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Torture - it's in the eye of the beholder
July 14, 2005 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Not torture. U.S. interrogators also told him he was a homosexual, forced him to dance with a male interrogator, told him his mother and sister were whores, forced him to wear a leash and perform dog tricks, menaced him with a dog and regularly subjected him to interrogations up to 20 hours a day for about two months, the report said. Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who headed the probe into FBI accounts of abuse of Guantanamo prisoners by Defense Department personnel, concluded that the man was subjected to "abusive and degrading treatment" due to "the cumulative effect of creative, persistent and lengthy interrogations." The techniques used were authorized by the Pentagon, he said. "As the bottom line, though, we found no torture. Detention and interrogation operations were safe, secure and humane," Schmidt said. . . . Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, himself abused by the North Vietnamese as a Vietnam War POW, noted, "Humane treatment might be in the eye of the beholder." The report.
posted by caddis (89 comments total)

 
Some people pay for that kind of treatment. (sorry)
posted by tomplus2 at 6:12 PM on July 14, 2005


Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, himself abused by the North Vietnamese as a Vietnam War POW, noted, "Humane treatment might be in the eye of the beholder."

whatever faults he might have, statements like this tell me that McCain is the last sane Repub in washington.
posted by jonmc at 6:15 PM on July 14, 2005


menaced him with a dog

I'm down with us treating the Gitmo gulagees like we'd like our POWs to be treated, no less, no more.

After that, whatever floats your boats, folks.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:19 PM on July 14, 2005


Torture Lite
posted by destro at 6:25 PM on July 14, 2005


You can tell someone they're gay, and they can just laugh it off. Or there's a lot of psychology established which would allow you to create scenarios which are somewhat more convincing. In a free civilian life, you get to choose, to a large extent, the situations you are placed in. Seriously, psychology is quite a tool. All of the goodness and rightness, which is available to us, is part of a programmable reality, and these are certainly some "wetware blackhats"...
posted by nervousfritz at 6:32 PM on July 14, 2005


I know this is a bad point to make, because it's totally morally ambigious, but when I look at stuff like this, I say to myself "Well, was he an active terrorist, and did this information lead to saving lives"?

And the facts seem to be, in almost every case, it didn't.

I believe that Gitmo's primary purpose is as a interrogation research lab for an enemy the CIA and military have very little experience dealing with.
posted by cell divide at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2005


Heywood Mogroot has it right, I believe. I'm all for getting info out of those who chop off American civilians' heads via any means possible...as long as we understand they'll do the same to our soldiers.

Some of the stuff in the report is pretty twisted, and admittedly downright cruel, but for the most part, as long as the detainee's life is not endangered and they are fed and sheltered, maybe that's what ya gotat do. Yeah, it sucks, but if it means finding out when/where/how a dirty bomb is going to be detonated in a populated area, it's worth it at some level.
posted by intheory at 6:39 PM on July 14, 2005


cell divide's point regarding whether interrogation results in saved lives is probably the point of the matter for me. Of course, how can Gitmo prove this either way, that's the other question.
posted by intheory at 6:42 PM on July 14, 2005


via any means possible

Well for the record, I do not support this, I do not support these methods, these mindsets, and the people that make it happen. The extent to which I am guilty for these my country's actions, is not, as I see it, the fault that they hurt us first, but the fault that the majority, that tyrannical majority, wills it so, and my voice, the voice which has the whole power of one vote cast, is completely silent.
posted by nervousfritz at 6:46 PM on July 14, 2005


That's just it -- they cannot or will not prove whether its actually helping. If they threw us that kind of bone, we'd start demanding more proof that other policies are also working. The only sunshine that place sees comes from the glowing orb in the sky.
posted by pmbuko at 6:51 PM on July 14, 2005


Remember when the Army started prosecuting a Muslim chaplin and a translator for "security breaches" at Gitmo? Did you wonder if it wasn't part of a coverup of inhumane treatement.

For all you pragmatists out there, a bunch of the detainees have turned out not to any connection with terrorism or any intelligence value. They were just randomly snatched in a war zone.

The truely pragmatic question is "does this make things better or worse." Torture doesn't make things better and it clearly makes things worse.

Torture is like terrorism. Don't do it and don't support people who do.
posted by warbaby at 6:56 PM on July 14, 2005


"Tell me where you hid the WMD's or we throw you to the dogs!"
"I have no idea what you are talking about"
"Don't give me that bullshit, you fuckin' queer ass raghead!! These dogs are trained to rip your throat out, and they haven't beed fed in three days! Johnson!! Cover this fuckhead with menstral blood, and chain him up to the dog kennels outside! We'll see how long it takes to get your memory back!"

*From Sea to Shining Sea!*
posted by Balisong at 6:57 PM on July 14, 2005


then again, if our only enemies are already mistreating our guys, then it's not strictly necessary, or even prudent, to uphold our end of the international agreements.

That's how WW2 devolved into its mass civilian slaughter, eg. the actions of the British in Norway in 1940 (immediately prior to the German invasion of France) were greatly constrained by the Hague Conventions, but four years later there were much fewer compunctions about blowing away civilians, even innocent Frenchies, let alone Krauts who had the poor judgement of living and/or being strategic bombing targets.

I just think it's important to keep an eye on the big picture, ie. winning hearts and minds and shit. The abuses of AG were an own-goal of great significance, and our little tropical gulag is still kinda of unknown wrt the cost/benefit balance.

It's a difficult question and I see elements of sense in all sides of the argument (but also a lot of nonsense, too).

ah, preview, what warbaby said; from my underinformed VP gitmo just seems more an exercise in state power and CYA 'better-safe-than-sorry' bureaucracy than a pragmatic approach to taking threats out of the game.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:00 PM on July 14, 2005


You know, whenever a repressive governent seeks to justify its treatment of prisoners it says:
- we were at war
- they had it coming
- they were a threat, had to be stopped

etc.

It saddens me to see Americans using these same arguments.
When my pseudo-intellectual friends used to rag on the US, I was the one pointing out your human rights, your concept of civil liberties.
This argument is less effective than before.

The thing is: human rights aren’t only meant to apply to people like us, or with the right documentation, or who pose no threat, or who have done nothing wrong, or who hold our values, or who are on our side.

Human. Rights. It’s that simple.
posted by signal at 7:04 PM on July 14, 2005


Ok, so is anyone doing a BETTER job at interrogating? These interrogators are only emulating practices learned from these detainees' countries of origin. Therefore, these practices, although, not up to our international standards, ARE, in fact relevant and possibly useful.

I don't, and would never, condone such practices. But hey, these guys are friggin noobs.
posted by snsranch at 7:06 PM on July 14, 2005


The Pentagon identified the man as Mohamed al-Qahtani and said he ultimately provided "extremely valuable intelligence."

Schmidt said, "He admitted to being the 20th hijacker, and he expected to fly on United Airlines Flight 93," which crashed in Pennsylvania.


Not to mention the second shooter on the grassy knoll.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:18 PM on July 14, 2005


I'm certainly not a big fan of this stuff but clearly this isn't "torture". Humiliating? Yes. Nauseating? Sure. Torture? No. I think earlier sentiments are correct: Do it with the knowledge it will be done to our troops. I highly doubt a Navy Seal will get too upset knowing he might be forced to wear a bra and prance around naked for some Iraqis. But who really believes that's what would happen? No one. He will be horribly tortured regardless the information he has.

Does this stuff help? Well, we won't know. If it stopped some future terrorism and there was a political advantage to be won, then it would be all over the press but it's more likely that these actions garnish tidbits of info, here and there, that collectively could be useful.

I'm not sure what some people would have us do. I hear a lot of condemnation but little in the way of suggestions to extract information. Politely asking them isn't going to work. Threatening to tell their mothers isn't either. London should have made it clear that these people mean to hurt innocents. Terrorists are real and they kill people. If calling some prisoner a queer and interrogating him for 20 hours is what it takes to save my brothers life - let me help.

People are dying, our countrymen are being killed. Those are real bullets they're using. The way the admin has sheltered this country from the horrors of war has fueled these types of responses IMHO. Perhaps if we saw our dead brothers and sisters coming home (with all the glory and praise they rightly deserve, the poor bastards), we might not be sitting here pining on and on about methods that pale in comparison to the reality of what is happening in Iraq.

I would suggest these Gitmo detainees would have it a hell of a lot worse doing County time in most major cities.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:27 PM on July 14, 2005


The Torture Myth
torture is simply "not a good way to get information."
It "endangers our soldiers on the battlefield by encouraging reciprocity."
It does "damage to our country's image" (.pdf)
posted by Floydd at 7:32 PM on July 14, 2005


"They made me dance the GAY!" "I was treat like DOG!" "My FOOD, praise Allah, was the SUCK."

Please, this is just a lanquage barrier thing.
posted by snsranch at 7:33 PM on July 14, 2005


I highly doubt a Navy Seal will get too upset knowing he might be forced to wear a bra and prance around naked for some Iraqis. But who really believes that's what would happen? No one. He will be horribly tortured regardless the information he has.

Very well said.

I would rather wear a bra or even get butt-plowed over what typically happens in those countries of origin.
posted by snsranch at 7:36 PM on July 14, 2005


*sigh*...

Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt... concluded that "As the bottom line, though, we found no torture."

Forgive me if I don't necessarily take an air force Lt's word on what constitutes torture (no disrespect, wouldn't ask a lawyer how to fly an F-16 either).

The real news is this, folks: The techniques used were authorized by the Pentagon, he said. So if somewhere down the line it does run afoul of a statute or treaty, we basically acknowledge that it goes straight to the top and the whole damn tree is (potentially) full of war criminals. Super.
posted by rkent at 7:45 PM on July 14, 2005


j.p., there's other social dynamics at play besides information and protection, though.

I'm just a computer geek in sunny California, so I don't really know the true scope and force of these side-effects to Gitmo, but one thing I see is the wrong message of total disrespect of islamic sensibilities.

Again, what warbaby said. Cost/benefit. So we got the fact that Moe here was the 20th hijacker. That info alone is not much of a net win, though of course how well we can tease information about his organization from him.

I would rather wear a bra or even get butt-plowed over what typically happens in those countries of origin.

Your feelings are irrelevant. What is relevant is how this is playing in Pakistan and the rest of the islamic world.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:46 PM on July 14, 2005


The underlying question (which the proponents extreme coercive interrogation beg, ignore or just flat out can't address) is whether or not human rights exists. If they don't then everything that falls under the concept of human rights are not rights (which are by definition legally inviolable) but merely privileges granted or withheld at the whim of the powers that be.

Historically, we have seen that societies which fail to recognize some minimum constellation of rights have not survived or prospered. The fact that some contemporary societies continue to deny a basic set of rights and have not perished is moot and does not provide any clear answers other than not yet.

But those which have perished, often as the result of the horrible nemesis which their accumulated guilt has spawned, never found the basis for continued existence in the denigration or denial of basic rights.

This is why the genesis of both ancient and modern republics is inextricably bound up in the question of basic rights.

Ultimately, this is not a question of temporary convenience or situational ethics. The enunciation and protection of basic rights is a fundamental question of societal survival. Those of us who are vigilant in regards to the defense of basic human rights are not making bargain of costs and benefits, we are fighting for the survival of civil society.
posted by warbaby at 7:47 PM on July 14, 2005


The lack of understand of other cultures here is not really surprising. Sure, you don't think it's a big deal and would rather have something shoved up your butt rather than have your head cut off. But many of the people in question would rather die than suffer those humiliations. You can think that's stupid if you like, you can think it's silly, but that doesn't change the truth of it. The reason torturers are using these techniques is because they know it's worse than threats of physical violence. Rest assured, if this were not the case, they'd be chopping off body parts with the best of them.
If you think that's justifiable to get results, or you think "it's okay because THEY do it to OUR guys" then our society is even more doomed than I thought.
posted by nightchrome at 7:51 PM on July 14, 2005


torture is simply "not a good way to get information."

But it is a way. I doubt either side cares just how effective it is so long as it garnishes some useful info.

It "endangers our soldiers on the battlefield by encouraging reciprocity."

Like the insurgents would be firing just above our heads if we played nice with the detainees. Are you kidding me with this one? How about the live ammo endangering our troops, or the car bombs or the idiot President that sent them there?

It does "damage to our country's image"

Refer to that 'idiot President' thing right above there....I think that sums up the whole damage part.

on preview...Heywood, let's not assume too much. How do we know the cost/benefit? We don't. Is it realistic to play armchair quarterback from a thousand miles away? And it's a bit disingenuous to say snsranch's feelings are irrelevant but the other guys feelings are. It's a wash.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:57 PM on July 14, 2005


Should freedom from humiliation be a basic human right?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:58 PM on July 14, 2005


Sure, warbaby, if you want to live in some dream world where everybody is endowed with these mythical inalienable "rights" from some big magic sky being, and where folks set up governments that rule by the consent of the governed and stuff. Sheesh. Get real.
9/11 changed everything.
We gave up our rights so that we wouldn't have to think.

Think about terror, I mean. Yeah, that's it. We're fighting terror. I don't need these "rights" if I'm not doing anything wrong, and besides, I feel safer.
From, you know, terror and stuff.
posted by Floydd at 8:03 PM on July 14, 2005


Treating people decently should be a basic foundation of any just society.
posted by nightchrome at 8:04 PM on July 14, 2005


Floydd, the sad part is that there are a ton of people out there who believe that, minus the sarcasm.
posted by nightchrome at 8:05 PM on July 14, 2005


"Should freedom from humiliation be a basic human right?"

No. Too many impossible tangibles to calculate. What humiliates one turns another on in some cases. So what do you do with that? I think nightchrome has it correct.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:05 PM on July 14, 2005


"Historically, we have seen that societies which fail to recognize some minimum constellation of rights have not survived or prospered."

Hate to be a killjoy but...the Romans? I believe they hung in there a good long while.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:08 PM on July 14, 2005


I think this particular case falls on the side of amusing as compared to what 'torture' has traditionally been thought of. Rush Limbaugh is certainly getting a lot of mileage and money with his particular spin on Gitmo.
posted by buzzman at 8:15 PM on July 14, 2005


Floydd, I do think about this stuff all the time and have done so for over a decade. And I have done anti-terrorism work in the field, published on it, recieved human rights awards for it, get quoted in journals, present at anti-terrorism conferences, blah, blah, blah.

Addressing the question of human rights is exactly the way to best Al Qaida (or any other terrorist movement) according to everything I know, have done, studied, etc. These things are very real and I've had to deal with situations where being wrong meant real people suffered and died.

I also notice you haven't composed an answer to the question I've posed.

j.p.: read up a little on Roman citizenship (how one got it and what it entailed as a social contract.) Then get back to me.
posted by warbaby at 8:22 PM on July 14, 2005


I'm thinking that encouraging reciprocity doesn't only mean marines get the bra and panties treatment (thanks for *that* image, by the way), but that, after hearing of someone insulted in the most obscene way their culture defines, another insurgent may pick up a gun and head for Iraq. Think how 'marines being crucified on inverted crosses' would play in the red states.
posted by Sparx at 8:41 PM on July 14, 2005


It's all a question of what the person being tortured has psychological issues with. It would be relatively easy for someone to come up with a plan that would seriously upset most Americans. You play on taboos. Involve desecration of the flag, feces, child pornography, in many cases homosexuality, in some cases religion.
I wonder what Americans might think if an extremist group forced an american POW to defecate on a crucifix while masturbating a young boy with an american flag? How well do you think a nice christian soldier is going to deal with having done that? You think maybe he might prefer death?
Are you going to tell him to just laugh it off, because at least he didn't get beheaded?
posted by nightchrome at 8:51 PM on July 14, 2005


warbaby: I would love to read anything that you have written on the subject. My e-mail is in my profile. I am curious because I have witnessed terrorist attacks (periodically) since 1980 when I was a military dependant in Southern Europe. It's obvious that our doctrines have changed, but I would love to know your take on it.
posted by snsranch at 8:51 PM on July 14, 2005


I think it's easy to say torture is bad when it's someone else, somewhere else, out of sight, out of mind.

But the real gut check comes if you imagine that YOUR family is in immediate mortal danger, and you're in a room alone with a bad guy. Then how gentle are you going to be?

I, for one, would grab a hammer and a dental drill instead of panties and polaroids.

But I guess if it was just YOUR family about to die, and I was in the room with the bad guy, you'd tell me to ask nicely, maybe dress him up a bit, and then leave him alone if he doesn't want to talk?

Sure.
posted by JWright at 9:02 PM on July 14, 2005


JWright, you're talking about individuals dealing with someone who is responsible for causing harm to their loved ones. That's an entirely different category.
You cannot compare the situations when dealing with a goverment or military which represents a society as a whole. They must be held to a much higher standard than an average person in an emotionally-involved situation.
posted by nightchrome at 9:06 PM on July 14, 2005


Think how 'marines being crucified on inverted crosses' would play in the red states.

Go ahead and give 'em ideas, why don'cha.

Seriously; Metafilter + Anything Remotely Political = POOP.

"Human Rights!" , "This is wrong!" . I don't hear any suggestions. Maybe somebody needs to go back to school.

They must be held to a much higher standard than an average person in an emotionally-involved situation.

That's what school is for.
posted by snsranch at 9:10 PM on July 14, 2005


But the real gut check comes if you imagine that YOUR family is in immediate mortal danger, and you're in a room alone with a bad guy. Then how gentle are you going to be?

I, for one, would grab a hammer and a dental drill instead of panties and polaroids.

And if you to turn out to be wrong about the "bad guy", it's a great comfort to me to know that you'll be going to jail, hopefully for a very long time. We're supposed to be a nation of laws, not a bunch of self-appointed vigilante yahoos.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:16 PM on July 14, 2005


You know that moral high ground the U.S. takes when referring to third world countries, like our friends in Uzbekistan, that torture anybody at the drop of a hat? Maybe they were just trying to stop future terrorists against their country. When you start accepting torture lite, you start down a very treacherous slope.

And this is just the stuff we hear about. I wouldn't be suprised if Torture Extra Strength is being used in Gitmo and we don't know about it.

And what happens to all of these guys when they get out? After beng lightly tortured for so long, they will be hell-bent for our death. Even the guys who were originally innocent or had no information. I guess we'll just have to keep them there forever.
posted by destro at 9:18 PM on July 14, 2005


I want our armed forces to be the best in the world. That means they are able to end conflicts, not start them or make them worse.

JWright, you have put your finger right smack dab on the difference between a pro and an amateur. I want to play with the pros, don't you? I want our guys to be pros, real pros. The chest-pounders and knuckledraggers don't cut it.

I want to hear people say, "Yippee! Here come the Americans."
posted by warbaby at 9:19 PM on July 14, 2005


j.p. Hung - spell SEAL in the lowercase again and I'm going to hunt you down and smash your testicles (or ovaries) flat with a hammer. People are dying, my friends are being killed. Those are real bullets they're using. At the very least they deserve the fucking respect to type their name properly.

Perhaps it's not the best way to get you to get that through your head. But it is a way. And so long as it gets you to stop...
I'd probably consider the ramifications of what I'm doing, but there are just too many impossible tangibles to calculate. How do I know if you will do it again elsewhere? Language is such a fleeting, nebulous thing. (And who knows it might turn you on).

What damage are we doing to our war effort by parading these relatively minor infractions before the press and the world again and again and again while our soldiers risk their lives daily and are given no mercy by the enemy?" Inhofe said.

Clearly we have to race to the bottom. The good guys start out good and then retain their goodness, see. People are not defined by their acts.

Pretty much what warbaby said I can't say any better, so here it is again:
The enunciation and protection of basic rights is a fundamental question of
societal survival. Those of us who are vigilant in regards to the defense of
basic human rights are not making bargain of costs and benefits, we are fighting for the survival of civil society.


That is WHY those men in the field are dying. Would you make a mockery of those very values they swore to uphold and defend?
I certainly didn't sign up just to defend your fat asses.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:25 PM on July 14, 2005


In case anyone didn't notice the parody of j.p. Hung's post woven through that I want to make it perfectly clear that was sarcasm.
...The hunting down part.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:28 PM on July 14, 2005


j.p. Hung - spell SEAL in the lowercase again and I'm going to hunt you down and smash your testicles (or ovaries) flat with a hammer. People are dying, my friends are being killed. Those are real bullets they're using. At the very least they deserve the fucking respect to type their name properly.

Yea, that's funny, and who the fuck are you? Ex-SEAL? Yea.

Not really taking this seriously, but, if you are going to invoke something, then you better well be prepared to stand behind it! When was the last time YOU took a prisoner? I'd like to know.
posted by snsranch at 9:42 PM on July 14, 2005


It's amusing in a black comedy sort of way that the descriptions of humiliation in the report match this Leshow skit from 2004.

"How's that bra fitting you Ay-hab? Now put it in your mouth and moo like a cow"
posted by euphorb at 9:59 PM on July 14, 2005


To Smedleyman; I don't know what it is about your comment that pisses me off so much. It's not the "...The hunting down part." part. I think it's because I know some of the most bad-ass mother-fuckers in the world, none of whom would ever do such stupid shit that we've been reading about, and you are speaking as though you are a part of that.

None of those guys would ever talk such stupid shit. If you really ARE a SEAL, then maybe you need to head back to Coronado and get your ass kicked. Be a good American, goddamit. Don't talk shit, DO IT.
posted by snsranch at 10:02 PM on July 14, 2005


Torture

Not torture


Who gives a god damn that this guy got his feelings hurt? This isn't a pillow fight. I support making every prisoner (well, the ones that should be there anyhow) bark like a dog. And if they have info on the next car bomb that kills 25 children running to get candy from soldiers, put the son of a bitch's nuts in a vice.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:04 PM on July 14, 2005


All this business about the semantics of torture pisses me off. I'm lucky enough to have never been interrogated by anyone, and I don't imagine I ever will be. But I have gleefully enjoyed several of the currently in-vogue British reality-TV shows like Spy and SAS: Are Tough Enough? in which they put ordinary folks (well, ordinary up to the point where they are tough enough and silly enough to volunteer for pretend SAS selection) through simulated interrogations, with sensory deprivation and stress positions and so forth. Bearing in mind this is just a simulation, more or less everyone involved describes it as most unpleasant thing they have ever experienced. So whether or not we call what happens at Gitmo torture, let's all agree that it's unusually and unenviably unpleasant.

If some fucker knows 'when/where/how a dirty bomb is going to be detonated in a populated area', I can live with the thought of him/her being subjected to all sorts of unusual and unenviable unplesantnesses. But unless there's some serious Jack Bauer shit going on that they aren't telling us about, I don't think many of the detainees are sitting in that sort of information. Torture or not, this is not the sort of treatment you are allowed to inflict on people without a fairly extraordinary justification and still call yourself civilised. And there have been too many examples of justifications that were not only non-extraordinary but non-existent - people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and have paid for it with several years of their lives.
posted by Soulfather at 10:16 PM on July 14, 2005


I support making every prisoner (well, the ones that should be there anyhow)

Brilliant. Just emerged from the pod, did you?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:16 PM on July 14, 2005


"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...."

Folks, your government is torturing innocent people. Innocent people are those who have not been convicted of a crime. Saying "put their balls in a vice!" is arguing to do that to innocent people. Arguing to torture people because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no proof whatsoever, is reprehensible.

If this kind of behavior is deemed acceptable, someday it'll be your kids in the vice... without a trial.
posted by Malor at 10:21 PM on July 14, 2005


Torture is not what America is supposed to be about. There are better ways to get information out of people. When we invade sovereign nations and torture prisoners, we're well on the way to becoming the bad guys.
posted by sacrilicious at 10:23 PM on July 14, 2005


Bottom line it's about trust.

If it's you in the room, and it's your family on the line, you trust yourself to take control and do whatever it takes.

But if it's G.I. Joe, then, whoa, no, we need treaties and rules. We can't trust them to pick out the right guy, have the right info, and have it be an extreme enough need.

But I think you're a hypocrite if you say that YOU might use torture in an extreme circmstance, but you don't trust the people who spend their lives working to keep you safe to use it if they see the need is great.

We DO need rules, but those rules can't eliminate the judicious use of torture. They should assign heavy, heavy accountability, and eliminate anything that would cause permanant damage.

But to me, there are a lot of life-altering consequences to this and all wars that are a hell of a lot worse than temporary physical pain in the pursuit of some really evil S.O.B.'s. I mean, you're NOT going to torture someone because it's inhumane, but you're OK that our bombs sometimes take out families of civilians. Whoops.

I would hope that if you're against torture, you're then consistent and you're against all war in general.

War is war, whether it's one on one in a small room, or out in the field.

So if it's YOU in the room, fighting this war, I have to say I trust you to use your best judgement. If you go too far, or if you got the wrong guy, we need to set you up with some hard time. But that doesn't mean the next guy should be limited to dress up games and dance threats.
posted by JWright at 11:14 PM on July 14, 2005


Do we have to go over this again and again? Malor really lays it out there for anyone to see:

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...."

This is the foundation of America. Do you believe in that? Torture goes against everything America is supposed to stand for.

Look, if these guys are guilty of crimes, then by all means charge them with something. What the fuck is wrong with that? Are you telling me these guys are super-evil-terrorists that absolutely know all about that dirty bomb that's going to kill your family in 10 minutes, yet you don't have enough evidence to charge them formally with a crime?

That's ridiculous. That's the crux of this argument. The people being tortured are innocent people for the simple reason that they haven't been charged with anything. Why not charge them, or let them go? Why waste time dealing with people that don't know anything useful, and why delay the sentencing of the "guilty" parties?

The truth, of course, is that the whole thing is completely mismanaged, horribly so, and nobody knows shit about what these people know. They're directed to round up ridiculous amounts of foreign citizens in service to this insane shotgun justice approach, through no fault of their own, and this is the result - a complete fuckup.
posted by odinsdream at 11:35 PM on July 14, 2005


But I think you're a hypocrite if you say that YOU might use torture in an extreme circmstance, but you don't trust the people who spend their lives working to keep you safe to use it if they see the need is great.

The difference is, if I personally choose to use torture to further my ends (such as saving my family), then that's a personal choice I make and I expect to do jail time for it afterward. It's a choice that I as an individual made, to break the law for my own personal needs.
If it's my government or my military doing it, they don't have that privilege of breaking the law to serve their needs because they ARE the law.
As I said, they must be held to a far higher standard than the average citizen, or we're all in for a big heap of crap.
posted by nightchrome at 11:45 PM on July 14, 2005


But the real gut check comes if you imagine that YOUR family is in immediate mortal danger, and you're in a room alone with a bad guy. Then how gentle are you going to be?

One can imagine a lot of different things. But we're talking about the real world.

I support making every prisoner (well, the ones that should be there anyhow) bark like a dog.

Ok, genius. But what about the ones that should NOT be there? Because, you know, that's what we're talking about.
posted by c13 at 11:47 PM on July 14, 2005


Floydd, I do think about this stuff all the time and have done so for over a decade. And I have done anti-terrorism work in the field, published on it, recieved human rights awards for it, get quoted in journals, present at anti-terrorism conferences, blah, blah, blah.

I find this extremely hard to believe after your comments here concerning Robert Pape.

This for example:

As far as the "army of occupation" as a necessary condition; where pray tell, was the American army of occupation in respect to the bombing of the African embassies in 1998 or the later attack on the Stark, eh? Oops. Heh, heh.

As I noted here, those were attacks by al Qaeda and the army of occupation was in Saudi Arabia, for one.

You also wrote this:

Thanks again for the Pape 2003 paper. The first page is mostly chest-pounding and gloating that Pape's pro-war faction is now guiding policy and Hoffman's faction is mostly sidelined. I guess all the wonderful progress in Iraq and Afghanistan is evidence of how smart Pape's clique is.

Pape's interview as about his research on suicide terrorism. He asserted that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. He pointed out in the interview that there were no suicide attacks in Iraq ever until we invaded and occupied the country.

And yet you are called him part of some pro-war faction and went on about how his paper was chest pounding and gloating from the first page. That doesn't compute. When called on it you wrote

The first page of the 2003 paper was Pape boasting about his faction (meaning militarists who favor isolationism) got the upper hand over the internationalists who don't favor military action as the first choice against terrorism (meaning Hoffman, Jenkins, Laquer, Rappoport et al.)

The paper was an academic paper. The first page has an abstract and a discussion of suicide terrorism. When asked again to point to the gloating, you wrote.

If you don't know the positions of the authors, I can see where you wouldn't understand my initial comment. But I've explained that. The section you've quoted is Clauswitzian (terrorism is an instrument for the pursuit of political policy). I see Pape's subtext, you don't. Ok fine. You didn't see the stuff he wrote about the wall either. Cool.

Translation: I am an expert, you are not. The time honored claim to authority.

An expert who puts Robert Pape in the pro-Iraq war faction in one comment and paints him a pro-Likud isolationist in another. Who asks where the army of occupation was in respect to the bombing of the African embassies in 1998 or the later attack on the Stark. I am not an expert on terrorism who has received human rights awards but I think that the army in question is in Saudi Arabia since even bin Laden wrote [y]our forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities in his letter to America.

Oops, heh heh.

And how can someone be a pro-Afghanistan and Iraq war isolationist militarist ? That is some subtext.

Big talk, wild assertions and a claim to authority when called on them--and a propensity for asking bonehead gotcha questions, to boot. I don't claim to an expert on terrorism but I do know bullshit when I see it.
posted by y2karl at 12:02 AM on July 15, 2005


meh.

In case anybody missed it, the US has already acknowledged before the UN that it uses torture.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:12 AM on July 15, 2005


But the real gut check comes if you imagine that YOUR family is in immediate mortal danger...

That (and all similar "what if your family") arguments are lame.

People under immediate personal threat will do things that are desperate and wrong. (They will assault and rob people, for example.) People who have been personally assaulted will, in their immediate responses, often wish for horrible, bloody revenge. ("Lynch him! Cut off his balls! Give him ten times what he did! Kill the bastard!")

But such irrational responses do not make a logical argument for the formulation of government policy, and luckily they usually are not used as such. If they were, the official punishment for being involved in a fender-bender might be for one driver to punch the other driver in the mouth and call him a fucking asshole.
posted by pracowity at 12:36 AM on July 15, 2005


If they were, the official punishment for being involved in a fender-bender might be for one driver to punch the other driver in the mouth and call him a fucking asshole.

I dunno, that sounds reasonable.... :)
posted by nightchrome at 12:43 AM on July 15, 2005


And if you to turn out to be wrong about the "bad guy", it's a great comfort to me to know that you'll be going to jail, hopefully for a very long time.

Whether or not he's right or wrong, I would think.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:48 AM on July 15, 2005


Sen. James Inhofe (news, bio, voting record), an Oklahoma Republican, said terrorism suspects "are not to be coddled."

So much for "innocent before proven guilty", eh?
posted by Target Practice at 12:58 AM on July 15, 2005


i love how everyone's shitting on both criminal justice and the geneva convention as a whole, as if they did not existed.
posted by Sijeka at 4:19 AM on July 15, 2005


I want to hear people say, "Yippee! Here come the Americans."

i admire your nice patriotic sentiment, but don't hold your breath ;)
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:17 AM on July 15, 2005


whenever I see someone defending torture, it makes me think of the kinds of scenes in movies or books where a single action or remark suddenly makes the protagonist realize that his companion has bitten by the zombie, or replaced by a robot or pod person, etc. I think a day is gonna come when you, along with the anti-gay marriage types, are gonna be real bummed out that all these things you said are on the internet for anyone with a web browser to see.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:37 AM on July 15, 2005


Forgive me if I don't necessarily take an air force Lt's word on what constitutes torture

rkent, if your apprehension about taking Schmidt's word for it is because of his rank, you may want to consider that he is not a lieutenant, but rather a Lt. Gen., a Lieutenant General. That's a General with three stars, outranking both Brigadier Generals and Major Generals. Considering that there is only one higher rank for an officer (General, having 4 stars), and the symbolic but vacant 5-star "General of the Air Force" rank, I'd say he's pretty high up in the Pentagon.

On the other hand, if you're not taking his word for it because of his U.S. military affiliation in general, I understand where you are coming from.
posted by bugmuncher at 6:53 AM on July 15, 2005


UbuRoivas, I'd be bluer than this screen if I was holding my breath.

y2karl: take it to email and you won't embarass yourself among so many people. You've got a weird understanding of the concept of occupation.

Human rights -- myth or foundation of civil society?
posted by warbaby at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2005


You apologists for torture make me sick and ashamed to be from the same country as you monsters.

I hate America because of people like YOU.
posted by beth at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2005


This just makes me very sad. Americans. Defending torture. What have we come to?

We're supposed to be better than that. Aren't we?

But the real gut check comes if you imagine that YOUR family is in immediate mortal danger, and you're in a room alone with a bad guy.

I don't know what B movie you're channeling here, but what does it have to do with this situation? These are suspects, not known bad guys. And nobody's family is in immediate danger except the ones we're putting there; at worst we've got low-grade odds of another bombing here and there. You're more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt than a terrorist.

The point, to me, is not whatever flawed misinformation we can squeeze out of these suspects by torturing them. It's that the bad will and hatred these methods produce will increase the risk of further terrorist attacks, because it very nearly justifies them.

If you're worried about terrorism, know that you're playing right into their hands with these methods. This is exactly what they want: flailing overreaction and fear and more violence from our side, which will make it easier for them to produce and justify more violence from their side.

We're supposed to be the good guys. Let's fucking act like it. It's that simple.
posted by ook at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2005


Heywood Mogroot writes "then again, if our only enemies are already mistreating our guys, then it's not strictly necessary, or even prudent, to uphold our end of the international agreements."

You could just be the better person, somebody has to take the first step why not the supposed good guys?

Smedleyman writes "j.p. Hung - spell SEAL in the lowercase again and I'm going to hunt you down and smash your testicles (or ovaries) flat with a hammer. People are dying, my friends are being killed."

I think ya got to unclench a bit.
posted by Mitheral at 7:53 AM on July 15, 2005


You've got a weird understanding of the concept of occupation.

Robert Papes quoted above: 'a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.'

How weird is that ?

I guess all the wonderful progress in Iraq and Afghanistan is evidence of how smart Pape's clique is.

That's still the howler of the week.
posted by y2karl at 8:03 AM on July 15, 2005


I have a great idea!

Let's throw them all into a pond. If they float, they are terrorists and can be put to death. If they sink and drown, then they died as good Xians.

Right?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:49 AM on July 15, 2005


I guess all the wonderful progress in Iraq and Afghanistan is evidence of how smart Pape's clique is.

*wiggles ears*

If you think that's funny, just wait until the "constitutional process" flames out next month. By Labor Day, Iraq's gonna take us out a whole new door. This regime needs an enema.

*jumps in pond, floats*
posted by warbaby at 9:17 AM on July 15, 2005


Your comments often do fit the definition of the colloquial term 'floater'.
posted by y2karl at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2005


Torture = bad.

Lovely.

Now that the children's book version is settled, let's have a conversation among adults, eh?

"Torture" is one of those buzzwords like "Liberal" that's been turned into a verbal bomb. When it gets dropped, rational thought leaves the head that hears it, and programming takes over. So stop for a minute and answer this:

What defines torture?

You're going to have to say some things are permissable in interrogation, like, for example, making the suspect sit in a wooden chair rather than a plush leather sofa.

So what's permissable?

Because at some point on YOUR list of OK items, someone else is going to say NO! That's not my America!

Is any application of physical pain permissable? Because I think psychological scars run just as deep and are just as permanent.

If you're going to take away someone's comfort, on virtualy any level, someone else is going to start to call that torture. So how far would you say it's ok to go? That's the question. Not whether "torture" is ok or not.

See beyond the word itself, and yes, B-movie enthusiasts, put yourself in the room. It's you, it's a guy that your boss says probably knows the plans of a bomb plot in some neighborhood mall you've never heard of. How far do you trust yourself to go? Because I say we should trust the men we pay to stand there for us just as much.

And you also fail to answer the moral question about torture being an extension of war. If you're prepared to accept civilian casualties, how can you not accept the possible accidental torture of the wrong guy? What, we bomb and shoot the wrong people on a semi-regular basis, and it's bamboo under the wrong fingernails that has your painties in a bunch?

It's not a choice. You can't be against one and OK with the other. If you're going to tell me torture is unacceptable, you have to tell me war is unacceptable.

And I'm not defending torture, either. Torture sucks. Torture should be eliminated forever. But I can't see a way to make that happen until we also eliminate tanks and guns and bombs forever. It's part of the package. It's war in a room.

Saying no to the judicious use of physical pain is like saying, yes we want to declare war, but we're sending our boys with bean bag guns and tazers instead of bullets.

You trust them to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield, but not how to interrogate people? That just doesn't add up for me.
posted by JWright at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2005


JWright writes "If you're prepared to accept civilian casualties, how can you not accept the possible accidental torture of the wrong guy?"

There's a big difference between accidently killing a civilian and purposefully sticking bamboo under some guy's finger nails. And the US isn't calling or treating these guys imprisioned Gitmo as POWs.
posted by Mitheral at 10:26 AM on July 15, 2005


If you're prepared to accept civilian casualties, how can you not accept the possible accidental torture of the wrong guy?

I'm not prepared to accept civilian casualties. Every civilian casualty is preventable, at the cost of the lives of friendly soldiers.

But that's what the soldiers are there for: to die for their country. Not to take out a vanload of preschoolers because the guy behind the wheel is driving erratically and might be a suicide bomber.

You trust them to decide who lives and dies on the battlefield, but not how to interrogate people?

I don't trust them to do either, because killing a civilian who is a potential threat in order to potentially save your own skin is an immoral act.

In any case, your analogy is patently ridiculous. We're not talking about innocent civilians being killed by soldiers; we're talking about innocent civilians being tortured to death. Even if you do accept the former as acceptable, it does not follow that you accept the latter as acceptable.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2005


JWright, there is already a definition of torture here. And here. We don't have to play semantics or create a slippery slope where none exists, although that's what our current administration has been doing in order to justify their decidedly un-American actions of late. The definitions exist, and to ignore them undermines the stated ideology of the United States. To concede to our baser instincts because "9/11 changed everything" is to admit defeat in this ill-defined war. We have become that which we profess to abhor.
posted by Floydd at 10:35 AM on July 15, 2005


Now that the children's book version is settled, let's have a conversation among adults, eh?

The children's book version is the belief that you can justify extraordinary measures applied to the "bad guys" because they're all born with a magical birthmark that separates them from everyone else.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:04 AM on July 15, 2005


JWright, there is already a definition of torture here. And here. We don't have to play semantics or create a slippery slope where none exists, although that's what our current administration has been doing in order to justify their decidedly un-American actions of late. The definitions exist, and to ignore them undermines the stated ideology of the United States.

Under those definitions the actions seem to not be "torture" as there was no "severe physical pain", threats of death, or anything else in the statute. Making somebody wear a bra on their head is silly, unprofessional, and should result in discipline, but under the very definition that you cite it is not torture.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:15 AM on July 15, 2005


Actually, TDDL, since the U.S. statute also addresses
“severe mental pain or suffering,” which means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering, I would disagree.
But the FBI, in its infinite wisdom, agrees with you.
So there you have it.
posted by Floydd at 11:30 AM on July 15, 2005


Mental suffering doesn't necessarily involve physical pain.

Is there a right to not be subjected to suffering abritrarily by one's captor?

Particularly when no court has rendered sentence, or no trial is even in the offing?

If you think the answer is yes, try to compose an answer that doesn't presuppose you get the information you want from the prisoner -- except, of course, unless the only information you want is you hurt me.
posted by warbaby at 12:27 PM on July 15, 2005


In addition to the above cited U.S. statute and UN C.A.T., we used to, once upon a time, be bound by the Geneva Convention which said:
each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following
provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

Which would, in my rosy little make-believe world where certain truths are self-evident and we are all endowed with certain inalienable rights, preclude people from, for whatever reason, humiliating and degrading prisoners.
posted by Floydd at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2005


See, THAT'S my point. Even Geneva separates torture, on line (a) from humilation on line (c).

So what is torture, if humilation isn't it?

You say it's this much. I say it's that much. But instead of, as a culture, drawing a line at a certain set of specific acts, we get caught up in the ridiculousness of the buzzword.

Torture = bad.

And it leaves you with perfectly good interrogators forced to dress up their subjects because they're hamstrung from doing anything else.

Simple (rehtorical) question. I'll say it again. You're in charge of getting the info from a subject, what's ok and what's not? Pretend the word "torture" never exisited. How far would you go? Don't you trust the experts you have hired to go just as far?

I think physical pain is perfectly reasonable. Permanant damage is not. I think psychological damage is probably more likely to be permanant, especially when applied by a master.

But, as the wisdom of this title of this thread suggest, torture is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it.

Let's just not get caught up the word.
posted by JWright at 2:05 PM on July 15, 2005


There's no need to make the distinction, JWright, because they were both forbidden by the Geneva Convention, back when my country believed in that sort of thing.
(Why does everybody talk about the "dress up" while ignoring the menacing dogs and other abuse?)
posted by Floydd at 2:16 PM on July 15, 2005


snsranch : Therefore, these practices, although, not up to our international standards, ARE, in fact relevant and possibly useful.
I don't, and would never, condone such practices. But hey, these guys are friggin noobs.

Actually, I think you just did...
posted by kaemaril at 3:40 PM on July 15, 2005


Solid-one-love writes:

But that's what the soldiers are there for: to die for their country.

...Um, no. That's not what they are there for. It could happen, but that's not the purpose of their presence.

We're not talking about innocent civilians being killed by soldiers; we're talking about innocent civilians being tortured to death.

OK, maybe I have not been paying attention to this issue. When did the discussion of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay become a discussion about "innocent civilians being tortured to death"? I don't recall hearing about a detainee losing their life at all, nevermind as a result of torture.
posted by bugmuncher at 8:46 PM on July 15, 2005


Of course let's not forget the fact that they are being held captive indefinitely. And that several of them are children (can you imagine growing up during your early teen years in Gitmo?) And that many (most) are random civilians caught up in the war zone. Torture aside, just the mere existence of this camp is an affront to civilization and a crime against humanity.

On preview: there are about a dozen document cases of US soldiers torturing captives to death. Just not specifically at Gitmo (that we know about).
posted by dopeypanda at 1:36 PM on July 16, 2005


From now on I'm thinking of typing "PARODY" in caps after each sentence. Jesus. That or I'll just give up the tongue in cheek thing. I guess I keep forgetting most people don't read all the posts & don't take the time or really get where your coming from - mostly just snark on spelling if nothing else.

Anyway:

"if you are going to invoke something, then you better well be prepared to stand behind it!"
I understand your irritation with wannabes or neverwuzzes. But I'm not getting into a pissing contest with anyone. If I fought in 'Nam there's someone who was in WWII or if I was a Marine, there's someone who was a Marine sniper or recon, if I was a SEAL there's someone who was Delta. If I lost a leg, someone lost two. Even that's not enough, look at Max Cleland (oh, that's right, no one will). No matter how many medals I've got someone got more. Even then, a REAL American would have died in service by now. Fuck all that. I'm not saying dick about shit about me. My argument is in my words. You don't like it, respond to that.

"When was the last time YOU took a prisoner? I'd like to know."
*checks to see if owes snsranch anyfuckingthing*
Nope.
You said you were stationed in Ft. Bragg. Care to prove it? Plan to post your dd214 do you? I've got nothing to share about my actual personal life on the net. If you do, have at it.

"I don't know what it is about your comment that pisses me off so much."
Perhaps it's that your brain doesn't understand parody?

"I think it's because I know some of the most bad-ass mother-fuckers in the world,"
How nice for you. Clearly they must be so much badder ass than me. (Do I need a restraining order?) So 10 years from now, how bad ass will they be? 20 years? 40? Yeah. That'd mean something to me some years and about 40 extra pounds ago.

"none of whom would ever do such stupid shit that we've been reading about,"
I seem to remember something about some SEALs taking photos with a prisoner in May of 2003 the NCIS was looking into? Cmdr Jeff Bender something something?

"and you are speaking as though you are a part of that."
I count posts and responses on a wide variety of topics from terrorism to science to linguistics. So we're all counterterrorist experts, scientists, linguists, etc. Again, dude, parody. Soldiers are not sailors are not airmen are not Marines, I understand rangers prefer to be called rangers, just playing on that.

"If you really ARE a SEAL, then maybe you need to head back to Coronado and get your ass kicked."
So I guess I better not be one, otherwise, whoa! My ass is kicked man!

"Be a good American, goddamit. Don't talk shit, DO IT."
Been there. Did that. Went career. Got fucked up. Saw the movie. Bought the original soundtrack recording. Ate the burger. Wore the t-shirt. Rode the roller coaster. Saw all the promos. Played the video game. blah blah blah. Now I want to sit on my ass, drink beer, play, and straighten shit out in my own corner of the world and bitch about things on the internet your problem with that is?

I mean as a ferinstance. Wuz I a - whatever the hell you are/were - I'd be a lot more pissed at, oh, say people capitalizing on their service. Writing novels or selling 1/2 ass watches or whatever, and doing all the other crap we're all well aware of rather than a few throwaway lines in a FUCKING PARODY on some web site comments section.

Or am I way off base on that?

And apparently they didn't teach you to read at Bragg, since if read correctly my comments would actually support not torturing people (insofar as I explicity echo warbaby's comments).

But whatever. I'd lay odds your not reading this anyway. Or at least reading it with the same care you read my earlier posts. Which likely means you think my 'off base' reference is in some way related to baseball.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:18 PM on July 18, 2005


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