Arguing Against Torture

I disagree with Tom’s post about torture. I think Josh Marshall was making an important point, one made a little more eloquently here by Kevin Drum. Perhaps he didn’t articulate it well, but I think it’s important to get it straight, because it’s key to a strong defense of the position that we should not torture.

While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence. The reason I’m willing to do so is because I’m not interested in arguing whether there might be a case somewhere in history where torture led to important intelligence. The argument I want to have is whether a policy of torture is one we ought to adopt, and that’s a far broader question than whether it might work on rare occasion.

Let’s start with principle, then. Why don’t we torture? Because torture is diminishes our humanity — because in any and all instances we have a basic duty to ourselves, our allies and our enemies to treat all human beings in our custody with dignity. Not torturing, specifically the prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment”, is as key a part of the Bill of Rights as freedom of speech. It’s codified in laws governing conduct of our citizens, and in military regulations governing our treatment of non-citizens. Not torturing is both a founding principle and the law of the land, and Guantanamo and Bagram and all other places where we tortured people exist because some actors in the Bush administration knew damn well that they needed to hide their horrible deeds from the law.

After this first principle, and the laws that come from it, the next practical argument against torture is that it diminishes our standing in the world, which I don’t think requires a lot of argument, considering that we’re constantly inveighing against regimes that torture and have signed treaties prohibiting it.

These first two arguments are absolute, and there’s no “ticking time bomb” scenario that can be used to argue against them. Our deeply held principles are true no matter what Jack Bauer did in some episode of his show, and our national standing is hurt by us torturing regardless of whether we gleaned some nugget from waterboarding KSM.

The reason that we’re always hearing arguments about efficacy instead of principle or national standing is because that weak argument is the only place that torture proponents can put a stake in the ground. Once in a while, though rarely, and almost cetainly not in the case of Osama bin Laden’s killing, torture may work. So, they argue, we should make it our policy. The simple answer to that is that even if it works in some rare scenario, it’s not worth sacrificing a 250-year-old principle and our national standing for the tiny, fleeting benefit that may come from it. We’re America, and we’re better than that.






255 replies
  1. 1
    Lavocat says:

    Precisely! Very well said!

  2. 2
    Napoleon says:

    I didn’t post in Tom’s thread but he just flat out misinterpreted what Josh was saying. I agree with Josh and Drum.

  3. 3
    soonergrunt says:

    @mistermix, top:
    You are absolutely, 100% correct. And well written, too.

  4. 4
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    Agreed. Let’s stop playing on the field the opponent has designed for us. Torture is fundamentally wrong. QED.

  5. 5
    SP says:

    Item number x^y in the list of things that conservatives accuse liberals of doing because they’re really doing it themselves- in this case moral relativism.

  6. 6
    Bobby Thomson says:

    like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.

    Marshall wasn’t entertaining a hypothetical possibility. He was making an empirical claim in a very matter of fact way that torture sometimes yields usable information, while stating that any suggestion to the contrary marks a critic as deeply unserious doctrinaire.

  7. 7
    Chris says:

    While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.

    Adding to this:

    I talked to a former interrogator from the German army a couple years ago and the torture thing came up. He said what pissed him off about the American methods wasn’t that they didn’t work, it’s that they weren’t necessary. Interrogation is psychological first and foremost, an interrogator who knows his job can often get it done without laying a finger on the guy across the table from him.

    The FBI interrogator who came out and corrected Cheney about KSM seems to confirm that. I do think torture can work: less coercive means do as well. So to torture or not to torture is a choice.

    And the elephant in the room no one wants to bring up is that we torture because we want to, not because we have to.

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    One other thing:

    These first two arguments are absolute, and there’s no “ticking time bomb” scenario that can be used to argue against them.

    To the best of my knowledge, there’s never been a ticking time bomb scenario. It’s a dramatic trick used in movies and TV shows, which the Goopers then treat as real life.

  9. 9
    RSA says:

    It’s really, really strange to hear conservatives arguing in favor of torture. First because social conservatives have always railed against situational ethics, and they tend to take a deontological perspective on ethics: some acts are immoral regardless of the good they might bring about. All the arguments for torture that I’ve seen have been consequentialist.

    Second, I doubt any torture proponents would say that just anyone should be allowed to torture someone; they’re in favor of granting this enormous power to the government, which goes against many other positions they hold.

    Third, these arguments are often made by law-and-order conservatives. One of the things they forget about Jack Bauer is that he was willing to commit bad acts and then give himself up to be tried. I don’t see any of that in torture arguments; supporters just want to sweep it under the rug.

    You’d get the impression that these people don’t have any deeply held principles at all.

  10. 10
    Bobby Thomson says:

    We’re America, and we’re better than that.

    Not really. If you are relying on a moral argument to persuade Americans not to do something, you’ve already lost. That’s why, in addition to being wrong as a factual matter, people like Marshall make a political mistake in ceding the empirical argument. Though I get the impression that Marshall isn’t all that choked up about a world in which torture is SOP.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    I think you are correct about Marshall’s point. He did, however, state it poorly enough that Levenson and a host of other reasonably bright people got the wrong point.

  12. 12
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    We’re America, and we’re better than that.

    Except that, clearly, we aren’t. Maybe living abroad has sensitized me a bit to this, but that little bit of puffed up pro-US bravado at the end – a bit of bravado that is clearly and totally contradicted by the past 10 years – just jars. It undercuts an excellent post. The people who planned and implemented this torture regime, the people who carried water for them and the people who made it all magically legal, they were all Americans. The very large number of people who think that torture is justified if it is done to our enemies/brown people/Others, they’re also American. Hell, many of the people who made and watched the toturific 24 were also American.

    I don’t think that that sort of platitude helps anything – it denies reality and makes non-Americans who know very well that America tortures roll their eyes and shrug off these key points as well-intentioned fluff.

    We SHOULD NOT torture, it is against our founding documents and our national myths, but we do. We need to accept that, figure out why and figure out how to develop a new paradigm of dealing with enemies/Others/terrorists, one that is explicitly not based on torture.

    Sorry for the long post, but I think that a big part of moving past this incredibly shameful part of our national history (and of our recent flirtation with facism, militarism and authoritarianism) is accepting that America DOES torture, HAS tortured and WILL CONTINUE to torture unless drastic changes are made.

  13. 13
    mistermix says:

    @Bobby Thomson: Why don’t you back up your impression with another link showing Marshall’s tolerance for torture. That’s a pretty big claim to make on the basis of one blog post.

  14. 14
    alwhite says:

    Nice work MM, thanks!

    The point of torture is not to gain information – the point of torture is to extract what you want to hear from the victim. It might be some bogus bullshit about planned events, a confession to a crime they may, or may not, have committed or an admission of heresy. Truth has nothing to do with torture.

    And the “Jack Bauer” bullshit ticking time bomb scenario? If I were really committed to the cause & knew the suitcase nuke was in a locker at the bus depot about to go off while being tortured I’d spill my guts. I freely admit the bomb was at the airport! That stops the torture & accomplishes my goal.

    Why do you think we spent so much time in a panic chasing stupid fantasy attacks for months in 2003-2007?

  15. 15
    Wally says:

    Yes, I too agree, 100%. But a people that allows its leaders, past or present, to remain unaccountable for the policy of torture that was in fact implemented, is a people that has essentially approved that policy of torture. I guess this is a referendum issue rather than a rule of law issue. Sadly, I have my doubts that a national referendum for a polcy of torture would be defeated.

  16. 16
    kerFuFFler says:

    I have always thought that torture should remain illegal. If there were that rare “ticking bomb” scenario, I would be willing to go to jail for the rest of my life if I could extract the info from a person that I was positive knew how to deactivate the ticking nuclear bomb—-especially if I thought it would save tens of thousands of lives. With torture explicitly illegal people would not choose to torture on mere fishing expeditions.

    We lose access to valuable intel when people are reluctant to report suspicious activity because they worry that they might get an innocent person tortured.

  17. 17
    cleek says:

    The reason that we’re always hearing arguments about efficacy instead of principle or national standing is because that weak argument is the only place that torture proponents can put a stake in the ground.

    that’s one reason. another reason: some people simply do not think the moral, principle or national standing arguments are valid. in other words: torture is basically OK, as long as we’re doing it.

  18. 18
    elmo says:

    If torture works, so does rape, for the same reasons: pain, humiliation, shame. Ask the people in favor of torture whether they are also in favor of guards raping prisoners, and see what kind of reaction you get.

  19. 19
    jwb says:

    @Chris: Torture is an excellent method for getting subjects to say what you want them to. I always presumed government agents who ran the torture program understood this perfectly well, and they were using torture because they wanted the subjects to say certain things. Getting at the truth was never the aim.

    ETA: I’m late to the game as usual.

  20. 20
    Georgia Pig says:

    Agreed, but Marshall’s argument is simplistic on a practical level. Sure, torture may produce useful intelligence: torture would seem to make it less likely that useful intelligence is used in a timely fashion. One of the problems with torture is that it is likely to produce a torrent of false information in a completely distorted context. It may be impractical to chase down all the false leads that are generated by torture, and I would not be surprise that, even if the name of the courier was first revealed by torture, an inordinate amount of time was wasted on wild goose chases arising from other false information generated by torture. Thus the idiocy of Cheney and others claiming credit, when it took something like 8 years to end up where we did on Wednesday. Has anybody considered the possibility that bin Laden might have experienced the loving touch of Seal Team Six a lot sooner if not for stupid, ineffective intelligence techniques pursued during the Bush years?

  21. 21
    soonergrunt says:

    @elmo: Clearly, many of them would be. The conservative mind has become a truly sick place in the last ten years.

  22. 22
    chazbet says:

    In the ticking time-bomb scenario (information is needed, fast) I’d argue in college bull-sessions that the choice to torture needs to be authorized at the highest level, and the price of sacrificing America’s principles should be that the person giving the authorization would resign at the conclusion of the crisis.

    Seeing the cavalier way that the Bush junta treated that decision, perhaps that needs to be put into law explicitly, as an impeachable offense.

  23. 23
    Legalize says:

    We’re America, and we’re better than that.

    Not any more we’re not. Torture is now just a question of policy. We can have polite debates about it and everything.

  24. 24
    elmo says:

    @soonergrunt:

    Think so? I don’t. I think they would recoil at the prospect of American soldiers turning into rapists. Which of course presents the obvious question: How is that worse than turning American soldiers into torturers?

    I suppose I’m naive. I don’t actually expect to change any minds, of course, but I think it’s a clear way of presenting the horror.

  25. 25
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @elmo: based on the rape stats for women and men in the US armed forces, this is actually a problem – and one that’s been quietly overlooked or downright ignored for years.

  26. 26
    superking says:

    This is a lawyerly point, but I think it needs to be made. You point out the Constitution’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” What you have to understand is that this refers not to cruel and unusual treatment of individuals in custody but only cruel and unusual punishment. The 8th amendment prohibits the federal government, and through the 14th amendment, the states, from torturing people after they have been convicted of a crime.

    The constitutional prohibition on torturing people to extract information comes from the due processes clauses in the 5th and 14th amendments.

    This is important because if you reference the 8th amendment, conservatives will point out that punishment is not at issue. Justice Scalia did exactly this a few years ago when he was asked about torture in an interview.

  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: I have a different take. In a large sense, saying that we are better than that is an aspirational statement. It is saying that the US was founded on certain principles and a that torturing is a betrayal of those principles. The idea of American Exceptionalism is ingrained in the average American; rather than fight it, why not use it?

  28. 28
    SP says:

    I think most people, even “law-and-order” conservatives, realize that there’s a moral problem with torture. Remember that with waterboarding the most common justification was that it’s not a big deal, just splashing some water on a guy, and a few people even tried it out to show that it’s wasn’t so bad (only to realize that it was.) Same argument with slapping and sleep deprivation. So there’s still an impulse to minimize the physical/psychological harm being done in our name, a majority is still unwilling to say, “Hell yeah, ream ’em with that broom stick!”

  29. 29
    mistermix says:

    @superking: You’re right, though I think we both agree that the underlying principle is the same.

    @Omnes Omnibus: This

  30. 30
    SteveinSC says:

    @chazbet:

    the price of sacrificing America’s principles should be that the person giving the authorization would resign at the conclusion

    This is the honorable thing, and that person should submit him/her self to the laws prohibiting such acts. That is the nature of a true patriot and not the right-wing frauds who claim to “conserve” the values that built the United States.

  31. 31
    superking says:

    @Chris:

    The 7/7 attacks involved a ticking bomb scenario. One of the unexploded bombs was left in an unknown location. It was found, though, through normal police work wherein the relatives of the perpetrators and the community assisted the police in recovering the bomb. No torture was used, and it was not necessary.

    The thing to remember about torture is that not only does it produce questionable intelligence, it wastes time when actual effective forensic techniques are available. Moreover, because of torture’s perceived efficacy, it has a tendency to become a crutch for investigators who then let their forensic skills deteriorate.

    Torture isn’t just bad for the people who are tortured, though I absolutely agree that it compromises the dignity of the victim and the torturer. It actually makes it more difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to solve crimes and bring terrorists to justice.

  32. 32
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: because it’s a platitude that lets us pat ourselves on the back for being exceptional while not doing anything in particular to effect change in any meaningful way?

    I know that’s kind of harsh, but that’s my view from abroad and outside US culture. It’s hard to describe and this is a horrible simile but it’s like some sort of emotional primer paint – instead of re-painting the house the colour we’d prefer, we see a patch of primer in one corner and figure, why not paint the whole thing gloopy grey, at least it’s a start in the right direction, but once we’ve done that and the whole house is one colour inertia sets in.

  33. 33
    Bruce S says:

    A dramatic scenario can be constructed in which a protagonist is faced with outlier circumstances that might cause them to rationally or justifiably violate just about any fundamental moral or legal principle. But we don’t thus decide that moral or legal principles are invalid because someone can imagine an extraordinary circumstance that might challenge an absolute consistency in adhering to them.

    Frankly, the apologists and proponents for torture are like children fantasizing fighting Evil in the world of their super-hero comic books. When you have to rely on the same level of “creative license” that television writers use to sell impossible heroics in “pulp fiction” as the foundation of a military policy case, it’s overwhelming proof that you don’t have a serious argument.

  34. 34
    Jay in Oregon says:

    The reason that we’re always hearing arguments about efficacy instead of principle or national standing is because that weak argument is the only place that torture proponents can put a stake in the ground.

    This sums it up nicely.

    I wonder if anyone has asked the torture apologists, since they believe torture is justifiable in the case of terrorism suspects because “it works,” if it should be applied to other crimes as well?

    I’m sure we can get O.J. to admit to killing Nicole once we start ripping out his fingernails. Maybe we can flip a few Goldman Sachs employees once they’ve gone without sleep for 72 hours, or if we tell them we’re going to shoot their kids in the head in the other room?

  35. 35
    singfoom says:

    Eh, I don’t have much more for this discussion, so I’ll be brief. Torture is morally wrong from every angle. It is also ineffective. Discussions about the efficacy of torture are offensive because of the morality.

    And yes, while it is possible within this universe to imagine torture that yields truthful results, that doesn’t mean that it should be done.

    So, torture loses on the moral and the practical argument. The fact that it has been done in my name and in the name of the rest of the US public makes me sick.

  36. 36
    bkny says:

    We’re America, and we’re better than that.

    not any more.

    the moral authority squandered over the past ten years will never be recovered.

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SteveinSC: In such a case, if there truly were a ticking time bomb scenario and people truly were saved from terrorists with a nuke, I think it is quite likely that a Presidential pardon might well be in the future of someone who tortured to get the info. I would not necessarily oppose that, but it would have to follow conviction at trial or a plea of guilty. The prospect of conviction and the rarity of pardons should give pause to anyone who contemplates such an action.

  38. 38
    Chris says:

    @RSA:

    You’d get the impression that these people don’t have any deeply held principles at all.

    Course not.

    “Big government:” as long as it’s the big government they like, they’re all for it (as one of my Pentagon paper-pusher wingnut acquaintances said the other day, “I’m working for a government agency that actually matters!”)

    “Christianity:” they’ve never cared all that much about implementing “Christian values,” much more about recognizing the specialness and awesomeness of Christian people (they get to define who is and isn’t “Christian.”)

    “Law and order;” that term is code-word for “people in uniform beating the shit out of those people.” It’s never had much to do with order and nothing at all to do with law.

  39. 39
    Stefan says:

    This is important because if you reference the 8th amendment, conservatives will point out that punishment is not at issue. Justice Scalia did exactly this a few years ago when he was asked about torture in an interview.

    I remember that interview, and Scalia’s point was pure sophistry — he argued that if you subjected someone to incredible pain because they refused to tell you what you wanted to hear, that it wasn’t “punishment”. But of course it is, and Scalia was being ridiculous — subjecting someone to pain unless they do what you want is the very definition of punishment. It’s “if you don’t do X, I’ll punish you by doing Y to you.”

  40. 40
    Chris says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    In such a case, if there truly were a ticking time bomb scenario and people truly were saved from terrorists with a nuke, I think it is quite likely that a Presidential pardon might well be in the future of someone who tortured to get the info.

    This.

    Things like presidential pardons and jury nullifications aren’t everyday occurrences, but they were written into the system because the people who drafted it knew that the law couldn’t cover every possible contingency, so they left some latitude for human beings to cover things like this when they thought it appropriate. In other words, the system anticipated what it couldn’t anticipate: the “Founding Fathers didn’t have Bin Laden to deal with!” argument you hear from the right on this is bullshit.

  41. 41
    Paul in KY says:

    @kerFuFFler: In your situation the person would go before a jury trial & they would decide whether or not he/she needed to be punished. If he/she did actually get the info that stopped the ticking bomb, etc. then the jury can vote to aquit or just slap them on the wrist.

    To me, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

  42. 42

    The amazing thing to me is that it’s not just that we have “torture apologists” or “very serious and solemn realists” when it comes to this topic, we have outright advocates.

    By and large, the discussion about torture in this country (in the media, anyway) isn’t between ardent opponents of it and those who begrudgingly believe it might lead to actionable intelligence. It’s between people who seem to be quite enthusiastically FOR it and basically everyone else. And we’ve come to a point where very few will point out that being pro-torture is a pathetic and shameful position that no one should want to advocate. But here we are.

  43. 43
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: The alternative is to force everyone in the US to watch film of torture like we did to the Germans following WWII. Once the reality sinks in and our perception of national innocence and virtue is broken, we can start rebuilding. How likely is that to happen. I suggest that one use the persuasive tools available.

    ETA: Call it an appeal to the better angels of our nature. I understand that such arguments have been used in the past.

  44. 44
    Paul in KY says:

    @elmo: You need to read the RS article ‘The Kill Team’. To me, that was worse than torturing someone (assuming that they were not tortured to death or permanently maimed in some manner).

  45. 45
    superking says:

    @Stefan:

    It may be the common definition of punishment, but it’s not how the law would treat it. Scalia was able to get away with this in the interview because the interviewer was not a lawyer and did not have the correct response.

  46. 46
    Paul in KY says:

    @superking: I think the proscription against ‘cruel & unusual punishment’ was mainly legislative shorthand to outlaw various medievil execution methods (breaking on the wheel, drawing & quartering, etc.).

  47. 47
    aretino says:

    @elmo: Unfortunately, this is not theoretical, and we already know the answer. Rape was an interrogation method used at Abu Ghraib, yet those interrogators remain heroes to the Republican base.

  48. 48
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: i guess i’m just a bigger pessimist: i don’t think those tools are working. In fact, I think by emphasising over and over ‘americans don’t torture’ we are undermining those tools.

    Hearing ‘americans don’t torture’ over and over means that either (a) what americans do is not torture or (b) the people who torture are not (real) americans meaning that individually we who know ourselves to be americans are in no way culpable for or capable of torture.

    So far, (a) appears to be the takeaway for most people, but (b) is equally pernicious because it allows us to ignore and minimise our actual history of torture.

    Personally, I’d prefer the German approach – put it on as the half-time show in the superbowl.

    (ETA: cue more pessimism. As an atheist, I don’t believe in angels, better or otherwise. As an archaeologists, I can tell you that as a species we are innately xenophobic and violent – we overcome it in remarkable ways, but it’s still hardwired in)

  49. 49
    Mike in NC says:

    I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.

    Pure bullshit.

  50. 50
    Chris says:

    @lonesomerobot:

    By and large, the discussion about torture in this country (in the media, anyway) isn’t between ardent opponents of it and those who begrudgingly believe it might lead to actionable intelligence. It’s between people who seem to be quite enthusiastically FOR it and basically everyone else. And we’ve come to a point where very few will point out that being pro-torture is a pathetic and shameful position that no one should want to advocate. But here we are.

    Sadly, yes.

    Country’s been getting more and more insecure, obsessively bloodthirsty, and prone to macho displays of violence since the Vietnam War. This is just the latest part of the spiral.

  51. 51
    Chris says:

    @aretino:

    Unfortunately, this is not theoretical, and we already know the answer. Rape was an interrogation method used at Abu Ghraib, yet those interrogators remain heroes to the Republican base.

    Hell, Rush Limbaugh’s reaction was “c’mon, they’re just boys having fun, this happens in locker rooms all the time.” One could extrapolate from that that he’s okay with it even when it happens in civilian life. Wouldn’t be the first conservative to be a rape apologist.

  52. 52
    SteveinSC says:

    What the infantile republicans don’t understand is that the “Shining City on the Hill” is built by generations and generations of people making just and honorable decisions sometimes imperfectly done. Rule of law, social justice, respect for the individual, rejection of brutality, labor struggle, etc. The United States leads in the world not by storm-trooper-like behavior, but by setting good example. Torturing people destroys centuries of good to satisfy a few sniveling basement-dwelling, macho cowards. In my view Dick Cheney has done more damage to this country than all the enemies of our history.

  53. 53
    Tom Levenson says:

    Again, racing too much to take a real part in this thread, but while I’m in violent agreement with much of what mistermix says above, I do need to push back on the idea of what it means for torture to “work” — even in the context of a broader claim that torture is always and everywhere wrong. This afternoon, probably, that post will emerge, complete with a little gruesome 17th century colour. (Think “Little Ease.”)

  54. 54
    camchuck says:

    A common question you hear from torture advocates is “Would you torture terrorist X for information that could save your own son?”
    And my answer would be, “Hell yes. There is no shortage of ways that I would sell my soul to save my own child. That said, there is a very small number of people in this world for whom I would sell my soul.” I’d waterboard Tunch on the slim chance that it would save my son. But then I would willingly suffer the consequences of my immoral action.
    Policy makers should not be able to sell the collective soul of the nation. The whole nation cannot be forced to bear the consequences of such immoral action.

  55. 55
    BTD says:

    There is absolutely no evidence that torture works to gather useful intelligence.

    Why you folks insist on pretending there is such evidnece is beyond me.

    Really dumb post.

  56. 56
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @TheMightyTrowel: Before acknowledging that we are beating this into the ground, I want add two things. First, “the Americans don’t torture” argument has to be cast as a proposition that torturing someone is unamerican. It cannot be offered as a statement of fact. Anytime it is offered as a factual statement it needs to be beaten down. The argument must be that it happened and it was not only wrong, but also a fundamental and purposeless betrayal of our principles. Second, the only reason we were able to make the Germans watch Holocaust film or tour camps is because they were completely defeated at the end of the war. People in the US cannot be forced to watch torture footage, so that option is impractical.

  57. 57
    BTD says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Thank you.

    This is to ignore the facts.

    Why entertain delusions?

  58. 58
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I say we torture Mr. Mix to find out what he did to M_C.

  59. 59
    Asshole says:

    @TheMightyTrowel:

    because it’s a platitude that lets us pat ourselves on the back for being exceptional while not doing anything in particular to effect change in any meaningful way?

    It’s only a meaningless platitude because it’s treated as such by the cynics in power, who very much agree with you that it’s a meaningless platitude.

    If it were reinstated as a national policy, it would cease to be meaningless. That would require a less-cynical take on it, though.

  60. 60
    Jinchi says:

    While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.

    And in doing so you get diverted into a hypothetical debate where we can get the bad guys if only we twist the screws tight enough. Maybe you hadn’t noticed that liberals lost that debate years ago. Most Americans want to get the bad guys by any means possible. They can pretend that we never torture innocent people. They can fantasize about beating the truth out of the terrorists. And for them, when you start your argument by saying “torture could easily have gotten bin Laden” that’s where the debate ends.

    As a practical matter, if liberals want the U.S. to stop torturing people, they’d better damn well start pointing out that torture does not work. We didn’t get bin Laden on Bush’s watch. We didn’t stop any ticking time bombs. It took us ten years to get bin Laden because, under Bush, we got buried under a mountain of false leads and sidetracked into a trillion dollar quagmire.

  61. 61
    Chris says:

    @camchuck:

    A common question you hear from torture advocates is “Would you torture terrorist X for information that could save your own son?”

    Fucking retarded. Of course you would. You’d do anything for that, as you pointed out below, which is why nobody would put you in charge of the investigation to find the kid – you’re irrational enough to be manipulated into anything.

  62. 62
    BTD says:

    @Jinchi:

    This.

  63. 63
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: Where in the post did mm suggest that there was evidence that torture works? I certainly don’t see it. It looks to me like he was arguing that the efficacy arguments don’t matter because one cannot get past the moral argument and the national standing argument.

  64. 64
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I agree with both of your points.

    What I’m trying to suggest is that by using a phrase this ambiguous we allow people to read/hear a platitude when we are trying to state an aspiration. It’s the easy way out. If there’s one thing to learn from Frank Luntz, Karl Rove and co. (not to mention George Orwell!), it’s that language has power, we should use the clearest language and the best suited to get our point across – not the most elegant* or (in this case) aspirational.

    *the university is coming to remove my phd for that line!

  65. 65
    Chris says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Second, the only reason we were able to make the Germans watch Holocaust film or tour camps is because they were completely defeated at the end of the war. People in the US cannot be forced to watch torture footage, so that option is impractical.

    That, and I’m not sure we’d react the same way. For a lot of people, all you’d get is bitching about the evil liberal elitists trying to make you feel bad for something you didn’t do or shouldn’t feel bad for or whatever.

    The genuine remorse and guilt that permeates post-WW2 German culture is a pretty unusual occurrence.

  66. 66
    Bruce S says:

    “Maybe we can flip a few Goldman Sachs employees once they’ve gone without sleep for 72 hours…”

    Okay – I admit it. When I read that I started to waver.

  67. 67
    danimal says:

    @BTD:

    Why entertain delusions?

    BTD, no one here is entertaining delusions. The torture apologists are making claims that torture works.

    We’re arguing about the best way to counter their arguments.

  68. 68
    BTD says:

    @danimal:

    Mistermix argues for entertaining their delusions.

    I think he says so expressly.

    He cites Josh Marshall approvingly for that approach.

    I do not see how you can deny this.

  69. 69
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    He entertains the delusion that it does and cites Jopsh Marshall approvingly saying that very thing.

    Do I need to blockquote from this post? Really?

    This is a wrongheaded post, as was MArshall’s as was Drum’s as was Glenn Greenwald’s.

    This is a terrible and inaccurate concession to torture supporters.

  70. 70
    BTD says:

    @danimal:

    From Mister Mix’s post – “While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.”

    That is entertaining delusions imo.

  71. 71
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    MisterMix writes: “While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.”

    He did not write it is wrong to address the efficacy arguments. Quite the opposite.

  72. 72
    Svensker says:

    @TheMightyTrowel:

    This, exactly. I agreed with the post 100% until I came to the end. American Exceptionalism is not what makes torture wrong. It’s wrong, period, for everyone. And lots of other people in the world are “better than this.”

    Perhaps mistermix is just trying to rally the troops, but I hate that foam finger crap.

  73. 73
    Foobar says:

    My apologies in advance for stating the obvious, but loyal Bushers real motivation for pro-torture pushback is not that “it works”, but that the pushback is fueled by the attempt to keep Shrub & Darth out of legal jeopardy. So how do you do that? You scream “Torture works!” as often as you can, regardless of the facts. Regardless of the bizarre logic pretzel that “if it works”, it cannot be illegal.

    Granted these 2 issues (pro-torture and Bush’s legal problems) are very closely entwined, but i believe the driving force with these 27%ers is to keep Codpiece out of jail. I suspect that the GOPT would be exponentially less engaged in the pro-torture advocacy camp if GWB’s legal jeopardy wasnt at stake (and sadly, its not at stake). Granted the torture “debate” would not exist had Shrub not OK’d torture treatment, but their stated purpose for pushback is not the complete picture.

    /end_of_obvious

  74. 74
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @danimal: People who are affirmatively pro-torture are not going to be persuaded by moral arguments, but people who tacitly accept that torture is done to protect them might well be open to moral arguments if they understand the actual effectiveness of torture. If one can say “Do you want to become a monster so that you may be 2% safer?”, they might listen. But, for such an argument to be effective, one must deal with the case in which torture did provide a piece of vital information (you and I know that this is almost entirely bullshit, but if one makes an absolute case, it can be refuted by finding one counterexample).

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: Did you, by chance, read the rest of the paragraph? Would it have made sense to you if mm had said “Assuming arguendo that torture can provide information…” and gone on from there?

  76. 76
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I will not agree that assuming arguendo is the right approach here.

    I think it is a really dumb approach.

    Hence my objection to the post.

    I do not object to the post ion moral grounds, but on efficacy grounds.

    This is a REALLY REALLY ineffective way to fight against torture.

  77. 77
    Glenn says:

    Wow, I have never seen a more impressive display of navel-gazing absurdity than these attacks on Josh and Kevin and Glenn G for what they said. I feel quite confident that it is the common position of them and their critics here (i.e., Tom L.) that torture is wrong regardless of whether it is ever in some sense “effective.” And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

  78. 78
    scav says:

    Logically, could somebody explain to me where is the little “No Truth Exits” button that torture engages so that simply no true information comes out because that would be one hell of a button. From a purely logical viewpoint, I must admit I find it as Unlikely as (added back in) that the other side envisions, the “Suddenly Truth Exits” button. What torture probably does is increase the apparent volume of data being collected without overmuch difference to the quality of the information being gained. If you want quality information, you might have just lost sight of it in a quantity of rapid-fire nonsense. And that point resolutely ignores the morality of the whole shitscape, but I’m really getting a mite peeved at the silliness of the “No Truth Exits” button.

  79. 79
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: You don’t think that moral arguments are the best ones to make against torture? As I read this post, it argues for the primacy of arguing the immorality of torture.

  80. 80
    cleek says:

    @BTD:

    There is absolutely no evidence that torture works to gather useful intelligence.

    you are wrong.

    The argument that torture works cannot simply be dismissed. During World War II, for example, the Gestapo used torture with considerable effectiveness on captured agents working for Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the top-secret organization dedicated to sabotage and subversion behind Axis lines. A number of agents, unable to withstand the pain or, in some cases, even the prospect of pain, told their captors everything they knew, including the identity of other agents, the arrival time of flights, and the location of safe houses. During France’s brutal war in Algeria, the colonial power used torture effectively. As historian Alistair Horne, the author of the classic analysis of the French-Algerian war, “A Savage War of Peace,” told me in a 2007 interview, “In Algeria, the French used torture — as opposed to abuse — very effectively as an instrument of war. They had some success with it; they did undoubtedly get some intelligence from the use of torture.” That intelligence included information about future terrorist strikes and the infrastructure of terror networks in Algiers.

    doesn’t make it right or moral or anything else. but it can work, and it has worked.

  81. 81
    BTD says:

    @cleek:

    Oh a link! That settles it. Sheesh. You’re not serious are you?

  82. 82
    SteveinSC says:

    Fucking monkeys typing on a keyboard occasionally come up with an English word, but no one would consider using them as the source of new literature. So how do you tell if what you get from torture is any good except in hindsight?
    (This is a paraphrase from Cerberus yesterday.)

  83. 83
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Perhaps my blogging history on the torture argument has been forgotten (google it), but my view is that we make EVERY argument against torture and concede NONE.

  84. 84
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: You said there was no evidence. cleek provided evidence. It may be crappy evidence. It may be unreliable evidence. It may be inadmissible evidence. But it is evidence. As I noted above, when one makes an absolute statement, it is disproved by one counterexample.

  85. 85
    cleek says:

    @BTD:
    i’m not sure an insult is an effective counter to evidence.

    a better method would be to attempt to debunk the content of the text i quoted. you know, show us how all of that info is wrong, or misinterpreted, etc..

  86. 86
    tesslibrarian says:

    It’s been over 500 years, and we’ve always known that torture isn’t the smart way to get information:

    “Ay, but I fear you speak upon the rack, Where men enforced do speak any thing.”
    Portia, Act 3, Scene 2, “Merchant of Venice.”

    After 9/11, they wanted to torture. Getting useful information wasn’t the point.

  87. 87
    SteveinSC says:

    @cleek: Yeah and the French still lost Algeria and have an additional stain on their history for it. No one sets the French up as a model of moral rectitude.

  88. 88
    Jinchi says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    “Do you want to become a monster so that you may be 2% safer?”

    And here again you’ve conceded a point to the pro-torture team. Here’s how that sentence translates to most people:

    “Torture will make you safer.”

    Likewise the sentence:

    “Would you torture a terrorist to save your own son?”

    translates as:

    “Torture will save your son”

    You don’t counter a bogus argument by conceding their hypotheticals. Remember Frank Luntz is never going to concede the counter hypothetical “would you crush the testicles of the terrorists child to keep us safer?”. He’d simply dismiss the statement as absurd on its face and probably brand you a pervert for even thinking of it.

    You counter the pro-torture argument by pointing to the overwhelming evidence that it doesn’t work as an intelligence tool. Pointing out that the pro-torture Bush administration never caught bin Laden, while the anti-torture Obama administration did is a point in your favor. Don’t blow it on stupid arguments.

  89. 89
    BC says:

    I’m not touching on the ethical problem here, but the practical – it’s not that torture doesn’t get “relevant information,” it’s that torture gathers a shitload of false information as well, so it takes a longer time to sort the shitty stuff from the good stuff. By that time, the “relevant information” might not be relevant anymore. Adding the inefficiency of torture to the immorality of torture sums up a good reason not to torture: it costs more in terms of money and resources and it costs the honorable reputation of the country. A lose/lose situation if ever I saw one.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: I tend to think that by getting into the weeds of the effectiveness argument, we often appear to concede the moral one. However, in the context of particular conversations with specific individuals, I would say that one must be prepared to argue in a way that addresses their individual issues. The goal, in my mind, is to persuade those who are persuadable and, at the same time, turn torture advocates into the pariahs that they should be seen as being.

  91. 91
    Stefan says:

    I think most people, even “law-and-order” conservatives, realize that there’s a moral problem with torture. Remember that with waterboarding the most common justification was that it’s not a big deal, just splashing some water on a guy, and a few people even tried it out to show that it’s wasn’t so bad (only to realize that it was.) Same argument with slapping and sleep deprivation. So there’s still an impulse to minimize the physical/psychological harm being done in our name, a majority is still unwilling to say, “Hell yeah, ream ‘em with that broom stick!”

    It is, of course, completely incoherent. Because if all it is is “splashing them with water”, then why would it cause anyone to talk? If it doesn’t produce unendurable pain, then why can’t they endure it? The argument boiled down to “these are the most hardened, fanatical terrorists in the world, regular interrogation methods that routinely break drug lords, gang-bangers, rapists, Mafiosi, etc. won’t work on them. Therefore we must…splash them with water!”

  92. 92
    Jinchi says:

    @cleek:

    You realize that both the Germans in WWII and the French in Algeria lost those wars. Still your argument is that they used torture very effectively.

  93. 93
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The weeds? The answer to the question “does it work?” is NO!!!!!

    Now, as I think I have demonstrated, answering that question NO!!!! does not preclude pointing out it is a war crime, a crime against humanity, etc.

    I spent a lot of time doing so from 2004 on.

    I think I did a decent job highlighting the issue.

  94. 94
    scav says:

    @Jinchi: And, does the acquisition of good information guarantee success?

  95. 95

    BC is right. You don’t torture because information obtained by torture is inherently untrustworthy. People will say anything to make it end so every revelation must be verified. All ticking time bombs scenarios are eliminated and you must be able to obtain information from other sources, in which case torturing probably isn’t even the best way to get your information.

  96. 96
    Corner Stone says:

    While I agree that torture almost never yields valuable information, like Marshall, I’m willing to entertain the possibility that torturing someone will gather useful intelligence.

    Once you concede this point you will never, ever, get to the “policy” discussion you somehow consider to be the important aspect.
    You will always be swallowed in a morass of hypotheticals about acceptable levels of efficacy.
    Once you substitute the immorality of torture by acceding it’s usefulness one time in antiquity you are done.
    And this is why liberals (or whoever you want to call it) keep losing arguments in the public sphere.

    mistermix, I must have read your post at least 8 times now. I am simply baffled by it.

  97. 97
    BTD says:

    @cleek:

    I reject the notion that that is in fact evidence.

    You have a different definition of evidence that I do.

    You provide evidence that Gary Kamiya wrote something and someone said something to Gary Kamiya.

    You claim that is evidence that torture works. I reject your assertion.

  98. 98
    Padraig says:

    I actually just did a dissertation on torture for information. And yeah, torture could work in certain instances, but there’s no reason for it to work as a system – unless the torturer can tell when the captive is lying (which is costly, and noisy) then the captive can lie ad spread misinformation. And if the torturer doesn’t check, then he accepts the misinfo as the truth. The problem is, we keep thinking that you can only tell the truth or keep quiet under torture – that lies either don’t happen, are never accepted, or are totally costless for the torturer to believe. What good does torture do if we get good info one in a thousand times, but get misinfo the other 999? That’s like saying it makes sense to play a game of chance that costs $100 bucks a go cause you have a 10% chance of winning $200. The odds just don’t make sense.

  99. 99
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    It is not evidence at all.

    Gateway Pundit writes things too. IS that “evidence?”

    Please.

  100. 100
    Stefan says:

    A common question you hear from torture advocates is “Would you torture terrorist X for information that could save your own son?” And my answer would be, “Hell yes. There is no shortage of ways that I would sell my soul to save my own child. That said, there is a very small number of people in this world for whom I would sell my soul.”

    Same, I’d torture someone to save my own son. But then again, I’d also rob a bank, steal a car, burn down a town, kill any number of people, etc. to save my own son, so the fact that I’d do it doesn’t mean that I think any of these things should be legal.

  101. 101
    Corner Stone says:

    Further, there is no debate about torture policy. None.
    Anytime this comes up the only rational response is to pull a Pelosi and respond with some variant of, “Never. We will never torture. Does that work for you?”

  102. 102
    eemom says:

    @TheMightyTrowel:

    I agree with all you’ve said. AND I like your choice of handle.

    @BTD:

    God, but you are a self-important fool.

    Assuming something “arguendo” is not the same thing as conceding it — and if you don’t know that, you must be a really shitty lawyer.

  103. 103
    scav says:

    @BTD: Respect you as much as I can and I know you can think, but still, that’s verging on birther standards of evidence.

  104. 104
    Corner Stone says:

    @Padraig:

    The problem is, we keep thinking that you can only tell the truth or keep quiet under torture – that lies either don’t happen, are never accepted, or are totally costless for the torturer to believe.

    No, “we” do not keep thinking this. Amoral torture apologists propagate this to be the case.
    “We” understand that torture has absolutely nothing to do with information.

  105. 105
    Stefan says:

    Re the efficacy of torture, someone on a thread last night pointed out that in WWII, despite the fact that the Soviets were routine and enthusiastic torturers, they never tortured captured German POWs for tactical and strategic information — and the same is true in the reverse, that the Nazis, despite an equal affection for and expertise with torture, never tortured their own POWs for information (though both sides did torture captured spies, partisians, etc., which probably indicates they did so more for deterrence, punishment and terrorism). It’s almost as if they realized that the information produced by torture wasn’t something they wanted to base their battle plans on…..

  106. 106
    slag says:

    @Bobby Thomson: Exactly this:

    Marshall wasn’t entertaining a hypothetical possibility. He was making an empirical claim in a very matter of fact way that torture sometimes yields usable information, while stating that any suggestion to the contrary marks a critic as deeply unserious doctrinaire.

    Sorry, mistermix. I agree with the majority of your argument, but you mischaracterized the issue here. It’s not an either-or. You can easily dispense with the “torture works” argument without going out of your way to concede it. It’s not hard. And by no means is making that concession an “important” thing to do. Especially in such a half-assed manner as Josh did.

  107. 107
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Georgia Pig:

    Sure, torture may produce useful intelligence: torture would seem to make it less likely that useful intelligence is used in a timely fashion. One of the problems with torture is that it is likely to produce a torrent of false information in a completely distorted context.

    Precisely the point. And if you can’t use it, it isn’t “useful.”

  108. 108
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: I am not saying that you did not do a good job. You did. I just think that, in this case, you are reading something as a concession that is instead a rhetorical device to move past one argument and on to another.

  109. 109
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Further, there is no debate about torture policy. None.

    The problem with this is too many rightwingers think a little harsh interrogation isn’t torture. We still haven’t resolved the “what is torture” argument.

  110. 110
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I think it is bad argumentation.

  111. 111
    Redshift says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    The problem with this is too many rightwingers think a little harsh interrogation isn’t torture. We still haven’t resolved the “what is torture” argument.

    It’s become another article of faith, like “tax cuts never cause deficits,” and can’t be refuted in their minds even though the evidence is utterly clear cut. That’s better ground to force them to argue on, to my mind — point out the Spanish Inquisition, our own prosecutions, etc., refuse to engage the “sky is green” argument, and while that won’t change their mind, it should convince anyone who it’s possible to convince.

  112. 112
    Stillwater says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: We still haven’t resolved the “what is torture” argument.

    Is it just a little water? Standing for a while? Pain equal to organ failure?

  113. 113
    Stefan says:

    Personally, I’d prefer the German approach – put it on as the half-time show in the superbowl.

    The Federal Republic of Germany doesn’t engage in state-sanctioned torture, while the United States of America routinely does. Why is this suddenly “the German approach”? Isn’t presenting bloody punishment as entertainment more properly called the American approach?

  114. 114
    Stefan says:

    Re the “does torture work?” argument, consider rape: does rape work? Of course it does: if you threaten someone with rape, or rape them or their loved ones, might they tell you what they wanted to hear, cooperate with you? Sure. But would anyone who wants to be considered civilized therefore concede that that justiies rape?

    Every time I get into an argument with a torture pervert, I start substituting the word rape (or, if I was writing for the New York Times, “enhanced seduction procedures/harsh intercourse methods/what some critics have asserted may qualify as rape”, etc.). It makes them very uncomfortable.

  115. 115
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: If you are arguing a case in front of a judge who does not want to let go of a particular argument and you have other lines of arguments that are as strong, how do you get past that first argument in order make the other ones, the ones that might persuade the judge?

  116. 116
    kindness says:

    Let’s start with principle. Like the 8th amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

    You know why that was included? Because King George III used torture on the colonists with impunity. Americans sentenced German & Japanese military leaders to death after WWII because they tortured American GIs.

    I don’t care that you can extract information through torture. You have to live by your rules, if you don’t you have no integrity, no principles and no honor as a people or as a country.

  117. 117
    John D. says:

    @BTD: We can argue against torture on both moral and effectiveness grounds, and should, at the top of our lungs.

    The problem, however, is that torture makes people talk. Some of that talk is going to be accurate. So we cannot say that torture does not gather good information, ever. We CAN say that the information gathered is suspect, because, frankly, the time it takes to generate elimination of all the suspect information would have been better spent gathering good intel without torture in the first place.

    Torture is wrong, counterproductive, stupid, immoral, and inhumane. But that does not mean that it never works. It just does not save time.

    (Note: I was trained as a 97E by the US Army during the first Gulf War.)

  118. 118
    Dennis SGMM says:

    How in hell are you going to make a moral argument to a morally ignorant populace? A substantial portion of them still believe that Saddam had WMDs – that’s something that should be subject to refutation with plain facts yet it isn’t. Another substantial portion of the pop thinks that GWB did a hell of a job. Again, subject to refutation with plain facts. Making gauzy moral arguments to the American people, terrorized by years of drumbeats implying near-superhuman power to the terrorists, is pissing in the wind. We saw the reaction when Obama attempted to close Gitmo and bring those incarcerated there to the US for trial and detention. What do you think the reaction will be if anyone tries to deprive our counter-terror warriors of “a valuable tool in the war against terror”?

  119. 119
    cleek says:

    @Jinchi:
    sure, but the fact that they eventually lost the wars seems sortof irrelevant to the point at hand. the claim wasn’t that torture would win a war, only that it would (or would not) provide useful intelligence.

    @BTD:

    You claim that is evidence that torture works. I reject your assertion.

    amazing. ladies and gentlemen, this is what epistemic closure looks like.

  120. 120
    Stillwater says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: how do you get past that first argument in order make the other ones,

    How do you not undermine the other arguments when you concede the initial one? The argument for torture advocates all along has been pragmatics with lip service paid to morality. By conceding the pragmatic argument, you’ve conceded to them their whole argument.

  121. 121
    Stefan says:

    So we cannot say that torture does not gather good information, ever. We CAN say that the information gathered is suspect, because, frankly, the time it takes to generate elimination of all the suspect information would have been better spent gathering good intel without torture in the first place.

    Well, if the information is suspect, how can it be good information? If I tell you “bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan! In Yemen! in Afghanistan! In Queens!”, the fact that I threw Pakistan in there, while accurate, is also completely useless, because you have no way of knowing which piece of information I gave you is the correct one.

  122. 122
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: did someone rub the lamp?
    lol.
    mistermix never tortured me.
    he’s Alyosha.

    Let us suppose, Ivan, that in order to bring men eternal happiness, it was essential and inevitable to torture to death one small creature, one tiny child. Would you consent?

    And torture is not the reason we got OBL, anyways.
    The Paks have known where he was for years, but turned a blind eye. I doubt they actively supported him. OBL was being stored as unrealized credit.
    Pakistani Spychief Pasha gave OBL’s geo-loc to American Spychief Panetta in their meet last month. The droning is destabilizing Zardari’s government. When Panetta refused to stop the droning, even threatening to drone Pak from A-stan airbases, Pasha handed over OBL. The double top secret SEAL mission is plausible deniability for Zardaris government, is all.
    Both governments are pantswetting scared of this guy.

    Imran Khan declares legal war against US drone attacks in Pakistan
    Islamabad, April 20(ANI): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has announced plans to adopt a two-way strategy to end the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas- by the application of public pressure within the country, and taking legal action through international courts of law.
    __
    Khan made this announcement at a joint press conference with Clive Smith of Reprieve – a charity organisation, which provides free legal aid to families of drone attacks’ victims in collaboration with the Justice Project of Pakistan.
    The PTI chief said some 90 per cent of the people targeted by drones are civilians, adding that 18 out of every 20 victims of drone attacks are innocent.
    “The bodies of the victims are usually beyond recognition, but somehow the victims become suspects after they are dead,” the Daily Times quoted Khan, as saying.
    __
    “Rulers have sold national sovereignty for dollars,” said the PTI chief as he urged the people to take to the streets against this “state-sponsored terrorism”.
    Alleging that the government has fixed the “match of drone attacks” with the US administration, Khan condemned it for failing to protect the life and property of the citizens.
    __
    He invited all political parties to his proposed sit-in at Peshawar on April 23-24 against US drone attacks, saying that it was a national cause, and that it was their duty to rise up against foreign aggression and the government’s failure in getting the drone strikes stopped.

    Khan’s social media organized sit-in in Qetta stopped NATO convoys for two days. 800 college students from the Puhktoon Students Federation participated.
    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition Arab Spring.
    But if the Arab Spring comes to Pakistan, then the American Fall.

  123. 123
    Moonbatman says:

    Torture is wrong unless performed by good gun-grabbing union Democrats.
    Such as the Chicago Police
    Report on Chicago Police Torture Is Released
    Ex-Chicago Cop Gets 4 1/2 Years in Torture Case

    Peace Out. The Power is Yours. Free Crystal Mangum.

  124. 124
    cleek says:

    oh look, a troll.

  125. 125
    Paul in KY says:

    @Stillwater: If you don’t concede the initial one, you have to say “We won’t torture, period. If that means we can’t find a bomb some POS terrorist planted, so be it. We will try our damdest to find it without torturing”.

  126. 126
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: She’s alive! Alive, I tell you! Buwhahahahahaha!

    Glad you made an appearance, cudlip ;-)

    Edit: PTI is a political party in Pakistan?

  127. 127
    Will Reks says:

    I’ve often avoided threads like this one over the last few years. It seriously makes my brain hurt that we’re still having a national debate over the legitimacy of torture.

    Torture can work… if you know exactly what it is that you want to know and you know for certain that the detainee has the answer to that question. This all depends on the detainee’s breaking point and whether the detainee decides to tell you the whole truth, bits of truth, or utter falsehoods.

    The problem with torture is that the intelligence collected should be considered tainted and suspect. It is not necessarily reliable.

    The moral issue is only one factor but it is an important one to me. Torture is immoral. To torture someone is to utterly dehumanize them. Interrogators have to be able to build rapport to run their interrogation approaches which will break the detainee. Once you cross the line you ruin any possibility of building rapport with a detainee.

    I always find it funny to see so called Christian conservatives promoting torture. It’s dark and evil. They would want us to behave like those they hate. In fact, they think it necessary.

    The interrogation schoolhouse in Fort Huachuca, AZ teaches time-honored, reliable interrogation techniques. Variations of this instruction are taught by FBI and law enforcement professionals and have been for a long time. Ali Soufan is 100% correct. We did not need to torture anyone to get good information. We just needed wise, good, ethical leadership and that was lacking at a time we needed it most.

    I can tell you that most interrogators take great pride in their tradecraft. Most have probably imagined what it would be like to get someone with access to Osama Bin Laden in the booth. And I can tell you that any interrogator worth his/her (yes, females make great interrogators too) salt would have contempt for those who think they can collect all the information a detainee has to offer by inflicting pain.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter if torture worked to get a small piece of intelligence like the fact that Bin Laden used a trusted courier to communicate. You do not need to resort to torture to get this kind of information. And from what I read, this intel was obtained by standard interrogation.

    *Obviously interrogation is a complicated subject and we have had tremendous issues with it in this past decade. But, it is also a vital component of human intelligence collection. It just needs to be done right.

  128. 128
    joeyess says:

    The argument I want to have is whether a policy of torture is one we ought to adopt, and that’s a far broader question than whether it might work on rare occasion.

    I don’t want to have that argument. At. All.

    There are essentially 3 generations currently participating in the American political process: Korea and Vietnam War era people, (some WWII, but fewer everyday), the children of those people and the children of those people.

    The first generation knows that torture is wrong, but they are easily cajoled and swayed by fear of the other, the second knows torture is wrong but they’re split on the issue as well, and lastly, the third…. they were born in the early ’90s, saw 911 happen as impressionable young adolescents with parents that were clearly traumatized then went about the business of watching teevee for the next ten years and what was one of the most popular shows during that time? Yep. “24”.

    I don’t want to have that argument at al.

    Let’s just have an argument as to whether torture should be legalized. Let those that want it legal to make their case.

    We’ll win that one.

  129. 129
    BTD says:

    @cleek:

    All hail cleek!!? His assertions must ALL be accepted?

    Your comment is ironic don’t you think?

    I take it you reject MY assertion. I do not take that as evidence of your mind being closed, I take it as you being wrong IN MY OPINION.

  130. 130
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Stillwater: There is a difference in both legal and rhetorical argument between an actual concession (“You are right.”) and assuming arguendo (“Okay, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are right.”).

  131. 131
    BTD says:

    @eemom:

    Yes, because the whole “assuming arguendo”
    thing is a staple of political discourse.

    I am the fool? Sheesh.

  132. 132
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: Jesus, man, you are being willfully obtuse.

  133. 133
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Not in politics there isn’t.

    Assume that Iraq did have WMD, the war is still a bad idea.

    How effective would that argument have been POLITICALLY in 2002?

    Now, if the point is this is just an academic discussion, well fine, let’s say so and accept what we say does not matter.

    In which case, I’m fine with this.

  134. 134
    Mandramas says:

    The simple answer to that is that even if it works in some rare scenario, it’s not worth sacrificing a 250-year-old principle and our national standing for the tiny, fleeting benefit that may come from it.

    Maybe you should research the School of Americas, where American Military personal trained southamerican officers in the use of the torture as a weapon of psychological warfare.
    Torture was, at least since the Cold war, a part of the not-so-public-but-acepted American Military Doctrine.

  135. 135
    cleek says:

    @BTD:
    stomping your foot and clenching your eyes shut does not help your argument. you can either counter the evidence i provided or you can admit that you are wrong.

  136. 136
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Not willfully. Explain to me what I am missing in cleek’s point? How is my mind closed by not accepting what cleek wrote as evidence that torture works?

    Indeed, do you think it is evidence that torture works?

    And if you do, should you be admitting that torture works in these discussions?

  137. 137
    slag says:

    @Will Reks:

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter if torture worked to get a small piece of intelligence like the fact that Bin Laden used a trusted courier to communicate. You do not need to resort to torture to get this kind of information. And from what I read, this intel was obtained by standard interrogation.

    I like this! I always folded necessity under morality because, on some level, morality very often factors in necessity (sorry, moralists, but you know it’s true). But the way you made your case allows necessity to live separate from morality in a way that also invokes national and professional pride. Awesome!

    So, the argument can easily be a bit more layered while still not overly complex:
    Regardless of whether or not torture “works”–and I’m not prepared to concede that it does–it is unnecessary and wrong.

    And the necessity point is self-evident in this case because torture did not get us the information we needed. We didn’t need it. We don’t need it.

  138. 138
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Paul in KY: yup. Imran Khan is the head of a pakistani political party, the Movement for Justice.
    Peshawar rally.
    I think hes kinda hawt.

  139. 139
    Brachiator says:

    Our deeply held principles are true no matter what Jack Bauer did in some episode of his show, and our national standing is hurt by us torturing regardless of whether we gleaned some nugget from waterboarding KSM.

    Good post. Torture doesn’t work, neither in principle nor in practice.

    It’s funny, George Washington, whose example set the model for all the presidents who came after, was clear on the point.

    “Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause… for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country.”
    __
    George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

    And yet, somehow, conservatives and the Tea Party People who claim to revere every syllable that ever dripped from the mouths of the founders seem to omit this from their “strict constructionist” handbooks.

  140. 140
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Paul in KY: There is also a bollywood idol of the same name.
    Name recognition never hurts.

  141. 141

    I don’t care if torture works. I don’t want any part of it, and I certainly don’t condone its use by any government that represents me.

  142. 142
    Maude says:

    Torture is a war crime. Now we are debating criminal activity and gee is it okay?

  143. 143
    Stefan says:

    Imran Khan was also a world-famous athelete for twenty years, playing cricket for Pakistan. It would be as if Michael Jordan now headed a political party in the US.

  144. 144
    BTD says:

    @cleek:

    I think I stomped nothing. I said that Gary Kamiya’s article is not evidence that torture worked. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?

    I said that Gary Kamiya quoting Alistair Horne is not evidence that torture worked. It is evidence that Alistair Horne said in a 2007 interview “[i]n Algeria, the French used torture — as opposed to abuse — very effectively as an instrument of war. They had some success with it; they did undoubtedly get some intelligence from the use of torture.”

    What is the basis for Horne’s statement? Do you know?

    I guess I am more skeptical of statements, even from experts, than most people. The evidence in this case would be whatever evidence Horne is basing his statements on.

    You do not present that, and I doubt you could do so in this format (maybe you can I do not know.)

    I hope that clarifies my position on this issue.

  145. 145
    Stillwater says:

    @Paul in KY: And I think that’s right. Notice that the presuppositions of the ticking-time bomb scenario are categorically different than what originated this discussion: that torture yielded lots of scattered intel that took years to corroborate and cross-reference. (And even that’s subject to dispute.)

    I think the practical argument against the utility of torture stands in all cases: that the good intel can’t be distinguished from the bad. It gets lost in the noise. And that’s true especially in a ticking time bomb scenario, where acquiring reliable information in a timely fashion is the entire point of the interrogation.

    One caveat to all this: in cases of legitimate self-defense from an imminent perceived threat to life, most people agree that normal morality is suspended, that is, people are justified in taking certain actions which would otherwise be considered immoral. What torture advocates do, it seems to me, is try to establish torture as a general policy by appealing to specific cases in which the constraints on normal morality no longer apply. It would be the same as arguing that I have an inherent fully general right to kill people because I am morally permitted to do so when acting in self-defense.

  146. 146
    joeyess says:

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter if torture worked to get a small piece of intelligence like the fact that Bin Laden used a trusted courier to communicate.

    See? This is why this debate is so futile. The above did. not. happen. KSM and the other fella they had at Gitmo (his name escapes me and it’s too early for me to go looking it up), did not give up the couriers name, in fact they denied they knew him when clearly they did.

    Kee-Riiist! This drives me crazy. Right wing lies penetrate every corner of this country. That’s quite a megaphone they have, isn’t it?

  147. 147
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Paul in KY: retry on my moderated comment.
    Imram Khan, cricket captain turned politico.
    Peshawar rally, that stopped the NATO convoys for 2 days last month and disbanded peacefully.
    Social media organized peaceful grassroots protests are the branding of the Arab Spring Movement.
    But in Pak America and Zardaris government are the bad guys.

  148. 148
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Stillwater: meh. its binary, stil.
    you are either Ivan or Alyosha. There are no shades of grey in torture.

  149. 149
    joeyess says:

    We’re losing this debate as we speak.

    Precisely because we’re not arguing the moral and illegal aspects of torture. Instead we’re getting sucked into a debate on it’s efficacy.

  150. 150
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: All cleek’s link did was disprove your statement that there is no evidence that torture works. It is not an argument for torture or a statement that cleek believes that torture works. You said there was no evidence. Your statement was disproved. In an argument with someone about torture, you just lost if you rest everything on the assertion that torture never works. Someone will always find that one instance where it did. Now what? The other position being put forward is that, even if you can nitpick and find a time when torture did provide useful information, it is still fucking torture and, for fuck’s sake, we, as a people, and you (the person with whom the argument is being held, not you, BTD), as an individual should be a better and more moral person than that.

  151. 151
    cleek says:

    @BTD:
    Alistair Horne did not invent the idea that torture was effective for the French in Algeria. two minutes of Googling should provide you with a dozen other references. i’d provide you the links, but i know how you feel about links.

  152. 152
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Stefan

    : It would be as if Michael Jordan now headed a political party in the US.

    haha, yes exactly. But only if Pakistan was droning flyover country to try to kill Bush and Cheney and Michael was opposing the deaths of american civilians.
    ;)

  153. 153
    joeyess says:

    Tom assembled the argument yesterday. It is perfect:

    Prisoners in American custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees — the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed; and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi — the men claimed never to have heard his name. That raised suspicions among interrogators that the two detainees were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure. [ ]
    So KSM did not reveal the secret under torture. Rather, he held his tongue…and this is how US intelligence closed the gap:
    By 2005, many inside the C.I.A. had reached the conclusion that the Bin Laden hunt had grown cold, and the agency’s top clandestine officer ordered an overhaul of the agency’s counterterrorism operations. The result was Operation Cannonball, a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A. case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    With more agents in the field, the C.I.A. finally got the courier’s family name. With that, they turned to one of their greatest investigative tools — the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.
    Boots on the ground, intercepts, the slow, boring sifting through data. Cop work. Spy work—the real kind, not the deluded fantasies of those who think Jack Bauer actually works for the US government.
    All good so far: the usual suspects of or enamored with the Bush-Cheney crime family are wrong, lying and gaining at least a bit of traction, but mainstream media accounts are out there that give them the lie.

    this is the argument. I guess it’s a combination of morality, legality and efficacy. But we have to defeat the lies.

  154. 154
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Maude: No. No. No. No one on this thread is arguing that torture is any way acceptable. The discussion is over the way to talk to, and persuade, others of this. That is it.

  155. 155
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Mandramas: salaams brother.
    Which are you, Ivan or Alyosha?
    I’m Alyosha. Omnes is Alyosha. But I think Cleek might be an Ivan.
    ;)

  156. 156
    kerFuFFler says:

    @Paul in KY:

    In your situation the person would go before a jury trial & they would decide whether or not he/she needed to be punished. If he/she did actually get the info that stopped the ticking bomb, etc. then the jury can vote to aquit or just slap them on the wrist.To me, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

    Agreed, and fail that, there is always the possibility of a presidential pardon. But torture must remain illegal. We risk losing much more actionable information when people are reluctant to be informants because they don’t want people they know to be tortured.

  157. 157
    cleek says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The other position being put forward is that, even if you can nitpick and find a time when torture did provide useful information, it is still fucking torture and, for fuck’s sake, we, as a people, and you (the person with whom the argument is being held, not you, BTD), as an individual should be a better and more moral person than that.

    this.

  158. 158
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    You don’t think that moral arguments are the best ones to make against torture?

    No. Especially in the current political and intellectual (or anti-intellectual) climate. Many Americans are often dumbly pragmatic. It’s part of our national character. People have talked about the “need” to suspend civil liberties in order to deal with terrorists.

    And obviously, many conservatives are hypocritically uneven on their mix of pragmatism and absolutism (e.g., with respect to gun laws).

    But it is also clear that conservatives are immune to moral arguments about torture since they don’t believe that anything that is done to terrorists or Muslims in general, matter.

  159. 159
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    hey, juicers. This is a sillie argument, and if you having difficulty, you should read the Brothers Karamazov.

    “Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end… but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature … And to found that edifice on its unavenged tears: would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell me the truth!”
    – Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

    Either torture is a moral horror, or its not.
    There are no shades of grey, you are either Ivan or Alyosha.

  160. 160
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator: I think that argument is fruitless wrt torture advocates. They are broken people. The arguments are for the benefit of those who want to be safe and not think about things. Decent people, for the most part, who might be open to persuasion.

  161. 161

    We have thoroughly moved as a country into a majority “end justifies the means” society. The problem we have is that the torture apologists want to grandfather their means (waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques”) into this end, which is the killing of OBL.

    So it seems that one way to persuade others that torture is wrong is to pull back the curtain and ask, “why else would someone want to falsify the facts of how this happened unless they knew their argument doesn’t stand on its own merits?”

    Torture apologists literally need to piggyback on the success of other methods to somehow “prove” that their way is the right way.

  162. 162
    joeyess says:

    Torture lead to disinformation about OBL’s courier.

    Just pass this link around. It’s all we need to keep saying.

  163. 163
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: I think you shouldn’t bother. You wont change conservatives minds, and the FINDING OBL via courier story is disinformation to protect Zardaris government anyways.
    Pasha gave him up to dial down the droning which is destabilizing the Pak government.
    Instead of throwing an America Fuck Yeah! national block party we should be quietly and humbly folding our tents in A-stan and silently slipping away …..while we still can.
    Because after the Arab Spring comes the American Fall.
    ;)

  164. 164
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: good link. bravo!

  165. 165
    Mandramas says:

    I’m glad to see back in there, sister. I hope your crisknife is still the sharpest.

  166. 166
    joeyess says:

    Instead of throwing an America Fuck Yeah! national block party we should be quietly and humbly folding our tents in A-stan and silently slipping away …..while we still can.

    I agree with you on that account. The question remains: will we? If we don’t, and I don’t think we will, then we will have lost the debate and remained entangled. Then we’ve lost it all.

    I’d rather we win the debate on torture.

  167. 167
    kindness says:

    @Mandramas: crysknife. Sorry I can be a geek.

  168. 168
    BTD says:

    @cleek:

    Fair enough. That said, “the idea” is just that, an idea. Google would provide evidence of “the idea” that it did not work for the French as well.

  169. 169
    Corner Stone says:

    The whole “the courier” story is a mindfuck in any event. I wish the WH had used some other sideshow to cover their tracks.
    But this was probably the most productive way to protect their HUMINT source. Unfortunately.

  170. 170
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    This is simply not true – “disprove your statement that there is no evidence that torture works” There is no evidence presented at all. Statements are presented.

    HEre is statement as well – “Glenn L. Carle, a retired C.I.A. officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002:

    [C]oercive techniques “didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.” He said that while some of his colleagues defended the measures, “everyone was deeply concerned and most felt it was un-American and did not work.”

    Do I win the evidence argument now?

  171. 171
    Stillwater says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Dunno, OO. I think I got go with Brachiator on this one. There are two aspects of the torture debate: morality and utility. I think the morality constraint applies to all non-broken people, but can be overridden in extreme cases (ticking time bomb scenarios). That is, lots of people think the normal prohibition against torture is trumped by exigencies of self-defense. And they use that scenario to in turn advocate for a fully general right to use torture as a fully general method of national self defense.

    The only way to counter that argument is to appeal to the utility of torture in extracting useful information in a timely manner. That’s an empirical argument. Harder to make, I think, but more important.

  172. 172
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess:

    I’d rather we win the debate on torture.

    There is no debate on torture. Obama stopped torture as a national policy. Torture is a moral horror.
    Debate ovah.
    Let the wingnuts believe what they like.
    The whole double top secret SEAL mission is just cover so’s not to further destabilize Zardaris government, and the courier story is just plausible deniability.
    I, personally, islamic populist revolutionary that i am, do not wish Zardaris government to be destabilize, not with custody of a hundred nukes.
    But if the Arab Spring comes to Pak, that is what will happen.

  173. 173
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Corner Stone: lol!
    Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha is the HUMINT source.
    And we better protect him.
    Otherwise Tarik-e-Taliban and Jamaat-e-Ismali get the Pak nuclear launch codes.

  174. 174
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: For fuck’s sake, BTD, when you make an absolute statement, for example, one with never or always in it, the statement is disproved if there is one instance in which it is incorrect.

  175. 175
    Paul in KY says:

    @Stefan: Between him & the Bollywood actor of same name, I knew I’d heard that name before. Thanks to you & M_C for the info.

  176. 176
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: Thanks for info. Mr. Khan needs to have some good security, or he may end up like Mrs. Bhutto.

  177. 177
    Paul in KY says:

    @Stillwater: Agree with your points here. Well said.

  178. 178
    Brachiator says:

    @cleek:

    doesn’t make it right or moral or anything else. but it can work, and it has worked.

    Odd. I followed some of those same Salon links, and get a very different picture of the efficacy of torture, in World War II and in Algeria, and posted about it yesterday.

    What made the difference for the French in Algiers was not torture, but the accurate intelligence obtained through public cooperation and informants.
    __
    In fact, no rank-and-file soldier has related a tale of how he personally, through timely interrogation, produced decisive information that stopped a ticking bomb. “As the pain of interrogation began,” observed torturer Jean-Pierre Vittori, “they talked abundantly, citing the names of the dead or militants on the run, indicating locations of old hiding places in which we didn’t find anything but some documents without interest.” Detainees also provided names of their enemies—true information, but without utility to the French….
    __
    Torture drifted headlong into sadism, continuing long after valuable information could be retrieved. For example, soldiers arrested a locksmith and tortured him for three days. In his pocket, the locksmith had bomb blueprints with the address of an FLN bomb factory in Algiers. The locksmith bought time, the bombers relocated and the raid by the French three days later fell on open air. Had the soldiers been able to read Arabic, they would have found the bomb factory days earlier. But they were too busy torturing. As one would predict, engaging in torture prevented the use of ordinary—and more effective—policing skills. (Incidentally, the French could not believe that the most wanted man in the casbah had spent months only 200 yards from the headquarters of the army commandant.)

    A number of the military people who are the biggest apologists for torture are sadists who really don’t care whether it works or not, but get off on its use.

    This does get us back to a moral argument against torture. It is wrong, not just because it doesn’t work, but because it corrupts us. Also, as I noted from the Salon story, approval of torture inevitably creeps into the civilian world.

    Those who authorize torture need to remember that it isn’t something that simply happens in some other country. Soldiers trained in stealthy techniques of torture take these techniques back into civilian life as policemen and private security guards. It takes years to discover the effects of having tortured. Americans’ use of electric torture in Vietnam appeared in Arkansas prisons in the 1960s and in Chicago squad rooms in the 1970s and 1980s.
    __
    Likewise, the excruciating water tortures U.S. soldiers used in the Spanish-American War appeared in American policing in the next two decades. For those who had been tortured, it was small comfort when, on Memorial Day 1902, President Roosevelt regretted the “few acts of cruelty” American troops had performed.

    Another side of the use of torture during the Spanish American war is also the inevitable racism. It was OK to torture enemy combatants because, after all, they were subhuman, didn’t react to pain in the same way that white people did, and didn’t respect human life like good Real Americans(tm).

    So, in the end, that torture “works” is very debatable, as it the idea that it is ever necessary because of “ticking time bomb scenarios.” Ultimately, it is used by people who are too lazy and too stupid to get information by other means and who, ultimately don’t really care whether they get any information at all, as look as they can inflict pain on someone that they can dehumanize.

  179. 179
    Mandramas says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Torture works very well, Omnes. Do not work to get information well, that’s true, but the real purpose is to instill fear in your enemies. And hate, as a sideproduct. Every tortured prisoner by american hands helps to instill a rule of fear, useful if you want to control the world.

  180. 180
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides:

    Obama stopped torture as a national policy.

    That’s not what Panetta said last night on The Last Word.

  181. 181
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    There are no evidence of correctness or incorrectness in THIS THREAD on the efficacy of torture, nor links to EVIDENCE.

    Why you insist that something has been proven or disproven is beyond me.

  182. 182
    Paul in KY says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t know if you can make an air-tight ‘pragmatic’ argument. Seems you always have to caveat about it maybe working in one or two special cases, but in all the other cases we get misleading & false info & it damages our people & lessens our country, etc. etc.

    Those who are inclined to allowing torture (the fearful & the evil) will always seize on the pragmatic caveat.

  183. 183
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    The arguments are for the benefit of those who want to be safe and not think about things. Decent people, for the most part, who might be open to persuasion.

    Decent people can become remarkably indecent when they are afraid. The 911 attacks made a lot of people angry, but it also made them fearful; and so they could still see themselves as decent while also wanting the government to do everything to keep them safe. And so many turned a blind eye to torture, and continue to do so.

    Meanwhile, the “we are better than that” stuff seems like an airy absolutist fairy tale told by people who think that their shit does not stink, and is not much at all of an argument against torture, but more an invitation to solipsistic preening.

  184. 184
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: Obama trumps Panetta i think. The courier story is COVER, remember. We have to give Zardaris government plausible deniability on how we got OBL’s coords.
    ;)

  185. 185
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: Correction, it was on the Today Show.

    And just in case anyone was wondering? The right wing is using this video to prove their case that torture works.

  186. 186
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    I am very late to this party but I wanted to add that certain types of torture are effective. If you torture people’s families they will give up valuable info. Is that something we should do as a society? Then let’s get some legislation moving. Possibly amend the constitution. The Jewish Steel Citizen Safety Act. Has a nice ring.

    Slavery also “works” in the sense that having a feebie sector of the workforce is just fucking awesome for the economy.

  187. 187
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: right below ya. It was a horrible mistake to even talk about it, much less admit.

  188. 188
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: that’s a very tight rope to walk and I understand having to walk it, but we can’t have it both ways, putting out disinformation that we tortured for another’s cover while at the same time claiming we don’t torture.

    This is insane.

  189. 189
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Paul in KY: Benadir was (sadly) an american puppet, and prominent member of the legendary Bhutto crime family.
    Khan does not need protection from the Pakistani people– he might need protection from Zardaris government or from the CIA.
    Khan is a secular leader, but he has popular support outside of Islamabad, unlike the Bhutto crime dynasty. I would like to see Khan ally himself with Dr. Javid Ghamidi. That would be a formidable pairing.

  190. 190
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel):

    The Jewish Steel Family Citizen Safety Act.

    Even better

  191. 191
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: we don’t have a choice, really. Haven’t you wondered why Obama kept up the droning?

  192. 192
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: There are none so blind as those who cannot see. Everyone else on the thread, whether they agree with my point or not, seems to understand what I was saying. The fact that you do not is rather telling. The fact that a historian has said that torture was effective in a certain set of circumstances is something that someone could seize upon as a justification. In ordinary argument, it is evidence. It contradicts and falsifies your statement that there is no evidence that torture works. This is the reason that the vast majority of competent lawyers use qualifiers and weasel words. I am fairly sure that you know this. Had you stated that the evidence is overwhelming that torture does not work, it would not be falsified by a single counterexample.

  193. 193
    Brachiator says:

    @Paul in KY:

    I don’t know if you can make an air-tight ‘pragmatic’ argument.

    I totally agree. I think that pragmatism can be an opening argument, but never the sole argument on the issue.

    On the other hand, I think that moral arguments are sticky because we seem to live in a post-moral society. This is especially true of some liberals who want to replace morality with a misuse of psychology or psychiatry, along with an infantile groupthink. Conservatives, by the way, are worse in that they cherry pick among traditional rules that they like without any understanding of the principles behind them.

    Seems you always have to caveat about it maybe working in one or two special cases, but in all the other cases we get misleading & false info & it damages our people & lessens our country, etc. etc.

    The problem is that conservatives want to make torture foundational to investigative techniques in the supposed “war on terrorism.” For them, every case is a special case.

    The use of torture should be viewed as vile and stupid, as vile and stupid as trip searching a 6 year old at an airport because some bonehead views it as a necessary sacrifice in fighting terrorism.

  194. 194
    Jinchi says:

    @scav:

    does the acquisition of good information guarantee success

    Again, you’ve failed to point to a single instance of good information coming from the use of torture. There is a reason that torture apologists appeal to Jack Bauer and ticking time bomb theories. It’s because there is no credible evidence that torture provides useful intelligence outside of the world of fantasy.

    On the other hand there is overwhelming evidence that torture gives false evidence. Remind me. How many witches were caught during the Salem witch trials? When you realize the number is zero, explain to me why their torturers never realized that the confessions they got were faulty. They too thought that they were getting good information and would have confidently told you that they used torture very effectively in the fight against the Devil.

  195. 195
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: again…i really believe in Obama. I dislike Humanitarian Imperialism doctrine on principle, but I think his other policies are sound.
    The very most important thing right now is starting the drawdown in A-stan in less than two months.
    This is a brilliant political coup, it gives Obama political capital here, it gives the US some much needed face to start the drawdown in A-stan, gives the Zardari government political cover, gives Obama a reason to stop droning Waziristan.

    A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.
    Niccolo Machiavelli

  196. 196
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator: You make very good points, and I would say that “we are better than that” arguments would need to be very carefully made. I do think, however, that people can be reached by appeals to morality and the “better angels of their nature.” Ultimately, in a discussion with someone who is persuadable on the issue, the arguments used would need to be calibrated to the individual in question.

  197. 197
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: I’m not arguing with you. I’m merely stating that we’re going to have to choose what kind of country we live in, one that tortures and is known and notorious for it or one that doesn’t and holds to account those that do.

    Once again, this a tight rope to walk. We may fall off of it. I just want to land on the correct side of this particular issue. If we allow our military and intel agencies to engage in torture, it will filter into law enforcement and private security eventually. This isn’t a slippery slope argument, however, our nation is quickly becoming a national security/intel state nightmare.

  198. 198
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: I agree with you. I support Obama as well. However, I wouldn’t go around quoting Machiavelli. There’s a reason that name has become an adjective. Ends justifying means rarely turns out well.

  199. 199
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: joey….what is the alternative?
    How did we get OBL’s coords?
    Like I said, this is the optimal cover story they could come up with.

  200. 200
    joeyess says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: (sigh) are you arguing that waterboarding worked or that we’re putting out disinformation that we waterboarded to cover Pakistan’s ass?

  201. 201
    Juicetard (FKA Liberty60) says:

    Coming late to the thread, and not having enough time to comb through all the responses to ensure that I am not repeating a thought here, but:

    How come the “efficacy” argument isn’t used in other things, like oh, say, gun control? Such as:

    Suppose the police made a house to house sweep through the city to confiscate every single firearm- every single one, leaving no house unransacked.

    1. We know that some of the guns they confiscate would obviously belong to criminals;

    2. We know that some of these guns would certainly be used in murders;

    Therefore, gun confiscation would certainly result in lives saved.

  202. 202
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: well…when modelling a game theoretic wargame situation, you have to cost-benefit all alternatives.
    Here in the US the Zardari government is going to need cover as well, or congress will terminate their aid package. There is already a lynch Pakistan faction emerging among the wingularity.
    Pakistan needs US aid. Like I said, if the Arab Spring comes to Pakistan, Very Bad Things will happen.

  203. 203
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @joeyess: it is disinformation. And not just for the Arab street. Its for the Wingnut street as well.

  204. 204
    Mandramas says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: I admit it could be a good scenario, even when all the chain of events makes me sick. The worst part is that know all the american’ political spectrum is gonna defend torture and killing missions on other countries.

  205. 205
    Caz says:

    What if a bomb was hidden somehwere in a major U.S. city, and we had a member of the terrorist group in custody, and the bomb was going to go off in 24 hours. Unless we get its location from the guy in custody, thousands of Americans will die.

    Would you support torturing this guy to find out the location of the bomb? Or would you just hope that our investigation would yield the location within 24 hours?

    Clearly, our best chance of finding the bomb would be through torturing the guy in custody.

    What say you to this hypothetical?

  206. 206
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: Protection from somebody. Pakistan is not the most lawful of nations (and it’s heavily armed as well, sorta like another country, now that I think about it) and he should have protection.

    My take is that he’s sorta a Pakistani Huey Long & populists are always hated by the powers-that-be.

  207. 207
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Caz: That situation, however unlikely, was covered in the discussion upthread.

  208. 208
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    “Everyone else” agrees with you!!! Well, that’s that then. Historians are always right and we need not examine the actual evidence upon which they base their conclusions.

    Yes, I am an idiot. Congratulations.

  209. 209
    joeyess says:

    Being a non-believer, I’m reticent to employ ancient wisdoms and passages from holy books. With that said, I’ll do it anyway, because this one seems applicable:

    What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?

    Just sayin’.

    ;^)

  210. 210
    Paul in KY says:

    @Jinchi: Didn’t some of them (the Salem authorities) seriously think some of them were witches when they executed them?

    Obviously there were no witches, because witches don’t exist. I agree with the point you are trying to make, I just wonder if there isn’t a better & more recent example.

  211. 211
    Stillwater says:

    @Caz: What say you to this hypothetical?

    I already saw that documentary season, so I know how it turns out. Torture works!

  212. 212
    Paul in KY says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: For the more secular amongst them I think the appeal to American exceptionalism & patriotism can help convince them.

    “We’re America, we stand for better than torturing some loser terrorist. Our ideals are more important in the long run than any one citizen of this great nation”. Something along the lines of that.

  213. 213
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Caz: I have a better hypothetical. What if your best chance of finding that bomb was torturing the man’s family? His wife? His 5yo son? His 8yo daughter?

  214. 214
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: If you are not going read and respond to the actual words that I wrote then having any kind of conversation with you is pointless. I wrote that others understood what I was saying. I did not say that they agreed with me. Read my comment. You are, at best, being disingenuous here.

  215. 215
    Paul in KY says:

    @Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel): You know Caz would eat that up.

  216. 216
    Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel) says:

    @Paul in KY: shudders

  217. 217
    Stillwater says:

    @Paul in KY: Especially if her brother in law were the (falsely) accused terrorist mastermind and it was her 8yo niece being tortured …

  218. 218
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Paul in KY: That has, more or less, been my point (and, I think, the point of the the OP).

  219. 219
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    You make very good points, and I would say that “we are better than that” arguments would need to be very carefully made.

    Thanks very much. I’m appreciating the range of insights that posters are bringing to the discussion.

    I do think, however, that people can be reached by appeals to morality and the “better angels of their nature.”

    Keep in mind that Lincoln said this, made the appeal to “the better angels of our nature,” in his first inaugural address, as he was preparing to kick the shit out of the Confederacy.

    Ultimately, in a discussion with someone who is persuadable on the issue, the arguments used would need to be calibrated to the individual in question.

    I agree with you here; it’s not an either/or proposition. As I read the other posts here, I realize that I want to emphasize that I don’t think the “we’re better than that” argument is bad, but it should not be pre-eminent because I don’t think that there is much of an ethical principle behind it. But it can be useful in trying to move people from an unthinking or fearful “whatever it takes” position on torture.

  220. 220
    Shoemaker-Levy 9 says:

    The reason that we’re always hearing arguments about efficacy instead of principle

    …is because politicians and the mainstream intellectual class don’t want you thinking about principle under any circumstances. Makes you much easier to control.

  221. 221
    Jinchi says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Didn’t some of them (the Salem authorities) seriously think some of them were witches when they executed them?

    Yes they did. That’s the point. Torture got them the answers they wanted to hear, not the truth. And of course there are more recent examples, notably the confessions of POW’s during Vietnam, and of people interrogated by the East Germans and the Soviets during the Cold War.

    But we all know that the Salem witch trials were a fraud, because we’re far enough removed from those times to see the flaws clearly.

  222. 222
    Ruckus says:

    @RSA:
    You’d get the impression that these people don’t have any deeply held principles at all.

    They actually do have them. It’s just that their principles are diametrically opposed to humanity.

  223. 223
    Paul in KY says:

    @Jinchi: Good point about our POWs in Korean war & Vietnam. I probably didn’t express myself very well in that post. Back then, I think torture was somwhat punitive, an appetizer to the main event for early 17th century jurisprudence. If they had thought legitimately that they were witches, then they would have thought the torture was OK. Back then, once it was over, did anyone in power or law enforcement say ‘those girls weren’t witches, we murdered innocent people’?

  224. 224
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Mandramas: bi la kayfah
    (it is understood)
    @Paul in KY: no, its more like Stefan said…like Michael Jordan. Imagine Pakistan was droning flyover country in an attempt to kill Bush and Cheney, and Michael Jordan decided to start a political party to stop the droning and slaughter of innocent American citizens.
    Cricket is their basketball.

  225. 225
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: I know he’s a former cricket star & I know how nuts Pakistan is about cricket (I work with 20 or more Indians).

    His actual political positions, aren’t they somewhat ‘populist’, in a Pakistani kind of way?

  226. 226
    Stefan says:

    I’d rather we win the debate on torture.

    There’s a “debate” on torture the same way that there’s a “debate” on rape or pedophilia or slavery.

  227. 227
    BTD says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    How do you know they understood what you were saying? Actually I am sure they did too. I understood it too if you are wondering.

    I responded in fairly cogent words why I disagreed with your formulation.

    I understand you disagree with me. I feel no need to think of you or accuse you of being obtuse for doing so.

    To wrap it up, I do not agree with your definition of “evidence” either in the judicial sense or the political sense.

    I hope that does not make me “obtuse.”

  228. 228
    Brachiator says:

    @Caz:

    What say you to this hypothetical?

    I’d say that this is another example of the Idiot Hypothetical (and I am not personally calling you an idiot). You try to create a scenario that “proves” your case. Waste of time.

  229. 229
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Paul in KY: Some ministers, including Francis Dane, argued against the trials from the beginning. Others, including Samuel Parris, later recognized what had happened and apologized/sought the forgiveness of the community.

  230. 230
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BTD: Fine. Then I assume we are done here.

  231. 231
    Ghanima Atreides says:

    @Paul in KY: he has the students and the liberal seculars and the rural tribesmen on his side. He is anti-droning and for Pak independence from America. He is a staunch Pakistani nationalist.
    i dont get your meaning.
    In order to get a political majority he would need to ally himself with one of the islamic parties in parliament. Perhaps jamaat-e-ismali.

  232. 232
    Paul in KY says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Thanks for info, Omnes. Definitely people back then knew they had railroaded some poor girls, based in part on torture & people’s venal disputes with neighbors.

    That might have been the start of thinking people realizing that torture gives you bogus info.

  233. 233
    Svensker says:

    @Caz:

    What if the only way to get the information was to butt-fuck the perp’s 4-year-old son with an extra-large dildo until he bled to death, while the mother and the other children watch? What say you?

  234. 234
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Svensker: John Yoo would say go ahead. Non-monsters would not.

  235. 235
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ghanima Atreides: Google ‘Huey Long’ sometime.

    A ‘populist’ wants to empower the little guy, at the expense of the big guys.

  236. 236
    Paul in KY says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I think Yoo would try & weasel around it like ‘certainly that would be theoretically within the powers of the unitary chief executive during wartime’.

    Then he would go in the bathroom & jack off about it.

    I absolutely hate that evil little toad.

  237. 237
    Corner Stone says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Back then, once it was over, did anyone in power or law enforcement say ‘those girls weren’t witches, we murdered innocent people’?

    IMO, they knew it at the time, but were too fearful of the prevailing climate of anger and fear to stand up and say it.
    I’m not a historian on the Salem Witch Trials but from casual reading these acts were cynically manipulated and the individuals settling scores and imposing the power of their offices knew exactly the abominations they were doing. At the time they were committing them.

    IMO the historical distance between us and the SWTs might as well be yesterday.
    All torture throughout time was done for the same reasons by the same sorts of people, and with the same predictable outcomes.
    To tell one story of state sponsored torture is to tell them all.

  238. 238
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: People did believe in witches in that time period. I would say that some truly believed in what was happening, some went along because of societal pressure, and others took cynical advantage of the situation. As I noted above, some opposed the trials and sought to have them halted. I am not an expert on the SWT but I have done quite a bit of reading on them in the course of family history research. Francis Dane is one of my great, great … great grandfathers. Of course, accusers, judges, and convicted witches also pop up in the family tree as well.

  239. 239
    Paul in KY says:

    @Corner Stone: I guess you’re right. Appreciate your view point.

  240. 240
    Paul in KY says:

    Omnes & Corner Stone, both great posts at 237 & 238. Appreciate hearing your viewpoints.

  241. 241
    Ruckus says:

    @Parallel 5ths (Jewish Steel):
    Actually it should be: “What if we had to torture your 20 year old son to get the information?”

  242. 242
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The “people” will be ready to believe just about anything they are told to believe, in any period we examine throughout history. IMO.
    But sure, there can be no doubt some segment really thought the devil took over those pretty girls.
    I agree, the SWT’s are a complicated part of our history. But my larger point is that we’ve been manipulated the last 10 years the same way McCarthy did with his “list of names”, and the same way the SWTs changed peoples mindset to fear and anger.
    Torture is just the ultimate power trip, whether it’s done to “save lives” or to “purify souls”. Or “protect our way of life”. It’s always the same.

  243. 243
    Ruckus says:

    This is a great thread. Many very good points.
    I’d like to make one.
    How do you argue morals (better angels) with people whose moral compass no longer (if ever) functions?

    Look what conservatives bring us. No morals in governing. No morals in international relations. No morals about the fellow man and especially women. We have plenty of “moral leaders” who have no morality.
    So to argue about torture with those not convinced, how can you use the moral argument? They have no point of reference.

  244. 244
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Corner Stone: Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing with your broader point. I was just trying to add a little more to SWT aspect.

  245. 245
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I’m not a historian on the Salem Witch Trials but from casual reading these acts were cynically manipulated and the individuals settling scores and imposing the power of their offices knew exactly the abominations they were doing. At the time they were committing them.

    There is some speculation that the Salem Witch Trials were the product of ergotism.

    Dunno, but I find it fascinating in the same way lower violent crime rates could be the result of lead prohibitions.

  246. 246
    pattonbt says:

    @Caz: Derp, derpa derp.

  247. 247
    4jkb4ia says:

    Ghanima Atreides!? I don’t think I want to know what I missed.

    On THIS blog I probably shouldn’t write that my husband displayed the kind of moral reasoning that’s trying to be fought by the combatants in the thread. He said that he hoped that they got useful intelligence out of whatever they did. What he couldn’t counter was what the ACLU called the “Ponzi Scheme of Torture”–the government’s “evidence” in habeas cases based on what people who had been tortured like Binyan Mohammed had said. Losing the habeas case could mean being kept in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conditions. He couldn’t counter that AZ was destroyed for nothing because the CIA believed that he was higher up than he was. That you can’t have torture and the rule of law as Americans have known it, on many levels, is both a moral argument and an efficacy argument that swamps any efficacy torture could have.
    You can force the practitioners of efficacy arguments to get to how much cruelty and psychic destruction they would accept to save a certain number of lives. And this could discredit them with many decent people. But when you are engaging on that level you’re not arguing about torture. You are arguing about what X number of lives is worth.

    (Red Sox showing signs of life here)

  248. 248
    4jkb4ia says:

    178: Really outstanding comment.

  249. 249
    4jkb4ia says:

    Another version which I have seen *cough Seraphic Secret cough* is that torture is necessary. Then a) it could be completely wrong and you wouldn’t change these people’s mind, and b) they probably have something other than “24” which causes them to believe that. You will have to discredit that something. It looks as if some such argument got past the Israeli Supreme Court.

    (I didn’t name any bloggers, and the thread’s dead.)

  250. 250
    Joe Buck says:

    Torture techniques weren’t invented to get the truth. They were invented to extract confessions; that’s what the Inquisition used torture for and it was also what the communists used it for.

    The person being tortured is under intense pressure to make it stop. If that person doesn’t know anything (and since al Qaeda uses a cell structure, even a genuine bad guy may know very little), he will need to make things up to make it stop. That’s why the “ticking time bomb” scenario is bogus; the torture victim will give a location even if he doesn’t know the location, or he can make up a location that will take time to check out.

  251. 251
    Paul in KY says:

    @Ruckus: I like to hit em in the head with Jesus. Most all of them claim to be Christian. Hit them with some of Jesus’ sayings about this or that. Then if they disagree, then say ‘so Jesus Christ was wrong about that, is that what you are saying?’. Good times!

  252. 252
    Paul in KY says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Thanks for the link. Very sad article. I felt for the poor old people who were railroaded by some nasty delinquents.

  253. 253

    […] of the commenters and then mistermix argued that I seriously misread Josh’s point. That would be that torture as a policy is […]

  254. 254

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  255. 255

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