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Gathering intelligence vs. Manufacturing intelligence: the uses of torture
April 24, 2009 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Col. Steven Kleinman, interrogation specialist, was interviewed yesterday on NPR about the use of torture in Iraq: NPR: And these harsh interrogation methods had been used by the Soviets and the Chinese to get people to say things that weren't true? Kleinman:That's true. And it's not just harsh physically, but I think the element that was more persuasive was their ability to induce what is known as debility, depression and dread through emotional and psychological techniques that profoundly altered somebody's ability to answer questions truthfully even if they wanted to. It truly undermined their ability to recall, so therefore it would call into question its efficacy in an intelligence-based interrogation. [link] .

Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind claims that the torture was not intended to gather intelligence, but to create it:

The White House simply wouldn‘t take no for an answer and it went with another method. Torture was the method. “Get me a confession, I don‘t care how you do it.” And that bled all the way through the government, both on the CIA side and the Army side. It‘s extraordinary.[link]
(via Hullabaloo)

Interestingly, research into methods used by North Korea against U.S. soldiers omit discussing torture, because it wasn't necessary:


I have not included physical torture as a general category in this
outline, despite the fact that many of our prisoners of war did en-
counter physical torture and despite the fact that a few of the specific
measures in the outline may involve physical pain. I have omitted tor-
ture from the outline to emphasize that inflicting physical pain is not
a necessary nor particularly effective method of inducing compliance. (1957)
[link]

Additional reading
posted by mecran01 (121 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
A couple of those links need fixing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2009


Things do not look good for our heroes...



our heroes = America's sense of morality, dignity, propriety, pride, etc.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:02 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard that interview. He made a huge point in that the techniques our soldiers were trained to withstand under enemy interrogation weren't intended to extract intelligence, but to extract confessions that could be used as propaganda, and for us to turn around and say that these techniques were okay because we'd used them on our own soldiers in training exercises was disingenuous simply because although they may have been determined to do no "permanent or long-lasting" harm, they simply didn't yield intelligence.

The thrust of his argument there was that any person, successfully coerced, will tell you whatever it is you wish to hear, in order to make the coercion stop.

Not like it's any news to us, but to hear it forcefully put in the national media by a member of the intelligence community seems like a big step in the right direction.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:05 AM on April 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Krugman had a blog entry that said essentially the same thing.

Krugman links to McClatchy, the link I hadn't followed until just now.

An interesting quote from McClatchy:

"A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq."

I had heard that NPR broadcast yesterday, and sat in my truck in the parking lot at Fry's, glued to the radio. It's interesting to hear how Col. Kleinman was treated by his colleagues.
posted by Xoebe at 11:05 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every time we discuss this, the terrorists win something. I haven't been able to follow the argument, so I am not sure what. Perhaps they get little tickets, like at an arcade, that they can trade in for rubber monsters to put on the eraser of their pencils.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:06 AM on April 24, 2009 [18 favorites]


Crud, sorry about the broken links.

NPR interview with Kleinman

Ron Suskind on the Rachel Madow show with Kleinman
posted by mecran01 at 11:09 AM on April 24, 2009


It wasn't until I read the Digby's Hullabaloo entry that I realized the intent behind much of the torture. Then I felt sick.
posted by mecran01 at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2009


I suggest the Bush Admin indictments should come out on July 4th, for symbolic reasons.
posted by DU at 11:17 AM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


People with a conscience will generate a lot of sound and fury over this issue, and in the end, no one will be held accountable; no one will go to jail; there will be no justice for the people we tortured

I'm sick of watching this kabuki dance where we in the American public convince ourselves of our abhorrence of our nation's wrongdoings while slowly accepting that we'll "move on". If we're not willing to punish anyone for crimes against humanity, how about we all just accept that we're complicit and stop with the faux outrage?
posted by crayz at 11:17 AM on April 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


Liz Cheney and Norah O'Donnell and Eugene Robinson on Morning Joe.
posted by Flex1970 at 11:19 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thrust of his argument there was that any person, successfully coerced, will tell you whatever it is you wish to hear, in order to make the coercion stop.

All the more reason for Army interrogators to be required to watch Reservoir Dogs. But do you think they answer my repeated, lengthy e-mails?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:21 AM on April 24, 2009


Common sense tells us that a person being tortured will utter whatever is necessary to make the torture stop (as Devils Rancher's points out above).
posted by exogenous at 11:21 AM on April 24, 2009


WE ARE AMERICA! WE DO NOT FUCKING TORTURE!
posted by photoslob at 11:22 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I wish we had this neat 'look forward, not back' rule when I broke the law." - Paula Poundstone
posted by ooga_booga at 11:24 AM on April 24, 2009 [25 favorites]


I don't know what the outcome will be, but Eric Holder better do is job according to the letter of the law. I would like to see politicians jailed, and names destroyed.
posted by Flex1970 at 11:24 AM on April 24, 2009


How many Republicans are out there who, when pressed, will not support torture, and will not defend the architects of torture? People who committed the same crimes for which we executed the Germans, Koreans and Japanese. If an American does it, it's heroic.

Increasingly, the mainstream Republican party is crossing bright and clear political lines. Points of no return. Things you don't compromise on.

In related news, I learned today that 48% of Texas Republicans want to seceed immediately.

Fuck bipartisanship. Fuck these people. Give them an outlet so they can spout their insanity where it does as little damage as possible. Then get on with the job of fixing their catastrophic mess.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


...no one will be held accountable; no one will go to jail; there will be no justice for the people we tortured

Low expectations of the government are exactly what conservatives want and have created. Congratulations.
posted by DU at 11:27 AM on April 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


For what they did to the prisoners, they should be tried. For what they did to the American Character, they should be executed.
posted by Mick at 11:29 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


WATERBOARD CHENEY.
posted by Bummus at 11:45 AM on April 24, 2009


Also, apparently an actual FBI interrogator says torture doesn't work.
posted by Bummus at 11:47 AM on April 24, 2009


Torture has been known not to work since at least the Spanish Inquisition days and probably longer. And in any case, it's illegal and immoral even if it did work.
posted by DU at 11:49 AM on April 24, 2009


I don't care if torture is the BEST way to get intelligence (which it is not). It's still illegal, it should remain illegal, and anybody who pushed it on us should be behind bars for a long, long time.

However, I'm a bit uneasy about pursuing this right now, because I'm afraid of the major pieces of Obama's agenda being sidelined by distractions. As much as I'd love to see Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush behind bars, I'd rather see some form of universal health care, clean energy, and an improved education system even more. If we can have BOTH (agenda and prosecutions), well, that'd be ideal, but I'm a little scared that the distractions related to the torture stuff might cost us as a nation big-time. Hopefully I am wrong about that, because it appears that the torture stuff is going to proceed, one way or another.

I can't even express how angry I am about this torture business. Someone high up decided that our morality -- MY morality -- was something that could be sacrificed. I served this country honorably for four years, in combat and out, but if torture had been a part of our interrogation strategy then, I never would have joined at all. We must never, never, EVER go down this road again. It's a travesty that this happened, and completely against the will of We The People and the laws of our land.
posted by jamstigator at 11:50 AM on April 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


As much as I'd love to see Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush behind bars, I'd rather see some form of universal health care, clean energy, and an improved education system even more.

I know what you mean, but I'm not sure I actually *do* want the goodies so much I'm willing to sell my soul.

Also, as a practical matter, the more conservatives on trial in The Hague, the fewer there are to cast regressive votes in Congress or muddy the waters on TV.
posted by DU at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Glenn Beck made some interesting points the other night that although torture probably doesn't work all the time, it may work sometimes, and for that reason, it's a necessary evil. I'll try to find a Youtube clip so you can check it out.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2009


My fear is that this will go to trial, and big names will be frog marched out and that they will all be acquitted. Oh, the frog-marching will be satisfying, but the next decade of "See, I was innocent" pronouncements will be maddening.

Unless there are some pretty open and shut, air-tight cases out there that can be prosecuted with a reasonably good chance of success, this could turn into something where the U.S. legal system appears to support torture, even if the defendants just get off on technicalities.

Totally evil people.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:56 AM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The tortured Iraq-al-Qaida connection
posted by adamvasco at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2009


I know what you mean, but I'm not sure I actually *do* want the goodies so much I'm willing to sell my soul.

I'm going to guess you've got health insurance.
posted by enn at 12:00 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


how about we all just accept that we're complicit and stop with the faux outrage?

My outrage is not "faux." It is real, and heartfelt, and runs deep.

The point is, if we don't do something, the message we send is, if you get elected to the right office, you can do anything you want, even break national law and international treaties, and never face consequences. This is not rule of law. It is despotism encouraged by lack of will.

The international message we will be sending if we don't bring multiple persons to trial over this will be one that encourages more angry foreigners to find ways to do the equivalent of flying airplanes into tall buildings.
posted by hippybear at 12:02 PM on April 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


U.S. Soldier Committed Suicide Rather Than Participate in Torture
posted by ornate insect at 12:03 PM on April 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm going to guess you've got health insurance.

Barely, but your point is taken.
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on April 24, 2009


1 - Glenn Beck is an idiot. In my not-nationally-syndicated opinion, "Sometimes effective" equals "necessary evil" only in the case of, say, substituting orange juice for eggs in a pancake recipe because your best friend is vegan, or wearing a seatbelt against a naked chest on a hot day.

2 - That Paula Poundstone quote is money. Favorited.

3 - Dear god in heaven when will we hear national leadership start refuting that bullshit "let's not play the blame game" rhetoric with "it's called accountability?"

I'm going to the store to get more quotation marks. brb.
posted by ZakDaddy at 12:06 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


My fear is that this will go to trial, and big names will be frog marched out and that they will all be acquitted. Oh, the frog-marching will be satisfying, but the next decade of "See, I was innocent" pronouncements will be maddening.

Unless there are some pretty open and shut, air-tight cases out there that can be prosecuted with a reasonably good chance of success, this could turn into something where the U.S. legal system appears to support torture, even if the defendants just get off on technicalities.


What, like in a court? No, no. Let's have a military tribunal.

Confessions are pretty air-tight. Do we care how we get them?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Pastabagel: you're listening to that freakish Beck who cries on camera, weeping for his country, as some sort of authority on whether we should torture or not?

But then, you watch his show. You're already inoculated against torture by repeated exposure.

A full-scale domestic telephone listening campaign would also "work sometimes." That doesn't mean that it is morally right for the government to listen in on all its citizens' phone calls.

That goes doubly-so for the moral quagmire that is inflicting harm on someone to extract information. Either we have standards, or we don't.

In which case, thank goodness I live close to Canada. I wouldn't want to keep living here if torture remains an approved tool beyond the tenure of the Shrubbery.
posted by hippybear at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


What jamstigator said. I worry that the firestorm set off by torture prosecutions will consume the rest of Obama's presidency. I also worry that no matter how it proceeds, it will be seen as political prosecutions by those on the right, justifying their own political prosecutions when they next have their hands on the levers of power.

though of course, Don Siegelman shows they hardly ever needed an excuse. I guess I'll nervously back whatever course Obama decides to take on this. It might unfortunately come down to doing The Right Thing, at great political cost.

I'm quite literally sick to my stomach. And then I flip on the television and see the shouting heads actually justifying this shit. Karl Rove saying that "now all these methods are ruined!" And I wonder where the fuck am I? What the hell happened that we've actually sunk to this point, where there is a "TORTURE DEBATE." THERE IS A FUCKING PRO TORTURE ARGUMENT. Being made by people considered to be mainstream political figures, not just idiots who watch too much 24. The center-left President I worked so hard to elect is actually legitimizing the Nuremburg Defense.

Congratulations, terrorists, you won. I'm fucking terrified.
posted by ScotchRox at 12:08 PM on April 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


People with a conscience will generate a lot of sound and fury over this issue, and in the end, no one will be held accountable; no one will go to jail; ... If we're not willing to punish anyone for crimes against humanity, how about we all just accept that we're complicit and stop with the faux outrage?

I think that the architects and people who signed off on this should be tried and sentenced. Not just for the crime of torture, for the additional crime of subverting the effectiveness of our intelligence apparatus (we all want to find and select the evidence we're looking for, but manufacturing it, particularly by torture, is vile from both an human rights and an effective security standpoint). So, yeah, I'm on the outrage page. Now what? What does someone who feels this way do?

Do I call up my senators and reps? They all seem interested in "moving on." I suppose I could try to gather a critical mass of voters who are willing to be singe issue voters on this issue, but I don't know if that's even possible, given that (a) some large portion of Americans seem to think they're voting against Jack Bauer if they don't support torture and (b) I'm not even sure that as strongly as I feel about this, I'm a single issue voter.

So even in the face of these wrongs -- and other wrongs, like some pretty large-scale irresponsibility of the vaunted private markets -- I'm at a complete loss at how to get civil power correctly wielded to bring consequences down as part of an effort to get a working system. I recognize there's always extra-legal options, but anybody who signs up for this is basically going to be sacrificing their life. Are you willing to bear the consequences of personally carrying out justice on someone like, say, Cheney? Even assuming you are, the actual consequences of the act aren't necessarily clear, given there's enough people who for whatever reasons still see him as a symbol of leadership they believed in.

So I don't know what to do other than ranting on the internet and occasionally talking to my acquaintances about why I think torture is both wrong and stupid.
posted by weston at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2009


And of course Glen Beck thinks torture is a necessary evil. He's out there torturing the truth, public dialogue, and some portion of his listeners every day.

So much of my personal circle listens to him that even though I think there are worse hacks out there, there's no one I'd rather see go away.
posted by weston at 12:13 PM on April 24, 2009


So I don't know what to do other than ranting on the internet and occasionally talking to my acquaintances about why I think torture is both wrong and stupid.

I'm thinking seriously about making up 4 or 5 t-shirts (now that the weather is warming up) that say "TRY THEM FOR TORTURE" in some kind of Frankie Say Relax manner... and wearing ONLY those shirts for the next few weeks/months.
posted by hippybear at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Al-Qaida's plot to bomb the Library Tower was not worth torturing anyone over.
posted by homunculus at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2009


As much as I'd love to see Cheney and Rumsfeld and Bush behind bars, I'd rather see some form of universal health care, clean energy, and an improved education system even more.

First of all, this really shouldn't be a consideration. And second of all, It's not all that clear to me why torture inqueries would really make those things less likely, in the worst case they might be delayed a couple of years.

But lets look at this politically for a moment. As I see it successful torture prosecutions would consign the Republican Party to the dustbin of history (where it belongs). They've already lost younger generations, and do you really think that kids growing up hearing about torture prosecutions growing up would really go out and vote for the party that defended it?

So if we're going to "talk politics" let's talk politics realistically, and not simply take it as a given that prosecutions would be politically "bad". It might make people who are a part of the establishment, who are friends with the republicans and used to republican control of D.C. uncomfortable. But having people in D.C. be uncomfortable isn't the same thing as being politically problematic.

The other day the chair of the republican senate committee actually said he didn't think that the republicans would get up to 60 senate votes in 2010. If that happens, the republicans will be a non-issue. And we can get legislation passed via the 'reconciliation' process, and get around a filibuster in the short term.
posted by delmoi at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2009


Trials are fine, if American society can avoid the "we have to stop everything and watch every move of the trial every day". No time for that, too many other problems. Which is probably why the trials will happen, it'll be a great distraction from actually doing shit about the problems and we can at least feel better about being bankrupt and out of work: hey, we're putting an end to torture. I know this 'cause it's on tv every damn day.

The insistence on handwringing and examining the nation's soul are almost as bad as the environment that supported the torture, with that damn meticulous self absorption.

America is not composed of heroes who can do no wrong. We are human, like every other damn country and we can do terrible things at times. Throw the fuckers who did this bad shit in jail, revise things as best we can to make sure this doesn't happen and lets move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sick of watching this kabuki dance where we in the American public convince ourselves of our abhorrence of our nation's wrongdoings while slowly accepting that we'll "move on
--crayz

I disagree. Just recognizing and then stopping the torture is a huge accomplishment in its own right.
posted by eye of newt at 12:28 PM on April 24, 2009


I'm thinking seriously about making up 4 or 5 t-shirts (now that the weather is warming up) that say "TRY THEM FOR TORTURE" in some kind of Frankie Say Relax manner... and wearing ONLY those shirts for the next few weeks/months.

Comic Sans. It's proven effective against office-refrigerator-food-stealers, though technically, is use is torture.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:30 PM on April 24, 2009


eye of newt: it's a nice concept, until you realize that, since these memos have been released, we are in violation of international agreements and treaties which insist that, when proof of torture is uncovered, the perpetrators be brought to trial.
posted by hippybear at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


some large portion of Americans seem to think they're voting against Jack Bauer if they don't support torture

Funny you should mention that. I don't know what I expected over at Redstate, but for some reason the level of stupidity here actually surprised me:

The low level guys, the Jack Bauers if you will, are seeing all of this. They see a President right now who made tough decisions in secret and stood by those decisions when they became public, even though those decisions were hugely unpopular. The low level guys intrinsically knew they could kill bad men in undisclosed locations and be supported if the lights came on.

WHAT. THE. FUCK. I always use the example of 24 to be flippantly dismissive of people who support torture. But apparently they actually. think. that. way. The thrust of that post, btw, is that Obama's actions will make Jack Bauer sad, and sad Jack Bauer won't be able to stop the attack at the last second.

I won't even touch the whole "The CIA can't kill people in secret gulags any more and that's bad" angle. I think I liked it better when people at least denied these things were happening, instead of acknowledging and condoning it.
posted by ScotchRox at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2009


Devils Rancher: you've never seen a Frankie t-shirt, then. Comic Sans was nowhere near that marketing campaign.
posted by hippybear at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2009


Trials are fine, if American society can avoid the "we have to stop everything and watch every move of the trial every day".

Right, that's why the Economy ground to a halt during the O.J. Trial.

Seriously, the media stops everything and concentrates on one trial, but people who are not in the media don't. There's no reason why congress couldn't also work on bills for health care and climate change while the trials are going on. Senators and congresspeople don't just stop working when there's a "trial of the century" going on.

A lot of people seem to confuse media coverage with reality. Yeah, there will be a lot of hand-wringing on T.V. But so what?
posted by delmoi at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's also come out that Cheney was pushing HARD to get evidence of an Al Qaeda / Iraq connection. He just wanted to push these guys until they said it.
posted by xammerboy at 12:33 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


This article has a long list of interrogation experts who all say that torture doesn't work.
posted by eye of newt at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2009


Obsidian Wings has some great debate in the many threads inspired by the release of the torture memos, such as, what's the difference between "I was just following orders" vs "The OLC said it was legal, so I went ahead and..."? There's lots of back-and-forth throughout the threads about best methods for pulling off successful prosecutions, theories about how to lay the groundwork, cautions about what could backfire, comparisons/contrasts with Nuremberg (at the moment, I can't find a link for this last one, sorry)...

From one of the commenters there, directed at those who want to encourage timely institutional movement on this: "Impeachment of any federal official must begin in the House Judiciary Committee. If your representative is a member, write to him or her. If not, write to the chair, the Hon. John Conyers, Jr. Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman states the case well for impeaching Bybee; share his thoughts with your representatives."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck made some interesting points the other night that although torture probably doesn't work all the time, it may work sometimes, and for that reason, it's a necessary evil. I'll try to find a Youtube clip so you can check it out.

Was this a serious comment?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2009


Pastabagel: you're listening to that freakish Beck who cries on camera, weeping for his country, as some sort of authority on whether we should torture or not?

Hey, I don't know anything about that but he made sense when he said that sometimes we need to make some tough decisions. It's like crime. You have to be tough on crime. Just like torture. You don't want to be soft on crime, right? So you gotta be tough on torture. Makes sense to me.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2009


WHAT. THE. FUCK. I always use the example of 24 to be flippantly dismissive of people who support torture. But apparently they actually. think. that. way. The thrust of that post, btw, is that Obama's actions will make Jack Bauer sad, and sad Jack Bauer won't be able to stop the attack at the last second.

There are a lot of crazy people at the CIA. Remember the imaginary "Whitey Tape"? that kept getting hyped as the primaries came to a close? One of the biggest promoters of the story was Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent, and Hillary backer.

Bill Clinton's CIA director was also a nutcase who bought into a whole Saddam/Al Quaeda conspiracy and Wrote an Op. Ed tying Saddam to the attacks on September 13th, 2001.

In my view, anyone who's going to lose morale because we don't torture and hold those who do accountable doesn't need to be in the CIA or working for the government at all. There are plenty of people who would be more enthusiastic to work for the government if they knew we didn't torture, and we could simply replace these sad sacks with people who want to work for an ethical government.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


jamstigator: "It's a travesty that this happened, and completely against the will of We The People and the laws of our land."

I can't recall the exact numbers, but a panelist on the Diane Rehm Show this morning cited a recent poll showing that a minority of Americans opposed torture in all cases. The remainder was split between supporting it in extreme cases and supporting it wholeheartedly.

The is perhaps the most depressing thing about this issue. I mean, a handful of high-level bureacrats authorizing torture is outrageous, but the fact that a majority of Americans approve of it after the fact is incredibly depressing.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


How do we know that torture still isn't going on. Dozens of Prisoners Held by CIA Still Missing, Fates Unknown. The back holes are very dark indeed. The CIA says it doesn't comment on ghost prisoners, because lists of them are "typically flawed."
posted by adamvasco at 12:45 PM on April 24, 2009


Was this a serious comment?
posted by dirigibleman at 3:39 PM on April 24


No, it was a joke that bombed so horribly it read like a statement of fact. Ditto my other comment. I'll stop being a nuisance and leave now.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:48 PM on April 24, 2009


Hey, I don't know anything about that but he made sense when he said that sometimes we need to make some tough decisions. It's like crime. You have to be tough on crime. Just like torture. You don't want to be soft on crime, right? So you gotta be tough on torture. Makes sense to me.

Huh? Your earlier comment said that torture was a necessary evil. Now you're saying we need to be tough on torture. Which is it?

Now Glenn Beck is certifiable, so I assume your first comment was intended to be sarcastic. He thinks we're becoming fascist and he's opposed to that, yet he wants the government to be able to torture people. I think there are a few inconsistencies in his worldview (and the rest of the the teabagers') that need to be worked out.
posted by delmoi at 12:50 PM on April 24, 2009


"It's like crime. You have to be tough on crime. Just like torture. You don't want to be soft on crime, right? So you gotta be tough on torture. Makes sense to me."

That's the stupidest thing I've read all day. And I've read some really stupid things today.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:52 PM on April 24, 2009


No, it was a joke that bombed so horribly it read like a statement of fact.

Heh. I should have previewed :P
posted by delmoi at 12:52 PM on April 24, 2009


Pastabagel, please put a ;) in your posts to identify your cryptic sarcasm. Seriously.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:53 PM on April 24, 2009


Transcript of the Liz Cheney interview linked above.
posted by acro at 12:59 PM on April 24, 2009


As I see it successful torture prosecutions would consign the Republican Party to the dustbin of history (where it belongs).

Interesting angle delmoi, I hadn't thought of it like that. I suppose I was falling into the same trap that us pointy-headed liberals often do, worrying overmuch about the opinions of the masses that I have little frame of reference on. One of the reasons Obama got elected was because he deliberately did not do that; he treated Americans like adults and didn't talk down to them or avoid tough issues like race.

Perhaps you're right, and if the bloviating by the shouting heads isn't as representative as it seems, the American people can respond positively to these hypothetical trials. Making the Republicans into the Torture Party could be Obama's best politcial stroke to date. I still think he needs to tread carefully, though.

and Torture Party sounds like either a terrible metal band or terrible boardgame. Either way, do not want.
posted by ScotchRox at 12:59 PM on April 24, 2009


No, it was a joke that bombed so horribly it read like a statement of fact. Ditto my other comment. I'll stop being a nuisance and leave now.
Hey, I laughed at the second one.
posted by Floydd at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2009


Right, that's why the Economy ground to a halt during the O.J. Trial.

The economy is grinding to a halt now and people are calling for Congress to form truth panels or commissions before they even get to trials for a Vice-President and other government officials, which OJ was not.

I liken it to the impeachment circus.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2009


Devils Rancher: you've never seen a Frankie t-shirt, then. Comic Sans was nowhere near that marketing campaign.

"IMPACT! Don't do it ... "
posted by joe lisboa at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2009


The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means

posted by acro at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2009


STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Today, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United States declares its strong solidarity with torture victims across the world. Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit. Beating, burning, rape, and electric shock are some of the grisly tools such regimes use to terrorize their own citizens. These despicable crimes cannot be tolerated by a world committed to justice....

The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy. I further urge governments to join America and others in supporting torture victims' treatment centers, contributing to the UN Fund for the Victims of Torture, and supporting the efforts of non-governmental organizations to end torture and assist its victims.

No people, no matter where they reside, should have to live in fear of their own government. Nowhere should the midnight knock foreshadow a nightmare of state-commissioned crime. The suffering of torture victims must end, and the United States calls on all governments to assume this great mission. [Emphasis added]

-- George W. Bush
posted by caddis at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


(Sorry for the de-rail on such a serious topic. Carry on. Oh, and I never thought these words would ever pass my lips, but: what Shep Smith said.)
posted by joe lisboa at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2009


I want CIA agents to be afraid of prosecution when they go to interrogate a prisoner.

If selfish fear of prosecution is the only thing that prevents them from doing something immoral and reprehensable, then so be it. Perhaps they should also be treated for their sociopathy while they are at it as well in that case.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:11 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm so sorry. I posted the wrong Liz Cheney interview earlier. Here is the good one.
posted by Flex1970 at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2009


The CIA says it doesn't comment on ghost prisoners, because lists of them are "typically flawed."

See, take this guy right here for example, he's not a ghost prisoner, we beat him to death last October...
posted by Pollomacho at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2009


Sean Hannity minimizes torture by implying waterboarding is no big deal and off-handedly volunteers to be waterboarded. Keith Olbermann calls his bluff by offering $1000 a second to charity for as long as Hannity endures it.

I'm guessing Hannity conveniently forgets his offer.
posted by Justinian at 1:19 PM on April 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Do I call up my senators and reps? They all seem interested in "moving on."

Yes, you call them up. The wave of outrage over the last few days has had the effect of making investigations more likely. It is possible to get Congress to move.


To those saying they'd rather have health-care reform or whatever than torture prosecutions, the already linked-to Krugman blog has an answer - it's not either/or. The people who'd be investigating and prosecuting the torturers are not the people who'd be reforming health-care or fixing the economy or anything else not directly involving DoJ. We need this done, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:21 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sean Hannity minimizes torture by implying waterboarding is no big deal and off-handedly volunteers to be waterboarded. Keith Olbermann calls his bluff by offering $1000 a second to charity for as long as Hannity endures it.

Oh yes. I hope this has legs.
posted by exogenous at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2009


It's also come out that Cheney was pushing HARD to get evidence of an Al Qaeda / Iraq connection. He just wanted to push these guys until they said it.

The traditional objections to torture (you know, apart from the important one, that it is morally wrong) are starting to seem less and less like a problem.

It doesn't work! You don't gain anything useful! Sure, but it terrorizes the enemy and permits us to indulge sadistic impulses.

They'll say whatever you want them to! Really...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2009


I'm not especially good at making arguments based on ethics and morals. Indeed, I suppose I'm a bit of a moral relativist much of the time. I'm agnostic - well, more to the point, I don't especially care if there is or isn't some sort of higher moral authority. If something doesn't make sense to me its usually because it defies my own misguided code of logic and common sense.

To that extent, I oppose torture on the grounds that it does not work and because evidence seems to suggest that it makes situations worse for everyone involved.

Furthermore, I tend to ramble, and for this I apologize.

However, my understanding is that a good number of people that support torture are people who have a very clear and specific set of morals based on their religion.

One of the precept of morality, certainly of Christian morality, is "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

Its sort of a ridiculously simple, easy to remember precept. Note that it doesn't say "unto your friends" or "unto your fellow believers," it simply says "others." This was Jesus talking, so when he says "others," I think its probably safe to assume that if he wanted his followers to take this as "certain others" or "others except for specific groups," he would have specified that.

Now, I've always liked this precept because it has a certain logical sense about it. To whit, if one person treats another person with civility, and the other person responds with civility, a lot more can get done to their mutual benefit. In essence, both people are more likely to get at least a little more of whatever they want through dealing with each other fairly and civilly. It sort of has a touch of game theory embedded in it, but I digress.

Anyhow, back to the golden rule, it strikes me that many of the people who believe that the "do unto others" sentiment is the word of God are choosing to ignore this very simple ethical instruction when they support torture. Clearly, they would not want to be tortured if they didn't have any useful information. I suspect they wouldn't want to be tortured even if they had useful information.

Perhaps they are thinking "ethically, by choosing to torture, I am saving lives and I must value saving those lives over treating this person the way Jesus has asked me to treat him."

Of course, this is a short sighted view. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that torture just increases your enemy's hatred of you. In the short term, you might imagine your saving lives, but in the long run, you are increasing the odds of prolonged bloodshed and hatred. And, of course, evidence suggests that you're not saving lives anyways.

Since torture flies in the face of both logic and my limited understanding of ethics, I jump to a ill formed and perhaps even illogical opinion, but one that seems to make sense to me.

I believe one reason that Cheney et al support torture for the same reason that the Roman Emperors of old support gladiator combat and feeding Christians to lions. Specifically, because its entertaining to them and to their supporters. On some very base level, for many people, seeing people you despise suffer is very satisfying. It doesn't especially matter if its the right people or not. You despise "them," whomever they are, and that person getting waterboarding could possibly be one of them, so just knowing that they're suffering feels good.

Perhaps it is unkind of me to believe that Cheney et al just simply enjoy torture - or at least the idea of torture, since I have a hard time believe Cheney would be willing to be present while somebody was being tortured - but I really believe that that is what we, the anti-torture crowd, are up against.

Equivocate about useless "useful information" or the fallacious "ticking time bomb" scenario all they want - they just feel happy when they know somebody is suffering for 9/11. It makes no logical sense. I don't think it makes any ethical sense (though, again, ethics aren't my strong point).

It just feels right to them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:32 PM on April 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


The Geneva Convention is United States law. It also requires Obama to prosecute torture. By not prosecuting the men who literally have blood on their hands, Obama is breaking United States law.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:36 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe one reason that Cheney et al support torture for the same reason that the Roman Emperors of old support gladiator combat and feeding Christians to lions.

as Orwell said it:

One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture.
posted by empath at 1:39 PM on April 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


"How many Republicans are out there who, when pressed, will not support torture, and will not defend the architects of torture? People who committed the same crimes for which we executed the Germans, Koreans and Japanese. If an American does it, it's heroic."

I think it speaks volumes about the American people that Bushco took all the steps they did in order to circumvent the rules regarding torture and the methods to hide it.
I wouldn't say that's uniquely American however. The world has taken some large steps, Japan and the Koreas in particular, regarding human rights and treatment of prisoners.
I'd say it's more of a betrayal if an American does it though. We're not bound by an ethnicity or regional commonalities, religion, all the usual things that led to making up nations.
(more on that after this)

"I'd rather see some form of universal health care, clean energy, and an improved education system even more. If we can have BOTH (agenda and prosecutions), well, that'd be ideal"

I would lose a testicle if it meant we could have both. But I'd rather have torture first in line after we save the country from the immediate crisis.
Not that all those aren't crucial, and hell, not that energy isn't an immediate dire necessity (given the global warming stuff that's coming out now). But those can be tasked to other departments.
This strikes at the heart of what America is supposed to be. Not at what we are. We have been complete bastards at times. But we have had our moments where we've lived up to - or attempted to live up to - our ideals.

Allowing the torturers to go unscathed, allowing the issue to be buried or not be addressed, would strike at the heart of who we are. Exactly because we're not all French or Japanese or any other ethnicity. We don't have anything in common that makes us a nation EXCEPT those ideals.
We might fail to live up to them. But what we can't do is dismiss them. Then we're not America anymore. We would have no national character.
If the French tortured - well, they're still French. Maybe they change, maybe not, but the things that define the French people would all still be there.

We let this drop, then there would be literally nothing to define us because we wouldn't stand for anything.
Maybe we will blow it. But we have to try.

---
I heard this interview. Pretty clear a while ago Bushco was trying to manufacture intel and maybe torture someone into standing up for it. Doesn't look like it worked, but then, it didn't need to. But ahh, sweet arrogance and pride. Always the downfall of evil.
Hell, Cheney might as well be monologuing like a supervillian at this point.

But one thing the hawks never hear, which pisses me off, which the Col. was good enough to spell out - you don't let the adversary dictate your actions.

I wouldn't say folks who've never been in the military don't have the right to speak on, for, against, whatever, a war or war politics. But it really really really helps to know what you're talking about.
I hear "but *they* behead people, *they* torture!" and it just resonates like "But Smed! We have to attack that small force in that canyon, they've been harassing our much larger force and we chased them all the way here and now they're trapped! Plus, they called us jerks!" And it's an ambush. Go figure.

Same pitfalls in making policy.

Additionally, even if torture worked - and I will emphatically state it doesn't by any stretch of the imagination serve any useful policy other than that despicable case which Bushco apparently intended it for - if you create a cadre of torturers you might as well introduce a praetorian guard as well. You have a force which basically scares the hell out of everyone and breeds psychopathy. The Praetorians started out as a swell idea too.

Even if torture 'worked' perfectly (and it don't work at all) it's not worth having torturers in any political system. They will always devolve into a corrupt and mercenary political unit, with the added bonus they're unempathetic and venal ('cos, y'know, they fucking torture people).

And ultimately, torture always is a response by power when seeking orthodoxy. The point is never the tortured subject (because torture does not work as interrogation and everyone who knows anything about it knows it) but to terrify people into submission and away from heterodoxy.
Damn shame anyone could think any good could ever come of such a thing.
But we had McCarthyism, the American Protective League, all that. We eventually came back to our senses. We keep forgetting that price of liberty being vigilance thing (and blood of tyrants and patriots).
...but only some of us.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


But what would Jack Bauer do?

In the real world starting in 2001 government officials wrote memos about torture and contemplated invasion, while TV was exploring the morality of torture in 24. Two new books look at this topic from a philosophical perspective: Jack Bauer for President: Terrorism and Politics in 24 and 24 and Philosophy: The World According to Jack.
posted by mfoight at 1:55 PM on April 24, 2009


"No, it was a joke that bombed so horribly it read like a statement of fact."
I don't know, I laughed. But then, I get a chuckle out of any time someone says "Glenn Beck" pretending to be serious. Like, I dunno, "The Cubs." Just makes you laugh if you say it completely straightfaced to someone.

Alyssa Peterson - RIP.

And the other thing is - all torturers think their reasons are good. That even if they do think it's evil that - oh, in THIS case, we have to.
Milomir Stakić is an interesting individual. Reminds me of Cheney. If you get a chance, watch "Calling the Ghosts" - those people were in many cases the legitimate authorities, police, politicians, etc.
Point being - everyone thinks they have a good reason.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This strikes at the heart of what America is supposed to be.

This is what I'm talking, this belief that America has some moral compass or DNA that prevents us from this. These superman stories only serve to the brutal truth that harder to accept and deal with.

It's similar to "How could anyone attack us, we're the good guys?!" meme after 9/11. Prosecute this people because it's the wrong thing to do, not because it's some crisis of American society or psyche.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really it comes down to this for the Glenn Beckers: if torture is a necessary evil, then WHY DID WE SIGN TREATIES AGREEING IT WAS EVIL??? If it is a necessary evil, then it is ALWAYS a necessary evil and we should put our money where our mouth is and not going around signing treaties to look like we don't think it's a necessary evil. Don't sign a fucking treaty that doesn't reflect your actual beliefs. But of course, when all is peacey and quiet and shit it's not politically expedient to say 'nope, can't sign this, torture is a necessary evil and we want it in our tool box in case someone flies a couple of planes into our buildings.'. I'd like to see the talk radio and sunday political shows for pushing THAT idea. That would be awesome.
posted by spicynuts at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really it comes down to this for the Glenn Beckers: if torture is a necessary evil, then WHY DID WE SIGN TREATIES AGREEING IT WAS EVIL???

Aw, that's just what we call pillow talk, baby.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2009


The economy is grinding to a halt now and people are calling for Congress to form truth panels or commissions before they even get to trials for a Vice-President and other government officials, which OJ was not.

I liken it to the impeachment circus.
Clinton was currently the president at the time, so obviously it still took up his time. But bush and Cheney are not in government any more, and so their time is not all that important. Congress normally will have some congresspersons working on this (a particular committee) and the rest of the congress will keep on keepin' on. There is no reason why having something some people whine about being a "circus" would actually prevent any policy from passing. It would upset the republicans, but they are refusing to go along with any legislation anyway.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2009


as an american, i am deeply saddened and ashmaned that we have become a nations to tortures.
posted by Flood at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Prosecute this people because it's the wrong thing to do, not because it's some crisis of American society or psyche.

As has been pointed out above, most Americans do not believe it's the wrong thing to do. And that is never going to change. Because most Americans see America as the victim in this particular war (which, of course, we were). Once you look at a situation from the perspective of a victim, all casual outrage at doing horrible things is gone. Just look at the Death Penalty debate. If you ask most Americans if the people in the Congo should be prosecuted for torturing their political enemies (yes, I am extremely simplifying the situation in Congo to make a point) then I guarantee NO American would defend torture. But America gets put in the crosshairs and it's an entirely different story, and I challenge any other country's citizenry to act differently. It's just inherent emotional reaction of the vast majority of people who don't have time to be considering nuance. Period. And that will never change.

I just wish politicians would stop the lip service and make Americans face the truth of ourselves and most of humanity for that matter: that in a good number of circumstances we will torture the piss out of some fuckers because we are scared and so would most nations.
posted by spicynuts at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2009


I recall a great parody of the Iran/Contra hearings in Bloom County, a comic strip many of you are likely too young to remember.

In that comic strip, an alien force has killed thousands. The aliens are, of course, hauled in front of congress for a hearing. Turns out the aliens look like adorable puppies and make patriotic speeches. By the end of the strip, the congressmen have gone from condemning the aliens to patting them on the back and denouncing anyone who was ever against the aliens.

Cheney, fortunately, looks like a well-fed version of Gollum, so maybe there's hope.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:52 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Such a gray frontier between justice and injustice. Was it worth it, debasing ourselves to gain some fragments of information from these toads? In this case, probably not. Can it ever be worth it? Of course it can; we are not above it. As an example: the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - unfathomable brutality and just necessity, in coexistence.

Brecht:

What vileness would you not commit to
exterminate vileness?
Could you change the world, for what
would you be too good?
Who are you?
Sink into the mire,
embrace the butcher, but
change the world, it needs it.

posted by kurtroehl at 2:56 PM on April 24, 2009


As an example: the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - unfathomable brutality and just necessity, in coexistence.

I'm sure no one will ever see a solution to aggressions overseas in nuking America. I guess you'd take comfort in the math behind it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:08 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I recall a great parody of the Iran/Contra hearings in Bloom County, a comic strip many of you are likely too young to remember.

I have a collection of Bloom County strips with that story in it. The strip when the alien first appears to testify is great.

"Big trouble, he's telegenic."

"Damnit Lindenblum, you told me he looks like the Blob!"
"No, I said you do."
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:11 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


as an american, i am deeply saddened and ashmaned that we have become a nations to tortures.
posted by Flood at 5:37 PM on April 24 [+] [!]


You said it, borther!
posted by BobFrapples at 3:18 PM on April 24, 2009


How fucked is it that they've managed to turn mass murderers like KSM into martyrs?
posted by empath at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2009


Politicians have always been evil scumbags. It's the media you should go after for failing to give the people the tools to hold them in check. It's also the media you should be trying to influence to try and fix things.
posted by srboisvert at 3:37 PM on April 24, 2009


Prof. Jonathan Turley on Hardball.
posted by Flex1970 at 3:38 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


our heroes = America's sense of morality, dignity, propriety, pride, etc.

Why not ask the Native Americans what they think of 'our heroes'? Because the 1830's were not kind to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:45 PM on April 24, 2009


That the sorts of confessions that are coaxed out under the duress of torture have any useful ties to reality seems idiotic, given the long history of false confessions that even normal police interrogations have produced in a few high profile cases. I was just reading an article recently on The Beatrice Six. Even now, two of the falsely convicted people are unsure of their own memories and still believe they might have been involved, although it's been proven otherwise. Their mental state was and still is so fragile that they are unable to differentiate between fantasy, authoritative suggestions, and actual memories.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:59 PM on April 24, 2009


Do I call up my senators and reps? They all seem interested in "moving on."

Yes, you call them up.


Actually... the last three times I've been moved about a topic enough to call my lawmakers, I've called both their local and their D.C. offices, and have each time been told that snail mail or email is the best way to communicate your opinion about something.

I asked if the mail that they are sent actually gets read, and how do I know if I send an email it won't just get filtered into a spam folder and never read, and I was assured that all mail received was read, and that their spam filters were "not set broadly" or something like that.

The takeaway? Write a letter on paper and put a stamp on it and mail it to your congress critter. It will be read, and will be noted. Emails may not be received, and phone calls (mine at least) will be deferred.
posted by hippybear at 4:39 PM on April 24, 2009


There goes the rule of law.
posted by kldickson at 4:46 PM on April 24, 2009


Such a gray frontier between justice and injustice. Was it worth it, debasing ourselves to gain some fragments of information from these toads? In this case, probably not. Can it ever be worth it? Of course it can; we are not above it. As an example: the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.../

That might or might not be so, but it is the sort of edge case professional ethicists can write books about.

I am perfectly happy that waterboarding an insane dude 183 times to learn nothing in the hope that he will confess something to justify a war you have already planned is not such an edge case. There was no end that those means could justify.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:32 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is someone gonna coy ted that Brecht quote up there with Alyosha from Brothers Karamazov?
posted by spicynuts at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2009


One thing can be stated with absolute confidence:

Nothing will happen if no one does anything.

Take a half-hour out of your busy life and write your representatives.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:04 PM on April 24, 2009


Gen. John Batiste on KO.
posted by Flex1970 at 6:06 PM on April 24, 2009


Politicians have always been evil scumbags. It's the media you should go after for failing to give the people the tools to hold them in check. It's also the media you should be trying to influence to try and fix things.
posted by srboisvert at 6:37 PM on April 24 [+] [!]


That sounds like when my kids say, "It's not my fault I didn't get my homework done, you forgot to remind me."
posted by caddis at 6:41 PM on April 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I will use my first comment as a new member right here.

Waterboarding is torture, torture is illegal, and it is illegal for a reason.

Look, we are arguing the obvious. This is crazy. Why would Cheney suddenly appear out of his lair to drop the "T" bomb, for no apparent reason? He has robots for that.

I believe this is a distraction to prevent further travel down the road to Abu-Gahrib, a place where no defense exists. As long as the focus is on parsing the universally accepted, the universally abhorred goes unnoticed.

The crime is in Iraq, and not in Cuba.

I won't link drop, but I have recently posted a complete legal shut down of this insanity. It was pretty easy LOL. Crap, of course I'll link drop.

And so ends my first comment - thanks all.
posted by Aetius Romulous at 7:02 PM on April 24, 2009


The David Addington defense.

Obama ordered the assassination of pirates. Some may have been minors, so the President has the legal authority to murder children. If the President can authorize killing, then torture, a less deadly reaction, is also completely legal for a president to authorize.

Wouldn't it have been better to keelhaul the pirates than kill them?

Bush was defending freedom, Obama is a baby killer.
posted by phoque at 7:25 PM on April 24, 2009


Fuck the pirates.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 PM on April 24, 2009


killing them is moral, fucking them is cruel and unusual punishment, especially if GW does it
posted by caddis at 7:38 PM on April 24, 2009


I think the equation is pretty simple:

Terrorists are evil. George W. Bush tortured terrorists, which was evil. Therefore, W compounded evil with evil, and made himself worse than terrorists.

Pirates are awesome. Obama is powerful enough to kill pirates, which was awesome. Obama added awesome to awesome. Therefore, Obama is more awesome than pirates.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:41 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


War war is stupid
And people are stupid
And love means nothing
In some strange quarters
posted by Flex1970 at 8:36 PM on April 24, 2009


"This is what I'm talking, this belief that America has some moral compass or DNA that prevents us from this. These superman stories only serve to the brutal truth that harder to accept and deal with. It's similar to "How could anyone attack us, we're the good guys?!" meme after 9/11. Prosecute this people because it's the wrong thing to do, not because it's some crisis of American society or psyche."
posted by Brandon Blatcher

Uh...yeah, that's why I mentioned the main unifying thing the country has is principles. An idea. the constitution. It goes without saying torture is the wrong thing to do. At least apparently, and fortunately, in this thread.

There's no Superman story there. It's no more miraculous than the time I went and got milled lumber, plans, hired a crew, got contractors to dig an pour a foundation and incredibly, (through what you may interpret as some superhuman story or intrinsic nature of DNA) a house got built.
I know, because I built the fucking thing. Not by myself, but my sweat went in there.

So what I was saying is that it takes hard work to keep a society together. Any society really. But the U.S. even more so, because doing the hard work is all we've got.

We stop doing it - it stops happening and nothing gets built.
Somethings you can half ass or tear out and redo or put in later. Torture is one of those things you can't let go. It's like a major crack in the foundation.

And if you don't think the possibility of letting torturers go free or allowing, even indirectly, tacit approval of it is a crisis in ANY society, you're gravely mistaken.

That's why I brought up France. You'd think someone would catch the allusion. Algerian war? Anyone? Anyone? More than a *blank* people died? Million? Anyone? Million people died? Bueller?
France STILL has yet to get away from what it did, as a society, in Algeria in reprisal to women and children against the ALN (military arm of the (political) FLN). As a matter of fact, the Algerian war prompted a number of seminal works on modern counterinsurgency warfare and torture (Galula, Robin, everything by Eqbal Ahmad et.al. Martin Windrow's work on the Algerian war is probably mostly what I'm drawing from with the idea of the impact on the public psyche, but Alistair Horne's work is the big Magilla on all this and the three separate pushes by fanatic nationalists before DeGaulle came .... probably wasting my time. Who's going to read all this? Especially parentetically)

But no, I must be an ignorant asshat because I'm an American.
Good Christ it's not enough to say "torture bad." There are deep and profound reasons why it's damaging - and specifically so - to the nature of the U.S. national character as well as any future policy decision making.

Just as much as France has had riots AFTER May '58 and it's knee jerk reactions to marginalizing Algerians, the bullshit controversy over head scarves, the subsequent rise of the National Front - all of that point to an identity crisis that stems - at least in part - of the moral failings from that war and the inability to deal with the guilt - either to assuage it, deny it, accept it, whatever.
(Gosh...wonder if I can think of a parallel to that kind of war in recent U.S. history. Hmmm....hmmm....)

One can speak of a French tradition, the language, the social cohesion - but it's a line demarcated by the inability for a long period of time to define some fundamental questions about who is French, what it means to be French, and the Algerians (and other African immigrants - but the Algerians are the largest immigrant group there) are strongly discriminated against. And it's not their skin color so much as the idea that acceptance of them threatens French identity.

The U.S. is based on immigration. We're already seeing push back on that.
Glenn Beck standing in front of a flag crying is the perfect symbol for the type of symptom I'm talking about.
No superman bullshit. If it can happen to a nation as socially and ethnically coherent and with as long a history and influence as France, it can certainly happen to a nation just over 200 years old with no ethnic history and no real identity other than it's founding myths based on principles.

France was - and still is sort of - lost about some aspects of its past. At least they had actually being French, the language, the history, culture, to help overcome some of that.

The U.S.? No such luck. This would drop us. Maybe not today, but like a crack in the concrete, drop by drop, year after year, it would erode the foundation.

But yeah, I'm all about Amerikuh. USA! USA! USA! Now I'm off to Wrestlemania in my monster truck wearing my blue jeans and eating my twelve layer cheeseburger.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:26 PM on April 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


"I just wish politicians would stop the lip service and make Americans face the truth of ourselves and most of humanity for that matter: that in a good number of circumstances we will torture the piss out of some fuckers because we are scared and so would most nations."

A lotta people are scared of some things in their lives and think suicide is the way out. Think we should facilitate that as well?
Someone hurt my kids, I'd probably go after the SOB. Most of humanity would too. That's why we have not only laws, but law enforcement personnel. Checks. Balances. All that.
Because a decision that should be made rationally that is made in fear will kill you. I know this. Just off the cuff, 60 percent or more of the deaths in scuba diving are from panic (embolisms from rapid ascent, getting bound up, running out of air when your buddy is there or there's a pony bottle, etc. etc.)
Same is true on the macro scale.
I'll put it simply - a society that condones torturing people ensures the death of that society.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:41 PM on April 24, 2009


Cheney gets KO'd. And Maddow again. It's going to take a disaster to get the dogs off this bone.
posted by Flex1970 at 11:52 PM on April 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those links are pretty good Flex1970.
posted by caddis at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2009


So, here is a theoretical white noise generator for any group of people who are worried that their members could be tortured, and believe that torture is effective.

Lie to your own people. Send out misinformation and make sure even your own group doesn't know what the truth is. That way, when your members are captured and subjected to torture, they'll give up the truth, which is actually false. And then those torturing your people will have conflicting answers and won't know what is true.

And if even one of them lies, even if that lie is to hide a falsehood, then the white noise gets even greater.

Or maybe it's already happening, and we don't know whether the people we've been torturing know the truth or not. How do we know? Impossible to tell.
posted by hippybear at 11:03 AM on April 25, 2009


I read a book by Robert Cormier once in which the protagonist's father feeds him false information, knowing it will be tortured out of him later. I believe he hangs himself later.
posted by mecran01 at 11:30 AM on April 25, 2009


Former CIA director Porter Goss was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004.
Recently he made these comments to the Washington Post:

"I am slack-jawed to read that members [of Congress] claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.


Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues."

Virtually all of the comments on this thread make it sound as if the Republicans did this without the knowledge and support of the Left. Anyone decrying a harsh response to 9/11 in 2001 simply would not have been reelected. Both parties in this evil have blood on their hands!
posted by TDavis at 2:09 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Anyone decrying a harsh response to 9/11 in 2001 simply would not have been reelected."

Feingold.

Although I agree with your point. In fact, I think Feingold's opposition highlights the cowardice of most of the members in the house and senate (although 23 senators voted against the war in Iraq). I disagree with him on some philosophical points, but I take issue with only some of of his actions (mostly the 2nd amendment - but he's not that bad there either, voted against renewing the ban on "assault" rifles. So y'know, fuck the NRA).

That and my respect for his integrity and obviously gigantic set of cold rolled steel balls (voted against the motion to dismiss the impeachment case against Clinton, f'ing A. Someone jumps me in an alley, I'd take this guy at my back) means I would pretty much work with him on almost anything.
We can talk philosophy in the kitchen after doing work.

I think most of the reticence to pursue the matter is because the Dems don't want to check out the beam in their own eye.
But hell, what's wrong with saying "I was wrong." Or "I was scared. We were all scared. We lost it." And taking steps to remedy the error?

I mean, I know the realities. But damn, why are people so afraid of those magic words "I'm sorry." If you don't say it, if you don't work for it, what you *really* think doesn't matter for shit.
Which is my point about Feingold. We don't see eye to eye politically. He's very liberal. I'm conservative. And yet - that doesn't matter because what he's done has been pretty forthright. So someone could be an evil bastard in their heart or a saint, but it's what they DO that counts.
And you're right TDavis. Not a lot of 'doing' here by the Dems.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:57 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Frank Rich: The Banality of Bush White House Evil
posted by homunculus at 9:00 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ali Soufan, American Hero
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2009


I Just watched a clip of David Frum ... I'm clueless as to ... I'm seething and ... how the fuck do ...


Nov 5, 2008, 06h28, Bus - 121 Direction: west

Dude gets on the bus and recognizes one of his buddies and heads to take a seat next to him.
Buddy lets out an "Obama! Yo!" as a high five is raised.
Dude jabs back "Giggin' the White House! Yo!" and slams home the five.
Buddy, on the verge of, silly with joy, little girl giggling, grasps manhood and gives a "S'all cake."
I immediately thought, "Obama seemed more into riffing on pie than cake", but kept quiet, as I didn't want to spoil the mirth with ...

Nov 4, 1977, 07h38, Bus - Yellow, Direction: school

Brian a third grade loudmouth gets on the bus, sees one of his cronies Keith and plops down beside him. Soon taken to fidgeting, he steals Keith's lunchbox, pops it open and discovers at least half of a fucking cake, I mean it took up his entire lunch box. It hadn't been wrapped and the frosting and the top layer was all stuck to the lid. He probably had to squish it quite a bit to make it fit. Anyway, Brian upon this discovery was on the verge of, silly with joy little girl giggling, let rip the war cry, "S'all cake!"

Keith pops on a huge grin and explained that it was his mom's birthday the previous evening and this was leftover, it was really good and he should have some.

There was no argument to be had as they dug into the treasure of lunch box birthday cake. At first every handful was yielding perfect cake to frosting ratio and peace reigned.

A couple miles down the road the frosting reserves began to noticeably dwindle. The frosting crisis began. Negotiations were quickly held. Satisfactory frosting boundaries were drawn, the crisis seemingly waylaid, the gorging continued.

The youthful joy once displayed however was replace with stern frosting security. Boarders were monitored, an accusation, a claim; a bump in the road had caused the cake to infringe upon allied frosting reserve, retaliation, push, shove ... the humans naturally wired frosting needs being impinged, the cake began to fly ... fucking Vietnam all over again.

Brian soon wrested control of the lunch box from Keith, holding the mangled cake remains away, his frosting addled mind sought to establish victory. He spotted me seated directly across from him and he asked if I wanted cake and proceeded to squish a lump into my hair.

He just barely turned back to Keith to see a reaction as I jumped on the fucking bastard, got an arm around his neck and began choking him. At the same time I shouted at him that "You throw pie! Not cake!" (Not a clue why, as it wasn't at all what the fight was about) but he almost instantly conceded that "It's pie, not cake, pant it's pie, gasp, not cake, gasp gasp it's pie." With that I let him go. Took less than 5 seconds to achieve dominance and a surprising and unintended false confession. The bus driver yelled. I quickly sat back down and Brian snapped the lunchbox shut and discarded it into Keith's lap. I kept a watchful eye as I worked on getting the cake out of my hair but my six year old mind had a clear grasp of ... frosting duress.
posted by phoque at 4:58 PM on April 27, 2009


Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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