Torture

Trump Says He's Not Sure Torture Works but Might Use It Anyway

The president-elect reserves the right to torture terrorism suspects for revenge.

|

C-SPAN

In an interview with The New York Times yesterday, Donald Trump retreated a bit from his campaign promise to torture terrorism suspects, attributing his second thoughts to a conversation with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, former head of the U.S. Central Command:

I said, "What do you think of waterboarding?" He said—I was surprised—he said, "I've never found it to be useful." He said, "I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture." And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he's known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I'm not saying it changed my [mind]. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages, and we're not allowed to waterboard. But I'll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer….It's not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it's so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But Gen. Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say.

Although Foreign Policy reporter Paul McLeary calls that "a stunning about-face," it is not exactly a promise not to torture people, especially given the comments Trump made while running for president. "I would bring back waterboarding," he said during a debate in February, "and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding." At another debate the following month, Trump said he expected military officers to carry out torture on his orders, even if it would be illegal: "They're not going to refuse me. Believe me." Trump defended torture not just as a way to extract information but as a way to exact revenge, as he explained at a rally in Columbus last November:

Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would. In a heartbeat. I would approve more than that. It works….And if it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.

Given that rationale, Gen. Mattis's opinion about the effectiveness of torture is not necessarily decisive for Trump, which may explain why he told the Times, "I'm not saying it changed my mind." If "it's important to the American people," he said, "I would go for it."

A 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Americans thought the "use of torture by our government could be justified against people suspected of terrorism to try to gain information about possible attacks in our country." A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted last March found that 63 percent of Americans though torture "against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism" is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Neither survey asked about revenge torture.

When a prisoner is tortured for information, he may not actually be a terrorist, may not actually have the information, or may not be willing to surrender it even under torture. When a prisoner is tortured for revenge, there is a similar problem: He may have nothing to do with the injury for which revenge is sought. That may not matter to Trump, who also has said he would kill the relatives of terrorists to defeat ISIS, although it is not clear whether the main goal of such operations would be retribution or deterrence.

Retributive torture would be not just illegal but unconstitutional, violating the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishments." Trump claims to have read the Constitution, but maybe he did not get that far.

Advertisement

NEXT: New Overtime Pay Rules Blocked, Nikki Haley Tapped for U.N. Ambassador, Americans Already Nostalgic for Obama: A.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I would support torture if I were allowed to use it on my ex-wife and her lawyer.

    1. Good thing you’re not bound by the 8th Amendment!

      1. Torture works just fine as long as we are the only ones doing it.

        If someone else does it, they are terrorists.

        Got it?

      2. Good thing you’re not bound by the 8th Amendment!

        Actually, he arguably is. Unlike the First Amendment, the Eighth does not begin “Congress shall make no law respecting…:” It simply decrees “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” With that wording there is no reason it does not also apply to ordinary citizens using torture as well as governments.

  2. Trump claims to have read the Constitution, but maybe he did not get that far.

    Maybe he’s just conversant in statist-speak.

    “Compelling government interest!”
    “Living Constitution!”
    “Reasonable restrictions of rights!”

    1. Only progressives have the super secret decoder ring to read the constitution for those things.

      1. You also have to use the term: “wrong side of history”

  3. Donald Trump retreated a bit from his campaign promise

    Story of the post-election.

  4. “Although Foreign Policy reporter Paul McLeary calls that ‘a stunning about-face,’….”

    first rule of lewinsky press: narrative first, facts maybe

  5. Is there a guiding principle for America’s wars in the Middle East that isn’t predicated on revenge?

    1. Yes no president will ever again allow them the to have the power and independence to be able to fuck up his re-election like they did to Carter.

    2. IT’S ALL THOSE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND HUGE AKTONS.

    3. Righteous indignation?

    4. I heard it was oil.

    5. Is there a guiding principle for America’s wars *anywhere* that is not predicated on revenge?

      Is there a guiding principle *in the Middle East* that is not predicated on revenge?

      1. I have always found it to be the purest of motivations.

  6. I’d like to see Congress pass a law saying that it’s an impeachable offense for any federal official (including the Pres) to condone torture under any pretext.

    But at least Trump is talking about it honestly. He’s not insulting our intelligence with excuses like

    -It’s not torture if the President orders it

    -It’s not torture because they deserve it

    -It’s not torture because it’s not as bad as [worse form of torture]

    -It’s not torture because it’s not as bad as the ordeals which Army personnel voluntarily undergo in their training.

    If Trump wants torture, he should ask Congress to amend the statutes which forbid the practice. Those Congress members who want to be tough guys and advertise their support of torture should go on record and specifically vote for it.

    1. If federal officials were suddenly impeached for every unconstitutional thing they’re been supporting, we’d probably have less than 10 people left in the federal government after it was over.

      1. Go on….

        1. I ALREADY CAME. IN MY PANTS.

  7. Anyone who thinks Trump has softened on his promises of ‘bomb the hell out of them’, ‘torture and much, much worse’, and ‘kill their families’ is completely delusional. But hey, let’s go back to parsing his possible conflicts of interest. And whew – a collective sigh that he seems to think the Clintons have suffered enough.

    1. You clearly have not listened much to Trump or read his positions on foreign policy. He’s, on paper, very dovish compared to Hillary. And if he does follow through on that, you lefties are going to go full on war monger. I’ll just leave this right here.

      1. If trump can cool down the war posturing and actually be dovish, that could be a huge boon for markets already teetering on the edge. The world economy is likely to collapse anyway but if he starts listening to those psycho-neocons he has already surrounded himself with, there will certainly be a total collapse of the global economy.

    2. WaPo said Trump’s conflicts of interest are the most dangerous thing about his presidency. There are so many dangerous things about Trump’s presidency that I’ve lost track. I think some of them are actually legit. But if conflicts of interest are the *most* dangerous then we’ll be OK. We’ve survived that before, even if it was covered up better.

  8. And let me pose this question: If a given technique of…ah, “enhanced interrogation” is OK with terrorism suspects in war, why not with serial-killer suspects on the home front?

    1. Why not with kids who are caught stealing?

      1. Why not as a addendum to stop-and-frisk?

  9. The cause of ‘terrorism’ is not Islam – the causes are: (1) radicalization by the FBI, (2) being forced into an arranged marriage at a young age and having a kid and (3) being a patsy for the private security industry. Torturing people will not help in any of these cases.

    Trumpkinism is an ideology more dangerous than can be dreampt of in the radical islamic theosophies.

    1. To be fair, a lot of the islams are nuts though.

      To go on a shooting spree because someone makes fun of your mascot is some crazy sh*t.

    2. being forced into an arranged marriage at a young age and having a kid

      Makes sense, considering the huge number of terrorists being churned out of India.

      I mean 1 and 3 are idiotic since Islamic “terrorism” predated both the FBI and the private security industry. History much?

      The massive aluminum build up in your brain from your tin foil hat has obviously brought on severe dementia.

  10. Trump is just trying to lay low so we don’t panic before the inauguration. Then he will pivot so fast your head will spin. He is a genius at instigation and incitement – the strategy is to get people to protest his policies and rhetoric and then crack down hard – creating an escalating cycle of violence. Though he seems to be moderating for now, in fact he is a master baiter.

    1. Good thing unhinged internet persons such as yourself have seen right through him, then.

      1. Shreik’s snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

      2. I think that shreek thinks he’s still logged in as AddictionMyth. Otherwise he’d already be screeching about Booooshhhhh!

        1. No, AM let it slip this morning that he’s Alice Bowie. Which makes sense in retrospect.

          1. Wait, I thought *you* were Alice Bowie? And Tulpa.

            This is all so confusing.

          2. What a coincidence! I have both handles blocked because I judged them to be insincere morons whose opinions were garbage!!

            1. The blocking is what drives them to take new handles. I would imagine whoever is behind the Alice Bowie handle tried a couple of other handles before the AddictionMyth and dajjal handles got traction during the election.

              I too blocked all three of them a long time ago. I don’t see the point of giving attention to people just here to insult us, we do that to each other just fine on our own.

          3. It’s odd that he sounds exactly like shreek and nothing like AB. He also got his logins mixed up the first day he posted as AM, revealing the fact that AM and shreek are the same poster.

            1. You’re full of shit, Red Tony. Get back to me if AM starts using some of my pet compound words then I will sue him/her for plagiarism.

            2. He has switched to the dajjal handle in the threads posted since this one.

              1. I saw that.

            3. He also got his logins mixed up the first day he posted as AM, revealing the fact that AM and shreek are the same poster.

              I find that hard to credit. Shriek is not sentient. AM actually interacted with people (at least when I still was wasting my time by reading his comments). IF AM and Shriek sound similar, it’s likely because shriek is copying AM’s comments in its antlike attempt to farm comment responses.

              If you guys were to stop interacting with AM, gradually shriek’s neural net would forget about AM’s comments and it would start aping other people in an attempt to harvest responses.

  11. Sheeky is freaking out, he’s freaking out.

    1. Yeah, there’s a general Prog derangement going on. I have no liking whatsoever for Trump, but I must admit that the wails of pain are entertaining.

      1. He’s actually defending the Clinton Foundation in the last thread. He’s losing it.

        1. He’s losing it.

          One can never lose that which one never had, Grasshopper.

        2. The Clinton Foundation actually functions as a charity and not a Con Man’s cookie jar like the Trump Foundation does.

          I know that is hard for your little Sean Hannity mind to understand but it is true.

          1. Yup, definitely an idiot.

            1. Is it really true that shreek used to write for Reason? He’s barely literate and only bleets out leftist talking points like a true useful idiot. It’s hard to imagine him writing anything … oh wait … he is the typical lefty writer. Did they replace him with Dalmia?

              1. When they fired me I vowed to return to sow everlasting war and strife on the message boards.

                1. And you failed at that, just like everything else.

              2. Mike M. is convinced that shreek is former Reason writer David Weigel, but then again, Mike M. is medically retarded. Really, shreek has been hanging around on Hit’n’Run like a bad smell for longer than i have, which is going on a decade.

                1. Really, shreek has been hanging around on Hit’n’Run like a bad smell for longer than i have, which is going on a decade.

                  Why leave when there’s still good eatin’ to be had?

                  1. You sound like me at a strip club buffet at 2 in the afternoon.

          2. Good God, that is some high-quality derp. Unfortunately, i’ve consumed so much rich tasty derp lately that i’ve developed derpabetes. No more, please.

          3. Buttplug really is a robot. A robot with stained sweatpants on toggling back and forth between fatso porn and political websites. He probably works for the TSA.

            1. He probably works for the TSA.

              Well, we have John representing the sharp pencils at DHS, so anything’s possible.

          4. How are those donations coming along for this great “charity” now that the Iron Vagina can’t peddle influence or appear to be approaching power?

    2. You know who else used to freak out?

  12. He said?I was surprised?he said, “I’ve never found it to be useful.” He said, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.”

    I had no idea General James Mattis was a total pussy. It’s time to put John Yoo back in charge.

    1. Also, I thought the mooslims didn’t drink alcohol. So is it near beer, or are both the beta for the general?

      1. No, they say they don’t drink alcohol and they punish some poor plebe caught doing it in public to prove that they don’t drink alcohol. Bunch of fucking hypocrites is what they are, like all prohibitionists.

      2. No he forces the beer down their throat so they go to hell.

        Also he uses the cigarettes to burn them.

        He has a very strict definition of torture.

  13. Make prisoners read ‘Everyday Feminism’ or better yet…Chapman.

    Or send Kennedy to interview them. Her interruptions would be enough to get them talking.

    1. “Hey, we’re not monsters!”

    2. They’ll be begging for waterboarding.

  14. I thought just calling those fuckers “radical Islamists” would shame them into surrender?

    That is what dumbass conservatives say anyway.

    1. God you’re an idiot

      1. JUST CALL THEM RADICAL ISLAMISTS! THAT’LL SHOW EM!

        is the height of idiocy for you TEAM RED! shit-brains.

        1. Libertarians are not team team red, idiot.

          1. Then quit defending conservatives.

            While Trump’s ideology is in question there is no doubt that he is appointing the same type of conservatives that think like Dubya’s idiot brigade.

            Flynn and Sessions are two good examples.

            1. We all know bush was a disaster. Can you admit that obama was a total disaster? No

              Can you admit that Clinton is a criminal? No.

              Why? Because you are a brainwashed imbecile. You don’t need to admit anything. You advertise that so well.

    2. Conservatives put up some genuinely retarred arguments. What does it say about you that you still need to construct strawman out of them to form a rebuttal?

    1. Hey retard! Nobody wants to retarded dance with you!

      1. You will all dance with me. Now dance!

    2. Oh good, you’ve moved on to the mindless repetition portion of today’s trolling event. Pretty soon you’ll wander off and molest cats or yell at flowers or whatever it is you do after they kick you out of the computer lab at the home.

  15. “It is not exactly a promise not to torture people, especially given the comments Trump made while running for president. “I would bring back waterboarding,” . . . “and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” . . . Trump defended torture not just as a way to extract information but as a way to exact revenge”

    If Trump orders anyone tortured, I’ll be the first person to call for his impeachment.

    That being said, I think it’s fair to say that Trump was full of bravado–across the board on every issue–during his campaign.

    He’s now walking all those statements back.

    What Trump says isn’t as important as what he does, and what he said during the election was only important because it got him elected. If you want to match up what he said he’d do against what he actually did when it comes time to decide whether he should be reelected, then targeting what he said during his first campaign will be important.

    But no libertarian should fault him for backtracking on torture. If he says he’s rethinking torture, then that’s a good thing. If he doesn’t follow through on the torture threats, then that’s fine. At some point, though, we need to come to terms with the fact that much of what Trump said during his campaign was simply bravado.

    If he actually orders someone tortured, I say we impeach him and hand him over to the World Court.

    In the meantime, we have ample evidence already that Trump’s campaign bravado shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

    1. The other night my son handed me a birthday gift, we all had a good laugh when I opened it finding “The Art of the Deal”. But knowing he is a wheeler dealer, it has always struck me that his campaign rhetoric is the opening of a negotiation to get the deal he really wants.

      1. Yeah, if you have to say certain things to get elected, then they probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

        Good politicians aren’t nice people and shouldn’t be trusted. That’s why their limits should be closely circumscribed.

        It’s a good thing if Trump doesn’t keep his word!

        I don’t want to be around people like that. I’m not about to invited him over to watch football, but I don’t expect Trump to do much actual torturin’.

  16. And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy.

    *sigh*

  17. You know what often works as well as torture? The threat of torture. The US would be smart to not totally disavow torture even if it in reality would never do it. We may know that we wouldn’t really do it, but our enemies don’t. And when we capture one, the more afraid of us they are, they more likely they are to fold and tell us what they know.

    1. And how would that make it anymore Constitutional?

    2. You know what often works as well as torture?

      But torture doesn’t work that well, right?

    1. Yes, and roll back net neutrality. If we can combine that with a breakup of remaining local government sponsored monopolies and get some real competition, it would be great.

  18. Would it fit the legal definition of torture if we put them in a small room and made them listen to that Carrie Underwood Sunday Night Football song over and over again?

    1. Depends…with or without video?

      1. Without, of course.

        1. VIOLATION OF ALL CIVILIZED NORMS

    2. Make them listen to Obama’s speeches. They’ll be begging for mercy.

    3. Could be worse – could be Cee-Lo’s Sunday night football song from a few years back.

      1. They should have used “Fuck You.”

  19. Look, I’m not gonna bullshit you. I don’t give a good fuck what you know or don’t know – I’m gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not for information, but because it amuses me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want because I’ve heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death…..which, you ain’t gonna get.

  20. What will Trump’s answer to a given question be on any given day? Who knows.

    I stand by my classification of the President-Elect as a loose cannon.

    1. Do you also demand his badge and gun on your desk, pronto?

      1. Given the alternative, no. But that doesn’t mean that he is isn’t a loose cannon (and a bully and a buffoon too).

  21. they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.

    Hmm, what exactly do they do to *us*?

  22. Torture works great if your goal is to torture people.

    Just ask Mr Blonde

  23. Torture is ineffective, but it, or more importantly the declared will to use it, is symbolic. “Wow, you’re willing to hurt people (or otherwise torture them) for this? You must really be serious about this.” The only thing more bad-ass would be the will to hurt yourself, like say to cut off your own ear to show how much you mean it.

    1. I don’t know dude – teenage chicks hurt themselves all the time. Its not as badass as you might think.

      1. It gets enough att’n that you’ve noticed it as a phenomenon, doesn’t it? Then it worked.

        1. Sure, if attention, of any type, is all you were looking for. Still doesn’t look badass nor help you achieve any of your other goals.

  24. Remember, Andy Breckman was waterboarded by Romanians to raise $ for WFMU.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.