Torture And Abuse

Here is the post that sums up everything I have said over the past few months, to include why this mess is untenable and why it is a strategic failure as well as moral failure.

And, he is calm, which makes it a touch more believable than my ‘hair on fire’ approach to debate.

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19 replies
  1. 1
    Far North says:

    There is nothing more un-American than torture, making excuses for torture and not caring if US troops conduct torture.

    All of you torture apologists are poor excuses for Americans.

  2. 2
    Defense Guy says:

    The word torture has become so watered down that you could, these days, apply it to most police interrogations. I suppose we could adopt our enemies tactics and just start sawing their heads off. I wonder what your responses would be to that.

  3. 3
    jazzman says:

    The abuse of POW’s will come back at us the next time (God forbid) any significant number of Americans are held as prisoners of war.
    I hope it’s not your son.

  4. 4
    Reid says:

    “I suppose we could adopt our enemies tactics and just start sawing their heads off. I wonder what your responses would be to that.”

    Ah, yes, the old defense of “we’re a half notch better than the terrorists, and that’s all that matters.” Keep headed down that road, and you have to be careful that you don’t become the very thing you hate.

    Because you’ve let their morals and values dictate what’s “OK” for yours.

    America used to have the highest standards of any country, all self-imposed. Now, as long as we’re not hacking heads, well, we’re OK.

  5. 5
    DJ says:

    jazzman, whoever takes American POWs is going to do whatever the hell they wanted to do anyway, dictated by their own rules and/or consciences.

  6. 6
    Lee says:

    Jazzman: psst… guess what? heads are already being cut off. Americans have been tortured (too) in the past (bataan death march, used as dumbies for bayonet practice by japs, shot by germans). i know we’re the ultimate villians, but…. give the handwringing a rest. it happens. ummm ‘kay?

  7. 7
    Jon H says:

    Another argument for not torturing (as if one should even be necessary), which might be better than jazzman’s, is that if the enemy thinks he will be tortured or abused, he’s less likely to surrender.

    The less of a fight they give us, the easier it’ll be for our troops.

    Now, granted, the hardcore fanatical insurgent types aren’t likely to give in easily. But there are also many less-motivated individuals who won’t be terribly interested in going down fighting.

    Yet another reason to not torture and abuse detainees is that reports of such treatment (especially when the victim is innocent, even more if young or elderly) are not going to induce civilians to help us.

    They aren’t going to go out of their way to help us if they think any contact with the US troops could result in their being detained and tortured for no good reason. Why help the US today if next week you could be arrested because some PFC at a checkpoint didn’t like your looks, or because a neighbor turned you in on trumped-up charges in hopes of being able to buy your land cheap.

    Hell, consider how Americans feel about the IRS. Not many people volunteering to help the IRS, are there?

    Now imagine how people’d feel about helping the IRS if the IRS was inclined to grab random taxpayers off the street at gunpoint, lock them up in prison without lawyers or trial, pulverise their legs, and violate them with lightsticks; then a few years later, after they get around to doing the audit, they find you were paid up and let you go.

    If you listen to the “at least we’re not cutting heads off” faction, you’d think Americans in such a system should be thankful to that police-state IRS, after all, think of all the schools that get painted with taxpayer money!

  8. 8
    BadTux says:

    It seems to me that the first problem with discussion the issue of torture is defining torture. Here is how torture is defined in Russian law: ‘For the purposes of this Article and other Articles of the Code torture shall be defined as infliction of physical and moral suffering aimed at coercing an individual into giving evidence or committing other acts against his will or as a punishment or for any other purposes.’

    This is a more restrictive definition than the definition the U.N. Convention against Torture (I do not recall whether the U.S. has signed this one — we haven’t signed most U.N. human rights treaties):

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

    In other words, under the U.N. convention, torture happens *before* you are tried and found guilty of a crime, but once you’ve been convicted of a crime, anything goes. Unless you’ve been found guilty of a crime, any physical punishment intended to coerce a confession is illegal if you’ve signed the U.N. Convention against Torture.

    Here is how torture is defined in American law:

    [Crickets].

    Hmm, and we’re supposed to be the good guys here?

    Our failure to live up to the standards of even the weaker U.N. Convention, much less the standards set in Russian law, are a black eye to America and a public disgrace. If we are to lecture the Chinese, Iranians, and others on human rights, it’s hard to do that when the way we’re treating prisoners convicted of no crime doesn’t even meet the U.N.’s rather lax standards, much less that of the Russians, who are, for cryin’ out loud, only barely a democracy! Not to mention that torture doesn’t even *work* as a way of getting information, the person you’re torturing will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear in order to get you to stop, regardless of whether it’s true or not. And then people want to make excuses for not living up to these commonsense restrictions on applying force to get confessions? Pathetic. Just pathetic.

    — Badtux the Definitional Penguin

  9. 9
    Far North says:

    What a couple of pathetic responses:

    Defense Guy: The word torture has been watered down. Therefore, blah, blah, blah…torture is OK cause we don’t cut off people’s heads”, blah, blah. See, cutting people’s heads off is torture, blah, blah. We don’t cut heads off, so, blah, blah, no torture, blah, blah”.

    Defense Guy: defending torture, excusing torture, supporting torture.

    Defense Guy: demonstrating why he is a poor excuse for an American.

    Then there’s Lee. Well, Lee’s an historian. Bataan death march, Germans shooting Americans, Lee knows things that we don’t. Can’t have any “handwringing” cause “it happens”

    Lee: excusing torture, defending torture, supporting torture cause “it happens”.

    Lee: Another sorry excuse for an American.

    Let’s see if these two deep thinkers can give us some more posts defending, excusing and supporting torture.

  10. 10
    Far North says:

    Torture is inexcusable.
    Torture is reprehensible.
    Torture is un-American.

    Torture should be rejected. Those accused of torture should be court martialed. Those found guilty of torture should be imprisoned for the maximum allowable time.

    I don’t give a shit how many heads our enemies cut off. American sponsored torture should should be rejected by all Americans.

    Torture is inexcusable.
    Torture is repehensible.
    Torture is un-American.

  11. 11
    Far North says:

    Torture is inexcusable.
    Torture is reprehensible.
    Torture is un-American.

    Torture should be rejected. Those accused of torture should be court martialed. Those found guilty of torture should be imprisoned for the maximum allowable time.

    I don’t give a shit how many heads our enemies cut off. American sponsored torture should should be rejected by all Americans.

    Torture is inexcusable.
    Torture is repehensible.
    Torture is un-American.

  12. 12
    tom scott says:

    My position on the POW issue has been widely misquoted and taken out of context. What I originally said and have continued to is the POWs are lying if they assert it was North Vietnamese policy to torture American prisoners.
    –Jane Fonda, Who is Being Brainwashed?
    An Indochina Peace Campaign Report
    Santa Monica: Indochina Peace Campaign 1973

    We have no reason to believe that US Air Force officers tell the truth. They are professional killers.
    –Jane Fonda, Washington Star, April 19, 1973

    No reason. Just thought it looked right at home on this site.

  13. 13
    dispassionate says:

    I’m just reading a book called Angel’s Flight by Michael Connelly. They are detective stories, in this one there is a lawyer who often sued the LAPD for abuse of power.

    So there is some connection with the idea of the military abusing their power and people trying to stop it, and often being resented for their efforts.

    There was an interesting phrase in the book which fits the torture argument quite well: “abuse of power was abuse of power, regardless of whether the victim was a criminal…if such abuse was tolerated when it was aimed at the guilty it wouldn’t be long before the innocent were targeted”.

    Which seems to be exactly what is happening.

  14. 14
    John Cole says:

    Yeah, Tom, because I am the same as taht despicable bitch “Hanoi Jane.”

    Go fuck yourself.

  15. 15
    jack says:

    Interesting post….though it goes off right from the start.

    Dale’s comparison of POW deaths with criminal inmate deaths is not appropriate. The two are not identical. And, given the calm thoroughness of the post I am left wondering why POW deaths from previous wars, a number that is likely as easily found as that of inmate deaths, was not the number used for comparison?

    Could it be because it isn’t that outrageous when compared to POW deaths from other wars?

    POWs are not inmates. They are not awaiting a trial-by-jury because they have not been–and are not going to be–sentenced. They are enemy combatants that have been captured instead of killed. In many cases they are the people who just hours ago were shooting at you, who created one of the bodies on that long list of casualties posted above.

    And soldiers are not jailors. They are not trained to ‘take it’. To put up with recalcitrant prisoners. They are not trained to use non-lethal force when dealing with a prisoners who doesn’t want to do as he’s told.

    They’re trained to kill the enemy.

    Our military is not perfect. And abuses will occur. Abuses which will be punished. But our military treats it’s prisoners in ways that they know will not be reciprocated. Defiling the Qu’ran? US POWs–provided they’re kept alive and not immediately parceled out to Beheading Television–won’t be allowed their religious books at all. Torture? It is the official practice, widespread and certified by government and mosque alike.

    And our soldiers know this. They know it when they’re delivering nutritious, religiously proper meals to people who gleefully watched as heads were sawn off, as bodies were desecrated. People who danced as the WTC collapsed. People who are drenched in the blood of innocents–innocents they deliberately targeted just to make a god damned point.

    They have to look at that every day. And you think a death rate of one quarter of all prisoner deaths is a heinous crime? I salute them for being able to restrain themselves.

  16. 16
    Darrell says:

    I agree it was a thoughtful article, but Mr. Henke is miles away from making his case that 27 deaths which ‘appear’ to be homicides (lots of the deaths in custody were due to deaths during uprisings and escape attempts) vs 68,000 detained demonstrates a “widespread” problem. Mr Henke says that only half of those 68,000 went into the system and of those, some are released after days or a week or so. However, I was disappointed that Mr. Henke did not provide any sources to back up the claim that only 1/2 of the 68,000 enter into the system and I can’t find anything to support his 1/2 of 68,000 claim using Google.

    But let’s assumes Henke’s right about the 1/2 of 68,000 thing.. then 27 alleged homicides out of, say, 25,000+ detained = 1/10th of 1%, .1%. Of course, all 27 should be vigorously investigated and the guilty punished, but given the violent nature of the detainees and lack of high quality high tech detention facilities in that part of the world, is this .1% anything approaching an out of control “widespread” problem??

    Furthermore, even the 27 ‘apparent’ homicides is a stretch if you read the article. Mr. Henke does not give further backup other than that linked article to substantiate his 27 number.

    Finally, Henke does not help his case by stating that those who disgree with him are “moral cripples” and “seem entirely uninterested in the fact that our troops are killing prisoners in their custody.” This is moral arrogance on Mr. Henke’s part

    So worst possible case based on the information, we have .1% of the suspected terrorists and Baathist detainees were murdered. And even that .1% number seems to be quite a stretch for the reasons I stated above. It could easily be 1/4 of that percentage. Since perfection is not an option, I really would like to know what the hell the justification is for all the talk about “widespread” torture

  17. 17
    Jon H says:

    “They are not awaiting a trial-by-jury because they have not been–and are not going to be–sentenced. They are enemy combatants that have been captured instead of killed. ”

    Except that many of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were not captured combatants as you claim, but people apprehended for petty crimes, or detained at checkpoints or in sweeps for various reasons which may or may not be valid. These are not people who raised the white flag after a battle.

  18. 18
    jack says:

    The people in Abu Ghraib who were not terrorists were held seperately from those suspected of terrorism. They were not among the prisoners ‘tortured’. An Iraqi doctor who worked at the prison made that quite plain at the onset of the media frenzy. But it’s an inconveinient fact. Far better to let everyone assume that wrongly detained innocents were abused.

    Also, I will point out that I said nothing about a ‘white flag’. The behavior of a number of released detainess from Gitmo who went right back to terrorism should make it clear that these people aren’t actually surrendering.

  19. 19
    Everyman says:

    Bitter With The Sweet

    I, too, like Instapundit, want to know more about this, to understand something more than a simplistic “war is hell” and let’s move along:

    . . . as far as we can tell, out of 108 prisoner death in US Military custody, at least 27 of them, or 25% ap…

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  1. Everyman says:

    Bitter With The Sweet

    I, too, like Instapundit, want to know more about this, to understand something more than a simplistic “war is hell” and let’s move along:

    . . . as far as we can tell, out of 108 prisoner death in US Military custody, at least 27 of them, or 25% ap…

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