Torturing the Truth

It's time to face the ugly reality about the use of harsh interrogation tactics

When the Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote his epic, The Gulag Archipelago, some Americans read it to measure the gulf between the brute savagery of communism and the principled standards of free, civilized nations. But apparently some Americans took it as a helpful how-to volume.

Where would CIA officers have gotten the idea to extract cooperation from detainees by keeping them awake for as long as 180 hours at a time, or more than a week? Maybe from the jailers in Solzhenitsyn's grim account, who used the method on a mass scale.

Enforced sleeplessness, he explained, was favored because it was cheap, easy, and left no marks on the prisoner—not to mention that it was effective. Solzhenitsyn attested from bitter experience that "it is not really necessary to use a rack or hot coals to drive a human being out of his mind."

But American intelligence officials also learned something from the Soviets about manipulating language to conceal reality. When our enemies use methods like this, they amount to torture. When we do, they don't. A newly released 2002 memo from a Bush administration official authorized keeping prisoners awake because "we are not aware of any evidence that sleep deprivation results in severe physical pain or suffering."

That document, signed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Jay Bybee, also deprecates the unpleasantness of waterboarding, which makes the victim feel he is literally drowning. "The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view, inflict 'severe pain or suffering,'" he announced. "The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering." Did I mention that it leaves no marks?

The Bush administration and its defenders have long ridiculed anyone protesting the abuse of detainees. Former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, lamented that under President Obama, "the U.S. will not longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens." The message is simple: It's not really torture, and it works.

The former is obviously untrue as well as dishonest: Solzhenitsyn makes that clear. So do numerous U.S. government reports accusing various regimes of violating human rights through such forms of torture as sleep deprivation. Likewise, the U.S. government used to take a negative view of waterboarding. But apparently we only object when we're not the ones doing it.

That doesn't change the nature of the practice. In a confidential 2007 report that recently was leaked, the International Committee of the Red Cross outlined the harsh methods used on CIA detainees and reached the blunt conclusion that they "amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

But some people don't care whether these methods qualify as torture as long as they yield useful information—as Hayden and former Vice President Dick Cheney attest they do. Whether that's true is hard for an outsider to know. The Bush administration claimed that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammad helped foil a planned 2002 attack on Los Angeles—forgetting that he wasn't captured until 2003. Maybe we'll get a better answer if the administration grants Cheney his request that it declassify material supporting his case, as it should.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has his doubts. "The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means," he said. "The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

And if effectiveness is the only gauge, why even debate whether these techniques fit the definition of torture? The problem with using "it worked" as an argument is that it justifies too much. By that rationale, we can justify subjecting enemy captives to every form of torture ever devised. We can even justify torturing and killing their spouses, siblings, parents, and children, right in front of them.

Cheney and others have yet to advocate going that far. But if they really believe what they say about the techniques we've used, here's a question they need to answer: Why not?

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  • Suki||

    Oh the horrors of splashing some water and a few fuzzy bugs.

    For those susceptible to the vapors this must be terrifying.

  • Untermensch||

    It's also sort of like the same sort of retrospective reasoning why we'll be stuck with government bailouts for forever. When the economy turns around (and it will), we'll be told that bailouts work but we'll never know whether the same (or better) results would not have worked better to achieve the same ends. The problem with any retrospective justification like that is that, as Chapman points out, you can justify anything. Unlike inconvenient principles which keep you from doing certain things in the first place...

  • Sukiyaki||

    OK, we'll try it on you and see how susceptible you are to the vapors... I suppose it's a bit of a "you've got break a few eggs…" thing, right?

  • Suki||

    Cute handle.

    No it is not a case of that.

  • ||

    The Bush administration claimed that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammad helped foil a planned 2002 attack on Los Angeles-forgetting that he wasn't captured until 2003.

    What results!

  • ||

    You torture freaks always seem to loose the perspective of who exactly these detainees are. Like people willing to strap on a bomb & blow them self up. Or, saw off your head if you don't talk or even if you do talk. These fighters are zombis who mame, torture and kill women for relatively minor offenses.
    Our introgation tactics were like a club med vacation for most of us. I personally would love to be water boarded, sounds exciting.
    To the enemy, sounds more like water bordem!

  • ||

    Yeah.. I like my individual over group rights thingy too.. I was raised to rather die for that than give it up.

  • Tehcnomist||

    Torture your own or better still, your President's children in front of me and I'll agree to tell everything so much faster, thus saving lives.

    - A terrorist trained to resist.

    What are you going to do?

  • ||

    Should we waterboard all militia members & assault rifle owners, just to be sure they aren't planning something?

    I thought we were supposed to be wary of giving the gov't 'extraordinary' powers just for the 'extraordinary' threats cuz they ended up being used for much more ordinary problems....

  • Mike in PA||

    I draw the line at torturing a third party to get info out of someone else, but that's just me.

    EVERYBODY has a different line.

    If someone has knowledge that involves the lives of Americans, are we just suppose to ask politely and if they say no, we walk away? This is not reality.

    Use any EFFECTIVE means to end the conflict sooner. I'll say it again...

    War is ugly. Limit the reasons for war, not the methods.

  • ||

    Wow. It's like most of you didn't even read the article.

  • ||

    Correction: some of you.

  • ||

    The Gulag Archipelago was about a prison, though one inside an insane criminal justice system, not wartime torture. The proper comparison would be to our Supermax prisons, like ADX Florence. Those do torture people by these standards, but no one cares.

  • ||

    By that rationale, we can justify subjecting enemy captives to every form of torture ever devised. We can even justify torturing and killing their spouses, siblings, parents, and children, right in front of them.

    Cheney and others have yet to advocate going that far. But if they really believe what they say about the techniques we've used, here's a question they need to answer: Why not?



    Well, John Yoo opined that it wasn't illegal to crush the testicles of a detainee's child in order to get the detainee to sing.

  • Dick Cheney||

    The Bush administration claimed that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammad helped foil a planned 2002 attack on Los Angeles-forgetting that he wasn't captured until 2003.


    What results!



    Holy shit, I almost let the cat out of the bag about our time machine.

  • ||

    Wow. It's like most of you didn't even read the article.

    I stopped reading Chapman's worthless crap quite a while ago.

  • ||

    "Well, John Yoo opined that it wasn't illegal to crush the testicles of a detainee's child in order to get the detainee to sing."

    Really? Do you have a direct cite for that?

  • ||

    Chapman is engaging in moral relativism, more appropriate to the pages of Huffpo than Reason. His is basically claiming that the Soviets waterboarded=We waterboarded=we are the moral equivalent of the Soviets. The Soviets used sleep deprevation=we use sleep deprivation, again, their moral equivalent. I am surprised that he didn't point out how the Soviets actually fed their political prisoners=We fed prisoners=we are the Soviets. I suppose that the Soviets walk upright=we walk upright=we are the Soviets?

    Of course, I am sure that many "libertarians" also believe that we are the moral equal of the Soviets because we outlaw drugs, just like the Soviets. If it isn't Utopia it must be Hell.

    Don't "libertarians" believe in motive? They are certain a crime has been committed but don't seem too interested in motives. Motive creates moral distinctions. Killing a man in the passion of a fist fight does not equal coldly shooting him with a sniper rifle for money, even though both are equally dead. Even more important, killing a man in self-defense also leaves him dead, and not even considered "murder" by any but the anti-self-defense. Harsh interrogation for the purpose of forcing a CITIZEN to submit to the State is not the moral equivalent of harsh interrogation to attempt to prevent mass murder, sorry but it just isn't.

    While everyone is certainly free to express their opinions, moral relativism does not advance a rational argument. Argue, as Chapman does here, that an unlimited number of innocent American deaths is preferable to making KSM tweepy, if you must. Insist, if you must, that doing what we do to our own soldiers is torture and that millions of American deaths are preferable to doing it to KSM because of our "image in the world" like Barak Obama and Chapman do.

    Even if Chapman were right, claiming it makes us the equivalent of the Soviets is actually more like the emoting of a Leftard, than an argument of Reason.

  • Skallagrim||

    Thank you Steve Chapman for an important insight.

    "By that rationale, we can justify subjecting enemy captives to every form of torture ever devised. We can even justify torturing and killing their spouses, siblings, parents, and children, right in front of them.

    Cheney and others have yet to advocate going that far. But if they really believe what they say about the techniques we've used, here's a question they need to answer: Why not?"

    Its either torture or its not; or it either works or it doesnt.

    If the only concern is the latter, the "rule of law" is a quaint bygone notion. We would all prefer living in a world totally controlled by the strongest and most vicious wouldnt we? (Just as long as MY group is the strongest and most vicious anyway).

  • ||

    Marshall,

    How many people who were tortured were found guilty of a crime in a court of law?

    How many of the bill of rights are you willing to let go in the name of protecting us from guys with boxcutters?

  • Outraged Observer||

    The "if it works, use it, these people have no rights" crowd make me ashamed to be an American.

    Isn't America supposed to be a shining beacon of law and order, freedom and justice?

    We have abandoned this for pseudo-empire and expediency.

    It is immoral to torture people. Period. By torturing people we are no different than the worst despots on earth - at least the ones who do it in service of a cause, as opposed to just for fun. Why on earth should anyone think well of the US? We allow our Air Force to bomb for all practical purposes indiscriminately, we have soldiers all over the earth, "serving our vital interests" and getting in people's faces, we spend more on weapons than anyone ever has.

    It isn't a wonder the US has so many enemies - it's more a wonder that we have any friends at all. We just have no appreciation of the moral component of warfare.

  • ||

    oomaloomba:

    http://tinyurl.com/dc4ujl

  • High Every Body||

    How many people who were tortured were found guilty of a crime in a court of law?

    If you call that torture you are just a sissy. Go back to your blankie and see if you can get Chapman to give you a corner of it.

  • High Every Body||

    Isn't America supposed to be a shining beacon of law and order, freedom and justice?

    And winning our wars must not be too important to you, unless you left that one out by accident.

  • IceTrey||

    Technically they are right. These techniques don't cause "severe physical pain". Unfortunately they don't know how to use a dictionary because "torture" also includes "severe MENTAL anguish" as one of its characteristics.

  • ||

    Hey, Tony, glad to be on opposite sides again.

    "Tony | April 23, 2009, 11:07am | #
    Marshall,

    How many people who were tortured were found guilty of a crime in a court of law?

    How many of the bill of rights are you willing to let go in the name of protecting us from guys with boxcutters?

    "Court of Law" To which "law" does the treatment of un-uniformed, non-citizen or resident, enemy combatants apply? None.

    Typical Leftard. If we simply protected the 2nd Amendment, you know the one the Left hates, we wouldn't have had 9/11 because the "insurgents" would have been dead before they could act.

    So the real question is "how many of the rights in the bill of rights will you destroy and then claim as an attempt to save the rest of them?" Due process for foreign terrorists but no self-defense for Americans?

    Newsflash, there IS no such thing as "International Law". The Geneva Convention? It does not protect those who did not sign it, nor does it protect those without insignia or uniform.

    The Left loves to lionize FDR, but don't draw any comparisons to the fact that he didn't waterboard un-uniformed "insurgents" but executed them, by hanging. I assume you think that FDR is just like George Bush, at least as far as "International Law"?

    How, exactly, does waterboarding KSM, other than saving potential lives, including my own, affect my rights? I am a citizen, he isn't. Since we waterboarded him my children are next? Basically saying that since we carpet bombed Nazi Germany we are probably going to start doing the same tomorrow in Duluth?

  • ||

    Outraged declares: We just have no appreciation of the moral component of warfare.

    Maybe there is no moral component of warfare. Maybe war should be so hideous as to keep leaders from even thinking about engaging in it. Or maybe, when at war you should do whatever is necessary to END the war that always causes misery for all sides.

    Or, you can try to 'control' warfare via enterprises such as the U.N. and Geneva conventions. History has shown that these don't seem to work as intended, as certain enemies just refuse to adhere to the conventional requirements of such protections. i.e. uniformed soldiers , with a chain of command ,representing a country (not an ideology or religion or region of the world as so many today do), I am sure there are more requirements that only countries such as the U.S. get held to.

    War is hell , no doubt, but did you, Observer, feel hatred for Iraq under Sadaam who invaded Kuwait, a sovereign country , did you 'hate' them the way foreigners 'hate' us when they tortured their political opponents or threw sports players who didn't perform up to snuff off four story buildings (the worst misuse of torture, on their own citizens for personal gain). If not, why not? If so , what to do about it? Just shrug your shoulders and say to the victims, better luck next lifetime?

    A leaders first responsibilty, in my mind, should be the welfare of their citizens. Perhaps to not try and obtain information that might save lives is a dereliction of duty, maybe even immoral . I am not expecting you to agree with or even understand this. But what if bad actors who would do us harm start to define torture as the forcible obtaining of information, no matter how it is done? It could be argued that to force a disclosure of enemy info from an enemy combatant is in itself torture as it leads to the accused betraying their comrades. Then what? Where do you go from here to protect a populace that is under attack or threatened?

    Justice implies nuance (something the left endlessly brays on about them having in abundence while the right has none), that differing cicumstances should not induce prosecution or at least smaller penalty. Torture for political gain against a domestic citizen should be prosecuted vigorously, perhaps not so if done on an enemy combatant ready, willing and able to do harm, or has information of such a plot.

  • ||

    Marshall,

    I think that even in a world with a "protected" 2nd amendment that had citizens carrying side arms in every day life the guns would probably not be carry on items at the airport.

    Also, Leftards? Seriously?

  • Harvard Mansul||

    I looked up waterboarding, because you never hear anyone give a detailed description of what it is. And I found out why. Apparently they tilt the dude backwards, put cellophane over his face and pour some water on. No physical harm, just induces a panic reaction. That's the horrible evil we've been perpetrating? I know "mental anquish" is considered torture, but really how vague and open to abuse is that? Would I be able to sue my wife for torture for making me listen to the "Wicked" soundtrack?

  • ||

    Here's your citation for John "Testicle Crusher of your child" Yoo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hz01hN9l-BM

  • ||

    Harvard, if your wife's music was developed by the Spanish Inquisition, causes you to feel like you are literally going to die, induces panic attacks, and potentially causes you to throw up all over yourself - sure, listening to that is torture.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15886834

  • High Every Body||

    Technically they are right. These techniques don't cause "severe physical pain". Unfortunately they don't know how to use a dictionary because "torture" also includes "severe MENTAL anguish" as one of its characteristics.

    Hey Nancy Boi, go try to get a corner of that blankie from Chapman and Tony.

  • ||

    "Marshall,

    I think that even in a world with a "protected" 2nd amendment that had citizens carrying side arms in every day life the guns would probably not be carry on items at the airport.

    So the right to defend yourself can be abridged at airports? No reason the law abiding can't carry on airplanes. It has been proven conclusively that it requires much less to bring down a plane. Boxcutters anyone? Disarming the law abiding on airplanes is no different than disarming the law abiding elsewhere, it leads to only the law breakers being armed. The moral rational for self-defense is not subject to a spatial location.

    And yes, when you emote like a Leftist, and are unable to reason you are "Leftarded". When Leftist orthodoxy replaces reason, you are "Leftarded". Some people prefer the word "Libtard" but that implies that the Leftist is actually in favor of "liberty" which they most assuredly are not.

  • ||

    Marshall,

    What I'm saying is that even in a world where everyone carries a six-shooter and tips their hat to the ladies guns still would have to be checked at the counter. I think airlines would do it voluntarily for business reasons. Many people are terrified of flying. The first time someone accidentally shot out a window when reaching for the peanuts over the skies of Akron I think you would see the end to the idea of everyone being their own Sky Marshall.

  • ||

    Jesus, the idea that people are actually discussing the notion that America ought to torture is astonishing.

    Have any of you pro-torture people bothered to think of a few cans of worms you open with the "torture is ok because we're America" argument.

    1. What exactly would be your response if you found out that innocent people were tortured in the name of safety. By the way, a person is innocent in the eyes of the law if they are either not convicted of a crime or more importantly not ever charged with one. We've released a number of Gitmo people without ever bothering to formally charge them with a crime. If they were physically abused on the orders of the WH and then never charged with anything, guess what. Instant war crimes.

    2. Allowing the government to torture people without due process in the name of "safety" would allow them to do that to American citizens eventually. Oh, that's right, to you clowns, the damn income tax freaks you out more than having due process eliminated for American citizens (read John Yoo's memos, he already said the Prez could do that)

  • IceTrey||

    @High everybody

    I'd give you 2 seconds of being waterboarded before you were crying like the little bitch you are.

  • ||

    One more thing, if you think that physical abuse in the name of safety is acceptable, then should our police also be able to physically abuse suspects as well? After all, getting the information is the goal, no?

  • High Every Body||

    I'd give you 2 seconds of being waterboarded before you were crying like the little bitch you are.

    Getting your courage up for the drag show you star in weekly?

  • Libertarian War Monger||

    "We just have no appreciation of the moral component of warfare."

    Wasn't one of the primary reasons that the American colonialists were able to gain their independence that they ignored the contemporary ethical and moral component of warfare? Would that shining beacon of law and order, freedom and justice have the potential to exist if Americans constrained themselves to the morals of the enlightened euroland?

  • ||

    All of morality is situational. Any ethicist worth his/her salt will tell you that torture can be the most moral course of action in a given circumstance (the ticking time bomb scenario is the example often given). The indignation on this issue is just inane, adding nothing to the dialog. My view is that this entire debate lacks the right proportionality. First, we didn't torture willy nilly with the purpose of making the captives suffer. We used a handful of carefully considered techniques which are designed to minimize permanent physical and mental damage to the captive. These techniques were used on a very limited basis with strict oversight. To compare this to the Soviet Gulag is not possible. We also used these techniques in the face of a terrible threat to our nation which it seems we helped protect via these interrogations. I can understand a change in policy based on different moral standards, but the hysteria about this issue is just ridiculous.

  • ||

    That would be "Sky Marshal".

    Mantooth, aren't you making the exact same argument that is always made about gun control? Guns are dangerous, so people shouldn't be allowed to have guns, m'kay? Guns might save people from criminals but because there might be accidents we should deny the right to self-defense?

    In my mind, however twisted it may be, it is CERTAIN that there will be deaths as a result of our current policies where there is only the possibility of an accident that causes death by allowing guns on planes.

    Don't even get me started about the dangers of "Snakes on planes"! ;-)

    Airlines might make a business decision to disallow guns, and there would be nothing wrong with that. Of course, the market will vaporize those same companies once another 9/11 happens because no one onboard was armed to stop them.

  • ||

    Glenn, I'm going to call bullshit on your post.

    1. Please remember that these "techniques" that you so seem so enamored of were illegal under US law, illegal under the Geneva Conventions, and illegal under UN treaties against torture that the US signed in good faith.

    2. Not one of you pro-torture folks have explained just why it was necessary to go straight to physical abuse instead of actually trying the methods of intelligence gathering that were, you know, LEGAL?

    3. Of course we wanted the prisoners to suffer when we decided to do this. After all, don't the pro-torture people like to say that the physical suffering of others is important to keep us safe.

    4. Don't give me this "carefully controlled" bullshit. KSM was waterboarded literally every four hours for thirty consecutive days. Funny that you have also conveniently ignored the former Bush official who admitted that Gitmo interregators were directly pressured by WH officials to get the prisoners to "confess" of Iraq-Al Queda ties in order to provide some sort of cover for the invasion that increasingly appears to have been in the planning stages long before the first box-cutter was wielded in anger.

    5. It's not moral eqivalency, asshat. If we're using the exact same tortue techniques that the Chinese, Nazis, Soviets, and Khemer Rouge used, how exactly are we not on the same moral plane they are. Because we say so? Remember, those regimes also tortured in the name of safety.

    6. By the way, any medical professional who participated in these interrogations should immediately have their licenses revoked for violating their Hippocratic Oaths.

    In summary, this isn't "hysteria", you fascist piece of shit. America used to be about values and the rule of law. Once you adopt physical abuse and "ends justify the means" in the name of safety, then you become the tyrannies you conservative asshats wring your hands 24/7 about.

    Fuck you, Glenn, you are NO American in my eyes. Kindly leave my country and don't come back.

  • ||

    Fuck almighty, are some of you actually arguing that people should carry guns on planes to prevent another 9/11? Here's a heads up about what will prevent another 9/11: the goddamn cockpit doors are locked now.

    AQ has to laughing their fool heads off watching us plow literally billions of dollars into airport security measures designed to stock attacks that they will never carry out again.

  • IceTrey||

    "Getting your courage up for the drag show you star in weekly?"

    That a good one. Did your mommy help you come up with that? I'm going to go hang myself because who've hurt my feelings.

  • ||

    Pete's point #1: 1. Please remember that these "techniques" that you so seem so enamored of were illegal under US law, illegal under the Geneva Conventions, and illegal under UN treaties against torture that the US signed in good faith.

    Part of what I hate about politicians is the way they write laws so ambigous that no one can decifer how to apply them. The lawyers for Bush were trying to determine what procedures are legal and which are not, and that is because the wording of the staute must be so vague as to be meaningless. Either list procedures that are prohibited or prosecute on a case by case basis, but to say that what the Bush admin did was illegal is just opinion, not fact.

    As I said earlier , what if combatants start to say that just being detained is torture, or that getting info by 'lesser' means than waterboarding (which Pete seems to think is ok and should have been tried first, but how do you know that they weren't), or by ANY means is torture. Then what?

  • ||

    For a full debate, we must also talk about war.
    In a war, many spouses, children, and other innocent people will be destroyed. They may be our own relatives. They may be...us.

    And this may have been part of the thinking and feeling that said, "this isn't really torture." Or, "sleep deprivation is the lesser of two evils."

    It is all horrible, right? War and torture. Be against both.

  • ||

    Marshall Gill:

    So let me get this straight.

    When people hold America to a higher standard than other countries it is moral relativism and when people hold America to the same standard as other countries is it ALSO moral relativism?

  • ||

    Marshall,

    In other words, you have absolutely no regard for law or morality as long as you are kept safe. Why can't you just say that? What a fascist coward you are.

  • ||

    How, exactly, does waterboarding KSM, other than saving potential lives, including my own, affect my rights?

    I didn't need, want, or ask him to do this to protect me.

    No one signed oaths to protect me. They signed oaths to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution.

    Lots of us are willing to face any extra risk this brings. If you are not that is your problem and your weakness, not ours.

  • JB||

    See if you misplace one hair on the head of the man who killed 3,000 people then you are evil, evil, evil.

    Much shorter version.

    Should the US be harshly interrogating every Tom, Dick, and Muhammed who doesn't comply with the Geneva Conventions? No, but I have few issues with harsh interrogation used on KSM and similar individuals.

  • ||

    Wow, how wimpy this columnist must be. Wake up honey, we were and are dealing with hardened, dedicated Islamic jihadis.

    Many of us who are US veterans went through waterboarding in our training. But then again, you media honeys were busy with your make-up and hairspray.

    Waterboarding and sleep deprivation on a few top al Qeada Mohammadens is defintely A-Ok with me.

    The enemy is Islam. It has been for decades and it will be for decades to come. Wake up, honey.

  • ||

    JB,

    So how much torture does Donald Rumsfeld and co. deserve for plotting the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians?

  • ||

    Our Islamic enemies have concluded that we lack the will to fight back. Furthermore, our Mohammedan enemies are realizing that they don't need to rely on overt attacks, for quiet "attacks" are more effective.

    Mass movement of population, i.e. mass immigration to the West by 3rd worlders, e.g. moooslims, is changing the West from within. Pushing Sharia Law, Sharia Finance, Halal meal offerings, Mohammedan holidays "celebrated", etc. all are signs of Islam's penetration into our country and the West in general.

  • ||

    Tony honey.......no such thing as jihadi "civilians" since there are no jihadi "soldiers" - they all claim to be "civilians". Afghanistan attacked us on 9/11. We were in a state of war with Irag since 1991. BJ Clinton signed an executive order in 1998 that stated it is the official US policy to overthrow Hussein (Saddam, not Barry Dunham) and his sons in Iraq. Wake up and grow up. If you're an American or Westerner in general, you need to realize whether or not you consider Islam your enemy, Islam considers you their enemy.

    We have a feminized honey in the White House now.... we don't need anymore here.

    Geez, I wish we had Bush and Cheney still in office, instead of this left-wing lawyer, teleprompter Jesus - the appeaser in chief!

    We will be attacked with Barry-boy in charge. No doubt about it.

  • DADIODADDY||

    This string has been torture to read...

  • ||

    JPP,

    Seek help.

  • ||

    JPP,

    I will now eat a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, followed by a Honey Glazed Ham, finished with a Nut O' Honey. With a cup of honey.

  • ||

    It's ok boys....because of better men than you, men in uniform, you have time to blog and masturbate to internet porn. Enjoy yourself boys......!

  • Outraged Observer||

    @ JPP

    Frankly, if you are the shining example, the Knight of the State, I'd rather be undefended.

    The moral component of war is a lot more than obeying treaties and laws. It's proving to potential enemies and friends that we are not evil scumbags who deserve to be opposed. Unfortunately, the torture is ok crowd just sees Old Glory wavin' in the wind, with ranks of planes and tanks in the background, and say, "who gives a fuck what anybody else says, we are so obviously the best. If you are not with us, you are against us."

  • V||

    @JB

    Cheney doesn't really have that much hair to misplace.

  • ||

    All of the top CIA people involved, including Clinton appointee George Tenet, say the water boarding of top AQ operatives was invaluable. It saved lots of lives - more than all other intelligence combined.

    But, Abu G. was a disgrace because the torture/hazing was far too generalized and wide spread.

    Extremists on both sides of this issue are ill-informed and dangerous.

  • ||

    This whole "it worked" argument isn't going very far. In actuality, torture is far more likely to produce bad information - wasting the time of our law enforcement investigating falsehoods. There is a reason the FBI doesn't go the "torture till they tell you what you want" route - it doesn't produce reliable information. The CIA unfortunately could care less if the information was reliable, they were given a directive to produce a connection between Al-Quiada and Saddam Hussein. Whether the information was true or false didn't particularly matter to them. Which is why torture was a useful tool - it gets the results you want, namely the information you want to hear.

  • ||

    Torture is not a priori worse than mass murder. Personally, I oppose using torture because it's inarguably cruel and because I think it ineffective. But if someone proved that a specific form of torture works (i.e. compels unwilling "subjects" to rapidly reveal crucial, material info that he or she believes true) then I'd reluctantly endorse that form of torture's use in exigent circumstances.

    I have yet to see such proof, but I keep an open mind.

  • Xanthippas||

    Jeez. When did this blog start to become a refuge for the right-wing nutballs? Can't you guys go leave your comments at Gateway Pundit or something?

    For all you proponents of torture who somehow manage to think that it's both effective but also not torture at the same time, it's as if you had no clue that some dude named Ali Soufan-you know, a highly regarded FBI agent who actually got information out of Zubaydah before the CIA started busting out the insects-actually wrote a column just today saying that torture didn't work. I mean honestly...you guys read right? You know, papers? I know it's easier to fight the great war against Islam in your mind, where the only people who fight us are swarthy "Mohammadans" and torture isn't really that bad but also somehow works every time, but you guys really need to try and grow up. Like the man says..."Get a brain! Morans." Get a brain indeed.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why not just turn over captured terrorists to our allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel. They know how to conduct proper interrogations.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    How many people who were tortured were found guilty of a crime in a court of law?

    How many of the bill of rights are you willing to let go in the name of protecting us from guys with boxcutters?


    How many of those people who were tortured were entitled to U.S. constitutional protections?

  • Suki||

    Shut the fuck up Tony!

  • Suki||

    How many of those people who were tortured were entitled to U.S. constitutional protections?

    Zero. Same number as international protections under the GC.

  • ||

    Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that opponents of harsh interrogation techniques have the moral high-ground here. Both sides of this debate have something in common: They are both willing to TOLERATE one undesirable thing to PREVENT some other undesirable thing.

    For advocates of the interrogation, these things are:
    TOLERATE: an exceptional breach of our moral standards which does no permanent damage to anyone, and arguably only affects mass murderers/terrorists
    PREVENT: Deaths of innocent civilians

    For opponents of the interrogations, these things are:
    TOLERATE: Potential deaths of innocent civilians
    PREVENT: an exceptional breach of our moral standards which does no permanent damage and only affects terrorists

    It seems to me that the opponents of the interrogation techniques are willing to tolerate far more egregious offenses to humanity than are the advocates, and they are doing so to prevent something which is far less offensive than that which the advocates are trying to prevent.

    Under what imaginable calculus are the OPPONENTS of these interrogation techniques somehow assumed to have the moral high-ground?!?

    Granted, the "tolerable" offense is a certainty for advocates and a mere possibility for opponents, and the "preventable" offense can only possibly be prevented by advocates and will certainly be prevented by opponents... but can we drop the pretense that this is a clear-cut moral question? Jesus Christ people.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Are we not sending troops to die for our allies in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do we not send billion to Israel?

    Why not give them an opportunity to pull their weight, and conduct the interrogations so we can keep our hands clean?

  • dhex||

    libertarians for torture in 2012!

    woo ha.

  • ||

    dhex,

    I think it's more along the lines of "libertarians for rational decision-making and rejection of emotional hyperbole in 2012!"

  • ||

    For the those who think we somehow lower ourselves to the level of those attempting to murder innocents by forcefully extracting any information out of them in order to protect innocents, do we also lower ourselves to the level of criminals by kidnapping them and holding them against their will to protect the innocent?

    Motive is important. On some level, then ends have to justify the means. To protect my own life, I having to be willing to take life. It's not comfortable, but neither is the natural state of the world.

  • James||

    If the US doesn't want to get its hands dirty, maybe it should outsource prisoner interrogation to the Russians. Given the state of Russia's economy, torture could be a major export product.

  • ||

    I think it's more along the lines of "libertarians for rational decision-making and rejection of emotional hyperbole in 2012!"



    Actually you show it's a case of Libertarians who haven't a clue what the term means. It's about more than just limited government ya know.

  • ||

    Wasn't one of the primary reasons that the American colonialists were able to gain their independence that they ignored the contemporary ethical and moral component of warfare?

    No it was not. Where do idiots come up with ahistorical nonsense like this? The primary reasons we were able to gain our independence were patience and attrition - the huge cost to the UK of waging war across the ocean in the 18th century, and, yes, the French Navy. The contribution of American guerrilla fighters was fairly negligible and not really regarded as "immoral" by most people at the time. Unsporting perhaps but that's a long way from illegal torture. Can you cite many war crimes committed by Washington and his troops?

  • ||

    DaveS - obviously opponents of torture hold the high ground, because torture NEVER generates RELIABLE actionable information. Common sense alone would tell you that, but there's ample evidence from the Nazi and Soviet archives that torture is useless as an information gathering technique. Torture is useful only to intimidate and for revenge. Saying torture opponents are willing to tolerate additional civilian deaths is not true - if anything, turning America into another Latin American satrapy is more likely to result in the deaths of innocent civilians.

  • ||

    It makes absolutely no sense for it to be OK to bomb, shoot, napalm or sink terrorists but not to be able to speak harshly to them, have a woman touch them, keep them awake with loud music or make them feel fear acutely in a manner that does no physical harm. They are not American citizens or uniformed combatants covered by the Geneva conventions. As combatants not wearing uniforms we should just do what we did in the Revolutionary and Civil war and execute them as spies. These people rape, disfigure, and bomb innocent women and children, behead innocents and captured troops and are cowards worthy of no special consideration. We need to use whatever means are necessary to disrupt their plans, to find them and exterminate them. The proof of their effectiveness is right in the memos that Obama released, including three specific results: 

- interrogation of Zubaydah led investigators to another terrorist, Ramzi bin al Shibh, who in turn led the United States to Mohammed in a Pakistan hideout. 

- interrogation of Mohammed led to the capture of al-Qaida's Southeast Asia leader, known as Hambali. 

- Mohammed also told investigators of a so-called "Second Wave" plot after 9/11, to fly a jetliner into a building in Los Angeles. 
This is a war. The point of a war is to win and prevent the enemy from doing harm to those you defend.

  • ||

    """TOLERATE: Potential deaths of innocent civilians"""

    Potental? We tolerate that when we get behind the wheel of a car.

    Marshall, Does Iran have the right to torture an america it accuses as an enemy of the state? After all, enemies can potentially kill innocent people.

  • ||

    Make that an american

  • ||

    ""The proof of their effectiveness is right in the memos that Obama released, including three specific results: 

- interrogation of Zubaydah led investigators to another terrorist...

    Maybe you didn't notice this post.

    "Ali Soufan-you know, a highly regarded FBI agent who actually got information out of Zubaydah before the CIA started busting out the insects-actually wrote a column just today saying that torture didn't work. "

    Here the column.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/opinion/23soufan.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

    """How many of those people who were tortured were entitled to U.S. constitutional protections?"""

    That's only one side, it's also about whether or not U.S. citizens violated federal law on territory where federal law applies.

    But look at it this way, if the law backs the CIA why do they fear prosecution if information is released?

  • Michael Ejercito||


    That's only one side, it's also about whether or not U.S. citizens violated federal law on territory where federal law applies.


    Would federal law apply in a secret CIA facility in Poland?

    Would it apply to an Afghan facility which happens to harbor CIA agents?

  • ||

    Torture is illegal. Those who did it broke the law and should be brought to justice. Simple.

    Murder is illegal. How is it acceptable to kill someone with a Hellfire missile but unacceptable to capture someone, keep them awake, slap them around and pour water down their nose?

    The current president has approved or ordered the killing of people in Pakistan. These need to be investigated also.

  • ||

    @TrickyVic "Potental? We tolerate that when we get behind the wheel of a car."

    You get in your car with the intent to kill people?

  • Pro Torture||

    The author originally asked stated if it works is a justification then "We can even justify torturing and killing their spouses, siblings, parents, and children, right in front of them." The author proceeded to ask the Cheney crowd why not to the aforementioned techniques. My stab at an answer is that torture should only be applied to terrorists and not innocent civilians that may have ties to said terrorists.

  • ||

    It seems that the conservatives--both Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats such as Obama--consider torture, forced disappearance and felony murder mere breaches of etiquette, matters of taste or "policy differences," not the war crimes, serious human rights violations and felonies they unequivocally are in US and international law.

    The very people who decry "moral relativism" are telling us that there is no fixed standard of right and wrong. There's something strange and hypocritical in this special pleading. After all, we have frequently used such offenses as justification for war when people we no longer liked, such as Saddam Hussain and Manuel Ortega, had a history of ordering them under our sponsorship and tutelage.

    Obama and Holder have gone so far as to characterize torturers and murderers as dedicated public servants acting in good faith under the law. What? Torturing in good faith? The 43 deaths in US custody ruled homicide by military pathologists are evidence of good faith to this administration, but not to right-thinking people.

    The world is watching, and no one more than the world's billion-plus Muslims. If we don't take action, what does this say to them about our attitude towards the victims, our estimation of their humanity and the value of their lives and rights? A salafist recruiter couldn't hope for more from Obama.

    And what of our allies, who now view us as a barbaric bully to be kept at a distance? How can we regain their trust if not through re-establishment of the rule of law?

    If impunity persists, what of future war criminals? What is to deter them? Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Pinochet could not have done much evil acting alone. It took willing accomplices, and if systems are not in place to deter such accomplices, protection from evil designs conceived in high places is illusory.

    And how can we protest credibly if American military personnel, diplomats or civilians are tortured or even murdered abroad?

    There is a lot at stake here, far too much to be swept under the rug by the craven, the lazy, the calculating and the implicated.

  • Pro Torture||

    DrBrian puts a great deal of emphasis on such concepts as international law and war crimes. International law is largely meaningless because no international military or police force exists to enforce it. War crimes, that are actually prosecuted, are subject to the whim of the victors.

  • Epicurus||

    "Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Pinochet could not have done much evil acting alone. It took willing accomplices . . . ."

    Most Americans are authoritarian personalities. We will gladly load people on cattle cars if our leaders tell us to. Law (or morality) is "meaningless" to these people unless an enforcer is standing over them, as the poster above puts it.

  • ||

    If a technique works to force the disclosure of information that would otherwise have been refused, it is torture, whether physical or emotional. If a detainee/prisoner is forced to endure an activity that most people, and certainly the subject of the interrogation, fear and would go to great lengths to avoid, it is torture. It amazes me that so many people who are not afraid to employ torture are afraid of the word.

    So, the question is whether or not torture works, not whether 'enhanced interrogation' works. Euphemisms are dangerous, as G.Orwell once tried to teach the world. If you believe torture is an effective method for protecting citizens from violence, then have the courage to advocate torture--not 'enhanced interrogation.'

    But, I would caution anyone who believes in the effectiveness of torture that (1)its use should be advocated only as the absolute last resort, and only after deliberate consideration of all the possible ramifications, including the increased likelihood of torture being used against our prisoners, and (2)that the justification for torture should be strictly limited to preventing acts of mass violence, which I think would include large-scale attacks on infrastructure or systems upon which human life depends.

    That said, it must also be remembered that not all who torture are trying to get information--some are trying to send a message. What information was Saddam Hussein trying to get from his tortured citizens? What information are the Mexican drug cartels trying to get? None. Their purpose for using torture was/is to intimidate anyone inclined to oppose their control or interfer with their operations (or anyone even suspected of such inclinations). People using torture to quell opposition by instilling fear--terror--are in fact terrorists, and are obviously never going to be influenced by our decision to use or not use torture. However, if we continue to use torture, we must create safeguards to ensure that our reason is never allowed to morph (usually at the hands of some 'clever' lawyers) into terrorists' reason--it's a shorter step than most people seem to realize from protecting life to "protecting" lifestyle, or "American interests."

  • ||

    To all of you defending the sickening practice of waterboarding, you utterly disgust me. Please don't call yourselves Americans anymore. You have abandoned everything good America stands for. You spit in the face of our constitution, our international treaties, even as you grunt like rabid barbarians. You are sick. The disease is called 'sadistic personality disorder' ~ although as this is now some form of group think, perhaps malignant narcissism is at work too.

    Liberty and freedom? Ha! Pack it in losers, you might as well surrender and defect to North Korea. You'll find lots of people there you can agree with.

  • Pro Torture||

    There appears to be a lot of debate on the effectiveness of torture. If we want to resolve this issue, there should be clinical trials involving torture of terrorists, subject to normal statistical and econometric analysis, with peer review. Prisoners could be randomly assigned into groups that could range from no coercive interrogation techniques to forced castration.

  • ||

    Effectiveness of the methods used is irrelevant. The Convention Against Torture, found here:
    http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm

    forbids using methods "by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person."

    President Reagan signed the Convention in 1988, and the Senate ratified in in 1994. For those of you who might argue that international law doesn't exist, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states:

    ". . .all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land."

    You either respect the authority of the Constitution or you don't.

  • Pro Torture||

    1. The President can terminate US involvement in treaties without the consent of Congress.
    2. Treaties were never intended to be self-executing or treated the same as legislative laws. Otherwise, the President and the Senate could effectively bypass the house through the treaty process. Treaties are binding on sovereign nations, not citizens, for the reason just mentioned.

  • ||

    Re: Pro Torture

    We don't need to do any tests. There were centuries of 'tests' and the outcome was the founding of a nation with stick prohibition against torture. Torture is illegal, and virtually everyone outside of Bush's sadistic little cabal acknowledges that it's ineffective and morally repugnant.

    But if you have such a point to prove, submit yourself for those tests. You seem to be under the delusion that this is a matter yet to be solved. It's not. It was decided a long time ago.

    Stop living in the 16th century.

  • Pro Torture||

    Why is shooting someone with a hellfire missile okay, but sleep deprivation is not?

  • Pro Torture||

    If the President authorizes torture during the conduct of a war, it is not illegal because the ability to torture is a core power of the commander and chief.

  • nike shox||

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