Commenter Archive

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

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.

"

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.

"

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 ".

"

Three (3) subjects equals standard operating procedure?

I think not.

"

Exaggerate much?

hillbillyjim on April 24, 2009 at 9:28 PM

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

"

under open democratic oversight

exactly.
Release ALL the memos and let the judiciary decide.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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

Exaggerate much?

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

"

donabernathy on April 24, 2009 at 8:50 PM

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

"

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.

"

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.

"

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."

"

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

"

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?

"

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.

"

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.

"

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.

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

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