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A tortuous use of language

I've mentioned before how important I think words are, and how frustrated I get when I see words misused, abused, and exploited. And I see it happening yet again.

"Torture" used to mean something. It was an obscene word, with an obscene meaning. It meant the deliberate infliction of great pain, great suffering, injuries, maiming, even killing people.

Nowadays, though, anything sort of the kindest and gentlest treatment by US captors is considered "torture." By calling the admittedly rough interrogation techniques reported being used in Guantanamo "torture," we devalue the word, and allow those nations who do genuinely torture people to draw moral equivalence with us.

I have a simple definition of "torture" as it would apply in Guantanamo. I would like to see the military not treat the detainees any harsher than they treat their own members. As long as the techniques are less than our troops routinely endure as part of boot camp and SERE training.

It's a simple matter of applying the Golden Rule. I don't want the interrogators doing anything to their captives that they themselves would not be prepared to endure.

It strikes me as an elegant and simple solution. Naturally, I expect it to go nowhere.


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Comments (28)

If screwing around with the... (Below threshold)

If screwing around with the A/C thermostat is torture, my wife is guilty!

Based on the reports I've r... (Below threshold)

Based on the reports I've read, GITMO detention is very similar to SERE. I've been through SERE personally, and it wasn't fun. Strange thing is, I attended during the height of the Clinton presidency, and word on the street was SERE used to be MUCH harsher than it is today, due mostly to the political correctness that was prevalent at the time (and from which we still suffer). Stripped naked? Been there. Crouched into a tiny box for hours until you couldn't feel your legs and arms? Done that. Eating anything you could get your hands on, including all forms of bugs and worms? Been there too. Sleep deprivation/loud music/anti-US propaganda playing 24/7? I scoff. There's more, but I'm not trying to brag here. Basic training, SERE training, Artic Survival, Water Survival, any form of SF training put our soldiers/airmen/seamen/marines into much more precarious situations than these jerks are getting into now.

This is silly. With all the banter of Geneva Conventions being thrown around, I'm completely obliterated by the fact that no one has made a serious effort to demonstrate that we COULD have legally (based on Geneva) shot these twerps after a quick military hearing. Non-combatants: no uniform, no sensible code of conduct, no mercy.

Sorry,By "non-combat... (Below threshold)

By "non-combatants" I was very unclear in my reference to describe an enemy that is using devious methods to hide its status as a fighting force, i.e. using civilian clothing etc. I wasn't clear, my apologies.

I agree Jay. Other exploite... (Below threshold)

I agree Jay. Other exploited words: Nazi, gulag, Hitler...... oh, yeah and celebrity.

There is one significant di... (Below threshold)

There is one significant difference between SERE training and the interrogation of prisoners at Guantanamo: you volunteer for SERE training. Noone forces you to go through with it.

But I do agree that the comparisons between these interrogation techniques and Nazi or Soviet Gulag methods are absolutely ludicrous.

Certainly Curtis, you're co... (Below threshold)

Certainly Curtis, you're correct. If you want to be a part of the military (particularly in aviation or special ops) you're required to participate. I guess using the term "volunteer" is correct, though I wouldn't use it literally. I wouldn't have "volunteered" if I wasn't required to attend. For example, North Sea Water Survival was voluntary...as a result, no one wanted to participate since it was seen as one of the most brutal training programs in terms of sheer exposure to the elements. In terms of our force being entirely a volunteer force, then my participation in its required training is seen as voluntary, whether I liked it or not. You are correct sir...and I guess the analogy between the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo and our military training has a definite weak spot and should be made clear. The subject, however, of the original post was his assertion that we shouldn't treat the prisoners any more brutally than we treat our own. I simply was stating that, given what we know of the "interrogation" of prisoners, their treatment isn't any more harsh than what we "volunteer" for in the military. Even in the case of the guy defecating on himself in Gitmo: There's one particularly gruesome story (military urban myth?) of a "detainee" in SERE who, after hours of isolation (totally naked BTW) in his little box, he managed to throw some of his "waste by-product" at his captors when they opened his box. Feelings run pretty high in these situations, and I wouldn't put it past some of our more tempermental soldiers. Anyhoo...good point, Curtis.

Hmmmm.I remember t... (Below threshold)


I remember the first time I read "Gulag Archipeligo". I've read a lot of books in my lifetime. I have never before, or since, read a book that made me feel such horror.

Frankly that book was one of the elements of my conversion to conservatism and anti-communism. Nothing that evil should be allowed to befoul the earth.

No less than boot camp, eh?... (Below threshold)

No less than boot camp, eh? So I guess by day nine they will all be eating the mysterious "Chili Mac" and then be stuck in the toilets emptying their insides from both ends.

Enough to make anyone talk.

Curtis: It depends... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:


It depends on what you think the jihadis volunteered for. If they volunteered to kill Americans, well, choices have consequences. If they volunteered to blow up Iraqi children and bystanders, again, choices have consequences.

I remember when the Iraq War began (and versions were around during Desert Storm), that somehow killing Iraqi soldiers was worse than losing our own, b/c American soldiers are volunteers, whereas Iraqi soldiers were "conscripts."

Well, last I checked, none of the jihadis are "conscripts," although some of the suicide bombers, it now appears, are being handcuffed to their cars (or sometimes not even told their cars are actually car-bombs).

Somehow the Left (not necessarily you) seems to excuse every action of the enemy, while finding fault w/ every one of our own.

If anyone is interested the... (Below threshold)

If anyone is interested there's a petition on-line asking for Durbin's resignation.

It can be found here:


Heh.You're right J... (Below threshold)


You're right Jay Tea, and of course you've set us all up nicely.

My father-in-law was a carrier-based Naval aviator for twenty years and flew a lot of classified missions around the Iron Curtain and other similar places where American aircraft weren't welcome.

His SERE training (we're talking 1970's here) was specifically geared toward the possibility of being captured and tortured by Communists. (Your link to Fort Bragg lists this as "level-C training.") Sleep deprivation, being fed starvation rations, being kept in uncomfortable positions, and the now infamous "water board" were all part of the training that he received.

He says that he wondered if he would make it out alive, but after he finished he realized that it was probably the best training he ever received from the military. And you'll never find a man more livid over the supposed 'torture' going on in Guantanamo.

One more thought - does anyone else find it striking just how wimpy these captured terrorists are? OBL infamously compared American soldiers to "paper tigers," but look at these guys - they collapse into a heap of emotional jelly just at the thought of being alone in a room with a woman interrigator. Pitiful.

Gosh.When I chain ... (Below threshold)


When I chain a guy to the ceiling for extended periods, I usually call it torture.

Well, or BDSM, but we won't be going there.

Or at least, hopefully not with POWs.

Wendigo writes: W... (Below threshold)

Wendigo writes: When I chain a guy to the ceiling for extended periods, I usually call it torture.

Yeah. Additionally, as I have mentioned here before, the combination of sleep deprivation and exposure to extremes of temperature are known to cause hyperalgesia, i.e. a hypersensitivity to pain.

Hell, even the Israeli Supreme Court thinks sleep deprivation, even used alone, is a torture technique and it explicitly recognized that combining it with other techniques heightens the pain and suffering it causes. It is explicitly forbidden under Israeli and international law. Are we to understand that you think Israeli law is too light on interrogation subjects?

Jay, your readers ought to be sickened by your casual promotion of the legitimacy of torture as an interrogation tactic. I know I am. I'll bet Spc. Sean D. Baker would be sickened (correction: further sickened), as well.

Could you possibly sink any lower?

"Could you possibly sink an... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

"Could you possibly sink any lower?"

Hm. I dunno, s9. Are you challenging me? Sounds like a dare to me...


Wendigo: Captured ... (Below threshold)


Captured soldiers are P.O.W.s. The illegal combatants being held at G'itmo are not, never were and never will be soldiers. They're terrorist thugs and murderers, pure and simple. And I, for one, don't give a rat's behind what the military does with them so long as they don't get loose to take up their chosen "trade" again.

Jay Tea writes: H... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea writes: Hm. I dunno, s9. Are you challenging me? Sounds like a dare to me...

HEAVENS NO! Deep in my boy-scout heart, I'd prefer you repented of your sins, asked for forgiveness, and turned your heart toward more productive pursuits. Until that happens, I'll probably continue providing the occasional voice of your conscience while hoping that, one day, you might come around.

By the way, have you made any progress finding a way to contribute personally to the American war effort in Iraq? I understand you think you're 4-F, but that shouldn't keep you from finding gainful employment working for a sutlerage firm or any of several companies with subcontracts for the reconstruction effort.

Or, do you, like Vice President Dick "May I Call You Dick?" Cheney, perhaps you have "other priorities" that are more important?

s9, I don't know why you pe... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

s9, I don't know why you persist in your laughable attempt to personalize the issue of the war in Iraq. Do you think that by discrediting the messenger, you somehow devalue the message? How does anything about me in any way relevant to what I say? If, say, I were a 28-year-old black female sergeant in the Army, would that make what I say any more or less accurate that I say as a 37-year-old borderline-disabled white male?

Facts are facts, regardless of who utters them. Who and what I am is utterly irrelevant, and certainly tremendously insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

What is far more important is why you repeatedly insist on making the discussion not about the issues, but about me. Could that be anything but an acknowledgment that you cannot refute what I say, but can only try to damage it by discrediting the person espousing the position?

I thought not.


So let me get this right, G... (Below threshold)

So let me get this right, Gitmo is more like one of those summer camps you send your kids to? Only they go for a bit longer.

Jay Tea writes: W... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea writes: What is far more important is why you repeatedly insist on making the discussion not about the issues, but about me.

Jay, if you can't see how my responses to your posts have been on-topic and related to the issues you are discussing, then that's your problem. As for my "personalizing" the issue, well— dude, you're the writer with the advertising supported website. If you can't take the attention, try writing under a pseudonym. I wonder if you've thought about the reasons you have a comment forum feature here. If not to solicit feedback on your posts, then what is your purpose?

I'm providing you with feedback as a reader. I'm often critical, but that should be a good thing, right? You don't want to be completely surrounded by fawning sycophants, do you? (Maybe, you do... but, I'm optimistically assuming you don't.)

Not to gang up on the borde... (Below threshold)

Not to gang up on the borderline disabled but how exaclty is the right's reaction to Durbin's comments not trying to devalue the message by discrediting the messenger? You know the passage Durbin read was the eye witness testimony of an FBI agent who was at Guantanamo Bay: Men chained in fetal positions, deprived of sleep and allowed to shit themselves. This is what an FBI agent saw at Guantanamo.

For a lover of language, Jay you should recognize that some words, such as torture, should have an extremely low threshold for use because no American should come close to carrying out the kind of behavior this FBI agent witnessed. The kind of events described below are utterly un-American and I can't imagine how anyone could condone it. I think the better measure of our ideals and beleifs should be this: Would you allow this kind of treatment in American prisons, done to American convicts? Just give me a yes or no on this one so we'll all know were you stand on the Bill of Rights.

Oh, and when you say "Facts are facts, regardless of who utters them" could you point to one single, solitary, verifiable fact in your original post? It just reads like a whole lot of personal opinion to me. Durbin on the other hand was reporting facts, that is the eye witness testimony of an FBI agent. Care to refute what this FBI agent saw and reported (the details below)? That would of course require you to argue that this FBI agent is a liar. Do want to go there? Now it is not my personal opinion that what this FBI agent saw was torture. The shit he saw is explicitly forbidden as torture under the First Protocol of the Geneva Convention and is in violation of Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (please note that these two elements of the Geneva Conventions extend due process and human rights protections to all those who do not fall under the protections of prisoners of war, but of course, we've been through all that before, right Jay?).

Eye-witness testimony of an FBI agent:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."


"By calling the admittedly ... (Below threshold)

"By calling the admittedly rough interrogation techniques reported being used in Guantanamo "torture," we devalue the word, and allow those nations who do genuinely torture people to draw moral equivalence with us."

Can I also just point out that your whole post is an act of moral equivalence. You are arguing that what we do is not as bad as what they do so it's okay. Talk about setting the bar low.

Those private flights to Eg... (Below threshold)

Those private flights to Egypt and Uzbekistan look really cool.
After the getting to know you session with the reception committee it's off to the Temple at Luxor with dinner in the shade of the Pyramids and an evening you'll never forget.
Pity it's all booked up for months.

Frameone"rough" as i... (Below threshold)

"rough" as in "rough and tumble" or wrestling. It's all good natured fun. Then they go for beers after working up a thirst.

" dude, you're the write... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

" dude, you're the writer with the advertising supported website."

s9, hold still while I break out the clue-by-four. It'll only hurt for a moment.

I am NOT "the writer with the advertising supported website." Kevin Aylward is. I am merely a guest, who has never asked for a single penny for my contributions. I am under absolutely no formal obligations whatsoever towards him. I write whatever I want, whenever I want, and will continue to do so as long as I want or he gets fed up with me. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and find my password to the site is no good and my wizbangblog.com e-mail is gone. If it is, I'll shrug and move on. Until then, or until I get tired of doing this, I'll continue.

" If you can't take the attention, try writing under a pseudonym."

You think "Jay Tea" is my real name? Hm, lemme see... (pulls out driver's license) nope, that's not it.

I never thought I'd have to spell it out, but "Jay Tea" is a phonetic spelling of my initials -- J. T., to make it unmistakably clear. A few people here know my true first name, and even fewer know my full name. And I like it that way -- for now. I may change my mind later, I may not.

So, again I ask: why do you always attempt to undermine whatever I say by discrediting me personally? I've already said on numerous occasions that I'm a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life. If you're looking to belittle me, forget it -- I deal with far worse than you can dish out every time I step away from the keyboard.

So, one last time, s9 -- why do you insist on making your arguments not about what I say, but who I am? I am left with the conclusion that you simply can't do otherwise.


Jay TeaAppreciate yo... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea
Appreciate your candor, that's pretty cool in my book.
I think there's hope for you. You don't have a gas guzzling SUV with two yellow ribbons on the back? Hallelujah!!!
There is hope, just going to take a little time and patience.

Jay TeaAppreciate yo... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea
Appreciate your candor. That's pretty cool in my book.
There's definitely hope for you. You don't drive a gas guzzling SUV with two yellow ribbons on the back?
definitely hope, it's just going to take a little time and patience.

And I'm left with the opini... (Below threshold)

And I'm left with the opinion that Jay Tea is ignorning me even though I am indeed asking questions and making argument about what he's actually written. Hmmmm.

"I've already said on numer... (Below threshold)

"I've already said on numerous occasions that I'm a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life. If you're looking to belittle me, forget it -- I deal with far worse than you can dish out every time I step away from the keyboard."

Oh and Jay, I disagree with you vehemently on most everything but perhaps nothing more vehemently than this statement. Nobody should belittle themselves like this -- even in false modesty. Everybody is somebody.






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