyone, anywhere, at any time, without any consent involved. You. Your wife. Your parents. We founded this country based on the notion that everyone has these inalienable rights. Are we now saying that these are only confined to citizens? If you're wondering what I'm talking about, just read the Declaration of Independence. It's not law, but it's the premises on which the law was written.

Mike T, not a bad question. But consider this: we're not just abusing people we know have information we need. And also know this: when Kimmitt and I have an overlapping of opinion, that's an extraordinary event. I'm a conservative Republican (sort of; the details aren't really relevant here) that's just thought this issue over for quite a while, and decided that in one way or another, whether it's official policy or unofficial policy, we (meaning we as a country) have been on the wrong side of this issue.

And even if we were only abusing people who we knew had information we need, is there any evidence at all that we're getting the truth out of them? This is completely outside of the morality discussion, I know. I think we've seen some evidence that we at least occasionally get what we want, but it's untrue. So it's worse than no information, it's wrong information that we're treating as if it were factual.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 11:55 AM

Slart, you missed the point.
The point is not the definition of torture or whether there is any voluntary component to it.
The point is the, how can I say this, THE EFFIN' ARGUMENT. Clear now?
When a dozen million vets can say, Hell, I had worse than this in Basic, the argument is over. Has nothing to do with the definition. The popular perception of the argument is my point, and the issue is that the lefties, by hauling in anything they can find, whether normal people would consider it torture or not, are ruining both their own argument and ending the discussion discussion in the general population.

Michael. You had zilch to say, nor did your dem buddies when Reno started rendition, and your guy was in office. If the righties are actually supporting rendition, which is up in the air, it's merely following your example. Now, it should be said that following the dems' example is always a bad idea, but the point is that you guys started it and it looks kind of underhanded to start complaining about it now that a republican is in office.
So when you think of some other argument which is not so blatantly partisan, get back to us.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 12:06 PM

Michael, I don't know. I guess calling Republicans the Party of Torture is just as fair as calling Democrats the Party of Fascists. (Teddy Kennedy, your spin doctor thinks you need emergency lip-to-lip suturing. Your dietician agrees.)

Me, I wish we could call the whole rhetorical bomb-throwing thing off.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 10, 2005 12:09 PM

"However, as some posters have mentioned, and others have done, some of the complaints about this are designed obviously to hurt the administration's war effort. To that end, to punch up the numbers, the opponents haul in various procedures normal people would not think of as torture."

This is historically a problem. That is why I initially ignored the AI reports--I knew full well that every previous time I had looked into their complaints about torture, it was really 'torture'.

That isn't true anymore. We are talking about real torture. We are talking about beating people. We are talking about electrifying genitals. We are talking about locking people in cells that are too small to stand up or lie down in for days. We are talking about capital 'T', real-life, not using the word just for shock value, TORTURE. The fact that the word has been used inappropriately against our side in the past is no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the fact that now the term is being used appropriately to attack us. You can argue that Amnesty International cried wolf for decades causing you to ignore initial reports if you want. Great. But NOW, we are well beyond the initial reports stage. Now, we know we aren't talking about being unfriendly as torture. Now we are talking about torture. And we shouldn't be.

Now that we are talking about torture, we need to be talking about stopping it.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at February 10, 2005 12:11 PM

One thing I'm increasingly bothered about...these ex-guantanamo guys who claim torture and are filing lawsuits. I'm talking about the foreigners caught in afghanistan in the initial invasion. Also, include foreigners caught in dubious circumstances, like being wounded during the assault on Fallujah. I'm talking about any jihadi who's from the west.

When these guys are caught in the field, lets just let our military officers do a quick interrogation and then either release them or turn them over to our allies for a quick execution.

These arseholes go play 'jihad' and when it gets too hot they wanna call a timeout and go home. So far, I've seen virtually nothing I'd consider torture, but we're gonna have decades of these guys whining about their unpleasant stay at guantanamo.

Lets learn our lesson and start disposing of these people promptly and without hesitation.

Posted by: Raymond at February 10, 2005 12:12 PM

Michael Farris,

"There's a big difference between doing something terrible because you can't think of anything else to do and doing something terrible because you can't think of anything wrong with it."

I agree, but that doesn't discount the litmus test at all. If anything, it cuts to the heart of the whole issue.

Most of us are against torture because we think it's morally wrong. I'm one of those people. But if faced with a choice between dead family/friends and a tortured terrorist, I have to be honest with you - I will consider the option. It is simply wishful thinking for me to pretend otherwise.

I suppose the best solution would be to develop a drug that will allow interrogators to extract accurate and truthfull information painlessly. Until then, this entire issue is going to be frought with moral ambiguety, with no "right" answers.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 10, 2005 12:16 PM

Sebastian, you missed the point.
The general argument is my point. The lefties not only poisoned the argument, they gave the supporters of whatever is really going on all the cover they need.
As I have said before, if you were not complaining about rendition when Reno started it, you have no standing to complain now. It would look partisan. It would be partisan.
It's amazing how, like homelessness, we are commanded to attend to or ignore various phenomena depending on the party in office.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 12:18 PM

Mr. Pundit. I've had experience with sodium pentothal. I think it would work.
However, if it did, the dems and the lefties and the international folk would insist it was a combination of torture and chemical warfare. And, since the guy would feel bad about having spilled the beans afterward, degrading into the bargain.
It might work, in the sense of actually getting information.
But if you're looking for a way to shut up the democrats, this isn't it.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 12:23 PM

My opinion only---It is a "slippery slope", once done it can cause immense harm to all involved. These are questions that I think must be in my mind when something like this comes up. Number one is the most important as far as I am concerned.

1.Who am I to decide if a person is deserving of torture?
2.The person in custody may truly be an innocent.
3. Am I certain of guilt and will it help solve the problem?
4. Is it worth the harm to me, my society and my culture?

Posted by: gene at February 10, 2005 12:33 PM

Richard-

I don't know much about sodium pentathol, but I do know about polygraphs and how horribly unreliable they are (unless its an 18 hour interrogation with the occasional smack to break the persons concentration). If that stuff works then lets use it.

Posted by: Raymond at February 10, 2005 12:58 PM

What is TORTURE?

Sebastian We are talking about beating people. We are talking about electrifying genitals. We are talking about locking people in cells that are too small to stand up or lie down in for days.

First two, OK, last one not so much. MJT, skin barrier and physical pain (induced, one assumes), OK, "waterboarding" (threat of drowning, but without water intake into the lungs [for argument's sake]), not.

Inducing fear without physical damage is not "torture." Dogs barking is not torture. Naked pyramids are not torture. Sleep deprivation and loud music are not torture. Lap-dances are not torture (see the latest claims from teh Canadian teen jihadi).

Until the "Left" or the liberals come up with a cogent definition of torture, their arguments will continue to stifle true debate on this. No "right winger" wants to give unserious leftists an inch, b/c all too often teh leftists simply abuse the respect given in true debate to twist matters into a "U.S. is the font of all evil" diatribe.

I'll remain unabashedly pro-torture until the left begins to be morally serious enough to define what actual torture might be.

Making folks uncomfortable is not "torture." I would love to criticize "rendering" but I cannot without giving whatever miniscule moral weight my objections might carry (as a conservative) to those who are using a wholly irresponsible definition to discredit the nation.

Posted by: hobgoblin at February 10, 2005 01:00 PM

Richard Aubrey

Sodium pentothal. Is that kind of like using Ritalin for a desired outcome with kids? How could America tollerate that!

There must be physiology data available to provide normative pain threshold indicators that could be used to define what level of pain constitutes physical torture that doesn't leave long term damage.

There must be psychological data available to provide the same for long term psychological damage.

Why doesn't the government attempt to define these in regards to torture.

I agree there is no routine reason to use rendition for purposes of alternate interogation.

One additional thought...if interogation of captives becomes too watered down, I don't doubt that we will see fewer captives taken in the future. This would open up a can of worms for added war crimes witch hunts. You can put all the lipstick on this that you want, but it doesn't alter the fact that war is hell.

Posted by: sammy small at February 10, 2005 01:07 PM

Sammy. I had it at Valley Forge when I had leg surgery with a spinal block. The patient remains awake, but in order to keep him or her from being anxious, a small dose of happy juice is provided. At that time, if you chose a down-scale brand, you could get a shot at the club for two bits. But this was different.
I babbled. I made remarks which even now, going on a third of a century later, embarrass me. I am the only chemically-certified straight arrow you ever heard of. Any half-assed interrogator who wanted to double the dose and ask leading questions could have had anything he wanted.
IMO, torture, if it is done as described, is a matter of lessons for the next guys. I don't see why drugs aren't used.
Tom Clancy in his "Without Remorse" has a fictional account of an interrogation of a strong man by the use of a bit of vodka and sympathy. It is an interesting dissertation on the classic technique available to be used against strong but reasonable men. Jihaidis on the other hand...?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 01:19 PM

Hobgoblin: Until the "Left" or the liberals come up with a cogent definition of torture, their arguments will continue to stifle true debate on this.

I agree. But I directed you to a post written by a conservative, not a liberal or leftist. I may not be a conservative, but I'm not a liberal or leftist either. Sebastian and I both provided a rough definition of torture. You can't run away from this by dragging the left into it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 01:20 PM

Michael Totten :

"Forget the ticking-bomb scenario. [...] he's talking about shipping prisoners off to Syria, which would never ever happen under any ticking bomb scenario."

I don't see how you can't "forget" about it. Pertinent to the discussion of torture, the "ticking timebomb scenario" (or the "captured family member scenario", or the "preventing a suicide bomb attack scenario") are all just metaphors for the "saving lives scenario". Without the intended objective of "saving lives", torture would never be acceptable.

So the question is really : were people shipped to Syria for torture (assuming this actually happened of course) in order to ultimately save lives, or were they sent to Syria for punishment? The former is what is now under discussion here. The latter is flat-out wrong under any circumstances in my opinion.

"Do you Republicans really want to deserve being labelled the Torture Party, or would you rather avoid that?"

Dude, Republicans are going to be labelled that regardless. Where have you been the last few weeks :-)

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 10, 2005 01:20 PM

"The general argument is my point. The lefties not only poisoned the argument, they gave the supporters of whatever is really going on all the cover they need.
As I have said before, if you were not complaining about rendition when Reno started it, you have no standing to complain now. It would look partisan. It would be partisan.
It's amazing how, like homelessness, we are commanded to attend to or ignore various phenomena depending on the party in office."

You think I wrote this post because I'm anti-Republican? I have a website with more than 400 entries and a 1 1/2 years of material. Click on my name here and go over there to take a very cursory look and tell me which party you think I favor. You are barking up the wrong tree in a big way on this one. I am one of the earliest contributers to RedState.org, go on there and tell me which party that is for. Sheesh.

I didn't complain about extraordinary rendition when Reno did it because I was unaware of it.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at February 10, 2005 01:31 PM

Sebastian Holsclaw: You think I wrote this post because I'm anti-Republican? I have a website with more than 400 entries and a 1 1/2 years of material. Click on my name here and go over there to take a very cursory look and tell me which party you think I favor. You are barking up the wrong tree in a big way on this one. I am one of the earliest contributers to RedState.org, go on there and tell me which party that is for.

This is the sort of thing I used to say when I was still a Democrat and I dared to favor regime-change in Iraq and was accused of being a "Republican." In my experience, you can't win this argument. For some people, partisanship trumps absolutely everything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 01:41 PM

if you were not complaining about rendition when Reno started it

Well, I personally was in High School and part of a fanatical reilgious group. I thought Janet Reno was an agent of Satan, just like the rest of the 5+billion people on the planet.

But, I got better.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 01:42 PM

Okay, for all those who just discovered that BJ was involved in nefarious issues, mainly because you were young, or were unaware, try this:
Find out where older dems were.
Find out why the dems didn't seem to care.
Find out why the media let this lie when Clinton was in office. Find out why the Professionally Incredibly Wonderful wasn't rubbing your/our noses in it.
And when you finish with that, you might, just might, have some idea about why conservatives are just a bit skeptical about both the facts as laid out and the sincerity of those making the arguments--today.
But if you want to label the republicans as the pro-torture party, you can take your fake non-partisan schtick and shove it.
It was the dems who didn't mind it when it wasn't any use to beat up a president with. And you think that's the moral high ground.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 01:57 PM

Yeah, the if-you-didn't-complain-about-it-then argument didn't take hold here, either. If something was wrong then and I didn't make note of it, the wrongness of it remains unchanged. And, for the record, I didn't know about it then.

As I mentioned before, I am a Republican. I voted for Reagan, Bush, went insane for a few months and voted for Perot, then voted twice more for Bush. I don't give a flying **** about that the Democrats did it first. This is my party, and I demand better. Too, there's some indications that rendition under Clinton was somewhat less offensive than under Bush. We've deported people that have not been found guilty of any crimes to places we KNOW will torture them. Hell, we deported a Canadian to Syria, and he WAS tortured. This. Must. Stop.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 01:58 PM

Slartibartfast, bottom line, I concur.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 10, 2005 02:07 PM

Michael Totten: In my experience, you can't win this argument. For some people, partisanship trumps absolutely everything

Exactly. God forbid you be a fill in the blank, and hold one or two independent opinions, lest you be labeled as the enemy; or worse, a traitor.

Slartibartfast,

I wasn't making any assumptions on your political leanings because I think where you fall on the issue of torturing humans beings is above partisanship. I was simply following a line of logical thought progression, and seeing how you felt about where it might lead. The most prominent vision I have of extraordinary rendition is at some point Assad crosses the line, gets deposed and hauled into the ICC and starts singing a song. That would be a truly tragic consequence of our moral incontinence regarding the issue of torture.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 10, 2005 03:13 PM

"But if faced with a choice between dead family/friends and a tortured terrorist, I have to be honest with you - I will consider the option. It is simply wishful thinking for me to pretend otherwise."

I probably would too. I hope I would despise myself for the rest of my life, too. Even if I couldn't think of anything better to do, I'm going to pay a price for it.

A suggestion, let's break this into three fuzzy sets that I won't even try to define.

Appropriate treatment
Abuse
Torture

For the sake of argument, let's drop the word torture and stick with abuse. I repeat, the price of prisoner abuse is that you're inevitably going to abusing some innocent people along with your intended targets.
A lot of the most effective interrogation techniques that fall under appropriate behavior can be undone without the innocent victim being aware. Torture generally can't, you've probably done life long damage. Abuse? Probably not lifelong damage but where do you draw the line? What do you tell the innocent person you've spent a lot of time and effort humiliating, "breaking" as they call it?

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 10, 2005 03:16 PM

"As I have said before, if you were not complaining about rendition when Reno started it, you have no standing to complain now. It would look partisan. It would be partisan."

This is idiotic. It started under Clinton, yes. The first real news stories I've seen about it were in 2001. I first read a report that this started under Clinton in 2004--and I have researched this with a ridiculous, excessive focus. Most Democrats probably still are not aware of its existence under Bush, let alone under Clinton. You lose your standing to complain about covert operations by not complaining before they become public? It's hypocritical not to be psychic?

Pretty weak stuff. But entirely typical. Most of the arguments on this thread are pathetic dodges. I bet only a small fraction of you actually read the New Yorker article. If you did, most of you didn't address what you found. It is difficult to define torture. It is not difficult to see that severe beating with cables, electric shocks, beating to the point of unsciousness, are torture. It is not difficult to see that there is something warped in saying it's not torture unless you have death or organ failure. It is not difficult to see there is something warped when one of the President's high ranking advisors says it's unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law saying he can't order torture. There are now two cases of extraordinary rendition where I am close to certain that this was an innocent person. In one case, his name was spelled like an Al Qaeda members. In another, the only evidence against the guy seems to be the "confessions" of two other people being tortured in Syria. There are many other cases where there are serious doubts about a suspect's guilt.

Even in cases with U.S. troops the "define torture" argument is stupid, because the administration refuses to say which techniques it has authorized and which techniques as it defines as torture. So we'll be standing around discussing whether to draw the line at waterboarding or mock executions or prolonged sleep deprivation to the point of mental breakdown or withholding painkillers, and they'll go on right on doing whatever the hell they want. Which I suspect is actually the point.

But this isn't U.S. troops we're talking about. This isn't a ticking bomb, or a scenario that could ever apply to a ticking time bomb. This is Syria, and this is Egypt.

I'm sure that if Rumsfeld decides he wants to invade Syria a few months from now, and I think it's a mistake, and say why one of you will call me "objectively pro-Assad" and ask me why I oppose emptying the torture chambers. But I'm not the one who shrugged my shoulders and looked away and made the lamest excuses imaginable, when I found out that my government had probably sent an innocent person to be tortured in the basement of a Syrian prison.

And you don't even have the guts to admit it. On the same blog where Sebastian posts, another of the bloggers put up a challenge where they challenged someone to debate the legality of torture. Specifically, they said that there should never be a situation where you could torture someone without fear of prosecution--there should never be legal authorization in advance. Not a single person was willing to do that.

You're tough enough to support legalizing torture because you can dream up an imaginary situation where it might save lives--not because there's any evidence at all that it would actually save lives, but you can IMAGINE a situation where it MIGHT. But you're not even tough enough to actually say so, and defend your position.

Posted by: K at February 10, 2005 03:38 PM

Richard Aubrey: And when you finish with that, you might, just might, have some idea about why conservatives are just a bit skeptical about both the facts as laid out and the sincerity of those making the arguments--today.

I'm sorry, but that's a pathetic dodge. I sent you to an essay posted on Red State. And I voted for Bush. You can't hide, Richard, behind some lefty boogeyman here. Your own fellow Bush-supporters and war-supporters are calling you out to take a principled stand. Your refusal to do so, and the refusal of others here on this thread to do so, is noted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 03:44 PM

although I know it is my flaw, should anyone hurt my loved ones, they will witness wrath on a level most of us can can barely imagine; or want to.

Of course they will, and in order to contain the damage which that entirely predictable wrath will cause, we have laws both against causing harm against vigilante responses. Those laws are to protect society and to act as enough of a deterrent to allow you to retain control of yourself.

If we are to not engage in such coercive behavior as you have defined, then that would mean a limitation of our offensive, or pro-active, abilities to combat our enemies.

Yes. Freedom is worth sacrifices. Decency is worth sacrifices. We have inherited a gift of liberty and righteousness which was purchased at the cost of many lives. We have an obligation to pay our lives to maintain it, should that be necessary.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 03:57 PM

Ratatosk:

"To my mind, the President and every elected official in the US government, is there to do the will of the American people. The Will of the American People is decided through a democratic republic that passes laws."

No.

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I see nothing there about "will", Ratatosk. I see a requirement to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

Note that the president is the only elected Federal official with a constitutionally defined oath.

It's o.k. to think that Lincoln overstepped his authority. Just remember that if he hadn't, you and I would almost certainly not be having this conversation.

No, this isn't an ends justify the means comment, either. It's the way things worked out in that instance.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 04:21 PM

I'm a Repubican too, and I as one, I don't want to be known as the Torture Party. Having said that, interrogation is a tough business, and all the posters who've stressed that tough interrogation doesn't necessaarily mean torure get a big YES from me - several of the standards above I could sign on for, especially Mark Polings'. My Dad's description of his SERE training raised the hairs on my neck - if we train our guys that way, it can't be wrong to seek info that way. As to Sebastian's point, I think rendition is probably wrong in many cases, unless, maybe, we are absolutely sure we've got a really bad guy, and have tried everything we are legally and morally able to do. Sometimes in war you do face awful less-of two- evil choices, and for ticking bomb scenarios, maybe, I'm still not sure. But one other wrinkle, I've read, in several places, that recovered Al-Quaeda manuals instruct their guys to claim torture and mistreatment even when none occurred, to hurt the war effort in the west. And it's clear that we've already let guys go from Gitmo, who were said to be innocent, who went right back to fighting and obviously were guilty as sin. So, not only has Amnesty Int. cried wolf - how do we know when detainees and others NOW are crying wolf, since it's part of a planned strategy to discredit the US and coalition? This might include some of those rendered - how do we tell? I don't want my country complicit in torturing innocent people, but not only do we have to define torture, we also have to figure out who is innocent.

Posted by: Priscilla at February 10, 2005 04:50 PM

Michael, I think it is valid to question whether (a) the alleged cases of torture actually happened and (b) if it did, what was the extent of US involvement. Why shouldn't it be?

I read the New Yorker article and the case of Maher Arar (with which the piece opens) is a good example. Arar was detained at New York airport on return from Tunisia, questioned, and subsequently deported to Syria, where he is also a citizen. What happened then is by no means clear. Arar claims he was tortured (and frankly I believe him) but there is no proof that this was done with the approval of US authorities. What the New Yorker article doesn't mention (unless I missed it) is that there is a lot of speculation here in Canada that Canada's RCMP was actually the one's who requested (or at least approved) Arar's deportation to Syria instead of Canada.

The New Yorker for some reason also doesn't mention another case involving a Canadian called Abdulrahman Khadr. He initially claimed to have been sent back to Afghanistan after being held in Guantanamo. Later however, he claimed he was working for the CIA. The story just got weirder after that and proved embarrassing for Canadian media who for weeks tried to pimp him as another US torture victim.

Anyway, it would be great of someone can invest the time and energy to thoroughly research all the claims made in the article. For example, I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it odd that Syria would torture someone on behalf of the US, given the political blackmail that this could result in. Saudi Arabia or Egypt perhaps, but Syria? Stuff like that.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 10, 2005 04:58 PM

“You think I wrote this post because I'm anti-Republican?”

Unless you are willing to offer a definition between outright torture and intense interrogation---you have little worthwhile to say. We need guidance, not childishly simplistic blathering about “torture is bad.”

Posted by: David Thomson at February 10, 2005 05:21 PM

Having dutifully read all posts I’ll weigh in:

A preponderance of posts suggest that much of the issue turns on the definition of torture. Tosk provided the definition according to a treaty we signed. The best post in response, that was largely ignored was that of BladeDoc:

“Doesn't it all come down to the definition of the word "severe"? “

Noone really addressed this.

However, Sammy Small suggested one solution:
“There must be physiology data available to provide normative pain threshold indicators that could be used to define what level of pain constitutes physical torture that doesn't leave long term damage. There must be psychological data available to provide the same for long term psychological damage.”

I might suggest in response that we’re all essentially “experts” on pain and suffering and could probably dispense with the “objective” data on that score. I.e.. most of us have suffered sleep deprivation, many of us have suffered electrocution (well – say the curious among us who have touched an electric fence or the dumb among us who have washed a plugged in toaster with a wet sponge), most of us have actually been burned accidentally or even stabbed (may I recommend that one never carve a little soap boat with the knife facing towards your hand) and so on – so I think we all do know what we would personally consider “severe – its just a matter of coming to some agreement re whether we would shift the line a little this way or that. .

Another recommendation for approaching this (suggested by TmjUtah) was SERE training. However, someone (forget who) took issue with SERE because of its voluntary nature as opposed to the way these standards would be applied to involuntary detainees. One issue that raises given the issue of “severe” - is whether the involuntariness of these experiences alters their severity in some fundamental way – enough to discount this criteria for instance.

For some reason the “torture” issue keeps getting couched in terms of the ticking time bomb scenario. Misterpundit, e.g. says “Without the intended objective of "saving lives", torture would never be acceptable.” But that ignores the fact that what we’re dealing with in fighting the WOT is the need to continually piece together information. It’s a never-ending ongoing dragnet, not just a ticking-time bomb.

Many suggest that torture doesn’t work but its clear that from the Heather MacDonald article that certain coercive practices most certainly do succeed in garnering useful information.

I agree with those who decry the left’s blanket condemnation of “torture” because by making it impossible to apply even minimally coercive interrogation techniques they may well be the folks most responsible for the fact that Bush is resorting to extraordinary rendition in the first place. That leaves them with a clean conscience but the result is people being seriously Tortured – with a big T. (although I recommend to Michael that he re-read his previous thread on this subject where he will find a poster arguing to the very end that rendition of enemy combatants not covered by the GC is the only logical conclusion of the letter of the law).

Mostly I agree with the last poster (the last time I checked) on the originally referenced blog that it is OUR responsibility. No rendition. But we are the ones who are going to have to draw the lines. Practically speaking – that means certain methods for routine interrogation (not the ticking time bomb) that do not meet the definition of SEVERE, following Tosk’s post.

Big apologies for a VERY long post…

Posted by: Caroline at February 10, 2005 05:32 PM

Actually - on second thought - Sammy Small may have a really good point about "objective data" - even though our own experiences with pain and suffering could casually suffice. It's useful from a legal point of view. Tosk provided a legal definition of torture that turns on the word "severe". The objective scientific data could be indispensible in defending against legal claims that say - having panties put on one's head causes "severe" psychological suffering.

Posted by: Caroline at February 10, 2005 05:46 PM

Totten et al.
You really bought into a big zero.
I never indicated my opinion on torture or rendition. I am not hiding my views behind anything, since I did not express my views on torture or rendition.
So you weren't aware of it. You were too young.
We deplore slavery and even I am too young to have been aware of it when it was happening. Now that we know.
Now that you know Clinton did it, you .... zilch.
See my point?
You'll have to at least make a fake attempt at condemning Clinton/Reno before you look halfway good on this end of the argument.
Meanwhile, I'll hold my breath.
"I was too young." Man, what a dodge.
The facts remain that no technique which actually works will be accepted by the dems, the libs, and the international community, even if, as with drugs, it is the farthest thing from torture.
If you guys had not already screwed the pooch in seventeen ways from Sunday on this, you might look honest.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 06:07 PM

Richard Aubrey: Now that you know Clinton did it, you .... zilch. See my point? You'll have to at least make a fake attempt at condemning Clinton/Reno before you look halfway good on this end of the argument.

Yeah, I get your point. For you this is all about idiotic knee-jerk partisan bullshit.

I voted for both Clinton and Bush, so I do not give a rat's ass about scoring points against either president. I have, truly, vastly more important things to concern myself with.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 07:04 PM

You missed the point again, Michael.
The point is not partisanship on my part.
It's you who didn't give, and still don't, a rodent's patootie that the unfortunate were howling their guts out in some Syrian torture suite when it was Clinton's idea.
Now, maybe you would have. Or maybe not.
But to this point, it's a matter of down the memory hole.
I say, let's get a new team in here. One that objected when Clinton did it.
The others are tainted and there's nothing that can undo it. Even if, as is most unlikely, it's not their fault.
You could do some penance by trying to get the usual suspects to 'fess up about why they kept their teeth together about this during the previous administration. Might be useful. It would also be non-partisan.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 10, 2005 07:45 PM
One that objected when Clinton did it.

First you're going to have to find anyone that knew about it when Clinton did it. Good luck with that. Hey, maybe you ought to shoot us a post when you've succeeded.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 09:07 PM

Caroline -

Minor quibble - I did not attend SERE. And I wasn't making a hard case to limit interrogation to what I experienced... even if the majority of my "classmates" did in fact give up their intelligence. I was kind of volunteered to experience a cross training opportunity that was presented for all intents and purposes as two weeks as a P.O.W.

In order to avoid offending Kimmet, I'll skip the anecdote and tell you what I learned:

I'll never be a P.W.

This hundred-odd comment thread has worked itself up into a real tempest in a teapot.

The motive for the opposition is not based in a devotion to ethic or morality, or even legality. It's a chance to count coup against the administration. Our enemy does indeed have published training material directing their people to make maximum use of our legal system and even more importantly, our media, by claiming abuse or torture.

They've watched enough of Crime T.V. and listened to Radio Pacifica long enough to understand an asset when it comes wrapped so prettily.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 09:23 PM

Due respect, TmjUtah, but when you're addressing the motivations of your opponents, you're failing to address their arguments. The arguments should stand or fail on their own.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 10, 2005 09:46 PM

Arguments aren't intending to kill my family.

When the opposition gets around to focussing on why we face this question in the first place, I'll listen to their arguments.

We are not outside looking in. We are inside waiting our turn.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 10, 2005 10:16 PM

Here is a nice story about torture in America. Also extortion robbery and murder. The drug war don't you know. I know every one (almost) is against torture in Iraq. No one seems to notice much when it happens in America. BTW where do you suppose the Abu G. guards (many of whom were guards in America) learned the tricks of the trade?

* The Biggest Cover Up of All

Glenn R. thinks the Russians are up to their bad old ways. I show it is SOP in America. The drug war don't you know.

* Russia vs America

Posted by: M. Simon at February 10, 2005 10:18 PM

Richard Aubrey,

Good God, man, stop talking about Bill Clinton. He has nothing to do with whether we should send prisoners off to Syria. Just because he did it doesn't make it okay that Bush does it. And the fact that I voted for both Clinton and Bush doesn't mean I'm not allowed to object to it now. Why is this not totally obvious? We're talking about the real world here. This is not about who is "untainted" enough to object to government policy in a democracy.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 10, 2005 10:26 PM

I agree that a person's reaction to Clinton's involvement in this same practice (rendition) is irrelevant if that person didn't know about it. But, if they did know and said nothing, and are now objecting to Bush's doing the very same as Clinton, then of course they can be accused of partisanship.

The larger issue, though, is: if we didn't know about this back in the Clinton days and it was happening nevertheless, why didn't we know about it? In other words, why was the New Yorker not writing huge articles on the subject back then? I think we know the answer, and it is a political one.

Which of course doesn't answer the question of whether it's right to use the practice of rendition now. But I have a couple of questions on that score. Not having read the New Yorker article yet myself, I have no way to judge its veracity, but, as a long-term New Yorker reader, I've been less than impressed with many of their recent articles. I've found a ton of omissions and distortions, have written them time and again about them, and received no reply. So, I am now predisposed to distrust a magazine that I once trusted.

The entire question of torture reads like a problem in an ethics course, although in this case the problem is only too real. Can torture ever be justified in order to save innocent lives? If so, how much torture, and under what circumstances? Is passing the buck to others as morally reprehensible as doing it oneself? How sure does one have to be of the guilt of the accused? Are the people undergoing rendition simply being repatriated back to their countries of origin? If so, does this change anything in terms of ethics? I have no answers; only questions.

Posted by: blogaddict at February 11, 2005 12:36 AM

Here is where I am on it.

I have no problem doing no worse to the insurgents than is done to Americans on a regular basis.

Personally I do not think either side in this debate can stand that much morality.

Posted by: M. Simon at February 11, 2005 12:47 AM

Is there enough morality here to get the government to stop arresting sick people who use pot for relief?

Can we all agree that putting sick Americans in jail for wanting to feel better is wrong?

Any one with me on this at all? Anyone?

OK lots of you. Or some any way. So where are your voices? Why aren't you forcing this change down the government's throat?

Every day.

Posted by: M. Simon at February 11, 2005 01:00 AM

Michael, THANK YOU for your clear common sense. Yes on interrogation, no on "torture".

No on severe physical pain.

What is severe? Some number of max hours of sleep deprivation -- or perhaps no max, is less than severe. I like it, I accept it.

But CNN doesn't; BBC doesn't; CBS doesn't. The reason you and Sebastian (and I) didn't know about rendition under Clinton IS an issue, the double standard (you've written about). If a Liberal/ Dem invades a country for democracy, it's OK. If a Rep does the same, or better, good thing, it's terrible.

The Leftist anti-Bush Press IS an enemy of Bush; and seems too often to genuinely support death squads that "prove" Bush is bad.

Did you check if Syria has signed the convention against torture? (Sebastian?) I only now just did.

They signed in July 2004. (There's a group calling for an end to torture in Syria, too.)

The clear double standard on information about Clinton's actions, as compared to Bush, also seen in the lack of Press coverage over Kerry's Lies (Cambodia, military records), becomes a relevant issue. What is really done, and what the accusations are.

We signed to stop torture. Syria signed. What's the difference where a suspect is questioned? We all know the difference. The US, to a huge degree, really does avoid torture. But the double standard kicks in -- if the US does sleep deprivation, or uncomfortable positions, it's called torture, and reports are written and discussed, and all the Bush-haters go on about how it's so terrible and it proves anybody who supported Bush supports the Torture Party. If somebody else does it; no big deal. They treat their own criminals as bad or worse, no big report -- it doesn't hurt Bush, it's not a story.

You can complain that the US is abdicating responsibility -- but you need to accept that Bush is trying to absolve himself of blame; just as the Left is absolved of blame for the Cambodia Killing Fields.

T-Torture, I'm totally against as policy. Even in the ticking bomb scenario. So let a Major fire a shot near the head of a suspect; and yes, let him be tried. And, from what I know, aquitted -- but he wasn't aquitted. His not-quite torture interrogation, which DID get life saving information, should have had him pass the "against policy, requires review, is acceptable in this case (ticking bomb)".

But that's not the real world.

The anti-Torture get-Bush screamers have already been successful at eliminating the loud noise ("music"???) of a gun; and fear; and uncertainty of perhaps more and worse.

The real situation is that LITTLE serious interrogation is going on, now. Stuff you say you'd accept as non-torture is already verbotten. (Heather's articles are fine.) Were interrogations possible with your limits, I'd oppose rendition.

IN THIS real situation, are you still against any rendition? I am not; I accept redition rather than babysitting suspects.

But I am not at all happy with the situation. I think most of the posters on this thread are not happy.

And no, I am NOT happy that some innocents are going to be sent for "interrogation". In fact, in accepting this least-evil policy, I am even more angry at the Press, and Dems, for being so unserious about it. And even a bit at Bush, for not more clearly articulating the honest tradeoffs.

A) More info thru more interrogation (sleep deprivation; yeah, and chemicals too) AND those techniques against the innocent
vs. B) more lives lost over the course of the war because the guilty are treated as if they are innocent.

Every justice system has false "guilties" and false "innocents". It seems that some lives have already been lost by release of false innocents. (The color of justice is grey. But injustice justifies violence.)

As I think of my own little blog responsibility, I thank Sebastian for again bringing torture up. Anti-torture pro-Interrogation folk like me need to express regret that anti-American restrictions on interrogation are pushing these renditions.

Those holding terrorists need to:
take more prisoner pictures, of their hands, feet, head, genitals, daily and especially as they are released, to reduce their perjuries "I was tortured". Make more tapes of what they say.

Get the Red Cross/ Doctors w/o borders/ Amnesty -- reputable NGOs to examine the detainees weekly -- to certify that no bodily injuries were caused by their internment.

And be tough on interrogations, up to but excluding torture.

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 11, 2005 01:04 AM

So there it is lefties - I won't believe you are serious about morality until you are serious about it at home. For simple obvious cases.

No one gains from torturing sick people.

And righties - no one is going to believe the bit about torture as necessary until you end torture as policy in a situation where there can be no benifit.

Who benefits from torturing sick people?

Posted by: M. Simon at February 11, 2005 01:05 AM

Tom,

Amnesty in one of their more sober moods (i.e. corrective vs disruptive) said the drug war as waged in America was wrong.

Draconian sentences, bad prisons, condoning torture. Racist at heart. Have a look here:

Rights for All.

Posted by: M. Simon at February 11, 2005 01:26 AM
For those who've argued that what the US has done to its prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere wasn't really torture, this should be food for thought.
At the start, some of those taking part supported the techniques used in the U.S. naval base as part of President George Bush's 'war on terror'. But after being subjected to religious and sexual humiliation and forced nudity, two of them vomited, another soiled himself and one dropped out after seven hours due to the onset of hypothermia.
Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 11, 2005 03:54 AM

Jesurgislac - When anyone seriously contemplates even making a reality TV show based on Syrian torture techniques (after all the producers had to know in advance what techniques they'd be using) then maybe I'll think you have a point. In fact I'd say you've just made a good case on behalf of the "pro-torture" folks.

Tom Grey: "Anti-torture pro-Interrogation folk like me need to express regret that anti-American restrictions on interrogation are pushing these renditions."

Absolutely. I'm with you on this, and I think the idea of filming the actual interrogations is an excellent idea, to counter erroneous claims of T-torture.

Regarding the issue of “innocents” being subjected to such coercive procedures, this brings to mind the legal defense of Saddam Hussein. Legal defense rests on the presumption of innocence but the evidence against Saddam is so overwhelming that no one actually thinks he is “innocent”. Ditto for Zarqawi. It is doubtful that someone picked up on the battlefield with an AK-47 in hand is “innocent”. It depends on the quality of evidence we have against the person (computer files?,10 people pointing the finger?, powder residue on the hands? Wire-tap evidence? Etc). Someone picked up on the street or in their home based on suspicion or hearsay or whatever should be treated accordingly (meaning minimal coercion). But again – the possibility of innocence argues very strongly against the practice of rendition. If the left really does not want to see people suffer (as opposed to trying to score political points against Bush)then they need to get on board with making the distinctions between T-torture and what is an acceptable level of coercion in interrogations.

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 04:52 AM

Michael. I'm not talking about Clinton. I'm talking about you.
Why didn't you know? What happened to the guardians of public morality? Was Reno better at keeping secrets? Who did know? Why did they keep quiet?
Who's demanded Reno be subpoenaed to show up with relevant documents?
Let's say that you are being honest here and that you would have said something if you had known.
So? You still have the partisan paintjob.
Because you are now only concerned about NOW. That kind of thinking would put the entire injustice of racial segregation off limits. The Tuskegee experiment. Japanese-American internnet. Before your time. So you don't have to worry about it. But you and your type do.
This issue? Um. Not quite the same interest in before.
So. Slart. If I didn't know about it happening when it happened, I don't have to worry about those who did it when I wasn't looking? They get a pass?
That would be bad enough if it weren't for the possible utility of knowing what and why they did it then, which might apply in some way, either way, to today. That possibility being ignored makes it worse.
Time for a new team.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 11, 2005 05:19 AM

Richard: "So? You still have the partisan paintjob. Because you are now only concerned about NOW"

I think you have that reversed Richard. You are the partisan because you are clinging to the PAST (clinton got away with it - ergo...) rather than dealing with the issue that faces all of us NOW.

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 05:55 AM

Caroline, I don't know if you'll get this.
I haven't said one, single word about whether the current torture situation--if it is as we are told--is excusable or not.
Not one single word.
Here's a question for you: Why do you think I'm using Clinton to make excuses? When I said nothing whatsoever about the excusability or lack thereof.
What I'm saying is that those who ignore Clinton's role are tainted arguers. I'm saying that they might regain some credibility by trying to go back to the Clinton era in this matter.
That's why I say we need a new team to take the alarmist side. One which can show it was concerned then, and/or is concerned now about how this all got started.
The anti-torture side has two handicaps: One is they can't show they--as a group--that they cared when it was Clinton's idea. In political disputes, this is a handicap. Whether they knew and didn't care or didn't know and clearly now don't care, it's a handicap. We don't have any of them who didn't know then and care now.
The other is the lefties who insist on hauling in anything more abrasive than a hard look to punch up the numbers of incidents. That will discredit the arguments, as well.
Anyway, if you can figure out why, up to your chin in evidence that I said nothing about excusing torture, that I'm excusing torture, it might be useful.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 11, 2005 06:40 AM
Arguments aren't intending to kill my family.

Americans are intending to kill your family? We are, after all, discussing the arguments of Americans. Too, and this has been repeatedly pointed out, many of those being abused are not guilty of any crime or conspiracy. Is it your position that we can torture anyone, anywhere (other than here, of course) without good reason?

Posted by: at February 11, 2005 07:00 AM

Jesurgislac:

It depends on what religious and sexual humilitation you're talking about. A woman wearing thongs and rubbing her breats against someone is not torture. I don't care if you vomit and soil yourself because of it. Interrogation is not supposed to make you feel comfortable.

A friend of mine is a lawyer. You won't believe how many people vomit in court because they can't even handle the stress of a simple cross-examination.

Posted by: at February 11, 2005 07:25 AM

Sorry that last one was me.

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 11, 2005 07:27 AM

And the one before it, addressing TmjUtah, was mine.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 11, 2005 07:34 AM

Richard - I went back through and read your posts and my inference is that your position is rather similar to my own. I get the impression that you would favor e.g. the use of sodium pentathol or even coercive techniques that you would not label as torture and that libs labeling everything as torture has effectively ended the discussion and made rendition more likely.

Evidently your point is to say that anyone who doesn't bother to get to the bottom of what Clinton did and how he got away with it is automatically dicredited as a partisan on this issue and should be barred from discourse, even if they didn't know about it at the time or it happened before they were born. On those grounds how far back on any political issue is someone obligated to go before their arguments on a current issue can have any credence? Why stop at Clinton. What happened before Clinton? Was it or was it not condemned then? and so on ad nauseum. One's argument for or against torture has to have credence now. Discrediting those current arguments based on what people do or don't say about what happened in the past is partisan - and frankly irrational.

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 07:40 AM

Misterpundit -

"Is it your position that we can torture anyone, anywhere (other than here, of course) without good reason?"

Where did that come from?

Did you see ANYTHING like that come from me back up this thread?

Put me down with Tom Grey; in favor of rigorous interrogation, dead bang against torture.

The caveat is that my definition of rigorous almost certainly exceeds the opposition's goal of providing Miranda rights, court appointed lawyers, and for all I know conjugal visits for every jihadi we don't manage to kill before they down weapons.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 11, 2005 07:43 AM

The problem with torture is that it becomes part of the culture. The ordinary captives are dangerous if you let them go, but otherwise useless. Cell structures are set up so that capturable people don't know much. Moreover, a significant percentage of captives are innocent or relatively innocent. Investigators, through frustration mostly, become fixated on finding the single needle rather than what happens to the rest of the haystack. If the investigator actually finds something, it probably won't make up for the damage done to the rest of the captives, but it will reflect well with superior officers and cause efforts to be redoubled. The investigator who churns through the most meat will be rewarded, in spite of the fact that resentment and hatred are the predominant result.

The only thing that prevents this result is a cultural decision to empathize and encourage restraint. This is a decision that we in the US have collectively made. We spend a lot of time arguing extreme cases, which are mostly irrelevant. If you ask me what I would do to protect my children, I'd have to answer anything at all. If somebody steals from me, given my choice, I would beat them to death. Fortunately, that is not a choice I get to make in America.

Posted by: jj at February 11, 2005 07:50 AM

TmjUtah :

Where did that come from?

Did you see ANYTHING like that come from me back up this thread?

Uhhh... What are you talking about? I didn't say what you said I said either. Perhaps you were addressing someone else?

Posted by: MisterPundit at February 11, 2005 07:56 AM

Caroline, you must be a liberal. You speak of people being "barred" from a discussion, as if some force should forcibly do it.
Not my point.
The folks who didn't/don't care about Clinton's role should not be barred. This is a free country, after all.
They should be ignored.
More to the point, those trying to make an anti-torture argument should forget to send them an invite to the next debate. Not bar them. Just forget them. Hell, at my age I forget more than that before lunch. Let them do their own thing but run a circus featuring strippers at the same time down the block so as to siphon off a bit of attention.
They do the anti-torture argument harm.
How far back?
Well, liberals command us to rehearse all matter of historical horrors. The famous Ward Churchill himself once tried to disturb a Columbus Day parade because.....well, you know the drill.
Racial injustice, some going back a hundred years, is slung about as accusations toward current political organizations.
Iran/Contra is spoken of in tones of such horror that we might forget just exactly what it was--which is the objective of horror-tone speaking. John Negroponte's role in El Salvador is hung around his neck, even misrepresented.
My question is why Clinton gets a pass.
It's a rhetorical question, of course.
And my point is those giving Clinton/Reno a pass harm the anti-torture argument.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 11, 2005 08:06 AM

Richard - I would agree that anyone who explicitly DEFENDED Clinton's policy of rendition at the time - but is now turning around and condemning Bush's practice of it, could be accused of being partisan and should be ignored (or dicredited). (I did not mean to put words in your mouth by using the word barred). But does anyone on this thread meet that criteria?

I agree that liberals use that kind of argument all the time. e.g. we supported Saddam in the past so how can you republicans claim to have any humanistic concerns for the Iraqis now. You are completely discredited and your motives suspect!Frankly - I don't agree with that kind of argument, which is why I have a problem with you using it now. And why are you using an argument that you have utter disdain for in the first place, lest you yourself become what you disdain?

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 08:25 AM

TmjUtah:

Ok, so are you in favor of us picking up anyone, anywere (other than here, of course) for any (or no) reason at all, for a little rigorous interrogation? Not only with no due process, but with no process at all? And you don't see this as perhaps a violation of a few of the tenets set forth in the Declaration of Independence? Are people in other countries undeserving of the same respect and courtesy we show to our own citizens?

Again, I'm not referring to the guilty parties; I'm referring to the multitude of innocents that we've scooped up and held for questioning. How do we know which is which?

Look, I don't know the answers to all these questions. I do know that under no circumstances should we hold people with the merest shred of evidence that they're perhaps the bad guys. We're not allowed to do that here; why can we indulge in forbidden behavior elsewhere? And the idea that I'm asking these questions unmindful of the need to find and take out the bad guys is just completely without foundation, in case you were wondering.

In fact, developing technology to target and destroy those we know are the enemy is my job. I've been doing this (and other sorts of defense work) for over two decades. I'm quite content with my contribution toward doing away with our enemies. What I'm uncomfortable with, though, is when we negligently harm those who aren't our enemies.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 11, 2005 08:30 AM

Caroline. You missed again.
Defending rendition when Clinton was in and attacking it now would render the arguer irrelevant. True. But those who ignore it render themselves equally, or almost equally, irrelevant. They have the opportunity now--even if they didn't then--to at least say something. That they don't makes them irrelevant.
I'm not making a moral point. I'm making an objective point. Unless you express--fake would be okay if it's done well enough--concern that rendition was done under Clinton, you have no credibility.
For an argument which requires credibility, those who demonstrate they have none are a handicap.
Over at TalkLeft, they're hyperventilating about lapdancing at Gitmo. Two problems with that. It isn't going to impress anybody. Second, it gives the impression that, if this is the best they can come up with (and of course they'd lead with their best), there isn't much going on there.
Tactics. Tactics.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at February 11, 2005 08:44 AM

Definitions of suffering are fascinating because of the empathy involved, but they are irrelevant to the central question.

We should not have policies who's primary purpose is to circumvent our own laws or moral integrity. Thus, extrordinary rendition is wrong. If torture is ok, at a given level and in a given circumstance, then we should do it ourselves. Using a proxy does not reduce our responsibility.

It is equally reprehensible to go outside of the country (both legally and physically) to interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo. The issue is not whether prisoners are being 'abused' there, but that the location was deliberately chosen to escape oversight.

Posted by: ScottM at February 11, 2005 08:46 AM

Richard: I am hard pressed to understand how expressing "fake" concern (even if done “well enough”) confers credibility but if that works for you so be it. I would think it pretty much goes without saying that most people who oppose rendition under Bush would have opposed it under Clinton had they known it was happening (and I’ve already stated that those who endorsed it under Clinton would indeed be guilty of partisanship if they decry it now). But dismissing the former group as lacking credibility because they haven’t familiarized themselves with all the details and then condemned it (even sham condemnation being acceptable) is simply engaging in a form of partisan politics that doesn’t contribute much to the discussion. Please don’t bother telling me that I “missed” again. I ‘ll just admit it and save you the trouble of replying.

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 09:52 AM

When the opposition gets around to focussing on why we face this question in the first place,

Because we have consistently sponsored repressive regimes in the Middle East region due to oil-related geopolitics, leading to a large number of educated Muslims who have no outlets for their grievances and turn instead to religous extremism and violence?

We will also accept, "Because Clinton screwed the pooch in Afghanistan after the Cold War, just like Bush is doing right at this moment."

I mean, we're the ones who are vastly more powerful than the folks we're fighting, so the question really is, "Where did we commit error?" not "Why are we being attacked, given that the US is pure and incapable of foreign policy error, much less moral error?"

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 11, 2005 10:35 AM

Misterpundit -

Please accept my profound apologies; it was an anonymous post indeed that I was responding to.

Slartibartfast -

"Ok, so are you in favor of us picking up anyone, anywere (other than here, of course) for any (or no) reason at all, for a little rigorous interrogation? "

sigh

So which is it - we detain no one except those persons wearing OBL tshirts and clutching AK's or wearing exploding diapers?

I'm a little unclear on the accepted version of current events; is it just accepted that we send out our patrols to sweep up random innocents in order to stay current on rubber hose and commwire drill?

About those "innocents" who seek out reporters - how many of their stories are factchecked? Or are they like the catch-and-release Guantanomo jihadis doing the talk show circuit to describe their horrible torture by seeming women's hair?

When I say I support rigorous interrogation I mean just that - there must be upper limits defined and published to the commanders and agencies in the field so that those people who actually deal with the individuals they encounter on the battlefields and streets of this war so they know what the rules are.

Do I need to know what those limits are? No. Do you? No. Do the oversight bodies such as congress and judiciary need to know? Yes, they do, because its their job to make sure that we are in fact "following the rules". It's not going to work that way, because the issue isn't about torture - it's about casting the administration in as bad a light as possible using whatever grasping opportunity presents itself.

The enemy doesn't need to know jack. If we end up publishing exactly what the limits are, and even God forbid the courts attempt to eviscerate the distinction between enemy combatants and mere criminals, we might as well bring our troops home.

The ROE imposed on the troops at the sharp end to comply with a criminal standard would repudiate the hard won respect our military currently has for the leadership in this war. The troops on the ground and our covert services would rightly conclude that consideration of the risks to their lives and the mission to aggressively locate, kill, or capture the enemy had been effictively deprioritized out of political expediency.

It's an all- volunteer force, folks. Its effectiveness is rooted in the belief of the majority of the soldiers in the mission.

I can see a Lincolnesque episode (with respect to how he handled habeus corpus) looming here. There's that much at stake.

I proposed that this question should be resolved by our representatives and the guidelines be published confidentially; I am not so naive to think that that will work. That would require a bipartisan statement that both parties had arrived at a principled compromise and that both parties stood behind it for the good of the country.

That's impossible for the opposition to even consider doing. We might end up with a classified guideline, but choice excerpts aimed at painting the administration as torture advocates would be circulating the next day.

When the enemy runs out of arrows, spears, and rocks, all they have left to throw is shit.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 11, 2005 11:05 AM
So which is it - we detain no one except those persons wearing OBL tshirts and clutching AK's or wearing exploding diapers?

My turn: where'd I say that?

Do I need to know what those limits are?

When it becomes clear that reasonable limits are in fact exceeded. When it becomes clear that some of the detainers are in fact sadistic bastards, absolutely. If we had been comporting ourselves with honor the entire time, this would never have been an issue. Getting back to rendition, though, we have in fact sent people to countries with full knowledge that they would be abused (yes, even tortured) there, and done this to people who hadn't, as far as we knew, done a thing against our country.

The enemy doesn't need to know jack.

No, but people who we'd like to befriend do need to know that they're not going to get captured and beaten. Is there something about this that sounds unfair?

The ROE imposed on the troops

Let's be clear that the ROE are completely irrelevant to this conversation. It's what happens to people after they've come into custody that's the issue. I've got no beef with how the soldiers on the streets are comporting themselves.

When the enemy runs out of arrows, spears, and rocks, all they have left to throw is shit.

Am I the enemy? Is adherence to principles that our founding fathers outlined a couple of hundred years ago shit? The Declaration says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I noticed when I read this that it doesn't say just us Americans, or just Christians, or just those of European descent. It says all men.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 11, 2005 11:40 AM

"So which is it - we detain no one except those persons wearing OBL tshirts and clutching AK's or wearing exploding diapers?"

I'm sorry you seem to be shifting ground here. Slarti wasn't arguing against detaining suspects on the grounds that they might be innocent he was arguing against torturing suspects because they might be innocent.

Don't you think there is a little distinction between detaining and torturing?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at February 11, 2005 11:46 AM

Sebastian: "Don't you think there is a little distinction between detaining and torturing?"

Don't you think there is a possible distinction between "coercive interrogation" and torture? Because if not, then the blanket anti-torture folks may be responsible for the fact that Bush is resorting to rendition. And if you want to oppose both rendition and even minimally coercive interrogation then you leave yourself open to the charge that you are unserious about fighting the war on terror. Because fighting it requires information. If we can't get information and innocent people are killed as a consequence - you are permitting torture - unless you want to claim that getting your limbs blown off or shrapnel embedded all over your body - doesn't constitute "torture".

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 01:22 PM

"Don't you think there is a possible distinction between "coercive interrogation" and torture? Because if not, then the blanket anti-torture folks may be responsible for the fact that Bush is resorting to rendition."

This false and anyone who had bothered reading Mayer's article would know it to be false. The earlier form of rendition started before 9/11, during the. The later form began almost immediately after 9/11. The Abu Ghraib scandal, when all those awful simplistic "blanket anti-torture folks" overreacted so very badly, came to light in 2004.

Will you guys PLEASE read the article.

Posted by: Katherine at February 11, 2005 01:31 PM

"Is adherence to principles that our founding fathers outlined a couple of hundred years ago shit? "

No, and nothing I've written - or believe - could be construed to imply such a thing.

You miss my point entirely. This is a legitimate issue that demands resolution. The decisions we make and the actions that result will have far reaching impacts on our ability to prosecute this war.

My bone is that, like another poster way up there said, the Republicans/Bush Administration/conservative/war supporters ARE the party of torture, per script, in the worldview of the leftest (not a mispelling - I'm describing a location on a continuum, not a lib/dem flavor) part of the opposition to the war.

What a wonderful issue; it's perfect for a political movement that has harnessed emotion over logic for generations. You can avoid debating the question why excesses may happen and disregard the physical realities inherent in combat troops attempting to conduct combat with enemies who exploit non-combatants as a rule, not an exception. Instead, wielding the images and reports of beastly incidents allows the pretense that these acts are disconnected from any principled effort to conduct effective operations to be presented as a fact - when it is not nearly as simple as that.

We aren't asking our troops to contain hooligans inside of an otherwise smoothly functioning society. They don't have the luxury of conducting lengthy technical surveillance spread over days or weeks. They are there to kill the enemy while simultaneously fostering a political system just about as recognizable to the Iraqis or Afghanis as would some Martian utopic cult be to us. Their enemy is intent on killing them, too and is both equipped and motivated to be successful in that aim. Our people deal with him every day, on the enemy's own ground, because we have asked them to.

This is friction. It happens on every battlefield. The difference today is that the battlefield exists every bit as much on the pages of our newspapers and political talking point sheets as it does on the streets of Najaf, Fallujah, Baghdad... where those "innocents" wind up in our custody because at some point somebody thought they might be the enemy, or hold information helpful to the mission at hand.

No, I am not in favor of "picking up anyone" at random, and have seen nothing in public media that indicates that is a norm.

I am dead against torture. "Mom held by kidnappers", "Nuclear nightmare", or even "second platoon disappeared over there and this muj may know what happened to them".... those are scenarios. They are what-if's, and I'm here to tell you that the people filling the space around those events are going to act on their individual judgement, based on their priorities as to ideology, regulation, and mission.

I am as worked up about this as I am because I see the threat that when all the ink has been spilled and all the video shot, we are going to end up with a policy that in execution recognises "inconvenienced" as having semantic equality with "torture".

We could well end up with unworkable ROE or prisoner guidlines. A lot of these "innocents" who get rounded up are certainly victims of happenstance. Why were they picked up? Is it possible that they were near a known or suspected cache? Were they in the vicinity of an attack? Did somebody report them in a tip?

Have you ever had an extended discussion with an INS/Border Patrol agent? I've never met one truly happy in their work - because they know that the laws they are supposed to enforce aren't taken seriously by leadership. We can afford that; have afforded it for years.

We cannot afford the cutting edge of our military to become convinced that we aren't serious about prosecuting the war to the hilt. It is a simple matter to publish orders detailing what is or is not acceptable. We can do that, and the issue would be dead... except that it is in the political interest of our minority to keep pumping the bellows for their own end.

My conclusion is of course a reflection of my low opinion of our minority political opposition. That opinion encompasses their incompetence first, closely followed by their inability to put the security of the nation ahead of their partisan ambitions and general willingness to sacrifice principle in favor of those ambitions. Regardless of long term costs.

And yes, I do think they've got a very poor grasp of why we are the country we are. They invest so much time attacking what makes us strong I cannot but conclude they are without a clue there, too.

I see Caroline weighed in as I was writing this; she makes a valid point that being on the side that frames ANY restraint as intolerable will run you the risk of being labelled "unserious". She's exactly right, too.

And NO, I'm not saying that's anywhere NEAR your position - which I see as just about where I am, actually, on merits and objectives - but the people who hope to score points far, far divorced from any interest in "doing the right thing" most definitely are sitting in that particular chair.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 11, 2005 01:40 PM

Katherine - apologies for my error. I won't make that claim again. I hope to get a chance to read the article this weekend. (I will in the meantime, however, tentatively stick to my claim that folks who are opposed to any use of coercive interrogation, by lumping it all together as "torture" - are not serious about fighting the WOT.)

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 01:40 PM

Man TmjUtah - I manage to spit out 2 sentences in the time it takes you to spit out a novel! That's why I rarely post when the comments are flying. By the time I've typed something 3 people have already made my point!

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 01:47 PM

Caroline -

I fear that Michael is going to start charging me for bandwidth.

I'll send a disposable camera for him to use on that trip to the space station I'll pay for....

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 11, 2005 02:06 PM

Kimmitt:

I mean, we're the ones who are vastly more powerful than the folks we're fighting, so the question really is, "Where did we commit error?" not "Why are we being attacked, given that the US is pure and incapable of foreign policy error, much less moral error?"

<rant>
Hee hee! A perfect distillation of the masochistic/narcisistic/nihilistic Leftist "U.S. Off Planet Earth Now!" mindset. The United States is so powerful everything bad has to be our fault. Everything good that happens does so in spite of the machinations of the U.S. Government. The moralistic Jesus-poisoned inhabitants of overrepresented middle America doom the world with a hypocritical combination of moralism and greed.
</rant>

Cathartic that was.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 11, 2005 02:18 PM

As long as the Democrats set the bar low enough, they will call the Republicans the "torture party." Duh. They should expect the retaliatory "terrorist sympathizer party" label, if that is how the game is to be played. Again, if you set the bar low enough.....

Which makes the placement of the "torture threshhold" an important question. But that isn't the question asked here, opposition to undefined torture is asked here. I'm opposed to bamboo shoots under the fingernails, near electrocution, and quite a few others, but there are some definitions which need to be set in place before one rails against an undefined entity.

Is being forced to listen to Michael Jackson trial coverage considered torture? I'm against it regardless, for the record. ;-)

Posted by: David R. Block at February 11, 2005 02:45 PM

Mark Poling: "Hee hee! A perfect distillation of the masochistic/narcisistic/nihilistic Leftist "U.S. Off Planet Earth Now!""

Personally, I was wondering why he forgot to mention the "Joooos"!

Posted by: Caroline at February 11, 2005 04:13 PM

TmjUtah:

Good responses. I'm going to have to ponder them for a bit.

For the rest of you who are worried about getting the "party of torture" pasted on us: I'm only worried about that to the extent that there's any truth to the label. We get called things on a regular basis that aren't true, and those things don't bother me all that much. They tend to discount the source quite a lot more than the destination.

Posted by: Slartibartfast at February 11, 2005 06:45 PM

Any interrogation technique that can be used on Americans ought to be fair game against suspected insurgents.

Evidently no one wants to deal with this issue..

Torture in America too hot to handle?

Posted by: M. Simon at February 12, 2005 01:40 AM

Slart,

Actually the Dems are the torture only Americans party.

The Repubs are the torture Americans and give it to the foreigners worse party.

Neither party is against torture. Only where and how much are at issue.

Posted by: M. Simon at February 12, 2005 01:58 AM

Although perhaps a bit trite when compared to the varied analyses above, I would say that if we truly believe in "Give me liberty, or give me death," and we really value "freedom" more than life without freedom, then the answer to whether we engage directly or indirectly in "torture" becomes fairly clear in my mind. Once the quoted terms are defined, the answer seems at least to this simpleton fairly clear. I would rather lose my life as a result of the failure to use torture than live my life as a result of using torture. The trick of course is to define these terms. The disussion above and at the linked site demonstrate, at least to me, that we Americans my not all share the same views on what liberty and freedom mean. It is also possible that not all of us would really choose death over life without "freedom" so long as the freedoms we personally cherish are preserved.

Posted by: AGA at February 12, 2005 08:33 AM

I'm not surprised to see left-leaning commenters doing their damnedest to define "torture" down. Even Andrew Sullivan's bought into this of late, expressing his belief that ANY coercive interrogation method constitutes "torture". Electric shock? Of course, that's torture. Introducing the suspect's testicles to a bench vise? Check. But using female interrogators clad in tight T-shirts to question jihadis (this was one of the horrible "cultural humiliation techniques" discussed in a recent WaPo article)? Give me a freaking break!

Posted by: Jeff at February 12, 2005 12:04 PM

Everything good that happens does so in spite of the machinations of the U.S. Government.

Don't be absurd; that's not even vaguely what I said. If something really awful happens to us, just like if something really good happens to us, given the fact that we are the most powerful nation in the world, it's likely that we had the capacity to engender or prevent it.

That's an awful big military and foreign policy apparatus we've been buying for a while now. Are you really contending that it's incapable of affecting anything?

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 12, 2005 10:12 PM

I'm very confident that the Enlightenment Culture (represented mostly by the U.S., with useless kvetching contributed by our doddering forerunners) is the better side.

Oh, please. While the US may represent Enlightenment Culture, it is painfully clear that Bush most certainly rejects large swathes of it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 12, 2005 10:13 PM

Which swathes, please. To me it's not so painfully obvious.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 12, 2005 10:19 PM

Separation of church and state, the right of the individual to contract as he sees fit in his private life, legal limitations on the power of the executive, the use of due process to determine guilt or innocence, government of the people -- which implies, among other things, transparency . . . the list goes on and on. Even Bush's initial use of the word "crusade," one of the most mind-bogglingly stupid statements of a career of mind-bogglingly stupid statements provides insight into the man's approach.

These aren't the reluctant bending of rules in a crisis. This is a near-gleeful abandonment of Enlightenment principles in favor of an earlier version of the social contract.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 13, 2005 01:47 AM

Kimmitt: "These aren't the reluctant bending of rules in a crisis. This is a near-gleeful abandonment of Enlightenment principles in favor of an earlier version of the social contract."

Abandonment of enlightenment principles? Is this a joke Kimmitt? Maybe you are 20-something - I don't know - but I was born around 1960 when John Kennedy was in office (a Roman Catholic and a president that the left still holds in high esteem). Abortion was illegal, there was no gay marriage, there was no stem cell research. Unmarried girls like me who got preganant too young gave up their kids for adoption. This was pretty much the state of affairs all the way up to 1972 or so when abortion was legalized. What else has fundamentally changed in the US since the early 70's other than legal abortion? There has never BEEN homosexual marriage nor stem cell research in the U.S. If you're talking about civil liberty infringement during a time of war then you need to read up on what Lincoln did or what went on during WWII. Maybe the "religious right" that you and neodude are so concerned about resembles the US circa 1970. But radical Islam resembles the world circa 800 AD or so. There is a big f**ing difference. It's a matter of PROPORTION! We don't live in whatever perfect utopian world the left imagines. We live in this one! And frankly I'll take US circa 1970 over ANY 8th century alternative (whether Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Islamist). In fact - I would wish that the whole world could be so lucky to live in the US circa 1970, even if it meant freezing history in time. I just don't get where you guys are coming from, to tell the truth - either you're ignorant, or young, or just living in some utopian fantasy world!

Posted by: Caroline at February 13, 2005 05:29 AM

Wrong thread Kimmitt - but I'm following you around :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 13, 2005 05:40 AM

If you're talking about civil liberty infringement during a time of war then you need to read up on what Lincoln did or what went on during WWII.

This is precisely my point -- that BushCo is simultaneously pretending that the threat we face from Muslim extremism is as enormous as the threat that we faced from the Civil War or WWII in order to dismantle our system of justice and failing to take the threat seriously enough to effectively prosecute our actions against it. It really is more important to the Bushies that they make their tax cuts permanent than that we have enough soldiers to effectively occupy Iraq, for example.

But radical Islam resembles the world circa 800 AD or so.

Do you really think that the Bushies want to stop at the 1950s? Some of the Bush theory of government is in violation of the Magna Carta.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 13, 2005 10:06 AM

I really, really wish I'd bought those tin futures when I had the chance.

I really do.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 13, 2005 03:37 PM

Kimmitt - I picked 1970 rather than the 1950's for a reason - namely that contraception was available in 1970 whereas it wasn't in the 50's. Re the magna carta - you'll have to give this old woman a break. It's almost 25 years ago that I was in college. I'd have to do a whole lot of reading to address that claim so I will respectfully bow out. :-)

Posted by: Caroline at February 13, 2005 05:02 PM

(Of course the 1950's were also prior to the civil rights movement so no - the 1950's would be unacceptable on a number of fronts....)

Posted by: Caroline at February 13, 2005 06:15 PM

Kimmitt: "This is precisely my point -- that BushCo is simultaneously pretending that the threat we face from Muslim extremism is as enormous as the threat that we faced from the Civil War or WWII in order to dismantle our system of justice.."

Still haven't read up on the magna carta - but I have not seen any evidence to suggest that Bush is pretending anything on this score. The threat is arguably GREATER because we cannot identify the enemy (it has an ideological - as opposed to racial - basis and therefore blends into the population) plus the destructive technological tools that the Muslim extremists now have access to are capable of causing much much greater destruction than was the case in any previous war. I'm not even sure that Bush is taking the threat seriously enough - or we couldn't possibly continue with this insane open-door immigration policy. Actually - if we put a stop to that, then we wouldn't need the Patriot Act, or whatever civil liberties infractions you object to (for the record, any US citizen must be entitled to legal representation in a US court of law but I see no legal basis to extend that right to foreign enemy combatants or illegal immigrants). But the left in this country wouldn't seriously crack down on illegal immigration would they? And explain - would they and if not - why not? Because it seems rather self-evident that if we screened folks more carefully on the way in then we wouldn't have to monitor them so much once they were here. So this whole argument strikes me as terribly hypocritical - or terribly unserious. One.

also Kimmitt - the way you phrased that - "in ORDER to dismantle" just reeks of some general conspiracy theory that conservatives and republicans are "evil" and couldn't possibly be actually trying to fight the WOT in good faith.

Posted by: Caroline at February 14, 2005 03:39 PM

I agree we should not torture anyone. It should be clearly illegal - which would not deter someone if NYC had a ticking bomb...you'd simply break the law for the greater good.

However:

1. I think this will end up being a slippery slope where the left begings to define "torture" more and more liberally to include any emotional or mental anguish. The tendency is to extrapolate US rights to these situations...the end result will be cries about not getting phone calls home, etc.

2. I am uninformed about the effectiveness of torture. Yes, some say it doesn't work. Then why do the Egyptians supposedly use it? Are they stupid?

3. Abu Ghraib was ABUSE not torture. Graner was not interrogating anyone asking them questions, just getting his rocks off.

That said, I worry about the State taking things too far - sending people to Syria who were caught at an airport here rather than in some cave in Afghanistan.

So I'd like to see clear guidelines and have them voted on by Congress.

Posted by: Aaron at February 15, 2005 07:14 PM

To the posters above who mentioned taking pictures of prisoners to document that torture was or was not done: Andrew Sullivan has a post that has a man claiming US forces took naked pictures of him. And that is "torture" according to Andrew.

So is any "religious degradation."

Posted by: Aaron at February 16, 2005 01:49 AM

conservatives and republicans are "evil" and couldn't possibly be actually trying to fight the WOT in good faith.

My thesis is that the security concerns that the US faces are less important to this Administration and to Republican leadership (I imagine that you are a member of neither group) than demagoguing those concerns to whip up support for whatever policies they were going to implement anyway.

Otherwise, why would we even be talking about Social Security, if the "war" were that pressing?

the destructive technological tools that the Muslim extremists now have access to are capable of causing much much greater destruction than was the case in any previous war.

Since the Japanese and Germans seemed to have the tools to slaughter tens of millions -- including many more of our civilians, if things had gone a little differently in the middle eastern oil fields or at Midway -- I'm not at all certain where this idea comes from. Further, if it is true, then it implies that Administration efforts should be almost exclusively directed at capture of individual talented terrorists and nonproliferation, neither of which take up nearly the resources we spend in Iraq.

In other words, either they're inflating the threat or the Administration is ignoring it in favor of what they were planning to do anyway. Or both. You and I appear to agree.

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