Commenter Archive

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


From my perspective, the Bush Doctrine is an Epic Fail.


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.


I await revelation and epiphany.

strangelet on April 26, 2009 at 4:12 PM


[I leave you with that.]


{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.


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....}


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?


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.



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.

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.


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.


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



I'll put a footnote on the thread thread, an epitaph, a'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.


"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


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.


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...


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.


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,


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.


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.


“in fault if he dies"


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.


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.")

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.


From the Featured Archives


Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins