April 27th, 2009

Torturous decisions about torture

When I was in graduate school, I lived in a house with four other women. It was a large and lovely place, with five airy bedrooms, a living room and parlor, a pantry and a little yard.

The rent was a cool sixty-five dollars a month per person. That’s right—and it was a bargain even then. Altogether a wonderful find.

The house was owned by a couple who had emigrated from China at some unknown time in the past. Mrs. Chen could speak heavily-accented and halting English, but Mr. Chen could not. She came by every now and then to tend to landlady business and look over the place, but I only saw him once.

It was a memorable sight. His hands were deformed, the thumbs broken, dangling and useless. We surmised that he’d been subject to torture back in China.

There’s no telling whether we were correct in our supposition. But Mr. Chen’s thumbs often come to mind when I think about torture. And whether or not it’s true that interrogators purposely inflicted his terrible wounds on him in an effort to make him talk, it’s clear that if it were true, there would be no ambiguity, no hesitation whatsover, in applying the word “torture” to that process. His wounds were the terrible and permanent marks of profound suffering.

Those who call the controversial process known as waterboarding “torture” are not necessarily wrong. But it is disingenuous to pretend that the matter is as clear as thumbs made permanently useless. The boundaries of torture are not so well-defined, unless one draws the line at any coercive technique meant to make a prisoner uncomfortable enough to want to give out information to make it stop, a definition so strict as to make the obtaining of such information virtually impossible.

How far are we willing to go in order to keep our own hands squeaky clean in this matter? As I wrote in a previous post on a related subject:

As human beings making choices, I don’t see how we can ever avoid making moral judgments about relative good and evil…In the real world in which we live…moral choices are usually between the lesser of two evils…Failure to make such choices between relative goods/evils would make us into moral monsters of another sort, trapped in a rigid rules-bound way of thinking that would lead almost inevitably to tragic consequences.

Blogger Richard Fernandez has done a lot of thinking about torture and morality. He writes (and I’d recommend reading the entire piece) that those who take the position that torture can never be justified, even if it could save many innocent lives in this country, are at least acknowledging the moral complexity that flows from the fact that sometimes torture actually does work to protect innocent people.

Fernandez writes that those taking such a strict anti-torture stand are doing it from the safety of the hypothetical; it is uncertain what they would do if faced with a more clear and present danger:

But I am afraid that…one day a biological weapon or a dirty nuke might be set off in one or a number of American cities and as the scale of the suffering and carnage becomes clear, that many — including the persons who are now so willing to sit in judgment of the persons who drafted the legal memos which guided Bush administration interrogation policy — will demand the authorities do something, anything, to put a stop to it.

Although that certainly may be true, I think the more important point Fernandez makes is this one:

It is intellectually feasible to argue…that we ought not to use torture under any circumstances. In the same spirit, we could undertake not to employ Clinton-era “extraordinary rendition”, to which Guantanamo Bay was actually proposed as a more humane alternative; nor accept information from foreign intelligence agencies which use coercion as a method (any more than you would buy shoes made with child labor); and simply rely on such intelligence gathering methods as meet our moral standards and willingly endure the sacrifices implied.

Here Fernandez supplies context for the decision to waterboard. That context was not only the immediate post-9/11 mentality of urgency to discover whether other attacks were imminent, and to stop them before they were carried out (although that was part of it). The context included the alternatives to the setting up of Guantanamo, and the decision to waterboard three detainees there. These alternatives require asking ourselves whether it is okay to allow others to torture for us, and then for us to profit from the fruits of this forbidden tree? Or are we (and especially those advocating a strict “no physically coercive methods allowed” policy) really prepared to “endure the sacrifices implied,” which could be the death of many thousands of innocent Americans—in order to save one terrorist from some reversible and temporary suffering at the hands of others?

In assessing complex moral decisions in the real world, we must look not only at our acts, but at the consequences of our failures to act. Would it really have been more moral, for example, to have not waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed, if the result had been a successful 9/11 type attack in Los Angeles? A person might answer “yes.” But it is disingenuous to assert that such a person is clearly and unequivocally in a position that is morally superior to that of the person who would answer “no.”

There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. Are we morally responsible—and therefore guilty—for failing to stop an attack that might have been prevented by gaining information through a coercive technique such as waterboarding?

The people who drew up the rules about waterboarding seemed to have been cognizant of these and other moral complexities. They certainly did not intend or allow the United States to engage in the more extreme type of torture endured by Mr. Chen, for example. But they wanted to permit—and to give guidelines for the use of—something strong enough to extract vital information from terrorists, but weak enough to cause no permanent damage to them.

Here are some of the guidelines they drew up:

“The ‘waterboard,’ which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits,” explained the May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo. “It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has ‘credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent’; ‘substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or deny this attack’; and ‘[o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for preventing the attack.’”

This appears to be an effort to accomplish what must be done in making all moral decisions: to balance the harm done against the benefits gained. And it is by no means clear that those opposing the policies described in this memo, or the care taken to draw them up, are the ones occupying the moral high ground.

The following is particularly telling [emphasis mine]:

“In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques,” says the Justice Department memo. “Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak,’ lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’ Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will know.’”

Sooner or later, it appears we will know—whether the actions of the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress, and well as the release of the “torture memos” and the ACLU-demanded photos, will cause terrorists and other enemies to once again believe that we are too weak to protect ourselves.

82 Responses to “Torturous decisions about torture”

  1. Baklava Says:

    Neo asked, “Would it really have been more moral, for example, to have not waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed, if the result had been a successful 9/11 type attack in Los Angeles?

    No.

    I think those people are morally bankrupt. That includes you Steve J. Morally bankrupt.

  2. Baklava Says:

    http://sistertoldjah.com/archives/2009/04/27/more-on-the-disrupted-la-library-tower-terror-plot/

  3. Occam's Beard Says:

    The truly exasperating part of all this is that if (or the way Obama is going, when) another terrorist attack occurs the very same people bleating sophomoric pieties about “torture” will be blubbing about not being protected and wallowing in their victimhood (and doubtless blaming George Bush, no matter how long he’s been out of office), instead of taking steps now to avoid becoming victims.

  4. stumbley Says:

    I am reminded of a particular quote attributed to Eric Sevareid: “We are all three missed meals away from barbarism.” These faux moralists who whine about “torture” are the same folk who rail against coal-fired power plants, but when the electricity goes off, are the first to complain about the fact that their frozen food is melting, and that “Granny’s air conditioning is off and it’s 100 degrees outside.” The “rules” are all for you other folks, and only until that “rule” causes ME inconvenience…then let’s break it as fast as we can.

  5. d.eris Says:

    “Or are we (and especially those advocating a strict “no physically coercive methods allowed” policy) really prepared to “endure the sacrifices implied,” which could be the death of many thousands of innocent Americans—in order to save one terrorist from some reversible and temporary suffering at the hands of others?”

    On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law. They should be willing to accept that breaking the law, even for the greater good, is still criminal, and should nonetheless result in investigations and prosecutions if it is found that such crimes have in fact been committed.

  6. DirtyJobsGUy Says:

    Neo once called the left the “clean hands” crew. No one could blame them for the things the real world demanded of them. This and to hobble any future US war effort is their aim.

    The US/UK in recent wars have never used torture as a warning or intimidation of opponents or population groups. The questioning with the “usual formalities” was always an unsaid necessity to gain key information.

    The left was always silent about the North Vietnamese torture of US prisoners. There was never any valuable information to be gained but it was a weapon against US home front morale. Thus it had to be gruesom and often permanent.

  7. Baklava Says:

    d.eris with moral bankruptcy wrote, “On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law

    What you don’t get here d.eris is that the FINDING by the lawyers was what was LAWFUL. It is people looking in hindsite and trying to make UNLAWFUL what was determined to be lawful on Monday morning.

    My guess is that you are the kind of guy that will determine that a guy raping your wife should not be dealth with with force and that there is nothing you can do in defense.

    As… the use of force of any kind would be criminal. :)

    Good luck with that. You won’t convince a single person here that you are morally superior. You are morally bankrupt. Your wife would think so. Your kids would think so. You would lose ALL of your friends trying to convince them that you could protect a shirt from getting wrinkles.

    You are a loser.

    Just submit as the infidel you are now. We’ll be ok with it!!

  8. More sanity on the gray line « Whispers Says:

    [...] Torturous decisions about torture gets into some of the issues that a sane and reasoning person would peruse and mull over in forming an opinion on torture. Those who call the controversial process known as waterboarding “torture” are not necessarily wrong. But it is disingenuous to pretend that the matter is as clear as thumbs made permanently useless. The boundaries of torture are not so well-defined, unless one draws the line at any coercive technique meant to make a prisoner uncomfortable enough to want to give out information to make it stop, a definition so strict as to make the obtaining of such information virtually impossible. … Fernandez writes that those taking such a strict anti-torture stand are doing it from the safety of the hypothetical; … Here Fernandez supplies context for the decision. … In assessing complex moral decisions in the real world, we must look not only at our acts, but at the consequences of our failures to act. … There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission [...]

  9. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    I think d.eris’s point is well-taken in a general sense, but in this specific I support Baklava’s answer (minus the insults). Anything any American does in the name of America is a proper target of investigation. Any crime deserves its punishment. But saying that does not remove context from the moral situation. d.eris was not explicit, but I am sensing that s/he believes there were crimes which need to be punished, and that the punishment might be severe. I think that is morally blind.

    It is simple and emotionally tempting to say “torture is wrong and all else is evasion.” But without distinctions and definitions, it is rather meaningless. I might even well agree that specific acts met the definition of torture, should not have been done, and should be punished. But I would put that in the context of wartime. Without that, there is no discussion, only posturing.

    To the general point: progressives are not making moral distinctions, merely tribal ones.

    All of us should be cautious and introspective when making moral pronouncements, to guard ourselves against rationalizing, convenience, and hypocrisy. That should be a near rock-bottom foundational principle of any moral discussion. Each of us is individually responsible for this, and have permission or even duty to point it out in others. It is this consistent lack of self-questioning, perhaps more than any specific policy position, which convinces me daily of the moral vacuity of the left. When words of condemnation come out of our mouths, a quick review of whether we have ever done as badly, or whether we took the opposite position when it was our ox being gored, should be automatic.

  10. Baklava Says:

    AV wrote, “Any crime deserves its punishment

    Is self-defense a crime?

    No.

    Context IS important. If you just slashed some guys throat. You would be prosecuted for a crime. If the guy was in the middle of off’ing people (as in a mass murder), slashing the throat was justified and NOT a crime.

    Therefore, anybody who does not UNDERSTAND the use of force and anybody who calls self-defense a crime is morally bankrupt and couldn’t protect my tomatoes from getting the tomato worm.

  11. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Well, Baklava, then it wouldn’t be a crime. Like I said.

    David Kopel over at Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting discussion of the legal difference between torture and “inhuman and degrading,” with reference to the Ireland v. UK case and the “five techniques” of interrogation used against the IRA.
    http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2009_04_26-2009_05_02.shtml#1240858153

  12. Baklava Says:

    AV wrote, “It is simple and emotionally tempting to say “torture is wrong and all else is evasion.”

    Furthermore, it was determined that the actions prescribed were NOT torture. If people keep calling something torture (you seem to be AV) then they are lying. Bush repeatedly said that the U.S. does NOT torture. Now the left is inserting the word torture and that is a lie.

    If you AV want to use the word…. you are off topic. :)

  13. grackle Says:

    Part of what follows below is taken from previous posts about this issue:

    Frankly, I am more concerned with the CIA observing the rule of the law than I am about them “feeling covered.” Covered? Cover-up more likely.

    Actually, the CIA interrogators acted within the law but the above strongly implies that the writer believes otherwise. Just what law they might have broken is conveniently not mentioned. Go for the strong implication rather than cite any facts is the method. He also gets to sound very ‘law and order,’ with the “rule of law” phrase. They must eat this stuff up over at the Lefty blogs.

    I have no love for the CIA. In fact, I hope it is gradually phased out in favor of a less politicized and more competent organization. But as incompetent as the agency can be, it is still very necessary at this point and it is pretty good at keeping the legalities followed by its employees. Except for spies, I cannot recollect any CIA personnel ever found guilty of criminal wrong doing in the carrying out of their duties. The memos from the Justice Department detailing what was permissible and what was not were bound to have been gone over carefully by CIA lawyers to vet them for possible legal problems. I strongly doubt any CIA personnel will face any criminal charges stemming from this controversy.

    Perhaps Obama threw this waterboarding issue into the public arena as a gambit. If it begins to look as if Pelosi and other important allies will be hurt by the debate Obama and his MSM sycophants can always squelch the issue before things get too rough. Meanwhile, it provides a diversion from other issues in the foreign policy and economic areas.

    But I doubt that Pelosi and company will come under any real pressure. Alas, the MSM controls public opinion and the MSM will of course be united and resolute as always in applying The Template. Right now the MSM is busy righteously spreading the Torture Meme. Yes, the word is “torture,” and it will be used incessantly until the general opinion is that torture took place. Alas, for all the talk about ‘alternative news sources’ and the internet, the MSM still controls public opinion. An example takes place at the link below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AF9rV0tw6A

    Notice the talking head doesn’t hesitate for very long before inserting the Torture Meme into the interview. Notice also the person interviewed, Liz Cheney, doesn’t let her get away with it. But that’s the exception – as a rule they are able to use the Torture Meme unopposed.

    On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law. They should be willing to accept that breaking the law, even for the greater good, is still criminal, and should nonetheless result in investigations and prosecutions if it is found that such crimes have in fact been committed.

    If prosecutions are undertaken the investigation and trials could drag on for years. I think we will see a Justice Department or Special Prosecutor-type of Show Trial come out of the controversy. A bunch of folks on the Left are drooling at the prospect of a Show Trial. They know that their brethren in the MSM will take their cues and paint any part of the issue with an anti-waterboarding brush and will parrot debunked numbers and pollute the media stream with the foregone conclusion that the methods were “torture” until the end of time. Obama has his finger to the wind to see in which direction public opinion blows.

    The charge of advising torture would probably not stick but a technicality would be found – as it was with Libby in the Plame case. The legal fees of the defendants would be punitive even if they were found to be not guilty.

    The hearings that are sure to come will be used by the Democrats, who of course control the committees, for maximum propaganda effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks other than CIA personnel spent some time in jail. Not for torture, but perhaps for perjury or giving false testimony – some sort of technical infraction can always be trumped up, if need be. At the very least the legal fees will be punitive for everyone they decide to try to railroad.

  14. d.eris Says:

    baklava writes: “What you don’t get here d.eris is that the FINDING by the lawyers was what was LAWFUL. It is people looking in hindsite and trying to make UNLAWFUL what was determined to be lawful on Monday morning.” On the contrary, the question is whether what was authorized was actually covered by the law. As we are not in a science fiction movie, or a dystopian future, the investigation and potential prosecution of crimes, if it is found that any have been committed, must of necessity take place after the fact.

    As for my “moral bankruptcy” and claim to “moral superiority” it would appear that you are merely projecting and that I am your screen.

  15. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Never having had to order someone to be tortured or torturing somebody myself—unless you count the torture I myself experienced one time when I listened to Roseanne Barr sing the National Anthem–I am in the position of many of the people who have been commenting on the torture issue i.e. commenting on it from the sidelines, and in the abstract, although I might claim to have “a little skin in the game,” since I was on Capitol Hill on 9/11 and evacuated, commuted past a still smoldering Pentagon to go to work the next day, and was just lucky enough during the Anthrax attacks to be working across Capitol Hill from colleagues who were possibly exposed and put on CIPRO, and for a number of years toward the end of my career doing heavy duty research for the government, I devoted an increasing amount of my time to the issues of terrorism, and chemical, biological and radiological warfare.

    As we have seen, you can very easily get involved in endless hand-wringing over the ethical issues involved in “torture” of terrorists, which can be very complex, indeed, if you want them to be. Not being a Talmudic scholar, for me this is a pretty simple issue.

    On the one side we have the Muslim terrorists, who are religious fanatics whose views are solidly grounded in the Qur’an, Hadiths and Sira and the life, actions and sayings of Muhammad, and are convinced that they have a righteous, eternal, imperative command from Allah to kill, enslave or convert all “unbelievers.” Unbelievers who, the Qur’an tells them, are “unclean,” destined to be tortured and burned in fire forever for their obstinate, defiant, rejection of the one true faith of Islam and the one true god of Allah; who are labeled by the Qur’an the “vilest of creatures,” and thus deserving of even the most sadistic torture or death that the Jihadis can dream up.

    According to the Qur’an, Hadiths, Sira, Islamic jurisprudence, history and settled tradition, Jihad against unbelievers is the duty of every observant Muslim, and for these “fighters in the way of Allah,” killing unbelievers is a holy act, sanctified by Islam and–contrary to the comforting fantasies apologists for Islam tell gullible unbelievers–according to the twisted logic of many Muslim ideologues, there are really no “innocents” or “civilians” among us unbelievers; men, women, children, the old and the young, in uniform or out, all are soldiers in the great, eternal war between the House of Islam and the House of War; so, despite what they might try to make us believe and what many of us want to believe, for the Jihadis, everyone who is an unbeliever is “fair game,” wherever they are and whoever they may be.

    On the other hand we have us, the “unbelievers,” trying to mind our business and pursue the peaceful enjoyment of our lives, then suddenly, it seems, thrust by Islam into a war with the stakes—if we can see clearly enough– being our freedoms, our very existence, and the existence of our Western civilization. Although the Muslims have come up with every excuse imaginable to justify their Jihad, the fact of the matter is that it is not anything we unbelievers might have done or not done, in the past or today, it is simply the fact that we are “unbelievers”—and, as such, are the chief obstacle to Islam’s Allah–given command and right to conquer and rule the entire world and all it’s peoples–that is the reason Muslims want to destroy, enslave or convert us, and they do so because Allah commands it.

    In this circumstance, in this existential war to the finish, I believe that the forces trying to protect us and win this war should have pretty much free rein to do whatever it takes to extract information from any Muslim terrorist we capture, (terrorists whose rights under the relevant Geneva Conventions, precisely because they are “terrorists,” are slim to none), and that on the spectrum of possible actions, the ones we have taken so far are laughably mild—loud music, lights on all through the night, cold cells, and the water boarding of just three extremely high value Jihadis on several occasions. Water boarding, I might add, that is a standard part of the training that has routinely been given to tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel during their training in “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE); water boarding of Muslim terrorists that the Congress was briefed about some 30 times in the past, and made no objections to.

    It seems to me that, as was stated the memos Neo has quoted from, the severity of allowed interrogation techniques should escalate as the information we are trying to extract escalates in value and time-sensitivity. To be quite frank, if a U.S. city or a large number of our people were in immanent danger of an attack, and we had good reason to believe that some Muslim terrorist we had in custody had the information to stop the attack, practically any interrogation method should be acceptable, and the specific kinds of “torture” we are discussing here are far, far below anything like that level of “torture.”

    The moral calculus that opponents of such “torture” employ, a calculus that is willing to trade say, a few, a hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand, or a city full of U.S. citizens in return for “occupying the moral high ground,” I find totally unrealistic, suicidal and ludicrous in the extreme. If, as some have said, the terrorists are trying to get us to “abandon our principles” (however they might be envisioned by those making these arguments), it seems to me that, if the choice is, stick to our principles and have hundreds of children in an elementary school killed or traumatized for life as happened at Beslan, or a city or cities destroyed, or be defeated, enslaved or obliterated as a people and as a civilization, or–as in WWII–temporarily abandoning our “principles,” if we are forced to, to win; I say, do whatever it takes to win, and worry about the hand-wringing and mea culpas after we have won.

    Those who make the “moral high ground” arguments would probably believe that we “abandoned our principles” during WWII when we did things like used flamethrowers on Japanese holdouts in caves, the bombing of Dresden, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But, as today, the evils we were fighting against were far worse, far greater than the evils we may have committed to defeat them, and as a result of the actions we took, we are here and the Third Reich with its death camps is gone, we are here and Imperial Japan and it’s Bataan Death March are no more, and Mussolini and his Fascist state are dead and buried; the world is a far better place, we are—as of now—still free, and, moreover, we have not become the Nazis we defeated, quite the contrary.

  16. Baklava Says:

    You have no argument.

    You call something torture that was determinded not to be.

    You do more than torture. You let lots of innocents die from negligence.

    You couldn’t protect my greenhouse plants from getting frozen…

  17. Baklava Says:

    My comment was for d.eris. (the one who wants to spread misery and mayhem)

  18. gcotharn Says:

    Re complex moral decisions

    Richard Fernandez also (a couple of years ago) pointed to enhanced interrogation being a humane protector for a combatant. To wit: if there is greater chance of a potential prisoner providing intelligence value, there is greater chance soldiers will risk their lives to capture him, and lesser chance soldiers will kill him from distance with ammunition or ordnance. Thus, the proper metric includes:

    Live prisoner vs. dead combatant

    as opposed to merely:

    interrogated vs. tortured.

    Second:

    If waterboarding is torture, then we must prosecute Americans who waterboard our own military personnel during training. If waterboarding is torture, then it must be evenly prosecuted as torture.

    Third:

    I tire of the utopian subtext surrounding treatment of prisoners. Sometimes prison gets cold. Is that torture? Chain gangs? Tents in Arizona? Cold showers? Rough soap? Bad food? Inferior sheet thread count?

    I do lots of stuff which, in the moment of doing it, feels torturous. KSM is welcome to feel a bit tortured at times. We all do.

  19. Occam's Beard Says:

    The moral calculus that opponents of such “torture” employ, a calculus that is willing to trade say, a few, a hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand, or a city full of U.S. citizens in return for “occupying the moral high ground,” I find totally unrealistic, suicidal and ludicrous in the extreme.

    Absolutely. The irony is that the people opposing “torture” largely live in the major U.S. cities (DC, NY, Boston, Chicago, San Franciso, LA, Seattle) that are the most likely targets.

    In this connection, I’ve often marveled at Hollywood’s denizens opposing efforts against terrorism, proof positive that they don’t have two brain cells to rub together. On 9/11 terrorists struck (or attempted to strike) symbols of American economic, political, and military power. What’s left? Cultural influence, as exemplified by …Hollywood! Plus, as a bonus, Hollywood is full of Jews and homosexuals, and is legendary for licentiousness and depravity. On top of which, taking out an Academy Awards ceremony, and killing hundreds of internationally-known actors and actresses, would create a colossal PR splash. I’m amazed they haven’t (so far as I know) tried to do it yet.

  20. bill Says:

    Your point that we can never say never is a good one. A neighbor of mine is going to be sentenced this week for having sex with a fifteen year old girl. I think that he should go to jail, because he should be punished for that offence, but I do not think that he should forever be branded as a sex offender, because he is not a serial offender. Yet – my daughter is about the same ago. If it were my daughter involved, I’d want him in jail forever. Circumstances affect judgement.

    We use reasonable and sufficient force, but we can find it very hard to know what reasonable and sufficient force is. Would we kill one person to save ten million? Yes. Would we kill ten million to save one? No. Somewhere in that scale, it is no longer reasonable to use force on one side to save the other side. We don’t know if one more water-boarding session, or one more session with the thumbscrews, or one more visit to the Iron Maiden will yield the desired results. We don’t know if any number will. We work on the assumption that the person being tortured has the information we seek, and that torture will elicit it. The guidelines from the CIA are intended to limit what can be done so that it only happens to people who are likely to have that information. Sometimes, they do. Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging out with the wrong people.

    As a black and white statement, torture is wrong and reprehensible, the act of a sub-human civilization. We don’t torture. In practice, we would be unlikely to stop at any limit, or want our government to stop at any limit, if we thought the likely alternative was devastation of our people, our cities. But – you’d better be damned sure, and afterward, you’d better own up to it.

    Neither of which happened, did it?

  21. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I would appreciate it if the non-torture argument were to be specific about what hits we’re supposed to take instead.

  22. Artfldgr Says:

    hotair.com/archives/2009/04/22/obamas-dni-reminds-obama-that-enhanced-interrogation-worked/

    The New York Times, which got a copy of the memo, also notices some odd redactions from the version released by the White House:

    Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
    “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

    In other words, the Obama administration covered up the fact that even their own DNI acknowledges that the interrogations produced actionable and critical information. When Dick Cheney demanded the release of the rest of the memos relating that information, he wasn’t just going on a fishing expedition. Cheney filed a request to declassify those memos in March, and the CIA has yet to decide on his request, but we can no longer doubt that records exist showing the success of those interrogations.

  23. Baklava Says:

    Excellent excellent video

    http://www.floppingaces.net/2009/04/27/liz-cheney-slams-msnbc-host-norah-odonnell-over-the-use-of-harsh-interrogation-tactics-on-terrorists/

    Liz Cheney slams Norah O’Donnell

  24. dane Says:

    A couple of observations.

    As others have said on this thread – we have never used very coercive methods to obtain peremptory information.

    I find it laughable that liberals would recoil and look to prosecute if guards threw feces and bodily fluids on the prisoners, but when the prisoners do it to the guards they raise not a peep.

    I am opposed to the death penalty (possibly from my catholic upbringing) but I have no problem using very coercive methods on certain prisoners. Those people that not only profess they want to kill us but were captured in the process of trying to do so.

    I think under the rules (they call them laws) that the liberals define torture I have been a victim of it every time some 19 year old idiot (whose car stereo cost more than his car) pulls into the gas station, gets out of the car and leaves the door open with the stereo still playing (and it ain’t Sinatra or the Eagles) while he goes in and shops.

    If some terrorist cell blows up a nuclear reactor expect to see the likes of Sarandon, Penn, et al telling us (from Canada or Venezuela), “See I told you nuclear energy was dangerous.”

    As far as people saying they would NEVER utilize the techniques we have to gain information….

    I have no problem with it as long as they are willing to take PERSONAL responsibility for any deaths that may occur because of their stance.

    The liberals all screamed that not only the response but the preparation for Katrina proved Bush hated black people. If the terrorists blow up Disneyworld would they be crying that Obama hates white people?

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    My comment was for d.eris. (the one who wants to spread misery and mayhem)

    Interesting you should say so…

    Eris – “Strife” – is the Greek goddess of strife, her name being translated into Latin as Discordia. Her Greek opposite is Harmonia, whose Latin counterpart is Concordia. Homer equated her with the war-goddess Enyo.

    Nyx was the other goddess of strife, but she was the one “kinder to men”. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel.

    ah but Eris, “one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due” hesiod

    Strife whose wrath is relentless, she is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier. She also has a son whom she named Strife.

    Eris (‘Strife’) was Typhon’s escort in the melée, Nike (‘Victory’) led Zeus to battle.

  26. Vieux Charles Says:

    Two years ago the radical left and legislators John Conyers sought to impeach George Bush for use of warrantless NSA wiretaps. Senator Russ Feingold stated that Bush’s illegal wiretapping “is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors” ” [impeachment is] an option that we could look at.” MoveOn.org, Diane Feinstein, Carl Levin and Ron Wyden all called for “a thorough and independent investigation of the Bush administration’s allegedly illegal wiretapping activities”. Yet today, even though President Obama continues to run the exact same NSA wiretapping program, these people are now silent. What more proof that they were never concerned about the rule of law, or human rights – that these are vile political hacks who are only interested in inflicting damage to the right wing, while distracting the public from their own incompetence.

    The torture issue is no different. While President Obama’s massive anti-economic scheme begins to unravel, his foot soldiers in the legislature will distract and distort.

    In 2008 Obama ran against Bush – he knows no other strategy.

  27. Artfldgr Says:

    the word torture is not sufficient to encompass all we try to put into it. perforce there is a better word, but there isnt.

    for torture spans the acts of a sexual sadist over days with their victim who they slowly and play with their hope and even their reason as to purpose and reason, reveling in how the victim cant comprehend it.

    and it spans the acts of a state in seeking specific information from a person in a position to give it which would expressly save lives, or some other more worthy cause than personal pleasure of the most heinious kind.

    it makes it very easy to play with the term, and the purposes and make it of no real meaning as there is no real distinction.

    in fact go to the etymology, and its a rather new word to describe what your doing, not the reasons why, or the absolute symbol of it. and interestingly enough its related to thwart.

    depending on reason and how its applied its a very different beast. like trying to use cat to really encompass a bengal tiger and a orange tabby in the yard…

    movies like to make it appear in its worst form. the bad guys actually dont know what they want, and they dont know if their victim is who they should be bothering with, but see it as some form of insurance. surely thats how the left paints all of it.

    the movie version either has the sadist angle above, or the empty useless angle in which someone gets hurt because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    then there is the reason that it was used in russia, or in despotic states.. which is not to get answers from the one being tortured, who is worthless and incidental, but to get milage out of that towards all the others who dont know who is next.

    before i go forward, i would like to draw a point here.

    the sexual and murderous sadist does not want their thing to be known. other than perhaps a cat and mouse game, and perhaps that it would make their victims more scared and so more enjoyable (presumptively).

    however the example reason exists in the other forms we are discussing, but unlike the other, example or punishment is not the purpose.

    so we do have some distinctions here… a means of classification…

    you then have the mobsters, or the gambling casinoes, which are another example of examples AND punishment. in a world absent of tort and rule of law, such is how we protect and insure our interests by letting everyone know how serious we are about them

    and then you get to where and what we are discussing which is to aquire information.

    it gets interesting here, because the idea of minimal treatment to a purpose kind of twists things into a harder territory than the simple ones i have read here.

    for instance, the iraqi torture may be to get some answers, but nothing specific, and by means of end, its intended ot intimidate the enemy. to make the soldiers think twice about engaging and failing.

    its value other than fear is almost non existent.

    however the actions of the US is way more complicated, as there is a wide range after that fact. a key point is harm, permanence, etc.

    for instance, what other methods which cause harm were open to them?

    though these things were done as many as 266 times on someone, they obviously suffer no long term physical damage. (mental is another story).

    is there a distinction? i believe so, since this end result negates this as a means to put fear into an enemy. your enemy is not afraid of this compared to rats in a cage on your belly, or laying on bamboo thats sharpened and growing, or ant hills.

    there is even a time component to it. water boarding is fast… not slow… and that makes a difference on memory and mental damage.

    there are other ways to torture someone that people would find even harder to understand, but in actuallity they are worse.

    you imobilize someone, and you either let water drip slowly for hours on their forhead… or you put a rock on their head. no hitting. not a big heavy one. just rest it on their forhead. sensory isolation can work too..

    but they all result in the subject going mad. becuase they work with a time component.

    so there must have been some nuanced thoughts as to the actions. as in.. what can we do, that will work when nothing else will. that is not a drug, and does not result in any permanent harm to the subject other than what is unavoidable and mediated by the selection of methods.

    water boarding when examined and compared with the panoply of purpose, and the panoply of inventive choice of methods, becomes a different looking beast than when there is only one word, like ‘cat’ and no distinctions are afforded.

  28. Artfldgr Says:

    my deepest apologies for the second paragraph. it was still born in the making and i regret the pain that it caused :)

  29. grackle Says:

    bill Says:
    April 27th, 2009 at 4:16 pm
    Your point that we can never say never is a good one. A neighbor of mine is going to be sentenced this week for having sex with a fifteen year old girl. I think that he should go to jail, because he should be punished for that offence, but I do not think that he should forever be branded as a sex offender, because he is not a serial offender. Yet – my daughter is about the same ago. If it were my daughter involved, I’d want him in jail forever. Circumstances affect judgement.

    What the writer is saying here is that he would not want the same protection for his neighbor’s daughter as he would for his own. I am searching for a word other than ‘hypocritical’ but I am not finding it.

    BTW, we the readers do NOT know that this fellow is only a one-time offender. These perverts usually have a history before AND after a discovered and prosecutable offense. Laws to register these perverts and keep track of their whereabouts were enacted in order to provide for the protection of their potential victims, not simply to punish them. I wonder if the writer is aware that sex criminals repeat their crimes at a high rate. And the writer has no legal duty to protect his neighbor’s daughters, while the President has a duty to protect all citizens.

    We use reasonable and sufficient force, but we can find it very hard to know what reasonable and sufficient force is. Would we kill one person to save ten million? Yes. Would we kill ten million to save one? No. Somewhere in that scale, it is no longer reasonable to use force on one side to save the other side. We don’t know if one more water-boarding session, or one more session with the thumbscrews, or one more visit to the Iron Maiden will yield the desired results.

    After he leaves off the hypothetic arithmetic – ten million vs. one? One vs. ten million? – the writer equates a harmless procedure, waterboarding, with real torture that causes physical harm – “thumbscrews” and the “Iron Maiden.” It’s typical for the anti-waterboarding folks to lump waterboarding with real torture as if there were no difference.

    We don’t know if any number will. We work on the assumption that the person being tortured has the information we seek, and that torture will elicit it. The guidelines from the CIA are intended to limit what can be done so that it only happens to people who are likely to have that information. Sometimes, they do. Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging out with the wrong people.

    The memos were only partly about WHO could be waterboarded – it turns out only 3 detainees were – but were also WHAT could or couldn’t be done. And none of the 3 were merely “in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging out with the wrong people.” They are real terrorists that were a real threat. He also glosses over that the intelligence extracted from these thugs saved American lives and foiled terror plots.

    As a black and white statement, torture is wrong and reprehensible, the act of a sub-human civilization. We don’t torture.

    Agreed.

    In practice, we would be unlikely to stop at any limit, or want our government to stop at any limit, if we thought the likely alternative was devastation of our people, our cities. But – you’d better be damned sure, and afterward, you’d better own up to it.

    Neither of which happened, did it?

    But the Bush administration WAS “sure” and subsequent revelations of foiled plots and the current opinions of former CIA Directors has given proof to that sureness. And own up to what? Staying inside the law? Waterboarding the 3 terrorists did not break any law. And this public disclosure has provided the terrorists potentially crippling insight into our interrogation methods. What a shame

  30. d.eris Says:

    “Eris – “Strife” – is the Greek goddess of strife, her name being translated into Latin as Discordia.” Eris is the goddess of Discordianism, the Greeks and Romans were mere idolators. In addition, the Artful Dodger is a fictional pickpocket and baklava is a pastry . . .

  31. Mick Says:

    The writer makes some interesting philosophical and rhetorical comments, but didn’t the US sign the Geneva Convention? And wouldn’t we expect Sadam and others of his ilk to honor thes contract? Aren’t we -the USA a beacon in terms of how prisoners are to be treated? It may not be convenient, but I believe we stand on moral high ground in this arena, as examples to the rest of the world, and I am proud of our stance – not of our weaseling around signed treaties and agreements.

  32. FredHjr Says:

    Any way you slice it and dice it, the essential logic of those who hold the view that we must maintain the purity of the rule “no torture, ever” is that the faultless application of that rule trumps the value of human life itself.

    Human life means absolutely nothing to these people. That’s why the socialists have no problems with abortion even to late term. Moreover, they take it even further, in never, to my knowledge, condemning the practice of torture within socialist experiments and societies past, present, and, dare I say, future.

    They hate Christianity and Judaism because those two religions posit the sacredness of life.

    Idealism is absolutism. I would never put my life in the hands of an absolutist.

    I agree with Baklava: these people are morally bankrupt.

  33. nyomythus Says:

    http://earth2obama.org/?p=397#more-397

    Christopher Hitchens On C-SPAN April 26, 2009

    Good discussion on water boarding, and the current administrations stance on torture and foreign policy.

  34. Oblio Says:

    Yesterday, I had the rare pleasure of having my 19 year old son argue to me the limitations of the categorical imperative in the uncertainty of its correct application. I sort of followed along, but to tell you the truth, my Kant is more than a little rusty. Today, Neo raises the all important question of context for evaluating the moral dimensions of an action.

    I am grateful for the thoughtful comments of many, in particular Wallo Dalbo and artfldgr. This is moral seriousness, as opposed to the bumper sticker slogans coming from the Left. We have argued here before that to allow others to die in order to protect your own self-image as an innocent is the act of a moral monster.

    On the basis of what I have seen so far, the lawyers and the rest of the Bush Administration deserve immense credit for their moral seriousness and scruples in this matter.

    Given their responsibilities, the risks, and the context of the times, they acted in the highest and best tradition of civilization. I doubt we can find anyone who has ever behaved better in similar circumstances.

    We should be starting a national legal defense fund to defend them all from persecution.

  35. FredHjr Says:

    Oblio,

    I had similar problems with Kant’s categorical imperative many years ago when I was studying philosophy. I decided, way back then, that I would rather be guilty of a “moral wrong” in the defense of the lives of others. In fact, if by entering Hell itself I could save thousands or millions of lives I would risk it, confident that in the end my Savior would uphold me and judge the ones who sanctimoniously preen in very harsh terms.

  36. Occam's Beard Says:

    It may not be convenient, but I believe we stand on moral high ground in this arena, as examples to the rest of the world, and I am proud of our stance – not of our weaseling around signed treaties and agreements.

    If you’re captured by Muslim extremists, I for one totally support our taking the moral high ground, and not weaseling around signed treaties and agreements – while they saw kneel on your back and saw your head off with a dull knife. Damn we’ll feel good about ourselves after that. We didn’t play lousy pop music at high volume. No sir. We didn’t make him cold, or hot, embarrassed, or uncomfortable. No sir. He was nice and comfy when we politely asked him where you held, while you were…getting your head sawn off. Maybe we’ll have a party to celebrate our moral superiority. Why not? Party! Party!

  37. Occam's Beard Says:

    In all seriousness, one aspect of the psychopathology that is liberalism is the inability to perform the exchange of variables test: if it were you on the other side of the situation, what would you want done? Liberals subconsciously presume that someone else will bear the hardships their stupid decisions engendered. Someone else will encounter John Henry Abbott, someone else will have to deal with Mumia al Jabongie, or whatever his name is, someone else will have to deal with Tookie Williams, someone else will have to endure being brutally murdered by Muslims, while they themselves will sit in their parlors with a snifter of brandy and ponder the fine philosophical points raised. It is profoundly immoral perspective, because it flunks the exchange of variables test. Would liberals adopt such a bloodless, sophomoric philosophical detachment if they or a loved one were in peril? I doubt it. I doubt it very very much.

    One should decide the proper course of action in a scenario before one knows one’s own role in it, and with the full realization that one might be the victim. Leave aside the definition of ‘torture.” (For my money, anything we do to our own troops does not constitute torture.) Let’s say that anything short of a night in the Hilton constitutes torture. Would I support torturing a terrorist’s children to make him divulge my whereabouts? No. I would give up my own life before sanctioning that. Would I support torturing the terrorist himself to reveal my whereabouts? Bet your ass.

  38. Oblio Says:

    Mick, just how “inconvenient” would it need to be before you would give up the absolutism of your position? You can’t know when you are standing in a position of safety–that was Fernandez’s point.

    Perhaps you should have said, “It may allow horror and butchery, but I believe we stand on moral high ground in this arena, as examples to the rest of the world, and I am proud of our stance – not of our weaseling around signed treaties and agreements.” Does your rhetoric feel a little less comfortable now?

    Fred, I think the simplest answer is that Kant’s ideas about personal ethics don’t translate very easily into the world of war and raison d’etat. And you rightly point out that every system of revolutionary (aka “progressive”) ethics begins by violating the categorical imperative.

  39. jon baker Says:

    “The rent was a cool sixty-five dollars a month per person.”

    In 2002-2003 I lived in a nice old house in Waco, TX. The house was built in the early 1900′s. No doubt middle class in its day. Awesome house. Bad Neighborhood. My HALF of the rent was $150. There was one door to door drug salesman that came by one day while only my roomate was there-my roomate turned him down- I would have turned him in. One of the neighbors took a bullet in the head across the street one night- I heard the shot. My roomate’s dog took a bullet in the back yard before I moved in. Stray round possibly. The celebratory firecrackers at New Years had projectiles, if you know what I mean……etc…After my roomate and I left- the house sold for $18,000.

  40. Occam's Beard Says:

    Jon Baker, I’m getting a communication…from the spirit world…that this was in a solidly Democratic area.

    Am I right?

  41. Oblio Says:

    Two days ago, I saw a passenger get out of a van at a stop light and cross a lane of traffic so that she (I am pretty sure it was a she) could spray mace or pepper spray in the face of a homeless person holding a sign. In fact, she sprayed him twice.

    The van sped off, with the driver and the passenger laughing. My wife started across against the red light and chased them down at a speed that would probably not leave the police thanking us. I called in a 911 report of the assault and when we got close enough, read off the license plate, make model, color and location of the van for the police. There ensued a certain amount of cat and mouse driving, which ended when the van made a hairpin turn and sped off on the highway at upwards of 80 mph.

    Two observations:

    1. There are some vicious predators out there.

    2. I do not think the driver and passenger were Republicans.

  42. grackle Says:

    The writer makes some interesting philosophical and rhetorical comments, but didn’t the US sign the Geneva Convention?

    Yes, the US signed the Geneva Conventions. But the waterboarding controversy is about terrorist murderers, not soldiers, and terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Conventions.

    And wouldn’t we expect Sadam and others of his ilk to honor thes contract? Aren’t we -the USA a beacon in terms of how prisoners are to be treated? It may not be convenient, but I believe we stand on moral high ground in this arena, as examples to the rest of the world, and I am proud of our stance – not of our weaseling around signed treaties and agreements.

    Yes, we would certainly expect Saddam “and others of his ilk” to abide by the Geneva Conventions – not that Saddam would have cared about such expectations.

    To reiterate: No “signed treaties” or “agreements” have been violated(“weaseling around”) by the waterboarding of these murderers. No such “treaties” or “agreements” exist.

  43. Occam's Beard Says:

    The essential feature of the Geneva Protocols is reciprocity. If a combatant doesn’t extend the protections of the Geneva Protocols to his prisoners, he cannot claim them for himself. Simple as that. And God knows the Muslims don’t extend Geneva protections to our men that they take prisoner.

  44. Lance de Boyle Says:

    Not that anyone asked, but…

    I think the definition of torture hinges on what is horrifying.

    I suspect that we wince at a hanging, but nearly feint when seeing a beheading video.

    Rope, choking, we know. Mundane.

    Having the neck cut to the backbone, and the head peeled off backwards…….This does not seem human. Horror.

    A man has info on an imminent bombing.

    1. Shoot him in the guts and say, “Talk, or you get another, just like the other.”

    Nasty. But is that torture? I believe most folks woould say No. Gunshot is common. We’ve seen it a thousand times on TV.

    2. Pull his eye out with a pliers. “Talk, or you’ll lose the other.”

    This is torture—not because it is more painful than a bullet in the guts. But because it evokes horror. Bodies are not supposed to be dissected.

    To those whose business is horror—solders—waterboarding is nothing. To those—most of us—for whom a large insect is horrifying—waterboarding is torture.

    Perhaps I have some sort of disability, but I can’t see the logic in claiming that torture is never moral, if following that principle results in death. Morality is supposed to make us better persons,

  45. Gray Says:

    d.eris:

    On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law.

    So I save your ass and in thanks you indict me.

    That is certainly consistent with the way the dirty, dirty leftists have treated soldiers and veterans:

    http://faxmentis.org/html/kipling.html

    “An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

  46. Thomass Says:

    d.eris Says:

    “On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law.”

    The problem is that what was done does not violate the law. The definition has simply been expanded to cover it… by a group… for political reasons…

  47. strcpy Says:

    Well, since others are also resurrecting this early post:

    “On the other hand, those who argue that the end justifies the means here must equally accept that the employment of unlawful means toward that end, even if they are successful, of itself, does not exempt them from the rule of law. They should be willing to accept that breaking the law, even for the greater good, is still criminal, and should nonetheless result in investigations and prosecutions if it is found that such crimes have in fact been committed.”

    Why is that? There is nothing *forcing* that other than an artificial rule from a governing party.

    For what you are replying too – there is no choice but to conform to the idea that your lack of action results in others taking advantage of it. This is true even in the morally wrong case of “he didn’t duck when I pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger” – especially when you have the chance to duck. That the gun man is still legally responsible doesn’t negate the fact that you had to suffer the consequences of not ducking. It is true that the gunman needs to be punished for his actions and is wholly responsible for them, yet it is also true that you would have lived if you had bothered to duck.

    Further I think many of us would be more inclined to agree (or at least not complain) if past presidents with a “D” after their name were going to be held to the same standard. They are not, indeed the are honored for worse than what those being prosecuted have done. I also want that when the Big-O goes for exceptional rendition we hold him, his lawyers, and his CIA agents accountable for whatever is done in their name and fully prosecute them too (along with Clinton who did more of that than any President so far).

    That being said if it was *real* torture I would tend to agree also. As is when Obama OK’s this in the next few months (most likely with a rendition policy that would make the strongest neo-con from the last eight years drool in envy) it will bee all great and dandy.

  48. Logern Says:

    In assessing complex moral decisions in the real world, we must look not only at our acts, but at the consequences of our failures to act.

    Suppose the policies of Bush and Cheney Inc. kept that one Pakistani neighbor or maybe a second cousin of bin Laden mad enough at the U.S. to keep from revealing the whereabouts of bin Laden one day sometime in the past?

    Yup, of course, anything is possible.

  49. Cylar Says:

    Suppose the policies of Bush and Cheney Inc. kept that one Pakistani neighbor or maybe a second cousin of bin Laden mad enough at the U.S. to keep from revealing the whereabouts of bin Laden one day sometime in the past?

    What would it be like if we lived in a world without hypotheticals?

    Your comment presumes that valuable intelligence is being witheld from the US, because its policies made someone “mad.”

    Considering that every little thing that this nation does probably angers someone, somewhere…I’d say your reasoning would paralyze our entire foreign policy if applied.

  50. br549 Says:

    Seems to me the position taken by the left is always that of the observer. They are always once removed from the action. “Above” and outside the ring. The term Monday morning quarterback also comes to mind.

    It is very easy to wear the shoes of someone like that. To take the “higher moral ground” as they see it. As good old Juan said on O’Reilly last night, we can’t let their morals dictate ours. The heat of those bright studio lights is probably considered torture by many.

    I see those same types huddled in the last row of a flight 98 screaming in terror, crying uncontrollably, but otherwise attempting nothing to stop what was surely coming.

    The left attacks their own. They attack those who they know would not respond to them in the manner proven by our real enemies. It is false bravado.

    Would the Juan’s of the world have rushed that cockpit door? Volunteer for Iraq? Rushed into the towers in an attempt to get others out?

    Can you see Reid doing that? Dodd? Pelosi? Obama?
    Schuster? Can you see any of them doing the many unpleasant things required at times, besides condemning, persecuting and prosecuting those who did – the following Monday morning?

  51. br549 Says:

    On another thought, Anderson Cooper and his tea bagging comment come to mind. Can you imagine it the other way round, and Hannity, or Limbaugh, or any right wing thinker had said that about the left? Of course, someone on the right would never had spoken in that manner, but I digress.

    Anderson Cooper is in need of his own street question of “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

  52. Trimegistus Says:

    “Waterboarding” leaves its subjects with no harm that can’t be cured with a towel. Calling it “torture” is absurd — and insults everyone around the world who genuinely has suffered real torture.

  53. d.eris Says:

    Strcpy writes: “many of us would be more inclined to agree (or at least not complain) if past presidents with a “D” after their name were going to be held to the same standard. when the Big-O goes for exceptional rendition we hold him, his lawyers, and his CIA agents accountable for whatever is done in their name and fully prosecute them too (along with Clinton who did more of that than any President so far).”

    Sounds like a good start to me. If the law were upheld in this country and applied equally to career politicians a large part of congress and a significant number of judges and executives would probably be in prison, and we’d be better off for it.

  54. grackle Says:

    Suppose the policies of Bush and Cheney Inc. kept that one Pakistani neighbor or maybe a second cousin of bin Laden mad enough at the U.S. to keep from revealing the whereabouts of bin Laden one day sometime in the past?

    We certainly don’t want to make them angry at us. They might start wanting to cut off our heads, drag our bodies behind jeeps past cheering crowds, blow us up, fly aircraft into our skyscrapers or destroy Israel. Better to be nice and apologize so maybe they’ll start liking us.

    If a Muslim turns bin Laden in it won’t be because of any approval of US foreign policy.

    Our strategy of interrogation has been revealed. It’s a strategy of deceiving the subject into fear and revulsion, to make them think they might drown, to make them believe they might be beaten, to convince them they are about to be attacked by a (vicious? poisonous?) caterpillar. The drowning, beating and caterpillar attack never actually occurs, mind you, only the threat.

    Essentially, it’s a policy of deception. No harm ever really comes to the detainee. But now they know. Future interrogators can pour water, play patty-cake with chins, throw bodies against specially-cushioned walls, produce ominous-looking caterpillars all they want but deception only works if the subject doesn’t know that it’s all play-acting.

    Has it occurred to anyone else that if another 9/11(or worse) is about to happen sometime in the future that future interrogators may then have to truly inflict harm in order to avert it? We had a way of making them reveal intelligence without harming them and now we don’t. What a shame.

  55. Baklava Says:

    d.eris wrote, “Sounds like a good start to me. If the law were upheld …

    What you fail (I think purposefully and with infantile attitude) to understand is the LAW WAS UPHELD.

    It is YOU and leftists like you who want to redefine something as torture that was determined by lawyers not to be torture.

    Definition and determination was needed to make sure that the LAW WAS FOLLOWED.

    And the the d.eris’s of the world come out like infants discombobulating the English language and without regard for future precedent or national security and CAUSE MISERY AND MAYHEM with their actions.

    The blood of terror is on YOUR hands in the future d.eris.

    And you couldn’t protect my lunch from getting stolen from this community refrigerator. That’s how out of touch you are with security. I hold nothing but contempt for you and the misery and suffering that you cause.

  56. Baklava Says:

    d.eris,

    Here’s the question on everybody’s mind. Well… mine anyway.

    If you were a CIA agent, and you actually had Osama bin Laden – who has future plots in mind and has people executing said plots in the future, what would you do:
    a) Would you want a determination as to what was legal so that you could apply those techniques to get him to speak to SAVE lives?

    b) Would you just sit him in a room and talk to him to try to get him to speak to save lives?

    c) Some other method – please describe.

    Notice: None of the options was torture because we didn’t and your infantileness of redefintion doesn’t make blue into green. So CHOOSE from the list above. And if you need help – imagine that this guy has your child and you want your child back.

    Do you pick a) or are you a spreader of misery and mayhem???

  57. d.eris Says:

    “Would you want a determination as to what was legal?” Naturally, but my CIA agent alter-ego would also want that determination to be correct and actually within the bounds of the law. Whether it was is the question being raised in the current national debate.

  58. Baklava Says:

    d.eris wrote, “Naturally, but my CIA agent alter-ego would also want that determination to be correct and actually within the bounds of the law

    It was. Infant.

    Monday morning quarterback.

    You couldn’t protect my food in my freezer from getting bacteria.

    And you didn’t choose a)

    You chose more misery and mayhem. You are for terror.

  59. Occam's Beard Says:

    “Would you want a determination as to what was legal?” Naturally, but my CIA agent alter-ego would also want that determination to be correct and actually within the bounds of the law.

    So all we need now is a “correct-ometer” or “correctness dowsing stick” that infallibly indicates that a determination is “correct” today, and will be considered “correct” in perpetuity.

    Characteristically childish leftist thinking, if you’ll pardon the exaggeration. In the real world, no one knows definitively whether an answer is “correct” or not. We can’t look in the back of a textbook and see if we got this one right. We have to make real-world decisions in real time, do our best to get them right, and will never know what would have happened had we taken another course of action. We’ll have one point, through which we can draw a line of any slope we like.

    Adulthood is a bitch. So is reality. Ambiguity and uncertainty come with the turf.

  60. Occam's Beard Says:

    Actually, this phenomenon is most apparent in training beginning graduate students in science how to do research.

    Students starting grad school are accustomed to solving problems and then having them corrected. Such new grad students would typically seek such validation when they first reported the results of their experiments.

    It came as quite a shock to them when I told them that when they’re on the cutting edge of research, they will be the world’s expert in their tiny area. No one – not even me, their doctoral supervisor, will know as much about their research as they do, and everyone – including me – will be looking to them to determine the correct answer. So they have to perform control experiments carefully and extensively, and perform comprehensive cross-checks, to make sure they’ve got it right. They’re working without a net.

    Initially I could pick apart their experiments and their reasoning, finding the flaws, oversights, and untested assumptions. After a couple of years, though, I could no longer do so, because they’d have anticipated and addressed all the potential issues before making their report.

    That’s when I knew they were ready to get their Ph.D.s.

  61. Baklava Says:

    I think it is torture to listen to d.eris’ drivel. Let’s prosecute.

    In retrospect, let’s prosecute all the torturous people who have 400 Watt stereo’s pumping in their car.

    In retrospect and hindsight, let’s prosecute anyone who gave us bell bottoms. That was torture.

    In retrospect and hindsight, let’s prosecute leftists for pushing more poverty as it’s better to teach a man to fish than give him fish.

    In retrospect and hindsight, let’s prosecute Obama for torturing Hillary and/or Sarah Palin with untruths on the campaign trail…..

  62. David M Says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 04/28/2009 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  63. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    There’s probably too much content — and too much repetitive back-and-forth — in this thread already. But there are a few points that haven’t been made here yet, which, in my opinion, are worth making.

    One: I have never had a problem with the interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush Administration. Nonetheless, I think I see d.eris’s logic, and agree with it, in part.

    If a junior lieutenant, out in the field, has a prisoner with vital information locked in his skull — and a strong hint that our side needs that information, fast — then the lieutenant will need to do whatever he or she can, perhaps without the possibility of consulting higher authority.

    THAT’S where I’d want the legal safeguard. If the lieutenant can get the essential information, in time, with some well-placed kicks to the gut, I’m fine with that. If more extreme measures are needed — perhaps because waterboarding isn’t an option — I may well be fine with that too.

    But I’d want the interrogator to know that he or she is answerable for actions taken. If our lieutenant is harsher than Nancy Pelosi likes, but gets important results, I want the leeway to do it that way. Contrariwise, if one of our troops is brutally harsh to someone who turns out to know nothing, they should know that they will have to answer for their actions… so that unthinking brutality does not become the default.

    In short, I’d want few strict guidelines placed on our troops, and an overarching principle that the United States does not treat its prisoners any harsher than necessary. But if the soldier on the spot needs to decide what “necessary” means, for God’s sake, let’s not stand in the way.

    - – - – -

    Another important point, for those who are concerned for America’s standing in the world — there’s a big difference between what you do and what you threaten, particularly in wartime. And I agree with Stephen den Beste in saying that, in terms of what our enemies think they can expect from us, NOTHING should be off the table. Let them think that nuking Mecca is an option, if they push us hard enough. — We can discuss among ourselves, WITHOUT THE ENEMY LISTENING, what we are and are not willing to do under specific circumstances.

    Sometimes you need to threaten to do something that you really don’t want to do. (I’d think any parent of teenagers would understand that.) More to the point of this discussion, if a terrorist knows that he will not be tortured, ever, under any circumstances — and that “torture” is defined to include sleep deprivation, public embarrassment, and such — then why should that terrorist ever tell us anything?

    We’re at war, folks. Oderint Dum Metuant.

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

  64. Baklava Says:

    Daniel wrote, “But I’d want the interrogator to know that he or she is answerable for actions taken.NOTHING should be off the table

    Obama told them what WAS on the table – no longer secret – now he wants to make that a crime. I thought his lack of understanding of macro-economics was bad. This takes the cake. He has a juvenile brain. We’ve elected the least experienced and least logical and least knowledgeable person I’ve seen as president. More so than Jimmy Carter.

    respectfully,
    Baklava

  65. Baklava Says:

    Daniel wrote, “But I’d want the interrogator to know that he or she is answerable for actions taken..”

    Sorry, but that is the STUPIDEST logic (sorry for using such a regretful adjective) I’ve seen on this thread yet.

    Why would anyone be an interrogator if they can’t get a legal determination of what they can do and then feel safe that they are ALLOWED to do their job. You couldn’t protect my wheelbarrow from getting rusted sir.

    You later wrote, “NOTHING should be off the table

    Obama told them what WAS on the table – no longer secret – now he wants to make that a crime. I thought his lack of understanding of macro-economics was bad. This takes the cake. He has a juvenile brain. We’ve elected the least experienced and least logical and least knowledgeable person I’ve seen as president. More so than Jimmy Carter.

    respectfully,
    Baklava
    Note: Sorry for the repost. I left a carat symbol off

  66. Occam's Beard Says:

    Excellent point, Daniel.

  67. Artfldgr Says:

    Artful Dodger was a boy used by a man to ulterior ends making him a pick pocket.

    but i am an artist. and part of that is photography. in photography if you work in a dark room (ancient i know) the art of enhancing is called Dodge and Burn…

    so as a photographer, i am artful, and can make better art by dodging.

    therefore, i am not the Artful Dodger of literature. i am the ArtflDgr of photography..

    i only thought it wa funny that bakclava said what he said, and never saw the pun in your name…
    i guess you decide to fight back a fight that wasnt even there…

  68. br549 Says:

    I know how you feel, artfl. When people ask me about my “handle” and how I came up with it, and I explain, I am accused of lying through my tooth.

  69. Artfldgr Says:

    @Fredhjr
    Oblio,

    I had similar problems with Kant’s categorical imperative many years ago when I was studying philosophy. I decided, way back then, that I would rather be guilty of a “moral wrong” in the defense of the lives of others. In fact, if by entering Hell itself I could save thousands or millions of lives I would risk it, confident that in the end my Savior would uphold me and judge the ones who sanctimoniously preen in very harsh terms.

    and now you know without realizeing it yet, why the nobility were noble.

    your wrong on the forgiveness of your creator, at least in the eyes of the ones that came before.

    nobility was noble because they knew they were all going to hell for doing the right thing.

    that is, a protector of the state, cant avoid their own damnation in the charge of their protection givne others actions.

    barring others actions, they could enter heaven, but given others actions in which they care not about damnation, one must sacrifice their eternity in heaven, for one in hell if they are to meet him on the battle field and fight toe to toe.

    see how we cant understand torture?

    the ancients, before coining even the word, did not mince the rules and make exceptings that werent there based on opinion.

    god said you go to hell for this, you go to hell.
    such acts are necessary to protect your family, and you konw the consequences of doing so is going to hell.

    so the man willing to still protect defend and serve, was noble for this.

    soldiers serving the US military would never kill anyone if no one ever did anything. (unlike other militaries). they do not exist to war, they exist to defend, and so in the absence of attack, or harm, they dont kill.

    they are noble for in facing others they damn themselves.

    something to think about next time you see a soldier, or think about nobility… and all the pomp around it all.

    for unlike today everyone knew this point wihtout having to be taught it just as surely htey knew if you dropped a rock it would fall. cause, effect, principals was their whole life and they died if they didnt grasp it right.

    they believed in a living god…
    even if we say we believe in god today, few would be able to express the view from the point of a living god. and a living god is a god who does not change his rules for our peace of mind. to them the religious implications were cause and effect like gravity.

    as we forgot the implications of the actions of a living god, and that as part of our daily lives, we forgot what the actions of others would bring automatically.

    once we have personal forms of gods and such, we can be catholics that support abortion, and we can forget why such things were noble.

    its also what made statements like huck fins missive to jim, not blasphemous!! (but today considered so). everyone gets this wrong today since htey dont understand the view of yesterday. so most authors talk about huck realizing that jim was an equal (the story doesnt show that). and other things.

    but to someone that knows these rules, doing whats right when the situtaion creates a paradox, may damn one to hell. that there is no paradox, only choice.

    the situation of defense against those willing to sin creates a paradox in that the defender is tainted by the acts of the others. so one could not get through a life or world with sinners, and not be tainted no matter how one acts. and so there is forgiveness with this understanding.

    and forgiveness is not repreive…

    so it was not the arbitrary acts of an invisable being that laid sentence. it was that the religion thorugh this being, exposed and solved the deepest paradox in morality.

    that is

    how can one be moral in an immoral world?

    you cant

    one can only choose to do whats right. and sometimes whats right, will be immoral.

    right and wrong is the aribiter of morality
    morality is not the arbiter of right and wrong.

    gods forgiveness means that we can choose not to throw up our hands and say “damned if you do, damned if you dont”, and still know that we are good, and forgiven for what we have no choice in.

    yeah there is great leeway there for the manipulative, but that is not a negation of these principals.

    we are all damned by living, which is why we are all forgiven these ‘sins’, but not mortal ones if there are choices.

    if one wants to compare and contrast this with the behaviors of torture thorugh history, then one should be able to see the minimal thing that gets you to the goal is not AS immoral as the others.

    but, since we do not understand morality and forgiveness and right and wrong anymore. we no longer can say, yes its immoral, yes we are damned for it, even by our own knowlege of morality. but we also know whats right and wrong, and we know that the minimal morality that we break is the smallest wrong we can do without abandoning reality (As god created it(?)).

    the point is that this should also start showig you why humanism fails. for humanism reasons from the position of a human. the religious, regardless of divinities existence, try to reason from the position of a god they define and in that definition try to think like such.

    in this way, man is the child of god, for man tries to think like god, and so, over time, lives like a real god like that would want us to live.

    we all live in a model of the world in our heads… in the secular person, the model does not include a god, and the morals of such, and so forth. why? because by not beleiving, they do not incorporate that program into the model, and so, they cant run the god model to get the god morality out of it. (this does nothing for or against the existence of god).

    how many people look in their lives in crisis and say “what would mom do in this situaiton?”, and what they are trying to do is run a model of mom with those settings different from them. through this mom model, they get more mom like answers than they would not using it.

    so, if we had a strong living god model in our heads, we would easily understand these implications better and we would not try to do so many back flips and contortions.

    why bother? its bad… relitively less bad, but still bad. even the magic false windex of reletivity properly used cant clean it. and all i see here and elsewhere is the practice of hunting for the propaganda that will be the right answer that everyone will be most happy with that will settle their quandry. we believe it exists cause we have them for wealth redistribution (robbery), and for abortion (eugenics), and for med care rationing (euthanasia).

    all obama has succeeded in doing is unleashing the inventiveness of the human mind to come up with a way to sell this once found, and in the meantime remove the one thing from the table that will get someone to admit the depth of things. if someone is a subversive, the meta facts of their actoins can conceal the depth of their depravity. without torture, you might find out that they are doign something, but you wont find out all the connections to the subversives.

    so we can stop the contorting… there is no solution that would be real. just as calling eugenics abortion, doesnt change a thing other than move material to act in a different way than they would if they could understand synonyms.

    the men that did it in iraq to scare our soldiers, did no act of noble sacrifice. their god model gives them a squirt of atta boy for such morality. this is why the socialists like that religion, its morality is situational.

    the men anywhere, that did it minimally to save the lives of people who were not in themselves on an immoral path, they are technically moral. even if they were nazis or soviets or prc, etc.

    but can we make the distinction?

    they acted immoral to achieve a moral end, and minimized the immorality and technically their place in hell. however their cause and action was not initiated by their desire to an end that was immoral.

    it all goes back to what i said before..

    does the moral end make the immoral act moral?

    no

    and if obama can see that torture is immoral, then by the same laws redistribution of wealth is immoral, and so is abortion, and so on.

    he is in very dangerous territory.

    this is something he Kant get out of :)

  70. jon baker Says:

    Occam’s Beard :

    Not sure of the voting habits there- I was not paying that much attention at the time to politics- when I did listen it was mainly about national matters. I suspect many of the people there were non political. For a while there was a sign on the road nearby saying all vehicles could be searched by police- hardly see how that was Constitutional.

  71. br549 Says:

    Artfl, I agree with your statement above about the U.S. military never doing any harm first.

    The biggest mistake in my lifetime our military ever made (national guard) was at Kent State University. Or perhaps it was just my personal marker. The damage from that exists to this day. Talk about a nation losing its innocence. I was 18, a freak flag waving full blown hippie at the time, and wrestled with leaving our great nation after that happened. Even at 56, it is still an open wound. Because on that day I realized that even here, anything is possible. There have been other instances. Idaho, Texas, etc. They have all been individual situations, but the outcome, regardless of who did what, has caused loss of life in America, of fellow Americans, by fellow Americans.

    I know this; the world is wobbling head long into socialism. That is not where it should go. The end result will be communism. I look at the very recent developments at GM and Chrysler, and I see trouble. We will all be carrying cards. Those that do not or will not (such as me) may well pay some sort of undetermined price for it. All things considered, I intend to die as I was born. A free man.

  72. br549 Says:

    Apologies if the above appears to have come out of nowhere. This day and age, between libraries, book stores, and Internet, there are literally millions of places ones mind can be at any time.

  73. Ozymandias Says:

    I think I can enlighten the discussion on Kant and torture.

    Kant’s categorical imperative is this: “Always act according to that maxim whose universality as a law you can at the same time will.”

    Consider the space of human actions as a many dimensional plane. The categorical imperative and the maxims that one chooses to use act as a bound to this infinite set of human actions, best visualized by a square or a box. Anything done within the box is moral, anything outside of the box is not. However, there is room for utilitarian optimization based on the choices within the box. Although some critics say that Kant eschews utilitarianism, this interpretation leads us to conclude that utilitarian subsystems can exist inside a Kantian deontological system. The logical conclusion is that to accommodate the variety of human action, the bound must be larger.

    Universality of maxims imply that these maxims must work for all people in all cases. However, this means that the maxims cannot be specific. The maxim must be a generality or an abstract command. This leads to some issues in application, since there are many different meanings for any maxim that exists. We are seeing this with our ban on torture, but our definition of torture keeps changing. I think Neo is right to point out that in spirit, waterboarding is nothing like our classic definition of torture. The psychological argument against it is also false unless it studies our servicemen and women who are subjected to it during training, many of whom are very “well-adjusted.”

    The maxim by which the interrogators might have been operating could be, “Save as many human lives as possible and harm as few as possible.” Even if I found myself on the other end of an interrogation, I would want this maxim to be a universal law. If by undergoing a temporarily painful experience I could save lives, I would do it. Many of the men and women in the armed forces and the intelligence community would follow this maxim as well.

    We should ask those who are critical of enhanced interrogation techniques what their maxims are and why they are universally applicable. We will quickly see that their Kantian resolve against torture is merely pragmatic political bashing rather than principled argument. I showed this to my young Democrat friend, who quickly conceded the point.

    If they were also Kantian, they would argue that all of the detained terrorists should be killed. Kant espoused a theory of retributive justice that stated that criminals should be subjected to the crime that they committed. We are much more merciful than Kant.

  74. Oblio Says:

    Oz, are you trying to see how high you can make the rubble bounce?

  75. Ozymandias Says:

    Obviously I have been around academics a little too much. I’m starting to sound like them, in both content and length. Thank god I don’t share their politics.

  76. Oblio Says:

    No, no, keep it up, Oz. We need a lot more like this.

  77. Artfldgr Says:

    Wonderful OZ!!!

  78. br549 Says:

    Oz, sometimes I need to be treated as if I’m from Rio Linda. Is what you just said up there a lengthy explanation of Kant more or less agreeing with Hammurabi’s Law in some instances?

    Let me just say I hang around in here to learn, even more than to run my mouth.

  79. Oblio Says:

    br549, that crashing sound was Oz destroying the theoretical foundations of the self-styled “anti-torture” case, much as many of the rest of us have challenged its prudential implications.

    Oz is saying that the critics of enhanced interrogation techniques are not Kantian idealists–which is their pose–but pseudo-Kantians who are unprincipled in their pursuit of power.

    In essence, the defenders of intense interrogation occupy the ethical high ground on both theoretical and practical grounds.

    I doubt that Oz was thinking about Hammurabi explicitly. If one had to make the connection, it would probably be through theories of Natural Law. I understand Oz to be operating on the theoretical boundary between natural law and positive law, the Code of Hammurabi being one example of the latter.

  80. br549 Says:

    Thanks.

    You know, much less damage is done to an individual being waterboarded than to one running against Obama in an IL senate race or a presidential race.

  81. Sam Paine Says:

    For one thing, most law enforcement experts acknowledge that torturing a confession doesn’t work. Logically, a person would say anything to stop the torture. Torture is as reliable for producing these hypothetical ‘lsst minute confessions to save a city from a WMD’ as a lie detector test or even a Rorschach test.

    For another thing, torture is a form of punishment, and the so-called ‘enemy combatants’ being waterboarded (a modern version of the ‘dunking stool’) aren thus being punished without any judicial proceedings.

    So America has in effect demeaned itself to the level of the fundamentalist disciples of Sayyid Qutb, and we’ve lost our position as a moral example for other nations to emulate.

    Don’t know what torture is? Here’s what the Supreme Court stated in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), Justice Brennan wrote, “There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is ‘cruel and unusual’.”
    The “essential predicate” is “that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity,” especially torture.
    “A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion.”
    “A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society.”
    “A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary.”
    Continuing, he wrote that he expected that no state would pass a law obviously violating any one of these principles, so court decisions regarding the Eighth Amendment would involve a “cumulative” analysis of the implication of each of the four principles.

  82. The American Spectator : Defending Mary Ann Glendon Says:

    [...] grounds. Yet thoughtful people who do not condone waterboarding, for example, can nevertheless make distinctions between extreme discomfort and permanent injury. Moreover, George W. Bush had at least one [...]

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