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

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.
;)

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

CK (Sir MacLeod?),

It is The MacLeod, of Clann MacLeod.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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 ;)

"

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.

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