Even More on Torture

From the Corner:

am opposed to torture under all circumstances, and there should be laws against it. Those who break them, should be punished. As a former Army Counterintelligence Agent, I conducted battlefield interrogations of enemy prisoners of war as well as strategic debriefings of higher value targets, and I’ve served in bad places where bad things will happen if you don’t get the information.
On more than one occasion, I had discussions with some of our operators regarding the obtaining of information in the ticking bomb scenario. Our discussion ran along the lines of “It’s against the law. It’s against the UCMJ. We’d go to jail. But if we knew the bomb was ticking, and this guy had the information that could save dozens or hundreds or more people, or if the team (the operators and the unit) were going to be wiped out if we didn’t get it, I’d whip out a hatchet and an entrenching tool and go to work on him.”

We were comfortable with this fairly horrible ambiguity and the bad consequences that would accompany it only because the military ethos was to sacrifice ourselves for others, and the notion of incurring legal jeopardy to save others struck us as a righteous cause, but it had to be predicated on the necessity of the ticking bomb. We did not want torture legalized. We did not want a guide book. We were fine with the notion we’d be punished had we ever used it – we never got into the neighborhood, much less seriously considering using it on anybody, BTW, we were just prepared to do what we had to do because it occurred to use that we could be in that position. There are some things that are too horrible to give a moral and legal imprimatur to, and torture is one of them, just as the law doesn’t permit cannibalism but won’t convict shipwrecked sailors and air crashed rugby players for engaging in it. We know these taboo and downright wrong practices sometimes rear their heads for good reason, but they are animalistic behaviors that come from a bestial place in the human soul, and no civilized society can long withstand a handshake deal with such beasts. Better to keep them caged.

I always say “Read the whole thing” when I excerpt from others, but in this case, I really, really mean it. Read the whole thing.






61 replies
  1. 1
    rilkefan says:

    Pretty good stuff (if all long available in The Atlantic and elsewhere), at least until he starts downplaying what’s been done (16 hrs, air-conditioning).

  2. 2
    Lines says:

    Decent stuff, but I think he treads on reationary grounds when he goes off with:

    This cramps the debate – on one side, Amnesty and others interpret Geneva literally, and wonder why we aren’t giving scientific equipment and sporting goods (like baseball bats and hunting knives, perhaps?) to AQ detainees, and calling it torture; at the same time, they are floating an anti-torture bill which will ban what… the denial of baseball bats, hunting knives, and biological lab equipment to AQ detainees?

    What the hell is he talking about? Would we tolerate this kind of bullshit from a hack blog commenter? I’m not going to write off the rest of what he says, as its pretty well written, but this just seemed to be thrown into the middle of the whole thing as a “see, I’m still a right winger, I hate AI and the ACLU!”. Is this a writers horrible attemt to maintain “balance”? Cheap shots and innuendo that serves little to no purpose in the context?

  3. 3
    Jorge says:

    This is most definitely the best argument against legalizing torture because of the ticking bomb scenario that I’ve ever heard. The whole piece is very impressive, mature, and most of all informed. What hit me in the gut the most about this piece is that it acknowledges that there are no perfect solutions. Though it saddens me that the argument is so complex that it could easily be shouted down by an O’Reilly or Hannity.

  4. 4
    Jorge says:

    Lines –
    I didn’t even understand that paragraph. He seems to be saying that Amnesty international thinks that giving detainees sporting equipment is torture. Is there some weird Islamist law about playing baseball that I don’t know about?

  5. 5
    Mr Furious says:

    Wierd paragraph aside, that was pretty good. Unfortunately even a cogent case like that willl have no effect on the torture apologists/enablers.

  6. 6
    Lines says:

    Thats what I was alluding to, it seemed to be placed haphazardly into the paragraph, and almost seemed to be from a different writer, some kind of revision editing by outside forces to provide some wierd sort of balance. Instead of providing any sort of insight, it leaves the reader confused and bewildered about the point, making it hard to continue reading the rest of the article.

  7. 7
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Squeamish pussy.

  8. 8
    Mona says:

    That email to Jonah is outstanding, and this is just exactly the only way to manage the issue:

    As Prof. Yoo noted in his memo, should somebody use torture, they had better avail themselves of the “defense of others” affirmative defense. This affirmative defense does not waive the law – it acknowledges a law was broken, and forces to defendant to prove that the breach of the law was justified. This is probably as close to a “reasonable” balance as you will ever have in this situation….Best to keep torture streng verboten, subject to societal approbation, and off limits, and if the operators feel it’s necessary, well, they engage in it at their own risk. It’s not fair, and it’s hypocritical, but I don’t see any other way to preserve our social institutions and our general moral standing and fiber from the rot that would be caused by an intricate mechanism for sanctioning torture.

  9. 9
    Mona says:

    I don’t seem to have the quote tag feature under control at this site; everything after my colon above is a quote from the email posted at The Corner.

  10. 10
    Lines says:

    Ok, Mona, I’ll bite:

    lets say you have a sociopath interrogator, will they not use any excuse at hand? By allowing even the hint that torture is EVER acceptable, you create a loophole.

    Torture your neighbor! If you get caught, just claim you thought he was going to rape your wife and you were just making sure. You were defending your wife by torturing your neighbor!

    You can’t half-assed condemn torture

  11. 11
    Mike S says:

    More importantly, we are in a war of ideas and we cannot afford to lose the moral and practical high ground. Our argument is that the pluralistic and tolerant western way of life is superior to the theocratic police state proposed by the New Caliphs. We cannot plausibly claim to have a better way of life to offer to Arabs and Muslims, if we are indistinguishable from the enemy. In the long run, this approach may cost us some lives, and I hate that fact, but I believe that it is probably a strategic necessity. Best to keep torture streng verboten, subject to societal approbation, and off limits, and if the operators feel it’s necessary, well, they engage in it at their own risk. It’s not fair, and it’s hypocritical, but I don’t see any other way to preserve our social institutions and our general moral standing and fiber from the rot that would be caused by an intricate mechanism for sanctioning torture. I’m getting a whiff of Foucault here, for some reason.

    Very good points in the whole thing. I have been arguing the above point the whole time.

    The other point I think people should pay attention to is the ticking bomb part. Do what you have to do and then defend it. Argue why in that situation it was justifiable.

  12. 12
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    I’ve read either this, or something like this before, months ago. But anyways.

    Lines, it is a defense. Not a perfect defense that is always going to work. If your delusions caused you to torture your neighbor to protect your wife, then a court/jury will probably discover that and you will be prosecuted.

    “Defense of Others” is not a get out of jail free card, it is an excuse that mitigates the action.

  13. 13
    Lines says:

    So a potential torturer just has to allude that he believed that there existed a “ticking time bomb” scenario and he gets off? Thats half-assed condemnation again.

  14. 14
    Geek, Esq. says:

    American values, not American thuggery, will win the battle of civilizations. If we surrender American values, we’ve already conceded the war.

  15. 15
    Emma Zahn says:

    Thanks for the link. The writer has an excellent mind and moral compass.

    –Emma

  16. 16
    Mike S says:

    So a potential torturer just has to allude that he believed that there existed a “ticking time bomb” scenario and he gets off? Thats half-assed condemnation again.

    No. He will have to defend it and find a way to convince people it was necessarry. And the guy writes:

    Best to keep torture streng verboten, subject to societal approbation, and off limits, and if the operators feel it’s necessary, well, they engage in it at their own risk.

    I don’t see any ambiguity there.

  17. 17
    ape says:

    “Even more on torture” vs “even less on torture”.

    Has anyone else concluded that Drudge Report has simply stopped reporting anything about torture? EG Various EU states investigating/ asking questions: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4482458.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4448792.stm

    and this (threats of legal action against UK police forces for not investigating CIA flights):
    http://www.liberty-human-right.....ghts.shtml
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4483640.stm (read the quote from Chris Mullen).

    I don’t know about the rest of the US media, but it seems that various left & centre-right bloggers aside, the issue is basically outside the news cycle and forgotten. True or not?

  18. 18
    jack says:

    Sigh.

    Don’t you get it yet?

    The man is saying that torture is NEVER acceptable. That it should NEVER be ‘legalized’.

    But sometimes it is the thing that needs to be done.

    It’s horrible. It scars all that are involved, questioner and questionee–or, if you prefer, torturer and victim. But sometimes it is the only thing that will work.

    And then he decries the defining down of torture–of describing as torture things that are clearly not.

    Perhaps, a good way to get an accurate working definition of torture would be to ask those who have found themselves in the position of having to use it. And I make the ‘having to use it’ point most clear–I do not refer to those who tortured to brainwash or those who tortured as punishment. I would only include those who tortured to get information that was used to save lives.

    And to those who would rant about ‘legality’ and ‘support’ for torture, I would remind you that right now, without any new laws being passed, every one of those people who tortured to save lives did something that they knew was illegal.

    These things are already illegal–find out what they are before adding ‘uncomfortable climactic changes’ to the mix.

  19. 19
    Lines says:

    No, you don’t seem to get it, Jack.

    You’re leaving a loophole, saying that while torture is illegal, its still a choice if you think you can save someone by torturing someone else. You’re still leaving it up to the individual to make the final choice. Its still a completely ambiguous condemnation of torture.

    and as for

    I would only include those who tortured to get information that was used to save lives.

    I would bet that you are 100% unable to find someone that has tortured and that torture led to saving a single life. You and every other person that has tried to use the “ticking time bomb” excuse digust me.

  20. 20
    Mona says:

    So a potential torturer just has to allude that he believed that there existed a “ticking time bomb” scenario and he gets off? Thats half-assed condemnation again.

    Our common law tradition, back to the mists of time in England, has virtually always permitted a necessity defense. For example, trespass is illegal, but if you are being chased by murderous thugs and need to break into your neighbor’s house and hide there to evade them, and you can convince the jury that you reasonably believed you were in danger of death or bodily harm, you are likely to be acquitted. But trespass remains against the law, and the law has teeth.

    And note the word “reasonable.” The standard is usually not subjective, i.e., whether your actions were reasonable to you, but is rather an objective one, that is, whether the average person (not the average sociopath) would have reasonably held the belief of necessity. As another has noted, this is not a “get out of jail free” card.

  21. 21
    ape says:

    “You’re leaving a loophole, saying that while torture is illegal, its still a choice if you think you can save someone by torturing someone else.”

    Not sure who said this about whom. But anyway – The point is that this is not a loophole.

    The idea of LEGITIMATE civil disobedience (like Gandhi etc..) is that they carry out the act and make no effort at all to avoid the punishment. ie; “I did it because it was right, no matter what the consequences for me”. This is not a loophole, as the original article tries to say.

    It’s a bit likes Hobbes ‘fighting with the hangman’: an irrevocable ‘right’. But it doesn’t mean you don’t get hanged.

  22. 22
    Lines says:

    It still leaves it open for interpretation. Despite reams and reams of intelligence stating that torture doesn’t yield useful results, you still want to leave that door open just a tiny tiny crack. Why? It makes no sense! Lets say torture works in 2% of the cases. Do you think in the “ticking time bomb” situation you’re going to fit into that 2% just because of necessity?

    There is rarely cases where I will say something is black and white, but this is one of them. NO torture is acceptable, no matter the circumstances, and that should be the only rule. Writing 2 page logical debates trying to justify that slim chance when torture is justifiable isn’t just a slippery slope, its a cliff.

  23. 23
    Lines says:

    Ok, let me try one more time to see if this makes it clear why this is a loophole for torture:

    Let say we have the infamous “ticking time bomb” scenario and torture yields the exact information needed to save baby Jesus, baby Ghandi and the Pope. Would the torturer “hang”? Or would he be hailed as a hero that had to do what was necessary and pardoned? Wouldn’t each potential case of torture present itself to the potential torturer in this way? Are not humans infected with the wanna-be-a-hero disease?

  24. 24
    demimondian says:

    It still leaves it open for interpretation. Despite reams and reams of intelligence stating that torture doesn’t yield useful results, you still want to leave that door open just a tiny tiny crack. Why? It makes no sense! Lets say torture works in 2% of the cases. Do you think in the “ticking time bomb” situation you’re going to fit into that 2% just because of necessity?

    The law is always open to interpretation, and the affirmative “defense of self or others” defense is one of the most interpretation-laden parts of the law. The point is that a jury in any court can choose not to convict even when an illegal act has clearly occurred. That loophole is why we have juries — because sometimes, something illegal has happened, but the alternative would be much worse.

    Stop being silly — this is a reasonable compromise. Yes, sociopaths will try to exploit it. It’s the job of a jury to listen to the arguments presented and decide whether to allow that exploit or not.

  25. 25
    Johno says:

    Let say we have the infamous “ticking time bomb” scenario and torture yields the exact information needed to save baby Jesus, baby Ghandi and the Pope. Would the torturer “hang”? Or would he be hailed as a hero that had to do what was necessary and pardoned? Wouldn’t each potential case of torture present itself to the potential torturer in this way? Are not humans infected with the wanna-be-a-hero disease?

    Lines, I’m afraid that you’ve gone and piled fantasy on fallacy. The “ticking time bomb” scenario is a one in a million hypothetical already, a sideline to the actual debate about how torture generally goes down. To talk about it as though it were the main event obscures the very issues you all so far have been debating here.

    Imagine asking a hardline pro-lifer, “What if you had proof that a given fetus was the human child of Satan himself, come to harvest untold misery among mankind once born? What about then– would an abortion be permissible? Would it not in fact be right?” That analogy is just about as useful in the abortion debate as the time bomb analogy is to torture. IMHO.

  26. 26
    Lines says:

    demi:

    shouldn’t we stop the torturing before it happens, not after? Prevention vs. prosecution?

  27. 27
    Lines says:

    Johno: Its the one analogy that is consistent in the discussion of “when is torture permisable”. Its been repeated in one form or another in every torture thread on this site. Its the fallback position of those on the losing side of the torture argument.

    Every time torture is an option, the potential torturer could justify their actions by believing that THIS time it will save a life and they’ll be pardoned/forgiven because they are a hero. It HAD to be done, right? Wrong.

    Torture is always 100% wrong, it’s so rarely productive that it might as well be never, yet there are constantly people trying to save that one single little loophole that will make it ok to torture. Why? Why, given all the data and knowledge about torture being counter-productive, do people still want to believe a hero will be born out of a torturous act?

  28. 28
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Lines Says:

    demi:

    shouldn’t we stop the torturing before it happens, not after? Prevention vs. prosecution?

    What do laws prevent? They prevent nothing. Only people be willing to follow the laws prevent someone from breaking.

    There are laws against speeding. Have you ever sped? I know I have.
    There are laws demanding a full and complete stop. Have you ever performed a “rolling stop”? I know I have.

    Laws prevent nothing. To be anecdotal, again, my father told me, “Do whatever you want, just make sure it is worth it.” In other words, break the law/rules if you wish to, just don’t complain when you are punished.

    Is the ending of another sentient being’s existence wrong, no caveats now, is the act of ending another sentient being’s existenance wrong?

    Most people would answer yes.

    But our legal system has layers and flavors of the act of ending the existenance of another being. Murder (1st/2nd degree), Justified Homicide, Manslaughter (1st, 2nd, etc), and probably others that an actual lawyer could attest to.

  29. 29
    Lines says:

    I’m not talking about just laws, though. I’m talking about a total, complete condemnation of torture without adding in little tiny loopholes every time its discussed. Anytime, anyone makes the argument that torture might be ok if …. they should be shot down in a blaze of moral glory. No moral ambiguousness, no slight legal justification, a hard, fast definition of what constitutes torture and you prevent instead of prosecute. At least you hope you reduce it, some.

    I just see people that so want to justify that one single act of torture that might make someone a hero, that might save a life or lots of lives. How about a puppy or a kitten? Is it ok to torture to save those? Is saving 10,000 people ok to torture someone, but only 9,999 isn’t enough? Why would it even be open for discussion?

  30. 30
    jack says:

    Lines, it isn’t a loophole. It’s a horrible moral choice that some have had to make.

    And you can’t ‘stop it before it happens’, you can only punish it when it does. With the laws against it that already exist.

    The ‘stopping it before’ that you’re talking about does occur, in a sense–it happens whenever someone thinks they’ve come to that point, and someone talks them out of it, or shows them another way. You’ll never read about it–because nothing happened.

    As for jurors not convicting someone who tortured, well, that’s THEIR moral choice–and what they’re doing is realizing that the choice made by the one who tortured was all that person could do.

    The loophole you’re talking about is always there, for every criminal act–you can, despite the illegality of it, choose to commit that act anyway. And there will always be some who will pardon it.

    Regarding your second assertion, If I had the name of a person who’d been in that situation, I’d never tell you. You would clearly not feel that their actions were justified and might very well seek to harm the person in question through the venue of bringing those incidents into the public eye.

  31. 31
    Johno says:

    Lines, fair enough. And I’m with you.

    (Now… what’s ‘torture’ to you? And what’s ‘torture’ to me? That’s the rub, right there.)

  32. 32
    Mike S says:

    Anybody catch this exchange between Rummy and Pace?

    When UPI’s Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, Rumsfeld replied that “obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility” other than to voice disapproval.

    But Pace had a different view. “It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it,” the general said.

    Rumsfeld interjected: “I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.”

    But Pace meant what he said. “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” he said, firmly.

    Pace may be spending a little more time with his family if he doesn’t get behind the Rumster soon.

  33. 33
    Lines says:

    Thats why I say you need a hard definition of torture. Thats something the US, and many other countries, have a really hard time coming up with. Bolton definately isn’t a guy I want being in on writing such a document for the international community, and I would dare say that the US should lead in the area, creating a document that outlines exactly what is considered torture and then holding it and the entire country up as examples for the international community to see. Lets get some of our moral standing back, as a country

  34. 34
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Lines,

    Thank you for reminding me why I dislike Kantian philosophy.

  35. 35
    Cyrus says:

    What I found interesting in that Pace-Rumsfeld exchange was something else entirely.

    When UPI’s Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, Rumsfeld replied that “obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility” other than to voice disapproval.

    But Pace had a different view. “It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it,” the general said.

    Rumsfeld interjected: “I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.”

    But Pace meant what he said. “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” he said, firmly. [Emphasis mine.]

    What word does he not use? “Torture.” That’s what we’re talking about, but then why does he think that US service members have an obligation to intervene to stop inhumane treatment?

    Whether waterboarding “counts” as torture or not is just avoiding the issue. Is it inhumane treatment? Is making naked human pyramids and taking pictures of it torture? Maybe so, probably no, but is it inhumane? Is keeping someone chained to the floor like an animal… in an unheated cell… for several days… for no good or necessary reason… without any sort of trial or legal sanction… torture? No, but it’s inhumane and while the penalty arguably shouldn’t be as severe, it shouldn’t be tolerated either. What kind of person would care about the distinction?

  36. 36
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Thank you for reminding me why I dislike Kantian philosophy.

    Hey, that’s not fair. He didn’t even mention the categorical imperative.

  37. 37

    The Categorical Imperative is what this discussion is all about, plus a little wishful thinking, as in “if we don’t torture them, they won’t torture us.”

    As if.

  38. 38
    Geek, Esq. says:

    No, deontological reasoning may be a part of the discussion, but I would wager that the majority of folks opposing the legalization of any kind of torture are relying upon rule utilitarianism.

  39. 39

    They seem to be offering contradictory arguments. On the one hand, torture is held to be the moral equivalent of genocide, and on the other it doesn’t work. This suggests an unstated wish, which is presumably the deontological thing I outlined already.

    Torture critics believe that if you close your eyes the monster goes away.

  40. 40
    Geek, Esq. says:

    The argument is that torture may be justified in certain, rare situations, but that we are better served with a blanket prohibition on torture.

    That’s textbook rule utilitarianism.

  41. 41

    Right, we’re counting on our agents to act like Jack Bauer and routinely make the ultimate personal sacrfice just to do their basic job.

    That’s Easter Bunny reasoning.

  42. 42
    DecidedFenceSitter says:

    Right, we’re counting on our agents to act like Jack Bauer and routinely make the ultimate personal sacrfice just to do their basic job.

    Ticking bombs are routine now?

  43. 43
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Right, we’re counting on our agents to act like Jack Bauer and routinely make the ultimate personal sacrfice just to do their basic job.

    That’s Easter Bunny reasoning.

    Routinely? One basic assumption is that torture is only justified, even in situational terms, in extraordinary circumstances.

  44. 44
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Apparently Mr. Bennett thinks that US intelligence agents routinely torture people and that torture is a basic function of our intelligence agents.

    Why does Mr. Bennett hate and defame the United States like this?

  45. 45

    Actually, I’m wondering if you would have the stones to make such an outrageous claim if you were using your real name.

    Anonymity emboldens terrorists.

  46. 46
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Somebody needs to stop by Radio Shack for a new irony detector.

  47. 47
    Lines says:

    Richard appears to have all the debate skills of a hunk of playdoh. Now if only Playdoh wasn’t inherently anti-American…….

    Bennett, you and everyone that wants to debate using skills they picked up on a playground make me want to just scream. On your blog you claim that the two arguments are contradictory, but you offer nothing to support your statement.

    1) Torture doesn’t work
    2) We don’t need to lower ourselves, morally, to the point of torturing because we are better than our enemies.

    How are those contradictory? They are just good reasons to NOT torture. And what have you given as evidence that torture works? Why John McCain! Great, thats just peachy, except the information he gave while being tortured was useless and stale. It was most likely information that the enemy already had, his interrogators were only trying to break him for the sake of breaking him.

    So why do you like torture? Does it get you all randy, like it does Stormy? Does the idea of waterboarding some brown-skins just get your juices pumping, give you a new high? Did you read the article above? Do you understand what he’s saying or is he using too many big words? Condoning torture is a road that ends in a cost too big for American’s to pay.

  48. 48
    ether says:

    John Cole:

    Again you are skewing my position.

    I never held up torture as reliable, I am simply saying it should not be removed as an option.

    Also, if anyone would care to reconcile being for killing yet against inflicting suffering to achieve political ends, I would love to hear it.

    I noticed you avoided it, instead telling me to go fuck myself and continuing to build up your straw-man image of what my position entails.

    Thos afraid to do the necessary always resort to infering I somehow seek to torture others, rather than resorting to it in th emost extreme circumstances.

    Again John: read my first post…

    “Stating that “torture can work” is not saying that is reliable, preferrable, or morally correct. It is merely stating that it can work.”

    Where in that do you read that I see torture as an effective method?

    A simple reconciliation of your conflicting moral principles would also be appreciated.

    I never claimed I was more of a man for accepting my choices, I simply said I view those unwilling to accept their choices as unrealistic and weak.

  49. 49
    Lines says:

    ether:

    Torture isn’t a choice, and it doesn’t work, so your point is moot. You sure used a lot of words to come up with nothing, though.

  50. 50
    fishbane says:

    Anonymity emboldens terrorists.

    And crap argument-stopper nonsequiters like this have been boring and obvious since before USENet.

    /me, a grumpy old once-upon-a-time FidoNet node operator.

  51. 51

    There’s a whole bunch of people who want us to withdraw from Iraq right now because they figure that would be good for the Democratic Party. And there’s a whole bunch of people who figure we need to go on an anti-torture jihad because that’s good for the Democratic Party as well; it makes Abu Ghraib a bigger issue in the coming election than it would be otherwise. This is dishonest, and I’m pointing it out.

    The typical objection to torture is aesthetic, not moral and certainly not utilitarian; the arguments are smokescreens and Geek Esq. is a pussy.

  52. 52
    ether says:

    Lines:

    Torture can work.

    Not, “torture works.”

  53. 53
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Oh dear. Making shit up and 8th grade insults.

    Mr. Bennett is simply overmatched here. He should confine himself to debating opponents of more modest capabilities, such as Dean Esmay.

  54. 54

    Geek, youre style of argument is all slander and button-pushing. If you behave that way in court, you’ll soon find yourself working for an insurance company.

    The Enemies of Torture say they want the military to use it when it’s absolutely necessary, but without the protection of law. This position, of which Geek is a proponent, is at best hypocritical and in fact self-refuting. It warrants no argument.

  55. 55
    demimondian says:

    Sheesh, Bennett! I’ve seen better word usage by English professors during debates on hermeneutics!

    I mean, I’ll give you two extra thesaurus points for “warrants no argument” — but, really, guy, leave the sesquipedalianisms at home.

  56. 56
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Bennett in his own words:

    Geek Esq. is a pussy.

    Geek, youre (sic)style of argument is all slander and button-pushing.

  57. 57

    As a former Army counterintelligence agent (no, not the one who wrote the email) who may be deploying to Afghanistan/Iraq soon, my concern is also about the problem of ‘defining torture downwards’ to the point where (as the email notes)…

    …keeping people awake for 16 hours as torture, or the turning on of the air conditioner, is being received as a horrifying witch hunting exercise which cramps legitimate coercive interrogation techniques.

    I’m completely opposed to true torture and abuse, but it seems that the entire debate has a parallel with the white phosphorus tizzy… legitimate and legal ways of war are being conflated with truly terrible offenses, by people who perceive that any interrogation=torture and any use of weapons which makes you squeamish=war crime.

    I wrote on something similar in my weblog concerning the Abu Ghraib incidents…

    And I’ve experienced a little of the other side also, going through interrogation exercises as a ‘detainee for a day’… been hooded, made to maintain stress positions for extended periods, and left in ‘the cage’ exposed to the broiling summer sun for a few hours before being brought in to face questioning.

    While most of the actions depicted in the pictures are completely unacceptable, I’m concerned that some useful interrogation tactics are going to be abandoned in an overreactive backlash, because a couple of the practices shown in the photographs aren’t really ‘out of bounds’ as long as they’re done in moderation. Like the now-iconic image of the hooded Iraqi standing on a box with wires attached to his fingers, who was supposedly told he would be shocked if he fell off the box… of course, if he had really been attached to a power source and in danger of being electrocuted, that would have been utterly illegal. But he wasnt, according to the accompanying story. In general, it’s acceptable to stress invividual detainees psychologically prior to (and during) an interrogation session, and to use intimidation and deception and trickery to disorient and break down their mental barriers – including placing them in what they believe are dangerous situations to raise their fear and anxiety level. In principle there’s nothing inherently wrong with hooding and stressing and shackling specific detainees for a limited time in preparation for and as part of an interrogation session. But when the same things are done not as part of an approved interrogation plan but in general against random detainees as a matter of routine, for supposed punishment purposes, or for the sadistic amusement of their jailers, they go over the line into abuse… and possibly torture. sad Of course, any physical harm or sexual/nudity situations or systematic humiliations – or even worse – visited upon the detainees are completely and totally wrong, and have no place anywhere under American control (or supervision).

    It seems somewhat silly to see well-meaning criticism that appears to advocate that the US military in a combat zone should be constrained to questioning techniques less stringent that those seen on a typical episode of Law And Order. ;)

    And this is coming from a progressive Democrat who was opposed to this entire Iraqi escapade from the start (as you can read in the remainder of the post). What I’m worried about is ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’… if there are inconsistencies with interrogation techniques, hopefully they’ve been alleviated in the new FM 34-52 interrogation manual. And if some additional restrictions should be placed upon the use of WP, I’m sure that the Army is in the process of refining the doctrine and training. Defining torture so far downwards and wholly disallowing the use of legitimate weapons is all too likely to get many more troops killed, for little or no benefit in ‘public relations’ or goodwill.

    [By the way, I suspect that the recent revival of ‘the government is spying on blogs OMG WTF’ paranoia is just someone at CIFA browsing their blogroll from work.]

  58. 58
    Andrew J. Lazarus says:

    I’m fresh from a discussion of torture at Volokh.com. It didn’t take me long to decide the pro-torture crowd, including VP Chainsaw who didn’t join the thread, are perverts. (The homosexual panic evident in their reference to the decent posters in the thread as weak-bellied, pussies, etc. was quite revealing.) Now, I’m generally OK with whatever consenting adults do, but in this case, I don’t see consent.

  59. 59

    Another lame attempt at button-pushing. Lazaraus, you’re* a troll.

    *Does everybody like my typing today?

  60. 60
    The Raven says:

    OK – so they caught your child, your son or daughter. Your child is in the hands of the enemy. What treatment would you prefer they dish out to your kid?

    Are you still down with torture? It’s fine if they torture your kid? You feel good about that? If you don’t, then it’s clear that torture is always the wrong action in any circumstances. You can’t justify it, there is no “ticking time bomb scenario,” and anyone who promotes that line of thinking is the enemy of our troops.

  61. 61

    We have no control overf how the enemy treats its prisoners.

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