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Because, as we all know, the world wants any excuse to like us...

Rob from Say Anything brings up Senator John McCain's constant push to ban torture by the US government. It's a fine, noble sentiment, and certainly understandable from a man who spent literally years being tortured by the Vietnamese government, but is it really such a good idea?

I think not.

For one, McCain says he wants to do it because he believes it would improve America's image abroad. I think that is a laudable aspiration, but utterly futile.

In the past, we've put a lot of work into being "liked" around the world. It was the keystone of the Carter Administration's foreign policy. It was behind Clinton's intervention in the Balkans. And it has one single, overwhelming quality: it's ultimately disastrous in the long run.

Being "liked" is a worthless goal in foreign relations. As Winston Churchill said, nations don't have permanent friends or permanent enemies -- only permanent interests. We would be far better served to find those common interests and build our relationships in a sense of enlightened self-interest, rather than bonhommie and camaraderie and the "aren't we all just fine, upstanding fellows" sentiments.

Further, "niceness" is seen as a sign of weakness in many cultures. Being accomodating, obliging, considerate, and conciliatory sends the signal to some people that we are willing to yield on many issues, that a show of strength will convince us to back down rather than stand up for our beliefs. Yes, it's a rather primitive mentality, but many of our enemies embrace that -- witness Bin Laden's horse analogy.

Also, let's look at the most famous case of "torture" by the United States -- the Abu Ghraib situation. It was an aberration, a violation of several of our existing laws and rules and policies, and those responsible were tried, convicted, and punished. And let's not forget how the story first broke -- in a press release put out by the military. The Army itself aired its own dirty laundry, giving all those "investigative journalists" a huge leg up on the "scandal."

Cutting through all the "nuance," the subtleties, the fine shades of meaning, I've always thought that the United States would be well served by adopting the philosophy of the US Marine Corps when dealing with other nations:

No greater friend, no worse enemy.

It's up to you, other nations. Which would you prefer?


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Comments (30)

In the past, we've put a... (Below threshold)

In the past, we've put a lot of work into being "liked" around the world. It was the keystone of the Carter Administration's foreign policy.

Actually, it wasn't. The keystone of the dreadful Carter administration foreign policy was "human rights", which in his case meant monumental blunders such as abandoning Iran to Islamicist thugs, kissing up to third-world dictactors such as Fidel Castro and letting the communists take over Nicaraugua. We're still paying, even now, for Carter's 'human rights' foreign policy.

We should not torture becau... (Below threshold)
RightWingLiberal:

We should not torture because torture is wrong.
There are great wrongs even in a time of war. Like targeting civilians, using WMD (arguably), raping, mutilating and torturing, etc.
Torture is what dictators of third world countries allow. Torture is what terrorist do. Torture is for sick individuals who have no perception of morals or humanity.
Torture is not for the United States.

I have lost all possible respect for this administration. Not that I was ever a card carrying Republican before. I simply can not respect anyone who fights for their right to torture another human being. It's the most discussing cruel thing a human can do to another human.

Why don't you do a quick google image search for torture. Is that what you want associated with the greatest country in the world?

JT, you overlook the point ... (Below threshold)
Boyd:

JT, you overlook the point that many folks who understand interrogation techniques say that torture doesn't work. That's an overly broad blanket statement, but aside from short term, gotta-have-it-now information (which still may be unreliable), the long term, incessant infliction of torture seems to usually get the prisoner to say what the interrogators want to hear, rather than the truth.

I'm no expert, so I can't say whether the above statements are factual or not, but it is a believable argument.

Torture techniques as used ... (Below threshold)
Drew Edmondson:

Torture techniques as used on our troops in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and remember the Gulf War, especially the psychological type were used to break the spirit of the prisioner. It is clear by the numbers released from Gitmo, In Iraq and Afghanistan many who "are detained" were imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or fingered for money or revenge.
Why would any citizen of a tryannical govternment that uses torture want to be like us. They already live in an environment that approves it. As McCain, who does have an insight beyond yours says "it's not about them, it's about us." To even be having this debate in the Unitied States should scare any true American.

One of Rome's dictators use... (Below threshold)
Robert:

One of Rome's dictators used that very epitotath. No Greater Friend, no worse enemy. That was used by Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, Dictator of Rome 82-79 bce. That epitath was just as relevant then as it is now.

Drew: I don't care... (Below threshold)

Drew:

I don't care if *true* Americans are scared by this conversation, as long it scares the Islamofascists.

Jay Tea:

At the risk of displaying my ignorance (go ahead Drew, have fun), what horse analogy are you referring to?

I still like Sallie Field.<... (Below threshold)
Elmo:

I still like Sallie Field.

I certainly understand the Senator, and it would be very nice if we could stand on a clear singular, solitary principle.

But martyrdom to the endless moonbattery, taqiya, hudna, and MSM's large inability to even agree on what constitutes terror. Is blind foolishness mixed with kool-aid.

These freakin bozos still can't fathom the crimes against humanity, being committed daily by militant radical Islam. To the murderers, the Geneva convention is convenient only as tp.

I'm beyond sick of the moral equivalency employed 24/7. Equating our attempts to end the reign. With the bugs who come crawling in the night.

The only thing which will see us through to the future, is our understanding of right and wrong. And our belief in ourselves. Principals over words and politics.

FTW.

Boyde your reference to the... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Boyde your reference to the myth that “many folks who understand interrogation techniques say that torture doesn't work” is simply untrue as it relates to wither it works or not. Its one of those saying that is repeated so often that many believe that it is true even some interrogators. It’s highly unlikely assuming that they are from US that they have experience in torture interrogation. Although some would claim their coercive techniques are torture, which is a redefining of what torture is.

Historically torture techniques have been unreliable when it isn’t done properly. However if it is done right, it can be reliable. Also, under certain situation the interrogator has nothing to lose even if he is given false information.

Torture techniques, in my opinion should not be a general policy and can be counterproductive if it is.

Defining torture is the pro... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Defining torture is the problem here. What I think of as torture most likely differs from everyone's elses on this comment thread. It's kind of like defining obscenity, you know, I'll know it when I see it.

But that's just it, who sets the definition and is that definition clear and concise in the bill presented by McCain? I haven't read the actual bill, just descriptions from news services, but I imagine the definition is rather vague.

A vague definition could outlaw sleep deprivation, hot/cold rooms, loud music, and etc. That to me is not torture and can be valuable in an interrogation. We already have laws against the purely physical abuse seen at Abu Ghraib. That is why those responsible were tried, convicted, and punished. That's how our country works. So why do we need this bill other than to appease countries that are going to hate us no matter what?

The question shouldn't be w... (Below threshold)
RightWingLiberal:

The question shouldn't be why do we need to ban torture, it should be why does this administration want to obtain the power to torture. That's what were discussing here.

Personally, I think Israel has the right idea. It has very specific techniques that are "not pleasant" but not considered torture.
It is all spelled out what is and is not allowed.
And if anyone knows what works and doesn't work for suspected terrorists it would be them.

Of course.... the kicker! Since anyone who is a suspected terrorist and is being held in U.S custody has no right to challenge their status as a terrorist (just recently passed bill) all this seems moot.

Why even argue or try? We are all fucked.

The radical Islamic terrori... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

The radical Islamic terrorists already view us as weak in our techniques dealing with them. They expect to be tortured - to them it's part of their male identity. No, I'm not making this up - go read what Brigitte Gabriel has to say about it. She lived a nightmare for quite a few years in Southeast Asia.

I do not advocate driving bamboo shoots under fingernails, but going to opposite extremes makes no sense either. Al Qaeda refers to Gitmo as a rest site for the warriors of Allah. Isn't that nice? I admire John McCain’s service and certainly respect his history, but it is because of that history that he should stay out of the torture foray. He carries emotions that establish a prejudice. That is one of the reasons I would not vote for John McCain in the GOP primary.

If I were commandant of Gitmo, there would be no Qur'ans, no prayer rugs, no gourmet religiously correct meals, the prisoners would be contained indoors with no reference to outside, the lights would be on 24/7, there would be no time pieces allowed in the prisoner area, and they would be in bright orange jump suits. To give them access to the very book from which they draw their radical beliefs is ludicrous. If they wanted reading material, they would be given an Arabic translation of the Holy Bible, period. And now you know why I’m not the commandant of Gitmo

Ask <a href="http://www.was... (Below threshold)
DUDACKATTACK!!!:

Ask this guy

Old Soldier is exactly the ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Old Soldier is exactly the type of person who should be running Gitmo. Instead, we get (or some of us want) the Oprah and Dr. Phil approach. And that simply doesn't work when it comes to coersion.

As to "why why does this administration want to obtain the power to torture", well, simply put and done correctly, it works. I think there's this perception that "torture" automatically equals or entails some kind of physical torture. And sure, it often does, but not always or in the classic sense of someone going Mob-goombah on you either. More often that not it's psychological torture with a touch of physical unpleasantness thrown in for good measure. Is having the lights on 24/7 torture? How about playing loud rock music? Being made to stand naked in front of a woman? Not really physical torture per se, but more psychological.

Why do we automatically assume torture is always physical? And why is torture bad if it helps obtain information from a less than cooperative subject? How else are we to get it? Via cookies and milk?

And re: dudaattcck (or whatever his name is) link to the WaPo: Now why on earth would the US send a potential terrorist to Syria (a sworn enemy of the US) via Jordan? The story is certainly fishy, but that's a pretty big oversight...

According to Duda's article... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

According to Duda's article:

"Syria, where use of torture during imprisonment has been documented by the State Department, maintains a secret but growing intelligence relationship with the CIA, according to intelligence experts."

Oh really? Hmmm...no wonder the CIA and the Administration aren't getting along like sugar and spice. Somebody's stabbing the other in the back...

I love for someone to offer some insight into this relationship, if it indeed does exist.

Listening to loud music?<br... (Below threshold)
RightWingLiberal:

Listening to loud music?
standing naked?

You can't be serious. This is your pathetic argument for treating humans less than human?
You need to look up the definition of torture.
We are not talking about frat pranks, as much as Rush would like you to believe.
What's next, the argument for why we should use suicide bombers?

This country is turning to shit so fast.

RWL:Yes, that is m... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

RWL:

Yes, that is my pathetic argument for obtaining information from less-than cooperative detainees who potentially have vital information regarding AQ's (or any enemy's) activities.

So I'll ask it again: How do you think we can extract information from detainees like, say, Khalid Sheik Mohammad? Deprive him of his Koran? Maybe dessert? Is that torture? And do you honestly think that'll get him to talk? It seems even Psych Ops are too much torture for you, so....

Thrill us with how you'd go about obtaining information from such a person.

RWL,I'm curious, h... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

RWL,

I'm curious, how you would classify sawing a man's head of with a knife while he screams? Is that humane treatment? Go read some of Bridigette Gabriel's material and then bestow quest status on these rabid radical Islamic terrorits.

I DO NOT advocate torture, but I DO advocate making these subhumans realize they will pay the supreme price for attacking our citizenry and that we won't rest unitl each and every one of them is standing before the Judgement Throne. This is not a game of chess we are involved in. Wake up and smell the stench of these theologically motivated assassins.

John McCain was a prison of... (Below threshold)
-S-:

John McCain was a prison of war. Now he isn't.

When did that experience endow him with all these special powers?

He has not made any constructive sense for a while now and although he's a kindly person (in interviews), he's far from the smartest guy in the crowd and I think everyone should stop listening to him as if he's making any sense. Because he generally does not...just look at McCain/Kennedy for the insanity that socialists-run-amok can cook up. I knew Schwarzenegger was doomed when McCain showed up in CA to "help."

Sorry: "prisoner-of-war...... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Sorry: "prisoner-of-war..." (^^)

"I'm curious, how you would... (Below threshold)
RightWingLiberal:

"I'm curious, how you would classify sawing a man's head of with a knife while he screams? Is that humane treatment?" - Old Sailor

I would classify that as terrorism. Abusing people in an inhumane fashion to further an agenda.
I think that's a fair classification.

Wouldn't you classify torturing a human the same way?

Some day Cheney and his "ilk" will have to face his maker. How do you think he will justify to God the fighting for the right to torture a human being?
Do you think his argument could be used to justify ANY action?

That's what I ask myself.

So, Jay, what is your argum... (Below threshold)
cat:

So, Jay, what is your argument here? Amerika, Amerika Uber Alles? It' not about "being liked". It's about standing for something, being something that is not vile and objectionable. Once you throw that out of the window, you lose everything except brute force.

And if you really think that the people who were responsible for Abu Graib were punished, you can't have been paying any attention. A few foot soldiers were scapegoated. They deserved some punishment, but they weren't the people who designed those methods, approved them and then ordered them to be carried out. There's a whole long chain of command that hasn't been held to account for that.

Wrong, "cat," because the G... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Wrong, "cat," because the General who was responsible for oversite was demoted, reassigned...

No, cat, YOU haven't been p... (Below threshold)

No, cat, YOU haven't been paying attention. The people who "designed those techniques" were, most likely, a bunch of drunken fratboys trying to think of new ways to haze pledges. Check out this documented timeline assembled by Greyhawk and his fine fellow milbloggers over at the Mudville Gazette here, with an updated one here. Then go take the Abu Ghraib Quiz here -- written by someone sitting within "a stone's throw" of the prison.

Also please note that those "scapegoated foot soldiers" all pleaded guilty AND the general in charge of Abu Ghraib was punished -- and THAT general is the one whining about being "scapegoated."

Just to drive one point home: the above timeline and quiz are both DOCUMENTED -- a quality your baseless libels lack.

J.

RWL:I still haven'... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

RWL:

I still haven't heard a better alternative to obtaining information other than some vague reference and no examples on how the Israelis use "not so pleasant" techniques. Please provide further evidence.

Some people just don't gras... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

Some people just don't grasp the concept that being nice to terrorists doesn't obligate a reciprocal act. Being humane and kowtowing to their religiosity gets absolutely nowhere.

If you were being bullied by someone who beat you up for no reason and just wouldn't accept your personal pleas to stop; wouldn't you finally get mad enough to punch his lights out to make him stop? In other words, fight fire with fire?

Treat these bas^&*ds the same way they treat their captives (our citizens). Rain the fires of Hell upon they heads. Give them a reason to back off and respect us. Niceties DON"T work, so give up that arguement. Use their religiosity agsinst them, just like they use or morals against us. Wake up and smell the stench of war! It's your a$$ we're trying to save.

Old Soldier..Apparently som... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Old Soldier..Apparently some Israelis, not exactly known for being soft on these matters, have a different approach to torture than yours . From Operatives say CIA exemption on torture a mistake"The Israelis, Baer said, have learned that they can gain valuable information by establishing personal relationships with the inmates and gaining their trust.
"They found that torture, abusive tactics, made things overall worse for them politically," Baer said. "The Israelis are friendly with their prisoners. They play cards with them and allow them to contact their families. They are getting in their minds to determine what makes up a suicide bomber"
As an aside, since the Administration is constantly extolling its Christian principles and faith..does it not seem reasonable to believe that just as torture falied to save many souls during the Inquisition, when torture became an instrument of state policy, as in Spain for example, it doesn't seem to be a particular strong selling point for those trying to win 'the hearts and minds' campaign. In order to pre-empt what Jay or others might say say in a 'ticking-bomb scenario' I quote from the article that "intelligence officers and other U.S. officials said the scenario was more likely to be found in James Bond films than in the real war on terrorism".

Steve,I do not now... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

Steve,

I do not now nor have I ever advocated for torture. I don't believe torture is a productive tool. Torture serves only the torturer, not the cause. But I am sternly against unwarranted benevolence such as at Gitmo. If your captives are living what they consider the life of Riley, what do you use as a softening carrot? How do you gain trust when you permit them to possess the very book that fuels their hate? I am not skilled in interrogation, but if that is a softening tactic, I fail to see the value. This is a ruthless enemy we face and sometimes you have to get real dirty taking out vermin.

Thanks for the link Jay. Ha... (Below threshold)
cat:

Thanks for the link Jay. Haven't got time right now to read and check it all properly, but I promise I will. One thing that puzzles me about that timeline - there's no mention of General Miller. Maybe that's because Miller really had nothing to do with any of this. Or...some other reason?

Anyway, keep up the misrepresentation of McCain's arguments and the support for torture if you want. Sorry, I didn't get anything of "we want them to like us" from his principled stand. Some of us barbarians out here in the rest of the world will still like Americans despite your efforts to make us hate you. But those of us who actually believe in the ideals that you pretend to espouse will continue to disagree with your extremist comments.

I have a question for Old S... (Below threshold)
cat:

I have a question for Old Soldier. I've never been tortured. I've never been held in detention for longer than a few hours - I was released because during my detention it became clear that I was totally innocent. So I don't know from experience what torture or years of incarceration without charge would be like. But I do have this question: you depict Gitmo as something like a holiday camp. If that's the case, why have so many people there tried to kill themselves? Why have so many people gone on hunger strike?

Cat, you're mixing apples a... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

Cat, you're mixing apples and oranges. Your experience of being suspected of held for a civil infraction does not equate to terrorist enemies of the state. I relayed a general radical Islamic male view of Gitno espoused by Bridigette Gabriel; who is well qualified to speak to the same.

As for the hunger strikes and attempted suicides; I have no explanation and DON'T REALLY CARE. I would not be surprised to learn that the terrorists were attempting to gain public sympathy - which the public is always willing to give in abundance; regardless of the core reason why the terrorists are where they are.




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