Stress Positions
May 28, 2009 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Distinguished Professor of Law and the director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law, Jeffrey Addicott, tells The Jurist: "Even the worst of the CIA techniques that were authorized – waterboarding - would not constitute torture."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (112 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is then, in his opinion, perfectly acceptable for our enemies to waterboard American prisoners of war.
posted by Xoebe at 8:21 AM on May 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


His argument is missing at least one premise. I expect better from a "Distinguished Professor of Law". If you can't draw something(s) that approximates a syllogism, your argument sucks.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:23 AM on May 28, 2009


How convenient! I was just looking for a place to put this:
Radio DJ's stance on waterboarding reversed after undergoing 6 seconds of it
posted by ShadowCrash at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Perhaps I am missing something, but the authoritative case that he cites doesn't speak at all to waterboarding, at least from the bulleted summary given. The final point is pretty asinine as well. While the same type of technique used against detainees may be used against soldiers involved in the SERE program, the intensity and duration, not to mention other contextual features which might enhance their effect on the prisoner, make a great deal of difference as to whether it constitutes torture.

Stuff done in an S&M dungeon might, when performed elsewhere, count as torture, but we certainly wouldn't think that within that context, it falls under the legal definition of torture.

In short: I am not convinced.
posted by Tullius at 8:27 AM on May 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


So it must be his contention that we murdered these soldiers?
posted by DU at 8:28 AM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


So isn't he saying that waterboarding is not as bad as:And that since the aforementioned were not Torture, neither is waterboarding. Where does this argument come from, because he doesn't even start to prove it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:28 AM on May 28, 2009


Why not? Because it's "similar to what we have done hundreds and hundreds of times to our own military special operations soldiers in military training courses on escape and survival."

Yet it is quite possible that state agents provoke severe pain and suffering in soldiers in order to simulate a torturous interrogation. The key distinction here is that they do not do it in order to gain information or a confession. Also, our soldiers are there willingly and can quit the training, generally without dishonor.

Now imagine that someone is drowning you and demanding information that you do not have. They will not stop until you tell them something that you do not know. See the difference?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:29 AM on May 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Aren't you supposed to research and cite precedent if you're making a legal argument? Ignorance of prior precedent is no excuse, just a sign of laziness.

Here's a quote from an article on NPR which I found after two seconds of googling:

On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk." The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier.

Cases of waterboarding have occurred on U.S. soil, as well. In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker was charged, along with three of his deputies, for handcuffing prisoners to chairs, placing towels over their faces, and pouring water on the cloth until they gave what the officers considered to be confessions. The sheriff and his deputies were all convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.


Stick that in your "Anglo-Saxon Tradition" and smoke it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:31 AM on May 28, 2009 [23 favorites]


His argument is:

1) In one case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that wall-standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink constitute "ill-treatment" but not "torture".

2) Therefore waterboarding is not torture.

That is, literally, the entirety of his reasoning, and yet he takes 6 paragraphs to get there.
posted by creasy boy at 8:32 AM on May 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Can we waterboard him? Please?
posted by kldickson at 8:33 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why do we care what this idiot has to say?
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on May 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh America, and your crazy-ass crazies.
posted by chunking express at 8:34 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, what delmoi says. I mean, there are all sorts of people who think it wasn't torture. And people get by ignoring their stupidness well enough.
posted by chunking express at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2009


Just wait until those Yoo/Gonzalez memos about "testicle tumbling" get leaked.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2009


Shorter Addicott: Methods of "ill treatment" practiced by the British government, which do not include waterboarding and of which none are as dangerous or severe as waterboarding, were deemed to not constitute torture. Therefore waterboarding does not constitute torture.

A sample statement using identical reasoning: Chihuahuas are not large dogs. Therefore, St. Bernards, which are also dogs, are not large dogs.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, that Mancow guy, he was actually on the air for a while on the radio station I usually listen too in my car. Thankfully I have a five minute commute but even that was pretty obnoxious. It was your typical wing nut ranting about how Obama was a socialist, etc. I don't think he was a huge bush backer or anything like that, but just a typical government hating nutbar.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 AM on May 28, 2009


This is a bizarrely incompetent article. I was actually interested in reading a reasoned defense of waterboarding as not being torture (not that I can actually imagine one being convincing), but this clearly isn't it. I would have expected a law professor to have at least the slightest awareness of the difference between asserting something and proving it.

This piece is so odd, I almost wonder if some of it is missing.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:37 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and speaking of "Ill treatment" Some are saying that the un-released photos show prisoners being raped.
posted by delmoi at 8:38 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Truly weak, and well rebutted already in the Jurist comments. I happen to think that Ireland was wrongly decided, but that aside it doesn't do anything to help his argument here. It's depressing how the uniformly weak arguments of the torture apologists/deniers have so much traction in the media.
posted by Mngo at 8:38 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Even the worst of the CIA techniques that were authorized – waterboarding - would not constitute torture."

What about rape?

Photos show rape and sex abuse in Iraq jails: report
"The images are among photographs included in a 2004 report into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison conducted by U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report, and on Wednesday he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that images supporting those allegations were also in the file....

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others are said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube."
posted by ericb at 8:39 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


He's a frequent on-air "terrorism expert" at FoxNews, where he incessantly refers to terrorists as "bad guys" -- as if they're the spooky, kooky guest stars in a Batman and Robin rerun.

The comments to that editorial refute him quite nicely.
posted by zarq at 8:39 AM on May 28, 2009


Nevertheless, the accused on trial for torture is certainly able to argue the common law doctrine of “necessity” at his trial – the defendant committed an evil (torture) to prevent a greater evil (mass murder). If the jury accepts this defense, the defendant will be found not guilty

Puhleeze. This, along with that weak cite to Ireland v. United Kingdom?

There literally is no argument here. Of course what was done was torture.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2009


Or, what delmoi said!
posted by ericb at 8:40 AM on May 28, 2009


A Catholic and Marianist Liberal Arts Institution
posted by The Straightener at 8:45 AM on May 28, 2009


This would not get a passing grade in a legal writing class.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:51 AM on May 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Okay, I've had enough of Bizzaro world. Can I go back to reality please?
posted by chillmost at 8:55 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Find me one person who has actually been waterboarded, and says it is not torture.

One person.

If you find such a person, I will listen to your sick arguments. Until then you may exercise your right to go to Hell.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


delmoi: "Oh and speaking of "Ill treatment" Some are saying that the un-released photos show prisoners being raped."

For "some", read "Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq".

Oh, and that Sy Hersh guy - who reported this some time ago.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:58 AM on May 28, 2009


Well, the front page has a photo of Addicott with W. His bio says he is a frequent contributor to Fox News. So he is something like a combination of Yoo and Geraldo. And we're supposed to take his opinions seriously?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:08 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


SLTA
(Single Link Torture Apologetics)
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:09 AM on May 28, 2009


$10 says I can waterboard this guy into saying that waterboarding is torture.
posted by ryoshu at 9:10 AM on May 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm still wondering about those "PRISONER BOXES"

Is that torture?
posted by Hammond Rye at 9:11 AM on May 28, 2009


Between Christopher Hitchens and Mancow, we have seen that supporters of waterboarding who are waterboarded pretty much immediately come around to the "oh hay it's torture" position.

...the path forward is clear.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:12 AM on May 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


Just wait until those Yoo/Gonzalez memos about "testicle tumbling" get leaked.

Whoa now, you leave Yoo and Gonzalez's personal lives out of this debate! What they do alone, behind closed doors and memo each other about is their business mister!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:13 AM on May 28, 2009


Is there any reason at all to think that these people who have been subjected to waterboarding have not also been subjected to other so-called harsh interrogation techniques?

I ask this because it seems to me that even if you were able to demonstrate that waterboarding in itself didn't constitute torture, if applied to someone who has already gone or is going through enforced sleeplessness or any of the other horrid treatments that we've heard about over the last several years, it would end up being torture anyway, since the subject would already be in a weakened and traumatized state.

In other words, is there any reason to believe that waterboarding is retained as the sole form of interrogation for certain people? I've never heard anything to indicate that this is the case. If so, then that alone should invalidate any arguments in its favor.

As if that should be necessary to begin with.
posted by metagnathous at 9:15 AM on May 28, 2009


One of his key arguments is Necessity.
Yep, it was very necessary for Bush & Co. to prove a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam.
Now, it all makes sense.
posted by Flood at 9:22 AM on May 28, 2009


1. Non sequitur
2.Conclusion
3. TA-DA!

I'm thinking that this is not a sound argument.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:22 AM on May 28, 2009


the CIA method is similar to what we have done hundreds and hundreds of times to our own military special operations soldiers in military training courses on escape and survival

Jesus, I hate this argument. It both missing the actual point of SERE school, and disingenuously ignores the fact that nobody is waterboarded 183 times in training.
posted by lullaby at 9:23 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


He just testified at a Senate Hearing. I don't know if you can still watch it but the link is there for a real audio file.
posted by srboisvert at 9:31 AM on May 28, 2009


This is a very poorly written article and not worthy of being a Metafilter post. It certainly does not present the legal case in defense of the enhanced interrogation techniques at issue in the EIT program. To hold it up as the defense just so it can be easily (and rightly) lampooned as an argument is rather insipid. This is just weak sauce.

Also, people need to realize that the issue with the EIT and the Yoo memos, etc. has absolutely NOTHING to do with the disgusting and criminal acts that occurred at Abu Ghraib. What occurred there is criminal and the people need to be prosecuted. But the EIT issue and Yoo memos have nothing to do with that. It has to do with what was occurring at GITMO. So it is disingenuous to cite to the ugliness at Abu Ghraib as a counterargument to the EIT issue. If you want to argue about the propriety of EIT, do so on its own merits instead of confusing the issues by discuss the unrelated criminal acts at Abu Ghraib.

Slap*Happy: Cases of waterboarding have occurred on U.S. soil, as well. In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker was charged, along with three of his deputies, for handcuffing prisoners to chairs, placing towels over their faces, and pouring water on the cloth until they gave what the officers considered to be confessions. The sheriff and his deputies were all convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

This is referring to the opinion in US v. Lee, which does not have anything at all to do with whether waterboarding is torture. The case was about severance and it provides no guidance or any holding relevant to this issue at all.

Some moron on the blogosphere (probably Greenwald) threw that case out there and then it got cross-posted on a bunch of echo-chamber blogs and apparently no one bothered to read the damn case because it never says that waterboarding is torture.

So apparently the bozo from NPR considers blog churn to be a reliable source.
posted by dios at 9:37 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


lullaby: "Jesus, I hate this argument. It both missing the actual point of SERE school, and disingenuously ignores the fact that nobody is waterboarded 183 times in training."

Hmm. Maybe we don't have the best-trained soldiers in the world.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:38 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


this argument has already been around for a while now and has been thoroughly debunked. why do we have to keep rehashing this? oh wait: to assuage our guilty consciences.

SourceWatch on Addicott:

Jeffrey Addicott is Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law, San Antonio Texas.

"An active duty Army officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps for twenty years (he retired in 2000 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel), Professor Addicott spent a quarter of his career as a senior legal advisor to the United States Army’s Special Forces," a biographical note states.


I'd say it's hard to interpret his position as a purely disinterested academic one, given his years in service to the very organizations under criticism.

Here's another example of Addicott's extraordinarily creative and elastic legal reasoning in practice. In arguing against the validity of Executive Orders banning the CIA's use of political assassination as a tactic, Addicot argues:

"...if murder is generally accepted as an illegal act in US and international law, so [sic] if assassination is a form of murder, the Orders cannot be making illegal something that is already illegal."

So there it is. The President can't issue a legally binding order to stop the CIA from assassinating foreign nationals for political reasons because assassinating foreign nationals is already illegal.

Q.E.D. Can't argue with incisive legal reasoning like that.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:42 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, I'm confused. Is being a distinguished professor at St. Mary's University School of Law a big deal now? It's not like it's a good law school. Being the director of their crappy Bush-era Center for whosiwhatsis is kind of like being the president of a community college - I mean, it pays well and... wait, a community college provides a valuable service. Shit, it's not even like that.
posted by scrim at 9:44 AM on May 28, 2009


lullaby: "Jesus, I hate this argument. It both missing the actual point of SERE school, and disingenuously ignores the fact that nobody is waterboarded 183 times in training."

Hmm. Maybe we don't have the best-trained soldiers in the world.


There's also the massive point that people who say this miss, in that this training is designed to help US soldiers resist techniques likely to be applied by enemies not abiding by the Geneva Convention. In layman's terms, they're trained to understand these techniques so they'll know what the bad guys might do.

The argument 'we do this to our soldiers, therefore it can't be all that bad' is so stupid, because it's actually 'we do this to our soldiers, to show them how bad it is so they understand what they might face if captured by horrible baddies.'

The more conservative apologists and 'distinguished' assholes like this put their money where their mouth is and experience the complete horror of waterboarding the better. Maybe if more Mancows man up and admit it's bloody horrible, their moronic followers will twig that these are not the kind of things a civilised country does.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:49 AM on May 28, 2009


dios:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe this is just about Gitmo. This is about all EIT performed under the auspices of (and supposedly justified by) the Yoo memos.

I believe that the yahoos in charge at the time actually believed they were exploiting "loopholes" by engaging in EIT offshore and in other countries.

Just because you believe or assert that something is legal doesn't make it legal. In the case of waterboarding, it's beyond ludicrous to claim that it is not torture when people were hung for performing it during WWII. Waterboarding has been considered torture by all sane people since the Spanish Inquisition.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:50 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Torture and rape (and even murder) all make a lot more sense when you consider the depersonalization of "terrorists" and "arabs" that followed 9-11. Let's face it, people were extremely angry, extremely vengeful and they wanted their pound of flesh. They wanted someone to suffer.

Learning what was actually done to these people - as is slowly happening now - is just seeing what the end result of all that righteous anger actually accomplished.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:53 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


To hold it up as the defense just so it can be easily (and rightly) lampooned as an argument is rather insipid. This is just weak sauce.

teh lion of metafilter tell us what the best reason torture is good is
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:54 AM on May 28, 2009


1. Non sequitur
2.Conclusion
3. TA-DA!

I'm thinking that this is not a sound argument.


1. I like eggs. Particularly deviled eggs.
2. Therefore distinguished Prof. Addicott is correct that waterboarding is not torture.
3. That will be $5.

I don't see what was wrong with his argument at all?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2009


*just seeing the end result of all that righteous anger.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:56 AM on May 28, 2009


Argument the First: Torture may still be legal if the jury finds a necessity defense!
Reality: Technically true, but trivially so. The jury can find you not guilty if they just like your tie a lot. The jury can find you not guilty for any reason whatsoever.

Argument the Second: Some things which are not waterboarding were judged not to be torutre by a court which in no way would be hearing this present issue. Therefor, waterboarding is not torture.
Reality: Are you fucking with me? This isn't an argument. It's barely even an assertion. Did you pay someone to take the bar for you?

Argument the Third: We even train our special ops guys to survive this! How can it be torture?
Reality: We specifically train our special ops guys how to survive this, because it is fucking torture.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:59 AM on May 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


delmoi, I normally like your posts, and I agree with your sentiment here, but "this guy's an idiot, let's not listen to him" is not a very good argument. Saying stuff like that just detracts from the credibility of your position.
posted by tehloki at 9:59 AM on May 28, 2009


To hold it up as the defense just so it can be easily (and rightly) lampooned as an argument is rather insipid.

Wait, we're the ones at fault here, for picking on this poor little law professor? It seems to me that if Fox News and Congressional Republicans are holding him up as an expert on this subject, his incredibly vapid reasoning is entirely worthy of scrutiny.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:03 AM on May 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd like to point out that anyone who seriously compares SERE training to what we're doing to PRISONERS IN OUR CUSTODY probably doesn't know the difference between rough sex and rape, either...

For the record, the difference is CONSENT. Soldiers CONSENTED to be waterboarded as part of their training. The prisoners are unable to give consent.
posted by mikelieman at 10:36 AM on May 28, 2009


I expect better from a "Distinguished Professor of Law".

Even one from St. Mary's? (No not that one, the other one).
posted by psmealey at 10:38 AM on May 28, 2009


the enhanced interrogation techniques at issue in the EIT program.

I would like to participate in this discussion using EDT: Advanced Debating Techniques. This is where I hook up a car battery to my opponent's nuts until he admits I'm right.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:47 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


*cough* That'd be "Enhanced"...
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:48 AM on May 28, 2009


Is waterboarding US soldiers in training really about preparing them for what their enemies might do to them, or is it a roundabout way of teaching US soldiers how to waterboard others?
posted by Rumple at 11:01 AM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Between Christopher Hitchens and Mancow, we have seen that supporters of waterboarding who are waterboarded pretty much immediately come around to the "oh hay it's torture" position.

Sure, but now the problem is you don't know if they actually believe that or they were just coerced into admitting it via torture.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 11:04 AM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Distinguished Professor of Law

He's distinguished himself, certainly. Probably not in the way he intended, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2009


"'similar to what we have done hundreds and hundreds of times to our own military special operations soldiers in military training courses on escape and survival.'"

This is not for torture, it's to train soldiers to be prepared for the technique to be used on them. The SERE program emphasizes that waterboarding is not meant to extract information but rather confessions, so they train with that in mind. And apparently he doesn't draw the distinction that training a soldier on a technique which may be used by the enemy is not the same as using the technique on your own prisoners.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:22 AM on May 28, 2009


"Is waterboarding US soldiers in training really about preparing them for what their enemies might do to them, or is it a roundabout way of teaching US soldiers how to waterboard others?"

No, the SERE program has been around since the end of the Korean War. It is NOT meant to train our soldiers how to torture. There was always the explicit, legal understanding that this is not something the US did to its POWs.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:25 AM on May 28, 2009


The fact that we use these techniques on our on soldiers to train them to withstand torture is somehow proof to these people that the techniques aren't torture.

I swear, it's like a third of the country suddenly started to believe in magic.
posted by spaltavian at 11:37 AM on May 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Also, people need to realize that the issue with the EIT and the Yoo memos, etc. has absolutely NOTHING to do with the disgusting and criminal acts that occurred at Abu Ghraib."

The policies of the Bush administration regarding torture have everything to do with Abu Ghraib. General Karpinski has been saying this for the last five years. You remember Gen Karpinski?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:39 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


dios:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe this is just about Gitmo. This is about all EIT performed under the auspices of (and supposedly justified by) the Yoo memos.


The "Issue" that keeps being debated back and forth is the program established by the Bush Administration for enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). Originally, Rumsfeld set out a list of approved techniques. After some complaints and legal investigations, Rumsfeld suspended the practice at Gitmo until the issue could be evaluated further. This resulted in the famous "torture memos" of Yoo, Bybee, etc. Based on the legal parameters set forth therein, new guidelines for EIT practices were set forth.

The waterboarding issue was localized to Gitmo as that is where the three individuals were who received it. Another 27 at Gitmo were exposed to other techniques approved of in the Yoo memo.

This is an entirely separate issue from the overtly illegal abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib. None of that abuse was addressed in the legal memos or authorized by the Bush Administration's Program. The abuse at Abu was contrary to the EIT program. So in discussing the legality of the EIT program, it makes no sense to discuss Abu. Rather, that is just inflaming passions in a diversion from the real discussion.

Basically, it would be as if we were discussing whether spanking was legitimate corporal punishment from a parent and people started throwing out examples of when a parent shoots their child. Shooting our child is not corporal punishment by any reasonable standard; it's clearly a different beast. A mother snapping and killing her children is largely irrelevant to a discussion of the propriety of corporal punishment.

If we want to debate the propriety of the EIT program, we must do it on its own terms. It is sloppy to condemn it based on criminal actions the program does not allow.
posted by dios at 11:42 AM on May 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


"This is an entirely separate issue from the overtly illegal abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib."

No, it's not. That abuse was part and parcel of this type of program. It would never have happened without the approval of the Bush administration (from Wiki, from a couple of different sources).

On March 8, 2006, Karpinski gave an interview to Dateline,[11] on the Australian SBS network. When asked who was ultimately responsible for the actions of torture and humiliation depicted in the photographs, Karpinski stated:

“You have to go back to the memorandum that was authored by our now-Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzalez, and John Yoo, from out in California, who was with the current administration at the time, and they did a memorandum, authorising departures from the Geneva Convention.

The memorandum, which was certainly discussed at length with the Secretary of Defense and the Vice-President, according to sworn statements by people who were there when those conversations took place, that authorised the initial departure [from the Geneva Convention]. And yes, there was a memorandum that was posted at Abu Ghraib prison, that I only became aware of, after I heard of this ongoing investigation out at Abu Ghraib, and it was signed by the Secretary of Defense.

...the signature on the memorandum was over the signature block of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and the ink that was used to sign appeared to be the same ink used for this handwritten note in the margin, "make sure this happens", and it was a list of interrogation techniques that were approved, so he obviously had knowledge of those [interrogation] techniques.

When the Secretary of Defense, when General Miller, when General Sanchez, when General Taguba, when they testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, they were very careful to say, in response to a question about the photographs, that they knew nothing about the photographs. However, nobody on the Senate Armed Services Committee asked them "Did you know anything about the actions depicted in those photographs?" Because they would have had to give a truthful answer and the answer would have been yes, in fact they authorised the actions depicted in those photographs. The Secretary of Defense authorised it, in conversations with General Miller, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence not only authorised those actions but was staying on top of the progress of those actions and those activities.”

When questioned on the findings of the Taguba Report, which stated she had shown a lack of leadership throughout the period of events, and therefore was partly responsible for what happened, Karpinski stated
“...When they do an investigation with that kind of potential, the rules are very clear, you have to identify an impartial person to do the investigation and General Taguba did not serve one day in Iraq, he spent his deployment time in the safety of Kuwait. And he was, as it came out afterwards, a good friend of General Sanchez. So if General Sanchez gave the investigating officer specific instructions on what he wanted to see in the conclusions, General Taguba was able and determined to provide and conclude what General Sanchez wanted to see. And he did exactly that. The findings in the report have been largely discredited because he was not an impartial party and because so much more information has come out.

...[General Taguba] was not charged with discovering what caused the photographs, General Taguba's instructions were to investigate the 800th Military Police Brigade and discover what was wrong with General Karpinski.”


In an interview for the Santa Clarita, California newspaper, The Signal, Karpinski claimed to have seen unreleased documents from Rumsfeld that authorized the use of dogs, food and sleep deprivation, and isolation for Iraqi prisoners that were also signed by General Sanchez. Both have denied authorizing such tactics.[12] In a May 2004 military investigation of the Abu Ghraib abuses made public by an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, Karpinski said she witnessed children as young as twelve years of age incarcerated at Abu Ghraib.[13]
posted by krinklyfig at 11:49 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The policies of the Bush administration regarding torture have everything to do with Abu Ghraib.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:39 PM on May 28

This is simply not true. You can look at the legal memos. You can look at what was authorized by the Bush administration. You can see what the Bush Administration authorized and what it did not. The ACLU acquired the relevant memos, and they show that loud music, sleep management, and various environmental manipulation were authorizing but that physical abuse, sexual abuse, and any touching was prohibited. So the criminal actors at Abu Ghraib were acting inconsistent with the policies that at are at the heart of the "waterboarding" discussing.

The shocking things from Abu Ghraib were not authorized by Bush's policies. They were, in fact, violative of the policies. Which is why the individuals who performed them were charged and convicted.

You cannot connect what Yoo and Bybee authorized to sexual assault at Abu Ghraib. I get why you want to do it; for the shock value. But to do so is to avoid discussing the program on its merits and instead try to discredit it by bleeding over the proper condemnation of the criminal acts at Abu Ghraib.
posted by dios at 11:56 AM on May 28, 2009


"If we want to debate the propriety of the EIT program, we must do it on its own terms. It is sloppy to condemn it based on criminal actions the program does not allow."

Don't you understand? Before Bush, there was no ambiguity regarding the Geneva Conventions. Numerous people involved have stated that Abu Ghraib never would have happened without this ambiguity which was inserted by the Bush administration. On top of that, there is evidence that the Bush administration explicitly laid out the techniques used and monitored the progress of how the techniques were working.

You seem to think that this type of program and the legal ambiguities exist in its own bubble aside from Abu Ghraib. The military is a hierarchical machine. Stuff like Abu Ghraib doesn't happen by accident. It never happened before, not like this. Of course, we've had problems before, like Mai Lai, but this is not at all the same.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:57 AM on May 28, 2009


"This is simply not true. You can look at the legal memos. You can look at what was authorized by the Bush administration."

You trust what they've released, and many people involved who were actually there state that you're wrong. I think I would trust someone who was there like Gen Karpinski over your opinion.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


In an interview for the Santa Clarita, California newspaper, The Signal, Karpinski claimed to have seen unreleased documents from Rumsfeld that authorized the use of dogs, food and sleep deprivation, and isolation for Iraqi prisoners that were also signed by General Sanchez.

And where in that does it say "beating, sexual assault, or any physical contact?" It does not.

There were memos and Executive Orders. We know this. We can read them. What we also know is that the truly repugnant things at Abu Ghraib were not authorized by those various memos. In fact they are explicitly un-authorized by the memos.

The rhetorical trick here is to say that because the program said you can do X, then it should be held responsible for Y.

The abuse at Abu Ghraib was not because of sleep deprivation. It was because the inmates were beaten and assaulted.
posted by dios at 12:01 PM on May 28, 2009


This is an entirely separate issue from the overtly illegal abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib. The abuse at Abu was contrary to the EIT program. So in discussing the legality of the EIT program, it makes no sense to discuss Abu.

May 19 2009:
“Janis Karpinski, a brigadier general and commander of the [Abu Ghraib] prison during the time the photographs were taken, was demoted to colonel. She was eventually rotated out of Iraq. The prison was shut down in September 2006.

Karpinksi, now retired, said the recent disclosures have validated her earlier claims that she and her troops were following orders and that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not simply the work of a few ‘bad apples,’ as once described by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

‘That is what we have been saying from the very beginning, that, wait a minute, why are you inside pointing the finger at me? Why are you pointing the fingers at the soldiers here? There's a bigger story here,’ Karpinski said.”
posted by ericb at 12:02 PM on May 28, 2009


and many people involved who were actually there state that you're wrong. I think I would trust someone who was there like Gen Karpinski over your opinion.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:58 PM on May 28


Col. Karpinski is "many"? You know she is trying to defend herself, correct? I can tell you that the first thing that any defendant tries to do is to look at someone else to blame. She allowed unauthorized abuse to occur. Of course she is going to try to cover her ass to say it was authorized. But the documents--those released by Obama and those acquired by the ACLU--specifically contradict her story.
posted by dios at 12:03 PM on May 28, 2009


Oh, and that Sy Hersh guy - who reported this some time ago.

July 15, 2004: Hersh: Children sodomized at Abu Ghraib, on tape.
posted by ericb at 12:04 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


May 10, 2004: Hersh: Torture at Abu Ghraib -- "American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?"
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on May 28, 2009


I think as often happens, he's trying to minimize things by considering each technique in isolation.

So, sleep-deprivation isn't torture: we've all been kept awake by loud music. A thousand calorie per day diet isn't torture, we've all been on diets. Making someone stand in a stress position isn't torture: we've all had to paint a ceiling. Humiliating slaps aren't torture: we've all taken a slap or two. Making someone wear diapers and stand in their own faeces isn't torture: it doesn't cause any pain. Waterboarding isn't torture: it doesn't do them any harm.

But the thing is: these techniques have been combined together. Even if individually each technique falls just below a "torture threshold", putting them together could push the experience well over it.

It's committing the fallacy of composition to say that these techniques would not be torture individually, so if we apply them together it's still not torture. It's like saying "atoms are invisible, a dog is made of atoms, therefore a dog is invisible."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


ericb, didn't you get the memo, that shit at Abu Ghraib is totally different than the shit tha happens at Gitmo. Why's it called Gitmo? Because American's are apparently too stupid to say Guantanamo. For reals.
posted by chunking express at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2009


The shocking things from Abu Ghraib were not authorized by Bush's policies. They were, in fact, violative of the policies. Which is why the individuals who performed them were charged and convicted.

So you're saying that Col. Jessup didn't order Dawson and Downey to give Santiago a code red?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2009


So you're saying that Col. Jessup didn't order Dawson and Downey to give Santiago a code red?

I strenuously object to this comment.
posted by inigo2 at 12:17 PM on May 28, 2009


"Col. Karpinski is 'many'? You know she is trying to defend herself, correct?"

Look, dios, it's obvious you really want to believe Bush did nothing wrong here. That's fine, but arguing with you is irritating to the extreme and not worth my time anymore.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the documents--those released by Obama and those acquired by the ACLU--specifically contradict her story.

Do they?

Whether or not prisoner abuse at Abu Grahib was actually torture sanctioned by the Woo memos, etc. it is clear that a significant amount of U.S. personnel (from Army, CIA, other U.S. intelligence agencies, etc.) were aware and even witnessed the systemic abuse of prisoners there.
"The big story here is that this torture was allowed to creep into the US military and undermine respect for the Geneva Conventions. It led to illegal treatment of innocent civilians in an illegal war. US Soldiers willingly and enthusiastically promoted a reign of terror and torture over the detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison. It is a fundamental failing in the US military command structure, yet only a few enlisted people actually served jail time. The whole story of Abu Ghraib has never been widely told and it was probably much worse than we were led to believe..."*
Oh, the ACLU, like many of us, want to know more.
“Obama had said photos requested under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union ‘are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.’

It was unclear whether the images Taguba spoke of were from the same batch requested by the ACLU or whether there were additional photographs.

‘If indeed, there are photos of prisoners being raped, this obviously raises the question of whether President Obama was correct in saying these photos were not sensational,’ Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, told the AP in London on Thursday. ‘They clearly point to torture and abuse of detainees.’*
posted by ericb at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2009


"So, sleep-deprivation isn't torture: we've all been kept awake by loud music."

Sleep deprivation for 21 days as approved in the official memos is indeed torture. Also, it doesn't provide for good interrogation, because the prisoner can't think after that long and cannot respond reliably to questioning. The head of the SERE program actually stated that recently in an interview.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2009


And where in that does it say "beating, sexual assault, or any physical contact?" It does not.

Khalid el-Masri claims he was sodomized and beat in Afghanistan by US interrogators. To my knowledge no one has been prosecuted and his law suit was dismissed based on state secrets.
posted by ryoshu at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2009


Do people get off on these circular go nowhere 'debates' with dios? I'm guessing they must, since they seem to crop up everywhere on this site.
posted by chunking express at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2009


I think this guy is "distinguished" in the same way Scalia is "brilliant". If you defend torture, you become a "legal lion" for the right wing nutters, no matter how petty and stupid the actual arguments are.
posted by VikingSword at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2009


Whether or not prisoner abuse at Abu Grahib was actually torture sanctioned by the Woo memos, etc. it is clear that a significant amount of U.S. personnel (from Army, CIA, other U.S. intelligence agencies, etc.) were aware and even witnessed the systemic abuse of prisoners there.

I don't deny that. I think what happened at Abu Grahib is atrocious. I'm not denying that. The prisoner abuse there should be investigated and the people prosecuted.

My entire point is not that what happened there is ok--of course it is not. My point was that in THIS THREAD, wherein we are talking about the legality of waterboarding which was authorized as part of the EIT program, it is a red herring to drag Abu Grahib into the discussion. This article (which is what the post is about and what the thread of this discussion is putatively supposed to be) is addressing the specific legal issue of whether waterboarding as authorized by EIT program is legal. That's it. It's poorly written, but to respond to it with Abu Grahib is a red herring.
posted by dios at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2009


dios, I'm not sure if anyone has asked you this directly, so...would you accept, in a legal sense, the waterboarding of U.S. prisoners of war in order for their captors to obtain information?
posted by you just lost the game at 12:30 PM on May 28, 2009


dios, I'm not sure if anyone has asked you this directly, so...would you accept, in a legal sense, the waterboarding of U.S. prisoners of war in order for their captors to obtain information?
posted by you just lost the game at 2:30 PM on May 28


I do not know what you mean by "would I accept in a legal sense." Whether I personally accept something is irrelevant to the discussion of the legality of it. Of course I do not think the waterboarding of US soldiers is acceptable. I don't even personally approve of the practice; I think it is bad policy.

But the question before the house is not whether dios approves of the practice. The question before the house is whether the Bush Administration's actions were violative of the laws of the United States. And on that point, the case has not been made that the actions of the Bush Administration is violative of the laws of the United States.
posted by dios at 12:38 PM on May 28, 2009


And as to my last comment: the problem with discussing this is that people cannot divorce moral judgments from legal judgments. That is where the breakdown occurs.
posted by dios at 12:39 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isolated incidents used by rogue soldiers with no directive from authority above, my ass!

The Guardian | May 8, 2004:
“The sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was not an invention of maverick guards, but part of a system of ill-treatment and degradation used by special forces soldiers that is now being disseminated among ordinary troops and contractors who do not know what they are doing, according to British military sources.
The techniques devised in the system, called R2I - resistance to interrogation - match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: ‘It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn't know what they were doing.’

He said British and US military intelligence soldiers were trained in these techniques, which were taught at the joint services interrogation centre in Ashford, Kent, now transferred to the former US base at Chicksands.

‘There is a reservoir of knowledge about these interrogation techniques which is retained by former special forces soldiers who are being rehired as private contractors in Iraq. Contractors are bringing in their old friends’.

Using sexual jibes and degradation, along with stripping naked, is one of the methods taught on both sides of the Atlantic under the slogan ‘prolong the shock of capture’, he said.

Female guards were used to taunt male prisoners sexually and at British training sessions when female candidates were undergoing resistance training they would be subject to lesbian jibes.

‘Most people just laugh that off during mock training exercises, but the whole experience is horrible. Two of my colleagues couldn't cope with the training at the time. One walked out saying 'I've had enough', and the other had a breakdown. It's exceedingly disturbing,’ said the former Special Boat Squadron officer, who asked that his identity be withheld for security reasons.

Many British and US special forces soldiers learn about the degradation techniques because they are subjected to them to help them resist if captured. They include soldiers from the SAS, SBS, most air pilots, paratroopers and members of pathfinder platoons.

A number of commercial firms which have been supplying interrogators to the US army in Iraq boast of hiring former US special forces soldiers, such as Navy Seals.

‘The crucial difference from Iraq is that frontline soldiers who are made to experience R2I techniques themselves develop empathy. They realise the suffering they are causing. But people who haven't undergone this don't realise what they are doing to people. It's a shambles in Iraq’.

The British former officer said the dissemination of R2I techniques inside Iraq was all the more dangerous because of the general mood among American troops.

‘The feeling among US soldiers I've spoken to in the last week is also that 'the gloves are off'. Many of them still think they are dealing with people responsible for 9/11’.

When the interrogation techniques are used on British soldiers for training purposes, they are subject to a strict 48-hour time limit, and a supervisor and a psychologist are always present. It is recognised that in inexperienced hands, prisoners can be plunged into psychosis.

The spectrum of R2I techniques also includes keeping prisoners naked most of the time. This is what the Abu Ghraib photographs show, along with inmates being forced to crawl on a leash; forced to masturbate in front of a female soldier; mimic oral sex with other male prisoners; and form piles of naked, hooded men.

The full battery of methods includes hooding, sleep deprivation, time disorientation and depriving prisoners not only of dignity, but of fundamental human needs, such as warmth, water and food.

The US commander in charge of military jails in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller, has confirmed that a battery of 50-odd special ‘coercive techniques’ can be used against enemy detainees. The general, who previously ran the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, said his main role was to extract as much intelligence as possible.

Interrogation experts at Abu Ghraib prison were there to help make the prison staff ‘more able to garner intelligence as rapidly as possible’.

Sleep deprivation and stripping naked were techniques that could now only be authorised at general officer level, he said.”
And let's not forget that the US commander in charge of military jails in Iraq, Major General Geoffrey Miller transferred to Iraq directly from his post running the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Salon.com | March 7, 2006:
Not so fast, General -- "A bipartisan call by senators to halt the retirement of the major general at the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal suggests the abuse inquiry finally has a pulse."
posted by ericb at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


The people nitpicking their way through legal minutiae in order to prove the lawfulness of waterboarding remind me of someone who is so engrossed in a map detailing a bunch of side roads and mountain passes that they've forgotten which country they're driving through.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 12:50 PM on May 28, 2009


Former Soldier Disputes Army Denials That He Was Beaten During Training Exercises In Cuba
posted by ryoshu at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2009


And on that point, the case has not been made that the actions of the Bush Administration is violative of the laws of the United States.

Whoa now, I think you have that reversed, one case was made, by Yoo et al, that it was not in violation of the law, despite it being declared such several times prior. The general consensus seems to be that it is in fact unlawful and that Yoo's argument is so irresponsible, "sloppy," and "unetical" that he could face disbarrment for it.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:00 PM on May 28, 2009


Look, dios, it's obvious you really want to believe Bush did nothing wrong here.

I do wonder how you know what dios wants and believes, beyond his stated desire to clarify the legal issues.
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:16 PM on May 28, 2009


Dios:

You fail. Fail badly.

There really is no subtlety or shade of gray to this. Torture is torture.

Go 'way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2009


delmoi, I normally like your posts, and I agree with your sentiment here, but "this guy's an idiot, let's not listen to him" is not a very good argument. Saying stuff like that just detracts from the credibility of your position.

I'm not trying to make an argument: I'm asking a question, which is "why do we care what this guy thinks"? There's got to be some reason, I don't care what ever J. Random Asshole in the world thinks. Why is this particular person special?
posted by delmoi at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2009


I do wonder how you know what dios wants and believes, beyond his stated desire to clarify the legal issues.

Oh come on.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have just lost all faith in the Logic portion of the LSAT to screen out ridiculous people...

Oh wait...
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2009


[dios]And on that point, the case has not been made that the actions of the Bush Administration is violative of the laws of the United States.

dios, you do know that the Bush administration rewrote the law before those practices were authorized, right? That is the crux of the matter, and you seem to constantly miss it in these threads.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:39 PM on May 28, 2009


dios: And as to my last comment: the problem with discussing this is that people cannot divorce moral judgments from legal judgments. That is where the breakdown occurs.

The problem as I see it is with lawyers who divorce moral judgments from legal judgments, thereby enabling immoral activities to be legally performed.

The Yoo memo is on the slippery slope to Eichmann-like banal evil.
posted by Rumple at 2:05 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But anyway, it's easy to see how lawyers can get tripped up by this and how it is such a mess to clean up even though it's pretty clearly a disgusting violation of international law. That's probably the main reason why the Obama administration is not tackling this head on.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:13 PM on May 28, 2009


And as to my last comment: the problem with discussing this is that people cannot divorce moral judgments from legal judgments. That is where the breakdown occurs.

That is for me profound. I'm going to have to think about that a while.
posted by nola at 2:23 PM on May 28, 2009


Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo, Washington Post, July 14, 2005.

United States Senate Armed Services Committee, Inquiry Into the Treatment Of Detainees In U.S. Custody [PDF], released April 22, 2009. MediaMatters:
In fact, a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that military "interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO," and that those "policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq."
posted by kirkaracha at 2:23 PM on May 28, 2009


Jeffrey Addicott, tells The Jurist....

I'd much rather hear him tell this to a jury.
posted by rokusan at 2:42 PM on May 28, 2009


“or is it a roundabout way of teaching US soldiers how to waterboard others?”

There’s a big difference between the SoA and actual special forces training. SERE (some levels) also includes training on detention in peacetime and hostage survival - pretty much all things being captured and how to survive it, what to expect, etc. Forethought is a big, big factor in surviving any situation. If you know what waterboarding is like - you're not going to resist it - but you at least know what to expect. Helps one survive. You could I s'pose read a book on it. But actually going outside and doing the stuff, to say, Kodiak Island is a bigger help in surviving in cold weather than watching Bear Grylls on T.V.

And what krinklyfig sed (twice)

“The CIA method is similar to what we have done hundreds and hundreds of times to our own military special operations soldiers in military training courses on escape and survival”

F'ing JAG officer thinks because he's a legal advisor to SOF he's part of this whole mystique. That's all these guys do is jerk off to the actual.
'Yeah, waterboarding isn't torture, we do it to our guys in SERE.'
'Uh, huh. Been to Warmer Spanks or Ft. Fucker? Been through SERE?'
'Uh....'
"Yeah, ok.'

Now the 'they can quit' thing - not so much. Technically a terrorist can 'quit' as well and talk. Sorta. It's a tangent point, but - look, no one wants to quit SERE anymore than anyone wants to quit any other school they volunteer for. No one wants to look demotivated or look like an individual. So quitting isn't a real viable option.
That said - I'll cede the whole different mindset to either case argument. Or, hell, I'll augment it:
Physically the technique is almost identical. The argument (from other quarters) is that the psychological part is - what - less of the deal? The worst part of all torture is psychological.
Grab some perfectly healthy guy off the street, get a crew to convince him he's got cancer. Send him to 'specialists' give him completely innocuous pretend cancer fighting drugs. I guarantee that though they guy doesn't have a sick bone in his body he'll be a completely changed man.

Additionally - I train in hand to hand fighting. People throw punches and kicks at me. Lock my joints. Stop my air or my blood from flowing. So why then can't we just beat prisoners silly? Because we all know a real world fight is an entirely different thing. The physical part is real. But the goals and psychology are entirely different. And that means pretty much everything. Plus the people involved. Some dufus slaps me I put him through concrete. My mom does it, I'm on the verge of tears.

The guys I train with know how to hit. And I WANT them to hit me as hard as they can. The harder they are on me, the more real it is, the better man I am in a real fight and the better odds I'll have of surviving.
In the same way - the guys at SERE are your friends. They're trying to help you. They pretend they're not, but the worse they treat you, really, the better they're helping you save your life in the future*.
An enemy interrogator (on whatever side) using this technique is not your friend. He clearly doesn't care about your future.
Which, again, is why it is ultimately self-defeating as a technique. And I'll add that although the torture might stop when the terrorist 'quits' and gives up high confidence information - you pretty much have to know already the information is good, otherwise you're going to keep hurting him, even though he's giving you the goods. Which, really, is bad interrogation technique. Lousy way to train a dog even. So again - you screw yourself.

*On top of that there's this whole idea that everything is uber-bad ass because of the name - e.g. drown proofing, surf torture, etc. but there's never any question the instructors are there to support you. Entirely different thing from someone doing their damnedest to kill or harm you and/or cause you intense pain such that you stop being you.

Now, if torture worked, this might be a different argument. Might.
But then, if it did work, if there was some magical technique OF ANY KIND that could make an enemy talk themselves blue with truth and spit on their former ideals - there would be no way to train against it. And everyone would be doing it. Expert interrogators would advise we use it. And they're, y'know, not.

So this is just monkey talk. Giving force to something more terrifying than 'terror' and relying on some sort of voodoo magical result from giving in to blind hatred, trusting in chance and the other guy's response to pain, rather than actually focusing on discipline and practical technique and application oneself.
But then, were the latter easier than the former - everyone would be doing it.
Hey, we'd all love to be healthy, have muscles, oh, but there's that whole diet and exercise and gym and sweat and time and effort thing. Yeah.

Torture is the Ronco Abdominizer of technique. And this mook is just another Ron Popeil.

“And as to my last comment: the problem with discussing this is that people cannot divorce moral judgments from legal judgments. That is where the breakdown occurs.”

Granted. But a given law or set of laws can be passed to change or distort any given subject by a given administration when they’re in power. What Lincoln did during the Civil war was completely unconstitutional. But the country sat still for it because it was necessary at the time. And everyone looked the other way.
In this case – you have the Bush administration doing things passing laws saying they (and U.S. soldiers) can’t be prosecuted for certain war crimes, etc. etc.
You can make anything a law if you have enough political juice. Doesn’t mean it’s right. Or that it’s a good law. Or that it shouldn’t be overturned. Ultimately the best case scenario for your position – that what they did was legal – only highlights that the laws need to be changed and that prosecution should continue by other means.
Now, I don’t much care if what Bush did was completely within the law. I don’t care if there were no Geneva convention. What’s wrong is what’s wrong. If I’m in someone’s power, and they torture me, I’m going to do the best I can for the rest of my life to kill them.
Ever seen Pulp Fiction? There’s a nice scene towards the beginning where Jules tells the smart kid he’s not going to talk his way out of this shit. His death is a foregone conclusion. There’s no appeal. There are no factors that can mitigate his betrayal. He has shown himself to be a traitor and so he must die. Period.

There are places where law is purely academic. This is one such case. It doesn’t much matter whether it was legal or not. We all know it wasn’t an honest mistake made by well-intentioned people. We know it was a bid for power and a method of manufacturing evidence to fuel the engine for war. Maybe we need to go about it differently, but that's just a matter of 'how' not of 'if.'
You can say “you can’t” all you like. For the most part I'm already of the mindset that this is just psyops in a facet of a domestic war. Just trying to sap our will to fight. Well, they tried that with terror and fear and torture for eight fucking years. Didn't work when they were in power. Now that they're out, fact of the matter is – yeah, I can. And I will.

There will be no talking their way out of this shit.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:14 PM on May 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Slap*Happy: Cases of waterboarding have occurred on U.S. soil, as well. In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker was charged, along with three of his deputies, for handcuffing prisoners to chairs, placing towels over their faces, and pouring water on the cloth until they gave what the officers considered to be confessions. The sheriff and his deputies were all convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.

dios: This is referring to the opinion in US v. Lee, which does not have anything at all to do with whether waterboarding is torture. The case was about severance and it provides no guidance or any holding relevant to this issue at all.

Slap*Happy does not say anything about "torture", only that there's been a precedent for waterboarding in the US being illegal.

Then dios says this is US v. Lee, which has nothing to do with torture.

True, the opinion does not. The original case, however - the one where an appeal led to US v Lee, does involve waterboarding - which is what Slap*Happy said. Slap*Happy did not say anything about US v. Lee.

Lee was indicted along with two other deputies, Floyd Baker and James Glover, and the County Sheriff, James Parker, based on a number of incidents in which prisoners were subjected to a "water torture" in order to prompt confessions to various crimes. On the morning trial was to begin, Floyd Baker's counsel informed the court and his co-defendants that Baker intended to admit the government's allegations were true but would argue that he did not have the "state of mind" required for criminal liability. Lee, Glover and Parker each intended to defend on the ground that they did not participate in any torture incidents and were unaware that any such incidents were taking place.

How utterly disingenuous.
posted by kaemaril at 3:25 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Now the 'they can quit' thing - not so much. Technically a terrorist can 'quit' as well and talk. Sorta. It's a tangent point, but - look, no one wants to quit SERE anymore than anyone wants to quit any other school they volunteer for. No one wants to look demotivated or look like an individual. So quitting isn't a real viable option. "

I think the point is that when you're going through SERE or other similar training, you know that you're not going to die. When it's the enemy torturing you, then you don't actually know if you're going to die or not. Several deaths have resulted from our use of torture, so the fear is not unfounded.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:35 PM on May 28, 2009


Don't Feed The Troll.
posted by tkchrist at 7:47 PM on May 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are places where law is purely academic. This is one such case.

The un-applied law is the academic law.

Things will have to get pretty bad for The Powers That Be will consider throwing these people to the lions as the 'circus' portion of the normal bread and circuses. And as soon as the 'academic' moves towards 'applied', the supports of Yoo et la will then whine about how its all political theater.

And they'd be right - the nation has a long history of not applying the law to its leadership class.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2009


Perhaps this is a bit late to the thread, but Sullivan discusses the connection between the Enhanced Interrogation stuff and Abu Ghraib.

Of course, this might merely be dismissed as the rantings of some "moron" in the blogosphere.
posted by Tullius at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2009


You can see what the Bush Administration authorized and what it did not. The ACLU acquired the relevant memos, and they show that loud music, sleep management, and various environmental manipulation were authorizing but that physical abuse, sexual abuse, and any touching was prohibited.

I'm deeply curious to know how you can slap someone in the face, grab them by the collar, and slam their head against a wall without touching them.
posted by EarBucket at 10:54 AM on May 29, 2009


“I think the point is that when you're going through SERE or other similar training, you know that you're not going to die. When it's the enemy torturing you, then you don't actually know if you're going to die or not. Several deaths have resulted from our use of torture, so the fear is not unfounded.”

Yeah, but that point is wrong. As well as moot. You think someone willing to blow themselves up or crash an airplane into a building cares if they’re going to die?
I share your opposition to the use of this, but in some – hell, most cases of torture, the threat of death isn’t relevant. Fanatics would rather die than talk in the first place, and torture some convenience store clerk long and hard enough they’ll be praying for death anyway.

So – in part, yeah, the fact that it’s training and will end lends itself to your point. And again – the psychology is everything.
But physically they’re more or less equivalent, and in terms of technique in instilling fear - roughly equivalent since there is a necessary degree of uncertainty to the training.
If you knew for example that everyone is water boarded for exactly 5 seconds or 1 minute, etc – you’d have a psychological out. That would invalidate the training. You need to experience the fear, et.al. as though it were real. And, I'll add, accidents happen in training all the time. Instructors screw up. Maybe they *don't* know what they're doing. And why should you trust them to pour water up your sinuses and force it into your lungs in the first place? So there's panic in either case. You reach that animal "oh, fuck, I'll rip my mom's tits off to get out of this" level of consciousness.

Bear in mind, I agree with you that it’s not really 'real'. And that this does make some difference.
But what I’m saying is the premise that the techniques used to inculcate SERE school attendees against torture and harsh captivity are appropriate for use in real world interrogations is completely and utterly wrong from first principles.
So whether there were some equivalency on some other terms doesn't really matter.

Waterboarding and other forms of torture are coercive Useless for interrogation.

It’s as simple as the difference between an interrogative and an exclamatory statement. If you're not asking a question, you're not going to get any answers.

So even were your argument fully accurate, it would still have no bearing on the situation.
One can't argue that SERE is less 'harsh' for lack of a better term, and that this is the basis for not using it on prisoners. Indeed, there are some training methods that are far more harsh.

The problem lay in misunderstanding the application and purpose of the technique. SERE students are taught that 'this is what you might face if captured' and so, build elements of resistance which lessens submission and dependence (which good interrogators foster) and enhances the chances of escape (hence, y'know, the name).

Indeed - students in schools want to be 'broken' in school. They want to be born again hard with a new mindset - go through all the ritual, be one of the team. There's your psychological difference. There's no real opposition there. They're participating in their own psychological restructuring rather than attempting to oppose it.

But again - doesn't much matter. Using a technique that is successful in 'breaking' SERE attendees when they're willing volunteers in order to break detainees just further illustrates the idiocy there.
Hell, you waterboard someone more than 100 times - maybe you think it's not working? What's that old saw Einstein had? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

I'll add - having Mancow et.al. get waterboarded and say it's torture is to some degree counterproductive. It only illustrates the harshness of it, not the uselessness of it.
Were I to argue the other side of this, I'd give Mancow a secret bit of information - say a word/number combination - skunk319. Or a lock combination. Something. Then waterboard him until he says it.
Ta da! Waterboarding "works."
I mean, is there some world in which the guy wouldn't give up the info under that scenario?

This is not to say Hannity is not a big loudmouth pussy. But it does illustrate - essentially - just how stupid and uninformed these people are in that I have yet to hear that argument.
And indeed - that's part of the magic thinking mindset. Beat someone enough, deliver enough pain, and they will do what you want. And that "works."
Makes me wonder if these people have kids.

So - harshness isn't really the point. I mean, we put people away for 20 years in jail, that's pretty harsh. We could say then - why don't we train our troops that way?
Well, that'd be f'ing ridiculous wouldn't it? Actually, really doing the thing we're trying to train them to overcome?
So there's your training/ real world difference there.
And why not put detainees through boot? Or through ranger school? Take 'em out to jump school or mountain training or any number of other things?

The inappropriateness of using a training technique for interrogation should be fairly obvious.
And hopefully that is compounded by the nature of waterboarding, et.al. as *coercive* rather than interrogatory in nature. You'd think the term "coercive" would be all over the place shooting big bulletholes in the 'torture' arguments.

Don't know why no one's picked up on any of that. Maybe I'm the smartest guy in the f'ing world. I don't know. If I am we're all in BIG trouble.

I'd suspect though most people (present company excepted in most cases) argue from what they think and develop reasons from there (political or otherwise) instead of taking the cue from reality first.
Although the media doesn't really have much of a vested interest in reality either.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on May 29, 2009


Kaemaril is right about the Lee decision. The issue before the court wasn't whether waterboarding is torture--because it was absolutely clear to the court that it was, and this is made obvious in the decision's frequent use of the word. Lee is extremely relevant, and Yoo & Co.'s failure to even cite it is clearly deliberate avoidance of it.
posted by Mngo at 5:20 AM on May 30, 2009


Cookies, not torture, convinced al Qaeda suspect to talk, FBI interrogator says
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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