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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

They're not the good guys

The Senate report on the useless brutality and deception involved in the CIA's interrogation program tends to support what those of us who opposed torture from the start have been saying all along:
In January 2003, 10 months into the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison program, the agency’s chief of interrogations sent an email to colleagues saying that the relentlessly brutal treatment of prisoners was a train wreck “waiting to happen and I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” He said he had told his bosses he had “serious reservations” about the program and no longer wanted to be associated with it “in any way.”

The bitter infighting in the C.I.A. interrogation program was only one symptom of the dysfunction, disorganization, incompetence, greed and deception described in a summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report. In more than 500 pages, the summary, released on Tuesday, paints a devastating picture of an agency that was ill equipped to take on the task of questioning Al Qaeda suspects, bungled the job and then misrepresented the results....

The report said the agency had evidently forgotten its own conclusion, sent to Congress in 1989, that “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.” The Democratic Senate staff members who studied the post-Sept. 11 program came up with an identical assessment: that waterboarding, wall-slamming, nudity, cold and other ill treatment produced little information of value in preventing terrorism.

The report spends little time condemning torture on moral or legal grounds. Instead, it addresses mainly a practical question: Did torture accomplish anything of value? Looking at case after case, the report answers with an unqualified no.
I'm not exactly surprised. You may recall I wrote the following on WND back in 2006:

Consider the words of Winston Churchill, a man not well-known for shirking confrontation or combat, written after World War I while he was secretary of state for war:

All the horrors of all the ages were brought together, and not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them. The mighty educated States involved conceived – not without reason – that their very existence was at stake. Neither peoples nor rulers drew the line at any deed which they thought could help them to win. Germany, having let hell loose, kept well in the van of terror; but she was followed step by step by the desperate and ultimately avenging nations she had assailed. … When it was all over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves: and they were of doubtful utility.

It is those last words that most completely damn the Bush administration as barbarians unfit for leadership of the free world. Few would find appeals to national security very compelling if the president insisted that victory in the War That Dare Not Speak Its Name required feeding the armed forces on the flesh of fallen Iraqis, and yet there is very little evidence, historic or current, that indicates torture will be of any use in turning back the forces of expansionist Islam.

Enthusiastic use of the most brutal torture did not help the French hold Algeria against Islamic rebels, nor did it bring victory to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Debates about whether “water boarding” is more acceptable than the rack or thumbscrews are meaningless; the point is that civilized societies do not indulge in such activities since they are evil and effectively useless.

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413 Comments:

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Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 11:05 AM  

Amen.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 11:09 AM  

FYI your second link is also to the NYT article not your WND column

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 11:17 AM  

the point is that civilized societies do not indulge in such activities since they are evil and effectively useless.

Everyone agreed they were evil, the Penguin and his friend tried to convince us repeatedly they were effective, because that was the best case of using the ends to justify the means. Now we know it was also a lie, they knew at the time it was garbage.

Of course, if they had read any history, Roman, Greek, Russian - they would know that torture can be trusted to provide adequate information.

Anonymous CJ December 10, 2014 11:23 AM  

My favorite part was when KSM told them he sent operatives to Montana to recruit black Muslims.

Anonymous hideous December 10, 2014 11:25 AM  

Well said.

Anonymous Jemison Thosrby December 10, 2014 11:31 AM  

All part of a larger culture of expediency over principle. Even when it turns out not to be expedient after all.

Anonymous A December 10, 2014 11:38 AM  

did Christians use torture during the Reconquista of Spain?

no snark, this is a serious question.

OpenID ar10308 December 10, 2014 11:44 AM  

Torture report? More like "50 Shades of The US of A"

"Safe Word: Who you work for and their last known location"

Blogger Vox December 10, 2014 11:47 AM  

FYI your second link is also to the NYT article not your WND column

Corrected, thanks.

Anonymous Whatever December 10, 2014 11:56 AM  

Is acute discomfort without any lasting or even immediate physical injury considered torture?

Note: this is a serious question.

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 11:59 AM  

Whatever-- typically the technical definition includes pain that is on the order of losing a major limb, organ failure, or death.

Blogger jdwalker December 10, 2014 12:00 PM  

Similar to A above, I don't mean this as snark, but a serious question to understand Vox's comments here in context of other comments (that I may be misremembering so please correct). I seem to have the sense that Vox was not against, or at least understood, barbaric actions in war, the feeling of the need to completely annihilate an enemy, etc. Or is a "take no prisoners" no mercy approach that simply says kill them all not barbaric where torture is, and why? And is indiscriminate killing to establish order barbaric or reestablishing civilized society?

Anonymous Sarcophilus December 10, 2014 12:02 PM  

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

National Security apparently trumps damn-Nation.

This is why the Republicans were more evil than the Democrats. If you ask a Democrat what Abortion is, he will say some kind of medical surgical procedure that removes foreign tissue. He doesn't know that it is murder. Ignorance and negligence, but it isn't malicious intent.

Ask a republican if they know torture is a grave sin. They will usually acknowledge it (ask if OUR side are the torture victims). Ask them if they want it - will it - to happen with that knowledge. They will also typically say yes, even if they express regrets. That is the definition of a mortal sin, the three elements are there: Grave matter, Knowledge of the evil, full cooperation of the will.

Even if it was "effective", remember 4th generation war is won at the Moral level. If we become monsters, we have surrendered. We might be able to keep power, but only by remaining monsters and becoming worse monsters.

For Christians, and Christendom, obeying the commandments and God takes precedence over doing things which are effective, convenient, or efficient.

The Christian State too. Hobbes and Machiavelli were NOT Christians, or at least their writings were heresies. But even WS Lind:

The justice that is missing is justice for the cops–although the grand jury in Missouri, to its great credit, had the courage to render a just verdict–and for all the rest of us who are not young black males. That includes older blacks, who, like the rest of us, try to avoid young black males because of their violence. Most victims of black crime are also black. Justice for us means ending the threat we all face from young black males. That may require hanging in a public park on Saturday all young black males caught carrying guns in the previous week. If that’s what it takes, so be it. The state’s job is to preserve order, to ensure safety of persons and property for everyone, white, black, or green. If it refuses to do that job, it is no longer legitimate. Go read Hobbes.


If the state can do its job more easily, or even at all, only by literally (and I mean literally) summoning a demon from hell and promising blood sacrifices in exchange for "safety, security, order, peace", would it be legitimate? The abortion clinics are providing the blood sacrifices, but eventually Hell's hunger will demand more...

Things like the rule of law, due process, etc. are things required to insure the State itself is legitimate. We also need to be kept safe and secure, and from the chaos and breaches of the peace from the state itself.

Meekness means power under control. That is the civic virtue in a Christian State. The Meek will inherit the earth, but the death throes of the current occupant will be violent.

Anonymous dw December 10, 2014 12:03 PM  

Christians would have to be...unfathomably stupid to think allowng the state to torture people, even enemies, is a good idea.

Anonymous TLM December 10, 2014 12:06 PM  

It would not surprise me if cops in the US start water-boarding suspects & citizens just for kicks. Of course their prosecutors BFF's will not hold them accountable.

Anonymous Lysander Spooner December 10, 2014 12:13 PM  

'Merica.........there is nothing but a hollow shell of a Nation, and certainly nothing worth fighting for.

Blogger JartStar December 10, 2014 12:15 PM  

This is a good read for Christians on the torture report.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 12:16 PM  

When I first read reports of torture I dismissed them. I thought the great American public would never stand for it. And I thought no American with the authority to give the go-ahead for such things could be so stupid.

Double wrong.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 12:18 PM  

Whatever: "Is acute discomfort without any lasting or even immediate physical injury considered torture?"

By common sense rules, yes.

Blogger Ghost December 10, 2014 12:19 PM  

And no one will be prosecuted because, hey, just following orders. I heard some CIA spook on the radio saying, "what does this tell our current agents who are being asked to do done legally questionable things by this administration?"

It should tell them that just because the guy with the fancy shirt tells them to do something, doesn't mean they have to do it. It should tell them not to let government remove their basic humanity.

Blogger Raggededge December 10, 2014 12:19 PM  

I read the report and one thing that stood out to me was that multiple CIA agents balked at the extreme interrogation of the prisoners. They voiced their complaints and were told basically, shut up and sit down. And what did they do? They shut up and sat down...and let the atrocities continue on for years. The whole report is sad and sickening. How can you chain a person to a wall and let him freeze to death? What kind of monsters have we become?

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 12:23 PM  

How can you chain a person to a wall and let him freeze to death? What kind of monsters have we become?

It never starts with that...it starts with something small, like minor sleep deprivation and it grows.

There's a reason Jesus talked about seeds and yeast. Doesn't take all that much for evil to take root.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 12:24 PM  

dh: "Whatever-- typically the technical definition includes pain that is on the order of losing a major limb, organ failure, or death."

That "technical definition" used to be pressed be the National Review, at least in the Corner.

The objection was raised that this means removing someone's fingers and toes with a bolt-cutter isn't torture.

Nobody had an answer for that then. Nobody has an answer now.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 12:30 PM  

I also have a serious question, not meant as snark: I have not read the report itself, but from the news coverage, the techniques mentioned included slapping, insults, stomach punches, being thrown against a wall, being stripped nude or put in diapers, anal force-feeding and forced hydration of prisoners on hunger strikes, being places in stress positions, exposure to cold, being kept in darkness, being dragged down a corridor with a dirt floor, being kept awake by loud noises for days at a time, and, of course, waterboarding, which is a technique to induce the sensations of drowning without actually there being any danger of drowning. Some prisoners were told they would never be released.

I also understand that two men died while in custody, but I do not have at hand figures on how many prisoners in custody in the Maryland jail system die while incarcerated, so I do not know if this rate is high or low.

These are the practices being called torture and being denounced as brutal and uncivilized and unconscionable. By way of contrast, these same terrorists crucify, decapitate, gang rape and gouge out eyes innocent parties who fall into their hands.

As for Churchill, there are reports that the London Cage run by Col Robin 'Tin Eye' Stephens used the same third degree techniques that we are here discussing: "Fritz Knöchlein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS ... claimed he had been tortured in the London Cage after the war. He was deprived of sleep for four days and nights after arriving in October 1946 and forced to walk in a tight circle for four hours while being kicked by a guard at each turn. He was made to clean stairs and lavatories with a tiny rag, for days at a time, while buckets of water were poured over him. If he dared to rest, he was cudgelled. He was also forced to run in circles in the grounds of the house while carrying heavy logs and barrels."

(from the 2012 Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223831/How-Britain-tortured-Nazi-PoWs-The-horrifying-interrogation-methods-belie-proud-boast-fought-clean-war.html)

Naturally, I make no claim that a Waffen SS officer is telling the truth, and I certainly do not trust the Daily Mail, and the man himself was hanged decades ago, but nothing in his statement strains my credulity: the treatment was so much less cruel than what Japanese and Germans routinely did that it is a testament to the civilized virtue and courage of the British people in their darkest hour.

Now, if we use the same standard 'Tin Eye' Stephens used, the interrogation techniques described in this report do not qualify as torture, nor even as unworthy of a generous and civilized people when engaged with ruthless barbarians in time of war.

For the record, here is the minority report, which offers a point by point rebuttal: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/gop-senators-defend-cia-alternate-report-113434.html

See particularly pages 21 to 24 of the minority report.

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 12:33 PM  

The objection was raised that this means removing someone's fingers and toes with a bolt-cutter isn't torture.

Agree, very hard to define torture so as not to include general incongruities of being jailed or detained and also to include things which are revulsive and evil.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 12:39 PM  

These are the practices being called torture and being denounced as brutal and uncivilized and unconscionable. By way of contrast, these same terrorists crucify, decapitate, gang rape and gouge out eyes innocent parties who fall into their hands.

Is the standard for good supposed to be "hey we're not as bad as evil?"

And if you want to talk about killing innocents, our drone campaign would be a good place to start.

Blogger Vox December 10, 2014 12:39 PM  

By way of contrast, these same terrorists crucify, decapitate, gang rape and gouge out eyes innocent parties who fall into their hands

That's simply not true. ISIS is not al-Qaeda. You are conflating two entirely different enemies. As it happens we fund the terrorists who do those things; ISIS has vast quantities of US material, some of which the US government gave them directly.

Blogger Vox December 10, 2014 12:43 PM  

The USA kills more civilians than the terrorists do. But that's okay, because the civilians the US kills are defined as "collateral". The USA tortures its prisoners. But that's okay, because other people who happen to be of the same ethnicity do even worse to theirs.

How does that make any sense at all to anyone? Do you still seriously believe the US government are the good guys at this point?

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 12:44 PM  

"These are the practices being called torture and being denounced as brutal and uncivilized and unconscionable."

Sir, the only reason you're refusing to call these acts torture, is that they aren't happening to Americans.

If americans were treated this way, you would have no problem calling it torture.

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 12:46 PM  

I think it was VD who wrote it, but I am not sure, that if these practices are not torture, just give them to regular police in the name of public safety.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 12:47 PM  

Just for the record, I am Republican, I know that torture is a grave sin, and I assert it should never be used.

I do not regard waterboarding as torture - but - and this is a big BUT - is it so close to being torture that it should never be used under any circumstances whatsoever. It is simply too close to the line.

These other third degree techniques, slapping, nudity, diapers, forced feeding, stress positions, cold, sleep deprivation, close confinement, are not torture. Uncomfortable, yes, and meant to be, but it is not in the same ballpark as the rack and the scourge and the thumbscrew, the boot and the wheel.

My fellow Republicans who say, "Waterboarding is not torture, and, anyway, we should torture the terrorists because the ends justify the means" -- I am sad to report that they are running, eyes closed and fingers in ears, straight toward the open mouth of hell.

Right underneath the big sign on the dark gates that says 'Abandon ye all Hope who enter here' is a smaller brass plaque reading 'Those who say The Ends Justify the Means -- press bell and enter. You will see the hellish ends to which hellish means must lead.'

Anonymous dw December 10, 2014 12:50 PM  

The only one who wins in a compromise with the devil is the devil.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 12:58 PM  

These other third degree techniques, slapping, nudity, diapers, forced feeding, stress positions, cold, sleep deprivation, close confinement, are not torture.

How much have you actually read about what we did?

Open your eyes.

It wasn't just "slapping", it was beating the shit out of people.

It wasn't just "diapers", it was chaining people to the floor of airplanes like slaves in the middle page.

It wasn't just "forced feeding" it was shoving tubes up someone's ass.

It wasn't just "stress positions" it was forcing people to stand on broken bones.

It wasn't just "cold", it was having someone die from hypothermia because they were naked on a cold floor.

It wasn't just "sleep deprivation" it was forcing people to stay awake for four or five days to the point that hallucinated.

It wasn't just "close confinement", it was shoving people into coffins and boxes even smaller than that and leaving them there.

Do you think abortion is just "tissue removal?"

Sanitizing language is one of the ways that we lie to ourselves and pretend that evil isn't really evil.

Blogger borderwalker December 10, 2014 1:02 PM  

...I make no claim that a Waffen SS officer is telling the truth,...

I make no similar claim where the senior Senator from California is concerned.

I also carry no water for the surveillance state.

Still, one does not have to be a proponent of torture to note the Senator's long record of idiot comments, snap judgment, personal hypocrisy, tone-deaf partisan anvil-banging, and ignorant, fact-free argument on the subject of firearms and violence.

Even if I were not so well acquainted with the Senator's work, I would take any report issued by a lame-duck chairman after an election where the Senate changed hands with a very large grain of salt. (Like the one I use when listening to NPR; it takes up most of the back seat of my car.)

A broken clock can be right, but If it looks like a desperate bit of partisan distraction and hackery, walks like, quacks like, etc., etc.

Let's not forget that we're dealing with (1) a Senator from California (2) an 81-year-old Senator (the oldest in the chamber) and (3) a Senator that has two X chromosomes.... What could possibly go wrong?

Blogger Chris Ritchie December 10, 2014 1:02 PM  

When the reports first came out, I remember thinking (and writing) that torture was ok because of the barbarity of our enemies. I even wanted to extend the killing to the parents and family who birthed and nurtured the terrorist spirit. They were all culpable in my mind. How my thinking has changed since then!

We are individually responsible for our own actions. I know of stories where God gently wooed and then called out people born to Muslim families who never had any access to the Gospel, yet were saved in spite of all the false religion around them. They became Christians by God's drawing alone. And what courage!

So to paint a broad brush of all Muslims with torture is equally wrong. We live and die by the ethics and morals God gave us. Just because "they do it too - and worse" is no excuse for us. Those CIA agents should have protested more loudly. They should have sacrificed their jobs for it. I'd like to hope I'd do the same. I thank God for all the people who wrote and had a hand in changing my views on this issue.

Anonymous Mike December 10, 2014 1:04 PM  

As expected, the Israel Firsters and pro-war, any war crowds are condemning the report rather than the crimes the report exposed.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 1:10 PM  

A certain Marine commandant writes:

The torture methods that Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 1:12 PM  

As expected, the Israel Firsters and pro-war, any war crowds are condemning the report rather than the crimes the report exposed.

The sad stupid irony is that they are always telling us to "listen to the troops on the ground" on any military issue.

Well, the military has been adamantly and consistently anti torture.

I cannot stand John McCain, but it to his credit that he has always opposed torture.

Anonymous Musashi December 10, 2014 1:13 PM  

A man torturing someone to find his kidnapped child is one thing.

An official government policy sanctioning torture is entirely something else.

One is personal, accountable, and unambiguous. One man to another.

The other is impersonal almost procedural, unaccountable, and prone to attract sociopaths.

Also, it's cowardly.

Blogger Bogey December 10, 2014 1:14 PM  

I love the absurd statement about the ends justifying the means. If you witness a purse snatcher and trip him so he can't get away the ends justify the means. It's only wrong if you disagree with the means.

And torture usually works if you have the right person. Even John McCain, unlike most of us who never endured torture, said that everyone has a breaking point.

For the moral issue, the ticking time bomb scenario suffices to show that everyone has a breaking point on how much torture they are willing to allow, especially if a loved one is a potential victim.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 1:18 PM  

And torture usually works if you have the right person.

No it doesn't. The Senate report could not confirm any useful intelligence gathered by torture that could not have been gathered by other means.

Torture works to psychologically break or destroy someone. It doesn't work as an intelligence tool.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 1:19 PM  

The uselessness of it is what strikes me. I've read intelligence pros saying that torture can make people talk, but it can't make them tell the truth -- they're just as likely to start spouting whatever they think you want to hear. So you can't know if your torture is working unless you already know the answers.

Unless the purpose of the torture is not to gain information at all, but to make people fear the torturing state. In which case you have to ask: who is the real target of the fear campaign? Is the target really some savages in a cave on the other side of the world, or is it the citizens who will read every day about their own government's willingness to justify the means?

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 1:20 PM  

And don't forget about the rape of civilians and the gunning down of civilians for fun while jacked up on roids and meth and coke (see Blackwater).

Read accounts of our soldiers going into certain areas where the orders are to shoot all males between the ages of 16 and 50... ALL! They don't even have to be carrying.

Blogger Shibes Meadow December 10, 2014 1:21 PM  

1. Nuke placed in city. Detonation 24 hours hence. NEST EOD on site.

2. EOD can disarm, but motion-sensitive anti-tamper will detonate if bomb is moved. Weapon cannot be safely disarmed without 9 digit security code input.

3. Terrorist in custody. Knows disarm code. Will not talk.

Q. Torture terrorist to obtain code, or try luck with NEST EOD team?

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 1:24 PM  

Wait till they have a reason to declare martial law in this country for some contrived false flag and they are raping and pillaging.

All I have to say if that happens hide your family for at least the first 60 days of the occupation. This is when they have a license to rape all women and young men they come across... if they feel like it and are up to it. Usually after the initial invasion they straighten up for the cameras. Prior to that it is one big sex/death party for far too many.

X10 if we ever use UN troops on American soil.

You reap what you sow!

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 1:25 PM  

Torture terrorist to obtain code, or try luck with NEST EOD team?

Does that resemble at all the way the CIA torture program was set up? No.

Please go back to jerking off to 24 and Jack Bauer and leave the discussion to the adults.

Anonymous Toddy Cat December 10, 2014 1:25 PM  

I can't help but notice how the Senate Democrats are the Evil Ones, and NYT is the Mouthpiece of the Lord of Lies, unless they happen to agree with Vox, in which case they become, almost literally, Gospel. Torture may or may not be moral under certain circumstances, but there's no doubt that it can produce accurate intelligence. I'd urge everyone to read the Senate Minority Report and the CIA' director's rebuttal before making up your mind. If torture is immoral, then it should not be used, regardless of effectiveness, but just saying "it doesn't work, anyway" is absurd and untrue.

Blogger Bogey December 10, 2014 1:29 PM  

No it doesn't. The Senate report could not confirm any useful intelligence gathered by torture that could not have been gathered by other means.

Perhaps they should talk to the police on better methods of torturing.

http://goo.gl/M65pqp

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 1:29 PM  

Torture may or may not be moral under certain circumstances, but there's no doubt that it can produce accurate intelligence.

Yes there is.

The report will conclude that the CIA’s interrogation techniques never yielded any intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks. Investigators didn’t conclude that no information came from the program at all. Rather, the committee rejects the CIA’s contention that information came from the program that couldn’t have been obtained through other means.

“When you put detainees through these [torture sessions] they will say whatever they can say to get the interrogations to stop,” the Senate aide said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee reviewed 20 cited examples of intelligence “successes” that the CIA identified from the interrogation program and found that there was no relationship between a cited counterterrorism success and the techniques used. Furthermore, the information gleaned during torture sessions merely corroborated information already available to the intelligence community from other sources, including reports, communications intercepts, and information from law-enforcement agencies, the committee found. The CIA had told policymakers and the Department of Justice that the information from torture was unique or “otherwise unavailable.” Such information comes from the “kind of good national-security tradecraft that we rely on to stop terrorist plots at all times,” the Senate aide said.

In developing the enhanced interrogation techniques, the report said, the CIA failed to review the historical use of coercive interrogations. The resulting techniques were described as “discredited coercive interrogation techniques such as those used by torturous regimes during the Cold War to elicit false confessions,” according to the committee. The CIA acknowledged that it never properly reviewed the effectiveness of these techniques, despite the urging of the CIA inspector general, congressional leadership, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.


http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/09/the-most-gruesome-moments-in-the-cia-torture-report.html?via=twitter_page

Anonymous maniacprovost December 10, 2014 1:29 PM  

I have a couple of generic comments to this thread.

Let's go with a Japanese history reference first... "Aku Soku Zan". Loosely translated as "Destroy Evil Swiftly." It can be interpreted to mean annihilating bad guys with overwhelming force, and no mercy. It can also be interpreted to mean that torture and long-term imprisonment, or attempts to rehabilitate, are useless.

Why do we think that waterboarding is borderline torture, but locking someone up for 50 years is OK? I would rather be whipped and set loose. Lesson learned. Historically, corporal punishment was preferred because it was quick, cheap, and usually effective. True, criminals that got away with a light flogging had the chance to go and reoffend, but the second time they would most likely be executed. Problem solved.

Now I sympathize with Kratman's argument that a tribe or extended family can qualify as a military unit, and be collectively wiped out for the transgressions of one member. But that is if a state of "war" exists. How can you define "war" in a 4GW world? If you have the capability to punish individuals, then you are not at war, and you should punish individuals.

Torturing someone for expediency is immoral. But what if that individual has committed mass murder already? We are justified in meting out a proportional punishment. Are Death and Imprisonment our only options, and everything else is cruel and unusual? Or could we consider torture to be justified, and the information gained to be a pleasant bonus?

It's a moot point, because as Vox says, it is impossible to get useful information via torture in a systematic fashion. It might be possible in some isolated situation, but we're talking about policies and systems which are going to be run by incompetent bureaucrats and abused by everyone involved.

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 1:38 PM  

I think someone should "cornhole" Dick Chaney to see what info he could give up.

I bet Obola would volunteer for that mission... maybe he and W could get coked up and take turns.

Dick Chaney: "we operate on the dark side, in the shadows..."

Anonymous Anubis December 10, 2014 1:38 PM  

Remember that Israel has doctors participate in torture to help find peoples breaking point & torture is legal there.
http://www.jpost.com/International/IMA-threatens-to-sue-British-doctor-for-torture-accusation

Anonymous patrick kelly December 10, 2014 1:43 PM  

@Cail Corishev: "Unless the purpose of the torture is not to gain information at all, but to make people fear the torturing state. In which case you have to ask: who is the real target of the fear campaign? Is the target really some savages in a cave on the other side of the world, or is it the citizens who will read every day about their own government's willingness to justify the means?"

You stole my thunder. It serves to terrorize those who would dissent or resist.

Oh, and that 24hrs scenario is BS. That is nothing even remotely similar to why people are actually tortured. Even if we agree to torture in that specific situation, it doesn't justify any torture the other 99.99999999% of the time.

It is rare for useful information to be obtained by torture while it is still useful.

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 1:43 PM  

These people participate in torture because they like it... and you can bet some of our so called leaders get off watching the videos.

You can guess what they are doing during the matinee. I just feel for the young boys that probably receive the brunt of their excitement after our leaders watch a few snuff films.

Franklin Savings and Loan anyone? Boystown? Visits to the Whitehouse at midnight with young boys?

Is it any wonder our country has sunk to these levels.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 1:44 PM  

"Q. Torture terrorist to obtain code, or try luck with NEST EOD team?"

you trust the NEST team. Because odds are the tortured dude gives you the wrong code either deliberately or accidently and you end up setting off the nuke anyway.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 1:45 PM  

One thing that makes this especially galling is that the same government that says we need to torture people who might be terrorists refuses to deport people who might be terrorists. So torturing them is okay -- gotta do what you gotta do -- but politely asking them to leave would just be uncivilized.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 1:47 PM  

Tiny Tim: "You reap what you sow!"

The people who sowed this are the neocons, who would also be the people declaring martial law and inflicting horrors. There's no justice to it, just serial aggression.

Anonymous VD December 10, 2014 1:48 PM  

I can't help but notice how the Senate Democrats are the Evil Ones, and NYT is the Mouthpiece of the Lord of Lies, unless they happen to agree with Vox, in which case they become, almost literally, Gospel.

You're a fucking moron. Unlike you, I don't assume anyone is always telling the truth or that anyone is always lying. I posted something from EIGHT YEARS AGO which predicted the uselessness of torture, which this report simply happens to confirm.

Your rhetoric is also idiotic. You have no consistent metric based on the New York Times being always true or always false, and you're ridiculous for pretending anyone else should.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 1:50 PM  

Cail Corishev: "One thing that makes this especially galling is that the same government that says we need to torture people who might be terrorists refuses to deport people who might be terrorists. So torturing them is okay -- gotta do what you gotta do -- but politely asking them to leave would just be uncivilized."

Right.

We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here -- while we continue to bring them here.

And this charade of a war is so existential that we should throw away our basic moral values.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 1:51 PM  

Oh, and that 24hrs scenario is BS.

Right. Maybe Dirty Harry was justified, because he knew without a doubt that he had the right guy, that the guy had the info (he had boasted about it), and that the girl was suffocating so there wasn't time for due process. Maybe in that scenario you do what you have to do; but that's not real life, and it certainly bears no relationship to what our government has been doing.

Anonymous Daniel December 10, 2014 1:51 PM  

You torture people to make people afraid of torture, and also to inspire a certain subset of your enemy. It should not have taken a report to discover this.

Anonymous VD December 10, 2014 1:53 PM  

3. Terrorist in custody. Knows disarm code. Will not talk.

Q. Torture terrorist to obtain code, or try luck with NEST EOD team?


This is a silly argument presented by clueless amateurs who have watched too many movies.

1. Unlike Hollywood, the guys who plant the bombs don't know the disarm codes. They are usually losers who are deceived by their handlers; in most cases the guy would have no idea what it really is. Also, professional bombs don't HAVE disarm codes. Ask your friendly local bomb squad or Iraq war veteran about it sometime.

2. In the unlikely event that the guy is committed enough to plant a nuke AND knows where it is, all he has to do to stop the torture is lie about where it is, presumably in a hard-to-reach location. Then everyone goes looking for it there until the bomb goes off.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 1:55 PM  

By the way, we've been studying the Mytilenian Debate from Thucydides this week in ancient Greek history. There really is nothing new under the sun.

Anonymous Daniel December 10, 2014 1:59 PM  

Just an anecdote: many many years ago, under torture, I once confessed to two lies completely randomly (I honestly can't even remember what they are now - it's irrelevant: they were that random) and almost entirely unwittingly. It was just scrambled junk that fell out of my brain, not because I was trying to give the torturers what they wanted (it wasn't) or because I even comprehended what I was saying.

I can't say that I would never divulge a secret to the state under torture...but I'm pretty sure that anything a person divulges under torture is almost entirely worthless, because of the "head trash" stuff that will accompany any random truths. It is like interpreting tongues, and unfortunately, I imagine there to be very few torturers with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Blogger Cataline Sergius December 10, 2014 2:02 PM  

did Christians use torture during the Reconquista of Spain?

Torture was not used but not as method of conversion by the Inquisition. If people didn't convert they were either driven into exile or ignored. Your fate depended on a number of factors.

Where the Inquisition most frequently used torture was in trying to determine a false conversion. Someone who had publicly converted to Christianity but still practiced Islam or Judaism (or paganism if you were in Mexico) in private. This was viewed by the Spanish Inquisition as much more pernicious infiltration of the church, than openly maintaining your non-Christianity.

Anonymous Daniel December 10, 2014 2:02 PM  

Number of nuclear weapons disarmed since 2001 due to the benefits of torture: 0
Number of tortures: >0

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 2:07 PM  

We are a country of pharma-drug addled morons who get our history from TV shows.

For people on this blog to offer up contrived scenarios right out of 24 to justify torture is symptomatic of losers slouching towards evil who are just plain stupid.

These same people will snitch you out for speaking ill of our government when the time comes knowing full well you will never be seen again leaving your daughters and young sons unprotected for all comers to rape and kill.

And it will all be done in the name of "doing the right thing"... once again.

All of you who support torture can and should go straight to hell.

Blogger J Curtis December 10, 2014 2:07 PM  

Big. Effing. Deal. I think I'm capable of differentiating between a belly slap, loud music, being rudely woken up and introducing a bug into the room when weigh against such methods as the eye gouge-removal and blow torch techniques employed by jihadists. Cry me a river.

Blogger J Curtis December 10, 2014 2:08 PM  

Last link didn't go through, pardon

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/torture-al-qaeda-style

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:11 PM  

@ Nate

"Sir, the only reason you're refusing to call these acts torture, is that they aren't happening to Americans. "

I am sorry, is this directed at me? Your argument is a personal attack questioning my integrity. The only problem with Ad Hominem is that it only works against one speaker.

What if someone who would not call it torture were it being done against his own people used a correct and non-hysterical definition, as I have done? Does that change the argument?

And what is your basis for this accusation? Can you repeat back to me any time when I called people beating and abusing our prisoners 'torture' as if I cannot tell the difference between this, and the rack and thumbscrew?

@ Josh

Actually, sir, the opposite. I knew exactly what those words meant, and I assumed everyone here was a well informed adult who would also know what they meant. I was 'sanitizing' the language about to the same degree that using the word 'execution' means shooting a bullet through a sobbing man's skull to that his blood and brain stuffs gush from an exit wound the size of a softball, with teeth and eyes and vitreous matter splashed against the concrete wall behind him.

Instead of concentrating on my alleged shortcomings, I suggest you attend to the matter in dispute: whether or not these third degree techniques -- beatings, nakedness, sleep deprivation and so on -- constitute torture and brutality.

@ Josh

'Is the standard for good supposed to be "hey we're not as bad as evil?" '

Certainly not. Nor was that implied by what I said. Please read the words I took the time and bother to write down.

I said the example was by way of contrast: crucifixion, eye-gouging and so on is what torture properly so called is.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 10, 2014 2:11 PM  

These are the practices being called torture and being denounced as brutal and uncivilized and unconscionable. By way of contrast, these same terrorists crucify, decapitate, gang rape and gouge out eyes innocent parties who fall into their hands.

The lesser of two evils is still evil.

Also, I'm pretty sure Jesus' message wasn't to be less evil than those other guys.

Blogger Tiny Tim December 10, 2014 2:13 PM  

All you rapists and torturers and those who approve and condone it can...

BURN IN HELL!

Blogger JartStar December 10, 2014 2:15 PM  

whether or not these third degree techniques -- beatings, nakedness, sleep deprivation and so on -- constitute torture and brutality

Prudence is called for here unless you are certain as one can be your actions or others are not torture.

Anonymous Ezras December 10, 2014 2:17 PM  

Mitchell and Webb on the "baddies".

"Yeah, we him, but trust us, this guy was horrid."

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:17 PM  

@ Cail Corishev -- "By the way, we've been studying the Mytilenian Debate from Thucydides this week in ancient Greek history. There really is nothing new under the sun."

Amen to that! (Help my memory: is that before or after the chilling Melian dialogue?)

Blogger Chris Mallory December 10, 2014 2:17 PM  

"These other third degree techniques, slapping, nudity, diapers, forced feeding, stress positions, cold, sleep deprivation, close confinement, are not torture. Uncomfortable, yes, and meant to be,"

Ok, so a USAF squadron commander is shot down and captured. The enemy uses these methods to learn where the evening's raids will be targeted. Was the US airman tortured? Does the US government have any room to complain? Do we hang his captors after the war?

No cop outs by using words like "terrorist", "unlawful combatant", or "rules of war". The North Viet Namese called our pilots "criminals" just like we toss around "terrorist" and "unlawful combatant".

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 2:17 PM  

Instead of concentrating on my alleged shortcomings, I suggest you attend to the matter in dispute: whether or not these third degree techniques -- beatings, nakedness, sleep deprivation and so on -- constitute torture and brutality.

They do.

From JartStar's excellent link:

1. Torture is clearly defined — Despite the claims of many supporters of the CIA’s methods and techniques, torture is not a murky or ill-defined concept. The legal definition of torture to which the U.S. subscribes can be found in the UN Convention Against Torture:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

By this standard the CIA has admitted that they have engaged in torture. (At the end of this article I’ve also include five more definitions of torture adopted by the U.S.)

Anonymous Phillyastro December 10, 2014 2:18 PM  

Whatever happened to sodium pentothol?

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:20 PM  

@ JartStar
'Prudence is called for here unless you are certain as one can be your actions or others are not torture.'

Certainly, hear, hear, and I completely agree. Torture is utterly and unambiguously wrong, and even ticking time bombs do not justify it.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:24 PM  

@Chris Mallory

"Ok, so a USAF squadron commander is shot down and captured. The enemy uses these methods to learn where the evening's raids will be targeted. Was the US airman tortured? Does the US government have any room to complain? Do we hang his captors after the war? "

All fair questions.
The US Airman was not tortured.
The US Government certainly has room to complain.
We certainly hang his captors after the war.

Is there some assumption behind these questions I am not seeing? Are you assuming everything that is not torture is therefore licit? That is not an assumption I share.

Anonymous AT December 10, 2014 2:24 PM  

Titus Didius Tacitus:


Whatever: "Is acute discomfort without any lasting or even immediate physical injury considered torture?"

By common sense rules, yes.


By your common sense rules spanking is torture, and I daresay most readers here are therefore guilty of torturing their own children. There are few things so unenlightening as a bunch of dweebs sitting around debating the morality of torture when they can't even agree on a reasonable definition of it. And, agree or disagree with the Bush admin policy, most of the leftist hyperventilating over torture was focused on the fact that Bush attempted to legally define it.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 2:28 PM  

"I am sorry, is this directed at me? Your argument is a personal attack questioning my integrity. The only problem with Ad Hominem is that it only works against one speaker."

Sir... you're a lawyer. Your integrity is therefore always in question.

"What if someone who would not call it torture were it being done against his own people used a correct and non-hysterical definition, as I have done? Does that change the argument?"

I would be forced to decide if the person involved was deliberately being obtuse, hiding something, or clinically mad. I would prefer a more charitable option... which is that the individual is a God Fearing Conservative that just happens to have a blind spot where his own country's faults appear in war time. As it doesn't question anyone's integrity... even a lawyer's.

"And what is your basis for this accusation? Can you repeat back to me any time when I called people beating and abusing our prisoners 'torture' as if I cannot tell the difference between this, and the rack and thumbscrew? "

Educated conjecture. You're lawyer... and therefore a fellow with faith in systems and civilization in general. From your writings as a conservative civilizationist, and my own observations about the typical behaviors of conservative civilizationists... odds are fairly high that you have that blind spot I mentioned above.

it is not an insult Mr Wright. We all have them.


Anonymous Meh December 10, 2014 2:31 PM  

Ok, so a USAF squadron commander is shot down and captured. The enemy uses these methods to learn where the evening's raids will be targeted. Was the US airman tortured? Does the US government have any room to complain? Do we hang his captors after the war?

Irrelevant today.

1. Our prisoners will be tortured anyway and us being "good" and not torturing isn't going to deter or persuade them not to do so.

2. Our enemies are so puny that we could straight out tell them where and when the raids are coming and there's not a damn thing they could do about it.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 2:32 PM  

Amen to that! (Help my memory: is that before or after the chilling Melian dialogue?)

Before. For those who don't know the history: The Mytilenian Debate was where Cleon, an Athenian leader, argued for killing all the Mytilenian men of fighting age and selling off the women and children as slaves, because Mytilene dared to want out of Athenian hegemony. They decided against, but it was close (and their "merciful" decision was to kill 1000 leaders, turn the land over to cronies, and let the rest of the Mytilenians remain basically as serfs). By the time the Melians tried to decline the honor of Athenian vassalhood, all concern about morality had been replaced by might-makes-right pragmatism, and Athens basically said, "We need to make an example here, so you can help us out by surrendering and dying quietly, or we'll kill you dead anyway. Sucks to be you."

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 2:34 PM  

1. Our prisoners will be tortured anyway and us being "good" and not torturing isn't going to deter or persuade them not to do so.
Then why is the United States militarily overwhelmingly opposed to torture?

2. Our enemies are so puny that we could straight out tell them where and when the raids are coming and there's not a damn thing they could do about it.


If our enemies are so puny how has even a single soldier been captured?

Anonymous Incidentally December 10, 2014 2:34 PM  

The British used the same techniques described here as "torture" not only in WW2 but in their postwar colonial campaigns - e.g., Palestine, Egypt 1945-56, Malaya, Kenya, etc.

Churchill seemed to think "enhanced interrogation" had some "utility" then...

Blogger Ghost December 10, 2014 2:37 PM  

I don't know why, but I get a kick out of those disagreeing with each other on this topic calling each other "sir." Not in a "get a load of these goofs" way, more of a, "that's how it should be done" way.

Blogger J Curtis December 10, 2014 2:38 PM  

As Muslim Terrorists Behead Americans, Here’s an Example of Songs that Democrats View as Torture

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 2:39 PM  

Churchill seemed to think "enhanced interrogation" had some "utility" then...

He also ordered the hunger blockade that led to the deaths of thousands of German children after the armistice, it's not like he was a saint.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 2:40 PM  

Mr. Wright, I concur 100% and what we are reading here is a specific appeal for the nicey-nice treatment of jihadists by a large swath of those found in the alt-rite.

The subtle alliance is rooted in a mutual desire for radical sexual autonomy and a rejection of genuine white Supremacy.

Anonymous Cail Corishev December 10, 2014 2:41 PM  

Whatever happened to sodium pentothol?

Heh, that's what I was wondering. They've been using truth serums in the movies for decades. Was that total science fiction?

Heck, get me good and drunk and there's a good chance I'll let things slip that I wouldn't sober. Surely the CIA has something more effective than a fifth of vodka by now.

OpenID luagha December 10, 2014 2:45 PM  

The top Israeli interrogator (now retired) covered in several news articles used methods that were entirely rapport-based. He freely admits that he primarily questioned Arabs, who have certain characteristics, and that he never encountered the 'ticking time bomb' scenario. He was generally able to get useful information from a prisoner in about a week.

I'm not finding the articles about him immediately, but here are some good just-so-stories about Israeli interrogations:

http://www.npr.org/2014/01/28/267629161/in-israeli-prison-an-elaborate-theater-of-interrogation

http://dailycaller.com/2014/10/11/israeli-interrogator-races-the-clock-to-crack-a-terrorist/2/

The upshot of it being that good interrogation is not the easiest task in the world, it doesn't require torture but it does require skill, and it's a skill that governments often lose when they are not in a conflict for a while and have to regain. The US seems to lose it pretty often.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:48 PM  

@ Josh

"For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering...is intentionally inflicted .. for such purposes as obtaining ... information or a confession. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."

These seems a reasonable definition to me.

But "By this standard the CIA has admitted that they have engaged in torture."

Hogwash. Thumbscrew, rack, scourge, the boot, the pair, the strappado, the hot pincers, the method called Scaiphism (which I will not describe, but the curious or strong of stomach may look here: http://www.sickchirpse.com/scaphism/) all these are severe.

Telling a man he will never escape, keeping him awake for a week, keeping him in the dark, locking him in a coffin for days on end, or even giving him a beating as a prizefighter routinely suffers -- not severe.

Let me suggest a rule of thumb: imagine being given a choice between two tortures: say, castration versus blinding, or the boot versus the iron maiden.

Again, imagine being given a choice between a torture, say, being flayed alive or branded with hot irons, versus one of the harsh techniques described in the report, such as being dragged naked down a dirty corridor, or thrown against a wall, or slapped or punched in the stomach.

If the second choice is easier than the first, then there is a difference of degree; if it seems much easier, then there is a marked difference, perhaps even a difference of nature.

I am sorry, gentlemen, but please let us keep our sense of proportion here. If our means and methods are no worse than used by Churchill's government during World War Two, then they are only as barbaric and unconscionable as was he.

Several comments ask rhetorically if such third degree technique would be licit used against suspects under arrest by the police. The answer is an unambiguous no. War is different from peace, war enemies different from lawbreakers: I should not need to tell anyone here that.

Anonymous Bah December 10, 2014 2:48 PM  

Enthusiastic use of the most brutal torture did not help the French hold Algeria against Islamic rebels

Yes it did. The French military defeated the rebellion. Then De Gaulle threw it away.

Blogger Athor Pel December 10, 2014 2:49 PM  

" John Wright December 10, 2014 12:47 PM
...
These other third degree techniques, slapping, nudity, diapers, forced feeding, stress positions, cold, sleep deprivation, close confinement, are not torture. Uncomfortable, yes, and meant to be, but it is not in the same ballpark as the rack and the scourge and the thumbscrew, the boot and the wheel.
..."



Unless you yourself have experienced each technique so as to arrive at a visceral personal comparitive conclusion then I do not believe you or anyone else has enough information to determine whether any particular technique does or does not constitute torture.

Your imagination is seemingly not up to the task. Which is actually to your credit. But here is what is possible using just one of those techniques you label not torture.

Using forced stress positions alone a torturer can turn a person's body against them by inducing muscle spasms/cramps of epic screaming proportions. This is continual pain of an intensity to mentally break any person and it involves no broken bones and no blood loss. You just lock them into an unnatural posture and walk away. Their own muscles do the rest. Once the pain starts it is 24/7. It requires no effort on the torturers part. After days or weeks of constant pain, when the victim isn't screaming they are begging for release and promising to do or say anything.

If you wish to know where I got the above information just do a web search on the Hanoi Hilton and the techniques they used on captured US pilots.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 2:49 PM  

If "we" garnered no useful intelligence, couldn't someone just assume it was due to kid glove treatment?

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 2:51 PM  

VD, exactly on the 24 scenario. The torturista's cannot even construct a useful scenario to test their evil. If the goal is to detonate the bomb, torturing the code out of a terror suspect is a risk that is far too great for the authorities to take. You could never trust the information he has given you, because you'll never know if he is simply lying to stop the torture, or telling the truth.

The best thing to do is the same thing which is always true of a bomb - get people away from it, quickly. But of course that doesn't mean you get to torture people.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 2:53 PM  

Telling a man he will never escape, keeping him awake for a week, keeping him in the dark, locking him in a coffin for days on end, or even giving him a beating as a prizefighter routinely suffers -- not severe.

By whose definition of severe?

Are putting yourself at odds with pretty much the entire general staff of the United States military?

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 2:54 PM  

Also from JartStar's link, more legal definitions of torture:

The US Reservations for the UN Convention Against Torture: In order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands . This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.
Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture For the purposes of this Convention, torture shall be understood to be any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish. The concept of torture shall not include physical or mental pain or suffering that is inherent in or solely the consequence of lawful measures, provided that they do not include the performance of the acts or use of the methods referred to in this article.
18 United States Code Title 18, §2340(2) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control
(2)“severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality;

OpenID luagha December 10, 2014 2:55 PM  

"These other third degree techniques, slapping, nudity, diapers, forced feeding....."

On the other hand, I can point the CIA to a few furry sex-fetish websites who can provide all these services on an outsourcing basis. That way, they can hide their stalk of straw in a bale of hay.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 2:56 PM  

"I am sorry, gentlemen, but please let us keep our sense of proportion here."

Sir I fear you are unjustly minimizing the transgressions. We're not talking about slapping faces and making naked people lie on the cold cold floor.

We're talking about shoving tubes deeply into rectal cavities and backforcing liquid up into the stomach.

So yes... I put that on the same scale as the thumb screw or the boot. Certainly it is on par with the lash.

I would suggest however that you're focusing on famous but rare tortures. The most common forms of torture are simple beatings. And the pros love love to pull out fingernails and toenails. It hurts really bad... requires no real medical attention to heal up... and there are 20 of them.

I suggest that The Rectal Feeding Tube falls somewhere between a beating and the finger nails... putting it firmly into Tortureville.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 2:58 PM  

General speaking, torture is inflicting or threatening to inflict severe mental or physical suffering. In other words, the torture doesn't start with the thumbscrews, but with the demonstration of how they work, as part of a tour of everything that can and will be done. Couple of observations:

1. Interrogators who claim they've never used torture can only not be lying if they are ignorant or blind to truth. The person being interrogated, in a hostile interrogation, is helpless and terrified. He knows they can do anything they like to him, kill him, disappear his body, and alter the records to make him a total unperson. If he cooperates in the interrogation at all, it must be presumed he does so out of fear of torture, which is torture.

2. All plea bargains, therefore, involve torture, since the defendent is giving desired information - Ah done it - to avoid more suffering or achieve less.

3. Oh, yes, we _did_ use torture - mock executions count - in the Second World War. British forces used it in Ireland for quite some time,. though I have no particular reason to believe they were all that good at it.

4. Torture is not a panacea, but to claim it _cannot_ work to gain useful intelligence (of course it can work to gain false confessions, which is not the same thing) is simply false. Almost anyone (I think a torturer would die of a heart attack from physical strain before Leila Khalid broke) can be broken under torture. The trick is to be able to check enough answers against known truths, or to get quick enough feedback (the bomb is found, the prisoner / hostage found, etc), that the tortured cannot know what you know and will not risk the pain from a false answer. See above: "Not a panacea."

5. There's not a lot of sense in using it if one's society can't or won't tolerate it. All you get is a very brief period when you can use it, after which your legal processes and the press will make sure that your enemy knows you probably won't use it again. This redces the effectiveness of 1, above. However,

6) In terms of your relations with your enemy, if he believes before capture that you will use it, there is neither a downside to using it nor an upside to not using it.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 2:59 PM  

@ Ghost "I don't know why, but I get a kick out of those disagreeing with each other on this topic calling each other "sir." "

LOL and I cannot speak for anyone else, but I respect those who disagree with me, if I think they disagree for a rational reason and not mere emotion.

Especially an ugly case like this, where it is a question of proportionality and prudence, a case where reasonable men can differ.

I have been wrong in the past, and about more significant issues than this, so it behooves me never to assume anyone not conforming to my position is merely because of a moral or intellectual failing on his part. Again, this is a case where those accusing the CIA could well be right. It is best to be candid and cautious ere making an conclusion (and at least to read both sides of the report).

And then there are people like Vox Day whom I call 'sir' because I fear his evil supernatural powers.

I have heard that he can drain your life energy with pale beams of force issuing from his eyeballs, or appear in dreams in the shape of a shadowy black dog.

I had been calling him 'Dead and Dreaded Lord' and 'Supreme Master of the Dark Cosmos' but he commanded me not to.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus December 10, 2014 2:59 PM  

AT: "By your common sense rules spanking is torture, and I daresay most readers here are therefore guilty of torturing their own children."

The kinds of spankings that would be counted on to reduce hardened fighters to groveling compliance actually would be torture.

In personal relations, moderation is the rule; in war things slide to extremes. Once you say, "but X is all right" you can expect the military torture camp version of X to be all that sadism and callous bureaucracy can devise, and nothing like family discipline or "50 shades".

AT: "There are few things so unenlightening as a bunch of dweebs sitting around debating the morality of torture when they can't even agree on a reasonable definition of it."

Yet here you are.

AT: "And, agree or disagree with the Bush admin policy, most of the leftist hyperventilating over torture was focused on the fact that Bush attempted to legally define it."

I don't care what the hyperventilating left said.

But in the neocon discussions, at National Review and elsewhere, it was obvious that the point of defining "torture" was to carve out a large scope for "us" neocons to do very nasty things to people while insisting that they, our enemies, were torturers but "we" were not. It was an entirely hypocritical rhetorical project.

Anonymous patrick kelly December 10, 2014 3:00 PM  

" If our means and methods are no worse than used by Churchill's government during World War Two, then they are only as barbaric and unconscionable as was he. "

Churchill was an evil asshole, but I still admire him and am greatly relieved his side defeated the other evil assholes. My life is likely better as a result. I'm selfish like that....

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:00 PM  

7) Just because you are not using it now because you find it morally revolting doesn't mean that after New York disappears to a city buster you will not use it in the future. It is not especially moral to refuse to use it now if the likeliehood is you will use it in the future with gleeful abandon, after losing several million generally innocent civilians.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:03 PM  

7) Just because you are not using it now because you find it morally revolting doesn't mean that after New York disappears to a city buster you will not use it in the future. It is not especially moral to refuse to use it now if the likeliehood is you will use it in the future with gleeful abandon, after losing several million generally innocent civilians.

Well see if NYC was nuked some folk here might celebrate it...

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:08 PM  

Which is, of course, why southerners volunteered in droves to avenge 911, yes?

Yeah, some might, and I am not blind to the upside, myself. However, I would still expect a reevalution of the utility of torture if torture could possibly have prevented the loss.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:09 PM  

"4 Torture is not a panacea, but to claim it _cannot_ work to gain useful intelligence (of course it can work to gain false confessions, which is not the same thing) is simply false. "

I agree completely. The "torture doesn't work!" argument is the weakest point the anti-torture side makes. Its a moral argument... not a practical one.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:12 PM  

"Which is, of course, why southerners volunteered in droves to avenge 911, yes?"

I wasn't an overwhelming sentiment in the South... but "Camel Jockies killed yankees... so what?" was common enough that if you lived here then you heard it more than once from more than one person.

and... the willingness to go and fight should not be misunderstood as affection for yankees. its not like southrons have a reputation as a peace loving people. We tend to go looking for fights to join. Some of our states are even nicknamed after that very willingness.
Hell Texas wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the fact that Tennesseans really like to fight.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:13 PM  

" However, I would still expect a reevalution of the utility of torture if torture could possibly have prevented the loss."

The reevaluation would be more thorough if the nuke went off in Tuscaloosa though.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:15 PM  

Yes, Nate, I am from _South_Boston_ and am very familiar with the sentiment: "War? Did someone say 'war'? WAR!!! YYYAAAYYY!!! There IS a God!"

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 3:16 PM  

When the nuke wiped off the US city at the end of Unthinkable, I grinned like an idiot.

Happy ending.

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 3:18 PM  

I agree completely. The "torture doesn't work!" argument is the weakest point the anti-torture side makes. Its a moral argument... not a practical one.

It is a weaker argument than the moral ones, but it's also a good enough argument for why the US government shouldn't torture. Namely, they tried to, and it produced very bad intelligence in actual practice.

Anonymous Viidad December 10, 2014 3:19 PM  

"Telling a man he will never escape, keeping him awake for a week, keeping him in the dark, locking him in a coffin for days on end, or even giving him a beating as a prizefighter routinely suffers -- not severe. "

This can be reduced to black and white with one question: How does God view this, Mr. Wright?

If you were to act on another human being in this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?

And again... recall that the State has historically been a great torturer and persecutor of The Church. Do you wish for an institution of known malevolence to be empowered with these tactics, knowing that even today there are many states using them against believers?

Never mind the current "terrorists" being tortured. This power is like the One Ring and must be cast away for its possession always leads to corruption.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:19 PM  

No, that's an argument against method and skill, not against torture. It's simply not true that it cannot work or, done properly, is unlikely to work, in the somewhat - but not all that - limited set of cases.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 3:20 PM  

First, one starts with the unspoken desire of a segment of the alt-rite which the fundamental desire of the jihadist... Radical sexual autonomy.

Next, this unspoken alliance seeks to liberate the concept of "torture" for the sole purpose of becoming anti-torture thus neutralizing all "enemies" of radical sexual autonomy.

And what we are reading is rehash of the debate to redefine torture in a manner such that kid glove treatment that yields no intelligence is "torture."

So, "our" side are the sadists and the jihadists are victims.

Anonymous VD Reader Since 2001 December 10, 2014 3:20 PM  

THE POST in which Wright and Kratman expose themselves as Neocons.

Fuck Bush, and fuck you neocons!!

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:21 PM  

You're an idiot, VDR2001. I am sure you came by it honestly.

Blogger SirHamster December 10, 2014 3:22 PM  

and... the willingness to go and fight should not be misunderstood as affection for yankees.

Relative to fighting Yankees, I think it can be considered an affection. Ya big softies.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:23 PM  

"If you were to act on another human being in this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?"

If you were to let millions of innocent people die by refusing to act this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?

OpenID luagha December 10, 2014 3:24 PM  

It's good in the traditional torture discussion to remember what the actual goal is.

The actual goal is to be able to effectively interrogate captives to get useful, correct information from them (or determine correctly that they have no useful information).

Torture of the various gradations is just one tool that people think to use to achieve the goal.

Blogger Cataline Sergius December 10, 2014 3:25 PM  

I went to a Marine Corps SERE school in the 1990s.

I am quite curious as to what AQ resistance schools are like. I can't help but be curious, having gone through our version.

Under the Geneva Convention (Christ what a joke, Americans are the only ones whoever tried to obey it). You are required to give up four pieces of information.

Try not to for as long as possible. It's the camel's nose under the tent so far as coercive interrogation (*sigh, yes, torture if you prefer*) is concerned. It gets you talking. The Big Four is both your and their expected starting point.

You are trying to look less alert than you really are. You must give the appearance of limited submission. You're not fighting back. You aren't giving them everything they wanted just because they asked you a question.

They have to think they have won the fight. But they know they haven't won.

But behind your eyes you are fighting back at all times. You are looking for a place to play for sympathy. Try coughing pathetically. Don't be afraid for your life. You are alive for a reason, they want something from you. They really aren't interested in controlling your body. They want to control your mind. Adopt a submissive posture and above all things avoid eye contact on your terms. Avoid like the fucking plague saying, "yes", to anything. They will never give you the chance to say, no. Never. "No," is an act of defiance.

Physical abuse sucks but you will get used to it. Yes, I'm skirting over it but it's the truth unless they are employing destructive methods.

If you are given a chance to eat or drink, always take it. Yes it maybe drugged but they can't drug the calories out of it and you will need them.

If you have been deprived of food and drink for a long time and are now being presented with a comrade who is being given food and drink. Assume he is still one of the good guys and is just trying to survive. Assume he has not betrayed you. They wouldn't be treating him well if they they didn't want to use that against you. (*This is probably, completely impossible for an Arab*)

Cataline's verdict: Americans are terrible at HUMINT

Anyway thanks for the trip down PTSD lane.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:25 PM  

One caveat, luagha; per 1), above, it's a tool they're using even if they're not trying to.

Anonymous VD Reader Since 2001 December 10, 2014 3:26 PM  

"If you were to let millions of innocent people die by refusing to act this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?"

Warmongerbullshit.

Go blow Rumsfield, you waterboarding savage.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 3:28 PM  

But the neocons had it right...

"They" hate "us" for "our" freedoms.

The trick is in exactly defining who are "they," "us" and "our?"

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:29 PM  

"Yes, I'm skirting over it but it's the truth unless they are employing destructive methods. "

Well...a TA312 doesn't generally destroy anything. Can hurt like the devil, though.

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 3:30 PM  

I don't know if it was the intent of Unthinkable, but it was interesting just how strongly it made me identify with the terrorist. I mean, when the nuke went off in the USA, I wasn't thinking, "hmm, allow me to ponder and weigh the facts here, is this good or bad in the grand scheme of things?"

No, I just found myself automatically grinning like I haven't since the ending of Dogville. It was just a gut reaction. I was a happy camper.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:30 PM  

"
If you were to let millions of innocent people die by refusing to act this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?"

Sorry guys... I just don't think "The Ends Justify the Means" is an argument worth countering.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:31 PM  

Have you been reading since 2001, VDRS, gathering information for your handlers in the CIA?

By the way, unlike most, I really AM a warmonger.

Blogger Rabbi B December 10, 2014 3:31 PM  

"If you were to let millions of innocent people die by refusing to act this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?"

Situational ethics?

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:31 PM  

Never mind the current "terrorists" being tortured. This power is like the One Ring and must be cast away for its possession always leads to corruption.

Amen.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:32 PM  

"If the ends don't justify the means, [Nate,] what do they justify?" --Ilyich

Blogger Rabbi B December 10, 2014 3:33 PM  

The choice is rarely ever just A or B.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 3:36 PM  

There is talk on here as though the definition of torture now includes simply TELLING a jihadist he will be tortured. So torture is now just worded threat. Torture is liberated. Torture = anti-torture. Torture = kid glove treatment of jihadist which yields absolutely no intelligence.

Anonymous Viidad December 10, 2014 3:36 PM  

@Tom Kratman

"If you were to let millions of innocent people die by refusing to act this way, would it be Christian? Godly? Loving? Honorable?"

Even if you could make the "millions of people" case, it's in God's hands how things ultimately turn out. We don't get to change our morality according to potential outcomes.

BTW, "Big Boys Don't Cry" was excellent. Don't know that I got to tell you that.

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 3:37 PM  

@ Nate

Given a choice between being force fed through a rectal feeding tube and having your intestines nailed to a spool about which you are forced to walk until you disembowel yourself, is that choice difficult, or easy?

@ Josh

An inability or an unwillingness to distinguish between severe and not severe means that either everything is torture or nothing is: both positions that are indefensible.

@ Athor Pel

By that logic, no one aside from John McCain can use his reason to distinguish between severe pain and not severe pain.

I will ask you the same question as I asked Josh, above. The Inquisition has captured you. They give you a choice between standing in a stress position to cause the agonizing cramps you describe, versus having your legs broken in the scarpines or being slowly impaled on the Judas Chair, or having your back broken in Scavenger's Daughter. Is the choice a difficult one, a matter of a coin toss, or an easy one?

If, in your honest opinion, there is no difference between severe and mild, or if you say no one is qualified to have this discussion, I will say no more.

But it does strike me as odd that I am using the names and (unfortunately) know the grisly details of real torture techniques. No doubt this colors my conclusion.

Blogger richard w comerford December 10, 2014 3:38 PM  

Re: Some Observations

Over the decades I have, from time to time, found myself on both sides on the interrogator/subject divide. I would like to pass along a few points that folks I respected taught me back in the Dark Ages

1. Interrogator:

a. The purpose of interrogation is to produce concrete information that can be processed into actionable intelligence which in turn leads to victory on the battlefield.

b. Treat an interrogation subject exactly as you would like to be treated in the tables were reversed. Indeed treat him as your 'newest and bestest friend'.

c. Mistreatment of an interrogation subject ruins him for proper intelligence exploitation.

2. Subject:

a. Your interrogator is always smarter than you.

b. 24-hour rule: Keep in mind that upon being captured or lifted your Bosses will assume that everything you know is compromised. They will need about 24-hours to adjust for that compromise.

c. Under mistreatment you may temporarily or permanently suffer great psychological distress. You may knowingly or unknowingly say anything which you think will stop the mistreatment.

d. Short of betraying your fellow captives you should say or do anything that will assist your survival.

I make no claim to be an expert in this matter. I was at best only a journeyman.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Anonymous VD Reader Since 2001 December 10, 2014 3:39 PM  

Tom Kratman and John C. Wright are NOT the good guys.

Support torturue and you are automatically a Neocon.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 10, 2014 3:39 PM  

For all those who are supporting torture, let me ask you this: at what point do you stop?

Khalid Sheik Mohammed was allegedly waterboarded 163 times. How much information could he have had that required that much simulated drowning?

The quantity matters here. At some point, the CIA crossed the line from information gathering into ritualistic sadism.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:41 PM  

Why, I had no clue you were Islamic, Viidad.

Blogger Shibes Meadow December 10, 2014 3:41 PM  

Josh: your hateful ad hominem is baffling. I can only assume that you did not read my post carefully. I'm aware that Jack Bauer is a fictional character from a television show, but I do not watch television and have never seen a single episode of the show you mentioned. You owe me an apology.

VD: I admit the scenario I presented was dicey, but the point of my post was not to construct a factually accurate terrorist threat. My point was to present your readers with a moral dilemma: what does a moral man do in a situation in which a decision must be made in order to prevent a great evil, but when all the available options are immoral? I have always found this situation fascinating. My only aim in constructing the scenario was to discover what choice the typical member of your commentariat was apt to make if presented with such a dilemma.

The Church teaches that one may never do evil in order to achieve a given good -- in other words, that the end does not justify the means. But what does a Christian do when presented with a situation in which there are no moral means of achieving a given end? Bomb one city and kill 50,000 mostly- innocent civilians, invade and kill a quarter- million mostly-innocent civilians, or continue a blockade and starve several million mostly- innocent civilians?

I have an answer to this question, but I do not present it here. You will note I have not advocated any point of view vis-a-vis torture. I do find the question interesting.

Blogger Thordaddy December 10, 2014 3:41 PM  

And at the bottom of this symbiotic regression is the liberated "white" males of the West and the very jihadists they secretly admire FOR THE MEANS BY WHICH they attain radical sexual autonomy, i.e., 72 virgins for eternal devirgining.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:42 PM  

Yeah, you're an idiot, VDRS2001. You don't have to supply any more evidence of that and I promise neither Wright nor I will put you on the rack to obtain any.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:42 PM  

An inability or an unwillingness to distinguish between severe and not severe means that either everything is torture or nothing is: both positions that are indefensible.

Well you've said x, y, z, etc don't meet your definition of severe so they're not torture.

And you mentioned that water boarding should never be used because in your words it's too close to the line (it actually is torture).

Guess what, we used it. We water boarded people.

And the torture program was severe enough that at least one person died.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:43 PM  

"Given a choice between being force fed through a rectal feeding tube and having your intestines nailed to a spool about which you are forced to walk until you disembowel yourself, is that choice difficult, or easy?"

Mr Wright... given the choice of having your thumbs crushed or having your intestines nailed to a spool about which you are forced to walk until you disembowel yourself, is that choice difficult, or easy?

Congratulations sir.... you have just provided the metric by which I can disqualify The Thumb Screw as a torture device... and not so many comments after you used the screws as an example of torture yourself.

The fact that the deranged evil of the human mind can in fact imagine something even more brutal than a given act does not disqualify that act as torture.

Think of it numerically. Any thing over 5 is torture. It doesn't matter that 10 is worse than 5. 5 and up are torture. The rectal tube... is over 5.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:43 PM  

Oh, and thanks.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:46 PM  

Rabbi, I don't know that, except in answering people who are claiming "a and only a, ever," I have limited it to a or b. People - which expressly excludes VDRS2001; he's too stupid to be people - can choose what they wish. My point is to make it an informed choice.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:46 PM  

Josh: your hateful ad hominem is baffling. I can only assume that you did not read my post carefully. I'm aware that Jack Bauer is a fictional character from a television show, but I do not watch television and have never seen a single episode of the show you mentioned. You owe me an apology.

I'm sorry that you gave us a silly argument presented by clueless amateurs who have watched too many movies.

Anonymous Heaviside December 10, 2014 3:47 PM  

Churchill was a despicable politician who destroyed the British Empire and handed Eastern Europe over to Stalin.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 3:48 PM  

"Tom Kratman and John C. Wright are NOT the good guys.

Support torturue and you are automatically a Neocon."

K.

Hey could you shut up now?

Thanks.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:49 PM  

Swiftfox, I am confused. Are you claiming that dispassionate analysis is the same as support? Are you refuting that, under severe circumstances, people will turn to solutions they might otherwise reject? If the conclusions reached by dispassionate analysis are true, are you demanding people lie about them?

Blogger John Wright December 10, 2014 3:50 PM  

@ Viidad

"This can be reduced to black and white with one question: How does God view this, Mr. Wright?"

Knowing the mind of God is beyond me, but I believe Saint George would approve of our military men using captives to gather intelligence to win the war.

And I think Acacius of Byzantium, the patron saint of soldiers, would approve, as would Saint Adrian of Nicomedia, Saint Alfred the Grea, Saint Artemius, Saints Boris and Gleb, Saint Constantine the Great, Saint Cornelius, Saint Crescentinus, Saint Demetrius of Thessalonici.

Saint Saint Eustace might also approve, as would Saint Ferrutius, Saint Florian, Saint George, Saint Géréon of Cologne, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint James the Great, (Santiago Matamoros, the Moor Slayer) as well as Saint Joan of Arc.

And there are a score more military saints who go to war and aid us in war. I am only up to the J's.

Christianity is not a pacifist religion. Do not confuse us for Amish. In war you hurt bad people. I am sure the Virgin weeps, but if our brothers attack us, it is a temptation and a scandal to them if we do not fight back, for then, sensing weakness, they will yield to deeper and darker sins, and be more eager to make war.

Blogger Cataline Sergius December 10, 2014 3:50 PM  

@Tom Kratman

Well...a TA312 doesn't generally destroy anything. Can hurt like the devil, though

Point taken. If presented with a TA312 to this day I would recoil screaming in horror and give them everything they wanted, Noooo! No! Anything but that!

Anonymous VD Reader Since 2001 December 10, 2014 3:53 PM  

John C. Wright and Tom Kratman:

Prove me wrong...

Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with this statement?

"civilized societies do not indulge in such activities since they are evil and effectively useless."

There is NO inbetween. You are either a neocon savage, or you are not.

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 3:53 PM  

"No, that's an argument against method and skill, not against torture. It's simply not true that it cannot work or, done properly, is unlikely to work, in the somewhat - but not all that - limited set of cases."

Tom, now that's messed up way. Suddenly I am going to believe that the government is going to screw up everything else it does, but get torture just right on the nose. It's beyond far fetched.

This is the essence of the argument that is really happening. One side said "we shouldn't torture, one reason being it doesn't produce good results, and it historically has produced bad results". The other side says "it has produced good results, we just can't tell you". 8 years later, side two is exposed to have been lying. Side one says "told you so".

It's not worth the risk of abuse. The few who are skilled and strong enough to make it work are too dangerous to employ.

Anonymous Amo December 10, 2014 3:54 PM  

"
Christianity is not a pacifist religion. Do not confuse us for Amish."

Amish are not christians now?

Anonymous dh December 10, 2014 3:55 PM  

You know what, I can't continue to post in this thread. It's like the heaviest minds of the VD-sphere came in today and decided to rile up the place. Intellectually intimidated. This used to be a safe space....

Blogger Rabbi B December 10, 2014 3:56 PM  

"My point is to make it an informed choice."

Fair enough. So often the argument is presented after this fashion: Is it wrong to steal? Most answer 'Yes'. OK ..if your mother is dying and she needs food, do you steal to get her the food?

So,

A.) Steal Food
B.) Don't steal food, and your mother dies.

More time than not, there seem to be more informed choices before us than just two. Also, is it not important to consider a moral standard by which our choices are informed?

Anonymous maniacprovost December 10, 2014 3:56 PM  

what does a Christian do when presented with a situation in which there are no moral means of achieving a given end? Bomb one city and kill 50,000 mostly- innocent civilians, invade and kill a quarter- million mostly-innocent civilians, or continue a blockade and starve several million mostly- innocent civilians?

@Shibes
You don't do the immoral things. In the case of the city of civilians, killing them may or may not be immoral (it probably is) in the course of a massive war.

But there is a leftist / utilitarian assumption in your reasoning. 5 million people starving to death is not "evil." It's unpleasant, and we should try to help them. But death is merely a physical event. Actions are good or evil, results are not. There are good and evil means, but ends are not "good" and "bad" in a moral sense, only in a utilitarian sense.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:57 PM  

One wire in your pecker and the other up your ass. Can we say, "Ouch!"

Actually had that conversation with Noam Chompski one time. He was quoted as claiming that School of the Americas taught the use of the electric needle. He denied having said so, but even so, I informed him, "There is no electric needle' in the supply system. Yes, I've looked. Soldiers, on the other hand, have a way of making do. We'd use, were we going to use electricity, and teach, if we were going to teach someone, the use of field telephones, TA1s, TA312s. Anyone who claims use or training of the 'electric needle' is simply making it up and is not to be trusted."

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:57 PM  

There is NO inbetween. You are either a neocon savage, or you are not.

Dude shut up.

I don't think either of them, even though they're more interventionist than some of us, really care that much about nation building or spreading democracy or transforming Baghdad into Birmingham via magic beans.

Blogger Rabbi B December 10, 2014 3:58 PM  

"Knowing the mind of God is beyond me . . ."

However, it would seem that He has revealed a great deal of His mind through His Word. Could we not inquire within for some direction on these matters?

Anonymous Viidad December 10, 2014 3:58 PM  

"Why, I had no clue you were Islamic, Viidad."

You have no idea. Some of the ilk know my past from previous threads.

I'm a devout Christian, leaning towards the Reformed end of the spectrum. My father was a missionary inTurkey.

He was martyred by Islamic terrorists six weeks before my birth. That too was in God's hands. Since that sacrifice, many hundreds, if not thousands have left Islam and come to Christianity because of his example. They couldn't figure out why he was so loving. He wrote some of the very first hymns for the Turkish church... before that church was more than a handful of people meeting secretly in houses.

If anyone had a great reason to wish ill on the Muslims, it would be me; however, I will not allow my personal desire for justice and revenge on his killers draw me into breaking the commandments of He who called my father into service.

Evil is evil, no matter who practices it or when. It's not a weapon to be picked up upon certain occasions. It always burns the bearer.

Blogger Shibes Meadow December 10, 2014 3:58 PM  

Josh: no apology? Shameful.

I have not expressed an opinion for or against torture. My point is that sometimes reality presents the moral man with a situation in which he must act, but has no moral course of action available to him. Sometimes the choice really is between the lesser of two or more evils.

I confronted this question some years ago and, after much thought, reached an answer. I won't post that answer here. I am interested in reading other peoples' answers.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 3:58 PM  

Why should we indulge a chimp with delusions of being human, VDRS2001?

Tell ya what, though, go watrch this for a while and learn something:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEEPaYD5KZE

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 3:59 PM  

Heh. Every - EVERY - Finnish soldier knew that you can use the field telephone as a torture device. Having to teach that is like having to teach which end of the weapon should point towards the enemy.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 3:59 PM  

You know what, I can't continue to post in this thread. It's like the heaviest minds of the VD-sphere came in today and decided to rile up the place. Intellectually intimidated. This used to be a safe space....

Wow just wow / so brave /*hugs...

You're holding your own dude, you don't see me being intimidated, do you?

Anonymous Viidad December 10, 2014 3:59 PM  

dh: "Suddenly I am going to believe that the government is going to screw up everything else it does, but get torture just right on the nose."

Excellent.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 4:00 PM  

Josh: no apology? Shameful.

I even used the words I'm sorry

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:01 PM  

You're still arguing skill, dh, or, at least, competence.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 4:03 PM  

Suddenly I am going to believe that the government is going to screw up everything else it does, but get torture just right on the nose.

Replace torture with police and foreign policy and you've identified the major problem with most conservatives today.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:04 PM  

I was joking with you, Viidad. That admitted, God gave us brains and expected us to at least TRY to use them, and not leave everything up to him. Personally, I think someday someone is going to face the choice. which is not merely use torture or lose several million innocents, but includes don't use torture, lose the several million innocents, and then watch as torture gets a new lease on life, pretty much forever.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 4:06 PM  

"If anyone had a great reason to wish ill on the Muslims, it would be me; however, I will not allow my personal desire for justice and revenge on his killers draw me into breaking the commandments of He who called my father into service."

Amen sir. Amen.

Blogger Rabbi B December 10, 2014 4:07 PM  

"He was martyred by Islamic terrorists six weeks before my birth . . . I will not allow my personal desire for justice and revenge on his killers draw me into breaking the commandments of He who called my father into service."

Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us.

What would we rather: Going to be in the presence of G-d knowing that we had been obedient and faithful to His commands and directives or the flip side?

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:07 PM  

By the way, Viidad, I agree with you that evil is a weapon that always burns the wielder. However, one ought be prepared to be burned, in lieu of letting huge numbers of people, to and for whom you have responsibility, be burned instead.

Anonymous patrick kelly December 10, 2014 4:08 PM  

"The report spends little time condemning torture on moral or legal grounds. Instead, it addresses mainly a practical question: Did torture accomplish anything of value? Looking at case after case, the report answers with an unqualified no."

The subject of this post, the report, is about actual torture and the results. The end did not justify the means. The fact that anyone can speculate about other hypothetical future circumstances where the end would justify torture doesn't change the conclusion one bit. "unqualified no" indeed.....

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 10, 2014 4:09 PM  

Swiftfox, I am confused. Are you claiming that dispassionate analysis is the same as support? Are you refuting that, under severe circumstances, people will turn to solutions they might otherwise reject? If the conclusions reached by dispassionate analysis are true, are you demanding people lie about them?

I am claiming that the torture done by the CIA on prisoners of war was nothing more than ritualistic sadism. The sheer number of times it was administered and the excessive cruelty employed was not to gain useful information, but to punish these prisoners.

And if you have any doubts about my assertion, I appeal to the history of the agency. The CIA was heavily involved in the MKUltra program decades ago, which involved the torture and abuse of child in order to create an alternate personality and thus create a spy who didn't know he or she was a spy. And before you go damning me that this is all conspiracy theory, know that this information came out in public during the Church Committee hearings in 1975.

Ironically, the future founder of the Church of Satan, Anton LeVay was involved in this project. Can we get more evil than this?

Blogger rycamor December 10, 2014 4:09 PM  

This thread was worth it just to see Tom Kratman ask my old friend Viidad the most unintentionally ironic question ever.

Viidad's story is the real deal, everyone. In fact, long before I ever met Viidad, I met his father's co-worked who shared that story at my church.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 December 10, 2014 4:10 PM  

Also, what do you make of the CIA officials lying to the President and Congress about what they were doing? How can a government agency receive proper oversight if they are caught lying?

And why are there not indictments being handed out for perjury? It was done to Roger Clemens over much less.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 4:10 PM  

If anyone had a great reason to wish ill on the Muslims, it would be me; however, I will not allow my personal desire for justice and revenge on his killers draw me into breaking the commandments of He who called my father into service.

Preach it dude.

That's beautiful and humbling. Glory be to God.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 4:11 PM  

"I won't post that answer here. I am interested in reading other peoples' answers."

I will answer your question... flawed as it is though I must reword it.

If torturing person A will save 1 million people... would you torture person A?

The answer is no. I am not killing 1 million people by refusing to torture one. Whoever else is killing those people... is killing those people. I am not responsible for him. I cannot control him. I can only control me. I am responsible for me.

it the situation has gotten so bad that the choice has come down to this... then there are many people far more to blame for it than me and my refusal to torture someone.

and as to Kratman's legitimate fear... that my refusal will bring back an approval of real torture in earnest... again... that is not on me either. Such battles are for the Church. That's what she's here for.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:12 PM  

Okay, Swift, as long as you're not insisting we lie, or deny the possibilty that refusal to engage in nasty behavior might someday lead to more nasty behavior.

Blogger Aquila Aquilonis December 10, 2014 4:12 PM  

Viidad,

Some good friends of mine are in Turkey right now ministering to the Turkmen as they are attempting to get into Turkmenistan. Thanks for the reminder to pray for them.

Blogger Outlaw X December 10, 2014 4:14 PM  

"Also, professional bombs don't HAVE disarm codes."

Apparently Vox don't know shit about terrrist nukes.

1 they are hidden in vending machines.
2 they are around kids on swings at a park.
3 The all have big red count down LED's
4 Some times only cutting a wire will work. Always change your mind at the last second.

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 4:16 PM  

Dammit outlaw that's funny

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 4:17 PM  

"or deny the possibilty that refusal to engage in nasty behavior might someday lead to more nasty behavior"

I don't think you're off the mark at all about the american public's willingness to embrace torture and worse should Something Bad happen.

But the line is the line and we do not cross the line. If we cross the line... then what we're defending stops being worth defending.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:17 PM  

Nate, you're sort of getting to an area that Dershowtiz elided over. His analysis - short version: "substituting one person's pain for another's - seems to miss the possibility that the one person might be completely innocent and his pain be quite useless. That's not, though, the only possibility. What if A - and, just arguendo, presume you know this beyond a reasonable doubt - is _personally_ responsible for setting up the circumstances which will kill those million? In that case, is you're maintaining clean hands really more important that their lives?

No, I don't think that has come to pass yet. I do think it will, eventually.

Anonymous Dumb founded December 10, 2014 4:17 PM  

Will Germany's CAGW dreams fail or will they resort to totalitarianism to keep the dreams going?

I can linking!

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 4:19 PM  

In that case, is you're maintaining clean hands really more important that their lives?

This is MY moral principle, as long as "maintaining hands clean" means "not doing an immoral thing" rather than "not doing an unpalatable thing".

I'm an ambassador of God. His glory is worth more than the lives of every single person on the planet.

But the complexities are in what is unpalatable, and what is immoral.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:23 PM  

Yes, Markku. To me, it would be immoral to place my keeping clean hands over the lives of a million, or many million, people for and to whom I have responsibility. I can almost understand others feeling differently. Almost. I can understand others feeling differently on behalf of those to whom they have no responsibility.

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 4:24 PM  

Also, there is another complexity, to which I don't have a 100% certain answer.

King David killed a lot of people. People that he was directly commanded by God to kill.

Yet, God told him that he cannot be His priest, because he has killed a lot of people. It would have to be his son Solomon. David was rendered unfit by all his killing, although he couldn't have done otherwise.

Now, we Christians are priests of God...

Blogger rycamor December 10, 2014 4:25 PM  

To a certain extent I think what we are seeing in this thread is Old School vs disillusioned Gen X. When I first pondered the torture question about a decade ago as the Gulf war ramped up, I recall having a certain hope that--repugnant as torture was, and me being officially against it--still, in the right hands it might result in some good. I am now forced to the conclusion that no hands are the right hands to have that sort of power.

Torture is always going to happen. On that I have no illusions. It's one thing for torture to occur in the heat of the moment on the battlefield: it's going to happen sooner or later, and the individuals involved have that on their own consciences. But it is quite another for it to become a component of a bureaucracy. Waterboarding a man 136 times... that can't possibly be justified as a means of getting information.

Just watched "The Empire Strikes Back" with my son, and realized I had forgotten the part where Han Solo mumbles, after his torture session "They didn't even ask me any questions." The ultimate end of any systematized torture.

Blogger Nate December 10, 2014 4:26 PM  

"What if A - and, just arguendo, presume you know this beyond a reasonable doubt - is _personally_ responsible for setting up the circumstances which will kill those million?"

You'd have better luck persuading me saying he was a yankee... or an auburn fan. It doesn't change things. We don't cross the line.



Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 4:26 PM  

To me, it would be immoral to place my keeping clean hands over the lives of a million, or many million, people for and to whom I have responsibility.

Yes, I understand that. But that renders the question of the NUMBER irrelevant. The only question is, is the deed wrong, all things and circumstances considered. If the judgement is "yes", then the number of dead people involved in not doing it is irrelevant, and a red herring.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:27 PM  

Well...you can refuse to because someone else will not.

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 4:28 PM  

To a certain extent I think what we are seeing in this thread is Old School vs disillusioned Gen X. When I first pondered the torture question about a decade ago as the Gulf war ramped up, I recall having a certain hope that--repugnant as torture was, and me being officially against it--still, in the right hands it might result in some good.

Yes, this is true of me too. When 9/11 happened, I was pro-torture, and mostly annoyed in what I saw as intellectual dishonesty in not calling it that. The answer should have been "yes, we torture, what of it?"

Blogger Josh December 10, 2014 4:29 PM  

I found this post in the American Conservative useful as a way of understanding why we embraced torture:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/millman/why-did-we-torture/

Willingness to torture became, first within elite government and opinion-making circles, then in the culture generally, and finally as a partisan GOP talking point, a litmus test of seriousness with respect to the fight against terrorism. That – proving one’s seriousness in the fight – was its primary purpose from the beginning, in my view. It was only secondarily about extracting intelligence. It certainly wasn’t about instilling fear or extracting false confessions – these would not have served American purposes. It was never about “them” at all. It was about us. It was our psychological security blanket, our best evidence that we were “all-in” in this war, the thing that proved to us that we were fierce enough to win.

Blogger Tom Kratman December 10, 2014 4:31 PM  

I don't think it's irrelevant, Markku. Rather it's an abtract to put the thing, the moral question, in stark proportion. You are correct, though, that It would be equally true if I have no responsibility to the one about to be tortured and it is merely one person, a kidnapped hostage, say, for whom I do have responsibility, and whom I hope to save via torture, by gaining information on his whereabouts and the circumstances surrounding those.

Blogger Markku December 10, 2014 4:32 PM  

Well...you can refuse to because someone else will not.

Yes, that is the very moral complexity. On the one hand, emotionally it feels very similar to cowardice. On the other, there is the fact that even the most moral killing imaginable rendered King David forever unfit to be a priest.

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