Did Anyone Actually See David Broder’s Body?

David Broder is dead, or so they say.

I’m telling you he’s undead, and like the Jack the Ripper figure in that Star Trek episode, seems to be infecting the previously sane.

Exhibit A:

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Here’s Josh Marshall, Josh Freaking Marshall, earlier today:

As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing torture without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce any good intelligence, which would be foolish.

Here’s Senator Feinstein, speaking to the particular, as reported in Josh’s own Talking Points Memo:

“To the best of our knowledge, based on a look, none of it came as a result of harsh interrogation practices,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a wide-ranging press conference.

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Moreover, Feinstein added, nothing about the sequence of events that culminated in Sunday’s raid vindicates the Bush-era techniques, nor their use of black sites — secret prisons, operated by the CIA.

“Absolutely not, I do not,” Feinstein said. “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”

And as for the general claim, that “torture could easily have produced the key information,” here’s the lede to that very story, written by Brian Beutler:

More and more evidence suggests a key piece of intelligence — the first link in the chain of information that led U.S. intelligence officials to Osama bin Laden — wasn’t tortured out of its source. And, indeed, that torture actually failed to produce it.

If Marshall wants to argue that torture is a valuable tool for intelligence gather, let him make the case.  I don’t actually think he does, of course.  But his bland suggestion that it might be so reeks of both-sides-now-ism.

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Combine that with the hippy-bashing use of the word “doctrinaire” — as in hide-bound, close-minded, and inflexible — to describe the properties of opposition to torture, and you have a bit of even handed applause for the right’s conventional wisdom that Mr. Broder himself would have admired.

Marshall is better than this bit of overly fast punditry…but in some sense that’s the point.  It shows how easy it is to slip into Broderism, into the habits of sloppy thinking, or simple refusal to think, even for people who’ve made a career of bullshit detection.

Eternal vigilance, peeps.

Image:  Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, 1808

131 replies
  1. 1
    BGinCHI says:

    I go to TPM for news and opinion really often, as I imagine many here do. But in the last several months the quality seems to be slipping a little. Maybe they’re just a bit tired and slumping, or maybe they’ve gotten comfortable and are turning all Jon Stewart.

    Diagnoses?

    And, on torture, Tom is right: if you are going to make the “torture works” argument, you have to actually make it, with specifics and with context. It’s not just some abstract notion.

  2. 2
    Jay in Oregon says:

    Maybe I’m misremembering, but I think most of the objection to torturing terrorism suspects had more to do with our moral standards and legal obligations than its efficacy. The fact that it doesn’t yield reliable results was just the cherry on the shit sundae.

  3. 3
    Keith G says:

    As others have said before, I used to care what Josh had to say about our body politic. I haven’t for several years now.

    It’s a shame that he continues to sink deeper into the swamp of conventional wisdom.

  4. 4
    Mnemosyne says:

    You know, there is an ethical debate to be had about using information that comes from torture, the same way that there was an ethical debate about using hypothermia research that came from Nazi scientists who tortured and murdered prisoners to get their data.

    So even if torture “worked” the same way the Nazis got valuable, life-saving information by killing prisoners, it’s not an excuse to use it again.

  5. 5
    Sophist says:

    Oh, fucksake. Yes, Josh Marshall, this one data point does fail to prove a negative. Shocking!

  6. 6
    danimal says:

    I think you’re misreading Marshall. His point is that it’s a mistake to argue about the effectiveness of torture, rather than the morality of torture.

    It is within the realm of possibility that interrogators will get useful information as a result of torture, but it is always (IMHO) WRONG to torture, regardless of whether it is productive.

  7. 7
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    David Broder’s dead.
    No, no, no, no, He’s outside looking in.
    David Broder’s dead.
    No, no, no, no, He’s outside looking in.

    He’ll show us the middle way,
    Takes you trips around the beltway,
    Brings you back the same day,
    David Broder. David Broder.

    Along I-95 you’ll hear them boast
    About a light they say that shines so clear.
    So raise your glass, we’ll drink a toast
    To the little man who sells you shit along the pier.

    He’ll take you up, he’ll bring you down,
    He’ll plant your feet back firmly on the ground.
    He flies so high, he swoops so low,
    He knows exactly which way he’s gonna go.
    David Broder. David Broder.

  8. 8
    Andrew says:

    @danimal: Right, Josh’s point was that this doesn’t justify torture. Even if hypothetically some useful intelligence were gleaned from it, it would be immoral.

    And I’d add a couple practical problems with torture: (1) The information you get is so unreliable that you can never tell what’s actually good intelligence and what’s bad. (2) There’s no guarantee you couldn’t have gotten the same information through better methods.

  9. 9
    WyldPirate says:

    @danimal:

    This….

    Marshall is right. Tom, you are on Josh for the wrong (maybe even without) reason.

  10. 10
    KG says:

    @danimal: they may get actionable intelligence through torture, but they also get plenty of bad leads and statements. It has been known since at least the fucking inquisition (I know, I know… No one suspects the Spanish Inquisition!) that people will say anything to make the pain stop. That usually means false confessions, false leads, and all sorts of other stuff. The problem you then have is that instead of one good lead, you have one good lead and several bad leads. Meaning you’re really no better than before.

    So, not only is it morally wrong, it is incredibly ineffective to boot.

  11. 11
    Lee Hartmann says:

    I’ve disagreed before with you, Tom (though I loved Newton…) but I have to say this is one of the best blog post titles ever.

  12. 12
    Pat says:

    I agree with Danimal. This isn’t a wishy-washy Broderish point at all. Being against torture even if it sometimes works is a tough-minded position, and the correct one.

  13. 13

    The defense of torture is a strange thing.

    The only thing torture is good for is punishment, and maybe somebody’s titillation.

    Defending torture makes a person look dirty, undignified, and perverted.

  14. 14
    General Stuck says:

    It is a bit of a stretch to put it mildly, that you would need to waterboard some dude 182 times, and on the 183 waterboarding, he finally gives in and drops a dime on the courier. What it sounds like to me is they pieced together info from several sources to identify this guy that led them to OBL. KSM, may have or not, provided some piece of that info. But if he had given them complete info to automatically ID the courier, this would have wrapped up a long time ago, and not having started in August of last year.

    Pardon if this has already been posted today.

    Leader of Tea Party Nation, Judson Phillips
    , gets my vote for today’s lame attack on Obama over getting OBL

    To err is human but to really screw things up, you need talent the caliber of the Obama regime.
    They have managed to take what should have been a celebration of victory and make it almost anything but. Americans celebrated the death of our archenemy. Obama looked like he was seriously inconvenienced. Did he even smile one time when he was making the speech?
    Now that Team Obama has managed to totally FUBAR the situation, theories of all kinds are running through the Internet.

    Did he smile? Only a hungry lizard would ask that question, under the circumstances.

    There is a truism in life. The simplest explanation is most likely the correct explanation.

    The simplest explanation is, forty-eight hours ago; Seal Team Six from the United States Navy blew away the most wanted fugitive in the world.

    The simplest explanation is also that there is not a thing in the world that Obama and his regime cannot screw up. Team Obama is very good at running a campaign. When it comes to actually running a government, they are an epic fail.

    I submit this nugget as the all time winner in Tea Bagger Cognitive Diss., Mother of All Fap Fap Faps.

    This comes a day after this brilliant synopsis of the events concerning OBL.

    What should have happened, which would not happen under the Obama regime and to be fair, the Bush administration was too politically correct to do this either, but Osama’s body should have not been immediately buried. We should have told everyone that the body was wrapped in pig fat before burial.

    Why?

    It is not just the visceral insult. It is sending a message. Contrary to what the politically correct say, Osama does represent the mainstream of Islam. By defiling the body, we say that you are not getting your 72 virgins.

    Obama just orders the killing of the number one Islamic Radical in the world, but he is still main stream Islam. Go figure.

    I think it would be especially cruel to deny even the worst among us an afterlife of promised virgins, though 72 seems a bit much. Obama is a pragmatic liberal after all. Maybe OBL can share with Dick Cheney if his electric heart can stand it.

  15. 15
    Murc says:

    Add me to the ‘all y’all are being unfair to Josh’ column.

    Of COURSE you can sometimes get accurate, valuable intel using torture. You’re going to sometimes (from sheer random chance if nothing else) pick up people who know things, and when you break them using torture, they’re gonna tell you those things.

    And you know what? Even if we had a way of reliably separating that wheat from the massive amounts of chaff, it would still be wrong. I personally really, REALLY don’t like the ‘it doesn’t produce good intel’ argument against torture, because the obvious crack in THAT fortress wall is that it is within the bounds of possibility that one day, perhaps soon, torture techniques that are exquisitely effective in getting reliable intel will be developed. The moral argument against it is absolute and can’t be gotten around.

  16. 16
    MikeJ says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:
    The virginal bloggers file past his tomb
    Strewn with time’s dead flowers
    Bereft in deathly bloom
    Alone in a darkened room
    The count
    David Broder’s dead
    Undead undead undead

  17. 17
    gex says:

    Well, I for one am PROUD to be doctrinally opposed to torture. I’ll take that “insult” and wear that badge with pride, thank you very much.

    ETA: Maybe Josh was not saying what Tom thinks he did. But then the slam using the word “doctrinaire” suggests otherwise to me. If the opposition was based on ethics, then his equivocation on the efficacy of torture is irrelevant.

  18. 18
    Martin says:

    If Marshall wants to argue that torture is a valuable tool for intelligence gather, let him make the case. I don’t actually think he does, of course. But his bland suggestion that it might be so reeks of both-sides-now-ism.

    I think you’re reading it wrong. He’s presenting a hypothetical logical construct, not an argument.

    He’s taking the GOP’s arguments that torture produced the evidence at face value and saying that it’s immaterial to the conclusion. Even if in this case torture didn’t produce intel, certainly in some case torture has done so, even if that intel could have been obtained via other means. Josh is jumping beyond Feinstein’s argument and making the next one that will be raised which is ‘even if torture didn’t yield intel in this case, it has in other cases’. Josh is saying, “So what? Even if we acknowledge that intel has been obtained that way, it’s still not worth doing”

    I make these kinds of arguments all the time.

  19. 19
    matt says:

    all marshall is saying is that if you rule out that torture can ever produce good information you’re not making the best case against torture – torture can on occasion produce good information. that doesn’t make it right, but you have to make an argument that’s not doctrinaire in refusing to accept the fact that some good information has come out of torture before and that it could well have happened in this case. if you rest your argument purely on the notion that torture has never and will never produce a useful bit of information you will in the long run lose the argument because that’s a too-strong claim.

  20. 20
    retr2327 says:

    Add me to the “you’re misreading Josh” column as well. I believe (and think he believes) that the case against torture can be made on the grounds that it does not produce reliable information without insisting that it can never produce any accurate information. The problem (from an effectiveness standpoint only, of course) is that you can’t determine when it’s reliable and when it’s not. (this is, of course, putting aside the case against torture on moral grounds, which is a distinct issue).

    And one other note here: we hear a lot about the infamous “ticking bomb” scenario, but as this instance illustrates (or would, if the information was actually obtained as a result of waterboarding, which remains somewhat undetermined/disputed), actually verifying the accuracy and ascertaining the reliability of any information obtained under “enhanced interrogation techniques” can take years. So it’s not a particularly effective approach even in ticking bomb scenarios.

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    One should not torture, not because it is ineffective, but because it is FUCKING TORTURE! I mean watch the movies; torture is what the bad guys do. Do people want to be the bad guy? Great, if you can accept that the bad guy is who you want to be, then, and only then, do you bring up the ineffectiveness, because who wants to be the dumb bad guy? As for me, I would like to be better than that.

  22. 22
    Mike Kay (Team America) says:

    Sad day when Marshall is to the far right of DiFi.

    Shame on you, Josh. Shame on you.

  23. 23
    Martin says:

    @gex:

    But then the slam using the word “doctrinaire” suggests otherwise to me.

    Doctrinaire is not a slam. Doctrinaire simply means taking a position without practical concerns. On moral issues like torture and the death penalty, I don’t see how that’s a problem. When someone is doctrinaire regarding tax policy, that’s different because there’s no moral component there – it’s all practical, so being doctrinaire effectively means you’re an idiot or you’ve replaced a moral stance with a political one.

    It’s important to remember that Josh has a PhD in History. He’s occasionally more precise in his word usage than readers expect.

  24. 24
    PS says:

    Yes, I think Marshall picked a poor choice of words (I have never done that myself so I wouldn’t know how it feels), but he also did end up conceding more than he need have. I do NOT think it is foolish to start from the presumption that any information acquired through torture should be assumed incorrect until proven otherwise. I will concede that such data might suggest lines of further enquiry, but no more than that. (And by golly the suspicious failure to name people, now that’s … a topic done to death before.) The trouble is, that interrogators who assume they’re being fed garbage, as I think they should, have nowhere to go in the process. Which is part of why faux-empathy can be a rather effective technique.

  25. 25
    gex says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Good point. Debating effectiveness is exactly how they stop us from debating the morality of it. This is how they frame an issue and how we fall in line with their frame.

  26. 26
    WarMunchkin says:

    @danimal: He’s still wrong — arguing about the effectiveness of torture is a direct rebuttal to those who argue that torture is necessary to achieve results in ticking time bomb scenarios. Such arguments assume that techniques other than torture are less effective methods only used with the luxury of time. Stating clearly that torture is ineffective undermines this argument.

    Of course, all of this assumes that reason is operative anywhere. Willingness to torture is just signaling toughness in the same way that people say they’ll send criminals to jail without a trial.

  27. 27
    General Stuck says:

    As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing torture without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce any good intelligence, which would be foolish.

    Josh isn’t making a case for anything here. He is speaking in context that there are people who make certain pure utilitarian arguments concerning torture, and that it might be a good idea to argue back instead of being absolutist and ceding points.

    I am an absolutist regarding torture, in all cases, but I don’t begrudge others against torture, who think it useful to defeat such pro torture arguments. There can be good info gotten from torture, but aside from the moral bankruptcy of it, whatever good info is likely to be embedded with a lot more false info, said to make the torture stop. The problem with this should be obvious.

  28. 28
    rageahol says:

    like i keep saying:

    the fucking ROMANS knew that evidence extracted via torture was unreliable at best. and they did that shit for HUNDREDS OF YEARS. the rack, waterboarding, all of it.

    and THEY KNEW that it was unreliable. because they practiced it, a lot. for a much longer time than we have been.

    so i dont understand why that history is just ignored.

  29. 29
    gex says:

    @Martin: Uh. Okay. I didn’t take doctrinaire, the word itself to be a slam. Describing someone as doctrinally against torture in that way seems dismissive of those people.

    Doctrinaire simply means taking a position without practical concerns. On moral issues like torture and the death penalty, I don’t see how that’s a problem.

    Well, when the topic of torture comes up then, I’ll point out that being doctrinally against torture is a good thing. I hope I get an opportunity soon…

  30. 30
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @Andrew:

    And I’d add a couple practical problems with torture: (1) The information you get is so unreliable that you can never tell what’s actually good intelligence and what’s bad. (2) There’s no guarantee you couldn’t have gotten the same information through better methods.

    You know who else understood this?

    That’s right: Stalin.

    There are almost no documented cases of German POW’s being tortured to obtain operational intelligence by the Red Army during WW2. They were usually mistreated for all sorts of other reasons, ranging from the political to the logistic, but not to get operational intel.

    Think about that for a moment. In Stalin’s USSR they had acquired prior to the war more practical experience with the large scale systematic application of torture to extract confessions from victims than any other regime on Earth, and in a war for survival they didn’t use it.

    Why? I don’t know, it isn’t a question that either military historians of the WW2 Eastern Front or historians of Stalinism more generally spend much time on. My guess is that this is because it is obvious how contaminated with falsehoods the information produced would have been, and nobody knew this better than the Soviets, who had been using torture for decades to systematically manufacture falsehoods on an industrial scale. It certainly wasn’t because the NKVD were too dainty to do the job, or because the Germans were nice guys so they didn’t want to have hard feelings after the war.

  31. 31
    Studly Pantload, now with enhanced schmuckosity says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Very nice. Takes me back to my late teens/early 20s, being tucked inside my headphones with the Moody Blues for hours (albiet, about a dozen years after it was actually fashionable).

  32. 32
    Robert Waldmann says:

    I “could” defend Marshall and I “could” also attack him. It all depends on what “could” could be interpreted to mean.

    I will defend him. I read the post and didn’t object and I still don’t. I also wrote a (link begging) post denouncing the people who claim that torture works http://bit.ly/m0ODkJ

    Here I don’t think he is hippy bashing when he writes “doctrinaire.” He clearly implies that one should be doctrinaire when denouncing torture. “Doctrine” is also the word used by many for the basic moral teachings which we should not question. I am sure Marshall is using it in that sense.

    I think he made two valid points. One is that when discussing whether torture is effective one should always add that it would be wrong even if it is effective (his reminder is exactly why I wrote that in my post).

    Second, the claim that torture is not effective does not imply that nothing anyone says while being tortured is effective. A blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn even if the squirrel also happens to be morally depraved.

    A case against torture strong enough to actually prevent it must have three layers. Torture would be wrong if it were effective. A huge mass of evidence shows it a useful way to make people say what you want them to say (witchcraft trials, N Vietnamese torture of US prisoners, Bush administration torture if Ibn al Sheikh al Libi* outsourced to Egypt

    And third to note that torture failed again each and every time torture fails. The third, to be effective, must be frank and honest, so if there ever is a case in which torture is used and the interrogation yields useful information, we must admit that every rule in social science has exceptions (while some rules in morality don’t have exceptions and it sure looks like some rules in natural sciences don’t either).

    Marshall’s view is that opponents of torture must not give hostages to fortune. We must not make claims that would be refuted if anyone can find an example in which torture was not demonstrably counterproductive (in the long sad history of humanity there must be some such example — almost everything imaginable has happened at least once).

    I think he is giving good advice on how to win the long struggle against US citizens who proudly advocate torture which I at least naively believed was won centuries ago.

    *not the al-Libi who stuck to his lies about Osama’s courier while being tortured the one who caved and falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was helping al Qaeda.

    Aside from that, I agree with your post.

  33. 33
    Konrad says:

    I think carrots cause heart disease. Think of the number of people that eat carrots and then have heart disease. It’s a general matter that carrots produce heart disease. You can be doctrinaire when it comes to eating carrots without being doctrinaire in assuming they do not cause heart disease, which would be foolish.

  34. 34
    Mike Kay (Team America) says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: yup. they treated Paulus like a prince.

  35. 35
    Steve says:

    I am hard pressed to find anything wrong with Marshall’s statement. As others have noted, his point is simply that you can say torture is wrong, period, without feeling like you have to prove that useful information can never ever come from torture.

    Intelligence professionals are practically unanimous in concluding that torture is exactly the wrong approach to gathering intelligence. Examples of false confessions and misinformation gained through torture are legion, and no one can point to a single documented example of a “ticking time bomb” scenario where torture was the only way to gain critical information. Having said all that… why fight the fight? Torture is simply wrong, and it debases our ideals as a nation, regardless of any of that other stuff.

  36. 36
    Konrad says:

    @rageahol: The example of the Romans who chose to torture to get information from enemy prisoners of war and not to punish criminals or intimidate the local populace is indeed a strong one. I can think of the many times they decided against using psychological interrogation methods or trying to outwit their semi-civilized Germanic foes, opting instead for the tried and true information gathering method of public execution.

  37. 37
    PeakVT says:

    @Jay in Oregon: The unreliable bit is a cherry to you and me, but it might influence somebody in the mushy middle.

    I’m still of the opinion that the Bush administration was torturing to extract al Qaeda-Iraq connections that didn’t exist and knew didn’t exist. Actionable intelligence was being gained from detainees using normal interrogation techniques before the decision to torture was made.

  38. 38
    Martin says:

    @gex:

    Describing someone as doctrinally against torture in that way seems dismissive of those people.

    It’s only dismissive if you choose to take it that way. But this isn’t unlike the abortion question. For many on the right, abortion is a doctrinaire issue. It doesn’t matter how many hypothetical or real lives of pregnant women access to abortion can save, they don’t care, and they aren’t interested in debating the point.

    For many on the left (include me in that) it doesn’t matter how many hypothetical or real lives intel obtained via torture can obtain, we don’t care, and we aren’t interested in debating the point.

    It doesn’t mean that we’re wrong in that view, it just means that as far as that issue goes, don’t bring practical arguments to a moral fight. Either fight it out fully on moral grounds (make the case that abortion or torture is moral) or fight it out by sheer power – produce the votes to get the outcome you want, regardless of their objections.

  39. 39
    bjacques says:

    Jay in Oregon got it right. Any person, organization or country that considers torture a worthy practice for any reason is an enemy of humanity and is not worth defending. Torture’s general ineffectiveness is a consideration that runs such a distant second that it might as well not be in the race.

  40. 40
    TD says:

    Josh is making a moral/philosophical point here. It should be understood as such.

    As someone who has worked quite a bit on state torture issues, I can tell you that the point isn’t the torture only extracts untrue information, it’s that it extracts a SHIT LOAD of information, *most* of which is untrue (but some of which may have grounds in reality). The problem, efficacy-wise, is primarily logistical. Intelligence organizations work with limited resources, every thread that is gathered through torture (and there are a lot), needs to followed with the same dedication as any other. Torturing people leads to a lot of wasted time. Seriously, an unbelievable amount of wasted time. THAT is why torture is considered ineffective, NOT because everything said by a torture victim is, by definition, false. If an intelligence organization–theoretically–had infinite resources, it could–again theoretically–be just as effective in gathering intelligence as an organization that does not. Again, this is speaking strictly from a perspective solely concerned with efficacy.

    This brings me back to Marshall’s point, his point being that torture is wrong regardless of whether or not it has ever yielded a useful nugget information. If you make the argument that “torture is wrong because it has never yielded a useful nugget of information”, you are setting yourself up for ruin when one appears as a result of the practice, which is a statistical inevitability. If you read Dairus Rajali’s excellent book “Torture and Democracy”, he makes these points, though much more convincingly than I do.

  41. 41
    dr. bloor says:

    Josh Freaking Marshall

    Can’t recall your ever being this worked up before, Tom.

    Ignore Marshall. Careerist, methinks.

  42. 42
    gex says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: A more jaded person than I might note that a majority of American Christians support torture, and that number goes up if you look at evangelical Christians. I believe these torture supporting Christians would be the first to criticize the Russians for their “godlessness”. We are very, very religious. And it drives quite a bit of policy, from women’s and gay issues to foreign policy.

    But that would only be a person more jaded than I.

  43. 43
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I think torture apologetics should be attacked both on moral grounds and on utilitarian grounds. Here’s how I put it: torture is worse than just wrong, it is the very definition of evil, but just in case anybody out there is still thinking about hypothetical “what if…” situations where some sort of moral cost-benefit calculation might come into play, it is also known and proven to be highly ineffective at producing useful information. If you try to justify torture, you’ve sold your soul to the Devil for a pile of Monopoly Money.

  44. 44
    Mike says:

    Tom,

    Check this Kevin Drum post for a clearer description of what Josh Marshall is trying to say here.

  45. 45
    slag says:

    @danimal: I agree that it’s much better to argue torture on morality rather than efficacy, but I don’t think Marshall has evidence for what seems to be a very cavalier statement here:

    As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case.

    I truly doubt the question of torture’s efficacy is as simple as Josh tries to make it seem here. But I agree that the question of torture’s morality is actually much simpler than others try to make it seem elsewhere.

  46. 46
    barkleyg says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    AKA Timothy Leary Moody Blues

  47. 47
    PS says:

    @TD: Agreed: Even a blind pig picks up the odd acorn, but blindness is not an efficient way to proceed. However, but, also, too: torture is disgusting, and corrupts all who are tinged with it, from top politicians and officers to lowly practitioners. It also reinforces an authoritarian mindset among those who even simply know about it. It’s wrong.

    Ahem, I’m also not hot on political assassination, even of very tall men with long beards. But I digress.

  48. 48
    mistermix says:

    @Mike: I think this is what Marshall was trying to say, too.

  49. 49
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Torturing people is a very good way to get them to confess to whatever crimes you need them to confess to, which is probably why Stalin loved it so much. As an investigative tool to help you find the truth, it’s pretty much useless.

  50. 50
    slag says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    situations where some sort of moral cost-benefit calculation might come into play, it is also known and proven to be highly ineffective at producing useful information.

    It seems to me that, in practice, torture can only be truly effective on a deeply honest man. And should we really need to torture deeply honest men?

  51. 51
    TD says:

    @slag: I’d point you to Darius Rajali’s book: “Torture and Democracy”. It is a thoroughly researched, fervently anti-torture book, but it documents a few cases where torture did lead to (correct) arrests. The exact contexts escape me, though I’m pretty sure there was at least one from France’s experience in Algeria and one involving the Tamil Tigers.

  52. 52
    bago says:

    John and Glenn are having a twitter-bate!

  53. 53
    slag says:

    @Mike: Kind of slippery here:

    The fact is that torture probably does work in some cases, and if you oppose it, you need to oppose it even so.

    Starting with “the fact is” and sliding into “probably” and “some”. The fact is that you don’t need to concede the facts before you actually know them. Even if you know they won’t change your mind.

    Here’s how that goes:
    Regardless of whether or not torture “works”–and I’m not prepared to concede that it does–it is wrong.

    Make them make their case and still don’t care. Not that hard.

  54. 54
    joeyess says:

    @Jay in Oregon: yes. more of this, please.

  55. 55
    General Stuck says:

    Regardless of my personal abject opposition to torture, the utilitarian argument in the case of terrorism, can be a powerful one made to a frightened country. You can call these folks whatever you want for their willingness to listen to and agreeing with arguments that might make them or their families safer. And in a democracy, any public issue debate, even one that is abhorrent and illegal should not take lightly ceding the potentially powerful point of personal safety/

    That is why it is important for someone to engage and debunk the cost/benefit ratio of morality to public safety, even if you don’t personally accept practical arguments concerning use of torture. We live in a democracy, and winning public opinion is paramount for any cause. By debunking the only possible argument that could sway the public, that is more the better for winning the war of ideas that makes the future. Shouldn’t have to even fight to defeat the patently illegal, but imperfect and frightened humans sometimes makes that necessary.

  56. 56
    ABL says:

    Can we address the important issues, please? Namely, that Tom called us “peeps”?

    So hip-hop. :-)

  57. 57
    Tom levenson says:

    Apologies to all for absence from the thread. Work is the curse of the blogging classes, and I’m at an event now. Will try to engage later, but no promises; parenthood may intervene.

  58. 58
    singfoom says:

    I think Marshall is being obtuse on this point. Torture does not yield reliable results.

    The Army Field Manual sez: (Linky)

    The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and noncoercive ruses used by the interrogator in questioning hesitant or uncooperative sources.

    It doesn’t work. People will do anything and say anything to stop pain. Sure, I will concede the possibility of someone telling the truth during torture.

    I will also concede the possibility of a solar flare killing all life on earth.

    Real poor logic on Marshall’s part.

  59. 59
    Yutsano says:

    @bago: Oh jeez. Again?

  60. 60

    Well, when Marshall says this, “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case,” I think he is implying that torture might be helpful sometimes. I don’t see any other way to read it.

    But I’ll go along with the claim that if that’s what he’s implying, he needs to show it’s true somehow, not dance around and say cleverly that, oh, well, it would be doctrinaire to swear off torture categorically, some say this, some say that.

    I think it shows how far we’ve fallen as a country in some ways that this kind of argument isn’t a bigger deal than it is. Look what happens when I subtly change the quote:

    As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that [skullfucking kittens] could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing [skullfucking kittens] without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce any good intelligence, which would be foolish.

    It says something about us that torture is any less radical or horrifying to us as a society than skullfucking kittens.

  61. 61
    MikeJ says:

    @bago: Masters of it.

    Do you Greenwald would have been happier if the WH had sat on the story, perfected exactly what they were going to say, had it edited and rewritten over and over again until everything was focus group perfect?

  62. 62
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    Maybe I’m misremembering, but I think most of the objection to torturing terrorism suspects had more to do with our moral standards and legal obligations than its efficacy. The fact that it doesn’t yield reliable results was just the cherry on the shit sundae.

    better way to word it is “torture has been proven useless as a means of gathering information so the only reason anyone would do it is because they are some mental ill pervert looking to abuse another human for their disgusting sexual fetish.”

  63. 63
    Brandon says:

    @Keith G: Totally agree. What surprises me is that people are surprised when he says these things. In fact, he has always fancied himself as a “national security Democrat” and one of the “serious people”, which was evident from his “friendship” with Marshall Whitman to his fellating of Ken Pollack. He has actually been quite consistent on that score over the years and is the reason why I stopped reading his site back in 2002-3 and I really don’t understand why people keep going back there and then complaining of their disappointment. To paraphrase George W Bush, “Is our [commenters] learning?”

  64. 64
    TD says:

    @singfoom: Marshall’s position is sound, not obtuse. I am only being persistent on this point because as a long time anti-torture advocate, I want my compatriots to be making the strongest case against the practice as possible. “Unreliable” doesn’t mean: “always wrong”. Like I said before, there have been cases where torture was used to successfully find criminals/revolutionaries. Look no further than Algeria. The French “won” the battle of Algiers in large part by heavily, heavily utilizing torture.

    But that ^ is just a bullshit data-point. But if you didn’t know that, and if you didn’t know how to respond to it, you’re just going to look like a stammering geek hiding behind liberal pieties. Your “anti-torture argument” was obliterated by a factoid that your conservative friend read off his “debating liberals” IPhone app. Congratulations.

    The argument doesn’t end there, of course. France lost the entirety of the country because they lost all legitimacy. They almost had a coup at home, for the same reason. Torture corrupts, torture leads to organizational apathy and an atrophy in traditional investigative methods, torture leads to an ocean of bullshit information, but the idea that it has *never* “worked”* is. simply. not. true.

    edit: by “worked”, I mean for very narrow, tactically driven ends.

  65. 65
    Redshift says:

    I emailed him because I think his statement is wrong, though I agree with others here that he was not trying to say that torture can be justified.

    The reason it is wrong is the difference between “information” and “intelligence.” Torture is ineffective not because it never elicits the truth, but because unlike an effective interrogation where a relationship is established, it’s impossible to tell what parts are true, so “information” can’t be turned into “intelligence.”

  66. 66
    taylormattd says:

    @ABL: Dear ABL, I miss Angry Black Lady!

  67. 67
    taylormattd says:

    @bago: oh god.

  68. 68

    Marshall is better than this bit of overly fast punditry

    No, he really isn’t.

  69. 69
    singfoom says:

    @TD: I never said torture has never worked (Well, there was the “It doesn’t work”, but then I conceded that it was possible that it could work right after…so there ;) ), or it cannot work, but the results are unreliable.

    I still think his point is bullshit. It’s human nature to avoid pain. If pain is being inflicted upon you to encourage you to divulge information, you’ll divulge whatever they want to hear.

    So yes, congratulations to Marshall for finding out the stunning fact that it is within the realm of possibility that torture COULD give results that are true.

    But most of the time, according to human nature and interrogation experts, it does not.

    And it is really saddening to see someone like Marshall even validate the thought of torture from a possibility angle, when everyone who cares about the issue should be fighting against the normalization of that kind of behavior as much as they can.

  70. 70
    TD says:

    Personally, I don’t think the anti-torture community should get too comfortable with “torture doesn’t work!” as a slogan. It doesn’t, when *considered at a wide angle*, but people who would discredit us need only to arm themselves with a few pithy factoids to get people to doubt us forever. We’ll be arguing apples and oranges of course, but most people won’t realize it.

    The utilitarian argument against torture is very, very strong. But it’s a bit complicated.

    The moral argument against torture is very, very strong, and it’s also very straight forward.

    For PR purposes, we’re better sticking to the latter when we can. It’s strong, *it’s true*, and it’s easily digestible.

  71. 71
    Sean says:

    There really are only 3 reasons to torture someone:

    1) To Extract a false confession
    2) To Terrorize your citizens and intimidate your opposition
    3) Because you get off on it

    Take you’re pick, America. Just remember, that what goes around eventually comes around.

  72. 72
    slag says:

    @TD:

    The moral argument against torture is very, very strong, and it’s also very straight forward.

    Agreed.

    And I do thank you for the book recommendation! But honestly, I prefer to make torture apologists make the case that it “works” rather than go out of my way to make the case for them.

    On the whole, I’m pretty tired of debating the shape of the earth with these people. It’s irrelevant and inhibits progress. And liberals, it seems to me, are far too generous in making concessions, a trait which many of us see as intellectual honesty but which our opponents and casual observers see as weakness. It’s fine amongst us; it’s not fine when dealing with people who are more than happy to take any inch we give them and turn it into a parsec. And this is as good a subject as any to try to shift those tendencies.

  73. 73
    TD says:

    “And it is really saddening to see someone like Marshall even validate the thought of torture from a possibility angle, when everyone who cares about the issue should be fighting against the normalization of that kind of behavior as much as they can.”

    He’s being anticipatory, I think that’s a good thing.

    Let’s talk this hypothetical seriously for a second: What if some piece of information used in a torture session was used to put together this operation? Do we pack it up and go home? Oh, hey, torture “worked” after all.

    Or do we say “wait a minute, there is no reason to think that this information could not have been gathered using our standard interrogative methods…and besides, look where false information gained from torture led us…Iraq. This is to say nothing of the scores of jihadists who have taken up arms against us, citing our treatment of prisoners. Oh, and have we noticed what a jurisprudential shit-storm GITMO has turned into?”

    The utilitarian case against torture, like I said, is rock solid, but it’s complicated. We shouldn’t try to disguise nuance as simplicity. That’s what conservatives do. And that too, is corrupting.

  74. 74
    eyelessgame says:

    I think one may also charitably read this as saying “it doesn’t, in the final analysis, even matter if torture did produce information. It’s still wrong. The strongest argument against torture isn’t that it’s useless. It’s that it is unacceptable for any representative of any civilized nation to engage in torture.”

  75. 75
    Donut says:

    Sorry, no time to read the whole thread, but I think Tom’s criticism is justified. Josh may be trying to say torture is never morally acceptable, but he fucked up. He’s muddy. The way the Marshall post is worded, it is absolutely possible to read it as saying, “hey, sometimes torture will in fact produce actionable intelligence.”

    My response would be, “yeah, so will asking 200 random questions.”

    So what if torture will sometimes produce valuable intelligence? Most of the time it will not, which has been proven many times over in many controlled settings.

    Marshall has a mild case of Broderism, but whatever, so do most NY and DC media people. Big deal.

  76. 76
    eyelessgame says:

    But the fixation on torture by the right wing is interesting. Smells to me of Edward Teller, who was frantic to find some acceptable, moral use of atomic bombs.

    When you sell your soul, it becomes desperately important to show everyone what a good price you got for it.

  77. 77
    Ozymandias, King of Ants says:

    @Sean: This.

  78. 78
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TD: Again, I return to my argument that we shouldn’t torture because it is torture. It, like cannibalism and necrophilia, is one of those things that simply needs to be on the cultural taboo list. The ginned up atmosphere of fear that was fostered after 9/11/2001 has caused a number of people to be willing to break the taboo in the name of safety while others took advantage of the fear that they ginned up to break the taboo for their own gratification.

  79. 79
    Handsome Stranger says:

    I wish I could find a link to the report on torture that was written several years back by a senior officer in military intelligence. The conclusion of the report was that not only does torture not work as a means of gaining information, the only reliable method that does work is to be exceedingly kind and considerate and patient with the person(s) you are trying to get information from.

  80. 80
    Mandramas says:

    Torture is not a way to extract information. Torture is a weapon of fear, one of the most important axis of the shock doctrine. Discuss the efectivity of torture is a way to legitimize it, even if you say it is ineffective, you are accepting their role as a intelligence tool.
    Those threads are making me sick.

  81. 81
    Mandramas says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Do you still thinks I was overreacting?

  82. 82
    Disraeli says:

    “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that torture could easily have produced the key information. It just seems not to have in this case.”

    This argument is fair more powerful that most above are giving it credit for.

    It can apply to matters of gender viz “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that if my auntie had testicles she’d be my uncle. It just seems not to be in this case.”

    Or the nature of objects viz “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that if my auntie had wheels she’d be a bus. It just seems not to be in this case.”

    Or the accuracy of lottery number picking systems viz “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that my lottery number picking system, available for one low payment of $149.99, could have easily picked the winning numbers in last week’s Mega Power Super Incredible Multi Colored Ball draw. It just seems not to have in this case.”

    Or the efficacy of new wonder drugs viz “As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that our new wonder drug, MagicBluePillathion, could have prevented this senseless death. It just seems not to have in this case.”

    Why the applications are endless.

  83. 83
    TD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’m agreeing with you, and I believe Mr. Marshall is as well.

    I am going to temper what has been my general thrust up until now for just one moment (that the moral case is a better one to make publicly, even if it’s not necessarily stronger). I agree with General Stuck above that the utilitarian case will also need to be made from time to time–I just don’t think we should give it short shrift. Acknowledge that it is a bit complicated, then explain it. Don’t say “it doesn’t work” and leave it at that. Define what “work” means. If people don’t want to engage in an actual conversation, simply insist on having the debate on moral grounds.

    “Torture is morally abhorrent!” is a true statement, end of story. “Torture never works!” is only true depending upon how one defines “works” (the word “never” also does a lot of work, too much). The neocons will approach the second statement with the narrowest, least “holistically”(I hate that word, sorry) minded definition possible. Don’t let them get away with it.

  84. 84
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mandramas: You are an Argentine; I would think that you would be aware that there is a portion of society that would always chose to torture. And there is a portion of society that, while it would not torture, would accept that others do it on their behalf.

    ETA: The torturers have no business being near the levers of power, but it is not an American phenomenon.

  85. 85
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TD: I know. We seem to be in general agreement.

  86. 86
    General Stuck says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I agree with you fully that it should be taboo, and I personally don’t engage in conversations with people who try to make practical cases that it works.

    But for the purpose of politics, and the need for debate on the topic, that was made necessary by the Bush Administration, making torture our national policy for near 8 years – After a profound terrorist attack – seems necessary in order to not let that meme become the national urban legend into the future.

    If you are, as I am, interested in changing the current general acceptance of what Bush did, then it is necessary to challenge the powerful argument that it works, that I have to believe is behind the polling of acceptance by the public. Lawful or not, moral or not. I think most of those folks are giving the thumbs up because they believe the torture Bush and Cheney inflicted made them safer, and evidenced by not another major terrorist attack on US soil.

    And yes, it is complicated, making the anti utilitarian case, but obviously that has trumped any moral qualms the public might hold. When it comes to safety of self and family, high ideals of morality often take a back seat to protection, or the mirage that torture provides such. Just moral arguments alone, I don’t think will work, if the goal is to change public opinion.

    To just say no, to entertaining the faux notions of torture advocates, is not unlike the just say no mantra the wingers use for teenage sex and drugs. It is the ostrich idealist method, that never works in the real world.

  87. 87
    Mandramas says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Worse. Right now, I’m in Colombia. The problem, to me, is the relative size of the portion of the society, and their relative power and cultural control on the rest of the society.

  88. 88
    burnspbesq says:

    @MikeJ:

    No, because then Greenwald wouldn’t be able to create a narrative out of whole cloth that puts everyone except him in the worst possible light.

    If somebody with no known military experience, who wasn’t in the room, wants to second-guess a split-second decision to shoot somebody who could reasonably be expected to be armed and to resist being taken into custody, knock yourself out. Until an Article 32 hearing is convened, I’m going to accept the shooter’s judgment and question Greenwald’s.

  89. 89
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @General Stuck: I understand your point, but I am not someone who would be good at this discussion because I can do the “Do you want to be the bad guy?” and the “If so, do you want be an incompetent bad guy?” parts. Then I lose my temper and refer the the person as a sick cowardly moral degenerate or words to that effect. At this point in the conversation, the opportunity to persuade is somewhat diminished.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mandramas: Remember, half of any population is below average.

  91. 91
    slag says:

    @Disraeli: I agree with this. And the inclusion of “it’s important to recognize” makes that construction all the more absurd. At first I thought it was just sloppy and unnecessary. Now I consider it truly objectionable.

    I’m now totally on Tom’s side on this one. That statement was a Broderian cant.

  92. 92
    General Stuck says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Then I lose my temper and refer the the person as a sick cowardly moral degenerate or words to that effect.

    LOL, some have claimed that as my MO as well. Everything I have stated in this thread was directed to the interpretation that Marshall was somehow making a case for torture, and that he should not even voice the technical truth but collective nonsense that valid info is sometimes gained by torture. I just don’t think for those willing to engage this matter as such, that dealing with truths in a debate, no matter how abhorrent and misleading, should ever be denied outright because of moral objections.

  93. 93
    slag says:

    @General Stuck: I’m actually not sure I buy that argument. I think the reason people have been ok with the “it works” argument is that there’s been extremely little morality leadership on the topic. At least that’s been my experience. But I don’t watch teevee. Maybe David Gregory and Brian Williams are out there debating the morality of torture and I’m just not seeing it. It’s possible.

  94. 94
    Barb (formerly Gex) says:

    @slag: This is a great point. Why are we conceding that a fact that has no shred of evidence behind it might be true? Like Bigfoot and unicorns? I mean, it is still conceivable they exist. Don’t be so doctrinaire about it.

  95. 95
    Barb (formerly Gex) says:

    @singfoom: Someone could win the lottery. Therefore I should spend my paycheck on lottery tickets.

    @slag: Even the liberal Balloon Juice thinks kittens could be skullfucked for useful information!

  96. 96
    General Stuck says:

    that there’s been extremely little morality leadership on the topic.

    I’m not sure what this would look like. Both Obama and Holder have called waterboarding torture, and I think there was enough info on teevee for most people to grasp that such a thing was outside the norm, but i would agree that the very dirty laundry this crap is, has not been sufficiently aired out in this country, and needs to be.

    For all sorts of reasons, the country doesn’t care about what Bush did with prisoners, not the least of which being some severe economic problems the public is fixated on. I am an Obot, and realize Obama is basically like all politicians, and is and has been no hero on this issue. But I also believe he hasn’t forgotten it, and wants to deal with it in some national way at some point in time, as a matter of legacy. I could be wrong and pollyanish, but we shall see, if he gets a second term. And I’m not talking about putting Bush and Cheney in a frog walk to prison. That is not going to happen.

  97. 97
    slag says:

    @Barb (formerly Gex): Exactly. It’s important to recognize that the earth could easily have been created 6,000 years ago. It just happens to not have been in this case.

    Why even say such a thing?

    This post is, indeed, perfectly titled.

  98. 98
    slag says:

    @General Stuck: Moral leadership looks kind of what Faux News does only it includes morality. It involves having principled people discuss their principles in direct, passionate language. And calling on people to reach deep into their better selves.

    It certainly wouldn’t occur to me that Obama and Holder should be out there making the case by themselves. That’s crazy talk. The point is that, as usually seems to be the case, the moral question is hardly in the sphere of public debate at all (or again, that’s how it seems to me). And shoving it into the sphere is how we get people to focus on it. We need some real anti-torture people out there in the news; they can make the argument nicely (like TD here does).

  99. 99
    Cerberus says:

    I just remember cartoonist Tim Kreider’s response after it was revealed that we were torturing people in America’s name and the “debate” first started. Paraphrasing him, he said:

    “Anti-torture candidate is one of those terms that a dystopian sci-fi novel would throw-in in order to show how bad things have gotten.”

    I always think of that whenever some pundit is talking about the “anti-torture position” as if it was some silly hippie thing that was inconsequential to “serious” readers. Huh, can you imagine, some crazy liberals are so moon-bat they actually have blanket resistance to torture, how quaint. Ugh, I can’t even type that out without wanting to vomit.

    And frankly, as a non-believer, I sincerely wish there was a Hell right now, simply because I can think of no more deserving place for those who have so sold their souls into oblivion as to on the eve of this victory for law enforcement, polish up the turd of torture and try and sell this as its big moment.

    Torture is vile, beyond contempt and had as a final dark irony, the fact that it was completely useless in doing anything other than making us fundamentally evil as a country, the epitomized “bad guy” in history’s simplistic summation.

    And so for the media whores who cheered and scampered with glee when they should have been recoiling in horror and doing their jobs, when confronted with what we should have been doing for 7 years instead of blowing up two countries and torturing grandmas and little children, the first damn response is to try and protect their now shame-filled hard-on by claiming that little torture is vindicated at last.

    And for what?

    Because they think this desperate act of revisionism will spare them the searing gaze that history will reserve for them? That they can somehow fool the long arm of historical record in considering this a triumph of the human spirit.

    Oh sure, people are stupid and I’m sure the 27%ers and the hordes of idiots wanting to avoid being “ideological” will jump on for the ride for a few decades, but history’s judgment is not going to be deterred. Nixon is taught as a disgrace. Reagan is already taught as a moron who didn’t know how the world works. And on Bush, we better hope we’re in enough of a position then to still write history books, because I suspect a lot of manuscripts will write of it as it does the South African boers or the British in India.

    And these desperate idiots only solidify why these people are bereft of anything akin to humanity.

    “doctrinaire in opposing torture”. What a sickening dog whistle.

    What a sickening person.

  100. 100
    Josh says:

    I think when I encounter people who trust torture as a policy for getting information, I’ll ask them whether they’re afraid of all the witches out there. Or the Jews drinking Christian blood.

  101. 101
    Cerberus says:

    @General Stuck:

    Sadly, it’s probably because we spend more time trying to sell a revisionist history where racism is done, horrible things happened in the long, long ago and couldn’t happen now, and most importantly, Hitler was an atheist and the dehumanizing of a group of people couldn’t happen in a good Christian nation like ours.

    Combine that with our actual racism, our tendency in a crisis to throw whatever minority community looks the least white to the wolves (Japanese in World War II, “anarchists”, read Eastern European types, in World War I, and so on) and our “tough on crime” need to passively assert our “manliness” in dealing with threats by thinking we need to ape action movie cliches instead of doing whatever pussified action actually works and welp, there apparently was enough torture supporting sentiment out there for whoever wanted to gamble on it.

    I believe in Obama and on this issue especially I see the desire to extricate us, if not anything else, but this is really a fail for America and I can see how disheartening it is to have to go to a slow social build-up on support on “we don’t fucking torture” of all things.

    Though, then again, I’m in a community that’s having to do that with “we’re not things to murder” basic education and it wasn’t long ago that “anti-lynching” was a minority “radical” position only held by “doctrinaires”.

    So maybe it’s not so surprising after all.

  102. 102
    Bobby Thomson says:

    Marshall is better than this bit of overly fast punditry

    Marshall supported the Iraq invasion in 2003 and is still pretty hawkish, especially when it comes to Israel. He may have turned against the Iraqi occupation after it became a clusterfuck, but he doesn’t seem to have learned any lasting lessons from the experience.

  103. 103
    Cerberus says:

    @Josh:

    See, that just makes me want to fuck with them by asking if they have really considered the very-present threat of witches stealing their blood to sell to “Hollywood liberals”* to drink.

    *Like everyone doesn’t know what that dog-whistle stands for, please. Same with “liberal media”.

  104. 104
    SteveinSC says:

    Well, the new torture state, a bunch of fucking cowards formerly known as the United States of America, can give up the registered trademark of Exceptionalism. Fucking “Shining City on a Hill”, my ass. Liars, cowards, and criminals as heirs of the Founding Fathers.

  105. 105
    Bobby Thomson says:

    Oh, and all y’all arguing that Marshall is right to argue that sometimes torture gives good intel are just as wrong as he is. Tortured people tell you whatever they think you want to hear, and there’s no way to separate the truth from the oh-God-make-it-stop. So forget about the normative argument. He’s wrong as a factual matter.

    And he’s still too much of a coward to allow comments on his own posts.

  106. 106
    jl says:

    If my Senator, the beloved old battle axe of CW and the national security state says that torture, enhanced interrogation techniques, did not produce important info leading to bin Laden, by gawd, I believe her.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Josh: Hey, watch it. I have ancestors who were convicted and hanged as witches. Some of us have feelings too.

  108. 108
    General Stuck says:

    @slag:

    I agree, the more people speaking out the better. Marshall is a journalist, with now a pundit angle, but a trained journalist. He is going to state things in objective terms from that training, that will offend some dem liberal partisans. I understood what he was getting at, and what he said does not bother me at all, as a fairly fanatical anti torture person. To each their own.

  109. 109
    TD says:

    @slag: “@Barb (formerly Gex): Exactly. It’s important to recognize that the earth could easily have been created 6,000 years ago. It just happens to not have been in this case.”

    Thing is, the earth COULDN’T have “easily” been made over 6,000 years ago.

    Finding a correct piece of data amongst thousands of false ones, while not “easy” maybe, is at least plausible.

    As ya’ll like to say (justifiably): false equivalence!

  110. 110
    SteveinSC says:

    @Cerberus:

    …looks the least white to the wolves (Japanese in World War II…

    It’s a wonder, looking back now from the new torture state, that we didn’t waterboard these little slant-eyed spies to find out exactly when Tojo was going to invade.

  111. 111
    Desert Rat says:

    I’m afraid Mr. Marshall is no longer “Outside the Beltway” in his thinking, and hasn’t been for some time.

    At the rate he’s going by the time he’s 60, he’ll have descended into High-Broderisms, at best.

  112. 112
    Cerberus says:

    @TD: Yeah, if you already know enough that you didn’t need to torture.

    In fact, it’s great for post-hoc rationalizations.

    Hmm, need to defend using torture, okay, now that we know what was true, let’s go over the logs. Ah, this was true, so bam, it worked.

    But when you have no information (which is the grounds on which it was initially defended as “necessary”) then it’s useless because there is no damn information by which to corroborate. How to separate that bit of something from all the noise.

    It’d be like learning history not from a history book or even a reference book like Wikipedia but doing random search on old-school search engines set on 1-second delay. Sure, there may be some useful information on there, but how to see it or recognize it among the field of free-floating dong, wingnut conspiracy theories, and “my daddy says so” bullshit.

    Of course, this all fails to notice that

    IT’S FUCKING TORTURE!

    We are calmly debating FUCKING TORTURE.

    The point where we can do that, we lose. And I don’t mean some sick debating game. I mean we are now no different than German SS, Inquisition officials, slave owners, South African boers, or any other group of history’s monsters because we are calmly taking about the “usefulness” of TORTURING PEOPLE.

    People, who on average were old men and women, children, mothers in front of children and much more. Yeah, it was necessary to shock the balls of that 80-year old goat farmer, rape that mother repeatedly in front of her four-year old, or waterboard that seven year old.

    We’re stuck debating in this sick trap where if we can just find some single justification to make it less monstrous then we wouldn’t be having a FUCKING DEBATE ON the efficacy of TORTURING PEOPLE.

    And really, capital letters does not capture how obscene this is. It’s fucking torture. It shouldn’t matter if it worked. It doesn’t, that’s the cruel irony. But it’s torture. It’s like asking if genocide is effective.

    Yeah, sure, the population you just eliminated isn’t around to object, because you FUCKING COMMITTED GENOCIDE.

    Bob in Himmel, what is wrong with us? How the fuck did we get here, where the “anti-torture” position is not only needed, but is apparently losing and those who support the pro position are allowed to “bring this controversial topic to rest” instead of being locked in mental institutions in case they become a danger to themselves or others?

  113. 113
    Cerberus says:

    @TD:

    Sorry for the rant, it’s just fuck man, does this topic and situation suck.

  114. 114
    Cerberus says:

    @SteveinSC:

    Well, we starved, beat, stole, and trapped them in small huts in the middle of the fucking desert, so well, I’m not sure how much further we would have needed to fall to get to waterboarding.

    Sadly, the response to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has given us our answer:

    Not much.

  115. 115
    TD says:

    Hey, I agree with you. But expect the argument. It will probably sell.

    Also: I happen to like Josh Marshall as a blogger/reporter and think he has been treated a bit unfairly by Tom (whom I also adore, btw). I have already made my case though, so I’m stepping out.

  116. 116
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cerberus: FWIW, no one here is arguing for torture and the effectiveness discussions are really about how to talk to someone who says “yeah, it’s bad, but….”

  117. 117
    Cerberus says:

    @TD:

    Yeah, I know, that’s why I apologized to ranting off you.

    It’s just one of the many topics one has with the right-wing where you are in the matrix of the multitudes of wrongness their statements contain and then you look up and go, “Wait, why is this even a topic of debate to begin with?”

    I’m thinking of responding that way to any idiot who wants to debate me on that though. “You’re wrong for reasons X, Y, and Z and by the way, what the fuck is wrong with your brain, you sick fucking monster, did you have a humanity-ectomy, or did you just finish polishing off a big plate of starving children and decided that wasn’t evil enough?”

    It’s worth reminding the knuckle-draggers that MSM aside, their sick antiquated viewpoints are not nearly as supported as they think they are.

  118. 118
    Cerberus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    By punching them in the mouth?

    I don’t know, the sheer overwhelming evil that’s supported in the name of “winding up the hippies” is just getting overwhelming.

    I think the people who find it “fun” to see us all flustered and angry need to be reminded that this isn’t some fun little game where you score points based on how red the ears of a liberal are, but a demonstration of true evil where you are admitting you are a soulless creature deserving of a merciful death because “hippies are funny when they are angry”.

    I think the MSM blowjobs to the 27% crowd has given them the illusion that people largely support the indefensible rather than we’re all politely refraining from killing them for the good of society.

    Maybe a few bloodied noses or at least a 30-minute rant about what a soulless monster they are and how this is the reason their kids never come by anymore and why they therefore an antagonistic relationship with someone they profess to hate is their only human contact worth a damn in their pathetic meaningless lives would at least make them pretend to be ashamed of their views again.

  119. 119
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cerberus: As I said above, I am not good at that type of conversation. I can’t really carry on a civilized debate with someone who doesn’t recognized some of the basic ground rules of civilization.

  120. 120
    SteveinSC says:

    @Cerberus:

    what the fuck is wrong with your brain, you sick fucking monster

    This.

  121. 121
    Cerberus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Yeah, I’m in the same boat.

    I can do semi-conciliatory, hey, don’t worry, I’m here to educate ya, you good faith actor you, but with a lot of issues, I run into the question of “Why?”

    When the issue is other people’s basic humanity, actions like torture or debates where the actual subject matter has nothing to do with the debate that is centered on it, the reason to soft-sell just seems to disappear.

    But then, that’s why it’s good that diversity of approach exists. Some of us can remind them how depraved their viewpoint is while others chip away at the margins with “non-passioned debate”.

    Now we just need to bring back “punch in the mouth” response guy and we’re good to go.

  122. 122
    El Cid says:

    @TD: 1 could easily be zero, that is, if it at all could be. Now, it might not be possible for such a thing to have meaning in any way we know of in rational thought, but still, it easily could be so. If all else were equal. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to then know what was equal, because there would be no 1=1 identity.

  123. 123
    Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

    Let’s do a quick search and replace on Josh’s comment– “tax cuts” for ‘torture’ and ‘economic growth’ for “intelligence’:

    As a more general matter it’s important to recognize that [tax cuts] could easily have produced [economic growth]. It just seems not to have in this case. You can be doctrinaire in opposing [tax cuts] without being doctrinaire in assuming that it can’t produce [economic growth], which would be foolish.

    Any questions?

    Folks, Josh Marshall is a neocon. He isn’t a drooling Boltonoid, but there are no cases of Josh Marshall opposing the use of military force to solve problems in the Middle East. He throws up a lot of humanistic word salad. But his conclusion always boils down to “I’m aware of the issues the critics raise, but I think it’s necessary to send troops.”

    It’s not difficult to reconcile Marshall’s domestic and foreign policy positions. If you’re old enough to remember him, there isn’t a damned bit of difference between Josh Marshall and Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Jackson was good on social issues, but always a problem on military and foreign policy.

    It’s a sad comment on how right-wing the country has become and how narrow our political discourse is that a Jacob Javits Republican like Barack Obama– or moderate to conservative Democrats like Paul Krugman and Duncan Black — are considered left-wing.

    I haven’t changed my political views markedly, but I’ve gone from being a mildly liberal Democrat (by 1960’s and 1970’s standards) to being an extremist.

  124. 124
    Batocchio says:

    WTF, Josh? He’s better than that.

  125. 125
    Ruckus says:

    @eyelessgame:
    When you sell your soul, it becomes desperately important to show everyone what a good price you got for it.

    Very true. It’s not that torture enthusiasts are soulless, it’s that they know they sold out for some shiny beads and false promises. They figure if they make enough noise no one will notice that the price was rock bottom.

  126. 126

    […] disagree with Tom’s post about torture. I think Josh Marshall was making an important point, one made a little more eloquently here by […]

  127. 127

    […] is a cross post from Balloon Juice, where it prompted quite a discussion and, this morning, this response from mistermix.  I'm going to respond to that later in the day, […]

  128. 128
    liberal says:

    @Woodrow L. Goode, IV:

    Folks, Josh Marshall is a neocon. He isn’t a drooling Boltonoid, but there are no cases of Josh Marshall opposing the use of military force to solve problems in the Middle East.

    One of the funnier blog posts I’ve seen is Uggabugga’s diagrammatic explanation of the connections between people who were in favor of the invasion of Iraq.

    IIRC (I can’t find the post, though I assume it’s there somewhere) Josh Marshall was a little island connected via Ken Pollack.

    LOL.

  129. 129
    Woodrow L. Goode, IV says:

    @liberal: Yeah, Josh and Pollack were butt-buddies on Iraq. So was Matt Yglesias, although he at least has said:

    “I was 21 years old and kind of a jerk. Being for the war was a way to simultaneously be a free-thinking dissident in the context of a college campus and also be on the side of the country’s power elite. My observation is that this kind of fake-dissident posture is one that always has a lot of appeal to people.”

    I couldn’t find the article either, but I remember the one you’re talking about.

  130. 130

    […] ball on the debate in the middle of the week on the idea of torture “working” raised by my response to Josh Marshall’s brief post over at TPM. Despite my promises to engage, I learned once again […]

  131. 131

    […] ball on the debate in the middle of the week on the idea of torture “working” raised by my response to Josh Marshall’s brief post over at TPM. Despite my promises to engage, I learned once again […]

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  2. […] ball on the debate in the middle of the week on the idea of torture “working” raised by my response to Josh Marshall’s brief post over at TPM. Despite my promises to engage, I learned once again […]

  3. […] is a cross post from Balloon Juice, where it prompted quite a discussion and, this morning, this response from mistermix.  I'm going to respond to that later in the day, […]

  4. […] disagree with Tom’s post about torture. I think Josh Marshall was making an important point, one made a little more eloquently here by […]

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