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March 9, 2003

More on torture.
All I can say is, that (1) the French did it a lot in Algeria; and (2) they still lost; and (3) it’s wrong. Even if you can explain away (1) & (2) by noting that, well, we’re talking about The French here, that doesn’t work for (3).

Yeah, the torture of Al Qaeda guys concerns me less than the torture of, I don’t know, innocent people — but it’s still wrong, and if the practice goes into general use a lot of innocent people, perhaps named by torture victims who just want to name someone to make it stop, will suffer. And so will the people who do the torturing, and so, indirectly, will the rest of us.

That was Glenn Reynolds. Who gets forgiven this one cheap shot against “The French”, because on the larger issue, he’s bloody right. [11:46 PM]
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Comments on More on torture.:

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 12:21 AM:

So, if I'm reading this correctly, Joe Warblogger, and the pundits that saturate the Vast Liberal Media, are stating that if someone attacks us, without such nicieties as a formal declaration of war, that torturing them is perfectly acceptable, even if it doesn't do any real good for us -- they deserve it, of course, and if they all get tortured, that's fine.

Given that, I look back at historical examples of such activity, and note that, as of this moment (More correctly, as of the first time we shipped a supposed member of a supposed terrorist group to the Phillipines for a rubber-hose massage) we can no longer possibly say *anything*, not ONE FUCKING WORD, about the treatment of US POWs in Vietnam, since this is now, apparently, Laudable Government Policy on the part of the United States.

zizka ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 01:13 AM:

Franz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth was, among other things, about the psychological effects of torture both on the victims or on the torturers. The actual hands-on torturers were under military discipline and under orders. They usually did not choose their jobs and suffered symptoms for years.

Similiar stories have been told from Latin America (ca. 1975? --1990?.) The US was seriously implicated in the Latin American case, and based on a conversation with an acquaintance/friend in the US military, I'm not at all sure that we ever really renounced the practice.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 03:51 AM:

The Franch case is more subtle. Massu (?), who authorised the routine use of torture, died recently, still maintaining that he had been right. After all, the French did win the Battle of Algiers, in which torture was used all the time. They just lost the war. I wrote a piece in Salon in late September 2001 saying "Don't torture people", because the long-term effects are so dreadful. But we have to admit that the really damaging long-term effect is that it turns our own army into the Gestapo and not that the Gestapo were particularly inefficient.

Sure I can get you to confess anything in a week, and most of it will be false. But some of it will be true. And if I arrest everyone you named and torture them in turn (which was roughly the French policy in Algiers) then, sooner or later, I will have arrested all the guilty, along with a huge number of innocent people. Most of the innnocent people will have relatives, of course, who may take a dim view of Mum being sodomised with a truncheon so that Mr Bush can be re-elected. But they're Arabs. They don't vote.

The real historical parallel is surely not the French, but the Israelis in the Lebanon, who also used torture as a matter of routine, but with the twist that a lot of their torturing was done for them by native allies. I seem to have missed the bit where American public opinion was outraged by this.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Stop the presses! Pat Buchanan's in favor of it. What a shock!

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 02:12 PM:

Andrew: I think you've confused Jacques Massu and Paul Aussaresses. Massu did authorize the use of torture, and did die recently, but a couple of years before he died he publicly stated that he regretted the use of torture in Algeria.

Aussaresses, on the other hand, recently made the news for continuing to maintain that the use of torture in Algeria was justified and right. (Which led to one of the more scathing political cartoons I've seen: a caricature of Aussaresses saying "Of course we had to use torture. Without it, we might have lost Algeria.")

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 03:46 PM:

I may well have confused them. Tahnks for putting me right.

Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2003, 07:53 PM:

If you can stand to read anything more about American subcontracting of torture, I posted a short history of it on my blog. It's not unique to terror cases by any means; it became widespread in Latin American drug cases during the 1970s. In many ways, drug-war operations in Latin America served as a proving ground for the techniques now being used against suspected terrorists.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2003, 12:03 PM:

It predates the '70s. Remember the "tiger cages" and the stories of VC being kicked out of hovering helicopters during the Viet Nam war?