Foreign Policy

Tortured Logic

Does the killing of Osama bin Laden vindicate the use of torture?


An old joke: "Why do elephants paint their toenails red?" I don't know. "So they can hide in the tomato patch." There are no elephants in the tomato patch. "See? It works."

That's the sort of logic deployed by defenders of the Bush administration's torture program. After being waterboarded, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted knowing someone later found to be Osama bin Laden's courier. The CIA eventually located the man and followed him to the house where bin Laden was killed. Voila! The information from Mohammed vindicates these methods.

But it turns out that Mohammed also lied about the courier, saying he was a retired nobody. From this, CIA officials now claim, they knew the guy had to be a big deal. It was a crucial clue.

That's right: When tortured detainees provide truthful information, they prove torture works, and when they lie, they prove it works. If Mohammed had broken into a chorus of "Y.M.C.A.," that would have proved the same.

This bizarre reasoning is one of the many oddities about the defense of torture. Another is that the advocates never, ever refer to it as torture.

Mark Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote a column for The Washington Post defending what he called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Former Justice Department official John Yoo referred to them as "tough interrogations."

Let's be more specific. Mohammed underwent simulated drowning 183 times. Methods used on him and others, reports The New York Times, include "slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in stress positions and keeping them awake as long as 180 hours." The CIA admitted making detainees stand for up to 40 hours and dousing naked captives with cold water in chilled cells.

If treatment like this were inflicted on captured American soldiers, no American would dispute that it was torture. But when we resort to it, the likes of Thiessen and Yoo can't bring themselves to use the honest term. Calling it "enhanced interrogation" is like calling the Alabama tornadoes "enhanced weather."

The evidence that vicious methods work is modest. Matthew Alexander, who wrote about his experience as a military interrogator in Iraq in his book Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist, says that far from being helpful, brutality usually makes it harder to get information from a prisoner.

Alexander, an Air Force Reserve officer who conducted or supervised some 1,300 interrogations using traditional techniques, told me, "I was surprised that the people we thought would be the hardest were the easiest to interrogate."

He cites the case of a Muslim scholar, a high-level al-Qaida operative who was "as hard-core as you could find." Using a non-coercive approach, "in six hours I convinced him to cooperate."

How can it be that a violent, determined enemy of the United States could be persuaded to talk without extreme measures? "He's human, he's not a robot," says Alexander. By establishing a personal connection, interrogators can induce prisoners to open up. But if detainees are abused, he found, "they quit talking."

Sometimes, no doubt, torture can loosen a tongue. But once a high-value operative is brutalized, there is no way to know what he might have divulged under more patient, humane interrogation. If he spills secrets after being waterboarded, it "proves" that torture works. If he withholds information, it "proves" that nothing else would have sufficed.

But what if torture does sometimes work? Mere effectiveness is not enough to justify it. Yoo was once asked about the legality of "crushing the testicles of a person's child," and he did not rule it out.

Why should he? If torturing a terrorist failed, wouldn't we be justified in torturing his wife or his children to get the truth?

If waterboarding is OK, why not crushing testicles? Why not pulling out fingernails? Why not the most agonizing methods an evil mind could devise? The advocates of waterboarding are much more eager to declare what is allowed than what is forbidden—if anything.

In the end, they don't really care about imposing limits, and they don't really care if torture is effective or not. Torture, in the minds of its apologists, is not a means to a good result. It's a good result all by itself.


NEXT: Know Your Role

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  1. This bizarre reasoning is one of the many oddities about the defense of torture. Another is that the advocates never, ever refer to it as torture.

    That’s because when they think of torture, they think of the end of the movie Braveheart, in which case, pouring a bit o’ water on someone really isn’t torture.

    My older brother used to water board me every time he dunked me in the pool as kids. Far cry from drawing and quartering me.

    1. Good point. Before there is any meaningful discussion about the morality of torture, we first have to define what torture is.

      1. Well we did define waterboarding as torture during the Japanese war crimes trials, so that’s a start.

        1. Is the US version of waterboarding the exact same technique the Japanese used? Not a rhetorical question – I’m asking because I really don’t know. If we are using the exact thing that we went after the Japanese for as a war crime, then that’s pretty fucked up.

          1. Americans are better people though, so there’s far less leeway in what you can do to them versus the lesser people outside our boarders.

            1. That doesn’t actually answer the question, but thanks for the sarcasm.

            2. “Americans are better people though…”

              Not to mention, better drivers. Well, the white ones anyway.

          2. As recounted by a GI subject to waterboarding by the Japanese:

            Well, I was put on my back on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. The towel was wrapped around my face and put across my face and water poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I’d get my breath, then they’d start over again… I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death.

            In other words, yes. The Japanese were executed for this torture, too.

            1. Thanks, but it looks like a few details were left out:

              with the interrogators beating the victim if he did not reply and the victim swallowing water if he opened his mouth to answer or breathe. When the victim could ingest no more water, the interrogators would beat or jump on his distended stomach.[106][107][108]

              1. That was a separate incident in Singapore against the local population. Most of the stories I’ve read about it being applied to GIs feature more US-like waterboarding.

              2. The Japs were torturing uniformed soldiers, not random American terrorists. Can’t you see how that is just a little different?

                1. Yes. Someone in uniform can be reasonably deemed to be part of the conflict. Some random guy snatched up off the street you don’t know is involved or innocent.

                2. No.

            2. “The Japanese were executed for this torture, too.”

              That was a pre-9/11 mindset, that changed everything!

        2. The US also court-martialed its own soldiers for waterboarding Filipinos after the 1898 war. Wikipedia

            1. Here’s the link. Got some learning to do, I see.


      2. It already has been defined:

        …any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions. –UN Convention Against Torture[1]

        1. Funny definition that. By its strict terms most police interrogations that occur in this country constitute torture. The most common form of obtaining a confession is to lie to the subject and tell them that you have evidence you don’t, i.e. his accomplices have already ratted him out. I would think being falsely told that there is overwhelming evidence against you for a capitol offense would constitution sever mental suffering. That definition seems awfully broad to be particularly useful.

          We waterboard people in SEAR training. We effectively waterboard people in scuba or SEAL training. If waterboarding does rise to the level of torture, then I would say our definition of torture is pretty damned broad.

          Further, waterboarding is not the same as having yours or your child’s testicles crushed. It doesn’t leave you permanently injured scared. Hell KSM was water boarded how many times? But he is by all accounts fat dumb and happy in GUITMO right now.

          IT is not at all clear that waterboarding is “torture” within the meaning that most people ascribe to it or that it shocks the conscience any worse than typical interrogation techniques.

          1. “We waterboard people in SEAR training.”

            Er, don’t we do that to get them to experience what it is like to be, er, tortured?

            1. Yes, by giving them a very mild form of physical stress that doesn’t result in long term harm. We shoot at people with blanks to get them used to the sounds and experience of combat. But blanks are not the same thing as live rounds. It is a semantic issue. But if you say that we “torture people” in training, “torture” doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

              1. I think we train them for experiencing torture by torturing them, like we spray police cadets with mace. That we don’t put them through worse torture is neither here nor there in whether waterboarding is torture.

                Isn’t SERE training a voluntary thing?

                1. Just because it is voluntary doesn’t mean that we should torture our recruits. Or if it does, that means that “torture” isn’t some abjectly horrible as it is made out.

                  You say it is wrong to torture and that waterboarding is torture. But you admit that we water board trainees who volunteer and that is okay. That means that you think it is okay to torture someone for training purposes but not to obtain actual information. That strikes me as a bit of an odd formulation.

                  For example, if we found out that crushing the testicles of special operations recruits for whatever reason made them into better operators, we still wouldn’t do it because doing so would shock the conscience. Yet, we have been waterboarding them for years and no one said a word. That would indicate that waterboarding is something different than testicle crushing.

                  1. Voluntariness is a huge factor in this. There are people who willingly tie themselves up and get into sexual stress positions a la Abu Grahib, heck they pay for it. That doesn’t make Abu Grahib OK.

                    The fact that people volunteer for it doesn’t make it not immoral torture when inflicted against someone’s will.

                    1. Consider that people in SERE training are confident that they will not, in fact, be drowned or harmed in any serious way, that the exercise is a controlled, limited one and they will be taken care of throughout. And yet they still describe it as horrible.

                2. Or to give a better example. What if we found out castrating troops made them better. And we had people who were willing for extra pay and prestige volunteer for it. Would that be okay? I think it wouldn’t be.

                  1. Use your own example, if people volunteered would that make it not torture?

                    1. That is just the point. Even when people volunteer for it, it still shocks our conscience and we wouldn’t let them do it. That seems to be a pretty good dividing line for what is torture and what is not. Waterboarding falls on the other side of that.

                    2. Interesting, but this reads the voluntariness and confidence of ultimate safety out of the calculus, and those are pretty big factors imo.

                    3. That is just the point. Even when people volunteer for it, it still shocks our conscience and we wouldn’t let them do it. That seems to be a pretty good dividing line for what is torture and what is not. Waterboarding falls on the other side of that.

                      No. That is not a good dividing line for what is and what is not torture. The bar for torture needs to stay bright, clear, and very low. Situations that turn from “aggressive interrogation” to “torture” are too emotionally charged and stressful to give interrogators free reign to hurt prisoners “just a little bit.” The line is simple…if you wouldn’t want your son, daughter, or grandma treated that way during an interrogation, it is probably not okay.

              2. There is a huge difference. People in SERE school knows the government wants to keep them alive. Also we do not waterboard them as intensely as we would a prisoner. Waterboarding in SERE school is a brief introduction to what would be tourture if done full on. The purpose of the training is to experience the effect of the waterboarding technique so you will be a little mentally prepared and improve your survivability if captured. Or to put it another way, to aid in your ability to resist once captured. That’s the R in SERE.

              3. In training, unlike what went on in GITMO, the GI can always cry “Uncle” if it gets too intense.

          2. First, a pedantic note: SERE — survival, evasion, rescue, and escape

            Secondly, what about a taser/low-power cattle prod to the testicles? It doesn’t leave any lasting damage and, like waterboarding, only makes you think you’re going to die. Most guys get hit in the nuts pretty hard over their lifetimes, anyhow.

            1. And now to correct myself on my own lame-ass correction: R is for resist

            2. Good example, but I will add, that in your example I don’t think most people would think they are dying (they might wish for death).

          3. That definition seems awfully broad to be particularly useful.

            It is useful because it is broad. The purpose of it is to reduce the incidents of torture. By being broad and including a very low bar for torture it is designed to reset the framework by which interrogators approach their work. If the interrogator goes into the room with the idea that he can force the truth from the prisoner, then it is very likely he will not see the line between torture and not torture. If, however, the bar is set very low and broad for torture, then interrogators go into the room knowing that they can’t force the information from the prisoner.

            Tricking someone into giving you information is not torture. Attempts to force them to provide it are very likely to lead to some act that could be considered torture.

            1. great comment my main man dude dog

        2. Thinking “They are lying about me” might be considered < “they are drowning me!” One’s a bit more imminent feeling, and then there is that whole holding the person down while you pour water on them difference…

          1. The strict reading of the definition says physical OR mental stress. That means that putting someone under purely mental stress constitutes torture. I honestly can’t imagine more mental stress than thinking the police had enough evidence to convict me of capitol murder.

            1. Well, I simply point out the difference in the mental anguish (imminence) and that waterboarding is not purely mental.

              Of course, I think the police practice you mention is loathesome and should be barred.

              1. I agree with you on that. But I think if we call that practice “torture” we have cheapened the term.

                1. Why? I absolutely think a police officer who waterboards a suspect should be sent to prison, whereas one who uses coercion to elicit a confession should be fined and the confession thrown out. And in any case, we tolerate cop mental games much more than cops holding someone down and forcing water down their nose and mouth until they pass out for pretty obvious reasons.

                  Not everything cops are forbidden from doing to suspects is torture, but some of it is.

                  1. If there is a difference between mind games and water boarding, isn’t there also a difference between water boarding and testicle crushing? And if so, why is the line drawn at water boarding?

                    1. If there is a difference between mind games and water boarding, isn’t there also a difference between water boarding and testicle crushing? And if so, why is the line drawn at water boarding?

                      The line is drawn well below water boarding and includes some mind games. The real question is why you feel the need to defend the practice.

                    2. I want to personally congratulate you on your honorable service to this country. We could have never tortured without people combining the power of reason and rationalization to such questions.

      3. No whats needed is to define cruel and unusual punishment. I think that these actions are possibly not torture but they are cruel. I also believe the Geneva Convention is a legally ratified treaty and the the fifth amendment obligates the US government to oblige by this treaty which has been accepted as international law.

        1. I think that these actions are possibly not torture but they are cruel.

          An important point. Torture, of course, could easily be defined as “cruel and unusual treatment” of prisoners.

          1. So… telling prisoners their moms are fat whores, would be cruel and unusual punishment?

    2. “That’s because when they think of torture, they think of the end of the movie Braveheart, in which case, pouring a bit o’ water on someone really isn’t torture.”

      And notice how Chapman seamlessly and shamelessly transitions from waterboarding to the Braveheart like testicle crushing as if one is equivalent to the other. The whole article is one long dishonest argument.

      1. What’s the difference between the two in your eyes?

        1. If they were the same thing, we could theoretically start crushes everyone’s testicles and SEAR school and not see a drop off in volunteers.

          1. I guess I need to repeat the question: What’s the difference between the two in your eyes?

            1. I guess you need to start reading and thinking. They are clearly different in kind or we could substitute one for the other, which we clearly cannot.

              1. Witness: this is the stubborn refusal to define by defenders of torture that started the thread.

                1. Defining words is a hard thing. You can never come up with one definitive definition for any word. Too much depends on context. But, figuring out if two things, one (testicle crushing) you know is part of the class and the other (water boarding) you are not sure, are in fact equivalent, is a good start.

                  1. I would agree that testicle crushing is worse than waterboaarding, but I’m not sure that they don’t fall into the same category because of that. Look at their similarities: both involve holding someone down against their will and physically inflicting pain on them.

                    1. Damn MNG. I am so sick of your crap that I now want to inflict serious pain on YOU!

                    2. Your strange S&M fantasies are your own dude.

                  2. Theft, kidnapping, rape and murder are all crimes. Things need not be equivalent to be in the same class of things which are not to be tolerated in a civilized society.

                    The reason why “torture” needs to have broad meaning is that you cannot define everything that it is. Same reason why we have a broad meaning of free speech.

          2. Not to be a pedant, but it’s SERE training.

            1. Thanks good catch.

    3. “”My older brother used to water board me every time he dunked me in the pool as kids.””

      You were tied to a board when he dunked you in the pool?

    4. Fox news is absolutly giddy about the whole Osama bin Laden thingy.

  2. The only potential problem with torturing the mastermind of 9/11 is the slippery slope argument. However, if one considers the question, you should realize that you would have to avoid harming ANY enemy at ANY time, for fear the government may one day turn that method against you.

    The reason government exists is to have a monopoly on the use of force as a means to protect the rights of its citizens. To deny the necessity of force is to deny the nature of humanity.

    1. “avoid harming ANY enemy at ANY time, for fear the government may one day turn that method against you.”

      A lot of the peacenik variety of Libertarians would agree with that and view it as a worthy goal.

      1. A lot of the peacenik variety of Libertarians decent human beings in the world who value humanity and our basic respect of human rights would agree with that and view it as a worthy goal.


    2. You have the right to use force in the manner of killing those attacking you during that time, but once that person is not a present threat then one no longer has such a right to use force against that person. If one does not have such a right in the state of nature then how would such a right come into being?

      1. Ok, than throw out restraining orders, or jail, or any sort of punishment for a crime after it has been committed. Both of these examples are government utilization of force after the fact to prevent further/future harm to its citizenry.

        It’s an irrational viewpoint. You either are allowed to use force to protect yourself or you are not.

        1. I really hate stupid. How is torturing someone self-defense?

          You then give your government examples as if that proves a point, but unless that government is perfect in respect to the laws it’s make and the utilization of force, then those examples are meaningless.

          Jail time is supposed to be justice for a crime already committed, not for future protection.

          Idiot calling my viewpoint irrational, when you can’t even understand just how flawed your common practice argument is.

          1. not really true. jail/(prison) time, at least according to current doctrine is for “punishment” and to prevent the commission of future crimes. one of the key questions parole boards face is likelihood of the person offending again. iow, if jail/prison time wasn’t at least partly to prevent future crimes, than it wouldn’t be a question (in fact, primarily THE question) for parole boards.

            several years ago, the US justice system actually changed from “corrections” as the admitted purpose and included “punishment” btw. at least they are honest about it NOW.

            setting aside whether “three strikes ” laws and such are good or bad, one of their justifications used is that the people who continually commit crimes are not going to change, so in that case, the extra detention time that the three strikes laws result in , is partially for the future protection of society,since their past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior

            so, in brief… you are wrong in your statement “jail time is supposed ot be justice for a crime already committed, not for future protection”

            in fact, it’s both.

            1. Again, you rely on common practice, as did this other fool, but I said “SUPPOSED” to be, not what it is.

              1. fair enuf, although “supposed to be” according to whom? you?

                mebbe so

                imo, it’s one of the benefits OF incarceration.

                i don’t think people have any idea how prolific your average thief/burglar is. we have one district that all of a sudden got totally quiet. we weren’t getting jackshit for burgs, prowls, etc. i *knew* what had happened. our resident dirtbag thief had to be in jail. i checked the booking computer, and lo and behold he was. that one person being incarcerated cut down the property crimes in that district to almost zero.

                so, putting them away to prevent future crimes is imo a VERY good reason to justify their sentence. fwiw, with him we got the prosecutor’s office on board and under the high impact offender program we were able to get him some SERIOUS prison time, whereas by the conventional matrix, he would have been looking at much less (our state is weak as fuck on property crime ).

                numerous people from the community testified about how his crimes had harmed them and etc. and it made a big difference.

          2. Damn I really got to you, Len. Grow a sack and learn how to argue like a man without ad-hominem.

          3. Back on topic.

            I don’t see the need to make a moral distinction between “punishment” and “prevention”. As dunphy suggests, they are commiserate goals.

            I agree with the Libertarian yearning for a humble foreign policy. However, we need to make a distinction between aggressive warfare/nation building and self defense. It is true that if we had not been so meddlesome in the past we probably would not have been targeted, but 9/11 is now a metaphysical given. Torture is used as a tool to prevent any further loss of American life. Waterboarding KSM prevented a similar attack in Los Angeles, AND lead us to Osama Bin-Laden.

            “Torture” is effective for its purpose. These are not American citizens, and waterboarding is NOT very cruel compared to what our enemies are prepared to use.

  3. This article is making entirely the wrong argument.

    Even if the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was ENTIRELY the reason we found bin Laden, and there was NO other way we could have done so, it’s still horrible that we did it. Anybody who thinks otherwise is no friend of liberty.

    1. So it was bad that we tortured KSM, but okay that we walked in and blew Bin Ladin’s brains out? War is a pretty nasty business no matter how you fight it.

      1. “War is a pretty nasty business no matter how you fight it.”

        This is partly why I tend to favor dealing with terrorists as a law enforcement matter and not as a “war.” War is not only the health of the state, it is the death of civil liberties, and fighting a “war” against a couple hundred terrorists ‘cheapens the term’ imo.

        1. At what number of people would you transition from “law enforcement” to “war”?

          1. Whatever you do, don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer to that one.

          2. Also note the stunning hypocrisy of the fact that Minge is an ardent defender of our involvement in the civil war in Libya.

          3. That number is around 40,000 in NYC alone. All cops think they are troops in the WoT.

            Look at some of the drug raids, they look more like troops kicking down doors looking for bad guys in Iraq than law enforcement.

            War on drugs, war on crime, war on whatever, law enforcement is at war.

      2. That is an excellent point. Why isn’t their the same level of reporting, and public outrage over assassination by drone, as their is “enhanced interrogation techniques”? Is it purely hypocrisy, or just partisanship?

        1. Is it purely hypocrisy, or just partisanship?


      3. “”So it was bad that we tortured KSM, but okay that we walked in and blew Bin Ladin’s brains out?””

        Of course! That is if you believe torture is wrong, and war isn’t. America has held that belief. If we want to jump onto utilitarin ethics, we should formally abandon every war treaty regarding prisoners we’ve signed.

  4. “Oh, the UN said it’s torture so it must be torture!” “We can’t speak roughly with these poor terrorists.” “The Japanese did something with water that was bad so we can’t do anything!”

    God, there’s a lot of pussies here.

    1. “The Japanese did something with water that was bad so we can’t do anything!”

      Not something with water. They did exactly the same thing the US is doing.

      1. Of course they did a hell of a lot more than that. Do you really think if all the Japanese had done was waterboard a few high value prisoners and beyond that treated all prisoners well, there would have been war crimes trials? I hear Goering did a lot of speeding to. But that is not really what they got him for at Nuremburg.

        1. The important difference being that the Japanese were convicted of waterboarding specifically and Goering was not convicted of speeding. Undoubtedly, it wasn’t done 100% the same as how the US did it, but it’s a rounding error when you consider that we hanged those men or sentenced them to decades of hard labor.

          1. We didn’t hang them just for water boarding. It was one among many crimes. And that is more than a rounding error.

        2. I hear Goering did a lot of speeding to. But that is not really what they got him for at Nuremburg.

          On the autobahn where there were no speed limits? Goering may have done some awful things, but I don’t think his driving can be questioned. Give the man a break, for Chrissakes.

        3. Here he is driving with Ferdi Porsche and Robert Ley in the back seat. Does this look like a man who is breaking the law?

      2. I’m not sure it’s been established that it is exactly the same.

    2. Thank God we have an internet tuff guy here to set us straight.

    3. Gotta admit… “speaking roughly” is NOT torture.

  5. It’s all about intentions.

    When we do it, or at least when we do it when there’s a Democrat in the White House, our intentions are pure as the wind driven snow.
    The motivation is not to inflict pain and suffering. It is to extract information to be used to save American lives.
    All of that changes when the enemy does it or if there’s a Republican in the White House.
    In that case it’s all about inflicting pain and suffering for no purpose other than inflicting pain and suffering, with no motivation other than malice.


    1. ^this^
      you know what is really painful…
      when Chapman leaves out details. such as the courier’s name was given up by a lower level A.Q. and the all the higher levels tried to deflect with “no he’s retired” “no, his name is something different”.
      next time save us some time and state at the beginning that you are against torture then we don’t have to read your torturing of the facts.

  6. The definition of torture includes:

    punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed,


    It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.

    So, imprisoning someone without due process (say, after arrest but before indictment) would be torture, yes?

    But if pain and suffering arises from lawful sanctions (let’s be charitable and say according to laws on the books and after due process), its perfectly OK? If the law says I can crush your testicles with a hammer after a hearing, that’s not torture?

    What a useless definition.

    1. So, imprisoning someone without due process (say, after arrest but before indictment) would be torture, yes?

      Only if the length of the imprisoning was not inherent in or incidental to the legal process of moving from arrest to indictment.

      If the law says I can crush your testicles with a hammer after a hearing, that’s not torture?

      Capital punishment is sanctioned in many cultures (including our own). While it is an important debate, it seems somewhat separate from the torture debate. The torture definition, I think, is worded as it is in order to avoid the “capital punishment is torture” debate and restrict its scope to interrogation of prisoners.

  7. Clearly Chapman has no idea what he is talking about. Without seeing any transcript of the KSM interrogation, he magically dismisses the idea that anything useful was learned. Knowing that KSM was lying about someone couldn’t possibly be useful? Really?? If his statements about other operatives agreed with statements obtained from other prisoners, but his story about this one guy doesn’t agree, to the point that he appears to be covering up… that’s not possibly important?

    I’m not saying KSM’s interrogation was in fact useful. But I’m not going to dismiss the possibility without knowing something more. Chapman doesn’t seem to be so constrained.

    1. Leon Panetta, not exactly a far right winger and someone who is certainly in a position to know, has already confirmed on the record that valuable information was obtained by the interrogations.

      The “debate” has already been settled, no matter how much some may want to pretend otherwise.

      1. So, we are to take, as a fact, the word of statist who has been a parasite most of his adult life?

        Facts are not the statements of statitsts and their flacks.

        1. Do you believe the SEALs told the truth when they said they shot bin Laden in the face?

          You know, those statist, parasite sailors?

          1. Also, unless Ron Paul dies before 2012, he will have spent 29 years as a government employee and 28 years in private medical practice.


    2. i doubt it required torture to make KSM lie.

    3. I’ll say this as somebody who has conducted literally thousands of field interviews, interrogations, victim interviews, etc. – eliciting lies is often quite useful, for a # of reasons. That’s especially true when you already know the truth, because then the lie will give you information as to the person’s veracity (or lack thereof), and also give you ammo to pressure them later to tell the truth about other stuff, or to lock them in to a partial admission, etc. The point of an interrogation is not to get a confession; it’s to get the truth. Often, people I interrogate as suspects are in fact, innnocent. Often (alleged) victims are in fact lying through their teeth. In either case, lies can often be very useful

      This doesn’t for a second justify torture, which imo is odious.

  8. Will somebody please finally provide documentation of any Japanese that were tried for the crime of waterboarding and waterboarding alone. Everybody repeats that line and it simply isn’t true. Yes, some guy was prosecuted for an array of things that happened to include waterboarding but that’s not what they put him on trial for.

    1. Yukio Asano

      Well, 3 counts of water-boarding, 3 counts of punching and kicking, and 1 count of burning with lit cigarettes.

      Yes, water-boarding used to be against the law.

    2. If someone was “prosecuted” for waterboarding then that is, by definition, “what they put him on trial for”.

  9. Concerning KSM, you guys have the sequence and facts all wrong. KSM was given the choice of either being waterboarded or having to read MNG’s and Toni’s posts and as they say, the rest is history.

  10. We just need to look at the history of the Nazi Gestapo and the Stalinist NKVD to learn torture does not work. The victim more often than not will say any lie to get out of it. Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany and the labor camps in Siberia were full of innocent people who confessed to crimes they didn’t commit while under torture.

    1. The two are not comparable. The nazis and the commies purpose in interrogating people was specifically to obtain confessions to crimes they didn’t commit. The aim was not good information, but to destroy their real or percieved enemies. The aim of US interrogations IS good information, not confessions for use in a propoganda campaign. If you don’t believe me, look at the difference in how they treated the information they got versus how we do. Everytime they got (or get, in the case of Iran) a confession they shouted it from the rooftops versus in the US where its all kept classified until no longer relevant to the fight.

  11. I wonder if this should be considered torture.

    FTA: John Angleton is the taser coordinator for the sheriff’s office and says, “It’s the most excruciating pain imaginable. It locks everything up. For one you cannot move. You can breathe because you’re screaming at the top of your lungs.”

    Oh, nevermind. I forgot that these guys have to go home at night.

    1. He’s full of shit. I;ve been tased twice as part of training. It was not that bad AT ALL. I have had NUMEROUS things that were far more painful, so it’s empirically false that it’s the most excruciating pain imaginable – gallstones were WAY worse, tearing a subscapularis was WAY worse, tearing a gracilus was WAY worse, dry socket after having my wisdom tooth removed was WAY worse, etc.

      Also, there is an “intent” factor with torture. Being hit with a baton can also be excruciatingly painful. If the intent is to prevent the person from continuing to choke out my partner (the last time I struck somebody with a baton), then it’s not torture, even if it was painful. The intent is KEY. almost ANY painful thing you do to somebody could be considered torture if the intent is to “punish” the person vs. getting compliance pursuant to a use of force continuum.

      Being tased was certainly not fun, and I am a mesomorphic male (nationally ranked strength athlete), and the more muscle you have, the more effective the NMI is and the more painful (arguably), but even so – it was not that bad.

      It sucked, but it was nowhere NEAR the most excruciating pain imaginable.

      Otoh, i find it amusing that sloopy would quote a LEO as an authoritative source when what he is saying fits sloopy’s metanarrative, but not when it’s something that doesn’t.

  12. My two cents on what is torture. As a child my sister and I wondered why our stepfather wasn’t ticklish, well he was a POW from Japan and was tortured by tickling some of his fellow prisoners actually died from tickling, hence he and others learned to not giggle. My step dad testified against the Japanese after the war, Thankfully he wasn’t aware of what our country was doing during this war. Torture has many levels and if McCain a former POW says it’s torture then I’ll accept that it is. I guarantee you though if a Democrat had been president we would have never heard about it.

    1. I’d be willing to bet he hates Elmo then.

  13. Water boarding is wrong? But shooting someone (unarmed) in the face & dumping their body in the ocean is sweet!

    1. It’s okay when Team Blue does it!


    2. Did OBL get shot in the face because he was someone or because he was someone specific? Why did you just pretend like he was just some guy? Is there any context or should they have given him a back rub because, in keeping with the golden rule, they wanted a back rub?

  14. If I understand waterboarding correctly, the subject is told in advance that he will not die. Even KSM. It is no different, in that sense, from SERE training.

    For some reason, I am reminded of The Maltese Falcon (movie) when the Fatman threatens Bogie with torture. Bogie says that torture is no good without the fear of death behind it.

    1. told in advance that he will not die

      Interrogator: No. We’re not going to kill you. We’re going to keep doing this day after day.

      Bogie says that torture is no good without the fear of death behind it.

      The prospect of living in endless pain is far worse torture, it seems.

    2. Does it occur to you that Sam Spade is a fictional character? Yeah, just where we should look for guidelines on the effectiveness of torture.

  15. Calling enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding is quite a leap, so the rest of the article is equally pointless.

    1. Exactly

  16. How bout we crush John Yoo’s son’s tesicles while he is forced to watch, all the while asking him if he believes that this is a proper way to interogate someone. If he answers yes, continue the crushing. If he answers no, continue the crushing until he answers yes.

  17. The is torture bad or good debate is beside the point. Do we want to get information that will lead to us finding people who hate us and want us to die or don’t we? I suspect many in the latter category don’t think there is a terrorist threat or don’t care, which is fine and well, but SAY that. Torture is a means to an end.

  18. I guess the comments are more along the lines of ‘is torture good or bad’. The article claims that torture doesn’t work because people lie, even when the CIA knows they’re lying. The argument is so shoddy that it makes the good vs bad debate look realistic. Like I said, the author should say what his real opinions are. To him, terrorism is either not real or unimportant.

    1. the problem is this… and it’s typical in a lot of arguments. those predisposed to one side of the argument are predisposed to accept one thing, and others, another thing

      example: many of those who are predisposed to support GLBT rights (I certainly am) are going to be more predisposed to listen to those who say that sexual orientation is genetic, or at least not within the bounds of “choice” whereas those who think expansive GLBT rights are bad are more likely to fit into the “it’s a choice” camp.

      there are of course crossovers in the two camps (you can think GLBT rights should be expansive but that it’s at least partially a choice, or a spectrum, and/or partially or more completely environmental)…

      those who are against torture on principle are thus more likely to accept the “it doesn’t work argument” and those who are for its limited use aren’t even going to like to call it torture (waterboarding may not be as harsh as testicle crushing, but it’s CLEARLY torture by any reasonable definitio) and are going to glom on more to the “it works” people

      iow, people will almost always prejudge the latter set of stuff in relation to how they believe about the former. it’s natural and we see it in literally scores of different political debates, from economics, to drugs, to whatever

  19. Waterboarding might be harsh, but it’s not quite “crushing someone’s balls”. Maybe the chest thumping is uncalled for, but most Americans would reluctantly agree to harsher but acceptable methods of interrogation to obtain SOME actionable intelligence. We’re not waterboarding Walmart shoplifters and eco terrorists here.

    If Al Qaeda merely waterboarded their prisoners and dumped cold water on them with a doctor standing by (instead of decapitating them on camera), we’d all hate them just a little bit less.

  20. “But what if torture does sometimes work? Mere effectiveness is not enough to justify it.”

    Then perhaps the people who were angsting about “torture” should have thought a bit before bringing a utilitarian argument to the table like “torture is not effective”. An instance where what you call torture is effective then undermines your argument in way it would not if you had just stood on principle.

  21. Torture should only be legal if it ends the terrorist life as quickly as a bullet through the eyeball.

  22. ? ? ? ? China presses producing country

    ? ? ? ? At present, China has a certain amount of plastic machinery manufacturer about 400, most located in the southeast coastal economically developed Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta area. Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ningxia, Hainan and other provinces, the District has no Plastic Injection Mould. At present, China is a plastic machinery manufacturing country, but it is also the country of consumption of plastic machinery, plastic machinery, but not power.
    ? ? ? ? The reason is China’s plastics machinery manufacturing base is weak after the establishment of New China, from small to large, from weak to strong, and after only three historical periods to develop. China Plastic Machinery 20th century after the formation period of 70 years ago, the growth period of 80 years, 90 years period of development, has developed into both a plastic machinery producing country is consumer. Especially after the accession to WTO, China Plastic Machinery manufacturers efforts with international standards, actively participate in international competition, implement the “going out” of the strategic directions to meet the historic opportunities and challenges. In the plastic molding machines, among which injection molding machine, extrusion machine, hollow Blow Molding Machine three cultivars, three output, output value represents about 80% of plastic machinery in the three major products, injection molding machine has more than 50%. The 21st century, China Plastic Machinery Industry has become a vital force in the machinery industry.

  23. I find the whole argument equating waterboarding with torture as very very dubious….Pouring water on someone to the point that they “think” they might drown is not torture….it is stressful, but not torture….
    Sleep deprivation, loud music and other items are just variations of the stress applied…We do it to our own soldiers to help them train in case they are captured…
    Torture to me is breaking bones, starving someone, cutting off limbs…but not waterboarding…

    I still want an answer, why is it illegal to waterboard someone, but shooting an unarmed man in the head is legal?

  24. Get real,waterboarding is not torture,tho watching Madonna videos could be. Everyone of our SEALs must undergo both.

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