Cheney: At Least Let the CIA Keep Torturing, John!

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Lame-duck veep Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney has proposed some exceptions to John McCain's bill barring Americans from torturing people.

Cheney's proposal is drafted in such a way that the exemption from the rule barring ill treatment could require a presidential finding that "such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack." […]

"This is the first time they've said explicitly that the intelligence community should be allowed to treat prisoners inhumanely," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "In the past, they've only said that the law does not forbid inhumane treatment."

McCain rejected the exemption, the Washington Post reports.

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  1. Whatever his flaws, I have to admire McCain for his stand on the, ahem, “torture issue.” (That seems an odd phrase to use in the U.S., doesn’t it?)

    And he should know a thing or two about torture.

  2. Well there’s one respectable politician besides Ron Paul.

  3. “such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack.”

    if we believe our protection is predicated on hooking up the genitalia of innocent men to car batteries, we obviously do not deserve protection.

    i continue to insist that if we made ourselves moral enough to merit protection, we would face very little need to protect ourselves.

  4. Of course it would be expecting too much of the Dems to use this opportunity to demand that a concise definition of what is “vital” to our security. I actually think that GOPers sit around thinking how many bone-headed evil comments and deeds they can pull off before the left grows a pair and does something substantive instead of designing a new ribbon or holding a vigil.

  5. This, at last, is confirmation of the pro torture leanings of the current administration. There was, up to this point, a difference between an administration that advocated torture when they thought it was necessary and an administration that thought that current law doesn’t address the standing of some types of captives.

    The latter claim is perfectly valid and is empty of moral content. The former is a much stronger and much more unpleasant statement of preferences. I am now officially more comfortable with Jennifer, et al’s rants about the pro torture policies of this administration.

  6. Jason, welcome aboard.

    Isn’t it sad that this country has to have a debate over torture? What’s next, a debate over whether US citizens captured on US soil can be tried in front of a jury…

    Oh, shit!

  7. I still think McCain’s a tool. But I don’t think his politics matter much wrt torture. He was totured himself, for chrissakes, so you can see why he might be opposed to such practices.

  8. And gauis, I would submit that if this country simply followed the spirit in which it was founded, or followed Reason’s motto of “free minds and free markets” we wouldn’t feel much need to protect ourselves.

    But I have a feeling that that’s not what you mean by “moral”.

  9. if we made ourselves moral enough to merit protection, we would face very little need to protect ourselves.

    If only. But, I have to admire your idealism, gaius! Lucky for you and me, we don’t usually have to deal face-to-face with the practical proof that the morality of one party has next-to-null effect on the morality of others.

  10. if we believe our protection is predicated on hooking up the genitalia of innocent men to car batteries, we obviously do not deserve protection.

    What, and juicing the boys is OK if the guy with the alligator clips thinks the victim is guilty?

  11. yes, debate is bad, we should not debate torture, there is no need since there is overwhelming international concensus as to what torture is. why debate when we all agree? to think of all those countries that don’t debate torture, they just do it, makes us look foolish. history is clear that if you don’t use torture and are moral enough to merit protection, you won’t need protection, no one will attack you. this is fact. history is also clear that not one bit of information has ever come from torture, not one, nope. no debate necessary. what next, debating war itself?

  12. me:

    I am sympathetic to that argument. It is certainly the case that many argue as though torture were obviously identifiable in all circumstances and that any attempt to penetrate that defninition made one a torture apologist. I’ve been on the wrong end of that one myself.

    What strikes me here is that we have an administration leader seeking to carve out specific exceptions to the pretty well agreed upon ‘mistreatment’ terms in McCain’s bill.

    And what lowdog said about McCain, his toolness, and what that means for the torture debate.

  13. I think the problem is this administration wants to torture people in the open, in front of God and everyone.
    They should return to the old-fashioned method, where we loudly proclaim that Americans are good, upright folk who’d never torture anyone, but if some suspicious person is loaded on a CIA plane for “interrogation” and that person isn’t on the plane when it lands, well, things “happen”, y’know? Ooopsie.

  14. Funny how the religious right, who was all vocal on Miers, doesn’t say boo when the subject of torturing brown people comes up.

    I’m not sure of my law, here, but I think Cheney’s proposal must be grounds for impeachment.

    Open question: can impeachment or censure be enacted for NOT doing one’s job (the way the Dems haven’t fulfilled thier role as “opposition” for years, or the way GWB has glossed over the whole “uphold, protect & defend” bit of the oath)?

  15. I have an only somewhat off-topic question. When Woodrow Wilson left office, he was, in many if not most quaraters, one of the most universally reviled Presidents in American history. Yet, by 50 years later the guy was almost as much of a hero as he ever had been a villain. Assuming that Bush doesn’t, as he so richly deserves, get run out of town on a rail, what do y’all suppose are the odds of something similar happening with him?

  16. Shem,
    About as likely as the debate about the acceptibility of torture moving to a debate about the acceptibility of slavery (for vital national purposes).
    Unfortunately, I am not sure what that means.

  17. The pro-torture crowd always uses the argument that torture gains information that saves untold lives. But the real problem with torture is that it’s a reliable way to get unreliable information.

  18. Yet, by 50 years later the guy was almost as much of a hero as he ever had been a villain.

    “He kept us out of war” had mostly been forgotten by then. Also, the ’50s-60s represented the high-water mark for U.S. internationalism, of which Wilson was a minor deity. Subsequent historical revisionism has not been so kind to Wilson, and you rarely read the sort of hagiographic treatment that was seen even 20 years ago.

    How this relates to Dubya? Hard to say. Much will depend on the future as it relates to terrorism and the Islamic world. I doubt he will be widely remembered for much else other than 9/11 and Iraq, and I suspect that the Iraq war will be a fairly foggy memory ten years hence.

  19. I agree with Jason. When we were discussing the Gonzales memo, my take was that it was somewhat disturbing, but probably technically accurate; and it’s perfectly reasonable to tell the boss, “It’d be legal for us to do this, even though we shouldn’t.” That’s one thing, and perfectly acceptable, even if you don’t think we should do whatever-it-is.

    But this is different. This isn’t saying, “torture may be legal”; they’re saying that they want to make sure they keep it legal. That’s an entirely different ballgame, and not one I think I want to play.

  20. “history is clear that if you don’t use torture and are moral enough to merit protection, you won’t need protection, no one will attack you.”

    What the hell are you talking about? I can name numerous historical examples of non-aggressive, “moral” countries attacked by far less moral aggressors.

    That is some naive shit.

  21. Judging from what we uncovered in Fallujah, Ramallah, et. al. I would say that brown people enjoy torturing other brown people to an alarming degree. I have yet to see any evidence that the “religious right” enjoys doing so, unless Falwell has opened a torture room somewhere that I don’t know about.

  22. unless Falwell has opened a torture room somewhere that I don’t know about

    Whether or not Falwell enjoys S&M is none of my business.

  23. I have yet to see any evidence that the “religious right” enjoys doing so, unless Falwell has opened a torture room somewhere that I don’t know about.

    I don’t know about the “religious right”, but joe has a Baptist minister’s family locked in his basement. …He keeps ’em running on a gigantic hamster wheel to generate electricity.

  24. Jadagul’s take on this is right on point for me. Its one thing to say “current law doesn’t forbid X” and another to say “the law shouldn’t forbid X.”

    I think Cheney crossed the line here, that’s for sure.

    Well there’s one respectable politician besides Ron Paul.

    You don’t mean John McCain, the S&L king who engineered the partial repeal of the First Amendment, do you?

  25. But I have a feeling that that’s not what you mean by “moral”.

    not all the way, mr lowdog, but a it would be a huge step in the right direction.

    Lucky for you and me, we don’t usually have to deal face-to-face with the practical proof that the morality of one party has next-to-null effect on the morality of others.

    i have to think, mr linguist, if we hadn’t been maintaining by hook, crook and jdam an awful indirect empire in the mideast and throughout the third world under the conveniently nebulous rubric of “national interest” for the last sixty years, we obviously wouldn’t be faced with al qaeda at all. we are merely reaping what we’ve sown.

    and mr blammo: if you’re going to put “quotes” around my “words”, try to actually use my words. unless you’re attempting to lie yourself into a convenient strawman, of course.

  26. “i continue to insist that if we made ourselves moral enough to merit protection, we would face very little need to protect ourselves.”

    Almost there, I would say “much less need”.

    These guys are so stupid. Making enemies is their forte. Maybe it’s intentional.

    Here we see why people love the state, we get someone to do the dirty work and no one has to take much blame.

  27. Cheney obviously wants to give Jack Bauer a pass.

  28. “Where were you when Cheney said torture was o.k.? 9/11. 9/11. 9/11.” (sung with Alan Jackson’s accent)

  29. might i say, messrs jagadul, ligon and dean, that i think you accorded vastly too much creidibility to members of a group that was so obviously intent all along on exploiting the good faith of the citizenry.

    can i ask (short of soliciting mea culpas, in which i have no interest): was it because they’re republican, and you reflexively identify with republican politicians? or do you have faith in politicians generally, despite it all, to the extent that you are unwilling to infer what is entirely probable but unproven? or did you imagine there was some level that an elected representative of our holy nation, thus conferred the radiance of national virtue, would not sink to?

  30. But wait! This is Miers’ chance to show why she’s uniquely qualified, if she can explain how this is allowed by the Constitution.

  31. Cheney-Gollum: “My torture powers. My toture powers. Give me the precious.”

  32. I don’t see this as any watershed moment. The administration was obviously always pro-torture (or aggressive interrogation techniques if you prefer) to one extent or another. You can tell this, because people kept getting tortured, agressively questioned, etc. The best course is to codify exactly what types of interrogation are allowed. Exactly what is Cheney asking for here and when is the relevant question? Sleep deprivation? Hot lights? Electrocution?

  33. “Electrocution? Down the hall. One battery each.”

    fucking sick. sick. fuck.

  34. Memo:

    Fire Cheney from the GOP. He’s proved himself unworthy.

    Rick

  35. I don’t see this as any watershed moment.

    Neither do I. We’ve had a report showing that the responsibility for Abu Gharib, etc. lies with the Bush Administration’s incompetence since at least August of 2004.

    …Why August of 2004? …’Cause that’s the date on the Schlesinger Report!

    http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/dod/abughraibrpt.pdf

    Read it and weep!

    The report shows how Rumsfeld used Gonzales’ morally pathetic legal advice per the Torture Memo to craft interrogation guidelines that included things previously prohibited as tortuous. …It puts a big share of the responsibility for Abu Gharib on the policy confusion created by and subsequent to Rumsfeld’s interrogation policy changes.

    …It’s been there since August ’04 party people!

  36. gaius:

    I believe that enacting a formal policy of torture is a very serious accusation, and that accusations of that caliber should be tempered to the level that we have confidence. There is a large gap between:

    “It appears to me that the administration through the Gonzales memo was seeking to justify the use of undisclosed morally questionable interrogation tactics,” and “When are you apologists going to stop making excuses for Gonzales and Bushitler? Why do we even have to discuss whether torture is evil? This administration is no better than Staliiinn!”

    There was a lot of the latter when our level of confidence could only, at the outside, give us the former.

  37. Tom Crick:

    The argument in the Schlesinger Report hinges on how appropriate one viewed the Army Field Manual to be as a source of broad US policy. The other way to read that report is that there was no official guidance published from an authoritative source, hence the confusion. I’m not making excuses, but I don’t think the report read neutrally is as conclusive as you read it to be.

  38. Torture works. Those who say they would say anything they thought the enemy wanted, would quickly change their mind when your captors find out you are lieing. The truth is the best option for stopping the torture.

    Panty waste liberals who think torture is so horrible are hypocrites. Particial birth abortion IS the torture of the left. I believe the weak and innocent should be protected. Its the scum of the earth that should be tortured.

    Our nation has had a “no torture” policy in every war we have fought. Our soldiers have been tortured in every war we have fought. Renouncing torture does not make our soldiers safer. In fact it puts them unnecessarily in harms way. We loose much needed info that can end this conflict sooner. To hell with the terrorists and the people who want to protect them.

  39. RA,

    Or maybe torture doesn’t work.

    To hell with the terrorists and the people who want to protect them.

    Your thinking is far too binary. Or are you stupidly assuming that anyone who the U.S. detains is indeed a terrorist? That clearly hasn’t been the case.

  40. I have yet to see any evidence that the “religious right” enjoys doing so, unless Falwell has opened a torture room somewhere that I don’t know about.

    Have you ever actually watched any movies or TV programs these people produce? Or listened to most of the music?* Why would Left Behind have been made, if the religious right didn’t enjoy torture?

    On a more serious note, do these people seriously believe that, if Jesus came back today, he’d be more concerned with gay marriage than fucking torture camps?!? Even if it’s wrong, I’d much rather have “made gay people happy by letting them marry” on my conscience than “tortured people.” WWJD? Sure as hell he wouldn’t argue that torture is OK, so long as it’s necessary.

    *Although to be fair there are a few Christian bands I thoroughly enjoy.

  41. Torture works. Those who say they would say anything they thought the enemy wanted, would quickly change their mind when your captors find out you are lieing. The truth is the best option for stopping the torture.

    OK, so what about the guy who doesn’t know anything? If he says that he doesn’t know anything the torture continues. If he says what he thinks they want to hear it stops for a while. Sure, they might come back with more later on, but what else is he supposed to do?

    So, what should interrogators do if the captive doesn’t have any information?

    Now, if the guy is indeed a villain but simply doesn’t have any info because it was compartmentalized, maybe it’s harder to work up sympathy for him. Maybe. But what if he’s an innocent guy who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, as has apparently happened in Afghanistan? What can that guy say or do that will make the torture stop? How will the interrogator distinguish between the innocent guy and a really hardened terrorist who’s good at feigning innocence?

    At a minimum there should be a very, very, very high standard of proof before torture is used. At a minimum.

  42. Your thinking is far too binary.

    Hakluyt, you mistakenly assume that “thinking” is his goal at all.

  43. Panty waste sounds like a terrible thing …

  44. RA,

    Its the scum of the earth that should be tortured.

    Which really is just so much question begging. Who are the scum of the Earth? Do you trust the government to determine on the fly who is and isn’t the scum of the Earth?

  45. The other way to read that report is that there was no official guidance published from an authoritative source, hence the confusion.

    Whose responsibility was it to offer guidance from an authoritative source?

    …My charge is incompetence. I say incompetence; you say “no official guidance from an authoritative source”. Potato, potato, tomato, tomato–let’s call the whole thing a bungling, pathetic, administrative disgrace.

  46. I don’t think I gave that enough emphasis…

    “Whose responsibility was it to offer guidance from an authoritative source?”

    …he said, jumping up and down.

  47. Again, I say torture leads to unreliable information. I don’t really care that it’s inhumane. Maybe I’m jaded. But the object should be to gain the most reliable information possible and it’s been shown time and again that torture can not do that.

    RA, it’s not about people lying and getting tortured more later. It’s about people who don’t know anything making shit up. It doesn’t matter if they’ll get it worse later on, because “effective” torture cannot accept that they legitimately don’t know anything. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack. There are simply more efficient ways to obtain reliable information.

    And while renouncing torture does not make us safer, open acceptance is terrible PR and removes support. Torture won’t stop ever, but it shouldn’t be the standard course of action and when used, it really has to be done secretly.

    And the phrase is panty “waist”. After all, I believe all panties are a waste.

  48. I don’t know about the “religious right”, but joe has a Baptist minister’s family locked in his basement. …He keeps ’em running on a gigantic hamster wheel to generate electricity.

    He does? Somebody should tell him that Baptists are far, far too lazy to generate enough electricty to make it worthwile. I made the switch to old school Calvinists, and I only need a new one every five weeks.

  49. “At a minimum there should be a very, very, very high standard of proof before torture is used. At a minimum.”

    thoreau, you are a “Panty waste liberal”.

  50. Why would Left Behind have been made, if the religious right didn’t enjoy torture?

    I heard they were trashy reading, but that bad?

  51. At a minimum there should be a very, very, very high standard of proof before torture is used. At a minimum.

    I don’t mind the idea of applying psychological pressure, uncomfortable (though still humane) conditions, or even physical discomfort short of injury or pain…but even allowing for the concept of permissible torture gets us in the “torture warrants” camp, because if you say you need a very, very, very high standard of proof, someone else will be able to easily convince yet another person that they’ve reached that standard, honest-cross-his-heart.

  52. Christ, exposing detainees to this thread would be a human rights violation…

  53. I would rather take my chances with a ticking time bomb than have someone tortured.

  54. Jason, RC, I’m surprised. Perhaps delighted is a better word.

    Looking with 20/20 hindsight, do you think any of the administration’s activities that you considered innocuous at the time now seem to clearly point in this directions? The admirable jurisprudence of John Yoo, perhaps?

  55. As far as the “ticking bomb” and “scum of the earth” go:

    How about if they grabbed that guy on the London Undergound instead of shooting him?

  56. I heard they were trashy reading, but that bad?

    I meant the movie with Kirk Cameron; the books are, I understand, tolerable, if not brilliant.

    I went to an evangelical church while I was a teenager, and some of the things they have you watch . . . *shudders* The one that will always stick in my mind is the video to “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” by Ray Boltz. It has this guy in prison in America for owning a Bible, and he’s talking to his son, telling him to be good and listen to his mama, etc. Then they come to take him away to be executed, and he stands up to face them . . . and the look on his face is priceless. It’s that bad-actor I’m-trying-to-look-resolved expression. It’s straight from the Joey Tribbiani School of Smell-the-Fart acting. Everyone around me was always moved by his willingness to stick up for his beliefs, but I was always stifling laughter, both because it was ridiculous to imagine being executed for owning a Bible in America, and because it was just so bad.

    The problem, I think, is that evangelicals think that something that is well-produced is suspect as far as content. I don’t think that, until recently, they grasped the concept that you can both have a message and make a good movie/book/song/etc, with some exceptions. And most evangelicals didn’t care if the production values of what they were watching were abysmally embarrassing; if the message was good, they were willing to forgive any amount of bad production. I, on the other hand, cared very much.

    So yeah, I think a lot of the stuff the religious right produces is still torture to watch, even if it’s gotten better. As far as I have seen, they’ve not yet learned subtlety; the message has to be glaringly obvious (case in point: The Passion of the Christ). Production is better, but until that changes, most fundamentalist or evangelical media are going to be unwatchable for me (quite aside from any disagreements with the message).

  57. So, a few torture scenarios. Each one involves the question, “When do you stop and conclude that he’s telling the truth?”

    1) The suspect keeps insisting that he knows nothing, he’s not involved, he doesn’t know the guys you’re asking about, and it’s all one big mistake.

    2) The suspect says that he knows the guy you’re asking about, because they sometimes pray at the same mosque and they were lab partners for a synthetic chemistry class. But he had no clue that his friend was making weapons. He keeps insisting this, and swears that he has no idea what’s going on.

    3) The suspect admits to being involved, but insists that all information on the operation was highly compartmentalized and he only knows a very tiny amount. He tells you a little bit, nothing very useful (or at least not likely to be useful in the compressed time frame dictated by the ticking bomb) and then swears that he knows nothing else.

    4) The suspect admits to being the boss of the cell, but he says that he told his operatives to not tell him where they would attack, so that the information couldn’t get out if he was captured or their communication channels were compromised. He only knows that it will be a crowded store in the LA area.

    At what point do you decide that the suspect is telling you everything that he knows? At what point do you turn off the current, remove the bamboo splinters, or whatever?

  58. Maybe I didn’t distinguish cases 3 and 4 very well.

    Basically, the third guy admits to being involved, but insists that he was only a minor player and was told very little.

    The fourth guy admits to being involved and even admits to a significant role, but insists that for reasons of security he wasn’t privy to crucial details on the final stages of the operation.

    The third guy’s story, if true, makes a lot of sense. But what if it’s false? The fourth guy’s story is still plausible, but there’s also a very good chance that he’s lying.

    When do you turn off the current?

  59. Before it’s plugged into a person, thoreau.

  60. jOE,
    What is your real John Yoo opinion? I thoughtthat his written record made him more conplex than a mere real wolrd version of RCD. On the other hand, maybe I have no idea.

  61. I know there are plenty of logical arguments against torture, and I think I’m familiar with all of them. …but I don’t have a problem with the dumb as a doornail arguments too…

    There are some things I just won’t do.

  62. I like your answer, Rich Ard.

  63. In a nutshell…
    To advocate torture of another human being, no matter how evil they may be, is fundamentally opposite to our American ideals.
    Our distinct ideology is what made us great, without it we are no better than anyone else in this world, including the terrorists.
    This administration should be held accountable for all of their evil doings.
    Where is the uproar?

  64. To advocate torture of another human being, no matter how evil they may be, is fundamentally opposite to our American ideals.

    You’re so right–it’s a question of national character.

    This administration should be held accountable for all of their evil doings.

    I’ve been called all sorts of things for saying exactly that.

    …The President never should have nominated Gonzales for Attorney General. …not after he signed off on such a morally pathetic opinion–especially considering what followed. Furthermore, Gonzales should have never been confirmed or, at the very least, he should have been grilled–grilled I say–in the hearing.

    A rival party in congress might have served us better in this regard, not that there wasn’t a rival party represented on the committee–they just seemed to have forgotten about the opposition part of “loyal opposition.”

    I appreciate that Mr. Rumsfeld, supposedly, offered his resignation twice in the wake of Abu Gharib. Still, I think he should answer in public for the results of his policies and their implementation. …and the President should explain why he chose to keep Rumsfeld on in spite of it all. I suppose it’s theoretically possible for the Secretary of Defense to do something bad enough to make him want to resign but not bad enough to require congressional oversight. …I’m not sure this was one of those situations.

    God forbid Alberto “The Torture Memo” Gonzales should actually get on the Supreme Court and rule on Constitutional questions.

    Decisions regarding personnel like deciding to elevate Alberto Gonzales and the decision to keep Donald Rumsfeld on in spite of it all obviously speak to the question of Presidential leadership. This is part of what I’m talking about when I talk about Administration incompetence.

  65. I saw that movie Grylliade. I was a minister’s kid, so even though we were part of one of the more liberal mainstream Lutheran Churches, we’d have to attend somewhere else quite often. Ran into a lot of crap that way. To my mother’s credit, after we left every time she’d take pains to deprogram whatever nonsense they had pushed on me. Trust me folks, Christians can’t make a decent movie about Christianity. It’s just not possible.

    There was a happy ending, though. I was never so successful at getting phone numbers as I was at those churches. Lot of girls “frustrated” for Christ around those parts. Being a minister’s kid is even better than being the butterfly.

  66. I hear that Shem. Got a little ministry in my background too. …and Dusty Springfield’s famous song comes quickly to mind.

    I’ve heard it said that the fastest way into a man’s heart is through his stomach. Dare I say that the fastest way into some girls’…um…hearts is straight through the Bible? ; )

  67. Dr T
    OK, so what about the guy who doesn’t know anything? If he says that he doesn’t know anything the torture continues. If he says what he thinks they want to hear it stops for a while. Sure, they might come back with more later on, but what else is he supposed to do?

    I have never been involved with any torture or anything like it. But I have been privvy to handing some guys over that information would be extracted from them.

    From what I know is that these guys can make anyone tell the truth. If you really are innocent and/or unknowing, they will find that out. It wont be comfortable. I mean someone is not handed over to these guys unless he is really in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. And they will determine who he is and what he is doing.

    So in the hands of experts rough questioning does work, and the truth will be obtained.

    Those guys at Abu Ghraib were immature frat boys.

  68. Kwais–

    And yet our own military has admitted that many if not most of the people who have died under our torture, such as Dilawar from Afghanistan, were innocent and knew nothing–they were just in the wrong place in the wrong time. And at no point did any of our torturers realize that torturing these people contributed absolutely nothing to national security.

    Even if you think it’s necessary to torture the guilty, some innocents will also slip through the cracks and be tortured. How many innocent people do you think we can torture before we stop being the good guys? (Whatever the limit is, I suspect we passed it awhile back.)

  69. No Jen we are still the good guys.

  70. Well then, Kwais, what is the number? I’ll settle for either a flat number: “We stop being good if we torture X innocent people,” or a percentage: “We stop being good when X percent of the people we torture turn out to be innocent.”

  71. Tom-All I know is that the Rabbi’s son didn’t have half the luck that I did, and I wasn’t nearly as successful as the Baptist’s Minister’s kid, who, incidentally enough, actually believed much of the “party line” with regards to spirituality. We finally chalked it up to something about the mix of passion and safety that kids whose parents are ministers learn to fake that turns teenaged girls to mush.

    Interestingly enough, the Baptist is a youth minister now, actually, and working his way to the top of one of those mega-churches. We’re still pretty good friends, but he hates it when I vsit him around any of his parishoners.:)

  72. Forget about numbers; I’m still wondering when we became one of those countries that even debates this sort of thing. It used to be a point of pride that there were some things that our country just didn’t do, torture being one of those. What changed so quickly?

  73. Jack Bauer is a hack. Sure, he can unravel a plot in a day by using torture. But where the hell was he the other 364 days of the year? If he actually kept at his job the rest of the time, he could get results, even without being a loose cannon. In the real world, there are no ticking time bomb scenarios, because if you couldn’t stop the attack in its planning phases, you’re not likely to be able to stop it now.

  74. kwais-

    You are one of the good guys. My fear is that some of our leaders aren’t, and that they’re bringing in some bad elements.

    I’m willing to consider the possibility that if torture is only done by guys who really know what they’re doing, who really know how to get inside somebody’s head, and who never let their sadistic side come out, then it might work. I’m not prepared to dismiss the possibility that there’s an effective way to do it. (I won’t say “right” because that implies a value judgement that I’m not sure I can agree with, but I will say “effective”.) I would assume that the effective guys are very experienced dealing with people, not 19 year olds who decide it would be fun to lash out at the inmates.

    If torture were non-lethal, tightly controlled, effective, and very, very rare, maybe I could accept it. Maybe I could accept that now and then a last resort will be resorted to. Maybe.

    But that’s not what we’re seeing. Like the case in Afghanistan that Jennifer pointed to, and others like it, we’re seeing that torture in America (God, did I really just type that?) is going way beyond the quiet and rare last resort. Inexperienced people are being allowed to lash out because, “We’re at war, dammit! We need to stop pussy-footing around with these guys!” Our leaders are no longer trying to keep it a rare thing that’s better not discussed, and are now comfortable with mainstreaming it.

    If a guy like Jack Bauer was called on once every couple years to handle a couple of indisputably bad guys and then quietly fade into obscurity until the next crisis, maybe, just maybe, I could accept it. But if Jack Bauer is promoted to a Cabinet position, and if high officials (e.g. the VP) insist that the law should not only tolerate but explicitly allow what Jack Bauer does, then I’m afraid that America is no longer what it was supposed to be. Maybe it never was what it’s supposed to be, but now we don’t even seem to care.

  75. Clarification: When I say “never let their sadistic side come out”, I mean that they never lose control of what they’re doing. They never deviate from protocol and start having fun.

    I don’t know if such effective and restrained torture is really possible. If it is, and if it’s tightly controlled and rare then maybe, just maybe, I’d consider it. But our leaders seem to have something much bigger in mind. God help us all, and God forgive us for not voting them out.

  76. joe:

    Innocuous is not the same as inconclusive.

    Er, embarrassingly enough, I’ll have to google Yoo. I can’t recall what that was all about …

  77. we are still the good guys.

    your faith in the holy state is remarkable, mr kwais.

  78. The simple fact this article made news will get Americans tortured.

    Nice job Cheney

    dumbass

  79. At what point do you decide that the suspect is telling you everything that he knows? At what point do you turn off the current, remove the bamboo splinters, or whatever?

    what mr ard said. torture is, beyond being utterly unreliable, beyond being completely reprehensible, suicidal.

    i’ve said again and again from the start of all this: perhaps the most important argument is the one we are apparently too prideful/hubristic to have. the most insidious and durable effects of torture are not on the tortured but on the torturer. taking this as a policy, even entering onto the extremely slippery slope of torture warrants, is the end of any illusion of the united states as a remotely moral society. the execution of the act will accelerate the decline of an already-obviously-warped american moral sensibility (we are, after all, actually arguing the managerial and technical utility of torture!)

  80. can make anyone tell the truth

    or so they desperately, absolutely have to believe, mr kwais. for what is the alternative? to admit to themselves that they are no better than mengele?

    given their moral quandry, do you seriously accept their self-evaluation of job performance? can you?

  81. I’m still wondering when we became one of those countries that even debates this sort of thing. It used to be a point of pride that there were some things that our country just didn’t do, torture being one of those. What changed so quickly?

    agreed, mr shem. it makes me want to vomit that the work of our ancestors has been so perverted, so shat-upon by their cowering, sniveling descendents.

    if this is how we respond to a challenge, let us fall. the state certainly isn’t worth preserving.

  82. gaius-

    Just to be clear, I was posing those questions to make the point that torture leads to impossible dilemmas, not to identify the “right” way to torture.

    And I will contemplate the possibility that torture can be done effectively by people who are really good at it. The biggest problem (thought not the only one), as you point out, is that it’s very difficult to remain at the top of that slippery slope. Whatever one might think of the morality at the top of the slope (I lean against it, but I see the argument), the slope seems way too slippery. It may very well start out as something done in a disciplined manner under extreme circumstances, but when the leash is loosened it becomes much more widespread. And then some high officials argue that the leash should remain loose. And then, well, it all goes to hell.

    I guess 9/11 did change us. It made us willing to abandon everything that we’re supposed to be about.

  83. “we are, after all, actually arguing the managerial and technical utility of torture!”

    This is the problem. We don’t know what we are debating. The whole exercise is meaningless unless we know what Cheney is actually asking for. The Soviets gave up on torture in favor of sleep deprivation as a means of extracting information.

    Forced sleep deprivation is certainly not a humane act when commited on prisoners in general, but I don’t’ think it constitutes torture when used in a focused way.

  84. I always thought that torturers were the scum of the earth.
    It’s just stupid and reveals the whole perverted paradigm of those who can’t think of any other way to obtain information.

  85. Those who are fit to rule others, have no desire to rule. Those who desire to rule others, are not fit to rule.

  86. Forced sleep deprivation is certainly not a humane act when commited on prisoners in general, but I don’t’ think it constitutes torture when used in a focused way.

    As a child during the Cold War I remember reading

  87. Odd things happened to my HTML: the book I read was called “Alexander Dolgun’s Story: An American in the Gulag.” But for some reason that vanished from my post.

  88. The Soviets put people in prison too. Often for the wrong reasons and for a long time. Should I be against ever imprisoning anyone?

  89. JDM–

    Do you truly see no difference between putting someone in prison and subjecting them to hard-core sleep deprivation, or are you merely pretending to see no difference because that’s easier than explaining why the United States should adopt techniques used by the Stalinists?

  90. I guess 9/11 did change us. It made us willing to abandon everything that we’re supposed to be about.

    I disagree (and am, as has often been the case of late, leaning towards gaius‘ interpretation) – it was a catalyst in the process of stripping away the illusion that we, as a society, have not yet abandoned those things.

  91. “Do you truly see no difference between putting someone in prison and subjecting them to hard-core sleep deprivation, or are you merely pretending to see no difference”

    Umm. Maybe you should start your arguments by reading the other person’s posts.

    You see, when I wrote:

    “Forced sleep deprivation is certainly not a humane act when commited on prisoners in general”

    most people who were paying attention would conclude that I was noting a difference between imprisonment and sleep deprivation.

    “because that’s easier than explaining why the United States should adopt techniques used by the Stalinists?”

    There must be a modified version of Godwin’s law I can invoke here. I’ll assume it.

  92. Good idea, JDM. And then I’ll use it against this statement of yours: The Soviets put people in prison too. Often for the wrong reasons and for a long time. Should I be against ever imprisoning anyone?

    So what was the point you were trying to make there?

  93. It made us willing to abandon everything that we’re supposed to be about.

    i wuld say, mr thoreau, that it was merely the trigger that revealed a state of decline and dessication that has been undermining what was once good about this place for decades.

  94. it was a catalyst in the process of stripping away the illusion that we, as a society, have not yet abandoned those things.

    absolutely, mr ard — you got to it before me.

  95. mr jdm, you should probably submit to aggressive sleep depirvation before you pass judgment on what it is not. or, barring that (for i’m sure you are no masochist) at least read some case studies.

    sleep depirvation is not simply being bleary-eyed. it is extremely painful and can induce permanent psychological damage. one would think that simply seeing its prevalence in japanese ww2 internment camps and soviet gulags — where the intention was rarely informative but often punitive — would be enough to convince.

  96. sorry — repeptitive typo “deprivation”.

  97. David W,

    I think John Yoo, is the perfect model of the royalist necon, who wants to turn our president into a king, unconstrained by the laws that apply to mere mortals.

    Jason,

    “Inoccuous is not the same as inconclusive.” Perhaps the difference is how much of the benefit of the doubt we’ve been willing to extend to George W. Bush. When he failed to produce solid evidence of a WMD threat, and so much of that which he did produce was debunked, I concluded that he was full of it. When techniques were found to migrate from Gitmo to Iraq after General Miller was transferred, and when the White House torture memos were released, and when Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld kept yelling “9/11” and “terrorists” when questioned about prisoner abuses, I didn’t give him any of the benefit of the doubt. I concluded that support for torture ran from the Oval Office on down.

    Anyone remember the big story about “pathological Bush haters,” eager to assume the worse about the man in every situation? Maybe they’re just good judges of character, because they keep turning out to be right.

  98. “sleep depirvation is not simply being bleary-eyed. it is extremely painful and can induce permanent psychological damage. one would think that simply seeing its prevalence in japanese ww2 internment camps and soviet gulags — where the intention was rarely informative but often punitive — would be enough to convince.”

    Sure, but that’s irrelevant, since it’s not what I’m talking about. I’m foursquare against keeping someone awake until they suffer permanent damage as a punative measure.

    My point, which you are happily ignoring, is that we don’t know what Cheney’s asking for. He should be have to state and codify exactly what he wants. There is a difference between treating every prisoner according to the current and future law, and jabbing them with hot pokers. Acting as if there is a binary distinction between affording all enemy combatants the Geneva convention, and not is stupid.

    I’m against torture, and think it should be against the law, but I don’t think every time an old time movie cop shines a light in a suspect’s eyes that it amounts to torture.

  99. I don’t think every time an old time movie cop shines a light in a suspect’s eyes that it amounts to torture.

    are you quite sure my point about the actual horror or aggressive sleep deprivation is irrelevant, mr jdm? because you seem to spend a lot of time, consciously or not, minimizing torture.

    we don’t know what Cheney’s asking for. He should be have to state and codify exactly what he wants.

    i think that’s according an amoral politician far too much credit, mr jdm. we know what he wants — a free hand to do exactly as he pleases, answerable to no one. he’s shown, as have many politicos of all stripes, an avaricious willingness to constantly rewrite the law to fit minor convenience of whim — essentially, to not have a law at all to stand against despotic power.

    to have watched this administration for five years now and not understood this seems to me impossible. do you really need to hope that he indicts himself yet again before you can resign yourself to his base amorality?

    There is a difference between treating every prisoner according to the current and future law, and jabbing them with hot pokers.

    not anymore, mr jdm.

  100. ” because you seem to spend a lot of time, consciously or not, minimizing torture.”

    Right. You seem to spend a lot of time removing any meaning from the word torture. Are you sure you don’t have a more nefarious unconscious purpose in mind by making it more palatable? There’s no point to this game.

    “There is a difference between treating every prisoner according to the current and future law, and jabbing them with hot pokers.

    not anymore, mr jdm”

    That should be “between *not* treating.”

    “he’s shown, as have many politicos of all stripes, an avaricious willingness to constantly rewrite the law to fit minor convenience of whim — essentially, to not have a law at all to stand against despotic power.”

    I know this fits your worldview, but it really doesn’t make much sense in reality. All politicians would bend the rules if they thought it would further their cause, but it is important to know what their cause is. It is not useful to simply say that makes them all despots.

    I know this doesn’t help in your case, since you are convinced his cause is to destroy civilization. You should, however, be able to see that your case is not as strong as you’d like to think it is here unless you presume your conclusion.

  101. You seem to spend a lot of time removing any meaning from the word torture

    maybe it would help if you articulated what, exactly, you think DOES rise to the level of torture — as opposed to, i guess, merely somewhat painful physical coercion? i don’t even know what it is that you think sleep deprivation is, frankly, if not the minions of the state intentionally hurting people in the pursuit of government goals.

    All politicians would bend the rules if they thought it would further their cause, but it is important to know what their cause is. It

    so if their cause is adjudged (presumably by some populist decree, as there are no solid rules?) to be noble, following the rules isn’t necessary? i’m afraid that sort of abdication of the rule of law is what gets us into these messes in the first place.

    i see, mr jdm, that you’re trying to carve a middle ground where inflicting some nebulous level of pain in the hope of coercing some kind of control of situations we feel insecure about is acceptable.

    you must know, in your heart, that all this can render is a terrorized population of people who fear and loathe a managerial cadre that is willing to hurt them in order to control them. what positive product do you expect to yield from this state of affairs? it can only result in the further alienation of such peoples from any sort of allegiance, indeed push them into hatred and antagonism.

    exactly this mechanism is how we have become to be the most hated nation on the planet in the first place, and the object of terrorist blowback.

    his cause is to destroy civilization.

    not really — or, at least, not consciously. i imagine he sees himself as saving civilization though the militarization of american society. that is after all the crux of the neoconservative worldview. “if we could only be more brutal, we would be noble.”

    of course, the argument is self-defeating. civilization cannot be the product of mere coercion and intimidation.

  102. “Anyone remember the big story about “pathological Bush haters,” eager to assume the worse about the man in every situation? Maybe they’re just good judges of character, because they keep turning out to be right.”

    That is an easy argument, and much like the one we had before, it is still sloppy thinking. I knew that Kerry was ‘full of it’ when he said that he thought he could get the world to save us from the Iraq invoices. I still wouldn’t say that I could from then on assume that everything he said was a lie. You can play this game all day and with the benefit of hindsight make yourself feel pretty good.

    Assuming the worst in your political opponents is a habit, and I’m not going to act like I’ve never done it, but I acknowledge that it is a bad habit and not something I’m proud of.

    A classic example of this is Brad DeLong’s ongoing “Why on Why are We Ruled by these Liars?” series. He will take the administration to task for using questionably valid economic indicators to make the case that the economy is in good shape, but fails to note that those are the same indicators used by every administration since FDR.

  103. “maybe it would help if you articulated what, exactly, you think DOES rise to the level of torture”

    My point is that we don’t need to. Just codify what is allowed, specifically, and is not torture. But torture to me is using the terror of physical pain to coerce information, confessions, etc. If sleep deprivation were used in this way, it would be wrong, but using it to lower mental barriers is a different practice, one (probably) not allowed under McCain’s law.

    “if not the minions of the state intentionally hurting people in the pursuit of government goals.”

    You could say that about anything the government does. Unless you think prison isn’t “hurting” anyone. In gaiustopia, how are the rules enforced? Does *everyone* follow them just because they’re aware of the morality of the law?

    “i see, mr jdm, that you’re trying to carve a middle ground where inflicting some nebulous level of pain in the hope of coercing some kind of control of situations we feel insecure about is acceptable.”

    Again, that is essentially a description of all government, recast in unflattering language as a cheap debating trick. But yes, I’m trying to find a middle ground that results in the best outcome.

    “you must know, in your heart, that all this can render is a terrorized population of people who fear and loathe a managerial cadre that is willing to hurt them in order to control them.”

    No, I don’t know that. Again you are asserting a collective consciousness. If we use non-tortuous interrogation to get information that allows us to stop a bomb plot that the criminals among them would have carried out, mangling their own people, I could reasonably expect the opposite.

    “of course, the argument is self-defeating. civilization cannot be the product of mere coercion and intimidation.”

    I hate to point this out to you, but no one is making that argument. The unfortunate fact of life is that coercion is necessary for civilization but of course not sufficient, in one form or another. You can not wish violence away.

  104. Jason, does the fact that the examples I point to are actual positions endorsed by the administration, while the examples you come up with – that Kerry “thought he could get the world to save us from the Iraq invoices” – are mere aspersions whose original antecedent is barely distinguishable, suggest anything to you?

    What has Kerry lied about? What has Kerry been caught doing that rises to the level of fighting for the right to order torture? Knock it off with the “stand by your man” routine, and try to look at this with some objectivity!

  105. gaius, you must be pissed – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you use capitals before.

  106. joe:

    Obviously, Kerry hasn’t had to administer the government through any of this. I will say that I am absolutely certain that Kerry would not have endorsed torture in the way we are seeing this administration now do, but that wasn’t my point. My point was that being a good judge of character is a horrible excuse to make very conclusive decisions about that which you have very little actual information. You have advocated, and continue to advocate a position of stand by your man so long as he is a donkey.

    For one, Bush isn’t my man. All I have ever done is insist that you tend to speak with conviction in the absence of hard facts, then if you turn out to be correct, engage in a bit of I told you so as though everyone should adopt the same methodology.

    I am unclear as to the evidence on the migrating torture or what that demonstrates about the administration’s advocacy. We absolutely disagree about what Bush was doing during the run up to the war. I am fairly certain he actually believed, as did everyone else, that there was a WMD threat we would have to go in there to uncover and eliminate. He is guilty of trying to make a stronger case than what he had using weak evidence.

    When I say that innocuous is not the same as inconclusive, I am saying that I only had enough information to deem motivations of the administration as inconclusive for much of the charges leveled agaist them. The charges were serious and I still don’t think there is anything conclusive out there about many of them. The torture question is now officially different. If you are going to accuse me of a high evidenciary standard, that is a charge I can live with. If you are going to accuse me of being an unthinking Bushie, you should probably take a closer look at what I’ve said over time in this space.

  107. Jason, I don’t think you’re an unthinking Bushie. I do think you’re slightly too reluctant to draw certain inferences while I’m slightly too willing to draw certain inferences. You need the evidence to be smacking you in the face, while I’m a little too reckless.

    I think our tendencies do reflect some underlying biases in both of us, but you’re far from unthinking, just as I’m far from knee-jerk.

    To me, it was pretty obvious what was going on when the White House asked its lawyer (Gonzales back then) to issue an opinion on whether the relevant laws, treaties, etc. barred torture of certain people. I mean, why seek that kind of legal advice if you aren’t planning on stretching it to the max?

    When they also claimed the right to hold various people indefinitely without trial, I became even more suspicious.

    Face it, they’re building a gulag. Soon we’ll have to call each other comrade. Oh, wait, they’re right-wing wannabe dictators, not left-wing wannabe dictators. OK, I’ll have to call you “my brother in Christ.”

    🙂

  108. Jason,

    “We absolutely disagree about what Bush was doing during the run up to the war. I am fairly certain he actually believed, as did everyone else, that there was a WMD threat we would have to go in there to uncover and eliminate. He is guilty of trying to make a stronger case than what he had using weak evidence.” Actually, I agree with you about this. Bush’s lie was not “There are WMDs in Iraq.” He seems to have honestly believed that. His lie was “I KNOW there are WMDs in Iraq, I KNOW that we have to act now to protect ourselves, and I KNOW that there is no other way than to invade.” He didn’t know any of that, and he lied to us about the evidence for his case.

    And when it comes to someone occupying high government office, you shouldn’t need a “high evidentiary standard” to doubt them. Questioning authority is a good thing, and the burden of proof should be on them.

  109. In gaiustopia, how are the rules enforced?

    not by the promise of inflicting physical pain on the captives of the state, mr jdm.

    you seem to imagine a threat, real or implied, is needed to make a society work. while that may even be true now, in the advancing decay of western civility, i’m telling you that society isn’t working very well because it’s based now largely on nothing but threats.

    If we use non-tortuous interrogation to get information that allows us to stop a bomb plot that the criminals among them would have carried out, mangling their own people, I could reasonably expect the opposite.

    i see nothing wrong with asking people questions. but your qualifier — “non-torturous” — in the context of this conversation seems to imply that tossing people into jail at random and aggressively depriving them of sleep until they tell us something will win you the allegiance of the masses. which must be why iraqis love their american occupiers so? or why the algerians and vietnamese adored the french? i think not, mr jdm.

  110. “The unfortunate fact of life is that coercion is necessary for civilization…”

    Which just shows that we haven’t actually attained a state of civilzation as yet.

    “I am fairly certain he actually believed, as did everyone else, that there was a WMD threat…”

    If he believed that, it is because someone lied to him. It remains that the invasion was based on a lie. I suspect that that was the response bin Laden was hoping for. He must have been aware of the PNAC doctrine, and regime change in Iraq was a stated goal of both Bush and Clinton.

  111. “not by the promise of inflicting physical pain on the captives of the state, mr jdm.”

    Again, neither am I. It would be wrong to use what I consider torture, whoever it was used against. (Excepting special case thought experiments, etc.)

    “you seem to imagine a threat, real or implied, is needed to make a society work.”

    Well, yes. There are always people willing commit violence. These people have to be countered with the threat of violence.

    “but your qualifier — “non-torturous” — in the context of this conversation seems to imply that tossing people into jail at random and aggressively depriving them of sleep until they tell us something will win you the allegiance of the masses.”

    I’m not sure how… As I first mentioned when I brought up, in my 6:45 comment from yesterday, it must be focused. By which I mean focused on actual terrorists to the extent possible. Again, I pointed out that even my limited acceptance of the use of sleep deprivation would not be humane against prisoners in general, and I should hope you would give me enough credit to mean also not on the general population.

    My larger point is that it is possible to better the situation by codifying in law what procedures are acceptable. It is not true that simply asking for the ability to treat specific people in a manner not allowed by McCain’s law and the Geneva Convention marks someone as a Stalinist torturer. It matters which people, how they are selected, and how different the treatment is.

  112. All the “torturing” accomplished was to confirm what many Muslims had been taught, that the U.S. is the great satan. Evil is as evil does.

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