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October 30, 2007

Yes, Judge, It IS Torture
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:23 PM * 430 comments

The headline over at CNN reads:

AG pick stays vague on waterboarding
President Bush’s pick for attorney general called the interrogation technique known as “waterboarding” a repugnant practice Tuesday, but again refused to say whether it violates U.S. laws banning torture.

Let me help him out: Yes, waterboarding is torture. Yes, it is illegal under both US and international law.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now some macho idiot is going to swagger in to spew about how Tough Men Make Tough Decisions and Do What It Takes, and They’ll Protect the Soft Weak Liberals, and The Grownups Are In Charge.

First, that’s nonsense. We don’t get the moral high ground by saying we have it, we get it by actually occupying it. If you’re going to be a bad guy yourself, what’s the point of fighting bad guys? All you’ve guaranteed is that the bad guys will win.

Second, you don’t get good intel out of torture anyway. All you hear is what you wanted to hear. The person you’re torturing will tell any story at all to make the torture stop—any fantasy that pops into his mind. He’ll say that he flew to the Brocken on a broomstick to meet the devil as readily as he’ll say that he flew to Afghanistan to meet Osama bin Laden. It all depends on what the torturer is looking for. And after you’re done, the torture victim won’t know the truth himself.

Centuries of practical experience back this up. The only place torture works is in books and movies.

Comments on Yes, Judge, It IS Torture:
#1 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:23 AM:

The only place torture works is in books and movies.

This is why 24 is immoral.

#2 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:43 AM:

Mostly on topic: The most disappointing thing about the Republican "moderates" is that so few of them are willing to make principled stands on the lawlessness of the reigning Republican ideology. McCain's campaign is not going anywhere, but he still has the attention of the press. Why isn't he speaking out? Why doesn't he completely own the torture issue?

Less on topic: Michael @ #1, every time I hear about 24, I end up thinking that the "ticking time-bomb, would you torture?" scenario is not an argument for legalizing torture so much as an argument for allowing the President/governor to pardon people who've committed wrongs under exceptional circumstances. (This strikes me as a good premise for a Law & Order episode...have they tried it yet?)

Anyways, now that I've said that, perhaps the thought will stop popping into my head.

#3 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:02 AM:

There's one thing that you do get by broadcasting a position where torture is acceptable by judges: the population you're trying to control is thus informed of the stakes of resistance.

This point is main brilliantly and painfully in Naomi Klein's latest book, The Shock Doctrine. Again and again, torture is used by neo-conish regimes (Milton Friedmanesque economics plus shock-and-awe war tactics).

That book has got to be the scariest thing I have ever read (scarier than the Old Testament. Imagine!) because it provides an angle from which the Republican tactics make sense as part of a long-term strategy. A viable (for them) one.

Torture does not work (long term) when there is any kind of overseeing organization. The people who are employing torture routinely don't seem to think that there is any such organization. Hence, they needn't mind one. I am fairly certain that a similar attitude was prevalent among other torturing organizations and persons - and that, historically, most of them have been correct.

[I have to bite my lip about the historical corollary which leaps to mind. Discussion of Israel's torture practices tends to bring about loud cries of "Anti-Semite!" - or, lately, "Holocaust Denier!", which means the same thing. But Israel's Supreme Court has permitted torture. And the perpetrators get away with it.]

In similar vein, Glenn Greenwald has been reporting at Salon about his perplexing correspondence with Gen. Petraus's PR guy, one Col. Boylan. Like the torturers who feel they'll be backed up by the judiciary, Col. Boylan harasses the press and bloggers (writes insulting, incendiary emails, apparently) with the full knowledge that he can get away with it: he is not in service, he is above the laws and customs. It is similar because of the attitude - he knows he can get away with it.

I am terribly afraid they may be right.

#4 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:08 AM:

A.J., "the ticking bomb" theory is bogus. Here's why: it implies an endurance test of short duration.

A smart organization that sends people out with a ticking bomb would make sure they have six or seven plausible alternatives to confess to, in order not to jeopardize their main target.

Moreover, if you know that catching an operative will lead to compromising the upcoming operation, you might as well employ humans as smart bombs (a.k.a. "suicide bombers") and guarantee your operatives a swift death. Thus, torture (and routine, well-advertised torture) actually encourages escalation from ticking bombs to suicide squads.

Excuse the double comment; I've lived with the conundrum of torture since 1970 or so, when I was four and heard about it first. The what-ifs of torture cut straight to my heart.

#5 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:14 AM:

This is why any and all stories in which the protagonists talk solemnly about using evil's weapons to defeat it make me throw my hands up and utter weird, birdlike cries till the nice young men in their clean white coats come with my medication.

If good and evil matter to us at all, then we are obliged to be good above all. If that means we lose, then we lose. If that means we die, then we die. If we sacrifice our goodness even for one moment for the sake of winning, the victory is pointless, and we are damned. Especially if we continue then to talk about good and evil as if they mattered to us.

We cannot, we dare not, lay aside our goodness on the grounds that it is "necessary," because next time it will be "advisable" and the time after that it will be "expedient" and then "convenient" and by that time we are in pitch up to our necks. If we pretend to be on the side of the light, then we can do nothing in shadow, because even if God is not watching us, history is.

Something like that, anyway.

#6 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:20 AM:

Dena,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I know the ticking time bomb argument is bogus. My point (rather poorly expressed, I see) was that, even if we are foolish enough to grant the premise, the time bomb argument isn't an argument for legalizing torture.

#7 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:32 AM:

The only place torture works is in books and movies.

That's only true if you assume that the purpose is to elicit useful true information. For some other purposes, it may in fact work very well: to elicit confessions without regard to truth, for instance; or to serve as examples to others of the risk of being declared an enemy of the people.

We're thus left with the task of deciding if the torturers are stupid or merely lying about their motives.

#8 ::: Alan P. Scott ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:08 AM:

I've said it before, but it bears repeating:
The Lone Ranger doesn't tie the villain to the railroad tracks.

Ever.

#9 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Todd Larason @ 7

Dead on. The purpose of torture (to the government) is to provide "proof" for show trials. The purpose of torture (for the torturer) is to inflict pain on others. The purpose of torture is torture.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 03:03 AM:

Just in case he looks at this.

Yes, it is torture.

Yes it is illegal (under both treaty, and US Statute).

Yes it is immoral.

Yes, it is counterproductive.

Yes it is that easy.

Yes, I will sign my name to it.

Terry Karney
SGT CA-ARNG
NCOIC OB, V Corps HumInt Cage OIF-1
OMT 10 OIF-1
Interrogator.

#11 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 03:08 AM:

true sayings of patriots:

Patrick Henry: Give me life, life! Whatever it takes! Sweet Jesus, I just want to hang on a minute more.

Nathan Hale: I regret I have not tortured nearly often enough for my country.

Elmer Davis: This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the tough,torturing, pissy-panted doughboys.


Robert G. Ingersoll: He loves his country best who strives to electrocute another man's genitalia.

#12 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 03:14 AM:

bryan @ 11

The Tree of Liberty from time to time must be watered with the blood of the other guy.

#13 ::: pumeza ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 03:23 AM:

Zander #5, I should like to see your comment written up in big flourescent letters on billboards everywhere. Because if people don't get that very simple truth, then I despair. In the meantime, would you object if it goes in my email signature?

#14 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:06 AM:

I saw pointed out elsewhere in the last day or two: At the end of World War II, the US prosecuted Japanese Army officers for the war crime of torture by "waterboarding" civilians, using the same technique the US is using now. Our judges sentenced one such officer to 15 years imprisonment. When will our own be called to account?

#15 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:27 AM:

Why can I not shake the hideous suspicion that part of the reason for this madness is because it has been found inconvenient to have persons with moral fibre worth speaking of in positions of authority, and making it necessary to endorse this sort of thing in order to get hold of any serious power keeps them out?

#16 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 05:29 AM:

Not that we really need extra informed commentary on this point (though every bit helps), but here's a recent, detailed post by a former instructor at the Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school:
Waterboarding is torture... Period.

He includes a link to a painting at a former Khmer Rouge prison/death camp illustrating the waterboarding technique (this painting is located next to the actual waterboard).

Isn't it nice to know that we're now imitating the Khmer Rouge, in at least this one small way?

#17 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 06:50 AM:

IF you want to shock somebody out of the "ticking bomb" scenario, ask them to picture a simular situation, in which the only way yto get the terrorist to talk is to rape your own child in front of him; he gets off on it, you see, and will be so grateful he will talk.

Why is it that this case is always rejected out of hand, but the torture isn't?

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 07:02 AM:

Torture is never about information, it's only about power. It sends a message: 'Challenge us and you will suffer!' Of course, the advocates of torture don't care about the concomitant message 'We are evil, get used to it.'

#19 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 07:03 AM:

I don't think it can be repeated too often in this matter is that torture produces bad intel way way more often than it accidentally comes up with a good item, just like a broken clock is right twice a day.

#20 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 07:08 AM:

One of the problems is that, if torture is illegal, and if waterboarding is torture, Mukasey is obligated to prosecute out own CIA, and the President for giving the order if he was involved, and a lot of other people in the chain of command.

Whereas I'm in favor of that prosecution, congress seems to have lost, then partially regained it's spine on the issue. I'm hoping more democrats do so. I have no expectations that Republicans will, because most of them are pro-torture beyond waterboarding.

Mukasey is probably repelledd by waterboarding, and would like it to be legal, but he's not going to prosecute the CIA. This is what congress should be pressing him on.

They could ask him this - Mr. Mukasey, if waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal, does this mean you'd have to prosecute CIA interrogators? Is this what is keeping you from a definitive opinion on the matter? If not, what is, and how do you plan to deal with whatever is preventing you from forming an actual opinion? How long will it take?

If a senator could as something like that, instead of the ongoing kabuki theater, we might get somewhere.

Mukasey promised to review any "coercive interrogation techniques" used by U.S. intelligence operatives once confirmed.

If he determines them to be torture, "I will not hesitate to so advise the president and will rescind or correct any legal opinion of the Department of Justice that supports use of the technique," he told the senators

Not good enough.

#21 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 07:26 AM:

I'd like to see 24 or some other show or movie depict the good guys torturing the wrong guy. It'd be a great set-up for an action film.

The guy looks like he's totally rotten, he starts out a smug a-hole, the tension wratchets up and up and the good guys do a little light electro-genital wire-up, possibly with angst on their parts. Eureka, Mr. Smug breaks down and begs and doesn't know anything, but soon he confesses. The coppers go get the guys he accused to get them to stop torturing them, and the real bomber dies in a fatal car wreck on his way to get the bomb. Meanwhile the cops publicize their vast success in protecting us by catching this terrorist and his friends, just before they were going to act. They release this news just when the opposition is scoring political points and it drives the left's good news off the front page.

Who's telling that story? Not Keifer.

#22 ::: Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Re torture working in books -- Note that the true nature of torture as portrayed in Nineteen Eighty-Four: it was to make you say what O'Brien wanted. I remember hearing a very good lecture on this by Richard Rorty (one of his Clark lectures in 1987, which were part of the basis for contingency, irony, and solidarity). He argued that the purpose of torture was to render it no longer possible for the victim to make a coherent narrative out of her or his life -- to induce some sort of epistameic rupture, I guess. It impressed me at the time.
Note that Sullivan recently pointed the same thing out -- that the purpose of the specific soviet techniques now being used was to impose power on speech not to seek after truth.

#23 ::: Eric Kidd ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:18 AM:

Martin @ 17: Jim Henley asked that same question. I remember his article because it contained an especially memorable bit of snark: "We are hard men for hard times, and we want hard make-believe conundrums."

Leaving aside such carefully constructed hypyotheticals ("But what if was an alien nova bomb, and it was going to destroy planet Earth?"), I do miss the days when the tough guys were people who said things like, "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare þe ure maegen lytlað."

It takes more courage to die honorably than it takes to apply electrodes to a restrained prisoner. But somehow, our contemporary political discourse is based around the latter definition of "toughness." We live in a world of Serious Men of Washington, where people go around saying things like, "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

I long for a time when our national heroes were people like Nathan Hale and Patrick Henry. Dirty Harry and Jack Bauer just aren't the same.

#24 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:07 AM:

Eric Kidd wrote:
------------------
We live in a world of Serious Men of Washington, where people go around saying things like, "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."
------------------

And this line of thinking will pay off a few decades down the road. Pick one scenario, or several:

A) "Why should we small countries forfeit American debts to our banks, just to shore up America's reckless spending? Pay up or shut up."

B) "Now that Mexico's infrastructure has caught up with Canada's, we can stop sending our labor to the USA to be exploited and humiliated. Let's keep the non-Latinos out of our land."

C) "The Arctic oil belongs to Europe and Russia. Why should we share it with the USA? In exchange for what?"

D) "We're terribly sorry about the Yellowstone caldera blowing a crater in your continent... but we can't possibly accept American refugees. We don't want our countries infested with dangerous political-religious extremists."

E) "The Union of Lunar Colonies must refuse membership for the United States. Our members are worried that Americans are building secret prisons on the Moon."

(OK, E) was just a joke. Promise.)

#25 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Y'know, it's getting so theres so much damn news about this, it's distracting me from our regularly scheduled gay Republican sex scandal.

Hmph.

#26 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Martin #17: Yeah, this is always the counter-question I want to hear someone ask, when faced with the ticking time bomb:

"Okay, you've done your worst to the terrorist (who knows where the ticking nuke is hidden in Manhattan), but he still hasn't talked. You've only one hour left. But--good news, we've gotten a break here--we've just found his ten year old son. What do you do now?"

Hardly anyone wants to take that next step in public, but it has apparently happened several times that suspected terrorists had their families either tortured or threatened by US officials.

This ties back to a big, scary issue in US culture. We seem to *celebrate* the idea of the guy who becomes strong by discarding all the rules of civilized society--the vigilante, the government official who tortures or spies on people to keep us safe, the cop who imposes justice of his own, the bureaucrat or judge who ignores the written law to accomplish some noble goal of his own. There's a whole huge genre of movies and books in which the cop/CIA agent/FBI agent/whatever, after being framed for a crime, goes renegade, saves the day, and is welcomed back as a hero. Another genre involves tough cops who are good guys, but ignore laws and rules when they get in the way of catching the bad guys. This is poison, and it's being offered to us all as the medicine that will make us strong.

Helpful hint: Discarding the rules of civilized society, deciding you're above the law, disregarding the ugliness of the means used to achieve your noble ends, those things don't make you a superhero. They make you a monster.

We have been pushing this evil idea for my whole life, and we're reaping the rewards for it every day, now. We see it in claims by the president that he can do whatever it takes to protect the American people, regardless of the law--a claim that incredibly pretends to be based in the constitution. We see it in judges that ignore written law to accomplish some broader good. We see it constantly in politics and public advocacy, when people see law and the constitution as obstacles to be bypassed or ignored in getting some good works done.


#27 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:37 AM:

The man who sold his soul for a job as attorney general.

(or maybe he had no soul)

#28 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Once upon a time in my previous professional life I helped a polisci professor research torture in Latin America. Towards the end I would make photocopies with my eyes closed -- and I still have nightmares. Worse was reading all the material from experienced interrogators making the case again and again that AS AN INFORMATION RETRIEVAL TECHNIQUE torture did not work. Ever. And then more of the horrors came...

The whole experience convinced me that if there's anything to the whole concept of heaven and hell, torturers are double-damned, once for evil and once for willful stupidity. Worse, so is the society that supports them. There is nothing to be salvaged, nothing, once torture becomes mainstreamed as a "tool" for "defense".

#29 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:43 AM:

Josh #25:

This is getting to where it's not exactly news anymore.

Unrest in middle-east

Politicians caught lying

Uber-conservative Republican poltician caught in gay sex scandal

#30 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:04 AM:

I'd like to see 24 or some other show or movie depict the good guys torturing the wrong guy.

I heard on NPR recently that The Shield got an award from a non-torture group for doing exactly that. Sorry I don't have links handy. I don't watch The Shield, but the gist of the story was that a dirty cop kills another cop and frames someguy, dead cop's partner illegally tortures innocent someguy brutally to death, while dirty cop, appalled but unwilling to come clean, tries to get him to stop.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:05 AM:
"When we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we're going to detain them and you bet we're going to question them, because the American people expect us to find out information, actionable intelligence, so we can help them -- help protect them," Bush said earlier this month.
#32 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:25 AM:

Speaking of portrayals of torture in popular media (whee!, not really), one of my big problems with Rendition was that, even as it demolished torture from a whole bunch of angles, utilitarian and moral, it still assumed that those who torture do it with the best of motives. The torturers really wanted to get accurate information to protect Americans. And I simply cannot believe that this is the case.

#33 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:33 AM:

Josh @ #25: today's helpful tip: when altruistically giving needy stranger money for gas, do not select a rendezvous point called the "Hollywood Erotic Boutique".

#34 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:44 AM:

I wonder if Mukasey grew up trading Spanish Inquisition cards instead of baseball cards? "Look, I've got Torquemada's rookie card!"

As disturbing as the torture debate is — and, to make my position perfectly clear, those who assert that torture merely gets babble intended to stop the pain instead of timely, useful information are vastly understating the problem, even aside from its fundamental repugnance — it ignores something that is far more disturbing. In the cold, hard reality of gathering intelligence, one must have context, and the attention being paid to torture and tactics is masking our broken basic-intelligence-gathering system. Even assuming that torture worked quickly and reliably, it won't elicit the information one needs if one doesn't know enough to ask the right questions!

But, worst of all, it reminds me of the closing of a classic fable — and, contrary to the assertions of many, it's a fable about betrayal of revolutions in general, not just the one that was its immediate inspiration.

   "Gentleman [sic]," concluded Napoleon, "I will give you the same toast as before, but in a different form. Fill your glasses to the brim. Gentlemen, here is my toast: To the prosperity of The Manor Farm!"
   There was the same hearty cheering as before, and the mugs were emptied to the dregs. But as the animals outside gazed as the scene, it seemed to them that some strange thing was happening. What was it that had altered in the faces of the pigs? Clover's old dim eyes flitted from one face to another. Some of them had five chins, some had four, some had three. But what was it that seemed to be melting and changing? Then, the applause having come to an end, the company took up their cards and continued the game that had been interrupted, and the animals crept silently away.
   But they had not gone [ten] yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the famrhouse [sic]. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.
   Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
George Orwell, Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (ms 1944; first UK 1945, first US 1946).

Those who think this has nothing to do with the situations currently facing this nation should ponder three things:
(1) What is the status of the pig in Islam, and in particular in radical/fundamentalist Islamic doctrine (particularly Wahabbism)?
(2) Is the US government more like Mr Pilkington and the other farmers, or the pigs (not that either is a particularly attractive alternative)?
(3) What really happened to Snowball (hint: you won't find out in the published version)?

Or, I suppose, I could just slightly mangle Winston Smith's breakpoint:

"Do it to him! Do it to Giuliani!
And any implicit comparison of "politicians" and "rats" is not coincidental.

#35 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Michael @ 21

Why have the real bomber killed in a car wreck? Do it correctly: the guy bombs whatever it was anyway. Otherwise, it still looks like you get something useful out of torture.
---

I'm still wondering if Mukasey ever heard of the trials of the Japanese waterboarders. Or the treaties that say it's illegal. If he hasn't, then he's not qualified to be AG.

#36 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Mukasey promised to review any "coercive interrogation techniques" used by U.S. intelligence operatives once confirmed.

In Malcolm Nance's article linked in #16, Nance says, "As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception."

If Mukasey were planning to "review" this interrogation technique by arranging to have SERE waterboard him under the controlled conditions they use when training their instructors, I might take his promise more seriously.

#37 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:43 AM:

I have a flash memory of the first time I heard someone on TV seriously discussing whether we should torture. It was soon after 9/11. I was working out at the college gym, and the gym TV was carrying some cable news debate. I had to quit working out because I was so angry I couldn't even see straight.

As offensive as it was, I thought it was just some crazy cable news argument that would blow over. This is America, I thought. Surely people will dismiss this idea of torture out of hand.

I'm afraid of what this country has become.

#38 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Anthony Grafton has an article in the November 5 edition of the New Republic on the subject of torture in the Renaissance and its relevance to today.

Basically, the accounts of torture from that era make it clear that torturers could make prisoners confess to basically anything--even things that were not only false but actually impossible.

Most of the time, that is. Grafton notes an exception when torture did NOT produce a confession. Ironically, in that case the accusation was basically true.

Key quote near the end of the article:

"Torture does not obtain truth. Applied with leading questions, it can make most ordinary people--as it would certainly make me--say anything their examiners want, if they can only work out what that is. Applied to the extraordinarily defiant, it may not work at all. In either case, it is not an instrument that a decent society has any business applying."

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:37 PM:

If you already have good enough intel to know that there's a bomb in a certain city, that the bomb will go off at a certain time, and that a certain person has sure knowledge of the bomb's exact location, the intel you already have is so good that you don't need to torture anyone to get the rest.

All that torture will do is add bad information to the mix.

Suppose we were to snatch Alan Dershowitz off the street and torture him until he revealed exactly where a bomb is located (as well as how long he's been a member of Al Qaeda, and how many babies he's eaten as part of Passover rites). Suppose we then sent the bomb squad to that location. They'd find nothing, of course. But how much time, and how many resources, would be wasted in that effort?

How much additional effort would it take to get details of his plan to poison Chicago's water supply? Could we then announce that another terrorist plot had been foiled?

And if he named his accomplices, and we tortured them until they named their accomplices ... how long would it be before we had Paul Wolfowitz strapped to a waterboard?

#40 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Worse was reading all the material from experienced interrogators making the case again and again that AS AN INFORMATION RETRIEVAL TECHNIQUE torture did not work. Ever. And then more of the horrors came...

Me... I get to suffer people reading a couple of CIA hacks saying it's a good way to get info, and then tell me I am clueless, gormless, wrong and stupid for saying otherwise. That the evidence of centuries, the weight of experience and the testimony of dozens, nay hundreds who say those hacks are frauds and charlatans (never mind the vested interest they have in what they admit to doing being justified) is completely wiped away.

They usually close by saying I must be misrepresenting myself. Some, who are willing to admit my position just say I'm immoral for saying what I say.

As for Mukasey being subjected to the methods he is reviewing... no. Because he won't get the full-treatment. He will know it's going to end, and he might be able to bear up under it.

Torture is wrong, full stop. That should be enough. We are stronger, better, braver and more intelligent than that.

At least I hope so.

#41 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:50 PM:

I am truly sick of talking about torture.

If I were on the Senate Judicial Committee I would vote against Mukasy for Attorney General for his response to this issue and for one other: when asked (not in these words, but this is what they wanted to know) whether the President could do something which Congress has forbidden i.e. break the law, he said (I paraphrase) "It depends on the circumstances."

No, it doesn't. Not in this country. If the President feels that to protect the country he or she must do something which Congress has forbidden, it's his/her job to go to Congress and Make. The. Case. Persuade them. They, too, are the government.

If you look, tonight, All Hallow's Eve, toward Washington DC, you will see the shades of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and quite a few more of the men who signed our Constitution hovering over the Capitol -- weeping.

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:51 PM:

The Spanish Inquisition stopped using torture on the grounds that it didn't work. C'mon, guys, if the friggin' Spanish Inquistion thought it's a waste of time and resources, how much of a no-brainer is it that we shouldn't be doing it either?

#43 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Just to get a sense for "The Other Side Of The Street" on torture, I went over to a Belmont Club link that linked to Peter Erwin's link at Smaller Wars Journal

Here are some excerpts:

You can light them up with napalm, but you can't put a towel over their face and pour water on them.

Makes sense to me.

[...]

First, the enemy against whom we are set doesn't stop at mere torture. They go straight on to torture for the ages, like cutting off heads with a dull knife then pouring boiling oil into the exposed neck to watch the body jerk and shake, or flaying all the skin from a victim then dismembering him and putting the remains into a sack to be delivered back to his fellows. The Huron and Aztecs could have even learned from these guys. No amount of niceness will deter this enemy from torturing our soldiers in the most barbaric ways imaginable when they capture them.

Second, this enemy by acting so barbarically, by using human shields, by refusing to follow any of the (Geneva) laws of war including the wearing of a uniform has placed itself outside the law of war. The laws of war simply do not apply to them. They have NO rights to life or fair treatment or anything and should be treated as one would treat rabid dogs.

Third, torture works. Unfortunate but true.

[...]

If waterboarding is torture, then I am prepared to countenance torture.

[...]

My problem with Malcom's basic argument is that he seems to feel it's alright to use this technique as a training exercise on our own troops but that we're bound to eschew applying it to an enemy that's willing to kill thousands of us at a time. That is an absurdity. In fact, I'd suggest that whatever one calls the practice if we have people willing to volunteer to undergo its use then it's fair to use it on an enemy. In fact, that is the only consistent standard I can think of.

[...]

Field interrogation techniques are no more worthy of a national referendum than office dating policy.

If this topic says anything at all about "us" it is that some segment of the population is sissified and afraid of confronting nasty people.

[...]


The word "torture" has lost its meaning. It is now applied to what would be considered bad fraternity initiations: seeing scary dogs, wearing panties on your head. If that is "torture", then we need a new word for the practices described in the recent AQ manual: the cleavers, the wire brush, the blowtorch, the eye scoops. What will the bien-pensants call such things?

[...]

#44 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:02 PM:

This is why the West is in trouble. Most of us still have trouble understanding the political ideology of Islam, despite there being a fourteen hundred year history of jihad, inspired by and mandated by the very words of Allah and the example of the Prophet. The secular sophisticates of the West deign it a waste of time to become familiar with the Qur'an and ahadith, and so it filters down through and seeps into all aspects of our policy making culture and public debate about this conflict.

Refraining from all methods of aggressive interrogation (redefined as "torture" by the opponents of Bush and the sympathizers of jihadists)may help some to feel the supposed superiority of their moral rectitude. However, it will make no impression on the minds of the warriors of Allah, who see in it one more confirmation of how squeamish and weak we are and how ripe for the picking our civilization is.

[...]


Islam is a civilization destroyer and we have chosen not to defend our civilization.

The only way to stop this is to push back the spread if Islam. This will take a little more than just waterboarding.

The question of what to do with .00001% of the jihad is silly.

[...]


How many people in your family are you prepared to sacrifice so you may be morally superior?

What cities are you prepared to lose in order to have the moral high ground?

How many millions of dead Americans are alright with you to avoid charges of "torture?"

So that's who we're dealing with on the other side. The pro torture crowd.

#45 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:27 PM:

In fact, I'd suggest that whatever one calls the practice if we have people willing to volunteer to undergo its use then it's fair to use it on an enemy.

You know, I'm willing to volunteer to have sex with (insert name of cute actor who I have sekrit crush on), so therefore it's fair to force an enemy to have sex with a guy. I'm also willing to eat ham and cheese sandwiches and participate in silly mock-Satanist rituals, therefore it's fair to force a religiously devout enemy to do the same thing.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Josh

They keep going for the '24' argument, as if that's the only one they recognize, never mind that it's absurd.

Their assumption - and it is an assumption, not a fact - that Islam as a whole is responsible for terrorism is also crap. By that standard, all Christians would be responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the pogroms, whether they approved or not, or even if they weren't part of the groups involved.

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Cuy Fawkes night on Monday.

I'm going to dig out my copy of "V For Vendetta".

..._

"But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science."

#48 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:11 PM:

mayakda @30 (initially quoting Michael @21):

"I'd like to see 24 or some other show or movie depict the good guys torturing the wrong guy."

I heard on NPR recently that The Shield got an award from a non-torture group for doing exactly that. Sorry I don't have links handy. I don't watch The Shield, but the gist of the story was that a dirty cop kills another cop and frames someguy, dead cop's partner illegally tortures innocent someguy brutally to death, while dirty cop, appalled but unwilling to come clean, tries to get him to stop.

Linkage is here; the soundfile appears to cover the entire ~25-minute interview, which includes an excerpt of the aforementioned portion of The Shield.

#49 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:16 PM:

Nina 45: Hear, hear. This was my argument against Binding (in the magical sense), and also how I explained to a Mormon, recently, why the practice of posthumous proxy baptism is horrifically offensive to me: "If I dug up a Mormon grave," I said, "and made the person's long bones into flutes, that would be a monstrous thing for me to do. But in fact that's exactly what I hope will become of my long bones when I die.

"The idea of being posthumously baptized by a Mormon volunteer is as horrific to me as the idea of having your bones dug up and made into flutes probably is to you...or a little more."

I personally think the definition of 'torture' should be 'any deliberately inflicted suffering'. Nice and simple, and it covers all the things that are perfectly useless in interrogation.

OK, we have to put in some more subtleties, because of course mere imprisonment (even under conditions a business traveler would find acceptable in a hotel) inflicts suffering...and I guess there's the rub. But I think my basic concept is sound.

#50 ::: thelonegunman ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:30 PM:

I have two comments (I have a lot to make, but I'll limit it)

1 - the stance that this IS, in fact, TORTURE, is not really the problem. We wouldn't want it done to ourselves, our loved ones, or anyone we "know." However, its not torture (in the minds of most Americans) when WE do it, after all, we're supposed to be the "good guys" despite our governments efforts and activities to TEACH and SPREAD these techniques across the globe to "friendly" regimes over the past 50 years: Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Burma, Iran... the list is and sordid. AMERICA taught these techniques and funded the countries that performed the atrocities on their "unmentionables" when they were making them disappear during the countless dirty wars they waged (with our tax dollars) for profit and resources over the past 50 years. When it was done over there, we ignored it. Now that we're face to face with the "Dark Side" and we see ourselves in the mirror, we keep trying to finesse and nuance each argument in order to be viewed (if only through our own eyes) as the "Good Guys" still.

One problem: we can't.

By embracing this practice, this country sold its "good soul" and has decided to IRREVOCABLY and VISIBLY embrace those Evil tendencies with which we've danced over time.

As my mum told me: you can't get a little bit pregnant.

We've started this and, unless we, as a country, come clean on it, expose it, renounce it, and PUNISH those who've kidnapped, punched, electrocuted, froze, raped, bled, cut, drowned, whipped... those who's fingernails we've pulled, who's genitals we've shocked, who's skin we've scarred, who's minds we've broken...

We don't / can't hear their screams - and believe me, people to whom this country has tortured, have bled and screamed and cried for mercy all while OUR soldiers and agents ignored them and continued until they were thoroughly broken, unable to stand, unable to stop babbling about whatever they wanted them to confess to...

No, we can't hear their screams and so its just a story on the net, on the news, in the paper.

We hear neat explanations about how this is necessary (this people must bleed and scream and be in unbearable pain).
We hear how this "saves" lives (at the cost of others).
We hear how if you're not for this treatment you're gutless; you hate America; you want "them" to win.

Once you sell your soul, you can't get it back.

And EVERY day, this goes on in our name, we're part and party to it. We're like the Germans who read about The Final Solution, who refused to shop at Jewish stores, who kept quiet because they didn't want to similarly disappear.

EVERY DAY we allow this to go on, in our name, we're committing these heinous acts - as if it were us standing over a bleeding crying wet broken man or boy.

Why / how can I say that?

Because we're allowing these acts to be done by our proxy, all while we wash our hands and try to distance ourselves by saying "well, they say its not torture and who are we to decide otherwise."

2 - Where is the "Christian" outcry over these acts being committed, in the name of a "Christian" country, a "religious, faith-based" country?

Yesterday, the Catholic Church denounced Britney Spears over some photo shoot with her, quite scantily-clad, and a man dressed as a priest. They were all in an uproar about this fictitious, staged photo shoot.

For the past six years (going on seven and then some), this country had illegally kidnapped people, tortured them, made them disappear.

Where has been the "moral" outcry of such "faithful" "Christians" like the "Moral Majority" and the Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention, etc etc etc.

There is NO outcry - just like there was NO outcry by the Catholic Church, the Christians, and other faithful in Germany in the 1930s.

When we, as a country, are judged (and we will be judged - in this life or the next), what will we say to expunge these sins from our collective souls?

I'll leave with a very memorable quote:

A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say "but I was told by others to do thus" or that "virtue was not convinient at the time." This will not suffice. Remember that.

#51 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Tom Tomorrow has a fairly appropriate cartoon.

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 03:02 PM:

According to Andrew Sullivan, this from Hillary Clinton:

There is an easy way for Mukasey to get around the fact that he has not been briefed on what the CIA did: just define waterboarding, say whether waterboarding so defined is torture, and add that not having been briefed on what the CIA did, he doesn't know whether or not what they did meets his definition. That Mukasey has not taken this obvious route suggests that he is not motivated by his own uncertainty, but by the desire to keep people he believes have engaged in torture from being punished for their crimes.

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved-policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished values. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now-without exceptions.

thelonegunman at 50: the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has the above statement posted on its website.

Feel free to look.

Torture Is A Moral Issue

#53 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:05 PM:

#27: I realize I'm getting off the topic a bit, but is the AG a desirable job to have right now? Not that shredding one's credibility makes sense even for the most tempting of prizes, but for a job where you're likely to be combative with Congress for the next year, and unlikely to do anything constructive?

Also, why is he so eager to protect torturers?

#52: I like Hillary Clinton's solution. Of course, if Mukasey is a man of his word, this may oblige him to prosecute. I think he wants to be a man of his word, but without ever giving his word.

#54 ::: JoXn Costello ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Wouldn't an operational definition of torture satisfy all the pragmatists out there? Torture consists of techniques which, when applied over a relatively short duration, will induce an average innocent person to confess to a serious crime in order to get them to stop.

Then heck, we can test these things out by taking things which people are maintaining not to be torture and subjecting those people to a choice: admit that it's torture or endure a relatively long duration of the technique.

For instance, if you claim that waterboarding is not torture, then in order to prove it you will have to submit to a eight hours of waterboarding a day for a week. If you can make it through, we concede it's not torture. But you can make it stop immediately by conceding it to be torture.

Frankly, this is a stupid idea. Torture is not a pragmatic issue -- it's not wrong because it doesn't work. It's not a political issue -- wrong unless applied to your enemies. It's not an issue of "closure" -- wrong unless done in retribution for a heinous crime.

It's wrong because it's wrong. Moral human beings do not do it to one another, and they do not advocate for it to be done to others.

#55 ::: James Killus ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Guantanimo, Abu Ghraib, and all the blather surrounding torture are part of the ongoing culture war in the U.S. Partly it is about the culture of toughness, one group of people showing how much they are not "bleeding heart liberals." Partly, it's to intimidate enemies. But that doesn't go far enough either. The mere fact that the U.S. sponsors torture causes pain to one side of the culture war (you know who you are). And The Other Side likes that it causes you pain. It's meant to hurt you, plain and simple. They hate you that much.

#56 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Because we're allowing these acts to be done by our proxy, all while we wash our hands and try to distance ourselves by saying "well, they say its not torture and who are we to decide otherwise."

I don't recall anybody in this discussion saying anything like "they say it's not torture and who are we to decide otherwise". All the comments I've read have been along the lines of "this IS torture; this IS wrong; how do we make our government stop doing this?"

Admittedly I don't have time right now to go back and reread every single comment, but based on my first reading and on what I know of the people participating in the discussion (based on their past comments in other threads), the quoted remark is nothing but a strawman. (Plus it comes from someone whose "view all by" shows zero other comments here, and who manages to invoke Godwin's law on the first comment.)

#57 ::: JoXn Costello ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Moral human beings do not do it to one another, and they do not advocate for it to be done to others.

Not even in the case of "well, let them prove it's not torture!" I wasn't serious. Just in case that wasn't clear ...

#58 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 04:30 PM:

#55: I agree except that it isn't the culture of toughness. It's the culture of "toughness."

The toughest people I know don't make a show of how tough they are. They don't posture. They don't pose. They don't act merely to intimidate. They tend to be the nicest people I know, and, yet, it's always perfectly clear that you don't want to mess with them.

#59 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:25 PM:

#54: JoXn Costello: Torture is not a pragmatic issue -- it's not wrong because it doesn't work. It's not a political issue -- wrong unless applied to your enemies. It's not an issue of "closure" -- wrong unless done in retribution for a heinous crime.

It's wrong because it's wrong. Moral human beings do not do it to one another, and they do not advocate for it to be done to others.

Absolutely. Agreed.

But the sick little fantasies in the minds of the defenders of torture are proof against this obvious fact. In these fantasies, they become the gimlet-eyed Chief of Intelligence, grimly doing what has to be done, getting the information by any means necessary, barking orders to scurrying sycophants who desperately want to have his babies.

It is no use pointing out that their fantasy is vicious, obscene, cruel, inhuman, degrading and evil. It's not even much use pointing out that using torture transforms them into bin Laden or Heinrich Himmler or Lavrenti Beria, and we into the Taliban, or the Gestapo, or the NKVD. In their fantasies, torture works, and because they also fantasise that they are pragmatists and practical people, that's all they think matters to them. Of course none of that is true, and Satan is laughing fit to bust about the success of his lie.

But if you can't carry your point with one cogent, reasonable and fair argument because your opponents are deaf to it, there's no harm in stating another. They will quite possibly be deaf to that one too, but some who are deaf to the first might not be deaf to the second. Who knows?

It won't save them from damnation, of course. They are advocating the commission of hideously evil acts on the grounds that they think them expedient. If they can only be persuaded not to advocate torture because torture doesn't work, they are lost to the light anyway. Of course it would be a fine thing if they could be brought to realise how great is the peril to their souls. But if this is not achievable, it is still worthwhile to point out the truth: that torture doesn't work.

Of course it doesn't work. For it to work, you'd need to be certain that the victim knows what you want to know (and this is never the case in practice) and you'd also need to know when you've heard the truth, which is impossible. If you knew that, you wouldn't need to question the victim at all.

Everyone has a breaking point, and it's closer than most people think it is. Before that point is reached the victims will say nothing useful. After it, they'll say anything at all, and therefore nothing useful. The torturers can never know if anything they hear is true, before or after, unless they already know - in which case, forget about expediency. They're doing it for fun.

(Story: The Countess Andree de Jongh of Flanders, a petite, attractive young woman, ran one of the most successful Belgian resistance operations of WW2, smuggling shot-down Allied aircrew back to Britain. She was its linchpin, its organiser, its boss. In 1943, the Gestapo found her with three Allied airmen in her house (she had been betrayed by a paid informant), and they tortured her. Within hours, she had told them the whole truth. Who wouldn't?

They didn't believe her. Obviously the torture had broken her completely, just as you would expect of a young and vulnerable woman, and she was babbling anything that came into her head. This condition was well-known to the Gestapo. It was impossible that such an operation could be run by such a person. Therefore, nothing that she said was of any value. They sent her to a prison camp, but she survived the war, going on to work as a nurse in a leper colony in the (former) Belgian Congo and in Ethiopia. She died, aged ninety, on October 13 last, and all the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.

Her network survived. Over five hundred Allied aircrew were smuggled out after her capture, and they returned to bomb Germany again. The Gestapo had the entire operation in their hands, but they didn't know it. It was the very fact that they had tortured her that made them believe the converse.)

Torture doesn't work. Yes, of course it's so flagrantly evil that only a person blind to morality, a person ruled by fear and hatred, could defend it for a moment. But it also doesn't work, and there's no harm and some use in saying so.

#60 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Torture is tempting. I've come very close to performing mild tortures (in training, to volunteers). If I'd done so it wouldn't have been criminal, it might even have been approved.

I stopped it, because I saw what I was about to do.

I came that close at 14+ years in the Army, with 13+ years of training not to.

Those who have less of that (and whatever innate repugnance I might have against it) might cross the line. It's very tempting, and doing it gets postive feedback.

Add the concepts around it, that it's effective, that it's "needful" that without it the bad guys will be willing to hurt us, etc.. and you get people like Mukasey, who will give it a wink and a nod.

And torture isn't the worst of his failings. He makes John Yoo look as a checks and balances kind of guy who favors congressional oversight of the president.

#61 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Gonna play Devil's Advocate here. (surprise...)

I don't know about anyone else, but if my wife and child were in potential danger, or missing, or kidnapped, and I could secure information that would lead to their safe recovery, and this information could only be had by beating the shit out of somebody until they talk. Yeah, OK, I am gonna beat the shit out of that somebody.

If I am in Iraq or Afghanistan and my squad is in peril, or I've got a Private who's been kidnapped and might be dead very quickly if I don't find out where he is, and the key to my finding him or keeping my squad safe, is to bust out the teeth of somebody and break their fingers. Yeah, I think I am gonna bust out some teeth and break fingers to get the info I need.

My point?

It's easy for us who don't have to make these decisions to climb up on a moral high-horse and run one index finger across the other over the moral depravity of our nation for deigning to stoop to forced information extraction.

U.S. servicemembers who go through our routine E&E schools get treated worse than your average CIA or Guantanamo prisoner. And I have it from a Sergeant who worked Guantanamo that Guantanamo detainees are treated with remarkable care, given historical treatment of military prisoners in similar circumstances.

Can there be no spectrum on this? Or is all forced extraction absolutely and morally wrong, in all circumstances?

Again, if it means the life of a Soldier in my care, or a family member... I'll sleep at night being 'morally wrong' if it means I get my squad member or my child back in one piece.

CAVEAT: one can usually get what one wants in life via the carrot, and in most cases, the carrot should be your first, second, and third option, totaled. But that doesn't mean you don't also sometimes, if the circumstance warrants, reach for the fourth option: a stick.

#62 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:49 PM:

The information you get by besting the shit out of someone will be bad info. That is to say, it won't be useful in finding your wife, or your kid, or your squadmate.

Or, if you want, you don't need to capture anyone. Just take one of your squad mates and beat the crap out of him until he tells you where your missing man is. You'll be just as likely to get the information you're after.

You've wasted time. You haven't saved anyone. So take your devil's advocate and shove it up your ass.

#63 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Regarding our prosecution of torture in Japan, mentioned upthread, the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East is online. If you go to

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/PTO/IMTFE/IMTFE-8.html

and search for "water treatment" and "mental torture", you should find some rather familiar-sounding techniques described, and clearly labeled as torture. In other parts of the judgment, you'll find the sentences for those who authorized the torture.

#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Or is all forced extraction absolutely and morally wrong, in all circumstances?

Yes, all forced extraction is absolutely and completely morally wrong, in any and all circumstances.

Plus, as an added benefit, it just flat doesn't work.

#65 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 08:53 PM:

Jim, I hope you are never placed in a position that would force you to question your moral certainty on this issue.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:02 PM:

CRV: My point, I have been in those situations.

Your hypotheticals are nonsense. They don't work. You are beating on a guy because you know he has the info.

HOW do you know? How is it that the means which proved, beyond all doubt, that this guy knows didn't tell you more?

How can you know he isn't lying?

What if he doesn't know? How will you know the difference between his initial protestations of ignorance and those of the guy who is keeping info from you?

The short answer to your question... there is not spectrum. Or if there is, it's black and white.

Is there a spectrum to child molestation? What if sodomising your child will get the guy to confess, but beating him won't? Will you let your kid be violated? It's for the common good?

If you cross that line (torturing someone as a means of, "informal" information extraction [whichis a red-herring, Mukasey isn't being asked about occasional abuse, but about organised practice]), and I have any say in the matter, you can live with that "moral stain" in prison; until you die, and be glad I'm against capital punishment, much less Old Testament justice.

That sums up my opinions on the "practical" justifications for torture.

#67 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:03 PM:

CRV, don't assume that I haven't already been.

#68 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:03 PM:

CRV #65: That situation does not exist and never will. Are you listening? TORTURE DOES NOT WORK. Regardless of how much you want to do it.

This isn't an opinion. It is a fact. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, matter can be neither created nor destroyed, and torture does not work.

#69 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:08 PM:

CRV: This time, in comparison to previous interchanges, I am willing to say you are being rude, incivil, and; so far as any reasonable person can see, an asshole.

Your comment, Jim, I hope you are never placed in a position that would force you to question your moral certainty on this issue. is, in more polite words, a "fuck you."

Because it's imputing you are superior to Jim, because you've decided to torture, if the occaision warrants, and that he, in his moral certitude, is, at best, a simpleton, and at worst, actually immoral (see my comments above, and see the camp you have moved to).

You, sir, are a torture monger. You want to limit it to "exigent" circumstances (while papering over the present exisitence of it as a systemic practice. Where will you draw the line (and why)? Is the guy who knows where the guy who planted the bomb is hiding out worth torturing?

At what point is the "immediacy" so attenuated that torture stops being justified.

Now, I have run out of polite words.

#70 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:15 PM:

I used to think forced extration was always wrong, too.

I advocate only because I know men whose job it has been to detain people on the field of battle and extract info. I am highly, highly uneasy with the quick moral judgment that is taking place in this thread, because the men I know who have been tasked with this kind of work in-theatre have not been immoral, amoral, sick, or sadistic people. They have also, as a rule, not inflicted psychological or bodily harm on detainees that would exceed that seen in an E&E school, like the kind Army pilots must attend.

Getting info is a tricky business.

9 times out of 10, they used the carrot.

Once in awhile, they used the stick.

And to hear these Soldiers tell it, the info wasn't always bad. It wasn't always good, but it wasn't 100% bad every time. And it saved American lives.

I just think we behind our keyboards are in no position to make glib moral evaluations, especially of the sweeping sort.

The higher our horse, the more it will hurt when we fall off.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:20 PM:

CRV, you don't know what you're talking about. And you don't know the qualifications and experiences of the people you're spouting your nonsense to.

So follow your own advice. Get off your high horse, chum.

#72 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Terry, slow down with the psych couch session, please? You don't know anything about the motivation behind what I said to Jim.

I meant it. If Jim (and you) are dead certain of your belief, it is my hope that life does not find a way to take you into a position where the moral absolute becomes clouded or confused.

It's been my experience that life has a way of doing that. And those who busily declare moral absolutes, of any sort, eventually run into some scenario that isn't so easily detangled via black/white binary thinking.

It wasn't a "fuck you" to Jim. It was a genuine wish that Life, or Fate, or Murphy's Law, not ever place Jim in a spot he'd rather not be in.

#73 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:23 PM:

Like I said, Jim, Devil's Advocating.

You don't have to like it, or agree.

But do we always have to like what other people write around here, or agree with it?

#74 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:28 PM:

You, sir, are a torture monger. -- TK

And you, sir, are making yet another sweeping judgment.

Fine.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:28 PM:

So, you're wrong. Call it "Devil's Advocate" or not as you please. The position you're taking is wrong.

Let's see ... suppose your wife was murdered.

The cops know that when a wife turns up dead usually it was the husband who did it. You're their number one suspect.

Is it okay with you if they waterboard you until you confess? I promise you, you will confess. Then they can put you in jail for the rest of your life, or, in some states, put you to death. You're cool with that?

Hey, they'll probably even be right and another killer will be off the streets. Because it usually is the husband who did it.

#76 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:28 PM:

CRV: What part of I did this in the field isn't sinking in?

I am not speaking glibly from behind a keyboard (which, to be brutally frank, you are; it's just that you are glibly mocking those who think torture is wrong, on moral, practical and personal grounds).

On a simple level, how many guys do you think are going to say, "Yeah, we beat the shit out of this little shit, and when that didn't work we hooked his nuts to a TA-312 and it was all for nothing because he didn't know anything and lied to make us stop?"

Or might they have a reason to justify the things they did as "right, and just" because they worked?

A lot of it is post hoc nonesense too. There was a COL in Iraq who threatened to kill a guy if he didn't point to the house shots had come from. He actually pointed a loaded 9-mil at the poor sod, then twitched it to the side and pulled the trigger.

At which point the guy pointed to a building and the place got lit up.

No more shots.

But there's no way to know that it was te right house. It might just have been the guy moving on to another place to set up, because to keep shooting was to get made.

But hey, no one was, "really" hurt, and the shots stopped.

That COL was let off easy, allowed to retire.

Elsewhere, we've taken hostages; left notes on people's houses that if they didn't turn themselves in, their wife and kids would spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Justifiable, right? After all, Hussein would have done that; and beat the snot out of them; so we are better than he was, and that makes it OK?

Fuck that. Honestly, if it means my guys get shot; that's a price I was willing to pay. How do I know that, because I didn't torture people when I had the chance. I also didn't let any of my troops do it.

People I worked with had done it in the past. They were broken, not right. And some of them are in prison now. None of them got what I think they deserve, they will be let out.

#77 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:31 PM:

CRV: No. I am making an accusation. A statement of what I think of you, based on what you are saying here.

You advocate torture. That makes you a torture monger.

Q.E.D.

#78 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:42 PM:

I've said my piece, at too much length. CRV, you fail the test for either civilisation or Christianity. You are working for the other side in both cases.

#79 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:44 PM:

What bugs me is that you guys seem to think I said all forced extraction or "torture" of any sort was OK in any and every circumstance.

Go back and read my caveat.

The carrot will work most of the time, and only in rare circumstances should anything more be appropriate. But that doesn't mean there have not been times when, sadly, the stick is called for.

I grieve for the Soldiers I have known, good men, who have been forced down the road they've been forced down. But duty and expediency do not always permit easy moral decisionmaking. I have no doubt a couple of guys in particular are quite hurt by what they ended up doing. But what they ended up doing amounted to child's play compared to what a captured Soldier in the grasp of the insurgency goes through, before he dies.

So maybe I just see degrees here, a graduation of steps. Kind of like in the criminal system, how not every crime is automatically equated to be as terrible as every other.

Is a Soldier who blares loud music 24/7 into a cell and sleep-deprives a detainee, guilty of the same "torture" as a man who shoves an ice pick into a detainee's body parts?

If you answer is, "Yes!", I guess this discussion is over.

#80 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:58 PM:

"What bugs me is that you guys seem to think I said all forced extraction or "torture" of any sort was OK in any and every circumstance."

I haven't seen anyone make that claim in this thread. Can you point to a post that does, or is "in any and every circumstance" your own addition?

"Is a Soldier who blares loud music 24/7 into a cell and sleep-deprives a detainee, guilty of the same "torture" as a man who shoves an ice pick into a detainee's body parts?"

Obviously it's not the "same torture", since it's two different actions. And waterboarding is a third type of action, the specific one that's at issue in the Mukasey hearings, that somehow doesn't seem to figure in this example at all.

What's the point you're trying to make here? Are you saying we should overlook the evil that one person does because someone else is doing something arguably more evil? Or was there some other argument you were trying to make with this example?

#81 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 09:58 PM:

So, what is the best way to get information from a prisoner? Torture is off the table, but the man has information that you need, and need quickly. So what's the best way?

#82 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:13 PM:

Steve C, Terry and others will be along with more details, but part of the answer "Sometimes there isn't a good way." Successful interrogation takes time. Quick brutality generates bad information. It is possible to want, even need, something very badly and not get it - like, for instance, the people in the World Trade Center who tried jumping rather than burning, and died, or the firefighters who needed better radios and didn't have them, or all the people caring for those dying of cancer and other things that in some sense really ought to be fixable and yet in practice aren't.

Sometimes, we can't get what we need, and have to deal with the loss.

Now I yield the floor to the better-informed.

#83 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:17 PM:

John @ #80,

This is what the moral thrust of this thread seemed to be: all forced extraction of information is equivalent to torture, and since we already know that torture is never forgiveable nor excusable in any circumstance, and never works anyway, anyone who advocates it or apologizes for it or commits it is a debased cretin.

My point has been that those who use forced extraction are not always cretins, not always guilty of the same "crime", and we behind our keyboards should not go out and pass sweeping judgments on these men.

If I seem to be taking it personally, I am. I've got friends who have been placed in these situations and while some might argue that their actions have been "immoral", to pass judgment on them as human beings, to breezily declare them [i]anything[/i], as if we have a right to judge...

The whole thing just seems too pat, too simple, too smug.

And as Steve C. pointed out, what do you do when you are holding a man who has info you need, and is not willing to share it, and you don't have all the time in the world to use the "carrot" as it were?

I think the line between torture and forced extraction gets crossed when men inflict bodily pain for the sake of seeing another man scream, cry, howel, wimper, or just plain bleed. And you won't see me apologizing for that kind of thing, nor will I go to bat for Soldiers or Marines who get a kick out of seeing an Iraqi moan in agony, just because they think it's funny.

I've met a couple of these kinds of Soldiers, yes, and I couldn't get away from them fast enough.

But not everyone engaged in the GWOT is using forced extraction because they like it, nor is everyone who uses forced extraction using methods I would call "routinely extreme" or otherwise brushing the edge of reasonable coercion.

Does this make my position more clear?

I'll say it again, for the Terry and Jim contingent:

I. Am. Not. Apoligizing. For. Sadists.

I am saying we need to look at this as a far more complex moral, ethical, and practical issue, than it might first seem.

If it was an easy moral call, we wouldn't be having this big national debate on it, now, would we?

#84 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:18 PM:

If the attorney general has any doubts about whether a certain procedure is torture or not, there's one very simple way he can find out. Simply submit to the procedure for several minutes. He should be able to make a judgement forthwith. If he is unwilling to submit to the procedure, that by itself should be information enough to make a firm decision regarding the matter.

#85 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Steve C. (and CRV, since you seconded the question): The Army has some field manuals on interrogation that suggest various ways other than torture to get needed information.

The current interrogation manual, FM 2-22-3, is online at

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm2-22-3.pdf

This was a 2006 revision of an earlier 1992 manual FM 34-52, which is online at

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm34-52.pdf

I haven't done more than briefly glance at either one, but I would guess that the military interrogators who contributed to this volume have some good idea of what they're talking about.

I *did* find the following passage in FM 2-22-3 of interest:

"Use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the HUMINT collector wants to hear. Use of torture can also have many possible negative consequences at national and international levels."

#86 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Steve C, you may be interested to read how what the men who interrogated Nazis feel about torture.

As far as I know, watching police procedurals is a good way to watch effective interrogation. I like First 48. These techniques are the ones used by cops who actually want information - like the ones who refused to be involved in the (pointless, immoral, illegal) torture at Guantanamo. Grownups.

CRV, as much as he wants to think so, does not fall into the grownup category. And, although he frequently posts on things he knows nothing about, he has admitted he's never changed his opinions about something based on the replies his gets. Responding to him is a waste of time and electrons.

#87 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:21 PM:

So what's the best way?

Careful interrogation, combined with other sources of information. Documents, physical objects, reconnaissance, that sort of thing.

For an example of a good interrogation, you might look at the chapters dealing with the interrogation of Jerry Brudos in Ann Rule's The Lust Killer.

Yo, CRV: You still haven't answered my question. Is it okay with you if the cops torture you until you confess to murdering your wife?

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:28 PM:

If it was an easy moral call, we wouldn't be having this big national debate on it, now, would we?

CRV...this is the stupidest thing I've ever seen you post. Ordinarily I think you're sincere but misguided; this is just too stupid to be anything but disingenuous, from someone who can figure out how to post to Making Light at all.

We're having a "big national debate" because the torture-mongers have succeeded in selling their lies to a large portion of the public, in TV shows like 24. In this case Hollywood is definitely on the side of the bad guys.

And so are you, in this case. You're talking and not listening. You still think we're talking about how you shouldn't beat information out of someone; we are talking about how you cannot beat information out of someone, and so if you beat them it's just to satisfy your own brutal impulses.

Impulses which, if your comments in this thread are anything to go by, you treasure and strive to protect.

I think it's beneath you, frankly.

#89 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:31 PM:

#83, CRV:

This is what the moral thrust of this thread seemed to be: all forced extraction of information is equivalent to torture, and since we already know that torture is never forgiveable nor excusable in any circumstance, and never works anyway, anyone who advocates it or apologizes for it or commits it is a debased cretin.

I do believe you've got it.

If it was an easy moral call, we wouldn't be having this big national debate on it, now, would we?

What debate? That thing where people explain the concept of WRONG in small words to people with their fingers in their ears, ad infinitum and to the detriment of their sanity?

"Debate" is for topics where the possibility exists that either side might be right.

#90 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Everything I have to say from this point forward, I have already said in post #83.

If people think I am wrong, OK.

If people think I am somehow a horrible man for what I write, I'm going to say they don't know anything about me and are in no position to make that call.

Goodnight. At least on this thread.

#91 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:39 PM:

James #87 (and others) - I can dig it.

So, another question? Is there any evidence that drugs work at all? My suspicion is that there isn't or else we'd never hear about waterboarding.

But if there was a totally harmless drug that rendered suspects compliant (and I'm not talking here about criminal cases), would it be moral to use that obtain necessary information? No issue of pain or suffering - the hypothetical drug trips the pleasure center and they're euphoric.

#92 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:43 PM:

There were decades of debate and a big war in the US about whether it was ever right for one human being to own another, if so when, and who got to decide. This doesn't mean that there was ever a good argument for chattel slavery, only that some slave-owners and defenders of slavery refused to concede. Likewise with debates and pogroms directed at the Jews, the Romany, every element of the LGBT coalition, and countless others - the existence of arguers does not imply the existence of even the slightest validity to the arguments of any given side.

#93 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:44 PM:

If people think I am somehow a horrible man for what I write, I'm going to say they don't know anything about me and are in no position to make that call.

But I DO know something about you. I know what you write. And presumably you mean what you write.

Is that somehow supposed to be not 'you'?

#94 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:44 PM:

Steve 91: Or, say, fast-penta, which (if it existed) would make the subject unable to resist answering questions truthfully.

The morality of using such things on a subject really IS debatable. Unlike torture.

#95 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Steve C. @ 81
So, what is the best way to get information from a prisoner? Torture is off the table, but the man has information that you need, and need quickly. So what's the best way?

Be nice to them.

Seriously. Be nice to them. Give them what they want (with the exception of their freedom, or a loaded weapon).

One of the most successful intelligence gathering operations of WWII was operated out of Fort Hunt, in Virginia. The operatives who ran this (admittedly not completely in accordance with the Geneva Convention, as detainees sent to Fort Hunt were "lost in the system" for a period of time - usually three months or so - to prevent knowledge of their capture from being disseminated to the German command) prided themselves on never using physical - or mental - torture (the closest they got to mental torture was the suggestion that those who were uncooperative might be turned over to the Russians... this was, apparently, very persuasive) - they didn't need to.

They were nice to their interrogatees. Hell, they worried about the morality of putting listening devices in the barracks and washrooms of the prisoners - something we would barely think twice about, in these days of panopticon prisons. They played chess with prisoners, brought them steak dinners - questioned them, yes - but also talked about places they had been, common topics of discussion, etc.

You get - you always get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Treat your prisoners like human beings, with respect - even, no especially when they spit in your eye, or when you want to gouge out theirs - and you have a chance of getting their cooperation - or getting them to admit things by what they don't say. Fear can be a useful tool - but one that, as far as I can tell, needs to be used very carefully, and very sparingly - and directed away from you if possible.

Questioning prisoners is not something to be done when your passions are high. It is not something to be done when you cannot master yourself. Because if you cannot master yourself, you certainly cannot master your prisoners.

Note that I'm not a trained interrogator - just someone whose grabbed ahold of some TMs, and had some elementary coursework in college (hooray for a Criminal Justice major). But the basics of this isn't rocket science - hostile questioning of witnesses on the stand is taught in law school, police interrogation tactics are a part of every police academy curriculum, and the history of interrogation techniques is easily available to anyone with Google - and it says time and time again, from the Inquisition on, that hard techniques are unreliable at best, and corrosive always.

If you are looking to gather information, there are other techniques. If you are looking to cow a populace, strike fear into their hearts, and subdue their will - torture might work. Or it might backfire, and fan nascent coals of resistance into a surging fire. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it is pretty much never a good tool to use, no matter your objectives. As for morality and ethics - if you're a moral, ethical, and courageous person, you already know that torture is wrong.

#96 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Steve, I think the problem with drugs as it's just as likely to conjure forth product of the suspects imagination as it is factual information. Really what drug out there makes one submissive and still attached to reality at the same time?

#97 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Scott #95, that's interesting about Fort Hunt - I had no idea that existed.

I do wonder if this will work with other groups - while the Germans were enemies in WW II, the European background gave them some commonality of culture with Americans. It seems to me an open question of how well that approach would work with cultures like those that produced bin Laden.

#98 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 10:54 PM:

I hope '24' gets cancelled soon.

First, because it keeps alive the idea that torture is useful, and far too many people think that If It's On TV, It Must Be True.

Second, because it screws up traffic in my neighborhood really well. (They have Large Vehicles parked in a street that really isn't wide enough.)

#99 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:00 PM:

Marna,

People are complex. I do mean what I write. But you won't be able to divine the moral or ethical essence of me from my views on a single, narrow subject.

For example....

Many right-wingers think everyone who is pro-choice is a "baby-murderer." They are absolutely convinced of it.

Of course, we all know they are full of shit. They're using a single-issue, inflammatory litmus test to pass judgment on a vast sector of America.

I see something strangely similar happening on this thread, and it bothers me quite a bit, and so I speak out, unpopular or "wrong" as my thoughts might be.

Again, people are complex. And most of us, if we find out enough about each other, will eventually find out something about the other person which disturbs or bothers us. How much are we willing to summarily declare people "bad" for holding opinions, and how willing are we ourselves willing to be declared "bad" for the opinions we hold?

And I said I'd stop contributing to this thread, didn't I?

I'm lousy with resolutions.

Again, people need to re-read post #83.

I'll say several more times.

I do not apologize for sadists. I do not advocate sadistic methods of forced extraction of information. I believe the carrot will work far more often, and should be option a, b, and c, before you get to the d.

Oh, and one thing for Jim.

The cops could beat me to death, but if I didn't kill my wife, I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

Pain and death are transitory. A lie, even if told under coercion, will follow you forever. And yes, I've experienced some amazing physical pain in my life. I know from experience that eventually you pass out from it. The police will either have to kill me, or get tired of their schtick and send me to jail and try to prosecute on evidence.

#100 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Steve, granting your hypothetical, I would say that use of the drug is not immoral by itself, but morality requires more than the technique applied.

A quick stab at four pillars of interrogation -
1. What is the cause of the interrogation? Checking if a random sample of the population has ever had unkind thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard is different than interrogating a suspected murderer.
2. What information is being sought and what happens to it? If you happen to find out that your subject cheated on his taxes, are you going to use that against him later to create an informant?
3. How effective is it?
4. How easy is it to apologize if you've got the wrong guy?

Your hypothetical addresses the last two but not the first two. One of the problems with torture (but by no means the main one) is that it's impossible to untorture innocent people. The corrupting effect on the torturer and the organization that supports torture shouldn't be underestimated - good people leave.

#101 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:04 PM:

CRV @ 86: You seem to be conceding that torture's evil if someone's doing it with the full consciousness that they're being sadistic, but don't want to concede that the exact same action is evil if someone thinks they have higher motives for doing it.

That's not a moral calculus I find coherent. (I suppose you could go for the "greater good" theory of ethics, though I hope I don't have to remind you of all the atrocities committed in the past century under that banner. But even that one doesn't seem to hold up for most torture apologists, since I have yet to see one that was willing to follow it through to the question Jim posed: What if it was raping your child, rather than hurting some reassuringly alien "bad guy", that would yield the needed information?)

It also sounds like part of your objection is "Wait-- if you're calling torture evil, then you're calling people who might see it justifiable, or resort to it, horrible, including my buddies and me. But I'm obviously not horrible, so you're wrong to call torture evil." Do I have this right?

This logic, too, is all too comforting but fundamentally wrong. The fact is, we're all humans, and sometimes end up doing evil things, small or large. (And the different between doing small evil things and doing large evil things is often more attributable to circumstance than innate moral fiber.) That neither means that we're all irredeemable, horrible people, nor that what we do isn't really evil, though those are the lies that despair and hubris, respectively, try to lead us into from this state of affairs.

Rather, it means we're human beings, with human dignity, human imperfection, and the human ability to recognize good and evil, repent of the latter, and try to do better in the future.

If you're familiar with the major Western religions, none of this should be a new idea. Nor should the idea of shaking up the complacent, as I think I saw happening above, be something particularly surprising. I recall a certain Nazarene who commonly did this in his own preaching, and lots of folks still claim him as their moral guide today.

#102 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:08 PM:

The cops could beat me to death, but if I didn't kill my wife, I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

Still missing the point - they aren't going to have to beat you to death, if they do what you've been advocating. You'll confess to anything they want, just to get them to stop whatever they're doing to you, including murdering someone who's alive and well and flying to the moon on a broomstick.

Have you actually read Nance's description of waterboarding?

#103 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:13 PM:

People are complex. I do mean what I write. But you won't be able to divine the moral or ethical essence of me from my views on a single, narrow subject.

I'm not yet prepared to put serious money on it, if that's what you mean.

But it's not looking good.

How much are we willing to summarily declare people "bad" for holding opinions, and how willing are we ourselves willing to be declared "bad" for the opinions we hold?

Quite a lot and quite a lot. Look, if you're not your beliefs and actions, what are you?

You're defending a vile position and you're arguing it ... ingenuously, at best.

Pain and death are transitory. A lie, even if told under coercion, will follow you forever. And yes, I've experienced some amazing physical pain in my life. I know from experience that eventually you pass out from it. The police will either have to kill me, or get tired of their schtick and send me to jail and try to prosecute on evidence.

Aaaand now it's the fault of the victims if torture doesn't 'work', because they are just not tough enough.

No, sorry, I feel I now have enough on which to judge your "moral and ethical essence".

It's a right mess, and you may wish to see about getting it fixed. I recommend having your axioms rotated regularly, for a start.

#104 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:18 PM:

re - #95 - FMs, not TMs, damnit... :-/

SteveC - 97
Scott #95, that's interesting about Fort Hunt - I had no idea that existed.

I do wonder if this will work with other groups - while the Germans were enemies in WW II, the European background gave them some commonality of culture with Americans. It seems to me an open question of how well that approach would work with cultures like those that produced bin Laden.

We have citizens of this nation who were born in the Middle East, and are "products" of those cultures - just as many of the interrogators at Fort Hunt were the sons of German immigrants. Of course, to make effective use of them would require acknowledging that the radical Islamists are a tiny fraction of the great Muslim majority, and stop discriminating against the vast majority who are simply followers of a different religious path. It might also help to stop dumping translators and interrogators simply because their sexual preferences don't precisely align with heterosexuality in all points.

The reality is that for some asinine reason, Humint has become a neglected art in the US intelligence community. We've grown too fond of SigInt and analysts poring over open source intelligence materials (i.e. Aviation Leakly and the like)*, and neglected plain old intelligence sources and their handlers - not completely** but sufficiently that we overlook obvious resources.

*This is not to say that SigInt (Signal Intelligence - intercepting and decrypting enemy communications, and analyzing communication patterns) and data mining of open source materials are not powerful weapons - they are. But they are not, in and of themselves, enough, just as air power is not enough to win a war in and of itself - sometimes you need boots - or sandals, or sneakers, or dress shoes - on the ground.

**I have no doubt - though no proof - that the revelation of Plame's role in the CIA ended up costing intelligence assets their lives, although we may never know who died, and whether they were really assets, or just people that Plame - or her front company - had contact with in Otherplacia who were assumed to have been turned, and silenced even though they were innocent.

#105 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:37 PM:

John @ #101,

I think the definition of "torture" is too blurry these days.

To me, torture is a prolonged (hours to days) infliction of extreme amounts of pain, usually accompanied by bodily harm or life-long mutilation, done by people who enjoy it and who don't really care if you talk or not. They just want to see you suffer.

When I think "torture", I think Joe Pesci's character extracting info from the young gangster in the movie "Casino". I am thinking ice picks in ears, through genitalia, through tongues, in eyeballs, dangling guys in positions that crack or break bones, pull joints out of sockets, shoving someone's hand in a drum of industrial acid, etc, etc. Stuff that kills and cripples and fucks you up and will never go away, assuming you survive.

Is sleep-deprivation "torture"?

How about light-deprivation?

Constant, loud noise?

How broad are we willing to make our definition of "torture" and at what point does that definition become so broad that virtually all our police and military interrogators, whether they're working routine crime or fighting the GWOT, will be found guilty of "torturing"?

If a cop hauls me in and punches me around, I might call it battery or rough treatment, I might even sue his ass. But it's not torture. To call it torture is a disservice to those who have been truly and horribly tortured throughout history.

Similarly, if a Soldier uses sleep or light or noise tactics, even a punch in the face, to try and get something out of a captured foe, is it really "torture" worthy of war crimes consideration? And is that soldier, for the rest of his life, a morally unredeemable individual worthy only of scorn and derision?

Because that's where this thread seems to be taking us: the absolute and eternal moral judgment of those who have, and will, use force to extract information.

Me? I think there is a spectrum. And while I don't want the U.S. or its military and police to go too far down the spectrum, I do think there is a zone on the "soft" end that is, for lack of a better word, practical. Much of it dovetails some physical with a lot of psychological, and as I have said earlier, the carrot (or honeypot, as someone else noted) will yield better results, more often, than the stick.

But once in awhile, the stick is necessary.

And to deny this, or worse, criminalize and morally cast out those who use the stick, without considering situation and context, is just wrong IMHO.

#106 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Marna....

No doubt you also hold one or more opinions on a subject or subjects, and that there are lots of people who would think you're a "mess" as well.

They wouldn't be right. Because you're more than just a single opinion on a single subject.

And so am I.

And with that, I gotta bet back to work. Month end closing processes. Wee.

#107 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:02 AM:

CRV@105:

"I think the definition of "torture" is too blurry these days."

Well, that's nice, but how is that relevant to the issue at hand, which as you may recall from the top of the thread is the US sanctioning of waterboarding?

Once again, you bring up a bunch of examples that don't deal with that issue, but instead work to divert attention to other points in the spectrum. See here, *this* other case isn't so bad, is it? And *that* other case is much worse, isn't it? So what's your objection? It's the rhetorical equivalent of the shell game: introduce enough distractions, and the mark will lose track of the pea. You did it earlier in the thread too, and at the time I was willing to write it off to not thinking clearly. The more you do it, though, the more it looks like plain old misdirection.

"And is that soldier, for the rest of his life, a morally unredeemable individual worthy only of scorn and derision?"

I specifically and explicitly rejected the equation "doing evil == morally unredeemable, etc." in the comment you're replying to. So why are you bringing it up again as if it were still a live issue?

#108 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:02 AM:

After the Balkan Wars in the nineties, one of the things I had to do was investigate human rights abuses and violations of the Laws and Customs of War. A lot of this involved looking at the sites where torture occurred and interviewing torture victims and looking at photographic and video evidence.

I still wake up screaming from the nighmares...

#109 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:03 AM:

CRV: You are a morally bankrupt and repugnant torture-monger, and a liar to boot. You CANNOT have the experience you are claiming to have, because if you actually had been in those situations you would know what real people who HAVE been in those situations have learned. And your attempt to repaint the situation in such a way that YOU can claim to be morally superior would be laughable if it weren't so sickening.

The cops could beat me to death, but if I didn't kill my wife, I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

I call bullshit. This is Ramboland fantasy, that you're such a Big Tough Guy that nothing, nothing could ever make you confess to something you didn't do. Because if beating you didn't elicit the confession, they'd go on to something else that would -- waterboarding, maybe, or some of those lovely tactics that the CIA taught to the Afghanistanis, or threatening your children. This was proven over and over again during the 60s, in the Civil Rights struggle.

Because I am not a torture-monger, I will not wish for you to end up in such a set of circumstances that you are suspected of having information which torture will elicit. I will, however, note that karma does have a way of coming around.

But if you ever again claim to have actual military experience, I will again call you a cowardly liar. Because you are.

#110 ::: anne bremser ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:04 AM:

A little off topic here, or at least referencing to post #50 regarding the lack of outcry against torture by the Catholic Church. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops is on record as being against the Iraq war since the beginning, and against torture. For a letter to congress from the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, see http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/torture.shtml, for a statement that torture is immoral, see http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/torture.shtml .

The Catholic Church has been one of the leaders in the fight to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHISC, formerly known as the Scool of the Americas. Since the end of World War Two (1946), this School, at Fort Benning GA, has been teaching torture techniques to allies in Central and South America. Even if we as a nation weren't torturing people directly, we were sure making sure it was done efficiently indirectly. For information on SOA/WHISC, see http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=774 , and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_the_Americas

I find it very annoying that people think the church isn't speaking out, when I personally know priests, nuns, and lay workers who have been imprisoned in this country for protesting torture. They have been treated badly as well. After arrest women were put in cells so crowded they couldn't sit down; were denied warm clothing and blankets while being detained in an unheated facility; went a day without food, and were finally fed at 4:00 AM. This was while they were waiting for arraignment. They had not been found guilty of anything.

Conditions in American prisons are very poor. The lowest ranking people in the Abu Graib scandal had been prison guards here before going to Iraq. They didn't do anything that hasn't been done in an American prison. My husband is a deputy public defender. He regularly finds his clients with injuries inflicted by guards, but the only witnesses are other inmates. Torture is very much a regular thing, right here, in the prison next door. And there are more and more imprisoned all the time.

#111 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:17 AM:

They wouldn't be right. Because you're more than just a single opinion on a single subject.

And so am I.

Not all subjects are equal. Torture is one of those ones where one's opinion does, indeed, define one.

Whatever you are, and I'm sure you have a great many fine qualities, you are standing neck deep in vile right now, and explaining that it smells just great, and everyone ought to climb in there with you.

So, you know. It's a pity if your feelings are hurt, but that's just one of those tough things a person has to do for the greater good sometimes.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:28 AM:

The cops could beat me to death, but if I didn't kill my wife, I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

So, you're okay with them torturing you? You think it's a principle that should apply? They have a suspect, they have a way to get a confession. It's fast and easy. Can you think of any reason why they shouldn't torture you? Can you think of anything you could say or do after they've started to convince them they'd got the wrong man?

Isn't it true that the husband usually is the murderer? Will you at least admit that?

I promise you: Not only will you confess your crime, you'll beg them to let you tell them how you did it. You'll add extra details to the account to make it more believable. You'll come to believe it yourself.

Everyone breaks. You aren't special.

#113 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:36 AM:

Month-end is now underway, nothing to do but sit and let Crystal spin.

Lee,

You're right. If the cops beat me up and wanted me to say I was the King of France, I might be inclined to say I was the King of France. Or Mickey Mouse. Or Napoleon.

But a wife-killer? And my wife is dead by another man's hand?

Sorry. I'd rather die or be beaten unconscious than say I'd killed my wife. Or child. Or parents. Or committed any murder I knew I did not commit. Saying I committed the murder of any of these people, having not actually done it, would mean that I was not only lying, but that I'd let the cops off the hook to get out there and find the real killer.

You might think it's impossible for anyone to face down pain or death in this fashion.

Anyone who has died under pain or torture, and refused to renounce a God, or a prophet, or a belief of any sort, proves you otherwise. Shall I site examples? There are lots of them. It can be done. You just have to not care about pain or death. Hopefully none of us are ever put to that extreme in our lives.

I've experienced mind-boggling pain so bad I passed out several times within a couple of hours because of it. It was during a situation that nearly cost me my life. I'm not exactly a stranger to that kind of thing.

As for your other scenarios, would I lie to save a child? Depends on what the lie would be, and who it would affect.

If someone pointed a gun at my child's head and told me to renounce Christ ten times, or they'd shoot my girl, I don't think I would renounce Christ. I'd do everything within my power to rip their heads off before they shot my girl, but if I was powerless to stop them, I'd rather my daughter get shot (and possibly live) with her father being a faithful Christian, than her probably getting shot anyway and having a father who renounced his faith and was a fraud when the chips were down.

But if they pointed a gun at her head and told me to scream that I was Elton John or Slash from the band Guns'n'Roses, I might be willing to do that.

I suppose if I really think about it, there are stupid lies that it won't matter if I tell them under coercion, and big giant lies that I'd rather die than tell, even under pain of death, because possibly living with those lies would be worse than dying or being fucked up.

Got any more scenarios to throw my way, while you are excoriating me?

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:42 AM:

CRV@99: I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that some sort of POW training for some special ops military folks included a primer on torture. And the instructors had to go through a extremely watered down (can't think of a better phrase) version of waterboarding. They weren't tied down, but they were supposed to lie down for as long as they could take it. If I remember correctly, the average period of time they could withstand was something like 15 or 30 seconds. Once the drowning alarms go off in your brain, you no longer operate on a logical "if this then that, else these and those" manner. You operate on a lizard brain survival mode.

I also seem to remember reading various tales of the Vietnam war and that it was not uncommon for American POW's to break down under torture and tell their captors something just to stop the pain.

Pain and death are transitory. A lie, even if told under coercion, will follow you forever.

Just recently a woman posted on a thread here about her husband who had suffered being tortured during the vietnam war, how he had nightmares his entire life, how he hoarded food after being starved by his captors, how he had suffered the effects of being tortured years (decades) after the torture had stopped.

What you believe about torture simply does not line up with the facts of people who have actually experienced it. In any way.

#115 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:47 AM:

CRV, you're wrong. Just wrong. Sorry. Right now, you have put yourself in the same category as a Holocaust denier.

You're not irredeemable, not worthy of scorn and derision for the rest of your life. (Your words, not mine.) No one here is making those broad moral judgments, at least, not publicly.

But you are wrong. I realize you don't think so, but perhaps some day you will.

#116 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:48 AM:

CRV@113: I'd rather die or be beaten unconscious than say I'd killed my wife.

Sometimes you are truly unbelievable.

Do you think for one second that a person willing to torture you would not also be willing to lie to you?

Maybe say something like "We're going to go after you're children if you don't confess." Or maybe that wouldn't be a lie. Maybe they'll actually go and do that.

For a real world example of Americans doing exactly that, see the thread This Is Who We Are.

You survive your hypothetical bouts of hypothetical torture because they're hypothetically unrealistic.

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Folks, stop. Let the man alone. This is not getting anywhere. CRV, go get some sleep, or whatever you need to get balanced. Martyrdom fantasies are not evidence of anything. If I were moderator, which mercifully I am not, I would tell everyone at this point to go do something else. Bake bread. Knit. Pray for the dead. Something. I shall now follow my own advice. Good night.

#118 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:57 AM:

The real world example of the permanent effects of torture were mentioned by the wife of a man who suffered them in a recent post here.

Pain is transitory, my ass.

#119 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:02 AM:

James @ #112,

My wife worked DV for many years. I am intimately familiar with the likelyhood that when a wife is murdered, it's often the husband that did it. Which is why I'd rather die or be beaten to a pulp than say I'd killed my wife, because I know what kind of men do that, and I am not that kind of man, and would sooner do a hari-kari than tell anyone, cop or no, I was a wife-killer.

That's not really the point, though.

Some people break. Not everyone. And as I explained to Lee, in a manner far more gracious than Lee deserved, the 'whether or not' I confessed would depend on the thing I confessed to, and if I could live with myself confessing it afterward.

And no, I never once said I thought it would be OK for the cops to waterboard.

Can you please find for me where I said, "I demand that our cops be allowed to waterboard! It's not torture!" I never said that.

I said I think we need to be careful how far we expand our definition of "torture", lest we rob our police and Soldiers of their ability to extract information from subjects that are recalcitrant. The carrot only works so far. And yes, sometimes nothing will work. But once in awhile, the stick must be reached for. And 90% of it depends on the situation and the circumstance.

And if I can drag this gottdamned thing all the way back around to my original sentiment, eschewing all this stupid scenarioing about killing wives, I think it's wrong for people go ahead and just say, "All torture is wrong and all people who torture are hideous villains", because what one man calls torture and another man calls torture are two different things, and sometimes good people have and will choose to do some distasteful things they'd rather not do, based on mission requirement or just plain expediency and lack of time to find another option.

#120 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:12 AM:

Lizzy, you may be right. On the other hand, for MY sake I have to address a few points, and if don't do them now I won't sleep as well as I can (which relates to Greg's point about pain).


Ok, having stepped back a bit, and seeing some greater explication of your position, I will try to address it (and a bit more besides)


CRV: To me, torture is a prolonged (hours to days) infliction of extreme amounts of pain, usually accompanied by bodily harm or life-long mutilation, done by people who enjoy it and who don't really care if you talk or not. They just want to see you suffer.

Here is the first place in which your misunderstanding comes apparent. Torture, in my definition, is the intentional infliction of physical or psychological suffering. Sleep dep (as I have said before, to our hostess slight disoncertation, can be borderline).

Me? I think there is a spectrum.
Me, I don’t. It’s like molesting children. There are lines you don’t cross. Fondling an eight year old is still molesting children, even if they don’t get, “hurt”.

And while I don't want the U.S. or its military and police to go too far down the spectrum, I do think there is a zone on the "soft" end that is, for lack of a better word, practical. Much of it dovetails some physical with a lot of psychological.

There, again, your lack of actual knowledge gets you in trouble. There is not point at which torture, even “soft” torture, is practical.

And to deny this, or worse, criminalize and morally cast out those who use the stick, without considering situation and context, is just wrong IMHO.

Your opinion, no matter how honest, or humble, is wrong. Just as wrong as the honest opinion of those who say the earth is flat, evolution isn’t or that coal smoke doesn’t cause acid rain.

You said you wouldn’t confess to something you haven’t done. Allow me, in my professional opinion, to tell you this is also wrong. Give me three days, and you will confess. No pain is needed. Just some sleep loss, a bit of time dislocation and a modified eating schedule.
You may not want to believe it, but the evidence of years; the records of thousands of people, say that you are wrong.

#121 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:36 AM:

Lizzy @ 117,

Okay, good idea.

I've got half a dozen people telling me I am wrong, and half of them think I am absolute evil in addition to being wrong.

Maybe Halloween was the wrong night to dip my foot in this particular stream?

Later.

#122 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:36 AM:

CRV@119: I said I think we need to be careful how far we expand our definition of "torture",

No one is expanding the definition of "torture". The definition was established long ago. The Third Geneva Convention. Maybe you heard of it? You say you are in the military, so I would assume you have some familiarity.

What we need to be careful of is people like Mukasey who suddenly swallow a stupid pill and can't seem to tell their ass from their elbow, and don't know torture if they were waterboarded right then and there. The man pulled a Ronald Reagan "I do not recall" becaue it was convenient to forget.

What we need to be careful of are people who want to change international treaties that have been around for better part of a century. We need to be careful of people who think that holding our nation to the treaty that we agreed to is somehow "changing" the definiton of torture, when all we're doing is demanding that we uphold that which we agreed to half a century ago, and had upheld up until Shrub got in office.

lest we rob our police and Soldiers of their ability to extract information from subjects that are recalcitrant.

Well, I have to give you linguistic credit. you perfectly reframe the issue in a way that assumes that torure works, that torture allows people to "extract information" that is of any value. And that taking away the ability to torture would be "robbing" people of this vital information.

The problem is that everyone with any experience will tell you that's a load of bullocks. torture just gives you a big pile of useless information. Fictions that the victims will spew out in hopes that you stop inflicting pain.

Once again, your mythology around torture doesn't line up with real world experience. THey line up with neocon propaganda and hollywood blood and guts films.

#123 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:04 AM:

I just re-read the entire thread, before departing for the night.

I'd like it administratively noted that, in spite of some of the ad hominem language directed against me, I have not responded in kind.

I am willing to continue tomorrow, with those who have managed to retain civility and have not stooped to name-calling.

Perhaps my key goof was in not focusing on the waterboarding specifically. In this same way, I goofed on the "Go Bag" thread and got us off on a firearms conversation.

Perhaps if I'd stuck strictly to the waterboarding topic (and I do not support waterboarding) things might have gone more smoothly?

Anyway, it's almost midnight, month-end is done, and I am going the hell home.

#124 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:31 AM:

Can you please find for me where I said, "I demand that our cops be allowed to waterboard! It's not torture!" I never said that.

No, you never said that. You did say that they should reach for the stick if the suspect doesn't confess after a half-dozen carrots or so. You talked about busting out teeth and breaking fingers, wasn't it?

You've already admitted that the husband is usually the one who killed his wife. Is there something else you want to tell me?

#125 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 04:35 AM:

"we need to be careful how far we expand our definition of 'torture'"

It sure is a slippery slope, the one day you're telling everyone to abide by the Geneva convention or it's torture, the next you're saying that if you don't give evil dictators free balloons and cake with strippers that's torture.

Soon our interrogators will not be able to get any information from people without having to first do insipid sing-alongs of You're my Best Friend and Kumbaya.

Are we really going to torture our own people just to make sure we don't torture others. Will nobody think of the tone-deaf interrogators!

#126 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:47 AM:

As I understand it, things like sleep deprivation are known to cause serious and often permanent psychological damage -- PTSD and even psychosis. Sounds like torture to me.

#127 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:09 AM:

#126--I have often wondered if people who think that "soft" torture techniques like bombardment with sound, light, or extreme temperatures have ever read the memoirs of anyone who's survived that. Take, for example, political prisoners in the USSR. One of the reasons I am devoutly against torture even on the so-called 'light' end of the spectrum is that I read at about age ten the biography of Richard Wurmbrand of Romania and other Christians imprisoned under Soviet regimes. Sometimes they were able to hold up under torture and give false information, and sometimes they confessed--but you could never say, going in to it, which would happen to you. And for example being taken from a metal cell where you were starved and beaten to a nice, comfortably furnished room where you were offered a wonderful meal, a soft bed, and a bath--and then had it taken away just before you could eat it, with the caveat that you could have it back if you confessed: this may not sound like "torture", but it was a very effective method. Same thing goes for blaring lights 24 hours a day or turning on loud music at unpredictable intervals.

I'm not Terry Karney and have never been an interrogator or a subject of interrogations. But having read the first-person accounts of people who have been the latter, I am far more likely to believe Mr. Karney & associated folk on this thread than anyone who says, "Oh, I wouldn't tell a lie, I'd rather take the pain." Sure, you'd rather take the pain and not lie--but there's a point at which your body betrays you. And what if you were being asked to tell something true to make the pain stop?

"There are four lights" -- Picard and the Cardassians. Torture isn't about information, it's about breaking your will.

#128 ::: Iorwerth Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 07:25 AM:

CRV @105: "Is sleep-deprivation "torture"?

"How about light-deprivation?

Constant, loud noise?"

Yes. They're psychological torture.

Irrelevant to the main thrust of the argument, I know, but it should be pointed out that not all torture is physical in nature.

There's at least one South American country where the dominant mode of torture by the secret police was psychological; it still f***ked up the victims something chronic.

(If you are wondering why sleep dep and loud noise can break someone, consider the prospect of trying to sleep while your neighbours are having a loud party next door, playing rap or metal music so loud that you can feel the walls and floors vibrate. Now make this continuous, 24-7 for days or weeks. You will probably not be in a very good mental condition when it concludes, and would probably confess to anything in order for it not to be continued.)

#129 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:01 AM:

CRV, I actually had to get up at 3 in the morning to write this post -- and I mean it mostly to and for you, in response to your posts about torture, and particularly your post 113.

First of all, I want to make it clear that nothing of what I am about to write is an attack on Christianity. I am also a Christian. Nor am I the least interested in discussing whether this level of brutality or that level of brutality "rises to the level of torture." You may have that conversation with someone else

With regard to whether or not you would renounce your faith under torture -- suppose the torturers do not torture you. Suppose they rape your daughter, and make your wife watch. Suppose they -- but I am not going to go on. Your imagination can supply the pictures. This is a moral principle we are dealing with. There are actions which moral human beings are not permitted to take, because if they do them and continue to do them, without repenting, they corrupt themselves, they rot -- they become less human.

You know the story of Abraham and Isaac. God sent an angel to prevent the sacrifice. God said, "Do not do the least hurt to your son." Some Talmudic scholars -- and remember, the Jewish teachers have been studying that story for centuries longer than Christian scholars have -- suggest in commentary that God's command to Abraham to sacrifice his son was a test, not of Abraham's faith, but of the maturity of Abraham's love as a human being, and that God was actually disappointed when Abraham obeyed without questioning him. The Eternal, Blessed be He, would have been happier had Abraham refused to obey! It would have showed a maturity that would have delighted God had it been present.

I mention this not because I believe that this interpretation is true -- it may be, I have no idea, since, unlike Abraham, the Lord does not speak to me -- but to point out to you that while your defense of your faith is admirable, your understanding that God would want you to defend your faith by allowing your daughter to watch her father being killed may be wrong.

Consider this: God -- the real one, not the imaginary version most of us carry around in our heads, the true God, the God who made the galaxies -- has no ego, and no honor to defend. Honor is a human concept, not a divine one.

Moreover, Jesus specifically told us that God does not want human sacrifices. Jesus is very clear in Matthew, when he talks about the kosher laws: what matters is not the letter of the law, but the relationship with God that the Law exists to bind us to. Jesus used to scold the Pharisees who came to question him because the Pharisees had a tendency to apply the Law blindly, to make the Law and obedience to it more important than loving your neighbor. Jesus ate and drank with "unclean" people, he ate without ritually washing his hands, he healed on the Sabbath: he deliberately and publicly disobeyed the Law in which he believed, to provide an example of a life in which holiness means not rigid adherence to the Law, but rather, a relationship with the living God.

If you were to force your child to watch her father be tortured, because you would not "renounce Christ," I suggest to you that that very act is forcing her to undergo tremendous suffering. I submit, such an act has nothing to do with faith -- it has more to do with human ego.

I do not believe in a God who requires children to be tortured in his name. That God is Moloch.

You may, if you feel your faith requires it, sacrifice your bodily integrity, your mind, and your life to the defense of the faith. You are not allowed to sacrifice someone else's sanity or life, and especially not your child's, a child God gave you.

I do not believe in a God who permits us to torture other people to save our own lives. "It is expedient that one man should die for the people." Torture if you so wish, for whatever "good" reasons you claim -- but do not pretend you have a shred of moral authority to do so.

If you want to respond to this, feel free to e-mail me; we can continue off thread. I may not be as coherent here as I wish to be; it's now 5 am, and I am going back to bed for a few hours sleep.

#130 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Iorwerth Thomas #128: playing rap or metal music so loud that you can feel the walls and floors vibrate

Zydeco works for this as well.

In any case, there's too much war porn in this thread; at some point, outrage fatigue starts to set in.

#131 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Shorter CRV @#123 "Please don't ban me for derailing yet. another. thread." Also a good example of the right-wing view that advocating for evil is more acceptable than being a meanie for good.

A quick highlight reel of CRV's civil remarks:

It's easy for us who don't have to make these decisions to climb up on a moral high-horse and run one index finger across the other over the moral depravity of our nation for deigning to stoop to forced information extraction.
Jim, I hope you are never placed in a position that would force you to question your moral certainty on this issue.
I just think we behind our keyboards are in no position to make glib moral evaluations, especially of the sweeping sort. The higher our horse, the more it will hurt when we fall off.
Terry, slow down with the psych couch session, please?
The whole thing just seems too pat, too simple, too smug.
If it was an easy moral call, we wouldn't be having this big national debate on it, now, would we?
If people think I am somehow a horrible man for what I write, I'm going to say they don't know anything about me and are in no position to make that call.
Again, people need to re-read post #83. [People who disagree with me don't understand me.]
And as I explained to Lee, in a manner far more gracious than Lee deserved, [...]
Maybe Halloween was the wrong night to dip my foot in this particular stream? [People's opinion of torture changes on holidays]

(And, while I'm wasting my time - CRV, don't you still owe a lot of people an apology for saying that people who warned against the Iraq War are happy now that it's gone badly?)

#132 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:16 AM:

well it could be that CRV is a troll, but I don't think I am willing to agree that he is yet. I am willing to suppose even that he is:

1. in the military
2. And is not really advocating for torture but is only confusedly trying to balance the conversation because he has been taught that such balancing makes one appear sagacious.

I could of course be wrong but I tend to have a low threshold for trollery.

#133 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:44 AM:

bryan@132: (I'm willing to suppose that CRV) is not really advocating for torture

He is against torture, of course. But he is saying that some forms of "soft" torture aren't really torture, that he could hold up to them, and that we shouldn't redefine this "soft" torture as real torture and take away a valuable tool from our interegators.

The one person who actually is an interegator and frequents this thread says "soft" torture is still torture, that he could get CRV to break in three days, and that torture produces worthless information since people will tell you anything to try and stop the pain.

Now, who are you going to believe? Someone who has had to deal with these issues on a daily basis for years. Or someone who says he knows because one time he hurt so much he passed out.

#134 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:56 AM:

It feels an awful lot like feeding a troll, but I can't resist...

CRV, you seem to think you're tough enough that the police couldn't beat a false confession out of you for killing your wife --- or make you falsely confess through, well... whatever other "interrogation methods" you approve. Your conviction in what you hold to be right would let you hold out.

Do you believe that terrorists captured in field operations are not as tough? And if they are, what keeps them, subjected to the same treatment, from holding out just as long in defense of their convictions --- or spinning out some diversionary story that's plausible but false?

Then again, you do have an out for not answering this question --- you haven't yet answered Jim either, and he has practical experience in the field, so in both respects, he's got priority...

#135 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:10 AM:

I'm willing to wager that many of us here have actually read TK's occasional commentary on interrogation, and his well written comments on why torture is wrong. Some of us may even have read the Pre-Bush FM 34-52 manual, and other articles on interrogation.

To answer CRV's questions, loud noises and sleep deprivation are not torture in the way that waterboarding is. Stress positions are, in my opinion torture.

TK gave a really simple, really easy to understand reason why torture, or death threats in the heat of combat as a means of interrogation, are such a bad idea, they can and should cost you your job. CRV, being a jackass, ignored that, and went on about sleep deprivation and loud noises.

You don't do that on a battlefield. If you're in a situation where you can do that to someone, you're a professional interrogator, not someone on the battlefield who's questioning someone in the heat of combat. Professional interrogators follow proven strategies for getting information. Those actual proven strategies do not include torture.

The point isn't that you wouldn't admit to murdering your wife, the point is, when some nutcase is about to shoot you, and you don't know what he wants to know, but he insists that you tell him which building people are shooting at his troops from, you point at some building, any building, to get him to stop. Or when you're drowning, you tell the torturer something you think he'd like to hear, be it true of not, in order to get him to stop.

In the case of getting military intelligence, life or death decisions, including blowing up potentially innocent people are made on this information.

This is why torture and fake interrogations are not only morally wrong, but bad policy. Since you keep insisting that they could be good policy, if only people would listen to your point, I can only conclude that you'd rather follow the "24" version of reality, rather than listen to actual experience.

You want torture to work. I'm guessing that it's because deep down, you want to hurt bad guys.

#136 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:16 AM:

CRV@99: bullshit. There have been enough documented cases of innocent people confessing under torture, and in some cases, simply relentless interrogation, to know that when a particular human being reaches a breaking point, HE OR SHE BREAKS. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt until I got to that point; that you fantasize yourself so strong and righteous that you can't be broken reveals where you're coming from.

#137 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Robert Farley on the real reason for torture over at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

You all get one guess as to whose side he's not on.

#138 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Greg London at 133:"Now, who are you going to believe? Someone who has had to deal with these issues on a daily basis for years. Or someone who says he knows because one time he hurt so much he passed out."

I didn't say anything about believing CRV was correct in his assessment of what or what does not constitute torture, or correct in his assessment of how long he could hold out, I said that I did not believe he was trolling.

As for whether or not he is correct in his assessments of what is what, I believe he is incorrect.

#139 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:28 AM:

Lizzie L @129: That is a marvelous interpretation of the Isaac story. I sometimes wonder (and, much like yourself, have no idea of whether it could be true) if God, in Her wisdom, doesn't want followers, but students. I have this vision of evolution-denying, Bible-spouting fundies getting to Heaven and getting and "f" in the course....

#140 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Just to put this in a speculative-fiction-like context, to point out something:

CRV wants to know how one would get information right now from someone he believes has it.

I would like to know how to personally travel faster than light.

There's a greater chance of finding an acceptable, reliable general answer to that second question.

One thing that the torture question masks is incompetence at, and lack of resources devoted to, developing information that would provide the same hypothetical information benefits (that is, in the eyes of those who advocate torture as a resource in the interrogator's toolkit) as might torture. Keep in mind, too, that torture destroys the credibility and usefulness of an information source on other issues... the threats that we might be able to prevent from turning into a "ticking time bomb."

#141 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:42 AM:

One thing that bothers me in discussions about torture is that it is always brought up that torture is ineffective.

That is a true statement. Torture is not an effective way of getting information.

But, even if it was, we should not torture. Not because it doesn't work, but because it is simply wrong.

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:43 AM:

The excuses for torture remind me very much of the arguments for "closure" in murder trials. "Closure" when read closely, is really spelled "revenge", as you can see when the family of the victim is upset because the defendant is found innocent and released, and they never address the possibility that someone else committed the crime and is still out there, unpunished.* They're upset in large part because they have been led to expect revenge for the hurt they and their loved ones have had.

* That so much of our justice system** is focused on punishment and "paying your debt to society" rather than prevention and rehabilitation emphasizes this notion of revenge. Not getting their revenge feels like an imbalance and an unfairness in a world they're told will be fair to the good guys. It's also informative that when they actually get their "closure", very few people find it satisfying.

** and not just in the US; notice the reactions to the acquittals in the Madrid bombings the other day.

#143 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:48 AM:

"CRV wants to know how one would get information right now from someone he believes has it.

I would like to know how to personally travel faster than light.

There's a greater chance of finding an acceptable, reliable general answer to that second question."

oh come on, a working ESP machine or 100% reliable truth serum is much more likely than FTL travel, or if not "much more likely", at least at the same level of likelihood.

#144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Bryan, #138: I agree with you that CRV isn't a troll. Trolls don't actually engage in a conversation, they just drop bombs and run. But I do think he's a bully and a troublemaker, an attention whore who delights in seeing just how far he can derail any given thread into being all about HIM.

I do not believe any longer that he is, or ever has been, an actual member of the Armed Forces. He just uses that as a magic-word argument which is supposed to give him credibility -- and probably does, in any conversation which doesn't contain real soldiers.

#145 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:40 PM:

I keep reading about Americans who pretend to be "war vets" in order to gain status and "cred"...

... what, exactly, is so grand about claiming "I wore a uniform and fired a gun"??

Wearing a uniform and firing a gun is not an intelligence test.

#146 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Steve #141: One thing that bothers me in discussions about torture is that it is always brought up that torture is ineffective...even if it was, we should not torture. Not because it doesn't work, but because it is simply wrong.

An excellent point, well put, and one I entirely agree with. And yet, I often bring up the fact that torture doesn't fucking work. Why?

I can, naturally, only speak for myself, but my reasons for bringing it up are, first, that the moral aspect doesn't seem to bother certain people, monstrous as I find that to be, and, second, that I find it totally bizarre that we have to have moral "debates" about things that just don't fucking work.

I mean, theoretically we could have a debate about the morality of, I don't know, kidnapping babies and drinking only their sweat for the rest of one's life, but seeing as how that wouldn't fucking work, nobody does it and we don't need to talk about the entirely obvious immorality of it.

But we do torture, supposedly to get useful information that will save lives. Despite the fact that the whole point of torture is to coerce its victims into saying whatever the torturer wants them to, and truth be damned. Why on Earth do we do something that exists specifically not to produce the results we supposedly want, and is clearly vile and evil to boot?

(Note: I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that question. It's more one o' them rhetorical types.)

#147 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:55 PM:

In post #120 Terry writes, "You said you wouldn’t confess to something you haven’t done. Allow me, in my professional opinion, to tell you this is also wrong. Give me three days, and you will confess. No pain is needed. Just some sleep loss, a bit of time dislocation and a modified eating schedule. You may not want to believe it, but the evidence of years; the records of thousands of people, say that you are wrong."

In post #128, Iowerth Thomas writes, "[sleep deprivation, loud noise, light deprivation] Yes. They're psychological torture. Irrelevant to the main thrust of the argument, I know, but it should be pointed out that not all torture is physical in nature. There's at least one South American country where the dominant mode of torture by the secret police was psychological; it still f***ked up the victims something chronic."

Now unless I am mistaken, the methods Terry would use to make me sing are well within his legal abilities as a trained National Guard interrogator. They involve no physical harm, per se, and are strictly psychological in nature.

Yet Iowerth has stated, in no uncertain terms, that he believes these methods do, in fact, constitute 'torture'.

I said before that the danger of drawing moral absolutes lay in the fact that 'torture' is defined differently from person to person, that even with Geneva in mind, what one person, group, or nation defines as "torture" can and will change, based on circumstance, based on politics, and that men (such as Terry, such as other Army people I know who have been to Iraq) are potentially being set up for unjust derision, judgment, or even legal punishment, if we just sit back and declare, "Torture is wrong and torturers are evil and should pay!"

Again, what is "torture"? Who decides? Who punishes the 'torturers' and why? We have Geneva, sure, but Geneva is just paper. It's what's in the national consciousness that will ultimately affect the lives of servicemembers, and if the national consciousness broadens the umbrella of "torture" to include methods currently being used by many soldiers in Iraq....

We're entering a period in our national history when the public desire to seek "justice" for everything that's happened since 9/11, might reach the point of bearing fruit.

I would like for us, as a country, to not take out our anger over Iraq, over Bush, on men and women in uniform who are simply trying to do their jobs.

Some here might scoff and say, "That would never happen!" I am not convinced. Not when people like Iowerth are already equating methods Terry would use, with torture. Hindsight is 20/20 and if enough Americans, in their desire to expunge the nation of the stain of torture, turn that desire into legal action against members of the armed forces....

Does this make my motivation a little clearer?

Again, I am not an apologist for sadists.

I'll say it ten more times.

I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.
I am not an apologist for sadists.

I am a defender of Soldiers trying to do their jobs in a time when their jobs are politically unpopular and they might wind up being hung from the proverbial lamp-post for what are, essentially, political decisions being made up top.

Again, will we prosecute or cast out Terry for 'torture'? I don't think anyone here would do that, because you know Terry and support him as a fellow traveler.

But if someone who doesn't know Terry, someone in a position of power, decides that everyone like Terry needs to be brought up on court martial, simply because the definition of "torture" has been politically broadened too far, what's going to happen to Terry and everyone like him? Is it fair to court martial Terry so that we, as citizens, feel like we've "rectified" the torture issue, for the sake of our collective conscience?

#148 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 12:58 PM:

Lizzy @ #129, an enormously thoughtful post which deserves a considered response. I have to run out of the office for a bit, but I will try to give your post the response it deserves this afternoon.

#149 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:03 PM:

For all the haters.... Neh. Whatever.

I cause "trouble" because I sometimes hold convictions that don't jive with the conventional wisdom of the ML populace, and I am willing to speak on these differences and not automatically back down just because a few people get upset, or think I am full of shit.

As for being a bully, WTF? I am not the one chasing people from thread to thread and questioning their every move, using invective and ad hominem attacks, etc.

Look in the mirror, haters.

#150 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:15 PM:

CRV

I am not an apologist for sadists.

Then for Ghu's sake, stop trying to justify sadism!
That's what torture is, even the 'psychological' kind, even the 'non-damaging' kind.
The people who do it seem to enjoy it. That makes them sadists. They aren't doing it with consenting adults, which might, possibly, make it marginally acceptable in a social and legal sense.

(sorry about the shouting, but it seems to be the only way to get your attention)

#151 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:15 PM:

CommunityRadioVet @65: Jim, I hope you are never placed in a position that would force you to question your moral certainty on this issue.

CRV, we don't have to believe you're a moral cretin on the basis of what you write here, in order to understand that everything you write is wrong. (For the record, can I be counted among the half who don't claim you're absolutely evil? Feel free to point out the other half to me.)

Word to the wise: When you offer examples of instances where you would definitely, absolutely, have no problem beating the shit out of somebody, you can't weasel out of it later by saying "Hey, cool down, I said I was just playing Devil's Advocate, here." As a rhetorical caveat, that is meaningless and without value.

For that matter, is forced extraction of information always wrong? Well, the information is...or is, at best, absolutely unreliable, since if it's "forced," it can be whatever you wanted the subject to say. What part of "forced" do you not understand? (See any number of cases where suspects held and/or convicted on the basis of compelled confessions were ultimately exonerated.)

Dept. of Moot Point: CRV @90 plays the Taking-My-Ball-And-Going-Home card...

...but here he is back @99:

The cops could beat me to death, but if I didn't kill my wife, I wouldn't say I killed my wife just to keep them from beating me to death.

Good for you. By the way, why in #61 were you willing to assume there was information that could "only be had" by you beating the shit out of somebody? By your subsequent claim here, you admit that beating someone to death can't make them say what we want. If in fact the fear of being beaten to death could make someone tell us the truth, then wouldn't the mere threat of such suffice to make them confess? If they aren't afraid of dying, then what would the beatings accomplish? At what point in the process of being beaten to death do you suppose you might change your belief that you would never lie to make the beatings stop? 'Cause I'd hate for, like, your moral certainty to be clouded or anything.

What is your point, anyway, in claiming to be so noble that no amount of torture up to the point of death could make you lie? That somehow this makes beating information out of other people okay? Why? Because they're weaker in moral fibre than you?

(While we're at it: Death is transitory?)

CRV @95, Nenya@127: Interviews of victims of both psychological and physical torture elicited the perhaps surprising opinion that, ultimately, from their perspective, the psychological torture was worse.

#152 ::: Eric Kidd ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:21 PM:

I hate having to argue that "torture doesn't work." There's something unclean about the very words. If we speak them, we acknowledge that we can no longer appeal to human decency or common morality. It should be enough to say that, "Torture is wrong. If anything is a work of the devil, it is breaking a man, tormenting him until he would eagerly forswear his children or his God."

In Orwell's 1984, O'Brien threatens Winston with a cage of rats. And Winston breaks, begging O'Brien to torture Winston's lover Julia instead:

The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then--no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment--one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

"Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!"

The torture-mongers tell us that we must become O'Brien, breaking men in hopes of saving our own lives. They ask us to measure out pain and sadism scientifically, applying no more than necessary, for we are not a cruel nation. But if we wish to live, they say, we must do these things.

What an honorable man or woman could buy their own life at such a price? Better to die, and save one's soul.

#153 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Steve, #141: You're absolutely right. Torture is wrong, full stop; that should be enough.

Unfortunately, there's a significant subclass* of people who believe that "under some circumstances" torture is okay -- because they also believe that it works. You can't reach them using the "it's morally wrong" argument, because they've already rejected that. The only hope you have of getting them to stop supporting torture is to convince them that their grounds for doing so are invalid.

Even more unfortunately, most of them are living in a Hollywood fantasy world in which "24" is a documentary, and they don't want to believe that torture doesn't work.

* In multiple senses.

#154 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:28 PM:

CRV again, @147: We have Geneva, sure, but Geneva is just paper.

Oh. Apparently, "paper" to you means something you wipe your ass with, then.

Like the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Oath of Office, the Code of Military Conduct, every law on the books. Just paper.

We're entering a period in our national history when the public desire to seek "justice" for everything that's happened since 9/11, might reach the point of bearing fruit.

What the hell does this mean? We're about to round up Osama and all his cronies? Or what to you mean exactly by "everything that's happened since 9/11"? Personally, my desire for justice would be satisfied if Bush and more of his cronies were rounded up.

Hindsight is 20/20 and if enough Americans, in their desire to expunge the nation of the stain of torture, turn that desire into legal action against members of the armed forces....

Members of the armed forces who tortured people? You bet. Also civilian interrogators who tortured people. Not because I have a desire to "expunge the nation of the stain of torture," although I do. But because torture is a crime and deserves to be answered by legal action.

Hey, you have a problem with prosecuting anyone for a crime they committed when they happened to be members of the armed forces?

#155 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:38 PM:

As for morality and ethics - if you're a moral, ethical, and courageous person, you already know that torture is wrong.

(quoting myself, I know - but apparently it needs to be said again).

Pretty much sums up my opinion on it. Arguments about pragmatism are useful only to try and persuade the morally bankrupt, the ethically challenged, and the cowards. Even if torture were as effective as 24 and other stupid shows portray, even if the VP were right about its efficacy in retrieving militarily useful and relevant information in most circumstances, it would still be wrong.

There are weapons and tactics we do not use specifically because they are wrong in all circumstances. There are others we have threatened to use only in extremis.

Torture belongs to the first category.

#156 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:41 PM:

CRV: I am not the one chasing people from thread to thread and questioning their every move, using invective and ad hominem attacks, etc.

Well, you wouldn't regenerate from flame damage.

#157 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:43 PM:

CRV@147:

...I am not an apologist for sadists.

I am a defender of Soldiers trying to do their jobs in a time when their jobs are politically unpopular and they might wind up being hung from the proverbial lamp-post for what are, essentially, political decisions being made up top.

Except that soldiers can and have disobeyed direct orders to interrogate with force (wink). And yet, these Higher Ups always manage to find someone who is willing to do just that, no qualms about it. So yes, you are in fact apologizing for sadists. You've just underestimated the population density of sadist-American in our Armed Forces.

#158 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 01:43 PM:

CRV, allow me to quote your own words about what people found objectionable in what you, yourself said

I don't know about anyone else, but if my wife and child were in potential danger, or missing, or kidnapped, and I could secure information that would lead to their safe recovery, and this information could only be had by beating the shit out of somebody until they talk. Yeah, OK, I am gonna beat the shit out of that somebody.

If I am in Iraq or Afghanistan and my squad is in peril, or I've got a Private who's been kidnapped and might be dead very quickly if I don't find out where he is, and the key to my finding him or keeping my squad safe, is to bust out the teeth of somebody and break their fingers. Yeah, I think I am gonna bust out some teeth and break fingers to get the info I need.

My point?

It's easy for us who don't have to make these decisions to climb up on a moral high-horse and run one index finger across the other over the moral depravity of our nation for deigning to stoop to forced information extraction.

Your were brought to account on these words, and then tried to slip out of it by bringing in sleep deprivation, loud noise, and bright lights.

What you really did in your fist comment was, in fact, an apology for torture. No one in the original article mentioned sleep dep, or bright lights. What was strictly mentioned was supervised drowning of someone to get them to break psychologically, also known as watarboarding. No one in the Senate is asking Mukasey about sleep dep, lights or loud music, and more to the point, you were not talking about them when you wrote the words "Yeah, OK, I am gonna beat the shit out of that somebody." and "the key to my finding him or keeping my squad safe, is to bust out the teeth of somebody and break their fingers. Yeah, I think I am gonna bust out some teeth and break fingers to get the info I need."

You were being an apologist for torture, and indicating a desire to engage in it. It's really dumb to deny it, because the record is out there, and you can't undo it. You said those things, and then you got upset that folks here called you an apologist for torture, and introduced a few red herrings about not breaking when someone would be torturing you, and how sleep deprivation and bright lights aren't torture.

You seem to be under the impression that these red herrings get you off for claims that, if you in your uneducated, foolish, and bloodthirsty opinion thought it was necessarily to torture someone, you'd do it.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

You are an apologist for sadistic torturers, and given the opportunity, it's clear you'd like to be one.

There. I repeated myself a few times more than you did. That proves something, right?.

#159 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:01 PM:

You know what?

Forget it. Fewer and fewer people here have any desire to engage in any kind of discussion about the moral, ethical, and legal 'moving target' that is "torture", as defined in these politically heated times.

Nobody even addresses my statement that "torture" is a word whose definition changes from person to person, nation to nation, and can be politically expanded or retracted, both legally, legislatively, and in the minds of the populace; that this 'moving target' definition could be turned against good men and women and they could be punished either socially or legally for "crimes" that are only "crimes" after the fact.

I stand for Soldiers not being made the scapegoats. Myself included.

I also stand for Soldiers being given the benefit of the doubt, when they are under terrible pressure, in a maddeningly difficult war which most servicepeople didn't ask for, yet all of us are being held accountable for.

If people still want me to be the guy on the dunking machine for their righteous indignation, I'm not up for that anymore.

I've enjoyed this forum (mostly) for its diversity of ideas, and the calibre of its populace, for roughly a year now.

But if this is the best this forum can do, when discussing an emotionally charged subject, then I would probably be doing us all a favor to just bug out. It's not worth it to me to keep typing all this, and many of you obviously don't see me as being a worthy partner of discussion any longer. Just a "troll" or a "troublemaker".

Lizzy, I still thought you made a great post. As a Christian, I appreciated the thought that went into it a great deal. It was a marvelous post.

But this thread, and ML in general, doesn't feel like the kind of place where I want to bear my soul anymore. Too many people are poised to pour acid, assume the worst, make me the enemy.

Yes, maybe I earned all this bad treatment, through mistakes, through thinking out loud, through being too contrarian at times.

But enough is enough. The good faith has been expended.

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:05 PM:

This morning on NPR, the letters section of Morning Edition was devoted to a discussion of a report by Anne Garrels, where she was led unaware to the stronghold of a Shiite militia, and given an opportunity to interview two men, both members of the militia, whom the militia had tortured to demonstrate how they were cleaning up their act (bizarre as that may seem).

You can hear the discussion segment here.

Note that at no point does Garrels say she believed that the two torture victims she saw were guilty of the crimes to which they'd confessed; she says only that she was able to verify that the events in question occurred. To me this means the torturers were looking for someone to blame for a couple of crimes known to have been committed by Shiite militiamen, and decided these two were the appropriate scapegoats.

#161 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:06 PM:

I keep reading about Americans who pretend to be "war vets" in order to gain status and "cred"...

... what, exactly, is so grand about claiming "I wore a uniform and fired a gun"??

Tell me, what find we to admire
In epaulets and scarlet coats,
In men, because they load and fire,
And know the art of cutting throats?

--"The Chronicle of the Drum", Thackeray

#162 ::: Jeremy Preacher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:08 PM:

My understanding of the ineffectiveness of torture is rather visceral. Permit me a brief anecdote:

I have any number of tattoos, over a substantial part of my torso. Getting them done hurt in varying degrees, depending on their location, my mental and physical state going into it, and the length of the session. I can say with some confidence that I'm not particularly wimpy about pain.

One of these tattoos is an upper-arm band. It goes all the way around, and the inner part is almost in my armpit. (A tip: avoid this spot. It ain't worth it.) During the fourth or fifth pass, I caught myself on the verge of biting my tattooist, a lovely woman who certainly didn't deserve it - after all, *I* was paying *her* for this. It wasn't rational, it wasn't a matter of self control or courage or anything, it was simply my hindbrain grabbing at the reins to get out of a situation it had decided was unbearable, using whatever means necessary.

It was the creepiest thing I've ever felt. And I knew in that moment that however strong or principled or whatever I'd imagined myself to be, there was a situation that would break me. And there would be absolutely no judgement involved at all - it's all animal instincts, at that point. I would say or do ANYTHING to make it stop.

I doubt I'll convince CRV of this, or anyone else, really - but *I'm* convinced. Utterly. I wouldn't wish torture of any stripe on anyone.

#163 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Greg: The one person who actually is an interegator and frequents this thread says "soft" torture is still torture, that he could get CRV to break in three days, and that torture produces worthless information since people will tell you anything to try and stop the pain.

To clarify, Three days is the time frame in which I think I, without constraints, can break anyone; to the point they will sign whatever I put in front of them, admit to anything I ask, and betray whatever principles they thought they had when they came into the booth.

That’s a pretty solid figure. Why do I say this? Because 72 hours is all we expect/ask anyone to hang on to secrets.

And no, simple abuse isn’t torture.

Steve: That’s a peeve of mine too, but there is no way to avoid the question of efficacy, because those who want to allow torture will always bring it up. It was that, as much as anything else, which CRV started spouting; which set me off.

CRV: Now unless I am mistaken, the methods Terry would use to make me sing are well within his legal abilities as a trained National Guard interrogator. They involve no physical harm, per se, and are strictly psychological in nature.

Once again, you are mistaken. Yes, with some; so they tell me, permissions (which are supposed to be non-delegable, and only come from the office of the SecDef) some amounts of sleep-dep, climate manipulation, food modification and time loss (and how pathetic that we’ve got such harmless sounding phrases for them) are allowed. They are not, per doctrine; unless it’s in some SECRET annex I’ve not seen, allowed to be used in concert. Why? Because that’s torture.

I am going to say this again, without the shreds of concealment it seems I’ve had on my previous statements (and doing a view all by and search might help a lot, at least you won’t think I’ve been mean to you, or treated as harshly as I’ve treated others. You have gotten a lot of slack, but the rope is really short, because at this point my civility to your sanctimony is just about expended), (such as Terry, such as other Army people I know who have been to Iraq) are potentially being set up for unjust derision, judgment, or even legal punishment, if we just sit back and declare, "Torture is wrong and torturers are evil and should pay!"

Any derision people get, is just. Torture is wrong. torture is evil. Torture debases those who do it, the societies which endorse it and harms those who suffer it. To argue for it is a stain on a person. I have not called you evil, per se I have called you, and until you renounce it will continue to do so, a torture monger; because you are.

If that hurts your feelings, tough.

I would like for us, as a country, to not take out our anger over Iraq, over Bush, on men and women in uniform who are simply trying to do their jobs.

WTF, over? Where did this come in. Here’s my take on that trope.... it’s dochstlosss and probably more pernicious than the torture crap. If the job they are asked to do is immoral, then anger is an appropriate response (which is why I am , probably, not fit to sit on a court martial where torture is alleged. I can be less than rational on the subject).

Again, will we prosecute or cast out Terry for 'torture'? I don't think anyone here would do that, because you know Terry and support him as a fellow traveler.

Bullshit. They are better people than that. If I were to torture they sure as hell would toss me out. They might send me letters in prison, hope for my rehabilitation, but they would (and should) be pissed as all fuck at me for failing to live up to my obligations to my fellow man. I hope they would want to see me tried, and if convicted, punished.

Don’t ask me how I feel about the torturers I know. You won’t like the answers.

And when you say you don’t apologise for sadists, you are wrong. The “soft” tortures you think are ok, if the person doing them isn’t doing it for “pleasure” is still apologising for inflicting pain to no good purpose, and you are an apologist for it.

You've also not said where you draw the lines. What level of remove is allowable. Where are the grey areas of molesting children.

As for being a bully, WTF?

Look at that list FungiFromyYuggoth posted. those were all bullying tactics. Accusing me of high horse, telling me to back down, hoping Jim “never has to be in a position to come to realise you are correct about soft tortures, etc. are all attempts to push people off their game/position with leverage, not argument.


#164 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:11 PM:

And is it just me, or is this the third time in a month that CRV has stormed out, never to return?

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:16 PM:

CRV: You broke. You raised a subject (in a forum you know disagrees with the bedrock premise).

You kept stoking the fire

And you flounced.

Reflounced.

Told us you didn't like the tone; you, after all, had been civil in telling us we were idiots.

And now you say the failure of us to forswear our convictions, in the face of your arguments (when you wouldn't forswear yours to save your life; and you think that laudable) is so horrid you can't take it anymore.

So you broke; no torture involved.

#166 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Eric #152:

I take the torture debate to be about three different questions:

a. What works?

b. Is torture always morally wrong?

c. What are the limits on doing immoral, horrible things to achieve some good result or goal?

I have to rely on experts like Terry for information about (a), and even so, I'm still reluctant to fully believe that torture doesn't work, because I really *want* to believe that. I want the moral dilemma in (c) to go away.

As far as (b), whether it's acceptable to torture people known to be bad guys is a moral premise that we don't all share--I believe it's always evil, even if we could do it to Osama or Adolph Hitler. Is it acceptable to torture innocent people? If you don't accept that torture is evil in all cases, I don't see how you get to the idea that it was unacceptable in all cases to do it to innocent people, because we already accept killing and maiming people, blowing apart the kid's mom in front of him, flattening whole buildings or neighborhoods, as part of war. It's part we try to minimize, but we accept collateral damage and live with it.

And we ultimately get to (c). Are there circumstances where the "right" thing to do is to abandon morality and do whatever it takes to win, or to accomplish our goal?

I took CRV's #61 to be about (c), saying that in some circumstances, it would be the right thing to do to violate all the other rules of morality or civilized behavior, in order to accomplish some very important goal. This is the argument behind the "ticking time bomb scenario," for all its flaws. Are there times when it would be morally acceptable to do unspeakably evil things to achieve some goal like the safety of millions of people?

As an individual, I can answer it--I don't think I'd ever take part in torture (or other crimes of that magnitude), even to save my life or the lives of my wife or kids. But of course, I've never been in the situation to need to make the choice, so maybe I'm just telling myself a happy story.

As a nation, (c) is routinely decided in the other direction. We maintained peace with the USSR for many years by convincing them that if they murdered 100 M of us, we'd murder 100 M of them. Nuking Moskow would surely have been a more horrible crime than torturing a suspected terrorist, and yet we just went ahead and planned on that. We bombed the hell out of civilians in Japan and Germany, and also bombed civilians Vietnam and Cambodia, and we've bombed and shot up plenty of places in Iraq. We'll probably soon do the same in Iran. [It would be nice if this horror were factored into discsusions of when we should go to war.)

Now, I'm as sure as I can be that torture is morally wrong, and that ends-justify-the-means arguments pave the fast lane to hell on earth. But I can't put together a coherent moral explanation of war, or even many of the other things nations do.

#167 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 03:22 PM:

My letter to NPR about the Garrels segment:

I'm writing for two reasons.

First, to say that I continually marvel at the almost superhuman courage of Anne Garrels; while I didn't hear the original segment (her interview with two torture victims in a Shiite militia safe house), I heard your discussion of it this morning.
Some people do brave things, and I think "I wonder if I would have the courage to do that." But I know for sure that I would NOT have the courage to allow a Shiite militia to spirit me away to an unknown location for an interview. My jaw literally dropped when I realized what she'd done to get that story.
The second reason I'm writing is to say that I'm appalled that some listeners, apparently unappreciative of the huge risk she was taking by going there, and unmindful of the danger she was in as the interview went forward, took her to task for conducting the interview and using the information afterwards!
I note that at no time did she say that the two torture victims actually committed the crimes they'd confessed to, but only that she was able to verify that the events they described actually took place. To me that means that the militia chose them as the scapegoats for crimes known to have been committed by members of the militia, and tortured them until they confessed.
Like the American servicemen in Iraq, Anne Garrels risks her life every day to do her job. Ms. Garrels, I'm sorry some of my fellow listeners are so foolish. You have my respect and awed admiration.
Garrels sounded both exhausted and exasperated this morning. She's such an amazing person, and she doesn't deserve this bullshit.
#168 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 03:35 PM:

Terry 163:Bullshit. They are better people than that. If I were to torture they sure as hell would toss me out. They might send me letters in prison, hope for my rehabilitation, but they would (and should) be pissed as all fuck at me for failing to live up to my obligations to my fellow man. I hope they would want to see me tried, and if convicted, punished.

Well, true, but if you were accused of torture I wouldn't believe it, and would do everything I could to make sure your writings on the subject were introduced in court, and do anything I could to help in your defense against an accusation I would know had to be false.

So if you really did torture someone (having lost your mind for some unknown reason), how would we know?

If you confessed, I would assume you were tortured. Even if you wrote me a private personal letter that I knew was not coerced, I'd assume they broke you and that you no longer knew the truth.

I suppose if they had videotape of you doing it, I'd believe it. Though with the state of digital video technology these days, I would still have grave doubts, and I would then believe you were broken before the torture you were accused of, because nothing less than a complete mind-Cuisinarting could make you into a torturer.

Just my humble opinion.

#169 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 03:45 PM:

As in intelligence professional, and having been in that profession for almost thirty years. I'll say it loud and clear. Torture is ALWAYS wrong, and it is ALWAYS unreliable. And anybody who tells you any different is a liar, pure and simple...

#170 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 03:55 PM:

I would like for us, as a country, to not take out our anger over Iraq, over Bush, on men and women in uniform who are simply trying to do their jobs.

If your "job" is doing what Bush tells you to do, then yes, I will take you to task for doing that job. The nation and the world should take such people to task, as well.

Bush couldn't get away with what he's done if the people he had told to do it told him "no, that's wrong." The problem of corrupt and misguided government doesn't stop with the elected leaders, it also rests in the people who blindly follow the leaders into the wrong, rather than thinking and deciding on the morality of the proposed actions before they act. Part of your job, whatever your job is, is always humanity and morality. And you can't outsource your conscience.

#171 ::: James Killus ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 04:26 PM:
It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of narcissists' lack of empathy. It colors everything about them. I have observed very closely some narcissists I've loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning. These are educated people with high IQs, who've had ordinary middle-class backgrounds and schooling, and their thinking is not only illogical but weird: with narcissists, you have to know them pretty well to understand their behavior. For instance, they always fill in their gaps (which make up just about the entirety of their visible life) with bits of behavior, ideas, tastes, opinions, etc., borrowed from someone else whom they regard as an authority. Their authoritative sources, as far as I know, are always people they've actually known, not something from a book, for instance, and narcissists' opinions may actually come from someone you know, too, but who is not to you obviously an authority on the matter at hand, so narcissists can seem totally arbitrary, virtually random in their motivations and reasoning. They are evidently transfixed by a static fantasy image of themselves, like Narcissus gazing at his reflection, and this produces an odd kind of stillness and passivity. Because their inner life is so restricted and essentially dead, it doesn't contain images of how to live a full life -- these things are not important to them, they expect others to look after day-to-day chores, they resent wasting their specialness on common things, they don't put their heart into their work (though they'll tell you how many hours they put into it), they borrow their opinions and preferences and tastes from whomever strikes them as authoritative at the moment.
--How to recognize a narcissist:

Never love anything that can't love you back.

#172 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 04:48 PM:

anne bremster @110:
(If you're reading this). Welcome to the rest of the site! You've been such a pleasure to read in the Salwar Kameez thread; it's nice to see you here as well.

Don't be put off by the tone of this particular thread. This is as testy as I've seen everyone in a long old time.

#173 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 04:49 PM:

CRV: I stand for Soldiers

Sheesh. You said some stupid and vile things, and now you're trying to hide in a crowd? Show a little honor, why don't you? Take responsibility for what you write.

And while I'm at it: When you argue that torture depends on definition, when you publicly engage in sick fantasies about torturing criminals, when you you make evil banal with euphemisms like "information extraction", you aren't playing Devil's Advocate. You're being played by the Devil.

#174 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:04 PM:

CRV writes: Nobody even addresses my statement that "torture" is a word whose definition changes from person to person, nation to nation, and can be politically expanded or retracted, both legally, legislatively, and in the minds of the populace; that this 'moving target' definition could be turned against good men and women and they could be punished either socially or legally for "crimes" that are only "crimes" after the fact.

Hey, I'll address it!

Torture is torture. If in fact troops or civilian interrogators in our employ did utilize tactics including waterboarding and beatings, they weren't crimes "after the fact." They were crimes after the Geneva Convention was signed. They were crimes during World War Two, by this country's own definition. If good men and women commit crimes, they should expect to be punished, legally, anyway. Or so one supposes.

And Bush can't declare "We. Don't. Torture. Period" then wave his hands and magically make practices we used in interrogations become "not torture."

#175 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Josh @ 158: CRV describing busting teeth and breaking fingers sounds like Charles Foster Kane describing the jailing of Boss Gittes; that he feels it would not only be his duty, but his great pleasure.

#176 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Xopher @168, one of the society-shattering side-effects of torture is that it kills the basic ability to trust what another person describes as reality.

If you can't trust Terry to know whether he did or did not do what he was tortured into admitting, and you can't trust the guy you're having coffee with not to hand you over to the torturers, and you can't trust the people you have to interact with (shopkeepers, teachers, colleagues, etc.) you cannot create an effective resistance to the torturers.

#177 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Richard @174: about "breaking fingers" - "round them up and break their arms and legs" is the notorious order given by the late Itzchak Rabin (yeah, the "peace" prime minister who was murdered by a right-wing Israeli 14 years ago). See the Wikipedia, under Opposition MK and Minster of Defense.

The order was carried out by Israeli soldiers, perpetrated upon the youngsters who were resisting Israeli occupation during the first Intifada uprising (1986-1993 or so).

It was torture-for-intimidation, torture-for-crowd-control: round up the young kids and inflict pain and debilitation. It led to the obvious eventual outcome: rage that focused on revenge beyond self-interest (suicide bombings).

#178 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:23 PM:

albatross @ 166: If you don't accept that torture is evil in all cases, I don't see how you get to the idea that it was unacceptable in all cases to do it to innocent people, because we already accept killing and maiming people, blowing apart the kid's mom in front of him, flattening whole buildings or neighborhoods, as part of war. It's part we try to minimize, but we accept collateral damage and live with it.

One of the problems with torture is that, by its nature, you can't really do it to an active combatant. You can only do it to someone who has surrendered himself or herself into your care; whether you managed to actually physically overpower that person, whether they submitted to arrest peacefully, or whether they made a judgment call not to continue fighting you to the death, they are now completely at your mercy.

But you make a compelling argument for never having gotten ourselves into this mess in the first place.

#179 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:24 PM:

One of the best-conceived scenes in the film of The Fellowship of the Ring takes place the Council of Elrond. As the men and the dwarves the elves fall to dispute about what to do next, and even Gandalf is starting to shout, Frodo sees the reflection of the quarrel in the Ring. Jackson shows us, with that shot, how Frodo comes to understand the One Ring.

Notice how every time we talk about torture here, it erupts into discord and upset?

This makes CRV Boromir. I can't say that that rings* false.

-----
* as it were

#180 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Dena @ 177: I imagine that guys like the soldier who led his troops on an illegal mission to assassinate a suspected insurgent, then, when he couldn't find his target, dragged some random guy out of his house, shot him, and planted a gun next to the corpse, would ultimately provoke similar responses.

#181 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:27 PM:

CRV writes: Nobody even addresses my statement that "torture" is a word whose definition changes from person to person, nation to nation, and can be politically expanded or retracted, both legally, legislatively, and in the minds of the populace; that this 'moving target' definition could be turned against good men and women and they could be punished either socially or legally for "crimes" that are only "crimes" after the fact.

The only reason why the word "torture" seems to change meaning is because the folks who want to get away with torture try to redefine the horrors the wish to commit as being "not torture."

The law, and society, has had a pretty good idea of what torture is for a very long time. Despite Shrub & Co.'s attempts at word games.

We don't accept those word games, and aren't going to play along.

#182 ::: Iorwerth Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:52 PM:

CRV: "Again, what is "torture"? Who decides? Who punishes the 'torturers' and why?"

If I regarded this argument from the vagueness of a definition to the non-existence of the concept referred to by that definition as valid, I suspect that I'd be going around claiming that there are no bald people, not mention that there's no such thing as quantum physics [1]...

[1] Which would make my day job a little difficult.

#183 ::: Iorwerth Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:54 PM:

182: Aaargh. That should be 'not to mention'...

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 05:56 PM:

anne bremster @110: What Abi said.

Abi: With some sense of regret (but no apologies), I was more than testy. I let myself get a little out of hand esp. up around #69. Sometime after that I got pissed off.

So I went away, before I said something for which I'd think an apology was required.

Xopher: Your faith in me is wonderful. I hope I can live up to it.

#185 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Terry 184: You can and will.

#186 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:11 PM:

Terry @ 184:

It's like not wearing your seat belt. Should you ever be tempted, you'll know that everyone at ML will want to know what the heck you were thinking, and the thought of explaining here will bring you back to your senses.

#187 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:30 PM:

General comment:

The fact that a concept or crime is fuzzy around the edges doesn't mean it's not possible to discuss it, or that there's no reason to draw some kind of line. For example, there is a fuzzy boundary between the kind of "puffery" that most salesmen use and actual fraud. That is not a reason to discard the concept of fraud or to stop prosecuting it. The world is *full* of fuzzy lines, categories, etc., and yet those are still useful and important.

#188 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:30 PM:

OK, I confess. I agree with one thing CRV said: Lizzy, I still thought you made a great post. As a Christian, I appreciated the thought that went into it a great deal. It was a marvelous post.

Indeed, Lizzy L, you are a light and a delight; I have said this before. Your post at 129 is a pearl. It's a shame it needed such an irritant to create it.

#189 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 06:34 PM:

Terry @184:

You did fine. You do fine. You will do fine. Don't worry.

#190 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 07:08 PM:

Iorwerth Thomas (182):
...claiming that there are no bald people, not mention that there's no such thing as quantum physics...

Monsieur, it is not that you are bald, but rather that your hair principally exists in a state of Heisenbergian Uncertainty.

#191 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 07:16 PM:

Born to be baaaald...

#192 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Martin @ 17,

I didn't get around to answering that one when it was at Unqualified Offerings, but I think it doesn't work in torture discussions because it's offering a reward rather than offering to relieve pain.

Michael @ 21,

There's a lot of art I'd like to see. How about a TV show set in a torture rehab ward?

Or yes, a show about wrong person getting tortured? Or one where the ordinary legal system goes after a private person who tortures because it was an emergency? Or the system hares off on false leads because tortured people will say whatever their torturers want to hear?

Or maybe a show or two about Truth and Justice Commissions?

Lately, I've noticed a little art which includes professional, no-torture interrogation. Nora Roberts' _Innocence in Death_ has her ongoing detective Eve Dallas, use logic + "I understand how you feel" on suspects. I don't recommend the book--it's annoying in any number of ways--but it meets the moral minimum of No Torture by the Good Guys.

Michael Flynn's eerie "The Forest of Time" has a professional interrogator who uses persistence and logic and nothing else. One of the other government people who gets creative is causing more and more damage.

Eric @ 22,

I count 1984 as semi-realistic. People typically don't get tortured by intellectual stalkers, they get ground up routinely in the system by people who don't care nearly that much about the insides of their victim's minds. On the other hand, 1984 was apparently optimized to scare intellectuals into action.

Eric @ 23,

Thanks for the reminder of the Henley quote--I missed it the first time around, probably because my brain was shorting out from his alternate scenario.

Back when the torture discussion was fresh, I saw a British quote from the 1800s saying that the first argument against torture is that it's cowardly. The past really is a different country--I can't imagine a modern person starting with that point. Modern people start either with the practical or cruelty. Still, torture *is* cowardly--and stupid, because the underlying assumption is that the person being tortured has no one who will strike back.

albatross @ 36.

I've been noticing that thread in American popular fiction for a long time. Abu Graib brought it into sharp focus, but it first struck me in (I think) Next Gen. A reasonably large, athletic-looking human (Ryker?) is minorly abusing a short fat Ferengi. As a short fat merchant myself, my sympathies aren't going in the direction the script-writer intends. Especially when the Ferengi starts saying he has neck problems. Of course, the Ferengi is lying or exaggerating--I can't remember if the scene is played for laughs--but here's another scenario. What if the person being tortured is accidentally killed or crippled?

Naomi @ 36,

Considering the ill effects of torturing recruits so they'll know how to deal with torture, I wonder if even that limited, careful use is morally wrong. Does anyone know if that sort of instructional torture is known to do any good?

CommunityRadioVet, you aren't being a cute devil's advocate, you're supporting something demonic. And if there are no demons, then it's one of the better approximations a material universe can produce.

CRV, what would you do if someone you cared about was in the hands of an organization you knew uses torture?

How much more likely are people to surrender to an organization they know doesn't torture? (And why isn't this argument used more often?)

The world isn't going to end in the next three days, which means that it's important to use strategies which work for the years and decades.

And your idea that torture is only evil if its fun for the torturer is another way that popular art has led us wrong. Just because you're serious and think you're doing the right thing (like a good guy torturer) doesn't mean you aren't doing something evil and destructive. Being angry instead of sexually turned on doesn't get you off the hook.

I'm sorry if you feel your friends are being insulted. Sometimes it turns out that people who are pleasant to be around and helpful have done bad things in other parts of their lives.

Even if you're as tough as you say you are, do you think it's a good thing for police to use torture to try to get confessions out of the spouses of murder victims?

And if everyone's complex and so on, why are you morally absolutist about the badness of terrorists?

All torture is wrong. I don't know whether everyone who tortures is a hideous villain--conscience is called a still small voice for a reason. People who aren't especially evil are more likely to engage in torture if they've been told again and again that there are good reasons for torture. You are part of the problem.

I am not trying to argue that torturers are always and completely bad people, especially when they've been told by their superiors and their culture that torture is legitimate. I am arguing that torture is always a bad activity and shouldn't be encouraged.

There are no good reasons for torture. Even if torture produces sound information 10% of the time (do you have a basis for that number?) it may not be worth it. People win some of the times they gamble, but on the whole they lose money.

People are easily confused by the occasional win.

#193 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:01 PM:

abi at 188, thank you.

I am so moved by the openness, wit, intelligence and generosity of so many of the people who post here. Thank you, and thank you, Patrick and Teresa, again.

#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Lizzy L... Abi... My thanks to you and to others for making ML the place it is. My life would be a few friendships short.

#195 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:22 PM:

I am amazed that no one else has brought up the Milgram experiment yet. This is one of the chief dangers of becoming a society which considers "some forms" of torture (but not, of course, called torture) to be acceptable. The slippery slope on this topic isn't just hypothetical -- and it's coated with glare ice.

#196 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 08:29 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz: What if the person being tortured is accidentally killed or crippled?

What should happen, the same things which happen for any other torture (and the USC 18, the War Crimes act of 1996, addresses that very question).

What does happen? We slap them on the wrist, tell them they were bad and pretend it's not a real problem.

abi: Thanks. I think I did all right, on balance. I also know that however well it looked from the outside, it was hard from here. I've come close to losing vowels about three times (well, I thought so, Teresa told me on one occaision that I was in-bounds, so the others might not have been so close as all that either).

Last night I came close to leaving them out of a couple of replies, so I re-worked them.

I dislike sharing moments when I am spittle-flecked with rage. It makes me feel small.

Which is when Ursula's comment about pondering how other people will think of me (that damned peer-pressure of the social contract) usually reins me in.

The funny thing, I know where part of CRV's arguments are coming from: I've seen soldiers abused as a class, for things they; as individuals, haven't done. I've seen it about my job, and from people I thought knew better.

But he takes it too far, and forgives too much.

#197 ::: onceamarine ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:38 PM:

CRV said: It's what's in the national consciousness that will ultimately affect the lives of servicemembers

I am a defender of Soldiers trying to do their jobs

I think you have now had members from all four branches of the military tell you that they don't want your kind of "defense".

Torture would only help troops do their jobs if it actually produced useful intel. Not only does it not produce useful intel, it produces bad intel.

And if you start torturing captives then you can pretty much assume your own people will be tortured or killed when they're captured, have their corpses desecrated, dragged through the streets, and so on. Definitely not the sort of "protection" I would want.

Rather than reassess the real world negative value (not to mention the immorality) associated with torture, you respond that you're intentions are good, that you just want to help the troops. Your intentions aren't being questioned. But there is no way to say it other than that your facts are completely wrong.

And around here, facts win out over even the best of intentions. The world is not flat. Torture does not help American troops do their jobs.

#198 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Me(190):
Monsieur, it is not that you are bald, but rather that your hair principally exists in a state of Heisenbergian Uncertainty.

Which is neither hair nor there.
And off toupee topic.

#199 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Terry, I would always like you at my back if it were necessary.

That other guy who's exaulting trollery is so gross, I don't want to be looking or talking to him.

Keep up the good work.

#200 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:30 PM:

The tradition that the US Army treats its captives kindly dates back to before there was a US Army -- back to the Revolution and General Washington.

I can't say that the change under Bush has been an improvement.

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:41 PM:

John Houghton @ 198... I spray wig-o elsewhair?

#202 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 10:47 PM:

Terry@196: Which is when Ursula's comment about pondering how other people will think of me

I apologize, Terry. I saw your "Sigh. Noted." comment over here and felt it needed a response, but then dropped the ball. Then at 184 in this thread, I felt the need to pipe in, but again dropped the ball. Your mention at 196 of the thing that made you go "Sigh. Noted." finally got me to say enough's enough.

So let it be hereby noted that Xopher isn't the only one who has faith in you. You can add me to that list of people who trust you, and who trust your humanity.

#203 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 11:24 PM:

James D. Macdonald #200: The tradition that the US Army treats its captives kindly dates back to before there was a US Army

A rather different tradition was upheld during the American Civil War at places like Andersonville and Camp Douglas.

#204 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 11:40 PM:

Greg: While not needed, it is accepted.

I am conflicted about that sigh.

Ursula, since it's come up. I don't think you meant to hurt my feelings, and (mostly) you didn't. You did, however, say I, and every other soldier was; inherently, unworthy of trust.

In general, I'm not going to trust anyone willing to enter the US armed forces. (Or other armed forces with similar understandings of "orders" versus human morality.) If you're willing to subordinate your own morality and duty of humanity to military orders, then I'm not going to trust you to act humanely if I don't already know and approve of your orders.

There's a lot packed in there. The assumption that the US Army demands such a subordination of mind/morals. The idea that other armies (apart from the Israeli and German) have some lesser level of sumbission of the will.

Of the two exeptions I mentioned, the German is the better. The Israelis have a better policy, but in practice they don't live up to the ideal.

Also, as a point of logical argument, if you don't trust soldiers to act humanely if the mission is bad, how can you extend that trust if the mission is good? The ends and means can be quite divorced (which is a large component of the difference in mindset on the topic of torture. CRV was arguing that intent trumped actions; I [and so far as I can see, everyone else] argued the opposite).

I am not a paragon. Xopher, Paula, Greg (and all the lurkers who support me in e-mail) do that not because I am special, but because they have seen me speak.

They don't know the conversations where officers asked me to tell them none of the soldiers in their command had tortured. They don't know the people who taught me to teach; who took my word that someone wasn't fit to make the cut (at least enough to pay extra attention). They don't know the people I worked with, and the way they reacted to the people we worked with who were bent.

It's not that I think you should trust them, out of hand. I, actually, think you shouldn't trust them without context.

I just think your distrust shouldn't be out of hand either, because they are products of the same america you are. They share your cultural referents. They ought to get the benefit of the doubt to sharing some of the basic cultural ideals you do.

#205 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Terry at 196: it's really hard not to respond in rage when the person you are responding to keeps not getting it, and not getting it, and you try again... That's what had me up at 3 am last night, trying to write a post which I hoped would break through. I thought you showed great clarity and self-control. Abi is right: you do fine.

Eric Kidd at 152: Oh, yes, 1984. Orwell, magister. Thank you. Serge at 194: thanks, and same to you.

We have had this discussion too many times; it hurts. It hurts to know what the country has become. I heard an interview on Fresh Air today with an British-American lawyer about Gitmo: it broke my heart all over again. What we are doing there and elsewhere cannot be excused or explained away, it can only be repented of.

#206 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 11:54 PM:

#203 A rather different tradition was upheld during the American Civil War

Traditionally American soldiers don't fight battles against other American soldiers, either.

Civil wars in general are notoriously cruel.

#207 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:06 AM:

I wrote this comment at lunchtime today (Pacific Time Zone), and couldn't post it because our nanny filter decided to block the preview after having refreshed the thread. I thought about just scrubbing it, or rewriting it, but I think there's still a point to it.

I stopped reading this thread early on because I had a bunch of things to do in the last couple of days that didn't leave me time. I read through the entire thread this morning and I'm a) annoyed at CVR, and b) impressed that more of the rest of the commenters didn't flame him to a crisp.

He may not be a troll, but he was raised by trolls and learned their manners. Completely ignoring the right or wrong of his position*, his argumentation was obnoxious and insulting. I'm glad I was away from this thread, because I would have had to bite my cheeks very hard not to respond to some of those comments, and I vowed awhile back not to post anything in response to one of his arguments. He's now said goodbye to this thread at least 3 times; if he comes back yet again, I suggest that we just ignore his comments. It's easier on the blood pressure.

* If it's not obvious, I'm against it because I think it's both morally and pragmatically unsupportable.

#208 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Lizzy L. I cheated. I went to the "lurkers" and threw myself down begging for an emotional crutch.

I say cheating, because it wasn't a public conversation, so the trolls I get when torture comes up weren't allowed to chime in, and it was the friendly sorts, some of whom are also here, who told me what I wanted/needed to hear; and without it being in this stream of events.

Happily none of them came storming over here to give him a piece of their mind on my behalf.

But thanks, if that kept me from losing it, I guess it was ok.

#209 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:16 AM:

Bruce, CRV last said goodbye at 159 and unless I missed something, he hasn't been back, which is fine. Kind of restful. I also don't think he's a troll, but I am beginning to think that engaging him on this issue, and perhaps on any issue which appears to him to threaten what it means to be a patriot, or questions the morality of the military, is a waste of time. He ties himself into knots defending his position, and doesn't even realize that he has stopped making sense.

#210 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:25 AM:

Terry @204: Just how badly the Israeli soldiers do not live up to their policy becomes very clear in the Shovrim Shtika site, where soldiers who are entirely fed up with the routine nastiness and sadism they are required to inflict on an occupied population report on conditions in the field.

Some (or maybe all) of that is inevitable in a long-term occupation. Israel has been occupying parts of Palestine since 1948, and parts since 1967. How long will our soldiers stay in Iraq? And what horrors will they commit there through frustration and fear and sadism and battlefield desperation? And what will they bring home to the U.S.?

Soldiers are in the care of the country at least as much as the reverse is true. What we are doing to our soldiers is to our national disgrace. I am afraid that in the long run, it will hurt us more than it hurts them.

#211 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:28 AM:

Terry, you did really well in this thread, far better than I would have done, I'm sure. You see it from the inside, how hard it was to stay on track, to say what had to be said and not lose it. What we see is that you succeeded.

#212 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:35 AM:

Bruce: It's why I am glad for this crowd, and glad to have an Lj I can vent in.

Where the overlap is a good thing too.

And this topic, where-ever it comes up, is a bête noire for me. It's kind of like a firefight; until it's over I have no idea how it's going.

#213 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:49 AM:

The Oregonian's resident wingnut talking point repeater, David Reinhard, began today's editorial defending waterboarding with the Ticking Nuclear Bomb scenario.

Asshole.

#214 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Stefan: Is there an e-dress for letters?

#215 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:29 AM:

Greg, #122: "Well, I have to give you linguistic credit. you perfectly reframe the issue in a way that assumes that torure works, that torture allows people to "extract information" that is of any value. And that taking away the ability to torture would be "robbing" people of this vital information."

He's spent a long time working on his justifications. I am fairly certain, at this point, that CRV is either an abuser-identified victim or themself a major abuser, justifying as fast as can.

#216 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:31 AM:

Terry:

Here is a link to the editorial:

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/david_reinhard/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1193878532298330.xml&coll=7

Here is the letters submission link:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/oregonian/index.ssf?/opinion/oregonian/howtosend.frame

#217 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:33 AM:

Oh, yes. Sleep is as much a physiological need as food; researchers have killed experimental animals with sleep deprivation.

I am so outta this thread.

#218 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:13 AM:

What an idiot.

I can't just write, "Dear Oregonian, your columnist is an ignorant dipshit," and get it published, can I?

#219 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:30 AM:

Terry, you could try Tom & Ray Magliozzi's cry:

"Bo-o-o-gus!"

#220 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:39 AM:

Terry Karney @ 218

No, you can't, but you'd just be saying what almost everybody in this state thinks about Reinhard. As far as I can tell he has no thought that wasn't given him by someone else. In some ways he reminds me of a hypnotized chicken, that can't lift its beak up from a line drawn on the ground.

I gave up reading his column years ago because I was trying to lower my blood pressure. Every once in awhile I happen across it by accident, read a paragraph or two, and remember why I stopped.

He gives assholes a bad name.

#221 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 03:51 AM:

Citizens for Global Solutions (via Steve Clemons at Washington Note) ask the pertinent question: Who got to Mukasey?

Howard Salter then writes a short bit of imaginary dialogue straight out of The Godfather:

SCENE: (Don Vito Corleone (Cheney) sits in a lounge chair; a glass of red wine in his hand [good for the heart, you know], watches Wednesday’s hearing with his oldest boy, Sonny. Mukasey says that even the United States and the president needs to abide by U.S. law and international treaties, i.e., The Geneva Conventions, when it comes to torture and interrogation techniques)

Don Vito (Cheney): “Sonny, did our nominee just say what I thought he said? Get a hold of Luca (Brasi) and make sure Luca and our Attorney General-to-be have a nice, quiet dinner somewhere; maybe a private room at The Palm. Luca will know what to say. Our Attorney General needs to understand our motto: never let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking, ever.”

Sonny (portrayed by David Addington ): “Let me take him to dinner; I’ll make sure he starts singing our song. I don’t need Luca!”

Now, in the best case scenario, Tom Hagen, the informally adopted son of Vito and Carmella Corleone, would step in with a sounder, calmer, cooler and more diplomatic solution to “The Godfather’s” indigestion; however, that’s the problem in the Cheney-wing of the White House: There is no Tom Hagen.

#222 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 06:43 AM:

Earl Cooley III #203: Not to mention Fort Pillow....

#223 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Terry, in reference to your comment at #204,

Ursula is a good friend of mine, and to put her in some sort of context: her father grew up in WWII and post-WWII Germany. It gives her a very different perspective on the military, and on taking orders, than that of most people I've ever discussed those matters with.

For myself, count me in with Xopher.

I neither trust nor distrust a soldier automatically. I've always assumed that soldiers were people, with the same range of individual characteristics, virtues and vices, as any other group of human beings. Albeit with a rather different skill set.

#224 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:51 AM:

There's a lot packed in there. The assumption that the US Army demands such a subordination of mind/morals. The idea that other armies (apart from the Israeli and German) have some lesser level of sumbission of the will.

Of the two exeptions I mentioned, the German is the better. The Israelis have a better policy, but in practice they don't live up to the ideal.

Also, as a point of logical argument, if you don't trust soldiers to act humanely if the mission is bad, how can you extend that trust if the mission is good? The ends and means can be quite divorced (which is a large component of the difference in mindset on the topic of torture. CRV was arguing that intent trumped actions; I [and so far as I can see, everyone else] argued the opposite)

As a matter of background, my POV on any type of armed service is very much based on family history. My father's parents were Nazis, in Germany, with my grandfather being SS. I don't want to see anyone else have to grow up with the kind of conflict this causes - knowing you're born of monsters. I fear that is what the grandchildren of this generation of US soldiers will know - knowing their parents fought in an illegal war, started on the basis of lies, and fed by cultivated paranoia.

You say the German army is the exception - I have an understanding of orders that led to that exception, but I see those principals as applying to any nation - as my grandfather should have refused to work at Dachau, a US solider should have refused to work at a Japanese internment camp.

I expect any armed service to, if someone is given an order they don't agree with, or aren't sure of the morality of, to allow someone to refuse to act until they are convinced it is right. And to reward the refusal, as maintaining the ethics of the service and the nation.

The US armed services, in terms of expectations of obeying orders, reminds me too much of the pre-war Wehrmacht. People knowing the cause is wrong, but going along anyways, because they feel they must obey orders.

It is what got us into the mess in Iraq, what maintains the immoral conditions of Gitanimo, what lies behind CRV's belief that his orders are more important than ethics.

And it terrifies me.

#225 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Yes, we were hard on the boy, but I don't believe most of us, including Terry, went too far. It's not as if he was advocating a mild heresy like sweet/fruity drinks calling themselves martinis, claiming dark chocolate tastes like overcooked cabbage, or expressing a peference for the wrong Dr. Who. This whole torture thing needs to be hit on the head with a shovel every time it pokes its grisly head up from the dirt.

Like others here, I'd like to thank Lizzy L for her biblical commentary (and while we're on the topic--Jesus to Simon Peter [Matthew 26:34]: "Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice."--is this a prediction or an order, to make sure Simon Peter survived to go on and become the rock upon which the Church was built? And if St. Peter could do quash his pride and do it, so can others, without shame.)

Terry, I'm with the rest of them--the leopard isn't going to change his spots without something pretty dire happening, and I think yours go all the way to the underside of the skin, so to speak. If this topic didn't upset you enough to provoke a strong reaction, I'd worry.

Also, I'd like to thank Dena for reminding us just what the Wrong Road to Travel looks like, and why we don't want to go there, as well as everyone else who's chimed in, whether they speak from training, experience, or just plain old-fashioned conscience.

I do feel sorry for CRV--he's the product of a religious and cultural tradition that privileges authority by cloaking it in a mantle of divine enlightenment, and which does not value intellectual inquiry, so that he's not equipped to question the motives and morality of authority figures without experiencing a great deal of anxiety, or usefully explore these issues without tripping over his own feet. (Others, with more direct experience of the LDS, can say whether an unquestioning patiotism is also a tendency within that faith, but I suspect that it is.) In addition, he's a Romantical Idjit, which is not a condition exactly conducive to clear and rational thought. It wouldn't astonish me to find out that he's also used to being the bright one in the room (and perhaps some of us can remember the shock of discovering that not only were we not the ONLY bright one in the room, but that there were others present who were brighter.)

If anyone wants to apply Malsow's Hierarchy of Needs to the boy, I believe we'd be forced to conclude that he's not there yet. Maybe someday, but not yet, because he's clearly far too uncomfortable looking his Authorities in the eye and going "I do not agree because __________________." When he argues with us here, it's painfully obvious that he feels the weight of those Authorities behind him, and is always a litle shocked and surprised when the rest of us don't.


#226 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 10:17 AM:

At #195, Lee wrote:

"I am amazed that no one else has brought up the Milgram experiment yet."

The chilling result of Milgram's "obedience experiment" should be taught to every citizen in a free country: Never, ever, EVER let an "authority figure" condone abuse or torture. There will be consequences.

Never forget: Roughly 2/3 of the test subjects would obey the "authority figure's" command to torture a total stranger with electric shocks.

If your government (Read: authority figure to many) gives the Stamp Of Approval for torture, a sizable portion of your population (not a "fringe element", not trained sadists, but regular citizens) may come to treat torture as "normal" and spout the familiar "only following orders" excuses.

Alarmist? Maybe. But ask yourself: Would you be the obedient 2/3 or the 1/3 with integrity?
Do you even want to know?

The Milgram Experiment is now being played out on a whole nation. I don't look forward to the test results.

#227 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 10:26 AM:

Was I imagining it, or did anyone else hear a news report that Cheney wore a Darth Vader costume for Halloween? I'd call that a real in-your-face attitude, but the breath mask would get in the way.

#228 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Bruce, the vesion I heard is that the costume was on his dog--I think I heard that on Olbermann's show.

#229 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 10:45 AM:

fidelio @ 225

Simon Peter and cockcrow crossed my mind when I was posting #102, and later also. Good sense kept me from using the reference then.

I'm sure CRV is a vet, but I think he's one of the ones where it's the high point of his life; everything else is a letdown by comparison.
(My assorted ex-military relatives - all of my uncles on both sides, and several cousins - put it aside when they left the service, even the one who was a career naval officer.)

#230 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 11:08 AM:

AR #226:

Yeah, there are way too many examples of this historically, as well as Milgram's experiments, those other creepy experiments where people would ignore apparent fires or misjudge obvious things because of peer pressure, etc.

Knowing about these tendencies is valuable, both because you want to know what your fellow man is capable of, and you want to know what you are capable of. Just getting the habit of remembering these results, when faced with overwhelming social pressure, is really valuable. Am I being stampeded into calling white black or ignoring a fire? Am I retreating from an unpleasant moral situation into the comfort of following orders from some apparent authority figure? Am I screaming for the witches to burn because it feels good to be part of a big crowd looking to burn some witches?

If you know these things are built into the human mind, then you can likely counter them, at least to some extent. One way is to develop a habit of asking yourself whether you're being stampeded by a crowd, suppressing your own sense of morality, etc. Another way is to have principles you just won't violate. "Thou shalt not kill" is a lot easier to keep track of in a flood of rage or terror than some complicated weighting of good and bad.

#231 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 11:31 AM:

More: "Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?"

Roper: "I’d cut down every law in England to do that!"

More: "Oh?... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?... This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down... d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?... Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake."

#232 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Re-reading Jim's original post, I'm amazed (shocked, shocked I tell you) at how prescient he was about the direction this thread would take. However:

onceamarine @197: One fairly valid point CRV raises is that just because we deign not to torture our captives, it isn't likely to stop groups such as the so-called "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" from torturing, beheading, and desecrating theirs.

None of this makes torture any more palatable, but it does diminish the "pragmatic" argument that we can't torture because, gosh, then other people will torture our captives. It carries a little more weight when applied to Geneva Convention signatories who start seeing less reason to abide by the rules when they observe us flouting them.

Our problem is that Bush and Co., protestations to the contrary, clearly see torture as something that we can choose to do, or not, at our option.

#233 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Richard Brandt @232:
it does diminish the "pragmatic" argument that we can't torture because, gosh, then other people will torture our captives.

What, you think this is the only war we're going to be in before Gitmo and Abu Graib are forgotten? At the rate we're going?

The implications of this go far beyond Iraq.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:37 PM:

abi @ 233... True. I'm not in a hurry to race to the bottom, with the bottom being dictated by the moral low ground.

#235 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:41 PM:

If we don't torture or mistreat our prisoners (who I suspect have been told beforehand that they'll be tortured and mistreated by us), they might actually rethink what they've been told and how much of it is truth.
It's a possibility, anyway.
Start by demonstrating to them that their leaders are wrong in what they say about us.
Start by making sure that we treat others as we'd want to be treated by them.
Start by obeying the law.

#236 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:42 PM:

the "pragmatic" argument that we can't torture because, gosh, then other people will torture our captives.

I see it more as "every time we torture we create someone new who wants to torture us."

#237 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 12:43 PM:

We know that Al Qaeda in Iraq and others similar are bands of brutal thugs. We aren't going to change them by being nice to them, nor are we going to change them by attempting to be more brutal than they are. Nothing we do or fail to do will alter them.

If we treat our captives kindly, that may so shock their world-view that they will tell us what they know.

If bystanders are asked to choose between us and Al Qaeda in Iraq, and we are both brutes who torture captives, how will they choose?

We lead by example. Do we wish torture to be the common practice in all countries in all times and places? Our troops captured by Al Qaeda will face a dreadful fate, regardless of whether we do or do not torture Al Qaeda personnel. How about our troops captured in future wars against other opponents? Or are we saying that this war is the final war (as opposed to all the other wars that were suppose to be "the final war")?

Think of poison gas. This is a dreadful weapon, so dreadful that all civilized countries ban its use. That some have used it (think of Saddam) is proof of their barbarity.

Should we use poison gas, while still claiming that it is barbarous for others to use it? Even if our own military experts say (as they do) that while poison gas is a dreadful weapon, it isn't a very effective one?

Do you recall when the torture of prisoners was used as proof of Saddam's barbarity? I recall. It wasn't very long ago.

#238 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 01:09 PM:

fidelio #225: Yes, we were hard on the boy
If anyone wants to apply Malsow's Hierarchy of Needs to the boy

Unnecessary Condescension: fifteen yards and loss of down.

I do feel sorry for CRV

No need to feel sorry for him; he seemed adequately equipped to verbally defend himself.

By the way, CBS 60 Minutes outed "Curve Ball", one of the unreliable intelligence sources whose misinformation contributed to the rush to war with Iraq.

#239 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Fidelio at 225, you are welcome. I am not a Biblical scholar, but I do read, and I do think.

With regard to CRV: you hit it. He is a Romantic. He romanticizes family, he romanticizes military service, (note his capitalization of the word soldiers, in his last posts) and I suspect he romanticizes his faith as well, instead of seeing all these as just part of what human beings through centuries do in living their lives.

He needs to spend some time with the Benedictines, or with a few hard-headed Buddhists. Chop wood, carry water, pray. No difference.

#240 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:28 PM:

Patrick Leahy has said he won't vote for Mukasey.
McCain doesn't approve of him either.

#241 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:37 PM:

Ursula: One comment more comment, and that's all. I agree with you, those who are in groups which demand some subordination of absolute will need to be looked at with care, and their actions have to be scrutinised. What I saw in the comment (and why my initial reaction was a sigh, and no more) was a judgement on the moral fiber of those who enlist.

That they are, fundamentally, in the worst ends of the 2/3rds who will obey.

If you'd like (though I don't know that it will ease your mind) we can have a discussion of why I didn't go to Canada in 2003.

P.J. Evans: That dichotomy of expectations and happenings is really effective at causing those who have been told they will be tortured to talk. If they expect to be tortured, they decide they might avoid it by singing, and we get info.

As for the ruminations on CRV's status. I believe him when he says he is, presently, in the Reserves. He enlisted after That Tuesday. Oddly, his use of "Soldier" is part and parcel of that (and not as strong an indica of fetishisation, though other elements support his sense of soldiers being exceptional). The Army PAO decided that Soldier needed to be raised to the same level of "distinction" that Marine gets.

Me, I think it silly, but if I write something for the PAO, style requires that it be Capitalised. Which means for most i(if not all) of his career, that's the way he's seen it written.

Me, I know we aren't exceptional, and I don't want to have the Army acquire the same level of identification to the group as the Marines have.

#242 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:46 PM:

P J 240: Is McCain on the committee? And will he actually VOTE against Muck-kasey?

#243 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Earl @238

Sorry, he just seems terribly young to me--perhaps not all that young in years (although I doubt he's any younger in years than my nephews and nieces, and thus no teenager), but in terms of where his inner life is.

I'll take the penalty is good spirit though--it still doesn't put him anywhere close to scoring position on this issue, after all. It might, just barely, get him out of the end zone.

#244 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Someone mentioned, earlier, that it would be interesting and/or useful to see entertainment that was honest about torture.

I've been following a Korean historical drama on AZN, set back in about the 7th Century CE, and torture is a regular feature, mostly as applied by the Chinese. Interstingly, the torture is nearly useless at getting useful intelligence from people, and it's depicted as being most effective at obtaining "confessions" (valid or oterhwise--Chinese law required the perpetrator to confess before they could be sentenced, IIRC) or else at coercing people to do things, when it's either applied to their loved ones, or held over them as a threat. In an early episode, the torture of his family was used to compel a Korean officer to betray his comrades (although he managed to find a way to turn this into a trap for the Chinese, IIRC.) In last night's episode, in an effort to bring an end to a plot, one of the Chinese Empress' henchmen manufactures evidence against the people he suspects of being at least peripherally involved by ordering one of the plotting prince's servants to write down a list of names as he dictates them, using the threat of torturing the prince to compel the servant to comply--the servant has already been torured himself, of course. Just a list of names, nothing more. He doesn't tell the servant why he wants those names, or what he plans to do with them, or even where he came up with them. All he wants is for him to write down the names, and the prince will not be tortured. He gets his list, and then uses it to denounce the men on it.

It struck me as an intelligent and informed demonstration of how torture can be used in an authoritarian state (and of course, anyone over 40 who grew up in South Korea grew up in an authoritarian state). Clearly, it's useful--but not because it compels the victim to tell you the truth; it compels them to do what you want.

#245 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Terry @241: Thank you for that explanation of why CRV is capitalising 'soldier'. It was making me somewhat twitchy, so I'm glad to hear that he's probably picked it up from normal army usage.

And thank you for being who you are, and your willingness to stand up and be counted. As others have said, were you to be accused of torture, I would assume that you were either a victim of a frame-up, or a victim of torture yourself. It is clear from the things you have written over the last few years that you would have to be broken yourself before you would participate in such a thing.

#246 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Terry, I hope you write a response to Reinhard.

The guy is adept at something like the "Duckspeak" from 1984. Unoriginal blathering about whatever talking points the GOP wants the punditocracy to echo.

A voice from someone who speaks the truth, not the truthiness, can help counter that.

(The only column of Reinhard's that remotely showed genuine compassion was about Portland's street kids; he actually seemed to understand that they weren't happy freeloaders.)

#249 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Lizzy L @239:
He needs to spend some time with the Benedictines, or with a few hard-headed Buddhists. Chop wood, carry water, pray. No difference.

Without in the least disagreeing with you, I'd point out that it is possible to over-romanticize chopping wood and carrying water. I was writing a silly over the top sonnet on the subject and the dratted thing ran away with me in the turning of the sestet.

"O fire-feeding corpse of fallen tree,
Which now my granite-sharpened axe doth hew
(And may it cut like Justice, straight and true):
I praise thy Maker as I'm chopping thee."
"O swiftly-flowing water, bright and clear,
Containéd in my pot like Grace once poured
Into a human soul by our dear Lord:
May thou be twice as sweet, though half as dear."
The bell for Vespers rings. I calmly kneel,
Not praying, really, just inventing praise.
But then the silence comes, and phrase by phrase
Reclaims my wasted words, and makes them real.
And thus the evening justifies the day,
I learn to chop wood, carry water, pray.

#250 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Damn. I have to submit it as a column. They have a 150 word limit on letters. Just getting to the meat of the matter took 170, and there's at least 50 more needed to close it up.

Bugger.

#251 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:30 PM:

abi...I know some Christians who'd really like that poem. May I share it with them?

I'm pretty damned awestruck by it myself. Damn, you're good. Or maybe it's the Voice, and you're just lucky enough to be Its vessel more often than the rest of us.

#252 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 04:30 PM:

No, I can't do it. I'll write it up as a generic, and shop it around. They won't pay for it, and all in all, they ought to.

I'll about cutting the letter down.

+++++This is 147 words+++++

David Reinhard’s “Ticking Bomb” rationale flunks a more important test than his hypothetical situation posits.

It doesn’t. I say all that because I am a working interrogator and have real knowledge his theoretical construct fails to address.

On a practical level, his hypothesis requires the Al Qaeda type to be less dedicated to his cause than is the normal run of human nature. In Reinhard’s case all he has to do is hold out for 24 hours. If he can’t take it, all he has to do is lie. That will buy a reprieve.

If we don’t know (absolutely) that this is THE guy, we can’t afford to use torture. If a source is ignorant, and tortured, he learns that he has to lie to avoid more torture, which means the bomb will never be found.

Oh yeah, it’s also a moral wrong.

Terry Karney
SGT OIF-1


#253 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Terry, that's pretty good, but anyone dumb enough to fall for Reinhard's rhetoric isn't going to understand phrases like 'hypothetical situation' and 'theoretical construct'.

May I suggest 'made-up story' or just 'script' for either or both? If he used 'hypothetical situation' in his article, I might be wrong. Also, I think your "it doesn't" refers to something you've cut.

#254 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:24 PM:

abi @233: Yes. That's probably why I wrote the next sentence after the one you quoted.

In any event, the copycat argument is hardly the only one that can be made against torture.

#255 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:26 PM:

abi @233: What, you think this is the only war we're going to be in before Gitmo and Abu Graib are forgotten?

Who's forgetting?

#256 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Xopher @251:
I'm glad you like it. Feel free to share it with anyone who might find it pleasing.

I don't know about the Voice*, though (as I said) the sestet kind of ran away with me. I often think the Holy Spirit dwells in chaos and confusion, and writing sonnets is certainly that. I frequently find myself somewhere completely different at the final couplet than I had meant to be when I started the octave.

-----
* Insufficient woodchopping, I think. And a couple of other things.

#257 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:32 PM:

abi #249: Are you channelling John Donne?

Your ability with the sonnet as a form never fails to impress me.

#258 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Richard Brandt @254:

abi @233: Yes. That's probably why I wrote the next sentence after the one you quoted.

This one?

It carries a little more weight when applied to Geneva Convention signatories who start seeing less reason to abide by the rules when they observe us flouting them.

I was assuming that was Geneva signatories at war with other people, and us trying to step in. Say, India and Pakistan getting messy, and us without our moral high ground.

In any event, the copycat argument is hardly the only one that can be made against torture.

As this thread has so abundantly proven.

and @255:

abi @233: What, you think this is the only war we're going to be in before Gitmo and Abu Graib are forgotten?

Who's forgetting?

No one this century. But we could be paying the Devil's dividend for a long old time.

#259 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:35 PM:

I made a couple of edits, and sent it off.

#260 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:37 PM:

"No need to feel sorry for him; he seemed adequately equipped to verbally defend himself."

If he was adequately equipped why did he choose such a difficult to defend base as his.

#261 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:39 PM:

The Voice is what I call a) the power (divine? maybe) that speaks through people and makes them say things that just go into a little place in your heart, mind, or spirit that was empty and waiting for exactly those things to be said, and/or b) the experience of saying or writing words that mean far more than you had any intention or (you thought) ability to say, so that it feels like it couldn't really be you saying/writing them.

Whether it's a) or b) or both depends on my mood and level of skepticism at the moment I'm considering it. I find it convenient to have a term that covers both.

#262 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Steve C @97: I do wonder if this will work with other groups - while the Germans were enemies in WW II, the European background gave them some commonality of culture with Americans. It seems to me an open question of how well that approach would work with cultures like those that produced bin Laden.

It might be interesting to pair them with interrogators who are Muslim, or of Middle Eastern descent, or both. They might have some lively, even fruitful, discussions about what the Koran actually sanctions.

#263 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:41 PM:

It's important to note there is a very technical explanation for the need in modern waterboarding procedures to get the slope of the board just right. It helps to look at a picture (note: link will probably die soon; when Waterboarding.Org goes live, check there for it. It'll be on the front page.) The blue part is where the water goes. The grey part is where the air goes. Ponder it until enlightenment dawns.

Oh, and here is a video of a [voluntary] waterboarding session.

#264 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 05:50 PM:

abi @258: I was assuming that was Geneva signatories at war with other people, and us trying to step in. Say, India and Pakistan getting messy, and us without our moral high ground.

Ah. No, that was not the meaning I intended. But the point about us losing the moral high ground is a good one. Bush damning Saddam Hussein as someone who "tortured his own people" would have carried a lot less weight if the world had known we were going to move our torturers into Abu Ghraib in place of his.

#265 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Terry, if it gets published, I'd be happy to send you the letters page from my copy of the paper.

Blowhards like Reinhard need to be challenged over and over, lest folks mistake their blithe arrogance for actual expertise.

#266 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 06:31 PM:

Stefan: Reinhard, et al, are using the "What if," model of argument.

What if there was air in space, and what if we didn't have to worry about tides, and what if we built a really long ladder into the moon's gravity well?

We could just climb the ladder and parachute to the moon.

#267 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 07:21 PM:

I'm a regular lurker here, but had to delurk to express my admiration for Abi's sonnet #249. The rhyme in Not praying, really, just inventing praise / But then the silence comes, and phrase by phrase is a thing of wonderment. Wow.

#268 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 07:38 PM:

abi at 249, thank you. And yes, it is certainly possible to romanticize chopping wood, and praying, but if you are living with a group of people who have been in community for a while, and are accustomed to dealing with the fantasies of starry-eyed novices, you probably won't hold on to that romantic outlook for too long.

I don't mean to suggest that spiritual communities cannot fall into serious spiritual error. They can, and do. But that's another topic.

#269 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 08:43 PM:

abi @ 249

Thank you. I'm not a practicing Buddhist, but I take a lot of my view of the world from Buddhist ideas, and in particular I believe that spirituality and the work of the world are connected, not separated into different compartments. And your sonnet says that beautifully.

#270 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 08:49 PM:

Schumer and Feinstein said they'll vote for the b@st@rd.

Leaders in both parties have said they expect Mukasey to get at least 70 votes when the full, 100-member Senate votes on his confirmation

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071102/ap_on_go_co/senate_mukasey


#271 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:14 PM:

Feinstein is a useless asshole, but I don't understand why Schumer is doing this. Dumbshit.

#272 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:44 PM:

John Dean's opinion of this is now up at talking Points Memo. Excerpt:
"Before the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee completely cave-in to Bush, at minimum they should demand that Judge Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate if war crimes have been committed. If Mukasey refuses he should be rejected. This, indeed, should be a pre-condition to anyone filling the post of Attorney General under Bush."

#273 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:48 PM:

re: Xopher @#261: Also known as "genius", in the original (classical Greek) sense of an inspiring spirit. Even back then, it was a familiar experience to selected poets, orators, and other artists.

#274 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2007, 09:49 PM:

Xopher @271: Schumer was the one who recommended Mukasey in the first place. That was when his past record suggested that he was mostly fair, but with some questionable areas in his judgment. (Whether he has been subverted by the Administration or was always like this is irrelevant; the current hearings have demonstrated clearly that he's not now qualified to be AG.)

Either way, I suspect that Schumer is running for political cover by not "flip-flopping" or "waffling" -- as if either of those labels matter when placed by the Waffler-In-Chief.

#275 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 01:36 AM:

abi #249: With some tweaks, that could become an ironic poem in praise of waterboarding. Most likely, though, the audience for which it would be intended would take the praise as literal, and the sarcasm would squandered on them.

bryan #260: If he was adequately equipped why did he choose such a difficult to defend base as his.

My guess is that he was disingenuously practicing upon us for his entertainment and not actually attempting to engage in reasoned dialogue.

#276 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Are you channeling John Donne? A reasonable question, Fragano.

Abi, we're serious. Your sonnets are that good. That one is, well, it's up there. I sit and read it as I read Ursula Le Guin: reflecting that if I practise really hard for the next nine hundred years I might write a sentence that sings like her average sentence. The same with your sonnets.

They must be published. This is ridiculous.

#277 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 08:24 AM:

#274: Yeah, one of the terrible things about modern political discourse is that no one believes you if you say, "Because of new facts which have come to light, I am changing my position," or "If I had known then, what I know now, I would have decided differently." To be fair, some times, it's because politicians say these things disingenuously. However, when it's genuine, shouldn't it be a sign of intelligence to accept new information and deal accordingly?

This story is on NPR right now. Schumer's argument is essentially that Mukasey is the best we can expect to get under this administration. If they didn't confirm Mukasey, Bush might make a recess appointment. The Senate wouldn't have a say on that person at all. i.e., the most unreasonable person wins. It's amazing how often the most unreasonable person is W.

To be fair, Mukasey was supposed to be the "consensus" candidate. The president, unusually for him, actually asked the Senate to suggest people. What I'm wondering is if Schumer intended to suggest someone who, apparently, intends to let the administration off the hook for their crimes against humanity, if someone got to Mukasey, or if W is just that phenomenally lucky.

#275: The thing I notice about CRV is that when ever he comments on a thread, the thread inevitably ends up being about him rather than the ostensible topic of discussion. At the very least, I hope he's enjoying the attention my post is providing him. (Two threads at the same time. Wow.)

#278 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Lizzy L... "a few hard-headed Buddhists" sounds like something directed by Sergio Leone and starring Jackie Chan or Jet Li.

#279 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Abi @ 249... I take my metaphorical hat off to you.

#280 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 09:57 AM:

If I may make a woodchopping pun that actually applies to the long-term consequences of using torture:

Axe, and you shall be riven.

#281 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 10:02 AM:

John @ 277

That's the same excuse Feinstein is using. The thing they seem to be missing is that Bush isn't going to let any AG stop him from doing what he wants to do, within the law or not, so we'd have the same amount of protection without an AG at all, whil Bush is president (which is to say: no protection at all).
Also ... Mukasey was gotten to; he admitted to having a meeting with a group of people, at White House request, all of whom are fairly far right. I have to wonder if their weapon is a dossier of everything they've been able to find out about a person, good, bad, rumor, or truth: co-operate or we'll start releasing this information to the media.

I like Dean's suggestion: the nomination leaves the committee only if Mukasey agrees to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate possible war crimes. (I think it wouldn't work, in the end, because any special prosecutor would be told not to find any war crimes.)

#282 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Or, in a similarly Biblical vein, the leaders of the far religious right appear to believe that Jesus told them that He would make them vicious old men.

#283 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 10:13 AM:

NPR this morning pointed out that if Mukasey isn't confirmed, Bush won't look for a confirmable candidate; he'll just make a recess appointment, and it will be some BTK clone. That's what Schumer is saying, and I can't refute that from my own knowledge.

#284 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Xopher @283: The answer to a recess appointment is the same one as was used previously. Harry Reid could refuse to close the session, keeping it open pro forma with one Senator available at all times and what amounted to a standby alert for all other Senators to return, which would preclude a recess appointment. Yes, it's a rather extreme precaution, but as we all know, this Administration is itself the most extreme (in several unpleasant directions) in US history.

#285 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 10:45 AM:

So, I guess the question is, is there anyone the Godfather can't get to? Will every nominee have something that Shrub and company could use to make their life miserable unless they play along? Either a dirty history, or a horse they really love?

Because if so, then we're just wasting our time hoping for some attorney general to go after Bush and Co when Bush and Co has the connections to leave office unscathed.

Yes, I'm in a lousy mood today. Why do you ask?

#286 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Greg @ 285

It's enough to make me wish for OTC anti-depressants, and I'm against prescribing them without need. (Because I think that's how bad the next year is going to be; after that, I can't tell.)

#287 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 12:00 PM:

One question they should ask Mukasey: "Is the President above the law?"

#288 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 12:24 PM:

James, I think they already asked him that, when they asked him if the President was required to obey a limitation placed on his power by Congress -- i.e. a law. In my reading of his answer, he said, It depends -- not if the law conflicts with the President's power as commander-in-chief.

The f**k it does.

But then, this is a Bush appointee. He isn't going to say anything else.

I am disgusted.

#289 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 03:27 PM:

I would be more sympathetic to the "but otherwise we'd get someone awful" argument if we weren't already getting someone awful. The big question for any attorney general at this point is "Would you ever do anything to seriously inconvenience a presidential wish?", and Mukasey's answer to that question is precisely the same as any hack's. It's not that there are no meaningful differences of detail. But the big picture will be the same awful mess it's been, and the "reasonable" AG won't do anything to stop it, anymore than My Buddy the Hack would.

#290 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 04:30 PM:

From Senator Schumer's explanation of why he will vote for Judge Mukasey, via Balkinization:

This afternoon, I met with Judge Michael Mukasey one more time. I requested the meeting to address, in person, some of my concerns. The judge made clear to me that were Congress to pass a law banning certain interrogation techniques, we would clearly be acting within our constitutional authority. And he flatly told me that the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law, not even under some theory of inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. He also pledged to enforce such a law and repeated his willingness to leave office rather than participate in a violation of law.

Raise your hand if you believe him.

#291 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 04:32 PM:

THAT LAW ALREADY EXISTS! A BILLION TIMES OVER! THE AG SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THAT!

#292 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Lizzy L @290

I wonder if any of them have heard of Bush's signing statements, because they certainly are acting as if they never have.

They don't seem to be living in our universe any more. Or we've all been moved to the mirror universe, and they haven't noticed - yet.

Is it all right to hope for an explosion of minds when they finally realize they're not dealing with the kind of people they think they've been dealing with?

#293 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 05:49 PM:

Oh, but, ethan, they want a new law, one that Bush can append signing statements to, and ignore.

Is it 2009 yet? And will it make a difference when it is 2009? Watch this space to find out.

#294 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 07:12 PM:

I love this thread. I know it's painful for y'all to confront CRV, but it's important, dammit, because he represents a lot of what's wrong with America, and if it's not confronted, reasonably, with actual arguments that people comprehend, then America will never get better.

T-cells probably don't like having to defend the body, either. But it's important that they do.

I feel as though it would be really important to do a thorough analysis of CRV's posts here and identify ways to counter the points he's making -- but equally, the points he's not making (cf. the comment on linguistic ability above, as CRV's phraseology betrays some important burial of tacit statements, a very sophisticated technique which IMHO he's not aware he's using, but is instead quoting from somewhere. Where?)

Incidentally, fidelio, authoritarianism, including unquestioned patriotism, is a tenet of the LDS faith, not simply a tendency. We know a few Mormons (there aren't many English speakers here in Ponce, Puerto Rico, so we end up meeting each other and befriending one another, like expat Americans anywhere.) Some are uneasy with the authoritarianism; I don't envy them, as the Mormon Church is a very warm community and provides a lot of moral support for people. Feeling the need to disagree with it would be very difficult -- is difficult, I believe. But unlike fundamentalists of other stripes, Mormons tend not to have problems with our atheism, once we make it relatively clear that they're welcome to talk theology with our kids but we're not going to join their church. They are -- without exception to my personal knowledge -- Good People.

If CRV is LDS (e-i-e-i-o) it explains a lot. The Church is good at supporting their intellectually inclined members without encouraging them to question authority. And the result is exactly what we see here -- CRV is used to being the smartest guy in the room. This place will cure him of that (thanks to things like abi's incredible, incredible poetry) and if he can take the beating, he will grow from it and we'll all end up being proud to know him. Or so I believe.

Anyway, to my main point: I wish I had the time to analyze CRV's points better. There are some specific misconceptions which I believe are common in the American population, and which are the problem we're seeing. It's not just that 24 is popular. There's a reason it's popular. I want to nail that down.

It's just that it would be so much work. Sigh. I already threw one business away between 2001 and 2003 by paying too much attention to politics and not to my business. I can't afford to do it again (and to so little effect...)

By the way, I think Star Trek is a microcosm of America's shift towards wanting war. The original TNG episodes were science and all about "The Federation has moved beyond the need for money." Very utopian -- true communism. In later seasons, the focus started to shift towards political maneuverings with the Romulans and later the Cardassians... How the hell do you spell that? Anyway, then Deep Space 9 started up, in order to provide a better venue for war stories. And the whole franchise descended further into us-vs-them America-first bullshit.

I don't believe this was intentional. It's just the way America was tending between the 80's and 2000 or so. But it really jumps out and grabs me when I watch Star Trek.

Ah, hell. I wish I had a tenth of the expressiveness I see every day here. It's so damned important. But I can't make it clear.

#295 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 08:29 PM:

A correction to the above: I don't actually know whether LDS authoritarianism deserves to be called a "tenet" of their faith. I do know that the Church does encourage unquestioning patriotism, because we had a few such conversations with one of our friends here (they've since returned to Denver, unfortunately.)

It's not a comfortable topic, actually -- none of these are -- so if you're not sure about whether your conversational partner can accept it with equanimity, it's easier to let sleeping dogs lie. Or so my own background tells me.

My wife, though, is Hungarian, and she often drags things out into the open that I absolutely shudder to imagine talking about. But even she goes easy on Mormons. Because they really are good people.

#296 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Michael@294: There are some specific misconceptions which I believe are common in the American population, and which are the problem we're seeing. It's not just that 24 is popular. There's a reason it's popular. I want to nail that down.

I think it boils down to fear.

The fear is driven in part by something in our minds that make us horridly afraid of something that has intent to kill us and is unseen. The movie Jaws is a perfect example of an intelligent, unseen horror that could pop up at any time, any place, intent on killing us. Alien tapped into that same horror as well. Note the different response you get in a movie about something that doesn't think, but is hidden, and can pop out at any time to kill you. A movie on killer tornadoes wouldn't have the same visceral feel as Jaws, because the tornadoes aren't thinking, aren't plotting to get you.

I think there's something about this specific kind of threat that generates a very strange sort of fear in some people. A fear that makes a person want to do whatever it takes to stop the threat. But that requires, logically, that the person can actually do something that would really have an effect.

The only problem is that I don't think logic is involved in the process when this sort of fear takes over. There is an assumption that XXX will stop the threat. We heard this over and over in CRV's statements. He didn't try to prove or logically argue that torture worked, he always spoke as if it worked and that to stop or restrict torture would bring the threat back.

He skips over whether or not there is any real proof that torture works, and goes immediately to saying that he's only trying to defend soldiers trying to do their jobs. He assumes torture will stop the threat, and to him it's simply an argument about whether we stop the threat or not. Not whether torture works or torture is wrong.

The fact that everyone and their grandmother kept telling him over and over that torture doesn't work, simply bounced off him. He couldnt' here it. And I think he couldn't hear it because there is a desperation in his mind to find some way, any way, to stop this threat he fears.

This fear takes the discussion of foreign policy, human rights, morality, and throws it all out the window and replaces it with something primal. Fear. Pure. Unadulterated. Over amplified. Fear.

I wrote a thing called Courage Vow as an attempt to address this fear. But the problem is that people who are in the grip of terror don't think they're simply the cowardly lion who needs a medal to make them brave. people in this sort of terror think it's real.

And logic won't budge it, because it is something far more primal than logic.

Me, I think I understand it. I just have no idea how to do anything about it. It doesn't help that those in power are encouraging people to be afraid.

#297 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Michael @ 295

Yes, the LDS church does have an authoritarian streak, and they are nice people (odd religious beliefs aside). It's funny, but they seem to be also more likely to get involved in things like multi-level marketing. (I don't understand it myself, but I've seen it.) Maybe something about having people above and below them, so they're in a nice safe-feeling hierarchy?

#298 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2007, 11:45 PM:

albatross @ 230: Knowing about these tendencies is valuable, both because you want to know what your fellow man is capable of, and you want to know what you are capable of. Just getting the habit of remembering these results,

Good point. What I get from the setup of the Milgram experiments, on re-reading, is a strong possibility for people being confused: They have consented to be put in an unfamiliar situation which has just taken a bizarre twist, and many go with superficial strategies of resolving the conflict: Looking to or trusting authority, staying polite, keeping the implicit contract -- just tide themselves over until they have time to sort it out.

Which teaches, IMO, that one needs to recognise this kind of confusion, learn to acknowledge the inner voice that says "you have entered bizarro-land" and practise to stop and think about the substance of such a situation.

That reaction probably needs training to be available when it's needed...

#299 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 01:52 AM:

Michael Roberts #294: used to being the smartest guy in the room

That's rather a ubiquitous problem here on ML. It's a significant culture shock hit to slip into the deep end of the commentariat pool when one is expecting a jacuzzi.

#300 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 02:17 PM:

#294 Michael:

I thought TNG's interactions with the Cardassians were some feeble steps toward ceasing to be too kind to their utopia--the Federation always came off as at least somewhat slimy in these interactions.

I loved DS9. The Federation no longer came off as effortlessly more powerful than all its potential rivals. That always bugged me.

#301 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 03:26 PM:

#294: "I think Star Trek is a microcosm of America's shift towards wanting war."

I'm not sure if I quite buy that. I think it is because screenwriters found utopia to be a frigging boring place and hard to tell stories about.

That said, I think most DS9 episodes were a lot more interesting than the last years' episodes of TNG. The latter resorted to Holodeck Stories and new-agey stuff that really raised my hackles.

Of course, even DS9 had to resort to new-agey Spirits In The Wormhole stuff.

#302 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 05:07 PM:

Here's a rather disturbing article from Harper's: "Torture as Litmus Test."

#303 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 09:49 PM:

Funny thing. I am often (so far as I can tell) the smartest person in the room.

But I grew up being young, and ignorant, in rooms full of people who had grown up being the smartest in the room. It makes me strangely insecure, and ridiculously confident.

Just thinking out loud.

#304 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 09:57 PM:

Reinhard's torture column drew some nasty letters in The Oregonian today. I hope Terry's shows up later in the week.

#305 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Michael Roberts @294: I think Star Trek is a microcosm of America's shift towards wanting war.

I have a friend whose biggest turnoff re: Star Trek Enterprise (aside from the theme music and lyrics) had been the episode where Captain Archer put a captured alien in the airlock and threatened to open the door, in order to get information.* He felt this was a betrayal of the humanist vision created by Gene Roddenberry.


*Threading back to the torture debate.

#306 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Stefan @ #304, I particularly liked this letter:

Hard though it is to admit, David Reinhard's piece on waterboarding has won me over. Imagine how much suffering could have been averted had President Bush and Vice President Cheney been subjected to this truth-getting technique in 2002. My country might still even have some moral standing in the world.

More letters to The Oregonian at that link.

#307 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2007, 11:06 PM:

Sorry, I was forgetting I was in the torture debate (for what it's worth, I am opposed).

#308 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 09:57 AM:

It's hard to believe that Sens. Schumer and Feinstein failed to see this letter to Patrick Leahy in his role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

We write because this issue above all demands clarity: Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.

In 2006 the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the authority to prosecute terrorists under the war crimes provisions of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. In connection with those hearings the sitting Judge Advocates General of the military services were asked to submit written responses to a series of questions regarding “the use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of drowning (i.e., waterboarding) . . .” Major General Scott Black, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General, Major General Jack Rives, U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral Bruce MacDonald, U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General, and Brigadier Gen. Kevin Sandkuhler, Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, unanimously and unambiguously agreed that such conduct is inhumane and illegal and would constitute a violation of international law, to include Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

We agree with our active duty colleagues. This is a critically important issue - but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a terrible disservice to this nation.

...

Sincerely,

Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 2000-02

Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1997-2000

Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Army, 1991-93

Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant, 1985-88

And yet they still plan to vote to confirm him.

I've called and faxed Sen. Schumer as a constituent; I wish I could force him to read and reread this until he came to his senses.

#309 ::: Smgumby ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Premise

1. Waterboarding is not torture. (not wrong to do)

2. If Mukasey were waterboarded with short breaks to allow his interrogator to ask if what is happening to him is "torture"

3. If 1 is correct, then 2 should not be abbhorent for the Senate to perform the act. And following the same logic there would be no reason for Mukasey to affirm that what is happening to him is torture. All he needs to say at each break is "This is just intensive questioning."

My question, is it unreasonable for the candidate for the Attorney Genereal to undergo intensive questioning prior to confirmation? Seems reasonable to me...

Heck, with this logic the "waterboarding question" could easily be clarified by MANY members of the government who insist there is nothing wrong with this practice.

#310 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Smgumby 309: With complete sympathy for your reasons, I have to point something out: all the people who think this should be done know that Waterboarding IS torture, and cannot countenance doing it to anyone, not even a Bush nominee.

Hmm, unless he consents. Muah-hah-hah.

Seriously, I keep running up against the same problem when I think about what really should happen to Bush in a just world. LWOP in a maximum-security prison is where I come down, even though I actually think a two-week sentence of "standing sleepless" would be appropriate (and have the same end result, only quicker). My conscience will not allow me to advocate the shorter sentence, even for Bush himself.

#311 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 12:20 PM:

The Senate will approve Michael Mukasey as attorney general. Key Democrats are willing to overlook past statements on terror interrogation. That’s all waterboarding under the bridge. -- Jim Barach, Jokes By Jim

#312 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 12:23 PM:

"We'll try it on you, a little bit, and you can stop it any time you want" is not a fair model.

"We'll hand you over, incognito, to a couple of our guys, who've been told that they need to get information from you. I won't tell you about what, but they'll know that it's crucial and time-sensitive. Oh, and that you have a history of masquerading as a government official." I wonder if Mukasey would be willing to give that a try.

#313 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 12:33 PM:

I wonder if Mukasey would be willing to give that a try.

Or, better still, just snatch him off the street with a black bag over his head, and let him figure out what's going on.

I wonder how long it'll take to get him to admit that he's one of Osama's sleeper agents.

Then just put him somewhere incommunicado for a couple of years. Then ask him what he thinks about torture, the power of the President, and the dilution of the Bill of Rights.

#314 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Yeah, somehow, I envision him being waterboarded into admitting that waterboarding is torture, then later claiming that since he only admitted that under torture that waterboarding really isn't torture.

*head explodes -- I should have installed ParadoxGuard3000 before typing that.*

#315 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 01:10 PM:

James #313: Then just put him somewhere incommunicado for a couple of years.

With a bit of luck, there will be a Democrat in the White House by then. At which point we know what his answer regarding the power of the President would be, regardless. ("Power? What power? The Supreme Court has full oversight of the Administrative branch; the judiciary is supreme.")

#316 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Abi, let me second (third? fourth? fifth?)whoever said it upthread: your poetry should be published. You are that very very good. I think I will put a copy of this one in my diary, next to Mike Ford's.

#317 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 03:59 PM:

I've been avoiding responding to the responses to comment 249, mostly because my head was getting so swelled that it wasn't fitting through doorways. Having had my ego suitably deflated by the usual means*, I can now get back into the room where I left the computer to thank you guys for the kind words.

I don't know about publishing stuff - it seems like a waste of time I could use to, well, write sonnets. I'll think about it.

But at the moment, just glad you liked it.

-----
* I have kids. 'Nuff said.

#318 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 04:10 PM:

abi @ 317

I think we have enough publishing fu on this site that the burden of publishing your poems could be mostly put onto other people than you, and your job would be just to write more. Based on the comments requesting publication, I'm sure we can get a lot of volunteers with significant experience to do the copyediting, formatting, book design*, and so on.

* I wonder if giving you this task would work as a bribe to get you to agree to publication?

#319 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 04:15 PM:

Abi @ 317... You write 'em, we post 'em.

#320 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 04:55 PM:

And for only a small up-front fee, we can find you an agent. Your per-book publication costs should be quite reasonable.

#321 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 08:49 PM:

Yet another voice against waterboarding. This is from the man who runs the process on Navy SEAL candidates... to teach them how to resist torture. Warning: contains an extremely graphic description of the process. I'm considering printing that part onto cards to hand out to people who argue that it's not really torture. Let them understand EXACTLY what they're advocating.

(Note: This whole topic pings one of my personal hot buttons. I have a deep horror about breathing something that's not air; in high school, I never could do that breath-helium-and-quack-like-a-duck thing because of it. For me, the thing in Room 101 has always been drowning. You can imagine my reaction to the concept of waterboarding.)

#322 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 09:43 PM:

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, because I'm afraid I'll seem as paranoid as nevershits, but I'm not telling anyone what's in my Room 101. Not even people I trust with my life.

#323 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 10:01 PM:

Xopher: If you know what's in your 101, keep secret. It's at least as potent as your True Name.

Just trust me in that, ok?

#324 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 10:06 PM:

Xopher: If you know what's in your 101, keep secret. It's at least as potent as your True Name.

Just trust me in that, ok?

#325 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 10:07 PM:

Terry 323: Oh, I do. Trust you, I mean. Especially on anything related to this topic.

And I won't even tell you what's in there.

#326 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Xopher: What part of, "keep it secret," was I less than clear about?

:)

#327 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 10:46 PM:

Wow, there's this comment thread that could really use some people who know jack about the subject.

#328 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Lee, I'm with you on that one. there are a few other things lurking there, but they'll stay put.

#329 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 11:12 PM:

Had a burst of frustration regarding this topic. So I wrote this.

I ran out of steam and only did the first half, the pragmatic half. Will do the second half at the next tuit.

#330 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2007, 11:27 PM:

Teresa:

Ok, I did my bit.

#331 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 01:32 AM:

An old acquaintance of mine is one of the driving personalities behind waterboarding.org, and I wish somebody would take him aside and successfully explain to him why presenting an "objective" neutral infodump about how to torture your friends and political adversaries for fun and profit may not actually be the most productive application of his time and energy. I've tried, and I didn't make much progress. I probably lack the Authority required to do a credible job.

Drained of any moral objections to the techniques it describes, I worry that many readers of waterboarding.org will receive from it a message exactly opposite the one I know my friend hopes to send to them.

#332 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Bruce, Serge,

Thanks for the thought, but I don't think I work like that.

It's not that I have any objection to being published if the Publication Fairy visits in the night*, or if the idea of an ML anthology ever goes anywhere, but the idea of anyone else doing that kind of volunteer work just for poems of mine kinda makes me squirm.

-----
* most likely leaving five copies in lieu of payment under the pillow

#333 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Abi @ 332... My apologies. Far was it from my intentions to cause such a reaction.

#334 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 11:37 AM:

332: would it make you feel better if it were published and sold to raise money for charity? That way, no one's doing volunteer work specifically for you and your poems, they're doing it for the HALO Trust or whoever...
But I don't mean to provoke further squirming, so I'll shut up now.

#335 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Xopher @ 322: I'm not telling anyone what's in my Room 101. Not even people I trust with my life.

"Please, whatever you do, don't send Nastassia Kinski out here to give me a Swedish massage! ... With a big slice of cheesecake!"

#336 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Joel 335: Well, more like Brad Pitt, but yeah.

#337 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Joel @ 335... don't send Nastassia Kinski out here

Or Lawrence Olivier if you need dental work?

#338 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 02:24 PM:

ajay #334, the HALO Trust

My first reaction was a Litellan "Why would anyone support a charity named after a Microsoft video game? Doesn't Microsoft have enough money already without shaking down people on street corners for loose change for a 'good cause'?!" but then Mr. Google informed me that in this case HALO actually stood for "Hazardous Area Life-Support Organisation". So, it should be HALSO, but a halo is holier, of course, and HALSO is also a petroleum company in the UK, which might object to the dilution of their trademark....

#339 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Well if we're talking Briar Patches... I can think of lots of things I'd just "hate" to have happen.

#340 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 03:55 PM:

Thanks, Serge. Now Laurence Olivier is going to start showing up in my dental nightmares.

#341 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Terry 339: I periodically "threaten" to do something "terrible" to my boyfriend. He says "oh please don't do that" in a certain flat tone that means "Oh boy I'd really love it if you did that!"

We call that a "briar patch" request.

#342 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 07:50 PM:

Details on torture techniques used to sell the Iraq war:

A Feb. 5 cable records that al Libi was told by a "foreign government service" (Egypt) that: "the next topic was al-Qa'ida's connections with Iraq...This was a subject about which he said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story."

Al Libi indicated that his interrogators did not like his responses and then "placed him in a small box approximately 50cm X 50cm [20 inches x 20 inches]." He claimed he was held in the box for approximately 17 hours.

I think the response of the media and the Bush administration would have been very different if Fitzgerald had used this technique on Scooter Al-Libby.

#343 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Add a certain General Honore to the list of those who need to be told it's torture.

Though, actually, I think we can add him to the list of torture mongers, since he admits he'd use it, even if it is torture.

#344 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Amazing. I have found someone who has arguments which make those of CRV, on torture, look sane, reasoned and fair.

Waterboarding is Torture has a guy, in comments, (Jared Nuzzolillo) who is so casually advocating torture, it's chilling.

I've had to stop reading the thread, twice; so far.

Which makes it once per comment he's made. It's a long thread, and this is at the very start.

#345 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 06:45 AM:

#294 ::: Michael Roberts,

I think the underlying false premise is that if you're right, the universe will be so much on your side that you don't need to think about the consequences of your actions.

A common (though not universal) part of the syndrome is the assumption that above especially applies if you're angry and/or defending something which has officially been declared to be important.

#346 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 08:37 AM:

Nancy (#345) This is the dark underbelly of "Story is a force of nature"

#347 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 08:52 AM:

I've been wondering--is there any evidence, even anecdotal evidence, that SERE training actually benefits the soldiers who receive it?

#346 ::: Mez

Would you care to expand on that? I'm guessing you mean that the people with the delusion I mentioned have too much of their worldview shaped by simple-minded fiction, but I'm not sure.

#348 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Nancy@347: SERE training actually benefits the soldiers who receive it?

Well, SERE is survival, evasion, resistance, escape, not just torture training. I've heard a number of different incidents of downed airmen using various bits of SERE training to survive and evade capture long enough for a Jolly Green come pick them up.

I don't think the idea of SERE training is to innoculate you from torture so that you don't break, though. More to prepare you psychologically for the inevitability that you will break.

#349 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 09:44 AM:

abi @ 332

Of course, I apologize for causing any squick, and I will not distress you by mentioning it again.

#350 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 09:57 AM:

ethan @ 340... Thanks, Serge. Now Laurence Olivier is going to start showing up in my dental nightmares.

You're welcome. I wonder if 1998's "The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself" is any good.

#351 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2007, 10:14 AM:

#348 ::: Greg London:

I was being sloppy there--the rest of SERE training sounds useful and legitimate and I haven't heard anything bad about it.

However, I'm wondering if prior exposure to limited torture techniques actually leaves people in better shape if they get tortured. It might create a culture where people who break aren't blamed for it. At this point, though, considering that SERE exposure to torture is used as a justification for torturing prisoners, I'm wondering if that part of the program is worth it, so I'm checking for benefits, if any.

Has anyone else here read Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats? It's an odd book claiming that some people in the US military, dispirited and disoriented from losing in Viet Nam, started investigating parapsychology--and while none of the parapsychology paid off, that interest led to a feeling of absolutely no limits, and has some connections to the use of torture.

I'm not endorsing the book for anything except being weird and funny. (The sections about torture aren't funny, but the outrage is subtle enough that I suspect it's only visible to people who hate torture.) I'm curious about whether other people here think it might be well-founded.

#352 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2007, 01:39 PM:

Bit late to this thread; just wanted to point out a report I heard on the German radio today concerning Fort Hunt, a secret POW camp during/after WW2. Only recently people have started interviewing those who worked there, and I liked one soundbit from a former interrogator there very much. Essentially he said that using torture never even occurred to them. Granted, those held there were usually very cooperative since they hoped to be allowed to stay in the US afterwards, but even with the reluctant cases he said quite simply, "being friendly always worked much better."

(Here's a Washington Post article on the place.)

Captain Obvious out.

#353 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Greg @296 (sorry if this is so late as to be moot) -- no. That's not what I mean, or at least, that's not the feeling I get, although it's definitely one of the factors in what's going on.

The reaction I have to the "visceral fear" of watching Jaws is not to watch the movie. People watching Jaws are not actually viscerally afraid of a shark which they know, at some level, does not exist -- and yet they enjoy playing that they could be afraid. Or something.

Similarly, most of America is not afraid of terrorists. If we were, we would have done something about terrorism instead of going to war with another country entirely. I agree that there is just such an element of, let's say, unease in the body politic, which makes it easy to lead them off to war. But it is not visceral fear. Maybe.

[Aside: America views the GWOT as a really good horror movie, and our colletive decision to put it on our tab is nothing more or less than "What the hell, put it on my card, I deserve some catharsis." I am deadly serious and convinced about this analysis.]

Look, not to belabor this point again, but I grew up in the boondocks in Indiana. When I was in, what, 8th grade or so, Iran took our embassy staff hostage; perhaps you remember this event (ha). I distinctly remember the FFA guys (sort of a wannabe KKK crowd who chortled about burning crosses but afaik never actually did) circulating a Xeroxed picture of the Iwo Jima memorial with the flag being shoved up the posterior of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The same crowd, more or less, talked about nuking Iran until it was glass, and "that'll show'em".

These guys did not have a visceral fear of Iran, not in 1979 in rural Indiana at the age of 14. And I never talked to them about torture and frankly don't know which side of that "debate" they'd fall on now (no, strike the scare quotes -- in rural Indiana it is a debate, which is what scares me; sort of the inverse of scare quotes). But I'm willing to bet that the "that'll show'em" aspect would lead them to endorse as "harmless" an activity as waterboarding or threatening them with puppy dogs.

So there's that basic attitude out there in the meme pool, you see, that torture really is OK for the Good Guys. And fascists are good at taking that sort of basic attitude and putting a lot of nice rhetoric around it and selling it as a powerful prop to their own personal power. Like the gangs you can only be a member of after you've killed a rival gang member -- you're bound by shared guilt and it's damned powerful.

OK? So there are these rhetorical elements of fascist propaganda taking advantage of that basic pro-violence attitude. It seems to me, entirely without foundation except my perhaps-wishful thinking, that if these rhetorical elements are isolated and studied, they could be countered. Their power lies in the fact that in a room full of sub-ML-caliber debaters, CRV sounds convincing -- he speaks to the Dark Side (without, I think, entirely knowing it) and the Dark Side knows its own. But there are only a finite number of such gambits. A catalog could be developed and this kind of convincing argument quashed when it crops up. It could be frickin automated to a certain extent. You could Google for typical phases indicative of the argument, or even index fora on your own without Google's help for greater responsiveness. It's so doable. And how else are you going to take the Zeitgeist of an entire nation, an entire world, and rope it back to doing the right thing? Damn if I know, but I truly wish I had the time to try it.

Yeah. Yeah. I believe in the holy healing power of the Eschaton. (Except... I do.)

#354 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Michael Roberts @ 353

I think you're missing an essential part of the growth of the fascist Zeitgeist: many people* don't want to argue against it. The fascist liestyle** ia all too appealing to people whose definition of human stops at the edge of town anway.

* perhaps the majority; I'm really afraid to find out the size of the group.
** Don't worry, be happy, you can get away with, in fact be rewarded for, behavior that in better times would be unacceptable, illegal, and roundly condemned by everyone around you.

#355 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Bruce. I'm from rural Indiana. I understand fascists. I also understand that there is a core group of people who, as you say, are not amenable to being argued out of it (the true authoritarians).

But I believe there is a larger group of fence-sitters, as it were. A group of people who aren't particularly authoritarian, have no dogs in the fight, don't want torture like these guys want torture -- but haven't really thought about it, and are prepared to tacitly go along with it. And they'll elect Republicans with pro-torture stances, OK?

Because regardless of what appears to be a visceral rejection of torture here at ML, I do not believe that that rejection is visceral in the population at large. It's not visceral in me, I don't shudder in horror at the notion of torture -- I just know it's wrong because I've had the opportunity to think about it. There are worse injustices in life than torture, which is horrible in that it is perpetrated by human beings, but doesn't actually affect as many people as, say, kidney disease (my son) or bad weather (nobody personal to me).

So there are a lot of people out there, seeing fairly rational people say, "What's the big deal, it's just like blah blah blah," and they say, huh, he's right! But these people are not irredeemable. They simply have never been exposed to the notion that failing to torture can be brave. (Or fill in whatever other rhetoric makes the appropriate point; you can all see what I mean.)

Unless that argument is made, adroitly, again and again and again, those people are effectively pro-torture, pro-neocon agenda. But they're not stupid, and they're not evil. They're just naive and busy, and their support is tacit (but important nonetheless.)

There's a vast amount of dialog going on out there. Less and less of it's in meatspace (imho) and more and more online. It could be guided towards the light. Or so I want to believe.

#356 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 12:44 PM:

351: However, I'm wondering if prior exposure to limited torture techniques actually leaves people in better shape if they get tortured.

Going by anecdotal evidence, yes, it does.

#357 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Michael Roberts, I think you have hold of something very important there.
Because what you are talking about is how we form our opinions, and what leads us to support one position over another. For a lot of people, it's necessary to have someone lead them through the steps to get to a conclusion, because they just don't do the work on their own--it's eaier to copy someone else's homework, so to speak, than to figure out the binomial equation on their own, especially if you are behind on/struggling with your other assignments.

#358 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 01:23 PM:

[far far behind in Making Light, and others may have made the comment I'm about to put below. But, since they may not have....]

I've noted a trend/tendency that bothers me a lot in literature, that is, the badass/badboy "Alpha" J/a/c/k/a/s/s male lead in particularly romance fiction. The canonical contemporariily written literature Alpha Male is not particularly indistiguishable from a overmuscled insensitive self-obsessed narcissistic chauvinstic offensive destructive jackass, except that he's effectively organically pusssywhipped by the lead female. The Alpha Male usually is hot-tempered and ill-behaved when angry, highly destructive, impatient, massive, has primary sexual equipment that the ancient Greeks would have regarded as highly offensively barbaric in size, beats up other people and enjoys it (but NEVER the female lead, or if he does, he must undergo much contrition....), commits torture, but always either in a Good Cause, or only against Horrible Evil Overlords and their Despicable Minions Who Deserve It.

And this is a huge trend.

Me, I want more male leads like Hallan Meras, who is the desirable version of "sensitive New Age Male" and NOT a caricature (that is, Hallan Meras is the lead male character of Cherry's Legacy of Chanur. He's young, he's gorgeous, he's hard working, earnest, he falls into all sorts of trouble by trying too hard actually, he's kind, literate, polite, as well-behaved as possible, but he's NOT a wimp, no way, no how--and does does the Hard Stuff regarding holding his own and keeping his mouth shut when he's faced with a character who feels little compunction at casual murder--and who insists that Hallan Meras is the only person he's going to talk to--high stakes poker, with Hallan Meras the neophyte slotted into the high risk game. And he keeps his temper, and he finds his way through the pressure and doesn't blow up, doesn't spout foul language, doesn't break....

#359 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 01:40 PM:

#355 Michael Roberts
Torture gets glamourized in all those paranormal romances and urban fantasies novels where the male lead is a big dangerous badass type who goes out and rips off the faces of Bag Guys or shoves a stake through the Bad Gal's/Guy's heart, chops their head off, tortures for information, etc.

#360 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 02:31 PM:

Paula @ 359: Torture gets glamourized in all those paranormal romances and urban fantasies novels where the male lead is a big dangerous badass type who goes out and rips off the faces of Bag Guys

Bag people? Now that's just bullying.

#361 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 02:36 PM:

No, no, Richard, Bag Guys. Guys with false faces painted on bags. Makes ripping off their faces easier.

#362 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 04:24 PM:

I just came back to this thread and read my own post* at 354, where I talk about a "fascist liestyle". That wasn't intentional, I really did mean to say "lifestyle", but hey, I say you take 'em when you find 'em.

* not usually a good idea

#363 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Bruce: Oh, wow, and I thought liestyle was kind of precious but really incisive at the same time.

(Xopher, you funny this week.)

Paula: damn. If it's in the novels then maybe there's not much the Internet can do about it. People chew through those things like candy.

Granted, I'm short on sleep this week, but I just have this notion of a spider finding and reading forums, and when it thinks it may have identified a torture-related argument, it would sound the Bat signal, and a sockpuppet would be created (but only a sockpuppet for good) and its human controller would say, quickly, "Oh, but haven't you read this insightful essay by Terry Karney of our Armed Forces?" (Or that Nance guy, although how you can be a Nance and still tough is beyond me; his agent should rebrand his name, big time.) And then the sockpuppet controller would keep tabs on that particular thread and see where it went.

Rinse, lather, repeat, and restore democracy.

Also, write romance novels, clearly. It obviously can't be that hard.

#364 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Oh, and of course the same technique generalizes to any right-wing talking points, not just torture. It'd be useful just to catalog and track the damn things in the wild, to be perfectly honest; that's what I was originally blathering about, upthread.

An aside on this: I do feel the siren call of that Total Terrorist Awareness thingy they were funding then not funding then funding again. I understand why it sucks smart people in, and I understand why it sucks stupid people into funding the smart people. It just sounds so doable, given the resources. I'm a technocrat at heart, unfortunately.

I'd truly hate to have the government doing something like this, because it would be sheer power from a propaganda standpoint. But using it as a private person or open organization to shine some sunlight into the dark heart of the Net, where the fungal threads spread through the body politic? It just sounds so right.

I firmly believe that systems of this nature will soon exist, if indeed they don't already in the NSA's labs. Wouldn't it be nice to use these powers only for good?

#365 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Ironically, I was -so- chuffed when I found out yesterday, that the systems I was testing that shipped at the end of the years, got nicknamed, "The Deathstar" -- I tested the Deathstar!
[for more detail, ask me in person]

#366 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Michael #364:

I think the infrastructure you're talking about is already in place, as witness gazillions of astroturfers and folks reading from some set of talking points and posting to random political blogs with near-identical messages.

Why adding left-wing talking points to this mix is supposed to make things better isn't so clear to me, though I expect we'll be seeing that stuff soon enough. The net offers the chance of bypassing all kinds of controls that powerful people and groups have imposed on what may be discussed, all kinds of mechanisms for controlling the acceptable ideas in public discourse. Astroturf is a way of beating that down. It's a net loss to mankind.

#367 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2007, 08:29 PM:

You wound me!

I'm talking about anti-astroturf. Astroturf is precisely the reason it needs to be there.

Eh. You may, of course, be right.

#368 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 07:43 AM:

From today's Guardian:

US military officials are putting huge pressure on interrogators who question Iraqi insurgents to find incriminating evidence pointing to Iran, it was claimed last night.

#369 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2007, 04:13 PM:

"huge pressure on interrogators"

Well, as long as they don't cause organ damage.

#370 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Terry's letter appeared in today's (Monday 11/12) The Oregonian.

#371 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Link to Terry's letter here (as well as a contrary letter that precedes it).

#372 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:24 AM:

Why do I have this queasy premonition that if I went away and came back in a year or two I would see the politicians and pundits engaged in the very same quibbling about exactly where "enhanced interrogation" does or does not cross the line into torture, only by then the line would have been pushed so far that the quibbles would concern exactly how far the bamboo slivers can go up under the fingernails, or how hot (red or white) the hot irons can be, or how deep the spikes in the Iron Maiden are designed to pierce -- and how long the subject can be kept inside one?

Not that I'm suggesting the water is being turned slowly up to boiling, mind you, but what are these bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pot?

#373 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 12:47 AM:

"Second, you don’t get good intel out of torture anyway. ... The only place torture works is in books and movies."

You know, Jim, on some level I don't care whether it "works" or not; even if it did, using torture makes a society less worth whatever protection it sought.

Presume for the sake of argument that torture or some other ghastly inhumane technique -- such as gathering the subject's children and killing them one by one in front of him until he talks -- could be proved to "work" in the sense of extracting truth.

Would that justify its use? Or would its use instead justify the overturning of the government that used it?

I have a vague idea of the answer we might have gotten from earlier presidents of the USA, like Washington and Jefferson. The answer we did get, in fact.

#374 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2007, 03:37 AM:

Jim, if the prisoners were openly dragged into public civilian courts, and plunked down at the defense tables in front of the network TV cameras, and beaten with clubs until they pled guilty, or else beaten to death if they continued to refuse, it might be just as obvious that the guilty plea (like the confession under torture) had nothing to do with truth, but then truth was not the object of the exercise -- getting the plea/confession was.

If such a plea is accepted, procedurally it works the same as though it were true, and such a system gives the prosecutor a tidy 100% conviction rate.

How can you claim it "doesn't work" if the convictions show that all the defendants were guilty, thus only the guilty were beaten, and all of them were thus truthful in their guilty pleas?

You may think such circular reasoning would never be accepted in our rational society, but do you recall how the Wall Street Journal contended "We're Not Executing the Innocent" (June 16, 2000)? "[T]he study's authors ... were unable to find a single case in which an innocent person was executed. Thus, the most important error rate -- the rate of mistaken executions -- is zero." But their test of innocence was procedural: the reversal of conviction. In other words, no-one who was executed got his conviction overturned afterwards. That's because the dead can't appeal, and any appeal already in progress at the time of death is immediately dismissed as moot. Procedural result trumps actual truth. A neatly circular proof, a perfect tautology.

Likewise, the torture of prisoners out of public sight, yielding confessions which only secret tribunals ever see and which therefore can never be publicly exposed as false, lets a government "prove" its effectiveness at catching and punishing terrorists, thereby justifying everything it has done to get such a result.

That "procedural" result is all that counts, all that the torturers and their bosses wanted. Thus torture "works".

Not at getting actual truth, no, but surely this government has long since made clear its utter disdain for actual truth.

#375 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:10 AM:

Pyre: Jim doesn't (so far as I know) disagree with you that the utilitarian problems with torture would justify it's use. I know I don't (and I've spent a lot of time arguing it, most recently at Lawyers Guns and Money, in the post titled, "Pathetic", but I digress).

The problem is that the trolls, apologists and torture mongers will argue that it does work (see the letter preceding mine in the Oregonian). There are people who will say that if it will save lives it's ok.

So we have to strangle that misbegotten idea to death in its crib, before we can try to make a persuasive argument that the moral aspects are important to.

I've had people call me immoral because I say torture is wrong; because they refuse to believe me when I say it doesn't work.

#376 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 04:33 AM:

The Oregonian managed to be dismissive of my service.

That bracketted phrase was inserted. My actual position, during the shooting war, was NCO in Charge of Order of Battle for the V Corps Interrogation Company.

Which meant I was giving guidance in the collection effort, and troubleshooting interrogations for the top echelon (and in theory high value sources... ha! the things which V Corps screwed up).

sigh, maybe I'm being too sensitive.

#377 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 06:32 AM:

Terry, I definitely appreciate both your opinion and your willingness to state it, even (especially) in places where it causes discomfort.

Here's a real-life, real-time case in Germany involving torture and the police, not the military. But it's illustrative of a lot of things -- how people behave under pressure, what people value, etc. Briefly, an 11-yo boy was kidnapped in 2002. A man was arrested a few days later after he retrieved the ransom money. At that time, there was still some hope that the child was alive. I don't know what the suspect had already said -- whether or not he'd admitted to being involved -- but after some hours of interrogation the whereabouts of the child were still not known.

At that point the chief of police made the decision to threaten the suspect with 'the worst torture he could imagine' and said that 'a specialist was already being flown in by helicopter.' At which point the suspect immediately told them where they could find the boy. Unfortunately, he was dead (apparently killed soon after the kidnapping). English summary here.

Results: the police chief and his deputy(?) were convicted of improper conduct and had to pay fines. They did not lose their jobs or have to go to jail. Prominent politicians have lauded the intentions of the police chief, although Chancellor Merkel spoke out against torture as being a justified means to desired ends.

The suspect was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, he has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights because of the torture issue, and the court has agreed to hear the case.

The German public was by and large appalled at the use of torture by the police. There have been some voices, however, supporting its use 'under certain circumstances.' Mine, for the record, is not one of them. Some would claim that this is a case "proving" that torture does indeed "work." Again, I do not, and feel that it is above all a dangerous precedent.

#378 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Terry Karney, #376, the WashPost routinely edits my letters, leaving out things I thought were important.

#379 ::: Jodi ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 03:17 AM:

I read the majority of the thread of comments here, and have one request.

I know out here in blogosphere we're all relatively anonymous, but please try not to write to others in a way more rude than you would speak to them in person.

Frankly, at first, I was thrilled that there were so many likeminded people, passionately discussing this issue and adding info to the topic. However, as things went on, and CRV came into the discussion, I was horrified by the response to him. I don't necessarily agree with him, but calling him a torture-monger, and using words like "stupid" and so on...

Well, I believe his responses were measured, calm, and reasonable for the most part, even in the face of someone dropping the f-bomb. I get the frustration that causes the inflammatory rhetoric. I do. I have it, too, but I don't see a point to failing to control myself verbally. It advances the dialogue not AT ALL, to be namecalling.

That's it.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood, please. Did you want everyone here to be primarily of the "me too" opinion?

#380 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 04:10 AM:

I've been avoiding getting embroiled in most of the "hot-button" issues here. It's just too much for me.
But without making a judgment in either direction, and just going by the description in the comment, it was the threat of torture, not actual torture that was used. Rather like Galileo's experience, being "shown the instruments" (which was the step before them being used, hence pretty threatening) — tho' I've seen apologists for the Church at the time saying he wasn't shown them, just threatened with being shown them.

#381 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 05:20 AM:

Yes, it was threat of torture -- psychological, not physical, if you will. Which IMO also counts. Another problem I see in that is, what does the threatener do for an encore if the subject doesn't break?

#382 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 07:00 AM:

Jodi #379: Yep, there is a bit of a Landru Effect here. It can be pretty brutal for newcomers with opinions that don't match the ML norm. It's even more severe for one-shot posters. It gets better if you survive the hazing rituals.

#383 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 11:56 AM:

Earl, CRV wasn't a newcomer here. I was a little uncomfortable with the way he was treated, too, but we're not mindless servants of anyone, and I find your comparison mildly offensive.

#384 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:16 PM:

I know out here in blogosphere we're all relatively anonymous, but please try not to write to others in a way more rude than you would speak to them in person.

Jodi, when you speak to people in person, do you use this condescending tone of voice? What evidence do you have that we don't follow that (commendable) principle?

I presume that you either skipped or disagreed with the examples of CRV's rudeness I cited earlier in the thread. At any rate, politeness in defense of torture is no virtue.

I believe that "torture apologist" is an entirely accurate description of what CRV was doing. He didn't feel he was apologizing for torture, but he had defined 'torture' down past the Bush administration's levels -and- signaled that even true torture was OK, as long as the torturers weren't doing it for sadistic reasons. That's being an apologist for torture.

Re: his history, I am of the opinion that CRV's first presence on this board was BRT, back in the 'Mitt Romney is a homonculus' thread. He's got a fairly extensive history even after that of saying wrong things and misrepresenting the other side of the argument. The first post as PRV was to criticize BRT not for misreading Patrick, or for being rude, or flying off the handle, or dominating the thread, but for picking a fight with the blog owner.

#385 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Are you all prepared to not verbally brutalize Jodi to help prove to me that I was wrong about how ML treats dissent?

#386 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:51 PM:

I'm the one who called him a torture-monger. I don't think I called him stupid.

I didn't write to him a manner less polite than I should have spoken to him. One of the virtues (to me) of online discourse is that I am more patient and deliberate than I am in person (usually, though on this topic I can lose my restraint, as I did with Megan, some time back). In person I probably would have lost my cool at some point, shouted; sputtered into incoherency, and left the room.

I'll stand behind my use of torture monger. He thinks tortures are useful. He said some of them ought to be used. That's more than just apologist, that's advocacy. He doesn't want to admit they are tortures (yes, I am being a trife absolutist, but there are reasons for that. I can't afford to see shades of grey in the things I define as torture). It probably hurts his feelings to have them called so, and be told his position is one of supporting torture.

That's tough. I've been there (on different topics). But it's a topic I'm not going to cut any slack on, it does him no kindness to ignore that.

Epacris: Per the Inquisition the first torture was to be shown the implements, have what was to be done explained, and then to be taken to one's cell and left to ponder it until morning.

The cop (IMO) did torture him.

That sense of "mental" coercion being torture is a large part of why my "torture troll" on Lj dismisses my opinions on the subject out of hand.

That, and he likes the idea of torture, but the, "You think everything but milk and cookies is torture. You don't understand/let your lefty sensibilities, etc., get in the way of "doing what must be done, because it's all different now." is the meat and potatoes of his blog posts about what a terrible thing it is more people pay attention to me than to him.

#387 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Earl, that's Teresa's business, not mine or yours. Keep it at least minimally polite and you'll probably keep all your vowel (which belong to her anyway).

This is CRV's normal practice in commenting, demonstrated several times before.

When one person is trying to prove that They Have Truth On Their Side, even against those who have knowledge of the subject and say, clearly, that the one person is full of it, then there will be trouble in the thread.

#388 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 01:33 PM:

"verbally brutalize"? I remember when that was called "disagreeing".

#389 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Pyre asks, #373, Would that justify its use? Or would its use instead justify the overturning of the government that used it?

No, of course that would not justify its use. Nevertheless, we must counter the Tough Minded Men Who Make Tough Decisions For the Good of All, which is a standard wingnut position.

Do you not feel that calling wingnuts on their lies is a good thing?

#390 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Earl Cooley III: It's not about dissent. It's about manners. Look at the RP thread which was locked.

I appreciate, sort of, that it's been restored. But it wasn't dissent which was stifled, it was everyone who took part in the tired re-hashing of old points.

Those she agreed with, and those she didn't, were sanctioned. Those who managed to talk about how it related to RP, managed to keep their content in plain text. Where our points didn't hew that line, they were stripped.

That's for moderation.

As for community, it was abi, and Serge, and a couple of others who told us to clam up. It wasn't the people they disagreed with they were addressing, it was all of us.

If we really didn't want to allow disagreement; or argument, we'd do it differently. I could say, the next time torture comes up, "I'm a professional; you are wrong."

Everyone else could say, "Terry said it, I believe and you are wrong."

Then we could just refuse to engage. That would be stifling dissent. It would deny the dissenter the ability to plead a case. I've not seen that happen. Yeago got to do it. Tamara got to do it. We disagreed, sometimes with heat and passion, but we addressed the meat of the arguments.

That, IMO, encourages dissent.

Talking down to people isn't going to get them to play the game your way; not unless you have some cred. That's the bane of the new person. Lack of being known makes for a limit on credibility. Happens online, and face to face.

#391 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Jim @ 389: "Do you not feel that calling wingnuts on their lies is a good thing?"

Calling liars of any stripe on their lies is a good thing, as far as that goes.

But turning the discussion to whether or not torture "works" not only begs the question of what it does or doesn't work toward (and I don't think you and they care about the same goal there), but taking that tack gives the impression of conceding that IF torture "worked" then there would be some merit to it.

Just as the pundits' and politicians' quibbling over over the fine points of how much, how long, or in the service of which great cause, distracts -- as it was intended to -- from the huge stampeding rogue elephant in the room, that it's wrong, evil, and by the way, a War Crime we prosecuted Axis officers for.

Sort of like arguing (on a bit less morally charged topic) about whether it was the "Web" or the "Internet" that Al Gore claimed to have invented, going around and around about the right word, and letting pass the question of whether he'd made any claim of having "invented" anything at all.

Or, more aptly, like arguing over whether to take the elevator or the stairs straight down to Hell.

#392 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 07:47 PM:

Or, more aptly, like arguing over whether to take the elevator or the stairs straight down to Hell.

No. It's not. Arguing that torture does not give good intel is not arguing that the person would support torture if it did give good intel. It's just saying torture does not give good intel.

nutjob: I'm going to drill a hole in my head because it's full of gold.

Normal person: your head is not full of gold.

you: Ah HA! so you admit you'd drill holes in your head if it were full of gold!

The thing is, and this is the thing, people who think torture yeilds them good intel won't be convinced not to torture because you tell them it's immoral. It's immoral, but they don't care, because they're viewing the world in a "Ohmygawdimgonnadie!" filter, which kicks in the "Anythingthatkeepsussafeisgood" defense.

Telling them it doesn't yield good intel might at least concern them because it doesn't satisfy the anythingthatkeepsussafeisgood requirement. And then maybe when they give that up, then maybe you can talk about the morality of it all.

And maybe you don't care whether torture works or not, but it isn't people like you who need to be told to stop torturing. The message is tuned to those who need to hear it.

#393 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:19 PM:

Greg @ 392:

And maybe you don't care whether torture works or not, but it isn't people like you who need to be told to stop torturing. The message is tuned to those who need to hear it.
And you think that the people who do need to be told to stop torturing -- the people who are doing it, ordering it, excusing it, covering for it, or otherwise approving of it -- the people who don't care that it's wrong, evil, and all that -- the people who don't really care about moral issues, except as a campaign platform -- you think that those people care more about truth, as in "torture isn't a reliable means of extracting truth", and that those people will do a 180˚ turnaround once you get that message across?

Greg, Jim, if those people cared at all about truth in the first place, would the past seven years' history bear any resemblance to what it actually has been?

Torture gets confessions -- true or false, these are all the "proof" they need. If they're incoherent babble or palpably false, they can be rewritten nicely in case anyone's ever going to read them. The Inquisition replaced suspected witches' every mention of or plea to "God" with "Devil", thus providing documentary evidence of the subjects' Satanic loyalties. Oh, but that wasn't the truth? No matter, it served the purpose.

More, the widespread knowledge that a regime tortures its enemies -- real or perceived -- terrifies people, as it was intended to. Many who might have opposed that regime's other abuses will now remain silent, lest they be tortured too. Of those, some will even become public supporters, just to be safe -- or turn in others for interrogation, to win brown-nosing points or eliminate their own rivals.

That's the kind of "strength" and "safety" a regime gets out of torture: it is, in itself, a form of terrorism, a reign of terror.

"Truth" has nothing to do with it. How can either of you not know that already?

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.... We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."   — George Orwell, 1984
#394 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2007, 09:54 PM:

Earnest Objector:   An easily-tampered-with and un-auditable trade-secret closed-source proprietary computerized voting system with no papertrail (e.g. Diebold or ESS) is not a reliable means of determining the "truth" about the Will of the People.

Inaugurated Beneficiary:   [blank stare]   Yeah?   And your point is?

#395 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 12:33 AM:

The Cutting Edge of Post-Modernism

The scary thing is that this is not quoting George Orwell:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."


— Ron Suskind, "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush", New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004

Do you think these people care what the objective truth is?

#396 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 01:41 PM:

CommunityRadioVet @ 105:

To me, torture is a prolonged (hours to days) infliction of extreme amounts of pain, usually accompanied by bodily harm or life-long mutilation, done by people who enjoy it and who don't really care if you talk or not. They just want to see you suffer.
Pfeh. In all likelihood one hand-cranked generator wired to your testicles will, within an amazingly short time, have you eager and anxious to confess whatever crime needs the books closed on it. And all your parts will remain attached. Nothing personal, it's just procedure. Only following orders.

You yourself need not even be physically hurt... if you really love your wife and children, and they are where they can be seized. Would you let them be hurt instead? Perhaps in front of you, screaming for your help?

No? You'd rather say whatever we want you to say?* How strange. We weren't doing anything at all to you.

________________________________
* This doesn't mean it has to be true.

#397 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 03:37 PM:

#396 isn't speculation. The School of the Americas (rebranded in 2001 to the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation") has taught this and many other techniques to Latin American military and police officers, including lethal field practice on random civilians not suspected of any crime.

From 1996: Southern Command Manuals Recommend Torture, Murder to Latin Militaries:

The Pentagon admitted on September 20 that the U.S. Southern Command in Panama and the School of the Americas used instruction manuals that recommend extortion, torture and execution as methods for obtaining information.

The seven Spanish-language manuals were distributed by Southern Command training teams from 1987 to 1989 to militaries in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, and other leading human rights violators in the hemisphere. Students were advised to "involuntarily" obtain information from their sources -- in other words, torture them; to arrest their parents and other relatives; to use "motivation by fear"; to pay bounties for enemy dead; to execute civilian opponents; to use blackmail and even "truth serum" to obtain information. ...

The School of the Americas was located in Panama from 1946 to 1984, when it was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. However, teams of U.S. Special Forces stationed at U.S. bases in Panama still visit militaries in the region to train them in a variety of military tactics for up to six months at a time.

Meanwhile, two students who attended the School of the Americas when it was in Panama are interviewed in a new film about the School called "Inside the School of the Americas." One of the students claimed that U.S. instructors told them how to torture suspects, and that to demonstrate the torture methods more effectively, they were told to kidnap Panamanians from off the street -- generally beggars -- in order to practice on live subjects.

The witness, whose identity was protected on the film, also said that the School used videos and drawings to show where the most sensitive nerves are on the body, how to revive a subject who has lost consciousness, and how to recognize when a subject is near death and suspend the torture to avoid losing the subject's information.
For more information: SOA Watch

What "truth" do you suppose they wanted to extract from these (temporarily) "live subjects"?

#398 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Is Torture a Misguided Quest for Truth?

From the letter of Johannes Junius (1573-1628), imprisoned former Burgomeister of Bamberg, to his daughter:

Many hundred thousand good-nights, dearly beloved daughter Veronica. Innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, innocent must I die. For whoever comes into the witch prison must become a witch or be tortured until he invents something out of his head and — God pity him — bethinks him of something.

I will tell you how it has gone with me. When I was the first time put to the torture, Dr. Braun, Dr. Kotzendorffer, and two strange doctors were there. Then Dr. Braun, asks me, "Kinsman, how come you here?", I answer, "Through falsehood, through misfortune." "Hear, you," he says, "you are a witch; will you confess it voluntarily? If not, we'll bring in witnesses and the executioner for you." I said "I am no witch, I have a pure conscience in the matter; if there are a thousand witnesses, I am not anxious, but I'll gladly hear the witnesses."

Now the chancellor's son was set before me ... and afterward Hoppfen Elss. She had seen me dance on Haupts-moor ... I answered: "I have never renounced God, and will never do it — God graciously keep me from it. I'll rather bear whatever I must."

And then came also — God in highest Heaven have mercy — the executioner, and put the thumb-screws on me, both hands bound together, so that the blood ran out at the nails and everywhere, so that for four weeks I could not use my hands, as you can see from the writing ... Thereafter they first stripped me, bound my hands behind me, and drew me up in the torture. Then I thought heaven and earth were at an end; eight times did they draw me up and let me fall again, so that I suffered terrible agony .... And this happened on Friday, June 30, and with God's help I had to bear the torture.

When at last the executioner led me back into the prison, he said to me: "Sir, I beg you, for God's sake confess something, for you cannot endure the torture which you will be put to; and even if you bear it all, yet you will not escape, not even if you were an earl, but one torture will follow after another until you say you are a witch. Not before that," he said, "will they let you go, as you may see by all their trials, for one is just like another." ...

And so I made my confession, as follows; but it was all a lie. ...

Now dear child, here you have all my confession, for which I must die. And they are sheer lies and made-up things, so help me God. For all this I was forced to say through fear of the torture which was threatened beyond what I had already endured. For they never leave off with the torture till one confesses something; be he never so good, he must be a witch. Nobody escapes, though he were an earl. ...

Good night, for your father Johannes Junius will never see you more. July 24, 1628.

[And on the margin of the letter he added:]

Dear child, six have confessed against me at once: the Chancellor, his son, Neudecker, Zaner, Hoffmaisters Ursel, and Hoppfen Else — all false, through compulsion, as they have all told me, and begged my forgiveness in God's name before they were executed. ... They know nothing but good of me. They were forced to say it, just as I myself was.
Read again the executioner's advice. Do you think he didn't know he was extracting false confessions?

#399 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 05:32 PM:

And here I sit weeping hot tears for a man 379 years dead.

#400 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Pyre@393: And you think that the people who do need to be told to stop torturing ... you think that those people care more about truth, as in "torture isn't a reliable means of extracting truth", and that those people will do a 180˚ turnaround once you get that message across?

Either you think you'll get through to them by framing it as a morality problem (and if so, then we're both taking on the same problem from different angles), or you don't think anyone who supports torture can possibly change their opinion (and if so, then it doesn't really matter how I talk about it, does it?).

But either way, I oppose torture. And I find it really quite strange that you're so focused on how I talk about it, even in an out of context snippet of conversation I was having with someone else.

#401 ::: The Broken Reed ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 06:45 PM:

Back around comment #321ff, there were a couple of mentions of one's own personal 'Room 101' -- the worst torture of yourself you can imagine -- and how you shouldn't ever reveal it. I've been building up courage to ask or discuss a point about that, which also ties in with earlier points about how torture affects the victim.

What if some of the worst things you were afraid of did happen, but not as torture? Several different diseases: surgery, drugs, painful & difficult treatments & rehabilitation over a few short years, leaving permanent deformities & ongoing disabilities. Some of the treatment is close to torture, tho' done with all care & good intent.
Overlapping with those, deaths & other very painful & difficult family issues.
Resulting from these & medical stuff, some large & complex financial problems.

On hearing the diagnosis of my most recent serious disease, I was almost disappointed that it wasn't a probably-terminal recurrence of a previous one. I could have 'settled my affairs' & enjoyed what time I had left. But it was new, and I had to face many months of new pain & struggle.

So far, I've physically survived -- less a few important bodily bits -- but rather than feeling 'refined by fire' or strengthened, or learning deep spiritual lessons, etc, etc, etc, I feel broken, weak, distractable, fearful, often depressed, less able to do now what I could do before in almost every way. A friend said it looked like post-traumatic stress disorder. I think I could just grasp some of how a person who'd been tortured might feel -- tho' obviously it differs between people.

This place is more comforting than the 'inspirational' stories I see around in the media, where various people overcome their suffering to run a marathon, etc, etc, etc, and say that the disease or accident was 'the best thing that's happened' to them because of the good things they've learnt. Here I read of people dealing with their problems, or suffering through them, but not usually praising them.

#402 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 06:58 PM:

TBR@401: I feel broken, weak, distractable, fearful, often depressed, less able to do now what I could do before in almost every way. A friend said it looked like post-traumatic stress disorder.

I don't know if it's PTSD. But I think you should find someone you can talk to about this. Either someone who has gone through something vaguely similar, or someone who is just a good listener. I think most people would consider your reactions normal. It's just you eventually reach the point where you don't want to feel like that anymore and you might need some outside ear to help you out.

Left to our own devices, people can be notoriously hard on themselves.

#403 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Pyre @393 And you think that the people who do need to be told to stop torturing -- the people who are doing it, ordering it, excusing it, covering for it, or otherwise approving of it -- the people who don't care that it's wrong, evil, and all that -- the people who don't really care about moral issues, except as a campaign platform -- you think that those people care more about truth, as in "torture isn't a reliable means of extracting truth", and that those people will do a 180˚ turnaround once you get that message across?

Well those people won't want to give up torturing people. But some people will listen. Some people who've watched too little (or too much) news, who've maybe seen 24 and Dirty Harry*, who haven't thought about the subject too much and one day find themselves in public office, or in an interrogation room, or asking questions of a candidate, or on a battlefield with a prisoner, or in a voting booth; they might remember that some guys (wasn't one a military interrogater? and another in the Navy?) thought it didn't work, and that it was illegal, and maybe they'd realise it was wrong even if it did work and was legal. That person might be convinced.

Also: what it says up on the front page below "Incorporating Electrolite".

* The case Debbie @377 mentions sounds hellishly like the second half of Dirty Harry.

#404 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:06 PM:

All righty. Usually I keep reading a thread as long as there's comments, but it's just you guys repeating essentially the same things, so I declare this thread dead for my purposes.

#405 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:32 PM:

Greg London @ 400:

... And I find it really quite strange that you're so focused on how I talk about it, even in an out of context snippet of conversation I was having with someone else.
Are we reading the same thread?

My #372 was a general comment. My #373 and #374 were directed to the "truth" issue in Jim's original post.

Jim's #389 replied to me; my #391 replied to Jim.

Your #392 replied to my #391. My #393 replied to your #392, and then addressed both you and Jim.

My #394 through #399 continued on the "truth" issue, three of those being basically documentation.

Now your #400 says I'm focused on "an out of context snippet of conversation [you were] having with someone else"?   Fong wha'?

#406 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 08:41 PM:

(And my #396 addressed CRV's #105, which had been in reply to John.)

#407 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Nice numbers. It also avoided my point, which was that you don't care if torture works or not. Great. Got it. Message received.

If you're just expressing your opinion, then opinion received.

If you want me or anyone else to change the arguments we use with other people, because you don't care about the arguments we use, then I'm at a loss as to how to resolve the issue.

I'll use what I think best for the person I'm talking with. And at the time I was using the "torture doesn't work" argument, I wasn't talking to you.

#408 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2007, 10:45 PM:

I can't believe I'm seeing two adults arguing about the argument they had about which arguments to use in other arguments.

I like both of you. Please stop.

#409 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2007, 03:10 AM:

Broken Reed @401 -- so sorry to hear about all the things you've been going through. It's such a damaging myth that pain and chronic illness refine and ennoble the character -- in reality, they are quite cruel things to have to go through.

I'll echo Greg London, and reinforce the advice to talk to someone, maybe even several someones. You're facing lots of tough things that anyone would have trouble dealing with on their own. In case you're not already, I'd suggest the following*:

1. A psychologist/psychiatrist/other certified mental health counselor who's familiar with the impact of medical issues on the psyche, and who would be able to prescribe meds if necessary.

2. A self-help group of people who share at least some of your medical problems. A good self-help group can not only be sympathetic and help people vent, but also be a source of empowerment for increasing quality of life. Look for groups affiliated with hospitals or clinics -- they often have moderation and/or easy access to competent medical advice.

3. A social worker or debt counselor.

4. Your usual circle of friends. Try not to isolate yourself, try and do things you enjoy with people you like to be around, as much as your condition allows.

[*Full disclosure: this advice comes through my experiences as a PhD clinical psychologist (currently not practicing) with experience in pain management therapy.]

#410 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 09:43 PM:

Does Torture Work?

We can learn from the mistakes of other democracies that have tortured. These democracies lost their wars because the brutality they licensed reduced their intelligence, compromised their allies and corrupted their military and government, and they could not come to terms with that.
#411 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2007, 10:01 PM:

#403 Neil Wilcox:

Re: Dirty Harry

I recall the Mad parody when that film was in first run. At the point where the DA refused to prosecute Harry's case because the confession was obtained under torture, he says "These are the laws that made America great."

And the Dirty Harry character replies, "Yeah? Well me and the audience just decided that we like the laws that made Nazi Germany great."

That is the nutshell summary of the entirety of today's right wing.

#412 ::: The Broken Reed ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 01:43 PM:

Greg@402; Debbie@409: Thanks very much to both of you. I am definitely better now than when I was in almost full meltdown mode, a year or so ago, before the start of the most recent serious disease so far. The stress of the previous few years may have contributed to it. The hospital could refer me to counsellors & a psychologist on Medicare (all praise EG Whitlam & his government), and I did lean heavily on a couple of good friends, who also pushed me into a therapy/support group where there are others with complicated family stresses, &/or in addiction recovery, &/or dealing with grief/rage/guilt, not just ones dealing with a straightforward illness.

My employers have been very flexible, like allowing me leave without pay when all my sick, annual & long-service leave was used up; & letting me work permanently part-time so I have time each week for the continuing tests, doctors' consultations & dealing with assorted public & private bureaucracies for the continuing dreck of sorting out the mess the family & other problems created.

Things could have been a lot worse. But I still wish I were coping better. I don't feel like I'm still fully down in the quicksand/tar pit, nor yet am I free of their clinging drag. Still crawling & staggering, exhausted, on the strand; comforted, as I said, by seeing a community like this. Sica@436 on The MySpace Suicide thread described 'complex PTSD', which sounds closeish to what was going on.

Something to chew on: It's Not Gonna Be OK, by Mark Allen (Confronting language for some. Also good, if disturbing photos on the site.)

#413 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Broken Reed, so glad you posted back. I remember during grad school, the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" first came out. It's pretty much a classic now, but it was novel at the time, and for a lot of people helpful and liberating to say, 'This [grief experience] does indeed suck.' I also agree that a lot of illnesses, and the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that accompany them, can be sufficiently traumatic to cause lasting psychological effects.

#414 ::: steve rogers ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:31 AM:

My wife went through SERE at the Air Force Academy in the late 80's. They used hunger, sleep/sensory depravation, isolation, cramped positions and stress positions, and physical/mental abuse. She was a young 19 year old patriot and had to endure this to graduate one of our fine service academies. As tough as it was she knows that it would be worse if she was captured by a true enemy. It seemed like torture at the time but she bears no physical or mental scars. If we are subjecting our fine young men/women to this I have no sympathy for terrorist who undergo this type of treatment.

#415 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 10:42 AM:

Steve Rogers -- as you yourself say, it's worse if one is captured by a true enemy. I.e., in this case, the American government. Do you have any sympathy for people who are merely claimed to be terrorists, who are undergoing the "treatment"? What justification do you perceive for doing this to American detainees? Wouldn't you rather that your country not be one of the bad guys?

#416 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:00 AM:

steve@414: I have no sympathy for terrorist who undergo this type of treatment

"undergo this type of treatment"? why pussyfoot around the words? You have no sympathy for a terrorist whom we torture.

The odd thing is, the restrictions against torture are like any other restriction against unchecked power of the state: it isn't about having sympathy for the guilty, but having sympathy for the innocent. Unless you think no innocent people have ever been tortured by the US government or its foreign proxies.

It's also about putting in check the natural tendancy of someone with power to exercise it, to restrain the man with the big hammer from looking at every problem as a nail. Did the Salem Witch Trials emerge because there were real witches threatening the poeple? Or because people with power took it upon themselves to exercise power?

It was 1693 that saw a number of innocents tortured and executed by the State out of fear. It was 1712 before the State finally fully admitted it was wrong. Too late for the dead and the lives ruined.

Due process, including the prohibition against torture, is an attempt to prevent this sort of madness from happening again, rather than let it happen, and after the damage is done let the State apologize.

See, the thing is, your very statement commits the exact same fault that was committed in Salem. "you have no sympathy for terrorists" whom we torture. The mistake you made in that statement is that you already assumed the person being tortured is a terrorist, and that those are the only people we torture, and that due process isn't needed to determine their true status as "terrorist".

That presumption of guilt is exactly what enabled the Salem Witch Trials. And it is due process and prohibition against torture that are intended specifically to prevent that sort of mistake from being made again.

So, it isn't about sympathizing for the guilty. It is about preventing the State from rushing to judgement, finding the innocent to be guilty, and doing something that can never be undone.

It was in 2002 that Maher Arar was detained by the US, renditioned to Syria, and tortured for many months into making a false confession. It wasn't until 2007 that the US Congress actually apologized. Bush has never apologized for that horrible mistake.


#417 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:32 AM:

I miss the real Captain America. This one's a fake.

#418 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2008, 11:39 AM:

First, torture isn't about getting information. Put that out of your mind. Torture is about getting confessions, and about revenge.

Second, the SERE training has a couple of unrealistic things in it. The people undergoing it (and I know this because I was one) know that a) they're valuable assets of the US Government; they won't be permanently damaged, and b) this is a training scenario with a very limited (and generally known) duration.

Suppose you didn't know how long it would go on--possibly for the rest of your life (and in the cases of some people tortured to death in Afghanistan, that's exactly what it was), and you were aware that there are no limits at all. That mistakes will be buried and the files lost. Would you want your wife to undergo that?

Add to it that, again, guilty or not, no useful information can be obtained. The information obtained under torture is what the captors want to hear, regardless of its truth.

All that you gain by using the methods applied by villains is that you yourself become a villain.

#419 ::: steve rogers ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 06:47 AM:

I know this is an emtionally charged issue so I expect a few cheap shots and mealy mouth comments. No John, even though I served with honor as a Marine and have the name I do not claim to be a comic book hero.

James with your background and experience I respect your comments. Just like I respect what Malcome Nance says. But none of us know how good the intel was prior to the detention of these suspects. If it was unsubstantiated rumor then yes its a witch hunt as Greg said.

Terrorist are a clandestine and unconventional hostile force. Should they be treated exactly like a uniformed enemy soldier? Except for the beatings and simulated rape most of what my wife says she went through at SERE could be put into the coersive/intense interrogation category. I would not call it torture. Torture is a matter of degree of course but I don't think that periods of discomfort...not extreme pain..qualify.

Do we really want to eliminate these tactics from our arsenal in times like these? I just read a report by Heather McDonald that stated nearly all of the Al-Queda detainees had no problem resisting straight interrogation methods. I am not advocating barbarism here.


#420 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 08:12 AM:

#419
Are you aware that the FBI said they were getting good solid information by standard, legal, non-torture methods? And they told the DoJ that? And that what they told the DoJ was ignored (probably intentionally)?
Are you also aware that a number of these people are (a) innocent or (b) children under 10 at the time we acquired them? (And 'acquire' is the proper word: they were sold to us.)

#421 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 08:25 AM:

Do we really want to eliminate these tactics from our arsenal in times like these?

Yes.

#422 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 09:27 AM:

I just read a report by Heather McDonald that stated nearly all of the Al-Queda detainees had no problem resisting straight interrogation methods.

Since many of the detainees had done nothing worse than make the mistake of being in the wrong place when someone with a grudge got wind of the U.S.'s "WE PAY $$$ FOR ENEMIES" offer, I find it unsurprising that "straight interrogation methods" failed to get them to confess.

#423 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 09:32 AM:

steve, when you were in the Corps, were you trained in MI, with emphasis on interrogation? Because everyone I have encountered with that background so far says that torture, however euphemistically it's labeled, is worse than useless. It may get "information", but that information is not reliable, and more time is wasted trying to verify it than would have been spent using better methods. It also poisons the well, making it harder to get cooperation later on. So purely from a practical point of view, it's a bad choice.

From another point of view, how do you know for sure you have a "real" terrorist, as opposed to a random guy grabbed off the street? That's been a continual problem from the first, and one reason many detainees have not provided information without coercion has been that they didn't know anything. Needless to say, once they were tortured, they said a lot of intriguing things--because people in pain can be pretty imaginative if they think telling you the right story will make it all stop.

Then there's the fact that torture makes new enemies.

I'd mention the moral issues, but I can see your take on those is different from mine.

#424 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 09:54 AM:

steve rogers @419
Do we really want to eliminate these tactics from our arsenal in times like these?

Yes. Full Stop.

More detail: These tactics should never be in our nation's arsenal. We're the good guys - or at least we claim to be. We should act that way.

This isn't just hogwash with no practical applications, either (though the moral rectitude ought to be enough) - in Dave Grossman, in "On Killing" mentions (page 205 is what's in my notes, but my copy is lent out right now) that German enlistees and draftees were told by uncles and fathers who had served in WWI that they should surrender to the Americans, because the Americans always treated their POWs with respect, and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions - which was not necessarily the case with other combatants (especially the Russians).

If you were an Iraqi, would you want to be captured by the Americans, post-Abu Ghraib, post-Gitmo? If you were a member of some other fighting organization that was facing American forces, would you be willing to surrender to them, now?

"No Quarter" are words no soldier wants to hear, from either side. Because the "game" just went from "hazardous" to "deadly" - the fighting won't be over until the other side (or your own) is completely wiped out.

"In death ground I could make it evident that there is no chance of survival. For it is the nature of soldiers to resist when surrounded; to fight to the death when there is no alternative, and when desperate to follow commands implicitly.
-- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Ground on which there is no hope of surrender, or surrender is worse than death, is always death ground. Ground on which there is always hope for surrender - and where surrender may be the more palatable option, is ground from which an enemy can walk away. We should not put our enemies onto death ground without understanding what it is we are doing.

I just read a report by Heather McDonald that stated nearly all of the Al-Queda detainees had no problem resisting straight interrogation methods.

How long? Against what interviewers? How were they trained, what experience do they have, how were the detainees monitored?

Interrogation against a determined opposition is a long-term game. It does not always yield immediate results, and for best results it requires interrogators who are schooled not just in the interviewees language, but in their culture and customs as well. It requires continuous monitoring and surveillance. Funnily enough the Indonesians, with Australian aid, don't seem to need torture to roll up Islamic extremists...

There are plenty - plenty of examples - in this very thread about how torture doesn't work, interrogation techniques do work, and the way to get information out of people when they don't want to give it up necessarily - without resorting to any sort of physical or undue mental stressors. I've mentioned Fort Hunt, Virginia. Terry has, as always, opined forcefully about the ethics, morality, pragmatic usefulness, and legality of torture. Others have weighed in as well.

Have you actually bothered to read this thread, and follow up on the research, or are you just parroting talking points that you don't actually understand/haven't read up on?

I am not advocating barbarism here.

Yes, actually, you are.

#425 ::: steve rogers ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 10:02 AM:

Good points by all. The blog sites that lean to the right have an opposite view on this issue for the most part. I'm still not advocating painful torture, humiliation, or waterboarding. Fidelo I did not receive any MI training in the Corps, other than being captured myself on a training excersise. I would tend to believe the experts who have. I don't think our stance on moral issues is that far apart. I'm just hearing both sides and trying to see if there is any midddle ground on this issue. Our national security could depend on whether or not the right decision is made.

#426 ::: steve rogers ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 10:18 AM:

Great post Scott. I read Grossman's "On Combat" and I beilieve he gave the same example regarding German POW's. I have also attended some of his seminars. There seems to be a lot of knowledge on this board, but no middle ground on this issue. Thanks for sharing.

#427 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2008, 10:23 AM:

steve, there is no middle ground. I am willing to believe that some who believe what they want to call "intensive interrogation" is the best of some bad choices, or that there are some who have not sat down and thought their way through the implications and complications, and are advocating evil through ignorance. But it's evil. It also does not accomplish the goal of getting valid intelligence except by accident.

There are people who advocate it through ignorance, people who advocate it because they're frightened, people who advocate it because they don't want to look weak, people who advocate it because the people they think of as "the cool kids" talk it up, people who advocate it because they benefit from doing so. They are all wrong. They are advocates for evil. Whatever any of them may intend, they do not speak from the side of the angels, and they do not speak with the voice of wisdom.

There is no middle ground.

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And yet again.

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