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Silence is Broken
December 29, 2005 11:51 PM   Subscribe

A Disturbance in the Blogosphere: Publishing the UK/US/Uzbekistan Torture Memo. Braving arrest, bloggers have broken the UK’s law of silence with the truth about torture. Bloggers are mass publishing the leaked UK/US/Uzbekistan Torture Memos. The memos are from the correspondences of Craig Murray who was the United Kingdom's ambassador to Uzbekistan. These memos are evidence and a memorandum of record outlining the rendition and torture of US-arrested prisoners in Uzbekistan. From Craig Murray's Memo: 12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the [UN] Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." 13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful.
posted by Dunvegan (246 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dunvegan posted "Article 2 of the [UN] Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer: 'No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.'"


The United Nations Convention is just a goddamed piece of paper!
posted by orthogonality at 12:07 AM on December 30, 2005


So Uzbekistan is a shitty country with shitty human rights. They torture thousands of supposedly innocent people and we do nothing about it, becaue the country is geo-politically an important ally. This describes about what percentage of the world's nations?

I don't see the point here, other than a guy with a political axe to grind grinding his axe.

So, Yawn.
posted by b_thinky at 12:38 AM on December 30, 2005


what happened to the other comments?
posted by b_thinky at 12:39 AM on December 30, 2005


Murray, as some may know, later resigned from the FCO and stood against the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in his constituency of Blackburn at the General Election. He did poorly, just scraping the 5% of the vote required to keep his deposit, but coming last behind the fascist-tinged BNP.

I am never quite sure whether Murray is a buffoon or a hero. His performances during the general election campaign point strongly at buffoon. Then again, his strongly moral stance here, against the 'cauistry' of his superiors in London, has a strong element of hero.

There's a good spy novel to be written here. Will we see a John le Carré book with the Americans as the villains before too long?
posted by athenian at 12:40 AM on December 30, 2005


We can all sleep easier at night, knowing that the b_thinky's of the world are exceptionally blasé about our torture policy that creates more terrorists.
posted by Rothko at 12:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Yeah, who cares that Karimov boils people to death? I don't know any of those people. Therefore, f*ck 'em.

Sometimes it seems that people are willing to forgive the most awful of atrocities, just as long as they're committed by an "allied" state in the name of fighting the terr'ists. See: rendition.
posted by clevershark at 12:45 AM on December 30, 2005


So Uzbekistan is a shitty country with shitty human rights. They torture thousands of supposedly innocent people and we do nothing about it, becaue the country is geo-politically an important ally.

If you don't care about humans being tortured and brutalised, then what can anyone say to make you wake up.
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:49 AM on December 30, 2005


Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.

Over there, behind the black gates of Auschwitz, the most tragic of all prisoners were the "Muselmanner," as they were called. Wrapped in their torn blankets, they would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, unaware of who or where they were, strangers to their surroundings. They no longer felt pain, hunger, thirst. They feared nothing. They felt nothing. They were dead and did not know it.

Rooted in our tradition, some of us felt that to be abandoned by humanity then was not the ultimate. We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was a harsher punishment than to be a victim of His anger. Man can live far from God -- not outside God. God is wherever we are. Even in suffering? Even in suffering.

In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, one does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.

Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees -- not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.
-- Elie Wiesel, "The Preils of Indiffernce"
posted by orthogonality at 1:00 AM on December 30, 2005


We can all sleep easier at night, knowing that the b_thinky's of the world are exceptionally blasé about our torture policy that creates more terrorists.

I think our supposed policy of "torture" is up for debate - whether or not it occurs, whether or not its effective, etc, but I think one thing is certain:

If Uzbekistan is imprisoning and torturing thousands of innocents, it's not at the request of our government. The implicaton is that since we consider the Uzbeks an ally in the WOT that we're somehow guilty by association.

We're friendly to the Uzbek goverment because it's a matter of convenience, not because we support them morally. The same is the case for countries like China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on and on.

I'm not saying I don't care about the humans being tortured and killed without reason, I'm just saying it's wrong to blame the U.S. or certain U.S. politicians for the actions of Uzbekistan. Relationships of convenience have been going on for as long as mankind.

Do you really think the world would be a better place if we went after every country with shitty human rights records?
posted by b_thinky at 1:23 AM on December 30, 2005


I personally am glad we are torturing. I wish the government would do it more. I am also a tool who doesn't believe anything I write but I am trying to derail this thread so go please argue with me.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 1:26 AM on December 30, 2005


If Uzbekistan is imprisoning and torturing thousands of innocents, it's not at the request of our government.

From the third letter in the FPP link:
We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US... In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

In an ideal world, we wouldn't even be splitting hairs on this one. But since it's not an ideal world and we are splitting hairs, note that there is a difference between passively condoning human rights violations and actively encouraging them by receiving intelligence (faulty or otherwise) from Uzbekistan.
posted by chrominance at 1:34 AM on December 30, 2005


Quick question: What is this Blairwatch? Is it trustable at all? I honestly don't know as I've never seen it before.

don't want to spoil anyone's outrage or anything...
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:40 AM on December 30, 2005


I think our supposed policy of "torture" is up for debate - whether or not it occurs, whether or not its effective, etc.

It is documented that the CIA flies people to states with poor human rights records, to let those governments do the politically unpopular "dirty work" (if we're using scare quotes around the word "torture") that we do not want our media to report on.

It was documented this year that the United States, from the direction of President George W. Bush, has maintained secret torture prisons in specific EU states, in violation of the Constitution of the European Union and of the Geneva Convention.

It is documented that military officials on an executive level (i.e. generals) are on record stating that they do not consider torture an effective means to obtain useful intelligence — information that will save soldiers' lives or further our mission overseas.

Further, the increasing level of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is empirical evidence that torture has failed to improve the security of soldiers in service in these areas, let alone secure against future domestic attacks.

Factually, the issue of whether the executive branch of the United States maintains a torture policy or not is settled (Bush does promote torture).

Factually, the issue of whether torture works or not as a deterrant to terrorism is settled (torture doesn't work; terrorism has increased).

The only question left to settle is how indifferent American citizens are about our representatives acting out a pro-torture policy on our behalf.

You've settled to be indifferent about it. You, and people like you, have forced the rest of us, and our loved ones, to suffer the long-term consequences of torture camps.

If you cannot think about others, consider thinking about the consequences to you, your wife, your husband, your children, your parents — anyone you might love.
posted by Rothko at 1:43 AM on December 30, 2005


chrominance: I'm not going to argue that we passively or even aggressively encourage torture. Hell, we might even order it up sometimes.

But of the THOUSANDS of Uzbeks jailed and tortured, the US probably has nothing to do with all but a DOZEN or two at most. So to blame the whole system of torture on us is complete bullshit.

I can appreciate the argument that it's wrong to torture even one person, but this is reality - wake up and live in it. Even if our government gave a shit about Uzbekistan torturing people, what could be done about it? Would we then have to do take the same actions against Saudi Arabia, Israel, China and all other countries that engage in torture? Would the result be a net positive or net negative on society?
posted by b_thinky at 1:45 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "I'm not saying I don't care about the humans being tortured and killed without reason,"


But if there's a reason, it's A-OK! My reason is, lower gasoline prices!

But there's always a reason: the people being tortured and killed are terrorists, Bolsheviks, counter-revolutionaries, Christ-killers, witches, Papists, heretics, sodomites, intellectuals, miscegenists, bigamists, savages, enemies of the people.

Saddam Hussein had the entire population of villages murdered because, he claimed, one villager tried to assassinate him. Stalin murdered a million Kulak "counter-revolutionary wreckers". Pol Pot killed anyone who wore eye-glasses. Andrew Jackson marched "savage" natives to the West and to death. There's always a reason.
posted by orthogonality at 1:48 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky I'm not saying I don't care about the humans being tortured and killed without reason,

Just about sums up the problem. If you believe there can be a reason (and by implication a justifiable reason) for torture - you are the problem.
posted by cassbrown1 at 1:50 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko : "Factually, the issue of whether torture works or not as a deterrant to terrorism is settled (torture doesn't work; terrorism has increased)."

How do you know whether torture has prevented some domestic attacks, or not?
posted by Gyan at 1:51 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko, not much of what you said is "factually settled," other than in your own mind perhaps.

But let's assume that everything you say is correct, right down to the part where shitty people like me are forcing long term negative consequences on the great and moral people of the world like you.

What are you gonna do about it? How are you going to reduce it, stop it and prevent it from happening again?

If you care to step into reality, where you have to make choices, oftentimes none of which are perfect or ideal, you'll understand the situation a little bit clearer.
posted by b_thinky at 1:58 AM on December 30, 2005


How do you know whether torture has prevented some domestic attacks, or not?

He doesn't. Nor can anyone say that torture doesn't work. If you want to trust largely anonymous sources, you can "factually settle" any debate you want to have with yourslef.
posted by b_thinky at 2:02 AM on December 30, 2005


Glad I stepped into reality - Torture is ok because it might work. Now it's become a little bit clearer.
posted by cassbrown1 at 2:05 AM on December 30, 2005


We can all sleep easier in our beds tonight because Rothko is going to blather about this subject and many others on a website.
posted by Joeforking at 2:10 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko, not much of what you said is "factually settled," other than in your own mind perhaps.

I guess what's been printed in the press over the last few months is just a figment of my imagination. Carry on.
posted by Rothko at 2:16 AM on December 30, 2005


Other than agreeing wholeheartedly with the spirit of the posts regarding the immorality of the act in question in the memos...there is also the parallel building backstory of the bloggers that are attempting to circumvent the gag order on this memo by blasting it to the web.

Someone has an very interesting search engine scrape that's trying to track the spread of the story.

It may be somewhat interesting to follow both the virality of the story, and the British government's reaction to this particular type of end-around hyperleak.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:16 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "Nor can anyone say that torture doesn't work."


Hey, it worked on John McCain. And Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. And all those Christian martrys.

Yup, no ultimately negative consequences for the torturers there. Good realpolitik.

If Rome hadn't tortured all those Christians, we might not be praying to Jupiter Imperator today!
posted by orthogonality at 2:20 AM on December 30, 2005


Nor can anyone say that torture doesn't work.

Torture doesn't work.
posted by twistedonion at 2:21 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work
posted by cassbrown1 at 2:25 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by orthogonality at 2:28 AM on December 30, 2005


How do you know whether torture has prevented some domestic attacks, or not?

Don't you follow the news? "We are at war." Torture can only be justified (argued) to the public if it deters terrorist attacks, right? If torture is being done for any other purpose, like, say, managing left-wing dissent, let's get it out in the open. Otherwise, torture can only be good for whatever purpose Bush publicly admits he uses it for.
posted by Rothko at 2:30 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.

b_Thinky: Your logic's gone wrong somewhere, and you should care. The whole issue is that our governments are exporting torture to countries with a poor human rights record in an attempt to pretend they have no blood on their hands. Getting somebody else to do your dirty work is as bad as doing the job yourself.

But then, we're still sticking feeding tubes up the noses of Guantanamo Bay hunger-strikers...
posted by scaryduck at 2:32 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:32 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 2:41 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture Doesn't Work, by Brigadier General David R. Irvine, a retired Army Reserve strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years with the Sixth Army Intelligence School
posted by Ljubljana at 2:44 AM on December 30, 2005


Oh...and torture doesn't work.

But it does kill.

I suppose with enough hot water we could even force a person to say that torture was bad and everything they ever said or thought or typed was wrong.

Warning: Graphic Photo. Purported Uzbek mother of prisoner tortured to death by boiling water with post-mortem photos of her son.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:44 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by EarBucket at 2:46 AM on December 30, 2005


orthogonality : "Yup, no ultimately negative consequences for the torturers there."

Note that banning torture on the basis of consequent negative outcomes is distinct from banning torture because it doesn't work. I think most anti-torture advocates loath to make the moral calculus argument, because they're afraid that other people will just disagree and tolerate torture that is self-serving, and hence adopt the tack of claiming that torture doesn't work. I see a close parallel here to the drug war tactics: instead of explicitly saying that "we don't want people using drugs coz we don't like it", what's effectively said is "we don't want people using drugs coz drugs are BAD and will kill them and we want to help protect the children".

Rothko : "Don't you follow the news?"

I do, and Bush has explicitly come out against torture. Even Cheney trying to sneak in those provisions, says
"In a statement responding to Turner's remark, Cheney said his views "are reflected in the administration's policy. Our country is at war and our government has an obligation to protect the American people from a brutal enemy that has declared war upon us."

"We are aggressively finding terrorists and bringing them to justice and anything we do within this effort is within the law," the statement said, adding that the United States "does not torture."
"

If US (Bush..) publicly endorsed torture, and the public supported it, all this formality of rendition to Syria wouldn't be necessary, would it? The US is maintaining the public pretense that it doesn't torture. Hence, any dettered attacks due to torture will simply be publicized as "Attack averted by FBI", not "Attack averted due to intelligence obtained by torture". Regarding the effectiveness of torture, I suspect it works in some cases, not in others. I don't claim to know the ratio or the nuances. If you have such data, share it.
posted by Gyan at 2:48 AM on December 30, 2005


Bush has explicitly come out against torture

...while using enough obtuse verbiage to waltz around the common understanding of the word "torture".

I'm not going to get into the legal word games this administration has been playing to avoid its culpability in a number of issues. Suffice it to say that, from the President down, words take on whatever meaning is politically expedient — yes, including "torture".
posted by Rothko at 2:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, you seem to be alluding to the cartoon scenario of the ticking bomb terrorist.

I suggest that in such a fictitious scenario it would make sense for the relevant authorities to go right ahead and do the torturing. Once the immediate problem is resolved the authorities can write a complete account and confession, which will result in appropriate punishment. Those authorities can then sit in jail happily dreaming of all the lives they saved, and anticipating the well deserved heroes welcome they will receive upon release from jail.
posted by Chuckles at 2:58 AM on December 30, 2005


Can I suggest that we now put b_thinky to one side, write him off as the idiot he is (I know he's not alone, but the point's been made), and have a look at what may happen to the bloggers? No report of this being posted in the mainstream UK press AFAIK. What are the real risks of arrest here?
posted by simcd at 2:59 AM on December 30, 2005


Something deep down tells me that just because Bush is President you shouldn't necessarily believe everything he says.
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:00 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles : "Gyan, you seem to be alluding to the cartoon scenario of the ticking bomb terrorist."

I'm not alluding to any particular scenario as such. My 'headlines' were just to illustrate that a government which claims to not torture, isn't going to deliberately contradict that. Hence the absence of publicly known successes of torture isn't evidence of the absence of successes of torture.
posted by Gyan at 3:01 AM on December 30, 2005


I guess what's been printed in the press over the last few months is just a figment of my imagination. Carry on.

Yes, and by watching Nightline and The Daily Show you are better informed than the entire CIA.

Torture doesn't work

How do you know? Do you have training in interrogation? Have you ever tortured someone or have you been tortured yourself? I, for one, have no experience with interrogation or torture and don't know if it works. I doubt anyone here is an expert on the issue and don't see why so many are posing as such. It's simply a question that none of us are qualified to answer as an authority.
posted by b_thinky at 3:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by slater at 3:05 AM on December 30, 2005


Yes, and by watching Nightline and The Daily Show you are better informed than the entire CIA.

I don't get cable, sweetheart. I get my news from reading world papers.

In any case, if you want to know about the CIA extraditions and torture camps, and how this contradicts what has been said by members of the Bush administration, much of this has been written about in domestic papers (particularly the NY Times). I'm not going to do your homework for you; these matters are of public record.
posted by Rothko at 3:06 AM on December 30, 2005


My 'headlines' were just to illustrate that a government which claims to not torture, isn't going to deliberately contradict that.

It's not a contradiction if their meaning of the word "torture" doesn't match up with yours. You're just don't have the right to question their redefinition of the word.
posted by Rothko at 3:08 AM on December 30, 2005


(You're = You)
posted by Rothko at 3:09 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, it doesn't matter whether it works or not. Really, it doesn't. The simple fact is that at least some of the time, we're going to be torturing innocent people.

As a matter of fact, we are 100% of the time torturing innocent people, when you remember that our legal system is based on 'innocent until proven guilty'. These people don't get trials and THEN get tortured... someone points the finger at them, carts them off to prison, and tortures them (sometimes to death). There's never a trial at all. Just a finger point. They don't get to defend themselves, they just get to have their fingernails ripped out.

If we use the definition of innocent as 'not guilty of aiding terrorism in any way, shape, or form', we can say with absolute certainty that at least some of the people we are torturing are innocent. As a matter of fact, it's a virtual certainty that the majority of the accused aren't involved with terrorism. The actual population of terrorists is very, very small. So the chances of actually getting one when someone points The Finger isn't very high.

This is no different, Gyan, from someone pointing a finger at someone in YOUR FAMILY, rushing them off to a hidden cell, and peelng their skin off with razors. Just because they have brown skin and live in Iraq doesn't make them criminals or terrorists.

Torturing the innocent is just as profound a crime as terrorism. It's probably WORSE, because it involves so many of our people doing this in an organized fashion. Terrorism only takes a couple of psychos with a bomb... torture requires institutionalized psychosis.

I'm ashamed that you care so little for the principles for which we once stood.
posted by Malor at 3:14 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: Here's where we differ. I may feel that I would like to attach electrodes to you because your views are disgusting and sub human. I know that I could never do this because it is WRONG. An apologist for torture however,has already taken the first step toward becoming a torturer because WRONG is not a concept within their/your grasp.
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:14 AM on December 30, 2005


Notable liberal commie hippie Christopher Hitchens: Torture doesn't work.

Torture doesn't work.

See the link to Brigadeer General David Irvine earlier in the thread. Torture doesn't work.

Rear Admiral John Hutson: Torture doesn't work.

Burton Gerber, 40 year CIA veteran: Torture doesn't work.

I like this meme. Can we keep it?
posted by EarBucket at 3:15 AM on December 30, 2005


As I am sure some of you just saw on ORT, or have heard through other channels the Swiss are extraditing (former Atomic Minister Yevgeny) Adamov back to Russia for trial, even though it was the US he ripped off. What is disquieting about this news is not so much that he will be sent back here and the whole little matter of a missing $9m in nuclear aid money dusted under the carpet, and that he’ll be given a fat sum of money to keep his mouth shut and disappear to Spain or Belize, but rather that the Swiss judges were--if you read between the lines--making their decisions based on where Adamov would be treated with the most humanitarian care in correspondence with the Helsinki accords before trial.

It has, in the past few months, come to light that the US has been using not just torture but summary executions at Guantanamo Bay since the war in Afghanistan, and that those who disappear into the US federal prison system, where Adamov would have gone, often turn up in court or at home missing an ear or a finger that was clipped off by this or that spook agency during interrogation.

So putting the two apples of the US and the Russian legal systems into the scales of justice, the Swiss concluded that Adamov would get a fairer trial in a court system that is more corrupt than Nigeria’s and in a country that is carrying out a genocidal war against its own citizens in Chechnya than he would in the US under the Bush administration.

It’s no secret that America was built on good old fashioned hypocrisy and greed, but this is truly a new low for it on the international scene when some tiny little European country, which hides most of the Bush family’s wealth, would basically state outright that the US is to be less trusted with the levers of justice than Russia. So the land of the free and the home of the brave enters the sixth year of the 21st century with a judicial reputation no better than that of Saudi Arabia’s. Lift a glass and toast the truth that is finally out of the bag.
posted by Rancid Badger at 3:16 AM on December 30, 2005


You are indeed an idiot, b_thinky.

Torture doesn't work. Torture is terrorism.
posted by MightyNez at 3:16 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko : "It's not a contradiction if their meaning of the word 'torture' doesn't match up with yours."

It's a contradiction because it is a self-contradiction, not a contradiction between my definition and theirs. If the govt. says on Monday that they don't "torture", but says on Tuesday that "torture" helped save lives, that's a contradiction. So they simply omit "torture" on Tuesday.

Malor : "Gyan, it doesn't matter whether it works or not. Really, it doesn't."

Exactly. So why adopt this tack of "torture doesn't work", when almost certainly, none of us have firsthand experience of the matter? I covered this above, in my response to orthogonality.
posted by Gyan at 3:18 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky says:
Yes, and by watching Nightline and The Daily Show you are better informed than the entire CIA.
Argument by appeal to authority is pretty weak when you consider just how badly they got it wrong about the WMDs. It was obvious from an armchair that there couldn't possibly be any nuclear weapon program in Iraq, despite assertions to the contrary. Chemical and biological were possible, but the loud claims of nuclear made the whole thing pretty damn suspect.

Apparently you want to turn off your brain and just swallow anything they tell you because they're the CIA. Shame on you... this is the kind of citizenship that allows fascism to happen.
posted by Malor at 3:18 AM on December 30, 2005


What are the real risks of arrest here?

Here's the Official Secrets Act of 1989. Since these bloggers are likely British citizens, or "subjects of the Crown" it looks as if they are bound to this law. From the penalties, imprisonment of up to two years if convicted of "unauthorized disclosures".
posted by Rothko at 3:20 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan we shouldn't be torturing just because we shouldn't. Period. End of report.

However, on top of that argument, you ALSO have the fact that virtually all experts in the field say it doesn't work. In fact, I've never seen even a single argument from anyone remotely credible that it does.

As the ambassador said, we're selling our souls for dross.
posted by Malor at 3:21 AM on December 30, 2005


Rancid: It has, in the past few months, come to light that the US has been using not just torture but summary executions at Guantanamo Bay since the war in Afghanistan, and that those who disappear into the US federal prison system, where Adamov would have gone, often turn up in court or at home missing an ear or a finger that was clipped off by this or that spook agency during interrogation.

Where might I be able to read about this?
posted by b_thinky at 3:21 AM on December 30, 2005


You can read?
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:22 AM on December 30, 2005


As far as publishing this memo, the risk all hinges on whether or not the British Government believes the publication of Murray's memo contravines the Official Secrets Act.

Blair did use his brickbat and not only threaten to jail any editor who reports the very recent "Bomb Al-Jazeera" memo, but has the two whistle-blowers up on "Through the Looking-Glass" charges...their lawyers can't even see the secret memo their clients are charged with leaking to the press (a press which hasn't published.)

From the CBC link above: The "compare and contrast" between these two memos is (at least as far as we know now) that the Al-Jazeera memo was leaked to the mainstream press, wasn't printed, and the leakers are up on Kafkaesque charges...and in the Murray memo the leak is to bloggers, it is being published in a amplified exponential, and Murray isn't up on charges (yet.)

It should be interesting (especially for whistleblowers) to watch with interest how these two divergent expose publication scenarios develop.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:24 AM on December 30, 2005


Rancid Badger: those are some pretty strong assertions, and I haven't seen anything supporting them... summary executions in Guantanamo and torture in the Federal prison system are both new to me. (I'm aware that some people died under torture in Guantanamo, but that's not _quite_ the same thing.... summary execution has to be deliberate, I believe.)

Do you have anything to back yourself up?
posted by Malor at 3:26 AM on December 30, 2005


Apparently you want to turn off your brain and just swallow anything they tell you because they're the CIA. Shame on you... this is the kind of citizenship that allows fascism to happen.

What are you talking about? I never said I was in favor of torture, I simply said you (or I) don't know whether or not it works. if you want to condemn it outright regardless of outcomes, go ahead.

Just don't by any gasoline that comes from foreign oil sources, don't purchase anything made in China, and don't do business with ANY country that has a suspect human rights record. And apparently, you'll have to withdraw from the U.S. as well, since we evidently support torture or torture people ourselves.

The world is a lot dirtier than you care to think, and its been going on longer than Bush has been president.
posted by b_thinky at 3:29 AM on December 30, 2005


Wow, a bunch of hippies on a website are all typing "Torture doesn't work".
I tell ya, Ma, things are gonna change now. The hippies have saved us, Ma!
posted by Joeforking at 3:32 AM on December 30, 2005


Add him to the list
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:34 AM on December 30, 2005


The world is a lot dirtier than you care to think, and its been going on longer than Bush has been president.

I cannot recall a President ever in my lifetime suggesting that he is allowed to do whatever he pleases, because we're in a "state of war" (that Congress did not authorize, by the way). Regardless of what position you take, you have to admit that Bush and his staff have dramatically rewritten and reinterpreted many well-established laws and treaties.
posted by Rothko at 3:34 AM on December 30, 2005


Joeforking, just curious, do you think pedophilia is a sexual orientation? Because you sound awfully familiar.
posted by Rothko at 3:36 AM on December 30, 2005


Malor : "Gyan we shouldn't be torturing just because we shouldn't. Period. End of report."

Then argue exactly that.

About all this 'expert' testimony cited, nearly all of them talk about how torture is "inhumane" and "out of national character". Not one of them says that he/she has no objection to torture, but practically it doesn't work, so it shouldn't be used.

From EarBucket's assorted links:

Speaking at a College of William and Mary forum last year, for example, Burton L. Gerber, a decorated Moscow station chief who retired in 1995 after 39 years with the CIA, surprised some in the audience when he said he opposes torture "because it corrupts the society that tolerates it."

..

Torture, or "cruel, inhuman or degrading" conduct, are not part of our national character. Another objection is that torture doesn't work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners.

..

The highest levels of the U.S. military, the Defense Department, and the White House must be held accountable for putting our troops at greater risk and diminishing America's moral authority across the globe.

..

"It’s human nature. People don’t cooperate with you unless they have some reason to." He added, "Brutalization doesn’t work. We know that. Besides, you lose your soul."

That last one is interesting in its logic. If & when torture does work, it does so because people cooperate due to the belief that further pain will be avoided, irrespective of the reality.

Only the Baer & Schueur quotes are missing commentary about the morality of torture. Schueur's comment also refers to "extreme methods of torture", not torture in general.
posted by Gyan at 3:37 AM on December 30, 2005


"The world is a lot dirtier than you care to think, and its been going on longer than Bush has been president."
posted by b_thinky at 3:29 AM PST on December 30 [!]


Oh, I very well know that there is much dirt/evil afoot.

The difference in our approaches is this:

You're happy sitting in the squalor whistling with the lazy ho-hum status quo.

I'm determinedly armed with the Constitution, the UN Conventions, the Geneva Conventions...and an industrial-strength DustBuster in the movement to clean away this filth of inhumanity
posted by Dunvegan at 3:38 AM on December 30, 2005


Regardless of what position you take, you have to admit that Bush and his staff have dramatically rewritten and reinterpreted many well-established laws and treaties.

Yes, I'll agree that they are certainly aggressive when it comes to prosecuting this war. From the "enemy combatant" status to what is at least a borderline use of torture, they are oftentimes at the very edge of what is considered legal.

I can see where people are worried about this, but I am not as threatened by GWB personally as many are. If we continue to live on the edge like this for years and years, then some of the things we consider norms today might eventually change. Fortunately, he has only 8 years, and the next president will counterbalance many of the things GWB is doing - even if it's another conservative Republican.

That's just the way our democracy works. Things go one way for a while, then they swing the other.
posted by b_thinky at 3:43 AM on December 30, 2005


It is, regrettably true that torture can serve its masters well.

While torture gets you lots and lots of that "bad intellegence" the Bush administration has cited of late regarding the run-up to the Iraq war...it is good for something.

That is wringing out of victims the right kind of "bad intellegence" you need to justify your ends...the "bad intellegence" that your cherry-picking of CIA or MI5 intellegence just couldn't provide...because it didn't exist.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan: I'm determinedly armed with the Constitution, the UN Conventions, the Geneva Conventions...and an industrial-strength DustBuster in the movement to clean away this filth of inhumanity

Congrats, let me know how that turns out for you.
posted by b_thinky at 3:45 AM on December 30, 2005


Yes, I'll agree that they are certainly aggressive when it comes to prosecuting this war. From the "enemy combatant" status to what is at least a borderline use of torture, they are oftentimes at the very edge of what is considered legal.

IT IS NOT A WAR! Fighting criminals yes, but a war is when you invade, throw missiles and bombs etc at another country - you know - the sort of stuff George and his band of merry criminals does.
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:49 AM on December 30, 2005


That last one is interesting in its logic. If & when torture does work, it does so because people cooperate due to the belief that further pain will be avoided, irrespective of the reality.

People aren't computers. Whether or not torture works depends on myriad variables, most notably the personalities of the suspect and the interrogator and how they interact with one another.

That's why Rothko's statement that torture breeds terror in Iraq in Afghanistan was so ridiculous. He said it like the ONLY thing that had happened in the past couple of years is that we started torturing people and then terror attacks started occuring. It's possible one may have something to do with the other, but if so, it's a very small factor. There are many other things going on in Iraq and Afghanistan other than torture.
posted by b_thinky at 3:50 AM on December 30, 2005


Wow, a bunch of hippies on a website are all typing "Torture doesn't work".
I tell ya, Ma, things are gonna change now. The hippies have saved us, Ma!
posted by Joeforking at 3:32 AM PST on December 30 [!]


Hippies? Hippies?

What planet are you phoning home from?

After my 60+ hour work week, I sure as hell don't need to hear myself called a "hippy" (not that there was anything wrong with them...about 30 years ago) by some non-analyzing, epitath-sling tosser, thankyouverymuch.

Try again. That's just plain weak.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:50 AM on December 30, 2005


Summary executions re-classified to be legal:
The [CIA] is working to establish procedures in the event a prisoner dies in custody. One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources.

. . . .

Working behind the scenes, the CIA has gained approval from foreign governments to whisk terrorism suspects off the streets or out of police custody into a clandestine prison system that includes the CIA's black sites and facilities run by intelligence agencies in other countries.

The presidential finding [after 9/11] also permitted the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world, according to a dozen current and former intelligence officials and congressional and executive branch sources.

. . . .


But after Sept. 11, four former government lawyers said, it was classified as an act of self-defense and therefore was not an assassination. "If it was an al Qaeda person, it wouldn't be an assassination," said one lawyer involved.

. . . .

Refining what constitutes an assassination was just one of many legal interpretations made by Bush administration lawyers. Time and again, the administration asked government lawyers to draw up new rules and reinterpret old ones to approve activities once banned or discouraged under the congressional reforms beginning in the 1970s, according to these officials and seven lawyers who once worked on these matters.
From today's Washington Post.
posted by orthogonality at 3:51 AM on December 30, 2005


From EarBucket's assorted links:

And from the same links:

The moral dimensions of torture, Gerber adds, are inextricably linked with the practical; aside from the fact that torture almost always fails to yield true or useful information, it has the potential to adversely affect CIA operations.

Another objection is that torture doesn't work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners. Torture will get you information, but it's not reliable. Eventually, if you don't accidentally kill them first, torture victims will tell you something just to make you stop. It may or may not be true. If you torture 100 people, you'll get 100 different stories. If you gain the confidence of 100 people, you may get one valuable story.

Once you enter into that procedure, you will be in the extracted-confession business. Not only is this morally repellent, but from the intelligence viewpoint it is an absolute cast-iron (or hot-iron) guarantee of a torrent of worthless and deluded disinformation.

Geez. Did you even finish reading the pages once you saw that they included a moral condemnation of torture, as well as a practical one?

It might be worth reading Solzhenitsyn, if you want an expert with firsthand experience. According to him, torture was useful to the Soviets for exactly one thing--forced confessions. If they wanted actual intelligence from a prisoner, they'd treat him well. He'd get a decent cell, better food, humane treatment, under the logic that someone who's given at least some small reason to like you is more willing to spill his guts. If you had a bag over your head and someone was beating your arms and legs with a baseball bat, you'd confess to being a member of al-Qaeda too. Sooner or later.
posted by EarBucket at 3:52 AM on December 30, 2005


He said it like the ONLY thing that had happened in the past couple of years is that we started torturing people and then terror attacks started occuring.

No, I didn't say that at all. Are you really this dense, or just dishonest?
posted by Rothko at 3:54 AM on December 30, 2005


No, I didn't say that at all. Are you really this dense, or just dishonest?

Why is this an either/or option?
posted by cassbrown1 at 3:55 AM on December 30, 2005


EarBucket : "Geez. Did you even finish reading the pages once you saw that they included a moral condemnation of torture, as well as a practical one?"

No, my point was that people morally opposed to torture aren't necessarily objective in assessing effectiveness, just like practitioners of torture aren't necessarily objective in assessing the morality of it. It's called cognitive bias.
posted by Gyan at 3:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Congrats, let me know how that turns out for you.
posted by b_thinky at 3:45 AM PST on December 30 [!]

Sure. No problem. Work is always easy to deride from the slacker sidelines. Non-violent work is even more fun for do-nothings to giggle at...until the work is done.

Like King or Mandala.

Or even the inevitable Nuremberg Trials.

And be sure to let me know how it works out for you when things degrade to the point where you or yours are picked up and tortured.

According to you...it'll be for a good cause.

posted by Dunvegan at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2005


No, my point was that people morally opposed to torture aren't necessarily objective in assessing effectiveness, just like practitioners of torture aren't necessarily objective in assessing the morality of it. It's called cognitive bias.

Okay, fair enough. Can you offer perspectives from CIA or military officials who present a coherent argument for why torture does work? Alternatively, could we have an argument for why it's moral? Nuking every country in the Middle East would probably cut down on the number of potential Middle Eastern terrorists, but that doesn't make it moral.

And thinking it's immoral doesn't mean you can't argue that it would be counterproductive, either.
posted by EarBucket at 4:00 AM on December 30, 2005


Nuking every country in the Middle East would probably cut down on the number of potential Middle Eastern terrorists, but that doesn't make it moral.

Absolutely. And why not go the whole hog and nuke everything that is not the US. That way, all suspects would be subject to US law.
posted by cassbrown1 at 4:02 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko: "Factually, the issue of whether torture works or not as a deterrant to terrorism is settled (torture doesn't work; terrorism has increased)."

That's what you said.

Cassbrown: is there a meaning to your existence or do you just stand around throwing rocks?
posted by b_thinky at 4:04 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: How do you know? Do you have training in interrogation? Have you ever tortured someone or have you been tortured yourself? I, for one, have no experience with interrogation or torture and don't know if it works. I doubt anyone here is an expert on the issue and don't see why so many are posing as such.

A bit of education and common sense could help.

The Catholic Church got some 5 million people during 3 centuries to confess to being a witch. Since witches don't exist, we can argue that torture definitely didn't work at least 5 million times already.

But of course, your denial is deliberate. As somebody already said, the concept of wrong does not seem to be familiar to you.
posted by uncle harold at 4:05 AM on December 30, 2005


That's what you said.

That's what I wrote. And that has no connection to your colorful reinterpretation of what I wrote.
posted by Rothko at 4:09 AM on December 30, 2005


This "Torture is O-Tay if WE do it! I trust us to torture RIGHT!" polemic is such a pure dose of emetic.

The clear message is that whomsoever is morally compromised enough to not only consider but institutionalise torture as a norm of combat or espionage in a war-without-end against a concept (terrorism) is EXACTLY the whomsoever you cannot trust to conduct any restraint.

If you support torture...like this administration does, and understands...you damn well better win and supress the "other" forevermore...or prepare for both history and the Hague to one day bring you to judgement.
posted by Dunvegan at 4:11 AM on December 30, 2005


Cassbrown: is there a meaning to your existence or do you just stand around throwing rocks?

I enjoy highlighting the idiotic so that everyone can throw rocks.
posted by cassbrown1 at 4:11 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "That's just the way our democracy works. Things go one way for a while, then they swing the other."


Manzanar, what's that? Oh, sorry about your family being interned, it was just that ole' pendulum swinging!

Yup, it swings back an' forth, jus' like Leo Frank and Jesse Washington swinged back an' forth when our democracy lynched 'em.
posted by orthogonality at 4:12 AM on December 30, 2005


EarBucket : "Can you offer perspectives from CIA or military officials who present a coherent argument for why torture does work?"

How will this sidestep the bias problem? Maybe they are closet sadomasochists who like torture. One needs direct access to the raw evaluations. In any case, such defenses would be advertised on Republican blogs, which I don't patronize. IIRC, the WSJ had an approving editorial sometime back. I haven't read it.

EarBucket : "Alternatively, could we have an argument for why it's moral?"

I'm not arguing that it is. All I'm arguing is that the opposition to torture is moral and empathic. This argument of "torture doesn't work" advocated by many in this thread, is unknown to them, yet adopted because the very moral relativism that the liberals acknowledge, is what's likely to bite them in the ass, on this topic, especially in the current political climate.
posted by Gyan at 4:14 AM on December 30, 2005


That's what I wrote. And that has no connection to your colorful reinterpretation of what I wrote.

Please re-read the line and tell me it doesn't look like you're making the case that terrorism has increased becasue torture has increased. Sorry I misunderstood, I guess. But to call me dishonest or dense is wrong.
posted by b_thinky at 4:16 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "Cassbrown: is there a meaning to your existence or do you just stand around throwing rocks?"

b_thinky, did you not know that cassbrown1 has terminal cancer when you asked if there's "a meaning to [his] existence", or did you just not care?
posted by orthogonality at 4:16 AM on December 30, 2005


All I'm arguing is that the opposition to torture is moral and empathic.

Reinforced by opposition based upon the evidential findings of a number of military an intelligence officials, which is not based upon "moral relativism".
posted by Rothko at 4:20 AM on December 30, 2005


Hey orthogonality, many thanks for the support but it will be a long time before my brain is so scrambled that I'm worried by such inane comments
posted by cassbrown1 at 4:21 AM on December 30, 2005


UK media picks up the story:

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article335678.ece
posted by scaryduck at 4:23 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.

But it can be a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:23 AM on December 30, 2005


Yup, it swings back an' forth, jus' like Leo Frank and Jesse Washington swinged back an' forth when our democracy lynched 'em.
posted by orthogonality at 4:12 AM PST on December 30 [!]


Those are terrible crimes, but wouldn't you say the outrage they caused made civil rights a more pressing issue and therefore sped up the process of equality? That's what happens in democracy. Our democracy did not lynch these people, some crazy-ass racists did. But our democracy did use these murders to prevent them from being repeated for decades to come.
posted by b_thinky at 4:24 AM on December 30, 2005


Please re-read the line and tell me it doesn't look like you're making the case that terrorism has increased becasue torture has increased.

I don't need to make the case. The course of the war there is evidence enough. My statement, however, has nothing to do with what you wrote here:

"He said it like the ONLY thing that had happened in the past couple of years is that we started torturing people and then terror attacks started occuring."

You are very careless with your words. Either you're dense or you're dishonest. Or perhaps both.
posted by Rothko at 4:24 AM on December 30, 2005


All I'm arguing is that the opposition to torture is moral and empathic. This argument of "torture doesn't work" advocated by many in this thread, is unknown to them, yet adopted because the very moral relativism that the liberals acknowledge, is what's likely to bite them in the ass, on this topic, especially in the current political climate.

Except that every single statement I've seen from anyone even remotely credible on the subject has been that torture doesn't work. It gets you false confessions because the subject will tell you what he thinks you want to hear to get you to stop. And I, for one, don't advocate moral relativism. Wrong is wrong, and torture is wrong. Period. This business of arresting people, holding them without charges, lawyer, or trial, and torturing them until they sign a "confession" is antithetical to everything America stands for.

But the idea that you can't argue that something is impractical just because you think it's also immoral is silly. I believe that apartheid was harmful to South Africa's political relations and economic development. Is that view invalid just because I also think that it was wrong, wrong, wrong? Can I argue that slavery was counterproductive in the long run? The Salem witch trials? The Holocaust?
posted by EarBucket at 4:25 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, it becomes clear that you are not actually saying anything of substance whatsoever. You are just obstructing and spinning, like a politician. Pathetic. Repulsive. Boring.

Why are you taking this tact? Why not try to add to the conversation by bringing some evidence?

In a show of good faith, I offer some evidence of the hypocrisy surrounding the idea that Bush, or any US president really, has "explicitly come out against torture". CBC Radio's the Current discussed the CIA's development of "No Touch Torture" (or soft torture) along with the US government's definition of torture, and the definition of torture in international treaty during an interview with Alfred McCoy on the December 20th program (about 8 minutes into Part 2 and continued in Part 3). As good a starting place as any on the question of weather the US tortures, and weather they admit to it. Now as to weather torture works...

Well, I can see that this approach is wasted:
EarBucket : Geez. Did you even finish reading the pages
Gyan: No,

Since you value the 'fingers in ears blah blah blah I can't hear you' approach to debating so highly I will happily join you in it. Thanks.
posted by Chuckles at 4:25 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko : "Reinforced by opposition based upon the evidential findings of a number of military an intelligence officials, which is not based upon 'moral relativism'."

The reinforcement, if weak, would be based on cognitive bias, not moral relativism. Public advocacy against torture, if based on morality, would be undermined by relativism.

As for "evidential" findings:

"I personally think that any information gotten through extreme methods of torture would probably be pretty useless because it would be someone telling you what you wanted to hear." - Michael Scheuer, formerly a senior CIA official in the Counter-Terrorism Center.

[Using "extreme methods" implicitly acknowledges that less extreme methods may work.]

"And torture -- I just don't think it really works. I think it works for the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Saudis, who want to scare the hell out of people. But you don't get the truth. What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you." - Bob Baer, former CIA official

["I just don't think" doesn't sound like a firm statement based on evidence.]

Are there any statements/confessions by torturers, who expose the ineffectiveness?
posted by Gyan at 4:28 AM on December 30, 2005


You are very careless with your words. Either you're dense or you're dishonest. Or perhaps both.
posted by Rothko at 4:24 AM PST on December 30 [!]


LOL, the only two variables you mentioned in that sentence were "torture" and "terror." Maybe I'm dense and dishonest, but you need to read your own sentence before you post it.
posted by b_thinky at 4:29 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles : "Why not try to add to the conversation by bringing some evidence?"

Public domain information (not opinions) about torture?? Please show me where the fuck this is available. It would settle this issue right here.
posted by Gyan at 4:30 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky, you're truly thick as two planks. Let me clear up your problem:

Saying that torture increases terrorism is not the same as saying that terrorism started because of torture.
posted by Rothko at 4:34 AM on December 30, 2005


"And torture -- I just don't think it really works. I think it works for the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Saudis, who want to scare the hell out of people. But you don't get the truth. What happens when you torture people is, they figure out what you want to hear and they tell you." - Bob Baer, former CIA official Posted by Gyan

That's probably the best explanation I've heard. Torture works for those who use it as a deterrant to their entire population, but not for those who simply want to get information.

However, the argument that the suspect being tortured will simply tell the interrogator what he wants to hear assumes the interrogator believes the lies. Interrogators are trained to spot lies and inconsistencies, and a story made up by a suspect under extreme stress is probably less likely to be believeable.
posted by b_thinky at 4:36 AM on December 30, 2005


Is anyone else amazed that we've come so quickly from "We do not torture people, and it's offensive to suggest that we do!" to "Torture works, and it's a vital tool in our national security arsenal!"
posted by EarBucket at 4:37 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, your own pull quotes indicate a very good beginning if we want to analyze what torture can and can't do.
it works for the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Saudis, who want to scare the hell out of people. But you don't get the truth.
It works to scare the hell out of people. You don't get truth.
posted by Chuckles at 4:38 AM on December 30, 2005


Bob Baer certainly thinks so. And?
posted by Gyan at 4:40 AM on December 30, 2005


Is anyone else amazed that we've come so quickly from "We do not torture people, and it's offensive to suggest that we do!" to "Torture works, and it's a vital tool in our national security arsenal!"

Not really. It's the same old story I pointed out here. Apologists always change their tune when the heat is turned up, whether in the White House or on Metafilter.
posted by Rothko at 4:40 AM on December 30, 2005


Saying that torture increases terrorism is not the same as saying that terrorism started because of torture.
posted by Rothko at 4:34 AM PST on December 30 [!]


So I read you correctly all along. You think the rapid increase in terror in Iraq is caused by our alleged torturing of suspects, and I think it has to do with a multitude of factors (torture possibly being one of them). The problem with your claim is that torture is the ONLY cause of increased attacks, which I believe to be false.

The personal attacks are inappropriate and beneath you. Try to stick to the issues please.
posted by b_thinky at 4:40 AM on December 30, 2005


To clarify: where's the objective data?
posted by Gyan at 4:41 AM on December 30, 2005


From "They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45"
by Milton Mayer

But Then It Was Too Late posted by Dunvegan at 4:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Is anyone else amazed that we've come so quickly from "We do not torture people, and it's offensive to suggest that we do!" to "Torture works, and it's a vital tool in our national security arsenal!"
posted by EarBucket at 4:37 AM PST on December 30 [!]


I don't think I ever argued that we don't directly or indirectly torture suspects, but what I did say was that it doesn't make us responsible for the thousands of apparently innocent folks being tortured by the Uzbek gov't.
posted by b_thinky at 4:45 AM on December 30, 2005


The problem with your claim is that torture is the ONLY cause of increased attacks, which I believe to be false.

Again: I never wrote this. You're disagreeing with a figment of your own imagination, and you're being dishonest.
posted by Rothko at 4:45 AM on December 30, 2005


I don't think I ever argued that we don't directly or indirectly torture suspects, but what I did say was that it doesn't make us responsible for the thousands of apparently innocent folks being tortured by the Uzbek gov't.

But our financial and military support for their government, not to mention the people we've asked them to torture for us, makes us at least partially complicit in their offences.
posted by EarBucket at 4:48 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "The personal attacks are inappropriate and beneath you. Try to stick to the issues please."


b_thinky's first comment in this thread (since deleted) was "Yawn."

That was his reaction to people being literally boiled alive in Uzbekistan. That was his reaction to his own government being complicit in torture: "Yawn"

b_thinky doesn't think torture is "beneath" his government. b_thinky's all for it, because it might be "effective".

But b_thinky thinks personal attacks on him are "inappropriate and beneath" us.

Let me repeat: b_thinky thinks boiling other people is A-OK, but "personal attacks" over the Internet on him are "inappropriate"!
posted by orthogonality at 4:48 AM on December 30, 2005


if you want to condemn it [torture] outright regardless of outcomes, go ahead.

Okay. I do.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:51 AM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan: Are you honestly drawing parallels between the US and Nazi Germany?

orthogonality: Could you go off on a more random tangent if you tried? If the Uzbeks are boiling people alive, that's terrible, but to blame the United States for their actions is retarded. Murray blames the US and the UK for the actions of the Uzbeks. I blame the Uzbeks for the actions of the Uzbeks. Perhaps Murray actually believes this, but I think he's got an axe to grind politically. So, YAWN!
posted by b_thinky at 4:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Here is an interesting take on weather torture is ever justifiable by one of Gyan's liberal moral relativists - Evil under Interrogation: Is Torture ever Permissible? Perhaps you could try to formulate an argument of substance using this framework Gyan. It even offers this vague glimmer of hope for your interpretation:
In this formulation, [the Israeli supreme] court sought to reconcile an absolute prohibition against torture with an acknowledgment that, in rare and extreme cases, a reputable interrogator might find physical duress unavoidable. It accepted there had been cases, in Israeli history, where physical methods of interrogation had saved lives.
Not a source I would want to rely on, however distinguished, and not exactly evidence. It is a start however, so let's see what you can do with it...
posted by Chuckles at 4:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles, I'm NOT arguing that torture is OK, just that assertions and citations given, have not provided any objective evidence in support. Don't read more into my comments than what's there.
posted by Gyan at 5:00 AM on December 30, 2005


Correction: just that assertions and citations given to the effect that torture doesn't work,
posted by Gyan at 5:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan: Are you honestly drawing parallels between the US and Nazi Germany?
posted by b_thinky at 4:55 AM PST on December 30 [!]


I'm relating a true story...a cautionary tale from history.

Did you read this man's account of a first-world culture and what can happen to people just like us?

I'm not saying American madness will take the same form as Nazi madness. My care giver as a child lived in Germany during WWII and she had much like this to relate to me.

I never bought into the Germans as the old sterotype of the monocaled SS form of pure evil. She told me she fled to te mountains of Austria from Berlin because she heard the talk of officers...she saw the possible future.

And I saw her as a talented, erudite, metropolitan, educated, and extraordinary person.

And utterly American.

So I never bought that the Germans were somehow inherently evil...or broken...or different than us.

Look at Germany now. How like the US they are.

An American fascism will not look like Nazi Germany.

It will look American. Like Germany looked to Germans until it was too late.

Did you read the account above? Invoking the "Nazi" label on the German citizen above is hardly apt. Most Germans were not members of the Party. They just "let it happen."

You see zero parallels? Honestly? Then perhaps you should read it again.

I myself said nothing in that post. I quoted...I related a true story.

I relate...you decide.
posted by Dunvegan at 5:07 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: you gave half a billion dollars in aid last year to this regime. That's almost as much as you gave in tsunami aid.

What is important about this information? Why is it significant? Simple: it tells us what you are.
posted by lastobelus at 5:07 AM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan: Yes, I read the account and I do understand that most Germans were not Nazis. You could draw many parallels to present times - mainly because times and customs change. Lots of things slowly become acceptable and unacceptable, but I don't see where we're at any threat of trying to exterminate an entire race of people. I hope I'm not proven wrong.

lastobelus: If we're going to cut ties with Uzbekistan, how about China or Saudi Arabia or any other country with human rights violations. I'd love to wage a succesful "War on Human Rights Violations" but it would ultimately be ineffective; causing more harm than good.
posted by b_thinky at 5:15 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, I only read more into your comments at the very begriming... Now I simply urge you to say something, anything really, beyond the simplistic insistence that the question - does torture work - is hard to answer.
posted by Chuckles at 5:18 AM on December 30, 2005


Okay, okay, okay enough of the attempted justification of torture. Back to Uzbekistan. Why, exactly, is it acceptable to regard this country as an ally, when the only remaining justifiable reason for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was doing the same sorts of things to his own people? Every other reason has dissapeared up Christopher Hitchen's haemorroid-ridden a-hole. Torture and murder of citizens is the only reason left. How us Uzbekistan any different?

Anyone?

Bueler?

Bueler?
posted by Jimbob at 5:21 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles : "beyond the simplistic insistence that the question - does torture work - is hard to answer."

I have nothing more to say since that's ALL I was trying to say.
posted by Gyan at 5:24 AM on December 30, 2005


i'll try that one--it's because they were behind the Iron Curtain, but now are free, so therefore are allies?
posted by amberglow at 5:24 AM on December 30, 2005


(oh, and torture does not work at all)
posted by amberglow at 5:25 AM on December 30, 2005


If we're going to cut ties with Uzbekistan, how about China or Saudi Arabia or any other country with human rights violations.

And how about Iran while you're at it? Oh...you already have. Sorry. Let me tell you, from the perspective of the rest of the world, the US's attitude towards Iran is very....strange. Australia deals with them, b_thinky. They buy our wheat and sheep and cars. We buy their caviar and saffron and spices, and accept their PhD students. It's all for the "greater good" - ignoring human rights abuses just as you suggest. So what's the US's problem? Why deal with Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia and not Iran?
posted by Jimbob at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, if you would just read a tiny little bit, you would find that while it may not be trivially obvious, it is actually quite easy to answer. Start here: Does Torture Work? - No.
posted by Chuckles at 5:30 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky, try this:

Disconnect the Holocaust from the idea of Imperial Fascism.

The Holocaust was particular to the Nazi Party via it's leadership's personal prejudices and thoroughness of exclusion.

Take the the historical paradigm: invasions and expansion and hubris, cult of absolute belief and endless forgivness of trespass in one leader, and an almost imperceptable erosion of freedoms as the true baseline of the movement to fascism...then you may have the American brand of the Beast.

Italy's fascism, Spain's fascism, and others did not have the full Nazi Holocoaust dimension.

There is danger in this administration's direction, even without a Holocaust on the present drawing board.

Americans, after WWII were fast to see in the Geneva Conventions. Torture? Do you remember growing up in school learning about the moral posivitism of American torture? Things have recently begun the process of moral mailability.

A small "A" (invasion of a soverign country on trumped up, ever changing excuses) to "B" (torture) to "C"...and so on.

Do you say, incontravertably, that "It can't happen here!"

And if we in America are just a people, no better or worse than the German people, tell me: isn't it like you cook a frog: one degree at a time?

If you allow the shift to begin...when would you...how would you...ever reverse that home-grown Leviathan in which you've instilled such trust...and power?

How indeed, since once you've surrendered someone else's freedom for "security"...you've just surrendered your own.
posted by Dunvegan at 5:38 AM on December 30, 2005


By the way...Former Ambassador Craig Murray's web site is back online.
posted by Dunvegan at 5:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture does work.
It works as a political scare tactic, keeping populations in line via the rumors and second-hand stories about 'what they'll do to you'. It also works in making those who carry it out and those who authorize it and those who support the regimes that order it, complicit in a unspeakable act, and therefore subject to extortion and (psychological- or actual-) blackmail, and commited to the continuation of said regimes.
And to all those blathering about 'stepping into the real world', I've had relatives tortured in the 'real-world', so kindly fuck off right about now, ok?
posted by signal at 6:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles, check your email.
posted by Gyan at 6:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Putting state-sponsored torture back on the table is the ultimate destination of this slippery slope: the belief that it is OK for your governments to kill and wound people in your name. Attempting to draw the line at "no torture" is inconsistent (at best) and mostly window dressing. To be consistent, all of the above must be considered wrong.

Justifying attrocities is one of the things humans seem to be good at. You've been in la-la land if you thought that the humans under the U.S. and U.K. flags were better than the rest down through history.
posted by spock at 6:11 AM on December 30, 2005


Better than my throwaway blackhumour joke above:

Torture works.

But that doesn't matter. You still don't do it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:16 AM on December 30, 2005


Fear works, too.

We are now in general as a populace more fearful than heroic. We no longer in general find some truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Etc.

We are no longer as a nation a shining example...a nation that can be hoped for to ride to the rescue from time to time.

That really works for a certain kind of power-broker.

We are more concerned with keeping our shrinking comforts that championing and saving the oppressed than I have ever known us to be.

And there are the closed eyes. And the "everyone does it"...and "even if I do {horrible immoral act} to {whatever number} of them...if I save one hair on my head, or one dime on a gallon of gas...or thwart some unverified possible something...and so on.

It's just so post-Room 101 in America: "Do it to them. Do anything to them...Just don't do anything to me!"

And "them" is now everyone or anyone but the individual "me."

All that is needed to invoke that fear and reaction, the one that hands over more and more power to the Powers That Be is for recognized "authority" to mount the bully pulpit and point to a "them."

How easily we were traumatized into cowardice.

One attack, and we folded.
posted by Dunvegan at 6:20 AM on December 30, 2005


Signal, but doesn't torture as a scare tactic and means to keep a population in fear and in line only lead to worse things? Isn't it a defeating position to be in ultimately, by engendering hatred and revenge, even if only from feared or perceived torture, let alone real? (when you add already-existing and motivating grievances and ideologies, doesn't it become even more self-defeating? i'm thinking Abu Ghraib--we're invading and occupying so are seen as evil already--torturing while there as ostensible liberators from torture irreparably harmed our position, and hurt us and them.)
posted by amberglow at 6:21 AM on December 30, 2005


I'd love to wage a succesful "War on Human Rights Violations" but it would ultimately be ineffective; causing more harm than good.

Kind of like this useless fucking War on Terror, no?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:28 AM on December 30, 2005


And aren't there tons of ways to control a population thru fear without torturing? I think the Desaparecidos show that (for one especially evil example, altho there are not so evil ones), and was even more horrific and fear-inducing than torturing people and then letting them go to spread their tales. Look at propaganda, and sensational media things, too (birdflu pandemic, shark attacks, the daycare/pedophile scandals, and so on) -- don't they also serve to keep people afraid for all sorts of reasons? Aren't there tons of less evil (relatively) ways to keep people in line and afraid?
posted by amberglow at 6:30 AM on December 30, 2005


I gave up torture for lent.
posted by isopraxis at 6:46 AM on December 30, 2005


Rothko I bow to your knowledge of pedophilia.
Dunvegan so you've managed to get a job. Congratulations.
BTW 45 is the core to beat, hippy.
posted by Joeforking at 6:47 AM on December 30, 2005


score
posted by Joeforking at 6:48 AM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, I got your message, but the Slate article doesn't say anything useful.

First, we have to agree that the question is about torture in the large. It is obvious that success will occur from time to time. Second, we have to agree that we aren't talking about whether torture works for any political purpose. It seems possible (likely even) that combined with apparently overwhelming force a little bit of torture can go a long way to oppressing a population.

That leaves us with several thousand cases of torture and 'soft torture' conducted in the last few decades by western nations, Israel, and proxies like Uzbekistan acting on behalf of western nations (yes, these proxies also torture for their own purposes, those cases are not relevant to this debate). At this point we have only a few scraps of information - it seems as though a handful of those thousands of incidences of torture may have yielded 'actionable intelligence'. A large number of the known cases yielded no information, or incorrect information ala the Guildford Four. In one case the Israeli government severely tortured a taxi driver to discover information that led to the location of kidnapped Nachshon Waxman. Waxman was killed in the rescue attempt along with one rescuer and several captors.

Now, you ask me to consider torture as a tactic, do I accept it or not? Well the only reasonable approach is "Show me the evidence" right? But there isn't any supportive evidence, QED.

There is one final question, from a Washington Post column - The Torture Myth:
Given the overwhelmingly negative evidence, the really interesting question is not whether torture works but why so many people in our society want to believe that it works. At the moment, there is a myth in circulation, a fable that goes something like this: Radical terrorists will take advantage of our fussy legality, so we may have to suspend it to beat them. Radical terrorists mock our namby-pamby prisons, so we must make them tougher. Radical terrorists are nasty, so to defeat them we have to be nastier.
That looks pretty credible to me, these are the same people that thought invading Iraq was a good idea, and a lot of the reasons for that had to do with America getting tough too.
posted by Chuckles at 7:10 AM on December 30, 2005


How I appreciate your concern, Joeforking, regarding my employment situation.

Here's a newsflash: Even when I didn't have a "job" due to spinal surgery overlapping a typical Silicon Valley tech downsizing cycle...I worked. I build websites and did speaking engagements. I breath...I work.

So does my husband.

Consulting is work...I just prefer the transitory illusion of steady employment and benefits without the paperwork sometimes. And I do them in tandem.

We still have our property...and our place in the city. I don't think you need to worry to very much about me.

I've been working as both a Partner in a DC consulting firm as West Coast anchor, and full time at one start-up after another for years now.

If you're so concerned...taking a little time off to recoup was probably good...my first job was at a radio station when I was 14.

That next year I worked when I went to college.

I worked during the tech boom for 6 straight years without a vacation. Probably contributed the the need for spine surgery.

So...what was the point of that statement?

Really, your concern about my personal life is...something.
posted by Dunvegan at 7:23 AM on December 30, 2005


Just to set the facts straight: terrorists torturers are evil. And I've learned in my travels to muslim countries in the middle east and SE asia that ordinary citizens are not afraid to say so. Here, when terror torturers strike, a small community of vocal morons tries to say "Let's try to understand the terrorists torturers and work with them. The (sic) wouldn't have attacked tortured us them if we they weren't bad people." In muslim countries where people know terrorism torture has no basis in the religion law, people know the truth: terrorist torturers are evil and must die." ... b_thinky (with minor editing)
posted by kaemaril at 7:39 AM on December 30, 2005


Erm. Torture doesn't work.
posted by Sijeka at 7:45 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work, and it has no place in the twenty first century.
posted by moonbird at 7:53 AM on December 30, 2005


I'm trying to decide which is more pathetic: JoeForking's pointlessly emotionally abusive post or Dunvegan's need to show us the size of her penis.
posted by spock at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2005


It's amazing that b_thinky will go to such lengths to deride "a guy with a political axe to grind grinding his axe", as he so eloquently states. Especially when the majority of his time in the thread is not spent in direct response to the article or the poster. Almost as if he has his own axe to grind, except he just keeps getting more and more dull.

Thanks for the quote masking, kaemaril. I needed a good laugh after reading through this garbage.
posted by prostyle at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Well...I wonder why Joe got personal. I'd be fine if the mods wished to remove his and my sandbox session, actually.

A little button pushing...this intimating something vaguely disparaging about my employment and life...and I fell for it and pushed back.

I apologize for the reaction. It had no place here. And the lesson is to ignore such bait. I think I've learned that now.

I suppose that I dislike personal attacks and get "prickly" when swiftboated.
posted by Dunvegan at 8:05 AM on December 30, 2005


The Bush memes surrounding Iraq are blossoming in a lovely fashion. Torture is OK, because we're tougher-than-leather Republicans with no use for Kennedy/Kerryesque "appeasement" tactics (just imagine Cheney's voice on this one). Of course, this runs directly counter to the more recent "Democracy is on the march," Iranians and Syrians are so afraid that they'll wake up one morning and have their own Thomas Jeffersons and George Washingtons agitating in the streets (and wearing "W" pins on their shirts).

There are brave folks who want to change these corrupt regimes (most of which get money from the US, Iran being an exception for no other reason than it doesn't want to play ball with the neocons), but in places like Uzbekistan and Iraq itself, these guys are being boiled alive, maimed, raped, shot, and beaten and left in pools of their own feces. And the US applauds itself on advancing and fostering democracy? Break me a fucking give.

Apologists for this administration are truly sickening, both in their logical and moral bankruptcy. At least they could get their (multiple) stories straight, given all of their high-payed spin doctors, but even that's out of their tiny, polluted grasp now.
posted by bardic at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2005


Wow, JoeForking has really convinced me with his ace-in-the-hole Ad Hominem attacks, which clearly outline his nuanced ideological argument. Score, Indeed!

All along I was thinking that abiding by the Geneva Convention, American combatants and other 'interests' might benefit from taking the higher moral ground in regards to torture. But it is now clear to me that there is no categorical imperative and our policies should simply rest on the lowest common denominator.

Anybody catch The Great Escape last night?

Perfect evidence of a film that would have achieved greatness with the proper insertion of torture techniques to further underline the allied struggle against evil.

Actually, I just wanted to see McQueen hooded and balancing on a box in the cooler with wires attached to his fingers for 20 days.

(I can't believe I just cited the Great Escape.)
posted by isopraxis at 8:20 AM on December 30, 2005


Exactly. So why adopt this tack of "torture doesn't work", when almost certainly, none of us have firsthand experience of the matter?

Then why oppose 'torture doesn't work' - unless you have first hand experience that it DOES work?

Well? Can you show your pro 1st hand experience?
posted by rough ashlar at 8:40 AM on December 30, 2005


Torture works.

But that doesn't matter. You still don't do it.


Gee, rape "works" too, so does that mean it's okay now? How about child abuse? I hear that's great for teaching children respect and keeping them in line. I hear whacking the crap out of a dog makes it obey better, too. Just ask Dobson, right? And lord knows uppity women react well to being smacked. Gotta keep those bitches in line.

Look, just because torture was applied and occasionally, some of the time, someone sputtered forth something that actually happened to be true, doesn't mean the same info couldn't have been gotten using more humane methods.

Torture apologists make me fucking sick. I wish we could wall all of you monsters off somewhere so you could torture each other to your hearts' delight and leave us human beings alone.
posted by beth at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2005


"Torture" is such a loaded word. I prefer the term "managed agony," which is free of liberal media bias. The jury's still out on managed agony, and talking about it gives aid and comfort to the enemies of freedom. I think it's important that children hear both sides of the debate on managed agony.
posted by digaman at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2005


Digaman - by including the word 'agony' it is still charged with negative connotation for our target demographic of infants and those with infant-like mentality.

From now on we will refer to the aforementioned process of information extraction simply as 'tickled pink'. Those extra naughty ones get tickled pink with a feather and occasionally spanked with our lips.
posted by isopraxis at 9:15 AM on December 30, 2005


I'm glad someone mentioned the European witch hunt - though they were incorrect in their facts. The total number of executions was more in the region of 400,000-600,000 executions over three centuries and both Catholics and Protestants enthusiastically hunted witches. However unreliable confession evidence obtained under torture of one sort or another was the key to these hundreds of thousands of false convictions. Often those involved in extorting the confessions denied that what they were doing was torture. They used isolation, sexual humiliation (stripping men and women naked, shaving their genitals, to prick and probe and handle them while looking for the devil's mark) and prolonged sleep deprivation to break people, whilst claiming that any confessions extorted this way were 'voluntary'. That's before we get into the cases where water torture and or more conventional physical instruments of torture like thumbscrews were used.

The confessions extorted were full of fantasy and invention - witches flying through the air to sink boats, turning into animals, entering into fairyland and meeting the queen of the fairies, having sex with the devil etc. The preconceptions of interrogators had a lot to do with eliciting these narratives and because the the confessions duly fitted their expectations they accepted them without much in the way of critical examination. It's a great example of what happens when you torture innocent people - you get total nonsense that only tells you what you want to hear.
posted by Flitcraft at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2005


Whether or not you believe torture works or not. We should not be doing it. It may be a naive and outdated notion but the US is supposed to be the pillar of justice and liberty of the world. Most US citizens and even repubs will agree with this. Once we start torturing we lose that status. I personally believe we lost that status decades ago but I believe it can be reached again someday and not torturing people can be one step in the right direction.

And there is only one way to stop the terrorists and that is to get out of Middle East. Easier said then done I will agree.
posted by Justin Case at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2005


Look, just because torture was applied and occasionally, some of the time, someone sputtered forth something that actually happened to be true, doesn't mean the same info couldn't have been gotten using more humane methods.

I think you're missing the bird's point, which is that regardless of the usefulness of torture, we still shouldn't do it. I have no knowledge or experience of torture, so I really can't comment one way or another on its efficacy. I suspect that, like most things, it can be done well or poorly, and is usually done poorly. But either way, it really doesn't matter if you believe that torture is morally unacceptable. That's what I believe.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:30 AM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan: Just wanted to say that your comments which began with "Fear works, too" were bang on, and perhaps one of the most succinct things said in this thread IMHO.
Also, wanted to point out that you know that you must have hit on something that is true, when the attacks on your position stop being about your arguments and instead attempt to divert to your character. That to me says that your arguments are solid.
Do not fear the personal slander, it only reinforces the lack of authority and thoughtlessness of the other.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 9:35 AM on December 30, 2005


Exactamente Mullet.
posted by isopraxis at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2005


"Our country does not use managed agony" - GWB

"You can't prove maanged agony doesn't work, so it must be OK to use it." - Defenders of Dubya

By defending the use of torture, are you Defenders of Dubya not implicitly admitting that Dear Leader is a bald faced liar when denying the use of torture?
posted by nofundy at 9:43 AM on December 30, 2005


beth writes "Gee, rape 'works' too, so does that mean it's okay now?"

I think you should go back and read the comment you quoted. It's in no way a defense of torture. Asserting that torture works is independent of a moral judgement on it, which comes in the next sentence. Hint: the condemnation looks a lot like this: "But that doesn't matter. You still don't do it." Note how instead of a more laissez-faire condemnation which might have made of the those two sentences one with two clauses, stavros makes a stronger argument by first condemning an instrumental reasoning that would tie torture's acceptability to it's efficacy, and then following that with a very clear and concise statement as to our responsibility vis-a-vis torture. All of that after clearing up any potential confusion about his anything but confusing joke earlier in the thread. Indignation may be affecting your reading skills.
posted by OmieWise at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2005


It may be a naive and outdated notion but the US is supposed to be the pillar of justice and liberty of the world.

Yanno, it might actually help if you guys snapped out of it and realized that this is your national myth, and has absolutely nothing to do with the international community. I'm starting to think that Americans are so committed to this belief that they simply can't see their foreign policies for what they are. All we get are these splutterings of "well, that's not our fault, we're blameless, we're the pillar of justice and liberty in the world."

And the constant "there are so many worse people/places in the world" argument, which is so nonsensical (what, you want to compare yourself to Rwanda now? Because people get slaughtered in other places, you don't need to be responsible for your own government's actions?), but makes it sense if you imagine that these people are trying desperately to hold on to a national (masturbatory) fantasy of being the pillar of justice and liberty in the world, an argument that's prominent in this thread. As long as someone else's behaviour is demonstrably worse, why then, you can hold on to this title you're so darn proud of and stop worrying.

It's just a bit weird and counter-productive, if you see what I'm saying.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:06 AM on December 30, 2005


It's disgusting that we even have to have these conversations, don't you think?

Our 'moral superiority' here in the US is pretty much gone these days...
posted by Cycloptichorn at 10:07 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: It's not "ties" that you have with Uzbekistan. You are actively supporting the regime. A quarter of the half billion dollars in aid was military aid. You pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva.

This is not a "yawn" news story. It is significant. It is history. The fact that you think it is unimportant says much about what you are as a person. The whole issue says much about your nation.

Those letters were written by an ambassador of one of the major industrialized nations. Look at the subtext. Look at how he talks about the U.S. Look at what he assumes that other people understand about the U.S. Apart from whether it matters to you morally whether you support another repressive regime or not, the shift in how your nation is perceived by the rest of the democratic world will matter to your life over the next decades. If you think otherwise you are drunk on arrogance.
posted by lastobelus at 10:09 AM on December 30, 2005


The 'moral superiority' was always a myth but it was tolerable when the US wasn't clearly guilty of some of the worst excesses practices by those regimes who were 'morally inferior'.

Once you lose that edge, you've blown the whole charade.
posted by cassbrown1 at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2005


sorry - practiced
posted by cassbrown1 at 10:15 AM on December 30, 2005


Hildegrade:

Didn't I specifically point out that being the pillar of liberty and justice in the world was silly to begin with. It is however one of the main talking points that come from the administration when trying to justify their actions.

My point is exactly that we are not the "pillar of liberty and justice" not because we torture but because of numerous other problems. But is there a reason why a country or society could not reach for such lofty goals.
posted by Justin Case at 10:17 AM on December 30, 2005


I certainly didn't get that out of your post, Justin Case, no. But I'm not only reacting to you, I'm reacting to a whole host of similar comments from Americans in the last couple of years. It's been grating on me. And thus.

It's absolutely appalling that not only do many Americans still pull out this old chestnut, but also that evidence linking this administration to torture illicits yawns from Americans.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:32 AM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles: Why are you taking this tact?

that would be 'taking this tack'. a nautical reference, ie, "The act of changing from one position or direction to another."
posted by quonsar at 10:41 AM on December 30, 2005


What signal said. Torture does work. There is a
difference between the stated purpose of torture and
the actual purpose of torture.

Torture is presumed guilt without assumed innocence.
Torture is summary judgment and punishment, without due
process.

posted by the Real Dan at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2005


lastobelus: This is not a "yawn" news story. It is significant. It is history. The fact that you think it is unimportant says much about what you are as a person. The whole issue says much about your nation.

We also support or have supported the Indonesians under Suharto, the Iraqis under Saddam, the Saudis, the Pakistanis, the Chinese, the Israelis, and the list goes on. That we're somehow responsible for Uzbekistan torturing people is absurd.

The shitty thing about global politics is you have to compromise morality for the greater good. If we wanted to combat human rights violations by not only ending financial support, imposing economic sanctions and publicly chastising them at every turn for said human rights violations, you'd simply have a replay of Iraq in the 1990s only on a larger scale.

Products would be more expensive. Our economy would suffer. Wars would be fought and in the end even more death would be caused.

This is the world we live in. Whether or not you approve of torturous regimes and/or the support of them, you actively benefit from it every day.
posted by b_thinky at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "The shitty thing about global politics is you have to compromise morality for the greater good."

Carl Schmitt, is that you?
posted by OmieWise at 11:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Haha... really, bravo there b_thinky, you really outdid yourself with that one.
posted by prostyle at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2005


The reason why it's important to say that torture doesn't work AND that it is wrong is so that the b_thinky's of the world don't get to have their little "some of us understand how the world works" jerk off fantasies. Instead of "torturing is wrong, but we tough guys have to do it to protect you little people", when it's clear that it doesn't work, they are exposed as the sick inhuman fucks they really are, or aspire to be.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2005


*head asplodes*

b_thinky, I'm not telling you what to do, but if you ever have a chance to take a course in ethics, I'd gladly donate a few ducats for the tuition.

. . . if you pass.
posted by isopraxis at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2005


"Torture is not indispensable in time of war, we could have gotten along without it very well" General Massu

and to keep the meme alive: torture doesn't work
posted by squeak at 12:18 PM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.

It's also morally indefensible and a crime against humanity.

Also, I hear b_thinky likes to sodomize little fuzzy bunnies and make their prepubescent owners watch. After which the bunnies frequently reveal credible information about emerging Al Qaeda plots, and the kids feed him cookies.*

* - Just doin' my part to rile up this dipshit into such a froth that nothing he ever says anywhere on this site is ever taken seriously enough to warrant this kind of absurd digression ever again.
posted by gompa at 12:25 PM on December 30, 2005


Space Coyote writes "don't get to have their little 'some of us understand how the world works' jerk off fantasies. Instead of 'torturing is wrong, but we tough guys have to do it to protect you little people', when it's clear that it doesn't work, they are exposed as the sick inhuman fucks they really are, or aspire to be."


This comment is worth the thread. Not because it eviscerates b_thinky's "argument", but because, wow, I think it really may explain the underlying motivation of the pro-torture crowd: "You need us strong unflinching heroes willing to quash our sentimental morality, in power and torturing, to protect you from the other side's terrorists who quashed their morality to the point they're willing to kill civilian women and children."

Thanks, Space Coyote.
posted by orthogonality at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2005


gompa writes "Just doin' my part to rile up this dipshit into such a froth that nothing he ever says anywhere on this site is ever taken seriously enough to warrant this kind of absurd digression ever again."

Your efforts are in vain, my friend - don't bother. There will always be a handful of self-aggrandizing-assholes who love nothing more than to explain to we simple folks how the world works. It's pretty easy to see through the obviously transparent issues of "global politics" when in such a wonderfully myopic position, hunched over their keyboard.

I mean, what else would you expect from someone who describes themselves thusly?

Occupation: Self employed super genius
Gender: all man


In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with Space Coyotes assessment. Considering these threads revolve around the (adamantly present) apologists and their ensuing delusions, rather than the actual issues, his post was more than warranted. It was required.
posted by prostyle at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2005


"You need us strong unflinching heroes willing to quash our sentimental morality, in power and torturing, to protect you from the other side's terrorists who quashed their morality to the point they're willing to kill civilian women and children."


If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us.

posted by Drastic at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2005


hellfire, we must be doing something right if mefi keeps linking to our blairwatch site.

one point that people aren't focussing on is that these documents show beyond doubt that blair and jack straw are lying through their teeth.

we'll be covering more about how the documents were obtained and other supporting info on new years day.

we don't just publish stuff, we source it and have a belt and braces approach before deciding to put stuff like this on the site.

we haven't had special branch kicking down our doors yet, so that is a plus.

b minky, say hello to my greasemonkeymefi killfile
posted by quarsan at 12:57 PM on December 30, 2005


“Nor can anyone say that torture doesn't work.” - posted by b_thinky

Indeed. All “knowlege” is impossible. History is bunk. Nor can there be the possibility of transmission of information between minds. We are all living in a cartesian hell of some sort.

This is academic. Anyone who thinks torture “works” or condones it in any way is cordially invited to meet with me personally and I can 100% guarantee you I will convince you otherwise. QED.

The debate is the usage of power and whether any power should have the right to torture. Only those who (mistakenly) believe they are in power or are not vulnerable to it would believe that any power should have the right to torture.

Would I go to war to prevent torture? Yes. I’d rather try other options to prevent it obviously but, as a last resort, I would. Some things are more important than living.

And by that I do mean yes me personally, gearing up and bloodying my hands in addition to offering my moral support.
And of course I would kill those who actively support it.

But again - if torture is ok - why isn’t capitulation ok?
posted by Smedleyman at 1:07 PM on December 30, 2005


“This is the world we live in. Whether or not you approve of torturous regimes and/or the support of them, you actively benefit from it every day.” - posted by b_thinky

I’ll add that I see your point. We’ve also (most of us English speakers) benefited from slavery.
However that doesn’t mean we want it to continue. As for this “real world” tripe, the world is what you make it. One is not a realist simply because one accepts the hardships of the world.
The world is what you make it. We’ve benefited far more from the Ghandis, Christs, Judah Maccabees, MLKs and others who tried to make the world a better place than we have from oppressors.
If living in a torture free world means I have a few less dollars in my pocket, so be it. I’m not afraid of the competition.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:14 PM on December 30, 2005


They beat him up until the teardrops start,
But he can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart.

posted by dash_slot- at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2005


Anyone who thinks torture “works” or condones it in any way is cordially invited to meet with me personally and I can 100% guarantee you I will convince you otherwise.

Torture does work. Torture does not work. I never claimed either. My only point is that I don't believe anyone here is an expert on the issue and can't say for certain whether or not it does work. So if admitting my lack of authority on the subject makes me a self-aggrandizing asshole or an unethical torture apoligist, I guess that's what I am!

(Curious, though, that nobody has defined what torture is. Surely there are degrees of physical coercion, some of which is acceptable and some of which is not. Where do you draw the line. Seriously?)
posted by b_thinky at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2005


(Curious, though, that nobody has defined what torture is. Surely there are degrees of physical coercion, some of which is acceptable and some of which is not. Where do you draw the line. Seriously?)

This might be a good place to start.
posted by EarBucket at 1:39 PM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky writes "Torture does work. Torture does not work. I never claimed either.... (Curious, though, that nobody has defined what torture is. Surely there are degrees of physical coercion, some of which is acceptable and some of which is not. Where do you draw the line. Seriously?)"

look, b_thinky knows the whole dios dhoyt derail dance! posted by orthogonality at 1:41 PM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: What do YOU think torture is?

You could take a look and say if you thought this murder in pursuit of tailor-made bad information was conducted in a humane manner ....

Warning: Graphic Photo. Purported Uzbek mother of prisoner tortured to death by boiling water with post-mortem photos of her son.
posted by Dunvegan at 1:48 PM on December 30, 2005


"I don't murder children."

"I do--when I have to."
posted by EarBucket at 1:58 PM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky, I link to the wikipedia article on the United Nations Convention Against Torture, a Washington Post article Torture American Style, and a CBC interview about 'soft torture'. Admittedly all of those were struck out in a misguided attempt at dramatic effect. I also linked to an excerpt from Michael Ignatieff's: Evil under Interrogation: Is Torture ever Permissible? So, there is lots of effort at definition...

I would argue that any use of pain to any degree is clearly torture. I find psychological torture harder to define, but listen to the CBC interview for some insight.
posted by Chuckles at 1:59 PM on December 30, 2005


quonsar, if you could also help with spelling and punctuation it would be a great help. Especially punctuation!
posted by Chuckles at 2:08 PM on December 30, 2005


I'm not an expert in murder, as I never murdered anyone and quite obviously haven't been murdered, so, in case I ever witnessed a murder, or were asked to do jury duty in a murder case, or was asked to give my opinion in a hypothetical debate on whether murder was in some cases justifiable, even though it is quite clearly illegal, I'd just reply that I'm no expert on murder and therefore cannot form a judgement on same.

And neither are you, so neither can you!

We should not rush to judgement on things, despite what the law says, laws are kind of relative after all, especially those international convention thingies there as a lot of countries don't respect them anyway and we're so powerful we're above even having to bother trying, plus, hello, we are at war. War. Terror. War. Have you forgotten 9/11 already? If you could bring back to life Uday and Qsay to torture them in order to stop 9/11, well wouldn't you? What kind of moral coward would you have to be to say no? What do you mean what do Uday and Qsay have to do with 9/11 - how do you know they didn't? If we'd tortured them, we'd have known for sure.

There's a lot of other reasons why torture is not something that can be superficially discounted in a frenzy of moral outrage which quite frankly I find rather outdated and unmanly, but I hope I have outlined the main ones.

Sorry, I just felt this urge to engage in a mindless exercise in trolling, please ignore.
posted by funambulist at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2005


“My only point is that I don't believe anyone here is an expert on the issue and can't say for certain whether or not it does work. So if admitting my lack of authority on the subject makes me a self-aggrandizing asshole or an unethical torture apoligist, I guess that's what I am!”
- posted by b_thinky

I recognize that as a general statement, but to clarify since my response was posted, I didn’t insult you. (and really, if anyone is the self-aggrandizing asshole here...)
I’m just attacking your ideas (fair game)...perhaps I was jumping ahead there though. And by the hyperbole I can see you’re a bit irritated.
The point you raised - which I said was academic - is not about torture, but the transmission of knowlege.

One can do research. One can become an expert. One can accept the opinion of experts. There is ample evidence of how torture has been done, definitions, how well it works or doesn’t, effects, etc. because it has been done for thousands of years. We can learn from a variety of sources about the subject and educate ourselves.

As a matter of military history, torture does not gleen good (useful) intelligence. I have read lots of military history. And I am trained. As an expert on tactics (you’ll have to take my word for it for the sake of this argument) I wouldn’t use torture as a matter of course.

Does this mean it does not “work”? I’d say so. Given the common usage definition. The applications and reasons for torture seem to be military and for purposes of protection.

You do not have to be an expert of any kind however. I’m not a gambling expert (take my word for it), but I don’t expect to beat the house odds in Vegas.

I could, given my knowlege, form a small squad into a phalanx. Those work quite well - given that you’re fighting with say Hoplites. But given what I know of modern tactics, I could make my men overwatch and leapfrog with another unit - that works, but that assumes we want to advance. Another expert in tactics might suggest we defilade, a third might suggest an ambush.
The point is the tactic depends on the result desired and the overall strategy.

In a similar way, as pointed out earlier, torture does have its uses. None of them however are geared towards the legitimate uses of power.
Therefore the use of torture at any time anywhere is a big red flag that something wrong is happening. Which is why I so often argue it as akin to a rout or retreat and ask why we don’t capitulate or surrender.

We might need expert opinion - I agree - to discern exactly the nature of the problem, but we don’t need an expert to determine that there is a problem.

To put it another way: if you see a UDTer or bomb squad member hauling ass out of the area, you don’t have to determine whether there was a triple switch or some backup system, whether the explosive is RDX or PDX, semtex or dynamite, you just need to get up and run.

BTW - I take it as a matter of course (now) that Blair and Jack Straw were lying.
I always find it ironic though that people insult or kill file others who disagree with them, given the medium.
In this case, in this thread, much more so.
Funny.
None of my business really, but it is humorous.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:25 PM on December 30, 2005


From the link:
15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.
posted by orthogonality at 2:28 PM on December 30, 2005


I take it as a matter of course (now) that Blair and Jack Straw were lying.

Why, ma'am, that's just common sense!
posted by dash_slot- at 2:29 PM on December 30, 2005


Torture doesn't work.
posted by I Love Tacos at 2:32 PM on December 30, 2005


15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan.

They should have him on Hardball so we can find out if he's a Democrat.
posted by ryoshu at 2:43 PM on December 30, 2005


No degree of physical coercion used on someone to induce them to incriminate him or herself or others is acceptable. I would define torture as methods which use suffering of one sort or another to increase the suggestibility of a prisoner under questioning. Subjecting people who are suggestible in the first place (eg. small children, people with certain learning disabilities) to tough cross-examination or interrogation produces unreliable evidence which is why different tactics have been developed to work with vulnerable accused, witnesses and victims in criminal cases whilst eliciting their evidence. Torture methods such as pain/isolation/sleep deprivation are used to make competent adult witness more suggestible and compliant to their interrogators and in doing so they increase the unreliability of their evidence, making convictions based on such methods unsafe.

You don't have to have first hand experience of torture or to be a specialist in the field, to have studied it to a level where you can see what its effects are on testimony. For the record I have conducted academic research on historical cases involving torture and in the cases I examined, it produced extremely unreliable evidence. Even when you put aside the obvious fantasy elements in witch cases, and look at things which could have happened (eg.reports of witches conventions), statements made under torture often turn out to be dubious or susceptible to disproof.
posted by Flitcraft at 2:49 PM on December 30, 2005


Probably the most common outcome, in fact.

Chances are, if torture is utilized:

(a) You're torturing an innocent person who gives a false confession to make you stop - Torture Failed
(b) You're torturing a guilty person who gives fales information to make you stop - Torture Failed
(c) You're torturing a zealot who's willing to die for the cause - we already know they're happy to do that - Torture Failed

The likelihood of torturing a guilty person who actually gives you correct and useful information is very, very low. So you generate unusable, false intelligence, at the same time as committing human rights abuses against people who have not been proven guilty of anything, at the same time as throwing away global good will towards your cause, at the same time as you give a nod and a wink to oppressive regimes that might become the next Iraq.

Torture doesn't work.
posted by Jimbob at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2005


I must say that I'm not at all crazy about this "torture doesn't work" meme, because it is allowing those who favor torture to set the terms of the debate. My own opposition to torture (and, I'd venture to speculate, that of many others) is because I find it morally reprehensible whether it works or not. Even if it were effective I would still oppose it. (And I'm continually astonished that this is even a serious subject of debate nowadays.)

Also: damn those legislators who shortsightedly outlawed ripping open live babies!
posted by whir at 2:54 PM on December 30, 2005


Dunvegan you're breakin' my heart.
The rest of you are a bunch of blowhards changing the world from a bar website.
Seriously, STFU and do something positive.
posted by Joeforking at 2:56 PM on December 30, 2005


You're a fucking joke.
posted by puke & cry at 2:59 PM on December 30, 2005 [1 favorite]


Under virtually any civilised legal system, evidence obtained via torture or duress is inadmissable. You think there might be a reason for that? I'd say so.
posted by kaemaril at 3:05 PM on December 30, 2005


I'd like to know why the point that simply discussing things on the internet doesn't actually achieve anything in practical terms is *never* brought up for any other issue than the US practice of torture?

I wonder, why could that be?
posted by funambulist at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2005


whir: I like the "torture doesn't work" meme. I'm also very keen on the "torture is barbaric and we shouldn't be doing it" meme. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive :)
posted by kaemaril at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2005


The Dude: Just take it easy man.

Walter Sobchak: I'm perfectly calm Dude.

The Dude: shouting Yeah, waving the f*cking gun around?

Walter Sobchak: Calmer than you are.

The Dude: Will you just take it easy?

Walter Sobchak: Calmer than you are.
posted by isopraxis at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2005


“Where do you draw the line. Seriously?”
- posted by b_thinky

Yeah, I’d go with the field manual posted by EarBucket and the links from Chuckles .

“Qualia..Epistemology”
orthogonality , torture is often done because of ignorance, indifference, stupidity - why do you assume b_thinky is familiar with - or would take the time to look up the Gettier Problem or Dennett or Frank Jackson?
Not that he is or isn’t.
But from that first principle (since -obviously this applies to me as well) - it’s easy to get frustrated with someone who takes b_thinky’s position. I don’t know that he’s arguing simply out of from malice.
One less apologist or even one less indifferent person gives the tortures that much less power.
It’s easy to associate the torturers with those that don’t understand.
We should be trying to teach him why torture is wrong, not insult or abuse him.
It’d be nice if we could make our arguments more inviting and attractive.
Of course, failing that myself I can only sound so earnest, but I am serious. The more people who think critically about this subject and start to feel passion and feel as though they can/should do something about it the less often it will happen.

We succeed only through cooperation. All our wealth is based on that. All of our success as a species. Torture is antithetical to that basic trait. Not even killing is as much of a betrayal of humanity. I’m doing what I can. Obviously there are others doing it much better.

Congratulations to the blairwatch bloggers for taking the risk to post this. You need a place to stay to dodge the special branch you’re welcome at the Smedley ranch. They’d have to wade through a lot of brass casings to get inside. Stupid fucking law. I look forward to the source annotations.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2005


"Torture" is such a loaded word. I prefer the term "managed agony," which is free of liberal media bias.

***spits drink all over laptop***

Yeah. And I prefer "ethnic cleansing" to genocide or "mass murder". It makes everything sound like everything will just be sparkling afterwards!

A turd by any other name . . .
posted by spock at 3:37 PM on December 30, 2005


What is torture?

Is torture more useful for gaining false confessions that prop up a will to war?

These clever torturers were also merchants of lies...men that tortured and trafficked in extracting just the lies that they calculated were worth the most on the market. Lies that could prop up a war built on falsehoods.

Would you resist...or say anything they wanted you to if they tortured your child to death in front of you?

Woud you resist until death...or say any lie that was going for the highest price on the intel market if you were being boiled alive.

Did you read the Murray memos?

The Murray memos include this excerpt:
Specifically tortured to give a specific false confession that convientiently is a confession that could be sold to a wealthy Western government and used as "good intel" to desperately prop up a false-flag war in Iraq.

And the market is there because the administration needs terror alerts and lies about ties (Iraq and 911) to win elections and profiteer.

Among the people who become good at practicing torture, the usual Psych 101 basic wisdom is this: torture for useful false confessions...preferential treatment for when you need the truth.
posted by Dunvegan at 3:37 PM on December 30, 2005


Torture is presumed guilt without assumed innocence.
Torture is summary judgment and punishment, without due
process.


Insert "war casualty" for "torture" and you could say the same thing. See how "war" becomes the Great Justification?
posted by spock at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2005


rough ashlar : "Then why oppose 'torture doesn't work'"

Because no one's provided data & analysis to support that contention. What we have are quotes of officials saying that "I don't think torture works" or "Experts say that torture doesn't work".

Chuckles : "First, we have to agree that the question is about torture in the large. It is obvious that success will occur from time to time. "

Alright, so now we move from an absolute statement ("torture doesn't work") to a probabilistic statement ("torture isn't likely to work"). As I said in one of my initial comments, "Regarding the effectiveness of torture, I suspect it works in some cases, not in others. I don't claim to know the ratio or the nuances. If you have such data, share it." I repeat the request, show the data. There are some people claiming that the ratio is "very, very low". Where's the evidentiary basis for such quantitative claims?
posted by Gyan at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2005


Bringing hidden hell to light on a discussion board (which, is a board for discussion) and discussing it is a small positive action.

Telling peope on a discussion board to STFU and stop discussing is not positive (or effective) at all.

STFU. Very "freedom-loving" of ye, Joe.

There's plenty of bandwidth here for this discussion and multiple other threads of every tint and type.

But, indeed...thank you for the low-brow, personal attacks.

When your ilk get personal and dirty...you're showing me that here's one fascism apologist who's hitting rock-bottom (that's where you get the rocks to throw, I suppose)...I hear your last (tortured) gasps.

Are the snarky or insulting personal comments all you have left because you're losing your dear defense of the kind of war crime for which they hung peope at Nuremberg?

Or, is it because of a long-ago slap-down that I've forgotton but you cannot seem to recover from?

Doesn't matter...Happy Holidays. Discuss.
posted by Dunvegan at 4:06 PM on December 30, 2005


Because no one's provided data & analysis to support that contention.

Of course... given that there is no history of torture and no contexts in which it could be observed so far, what is needed is a proper scientific study with volunteers, so that legislation can be finally passed, so far it hasn't been possible precisely due to this lack of research in the topic.

Perhaps those who entertain the possibility of torture being appropriate in some contexts would make the most eager volunteers for this project?

What needs to be established for a proper scientific experiment to be effective, though, is the definition of usefulness and purpose - seen as political repression, intimidation, scaremongering and "we're doing something against terrorism" propaganda are quite different purposes than intelligence gathering, even if the line is sometimes blurred.
posted by funambulist at 4:46 PM on December 30, 2005


Chuckles : "First, we have to agree that the question is about torture in the large. It is obvious that success will occur from time to time. "

Alright, so now we move from an absolute statement ("torture doesn't work") to a probabilistic statement ("torture isn't likely to work").


He was basically acknowledging the 'stopped clock is correct twice a day' idea. The burden of proof is on the would-be torturers to show that more historically successful methods wouldn't have garnered much more useful information. (noting again that the Soviets became experts at torture but knew it wasn't useful for anything other than extracting false confessions.)
posted by Space Coyote at 4:57 PM on December 30, 2005


Space Coyote : "The burden of proof is on the would-be torturers to show that more historically successful methods wouldn't have garnered much more useful information."

The burden of proof is on anyone making a positive assertion (torture "does"/"does not" work). Secondly, your contention also misses the point, which is not the relative efficacy of torture compared to other methods.
posted by Gyan at 5:03 PM on December 30, 2005


“What we have are quotes of officials saying that "I don't think torture works" or "Experts say that torture doesn't work".
...Where's the evidentiary basis for such quantitative claims?” - posted by Gyan

Yeah. This “widely known” and “expert” stuff is bunk. I’m going to mortgage my house and win big big money in Las Vegas. I don’t buy this “house always wins” crap because there is no evidentiary basis for that quantitative claim.

In addition I’d like a mathematical analysis of why certain peices of art are beautiful. Also I’d like to know how I can always win at chess - that is - prove to me which tactics and overall strategy work all the time.

I’d also like a consistent neurolinguistic strategy for all sources irrespective of their personality, my own reactions, their psychological traits, and attitudes, drives, motivations, and inhibitions.


Professional interrogators, CIA interrogators, Army interrogators - agree, from experiance that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. It’s poor technique because it yields unreliable results. It can damage later collection efforts. It can make the source say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.

How is that in line with the objective of obtaining the maximum amount of usable information possible in the least amount of time?

How different must shit be explained from shinola?

Let’s shut down SAEDA and all former SOPs until we have hard evidence proving they work, never mind that it’s good practice.

So what evidence of effectiveness do you need? Percentage-wise - 50% 10%?

I have more useful things to do with my time than torture someone. This is the point. It’s a matter of economy of energy and time.
The direct approach works (gets useful info) 85% to 95% of the time. This involves straight questioning with no technique.
Then there is the incentive approach. The emotional approach, the love approach, the hate approach, the fear up approach (with variations) the pride and ego approach (w/variants), the futility approach...which considering, I’ll stop there because I don’t work for you.
Suffice it to say there is a weath of information to support the thesis that torture doesn’t work and you can google it yourself.

But consider this additionally - how many people, not convicted of anything, would you put through torture to get results? Because you don’t know who has the knowlege or not. Gotta torture them to find out. And what’s the ratio of innocents to sources you’re willing to torture to get the information? 20 to 1? 100 to 1?

And then there is the instructive case of Nguyen Tai. (But it’s from one of those “experts” from the CIA who doesn’t have quantitative evidence that torture doesn’t work)

To restate: there are myriad proven interrogation techniques much more likely to get accurate information sooner than torture that do not destroy your source and are more efficient.
Saying torture doesn’t work in interrogation is the rough eqivalent of saying the pogo stick doesn’t work for transcontinental transportation. It’s certainly possible, but it is not the most efficient or reliable method and it is very likely to result in you injuring yourself and destroying the mechanism.

I can’t get more Sesame Street than that.

Beyond that - take up my offer.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:33 PM on December 30, 2005


Smedleyman : "So what evidence of effectiveness do you need?"

Any concrete data.. thank you. I'm pretty sure some quantitative evidence exists, it's just not public (seemingly).
posted by Gyan at 5:39 PM on December 30, 2005


Gyan, it should go without saying that no board of ethics would ever allow such testing and assessment to take place. The data collected could never achieve a level of 'redemption' to excuse the behavior. - not to say that things like this haven't happened in the past - You want good solid data on death by hypothermia, lethal doses of x-rays, efficacy of torture or how long children last after being sewn together.

Godwin damnit.

The crux of this whole thread (as I interpret it) is that there are certain circumstances in which the end can never justify the means. As I comprehend torture, it is one of these circumstances.

Maybe it is my short sightedness, but to 'hear' people defending torture seriously blows my mind.
posted by isopraxis at 6:07 PM on December 30, 2005


Interrogation is an art to some degree.

The ratio of how often torture works is determined by how often it is used in comparison with other methods.


(But if it makes you happy: 0% of the times I’ve used physical coercion has it rendered anything useful. 100% of the time using other methods)

G. H. Gudjonsson has written a wealth of info on the psychological and psychiatric aspects of coercion in interrogation.

Do you have any evidence that quantitative evidence exists?
posted by Smedleyman at 6:07 PM on December 30, 2005


Morality and conscience...so hard to teach.

Some "quantative data" as to why treating your fellow man, even "The Enemy" with behaviour that at does not sink to torture from a recent article: posted by Dunvegan at 6:10 PM on December 30, 2005


Torture also probably manufactures restance fighters...people from the torture victim's entire circle of friends and family.

And gives the mythical edge to the victim...ever read The Lives of the Saints? Torture creates martyrs.

There just doesn't seem to be an "up side" to torture. Morally or practically. And the downside is enormous for all concerned.

I'd say "Prove the up-side to torture...quantatively"...but I know that's logic fallacy...so I won't.
posted by Dunvegan at 6:32 PM on December 30, 2005


"Saddam's rape rooms and torture chambers and children's prisons are closed forever."
-- President George W. Bush.

Now...didn't most Americans think when this was given as a statement, that Bush meant that "America's here...evil things like torturing your dissident population is now a thing of the past. And it's gone because it's immoral."

Wasn't that your take at the time? That at least the promise of America as a defender of decency was the message?

Didn't know that George really and truly just meant that America was moving in and taking over the franchise.
posted by Dunvegan at 6:42 PM on December 30, 2005


isopraxis : "it should go without saying that no board of ethics would ever allow such testing and assessment to take place"

New testing is not required. The US has practised rendition for quite some time. Surely, someone at Langley has kept a file, so to speak.

isopraxis : "but to 'hear' people defending torture seriously"

I haven't done that, and if that's your insinuation, stop.
posted by Gyan at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2005


It's disgusting that we even have to have these conversations, don't you think?

... the t-word, has forced its way into the public discourse as it has become increasingly apparent that the use of torture by Western states is not merely ubiquitous (they have always used it), but becoming normalised. The first step in this procedure was the public appeals, from various news outlets, to "discuss the matter honestly". The possibility was insidiously inserted into the daily political intercourse by simply raising questions: is torture ever justified, what if the guy knows a code for a nuclear trigger, what if it's a ticking clock etc?
posted by amberglow at 7:31 PM on December 30, 2005


"Surely, someone at Langley has kept a file, so to speak."

Yeah. I posted something from Langley, so to speak.

But again, this isn’t the equivalent of a medical procedure. It’s closer to psychology. It’s not an exact science. So you have to rely on a wealth of experiance from similar cases as opposed to something akin to statistical quantifiable data.

You are familiar with that concept?
/no snark intended. I’ve worked with engineers.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:35 PM on December 30, 2005


In a similar vein -
What is the data on the usefulness of theremal imaging cameras in fighting fires? That is: is there any hard data to prove that more fires are extinguished when thermal imaging cameras are used than when they aren’t?
I suspect it works in some cases, not in others.
There doesn’t seem to be any hard data beyond the testimony of experianced firefighting experts.
So really, who knows?
posted by Smedleyman at 7:48 PM on December 30, 2005


Thank you, Smedleyman...just...thank you.

And isopraxis, yes..."Godwin damnit."

Reductio ad absurdum, war without end.
posted by Dunvegan at 8:07 PM on December 30, 2005


My final comment in this thread.. can take it to email if interested..

Smedleyman : "Yeah. I posted something from Langley, so to speak. "

I was referring to internal evaluations of the value of data gained from renditions, not a journalistic retrospective.

Smedleyman : "It’s closer to psychology. It’s not an exact science."

Not much of hard science is, either. Heuristics is how it works. But heuristics does not mean non-analytical nor informal.

Smedleyman : "In a similar vein -"

If there's significant opportunity/moral cost to using thermal cameras then it's irresponsible to not have hard data. I doubt that's the case.
posted by Gyan at 8:26 PM on December 30, 2005


Torture is wrong.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:33 PM on December 30, 2005


Indignation may be affecting your reading skills.

Er. I was quoting that bit as a jumping-off point, trying to show how absurd it would be if we allowed any sort of violence that "worked". It was a refutation of the concept that "if it works, that means it's okay". I was trying to show how obscenely improper it would be if we applied this rule to other cases of violence. You know, stuff that is pretty widely believed to be wrong.

I agree that torture is wrong, always, and I think my post indicated that pretty clearly. My reading skills are just fine.
posted by beth at 9:19 PM on December 30, 2005


i_thinky_b_thinky's_breath_stinky. /winky_winky
posted by HyperBlue at 10:24 PM on December 30, 2005


No Gyan, that is not my insinuation, nor is it directed towards you personally. I think that I understand your central question: do we actually have any valid and reliable quantitative data that sheds light upon this troublesome subject? (do correct me if I'm wrong . . .)

From a simple methodological standpoint it is already confounded. I really don't see a way to make it work. For just a couple of examples, how does one go about selecting a sample, administering the torture and then evaluating whether it was effective or not? Without even delving into ethical considerations it falls apart. How do you know your participants aren't a bunch of masochists who find reinforcement through painful stimuli? Is it right to eliminate them, or are they a valid representative contingent of the larger population? Do you tell 10 people out of 100 a secret and then torture the whole lot to see which ones give up the goods?

Even if one has access to the classified studies that no doubt have come from the Farm, or via the fingers of Mengele, how does one flesh out the biases and get to the meat of the issue so to speak? There is no peer review, no academic group of any standing would even touch it, there is no field in which to replicate results or further test hypotheses . . . and most basic to it all is WHY would anyone ever decidedly disregard the simplest notions of humanity to find out.

My apologies for not citing the exact source, but a quote comes to mind; 'No man engages in reprehensible behavior without first justifying the morality of that act to himself.'

To me the troubles outlining the details of the reprehensible behavior (quantitative measurement) is eclipsed by the strange leaps of logic that some in our rhetorical forum here engage to justify the morality of something that I personally find eggregious and reprehensible. This is not me pointing a finger at you, this is me wishing that I could understand why anyone would allow such reprobate behavior, and even encourage it.

And you can at any time kindly ask me to cease my hegemonic discourse.
posted by isopraxis at 10:27 PM on December 30, 2005


Gyan: The burden of proof is on anyone making a positive assertion

So as long as nobody in the Bush administration claims that torture works, they are free to keep doing it. There is no burden of proof, because they have made no falsifiable assertion...

I think Smedlyman is really on to something here, about the engineer and the scientist... In the world of theory there isn't ever any action, just assertion, so Gyan's standard may have some meaning. In the real world assertion is meaningless, action is the critical element. Everyone is free to make whatever assertion they want, it is the actions which must be justified.
posted by Chuckles at 12:24 AM on December 31, 2005


Why is the efficacy of torture being debated? You get what you want.
posted by ryoshu at 2:11 AM on December 31, 2005


My final comment in this thread.. can take it to email if interested.- posted by Gyan

Ironic given your argument that it's not in your profile.

I was referring to internal evaluations of the value of data gained from renditions, not a journalistic retrospective.


Interesting how you continue to refuse to entertain the possibility that such data is possible and exists while disregarding any supporting evidence.


But heuristics does not mean non-analytical nor informal.


Indeed. What I posted was not Time magazine. It's an excellent model case.

It's quite likely that if such data exists in an unmodified form - that is apart from political considerations - it would be classified.
It only now occurs to me that you might not have thought of this. Governments are often unwilling to open their jails to public scrutiny much less human rights violations. What makes you think anyone could get their hands on such information if it even exists? Also given that, what makes you think it would be useful (e.g. racial profiling data)?

The lack of practical uses of torture - the lack of evidence in the face of the wealth of information on other interrogation techniques which work is itself an example of the uselessness of it.
We don't have data on how well sticking carrots up people's asses gets information out of them versus using avacados either.

If torture were a useful investigative tool, there'd be someone pro-torture pointing to the wealth of evidence as to its uses.

If there's significant opportunity/moral cost to using thermal cameras then it's irresponsible to not have hard data. I doubt that's the case.

I see. So either you are unaware of the taxation limits imposed on local fire departments or you assume funding should be available to save life or it is irresponsible of the experts in firefighting to testify to the obviousness of the uses of thermal cameras. There must in fact be some hard data proving they do, is what you appear to be saying.
Well, I don't see any....

I believe the point of contention here is much as Chuckles stated - theory vs. reality. There is a difference between HUMINT and interrogation and analysis of the information collected that you are obviously not seeing.

(As another metaphor - fingerprint analysis.)

/sorry this isn't well organized. Long day.

My main point however is that it is irritating getting this boiled down to a pragmatic argument. Gyan is arguing "data" and I'm arguing "works."

The question of whether torture is a good tool cannot be divorced from what the goal is. Do we want information? Do we want information in general or specific information about an event.
I'm not always coherent (without coffee or sleep) but I rarely do things without reason. If anyone bothered to read the Nguyen Tai link, they'd see that study explored and developed that point. The South Vietnamese tortured him and got his name. It took skillful questioning to get any useful information out of him however.

But, as he was both tortured and questioned skillfully - so too - the ethical considerations of torture cannot be separated from the practical considerations (unless it is specifically done in secret).

Because: We make the argument that it is immoral to torture. From a practical standpoint no further argument is necessary. Once we agree to this point the issue becomes not how useful torture is, but how useful morality is.

If exceptions can be made to an act like torture, then morality is useless because there will always be exceptions.
There will always be horrific acts committed "for the good of one's soul" or homeland or security or whatever.

Your argument implies Gyan - falsely - that there is some standard of "works" that the data can be applied to.
I am arguing that no such data can exist (even if such records are kept) because of the proximate cause of harm of torture.
There is no spatiotemporal contiguity (stole that from Hume) between torturing someone and some later public good because there is no social utility in torture.

Even in secret, one cannot remain isolated from humanity, one's objectivity is not inviolate unless one is a sadist or sociopath, in this case not only the data collectors, but the interrogator's objectivity and therefore the validity of the data collected can be called into question.

Bit far afield there. Didn't mean to veer too close to Hume's nomologic condition (every object like the cause produces always some object like the effect), but hopefully the point is clear. Been up all night doing various things without caffene.

My argument on capitulation, once again, goes unchallenged. I wonder if there's any data as to how well caving in to terrorist's demands works?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:02 AM on December 31, 2005


What is TORTURE?

Sitting here reading the tortured attempts of people trying to justify the use of torture by a 'civil/advanced' society.

That is torture.
posted by notreally at 4:32 AM on December 31, 2005


What is TORTURE?

Sitting here reading the tortured attempts of people trying to justify the use of torture by a 'civil/advanced' society.

That is torture.
posted by notreally at 4:35 AM on December 31, 2005


Sorry about the double. That's also torture.
posted by notreally at 4:38 AM on December 31, 2005


It's so very nice and charming that whenever torture is brought up someone inevitably shifts the whole thing to some surreal theoretical level where it's all about relative definitions (Rumsfeld docet) or absurd hypotheticals, but the extra relevant point here in the story of the memos surfacing is that in Uzbekistan you have a repressive regime using the tacit approval of the US and UK as an excuse to torture dissidents or anyone they might consider an internal enemy, so it's likely got fuck all to do with preventing terrorism anyway - so all those tortured attempts, indeed, to come up with hypotheses where torture might save innocent civilians from the next bombing carnage (the kind delivered by terrorist bombs, not the other kind of course, that one is fine) are doubly misplaced here.

By the way, check out the post following the one amberglow linked to above - which perhaps provides an answer to Jimbob's excellent question (Back to Uzbekistan. Why, exactly, is it acceptable to regard this country as an ally, when the only remaining justifiable reason for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was doing the same sorts of things to his own people? Every other reason has dissapeared up Christopher Hitchen's haemorroid-ridden a-hole. Torture and murder of citizens is the only reason left. How us Uzbekistan any different?) - be sure to follow the links to documents, especially this, this, and this. Uzbekistan is a special ally indeed.
posted by funambulist at 4:56 AM on December 31, 2005


Late to this thread:

(Torture doesn't work.)
posted by nevercalm at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2005


Smedleyman, isn't it also that torture works *best* to evoke a false confession, as per Spanish Inquisition, et. al.?

And if the point of the Uzbek torture was to offer "custom-designed intel" that the Uzbeks doing this torture knew was of value to Rumsfeld and/or Cheney in their war justification?

In the vacuum of any real intel, even by cherry-picking intel, Cheney found and continues to find himself short on rationale to sell the Iraqi occupation.

This is why Cheney publically speaking out that he supports torture is just the VP broadcasting "Who will rid me of my lack of intel?" to anyone willing to fill the Veep's intel order with false information elicited under torture. The US pays well for this sort of thing these days.

Lies collected via deadly torture of people and of their children in front of their eyes, gives the administration the veneer of legitimacy in the false "911-Iraq" link they keep selling...and any other illegitimate venture they may wish to persue in the future (Syria, Iran, et. al.)

What we have here in it's specific application, is that "Torture works"... it works for Cheney.

It works for Cheney, Rummy and Bush since they need both reasons for war in Iraq and intel that can create a domestic climate of fear...the better to establish an Imperial Presidency and pursue the agenda of an American Empire.

It may be a bit frustrating to them that these reasons (outside admitting a lust for power) just don't exist.

But via torture, you can get a person to confess to anything...like the Uzbek were able to get a man to confess to being an Al Qaeda link by torturing his children to death in front of him.

Cheney advertises for torture. He lobbies for torture.

And what happened? The Uzbeks tortured to fill the Veep's bill of tailor-made false intel.

They tortured children to death in front of their father to get intel that the Uzbeks damn well knew had great value to Cheney and company...and no value to the Uzbeks. They have no need for this info...and they know it's elicited under deadly duress, and no good. Nor does the intel extracted really do anything for the Uzbek's internal security.

The only reason for much of the worst deadly torture was to fill Cheney's "credibility gap" with false intel...and then send us the bill...which the administration paid with our tax dollars.

Our tax dollars.

So we are all tax-supporting "good citizens of a fascist-leaning regime" circa 1939 about now.
posted by Dunvegan at 2:25 PM on December 31, 2005


Only 24 comments in one thread Dunvegan? Must try harder, hippy.
posted by Joeforking at 5:27 PM on December 31, 2005


Good one Joe,
Was being raised in a mercury mine difficult for you?
posted by isopraxis at 6:21 PM on December 31, 2005


MetaFilter Thread Mention
From http://chris-floyd.com/telegrams/feed/#docs

The UK government has been quick to deny that they practice, or tolerate the practice of torture. So it is perhaps not suprising that they are determined that you should not see the following documents: Craig Murray was the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, until his complaints and protest at the use of intelligence gained by torture got too much for Jack Straw and the Foreign Office, who set about attempting to unsuccessfully smear him, and to boot him from office.
Click here to see the actual documents

Faced with this heavy handed censorship by the FCO, in an attempt to cover up our use of and complicity in torture, Craig has decided to fight back, and has asked us all to publish this information, so it cannot be suppressed.

Braving litigation and possible inceraration, UK bloggers have broken the UK’s Orwellian Secrecy Act en masse with the truth about torture. And globally, bloggers are mass publishing the leaked and very revealing Torture Telegrams. These memos are clear evidence and a memorandum of record outlining the rendition and torture of US-arrested prisoners in Uzbekistan.

The most comprehensive and lucid analysis on Murray's leak can be found at Chicken Yoghurt - it's well worth a visit if you want to delve into the history and runup to his actions. The UK Morning Star have published the documents on their frontpage - following the UK Independent who wrote that it leaked this morning. Craig Murray appeared as a guest on BBC Radio Four's PM show tonight. Should be able to listen again in a few hours here. The most interesting debates on the leak I have seen are at Lenin's Tomb and the Metafilter.


posted by Dunvegan at 6:29 PM on December 31, 2005


Chicken Yoghurt is a wonderful site for all UK stuff.
posted by amberglow at 6:45 PM on December 31, 2005


From Chicken Yoghurt:

The Recipe for Freedom:
Break Heads, Beat Vigorously and Boil

Thursday, December 29, 2005

In a response to the Law Lord's recent ruling on the use of information gained by torture, Charles Clarke wrote in the Guardian:

[T]hey held that there is an "exclusionary" rule precluding the use of evidence obtained by torture. However, they held it was perfectly lawful for such information to be relied on operationally, and also by the home secretary in making executive decisions.


Clarke said, "I welcome the decision". Or as the first draft no doubt put it, "I welcome the fact that my job is made easier by information given by a person who was in agony at the time."

Maybe information used "operationally" to "thwart" recent terrorist attacks was obtained by torture and so "perfectly lawful". Are our "freedoms" being bought with the suffering of others?

Craig Murray, the former UK's ambassador to Uzbekistan, can tell you how such information is obtained.

Was it obtained from "the woman who was raped with a broken bottle in both vagina and anus"? A woman so terribly violated that she "died after ten days of agony"? Or was it obtained from the "old man suspended by wrist shackles from the ceiling while his children were beaten to a pulp before his eyes"?

More at blog...
posted by Dunvegan at 7:51 PM on December 31, 2005


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