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Why Not?

With the recent discussions of waterboarding and torture, it occurs to me that there are considerable disagreements about the subject. Some fundamental questions need to be asked -- and answered -- before we can have a really productive discussion on these matters.

The first is, "why shouldn't the United States engage in interrogation techniques that some might define as torture?" I've heard a few arguments about that, and the problem is they don't hold up very well.

"It weakens the protection US troops have against being tortured." This is based on the Geneva Conventions, I believe, which are a set of treaties that govern the conduct of war and the treatment of prisoners. The prinicple behind this is "we won't do this if you won't either" -- kind of like the agreements over chemical and biological weapons.

The problem is that the Geneva Conventions were never intended to be one-sided, and have almost never been invoked in a conflict involving the United States. In the near-century since they were signed, we have seen our enemies evade their restrictions by a number of means:

1) Not being signatories to the agreements.

2) Ignoring the agreements.

3) Declaring our troops "war criminals" and therefore not covered by the agreements.

In fact, I can only think of a single enemy of the United States that actually made any efforts towards honoring the Accords in all the conflicts we've fought since they were ratified, and that was Nazi Germany. So, clearly, our abiding by them has NOT given our troops very much protection. (For more personal details, ask Senator McCain.)

OK, so much for that argument. How about the one "it's illegal?"

The United Nations passed this definition of torture 20 years ago:

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

Congress ratified this treaty, but with the caveat that "... nothing in this Convention requires or authorizes legislation, or other action, by the United States of America prohibited by the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the United States," meaning that the whole thing was rather pointless and didn't add anything to United States law -- which defines torture thus:

(1) ''torture'' means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control; (2) ''severe mental pain or suffering'' means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from - (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (C) the threat of imminent death; or (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

So, under those rules, does waterboarding comprise "torture?" There are four criteria, any one of which must be fulfilled to meet the definition.

First up, we can eliminate B and D. It does not involve mucking around with mind-altering drugs or threatening others. that leaves us with A and C.

C is probably the weaker of the two. "Imminent death" is a pretty clear term -- this is the proverbial "gun to the head" case. As I understand waterboarding, the threat is "we're going to do this to you, and we're going to do it again and again and again until you talk." That carries with it the implication that "this won't kill you," as it's kind of pointless to say "we're going to kill you until you talk." Forensic science TV shows to the contrary, "dead men tell no tales."

So that leaves us with A, "intentional infliction of severe physical pain or suffering." And that is where the big fight is. Those terms are rather vague -- where does physical pain become "severe?" I've had second and third degree burns, had surgery on certain tender body parts, slipped on parallel bars and ended up straddling them from a handstand, caught my face on a bedspring (I was four or so at the time -- gimme a break), and passed gas in a small shower. With the exception of one incident with boiling water and the bedspring, none of them left scars. And only once do I recall the pain being so severe I had to scream. (that was the quart or so of boiling water I spilled on my bare forearm.)

So, what constitutes "severe physical pain and suffering?" It's left vague, but if we strip out the modifiers "severe" and "physical," we have a working definition to begin:

the physical and mental distress suffered from an injury, including actual broken bones and internal ruptures, but also the aches, pain, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression, and embarrassment from scarring, all of which are part of the "general damages" recoverable by someone injured by another's negligence or intentional attack. The dollar value of damages for pain and suffering is subjective, as distinguished from medical bills, future medicals, and lost wages which can be calculated, called "special damages."

The key here seems to be the meaning of the word "severe." Everyone, it seems, has their own definition of "severe." Mine is a very high standard; others set it lower.

And to me, the technique of making a person's subconscious believe that it is drowning WITHOUT actually beginning the drowning process -- introduction of water into the lungs -- is no doubt unpleasant, if not terrifying, but does not reach the level of "severe physical pain and suffering." That is the sort of thing that I reserve for severing of body parts, electrocution, actual drowning, maiming, impaling, infliction of tremendous pain, evisceration, and the like.

Of course, Congress could solve all this by simply passing a law outlawing waterboarding and similar techniques. But that would be too much like principle, and we can't have THAT.

In short, the kinds of things that our enemies have been doing to our people ever since we first signed on to the Geneva Conventions -- see Imperial Japan, North Korea, Viet Nam, and the various and sundry terrorist groups we've fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other places.

Compared to them, we're rank amateurs and weak-stomached wimps when it comes to torture.

And I not only agree, I'm proud of us over that.

(Editor's Note: The following was intended to be a part of the final piece, but it was accidentally published before finishing.)

The one compelling argument I've heard so far is "because we're the good guys." That torture is innately wrong and corrupting of those who commit it, regardless of motives. That's a tough one to refute, and the only arguments that have much of a chance against it boil down to "better red-handed than dead" -- that the price of such idealism might be too great.

Idealism vs. pragmatism. At what price survival? It's a tough call.

But one we need to re-examine on a regular basis, or it becomes a moot point. Remember, Mahatma Gandhi urged that the Jews in Nazi Germany should have "The Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife" and "(t)hey should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs" to preserve their moral high ground, instead of resisting.


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Comments (45)

There's going to be some is... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

There's going to be some issues. I don't recall the details, but some dude testified that water entered the nose and was forced into the lungs.

I have trouble with that. Everything from my experience swimming to diving feet first to garden hose in the face as a kid to going overboard whitewater rafting, I don't recall any meaningful water intrusion unless I was completely caught off guard and/or couldn't hold my breath. In which case it entered my mouth as well.

So I don't see where water intrusion is inherent in all waterboarding methods.

Jay..One reason why waterbo... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay..One reason why waterboarding torture is not such a good idea is that as Col. Stuart Couch, a former Guantanamo Bay prosecutor, said that he could not prosecute Slahi, the terrorist with 'the most blood on his hands' because his incriminating statements "had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law."

What are you going to do next, to maintain the torture policies, threaten the military prosecutors, the Jack Bauers of Gitmo who have had enough and who no longer go along with the permissiveness of present system? Torture like the philosphy behind it, 'the ends (normally one's own career) justifies the means,' is all a slippery slope, that goes one way.. down. It is so embarrassing that efforts are made to shut up everybody remotely connected with it, the prisoners, the guards, the interrogators,the doctors, the prosecuters, advisors, lawyers, right up the chain of command (that tells you something).

A torture regimen is part o... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

A torture regimen is part of what creates terrorists. What do you think one of the reasons these radicals are willing to blow themselves up? Because they know if they are caught alive (previously only in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc.) they will be tortured.

Tyrannical regimes create the conditions for terrorism by not affording their citizens many rights. We should be showing these people, no matter how evil, what those rights are so the rest of the world (including those moderates in the countries mentioned above) can look to us as the moral compass (you know, that "shining city on a hill" that someone not too long ago referred to us as). If we don't, the terrorism will be working because we'll have fundamentally changed the nature of our country in response to a threat to our security.

The starting point ought to... (Below threshold)

The starting point ought to be answering the question: what, if any, limitations will we put on our ability to detect and deter attacks against Americans? Are there some weapons and resources (torture qualifies as such) that we, for one reason or another, wish to take away from those on the front lines of defending our country, keeping in mind that every weapon we take away from our troops makes them less effective in fighting our enemy and increases the likelihood of a successful enemy attack on America? And, if we do take away certain weapons, are we willing to face those Americans who had relatives and friends killed in an otherwise preventable attack and explain to them that we could have prevented the attack, we could have saved their loved ones... but chose not to?

'Harsh interrogation tactics' is a weapon, the same as a rifle, tank or eavesdropping on the enemy, and ought to be in our arsenal of weapons to be used, as appropriate, in fighting our enemies.

It ought to be a no-brainer to subject a terrorist suspect to waterboarding (or having his toenails pulled out, or anything else that might yield the desired information) rather than having a bomb go off in a suburban shopping mall because we allowed this suspect to enjoy reading the Koran in his air-conditioned cell. To me, those who argue for denying our forces the use of these tactics against terrorists are putting the wellbeing of those terrorists ahead of the lives and safety of Americans... and that is about as unpatriotic as one can get. Let's see, saving Americans on one hand, being nice to terrorists on the other hand... and some Americans pick the terrorist? Inconceivable, just inconceivable...

Now for the qualifiers: there's a difference between waterboarding someone for the purpose of gaining information to deter an attack and doing so for the fun of it; the former is fine by me, the latter is off limits. I'm not advocating using 'torture' to gain information to be used in a trial. I don't care what our so-called allies think, I'll never sacrifice Americans on the altar of Euro-worship. And our enemies will do to our forces what they want, based on their objectives; they never have, and never will, look to us for 'guidance' in deciding what they will or won't do to American POWs.

Sean's comment illustrates ... (Below threshold)

Sean's comment illustrates the, sorry for not being able to think of a nicer term, silliness of some of those opposed to using torture. His argument: we should allow Americans to die in otherwise preventable attacks in order to inspire the attackers with our goodness. Yeah, evil people are going to stop being evil because we don't torture.

"As President Bush stated i... (Below threshold)
BarneyG2000:

"As President Bush stated in July 2004, "America stands against and will not tolerate torture. We will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture... in all territory under our jurisdiction.... Torture is wrong no matter where it occurs, and the United States will continue to lead the fight to eliminate it everywhere.""

"Even in responding to attacks against it by terrorists, the U.S. Government remains steadfastly committed to upholding its obligations under international law relating to the prohibition of torture.

http://usinfo.state.gov/dhr/Archive/2005/Feb/01-98805.html

And the real biggist tourtu... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

And the real biggist tourture is having to listen to JOHN MURTHA blabberinf all the time and what about the tourture suffered by the vietnam POWs and wheres the reparations for them?
depp=true

When was the last time any ... (Below threshold)
Dirk:

When was the last time any libtard considered the United States a "moral compass"? As you are so fond of pointing out, we had slavery until 1865, Jim Crow for a 100 years after, killing Indians, Child Labor etc. I fail to see how not scaring some Muslims for a few minutes is going to make us a "moral compass" for anyone.

It's just plain stupid to j... (Below threshold)
Jardinero1 Author Profile Page:

It's just plain stupid to justify torture in the name of battling something that is not even a hazard in our daily lives. Terrorism in the USA is a statistcally insignificant threat to American lives and property, even with 9/11. It is less dangerous than driving a car or walking on a sidewalk. So Called terror organizations like Al Qaeda pose no existential threat to the USA.

I wonder when the mainstream will finally acknowledge that the whole "war" is a massive farce. That for the last six years we have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, wrecked the constitution,and weakened faith in the executive branch(wait, that's not such a bad thing)to essentially, joust windmills.


I have to say I wish we had stuck to the Clinton approach to terrorism: ignore it, treat it as a one-off event when it happens and then prosecute the perps if and when you catch them. If more Americans would say what I just said we might be able to roll back the insanity.

First, pouring water down s... (Below threshold)

First, pouring water down someone's throat can kill them.

Second, using your criteria, holding an unloaded gun up to someone's head and telling them you are going to kill them if they don't sign a confession is not life threatening and doesn't cause severe physical pain so it wouldn't qualify as torture either.

Third, using your criteria, threatening to rape a man's daughter is not going to kill him and is not life threatening. I guess that isn't torture either.

Of course, Congress could solve all this by simply passing a law outlawing waterboarding and similar techniques. But that would be too much like principle, and we can't have THAT.

There are already laws on the books outlawing those techniques. Your argument seems to be that those laws don't apply.

It ought to be a no-brai... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

It ought to be a no-brainer to subject a terrorist suspect to waterboarding (or having his toenails pulled out, or anything else that might yield the desired information) rather than having a bomb go off in a suburban shopping mall because we allowed this suspect to enjoy reading the Koran in his air-conditioned cell.
steve sturm

So you draw no line? Why not cut fingers off or rip eyeballs out or boil them below the waist? What if you do all those things and it still doesn't prevent the bomb from going off? Then you've tortured in vain, sacrificed everything about yourself that makes you a decent human being, for nothing.

Our country is founded on certain well-defined principles - the right to habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, innocent until proven guilty, no cruel or unusual punishment - many of which are defined in our Constitution. Not to mention all the great quotes throughout history about how these principles are more important than our lives - "Give me liberty or give me death", "I regret that I have one life to give for my country", "The only thing to fear is fear itself". I realize that conservatives believe the Constitution doesn't apply to non-citizens and the terrorists are "unlawful combatants" so they're not covered by the Geneva Conventions and Islamofascism is the worst threat the world has ever seen, but I don't agree with any of that.

We a stronger as a country when we don't torture, when we are willing to sacrifice for our principles, even with our lives, not vice versa. That's why it's frequently said that we fight for the "American Way of Life", not just for "American Lives".

If more Americans ... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:
If more Americans would say what I just said we might be able to roll back the insanity.

No Jard, that IS the insanity. Yours.

With your myopic, ignorant rant, you have attempted to minimize the deaths of 3000 innocent civilians, dismissing them as insignificant.

I wonder, Jard, what "number" would make it worth your while to actually resist terrorism?

'tard.

Waterboarding does not pour... (Below threshold)
epador:

Waterboarding does not pour water down someone's throat.
It does not introduce water into the lungs.
It does make folks with BDS show what lying or incontrovertibly ignorant folks they are.

Waterboarding does not p... (Below threshold)

Waterboarding does not pour water down someone's throat. It does not introduce water into the lungs. It does make folks with BDS show what lying or incontrovertibly ignorant folks they are.

Tell that to Jay. link He seems to think "[waterboarding] actually involves a partial drowning -- water in the lungs and all that."

Blue Neponset is either ill... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Blue Neponset is either illiterate or a liar.

The quote from "Troubled Waters:"
To my mind, "torture" has to involve an element of severe pain or bodily injury -- and as I understood it, the experience of waterboarding tricked the subconscious into thinking one was drowning -- but NOT ACTUALLY DROWNING. According to the article, though, it actually involves a partial drowning -- water in the lungs and all that.

If that is the case, then I have to admit I was wrong. I'm not so certain, though, because this guy -- an old blog-buddy -- has some rather unpleasant things to say about the author's credibility. I put a bit of trust in Boyd's word, so I have my doubts about Mr. Nance's description.


Of course, I've found the opponents of waterboarding to be a uniformly dishonest lot. They ;ie about the technique, they lie about its effectiveness, and they construct every argument with emotionally-laden buzzwords with zero objective content.

All of this to fight an effective antiterrorism interrogation technique that has been used on three prisoners.

Hmm. The italics should hav... (Below threshold)
John Irving:

Hmm. The italics should have run just past the bolded section.

The terrorists blow themsel... (Below threshold)
Jo:

The terrorists blow themselves up because they want to be martyrs and get their 75 (or whatever) virgins.

Terrorism 101, Sean. Learn it.

Blue Neponset is either ... (Below threshold)

Blue Neponset is either illiterate or a liar.

I am actually a Libra.

They ;ie about the technique, they lie about its effectiveness, and they construct every argument with emotionally-laden buzzwords with zero objective content.

So learn us all then. What is waterboarding?

So, sean, if the fear of to... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy Author Profile Page:

So, sean, if the fear of torture when/if caught is a large part what makes a terrorist go the suicide bomber route, why don't the Isreali's, Pakistani army, Philipino's and everyone else that engage said terrorists also prefer to go out with a bang? I think it is, and has been, much more certain that if you fall into the hands of Al-Queda, Baathist regimes et al you will be tortured and likely killed in nasty way than if you fall into the hands of the US, Isreal, UK etc.

I find it telling that you list the countries that would likely do nasty things to them, and that list of countries are not the primary targets of suicide bombings. When was the last time a suicide bomber hit one of those governments directly?

Waterboarding does not p... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Waterboarding does not pour water down someone's throat.
It does not introduce water into the lungs.

Well if that's the case, then a recipient of waterboarding can simply hold his breath and wait for the water to clear his closed mouth and nose. Not a very effective interrogation technique, is it?

First, I don't define water... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

First, I don't define waterboarding as torture.

I don't think any information gathered as a result of using it should be admissible in a court of law, it should only be used to gather intelligence on catching other terrorists before they strike.
That's why they did it to KSM, he knew a lot about a lot of terrorist stuff going on. This information was invaluable, but I don't think they'll use it (or need it) to convict him.


I'm not in favor of the US torturing anybody except in the "there's a nuke about to go off and we need to know where" case.

There are almost no absolutes.

"A torture regimen is pa... (Below threshold)

"A torture regimen is part of what creates terrorists. What do you think one of the reasons these radicals are willing to blow themselves up?"

That has to be one of the most ignorant statements made here.

They blow themselves up because they're taught from birth that it's the honorable Muslim thing to do. In fact it's the highest honor they can achieve. It's also why they marinate themselves in cologne before the martyrdom operation - so they smell good for their new harem of 72 virgins.

SCSIwuzzy:if th... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

SCSIwuzzy:

if the fear of torture when/if caught is a large part what makes a terrorist go the suicide bomber route, why don't the Isreali's, Pakistani army, Philipino's and everyone else that engage said terrorists also prefer to go out with a bang?

Israeli's et al. often fight them as part of a more effective military squadron, not as an individual entering a market, so they do not necessarily expect to get caught. And in the event that they know their capture is imminent, it is very possible they would choose/have chosen suicide.

I find it telling that you list the countries that would likely do nasty things to them, and that list of countries are not the primary targets of suicide bombings. When was the last time a suicide bomber hit one of those governments directly?

Iraq lately has definitely been a primary target of suicide bombings, unless you haven't been paying attention the last 5 years. That number has declined, but still the most in the world. Also, I'm pretty sure Saudi Arabia has been fighting al Qaeda a decent amount lately.

Iran and Syria, not so much with respect to suicide bombings (as far as we know, they are run by very secretive gov'ts who may try to keep a lid on such things). Maybe they're not as bad as the Bush Administration claims they are. There's also the argument that they are most opposed to US interests (ie receive little US funding to prop up their gov'ts), so the motive for attacking those gov'ts because they are in collusion with the infidels is non-existent.

Well said, Jay Tea. We are ... (Below threshold)
crazy:

Well said, Jay Tea. We are the "Redcoats" of the 21st century. We hate war more than we love peace.

We possess such an overwhelming monopoly of force we require our forces to fight "fair" and not abuse the monopoly. We are convinced that the mere threat of overwhelming force or major demonstration of such force is enough to make any adversary cower and back away. If not, we insist the best way to force our enemies to fight in a more civilized manner is to lead by example. We demand that they be treated in accordance with the most lenient treatment guaranteed by international law whether they are qualified for lenient treatment or not. We argue about the use of diplomacy OR the use of force when we should be talking about the use of diplomacy AND the use of force.

Whether our self-imposed limitations will lead us to the same fate the Redcoats suffered or not remains to be seen. What I'd like to see is every one of these armchair experts and nitpicking lawyers assigned to frontline jobs where their theories of how we should behave in war can be tested firsthand. Something tells me they'd switch sides pretty quickly.

To turn this entire discuss... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

To turn this entire discussion on its head, how do those who support waterboarding justify it if it leads to more innocent deaths?

For example:
- The interrogator is haunted by the experiences, snaps and kills himself, a family member, a friend, or a neighbor?
- A prisoner is held incommunicado for years driving his son or brother to take up arms against us.
- The information we get is wrong and it leads to a mission on which 10 soldiers die.
- The information we get is wrong and it causes us to launch a war based on entirely false premises in which thousands of people are killed and maimed.

How do you support torture when such things are the consequences?

Sean:What if yo... (Below threshold)

Sean:

What if you do all those things and it still doesn't prevent the bomb from going off? Then you've tortured in vain, sacrificed everything about yourself that makes you a decent human being, for nothing.

For nothing? Excuse me, but trying to keep my friends and family alive doesn't amount to 'nothing'. I may have failed but I would rather have tried and failed than to have sat smugly on my a**, doing nothing.

No, I don't think the Constitution applies to non-Americans. The Constitution was written BY Americans FOR Americans. It governs how we deal with and among ourselves, it in no way was or is intended to serve as a guideline for dealing with others. (note it starts with "We the people of the United States", it doesn't say We the people of the World').

And what is this 'sacrifice for our principles' crap you're spouting off? What sacrifices are you making? Have you told your loved ones that their lives are less important to you than being nice to terrorists?

Blue Neponset- ... (Below threshold)
Rory:

Blue Neponset-

I am actually a Libra.

Well holy hot hell, a Liberal with a sense of humor or somethin'....

I know, I know your going to tell us that you aren't really a Liberal you're a Libertarian and that will explain it.

On a serious note, we proba... (Below threshold)
Rory:

On a serious note, we probably do more to our own guys to prepare them for war during SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) than the Liberals are willing to do to genocidal terrorists consumed by asymmetrical murderous desires.

That is because those animals are will pull their fingernails out, just for starters and culminate our U.S. soldier's "stays" with a liberating "off with their heads" move.

But ya fair is fair and all that.

As an add-on to my last poi... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

As an add-on to my last point:
Al Qaeda-Iraq Link Recanted

steve sturm:

I may have failed but I would rather have tried and failed than to have sat smugly on my a**, doing nothing.

I'm not saying we do nothing. We still gather and share intelligence with other countries. Infiltrate enemy cells with covert agents. We do whatever we can, within the law. That is fundamental to who we are as a nation.

it in no way was or is intended to serve as a guideline for dealing with others.

Here is the main point where I disagree. There are certainly parts of the Constitution which don't apply to non-citizens (ie the 4th amendment which has come up quite a bit with the FISA discussion). But there are some things that transcend nationality and should serve as a guideline for dealing with others, and the 8th amendment has to due with the core of our humanity and little to do with nationality.

Have you told your loved ones that their lives are less important to you than being nice to terrorists?

Actually, yes I have. My dad and I were discussing this a few weeks ago and I said part of being a free country is living with some degree of risk. We saw it in Oklahoma City, Columbine, 9/11, and VaTech. If someone is crazy enough, they are going to be able to find a way to kill lots of people. That is the price of freedom, but we cannot let that dictate our lives.

I'm not saying terrorism is not a problem, but 9/11 was a fluke. We solved that hole by putting locks on cockpit doors. Now, of course, there are other weaknesses (ie the liquids ban), but people cannot live in absolute security unless you never leave your house, and even then someone could throw a molotov cocktail through your window.

So pretty much what I'm saying is stop letting the Muslim radicals scare you. We're the most powerful (militarily and economically) nation in the world, but that does not mean we're invulnerable. Running up debt, straining our military, tarnishing our reputation, these things have a long term effect and we should do what we can to reduce the effects of these problems, the sooner, the better.

Basically, the commenters i... (Below threshold)
Jardinero1 Author Profile Page:

Basically, the commenters in favor of torture are either paranoid, delusional or misinformed. Terrorism is not a threat. Flu kills 20,000 people a year, auto accidents 42000, bad reactions to prescription drugs 3000 a year. Terrorism has killed 3400 people in the US since 1991. This includes the Oklahoma City Bombing and 9/11. That's an average of 213 people a year. It is the height of stupidity to subvert your morals, principles and liberty to worry about something so entirely trivial compared to say the flu or prescription drugs.

I encourage all those who q... (Below threshold)
mantis:

I encourage all those who question whether or not waterboarding is torture to ask a sailor who has been through SERE training in the past decade or so what he thinks. Ask him if he thinks being waterboarded after being captured by a foreign military would be torture. I happen to know quite a few of them through my work and to a man each has told me unequivocally, yes.

They don't waterboard these guys at SERE to punish them, they do it to show them what could be in store for them if they are captured by a country with no qualms about performing such acts.

Half a century ago torturing prisoners such as Nazis and Japanese was something we absolutely would not do. Read about what the Fort Hunt interrogators say if you don't believe me.

If we were unwilling to do such things to prisoners of the Axis powers, a far, far greater threat than terrorists pose today, why are we willing to do so now? A significant portion of Americans, including quite a few now in the White House, have abandoned basic moral principles in favor of vengeance.

For us to even to discuss i... (Below threshold)
nogo war:

For us to even to discuss if something is torture or not says something. For us to even to discuss sometimes torture is justified says something.
When did America become a nation of cowards rather than a nation of principal?
Those that proclaim support for water boarding etc...you need to look deep into why S&M appeals to you.
If you desire to be an interrogator..hey join up with your preference.

The Axis Powers, for all th... (Below threshold)
Dirk:

The Axis Powers, for all their evil, were at least going about war as men. They had uniforms etc. They were not skulking around, using women and children as human shields. Concentration camp guards, on the other hand, would have deserved torture.

The Axis Powers, for all... (Below threshold)
mantis:

The Axis Powers, for all their evil, were at least going about war as men. They had uniforms etc. They were not skulking around, using women and children as human shields. Concentration camp guards, on the other hand, would have deserved torture.

The German spies executed after trial (Ex parte Quirin) were dressed in civilian clothing. We didn't torture them.

Many concentration camp guards were captured and tried at Nuremberg, and whether they deserved torture or not, we didn't do it.

If the justification for such acts is that our enemies are worse than us, or worse than previous enemies, then why draw a line at all? Why not pull out fingernails and use the rack? If our enemies hide among civilians and cut off prisoners heads, we're justified in anything we do, right?

mantis,I love you ... (Below threshold)
Uncle Pinky:

mantis,

I love you man, and all that, but Ft. Hunt level prisoners are rarely available. Hell, I'd rather have tea with Assad than with any of the guys who are trying to kill us, but I don't look so good in a headscarf.

The problem is semantic, mostly. The waterboarding at SERE has little to do with the spookshow version. The boys there are far more frightened of lawyers than they are of terrorists, with good reason. They are not going to willy-nilly introduce water into someone's lungs.

They practice the "protected barrier" form, which is a lot less traumatic than my induction into the swim team. Seriously, this stuff doesn't even make it to the level of "hazing" but it gets more condemnation than having one's head sawn off with a dull knife.

As Jay Tea, rightly, pointed out; we are not fighting signatories. As for the specious arguments that terrorists are not a big threat in the U.S.; ask yourselves "why?" I mean, we're wide open, the tools are right there, it would be so easy. And it has been, as recently demonstrated by the Fort Dix boneheads. I remember their successful attack driving folks into deeper levels of fear and paranoia.

Or I don't.

This particular argument comes down to definitions: Is waterboarding torture? What type of waterboarding is torture? Why did Congress leave the loophole open?

Now, I hate the Langley boys as much as the next man, but I honestly believe that they try (and for the most part succeed) to keep us safe. Saddling them with a manufactured issue and the consequent opprobrium does not really help. Plus, when I've got a problem with one of them, we settle it on the pool table, like men. Not by killing each other's families (although I might put Rob's mom in the river, 'cause she's more long-winded than I.)

I am glad that you are here, my good mantis. You present issues well, and if you and I do not agree, then we do not, but we can disagree without hurling imprecations (or cliches) and I am truly thankful for that.

mantis @ 4:53.Good... (Below threshold)
Uncle Pinky:

mantis @ 4:53.

Good point.

I have argued that we, as a country, have an excess of ruth.

I have also argued that it makes us feel better about ourselves, and thus we try to be better.

The fact that I was arguing with a small kitten does not, in any way, invalidate my points.

Gotta run. Friday, and that lot. Have a good weekend: that is an order.

A torture regimen ... (Below threshold)
marc:
A torture regimen is part of what creates terrorists. What do you think one of the reasons these radicals are willing to blow themselves up? Because they know if they are caught alive (previously only in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, etc.) they will be tortured.
Silly me! I always thought they blew themselves up due to extreme & delusional religious fervor and a desire to meet their rightful place among their promised 72 virgins.

Silly me!

Oh and BTW "sean nyc/aa" could you explain why they parade around with a suicide belt on in the first place?

Is the *average* Islamic terrorist so afraid of "torture" he/she always comes prepared?

Brian:Well if ... (Below threshold)
marc:

Brian:

Well if that's the case, then a recipient of waterboarding can simply hold his breath and wait for the water to clear his closed mouth and nose. Not a very effective interrogation technique, is it?

Really?

The world record for a free dive, you know one with no air tank, went to a depth of 106 meters and lasted 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

So... If I waterboarded YOU for say 5 minutes would you 1) think it were torture or 2) be proud of a new "holding your breath record," or 3) think it might be en effective method?

Idiot!

Who was it that said "do un... (Below threshold)
Just John:

Who was it that said "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?

So... If I waterboarded ... (Below threshold)
Brian:

So... If I waterboarded YOU for say 5 minutes would you 1) think it were torture or 2) be proud of a new "holding your breath record," or 3) think it might be en effective method?

The statement I was responding to was epador's claim that waterboarding "does not introduce water into the lungs". And I prefaced my response with "if that's the case...."

So if you waterboarded me for less than the time I could hold my breath, then it's clearly not an effective method.

If you waterboarded me for longer than the time I could hold my breath, then by definition water would enter my lungs, and you've shown epador's statement to be false.

Either way, your comment supports exactly what I said, and repudiates the claims of many others on here. Thank you.

Idiot!

I approve of this new way you've chosen to sign your name in your posts.

Brian - you don't approve o... (Below threshold)
marc:

Brian - you don't approve of anything that doesn't start with "I hate" and end with "Bush."

Sure I do. I approve of sta... (Below threshold)
Brian:

Sure I do. I approve of statements like, "I hate Bush-loving sycophants who post stupid comments in an attempt to discredit liberals, but who are so blinded by partisan rage that they fail to actually comprehend what the topic is, and wind up posting statements that support the liberal instead, and then when embarrassed by being called on it try to change the subject by insinuating that even if the liberal was right, it doesn't matter because he probably hates Bush."

Oh, wait... I guess you're right.

Sean, I have to assume you ... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Sean, I have to assume you are being willfully thick. Iraq didn't become a target for suicide bombs until AFTER the murderous regime was out of power.
The suicide bomber don't off themselves out of fear of capture. They off themselves because they have been taught that Allah will reward them.

Idealism vs. pragm... (Below threshold)
Physicalist:
Idealism vs. pragmatism. At what price survival? It's a tough call.

No it isn't. Torture is evil. It's that simple.

Inducing panic by making a person feel like he's drowning is torture. It's that simple.

We should not be evil. It's that simple.

"Inducing panic by making a... (Below threshold)
ben:

"Inducing panic by making a person feel like he's drowning is torture. It's that simple."

No, that's Simplistic. There is a difference.

Simple is: It's not torture.

Complex is: Any method that is not effective will soon be dropped from use by our side, because soldiers are nothing if not pragmatic. Ergo, if used, it is effective. Anyone opposing the use of a technique effective to our side, while making no efforts to restrict the techniques available to the other side is by definition supporting the other side. The other side makes FAR more extensive use of torture than we do.

The slippery slope argument is idiotic: firebombing Dresden did not make us monsters, in fact we immediately stopped firebombing German cities as soon as they surrendered. Americans, unlike our enemey, know how to turn it off, as well as on.

Conclusion: The best way to reduce the use of torture in the world is to kill terrorists, as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Anyone working to prevent that is in fact working to increase the amount of torture.

Ben




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