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

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.
;)

"

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?

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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'.

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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.

"

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."

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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?

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.
;)

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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.

"

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.

"

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?

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.)

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

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