Down in the Dungeon with the Torture Trolls (warning: rated J for Japanese graphic violence)

saw_ver91To my knowledge, neither Andrew Sullivan nor Glenn Greenwald is a member of the HotAir community – though I suspect their requests for user-accounts would be granted.  Closed registration keeps out the garden variety trolls that infest more open sites.  Yet we do have a handful of left-of-right regulars to help us maintain contact with that interminable paranoid nightmare the Kossacks call “reality.”   I’m thinking of two regulars in particular who came to dominate discussion under two prior posts of mine on or referring to the so-called (and prejudicially) “torture” issue:  Their contributions exemplify why, inevitably, this topic is at once so fascinatingly painful, so dangerous and yet ineluctable for all concerned.

Many HotAir regulars know sesquipedalian and strangelet, and also know that, though they’ve been known to troll, or walk on the troll side, they’re not really trolls.  Troll is as troll does, and, once you get past their initial reflexes (something virtually impossible with a true troll), past their compulsively expressed disdain for “gun freaks, jesus freaks and pro-life nuts,” once you’ve fended off their rhetorical elbows and massaged your verbal shins, and as long as you keep one hand in jugular protection position and the other one within easy reach of your snickersnee, and didn’t forget your cup, and wore your steel-toed boots, and your helmet, and you vary your schedule and avoid all other routines, they turn out to be smart, articulate, thoughtful – even witty – well-meaning idealists capable of dialogue and seemingly even looking for it.

Yet, in my opinion, they remain controlled, where not consumed, by emotion on this topic – expressing fear, shame, and anger in varying counterproductive proportions, and determined to share – just like many of their allies, and just like the Troll-in-Chief.

sesqui’s opening salvo on my “Where We Agree with Obama…” post, which included the above-linked “nuts/freaks” excerpt, ends as follows:  “[Y]ou and your ilk brought shame to America.”  “You” in this case would be yours truly.  As for my ilk, if you don’t know whom he means, I understand that the DHS has published a highly informative report.  Anyway, after selected ilk had their say, sesqui came back with another broadside:

torture is disgusting. anyone promoting torture is despicable, no matter who the victim is. i don’t care about your rhetorical tricks trying to reconcile having jesus in your heart with actively advocating the systematic torture of human beings. face your shame

When I pointed out that no one except him, either in the top post or in subsequent posts had mentioned religion, he decided to play the patriot card:

it’s despicable, whether or not you’re a christian. it’s unpatriotic and against our values. shining city on the hill, say [expletive] goodbye to that. you keep telling yourself that they didn’t suffer, that it was just a little roughing’em up – it wasn’t. it was planned, systematic torture, as described above.

you believe former bush people that torture worked. so far, no evidence, only hearsay. you want to believe them, because you can’t face the truth. that we senselessly tortured people, and gained very little from it. we tortured people not just to stop a ticking bomb, but to gather the “mosaic” info, random data that may be useful one day. we tortured people for that.

Notice how many times the word “torture” or close variations is repeated in the above and prior excerpts:  sesqui has his hands on an implement that he expects will inflict pain, and so he pokes it in, and in, and in where he expects to find a nerve center.

At the same time, he helps ensure that the discussion is about torture, exploiting the pre-judgment of the issue briefly noted above, and seen everywhere these days in the phrase “torture memos.”  Torture per se is never precisely defined in these discussions – among other things because it can’t be (see below).  In most discourse from the left, it now appears to be peremptoritly equated with “what’s in the memos.”  Now as before, it’s circular:  We know the Bushies tortured because “what the Bushies did” is our definition of torture.

This approach works well for torture trolls for several reasons, prominently among them the fact that the Bush team was consciously struggling to develop effective interrogation procedures without “torturing.”  Regardless of whatever moral judgments you make – if you believe, say, along with some 60% of Americans who usually tell pollsters that torture should remain an option at least in “rare instances” – the US has aligned itself against torture, by treaty with force of law, as ratified under Ronald Reagan, as re-affirmed by Congress under Bill Clinton, and as re-affirmed again by and under George W Bush.  Here’s the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the US was a signatory as of 1988 – the full text having been helpfully provided to us by none other than sesquipedalian himself, with my emphases:

Article 1.
1. 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.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

In other words, US public officials and lawyers don’t have the option of freely indulging in thought experiments.  They can’t, just for the sake of discussion, say, “Well, under a broad definition of torture, waterboarding and humiliating KSM was torture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t the right thing to do.”  If they say that, then they’re outlaw torturers for life in every warren, grotto, and cave of the internet, the mass media, and the Democratic Party – coming soon to congressional committee or federal court near you.  They can’t muse aloud about the history of torture, about cultures and whole civilizations, Christian and non-Christian, tribal and imperial, that viewed torture completely differently, and in ways that are arguably no more or less arbitrary than ours.  They can’t, in their official roles, come on HotAir and say, “Well, if you put it like that, yes, I’d go medieval on Abu Zubaydah’s a$$ if I thought it was the only way to save a city – or to save my own family.”  If they do give voice to such beliefs and sentiments – beliefs and sentiments shared by many, many of their fellow citizens, and by the vast majority of human beings ever to walk the planet (sociopaths being the main exceptions) – then they are putting themselves outside the law of the land, which has, in my view short-sightedly and dishonestly, spread-eagled us on a transnational table, and tied us down with all-encompassing ambiguity.

As Green Roomer coldwarrior asked, when confronted by sesquipedalian in an unusually calm colloquy, “What qualifies as severe pain and suffering?”  There can be no single answer:  We’re lost in the Derridean mirror-world in which definitions of words are merely other words, everything is everything, and the eye altering alters all.  And there is no shortage of volunteers ready to don the hood and go right after our eyes.

Why did we put ourselves into the hands of future transnational inquisitors?  It’s not just some international version of Stockholm Syndrome, where we’ve come to love our global captors.  In a series of conflicts going back to the colonial era, Americans have defined themselves, justified themselves in war and conquest, against a series of enemies depicted as torturers:  Native American “savages,” slavers, Imperial Japanese, Communists, Saddamists, terrorists.  The Revolutionary generation’s “self-evident” truths against the British Empire were broader, but inclusive on this theme:  A country founded with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in mind, deeply protective of the individual against the state as throughout the Bill of Rights, is implicitly a country founded against torture.  What “shocks the conscience” – to use the oft-invoked American legal standard – isn’t just that torture is “disgusting” in the eye of whatever beholder, but that it inherently and immediately pre-empts and contradicts everything we stand for.

This is what, it seems, really gets to strangelet, and how could you not be sympathetic?  Now, when playing droll-troll, she’s the smart-alecky grrl who knows us and our interests better than we do.  One of her favorite tactics, when not l-ing ol at the conserva-rubes, is to cite some right- or middle-winger who appears to have broken ranks.  It’s the “your friends are betraying you” tactic that every interrogator uses.  Yet, strangelet is even less a good bad cop than she is a consistent troll.  In the end, like sesqui, she drops the accuser pose and joins the parade of witness/victims, unforgivably tortured by our willingness to torture, exhibiting her wounds for a jury:

Don’t you think that Sesqui and I (and other likeminded Americans) would have protested if we had known?
I dismissed Cole and Sully [app. Prof. Juan Cole and blogger Andrew Sullivan] because I simply could not believe my country would torture.
I did look away, I was in denial, but not in the way you assume.

That last sentence refers to an earlier exchange in which she had equated herself with Alexei “Alyosha” Karamazov, the “good” brother Karamazov.  Unlike us (Ivans, Dmitrys, Fyodors, Smerdyakovs all), she “could not do it,” could not, in her proferred example, harm the innocent child to save the nation.

In a somewhat similar vein, once drawn into expounding his own position (before lapsing back into attempts to shock and torment us with fragmentary narratives of “torture”), sesqui imagines some future regime under which heroic volunteers will protect him and us from terrorists, then willingly face the consequences:

in case of an impending attack, i’d of course hope that they would do whatever to stop it, but if they break the law, i’d see their punishment afterward as sad but proper. by torturing terrorists to stop an attack, they’d make themselves tragic heroes who compromised themselves for doing “the right thing,” that is, defending the country. immediately afterward, bizarre as it may sound, our priority becomes that they are brought to justice.in those extremely rare cases, if indeed it has ever even gotten close to that, there really is a bomb ticking somewhere, as a human being i’d expect them to go beyond the limit, but i’d consider it one of the great tragedies of life, when someone compromises himself to save something greater. he becomes corrupted by his act.

The dramatic recitation is also almost worthy of Dostoevsky, though alert readers may identify it instead as the predicament of warrior-saint Jack Bauer at the beginning of this season’s 24, willingly facing the music, undergoing crucifiction by congressional committee.  As for sesqui and strangelet specifically, you almost have to admire the courage it takes to confess such cowardice, and the honesty of the commitment to dishonesty, the open denial, even under internet pseudonyms.  In their America, the citizenry will be allowed to pretend innocence, beneficiaries of the actions of Bauer-like heroes, who, in order to preserve the former’s sense of inviolate moral sanctity, will then be subjected to the harshest possible retrospective judgment.

It’s ironic and telling in this context – and I don’t pretend to be the first to point this out – that our national self-torment regarding torture has played out during a period in which so-called “torture porn” has been one of the “hot” genres of popular art.

road_to_guantanamo_ver3The poster to the right looks like it’s for any old torture porn movie – and maybe that’s a fair description (I haven’t seen the film).   The imagery was intended to attract people to a documentary film detailing charges of severe mistreatment, what some would call torture, by the US military of Guantanamo inmates. The designer clearly understood that the elements that attract people to this topic include prurient interest, fear, sadomasochistic identification with both the torturers and the tortured, and other inchoate and complex emotional states and investments; many of the same things that draw people to movies like SAW or HOSTEL. Like rather similar poster images for the fictional torture porn films CAPTIVITY and SAW II, it was rejected for theatrical use by the Motion Picture Association of America.

This odd intersection of documentary and fictional torture film aesthetics is not purely a coincidence, in my opinion, just as it’s no coincidence that the torture trolls and others like to focus on childish and irrelevant SAW-like fantasy dilemmas:  Would you torture a child to save Manhattan?  Would you gouge out a suspect’s eyeball on a 50/50 chance of good intelligence?  There is undoubtedly somewhere some pierced and tattooed hate-boy whose favorite blogger is Andrew Sullivan, whose favorite director is Eli Roth, and who is convinced of his moral superiority to Dick Cheney, Jay Bybee, and you, and is desperate to tell you all about it.

We’re all KSM on this topic – undergoing a harsh interrogation completely beyond our control, unsure of where it could be heading, wondering whether our very political and moral lives are at stake.  We’re all Jay Bybee, too, asking ourselves the same questions, from the perspective of the master, not the slave, dreadfully responsible no matter what we do, morally endangered by our relative safety, in thrall to our very freedom to choose.  And there’s no way to know where this process will end:  In the shadow of another if very different “reign of terror,” the writings of the Marquis De Sade were said eventually to have reached every literate French citizen – and if they did any good, the corpses strewn from Paris to Egypt to Iberia to Moscow and back suggest that the effect remained long delayed, at best.

Or how’s this for torture porn?  In the Concentration Camp at Buchenwald, the same building used for interrogations in the daytime was used as an SS-run for-profit inmates’ movie theater in the evenings, the instruments of torture moved aside to make for projector, screen, and seats.  Over the course of that same war, on the good side, the US began with a posture that “area bombing” was inhumane and repugnant.  Gradually, we accepted that our less well-equipped, already area-bombed major ally would engage in the practice – the strategic aerial version of “rendition” to torturing regimes.  Finally, we began to do it as well, at first offering contingent justifications (we were attacking “communications” or “economic” centers),  until finally we were incinerating whole cities in an express effort to compel the enemy to surrender.

Maybe we should never have done it.  Maybe we should have been doing it from the beginning.  Maybe we’re doomed (or maybe we’re lucky) never to recall at the outset of hostilities where the logic of war can drive us by their end, and where the logic of peace tends to drive us back.

Finally, I’ll say first that I appreciate (most of) sesqui and strangelet’s challenges, and I’m prepared to try to understand anyone’s position on these most difficult issues, and to defend my own.  In brief, I support a policy that allows for the application of minimum necessary physical force (including drugs and other technical means) to obtain time-critical information from captive out-of-uniform combatants, subject to consultation with and review by all branches of government.  In practice, I think it would look like a combination of Alan Dershowitz’s “torture warrants” proposal and the ad hoc, consultative and precedent-controlled decisions of the Bush Office of Legal Counsel and associated intelligence and law enforcement personnel.

There’s much said about what “message” we send by what we’ve done or by what we choose to reveal about what we’ve done.  I’d like us to say – that is, to admit, to others and to ourselves – that we will take what measures we need to take in order to protect ourselves and our way of life, and the lives of innocents.  We will strive to do so with pragmatism, honesty, courage, and reason, not fear or shame or evasion or convenient fiction or ad hoc panic.

And if you don’t want to trust our judgment about what’s necessary to achieve our vital objectives, then don’t commit acts of terror against us or our allies.

UPDATE:  My estimate of 60% of Americans supporting torture in at least “rare” instances was based on scanning several polls conducted over the last few years (including some apparent outliers).  James Taranto, in today’s BEST OF THE WEB, cites current Pew Research’s opinion polling that puts the numbers consistently closer to 70-30 regarding “torture of suspected terrorists to gain information,” with nearly half of the respondents regularly falling into “sometimes/often” aggregated from among the four options:  “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often.”

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189 comments on “Down in the Dungeon with the Torture Trolls (warning: rated J for Japanese graphic violence)

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  1. Exquisite, my delightful Celtic homeslice, but you got me totally wrong.
    In truth, discussing this with you has clarified and focused my objections, as follows, from one of AllahP’s threads.
    O Mathematikos!

    Torture should be extralegal, spontaneous, and vanishingly rare.
    Those obscene scumbags made an institution of torture in MY country, they legalized it and systemized it, and ginned up a whole bureaucracy to support it.
    Release ALL the memos.
    Let the DoJ, the Justice branch, deal with them.
    Like the Founders intended.

    I hope they hang ‘em high.

  2. And in Buchenwald….when the Allies opened the camp….American soldiers forgot their training and began to slaughter unarmed germans. Americans driven to madness by the evidence of torture all around them.
    And now their country wants to legalize it?
    /spit
    Should I support Cheney and Bush making a FREAKIN’ INSTITUTION OF TORTURE? With procedures and protocols and legal justification memos and goverment built FREAKIN’ TORTURE EQUIPMENT???
    Sure, go jackbauer.
    But do it in-situ, in theatre, and in the extremity of need.

  3. I’m still looking to cash in on the “no toothbrush == torture” argument. My in-laws have deep, deep pockets.

  4. Sure, go jackbauer.
    But do it in-situ, in theatre, and in the extremity of need.

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 6:27 PM

    So… is it ok, or is it not ok? Either it’s worth it, or it’s not. This cowardice of “let that guy take the fall” is unserious.

  5. It’s bad enough that trolls are allowed to stay and screw up the site. Now we have trolls running the blog too.

    This place is going to the dogs dregs.

  6. A new Rasmussen survey suggests that the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree with their obsessive interest in the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. At this point, at least, common sense reigns:

    * 58 percent of voters say the Obama administration’s recent release of DOJ memos “endangers the national security of the United States.” Fewer than half as many 28 percent, think it “helps America’s image abroad.” (This suggests that Obama’s apology tour hasn’t been especially well-received, either.)

    * 70 percent also say America’s legal system either does a good job of weighing security against individual rights, or puts too much emphasis on individual rights at the expense of security. Only 21 percent say the legal system is “too concerned about protecting national security.”

    * Only 28 percent want the Obama administration to investigate how the Bush administration treated terrorists. 58 percent want no such investigations.

    * Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo Bay is now disapproved of by a 46-36 margin, with support for Obama’s action declining.

    Oh, the Humanity!

  7. strangelet:

    Are you condoning war crimes? Because technically the incident of shooting unarmed Germans was just that.

    And no one is talking about putting terrorists in death camps and gas chambers.

    This is what makes the discussion so bizarre, the constant need of people such as yourself to exaggerate, lie, and invent.

  8. And you know something? Thanks to the navel gazing and so called journalistic obsession with this topic, the people we do pick up have a very good idea what to expect. In fact they use these techniques on each other in order to toughen each other up. They discuss the use of media and human rights groups and international lawyers.

    They do this because they know how good it makes people feel about themselves to pretend moral superiority. After all, strangelet is not risking anything.

  9. And strangelet has already decided that torture is whatever the Bushies did because the Bushies are bad Republicans. It is a rather inverted kind of logic, but what can you expect from the morbidly partisan?

  10. Guardian

    Frankly I feel that our tolerance of trolls and dissenters is what separates us from the left. We want real dialouge, not false consensus. I will agree though that Allah and pals drum up friction in the pursuit of hits and comments. but that is the nature of all advertiser or hit-supported media. Controversy is it’s lifeblood, much like democracy.

  11. The Highlander helped me understand what bothers me so much.
    It is the institutionalization of torture as part of established American policy.

    And strangelet has already decided that torture is whatever the Bushies did because the Bushies are bad Republicans. It is a rather inverted kind of logic, but what can you expect from the morbidly partisan?

    Terrye on April 24, 2009 at 6:57 PM

    Like I said, release ALL the memos and let the DoJ decide.
    There is a thought experiment I’m fond of….what would the Founders do?

    I think Obama should step out of this entirely.
    The debate should not be partisan.

  12. This cowardice of “let that guy take the fall” is unserious.

    Lehosh on April 24, 2009 at 6:40 PM

    No…that is a personal decision. It every man’s own choice to be Ivan or Alyosha.
    “Following orders” is a cop-out.
    I’m Alyosha.
    I neither rely on the Highlander to be Ivan or judge him if he is.
    Freewill.

  13. I recommend the Churchill model.

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 7:35 PM

    I like the Psychological approach. It’s far more effective… but what happens when that’s spoken out against?

    One must draw a line at some point and stick to it no matter who or what persuades him (or her) otherwise.

    The thing I’m getting at is this: Bush could’ve used the psychological model of enhanced interrogation and many in the opposition would’ve still spoken out against it. What would you have said then?

    If there is anything I hate about trolls, it’s a decided lack of inconsistency? Not that I’m calling you one Strangelet, but consistency from all people isn’t too much to ask.

    And lastly, about the Germans at Dachau… they knew what was going on and said nothing, did nothing, and expected nothing. I’m not sure who was more naive: the Americans doing the shooting or the Germans that got shot?

    At some point you cross the line between being a bystander and being an accomplice. They knew what was going on! All those who would’ve fought against it had already started fighting, or died doing so.

  14. Frankly I feel that our tolerance of trolls and dissenters is what separates us from the left.

    Dr. Manhattan on April 24, 2009 at 7:29 PM

    No. Tolerance is the left.

    The line between intellectual discourse and pointless trolling has been crossed so many times already. And it’s a big broad line at that.

    Tolerance is what keeps us divided. To put up with crap in the name of tolerance is what got us into this mess. There comes a point where you make a stand. This far and no more.

    Tolerance will get you gay marriages, Presidential bowing before Islamic Kings, trillion dollar deficits and countless capitulations that further weaken our country and economy.

    Tolerance will get you killed on a battlefield and tolerance will destroy the country if left unchecked.

    This whole country was founded on the Principles of intolerance. I’m hanging on to those values.

    F**k tolerance. It way too expensive and way over rated.

  15. Dr. Manhattan on April 24, 2009 at 6:39 PM

    Suspects often left the interrogation cells legless with fear after an all-night grilling. An inspired amateur psychologist, Stephens used every trick, lie and bullying tactic to get what he needed; he deployed threats, drugs, drink and deceit. But he never once resorted to violence. “Figuratively,” he said, “a spy in war should be at the point of a bayonet.” But only ever figuratively. As one colleague wrote: “The Commandant obtained results without recourse to assault and battery. It was the very basis of Camp 020 procedure that nobody raised a hand against a prisoner.”
    Stephens did not eschew torture out of mercy. This was no squishy liberal: the eye was made of tin, and the rest of him out of tungsten. (Indeed, he was disappointed that only 16 spies were executed during the war.) His motives were strictly practical. “Never strike a man. It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise.”…

    Threats, drugs, drink and deceit….do you what oxytocin is? sodium pentathol? cannabis? Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone that can be used for empathy bonding.
    We should be using those techniques…they don’t to be redefined like water torture, which is what we called it when the Viet Cong and the Japanese did it to our men.
    Let me make it clear.
    Torture is illegal in America.
    Release all the memos.
    Let the DoJ decide.

  16. Bush could’ve used the psychological model of enhanced interrogation and many in the opposition would’ve still spoken out against it. What would you have said then?

    Me? nothing. I am against INSTITUTIONALIZED TORTURE.
    Is the psychological model of enhanced interrogation torture? I think that is what the Israelis use actually.

  17. Guardian on April 24, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    At some point, tolerance goes out the window.

    Hath not the master said: “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” This was not a sword of violence but of separation. At some point, the good will be separated from the bad. Not that I say this will happen simply because God hath said so (though he hath said it), but sadly, it is the nature of man to devolve into warring tribes and cut each others throats.

    At some point, one side will be irreconcilably separated from another by their own actions. Then what? Do we excuse their intolerable acts? Do we make peace with a foe who wishes us death?

    The founding fathers thought otherwise. Our declaration of independence gives us the duty to.

    At some point, tolerance MUST go out the window and inevitably replaced with war.

  18. strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    I will take you at your words, though I will ask what is “institutionalized torture”. Torture done on a regular/uniform basis by an organization (i.e. it’s a common fallback)? That’s what I think you’re getting at.

    No insult intended. Just wanting a definition.

    Further more, some of these pansies being interrogated will call it torture no matter what we do.

  19. At some point you cross the line between being a bystander and being an accomplice. They knew what was going on! All those who would’ve fought against it had already started fighting, or died doing so.

    Chaz706 on April 24, 2009 at 7:54 PM

    But that is not my point….my point is that the soldiers were so horrified by the results of torture that they forgot their training and shot unarmed men.
    Would they want us to have institutionalized torture?

    I’m pretty sure WWII paratroopers might have pistol whipped some intell out captured prisoners. But that was extralegal, spontaneous, and in-situ.
    And neccessary.

  20. This is no longer a matter of law, it’s a matter of politics. Obama made it one. I’m surprised you don’t see the pattern yet. First it was wall street (actually first it was an inoculation against criticism using his race). Publish lots of memos, hold press conferences, explain half the story. Stoke the rage machine, then turn around and in a closed do meeting make sure the bankers know he’s “the only one between them and the pitchforks”. Now it’s the lawyer and officials who could organize against him. So here we go again. But this time it’s going global.

    This isn’t about legality, this isn’t about being proper. This is about political power and demonstrations of it, pure and simple.

  21. Torture done on a regular/uniform basis by an organization (i.e. it’s a common fallback)? That’s what I think you’re getting at.

    No insult intended. Just wanting a definition.

    Further more, some of these pansies being interrogated will call it torture no matter what we do.

    Chaz706 on April 24, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    For example, we defined “water torture” already. The Bybee memos attempt to redefine the practice as not-torture. It became SOP with government approved equipment, trained personnel, procedures, protocols, and funding.
    Systemic, institutionalized torture.

  22. This isn’t about legality, this isn’t about being proper. This is about political power and demonstrations of it, pure and simple.

    Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    It is not a matter of politics for me.
    Like I have said repeatedly, release all the memos and let the judiciary decide.
    What would the Founders do in this situation?

  23. What would the Founders do in this situation?

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    Are you talking about the same founders who hanged Muslim pirates without trials?

  24. The founding fathers thought otherwise. Our declaration of independence gives us the duty to.

    At some point, tolerance MUST go out the window and inevitably replaced with war.

    Chaz706 on April 24, 2009 at 8:09 PM

    Well, what would the Founding Fathers do????
    Tell meh.
    Would they have approved of institutionalized torture?

  25. Are you talking about the same founders who hanged Muslim pirates without trials?

    Guardian on April 24, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    Yup.
    Would they have approved systemic institutionalized torture?

  26. It is not a matter of politics for me.
    Like I have said repeatedly, release all the memos and let the judiciary decide.
    What would the Founders do in this situation?

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:21 PM

    Ok, I’ll give you that. but you don’t control the process. As for the founders, I suggest that if Washington had a standing order that proscribed a certain behaviour, that anyone apprehended having broken it would have been summarily punished, up to and including execution. not exactly whats going on right now huh?

  27. And actually that was not Buchenwald, it was Dachau.

    Terrye on April 24, 2009 at 6:49 PM

    Pardon, you are correct.
    Dachau

  28. Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 8:27 PM

    I am really only concerned with myself and what I have learned in discussion with the Mathmatikos.
    I’m Alyosha.
    “I could not do it.”
    You have to decide who you are for yourselves.

  29. I am really only concerned with myself and what I have learned in discussion with the Mathmatikos.
    I’m Alyosha.
    “I could not do it.”
    You have to decide who you are for yourselves.

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:37 PM

    and yet you spend significant amounts of time trying to either persuade or browbeat others.

  30. Would they have approved systemic institutionalized torture?

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:25 PM

    Considering that the accepted the maintenance of the South’s “peculiar institution,” I think the obvious answer is that they would have accepted just about anything in the interest of preserving the nation – even things that many felt were totally immoral, in the interest of some day being able to eliminate them.

    Your deployment of the phrase “institutionalized torture” is prejudicial, as is your insistence on a broad, collectively self-flagellatiing definition of “torture.”

    Let others determine whether what we choose to do is “torture,” and whether that makes it a bad thing, and and whether that makes them want to do something about it. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that in Japanese and Arabic, just to pick two languages, have very different usages.

    By adopting an open, results-oriented commitment to maximally humane but sufficient physical compulsion where necessary, we let our enemies use their own (on this score likely fertile) imaginations. If your objective is to reduce the morall abhorrent incidence of torture, then consider in addition that many who might, under your favored scenario, end up being tortured informally by Jack Bauer, or drugged, would instead simply talk, knowing that soon enough they would end up talking anyway.

    The harder you look at a word, the harder it is to understand it.

  31. Would they have approved systemic institutionalized torture?

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:25 PM

    Yup. In fact they did. We have never had a President so squishy as we have now.

    It really amazes me when the left tries to use the founding fathers to support one of their arguments. The ideologies between the Left and the those of the founders could not be more opposite.

    You do know that the least a “outed” gay dude in the times of the founding fathers could expect in punishment was to have boiling tar poured over them and then feathered. Then placed in stocks and ridiculed in a public square. That would have been considered lenient.

    By all means, let’s start looking back to those principles. Hmmm?

  32. Torture

    hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    I just wondering where this moral high ground has been for the last 35 + years as babies were ripped, torn and slashed from their mothers….where was the horror as solutions were pumped into amniotic sacs to cause death by chemical burning…

    hummmmmmmmmmmm

    where was there outcry to end the torture.

    roflmao

  33. The real reason the detainees are not entitled to POW status is to be found in a distinction first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval European jurisprudence. As the eminent military historian, Sir Michael Howard, wrote in the “October 2, 2001 edition of the Times of London, the Romans distinguished between bellum, war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy, and guerra, war against latrunculi — pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws — “the common enemies of mankind.”

    The former, bellum, became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions were meant to apply. They do not apply to the latter, guerra — indeed, punishment for latrunculi traditionally has been summary execution.”

  34. and yet you spend significant amounts of time trying to either persuade or browbeat others.

    Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 8:42 PM

    I am one of the aukosmatikoi of this Mathematikos.
    I am listening.
    But listening is a process of discovery and self-examination.
    I did not truly understand why the torture memos bothered me until I listened here.

  35. sorry…that post is a cut and paste from an article by Mackubin Thomas Owens is professor of strategy and force planning at the Naval War College in Newport.

  36. I believe that the torture of enemies in war is always option that we should keep on the table and that it is moral to do so. I have arguments to support my belief, but they aren’t relevant to my point. My point is that I’m not a despicable person, and that to argue that I’m despicable is to argue that at least 99.9% of all human beings before 1940 were despicable.

    Here’s one example of the real world of our Founding Fathers from the Lewis and Clark expedition:

    On June 29, 1804, Lewis and Clark had two suboridinates punished by torture. Collins received 100 lashes and Hall received 50 lashes. This was because Collins was on guard duty and broke into the supplies and got drunk. Collins invited Hall to drink also.

    I think Lewis and Clark were cool, not despicable.

  37. Pardon, but that has nothing to with the topic here.

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 9:07 PM

    The treatment of latrunculi has everything to do with what we are discussing here.

  38. thuja on April 24, 2009 at 9:11 PM

    What you have described is corporal punishment, not designed to elicit any form of information coercion. It is administered after the act as punishment, not prior to an act to coerce compliance.

  39. F**k tolerance. It way too expensive and way over rated.

    Guardian on April 24, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    I agree with your sentiment, but I do think we have to be careful about how say this. We need to reassure others that we believe it is awesome to be tolerant of difference that don’t injure you. I tell people that I’m a gay Jew and I don’t have to tolerate muslims or anyone else who wants to kill me. People understand why my intolerance is appropriate.

  40. If your objective is to reduce the morall abhorrent incidence of torture

    Highlander….I want torture NOT to be banal, NOT to be SOP, NOT to be cluttered with the minutiae of equipment and protocols and definintions and funding.
    I want torture NOT to be normative.
    For example, we ALREADY defined waterboarding as torture when the Japanese and the NK and the VietCong did it to our soldiers. The Bybee memos redefined it to be NOT-torture so we could make it SOP.

  41. It became SOP with government approved equipment, trained personnel, procedures, protocols, and funding.
    Systemic, institutionalized torture.

    Exaggerate much?

  42. What you have described is corporal punishment, not designed to elicit any form of information coercion. It is administered after the act as punishment, not prior to an act to coerce compliance.

    Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 9:16 PM

    and your point is?

    To be clear, my point is that corporal punishment for many reason including information extraction was accepted by good people in the past. And I’m not saying that we should restrict torture only for the purpose of information extraction. I think we should consider looking the other way when terrorists are tortured–as every single society in the world would have done before 1940.

  43. strangelet, what we did when we waterboarded does not compare to what the Japanese did – employ a form of waterboarding in the context of a massive cultural commitment to torture, not just for the sake of extracting information, but for the sake of demonstrating one’s own virtues as a warrior, in comparison to captives who by definition were unworthy of respect. This is a canard – like most such based on a half-truth or element of truth – being bandied about.

    However, you DO point to one of the main criticisms of the Dershowitze proposal, that the existence of a torture warrant mechanism might regularize the process, desensitizing us to it. We would have to put our hope and faith, as with so many other areas of human life in our society, that an engaged populace through its representatives would continually review and refine the “insitutions” in keeping with its standards of humanity.

    Remember, the question isn’t “no physical compulsion ever” vs “rare (potentially growing in frequency) physical compulsion,” but the latter, under open democratic oversight vs. inconsistent, informal, spasmodically overcompensating, destructive, morally corrosive use of physical compulsion.

  44. compulsively expressed disdain for “gun freaks, jesus freaks and pro-life nuts,

    Also, I MUST take exception to this.
    I’m well armed for a grrl, I own a browning 12 gauge and a ruger pistol.
    I learned to shoot skeet when i was 8 and that browning knocked me on my butt everytime.
    I would neverever diss anyone for owning a gun.

  45. Exaggerate much?

    hillbillyjim on April 24, 2009 at 9:28 PM

    Not usually……release the memos and prove me wrong.
    ;)

  46. and your point is?

    To be clear, my point is that corporal punishment for many reason including information extraction was accepted by good people in the past. And I’m not saying that we should restrict torture only for the purpose of information extraction. I think we should consider looking the other way when terrorists are tortured–as every single society in the world would have done before 1940.

    thuja on April 24, 2009 at 9:30 PM

    hmmm a return to corporal punishment. Sounds like something that would really shake up a few sensibilities. I think I would agree with that “under open democratic oversight “.

  47. Three (3) subjects equals standard operating procedure?

    I think not.

    hillbillyjim on April 24, 2009 at 9:47 PM

    Her whole argument so far is that the US had a documented and approved process by which we determine who would receive serious physical discomfort. Somehow the idea of a process is more disturbing to her than a society that would excuse someone going “Jack Bauer” on a detainee.

  48. strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 9:36 PM

    well, I realized that it might seem unfairly to tar you, and I suppose there might have been a more elegant way to have phrased it, but 1) the link goes to the actual comment, 2) and my text goes on to describe sesqui as the writer, 3) on other threads you have, in my opinion, gone on disdain jags among whose objects were undoubtedly (your fellow) gun nuts, and 4) the immediate context was rather figurative – in truth I’m not actually wearing a cup or helmet or steel-toed boots, and my snickersnee is in the other room.

    So, ATC, I figgered I could let it stand. Your protest has been noted, and, by the time we put together the jubilee edition, if not sooner, we’ll try to come up with something more precise, I guess.

  49. i sort of feel addressed here. i’m not going to make the moral argument anymore, because it’s pointless.

    the problem with this debate is that it focuses too much on an unlikely, hypothetical, TV show-inspired scenario where you don’t have the option to take the time and use traditional methods. i have little doubt that cheney’s memos will not reveal anything comparable.

    in any other situations, where the information might be extremely important, but not as urgent, the unreliability of what the subjects will say under extreme physical and mental pain – torture – simply outweigh all the associated costs. whatever we learn from the memos, there’s little chance they’ll conclusively prove that traditional methods would not have been effective.

    the more expert or otherwise informed opinions surface, including tonight’s BREAKING NEWS according to msnbc, and others, convinces me more and more that EITs were uncalled for, needlessly and irresponsibly applied, often in pursuit of false leads. soon we’ll learn much more about this, and i’m afraid that what we’re going to find out will be to nobody’s liking.

    remember the surge. what won us the tactical victory was not just more troops, but also a different approach. iraqis would be treated better, deals would be cut with insurgents and generally the goal was to protect the population. it was successful because finally we began to treat the iraqis as normal human beings – no more hadithas. american commanders began to learn arabic as they spread out to smaller outposts, living among the people, showing a human face. that’s how al qaeda lost iraq. nobody mistreated anyone without reprimand under petraeus, wonder why.

    whatever you think, for most of the world, and especially the arab world, the interrogation methods and conditions of the our prisoners are seen as torture. and when it’s about its implications abroad, that’s what matters, so there’s no point debating it. and it goes against the entire mindset of the surge, and what really made it work. strategically, it’s a grave mistake, it cannot be kept secret for long, and it’s incredibly damaging our long-term interests. it’s time that we stop giving scumbags around the world legitimate reasons to demonize us. it’s time to return to being the shining city on the hill again. (i hope this doesn’t remind you of dostoyevsky. he’s good but in a different way.)

    so let’s disabuse ourselves of these sophomoric imaginary scenarios where you’re lucky enough to just have somebody in your hands who happens to have the key info to stop some horrible, horrible impending event. i’ll send you a self-flagellating postcard if it happens and somebody has to go all jack bauer on the dude to stop the annihilation of manhattan topeka, KS.

    as for whether it’s torture, CK (Sir MacLeod?), i linked several quotes about the effects of their treatment on some of the prisoners. for example, we’ve clearly turned padilla into an anthropomorph lettuce, “docile as piece of furniture,” according to his guards, over the years. nothing he’s ever said can be used at court against anyone because he suffers from extreme PTSD combined with the effects of years of solitary confinement (expert’s words, not mine). to every normal person, he shows the signs of having gone through extended periods of severe mental and physical pain.

    and the polls you cite – they’re meaningless when it’s a moral issue. in 1967, 72% of Americans opposed interracial marriage.

    also, thanks for exposing my most intemperate comments, bastard ;)

  50. Wow, a troll thread!

    Strangelet must loooove the attention. Now she can brag to her friends about how she fought the good fight against the right wing extremists.

    Sleep well tonight, secure in the knowledge that your hands will never be soiled because others will do the dirty work on your behalf.

  51. Somehow the idea of a process is more disturbing to her than a society that would excuse someone going “Jack Bauer” on a detainee.

    Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 9:54 PM

    Yes, because it is normallized. The MaCleod touched on this….torture is awful, horrific….normalizing it, making it banal takes its power.
    And this is another thing you don’t understand, Highlander….. Saw and Hostel are about revenge. Everyone in the Saw movies deserves what they get because of something they did. In Hostel I beautiful teenagers get what they derserve for being beautiful teenagers. Hostel II is one of the best revenge movies of all time. The neuro-receptors for revenge are co-located in the small neocortical area also responsible for opiate addiction and sexual pleasure.
    That is why Americans approve torturing KSM in polls.
    Revenge.

  52. Sleep well tonight, secure in the knowledge that your hands will never be soiled because others will do the dirty work on your behalf.

    walkingboss on April 24, 2009 at 10:13 PM

    I said before…I’m Alyosha.
    I neither expect others to be Ivan on my behalf, or judge them if they are.
    It is a matter of freewill, and what it means to be human.

  53. hmmm a return to corporal punishment. Sounds like something that would really shake up a few sensibilities. I think I would agree with that “under open democratic oversight “.

    Fighton03 on April 24, 2009 at 9:48 PM

    I desire society to be as happy as possible. However, there are difficulties we face that are not due to human ignorance and human malice, but due to the face we live in a universe which doesn’t correspond to the fantasies of the politically correct moralist. For instance, if we want better medicine we have to do animal research. It’s simply ignorant to argue that computer models from the information we have now will do the job–as the smelly anarchist animal rights protesters two blocks from my house tried to tell me yesterday. (I actually respect the fact that they smell. Hygiene is way overrated by mainstream society.)

    We live in a complex world and some cruelty and killing is justified. I’m pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-abortion, pro-animal research, pro-occasional-torture-of-terrorist because I feel the killing or cruelty is justified. On the other hand, I object to eating pork because pigs are treated so inhumanely. Of course, I’m also a Jew which may bias me here, but I only buy eggs from chickens who are raised cage free, because of animal welfare considerations.

    It’s useful to consider jointly all the cruelty/killing issues together so that we can have a rational framework for considering each individual issue. This approach gets us out of the impasse of the mindless spewing of denunciations of opposition views.

  54. I admire the earnestness of your go-around with the other commenters but in the end it really comes off as so much blah blah blah yada yada yada. These dialogues should take place just to advance

    If you recognize the fact that we are in a war then you must recognize that there is only one operative objective: to win the war. And this necessitates that you do whatever needs to be done in order to win, whatever it takes. Whatever it takes.
    Under a state of war it is incumbent upon the militay leadership to assign a higher value to your troops then you do the troops of the enemy. That all men are created equal, while a basic truth, is a non sequitur in times of war. The warrior would dispatch one million enemies for the life of one of his own. Yet your troops are expendable if the objective is important enough.
    There has never been any type of battle or war that hasn’t seen the most high minded human ideals trampled on the field of battle. And it will be a long, long time before the Marquess of Queensbury rules will be observed in the conflicts of men.

    Whatever it takes.

  55. Whatever it takes.

    what it takes is that you need to overcome your irrational fear of the enemy. more torture doesn’t mean more success. we don’t have to take revenge on them in the interrogation room either. we’ll win the “war” by not torturing.

  56. what it takes is that you need to overcome your irrational fear of the enemy. more torture doesn’t mean more success. we don’t have to take revenge on them in the interrogation room either. we’ll win the “war” by not torturing.

    sesquipedalian on April 24, 2009 at 10:42 PM

    No, the problem here is your irrationality about torture. The scenarios where we argue torture are those in which our fear of the enemy is quite rational.

  57. Wars are won by taking the fight to the enemy, on your terms, not theirs, and by not broadcasting the limits of your intentions, or means, or dedication, to make that war far far more costly to an enemy than to yourself, and then promulgating that war as if you had nothing to lose.

    Holding an irrational fear of an enemy is how to lose a war. But, having an enemy know, fully understand, completely believe, that you will stop at nothing, nothing, to destroy them, and their means to fight. That is not irrationality, that is simple war fighting.

    Sun Tzu understood that centuries ago.

    When fighting a non-state actor, this becomes even more vital. For, as non-state actors, they indeed have nothing to lose.

    Establishing that we have limits to what we are willing to do to protect ourselves, and are unwilling to meet that enemy and destroy them, the enemy has already won….it is just a matter of time for them.

    Many many years ago, Võ Nguyên Giáp understood this completely.

  58. The scenarios where we argue torture are those in which our fear of the enemy is quite rational.

    if we waterboarded everyone for DUI, we could soon reduce the number of American citizens dying a violent death each year by thousands. if we tortured every drug dealer, we could reduce drug-related violent deaths significantly as well. if we waterboarded everyone who owns a gun, crime would stop.

    the war on terror doesn’t meet the “whatever it takes” level, i’m sorry.

  59. in case of an impending attack, i’d of course hope that they would do whatever to stop it, but if they break the law, i’d see their punishment afterward as sad but proper. by torturing terrorists to stop an attack, they’d make themselves tragic heroes who compromised themselves for doing “the right thing,” that is, defending the country. immediately afterward, bizarre as it may sound, our priority becomes that they are brought to justice

    This self righteous drivel is a prime example of why liberals are incapable of strong leadership.

    This war between the theoretical and reality in liberal ideology is why the foundation and platform of the democratic party seems to be nothing more than a platform built of hypocrisy and narcissism.

    Good example of why the Obama administration can support and carry out policies of torture,break just about every promise made on the campaign trail in less than 100 days,and still have liberals spending all of their time whining and crying about the EEEEEEEEEEEEEEvils Bush.

    Great post CK Macleod.
    Another great expose extolling the failures of latte energized ideologies compared to taking care of business in the real world, with reality based solutions, that produce measurable success :

    Empirically, however, it seems beyond dispute that something has made us safer since 2001. Over the course of the Bush administration, successful attacks on the United States and its interests overseas have dwindled to virtually nothing.

    2004
    There were no successful attacks inside the United States or against American interests abroad.
    2005
    There were no successful attacks inside the United States or against American interests abroad.
    2006
    There were no successful attacks inside the United States or against American interests abroad.
    2007
    There were no successful attacks inside the United States or against American interests abroad.

    2008
    So far, there have been no successful attacks inside the United States or against American interests abroad.

  60. sesqui, there are separate issues here that you continually conflate: detainee treatment apart from interrogation; the effectiveness of the particular methods discussed in the OLC memos; the characterization of those methods – either separately or taken as part of a pseudo-system potentially including detainee treatment – as torture or not; the culpability of the OLC lawyers and others with nominal or theoretical responsibility; the best moral basis for proceeding; the best basis vis-a-vis war objectives; the best basis vis-a-vis larger social objectives… and I could tease out a few more if I felt like it, since many of these issues are attached to overlapping but relatively autonomous moral, legal, and practical issues.

    Other arguments you bring up in your “answering post” reprise ones we’ve gone into in detail on the prior thread – such as how to imagine the predicament of OLC lawyers and other responsible parties at the time (or in the future) facing a captive in reference to “ticking time bomb” or, as I suggested, “falling day-calendar pages” scenarios. I invite you to review that discussion again, and to try to focus and advance your arguments if possible, taking coldwarrior and my replies into account.

    As for the surge experience, what it might tell us precisely regarding these issues is a complex something different again, but the link between our national agony over detainee interrogation and a civilian protection orientation under counterinsurgency conditions is a stretch. Some might also want to note that our civilians also deserve to feel protected. On that note, it’s hard to see how releasing new detainee abuse photos is going to serve either the Iraqis, ourselves, or anyone else.

    I do not believe that either foreign or domestic ends would be served by a “pro-torture” policy. I do think they would be served by a maximally humane/by all means necessary self-defense posture of the sort I’ve outlined, and would be respected and even appreciated on that basis at least as much as any other, with pluses and minuses like any other.

  61. the war on terror doesn’t meet the “whatever it takes” level, i’m sorry.

    sesquipedalian on April 24, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    Sadly, too many Americans actually believe that.

    As for waterboarding for DUI’s? C’mon, you knew that was sophomoric the moment you wrote it. You’ve done better.

    Is the War on Terror not a sufficient threat to mobilize the population? Is the War on Terror not sufficient to extend to our enemies the full panoply of means to defeat them, destroy them render their cause into nothingness?

    Apparently, this Administration believes that there is no war, it is just a simple misunderstanding of points of view.

    No, it is war. It did not start with G.W. Bush. it began decades ago, when those who wished saw that we were weak, and we could be defeated, or forced to retreat…Lebanon, Somalia, the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings, the Israeli Center bombing in Buenos Ares, multiple airport bombings, the first WTC bombing, the Mir Amal Kasi murders in McLean, the Buckley murder, the Colonel William Higgins murder, and on and on down the list.

    Whether AQ, or jamiyat al-Islami, or just plain jihad or any other similar groups in any number of countries, what we face is a movement that grows strong when we show weakness, and retreats when faced with a superior force, of arms, of will.

    Strong horse. Weak horse.

    Bin Ladin understands this. So do most of the jihadis.

    But, one convert at a time, one small step here, like allowing Saudi Arabia to provide textbooks, Wahabi textbooks, to American schools, or allowing sharia to govern banking in our cities, or allow sharia to become co-equal with our justice system, each small step is a victory for jihad.

    At some point…at some point, when we no longer have the means nor the will, jihad wins.

    It cannot be accommodated., It cannot be appeased.

    Thus, we either allow it to win, one small step at a time. Or we excise the cancer, painful as it may be, to save our lives, and our way of life.

    And that, excising the cancer, does rise to the “whatever it takes” level.

  62. if we waterboarded everyone for DUI, we could soon reduce the number of American citizens dying a violent death each year by thousands. if we tortured every drug dealer, we could reduce drug-related violent deaths significantly as well. if we waterboarded everyone who owns a gun, crime would stop.

    the war on terror doesn’t meet the “whatever it takes” level, i’m sorry.

    sesquipedalian on April 24, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    You have very precisely not responded to my argument at all. I argued that we have to argue each case individually and you create some strawmen silliness about torture and drunk driving. I’m modern enough in my beliefs that I oppose torture as a criminal punishment, but ancient enough to argue that if torture seems appropriate then we should probably execute. Crime and war are separate issues and terrorism is a category of war.

    (Categories are slippery things and we should admit it. When I say crime and war are separate issues, I mean crime is a individual action and doesn’t seek to wrest power from the state. There is of course organized crime, which isn’t individual, but doesn’t seek to wrest power from the state. But then there is also organized crime which does seek to wrest power from the state. Such organized crime is in the war category. Perhaps Mexico has such organized crime. If this is the case, it does argue for a harsher treatment of the Mexican drug lords. Again, we have to argue this on what is happening in Mexico and serious reflection on the issues involved.)

  63. Yes, because it is normallized. The MaCleod touched on this….torture is awful, horrific….normalizing it, making it banal takes its power.

    Which is why, instead of having wanna-be Jack Bauers taking the law into their hands out of frustration with their political masters, we would want a policy that’s aimed at extracting information in a timely manner, by whatever means necessary and effective – only rarely involving anything that would fit the broad practical definition of torture – and, if ever intersecting narrow definitions of torture, only under rigorously controlled and well-understood circumstances (not the same, btw, as “on national television, live” or even as “other than classified”).

    There have been many regimes that strictly denied allowing “torture” that are known to have been the most brutal police states ever.

    And this is another thing you don’t understand, Highlander….. Saw and Hostel are about revenge. Everyone in the Saw movies deserves what they get because of something they did. In Hostel I beautiful teenagers get what they derserve for being beautiful teenagers.

    See, there’s so much we agree about!

    Hostel II is one of the best revenge movies of all time. The neuro-receptors for revenge are co-located in the small neocortical area also responsible for opiate addiction and sexual pleasure.
    That is why Americans approve torturing KSM in polls.
    Revenge.

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 10:18 PM

    …though not that, necessarily. Have Americans been polled about KSM himself? Regardless, I think you might say Americans are rather less troubled by the prospect of bad things happening to KSM, or other terrorists, than to people they like, but that’s only natural, and inevitable – and goes with “don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”

    In any event, it’s not your place to judge the American people. They’re never going to like terrorists, but their judgment about what it’s OK to do to them offered today is certainly informed a lot less by this than it might have been 7+ years ago.

    As for what sustains the HOSTEL/SAW experience for viewers, and makes one gorno film better than another from the traditional perspective (character, moral themes, etc.), that’s different from what attracts people to them (the latter being more relevant for the poster art). There’s a wide range of opinion among film/narrative theorists over the role of plot and theme in the “success” of such movies. Did people go to the RAMBO movies because they dug the rebellious sorta-super-hero or because they wanted feelgood violence and stuff blowing up, or did they want the latter but need the former or vice versa or both or all and more?

    I can speak only theoretically about the t-porn, however, as I generally find manipulative horror/slasher films extremely annoying (love the posters, though). I’d be interested, however, in seeing IRREVERSIBLE, which is sometimes discussed in connection with t-porn, and I’ve been thinking about SALO for many years.

  64. also

    The neuro-receptors for revenge are co-located in the small neocortical area also responsible for opiate addiction and sexual pleasure.

    …I’ve heard the same general description but with different terms – call it what you will, the organic sex-violence stimulation-response/excitation connection is one reason 1) that torture is dangerous to the torturer and the torturing state as well as to the immediate victims – an argument for what you call institutionalization, in my view; 2) that so many people are attracted to this topic and effectively incapable of addressing it rationally; 3) that t-porn and horror are often thought of as “date” movies; and 4) that Barack Obama’s behavior this week appears confoundingly stupid, insane, and irresponsible – altogether dangerous.

  65. So……Highlander, since you are so wise.

    What do you think should happen with the OLC memos and Bybee and Yoo and Bush and Cheney and Condi and Congress and the CIA?

  66. Strangelet Threats, drugs, drink and deceit….do you what oxytocin is? sodium pentathol? cannabis? Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone that can be used for empathy bonding.
    We should be using those techniques…

    Sooo you do condone the use of torture then?
    Truth drugs like Sodium Pentathol are considered torture under international law. We don’t even have to guess at that one.
    I know Oxytocin as well, and I’d be willing to bet the international courts would drop it in the same category, along with any other mood and/or psych state modifier given involuntarily.

    As for Cannabis…..umm…how to say this…..you’re seriously advocating that we give the guys a little toke and hope they give up the answers?
    Maybe we could hold a bag of Doritos just out of reach til the munchies make them tell? Or would that be “torture” as well? Maybe we could hire Cheech and Chong to be interrogators.

  67. 4) that Barack Obama’s behavior this week appears confoundingly stupid, insane, and irresponsible – altogether dangerous.

    CK MacLeod on April 25, 2009 at 12:28 AM

    Ummm….you lost me there. I quite like his proposal to cut private lenders out of the student loan loop and have the unis administer the loan allocation. He apparently also plans to funnel the 94 billion in savings into Pells and lower interest rates.

  68. taboo on April 25, 2009 at 12:39 AM

    w/e it takes.
    I think I remember an Israeli interrogator using sodium pentathol, but I could be wrong. I was riffing off the Churchill post.
    Oxytocin is not torture…yet.
    And the cannabis would be offered freely, not forced.
    ;)

  69. Well, what would the Founding Fathers do????
    Tell meh.
    Would they have approved of institutionalized torture?

    strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    I wasn’t speaking in context of torture, but of tolerating antagonism (especially in terms of political differences). Simply put, when the antagonistic policies created differences between the colonists and the British Government (George III in particular) that had become too great, rebellion became necessary. In particular, I speak of the ‘Intolerable Acts’.

    As to whether the Founding Fathers would’ve institutionalized torture, one would have to note that the inquisitions of the past were fresher on their minds then than now. They probably would’ve abhorred it (seeing as how it was used and what it was used for, and battlefield intelligence was best gotten by scouts, or careless enemies) but I also think that a few of them (perhaps even Washington) might have used it if he deemed necessary. I don’t think they would have institutionalized though: too much like the inquisition.

  70. I know what torture is.

    It’s having to listen to the unending whining and carping from the leftists in this country. If they got their way on absolutely everything they could possibly want at this very moment, they’d be bitching about something else in the next minute.

    There is, quite simply, something wrong with them.

    Quit torturing me.

  71. strangelet,
    Respectfully, I ask you to define torture. Does the use of force to restrain constitute torture? It may cause great pain and deliberately. Does the deprivation of liberty constitute torture? It certainly causes psychological pain and is meant to. Were it free of penalty, it would be a form of security. Does making a criminal face his victims or their families at sentencing constitute torture? It is meant to embarrass and belittle. Where must the line be drawn? Can a society use any form of force to maintain order? Or is it all institutionalized torture?

    And if you maintain the absolutist position, isn’t calling for the punishment of those you believe guilty a form of torture? You are certainly willing to cause them and their families pain. And you demand public humiliation.

    Torture contains active malice and I do not see the actions you condemn containing that malice. The techniques were most certainly unpleasant. I would not like them to be performed on me but neither would I like to pay a large fine for speeding or be put on trail, even if I were acquitted. It is a price we pay to live together.

    Moral absolutes are comfortable. One is not required to think. Unfortunately outside the Kingdom of Heaven or that of Hell there will be as many interpretations of those absolutes as there are people in the discussion. If the memos are released as you demand and it contributes to an attack, will you accept the moral and legal responsibility you demand of others?

  72. strangelet, I will also bring the discussion back to what techniques you would use to interrogate prisoners. Your first attempt was shown to already be considered torture, so what exactly are you left with?

    Specifics please.

  73. College hazing acts are as rough as what was done at Abu Graib.
    All this brouhaha re torture is a diversion while the real work of dismantling a free, capatalist America proceeds (healthcare reform, crap & trade, etc.).
    Last one out please shut off the lights.

  74. CK MacLeod on April 24, 2009 at 11:22 PM

    when you say i’m conflating issues you’re evading addressing any of the points that i brought up. if a fair assumption can be made that information gained through pain is not worth the price, the burden of proof is on the promoters of pain- or severe distress-causing methods to justify it. so far, nothing suggests that they worked when all else would have failed, or that any interrogation expert ever suggested they would work effectively au lieu other, more humane methods.

    whether i’m trying to suggest that our treatment of suspected terrorists is wrong on a moral basis, or on a practical one, you refuse to give any answer that would advance the discussion.

    They can’t, in their official roles, come on HotAir and say, “I’d go medieval on Abu Zubaydah’s a$$ if I thought it was the only way to save a city… – then they are putting themselves outside the law of the land, which has, in my view short-sightedly and dishonestly, spread-eagled us on a transnational table, and tied us down with all-encompassing ambiguity.

    you’re killing me. look, i’d be tormented by the thought that i had to torture someone, and i’d feel guilty even if something greater than me was “saved” in the process. you attack me because i have the temerity to be intellectually honest.

    there’s no ambiguity here. we must have a zero tolerance policy for torture, and we don’t want any overzealous interrogator or guard to assume that he or she is free to do anything to a prisoner if the gravity of the danger is sufficient.

    i’m all for defining publicly what methods constitute torture. i’m not so insecure to worry about our enemies knowing where we draw the line. i’m happy with people around the world knowing what we won’t do, even if our prisoners will use this to their advantage.

    even if its hard to reach a consensus what counts as torture, we know the SERE instruction involves techniques from intelligence agencies we consider to have broken international law by using these very methods. we have prosecuted japanese officers for waterboarding – and we didn’t take into account their culture or any other mitigating factors. since we applied the same methods (prove, if you can, that they were different), so if you want to argue that because we’re using them, they’re not torture anymore, the burden of proof is on you again.

    before lapsing back into attempts to shock and torment us with fragmentary narratives of “torture”

    unfortunately this is the only way to make you consider what we have done to those people. please read the red cross report. they don’t have a reason to lie or exaggerate. have you, honestly?

    let me ask you something. the one thing that struck me most in your post was how you feel threatened by us ever expanding the definition of torture. where do you get this from? is it just the conservative paranoia that they live under the left’s increasing oppression? i feel a lot of your antipathy toward our arguments comes from this.

  75. You have very precisely not responded to my argument at all. I argued that we have to argue each case individually and you create some strawmen silliness about torture and drunk driving.

    i meant that “whatever it takes” is only true in a “to the best of our abilities,” not as in “we’re ready to discard any of the values that make us different to vanquish the terrorists.”

  76. Crime and war are separate issues and terrorism is a category of war.

    at what point do you consider mexican drug lords worthy of torturing?

    terrorism doesn’t realistically seek to wrest power from our government. they’re trying to inflict damage on us here to achieve their goals abroad.

    and again, we have not proven that EITs and methods known around the world (i have to be careful of your sensibilities) as torture are in fact more successful on the long run against terrorism. methods-widely-seen-as-torture might lead to a tactical victory, but i believe it’s harmful to our long-term strategic interests.

  77. The thing about trolls is that they like being the subject of posts such as these. They seem to like to be whipped and come back for more.

    It gets their motors revvin’.

  78. Allow me to unpack our progress so far—
    The definition of torture….we have currently a consensus definition, an operational definition, defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which the US was a signatory as of 1988. We did, like Sesqui says, IPOF, hang Japanese waterboarders for torturing our troops. The Bybee memos are an attempt to legally change the operational definition of torture so that waterboarding could be systemically practiced in the US, where torture was illegal. The MacLeod argues that torture is actually undefined (false) wants to discard the consensus definition of torture and instantiate a flexible “organic” definition that adapts to time and circumstance, and is also transparent to the public.
    Sesqui is arguing about the efficacy of torture as a methodolgy. Dr. Manzi also does here, arguing that not-torturing is both strategic and conservative, since traditionally the US has not had a torture policy, because torture was illegal.
    As for me….I would like ALL the memos to be released, and the DoJ to take over, to decide if there was torture practiced, or if it was legal to change the consensus defintion, and if it was costviable, and if there should be prosecution if there is determination of guilt.
    Like President Obama, I would not support prosecuting CIA agents that performed on their orders. We also ask our soldiers to perform anti-human operations in service of their country.
    Alyosha cannot be a soldier, but neither can he condemn Ivan if he were to soldier. So much depends on the individual wiring.
    ;)
    I would like us to use legal interrogation techniques. Churchillian and Israeli techniques, excluding sodium pentathol if that is classed as torture, but definitely drugs, drink, deceit, threats….and skill.
    I expect that there may be occasions where torture is practiced spontaneously, in-situ, and in theater for extracting intell. But it should still be extralegal, and not part of an offical torture policy.
    Because America doesn’t torture.
    I understood that growing-up.
    Didn’t you?

    As to whether the Founding Fathers would’ve institutionalized torture, one would have to note that the inquisitions of the past were fresher on their minds then than now. They probably would’ve abhorred it (seeing as how it was used and what it was used for, and battlefield intelligence was best gotten by scouts, or careless enemies) but I also think that a few of them (perhaps even Washington) might have used it if he deemed necessary. I don’t think they would have institutionalized though: too much like the inquisition.

    Chaz706 on April 25, 2009 at 2:14 AM

    I liked your answer Chaz, I very much agree it. That is kind of my impression of the Founders. I worship Jefferson, actually. ;)
    The Inquistions institutionalized torture in the pursuit of what the Founders saw as restricting religious freedom. But if the goal of an inquisitioner was extracting intell in the service of saving someone’s soul or deterring apostasy and heresy…..don’t you see a lot of similiarities? And what value did the extracted intell actually have?

  79. Ummm….this has been revelatory for me at least.
    I hope I am not behaving as a stereotypic troll..and you certainly are not behaving as stereotypic wingnuts, (for the most part.)
    I think it is a good discussion of an important question.
    I listened, I learned, and formulated and reformed my opinions.
    Like a good aukosmatikos.
    ;)

  80. Good morning from the Inland Empire.

    What do you think should happen with the OLC memos and Bybee and Yoo and Bush and Cheney and Condi and Congress and the CIA?

    strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 12:33 AM

    and

    Ummm….you lost me there. I quite like his proposal to cut private lenders out of the student loan loop and have the unis administer the loan allocation. He apparently also plans to funnel the 94 billion in savings into Pells and lower interest rates.

    strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 12:47 AM

    Last point first, my comments about Obama’s “behavior last week” being “confoundingly stupid, insane, and irresponsible – altogether dangerous” were focused on “torture” memos and national security realm, not the pay off whoever’s loans/credit cards realm.

    I think Bybee, Yoo, Bush, Cheney, and others probably deserve various medals and other honors as we work to restore their reputations, and as we look to drawing further positive value from their immense experience and expertise.

    At this point, I think that we need to err on the side of sunshine regarding the interrogation program, preserving operationally valuable information where possible. The suggestion of blanket immunity in the event of hearings might facilitate actually learning something useful from them, rather than tearing the country apart, though in the latter I think the odds favor conservative benefiting from the process and the Democrats destroying their “brand” for a generation, so it might be worth the legal bills to Yoo and Bybee. Others could advise them on setting up defense funds if necessary.

    This latter option is known as the BRING IT ON! plan, and has much to recommend it, but it’s risky.

    To bring both points together, if we must have government stimulus of the economy, I suspect that if we offered to forgive credit card and student loan debt for everyone willing to undergo waterboarding to KSM levels, we would have tens of millions of volunteers, and alternative short-term employment for millions more. It would be extremely stimulative, and a much better use of all that money we’re spending that we don’t have and at this rate may never have except in the form of worthless paper and pixels.

    I’d like to see Obama and Biden resign, though for different reasons, see Pelosi indicted or at least removed from the speakership, and have a bipartisan national unity government formed as we prepare – very deliberately – for the next elections and a constitutional convention.

    Since hardly any of that last paragraph is, ahem, realistic, and since my impression is that Obama has already done terrible and worsening damage, yet doesn’t have it in him to reverse his policies radically and consequentially, I think that those in place at specific national security-related institutions should be formulating concrete strategies for preserving core capacities toward eventual fastest possible efficient re-generation – and at the same time towards documenting what’s being done.

    But’s it’s early – maybe I can work up something better while I’m helping my stepmother with her new garden later today.

  81. (Quoting sesqui)

    when you say i’m conflating issues you’re evading addressing any of the points that i brought up.

    No, many if not all of the points you have brought up have been addressed by myself and others, in many cases repeatedly. When you constantly conflate issues, often under prejudicial assumptions and terminology offered as shorthand, discussion grinds to a virtual halt, we start repeating ourselves and getting confused… and then the thread ends… and we move on to the next entropic cycle…

    For instance:

    if a fair assumption can be made that information gained through pain is not worth the price, the burden of proof is on the promoters of pain- or severe distress-causing methods to justify it. so far, nothing suggests that they worked when all else would have failed, or that any interrogation expert ever suggested they would work effectively au lieu other, more humane methods.

    The opening “if”-clause contains an assumption that many here are not willing to concede. Therefore, they would be reluctant to jump to the “then” part. The second sentence is based on speculation combined with credulous readings of partial reports that happen to favor your preferred set of assumptions.
    Another example:

    we must have a zero tolerance policy for torture, and we don’t want any overzealous interrogator or guard to assume that he or she is free to do anything to a prisoner if the gravity of the danger is sufficient.

    A “zero tolerance policy for torture” is an absurdity, since under “zero tolerance” a harsh word or a raised voice would qualify as torturous. So, you don’t really mean “zero tolerance,” or you need to provide an exact definition of torture – which is impossible (see, extensive prior discussion).

    i’m all for defining publicly what methods constitute torture. i’m not so insecure to worry about our enemies knowing where we draw the line. i’m happy with people around the world knowing what we won’t do, even if our prisoners will use this to their advantage.

    I’m happy for your happiness, though not much, frankly. The happiness of one or two contributors to an internet message board doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, even to a virtual hill of beans. 300 million Americans get to decide how happy they are about the likes of KSM and AZ using our policies to their advantage.

    The Red Cross report has been discussed elsewhere, as have been your fragmentary narratives, including by coldwarrior on the other thread. Again, we get into the conflating with detainee treatment problem, as well as retrospective judgment of unnamed administrators and policymakers, as opposed to the more fundamental moral, theoretical, and foward-looking policy questions regarding interrogation methods.

    let me ask you something. the one thing that struck me most in your post was how you feel threatened by us ever expanding the definition of torture. where do you get this from? is it just the conservative paranoia that they live under the left’s increasing oppression? i feel a lot of your antipathy toward our arguments comes from this.

    Please re-read my Obama’s “Never Again” means Lots More Soon post if you are seriously interested in this question.

    There, as again here, I have repeatedly argued that an unrealistic and dishonest policy – that denies human nature (individual and collective), denies what we will do and in fact are doing, ignores the logic of war, encumbers and defames our own people for acts viewed differently than in their own time, and so on – will not only fail, but ensures far worse real outcomes even on its own terms, and will likely bring with it a host of unintended consequences.

    The last point actually does go back to your question, phrased in typically prejudicial language, on “the conservative paranoia” about “the left’s increasing oppression.” We think you guys have a tendency to fall in love with certain ideas whose flaws – logical and moral incoherence as well as poor outcomes – you look away from because your passion feels too good to be given up easily.

  82. The suggestion of blanket immunity in the event of hearings might facilitate actually learning something useful

    I would support blanket immunity and/or pardons.
    This is not a partisan issue for me, although it seems to be one for you.

  83. strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    I appreciate your attempt to sum things up on the way to moving forward, but I must point to a typically dishonest and weasely post you link there from Andrew Sullivan, in turn linking to a typically dishonest and weasely post from Paul Begala attempting to defend his typically dishonest and weasely prior propagandistic utterance on his, see!, “we hanged waterboarders” argument.

    IF we had hanged a single Japanese soldier for doing to an American soldier or soldiers what we recently did to KSM, and under comparable conditions and circumstances, then we would have been wrong to do so.

    As Mark Hemingway explains this morning, that’s far from what occurred.

    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZWQ4YTBiYjJiOGNiMjQxNGY5ZmUxYTNjOTM1MDk1MDY=

    You would do well to think carefully, do whatever checking, and exercise common sense before taking anything Andrew Sullivan or Paul Begala says at face value. The odds of the combination of Sullivan and Begala on any subject of political interest yielding any approximation of useful truth are incredibly low.

  84. you guys have a tendency to fall in love with certain ideas

    lol, I won’t apolo for my better angels.
    You should dig Obama, Highlander, you’re isomorphic.
    He’s a pragmatist and a machiavellian.
    And so are you.

  85. I appreciate your attempt to sum things up on the way to moving forward, but I must point to ..

    Ok, I accept Hemingway’s contra. tyvm for the link and the advice.
    Is the rest of my summary flawed in anyway?
    Are there other points of disagreement?

  86. This is not a partisan issue for me, although it seems to be one for you.

    strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    Ideally, it would be a wholly non-partisan issue. When the leader of one party continually muses aloud about prosecuting members of the much-abused prior administration, and the jackals of the left start shrieking, louder even than normal, then it’s a bit late and obviously unfair to start accusing those attacked, directly or by association, of acting in a partisan manner.

  87. strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    I’m toying with the idea of making passages from Machiavelli the center of my 100 days post. I don’t accept your characterization of Obama, and, even if I did, seeing in him a Machiavellian pragmatist wouldn’t be in his favor from my perspective if his means are ill-chosen where his ends aren’t contrary to my interests and the country’s.

  88. O Mathematikos!
    In your opinion is Obama not-a-machiavellian, or not-a-pragmatist?
    Or neither?

    And…let us make blanket immunity and/or pardons a precondition of any further release of the torture memos and documents. Could you then accept the dispostion of the judgements and rulings by the DoJ alone?

  89. As for your summation, I disagree with your characterization of what Bybee et al were doing: They weren’t trying, in my opinion, to change a definition or definitions, legally or otherwise. They were trying to assess whether particular methods of interrogation could be applied within accepted understandings of law and precedent. Since much of the rest of your summary flows from what I view to be a flawed premise, I’m afraid I’d have to dispense with it at this point. Even if I agreed with it, that would still leave open the question of whether prior understandings of law and precedent were or should have been treated as sacrosanct. For instance, I’ve argued that the UN Convention was ill-conceived and that our ratification and affirmation of it was short-sighted. I also disagree about the implications of Dr Manzi’s arguments, as you know.

    As for the alternative framework I’ve put forward, I’ve addressed, I believe reasonably, your arguments regarding institutionalization/normalization, and I’ve suggested additional arguments for, in effect, bypassing the “torture” debate as irresolveable and moving to a humane, pragmatic, lawful, and honest approach that addresses the main underlying issues. I am not aware of any other substantial criticisms of it advanced here.

    We agree that other measures effectively outlawed or outside of precedent may deserve to be re-considered.

    Incidentally, the Inquisitors viewed torture differently than I believe you realize. The objective of Inquisitorial torture was often not to extract confessions, but to validate confessions in the subject’s spiritual interest. Their beliefs about the soul in some respects overlapped Japanese Bushido or, say, the Native American warrior creeds. Validation isn’t the same as verification, but the idea goes back to the old Roman presumption that intelligence often couldn’t be trusted unless verified by torturous interrogation.

  90. And…it is my understanding that Bybee and Yoo will be judged by a jury of their peers……
    I don’t think blanket immunity can protect them from disbarrment or impeachment.

  91. In your opinion is Obama not-a-machiavellian, or not-a-pragmatist?
    Or neither?

    Does it matter what anyone thinks about the internal workings of the Obamabrain and the Obamaself? All we have are the facts before our eyes and the context.

    And…let us make blanket immunity and/or pardons a precondition of any further release of the torture memos and documents. Could you then accept the dispostion of the judgements and rulings by the DoJ alone?

    strangelet on April 25, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    I’m not sure that immunity/pardons are required for further release of whatever documentary and other evidence, though they might be a good idea even before subpoenas are issued since the Administration has thusfar engaged in obviously unfair selective releasing/redaction against people who are constrained from speaking in detail in their own defense.

    As for accepting whatever the DoJ came up with, not really: It would remain subject to review and revision. The pudding would have to be proofed. I’ll just have to hope that wouldn’t make AG Holder view me as a “coward.”

  92. Incidentally, the Inquisitors viewed torture differently than I believe you realize. The objective of Inquisitorial torture was often not to extract confessions, but to validate confessions in the subject’s spiritual interest.

    Partly…but mostly they viewed the Inquisition as a sort of memetic hygiene, testing for infection and stopping the spread of mutated memes. Pretty well documented in cognitive anthropology and EGT. So the veracity of results derived from torture would be critical to them….otherwise they would have destroyed and innocent rep of their tribe.

  93. selective releasing/redaction against people who are constrained from speaking in detail in their own defense.

    I kinda agree here, but I think the selective release was a pragmatic action designed to get this guy to drop the charges…..which will likely happen.

    I think all the docs should be released, not just the two Cheney is requesting.
    And immunity for all.

  94. No…coldwarrior, Highlander….this is wrong…

    The days of fortress America are gone. We are the world’s superpower. We can sit on our hands or we can become engaged to improve global human conditions.

    We are simply not going to do this anymore….we can’t afford it.
    We can’t be the Superawesome World Police. We can’t afford it and it makes people hate us.
    The Bush Doctrine was an Epic Fail……in practice, with the American people, and with the global community.

    Democracy cannot be forced…but it is highly contagious.

    Didn’t you tell meh …….Right makes might?
    Democracy will spread far better if we lead by example and believe in the power of our memes.
    And one of our memes is America doesn’t torture.

  95. A realistic strategic posture is another big question entirely. The role of the “torture meme,” to use your language – which frankly I rather detest (phrases like “Epic Fail,” too) – is, I would suggest, a teensy-weensy part of that discussion.

    If we try for a new Fortress America – a distinct possibility, I believe – while the world, lacking its defunded, demoralized, and supposedly unwanted American pseudo-imperial sentinels, tears itself apart and irradiates the shreds, then the assumptions and requirements guiding interrogation of suspected terrorists and other enemies will likely be transformed in ways that would have the anti-torture chorus singing a very sad tune. You’ll have to turn to science fiction for more detailed visions of how some future Obamaist sliver of the current American elite, behind the very high, very high-tech walls protecting it from everyone else, might choose to justify itself. I picture a Stalinist-flavor Neo-Byzantium, quite possibly with a range of words more pleasant than “torture” used to describe the interrogation-associated destruction of individual threats to the shrunken order. (To be filed under “Unintended Consequences – Speculative Scenarios.”)

  96. Again, we get into the conflating with detainee treatment problem, as well as retrospective judgment of unnamed administrators and policymakers, as opposed to the more fundamental moral, theoretical, and foward-looking policy questions regarding interrogation methods.

    i’m interested in an overall policy that provides humane treatment to all. what evidence is available suggests that both the potentially illegal interrogation techniques used on high value prisoners and the abuses detailed in the red cross report are results of specific administration policies. if not through direct orders, than conveyed in ambiguous (?) characterizations like “geneva is so vague you’re only in fault he dies.” (which a few of them did.)

    the reasoning that led to this is what i’m essentially objecting to.

  97. oy veh:

    Torture’s Rendition
    by Matthew Alexander

    As a former senior military interrogator, it’s deeply troubling to me after reading the recently released torture memos that we doubted our ability to win the battle of wits in the interrogation booth and resorted to torturing and abusing prisoners….

    The fact that Osama bin Laden is still alive is proof that waterboarding does not work. The more important fact, however, is that our policy of torture and abuse has cost us American lives.

    As a senior interrogator in Iraq, I conducted more than three hundred interrogations and monitored more than one thousand. I heard numerous foreign fighters state that the reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Our policy of torture and abuse is Al-Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool. These same insurgents have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of our troops in Iraq, not to mention Iraqi civilians. Torture and abuse are counterproductive in the long term and, ultimately, cost us more lives than they save.

    The more important argument, however, is the moral one.

  98. Alexander’s been on this campaign for a while now. His opinions have been noted. Others would disagree – except this his use of prejudical language and his tactic of over-simplifying conflation make disagreement almost impossible.

    No one’s in favor of “abuse,” no one’s in favor of “torture,” no one’s in favor of Abu Ghraib, and we’re back to conflating interrogation with treatment in re Gitmo, with a heavy addition of propaganda conflated with facts still under dispute as well.

    After several years of the Obama charm offensive, perhaps we’ll see different, less effective propaganda by AQ and other jihadis, perhaps we won’t. It’s obviously speculative at this point.

    I’ve given my views as to a preferable policy going forward. I have you to hear a response from you on it, sesqui, though maybe I missed it amidst all the rest.

  99. CK MacLeod on April 25, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Alexander is/was a career Air Force criminal investigator, not a combat officer, nor a military intelligence specialist.

    We lost a huge number of qualified experienced folks in the 90’s, all across the spectrum of civilian and military who had those skill sets. They don’t grow on trees, ya know.

    Which is why Alexander was deployed to Iraq. As were others of similar skill sets.

    He and Tean Zarqawi were successful to a good extent in breaking off players in Zarqawi’s net…but, absent a preponderance of ordnance placed on them as they became known, or were discovered, or were betrayed by their own, that breakthrough, the insider selling out Zarqawi’s final rest stop, would not have come to light. AQ-Iraq was on the ropes, not because of interrogations, but because every time they popped their heads up, they got whacked. A lot of AQ-Iraq guys made a decision that 72 virgins just were not worth the effort, and many discovered that Zarqawi was not a revolutionary Islamist saviour of Iraq, but a street thug…and a mean one at that.

    The two, Team Zarqawi interrogations, and conditions on the ground in Iraq, cannot nor should not be held as separate independent issues.

    I’ll give Alexander credit where credit is due. But I will not offer him expertise on matters related to what may or may not work in finding and killing UBL. Out of his purview,

  100. I’ve given my views as to a preferable policy going forward. I have you to hear a response from you on it, sesqui, though maybe I missed it amidst all the rest.

    CK MacLeod on April 25, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    first of all, we should not do anything that can be widely interpreted as torture. torture itself must not be defined by a set of disallowed methods, because there’s a million ways to torment someone.

    terrorists wanted by the US should be handed over to the FBI after capture. the FBI has decades of experience in prosecuting organized crime and excellent intel on al qaeda as well. those captured on the battlefield should be interrogated by military officers following the guidelines of the army field manual.

    anyone captured with a weapon or who is a suspected combatant for any party should be accorded POW status. it’s a globalized world where state borders matter less than they used to. governments matter less. we need to have modern standards.

    our prisoner treatment should be exemplary. we should allow the red cross greater access and let them make public as much of their reports as possible.

  101. The entirety of the 1990’s following the first WTC bombing and the African Embassy bombings were wasted by Clinton’s insistence that UBL be arrested…taken alive…and brought to a US federal court for trial.

    This insistence that terrorism was merely a law enforcement matter, for the FBI to handle is what allowed 9/11 to take place.

    Intel gathered in the field could not be used for prosecution. Intel gathered abroad could not be put into the FBI system. Not even intelligence analysis produced in Washington, DCV, could be admissible in federal court when it came to terrorism.

    Military information regarding terrorism certainly could not be folded into the FBI system as this was a clear violation of Posse Comitatus.

    Further, if you care to read the USSC Cert in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950) it spells out that nonresident enemy aliens are not to be granted access to US courts in war time.

    As for the “anyone captured with a weapon or who is a suspected combatant for any party should be accorded POW status” thing. This is not our call. If you wish to reconvene Geneva, and re-write it all, have at it.

    If we were to unilaterally abrogate one of the most basic sections, Geneva III, section 3, I believe, such would permit any signatory to abrogate any and all parts at their convenience as well.

    Modern standards? Those standards that have been agreed upon and which have worked surprisingly well seem to be OK.

    Similar to our official Administration spoken polciies on piracy, that we need 21st Century solutions to a 18th century problem, are sophomoric at best…and fail to show any understanding of the overall issue.

    That the United States, as a matter of policy, afforded similar protections of Geneva to captured terrorists does not equate to granting them POW status nor should it.

    Our need for actionable intelligence and operational intelligence about an elusive violent opponent compelled us to not follow the written dictates of Geneva…and have the local commanders execute them upon capture.

    Torment? Torture? A million ways to “torment” someone?

    Grasping at straws…

  102. sesquipedalian on April 25, 2009 at 7:40 PM

    I believe that what you advocate would last until the next major failure, perhaps a little longer as a result of so many in our current leadership now on record pretending that they didn’t really go along with post-9/11 aggressiveness – perhaps not even as long as that, if we are lucky enough to gain actionable intelligence and a captive with time-critical information, leading Obama to take advantage of the reservations and flexibility he’s quietly provided himself even while stirring up an attack on the prior administration for in effect the same things.

    I agree that our prisoner treatment should strive to be exemplary and humane, but our policy should also be effective and resilient, and less concerned with letting others, under some amorphous concept of international public opinion, stand in judgment of how we go about securing our interests.

    If we were committed to effectiveness, in all of its dimensions, first, we would avoid such a crisis, or we would at least have a framework for dealing with it. It’s possible that professionals, much better informed than you and I are, would determine that a “soft” approach with an implied threat of getting as hard as necessary, would be entirely adequate – meaning less rough treatment viewed by some as torture, less voluntarism and informal heroics, less need for lies and secrecy, less recrimination and politicization.

  103. “These things I know, Ubertino; I also have belonged to those groups of men who believe that they can produce the truth with white-hot iron. Well, let me tell you, the white heat of truth comes from another flame.” – Umberto Eco

  104. lol

    I’ll put a footnote on the thread thread, an epitaph, a tombstone…..here’s my summation.
    The MacLeod, channelling Niccolo Machiavelli–

    “How one lives and how one ought to live are so far apart that he who spurns what is actually done for what ought to be done will achieve ruin rather than his own preservation.”

    Strangelet, channelling Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoyevski–

    “Neither man or nation can exist without a sublime idea.”

    Can those two positions ever be reconciled?
    I think not.
    ;)

  105. A decent and moral person in a position of political authority may, as a matter of conscience, think it necessary to subject a terrorist to enhanced interrogation techniques for the purpose of saving thousands of lives. This is why some people may want greater precision on what constitutes torture. Not because they are sadists looking for loopholes, but rather, because they have a sense of moral obligation, as well as a deep loathing for the deaths of innocents, that motivates them to seek clarity so they can sleep at night. This sort of person believes that it his duty to exhaust every possibility in order to know for sure that there is a moral means that will help extract information that will save thousands.

    The historical context of the Geneva Convention were Nazi and Japanese war crimes that were commissioned for only one reason: to advance the cause of totalitarian regimes. Given the spirit of that convention, do you think that its participants would approve of interpreting its prohibitions overinclusively so that they would inhibit the rescuing of the innocent?

    I carry no brief for torture, and I am not saying that waterboarding is not torture. What I am saying is that this present discussion is colored by assumptions about the former president’s character that don’t seem to account for the totality of his actions in relation to the terrorist threat. Did he in fact cross the line by ordering interrogations that are immoral? Of course, that is certainly possible. But did he do so with the intent to perform an immoral act? I think there is no evidence for that. So, why not commend rather than condemn the cautious public servant who wants to offer a plausible account of torture prohibitions that would allow borderline practices for the purpose of rescuing the innocent?

    In an age in which many of our fellow citizens believe it is obligatory for one to be skeptical about the beginning of life, the nature of marriage, the censorship of pornography, and even what constitutes racial discrimination (whether or not includes affirmative action), all of a sudden, on the question of what constitutes torture many of these same citizens are absolutely certain they know what it is and that anyone who requests greater precision is declared a moral monster. The preachers of epistemological humility when it comes to one set of beliefs become the Christianists they loathe when it comes to another set of beliefs, but they offer no account as to why this is so.

    -Francis Beckwith

  106. Can those two positions ever be reconciled?

    Have you ever read THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRATIC CAPITALISM, strange? The Constitution of the United States is a mechanism and the American system is a machine for that reconciliation, ad infinitum/til kingdom come.

    The Founders were true Machiavellians, in many ways – and Machiavelli was a democratic republican.

  107. NONONONONO!

    the beginning of life, the nature of marriage, the censorship of pornography, and even what constitutes racial discrimination (whether or not includes affirmative action),

    The TRUTH of all these things are proscribed by natural laws, whether they be the laws of science, natural law, or the rule of law exemplified by our constitution and the bill of rights.
    All the right sides arguments boil down to to “because MY god says so.”

    The preachers of epistemological humility when it comes to one set of beliefs become the Christianists they loathe when it comes to another set of beliefs, but they offer no account as to why this is so.

    Lie.
    For anyone above a certain IQ arguing for life-at-conception, for denial of citizen rights to minority citizens in a pluralist republic, for censorship and for discriminination represents not epistemological humility but intellectual whoring.
    To deny the truth in service to the twin beasts of supernaturalism and tribalism.

  108. The Founders were true Machiavellians, in many ways – and Machiavelli was a democratic republican.

    CK MacLeod on April 26, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    I believe this, Highlander.
    I also believe that even though he was himself tortured, Niccolo would have absolutely supported torture in the vein that you support it.

  109. by assumptions about the former president’s character

    I have never for a heartbeat thought GW was evil. He was a well-intentioned evangelical bumbler. The evangelical part, of course, conditioned him to believe he was right when he was not, and to dismiss any advice or contraction.
    For example…..the Bush Doctrine…..did not a one of his advisors explain to him that democracy cannot be forced?

  110. strangelet on April 26, 2009 at 3:21 PM —

    Still on that Bush Doctrine and forcing democracy stuff, eh?

    Just because you have repeated and repeated this meme on this thread and a number of others here at HotAir doesn’t make it a fact that your conjecture is in fact the “Bush Doctrine.”

    I challenge you to show me factual evidence that Bush, or the so-called Bush Doctrine, at anytime stated or even alluded to forcing democracy on anyone.

    I will leave you with this, from one of my favorite authors of the post-WWI generation, who saw the result of war, disliked the thought of war, and broke with and was humiliated many times by fellow author, and one time friend, Hemingway, for daring to say that the American Left’s involvement in the Spanish Civil was an evil, that they were mere pawns of Stalinism. He [being a Democrat] is also noted for calling the Democrat Party on the carpet in many scathing articles in the leading press of the time, and in speeches across the nation, for even considering a blatantly socialist FDR as the Democrat Party candidate in 1932.

    I admire the guy…had stones…wrote damn well, too.

    “Democracy evolves where freedom is able to determine its own policy.” –John Dos Passos

    {One just has to enable that bit of freedom….}

  111. {One just has to enable that bit of freedom….}

    coldwarrior on April 26, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    Watever you call it cold, enabling or forcing, why can you not admit that Bush was essentially clueless about how incredibly difficult the enabling would be?
    Alternatively, I bet someone told him it was impossible, or near impossible, and he ignored them.
    Since….I am sooooo clueless about what the Bush Doctrine is (apparently) please, by all means, enlighten meh.
    I await revelation and epiphany.

  112. And you cannot argue the results.
    Iraq is an islamic state that is still undergoing sectarian violence.
    Afghanistan is just as bad as when we went in, and Pak has now ceded sovereign territory to the Taliban.

  113. And you cannot argue the results.

    I could argue the results. I’ve probably written the equivalent of a book arguing the results, and as important the plausible alternatives, on various web sites – right, middle, and left. One guy up above apparently considers me suspect because I was registered at TalkLeft and participated in discussions with relatively sensible Dems mainly about the ’08 campaign, but was finally banned (or part-banned) for arguing about, you guessed it, the war in Iraq. (It was Big Tent Democrat who banned me from his threads. Jeralyn Merritt I lost all interest in when she converted to Obamanaut then offered a TL tote bag to the person who correctly predicted when Sarah Palin would be dropped from the McCain ticket. There was some other guy but he was basically the TL Kossack…)

    But I won’t argue the subject here. I’ll just say that calling an undefined entity – the Bush Doctrine – an “Epic Fail” is childish. And off-topic.

  114. Sowwy Highlander.
    You brought it up, tho.

    but was finally banned (or part-banned)

    I got you beat. ;)
    I’ve been banned at dKos and lgf, and althouse AND feministe, and AllahP banns me perodically when i get too raw. I been banned at Sadly No, and at TAS, but they always let me come back, and right now I think im still banned at Secular Right, my beloved old friends Razib and the Derb.
    ;)
    I’m sort of an equal opportunity internet pariah.

  115. I sent the Derb a copy of Snowcrash, but he wont even talk to meh after I wrote a mock on K-lo and Goldberg on the SS Conservative Titanic at Culture11.
    I loved Culture11.
    It was perfect for meh.

  116. Do you what I think conservatives need, Highlander?
    You need a bridge.
    You need someone with unimpeachable conservative credentials that can translate Frum and Larison and Douthat for the base.
    I thought about Reynolds, but hes impeachable on abortion and hESCR.
    I would pick Michelle Malkin.
    I think she must be a lot smarter than she writes, or AllahP wouldn’t be so into her.

  117. People are going to start talking about us, grrrl.

    Larison has to insult Sarah Palin and her supporters in some major media outlet for anyone even to care who he isn’t.

    If the reform conservatives want to be accepted as part of political conservatism, they might want to learn some manners. It’s particularly unseemly for the smarty-pants, in-the-know, self-styled better angels of conservatism, the people intent on housebreaking conservatism of its troglodyte tendencies, to be so downright compulsively rude.

    Instead of posing as the under-appreciated brain of conservatism, they need to get used to being part of the left brain of conservatism. Otherwise, we’ll just keep hanging out with Mark Levin, Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn, and Rush and the rest. We’ll pick our Reagan ourselves. As we work things out, instead of focusing on that individual’s and our flaws, his and our failure to treat the reform conservatives as the be-all and end-all of the conservative intellect, they can try to bridge the gap between the base’s passions and intuitions and everyone else’s prejudices.

    And we’ll thank them for it – though some of them better get started soon if they expect any of us to forgive and trust them by the time it matters.

    Why haven’t they been doing that? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s because they’re social-climbing, fingers-in-the-wind, bed-feathering and -wetting opportunists.

  118. his or her and our

    jic my unconscious reference to Reagan as antecedent is mistaken for a sexist default assumption – especially untimely given whom a big chunk of the base clearly wants

    note: I’m indulging in this OT because it’s my darn thread and this theme I like and still consider under-explored.

  119. Torture to me would be to make me listen to rap music. Really now are barking dogs torture? Being naked? A women in command of you? Give me an F’n brake.

  120. Why haven’t they been doing that? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s because they’re social-climbing, fingers-in-the-wind, bed-feathering and -wetting opportunists.

    CK MacLeod on April 26, 2009 at 8:29 PM

    Nah, they are just Aspergers Positive, like meh and Larry Summers.
    ;)

  121. Since this is relevent to The MacLeod’s OT on the conservo braintrust, I’m a copy my reply from the frontpage thread.

    As we work things out, instead of focusing on that individual’s and our flaws, his and our failure to treat the reform conservatives as the be-all and end-all of the conservative intellect, they can mediate a little – politely – while trying to bridge the gap between the base’s passions and intuitions and everyone else’s prejudices.

    I just
    I just had an epiphany, Highlander.
    tyvm, lol.
    Its all about teh RESPECT isnt it?
    LIke how the commentariat only found Couric funnie in AllahP’s autotuning mock…….when Hannity + Angry Gorilla was obviously the funniest.
    The SNL mocks on Palin really stung, didn’t they?
    Well…..I think she’s your choice, and NOW instead of shredding her and mocking her the conservo intelligentsia should be trying to fix her, help her, right?
    Instead of pissing and moaning about how impossible she is and how stupid the base is to insist on her, gtf up to Alaska and help her, give her some decent advice, educate her on foreign policy.

    R-E-S–P-E-C-T!
    ;)

    strangelet on April 27, 2009 at 9:36 AM

    Maybe teh Mathmatikos will make a thread on it.
    ;)

    I got class, l8r dudes and dudettes.

  122. A Sully link!!!!!
    All Hail the Highlander!
    Gratz, man.

    strangelet on April 27, 2009 at 7:20 AM

    Wonders never cease, and Caesars never wonder.

    I’m a little skeptical that Mr. Sullivan has actually read, and, more important, grokked the entire thread. As I hope you are aware, I cited the UN Convention, preserved in his extended quote with highlights intact, in order to criticize it as what I believe the legal theorists call “void for vagueness,” and distortive of policy and discussion, and also to criticize our having agreed to it as written as dishonest and short-sighted.

    Mr. Sullivan asks, “Why are we still debating this?” One answer would be, because the law is an ass. If 70% of Americans tell Pew that the option of “torturing” terrorists for information should be preserved at least in rare instances, with ca. 50% in favor of the “sometimes” and “often” options, then we have a problem – not case closed.

    I’m happy to have my piece linked, and I hope that, if perhaps inadvertently, a few Sullivan fans are exposed to the alternative views both on the larger question and on the tactics and attitudes coming from their side of the discussion.

  123. .I think she’s your choice, and NOW instead of shredding her and mocking her the conservo intelligentsia should be trying to fix her, help her, right?
    Instead of pissing and moaning about how impossible she is and how stupid the base is to insist on her, gtf up to Alaska and help her, give her some decent advice, educate her on foreign policy.

    R-E-S–P-E-C-T!

    Not exactly as I would put it – and it’s not all about future President-Dictatrix Palin – but close enough for government work.

    By “shredding her and mocking her,” they put themselves in opposition to the base, and intensified the identification of the base with her. Anyone with some minimal experience of life, without an ego or professional aspirations obscuring his or her vision, should have understood what would happen when, with the election under way, you called the base’s new darling, under heavy attack from all the usual suspects, a “cancer” (Brooks) or offered childishly ludicrous political advice (Parker) or made blanket judgments about Palin’s real understanding of her people – from 30,000 feet (Noonan) – or simply accepted without question the distortions of her beliefs and her record (all of them), then seized upon them as an excuse to re-double attacks not just on her but on her entire constituency.

    It’s as though they wanted to split the party/movement – and right in the middle of a presidential election – all the while speaking as though convinced that they unquestionably possessed some higher insight into our best interests. It was a confoundingly, pathetically fatuous display.

    Regardless of whether you consider Palin to have been justly shredded and mocked (I personally think she’s terrific, but I have no problem acknowledging flaws and missteps), the behavior of the “reform conservatives” toward her exposed how tactically inept, how lacking in maturity, how ill-suited to lead or even to fight they were – unless they were really just on the other side, with or without realizing it.

  124. the behavior of the “reform conservatives” toward her exposed how tactically inept,

    hmm….even strategically inept. I admit, I thought Palin was a ludicrous pick for this slice of spacetime. Then when I understood how invested the base was in her i got terrified. I think you must admit, Highlander, that she failed her job description, to be ready on Day One. I would have been much more comfortable with Palin being the VP of a different presidential candidate than a 72-year old 4x melanoma survivor. That was Colin Powell’s objection I believe.
    btw my paternal grandfather died of the “farmer’s disease”, so im sure that contributed to my perspective.
    You are absolutely correct though…..the conservo intelligentsia doesn’t respect the base. See…..I can recognize this….Palin IS the “real deal” like Reagan was (and like JTP said). A Jeffersonian “noble yeoman farmer”, a true Jacksonian populist, not a stealthy elite pretending to be everyman like Bush or Nixon.
    I think Palin was just colossal mismanagement on the GOP’s part.
    Everyone knew Bristol was pregnant and that would create a sh*tstorm of unpleasant publicity. I also wonder about Brook’s substrate issue…..so much wiser to wait until 2012.
    I think Palin could have been elected in 2012 easily, if she hadn’t run in 2008.
    But she was thrown away, used up as a traditional “attack dog” in the kabuki theater of MacCain’s campaign.
    People my age will simply never forget the SNL parodies.
    So, as a Machiavellian pragmatist, what do you do with Palin at this point?

  125. One more thing and then over to you, Highlander.
    Palin was used as a tactic, when she should have been a strategy.
    Copacetic?

  126. I agree with much of what you say on this subject, strange, although, as I believe we’ve discussed on another thread some weeks ago, I think you project a bit much and invest a bit too much in your intuitions about your own age cohort and where its head will be in future years.

    Lots of us old farts never would have believed that Rev Wright’s spiritual stepson and loyal congregant could have been taken seriously as a candidate, much less elected Prez, in the good ol’ USA. Lots of other people were sure that the mythical American bigot cavalry would ride to the rescue at the last moment.

    IFF (if an only if) the tide is in Palinism’s favor AND if she takes advantage of her Second Act entrance to “stun and amaze” (Machiavelli) the people, the 2008 stumbles won’t matter, whether in 2012 or 2016 or 2032, and it’s the people who point to them and expect them to matter who will be laughed at.

    If, on the other hand, she either doesn’t really want it or isn’t really up to it, then that will become clear sometime during Act 2, and, again, the SNL/Couric i-view stuff will be the least of it.

  127. I think you project a bit much and invest a bit too much in your intuitions about your own age cohort and where its head will be in future years.

    I don’t. People growing conservative turns out to be myth in the 21st century. There is also another body of research suggesting that voting patterns intitally formed don’t change.

    Lots of us old farts never would have believed that Rev Wright’s spiritual stepson and loyal congregant could have been taken seriously as a candidate, much less elected Prez, in the good ol’ USA. Lots of other people were sure that the mythical American bigot cavalry would ride to the rescue at the last moment.

    heh.
    And you would have been absolutely right about both those things but for the Econopalypse.
    Alas, the demographic timer is about to run out on the bigot calvary– in 2020 cauc becomes a minority.

    I think….the only way Palin could be a contender in say….2016 would be an evquivalent event comparable to the Econopalypse…..say….a Great Depression or nuke strike on American territory….but even that might not be enough to overcome her negative branding with the New Liberal Majority.

  128. That’s a silly study you link, strange, among other things based on stereotypical views of what constitutes a “conservative” vs. a “liberal” outlook on life and politics.

    In addition, it makes an overly broad point in reply to a specific issue – whether the ridicule of Palin in ’08 is in itself fatal to her future prospects.

    I have long intended to write a post on scenarios and candidates.

    If we imagine the range of possible outcomes for Obamaism from Epochal Triumph to Cataclysm, and attach letter grades to them, I would see Palinism, with or without Palin, as a valid response with decent prospects for success in scenarios C and D (Obama a disappointment to the nation and Obama a failure). Scenario D- to F – nuke attack-level cataclysm – would seem like a situation for the Person on a Humvee: “Save us, General Petraeus, you’re are only hope.”

    In scenarios A (start chiseling at Rushmore) and B (good enough for government work), it likely doesn’t make any difference in terms of electoral prospects, but history suggests we might as well put up a Barry Goldwater sacrificial lamb who can lay down some markers, perhaps to be followed by virtual Obamaist Republican (the coming era’s Nixons and Fords) if a Reagan doesn’t show up ahead of schedule.

  129. Ok…..I agree completely about teh conservo intelligentsia and Palin….they should respect the base or form their own party.
    They are simply not going to be able to either scold or browbeat the base into submission.
    But…right now you are leading a horse with an empty saddle towards 2012.
    Obama was a contender right from his 2004 speech at the DNC.
    Times runnin’ out.
    ;)

  130. Back to topic, another good Manzi thread.

    And, even better than my Dostoyevskian argument, a new epiphany for me, courtesy of commentor Consumatopia–

    Even under simple preference utilitarianism, this is way worse than simply killing someone. Killing someone erases their preferences. Torturing them negates their preferences, like we cut them off at some sort of cartesian pineal gland, dividing their body from their will.

    My response–
    Torture, exactly like slavery, is the negation of freewill.
    And that is the antithesis of humanity.

  131. strangelet on April 28, 2009 at 6:54 AM

    larison answers manzi:

    One of the things that has kept me from saying much over the last week or so is my sheer amazement that there are people who seriously pose such questions and expect to be answered with something other than expressions of bafflement and moral horror. … I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am, and I have wondered whether there is even a point in contesting such torture apologia as if they were reasonable arguments deserving of real consideration.

  132. You two still don’t get it – so I have no expectation that you will. As for Larison and Manzi, I’m sure they mean well, as I grant the vast majority of participants in this discussion do, but I haven’t found their contributions particularly useful, and phrases like “part of the same moral universe as I am” strike me as melodramatic and self-serving: Oh, I’m so deeply appalled that someone else is addressing this issue from some perspective other than the one I prefer!

    The scene of interrogation, the elements and the experience of “enhanced” techniques, loom very large when put under very close scrutiny. It’s a familiar act of selective perception: One chooses to enjoy one’s outrage over the vividly imagined violation of KSM, because the people whose murders and maimings he organized have faded into the past and the realm of statistics, and the people whom he intended to have killed and maimed are walking around whole and free. The scene of distant bombardiers dropping highly but imperfectly accurate bombs on distant enemies and unfortunate bystanders in distant lands for half-forgotten, but connected reasons seem hardly to register as a moral issue compared to the dramatic identification with a man whose faced is plunged over and over in water, inducing feelings of panic, fear, and shame, but little or no serious damage to him.

    Being able to sympathize with KSM and AZ, but not their their direct and indirect victims, or with the people tasked with protecting their victims, does not represent some noble moral exercise. It’s a primitive, highly selective version of morality, one sub-level of abstraction higher than the same psychological mechanism that enables, one might even say compels, a citizen to favor the lives of friends and family over the lives of unknown strangers. A policy based on a fantastical promise to privilege the health, comfort, and sensibilities of mass murderers over those of the citizens a government is sworn to protect, and of the innocents it will someday be forced to destroy, may make a portion of the populace feel better about themselves and their government, for a while. Their marvelously if narrowly upraised self-consciousness over the banished scene of rough interrogation won’t survive the scenes of atrocity that will follow.

  133. The scene of distant bombardiers dropping highly but imperfectly accurate bombs on distant enemies and unfortunate bystanders in distant lands for half-forgotten, but connected reasons seem hardly to register as a moral issue compared to the dramatic identification with a man whose faced is plunged over and over in water, inducing feelings of panic, fear, and shame, but little or no serious damage to him.

    how can you say that? the widespread moral objection to the barbarism of dresden and hiroshima ensures that they will not happen again, inshallah. as a result of this objection, we now have laser guided bombs and the like, which enable governments to wage extended war in the age of real time war coverage. no civilized government is considering firebombing cities anymore.

    Being able to sympathize with KSM and AZ, but not their their direct and indirect victims, or with the people tasked with protecting their victims, does not represent some noble moral exercise. It’s a primitive, highly selective version of morality,

    your frequent lapses into wingnut talk discredit your sincerity. your suggestion that we sympathize with terrorists is deeply offensive. we believe that by upholding our standards, we are in fact protecting America’s security in the long-term.

    let me throw a few questions at you that may help us better understand each other’s position:

    what is your position on the allegedly significant number of insurgent/AQI fighters who were driven to fight the US by our widely-publicized treatment of our prisoners? would you venture a guess how this affected US casualties and the our overall success in iraq and af-pak?

    if we implemented the rather permissive interrogation policy you recommend for so-called high value prisoners, what measures would you take to protect the innocent? how do we ensure that interrogators don’t look for information based on false assumptions (particularly in light of our notoriously error-prone intelligence services)?

    how do you avoid an appalling scenario, where gov’t officials push for information that would serve their political interests or justify their actions (e.g. we know saddam and osama were good pals, and we know this guy has the details)?

    isn’t it wrong to apply techniques that “shock the conscience” of many, to seek information that we’re not sure it exists at all?

    does your recommended policy address the possible personal motivations of interrogators, including an inflated sense of self-importance (as in “the future of humanity is in my hands” – maybe so, maybe not) or righteous vengeance (“the guy deserves this anyway“)?

    would you use techniques that “shock the conscience” of many with the aim of gathering data not directly related to an impending, major attack, but is considered to be “potentially useful”?

    is a system possible that can reliably match the value of information we seek to extract to the severity of interrogation techniques we use for that purpose? in our culture, isn’t such a system a prerequisite to even considering the use of techniques that “shock the conscience” of many?

  134. Highlander….
    We tortured. We went against the rule of law.
    Its over.
    When Reagan signed the treaty we agreed on the definition.
    It may or may not have been LEGAL for Bybee to redefine torture to exclude waterboarding…the truth commission will explore that.
    I am pretty sure there will be a truth commission now.
    And there is no reason not to protect ourselves with Stephens drugs, deceit, drink, and threats skilled interrogations.
    But neither men or republics can be above the law.

    And I would not…I understand your utlilitarian pragmatism…one torture for many lives….but I’m Alyosha.
    I would not take one slave, not waterboard one terrorist, not torture one child.
    I could not.

  135. how can you say that? the widespread moral objection to the barbarism of dresden and hiroshima ensures that they will not happen again, inshallah. as a result of this objection, we now have laser guided bombs and the like, which enable governments to wage extended war in the age of real time war coverage. no civilized government is considering firebombing cities anymore.

    I don’t know if you’re joking or have a childish belief that precision-guided munitions have solved the “collateral damage” problem.

    your suggestion that we sympathize with terrorists is deeply offensive.

    So you say when not posing as the high holy humanist. I think you identify in your imagination with the terrorist suspect undergoing harsh interrogation – not quite the same thing as “sympathizing with the terrorists” – while removing from your calculation everything outside the immediate scene.

    I can answer most of your questions at once: There is absolutely nothing that you, strangelet, Andrew Sullivan, or Barack Obama has proposed that prevents the various problems of volunteers, officials acting in bad faith, and so on. All that you do is set up some obstacles whose main effect over time will be to ease your consciences. In the short term, you will encourage renditions, battlefield executions, voluntarism, overcaution, and so on. Over longer spans, you will set up ad hoc overreactions that will either be hidden under secret findings and plausible deniability, or will sweep away the would-be guardians of our narrowly defined moral purity.

    As to the details of any legal regime and desirable levels and methods of oversight, no system – whether designed by Glenn Greenwald, Alan Dershowitz, you, or me – is going to be foolproof, or can overcome a presumption of bad faith on the part of principle participants.

    what is your position on the allegedly significant number of insurgent/AQI fighters who were driven to fight the US by our widely-publicized treatment of our prisoners? would you venture a guess how this affected US casualties and the our overall success in iraq and af-pak?

    Yet once again you fully conflate detainee treatment, in particular Abu Ghraib, with interrogation. We don’t know what would have happened if we waterboarded – if we eye-gouged, dismembered, and flayed – KSM, but handled Abu Ghraib like Club Med.

    I certainly accept as credible the beliefs of Petraeus and his people that civilian protection and respect of rights was critical to an effective counterinsurgency campaign. Dicretly combatting terrorist plots already under way or being planned is something else altogether.

    Prior to the surge, multinational forces operated under another assumption about the “causes” of the insurgency and insurgency recruitment – that the very presence of US troops incited hostility and that handing over authority to Iraqis as quickly as possible was more important than establishing security. That turned out to be a simplistic abstraction that looked good on paper and sounded good in anti-war agitprop, b8ut arguably did a lot more harm than good.

    A policy that aims to be both as effective and as humane as possible – humane both to the “evildoers” and to their actual and potential victims – would be better than a policy that emphasizes one while merely hoping that the other takes care of itself.

  136. strangelet on April 24, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    You’re ok messing with the brain and not the body? Dude. But you’re all bent out of shape BECAUSE OF THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION? Bizarre.

    I’m sorry, but it’s just weird. I really can’t detect the underlying principles beyond assigning some sort of totemic power to the term “torture.” Treaties aside, it’s just weird.

  137. Read my lips, Geek.
    Torture is the same as slavery.
    The negation of free will.

    We signed a treaty defining torture.
    Then we changed the definition.

    Game over.

  138. Yet once again you fully conflate detainee treatment, in particular Abu Ghraib, with interrogation.

    as far as the insurgents/foreign fighters are concerned, there’s little distinction between the two. so i’m not differentiating here either. as you can see, the rest of my questions focus on interrogation methods.

  139. Read my lips, Geek.
    Torture is the same as slavery.
    The negation of free will.

    Yeah, so’s a 55 MPH speed limit. So are silk handkerchiefs affixing ankles and wrists to bedposts. So’s the UCMJ.

    We signed a treaty defining torture.
    Then we changed the definition.

    Game over.

    We signed a treaty pretending to define torture. Inevitably, under pressure we sought refuge in ambiguity, relativism, and legalism – and we’ve hardly even begun to test the bounds of the last.

    You’re not in the position to declare any game over.

  140. Prior to the surge, multinational forces operated under another assumption about the “causes” of the insurgency and insurgency recruitment – that the very presence of US troops incited hostility and that handing over authority to Iraqis as quickly as possible was more important than establishing security. That turned out to be a simplistic abstraction that looked good on paper and sounded good in anti-war agitprop, b8ut arguably did a lot more harm than good.

    one could argue that it took the iraqis four years of horror to realize that the US is a lesser evil. this realization may also have been delayed by gitmo and abu ghraib.

    btw, here’s your EIT-abu ghraib connection:

    “We didn’t kill them… We just did what we were told to soften them up for interrogation, and we were told to do anything short of killing them.” – Lynndie England, scapegoat.

  141. Its over for me.
    Realizing that torture is based on the exact same premise as slavery finished it.
    The negation of free will, the negation of what it means to be human.
    I don’t think you have any arguments left that can touch me.
    Game over.

  142. That’s England quote demonstrates little, sesqui. It’s a tenuous if not completely phony connection, not an objective one. And you can have no idea what would have been happening in Abu Ghraib if the Iraq war had taken place in the aftermath of successful follow-ons to 9/11.

    We’re not in a position, may never be, in critical respects cannot ever be, to perform a full and objective cost-benefit calculation of all aspects of Bush Administration post-9/11 strategy. The system is too complex, and the assessment vulnerable to bias and self-serving oversimplification at every point.

    Instead, we bottom-line things politically, and make political adjustments. At this moment, we appear to be turning the dial several notches to the left, while some take advantage of the luxuries of peacetime to indulge in one kind of moral posturing, and to reject a different kind (in many instances the same people now striking the former posture were straining their backs to adopt the other a few short years ago). A few bumps in the road, and the dial will be turned back right on this issue – first quietly, if the bump’s not too shocking, then dramatically if “the bumped” get angry enough.

  143. Its over for me.
    Realizing that torture is based on the exact same premise as slavery finished it.
    The negation of free will, the negation of what it means to be human.
    I don’t think you have any arguments left that can touch me.
    Game over.

    strangelet on April 28, 2009 at 2:00 PM

    Enjoy your self-dramatic dance in your imaginary victory circle.

  144. Victory?
    I achieved understanding of why torture is wrong for humans ruled by law.
    If it is anyone’s victory, it is yours, Mathematikos.
    Sure, you didn’t persuade me to your viewpoint.
    But I listened and I learned …me, I learned what I believe.
    You are supposed to be teaching me to think for myself…..not how to think like you.
    ;)

  145. And, in your interest, I will reject solipsisms and false certainties. Thinking for oneself and projecting are not the same thing.

    My advice is to work your epiphany-rate down gradually, first aiming for no more than 1 a day, then 1 a month, and so on. Eventually you may determine that real epiphanies are rare. You can live a rich life without ever experiencing a single one.