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From The Never Ending Story - The Torture Papers
March 14, 2005 9:55 AM   Subscribe

While the proverbial road to hell is paved with good intentions, the internal government memos collected in this publication demonstrate that the path to the purgatory that is Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib, has been paved with decidedly bad intentions. The policies that resulted in rampant abuse of detainees first in Afghanistan, then at Guantanamo Bay, and later in Iraq, were product of three pernicious purposes designed to facilitate the unilateral and unfettered detention, interrogation, abuse, judgment, and punishment of prisoners: (1) the desire to place the detainees beyond the reach of any court or law; (2) the desire to abrogate the Geneva Convention with respect to the treatment of persons seized in the context of armed hostilities; and (3) the desire to absolve those implementing the policies of any liability for war crimes under U.S. and international law.
Regarding the Torture Papers, which detail Torture's Paper Trail, and, then there's Hungry for Air: Learning The Language Of Torture, and, of course, there's ( more inside)
posted by y2karl (97 comments total)

 
A memo apart:
Memorandum to the counsel to the president and the assistant to the president for national security affairs from Colin L. Powell, secretary of state, January 26, 2002:

Regarding the option of stating that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the Afghanistan conflict:

"Pros: This is an across-the-board approach that on its face provides maximum flexibility, removing any question of case-by-case determination for individuals.

"Cons:
It will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops, both in this specific conflict and in general.

It has a high cost in terms of negative international reaction, with immediate adverse consequences for our conduct of foreign policy.

It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.

Europeans and others will likely have legal problems with extradition or other forms of cooperation in law enforcement, including bringing terrorists to justice.

It may provoke some individual prosecutors to investigate and prosecute our officials and troops.

It will make us more vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenge and deprives us of important legal options...
Abu Ghraib: much worse than a few 'bad apples'

Here is Unusual Suspects : What happened to the women held at Abu Ghraib?

From Human Rights Watch comes U.S. Strips Detainees of Key Protections - Diplomatic Convention Undermined

September 20, 2004 - A Torture Killing by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

March 13, 2005 - Army Details Scale of Abuse of Prisoners in an Afghan Jail

The brutal truth - The outrages of Abu Ghraib are no accident, says Stephen Sedley

Originally from the New York Times: Gonzales and the Torture Question (9 Letters)

Ritual Abuse

The Mens Rea Requirement of Command Responsibility:
Modern Developments and Future Direction


Here is Mark Danner's We Are All Torturers Now, concerning the confirmation hearings for Albert Gonzales nomination for Attorney General, and the related Torture and Gonzales:An Exchange.
posted by y2karl at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2005


I don't want to say get a blog as a snark. I want to say it as a compliment. You always find lots of interesting links usually connected with an implicit thesis of sorts. I would like to read the actual paper (or is it a book?) you seem to be perpetually researching instead of going through all the primary sources. Why don't you have a blog (there is nothing in your profile)?
posted by srboisvert at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2005


I agree with srboisvert.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:22 AM on March 14, 2005


A little incoherent early morning rant for yalls.
My feelings about the phenomenon of torture do not make it seem any less heinous, but the coverage of it seems strange given the unspoken history. Clearly, torture has been going on for a long, long time. Probably every single president since William McKinley has had to authorize something classifiable as torture. Not only that, but probably every king, queen, prime minister, emperor, tyrant, benevolent dictator, and all their advisors have had to address this issue. The fact is that government is not completely transparent, and it takes advantage of this to obscure the dirtiest, most effective parts of its operations. Black Operations unknown even to the president operate outside international law, probably not to the extent seen in Tom Clancy but significant nonetheless. People are disappeared, held, threatened, tortured, and so on because the ruling authority thinks it is the most effective way to deal with them in their context.

For a long time we've heard third-hand of this behind-the-scenes action, but recently the popularity and widespread use of small digital cameras, combined with the easy exchange of information via the internet(s), have resulted in an unauthorized documentation of the events which have been going on this whole time. Bush and his crew may be doing it now, and they may be doing it more than perhaps anyone before, but they were not the first my far, and they will not be the last.

Now, the torture of a human being is a horrible thing no matter what the politics are. But when we find out about it, it's like people think it's something brand new, and the current proprietors are the eminent authority on it. To tell the truth, we just caught them with their pants down. You don't really think that's going to happen again, do you? No matter what the level of media scrutiny is, no matter what oversight we have, no matter what orders the president, congress, or the people give, there is going to be a guy with a mask picking up an extremist off the street and attaching electrical wires to his teeth in order to extract information from him. It is, of course, deplorable, but I feel that it will continue to be present, documented or not, as long as there is a demand for that kind of action.

I do NOT approve of torture and the rest but it's going to happen whether we like it or not, and the only way it's going to stop is when the world is in a state where the US does not feel the need to conduct espionage. Not bloody likely, but at least it's something to work towards.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2005


Up front, I haven't read these yet. But I've read the blurbs you've written about each one. And I've read your miniprint.
I thought we basically knew the gist of all this (?) - that there was a pointed strategy to treat prisoners aggressively (in all meanings of that word) and in particular I remember the furore about the White House Counsel producing an opinion about the right to circumvent the Geneva Convention.
{by the by..gawd I hate Rumsfeld - he always seemed to me to be the arch villain ultimately responsible for much of what went on - but he is a 'thorn among many', including Gonzales I suppose}
I must admit to not closely following the trials of the Abu Ghraib 'chosen few' - I guess I've been surprised that none of the higher ranking officialdom weren't drawn in - as seemed as evident as night following day when the details of the story became known soon after the photo's appeared.
So thanks for filling in further details but I'm just not up to buying any more depression at this time.
[that shrub etc were returned to office, despite this litany of appalling conduct, continues to mystify me]
posted by peacay at 10:29 AM on March 14, 2005


"[Torture is] going to happen whether we like it or not, and the only way it's going to stop is when the world is in a state where the US does not feel the need to conduct espionage."

The beatings will continue until morale improves.
posted by spazzm at 10:39 AM on March 14, 2005


I'm just sayin.

It was probably a bad idea to post that cause its a pretty rough approximation of my ideas, but ... whatever. rar.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:45 AM on March 14, 2005


Clearly, torture has been going on for a long, long time ... Bush and his crew may be doing it now, and they may be doing it more than perhaps anyone before, but they were not the first my far, and they will not be the last ... the only way it's going to stop is when the world is in a state where the US does not feel the need to conduct espionage

So if a cockroach walked right across your dinner plate, you'd declaim that cockroaches are everywhere: it can't be helped; while this particular cockroach may be more large and arrogant than most -- in fact the biggest, ugliest cockroach you've seen in your lifetime -- we can't hope to live in a cockroach-free world, so there's no use worrying about it.

To continue the metaphor and put it another way, what's a cockroach gotta do to get you off your ass to call an exterminator?
posted by fleacircus at 10:52 AM on March 14, 2005


It wasn't a bad idea to post that, but my question is: What do we get out of torture and abuse? Where are the benefits? Is it stopping insurgents in Iraq? No. Is it scaring off would-be terrorists? I'd say it's creating more.

Where's the worth in it?
posted by amberglow at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2005


the only way it's going to stop is when the world is in a state where the US does not feel the need to conduct espionage

The world is in a state where the US should not feel the need to conduct espionage. The CIA is counterproductive to a stable society. Given vast allowances for "necessary" secrecy, they could be simply manufacturing information for all we know, for all *anyone* knows. When raises and promotions are at stake, people will generally do anything.

that shrub etc were returned to office, despite this litany of appalling conduct, continues to mystify me

Don't buy too much into that depression. The US was significantly attacked for the first time ever (WTC), and despite the tragic results of the Iraq invasion, it did give the US the big military "win" that the vengeful were craving. That the WTC attack and Iraq have nothing two do with each other (aside from dark-skinned Muslims) unfortunately didn't matter. Blame the press, or better yet, work to spread the truth.

Great post, y2karl. I'd been meaning to read The Torture Papers, and these are excellent sources. Just starting to actually read ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:55 AM on March 14, 2005


To tell the truth, we just caught them with their pants down.

Seems to me more like they were quite freely walking around with their pants down, and showing as much concern about it as a pissed-up streaker when he knows the game's going to be on TV.
posted by Decani at 11:03 AM on March 14, 2005


good stuff, thanks karl. the Danner links are especially good
posted by matteo at 11:11 AM on March 14, 2005


I do NOT approve of torture and the rest but it's going to happen whether we like it or not, and the only way it's going to stop is when the world is in a state where the US does not feel the need to conduct espionage.

So, you do not explicitly approve of torture, but you are implicitly OK for it going on in your name because "it's always gone on". Brilliant.
posted by clevershark at 11:17 AM on March 14, 2005


ACLU Says New Detainee Report Does Not Absolve Senior Officials of Responsibility for Abuses; Special Prosecutor Needed

President Bush declared in his State of the Union address, "Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture."Considering what's come to light since then, the most charitable conclusion is that Bush is completely out of the loop.

In recent weeks, past and present administration officials have confirmed that since September 2001 the Central Intelligence Agency has dispatched between 100 and 150 terror suspects to countries where fine points of law and human rights don't stop beatings, drugging or long isolation.


Turning suspects over for torture

The Bush administration ran into its first roadblock in its plans to sharply reduce the prison population at Guantánamo Bay over the weekend when a U.S. judge forbade the transfer of 13 inmates to Yemen for fear they would be tortured. The March 12 ruling by a U.S. federal judge in New York marks an early victory for human rights organizations in their efforts to bar the administration from carrying out plans to reduce the prison population at Guantánamo by transferring inmates to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. It bans the transfer of the Yemenis until a hearing can be held on their lawyers' request for 30 days' notice before any transfer.

Guantánamo prisoners win transfer reprieve.

McCain gave voice to a concern shared by many, including some in the military: Regardless of who is blamed for the documented cases of prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and in Afghanistan, the origins of the problem may lie in the Geneva Conventions issue.

"I worry, admiral," McCain said, "that if we decide that a certain country's military personnel are not eligible for treatment under a convention that we signed, then wouldn't it be logical to expect then they would declare, as the North Vietnamese did, that American prisoners are not eligible for protection under the Geneva Conventions?"


McCain demands accountability for torture
posted by y2karl at 11:20 AM on March 14, 2005


Good post. And. Depressing Post.

Torture is the worst manifestation of amassed cultural frustration. It must be exposed.

The torturer knows torturing doesn't really achieve any lasting end... he/she may superficially believe that "this" torture will save lives in the short run... but deep down he/she knows it merely paves the way for more pain and abuse as long as the torturer is willing to inflict it.

The ends do not justify the means. To kill an enemy on the field of battle is one thing - but to debase him through torture? One must ask how far away are we from sawing off peoples heads?

The world is in a state where the US should not feel the need to conduct espionage.

This is simply not so. And it likely never will be. What kind of "espionage" SHOULD we engage in is a more valid moral point.

Should the state gather and keep secrets at all? Of course. When the technology to destroy the planet is kept by the state. we must also know who is attempting to acquire this secret. And that must be done in secret. Should the police operate 100% transparently? "Hello Mr. Drug Dealer we will be coming to arrest you tomorrow." How well would that work?
posted by tkchrist at 11:28 AM on March 14, 2005


What do we get out of torture and abuse? Where are the benefits? Is it stopping insurgents in Iraq? No. Is it scaring off would-be terrorists? I'd say it's creating more.

You don't know that, and neither do I.

As a natural-rights minarchist, torture disgusts me, but it's no excuse for sloppy thinking.
posted by trharlan at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2005


from karl's McCain link:
"You know the North Vietnamese made the same determination about American prisoners?" McCain, a Republican from Arizona, asked.
"Yes, sir," replied Vice Admiral Albert Church.
Church appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to present his findings from a lengthy investigation into how the administration had developed and used its prisoner interrogation policies.
interestingly enough, there's another analogy: under Gonzales' own definition of torture, McCain wasn't tortured at all in Vietnam. if one is to use post- Abu Ghraib GOP-speak, the Vietnamese just gave McCain a lot of "bad nights", that's all.
also remember that McCain, good soldier as always, followed orders and voted for Gonzales. so, you know, the lib'rul media may still be in love with him and his reputation as a honest man. sadly, he's just another politician.
posted by matteo at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2005


Sorry if it sounded like I was approving of torture in any way. I didn't mean, "well its gonna happen so what are ya gonna do." I meant that as long as there is international tension (not just a state of war) and nontransparent government, this kind of thing is going to be done. Fortunately, we are moving towards transparancy, as we have conscientious people at many levels of government whose tools of whistleblowing are becoming more easy to use and widespread in effect. Like Decani said, they've been walking around with their pants down but we've all had blinders on for so long that we never noticed. Now the blinders are off and we see the government's pimply, hairy ass and we're disgusted.

RE the cockroach metaphor, let's continue it further. Lets say that fat ugly cockroach climbs on my plate. We smash it into goo. We start asking ourselves if there are more cockroaches around - and there are. So maybe we DO call an exterminator. But no exterminator is so good that he's going to get every single roach, or the eggs buried deep in the foundations of the house, or the cockroaches that live next door. So, yes, I think it would be futile to mount a battle against torture at this stage - look what we got from our first offense: a couple mid-level administrators and the chick from the pictures. Even when memos put the responsibility in the white house. Cockroaches are resilient, devious, and butt-ugly, just like this administration. And just cause you stomp the ones you see doesn't mean you're even getting close to the source. Although having said that, I support stomping.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:53 AM on March 14, 2005


Where's the worth in it?

It's fun.

I say that not to be flip, but because I think that that's actually a disturbingly large factor in the motivation. At best, torture is not an effective way to reach our goals, and the costs are tremendous. On the other hand, being entirely dominant over another person is awfully heady, and by extension, being (as a nation) entirely dominant over the rest of the world is even better. I believe that this is, at its core, the primary motivation for the systematic use of torture by this administration. I think one thing that differentiates this administration's use of torture from that of previous administrations is the level to which torture is being used, consciously or unconsciously, as a big fuck you to the rest of the world.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:58 AM on March 14, 2005


what's a cockroach gotta do to get you off your ass to call an exterminator

How about ya stop providing them a favorable breeding environment? If you are not supplying the food and water, how will the cockroach survive?

But when you are at the buffet grabbing and shovling in as much resources as you can, some food and water will end up on the floor - thus feeding the roaches.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:01 PM on March 14, 2005


What kind of "espionage" SHOULD we engage in is a more valid moral point.

There is a case to be made that espionage (or, in fact, any secret governmental action) is fundamentally incompatible with an open democracy. Secrecy leads to corruption: exposing the action of government to the light of day is the only means we have to hold governmental actors accountable. Secret agencies performing secret actions are inherently immune to such democratic accountability. Perhaps this is one reason for the extensive gallery of failures that decorates the CIA's short history.

If governmental secrecy goes against our basic theory of government, by what political theory do we justify it? It seems to rely on some pretty frightening authoritarian justifications (e.g. "trust us, we know what's best for you").
posted by mr_roboto at 12:19 PM on March 14, 2005


What do we get out of torture and abuse? Where are the benefits? Is it stopping insurgents in Iraq? No. Is it scaring off would-be terrorists? I'd say it's creating more.

You don't know that, and neither do I.


Jihad University and the CIA.

The ABCs of Jihad in Afghanistan.

Abu Gharib and the outsourcing of torture.

If you don't believe any of these actions have long-term cultural consequences, that's pretty sloppy and irresponsible thinking.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:26 PM on March 14, 2005


If you don't believe any of these actions have long-term cultural consequences, that's pretty sloppy and irresponsible thinking.

Yeah. Because that's what I wrote.
posted by trharlan at 12:35 PM on March 14, 2005


Yeah. Because that's what I wrote.

"You don't know that, and neither do I."
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2005


think this creep had his fingers in the torture pudding?
posted by specialk420 at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2005


What do we get out of torture and abuse? Let me tell you! For hundreds of years, what people have been getting out of torture and abuse is valuable information. Nothing loosens the tongue quite like a burning hot piece of wire. There are, of course, other ways to get the information, but few as fast and many as unethical, and as long as word doesn't get out about the abuse (which it now has), there are few or no consequences. That's why it is so pernicious: large payoff with little or no cost, at least in theory. Of course, once it becomes known what is happening (Abu Ghraib among countless others) it becomes a threat and a menace to which others respond with horror and indignation (us) or fuel for the fire (extreme causes whose members we tortured). Now that it has been uncovered publicly it will retreat further underground - a victory and a defeat for us, its enemies.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2005


I stated that we don't know whether torture is stopping insurgents or scaring off would-be terrorists. That position is not equivalent to a denial of the "long-term cultural consequences" of US torture.

I'm tired of bickering with you, Alex. My kingdom for a killfile.
posted by trharlan at 12:53 PM on March 14, 2005


amberglow, what do you get out of any act of vengeance? I don't think the general 'War on Terror' was ever going to be enough to satisfy anybody. What was needed was to personalize it, to make it absolutely clear not to the terrorists but to ourselves, to make it personal--which is what Abu Gharib did. '9/11 changed everything' had to be a self-fulfilling phrophecy.
posted by nixerman at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2005


For hundreds of years, what people have been getting out of torture and abuse is valuable information.

Is this true? It seems like torture is a recipe for getting false information. There's no way to establish immediately that what a tortured prisoner says is true (particularly if you're talking about broad strategic information, like the structure of a terrorist organization), and torture provides a strong incentive for a prisoner to fabricate information in order to placate his torturers. It seems torture is an especially good mechanism for creating information that matches what the torturers want to hear: great for generating false confessions and accusations.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:59 PM on March 14, 2005


See: Spanish Inquisition, witch hunts.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:09 PM on March 14, 2005


Roboto... The other poster stated The world is in a state where the US should not feel the need to conduct espionage.

And that is simply and obviously false. Do you really want everybody to have nukes or super-small pox?

What you describe is the theoretical practice of democracy. Out here in the real world things are messy and imperfect and some secrets must exist for a reason. This is why states adopt secrets and try discover the secrets of others.

Should I just be able reverse engineer a tactical warhead or find out how to refine uranium? No.

Let's say all such weapons were banned by this "New" imagined US. It would take years to get rid of all that old stuff even with an ideal fully transparent government - in the mean time there would HAVE to be secrets to stop the naughty people from utilizing the old weapons.

And after? Does the New Truth include the old secrets? Do we expunge the Old Secrets in the New Truth? How do we do this? By what mechanism? What if I WANT to keep some secrets from you? How you gonna know?

My problem with this type reasoning is that, to make it all work, everybody HAS to play ball your way. Everybody has be on board with the New Truth. If one state or sub-state decides to rebel and keep secrets and develop weapons everything goes to shit. The no-state , no-competition, nerf covered world just does not exist.

How do we achieve this? I tell you how. Like every other time before. Force. Secrecy. conformity. Control. That kind of utopian thinking leads to a "pretty frightening authoritarian" state as well.

To acquire secrets and to keep secrets does NOT absolutely necessitate torture or abuse. It is not zero sum.
posted by tkchrist at 1:12 PM on March 14, 2005


Should I just be able reverse engineer a tactical warhead or find out how to refine uranium? No.

Wrong. The knowledge necessary to create a nuclear weapon is not out of anybody's reach. The materials are (I keep hoping.)
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:19 PM on March 14, 2005


Haven't we thought up ways of reliably getting information out of people without torturing them? Whatever happened to shooting them up with sodium pentathol and ecstasy, hooking them up to polygraphs, blood flow detectors, etc, hypnotising them, and asking them a long series of questions designed to narrow down their individual truth/lie response? I remember reading articles in scientific magazines about how one's employer could, in theory, conduct job interviews under such conditions, because of the race-to-the-bottom effect of some people being willing to submit to it in order to get a job. If it's that easy to get truth out of people with pharmaceutical and neurological technology, why torture them?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2005


The knowledge necessary to create a nuclear weapon is not out of anybody's reach. The materials are (I keep hoping.)

But keeping the materials out of reach is invariably going to involve some kind of secrecy.
posted by Cyrano at 1:24 PM on March 14, 2005


Wrong. The knowledge necessary to create a nuclear weapon is not out of anybody's reach. The materials are (I keep hoping.)

A distinction without a difference. Those materials are kept where? How? How do we find the people interested in getting the materials? ALL of this involves - by absolute need - as much secrecy as possible.

Does it require torture to keep these materials out the bad guys hands? No. But it DOES require and intelligence mechanism that must at times operate out of the public eye.
posted by tkchrist at 1:25 PM on March 14, 2005


BlackLeotardFront is honestly trying to adress this issue and I like that. It's true, torture is as old as humanity, and has existed in much fouler forms than we've seen so far in this conflict.

I also agree that torture often results in false information.

Overall, I think that torture should exist, but should not be
condoned by any government. It should not have legitimacy, and should be considered a crime in all it's forms. This is so we can avoid the slippery slope of egregious useage. But it will exist.

If I had before me a person that planted a bomb on a shoolbus full of children, I would do everything I could to make him tell me where it was.
posted by recurve at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2005


I'm with mr.roboto--Who knows whether the information obtained under torture and abuse is real? Why don't we have on-the-ground contacts and spies and infiltrators instead--which would guarantee accurate information? It's much more effective and less immoral and abhorrent and barbaric.

We have people locked up in Iraq who were rounded up simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time--how can we possibly be getting valuable info from them, no matter what we do to them physically or psychologically?
posted by amberglow at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2005


It seems like torture is a recipe for getting false information.

That's true to some extent - but you don't think the torturers are dumb enough to let the guy go if he just blurts out a name? (Actually, don't answer that question.) I think that you're underestimating the effectiveness of torture. Once again, this is not to condone torture, simply a 'know thy enemy' thing. I believe that if a faster, better way to get information out of a prisoner existed, they would use it since the risk of exposure and such is high with torture.

nerf covered world
roffle

If it's that easy to get truth out of people with pharmaceutical and neurological technology, why torture them?
I think that's a good question, and I think the only good answer is that at this point the techniques which you have mentioned (and which I have read about too) are still unproven and experimental. Torture is millenia-proven. And anyway, the military community is resistant to that softer approach when they have a perfectly workable one. I think that what you're talking about is the wave of the future, though. Check out this New Scientist Article which was linked to today by someone, boingboing maybe? can't remember.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2005


tkchrist: A distinction without a difference. Those materials are kept where? How? How do we find the people interested in getting the materials? ALL of this involves - by absolute need - as much secrecy as possible.

Can you read? I said the knowledge necessary to construct the big bomb is within anybody's reach. Where do I claim that no secrecy is ever required for anything?
I'll let you in on a little secret: I use a password on my email.
Likewise with many other "wmds." Most of this technology is 60-80 years old.
...and sorry, there is a world of difference between knowing how to build one and having a big pile of unobtainium. Otherwise, we'd all be world powers.

recurve: If I had before me a person that planted a bomb on a shoolbus full of children, I would do everything I could to make him tell me where it was.

Of course. Any decent person would. But this is never, never, ever going to happen to you. The ticking-bomb justification is a fantasy of the spook that loves to "play spy." The same type of cretin that thought this and this would work.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:47 PM on March 14, 2005



Roboto... The other poster stated The world is in a state where the US should not feel the need to conduct espionage.

And that is simply and obviously false. Do you really want everybody to have nukes or super-small pox?


Of course not. But how is espionage a solution? With the CIA in full force, nuclear weapons were obtained by the Soviet Union, China, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. What makes you think that American espionage will suddenly become effective? History makes it clear that espionage does nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation.


What you describe is the theoretical practice of democracy. Out here in the real world things are messy and imperfect and some secrets must exist for a reason. This is why states adopt secrets and try discover the secrets of others.


In the real world, governmental secret espionage agencies and secret police trample civil rights, create embarrassing international incidents, and altogether fail to achieve their objectives. And they are not held responsible for their failures. I believe in open liberal democracy because it works in the real world: it builds stable states, maximizes individual liberty, and leads to economic prosperity. All the successes of democracy are mirrored in the failures of secrecy.

That's true to some extent - but you don't think the torturers are dumb enough to let the guy go if he just blurts out a name?

If he confesses, they will detain, try, or execute him. You can be sure that when he blurts out the name of someone else, the owner of that name will be detained and tortured, which will motivate him to confess. In this manner, information obtained via torture is self-reinforcing, even if it has no relationship whatsoever to reality.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2005


The only real effect of torture is to provide "evidence" for a predetermined and probably false view of events. If you shout "Gimme the name!" and shove bamboo under someone's fingernails, you have completely led the questioning. There may or may not have ever been a "real name," but you can bet he'll tell you one. The mind under duress can be incredibly resourceful.
It is mainly useful for increasing the perceived validity of preconstructed stories, whether consciously or not.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:07 PM on March 14, 2005


History makes it clear that espionage does nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation.

That is not true. Iraq would of had the bomb long ago if the Mossad had not given them 10 years of mind fucking and finally boming them. Espionage may not be the ultimate prevention but it CLEARLY makes the pursuit of nukes much more expensive, dangerous, and difficult and that is a fact. It certainly delayed by decades China's development of a bomb.

In the real world, governmental secret espionage agencies and secret police trample civil rights, create embarrassing international incidents, and altogether fail to achieve their objectives. And they are not held responsible for their failures.

Sometimes. And sometimes not. But do seriously think it is possible to a have State without secrets? You cannot be so foolish.


I believe in open liberal democracy because it works in the real world: it builds stable states, maximizes individual liberty, and leads to economic prosperity

And not ONE open liberal democracy exists today without state secrets or some level of espionage.

Again. It is not a zero sum game.

I believe in open liberal democracy as well. And with them comes the mess of responsibility and practicality.
posted by tkchrist at 2:24 PM on March 14, 2005


sonofsam: "Can you read?"

WTF? Calm your ass down.
posted by tkchrist at 2:26 PM on March 14, 2005


WTF? Calm your ass down.
While I managed to refrain from swearing, I was annoyed by your gross misreading. Sorry.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2005


If I had before me a person that planted a bomb on a shoolbus full of children, I would do everything I could to make him tell me where it was.

How nice. Now, given that someone, somewhere has planted a bomb on a schoolbus full of children, but you don't know who, you don't know where, it might be a man with a gun instead of a bomb, and it may be a subway train instead of a school bus, exactly how many "suspicious" people are you justified in torturing to try to figure this out? Do you mind being tortured yourself?

The people we are torturing didn't walk into a US base and announce that they were going to blow something up supervillain style. Yeah, some of them are probably reprehensible people who may have valuable knowledge, but a whole bunch of people are being tortured who likely know nothing at all and have done nothing wrong. Even if (and it's a pretty big if) torture works, it's got a pretty goddamned big pricetag.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2005


Can we all agree that a organization which monitors the actions of foreign nations is necessary to our nation's safety? I don't mean that sarcastically, I am asking if that is something we can agree upon. If so, then that organization has a great need for secrecy and freedom of action within certain restraints. Espionage is a secretive and necessary business in a non-nerf world.


As to the self-reinforcing nature of torture, I disagree somewhat. If we're talking about names or whatever, sure that could happen. But what if, after 5 hours of intense pain, the prisoner reveals the location of a secret stash of enriched uranium an underground splinter of the Iraqi resistance is keeping to make dirty bombs and such? There's a real gain, and don't pretend that it doesn't happen. If there was a better way to extract the information, they would use it.

On preview: I agree, LittleMissCranky, that many of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were not some top-tier terrorist bursting with secrets. But unless they are pretty sure they are holding something useful I don't think they're going to pull out the big guns. An enemy grunt won't be giving you maps of bunkers, but he may know his local HQ and the names of the CO's there. That's something worth having, and to some people, worth torturing out of the poor foot soldier.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:40 PM on March 14, 2005


If I had before me a person that planted a bomb on a shoolbus full of children, I would do everything I could to make him tell me where it was.

Most people would feel this way. My self included. It is natural. And like much of humanities "natural" inclinations based on how we feel — it is wrong.

To paraphrase Yoda, "That path leads to the darkside".

What if the only way to get that person to talk would be to rape and murder HIS/HER child?

See. These scenarios are silly.

The ends do not justify the means. Not to a principled person. Or civilization worth living in and dying for... oh, and when one comes along let me know.
posted by tkchrist at 3:25 PM on March 14, 2005


What do we get out of torture and abuse? Where are the benefits? Is it stopping insurgents in Iraq? No. Is it scaring off would-be terrorists? I'd say it's creating more.

You don't know that, and neither do I.

As a natural-rights minarchist, torture disgusts me, but it's no excuse for sloppy thinking.
posted by trharlan at 2:43 PM EST on March 14

Well, what do you think is the actual results of the fact that the US government at the highest levels has approved of, sanctioned, and rewarded a policy of torture? Is it absurd to think that perhaps it is engendering some sense that the United States perhaps isn't the bastion of freedom and civilization that it claims to be, perhaps strengthening the widely held belief among arabs that America is the great satan? Has torture stopped insurgents in Iraq? The US has been torturing people in iraq for quite some time. Do you think that makes the man on the street there want to have us stick around? Think of yourself, put yourself in the position of an average iraqi. Me, i know that if the russians were in new york, i don't care what they were doing, if they were handing out flowers and golden toilets, having elections and providing utilities and education. It's still the russians, i really don't like communism (just like a whole lot of Shiites aren't really fans of democracy). I'd be fighting. So would you. The fact that my family, friends, and neighbors being tortured, that would make me fight even harder. I don't know about you.

Can you think of a situation in which an individual instance of torture would be justifiable? I cannot, but then again, I probably have very different values from you. I can imagine others thinking that such an instance could perhaps exist. However, there is no situation or set of situations that can make a policy of torture morally acceptable. Period. I'd even argue that in iraq at the moment, it is highly unlikely that such a situation has arisen that would make an individual instance of torture morally acceptable, nor even remotely beneficial in the eyes of most reasonable, liberal (in the classic political science sense of the word) civilized people.

You have abrogated implications of these horrific deeds to a safe agnosticism. Hope that continues to work for you.
posted by Freen at 3:33 PM on March 14, 2005


That should be Shiites and Sunnis, or maybe more appropriately, the more fundamentalist islamic elements who would prefer a theocracy as opposed to a democracy, and have and will be willing to fight tooth and nail to frustrate attempts at democracy.
posted by Freen at 3:36 PM on March 14, 2005


I think that if you can't think of an instance in which torture is a morally acceptable policy, you're deluding yourself with your own armchair philosophy.

If you had a choice between torturing information about a nuclear bomb in NYC out of a prisoner you knew had that information, or not doing so, and you chose the latter based on some supposed moral superiority, I would torture YOU for being utterly disconnected with the real world and the things in it that matter. The question is never whether something is justified but when. Would I torture a man to get information which would save thousands of lives? You bet I would. The situation becomes prickly, though, when you are not talking about thousands of lives. What if it's 100 lives? 10? 1? The location of an enemy mortar emplacement? Where do you draw the line? I for one don't know, but I am not going to categorically deny the idea of doing it.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:44 PM on March 14, 2005


But unless they are pretty sure they are holding something useful I don't think they're going to pull out the big guns.

What makes you say that? It seems to me, both from keeping abreast of this stuff and reading the above links, that there is not careful screening of who is and who is not in possession of important information. Leaving aside whether or not torture is ever justifiable at all, I'm puzzled that you would be so casually sanguine about our government's interest, let alone ability, to sort the prisoners so carefully.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:49 PM on March 14, 2005


Well, here is the question, at the moment you torture the person, you are doing something that you know is wrong, you are choosing to do it, with necessarily impartial knowledge. Furthermore, torture has been shown to be quite possibly the worst means of interrogation. It just is. People who get tortured don't tell you the truth, they tell you what they think will make you stop torturing them, which is very similar to what you want to hear. I draw the line precisely where our society has drawn the line. No matter the situation, the police cannot beat information out of a suspect. They do, but it is illegal.

The essential problem is this: Human beings are free to do as they choose, and should be free. They can do bad things, immoral things. Society can't stop them, because in order to stop them completely, Society would have to do something that is almost equally as bad, but uniformly. Bad things will happen. People will kill each other, and some lunatics might just fly planes into some sky scrapers and kill a bunch of people. However, we, as a society cannot beat the bejesus out of suspected terrorists, nor people who might know about suspected terrorists. Because that is wrong. Now if you'll note, that was my personal perspective, I said that i could understand other's positions could differ from mine, and most likely other people's position do differ significantly from my own.

The debatable statement is about an individual instance, in which quite a few people would think torture is allowable and beneficial. I think that such even an instance is exceptionally rare, almost to the point of non-existance. Such an instance would require special knowledge about what people knew, and a very rapid means of non-destructively determining if what they told you was true, as well as a tremendous sense of urgency, with torture being the means of last resort. Highly unlikely, but plausible. I think that perhaps even in such a situation, torture might be wrong. I don't know though, i probably would torture someone in such a situation. Sometimes, you just have to do something that is wrong. But it is still wrong, and I would accept the associated responsibility and punishment for my actions.
posted by Freen at 4:01 PM on March 14, 2005


If you had a choice between torturing information about a nuclear bomb in NYC out of a prisoner you knew had that information...

Well that's not the situation we're facing, now, is it? Basically Abu Ghraib appears to have been kept as a sort of warped "torture factory" as it was under Saddam, except that the torture was arguably not as bad as it was under previous management. People were taken there in lots with no specific knowledge of what they had done, were "processed", then (for the vast, vast majority of them) were just let loose because it was clear they had nothing to offer.

But, you know, while we're thinking along those lines, assume that one person is absolute, positively sure that YOU know the location of a nuke in NYC. Think of the living hell that your life is about to become because of someone's mistake. Enjoy it much?
posted by clevershark at 4:03 PM on March 14, 2005


I'm puzzled that you would be so casually sanguine about our government's interest, let alone ability, to sort the prisoners so carefully.

I can respect that, but first I think that it's not really that hard - the higher on the ladder, the more likely you'll have good information. But that's kind of a sidenote - the real reason, I think, is that they are not going to waste their time on a thousand guys trying to find out information that only one knows - it's a waste of time and resources when they are crucial (we're at war they say), and the military hates that. It's better for them to get the person right the first time around, and only torture the one, hard. Abuses like the ones at Abu Ghraib are blunt, ineffective, and time-consuming - tying them down, hoods, solitary, etc. That's amateur hour. You don't get to see the ones they really tortured.

And Freen - I think that you underestimate the frequency in which torture can produce viable and life-saving information. I think I understand what you're saying about free will, but I think that while the woe of the few is necessary for the happiness of the many, we just need to put the woe on the right few - the ones about to crash planes into buildings.

I'm sorry, I sound like a total asshole talking about this stuff in such a casual way. I just think that the abuses may be widespread but real torture, as in gleefully ignores Geneva Conventions, is a tool applied only to those for whom it is deemed necessary. Furthermore, my overarching agenda is for the elimination of torture, not its continuance, though that would require a completely different state of the world.

Clevershark - I think the difference between the abuses at Abu Ghraib (humiliation, beating, denial of rights and so on) and the serious tortures performed by Saddam and probably the US on a much more limited scale (mutilation, severe electrocution, killing of families, and such) is too great to place them under the same umbrella. It's like the difference between stealing a Starburst from 7-11 and robbing the place and shooting the cashier.
As to the turn-the-tables argument, what about false imprisonment and executions that happen all the time? False evidence condemns people every day - but I don't hear you crowing about those mistakes. I have enough faith in the system that I don't expect it to happen very much at all, and the how-would-you-like-it thing stopped working on me back in 4th grade.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:17 PM on March 14, 2005


tharlan is right to contend torture might have some efficacy. It was most likely through torture, in part, that Saddam Hussein was hunted down. But it was a very labor intensive process--a person was tortured until he or she gave up a name and that person arrested and tortured in turn and so on and on... this required a wide net being cast with many innocents being caught up in it. Whatever immediate military value there might have been was offset by the incalculable cost politically, not to mention morally.

The release of the investigation’s findings coincides with the disclosure today of 800 additional pages of military documents obtained by the ACLU in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information on torture by United States military personnel overseas. The new documents reveal:

A formal agreement between the CIA and Pentagon on how to hide "ghost detainees" from Red Cross officials, which is a significant violation of international law. Several documents refer to ghost detainees who died in custody, including one whose body was taken away by a taxi driver paid by interrogators.

A culture of "releaseophobia" among military personnel charged with administering detentions in Iraq, which left many innocent men and women languishing in prison.

A sworn statement by a military intelligence official that the vast majority of detainees in Iraq were "peripheral bystanders" and that "perhaps only one in ten security detainees were of any particular intelligence value."
From ACLU Says New Detainee Report Does Not Absolve Senior Officials of Responsibility for Abuses
Question: What are we looking at when we see, for example, the instances at Abu Ghraib; when we look at the information about the ghost detainees and the allegations of all the prisoners abuses at Guantanamo, sentences, laws, a number of prisoners held in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, that I know about? Are we looking at ad hoc lawlessness? Is this a window into just an aberration, or do we now, as journalists, make the link that what we're seeing is a pervasive new atmosphere the military, that it is entitled to put aside the Geneva Convention and the ways must be found around them, and that the most important priority is to find the information at all costs? Are we looking at a new climate or a new culture throughout the military?

Rear Admiral John Hutson, U.S. Navy (Ret.), former naval judge advocate general: Well, I certainly hope that we are not, and what we're looking at is a complete aberration. Because if we fall down to that depth, if we go so far from the moral high ground that this becomes acceptable and the standard operating procedure, than we really will have lost the war on terrorism, no matter what happens in body count, we will have lost the war. So, I certainly hope that's not the case. I think that it does require however – this gets back to something we mentioned very early in the conversation about an investigation of some sort, and there are various ways of doing that – but I think that it is absolutely incumbent upon, not the military per se, but the U.S. to investigate this in a manner in which both domestically and internationally, we can be comfortable that one, we have found all the bad stuff there is to find. We have finally got to ground zero. Two, we are able to make the corrections that need to be made, in order to ensure this doesn't happens again. Because if we don't do that, it surely will. Perhaps not in this context, maybe not in a prison, but that that kind of lawlessness – that kind of willingness to throw off the rules because we're in a war against terror – will surely bring us down.

This is the kind of war we will have in the future. This is the new face of the war. War used to be linear. It had a beginning, middle, and an end. It was against a nation state, we all wore uniforms, and somebody was there who could actually surrender. But now, for the foreseeable future in our lifetime, this is the kind of stakes we're going to be facing and we have to learn how to deal with it. Simply becoming terrorists ourselves is not the answer.
Experts Respond to Bush Administration's Legal Angling on Torture
posted by y2karl at 4:47 PM on March 14, 2005


Who was responsible? There are various levels of accountability. But it seems unmistakable from these documents that decisions made by the president himself and the secretary of defense contributed to confusion, vagueness and disarray, which, in turn, led directly to abuse and torture. The president bears sole responsibility for ignoring Colin Powell's noble warnings. The esoteric differences between legal 'abuse' and illegal 'torture' and the distinction between 'prisoners of war' and 'unlawful combatants' were and are so vague as to make the abuse of innocents almost inevitable. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that 'the government has never provided any court with the full criteria that it uses in classifying individuals' as enemy combatants. It is one thing to make a distinction in theory between Geneva-protected combatants and unprotected Qaeda operatives. But in the chaos of a situation like Iraq, how can you practically know the difference? When one group is designated as unworthy of humane treatment, and that group is impossible to distinguish from others, it is unsurprising that exceptions quickly become rules. The best you can say is that in an administration with a reputation for clear lines of command and clear rules of engagement, the vagueness and incompetence are the most striking features.

Worse, the president has never acknowledged the scope or the real gravity of what has taken place. His first instinct was to minimize the issue; later, his main references to it were a couple of sentences claiming that the abuses were the work of a handful of miscreants, rather than a consequence of his own decisions. But the impact of these events on domestic morale, on the morale of the vast majority of honorable soldiers in a very tough place and on the reputation of the United States in the Middle East is incalculable. The war on terror is both military and political. The president's great contribution has been to recognize that a solution is impossible without political reform in the Middle East. And yet the prevalence of brutality and inhumanity among American interrogators has robbed the United States of the high ground it desperately needs to maintain in order to win. What better weapon for Al Qaeda than the news that an inmate at Guantánamo was wrapped in the Israeli flag or that prisoners at Abu Ghraib were raped? There is no escaping the fact that, whether he intended to or not, this president handed Al Qaeda that weapon. Sometimes a brazen declaration of toughness is actually a form of weakness. In a propaganda war for the hearts and minds of Muslims everywhere, it's simply self-defeating.

And the damage done was intensified by President Bush's refusal to discipline those who helped make this happen. A president who truly recognized the moral and strategic calamity of this failure would have fired everyone responsible. But the vice president's response to criticism of the defense secretary in the wake of Abu Ghraib was to say, 'Get off his back.' In fact, those with real responsibility for the disaster were rewarded. Rumsfeld was kept on for the second term, while the man who warned against ignoring the Geneva Conventions, Colin Powell, was seemingly nudged out. The man who wrote a legal opinion maximizing the kind of brutal treatment that the United States could legally defend, Jay S. Bybee, was subsequently rewarded with a nomination to a federal Court of Appeals. General Sanchez and Gen. John P. Abizaid remain in their posts. Alberto R. Gonzales, who wrote memos that validated the decision to grant Geneva status to inmates solely at the president's discretion, is now nominated to the highest law enforcement job in the country: attorney general. The man who paved the way for the torture of prisoners is to be entrusted with safeguarding the civil rights of Americans. It is astonishing he has been nominated, and even more astonishing that he will almost certainly be confirmed.
Atrocities in Plain Sight
Andrew Sullivan January 23, 2005
posted by y2karl at 4:49 PM on March 14, 2005


If you had a choice between torturing information about a nuclear bomb in NYC out of a prisoner you knew had that information, or not doing so, and you chose the latter based on some supposed moral superiority, I would torture YOU for being utterly disconnected with the real world and the things in it that matter.

That's pretty stupid, but it's a good allegory for the invasion of Iraq.

False evidence condemns people every day - but I don't hear you crowing about those mistakes. I have enough faith in the system that I don't expect it to happen very much at all

Are you serious? Anyone who works for or donates to the Innocent Project or the Southern Poverty Law Center is crowing about it, though maybe not loud enough. I'm sorry, but you've lost a lot of credibility as this thread has evolved.

the how-would-you-like-it thing stopped working on me back in 4th grade.

You should try it again. Sometimes it's called The Golden Rule.

Well articulated, tkchrist, but we fundamentally disagree. mr_roboto has probably already said it much better than I can. Thanks for picking up the slack while I was working.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:57 PM on March 14, 2005


The question is never whether something is justified but when. Would I torture a man to get information which would save thousands of lives? You bet I would. The situation becomes prickly, though, when you are not talking about thousands of lives. What if it's 100 lives? 10? 1? The location of an enemy mortar emplacement? Where do you draw the line? I for one don't know, but I am not going to categorically deny the idea of doing it.
posted by BlackLeotardFront


Sometimes, you just have to do something that is wrong. But it is still wrong, and I would accept the associated responsibility and punishment for my actions.
posted by Freen

I completely agree. That is why torture should be illegal in all it's forms as described by the Geneva Convention. But for the people with authority, the ones who actually have in front of them terrorists that have valuable information, they have to decide if the stakes are high enough to risk prosecution for torturing that person. In this way we limit the egregious use of torture.

I concede though that this would work much better if the U.S. would support the International Criminal Court.
sorry about the mini-type, i'm just getting the hang of this stuff and i don't know why it's doing this

posted by recurve at 5:03 PM on March 14, 2005


And there is Team Delta, which provides--for fourteen hundred plus dollars per person--a sort of summer camp for those seeking the hands on experience of a torture free military interrogation.

For British TV 4's documentary Torture: Guantanamo Guidebook, Team Delta's Cadre recreated the Guantanamo Bay interrogation experience - putting seven volunteers including three Muslims, through an actual military interrogation, using the rules of engagement approved by Secretary of State Rumsfeld for Guantanamo Bay.

British Channel 4 engaged the Team Delta Cadre to recreate the Guantanamo Bay interrogation experience. At the production company's request, along with Team Delta's normal approach to interrogation, Team Delta also reenacted several specific events reported to have occurred at Guantanamo. In most cases these reenacted events were counter productive to the interrogation plan developed by Team Delta - a plan that had learned 80% of the requested intelligence within the first few hours of capture.
posted by y2karl at 5:10 PM on March 14, 2005


mrgrimm -
Tell me why that situation is stupid. It seems to me that that kind of situation actually happens, and one's actions in that position are telling.
RE False accusations - I think you misread my post. I said it happens and HE was not taking it into consideration. Why am I losing credibility? I'm just speaking my mind here.
I'm familiar with the Golden Rule. But framing it like that is just a bad way of going about it. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" as I remember it, and that's exactly what I would do. Given REAL, TRUSTABLE evidence that a person has information necessary to save thousands of lives, any means should be taken to get that information. I say that as a rule by which all would abide, including myself, in this little fantasy. You don't need to patronize me because you assumed I would be too selfish to apply my own rules to myself.
I don't want this to be a flamewar, but please try to give me a little more credit.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:15 PM on March 14, 2005


And thanks for these posts, y2karl, they're interesting and informative. I'm not sure where the real locus of blame lies for the Abu Ghraib incidents specifically, it seems rather to be spread quite liberally about instead of focused upon a single individual or small group. Regardless, it should be policy that mistakes under one's watch should be paid for - and Rumsfeld should have taken a dive as soon as the truth came out.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:18 PM on March 14, 2005


I've said it before, but let me say it again: We're all "Good Germans" now.

All of you who are apologists for torture, or worse, those of you who claim that we don't need to talk about it anymore, because "the miscreants have been punished", are in no real way different from the "Good German" who reckoned that his neighbor Cohen was peacefully "resettled in the East" or that Cohen must have done something to deserve "imprisonment" in Dachau.

All of you who ignore the evidence are no better than the "good Germans" who ignored the clouds of black smoke streaming from the crematoria.

Now inevitably, some wag will take sophomoric pleasure in claiming that I've "Godwined" the thread-- ignoring that there are times when a comparison to Naziism is well-earned and indeed the only morally correct comparison.

For sixty years, Germans and Germany have been reviled for the crimes of Naziism. For another sixty or a hundred, America and all Americans will be similarly stained. Deservedly so.

Ye have sowed the wind, and ye shall reap the whirlwind, and no amount of protesting that you're good Christians should stay the hand of a righteous God.

Tremble for your country when you reflect that God is just; and that his justice cannot sleep forever.
posted by orthogonality at 5:27 PM on March 14, 2005


I can't agree with you, orthogonality, I'm afraid I may be that wag. There is a world of difference there - the Nazis weren't caught beating a few Jews. I hardly need to remind you it was systematic mass murder of millions of people, not foolish and humiliating abuses by a bunch of power-drunk privates in a lonely prison. You are right in condemning the apologists, and you are right that this will stain our reputation in the U.S., but to compare it to the Holocaust is extremely misleading and offensive.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:34 PM on March 14, 2005


I do NOT approve of torture and the rest but it's going to happen whether we like it or not,

This is only true as long as you (and a lot of other people) think that way.

I knew this guy who claimed to have been some kind of sniper in the military and who claimed to have worked in South America on all sorts of covert gigs. May have been total bullshit; who knows. Anyway, one day we got into a lengthy debate about American foreign policy. I mentioned some of our more grotesque actions and he claimed they were all justified. I asked him where he drew the line, personally. Was it okay to drop bombs on villages? Was killing children okay? How did one determine what was and wasn't permissible?

His response was very interesting. He said that, basically, it was up to the American public to decide. If the military did something they objected to and they made those objections known, then the military would be ordered to back off. If, on the other hand, the public did nothing (or approved), they'd keep right on doing it.

All I'm saying is that it's up to us. You say "It's going to happen whether we like it or not." I say that it's going to happen as long as we allow it to happen.

Now, also implicit in your argument is the idea that torture is a necessary part of the system. And there's some truth in that. If we're going to invade a foreign country and crush any resistance to the puppet government we install, then sure, torture is probably going to be necessary. We'll also have to ban opposition media, cripple democracy, terrorize large groups of people, and so forth. That's how you conquer and control a country. If there's another way to do it, I haven't heard about it.

So the question isn't "are we going to use torture?" I mean, you can ask that question, but it's kind of like some guy who's about to go on a mass killing spree asking himself "Am I going to use hollow point bullets or the regular kind?" It might make a difference, but it's not the most important question on the table.

The important question is, "Are we going to continue conquering countries and oppressing people?" And the answer isn't up to Donald Rumsfeld or Condeleza Rice. It's up to us.
posted by Clay201 at 5:38 PM on March 14, 2005


I think, as BlackLeotardFront has been saying, that torture, objectively, is a lot more effective than some think it is. I'm not condoning it, but the argument that it's not useful seems silly. There seems to be this either/or distinction between torture and other forms of information gathering. As amberglow said, "Why don't we have on-the-ground contacts and spies and infiltrators instead--which would guarantee accurate information? It's much more effective and less immoral and abhorrent and barbaric." This is what I find odd. If you're willing to use torture, then why not do both? Of course torture alone will yield bad results, but torture combined with other sources of info could work very well.

And also, BlackLeotardFront's comment, "You don't know that, and neither do I," seems to have been widely misinterpreted. What he was saying, as I read it, was that we don't know if and to what extent torture has helped things. True, it has not stopped the insurgents. But has it kept the insurgents from doing worse things than they did? We aren't in a position to know that.

If you found BlackLeotardFront's hypothetical torture situation too hard to swallow as unrealistic, then how about this one: You are a commander in the US forces in Iraq. You are currently trying to stamp out an insurgency cell, and while you have been able through various means to gather information on the whereabouts of the leaders of the cell, it's not good enough to find them yet. You have in your custody several men connected to the cell, but of course they have refused to say anything. Every day insurgent attacks kill your men, and suicide attacks kill civillians, and you're not getting any closer to stopping it legitimately. I think this scenario probably comes up a lot in Iraq. I'm not condoning what they do, but showing that there are situations where hard choices arise that some feel might require hard answers.

I'm sorry, I really am not saying torture is okay, just replying to some argument presented above that seemed illogical.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:39 PM on March 14, 2005


Thanks for the backup, Sangermaine. I was starting to sweat.

Clay201, I think that is an interesting take, and I agree but only in part. It should be decided by the people what the country should do and what it should be barred from doing - assuming, and this is a big assumption, that the people are not ignorant or misinformed. However, they have no way to enforce their decrees on a small scale - and torture doesn't need to be a documented policy to be a useful option in a combat situation or whatever.
I disagree that it won't happen if we just condemn it - it's been happening for a long, long, LONG time and I can't imagine people have ever said, "Torture? Oh yeah, sounds great!" So I see it continuing for the forseeable future, which is not to say that we should not attempt to squelch it when it is misused as in the Abu Ghraib case. And once again please don't think I'm condoning torture, I'm just trying to speak honestly about it. :>
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:52 PM on March 14, 2005


Can we all agree that a organization which monitors the actions of foreign nations is necessary to our nation's safety? I don't mean that sarcastically, I am asking if that is something we can agree upon.

I don't agree.

What foreign nation can conceivably cause direct harm to the USA? Just ain't likely to happen. Everyone on the planet is perfectly aware that invading the USA is impossible, and the consequences would be horrific. The USA is basically safe from all nations.

Now of course there are some caveats. There are a few nations that are undoubtedly ready to engage in economic warfare, and China is probably top among them. There are a few nations harbouring the sort of loosely-affiliated folk who engage in guerilla terrorism, and the mid-East is probably top among them. And, of course, there is always corporate espionage and suchlike, but one might wonder whether that's truly a concern of the government domain.

Anyway, point is that safety-wise, the American people are pretty secure. Always have been, probably always will be.

There's a role for US spies. There is no role for US torture.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on March 14, 2005


five fresh fish, I agree that we are pretty secure, but that doesn't mean that we always will be. I don't want to sound like the Republican convention but that's an assumption we can't make after September 11. We don't have an actual wall around our country stopping the bad guys, we have a huge intelligence community that tracks and analyzes potential threats all over the world.
I think that we are probably blissfully unaware of things like terrorist attacks, various bombings, arms deals, and so on, that are intercepted by our intelligence community. To remove espionage from our arsenal would be to cripple ourselves and invite further attacks. As for torture, I am against it, but it will almost certainly go on whether we condemn it or not.

Let me modify my statement - can we all agree that an organization which monitors actions _IN_ foreign nations is necessary to our nations safety? Sorry, I should have said that to begin with.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:06 PM on March 14, 2005


BlackLeotardFront writes " the Nazis weren't caught beating a few Jews. I hardly need to remind you it was systematic mass murder of millions of people, not foolish and humiliating abuses by a bunch of power-drunk privates in a lonely prison."

Do you honestly still believe it was just "power-drunk privates" "beating a few" prisoners? It was rape of children, it was murder -- dozens of murders, it was systematic policy from the office of the President of the United States.

True, it wasn't six million -- but do you really believe that you can absolve atrocities and war crimes just based on the number of victims? Will you excuse Hitler's six million in the face of Joseph Stalin's twenty or forty million?

Will you absolve the North Vietnamese because they "only" tortured a few hundred US airmen?

What exactly does "never again" mean to you? Never again will Hitler kill six million Jews? Well, given that Hitler is dead -- as are those six million Jews -- if that is what "never again" means, it's easily achieved.

But if "never again" has real meaning, we must apply it to all situations where a government commits crimes against humanity -- or else we're nothing but hypocrites cynically using "never again" as just a way to paste our enemies in the eyes of world opinion.
posted by orthogonality at 6:14 PM on March 14, 2005


This is a very well thought out analysis of the ethical issues involved with torture. It effective approximates my statements above, with a few differences, and quite a bit better put together and well reasoned.

Here is another, that I think is much more stringent than I am, but i haven't had a chance to read it. Both are quite good, and have fantastic bibliographies.

This is a quite interesting recent poll

On preview: You never have been, nor ever will be secure. Security is impossible in a free state. Life is dangerous, Terror terrorizes. That is the intent and purpose of terrorism, to force free societies to deal with the problem of security vs freedom. At some point, if the society becomes sufficiently terrorized, they choose either to acquiesce to the demands of the terrorist, or to limit freedom to a point at which it becomes self destructive, through terrorizing the population into a perpetual state of fear, and the state into rabid policing of the populace, causing the breakdown of societal super-structures.

Life is inherently dangerous. You have never been completely safe.

Accept the danger, and refuse to live in terror. Its not like things were different before 9/11, most of us just weren't paying attention. Myself included.
posted by Freen at 6:16 PM on March 14, 2005


Seriously, the solution that works is to make torture unequivocally and tremendously illegal. Then only those moments when torture is necessary, and the torturer is willing to risk the punishment, because the benefits outweigh his or her own punishment for the act, then they would perform the extra-moral act of committing torture, complete with its legal ramifications.

Anyone who ever thinks that we should create a framework in which we allow the use of torture doesn't understand how creeping featurism works, nor the way large bureaucracy, particularly ones like the military work.
posted by Freen at 6:24 PM on March 14, 2005


five fresh fish
Can we all agree that a organization which monitors the actions of foreign nations is necessary to our nation's safety? I don't mean that sarcastically, I am asking if that is something we can agree upon.

I don't agree.
...
There's a role for US spies. There is no role for US torture.

Odd. It sounds like you're agreeing with his statement. He didn't say that we need torture, but that we need spies, which you also said. What don't you agree with?

And the premise that the US is pretty secure and always has been is false. The USSR really did pose an enormous threat, and it is a fact that they engaged in espionage against us. Did our spies prevent them from doing everything they wanted to do, like stealing the nuclear bomb? No. But you can't say that there was no threat at all. And yes, right now there really is no nation in the world that could stand up to us militarily, or would. But those "caveats" you mentioned are very good reasons to have spies. Also, you have to look to the future. Just because there are no enemies now does not mean that there will be no enemies in the future. This is not saying that we need a n intelligence community with total freedom to take any actions it wants with no oversight, but it is saying that it's a good idea to have the ability to know what is going on in the world, and if neccessary work to stop it.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:25 PM on March 14, 2005


Freen,
I actually agree completely with that. It seems very reasonable.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:26 PM on March 14, 2005


Interesting posts, Freen - I'll read the long one momentarily.

Orthogonality: What is it that is actually rankling you about my position on this? I want torture eliminated! But given the nature of our government and the world in general, that is an unlikely proposition! Not that we shouldn't try! Will you stop demonizing me now?
Furthermore, are you going to try and tell me that George W. Bush wrote and made official an order to systematically rape children and kill innocent people in Iraq? He's a dick and a retard but he didn't do that, neither did Rumsfeld, or Wolfowitz, or anybody. If you put 150,000 bloodthirsty soldiers into a defenseless country, you'd better pray that there are ONLY a couple dozen murders and rapes! This is an important issue, but blowing it up bigger than it actually is will only cause more harm.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:34 PM on March 14, 2005


BlackLeotardFront writes " Furthermore, are you going to try and tell me that George W. Bush wrote and made official an order to systematically rape children and kill innocent people in Iraq? He's a dick and a retard but he didn't do that, neither did Rumsfeld, or Wolfowitz, or anybody. If you put 150,000 bloodthirsty soldiers into a defenseless country, you'd better pray that there are ONLY a couple dozen murders and rapes!"

There's a reason we don't select presidents and cabinet officials like jurors, randomly from a list of citizens: it's called leadership.

Yes, you should expect a certain amount of atrocity in any occupation -- all the more reason that a competent and moral executive should anticipate this and put into place mechanisms to monitor and stop abuses.

The Bush administration did the opposite: they encouraged abuse by undermining the Geneva Conventions and US laws against torture.

The other side of the coin of leadership is responsibility -- but no senior administration official, no military officer above the rank of, what, major? has been held responsible, much less has come forward and accepted responsibility and done the honorable thing.

It's a moral failure no matter how you look at it, and a failure with tremendous costs, both moral and practical for the United States.

But there's a larger responsibility that has been abrogated: the responsibility of a free people in a democracy to remove leaders who don't live up to their responsibilities as leaders. And that is why I say we're all "good Germans" now.

By shrugging and making excuses, we -- we, the American People -- have as much as said that we are not opposed to torture. And God help us all.
posted by orthogonality at 6:50 PM on March 14, 2005


Well said, orthogonality, thanks for addressing this. You're right, the Bush administration did blow it. I mentioned that blame was spread like butter all along the chain of command, and I too am outraged that no one above some peon lost his job or was jailed. It was absolutely a moral failure. However! I still disagree with the "good Germans" idea - I think that you can't condemn people for being misinformed or ignorant. Those who are do not deserve to be treated like accessories to this crime - they were not and still are not aware of their mistake. You may (with my cordial permission, of course) however treat the others as "good Germans" - the ones who know the whole story and still see no crime.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:56 PM on March 14, 2005


Its not like things were different before 9/11, most of us just weren't paying attention.

Well, there was that little thermonuclear war thing--which especially troubled we who were alive at the time during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
posted by y2karl at 7:22 PM on March 14, 2005


five fresh fish, I agree that we are pretty secure, but that doesn't mean that we always will be. I don't want to sound like the Republican convention but that's an assumption we can't make after September 11.

No. That's an absurd argument. More people die each year from drunk driving accidents than died on 9.11. 9/11 is not an excuse to step away from the moral high ground. Torturing innocent men, women, and children so some inbred hick gets his rocks off and claims it's for the good of the country is bullshit.

Torture is a power play. Apologists for torturers have abandoned any pretense of morality. Using the death of a few thousand Americans to justify pissing on the ideals of America as a country is reprehensible.

How can anyone read these reports and not be outraged? How is that freaking possible?
posted by dejah420 at 7:37 PM on March 14, 2005


I think the difference between the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the serious tortures performed by Saddam and probably the US on a much more limited scale is too great to place them under the same umbrella.

I just took away your parentheses, because I don't think you realised what you wrote... you attempt first to distance the US actions from those of Saddam, then lump the two together. I use "Abu Ghraib" as a generic "stand-in" for a place of torture and I probably shouldn't, but it IS apparent from many of the testimonials from many of the links in this thread that many of the same abuses that happened under Saddam (rape, torture, etc.) also happened after the US took over. There have even been acknowledged non-natural deaths of people being detained. Let's drop the blanket "well, we're Americans, so whatever we do is automatically good" bullshit, shall we?

As to the turn-the-tables argument, what about false imprisonment and executions that happen all the time?

I think that the death penalty is unconscionable and immoral per se (no matter what the specifics). I don't know what you're trying to prove here.
posted by clevershark at 7:57 PM on March 14, 2005


that's an assumption we can't make after September 11

9/11 did not make America unsafe. 0.0008% of America's citizens died in that attack. That is, in every sense of the word, bugger-all. It was a freak occurance and will not be easily repeated.

In the reality-based world, you note that as many as 8000 Americans are killed each year because idiots insist on driving while talking on their cellphone. Presumably a significant number of the dead are victims as innocent as anyone in the WTC collapse.

9/11 was a horrible single incident. It is not, however, any excuse for what's been going on with the US Administration. Sane minds should have prevaled.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 PM on March 14, 2005


Well, there was that little thermonuclear war thing--which especially troubled we who were alive at the time during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Or the Reagan years. Or the Bush II years, with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran waving atoms around like they just don't care.

We'll look back on these days and laugh, I suppose. At least those of us who survive.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:03 PM on March 14, 2005


Brilliant. The usual senseless, perfect-foreknowledge-requiring, binary scenarios for justifying outright torture, if not outright murder.

One can't help but marvel at the wonderful synchronicity, as it were, of those crazy lads Saddam and Uday and Qusay in their heyday, chuckling around their supper table as they rationalized torture and murder and militarism in the same land, for the same "reasons" now given above and throughout the American chain of command. Yeah, the Hussein Ethicists: presage of Abu Ghraib...if not the entire invasion of Iraq. Ends justify means, don't you know.

Whither vanished this America we once knew?

There are *always* ethical alternatives to the kind of simpleminded scenarios conjured above, most requiring no more than the simplest contemplation of cause and fucking effect. They all start with keeping toothpastes in tubes, cats in bags, etc etc...or, as a certain otherwise moronic brigadier general used to say, Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Bag. A wildcat named Pandora....ferocity freed. Gutlessly invading another sovereign nation, to depose a thug we helped create, "liberating" a people we helped to enslave, to destroy weapons we helped stock, to supposedly prevent terrorism we help foment. Now we are told the Land of The Free must inflict pain on other human beings, to prevent them and theirs from....wait for it....inflicting pain on other human beings.

We created the nightmare scenarios we now find ourselves facing, and failing at. There were always infinite alternatives.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:40 PM on March 14, 2005


Clearly this thread has finished, but I have to defend myself; I was off at a cafe reading Daredevil comics when I was so unmercifully savaged by the residents here.

Dejah and five fresh fish, it's not an absurd argument. It may be that more people die from drunken car crashes, or crocodile ambushes, or pop rocks and coke than died on September 11, but my point was that a terrorist attack succeeded in killing thousands of people on U.S. soil, so the assumption that we are safe was shattered quickly and definitively on that day. I never used it as an excuse for anything or suggested that it made America more unsafe, I just cited it as a reminder that we are not completely secure, nor were we ever, nor will we ever be - thus the need for a system of int'l espionage and intelligence.

Clevershark, I see that you are trying to equate our offenses against prisoners with Hussein's. I don't think that's a reasonable position - Hussein's methods were worse in degree, more deliberate and on a larger scale. That is not to say that our methods were okay - I never implied that, in fact I have gone out of my way multiple times to say that I disapprove wholely of these actions, but the surprise at them and assurances of their discontinuance are unrealistic given their history. I simply think that an attempt to compare the two will inevitably end in their being two totally different beasts. Sorry if I was unclear about the false imprisonment/exectution thing, I'm not exactly clear myself as to how to phrase it. My understanding is, you are asking me how I'd feel about being wrongly accused. My response is that I can only feel that such an accusation would be a mistake and a rare one, and that since I expect others to abide by the law I must as well, and trust in the system to exonerate me, as it has been forced to do with some (but not even close to a lot) of the detainees.
Please don't think that I'm trying in any way to excuse the abuses at Abu Ghraib and other places. I'm just trying to put them in a larger context, without which their seriousness is distorted. For the record (and the 3rd or 4th time) I am against torture of any kind, but I deny the ideas that it is ineffective and that cracking down on it will eliminate it altogether.

Fold_and_mutilate, I'm not sure I understand your post, but the situations you refer to are meant to be extremes, under which a rational person IMHO must agree to torture or murder for a much greater good. I don't think such situations are as rare as some would think, though they are certainly not common. I am not excusing past offenses such as the false pretences for war or the policies which have led to our current predicament, but people were refusing to believe that torture is admissable in any case whatsoever and I thought them wrong.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:50 AM on March 15, 2005


BlackLeotardFront:

It should be decided by the people what the country should do and what it should be barred from doing - assuming, and this is a big assumption, that the people are not ignorant or misinformed. However, they have no way to enforce their decrees on a small scale
....
I disagree that it won't happen if we just condemn it - it's been happening for a long, long, LONG time


Okay. Try this. We have the "Can" column and the "Can't" column.

There are certain things that the Bush (or any) administration knows it can get away with, For example, depriving the city of Fallujah of water; I doubt they worried too much about congressional hearings on that one. So they went ahead and did it, never even blinked. We'll say that this particular action is in the "Can" column.

Then there are things they know they can't get away with. For example, bringing back the draft. Popular resistance would be so strong that half the administration would just have to resign. It would just be political Armageddon. And the Bush guys aren't stupid, so they know all this and they don't talk about bringing back the draft. Thus, the draft is in the "Can't" column.

This has nothing to do with political ideology or even political expediency. It's popular resistance, pure and simple. If there's too much popular resistance, you can't do it. End of story.

So the point here is to move torture from the "Can" column to the "Can't" column. That's how we "enforce" our "decrees." This is the method used by the abolitionists, the anti-war movement in the Viet Nam era, and every other movement that's had any success. In some cases it's a very slow process to be sure, but as far as I know it's the only method available.

You raise the question of whether the citizenry is sufficiently informed to make important decisions like this. It's kind of a moot question. If we're actually involved in making these decisions, we'll be informed and the more informed we are, the more we'll be involved in making the decisions. It's kind of like locking me out of your clubhouse and then, when I protest, telling me I can't be a member because I don't know anything about what's going on inside. Knowledge and control pretty much always go hand in hand.

But even if it doesn't - even if we are ignorant on some particular topic - we still have the same power to influence decision making. See, this power doesn't come to us because of a piece of paper or because of our votes. Our voting is really pretty incidental. And no one ever gives anyone this kind of power. It comes to us by virtue of the fact that there a couple hundred million of us. Witness peer-to-peer file downloading. It's illegal as hell, but there are so many people doing it that the law almost might as well not be there. The government just can't take them all on. During the Viet Nam war, LBJ could've simply declared martial law in certain areas and smacked the protestors down. But he knew that they had a lot of support from the population, that he'd likely end up fighting not just a few thousand hippies but half the country. This had precious little to do with voting or signing petitions. There were just too many people who felt too strongly about the Viet Nam war; the government couldn't fight them all.

So it's pretty useless to ask "should the general public have this decision making power?" We have it, regardless of who likes it and who doesn't, regardless of whether we even want it. We simply have to decide how we're going to use it.
posted by Clay201 at 2:58 AM on March 15, 2005


Some would argue the decision has already been made, and the american public do indeed support child torture.

"911 Changed Everything"
posted by fullerine at 5:10 AM on March 15, 2005


fullerine:

Some would argue the decision has already been made

Fair point. However, we can change; things can improve. They have before. And there's already a tremendous amount of resistance to this war. Anything is still possible.
posted by Clay201 at 6:15 AM on March 15, 2005


sonofsam: "Can you read?"
WTF? Calm your ass down.
posted by tkchrist at 2:26 PM PST on March 14 [!]


I read the name as sonofsamiam. Guess sonofsamiam got his answer.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:19 AM on March 15, 2005


He said that, basically, it was up to the American public to decide.

Less than 50% of Americans selected the present political leadership.

And I have YET to see the US Government let its citizens know what is going on WRT sniper work. OR allow a vote on that item.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:37 AM on March 15, 2005


If you don't overtly stand up against this and say that it is wrong, you are tacitly saying that it is alright.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2005


Clay201, I do agree with you on these things. I see that our power comes from being informed, voting citizens and with that power we can control what our government does and does not do... but only to an extent. My point was not that we are not sufficiently informed about torture to bar the gov't from doing it, but simply that neither we nor the gov't have the means to stop it from being done. The draft can be stopped because it is a huge thing that involves millions directly. Torture can be done from one person to another, and reap the same benefits whether or not anyone knows about it. So I agree with you but I maintain that we cannot control torture policy any more than we control when a soldier shoots his gun.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:54 AM on March 15, 2005


If you had a choice between torturing information about a nuclear bomb in NYC out of a prisoner you knew had that information, or not doing so, and you chose the latter based on some supposed moral superiority, I would torture YOU for being utterly disconnected with the real world and the things in it that matter.

That's pretty stupid, but it's a good allegory for the invasion of Iraq.

mrgrimm -
Tell me why that situation is stupid. It seems to me that that kind of situation actually happens, and one's actions in that position are telling.


I was referring to the fact that you would torture me, after the fact of a nuclear bomb explosion in NYC, because I didn't torture someone who might have proferred information that could have stopped it.

The torture of me would surely have no positive effect, and it would be performed solely for the sake of vengeance. See: invasion of Iraq in relation to the WTC attack.

I think you've articulated your beliefs fairly well. "One's actions in that position" are very telling indeed.

the american public do indeed support child torture.

Yes. Yes they do. Now what are we supposed to do about that? It's awfully depressing, and I'm not even sure where to start.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2005


Way to take me too seriously, champ.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:28 PM on March 15, 2005


Regarding torture, BlackLeotardFront said:

neither we nor the gov't have the means to stop it from being done

That simply isn't true.

I wrote three paragraphs explaining why it's not true, but then I cut them because it occurred to me that this is completely self evident and/or covered in my previous posts. We can and do control the actions (including the firing of weapons) of our soldiers and agents. Period.

But I've saved the cut paragraphs. If you want me to post them, let me know.
posted by Clay201 at 6:57 PM on March 15, 2005


Clay201: I think some people may need reminding.

Let me re-iterate something i said above. The conditions in which torture has any sort of benefit are incredibly rare, and potentially impossible. You have to know just about everything that the tortured person knows because otherwise they could lie to you, tell you what you want to hear, and then it would be a useless endeavor. It's a question of information theory. How do you know if you've gotten the right answer? If you attempt to find out, are you certain that the perpetrators won't be able to discover that they have someone who is singing and alter their plans? Look, Crime is impossible to totally prevent, as is prisoner abuse, but that can be enforced and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Fewer people speed because of the distinct possibility of getting a ticket. But torture for the purpose of gaining information should never be allowed in any sort of policy framework, in any way shape or form, and should bear sever punishment, no matter what the mitigating factors happen to be. This is because if it is worth torturing someone to get some piece of information, it is surely worth spending a considerable amount of time in jail for torturing that person.
posted by Freen at 8:13 PM on March 15, 2005


if it is worth torturing someone to get some piece of information, it is surely worth spending a considerable amount of time in jail for torturing that person.

Thank you, Freen. If a person thinks torture is wholly justified and is going to do it, they should *demand* prosecution for themselves and ask the judge for the full penalty the law allows. If they don't have the balls to do that, then maybe they're *not* so sure the person really does have life-saving information that they'll only let loose when tortured.
posted by beth at 9:17 PM on March 15, 2005


If you don't overtly stand up against this and say that it is wrong, you are tacitly saying that it is alright.

exactly.

The poorman: Enjoy the Silence
posted by amberglow at 9:34 PM on March 15, 2005




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