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May 22, 2005 10:25 AM   Subscribe

How far do we go? Is there a place in "civilized" society for torture?
posted by leftcoastbob (76 comments total)

 
"A former chairman of the National Crime Authority says torture is acceptable against terrorists and in some domestic criminal situations

And Peter Faris, QC, has drawn from the classic Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry to illustrate why."


Oh for fuck's sake.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:33 AM on May 22, 2005


Honestly, anyone who's actually looked at the uses of torture wouldn't tout it as a means of extracting information. There are far better ways of doing that.

It seems to me that he's whitewashing what he wants to use torture for - that is, vengeance and intimidation.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2005


Putting on my tinfoil hat, I can't help pondering if the Coalition forces were given the nod to use torture on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan specifically to achieve this end: that is, the legitimization of torture as an acceptable interrogation technique. This is truly a repellant development in Western politics.
posted by axon at 10:39 AM on May 22, 2005


I am profoundly appalled that this is even talked about as acceptable. Pre-George Bush et al and the calling of the Geneva Convention "quaint," it wouldn't have been.

When the U.S. government says that the world has changed since 9/11, I believe them. We are less safe--from our governments.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2005


What is the point of this FPP?

Some Australian wanker with a goofy wig wants to torture people. Or is the point that we should at least be able to discuss it?

I don't really see that there's much to discuss.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2005


I have said this in other threads...

Go ahead and torture if you personally believe the ends justify the means, but then you have to stand up and admit to what you did and suffer the appropriate punishment. That way you can serve the prison term in the happy knowledge that:

a) you saved a large number of people, and
b) the standards of human rights have been upheld.

That is personal accountability.

Recognizing that the scenario I just outlined is indeed a possibility in extreme cases the justification for changing laws quickly evaporates.
posted by Chuckles at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2005


I don't ever want to be tortured.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2005


Ah, yes. The moderate authoritarian position: those who want to regulate torture as opposed to those who want to require it.

I suppose these moral idiots have equally compelling cases for slavery and canibalism.
posted by warbaby at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2005


It may be an anachronistic chicken and egg argument, but one of the reasons for the Geneva convention laws against torture is to provide a standard for prisoners of war so that the other side doesn't torture our prisoners. This may seem naive when the US no longer believes in declaring war, but instead engages in "police actions" without the consent of Congress. But the second reason is that there must be a strict line dividing combatants from civilians. When the US is the invading nation the invaded nation may rightly be ticked off when we start torturing taxi drivers and fourteen year old kids. And thus the Terror Chicken begat the Terror Egg.
posted by zaelic at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2005


it's never ok, and there are better ways to get info. What we're doing now isn't even targeted as in that guy's example. We rounded up random people and tortured them--and still are, for all we know. It's abhorrent for any society that speaks of protecting rights and dignity to engage in torture, and it used to be something that only our enemies did. It's helped to make us just as bad, if not worse. You can't talk of rape and torture rooms in Iraq when we've set up international places like that.
posted by amberglow at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2005


delmoi: Some Australian wanker with a goofy wig wants to torture people. Or is the point that we should at least be able to discuss it?

I know this may be hard to believe, but events in countries outside of American can also have consequences across the world. Given that the hard-line right-wingers are in power in Australia, I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that Mr. Faris' comments are given serious consideration. This is, after all, part of wider "debate" about the acceptability of torture going on in Australia.
posted by axon at 11:14 AM on May 22, 2005


New York Times Week in Review, March 8, 2003, If a Terror Suspect Won't Talk, Should He Be Made To?

The Philippine police knew they had an unusual case when they arrested Abdul Hakim Murad on Jan. 6, 1995. After Mr. Murad accidentally set a small fire in his Manila apartment, the police reportedly found gallons of sulfuric acid and nitric acid, as well as beakers, filters, funnels and fuses. A week before Pope John Paul II was to visit Manila, they had uncovered a bomb-making factory. . .

Mr. Murad, a Pakistani, was not a talker. Although a computer in his apartment contained information about his plans, he resisted requests to give details of what he was doing. His interrogators reportedly beat him so badly that most of his ribs were broken; they extinguished cigarettes on his genitals; they made him sit on ice cubes; they forced water down his throat so that he nearly drowned.

This went on for several weeks. In the end, he provided names, dates and places behind a Qaeda plan to blow up 11 commercial airliners and fly another one into the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. He also confessed to a plot to assassinate the pope.


Read the whole thing, not an endorsement of torture.
posted by mlis at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2005


The article re-enforces my opinions of both victims' rights
groups and cops. Cops already know you are guilty, and
your trial is just an inconvenient formality. Victims' rights
groups are punitive, and want revenge in addition to justice.

The current climate in the world allows topics that were
previously anathemas to be discussed seriously, like
torture by governments, tactical use of nuclear weapons,
and forfeiture of rights of combatants and citizens by edict
and by majority vote.

Maybe there's an upside to it, like what happened with
slavery. Maybe we'll decide that torture by the state is an
acceptable treatment of citizens and noncitizens alike. But
I haven't been convinced, yet, and until then, it should
remain a crime.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2005


June's Atlantic Monthly has an article on the ineffectiveness of abuse. The argument was that since the Second World War, there has been much better methods of getting information from prisoners; namely, treat them with respect and civility and they will return the treatment (and intel) in kind.

Alot of the article references a report by Maj. Sherwood Moran on interrogating Japanese prisoners during WWII, can't seem to find the original text though.
posted by phyrewerx at 11:24 AM on May 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


Is there a place in "civilized" society for torture that outfit?
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2005


On review of thread: Chuckles nails it.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:29 AM on May 22, 2005


Here is a full text of The Dark Art of Interrogation [pdf] (Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 2003).
posted by mlis at 11:33 AM on May 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


From the article: "to pull out a fingernail of a terrorist in order to save a couple of million lives" was morally right, he told AAP.

And if the terrorist is a mere bystander, then go to the next guy or the next or the next. Pull out enough fingernails and someone will eventually admit being guilty of at least something.
posted by leftcoastbob at 11:35 AM on May 22, 2005


So, Mr. Faris thinks it's OK to torture in certain circumstances? We can't have that sort of fence-sitting going on, we'll need to do something about that.

Give me a day alone with him, he'll think it's OK to torture in all circumstances. Or maybe he'll think it's OK to torture in no circumstances - I haven't made my mind up what Mr. Faris' opinion will be yet.

But you can rest assured, Mr. Faris will say whatever I want him to say...

(Which is the problem, of course...)
posted by kaemaril at 11:36 AM on May 22, 2005


My friend's girlfriend made me watch that show 24, and they were trying to get this guy to tell them something or other about blowing up the internets, I don't remember. Anyway, I was all like, "SHOOT HIM IN THE KNEECAP! SHOOT HIM IN THE KNEECAP!" Then the loose-cannon guy did it and the terrorist totally spilled the beans.

Anyway, I don't know about torture in real life, but I think I'm going to have to side with Mr. Faris when I say that it sure makes for a compelling TV show.

Also,

Metafilter: The Terror Chicken
posted by buriednexttoyou at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2005


I actually disagreed with Chuckles' position, as soon as I read go ahead and torture.

I think it's really interesting to be living some of the arguments which were always tossed around about the culpability of the German people regarding Nazi torture. You know, do you blame it all on Hitler, or is the concentration camp soldier partially to blame, or is it really everyone's fault, since they all knew what was going on?

It was always too easy to see in a classroom that everyone was wrong and crazy, and say, "how could it happen at all," and now it's so clear that when you are faced with either supporting the political power structures or being left out in the cold, so to speak, many people will stay in line, it's always the default to support the de facto power structures, no matter how philosophically untenable it gets.

And all this talk, til one is blue in the face, accomplishes nothing. It is clear to me now, that the days of civil disobedience and the rule of the philosophically endowed is long gone.
posted by nervousfritz at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2005


Here is the report SUGGESTIONS FOR JAPANESE INTERPRETERS BASED ON WORK IN THE FIELD (PDF) by Maj. Sherwood Moran
It's from the history site of the US Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association. (USMCITTA)
posted by warbaby at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2005


Torture any man for long enough and he'll swear that his mother's a whore, if you've dropped enough hints that it's what you want to hear.
posted by clevershark at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2005


I just wanna go on record as saying that torture is always wrong no matter what.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2005


You...you want to hear that my mother is a whore?
posted by graventy at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2005


But what about the people who enjoy being tortured?
Would you argue that it's wrong then?

You have to be careful with your moral imperatives.
posted by cytherea at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2005


The good news is that torture isn't officially part of the Christian values.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2005


I saw a documentary the other day about how people dealt with the black plague during the middle ages. The church thought it might be a good idea to round up the jews since they we're not into the whole jesus thing. They tortured a jewish woman that eventually confessed that she poisoned the wells which brought the plague to Italy. You would thing we would be a little more enlightened in the 21st century.

I also don't buy the 'just because the bad guys do it, we should too' argument for torture.

Torture is against the 'quaint' Geneva convention. However, when you're the US you don't exactly have to worry about following the rules.
posted by birdherder at 12:13 PM on May 22, 2005


the calling of the Geneva Convention "quaint,"

Just to correct the record, what Gonzales was referring to was the provisions for athletic uniforms in the Geneva convention. Not the entire document. I know that Dowd didn't bother to fact-check that, but I figure that I can correct the record here.

If you don't trust me, try the New York Times: "a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments"
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:16 PM on May 22, 2005


No. Next question?

Seriously, the use of torture throughout history has done far more harm than good, for whatever situation in which it was applied.
posted by FormlessOne at 12:26 PM on May 22, 2005


nervousfritz gets the Godwin Award today! Lucky you!

On a funnier note, I'm reminded of Eddie Izzard's bit in Dressed to Kill about how the Anglican Church would have done the Spanish Inquisition :

"The chains are too tight."
"Well, loosen them up a bit!"

CAKE OR DEATH!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2005


But what about the people who enjoy being tortured?
Would you argue that it's wrong then?


Well, in that case, it isn't exactly torture, now is it?
posted by SPrintF at 12:42 PM on May 22, 2005


thedevildancedlightly writes "Just to correct the record, what Gonzales was referring to was the provisions for athletic uniforms in the Geneva convention. Not the entire document."

...and when John Kerry voted against that famous military appropriations bill as a Senator he did so only to protest the Administration's refusal to explain how it was going to pay for it AND offer tax cuts to the rich... but that didn't keep people with views close to yours from clamoring that it proved Kerry was "against the military", now, did it?
posted by clevershark at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2005


it's not torture if it's part of a consensual sex thing. the consensual part, no?
posted by amberglow at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2005


Godwin would probably spin in his grave just from noticing how those who most use his name invariably know nothing or next to nothing about the law he formulated.

But of course he's not dead, so there'll be some time before he gets around to that.
posted by clevershark at 12:48 PM on May 22, 2005


but that didn't keep people with views close to yours from clamoring that it proved Kerry was "against the military", now, did it?

Isn't that a form of "it's okay for me to do it because somebody else did it first?" I didn't make those claims, and I think that anybody who did was wrong. What's your point? At best it's a red herring, at worst it's justifying inexcuable conduct because the "other side" did it first -- exactly the same argument that you're trying to refute about terror.

I'm merely insisting that we actually be accurate on both sides of the debate. If you want to correct micharacterizations about Kerry then please feel free to do so.

All I'm saying is that the "Gonzales thinks the Geneva convention is quaint" meme has been debunked by the New York Times: "a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments"
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:55 PM on May 22, 2005


Perhaps a better question might be this:
Since we know that the current American government is guilty of torture (and mass killings, invasions, detention without charge or trial, breaking every international law under the sun, etc, etc) what can we do about it?

Clearly, the ideal would be to have Bush and his cronies on trial at the International Court in the Hague. But since there is no provision under the American system for this to happen, what can we possibly do?
posted by cleardawn at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2005


Your point is a red herring anyway, dev.

Sure, having Gonzales on record as saying that even a part of the Geneva Convention is "quaint" makes for a good soundbite, but what's really in contention is Gonzales's DOJ memo in which he explicitly endorses methods of interrogation which in his own words "may be cruel, inhuman and degrading" without rising to an arbitrary definition of torture which Gonzales himself has established, just as long as those interrogations occur outside the US (warning: PDF).

The document is pretty clear. It means, among other things, that people may (for example) be dipped in a septic tank as long as it's not long enough for them to develop "severe" pain or suffering (with "severe" being defined, again, by Gonzales himself, now that he's AG).

Basically Gonzales does an end-run around the Geneva Convention by raising the bar so high for what may be considered "torture" that it really takes a caricatural, stereotypical, "electrodes up the bum" situation for him to admit that torture is taking place at all.

Now if that's not CONSIDERING (if not explicitly calling) the Geneva Convention "quaint", I don't know what is.
posted by clevershark at 1:07 PM on May 22, 2005


Since we know that the current American government is guilty of torture (and mass killings, invasions, detention without charge or trial, breaking every international law under the sun, etc, etc) what can we do about it?

Let's have another MeFi circlejerk!
posted by BushIsForEating at 1:08 PM on May 22, 2005


Your point is a red herring anyway, dev. ... Now if that's not CONSIDERING (if not explicitly calling) the Geneva Convention "quaint", I don't know what is.

I'm sorry, but two posters above spefically alleged that Gonzales called the entire Geneva Conventions quaint. Correcting that specific error in fact is not a red herring.

Like you said, saying that Gonzales "called the Geneva convnetions quaint" is just as wrong as saying that Kerry was against the military because he voted against an appropriations bill.

In both cases I agree that there are other arguments that Gonzales/Kerry may hold those positions, but it's not a red herring to correct an error of fact. If you want to argue that Gonzales is anti-Geneva Conventions for reasons other than the soundbite then please feel free to. But it's not a red herring to point out that he did not say what two posters claim he did.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2005


Surely the reason Gonzales used the word quaint in the first place was to send a certain message to a certain constituency...
posted by Chuckles at 1:24 PM on May 22, 2005


I'm sorry, but two posters above spefically alleged that Gonzales called the entire Geneva Conventions quaint.

ddl: the two posters above didn't mention Gonzales. (Just because you like to ensure the clarity of comments.)
posted by leftcoastbob at 1:27 PM on May 22, 2005


ddl: the two posters above didn't mention Gonzales. (Just because you like to ensure the clarity of comments.)

No, it said "Pre-George Bush et al and the calling of the Geneva Convention 'quaint,'". So it says that somebody (the "et al") called the Geneva Convention quaint. And in light of the current meme that's going around, it's no great chore to fill who that is.

So your argument is that because they didn't actually say the name it doesn't stand correction? If I were to say "we all know that some presidential candidates don't support the military" that'd be just as much of a mis-statement and would be corrected just as fast.

Or, did somebody else call a different provision of the Geneva Conventions "quaint" while I wasn't looking? We all knew what the comments were referring to, it's worth getting the record straight.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:33 PM on May 22, 2005


Gonzales doesn't think that the Geneva Convention is quaint. He thinks it doesn't apply to the US, judging from his works. There's the difference :)
posted by kaemaril at 1:33 PM on May 22, 2005


If you want to argue that Gonzales is anti-Geneva Conventions for reasons other than the soundbite then please feel free to.

You would be defending Gonzales, wouldn't you?

Gonzales says the "new paradigm" of the war on terrorism "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=8473

What exactly does "questioning of enemy prisoners" have to do with uniforms?
posted by rougy at 1:36 PM on May 22, 2005


I guess that you and I just have different ideas on what "specifically" mean, ddl.
posted by leftcoastbob at 1:38 PM on May 22, 2005


You would be defending Gonzales, wouldn't you?

No, I'm defending using accurate statements when we're discussing politics. If I were to say "Bush said yesterday that he's going to round up Iraqi children and eat them" then that would be a shitty form of argument, even if we all think that Bush is evil and would want to kill and eat children. When you argue from statements that just aren't true then your argument carries no weight outside of MeFi.

You're quoting from American Progress, I'm quoting from the New York Times. Guess which one is less biased?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:43 PM on May 22, 2005


What exactly does "questioning of enemy prisoners" have to do with uniforms?

Here's the full text of the Gonzales memo from where you left off:

"...renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments." (source)
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 1:45 PM on May 22, 2005


"Quaint"ness aside, you guys still have an AG who enthusiastically agrees that methods of questioning may be cruel, inhuman and/or degrading. Just as long as they don't kill someone or cause one of his organs to shut down.

That remains the more troubling thing about Gonzales.
posted by clevershark at 1:47 PM on May 22, 2005


What's so quaint about commissary privileges, anyway? Are terrorists all so inherently evil that you run the risk of global catastrophe by giving them access to a canteen? OK, fair enough, bad idea giving them access to a general store where they might be able to buy ... I dunno, anthrax or something, but a canteen doesn't strike me as unreasonable.
posted by kaemaril at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2005


clevershark: I wonder if Gonzales considers a testicle an organ? 'cos if not, he seems to be A-OK with that old favourite, one could argue classic, the high-voltage to the 'nads treatment... :)
posted by kaemaril at 2:11 PM on May 22, 2005


"Let's have another MeFi circlejerk!"

Fun though that would surely be (and believe me, I'd like to get to know you all better), I don't see how it would help to get Bush and Gonzales to the jail cell they so richly merit sharing?
posted by cleardawn at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2005


Its pathetic the number of people who refuse to concede that Gonzales did not call the Geneva Conventions quaint,

OR, instead of conceding that anyone making that statement is factually incorrect, argue that the factual inaccuracy is unimportant or should be ignored because the larger point it is being used to support is arguably true,

AND/OR, impute motives to the person trying to set the record straight about a factual inaccuracy that are not present in any of his comments.

Hmmm...take away the specifics and which party's tactics do these look like?
posted by Falconetti at 3:13 PM on May 22, 2005


AND/OR selectively quote text to misrepresent what it actually says.
posted by Falconetti at 3:14 PM on May 22, 2005


they're just derailing to deflect the attention away from the fact that torture is now openly part of what we're doing in the world. (and when we don't do it ourselves, we outsource it)
posted by amberglow at 3:17 PM on May 22, 2005


Falconetti writes "Its pathetic the number of people who refuse to concede that Gonzales did not call the Geneva Conventions quaint,"

OK, he didn't call all of it quaint. There, I said it.

I'm not holding my breath to see you address the substance of the Gonzales torture memo.
posted by clevershark at 3:20 PM on May 22, 2005


I'm not holding my breath to see you address the substance of the Gonzales torture memo.

Do you think you've got me pegged? The process of being truthful in one's critique or demanding that others should is not an indicator of someone's political point of view.

As to the substance of the torture memo, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Not only is the argument he advanced morally repugnant and antithetical to (theoretically) American values, it's a shoddy legal argument as well. I agree with Colin Powell's memo [pdf] that criticizes the legal arguments. Furthermore, it is this kind of culture in Washington that sets the stage for the rampant torture and mistreatment of prisoners (usually innocent). What we are hearing about now is, I wager, only the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Falconetti at 3:35 PM on May 22, 2005


Now we're facing the beast in the mirror and we're moving towards acceptance. No longer a monster to be hidden in the shadows but the same self who has acted like a thug for decades. The current administration has a counter-hypocritical self image. One that stands straight up and presents itself plainly, as an ugly, intolerant, ideologue.
posted by HBXIV at 3:46 PM on May 22, 2005


Amerithugs™
posted by amberglow at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2005


From the leftcoastbob Reuters link about Christian values:

Bush, a Methodist, often talks of the importance of faith in his life. Some critics see this as crossing a line between religion and politics.

A Methodist? Why does a large part of the press shy away from calling President Bush what he is: A born-again Christian.
posted by mlis at 4:36 PM on May 22, 2005


It is how torture affect the torturer, you know, hard day working over some person of interest then home to the wife, kids, and the deacons meeting at church. do we have room in our society for professional sadists?
posted by hortense at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2005


If Bush is born again, I'd better see two belly buttons.
posted by moonbird at 5:44 PM on May 22, 2005


as if he was not a big enough pain in the ass the first time
posted by hortense at 7:27 PM on May 22, 2005


You know, I'm actually a bit appalled at you people. Hardly anyone has pointed out the core issue here:

THIS GUY WANTS TO TORTURE INNOCENT PEOPLE.

Of course, he says 'terrorists', but they haven't been proven to be terrorists beyond a reasonable doubt by either a judge or a jury of their peers. They are innocent until proven guilty. On the simple accusation of terrorism, folks seem to be a bit uneasy with, but at least somewhat accepting of, torture to try to elicit a confession.

If this guy's ideas about torture don't have you furious, then I'm really ashamed of sharing a government with you.
posted by Malor at 8:16 PM on May 22, 2005


Andrew Sullivan's excellent synopsis of the Bush admin's approach to torture:

"It's not true. It's not true. It may be true but it's not torture. Okay, it's torture, but isn't official policy. It may be true and official policy, but we changed the policy and we uncovered the abuses ourselves. It may be true, it may have been widespread, but we've punished the culprits. It may be true, it may have been widespread, it may still be happening, but all these reports are old news." Well, give these guys points for effort. How about: it is true; it should never have happened; the people responsible for the policy as well as the criminals should be punished. Ah, but that would mean taking responsibility, wouldn't it? And we don't do that in this administration, do we? Even at the expense of hurting the war effort and staining the reputation of countless great soldiers in a noble cause.

As Malor suggests, these guys torture innocent people. If after the torture you still maintain your innocence and they believe you, then you can go, and sorry about the torture. Of course, they don't care because they speak a great game when it comes to moral values, but those values only apply to how one treats themselves, not how one treats others. Kick a muslim - it's OK, he might have info. View Janet's nipple - rot in hell sinner.
posted by caddis at 11:53 PM on May 22, 2005


Malor, one of the things that you may not have taken into account is that people see only what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear. Therefore, if you call a person "innocent", there will inevitably be some kind of ultra-right-wing nutjob ready to accuse you of being in cahoots with a secret plot to bring down the government, blah blah. I perceive it as true that people in that stage are indeed innocent; they have done nothing wrong.
But of course, there will be people who will say that a person must be tortured to make them admit their guilt. What is often not taken into account, is that they will probably admit their guilt whether they are guilty or not...
I also am furious and dismayed at the fact that this man wants to torture innocent people, but I cannot say I am surprised. Human beings are capable of such things, in the right state of mind.
Also, caddis, the Islamophobia of US and UK governments, at certain times, can be quite alarming, Kick a muslim - it's OK, he might have info. Indeed, are you referring to Muslims accused of terrorism, or the fact that people often class anyone of Muslim faith as a suspected terrorist?
posted by malusmoriendumest at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2005


Mostly the former, but both really.
posted by caddis at 6:43 AM on May 23, 2005


Just to clarify, I wouldn't like to put Bush and Gonzales in a jail cell together for very long; just a couple years, maybe. And definitely no torture, apart from each other's company.

After that, and the confiscation of all their assets (to be distributed to their surviving victims, and the relatives of the dead), the war criminals could be released to go find useful work.

As taxi drivers, maybe.
posted by cleardawn at 7:26 AM on May 23, 2005


And thus, the day dawned clear upon the world. Good one. If only....
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:57 AM on May 23, 2005


The stunning thing about this is that none of this is new. 2005 is feeling more and more like 1985. What is new is that since the administration has a lock on all three branches of government (and the press to a large degree) they can get away with it being done by American soldiers and law enforcement rather than training local militias to do it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:01 AM on May 23, 2005


Mark Bowden's "Dark Art of Interrogation" makes for a compelling read on this subject. It appeared reprinted in the Best American Crime Writing 2004. I don't totally agree with his conclusions, but it is a journey through aggressive interrogation (and sometimes torture) and it seems that the best interrogators believe that torture is nearly always unnecessary and counterproductive. You could have gotten the information more readily without torture and with torture you will very likely get bad information. Torture exists for the most part because of incompetence and cruelty on the part of the torturers and because of fascist mythologies that if only the police state were more cruel, we would eliminate crime.
I enjoy "24" the TV show, but it is ludicrous in terms of the virtually instantaneous results of torture.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:38 AM on May 23, 2005


The legal sanction of Torturer by nation states is never justifiable. Never.

Torture between enraged emotionally distressed individuals placed in impossible situations is understandable and perhaps morally justifiable to the individual standard.

however, not all the values of political communities are practically transmutable and interchangeable to the values held by individuals. It's why "pacifism" is an admirable trait in an individual but an impossible and foolish trait for a political community.

For a nation to practice torture is self defeating and barbaric. No matter the cost.
posted by tkchrist at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2005


malus, hardly ANYONE gets this, and it continues to disappoint me that so few people understand it.

"Innocent" and "guilty", in a legal sense, are not related to whether or not you actually did the deed.

Huh? I hear you say? "Guilty" means that the government was able to convince a judge and/or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that somene committed a crime. Note that you can be 'guilty' even if you didn't actually commit the crime. And even if you DID, you're innocent until the government PROVES you're not.

That's how our legal system was designed. This whole torture thing is about hurting innocent people... whether or not they are actually terrorists. They may indeed be terrorists, but until that's proven to the satisfaction of a judge or jury, they're innocent.

Whehter torture is acceptable after conviction is highly questionable (I'm completely opposed, personally)... but torture BEFORE conviction, based purely on SUSPICION, is a horrific crime and should be punished with the utmost severity.

After, of course, a trial.
posted by Malor at 11:16 AM on May 23, 2005


Torture is always wrong. Always. Got a problem with that? I'll torture the shit out of you.

Or what tkchrist said.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:54 PM on May 23, 2005


However, Malor, (whether you thought I understood the concept or not, your post was ambiguous) I am not in your country and so do not adhere to your legal system. Therefore, my country has slightly different definitions. And what about a reprieve, or a pardon? Do those suddenly make the person "unguilty", thus innocent? Thus, guilt is never guilt unless it is irrefutable. And even then, there's no definite way to prove the person did it.
For example, a man is found, in the middle of a crowded street, covered with blood, holding a knife. The body at his feet is stabbed seven times. The knife matches the wounds perfectly, a genetic condition the man has causes a twitch, causing a slight pattern in the wounds, which matches exactly, and he had a motive (I don't know, the guy killed his cat). The man's skin is under the corpse's fingernails, (thank you, CSI) and the man's DNA is all over the corpse. Ten people claim to have seen the man shout the same thing, when interviewed in different rooms. They all give the same account, (though not verbatim) which says that the man did it. Is this guilt? In virtually any conceivable legal system, yes.
But, however, it is possible for the man to have been knocked out with an untraceable drug, to have had the knife planted on him, to have had his skin placed in certain patterns under the corpse's fingernails, to have arranged the "eyewitnesses", and to have elegantly arranged the killing of the cat by the dead guy and the killing of the man by an assassin, now dead (who also has the genetic condition, but his cells have now broken down the chromosome) so that the "murderer" had a motive. All of the "eyewitnesses" have been hypnotised so subtly that there is no way they can recant, and will willingly testify at the man's trial, most convincingly. So, then, is there any such thing as irrefutable guilt? No. Therefore, no-one can ever be "guilty" of anything, by my strange and convoluted logic.
*bows, and prepares to be proves utterly wrong*
posted by malusmoriendumest at 11:29 PM on May 23, 2005


Fafnir on torture, July 2004:

"It's so easy to kind of sweep it all under your brain an think 'Well theres nothin more to be said an nothin more to think about it' cause let's face it nobody wants to think about their government participating in horror. An right now the level of torture talk has gone from 'Torture: Bad!' to 'Torture: Bad, But Not As Bad As Saddam Hussein' to 'Torture: Bad, But What About Ticking Bombs?' to 'Torture: Bad, But Not Necessarily Proof That The People Who Ordered Torture Are Bad' to 'Torture: We Still Talkin Bout Torture?' to 'Torture: Bad?' An before we get to 'Torture: Sorta Like Mowin Your Lawn' I think we should try as hard as we can to wake up."
posted by russilwvong at 12:07 PM on May 24, 2005


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