So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?

It is something new, I believe, that so many Americans approve of torture by our government.  Perhaps this is another result of the horrific mixture of hubris and paranoia (described in America’s Most Dangerous Enemy) that has come to dominate our culture.  It so, I believe it a symptom of a serious illness afflicting our society.  Incidents like this provide a mirror, benchmarks by which we can see how America has changed.

This raises questions about the American project.

  • How will a failure to thoroughly investigate these crimes affect America?
  • If not this, then what will crimes by government officials deserve prosecution?

For a brief discussion of the legal basis for torture, and the complexities of prosecuting officials, see these posts at the Volokh Conspiracy:  here and here.

Contents

  1. Some applause for America’s torturers
  2. Excerpts
  3. Reports by our government, its officers and agents, and major NGO’s about torture
  4. Other articles about torture
  5. Update:  the My Lai Massacre — evidence we sometimes approve of torture
  6. Afterword and for more information

Sections 3 and 4 provide links to a wide range of sources.

(1)  Some applause for America’s torturers

Comments posted here and at Matthew Yglesias’ site about torture.  Thousands more are scattered about Internet.  Cry for America, for what we have become.

The difference is that you know Zubeydah or whoever is a bad man. (source)

Has M.Y. forgot about 9/11? These enhanced interrogation techniques are used only on the worst of the worst. Would you prefer that we Mirandize terrorists? If we stop using these techniques, then there will likely be another attack, but this time, the blood will on MY’s hands! Rudy/Palin 2012! (source)

I don’t think we need to apologize to the world for beating up knuckleheads who send even their children to blow us up. Rather it is our DUTY to do everything reasonable to save innocent lives. (source)

“Torture” and “Torturers” are loaded terms. I would hazard that most of these detainees were treated less harshly than most kids at the hands of bullies, every day in what pass for public schools. (source)

I still maintain that the idea that “waterboarding, slamming detainees against a wall, and stuffing a prisoner with a fear of insects into a small box with a bug” are torture is ludicrous. I’ve endured worse in resistance training. … should we just turn Gitmo into Club Med, provide Korans and chaplains, free massages, group therapy, and Prime Rib on Sunday in the hope that the Jihadist leaders we have busted our collective hump to capture will give up their info willingly? Get real. (source)

When it comes to how these people are being treated, you have to consider what you are dealing with. These terrorists don’t play the game by our rules, or by any rules of civilized conduct. To treat them as if they were just any John Doe in America who has been accused of a crime just plays into their hands, in my opinion. I really have no sympathy whatever for their complaints. Frankly I don’t understand all the sympathy these terrorists seem to be getting from some. Rather odd considering who these people are and what they are trying to do to innocent people.

To put it succinctly, these terrorists are the enemy. They should be treated as such. When they make up their minds that they want to play by the rules again and resume normal relations amongst the peoples of the world, then we can talk. Until then, we have to fight them until they are defeated. The methods described appear to me to be very mild. If anything, we are too damned nice to them. (source)

We’re using 21st Century, Western morality while fighting a 5th Century Islamic morality. Given the choice between losing half of Philly to a dirty bomb or being accused of having descended to the practices of our enemies then I’ll grant the latter. Turn on the AC. In our lifetimes some nitwit in Washington is going to feel too morally elevated to approve the waterboarding of an important captive. That decision will cost innocent Americans their lives and we’ll all be more vulnerable afterwards. I abhor the notion of torture. But, if my child were held by some demented masochist I’d be the first one pulling up the fingernails. (source)

(2)  Excerpts

(A)  Testimony of Dennis C. Blair (Director of National Intelligence) before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 22 January 2009:

“Torture is not moral, not legal, not effective.”

(B)  Statement of Dennis C. Blair (Director of National Intelligence) on 21 April 2009 — Excerpt:

I recommended to the president that the administration release these memos, and I made clear that the CIA should not be punished for carrying out legal orders.  I also strongly supported the president when he declared that we would no longer use enhanced interrogation techniques. We do not need these techniques to keep America safe.

The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.

(C)  Book review of The One Percent Doctrine – Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 by Ron Suskind, Washington Post, 20 June 2006 — Excerpt:

One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind’s gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war’s major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3” — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

… In interviews with intelligence officers, Suskind often finds them baffled by White House statements. “Why the hell did the President have to put us in a box like this?” one top CIA official asked about the overblown public portrait of Abu Zubaydah. But Suskind sees a deliberate management choice: Bush ensnared his director of central intelligence at the time, George J. Tenet, and many others in a new kind of war in which action and evidence were consciously divorced.

(D)  My Tortured Decision“, Ali Soufan (the FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the Zubaydah interrogations), op-ed in the New York Times, 22 April 2009 — Excerpt:

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

… There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

(E)  Preface By Antonio Taguba (Major General, US Army, retired), from “Broken Laws, Broken Lives”, Report by the Physicians for Human Rights, June 2008.  Bold emphasis added.

This report tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individuals’ lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors.

The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted — both on America’s institutions and our nation’s founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

The former detainees in this report, each of whom is fighting a lonely and difficult battle to rebuild his life, require reparations for what they endured, comprehensive psycho-social and medical assistance, and even an official apology from our government.

But most of all, these men deserve justice as required under the tenets of international law and the United States Constitution.

And so do the American people.

About Antonio Taguba (Major General, US Army, retired):

Major General Antonio “Tony” M. Taguba (US Army, Retired) led the official US Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, testifying before Congress about his findings in 2004.

Major General Taguba served 34 years on active duty until his retirement on January 1, 2007. He has served in numerous leadership and staff positions, most recently as Deputy Commanding General, Combined Forces Land Component Command during Operations Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait and Iraq; as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; and as Deputy Commanding General for Transformation, US Army Reserve Command.

(E)  Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts“, Evan Wallach, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, May 2007 — Excerpt:

Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) American judges or commissioners heard American prosecutors roundly condemn the practice as it was applied to American servicemen, and voted to convict the perpetrators. The United States was not alone in prosecuting water torture before national tribunals, nor were the Japanese its sole practitioner. It is worth comparing those trials with Norway’s prosecution of German defendants for the same form of misconduct, and the United Kingdom’s trial and execution of Japanese interrogators who used the method. (p. 5)

… In all cases, whether the water cure was applied by Americans, to Americans, or simply reviewed by American courts, it has uniformly been rejected as illegal; often with severely punitive results for the perpetrators. (p. 10)

… The clearest exposition of the U.S. position on the use of the water treatment as torture is found in cases in which the Japanese armed forces applied it to Allied prisoners of war during WW2. Japan’s use of the technique was extremely common, and was part of the widespread use of torture as a tool of interrogation. An extensive discussion of the effectiveness of water questioning, and one with which some Americans might be expected to be familiar because of the fame of the victims, was found in the trial of Japanese officers responsible for the torture, trial, and in some cases execution, of crew members of the April, 1942 Doolittle raid on Tokyo. (p. 11)

… The United States tried a significant number of Class B and C war criminals before national tribunals. Among them were several conducted at Yokohama, Japan and one in the Philippines which elicited compelling descriptions of water torture from its victims, and which resulted in severe punishment for its perpetrators. {p. 16)

About the author:  Evan Wallach, a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, teaches the law of war as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.

(F)  A Dubious C.I.A. Shortcut“, Philip Zelikow, op-ed in the New York Times, 24 April 2009 — Excerpt:

The United States has plenty of its own experience to consider, in law enforcement (remember the frenzy a generation ago over the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision requiring suspects to be read their rights?) as well as in war. In World War II, the United States and Britain had special programs for “high value” captives. Thousands of lives were at stake. Yet, even in a horrifyingly brutal war, neither government found it necessary to use methods like the ones in this C.I.A. program. George Marshall would not have needed a lawyer to tell him whether such methods were O.K.

More recent history is also revealing. America inadvertently carried out an experiment in how best to question Qaeda captives. On the one side there was the C.I.A. effort, while on the other there was the military-run program against Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Iraq program, organized by the Joint Special Operations Command, was reformed after the Abu Ghraib scandals. It respected basic international standards. It used teams made up of experts from the military, the C.I.A. and law enforcement. The F.B.I. did not have to stay away, as it did from the C.I.A.’s “enhanced” interrogations.

Qaeda captives in Iraq were hard cases, often more seasoned in violence than captives taken elsewhere. Yet the program in Iraq was and remains highly successful. I was impressed when I observed it in 2005 as part of a wider look at our intelligence efforts. I know that Joint Special Operations Command leaders told the White House that they could interrogate captives effectively under the higher standards.

There is another variable in the intelligence equation: the help you lose because your friends start keeping their distance. When I worked at the State Department, some of America’s best European allies found it increasingly difficult to assist us in counterterrorism because they feared becoming complicit in a program their governments abhorred. This was not a hypothetical concern.

About the author:  Philip Zelikow, a professor of history at the University of Virginia, was the counselor of the State Department from 2005 to 2006 and the executive director of the 9/11 commission.

(G)  Ice Water and Sweatboxes – The long and sadistic history behind the CIA’s torture techniques“, By Darius Rejali, Slate, 17 March 2009 — Excerpt:

In the 20thcentury, there were two main traditions of clean torture—the kind that doesn’t leave marks, as modern torturers prefer. The first is French modern, a combination of water- and electro-torture. The second is Anglo-Saxon modern, a classic list of sleep deprivation, positional and restraint tortures, extremes of temperature, noise, and beatings.

All the techniques in the accounts of torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as reported Monday, collected from 14 detainees held in CIA custody, fit a long historical pattern of Anglo-Saxon modern. The ICRC report apparently includes details of CIA practices unknown until now, details that point to practices with names, histories, and political influences. In torture, hell is always in the details.

The ice-water cure

“On a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets. … I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation,” detainee Walid bin Attash told the Red Cross.

In the 1920s, the Chicago police used to extract confessions from prisoners by chilling them in freezing water baths. This was called the “ice-water cure.” That’s not its first use. During World War I, American military prisons subjected conscientious objectors to ice-water showers and baths until they fainted. The technique appeared in some British penal colonies as well; occasionally in Soviet interrogation in the 1930s; and more commonly in fascist Spain, Vichy France, and Gestapo-occupied Belgium. The Allies also used it against people they regarded as war criminals and terrorists. Between 1940 and 1948, British interrogators used “cold-water showers” as part of a brutal interrogation regimen in a clandestine London prison for German POWs accused of war crimes. French Paras also used cold showers occasionally in Algeria in the 1950s. In the 1970s, Greek, Chilean, Israeli, and Syrian interrogators made prisoners stand under cold showers or in cold pools for long periods. And American soldiers in Vietnam called it the “old cold-water-hot-water treatment” in the 1960s.

Cold cell

Abu Zubaydah, another detainee, says, “I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. … [T]he cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold.” There, he was shackled to a chair for two to three weeks. “Cold cell” is one of six known authorized CIA interrogation techniques.

Since the 1960s, torturers have adapted air vents to put “the air in a state of war with me,” in the words of one prisoner. In the first recorded case in 1961, guards at Parchman, Mississippi’s state penitentiary, blasted civil rights detainees with a fire hose and then turned “the air-conditioning system on full blast” for three days. In 1965, detainees in Aden reported that British guards kept them “undressed in very cold cells with air conditioners and fans running at full speed.” In other countries, interrogators have forced prisoners to stand or squat for long periods in front of blasting air-conditioning units or fans, as in South Vietnam (1970s), Singapore (1970s), the Philippines (1976), Taiwan (1980), South Africa (1980s), and Israel (1991 to present).

In a scene eerily similar to the CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, South Vietnamese torturers held Vhuen Van Tai, the highest-ranking Viet Cong officer captured, in a windowless white room outfitted with heavy-duty air conditioners for four years. Frank Snepp, a CIA interrogator who interviewed him in 1972 in the room regularly, described Tai as “thoroughly chilled.”

Water-boarding

Abu Zubaydah says that after he was strapped to a bed, “[a] black cloth was then placed over my face and the interrogators used a mineral water bottle to pour water on the cloth so that I could not breathe.” If the contents of the mineral-water bottle were carbonated, this would be a well-known Mexican police technique (tehuancanzo), documented since the 1980s. The Mexican signature mark is to mix in a little chili pepper before forcing the water down the nasal passage.

Water-boardingis not a technical term in torture, and reports have described several different water tortures under this name. The ICRC report puts to rest which kind the CIA used. It turns out to be the traditional “water cure,” an antique Dutch technique invented in the East Indies in the 17th century. It migrated here after American troops returned from the Philippine insurgency in the early 20thcentury. By the 1930s, the water cure was favored by the Southern police. Interrogators tie or hold down a victim on his back. Then they pour water down his nostrils “so as to strangle him, thus causing pain and horror for the purpose of forcing a confession.” Sometimes torturers cover the face with a napkin, making it difficult for the prisoner to breathe, as the ICRC report describes.

Sweatboxes and coubarils

Abu Zubaydah says, “Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. … The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 feet 6 inches] in height.” The large box, which Abu Zubaydah says he was held in for up to two hours, is a classic sweatbox. Sweatboxes are old, and they came into modern torture from traditional Asian penal practices. If you’ve seen Bridge on the River Kwai, you know the Japanese used them in POW camps in World War II. They are still common in East Asia. The Chinese used them during the Korean War, and Chinese prisoners today relate accounts of squeeze cells (xiaohao, literally “small number”), dark cells (heiwu), and extremely hot or cold cells. In Vietnam, they are dubbed variously “dark cells,” “tiger cages,” or “connex boxes,” which are metal and heat up rapidly in the tropical sun.

Abu Zubaydah was also placed into the smaller box, in which he was forced to crouch for hours, until “the stress on my legs held in this position meant my wounds both in the leg and stomach became very painful.” This smaller type of box was once called a coubaril. Coubarils often bent the body in an uncomfortable position. They were standard in French penal colonies in New Guinea in the 19th century, where some prisoners were held in them for 16 days at a stretch.

Both kinds of boxes entered American prison and military practice in the 19th century. They were a standard part of naval discipline, and the word sweatboxcomes from the Civil War era. In the 1970s, prisoners described sweatboxes in South Vietnam, Iran (tabout, or “coffin”), Israel, and Turkey (”tortoise cell”). In the last three decades, prisoners have reported the use of sweatboxes in Brazil (cofrinho), Honduras (cajones), and Paraguay (guardia). And after 2002, Iraqi prisoners held in U.S. detention centers describe “cells so small that they could neither stand nor lie down,” as well as a box known as “the coffin” at the U.S. detention center at Qaim near Syria.

Standing cells

WalidBin Attash says, “I was put in a cell measuring approximately [3 feet 6 inches-by-6 feet 6 inches]. I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell.” Over the last century, many prisons had built-in, tall, narrow, coffin-size cells, in which prisoners were forced to stand for hours, their hands chained to the ceiling. In the early 20thcentury, the women’s prison in Gainesville, Texas, had a standing cell in the dining room so that prisoners could smell the food.

High-cuffing

Detainees routinely describe having their hands cuffed high above their heads while they stand with their feet on the ground. This is less damaging than full suspension by the wrists, which causes permanent nerve damage in 15 minutes to an average-size man. High-cuffing increases the time prisoners may be suspended, elongates the pain, and delays permanent injury. It is a restraint torture, as opposed to a positional torture, which requires prisoners to assume a normal human position (standing or sitting), but for a prolonged period of time.

High-cuffing is an old slave punishment of the Americas, once called “hanging from the rafters.” John Brown, a free slave, said of it, “Some tie them up in a very uneasy posture, where they must stand all night, and they will then work them hard all day.” American military prisons adopted the practice in World War I. High-cuffing was the standard prescribed military punishment for desertion, insubordination, and conscientious objection. Prisoners were handcuffed to their cell door eight to nine hours a day, in one case for up to 50 days. They described high-cuffing as excruciatingly painful, and the American public, otherwise unsympathetic with these prisoners, found the practice appalling, sparking a newspaper debate over “manacling” in November 1918. A month later, the War Department rescinded high-cuffing as a mode of punishment.

Towels, collars, and plywood

Sometimes torturers come up with something entirely new. “Also,” says Abu Zubaydah, “on a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.”

This is a novel approach to beating someone in a way that leaves few marks. For 30 years, I’ve studied a long and remorseless two centuries of torture around the world, and I can find only one instance of an account resembling the collars and plywood technique described in the ICRC report. It’s American. During World War I, conscientious objectors in military prisons report that their guards dragged them like animals with a rope around the neck, across rough floors, slamming them into walls. This one, as far as I can tell, is entirely homegrown.

About the author

Darius Rejali is a professor of political science and the author of Torture and Democracy, the winner of the 2007 Human Rights Best Book Award of the American Political Science Association.

(3)  Reports by our government, its officers and agents, and major NGO’s about torture

The best source of information about torture I’ve found is “EDUCING INFORMATION, Interrogation: Science and Art, Foundations for the Future“, Intelligence Science Board, National Defense Intelligence College, December 2006 — 372 pages. The authors are skeptical. Also, the Wikipedia entry on torture has valauble background information.

Remember, President Reagan sighed the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1988.

  1. Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody“, International Committee of the Red Cross, February 2007 – except in the New York Review of Books, 9 April 2009 (aprox 24 pages)
  2. Waterboarding is Torture, Period“, Malcome Nance (major heavy CI and Special Ops background, see his bio), Small Wars Journal, 31 October 2007
  3. Broken Laws, Broken Lives”, Report by the Physicians for Human Rights, June 2008
  4. Guantanamo and the SERE schools“, Pat Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired), Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2 July 2008 — Putting the above story in a larger context of good and evil, of America and its enemies.
  5. Executive Summary of the Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody“, Senate Armed Services Committee, December 2008 (18 pages)
  6. Testimony of Dennis C. Blair (Director of National Intelligence) before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 22 January 2009
  7. Statement of Dennis C. Blair (Director of National Intelligence) on 21 April 2009
  8. My Tortured Decision“, Ali Soufan (the FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the Zubaydah interrogations), op-ed in the New York Times, 22 April 2009
  9. Declassified Narrativeon DOJ Office of Legal Counsel’s Opinions on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program, Senate Intelligence Committee, 17 April 2009
  10. Office of Legal Counsel memos about detention and questioning of prisoners:  OLC site, Wikipedia links.

(4)  Other articles about torture

  1. Book review of The One Percent Doctrine – Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11By Ron Suskind, Washington Post, 20 June 2006
  2. Book review of The One Percent Doctrineby Ron Suskind, New York Times, 20 June 2006
  3. Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts“, Evan Wallach, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, May 2007
  4. Verschärfte Vernehmung“, Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic online, 29 May 2007 — Comparing NAZI methods to ours.
  5. Of Course It Was Torture“, Gene Healy, president of the Cato Institute, 20 April 2008
  6. China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo“, New York Times, 2 July 2008 — Terrible news about our government.
  7. The flawed thinking of the administration’s torture advocates“, Steven Kleinman, posted at Nieman Watchdog, 7 August 2008 — It doesn’t work.
  8. Believe Me, It’s Torture“, Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, August 2008
  9. Cancel Water-Boarding 101“, David J. Morris, Slate, 29 January 2009 — “The military should close its torture school. I know because I graduated from it.”
  10. Lincoln’s Laws of War“, John Fabian Witt, Slate, 11 February 2009 — “How he built the code that Bush attempted to destroy.”
  11. Ice Water and Sweatboxes – The long and sadistic history behind the CIA’s torture techniques“, By Darius Rejali, Slate, 17 March 2009
  12. Detainee’s Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots“, Washington Post, 29 March 2009 — “Waterboarding, Rough Interrogation of Abu Zubaida Produced False Leads, Officials Say”
  13. Bush’s Torture Rationale Debunked“, Dan Froomkin, blog of the Washington Post, 30 March 2009
  14. Report Details Origins of Bush-Era Interrogation Policies“, Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent, 21 April 2009 — “Senate Armed Services Document Outlines How Pentagon Used Torture Resistance Training in Interrogations”
  15. Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link“, McClatchy Newspapers, 21 April 2009
  16. A Dubious C.I.A. Shortcut“, Philip Zelikow, op-ed in the New York Times, 24 April 2009 – He was counselor of the State Dept from 2005 to 2006 and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission.
  17. Disbar The Bush Lawyers And Get A Special Prosecutor For The Rest“, comments by Lawrence Wilkerson (Colonel, US Army, Retired; former Chief of Staff to Sec State Powell), Huffington Post, 27 April 2009

Attorneys discussing the law:

  1. Congress Shouldn’t Impeach Bybee“, Frank Bowman (Prof of Law at Uof Missouri-Columbia), Slate, 24 April 2009 — “Much as he deserves it.”
  2. Analysis at the Volokh Conspiracy:  here and here

The Brits are investigating their torturers:

  1. Metropolitan police investigation fails to quell independent inquiry calls“, The Guardian, 27 March 2009
  2. Torture victim Binyam Mohamed: don’t scapegoat MI5 officer“, The Guardian, 27 March 2009

(5)  The My Lai Massacre — evidence we sometimes approve of torture

An email from a reader alerts me to a example of torture widely approved by the US public.

(A)  From the Wikipedia entry about the My Lai Massacre

The My Lai Massacre was the mass murder of 347 to 504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, all of whom were civilians and some of whom were women and children, conducted by U.S. Army forces on March 16, 1968.

Many of the victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, or maimed, and some of the bodies were found mutilated.2 The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village during the Vietnam War. 3, 4  Of the 26 US soldiers initially charged with criminal offences for their actions at My Lai, only William Calley was convicted. He served three years of his life sentence. … Three U.S. servicemen who made an effort to halt the massacre and protect the wounded were denounced by U.S. Congressmen, received hate mail, death threats and mutilated animals on their doorsteps.5 Only 30 years after the event were their efforts honored.6

(B)  From How We Got Here: The 70’s The Decade That Brought You Modern Life (for Better or Worse), by David Frum (2000), page 84:

My Lai is remembered as a turning point in the war, and indeed it was, but not in the way people usually think.

  1. In the twenty-four hours after the military court declared Calley’s guilt, the White House received more than 5,000 telegrams and 1,500 phone calls. The messages ran 100:1 in Calley’s favor.
  2. Congressional liberals like Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut joined with conservatives like Georgia’s Herman Talmadge to condemn the verdict.
  3. Representative Don Fuqua, a Democrat from Calley’s home state of Florida, proposed inviting Calley to address a joint session. “We are his accusers. Let us invite this American serviceman here to tell his story.”
  4. The governor of Indiana ordered all state flags to be flown at half staff for Calley.
  5. The governor of Utah criticized the verdict as “inappropriate” and the sentence as “excessive.”
  6. Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia proclaimed “American Fighting Man’s Day,” and urged Georgia motorists to drive all week with headlights on.
  7. The Arkansas legislature approved a resolution asking for clemency.
  8. The lower house of the Kansas legislature demanded Calley’s release from prison. So did the Texas Senate and the state legislatures of New Jersey and South Carolina.
  9. The draft board in Quitman, Georgia, wired the White House that so long as the Calley verdict stood, it would not induct any more young men.
  10. Members of draft boards in Athens and Blairsville, Georgia, and in Elizabethtown, Tennessee, resigned.
  11. A Poughkeepsie, New York, radio station invited listeners to call in their opinions. It received more than 2,000 calls in just one hour. Only 36 defended the verdict.
  12. Governor George Wallace spoke at a rally in Calley’s defense at Columbus, Georgia, alongside Governor John Bell Williams of Mississippi.
  13. The Columbus rally was just one of a series of demonstrations across the nation; Jacksonville, Florida, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Dallas quickly followed.
  14. By the end of the first week after Calley’s conviction and sentencing, 79% of Americans polled expressed disapproval of the verdict.
  15. Within the month, a Tennessee recording company announced that it had sold more than 200,000 copies of a song titled “The Battle Hymn of William Calley.”

(6)  For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest are:

  1. About America – how can we reform it?
  2. Good news about America, a collection of articles!

Forecasts about the American spirit, the American soul:

  1. Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
  2. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  3. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  4. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  5. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  6. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
  7. About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009

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105 thoughts on “So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?

  1. “CIA history consists to an astonishing degree of large programs run by people with no idea what they were doing. Their expensive and ultimately bloody building of organizations in Eastern Europe to fight the USSR and the Bay of Pigs are noteworthy but not unique examples. Several of the citations given mention that the experts running the SERE program offered advice which was ignored.”

    To summarize, then, it is your belief that the individuals interrogating these prisoners were not experts.

    OK. This is simply childish. Have fun with your post and your blog. You’ve lost a fan.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Facts are often sad. Not everybody can face them. Someone should give RWL a copy of Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, or one of the other histories of the CIA.

  2. I might be OT big times, for which I apologize, but what I hear constantly about torture, or physical distress, is that “it doesn’t work”. That’s simply not true. Torture does work! Again, it_does_work!
    Torture misfires indeed when it’s applied to the wrong people; and that’s where the difficulty lies. Who are the people who have valuable information? Who should be tortured in order to get information? Do you torture 100 in order to get what you want from 1?
    In spite of what I said, no, I am not defending torture. I am just speaking out against “popular wisdom” such as “torture doesn’t work”.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This post gives a wide range of experts’ names. Write to them and explain that their professional opions are incorrect. I’m sure they will love to hear your views.

  3. For a case in recent times of torture working, I cite the success of the 1er REP in destroying the FLN cells in the Battle of Algiers.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I assume you define “working” narrowly, as in producing useful information. I believe the usual wording of experts is “ineffective” — as information can be produced aprox equally well via other means. Your example illustrates that quite well. France used torture, but their methods (of which torture was one) resulted in popular opposition and losing the war.

    For more about this see 2 of the citations given in this post:
    * “My Tortured Decision“, Ali Soufan (the FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the Zubaydah interrogations), op-ed in the New York Times, 22 April 2009
    * “A Dubious C.I.A. Shortcut“, Philip Zelikow, op-ed in the New York Times, 24 April 2009 — He was counselor of the State Department from 2005 to 2006 and the executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

  4. Re to #42.

    That is a slippery slope logic. How are we going to determine who have valuable information before torture? What is the valuable information you are looking for? Do we need torture to find information about who have valuable information we are looking for? In short, saying fairness and torture are compatible is completely absurded.

    To paraphase on the logic flaw of your statement, I’ll replace the word “torture” with “punishment”:

    “‘Punishment’ misfires indeed when it’s applied to the wrong people; and that’s where the difficulty lies. Who are the people that ‘committed the crime’? Who should be ‘punished’ in order to ‘pay for his/her crime’? Do you ‘punish’ 100 in order to get what you want from 1?”

    Torture and the value of justice just don’t belong together.

  5. What is your point? For crying out loud, the treatments of the Al Quaeda monsters was NOT torture. There were legal decisions drawing lines and on one side of the line was as list of torture activities and on the other side of the line was a list of rough interrogation activities that were designated as not torture. These were the actions performed on the Al Quaeda terrorists.

    You want the line drawn somewhere else? Fine. Tell us where you want the line drawn. Just remember that while these monsters are still currently planning to kill hundreds of thousands of us, you’re writing a blog entry and somewhere else someone with a pair of balls is doing his job to protect us.

    I know which of these two are honorable. And you sir are not.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: On what basis do you make these assertions, such as “the Al Quaeda monsters was NOT torture.” I cite a wide range of experts — miltiary, intelligence, and legal. And your reply? Do you have any basis for your beliefs, other than watching “24”?

  6. “This post gives a wide range of experts’ names. Write to them and explain that their professional opions are incorrect. I’m sure they will love to learn that they are incorrect.”

    You are correct not to believe me, just another virtual loiterer. I could be a right-wing wacko who cares only about his little behind, or I could be plain lying, or I could be delusional, or I could be…anything. You should feel justified believing the experts.

    “I assume you define “working” narrowly, as in producing useful information.”

    Well, that’s what torture is all about: extracting information.

    Re. 44: “saying fairness and torture are compatible is completely absurded.”

    That’s why it’s said that assumptions are the mother(s) of all #@%$ups. You assume I said/implied something that I didn’t. All I said is that torture works, it produces valuable information. I did not in any way promote the use of torture. If you feel threatened by what I said you shouldn’t, the owner of this site makes it easy for you.
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    Fabius Maximus: In what sense is this a sensible reply — “You should feel justified believing the experts.” Why should we believe you rather than the experts? It’s not a subject with which most Americans have any experience or knowledge. Watching TV does not count. I try to avoid saying this, but this is (as it stands) foolish.

    “Well, that’s what torture is all about: extracting information.”

    Which is why I cited experts saying that other methods work, without the side-effects of torture. Such as in your example, enraging the locals so that the France lost Algeria. Citing use of torture in a war where the torturers won would have some weight. Like the Japanese and NAZIs in WWII — oh no, that does not work either. Or our lapses in Vietnam like My Lai, which ended so well. Or the great success of the USSR, the Soviet Empire, which — collapsed in 1989.

  7. Fabius Maximus: “I assume you define “working” narrowly, as in producing useful information. I believe the usual wording of experts is “ineffective” — as information can be produced aprox equally well via other means. Your example illustrates that quite well. France used torture, but their methods (of which torture was one) resulted in popular opposition and losing the war.

    Yes, I mean that the Paras got useful information from their torture sessions; I question the utility of “other means” when dealing with people who live close to the bone, as they are used to hardship and can take a lot of physical abuse. So, I’d like to hear detailed descriptions of these “other means”.

    It is too much to say the torturing cost France the war. I believe they would have lost anyway — in time.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I did not say that “the torturing cost France the war.” I said that “their methods (of which torture was one) resulted in popular opposition and losing the war.”

    “I question the utility of “other means” when dealing with people who live close to the bone … So, I’d like to hear detailed descriptions of these “other means”.”

    I have dozens of links providing this material. I recommend reading some, such as those in Comment #43, or the NDIC stury in section 3.

  8. Re #46. But you are implying that torture 100, 1000, a million people is justified if you can find your information, because it works.

    I used to live in a country that uses tortures regularly to solve crimes, and your logic is exactly like the cops on the street. I do remeber a time when the cops tortures an innocent guy for a murder case, and all the cops get is the murders’ ID number to track him down later. See, torture works, it helped the cops to catch a killer! Even at the expense of breaking some guy’s leg, who just happens to live next door to the killer.

    You think America can sink that low, be my guest.

  9. I promised not to comment here anymore out of respect for the author. The sources cited are one-sided (The One Percent Doctrine?) and the post appears more like a brief than a serious inquiry, which may require discussing contrary opinions, or so I’ve heard. But I don’t want to discourage other comments, so I’m off. Pretend I don’t exist. It’s easy if you try. Heck even I don’t believe it sometimes.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It is easy to ignore your opinions because you provide zero support for them.

  10. FM: “So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?

    That Americans are consequentialists not deontologists. Americans are famously pragmatic people, and one would expect pragmatic people to espouse consequentialist ethics. Not only that, but to pragmatic people, deontolgists will sound like self righteous Pecksniffs.

    Of course deontolgists think that consequentialists are barbarians who live under rocks and eat small furry animals. See comments 20, 21, and 22, above.

  11. “Why should we believe you rather than the experts?”

    That’s why I said: “You are correct not to believe me, just another virtual loiterer.” I wouldn’t expect you to believe anything that a stranger who knocks at your (virtual) door tells you. There isn’t anything else I can say. I know torture works, and you know what American experts say. You don’t believe me, and I don’t believe American experts for a second. Stalemate.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s a stalemate in your eyes. Since you have given zero basis for your beliefs and consider the opinion of experts as having no weight, I can only congratulate you on your self-esteem.

  12. Re 48: “you are implying that torture 100, 1000, a million people is justified”

    ??? You are not familiar with that saying about the mother of assumptions, are you?

  13. Experts who say that torture doesn’t work are cited all over the media. I keep wondering what makes those people “experts”. What are they “experts” in? Torture? Unlikely. Probably they are analysts of information extracted through torture.

    I would truly want to know more, much, much more about the information on which they base the statement that torture doesn’t work. What kind of techniques were applied? Were they applied indiscriminately (like in Algeria, Soviet block, etc)? Most importantly, what was the rate of success with people who were known to have truly valuable information?

    There are so many questions I can think of. Personally, for myself I know the answer to the question “does torture work?”, but most people only hear certain experts. For this reason there should be a wide open discussion about *all* aspects of torture.

    Do we really want a national/international debate on this issue? Let’s have it, let’s turn this thing upside down. BTW, it’s highly unlikely that genuine torture experts will speak out (when I say torture I mean more than waterboarding).

    (Steven, I still don’t support torture).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Blah, blah, blah. With only one exception, nobody has been able to give any evidence or cite any experts contradicting the material in this post. All I see are assertions, noteworthy only for the confidence with which they are given.

    “What are they “experts” in? Torture? Unlikely. Probably they are analysts of information extracted through torture.”

    They are experts in interrogation techniques, which is now a well-developed body of knowledge. As listed in comment #56, the background of several show experience in the obtaining and using information against insurgents. Have any of you actually read the post?

    “Personally, for myself I know the answer to the question ‘does torture work?'”

    What is your basis for this “knowledge”?

  14. Re 52: I did not assume, I just poke holes at your logic.

    Your logic is: “Torture misfires indeed when it’s applied to the wrong people; and that’s where the difficulty lies. Who are the people who have valuable information? Who should be tortured in order to get information? Do you torture 100 in order to get what you want from 1?”

    My response was to you logic hole was: “That is a slippery slope logic. How are we going to determine who have valuable information before torture? What is the valuable information you are looking for? Do we need torture to find information about who have valuable information we are looking for?”

    And by following the holes of your logic, your logic implied that “torture 100, 1000, a million people is justified”. But by looking at your response, I don’t think you actually thought that far, nor realized that this is a public debate. My point in the entire debate is trying to compromise between torture and American values are unfeasible.

  15. Steven, Steven… I’ll try it one more time.

    I posted something that I thought would be an obvious rhetorical question: “Do you torture 100 in order to get what you want from 1?” To me, the obvious answer to that would be “No!”.

    Apparently it wasn’t obvious enough for you. You put words into my mouth, you built a mighty straw man, you made inappropriate assumptions. Are we done now?

  16. FM reply to comment #41: “Facts are often sad. Not everybody can face them.”

    It is a sad fact that you have carefully assembled a group of “experts” whose chief claim to being experts is that they say things you agree with. But that would be a fact you cannot face. This attempt at argument by authority does not fly, because this is not a subject where it can fly. Zelikow, to pick one example, is no more qualified to speak on the topic of torture than is the average internet commenter. He’s an academic.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: And what experts provide the basis for your beliefs? Nobody supporting torture has done more than give their opinions, unable (with a few exceptions) to cite any evidence or experts. Perhaps they get their info from watching “24” and reading pulp novels.

    “carefully assembled a group of “experts” whose chief claim to being experts is that they say things you agree with”

    Since you cite nothing, I guess my group is better by default. But it goes beyond that, as your statement is daft, raising the suspicion that you have not in fact read the post — or much about this subject.

    * A 372 page report from the Intelligence Science Board, National Defense Intelligence College.
    * Malcome Nance (major heavy CI and Special Ops background, see his bio
    * Pat Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired), special force and intel background (bio)
    * Ali Soufan — the FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the Zubaydah interrogations (bio)

  17. ” My point in the entire debate is trying to compromise between torture and American values are unfeasible.”

    Whether it is or is not is something your elaborate straw-man argument never touched on.

  18. Interesting post for me, as I recently had a friendly running written debate regarding torture with a co-worker. I am of the position that torture, even SOME things worse than water boarding, but cetainly not anything, is morally justified based on the circumstances.

    What circumstances? Well, I don’t think you want to hear them, because it seems you accept the idea that there is absolutely no excuse for torture, even one as loosely defined by you and the experts above. Thus, not point in discussing that, so let me bring up what appears to me to be some inconsistencies presented.

    First, the idea that American acceptance of torture is “new”. I find that odd because you then go on to cite seeming widespread support for the My Lai Massacre, an incident that occurred over 40 years ago, which would not seem to be new at all, particularly for a country that is only 233 years old. I think 4 decades ago would classify as “old” in that context.

    We could then point out that while a Mai Lai type-massacre during World War II would admittedly have been abhorrent to mainstream America, if it had been revealed we had been water-boarding Japanese and Nazis to get them to reveal military plans, I think we can agree that the general reaction would have been, “And?!?” Or do you think there would have been general outrage over the kind of treatment discussed above of enemy soldiers?

    And yes, I know Japanese who water-boarded out soldiers were dealt with harshly, but one tends to forget the vicious treatment overall our soldiers recieved at their hands may have factored into that incident.

    Let’s then look to the institution of slavery which existed since the founding of the country (Thanks to Europeans and Africans…), where generations of people where whipped, chained and raped as an governmentally sanctioned institution for nearly a century before the Civil War ended the practice.

    There are others things I could highlight, but I think that should be sufficient to ask:

    * What exactly is “new” here in American’s psyche? What justifies the statement that “Incidents like this provide a mirror, benchmarks by which we can see how America has changed”? How has America changed, according to you?

    * How has our “hubris and paranoia” come dominate America NOW, and how does it compare to that of 1941-1945, where we incarcerated hundreds of thousands of American citizens based on their race or country of origin?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The section on My Lai is cited as a counter-example sent in by a reader, listed as “evidence we sometimes approve of torture.” What about that was unclear to you?

    Obviously if one goes far enough back in American history, one finds acceptance of many things we consider wrong today. I would, somewhat arbitrarily, say our era of current global standards evolved between the 3rd Geneva Convention in 1929 and the 1945 – 1949 era: the war crime trials, revision and expansion of the Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  19. RE: Comment #36 Mother Jones can oppine all they want, fact is that where I live, only 21% of the population are for capital punishment.

    You do have a point though, that governments not always represent the views of the majority of the electorate as this article shows our government gave tacit approval for two years. The stand against CIA planes was only taken after vocal popular demand, something our populist contract-policy government fears. I cannot dig up any statistics on this, but you just have to take my word or learn danish and go trawl blogs and letters to the editor. As this article shows (note to the article that we use liberal in the John Stuart Mill sense and not as a blanket term for leftists) 70% of the population supports the democratization project in Afghanistan, but only 46% believe that our presence there makes us safer from terrorism. Our former PM (the current NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen) was a frequent visitor of GWB’s. One of the few leaders invited to his ranch or given a guest room in the White House upon visits. We have, despite our small size on a global scale, been a staunch supporter of the GWOT (or OCOs as it’s now called). Active in Helman, with the second largest death-toll pr. capita after you guys. But regardless of this we oppose your torture tactics. So you are both right and wrong. You were right that our governments was not in line with the electorate on it’s initial policy. But you are quite wrong in thinking that I agree with either Team Bush or Team Obama (change we cannot believe in). Neither am I in aggrement with my own governments stance on aiding and abetting CIA torturers, but this stance goes for a majority of our population and the government in this case had to fall in line. This is something that can be done in a political system with representative mandates instead of single mandate electoral districts and a multi party system with a cut-off limit to avoid crackpot fringe parties as Italy have them or a giant dual winged single party system as you have it in the US…if you dont know…now you know

  20. Who did you cite/quote in the article that is an “expert” in interrogations and/or torture? Ali Soufan is arguably an expert, but was contradicted by the other interrogators. There are a series of lawyers, that are contradicted directly by the lawyers that wrote the OLC memos. There are a series of journalists, who can hardly be classified as experts in this area. There are also a series of military personnel who also cannot be classified as experts, since their resumes do not support it.

    I’m not being facetious. I want to cut through the editorial commentary and the unqualified to get to the opinions of the true experts that aren’t directly contradicted by some other “expert” on the other side of the fence.

    Personally, I’m still on the fence about whether water-boarding is actually torture or not. The “water-cure” that is often mentioned as something being prosectured was much more aggressive, as it pour liquid up the nose and/or down the throat, which is not what water-boarding, as it is being discussed today, actually is. Plus, the argument that we prosecuted people for water-boarding is not that clear cut, since it was one thing among many that they were convicted of doing and is pretty hard to separate out from the historical record and see as being given any sort of great importance to the legal decisions.

    I understand and would support “enhanced” interrogation to some degree. The idea that high value prisoners be treated the same as low level flunkies seems silly to me. But, the idea that “torturing” them is acceptable is equally silly. Some stronger interrogation seems appropriate, but I’m honestly wondering where to draw that line…and where to draw the line of who is high value.

    It just seems to me that a lot of people were winging it and trying to do their best in a tough situation to protect America. If that is the true case, I think this argument is dumb and can’t really do any good. We would truly be into the realm of prosecuting for policy differences. We should take concrete steps to lay down clear rules that those on the front lines can follow with a clear conscience and no second guessing by themselves or others for the future.

    However, if the lines were drawn and people jumped through hoops to bend or blurr those lines for the sake of expediency or simply because they thought they were “more right” or “should be able to do it” then those people should be rounded up and punished. If the specifically broke the law, again, round them up and punish them.

    I think a clear definition of what was and was not considered torture prior to 9/11 would be helpful as well as knowing if there were any clear line drawn before that. In reading the laws that implement the treaties, it seems they were written vaguely on purpose, to allow just the kind of interpretation that was ultimately done via the OLC memos. Also, a lot of the protesting is coming from top democrats. I really would like to know what they knew and when they knew it and how much they protested…and whether any republicans protested or voiced support.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers. More evidence that people are just not reading the post, or doing so with mental blinders. This is getting boring, as the same false material is repeated again and again.

    “Who did you cite/quote in the article that is an “expert” in interrogations and/or torture?”

    In interrogations, not torure. The last two have considerable experience in the interrogation.
    * A 372 page report from the Intelligence Science Board, National Defense Intelligence College.
    * Malcome Nance (major heavy CI and Special Ops background, see his bio
    * Pat Lang (Colonel, US Army, retired), special force and intel background (bio)

    “Ali Soufan is arguably an expert, but was contradicted by the other interrogators”

    Do you have a citation showing this?

    “There are a series of lawyers, that are contradicted directly by the lawyers that wrote the OLC memos.”

    The OLC memos have received no support that I have seen from other legal experts, and the criticism ranges from intense to ridicule.

  21. All that this tells us about America is that they have what it takes to do what is necessary. Human rights really aren’t up in the list when lives of a lot of people are at stake. Rights can be enjoyed only when alive, not by dead people.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Nice to know that we have another person commenting without any evidence of actually reading the post — or expressing any familarity with the debate. But displays excellent self-esteem, as seen in the confident assertions!

  22. Torture after 9/11 was an act of revenge, an emotionalism mixed with anger and patriotism, always a lethal combination. It became systemic under Bush and Chaney, and used as a tool to glean information that could be fed into computers in order to connect dots by massive data gathering. Many died of it, psychologists and doctors stood by, thus abrogating their code of ethics, and it was all done in the name of some Republican notion of “freedom” for which they hate us, according to the Torturer in Chief, George W. Bush. Even when professionals at interrogation told them there are better ways to do, they were not listened to. The better ways were not as satisfying as the blood for Vice chief sadist Chaney and his sadistic henchmen. Add to the mix the Evanglicalization of the Army, and you get a real Crusader zeal for killing, mailing and torturing the infidels.

  23. “Torture after 9/11 was an act of revenge, an emotionalism mixed with anger and patriotism”.

    To paraphrase our host, “do you have a source for that”?

  24. Sands in his book ‘ Torture Team ‘( pub.early 2008 )suggests that the interrogators were in some cases releiving their own frustrations or getting sadistic thrills , rather than coldly searching for information.

  25. Judging from annecdotes of the European and Nordic Resistance , with which I grew up , torture could be effective , usually the choice was an easy death versus a very long and painful death. In Burma ,I was told it was considered safer ( and kinder) to shoot an injured colleague than leave him to be captured . Collective punishments , or witnessing torture of a buddy or family member , were the most effective for extracting information . Beside which , waterboarding is small beer .
    But its the hypocracy , that those who shout so loud about Freedom and Democracy should stoop so low as to torture , that did the damage .

  26. FM replies: “Do you have any evidence — citations, or anything — to support this theory?

    Sorry I can’t locate the interview of Michael Ratner offhand. I’m not voicing a theory, I’m pointing out what he said, which is that his mission in life is to oppose the U.S. govt in any way possible. His group is the group that has coordinated the Gitmo litigation, and an array of civil suits against the government based in claims originating in battlefield encounters.

    As for my theory – here’s Wired with the latest form of torture – “Solitary Confinement: The Invisible Torture“, Brandon Kein, Wired Science column, posted at Wired, 29 April 2009 — Interview with Craig Haney (Professor of Psychology, U of California, Santa Cruz; bio). I’d call that defining torture downward, but it’s more of a Chinese olympic team-caliber swan dive downward than mere definitional slippage. You could also parse through the Congressional Research Service report on it which defined torture as any form of coercion or duress. Not a conspiracy, just a bunch of people arguing the same thing.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s play the tape. You said —

    Comment #23: “The goal of the left and the farcical international humanr rights NGO’s is not to stop torture; it is to render our human intelligence effort against state sponsored and stateless terrorist actors a eunuch, because those actors are working to smash western cultural hegemony via destruction of our physical security and our moral imperatives, including self-protection.”

    Here you give as support an “interview of Michael Ratner”. Perhaps you mean this interview on 5 March 2009 posted at Democracy Now. It’s the only recent one I see. Nothing in it seems to support your theory.

    Then you cite an interview with a Professor of Psychology. Do you have any evidence he is a leftist, or shares the evil aims you describe. There are no doubt some extreme leftists who have such aims, somewhere. But is their any evidence that they exist in large numbers or have significant influence? Unless you can provide better evidence, this sounds a bit paranoid.

  27. Sorry I didn’t get to read the whole article because I didn’t have time, but I did scim it through. :-)

    I don’t believe America should use torture. Think back to the Civil War. What did the Union do the the Confederates? They made them put new laws into place and abolish slavery. You don’t see them going on a screaming rampage and torturing every last man.

  28. I honestly still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that we’re having this conversation. What I read in the comments here and in the press on this subject makes me sick to my stomach. It’s sometimes too easy to sit back and be very sophisticated about arguments and counter-arguments, about straw-men and expert credentials and effectiveness quotients.

    In my childhood it was much simpler. I lived, as all children do, in a dream, a myth, and a myth is nothing but a story a people tell themselves about who they are, true or not. This myth, the myth of the heroic American, was the air I breathed. It was in the movies I watched, the stories I read, the games I played and in what my daddy taught me about right and wrong. There were good guys and bad guys, and you wanted to be on the side of the good guys, and the way you knew the good guys was by what they didn’t do. The hero was the one being tortured, refusing to talk, not the one doing the torturing. You didn’t shoot the bad guys in the back even though they might escape to do more harm. Once the bad guy was captured, you took him to the Sheriff and threw him in a jail cell. You didn’t slam him repeatedly against the wall. You didn’t slap him around like you were some low-life pimp. You didn’t tie him to a board, put a cloth over his face and suffocate him. You didn’t put a box full of insects over his head. You don’t hit girls and you don’t punch below the belt. And sometimes you might lose by playing fair (and this often happened in the movies), but it was much more important to be good than to win.

    Didn’t anybody teach you guys this stuff? In the mythical America of my childhood, we were the guys in white hats, fighting and treating our captives honorably even though the bad guys didn’t. That’s how you knew they were the bad guys, because they tortured their captives for information.

    This dream, this myth, this ideal was so powerful I felt prepared to give my life for it, even though I was a small child. If you had told me on the playground that American soldiers were doing this stuff to prisoners I would have called you a liar and challenged you to a fight right there.

    People want to tell me that “preventing another 9/11” with 3000 deaths is worth discarding every ideal that this nation once stood for? I grew up during the cold war, when we were 10 minutes away from complete nuclear annihilation every moment of the day (and while we slept too.) Color me unimpressed.

    So when I hear all this whining about protecting our personal safety from torture apologists, I am reminded of that earlier post about the men meekly filing out of the classroom and leaving the women to be killed. We have made a fetish of safety at all costs, and the costs are high indeed. I recoil at the nation of morally relativistic, soft-bellied, cowardly larvae we have become where once stood (in my dream at least) men who had personal integrity, and the courage of their convictions. Maybe it was only a dream. Maybe they never existed, but it seems like they might have. And maybe we’d be better off with some around.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks for posting this. This is a disturbing series of comments. Ethics of the Gestapo, reasoning of a Rodeo Clown School drop-out.

  29. Fabius,

    You never really addressed my point. You claimed in your introduction to this post to see a darkening of American character or psyche or zeitgeist that suggests things have somehow ominously changed from the purer self we used to be:

    “It is something NEW,…Perhaps this is another result of the horrific mixture of hubris and paranoia (described in America’s Most Dangerous Enemy) that HAS COME to dominate our culture…Incidents like this provide a mirror, benchmarks by which we can see how America HAS CHANGED.”

    I pointed out how any number of things, some of which you or the articles cited, would seem to contradict this idea that we have radically changed, for the worse in particular, in our view of how we treat human beings viewed as the other either for our own benefit (slavery) or out of perceived self-preservation (Japanese/German Internment during WWII).

    Perhaps I was a bit obtuse, and if so, I apologize, so let me state clearly my contention.

    Your claim that somehow recent American behavior and attitudes in regards to detainees from the War on Terror indicates a radical turn for the worse, a conversion to the Dark Side, however you want to phrase it, is incorrect and unsubstantiated based on the facts.

    I would contend, instead, that one can argue American character has shown a generally upwards trajectory in this behavior, albeit with regressions which can just as easily be blamed on human character and/or its condition. At worst, it is not markedly different and claiming otherwise is hyperbole.

    Take the events of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, both sneak attacks on American soil which both resulted in 3,000 deaths and significant damage to American power.

    In the former, during the period you cite as being one of the chief developmental periods of current global standards (1929-45), over 100,000 people, most American citizens and nearly all innocent of any wrong-doing, were forcibly detained without due process for years. From what I understand, the overall reaction of this from the American public was “Good!”.

    Post 9/11, an attack directed mostly at civilians, even with Anthrax attacks following soon after, the only people detained were those that were directly suspected of being involved in the attacks, in other plots, or were captured during military operations. Of those, a small proportion were subjected to aggressive interrogation, or torture as you see it. There were only a very few isolated incidents of anti-Muslim or Arab bigotry in the US, and in fact outreach to the same from both governmental and civilian areas.

    You might claim I am comparing Apples and Oranges, and I would agree as far as the two chief alleged wrongs are not the same exact thing. However, on the moral meter of how Americans will bend or break our principles in the interest of national safety, I am finding the contention that we tarnished a former gilded age unconvincing in this regard. To be honest, that you would introduce this post with such a questionable premise suggests to me, with all due respect, that you might not be completely objective in your evaluation of the issue.

    Sorry for the length of the post, but I wanted to make sure I was being clear this time around.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: These issues are inherently subjective. And I believe the comparison is very apples/oranges. The internment of German and Japanese residents and evacuation from the West Coast of Nisei is IMO a long way from torture. First, there is no comparison of the harm done. Second, the actions in WWII were both in accord with historical practice up to that time and justified (adequately or inadequately, depending on each person’s view) based on the information available at that time. Esp relevant is the MAGIC traffic showing Japan’s attempts to construct a network of agents in the US.

    Michelle Malkin’s book “In defense of internment: the case for “racial profiling” in World War II and the war on terror” gives the case supporting FDR’s actions, which must be judged by the situation at that time. While right or not, it is at the very least a grey case. Not like what we’ve done now.

    Also note FDR’s actions were done through an open legal process, to the extent that such a thing exists during a major war. Again very different from the current torture.

  30. Unfortunately I haven’t lived in that dream America, in fact I haven’t lived in America at all until recently. I lived in a country where people would disappear in the middle of the night (or the day) never to be seen again, or returned just to die in the middle of the family an untimely death. I lived in a country where randomness decided your fate, where suspicion and aggression were constantly present, never out of reach. In this country for many of the ones subjected to the force of the state the cliche “you will pray for death” was as real as the fingers used to type on a keyboard.
    Basically, I lived in a country which is impossible to describe in words. Even if words could describe it, for someone reading this in their comfortable chair it still would be impossible to understand.
    I don’t want America to be like that. I’ll repeat that, because I know that assumptions are readily made. I Do Not Want America To Be Like That! If you read my posts, you will see that I do not defend torture.
    But do not tell me torture doesn’t work! You, a pampered American, have the luxury to believe your “interrogation experts”. Fortunately for you the only experience of torture that you have is the ketchup used in movies. That’s the good fortune of Americans (which they deserve for all their hard work).
    I wish I had the luxury to forget my family’s past. Everyone has a breaking point. Everyone! Some are just lucky to die before they reach that point; most aren’t. Get handled by a true torture expert (and I don’t mean waterboarding) and you will break. Guaranteed. It works 100%. Obviously in a dictatorship 99% of the tortured ones have actually nothing to confess; that’s when they make things up.
    But saying that torture doesn’t work is truly one of the most stupid things that I have ever heard. For you, Fabius Maximus, this is an axiom which needs not to be questioned. That’s what your experts said, after all. Well, it turns out your experts don’t have enough “expertise”, otherwise they wouldn’t make such profoundly false statements.
    But, based on your statements, you will continue to live happily in your castle, impenetrable to non-“expert” opinions. Fine, my diatribe is not trying to convince you or anyone. It’s just presenting my point of view. Accept it or consider it a wacko’s rant.
    Solzenitsen’s accounts of the Gulag were met with outright adversity by French intellectuals. Why should I, no Solzenitsen by any stretch of imagination, just an anonymous wanderer, be met with anything else. It is what it is… People mostly believe whom they want to believe and what they want to believe.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: All you provide are assertions, in turn blustery and emotional. This threat has 72 comments, not one of which have given anything remotely like evidence supporting your statements. Nothing.

    The list of nations using torture routinely is a list of failed states (e.g., NAZI Germany, Imperial Japan, USSR) and existing nations fighting failed wars (e.g., French in Algeria, US in Vietnam). While that failure cannot be directly attributed to torture, it hardly provides support that torture “works” in any meaningful sense.

    So I will stick with the opinion of experienced people in whose writings I have developed confidence (e.g., Nance, Lang) and people whose bio gives me confidence (Ali Soufan, the FBI supervisory special agent who oversaw the Zubaydah interrogations), and some personal contacts with intel experience. Not assertions that “I know” from people whose only basis for their belief is saying “I know more than these experts, but cannot explain why or how.”

    Comparing your advocacy of torture to Solzenitsen’s reports about the Gulag is delusion if not totally cracked.

    Correction: The last line is incorrect. This comment does not advocate torture. I am uncertain what the point of it is, but it only says that torture works.

  31. Re 69:

    Hear hear, this is the America I believe in, the one that our Founding Fathers had envisioned.

    I find it hard to believe that given the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that torture goes against what America stands for, we are willing to step over it for our own safety.

    Whatever happened to the motto “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”? Is our fear of death so great that we have to sell liberty out for it?

    If we can’t follow the spirit of the Revolution and the words of the Constitution, then I think it is time for us to write a new constitution that states: “For the safety of its citizens, excessive bail can be required, and excessive fines can be imposed, and cruel and unusual punishments can be inflicted.” After the ink dries, the “Safety Clause” can shield the government from any liabilties for the protection of people. On the other hand, we are all alive.

  32. “It is something new, I believe, that so many Americans approve of torture by our government. ”

    Really? I disagree with that statement a quick look at our history will refute that notion.

    First, one clarification, you seem to lump the My Lai massacre in the same category as “torture by our government.”
    My Lai was not sanctioned by our government, it was perpetrated by out of control elements of (I think, if memory serves) the Americal division who were primarily draftees and very poorly led and allowed to spin out of control. The subsequent support for Calley is more a reflection on our society at large. The interpretation of which I will not comment on right now.

    Second, while you are correct about American war crimes tribunals against the Axis and primarily the Japanese, condemning them for doing the exact same thing to captured US troops, it is not mentioned that these actions usually took place along with far worse atrocities, as you are well aware. Water-boarding was the least of their offenses and as such was still far worse than what Americans did to terrorists.

    Third, back to my original point, to say that Americans now somehow support torture more than they have in the past and that this is reflective of some fundamental change in our society could not be more wrong.

    Americans have always been schizophrenic about torture. We officially deplore it, but turned a blind eye when practiced on Indians. The Sand Creek massacre by Colonel Chivington comes to mind. Chivington was contemplating running for Congress and in 1864, he led Union soldiers against a peaceful band of Cheyenne led by Black Kettle. They were massacred men, women and children, in an orgy of drunken depravity that would make the Gestapo and the NKVD blush. Chivington was later paraded around Denver as a hero, and spoke before adoring full house crowds while displaying Indian scalps, including the scalp of a woman’s pubic hair. Later, some of his soldiers who refused to participate in the ‘festivities’ and who denounced him were arrested and their leader was later shot in the back in the streets of Denver after being released, but before he could testify before Congress, who had finally decided to investigate. Local popular sentiment was heavily in favor of Chivington’s action.

    During military actions against Indians, neither women nor children were spared. Victims were often sexually mutilated, disemboweled, survivors saw their crops and herds destroyed along with all they owned. From the Pequot War (1637) and King Philip’S War (1675–1676), which decimated or annihilated entire Indian societies in New England, to the pacification of the Seminole tribe in Florida and the forced removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the southern states. Oh yeah, let’s not forget actions against the Piegan Blackfoot Indians in Montana (1870), against the Sioux at Wounded Knee.

    Skipping forward to the Phillipine Insurrection, “revelations that American soldiers in the Philippines were murdering civilians, destroying their villages, indiscriminately killing prisoners, and using dum-dum bullets and torture such as the “water cure” to defeat the Philippine insurgents led to the court-martial of Brig. Gen. Jacob Smith and other officers in 1902. Smith was charged with “conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline” because of his orders to kill prisoners and destroy civilian property in the course of his pacification efforts. Smith was found guilty, admonished by President Theodore Roosevelt, and forced into early retirement. Apologists for the military claimed that the unconventional tactics of the insurgents and the difficulty in distinguishing them from the native peasants justified the extraordinary measures.” I could continue, but you get the point.

    While the government officially condemned these actions, they received widespread public support.
    The arguments for and against sound hauntingly familiar to what we are hearing today. The public sentiment for and against is also eerily similar. I fail to see how you think that this phenomenon is new.

    For the record, I am not in favor of using torture, I think it’s counter productive on many levels. I am also totally against this administration’s releasing of photos & documents and potential prosecutions, which I believe are politically motivated and will only hurt us.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: These things are subjective, and inherently impossible to prove. You could easily be correct.

    “you seem to lump the My Lai massacre in the same category as ‘torture by our government.’”

    On what basis do you say this? My comment expressly says “evidence we sometimes approve of torture.” As the excerpt shows, there was little or no evidence of official policy at work. The subject of the excerpt was public reaction to the verdict of Calley as guilty. It certainly is a counter-example to my theory.

    As for your recital of events from 1600-1902 — Note what I said in comment #38:

    Obviously if one goes far enough back in American history, one finds acceptance of many things we consider wrong today. I would, somewhat arbitrarily, say our era of current global standards evolved between the 3rd Geneva Convention in 1929 and the 1945 – 1949 era: the war crime trials, revision and expansion of the Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  33. FM: “Comparing your advocacy of torture to Solzenitsen’s reports about the Gulag is delusion if not totally cracked.”

    I am speechless. Are you a man of integrity, or not? That you don’t believe me I understand and accept, but why do you make such assumptions of me?

    Number 1: When did I advocate torture? I do not! No torture. Waterboarding? It’s not for me to decide what America wants to do, but if it’s considered torture, then don’t do it. Ever!

    Number 2: I “compared” myself to Solzenitsen? What??? It was just what popped into my mind at the moment I was writing, it wasn’t any martir complex. It’s exactly like Christians who say “Jesus carried his cross, so do I”. Does this mean they compare themselves to Jesus?? I am certain they don’t.

    For an obviously intelligent and educated man you have extremely bad manners.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I was wrong. You did not advocate torture — just said that it works (which is a distinctly different issue). I have entered a correction to my comment above, and apologize for the error.

  34. One more thing. You say: “All you provide are assertions, in turn blustery and emotional”.

    So, my post is pure emotional assertions, but the previous post about that “dream America” you appreciated. Where is the consistency? Do you even realize that my post was “inspired” by that “dream America” post?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) I did not say your post is “pure emotional assertions”. Look up one line to see what I said.

    (2) Some first person testimony is nice, and I work to encourage it.

    Correction: The following was an incorrect reading of “just me’s” comment, for which I apologized below.

    But not when it is an advocacy of torture as done by the Bush Administration. That’s IMO repellent, a disgrace to what this nation stands for. Esp when done without and evidentiary support, as done by the pro-torture people on this thread — such as in your comments. Even more so when you denegrate the advice and information provided by distinguished and experienced people in our intelligence services and armed forces, and the research their supporting staff publish.

  35. “Some first person testimony is nice, and I work to encourage it. But not when it is an advocacy of torture as done by the Bush Administration.”

    When did I advocate Bush’s tactics? When? You are making assumptions. Again. Is it so hard to understand that I believe that torture works and at the same time do not support it?

    “you denegrate the advice and information provided by distinguished and experienced people in our intelligence services and armed forces”

    Do you understand that I do not need anyone to tell me whether torture works or not? I *know* it works, I have seen what it has done to people. Do you even begin to understand that? I don’t expect you to believe me, but can you at least understand why I am so adamant? Or do you have to believe something in order to understand it?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s not “again”, its the same mistake. Since corrected. As for your own knowledge, that’s your affair. I was expressing my opinion on the matter.

    Nor do you seem to understand what “works” means in this context, perhaps because you appear to have not read any of the material in this post. Of course it elicits information. That is not the issue. The utlity depends on the accuracy of the information, its effectiveness vs. legal methods, and the consequences (on us, and on the war being fought) of using torture. That you display no evidence of understanding this despite writing so many comments, on a post providing so much information on this, is amazing. But no more so than the most of the other comments on this thread.

  36. “This comment does not advocate torture. I am uncertain what the point of it is, but it only says that torture works.”

    I must say that I smiled at this: “I am uncertain what the point of it is, but it only says that torture works.”. Uncertain what the point is? Uhhhhh, that torture works…? I know it’s late at night, so you have an excuse.

  37. “you display no evidence of understanding this”

    Here we go again… Just when I thought it was all cleared up, comes another assumption.

    “The utlity depends on the accuracy of the information, its effectiveness vs. legal methods, and the consequences (on us, and on the war being fought) of using torture.”

    I don’t dispute any of that. Any. It wasn’t my intention to write an essay about ALL aspects of obtaining information. My scope was very, very limited: to express my view that torture does get results. I apologize for my extremely limited scope.

    OTOH, a man of such erudition as yourself did not realize this. Not only did you not realize this, but assumed automatically that aspects I have not mentioned are aspects I have not considered. It’s late, but you, sir, behind all the book knowledge, are not a genuine gentleman.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: If that is what you meant, I doubt anyone disagrees with you. None of the folks commenting here, and (guessing) none of the folks writing the articles cited here. It’s like saying the sun rises each day.

    The meaning of “torture works” came up repeatedly in the many comments in the first half of this thread (e.g., #28, #43, my reply to your #46, and #47). Once the broader meaning was established, the discussion moved to the costs and benefits of torture.

    If you did state your narrow definition of “works” somewhere — and your agreement with the broader view about torture’s utility — please flag it and I’ll post a correction. But in a multi-thousand word thread on the nature of torture, to repeat “it works” without qualification invites mis-interpretation.

  38. FM note: Due to the length and complexity of this I have inserted replies into the text in italics. As a reminder, I believe J is still attempting to prove the following statement from his comment #23:

    “The goal of the left and the farcical international humanr rights NGO’s is not to stop torture; it is to render our human intelligence effort against state sponsored and stateless terrorist actors a eunuch, because those actors are working to smash western cultural hegemony via destruction of our physical security and our moral imperatives, including self-protection.”

    —————-

    The U.N. Convention Against Torture: Overview of U.S. Implementation Policy Concerning the Removal of Aliens“, Congressional Research Service, 25 January 2008 — Excerpt from page 6:

    “The Senate’s advice and consent to CAT was also subject to particular understandings concerning “mental torture,” a term that is not specifically defined by the Convention. The United States understands mental torture to refer to prolonged mental harm caused or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain and suffering; (2) the administration of mind-altering substances or procedures to disrupt the victim’s senses; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat of imminent death, severe physical suffering, or application of mind-altering substances to another.”

    Got that? The Congressional Democrats are operating off an interpretation of CAT as encoded in U.S. law that makes making even illusory threats of harm a violation of the law, based on the subjective standard, of whether the illusory threat would have caused prolonged mental harm. So in other words, if an interrogator makes a threat and the person cracks, it was torture because it fails the subjective test.
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    *** This was ratified by the Senate in 1990, under a Democratic Party majority. Did anyone object at this time, or since? What is an “illusory threat”? In US law that is a felony called “assault.” So the Senate Democrats (and any Republicans that also voted in favor of this) plan to “smash western cultural hegemony via destruction of our physical security and our moral imperatives.” That’s an … interesting… theory.
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    Counter torture with justice“, Amnesty International, no date

    Amnesty International – as good of a proxy for center-left thinking about torture as one can find – is ridiculously evasive when it comes to defining what constitutes torture, but makes the blanket assertion that “People may not always agree whether a particular form of abuse constitutes torture or other ill-treatment, but both are absolutely prohibited under international law, including in times of war or other public emergencies.” They include in that definition of ill-treatment any form of duress or coercion, which most assuredly is the condition when one is detained, never mind questioned by one’s enemies. Amnesty further categorizes isolation cells as “cruel and inhuman,” thus placing them within the list of things they assert are categorically banned as torture or things like torture.

    Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of isolation for detainees at Guantánamo Bay“, Amnesty International

    Amnesty has further gone so far as to categorize police abuse and sexual assault as torture, http://www.cnn.com/US/9903/04/amnesty.women.prison/index.html, something that the drafters of the CAT expressly ruled out as crime or things not rising to the level of torture.
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    *** So Amnesty International’s definition of torture is vague and broad (including sexual abuse), which means that they too want to “smash western cultural hegemony via destruction of our physical security and our moral imperatives”. How interesting!
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    Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, indicated the U.S. is in violation of international law if it does not try those captured on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan; he further adopted a stunningly literalist interpretation of the Third Geneva Conventions and decreed that cruel treatment is prohibited – this would presumably extend to an interrogator saying mean things to a captured EPW. It is literalist because customary and traditional interpretation of the Conventions permit fairly rough handling of EPWs, including saying mean things in interrogation or mild discomfort like making a prisoner stand during questioning, whereas literal cruelty could involve eating a chocolate bar in front of a hungry prisoner – it is facile to ignore functional and accepted definitions in favor of simplistic literalism. Detention in isolation from other prisoners – no time limits given so this would include any detention in isolation – is treated as torture or (prohibited) cruel and inhuman treatment. Scheinen believes the Army Field Manual expressly sanctions torture.

    http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/149/55/PDF/G0714955.pdf?OpenElement
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    *** This link does not work for me, but given the other documents you cite here and elsewhere it must be fascinating. Esp given his background, although it does not suggest to me someone wanting to “smash western …”.
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    I’m growing tired of digging out sources. Suffice to say I believe my allegations are reasonably well backed up – Scheinin and Amnesty are a pretty good stand-in for where the left stands on this. I reiterate:
    1) Nobody wants to define what torture is. “Whatever I think is ugly or don’t like” is the definition that seems to be most prevalent in public discourse. For God’s sake, I’m against torture, but I’m also against defining it down to the point where it includes saying mean things to captured frickin’ AQ. Yet that’s the position of the human rights lobby, and apparently Congress’ research arm.
    2) The definition of torture is being functionally extended, at least in public debate, to any degree of pressure put on a captured EPW.
    3) The move is afoot – see e.g. Judge Bates’ recent ruling – to force the application of the U.S. Constitution to EPW captured on the battlefield. This is the direct result of cases orchestrated by CCR and Michael Ratner, and litigated by the pro bono brigades of the white stocking law firms. See this by Discover the Networks. (Not the greatest source but I believe about 95% accurate w.r.t the facts).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I am glad that you are tired of digging out these sources, as I am tired of reading them. You have a vivid imagination, but the connection remains invisible between what you cite and the evil motives you allege.

    As more parsimonious explanation is that some people wish to extend western standards across the world. Voting, religous freedom, women’s rights, no torture. While I consider much of this unrealistic and conceptually wrong — human rights fundamental conflicts with multiculturalism, despite often advocated by the same people — it does not seem as inherently evil to me as it evidently does to you.

    As for for your “Discover the Networks”, they describe the founders of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) as “pro-Castro radicals.” Of the 4 they list, that is a misleadingly narrow description for Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler. They were attorneys with strong records as civil rights activists — and hard-core leftists. I don’t know the other two.

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