John McCain

McCain: Torture Didn't Get Us Bin Laden, and It Would Be Wrong Anyway

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All these anti-torture commentators and their moral preening!

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who opposes torture and waterboarding for reasons that are not hard to divine, wades into the factual debate over whether torture led to Osama Bin Laden's demise. Excerpt from his Washington Post op-ed:

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently claimed that "the intelligence that led to bin Laden…began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden." That is false.

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed's real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti's real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

I do not often agree with the senator, but at the risk of alienating another damn dirty RINO from libertarianism, I endorse McCain's conclusion:

As we debate how the United States can best influence the course of the Arab Spring, can't we all agree that the most obvious thing we can do is stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual's human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government? […]

Ultimately, this is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. […]

What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves.

Reason on torture here.

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173 responses to “McCain: Torture Didn't Get Us Bin Laden, and It Would Be Wrong Anyway

  1. NO, NO, MCCAIN’S WRONG. WE NEED MOOOOOOAAAAR TORTURE!! TORTURE GOT US BIN LADEN!! ENHANCED INTERROGATION FOR EVERYONE!! TORTURE WORKS!!

    PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!

    /Sean Hannity et al

  2. We did waterboarding yesterday, can’t we have a thread on the inhumanity and immorality of Mehgan McCain’s nekkid PSA?

    1. Ugh. Has she lost any weight yet? If not, I’m not looking.

      1. You only see her from the shoulders up. . .

        . . . Because they didnt’ have a wide-angle lense!

        Ba dum, bum!

    2. I don’t understand all the harshing on Meghan McCain. She doesn’t look to me like a big fat hog. She doesn’t strike me as having a brilliantly analytical mind or anything, but she seems to me kinda cute and I wouldn’t kick her outta bed for eating crackers.

      1. It has more to do with the fact that she is worse than a pinhead: she is a condescending pinhead who broadcasts her pinheadedness across the world based solely on her last name.

        So, haters have to hit her anywhere they can. And I wouldn’t kick her out of bed either. I might break a foot. That’s what prybars are for.

  3. Yeah, I’m amazed at McCain, but it’s great to see him taking a poke at Mukasey, who seems to be trying to make Holder look good–a damned tough job, but Mukasey seems to be up to it.

    As for damned dirty RINOs, they’re long-winded critters, aren’t they?

  4. It’s nice to see, but as you say, it’s not hard to understand why he would feel this way. It’s one of the few things in his life in which his personal experience has correctly informed him.

  5. John McCain, STFU! Waterboarding is not torture, YOU experienced torture in Vietnam, what we’re doing to the arabs is a joke.

    Besides, torture worked for the KGB, it worked for the Mossad, and it works for our CIA.

    God help us if we have to follow the Army Field Manual, according to that document, you can’t even raise your voice or insult a terrorist.

    http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

    1. And the Nazis, let’s not forget them. Oh, and I’ve read that the East German Stasi was pretty good at beating confessions out of suspects too, so let’s imitate the real experts on the subject.

      1. Waterboarding is a joke compared to what the Nazis and the Stassi did.

        1. The Stasi used sleep deprivation, forced stress positions, and psychological humiliation to break detainees. How the hell is it different from what we do at Gitmo and other blacksites?

          Look, maybe there is an argument to be made for the usage of such tactics, but be upfront about it what it actual is.

          1. Fine, we’re using Stasi tactics. So what? They work. Libertarians always say your freedom ends where my nose begins, well, the people at Guantanamo and other blacksites aren’t exactly saints, they violated our freedoms and now they pay the price.

            http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

    2. Waterboarding is not torture

      Would you be willing to be waterboarded in a public setting to prove your assertion?

      1. Well, Christopher Hitchens was. He didn’t like it much and said it was torture but the fact of doing it as a lark would seem to undermine his claim. No one in their right mind would undergo the pains of the rack just to claim first-hand experience. Also, we routinely use waterboarding in certain types of military training which suggests that it might actually be something less than torture.

        1. Hitchens did it once, in a friendly enviroment, knowing those guys would look real bad if he died. He could trust them to keep him alive. That’s not the way the games works in the context of torture. If someone wants the full effect, I say they get kidnapped on the street, blindfolded, held in confinment, and waterboarded several times a day for a couple of weeks.

          1. According Hitch’s account, he was seized from behind, blindfolded, and then led to a room where he was waterboarded. He attested to some level of stress even though he was keenly aware of the non-hostile intent of his interrogators. But even stipulating the friendly and convivial nature of Hitch’s encounter, he wouldn’t as readily submit to a racking no matter how well intentioned the demonstrators were. That speaks to an innate difference that proponents of the waterboarding-is-torture argument have yet to answer. I’m persuadable on the topic but so far I’m agnostic on the matter.

            1. “”According Hitch’s account, he was seized from behind, blindfolded, and then led to a room where he was waterboarded””

              Do you really think that matches up to what I said?

              1. So you contend that it is the seizing, blindfolding, incarceration, hospitality, and frequency that constitute the torture and not the waterboarding itself? I would think those things would be ancillary to the act itself as in the case of the rack.

        2. Certain types of military training? Sure, to train how to withstance torture.

          1. Incorrect, so my post below. SERE training assumes that captured military personnel will be tortured and that the torture will be unendurable. The point of the training is how to make yourself into an unreliable witness and reduce the value anything you say.

            1. I see it a little different. The purpose is to give you a taste to help you be a little more mentally prepard, thus (hopefully) increasing your resistance (the R in SERE) and survivability (the S in SERE).

              1. Resistance ends with the means to resist. The military realized that the training given to Vietnam-era pilots (name, rank, serial number only) was insufficient for the type of captivity they had to endure. Because of what happened to McCain and others a new doctrine was developed that held that in all likelihood captured aviators would most likely face _unendurable_ torture. That being the case, training shifted from enduring torture to diminishing the value of anything you might be induced to say. SERE uses waterboarding not to teach endurance and toleration of pain but to show how readily and quickly you are likely to break down. The emphasis is not on building of a tolerance for pain but on learning how to effectively give unreliable information.

                1. “”The emphasis is not on building of a tolerance for pain but on learning how to effectively give unreliable information.””

                  It would require more than one session to build tolerance. Nor does it teach you how to give unreliable information. If it is unendurable then they will get the information they want, truth need not be necessary.

                  1. Your last statement is at variance with your contention that torture always and everywhere produces unreliable information. Let’s agree that torture can, on occasion, produce very useful information. That is the assumption behind SERE training. The reason for waterboarding SERE participants is to give a practical demonstration of just how quickly you can be broken down. The implied lesson is ‘this ain’t nothing compared to what the enemy will do to you’. It is done to discourage the idea that one can possibly tolerate torture so that a more effective lesson might be learned. And it does seem like a reasonable simulation for SERE participants to apply their knowledge. I’m sure a number of SERE participants absorb the lecture about not being able to withstand torture and set out to show that they are made of tougher stuff than that. At least one of the uses of waterboarding in in training is to demonstrate how tough you aren’t.

            2. “”The point of the training is how to make yourself into an unreliable witness and reduce the value anything you say.””

              You don’t need training for that, torture is notorious for producing unreliability in its own right, it’s value is always in question. You don’t need training for that.

              1. Well there are some claims, as reliable as any other claims we have, that the interrogations conducted by the government did in fact produce some usable information. This has no bearing on the rightness or wrongness of waterboarding. Something can be right and ineffective or wrong and ineffective. I’m just pointing out that we use waterboarding for teaching purposes and that fact indicates that it might be something less than actual torture. Meantime, the fact remains we train our military to give confusing, contradictory, and unreliable statements as a means of surviving captivity. You can say you don’t need training for that but the same lack of training didn’t serve our Vietnam-era aviators particularly well.

                1. It is well known that torture has been used to get people to make false confessions.

                  1. Likewise, it has produced genuine confessions. This has no bearing on whether waterboarding is in fact torture. To establish that fact, we must reconcile how we can apply it to military trainees and curious journalists and not in fact be doing something monstrous. In the alternative, we can simply state that the waterboarding of Christopher Hitchens, to say nothing of generations of military personnel, was an abomination and have done with it. But the fact of the Hitchens experiement nags. It suggests that it falls somewhat short of torture.

                    1. “”To establish that fact, we must reconcile how we can apply it to military trainees and curious journalists and not in fact be doing something monstrous. “”

                      I’ve already addressed that.

        3. “He didn’t like it much and said it was torture but the fact of doing it as a lark would seem to undermine his claim. No one in their right mind would undergo the pains of the rack just to claim first-hand experience.”

          That’s a lousy metric for what defines torture. Some people willingly undergo CBT (and I don’t mean computer-based-training), flogging, suspension from piercings, and Adam Sandler movies, but that doesn’t make any of them “not torture” if they’re done to prisoners.

          1. We seem to be hazy on just what _is_ a good metric. Presumably, Hitchens was/is free of the sort of mental defects that would make him actually enjoy a good waterboarding. He submitted to it to gain a first-hand knowledge about a controversial matter. Likewise, I don’t think we can resolve this contextually be stating that what is done to volunteers may not necessarily be done to prisoners. Under that definition, most anything a prisoner might not consent to becomes a torture.

            Agreed about Adam Sandler.

        4. “Also, we routinely use waterboarding in certain types of military training which suggests that it might actually be something less than torture.”

          We’re running an all volunteer force now, aren’t we?

          Hasn’t been anybody drafted in a long while now?

          Undergoing something as part of training–that you volunteered for–and being subjected to something–you did not volunteer for?

          Is not the same thing.

          1. That is a subjective standard. Something is torture only if some other condition is met. Thus waterboarding on its own is, definitionally, NOT torture by your logic. In order to become torture, it must be paired with something else, say, poor lighting or unpleasant music played at high volume at which point it is now torture. This gives rather a lot of leeway to the folks that suggest waterboarding a person accused of very bad things is on the up and up. Particularly if the lighting is just so and music not too intrusive. By the voluntary standard any number of unpleasant but perfectly permissible actions could be defined as illicit torture if all that is required is for the prisoner to withhold consent. The question remains: by what objective standard can we declare waterboarding to be torture? The fact of waterboarding for training purposes or for journalistic fact-finding tends to undermine the claim that waterboarding is torture. Wouldn’t these acts be monstrous, barbarities if waterboarding is truly torture? You can argue that is in fact so but it would be a novel claim not yet heard in this debate. Your other choices are subjective special pleading or admitting waterboarding not to be torture. Choose.

      2. Aw, but you see, I don’t deserved to be tortured, I’m one of the good guys, let’s see.

        Good guys: follow the law.

        Bad guys: deserved to be tortured.

        See? Not so hard, is it?

        Appdultery? Meet Ashley Madison’s iPhone App.
        http://libertarians4freedom.bl…..s-new.html

        1. But how will we know if you’re one of the good guys until after your interrogation, Grego?

          1. Because I have done nothing wrong. Tell me, Heroic Mulatto, just how exactly do you plan to extract information from a terrorist that doesn’t want to give it? It’s true that the KGB sometimes didn’t use torture and played games with stool pigeons among other tricks, but torture is fast and effective.

            1. Oh, I get it.

              You have nothing to fear if you haven’t done anything wrong.

            2. Because I have done nothing wrong.

              Teh stoopid is strong today.

              And how exactly do we know if you haven’t done anything wrong until we torture you to find out?

            3. You only think you’ve done nothing wrong…

              3 Felonies a Day.

              By the way, I have a close friend who is an upper-level manager for the IRS’s auditing division. Can I send him over to give you a quick audit? Since, you known, you’ve done nothing wrong?

              1. True, and I’m a big supported of getting rid of bad laws, so are Stossel and Glenn Beck.

                However, these terrorists did not get to Gitmo for watering their flowers with gasoline or something like that.

            4. Actually, Greg, the entirety of your posts at H&R have been “something wrong”.

    3. Waterboarding is indeed torture. Actual physical torture. Just because it doesn’t involve bamboo slivers under the fingernails doesn’t mean it’s hunky dory.

      1. Then how can it be applied to experience-seeking journalists or military trainees? Or do you contend the torture is merely contextual and only applies in the absence of consent implied or otherwise? What specifically makes it a physical torture? You have made an assertion but offer no evidence. Demonstrate, if you can, how waterboarding shares both the category and characteristics of another method of torture. For example, liken it to red-hot pokers, thumb-screws, the rack, electrocution, or, the aforementioned, bamboo slivers.

        1. “”Then how can it be applied to experience-seeking journalists or military trainees?””

          By removing much of the mental game involved, and using safety protocols that you would not use on KSM.

          1. We have only the government’s word on this but the waterboarding that Hitchens endured featured about as much in the way of safety precautions as the ones performed on KSM. Still, the presence or absence of safety precautions is not what constitutes torture. If waterboarding is torture it is still torture even if a medical team is standing by in case the stress induces cardiac arrest or other complications. If waterboarding is merely something that experience-seeking journalists can choose to undergo it cannot very well be held to be torture. There is no standard by which such a thing could be held to be anything other than monstrous if it were so. This is what must be resolved. Unfortunately, waterboarding made a convenient political whacking stick for the Democrats for a couple of years during which time they utterly failed to articulate exactly why waterboarding should be considered torture. That’s not to say there isn’t an argument only that the argument isn’t currently being made.

            1. —“If waterboarding is merely something that experience-seeking journalists can choose to undergo it cannot very well be held to be torture.”—

              So let me get this straight. If some whack-job agrees to voluntarily undergo the rack, or thumbscrews or electrodes to the testicles, that removes it from the realm of torture since somebody did it voluntarily?

              It seems all the government needs to do is advertise for someone with wierd interests and then, no more torture.

              1. Not exactly. I presume Hitchens is free of mental defects that would cause him to actually enjoy waterboarding. I’m actually looking for some firm rhetorical ground that _doesn’t_ rely on context or perception to establish its nature. I don’t think that the government or the prisoner should be able to move the goal post. As yet, I cannot disprove the statement: if waterboarding is torture then it must also be true that Christopher Hitchens was tortured. Or at least, I find no way of resolving the fact of the Hitchens experiment without resorting to subjectivity.

                1. —“As yet, I cannot disprove the statement: if waterboarding is torture then it must also be true that Christopher Hitchens was tortured.”—

                  He was. Even he said so.

                  1. As I acknowledged, but in your last post it seemed you were trying to get away from subjective declarations yet now you make an appeal to authority?

                    I take the fact that Hitchens could submit to being waterboarded as a thought-experiment to undermine that assertion that it is torture. He wouldn’t, as I have pointed out, have submitted to the rack or any other known form of torture for the purposes of information gathering. That he post-facto declared it torture is not exactly the sort of cold, detached objectivity required to resolve the question.

                    1. —“I take the fact that Hitchens could submit to being waterboarded as a thought-experiment to undermine that assertion that it is torture”—

                      That is your interpretation.

                      —“He wouldn’t, as I have pointed out, have submitted to the rack or any other known form of torture for the purposes of information gathering”—

                      Are you argueing that ONLY Hitchens can perform a thought-experiment? Is it not possible for a person to be willing to undergo the rack as a thought-experiment? I would be agreeable to undergo thumbscrews under, what I presume was a condition of Hitchens treatment, the caveat that if it gets too painful or I have had enough, the thumbscrewers would have to stop. Would that then make thumbscrews not torture?

                      —“As yet, I cannot disprove the statement: if waterboarding is torture then it must also be true that Christopher Hitchens was tortured.”—

                    2. I suppose most anybody may consent to anything as a thought experiment. Those receiving the equivalent dose of the rack as Hitchens did of the waterboard would, in such a case, emerge with dislocated if not entirely detached limbs. We would rightly recoil in horror at such an experiment but Hitchens experiment is one from which he emerged unscathed, faculties in tact moments later. That suggests that waterboarding is somehow different. How much different is as yet, in my mind, unresolved.

                    3. Posted before I was finished—

                      Why do you need/want to disprove the statement?

                    4. Mainly because the argument in this particular part of the comments thread began with folks trying to have it both ways (i.e. waterboarding Hitchens or military personnel is okay for subjective reasons but waterboarding terror suspects is objectively wrong). Personally, I’m agnostic on the waterboarding-is-torture proposition. One of the more persuasive, to me, arguments against it being torture is that it is so readily used as a military training aid or on curious journalists. That sort of gives me the idea that it’s maybe not quite the horror its made out to be. But I really haven’t resolved the question one way or the other. That said, I find some of the subjective sometimes-it-is-sometimes-it-isn’t logic unsatisfying.

                    5. “”Mainly because the argument in this particular part of the comments thread began with folks trying to have it both ways “”

                      Wrong. At least for myself, it’s understandting the context and bigger picture. Torture is not just about a certain technique in and of it’s self.

                      Is being exposed to rats torture? Yes or no? The answer is not that simple. Further down the tread I posted something from the book 1984, and ask if that was torture. I await your answer.

                    6. Done – see below.

                    7. The entire line of argument seems ridiculous. Nothing which I have chosen for myself and can stop whenever I want is torture. Is bondage sex between willing partners torture? I have friends who have been physically harmed in the act, and who would never said they were tortured. Im talking whips, for example. A man being whipped by his Dom. Is that torture to you? Even if there is blood on the floor? No! Man has a safeword and can stop it at any time. If I tied you and told you “Im about to whip you to death” with the exact same whip, would *that* be torture? Jebus, it aint that complicated..

                    8. It might be easier and more logically consistent to say that your example is torture but that the consent of the participants removes it from the realm of state consideration. That is different than saying the identical act is torture in the absence of consent but becomes ‘not torture’ once consent is given.

                    9. Also the question at hand deals with a prisoner who, by definition, no longer retains the right of self-determination. A prisoner under state power cannot consent to anything. Yet the state has the right to do all sorts of things to that prisoner. We need to explain why waterboarding is one of those things the state does not have the right to do to that prisoner even inflict pain. Contextual arguments such as are being made here are fine but it seems to me that if context matters then we certainly have to consider the value of the information that might be gained and the benefits of thwarting a planned terrorist attack, etc. In other words, it admits the justification claimed by the proponents of waterboarding, enhanced-interrogation, whatever.

                    10. ‘Yet the state has the right to do all sorts of things to that prisoner. We need to explain why waterboarding is one of those things the state does not have the right to do to that prisoner even inflict pain.’

                      Should read

                      ‘Yet the state has the right to do all sorts of things to that prisoner even inflict pain. We need to explain why waterboarding is one of those things the state does not have the right to do to that prisoner.

  6. Here’s pretty much where I am on this.

    Treat terrorists like war criminals. After capture, they get a very prompt military commission hearing to determine whether they are, in fact, terrorists. The commission will determine

    (1) Oops, wrong guy, and let him go.

    (2) Yep, this here is a terrorist, who is hereby sentenced to death. The sentence may be suspended depending on the terrorist’s cooperation with our inquiries.

    If the terrorist goes all hard guy and refuses to cooperate, shoot him.

    If he cooperates, once he’s wrong dry, look at commuting his sentence.

    1. Oh noes, actually applying the Geneva Convention. We can’t actually punish illegal combatants the way the rules of war say we should.

  7. the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier “who ultimately led us to bin Laden ? as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured.”

    And then, the baby bear said, someone’s been eating my porridge, and they ate it all up!

  8. 1) Waterboarding is torture.
    2) Whether torture is effective in getting information or not (and I must reluctantly conclude that it can be) is irrelevant: It is immoral.
    3) The fact that the US subjects its military personnel to waterboarding as part of their training is irrelevant. I see this as nothing more than training people to hold out against torture, however “mild” it may be in comparison with other forms of torture. It makes sense to prepare your people for what they may face in captivity and waterboarding is about as far as you can go without inflicting permanent physical harm. Also note that the US subjects its Marines to tear gas as part of their training. This does not make the use of tear gas legal in warfare.

    1. Tear gas is legal to use in warfare against illegal combatants.

      A lot of people spout off here about international law without having actually read the treaties in question. All of the well known protections for POWs apply only to legal combatants, who must meet 4 criteria.

      1. Fixed sign recognizable at a distance.
      2. Carry arms openly.
      3. Fight under an organized chain of command
      4. Obey the rules and customs of war.

      AQ does not follow any of these, they have by their own choice placed themselves outside the protection of the applicable treaties.

      The rules of war can only be applied to opponents who follow the rules. If there is no punishment for fighting outside the rules, then there is no incentive to stay inside the rules.

      1. All of the well known protections for POWs apply only to legal combatants, who must meet 4 criteria.

        Absolutely.

        But the protections of POWs exist to prevent prisoners of war from being subjected to criminal justice systems.

        So if you don’t follow these rules, you can’t claim to be a POW – and that means you’re subject either to the UCMJ, or to the criminal law of your captor’s nation, or the criminal law of the nation containing the war zone where you committed your crime.

        The notion that there is some additional zone – where you aren’t a POW but don’t fall under one criminal justice system or another – is a ludicrous invention.

      2. So it sounds like “Carry arms openly” is the only thing they are doing within the definition. Does this mean that any American who openly carries a gun can be treated as a terrorist because they don’t meet the rest of the definitions?

        1. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

          DON’T GIVE THEM IDEAS.

        2. I ask a similar question.

          If Texans ran out of their house to defended against an invading army from the South, are they terrorist?

          1. Nope. There is an exception for those who spontaneously take up arms in defense of their country. At some point you’re supposed to adopt armbands or cockades or such like which likely means your militia has organized a chain of command. Then all you have to do is follow the Law of Land Warfare, say by not torturing prisoners, and you’re good.

            This has happened many times and will again. See the Libyan rebels and their adoption of the old Libyan flag and uniforms, however haphazard they may be.

      3. —“A lot of people spout off here about international law without having actually read the treaties in question.”—

        From the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Article 5:

        Should any doubt arise as to whether
        persons, having committed a belligerent act
        and having fallen into the hands of the
        enemy, belong to any of the categories
        enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall
        enjoy the protection of the present
        Convention until such time as their status
        has been determined by a competent
        tribunal.

        So where are the Tribunals to allow detainees to challenge their classification as “illegal combatants”? The Covention doesn’t say that the President gets to make this determination.

        1. Apparently Britt didn’t read ALL the rules.

    2. I’m not sure you can dispose of #3 so easily. In that case, waterboarding is a form of simulated torture meaning it is not actually torture. Much as a blank round simulates the noise and smoke of a live round minus the projectile. Military personal at SERE school are learning resistance techniques in anticipation of something far worse than waterboarding. That training has mainly to do with making yourself an unreliable source of information. It is more or less assumed that, at some point, the actual torture will be more than can reasonably be borne. At that point, the training is about how to make inconsistent and unreliable anything you might say. In other words, waterboarding is a training simulation. It is not something that is intended as an equivalent to aid in building up endurance and tolerance to pain. It is to give some idea of how readily you might break down and help learn the lesson of what to do when that happens.

      1. “”In other words, waterboarding is a training simulation””

        When it is done in a training environment with proper safety protocols, I’ll agree.

  9. Wow, Matt writes a positive McCain post.

    Maybe later today he’ll write something nice about Klaus.

  10. I don’t always agree with McCain…

    but when I do, it’s torture.

  11. McCain is funny like this. He’s wrong about so much so often, you forget he has these occasional lucid moments of sanity where he’s right for the right reasons.

    I still can’t let BCRA (and other things) slide, but I can acknowledge when he’s right.

    1. Stopped clock / blind squirrel.

  12. Would any True Libertarian pass up a chance to physically injure….

    – Joe Arpaio?

    – Cops who enjoy no-knock raids?

    – Mental images of Sarah Palin laughing in your face when you ask her out on a date?

    – Dick Cheney?

    – Dick Durbin?

    – Ron Paul detractors?

    – Tony?

    – The man who touched them in the park last night?

    We all know most True Libertarians wouldn’t pass up a chance to give Arpaio a swift kick in the nuts or shackelling Trig Palin until he reveals who the birth mother really was.

    But that’s different. Those people deserve it. Right?

    1. Those people deserve it. Right?

      Pretty much.

      I hope you die a slow, painful death from bone cancer, by the way.

    2. Hold your horses, baby.

      Consider my attitude towards violence towards, say, Nazis.

      I would stand up to support the right of American Nazis to free speech. I would stand up to support their right to march. I would back up their right to full political participation.

      Until they’re in office.

      A Nazi who is not in office is just an asshole with unpleasant opinions. A Nazi who is in office is a tyrant or is conspiring to achieve tyranny.

      The out-of-office Nazi deserves to have his political rights defended. The in-office Nazi deserves to hang upside down from a lamppost with his throat cut.

      So, yeah. There are people who “deserve” violence. A Nazi sitting in his Chancellery deserves it. A prisoner sitting helpless in a cell does not.

      Welcome to the world of moral distinctions.

    3. Physical violence against anybody is only appropriate in self-defense.

      And calling for physical violence against other commenters is freaking indefensible!

      In the war of ideas, if you feel it necessary to call for physical violence against other commenters?

      Then you should probably seek counseling–for your own good.

    4. Would any True Libertarian pass up a chance to physically injure….

      Holy shit, there’s so much wrong with that fucked-up post, I don’t even know where to begin a response.

      So I won’t.

      Fucking troll.

    5. But that’s different. Those people deserve it. Right?

      F

      You’re going to have to take remedial trolling this summer.

      SON, I AM DISAPPOINT

  13. HM:

    Spoken like a true tolerant peacenik… Wait, no, I mean total asshole. I often get the two confused.

    1. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, Mr. Cow.

  14. Anyway, what does my health status have to do with your moral imbecility?

    So you would rather injure the above, but treat terrorists with kindness.

    Your words not mine.

    1. So you would rather injure the above, but treat terrorists with kindness.

      Your words not mine.

      No. The bolded words are yours. But, hey…nice strawman.

  15. And people who plot the mass murder of innocent civilians (across national borders) deserve just what exactly?

    This is what I’m trying to figure out.

    So Me, Joe Arpaio and Dream of Sarah Palin deserve cancer, death and forced viewing of “Atlas Shrugged Part 1,” but KSM deserves…..

    (you tell me, but you better be quick, I fear for my life)

    1. You’ve built yourself quite the impressive pile of strawmen. I hope you clean those up before you leave.

  16. Even if torture had led us to bin Laden, I would argue that torture probably did more to damage our efforts in the War on Terror than whatever benefit we derived from bin Laden’s death.

    The Schlesinger Report told us that what we saw in those photos coming out of Abu Ghraib was the result of “interrogation policies” mistakenly migrating from Guantanamo to Iraq–and anybody who says killing bin Laden was worth all the damage those photos did to our efforts in the War on Terror has a really high hurdle to clear.

    We lost a ton of ground in the war for hearts and minds once those photos went public. Even if it had led to the death of bin Laden, how can we say that was worth the price we paid?

    I was against the Iraq War for humanitarian and strategic reasons, but I grudgingly deferred to the Bush Administration’s better judgement on execution, etc.–until I saw those photos.

    When I saw those photos, I completely wrote off the Bush Administration. I became convinced that there wasn’t anything the Bush Administration did that I wanted to support…not if it meant I had to support a government that tortured people.

    How much worse would I have despised the the Bush Administration’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan if I had been an Iraqi or Afghan under occupation?

  17. Schultz:

    You had to see photos to realize war is truly awful? Really?

    You didn’t grudgingly defer to Bush anything.

    Pick up a history book. Every war the US has ever fought has contained war crimes, massive incompetence and downright absurdity.

    Don’t act like you expected this one to be different and then when it wasn’t, you withdrew your support.

    1. “You had to see photos to realize war is truly awful? Really?”

      No, actually I opposed the Iraq War on humanitarian and strategic grounds. That’s why I wrote, “I was against the Iraq War for humanitarian and strategic reasons..”

      Just because I was against the Iraq War, doesn’t mean I thought the Bush Administration was going about it the wrong way–if that’s what they were going to do. I used to preface a ton of my comments with stuff like, “Gee, I hope I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that the Bush Administration is going about this the wrong way…”

      That changed after the photos. That changed after the Schlesinger Report. Instead of thinking maybe the Bush Administration was doing something I didn’t understand? I started denouncing the Bush Administration as a bunch of incompetent fools.

      A competent President wouldn’t have let something as counter-productive as Abu Ghraib happen–not under his authority or that of his senior staff. When the Iraq War started, most people thought they were a brain trust.

      That myth didn’t completely break down for a lot of people until after Katrina. Hell, I’m the first person I remember seeing call the president “incompetent”–I was early to the party, not late.

  18. I just love how it’s automatically assumed in these conversations that anybody the government dubs a “terrorist” is in fact a terrorist and therefore “deserves” to be tortured. But I guess that being part of the government confers god-like omniscience.

    1. ^^This^^

    2. I just love how it’s automatically assumed in these conversations that [brown person] the government dubs a “terrorist” is in fact a terrorist and therefore “deserves” to be tortured.

      You don’t see too many folks calling for Timothy McVeigh and his ilk to be tortured to get information on what’s going on in the wilds of Coeur d’
      Alene, Idaho.

      Just sayin’.

    3. Yeah, local cops can’t figure out they’re raiding the wrong house, but the military must hit the right place every time. It requires more suspension of disbelief than my dumb ex-paratrooper ass can pull off. I know the kind of guys who are out there kicking in doors because I was one. They’re gonna fuck up.

    4. But I guess that being part of the government confers god-like omniscience.

      Well…only if you’re the Prez.

  19. If waterboarding is so effective why did they have to do it 183 times to KSM? Doesn’t seem like he easily broke to me.

    1. They didn’t have to do it 184 times.

  20. McCain as a Senator has done and said a lot of stuff I can’t get behind, but I do have to say that back when he ran for president the first time (what was that, like 10 years ago?) I read his book “Faith of my Fathers” just to get to know something about him, because I really didn’t know the guy before he popped up as a Republican presidential candidate.

    If half the shit in that book is true, ya gotta give the guy some respect at least for that. Yeah, criticize him and disagree with him for shit like McCain-Feingold, and yeah, he maybe wouldn’t be anyone’s dream president. But shit, I have to think he would be hard-pressed to be worse than President Urkel.

    1. You do know that he did a 180 on a lot of stuff he said back in 2000 when that didn’t work, and said the exact opposite the second time he ran, right?

  21. All this really is just a discussion of situational ethics. If your child was in harm’s way unless torturing KSM would save them, you would perform the worst forms of torture on KSM. Anyone who says they wouldn’t is a liar, or a shithead. I would do it for YOUR child.

    So the next (to me) logical question is, having given up my right to torture someone to save my child to a king, what should I be able to expect the king to do for me in that situation? For me, I’d like Dirty Harry to be on the case. You can have McCain. Or Holder.

    When the nation is in dire straights (ticking bomb situation) what can we expect our government to do? I don’t know. There are many variables.

    Was the country in a dire situation when it waterboarded KSM? I would say not enough for eye gouging or fingernail pulling. Waterboarding? I can see the difference. Feel free to call me a statist pig. It won’t be the first time.

    1. Statist pig.

      What? You said call you one.

    2. The only problem with your argument is that such situations almost never ever arise.

      That, and my honor is worth more than your child’s life so sorry but I ain’t torturing the guy for you.

    3. If your child was in harm’s way unless torturing KSM would save them

      I’m going to call into question your implicit assumption here that what people say to stop torture is the truth.

    4. “If your child was in harm’s way unless torturing KSM would save them, you would perform the worst forms of torture on KSM.”

      And you would do so even if your government strictly punished those who engaged in torture, and would endure your sentence gladly.

    5. “”If your child was in harm’s way unless torturing KSM would save them, you would perform the worst forms of torture on KSM. Anyone who says they wouldn’t is a liar, or a shithead. I would do it for YOUR child.”””

      A do it for the children arguement? Come on, save it for the ban the twinkie thread.

  22. Then how can it be applied to experience-seeking journalists or military trainees?

    WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I mean, why would anyone write anything this stupid?

    Surely it sounded as stupid in your head as it looks on the screen. But you went and typed it out, just in case there was anyone who hadn’t already concluded that you’re either a mental or moral midget.

    1. Leaving aside the unrivaled brilliance of your all-caps WTF and clever use of the exclamation point!

      Why not dispose of the question since you see the answer so clearly? Enlighten me with your moral and mental superiority. Was Christopher Hitchens tortured? Were the generations of military personnel that took SERE training tortured? If you answer, yes. Congratulations, you have articulated a morally and logically consistent position. I, on the other hand, doubt that Hitchens was tortured and am seeking an objective standard that resolves how waterboarding can be torture if Hitchens was not tortured. So far no one has been able to articulate such a point but few, perhaps you will be the first, are willing to declare waterboarding of military trainees or curious journalists to be torture.

      Why not clear it up for us?

      1. “”I, on the other hand, doubt that Hitchens was tortured and am seeking an objective standard that resolves how waterboarding can be torture if Hitchens was not tortured.””

        When it is done in a training environment with proper safety protocols, and upon request.

        1. As I pointed out this fails because it does not declare waterboarding to be torture it declares waterboarding without OSHA supervision to be torture. Could you, by this logic, rack someone for training purposes with their permission?

      2. From 1984 Chapter 5
        Winston is confined in Room101, strapped to a chair in a way which rendered him completely immobile. In front of him were two tables on which stood two covered wire cages. O’Brien was holding a lever which would operate the cages. Impassively, O’Brien explains that what Room 101 contains is quite simply, “the worst thing in the world.” This varies from individual to individual. For some it may be torture, fire for some one else, drowning for yet others. For each individual, Room 101 held his greatest fear. When confronted with that, courage and cowardice lose their meaning, one will do whatever one has to do to avoid the horror in Room 101 as naturally and automatically as one will grab at a rope to keep from falling.
        In Winston’s case, his greatest fear, his worst nightmare was rats and it was rats there were there in the cages in front of him. O’Brien informs him that he is going to open the cages and set the rats onto him. The rats are starving, they will sense Winston’s helplessness and devour him inch by inch. Winston cries out in terror asking O’Brien to only tell him what he has to do to avoid this. O’Brien vouchsafes no answer and lays his hand on the lever which would open the cages. In a total frenzy Winston sees the rats behind the bar and with a sudden flash of intuition realizes what he has to do to save himself. He has to take the final step of degradation, he has to betray Julia. It is no longer a matter of choice, before this threat, he is helpless. He cries out “Do it to Julia! Not me!” Repeating that cry he is aware that the lever has clicked back into place, the cage is closed. His degradation is finally completed in Room 101.

        Is that torture to you?

        1. Certainly, but what does this piece of misdirection have to do with the question at hand? We all agree that torture is impermissible. It is left to explain why waterboarding is torture. This is particularly difficult because you insist that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

          1. So being next to rats is torture? Perhaps you can explain why that is torture and being next to rats on the NYC subway isn’t.

            I’m not being silly with that. I’m placing emphisis only on the the technique which is what you are doing.

          2. “” This is particularly difficult because you insist that sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.””

            Because you are failing to consider everything involved. And you are about to explain why being next to rats in a cage can sometimes be torture and sometimes not.

            1. Actually, I took all of your — Orwell’s — words into consideration — and did not atomize just the presence of rats but considered the act in total. We are dealing with something much simpler than Orwell’s elaborate scenario. Is waterboarding torture or not? If the answer is: it depends then this is a very silly debate to occupy so much of our national conversation because the answer will always bear a close correlation to your desire to brand Bush or Cheney a war criminal or international scofflaw.

              1. If the answer is: it depends

                [sighs, smacks head, wonders if there really are 4 lights]

                1. It’s fine to say it depends. I’m just asking you to defend your drawing of the line with something better than because it pleases me to draw the line here.

              2. “”and did not atomize just the presence of rats but considered the act in total.””

                Right. So why is this an OK answer to my quesion, but not to yours? You dodge, re-ask your question, then pile on some BS personal attack crap rapped in a red herring.

                1. ‘BS personal attack’?

          3. —“It is left to explain why waterboarding is torture.”—

            It is then left to explain why anything is torture.

            1. Well that is the question at hand perhaps we should try defining obscenity instead I’m guessing some folks around here would know when they see it.

  23. Would any True Libertarian pass up a chance to physically injure….

    [list]

    I do not recall any long term regular hitandrunner ever advocating the initiation of any act of violence against any of those people or, for that matter, anyone.

  24. can’t we all agree that the most obvious thing we can do is stand as an example of a nation that holds an individual’s human rights as superior to the will of the majority or the wishes of government?

    Says the guy behind McCain-Feingold. Mighty selective definition of “human rights” being used by this right-statist.

  25. I, on the other hand, doubt that Hitchens was tortured and am seeking an objective standard that resolves how waterboarding can be torture if Hitchens was not tortured.

    If he volunteered for it, he was not tortured. If they continued after he withdrew his consent, he was tortured.

    Does that work for ya?

    1. It doesn’t. The nature of torture depends on the act and not the disposition of the receiver. If it were otherwise then all power rests in the hands of the perceiver.

  26. The nature of torture depends on the act and not the disposition of the receiver.

    We hold the agent of the activity differentially responsible based on their mental disposition during the act (think manslaughter versus murder), why wouldn’t we take the disposition of the victim into account?

    If it were otherwise then all power rests in the hands of the perceiver.

    Nope. It may be necessary without being sufficient.

    1. Another legal analogy for Basil Seal.

      Rape is rape because of the disposition of the victim, not because of the act itself. Torture and rape are often used figuratively for each other. There is a reason.

      1. To further this analogical chain, theft is theft because of the disposition of the victim. If I don’t claim ownership or am not offended by your taking, it ain’t theft.

        And physical assault is dependent upon the disposition of the victim. When Anthony Pettis kicks Clay Guida in the head, it isn’t going to be considered assault because they will both be in a sporting event that involves head-kicking and Clay Guida’s disposition makes the kicking non-criminal. IF Pettis kicks him in the head after he has tapped-out, then it is assault as Clay Guida will have removed his consent.

        1. In other words.

          Waterboarding is torture when it is used to torture. It is training when it is used to train.

          1. So, by your logic, no torture was intended in the case of KSM thus no tortured occurred. Case closed.

            This is the ‘Through the Looking Glass’ philosophy where torture is just what you mean it to be and nothing more.

            As in the case of rape, the perceptions of the victim are not, in fact, determinative, else any accusation of rape would result in a conviction. There is a particularly and well-defined act which must be present to satisfy the accusation. In the case of waterboarding you argue it is all about intent with no difference in the act itself.

            Yet we have this difficulty with no other known form of torture. We have no trouble recognizing the rack as a torture device yet when it comes to waterboarding it all depends. It’s a very strange thing.

            1. So, by your logic, no torture was intended in the case of KSM thus no tortured occurred. Case closed.

              You aren’t paying attention. Unless KSM consented, it was torture.

              This is the ‘Through the Looking Glass’ philosophy where torture is just what you mean it to be and nothing more.

              Nope. It has fuzzy boundaries and there are elements of the definition that are subjective.

              As in the case of rape, the perceptions of the victim are not, in fact, determinative, else any accusation of rape would result in a conviction. There is a particularly and well-defined act which must be present to satisfy the accusation.

              You are restating my point, but missing the point. Well defined act, plus attitude of victim equal rape. Without the attitude of the victim, it ain’t rape. It is necessary, but not sufficient.

              In the case of waterboarding you argue it is all about intent with no difference in the act itself.

              Yet we have this difficulty with no other known form of torture. We have no trouble recognizing the rack as a torture device yet when it comes to waterboarding it all depends. It’s a very strange thing.

              You are cherry picking in the extreme. Look up thread for an illustrative example involving rats. Again, the attitude of the victim is necessary to make it torture, not sufficient. This answers your Hitchens dilemma from above. The example of the rack that you keep trouting out has the same requirement. You have a hard time imagining someone who would volunteer, but they exist.

              1. So consensual waterboarding is not torture but otherwise it is? Okay, I’ll bite, why is non-consensual waterboarding torture? Not why is it a crime or a violation of this or that right, why is it torture? What is it about non-consensual waterboarding that constitutes, always and everywhere, torture?

                1. What is it about non-consensual waterboarding that constitutes, always and everywhere, torture?

                  If you can’t answer that question from the details of the discussion above, I don’t think I can help you.

                  Let’s flip it around. How does waterboarding fail the torture test in your eyes? You felt Orwell’s torture as described above was torture, how is waterboarding different?

                  1. Waterboarding lacks the physical harm component common to other torture methods. No one emerges from the rack and writes a blog post for example. Yet waterboarding appears to do little but inflict a severe, non-scarring, non-life-threatening discomfiture to those who undergo it. It’s ill-effects are remarkably short lived.

                    That said, it is an intensely uncomfortable experience. I can be persuaded to view it as a form of torture. But it’s mild, by comparison, effects and its broad use in the military training context make me wonder if that is not defining torture down a bit.

                    You define torture not as a particular act, say the infliction of pain, but as a matter of consent. If proper permissions are obtained then the infliction of pain is not torture. Thus you place the emphasis on the consensual nature of the act.

                    That results in a number of fuzzy edges that bring little clarity to the policy debate surrounding the matter. For example, the state or another individual might do any number of things to you without your consent. That doesn’t make those things torture. So there has to be something other than consent that makes something torture or not. What is that thing?

                    On the other hand, if you state that waterboarding is in fact torture whenever it is practiced but it is only a matter of state concern when it is non-consensual that is different. You have a fairly bright line defining the act as torture albeit with a somewhat fuzzier notion of consent that determines when it becomes a matter for the state or a war crime. Well and good but subtly different from what you are saying.

                    This also opens up the policy question. Normal rules of consent don’t apply to prisoners. They are deprived of a number rights that free persons may take for granted. That being the case, the door would appear to be open to find some set of circumstances under which a prisoner may be tortured absent consent. This also revives the utilitarian argument in favor of torture. In short all sorts of mischief can now take place.

                    1. “”Waterboarding lacks the physical harm component common to other torture methods. No one emerges from the rack and writes a blog post for example. Yet waterboarding appears to do little but inflict a severe, non-scarring, non-life-threatening discomfiture to those who undergo it. It’s ill-effects are remarkably short lived.””

                      Physical harm isn’t necessary for torture. Winston Smith wasn’t in any real physical threat and you agreed it was torture. All of his experience in room 101 “appears to do little but inflict a severe, non-scarring, non-life-threatening discomfiture”, as you might say.

                    2. When discussing torture, it’s not as simple as asking about waterboarding or rats and expecting a binary answer. Torture involves the greater context. That’s why rats in NYC subway is not torture and what Winston experienced is. And why waterboarding, with permission in a safe controlled enviornment, administered by people you trust isn’t torture, but waterboarding applied to an captured detainee, repeated over and over, trying to extract information, is.

                      You know that’s true, that’s why you agreed Winston was tortured, and wouldn’t give me a binary answer on the rat question. But for some reason you are stuck on getting a binary answer when one doesn’t really apply.

                    3. Actually in this case it is. We are trying to clear up whether the use of waterboarding against suspected terrorists was torture or not. We have a clear, specific example to consider.

                      That example is complicated by the fact that the same method has been applied in circumstances generally recognized as not being torture. To clear that up several people have suggested it all has to do with consent as if there is nothing you can consent to that is also torture. I doubt that but okay.

                      We can clear this up by saying only non-consensual torture is bad but the case in point has to do with a prisoner that is, more in less, in the state’s power. Consent or the need for it gets fuzzier in this realm. Ticking time bomb scenarios become more plausible. Etc. This is not easy territory to defend.

                      In short, I find torture is wrong because it is wrong to torture to be a morally and logically consistent objection. Likewise, torture is wrong but waterboarding isn’t torture. What makes less sense is that under condition x its torture and under condition y its not. That smacks of Miller’s three-pronged test for obscenity.

                    4. “” What makes less sense is that under condition x its torture and under condition y its not. That smacks of Miller’s three-pronged test for obscenity.””

                      Execpt when you answer a like question. Then, that which smacks of obscenity is necessary to consider.

                      Admit it, you don’t think Winston was tortured since you don’t believe being next to rats is torture.

                    5. I do think Winston was tortured but I also think there is a thing that we call torture and that it exists independent of ‘context’. You keep making the error that I am arguing in favor of waterboarding. I’m not. I’m arguing for objectivity. If we cannot make a clear, unambiguous statement of what torture is that Senator McCain’s statement and Welch’s approval is just a study in vanity. It’s fine to say waterboarding is bad, I’m asking you to state why you say so.

                    6. “”You keep making the error that I am arguing in favor of waterboarding. “”

                      Really? I’ve never made that arguement.

                      “”I’m arguing for objectivity.””

                      No, you are arguing for a lack of objectivity since that would require looking at the context.

                    7. Fine but if there is some context where waterboarding is okay, perhaps in military training or journalistic curiosity, then perhaps it is also okay when the state is questioning a prisoner it believes may have foreknowledge of a terrorist attack.

                    8. “”I do think Winston was tortured but I also think there is a thing that we call torture and that it exists independent of ‘context’. “”

                      Being next to rats isn’t torture is it? Else people in the NYC subway system are being tortured. I don’t think it’s a leap to say, you don’t believe that the people in the NYC subway system are being tortured but you don’t want to actually provide a binary answer because it blows you whole line of questioning out of the water.

                      Rats can be torture, and are not torture depending on the context. The same can be said for waterboarding.

                    9. Yes, yes, and a gun may be used for hunting or homicide. This hardly gets you off the hook.

                    10. That example is complicated by the fact that the same method has been applied in circumstances generally recognized as not being torture.

                      But that is self-evidently nonsense.

                      That being the case, the door would appear to be open to find some set of circumstances under which a prisoner may be tortured absent consent.

                      But that is self-evidently nonsense.

                    11. If you read up you will find several instances where commentators state that Hitchens was not tortured when he submitted to a waterboarding because it was consensual.

                    12. Including yourself as I noticed upon re-reading.

                    13. “”If you read up you will find several instances where commentators state that Hitchens was not tortured when he submitted to a waterboarding because it was consensual.””

                      Well that wouldn’t be me, unless you are cherry picking my answers. Consent is only one element of the context.

                    14. True, you said it was okay in a training context with proper safety precautions.

                    15. He seemed to be responding to me TrickVic…and yes I said that Hitchens wasn’t tortured when he consented to be waterboarded. And I have echoed your point that consent is only one element in the context. It is the primary element that takes Hitchens’ waterboarding out of the category “torture.”

                    16. If you read up you will find several instances where commentators CORRECTLY state that Hitchens was not tortured when he submitted to a waterboarding because it was consensual.

                      FIFY

                    17. That example is complicated by the fact that the same method has been applied in circumstances generally recognized as not being torture.

                      But that is self-evidently nonsense.

                      That being the case, the door would appear to be open to find some set of circumstances under which a prisoner may be tortured absent consent.

                      But that is self-evidently nonsense.

                      Emphasis added so that Basil Seal may more easily recognize the nonsense.

  27. I said that’s part of the reason why I think waterboarding might fail the torture test. It’s mild in comparison to other acknowledged forms of torture. Another part is the Hitchens experiment. Yet another is the military training use. There is something about it that makes it acceptable under those conditions. As I’ve stated I don’t think it is merely the consent of those submitting to it. There is something different in its nature.

    That said, my mind is not made up on the matter. It does bear some resemblance to acknowledged types of torture. Nothing has yet persuaded me one way or the other.

    Given the easy assertion of Senator McCain and the approving blog post from Matt Welch I had thought this forum might provide a ready answer.

    Thus far, I am informed it all has to do with consent. Nearly anything, it seems, without consent is torture. But that is self-evidently nonsense.

    You may have the right not to be waterboarded without your consent but that doesn’t make waterboarding torture when it is done to you against your wishes. Something is torture because it _is_ torture. If there is no definition of torture other than ‘that which is unpleasant and unconsensual’ then this whole debate is just so much much political vogueing.

  28. “”Thus far, I am informed it all has to do with consent.””

    Not consent, context.

    Or as you would say, “not atomize just the presence of rats but considered the act in total.”

    1. Thus far, I am informed it all has to do with consent.””

      You put in contrast two situations, complete with context, and ask what the difference was between those two acts – in total, context included – that made one torture and one not. The primary difference between the two examples you provide, in total, with context included was the consent of the person being waterboarded.

      To take that as meaning that torture is simply “that which is unpleasant and unconsensual” requires some pretty serious blinders. Waterboarding is torturous, not simply unpleasant and is torture proper when placed in the context of interrogation of a prisoner.

      You talk above about policy implications. Once you place “hurting the prisoner is okay as long as you don’t hurt him real bad” into policy, you have set up a situation that is guaranteed to result in torture, no matter how high a bar you feel needs to be crossed for an act to be torture.

      The bill of rights gets it right. Cruel and unusual. Waterboarding is cruel, and is therefore forbidden. It is unusual, as you would not use it routinely on all prisoners. It is therefore forbidden. Why do you need a more lenient test?

    2. Okay fine but what is this thing you call torture? You say that I can commit an act or a combination of acts which, in context, is torture. Fine, how does one know when something is torture and when something is merely a peculiar hobby?

      1. Now you claim that waterboarding is intrinsically ‘torturous’. Thus one must conclude that Hitchens was tortured which earlier you denied under the guise of context.

        Also, note well, I am not trying to create legalistic wiggle for the state to engage in this sort of thing. I’d prefer to wall it off entirely but your logic allows for all sorts of mischief.

        I don’t want a more lenient test. I want an objective one. If we wish to proscribe torture then we must be able to clearly define it. Laws work poorly when they contain subjective elements, just ask John Stagliano.

        You cite the eighth amendment and its ban on cruel and unusual punishment which is fine but KSM was not waterboarded as a punishment he was waterboarded to obtain information that the state wanted. And for that matter what is ‘cruel’ and what is ‘unusual’? May punishments be cruel and usual? May punishments be uncruel but unusual? Do we ask 100 random people? Five supreme court justices? Should Gallup take a poll?

        1. Basil Seal|5.13.11 @ 10:08AM|#

          Now you claim that waterboarding is intrinsically ‘torturous’.

          Yes, that would be a good adjective to describe it.

          Thus one must conclude that Hitchens was tortured which earlier you denied under the guise of context.

          Wrong. Word-level semantics don’t work like that. Like torture, the meaning of a word is dependent upon its context. So, for example, just because I say this conversation is torturous, it does not follow that have a conversation with you fits the definition of torture. The trouble you are having seems centered on this misunderstanding of what words mean. There is no “objective” standard of torture that does not include the contextual information you want to remove.

          Also, note well, I am not trying to create legalistic wiggle for the state to engage in this sort of thing.

          Yes you are. You are trying to find justifications for calling a specific kind of torture “not quite torture.” All categories have better and worse examplars. Waterboarding may not be as central to the category as “the rack” but it is still within the category.

          I’d prefer to wall it off entirely but your logic allows for all sorts of mischief.

          No it doesn’t. It says that the context of “interrogating a prisoner” makes it EASIER to consider a cruel act torture. It sets the bar lower by considering the context (primarily the impossibility of trust and consent on the part of the prisoner).

          I don’t want a more lenient test. I want an objective one.

          See above.

          If we wish to proscribe torture then we must be able to clearly define it. Laws work poorly when they contain subjective elements, just ask John Stagliano.

          All laws, forever and always contain subjective elements. Enforcement of all rules forever and always must take the context into consideration. That said, the way the torture policy is and should be written, the slant of that fact reduces the number of circumstances under which an official can justify hurting a prisoner, rather than expands it. Not all things are symmetrical.

          You cite the eighth amendment and its ban on cruel and unusual punishment which is fine but KSM was not waterboarded as a punishment he was waterboarded to obtain information that the state wanted.

          Really? You are the king of the red herring. Everything that is done to a prisoner is part and parcel to their punishment.

          And for that matter what is ‘cruel’ and what is ‘unusual’? May punishments be cruel and usual?

          Yes.

          May punishments be uncruel but unusual?

          Yes.

          Do we ask 100 random people? Five supreme court justices? Should Gallup take a poll?

          No. Typically it is a jury of peers or a duly appointed judge. Did you fail civics?

      2. Okay fine but what is this thing you call torture? You say that I can commit an act or a combination of acts which, in context, is torture. Fine, how does one know when something is torture and when something is merely a peculiar hobby?

        By examining the act in context.

        1. “”By examining the act in context.'”

          Why bother. Context only applies when he answers the question.

  29. I really find it hard to believe that Basil Seal cant see the obviousness of this. I realize that fairminded people can disagree on a thousand things, but either Im suffering a monumental failure of imagination, or he(she) is.

    1. If waterboarding is a self-evident wrong then somebody ought to be able to succintly state as much without getting into nebulous qualifiers. Senator McCain made a simple statement that waterboarding is wrong because it is torture. That’s a fine principle but if you read back up the thread you see it grows less clear that that’s entirely true. What we’ve worked around to is that waterboarding is torture in some contexts but not others. I’m fine with that as a statement of principle but then I have a lot less sympathy for the idea that something untoward was done to KSM. After all if it’s a matter of context then certainly we need to consider things like the value of the information that might be gained, what rights to personal autonomy might still be retained by the prisoner, etc.

      It’s not surprising to me that folks of a libertarian bent might place a heavy emphasis on things like state infringement upon personal autonomy. But it also seems that emphasis most properly pertains to members of society who retain their full rights. Clearly a prisoner of the state does not retain full rights but some limited subset of them. In other words, at that point it is no longer about whether this act or that act is torture per se but rather it becomes a procedural question. If the state has been diligent in ascertaining the facts which form the basis for incarceration and the denial of other rights then it is entirely plausible the state can determine that either consent is not required or that consent under the law is implied.

      Is that the road you wish to go down?

  30. “”If waterboarding is a self-evident wrong then somebody ought to be able to succintly state as much without getting into nebulous qualifiers. “”

    Yet you can’t do the same when talking about rats.

    1. TrickyVic|5.13.11 @ 11:38AM|#

      “”If waterboarding is a self-evident wrong then somebody ought to be able to succintly state as much without getting into nebulous qualifiers. “”

      Yet you can’t do the same when talking about rats.

      That is because he can only hold so many words in his head at once. He can’t follow a sentence as complex as “Waterboarding a prisoner during interrogation is torture.”

  31. I think you’re a bit hung up on the instrument rather than the act. You could select almost anything and make it into an implement of torture for someone. Torture is about inflicting severe pain in order to coerce, or punish, or for sadistic pleasure. It’s not important what you use to achieve those ends. Choose sponges if you like.

    It has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of torture. I’m curious why you don’t think that a contextual understanding of torture provides an opportunity for the state to claim, as it has, special powers. To wit, the prisoner has information vital to the safety of security of the public therefore the rules that would normally proscribe waterboarding do not apply.

    1. Also why is our desire to proscribe the waterboarding of a state prisoner complicated by the use of waterboarding in military training and journalistic inquiry?

  32. Basil Seal|5.13.11 @ 12:14PM|#

    I think you’re a bit hung up on the instrument rather than the act.

    You are the one that seems to be hung up on this level, if anyone is.

    You could select almost anything and make it into an implement of torture for someone. Torture is about inflicting severe pain in order to coerce, or punish, or for sadistic pleasure.

    Waterboarding: severe pain, check; on KSM or any other prisoner being interrogated, used to coerce, check.

    You have just solved your own problem. You have a clear guideline to use to ban waterboarding. WTF????!!!!!!

    It’s not important what you use to achieve those ends. Choose sponges if you like.

    Or a pitcher of water and a towel. WTF???!!!!

    It has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of torture. I’m curious why you don’t think that a contextual understanding of torture provides an opportunity for the state to claim, as it has, special powers.

    See above. A contextual understanding, properly applied, restricts the justifications for the act. The current treaty on torture provides a contextual bulwark against torture, not for it.

    To wit, the prisoner has information vital to the safety of security of the public therefore the rules that would normally proscribe waterboarding do not apply.

    False. Taking the context into account, in full, we discover that waterboarding is only allowed if the person consents, therefore the ticking time-bomb scenario doesn’t matter.

    Also why is our desire to proscribe the waterboarding of a state prisoner complicated by the use of waterboarding in military training and journalistic inquiry?

    It isn’t.

  33. If the state has been diligent in ascertaining the facts which form the basis for incarceration and the denial of other rights then it is entirely plausible the state can determine that either consent is not required or that consent under the law is implied.

    I would argue that this is a greater danger if we take the tact you wish, which is to “objectively” define certain acts as torture, rather than forcing the state to consider the context. If we have an “objective” and context free list of acts that are torture, then the state can justify other acts as “not torture” because they are not on the list. The creative use of sponges to torture becomes allowable because the people making the list didn’t imagine their use as devices of torture. If, instead, as the current international definition of torture does, torture is defined based on the context, including the fact that prisoners are wards of the state, then the ways to justify a specific act of torture is more difficult as the role of ward requires the state to safeguard the prisoners well-being.

    1. This is all covered by the principle of “no cruel and unusual punishment.”

    2. “state’s role as guardian”
      or
      “prisoner’s status as ward”

      Take your pick.

  34. Above, I wasnt arguing wether torture is morally right or wrong (it isnt), I was arguing: Is waterboarding torture or no. Waterboarding is used to causes pain and psychic horror in order to coerce information out of someone: THAT IS ALWAYS TORTURE. Now,I hate complicating things needlessly, so tell me if you Im right. What it seems you are arguing is that waterboarding, being a “softer” less awful type of torture, it should be allowed depending on the circumstances. Am I right? Because even if I find the idea disgusting, at least that seems an honest argument.

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