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Amnesty International's waterboarding advertisement
May 1, 2008 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Amnesty International recently staged a real waterboarding session to reinforce its campaign to get this type of torture stopped.
Amnesty claims its commercial is the "video the CIA doesn’t want you to see”.
Starting this month the commercial will show in Britain in movie theaters during the previews. Possibly NSFW.
posted by misanthropicsarah (82 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Relatedly
posted by DU at 12:29 PM on May 1, 2008


"Now let's have a nice clean war, boys."

I'm a bit divided on this sort of thing. On the one hand, obviously waterboarding should stop. But then, so should all torture. And how to separate the torture committed by, say, an occupying force from the crime of the occupation itself? Or a foreign occupation from a domestic democratic deficit? Or from whatever the hell it is inside each of us that's let humanity go down this road in the first place?

There's an implicit, though obviously unintended, and maybe unavoidable, message here: to single out waterboarding as particularly unethical almost suggests that there are ethical ways for an occupying force to conduct itself, when there really aren't.

It's akin to focusing rage on hummers, and suggesting that otherwise automobile culture is a perfectly healthy thing.

Or maybe it's just a sign of how those loosely allied in defense of reason are really, really losing ground in the rhetorical war - possibly because they insist on assuming their opponents are also reasonable. If this issue was given a nuanced analysis as a microcosm of all that's wrong with the nascent American Empire, maybe it would make sense, but I don't see how that's possible in a mass media campaign.

I'm not offering a solution here, I know. Just venting, really.
posted by regicide is good for you at 12:34 PM on May 1, 2008 [9 favorites]


Waterboarding is not simulated drowning, it is actual drowning. It just lasts longer and is less likely to result in death.

Ashcroft recently answered a question I was wondering myself.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


i wonder if all the focus is on waterboarding instead of torture in general because WE (the US) did it, and WE are supposed to be above that kind of thing.

i do think it's kind of stupid that only waterboarding is focussed on, when really we should be trying to get rid of all kinds of torture.

though, just because the US or the UN or laws of wars makes it illegal, doesn't mean people aren't going to torture others. the type of people who are tortures are not generally going to stop torturing because all of a sudden someone says it's against the law.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:43 PM on May 1, 2008


1) With local and national news shows having done dozens of such demonstrations over the last year, plus all the Youtube links, I find this to be a rather "whatever" item.

2) No one cares. The GAO just reported that Bush literally has no plan for fighting terrorism, and that Al Qaeda is safer than it was back in 1999. If no one cares about that, I doubt a fake torture skit is going to rally even a smidge of outrage.
posted by Ragma at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Levin insists he is not advocating waterboarding or any other kind of aggressive interrogation technique but he points out that there is a realistic question to asked : How tough should governments get when lives are on the line?

When has this happened? When has this mysterious Jack Bauer moment happened where we KNOW the detainee KNOWS where the bomb is, but just isn't telling... and then through torture we find out? I'm not even being sarcastic... I seriously want to know if we ever have been in the situation of having someone detained that we knew had time-sensitive information that was obtained through "enhanced interrogation methods." I don't even think it's right if we have, but I seriously doubt this is a common occurrence, and instead seems like techniques like this are more often used punitively or as a form of retribution.
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:50 PM on May 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


rooftop secrets: Never.
posted by rusty at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2008


Regicide. Yeah.

Obviously it's not only our occupying forces that are water boarding and torturing. The issue is to set a standard of humane civilized conduct and adhere to it no matter what circumstances we, as a political community, find ourselves. The standard of civilization is living by principles.

Remember the meme that Bush was the one with "Principles?" Funny. I can't find a single principle, other than get your friends rich, that Bush has stuck to.

What the Bush administration has done is misdirect us into a semantical argument over what is or what is not torture. And they have done this to condition us into political polar extremes where we are more easily manipulated in election time. Tough-guy republican types see water boarding as Frat Party Hyjinks. Pussy liberals want to give Al Quaeda Johnny Cochran.

Instead we need to be asking for proof if any of this, the occupation, rendition, any of this shit, serves any kind of productive purpose at all. Which, according to Intelligence services own reports, the War on Terror does not produce any real results over more conventional LEO methods. In fact it has harmed the real gains we made.

What the Bush Administration has done is to deliberately dismantle all out institutions through this extremist fear mongering so that the only way one can be served by, or serve in, an institution is to be ideologically vetted by the Republican party. One has to be able to maintain astronomical levels of cognitive dissonance to do this. One has to believe that obvious failure is success.
posted by tkchrist at 12:59 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


misanthropicsarah, i wouldn't say that waterboarding is the only torture procedure that's being focused on. rather, i would suggest that waterboarding is being "called out" as publically as possible because, at one point, so many people were trying to suggest that it isn't torture. (from rumsfeld to rush)

the real problem with this -- as with so many things -- is that it's preaching to the choir. how do we get this ad into the hearts and minds of middle americans?

...and even if we did, would it make a difference? history illustrates all too clearly that the human appetite for torture is not a recent development. torture isn't going to stop. so, is the point of the ad to try to rally support to change policy about torture, rather than to end torture outright? perhaps a laudable goal; however, as the US government has amply proven, a change in policy will do next-to-nothing to instill/develop trust in the government. i think enough of us, finally, may be awakening to the fact that the government does what it wants when it wants to, consequences be damned. passing a resolution in congress strongly denouncing waterboarding (or similar scoff-law actions) will do nothing to actually change practice.

like the eponysterical regicide's screed, i'm not offering any solution. just ranting. i guess my point is that i highly doubt there IS a solution.
posted by CitizenD at 1:03 PM on May 1, 2008


To the people wondering about singling out waterboarding from other torture, the big difference for waterboarding is that the US government says that it isn't torture. And you have to crawl before you can walk, meaning that before you can be able to address torture as a blanket concept, you have to at least agree on what torture is.

It saddens me that we're at that stage of the dialog on torture. But I'm glad to see Amnesty finally knocking that straw man down.

And on preview, what CitizenD said.
posted by Brak at 1:10 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Waterboarding is not simulated drowning, it is actual drowning.

I have thought the same thing; I noticed that at some point NPR switched from calling it simulated drowning to controlled drowning, which I think is more accurate.

I have to wonder, though, if these waterboarding sessions that are being filmed to show how bad it is are doing harm by giving the defenders of this form of torture ammunition: "See, it isn't that bad, Amnesty International and others have had people do it voluntarily!"
posted by TedW at 1:10 PM on May 1, 2008


"See, it isn't that bad, Amnesty International and others have had people do it voluntarily!"

That is essentially the same argument that its defenders use: we do it to our own boys in interrogation resistance training, so it's not good enough for our enemies?

The thing is that there is a HUGE difference between doing it to one of your own, in a controlled environment, with medical help available within seconds, when you compare it with doing it in the field, without any control, possibly hostility on the part of the practitioners and god knows what else at play. In some accounts I've read, victims were repeatedly punched in the chest and abdomen during this procedure, to make it even more unbearable.
posted by psmealey at 1:21 PM on May 1, 2008


Holy fuck, what on earth is wrong with Michael Levin? I was just reading his "The Case For Torture," and he seems to think of torture as the Ultima spell in Final Fantasy III or something.

"Yeah, it uses up a lot of MP, and obviously it shouldn't be used willy-nilly. But if we need to beat the Evil Boss of Manhattan by 10 AM, I think it's worth it. I mean, we can all agree it must be super effective, or it wouldn't cost so much MP, right?"
posted by Greg Nog at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


YouTube video of Amnesty Int'l commercial.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:25 PM on May 1, 2008


I hear that starting this year, waterboarding will replacing the dunking booth at 4th of July picnics all across the USA. It's just way more 21st century.
posted by grounded at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2008


rooftop secrets: Never.
posted by rusty at 3:57 PM on May 1


Well, if this is true, there's no reason to do it. It isn't retribution, because the people doing the torture aren't usually the people who wronged by the prisoner.

Which leads me to a bigger problem. The use of waterboarding implies there are American soldiers, CIA agents, whatever, whose devotion to the greater War on Terror is so fanatical that they'll do this to people without any expectation getting of vital information as a result.

I submit that these people are likely to be a far bigger problem in the future than we realize.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well at least it can't be worse than an anti-smoking/drink driving advert.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on May 1, 2008


Levin insists he is not advocating waterboarding or any other kind of aggressive interrogation technique but he points out that there is a realistic question to asked : How tough should governments get when lives are on the line?

Take the argument to its logical conclusion. Say there's a nuclear bomb hidden in mid-town Manhattan, and we have a person in custody who will tell us where it is, but only if we torture him. What the United States Government is saying (Bush et al. in particular) is that we must legalize torture for this situation. Because otherwise, the President would be breaking the law, be impeached, and possibly put in jail. In other words, given the choice between losing his job/saving New York City, and letting millions of people die, Bush would rather keep office.

If there's ever a dire situation where lives are actually on the line, the president should be willing to break the law. That sets up a standard that makes torture okay only in utterly unlikely, extreme circumstances. That makes it less likely that torture would ever be allowed. That's the beauty of keeping it illegal. Making it illegal doesn't mean it can't happen, it means it can only happen if the president is will to accept the consequences.
posted by one_bean at 1:33 PM on May 1, 2008 [32 favorites]


Just thought I'd mention in passing that only three terror suspects have been subjected to waterboarding, and Bush banned use of the procedure several years ago.
posted by Class Goat at 1:38 PM on May 1, 2008


...but I don't suppose anyone cares about that.
posted by Class Goat at 1:38 PM on May 1, 2008


Bush banned use of the procedure several years ago.

Yeah, it's not like he recently vetoed a bill banning it. Lay off.
posted by ALongDecember at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


Class Goat, educate me please. I hear a mishmash of news about this topic but have little information about how widespread it is and what the actual facts are. What are your sources?
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:46 PM on May 1, 2008


Just thought I'd mention in passing that only three terror suspects have been subjected to waterboarding...

That the government has admitted to.



But I don't suppose you care about that distinction.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:47 PM on May 1, 2008 [5 favorites]


the real problem with this -- as with so many things -- is that it's preaching to the choir. how do we get this ad into the hearts and minds of middle americans?

What makes you think the hearts and minds of middle americans are not 100% in favor of 'torturing terrorists'

'Terrorists' are todays witches of yesterday's Salem.
posted by notreally at 1:52 PM on May 1, 2008


I hear that starting this year, waterboarding will replacing the dunking booth at 4th of July picnics all across the USA.

Not quite, but close.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:53 PM on May 1, 2008


Or maybe it's just a sign of how those loosely allied in defense of reason are really, really losing ground in the rhetorical war - possibly because they insist on assuming their opponents are also reasonable.

I believe it's more that those loosely allied in defense of reason insist on assuming their AUDIENCE, the voters they're speakng to, are also reasonable. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but it seems increasingly clear that far too many people in this country are just completely out of their minds because that's the only way it makes sense to my mind that so many of us would actually vote for a man who has done absolutely nothing positive for the country and has directly caused so many violations of its people during his tenure. It's not the reasonableness of the pro-torture side that's the problem. It's the lack of reason among the undecideds that's the problem. I think we all assume that if we simply make it crystal clear how completely insane supporting torture, irresponsible fiscal policies and the needless malicious occupation of another country is then the people who are stupid enough to actually be undecided on these matters will see reason and come over to the side of sanity. It's just not true. We're trying to use reason on people who likely don't actually think about these things and don't intend to start.

Imagine two people in a bar.

stupid: Oh my God, doesn't John Kerry look weird?
idiot: yeah! oh my god, he's so weird looking.
stupid: and I heard he like killed people in some war or something.
idiot: with a boat!
stupid: ew.
idiot: totally. ew.

I'm sorry, these people are not going to listen to nuanced arguments about the inefficacy of torture when it's so much easier to just make voting decisions based on virtually nothing but the direction of the wind. there's no talking to these people. the only thing that gets through to them is a general impression of "ew" that comes through the noise of an impossibly muddied discourse. They're more likely to see a commercial like that and think "oh my god, why are they showing me this? who are these people? that's nasty." and then hate the messenger.

I swear, it's enough to make you wish for a benevolent dictatorship. I have an exercise I run through my mind at times when this occurs to me. I start with the idea of a dictator who believes the things I do and does a really great job of doing the most good for the most people. Okay, but they say absolute power corrupts absolutely, so what if that happens? or, if he goes his whole life being a good dude, what happens when he dies? who gets the power next? Well, maybe we build in a failsafe system where we can vote him out of office. But how do we know when to vote? someone has to call for the vote, I guess, and no one wants to vote on that shit every day just because someone doesn't like him. Well, what about periodic votes, sort of a "how'm I doing?" check. Okay good. But we can't let certain people vote. Anyone who thinks the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq is straight out. Anyone who believes in the swift boat campaign is also out. Ron Paul supporters are out, possibly to be put in front of a firing squad. (I allow myself tremendous liberty in these daydreams. I just assume that it's the best of all possible worlds so that, should it come apart even in my daydreams then it's pretty certain that it'd be even worse in real life.) Anyone who supports Jack Thompson or the idea of government instituted censorship of video games or movies beyond current law doesn't get a vote either. No one rich, etc... Okay, awesome. So we've got the best ruler being kept in check by the people who aren't collosally stupid. But what if the voters vote for their own interests to the exclusion of the interests of the stupid people. I mean, I suppose that's partly the idea, but what if they do something terrible like make the stupid people their legal chattel slaves or something? Hmm. Well, I suppose we have to keep the stupid people voting, too, dammit.

Alright, then that's our system. We have a leader that we vote into office at regular intervals, and everyone gets a vote. That oughtta keep things in check.

waitasecond... god damn it.
posted by shmegegge at 1:58 PM on May 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


shmegegge --- Heinlein's Starship Troopers, in which only military veterans can vote, came up in a recent thread. I happened to read the novel the other day and the justification given for that voting system is quite interesting. The military training system, as it exists in the novel, is designed to weed out all but those who are willing to put the good of their comrades ahead of their own lives. Who better to entrust with the responsibility of voting?

In the end responsibility is what's needed; according to the novel, if voters are not accountable for the things they vote for, the system is doomed. I can't think of how we could test for responsibility. Age > 18 is a reasonable way; certainly imperfect, but anything else I can think of (college degree? owning property? some kind of aptitude test?) is way worse.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:13 PM on May 1, 2008


Torture can make people talk but it can't produce good intelligence. Because they will talk, and they will say whatever they think you want to hear, just to make you stop.

And as for when you shouldn't use a tool? Even if it could protect more people, torture would be hard to justify, but since it does not produce useful intelligence which can protect people, all possible justifications are bullshit. Maybe the advocates have fooled themselves - maybe they are sincere, but it's still BS. There is no justification for the use of torture.
posted by jb at 2:13 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


but anything else I can think of (college degree? owning property? some kind of aptitude test?) is way worse.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:13 PM on May 1


Why? Why would an intelligence test where anyone who scores average or higher gets to vote automatically be bad? Is your objective to screen out idiots, or screen in brilliant people?
posted by Pastabagel at 2:18 PM on May 1, 2008


Screening for the inherent bias of intelligence tests.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on May 1, 2008


I suppose because any kind of test will inevitably lead to bias in the voting population, which will lead to class stratification. Suddenly entire industries will spring up trying to help you pass the intelligence test. Certain demographics will test better than others. Those who are underrepresented in the voting population will feel repressed. It gets ugly really easily. And frankly I don't know who I would be trying to screen; I want people to vote for the best interests of the state, and I have no idea how you test for that, or even how anyone could know what the best interests of the state really are.

Actually it's messier than that. What if the best interests of the state are bad for the world at large? Then I want people to vote for the best interests of the world. But this is getting out of hand and off topic.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:25 PM on May 1, 2008


The words "stage" and "real" don't go together. Without the imminent threat of death at the will of unfriendly captors, you cannot be tortured.

I guess what I'm saying is, someone should black-bag Dick Cheney.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:28 PM on May 1, 2008


Disclaimer: I do applaud AI's efforts here, but I think the commercial is a bit too "sexy" to have any real impact. It looks like a good scene in a movie I'd watch. Maybe there's no way to overcome that. Maybe that says something about us.
posted by Mikey-San at 2:30 PM on May 1, 2008


.
posted by Alfonso Javier at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2008


Some sort of test required to be able to vote is a great idea in a perfect world, but it would never work in the real world for the reasons already stated. Such tests were used in the past, and were made completely unfair in order to keep black people from voting. However, I'd be okay with a test that's less an "intelligence" test and more a test of general knowledge. For example:

1. What country did the majority of the 9/11 hijackers come from?
A. Iraq
B. Saudi Arabia
C. France

2. What is the capital of Afghanistan?
A. Kabul
B. Abu Dhabi
C. Poughkeepsie

3. What are the two main branches of Islam?
A. Protestant and Catholic
B. Sunni and Shi'ite
C. Bert and Ernie

Just things like that, as opposed to a test of overall intelligence, things that one should be required to know in order to responsibly vote. If a test like that were required, Bush wouldn't have been re-elected even with Diebold fuckery. However, it wouldn't work if it were actually implemented, for a variety of reasons, for one, who decides what knowledge is required? Whoever that is would bias the test towards their political ideology, for example make "Iraq" the "correct" answer to question 1.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:48 PM on May 1, 2008


I'm not really clear on how airing this ad in the UK is going to change the use of torture by the US - aren't Americans the ones who need to watch this?
posted by naoko at 2:50 PM on May 1, 2008


It’s all fun and games until your country is taken over by the autistic block vote.
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's about fucking time. Too often I hear people talking about waterboarding like it's some kind of minor irritant to the person receiving it, and that it only works as a torture because it's combined with things like stress positions or cold exposure, or whatever.

I'm glad someone is finally forcing people to see what it looks like.

In a perfect world, anyone who would advocate or encourage this sort of thing, would have it done to them at least once. I imagine that the rate people pushing for it would drop considerably.
posted by quin at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2008


----------------------------------------
Voting Intelligence Test

#1. What is currently the greatest threat to your life?
A [ ]. Motor vehicle accident
B [ ]. Terrar
C [ ]. Rapture
D [ ]. Climate Change

#2. Humans are descended from:
A [ ]. Apes
B [ ]. Adam and Eve
C [ ]. Aliens
D [ ]. Flying-spaghetti Meatballs

#3. ...
----------------------------------------

I think the problem lies in who's scoring the test. Unless we're talking of measuring straight-up critical thinking... to which I'd counter that there are plenty of good-hearted fools and intelligent assholes.

On preview, I like DecemberBoy's test though... and yeah, what he said.
posted by Bugg at 2:55 PM on May 1, 2008


Humans are not descended from apes. Modern humans and modern apes very likely had a common ancestor species that has since gone extinct. So, I guess the answer is the Flying-spaghetti Meatballs?
posted by psmealey at 3:02 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


psmealey gets to vote!
posted by Bugg at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


regicide is good for you: There's an implicit, though obviously unintended, and maybe unavoidable, message here: to single out waterboarding as particularly unethical almost suggests that there are ethical ways for an occupying force to conduct itself, when there really aren't.

There's an implicit, though obviously unintended, and maybe unavoidable, message here: sovereignty and self-determination are the highest goods of society, and all other ethical considerations are subject to them and superseded by them. You seem to think that ethics is so black and white that it consists in a single binary switch on each society, or at least on each political era. Whereas this seems to me to be obviously far from the case, since there is 'honor among thieves;' if I save an old lady on my way to rob a bank, it was still ethically good to save the old lady, and, yes, a serial killer who rapes and strangles a dozen women is less ethical than a killer who shoots two without raping and strangling them, no matter how much one protests that "murder is wrong, and they're both murderers." Torture can be wrong, invading Iraq can be a mistake, occupying another nation might be unethical, and it would still be relevant to point out that waterboarding is particularly unethical.

This is entirely aside from the fact that the notion that occupation is inherently unethical is patently silly. I guess maybe you mean this occupation is inherently unethical, but even that isn't really true, since that would imply that it's unethical by its very being, whereas (perhaps I'm wrong) most people believe it's unethical by account of the fact that it's an invasion of a country that didn't deserve it, that it's killing women and children, that innocents suffer because of it, et cetera.

None of these are inherent qualities of occupation. To take the obvious and classic example: was it wrong for the Allies to occupy Germany after WWII? To take a less obvious example: suppose a people was suffering, and a just nation stepped in to ease their suffering by occupying and granting stability? The root of it is really that you seem to think, as I said, that sovereignty and self-determination are the highest goods, whereas I think that's a little ridiculous. There are a whole slew of things that are more important, like, say, social justice, peace, safety, et cetera.

None of this is to say that the war in Iraq is at all justified. It's just to say that (a) occupation is not inherently, but only accidentally, evil; and (b) it is perfectly reasonable to discuss the ethics of waterboarding and call it unethical in any context. It is just as unethical for serial killers and Nazis to waterboard as it is for anybody else; the context doesn't change the import.
posted by Viomeda at 3:14 PM on May 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


psmealey is my new hero.
posted by Shanachie at 3:17 PM on May 1, 2008


The most delicious moment of the entire Bush presidency for me came when the Presidential Scholars, a highly select group of the nation's most outstanding high school students, handed Bush a letter at the awards ceremony-- hosted at the White House-- asking him to quit torturing prisoners.
posted by jamjam at 3:20 PM on May 1, 2008


psmealey is my new hero

You wouldn't think that if you knew about the crazy ass shit my pastor has been spewing these past 20 years.
posted by psmealey at 3:33 PM on May 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Isn't McCain basically cool with torture these days? Kinda throws a wrench in the "maybe they're just ignorant" theory.

(I seem to recall him heading in that direction, but I might be thinking of campaign finance stuff.)
posted by ryanrs at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2008


Interesting thread. When people have tried to tell me that water-boarding isn't torture, I simply ask them -- if I did it to your wife or son or daughter and made you watch, how would you react?

Certainly not the best way to make friends, but I'm so fucking sick of apologists for torture.
posted by bardic at 4:12 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


The John Yoo Torture Memo:
“More than five years after its composition, we finally see a copy of John Yoo's March 14, 2003 memo to William Haynes, then the Defense Department's general counsel. It was, as The New York Times and Washington Post report, a green light for military interrogators to use just about any technique the Pentagon deemed useful. Criminal statutes prohibiting torture stopped at the water's edge, because, Yoo wrote, ‘such criminal statutes, if they were misconstrued to apply to the interrogation of enemy combatants, would conflict with the Constitution's grant of Commander in Chief power solely to the President.’

As Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, tells the Post, ‘it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war.’ As Marty Lederman, a former lawyer at OLC writes, ‘it is, in effect, the blueprint that led to Abu Ghraib and the other abuses within the armed forces in 2003 and early 2004.’

Despite the fact that Congress has been asking for the declassification of this memo, it appears to have only been released now as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The memo is 81 pages long (here's Part I and Part II). We've posted one of the more remarkable sections here.

In that section, Yoo explains how even if a particularly brutal interrogation might ‘arguably cross the line drawn’ by the law, ‘certain justification defenses might be available.’ Those are ‘necessity’ (the ‘choice of evils,’ the evils being torture and a terrorist attack) and ‘self-defense’ (‘If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.’) Just about the only actions that were impermissible and indefensible in Yoo's eyes, it seems, were those motivated strictly by malice or sadism.”
posted by ericb at 4:18 PM on May 1, 2008


ABC News | April 9, 2008: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'
“In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of ‘combined’ interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.”
posted by ericb at 4:22 PM on May 1, 2008


Newsweek | April 26, 2008: Getting Away With Torture -- Legal maneuvering has shielded those responsible for conditions at Guantánamo Bay.
posted by ericb at 4:23 PM on May 1, 2008


Isn't McCain basically cool with torture these days? Kinda throws a wrench in the "maybe they're just ignorant" theory.

McCain Votes Against Torture Ban.

McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again.
posted by ericb at 4:34 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Guys, guys, guys! You're missing the real story: Obama's pastor is an angry black guy!
posted by Tullius at 4:40 PM on May 1, 2008


Obama's *former* pastor is an angry black guy!
posted by ericb at 4:40 PM on May 1, 2008


And don't forget that Hillary is a girl and every month she will become hysterical with the menses. MENSES!
posted by bardic at 4:44 PM on May 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


Obama is black!
posted by Avenger at 4:45 PM on May 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Isn't McCain basically cool with torture these days? Kinda throws a wrench in the "maybe they're just ignorant" theory.

McCain Votes Against Torture Ban.

McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again.


McCain believes whatever he thinks whoever he's addressing at that moment wants to hear. There's a great story from his 2000 campaign: once when he was speaking in South Carolina, he started to say that he didn't think gays should be discriminated against, until a staffer/aide/whatever literally came onstage and whispered the equivalent of "ix-nay on the aggots-fay" in his ear, and he added something like "but-but-but I uh, don't support the gay agenda". The audience reacted negatively to his obvious empty pandering, and he glared at the guy who whispered to him like it was his fault. I wish I could find the article I read this in, I want to say it was from Rolling Stone. I read it a few years ago, before his current campaign.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:54 PM on May 1, 2008


MMMEEEENNNNNSSSSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSS, my preciousssssss.
posted by CitizenD at 5:04 PM on May 1, 2008


but, wasn't mccain tortured and a pow in a cage or something? i would think he would be the first to be AGAINST torture. am i thinking of someone else? what world am i on?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 5:19 PM on May 1, 2008


Take the argument to its logical conclusion. Say there's a nuclear bomb hidden in mid-town Manhattan, and we have a person in custody who will tell us where it is, but only if we torture him.

Given that if the person in custody knows if he clams up or gives false info, the bomb will go off anyway, this is a situation that is 100% guaranteed to fail.
posted by Legomancer at 5:33 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


So the most recent common ancestors of humans and extant ape species were somehow themselves not apes? Look here. Now look here and explain to me how X, Y and Z don't imply the existence of apes from whom humans are descended. I am confused and would like to vote in this brave new world, but I also wish to cling to my ape heritage.
posted by nowonmai at 5:35 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just thought I'd mention in passing that only three terror suspects have been subjected to waterboarding...

Well, if they were only suspects, I suppose it's ok.

And, no, misanthropicsarah, that's McCain. He's just a pandering asshole without principles.
posted by MikeKD at 6:03 PM on May 1, 2008


Having your friends waterboard you isn't as torturous as having some sinister strangers do it. You always know your friends will quit after a while, and will try not to kill you. All you have to do is fight instinct and trust them.

The bad guys might let you die, and you know it. In fact, eventually, they probably will. That's the torture part.
posted by ctmf at 6:03 PM on May 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


ericb, kindly don't drown us in your simulated endorsements here. we're just too wimpy for them.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:24 PM on May 1, 2008


Huh? Waterboarding is being focused on not because the U.S. is doing it, but because the U.S. is denying it is torture. It draws a different kind of response, and demonstrations are clearly in that line.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:52 PM on May 1, 2008


...and no one notices CNN gives the full-fledged anything-goes pro-torture argument the last word in the "debate".
posted by vsync at 7:47 PM on May 1, 2008


its campaign to get this type of torture stopped...

Great. That'll slow the goons down long enough to type another memo.
posted by rokusan at 9:03 PM on May 1, 2008


Viomeda:
There's an implicit, though obviously unintended, and maybe unavoidable, message here: sovereignty and self-determination are the highest goods of society, and all other ethical considerations are subject to them and superseded by them.

Actually, that was more or less explicit, and completely intended.
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2008


If torture produces useful intelligence, then witches are real.

nowonmai: The wording was: Modern humans and modern apes very likely had a common ancestor

naoko: What makes you think this is only about the U.S.? Maybe the message is for the rest of the world: never be as evil as the USA

Who would have thunk that the land of the free would legalize torture before marijuana?
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:01 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Humans are not descended from apes. Modern humans and modern apes very likely had a common ancestor species that has since gone extinct.

More to the point, humans ARE modern apes (Hominidae - great apes - includes homo sapiens sapiens). And all of us apes are descended from proto-apes, who arrived in fearsome dimension-travelling UrCraft wearing silver jumpsuits, firing laser-pistols and communicating by dexterously inflecting the single word 'proto', hence the name.
posted by Sparx at 4:38 AM on May 2, 2008


The original wording was "Humans are descended from apes". As is so typical when the intent is to disenfranchise voters, the meaning was immediately twisted to benefit the lizard people. It was YOU who introduced the word "modern" in an attempt to deny us ape-descendents our vote. Now you are trying to claim that you didn't write the sentence "Humans are not descended from apes."? This is why the right to vote must be universal - if voting is restricted it will be restricted to those who vote for the ones who make the rules. Well you lizard people won't get away with it this time. I demand emancipation for my ape-descended brethren. We have been used to being silenced ALL OUR LIVES but it stops here. Humans ARE descended from apes (on preview: thanks, Sparx, that really helped, up to a point) and we shall have our day. You lizard people can not keep us down forever! My recent post about the gerrymandering of Pangea was deleted as axegrindfilter but this is only a minor setback.
posted by nowonmai at 5:33 AM on May 2, 2008


"Beaver told me she arrived in Guantánamo in June 2002. In September that year there was a series of brainstorming meetings, some of which were led by Beaver, to gather possible new interrogation techniques. Ideas came from all over the place, she said. Discussion was wide-ranging. Beaver mentioned one source that I didn't immediately follow up with her: 24 - Jack Bauer. "
posted by Kiwi at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2008


And don't forget that Hillary is a girl and every month she will become hysterical with the menses.

And attract bears. BEARS!
posted by TedW at 7:10 AM on May 2, 2008


What makes you think this is only about the U.S.? Maybe the message is for the rest of the world: never be as evil as the USA

That's a valid point. I hope that you're right and that the reaction won't be a smug, complacent, "this happens in the US and can't happen here." But regardless of what the message is to non-US audiences, why NOT show it in the US too?
posted by naoko at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2008


You're clearly beyond redemption.
posted by Artw at 7:34 AM on May 2, 2008


And attract bears. BEARS!

Aren't bears more or less by definition into other dudes?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:41 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Having your friends waterboard you isn't as torturous as having some sinister strangers do it. You always know your friends will quit after a while, and will try not to kill you. All you have to do is fight instinct and trust them.

The bad guys might let you die, and you know it. In fact, eventually, they probably will. That's the torture part.


Not according to this guy.
posted by bepe at 8:17 AM on May 2, 2008


What I mean is that according to one guy who waterboarded himself, there is no "fighting your instincts" while drowning. It doesn't matter who's in control of the situation--you, your friends, your enemies--if the "I'm drowning" switch is flipped in your mind, terror takes over. And *that's* the torture part.
posted by bepe at 8:25 AM on May 2, 2008


Did I get this right: even though the American announcer announced on an American station "coming soon to a theater near you," the ad is only going to be aired in Britain, right?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:33 AM on May 2, 2008


Aren't bears more or less by definition into other dudes?

Yep...according to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
posted by ericb at 9:56 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's the actual Amnesty site and video
posted by destro at 11:18 AM on May 2, 2008


If there's ever a dire situation where lives are actually on the line, the president should be willing to break the law. That sets up a standard that makes torture okay only in utterly unlikely, extreme circumstances. That makes it less likely that torture would ever be allowed. That's the beauty of keeping it illegal. Making it illegal doesn't mean it can't happen, it means it can only happen if the president is will to accept the consequences.

This extremely sensible position (with 31 favorites so far) is essentially the same position that Metafilter jeered at when Justice Scalia said it. (The only difference was that Scalia pointed out that no jury in America would convict heroic President Bauer, er, Bush if he demonstrably saved a million lives by torturing someone. And it wasn't clear that Scalia understood that this would never, ever happen.)
posted by straight at 12:05 PM on May 2, 2008


The problem with the BushCo position (of which Scalia is a charter member), is the legal gymnastics they went through in order to ensure there was enough legal grey area that they could do as much torturing as they wanted to, and no one would go to jail, whether they saved a million lives or none at all.
posted by psmealey at 1:44 AM on May 4, 2008


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