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September 11, 2006

Authorized tortures
Posted by Teresa at 02:15 PM * 208 comments

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft contemplates the “authorized interrogation techniques” used on high-value prisoners by the CIA—the euphemism for this practice is “stress-and-duress interrogation”—and arrives at an interesting theory:

It’s been widely reported that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh were subjected to these techniques. Bush now wants to send them to Guantanamo for military trials. Under Bush’s proposed rules, they could be excluded from being present at their own trials.

My interpretation and shorter version: Mohammed and Binalshibh are now vegetables but we’ll never know because they will be tried without anyone ever seeing them.

Looking at the list of “authorized techniques”, I can see her point. Here they are, courtesy of ABC News:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Those mostly sound innocuous to you? They aren’t, not a one of them. Think about it: most of us have been slapped, or shaken, or cold and wet, or sleep-deprived, at some point in our lives. It wasn’t all that awful, right? Thing is, it also wasn’t enough to make us start babbling all our secrets. Therefore, what the CIA interrogators are describing can’t be comparable experiences.

As always during stress and duress interrogation, the point of using these techniques is to induce a prisoner to say things he wouldn’t say otherwise. If they didn’t produce that effect, interrogators wouldn’t use them. Innocuous methods don’t get that result. The word for what we’re talking about here is torture. And if it’s being applied with caution and restraint, that’ll be a first for this administration.

Note that there are no specifications as to how often or how long or how repeatedly the “authorized techniques” can be used. That makes all the difference in the world. One light blow on the soles of your feet is no big thing. Administering many such light blows is called bastinado, and can be screamingly painful.

Let’s look at the specific techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

The use of the word “attention” here is meretricious. Consider: the prisoner has been completely in your power for months, held without formal charges, legal counsel, or other outside contact. Throughout that time, you’ve been the biggest, scariest, and most powerful thing in his universe. Now you’re interrogating him. His life is in your hands. How can you not have his attention?

Answer: if he’s already so far out of it, or so distracted by physical pain, that it takes a strong stimulus to refocus his attention on your questions. That is: if he’s already been significantly abused.

An interrogation technique that “causes pain and triggers fear” is torture, plain and simple.

Onward. Rough or extended shaking, slapping, or other treatment that sharply jars the victim’s head will produce serious and lasting injury. A glancing gunshot that actually enters the skull and plows through a shallow bit of brain can do less damage, unless it happens to hit one of the really essential bits.

Your brain, as it’s floating there in its cerebrospinal fluid, has the structural strength of a fairly firm molded jello. A sharp, jarring movement will bounce it around. This is bad. Mechanisms of injury: scraping and bruising against your skull’s internal structures. Cavitation in the cerebrospinal fluid. Shearing between layers of the brain itself.

Potential injuries: Diffuse axonal injury, in which the shear forces produced in the brain break the axons off your nerve cells. This is a nasty one. Concussion, which causes bleeding and swelling, plus a different kind of axonal damage. Coup-contrecoup injuries. Sinus fractures. Retinal damage. Hearing loss. Dementia. If there’s a further brain injury before the previous one has healed, the consequences can be much more severe.

Any closed head injury can cause the brain to swell, particularly if it’s a re-injury. Inside the skull, there’s no place for swelling to go. If intercranial pressure goes high enough, two things can happen. One is that the pressure rises until it matches the rest of the body’s blood pressure, at which point no more blood will enter the brain, and the brain will die. The other is that the pressure can jam the brain stem down into the spinal column, and the brain will die. This sucks. So does non-fatal brain damage caused by intercranial pressure.

In general? Don’t hit people in the head.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

Again, this phrasing is disingenuous. Any pain not permanent is temporary, but that doesn’t mean it’s of short duration, or bearable. Even more deceitful is the assertion that this is not meant to cause internal injuries. Unless you strictly limit yourself to the chest and buttocks, any time you hit an area of the trunk that’s not supported by bone, you risk internal injuries. It doesn’t matter how you hold your hand. If you’re hitting in this area at all, “not meaning to cause injuries” amounts to wishing it were possible to cause that much pain without consequences, and ignoring the fact that they exist.

For information on matters like this, best go to the experts: BDSM how-to pages. I recommend Soft Tissue Damage and Strike Zones by “Shaun”, who obviously knows what he’s talking about:

While bruises may not sound serious there are injuries that are more serious and still be just a bruise. … When making any blow to an area where the body has a bone, the energy is absorbed. Strikes to the body without this protection will transfer the energy to the organs hidden from view. For example: Our kidneys are located approximately in our back along the spine covered only by a thick layer of muscle. A blow to this area will transfer the energy of the strike to the kidneys, possibly causing injury to them. A bruised kidney may manifest itself by bloody urine, localized side pains, even kidney failure which can lead to a very painful death.

There’s less muscle covering the abdominal area, and more organs to damage. Here’s Shaun’s map of the human body, showing where you can and can’t hit them. Areas in red are off limits. Any BDSM 101 site will tell you that anything more forceful than trailing the ends of your flogger across the abdomen is unacceptably dangerous.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discusses this one in The Gulag Archipelago, in the section on NKVD tortures. He, too, says this one always works. Keep anyone awake long enough and they’ll break. My question is: if this one works so well, why have interrogators been using other methods that have far more potential for lasting physical harm?

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

I refer you to last winter’s post and comment thread on hypothermia.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Great. Water torture. Shades of the Inquisition.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda’s toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

“The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law,” said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

When you use a “technique” that your toughest guys can’t stand for more than fifteen seconds, one that instantly reduces prisoners to abject begging, you’re not using “stress and duress interrogation” or “alternative interrogation methods” or “authorized interrogation techniques”. It’s torture, pure and simple.

See this image of the Inquisition? They’re using water torture on the guy at center back. The guy on the right who’s up in the air at the end of a rope is undergoing strappado. We use that one too.* The session on the left looks to me like bastinado. Why do these old tortures keep turning up? Because if “getting people to confess to anything you want to hear” counts as working, they work.

How water torture works: You may have heard of drowning fishermen clambering on top of each other in their struggle to get a breath of air. You may also have heard that the dead in concentration camp gas chambers always formed a pyramid, because the poison gas was heavier than air, so people blindly fought to get closer to the ceiling. It’s the same phenomenon in both cases: the blind unreasoning reflexive panic of someone who’s running out of air.

Waterboarding triggers that I am drowning! reaction, but you’re immobilized and helpless so you can’t do anything about it. You also can’t fortify yourself against it in advance, because having your hindbrain screaming for air trumps all your cognitive processes. What it does is dump you straight into abject terror and the imminent fear of death. Fifteen or thirty seconds of that and you, too, would be begging to confess whatever your captors wanted to hear.

Isn’t this great? Isn’t this fine? We’ve traded the respect and good will of the other nations of the world for the right to torture prisoners into making worthless confessions.

I know this story is a downer. I’m afraid it’s about to get worse. From Martini Republic: Bush speech brags of success in torture of insane man:

Bush describes the capture and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah in today’s speech, making it a focal point of his defense of his administration’s program of secret prisons and interrogation:

Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as Abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived to liberate that country. Zubaydah was severely wounded during the firefight that brought him into custody—and he survived only because of the medical care arranged by the CIA.

After he recovered, Zubaydah was defiant and evasive. He declared his hatred of America. During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information—and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the “nominal” information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—or KSM—was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and used the alias “Muktar.” This was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM. Abu Zubaydah also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States—an attack about which we had no previous information. Zubaydah told us that al Qaeda operatives were planning to launch an attack in the U.S., and provided physical descriptions of the operatives and information on their general location. Based on the information he provided, the operatives were detained—one while traveling to the United States.

We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures.

They got all kinds of intelligence out of Zubaydah after that. There was just one problem. As Martini Republic quotes from Ron Suskind:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3—a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.” …

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. “I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety—against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each … target.” And so, Suskind writes, “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

Here’s another story about Abu Zubaydah from Salon. Among other things, he appears to have fingered Jose Padilla. The intelligence gathered from him has been a major source of George W. Bush’s worldview.

See what happens when you set policy first, then look for intelligence to back it up?

And one more story, this one from today’s Washington Post:

Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance
Plans Fund Defense In Anti-Terror Cases

CIA counterterrorism officers have signed up in growing numbers for a government-reimbursed, private insurance plan that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing, according to current and former intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the program.

The new enrollments reflect heightened anxiety at the CIA that officers may be vulnerable to accusations they were involved in abuse, torture, human rights violations and other misconduct, including wrongdoing related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They worry that they will not have Justice Department representation in court or congressional inquiries, the officials said.

The anxieties stem partly from public controversy about a system of secret CIA prisons in which detainees were subjected to harsh interrogation methods, including temperature extremes and simulated drowning. The White House contends the methods were legal, but some CIA officers have worried privately that they may have violated international law or domestic criminal statutes. …

Terrorism suspects’ defense attorneys are expected to argue that admissions made by their clients were illegally coerced as the result of policies set in Washington. …

As part of the administration’s efforts to protect intelligence officers from liability, Bush last week called for Congress to approve legislation drafted by the White House that would exempt CIA officers and other federal civilian officials from prosecution for humiliating and degrading terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. Its wording would keep prosecutors or courts from considering a wider definition of actions that constitute torture.

Bush also asked Congress to bar federal courts from considering lawsuits by detainees who were in CIA or military custody that allege violations of international treaties and laws governing treatment of detainees.

It’s good of Bush & Co. to make it clear that they knew exactly what was going on, and that it was illegal. It’ll make certain things easier in the future.
Comments on Authorized tortures:
#1 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Slander! The CIA's version is *totally* different from the Inquisition's.

...

When they weren't using funnels, the Inquistors used linen for their simulated drowning. Not cellophane!

#2 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:33 PM:

You know, I was just listening to a rebroadcast of Junior Evil being interviewed by Matt Lauer. Junior Evil was being asked about torture, and kept insisting that he "was doing everything he could to protect Americans", and that he had to use what ever means necessary to get information from people "taken on the battlefield." Battlefields like Detroit, and Buffalo, and JFK Airport, I presume.

Jeralyn's list is disquieting, but I note that it leaves out my favorite of all the "techniques" used by the US to "control prisoners". That would be the "knee strike".

Army pathologists said the two detainees, identified as Habibullah and Dilawar, died as a result of repeated kneeings to their legs. The men died Dec. 4, 2002, and Dec. 10, 2002, respectively.

Brand, who's charged with involuntary manslaughter in Dilawar's death, said in a sworn statement read at the hearing that sharply kneeing a suspect in the legs was a common technique used to subdue prisoners. He said he'd used the technique to gain control of more than 20 detainees during his 10-and-a-half months of service in Afghanistan.

(snip)

Medical examiner Lt. Col. Kathleen Ingwersen said the forced immobility might have contributed to the blood clot that caused the 30-year-old Habibullah's heart to stop. According to an Army investigation, Habibullah was so badly hurt by repeated knee strikes that "even if he survived, both legs would have had to be amputated."

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse, the pathologist who examined Dilawar, 35, testified via telephone that the severe beating might have aggravated a pre-existing heart condition. She said the tissue in Dilawar's legs had been so damaged by repeated blows that "it was essentially crumbling and falling apart."

http://sumoud.tao.ca/?q=comment/reply/230

I haven't seen any evidence that this "technique" has been prohibited.


#3 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:34 PM:

I can't say how I feel about this, the language has no words.

I can say that what I know of torture makes this list far less innocous to me than it seems to many.

"The Stand-up" (making a victim stand for long periods of time) can lead to death. The legs swell, from being vertical, and the muscles get tired and the veins start to back up (which adds to the pain), and then a clot happens, and the person has a stroke.

People who will do these sorts of things are evil.

#4 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:36 PM:

These have all been in the news for years, BTW. I've been saying for years that every time Bush claims that we don't torture, he's lying his ass off.

And of course, there's the torture that even falls under the "causes permanent damage to organs" type that we outsourced.

#5 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:42 PM:

Speaking of waterboarding: I took a course in kayaking while I was in Scotland. Playing a game (this was an army deal, we, having mastered the basics of getting from A to B were now playing keep away with a plastic shark) I was flipped over.

I had been trained in what to do, how to clear the skirt, and bail-out of the boat and swim to clear space and surface.

For a split second I panicked. I'd known I was going under, took a big breath and then realised I was stuck, underwater. I managed to regain my rational mind and do the drill (so that the next time I got flipped it was old hat).

So I, trained to deal with it, knowing I was about to be underwater, still had the lizard-brain kick in.

Waterboarding is torture.

#6 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:47 PM:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discusses this one in The Gulag Archipelago, in the section on NKVD tortures. He, too, says this one always works. Keep anyone awake long enough and they’ll break. My question is: if this one works so well, why have interrogators been using other methods that have far more potential for lasting physical harm?

(emphasis mine)

I'm certain #4 isn't benign at all, considering that there have been reports of video gamers in Korea and China dying from staying up too long to play their video games. (Reportedly, 50 hours in the case of the Korean video gamer.) Certainly, by itself, and in smaller chunks of time, it has less cause for damage perhaps. But combined with the other treatment, it seems a recipe for heart failure or other issues.

#7 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Although The "water cure" could kill outright, as testimony by US soldiers before a Congressional committee revealed.

And Dilawar's death shows that not even blows on bone are safe...

100 years, 1902 - 2002.

#8 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:56 PM:

It's just torture with an extra requirement--you have to be able to phrase its description in such a way that most Americans can convince themselves it's not torture, exactly. "We're not torturing them, we're just keeping them up all night, letting them get a little chilly, and dumping some water on their heads."

The standard here is really intuitive. If the Iranians captured some Americans, and subjected them to this, what would we call it?

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:58 PM:

So much for the high road. These sick f-ing bstrds built a gawddamn subway and tunneled the country straight to hell.

#10 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:04 PM:

Last week, Bush gave his "Oh! you mean THOSE secret torture camps" speech.

He's proposing changing the law to make coerced confessions admissible in his new Star Chamber courts.

Which means that he has admitted that his prisoners were tortured into confessing, and could not otherwise be convicted in an American court.

And he made it sound as if he was personally involved with approving the exact techniques of 'interrogation' used. Which ends his pretence of plausible deniability: George Bush knew of and approved of torture.

Which we can now add to his war crimes indictment.

#11 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:09 PM:

In between, abroad and at home - since, who knows for sure?

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Hence the feds' interest in Terry Schiavo: if you can get the courts to agree that someone who's in a 'persistent vegetative state' can actually respond to sounds and make intellible mumblings, you can have a trial with someone who's brain-dead, and get away with it.

It's torture. Having a trial for someone who is brain-dead is not a way to avoid war crimes trials. Having trials without a real defense (witnesses, cross-examination, the whole nine yards) doesn't do it either, IMO.

#13 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:30 PM:

I continue to wait for people to notice what the medical literature says about the various causes of hyperalgesia.

#14 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:53 PM:

If Muhammad and Binalshibh ever go on public trial, they'll gladly confess to masterminding the Anti-Soviet Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites, and then beg to be shot.

#15 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:58 PM:

What's really saddest about this nonsense is this:

Torture can make anyone talk. What it cannot do is give the interrogator any assurances that the victim is telling the truth, or telling the truth without a bodyguard of lies... or that the victim really knows what is of interest to the interrogator.

And the less said about interrogator presuppositions of what the victim has to say, the better. Even civilians engaging in only "third degree" understand that; ever heard of a false confession?

#16 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:00 PM:

PJ in 43,

I would think the Bush administration's interest would lie in preventing the trial of the brain-dead, considering who's heading it.

#17 ::: marty ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:02 PM:

Will the first act of the next President be an indictment of this one, or an undated pardon (just in case)...

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:11 PM:

Nancy C, I don't think they've noticed yet. He is still walking around, after all. (How he does it is another question.)

(By the way, I saw those light-up needles at Michael's. The big ends must be for the bulbs. Maybe they need to look at LEDs or wheat-grain lamps instead.)

#19 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:13 PM:

>4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

>Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn discusses this one in The Gulag Archipelago, in the section on NKVD tortures. He, too, says this one always works. Keep anyone awake long enough and they’ll break. My question is: if this one works so well, why have interrogators been using other methods that have far more potential for lasting physical harm?


As someone else noted above this is as much torture as the other techniques. First - keep someone in the same position especially a standing position for a long period of time (40 hours!) and you do immense physical and psychological damage.


Professor Alfred McCoy author of “A Question of Torture" in an interview on Democracy Now Feb-17 2006

http://democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/17/1522228

>Oh, it's very simple. Dr. Donald O. Hebb of McGill University, a brilliant psychologist, had a contract from the Canadian Defense Research Board, which was a partner with the C.I.A. in this research, and he found that he could induce a state of psychosis in an individual within 48 hours. It didn't take electroshock, truth serum, beating or pain. All he did was had student volunteers sit in a cubicle with goggles, gloves and headphones, earmuffs, so that they were cut off from their senses, and within 48 hours, denied sensory stimulation, they would suffer, first hallucinations, then ultimately breakdown.

>And if you look at many of those photographs, what do they show? They show people with bags over their head. If you look at the photographs of the Guantanamo detainees even today, they look exactly like those student volunteers in Dr. Hebb’s original cubicle.

>Now, then the second major breakthrough that the C.I.A. had came here in New York City at Cornell University Medical Center, where two eminent neurologists under contract from the C.I.A. studied Soviet K.G.B. torture techniques, and they found that the most effective K.G.B. technique was self-inflicted pain. You simply make somebody stand for a day or two. And as they stand -- okay, you're not beating them, they have no resentment -- you tell them, “You're doing this to yourself. Cooperate with us, and you can sit down.” And so, as they stand, what happens is the fluids flow down to the legs, the legs swell, lesions form, they erupt, they suppurate, hallucinations start, the kidneys shut down.

>Now, if you look at the other aspect of those photos, you’ll see that they're short-shackled -- okay? -- that they're long-shackled, that they're made -- several of those photos you just showed, one of them with a man with a bag on his arm, his arms are straight in front of him, people are standing with their arms extended, that's self-inflicted pain. And the combination of those two techniques -- sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain -- is the basis of the C.I.A.'s technique.


#20 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:17 PM:

The first comment on the article about waterboarding:

Typical for ABC News. Go ahead and trot out a picture (probably faked based on Brian Ross' record) to go along with a story from unnamed sources and provide NO verification of facts. Your efforts to terrorize the American public based on distortion and misrepresentation are clearly coordinated with Terrorsts. I hope you achieve your desired state of gratification the next time a few thousand Americans die as you seem to hope for.

You make me sick!

...I'm led to wonder: Does it hurt to be that stupid?

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:24 PM:

Annalee, I think it hurts to be that stupid and fear that you've been terribly mistaken in your leaders and ideology.

#22 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:46 PM:

What happens when that cognitive dissonance gets resolved? When the evidence becomes too hard to ignore?

Maybe it never does.

It seems like either we get a horrifying backlash from this stuff, or we get a national blind spot that will persist for years.

#23 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:48 PM:

I can see three reasons that sleep deprivation isn't popular with torturers: one, it takes time and patience, two, the victim will hallucinate, making their information of questionable value, and three, permanent harm is probably possible after all.

#24 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:55 PM:

Torture can make anyone talk. What it cannot do is give the interrogator any assurances that the victim is telling the truth, or telling the truth without a bodyguard of lies... or that the victim really knows what is of interest to the interrogator.

That's why you have to do it to a lot of people, then see if their stories match up. I mean, to be thorough.

#25 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Annalee, I think it hurts to be that stupid and fear that you've been terribly mistaken in your leaders and ideology.

I seem to remember a poster from my first-grade classroom that said "An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."

But hey, if the right wingnuts had ever gotten that memo, creationism would have gone the way of the dinosaur over a century ago.

"Our FOUR chief weapons are surprise, fear, ruthless [in]efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the [government]."

#26 ::: Alexey Merz ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:55 PM:

William Gibson tells a little story about interrogation.

#27 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:35 AM:

#8 albatross: The standard here is really intuitive. If the Iranians captured some Americans, and subjected them to this, what would we call it?

Last night on The Price of Security Ted Koppel posed this very question to to [Maj. Gen.?] Harris, the current commander at Guantanamo, and he said it wouldn't be torture then either.

Which is horseshit.

#28 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:46 AM:

Randolph sez: I can see three reasons that sleep deprivation isn't popular with torturers: one, it takes time and patience, two, the victim will hallucinate, making their information of questionable value, and three, permanent harm is probably possible after all.

I think we've already determined that by their methods of interrogation, torturers don't care about points two and three. If they cared about accurate information, they wouldn't be forcing confessions in the first place. The time factor might be a bit of a turn-off though, particularly if you're the sort that wants to see visible results immediately.

#29 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:54 AM:

Randolph (#23) Sleep dep is a popular tool with a lot of interrogators, because as tortures go, it's mild. It's also one which the person who still has some scruples can convince themselves isn't really torture (because being in the Army, esp. in a combat zone, one gets to enjoy a lot of time spent with inadequate sleep). Hell, done with great judition it might not be torture, but the amount of oversight would have to be serious, and I still have a problem with it. But it does work, keep someone awake and a lot of the resistance they have breaks down, without actually imposing enough threat that they are afraid. They become more tractable, without becoming as unreliable.

DonBoy: (#24) Give me an agenda, and the right to apply torture, and everyone I talk to will tell a story so similar that it must be true.

Nell (#27) While the general is correct (and shows a pleasant consistency) you are right to say the politicians, and citizenry would think these practices to be torture, were the practised on us. Hell, we have a track record of calling most of them torture, and that in the recent past.

#30 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:45 AM:

Assuming you don't know anything important, or even if you think you do, can anyone think of a good reason not to immediately agree to, sign, admit or recant whatever an interrogator wanted to hear (something plausible, but not true) the nanosecond you got Shown the Instruments? It was good enough for Galileo.

#31 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:59 AM:

The interesting thing is that these are all a certain *kind* of technique. I'm reminded of some things taught to me in a self-defense class once. (Bear with me. I'll have a point.) They taught moves like using knuckles to pinch hard (knuckles can pinch with some powerful crushing force) at certain nerves and soft spots--extremely painful, potentially damaging to nerves--with the note that, well, what are they going to say? 'Officer, she pinched me?' It'd be laughed off. It sounds like nothing.

An open-hand slap? That sounds like nothing--they're not *punching* the guy, Officer. I mean, what, he's whining about a little slap to the face? :ole he'd get from being too forward on a date? To get his attention? (No mention that it's probably a lot of slaps, and that slaps to various places--abdomen, say, or temple, or ear, or kidney--can do permanent damage, especially administered by a trained professional. Sometimes more than a closed fist.)

Making a guy stand in one place for a while? Oh, man, yeah, sure, that's not torture. What're they going to complain about next, *loud noises*? My neighbor's kid plays loud music. I have to stand in one place at work. That's clearly not torture, either, right? (No mention of blood clots, or days on end, or psychological damage. No mention that the CIA's definition of loud noises and bright lights and sleep deprivation are different than your neighbor's kids'.)

Dunking a guy in water? I do that all the damn time at the pool. It sounds like taking a shower. What are these people complaining about? Whine, whine, whine. Next thing you know, they'll be calling tasteless jail food torture, or yelling. Liberal pansies can't stomach doing what it takes--they can't even stomach little bitsy things like making a guy--a terrorist!--stand still!

...and so on, ad nauseam. It's not just the euphemistic names for these torture techniques; it's using ones that can be summed up in a way that not only can they be dismissed with a laugh by people who don't understand what's going on, they make anyone arguing against the use of torture look really, really foolish. C'mon, Officer, I just pinched the guy. Big strong guy like that? It's not like I eviscerated him and stuck him in an Iron Maiden, right? I did something much more sophisticated and psychologically damaging. You wimps keep calling that *torture*, you'll call anything torture!
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

#32 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:03 AM:

Vian (#30): No. The problem is, for certain values of problem, that they might expect you to know things you don't, and you won't have a clue what they are.

But yes, given a certain expectation of torture for tellig the truth, and nothing to be gained from refraining to answer, then talk.

The trouble comes when the interogator is certain that 1: torture give reliable results, and (this is where torture gets really ugly) only by the use of torture can results be obtained.

In that circumstance, though it seems counterintutive, one ought to bear up for just long enough to convince the sick bastards, that it was the torture (and not merely enlightened self-interest) which caused you to talk.

Otherwise they will feel the need to get creative.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:21 AM:

Terry:

"The trouble comes when the interogator is certain that 1: torture give reliable results, and (this is where torture gets really ugly) only by the use of torture can results be obtained.

In that circumstance, though it seems counterintutive, one ought to bear up for just long enough to convince the sick bastards, that it was the torture (and not merely enlightened self-interest) which caused you to talk."

Correct me if I'm wrong on this. I've always assumed that in cases where the interrogator thinks torture is necessary, what you do is pick out the story you want him to wind up with, and reluctantly tell it third.

Re sleep deprivation: I wonder whether you could produce that effect by feeding your captive Provigil at appropriate intervals? The stuff doesn't keep you awake so much as it makes it difficult or impossible to sleep.

#34 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:25 AM:

I'm reminded of a rather grim piece of advice, namely "If you are caught, lie often, lie repeatedly, mix the truth in with the lies, so by the time you can't help but tell the truth, it will be impossible to tell what is truth and what is a lie."

#35 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:58 AM:

albatross #8 & Nell #27 "If the Iranians captured some Americans, and subjected them to this, what would we call it?"

Wasn't it something similar that the North Koreans were alleged to have done to prisoners during the Korean War, and were vilified for?

The 'mirror method' is very useful sometimes. Just swap over characters playing roles and see if your attitude changes, eg, having UN inspectors in to audit the US nuclear, biological & chemical arsenal.

(I don't know if/how many Australians, or other nationalities in the UN forces, were captured, or even the numbers the different countries deployed. Like the Malayan Emergency, it has largely slipped under the radar of popular historic consciousness, which tends to leap from WWII to Vietnam via a generalized 'Cold War' in the fifties.)

#36 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:16 AM:

I can''t figure out why they don't use scopalomine, or whatever the name for "truth serum" is. Probably illegal, and requires skilled interrogation, but seems to me to be less immoral than torture.

For Torture-in-a-Pill ... Some months ago I was prescribed Erythromycin, a common antibiotic, for an inner-ear infection. Took one tablet. One at a time, pain receptor centers in my brain fired-off, briefly, in rapid, random, rotation. For about four hours. I figured out what must be happening (none of the muscles or organs cramped or emitted unusual heat, or sparks), didn't go to the ER, and remained ...erm... about as sane as I usually am, but anyone who can find & replicate the cause for this extremely-unusual drug reaction could sell it to the Secretary of Torture for a fortune. (Unless, of course, those guys simply enjoy physically torturing people.) After the first administration, the threat of another would, I think, cause anyone to admit anything.

#37 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:48 AM:

Teresa: Yes, sort of. What I'd do (and this was a slightly less than theoretical problem for me) is wait until the questions started to get me hit when I didn't answer, and then steer the answers to fit the new questions; from the follow up to positive responses.

Pretty soon I figured I'd have to start lying, so I studied up on the subjects I thought would be likely to be of interest, so the lies would be credible.

For things about which no truth was possible (say war crimes I had committed, or other propaganda sorts of things) one just has to roll with it, and decide how much principle is worth how much abuse.

A painful calculus to be sure.

At times it's pondering a quick death, versus a long one; which is part of why torture is evil.

Don Fitch Scope, and Sodium Pentathol don't make one tell the truth, they make one want to be agreable. As such they take amazing amounts of training to use at all well, and the results are still only moderately reliable (because one can't know what little tics, turns of phrase and other subtle responses will cause the subject to think that's what one wants to hear).

That's part of why they aren't allowed in the collecting of evidence for trials.

The other reason is people who believe in torture don't see torture in the same way (as making someone tell you what they think you want to hear), and so it's seen as reliable.

#38 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:23 AM:

I don't want to trivialise what is a very serious and necessary discussion but I thought you all might be interested in the following.

My younger son was telling me over breakfast what they'd done in English class yesterday. They'd been working collectively on Wanted posters. Which had featured a raft of storybook baddies and popstars - and by popular agreement, George W Bush, for crimes against humanity.

Once I'd stopped choking on my cereal, I thought about that. A class of ten and eleven year olds in prosperous rural central England isn't going to come up with this based on in-depth knowledge of all the facts and facets of events going back to when they'd barely started school. But it's going to be a reflection of what they catch in passing on the TV news and primarily what they overhear their parents and grandparents saying at home.

David Cameron*, current Conservative leader is the local MP. This is about as mainstream-right wing an area as you'll find in the UK, old-style Shire Tories and die-hard Thatcherites all round.

And this perception of the current Bush administration is sufficiently prevalent locally for ten and eleven year olds to have picked up on it.

*Conservative canvassers knocking on our door asking if they can rely on our vote can expect to be told, 'not while there's breath in my body'.

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:28 AM:

Thank you, Juliet. That's a great thing to wake up to.

#40 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:01 AM:

Terry: my own personal reaction to sleep deprivation, with which I am entirely too well acquainted, is pretty thoroughgoing crankiness; "tractable" isn't in it, though poor judgement definitely is.

I daresay the reason torture is preferred to drugs (apart from simple sadism, of course) is that pain is more trusted than pleasure.

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:18 AM:

#37: Terry, that thought about pre-researching plausible lies: just imagine what a science-fiction fan might come up with.

"There was this guy from the CIA, and he had us trying to guess which of some funny symbols he was thinking of..."

It makes you wonder about some of the Cold War defectors and their stories.

#42 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:25 AM:

Darius Rejali describes how tortures like forced standing were developed to leave less evidence, not to be less brutal.

This law review article describes how Bush's legal eagles are as dishonest as they are depraved. The author of the infamous Bybee Memo developed a definition of "severe pain" - the "organ failure or death" standard - from statutes regarding health insurance benefits.

#43 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:15 AM:

To look at this in a somewhat different light, this is why I think that a Democratic win this November or even a Democratic president in 2008 is not going to solve things. The rot is too deep to cure just by changing governments. At best, a lot of people will need to be fired or arrested as well, at worst a full scale revolution is needed.

#44 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Martin,

I pray for a revolution at the ballot box.

#45 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:03 AM:

Martin Wisse is right. We've had this rot since McCarthy, and arguably since colonial days.

Already we're getting the usual calls for "national reconciliation", "moving on", and "Democrats have to show they are better than that".

Well, no. Before we move on, we need to reestablish justice in the United States of America. That means impeachments, trials, prison sentences, asset confiscations, and lifetime banning from public office.

#46 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:05 AM:

Let's consider the, ahem, logic of the Shrub maladministration:

(1) We are the good guys.

(2) They are the bad guys.

(3) They want to hurt us.

(4) We have to stop them.

(5) So that we can get reëlected (for some values of 'we').

(6) Therefore we have to find out what they plan.

(7) They don't want to tell us.

(8)So we have to make them.

(9) Because they're the bad guys it's perfectly okay to hurt them.

(10) Because we're the good guys we have a right to defend ourselves by any means we believe necessary (the sound you hear is Malcolm X rolling in his grave).

(11)Since we're the good guys, God is on our side.

(12)If we have to do any harsh or cruel thing to defend ourselves God will forgive us.

(13) It's okay to torture because we're the good guys and God will forgive us.

And...

(14) In any case when we do it it isn't really torture.

(The tremor you are now feeling is the result of John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and Martin Luther King simultaneously rolling in their graves.)

#47 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:12 AM:

(11a) Because we are born again and saved, we are predestined to go to heaven, so like good vulgar Calvinists we may do what we will without consequence.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:21 AM:

John Meltzer #47: Good point!

#49 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:43 AM:

Note: I suspect this predestination interpretation is not what Calvin himself believed, but what he did believe is really a subject for another thread.

#50 ::: DQ ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:10 AM:

Call me paranoid, but I read
medical care arranged by the CIA
combined with
They withheld medication.
and I'm wondering what exactly they're getting people hooked on, and what it would get written up as if they didn't survive withdrawal.

#51 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:18 AM:

It's interesting to me (as a foreign observer) that some Democrat sympathists seem to almost believe no Muslim in the world means harm to the US, yet they paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun.

Don't you think some of those folks might genuinely believe this could yeild valuable information that could help save lives?

#52 ::: John Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:19 AM:

You seem to have missed the one blatantly obvious bit of torture... standing for 40 hours.

(Come to think of it, there's one other issue that's missing from all of these discussions. How is prisoner compliance enforced? These are interrogation methods... but what if the prisoner refuses to stay standing? How is that enforced? If prisoners are beaten for refusing to stand, then beating up a prisoner isn't, technically speaking, an "interrogation" method.)

#53 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:37 AM:

#51: Don't you think some of those folks might genuinely believe this could yeild valuable information that could help save lives?

No. Because it doesn't work. It gives you bad information. It gives you bad information, that in the best case, wastes valuable time and manpower and in the worst case leads to thousands of needless deaths.

And either they know this and are doing it for fun or show or they don't, and are criminally negligent.

And even if it did work (which it doesn't), a basic part of morality is not doing things that might be convenient or useful because they are wrong.

#54 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:49 AM:

Teresa in #33: Re sleep deprivation: I wonder whether you could produce that effect by feeding your captive Provigil at appropriate intervals? The stuff doesn't keep you awake so much as it makes it difficult or impossible to sleep.

Not necessarily-- when I was prescribed the stuff a year or two ago for hypersomnia, at first 50mg/day kept me alert and active instead of asleep all day. After several months, even 200mg-doses weren't keeping me awake anymore. But it's probably a bit much to expect most (or even any) of the prisoners to have the same wonky brain chemistry as me.

#55 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:00 PM:

#51 - Nice little straw man you have there.

I don't know any democrats who believe that there doesn't exist a muslim in the world who means harm to their nation. But bombing the crap out of and torturing those of that population who meant your nation no harm quickly changes their indifference to hatred. And that's what the current US administration has done. The western world is less safe than 5 years ago, the US is turning into a war-criminal-harbouring police state, and people who call themselves "good republicans" are going along with it. Pathetic little dupes.

#56 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Meagen, because even Moussad has disavowed torture and they've actually been in the 24 Hour to Detonation scenario (as unlikey as it is).

Sure there are people who mean us harm. Shoot them on the battlefield. Fire until you run out of ammo or the body stops moving. But once they're in your custody they are your responsibility.

I could write a book about terrorist goals and methodologies but one of the terrorists mid-term goals is to force their target to violate their basic principles to prosecute their struggle against the terrorists. This gives the terrorists advantages. This proves the moral "decline" (for lack of better word) of their target.

In short, being stipped of/abandoning our rights, violating our basic humanity and acting in a barbaric manner, all serve the goals of the terrorists. I'm not being sarcastic here. By igniting a "War" against them gives them political standing (proof that their ideas have some power we have to stop), changing our behavior this way, abandoning basic standards, begins the breaking of the social contract between the governed and the government. This is a terrorist goal.

#57 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:10 PM:

If you say "The Muslims are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all" on a public forum, people will call you racist, or at least say you're vastly oversimplifying the question.

If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you.

#58 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:19 PM:

Also, it's interesting how word choice can make something seem different. You say "stress-and-duress interrogation" and it brings to mind the image of the movie cop beating the movie arsonist until he confesses which school the bomb is under. You say "torture" and it brings to mind American soldiers coming back from Vietnam with their fingers cut off and their legs horribly broken.

#59 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:36 PM:

#58 - The movie cop beating the arsonist is just a way to de-sensitize the population to the use of torture. It's a fantasy put forth by the worst kind of writer. In fiction torture always seems to produce correct information, except when applied to our hero, who nobly resists then misdirects.

US "approved" torture techniques kill and permanently maim people. There are at least two recorded deaths of prisonners in US hands dying to having their knees repeatedly kicked. Lovely. And popular televison (can anyone say "24"?) just re-inforces the stereotype that torture is acceptable when done by the "good" guys.

I'm looking forward to seeing a change back to civility.

#60 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:37 PM:

If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you.

Few of them are here, though.

I know a number of Republicans who are perfectly reasonable people who hold views that are incompatible with my own--I'll not say "some of my best friends are Republicans", because honestly they aren't, but I know a bunch I can have a civil conversation with.

Then there are people like Carl Rove and Dick (never was a name more apt) Cheney. We can't have peace in this country until they and their ilk are no longer in power...and while I admit that, in my darker hours, killing them seems a fine way of removing them from power, I'd rather not go to the violent revolution stage just yet.

The difference between me and the morons currently botching up my country is that I can look at a person, know a few things about them, and reserve judgement*. I don't automatically assume that every Republican I meet is an evil, power-hungry bastard out to get me and mine. I judge people on their actions, not their thumbnail descriptions. And most of the people here also have this capacity.

This is a long way of saying that the denizens of Making Light are not going to oblige you in your attempts to paint us as knee-jerk Republican-haters. You'll get just as much excoriation for saying "all Republicans are evil" as you'd get for "all Muslims are evil".

*That and I have ethics--I never thought I'd say this, but thank you, Ann Coulter, for providing that phrase.

#61 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:49 PM:

#57 : if you don't want us to say that "all Republicans are evil", then you, the "non-evil Republican", need damn well get the evil people out of your party and stop your party's evil actions.

Got it?

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Meagen:

"If you say "The Muslims are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all" on a public forum, people will call you racist, or at least say you're vastly oversimplifying the question.

If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you."

I'll agree only on the grounds that it's disturbing to have anyone agree to that statement. I can't agree with the implicit equation of Muslims and Republicans in the matter of unreasoning hostility. Republicans mysteriously believe themselves to be constantly subjected to dreadful slurs and hateful treatment, when in fact very little of that actually happens. Statistically speaking, they are far more likely to be the source rather than the target of such behavior. Muslims, on the other hand, have been collectively demonized, no matter what they personally believe or where they come from.

"It's interesting to me (as a foreign observer) that some Democrat sympathists seem to almost believe no Muslim in the world means harm to the US, yet they paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun."
I find that a bit offensive. Which "Democrat sympathists" actually believe that? Can you point to some? Likewise, can you point me to any who depict all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who randomly torture people for fun? Finally, if you can show me examples of both, can you identify the ones who qualify in both categories -- who, as you imply, simultaneously believe that no Muslim could ever want to harm the U.S., and paint Republicans as mindless sadists?

I'm sure you'd never mean to imply that anyone here holds views that even vaguely match that description.

"Don't you think some of those folks might genuinely believe this could yeild valuable information that could help save lives?"
No. Not for a minute. Professional interrogators know that torture is worse than useless for getting good intelligence out of prisoners. I think they were under pressure to produce certain intelligence reports, and were willing to torture prisoners and falsify results in order to meet that demand.

I can point you to some older threads on Making Light if you'd like to learn more about how torture doesn't work.

#63 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:24 PM:

It is not wise, nor ethical, to advocate killing people of different political persuasions than your own.

GET A CLUE: Killing someone associated with ~any~ movement tends to make the victim a martyr in the eyes of their fellows, and often others of different views will see them in this light as well, NO MATTER WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF THE INDIVIDUAL WHEN HE/SHE WAS ALIVE.

If you truly wish to invalidate these individuals you must find a way to publicly shame them.

#64 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:31 PM:

I've wondered for a long time why, exactly, Saddam kept denouncing the authority of the government and specifically the judge trying him. That he's delusional, arrogant, or stupid all smack of a conqueror's egocentrism - how could someone like that arrive at power in the first place, or hold onto it in the manner that he has?

But it makes perfect sense if it's a legal defense technique. Consider this - if, as we're seeing, Bush Co. has been using torture and themselves are in human rights violations, then the war under international law is illegal. Therefore the new governmental authority is illegal. As long as Saddam never admits that the new government has the legal authority to try him, he has grounds for a... not sure of the term but mistrial seems to fit.

It's a very long shot (banking off of two walls and a cow), sure, but given what he's done it is his only out. Too bad these torture techniques are giving him the legitimacy he needs to pull it off.

#65 ::: John Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Meagen:

If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you.

If that's true - and I don't believe it is - it's only because a single person's agreement would be "disturbing".

What's up with the hate? I mean, I've never heard anyone, ever, under any circumstances, say anything worse than "defeat the Republicans in elections, and put those who've committed crimes in jail". So why the pretense that there's bloodthirstiness going around?

#66 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Oops. My logic brain is broken. I meant to include a bit about Bush being guilty of War Crimes in addition to an illegal invasion, which would add more weight to the argument that a government established by Bush would be biased at the least.

Still a stretch, but a slight bit more plausible.

#67 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:45 PM:

#38 - Juliet, ever heard of proxy votes? I can assure you that Conservative Central Office has.

The War against Terror. Will someone please wake me up when we start fighting one, against ALL terror.

Torture - what the fuck are you talking about? It is illegal. The fruits of torture cannot be admitted in any court of law in any of our countries. Those who practice it are criminals. Those who authorise its use are criminals. Those who use any information resulting from it are criminally stupid, at the very least, and very probably criminals because they do not report the crime to the relevant law enforcement authorities (at least under our brand spaking new Anti Terrorism laws).

Those who use the tactics of barbarians make themselves barbarians. The lesson of Nuremburg is that ends DO NOT justify means.

#68 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:16 PM:

#57 If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you.

I'm getting really fckng sick and tired of these sorry attempts to change the subject by trying to push guilt buttons by tossing out strawmen and watching everyone scramble to prove that they are not the strawmen. You know damn good and well that no one thinks that. You're simply being manipulative.

The point is that torture is wrong. Even if it did help, it would remain morally wrong. The fact that it does not yield any true or useful information just makes the moral decision all the easier.

#69 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Meagen --

...some Democrat sympathists...

That's a fascinating phrase. Reminds me of people talking about communist sympathisers. Next thing you know, people'll start talking about fellow travelers. (I know, I know, this is obvious, I just like to point it out when even /I/ can recognize this sort of thing.)

I'm a "Democratic sympathist," and I absolutely do not doubt there are Muslims in the world who mean harm to the US. (More of them than before 9/11/01, but anyway.) I also do not doubt that doing unto them what was done to us in, say (since you brought it up), Vietnam... is really not much of a good idea.

Also, I kind of resent the idea that I'd want to kill me some Republicans. And, actually, I've never seen that suggested in any forum I've been in, so I'm sort of baffled.

Mostly, though, I'm thrilled (for some definition of that word) that we're getting someone in here to try and completely derail the point. Hi. Torture? Bad idea. Also, creates spiritual indigestion.

#70 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Where is Meagen, the "foreign observer," actually located?

#71 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:25 PM:

#35: The 'mirror method' is very useful sometimes.

I'm waiting for the email or blog post to arrive that describes all the things that some Al queda people have done to american hostages, with a lot of ugly details, through and through, the tortures, the beatings, the humilations, the killings.

And at the end, switch it and say, "oop. sorry. that's what Americans are doing to other people."

Then let the rage that built in the reader's mind against these inhuman people all through the letter turn on the reader and eat their brain.

#72 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:47 PM:

#51: It's interesting to me (as a foreign observer) that some Democrat sympathists seem to almost believe no Muslim in the world means harm to the US, yet they paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun.

No one said there are no extremists out there out to do us harm. And no one said that all republicans are sadists. I yawn at your lame strawman, then spritz it with gasoline and watch it burn.

I find it telling that the unsaid basis of your argument appears to be "two wrongs make a right". That if someone, anyone, is out to kill someone from my country, that gives carte blanche to ignore rules of war, to lie about reasons for war, to hide the true costs of war, to chuck liberties for the people the government is supposed to represent, to chuck human rights that should apply to all people.

We've had worse and managed not to sell our souls.

Don't you think some of those folks might genuinely believe this could yeild valuable information that could help save lives?

Don't you think it interesting that these people are being tortured before they had any sort of trial? That people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time have been tortured and held captive for nothing more than being near someone of interest?

More importantly government should never weild the sort of power that allows it to treat humans as non-human.

#57: If you say "The Muslims are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all" on a public forum, people will call you racist, or at least say you're vastly oversimplifying the question.

And you would be the person who would know "oversimplification" when they see it. see "Democrats paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists" comment by you.

If you say "The Republicans are all bloodthirsty murders and we can't have peace in this country until we kill them all", a disturbing number of people will agree with you.

Right because everyone here has been calling for the assassination of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. And a vast majority of posts explicitely call out for such action. Er, wait, no. I guess you just made that up.


#58: You say "stress-and-duress interrogation" and it brings to mind the image of the movie cop beating the movie arsonist until he confesses which school the bomb is under.

Right. Lets get rid of search warrants. Cops can be trusted never to abuse their power. And there's always a bomb under a school bus thats about to explode. In the movie theaters, anyway, which appears to be the limit of your edu-ma-cation.

You say "torture" and it brings to mind American soldiers coming back from Vietnam with their fingers cut off and their legs horribly broken.

Right, like John McCain surviving years of torture in Vietnam. He is a massive advocate of using torture against Al Quada. Oh, wait. No, you're just full of shit.

What are you, some new breed of moron?

#73 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Greg, the first thing that would happen to that letter would be that the "oops" line would be removed from the bottom. It would then be retransmitted into the aether, and would thereafter be cited by those who seek to justify America's current course of action. "See? They're animals! They deserve whatever we choose to dish out to them!"

#74 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:54 PM:

#73: the "oops" line would be removed from the bottom.

The better to eat your brain with, my dear.

Such a post would have to be done with a skilled and subtle writer. The opening line would say something about al queda, and all the horrible things they are doing. Then it would slide into a list of evil deeds, but never actually attribute the deeds to al queda, just let the reader make the association/assumption. Then the letter would close with the "oh, that was all american stuff"

It would require a writer far more skilled than me. But the idea woudl be that if the surprise end is deleted, the remaining letter doesn't actually attribute the actions to Al Queda.

Not that some knuckleheads woudl still misread it and take it as truth, but you can't convince the knuckleheads anyway.

#75 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:04 PM:

According to her livejournal, she's in Poland. She writes good English for a Pole. According to her deviantarts page she's only 21. Tcha, she's just a sprat, throw her back.

#76 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Sorry, my remark #75 was in answer to #70: "Where is Meagen?"

#77 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:37 PM:

The Book of Margery Kempe has a detailed, first-person account of being waterboarded.

#78 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 04:39 PM:

>..some Democrat sympathists.

If English is a second language for Meagan then I will phrase this correction more gently than I otherwise would have. "Democrat" is a term for a members of the Democratic party. When referring to he party itself the term would be "Democratic" ."Democrat" as an adjective (i.e. the "Democrat Party") was a usage deliberately spread by Republican partisans for a number of reasons. It is a lot easier to turn "Democrat" into an insult than Democratic (i.e. Dummycrat, Dimmycrat, Demoncrat etc.). Also they don't want the Democratic party able to associate itself with Democracy - hence trying to leave that party with only the shorted verion of the name. Generally replacement of term "Democratic" with the term "Democrat" is a sign of an abusive wingnut. Now that this has been pointed out to Meagan I'm sure she won't make that mistake again.

#79 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Someone asked 'how do you enforce keeping a prisoner standing for 40 hours?'

The answer is that you chain them up. Chain their feet to the floor and their wrists to a high bar. Alternately (see photos from Abu Ghraib) you wire them up to a car battery and put them on a small box in a pool of water. If they move, they get electrocuted.

Here's a question: how long is the US military permitted to keep a soldier standing at attention without rest?

#80 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Meagen made everyone jump through her hoop. When will we learn to just say "Cite one source that has said any of that," and ignore them completely until they do?

#81 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:37 PM:

beth meacham @ 79

I'm told half an hour max, because soldiers will begin to fall out.

#82 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Sidenote: I wrote "Democrat sympathists" to stand as shorthand for "card-carrying Democrats, people who vote for the Democratic party, and people who live in other countries and thus can't be said to be either Democratic or Republican in the strictest sense but their opinions on US politics are heavily based on the Democratic worldview". Thank you for the correction.

Most people seem to have taken my comments as direct arguments or statements of fact. Um... to state the obvious, they weren't. They were my observations on the political blogosphere as I see it. If I say something like "I'm getting the feeling that some Americans hate their fellow Americans more than they hate the people who actually want to kill them", the proper response is not to cite your cousin Bob who hates terrorists and is actually friends with a Republican so your whole little strawman theory falls apart, you idiot!.

The proper response is to ask yourself: "How did this girl get the idea? Does she just read the wrong blogs? Maybe there's articles out there written by Democrats that aren't openly hostile towards Republicans? (if so, send me a link!) *I* know very well Bush is the worse President we've ever had, but how does this argument look from the outside?"

Back on the original topic. Torture is morally wrong, there's no question of that. The thing is, any country's army first priority is not morality, but rather doing anything they can to protect that country. Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong. Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong, and then finding out they were futile. I believe that it's better than not doing anything.

It occurs to me that the relatively recent Abu Gharib scandal may be still clouding the issue. If people assume what happened there is standart procedure (as far as I can tell, it was baisically some soldiers dicking around on duty), they would naturally come to the conclusion that the list of CIA-approved torture refers to things regularly done to any shmuck caught in the desert or stopped by airport security.

I think it's wrong to assume the torture is being applied indiscriminately, or serves as the primary or only source of intel. If you have some information, and you need more, and you think getting more information is necessary to save the lives of your countrymen, and you are quite sure this one guy has the information you need... well, some people would rather keep the moral high ground and put innocent lives at risk.

Most of those people are not in the army. For good reason.

Again, this is my *opinion*. If you start picking it apart and labelling things as "strawman" and "pushing buttons" and such, you're missing the *point*.

#83 ::: murgatroyd ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:48 PM:

Martin: "To look at this in a somewhat different light, this is why I think that a Democratic win this November or even a Democratic president in 2008 is not going to solve things. The rot is too deep to cure just by changing governments. At best, a lot of people will need to be fired or arrested as well, at worst a full scale revolution is needed."

Absolutely. Nixon is 30 years gone but his evil minions, Rumsfeld and Cheney, are not only still around, they're running things. Simply kicking out Bush -- who, judging by past ventures, probably isn't even capable of coming up with the things his administration has attempted -- only addresses the surface of the problem.

I'm not sure of the solution, unless it's term limits for White House staffers, who are not elected and not directly accountable at the ballot box (when the process works, that is).

Teresa: "Republicans mysteriously believe themselves to be constantly subjected to dreadful slurs and hateful treatment, when in fact very little of that actually happens."

Interestingly, in "Spanking the Donkey," Matt Taibbi says much the same thing about right-wing Christians: they need enemies. They need something to fight against, some sort of adversity that tests faith, in order to feel "real." When there are no bogeymen to fight, they make up some, which justifies their position as "Christian soldiers" and their tactics as "self-defense."

I recommend that book, and his columns (many of which can be found online at Alternet).

#84 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Again, this is my *opinion*.

Right. And it's just my opinion that you're a serial killer, a pedophile, and that you like drinking baby's blood.

Whether it has anything to do with reality doesn't matter, because it's just my opinion...

Making assinine sweeping statements about the behaviour of a large group of people and hiding behind "Just my opinion" is something I'd expect from a grade schooler.

I just spent a weekend with some 10 year olds who had recurring conversations that went something like:

one: "You suck!"
other: "Mom!"
one: "Just kidding"

Let me know when you grow up...

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 05:58 PM:

No, Meagen, you're stating things as if they were facts and then claiming they're "just your opinion."

"Ovaltine is better than Moxie" is an opinion. "Democrat sympathists...paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun" is not an opinion, but an inaccurate statement of fact, that is to say, bullshit.

And if you, after reading the posts here by professional military interrogators saying that torture is well known to be futile, still think it's "better than doing nothing," than you're an evil person, because you know that it will be futile and yet advocate it anyway, so you must be advocating it because you enjoy it.

And if you haven't bothered to read any of the extensive explanations above about why torture is useless in obtaining valid information (as opposed to forcing a victim to confess to a predetermined story), then you're an idiot and we shouldn't waste any more time on you.

Look at me, jumping through the hoop. Well, she wasn't a driveby troll. Like that excuses me.

#87 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:05 PM:

It's not just the euphemistic names for these torture techniques; it's using ones that can be summed up in a way that not only can they be dismissed with a laugh by people who don't understand what's going on, they make anyone arguing against the use of torture look really, really foolish.

This is a side tangent, but exactly the same kind of approach is used to rationalize the abusive punishment of children as "just spanking". Most of us got spanked at some point when we were kids, so we remember it wasn't all that bad, right? So if you describe things like beating the kid with a belt or a hairbrush, hitting them on the face or the front of the torso or the legs and feet, and/or leaving bruises and sometimes blood as "just a spanking" -- well, anyone who'd say that's wrong is obviously just a soft-headed liberal who doesn't believe in discipline.

More generally, this is an instance of "terms needing to be clearly defined before any meaningful discussion can take place."

#88 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:19 PM:

#84: Okay, so you use the example of slandering one person... to show that I shouldn't make sweeping statements about large groups of people... and back it up with incidental dialogue of one person slandering another and then quickly withdrawing the slander under threat of prosecution.

That... makes absolutely no sense.

How can a sweeping statment like "sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens" be anything *but* opinion? It's not a fact. It's not an argument. It's still something I believe in. It's part of the mental model I have of the world. How am I supposed to cite sources for that?

#89 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:28 PM:

Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong, and then finding out they were futile. I believe that it's better than not doing anything.

Would that include the German invasion of Poland in 1939?

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:29 PM:

How can a sweeping statment like "sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens" be anything *but* opinion? It's not a fact. It's not an argument.

Well, you can start by saying that it is your opinion.

#91 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:31 PM:

No, Meagen, you're stating things as if they were facts and then claiming they're "just your opinion."

Everybody states their opinion as if they were facts.

"Ovaltine is better than Moxie" is an opinion. "Democrat sympathists...paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun" is not an opinion, but an inaccurate statement of fact, that is to say, bullshit.

"Ovaltine is better than Moxie" is a statement that can be proven true or false with testing. "I think Ovaltine is better than Moxie" is an opinion. In the same way, "It seems to me like Democrat sympathists..." is an opinion.

People here have proven, *extensively*, that most of what I said was very plainly not a statement of fact. They are, in fact, my opinions and observations.

And if you, after reading the posts here by professional military interrogators saying that torture is well known to be futile

"Torture is well known to be futile" is stated as a fact. It needs to be proved as such.

Please cite your sources. Until then, I will ignore you.

#92 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:36 PM:

#89: Would that include the German invasion of Poland in 1939?

Funny you should mention it. See, it seems France and England had all those troops ready to attack Germany right back, but they felt that would make them no better than the Germans. They decided to keep the moral high ground.

Well! That turned out pretty well.

#93 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Please cite your sources. Until then, I will ignore you.

Right back at you, babe.

More specifically, since you seem to have problem with specifics, any statement by you will be inferred to be simply more of your bullshit idea of "opinion". (which is a Humpty Dumpty notion of you can say anything you want to say and call it opinion, and therefore need no citations or facts or anything else that is reality based.)

Unless you say something to the effect of "Alice here says no muslims are out to kill us" or "Bob here says we ought to kill all republicans", you're just trolling.

Or stupid.

Or both.

bye bye.

#94 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Everybody states their opinion as if they were facts.

Wrong. Some of us take care to use phrases like "in my experience..." and "I think..." and "My opinion is..." to signal when we're expressing an opinion.

Please cite your sources. Until then, I will ignore you.

Promises, promises.

#95 ::: Meagen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Please cite your sources. Until then, I will ignore you.

Right back at you, babe.

Yeah... that's very productive.

And if you, after reading the posts here by professional military interrogators saying that torture is well known to be futile, still think it's "better than doing nothing," than you're an evil person, because you know that it will be futile and yet advocate it anyway, so you must be advocating it because you enjoy it.

Since I have still not read any posts here by professional military interrogators saying that torture is well known to be futile, I will consider myself free to think that it's better than nothing without being an evil person.

I will also consider this whole exchange a gigantic waste of everyone's time.

#96 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:54 PM:

#94: Everybody states their opinion as if they were facts.

Lexica, I was -||- this close to replying to this, but pity, she didn't cite any source to back it up.

#97 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Yeah... that's very productive.

Right back at you, babe.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:06 PM:

Meagen, Terry Karney is a professional military interrogator.

You, on the other hand, are a jackass.

#99 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:31 PM:

I'd say Meagen is a troll:
* Irrelevant strawmen - CHECK
* Demand for data as means of devaluing disagreement - CHECK
* Disingenuous tone, shifting to hurt tone - CHECK
* Swooping in to stir the pot with no intro/posting history - CHECK

I wonder if his/her IP address comes from anyplace interesting...

#100 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:37 PM:

One of Teresa's former posts on this is here-- this is one of the ones that talks specifically about how and why torture is generally ineffective. (It's one of the posts I refer to when I want to link people to Issues With Torture.)

As Xopher says, Terry Karney is a professional interrogator.

Also, Meagen, the article Teresa links to in this post-- the one about Abu Zubaydah-- does seem to indicate problems with the general torture thing.

#101 ::: Leanne Veitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 07:44 PM:

I can't begin to express how much this sickens me.

There is no excuse for torture. None. And there never will be. Because the moment a person/government stoops to these sorts of behaviours, we become lower than our lowest enemies. What sort of ethical or moral high ground do we have then? None.

If torture could save me or mine from pain or suffering, still I would refuse to support my government in perpetrating it. If torture were to happen to the worst criminal in the world, and save millions of innocents, still I would denounce it. There is no justification for abuse of others in the name of justice or freedom or safety, and there never will be.

#103 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Meagan: I don't give a good Goddamn what they believe, any more than I care that the Pope truly believed the Sun goes round the Earth. What they believe is wrong, and they are denying teh evidence, the facts and what is morally right in the pursuit of some flawed ideation that beating, freezing, humiliating, drowning and otherwise torturing people, in my name on, putuatively, my behalf.

Booth thought killing Lilcoln was the right thing to do (sic semper tyrannis, and all that). It wasn't and his believing it gives him not a whit of legitimacy.

As for the side note that some people actually want to hurt me, so what?

There are people who commit crimes, does that mean I get to ask the police to whomp on suspects? No. because doing that is wrong, and it doesn't work, which means innocent people suffer, guilty people get away with things, cops become corrupt and society is debased.

You are right about word choices. If I say, Negative reienforcement stimulus to train a subject out of non-responsive answers it sounds a lot better than when I say, Applying 3 volts at 25 amps when the subject says he doesn't know the answer.

They are the same. Stress and duress interrogation is torture.

When you allege that the Army's sole duty is to win, at any cost, you are wrong. I can say this a a member of one army (the US), who has trained with a lot of other armies (to include the British). My duty is dead simple, because I swore an oath which prescribed it in plain words: To uphold and defend the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Do I want to win? Yep. Do I prefer coming out of it with alive, with all my parts intact, you bet. Will I give up my humanity so some weak-kneed fool who's seen one too many movies where putting a gun to someone's head gets the answer which saves the day can sleep easier... not for anything.

Because you know what, when it comes down to it, I don't give a damn about him. I give a damn about me, and my mates. I am an interrogator, these are not abstract issues to me (I probably know more about torture than anyone else you are going to come across. I know some of the soldiers in the Dilawar case, the Colonel Pappas, of Abu Ghraib, was in my chain of command; I have seen what happens to people who start down that road: they give up some of what makes being human worthwhile, and it increases with time, until they are base and shriveled.

You are right when you say Abu Ghraib is coloring how I view things, but you are wrong about the nature of the events. What you don't know about Abu Ghraib and Khandahar, and Gitmo, well it would fill volumes.

I think it's wrong to assume the torture is being applied indiscriminately, or serves as the primary or only source of intel. If you have some information, and you need more, and you think getting more information is necessary to save the lives of your countrymen, and you are quite sure this one guy has the information you need... well, some people would rather keep the moral high ground and put innocent lives at risk.

Most of those people are not in the army. For good reason. What "good reason" would that be, because as I read it, you are implying it's a bad thing to think those things; which is wrong.

Again, this is my *opinion*. If you start picking it apart and labelling things as "strawman" and "pushing buttons" and such, you're missing the *point*.

What is the point? You dressing the thing up as being your opinion, and so free of scrutiny, doesn't fly, because your opinion is based on a slew of false assumptions. In short, you are wrong.

If I know someone has the info, I don't need to torture him. If I do torture him, I am not (let me repeat that, just in case I wasn't clear), repeat, not going to get useful info (much less intel) by waterboarding him.

If I don't know he has the info, well torture becomes worse than useless, because it will get answers to questions, they'll just be the wrong answers, because he can't tell what he doesn't know.

When it comes to sources, Army Field Manual 34-52 (field interrogation) as well as any number of studies, from the Inquisition, to the present. Practical experience, and the testimony (supported by external facts) of those who were tortured. The US pilots the Vietnamese tortured gave up not one piece of actionable intel, in the course of hundreds of man weeks of torture.

Some of them had useful info; none of them gave it up.

For the testimony of professionals who repudiate torture, here I am.

here is a list of my posts on the subject.

For stuff I wrote here, specifically, the best description I've made of how it works, was here

But I'm only one person, so what value my testimony?

Well, I was taught by people who knew, but you don't know them. You could read "The Interrogator" by Hans Scharf (he worked for the Luftwaffe, asking questions of 8th AF pilots who were shot down), or you could read Chris Mackey's book, "The Interrogators" about his time in Afghanistan (NB, I know him, so you may want to take that into account when I recommend the book, you may think that changes the merit of what he wrote).

The long and the short of it is pretty short: torture doesn' work, full stop.

#104 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:17 PM:

Meagen, two of the people you've been arguing with are former military interrogators. I'm tired at the moment and can't remember whether it's proper for me to identify them in public, so I'll leave it to their discretion. I'll nevertheless tell you this much: you have been professionally assured that torture is futile.

You still have an open offer from me: if you want, I can direct you to earlier posts and comment threads at Making Light where the specifics and technicalities and utility/nonutility of torture are discussed at length, by a mixture of experts and (mostly) intelligent non-experts.

I was struck by one of your questions:

"How can a sweeping statement like 'sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens' be anything *but* opinion? It's not a fact. It's not an argument. It's still something I believe in. It's part of the mental model I have of the world. How am I supposed to cite sources for that?"
Said "sweeping statement" takes the form of a statement of fact. By your own account, it functions as one in your own mental universe. In the general discourse, it certainly functions as an argument.

You talk as though it's impossible to judge, qualify, or support such a statement. In fact, it's entirely possible to do those things. I personally believe that it's necessary to do them in order to become a responsible citizen and a moral human being. We are all responsible for the intelligence and accuracy of our own opinions.

How can we approach your specific question? Lots of ways. We can read history, see multiple instances of nations that have or haven't taken that attitude, and observe the consequences of it. We can talk to experts who specialize in law, or morality, or military/civilian interactions, and ask them whether that's a workable position, and what its effects are. We can, if we're religious, use the approach recommended by most of the world's religions: we can imagine ourselves in the other person's shoes, and do unto them as we would have others do unto us.

This by no means exhausts the list of possible approaches.

By the way, I happen to be able to answer the question. The notion that "sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens" is wrong.

Here's why: Fortune changes. There are lots of countries, lots of rulers, lots of armies, lots of bodies of citizenry. You've forgotten a basic principle: you could be one of the people to whom morally wrong things are done by soldiers who think they're protecting the citizens of their own country. I'm sure you would dislike that.

As long as we're talking about Poland, consider the fact that for centuries, Poland's gotten kicked around by the Great Powers of Europe. All those armies that came stomping through were acting on behalf of their own polities. The Poles took it in the neck. I don't think anyone here's going to say that was a good thing.

Historically speaking, it's pretty clear that everyone's better off if everyone obeys basic laws: don't take it out on civilians. Don't mistreat captured soldiers. Guys wearing uniforms are subject to a somewhat different set of rules. Torture is not an allowable practice. Do your best not to aim at stuff that's painted white and has a red cross on it. You can commandeer food, but you can't clean out the local museum and ship the contents home. Don't take slaves. Don't use slaves. Don't destroy stuff for fun. Don't fight wars of aggression or conquest. You know -- real ground-level stuff.

Everybody wants to be the citizenry that's being protected. Nobody wants to be in the group that's being brutally mistreated by another country's soldiers. The only solution is for every country's soldiers to observe the laws and abstain from immoral, abusive behavior.

And that's why that proposition is wrong.

#105 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:25 PM:

Meagan (#88) sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens" be anything *but* opinion?

Because it's a statement of fact.

The use of sometimes is not a magic transformational word.

"Sometimes I like to drink lapsang souchong," is fact.

"Sometimes cops abuse prisoners," Fact.

"Sometimes cops have to shoot people in self-defense, and they are mistaken about the real need," Fact.

If we compare those models to your sentence, "sometimes a country's army has to do things that are morally wrong to protect the citizens," we see that it follows the same rule, a specific action/set of actions are stated to occur. They occur, not all the time, but sometimes.

It's a statement of fact.

As I said elsewhere, that is an incorrect statement of fact. They don't have to, they choose to.

#106 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:29 PM:

Xopher #98: I wish to take exception to your calling Meagen a jackass.

I have two reasons for this:

(1) A jackass is a male donkey, and Meagan is a female donkey.

(2)Jackasses have the ability to learn (this is something I know from experience, having worked with asses -- both male and female, and both quadruped and biped -- when I was a farm boy back in a dim distant age.

#107 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:29 PM:

Let's start again, Meagen.

It's interesting to me (as a foreign observer) that some Democrat sympathists seem to almost believe no Muslim in the world means harm to the US, yet they paint all Republicans as bloodthirsty sadists who will gladly torture anyone just for fun.

"seem to almost believe" This is a weasel-ly phrase, used almost as though you're trying to distance yourself from the rest of the sentence. I think we're right to ignore it. Own your words, dear. Either you think Democrats eat babies or you don't. If you think so, then say so.

Assuming you mean it, then this is a statement pertaining to facts, not an opinion. If you state what you believe to be a fact, you should be prepared to back up your words. Equally, you should be prepared to admit you're wrong.

This blog is part of the reality-based community. We try not to mistake opinion for fact and vice-versa. We don't recognise strident writing as proof of anything. Put your facts up against ours, or shut up. And we have some very good facts around here. You should take some time out to follow them up.

I think you're ignorant rather than stupid. This is good: ignorance can be cured. The cure lies in your own hands.

Don't you think some of those folks might genuinely believe this could yeild valuable information that could help save lives?

Good intentions may count for something, but that little can be more than undone by doing the wrong thing. It's not enough to rush around doing the first thing thought of. The right course of action should be researched and planned. That first thing thought of should be tested to see if it works, and if it doesn't work, it should be abandoned and something better should be sought.

"These folks" might believe that good things can come from evil, but when you give in to that idea, you inevitably corrupt everything that grows from it. Progress is made by eschewing evil. You won't avoid it entirely unless you're very lucky, but trying to reduce it as much as possible is our only hope.

Good intentions are not enough. You must do good.

#108 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:37 PM:

Why call hard names when the argument has so much more potential?

#109 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:43 PM:

From Teresa's blog:
The intelligence gathered from him [Abu Zubaydah] has been a major source of George W. Bush’s worldview.

Oh.

Cliche of blind leading blind converts to crazy leading the true believer.

#110 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 08:43 PM:

Teresa #108: Unfortunately, the argument is likely to go nowhere. Meagen will continue to make assertions of fact and then call them 'opinions' and respond in a hurt tone when she's called on it.

Your statement, though, reminds me of an eighteenth-century verse epigram:

The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For Tories own no argument but force;
But unto Cambridge books he sent,
For Whigs will own no force but argument.

And the Whig-Tory debate continues even to this day.

#111 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:09 PM:

It occurs to me that at some point the country is going to need an American version of the South African Truth & Reconciliation process, otherwise we are never going to be able to talk to one another again. Unfortunately, I fear that the American version of such a process will look very much like Senate and House committee investigations. If I thought the Democrats could set up such a thing and carry it off with grace and gravitas, I might be able to stomach the result, but I have no faith in that.

A couple of comments to Meagen:

I don't know what you mean by "Democrat sympathist." I am a registered Democrat. It is a political party; I don't know what percentage of Americans are Democrats but I believe there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the country at the moment.

I don't want to kill Republicans, nor do I think that all Republicans are bloodthirsty murderers. If you truly believe that, then you are reading angry political hyperbole and confusing it with a political agenda. I once wrote in a post on Making Light: "Bring me the head of Michael Brown!" (In case you don't know, Michael Brown was the head of FEMA during Hurricane Katrina.) I don't actually want to cut off Michael Brown's head. May I assume you know this?

#112 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:16 PM:

#108 Why call hard names when the argument has so much more potential?

Does it? It seems that Meagen is one step above trolling. I don't see much potential there.

Her response at #92 (, it seems France and England had all those troops ready to attack Germany right back, but they felt that would make them no better than the Germans. They decided to keep the moral high ground. Well! That turned out pretty well.)


and her response at #82 (The thing is, any country's army first priority is not morality, but rather doing anything they can to protect that country. Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong. Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong, and then finding out they were futile. I believe that it's better than not doing anything.)

is nothing more than a doctrine advocating and arguing for preemptive war.

I'm not sure how much potential there is there.

Military operations involving a hundred thousand personel invading another country aren't surgical. Go into a major metropolitan city around 3 pm, cut the electrical power, the water, and the gas. Shut down all backup power. Shut down all forms of public transportation. Then watch as everyone tries to get home. accidents will happen. People will get hurt and even killed, trying to cross streets, commute in their cars, and just get around. Equipment will fail and cause unbelievable jams. Crime will flare up. road rage. riots. vandals. looters.

With all the chaos and destruction, you're still only looking at a "polite" version of a full military invasion. There is no such thing as a "surgical invasion". it will be messy. it will be chaotic. accidents will happen. there will be equipment failures and breakdowns in command. innocent poeple will die. Friendly fire will happen. aircraft will have mechanical failures and crash. crime will flare up. there will be riots, looters, and chaos. This isn't an intentional outcome, but neither is all the violence and damage that would be inflicted by cutting power in a major city during rush hour traffic. It's just a function of sheer numbers.

The thing is that isn't the sort of shit you preemptively launch. To advocate that sort of violence preemptively is to either be grossly naive about how the military works or grossly sociopathic so as to not care about the outcome. I can't abide either option.

I will try to cut out the hard names, though.

#113 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Meagan wrote:
"Since I have still not read any posts here by professional military interrogators saying that torture is well known to be futile, I will consider myself free to think that it's better than nothing without being an evil person."

Actually, you have, as several people have, by now, pointed out.

"I will also consider this whole exchange a gigantic waste of everyone's time."

Whatever.

One time, a long time ago, David Drake (who, on his own biography page, indicates that he was once an interrogator for the US Army, during Vietnam), was the GOH at Astronomicon, a little relaxicon that is held up here in Rochester. At the "Meet the Guest" panel, his service in Vietnam was brought up, and one audience member (in a manner that was less than cricket, and rather rude all around) brought up the question of torture, and if David had ever been involved in any.

His statement, after a look of disgust that was palpable, was that if any such things happened while he was in-country, they did not happen while he was around, nor was he ever aware of it, because it just plain doesn't work, and is counterproductive in addition. This was in the early 90s - 94, I believe.

Maybe that was the "public consumption" tale. Maybe he was spinning lies to keep his audiance happy - although I'd think some of his readers might be happier with David "Jack Bauer is a pussy" Drake than the image he was portraying.

But I heard the response, and the tone, and saw the look on his face. I don't think he was lying, and nothing I have read on the topic since leads me to believe otherwise.

Torture is wrong. It is wrong because we don't want it done to our troops. It is wrong because animals shouldn't be treated in such fashion, let alone people. It is wrong - and this is in all ways the strongest condemnation of it - because it doesn't fucking work as a source for valid, useful information. It's stupid and counterproductive, and above all other reasons - all of which are important and very valid ones - that is why we shouldn't use it.

Because you should never use shit that doesn't fucking work.

#114 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:39 PM:

Scott Taylor: (#113) Not that David Drake needs me to defend him, but I think you were right in how you read it. I've read his work, read the story he did in the Slammers' universe about it, and that mindset doesn't seem to be in him.

I'm just tired of playing whack-a-mole on this topic.

Meagan I didn't notice this before, "Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong, and then finding out they were futile. I believe that it's better than not doing anything.)

You are wrong in this belief. War is foul, nasty, terrifying, expensive, horrible, and a host of other adjectives which all shape the meaning of bad; and that list fails, completely, to convey half of what war is.

Pulling the trigger on that, for anything less than the certainty that one's cause is just, is an unmitigated evil.

Will there be those, in the places where decisions are made who will be that certain, who will act, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right," and be wrong in that righteousness? Yes.

That can be forgiven. But to lash out to do, "the morally wrong," with one's eyes wide open, just to be doing, "something," that's, on its face wrong. It admits to being wrong.

To be willing to accept such a thing, and to further accept that it be futile, because it's better to be doing a futile moral wrong than to be doing nothing... the only word I can see for such a thing is evil.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:52 PM:

Fragano, OK, I'll fall back on jackhole then.

#116 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 10:12 PM:

I believe that it's better than not doing anything.

To borrow from another discipline, medicine: "First, do no harm."

If the choices are doing something that is both morally wrong and futile, or doing nothing, then the right choice is clearly to do nothing.

=============

The witch hysteria from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries proved by the experimental method that torture didn't produce useful results. The (mostly) women who confessed to witchcraft during that time -- confessions spread over hundrds of years and thousands of miles -- gave descriptions of their activities that were amazingly consistent. This led some people (Montague Summers, for one) to believe that they must have been confessing to true things, or how would their stories be so consistent?

The reason their confessions were consistent was because the torturers were all reading the same manuals.

By the early 18th century the Spanish Inquisition came to the conclusion that Satanic Witchcraft didn't exist and probably never had. The Inquisition became the first court in Europe to give up judicial torture. By the end of the century all of the courts of Europe had stopped admitting evidence obtained by torture.

True, you still had (and have) cops who take a suspect into a back room and beat a confession out of him. The end result of that is more innocents in jail and criminals walking free. And those cops don't dare admit in court how they got the confessions; confessions obtained under torture are inadmissiable. Why? Because (as the Spanish Inquisition itself noted) they don't yield the truth.

Now Bush wants to make it legal to admit confessions obtained under torture. Can anyone argue that this makes America, or the world, a better place? A safer place? Bush wants to restart something that the Spanish Inquisition concluded was unreliable and immoral.

How low we have fallen.

#117 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 10:16 PM:

Terry Karney:
Not that David Drake needs me to defend him, but I think you were right in how you read it. I've read his work, read the story he did in the Slammers' universe about it, and that mindset doesn't seem to be in him.

Yeah. He just seems too - pragmatically decent - a guy, in some ways, to find torture useful or interesting.

(and I've read the same Slammer's story, which is part of why I've considered what he said to be the truth).

I'm just tired of playing whack-a-mole on this topic.

Unfortunately, there is - umm... not glamour, exactly, but something appealing in being the Guy Who Breaks The Rules To Get Results - ergo Dirty Harry, Jack Bauer (bleachh. Great concept. Poor, poor, poor execution), Elliot Stabler, etc. "Good Guys" who go beyond the rules (sometimes only a little over the line, like Stabler, sometimes quite a bit, like Inspector Callahan, sometimes totally over the line, deep into left field, over the fence, out in the parking lot, and in some dude's apartment, like Bauer) because their "Bad Guys" are so terrible they are driven to those extremes.

I wouldn't mind it so much if, at the end of the story, the "Good Guy" was properly punished - even if he succeeded - for having broken the rules - and accepted it with good grace (or bad grace) - and not by some dude who is being portrayed as jealous of his success, or a stuffed shirt, but by a genuinely good guy (insert feminine gender where appropriate, but typically these are macho guy movies) who may acknowledge that breaking the rules worked - this time - but was still breaking the rules, and has to be punished, because we cannot condone certain types of behavior.

But, of course, that's never the case. The "Good Guy" is never shown as a horrible monster, the "Bad Guys" are rarely shown as having reasons (if not justifications) for their actions, and the Good Guy's bosses are never shown as righteous individuals for working inside the rules.

As a result, for (well, pretty much my whole life), we've been inculcated with this idea that, sometimes, torture might be okay, that sometimes it's necessary to get results, that sometimes it works - regardless of the reality. Almost two generations have grown up with the imagery of police detectives popping a guy in the nose in interrogation, or otherwise stepping over the line, and getting results, instead of bullshit.

meh. Good thing, I suppose, I'm not a scriptwriter.

(Disclaimer: I am not a conspiracy theorist, although I can play one on TV. I do not believe that the previous is some conscious manipulation of the public memestream by shadowy skulkers in media boardrooms - among other things, that kind of answer is always far too pat, far too easy. Writing about "Good guys who act like bad guys" is interesting, and, well, easy - working within the rules is harder. And so, we get easy fiction, instead of useful fiction.)

#118 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 10:36 PM:

Scott "Law and Order" When Chris Noth left the series it was because an asshat got away with murder, and his character decked him, which got him sympathy, from his boss, his partner, the DA, and the lot.

It also got him tranferred back to being a beat cop.

IIRC he was sent to Staten Island as some sort of further punishment.

But this topic (and all the ancillaries which go with it)... I've been fighting it for almost 15 years. For the first ten of those it was pretty easy, mostly humorus.

The past four... not so much. Hit the first link I gave Meagan, or put "pecunium torture" into google and you can see how much I've been doing. It wears, because it's futile. It's the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, but there are too many people in the world who think it must work, because they'd give it up; and we're the good guys, so we won't torture anyone who doesn't deserve it, etc., etc..

#119 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:38 PM:

I remember when the original Dirty Harry movie came out, Mad Magazine did a parody of it. At one point in that parody, at the point where Dirty Harry is reprimanded for torturing a suspect (the guy walks because he'd been tortured, so his confession was inadmissible), the DA (or whoever) says, "...those are the laws that made America great." And Dirty Harry replies, "Yeah? Well me and the audience just decided that we like the laws that made Nazi Germany great."

And that's what this whole argument is about. It's really funny that Bush and Rumsfeld and all are calling up the ghosts of WWII to try to justify the laws that made Nazi Germany great.

#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:46 PM:

you can see how much I've been doing. It wears, because it's futile.

Please don't consider your work on this futile. It isn't. It may not create blatantly obvious and immediate results, but it makes a difference to have even one man stand up for what is right than to have a world silent to all the wrongs committed in the name of right.

#121 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:09 AM:

I don't really think it futile, someday Sysiphus will get the rock to the top of the hill.

If not me, who, if not now, when?

As someone just told me, all that evil needs to triumph is that good men do nothing.

Somone else has told me they use me, and things I've said and pointed to to show others the truth.

But there are days....

Thanks for the encouragement.

#122 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:24 AM:

Terry Kearney says, in post 118, 'but there are too many people in the world who think it must work, because they'd give it up"...

Me, I think that I'd hold out just as long as I could and then give up a big fat piece of disinformation. Does this make me a bad person?

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:29 AM:

That doesn't make you a good person or a bad person.

Nor will it make them stop hitting you. They'll only stop hitting you when you give them the lies they want to hear.

After that they'll only hit you when they're bored, depressed, or sad.

#124 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:36 AM:

JESR: (#122)

Holding out doesn't have anything to do with good or bad. Me, I hope I can hold out for 72 hours, after that I'll sing like a bird.

Which has to do with what I owe my friends. I can only hope they are beating me until I talk. If they have an agenda, I'll sing sooner, because the lies they want to hear will be obvious.

If they are beating me to make a point, it doesn't matter... I'm going to get hurt, or dead.

That's why torture is evil.

#125 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:39 AM:

Scott:

I wouldn't mind it so much if, at the end of the story, the "Good Guy" was properly punished - even if he succeeded - for having broken the rules

Watch the end of Dirty Harry again. Callahan takes his badge and skims it out over the water, which I always assumed meant he knew that he'd ruined his career with the tactics he used stopping the crazy. Which is why I was so amazed when the studio was able to make several follow-up films...

#126 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:41 AM:

someday Sysiphus will get the rock to the top of the hill.

heh. in my version, I always imagined Sysiphus wins in the end because the result of his patience is that he eventually manages to wear the hill down until its completely f-ing flat, at which point he can set his rock and it will stay there.

But then I can be very patient about some things.

#127 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:49 AM:

Greg, that is a truly novel notion. I'm sure it's not what the Greeks meant, though.

The story of Sisyphus has always had a lovely Buddhist ring to it to me. Before enlightenment, push the rock. After enlightenment, push the rock.

#128 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:58 AM:

Here's my simple, emotionally-driven, bleeding-heart liberal, bright-eyed idealist take on it:

If America gives up the moral high ground, what makes America worth defending? What makes America worth loving, if not its ideals?

If we sacrifice those ideals for pragmatism, what makes us better than any other country who ever invaded and subjugated another country?

I need a better reason to love America than simply having been born here. The Constitution, the ideals of individual rights and freedoms upon which it was founded, those are my reasons. It hurts to watch this administration strip those reasons away. And as it does so, the epithet "America-hater" sounds less and less of an insult. Hating America is a reasonable response to America doing hateful things. I want my country to stop doing hateful things, so that I can love it and rally to its defense without moral conflict.

Thank you, this has been another minute in the Principled Idealist's Corner. It's where I live, and I appreciate your visit. Come again soon.

#129 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:01 AM:
in my version, I always imagined Sysiphus wins in the end because the result of his patience is that he eventually manages to wear the hill down until its completely f-ing flat, at which point he can set his rock and it will stay there.
Heh. "Carve away the stone, Sysiphus / Carve away the stone / Make the burden lighter if you must roll that rock alone." N. Peart, 1994ish.
#130 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:06 AM:

" They'll only stop hitting you when you give them the lies they want to hear.

After that they'll only hit you when they're bored, depressed, or sad."

So you're saying it's a lot like being married to my late unlamented Uncle Lowell?

#131 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:08 AM:

Nicole: I refuse to make my country synonymous with George W. Bush, and one reason I get so furious (as if I needed yet another reason) at the man is that he so clearly does exactly that. Another reason is that by his actions he mocks and holds cheap the very ideals which you and I honor. I don't hate America: I despise what the Bush administration is doing in its name.

And I am well aware that in Iraq, and plenty of other places, few are able to make that distinction.

I am not disagreeing with anything you said...

#132 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:18 AM:

that is a truly novel notion.

thanks.

I'm sure it's not what the Greeks meant, though.

They don't seem to be using it at the moment.

;)

The story of Sisyphus has always had a lovely Buddhist ring to it to me.

Yeah, to an extent. Although my favorite buddist koan is "Groundhog Day". towards the end, Bill Murray saved the kid falling out of the tree every day, even though the kid never thanked him. but he did stop doing other things as he found they weren't his true self.

The story of sysiphus can be taken as a struggle in vain or a chance to find enlightenment in the mundane, depending on your perspective. But then enlightenment never changes your circumstances, only your perspective about your circumstances. Have you eaten? Then go wash your bowls. What is god? Six pounds of flax. Which is why I changed my interpretation of Sysiphus so that he wins in the end, in his own way. I'd rather have it enlighten people, rather than pull them into some version of hell.

#133 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:28 AM:

But then enlightenment never changes your circumstances, only your perspective about your circumstances.

Indeed, the enlightened one recognizes that the distinction between circumstances and perspective is an illusion...

#134 ::: John Palmer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:33 AM:

Beth/79:

Someone asked 'how do you enforce keeping a prisoner standing for 40 hours?'

The answer is that you chain them up. Chain their feet to the floor and their wrists to a high bar. Alternately (see photos from Abu Ghraib) you wire them up to a car battery and put them on a small box in a pool of water. If they move, they get electrocuted.

So, they can hang a person by the arms (spread their arms apart, and you can call it crucifixion).

But they don't have to admit that's an interrogation method because it's not, specifically, being used to elicit information.

Do you get my point? The interrogator might claim he demanded "sleep deprivation"; the prisoner might be "kept awake" through all kinds of nasty methods, but it's still called sleep deprivation. The rest of the torture was simply "the guards forced prisoner XYZ to comply with orders".

If the prisoner is struck, repeatedly, to keep him standing (or awake), they're beating a confession out of him... but the only official interrogation method is "keeping him standing" or "keeping him awake", with a notation that "the guards had to use reasonable force to ensure prisoner compliance".

This could be a lot deeper, and a lot dirtier, than it looks on the surface.

#135 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:27 AM:

Scott, your point about television and the movies is spot on: I firmly believe that one of the reasons so many people are complacent about losing their rights in this country is because of shows like Law & Order: SVU, where detectives skirt the Constitution and rough up suspects and there is little or no fallout. And Terry, yes, Chris Noth's character got busted down to being a beat cop, but he punched someone who had already been acquitted, not a suspect in custody.

Just an observation: torture has been used in this country before; it was used against women suffragists who ended up in prison. However, in those cases there was never any attempt to elicit information, but instead to control or punish the women. But that was individual wardens (who were later charged with crimes) and not as part of an official government policy.

#136 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:45 AM:

The movie Dirty Harry does have rather more to it than the sequels, and those aren't all without some merit for the questions they raise, even if some of the answers are pretty shitty.

I think it's just possible that the torture scene in that movie is set up to maybe give a useful result. Yes, it's set up so that everyone know the guy has done it. Which is a big unreality. It's also set up that Callahan doesn't have any preconception about the information he's after.

And it doesn't make any difference. It might not have made any difference if Callahan had let the guy get away, and the guy had straight away telephoned the Police with the location of the kidnap victim.

The trouble is that the subtlety in that film goes over the head of a lot of people like a Tornado on a runway-busting run. They see it as a movie extolling the virtues of strength, when it is a tragedy. Not an Othello or Macbeth, but it has the same elements of the fall of virtue.

And that is what the sequels, whatever else they do, throw away. They shift away from that, into the moral morass of the formula cop movie, where the bad guys get gunned down as a matter of cinematic convention. The question "Do ya feel lucky" changes from a chance of salvation to the wail of the banshee.

#137 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:51 AM:

As a result, for (well, pretty much my whole life), we've been inculcated with this idea that, sometimes, torture might be okay, that sometimes it's necessary to get results, that sometimes it works - regardless of the reality. Almost two generations have grown up with the imagery of police detectives popping a guy in the nose in interrogation, or otherwise stepping over the line, and getting results, instead of bullshit.

Scott, it's worse than that. We've been inculcated with the idea that torture works quickly, reliably, and with no bad side effects.

As far as I can tell, the template for torture by the good guys goes like this: A hard man, working outside the system, assaults and/or terrifies a physically inferior man in order to get information. The information is gotten quickly and is accurate. The torturer is angry, but takes no pleasure in the process. There is no longterm physical damage to the torturee and no psychological damage to the torturer. There are no longterm political, legal, or other bad effects.

I've bounced this template off a number of people--the only disagreement I've gotten is that it wasn't like that in Dirty Harry. All too often, I've had people say, "But if it were done differently, it wouldn't be any fun [for the viewer]."

I'm interested in how torture and/or interrogation gets portrayed in other cultures.

#138 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:54 AM:

#67, a late response to Martin, it's been busy here. So, apologies as appropriate.

Conservative Central Office will have no joy trying to collar my proxy vote because I always vote, in everything, up to and including local and European elections and have done since my 18th birthday.

I think it stems from the intense frustration of being unable to do anything about Thatcher in my teens...

So doorstep conversations with canvassers have also gone:
'Can we rely on your vote?'
'Not while there's breath in my body.'
'But it's very important that you vote!'
'I agree, absolutely, but I shan't be voting for your candidate.'
There's usually a baffled pause in response, as the notion of not voting Tory is so outlandish...
Then the fun really starts if they ask, 'But why?'

Which doesn't make the wider point you're flagging up about using or risking losing one's vote any less valid.

If I should ever turn up and find I can't vote, hoo boy, I know just which journos I'd contact...

And getting back to the issue of torture, IIRC what are currently being called authorised interrogation techniques were adjudged to be torture when inflicted by the British Army on Republican suspects in Northern Ireland in the 70's and 80's. Certainly the long time standing was.

And look how well that whole approach turned out, in terms of making martyrs, recruiting newly radicalised youth, hardening opinion of the more moderate majority and so on.

#139 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:38 AM:

Juliet: Would you ever forgive people who'd tortured someone dear to you? I know I wouldn't. Absolute best outcome, we are going to have generations of penance to do over this.

A general comment: Torture in popular entertainment is indeed a cheap plot contrivance. All you writers out there? Don't use it. I'll be doing my best to see to it that you don't.

Greg London (112), I have a quibble:

"Go into a major metropolitan city around 3 pm, cut the electrical power, the water, and the gas. Shut down all backup power. Shut down all forms of public transportation. Then watch as everyone tries to get home. Accidents will happen. People will get hurt and even killed, trying to cross streets, commute in their cars, and just get around. Equipment will fail and cause unbelievable jams. Crime will flare up. road rage. riots. vandals. looters."
I've been in that city. That's not what happens. Yes, there are some accidents, and some shouting matches, but there are far fewer than you'd think. People cooperate. Volunteers direct traffic at major intersections. People with working radios share information. Walking groups form up to help each other get out of the affected area. News reports of road rage, riots, vandalism, and looting always turn out afterward to have been highly exaggerated.

I think it's important to remember this, and say it publicly, in order to keep ethical morons from invoking the "everything reverts to the law of the jungle" meme in times of crisis. They use it to justify their own misbehavior, and their failure to give aid and comfort to their fellow critters when it was desperately needed. We saw this happen in the aftermath of Katrina. I don't want to let them get away with that again.

(You know what about road rage, fistfights, and other imagined public chaos? People tend to avoid that sht when they know that if the violence turns serious, the police, EMTs, and tow trucks aren't going to show up anytime soon. I suspect this is why people generally riot in their own neighborhoods: they know that in a pinch, they can get home from there.)

I'm only acquainted with one specific use of force the last time the city shut down in mid-afternoon. A line of people was waiting to use a pay phone. That's an urgent matter if you don't have cell phones, since there's a narrow window of opportunity to call your loved ones and sort out logistics and destinations before they leave their own offices and start walking home. Thing was, the phone had been grabbed by some airheaded news reporter who was essentially saying nothing beyond "It's a blackout, the usual things are happening." You've heard the equivalent. Anyway, after she'd done this for a while, she was bodily parted from the pay phone by the rest of the people waiting to use it. I've heard the recording of her call. Warmed my heart, it did.

On 9/11, with everyone desperate to find out whether friends and family were okay, and trying to cope with a thoroughly screwed-up city, people queued up and waited to use what pay phones were available. Maybe there were fistfights somewhere, but I have yet to hear about a specific incident real incident like that in the stories people tell about the day. What you do hear about, over and over again, is a stunning amount of gratuitous cooperation.

#140 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 07:01 AM:

The last torture I saw portrayed on a British show had the victim strapped to a dentist's chair in a soundproof room, with the interrogator showing her the instruments of torture and discussing how he was going to use them before trying to get the information he required from her. Very traditional approach. A serial killer, using national security as an excuse, but within the context of the show quite definitely the bad guy.

I think he got the information he wanted, but the police arrived in the nick of time, so it was a bit moot. At any rate, it took most of the episode (off-screen) to get what he wanted, and he prepped the girl by leaving her tied up and gagged in a cupboard for the previous episode.

I'm trying to remember the name of the show, but it's not one I watch regularly, it's not coming to mind. The one with the pathologists....

The cop show I watch semi-regularly at the moment is The Bill, which is more of a police soap. The crimes are more ordinary -- vandalism, burglary, street drugs, with the occasional manslaughter/murder -- with a few cop vs. cop plotlines concerning the tension between doing it by the book and doing what's expedient. The book usually (always?) wins.

#141 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 07:25 AM:

No, Teresa, I couldn't ever forgive someone who'd tortured my loved one. Seriously, I still have a hard time being civil to the mother of a boy who led the vicious bullying of my elder son at primary school three years ago. Nor will I ever forgive the then headteacher who did nothing to stop it - he was and remains equally culpable in my eyes. It's not even any real consolation to know I got my complaints about him into the official record.

The thought of being the mother or sister of someone detained where they might be subject to these authorised interrogation techniques quite simply paralyses me with horror.

As for generations of penance, cultural memory is indeed very, very long. As a small child, I sat at my Irish grandmother's knee, kindly, genuinely devout Catholic woman that she was, to be told all about the iniquitous crimes of Cromwell and King Billy. Which we won't debate here, and yes I got a very different interpretation of events from the English girls' grammar school where I was educated. The facts aren't relevant to this discussion. The burning resentment still widely felt three centuries later is.

#142 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:36 AM:

Juliet, that is exactly the problem of using those methods of warfare/control and of violence in general. People actually have long memories about these things. And they never forgive or forget and they pass the fire on to the next generation.

#143 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:56 AM:

You'd think that Bush and his chums would figure out about people not forgetting the wrongs done to them and their kin unto the seventh generation. Don't enough of his supporters run around waving the Stars and Bars and muttering "Forget, Hell"?

===========

More headlines:

Air Force chief: Test weapons on testy U.S. mobs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.


So, as a matter of public relations, do y'all think that Bush and his pals will push to get these "alternative interrogation methods" used in the USA against American citizens, and the results admitted in US courts?

#144 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Teresa: News reports of road rage, riots, vandalism, and looting always turn out afterward to have been highly exaggerated.

I've found most news reports of mayhem and panic highly exaggerated. A couple of years ago, we had several significant earthquakes (5.0 and above) on the west coast. Anderson Cooper came out to do a touching little report from "earthquake central." And couldn't find one person who would panic for him on camera. The first day he was here, he got a couple of people who basically said, yeah, so? It's an earthquake. If stuff falls down, we pick it up. If someone's hurt, we get them medical attention. Then we go back to work.

After a couple of these, Cooper stopped doing man-in-the street interviews. And he was here for three days, interviewing fallen buildings and cracks in the pavement. I've looked at his reporting since then with a jaundiced eye. It's touching, it's real, it's ... not complete.

One of the reasons I now watch news reporting with my laptop handy: That's nice, but what else is happening? Check the blogs and other sources. What do the people say is happening?

#145 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:58 AM:

As Juliet remarks #141, 'we' are storing up a millenium of anger by using a tactic that simply doesn't work - look to the entries above, look to the history to which Juliet refers, look to the judicial process of states that routinely employ torture (that good friend of democrats everywhere and personal sponsors of Al Quaida, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for example)

If it doesn't work it is not an effective weapon. Go ask any soldier who has actually seen combat whether they continue to use ineffective weapons (and prepare to have your vocabulary broadened)

Seeing as this is well known by those who actually know about it (see above) we must wonder why it is being so enthusiastically espoused by the present Administration. Some possible reasons are rehearsed above. I wish I knew the answer.

What I do know is that you don't 'defend our civilisation' by doing things that we have decided are inimical to our civilisation - WE don't torture whatever the results, we just don't do it. WE believe in the Rule of Law. WE believe in a lot of things that I won't rehearse here but go look at the unamended Constitution of the United States of America as it seems a good place to start (I write as a Briton of Northern nonconformist puritan socialist persuasion who might not endorse the politics of some Americans but regard Americans of all political persuasions and none as the good friends of me and mine) If you think you can defend an institution by trampling on the values that institution is supposed to represent then you arrive at two conclusions.

The first is that you don't understand the institution anyway and are, therefore, unfit to have any say in its future. That I leave to you who have it in your power to judge the present Administration (suffice to say that I am giving serious consideration to not voting in our next election after 40 years of religiously voting every time I get the opportunity simply because none of the major parties disavow Iraq - and to any LibDems reading, ask yourself what Ming the Merciless REALLY thinks)

The second is that you have eroded that institution by your action, possibly to the extent of destroying it.

Which is not an attractive or acceptable conclusion.

Once again. We do not torture. If you believe it is justified then - to quote Peter Gabriel - you're not one of us.

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 10:19 AM:

#128: Nicole, I'm in your corner. Exactly, precisely.

Because two objects CAN occupy the same political space.

#147 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:20 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 143

I fully expect them to use those methods on crowds before the next Presidential election. I'm surprised they haven't tried them already. (Hsll, I'm surprised they haven't been 'disappearing' dissidents in the last couple of years. It's the sort of thing I'd expect from them.)

#148 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:36 AM:

wrt torture in popular culture, one depiction that's very different from the usual standard is Brazil (Gilliam's original cut rather than the "happy ending" version)-- the surroundings and setup are starkly banal, the procedure doesn't extract any useful information from Jonathan Pryce's character and completely circumbends him; Michael Palin's character seems largely unaffected by his work and is able to completely segment it off from his private life, but comes close to losing it when the two spheres intersect.

Meanwhile, one anime that I'm particularly fond of has a mostly-offscreen allusion to a particularly nasty (though not nec'ly historical) riff on bastinado.

#149 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:08 PM:

These people want to believe in Douhetism. They expect "Shock and Awe" to work.

"Shock and Awe" isn't a Blitzkrieg, because it's ducking the whole idea of a decisive battle; of using mobility and aggression to locally overwhelm an enemy force before their army can react.

"Shock and Awe" is terrorism. And every time we refuse to panic, every time we pick ourselves up out of the dust and carry on, we are betraying them. We are, by not behaving at they wish, the traitors they fear.

#150 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:29 PM:

"Shock and Awe" didn't work in London during the Blitz, it didn't work at Pearl Harbor, it didn't work on 9/11, and it didn't work in Baghdad. It just plain doesn't work.)

You honest-to-goodness can't win a war by aerial bombardment alone.

Nor can you win a war by torture. ("When you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow" has been proved false by the experimental method any number of times over history. It's never once worked. Why do these folks think they'll be the first who'll manage the trick?) Do the Bushistas honestly think that the Middle East will develop a region-wide case of Stockholm Syndrome?

And how do the stories of US troops pissing on the Koran play in Indonesia? Is it likely to make common folks want to be our friends, or does it make them more likely to turn a blind eye to those who work against our interests? Is it likely to harden attitudes and push some of the indifferent folks over to a more active and radical position?

What this boils down to is: Bush actually seems to think that reality doesn't affect him. He's wrong. We'll pay the price.

#151 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:38 PM:

James @ 150
What this boils down to is: Bush actually seems to think that reality doesn't affect him.

Remember, these are the people who are claiming to make their own reality. It's an argument that makes the lot of them either delusional or otherwise certifiably insane. (A little like deciding that if I believe that gravity doesn't exist, and believe hard enough, and convince other people to go along with me, then gravity won't exist any more.)

#152 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:00 PM:

Greg London (112), I have a quibble:

"Go into a major metropolitan city around 3 pm, cut the electrical power, the water, and the gas. Shut down all backup power. Shut down all forms of public transportation. Then watch as everyone tries to get home. Accidents will happen. People will get hurt and even killed, trying to cross streets, commute in their cars, and just get around. Equipment will fail and cause unbelievable jams. Crime will flare up. road rage. riots. vandals. looters."

I've been in that city. That's not what happens. Yes, there are some accidents, and some shouting matches, but there are far fewer than you'd think. People cooperate. Volunteers direct traffic at major intersections. People with working radios share information. Walking groups form up to help each other get out of the affected area. News reports of road rage, riots, vandalism, and looting always turn out afterward to have been highly exaggerated.

My point was not that cities will tear themselves apart if you shut off the lights. my point was to try and at least come up with some civilian example that is somewhere near the mess and chaos of a military invasion. Some people seem to think that it's all laser guided bombs and precision strikes and zero errors.

And I was trying to think of some civilian situation that at least approximates the scale, the sheer numbers of people, vehicles, and whatnot, involved so that it becomes obvious to people that it won't be a 'zero error' event.

Most people would agree that cutting power, gas, water, and getting rid of the police in a major city isn't something you would want to do. That doing something like that would have major repercussions that could be avoided if you didn't do it. That's how people should view war.

It isn't all smart bombs and perfect strikes. It's chaos and confusion and unidentified people or vehicles that might be an enemy tank, a friendly tank, some evacuee in a truck, or a farmer in a field. In the best case scenario, bad things are going to happen to innocent people when 100,000 troops invade another nation.

And since the stereotype of blackouts in a big city are "bad things happen", and since it is at least in the approximate scale of things, I'd rather have peopole adopt the false notion that "blackouts==riots/chaos" and war is worse than that, than to have them walk around with a different false notion, thinking war is some sort of A-Team cakewalk.

I'm open to other suggestions, though. Some event civilians are familiar with, that involves hundreds of thousands of people, spanning a couple days, that is generally understood to be a bad thing, and bad things really happen. A blackout in a major city seems to have all that except the last one might be overextended a bit.


#153 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Greg: Katrina.

#154 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:17 PM:

P J, yeah, I pondered that one a bit, but you can choose to cut power to a city, you can't choose to turn on a hurricane and steer it to a city. And choice is important, because most warmongers prefer to portray war as "neccesary for survival", that there is no choice but to invade. That war is always a choice needs be part of the framing of the language.

The other thing is that a hurricane brings a lot of damage wrought by nature. Turning off the power, gas, water, in a city and sending the police home, doesn't create any damage in and of itself. Any damage is created by the hundreds of thousands of people in the city.

When friendly fire happens, it isn't caused by mother nature, it's caused by people in a chaotic situation. So, I would prefer a metaphor where the majority damage is caused by people in an extreme situation, not by some outside, beyond our control, nothing we can do about it, force.

#155 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 02:11 PM:

I'm open to other suggestions, though. Some event civilians are familiar with, that involves hundreds of thousands of people, spanning a couple days, that is generally understood to be a bad thing, and bad things really happen. A blackout in a major city seems to have all that except the last one might be overextended a bit.

As my friend Patrice once said: "Nothing smells worse than a burning Los Angeles."

#156 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Greg(#154) Siege. No direct harm, but give it time, and order will break down.

Time is the modifier, a day or two, no problem. A week (no food, no water, save what you had on hand, and no way to get more) and people will get dangerous.

There comes a time when "me, and mine" will trump idenitification with the greater polity. It will take longer with a siege (and for the right cause people will put up with a lot, see Leningrad, or Waco) than it will in a bombardment.

The bombs make a clean separation from ordinary times to extra-ordninary times. In the time of war, the world is turned upside down; what is here today may be gone tomorrow; so what point respecting it?

"If I don't take it, the enemy will destroy it."

#157 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Siege.

Yeah, except you're average, everyday citizen who thinks the A-Team is realistic will have no clue what a "seige" is really like. That's the idea of picking something people have experienced, or at least second hand knowledge of, or at the very very least, hollywood doesn't make it into A-Team stuff.

Hm. Now that I think about it, it is rather odd that Hollywood war is all glamor and A-Team, while real war sucks. But Hollywood blackouts in a major city really suck, but in the real world they aren't near as bad as portrayed in the movies.

A big-city-blackout as portrayed in a Hollywood movie is closer to war in the real world.

And a war in Hollywood is portrayed to be about as harmless as a big-city-blackout is in real life.

So, I need a real world thing that is bad, but is also portrayed in hollywood as bad, that is something that a lot of civilians are familiar with, or at the very least are familiar with the hollywood myths that portray it as bad.

The problem, it would seem, is that if it's bad in reallife, hollywood portrays it as all glamor and slick superheroes. But if it's good in reallife, Hollywood portrays it as bad. the requirements appear to be mutually exclusive.

#158 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:48 PM:

"Nothing smells worse than a burning Los Angeles."

OK, but how do you actively initiate it? What choice could you make that would cause LA to burst into flames?

#159 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:54 PM:

What choice could you make that would cause LA to burst into flames?

Well, I seem to recall that last time, it was 'Not guilty'.

#160 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:57 PM:

"OK, but how do you actively initiate it? What choice could you make that would cause LA to burst into flames?"


Well, it was the verdict in the Rodney King trial which started that set of fires. Like the New York blackouts, it's a memory which living Americans have of social breakdown.

The only recent first-person memory I can draw on was the Boxing Day storm of 1996, when much of Western Washington was shut down due to ice; my sister and I have a saying "Even if Mom hadn't died that morning it would have been the worst day of our lives."

#161 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Well, I seem to recall that last time, it was 'Not guilty'.

I would prefer it in the form of "Would you go into LA and do X?" You've got a slightly harder setup to present. Rather than authorizing someone to cut power, you have to place the person making the choice into the situation where they're on jury duty, a racist cop is on trial, and they choose not guilty because of some technicality. Otherwise, I don't see a choice being made.

Boxing Day storm of 1996

You can't choose to initiate a storm. Choice has to be the key component of the scenario. You could conceivably authorize someone to shut down teh power to a city.

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Greg, it was pretty obvious to everyone in LA (including the police chief) that there would be trouble of some kind when the verdict came in (remember, there are people who riot after football and basketball games).
I'm sure there would have been some kind of riot, no matter what, but that verdict set it off really fast. (IIRC, some people were sent home early, just to get them out of downtown.) That the police were not ready for it, in spite of what the PC said, is another matter. That the police chief wasn't ready for it was a major factor in his being fired. The riot actually didn't affect much in terms of actual area involved, but there was a lot of psychological damage from it.
(Why they put the trial in Simi valley, where a lot of LA police and fire live, is a different question, and really should have been looked at more closely.)

#163 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Greg (158)

I'd simultaneously cut off freeway access to SoCal by cutting the 5, 10, 15, and a few other minor freeways. Gasoline filled vans would do the trick and, depending on the season, would start brush fires on the sides of the freeways as well. At the same time, for chaos, I'd stop the 405, 101, and 5 entrances to and from the Valley.

A few other choice intersections in the Basin combined with the sensationalistic news coverage here ought to be enough to cause a riot.

Or elect a "Mexicans Out Now" WASP as mayor. That'd be as good a spark as any.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:22 PM:

PJ, I do recall the riots. The problem I have with it is that it doesn't present well.

compare: (1) Would you go into a major city and cut electricity and water?

with: (2) Would you go into LA during the Rodney King trial and force the verdict to "not guilty"?

The answer to (1) would be "Not without a good reason to do it". The answer to (2) would more likely be "Hell no".

The whole idea is to use it as a metaphor for preemptive war. Would you go to war with a country that is rumored to have WMD's? If the answer is "yes", then mirror it back to the person's home country: "Would you cut water to a major city in your country because of rumors that someone is planning to poison the water?"

The idea is to use a mirroring metaphor that forces the person to see the choice: Preemptively cause a lot of damage doing something, or realize that the damage from shutting down a city's water supply is the sort of thing you really need massive evidence for doing.

This is the sort of question to present to the Meagen's of the world who think it's better to do something immoral, and find out later that it was ineffective, rather than do nothing at all. The only way that reasoning works if the targets of the immoral act are held as sub-human, othered out of importance, or otherwise relegated to being a nonissue.

If the question of preemptive war is mirrored back to the person's own country and people, they might get the consequences of preemption are big enough that you don't do it. "Would you cut off the water supply to a major city preemptively just because you heard a rumor someone was thinking about poisoning the water supply?"

Hopefully that puts the question of preemption into a clearer light, since it involves the person's own people, not "other" people. Then they have to face the idea that they are relating to "others" as non-people, and hopefully they'll change their tune.

Maybe "seige" is the best thing, but in modern terms. Cut power, cut water, cut roads and bridges. Would you do all this to your own city because you heard a rumor that some terrorist suspect is in the city and you wanted to keep him from getting away or poisoning the water or contacting some other cell?

I don't know. I think there might be some value in it, if the right metaphor were found. I'm just so sick of the A-Team mentality.

#165 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Or shutting down every Starbucks (tm) in the city simultaneously, although that may fall under the category of schadenfreude.

#166 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:50 PM:

I'm afraid that I can't get my mind around wanting to create a demonstration of chaos, destruction, human stupidity, and individual helplessness, as it seems to me that mere reality gives us sufficient sharp reminders without the need for artificial demonstrations.

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:52 PM:

A lot easier to cut off San Francisco than LA: limited land access. Two bridges, two freeways, one railroad to close, all the water and probably all the power coming up the peninsula; the phone lines are probably also all on the peninsula.

#168 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:41 PM:

I can't get my mind around wanting to create a demonstration of chaos, destruction, human stupidity, and individual helplessness, as it seems to me that mere reality gives us sufficient sharp reminders without the need for artificial demonstrations.

The idea isn't to create/demonstrate chaos. The idea is mirroring the idea preemptive war in a way that makes it impossible to view the idea as clean, neat, without consequence, and makes it impossible to view the victims of preemption as valueless.

See Meagen's comment at #82: Sometimes that means doing things that are morally wrong, and then finding out they were futile. I believe that it's better than not doing anything.

It is only possible to hold this position if one of a couple of conditions are met:

(1) You view your target as subhuman. Damage inflicted on them for futile causes and wrong information is better than damage inflicted on you. The bar for "self defense" is then lowered from "immediate undeniable physical threat" to "maybe someday they might do something to me".

(2) You hold a unrealistic view of war such that you could send a hundred thousand troops to invade a sovereign nation, and your invasion will be executed with precision, from start to finish, without accident, without incident, without failures of any sort. Only bad people will be killed, and no good peopel will suffer.

(3) other.

The thing about (1) is that mirroring the situation to that "we" are "them" and "they" are "us", switching roles, but leaving all other conditions the same, might jar the person into either noticing that they view "them" as less than human, or at the very least, less than "we".

So, the idea is to frame it in a way that switches it around so that the target in question is your own people. Either they will realize they are viewing "them" as less than "we", or not, but I think many will see it, and at least some will change their view.

The thing about (2) is that as long as you hold a fantasy view of war, as long as it's all James Bond and A-Team theatrics, as long as it's all Hollywood, you can kid yourself that you will execute the perfect million man invasion. Hollywood doesn't help this at all.

The idea of switching it to some civilian event is to find something that isn't glamorized. There is a genre of military fiction that portrays operations as precision. This seems to have been absorbed by some people. But there isn't a lot of Hollywood glamor around something like cutting the electricity, water, communications, roads, and police, from a major metropolitan city. It's an event of the same scale, but people will not view it as a precision event. It will get messy. It isn't soemthing you do preemptively based on wild speculation and rumors.

So, the idea is not to demonstrate chaos.

THe idea is to reframe the debate from preemptive, precision war with no consequences, to something more reality based like cutting power and water and roads to a major city. The idea is to mirror the situation around so that the person does not get away with viewing the other as subhuman and that any consequences that befall them are irrelevant.

#169 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Kevin Drum this afternoon posted about a superb CJR aricle by Eric Umansky, Failures of Imagination. It's a detailed examination of how reluctant many news organizations were to cover the issue of torture:

Reporters and news organizations deserve enormous credit for exposing the abuse and torture of detainees during the U.S. war on terror, more than other institutions or individuals. Without Carlotta Gall, The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, and many other reporters, we might well never have learned of the abuse and torture that have occurred in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.

But just as sweeping attacks against “the media” are too reductive, so too are plaudits. And when the record on torture coverage is examined in detail, an ambiguous picture emerges: in the post-9/11 days, some reporters offered detailed accusations and reports of abuse and torture, only to be met with skepticism by their own editors. Stories were buried, played down, or ignored — a reluctance that is much diminished but still bubbles up with regard to the culpability of policymakers.

What is true and what is significant are two different matters. Everybody agrees that journalists are supposed to ascertain the truth. As for deciding what is significant, reporters and editors make that judgment, too, all the time — what story leads on the front page, or gets played inside, what story gets followed up. And when it comes to very sensitive material, like torture, many journalists would prefer to rely on others to be the first to decide that something is significant. To do otherwise would mean sticking your neck out.

I strongly suggest reading the whole thing -- I may have some comments later.

#170 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:14 PM:

PJ Evans #167: "the phone lines are probably also all on the peninsula."

Almost right. Some of us like to refer to BART's transbay tube as the "transbay fiber corridor" until somebody reminds us that they run trains down there too. Comms are harder to cut off from SFO than anything else, mostly because of all the microwave line-of-sight throughout the bay area.

But, yeah— SFO is basically John Carpenter's "Escape From Haight Ashbury" waiting to happen.

#171 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:03 AM:

Talking about not being able to vote -- Maryland had primaries yesterday and both Baltimore and Montgomery County had problems. Some Baltimore polling places had voting machines without power cords and were given an extra hour of court-ordered time to make up for the delay.

But in Montgomery County, the election board didn't put the Voter Access Cards into the election bags, so some polling places couldn't use the machines for up to three hours. They didn't have enough provisional ballots and people were voting on scrapts of paper. The lines were so long that even with their court-ordered extra hour, some folks couldn't vote.

I mentioned this in Rivka's LJ and Bruce Schneier pointed me to Avi Rubin's article on how things fell apart in the jurisdiction he was working.

#172 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:18 AM:

re: 136

And, to be entirely fair to L&O:SVU, Stabler has been getting steadily darker and more disturbed over time -- I think the suggestion is rather strong that his willingness to "cross the line" is directly causative of the collapse of his marriage, his strongly implied depression, and his general darkening of character.

The best procedurals have a character who means to do right, but steadily slides into bad-cop territory because of what he's willing to do.

#173 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:19 AM:

BSD NYPD Blue had the bad guy who got better, and watched a partner slide the other way/

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:24 AM:

Re Sleep Dep:

In addition to a comment, or two, on the subject, I was reminded by a piece of back-channel e-mail that I wasn't complete on my views on sleep dep.

This will involve some background, so you'll have to bear with any rambling.

Torture is a funny thing, and the job involves walking a fine line, with regard to the Geneva Conventions, because no one has to answer anything other then the clasic Name, Rank and Serial Number (well, no, they also have to confess to the date of their birth), but even if they refuse to answer those, we can't do anythig to to them.

They may lose the privileges which accrue to their rank, or position, but they get to mail letters, eat as well as the soldiers of the detaining power, sleep in barracks appropriate to the weather, etc..

So how to get them to talk? We play with their minds. We imply a lot, we make them think they are being threatened, without actually threatening them; we play on their egos, their loves and their hates. We puff their pride, or we attack it.

But we don't torture them. We don't pretend to execute them. We don't pretend to execute their friends. We don't even pretend one of our soldiers is a POW and conduct a mock-execution of them.

This was pounded into us. Screw up a portion of a training interrogation, and the excercise continued, unless you violated Geneva. Cross that line and the interation was over. You didn't even get to practice. It was a wasted training day. Do that enough and passing the course becomes damned unlikely.

And we got stories. One of the ones I recall was about sleep dep.

Seems a guy, in one of the gray wars in Central America had a prisoner. He decided the law required him to give the prisoner eight hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. So he told the guards to wake him up every fifteen minutes, and keep him awake for fifteen minutes before letting him sleep again.

The guards did so, but, being honest guards, kept a log-book which reflected the order.

He was, so the story went, quietly court-martialed and sent to jail.

Because that's torture.

Now, a guy who comes to me tired, worn out, scared... I'm not going to let him rest before I talk to him. While he is unsettled he is more likely to just talk. He won't need any sort of approach. That works in my favor.

Is it torture? No.

The thing is, what I do is, at it's core, a nasty bit of business. I convince people to betray their friends, so my friends can kill their friends, and anything (within a strict set of limits) which makes it easier for me to get that information, I'll use, becuause I happen to care more about my friends than I do about his friends (who are, after all, trying to kill me which colors my thinking a little; even though we all agreed to play the game.

So, back to sleep dep. Keep them up long enough and they will babble. They will lose the ability to reason clearly, and they will answer the questions, because they want to go to bed.

I've been that tired. After about 36 hours of active mental effort, combined with physical efort (and a few doses of terror, rising out of the background state of anxiety), and the drain that adreniline rushes leave behind... I'd have done just about anything to be allowed to lie down and sleep.

That level (thirty-six to forty-eight hours) is minor torture. The subject will recover, and the torturer probably isn't losing much (perhaps none) of his humanity; because he hasn't had to see the victim as less than human.

More than that, and you start to damage people. If one is willing to do that repeatedly (with the understanding, from experience, that it does do real harm to the victim) it starts to sap one's humanity.

Which makes sleep dep a sort of "gateway drug" to more serious tortures.

That's why sleep dep is something I have reservations about.

#175 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:14 AM:

Greg: the reason you can't find a suitable illustration is that none exists. These days, the damage and chaos and sheer uncertainty of war is matched only by major natural disasters. The San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 has the right flavor. If you go back further, you get disasters caused by human volition -- the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, or the New York Draft Riots of 1863. Trouble is, nobody remembers watching the video footage of those events.

Terry, I don't have anything to say now about your recent sleep deprivation comment, and I may or may not have anything to say about it later, but there's a lot of material for thought in it.

#176 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:30 AM:

...disasters caused by human volition -- the Great Chicago Fire of 1871...

I thought that was caused by bovine volition. But maybe that's just me clinging to the grammar school version.

#177 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:42 AM:

Michael, you wouldn't believe the quantities of scholarly and semi-scholarly ink that have been spilled trying to settle that inherently indeterminate question. Reconstructing the night's events from the fragmentary testimonies (some of them given years later) of people who may or may not have been sober on the night is only part of it. I believe there's even a theory involving meteor showers.

#178 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:12 AM:

In some instances, there is no point in revisiting the past. I think we should just say "Chicago had a cow" and move on.

#179 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 12:05 PM:

#175 Greg: the reason you can't find a suitable illustration is that none exists.

But that's the problem. THe only thing directly comparable to war is war, and war has been glamorized so much that people who've never been exposed to war think its glamorous, think it's surgical, think it can be pulled off without a lot of innocent poeple getting hurt, without the economy of an entire nation getting sacked.

The idea isn't to find something directly comparable to war. The idea is to find something that civilians are familiar with, that isn't glamorized, and at least presents the person with the scale of the decision they're making.

Some folks view going to war as a two hour movie adventure where everything will be tied up neatly by the end. Those kinds of movies happen to sell well to a lot of people. and it's in the cultural psyche.

I'm trying to think of something that people are familiar with that isn't glamorized by the mythologies of old or the myths of hollywood.

Maybe the idea of a "quarantine" would work.

At what point would you forcibly quarantine an entire city? When an epidemic breaks out and people are filling the hospitals? Or when you hear someone tell someone they heard that someone else had a virus?

If you quarantine a city, lock it up, and tell everyone they can't leave, you're going to have panic, you're going to have logistical problems. If one person dies from some crazy virus, and you tried to quarantine the city, you'd have people trying to get out, panicking, even if it turned out it wasn't some crazy virus, but a misdiagnosis, and no one was in any real danger.

Quarantine isn't glamorized. YOu mention it to people and they get a whole bunch of negative waves going on. War is glamorized by some people. The idea is to replace the mythology of a glamorous war with something non-glamorous. A quarantine of an entire city. Cutting power to an entire city. Something.

Whatever thing is used, it doesn't have to be as bad as war really is. It just has to be worse than people think a "glamorous war" would be. You know? The idea isn't to get a perfect metaphor, but to at least replace some of the glamor with something a little more real.

If the choice is to have someone (1) cheerlead for war as an A-Team event, or (2) think of war as cutting power to a city and they think doing that would tear the city apart, well, I'll choose the lesser of two evils and go with (2). I get the city won't neccisarily tear itself apart, but the point isn't to cut power to a city, the poitn is to eject the A-Team view of war.

I don't need a perfect frame to describe real war. I just want a frame thats better than "A-Team" war.

#180 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 01:33 PM:

That level (thirty-six to forty-eight hours) is minor torture. The subject will recover, and the torturer probably isn't losing much (perhaps none) of his humanity; because he hasn't had to see the victim as less than human.

Nevertheless, what you're likely to get is fantasy more than reality, and ever after the person subjected to it will be foggy himself on what the truth might have been. He will firmly believe the fantasy himself.

===========

Back during WWII, resistance fighters were taught to avoid answering the Gestapo's questions for 24 hours (and you can generally do this, even under frightful torture, which the Gestapo was fully able and willing to deliver). After that, they were allowed to say anything they pleased -- because by then any plans they might have been aware of would be changed. Any operations they were engaged in would have been canceled. Any codes they knew would have been scrapped. Any people they knew would be living somewhere else under new names.

Which makes me wonder: Exactly what kind of useful information do we think we're going to get from someone four years after they were captured?

#181 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:13 PM:

James D. Macdonald at #180* "Which makes me wonder: Exactly what kind of useful information do we think we're going to get from someone four years after they were captured?"

A good question, and one which addresses a basic fallacy of the age: there's an abiding belief in a single, ultimate answer. Changing plans as circumstances change is viewed as a weakness, believing that situations change and with those changes comes the demand for adaptation is viewed as a sinful belief.

It would be cheap and easy to make a joke based on eggsnatchers at this point.

*I'm also tempted to quip about starting to close the circle, but it would be wrong.


#182 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:15 PM:

James MacDonald (#180) wondered: Exactly what kind of useful information do we think we're going to get from someone four years after they were captured?

The administration apparently thinks that these are the sort of terrorist who wouldn't have remembered that the US is tapping phones if the NYT hadn't treasonously reminded them. They are, nevertheless, an obvious existential threat to the US.

JBWoodford

#183 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:33 PM:

This thread is starting to get to me, as threads about torture usually do...

For those who are interested, take a look at the Washington Post article today about Colin Powell's reaction to the Bush administration's attempt to back us out of the Geneva Conventions. He hates it. Of course.

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:12 PM:

James D. MacDonald Me, I don't think one gets useful info from forcing someone to stay awake to the point of stupor. But there are those who do (and sadly I know no small number of them who are cops, both local and federal).

As for info. I've been told to hang on for 72 hours (which is probably about right, for just about anything... the Resistance might not know in 24 hours that someone was taken, but by 72, yep).

After about a week, there isn't much I can know, which will still be of value. After a month, there isn't anything commanding general knows.

But you know that, I know that, every thinking person in the world can figure it out, so why are out "leaders" trying to tell us they are still getting useful info.

#185 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:30 PM:

The concluding paragraph from Dahlia Lithwick's column in yesterday's Slate:

I once suggested in the context of presidential signing statements that legal obfuscation is enormously attractive to President Bush. It means all but the most highly credentialed law professors and government lawyers are constantly confused; it means subsequent legal claims that interrogators "did not know that the practices were unlawful" have real credibility. And perhaps, most importantly to this White House, it obscures where things have gone awry up and down the chain of command. One possibility, then, is that all these eleventh-hour redefinitions of torture are presidential attempts to "afford brutality the cloak of law," in the words of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. But increasingly, it seems clear that its real purpose is simply to brutalize the law.

I think that's right. The more vague, the more chance culpability can be sloughed off on "a few bad apples."

#186 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Greg, it's going to be really difficult to find something that mirrors your "pre-emptive war on your own city" scenario. But I think you can use a natural disaster for the basis of a scenario like what you mention: a natural disaster hits a city, the authorities, afraid of disorder, refuse to allow people to leave and send in the military to subdue people who are acting innocuously. Imagine, in other words, the bridge to Gretna writ large.

#187 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:00 PM:

#179 Greg London: I think the quarantine metaphor is close, and the cutting-water-supply one closer. Especially in the latter one, it's pretty clear that there's going to be consequences, and messy ones. I don't know if there's any better, but I'll try to use those.

That said, I think "WMDs" is like nuclear power – even though the chance of disaster may be low, it's such a severe disaster that it distorts people's reason.

#188 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:12 PM:

Greg:

re: the "Hollywoodization" of war: you have seen Saving Private Ryan, haven't you? Specifically, the first twenty minutes of it? Or Three Kings? Or Apocalypse Now? Would you claim that these Hollywood movies portray war as "executed with precision, from start to finish, without accident, without incident, without failures of any sort"?

Yes, Hollywood has a long and illustrious history of glamorizing war, but it also has a history of doing the exact opposite, especially in the last two decades. There is a substantial library of mainstream, high profile, studio-produced movies that attempt, with varying degrees of success, to show exactly what you're talking about, i.e. just how messy and ugly and generally fucked-up war really is.

And it is generally the movies in this subgenre which are remembered and honored, far more than the assembly-line wartime action hero Rambo-clone stuff that the studios churn out to maintain their profit margin.

Not that this isn't mostly tangential, but it honestly bothered me, and I feel your point would be better made if you weren't constantly repeating what I can only classify as a gross generalization.

Sorry.

#189 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:02 PM:

#188: Leigh,

I tried to avoid blanket statements that all fiction glamorizes war, or that all hollywood movies glamorize war. Whether the majority of movies or fiction has a romantic view of war or a realistic war is a different debate, and really isn't the point.*

The point is that some people hold a fantasy view of war, that the exact sort of view can be seen in various sources of fiction from hollywood to print to whatever. When I say "A-Team version of war", I think you get what I mean. And the point is not an investigation/persecution of fiction or Hollywood, but to identify a worldview that needs to get bumped when it gets pulled into real world politics. And I was looking for a way to bump it.


* Yes, I saw Saving Private Ryan and thought the first 20 minutes was probably the most brutally realistic view of war I'd seen. One main moral of the story, however, shows the main characters beating a captured german soldier, and threaten to execute him. Hanks talks them out of it and they let the prisoner go. But the group runs into the same soldier again later, and the german soldier they released ends up killing two or three of the americans. The american who earlier advocated the prisoner's release (rather than execution) is shown to be a coward, and after acting cowardly, he appears to "redeem" himself by taking the german soldier prisoner a second time, and executing him. And the moral of that thread of the story appears to be implying "beat and kill your prisoners rather than let them go, cause they will come back and kill all of you"

So, yeah, I did have a bit of a problem with "Saving Private Ryan".

As for Apocalypse Now, pretty good up to a point, but the stuff towards the end where Brando is ruling the natives as a demigod is a bit over the top for me.

Never saw "Three Kings". Looked too much like trying to be a serious version of "Kelly's Heroes".

Saw "Jarhead". Pretty realistic. I don't think it did too well sales-wise, though. I'd probably recommend that one.

#190 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:18 PM:

Leigh Butler wrote:
re: the "Hollywoodization" of war: you have seen Saving Private Ryan, haven't you? Specifically, the first twenty minutes of it? Or Three Kings? Or Apocalypse Now? Would you claim that these Hollywood movies portray war as "executed with precision, from start to finish, without accident, without incident, without failures of any sort"?

I was quite unhappy with Saving Private Ryan - it was a movie that seemed to strongly emphasize the good of the one outweighing the good of the many, in that a variety of lives were sacrificed for, frankly, a reason that had more to do with PR and fuzzy feel-goods than anything else.

The movie I always find myself referring to when this sort of discussion comes up is Charlie Grant's War.

Another reference that comes to mind is the kids book Hiroshima No Pika which leaves me wincing when I hear people casually throwing around suggestions like "Nuke them back into the stone age". It's never that simple.

#191 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:21 PM:

The Senate Committee rejected Bush's Torture Proposal! Now they want their own, which is more fair.

That triggered the local NBC stations poll for the day: Do you approve of harsh interrogations of terror suspects? I voted No, of course, but the current results stand at 69% Yes, 31% No.

#192 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:23 PM:

First: 29 Retired Admirals and Generals, Military Leaders and Former DOD Officials Urge Congress to Preserve the Geneva Conventions

Second: GOP split as Senate panel bucks Bush on terror tribunals (includes as a subhead "Powell breaks with adminsitration")

Now: action. Everyone, tonight, write a letter to your senators and congressmen urging them to hold fast on the Geneva Conventions. Express your disgust with the thought of Americans torturing prisoners. It doesn't matter if your representative is the biggest right-winger in congress; write anyway. I'm told that faxes get through better than streetmail.

Do it tonight before you go to bed.

A nice letter to the editor of your local paper wouldn't go amiss.

It's a small action, but it's an action. Take it.

#193 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:28 PM:

You can also email your reps here.

#194 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:43 AM:

Never saw "Three Kings". Looked too much like trying to be a serious version of "Kelly's Heroes".

Having seen both of those movies, I can tell you they have almost nothing in common. But "Three Kings" is a good movie.

#195 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 08:59 AM:

#184: Terry Karney:But you know that, I know that, every thinking person in the world can figure it out, so why are out "leaders" trying to tell us they are still getting useful info.

I think they know they aren't. In other words, what makes anyone think that our leer-less feeders are telling us the truth?

I think they're scared sh!tless because it has gotten much more complicated than they had intended. (I'm willing to believe that they did actually think Americans would be welcomed as conquering heroes since that's what they planned for.) So they're keeping them locked up by the same logic that causes people to propagate chain letters, spread urban legends about people who have their kidneys stolen at parties or respond to phish. They know that it's not true and won't help things, but what if it does? The so-called 1% Doctrine is just a pretty name for that irrationality that comes from giving into that fear. (But it makes them sound tough and that, for them, is apparently much more important.)

That haven't gotten the 21st Century equivalent of "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" or "We shall fight them on the beaches" I think backs this up. (I do think that "We have to fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here" is a lame attempt at it. But it still smacks of fear, not overcoming fear.)

#196 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:53 AM:

I've never seen war, but I do tend to think of The Thin Red Line when I try to imagine what it must be like.

#197 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:12 PM:

"If you have people in the field trying to question terrorists, if you do not have clear legal definitions, they themselves will be subject to the whims and the differing interpretations given by foreign courts, foreign judges and foreign tribunals," [White House spokesman Tony] Snow said. "And we don't think that's appropriate."

Here's a clear legal definition for you Mr. Snow: NO TORTURE.

Is that appropriate enough for you, asshole?

#198 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 12:24 PM:

they themselves will be subject to the whims and the differing interpretations given by foreign courts, foreign judges and foreign tribunals

Has anyone explained to these people the reality of jurisdictions, or do they figure that putting a flag in the room makes it part of the US?

I'd say 'turkeys', but that would be an insult to the birds and the nation.

#199 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:18 PM:

Mark DF #197:

"If you have people in the field trying to question terrorists, if you do not have clear legal definitions, they themselves will be subject to the whims and the differing interpretations given by foreign courts, foreign judges and foreign tribunals," [White House spokesman Tony] Snow said. "And we don't think that's appropriate."

Let's turn to the Geneva Convention itself:

Article 3 prohibits nations engaged in combat not of "an international character" from, among other things, "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

Seems pretty straightforward to me. I don't recall any confusion anywhere in the world about exactly what it means up to this moment. So why is it suddenly unclear now?

#200 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Here's what I sent to my senators and congressman:


Mr. Bush is pushing for legislation that would weaken the United States' adherance to the Geneva Convention. This would put our own troops in peril if they were captured, and would certainly weaken our moral leadership in the world, now and in the future.


Please don't go along wtih this so-called "terrorist tribunal" measure the President is supporting.


Ask yourself if you, personally, would like to be interrogated and tried by a foreign power that had adopted an identical law. Ask yourself exactly what's wrong with the Federal courts that have served us so well for the past two hundred years, and the Geneva Conventions that have guided us for the past century.


Vote your conscience.

#201 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:05 PM:

I found the recent post at Balkinization to be most informative.

#202 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2006, 11:16 AM:

I wrote to both my senators and my congress-person about their silence. I told them what I'd been hoping to hear, as well as what I did hear. It was sufficiently polite that the paper was not smoking:

I have been registered and voting as a Democrat since [year]. I am writing now to express my deepest disappointment at the lack of response by you and other Democrats in Congress on the issue of torture and the Geneva Conventions.

What I would like to hear from you, as individuals and as a group, is something like this:

We [as Americans and as Democrats] believe that torture, under whatever name, and in whatever form, is unAmerican and evil: UnAmerican, because we were founded on the principles that all men are created equal, have value in themselves, and should be equal before the law; that we should be ‘a light unto all the nations’, and an example of how countries should behave in the world. Evil, because torture, under whatever name and in whatever form, treats humans as disposable objects, mere things to be used up and thrown away when done with. We believe that those who authorize torture, under whatever name and in whatever form, those who say that it should be done, those who say that it is permissible in time of war, should be charged with war crimes and tried, under the rules of the international court at the Hague.

What I have been hearing from you, as individuals and as a group, is [sound of crickets].

Your silence jeopardizes the future of this country.

#203 ::: P J Evans sees possible comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Or at least dreadfully OT comment

#204 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2006, 02:41 PM:

I considered reporting this earlier, but figured somebody very inarticulate was curious about what kind of chow was being served to detainees.

Good day to you, Sir!

#205 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2006, 04:34 PM:

A check of his email address shows nearly identical messages being posted to a wide variety of sites, none of which were talking about weight loss.

He goes away now.

#206 ::: Jen Roth sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2006, 08:02 PM:

just above

#207 ::: Rob Rusick thinks #207 is spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2010, 06:25 AM:

If it isn't, it is a very poor choice for an online handle.

I don't find copies of this phrase searching with Google, but it is vague and not particularly relevant.

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Really Really ugly spam

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