"Do As I Do, Not As I Say Do"— U.S. Torture Chickens Come Home To Roost

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According to the Associated Press, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture reports that other countries are now pointing to the United States when they are criticized for their treatment of prisoners. To wit:

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except for Jordan.

"The United States has been the pioneer, if you wish, of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak told reporters. "Today, many other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.'"

This sadly predictable outcome reported here.

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  1. “The United States has a greater responsiblity to uphold international standards for it’s prisoners so other nations do not use it as an excuse to justify their own behavior.”

    Precisely. The whole world is watching us, we need to hold the moral high-ground and prohibit the torture and degradation of our wards.

  2. Sure, like nobody was torturing prisoners and violating human rights when Carter was the President.

    Anyone who thinks an authoritarian regime anywhere ever said or will ever say “Gosh, we’d like to torture our dissidents, but the US has set such a fine example with its adherence to due process that we just can’t bring ourselves to do it after all” is completely effing delusional.

  3. When Jordan’s idea of torture is to manipulate the air conditioning instead of the electrical current applied to their prisoners, then they can play the “tu quoque” card.

  4. During the Cold War, our ability to call out the Soviets and their clients for the torture and secret police was a powerful weapon in the struggle for public opinion.

    It also allowed rights groups to apply pressure to Communist regimes.

    Not so much anymore.

  5. Abdul, you do know that we’ve been sending people to Jordan (and Syria, and Egypt) to be tortured, right?

    As long as we continue those extraordinary renditions, “their” idea of torture is “our” idea of torture.

  6. Joe,

    Where are we supposed to send Jordanian nationals who are wanted for crimes committed in their home countries? Scarsdale? Why are we blamed for how Jordan treats their prisoners?

  7. If we know, or have reason to believe, that they will be tortured, we should hold them ourselves, or we are complicit in their torture.

    That is our law, that is international law, and that is the treaty we’ve signed.

    But hey, once you’ve signed on to torture, what’s a little lawbreaking?

  8. If we know, or have reason to believe, that they will be tortured, we should hold them ourselves, or we are complicit in their torture.

    That is our law, that is international law, and that is the treaty we’ve signed.

    But hey, once you’ve signed on to torture, what’s a little lawbreaking?

  9. The concept that the U.S. has somehow degraded its standing in the world regarding torture is all spin. We treat prisoners better than anyone else in the world, and prosecute those who mistreat prisoners.

    What’s really rich is the idea that by extending the Geneva Convention protections to unlawful combatants, the U.S. is somehow taking the moral high ground and this will, in turn protect U.S. POWs by encouraging their captors to treat them in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

    In reality it does exactly the opposite. By extending Geneva protections to unlawful combatants, it gives those unlawful combatants no reason to act as lawful combatants.

    The result is that it ACTUALLY serves to degrade the chances that U.S. military personnel will be treated fairly. Why? Because the only “guarantee” – as slight as it is – of keeping U.S. POWs from being tortured was the idea that as long as they combatants conducted themselves as lawful combatants and didn’t torture U.S. POWs, the U.S. would treat them as lawful combatants and provide them the protections afforded lawful combatants under the Geneva Conventions.

    Essentially, the carrot is fair treatment and the stick is unlawful combatant status.

    The carrot is the Geneva protections afforded captured enemy lawful combatants – those who conducted themselves in accordance with the law of armed conflict and do not mistreat captured U.S. POWs.

    The stick, denying captured enemy unlwaful combatants the protections of Geneva, is intended to discourage combatants from acting as unlawful combatants and mistreating U.S. POWs.

    Now there is neither carrot nor stick, and the world is pointing at the U.S. as though it has condoned torture of lawful combatants who deserve the protections of Geneva.

    It would be funny, really – the whole catch-22 that U.S. POWs and actual lawful combatants have been put in by the crowd that thinks the U.S. should extend protections to unlawful combatants who clearly have no motivation to conduct themselves in accordance with the law of armed conflict – if it weren’t so sad.

    The “best of intentions,” ensuring that the U.S. doesn’t lose its standing as a beacon of human rights, has actually led to the exact opposite.

    Now the U.S. has neither the “beacon of human rights” standing NOR are its enemies remotely encouraged to act in accordance with the provisions of Geneva as lawful combatants.

    The outcome has been to weaken the U.S.’s standing in the world AND to ensure that the U.S. will face future conflicts in which there is no motivation for enemy combatants to conduct themselves as “lawful combatants.”

    It’s exactly the sort of result one would expect from a successful 4th generation warfare campaign by our enemies, but we did it from within. Amazing…

  10. Sure, like nobody was torturing prisoners and violating human rights when Carter was the President.

    Wow, *that’s* a good defense. I can certainly see how a few cases being carried out by allies is the same as the US making laws that affirm their right to hold foreigners forever and ship them overseas to be tortured and then put out in the middle of nowhere. The point isn’t that they wouldn’t have done it otherwise, the point is that they now have justification when other nations try to pressure them to stop.

  11. Not to mention, Abdul, that we are “rendering” people not because they have been accused of crimes in their home countries, but because of their suspected intelligence value.

    They are called “extraordinary renditions” because they are not simple extraditions.

    rob,

    John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the top military lawyers from every single branch of the service disagree with you.

  12. Sorry, that 4th paragraph should have read:

    The result is that it ACTUALLY serves to degrade the chances that U.S. military personnel will be treated fairly. Why? Because the only “guarantee” – as slight as it is – of keeping U.S. POWs from being tortured was the idea that as long as they (enemy combatants) conducted themselves as lawful combatants and didn’t torture U.S. POWs, the U.S. would treat them as lawful combatants and provide them the protections afforded lawful combatants under the Geneva Conventions.

  13. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the top military lawyers from every single branch of the service disagree with you.

    So?

  14. “unlawful combatants” a lot of times aren’t…

    who needs moral authority when you have the decider?

  15. Abdul,

    That’s a point I was trying to make in another section of the forum here – some people think “manipulating the air conditioning” is as reprehensible as closing someone up in an iron maiden.

    “But no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Sorry, had a Monty Python moment.

  16. “John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the top military lawyers from every single branch of the service disagree with you.” – joe

    Good for them.

    They’ve apparently not revoked freedom of speech, yet, so I’m free to make a principled argument voicing my disagreement with them. (Though McCain’s campaign finance reform shenanigans certainly chipped away at the 1st.)

    Any time you feel the urge to actually make a principled, civil argument against something I’ve written, regarding the actual arguments I’ve made, you should also feel free to do so.

    But of course, you can’t… You’ve shown repeatedly that you’re just not good enough to handle an actual toe-to-toe argument without resorting to a bunch of rhetorical fallacies, name-calling and other assorted dirty tricks.

    But hey, you stick to what you know, right? In your case, it’s pitching a fit and calling people “trolls” after you’ve received a rhetorical drubbing that would force anyone of basic intellectual honesty to simply admit that they were wrong.

  17. “the U.N. special investigator on torture”

    Afterthought: Why are we listening to a U.N. employee? This is the same U.N. that had Syria on their Human Rights council… why should we believe anything that comes out of the maws of their spokescreatures?

  18. Lets not fool ourselves that US torture is limited to keeping the thermostat at an energy saving 68?.

  19. “We treat prisoners better than anyone else in the world, and prosecute those who mistreat prisoners.”

    Nor military prisoners, not anymore. Virtually every other western democracy – Canada, France, Spain, Britain – has higher standards for their treatment than we do today. How you could even assert such a thing after the past five years is beyond me.

    “They’ve apparently not revoked freedom of speech, yet, so I’m free to make a principled argument voicing my disagreement with them.”

    And I am perfectly free, when forced to decide between two parties making judgement calls about what is likely to happen, to take into account the levels of knowledge, experience, and other factors that are informative about each party’s judgement. The people who are in a position to know the most about what is likely to happen are almost uniformly in disagreement with you, rob.

    Your argument relies upon a series of judgement calls about how different groups are likely to behave. Since there are no means of objectively establishing what will happen in the future, I’m forced to consider the judgement of those making their preditions.

    Why should we value your predictions over theirs, rob?

    Bitch bitch whine whine boo hoo joe said something mean.

    I think you’d better switch to calling me a racist now, as usual.

  20. BTW, after everying we’ve leared about Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the murders at Baghram, “taking the gloves off,” extraordinary renditions to countries that use electric shock, Khmer Rouge-style waterboarding and other “alternative interrogation techniques,” the guy who says “we treat prisoners better than anyone else in the world” get a few points knocked off his perceived judgement.

  21. “Nor military prisoners, not anymore. Virtually every other western democracy – Canada, France, Spain, Britain – has higher standards for their treatment than we do today. How you could even assert such a thing after the past five years is beyond me.” – joe

    Really? How many of those countries have held unlawful combatants over the last 5 years?

    “And I am perfectly free, when forced to decide between two parties making judgement calls about what is likely to happen, to take into account the levels of knowledge, experience, and other factors that are informative about each party’s judgement. The people who are in a position to know the most about what is likely to happen are almost uniformly in disagreement with you, rob.” – joe

    Still waiting for you to actually argue against the points I made, rather than the weak rhetorical “appeal to authority” rhetorical trick.

    “Your argument relies upon a series of judgement calls about how different groups are likely to behave. Since there are no means of objectively establishing what will happen in the future, I’m forced to consider the judgement of those making their preditions.” – joe

    No, my argument relies on how the Geneva Conventions were written and what they hoped to accomplish: to encourage combatants to engage in warfare in accordance with the laws of armed conflict and to treat captured enemy lawful combatants rather than mistreat them.

    “Why should we value your predictions over theirs, rob?” – joe

    This is what this is called, joe, go take a look:
    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-authority.html

    “Bitch bitch whine whine boo hoo joe said something mean.” – joe

    Yep, how’s that ad hominem argument working out for you, joe? You use it so often, it must have won you a lot of arguments on the elementary school playground.

    “I think you’d better switch to calling me a racist now, as usual.” – joe

    I just call your commentaries the way I see them. You can call me out for being a racist the next time I pull a Desi Arnaz imitation out when discussing a Hispanic comedian, call someone a derogatory homosexual term (“nancy”) or make a play on the word “orthodox” that includes anti-Semetic stereotypes.

    I just hope to God you don’t say that kind of stuff in public, it’s liable to offend someone into filing a discrimination complaint against you. Or punching you in the head, if they’re prone to overly emotional responses the way you are. (Ex: “Bitch bitch whine whine boo hoo joe said something mean.”)

  22. “Nor military prisoners, not anymore. Virtually every other western democracy – Canada, France, Spain, Britain – has higher standards for their treatment than we do today.”

    That’s because every other western democracy has given us the heavy lifting on handling military prisoners. When Canada mistook a software developer for a terrorist, they asked us to rendition him. When we find out a guy we’re holding shouldn’t be held, Britain, France, Spain or other Western Democracies with connections to him won’t take him off our hands.

    By the way, I’m not convinced that France, Spain or the UK have better policies on treating military prisoners. Maybe on paper, but not in reality. The French record on Algerian terrorists is spottier than ours. I would be surprised if Moroccan and Basques in Spanish jails aren’t roughed up for information, or given to people who will rough them up for information.

    Joe, I agree that the torture-friendly policies we’ve gotten ourselves into are morally questionable. My problem is that all the Pot nations have gotten together to call Kettle black.

  23. We treat prisoners better than anyone else in the world, and prosecute those who mistreat prisoners.

    We treat prisoners “better” than the Canadians? The British? The Dutch? The Australians? I’d appreciate a link or source for this assertion.

    By extending Geneva protections to unlawful combatants, it gives those unlawful combatants no reason to act as lawful combatants.

    Isn’t the fundamental problem that the U.S. government has demonstrated time and time again that it can’t be relied on to accurately identify illegal combatants? Many of the “illegal combatants” that have been imprisoned (and mistreated) for years have turned out to be innocent. Is that just their tough luck? Shouldn’t there be procedures in place to ensure that when (not if) we detain innocents, they won’t be water boarded for their troubles?

  24. “Really? How many of those countries have held unlawful combatants over the last 5 years?”

    Off the top of my head, Spain has had a number of Basque terrorists in custody for years. They don’t waterboard them, rob.

    “Still waiting for you to actually argue against the points I made, rather than the weak rhetorical “appeal to authority” rhetorical trick.”

    I’ll choose not to repeat myself about this being a case of judgement calls about the future, rather thans statements of fact about what is.

    “No, my argument relies on how the Geneva Conventions were written and what they hoped to accomplish: to encourage combatants to engage in warfare in accordance with the laws of armed conflict and to treat captured enemy lawful combatants rather than mistreat them.”

    Which isn’t the area of disagreement. Your argument then goes on to make predictions about how our behaviors are likely to effect the behaviors of other parties in the future, requiring the reader to decide the credibility of these predictions. Since that reader is also confronted with a different set of predictions from professionals in a better position to understand the issues surrounding military mistreatment of prisoners, and since there is no way to establish what will happen in the future through either objective measure of rational thought (as opposed to statements about existing phenomonena, which is what logical fallacies apply to), the reader is compelled to decide between the two based on the credibility of the opposing parties.

    None the rest of you ad homenim bitching is worth responding to.

  25. Abdul,

    “My problem is that all the Pot nations have gotten together to call Kettle black.”

    Pots always try to call kettles black to excuse their own behavior. The blacker the kettle is, the greater the likelihood of this gambit working.

  26. “[1] BTW, after everying we’ve leared about Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the murders at Baghram, ‘taking the gloves off,’ [2]extraordinary renditions to countries that use electric shock, [3] Khmer Rouge-style waterboarding and other ‘alternative interrogation techniques,’ [4] the guy who says ‘we treat prisoners better than anyone else in the world’ get a few points knocked off his perceived judgement.” – joe

    1.) Illegal acts conducted at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram are being investigated and prosecuted.

    2.) What other countries do to prisoners is not the responsiblity of the U.S.

    3.) Water-boarding is the harshest “torture” example you can come up with, because all of the other things you listed were things that were obviously illegal actions and those accused of such actions are being prosecuted. No one will argue that illegal abuse is excusable, hence the prosecutions. But if you consider “waterboarding” torture, you’re blatantly lowering the definition for what actual torture is.

    4.) Actually, the guy who engages in a bunch of rhetorical nonsense to re-define what torture is and use it to claim that the U.S. are actually the bad guys in this, would “get a few points knocked off his” perceived credibility. But obviously, in joe’s world, if you repeat something enough it becomes a perceived truth. (“Gore won the popular vote but it was stolen by Bush,” for example, rather than “Gore lost the election, due to the check the electoral college provides against the popular vote, because he lost Florida by about 600 votes.”)

  27. “Lets not fool ourselves that US torture is limited to keeping the thermostat at an energy saving 68?.

    True, shecky, but there are those who consider the above scenario to BE “torture”. They’re usually liberals.

  28. I can’t believe the f—king whining that goes on at this site. Most of you dorks don’t have a clue what torture is. The majority of what the press has reported as “torture” by the US military is less than the hazing I got in college. It suites the Democrat’s and the liberal press agenda to make this a big issue. I guess most of you still think Katrina is Bush’s fault also.

    We are fighting animals that hack the heads of of living men and women and teach their children to become walking bombs to kill other Iraqis and our solders. Grow up for God’s sake.

  29. rob,

    So you really don’t think that it’s torture to be tied down to an inclined board and have water poured on your face until you can’t breathe? What disqualifies this from being torture?

  30. “The majority of what the press has reported as “torture” by the US military is less than the hazing I got in college.”

    This is one of my favorite arguments. Look, just because you’re self-esteem in college was such that you allowed yourself to be treated like crap so that you could buy some friends, it doesn’t mean that forcing pain on others isn’t torture. Furthermore, you’re being asked to swim across a lake with a candle up your ass is far different from waterboarding – which, rob, is only lowering the standard of torture if you’re starting with the ridiculous definition supplied by the DoJ – which is both (a) forced and (b) physically and psychologically painful.

    Jesus, I thought this was a libertarian blog. Don’t see much concern for liberty.

  31. Sorry: I actually do know the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Whatever. If there are other typos, they exist because I (obviously) hacked that out in about 30 seconds.

  32. “We treat prisoners ‘better’ than the Canadians? The British? The Dutch? The Australians? I’d appreciate a link or source for this assertion.”

    Les, see Abdul, directly above your post, for reasoning similar to mine. I admit that there is probably no way for either of us to prove our point, because the other nations probably aren’t really holding unlawful combatants. I would point to the actual treatment of the vast majority of U.S.-detained unlawful combatants and the fact that we’ve extended them the protections of Geneva. (Which is actually in VIOLATION of the principles of Geneva.) If you provide me with a list of countries currently holding unlawful combatants, perhaps I can start to demonstrate how U.S. treatment is better? But a list of other Western nations isn’t really the same as a list of countries holding unlawful combatants.

    “[1] Isn’t the fundamental problem that the U.S. government has demonstrated time and time again that it can’t be relied on to accurately identify illegal combatants? [2] Many of the ‘illegal combatants’ that have been imprisoned (and mistreated) for years have turned out to be innocent.” – Les

    1.) Certainly that is an asserted problem, but I haven’t seen much to support that assertion.
    2.) A citation would be appreciated here, in support of your point.

    “Off the top of my head, Spain has had a number of Basque terrorists in custody for years. They don’t waterboard them, rob.” – joe

    Apples and oranges, joe. I suspect that you know this, but I’ll explain it anyway…

    The Basque are considered citizens of France and Spain, respectively, depending on which side of the border they actually live in. Do your research, instead of claiming that the Basques are unlawful combatants captured by a foreign army, read enough on the subject to realize that they were captured in the nation they are considered to be citizens of, by the nation they are considered to be citizens of. A better comparison of an ETA (Basque separatist) terrorist’s treatment by Spain would be to compare it how the U.S. treated Timothy McVeigh. Like the theoretical ETA terrorist you refer to, McVeigh was tried as citizen of the U.S. and was tried under the protections guaranteed a U.S. citizen. Just as the theoretical ETA terrorist would have the rights of a Spanish citizen.

    “I’ll choose not to repeat myself about this being a case of judgement calls about the future, rather thans statements of fact about what is.” – joe

    Translation: I don’t have the intellectual firepower to actually argue against your points, I can only point to people who agree with me in hopes that other people will be fooled by what is clearly an “appeal to authority” rhetorical fallacy.

    “Your argument then goes on to make predictions about how our behaviors are likely to effect the behaviors of other parties in the future, requiring the reader to decide the credibility of these predictions.” – joe

    No, my argument simply points out the cynical nature of Geneva. They were written by people who wanted to encourage less barbaric treatment of noncombatants and chivalry among combatants engaged in life and death struggle. (Hard to regulate, obviously!) They took a very cynical approach to this, and used the only means at their disposal to enforce such behavior: protections for lawful combatans and reciprocity for unlawful combatants.

    “Since that reader is also confronted with a different set of predictions from professionals in a better position to understand the issues surrounding military mistreatment of prisoners, and since there is no way to establish what will happen in the future through either objective measure of rational thought (as opposed to statements about existing phenomonena, which is what logical fallacies apply to), the reader is compelled to decide between the two based on the credibility of the opposing parties.” – joe

    This is an extremely complicated way to appeal to authority, joe. Translation: “They’re the experts and experts are never wrong.” (Except we all know that this is not true, and that the subject is hardly as cut and dried as “all the agrees with me.” Gonzalez pointed out that legally there is no requirement for Geneva protections, and he’s certainly also an expert. But repeating that he made the legal argument for torture is a standard smear on what was an accurate reading of LOAC.)

    “None the rest of you ad homenim bitching is worth responding to.” – joe

    Oh, the pot and the kettle. I reserve my ad hom attacks on you as reciprocal, in the hopes that they will deter you from future such offenses. Sadly, much like the Geneva Conventions can’t prevent unlawful combatants from conducting themselves unlawfully or mistreating U.S. POWs, reciprocity is the only tool I have in my kit to punish you with. When you conduct ad hom attacks, I reciprocate. Perhaps you are capable of realizing why it’s really hypocritical of you to complain about ad hom attacks, but past episodes lead me to be cynical.

  33. What other countries do to prisoners is not the responsiblity of the U.S.

    Unless, of course, that other country is Iraq. Then regime change for humanitarian reasons is acceptable.

  34. “1.) Illegal acts conducted at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram are being investigated and prosecuted.”

    It isn’t the torture that is outlawed that’s the are problem; it’s the torture that is lawful. You know that this is the subject of the debate, and you won’t deal with it honestly.

    “2.) What other countries do to prisoners is not the responsiblity of the U.S.” It is when we are sending them to those countries for the purpose of allowing their ‘security services’ to gather intelligence for us. You know this, and you refuse to discuss it honestly.

    “But if you consider “waterboarding” torture, you’re blatantly lowering the definition for what actual torture is.” You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

    “4.) Actually, the guy who engages in a bunch of rhetorical nonsense to re-define what torture is and use it to claim that the U.S. are actually the bad guys in this, would “get a few points knocked off his” perceived credibility.” I agree; the guy who claims that it is not torture to use the the practices the Khmer Rouge applied to make innocent people confess to treason, knowing that death awaited them if they confessed, because they could not physically stand the agony and horror of what was being done to their body, really loses credibility.

  35. Can we get Ken Shultz in here?

  36. John D,

    When you were being hazed in college, what did they do that made you thrash, scream, and plead for mercy because of agonizing physical sensations that felt like you were moments away from death?

    I mean, besides drinking warm Milwaukee’s Best?

    rob,

    “The Basque are considered citizens of France and Spain, respectively, depending on which side of the border they actually live in.” The definition of “illegal enemy combatant” – that is, the people subject to “alternate interrogation techniques” – does not make any reference to nationality. American citizens can be declared illegal enemy combatants. I suspect you don’t know this, because of your studied refusal to know things that you’d rather not admit.

    And you still won’t even attempt to address the point that predictions about the future cannot be falsified the same way as statements of fact, and therefore, the classic fallacies do not apply? Well, strike three, you’re out.

    You start off well in arguments, recycling talking points you’ve found somewhere, but whenever your challended, you demonstrate a real incapacity to honestly and effectively defend your position.

  37. Where are we supposed to send Jordanian nationals who are wanted for crimes committed in their home countries? Scarsdale? Why are we blamed for how Jordan treats their prisoners?

    except when they are canadians and get sent to Syria…

  38. “So you really don’t think that it’s torture to be tied down to an inclined board and have water poured on your face until you can’t breathe? What disqualifies this from being torture?” – Les

    Nope. Worse happens during military training exercises. Actual torture would be a couple of guys with a pair of pliers and blowtorch. Or beating someone. Or leaving them in the snow until frostbite takes their extremities. Or… well, you get the idea.

    Having water poured on you to make you “feel” like you might drown is simply not torture. I personally think it’s the only thing on the list that even comes close – and even that’s a stretch, because it does no actual damage.

    In a theoretical example where I’d be given the treatment of an unlawful combatant detained by the U.S. at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, or the rights of a Saudi citizen accused of theft, where Saudi courts “impose capital punishment and corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for serious robbery, and homosexuality; floggings for lesser crimes such as ‘sexual deviance’ (e.g. drunkenness).”

    Again, I’d say most unlawful combatants detained by the U.S., even those being water-boarded, are being treated better than they would be for a similar crime in their home country. Of course, I’m not arguing that either are RIGHT, merely that there is 1) a difference and 2) the U.S. is the only country that would ever see this level of squeamishness about pouring water on an unlawful combatant.

    Frankly, while my personal opinion is that water-boarding is not a good idea, I still think it fails to rise to the level of actual torture.

    “Jesus, I thought this was a libertarian blog. Don’t see much concern for liberty.” – Seth

    Sorry, Seth, I don’t put my principles above self-preservation. When the two are in conflict, I see my right to survival as higher on my personal list of priorities than protecting the liberties of a guy who wants to see me beheaded on al-Jazeera from being repeatedly doused with copious amounts of water. (Not even dunked, mind you, just plain old doused.)

    Face it, it’s not like the guys whose liberties we are arguing over so vehemntly would come even remotely close to returning the favor. (Which is why I often wonder if such arguments are politically motivated rather than ethically motivated.)

  39. 1.) Certainly that is an asserted problem, but I haven’t seen much to support that assertion.
    2.) A citation would be appreciated here, in support of your point.

    Well, we’ve released something like 170 people from Guantanamo (you can easily Google it) because there wasn’t sufficient evidence that they were enemy combatants.

    So we know for a fact that the U.S. military has imprisoned perhaps over a hundred innocent people in Guantanamo alone (see, I’m not even saying that everyone they released was innocent!). That’s not even counting the secret CIA prisons. How many people at each of those prisons is innocent? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that some are, based on what we know about the innocents who lost years of the their lives at Guantanamo?

    And since we know for a fact that the CIA considers water boarding to be a “professional interrogation technique” (hey! just like the Khmer Rouge!), isn’t it reasonable to support procedures that would prevent the prisoners who are innocent from being water boarded? I think the first step might be something like making the government prove they have an actual enemy combatant. Why would anyone (besides a government loving leftist, I mean) trust the government to only arrest guilty people after they’ve arrested so many innocents already?

  40. Anyone who thinks an authoritarian regime anywhere ever said or will ever say “Gosh, we’d like to torture our dissidents, but the US has set such a fine example with its adherence to due process that we just can’t bring ourselves to do it after all” is completely effing delusional.

    Not as delusional as anyone who thinks that our own moral failings don’t matter so long as we can point to somebody else in the world and say “Hey, that guy’s even worse!” It’s like justifying the behavior of Ted Bundy because he wasn’t as bad as Henry Lee Lucas.

  41. I see no one seriously wants to argue the point that nobody who is predisposed to torture their prisoners is likely to either go forward or refrain based on whatever the fine points might be of US policy toward certain of its detainees.

    I also see that no one can come up with an example of a nation that we have fought since the Geneva Conventions were signed that actually adhered to said conventions with regard to US prisoners, even when we did with regard to their prisoners.

    I repeat: anyone who thinks that US nationals in Islamist hands are going to be given due process if we suddenly up the lawyer quotient at Guantanamo is delusional.

  42. “Sorry, Seth, I don’t put my principles above self-preservation. When the two are in conflict, I see my right to survival as higher on my personal list of priorities than protecting the liberties of [the bogeyman].”

    What was it someone once said? Oh, yeah: Give me liberty or give me death.

    As to the situation at hand, rob, I’m sorry that you have been so frightened as to lose sight of reality.

  43. Nope. Worse happens during military training exercises. Actual torture would be a couple of guys with a pair of pliers and blowtorch. Or beating someone. Or leaving them in the snow until frostbite takes their extremities. Or… well, you get the idea.

    Needless to say, military training exercises are voluntary. No one is tying you down against your will. Do you believe that torture has to do damage to be torture?

    Again, I’d say most unlawful combatants detained by the U.S., even those being water-boarded, are being treated better than they would be for a similar crime in their home country. Of course, I’m not arguing that either are RIGHT, merely that there is 1) a difference and 2) the U.S. is the only country that would ever see this level of squeamishness about pouring water on an unlawful combatant.

    Don’t you mean “alleged” unlawful combatants?

    Sorry, Seth, I don’t put my principles above self-preservation. When the two are in conflict, I see my right to survival as higher on my personal list of priorities than protecting the liberties of a guy who wants to see me beheaded on al-Jazeera from being repeatedly doused with copious amounts of water. (Not even dunked, mind you, just plain old doused.)

    Why do you assume that the military pouring copious amounts of water on an actual unlawful combatant? What has the government done to earn such a degree of trust?

    Face it, it’s not like the guys whose liberties we are arguing over so vehemntly would come even remotely close to returning the favor.

    I’m arguing for the liberties of the innocent, who we know are regularly imprisoned by the U.S. government.

  44. “I see no one seriously wants to argue the point that nobody who is predisposed to torture their prisoners is likely to either go forward or refrain based on whatever the fine points might be of US policy toward certain of its detainees.”

    Try reading the thread.

    “Face it, it’s not like the guys whose liberties we are arguing over so vehemntly would come even remotely close to returning the favor.”

    This statement leads me to believe that you have never studied ethics.

  45. I repeat: anyone who thinks that US nationals in Islamist hands are going to be given due process if we suddenly up the lawyer quotient at Guantanamo is delusional.

    Well, then, how about we up the lawyer quotient at Guantanamo because so many innocent people have been sent there? Because it’s just the right thing to do?

  46. Most of you dorks don’t have a clue what torture is.

    Then spell it for the ignorant masses John. Never mind Abu Gharib, just pretend it was an isolated incident. Instead, explain to the retards around here (myself included of course) how stripping someone naked, putting a bag over their head, refusing to let them sleep for days and running them over and over again in to the same wall is not torture.

  47. Rob,

    “When you conduct ad hom attacks, I reciprocate. Perhaps you are capable of realizing why it’s really hypocritical of you to complain about ad hom attacks, but past episodes lead me to be cynical.”

    In the context of your interactions with joe this is just plain funny.

    On this thread the first ad hom between joe and rob goes to … wait for it… yep, it’s rob…

    “Any time you feel the urge to actually make a principled, civil argument against something I’ve written, regarding the actual arguments I’ve made, you should also feel free to do so.

    But of course, you can’t… You’ve shown repeatedly that you’re just not good enough to handle an actual toe-to-toe argument without resorting to a bunch of rhetorical fallacies, name-calling and other assorted dirty tricks. “

  48. “It isn’t the torture that is outlawed that’s the are problem; it’s the torture that is lawful. You know that this is the subject of the debate, and you won’t deal with it honestly.” – joe

    Really joe? Which “lawful torture” would that be? If it’s lawful, it’s plainly NOT torture. I’m willing to honestly argue with you, joe, you don’t have to rely on attacks on my honesty to make a point. That’s just weak.

    “It is when we are sending them to those countries for the purpose of allowing their ‘security services’ to gather intelligence for us. You know this, and you refuse to discuss it honestly.” – joe

    Again with the “honesty” thing? Weak, again. More rhetorical dishonesty on your part, in fact, and quite a bit of gall to point the finger at me. Again, what would you suggest we do with these guys if not send them to their country of origin?

    “I agree; the guy who claims that it is not torture to use the the practices the Khmer Rouge applied to make innocent people confess to treason, knowing that death awaited them if they confessed, because they could not physically stand the agony and horror of what was being done to their body, really loses credibility.” – joe

    joe, your Khmer Rouge argument is specious. Because water boarding was the LEAST of what the Khmer Rouge did to people, not the WORST. Now THAT is intellectual dishonesty.

    From the wikipedia entry on the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum:

    “The torture system at Tuol Sleng was designed to make prisoners confess to whatever crimes their captors charged them with. Prisoners were tortured with electric shocks, searing hot metal instruments and hanging, as well as through the use of various other devices. Although many prisoners died from this kind of abuse, killing them outright was discouraged, since the Khmer Rouge needed their confessions. The torture implements are on display in the museum. The vast majority of prisoners were innocent of the charges against them and their confessions produced by torture.

    After the interrogation, the prisoner and his/her family were taken to the Choeung Ek extermination centre, fifteen kilometers from Phnom Penh. There, they were killed by being battered with iron bars, pickaxes, machetes and many other makeshift weapons. Victims of the Khmer Rouge were seldom shot as bullets were viewed as too precious for this purpose.

    Out of the roughly 14,200 prisoners at the prison, there were only seven known survivors. Only three of them are thought to be still alive: Vann Nath, Chum Mey and Bou Meng. All three of these men were kept alive because they had skills judged to be useful. Vann Nath had trained as an artist and was put to work painting pictures of Pol Pot. Many of his paintings depicting events he witnessed in Tuol Sleng are on display in the museum. Bou Meng, whose wife was killed in the prison, is also an artist. Chum Mey was kept alive because of his skills in repairing machinery.”

    It certainly throws stark contrast upon U.S. treatment of unlawful combatants and Khmer Rouge genocide, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not in joe’s world, where genocide and torture are synonymous with pouring water on people.

    “The definition of ‘illegal enemy combatant’ – that is, the people subject to ‘alternate interrogation techniques’ – does not make any reference to nationality. American citizens can be declared illegal enemy combatants. I suspect you don’t know this, because of your studied refusal to know things that you’d rather not admit.” – joe

    Of course it doesn’t make reference to nationality, you dolt, the Geneva Conventions are intended to regulate conflict between nations. The U.S. isn’t allowed to treat its own citizens as unlawful combatants because of their status as citizens. Even John Walker Lindh and Yaser Hamdi were tried in the U.S., though they were captured as enemy combatants.

    You may have heard of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, where “in disposition of which the Supreme Court issued a decision on June 28, 2004, repudiating the U.S. government’s unilateral assertion of executive authority to suspend the constitutional protections of individual liberty of a U.S. citizen.” Granted, it creeps me out that it had to go to the Supreme Court, but there you have it, nonetheless.

    “And you still won’t even attempt to address the point that predictions about the future cannot be falsified the same way as statements of fact, and therefore, the classic fallacies do not apply? Well, strike three, you’re out.” – joe

    No, I would never argue that predictions about the future are somehow verifiable by any means other than waiting for the future to arrive. That’s your straw man fallacy characterizatoin of my point. It’s a straw man because I have not argued based on my predictions of the future, I’ve argued on the language, history (that would be the PAST) and historical context (again the PAST) of the Geneva Conventions. You’re using a straw man fallacy argument here, because you have no means of arguing my actual points.

    “You start off well in arguments, recycling talking points you’ve found somewhere, but whenever your challended, you demonstrate a real incapacity to honestly and effectively defend your position.” – joe

    Wow, you can’t even successfully argue with a guy who only uses what you consider to be “talking points” without resorting to rhetorical fallacies and dirty tricks. You sure do know how to damn a guy with faint praise.

  49. MSM – Actually, that’s just an assessment of his usual bag of dirty tricks. You can’t act like this thread is the first thread joe has ever posted to.

    “So we know for a fact that the U.S. military has imprisoned perhaps over a hundred innocent people in Guantanamo alone” – Les

    No, we know that over a hundred people detained as enemy combatants have been released from detainment. It’s not the same as a “not guilty” verdict, clearly, anymore than German & Japanese soldiers were “not guilty” because we released them.

    “Needless to say, military training exercises are voluntary. No one is tying you down against your will. Do you believe that torture has to do damage to be torture?”

    Yes. If you don’t want to be detained as an enemy combatant, don’t fight in a war. If you don’t want to be treated as an unlawful enemy combatant, conduct yourself as a lawful combatant.

    “Don’t you mean ‘alleged’ unlawful combatants?”
    Nope.

    “Why do you assume that the military pouring copious amounts of water on an actual unlawful combatant? What has the government done to earn such a degree of trust?”

    Sorry, that’s war. Sometimes you get shot at even if you’re not the bad guy. I don’t mean to be glib, but if I’m not going to argue over the tragedy of collateral damage, I’m not going to argue over the other potential costs of war, such as detaining people who might be innocent. Even in a first-world country like the U.S. where things usually go more right than wrong, the wrong people get caught up in the prison system.

    “I’m arguing for the liberties of the innocent, who we know are regularly imprisoned by the U.S. government.”

    Even with full due process this happens. The world is an imperfect place, and bad things are sometimes done to people who don’t really deserve it. I’m a really nice guy, but people have tried to mortar the place I lived. I don’t bemoan it as undeserved, it’s just war. You know that whole “war is hell” line? It’s hell for innocent civilians and noncombatants more often than it is for soldiers. There is very little justice in any war, and that sucks, but that’s the way it is.

    In this respect, arguing about what is and isn’t torture is like complaining that you prefer your shower to be warm rather than tepid, while elsewhere you’d be beaten to death just for kicks.

  50. It certainly throws stark contrast upon U.S. treatment of unlawful combatants and Khmer Rouge genocide, doesn’t it?

    Yeah, you can’t criticize the US so long as the Khmer Rouge was worse.

  51. Rob,

    “The U.S. isn’t allowed to treat its own citizens as unlawful combatants because of their status as citizens.”

    Sorry, but you need to read the text of the MCA more carefully.

    “the Act, defines an “unlawful enemy combatant” as:

    `(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or

    `(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”

    There is no exception for US citizens in that definition. Jose Padilla being the most obvious example.

  52. Rob, stop being such a bed-wetter. We can behave well and fight our enemies; we can gain the world and save our souls.

  53. This part is not torture:
    “stripping someone naked, putting a bag over their head…”

    This part IS torture:
    “refusing to let them sleep for days and running them over and over again in to the same wall…”

  54. No, we know that over a hundred people detained as enemy combatants have been released from detainment. It’s not the same as a “not guilty” verdict, clearly, anymore than German & Japanese soldiers were “not guilty” because we released them.

    Bad analogy. We didn’t release German and Japanese soldiers during the war. Tell me, why else would the military release them, if they were guilty of being enemy combatants?

    Yes. If you don’t want to be detained as an enemy combatant, don’t fight in a war. If you don’t want to be treated as an unlawful enemy combatant, conduct yourself as a lawful combatant.

    Again, you are willfully ignoring the documented cases of people who have been imprisoned who were not conducting themselves as enemy combatants. This is starting to feel like a debate over creationism, where facts take a backseat to emotion and ideology.

    Sorry, that’s war. Sometimes you get shot at even if you’re not the bad guy.

    That’s your answer to “why do you trust the government?” So, then, during war you’re obligated to ignore the lies and screw ups of your government, shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s war”? How is this different from a leftist putting all his faith in the government because that’s what’s good for us?

    I don’t mean to be glib, but if I’m not going to argue over the tragedy of collateral damage, I’m not going to argue over the other potential costs of war, such as detaining people who might be innocent. Even in a first-world country like the U.S. where things usually go more right than wrong, the wrong people get caught up in the prison system.

    The point being that those people have a chance to defend themselves. They can see a lawyer and the government has to prove its case against them.

    I really don’t understand your argument beyond “trust the government, it’s the best government, and it sucks to be an innocent in wartime who’s suspected (by people like me) to be an enemy combatant.”

  55. Rob,

    “MSM – Actually, that’s just an assessment of his usual bag of dirty tricks. You can’t act like this thread is the first thread joe has ever posted to.”

    Sorry, but that doesn’t get you off the hook. You were the first to throw out an insult in this discussion. It is not like this is the first thread you have posted on either. If you want to pretend you have the high ground and are only responding to joe’s bad behavior, you need to adhere to your own standards.

    I have watched your posts on other threads. I would say you are as likely to present weak arguments, unsupported facts, or ad hom attacks in a debate as anyone else (not that there is anything wrong with that).

    This thread is about maintaining the high-ground. It is a good idea. A position that says water-boarding is not torture fails at the level of face validity. As I have said before, there is no point in trying to define the fuzzy boundary of torture versus appropriate treatment. They are starkly contrastive. As a matter of policy, if the person with control of a prisoner needs to take even the slightest amount of time to wonder about whether the particular harsh treatment he is contemplating is torture or not, the default position should be that it is and that the harsh treatment shouldn’t be continued. There is a much greater tendency to be overly cruel than overly kind in prisons, so policy should be designed to minimize harsh treatment. This protects not only the prisoners, but those charged with their confinement and interrogation.

    Any appeal to the alleged acts committed by the prisoner is beyond the scope of the argument. Policy about how prisoners are treated has to begin with the assumption that the prisoner may be an innocent individual. Policy about treatment must be based on how you would treat an innocent individual accused of a crime, not how you would treat a person convicted of a crime.

    Arguments about the proper treatment of those convicted of a crime are another matter entirely.

  56. Rob, stop being such a bed-wetter. We can behave well and fight our enemies; we can gain the world and save our souls.

    Apostate Jew,
    That’s beautiful, except for the part about Rob wetting his bed.

    How appropriate that the day of a thread about Ollie North, another thread reminds me of the Iran-Contra hearings. When Ollie was testifying, I recall someone telling him that while he (North) seemed to think the ends justified the means, that this is America, we are all about the means.

  57. “What happened to this prisoner?”

    “Honest Sarge, we just set the thermostat to 68 degrees and left him here. When we came back this morning his legs were crushed and he was dead.”

    “Well, rule it natural causes and move on”

  58. R C Dean:

    This thread got big fast, so I’m responding to you before I go back and read the comments I haven’t already.

    I not in the least bit effing delusional, I don’t expect barbarians to follow our example and suddenly change their ways and become civilized. How other countries treat their prisoners, or our POW’s, is irrelevant to how we, the most civilized nation on earth, shoud treat prisoners. We aren’t supposed to run our prisons by the rest of the world’s standards, we are morally obligated to set the standard, and set it high. If every other country in the world is torturing and terrorizing their prisoners,it’s still wrong, and we should not do it.

    All you people who think we should degrade and dehumanize prisoners we don’t like, well, I think you’re the barbarians. I’ll bet not one single one of you pro-torture libertarians ever did time, ever had to deal with being locked up in a cage and find yourself at the mercy of scumbag jailers. Incarceration is living hell, torturing and abusing human beings isn’t something that should be applauded by libertarians.

    Libertarians Unite, take and hold the Moral Highground, it’s our responsibility as defenders of the priciples of Freedom.

  59. And i see where that VINCENTI FOX FREAK wants to complain about the border fence when his own country has a very poor record on human rights SHUT YOUR MOUTH YOU BANDITO

  60. RC Dean,

    “I see no one seriously wants to argue the point that nobody who is predisposed to torture their prisoners is likely to either go forward or refrain based on whatever the fine points might be of US policy toward certain of its detainees.”

    I brought up the Soviets bloc earlier, but you whiffed.

    “I also see that no one can come up with an example of a nation that we have fought since the Geneva Conventions were signed that actually adhered to said conventions with regard to US prisoners, even when we did with regard to their prisoners.”

    Oddly enough, the Nazis. The POW camps in which they held American and British prisoners conformed to Geneva. There are documented cases of high-level Luftwaffe officers touring camps in which captured Allied pilots were held, and demanding (and achieving) improvements in their treatment.

    Also, RC, I’ll point out to you that small-unit and intelligence actions against Al Qaeda cells is the not the last war we’re going to fight. If we can spend $300 billion annually to prepare for our military to fight a war against that of other states, shouldn’t we remain just as ready to defend our prisoners’ in the same eventuality?

  61. rob saved me a lot of time.

    I don’t understand how we’re responsible for the treatment of Jordanian citizens we return to Jordan, but we’re not responsible for the Jordanian citizens who are already under the control of Jordan’s government.

    I guess I do understand. The fundamental argument about the Iraq war is whether or not we are responsible for those things we allow (Hussein’s oppression, Iran’s bomb) as well as those things we do (bomb Iraq, return Jordanians to Jordan).

    It’s certainly a simpler view to look at only our direct actions, but I thought the whole hippy enlightenment was about looking at long term, downstream effects. What’s the name of my toilet cleaner? Seventh Generation?

  62. Mainstream Man,

    Thank you for noticing.

    Everyone else, I know reading rob’s venomous diatribes is unpleasant, but please take a moment to think about this statement for a moment:

    “If it’s lawful, it’s plainly NOT torture.”

    I’m just going to give that a minute to sink in.

  63. Jennifer,

    “Yeah, you can’t criticize the US so long as the Khmer Rouge was worse.”

    Actually, rob’s argument is “You can’t criticize the US so long as some of what the Khmer Rouge did was worse.”

    bubba,

    When we take a person into custody, interrogate him, decide we’re not getting enough information, put him on an airplane, fly the airplane to the other side of the planet, hand him to Jordanian secret police, tell them he is a terrorist and we want information from him, and cover up the whole thing, we are not “allowing” his torture to happen. We are accessories to, if not participants in, that torture.

    If I break your car’s window, but let someone else hotwire it and drive away, I’m still a car thief.

  64. Nope. Worse happens during military training exercises.

    Really? People die in military training exercises? Because I gotta tell you, the fact that at least a dozen people have died in custody and had their deaths ruled homicides gives lie to your claim that things aren’t that bad.

  65. Excuse me, almost a dozen. And that’s probably the most egregious cases.

  66. I don’t understand how we’re responsible for the treatment of Jordanian citizens we return to Jordan

    For the same reason you are responsible for the death of a man whom you lock in a cage with a hungry tiger. Saying “the tiger killed him, not me” doesn’t cut it.

  67. “We can behave well and fight our enemies; we can gain the world and save our souls.” – Apostate Jew

    Yep, I agree. The difference is in where you place the threshold for damnation. I think water-boarding is right at the line but not over it. I still don’t think it’s a GOOD idea, but it’s not actually torture.

    “Everyone else, I know reading rob’s venomous diatribes is unpleasant” – joe

    Yeah, it’s tough when someone else’s arguments are based in logic and fact and you have to resort to personal attack.

    “Sorry, but that doesn’t get you off the hook. You were the first to throw out an insult in this discussion. It is not like this is the first thread you have posted on either. If you want to pretend you have the high ground and are only responding to joe’s bad behavior, you need to adhere to your own standards.” – MSM

    Look, I hardly find it blameworthy to go from one thread, where joe is screeching insults at me to pointing out that he does so in another thread.

    “I have watched your posts on other threads. I would say you are as likely to present weak arguments, unsupported facts, or ad hom attacks in a debate as anyone else (not that there is anything wrong with that).” – MSM

    No, you’ve disagreed with me on other threads. that makes it fairly obvious where your sympathies lie.

    “This thread is about maintaning the high-ground. It is a good idea.” – MSM

    Agreed.

    “A position that says water-boarding is not torture fails at the level of face validity.” – MSM

    Really? Perhaps you could explain how something that causes no actual damage, such as pouring water on people, is the same as gonig after someone with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.

    “As I have said before, there is no point in trying to define the fuzzy boundary of torture versus appropriate treatment. They are starkly contrastive.” – MSM

    You mean sharp contrast like comparing the U.S. with the Khmer Rouge? Yeah, I’d say that water-boarding was the warm-up to actual torture for those guys.

    “As a matter of policy, if the person with control of a prisoner needs to take even the slightest amount of time to wonder about whether the particular harsh treatment he is contemplating is torture or not, the default position should be that it is and that the harsh treatment shouldn’t be continued.” – MSM

    Right… Now explain how to codify a prison guard’s level of contemplation so that it can be used as a legal standard. Please. Something is either torture or it’s not. Pouring water on people? Not torture. (Not a GOOD idea, but not torture.) Pliers, blowtorch and electrical current? Torture. Pretty easy, and it’s a fairly obvious and bright line.

    “There is a much greater tendency to be overly cruel than overly kind in prisons, so policy should be designed to minimize harsh treatment.” – MSM

    Agreed.

    “This protects not only the prisoners, but those charged with their confinement and interrogation.” – MSM

    Agreed.

    “Any appeal to the alleged acts committed by the prisoner is beyond the scope of the argument.” – MSM

    Not if their acts were used to determine their status as a prisoner.

    “Policy about how prisoners are treated has to begin with the assumption that the prisoner may be an innocent individual.” – MSM

    Not in war-time.

    “Policy about treatment must be based on how you would treat an innocent individual accused of a crime, not how you would treat a person convicted of a crime.” – MSM

    No, it’s based on how you would treat a person captured in a combat zone.

    “Arguments about the proper treatment of those convicted of a crime are another matter entirely.” – MSM

    Yeah, because one is for civilian criminals and one is for enemy combatants.

    Thanks for coming out, but I think it’s obvious where your line of argument falls apart. You know, anywhere I responded with more than “Agreed.”

    “[1] All you people who think we should degrade and dehumanize prisoners we don’t like, well, I think you’re the barbarians. [2] I’ll bet not one single one of you pro-torture libertarians ever did time, ever had to deal with being locked up in a cage and find yourself at the mercy of scumbag jailers. [3] Incarceration is living hell, torturing and abusing human beings isn’t something that should be applauded by libertarians” – Buckshot

    1) There’s a big difference between arguing that waterboarding does not rise to the level of torture and advocating actual torture.
    2) Nope, can’t say that I have. But what I can tell you is that what we allow to happen in U.S. prisons amongst prisoners certainly qualifies as torture, in my opinion. I would point out that while I believe my definition of torture is fairly standard, it does not include pouring water on people. It does include allowing prisoners to assault one another, etc.
    3) Agreed. Frankly, I think that U.S. civilian prisoners have it worse than Gitmo detainees. Particularly in comparing how few detainees face actual assault, rape or murder. Not that bad things don’t happen when you let someone like the idiots at Abu Ghraib’s night shift loose without proper leadership, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet that the incidence of horrendous things happening to people is higher in the U.S. penal system than in the U.S. detainee system. Plenty of those folks are innocent as well, but you don’t see joe and MSM and their crew talking about how important the Innocence Project is. http://www.innocenceproject.org/

    That’s because there isn’t as much partisan political hay to be made. But just ask joe, this is “all about those poor, innocent detainees, wrongfully held and ‘horribly’ tortured (if you accept a wildly different definition of torture than commonly used).”

  68. Oooh, ooh, ooh, can I be the first:

    Plenty of those folks are innocent as well, but you don’t see joe and MSM and their crew talking about how important the Innocence Project is. http://www.innocenceproject.org/

    Great link, but…aw, nuts! It ain’t even worth it. Everyone reading this knows what I was about to say. (Almost everyone)

  69. Rob,
    Does someone who picks up a weapon to defend their nation when their country is invaded, who is not part of the national army, a unlawful combatant?

  70. Perhaps you could explain how something that causes no actual damage, such as pouring water on people

  71. Not in war-time.

    rob, since the war on terror will never, ever, ever end, are all detained suspects to be considered guilty?

    Considering that the Army itself reported that 70-90% of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were innocent at the time of the torture there (does getting fucked with glow sticks count as torture if no damage is done to the rectum?), was it right for the soldiers there to assume everyone there was guilty?

    Also, do you believe there is such a thing as psychological torture?

  72. Rob:

    I agree with you that how we treat prisoners in our penitentiaries is often inhumane. Thanks to the War on Drugs our penal institutions are staffed by too many unqualified personnel and are overflowing faster than we can build new ones, and I don’t see a light at the end of that tunnel. Our penal system, especially in California, is overdue for an overhaul. That doesn’t justify mistreating alien prisoners.

    I’ve never been water-boarded but I’ve seen the video and it sure looks like torture to me. Might I suggest you volunteer for the procedure and then get back to me? Throw a beer bash for some friends and highlight the event with a “Let’s take turns Water Boarding Rob” Finale. Hell, invite all your friends here at H&R.

    I never heard of Innocence Project, I’ll check it out.

  73. “When we take a person into custody, interrogate him, decide we’re not getting enough information, put him on an airplane, fly the airplane to the other side of the planet, hand him to Jordanian secret police, tell them he is a terrorist and we want information from him, and cover up the whole thing, we are not ‘allowing’ his torture to happen.” – joe

    You should have stopped right there. That’s because that’s where you stop being right. The U.S. is NOT 1) allowing torture to happen; 2) participating in torture, or 3) accessories to torture. The U.S. is extraditing a suspected criminal who doesn’t have the legal right to reside in the U.S. What happens to him in his own country is between him and his country of origin.

    “If I break your car’s window, but let someone else hotwire it and drive away, I’m still a car thief.” – joe

    Uh, technically, you’re a vandal, not a car thief. But what if you are the UPS guy who delivers divorce papers to someone who wishes to remain married to their spouse? Are you complicit in allowing people to get divorced? Obviously not. Are you participating in divorce? Obviously not. Are you an accessory to divorce? Obviously not.

    Wow, that was an amazingly bad analogy, joe.

    “Really? People die in military training exercises?” – Shem

    Yeah, actually they do. Even in plain old boot camp. Even in AIR FORCE boot camp.

    “Because I gotta tell you, the fact that at least a dozen people have died in custody and had their deaths ruled homicides gives lie to your claim that things aren’t that bad.” – Shem

    I’m not claiming that people beaten to death weren’t tortured, Shem. I’m not arguing that those responsible should not be punished for torturing and killing the 9 people in the article you cite, if that’s what actually happened. That’s obviously the same position that Dept of Defense, State and Justice take.

    My argument is not pro-torture, Shem. My argument is that water-boarding, the roughest of the approved interrogation tactics, is not actually torture. I think that claims that water-boarding is torture, when compared to people actually being tortured by unsupervised idiots, is obviously wrong.

    All prison systems have bad people working in them, just like every other profession. The difference is that they have greater opportunity to do evil because of the power they have over other people – just like all people in authority have.

    For example: Dennis Rader was a former Air Force enlistee, Coleman camping gear assembler, home alarm system salesman and installer, census field operations supervisor for the Wichita area, a supervisor of the Compliance Department at Park City (animal control, housing problems, zoning, general permit enforcement and a variety of nuisance cases), a served on both the Sedgwick County’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Animal Control Advisory Board, was a member of a Lutheran church where he had been elected president of the Congregation Council AND a Cub Scout leader.

    Do you think any of those organizations were pleased to find out that Rader was the BTK killer?

    No.

    Were any of those organizations responsible for his torturing and killing people?

    Obviously not.

    Were all of those organizations glad to see him justly prosecuted?

    Obviously.

    The only difference in the 10 deaths you’re referring to is that those responsible for those 10 deaths were in a position of authority that enabled their actions. That’s terrible, but you can’t hold entire departments of the gov’t responsible for the crimes of individuals.

  74. Rob

    “Really? Perhaps you could explain how something that causes no actual damage, such as pouring water on people, is the same as gonig after someone with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.”

    They are both inappropriate ways to treat a potentially innocent prisoner.

    “Now explain how to codify a prison guard’s level of contemplation so that it can be used as a legal standard.”

    Force or coercion can only be used in these cases:
    1) self-defense or defense of another prison employee or prisoner (to stop a suicide? Yeah probably–define prison and prison employee in whatever way you want).
    2) refusal by prisoner to cooperate with requests necessary for the operation of the prison (transportation from point a to point b, “come with me,” “clean yourself up,” “put on this uniform” … things like that… refusal to answer questions would not be included).
    3) Attempts to escape.

    Force or coercion can only be used to put the prisoner in a location where he is no longer interferring with prison operations or endangering others or themselves. Confining them will be enough for that in most cases.

    “Not if their acts were used to determine their status as a prisoner.”

    You missed out on the part where the veridicality of those acts has yet to be determined until they have had due processes.

    “Not in war-time…it’s based on how you would treat a person captured in a combat zone.”

    See, this is where you lose the high ground. I can capture innocents in a combat zone. I need a way to determine who is good and bad, but don’t have time to discriminate right now. So I will lump them all together, treat them all like they are innocent, and use due process later to figure out who is who. Confine them, get them out of the way, make sure they do not pose a danger, but assume they are guilty? I don’t think that is the right approach.

    “No, you’ve disagreed with me on other threads. that makes it fairly obvious where your sympathies lie.”

    What? Because I have disagreed with you means that you are not “as likely to present weak arguments, unsupported facts, or ad hom attacks in a debate as anyone else?”

    Wow.

  75. “Does someone who picks up a weapon to defend their nation when their country is invaded, who is not part of the national army, a unlawful combatant?” – TrickyVic

    Depends on how they conduct themselves, and whether their conduct is in keeping with lawful or unlawful status. Sorry, but given how vague your example is, I can’t give you a defnitive answer. This might help regarding your question:
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Third_Geneva_Convention#Article_4

    It lays out pretty exactingly those who are considered “lawful combatants.” it sounds to me like you’re referring to the 3rd Geneva Convention, Article 4, 1.6: “Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.”

    “Waterboarding is a bit more than merely ‘pouring water on people.’ Anyway, after World War Two we prosecuted a Japanese officer for a war crime after he waterboarded an American. So I’m guessing you think we were wrong to prosecute him back then?” – Jennifer

    Waterboarding was not the full extent of Yukio Asano’s war crimes, which also included “1. Did willfully and unlawfully mistreat and torture PWs… Specifications: beating using hands, fists, club; kicking; water torture; burning using cigarettes; strapping on a stretcher head downward…”

    http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~warcrime/Japan/Yokohama/Reviews/Yokohama_Review_Asano.htm

    Like I said, I think it’s a BAD idea, but I don’t think it rises to the level of actual torture. If you start actually suffocating someone, then that’s torture.

    “Considering that the Army itself reported that 70-90% of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were innocent at the time of the torture there (does getting fucked with glow sticks count as torture if no damage is done to the rectum?), was it right for the soldiers there to assume everyone there was guilty?” – Les

    I must have missed that. Could you provide a link? However, everything done to the folks at Abu Ghraib was illegal, whether it rose to the level of torture or not, because those held at Abu Ghraib were 1) considered lawful combatants and 2) those idiots weren’t torturing people for information but because they got their kicks from it.

    “Also, do you believe there is such a thing as psychological torture?” – Les

    I don’t think there’s a way to determine exactly how one person’s actions will affect another, no. To me, it is “torturous” to sit through another round of “re-defining reality to suit my partisan political agenda” with joe and company.

    However, that doesn’t make it ACTUAL torture.

  76. Waterboarding was not the full extent of Yukio Asano’s war crimes

    Nonetheless, you don’t think waterboarding should have been added to the list of charges against him, right?

  77. “They are both inappropriate ways to treat a potentially innocent prisoner.” – MSM

    I’d tend to agree, but that still doesn’t make water-boarding torture. There’s “inappropriate ways to treat” prisoners and then there’s “torture.” They are obviously not the same thing.

    I said: “Now explain how to codify a prison guard’s level of contemplation so that it can be used as a legal standard.”

    You said: “Force or coercion can only be used in these cases: 1) self-defense or defense of another prison employee or prisoner (to stop a suicide? Yeah probably–define prison and prison employee in whatever way you want).
    2) refusal by prisoner to cooperate with requests necessary for the operation of the prison (transportation from point a to point b, ‘come with me,’ ‘clean yourself up,’ ‘put on this uniform’ … things like that… refusal to answer questions would not be included).
    3) Attempts to escape.
    Force or coercion can only be used to put the prisoner in a location where he is no longer interferring with prison operations or endangering others or themselves. Confining them will be enough for that in most cases.”

    To me, that sounds like a policy for limiting force and coercion. But that’s not an answer to my question. My question was “explain how to codify a prison guard’s level of contemplation so that it can be used as a legal standard.”

    There’s nothing in your litany on the use of force regarding how to determine, based on the guard’s state of mind, whether what the guard is doing is torture or not.

    Your statement, which I was questioning, was “As a matter of policy, if the person with control of a prisoner needs to take even the slightest amount of time to wonder about whether the particular harsh treatment he is contemplating is torture or not, the default position should be that it is and that the harsh treatment shouldn’t be continued.”

    That’s one heck of a wobbly, subjective, and unwieldy definition of torture based on the state of mind of a prison guard. Frankly, I don’t think I’d appreciate it if the guard could claim he didn’t CONTEMPLATE that beating me with a billy club until I landed in the intensive care unit as a defense. Torture is either torture or it’s not, and it’s a bright line that has nothing to do with the guard’s level of contemplation.

    “You missed out on the part where the veridicality of those acts has yet to be determined until they have had due processes.”

    No, I didn’t miss that part. But you can’t call witnesses for the prosecution from the battlefield.

    “See, this is where you lose the high ground. I can capture innocents in a combat zone.” – MSM

    No, you really shouldn’t capture noncombatants.

    “I need a way to determine who is good and bad, but don’t have time to discriminate right now.” – MSM

    But somehow, off the battlefield, this will become clearer? When those who fought against unlawful combatants have been killed by other unlawful combatants? Or can’t be subpoenaed because they are fighting in further battles?

    “So I will lump them all together, treat them all like they are innocent, and use due process later to figure out who is who.” – MSM

    No, you’ll treat them as POWs if they are lawful combatants and not accord them those protections if they are unlawful combatants.

    “Confine them, get them out of the way, make sure they do not pose a danger, but assume they are guilty? I don’t think that is the right approach.” – MSM

    Sorry, but I don’t see your proposed approach as being any more workable.

    “What? Because I have disagreed with you means that you are not ‘as likely to present weak arguments, unsupported facts, or ad hom attacks in a debate as anyone else?'”

    No, it means you are more likely to claim that I’m guilty of those things because you already disagree with me. It means that your assessment is suspect.

    I think it’s fair to say that if you were being unbiased about it, you’d have to admit that my pointing out someone else’s tendency to go “ad hom” is not an ad hom attack in and of itself. Neither is challenging that person to a fair and rational argument, asking them to refrain from resorting to their standard bag of logical fallacies and dirty trick an “ad hom argument.”

    Here’s an analogy:

    Would you claim that Evander Holyfield conducted an “ad hom” argument that Mike Tyson cheated when Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear off?
    No.

    Would you call it an ad hom argument if he challenged Tyson to a fair fight with no ear biting like he did the last time? No.

    How is my pointing out joe’s logical fallacies and his tendency to go for personal attacks when he’s been rhetorically hammered – like Holyfield hammered Tyson – an ad hom attack?

  78. Jennifer,

    You seem to have missed the bit where I said “I think it’s a BAD idea, but I don’t think it rises to the level of actual torture. If you start actually suffocating someone, then that’s torture.”

  79. Rob,

    “My question was “explain how to codify a prison guard’s level of contemplation so that it can be used as a legal standard.”

    You wouldn’t. You would define policies around when and where force and coercion are allowed (and how it is conducted) so that the guard’s contemplation involves whether or not this is a situation where force or coercion applies. Notice that interrogation is not one of those situations. Notice also that force is limited to moving the person to an area for confinement, not for getting compliance. Torture occurs in interrogations and when using force to get compliance.

    “No, you’ll treat them as POWs if they are lawful combatants and not accord them those protections if they are unlawful combatants.”

    No I will treat them all the same. See this is where we disagree. I am also unclear as to where this “battlefield” you are referring to is located? In the case of Jose Padilla, I believe it was customs at a US airport.

    “It means that your assessment is suspect.”

    Is it more suspect than your own assessment of your own behavior? I am going to bet you are more biased towards yourself than I am biased against you (given that I don’t think you are any worse about these things than anyone else around here… notice I said you were “as likely” not “more likely.”)

    Example: here is how you characterize your behavior…

    “my pointing out someone else’s tendency to go “ad hom” is not an ad hom attack in and of itself. Neither is challenging that person to a fair and rational argument, asking them to refrain from resorting to their standard bag of logical fallacies and dirty trick an “ad hom argument.”

    I wonder if you really think that is a fair assessment of this…

    “But of course, you can’t… You’ve shown repeatedly that you’re just not good enough to handle an actual toe-to-toe argument without resorting to a bunch of rhetorical fallacies, name-calling and other assorted dirty tricks.

    But hey, you stick to what you know, right? In your case, it’s pitching a fit and calling people “trolls” after you’ve received a rhetorical drubbing that would force anyone of basic intellectual honesty to simply admit that they were wrong.”

  80. I said

    “Torture occurs in interrogations and when using force to get compliance.”

    I am sure that rob will point out that it can occur in other situations as well. If you define the situations where force is allowed, and train your staff well enough, you will minimize abuses since others can determine if the situation warranted force based on a tight behavioral definition (they were not confining the prisoner, he was not resisting being moved to confinement, etc…).

    As for the contemplation piece in my “as a matter of policy” statement this would be how you train the guards… “If you think you might be using excessive force, you probably are…stop…if you think someone else is using excessive force, they probably are…intervene.”

  81. So you really don’t think that it’s torture to be tied down to an inclined board and have water poured on your face until you can’t breathe? What disqualifies this from being torture? – Les

    Nope. Worse happens during military training exercises. Actual torture would be a couple of guys with a pair of pliers and blowtorch. Or beating someone. Or leaving them in the snow until frostbite takes their extremities. Or… well, you get the idea.

    So the government grabs your kid off the street, declares him/her to be an illegal combatant, and waterboards him/her for a couple of hours, you would say he/she is not being tortured? Would you watch and say it was no big deal? That you indured worse in college? If it was my kid I would grab a rifle and become a true illegal combatant!

  82. And finally,

    “See, this is where you lose the high ground. I can capture innocents in a combat zone.” – MSM

    No, you really shouldn’t capture noncombatants”-rob

    No I shouldn’t, but it CAN happen(I should have said, “might unintentionally capture innocents”). I would assume that it DOES happen. I would assume that decisions made on the battlefield are not more accurate than those made in less stressful situations, but probably less likely to be accurate. The assumption with prisoners is that they are, possibly, dangerous, but possibly innocent. Confine them to limit their ability to be dangerous. Once confined treat them as if they might be innocent.

  83. Rob,

    Of course if the waterboarding doesn’t get your kid to give the answers the government needs they will be sent to Jordan. They will ask them the questions using blow torches. I bet they will give whatever answers the government wants then.

  84. Okay,

    This one really is final…

    “There’s “inappropriate ways to treat” prisoners and then there’s “torture.” They are obviously not the same thing.”

    True, they are not the same thing, but you avoid one by prohibiting the other. Setting the bar very low for inappropriate keeps the line between appropriate and torture easy to spot…it even gives you lots of wiggle room to stop the inappropriate behavior before it gets to the level of torture.

    You want that line to be very thin (water boarding is okay, but only if the prisoner is not suffocating…as long as he just thinks he is suffocating you can do it…operationalize that one for me…what behavioral signs will you use to distinguish between suffocating and acting like he thinks he is suffocating?).

    This is bad policy.

    If you disagree with this, I must assume that you lack the “basic intellectual honesty to simply admit” that your position is incorrect.

    Or maybe it is me that is wrong.

    It may be important to make fine-grained determinations between one species of inappropriate behavior and another…I just can’t imagine how it provides us with a benefit. I see lots of problems it can cause, but no benefits.

    That might be the result of my own shortcomings.

    You have not, however, provided me with any strong arguments to make me think it is my reasoning that is flawed. I am, however, very fond of myself. My assessment may be suspect.

    Nice talking to ya.

  85. C’mon, Bobster, the kid deserves it; he’s plainly guilty as hell. If he was innocent, he wouldn’t be head down on the special examination table. With wires dangling from his rectum.

  86. “…worse happens during military training exercises…”

    After 21 years of military service I can say that not only has no one ever tied me up and poured water over my face to make me think I was drowning but that nothing I have experienced in the Army has even come close to that.

    Maybe they do stupid shit like that in the infantry, but not in the cavalry.

    The “it’s like hazing or Army training only not as bad” argument for torture makes me deeply ashamed of the mendacity of some of our leadership.

  87. You seem to have missed the bit where I said “I think it’s a BAD idea, but I don’t think it rises to the level of actual torture. If you start actually suffocating someone, then that’s torture.”

    Rob, all I want is a “yes” or “no” answer–in 1947, did the United States make a mistake when it added “waterboarding” to the list of war crimes for which it prosecuted a Japanese officer?

  88. “””””Does someone who picks up a weapon to defend their nation when their country is invaded, who is not part of the national army, a unlawful combatant?” – TrickyVic

    Depends on how they conduct themselves, and whether their conduct is in keeping with lawful or unlawful status. Sorry, but given how vague your example is, I can’t give you a defnitive answer. This might help regarding your question:
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Third_Geneva_Convention#Article_4“””””

    It?s good you recognize an individual right to defend their country on their own. I already know what the GC would say. I wanted to hear your opinion. It?s what I?ve come to call the ?Armed Texan? test. Your answer is that it depends on if the armed Texan acts lawful. I could agree with that but there is a small problem.

    Who decides what is lawful or unlawful? Is it the attacking country or the defending country? If Iran passed a law saying any American interference is a war crime, are we guilty if we interfere? Could Iran then be free of GC obligations because our troops would be consider unlawful combatants by Iranian law? It almost sounds silly.

    So it is natural that laws of war be defined by an international body, not individual nations. So what gives us the right to reinterpret GC standards? We don?t. If we were ever held to account by the international body, a ?US law says otherwise? defense would not fly. So why kid ourselves.

    Some in Gitmo, by the administrations own statements are guilty of taking up arms against the US on the battlefield. I?m guessing by your answer, that IF that?s all they did, and they are an Afghan citizen, you would agree they are lawful combatants, and GC protections apply under Article 4. I believe this is case for some in Gitmo and I think SCOTUS considered this in their ruling.

    However the Bush administration, and now Congress disagrees and the new law fails the Armed Texan test.

    I don?t buy the ?if they don?t follow the rules then we don?t have to follow the rules? philosophy many apply when discussing the GC. Someone breaking the rules does not give anyone else the right to break them. Not only is it illogical, it?s morally bankrupt. If it were true, rules would become meaningless, laws would become useless.

  89. “””Jennifer,

    You seem to have missed the bit where I said “I think it’s a BAD idea, but I don’t think it rises to the level of actual torture. If you start actually suffocating someone, then that’s torture.”””””

    Is not the purpose of waterboard to induce the suffocating effect to make someone believe they dying? If you suffocate someone till death that’s murder.

    Being that torture is less than murder, how can suffocation to the point of near death NOT be torture by your own statment?

  90. “””…worse happens during military training exercises…”

    After 21 years of military service I can say that not only has no one ever tied me up and poured water over my face to make me think I was drowning but that nothing I have experienced in the Army has even come close to that.

    Maybe they do stupid shit like that in the infantry, but not in the cavalry.

    The “it’s like hazing or Army training only not as bad” argument for torture makes me deeply ashamed of the mendacity of some of our leadership”””””””

    I agree Trooper.

    I went through Marine Corps boot camp in 1981 and Infantry Training School after that. At NO POINT did anything come close to a reasonable definition of torture. I really want to say the gas chamber but the trip was short. Sure both the physical and mental elements were tough but I was never waterboarded, forced to do a naked pyramid, beaten within an inch of my life, or placed into a situation where I believe I was dying.

    I think it?s disrespectful to claim the military tortures its recruits.

    I noticed someone had mentioned deaths in military training. It should be noted that every training death is considered a tragedy, regrettable, and a bad event to happen.

  91. As someone who has taken more than my fair share of abuse from rob, it is good to know that so many other people hold him, his ethics, his knowledge, and his debating skills in the same contempt that I do.

    I don’t give a shit if you whine about my being a racist, rob, because you clearly lack sufficient judgement and decency for your opinion to matter.

  92. I think the torture/water boarding and the detaining of people at Gitmo who may or may not be enemy combatants are two different things.

    I want no part of the former, put the latter to an extent is just the costs of doing business when fighting a war against a guerilla force. Snatch up everybody for whom there is at least some evidence they are a combatant and then sort it out while they remain in your custody.

    Treat them reasonably well, don’t torture them and let ’em go if you’re sure they aren’t combatants, but otherwise they get to go home as soon as the Taliban surrenders and no sooner.

    Thing is with someone like Padilla is what the government _ought_ to do, is worse for him than what it’s currently doing. It would be better for everybody else, but worse for him.

  93. The United Nations is full of hypocrites.
    Thank goodness “Reason magazine” had their number one hypocrite on the story, Ron Bailey.
    It takes one to know one.

    Ron you fucking coward.

  94. Oh, Ron. I love you, Ron. For the longest time now I’ve adored you from afar, hoping against hope that one day your eyes would open and you’d see me in the same light I see you.

    But no! You don’t! Callous bastard, leaning on whiny excuses like “I’m married” or “I’m a heterosexual” to explain why you continue to ignore me.

    Fine. If you won’t love me then I’ll make you hate me. Just so long as you don’t ignore me. One day I’ll meet you in person. And our eyes will lock, and you’ll know who I am, and become enraged by the way I’ve harassed you. As fury possesses you you’ll reach out and crush me within your strong arms, and say “If you think I’m a hypocrite regarding the ACLU that’s nothing compared to how much of a hypocrite I can be regarding my marriage vows.” And you’ll throw me down on the bed, and expend your pent-up fury by . . . well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise here.

    I’m waiting, my love.

    I mean, fuck you, you hypocritical piece of shit.

  95. joe,

    “it is good to know that so many other people hold him, his ethics, his knowledge, and his debating skills in the same contempt that I do.”

    Don’t misread what went on in this thread.

    I have no contempt for rob, I respect his knowledge if not his position on this issue. I can’t even imagine holding someone’s debating skills in contempt.

  96. Isn’t the most civilized country in the world China? Or maybe Egypt? Where else has there been civilization for a longer time? India?

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