Balkinization  

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Warm Republican Embrace of Torture

Marty Lederman

Don't let the fast-moving Comey affair distract you from the other outrage of the month -- the fact that at the same time high-ranking military leaders are disclaiming torture and abuse in the strongest possible terms, most of the leading presidential candidates of the Republican Party have been tripping over themselves in an effort to be the candidate who will commit to greatest number of war crimes, treaty breaches and statutory violations if he should be so fortunate as to be elected Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.

Absolutely do not miss must-reads from Jack here, from David Luban yesterday, and from Andrew Sullivan today.

Comments:

Marty:

Does this sound like a "warm embrace" to you? Here is what Giuliani actually said:

"In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know there is going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of. Shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of."

The United States does not torture.
 

It's a problem of Jacks. Too little Jack Balkin. Too much Jack Bauer.
 

Charles, I hope you're more persuasive in court. "Every method they can think of" clearly includes torture; Giuliani's "shouldn't be torture" is ambiguous at best.

But leaving his actual words aside -- they're a matter of indifference to him, to judge by his abortion pronouncements -- this "try anything" approach historically leads to torture. I'm sorry if you haven't been educating yourself on the subject since Abu Ghraib broke, but some of us have.

Look at what the two generals wrote in today's Washington Post:

As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire ....

That is how it works. When you have Nazi wannabes like John Yoo argue that waterboarding doesn't cause "severe mental anguish" -- because it only makes you feel like you're drowning -- then what does Rudy's "every method they can think of" really exclude?
 

A "matter of indifference" is hardly a "warm embrace" either. I hadn't yet posted McCain's answer, but I can continue. Perhaps you'd perfer Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's answer instead?
 

The only thing more disturbing than the Republican candidates' embrace, warm or otherwise, of torture as an acceptable tool in our "War on Terra" is the response of the audience at the South Carolina debates. If you watch or listen to the debate, every time a candidate steps up to endorse torture, the Republicans filling the seats go absolutely batshit with their cheering and applause. It would appear that our fellow citizens, atleast those who live in South Carolina, don't just embrace torture, they worship it; the mere thought of torture seems to send them into paroxysms of near-religious ecstacy. Let me tell you, it's some scary stuff to watch.

When I think about this sort of response, I fear for the Republic. And then, of course, I get to come on here and read the apologia for Republican torture policies from Charles, Bart, et al, and that fear deepens. Which brings me to a question I regularly ponder: How can people like Charles, Bart, and the Republican presidential candidates, presumably born, raised and educated in the United States, be so very afraid of freedom and liberty?
 

Putting aside the ongoing labeling argument here about what constitutes "torture," I would like to revisit the issue of the efficacy of coercive interrogation techniques.

While the left was falling all over itself praising George Tenet's new book as another attack on Mr. Bush, they appear to have ignored Mr. Tenet's discussion of the very high effectiveness of coercive interrogation as an intelligence gathering tool:

A CIA program to administer aggressive interrogations to top Al Qaeda leaders brought America more valuable information about planned terror plots than all of the government's other intelligence gathering efforts, a former director of central intelligence, George Tenet, has declared.

Mr. Tenet said the program was needed to deal with threats that emerged after September 11, 2001, including reports that there might be nuclear bombs in New York.

"I know that this program has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots," Mr. Tenet said in a "60 Minutes" interview set to air Sunday before the release of his new book. "I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us," he said.

Mr. Tenet, who led the CIA between 1997 and 2004, defended the aggressive interrogations as appropriate to deal with figures such as the reputed mastermind of the 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The former director said Mr. Mohammed initially rebuffed questioning by saying, "I'll talk to you guys when you take me to New York and I can see my lawyer."


al Qaeda is not stupid. They know how our system works and they game it. It would be the height of irresponsibility to extend a civilian right to silence to the military enemy architect of 9/11 who has nearly complete knowledge of the identity, location and plans of al Qaeda cells around the work.

The GOP candidates and the American people are using their God given common sense when they support using every measure short of actual torture - the intentional infliction of severe pain - to gain the necessary intelligence to defeat the enemy.

Can you say the same about the Dem candidates?
 

I'm not afarid of freedom and liberty. I just don't want terrorists to have them.
 

afraid
 

Wow. Everything, including waterboarding, that falls short of "the intentional infliction of severe pain" is not torture.

It's a sad day when we're even debating the question, but I'm more than happy to have the next election turn on that issue. Bart will find out once again that claiming to represent the mainstream doesn't make it so.
 

The choice here is stark.

The United States has just captured Khalid Sheik Muhammad who has knowledge of the identity and locations of most of al Qaeda's cells.

Under standard questioning, KSM says nothing except that he wants to be sent to NY and given an attorney so he can presumably exercise a right to silence.

Under coercive interrogation including water boarding, KSM breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.

You are President. Which type of interrogation method do you choose to use?

This is an easy question for most Republicans and I dare say most Americans.
 

Bart, as for addressing George Tenet, here is more from the Washington Post column mentioned by Anderson above:

Tenet insists that the CIA program disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives. It is difficult to refute this claim -- not because it is self-evidently true, but because any evidence that might support it remains classified and unknown to all but those who defend the program.

These assertions that "torture works" may reassure a fearful public, but it is a false security. We don't know what's been gained through this fear-driven program. But we do know the consequences.

As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule.

To understand the impact this has had on the ground, look at the military's mental health assessment report released earlier this month. The study shows a disturbing level of tolerance for abuse of prisoners in some situations. This underscores what we know as military professionals: Complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat. The rules must be firm and absolute; if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality.

This has had disastrous consequences. Revelations of abuse feed what the Army's new counterinsurgency manual, which was drafted under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, calls the "recuperative power" of the terrorist enemy.


I doubt that the authors would self-identify as members of "the left." They are Charles C. Krulak (commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999) and Joseph P. Hoar (commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994).

Unwavering repudiation of torture should be an American position, not a left or right one. Its part of our heritage.
 

al Qaeda is not stupid.

No. They are not. Bush, Neocons and people like you and Charles are.

They know how our system works and they game it.

And we should be working to know how their system works so we can game it. But we'd rather rely on expensive, hi-tech toys than humint assets and that's why you ignorant bozos keep getting gamed.


It would be the height of irresponsibility to extend a civilian right to silence to the military enemy architect of 9/11 who has nearly complete knowledge of the identity, location and plans of al Qaeda cells around the work.

No such person exists and al-Qaeda has morphed into something far different than pre-9/11 al-Qaeda.

Honestly, Bart. You know hoow OPSEC works, and so does everybody else who is a credible threat, unlike the bozos we keep arresting here at home because we can't find our own asses out in the field where it really counts. Insult your own intelligence wherever you like. Don't insult ours.
 

Everett Volk said...How can people like Charles, Bart, and the Republican presidential candidates, presumably born, raised and educated in the United States, be so very afraid of freedom and liberty?

Perhaps its not freedom and liberty they fear in their at times near-puerile politicking on behalf of a political party, but old fashioned hard work.

One could ask, what's more work, building a barn or burning it down? Waterboarding a few people, or coordinating real human intelligence efforts across the globe? What consumes more resources for a society, going through the very messy and inefficient process of real democracy, or just suspending civil rights?

Ideals like freedom and liberty are costly to say the least. When the game gets rough and you really need to win, you improve your chances by relieving yourself of such burdens.
 

Wow. Pointing out that a "matter of indifference" is hardly a "warm embrace" and that (what I had thought ANY American would agree) terrorists should have neither freedom nor liberty is "stupid" now? Very interesting.
 

"Shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of."

He meant: "Shouldn't call it torture..."

>>The United States does not torture.

Does the United States waterboard? Does the United States use hypothermia and stress positions and attack dogs and sleep deprivation? Yes, it does. And those are torture.
 

QuiteAlarmed said...

Tenet insists that the CIA program disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives. It is difficult to refute this claim -- not because it is self-evidently true, but because any evidence that might support it remains classified and unknown to all but those who defend the program.

This opening paragraph just destroyed the author's credibility to speak to the topic of effectiveness of coercive interrogation techniques. Why should I believe the general when he says that these techniques to not work when he just admitted that he does not know?
 

Does anyone here care to answer the question I posed at 3:44 PM? The silence is telling.
 

Bart,

A top al Qaeda deputy has just been captured. You can either rape his five-year-old son and crush his testicles to make his father talk or get no information out of him. The clock is ticking.

You are President. Which type of interrogation method do you choose to use?

We already know John Yoo would advise the President to crush the boy's testicles -- which would be legal, of course, because anything the President does is legal by definition in his world. But how about you, Bart? You have a stark choice. Those are your only options.
 

Bart DePalma wrote: This opening paragraph just destroyed the author's credibility to speak to the topic of effectiveness of coercive interrogation techniques. Why should I believe the general when he says that these techniques to not work when he just admitted that he does not know?

Read the second paragraph. Your question is answered there.

Questioning the credibility of these two authors is quite bold. One is a former commandant of the Marine Corps and the other a former commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command. One might disagree on the merits of their rationale, but I certainly wouldn't challenge their credibility.

(By the way, the passage from their column quoted above also explains why they would not choose torture even under "ticking bomb" scenarios like the one you posed at 3:44 PM. I find their rationale persuasive; so their answer is mine as well.)
 

Bart: the General: Tenet insists that the CIA program disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives. It is difficult to refute this claim -- not because it is self-evidently true, but because any evidence that might support it remains classified and unknown to all but those who defend the program.

This opening paragraph just destroyed the author's credibility to speak to the topic of effectiveness of coercive interrogation techniques. Why should I believe the general when he says that these techniques to not work when he just admitted that he does not know?


Nice sleight of hand Bart. The General was saying that he cannot disprove a specific instance. That does not contradict his general knowledge from lifelong service in the military that torture does not work.

Your logic is working like this:
A (a doctor) "Leaches do not help an ill person."
B: "But I saw a leach help a patient just yesterday. And you weren't there, so what the hell do you know?"
 

It is obvious that for Bart et trolls, there is no law too sacred, no prinicple more important, no right too inviolable to prevent Commandant Booosh from keeping Amirikkka safe.

Ironic. Otherwise staunch republicans cowering in fear behind the skirts of the federal government. Afraid. Fearful of everything and everyone. Ready to surrender their liberty for safety.

Bart et trolls, would encourage Jack Bauer to sodomize the Sheik's sons in front of their mother if it would make the stinking bitch talk.

Bart et trolls just don't get it.

Commandant Booosh's "way" is morally reprehensible and every American should be ashamed of the actions he's taken in our name.

Torture is wrong and, at least used to be, UN-american.
 

Bart DePalma said...
Does anyone here care to answer the question I posed at 3:44 PM? The silence is telling.

4:03 PM


Asked and answered a thousand times by the expert witness. Move along, Mr. DePalma. Next question.
 

>>Does this sound like a "warm embrace" to you?

Did the biggest applause lines from Republicans (presumably) at the last Republican debate sound like a "warm embrace" to you? Or is wild applause now a sign of tepid indifference?

"The US does not torture. But torture works! And what would you do if there were a ticking time bomb?" As Bart says, "This is an easy question for most Republicans." Too bad such bold, pro-torture chickenhawks have to be so mealy-mouthed about their support for war crimes. Just come out and say it: torture works and you support it. Be Churchillian, be bold! Maybe you just don't have the stomach for what this war requires.
 

quite alarmed:

Exactly what credibility does a Marine general have concerning whether an interrogation method works?

When it comes to knowing how to effectively kill people and break things on a battlefield, you go to a Marine general.

When it comes to interrogation, you go to an interrogator or the supervisor of interrogators.
 

DePalma...When it comes to knowing how to effectively kill people and break things on a battlefield, you go to a Marine general.

When it comes to interrogation, you go to an interrogator or the supervisor of interrogators.


Agreed.

The expert witness. Move along, Mr. DePalma. Next question.
 

zod:

I didn't watch the debate, so I didn't hear any applause. Did they wildly applaud Rudy's line quoted above? Or, John McCain stating torture is not necessary?
 

Everyone here has studiously avoided answering my 3:44 PM question, which was a real life variation of the question Brit Hume posed to the GOP candidates and will not be posed by the Dem media to the Dem candidates.

Is there any wonder the Dem candidates avoid debating on Fox the way you folks studiously avoid applying your arguments to a real life situation?

I think my point has been made.
 

And the prosecution thanks you for eagerly agreeing to that helpful stipulation, Mr. DePalma.

;-)
 

Bart De Palma has studiously ignored acknowledging that he no longer has a leg to stand on..
 

It was Fox News. Some applause was probably canned and added when they felt like enhancing the effect. That's not news, it's propaganda.
 

Anonymous Bosch said...

DePalma...When it comes to knowing how to effectively kill people and break things on a battlefield, you go to a Marine general.

When it comes to interrogation, you go to an interrogator or the supervisor of interrogators.

Agreed.


OK, that takes the Marine Generals out of the equation.

The expert witness.

Where exactly does this writer discuss the coercive techniques actually being used as opposed to his examples of actual torture - which once again is the intentional infliction of severe pain?
 

Under coercive interrogation including water boarding, KSM breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.

You are President. Which type of interrogation method do you choose to use?

This is an easy question for most Republicans and I dare say most Americans.

*********************************

You lead a platoon in a heavily wooded region that is experiencing insurgent activity. Your unit has been taking casaulties from traps and IED's, but locals seem to be able to avoid injuries. You capture some local leaders and a few of their family members and threaten them if they don't expose who the insurgents are. You make the captive family members walk with your patrols as insurance, and your incident rate drops down to minimal levels.

You get an order from your chain of command to stop doing this, as it is a violation of recognized treaties regarding treatment of civilians and also US policy.

What do you do, Bart? Is this a no brainer? Who gives a damn about the locals when you are trying to protect your troops?

Sorry if I am so naive as to actually believe in evil as Andrew Sullivan described. Torture is an absolute evil no matter what the justification. Waterboarding, shackling someone into painful and unnatural positions and leaving them for hours or days to mainade in their bodily waste or chaining them into a freezing cell are all things we have verifiably done to prisoners. We had time to work on Khalid using tested and true principles of psychological interrogation. The Germans had an expert in befriending US airmen and breaking them without their knowledge he had actually made them talk. We successfully used the "schell" technique (and it was very controvesial at the time) on Waffen SS prisoners suspected in the massacre of Allied POW's during the Battle of the Bulge.

Regardless of whatever scenario Bart envisages...torture is NEVER justified, and coercive or "enhanced" interrogation is simply torture by another name. We are just a little bit more careful in not leaving too many obvious marks. Except, of course, for the prisoners we beat to death at Bagram AFB. Even pulped leg bones can be hidden in Afghanistan, though...
 

Does Bart care to answer the question I posed at 4:11 PM? The silence is telling.
 

To be fair, Bart, I think QuiteAlarmed answered your question, to wit, no torture regardless of the situation.
 

celticdragon said...

You lead a platoon in a heavily wooded region that is experiencing insurgent activity. Your unit has been taking casaulties from traps and IED's, but locals seem to be able to avoid injuries. You capture some local leaders and a few of their family members and threaten them if they don't expose who the insurgents are. You make the captive family members walk with your patrols as insurance, and your incident rate drops down to minimal levels.

You get an order from your chain of command to stop doing this, as it is a violation of recognized treaties regarding treatment of civilians and also US policy.

What do you do, Bart? Is this a no brainer? Who gives a damn about the locals when you are trying to protect your troops?


This is a no brainer. The civilians are innocent and using them as human shields, although it works, is wrong and illegal.

Now stop avoiding the real life question at hand and answer it.

BTW, making up alternatives to reality is not an option. We tried the standard questioning with KSM before advancing to coercive techniques. KSM did not reveal a thing. Your real life alternatives are coercive interrogation or allowing KSM to remain silent.

Make your choice.
 

Bart are you willing to do your patriotic duty and help keep America safe by sodomizing the answers out of young Khalid's ass before the ticking time bomb explodes?

Your tiny dick is America's only hope.
 

Zod:

Your question has no basis in reality. Get real and we can have a discussion.
 

Under standard questioning, KSM says nothing except that he wants to be sent to NY and given an attorney so he can presumably exercise a right to silence.

Under coercive interrogation including water boarding, KSM breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.

You are President. Which type of interrogation method do you choose to use?


I don't know - did he also testify that his next door neighbor is a martian and that the postman is plotting to take over the world? It's a stupid question. How on earth does this hypothetical president know that anything he's been told is actually true?

Here's another hypothetical with the xenophobia removed. Let's say that your crazy uncle Jim decides to blow up a elementary school. He confesses to it and fingers you as an accomplice. You going to volunteer for waterboarding?
 

Of course, everyone else simply asking Bart questions are indeed studiously avoided answering his 3:44 PM question -- at the very least, being non-responsive -- I personally cannot condone torture, but I am open to some sort of highly regulated framework like Professor Dershowitz suggested.
 

Bart: Your question has no basis in reality. Get real and we can have a discussion.

to wit, you need to present evidence that the facts assumed in your question are true. Otherwise, we are arguing about whether a unicorn can fly.
 

Zathras:

Both George Tenent and John McCain have written that torture has extracted accurate and actionable intelligence -- what more do you want, a live demonstration broadcast on American Idol?
 

bart=pwn3d

But I must say, you don't know when to quit, or you don't know how. That's why it's best for you to remain in a court and let a judge and jury decide that for you. If you could stack a jury with enough clowns from LGF, you'd win your case. Fortunately for America, the possibility that such a concentration of mindless authoritarian thugs and brutes might be found in a naturally occuring real world situation is nil. The internet allows these disparate misanthropes to congregate in one non-physical space.
 

>>Your question has no basis in reality. Get real and we can have a discussion.

Let me get this straight: the most often used rationale for supporting torture from the likes of you these days is a HYPOTHETICAL "ticking-bomb" scenario. And you are rejecting my hypothetical -- even though the Bush administration itself, in the person of John Yoo, explicitly referred to crushing the testicles of children as a means of "interrogation." ???

What is even funnier about this is that your answer is the same one I've been hearing on the Left regarding your hypothetical time-bomb: "Your question has no basis in reality."
 

Both George Tenent and John McCain have written

Tenet is covering his ass and he's no expert. That's not his thing. McCain is no expert and he flip flops so much on everything it's hard to know what he'll say next.

Bart stipulated: "When it comes to interrogation, you go to an interrogator or the supervisor of interrogators."

We did. Case closed.
 

Tenent, as head of the CIA, was a "supervisor" of interrogators and was privy to ALL the puzzle pieces -- who knows, he may have been physically present at some as well -- we know that McCain WAS present as an interrogatee (sp?) and gave up accurate and classified info too.

Our experts outrank your experts.
 

I think Bart and Charles have done an admirable job of proving my point. Bravo, boys, bravo!

And Bart, to answer your question from 3:44, as well as Zod's most excellent rhetorical question from 4:11, at no time should we resort to torture or, if you prefer mealy-mouthed euphemisms, coercive interrogation techniques. If, as a nation, we don't have the intellectual and moral resources to elicit information from terrorists without torture, than we don't deserve whatever slight modicum of protection that torture might provide us.
 

As I already told you, Volk, I'm not afraid of freedom and liberty. I just don't want terrorists to have them. Before I read this thread, I had assumed that was the position of all right-thinking Americans.
 

Al Gonzales should know better from first-hand experience that coercive interrogations don't work. After all, he couldn't get Ashcroft to change his mind while he was in the ICU.
 

Give Volk a hand for addressing the issue and being honest.
 

So, now wishing someone well in the hospital = coercive interrogation?
 

>>I just don't want terrorists to have them. Before I read this thread, I had assumed that was the position of all right-thinking Americans.

Yes, and we all know that opposing the torture of human beings is the same as wanting "terrorists to have freedom and liberty."
 

The choice here is forced:

The United States has just captured Khalid Sheik Muhammad who has knowledge of the identity and locations of most of al Qaeda's cells.

Under standard questioning, KSM says nothing except that he wants to be sent to NY and given an attorney so he can presumably exercise a right to silence.

Under coercive interrogation including water boarding, KSM breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.

You are President. Which type of interrogation method do you choose to use?

This is an easy question for most Republicans and I dare say most Americans.


Bart, this has played out before. In Vietnam. We captured and interrogated, for long periods of time, high level Viet Cong operatives. And you know what--they withstood coercive, "enhanced interrogation" procedures. You know why? Because they were dedicated to their cause (not ours), were smart, and knew how to feed false information.

Imagine this.

You have captured a KSM. Know there is a high chance (never certainty, remember that) he knows of an immanent plot underway to kill millions of Americans. You go straight to torture (enhanced methods, coercive techniques, however you want to salve your conscience). He gives you information. You act on it.

Oops. He lied. You fail to look for contradictory information because he told you Miami and the attack was on Houston. Fine, you still have him in custody (unless the methods killed him), but he's still a martyr for his cause (at least in his own mind). And you failed. And millions died because you wanted to torture someone.

And in addition, any halfway competent terrorist organization would know that once a leader/contact drops out of contact, anything they know might have been compromised. They could move up, delay, or cancel the attack that the source knew about.

Your problem is that you are as bloodthirsty as they are, and would rather hurt and kill them then take steps to cut them off at their source.

And your scenario is ludicrous. I know you put yourself in the Bruce Willis/stop the bad guys role, but competent police work (which we're forgoing for invasive trolling and military adventurism) will stop more threats than your fantasies.

--wait, new posts since I started reading. I also agree with Volk. We are supposed to be the high ground, folks.
 

Charles,

Unfortunately, you constantly prove that you are against freedom and liberty in your posts. That is, the freedom and liberty of anyone who disagrees with you. It almost seems that you want to have to torture people.
 

i don't want terrorists to have freedom and liberty, either.

course, i don't want the government to have the power to torture people who have been declared terrorists by one man, with no judicial review, in a lawless enclave, to spend the rest of their natural lives without ever getting a forum to challenge the allegations made against them, either.

there is some ground (an awful lot) between terrorists having freedom and liberty, and protecting the concepts of limited government and the moral high ground.

ps Mr. DePalma - someone has been asking you for days to produce certain text from the MCA. The silence is telling...
 

OK, volk and fraud guy are on record. How about the rest of you heroes?
 

Fraud Guy:

What part of "I personally cannot condone torture" almost seems like I want to have to torture people?
 

christopher:

I addressed that argument weeks ago.

Like arne, anderson claims I did not answer his question when he thinks he has laid a clever trap and simply does not like the answer I give.

Like arne, I generally ignore anderson.
 

Good God, Charles! I laughed my ass off. No neener neener neener?

Tenent, as head of the CIA, was a "supervisor" of interrogators and was privy to ALL the puzzle pieces--

At least no one can suggest either of you lack spunk, mindless and misspent as it may be. 10 out of 10 experts agree. Torture doesn't work.
 

QuiteAlarmed quoting the WaPo}:

These assertions that "torture works" may reassure a fearful public, but it is a false security. We don't know what's been gained through this fear-driven program. But we do know the consequences.

Yeah, one consequence was al-Libi. One consequence of that was 3400 (and counting) dead U.S. servicemen.

IOW, one of the few cases we know about of torture demonstrated that torture gives you the answers you want, rather than the truth.

Feh.

Cheers,
 

I'm glad I could bring a smile to your day then : )
 

I'm on record with the experts. Firstly, torture doesn't work. Then there are all the other problems with it.

The experts debunk Dersh's "ticking time bomb" scenario.
 

Well, well Bart. You surprise me. I had thought you would have taken the bait on that classic dilemma question. It certainly raises a further inquiry into why you are willing to observe some laws of land warfre, but are quick to write off others as a sacrife to expediency.

Since you wanted to hear about what real, live experts on interrogation and torture had to say, I give you the following link to an Hugh Hewitt interview:

Effective interrogation without torture 101 from retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington.

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=b0d450ff-7a6d-41ca-b855-a93127f6eed7

Enjoy.

I notice you did not address my point on standard psychological interrogation techniques, except to say he was questioned before the rough stuff started.

It is pretty damned unlikely that Khalid would have been able to resist competant interrogators who had ample time to work on him. We know perfectly well from what happened at Bagram that torture quickly stops being a method of last resort and turns into the fun thing to do when you are bored...especially if you are a PFC who likes to declare that your "dick is your God!".

It seems far more likely that Khalid was put into the enhanced regime immediately, and that the "ticking operation" justification was all that was needed. Of course, I wasn't there, and neither were you. I bet that my take is a hell of a lot closer to what happened that yours.

Why?

I remember my time in the army perfectly well, and how sadistic people could be given the right circumstances. You damned well know that people were just itching to work him over regardless of the consequences...and here they were given carte blanche and presidential authority to do anything to him that didn't actually kill him or stop a major organ from functioning.

That is a pretty loose definition of torture, Bart...and that is what we did. Al Qaida could only have dreamed that we would actually damage our own national character and international reputation to this extent. The pictures of Abu Ghraib, (pretty mild stuff compared to the real thing done in the Salt Pit) decorate every city in the Middle East, and Bin Laden is laughing at us as we see how far we can stoop to be just like him.
 

Sigh. Does torture ever "work"? SURE it does. Sometimes, you can torture somebody & they will tell you what you need to know.

However, that's not the issue. The issue is, would they have produced the same information, or better, under standard interrogation techniques?

As Ron Suskind repeatedly remarked in The One-Percent Doctrine, once you start torturing a guy -- once you threaten to hurt his kids, as we did with KSM -- then you've pretty much abandoned any hope of using standard, proven techniques of building a rapport with the subject.

Cf. Mark Bowden's recent Atlantic article on how we got the intel to nail Zarqawi.

Now, I've left aside numerous issues -- you rarely know *whether* the subject actually has the intel you seek, or is even really a "bad guy" -- torture is most useful for extracting confessions to what you want to hear (historically, that's how it's been used) -- and once torture is condoned in "exceptional" cases, it tends to quickly spread, because everything starts to look like a nail when you have a hammer.

Now, Bart's 3:44 question, the one he's proud of? It's a STUPID question. Because it assumes IN ADVANCE that the torture will work and the standard methods won't, and then asks you to choose. But in advance -- when you're having to decide what to do -- how could you possibly know that?

Given (1) the track record of Tenet et al., (2) the similar cases in Suskind's book, and (3) the desperate need of Tenet et al. to justify their evil conduct ... permit me to doubt whether standard techniques were really employed upon KSM for any length of time, with any seriousness.

We could find out, of course, if it were *really* important to make this decision about torture's use. The feds could release all the records of his pre-torture interrogations, suitably redacted for GENUINE security purposes (as opposed to covering the asses of embarrassed parties).

But they haven't done that. I wonder why.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Does anyone here care to answer the question I posed at 3:44 PM? The silence is telling.

I gave my answer here over two years ago. Pretendign no one has answered doesn't mean no one has.

Cheers,
 

Sigh. Does torture ever "work"? SURE it does. Sometimes...

Not for extracting usable information in a highly fluid tactical situation. It really doesn't. It's main purpose is to terrorize a population and in that it does work well.
 

Bart DePalma writes: Exactly what credibility does a Marine general have concerning whether an interrogation method works?

First, Charles C. Krulak was more than a “Marine general.” He was the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Commandant is the highest ranking officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The Commandant is directly responsible to the Secretary of the Navy for the total performance of the Marine Corps.” How the Marines Are Organized. I claim no expertise on military structure, but I think “total performance” includes intelligence interrogations.

Second, the other author, who you have studiously ignored, Joseph P. Hoar, was Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command. Again, I am no expert, but I suspect that commanding CENTCOM requires some knowledge of military intelligence techniques.

Third, even if these two generals lacked all knowledge of the efficacy of interrogation methods, their rationale, which you have also studiously ignored, does not turn on the efficacy of the methods. Their rationale is based on the effect that our use of such methods, even when intended only for exceptional circumstances, has on our troops and on our war effort. I find it difficult to imagine anyone with more credibility to speak on this issue.

I highly doubt that you will win an argument attacking the credibility of these two generals. I suggest that you would do better to address your arguments to their rationale than to their persons. Often of late, I find myself surprised that those who associate with a party that prides itself on supporting our military are so ready to impugn the credibility of men who have honored our nation’s uniform.
 

Anderson:

It's NOT a "stupid" question, because those who pick no torture even in the most clear-cut scenario have to be consistent and say "no torture" across the board. That's why I would be willing to consider something like Dershowitz's proposal for torture warrants.
 

I wrote these comments about torture in my blog after seeing Marty Lederman's comments.

Marty Lederman at Balkinization writes today about the outrageous adoption and acceptance of the use of torture by most of the Republican presidential candidates at the debate last Tuesday in South Carolina:

"Don't let the fast-moving Comey affair distract you from the other outrage of the month -- the fact that at the same time high-ranking military leaders are disclaiming torture and abuse in the strongest possible terms, most of the leading presidential candidates of the Republican Party have been tripping over themselves in an effort to be the candidate who will commit to greatest number of war crimes, treaty breaches and statutory violations if he should be so fortunate as to be elected Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy."

Apart from John McCain, the other Republicans, especially Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, seemed to heartily endorse the idea, as in, "what do we do when we catch a terrorist and want to know the details of a forthcoming terrorist operation so that we can prevent another 9/11?"

I have a question for torture's proponents: would you personally confess if you were subject to water-boarding or other "enhanced interrogatory methods?" Or take a technique from the Inquisition and volunteer to be the person accused of heresy. Then suffer something fort et dur, like being compressed between two planks with the screws tightening every 10 minutes. Or being held under water for increasing longer periods, something similar to water-boarding. I am sure you can think of other "effective" methods.

Okay, let's leave Mitt and Rudy out of this. Let's test these methods on George and Dick. Would they confess to being part of Al Qaeda? Would they admit they were planning to set off a dirty bomb? Would they sign a confession no matter what it described?

The answer is yes, even George Bush, even Dick Cheney, would confess to being part of the worst terrorist organization if they were subject to interrogation using torture. They would tell and admit anything they thought their interrogators wanted. And that is the trouble with these methods. A person will say anything to stop the pain, whether physical or mental. Torture as a method does not work and will never work.

See http://pbsmonitor.blogspot.com/2007/05/torture-to-prevent-another-911.html

Roberto in Utah
 

"Bart" DePalma:

[celticdragon]: What do you do, Bart? Is this a no brainer? Who gives a damn about the locals when you are trying to protect your troops?

This is a no brainer. The civilians are innocent and using them as human shields, although it works, is wrong and illegal.


So is torture. On both counts.

Now stop avoiding the real life question at hand and answer it.

After you, my dear Alphonse. Why won't you answer cleticdragon"'s question?

Cheers,
 

Charles,

Yes, but you approve of "Professor Dershowitz's" plan. Do you have a link?

And, but the way, when I heard Giuliani's response, the first thing I thought of was "will no one rid me of this troublesome priest". He doesn't condone torture, but asks interrogators to "think of something", so that if they do "torture" and it blows up in his face, he can literally (but not substantively) say that he didn't order torture. He needs to be careful what he wishes for.

And finally, "the United States does not torture". Seems to be like Rudy, above. Abu Grahib; Gitmo; rendition; transfer to other states for questioning. So long as it's not official, it's not torture. Your statement is disingenuous at best, but more likely self-deception, or a lie.
 

QuiteAlarmed:

I find it difficult to imagine anyone with more credibility to speak on this issue.

May I suggest Major General Gale S. Pollock http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/leaders/pollock.html
 

OT:

Rob: I don't know - did he also testify that his next door neighbor is a martian and that the postman is plotting to take over the world?

Heard on the radio today that someone had brought suit against various large companies (and maybe the gummint, I dunno) claiming they were discriminating against him because he was a Martian. The judge tossed the suit, saying that because he claimed to be a Martian, he was admittedly not a human and had no standing to sue. ;-)

Cheers,
 

Fraud Guy:

I said I'm willing to consider something like it. I will have to look around for a link. In the meantime, what part of "I personally cannot condone torture" almost seems like I want to have to torture people?
 

Bart,

I know you were attempting to be sarcastic, but by calling people like Arne, celticdragon, Volk, and myself heroes, you were actually truthful for once.

Heroism is not acting on your fears, but acting in spite of them.
 

May I suggest Major General Gale S. Pollock http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/leaders/pollock.html

Yeah, she's about as much of a credible expert as this guy.

Bart stipulated: "When it comes to interrogation, you go to an interrogator or the supervisor of interrogators."

We did. Case closed. (And please stop whining).
 

It's NOT a "stupid" question

Yes, it is, because it's not a *question*. It *begs* the question -- would torture work where standard techniques wouldn't? -- and then goes on to answer it.

Put another way, was the Supreme Court wrong in Brown v. Mississippi? If torture "works sometimes," then why is it forbidden to our law-enforcement personnel?

Because a state may dispense with a jury trial, it does not follow that it may substitute trial by ordeal. The rack and torture chamber may not be substituted for the witness stand. The state may not permit an accused to be hurried to conviction under mob domination- where the whole proceeding is but a mask-without supplying corrective process. The state may not deny to the accused the aid of counsel. Nor may a state, through the action of its officers, contrive a conviction through the pretense of a trial which in truth is 'but used as a means of depriving a defendant of liberty through a deliberate deception of court and jury by the presentation of testimony known to be perjured.' And the trial equally is a mere pretense where the state authorities have contrived a conviction resting solely upon confessions obtained by violence. The due process clause requires 'that state action, whether through one agency or another, shall be consistent with the fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions.' It would be difficult to conceive of methods more revolting to the sense of justice than those taken to procure the confessions of these petitioners, and the use of the confessions thus obtained as the basis for conviction and sentence was a clear denial of due process.

There are 2 kinds of people -- those who think the prohibitions in Brown are strictly due to the Bill of Rights, and that without them, the state could indeed do what it did in that case, with impunity.

The other kind thinks that the Bill of Rights recognized basic human rights -- that it "held those truths to be self-evident."
 

Dershowitz article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/01/22/ED5329.DTL
 

Anonymous Bosch:

So, the Army Surgeon General in charge of the mental health review is not a "qualified" expert on the mental health of soldiers?
 

anderson:

We'll have to agree to disagree then.
 

Charles,

Why did you ask about the people cheering Giuliani, and not McCain?

Why do you feel that you could consider "torture warrants"?

In fighting fraud, I deal in a world of all greys--motivation, intent, unsure if an action is the start of a threat, and unfortunately willing to take some losses so that I do not compromise my company's sales.

Torture is not grey. It is black and white. As others have stated, many times, it is a unsubtle tool that is best turned against one's own people for coercion rather than one's enemies for intelligence. Keeping that a bright line rather than an option or a consideration speaks to our country's repeatedly stated intention to be a champion of human rights rather than another thug on the block.

I did paint you with too broad of a brush. I apologize. But consider what you are thinking about contemplating, and wonder whether you even should.
 

It is astonishing and repulsive that we entertain, even for one second, the notion that torture has some legitimate place in our society. Not a McCain fan, but kudos to him for being the only representative of the Republican "middle-aged white man" brigade last night with enough sense to buck the trend. It really felt as though the rest of the jackasses were just pandering for more applause from the slack-jawed illiterates who must surely have made up this South Carolina audience.

Shame on the candidates. To support and adovate such an universally condemned amoral position clearly renders them unfit to provide moral leadership for this country.

And shame on the South Carolina Republican party. To actually cheer for the notion of torture is about as perverse and non-human as it gets. You are a disgrace to your party, to your country and to the human race. How can you possibly claim to be patriotic, Christian Americans when your position is ENTIRELY CONTRARY to Christ's teachings and to the fundamentals of democracy? Time to go back to Sunday school and/or elementary Civics classes and learn what you failed to pick up the first time around.

What a complete disgrace these people are and it's time for the rest of us to call them out on it and not let them hide behind "religious beliefs" or "tough on terror" rhetoric. And the politicians (on either side) who wish to pander to this idiocy should do so at their own peril. They need to go. The Republican slate just got a whole lot smaller...
 

celticdragon said...

It certainly raises a further inquiry into why you are willing to observe some laws of land warfre, but are quick to write off others as a sacrife to expediency.

I am not writing off any law of war for expediency. We simply disagree as to what constitutes torture.

Effective interrogation without torture 101 from retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington.

I think something needs to be clarified here. The CIA starts with low intensity interrogation techniques and did so with KSM.

Unless we are dealing with the true ticking bomb situation, this is how it should be. Most captures are not trained particularly well to resist interrogation and are not particularly dedicated.

However, when you have a hard core target who knows how the game is played, you ratchet up the pressure.

It is pretty damned unlikely that Khalid would have been able to resist competant interrogators who had ample time to work on him.

I am glad you brought up the issue of time. Put aside the ticking bomb scenario for a moment and realize that Intelligence in general is perishable.

When a high value target like KSM is captured, the enemy will assume that he broke under interrogation and change their operations when they learn he has been captured.

Concurrently, the CIA has to assume that KSM's capture is going to be leaked by some over eager fool who wants to brag (as the Pakistanis did in this case) or eventually when the enemy notices KSM is not making contact.

Therefore, the CIA did not have the luxury of ample time to work on KSM. Unless KSM started giving up info in the first few hours under low pressure techniques, CIA had to move to coercive techniques to gain the intelligence before al Qaeda had a chance to react and the intelligence became useless.

I suggested in the past that folks here read the book Bravo Two Zero by SAS commando Andy McNabb. McNabb was captured and truly tortured along with a number of his squad by the Iraqis during the Persian Gulf War. The Iraqis worked through the cover stories used by the SAS men by laying into them every time their stories conflicted. McNabb and the rest knew they would break sooner or later. However, they held out long enough for the Brits to change the deployments of the other SAS in the area. This is a perfect example of the principle that intelligence is perishable.

I remember my time in the army perfectly well, and how sadistic people could be given the right circumstances. You damned well know that people were just itching to work him over regardless of the consequences...and here they were given carte blanche and presidential authority to do anything to him that didn't actually kill him or stop a major organ from functioning.

Sadists make very poor interrogators for the reasons which you give. I believe that interrogators undergo psychological testing like special ops personnel to avoid employing sadists.

Al Qaida could only have dreamed that we would actually damage our own national character and international reputation to this extent.

al Qaeda is not that naive. If we assume our captures will be tortured and will eventually break, these animals who epitomize sadistic torturers would hardly expect anything less.
 

Re: Dershowitz, btw, one could do worse than click the link to MAJ Milavic's brief article that has been provided upthread:

Also, I find it curious that Dershowitz would argue for the use of torture in a "ticking bomb" situation based on a torture-interrogation example that took sixty-seven days to bring to fruition.

But when, like Dershowitz, you're concerned only to justify torture no matter what, such little facts do not matter.
 

Charles,

Under most administrations my answer to your question would be, "No."

Only a blind fool would consider any value in posing that question with current administration or any of it's appointments. I guess that makes you a blind fool.
 

Charles,

Read your link.

Dershowitz asks us to consider it.

I have.

No.
 

What part of "I personally cannot condone torture" almost seems like I want to have to torture people?

Well, in this thread, you moved from:

The United States does not torture.

to

I'm not afraid of freedom and liberty. I just don't want terrorists to have them.

to

I am open to some sort of highly regulated framework like Professor Dershowitz suggested.

to

Both George Tenent and John McCain have written that torture has extracted accurate and actionable intelligence -- what more do you want, a live demonstration broadcast on American Idol?

to

Our experts outrank your experts.

("Our experts" in this case being those who have shown that torture is effective.)

Going out of your way to find evidence that supports the argument that torture works is a potential indicator of your own support for that position. Sure, if you were doing a review article, you might look at all sides, but this is a different genre. As you mentioned before, only having three hours to participate does make you pick and choose your replies.

I think Anderson's take (@5:30) on the efficacy of torture is one of the better I've seen in this particular thread.
 

Charles writes: May I suggest Major General Gale S. Pollock

I assume you mean to suggest that Major General Gale S. Pollock has more credibility on the issue than Former Marine Commandant Krulak and Former CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief Hoar. The specific issue is the effect of our use of torture on our troops and on our war effort. As for the effect on our troops, Krulak and Hoar believe that authorizing torture even just for exceptional circumstances will cause it to spread among the troops “like wildfire” because our troops are confronted with exceptional circumstances every day. As for the effect on our war effort, they believe that our use of torture has the disastrous consequence of feeding the recuperative power of the terrorist enemy.

Why is it that you think that the Acting Surgeon General Chief, Army Nurse Corps has more credibility than they do to speak on the issue? She has credibility in her own right (although I question the freedom with which anyone currently serving can express their personal views), but why would you suggest that she has more credibility than the Former Marine Commandant and Former CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief?
 

Fraud Guy:

Why did you ask about the people cheering Giuliani, and not McCain?

I was working my way down the frontrunners.

Why do you feel that you could consider "torture warrants"?

Because, I would not want to be responsible for preventing the next 9/11 tragedy, or worse. I am NOT willing to take those kinds of losses.

. . . I did paint you with too broad of a brush. I apologize. But consider what you are thinking about contemplating, and wonder whether you even should.

No need to apologize. Thanks for heads-up too. Did you read Alan's article?
 

Never mind, I see that you read it.
 

Still waiting for an answer, Bart. Crushed testicles of a child or LA gets nuked? Where is Jack Bauer when you need him? You obviously don't understand the stakes involved. Isn't Western Civilization worth a pair of crushed testicles?

Charles? Maybe Dershowitz could issue a "crushed testicle" warrant?
 

Bart said:

al Qaeda is not that naive. If we assume our captures will be tortured and will eventually break, these animals who epitomize sadistic torturers would hardly expect anything less.

So we should epitomize humane torturers?

And Bart, please answer my question. I answered yours. Quid pro quo.
 

Bart... We simply disagree...

That's really the long and the short of it. You are a contrarian and a smoke generator. We disagree on what torture is, what facts are, who is an expert... so it really serves no purpose to go on... but I don't suppose anyone will stop. You will disagree, get hoist by your own petard, give off voluminous amounts of smoke while you self destruct, then -- Poof! You reappear to disagree again and the whole pointless cycle starts all over again. It's theater of the absurd. At least the seats are free.
 

Anonymous Bosch:

You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

PMS_Chicago:

I am indeed looking at both sides of the issue, from a devil's advocate point of view for now.

QuiteAlarmed:

Because she was in charge of the most recent, unprecedented survey re: mental health of soldiers on the battlefield. You may have read about it recently in the news.
 

zod:

That would definitely be one of the options the judge could issue an warrant on. May I suggest one way to improve the chances of Bart answering YOUR question is to answer the one he asked first?
 

Still waiting for an answer, Bart. Crushed testicles of a child or LA gets nuked?

As I used to point out at similar Volokh arguments, the basic question was posed by Ivan Karamazov:

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and
inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?

 

(Now I'm wondering if the Wachowski Bros. read Karamazov ....)
 

Charles writes: Because she was in charge of the most recent, unprecedented survey re: mental health of soldiers on the battlefield. You may have read about it recently in the news.

I assume that this is the same survey that the Former Marine Commandant and Former CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief reference: “To understand the impact this has had on the ground, look at the military's mental health assessment report released earlier this month. The study shows a disturbing level of tolerance for abuse of prisoners in some situations.” Her responsibility for that survey certainly does give her credibility to speak on that aspect of the issue (save for the problem that she is still serving and therefore restricted in her freedom of expression). Why, however, does it give her more credibility?

Also, has she expressed an opinion that contradicts that of Krulak and Hoar? If so, would you link it?
 

Charles... You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

In the words of Tip O'Neill

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The problem with you and your fellow travellers is that you don't like the facts as they are so you make up your own. You are not entitled to do that.

Apologies to Tip O'Neill.
 

Charles,

>>That would definitely be one of the options the judge could issue an warrant on.

Try to be a little less cryptic. I realize that you are hinting that you would indeed support such measures -- have the courage of your convictions here. Just say it.

If you were President, would you order the testicles of a 5-year-old child of an al Qaeda member to be crushed in an attempt to extract information? Is that something you support or not? If not, why not? Are you "prepared to take the losses" or not?

I am presenting the same scenario that Bart offered. He chose waterboarding. I chose testicle crushing. I would guess the latter is simply more effective. And, remember, crushing the testicles of children is NOT torture, which is "the intentional infliction of severe pain." The intent of waterboarding is not to inflict severe pain -- no, no, far from it. It is to extract information. Same for testicle crushing.
 

First of all, Charles Pollock is a nurse, not even a physician (no swipe intended at nurses) and she's just the only one they could get after the Walter Reed debacle.

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/03/13/kiley-replacement/

They are finding it harder and harder to get new heads to roll. Wolfie's just rolled.

http://thinkprogress.org/2007/05/17/wolfowitz-resignation-deal-has-been-completed/
 

Wolfie's just rolled.

You got me all excited, and then I found out he was just leaving his job.
 

QuiteAlarmed:

I don't know if she has expressed an opinion either way, but I was simply providing you with another name (you were the one who posted: "I find it difficult to imagine anyone with more credibility to speak on this issue."). I think the person responsible for conducting the study, all other things being equal, can speak more credibly to the issue than someone who simply read the study.

Anonymous Bosch:

I thought your Tip O'Neill quote was attributed to Patrick Moynahan (sp?). Also, I referenced Gale S. Pollock, not Charles Pollock.

zod:

Under the same hypothetical posed by Bart, I sign the order to crush testicles. Can you answer Bart's question now?
 

Troops at Odds With Ethics Standards
Army Also Finds More Deployment Means More Mental Illness


By Thomas E. Ricks and Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 5, 2007; A01

More than one-third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.

In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. "Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect," the Army report stated.

About 10 percent of the 1,767 troops in the official survey -- conducted in Iraq last fall -- reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions.

Army researchers "looked under every rock, and what they found was not always easy to look at," said S. Ward Casscells, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The report noted that the troops' statements are at odds with the "soldier's rules" promulgated by the Army, which forbid the torture of enemy prisoners and state that civilians must be treated humanely.

Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, cast the report as positive news. "What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts," she said. "They're not torturing the people."


She's just a tool. A "useful idiot". Like some, who I need not name, who comment here.
 

I thought your Tip O'Neill quote was attributed to Patrick Moynahan (sp?). Also, I referenced Gale S. Pollock, not Charles Pollock.

Moynihan, O'Neill, Kennedy... all those Irish Democrats look the same to me. I'm a Scot. I left out the comma.
 

So, Anonymous Bosch, if she doesn't say what you want her to say, that's how you judge credibility?
 

>>Under the same hypothetical posed by Bart, I sign the order to crush testicles.

So you "personally cannot condone torture" but support crushing the testicles of 5-year-old children as a means of attempting to extract information from detainees?!? Ok, then.

About Bart's scenario, if he is asking whether or not I support torture as a means of trying to obtain information, the answer is no. I thought that was obvious. I thought all "right-thinking" Americans agreed with that position. I guess I was wrong.
 

garth: Your tiny dick is America's only hope.

lol. Now I feel even worse about the level of direct acrimony I have introduced from time to time. Respectfully, this is over the top (not that I was above tittering over it.)
 

zod:

Thanks for answering Bart's question, finally. As for my "personal" opinion, your hypothetical substituted that with the Constitutional duty to protect American lives. If I were wrong in that call, and was unable to stop another 9/11 attack, I would gladly have submitted my resignation.
 

>>Maj. Gen. Gale S. Pollock, the acting Army surgeon general, cast the report as positive news. "What it speaks to is the leadership that the military is providing, because they're not acting on those thoughts," she said. "They're not torturing the people."


This is almost the exact same argument you hear out of the Communist Party in China regarding the "Tank Man" incident during the Tiananmen Massacre. The real import of that episode was that it showed how merciful and caring the PLA really was -- because the soldiers in the tanks didn't actually run the guy over. I'm 100% serious. I've heard that argument numerous times in China.
 

So you "personally cannot condone torture" but support crushing the testicles of 5-year-old children as a means of attempting to extract information from detainees?!? Ok, then.

That *is* a good one.

Quite seriously, some of us might, under the fanciful hypo, feel like we had to do such a thing -- we might even do it -- but we would be ashamed and haunted. Not brash and proud, like Bush and Cheney.

(Consider them a moment, and alter the hypo: would you order your subordinate to crush the boy's testicles, if you believed it would save L.A.? That's worse, in a way, than doing the deed oneself.)

Alistair Horne, who knows more about this subject than anyone posting here, likes to emphasize how the French torturers in Algeria not only failed to win the war, but permanently damaged themselves.

Really, it's like "if the guy who raped & killed your wife before your very eyes, then got free on a technicality, would you shoot him?" Why, yes, I might -- but other than telling us something about human psychology, what relevance does that have to law and policy?
 

Charles: As I already told you, Volk, I'm not afraid of freedom and liberty. I just don't want terrorists to have them. Before I read this thread, I had assumed that was the position of all right-thinking Americans.

Try this for right-thinking: "innocent until proven guilty". Or even "Liberty and Justice for All". Or even "We the people." What disheartens me is that clowns like you and Bart get away with putting the cart before the horse and almost no one holds your feet to the fire over it. You assume that which is in question: that a given individual is a terrorist whose rights are forfeit without so much as an indictment much less any semblance of a fair trial. The United States gives at least lip service to the notion that all humans have certain rights at all times, even when others have the right to shoot them dead, say, in self-defense (and battlefield shootings are arguably an extrapolation of "self-defense" in a world that has outlawed wars of aggression.)(Excuse me, make that, pre-emptive war.) But you and Yoo and your ilk need only breathe the word "terrorist" and then any depravity is acceptable.

No, my mistake, you only want torture as regulated according to the guidelines proffered by Dershowitz. Nice to know you have some morals...and that they are so situational. I thought that was supposed to be a feature of the lefties?
 

So, Anonymous Bosch, if she doesn't say what you want her to say, that's how you judge credibility?

# posted by Charles


Not at all, Charles. My experience with the US military informs my opinion. What experience informs yours?
 

Under coercive interrogation including water boarding, KSM breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.

I resubmit that this is a stupid question. There simply isn't any way to know whether KSM has given you a) large parts of the al Qaeda network or b) names randomly selected from the Riyadh phone book. Your question assumes the veracity of a response coming from KSM - probably not the most trustworthy sort to begin with. The fact that the tesimony was coerced isn't going to help much either.

If it isn't coerced, then there are two possible outcomes:
1) he's lying
2) he's telling the truth

If it IS coerced, then there is added the possibility that he is talking to get the coercion stopped. From the standpoint of the inquisitor, you arguably have less actual information than if he had told you nothing at all.

So, it's a stupid question.
 

christopher_m: ps Mr. DePalma - someone has been asking you for days to produce certain text from the MCA. The silence is telling...

Heh. Actually, if you take a look at the date on the comment to which I link, you'll see I've been calling him a lying, cowardly cheat for months over that issue. Funny too, as I was wondering if Charles could do any better than his corpsbruder on that one, but wasn't sure if this was the time to prod him on it...
 

Robert and rob:

But, that is indeed Bart's hypothetical -- we KNOW he's a terrorist -- we already KNOW your answer.

bosch:

Law school and 12 years of litigation practice so far.
 

It would be interesting to know how the Qaeda hijackers justified their murders of men, women, children and babies on 9/11.

We would probably find their logic eerily familiar.
 

garth: Your tiny dick is America's only hope.

Robert,

That's nothing. We've seen much more acrimony but for the most part, this has been a rather "civil" thread by comparison to the ones where the "the professor" had to pop in and scold us.
 

Rob, I'd forgotten that fabulous rant you linked -- a classic of its kind.
 

Charles writes: I don't know if she has expressed an opinion either way, but I was simply providing you with another name (you were the one who posted: "I find it difficult to imagine anyone with more credibility to speak on this issue."). I think the person responsible for conducting the study, all other things being equal, can speak more credibly to the issue than someone who simply read the study.

Ah. I think you misread the column. Maj. Gen. Pollock's survey wasn't the basis for the opinion of the Former Marine Commandant and Former Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM. The survey was just one piece of contemporary evidence that they offered in support of one aspect of the issue. I agree that it gives her credibility to speak on that aspect, but I think it a stretch to suggest that it gives her more credibility than they have.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks its disturbing that Maj. Gen. Pollock would cite the finding that ten percent of the troops report having mistreated civilians as evidence of leadership success?
 

Charles,

bosch:

Law school and 12 years of litigation practice so far.


I think this is where I get to say...

Neener, neener.

Unless you have been practicing law in military courts.
 

By the way, am I the only one who thinks its disturbing that Maj. Gen. Pollock would cite the finding that ten percent of the troops report having mistreated civilians as evidence of leadership success?

Not at all. It smacks of Orwellian Doublethink. Stalin would be proud of our boy George.
 

Charles,

I'm interested in your moral calculus here. Honest question: if you are willing to torture 5-year-olds and have their testicles crushed in an attempt to extract information from detainees, is there anything you aren't willing to do? How about raping 100 children? 1,000? How about hacking the limbs off of infants?
And if there actually is something you aren't willing to do, doesn't it undermine your entire position? ("You aren't willing to save 20 million Americans and Western Civilization by raping 1,000 children?")

This is why those who support torture and this logic vehemently deny that the US engages in torture: it is an attempt to draw some sort of imaginary moral line. This is what makes torture supporters so mealy-mouthed: "We do not torture, but torture works!"; the use of absurd euphemisms to hide their moral cowardice; attempts to redefine torture out of existence.

I think you and Bart fail to see what is staring you in the face here: the moral sewer you enter once you embrace this doomsday logic of yours. And the United States has been brought into this moral sewer by the present administration and the chicken-hawk authoritarians who support it.
 

Bart: I addressed that argument weeks ago.

A flat out lie.

You have never once answered with text from the MCA, and you have never once managed to answer without axiomatically positing that you or your agent would have some recourse to justice. But the text of the MCA and your own words regarding it make clear that once a person is picked up there is nothing even to guarantee a kangaroo court is convened. Once picked up, say on a good faith error by the government, the accused AUEC is simply bereft of all rights until their commission is convened, if ever, and even then they are bereft of standard rights such as right to confront witnesses, to not testify against themselves, to not be convicted by coerced confessions, and further they cannot even look to the lowest common denominator of Geneva which, by function of Constitutional law is the law of our land and which is held to apply to all captures at all times.

I am impressed at your willingness to perpetuate your bald-faced lie. Disgusted, but somewhat impressed. It also explains the beard. No way you could look yourself in the mirror long enough to shave. Make that "bold-faced" rather than "bald-faced".

Of course it's still not too late. Just find that portion of the MCA which gives an innocent detained in good-faith error, say with respect to citizenship, the right, much less the means, to establish the error in a system where the kangaroo court need never actually be convened? Stop waiting for Newt to rescue you on this one. He and Karl are too busy doing damage control on Comey, giving you winning conversation points like, "It was just a DoJ power play."

Oh,and don't be such a coward and pretend you don't know who has been riding you on this, you cowardly, lying cheat.
 

Anderson said...

Still waiting for an answer, Bart. Crushed testicles of a child or LA gets nuked?

As I used to point out at similar Volokh arguments, the basic question was posed by Ivan Karamazov:

Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and
inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?

6:12 PM

*******************************

The same scenario was beautifully demonstrated in Ursula K LeGuin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas".

Inevitably, the price is too high, even if only one person must suffer for the happiness of all. Everybody is sullied, and the happiness is exposed as the charade it truly is.

This is what Bart stuppornly refuses to aknowledge, in that our very founding principles written in the Magna Carta...expressed by Locke...subjected to pessimistic analysis by Hobbes and finally enshrined in our Declaration and Constitution are the antithesis of this utilitarian and cynical end run around long held and cherished legal principle.

The very notion that KSM, vile as he is, can be subject to physical abuse without legal review or hope of a trial for YEARS is nothing short of blasphamous to those of us who love the Constitution.

So, we are told he gave up some information, but we can't know really what it was or what circumstances it was obtained under. We have to take that on trust. We also don't know how many people were abused, only to find they really knew nothing at all. The German citizen who was spirited to Afghanistan while on vacation has tried to have his day in court, but has been denied because of secrecy. We just have to trust the government, you see. They had a perfectly good reason, of course.

Funny how mare and more our "open society" starts looking liking an authoritarian oligarchy when people can be taken in a "fog and mist" fashion, held without hearing or access to counsel, subjected to physically and mentally abusive interrogation...and we are told it is all for our own good.

Indeed.
 

anderson: It *begs* the question...

Straight from "Trolling for Dummies", the chapter, "Sophistries for the Masses (and certain DUI attorneys": "When in doubt, just assume that which you want concluded. "The Bible is the word of God, because it says so in the Bible" is a good model to draw on. The method is powerful because the unwary will fall victim to your unsound "reasoning" and the savvy will suffer aneurysms and apoplexy at your willfully disregard for truth or reason or any semblance of fair play."

I got my copy on ebay, inscribed by it's former owner, one B. DePalma. I think there were too many big words in it for him.
 

So, we are told he gave up some information, but we can't know really what it was or what circumstances it was obtained under. We have to take that on trust.

Exactly, and again, we have to trust PRECISELY the people who, if the info were NOT all that hot, would be (by their own lights) exposed as morally culpable. --This from the same people who caution us not to believe James Comey, b/c self-interest might be motivating him.

The old "credulous liberals/canny conservatives" dichotomy has been exploded for some time.

Trolling for Dummies

Ha!
 

Having finally reached the current end of this thread, let me directly address Bart's hypo.

I pray I would do the right thing, and forgo torture. Funny thing is, Bart, I thought _you_ were the Christian. I like to think all right thinking persons of all faiths, even mysticism steeped agnostics such as myself, would pray similarly.

At least I know where you stand, and exactly what type of Savior you follow. You and Falwell. I pray God forgives you the sins you do in His name, even as I pray for the souls who, seeking entrance into Heaven, perpetrated the crimes of nine-one-one, side-by-side with the innocent victims of that and every day.
 

zod:

First, just because the U.S. does not torture, does not mean we can control OTHER NATIONS who torture. Second, to answer your question, allow me to re-cap the hypothetical:

The U.S. has just captured a KNOWN TERRORIST who has knowledge of the identity and locations of most of al Qaeda's cells and, under standard questioning, he has said NOTHING except that he wants to be sent to NY and given an attorney so he can presumably exercise a right to silence -- under coercive interrogation including (a) water boarding [which you substituted with (b) crushing his 5-year old child's testicles], we KNOW he breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network. I am the President.

Now you are adding (c) raping 100 children, (d) raping 1,000 children, and (e) hacking the limbs off of infants (number uncertain), right?

Of course, if we are past (c) on the way to (d), etc., at some point, I am going to start wondering: "maybe this bastard ain't going to break, so why did I get the best advice that he would?" Until then, I guess the "bright line" I have to draw as President is I can't order the KILLING (notice the difference between torture and killing) of more humans than I can reasonably anticipate saving. Then, of course, you can get into the hair-splitting of why one American life is worth more than one Iraqi life.

I am guessing here, off the cuff, so I'm willing to debate where exactly that line should be drawn with my closest advisors. My initial answer to you above was my gut-reaction decision (which, unfortunately, Presidents are sometimes faced with during war). Does that answer your follow-up question?
 

I want to read Arne's post (that is now being used to torture law students at Loyola) but in answer to Bart's question, I am a situational ethicist and will use my own discretion in different situations that lead to actions that I might not take except for the specific and uniique situational exigencies of the moment. In a hospital ER during a catastrophic emergency it's called triage. Some people might force all the weak and injured and likely to die out of a lifeboat cast adrift with limited food and water right away. Others might wait until the last moment and some may not do it at all. But what is odd is how the same people who used to decry the "left's moral relativism" seem so willing to engage in it now, and in defense of a practice all the experts agree does not work.
 

The U.S. has just captured a KNOWN TERRORIST who has knowledge of the identity and locations of most of al Qaeda's cells and, under standard questioning, he has said NOTHING except that he wants to be sent to NY and given an attorney so he can presumably exercise a right to silence -- under coercive interrogation including (a) water boarding [which you substituted with (b) crushing his 5-year old child's testicles], we KNOW he breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network. I am the President.


1) How do you know he has actionable information on the identity & locations of cells? Are you also omnipotent & all-knowing?

2) 'we KNOW he breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network.' I mentioned this earlier, but how do you KNOW that he didn't just give you a random list of arabic-sounding names?

3) I am the President' - ugh, nevermind, we're screwed.
 

Charles, you are a reasonable fellow in some respects. Let's look at your latest:

The U.S. has just captured a KNOWN TERRORIST who has knowledge of the identity and locations of most of al Qaeda's cells

Now, do you see the fallacy here? Take a moment, I'll wait ....

... no? Okay, here: How do we know what he has knowledge of? We may suspect it, but how do we "know" it?

Further, you say "standard questioning" doesn't work, but torture does. Again, when we are considering whether to torture or not, how do we know that?

What you've done is to reject the teachings of professional interrogators and generals, in favor of a factually implausible scenario. In other words, you are fixing the facts around the predrawn conclusion.

That is why we don't find this "question" interesting.

Two more things, & then I'm outta here:

(1) It never ceases to amaze me that someone can read today's op-ed by the two generals and think, "bah, what do THEY know?"

(2) The Belgravia Dispatch has an excellent post on the torture issue re: the GOP debate, and I commend it to anyone seriously interested in the issue.
 

Charles,

The hypothetical is useless.

No one person in al-Qaeda has that kind of comprensive information. Not anymore. Not since we let OBL escape from Tora Bora. That organization has evolved into a less hierarchical, more rhizomal entity and the OBL probably has less of a clue what it's become than our own intelligence does. If such a person existed, he would never be taken alive anyway. Think about it.
 

LOL, rob. We "know" because that's the hypothetical.

Are you asking for possible explanations for how we could "know"? I could think up plenty of those (here's one: a verified nuclear bomb is on camera ticking down with less time than it would take to find / evacuate, untraceable broadcast signal, but confirmed on the roof of a large American city highrise). Next question?
 

Thanks, Anderson. I will take a look at your link.

Bosch:

The way we "know" is that our field operative stole the al Qaeda "U.S. membership roster" and was in the process of transmitting it to CIA headquarters when he was killed by said terrorist. I am happy to clarify the hypothetical more, if you'd like.

As for Arne's link, I already said above I would not expect to get off scott-free. If I was wrong, and was not able to prevent the 9/11 attack, I said I would resign. That means I am open to indictment and criminal trial.
 

Charles,

>>First, just because the U.S. does not torture,

False.

>>does not mean we can control OTHER NATIONS who torture.

Chewbacca defense? This relates to what I said how?

>>we KNOW he breaks and gives up large parts of the al Qaeda network. I am the President.

As Bart said, shouldn't your hypothetical have some basis in reality? You wouldn't know in advance whether a given technique would work.

>>President is I can't order the KILLING (notice the difference between torture and killing) of more humans than I can reasonably anticipate saving

Stunning, really. So you do in fact support raping, torturing, and maiming children (but not KILLING -- well, not killing "more humans than you can reasonably anticipate saving" -- so, yes, murder also) in attempts to extract information from prisoners.

As someone else mentioned, this kind of logic and moral depravity is probably matched only by al Qaeda itself, who see their maiming and murder of innocents as entirely morally justified because of the "existential threat" that the US poses to them and theirs (in their sick minds).

I prefer not to destroy everything that America stands for in order to "save" it. But that's me.

Bart? I'd be interested in your take on this.
 

I am happy to clarify the hypothetical more, if you'd like.

Please do - but make sure the next iteration includes references to the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy to make it more plausible.
 

(here's one: a verified nuclear bomb is on camera ticking down with less time than it would take to find / evacuate, untraceable broadcast signal, but confirmed on the roof of a large American city highrise).

Ooh - can I play SPECTRE #2 in this one? Or at least get to be one of the goons?
 

As Ron Suskind repeatedly remarked in The One-Percent Doctrine, once you start torturing a guy -- once you threaten to hurt his kids, as we did with KSM -- then you've pretty much abandoned any hope of using standard, proven techniques of building a rapport with the subject.

And all you RWA types do understand, that a bluff is no good if it's not credible that you follow it? You can't threat KSM with killing or torturing his children, if there's not a good reason for him to believe that we'll follow through? That evidence exists that we're capable of it? And our goons know this too, don't they?

Imbeciles.
 

The way we "know" is that our field operative stole the al Qaeda "U.S. membership roster" and was in the process of transmitting it to CIA headquarters when he was killed by said terrorist. I am happy to clarify the hypothetical more, if you'd like.

You've seen too many James Bond flicks. At least you agree no one person has this information. It's OK to torture a list, I suppose. And I wouldn't trust any of the crap I hear from this administration. Period. If an ex-intelligence agent I find credible agrees that is the case, I may have to consider it. Or are you going to point me to Able Danger and Crazy Curt Weldon? I have my doubts they even have KSM, or if they do, when they got him. You don't "steal" intelligence like that anyway. It renders it useless.
You copy it and put it back undetected.
 

bosch:

I didn't agree that no one person has this information -- the hypothetical states otherwise and we aren't talking about torturing a list either -- do you really need me to come up with a reason why the agent couldn't Xerox the list?! Let's just stipulate that copying it was not possible.

You also don't have to "trust" the Bush Administration -- I am the President and the intelligence agent was indeed credible -- remember, we KNOW the ticking bomb is going to detonate. We actually argued about it longer than the time that was left. But, can you at least TRY to answer?
 

Charles, how about this hypothetical:

We've captured an Al-Qaeda manual that says that they're plan is to infect our grain supplies with a virus - and the only thing that will stop them is if we dismember 15 children (one of which must be a close relative of one commenter with the handle of Charles) and send them by UPS to a house in Port Moresby. What do you do?

Now, don't worry you're pretty head about whether this is reasonable. I'm the President, and I know this is good information. We'll assume for the purposes of this exercise that this intelligence is good, and that we have good reason to believe that "Hypothetical" Al-Qaeda really will behave this way.

Do you dismember your child or not? Hmm? Can't you answer? Hmm?

Or is this entire scenario so implausible that it leads you to believe that I may have some kind of mental disorder?
 

Is the grain virus going to kill more than 15 Americans? If I answer your hypothetical, will you answer mine?
 

charles said (4:49 PM) :

I personally cannot condone torture

charles said (5:22 PM):

What part of "I personally cannot condone torture" almost seems like I want to have to torture people?

fraud guy said (5:53 PM)

I did paint you with too broad of a brush. I apologize. But consider what you are thinking about contemplating, and wonder whether you even should.

charles said (6:30 PM)

Under the same hypothetical posed by Bart, I sign the order to crush testicles. Can you answer Bart's question now?

Charles,

I guess your contemplation is over, and my brush was properly broad.

Amazingly, I wouldn't condone torture, AND wouldn't approve it. Consistency must be a bugaboo of right-minded Americans.
 

Between 5:22 PM and 6:30 PM, I hypothetically took the oath of office of President of the United States -- as set forth above -- even though I would order the torture under that hypothetical, that doesn't mean I would like signing that order or that I ever wanted to have to torture people. Just as a police officer doesn't ever "want" to have to shoot to kill. Let me know if you can't understand that distinction. Maybe if I translate it into your native tongue?
 

To paraphrase the WOPR, debating Charles is a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.
 

Let me repeat and summarise my views:

Extreme hypotheticals make bad law.

Stop arguing about what you would do in extremis and pretend that this has anything to do with what the law should be (or even what is "right").

If all our laws were formed based on what would happen at the limits, we'd have the sh*ttiest, most unjust, and most inhumane laws one could possibly come up with.

I have no doubt that "Bart" would torture away to his heart's content if he thought it a "good idea" or even if it just "felt right".

And then this is what we get.

All I ask is that we be allowed to lock him up afterwards.

Cheers,
 

Very funny, rob. Anyone else?
 

Charles,

You embarrass yourself.

do you really need me to come up with a reason why the agent couldn't Xerox the list?!

There is a Kinkos in Karachi and you know it... or at least a digital camera. There were a bunch of them at Abu Ghraib. What have you been litigating for the last 12 years? Tax law for H&R Block?
 

Charles,

Why did I have a feeling you would still try to rationalize your way out of your position? The only point that I will give you, is that you said that if you were wrong (somewhere way up thread), after you approved the torture, you would resign.

Now if only the current (real) President would accept responsibility, also.

But then, maybe you would condone accepting responsibility, but because of that mistake, there would still be a risk to the country, so you couldn't abandon it in its hour of need.
 

Seriously, Charles. How can they have KSM in custody when it was widely reported they killed him in Karachi, and verified it through DNA analysis, on 9/11/2001, or did they? I don't know. No one really knows. But there were more conflicting and contradictory stories from credible news sources(the above link is just one of them) about KSM than almost any other "capture" (or whatever) besides Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted and sentenced to death in Pakistsan for the killing of Daniel Pearl. His lawyers are now using "KSM's" (or whoever he is) confession in his own defense and an upcoming appeal. So if you want to come up with wild hypotheticals, explain that one and convince me why I, or anyone else, should ever trust my own government again.
 

Just as a police officer doesn't ever "want" to have to shoot to kill.

There is no other way you are trained "to shoot". If he wants to go home in one piece from a fire fight, he " wants" to shoot to kill. If he doesn't want to have to "want" to, he better not go into LE, and if you were a cop and your partner had just been gunned down in front of you, you'd "want" to "want" to kill the perp. Maybe you spend too much time in a courtroom and the country club and not enough time in the real world because in real world situations we often don't have the luxury of "extreme hypotheticals" to guide our actions or the time to indulge in "fine distinctions".
 

Fraud Guy:

I would have selected a competent VP who would take over.

Bosch:

Of course, if it comes time to use deadly force, any police officer will want to shoot to kill then. They screen for anyone who goes around want to shoot to kill before said necessity.
 

And Charles,

Having a loaded weapon pointed at you, or a piece of lead flying at your head is an all too common "real world situation" in this country (and this world) at this time on our history. When was the last real world "ticking time bomb scenario" you can recall? In the real world, now... not the movies or on "24"? So as long as you stick to real world, commonplace events, you will probably not find much use for torture, except for the purpose of terrorizing some targeted group, like it was taught at SOA back in the day. In the case of a fire fight, you don't think, you just let the training take over and react. We don't want to do that with torture. We might as well just cut to the chase and kill them all, pre-emptively, of course. It's the only way to be safe and sure so why the hell not?
 

They screen for anyone who goes around want to shoot to kill before said necessity.

Haha. You are a funny guy. And in the few major urban areas where a screening process is employed, it's more like a donut than a sieve.
 

Charles,

Please recall the current VP chose himself.
 

Charles,

re AB's comments; how many unneccessary police shootings occurred in Giuliani's NY? In Chicago, there are currently 3 or more cases on video of off duty officers beating people and threatening potential witnesses. Our military may be up to 20% urban gang members (great screening there--well, we need warm bodies).

Power corrupts--I don't want to think what the power to torture would do to people--oh, sorry, we and the world have heard of Abu Grahib.
 

There is another reply to Bart's 3:44 question that I do not believe anyone has made. What he is saying is analogous to what an advocate of capital punishment might reply when it is pointed out that more than 120 people on death row have been exonerated since 1976. The advocate cites one case of someone who was doubtlessly guilty. The problem is that there is no legal mechanism by which to distinguish the cases beyond doubt (not merely beyond reasonable doubt). Likewise with victims of warranted and unwarranted torture. (I am assuming merely for the sake of argument that capital punishment or torture is ever warranted.) Because distinguishing these cases is impossible, torture must be prohibited in all cases. If someone thinks that there is truly a ticking time bomb situation, then let him violate the law and face the consequences. If he saves us from a ticking time bomb, then the judge will probably be lenient.
 

It's probably been brought up in the last 157 comments, but I don't see why the commentariat thinks they have to serve to educate what amounts to a professionally ineducable set of trolls arguing in clear bad faith.
 

zod said...

If you were President, would you order the testicles of a 5-year-old child of an al Qaeda member to be crushed in an attempt to extract information? Is that something you support or not? If not, why not? Are you "prepared to take the losses" or not?

How is this in the least bit realistic?

We have not done this nor do we intend on doing this.

We could get far more out of the al Qaeda through the coercive interrogation than your torture. (BTW, for those wondering what is meant by severe mental pain, this is a good example).

Even though this is pure fantasy, I'll play. No, I would not order the testicle crushing.

I am presenting the same scenario that Bart offered. He chose waterboarding. I chose testicle crushing.

No you are not.

Under my real life scenario, I ruled out torture but allowed the two real life options of non coercive and coercive interrogation actually used by CIA.

Under your fantasy scenario, you have ruled out the two real life options of non coercive and coercive interrogation which CIA would actually use to force us into a torture option that no one here wants or thinks is effective.

And, remember, crushing the testicles of children is NOT torture, which is "the intentional infliction of severe pain." The intent of waterboarding is not to inflict severe pain -- no, no, far from it. It is to extract information. Same for testicle crushing.

You completely misstate the argument in support of water boarding. Intent is irrelevant. Waterboarding, unlike crushing testicles, does not involve severe pain. Indeed, the comparison is further proof of this point.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Henry said...

There is another reply to Bart's 3:44 question that I do not believe anyone has made. What he is saying is analogous to what an advocate of capital punishment might reply when it is pointed out that more than 120 people on death row have been exonerated since 1976. The advocate cites one case of someone who was doubtlessly guilty. The problem is that there is no legal mechanism by which to distinguish the cases beyond doubt (not merely beyond reasonable doubt). Likewise with victims of warranted and unwarranted torture. (I am assuming merely for the sake of argument that capital punishment or torture is ever warranted.) Because distinguishing these cases is impossible, torture must be prohibited in all cases. If someone thinks that there is truly a ticking time bomb situation, then let him violate the law and face the consequences. If he saves us from a ticking time bomb, then the judge will probably be lenient.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

The difference between the death penalty scenario and that of the captured terrorist is that the terrorist has intelligence about other terrorists which would save lives.

I would have to disagree with your argument that, if you cannot ensure that the target is not innocent beyond any doubt, then you should not take punitive action against them. If applied to the criminal justice system, this would mean that we could not even take into custody any suspected criminal or terrorist because we can never be sure beyond all doubt that they are guilty. This is an unrealistic standard.
 

I did not argue that, if you cannot ensure that the target is not innocent beyond any doubt, then you should not take punitive action against them. I argued only that, of you cannot ensure that the target is not innocent beyond any doubt (and I do not believe that you ever can), then you should not execute him. Likewise, if you cannot ensure beyond any doubt that torture will prevent the ticking time bomb from exploding (and I do not believe that you ever can), then you should not torture him.
 

Bart dePalma said:

I would have to disagree with your argument that, if you cannot ensure that the target is not innocent beyond any doubt, then you should not take punitive action against them. If applied to the criminal justice system, this would mean that we could not even take into custody any suspected criminal or terrorist because we can never be sure beyond all doubt that they are guilty. This is an unrealistic standard.

However, the legal system has built in steps to reduce the likelihood that an innocent person is punished improperly--the need to show evidence, review by a judge, right to counsel, bail, trials, etc.

In the case of torture, the prospective detainee is subject to the punishment of torture prior to proof of guilt (the ticking time bomb scenario).
If even our judicial system, with its wonderful sets of checks and balances, can make mistakes regarding actual innocence in capital cases (see the number of convicted capital punishment cases where those convicted were completely exonorated of the charges) that can take up to years to resolve, the likelihood that innocents will be harmed, even inadvertently through non-"torture" torture methods, is high. Which is partly why many reasonable people oppose torture (c.f. the generals open letter in WaPo).

Allowing your time-bomb torture scenario to roll forward (despite its real life chances to be almost complete impossible) is returning to lynch mob rule. Allowing trained servicemen and women and intelligence operatives to act with such a mentality can only corrupt their actions.
 

Charles, can't you read? The virus is a grain virus. It'll cause mass starvation by collapsing ours and everybody else's agricultural system! But all Al-Qaeda wants is you to butcher your child.

And believe me, President RandomSequence is sure that this'll work.
 

henry /fraud guy:

You raise valid concerns about the problem of detaining and using coercive techniques against civilians mistakenly thought to be enemy combatants during a war.

Unfortunately, war always involves inadvertent civilian casualties. The trick is to minimize them while still being able to prosecute the war.

Currently, I believe the US uses a preponderance of evidence standard to determine the status of captures. This seems reasonable to me given the fog of war.

fraud guy points out that there may not be time to make a status determination in a ticking bomb scenario. I will have to pull a John McCain here.

The law of war requires a status determination but true ticking bomb scenarios will probably force the commander in the field to make tough decisions about whether the law needs to be bent or broken.

This is similar to having to make a split second decision at a checkpoint to determine whether a car rushing toward you is a civilian or an al Qaeda trying to kill you.

Life doesn't always follow the rules.
 

Bart: "Life doesn't always follow the rules."

Yes, that's exactly why you don't make blanket exceptions for rare cases before hand. You make your rules not including the exceptional cases, then you try those who break them. Your system can then give clemency because of exceptional conditions.

Tell it to the jury.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

[T]rue ticking bomb scenarios will probably force the commander in the field to make tough decisions about whether the law needs to be bent or broken.

Thank you, thank you. At least you admit that the laws are being (or should be) "bent or broken". Then I assume you have no problems when the prosecutions commence.

Cheers,
 

>>How is this in the least bit realistic?

Right back at you. I presented your Brit Hume scenario. The only thing I changed was the torture method.


>>We have not done this nor do we intend on doing this.

How do you know what "interrogation techniques" the US uses? I thought the administration "does not discuss specific techniques" because it will aid the enemy? In fact, the administration's torture apologist extraordinaire, John Yoo, used my very scenario (crushing the testicles of a child) as an example of something the President can order.

>>We could get far more out of the al Qaeda through the coercive interrogation than your torture.

First, "coercive interrogation" is a euphemism for torture. Second, how do you claim to know which torture techniques work better than others? Are you a torturer (sorry, "interrogator")?


>>Even though this is pure fantasy, I'll play.

Yes, I agree. Coming up with absurd hypotheticals like ticking-time bombs is a form a pure fantasy. I'm glad we agree.

>>No, I would not order the testicle crushing.

You should talk to Charles. You obviously don't understand the stakes involved here. Our civilization hangs in the balance.


>>I ruled out torture but allowed the two real life options of non coercive and coercive interrogation actually used by CIA.

And so forth. The rest of your comment is just your usual attempt to redefine torture and call it by different names. The fact that you that you defend torture techniques used by the Khmer Rouge, the Imperial Japanese Army, and Stalin with newspeak and doublethink probably damages your credibility among the rational.
 

@zod: How do you know what "interrogation techniques" the US uses? I thought the administration "does not discuss specific techniques" because it will aid the enemy? In fact, the administration's torture apologist extraordinaire, John Yoo, used my very scenario (crushing the testicles of a child) as an example of something the President can order.

As I pointed out earlier, it is believed that KSM was threatened with the abduction, murder or torture of his children. If that is the case, we must assume that it wasn't simply a bluff. If it were that, he would simply call it and they would lose any leverage they had built up. But he wouldn't call it if he had good reason to believe that we were willing to act that way - if he had evidence of us acting in such a manner.

I don't know - KSM may not be KSM, that incident may never have happened, our agents may be incompetent buffoons who can't predict a sequence of events as well as a random commenter on a blog. But I would be very careful about advancing the notion that we don't do such things by simple assertion. It reveals a profound lack of historical awareness.

But we are talking about Bart, who believes that our magical leadership is composed of saintly beings never before seen under the sun.
 

President RandomSequence:

Yes, I can read, and I'm sorry you thought a question whether anyone was going to be killed or not was irrelevant. I would not butcher my child, but I would gladly lay my own life down in his stead. Can you answer my hypothetical now?
 

our magical leadership is composed of saintly beings never before seen under the sun.

There's a "where the sun doesn't shine" joke in here somewhere.
 

Charles, no that wasn't my question. Laying down your life won't help - Osama has specifically asked for your childs, and I, President RandomSequence, have very secret information that only his life will save the human race!

Will you kill the human race rather than dismembering your child and mailing her by UPS to Osama? How could you not - are you some kind of monster?
 

I answered your question -- I would not butcher my child under your hypothetical -- can you answer my hypothetical now?
 

Charles, you monster! You would kill my child, my relatives and the entire human race to save your child! Why, how can I even discuss with anyone who is so monstrously narcissistic and amoral!

My heavens! I think someone with such a lack of morality should be under government surveillance - who knows what he may do to appease a monster threatening his child. He may just smuggle a nuke into New York City for Osama.
 

>>Charles, you monster!

Come on, now. Charles would hack the limbs off of infants, rape 1,000 children, and crush the testicles of 5-year-olds to get information out of detainees. He can't be all bad.
 

Bart seems to think that waterboarding can't be all that bad...

Here is some relevant citation concerning the definition of torture.

"As used in this chapter— (1) 'torture' means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) 'severe mental pain or suffering' means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from— (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (C) the threat of imminent death; or (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) 'United States' means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States."

Here is some personal testimony regarding waterboarding from a captured American pilot in the Pacific theatre in WW II (from the book, "Flyboys. See todays 'Daily Dish' for more details). The Japanese seemed to think waterboarding was a blast...

"I was given what they call the water cure. I was put on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. A towel was wrapped around my face and water was poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I'd get my breath, then they'd start all over again. I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death."

Bart?

Bart?

Just checking. Please let us all know if this fits the clear sense definition as determined by Federal Law concerning physical suffering. Please keep in mind that this very activity was actually considered a war crime in WW II...at least by us.
 

celticdragon,

Don't expect a lucid response. Bart is still sputtering over logical ties between Vietnam and our current occupation. He also forgets that it was the Republicans who opposed our intervention against the real Axis until they attacked us.
 

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